trainer wants us to “get emotional” with each other, tamale theft, and more

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

1. Our trainer wants us to “get emotional” with each other

I work in education. Specifically, in an urban high school with a high proportion of disadvantaged students with trauma and/or learning disabilities. Work and professional development events can get kind of touchy-feely (emotionally) because so much of what we do is based on forming relationships with our students. Most recently, our school is putting in place a “restorative justice circles” program. The general idea is to regularly do talking “circles” to form community, talk through hard community or life events, and restore relationships after fights or other behavior issues. The circles have a protocol and a talking piece, etc. All teachers are getting trained to run them. They might turn out to be a really good thing for our students or they might be another education fad that will be gone by next year.

At the last meeting, an outside consultant introduced the idea of circles to us and touted their success in other schools. He will be training us on how to conduct the circles. He ended the meeting by saying that our next meeting will consist of practicing the circles and getting emotional with one another. The idea of which being, you have to be willing to share something of yourself in order to expect to form real relationships.

I am not a big emotion sharer at work at the best of times. This month I’ve returned from maternity leave with my first baby to a new staff (last year was terrible, everyone quit but three teachers, a story for another time) and new routines and it’s been especially tough. Is there any way to professionally opt out of something like this, without looking like I am not a team player?

They want all teachers trained to run these circles? That seems like a terrible idea to me — not everyone is suited to doing this kind of work, and I’m sure we can all think of teachers we had who no student would have trusted in that role. However, assuming your leadership isn’t receptive to that argument and they’re committed to going forward with it…

Based on how they’ve framed it so far, I doubt you can opt out of this piece of the training without opting out of the whole thing. Your easiest path might be to participate but come prepared with really bland responses. They can tell you they want you to get emotional (!) but they can’t actually make you do it. Instead, you can share things that you’re not emotionally invested in. Hell, you can make things up! When people are stuck in a work-mandated activity that wants them to share more of themselves than they’re comfortable with, and when they don’t have the capital or standing to get out of it, that’s often the simplest approach … and most of the time it works because no one is paying that much attention to any one person’s contributions.

For the record, I’d love to give you different advice and suggest you fight the whole thing, pointing out how violating it is and how dangerous it is for some people to be vulnerable at work, but it’s an uphill battle and you’re already exhausted. It’s okay to decide to just take the path of least resistance.

Read an update to this letter

2. Tamale theft

A coworker stole my tamales out of the communal freezer at work. Would it be inappropriate to leave a note in the freezer saying “to whomever stole my tamales, your mom is a ho”?

I’m pretty sure you know that would be both misogynistic and rude.

3. How do I stop being excessively loyal to my jobs?

I’m a lawyer and my profession is definitely my personality. I absolutely love my work. The problem is that I get excessively loyal to my workplace, even when it’s toxic or detrimental to my upward mobility and mental health. For example, I formerly worked for a government agency with a supervisor that was demeaning and allowed for zero work/life balance but I hung in for 12 long years because I was so committed to the work.

I’m currently working for a firm that is truly a sinking ship. We’re taking in almost no money and we can’t hire competent staff, invest in new technologies, or even buy supplies on occasion. I fully recognize that I’ve maximized my earning ability here and live in constant fear that the whole thing will collapse. My supervisor is very much the kind of person who takes care of himself financially first and even though he’s promised partnership, I also know how much debt the firm is in and that it would be a terrible investment. However, I love the work and feel this weird internal motivation to see the firm succeed, even if I’ll never reap the benefits. I know that I don’t owe this place anything and that my primary motivator should be taking care of myself. How do I break this curse of obsessive loyalty despite obvious toxicity?

To figure this out, you’re going to need to identify what need this fills in you — and that can mean digging pretty deep psychologically. For example, are you fulfilled by feeling like you’re the one bringing order to chaos or that things would fall apart without you? If so, any chance you filled that role or a similar one in your family when you were growing up? Or, did you grow up in chaos and/or scarcity and so at some level this feels familiar and comfortable to you? Staying on the childhood theme, because that’s what a lot of this stuff is rooted in, did your role models growing up teach you that you don’t leave no matter how bad things are? Or that you don’t deserve good things so you should take whatever you can get?

When there’s a pattern in your life that isn’t serving you but you’re having trouble breaking it, it’s often because it was wired into your brain pretty early, and therapy can really help you unwire it.

4. Going back on an offer of hardware

I’m about to join a small but growing company as a software engineer. My manager asked what sort of computer hardware and setup I’d like, as they would purchase completely new equipment for me (they shared they use XYZ setup). I said I would prefer ABC setup, as I’m used to working on ABC. They responded that “management would prefer you go with XYZ to keep it consistent across the company.”

I don’t mind going with XYZ, but WHY did you ask for my preference in the first place if I didn’t really have a choice? I find this lack of openness about something so simple really weird and a potential red flag, especially for a company that prides itself on having transparency and “no bullsh*t” as core values. What do I make of this?

My guess is that they weren’t asking whether you wanted, for example, Apple or Windows, but rather if there were particular specs your computer needs to have or if you work with a second monitor or so forth.

5. How much enthusiasm should we care about candidates showing for the organization?

I was recently on a selection panel with three other interviewers. We had a discussion about how much enthusiasm a candidate should show for the organization. For the opening “tell us why you applied for this job” question, one interviewer kept downgrading candidates who mentioned the importance of the organization but pivoted fairly quickly to the job itself. I agreed that the one candidate who didn’t mention the organization at all probably should have at least indicated which organization they were applying to work at, but extended monologues about how important the organization was and the great work we do was not necessary. In my opinion, being motivated by the job itself was as legitimate as being motivated by our organization’s mission.

What weight would you give to mission vs. job as a persuasive answer to this opening interview question? Should we even be assessing this question, which has always seemed to me to be a softball to help the candidate relax?

If you do advocacy or many other types of nonprofit work, you do want to see a commitment to the objectives of the organization — but it doesn’t need to be a major focus or passion. In fact, after working in nonprofits for years, I haven’t seen any correlation between visible passion for the mission and effectiveness! I’d much rather see a passion for the job the person will be doing (and even that isn’t that useful unless it’s backed up by skills and a track record of getting things done).

“Tell us why you applied for this job” can give you interesting information, but it’s not something you should be placing a huge amount of weight on except in the rare cases that something really notable comes out in response (like a complete misunderstanding of what the organization does, not an insufficient focus on it).

{ 443 comments… read them below }

  1. Ms Frizzle*

    OP1, it would be best practice with students to invite them to share during a circle but never to force it. I hope your trainer does the same when modeling! If not, that might be a good place to push back respectfully during the training. Pushing kids to share more than they’re comfortable with is NOT trauma informed and they should mirror that in your PD.

    For whatever it’s worth, my (large, urban, heavily-impacted-by-trauma) district was an early adopter of restorative practices and has found it to make a big impact on equity issues related to discipline. I have no idea how it will play out for you all but it can have staying power if it’s implemented thoughtfully and supported consistently. We do have restorative coordinators in many schools and o going PD, which helps. And some teachers adopt more than others.

    1. Whale*

      I was trained on these as a student teacher and have had some amount of retraining at my current placement. While teachers at my school are trained to run them, in practice usually a behavior interventionist or other support staff step in to support these meetings when a class is working through problems that arose at school.

      I’m so new to teaching that it’s hard for me to see if this is sticking around or not, so I appreciate you sharing your experiences!

    2. Ellis Bell*

      We’ve found it to be tremendously beneficial in terms of behaviour, but you need great training and a very, very light touch. Like, the circle time shouldn’t be enforced, teachers and students who are uncomfortable don’t take part if they don’t want to, remaining silent is always an option. The topics should be light enough for the classroom: teachers will know already what a suitable topic will be. The aim is to get out behind the desks and show an interest in the kids. Keeping the topics school related is a still a good bonding tool; does everyone hate the canteen queue? Anyone have a good revision tip? Bonding and relationships take time, you can’t crowbar your way in. The thing about OPs letter I find concerning is it sounds like a school in crisis and this kind of thing is difficult to implement and is sometimes over egged in desperation.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        All but three teachers left – for whatever reason this is definitely a school in crisis (for whatever undisclosed by OP reason). Between that and dealing with kids that have their own trauma – all I can say is tread lightly, there is a lot going on and it doesn’t sound like OP thinks the administration is fully thinking things through.

    3. Miss Rimm*

      I’m a semi retired special educator. I’ve had a lot of trainings in crisis prevention and intervention, the acronyms change but the strategies are quite similar. It’s not the same as a restorative justice program, but I think there are some similarities.
      We were always taught to give the student (s) space and time to talk or not, and respect that.
      We did a lot of role playing in trainings . One trainer in particular stood out because they showed film clips ( the scene where Judd Nelson and the teacher get into a power struggle in the Breakfast Club, for example) In that particular program, there was a list of scenarios that break out groups were supposed to select at random but they were almost too general. The tainer suggested picking a character from a book, movie, game, etc in a crisis in order for us to connect with the “student” better, and asked one teacher to “act the role.” These were much more effective because the educators were not put in the position to share their own details, and becuase we were teachers, we were usually trying to see if we could discover what character we were helping, so it kept us motivated.
      ( though near the end some of us chose outrageous characters, ie. ” Carrie, did you use telekenis in the gym at the prom because you were angry? – it added some levity and it was a Friday afternoon)
      My collegues and I applied these strategies to varying degrees of success, depending in the student, teacher, and situation. We had a “tap in” ” tap out” agreement – so if one adult wasnt successful and / or things got heated, some one was around to try and keep everything at a more even keel.
      We practiced an awful lot more on the “prevention” part, of course, and the students I usually work with have cognitive / intellectual disablities that would neccesitate (sp?) major modifications.

      All of this to say – 1- you should not have to share personal stories and emotion in this training 2- the OP should follow Alison’s advice depending on thier comfort level. 3- find out who is supporting teachers with this and how much ongoing training you’ll be getting and 4- WHICH IS CRUCIAL – find out what the back up plan is if one of these sessions goes awry. If you hear a response that if you;re doing it right, nothing will go badly – that’s a red flag. 5- always ask for a more experienced person to come in and model, if they can’t get anyone to do that, that’
      s another red flag

      Teachers have an awful lot to deal with, especially post pandemic – and we’re only equipped for so much, and only have so much bandwith. I’d love to see more social emotional support in schools now in the form of more counselors, behavior professionals, slowing down curricula, dumping most of the tests and data paperwork, but I don’t think thats a realistic expectation based on the climate around education.

      OP1- I hope your school is really going to make this a thing and not be faddish about it. You’ll likely figure that out after the first few trainings.

      Hang in there.
      Also, for fun, here’s the “edujargon generator.”

    4. Great Contributions*

      Glad to see your perspectives as educators, current and retired. I hope more educators post.

    5. Plebeian Aristocracy*

      I came here to say this. My school is training everyone in circles (the head of my department is super gung-ho about the whole thing, but also doesn’t believe in pushing people to be too open) and it sounds like your trainer forgot some super important rules for circles.

      1) Only share what you want to share and what you feel comfortable sharing.
      2) Circles take time. Don’t expect instant connection and buy in—it’s a process as people get used to it.
      3) Circles are a wonderful tool, but if you only use them for discipline or when something goes wrong, the kids will see them that way. Have celebration circles, how was your weekend circles, heck even a sit around and say something circle.

      Circles can be great tools, but it sounds like your trainer is pushing it. Do what you need to be comfortable, and if you’re called out you should remind them of rule #1.

      1. Julia*

        I was about to say all of this. I’ve participated in a restorative justice circle and the person leading it did not dig into her personal emotions/feelings. She occasionally shared something when it was relevant to the circle.

    6. Glazed Donut*

      Former teacher here, also familiar with RJ techniques.
      My fear would be that this training leads to teachers feeling as though the way to run a circle is to share/overshare from their own lives — this is not RJ. A teacher should not mediate a conflict between two sixth graders (for example) by discussing his partner’s affair and how that made him feel, for example.
      I think Alison’s advice is solid–participate lightly and with a careful eye. Know how far you can go with pushing back (lest you become the leader of the whole thing because you’re the only one with practical ideas!). Good luck.

    7. Observer*

      Pushing kids to share more than they’re comfortable with is NOT trauma informed

      Not only that, it’s in many ways exactly counter to the goals and ethos of restorative justice. To me this is a red flag about the competence of the trainers.

      I do agree with you that restorative justice work can be extremely helpful. But it does need to be done right, as you note.

      OP, don’t push back on the RJ idea. But if the trainer actually pushes people to “get emotional” or share too much, that’s something you can push back on because it is not necessary for the success of this work, and in fact pushing works against it.

    8. OhGee*

      This is really thoughtful feedback! I participated in restorative justice circle training in the university where I work, and I loved it but also agree that forcing specific kinds of participation is not the way.

    9. learnedthehardway*

      I think that if forced to be “emotional”, in the OP’s shoes, I would share an anonymized example of how a student issue affected me. A) it’s at least relevant to the job / training session. B) the teacher might get some useful information on how to cope with the emotional impact of dealing with student issues. C) it’s something everyone can relate to, given that the point is to learn how to deal with emotional issues in a work setting. D) it’s not excessively personal to the OP.

      1. amcb13*

        I also think as teachers we need to practice the ability to discuss situations *without* being overcome by emotion. Our job is to help our students stay regulated; naming and talking about emotions can be an important part of that, but “getting emotional” doesn’t usually describe that. I hope the former is what will happen in the OP’s training (and as others have said, with the option of remaining silent) but if not, OP could say something like “You know, we try to help our students get to a space where they can talk about their feelings and needs–pushing them to feel all those feelings at a certain time and place doesn’t help with that.”

    10. Anon for this*

      I agree with this. As a trainer for a program with a similar need for participants to “be vulnerable,” there are subtle but important differences in how I facilitate for groups where attendance is mandatory vs. when it’s strictly voluntary. If someone wants to be able to execute the skillset I’m teaching at its highest level, they DO need to be vulnerable while training, just like the people they serve will be when they’re using the skills-it helps participants understand what it’s like to be in the client’s shoes in a way that a purely theoretical training experience can’t teach. However, it’s never beneficial to try to force someone to open up emotionally, especially if they didn’t choose to be there. The skills are we’re practicing are the same, even using a “bland” topic.

      In my case, I actually started out pretty resistant to the vulnerability piece. I had a really good training partner, and found myself leaning in deeper to a topic that I’d initially thought was going to be fairly neutral for me. The impact of that experience pushed me to explore the benefits of the program to the people I serve in more depth, and eventually to became a trainer. Not everyone gets past the initial basic skill level, and that’s ok. A lot of the supplemental training I do is centered around using the skills of the program in highly personalized, practical ways with no personal disclosure required.

      All of that makes Alison’s point that not everyone is equipped to host restorative justice circles is extremely important. I can see why the school might make all teachers participate in the training so that they understand the program, but only the ones who feel comfortable with the emotional levity of this kind of work should be leading them. It’s a huge disservice to the students to try to make people “care.” (Scare quotes because I don’t think refusal to do this means a teacher doesn’t care about students, but that many teachers may not be able to get excited about this particular way of putting that caring into action.)I do warn participants that sometimes bland is deceiving-I thought I was going light in my first training by choosing to talk about my goal of losing a few pounds, and my training partner was really good- I quickly learned that it was a much more loaded topic for me than I’d realized.

      TL;DR: There are reasons why personal disclosure can be beneficial to developing certain skillsets, but training should be designed so that you can get better at what you do without violating your personal boundaries. Not everyone needs to do all the things.

      1. Anon for this*

        Ugh. I pulled out the line at the end before the TL;DR and recapped it further up because I thought it was a bunch of unnecessary detail that no one really needed, but apparently I just dropped it further down. Guess I’m oversharing today.

        1. OpalescentTreeShark*

          This is maybe the most useful and nuanced comment I’ve *ever* seen on AAM. Thank you!

    11. GreenDoor*

      We do circles in my education sector. The first rule is that it is always, 100% acceptable to say “pass” if one wishes not to respond. And “pass” is to be respected by everyone, including the circle leader. No pushing, cajoling, peer-pressuring, etc. You just move on to the next person.
      Also…you don’t start the circle process with a new group of people and jump right into super emotion-inducing questions. You start with lighter, trivial questions. Then, after time, once trust has been established, you can move into the more emotional topics.

  2. Chris*

    “[O]ur next meeting will consist of practicing the circles and getting emotional with one another. The idea of which being, you have to be willing to share something of yourself in order to expect to form real relationships.”

    The idea of teachers, who are in a position of power over students, pushing kids to, “ share something of yourself in order to expect to form real relationships,” makes me shudder. Please, please, please, push back on this, not just for your own, “I am not a big emotion sharer,” sake, but for all the students that this will be inflicted on.

    1. Fellow Teacher*

      Strong relationship are key to successful teaching. It doesn’t mean you know everything about your teachers lives or vice versa. It means teachers genuinely care for their students and the students know that. The way teachers achieve this varies but it’s pretty much the bedrock of all K-12 education. Because if a kid doesn’t like you, 9 out of 10 of them won’t work for you. It’s irrational but so are kids (and humans in general largely).

      I have some students who love me and our conversations are always related to school or surface level if we’re talking about our lives; other students know more about me because sometimes it’s been relevant to working with them (I work with a lot of kids who you need to convince to buy in before they’ll do anything).

      The LW should definitely push back if the trainers don’t model safely inviting vulnerability and allowing students to opt out.

      1. Well...*

        Needing strong relationships may be true for teaching children, but it’s really not necessary and sometimes distracting when teaching/learning as an adult level.

        I’ve never had strong emotional connections with any of my teachers or students, nor with my PhD advisor. I have good (sometimes strong) professional relationships with them.

        Overall I agree LW can opt out, but beyond good practice, LW has a right to learn restorative justice while maintaining their emotional boundaries, as do the students.

        1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

          “LW has a right to learn restorative justice while maintaining their emotional boundaries, as do the students”

          Yes exactly! And if the trainer is pushing them to share more than they’re comfortable, then they’re modeling pushy (ie NOT trauma-informed and therefore not helpful and potentially retraumatizing!) behavior.

        2. Lydia*

          100% this. I will add it invites the teacher to (unintentionally) center themselves when the goal is to center the student(s) and what they need. Whoever is doing this training is giving bad advice.

      2. Anon Autistic*

        I was decades away from an autism diagnosis in my primary school years, and even with a strong relationship something like this would probably have been traumatic for me. Autistic people express empathy very differently (look up Damian Milton’s Double Empathy Problem for more details). I also process my feelings in a different time frame. My experience has been that even if others understand this in theory, it’s typically a real struggle for them to understand it with me, in real time.

        This has nothing to do with genuinely caring for me – some of the worst treatment I’ve experienced has been from people who cared deeply. It’s just a profound lack of understanding combined with cognitive bias.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      There’s loads of students who will never need to trust a teacher with their emotions, but for some students it could be the difference between life and death. In circles, no, it’s not appropriate to go that deep. It’s just a way of showing that you do have some interest in your students as people and you’re more than a work-giver.

    3. irene adler*

      Agree! Don’t do this to the students!

      In senior year of high school, one teacher pulled something along these lines. The teacher asked each of us to share a traumatic or sad event in our lives. We were going to get to know each other better by doing this.

      My friend Kim shared a horrible event from childhood.

      Class period ends. She and I go to our next class.
      Right after class starts, seemingly out of nowhere, Kim loses it. Runs from the room bawling.

      Instructor is bewildered by this behavior. She asks me to ‘go see what the trouble is’.

      Kim is distraught all over again from this childhood event and cannot regain her composure.

      She didn’t need this.

      I don’t know if parents lodged complaints. This exercise was never repeated (to my knowledge).

  3. yup*

    #2 – Always remember to use correct grammar when being a rude misogynist. It’s “whoever” not “whomever” in this specific case.

      1. Spooncake*

        I suspect it might be a reference to an old Vine clip that used similar wording, but referencing an old meme doesn’t really let people off the hook for saying stuff like this. You can’t guarantee everyone’s familiar with the source material, and it feels pretty gross to me to say stuff along those lines even though I *am* familiar with it.

        1. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

          Oh, I was thinking from Saturday Night Live, the Jeopardy skits? Where the Sean Connery character keeps responding to Alex Trebek with variations of ‘your mother, Trebek.’

    1. Miss Rimm*

      I’d be FURIOUS if someone stole my tamales, because tamales are delicious, but I wouldn’t store them in the work fridge.
      You never store anything that delicious in the work fridge. Get an insulated lunch sack.

      1. Reaganomics Lamborghini*

        Same here, especially if they’re my Christmas tamales. I also totally get wanting to leave a nasty note but in the end it’s not worth potentially losing your job or getting written up.

    2. Hornswoggler*

      That’s not correct. “To whomever” is correct, just as in “to whom it may concern”.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        In “to whom it may concern” there’s a clause “it may concern [somebody]” and that somebody needs object case marking. In “to whoever stole my tamales” the clause is “[somebody] stole my tamales” and that somebody needs subject case marking.

        English is a horror for this kind of thing: mostly ignoring case except when it can make someone sound silly.

        1. Empress Matilda*

          The way I remember it is to substitute the words “he” and “him.” If “he” sounds correct, then use “who.” If “him” sounds correct, use “whom.”

          So in this case you would check “He stole my tamales…” and “Him stole my tamales…”

          “He stole my tamales” is correct, so therefore the original should be “To whoever stole my tamales.”

      2. StayBunn*

        The pronoun in OP’s sentence is the subject of a noun phrase, making the subjective “whoever” correct.

        “To [whoever stole stole my heart], your mom seems lovely.”

      3. Antilles*

        To Whom It May Concern: You’re a jerk for eating my tamales. I hope the spiciness burns while they’re coming out.

      4. MeleMallory*

        Ryan treated me as an object.

        Sorry, I have to quote that every time someone is talking about whoever vs whomever.

      1. Mr. Shark*

        Even when I just read the headline about stolen tamales, I knew this would become a classic AAM discussion!

    3. Tamale Thief*

      #2 – I’ll eat my tamales today and think of you. Just absolutely delicious. Thank you for your contribution to the team.

    4. Reality.Bites*

      The insult seemed curiously unrelated to the theft. “Your mother raised a no-good, low-down thief” would seem more on-target, although poor parenting was not likely to be a factor anyway!

      1. I&I*

        ‘Your mother would be ashamed of you.’

        ‘Would you kiss your mother with that pillage-gobbling mouth?’

      2. Emilia Bedelia*

        It’s definitely a Vine reference. This just goes to show why it is a bad idea though, as the person who sees the note may not understand the reference and react accordingly. The thief may not even see the note before someone else does, and this could become a much bigger deal than the OP intends or expects.
        There are many similarly funny options for passive aggressive freezer notes that don’t rely on a potentially offensive reference to make their point – OP, go with one of those!

        1. Jasper*

          If you’re going to do cringy and probably NSFW references, at least only *start* them. That way the reader can just infer whichever one is most inappropriate.

          “To: Whoever stole my tamales.
          About: Tamales

          Yo Momma.”

          1. Allornone*

            Okay, this made me chuckle. Still cringy and problematic for the workplace, but certainly better.

  4. Rebeck*

    Restorative practice is not a fad, given it was the approach being taken by a school that I worked in twelve years ago and is still the main approach used at my wife’s workplace.

    1. Heathcliff*

      Anything that’s been around for a while can still become a fad – usually when someone completely misunderstands and/or appropriates something they vaguely like the idea of.

      Kate Bush has been around for a while, but recently became a fad because Stranger Things used her music.

      Geek culture has been around for a while, but became a fad when the MCU had mainstream appeal, but now it’s passing.

      Saying “this fictional character is my spirit animal” was a fad for a while.

      I realise none of these are quite the same as what’s happening here, but the principle remains the same. Sure, some people will stick with it and maybe learn more about the original concept/music/whatever, but a lot of people will move on to the next shiny thing.

      1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        A fad is something that is very popular for a short time. The fact that some people won’t stick with something doesn’t make it a fad, that’s just normal human behavior. Beanie Babies were a fad. Restorative Justice was used by Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela to heal South Africa after apartheid ended.

    2. Well...*

      It’s definitely not an educational fad, as it has a decent amount of activism behind it as a criminal justice reform movement. I think it had legs, but if they movement indeed fizzles, calling it a fad still feels reductive. I’m sure it will inform future activism.

    3. Miss Rimm*

      I agree that it’s not a fad, and that it’s very effective.
      But I can also see how some schools / organizations can implement it like it’s a fad – by only doing the superficial aspects.

      1. AGD*

        This. It’s fantastic when properly put into place in situations that need it. Which is very much not what is happening in the letter.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        I think what makes it a “fad” in the educational context is that it seems to be being pushed in some contexts as a “cure all.” We had a trainer on it who insisted that other methods might work for one teacher but not another, but this is evidence based and works regardless (he basically implied a student teacher or a sub could come in and use it and it would work just as well for them as for a teacher who had been working in the school for years and had great relationships with all students).

        Later when we actually asked him about situations we were actually concerned about, he got defensive and argued that well, it might not work for 5% of students but maybe nothing will work with them and if it works in 95% of cases, isn’t that good enough? Well, no actually, ’cause our normal methods of discipline are working with the 95%. It’s those who other methods don’t work with that we need help with. Plus, I don’t think we should be writing students off with “well, nothing will work with them anyway.”

        Now, this guy was an ass for a whole load of reasons (this is just the tip of the iceberg) and I’m sure most restorative practitioners are not like him, but there does seem to be a bit of a “this is the answer” push and that tends to be something that happens in education. Something new comes up, it’s seen as “the answer,” all teachers must do this! Then when it doesn’t work perfectly for everybody immediately, it can die out.

        While restorative practice may well have good evidence behind it, I think there is a bit of a fad for schools to take elements from it and create a watered down version and think that will solve all their problems.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Yeah that sounds like legitimately awful implementation. Our trainer basically said if we were unsure about the topic/dynamics in the class/doing it at all, that we basically shouldn’t do anything until we were confident and comfortable and should just eavesdrop on someone doing it successfully. Not doing it ever is also an option!

        2. Humble Schoolmarm*

          Are you sure you’re not Canadian? Our trainer presented this in almost the same way. I find it hugely ironic that the huge push in education over the last 15+ years is that everyone learns differently, but at the administrative level education systems are still on an eternal quest for “The One True Method”.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            For academics, I found that there was a 5 year lifetime for The New Math Program, Which Fixes All The Problems With The Old One. Then it would be on to the next New Math Program WFATHWTOO. I think pedagogy lifetimes are longer.

            I recall a meeting re the New Math, where a parent contrasted the older teacher last year–who knew that this program had some good points, and the previous program had some good points, and was able to combine things–and the new teacher this year who was convinced they had finally cracked the Understanding Math puzzle and this new program was the final word.

            (Also, I am still salty about the time they made my son fill in a Venn Diagram (which he was easily able to do) and write a paragraph for each number explaining how he worked out how to place it. He was able to explain his reasoning if you gave him a complicated, multi-step problem, since it had obvious steps–but not for something with one step, which is normal for all ages and especially for elementary schoolers. Someone, somewhere, was beaming about how “Write a paragraph explaining how you solved the problem” is always valuable, and if it’s valuable for placing 1 number it’s even better to write 8 paragraphs in a row about placing 8 numbers.)

            1. Clisby*

              Ha! I remember when my daughter was in 3rd grade she was given a math workbook problem that (a) had a bar chart showing how many kids in a classroom liked different flavors of ice cream – chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, pistachio for example. (b) Asked something like “How many kids prefer something other than vanilla?” (c) Asked “How did you get your answer?”

              She wrote down the answer, and to part (c) replied, “I looked at the chart.”

              1. DataSci*

                I suspect for (c) they were looking for something like “I added the numbers for chocolate, strawberry, and pistachio”. Which is certainly what she did even if she did it at a glance in her head.

                1. Clisby*

                  Most likely – but often kids are quite literal. I used to wonder if they field-tested some of these workbooks before publishing them.

                  A friend of mine told me when she was in, I think, 2nd grade, she was answering a series of workbook questions – all formulated like: “Can you find the sum of 9 and 12?” So, she answered “Yes. Yes. Yes.” Until her mother saw what she was doing and said, “No, honey, they want you to write down the sum of 9 and 12.”

                2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

                  Clisby – as a teacher I’ve learned to be careful how I ask questions, in writing or aloud! Once I prompted kids to draw a picture and write one sentence. A child dutifully wrote “O-N-E S-E-N-T-E-N-C-E” under her drawing. And at cleanup time, I no longer say, “Will you pick up the markers?” but “Please pick up the markers” because some children will, without intending any sass, respond to the first with “No thank you!”

                3. Elsajeni*

                  @Clisby, when I was a student teacher I had to stop a classmate from writing a test question just like that! “Here is a grid and a set of axes. Can you draw a line with a slope of 1/3?” I do think our kids would have understood the intent of the question — but bro, look around you at this class of wiseacre 8th-graders and think about how this is going to play out.

        3. Jasper*

          Pretty much what happened with the mindfulness fad.

          Whenever you get a strong influx of trainers pushing whatever it is as the Next Best Thing, often doubling (or worse) the existing base of people who vaguely know what they’re doing… it’s a fad. No matter how valid the underlying structure is.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        This is really well put, and something I’ve often observed in my work. Something that could be valuable if it’s done by someone with particular skills and training is of limited use when you try to assign it to people with completely different skills and training who are handy because they’re nearby.

    4. Pippa K*

      The concept has been around, by this name, since the 70s, and it’s been practiced since at least the 1990s. But it was developed and applied in criminal justice contexts (and then wider political contexts, like post-conflict national politics). Its use as a general community well-being sort of tool rather than more specific conflict resolution seems like a pretty significant variation from what it was developed to address, but I’m interested to hear that people have encountered and used it this way. The required-participation and forced intimacy elements that the OP describes sound awfully problematic and not necessarily part of RJ though.

      1. Observer*

        The community building portion tends to be important in this kind of context because it helps create the space within which the restorative justice portion can work.

        But that has nothing to do with what the trainer needs to be saying. You can build strong and *trusting* relationships without over-sharing or sharing a lot of personal information. And on the other hand, the minute a teacher either emotion dumps on a kid or pressures a student to share what they are not comfortable with, they have just sabotaged any chances of forming a trust based relationship.

        1. Wintermute*


          The biggest obstacle to trust in schools is often untrustworthy behavior, especially that of authorities. Want to create a trusting environment? you don’t need to share anything, you just need to make sure that retaliation isn’t allowed, the results of actions are “fair” and perceived as such, equal effort results in equal recognition (even if you cannot assign a higher grade for passionate but incorrect work, you can still acknowledge it equally and call it out) and likewise equal crimes result in equal punishment (no one’s given a pass because of their circumstances or because they fit in better), you don’t let teachers become weaponized by bullies, teachers don’t play favorites, etc.

          If those things happen you will have the trust and faith required to be a competent authority.

          Sadly I’ve never been in a lower education, or even higher education environment where EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THOSE THINGS was commonplace. No wonder there was no foundational trust to start from!

      2. Humble Schoolmarm*

        Having kids get used to circle discussions is a good way to normalize “this is the way we talk about things” before you go into the more challenging area of conflict resolution. There are a lot of skills like active listening, taking turns, maintaining focus on the speaker and being respectful of differing viewpoints that don’t come naturally to a lot of kids, so having a lower stakes practice can help make the most out of conflict resolution, if and when that’s needed.

        That being said, I get a lot out of circles for community well-being even if it isn’t justice related. It’s a really natural way to shift from lecturer to facilitator, which opens up a lot of different ways of learning. Also, it’s a good way to give each student their moment (if they want it, passing should be an option). It’s really hard to stop some (generally privileged) students from totally monopolizing more traditional class discussions.

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

      I took the OP to mean a fad at their school. Like maybe the administration just tries a bunch of stuff and a lot doesn’t stick

    6. Marley's Ghost*

      I took the “fad” part to be the peace circles specifically, not restorative justice as a concept.

  5. Analyst*

    OP1 given that restorative justice requires all parties to agree to do it…and they are apparently forcing emotional intimacy, I don’t hold a lot of hope for this. Seems contrary to how restorative justice actually works. Which…is not about bonding actually but can get emotional as you are committing to difficult and honest conversations about issues or events that have happened.

  6. nnn*

    #4: If you can manage a tone of genuine collaborative curiosity, you could ask “When you asked what kind of hardware and setup I wanted, what sort of options did you have in mind?”

      1. connie*

        Seriously. This is a normal conversation to be having. Asking for clarification is not something you should have to “manage.”

    1. Mockingjay*

      For a business, hardware is a tool. Sure, there are always different, better, or fancier systems that you can personally make dance and produce roses. But a business or program needs consistency across all users, so they pick a system for the lowest (or middle) common denominator.

      Use the OS and hardware the company provides; request processing speed and peripherals to make it better for you. Focus on your new tasks, not the tools.

      1. Hen in a Windstorm*

        This comment totally misses the point though. If the business needs said consistency, they shouldn’t be asking a totally open-ended, “Hey, what setup do you want?” They should say, “We use these tools, pick which one you want.”

        1. Mockingjay*

          I think it’s a simple misunderstanding, not open ended. I’ve been asked a similar question and what was really being offered was a choice between Windows tower or laptop and what size monitor did I prefer?

          1. Mill Miker*

            Yeah, at my job I was getting a Mac regardless, but they wanted to know if I needed a keyboard, mouse, stand, and/or dock, extra power cords, extra monitor… was I going to use the Mac on it’s own and therefore want the biggest screen, or was I planning on always docking it, and maybe I’d prefer a smaller, more portable model?

          2. AngryOctopus*

            Yeah, my first thought reading about setup is “I prefer to have a second monitor and an ergonomic keyboard”, not “Why did they even ask if they won’t give me a Mac??”.

        2. Meep*

          I mean, if someone asked me this question I would interperat it as “hey do you like a second monitor and an ergonomic keyboard?” not “I need the fanciest gaming computer on the block”.

        3. Willow Pillow*

          Yes. Taking LW at their word, “what sort of computer hardware and setup [they]’d like” is literally open-ended. Still a misunderstanding, but still the employer’s responsibility for clear communication.

      2. DataSci*

        Not all businesses need 100% consistency. Most people at my companies use Windows – if all you’re doing is email, powerpoint, and excel that’s really all you need – but they’ll let programmers, data scientists, etc. use Macs if we ask for them. Having the right tools are sometimes necessary to do the tasks, or at least make the tasks much easier.

        1. Jasper*

          And given how much variability there is between buysinesses and even business *units*, you really do need to set parameters if there are parameters. You cant just assume them.

          That also goes the other way — if you’re a new hire and your response to the question is “I want a second monitor and a docking station” when what they’re actually asking is whether you prefer mac, windows, or linux, they’re going to either come back to you for more info, or they’re just going to give you windows and you’ll be regretting not asking for a linux desktop (or a mac) for the next five years.

    2. Deanna Troi*

      I would assume that since they asked him what he wanted and then said that they use XYZ, that they were saying “What would you like, within the XYZ framework?” To me, if I offer someone something and then I tell them our parameters, I would be surprised if they came back with something outside of those parameters.

      If I said to you “What would you like me to get you for lunch? We order from Panera,” I would not expect you to ask for a sandwich from Subway.

  7. Law School Student*

    Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, I feel like #1 read my mind! I was JUST thinking about writing in on Fridays or the weekend about Restorative Justice peace circles. I’m in law school, and taking a restorative justice class. I thought it was going to be about the disproportionate effect America’s justice system has on people of color, or discussing how to use our legal training to help underserved communities. But instead, it has been a huge emphasis on “peace circles.”

    And peace circles that are forced, in class with classmates you don’t know very well (or do know and absolutely do not trust) are…unhelpful! Personally, my first peace circle was incredibly triggering for me. People were sharing extremely private and personal information, which made me feel the pressure to share as well. Peace circles can be helpful with families or with adults who are all enthusiastically involved, I think, but it places an emphasis on being vulnerable in a setting that most of us are not comfortable being vulnerable in.

    I think the advice to keep it bland is a good one. Also, you can try to comment on others’ stories without introducing your own (someone in my peace circle talked about their experiences living alone for the first time and I commented that I had experienced similar things during my first time.)

    You are also supposed to be able to pass (since peace circles are supposed to be a “safe space” (which I don’t really believe exist in professional settings, but that’s not the point)), so you can say that you are passing on your round to model safe behavior for the group (since no one wants to be the only person to pass when everyone is sharing deep experiences).

    Finally, I would also suggest you come to the circle with topics that you are ready to talk about, such as difficulties that all teachers face, common stressors that you and your coworkers might come across, self-care suggestions, etc. If there is an opportunity at all to suggest topics, bring those up right away, so even if you don’t bring much up during the emotional parts, you still look like a team player for having thought of topics beforehand/engaging with topics you are prepared for.

    As I mentioned, my first circle became overwhelming, emotional, and vulnerable, which I was incredibly uncomfortable with. It was in the middle of my workday, but I do wish I had taken a few minutes to go into the bathroom and take a few deep breaths afterward. It was not the greatest experience, and I think if it does become emotional, you might need to take a few moments to decompress.

    Hopefully it will not take you by surprise though. Good luck!

    1. Allonge*

      I think this is great advice and I am sorry this was hard on you.

      What it reminded me of is something I was told as a young professional 20-something, ever so many years ago and I found useful: it really is ok to be uncomfortable once in a while, especially in learning situations.

      I am not talking about harrassment or stuff like that, but inevitably there will be new information, new techniques, new technology that makes one question something about themselves. This is ok! It should not happen all the time! As you say, usually it’s good to take the time to come to terms with it. But it really is ok.

    2. Francie Foxglove*

      All this is reminding me of est, where participants would get called names and couldn’t leave, and encounter groups, where people would rapid-fire questions at someone and mock their answers, and what passed for group therapy at Tranquility Bay, where no answer was deemed honest enough. Not saying that’s what will happen to LW1. But I would never want to “share” at work if I thought what I shared might somehow be used against me.

    3. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Can you come back to your circle and say something? “I was really upset by our last session, I felt pressured to share personal information that I wasn’t prepared to deal with, and I didn’t learn anything about restorative justice. I understand that other versions of these circles include the expectation that people can refrain from sharing if they want to do so, and that building trust takes time. I’d like to see those adopted here for the sake of preserving everyone’s emotional well-being.”

  8. Peach Tea*

    Oh wow # 2– Your maturity level is showing and it’s not pretty. Saying to anyone “your mom is a ‘ho” is the epitome of rudeness and classless.
    Not to mention, just plain mean and rude.
    Grow up.

    1. Nes*

      But stealing their food is high class and fancy? One of these actions takes actual food (and therefore money) from someone whereas the other is just words, even if “mean”. Why is there the expectation that victims behave civilly to their attackers? That religous forgiveness nonsense is rubbish. “But they could be food insecure!!!”, well so could the person that they stole the food from.

      1. Allonge*

        Hang on – nobody is saying the theft should not be addressed.

        But this would be a really bad way to do it, not the least because it does nothing but make others uncomfortable. All the tamales are still gone! And it’s not like this would inpire the thief to give them back.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Not to mention that it’s highly unlikely that their mother had anything to do with it! Why should she get the abuse?

      2. Emmy Noether*

        Oh, come on. Of course stealing is wrong. And I would be marginally ok with insulting the thief (insulting coworkers is a career-limiting move, so I wouldn’t recommend it, but understand the impulse). This person wants to insult the thief’s mother however, who did not steal the tamales. And wants to use a slur that is highly misogynistic to boot. Not ok at all. Keep your insults to the person you want to insult, and free of slurs.

        1. Rebecca*

          Not to mention that all the other co-workers – the ones who did NOT steal any tamales – will see and read it, and the note writer will be letting them all know exactly who he is.

          I don’t care that the insult isn’t directed at me, I don’t want that garbage in my work environment.

      3. Widget Spinner*

        Wow, a whole straw army, that’s almost impressive!

        Bit alarming that your purpose in unleashing it is to defend a misogynistic jerk’s right to be an ignorant, offensive, bigoted piece of crap though. Might wanna examine why you felt that needs defending – it’s not a good look on you, just sayin’.

        1. Meep*

          Normally I am floored about women being treated less than, but in this case, I think I am more floored Nes took it a step forward to insult people struggling financially.

      4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Two wrongs rarely make a right. There is a much better way to address the food theft than name calling (and especially name calling directed at the family member of an employee).

          1. Polly Hedron*

            said Michelle Obama at the 2016 Democratic National Convention: a noble sentiment, but that example shows that that strategy doesn’t always work

          1. Rebecca*

            Most adults in a work environment don’t need the reasonable, slur-free way to deal with the inconvenience of lunch left spelled out for them.

      5. I should really pick a name*

        Why is there the expectation that victims behave civilly to their attackers

        Because it’s a professional workplace and nothing is gained by being rude.
        You can let someone know you’re upset with them without resorting to insults.

        1. Jasper*

          Perhaps more importantly, you can insult the right person, and not do it in such a way that everyone is uncomfortable except the tech bros in the company.

      6. BubbleTea*

        I’ve never stolen food, but it isn’t because I was concerned someone might imply my mother had sex for money. The two things are unrelated and the insult won’t stop future thefts. In fact, if I were inclined to steal food, I’d probably be more motivated to target someone who was rude to me.

      7. Falling Diphthong*

        The note should not attack the person’s mother, who probably did not steal the tamales.

        In general, a note is not going to actually have any impact on the tamale stealer, no matter how devastating the “yo mama” line sounded in someone’s head. The tamale stealer would not read the note and slowly collapse to the floor, rethinking all the life choices that led them to this terrible choice.

        Quite possibly they would think “How terrible to steal someone’s tamales, not like me who just happens to enjoy unattended tamales I came across in the wild.”

        1. Mockingjay*

          I used to work in a large office and one day mistakenly ate a frozen meal that someone else had brought, thinking it was mine, but I had already eaten my own meal earlier in the week. It was an honest mistake and I of course brought an identical replacement meal the next day.

          OP2, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. If the goal is to prevent further food thefts, 1) label your food (if it isn’t already); 2) leave a note: “Hey, someone ate some of my tamales. I bring in enough for a week of lunches; please refrain from eating. Thanks!” These are your coworkers, not your adversaries. Maybe they ate them accidently, maybe not. I’ve learned that assuming good intentions in the place of malice gets me much better results and relations with people.

      8. StressedButOkay*

        Stealing the food is bad – no one is saying otherwise. But using misogynistic language in return shows the poor judgement of OP here. It’s not just the tamales thief that’ll see it but potentially other colleagues and management. It’s not a good look.

      9. NotAnotherManager!*

        Nah, it’s more the non sequitur – why insult someone’s mom (and on a moral value completed unrelated to thievery) when it’s their bonehead adult child that stole your tamales? I am also opposed to calling women “hos” in all circumstances.

      10. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        Being civil and being forgiving are not the same thing at all. There are ways to communicate that are effective but not immature.

        Side note: can we not use the word “class(y)” to indicate good behavior and “classless” to indicate bad behavior?

        1. lilsheba*

          ‘Side note: can we not use the word “class(y)” to indicate good behavior and “classless” to indicate bad behavior?”
          I’m sorry but why? it’s an accurate description.

          1. Not my real name*

            Not Radioactive Cyborg Llama, but I think they mean that it implies that upper class people are more moral than lower class. Which I hadn’t considered before and now I have TO THINK ABOUT THIS.

          2. Irish Teacher*

            It’s really not. As Not My Real Name said, “classy” implies upper class or posh and “classless” implies somebody who does not belong to a higher class or possibly somebody who has “opted out” of the class system. There is nothing specifically “upper class” about good behaviour” and nothing specifically “lower class” about poor behaviour.

            1. Jasper*

              Also, comment up above actually explicitly said “high class”, not just “classy”, which is sort of the “quiet part said out loud” version of that.

      11. Observer*

        But stealing their food is high class and fancy? One of these actions takes actual food (and therefore money) from someone whereas the other is just words, even if “mean”. Why is there the expectation that victims behave civilly to their attackers?

        This makes no sense. How exactly does this response do ANYTHING to address the actual problem. How does this comment have anything whatsoever to do with the action that was done?

        It doesn’t. If the LW had said I want to say “You’re worse than a low down hound dog.” That wouldn’t be polite, but they could probably get away with it. Because it actually addresses THE person *who did the deed* and it addresses *the deed*. The comment you are defending does neither.

        So maybe the OP is less of a jerk than the thief, but that’s not a very high bar.

      12. lilsheba*

        “But stealing their food is high class and fancy? One of these actions takes actual food (and therefore money) from someone whereas the other is just words, even if “mean”. Why is there the expectation that victims behave civilly to their attackers? That religous forgiveness nonsense is rubbish. “But they could be food insecure!!!”, well so could the person that they stole the food from.” Exactly what I would say. The person who stole the food is a jerk, plain and simple, and while I may not actually say anyone is a ho, I would definitely tell them they are a jerk, because obviously they need to hear it. I don’t believe in being civil to one’s attacker.

        1. Observer*

          The OP was not suggesting being rude to the thief but to their mother. How does that make any sense?

    2. Irish Teacher*

      And it’s just…weird and irrelevant. The mother isn’t the one who did anything wrong here. If the person wanted to insult the thief, well, something like “you’re a food stealing jerk” would make way more sense. Insulting their mother is just…the response you’d expect from a 12 year old.

      1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

        Yeah, the “Yo mamma (is a ho’)” is a misogynistic, grade school level insult. I don’t care what the person did, it’s not appropriate in the work place.

        I’d call the person “a larcenous cretin with delusions of sentience”, but that may be too many big words for a workplace food thief.

      1. FashionablyEvil*

        I feel like it’s kind of an odd choice for an AAM question then, given that Vine shut down in 2016?

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Someone noted the Vine thing upthread, and it reminded me of a past letter from someone who wanted to use examples from Friends to explain her work style in interviews. It was going to be a problem because a lot of people are not intimately familiar with Friends, and even if they are, someone who insists on going to the well of an old pop culture thing to explain things is going to look weirdly limited.

          As is, most people did not think “Ah, a nod to a pop culture thing from 10 years ago” and so it’s just an accidental version of giving advice to people in TV shows, who are often wildly unprofessional even if they are ostensibly in an office.

          1. Reality.Bites*

            A friend of mine, a professor, came to the realization well into the 2000s that people born in the late 90s and early aughts had no clue what his references to the Borg from Star Trek:TNG meant.

            Pop culture references made deliberately in a way to connect with an audience tend to come from people who aren’t knowledgable enough about pop culture to get what a given audience is likely to understand.

            1. Allornone*

              My dark moment was many moons ago when I was working at a bookstore. A student needed the book “Emma” and as I was taking her to it, she asked what it was about and I brought up the movie Clueless (which was a then-contemporary adaptation). She had no idea what I was talking about. It’s the first time I felt old. And that was 15 years ago or so, so, crap.

              1. Willow Pillow*

                And I’m sure Alison would have just the same answer to “you’re a virgin who can’t drive!”

            2. Texan In Exile*

              I was born well before the 90s and I still would not get Star Trek references. I barely get Star Wars references and the ones I get, I get because there are so many references. I think I saw the original movie when I was 12 but it did not make a huge impact on me.

        2. FrogEngineer*

          It’s just a meme at this point. I bet a lot of people don’t know that it originally came from Vine, they’ve just seen it on TikTok or YouTube or whatever.

          1. londonedit*

            And I’ve never seen it, and wouldn’t have had a clue that the note was supposed to be referencing something funny.

          2. DataSci*

            And a lot of people have never seen it at all. And how does knowing it’s a meme help? Are we supposed to think “Oh, this misogynistic, rude, and irrelevant insult is a meme, so everything is okay” rather than “This is a misogynistic, rude, and irrelevant insulting meme”?

          3. Dahlia*

            It’s a meme I, who spends a lot of time on tumblr, a website known for keeping dead horses alive, have never heard of.

            It’s far from universally known and it remains misogynistic.

      2. Observer*

        It’s a quote from a famous Vine meme

        So? I’m not seeing how that makes any difference whatsoever.

        1. JLH*

          I mean, the point is that it’s not just OP throwing out some random, vague insult because that’s how they talk to people (I don’t know them personally so maybe they do), the Vine itself made rounds because it’s specifically a sort of “catch you off guard/unexpected” response to someone else’s action (I can’t say my mind didn’t immediately go to it a couple years back when someone stole my cat’s new nametag package off my porch).

          It’s still not appropriate for most workplaces, so I think “err on the side of not placing or utilizing a pop culture reference that’s vulgar and somewhat obscure” will stand. I also don’t think OP is trying to bond with the tamale thief, which is the only time a lot of references really land anyway.

          1. Observer*

            It’s still rude and misogynistic. And if they use it *IS* “the way they talk to people”. Because they chose to use that particular meme.

      3. ThursdaysGeek*

        What is Vine? (And yes, I could google it, but if I had come across the note in my workplace, I wouldn’t know it was anything other than rude and inappropriate.)

        1. JLH*

          It was an application/site for short form videos; essentially TikTok’s predecessor. Very quick clips – I think no more than six seconds — and usually funny (humor is obviously subjective).

    3. AnonInCanada*

      True, but the thief shouldn’t be absconded from blame, either. Maybe this:
      “Dear Tamale Thief: I’m sure your mother didn’t raise you that way, and I hope you feel a burning sensation when it’s time for them to leave out the other end! Sincerely, Robbed Of Lunch.”

    4. SchuylerSeestra*

      It’s interesting to me because the phrase is AAVE. Completely inappropriate for the workplace of course. But I actually get the context( you are a raggedy so and so, lacking couth and upbringing)

      I’m a BIPOC woman and a feminist and I’ve used the phrase myself, though granted jokingly. And never ever in a professional setting.

    5. ElizawithaZ*

      Ok, Black lady hat on: as others have mentioned this quote is a reference to a 2014 video that went viral on Vine. These days it’s a popular meme on Black People Twitter and TikTok.
      As a petty person who loves drama, it’s one of my favorite retorts.
      As a professional, it’s beyond inappropriate. Which is why I’m pretty sure LW2 is trolling Allison.

  9. nnn*

    #2: You can do better. Give them something to worry about instead.

    Example: google up a food that has recently been recalled in your area, and say “To whoever stole my tamales: DO NOT EAT THEM! They contained [recalled food]. If you experience [symptoms listed in the recall notice], seek medical attention.”

    Or: “To whoever stole my tamales: I know who you are and I’ve seen your browser history. If there are tamales of equal or better quality in the freezer tomorrow, we can forget this whole thing happened.”

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I think it has to be – I can imagine people wanting to write a note like that or even going through with it, but those people generally don’t have the self-awareness to write into an advice column… Maybe someone wrote a note like that and their colleague sent the letter as if they are the note writer!

      2. Green great dragon*

        I think this happened, and the person writing in is the thief, or maybe just a third party (the note-writer’s manager?) who is trying to show it was an inappropriate response.

      3. ferrina*

        Yeah, I’m surprised Alison answered it.

        Love nnn’s response though. Especially the second one.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Historically, it’s the small things that really get people going. Leaving a note on a grave is obviously bad, whereas moving someone’s candy dish is an excellent reason to spend 1000 posts debating the moral questions.

      4. Baron*

        Oh, absolutely. Some people might think leaving that message is a good idea because they value things other than propriety, but no one thinks it’s “appropriate”, and no one thinks Alison thinks it’s “appropriate”.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      I did manage to stop someone taking my food at my last job. We had an office supply of string cheese that we used for snacks in our childcare area and at events. I also used to bring my own supply of string cheese (different brand, much smaller pack) and people would take it even though it was labelled as being mine. (I didn’t want to use the office cheese supply because we were a nonprofit.)

      So I wound up putting my string cheese in two Ziploc bags. The outer bag had my name all over it. The inner bag contained the string cheese bound together with a rubber band and a note stating that this was my own supply of string cheese and requesting that the person not take it because I have very limited snack options due to having food allergies. Oh, and I also labelled each individual stick of string cheese. All the labelling was a total pain, but people stuck to raiding the office supply after I started it!

      1. Varthema*

        This is smart, though unfortunate that it’s necessary. This kind of theft tends to be purely opportunistic – since it can be done so quickly, there’s not much (perceived) risk of discovery and is also (seemingly, to the thief) low stakes and quickly forgotten, not much risk of remorse. Every layer of labeling and bagging that the would-be opportunistic thief would have to open unbalances the risk-reward calculus. More chance for someone to see them at it, more chance to feel guilty.

        Sorry you had to do that though!

      2. Dino*

        I hd the same situation and came to the same solution, although my inner note did include the word “motherf*cker”. I figured if they got far enough into stealing to be offended by the note, there’s no way to complain about it without outing themselves as the thief.

        1. Aphrodite*

          Be sure to use “cheap ass-tamales” rather than “cheap-ass tamales” if you really want to get your point across.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Not going to lie, I kind of love the second one.

      This is also making me miss the Passive-Aggressive Notes blog.

  10. Fellow Teacher*

    LW1, you sound very tired. As well you should be, it sounds like a lot has happened personally and professionally in the last few years. When I’ve been in the place you’re at (several times in my teaching career), someone hinting that I need to in any way give more is enraging. I truly know where you’re coming from.

    I’m also going to guess you have an underlying mistrust in your leadership and they have not handled the almost complete turnover of your staff well (and were perhaps a cause of it). I hope you can put a pin in your feelings about your leadership as you do this training and learn about restorative justice circles. I agree with Allison that not everyone should run them, but I can understand why an organization might want everyone to have the training so they understand the process. For the circles to work, there needs to be widespread buy-in throughout the school starting with the staff and building with the students. It makes sense to train widely.

    You work with a population who is most impacted by our current punitive justice system. No matter how dysfunctional your leadership, I think you owe it to your students to learn about an alternate vision for justice. You will get something out of it that will help you serve your students. You don’t have to bare your soul, but I do think it will help to go in with an open mind. I hope it’s a good training, because I believe the practice can do a lot of good and I’m glad to see it spreading.

    1. Fellow Teacher*

      Also, the way you are feeling now is how your students may feel when asked to participate. That is a perfect topic for discussion.

    2. Sharon*

      I agree, it makes sense for everyone to be trained even if not everyone will actually lead a restorative circle.

    3. Allonge*

      I agree, there is most likely a reason to train all teachers, even if not everyone will be comfortable / asked to conduct these circles.

      The other thing I though of: if there is emotional sharing to come, I would prefer to have a haeds’ up. So the pre-warning also works.

      Last but not least: OP, I am not sure what you have in mind when they talk aobut emotional sharing – I know for sure there is a whole matrix of people between “I can’t even identify what I am feeling but I am telling everyone” and “it’s none of anyone’s business, but I am confident in what I feel myself” and all other permutations of these.

      Maybe it’s ok to go into the meeting with an open mind and try to see what someone like yourself could share? Or, to see what the trainer says when you go “I am super uncomfortable right now, and am unlikely to talk about my feelings”? It’s not like there will not be students feeling this way.

    4. Observer*

      I hope it’s a good training, because I believe the practice can do a lot of good and I’m glad to see it spreading.

      The problem here is that if what the trainer said is a reflection of how they intent to actually run these trainings, they are NOT good trainings and actually run the risk instituting practices that could harm the students.

      The idea that it’s necessary to share personal stuff in this context is pretty toxic, to be honest. Does this person actually understand the issues that many of these kids face?

    5. ILoveCoffee*

      I agree the practice can do a lot of good but ONLY if the administration puts in the resources necessary to make this work. I suspect the teacher is wondering if it’s a “fad” because so often these good ideas get thrown around and then never properly implemented. And, while teachers should be 100% a part of this practice, it can’t be on them to make ONE MORE thing happen when they are already making so much happen with so little support

  11. Sharon*

    Do kids want to see teachers getting emotional? If I came to my teacher in a crisis, I would want them to be calm, not crying along with me. I would also be deeply uncomfortable if teachers shared overly personal information. I’m not saying that teachers should be robots, but adults do need to compartmentalize their own feeling sometimes in order to better serve kids.

    I would bring these issues up during the training. I don’t think you’ll be seen as “not a team player” if you voice your concerns in the form of a sincere, open-minded question — like, “How do we set healthy emotional boundaries with our students when we have these conversations? What is an appropriate level of sharing vs. what would be considered oversharing?”

    1. nnn*

      Depending on how it plays out, you might even be able to leverage your feelings about the circle into the emotion that you get emotional with in the circle.

      “I’m feeling really [awkward/exposed/unsafe/whatever work you want to use], which has me thinking about how students – especially our more vulnerable or marginalized students – might feel in this context, which has me thinking about how we can build boundaries into this exercise so it can be safe and healing for everyone.”

    2. Allonge*

      These are absolutely great questions to discuss!

      But to answer your question about students wanting or not to see teachers emotional: it depends, of course. I know that when our high school geography teacher came in for a class once and instead of [whatever country] she talked about how their home was burglarised the night ebfore and she was upset and they took some jewelry she got from her mom – well, I remember this a lot more than any geography lesson from her. And if I ever had to talk to her about something personal, this would have helped.

      But of course I would want someone calm in a crisis! Showing emotions and being calm when needed are not mutually exclusive.

    3. Felis alwayshungryis*

      I’d also worry about the teacher’s’ vulnerabilities being weaponised by certain students. I’m sure there’s a place for it, but this kind of practice sounds like it smashes through all kinds of boundaries.

      1. Allonge*

        OK but that’s a reason to go to the training where this can be addressed. I would certainly expect that a good training includes this aspect of the circles and if it’s not something the trainer can answer, that is also a sign to be cautious about everything else.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      There are things that are appropriate to share with students, and things that aren’t appropriate to share. They should certainly feel like they know you, but it doesn’t take much to achieve that feeling. It doesn’t take all that many years of teaching experience to figure out that you could talk about being sad about your childhood dog sometimes with your students, but that it’s not the best idea to mention your horribly personal and ongoing trauma. You’re quite right that your teachers should not be visibly emotional or crying along (!) but referring to emotions and talking about emotions you may have had yourself in the past, is just part and parcel of teaching small humans (This is a bit subject variable; I am an English teacher). Lots of the misconceptions you have mentioned in your post is the exact reason training is so important – it has nothing to do with being overly emotional and thoughtlessly reactive. The aim is is to be calm, accepting, to model emotional regulation and to be interested in a child’s wider life and their general happiness.

      1. Observer*

        The aim is is to be calm, accepting, to model emotional regulation and to be interested in a child’s wider life and their general happiness.

        And none of that requires that “getting emotional with one another” in the context of running the circles.

        A training focused on what kinds of person information can help humanize a teacher? OK. Serious work on how to make yourself open to seeing your students being emotional, and how to *appropriately* encourage students to express / feel their emotions? Definitely. eg You want to help students see that being a “strong” guy is not incompatible with being sad and that you can be angry without going off the wall.

        None of that requires teachers to share a lot of personal emotional stuff. And it absolutely *forbids* any hint of pressure for anyone to share.

        Which is to say that while I do recognize the potential of Restorative Justice, and building healthy relationships with students, the training being described is a real problem. And the questions Sharon asks are not “misconceptions” about RJ, but serious questions about the training the OP is describing.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Oh for sure, RJ is pretty standard and we’ll respected stuff, but the training as described in that quotation could easily be problematic; I assumed that was due to the school still being untrained, so they can’t be expected to describe it particularly well beforehand. Of course, it’s always possible to do things badly, and the OP has to be prepared for the chance that the quotation is to be taken quite literally. Although I would be wary, I didn’t find that quotation particularly alarming. RJ is an emotional technique; emotions do run high in school settings, as we all know. There’s emotional and emotional, though. There’s both inappropriate and appropriate emotional expression in teaching.

      2. Don't Call Me Shirley*

        There’s lots of emotions, that are part of being even a mediocre teacher. Anger at lack of resources? Fear for a student in a dangerous situation? Pride and happiness for a student who has achieved something great? Sadness when a student shares a loss or a difficulty? Affection for a kid who reminds you of aspects of your childhood? Anger at a parent who is refusing interventions for a kid who needs it? Sympathy for a parent who is struggling? Anger when a student does something cruel to another?….

        Teaching includes emotional labour. Managing for these teaching emotions is often something teachers can use training with. Training can help figure out how restorative justice will feel to the students, and even to identify emotions they might have and how to manage them, maybe trying to feel the emotions in a role-play as a parent or child in restorative justice scenario, after fighting or sexual comments or whatever else.

        I just volunteer with kids, and even in those trainings we talk about managing our emotions and that kids have emotions (Respect in Sport training is what I’m immediately thinking about, where every hockey parent needs to do training that might make them uncomfortable in identifying their non productive emotions and reactions)

    5. Yorick*

      They want the teachers to get emotional during training – the way they imagine students will – not while running the circles with students.

      1. Allonge*

        And if it’s a good training, even then it’s not going to be like ‘tell us your deepest darkest secret horrors from your life, but like, emotionally’.

        Just looking at the comments here, appropriate ways to express emotions and modelling this to kids is something teachers could use help with.

        1. Observer*

          Just looking at the comments here, appropriate ways to express emotions and modelling this to kids is something teachers could use help with

          Yes. And if the OP is accurately describing what the training is going for, they are not going to get that in this training. That’s the fundamental issue.

          1. Allonge*

            I don’t doubt the accuracy of OP’s description, but by definition they did not go into detail – we are missing context and I am not going to say this is obviously bad without it.

            If e.g. the message on getting emotional is a direct quote and from an official message, that is really bad communication, and reflect badly on the project. If it’s something the trainer/organiser mentioned while running into OP in the corridors, in passing, or is a paraphrasing of a longer message, that is a whole different thing.

            I don’t see how it’s helpful for us to encourage OP to assume the worst. They should certainly prepare based on what they read here! But if OP really does not have the bandwidth for this, which by the way I would totally understand, it’s still not useful to go to management with a message of ‘I don’t know what this is but it’s horrible and I am not going to do it’ before any kind of attempt at participating. It’s like Alison says, the trainer cannot make OP do any emoting.

            And to be honest, I would expect any adult in the training, even if it’s a horrible one you are envisioning, to be able to:
            – politely decline sharing anything, emotions included or
            – share something that is not the worst thing ever to happen to them but involved emotions and/or
            – tell the trainer their concerns about the whole thing.

            If none of these are an option, OP is not well and if at all possible, should report sick for the day of the training, out of self-defence.

            1. Ellis Bell*

              “I don’t see how it’s helpful for us to encourage OP to assume the worst.” Yeah, I completely agree, even though I’ve said elsewhere in the comments that OP’s wariness is totally warranted based on the fact the school seems a bit in crisis mode and OP might not have loads of trust for leadership right now. I think the best thing for them to do is read those comments where people have had great experiences of RJ training, and also those where it’s been not so great and then they have more data points to compare the training with once they’ve actually seen it. The worst thing they could do is work themselves up into a lather in advance. It’s all too easy to become the staffroom naysayer, or the rebel at the back of the training room shooting every idea down (uh oh I may be talking about me!)

  12. MPerera*

    I once saw a sign up on a workplace fridge saying, “Jesus knows who you are, THIEF.”

    I wanted to add, “Yes, and He told me that today I’d be with Him in Paradise.”

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      I don’t quite understand what you mean by your response – can you explain? You (are you writing as the thief?) are saying you will die today? What is the intended impact on the person stealing?

      1. BubbleTea*

        When he was crucified, Jesus told one of the men also being crucified beside him that he was forgiven for stealing and would be in paradise with Jesus that day (as they were both about to die). So the response is pointing out that sins can be forgiven, I think.

        1. BubbleTea*

          Actually I think the response is pointing out that this wouldn’t be a very successful way to discourage theft, because if you’re a believer you think your sins can be forgiven and if not you don’t care.

          1. Allonge*

            Or that Jesus did not really come down on the “thieves will be Hunted Down and Punished TM” side.

      2. MPerera*

        As BubbleTea said, it’s a reference to the repentant thief who was crucified with Jesus. Basically, I’d be saying, “if you can invoke Jesus to suit your needs, a food thief could do the same to suit theirs.”

    2. plants*

      I was in a thrift store fitting room once. There was a picture of Jesus with the caption: “Do not steal. It is a sin and a crime.”

      I thought it was hilarious.

      1. Reality.Bites*

        In a cafe restroom in Mexico, next to the sink was a life-size mural of a nun holding a whip. No “employees must wash their hands” needed.

  13. Persephone*

    LW2 is, I believe, referencing the vine “whoever threw that paper, your mom’s a ho.” Regardless, it’s inappropriate. The majority of people in the work place wouldn’t get that (as you can see here), and even if they did it’s still a misogynistic statement. Go to whoever maintains the company fridge and ask them to send out a reminder that taking food that isn’t yours is theft and won’t be tolerated. You’re a professional adult, don’t be childish.

    LW4 – sounds like you need to find something outside of work to focus on. Your job shouldn’t be your personality. You might need to take a serious break from work, give yourself time and space to figure yourself out, and then try again.

    1. JustSomeone*

      I don’t think it’s helpful to say that a person’s job “shouldn’t” be their personality. Its perfectly valid to view one’s work as simply a means of making money as opposed to some huge passion, but it’s also valid to find great meaning in a vocation. Neither approach is wrong.

      1. Bit o' Brit*

        It is taking a big personal psychological risk, though, putting all of your eggs (self-esteem, fulfilment, passion) in one basket that’s largely out of your control. It’s common to (often wrongly) feel like a failure when losing your job, but when it’s also your identity it can be like you’ve failed as a person, or like you’ve lost what made you a person. Combine that with a tough job search and it can be devastating, and very hard to recover from.

        1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

          I had a friend who allowed himself to be defined by his job. Then his boss started gaslighting him and undercutting his confidence and competence. Then, after psychologically destroying him regarding his work, they fired him. In doing so they destroyed his identity. He killed himself, because he had set aside all of his other interests and hobbies in order to become X, and when X was gone, he had no self left.

          Do not solely define yourself by your work! Capitalism is too harsh, and allows too much power to management, to put yourself in that position. Unless you are literally the founder of your company, do not let your work define you. Even if you are a founder, don’t let the success or failure of your business define you.

          I can be passionate about my job – I actually care quite a bit about my work. But I don’t let it be my sole identity. I can always say “I was looking for a job when I found this one.” When I get laid off I mourn a bit, then gird my loins and start job hunting.

      2. Persephone*

        When you make a single thing your personality, you make it responsible for all of your fulfilment in life. And when your work is dependent on other people (aka every single job in existence), you make them at least partially responsible for that fulfilment. Which, a) isn’t fair to them, and b) makes you incapable of providing yourself happiness independently.

        What happens if you lose your job and can’t get another? You’ve lost the one thing you’ve based your entire identity on. Who are you outside of it?

        People are meant to be multifaceted. Our identities cannot be comprised of one thing. Your work cannot make up your whole personality or you will suffer for it.

        1. Persephone*

          Finding meaning in your work is NOT the same as it being your personality. You can find meaning in your work and outside if it. If work is your personality, then that means work is the ONLY meaningful thing in your life. Which is not a good thing.

      3. Allonge*

        There is a pretty large difference between a job being someone’s personality and their profession being their personality.

        Neither is healthy, but OP can identify strongly with being a lawyer independent of ‘particular crappy job where they do legal stuff’.

      4. allathian*

        I find a lot of meaning in my work, I wouldn’t want to spend so much time doing it if I didn’t. But I’m still someone who works to live rather than lives to work, and if I’m honest, I feel rather sorry for people who live to work. A friend of mine who’s a work-to-live manager in a field where the tendency is to live to work says that work-to-live employees are usually much easier to manage because they tend to take constructive feedback better, whereas those who live to work tend to take it very personally. If you see every criticism that’s directed at your work product as criticism of yourself as a person…

      5. Colette*

        I used to work at a high tech company with lots of dedicated people. Some of them had interests outside of work; others made work their whole personality.

        And then the layoffs started. And continued. And continued. In the end, every single employee was either laid off or moved to a different company as lines of business were sold off.

        Those who had interests outside of work adapted; they found new jobs, sometimes in different fields.

        And those who made their job their whole personality struggled. Sometimes they found something else, but often they floundered and spent a long time unemployed.

        It’s not that those with balanced lives didn’t find meaning in their work – for the most part they did. But they found meaning outside of work, too, so that when they lost the work portion of their life, they had other things that gave their life meaning.

        1. Cedrus Libani*

          I struggled with depression, and was eventually more or less dragged to a therapist. Guy had me figured within minutes. “You have good coping skills, but you don’t use them when things go badly at work. Why is that?” “Work is the only thing I’m good at. If I can’t even do my job, I’m not worth anything to anyone…wait, that’s why I’m depressed, isn’t it?”

          Yeah, it was. I had to make a conscious effort to diversify my emotional portfolio. But I did that, and I’m much more stable as a result.

      6. Loch Lomond*

        It shouldn’t. No one thing, especially no job, is important enough or broad enough to be your whole personality. People are meant for more facets than that and it’s underselling your life to be so one-dimensional.

      7. whingedrinking*

        But even if your job is one way that you live your most cherished values, it shouldn’t actually *be* the values. It should be “I became a surgeon because I care passionately about helping the sick”, not “I care about people because I am a surgeon – oops, I was in a horrible car accident that destroyed my hands, now I am nothing.”

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      LW4 – sounds like you need to find something outside of work to focus on. Your job shouldn’t be your personality. You might need to take a serious break from work, give yourself time and space to figure yourself out, and then try again.

      That’s really dismissive and borderline ignorant.

      If Alison’s right, there’s a wide gulf in tools available between Linux, OSX, and Windows, and quality between those platforms as well. (although Virtualization technology makes it really easy to tack a virtual Linux environment onto the Windows one if that’s the situation–so easy that it’s easier than asking an external arbiter for advice, so I truly doubt platform is the driving criterion).

      If it is more hardware than software as asserted initially, I have a peer who literally types at twice the rate on an ergonomic keyboard. I’m far more productive with a trackball next to my keyboard, or an ambidextrous mouse so I can use it left-handed (and it’ll slow my pace towards my inevitable RSI). As a lateral thinker, I’d trade top-end GHz on a processor for more cores, and processor-beefiness (not sure what the real word I want there is) for more RAM. I have had peers who prefer 1-2 17-21″ screens over 2-3 24-27″ screens (deep-diver or parallel processor types). Some (myself included) who are happiest running a Chromebook/Surface to use as a portable screen, “mouse,” and keyboard and let rdc’ing into a (virtual) server from whatever room or spot demand takes us on the day.

      I don’t think LW4 abstracted away the tech aspect of the specific situation and we’re lost in those weeds. To LW4, instead of the “WTF” answer, I’d ask what variations the employer is speaking of: HID (human-interface devices, e.g. keyboard, tablet, mouse, etc), Displays, linear/parallel hardware optimization, desktop v. notebook v. Chromebook/Surface, etc, and try to work within their paradigm.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I think Persephone meant LW3, not 4 here.

          Now that you point it out, I agree with you.

    3. Delta Delta*

      One problem here is that Vine hasn’t been a thing in maybe 10 years. I can’t remember the tamales I stole for lunch yesterday, let alone a 6 second video I might have seen during the Obama administration.

  14. Nervous New Grad*

    Re #5: Just throwing a thought out there, “Tell us why you applied to this job” might not always be the softball question you might think it is! I’m sure it is for some people, but from talking to a lot of fellow job seekers, I’ve noticed a lot of people actually seem unsure how to answer this question. They’re not sure how to display adequate enthusiasm for the job or feel they have to feign some level of incredible enthusiasm. I do think people of course should be interested in/passionate about the job they’re applying for to some degree, but I also think a lot of people are likely applying for whatever they feel willing and qualified for in order to put food on their table but know “I need a job so I can earn money and not starve” is not an answer that will fly in an interview! (Even if it’s the truth)

    1. nnn*

      It’s always bugged me that “Because I can do it” isn’t an acceptable answer to the question of why I applied for a job.

      You’re looking for (for the sake of example) a Chartered Professional Accountant who can speak Greek and play the tuba, I’m a Chartered Professional Accountant who can speak Greek and play the tuba. You’re looking to hire, I’m looking for a job.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        I actually do think that’s an acceptable answer. Phrase it as “it’s good match for my skills” and give an example (“I’m really looking forward to playing the tuba in an ensemble again”) and there ya go.

        I have to add though, in my field it’s kind of expected that applying your skill and your intelligence to challenging problems is the #1 motivator aside from money. Believing in a for-profit company’s “mission” or “values” or whatever is… not seen as a positive.

      2. bamcheeks*

        I think that’s a great example, although if you’re already in a CPA+Greek+tuba job, then it still makes sense to say why you want to move to this one (Your current role focusses on classical Greek and you want to improve your modern Greek? You’re the only tuba in your current role and this one offers an opportunity to play with a whole brass ensemble?)

        Personally, I think the point of this question is to demonstrate that you understand the job description by emphasising the key qualities and experiences that make you the right person for the job. Simply gushing about the organisation you’re applying to is a waste of an answer, IMO — it doesn’t tell them anything about you as a candidate or how you’ll perform in the role.

        I would also worry about an employer who looks for that kind of gushing– it suggests to me that they either see this as an opportunity to be flattered by hearing how jealous everyone is that they get to work for that organisation, or that they are looking for people who’ll have no work/life boundaries and will be easy to pressure into overworking.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Yes on demonstrating understanding of the job description! Also demonstrating that one has thought about what the job will be like and thinks it will be a fit. And sometimes this question will turn up unrealistic expectations of the job that can be adressed without wasting more time.

    2. Ranon*

      For my current position my question for them (which they answered before I asked which was really kind of awesome) was “why the hell are you people interviewing me?” – I had been working with a recruiter and even she was surprised when this particular part of the company wanted to interview me because my experience was not an obvious fit at all. But they knew what they wanted and what they wanted was my kind of background and it’s been a good fit so far!

    3. ferrina*

      Yes! My honest answer would be “Because I need to leave the toxic dump of my current job, I have the right skills, you’re willing to pay me market rate and you seem mostly functional.” (actual answer is diplomatic flattery)

      One of the best people worked solely for the paycheck. She didn’t say it in the interview (of course), but after she’d been there a year and trusted me, she stated that she was just there for a paycheck, and her ultimate goal was to earn enough money to move to Country and open Unrelated Business. She did great work, and was happy to grow her skills in whatever way my department needed (she didn’t really care, as long as we compensated her fairly, she’d do her best at whatever we had for her). Honestly, it was really convenient, because there was never a conflict between what she wanted and what I needed for the team.

    4. WhyAreThereSoManyBadManagers*

      Exactly. Many people, including myself, were applying for jobs to try to get away from abusive managers, toxic workplaces, or bullying coworkers…and yet we can’t use any of that in a response or bring it up because of the taboo and nonsensical “don’t talk negative about your past boss or work” thing. So the next job appeals to us because we hold onto hope that maybe the next boss will be kind and rational, the workplace nontoxic, and the salary/benefits enough to live on. We can’t say that either. It’s a horrible question to ask. We wouldn’t have applied if the job didn’t appeal to us.

      1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        These answers just need to be translated into interview-ese. You are looking for growth in your career and a workplace culture that values independence or collaboration.

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      I ask “What interests you about this job?” as an opener, mostly so I can speak to their interests and also let them know if what they’re interested in doing would not be a substantial part of this particular job (I’m a big fan of two-way interviewing). I’ve not really found that it stumps people. I do get a wide variety of answers, but they all tend to be helpful in someone way, and it’s not intended to be a trick or to gauge “enthusiasm”.

      One of my kids is applying for a volunteer position for the summer, and one of the questions is essentially, “Why do you want this job?”. They’ve joked about putting down “because it will look good on my college applications and my mom is making me”, but ultimately went with the truth, which is it’s an way to get to spend the summer out in the woods, since they are the only outdoorsy person in the family.

    6. Merrie*

      It contains both aspects of “What appeals to you about this particular job?” and “Why do you want to leave your current job?” If your current job is not very similar, you can readily point out the ways in which the new job is a better fit for what you want. If they are similar, what are you going to say? Sometimes it does end up being that you like the other organization better than the one that you work for, or just that you’ve been in your current role for a long time and are ready for a change of scenery. If you really have no idea how to answer the question, then maybe you should spend some time trying to figure out what you want out of your career before you waste a bunch of time applying to random places.

  15. nnn*

    One thing that strikes me in the last letter is the panel doesn’t agree about what they’re evaluating people on, and also doesn’t agree on whether they’re opening with a softball question that helps the candidate relax or diving right in with a question that should be evaluated.

    For next time, if you are in fact prioritizing being passionate about the organization, you could help applicants out by emphasizing it in the job posting or on your Careers page – “We’re looking for people who are just as passionate about our mission as we are” or something like that.

    1. JustSomeone*

      I’m not sure that would be a good idea. It would certainly prompt applicants to opine about how great and important the mission is, but you would lose the differentiation. It’s much more difficult to try to guess who is being sincere than it is to just notice who brings it up.

    2. ferrina*

      Agree with nnn, but also want to plead with LW- don’t make passion a hiring criteria.

      Yes, it’s important that folks don’t actively disagree with what you are doing, but passion doesn’t replace competence. I’ve seen passionate people be an absolute trainwreck at their jobs, sometimes because they care too much and won’t accept business needs and limitations (“but it would help our mission more if I do this other thing!”). I’d rather have someone who is lukewarm about the mission but takes great pride in their personal work and has excellent output.

      1. a thought*

        I think that the importance of connection to a mission is most important for certain types of roles (especially non-profit jobs, jobs of interaction with students, patients, the public). For example, I would not want to hire a communications director who couldn’t convincingly say the mission was important. I’d be concerned about hiring a nurse who didn’t care about patients. Etc.

        I worked at an affordable housing non-profit and I agree that work competence is the #1 thing, but (all else equal) someone who cares about that cause (even for back-office type functions) is a pro. But I think thats unique to non-profits.

        1. ferrina*

          I guess I was thinking of being a good representative as part of the job. For example, a marketing director or a salesperson/donor relations person needs to be a good face of the organization in order to be good at their job. Similarly, a great healthcare professional understands that communicating with patients and treating the whole patient is what gets the best outcomes. I’m currently at a for-profit, and believing in the company’s product is part of selling the product and having high quality standards (not so different from a non-profit; you want to achieve the best outcomes for your clients as well).

          At that point it becomes about company culture- what is it that the organization values, and is the candidate a good fit? Does your organization value compassion? Human-centric solutions? Excellent service? Mass production? Artisanship? If the company’s values match the employee’s values, that will motivate your employees to go above and beyond for the mission.

  16. Audrey*

    #1 reminds me of an episode of The Office (American) where Michael tries to force his employees to do grief counseling… and they start telling stories of someone close to them who died but it’s actually the plot lines to popular movies.

  17. Old lady in Geneva*

    OP for letter 5. The question is specifically identified as a warm up question to see how the candidates present themselves before moving on to questions focused on technical and managerial skills.
    I work for the United Nations in Switzerland. We get a lot of passionate applicants. I guess my defense of the “less passionate about the UN per se” candidates comes from my 30 years experience working here. Working on issues such as child labor and forced labor can wear a person down, which is where the passion helps. But, like Alison said, the most effective colleagues I have witnessed in action are pretty sober, level-headed in crisis and very technically competent.
    It also comes from the fact that I sit on panels for senior positions, so I suppose I have an expectation that the person will have grown out of the “gushing phase” of their career. But maybe I’m just getting old and cynical. :-)

    1. bamcheeks*

      Years ago I saw a really great presentation from a clinical psychologist, and one thing she said that’s always stuck with me was that she sees a lot of students who want to become clinical psychologists because they want to help people, but she thought “wanting to help people” is a terrible reason to become a CP. Because firstly, there are lots and lots of different ways to help someone, and that doesn’t tell me why being a clinical psychologist is the right way for you, and secondly, you quickly realise that you can’t help everyone, and if that’s your motivation it can easily lead to burnout. She became a clinical psychologist because she’s just endlessly fascinated by the insides of people’s heads and how they work, and even when she feels like she can’t help someone, she can still support them because she’s still interested in them.

      I still think about that a lot because I think it’s such a good way of thinking about how different people’s motivations work, and actually, having a little distance from the mission can be a positive.

      1. Rainbow*

        That’s fascinating. One of my biggest motivations is helping people, always has been – but I work in drug development. I don’t meet the people my team is ultimately helping, so I’ve never had that kind of burnout.

        1. bamcheeks*

          Yeah! One of the things I try and talk about is how there are lots of different levels of motivation, and you need to think about all of them. There’s the bigger picture, “what am I contributing to, what I do want to be able to say I did when I leave work”, and there’s a much smaller level of, “what keeps me active, happy and engaged day to day”, and they’re really different questions. You can help people by being head-down in a spreadsheet 8 hours a day, or stood in front of 30 seven-year-olds, or staring down a microscope, or writing press releases or managing patient journeys or auditing medical devices or going into the homes of some of the poorest and most disadvantaged people in the country to check their meds or being a lifeguard or a vetinary social worker or or or — It’s really important to understand those bigger motivations, but it’s not actually a great starting point for career decision-making!

          1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

            My requirement for job satisfaction is pretty simple: Does what I do makes people’s lives a little bit better? This can be by setting up a better system for my coworkers to work with; I don’t have to save the world to feel I’m doing good.

      2. All Het Up About It*

        Fascinating! Thank you for sharing!

        The thing that bugs me about the co-worker in #5 is being passionate about a mission not only isn’t critical in many roles, but if this is a Non-profit or other mission driving organization, then probably, the mission is pretty easy to support. You don’t have to have participated in the St. Jude marathon for the past ten years to want to work in their accounting department. You could see the job posting and think “Wow, this would be a great fit for my skills and of course I would want to work at a place supporting children and family fighting childhood cancer.” And if there were two candidates, and one HAD run the St. Jude marathon ten times, but didn’t have the same skills and experience as the candidate that hadn’t – it would just be dumb to hire them because they were more passionate.

        Also – IS this a non-profit, mission driven type place? Or is it a profit-driven corporation who likes to talk about their mission, but that doesn’t really mean squat.

    2. Warrior Princess Xena*

      I think it sounds like you have good instincts. One reason a lot of professional jobs have conflict of interest rules is that people do not always act rationally when they perceive that something crucial to them is on the line, like a surgeon worrying over doing surgery on their child. People can sometimes be too invested in a cause to be able to step back and look at a bigger picture and prioritise where resources need to go.

    3. Allonge*

      In my experience it’s also very difficult to maintain gushing levels of passion for a large org that inevitably has its issues – be that bureucracy or whatever.

      It’s the same thing as personal relations: you are ‘in love’ differently in your first six months than after 30 years. Does not mean a thing about commitment or whatever.

      Worse still – gushing can be easily faked. [Org] is the bestest ever and I fully belive in what you are doing here, whoooo!!!

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Looking for gushing also produces false negatives. I am of German Lutheran heritage. We are not a gushing people. If forced to fake it, it comes out awkward and seems fake. This does not mean we don’t care.

        1. Allonge*

          Oh for sure. I am also a fairly calm / even-keeled person – I even hesitate to say I am passionate about, well, anything really. But I am dedicated to doing a good job and apparently I manage it often enough.

          This is of course not apparent in an interview – but it’s really not replaceable by the professional version of “OMG OMG OMG I looove this org, sooo cool, OMG”.

        2. SofiaDeo*

          Exactly. I was never a gusher, I am more like Dr. Spock. And especially for more senior roles, I would wonder if an “overly emotional” gushy personality type would actually hinder in a crisis. Or upset/rattle junior staff. You need overall level headedness at some point. And IMO with all the stressors of the past few years, people that overall tend to be calm as opposed to emotional will work out better.

      2. Antilles*

        Along those lines, I’ve consistently found the most overtly passionate people tend to get the most frustrated when stuff inevitably goes sideways. Your passion means you see clearly what we could be (and that’s not a bad thing!) but it also means you clearly see all the areas where we fall short of that potential.

    4. Helvetica*

      I work in the same career as you do and I agree – people who are super passionate, especially about specific international policy issues get burnt out very fast. You need to be able to treat your job as a job, even if it is your dream career. I feel very passionate about my work – and I work on Russia – but in some ways, too much passion would make me disintegrate super fast. I’d rather be competent, and sober and realistic about the field, all the while feeling great admiration and respect for the organisation that hired me and in whose values I do believe.

    5. ABCYaBYE*

      I don’t think that sounds cynical at all. That question is a great way to open a lot of interviews (I’ll be asking that of a candidate in an hour, in fact) and gives the person an opportunity to show some basic understanding of the organization and job, and then highlight how their skillset translates. A super passionate candidate who is gushing about their love of the mission may not be the right fit. The person gushing about the mission from the start may not be able to manage others, or run systems, or train. If the rest of the interview allows them to talk about their technical skills and weave in detail that shows more understanding and skill, that passion will likely show through in other ways. Discounting someone who isn’t “passionate enough” when answering that first question may discount the person whose passion will show through in the rest of the discussion.

      1. ABCYaBYE*

        One additional thought, too… the level of passion you really want is that which can be sustained, or built upon. The person who knows the mission and can speak to it, even though they’re not gushing about it, is the person who can be with the org longer-term, I’d wager. If you’re hiring a development person, for instance, and they know what the org does and their skills translate well, there’s a decent chance as they get more involved their passion for the mission can grow. You run the risk of missing a great long-term employee if you’re hiring the candle that’s already burning brightly instead of the one that is ready to be lit.

        1. bamcheeks*

          You run the risk of missing a great long-term employee if you’re hiring the candle that’s already burning brightly instead of the one that is ready to be lit.

          An employer who was looking for gushing enthusiasm would be a red flag for me, and this is exactly why– I would assume they were deliberately screening for people who would work too intensively, burn out quickly, and be replaced.

    6. Buffy will save us*

      We ask this question when hiring, but we are a VERY niche type of setting which is not for everyone. If you are just desperate to get a job or away from your old one, you might not have REALLY thought about whether you want to work in our setting and it may not be for you.

  18. Bit o' Brit*

    LW5: The required level of enthusiasm for the organisation is definitely affected by what the actual role is. I’d never even heard of the charity/non-profit I currently work for when I applied, and still don’t overly care about “the mission” (it’s good that it exists, but we’re not saving the world or anything). Being in the tech department means that doesn’t matter one bit, but I’d expect the people carrying out our “charitable works” to have a much stronger opinion.

    1. BubbleTea*

      I’m now trying to guess what kind of charities fit this bill and in my personal head canon, you work for the Canals and Rivers Trust.

      1. Anthony-mouse*

        As someone who does a lot of volunteer work with the waterways in the U.K., thank you for making me laugh with this comment

  19. Roland*

    As a software engineer, I agree there’s a 90% chance OP asked for a mac/pc/linux and got not-that instead. It’s just not reasonable to support both mac and pc for a software company that wants to go anywhere fast. And linux is on thin ice at best in a mac shop.

    1. Felis alwayshungryis*

      Oh man, I’d pay to watch someone go into a mac shop with a Linux distro on their machine!

      1. Roland*

        I’ve worked in places that halfheartedly allowed a few devs to use linux, but those devs were expected to unblock themselves when tools didn’t work exactly as expected due to differences from everyone else’s macs. It’s not quite as egregious as pc/mac, but was not good for velocity. And the only reason it was allowed was probably because someone early on decided to get a linux machine and wasn’t denied – it’s better not to go down that path to begin with imo.

    2. Computer-Man*

      Yeah, I was coming to say that. As someone who manages Windows computers and a combination of other devices, I wouldn’t want to have a Mac on top of that.

      Without knowing exactly what was discussed it’s hard to pinpoint what their issue is, but if the situation was “I asked for [x] OS and they only support [y] OS” that’s not them moving the goalposts, that’s them saying “you can get any spec-build you want, we just don’t want you to have an extra support task and security vulnerability”.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        We have had people demand Mac hardware/OS in this firm and while it may be what they’re used to it absolutely isn’t going to happen.

        We’ve got enough fun with Windows, Unix, mainframes et al, we do not have the resources for any additional infrastructure to support.

        (Not to mention none of our apps will run on iOS)

      2. Don't Call Me Shirley*

        I would think it’s like that – dev wants Linux and maybe to part the machine out with a specific motherboard etc, larger company wanted to know how much RAM is reasonable and if you need a better graphics card for CAD on your Windows machine from one of the major manufacturers they’re under contract with

      1. Qwerty*

        Sadly, I see this regularly. It’s not so much a failure to understand as a refusal to. I’ve worked in Windows shops where the language was made by Microsoft, didn’t run well (at the time) on non-Windows machines, and the users exclusively used Windows machines. Totally had interview candidates and new hires get really bent out of shape when they found out that all work computers were Windows.

        1. Don't Call Me Shirley*

          Yeah, people in interviews asking for self administered Linux boxes to develop for a proprietary specialized os with an expensive compiler, and then not shutting up about moving a hard real time safety critical system to Linux (even 15 years ago) once they’re hired. There’s a refusal to accept that not all technical decisions are theirs sometimes…

    3. The Person from the Resume*

      I’m picturing this …

      My manager asked what sort of computer hardware and setup I’d like, as they would purchase completely new equipment for me (they shared they use PC setup). I said I would prefer Linux setup, as I’m used to working on Linux. They responded that “management would prefer you go with PC to keep it consistent across the company.”

      The LW is looking to be angry or at least a excuse to say there’s a big red flag, but this feels like a miscommunication. The company shared what setup they used first I think, and LW asked for something different when I suspect the company was asking about further specifics within their standard setup.

      Like maybe the LW said they wanted a Mac, when the company uses only PCs but was asking about laptop, docking station, 2 large monitors wireless mouse, ergonomic style keyboard.

    4. Texan In Exile*

      I worked at a place where everyone used PCs and Windows. That is, everyone but the Tech VP, who used a Mac.

      If I recall correctly, it was a pain in the neck to share files with him.

    5. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

      And linux is on thin ice at best in a mac shop.

      Yes and no.

      Yes, because all the Macheads will insist, in ALL CAPS that Mac is so much better than Linux, and what kind of cretin uses Linux on the desktop, and other sorts of arrogant nastiness.

      No, because you can get a nice BSD shell on a mac, and there are ways to install more up-to-date utilities (Mac only ships with old crufty stuff, but the Mac community has worked around that.) While you can’t easily install Linux on a Mac, you can easily run a Linux VM on a Mac.

      Only one or two places have I been able to actually get my preferred device: A Linux desktop, with a big hard drive and lots of RAM. I don’t personally own any working Windows boxes (my last one was shut down in 2000), and I won’t pay the insane amount of money for anything Apple. So if companies want me to use either Mac or Windows, they’re providing the hardware.

    6. Just choose*

      The OP should be glad the company keeps things consistent. Our software org is trying to do a gradual cutover of OS and requires everything to work on both of them, including READMEs with two sets of instructions. It is a big pain, and to me more if a red flag than what OP described, because it’s an ongoing hassle for everyone instead of just a temporary hassle if getting up to speed for new hires.

  20. Irish Teacher.*

    As a teacher who teaches in a school that has some similarities with LW1’s – “designated disadvantaged,” in a low income part of a city and with a very high rate of students with additional needs – and which has trialled restorative discipline, I have quite a few concerns about how the school is running it.

    Firstly, it seems to be very “one size fits all.” I don’t think it’s wrong for all teachers to be trained to run them, so long as they are not necessarily expected to do so and this is simply one extra tool for staff to use, if they feel it suits the situation. We were all trained on restorative practice, but were basically told to take what we wanted from it, that it might not suit everybody’s teaching style and that’s fine.

    But they way they are pushing it makes me think they are likely to do the same with students and that would be very problematic. While it’s good to create an atmosphere where students can get emotional without fear of repercussions, they should never feel pressured to. And if they are putting pressure on staff, well, generally people tend to have less respect for children’s boundaries than for those of adults, so that does not bode well and nor does the fact that it sounds like it might be difficult for her to speak up. One thing I love about teaching in such an environment is that everybody is so used to various needs that people tend to be very accepting and differences are easily tolerated.

    And honestly, encouraging people to “get emotional” or even worse, mandating it is counterproductive to the point of being bizarre. An atmosphere in which people feel they cannot opt out is not one in which they will feel comfortable “getting emotional”. In order for people to feel comfortable sharing personal details, you have to establish an environment where people feel safe and supported and that means an environment where “sorry, I’d rather not contribute” is accepted. If people can’t do that without risk of judgement, they aren’t going to feel comfortable sharing personal details for fear of judgement.

    This sounds like the school is looking at things backwards – in successful schools, staff and students feel comfortable sharing, therefore, let’s have people share their emotions, when really it’s a case of, when things are good, people feel comfortable sharing and not that sharing makes things good.

    Not that most of this is much help as to what to do.

  21. StellaBella*

    I don’t understand the answer to #4. Surely the OP knows specifically what their manager asked them about the setup and wasn’t asking for a guess about whether it involved the OS or monitor arrangement?

    1. Green great dragon*

      Not necessarily. I can imagine someone asking “what computer set-up do you prefer (we use Windows with Raspberry icing)” expecting the answer “Then I want a specialist mouse and the sugar-sprinkles plug-in please” not “I’d rather have Linux thanks”.

    2. Emmy Noether*

      The question was so vague that it’s hard to tell, but there are really two possibilities:
      a) LW misunderstood and asked for something unrealistic (a different operating system, or something really expensive)
      b) the boss made the offer without checking if it was possible, and got shot down by management.

      The “keep it consistent” reasoning also made me think it’s very probably (a).

    3. Myrin*

      I thought the same, but I also feel like OP’s “What do I make of this?” is particularly hard to answer when we don’t actually know what “ABC” and “XYZ” are because every possible answer involves speculation. We can’t really know what to “make of this” when we don’t know if OP misunderstood something (feels unlikely but maybe “ABC” was just a super vague, broad issue?), the manager misunderstood something, company originally thought they could support Non-ABC but only through OP’s request found out they actually can’t, company likes to appear like they’re generous and flexible but actually aren’t so they just pay lip-service to it, or something else entirely.

      1. Acronyms are Life (AAL)*

        Agreed, all I could do is speculate as well. I was thinking that company said, ‘let us know what you want’ and meant ‘let us know how you want to customize XYZ’. To me, it sounds like whomever asked OP the question did not provide enough clarity to OP, so my recommendation going forward would be for OP to ask follow-up questions to ensure that they understand what the boss is saying. I’m thinking there’s a chance that the boss will give broad statements when it comes to tasking, which will frustrate OP when they finish a deliverable and the boss says something like ‘oh, we meant do this not that to achieve the end goal.’

      2. Usagi*

        Where I got stuck was “ABC” being used to describe both the nature of OP’s work and the setup of their computer. My first readthrough, I took it to mean something like “I would like a setup that would allow me to edit music, since my job is editing music.” In that case, yeah, I agree with OP here, why did the employer ask if their answer is going to be “well, you get a word processing set up”?

        However, reading the comments, I’m now seeing it how a lot of other people read it: ABC computer setup and ABC job description are not the same, and OP may have misunderstood what they were being asked and the conversation was more like “would you like a desktop or a laptop?” “I’d like this Macbook Pro please” “Sorry, we want everyone on Windows. So would you like a desktop or a laptop?”

    4. bamcheeks*

      I’m confused about LW4 too, specifically that LW is a software engineer and therefore “your boss was asking about hardware, you answered about operating system” or similar just seems less likely. I can totally see a conversation between a manager and a new hire in literally any other function getting that kind of thing confused and the manager not necessarily knowing enough to know straight out that it wasn’t possible, but in a software focussed role I would expect everyone to be clearer on the parameters of the question!

      Unless LW is the software engineer in the company and their manager is not necessarily from a tech background, of course.

      1. BubbleTea*

        I feel like it’s quite plausible that the question was “laptop or desktop?” and LW said “Mac Airbook” or something, and the clarification was “Windows only, laptop or desktop?”

        1. bamcheeks*

          I could see that happening, but then it would be weird for LW to be a software engineer and not understand that there would be good security and support reasons for wanting consistency on operating systems! Unless they’re in their first or second job overall and are just not used to thinking about what it means to be part of a broader system.

          1. Don't Call Me Shirley*

            Having worked with a lot of software engineers, there’s a lot of willful lack of understanding. (currently trying to shut down a dev whose constant answer to improving code quality is “use my favourite language, nevermind that it’s never happening”)

            1. Colette*

              Yeah, a lot of software engineers have Opinions about what is best, and aren’t terribly concerned with how to support the organization’s technology as a whole.

          2. Observer*

            I could see that happening, but then it would be weird for LW to be a software engineer and not understand that there would be good security and support reasons for wanting consistency on operating systems!

            A lot of devs don’t get it – especially the security stuff. Which is why you still see SO much software with security either totally ignored or bolted on as an after thought.

            Also, the “I’m used to dealing with this system” definitely sounds like that kind of thinking. Because there is really not that much difference between say HP and Lenovo. But there is a huge difference between a Mac (of any sort) and a Windows system, for instance.

    5. ecnaseener*

      I don’t see that as a given at all. It seems totally plausible the manager said “let me know what hardware and specs you’d like,” meaning which model of windows-compatible machine, and LW asked for a macbook.

      1. londonedit*

        That’s what I imagine happened. Where I work, the designers and the editors who work on illustrated books all have Macs, but if you don’t work on illustrated books then you have a PC. If I’d asked about the computer setup before I started and my boss had said ‘We have Windows machines because we don’t work with colour books – it’s hybrid working so you’ll get a company laptop’ and I’d then said ‘Oh but in my last job we all had Macs, I usually work on a Mac so can I have a MacBook please’, I’d have looked pretty out of touch.

    6. Lacey*

      You would think so. I’ve had companies ask both what kind of monitor set-up, mouse, etc. I want and whether I’d prefer to work on Mac or Windows.

      Not every company of course and I’m a graphic designer, not a software engineer, so the situation is a bit different. Though, having worked at two places that had both mac & windows systems – it’s a headache no matter what.

      1. Roland*

        If anything, it’s almost certainly much worse for a dev than a designer. Correct me if I’m wrong, but for designers it probably mostly comes down to which commercial design programs work with that OS, right? For a software dev, there’s usually inhouse tooling and scripts for actually building your product, so it’s a ton more work to allow devs to use both mac and pc since it’s very difficult to share tools between them. Commercial products that exist on both are written twice, which is not reasonable for internal tools.

        1. Lacey*

          Yeah, I assumed it would be worse for software development.

          The big thing for graphic design is the files. Most programs work just fine on either OS, but when you create a file on Mac it often doesn’t open correctly on Windows (& vice versa). The systems also have trouble recognizing each others fonts, even when they were both installed from the same download.

  22. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    As someone who just escaped a cult/high-demand religion after a lifetime, this really triggered me and sounds exactly like the forced testimony and forgiveness meetings we had to play act in to keep the peace in communities. I hope there is an actual social worker or therapist involved or this could get into the zone of forcing kids to disclose information and feelings they don’t need to in the name of community instead of actually teaching them personal emotional regulation techniques. Focusing just on community actually harms these orgs in the long run when the individuals aren’t allowed to set boundaries and later end up passing poorer connection skills to the next generation.

    1. Julia*

      Restorative justice circles are very different from forced testimony and forgiveness. They’re not hierarchical and you’re not forced to share if you don’t want to. You are encouraged to share but it isn’t punishment based or focused.

      I’m really sorry you were in a cult and I’m glad you escaped.

  23. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    #3, I had the same loyalty issue, until I realized that my loyalty was actively contributing to poorer working conditions for others because I didn’t speak up or get out. I finally realized this when an employer was demanding more of subordinates than of me, and they didn’t have the capital I did to speak up. I finally left, and was able to help lower employees get out and up with my references. I had NO idea how bad it was for them and I was in an industry dedicated to helping people!

    1. Smithy*

      I do think that your point is really smart because what OP3 needs is not insight – they clearly have that, but rather what they need is an internally motivated call to action. And while they still might need therapy to get there, I think that being aware of that difference can be helpful.

      When I’ve talked to peers or friends facing a job application proscratination hurdle (or even myself) and who’ve asked for advice, I’ve always recommended taking a “resume vacation”. Basically taking a 3 or 4 day weekend where you use that long weekend to get your application materials in place in addition to taking time off for rest/relaxation/life errands. And then when they’ve not taken that advice or any other action, and a few months later come back with the same complaints and asking for advice – it’s clear that whatever their blocks are – they’re just not in a personal place to actually take action yet.

      I will say, when you work at a toxic or failing place – people more junior than you, no matter how nice to them you are, can only trust you so much. Because while you may never harm them, you are likely only ever able to help or protect them so much. Which in its own way communicates that you’re ok with the system. And while they may logically be aware that you are a human who needs a job and won’t quit in moral protest, emotionally how that knowledge sits with them can get muddled.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        Love the concept of a resume vacation! Thanks for sharing!
        In my situation I had no idea my employer was actively preventing other employees from leaving by illegally keeping their passports. Because of my position and home country that wasn’t an option and only once I started looking to leave did I realize how bad it was for others

        1. Smithy*

          Oh wow that’s horrific. And 100% the resume vacation has done a lot for me. It’s helped me acknowledge that resume/cover letter writing is work that I can “invest” in with PTO, and that when I use my evenings or weekends, I have less time to recharge. Also, once I have my resume in a place I like – that I can largely set and forget, and then just do smaller tweaks to a few cover letter templates.

          I will say, for my comment on junior staff I was thinking more garden variety “reference anxiety”. For more junior staff where this is only a first or second job in their field – there’s often a real worry about how on earth they’ll move on without having a reference. And I think a major reality about a super toxic workplace, is even if you tell your direct reports that you’ll serve as a reference for them – how much they genuinely can believe you is a fair question.

          I used to work for a place like that with a boss like that, and while I do believe he largely wanted to help me find another job…..not at the expense of his own job. And because we worked at an unreasonable place, where that line was made me largely not trust him with my job hunt realities. Even if the OP or other bosses/more senior staff are in a stronger place at their bad workplaces – junior staff’s potential fear comes from a deeply understandable place.

        2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*


          Yeah, holding someone’s passport is SO illegal it’s one of the signs of probable human trafficking. (This stuff can be hard for US folks to recognize, because it’s downright rare for us to cross national borders for work. I’ve gotten to research and write about money laundering and human trafficking in my work.)

          I’m glad you got out of that cult, and I’m glad you got out of that job AND helped others get out also.

  24. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP4 (selecting hardware) – I bet there’s a bit of a miscommunication, in that the manager thought the company would be able to purchase the ABC even though most of the people use XYZs, but then passed this up the chain / to whoever actually orders it, and was then told that we don’t normally buy ABCs.

    I had to zip down a passive aggressive response (“sorry, I must have misunderstood what was being asked…”) as that isn’t constructive – I do think it may be a red or yellow flag though. Not in the way expressed in the letter, but maybe more around unclear communications between managers and senior management etc.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      It could have been! It could also 100% have been on the OP. The manager said ‘what kind of setup would you like’ and the OP said ‘great, give me a Mac’ and turns out they only use Windows.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I wondered about that too, but I think OP was told they mainly use XYZs:

        > they would purchase completely new equipment for me (they shared they use XYZ setup)

        1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

          If I start a job and they ask “What type of laptop do you want”, I’d answer “Linux by preference, Mac if that’s not available”. If they came back with “We only use Windows machines” I would be wondering why the heck they even asked me.

          OTOH, if they said “We use Windows laptops, what hardware do you prefer?” I would tell them my hardware specs or ask “What models do I have to chose from?”

  25. philmar*

    LW2, I agree about the misogyny, but if someone steals my food from the fridge, they have given up their right for me not to be rude to them. Why not “whoever stole my tamales, you’re an a**hole” or “piece of s***” instead?

    1. Allonge*

      It’s ok for you to think this, but why on earth would you say this out loud to everyone / put it on a note where everyone can see? What benefit do you see?

    2. Sharp-dressed Boston Terrier*

      Allonge is right, though. Granted, the tamale thief has violated a basic tenet of office professionalism, but that doesn’t open the gates to further violations of that professionalism. You’re not wrong to think the office lunch bandit is a complete quackin’ donkey for doing what he did, but why foul the office atmosphere further with a public expression of that opinion?

      1. Samwise*

        “complete quackin donkey” would be a good phrase to use — gets the point across (= you’ve pushed me too far, you are a crummy piece of crap) but humorously.

        Everyone would laugh, and they would also know that there’s a thief.

    3. Silent Witness*

      Well, because (I hope!) you are a better human being than that and do not need to sink to that level of profanity, vulgarity and stupidity. Not to mention, what on earth do you think that would actually accomplish, besides making you look awful to your colleagues and manager? Do you really think that reading your abusive note will make the perpetrator change their ways, apologise, seek redemption and replace the tamales? Of course not. So all you are doing is venting and making the workplace less pleasant for everyone else, and that’s just childish. if you need to vent, do it to your BFF (or your mom) and save the rest of the workplace the bother.

    4. Onward*

      Totally get the urge to call a-holes out on their a-holery (I feel like polite people don’t do this enough and it causes more issues), but I think this actually isn’t a matter of being rude to the tamale thief in question. I think it would be off-putting for all the other coworkers in the office to see this note.

      Also, you just shouldn’t call coworkers a-holes or pieces of sh**. It’ll get you sent right to HR.

    5. Acronyms are Life (AAL)*

      I think the word Alison should have used instead of ‘rude’ is immature. I think we all get that tamales stealing coworker was rude, and projecting here, I get annoyed when someone is rude to me, and people are like ‘but you were rude back’ like it should cancel out the previous rudeness. (Hey, sometimes I just want to be petty, ok? LOL).

      But what end goal is the OP trying to achieve? If it’s to make their fellow coworkers laugh, sure I guess go with one of these. Because if I saw any of these things on the fridge, I’d make fun of whomever wrote it. We had someone drink someone’s limoncello la croix from the communal fridge and the proclaimed owner of said can wrote a long letter that said things like ‘ ‘I WILL DIE OF THIRST’ “YOU HAVE A TERRIBLE SOUL’ and other dramatics in all caps. And I remember the flavor because it also played into the letter. We were all making fun of that person for weeks. I don’t think anyone really cared about helping to find the culprit, we were more going around telling each other things like ‘oh, you put your stuff in the printer queue before mine? YOU HAVE A TERRIBLE SOUL.’

      1. Jackalope*

        If I had a coworker that used a misogynist slur to insult someone else, that would tell me a lot about who they are and what they consider okay, and it would not be telling me good things.

        1. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

          I was more thinking about the replies that philmar came up with; either way it would be immature and unprofessional. I mean most communal kitchen notes are immature, unprofessional, and passive aggressive, which make them sometimes amusing to those not directly involved or being called out. Will they result in the intention the poster wants? Highly unlikely. I’m against all kitchen notes unless they are solely factual things like ‘to use the microwave, turn the dial left first’. But if people want to be dramatic or post pithy passive aggressive sayings, they should be aware that at best people are just going to make fun of them, at the worst, getting fired.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      “Man, how terrible that someone stole tamales. Not like me, who just occasionally enjoys a tamale I find wandering free and unattended.”

      I don’t object to a note that insults the tamale taker on moral grounds, but it’s unlikely to send most food thieves into a shame spiral in which they question their life choices.

    7. Boof*

      I don’t think it’s wildly inappropriate to leave a note, but the note should read “whoever took my tamales; these were not up for grabs. Please replace them” or something. Basically something you’d actually say to a coworkers face rather than screaming into the void (the void that is actually the communal freezer that all your coworkers and perhaps even your boss? will also potentially see)

    8. Observer*

      but if someone steals my food from the fridge, they have given up their right for me not to be rude to them

      Two thoughts on that.

      The first is that the suggested response is not rude to the thief, but to every woman in the place and to some woman that the OP knows nothing about.

      The second is that whether or not the thief has “rights” here is not the only issue. I mean, a note calling out the actual thief using foul language is better than the proposed note, but their obligations extend to the rest of the office.

    9. Willow Pillow*

      How about everyone else working there? Does someone else’s food being stolen means they have given up the right to work in a misogyny-free environment?

  26. DJ Abbott*

    #2, I keep my lunch in the freezer at home and put it in an insulated bag to take to work and keep it on my desk. This way, it’s never out of my keeping and no one can take it. I’m pretty sure no one at work would take my lunch, but why take chances? And this way, no one takes it by mistake either.
    Some people have mothers who actually are ho’s, and it’s no reflection on them. Just tell it like it is – your coworker is a jerk who can’t be trusted.

  27. Richard Hershberger*

    OP1: “They might turn out to be a really good thing for our students or they might be another education fad that will be gone by next year.”

    They could be both. Many educational fads come down to “This thing works for some teachers. It logically follows therefore that it will word for everyone.” If there is anyone with a lick of sense at your school (admittedly a big “if”) they will figure this out eventually and regard this as a technique for a certain personality type.

    “Is there any way to professionally opt out of something like this, without looking like I am not a team player?”

    The silver lining to being at a school where the staff left en masse is that they likely are too desperate for teachers to fire you for something stupid. It’s not impossible, but you probably can lean into not being a team player and do just fine.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      “This thing works for some teachers”; this is so, so very true! Also +1 to your last paragraph. The OP has a ton of implied power within the chaos. Even if it is going to be a badly implemented fad from a chaotic and silly Senior Leadership Team, that just makes OP more likely to be able to pick and choose. I never saw the drowning SLT who were able to make their orders stick while struggling to keep their heads above water.

  28. LB33*

    I realize that 2 is probably a joke, but if they’re in a communal freezer doesn’t that mean they’re up for grabs?

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      What? No. Communal freezer here just means “freezer that anyone on this floor/on this team can use.” It doesn’t mean, “Help yourself to anything in it.”

    2. SarahKay*

      The freezer is communal. The food in it…. is not! (I’m hoping that your comment is also a joke, tbh.)

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Our office fridge has a special flow chart on the door to remind people to put their names on things.

    3. ScruffyInternHerder*

      Have never worked anywhere in 20 years where the “communal freezer” meant that the food contained within was up for grabs, including one span of employment where the communal refrigerator DID contain a variety of soda/sparkling water that WAS communal.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Everything in the fridge where I work is up for grabs unless there’s a name on it. It’s good to clarify. But that doesn’t seem to be the issue for OP.

    4. LB33*

      I asked because although I work from home now, my last few office jobs all had two fridges, one communal with company bought snacks, milk, etc and one private that you would put your lunch or other food you brought.. Maybe the two fridges is an industry (tech) thing??

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        To get all technical with the vocab, both fridges were communal (meant for everyone). But the food in one was also communal.

        And that is not common at most workplaces.

      2. Hlao-roo*

        This sounds like a difference in naming conventions. That job with the “communal” and “private” fridges–were both fridges owned by the company?

        Most companies (where I have worked) just have one fridge (or one per floor/department). The fridges are “communal” as in “anyone is welcome to put their food in here” but the food inside the fridges is not communal food.

      3. Allonge*

        I don’t know if it’s an industry thing or not, but sounds like a great idea! But communal fridge in most cases I know just means we can all use it (so not reserved for the caterer) to cool our own food.

        I never worked anywhere with an actual freezer though.

        1. Antilles*

          That’s my experience too.
          In some cases, the shared fridge would include a few basics provided by the company, but it’d be blatantly obvious that it’s company provided and up for grabs – an entire case of bottled water or a 24-pack of Coke or something. Meanwhile, people’s individual lunches were clearly their own – the company didn’t buy one box of tamales or bring in a tupperware container with half a steak or something; that’s obviously somebody’s personal food.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          I’ve worked places that had normal household-type refrigerators, so they had freezers. But they were “communal” only in the sense that we could all store our food in them, not in the sense that food in them was up for grabs.

      4. ThatGirl*

        Yeah, we don’t have communal snacks or milk or whatever, just the Keurig coffee/tea/hot chocolate. We have two fridges and two freezers in our kitchen and they are both for everyone’s use, but neither is for everyone’s taking. Generally food that’s up for grabs will get put on the counter with a note or something.

        1. londonedit*

          Same (though I’ve never seen a freezer in an office – usually it’s just a small under-counter fridge for milk etc). In British offices it’s common for the employer to provide tea, coffee and milk, sometimes also a herbal tea option like peppermint and an instant hot chocolate. Tea bags are straightforward but coffee offerings can be anything from instant coffee to a bean-to-cup machine. If there is free food on offer, it’ll be clearly labelled and people will be alerted via email if it’s a company-wide thing, like ‘We’ve had a delivery of fruit from New Supermarket Around The Corner, please help yourselves’ (otherwise you’ll just mention to colleagues in the immediate vicinity/on your team that there are biscuits or chocolates or that you’ve brought back sweets from your holiday or whatever). I’ve never worked for a company that provided a fridge with food and drinks as standard.

      5. DataSci*

        I’m in tech and have never seen that – free snacks are non refrigerated where I’ve been. Maybe regional?

    5. Observer*

      but if they’re in a communal freezer doesn’t that mean they’re up for grabs?

      Why would you think that?

    6. Dust Bunny*

      Absolutely not.

      If they’re in the break room/fridge with a note or an email announcement, “Free tamales! Help yourselves!”, they are. Otherwise, you don’t touch food that you didn’t bring, period.

      One of my friend’s workplaces just “fired” an intern for eating other people’s lunches, despite being told twice not to do that and despite, obviously, knowing that she hadn’t brought the food in the first place.

    7. Ellis Bell*

      Did you happen to eat tamales lately that you didn’t buy? How would that kind of free food communal freezer even work? People just donate their food into it that they don’t want in case their co-workers do? That could turn in a cluster fuck of food clutter.

    8. Flowers*

      My current workplace and previous workplace had fridges where you could store your lunch. Things like coffee creamer, various dairy, condiments etc were all up for grabs. Save for a canned drink I accidentally took (I drink diet, and theirs was regular and they looked almost exactly the same) I’ve never ever witness food thievery. It’s mind boggling to me that people can do that and get away with it tbh

  29. FashionablyEvil*

    #3–I’m sure you know this, but just in case it helps to hear it out loud, GET OUT OF THERE. They can’t afford office supplies! How long until they start bouncing paychecks?

    1. Hlao-roo*

      To add on to this:

      If you love the work, you’ll be able to find a different job at a place that can hire competent staff and office supplies. You will be so much more effective at that job than your current one.

      If going into the job search process with the end goal of finding a different job seems like too much, take it one step at a time.

      1 – Browse job ads. You’re just browsing, looking for things jobs that look interesting.
      2 – Find an interesting job ad and apply. You’re just sending in an application to say “I’m interested in learning more about this job.” Nothing more.
      3 – Accept interview offers. This is your chance to learn more about the company/job. Maybe you’ll learn something you’ll be able to apply at your current job. If nothing else, a little bit of interview practice is good to have.

      If after browsing, applying, and interviewing, you receive a job offer, at that point you’ll be able to evaluate the offer you have in hand against your current job and choose which one is better for you.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yes. Exploring your options is not disloyal. And when you have a real offer in hand, you’ll be able to visualize a future for yourself that includes doing work you love and not staying on a sinking ship.

        You have options. Pursue them.

    2. Clobberin’ Time*

      Also, being made a partner is the LAST thing the LW wants. It would mean giving up employee protections and taking on responsibility for a sinking ship.

  30. Humble Schoolmarm*

    OP 1, I’m not sure I can totally reassure you about the training as there are some weird trainers out there, but I will say my experience with Restorative Practices hasn’t been bad. First, your circles should never jump right into weighty emotional topics. Your starting topics should be ice breakers (like what superpower would you like to have?). It takes a good while to get the kids to follow the norms for the circle (one person talks at a time, no side conversations, active listening, being respectful to the opinions of others) and you need that before you do anything that has the potential to be emotional for anyone. At this point, it’s good for you to share too (I’d like to freeze time so I could finally get your book reports corrected!). Building relationships shouldn’t be based on your deepest feelings but surface sharing is helpful. Once you have that, you can go a little deeper (Why do you think we have rule X that everyone was complaining about? Topics that come up in the news that the kids are riled up about, a bigger issue that was raised in class or ties into the curriculum). Anything harder than that should be left to specialists, not only because you could inadvertently hurt some kids, but also because doing these things well takes time, and goodness knows we teachers have little enough of that.

    For the training, what I’ve described above is called a sharing circle or a check-in circle. A full blown restorative circle has specific participants (basically, the people who were affected by the event) and a lot more structure. Roll plays are pretty common for training on restorative circles (and can actually be fun for the former theatre kid who gets to channel their inner surly teen) so you could try to push back in that direction. If you’re learning sharing circles, then I’m going to echo the advice for keep it bland and remind everyone who needs to be reminded that “pass” is an option in restorative approaches.

  31. Armchair Analyst*

    Re #5. Job searching in 2017, I often answered this question very vaguely after rudimentary research. During an HR phone screen, the interviewer scolded me that if I was to go forward with the interview process, I would need to be more specific. I rattled off some projects from their web page.

    During the panel interview of 3 interviewers, I was repeatedly asked how I would handle working with difficult people. When I offered up answers or brainstormed on the spot, I was told those answers wouldn’t work in this situation and how else would I handle a really difficult person. I was not enthused about the position.

    It was my only offer. I took it.

    The HR rep who did my initial phone screen never warmed up to me. 6 months later when all 3 of those managers who had interviewed me had left and I had no support to do my job that yes included dealing with difficult people…. I looked back to see now-obvious red flags. Putting too much emphasis on “why do you want to work at THIS company and what do YOU know about US?” Seems like an easy one to point out now. A company may look great on the outside. But only the people in charge in an interview know what it’s like on the inside

  32. Retired-not-Tired Teacher*

    OP1, ideally, the reason for having the teachers go through the experience of sharing in a talking circle is to give the adults insight into what the students might be feeling in that situation. (Rather than on as a profoundly personal sharing experience for the staff). And ideally, the presenter would model and explain how to moderate the discussion without expecting “soul-baring” levels of sharing.
    Sometimes however, things aren’t ideal. You get to choose how deeply you share. Other commenters have given you some great suggestions.
    Maybe it will help you feel more comfortable if your focus is on how you are feeling as you go through the training, and what you think would work with your students. (or not!). And maybe you can even acknowledge those feelings as you lead discussions in your class.

    1. lilyp*

      This was my read also. Maybe it’ll be good practice for the other moderators-in-training to get experience with someone in their circle not wanting to share or not feeling comfortable being too emotional

  33. The Other Luna*

    I work at a school that implemented restorative justice practices, and it’s not concerning at all that they want all teachers trained in it. At its core, it’s an approach to discipline that is centered on healing rather than punishment, and you really do need all teachers on board to make it consistent throughout your school community.

    That being said, our training only got as emotional as things like “Share a time you harmed someone” and “Share a time you were harmed.” I shared about when my sister and I were teens and she borrowed my clothes without asking, and for the harm I did, I shared when I attempted a joke with a student and it didn’t go well and created a moment of panic for her. It doesn’t have to be a big trauma, just building empathy for how the different parties involved will be feeling when conflict inevitably arises, and learning strategies to help students navigate this.

    1. bamcheeks*

      I do think your second paragraph is an example of why practitioners and trainers of this kind of activity need to set the parameters so carefully, though. To some people it’s really obviously that you can share something that was fundamentally quite brief or trivial and still explore the relevant emotions, but you never know what other people are bringing into the room and some of them will immediately go to a genuinely traumatic memory.

      I had a friend who talked about working with asylum seekers and refugees, and tutors who would set tasks like, “Talk about your worst day ever” expecting, “that time I failed an exam” and get, “the time soldiers came to my village”. When you’re working with groups, especially diverse groups. it so incredibly important not to default to assuming that people have similar ranges of good/bad experiences.

    2. anon for this*

      WHOA. As a survivor of an attempted murder (by a stranger), YIKES. To you “it only got as emotional as” but for me that question instantly brings up that very bad time. If you’ve got kids who might be in abusive situations, people experiencing racism, teachers who have been through the same, that is a hot button question! It would have to be framed as “think of the most inconsequential harm ever done to you” and “name the most trivial harm you’ve ever done.”
      NB: Tamale theft is not trivial.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        You would be aware of that in a school like this. Teachers are trained, and made aware of A.C.E (adverse childhood experiences), and if you ignore the possibility of at least five people in every room being a survivor of some sort, then you don’t get past basic teacher training, much less last the morning in a tough school setting. If you’re going to present this to students you’d start with a low key example, like bamcheeks’ example, and then you’d say “have you ever upset anyone like this or had this happen to you”. The chances of triggering the very concerns you’ve mentioned, and how to avoid it, would be gone over thoroughly in any good pedagogy training session. You’d also know exactly what kind of ACE your students have experienced, as well as being on the look out for undisclosed stuff.

        1. Humble Schoolmarm*

          I think it depends on where you’re teaching. My district does not share any details about past traumas due to privacy, they only refer to it obliquely. I respect the privacy issue, but it’s maddening when you are told that a child has just been returned to their parent’s custody after a year in foster care and no one will tell you why they were originally removed so you can watch for signs in case the abuse in question has restarted.

          We are trained to some extent in complex trauma, but it’s in a very general way except in very specific circumstances.

          That being said, I do know to avoid a “a time when you were harmed” question like the plague. I would probably rephrase it to “a time when someone hurt your feelings” or “a time when someone was mean.”

          1. Ellis Bell*

            I’ve worked in schools were privacy outweighs the practicalities and you’re so right that it’s frustrating! I would know that they were an ACE child though. So much to your last paragraph too.

  34. Pescadero*

    #4 –

    If this were 99.9% of jobs – I’d say Alison’s explanation was right.

    In software engineering – this is at least a yellow flag. If they meant specs and asked for what type of hardware you wanted, the fact that they didn’t understand the difference is a yellow flag.

  35. TheLinguistManager*

    LW4: Thinking this is a red flag with respect to “no bullshit” and “transparency” is an overreaction. Red flags are for things that are so much worse than asking about your preferred hardware and then hearing that they’d prefer you use a Mac so that IT has less variation to deal with. Pick your battles much more carefully.

    I suggest you also temper your expectations a bit in preparation for this job. “Transparency” won’t mean “direct, immediate access to all information” (not even at Gitlab, famous for their over-the-top transparency) but it should mean things like “people widely share reasons for decisions” and “leadership proactively informs employees of upcoming changes and issues” and “when you ask about something, you get an answer or a reason why you can’t get an answer”.

    As for “no bullshit”, what that means is going to be highly dependent on what the general consensus of “bullshit” is, which might be different to yours. It’s not going to mean “no one will ever tell you not to do something a certain way” or “you’ll never have to compromise with Product on something or take on tech debt”.

    If you are really invested in these values, your best bet is to gain people’s trust and earn social capital, and spend it with well-aimed conversations that either keep people accountable to those values or move the needle on process bit by bit over time. Even something that seems obvious, like salary transparency, can take some doing to get momentum behind – but it can be done, and when done like this instead of just by griping in a Slack channel, the momentum makes it inevitable.

    By the way, I’m assuming that LW is in the tech sphere because this letter reads like a Hacker News comment. So many posters there don’t understand that they are part of the workplace they are in, and have the ability to affect it – but it requires incremental, consistent, sensitive work, which is so different than making a code change and seeing a direct result.

    1. connie*

      This is such a good comment. If the LW can’t be having these conversations in good faith, that’s an LW problem.

    2. MattLeidholm*

      Though LW4 was definitely in the wrong here, I see value statements like “No bullshit” and “Be awesome” as (minor) red flags, since they seem to indicate an inability to actually articulate real values. While values should be broad enough to be flexible and shared by a diverse workforce, statements like those are vague to the point of meaninglessness, substituting modern vernacular for actual value.

  36. Totally Minnie*

    OP3, I just made a career change to make it easier for me to stop getting so emotionally invested in my work, and I did it by doing some of what Alison describes. I was brought up in a religious community that values sacrifice, and I was taught that it’s a good thing to sacrifice what you want so other people can have what they need. But I wasn’t taught any way to distinguish the difference between a want and a need, so it took me until my late thirties to realize I’ve spent most of my adulthood sacrificing my needs so other people can have what they want. I left that religious community over a decade ago, but some of those unhealthy teachings were still rattling around in my brain and it took some work to dig them out before I could take the big step of moving from a passion job where I was running myself into the ground for a job I find interesting and beneficial to my community without taking over my whole life and personality.

    I’m guessing you’ve got a story like mine, where an authority figure in your youth tried to teach you something they thought would be beneficial, but didn’t give you all the tools you needed to integrate it in your life in a healthy way. Try and find that thing. If you can give it up, you can start to move on.

  37. Pocket Mouse*

    OP #3 – I hear you saying you are able to love your work and (overly) commit in different types of jobs. With that awareness, in addition to other advice you receive here, maybe it will help to focus on remembering there is another job out there just waiting for you to love and commit to it! There will *always* be another job that you can love and commit to.

  38. Elledub67*

    And this is why I love this site:
    1. Professional question
    2. Professional question
    3. Tamale ho

  39. nodramalama*

    LW3 I feel personally attacked by your letter. It’s like reading about my current job- the only difference is that I love my immediate supervisor. She’s such a great mentor but it feels like a sinking ship. I’m concerned I’ll be the last one left!

  40. Hiring Mgr*

    Without knowing all the details, #4 could be more “ask for clarification next time” rather than “red flag”

  41. Fluffy Fish*

    OP4 I say this gently but your leap to this is a red flag is really off base.

    They asked a question, you answered it. They realized you were on two different pages and clarified. That’s…normal. In fact the clarification was very polite and told you why.

    1. Onward*

      Yeah, I thought that jump seemed really dramatic. It seems like it was more a misunderstanding than a concerted effort to throw off the LW.

  42. Lady Blerd*

    I will stipulate that #2 was juvenile and wrong and, even if they’re quoting a meme as other’s suggest. But my tired brain still let out a chuckle before reason kicked in.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Honestly the funniest thing to me is that someone took the time to write this and Alison took the time to answer it. Which is fine but just is striking me so funny.

      1. Elle*

        I was thinking this as well. The extremely serious reactions are only encouraging my church giggles, too.

  43. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    #5 – your coworkers are being weird. There’s nothing wrong with pivoting from “yes this organization is great, and here is how I think I can really excel at job X”. What are they expecting, just fawning praise? How does that determine anything at all about the candidates?

    You can’t make the leap from passion/commitment/whatever to competence. At all.

    1. Dinwar*

      Depends on the field. Someone who’s competent at a task but not excited about the mission likely isn’t going to do well in certain roles involved with charity work, for example–you may be able to throw a fundraiser, but if you just can’t stand cats working at a cat shelter isn’t going to work. Or, if you’re an atheist you probably aren’t going to do well copy-editing a parish’s weekly bulletin. I look for enthusiasm for hiring field geologists, because the work is long, hard, and uncomfortable; if you start your career with the attitude “This sucks” you’re going to burn out in six months, and I’m just gonna have to hire someone else at that point anyway. Plus I’m going to have to teach you how to do certain things, and someone who’s already unenthusiastic is unlikely to be willing to learn the highly-technical details of the stuff we do.

      You absolutely cannot hire someone who’s enthusiastic but not competent. That’s true, and should be obvious. And some roles don’t require enthusiasm. I knew an IT guy who once worked for an adult website. Had no interest in the content, but he didn’t deal with the content; he did back-end cybersecurity stuff, and as far as he was concerned the website could have been anything legal and it would have all been the same to him. But for some roles enthusiasm is a good proxy for longevity and teachability, which are factors.

      1. Allonge*

        if you just can’t stand cats working at a cat shelter isn’t going to work. Or, if you’re an atheist you probably aren’t going to do well copy-editing a parish’s weekly bulletin

        I would argue that this still depends. If you hate cats, likely you will not be good at cat-adjacent jobs but accounting or IT support you can do no problem. Likewise, if an atheist has a good understanding of the particular religion (whihc being of a faith is not a guarantee for!), they can be great at copy-editing their weekly bulletin still. As long as they know about copy-editing.

        This is also a consideration for field work: there should be a good understanding of what it requires, and if someone can enjoy it, that’s a bonus for sure. But it’s not like people’s preferences and abilities don’t change.

        But more importantly, OP talks about the

        1. Dust Bunny*

          I’m an atheist who has, in fact, copy-edited a few minor articles for church bulletins (as a favor to a friend). Nobody is asking me to weigh in on theology; they just want to make sure their spelling and sentence structure is OK. No problem.

  44. Ex-prof*

    #1– I suspect that Alison’s advice for the teacher is how most of the students will react to the innovation as well.

  45. Pippa K*

    I’m going to side-eye any workplace that asks employees to be emotional as part of their performance at work – especially in a field that is usually predominantly women. It runs right into one of the major kinds of sexism we encounter at work: women are supposedly emotional, and that’s bad, unless you’re not warm enough which is also bad, but don’t get too heated about things; please display emotions, no wait not those emotions, we mean the ones that make you seem vulnerable. While also maintaining your professionalism and your ability to exercise authority.

    What a quagmire.

  46. dedicated1776*

    LW2, your impulse is correct but you lack creativity. You can do better for the tamales.

    To the rest of y’all who might not understand, tamales are sacred and stealing them is a heinous crime.

  47. Qwerty*

    OP4 – This outrage is over the top. They let you know they use XYZ so they were clearly expecting you to take that into account when making your request. It’s not that you misunderstood and asked for ABC that’s the problem but that you can’t look back and see it as a miscommunication.

    Without knowing what XYZ vs ABC is, I can’t tell what they were actually asking for. Based on my past experience, I’m guessing they let you know the computer type / brand and wanted to know if you had any special expectations around accessories like keyboard, mouse, monitors. Those accessories are usually the easy to customize things and asking upfront is easier than sending the standard and having people make special requests down the line (like for ADA or RSI)

    Take a step back and think about your new IT department. Be kind to them.

  48. Kat*

    You can’t leave such a note for the tamale thief. How about some sardine and jelly tamales instead?

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      Since most folks dislike licorice, make that the jelly part (or just add a few to the awful blend.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        In some places, you can get a pint of Cayenne Pepper for <$2 US in the grocery store…

  49. cardigarden*

    OP 3: You don’t want to be the one turning out the lights, no matter what you feel you may owe the company.

  50. Czhorat*

    It says something about the different manner in which we see professional norms in that yesterday someone literally asked if is ok to sit with your foot tucked under your body on a chair and today it’s asking if it’s OK to say “your mom is a ho” in response to a stolen tamale.

  51. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    Re: Tamale Thief:
    Anyone else now singing to themselves, “You whack, you twisted, your girl’s a ho…”
    Anyone? No? Just me?

  52. ArtK*

    My sons’ school did talking circles with faculty, parents, and students. They seemed to work pretty well. The differences between that school and what LW1’s school is proposing are: 1) There was no requirement to “be emotional.” That is invasive and inappropriate. 2) The emphasis was on learning to do “active listening.” The idea that you actually listen to the current speaker without thinking ahead to what *you* are going to say.

    The goal is a well-managed discussion, not group therapy with an unqualified leader.

  53. Bethie*

    I did my thesis in restorative justice, and while we are not in a disadvantaged area, my son’s school has 1 person trained to do this – the school counselor. And its only by agreement of both kids who have an issue. Why would you train the whole school staff??

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      A weekly classroom circle is not a bad thing. Start with very light topics, such as Favorite superpower or Where would you like to travel to. It’s okay to say Pass. Eventually you build up to moderate topics like How do you think finals will go?

      The point is twofold: The students learn the skills of taking their turn, no cross-talk, no insulting others, etc., AND if any students have a conflict that requires restorative justice, they’ve already practiced some of the tools and skills.

  54. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

    My daughter’s elementary school was big on social-emotional learning (which is weird to type–aren’t ALL elementary school’s essentially doing social-emotional learning along with reading and math?). It was a majority-minority school, heavily immigrant, heavily ESL students. It made no sense to most kids/parents (the way it was taught), including me. When my then-8-year-old was asked to share something once, she said, “I think that’s a personal question.” She got pressed to answer it anyway, but she said “I don’t have to answer personal questions. You can call my mom.” At which the whole class dared the teacher to call me. (I had a rep, I guess.) It’s not that S-E is bad, it’s that it’s done so badly so often, and it’s so intrusive and heedless of boundaries. Boundaries are good S-E! Kids who are living in tough situations deserve to establish their own boundaries. So do teachers.

  55. Your Social Work Friend*

    LW1, restorative practices are great! It’s also generally a bad idea to share your own traumatic experiences with other people in a work setting! Also, in many schools the “heavy hitting” restorative work (community crisis, violence, etc) is handled by whatever mental health professionals work for the school or district. This is a good practice because your mental health peeps know that (a) you do NOT have to share about yourself to form a supportive relationship and (b) there is a place for self disclosure in the healing process, but you need more that a PD to be trained in how to deploy that with it going sideways. I agree with Alison, but you could also reach out to whoever coordinates SEL for your school or district and point this out, or your share could be a variation of “this makes me feel very uncomfortable and doesn’t feel appropriate for work.” If you’re concerned about what others might share, talk to the trainer before the start and tell them “Due to my own mental health needs, I may need to step out of the room during this exercise.”

  56. NeedRain47*

    So, this gels with what I’ve seen about socio-emotional learning and trauma informed anything in the workplace so far: Employers do not and will not consider the fact that the people that work there have their own trauma. They are not blank slates or neutral parties. Yet management wants *us* to treat everyone like we’re a trained therapist or social worker. Just another way they show they don’t care about employees at all.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      In fairness, most people don’t treat coworkers this way, either. People in general tend to forget that everyone around them also has their own trauma.

  57. Dust Bunny*

    I would not call a tamale thief’s mom a ho because I’m not that kind of jerk, but I’d probably call a tamale thief a lot of other, gender-neutral things. Stay the H*ll away from my tamales.

    1. Luna*

      The note wouldn’t make sense, anyway, considering it wasn’t tamale-thief’s mom that took the tamales. Call out the thief and insult them, if it makes you feel better, but keep other people out of it. (And preferably insult them in your head or in a notepad file you write and vent into, then delete)

  58. Contracts Killer*

    LW #3 – I could have been you! I was in a government job for 12 years before I left. I stayed for two reasons: (1) I felt the work was really important, and (2) there was LITERALLY no one else who knew the processes and areas of law. Two things helped me finally leave (which may apply to your new job).

    First, I found a job with a nonprofit. I wanted to make a difference and do good things and a nonprofit was similar enough to government work in the good ways (helping people, being mission-minded), but different enough from the bad ways (no/less red tape, no people just there to pull a paycheck). The other thing that helped me was to stay in touch with my old team and then reach out to the person who replaced me. We had a 1+ hour Zoom call where I gave her an overview of all the processes and several tips and tricks that only time was going to teach her. The old team has reached out just enough for me to help them get started, but not enough to abuse my time. Because of that, I feel a lot of peace about where things were left and no regrets about leaving.

    I hope you are able to give yourself grace about leaving your current situation. I find our profession is filled with perfectionists who feel like we can, and it’s our job to, fix EVERYTHING even if it isn’t really fixable.

  59. Dawn*

    LW1, I’m a teacher trained in restorative circles for five-ish years now, and one of the core rules is that you are ALWAYS allowed to pass. So pass. Every time, if needed. I have rarely been involved in a restorative circle where at least one student doesn’t do this, and the system is supposed to respect that not everyone is willing to share. (And yes, I was also trained by doing restorative circles, and people passed, and it was fine.)

    Alison is correct that some people REALLY should not be doing this work. My own use of circles has dribbled down to nothing due to a guidance counselor who completely poisoned this as a tool for my students by insisting on things like eye contact rather than honoring the core beliefs of the system. Which is a shame because it is a good tool for resolving conflicts.

    1. Observer*

      due to a guidance counselor who completely poisoned this as a tool for my students by insisting on things like eye contact

      Never mind RJ stuff. What kind of idiot* does that!? Why is that person still allowed to be in the job?

      *Idiot because their training should have made it clear that this is a totally ridiculous requirement in the vast majority of cases.

      1. Dawn*

        Well, she no longer is! She couldn’t pass the PRAXIS, and my principal wisely decided she wasn’t worth going to bat for; she caused waaaay more issues with students than she solved–unfortunately not uncommon, in my experience, with guidance counselors.

        I fought like hell on this one. I had offered my class time for circles to improve community in that group, in part because they had expressed many times feeling safe and comfortable in my class so I thought the space was right for that kind of work. By the end of that circle, I was seeing behavior from them that I’d never seen before from this group. Hopefully needless to say, she didn’t come back after that to do this in my class. I was truly afraid she’d take the place where they felt safest and most cared for and turn it toxic.

        Interestingly, she’s wonderful as a one-on-one therapist. But in group settings, I think she felt insecure and so set rules to establish her need for control, and that is not a good idea with middle-school kids!

        Our new guidance counselor is awesome. (And doesn’t do circles.)

  60. Michelle Smith*

    LW3: Separating your identity from your personality is a big issue among lawyers. I know because I went through it too. In addition to Alison’s apt suggestion of getting a therapist to unpack your underlying issues, a career coach can be extremely helpful too. Do your research and find one that has been a lawyer and knows what you’re going through. A lot of other people aren’t going to understand the mentality, but former lawyers do. My coach was phenomenal and her support helped me get through the worst parts of my job search, which you absolutely need to start working on immediately. She helped me change my thinking about my job and what it means for me as a person. She also helped me break out of a lifelong cycle of making terrible fear-based academic and then career choices by working on my mindset. I cannot emphasize enough how much a good coach can really improve your life.

  61. Falling Diphthong*

    I believe office food thieves fall into two categories:

    The first knows that they are a food thief and is very comfortable with that. If you leave a note, they are either pleased that they torqued someone off, or have a ready explanation of how irrational you are because you didn’t secure the tamales behind multiple padlocks and two-factor authentification.

    The second thinks food thieves are bad people and THEY are not bad people, so obviously none of the food they happened across was stolen by them, what a terrible thing to say, they most certainly did not steal those tamales. See “juice guy” in the archives for an epic version.

    I suspect the second group is bigger, but it’s hard to poll something people won’t admit to for various reasons (self preservation, the belief that none of their food liberations have been ‘thefts’, etc).

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      And a third group who thinks they are taking their own food, and is mortified when (if) they find out differently.

    2. Luna*

      Of course, that first group also ends up whining and complaining to the bosses once you *do* place your tamales behind multiple padlocks, to ensure that nobody but the True Owner Of The Tamale can eat them. I recall reading a story where an employee did cite bullying once coworkers got locks for their food to prevent lunch theft, including getting supervisors to call everyone into a meeting about this.

  62. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

    #5 “Tell us why you applied for this job.”

    Unless it was a non-profit working on a cause I believed in, the most honest answer is “I need the money, the work is something I’m qualified for, and your company doesn’t appear to violate my ethics.”

    I seriously side eye for-profit companies that expect enthusiasm for “the mission” or some such BS. My kind of work can be done for almost any company – I’m an IT person. While I do screen companies on the basis of ethics (eg I won’t even apply at Facebook), I don’t care whether they make web sites, software, hardware, or sell clothes.

    People work for mostly one reason: To earn a paycheck!! Anything else is just asking people to blow smoke up your butt.

    1. Luna*

      I never understand why people ask this.
      “You are willing to pay money in exchange for (my) time of life and skills.”

      Like, do they honestly expect anyone to say, “I always *wanted* to flip burgers and pack hundreds of packages of fries into bags in one day!”?

  63. datamuse*

    Just want to say that I feel for OP3, and even if you ultimately decide to stay where you are, doing the work Alison suggests can really help. I’m in academia (a field that absolutely encourages the tendency to equate personal worth with loyalty to the vocation) and found myself in a place similar to what you’re describing. Extricating your sense of self and self-worth from your job can be tough but even just identifying what truly fulfills you can be so valuable.

  64. cncx*

    LW 2 reminds me of the sign making the rounds on the internet a few years ago, « No solicitation, except for tamale lady »

  65. Here for the Insurance*

    Regarding excessive loyalty (OP3), I think a lot of it is an inability to accept there are things in life we can’t control. We think we can turn things around if we care enough, if we believe enough, if we try hard enough. Sometimes that’s true, but a lot of times it isn’t.

    The serenity prayer is a cliche, but it’s true. There are things we can control and things we can’t.
    The key is knowing the difference and, if something falls into the can’t box, accepting that.

    You say you have motivation to see the firm succeed. I say this with all the sympathy in the world — you’re fooling yourself. You cannot make this firm succeed. You probably can’t even keep it limping along. Accept what you have the power to do and what you don’t.

  66. Someone Like Me*

    Wow, #3 hit home for me, for different reasons, but same behavior. Tbh, I’m actually about to cry because I knew people like me must exist, but I never met one and because for the first time in my working life spanning 4 decades, I finally have an answer on how to fix the problem. And, why that problem likely exists in the first place. Allison, I would LOVE it if you could expand more on this subject. We all hate the term “quiet quitting.” I’m trying to do more of it, but it’s very hard to break old habits and not feel like a jerk in the process. Thank you.

  67. Tuna Casserole*

    #2 – I would go with “your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries,” but that’s just me.

    Also, store your lunch somewhere else.

  68. lilyp*

    OP3 I think you need to stop thinking and start doing. Your rational brain clearly knows what’s right for you here — you don’t actually need to convince your heart or gut or jerkbrain beyond a shadow of a doubt in order to do it. I think you should set a specific goal for yourself for when you want to be in a new job (2023 new years resolution maybe?) and then make a plan for getting there and start actually doing the things. Some mantras might be helpful as you go through emotional swings of hesitation: Looking/applying/interviewing/considering an offer doesn’t obligate me to accept an offer so why not see where it goes; I can’t care more about saving this business than [owner] does; I deserve a job where people treat me with respect; I can’t stay at a company this financially unstable; It’s normal and expected to change jobs every few years.

  69. Michelle Smith*

    LW5: Let’s say your organization is a nonprofit doing environmental work. It is nice if the person cares about the environment, but it’s way more important to assess that when hiring a lobbyist or community organizer than an accountant. I’d much rather the accountant be passionate about the number crunching they will do on the job. And for me, as an attorney, no matter how passionate I might be about environmentalism, that doesn’t make me a good fit for an accounting job that I would be unqualified for and also hate. Enthusiasm is important, but for what is going to vary based on the position. If it’s a position that could literally be done anywhere, I wouldn’t evaluate them on whether they have some articulable passion for Company A over Company B-Z.

  70. Steph*

    I accidentally stole someone’s turkey from the office freezer one time. Company gave out free turkeys as our Christmas gift, I was out of the office, and a coworker grabbed mine for me and put it in the freezer to get later. I go back to the office, hit the breakroom freezer where I always put my lunch, take the turkey home. Weeks later, I happen to open the other breakroom freezer in the far corner from the door, and there is a turkey with my name on it. I felt soooo bad, but had no idea whose turkey I’d taken.

  71. Chikkka*

    Tamale-victim needs to leave a note saying “Tamale thief, your brain is full of soup.” Easy.

  72. Luna*

    Those justice emotional circle things are bad. It sounds less like genuine conflict solving and more like how I was always told, “Just talk to each other and I’m sure you’ll become friends with the others”, said ‘others’ being students that were bullying me.
    Even back then I thought it was dumb because I didn’t want to be friends with them, I just wanted them to stop bullying me. Even if they hadn’t been my bullies, I wouldn’t wanted to have been friends with them because they and I were not compatible in terms of being friends.

    And I overall am always so confused by people saying to get emotional with each other. People, and society, keep telling me to be open about how I feel. And when I follow that line, saying that I am feeling bad lately because of depression, bad things happening in my life, or just having a bad day, I quickly get those same people snapping, “You are always so negative!” at me.
    Pick one. Either you tolerate hearing when someone is feeling bad or you want them to lie.

    Go ahead, LW, and be all bland about things. Even if it’s true stuff, but you have worked through it already, so that your genuine, ’emotional’ response is the blandness.

  73. Beth H*

    I agree that “Tell me why you want this job” should not hold much weight. I have 20+ of HR experience and I got a reality check on this one once. We had a neuro-diverse candidate (I did not know that at time of interview) who answered this one “I need a good paying job”. This was factual but it did not demonstrate the passion behind the job the manager was looking for so they did not want to hire them. What it showed though was the candidate’s honesty and ability to get to the point quickly and for the job we needed these were very positive skills. We ended up hiring the candidate and they have worked out very well. The whole experience made me look at this question differently. What are we trying to gage from this question?

  74. Athena*

    re the tamale theft – had a coworker once who would take somebody else’s big bottle of pop out of the lunchroom fridge, drink right out of the bottle, then put it back in the fridge; response to getting called on it was the typical “you can’t tell me what to do” attitude; he was a harasshole too; management was adamantly spineless about all his poisonous behaviors

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