how do I reply to my coworker’s apology without saying her constant mistakes are OK, coworker calls me “mama,” and more

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

1. My coworker keeps causing more work for me, then apologizing — and I don’t want to tell her it’s OK

I’m in a weird situation right now. My coworker, who I’ll call Jane, made a big mistake over the weekend. Big enough that I was called and my boss had to cover for the mistake. In this instance, she didn’t do something I had specifically asked her to do during her working hours on a Friday. The Monday after this happened, it became a Big Deal, and we were both questioned separately on what happened.

This isn’t the first time Jane has made an error and other errors she has made have resulted in incorrect pay that I need to go and clean up after. I am getting tired of having to constantly clean up her mistakes. She apologizes and I’ve always said it’s fine, but at this point, it’s no longer fine. She’s been in the job for almost six months and keeps making the same mistakes.

How can I kindly accept her apology without blanketing over the fact that she continues to make these errors?

You don’t have to say it’s fine if it’s not fine. You shouldn’t be mean about it, of course, but when she apologizes, you could say, “I appreciate that, but is there something we can change to avoid it happening again?” or “I want to make sure we’re putting systems in place that will head this kind of thing off before it happens — is that something you could talk to (manager) about?”

It also sounds like things are at the point where you should talk to your boss about it, if you haven’t already, to point out the impact it’s having on your own work (as well as your weekend, in this case).

2. Coworker calls me “mama”

In a former position, a coworker used to call me “mama.” I am not a mom and she was older than me, but it was seen as a cultural thing, so no one else seemed to care. As I move forward in my career, I would like to nip such things in the bud without coming across as insensitive or aggressive. What’s will be the best approach to being firm enough to prevent this reoccurrence without being seen as too harsh?

“Oh, please just call me Jane — thanks!”

And then if it continues, be more direct: “I don’t like being called ‘mama.’ Just Jane, please!” Or, depending on your style, “I’m no one’s mama — just Jane, please” or “”Mama’ throws me way off — just Jane, please.”

There are indeed cultures where “mama” is a term of respect, but it’s okay to say you want to be called by your name.

3. Can I negotiate more time before I start my new job so I can help my old job replace me?

I’ve essentially been offered a job as long as my references check out (and I can’t imagine they won’t). I’d like to have a longer than standard two-weeks notice period so that my current employer can have enough time to find someone and have me somewhat train them. They’ve, unfortunately, put themselves in the position of having me do everything, and I’m not sure what they’ll do once I leave.

Is there a way to negotiate a longer notice period with the new employer? I’m not sure what to say to them to have this happen.

Please don’t do this! It would be one thing if you wanted to ask for an extra week to see through one crucial project, but you’re talking about asking for multiple extra weeks, even months. Giving your employer time to advertise the job, interview people, hire a replacement, and wait for that person start and then for you to spend time training them — you’re talking about at least a month, and in many jobs two months or more. That’s a major request of your new employer, and it’s something that people just don’t really do in this situation.

It would be different if you needed the time for other reasons — like if you had a vacation or surgery scheduled or just wanted a week or two off in between jobs. But you’d be proposing a major inconvenience to your new employer just to benefit your old employer.

The situation you and your current job are in is a really common one: Very often when someone resigns, it leaves a major gap for the old employer and the person leaving worries about what will happen. And yet … the business handles it. They figure it out and life goes on. It’s not your problem to solve for them, and definitely not at the expense of your new job. (Also, when people are in your situation, they tend to feel like their situation is an exception — that they’re unusually indispensable, that their leaving will cause an unusual amount of chaos and disaster, that their employer is particularly helpless — and it’s almost never the case. So many people feel that way, and rarely does the business collapse after they’re gone.)

Leave your projects thoroughly documented and that’s all you’re obligated to do. If you’re really feeling generous, you could offer to be available for a training call or two with the new person once they’re hired (for pay), but frankly I wouldn’t recommend that in most situations; it’s better to make a clean break and focus on your new job.

Read an update to this letter

4. How much admin work should you do before your first day of a new job?

I just accepted a job offer from a new organization for the first time in seven years and am trying to figure out how much things have changed. While I’m very excited about the job and it’s not a deal breaker for me, they’ve sent a lot of stuff to completed that I’ve always done on my first day at my previous companies. I had to create an account through ADP, fill out all my tax forms, emergency contact info, and paycheck info, read and acknowledge the employee handbook, submit photos of my IDs, and they still want a high resolution photo for my security badge, all due on the last business day before I start.

Everywhere else I’ve worked had me do all that on the first day on their own systems, but it’s also a lot easier to complete this from a mobile app these days (though I’m not thrilled about uploading my passport photo, etc). Do I just need to go with the flow, or am I right to be kinda annoyed they’re requesting all this before I’m on the clock?

This does seem to be happening more often these days; employers seem not to see it as work that should wait for your first day, but more akin to something like signing an offer letter, even though it takes a lot more time.

The path of least resistance is to just go with it if it’s not a major hassle for you. But if it is, you could say, “My schedule before I start is really packed, so I don’t think I’ll be able to get to most of this until my first day. Can you tell me which tasks are essential for me do before then?” That gives them an opportunity to tell you, for example, that you should at least do the ID photos so you’re not prevented from navigating the building on your first day, or whatever the case might be.

5. How do I tell my new job I have a brain tumor?

I recently left a terrible job and started a new one that has been fantastic to me and very good in general. However, I’ve spent the last year having MRI’s and neurologist visits and found out a week after starting that I have a brain tumor.

I’m worried that sharing this with my new employers will cause me difficulty at work, but at the moment, it’s not having any effects on my work and I do want to be honest with them about it. I’m just a little reluctant to do so, because at my previous not great job, any mention of anything that required me to take time off (I had Covid and a bad mental health time) was not received well, and nor were the medical issues of the other staff. I’m sure the job I have now won’t be like that, but as a new employee, how do I bring up the topic that I have a brain tumor?

I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. You don’t need to — and probably shouldn’t — bring it up since it doesn’t sound like you want to request any accommodations right now.

As a general rule, it’s safest to only disclose a health condition at work when you need to ask for a specific accommodation connected with it, and that’s especially true at a new job. (That doesn’t mean you need to go out of your way to keep it a secret, but it sounds like you’re feeling that you need to share this with them and you don’t.) If there comes a time when there’s something specific you need to ask for, you can tackle that then — and even then, you don’t necessarily need to disclose specifics if you don’t want to — but for now you’re not under any obligation to share your health situation. (This post talks about this in the context of mental health issues, but a lot of the same principles apply.)

{ 564 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I originally had written that “mama” is a term of endearment like “honey” or “sweetie,” but commenters have pointed out that in Spanish it’s a term of respect, so I’ve changed that in the post.

    I think it’ll help to keep in mind that we’re not talking about that American phenomenon where women get called “mama” to refer to their identity as someone with children, but rather a cultural difference where the term is used differently. It’s perfectly fine to ask to be called by your name instead, but please keep in mind that it’s coming from a different place (across culture and language) than I think some comments below are accounting for.

  2. Pennyworth*

    I don’t think I have ever responded to an apology for a work error causing problems with ‘That’s fine”, because it never is. My go-to is just ”Thank you”, then addressing the problem and how to prevent it recurring.

    1. Sleeve McQueen*

      I go with a “I appreciate that but, at this point, I am focused on how we can mitigate against it happening again.”

    2. Emma*

      Right – “Thankyou” and “I appreciate it” are the go-to responses when you want to accept an apology without suggesting that no apology was needed.

    3. MK*

      I have done so only when a) it’s a very entry level coworker, along the lines of “we all have done mistakes when we started out, here is what you need to do to not repeat it”, or b) it’s an isolated mistake by an otherwise competent coworker, as in “we all make mistakes occasionally, how do we make sure it doesn’t happen again”. And in both cases the person who did the mistake also did the bulk of the work to correct it. But I have never said it’s fine and left it at that, unless it’s really something very minor, or maybe not even a mistake at all, just a misunderstanding.

      1. BatManDan*

        Yup. Lateness, missed appointments, dropped deadlines, errors at work – the best response is never “It’s fine,” because it ISN’T fine, and why would you leave anyone with the impression, consciously or subconsciously, that it IS fine? “Apology accepted; how do we rectify it now, and how do we put something in place to keep it from happening again?” Forward focused. Holding the standards.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            In my line of work, mistakes are so common that I side-eye anyone who claims they don’t make them regularly. Same with projects running behind schedule.

            The important part is to immediately mitigate the effect on clients and then figure out what went wrong and if the mistake is avoidable in the future.

            1. Lydia*

              Yeah, saying it’s fine when it is, is…fine. But not every mistake is likely to be catastrophic and not saying it’s fine when it is catastrophic is also…fine.

        1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

          Everyone makes errors, that is part of being human. So, a normal amount of human error with minimal consequences IS fine.

          1. BatManDan*

            Acceptable? Manageable? Expected? Yes, sure. Fine? As in, “I don’t care if you keep doing this?” Then, no, not fine. They wouldn’t be writing in if it was “fine.” They’re at fault for saying it was fine, and now they need verbiage to walk it back.

            1. Lydia*

              Uh, no. In the past it was fine, now it’s not because it keeps happening. They want language to acknowledge the apology without giving the impression it’s no big deal.

        2. alienor*

          Sometimes a mistake truly is just a mistake, though. I’m reminded of this post where the LW’s boss would grill them about things like “but why is there a typo” when the answer was “because there just is.” It does sound like the mistakes that the person in this letter is making are bigger than that and need some sort of systems put in place to decrease them. But in a lot of cases it really is just that ish happens, the impact wasn’t that bad, and it’s fine.

    4. lunchtime caller*

      I started being more deliberate about this in my personal life, and I’d like to think it means people can trust me more now when I say it is fine—they know I certainly wouldn’t say it I were still annoyed.

    5. Cut & Run*

      I think an “It’s fine” response is pretty common. Especially if it’s the first time with a new process, or the person is new and very nervous. The person already feels like crap making a mistake (usually), and in my experience it’s a very thin (and often moving) line between expressing consequence for incorrect action and berating. There’s often a power dynamic between the person who made the mistake and the person who caught/corrected it as well beyond the perceived right/wrong aspect of the situation which makes it all more challenging to create a teachable moment within a circle of respect.

      The real challenge is in situations like the LW discusses where the same mistake keeps happening, and tone needs to get firmer. Usually pointing out a mistake causes enough tension within the person who made the mistake to proactively step up their processes to avoid making the mistake again, and when that doesn’t happen, it gets more challenging for managers.

      1. BatManDan*

        “It’s fine” as a response IS pretty common, but it is worth noting that you’ll have to use verbiage that indicates that it is, in fact, NOT fine about 10x the number of times you say “it’s fine” before it sticks. Even though it’s common, it is unhelpful and makes it worse in the long run, because when it’s brought to their attention that it is “not fine,” the credibility of the person that said it WAS fine is undermined (although, most likely, subconsciously, but it’s still there). So, we would all be better served using different language. And, I don’t mean making people feel bad or nervous about mistakes, but verbiage that indicates things like “I don’t expect perfection, but we need to make sure that THIS doesn’t happen again, now that we’ve seen and experienced the consequences.”

    6. Lacey*

      Yeah, my default is “it’s fine” for small personal stuff (where it really is not a big deal!) but I’ve tried not to say it at work ever since a coworker said, “Don’t tell me that, if I think it’s fine I’ll do it again”

      1. Lydia*

        I mean, fair. That person acknowledged that what happened could have bigger consequences, so don’t brush it over.

        Saying it’s fine is how our brain has evolved to smooth social weirdness in the pack. We’ve also evolved the ability to address things in a more nuanced way, so we don’t have to rely on “it’s fine” to clear the air when it’s not really right for the job.

    7. Annony*

      I wouldn’t say it never is. Sometimes a mistake is easily fixed and when it isn’t part of a pattern it genuinely is fine. In this case it wasn’t easily fixed and was a part of a pattern, so it most definitely wasn’t fine. I work with a lot of entry level people and do need to train them that small mistakes are fine. Otherwise they freeze up and won’t make any decision because they are afraid of making a mistake.

  3. Zombeyonce*

    #5: Your doctor and their staff will be invaluable during your treatment and likely happy to write you any kind of notes about necessary accommodations to share with your employer. You never have to disclose your condition at all, just any documentation from your healthcare providers that you need something different than you did before. You can tell your new employer when necessary that you have ongoing medical issues that will require adjustments, but that’s really all you have to tell them unless you feel safe enough to share more.

    You may also find that treatment/recovery means changing health needs and different accommodations depending on how your health is being managed. Don’t feel guilty asking your employer for what you need even if it changes from week to week! Your health is so important and you have to advocate for yourself, so don’t feel bad about setting boundaries and enforcing them. Good luck!

      1. Presea*

        If they stay in the job long enough, they’ll qualify for FMLA eventually. And they may be willing and able to make accommodations for absences that aren’t FMLA based. Assuming everyone involved is reasonable, it’s still a good idea to discuss and ask.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        FMLA is the *least* an employer can do, as required by federal law. A lot of employers go beyond by, for example, allowing an employee to go into the red for PTO, or collect PTO donations for them, or just giving the employee time off (paid or unpaid) while coping with a medical issue. One of my friends had their non-insurance-covered surgery paid for by their employer!

      3. Lydia*

        They may also qualify in a state that has their own medical leave law that doesn’t follow the federal timeline. The state I live in has its own medical leave that I believe kicks in at 6 months instead of the 1 year of the federal law.

    1. YouHaveToGiveDetails*

      Not true. Every accommodations process I’ve ever entered required extensive medical information. What you don’t have to do is share the gory details with your boss (in theory) but you nearly always do with HR. And in practice the boss gets some details in order to discuss viability/reasonableness of requests (the smaller the company the more the boss has to/gets to know in my experience). And some places make you ask your boss first so they only need a formal process if there’s disagreement and in those cases you usually have to tell the boss everything. I’ve had to discuss all kinds of things I’d prefer not to disclose and gotten doctors notes with specifics of both conditions and symptoms for some of the strangest things (in some cases for things that shouldn’t have required accomodation requests/revealing private info at all).

      1. Willow Pillow*

        It really depends on the accommodation and the employer. I’ve worked places where things that shouldn’t have had to be accommodations in the first place required that level of detail, and others where the same thing was offered freely. I think it’s useful to know accommodations might be a bit of a fight, but give people the benefit of the doubt.

      2. Oxford Comma*

        I think that is going to depend on your employer. I needed a few things at my current job and even though I had a doctor’s note, my employer just went ahead and granted everything and didn’t even ask for the note.

      3. Bankerchick*

        I am going through something now. It most likely (hoping!) to be nothing but I ended up letting my manger know. As my work seems to think you should make appointments on your time. And I had to make it clear that I needed to take time when specialists were available and setting the appointments not when it was most convenient for them. But simply saying “I have an appointment” wouldn’t work as the response may be “you have X off, why couldn’t you make it for then”.

  4. Mary*

    #4. This seems to be a thing indeed. I pushed back at HR in my company asking them why they were giving new hires work tasks to do (like read the staff handbook) prior to being a paid staff member. They answered it was the norm to have all the documents signed prior to starting. I disagree because it is several hours worth and we should not be asking non-staff to do work, people should be paid for their time and so these tasks are day 1 tasks.

    I think the real answer is that they can send all the documents electronically so it is easy to add them to pre-work checklists. But in my opinion, just because technology allows you to do something easily does not mean you should do it.

    1. Allonge*

      They also seem to be confusing “this could be useful” with doing it, no exceptions. If I have a choice,would I prefer to get the employee handbook and similar info in advance? Sure. But that is not the same as being expected to read it to sign off on it level.

    2. Name*

      From someone who’s worked in HR for the last 8 years – the real answer is that companies have had too many new hires drag their feet on new hire paperwork, resulting in things not getting done in the time they are supposed to. For example, the I9 has to be signed by the employer within 3 days of the new hire starting. Yes, the date can be written whenever but many are electronic and have time stamps now. The other issue is that HR now has to keep track of who hasn’t completed what. That’s not always easy.

      1. Allonge*

        Ok so – have people start with a day just for this. They go to their boss / department on their second day. It’s not easy, but it should not mean that incoming new staff has to work unpaid.

          1. WellRed*

            Same here. I’m guessing HR wouldn’t care to work an unpaid day to process all that new hire paperwork.

          2. Jackalope*

            Yes, this. You’re generally not able to do a ton on the first day or two anyway, so use that time at least in part for this sort of paperwork.

          3. Lacey*

            Yup. I’ve only ever had to fill out like one basic form before starting a job and then on the first day it’s a massive to-do list, and then some more training which is like 1-8 videos and quizzes, depending on where you work.

          4. ferrina*

            My work does this too. We’ve got an Onboarding sherpa who will make sure the new hires get all the necessary things done in their first week.

            That doesn’t stop our HR from sending things in advance. But they don’t mind if someone doesn’t respond until their first day.

          5. J*

            The best onboarding experience I ever had followed this model. On Day 1, your start time is 30 minutes later than your actual start time. You meet with an HR rep to review all documents, sign them, present IDs, you’ve already been sent an employee handbook at the interview and health insurance documents with the offer but they review them with you as needed. HR also presented us with a schedule of our first week (they’d given loose frameworks of this in the email prior to Day 1). Then a tour of the office where they hand you off to a predetermined group of people for lunch.

            Post lunch you do 30 minutes with IT in your work space so you get your tech and learn how to login. Then it’s training for the rest of the day. And smaller bursts of training, lunches, shadowing the rest of week 1. It was fantastic, everyone knew their roles, by the end of that week I knew every software and HR was checking on me at end of day Friday to make sure I felt settled and to tell me when they’d check in next. I stayed at that job for 6 years despite being ready for advancement before that just because they were so respectful of my time and good at communicating.

          6. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

            This is what we do here, too. It’s clearly very common. There’s this commotion first thing (“Oh hello Jane! We’re so glad you’re here!”), and then Jane disappears into HR and emerges hours later with her tech, badge, and a goodie bag with a company-branded notebook and water bottle in it.

          7. soontoberetired*

            Also my workplace. We expect new hires to spend at least half a day filling in paperwork before we see them. Sometimes a whole day. We also don’t want a lot of that stuff being sent in an email for security reasons.

        1. Fluttervale*

          I’m not sure you realize how many people show up on that day without the appropriate I9 documentation. In my time in HR about 10% of people would show up without proper documentation despite having spent quite a bit of time explaining what exactly was needed.

            1. Mildred_Fierce*

              Sending them home could cause delays for the company and other employees. As an example at my old workplace, there were a number of first day activities including new hire orientation, health and safety training, a tour and one on one with the new hire’s manager. In addition, the new hire paperwork (payroll, tax, insurance etc,..) would be processed that afternoon to ensure payroll deadlines were met. If an employee had to go home to get their missing documents it would throw the whole schedule off.

              1. Jasper*

                That seems like a you problem and a that new hire problem. Still not an excuse for having people do unpaid work.

                1. SchuylerSeestra*

                  That seems uncalled for? I’m HR adjacent and honestly submitting onboarding material in advance is actually beneficial for the new hires.

                  It means you are in the system and gives space for any sort of mistakes or issues to be remedied in advance.

                  Especially when there are multiple onboarding’s at once. I work at a place where we have 2 HR managers. We are also fully remote. We use a virtual onboarding system that does streamline things, but we also have large onboarding classes. By submitting basics like payroll information, I-9, W2 forms early allows the team to be more focused on the actual training aspect of onboarding.

                  You probably would change your tune if your payroll is late, or your info wasn’t uploaded correctly.

                2. Me ... Just Me*

                  There are just certain things that are going to need to be done beforehand. I work in a very regulated field in a even more regulated specialty. Part of the pre-onboarding stuff that is routinely required are things like fingerprinting, drug tests, physicals, law enforcement background checks. They’re not going to let you on-site until you’re cleared and won’t officially offer you the job until these things are completed. When I was job hunting last year, I went through this with 3 different companies before settling on the company that I’m in now. Spending 15-20 minutes filling out a few forms wouldn’t even register as “unpaid work”.

                3. Mildred_Fierce*

                  I was literally just describing how things were done at my old company and the potential impact of sending new hires home to get their information. I do not think that makes it a “me problem”.

          1. steliafidelis*

            Can confirm, and I would even say up to 25% of new hires will show up without documentation.

            I once attended a management training out of state as an internal hire, but there were several external hires and at least two of them forgot their documentation and had to have it overnighted to the home office so they could complete the I9 process in a timely fashion

          2. Allonge*

            Then you send them home at the end of the day saying that if they don’t bring X and Y by 8 am (or whatever makes sense) next morning they don’t need to come at all. Why is it feasible for them to bring/ send in the documentation if it’s all in advance and not if they would show up with it on the first day?

            But ok, indeed some things need to be handled in advance / at home. Keep this to the very miminum.

          3. Loulou*

            I do realize, because I’ve seen it myself. HR has extra copies of all the documents and the new hires who came with their forms filled in get to sit around and watch the ones who didn’t. Annoying? Very! But at least you’re getting paid.

          4. Delta Delta*

            Seems like a good practice for companies would be to tell new hires what to bring on their first day. There are some people who just … won’t, but there are also some people who might appreciate a checklist. It’s already sort of nerve-racking to start a new job, and without a list it might be easy to overlook bringing a social security card (especially if you never carry it – many people don’t).

            1. SchuylerSeestra*

              So most companies do send a checklist in advance.

              Folks either don’t read the emails, or still forget crucial documentation.

              1. Orora*

                THIS. I have checklists with links and personalized due dates. New hires are given I-9 info along with a link to the acceptable documents list so they should know what to bring. The number of people who still can’t get stuff done on time or bring the appropriate documents is astounding.

                1. Elsajeni*

                  Some of what the OP describes sounds unreasonable — reading the handbook, in particular — but I think taking a real hard line on “unpaid work is unpaid work” about stuff like filling out work authorization and tax forms is also a bit unreasonable. Filling out an I-9 takes about a minute; the part that takes the longest for most people is probably gathering up their passport and social security card and whatnot, which you would have to do at home regardless of whether you fill out the form there or at the office the next day.

          5. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

            So send them home to get it. Tell them they can’t start until they’ve presented it to you. You have legal requirements, they need to meet them. No excuses.

        2. English Rose*

          Bear in mind though that not every employer is like OPs, in office-based employment. For multi-site employers where people carry out practical roles such as health care, with HR based in head office hundreds of miles away, this model doesn’t work.

          1. Allonge*

            What HR does for us on this day can also be done by a local manager/employee if that makes more sense. (You get people to sign things, make a copy of documents based on a checklist and tell them about how leave etc works – it cannot be anyone but a shift lead can well be expected to deal with it, with some prep on confidentiality etc).

            We only have new staff coming in twice a month, so this is a limited impact in any case.

            1. J*

              I can confirm. I was a satellite employee so we decided prior to my onboarding that I’d spend a week at the HR office but in other cities they did onboarding 2x/month in remote cities or even just monthly. Sometimes they came to us, sometimes we went to them, it was really just a numbers game. I was the only onboarding person my month and my new worksite wasn’t ready so I went to them. It just requires planning and forward thinking if it needs to be done in person, and if it can be done virtually then it certainly doesn’t need to be before I start as offices have scanners and such.

        3. Gato Blanco*

          This is the answer. First day is admin. Anyone arguing otherwise is just committing wage theft asking employees to do unpaid work.

      2. Iconic Bloomingdale*

        I second this. As an HR Director of a municipal agency, I need to ensure new hires provide required documentation and ensure certain paperwork is completed within prescribed timeframes. New hires who show up on the first day without a Social Security (SS) card, birth certificate, resident/work visa card, educational credentials or other important documents is more common than I’d prefer, so we began conducting the pre-employment process prior to the start date. And if a candidate fails to comply, we will delay the start date or in some cases, rescind the offer.

        In one case, a new hire who started said he’d lost his SS card. We gave him the benefit of the doubt and told him to contact the SS Administration to request a new one. Six weeks later after my team sent him repeated emails and made calls inquiring about the status of the card, I informed him that his services would be terminated if he did not provide us the card within a week. Miraculously, he provided the card within two days.

        Another candidate who was supposed to start yesterday (after he delayed his start date several weeks purportedly due to his positive COVID diagnosis) failed to provide us with his SS card and high school diploma during pre-employment. Up until last Friday afternoon, my team called and emailed him repeatedly, with no response. Early yesterday morning, he left a voicemail message that “due to a family emergency that occurred over the weekend,” he wouldn’t be able to accept the position after all. I suspect he probably didn’t have a high school diploma, which is one of the minimum requirements of the position he was selected for.

        At my agency, we also attract a high percentage of candidates from Asia, South East Asia and Eastern Europe and most of them were schooled abroad. These candidates must have their educational credentials evaluated and/or translated into English by a reputable company specializing in this function. Before the candidates start, we must have the official evaluation transcript from the company to determine if the credentials meet the minimum qualification requirement(s) for the position.

        All said, it is just easier for this process to occur prior to the start date. In my experience, many people do not fully follow instructions and complete paperwork thoroughly. For HR staff to assist with the paperwork, follow up with any missing documents, payroll the employee all on the day of hire (also while the hiring manager is itching to get the new employee working) is not productive. Also, HR has more leverage to act beforehand (delay start date or rescind offer) if a candidate fails to comply with the requirements in a reasonable timeframe.

        1. Totally Minnie*

          If that’s the case, then your company needs to start providing a pre-employment stipend to pay these employees for the time they’re spending on this paperwork. These are work tasks. They should be paid. If a new employee has to do work before their start date, then their first paycheck should contain an extra 6-8 hours worth of pay to account for that time, and new employees should be told about it when they receive a job offer.

          1. English Rose*

            But proving you have the right to work in the country of employment or required educational qualifications aren’t work tasks, they’re a valid part of pre-employment checks and something a candidate would need to have to hand for any new employment. It’s not 6 – 8 hours work.

          2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

            A stipend for time spent getting diplomas translated etc? I disagree that those are “work tasks” exactly, partly because they’re just things that make you eligible for the job. Perhaps people should be paid for their time in interviews as well, or for getting dressed and doing basic hygiene in the morning as those are things needed for work, or for their commute as they wouldn’t be doing that travel except for the job … that doesn’t seem right! Some things are just part of the “cost of living” without the expectation of an employer paying for them.

          3. SheLooksFamiliar*

            ‘If that’s the case, then your company needs to start providing a pre-employment stipend to pay these employees for the time they’re spending on this paperwork. ‘

            It is not reasonable to assume that every transaction a new employee completes has a dollar figure attached to it. These are not work-related tasks. They are part of the ‘of getting employed’ process, but not work-specific. Subtle and sophisticated difference, I know, but the distinction is there.

            Paperwork and onboarding are part of the process. Time-consuming, yes, but not outrageously so. Pretty much every employer goes through these steps to get you actually hired.

            1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

              Pretty much every employer does these things on work time, as they are work related processes. Paperwork and onboarding are not things I would chose to do in my own time, they are required for *work*, they are actual work tasks.

              I am in the process of converting from contract to perm. I am not using unpaid time to complete my onboarding, and I am not being asked to.

              Also, at 61, if someone asked for my High School diploma I would laugh. Sure, it’s the only “diploma” I have, but it’s in a box somewhere.

            2. Nina*

              “It is not reasonable to assume that every transaction a new employee completes has a dollar figure attached to it.”

              Really? why not? The ‘getting employed process’ as you put it, when it’s at the employer’s company, benefits the employer just as much as it does the employee, or why do it? Workers exchange the time they spend working on things that benefit their employer for money. That’s literally how jobs work.

              1. Hiring Mgr*

                Did you get paid for your interview? For your prep time before the interview? Did they reimburse a portion of your internet/phone bill when you were researching the company? Did they pay for the dry cleaning?

                It’d be great if all these things were paid for but as far as I know they’re not, so I don’t see why you would expect to get paid for filling in a W4 or health insurance form. Maybe I’m missing something but filling out these forms takes like 20-30 minutes tops

                1. Nina*

                  Sure, a line has to be drawn somewhere, but I just don’t think it’s fair to draw it on the sunny side of ‘paperwork the employer is legally required to get completed’.

                  For me (not in the US, therefore I have a different currency and different cost of living…) 20-30 minutes is $10-15 that I’m effectively giving the company for free with no choice in the matter (unlike interview clothes and drycleaning, which I can choose myself and wear again, internet or phone bills which I can choose myself and/or use free city services at the library, or my prep time before the interview which, again, it’s my choice how much of that I do or indeed whether I do it at all). That’s a low-key but filling meal in a cafe or a reasonably nice new or very nice second-hand shirt.

          4. Noelle*

            It does not take 6 to 8 hours to fill our onboarding paperwork in the US. It takes at most an hour (but probably less). It’s your W4, your I9, direct deposit, NDA, and benefits enrollment. Maybe a signature to acknowledge that you’ve received the company handbook. I understand (and don’t disagree with) the argument that it’s work related and thus should be paid, but let’s not act like it’s a tremendous lift to sign a few forms.

        2. Willow Pillow*

          Huh. Maybe things are different in Canada, but I’ve only needed my Social Insurance Number, not the actual card. The government issues letters these days so it’s more and more likely that someone won’t have a card.

            1. MassMatt*

              I’m amazed I still have my original social security card, issued in… 1982? I checked into getting a replacement for a relative and it is a huge PITA.

              It seems weird to me that employers would require this small and easily lost/damaged/forged piece of paper when the SSN itself can be checked in minutes. The SS card has no security features at all. When I was a kid there were shops all over NYC (at least 5-6 in Times Square alone, though that was back when Times Square wasn’t run by Disney) where you could get one printed for five bucks. For an extra five they wouldn’t stamp “novelty only” on the back.

              With printers and scanners now it would be remarkably easy to fake the cards. Does the government actually require a physical SS card, or is this just adding needless hassle to your new hire process?

              1. Yeah, nah*

                It’s to prove citizenship and must be provided along with a picture ID, such as a driver’s license. A passport (for those who have them), is an alternative, because it verifies citizenship while also already having your picture.

                1. Willow Pillow*

                  Canada has similar requirements, but it doesn’t have to be a SIN – my driver’s licence and health care card have always been accepted for identification. The number is structured in a way that it proves citizenship in itself (i.e. a temporary SIN for a newly landed immigrant starts with a 9).

              2. Guacamole Bob*

                Yes, the government requires the actual card. Form I9 requires a) proof of identity, and b) proof of eligibility to work, and companies are required to examine the actual documents. There are various options to fulfill each, but social security card is among the more common methods of providing proof of eligibility to work.

                1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

                  And because of this, even though I’m remote and have photographs of my DL and passport card, I have to drive over to some weird little shop ten miles away to have someone “verify” my documents. It’s a farce.

                  Other companies just have a second person sign that they have verified the documents, and then upload pictures so that they can be verified via the services that companies retain for that purpose.

              3. stacers*

                I lost my SSN card when I was a teen, looked into getting a replacement and, as you say, it was a real PITA and have not done so. In my 40 years of working (and driving) since, they all have said SSN card OR birth certificate (along with photo ID), so I’ve always just had a copy of the birth certificate since that is much, much easier to obtain.

                And, like you, I’ve always been amazed that that tiny, business card-sized document was enough … seems so odd.

                1. kitryan*

                  My original one is stuck in the dashboard of a car my parents used to own. My dad took me to get my driver’s license renewed or something else requiring multiple id and we brought it along either as part of the requirements or just in case I turned out to need it. And…somehow it slipped out of the envelope with all the docs and into a crevice in the front dash.
                  I got along with copies we’d made prior to its escape for almost 20 years, since I had my passport and driver’s license, but I finally got a new card about 4 years ago.

              4. Bee*

                I recently had to get mine from my parents (at age 33) because I needed it to replace my out-of-state driver’s license. In the meantime, I’d renewed my passport & started two new jobs without ever needing the physical card. (Still kind of shocked that exchanging an out-of-state license required NOT ONLY my old still-valid license AND my passport but also my original social security card, the easiest thing to forge out of all of them.)

                1. Bookmark*

                  Ugh I had the same experience trying to get a drivers license in my current state, which unfortunately I needed at the same time as my passport expired. Weirdly enough, my new state accepted a high school college transcript as proof of date of birth, but most colleges have stopped printing date of birth on their transcripts.

              5. Kacihall*

                Federally, the government doesn’t require a copy of the card. They require a document proving the right to work in the US AND a document proving identity. It can be something like a passport (both in one) or a driver’s license and an SSN card (or birth cert, or naturalization papers, etc). Some with places may require a copy of the SSN card as policy but it’s but a national thing.

       has the lists if you are interested.

          1. Aitch Arr*

            They are different in Canada.

            In the US, an I-9 form with proper documentation must be completed and the documents presented within 3 days of employment.

            The list of approved documents is extensive, but in 25 years in HR, I’ve mostly seen a US passport or the combination of a Social Security Card and a Driver’s License.

            1. Willow Pillow*

              Based on the other comments replying to/below mine, it doesn’t sound so different – “document proving the right to work in the US AND a document proving identity” is the same as Canada.

              1. Aitch Arr*

                I also supervise HR in Canada for my company, so I do know what I’m talking about. ;)

                We require only a copy of the SIN card.

                1. Willow Pillow*

                  I haven’t even needed a copy of my SIN card, just the number. I’m sure you know what you’re talking about for your company…

      3. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

        My first day at many jobs has been reserved for “New Hire” orientation, including:
        * I-9 paperwork
        * Badge picture
        * Insurance and benefits paperwork
        * Payroll (W-4 and direct deposit) paperwork
        * Policies and procedures
        * Mandatory trainings

        Doing this crap ahead of time while you are wrapping up a previous job is a BIG PAIN IN THE BUTT! Companies that make you eat the time to do this are very annoying.

        You tell people to show up (for on-site jobs) on the first day with their docs, and after a group orientation session, you site them down with a HR person to do all the stuff. If they “forget” their IDs and stuff, you send them home to get it, and tell them they can’t actually start without it. For remote, there’s a lot of shipping around fillable pdfs and electronic signatures.

        Doing it beforehand is essentially stealing the employee’s unpaid time for your paperwork requirements.

        While I can see asking for a decent selfie if you want to pre-make their badge, you are more likely to get a decent picture if you take it on-site. Not everyone has a “high resolution” picture of themselves just laying around. Remote employees seldom need a badge.

      4. MigraineMonth*

        I started my job near the beginning of the pandemic, when public health orders said we were supposed to shelter in place but none of the processes allowed digital copies. I finally got the ID for my I-9 verified more than a year later.

    3. English Rose*

      We don’t do as much as requested by #4’s employer but as part of pre-employment checks we need to see all key documentation, to prove identity, right to work etc. We also attach two forms to the offer letter which we ask people to complete before they start: bank and other personal details, and next of kin. We don’t confirm start dates before that is in place.

      Technically we could get people to complete the two forms before they start, but they take ten minutes max and don’t get forgotten in the flurry of multiple new joiners across multiple sites every week. It guarantees people get paid! We have never ever had any push back from candidates on this.

      1. Betty Flintstone*

        Yeah I’m kind of not getting the outrage. Even the employee handbook thing doesn’t seem outrageous to me – best for both employees and employers to know if there is something in there that won’t work for them (eg, employee handbook says you can’t keep a real estate license while working at the company (as was the case with my prior employer because it was a conflict of interest) and employee doesn’t want to relinquish their license). Better to know of these things before you quit your current job and start at a new company!

        1. CR*

          I don’t get the outrage either. I started a new job three weeks ago and I was happy to do all the paperwork ahead of time – it meant that I would be paid on time once I started!

          1. Allonge*

            For me the outrage is that there is a ‘mission creep’ in what is expected to be done in advance.

            I need to collect my IDs and certificates and whatnot is on my time – obviously this is fine unless the org needs some incredibly complicated to get things that don’t come life standard. If I don’t keep my docs in order and this takes time, that is on me.

            Filling in one or two forms for payroll / insurance – I guess it’s ok, as you say it’s in my interest too.

            Filling in more, for my employer to comply with their legal obligations – eh, that should be on company time.

            Employee handbook – send it in advance, for sure, preferably before the interview even. But expecting people to read it should be on company time.

            Take a picture of your staff on company time.

            All training, all IT setup, all of that – company time.

            1. Observer*

              Take a picture of your staff on company time.

              Which means that the person can’t get into the office till after they start.

              1. Cyndi*

                FWIW, at every job I’ve ever had that required a photo keycard, we were loaned a guest card to use until our personal one was issued.

              2. lilsheba*

                The whole time I’ve been working and needed an ID this was never an issue. The photo was always taken that first day, never prior to working there.

              3. Allonge*

                I am in a pretty closed-up buliding, but we bring people in (as visitors) all the time. For not having access to specific offices – that’s a feature, not a bug.

                Either you work here or you don’t. If you don’t, you get escorted in the building. If you work here, you are paid.

              4. Mr. Shark*

                They should be met at the lobby and should be escorted by the onboarding person at the start of their employment. At that point, they can get their picture taken and ID made, which takes only a few minutes these days (in general).

                I don’t see that being a big issue. I agree, most of this onboarding should be on the first day. Some of it can be done by the company before the person shows up without their input.

              5. kitryan*

                The workplaces I’ve been employed at with cards had new hires met at the door (since they wouldn’t know where to go anyway, even if they had a card already) and in the first batch of onboarding, getting the photo taken for the card/getting the card created was part of the tasks that I was walked through on day one.
                Both of these workplaces also had one or two ‘temp’ cards that don’t have a specific user that could be given to first day hires so they can go to lunch or whatever if their card isn’t ready before the end of the day.
                Not sure you’d want a brand new hire to just wander in and (potentially) get lost on day one/minute one, you’d want to escort them around and give them a tour anyway, so I don’t see not giving them a card before the first day as a big problem.
                Also, having to mail the card to a new hire in advance of the first day seems like a security risk, though I suppose you could wait to activate the user until the morning of their first day.

                1. Me ... Just Me*

                  I think they’ve moved to people providing their own pictures for two reasons:

                  1. HR is off-site and so it may be several days before the card is sent back, once the picture is actually taken
                  2. People don’t tend to like their badge pictures when standing in front of the wall/screen and I think HR is probably allowing folks to send in more flattering pictures as part of keeping employees happy

            2. Glomarization, Esq.*

              An employee handbook can essentially be the contract of employment between the worker and the company. The new employee needs to read it before they can honestly sign an acknowledgement of receipt and agreement. It’s basically part of the offer and really shouldn’t be provided day-of, in many circumstances.

              This will vary quite a lot by industry and role. In some situations, though, it’s a time saver for both parties if the handbook is shared and expected to be read ahead of a worker’s first day.

              1. lilsheba*

                Again, in all the years I’ve been working at an office of some kind, this has never happened. I always got the handbook after the first day.

                1. Glomarization, Esq.*

                  Different strokes for different folks. As I say, this really does vary by industry and role.

              2. Allonge*

                Share it, by all means. Share it with people you invite for an interview so they know what to ask about.

                For working there, it’s a different situation, especially if you expect that people behave based on the handbook without any further training. That needs to happen on company time.

                1. Glomarization, Esq.*

                  Nah, sharing the employee handbook at some pre-offer stage would be at best a waste of time (no need to get into the weeds during an interview), or worst inappropriate or ill-advised in terms of company opsec.

                  You’ve commented quite a bit on this question. You clearly feel very strongly about this.

                2. Allonge*

                  You’ve commented quite a bit on this question. You clearly feel very strongly about this.

                  About people getting paid for their work? I guess I do feel strongly about it, yes.

              3. Nina*

                Yeah, seconding this, I’ve definitely started jobs that sprung a ‘no visible piercings or tattoos or unnaturally colored hair’ rule on me only in the handbook on the first day and never mentioned it at the interview.

                I have quite a lot of all of those things, they’re expensive, they were visible at the interview, they can’t all be covered or removed, and I was pissed. If I’m signing a contract (required by law in my country, no-contract employment just isn’t a thing here) that says I agree to abide by the handbook, I better have the opportunity to seek advice on and negotiate that as well.

            3. Lily Potter*

              I like the term “mission creep”. Describes perfectly what’s happening here. HR is thinking “what’s the big deal? it’s only ONE form”……then it’s two forms, then you’re reading the company handbook on your own time.

              It occurs to me that part of this is affected by whether you’re dealing with non-exempt/hourly or exempt/salaried employees. If you’re an exempt/salaried employee, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal to do a couple of housekeeping tasks on your own time. These folks are used to the “work day” being a bit of a loose term. Non-exempt/hourly employees are accustomed to being compensated for every minute that they’re doing a work task and not being paid if they’re so much as 10 minutes late. It’s a completely different way of thinking. A non-exempt/hourly employee naturally will wonder why they’re doing work “off the clock”.

              1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

                Anyone who has worked hourly, even if they are salary now, will wonder why they are asked to do hours of paperwork “off the clock”.

                1. Uranus Wars*

                  I have no idea what kinds of jobs you have had but my first day paperwork, when done in office, has never taken more more than 15-20 minutes. HOURS????

                2. SchuylerSeestra*

                  Is this industry specific? I don’t think it’s ever taken me more than 30 minutes to complete onboarding paper work.

                  My current company uses a self service software, information doesn’t even need to be submitted all at once.

        2. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

          Many years ago a new hire quit on the first day because the health insurance didn’t cover spouses if they had their own plan through their work. If they sent the handbook ahead of time, they could have moved on quickly to choice #2.

          My last two jobs I got to do all that paperwork ahead of time (current job is permanently fully remote) and ai liked being able to get that out of the way before I started. It took maybe 30 min start to finish, no where close to 6-8 hours. I skimmed the handbook just for things I cared about because a lot of it was standard legal stuff. I could always read it more in depth if I wanted after I started.

          This would be a weird hill to die on IMO. I’m all for workers rights but I wouldn’t risk getting an offer pulled over a very minimal amount of pre-work.

          1. Retired Accountant*

            That type of insurance information should be presented at the time of the offer, not after the prospective employee has most likely resigned their job. It would be cool if the employer got to move on quickly to their second choice, but the employee is screwed either way.

            1. CRM*

              I feel like most places will give you that information at the time of an offer if you ask! If health insurance could be a dealbreaker then I think it was on new employee to ask about it before accepting an offer.

          2. Reality.Bites*

            I’m not familiar with American health insurance, but wouldn’t it be standard to not cover spouses who have their own coverage?

            1. Arglebargle*

              It’s not standard. I have great insurance through my work. My husband’s job has expensive and crappy insurance. He declines the insurance from them and he is on my policy with my work.

            2. Me ... Just Me*

              Many places charge you, like $50 a paycheck if you have insurance on your spouse but they have it available through their own work, or don’t offer it at all.

              1. Bookmark*

                Weird, I’ve never encountered this. My experience is paying disproportionately more for employee + spouse or employee + dependents coverage (so, if coverage for employee is X, coverage for employee and spouse is closer to 2.5X than 2X). It’s less that the company is charging me something for covering my spouse, and more that they’re declining to provide the same level of contribution to my spouse’s health coverage as they are to mine.

        3. Way Anon for This*

          “Outrage” is too strong, but it’s not a great first impression to make on a new hire.

          I recently took a job that pays well, but has significantly fewer paid days off between PTO and observed holidays than Old Job. In addition, HR pushed me to start as soon as possible, so I agreed to take only one week off between jobs instead of two, not knowing about the pre-boarding. I ended up spending a significant portion of my “time off” attending to pre-boarding and training.

          This disregard for my time did raise a caution flag for me and made me question how much I should trust my team here.

        4. J*

          The workplaces I’ve worked with, I’ve either requested a handbook in advance or have just been given it freely. They never have me sign the handbook acknowledgement until I start. I did specifically ask questions about the handbook in the call about my offer in one case. I do encourage employers to offer it in the interview process but I don’t think it should be mandatory for an employee to read it before their start date. Those of us who will reject an employer based on what’s inside will read it in advance but not everyone is in that position and those same people might be inclined to be paid to read it later.

          1. MassMatt*

            I’m always mystified about all the references to an employee handbook. Only one of my employers ever had one, and it was posted on the company intranet.

        5. 5cats&theirawesome*

          Agreed! Not sure why their is an aggressive tone here either.
          I am tasked with onboarding new employees and for those I have been able to work with in advance are thrilled to have the time to think/ponder over the info plus I’m just a phone call, a visit, or an email away. I work for an organization where proper background checks with local and state agencies is vital; the data I collect from a new hire must be submitted within a short period of time so the quicker the better in this case. I value not having to spend so much time chasing my tail for an identification card because it was forgotten, or its an unsigned form, or the “I don’t know what my bank account is”. It holds up the process and I’m only one person and it is too easy to miss a step that bites me in the ass, not the new hire. And a stipend to complete your information? Give me a break. I don’t get $ to drive my car into work nor would I expect it.

        6. Aitch Arr*


          We pay current and we have a mix of exempt and non-exempt employees in 30+ states, so we need to get employees in the HR/payroll system ASAP.

          I will also say from experience that having these tasks done pre-employment has saved us from hiring at least one individual who wasn’t who they said they were. (Identity theft meant they provided a valid name and SSN for the background check, but when we asked for the I-9 and identification documents, they ghosted us.)

        7. Qwerty*

          I’m confused as well about the amount of time this is all taking. The high res photo is odd – I’m used to being given the option to send in a photo otherwise they take it on your first day.

          I read the employee handbook and review the insurance summaries before accepting the offer. It’s made a impact on my salary negotiation – sometimes I request a higher salary because the plan covers less than my previous employer’s. Or I negotiate around a policy in the handbook that would be a dealbreaker for me.

    4. Observer*

      I pushed back at HR in my company asking them why they were giving new hires work tasks to do (like read the staff handbook)

      There are different types of tasks. *ALL* of the tasks that the OP described are things that are necessary for them to be able to function at work and get paid on time. MUCH better than places that delay your first payroll for a whole cycle!

    5. Hannah Lee*

      For LW #4, I think this is just an outcropping of the trend towards “employee self-service” where systems, processes are designed for employees to do the bulk of onboarding, payroll info administration, benefits administration themselves instead of giving information to HR (or the HR equivalent at the company) to then enter into internal systems.

      Where I work, all those forms, information are given with the offer letter, with instructions to return them. In practice, employees just bring them with them on the first day, or fill them out when they arrive on their first day. Yeah, it’s annoying for the person being hired, but a lot of that stuff is needed to get the employee set up in various systems in the company.

      The one that stood out to me is the requirement that you bring your own high quality photo. Like, why? If they are making badges, they should have whatever they need to just take pictures on the first day. Because otherwise, it’s like a passport photo – if it’s not the format they want or your face is the wrong size in the photo or the resolution, expression, facial accessories aren’t to whatever standard they have, there’s rework until you get it right, whereas they could just have someone take a picture that meets their standards.

      The only time I could see that maybe? making sense is if it’s a company that’s had problems with the interviewee who earned the offer not being the person who shows up for the job and they want to catch that before the person walks in the door. (or it’s some crazy high-security situation where they are going to compare your photo with some database/list … in which case they should tell you that up front)

      1. lilsheba*

        My latest job is the only job where I had to take my own ID photo, and that’s only because I’m 100 percent remote. Every other job THEY took it.

        1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

          Yeah, I had to provide one in-person job a photo, of me against a white background. It was a PITA, because the walls in my house have either paneling or wallpaper, and are not white or rental beige. I finally had to use a door that was painted white for the background. It would have been better if they had taken the picture. I take crappy selfies.

    6. learnedthehardway*

      It’s in the employee’s best interests to have most of their paperwork and onboarding completed before they start the job – I don’t see why anyone would resist or resent it.

      Knowing you are showing up with your IDs approved, all your paperwork sorted – that HAS to be less stressful than showing up without any of that done. If there are any issues, they can be dealt with ahead of time – eg. IDs lost or expired, etc.

      In a large company, onboarding processes can take 2-3 weeks to be completed, and they start before the new employee joins.

      Any company with decent HR systems needs to get new employees registered and set up in order to have them ready for their first day. SO many things are only triggered within the systems – eg. entering the employee into the HRIS triggers 1. payroll and benefits to be set up, 2. the onboarding team to allocate resources and schedule initial intake so the person can be familiarized with the systems and processes, ethic training, etc.; 3. facilities management needs to set up the office, and 4. IT needs to set up email and communications, and 5. the hiring manager to know to arrange for training. ALL of this is done through the HRIS and NONE of it can be done (in a big company) without having the employee registered.

      1. Allonge*

        A lot of this can done based on the original application of the incoming new staff member. Nobody needs to have a certified copy of my degree or my bank account details to assign me an office, an email address or even appropriate onboarding / training.

        For pay, yes, indeed, maybe some of the information needs to be requested in advance.

      2. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

        I used to have a page with my direct deposit all filled out. Nowadays I have to type it in to to some stinking HRIS like WorkDay (WorkDay absolutely stinks when it comes to UI. It’s such an awful joke.) The old way I just gave them a copy.

        The whole thing is pushing HR work off onto the employee on the employee’s personal time. Not cool. Sure, it’s “convenient” – HR has to do less work, the employee gets to feel “in control” by spending their own time fighting with HRIS systems that are actively user hostile.

      3. Lily Potter*

        “I don’t see why anyone would resist or resent it”.

        I mentioned this above but I completely understand the resentment if you’re talking about an employee who is paid based upon clocked in and clocked out time. Such an employee is docked a quarter hour worth of pay whenever they’re eight minutes or more late clocking in – whether the reason is that they overslept or they were stuck in traffic. If the employer-employee relationship is based on minutes worked, it’s understandable that the employee would resent having to put in even an extra half hour without compensation. Does that employee get to take an extra half hours’ worth of lunch break on their first day in compensation? I’m guessing not.

    7. CJ PJ*

      At my company, filing in all of the needed paperwork before the first day means you can usually get your photo ID and email address on your first or second day at the latest. If it isn’t done in advance, this becomes delayed by a few days.

      A company email address is required to access basically everything so delaying that means a few extra days of thumb-twiddling as it is impossible to access any of your department’s files or the systems you’ll be working in. And our building doesn’t have a receptionist so without an ID you need to get someone to let you in each time you exit certain areas of the office (and the bathrooms are outside the secured area).

      The experience for new staffers member in the first few days is really a lot better if they can spend a little time doing some of the paperwork before coming into the office. We don’t ask for quite as much as what OP saw though- no photos or handbook to review until the first day.

      1. Enai*

        Why would you make your company being too cheap to hire a receptionist the new person’s problem, though? A lot of the pro “let the new person invest sometimes considerable time and resources before being paid” arguments sound like “well, we’re unorganised and it’s easier for us, so what?” to me. Not a professional look.

  5. Rara Avis*

    I know a number of women of Mexican ancestry who call female friends or children “mama.” I have also been called it by someone who didn’t necessarily know my name but wanted to address me in a friendly manner. As Alison said, it’s like sweetie or honey. (I don’t mind, but Alison’s script is good if you do mind.)

    1. Ariaflame*

      I’d also be taken aback if I was called ‘sweetie’ or ‘honey’ at work. Work is not the place for pet names in general. But polite request first that they not, and level up from there.

      1. ferrina*

        Not all pet names/nicknames are created equal. I regularly call my IT people “tech gurus” or “brilliant wizard who tames my unruly computer”. Obviously I don’t use this for all colleagues, but for ones that I think might appreciate it (I’m sure I’ve gotten that wrong before). I had a colleague who used “mama” the same way I use “rock star.”

        1. Just a different redhead*

          At least you’re not referring to them as angels or goddesses…. That gets a little awkward, with awkward++ every time it’s repeated in the same call….

    2. MK*

      That’s fine in your private life and maybe when everyone involved is from the same culture. Not at work, and especially not to people who might be missing the context, and will probably find it jarring if they aren’t.

        1. Happy meal with extra happy*

          But, in some places and/or cultures, this is completely normal, where such endearments are fully platonic and friendly. So, saying a blanket “this isn’t ok” isn’t ok.

          Of course, if anyone doesn’t like these, it’s 100% fine to ask they not be used towards them and, if necessary, take firmer steps, but to just say , “no, this is bad” isn’t the take.

          1. Don't Call Me Shirley*

            Yes, I was a little taken aback when my persian colleagues called me honey and sweetie, but it seems to be something very normal to them between female colleagues.

            DEI includes not privileging majority norms as obvious and navigating mismatches of norms in a respectful way. Of course respect what someone asks to be called, but also respect the good intentions of someone from a different work background, whether it’s highly formal speech, (don’t just call them stiff and explicitly ask opinions if they don’t volunteer them), or it has more affectionate seeming speech (just ask)

            1. A lawyer*

              I never really thought about it but my female Persian coworkers do use “honey,” “darling,” and “my dear” a lot when speaking to me. Never occurred to me that this was cultural but that makes so much sense.

            2. Yeah, nah*

              > DEI includes not privileging majority norms as obvious and navigating mismatches of norms in a respectful way.

              Amen. There’s something about the pearl-clutching offense I’m seeing that reminds me a little of an Atlantic article about people moving into vibrant cultural areas, and then immediately complaining about the people and noise that make the space vibrant.

              It’s perfectly fine to not want to be called mama, but it’s weird to treat it as inherently wrong or insulting. Context matters — the context of the person speaking to you as well as your own.

              1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

                I’m non-binary, and not a parent. I would be offended if someone called me “mama”. I get irked when I get called “honey”, “darling”, “my dear” in a WORK context. I really don’t care where they’re from.

                It’s not appropriate to use personal terms of endearment in a work context just because they perceive me as “female”, thus deserving of dimunitives. It’s sexist, IMO, and not okay in a US workplace environment. Same as I wouldn’t call a guy “Yo, bro” or any other form of slang/cultural address. It’s like the person who wanted to be called “Master”. It’s not appropriate. Just because it’s their “culture” to be sexist doesn’t mean it’s okay in a work context.

                1. Scented Eraser*

                  I think “not privileging majority norms as obvious and navigating mismatches of norms in a respectful way” means it’s fine to not want to be called by these expressions, but the person calling you this needs to be told that, because they may well not know.

                  They don’t know you consider what they are doing offensive. You would need to let them know this in a respectful way, because they just don’t know yet.

                2. come on*

                  …It’s in no way the same thing as expecting your coworkers to call your partner “Master,” and as a Latina I find that comparison really offensive. It’s perfectly fine to not want to be called mama at work, and I’d encourage you to, if you ever were, to simply tell the person not to call you that, and report them if they didn’t stop. But acting like a term that is not even the same as “honey” or “darling” is equivalent to an overtly sexual form of address is ridiculous.

                  I also want to add that in Latino cultures, diminutives are typically given to everyone. The assumption you’re making that it’s explicitly reserved for people read as female is just wrong, even though this particular term of endearment is. And “mama” as a nickname is not actually a term that means “honey” or “darling” and it certainly is not related to being a mother. I know it sucks to be misgendered and if you take a hardline that no nicknames at all belong in the workplace that’s one thing, but you’re missing a lot of the cultural context here and filling it in with assumptions (it’s not our culture to be “sexist”, wtf, and nicknames are not a practice limited to female-presenting folks).

                3. Courageous cat*

                  Holy crap. “Just because it’s their ‘culture’ to be sexist” honestly a very messed up comment to make in reference to Latine culture. Where’s your intersectionality at?

        2. Dinwar*

          Depends on the work. Trying to get construction workers to not give each other nicknames is futile. I’m happy if they have nicknames aren’t egregiously offensive! On the other hand, in the office nicknames are VERY frowned upon. I’ve gotten in trouble for referring to folks as “field grunts”, even though I was referring to myself there.

          As in most things, knowing how to play the room is an important skill.

        3. Mel T*

          In high school, I was working a typical high school job and my manager referred to us all as mija or mijo. I don’t speak Spanish and didn’t know what it meant at the time but when I got older, I realized it is a term of endearment meaning daughter or son. Looking back, I actually really liked that. It was such a pleasant way of communicating with us when telling us to do tasks we may not have enjoyed, and it just made for a more congenial atmosphere. I guess it depends on the setting and the dynamics between the people using the cultural terms.

    3. allathian*

      When I was interning in Spain, people who didn’t know my name pretty much without exception called me “rubia” (fair, blonde), including at work. Sometimes they called me that even after learning my name, which is easy to pronounce in Spanish. The funny thing is that I have mid-brown hair, and I’ve always thought of myself as dark because my sister’s hair is the classic Scandinavian blonde shade, but in Spain anyone who doesn’t have raven-black hair pretty much counts as rubio/rubia. Rubia was an inoffensive description that applied to me (sort of) and couldn’t be construed as a (patronizing) term of endearment, so I wasn’t offended by it.

      1. Spicy Tuna*

        I have a loud voice and when I worked in an open plan office, my coworkers referred to me as “la gritona”, which literally means “the screamer” but also has a sexual connotation. Needless to say, I was not happy about that, but it was a dysfunctional workplace so I didn’t get much help from my non- Spanish speaking boss.

      2. alienor*

        My mother-in-law is from a country where most people have black hair, and sometimes calls me “blondie” even though I’m in no way blonde (mid-brown hair also). I think it’s probably pretty common.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      I have heard the UK habit of saying “love” or “mate” described as endearments by those who do not use them … but it’s really not! It’s just a friendly handle that you can use for a stranger, and this sounds similar (at least I would take it as such). I think if you come from a culture where the norm is to avoid using anything but the real name, it sounds like an actual endearment that you would use with someone intimate. I get how that could be disconcerting.

      1. aqua*

        Yeah, it seems like there’s an issue here with people from the dominant culture forgetting that just because their norms the ones they’re used to, doesn’t mean other people’s norms are wrong. Of course if you prefer someone to call you by your name you can politely tell them that but it’s very strange to treat people being friendly in a way that’s slightly different to your own cultural norms as some affront to human decency.

        As you say, in the UK it’s extremely normal to call any stranger you don’t know something like love or mate (e.g. on walking into a shop you might hear “hey mate what can I get you”) and it comes across as very hostile to object to that!

        1. lunchtime caller*

          I feel like I see this affront most often from women who are of an age where they have a lot of justified and instinctive dislike of being called pet names, usually by men in power–sort of a “my name isn’t BABY or HONEY” type of attitude. But I also find it very strange to treat the almost surely WOC in the office like she’s a white dude CEO trying to grab an underling’s butt. What’s next, telling my coffeeshop guy not to call me “boss”? People can feel however they feel of course, and request whatever they like, but as you said, it’s a bit odd to leap straight to offense when you’re being treated with warmth in a culture that’s just different from yours.

          1. Allegra*

            “it’s a bit odd to leap straight to offense when you’re being treated with warmth in a culture that’s just different from yours.” YES, so much this, thank you. I don’t think “mama” is equivalent to “honey” or “sweetie”–it’s not really a diminutive, like a lot of people seem to be treating it, and it’s not a term of endearment in the way a romantic pet name is, so I don’t see it as inherently inappropriate for the workplace.

            Of course people are allowed to prefer to be called their own name! But I think there’s an undercurrent of racism particularly from white women (I say being white) responding snarkily or taking explicit offense even once you’ve had the cultural context explained; it feels like a willful bad-faith reading of cultural difference with a hint of “how dare that person get over-familiar with me.”

            1. young worker*

              yes! Thank you! It’s totally fine not to know that “mama” is an appropriate way to address people in another cultural context, but now that you know, this is a good opportunity to actually walk the walk and not just talk the talk when it comes to valuing DEIA in the workplace.

          2. Mmssss*

            In all the workplaces I’ve been in, a snarky response like that would be met with side eye and silent disapproval. Maybe the people I work with have all just been more relaxed and friendly, but someone like that wouldn’t be viewed positively.

            And I’m not talking about sexist comments – just terms of affection.

          3. Nobody Cares What I Think*

            This commentariat as a whole isn’t known for it’s warmth. It can be pretty hostile to normal human interaction sometimes.

            Some minor irritations are not worth reacting to if you want to preserve the relationship. I would still consider you prickly if you objected to a non-insulting, culturally appropriate term, even though I would comply with your wishes.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              I think that what we want to be called can be very personal and context-dependent, particularly when it has crossover with other identities. My trans girlfriend hated being addressed as “hey guys”, even though that’s often seen as gender-neutral. Plenty of WOC with PhDs want to be addressed as “doctor” due to the respect gap. If a female admin called me “honey”, that would be fine; if my male manager did the same it would not.

              I think it’s best to just respect boundaries (such as “Please, just call me Jane”) without judgement.

              1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

                If a coworker called me “mama” I would take an immediate dislike to them. Biased? Maybe.

                I’m not anyone’s “mama”, and will not be, and certainly not in a work context. It ranks right up there with “honey”, “dear”, “sweetheart”, etc. It’s a cultural reminder that, as an AFAB, my “place” is in the home parenting children, not working full time. To heck with that noise.

                1. Ellis Bell*

                  It’s really strange and sexist to assume motherhood ties people to the home! That’s quite aside from the fact that the handle of mama is nothing to do with being a mother anyway.

          4. Happy meal with extra happy*


            Honestly, when women coworkers feel comfortable to use those terms with me (or, a somewhat similarly respectful “Miss [first name]”), I feel good that we have that connection of friendship.

              1. anonynow*

                …You know that for many, many people of color using gendered honorifics has been taught as a way to navigate white spaces, right? If someone deliberately misgenders you then by all means, cut them out. But if someone is drawing on their best understanding of respect in a professional workplace and doesn’t already know your gender, it can’t hurt to have a little grace if they are a POC or low-income.

                I’m really not trying to undermine the trauma of navigating a cis society or workplace. I deal with it too and it sucks. But if you ice a coworker out because of a cultural difference that was likely rooted in race or class, you’re contributing to oppressive systems yourself.

        2. londonedit*

          Yeah, I agree. It isn’t hugely common in my bit of UK culture, but I work with several people from the North and it’s very, very usual for them to say ‘Oh, thanks love’ or ‘Alright, pet?’ – they’re not using it in the same way as if a creepy bloke was calling women ‘sweetie’ or ‘honey’, it’s just a natural way of referring to people you know and like, of all genders. Now, without extra context I would probably have a natural aversion to ‘mama’ because I am not and don’t want to be anyone’s ‘mama’, but if I understood – as I’m gathering from reading here – that it’s a culturally significant name that was a sign of respect, then by all means call me ‘mama’ if you want to.

          1. MJ*

            Ha, that’s reminded me of an old boss in London who called everyone “sausage”. I asked about it one time and he had no idea why he did that.

          2. Jasper*

            “mate”, “pet”, and “love” are very different in that sense from “Honey” and “sweetie”. I think the disconnect is that ‘mama’ comes under both categories, depending on who’s using it.

        3. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

          Thank you–when people are saying “term of endearment,” I’m not sure that’s right. I could be wrong, but I think of it more as a general friendly term for a woman, like pal or friend or sister.

          Off-topic, I was once called “Lady Business” by a TSA officer (I was wearing a suit), which I found so ridiculous that my husband and I use it to this day.

          1. Butterfly Counter*

            In my family, Lady Business was how we referred to things dealing with menstruation.

            “Why is Sister taking so long to get ready?”

            “She’s dealing with Lady Business. Just cut her some slack.”

      2. Delta Delta*

        I was just in New Orleans and I noticed people working in service positions – specifically a hostess at a restaurant and a cashier at a grocery store – called me “love.” Like, “right this way, love” or “would you like a bag, love?” I rather liked it.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Like many things, context is everything. There was a reader on here not so long ago who was being chased on the street by a persistent guy calling her “love”, a term she wasn’t totally familiar with and she did not react well… not realizing he was just trying to reunite her with her wallet. Later she discovered it was her new British colleague and the whole office was adoring his habit of saying love and mate. But, it’s a very different situation when you feel safe and you understand the context of what’s happening.

        2. Aitch Arr*

          My mom was at first taken aback when an older male porter at a hotel in New Orleans called her ‘babe.’ He then called my dad ‘babe’ too.

    5. Database Developer Dude*

      I’m a man, and fluent in Spanish, and this surprises me. At work, I would call someone by their preferred name, not “mama” or “sweetie” or “honey”.

      1. come on guys*

        “Mama,” as a Spanish term of endearment/respect, does not really equate to “sweetie” or “honey.” There’s a nuance there that is really lacking and the people who keep acting like it’s use in an office space by Latinos is the same thing as calling your coworker “darling” are missing a huge piece of this puzzle.

        By all means, don’t use the term if you don’t want to–I don’t. But at least recognize that this is a normal thing among many Latinos and especially among those who are not used to white-collar norms. The whole rejection of it as a term of respect and affection is rooted in at least some race and class blindness.

    6. Chinookwind*

      This also seems to be standard among the Filipino coworkers I have. Keeping in mind that the women being called this are the lead hands to a multicultural, multigender crew, I see it as a term of both respect and endearment (as in no one dares mess with “the momas”). It is still jarring to my Canadian ears to hear and I did speak up the first time someone called me that (I am the same age as them and am management adjacent), but when I asked to be called by name, no one had an issue after that to call me by name.

      It should be noted that we have one senior male worker (Jamaican, not Filipino) who has also accepted being called “papa” by the others. He just laughs and takes it for what it is – a kind nickname.

  6. Peach Tea*

    Dear OP 5: I’m so sorry about your brain tumor. Hopefully it will continue to not cause you any issues.
    I understand how you might feel about the urge to tell your new employer and/coworkers. This is a new, big, scary, and stressful time for you. And it can feel natural to want to share this information, to even want to shout it from the rooftops — it’s SO BIG in your life that it must be in everyone else’s too.
    At a new job, as Alison said, it’s important to keep your private health information to yourself, unless and until there’s action that needs to be taken.

    Sending you all my best thoughts.

  7. Negotiating the impossible*

    LW5: I’m so sorry that you’re stuck doing health/employment math on this. I was in a situation where similarly, about a week into a new job, a scan found masses on my ovaries. I decided not to disclose until I was a few months out from surgery, at which point I let my boss know that I was expecting to need some time off to recover. She was (thankfully) very understanding.

    In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to work 40+ hour weeks while negotiating a health crisis or mourning a loss or undergoing treatment, but the world is what it is. I hope your workplace is understanding and that you have an abundance of support and love to buoy you through this. Best of luck.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      I’d been in my job for about a year when a scan found a large ovarian tumor. Since it was a major stressor and I felt very secure in my job, I decided to let my boss know pretty quickly and my team know after the surgery was scheduled. One benefit of that was that I was given some extra slack for those few weeks and my boss connected me with the HR person who takes FMLA requests. I didn’t need to disclose the tumor in order to get those things, but it just felt better for me to be open about it.

      On the other hand, I’ve never disclosed my mental health struggles to my boss/teammates, since I’ve never needed accommodations or time off and I’m more concerned about judgement.

  8. A mathematician*

    OP5: I’m writing this while at home recovering from surgery to remove a brain tumour, so sending you some solidarity and my experience. Luckily I’d been at my employer for a while when it was diagnosed, so I didn’t have that particular worry, but it was still slightly nerve-wracking letting people know. In the end, I did tell my boss that it’s a brain tumour – but he passed on the news with all references to the brain tumour removed, so all my colleagues know is that I’m away for “surgery”, details unspecified.

    Best of luck with dealing with yours, by whatever method is required for you.

    1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      This happened to my coworker last year, and similarly we didn’t know anything other than she was going to be ok. She ended up being out 8 weeks, and she did let us know what happened when she got back, only because we were remote and she was one who always did her hair and makeup every day and had her camera on. She seemed to be doing well, I gave notice right when she returned so I don’t know how she’s currently doing.

      I hope your recovery goes well!

      1. MigraineMonth*

        When I returned to work after abdominal surgery, I needed to be fully reclined because my stomach muscles were all MIA. I let people know what was going on so it didn’t look like I was “lying down on the job”, so to speak.

    2. lurkyloo*

      I had a colleague who had a brain tumour as well. It was actually a good thing that they had notified their supervisor of it as their work behaviour changed significantly before the surgery date, allowing the supervisor to note it to my colleague. When the coworker told their doctor about it, the surgery moved up quickly as it meant that there were unexpected changes in the tumour growth. My colleague was entirely unaware that they were acting differently!
      I don’t know if that would be applicable in your case.
      Best of luck and all the best healing vibes to you!

  9. fgcommenter*

    LW4, that depends on how much you’re being paid to do. Reading the staff handbook, for example, should come under paid training.

  10. Stopgap*

    LW2: If I recall correctly, Miss Manners suggested for a similar situation saying, “I’m sure I would have remembered giving birth to you.”

    1. Siege*

      If this is an issue of different cultures, that’s unbelievably rude. Cultures where people use Mama as a term of respect are not saying “you gave birth to me,” they’re saying “I respect you a great deal and like you.” Responding with this suggestion would be a slap in the face and would do a lot of harm to the LW’s relationship with that person.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        It depends on whether you’ve asked them to stop. Calling an unrelated, childless women mama might be a term of respect in some cultures, but it’s really jarring (and insulting) in others. If you’ve asked someone not to call you mama, and they insist, then I’d say go for snarkiness if it works.

          1. ecnaseener*

            I disagree, snarkiness can help with the type of person who effortlessly deflects politer boundary-setting. It’s a way of breaking the pattern.
            Like academianut said, in this case you should start with a polite request to stop.

          2. WantonSeedStitch*

            It’s a good response when it’s a guy catcalling you and referring to you as “mama.” But I wouldn’t use it with a coworker.

            1. Hannah Lee*

              Yeah, I had a couple similar responses in mind back in the “rude aggressively strangers accost people wearing masks” earlier days of COVID. Things like “Dad is that you?” or “Hmm you don’t look like my doctor” ie I don’t know you, what I’m wearing, infection protection approach isn’t any business of yours.

              Never used them.

              But I’d wouldn’t ever use them with someone I knew and saw frequently and who I wanted to maintain an ongoing relationship with.

            2. Rosemary*

              Why not, if said co-worker has not respected the initial polite request to not call me “mama”? Would your answer be different if co-worker was calling me “baby” or “sweet cheeks” or something else I did not want to be called?

            3. Database Developer Dude*

              Even if I were so crass as to catcall an attractive woman…I can’t wrap my head around calling her ‘mama’. That’s just weird. The things I’d do with a -WILLING- attractive woman would never EVER be on the table with my own ‘Mama’. That’s just wrong. And doing this stuff at work is even more wrong.

        1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

          I would be insulted by it in a work context. They would be asked to call me by my name, and if they persisted would get the cold shoulder, at the very least.

      2. Bagpuss*

        Yes, And I think actually, there are a lot of Miss Manners’ responses which are very rude and / or snobbish, I would be very cautious about following her recommendations! (And that one isn’t even original to her!)

        I think as a first response it’s pretty rude even if there wasn’t a cultural element to consider, I think Alison’s suggestions are much better and that if you actually want the person to stop, being specific and clear is probably more effective than this sort of come back.
        I’d also take the view that a clear ‘I’ve specifically told you not to call me ‘Mama’ but you’ve continued to do so. I need you to stop, and to use my name instead.” is actually more likely to be effective and certainly would be more professional.

        1. Lana Kane*

          Right? I find her brand snarky and snobbish, like the rich person at the party whose witticisms always come at someone else’s expense.

        2. Butterfly Counter*

          Yes, thank you for this. She said something in a recent column that was so rude and judgmental that I stopped reading her. If she is that rude in her head, I cannot take anything she says about politeness or manners to heart.

          1. Bearly Containing Myself*

            My understanding is that her two adult children write most of the responses these days. There is a sharp edge to some of their responses that goes far beyond the witticism’s their mother (Judith Martin) was famous for.

      3. Little My*

        Yeah, whenever I’ve been called mami (more likely to happen to me than mama) it’s been by an older woman of color showing affection to me, a young white person. If that bothered me at work I would have to find a way to push back kindly, because it would really damage relationships and would be seen as racialized for me to snap at that.

        1. KatEnigma*

          Exactly. And because of that, I would think long and hard if it was a hill I wanted to die on.

          1. Siege*

            It absolutely is not, to me. I no longer work in the environment where I heard it most often, but my current job has a lot of coalition roles with communities of color who do use it. I’m okay with a lot of well-meant, kindly-said endearments, though, whether it was my mom’s assistant who called all women “honey” or Hispanic women who use mama/mami.

            The patronizing version though – that’s different. I still remember the jerk regular at my first job who kept calling me “sweetie” and “darling”. I hope he’s stepped on a lego every day of his long life.

            1. Also Alex*

              My tolerance for terms of affection from other women is high. My tolerance for terms of affection from men is waaaay low.

              1. Siege*

                Yep. I can handle the grandpa version where someone Just Uses Honorifics And Endearments and you’re not getting special (mis)treatment but you can tell EVERY time how someone means it.

                1. KatEnigma*

                  Yes. When it’s patronizing, that’s different. But most of the time, especially when it’s just a cultural difference, it’s meant well and I’m not going to start a cultural/racial war over something that’s kindly said.

        2. ferrina*

          Yep, this is almost always the case when I’ve been called mama at work. It was absolutely a term of affection, but in a respectful way (“I see you, I appreciate the work you do, you rock”). As Siege says, it would be extremely rude to respond with snark and would almost certainly impact your coworker (imagine if someone said “wow, you do a great job picking the right beans for the coffee maker” and you said “I’m nobody’s barista!”- that level of rude).

          Just say “Could you not call me ‘mama’? I don’t really like to be called that. I prefer to be called [My Name]”

        3. Literary Chickens*

          Yes, yes, this. I don’t think “sweetie” or “honey” are the right translations for mama, although I understand why Alison used them as an analogy. Mama isn’t a diminutive like sweetie is, it’s a sign of respect. In my line of work, (my job’s version of) cultural respect requires me to be ok with “mama” and similar. I second the recommendation to the OP to think hard about cultural biases and decide if this is really the hill to die on.

          1. Sebastian*

            I think actually that makes it quite a good analogy, as there are cultures where sweetie isn’t diminutive, particularly when used between men, but it doesn’t translate well to the office.

            1. Siege*

              I don’t agree, mostly because there are so few diminutives in white culture that aren’t weaponised to show inferiority most of the time, at least outside the family (ie, my mom can call me toots as a joking reference to Terms of Endearment; my coworkers and clients absolutely cannot). There’s not a consistent equivalent to mama/mami in some Hispanic cultures or baby girl in some Black cultures, so comparing it to sweetie or darling isn’t really getting at the full flavor of the term.

              It’s also incredibly loaded from a class standpoint. I first ran across it working in a warehouse, and now see it in primarily immigrant spaces. As a commentariat of largely white-collar workers (afaik) there are some serious class implications to rejecting these terms that just does not go along with rejecting sweetie and darling.

        4. WillowSunstar*

          This is the dumb thing about women at work. We have to put up with so much stuff and only push back in soft and polite ways or we get chastised/written up for it. I had a coworker who was doing things like following me around and staring at me, pushing back politely did nothing with him. I guarantee you had it not been at work and I could have pushed back in an actually assertive manner, it wouldn’t have kept happening to the point where I had to go to my boss.

          1. KatEnigma*

            Oh Bull. There are cultures where “Okay Boss” is the way of life. My husband hates being called “Boss” by his coworkers. And he keeps his mouth firmly shut, because it would be out of line to make a big deal out of it. EVEN for a white cis man!

            We’re not talking about stalking or openly sexist things. This is totally just a cultural word that’s meant well. No is saying you have to be disrespected, but you have to only push back when you ARE disrespected or minimized in some way. And at least think about that there might be a difference!

            1. WillowSunstar*

              We were in a cubical world at the time (before COVID) and it had half-partitions. I was working away and he was standing up and staring down at me for minutes at a time. Now I am not the kind of woman who wears revealing things at work, but he was still staring down at me and saying nothing for several minutes at a time! I asked him to please stop staring at me because it made me uncomfortable and he literally told me, how dare I ask him to stop?? I had no choice but to go to the boss.

              He also would follow me around the building when we were not going to the same place and had no reason to be following me, and said nothing. I have never in my entire work history had any man do that, ever. He also would say weird things in the chat we had at the time like he was trying to control me or something and make derogatory remarks about women. Had it all been at the same time, I’d have said something to our manager but it was a little bit here, a little bit there.

              This was also a guy who made mistakes on at least half the things he did, and the boss would never make him clean his own work up. He still asked newbie questions 3 years into the job, even though it had all been documented. I switched jobs to a different department in a different building, in large part to be away from him.

        5. Delta Delta*

          This. I have a friend from a South American nation, and we have a great deal of friendly affection for one another. She’s a little older than I am. Sometimes she calls me mami because we’re friends.

      4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        This seems really harsh as a first approach. I would exhaust all the polite methods before going to snark for being called a name that isn’t yours first.

        But then, barring cultural/language issues, a small bit of snark could be okay. This is very much a know your office thing.

        I put up the language thing because I was once being misnamed – turned out the person was saying my name in their native language when they were really deep in concentration.

    2. AVA*

      That’s a snarky comment I’d use AFTER I had asked politely to not be called that. Especially if it’s pretty common in the area/culture– you’d seem pretty rude if you jumped straight to being snarky

      1. Lacey*

        Yeah, I think it’s also meant to be deployed in a very different type of situation.
        I’m almost certain Miss Manners is envisioning a white man or woman referring to a woman as “Mommy” as if that’s her only status now because she has children.

        1. Observer*

          I don’t know about the white part, but the rest is exactly that. Very much a response to people who somehow can’t seem to remember the name of a woman with children, and can’t even seem to remember the standard title (ma’am or Ms. vs sir for men) once a child enters the picture.

          1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

            If I, as a non-binary but AFAB who is not a parent, get called “mama” by anyone that isn’t hispanic, I would take it as an insult – they’re saying I “should” be a mama. That doesn’t fly in a work context. First I would ask them to use my name. If they persisted, I would start toward snark.

    3. Beth*

      This is a reply for once you’ve asked for this to stop, probably a couple times, and been ignored. It’s way too rude for a first request–it might come off as snarky but funny if LW2’s coworker was calling them something truly out there or rude, but as a response to being called a term that’s a common enough thing to call someone, it’s well over the line into inappropriately harsh.

      1. allathian*

        I do think that calling a childless/childfree female-presenting person “mama” at work is incredibly rude, unless both parties are familiar with/part of a culture where it’s a term of respect. I’m a mother, and I’d be offended if anyone except my son called me mama.

        People, regardless of culture of origin, need to accept that their terms of endearment/respect don’t necessarily land as intended in the workplace when they’re working with others who aren’t familiar with that culture. That said, I don’t think snark is the appropriate way to ask for this to stop as a first request. It should stop after the first request, but if it doesn’t, I think it’s appropriate to escalate until it does stop, even if the offender gets offended in the process and even if it takes an “I’m not a mother, and I’m certainly not YOUR mother, so I need you to stop calling me mama” to do it. This should work with peers and subordinates, but it’s probably too direct with a manager.

        Alison’s suggestions should work with anyone.

        If it happens again, I hope the LW can deal with this before it reaches the point of snark, because that will almost certainly damage the relationship.

        1. DataSci*

          Even calling someone you know to be a mother “mama” at work is incredibly rude, with the same caveats you present. The one exception is a pediatrician addressing the parents of their patients, and even then it’s weird.

          1. CrazyJob*

            Lol I get so weirded out being called mom at the pediatrician ( those ain’t my kids. I’m at work)

          2. wordswords*

            Respectfully pushing back against this. It really is a culture/dialect issue. If someone for whom it’s NOT a cultural thing started calling me “mama” it would be weird (are they being weirdly pointed about motherhood? are they doing a “look at me I’m from the 60s” bit?), but it’s a very normal term of affection from others, and one that doesn’t necessarily say anything about whether the “mama” in question is actually a mother. It’s also not, in at least some uses (the ones I’ve personally heard most) a term that carries any flirtatious or condescending connotations, unlike some endearment uses. And, as Little My says above, in areas I’ve lived I would expect to hear it more from older women of color, which adds an extra twist to the racial dynamics of pushing it back in a snarky “I’m shutting this down now” way. As a white person, I too would think hard about how much I actually minded and whether I wanted to make a thing of it, because it would be very easy for that to feel like a “how dare you act like we’re friends” or “how dare you use your gross wrong English at me” slap in the face.

            Now, OP2 is completely allowed to dislike it and to request (politely) not to be called that. And that request should be heeded! Everyone gets to say thanks but no thanks to any name or nickname or endearment! But it’s not inherently “incredibly rude” to call someone by a friendly term.

            1. Smithy*

              Yes, I see this as more niche but similar to those who find were raised to call those who are older or with more authority sir or ma’am. It’s still entirely appropriate to not want to be called sir or ma’am, or other more regional honorifics such as Miss Smithy – but it’s also part of good manners to understand that hasn’t emerged from no where. And for the person who’s been using those terms, making the change may take a few kind and repeated corrections.

              In general with nicknames and terms of endearment, I find that most to be far more common from the environments we’re raised in than to be genuine signs of nickname craftmanship. I have a double-barreled surname and live in the US – so where three lettered monikers (JFK, LBJ, etc) aren’t uncommon. The number of people who genuinely think they were the first to ever think of calling me by my initials….and while I don’t have a feeling about it one way or another. It’s just clearly a more cultural impulse as opposed to any kind of creative nickname impulse.

            2. MEH Squared*

              Putting this here because it sort of fits. I have issues with this because who gets to decide culture? I’m Asian, and we do have honorifics for older people, but not parental-related. So in my culture, you would not call someone who wasn’t your parent mother or father.

              In addition, as someone who identifies as agender but clocks as female (and as someone who is childfree but got a lot of grief about it in my twenties and thirties), I do not appreciate being called anything gender-related/child (or parent)-related. I would agree with not making a big stink of it and stating your preferences calmly, but I just disagree in general that something from another culture is automatically ok (or not). There are good and bad things from all cultures. And I find it interesting as a member of several minorities how strident white people can get about being allies, but only to certain minorities. Or over the obejections of other minorities (or that minority itself).

              In a workplace, it should be fine to say that, “please call me by my name” in a polite tone.

              1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

                In addition, as someone who identifies as agender but clocks as female (and as someone who is childfree but got a lot of grief about it in my twenties and thirties), I do not appreciate being called anything gender-related/child (or parent)-related.

                Me too. I don’t need reminders that society sees me, a non-binary person, as primarily an incubator. I’m CF, have had a hysterectomy, and have no wish to be a parent. I’m not someone’s “mama”.

                I’ll ask politely the first time. After that it’s “I’m not anyone’s mama. Please stop calling me that.”

        2. NancyDrew*

          I cannot imagine being offended that someone besides my children called me mama.

          Good god, you must be exhausting.

        3. Beth*

          I hear you that you personally feel this way, and I don’t mean to be dismissive of that. You don’t have to like the term and you can absolutely ask people not to call you it.

          But ‘mama’ is a totally normal thing to call a neighbor, friend, colleague, or other acquaintance in plenty of spaces. Even calling it a term of endearment is an overstatement–I’ve gotten it from total strangers on the sidewalk, it’s just a normal thing to call an adult woman. It’s been a common, normal thing in several of the places I’ve lived (all in the US, all major cities, so it feels weird to me to write it off as an “other cultures” thing–sure, it wasn’t a term that was used in my midwestern hometown, but I can vouch from lived experience for it being normal and standard to plenty of Americans, so what ‘other’ culture are we talking about?). It’s not reasonable to expect that someone will be able to guess you don’t like it before you tell them, any more than a person could expect someone to guess that they don’t like being called “ma’am”.

          If you don’t like the term, just ask them to use your name instead. They’ll probably respect your preference once they know it–most people do, most of the time. There’s no need to be snarky, to stew about some assumed rudeness, or to work yourself up about what if they don’t respect your request and it turns into a big conflict.

        4. anonynow*

          >People, regardless of culture of origin, need to accept that their terms of endearment/respect don’t necessarily land as intended in the workplace when they’re working with others who aren’t familiar with that culture.

          I agree, but the thing is that this attitude fundamentally privileges the dominant, WASP-y cultural norms that people default to. “Think before you speak because your cultural ways of showing respect could be misinterpreted” is always going to hit immigrants, people of color, and low-income folks first and foremost. It’s been said elsewhere on this thread but if you care about DEI there also needs to be an expectation that people in the workplace make at least some effort to ask questions, not assume a cultural viewpoint that makes things like “mama” offensive, etc. The burden of “being respectful” cannot fall solely on people from marginalized cultures.

          And to be clear, that means asking not to be called “mama” or whatever is perfectly fine, or even having a norm upfront that you don’t do that in a given office space–but it’s got to be clear and polite, and it’s got to be in good faith, and not entirely on the minority to figure out and conform to cultural norms.

        5. WillowSunstar*

          If someone kept calling me “mama” I would explain that even though I’m over 30, I am child free and not a mother. And they could use my first name. I would assume it was a cultural thing, but try the explanation first.

      1. Mensa CW*

        It’s a term of affection in someone’s culture but 1/ not mine and 2/ using terms of affection in most workplaces is incredibly inappropriate and unprofessional.
        There’s no need to jump right into snark but asking someone nicely to call you by your name, at work (or anywhere else), is entirely reasonable and not rude at all.

        1. ferrina*

          So if I call your work product “groovy” and that’s not your generation’s term, you get to snark at me? In the times that I’ve been called mama at work, it wasn’t an equivalent of “sweetie” or “dear”. It was more a shorthand for “person who is competent and who’s work I respect”. You had to earn the mama. It wasn’t unprofessional in our workplace culture. (and the woman that called me mama the most was extremely respectful of other’s feelings- she would have stopped in an instant if it had bothered me)

          So yes, if you don’t like it, just say so nicely. There isn’t One Culture To Rule Them All (and if there were, it would have the same consequences as the one ring), there’s just people who work together to find mutually beneficial situations.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            I think this is a really good way of looking at it. And I almost wonder if saying something like you love the show of friendship/respect/closeness that the “mama” represents – but it’s all on you that it just feels off. Could you please just call me “name.”

          2. Siege*

            I was so proud the first time I got called mama at work. I earned it, and by the time it happened, I knew enough about it to know what it meant. If you like me and my work enough to call me a nickname that conveys your respect, I’m down with that.

          3. alienor*

            My grandmother (a white woman) had a public sector job in a largely Spanish-speaking area until she was at least 70. She was the boss of a pretty large staff who all adored her, and every one of them called her mama. She would occasionally joke, “you better be glad I’m not your real mama or you’d be in big trouble,” but she knew people meant it respectfully and never minded. I like to think I’d do the same.

        2. young worker*

          You are putting on your majority cultural norms as the rigid and “correct” standard in the workplace. Countries are changing, in the U.S. and in many other nations, an influx of people from other countries means we need to start being a little more saavy about cultural differences and not just impose and insist everyone adapt to our own. This is an opportunity to grow and show a DEIA-informed flexibleness in your ability to work with others, and comments like these are not it.

      2. Reality.Bites*

        Don’t give me signs of affection at work. Don’t call me honey, sweetie, papi, or anything but the name I’ve asked you to call me.

      3. Mmssss*

        I work at a place that has an extreme learning curve, like sink or swim, and new people, even the smartest and quickest to learn, have trouble for a good while. (Less than 50% of people in this position last a year, and in the orientation class before mine 2 of 75 people were left after 4 months.) It can be an incredibly demanding and difficult job – imagine a CPA firm when tax season lasts for 9 months.

        I work next to and sometimes with 20- and 30-year veterans and you can bet the best feeling you can have is to be called Mama or Baby Girl (I’m 51!) as a term of respect and affection after a good six months of floundering and misery trying to learn a job that looks easy from the outside.

        1. Me ... Just Me*

          At my work, I often refer to someone who’s come through for me as the “bomb diggity”. I wonder who I’ve offended with that one?

      4. Employee*

        I feel like most people would be a bit affronted or at least miffed if I whipped out “bless your heart, darlin'” even though it’s a cultural thing for me outside of work hours. Knowing the people I use it with well, and them knowing me well, is absolutely a factor in how well a cultural expression lands.

        1. Happy meal with extra happy*

          1) in many areas/many times, that’s considered a very sarcastic/passive aggressive saying.
          2) there’s a religious element to it that adds an extra level of discomfort.
          3) that’s an expression more used by white people in power, which changes the equation

          1. Yeah, nah*

            “Bless your heart” is only passive aggressive sometimes; the meaning is context-dependent. The idea that it’s inherently passive aggressive is an invention of white people on the internet who’ve never been to the South.

            And I have no idea where on Earth you got the idea that “Bless your heart” is a white people in power thing — it’s a Southern saying, a part of the U.S. that is largely Black.

            1. sundae funday*

              Yeah I was so confused when I first heard people on the internet say “bless your heart” is an insult. I’m white but grandparents were extremely blue collar… like my grandmother grew up in a coal mining town just to give you an idea of their status. And when my grandparents said “bless your heart,” it was never passive aggressive but incredibly genuine.

            2. Courageous cat*

              As a born-and-raised Southerner, it is *definitely* used passive-aggressively. It can absolutely be context-dependent, but saying it’s an “invention of white people who’ve never been to the south” is false.

              1. Yeah, nah*

                Another born-and-raised Southerner here, and we’ll just have to agree to disagree. You might just know more passive-aggressive folks than I do, because the black church ladies I grew up with use it mostly genuinely.

    4. pinetree*

      In most cases of cultural differences, I’d recommend extending grace to the other person and avoiding snarkiness. There are some surprising land mines. For example, in the U.S. asking how are you is part of our greeting, and usually a very innocuous thing to say. But in other cultures, it can be rude, due to presuming a level of relationship that doesn’t exist yet. If I didn’t know that and I received an over the top snarky response to simply saying how are you, I’d be wholly confused and put out and likely avoid that person going forward. So intercultural communication being delicate as it is, I’d say stick to the mixture of polite but firm that gets your message across without needlessly embarrassing the other person.

    5. Tiredpuppy*

      I do think that is a pretty rude way to respond, Stopgap. But you def could shut it down in a less rude manner.

      1. aarti*

        I freakin hate being called mama and it makes every inch of me cringe. I would almost definitely reply, with a smile at first, “I’m no one’s mama”. I don’t really care it’s a term of respect in your culture, I hate it, so don’t call me it. I also don’t like nicknames, use my name. Coworkers don’t get to give me arbitrary nicknames and yes, this is a hill I will die on. Why not? It’s my freakin name.

        1. NancyDrew*

          But it’s not an “arbitrary nickname.” It’s a cultural signifier.

          My god, do some reading on this before you embarrass yourself any further, please.

          1. Rosemary*

            Do you think aarti should just accept being called mama, even if they really really do not like it, simply because it is a “cultural signifier”?

            1. anonynow*

              They don’t have to accept it. They should just try asking nicely to be referred to only by their name before whipping out the snark. It being a cultural signifier means it should be handled a bit differently than, say, an old white guy calling you “sweetie pie.”

          2. ADidgeridooForYou*

            I do think it’s important to realize it’s a cultural signifier, but at the same time, a person who grew up in a different culture isn’t inherently wrong to be put off by it. You can understand the cultural meaning behind it while politely asking to be called by something different.

            1. Siege*

              The fact that the “polite” part is missing from a lot of the people angry about possibly being called mama is what a lot of us (universally familiar with the use of the word in question, regardless of race!) are taking issue with. You don’t have to like it, any more than I liked being called Professor when I was teaching, but going immediately to ripping someone’s head off is a wild misunderstanding of the situation, and an inappropriate projection. But I do doubt the issue will actually come up, so it’s all a moot point.

        2. young worker*

          It seems helpful for you to sit with your anger towards this cultural difference and see if you can figure out a way to face cultural differences without confrontation and hostility. This comment makes it appear you are jarringly inflexible towards working with people who come from different cultures, which I am hoping and guessing is not the case. “I’m no one’s mama” is such an aggressive phrase and indicates you have no interest in working with cultural differences outside of imposing your own above all.
          it is okay to not like the phrase and want to be called your name. But express that in a more workplace-appropriate, DEIA-sensitive way.

    6. Observer*

      If I recall correctly, Miss Manners suggested for a similar situation saying, “I’m sure I would have remembered giving birth to you.”

      The context was very different. I’m not sure I would go with that in any situation, but the kind of situation Miss Manners was talking about it could make sense. Because she was talking about a situation where the name was more presumptuous than in the kind of situation that the LW describes, and the relationship is also very different.

    7. Seconds*

      In my area among Hispanics, “mama” (stress on first syllable) does not imply “mother.” I regularly hear mothers saying it to their tiny daughters.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Yeah, people are being really confident about the translation ( that mama=mother) and the intention (that it’s showing overly familiar and intimate affection rather than professional respect) but they seem to be way, way off the mark on both counts! The only thing you can be reasonably confident of if it’s not a cultural term you’re familiar with, is whether or not you like it!

        1. Siege*

          It also seems very obvious that people haven’t heard it used and are hearing it as a white person calling someone mama. As I said above, you can 1000% tell when someone means to be patronizing, and that’s not how this mama is used by Spanish speakers. It’s just absolutely obvious from the tone.

        2. Courageous cat*

          Yeah, it’s odd how many people are taking it literally. No, people are not looking at you, thinking “incubator”, then calling you mama accordingly.

  11. Lucy*

    LW4: My company does this too, but we don’t mind if it’s not done (in which case we require it on day 1). We found some people prefer to get it upfront, especially our employee handbook (though signing that is not compulsory). Also, we recruit a lot of young/first job people, and they often don’t bring the information they need on day 1 especially for tax forms. It’s easier to ask them in advance and they can do it at home. (I’m not in the US though).

    1. londonedit*

      In my (UK) experience, usually I’ve been asked to sign the letter of employment that acts as a contract (it’ll set out your personal terms for job title, salary etc and confirm that you’ve read and agree to everything in the employee handbook) and to fill in a form with my personal details (National Insurance number, address, bank account details, emergency contact, etc) in advance. We don’t really have anything to do in terms of forms to do with tax, as tax is taken from your salary at source, so maybe it’s a bit more straightforward here than in the US. Sometimes I’ve been asked to post/email them back before my first day, other times I’ve been asked to bring them with me on my first day (along with my passport to prove I have the right to work in the UK). I can see how it makes sense for a company to have that info in advance of someone starting, because then they can be immediately set up with payroll etc and there’s less admin to do when they arrive.

      1. Phryne*

        Yes, here too, having a signed contract is compulsory before starting officially, (and an ID check is generally required before that) so you will probably be asked to come in for that before your starting date. It doesn’t take hours though, just a short visit will be enough for that part.

        1. bamcheeks*

          Hm, we wouldn’t generally be required to come on site to do that– could be a huge imposition if someone is moving for the job or has a long commute! We can sign contracts electronically and then if there are documents which need to be seen in person you do it on the first day. (I showed my passport and qualifications online for my current job and sent through pictures of them because the team I was joining were still mostly working from home, although it’s hybrid now.)

          1. UKDancer*

            Yes same with us. We ask people for a scan of their ID documents to be sent through now. Once we’ve had it and checked ID and entitlement to work in the UK we can issue a contract which is usually signed electronically.

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        Yes, I can just imagine the response if someone refused to sign their contract or accept the offer in writing because “that’s work and I will do it in work time”! It makes sense to me to have all that paperwork done upfront so that the first day (or more) isn’t wasted waiting for access, writing in bank details etc… I know OP was just asking more generally so it isn’t really a reflection on her, but if someone said “those are work tasks and I won’t do work unpaid” in relation to this stuff I’d be on the lookout for any other “not my job” traits…

        1. londonedit*

          Yes, exactly – OK, it might be slightly irritating admin, but it’s admin that always goes along with starting a new job, just as there’s admin to be done when you buy a new car or rent a new flat or whatever. And surely it’s better to get it all done in advance so you’re ready to start on your first day and you don’t have to faff around with it all then.

          1. Allonge*

            Depends. Are you expected to Save the World TM on your first day?

            We come in on our first day at work and start that day with HR – sign the contract, get a briefing on some essential policies (we don’t have a staff handbook but this covers leave etc so it’s similar). You get a checklist of what to bring with you for the day, which includes all kinds of tax matters. They take a photo for your badge, create the badge and so on.

            Would I have preferred to sign the contract before, as soon as possible? Sure. But everything else, that is work and I should not be expected to do all of it in my free time (other than the documentation I need to collect at home anyway).

            It’s a day at most. Companies should be ok with a newcomer having a day for this before they start working.

            1. Jackalope*

              Agree with this. No matter what the job, you’re going to need at least some help or training when you start out (even if you’ve done it before and you’re just learning a new layout or something). If there’s a bunch of paperwork to be completed, take care of that on the first day or two that your new employees are working rather than making them do hours of work before that. There may well be things you *have* to have before they start, but make those bits as minimal as possible.

              1. londonedit*

                I suppose I just don’t really consider it work? Reading a letter/handbook and signing it, no problem. Making sure I have my passport to bring with me, no problem. Filling out a form with my details, no problem. I don’t think they’re ‘work’. Of course there are some things that have to wait until your first day, like if there’s an ID badge to be created, but I don’t think signing a couple of forms is an onerous task to do at home.

                1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

                  … I don’t think signing a couple of forms is an onerous task to do at home.

                  Filling out the form, signing it, scanning it, uploading it, doing the next one… can take hours. Yes, it’s onerous, and not something I want to do in my free time. It’s work.

          2. Emmy Noether*

            I think it depends on how much there is of it. Reading and signing a contract – yes. I’d still consider that the pre-employment phase (like the application process), not yet work, and it doesn’t take that long. My work contract is about 5 pages I think, doesn’t take that long to read. Same for proving identity or giving a tax ID number or whatever equivalent. That’s fine.

            However, things that are more part of preparing for doing work itself (making a badge, setting up access to systems, setting up IT stuff, getting familiar with processes), and it starts to accumulate time-wise, that’s different. That should be work time.

        2. Amy*

          It’s also admin that ensures there won’t be moment’s delay on your first paycheck. I find that motivating.

          1. Mildred_Fierce*

            Exactly this. I don’t necessarily agree with having to read the employee handbook before one’s start date but filling out payroll & tax forms in advance can help to ensure that a new hire doesn’t have to wait a pay period to get paid. The same with insurance enrolment forms.

          2. Colette*

            Yeah, that stood out to me. Absolutely give them your payroll info ASAP, because that should speed up getting your first paycheck.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is the way we handle the hiring paperwork. Many people prefer to get it in advance to review and prepare, but there is time built into the first day for anyone who didn’t complete it yet. The one thing they like to have is confirmation of paperwork and that people know what they need to send/bring Day 1 for their I-9.

      Reviewing the staff handbook is a session in orientation, so that is not provided until that session, and there is ample downtime in the first week orientation series to allow for time to review and also to follow up on any administrative work. As a hiring manager, I don’t start seeing the new person (outside a drop-by welcome) until Day 4 or Day 5.

  12. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

    LW3 – failure to plan on their part does not constitute an emergency on yours.

    What would have happened if you’d been seriously ill and had to take time off?

    1. münchner kindl*

      Yes, this!

      The more responsibilities/ different tasks a person has to do daily, the more important it is to cross-train (and also document/ write handbooks – but that takes time, and people already doing 10 tasks often don’t have the time to write a handbook because of that).

      Even if you’d never gone looking for a new job, the lottery bus could drive up tomorrow, and your company would still need coverage for you.

      Yes, it’s very common because it’s easier for managers to just dump stuff on good workers, but it’s still wrong and bad management, both immediate supervisor and also upper management for lack of long-term planning.

    2. Any old username*

      OP3 – the fact that there is no backup for you is on your management – and the situation that has created is not your responsibility to manage. Document as much as you can – eg create “how to” pdfs with step by step instructions of the tasks you perform. But you don’t owe them anything more than the standard 2 weeks notice. Look at it this way – if they decided to lay you off I’m sure they wouldn’t be worrying about giving you extra months pay above your severance in case you can’t pay your rent while you’re unemployed.

      Do not offer to stay in touch or help them with recruiting etc – it will be never ending. And if they can still call on you they won’t be invested in recruiting a new person.

      Good luck with the new job.

    3. Roy G. Biv*

      Yes, do not give a long notice. I did it at a previous job, naively thinking I would have a few weeks to train my replacement. No, of course not. They hired her to start on my second to last day. All I could do was apologize for the insufficient hand off, and leave her with a binder of processes I had cobbled together in my last week.

      The company will just have to figure out how to get it done without you.

      1. EPLawyer*

        It’s their business, if they want things to go smoothly, its on them to figure it out. LW, you cannot care more about the business than the owners do. Once you accept another job, what happens at old job is NOT YOUR PROBLEM anymore. Be professional, of course. two weeks notice, wrap up what you can, leave notes of what you can. But that’s all you have to do. Do not mess with YOUR career to help a business you have no financial stake in.

    4. Sara without an H*

      Yes. OP#3, you state in your letter: “They’ve, unfortunately, put themselves in the position of having me do everything, and I’m not sure what they’ll do once I leave.”

      This is on them, not on you. Give the standard two-weeks notice as soon as you have your offer letter in hand. Start a documentation folder now, write down as much of what you do as you can, and once you’ve given notice, schedule some time with your manager to go over things you have in process. That’s all you owe them.

      And please take Alison’s advice to heart. We’ve heard from a lot of letter writers over the years who take personal responsibility for their companies or coworkers and don’t look after their own best interests. Your relationship with your employer is a business relationship. You do a good job while you are in that relationship, but you’re free to move on when it makes sense to do so.

      Good luck in your new position!

      1. Jellybean_Thief*

        Adding to this, OP3: if it’s really important to you that you provide some form of support, here are a few options
        — consider telling your current company that you are happy to come in and spend 1-2 days training your successor / being available for questions, paid at your current rate (if it’s not really a happy severance, ask for a higher consulting rate), once the company has identified and hired a person. You can then tell your New Job that you’re discussing this with Old Job and would like their permission to take those days off without pay (since you’re being paid by Old Job) once the dates are determined.
        — Think diligently about who takes which projects in the absence of your position and make those recommendations to your supervisor ASAP.
        — Also make recommendations about what can be automated or put on hold in your absence.
        — Make sure all your projects are as wrapped up as possible, with clear documentation on next steps and how to transfer responsibilities.

        You are not responsible for how your Old Job handles the workload once you’ve moved on, and I also want to prepare you for the idea that they might take this opportunity to restructure the position wholecloth, and not hire for exactly the job you used to do. But taking some of the above steps are great ways to show your current employer that you valued being part of their team and respect the work that you did — it’s also a great way to get a superlative future reference (I always do my best to create a really strong transition, and it’s inevitably what my new bosses mention after their reference checks).

        1. Rosemary*

          I would not recommend the first suggestion, taking unpaid days off early in your tenure at New Job to go help out at Old Job. It is taking you away from your new job, where there is probably a lot of learning happening in the first few weeks/months. Not to mention it might impact your ability to take (paid or unpaid) time off that YOU may need, for illness or something else.

        2. Uranus Wars*

          I agree with everything but the consulting and asking for unpaid time off. Only because it’s time to put all the energy in the NEW job and not risk an never-ending relationship with the old. I think that the final three bullet points (without the first) convey exactly what you describe in the final paragraph.

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      What I came here to say. OP, I’m sure they’ll figure something out once you leave. And no amount of extra notice time will break them of their habit of having you do everything. This is not normal.

      My workplace lost a lot of key people over the past few years. I used to say things like, “If Tangerina leaves, it’s game over for us as a company” but then Tangerina would leave and the company would go on, albeit with more difficulty and more work for the rest of us. Yours will also survive. Tell them that you believe in them and they can do it! (snarking because I don’t have a lot of tolerance for workplaces who pile everything on one person)

      1. No One Is Indispensable*

        100%. The older I get and the more experience I have leaving jobs, the more I understand the chasm that exists between an office running and an office running well. You leaving might move the office down the line closer to “just running at survival levels,” but the vast majority of work done in the world can handle being done late/slowly/poorly for a while. Our work simply isn’t that important. I’ve had this anxiety at nearly every job I’ve ever left, and believe it or not every single team has survived and moved on. Maybe things got lost, maybe tasks sat around for 6 months and only got picked up later, maybe processes I worked hard on setting up fell apart. But they figured it out. Our work simply isn’t that important.

    6. Lucy P*

      I got sick last year while the boss was out of town. I texted the boss and the manager of one of the other departments to let them know I’d be out and gave them enough details so that they could understand how sick I was. The boss texted me that night to ask me who was running the office in my absence, as if in my illness I was supposed to be able to organize workloads.

      I think what OP#3 is experiencing is the trap of a small business. You become (what is seen as) an indispensable part of the organization. They treat you like no one else can do it. They may even compensate you slightly more than the others just so that you know how valuable you are. However, if the company isn’t giving you the support staff that can back you up in your absence, that’s on them. It’s a lesson that I trying hard to teach myself.

      1. Critical Rolls*

        It’s really something, as a mid-level manager, to tell your boss “I have an emergency and we’re short on coverage” and have them basically say “Gosh, what are you gonna do?” I’m gonna leave it in your lap, on-the-clock person who gets paid more than me! Bye!

        1. Mr. Shark*

          Yes, exactly. The manager/boss is the one who is paid to make sure there is coverage for the person who is out, that’s not the responsibility of the person who is out!

    7. Tio*

      Yeah, this. If something happened to you suddenly, they’d be in the same place, and they’d figure it out. Ad I know it feels like this is different – this is a choice, you have control over it by default – but really think about what the timeline would look like. Alison’s month timeline is really a best case scenario. It means that on the day you quit, they find someone, that person puts in their two week notice immediately, and then you have a week and a half to two weeks to train them, which honestly, probably won’t get much done! And that’s all while risking losing out on jobs that won’t let you start a month after offer. And most likely, they won’t find someone that quickly, so you won’t even end up being able to train them regardless.

    8. fantomina*

      I’ve started to realize one reason that it can feel more complicated than just “they’ll deal, just as they would have if you’d gotten sick.” For me, at least, I knew that a significant amount of the work I had poured into that job– creating systems and policies, developing community, and building out an impressive list of services– would go stagnant while no one was in the position, and likely be forgotten about when the new person is hired. This especially applies when the hiring timeline is especially glacial (or where there’s a hiring freeze, as over COVID).

      1. ArtsNerd*

        Yeah there’s an emotional investment that’s hard to let go of until you’ve got some distance from the role for sure. But you can’t control what happens when you leave, only what you built while you were there.

    9. ArtsNerd*

      I was in a rare situation where my leaving actually WAS the catalyst for the program to fail. (Part of a larger org, but if we were independent the organization would have almost certainly folded.)

      And you know what? That’s still neither my fault nor my responsibility. It’s my old employer’s.

      You can suggest getting a temp in that you can train to keep some of the day-to-day stuff going during the hiring process, but if they don’t want to do it, it’s not. your. problem.

  13. Healthcare Manager*

    Re 4 – at my new role I was asked to go into the office to pick up and set up my laptop before my first day. This typically can take 2-3 hours. I wasn’t particularly happy about that.

    Seems to me it’s a bit of a new push as a part of a hybrid/remote working world.

    1. Merrie*

      I had to go for a medical check/drug test, submit vaccine records and tax papers, and get set up for my badge. And there were no employee health appointments available in my area in the time frame I needed, so I had to drive to a location 1.5 hours away to avoid having to delay my start date. (Which wouldn’t have been the end of the world, but I also wanted to get it all sorted before my vacation). It also delayed us being able to leave on vacation by one day. In hindsight I probably should have been paid for all that. But it was worth it to get out of toxic Exjob, and I do genuinely like this job and have had no further issues of the kind with them.

    2. Observer*

      at my new role I was asked to go into the office to pick up and set up my laptop before my first day.

      Yeah, this is different, and I don’t think it’s ok. That’s like asking someone to come in a day early so you can show them their desk. No. That is actually part of the first day on-boarding, rather than prep for being able to access that computer.

      Also, a lot more disruptive and time consuming.

  14. AnotherLibrarian*

    LW5: I am so sorry you’re dealing with this. I hope yours is benign, as mine was. I would not tell anyone until you are ready. There’s not subtle way to tell people “I have a brain tumor” and unfortunately, people leap to immediate assumptions of death or other horrible outcomes in my experience. When I was first diagnosed with mine (a benign, though very large one), I was unable to conceal it from my coworkers, as it came with obvious symptoms- my balance was erratically awful and often I would nearly fall over- which isn’t subtle. I hope your new coworkers are as supportive and kind as mine were, should the time come when you need support.

    1. GythaOgden*

      Yup. My husband was in a similar position. His kidney cancer was aggressive rather than benign, but tbh most people now can handle these kinds of things with care and respect. Particularly if you’re going to need ongoing treatment or like hubby have good days/bad days or even lose a driving license to e.g. seizures, it’s probably best to be prepared.

      The day after his stage IV diagnosis, in fact, I took a sick day from the shock and he went to work as normal. Even as a bystander my employer (admittedly public healthcare) was kind and generous and lenient with time off for the stress of caring for him.

      Cancer is also treated as a disability in this country (UK) so people with it fall under the Equality Act in terms of discrimination legislation. I get that the US seems altogether a bit more wary of disclosure and has a healthcare system that is more precarious for employees (don’t get me wrong — I don’t want to condescend. Life in the UK is not a bed of roses either — having recently been to the US you are so much more /situationally aware/ of disability) but in reality most colleagues are surely going to be understanding and you possibly may need the actual support, both formal and informal, of disclosing over not disclosing.

  15. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP1 (apology for mistakes) – boss needs to start managing. How sure are you that Jane didn’t do the task on Friday because she forgot (or whatever) vs didn’t think she needed to take ‘orders’ from someone who sounds from the letter like a peer. OP is in the unfortunate position of having to give direction to someone without the organisational standing to actually back it up.

    Time to start documenting (if you aren’t already) all those Jane interactions, and then bring them to your boss (and their boss, if the boss isn’t listening). What are the chances Jane played innocent and said she hadn’t been asked to do that task, when they were both questioned about it – and then it just becomes a case of “Jane said, OP said”. Time for all work assignments to come from the boss if Jane can’t be trusted to take them from OP, as well.

    1. Observer*

      I agree with this.

      The good news, from your perspective, is that your boss has gotten pulled into this now, so it becomes harder for them to ignore. And the fact that it’s causing payroll problems is HUGE. Document this to the nth degree, because that’s the kind of thing that smart (or even just competent) employers understand CANNOT keep happening.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      The first thing I thought when I saw this letter was CYA, CYA, and more CYA. Don’t let Jane’s mistakes take you down, even accidentally.

      Oh, and a cool “thank you” or “understood” for the apologies for the never ending mistakes at this point is probably sufficient.

  16. D.C. Paralegal*

    “Also, when people are in your situation, they tend to feel like their situation is an exception — that they’re unusually indispensable, that their leaving will cause an unusual amount of chaos and disaster, that their employer is particularly helpless”

    This is something of a recurring theme in AAM letters. I guess it’s possible that an individual project (or an entire organization) will be thrown into utter, irrevocable chaos when someone leaves unexpectedly, but having seen A LOT of people do this—including very senior ones—there’s usually just a brief period of scrambling, and then everyone quickly adjusts. Most of the time, the worst case scenario is that the hiring manager is forced to hire someone on a more aggressive timeline than they’d prefer. (So only three rounds of interviews instead of five. Boo hoo.)

    As to LW3’s concern, I can’t speak to how their prospective employer operates, but if an applicant accepted a job with us and then tried to negotiate a notice period of longer than three weeks simply to help out their current employer, we would say no, and if pressed on it, I’m pretty sure we would pull the offer. At best, it demonstrates an ignorance of work norms. At worst, aside from the huge inconvenience, I’d wonder if the applicant even wanted to leave their old job and might use this time to decide to stay. Even if LW3 could somehow pull it off, they’re going to have used up a lot of capital before their first day on the job.

    Or as Alison more succinctly put it: Please don’t do this.

    1. Antilles*

      if an applicant accepted a job with us and then tried to negotiate a notice period of longer than three weeks simply to help out their current employer, we would say no

      Places I’ve worked regularly are okay with an extra week or two for normal stuff like a pre-planned vacation, to let you cash in a big annual bonus, needing a little extra time because it’s a move, or even just because you’d like a bit of a break between your two week notice and starting the new role. So if there was a major project you needed an extra week or two to wrap up, I think most places would probably be okay with extending the timeline a week or two. If nothing else, asking for an extra week or two is reasonable and common enough that it wouldn’t hurt to ask.

      But the key phrase in all of that is “week or two”. LW3 is talking about giving the current company time to start their search for a replacement, find that replacement, and train them up. That’s a process of months plural – that’s a huge ask, enough that even raising the question would raise eyebrows.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yeah, I wouldn’t blink at someone asking to give three or four weeks of notice rather than two. Generally, it’s a sign someone’s conscientious and wants to leave on a positive note. We also get requests for pre-scheduled time off, for a medical procedure/recovery, staying until a certain date for a financial reason (bonus, retirement vesting), and vacations. It’s very unusual for us to push a candidate into a strict two week notice, and we certainly don’t vet/judge their reason for wanting a longer notice period (though they often share without being asked) – either we can find a mutually convenient start time or we can’t.

        Ironically, this was also the case when I was hiring DC paralegals in a prior position. :) Especially for experienced candidates, we were pretty flexible.

        The only one I recall turning down was the one who was interviewing in March and didn’t want to start until September. I had a more immediate hiring need than five months out.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Yeah – two even three weeks extra weeks isn’t a big deal – there’s a very definitive end line, and asking for just a little extra to tie off a last project makes you look conscientious. But indefinitely or a few months – yeah, that’s just too much extra time.

    2. Lilas*

      If your current business really would be thrown into chaos when the one load-bearing employee leaves, the best thing for them is to experience that consequence. That way, they can redistribute the workload and stop a) taking advantage of people and b) putting all their eggs in one basket.

    3. Here for the Insurance*

      I know OP probably sees it as being conscientious, but I’d see it as not knowing what is and isn’t OP’s responsibility. Which in turn would make me second guess whether I’d want OP on my team. I have enough trouble keeping my current staff in their own lanes; I don’t need to add someone else who has trouble with boundaries.

  17. Hiring Mgr*

    For #4, isn’t it better to take care of those payroll etc things before you start? Personally when I’ve started a new job the sooner those things are taken care of the better. It’s not mandatory though if you’d rather wait so not sure what the issue is?

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Our company handbook is over 150 pages long. Nobody is going to read that in 15 minutes. Nor do we expect them to do it on their own time.

      Filling out direct deposit forms is a completely different matter.

      1. ReadTheHandbook*

        Hard disagree. Skimming the employee handbook for red flags should happen before an offer because it affects the offer/may contain things that need to be negotiated. Paperwork that takes 10 hours that doesn’t affect decision making should be done on the clock. I resent having to do it on my time, often at a busy time.

        1. Allonge*

          There is a difference between making the employee handbook available to incoming staff before the first day or even to people invited for an interview and expecting them to read it in detail on non-working time.

          Sharing information earlier is almost always better. Expecting that people internalise it to the point of signing off on it before their start date is a pretty big imposition.

          1. doreen*

            It depends on exactly what they are signing off on – I don’t recall ever signing off that I read the employee handbook (or any other document, really ) . I really couldn’t have, because I was always expected to sign the form as soon as I received the handbook. What was signing was a form that said I received the handbook, that it superseded any prior versions, it was subject to changes and that I was expected to read it and follow it – not that had already read it.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              Yup – same for me in all my jobs – the form I signed said I had received the current version of the handbook, and that the company would provide me with a new version if revisions happened. The form has never said that I had read the whole thing (with the exception of one time when the employee handbook was two pages, double spaced – and even then I didn’t get it till onboarding).

        2. Peanut Hamper*

          Before an offer?

          Sorry, but any business I’ve worked with has never made the employee handbook available to people who are currently employed by the company, and that includes job candidates. It’s an employee handbook. You’re not going to see that before you’re hired.

          This is just bizarre. If you asked for the employee handbook before you’d even gotten an offer, it’s a huge red flag about you, and you probably won’t get an offer.

          1. Emilia Bedelia*

            Asking for the employee handbook would probably come across poorly – but I’ve certainly asked a lot of questions that were answered by the employee handbook, so frankly it would probably save a lot of people a lot of time if this were more acceptable.

            I’ve certainly been sent the employee handbook/health insurance info/benefits/etc etc prior to starting on my first day, which I think is a good practice. People who don’t want to read it don’t have to, people who want to know how their vacation time accrues and when annual reviews are and when they can get new eyeglasses on the vision plan can check such things before they start. As long as it isn’t mandatory I really don’t know why anyone would have an issue with this.

          2. metadata minion*

            What’s the problem with letting non-employees see the handbook? Not letting me see it wouldn’t exactly be a red flag for me, since as you say most employers don’t do that, but it does make me wonder what they don’t want me to see before I’ve made a decision and resigned from my current job. I’ve also seen places that post their employee handbook online for *anyone* to see.

            1. Glomarization, Esq.*

              Because there’s no such thing as a “standard” employee handbook. Some handbooks are closer to bare-bones compilations of policies like absenteeism, dress codes, health plan options, and so on. But others include operations information that could be sensitive and should not be shared with anyone who hasn’t signed a non-disclosure agreement.

          3. Antilles*

            Every job I’ve ever worked has made the Employee Handbook available ahead of time. There’s just not anything particularly secret in there that the company has to keep under wraps – the “separation on death” policy and “appropriate computer usage” policy and so forth are all so bog-standard that I could copy them from my last company, swap the logo, and insert them into my current company’s Handbook without anybody noticing.

            The only things which dramatically differ from company to company are things which directly relate to benefits (e.g., separate sick/vacation buckets or combined PTO, insurance info, etc) – which you are likely asking about anyways during the offer/negotiation process.

    2. NotRealAnonforThis*

      Key words: “If its not mandatory”

      Only once in my life has there been any slack between jobs (because…health insurance) so if there’s ten hours worth of paperwork that has to be done in the week prior to my starting a new position, that’s ten hours on top of my typical salaried work week. Thankfully I’m in an industry where this is considered “first day work”. As in “Jon Snow starts work on Monday, but we won’t be able to even start actual training til Tuesday because he’ll be spending Monday with HR and payroll”.

    3. Hiring Mgr*

      Has anyone really read an employee handbook cover to cover? I’ve worked for a mix of large and small companies and never considered it anything other than boilerplate stuff.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I did, because it was short and I was bored and it was my first week and no one had figured out exactly how they wanted to onboard me. But usually when I sign the form it’s to acknowledge that I received it and it’s policy whether I read it or not.

        I worked for a company that specified lunch times, even though all employees were exempt and no one took lunch at the same time. Something like, “lunch, which is usually taken at 1pm, is considered a break” or whatever it said, but I always found that funny.

      2. Bread Crimes*

        I did, because I was told to read it, and in my first full-time job out of school, I took that seriously. I learned a lot from it! The dress code was helpfully phrased, the explanations of benefits were useful, and there was excellent information in there about what to do in various emergency situations–fire, hazardous weather, government raid–that never came up while I was in that job, but it was good to know what to do if they had.

  18. TeenieBopper*

    Hope y’all don’t mind me piggybacking re: LW3.
    My current employer requires 4 weeks notice in order for accrued PTO to be paid out, and will only pay out for 4 week; anything over that is lost. I have six weeks accrued (closer to 7, but whatever). How do I approach this with prospective employers when they ask when I can start?

    1. urguncle*

      “I’m looking at a 4 week notice period at my current employer. If that’s not doable, I might need to talk more with HR before agreeing to a start date.” If they absolutely can’t do it, you might be able to negotiate a signing bonus similar to your 7 week vacation payout.

      1. AnonRN*

        Also, start using your PTO so you’re closer to 4-5 weeks at all times rather than 6-7! Schedule and use it now so they can’t prevent you from using it during your notice period, and routinely schedule a day off or whatever to use up any new accruals.

        It feels little harder/riskier if your PTO is also your only source of sick leave and you aren’t sure exactly when a new job might come along, I know; try to have some money saved so that if you became ill and needed more than 4 weeks of time, you’d have a bit of a cushion. Also look into things like short-term disability coverage; mine would kick in after a week if I was seriously ill and would allow me to stretch my use of sick time, but laws and coverage are different everywhere.

        1. TeenieBopper*

          Yeah, it’s all one big bank, but it’s also 43 days a year so I’m not too worried about running out of sick time.

          I do have plans to spend it (a week and a half in April, two weeks in November, a week in December) and I’m usually pretty aggressive with PTO at the end of the year with short work weeks but none of that helps me if I take a new job offer in the short term future.

          1. Hlao-roo*

            Depending on how much notice your current company requires for vacation days, can you take a vacation day every time you have an interview? It’ll give you more time to prepare for/decompress from the interviews and naturally whittle away at your vacation time in proportion to how your job search is going.

    2. RequiredToPay*

      If you’re in the US they’re legally obligated to pay you for accrued vacation time (just not sick time).

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        That varies from state to state and is not mandated at the federal level, and some states don’t require vacation payout at all.

      2. Well That's Fantastic*

        It’s not federally mandated to pay for accrued vacation time, although some states have laws requiring it. My partner lost over two weeks worth of accrued vacation time leaving a job last fall, so I went digging to see if it was really allowed. Sad to say, in my state, it is.

      3. Dilly*

        This is simply not true. Several states have laws regarding leave payout, but not all of them. My state does not require employers to pay out leave. My employer will pay out a maximum of 40 hours and only if you give at least 2 weeks’ notice. They have one exception: if you are assigned to work on a federal contract and the employer does not win the follow on, you can be paid out up to 80 hours.

      4. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

        Only certain states require it, for all others it depends on what is in your contract. Last company I got full pay out, first company, I lost over 150hrs of leave (I have a chronic illness, and it was an ‘everything is just vacation hours’ company, so I hoarded hours for a little while).

      5. doreen*

        It definitely varies from state to state – for example, in New York an employer must pay out PTO unless they have a written policy and therefore, employers can put conditions on payouts as long as employees were notified in writing of the conditions. For example, my employer paid up to 30 days of vacation time but it was forfeited if someone did not give two weeks notice. We had separate buckets of time off and the written policy treated then differently – I could be paid for up to 30 days of vacation time but not for sick time.

    3. Ingemma*

      It depends on how seriously you’re looking for a new job I think! But start with getting it below four weeks at minimum.

      Is this: I’m happy here but I’m seeing what’s out there? Or is this: I want to move / I’m done here so I’m actively likely to take the next reasonable / strong match. (Or even: I’ll take almost anything to get out of here)

      If it’s either of the last two (and even probably the first one) I would still plan to be using most of the vacation before you have to give notice, unless you’re in a field / area or senior enough that 4 weeks is likely to be a nonissue. No point in annoying your new job / risking loosing vacation.

      1. TeenieBopper*

        It’s a little bit between 1 and 2. I’m happy where I am but am severely underpaid for my experience and skill set. For a long time I was fine with this because of non pay benefits (PTO package, fully remote, lots of flexibility, PSLF qualified employer) were worth it to me. But an announced pay freeze plus some new life goals has me taking recruiter phone calls more seriously. Can’t pay a mortgage with a PTO package, you know?

    4. Spicy Tuna*

      I was working for a company that had been sold to a competitor. I was not interested in working for the competitor (would have meant a cross-country move for a job I was neutral about). The new company didn’t want everyone leaving all at once, so they put in retention bonuses so the longer you stayed and assisted with the transition, the more bonus you received.

      I started looking early for a new job and an absolutely incredible opportunity arose early on in my search. Giving two weeks notice would have meant I missed the first retention bonus – I would have needed four weeks notice.

      Because everyone at my old job was in the same boat regarding finding new work, I was able to be completely open with my boss. So, I negotiated starting the new job in three weeks and used a week of PTO so I was still employed by the old job for my first week at the new job.

      This only worked because I was up front with both old and new job about what I was doing and everyone understood that I didn’t want to give up that sizeable retention bonus over just a week or two.

      1. TeenieBopper*

        Yeah, I want to be up front. In a perfect world it’s starting in six weeks- four to get my PTO payout and plus two weeks so I can use the extra PTO (which I’m confident my boss would let me). But six weeks is a lot of time. Hopefully everyone understands that I don’t want to give up multiple thousands of dollars :-/

        1. Tio*

          Six weeks would be a long time for most jobs, depending on your experience level. I would start using the vacation now and get it as close to 4 weeks as possible as soon as you can

    5. I need coffee before I can make coffee*

      If you really think you will be changing jobs soon, you should get your leave balance down to where you won’t lose any and keep it there. I don’t think a 4 week lead time is unreasonable to give a new employer for a start date. You can say it will take that long to finish up something important at your current job (namely, your vacation payout, but they don’t need to know that). The 4 week notice time at your current job sucks, but it is what it is.

    6. fhqwhgads*

      Take two weeks right now. Then give the four weeks notice when you’ve got an offer and have accepted it.

  19. Bookworm*

    #3: Thanks for asking that question. I’m not in that position but suspect I might be (as in, I work for a place that will want me to “help” because they’re a “small business”) so while your question wasn’t mine I appreciated that you asked because Alison’s answer was helpful. I do hope you can find a solution that does work for everyone AND doesn’t stress you out too much.

    #5: I’m so sorry you’re going through that and do hope that if you ever have to disclose the organization will be as accommodating as possible.

    1. straws*

      I’m chiming in here because I did this last year. I was a key employee for multiple areas of a small business, and in the role that I was working I was indispensable. The key here is in the roll that I was working. There was no way to replace my exact skillset across multiple areas with another person, which I think happens a lot with small businesses. But that doesn’t mean that they couldn’t adjust to my departure. I left a ton of documentation for areas that had to keep running as is, and they changed the way other things were done. Are the new ways as good as the way I did them? Probably not yet, but with time I’m sure they will get a system in place. They also suggested that I consult, etc., and I told them I’d need to focus on my new job first, but that in a few months if they needed help with something that we could talk. I did get one question in my first week away, which I responded to by telling them where the answer was instead of what it was. Other than that, they haven’t needed me to come back and I’m happily in a much higher paying job doing more of what I love.

    2. EPLawyer*

      It is not OP’s job to find a solution that works for her former company. She needs something that works for HER and her new company. Which 2 weeks notice is all that is necessary. Her former company will either figure it out, or they won’t because they failed to plan for the very basic fact that people leave jobs. OP should not be stressed either because its NOT HER PROBLEM. You leave knowing you did your job to the best of your ability while you were there. Then you move on.

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

    #1 [“How can I kindly accept her apology without blanketing over the fact that she continues to make these errors?”]

    I’ve worked with my fair share of Janes in my 33-year career and somehow I’ve resisted the urge to say “Don’t be sorry, be correct.”

    She clearly CHOOSES to keep make the same mistakes, which means that she ISN’T “sorry” at all. Stop accepting her meaningless “apologies” and instead launch directly into ensuring that it doesn’t happen again.

    1. Helewise*

      It’s clear that something is going awry here, but it’s not clear at all that she’s “choosing” to make the same mistakes. I’ve never found that kind of punitive mindset to be all that productive in getting to the other side of an issue.

      1. kiki*

        Yeah, while I think LW doesn’t have to tell Jane that everything is fine, we don’t actually know Jane’s situation. Someone can be really sorry and not know how to make the changes needed. Someone can be really sorry but also not in a place to make the changes needed (maybe they’re having a hard time at home that’s getting in the way of doing good work). I understand why you said what you said, VP of Monitoring, and in some cases I agree, but sometimes mistakes really are mistakes.

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

        One of my Janes actually said, “I don’t need to know this because you guys already know it for me.”

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      One of the more helpful things I’ve learned after nearly two decades in management is that few people actually have ill-intent and *choose* to perform poorly. It is usually some combination of lack of fundamental skills, poor training/directions, or bad management. Generally, if people have the skills and knowledge to perform the work, they will do it. My very best managers are the ones where people feel comfortable discussing their questions, weaknesses, and development needs – those are the people whose performance improves.

      I also know from my management experience that making zinger comments to people, being punitive, and shaming poor performance isn’t motivating. It further demoralizes those lacking skills and confidence, and the small number of ones who don’t care or are allegedly screwing up on purpose also do not care about how their manager feels about them.

      1. cncx*

        Thank you, two decades as an employee and I too have only run into maybe one person who was truly bad. The rest was bad management, bad communication, bad training, bad skill set for the job-bad hiring (management/HR not knowing what to hire for, not knowing what the job entails, management not being clear to candidates what the job entails ). Very few truly seek out to do a bad job and force their coworkers to do weekends for them. Jane may be a flake and this topic may need some more communication.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        Completely agree. Almost no-one *chooses* to make mistakes (unless in very unusual circumstances, like expressly trying to get fired), because the consequences of mistakes are generally uncomfortable!

        At most, they choose to not make enough of an effort to find ways of avoiding the mistakes… but even that is much rarer than the people who don’t have a good idea of how to do that and instead try to solve it through wishful thinking.

        The solution is to discuss safeguards together. And they can’t be anything like “just concentrate better”, because that never works for repeat mistakes.

    3. Observer*

      She clearly CHOOSES to keep make the same mistakes,

      That’s not necessarily correct. There are a lot of possibilities. The failure to even consider their existence is not useful.

      Allison’s scripts are much better.

  21. You Can't Pronounce It*

    LW 4 – my current employer does this; however, it’s to formally accept or decline the offer and complete the I9. It shouldn’t take more than 5-10 minutes tops. So please be sure they aren’t asking for more than this before pushing back.

  22. MuseumChick*

    LW 1, if I where in your shoes I might be slightly harsher in my wording than what Alison suggests. Something like, “Jane, I understand you are sorry but this cannot keep happening.” Do you even really need to acknowledge her apologies given that this is a pattern? She apologizes you say something like, “Jane, this keeps happening. Please ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      I think the reason that LW1 may not be in the position to be harsher is that they have been telling Jane it’s fine rather than making it clear that it’s not until now, when they’ve hit their limit. To Jane, it’s going to seem like there was no big problem until suddenly, LW1’s all grumpy about things that they’ve brushed off in the past.

      I actually don’t think that is is LW1’s problem to solve either. I think they need to escalate it to their boss with the here’s-how-Jane’s-impacting-MY-work approach.

      1. El l*

        My recommendation to LW is to say, “Jane, thank you, but I’ve seen a pattern of the same mistakes continuing to happen again and becoming my problem. That pattern means that whatever I said at the time, it is no longer fine. (Deep breath) Find some way to sort it out, or next time I’m going to [boss].”

        1. Observer*

          (Deep breath) Find some way to sort it out, or next time I’m going to [boss].

          Skip that part. And go to Boss. Now.

  23. health issues*

    OP5, you say you’re confident that your new place would handle a health issue well…

    I don’t know, I thought my company was really good, but then I saw them push out a coworker after they had a mental health issue. Maybe I’m jaded, but I think Alison’s advice is spot on. Don’t tell them anything they don’t need to know.

  24. Marketing Unicorn Ninja*

    I agree about terms of endearment at work.

    Funnily enough, I now work with a bunch of pre-school and special education teachers and their go-to is, ‘hello, friend!’ when they can’t remember a name, which I think is both quirky and adorable.

    We obviously work in an education-adjacent field, so this is not as jarring as it would be in the corporate world.

    Also, I have many friends in a culture that uses ‘mama’ as a term of endearment, and even though I know that, when I was struggling with infertility before my first pregnancy (a daughter), and then after a miscarriage, and then during my high-risk second pregnancy (a son), it was actively hurtful to hear.

    Just because it’s someone’s culture to use a certain term doesn’t mean that it’s OK outside of that culture, and really, it’s never appropriate at work.

    1. Jay (no, the other one)*

      Oh, that is SO HARD. When I was waiting for my daughter, the hospital where I worked starting playing Brahms’ Lullaby over the PA every time a baby was born. More than once that drove me into the nearest bathroom until I could compose myself. I wrote a letter. Nothing changed.

      A lot of people around here use “mama” as an endearment. I usually hear it as “mami” which is enough of a difference that it feels like “chéri” or “liebchen” – an endearment in another language – and so it didn’t bother me in the same way. If I’d heard it as “mama” it would have been really difficult. Not sure if that’s a difference in pronunciation or just my weird ear.

      1. Yoyoyo*

        Playing the lullaby is so awful. I get that people like a pick-me-up during the day, especially in a high stress environment, but my god it is so insensitive to so many people! Plus in a hospital there is so much going on, codes being called, etc. Why would you add to that with a song playing over the PA?

        1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

          Not quite the same, but as I was giving birth to my son at noon on a Good Friday at a Catholic hospital, there were announcements over the PA about the various time marks of the crucifixion. And a prayer at 7 am basically saying, Thanks Lord, that I’m still alive this morning.
          So awkward.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          I don’t see how this could measurably add to anyone’s joy either?! It’s just a freaking lullaby let it go.

    2. Loulou*

      Friend is also a term of endearment! And it doesn’t read as particularly culturally neutral to me, though I do see why it feels less fraught.

      1. Katydid*

        It’s a traditional Quaker greeting, so I agree it’s not culturally neutral. I’m not sure “culturally neutral” exists in languages — maybe in pure mathematics.

    3. HannahS*

      You have a culture, too. Is it ok to use cultural terms like “buddy” “ya’ll” or “friend”? Is it ok at work?

      If someone doesn’t want to me called mama or mami, that’s fine, and they should feel free to say so. Saying that people can’t bring “culture” to work and implicitly excluding your own culture implies that your culture should be the default, and that’s not fair.

    4. anonynow*

      But everyone has culture, and everyone brings terms of respect from their culture, and the thing is that we all know which culture is the one that is the default in the working world. I’m not saying you have to accept being called “mama” if you don’t want to–people of color are adults and can be asked to stop. But simply saying “your cultural terms cannot be used outside of that culture and it’s not appropriate at work” means that you are putting up barriers to participation in (especially white-collar) employment for whole swathes of other people, most of whom are already systemically disadvantaged in some way. And when you add in that “mama” is a term of respect/endearment that tends to be more concentrated among lower-income Latinos in the US…

      A blanket “don’t use your cultural term” really, really reads as creating barriers to advancement for marginalized communities because you don’t want to have a conversation with the people you work with. I’m really sorry you had a hard time with your pregnancies. You should still think about what your attitude towards “mama” in the workplace (especially when it has nothing to do with motherhood) is actually saying to Latinos and, more broadly, what this attitude means for marginalized folks at work.

  25. Michelle Smith*

    LW4: Completing stuff in advance is really, really normal now and has been for years. I would not see it as a grievance that you’re not being paid to fill out benefits forms and submit a photo! I’ve had jobs where I had to bring in diplomas in advance (yes, I had to take my frames off the wall and get an Uber to drive me to the office with them, then take them back home) and jobs where I had to pay for my own background check. Legitimate, government jobs, not scams. Your new place does not appear to me to be asking for much. They are giving you a lot more time upfront to do this so you can focus on other things your first day. In my current job (nonprofit), I filled that stuff out in advance so my benefits would start faster, payroll would already be set for direct deposit, etc. Then on the first day, I was able to focus on getting to know my new colleagues, touring the building, getting issued my computer and cell phone as well as tech training, getting more training on the ins and outs of the mission, and meeting the CEO. And I got to go home at like 2 in the afternoon, even though I got paid for a full day.

    1. bamcheeks*

      And I got to go home at like 2 in the afternoon, even though I got paid for a full day.

      This is actually a really good of doing it— “work” half a day before you start, but then go home early on your first day or two when your head is full of stuff and you’ve stopped absorbing new information anyway!

  26. steliafidelis*

    I’m a little surprised at how strongly people feel about “mama”/”mami.” I spent several years in the restaurant industry and in my experience it was a routine form of address, especially from Spanish-speaking employees who were less comfortable in English.

    It’s obviously a valid way to prefer not to be addressed that way, but I would generally extend more grace towards the verbal habits of someone who’s already speaking a second language.

      1. aarti*

        I wrote up above. I hate it. It literally reduces women to being mama. Do men get called papa for no reason? Granted, I don’t like any nicknames, I only love nicknames from my husband.

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          Yeah, men get called “papi”.

          It literally reduces women to being mama.

          It’s a cultural thing, and you are completely misreading a lot of stuff into it that just isn’t there. This same culture will often refer to old people as “abuelito/abuelita” which is literally “grandfather/grandmother” but the connotation is “respected older person”.

          This is a cultural issue. It’s not about a literal translation. Context and connotation matter.

          1. kt*

            Agree. In many cultures, the terms “aunty” and “uncle” are used in various non-work contexts as well for adults regardless of technical relationship. “Aunty Grace” need not have any siblings or nieces/nephews. Frequent Reader has some good notes below as well.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            Okay, but if they ask you not to call them that, do you persist? Or do you stop? I hope you stop.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              Also, are we talking social situations or work? I cannot imagine calling my former supervisor “papi” at work.

            2. Ellis Bell*

              There’s a huge difference between 1) asking someone to stop using a term because you don’t like it, and 2) wrong assumptions about what you understand the term to mean just based on how it sounds and 3) thinking that your cultural background of shunning handles outside of romantic relationships is the default one. You can do 1 politely, but 2 and 3 are more than just a bit impolite.

              1. annoyed that i have to say this*

                Thank you. As a Latina, most of the comments on this topic have been upsetting, but this thread has been particularly problematic.

            3. anonynow*

              Of course they stop! Any reasonable person would stop. But I’m going to be honest, I find people acting like they know my culture better than me and then using their misunderstandings to justify exclusionary, bad-DEI takes way worse than the fact a Latino person says “mama” at work.

              Like, why are you not coming for aarti, who is demonstrating a profound and frankly upsetting lack of understanding about Latino culture and nicknames, and making some ridiculous assumptions in the process? Why is it the people who want to defend minorities right to use cultural terms of respect are getting interrogated, and not the people perpetuating misinformation on the subject?

              Mama is not about motherhood, it is not about keeping women in the home, and in Latino cultures nicknames are a common way to show respect and friendliness and they are given to everyone regardless of age, gender, or background. Aarti can keep their nicknames to their husband only, but that’s a very specific cultural norm to enforce in a workplace that says a lot about whose culture is the “right” and most “professional” one.

            4. Snell*

              Back to the LW’s concern, people who called LW “mama” were not doing so against her wishes after she had asked them to stop. That’s the whole point of the letter: LW is seeking guidance on a professional, considerate way to make the request.

        2. Frequent Reader*

          Its cultural. And it does not reduce. It elevates. Seeing it as a reduction in status is due to your perception of the role of a mother or father. You think of mother as something to be ashamed of and something women want to be more than. And that is ok. That does not mean others think of mother as a lowly term nor that they think being a mother is the only way to be respected and elevated.

          “Mama” and “mami” are just “madam” and “Papa” and “Pops” and “papi” are just “sir”. And there is a lot of evidence for this being used respectfully in the US and not just in Latin or Black culture.
          Big Poppa
          Big Mama
          Big Mama Thornton
          Big Papi
          Pop Warner
          Godfather of Soul
          Father of Soul
          Mother of the Blues

          A lot of the reader of AAM are open and progressive and accepting as can be until its time to accept something THEY don’t like, then suddenly they shut down and get as exclusive and close-minded as they can be and anyone who says “Sir” or “Ma’am” or anything they don’t like must be stopped. Everything is ok if its within THEIR cultural sphere but Southerners and non-White Americans and people who made the mistake of going to a religious school (unless its from out of the country eg Hindu school in which case its ok because AaM is accepting of differences elsewhere) get hit pretty hard for not complying with certain cultural norms.

            1. Yeah, nah*

              Nah, it’s just accurate. There’s frequently a middle-class white American default vibe that see-saws between treating anything outside of that norm as offensive or going full white savior and infantilizing minorities. It’s weird and gross.

          1. sagc*

            The first chunk of this comment is weird. Pretty sure people who don’t want to be referred to as “mama” – regardless of all the surrounding context! – are ashamed of their mothers.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            I assume all those people chose, or at least did not object, to their nicknames, though. And I hope that if they rose from the dead and did object, we’d call them something else.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              Also, no, not ashamed of my mother, but I also don’t feel like I should have to “borrow” mother standing to be respected.

              Can we stop couching everything women accomplish as nurturing?

          3. sundae funday*

            I think commenters are being harsh on this one because it’s so gendered, and because motherhood is just an incredibly touchy subject, particularly in the workplace.

            But yes I’ve definitely had to unlearn calling everyone “sir” and “ma’am!” It’s difficult because growing up, I’d be in huge trouble if I didn’t call someone “sir” or “ma’am,” so it’s a hard habit to break. But I know the offense I would cause if I accidentally misgendered someone means I absolutely can’t use them anymore.

      2. ADidgeridooForYou*

        I think different people just react differently to certain things. I know in the past AAM has answered questions from people whose direct reports or coworkers answered everything with yes ma’am or yes sir. This is a very culturally intrinsic thing in the southern US, but people were much more charitable towards the OP. Generally in the US, mama means something different than it does when a Mexican or Mexican-American person says it. It’s important to be culturally understanding in explaining your discomfort, but it doesn’t mean you have to just go with it.

    1. introverted af*

      Ah, I wouldn’t have thought about a second language context. My image in my head was someone crunchy, and a little overfamiliar. But in the context of already working across multiple languages, it still would feel weird but much more understandable.

    2. londonedit*

      I’ve never heard of it before today, except in the context of actual mothers being called ‘mama’ (which I find weird and infantilising, like as soon as a woman gives birth she’s just ‘mama’ and nothing more). I had no idea there were cultures and places in the world where it’s a term of respect for a woman. So my immediate gut reaction, without that context, would be displeasure – I’m purposely *not* a mother and I very much believe women shouldn’t be reduced to ‘mother’ or ‘other’. But with the context, I might be able to put those feelings aside and understand that it was coming from a place of genuine respect.

      1. Frequent Reader*

        Mother is the exact opposite of infantalizing though. Literally. It means Madam. Madam vs Mademoiselle. Mistress vs Miss.

        1. londonedit*

          What I mean is that it’s patronising. Reducing women to nothing more than someone’s ‘mama’ (which sounds like baby talk). Unless you know the particular cultural context in which it’s being used in the letter we’re talking about, to me it sounds patronising and diminishing.

          1. kt*

            But why do women in, say, white American contexts not want to be called “mama”? (I’ll stick with the US because it’s what I know.) Because in a white American context, when someone calls someone “mama”, they’re saying something specific about the role of women and motherhood and expecting that the recipient agrees. And many white American women would say “I’m not *just* a mama, I’m more than that, I am a full human being with rights, thoughts, opinions, independence.” That’s the unseen construction underneath — white American women are in a context where some do urge them culturally or by law to stay home, not play sports, not access reproductive care to plan their families, etc. Women who aren’t white often have a quite different set of challenges — if they stay home with their children they are slandered as welfare queens by some in society, they face much higher maternal mortality risks (3-6x higher), etc. You can’t deny that motherhood is viewed differently. White women are concerned with being “reduced” to motherhood whether they’ve had children or not, intend to have children or not. Black women for instance need to fight to be respected as mothers (because that they’ll work is assumed), and have a different fight for respect even without motherhood. And this totally leaves out Native/Asian/Hispanic women, who all face different sets of assumptions about their reproductive paths. Note that childcare jobs are not uniformly distributed by ethnicity or race in the US. There can certainly be an undercurrent of “I’m a career (white) woman, I pay someone to do childcare for me” in the “don’t reduce me to caregiver” narrative.

            In most metro areas in the US it is impossible to avoid the racialized dynamics of caregiving. The economic and political system we’re in is unforgiving.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          This comparison makes it sound even worse. It’s continuing to define women via their relationship to other people or age.

          Madam v. Mme. (Mrs. v. Miss) – married v. unmarried

          Mistress v. Miss – under 13 v. over 13 years old

          Mama v. Jane – some child’s parent v. individual human being

          I’m not parenting people at work (even if it feels like it some days), and I don’t have a familial relationship with them. My first name will be just fine.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            My high school French teacher would be so disappointed, clearly that should be Mme. v. Mlle.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        See, my knee-jerk response to “mama” as a term of respect is that, conversely, it implies that mothers deserve a special degree of respect, otherwise there would be a term of respect that didn’t hinge on childbearing/parenting vs. not, which is an idea that also has no place at work, at least in the US. And it may be so ingrained in some places that it’s lost its roots, but it seems like if you went back far enough, it’s still there–otherwise, why “mama” and not . . . “mistress” (as in female master, as in Elvira, Mistress of the Dark) or some other term that isn’t parental?

        I get that you might think this was respectful but it still pretty much goes back to women-as-parental-figures and women-as-primarily-valued-as-nurturers.

        1. Pierrot*

          You are conflating the American meaning of “mama” with the Spanish one, and in this context they are different. Are you having knee-jerk reactions about commonly used words in the English language that in years passed had a different meaning? Because there are so many of these words.

          I totally get if people don’t want to be called “Mama” in a professional context. I just think it’s problematic for white Americans to impose their interpretation of a term onto people who are using a term that has a specific colloquial meaning in their culture and language. It’s just very presumptuous.

          1. Lilas*

            Yeah, what I see happen a lot (here in particular) is basically this:

            Person A: “Term” in our culture basically signifies X.

            Person B: Well, the denotation (the most literal dictionary derivation of the word/phrase) is Y. And I don’t like Y. So I think it’s problematic.

            Person A: Ok, but denotation isn’t connotation, and I’m informing you that in my region/culture, that phrase means X, no matter what your more literal interpretation would be, so please acknowledge that.

            Person B: We’ll I’m personally not used to it, so the denotation is what matters. If it looks like it means Y, you have to treat it like it does.

            But you don’t just get to decide that! There are tons and tons of phrases that don’t map onto their literal dictionary definitions, but people only get proscriptive like person B when it’s something they’re unfamiliar with and they’re not interested in the context being provided by person A.

            1. arthur lester*

              Oh my gosh, this just made it click for me how similar this is to how people talk about lolita fashion, which is a specific Japanese subculture that has nothing in common with the book. But white people constantly insist that it must be inherently problematic and done for sexual reasons.

              Just because it’s “other” doesn’t mean it’s bad.

          2. sundae funday*

            I don’t think it’s presumptuous, necessarily. It would be if this white woman said “it’s problematic to use ‘mama’ as a term of endearment,” or whatever. But it’s not presumptuous to filter your understanding through your own culture.

            Like, being called “mama” would really bother me because I don’t and can’t have kids and I’m not anyone’s “mama.” I wouldn’t get offended because I understand they have a different cultural context, but that isn’t going to stop me from cringing internally. (I actually wouldn’t say anything or tell anyone to stop calling me “mama,” but I would passionately hate it). I don’t think that makes me presumptuous, it just means that a word has a different meaning to me in my culture, and I can’t help but interpret the word that way.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          I see you like to use the word woman. But imagine if a woman who uses a different language got offended by your calling them a woman instead of a female? They would look at the etymology of “woman” and say “how dare you reduce me to being just the wife of a man? That is where that word comes from” They would be missing the modern meaning of the word entirely.

    3. Generic Name*

      Yeah, in my first job when I was in my early 20s, some of the “older” (like in their 40s) women would call me honey or sweetie. I actually never minded it, but I can see why it would grate on someone. It’s okay to ask to be called by your name, but I think it’s probably for the best to assume they aren’t actively belittling you without other evidence.

    4. kiki*

      I think it’s one of those phrases with usage that’s *incredibly* common some places and incredibly rare in others. If you’ve never heard mama/mami used in a non-mother context, it can be jarring because outside of certain regions and cultures it’s exclusively used to imply motherhood.

  27. Colette*

    OP 3, it will be OK. Really, it is fine to take the new job without a replacement for your current job.

    I’ve been on both sides of this – I’ve been the one with tons of knowledge no one else had, and I’ve been on the team when someone with tons of knowledge left, and it will be fine. It may not be the same – they might change how the stuff you do gets done or might make mistakes that you could have prevented, but that’s OK. It’s management’s job to evaluate the risks and figure them out.

    In every case I’ve seen, things were fine – although there may be an initial bumpy period. It will be OK.

  28. Dust Bunny*

    #4: H*ll, no–I’d push back on that. I definitely did all this on the clock after I’d actually started. They only had the bare basics that they needed to get me in their system before my first day.

    1. Siege*

      Yep. I spent my first day in orientation, including doing the new hire paperwork. I absolutely am not doing work (that benefits the company by meaning it’s not time I’m being compensated for AND ALSO we don’t have to account for it in my first week or two so I can do more work-work rather than training) on my personal time. It has never ONCE caused an issue with being paid on time (which others are flagging as an issue). I would go out in a limb and say if it’s that much if a problem to be paid on time if you do your paperwork on the first day, you have bad processes or incompetent people. (Not necessarily the people running the payroll, either. Always remember that interest is a reason for companies to want to refuse to pay you for as long as humanly possible.)

      I have also never had a problem with accessing a building on my first day. How else would you, you know, get your picture taken and badge issued than by accessing the building on a different day?

      This is something that’s being presented as “for the employee’s benefit”, but it’s REALLY REALLY not.

      The only exception I can see is if there was a live training the company wanted you to attend – and even then they can pay you. I did two days of paid training with my predecessor at my current job; another staffer attended a 3-day training we host before she technically started, and she was also paid for it.

  29. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

    LW#3, I was in a similar place. I was the only person doing a lot of work at my last job, I ended up doing a longer notice period and it didn’t change anything. My replacement was not hired while I was there, and no one really was invested enough to figure out how to do the tasks I was solely responsible for.

    I’m still adjacent to the organization so I answered some emails later when people asked how to do the tasks (I did leave some written procedures to help).

    But really, don’t worry about it, and don’t negotiate a longer turnover. No one will remember that you did at your old company, especially because I’m 99% sure they won’t have a replacement for you to train, even if you negotiated 8 weeks. Document as best you can and leave.

  30. Dust Bunny*

    LW1: First, stop telling Jane it’s OK, and second, it either is or it’s getting near time to loop in your boss. I know s/he knows about the latest blooper but make sure s/he knows how much it’s happening, and that it’s happening repeatedly. At best Jane needs some training and at worst she’s not the person they need for the role.

  31. Dust Bunny*

    #3: No, don’t do that. It’s not your fault your previous employer manages badly; don’t let it cause problems for you going forward.

  32. TeamPottyMouth*

    There are tons of “cultural” norms that are unacceptable in a professional workplace. The speaker may mean to be conveying respect, but the reality is that more often than not, women of childbearing age are seen as less serious and/or less dependable than their male counterparts due to the “cultural norm” that mothers are the ones responsible for childcare and will quit work when they get pregnant or be the parent who misses work when the kids get sick. Women are also more likely to be asked to do things outside their job descriptions such as plan parties, organize catered meetings, take notes for others, and clean up the shared workspace—all tasks that if done in the home, are “culturally accepted” as “mom’s job”.

    Women have a very good reason to not want to be seen or thought of as a “mama” in the workplace.

      1. TeamPottyMouth*

        Because there a lot of different things being labeled as such that others disagree w that categization. W no context in the OP’s letter, we don’t know if this is a “work culture” (ie a restaurant environment would have completely different social expectations than a bank, for example), a “geographical culture”, ie people speak differently to each other in Paris Texas than they do in Paris, France, or a “generational culture” where older generations have different social expectations than younger generations do. And yes, there are racial/ethnic/language/country of origin cultures that could be at play here too, but since they’re not defined in the OP, I won’t make assumptions. Op simply stated that she is getting called “mama” and she doesn’t like it. It doesn’t matter which of the cultures above has prompted the speaker to use the term, it’s still ok for people to ask not to be called things they don’t like, and there are valid reasons for not wanting to be called “mama” in the workplace.

    1. Loulou*

      It seems like you’re thinking about this very differently than someone who uses the term “mama” is — to you it’s “thinking of someone as a mother” but I don’t think that’s what someone means any more than calling a man “brother” implies a sibling relationship.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Except . . . doesn’t it? Isn’t the point of calling a man “brother” to imply that you identify in a figuratively sibling-ish way, at least on the topic at hand?

        I would be OK with being called “mama” as an occasional thing, between close coworkers, in very specific and less-formal instances, but not as a widespread thing.

        1. Pierrot*

          No, that’s imposing the English language meaning onto it. I have heard women call their 5-year-olds “mama” or “mami” and they don’t identify the child as a mother!

        2. Ellis Bell*

          No!? If I call someone bro or brother I’m not figuratively imagining them as my brother! There doesn’t have to be a particular topic at hand, much less any similarities on the topic. I may not even know them. I’m just being friendly.

        3. Siege*

          I call my cat bro (and variations thereof) multiple times a day. I am not confused as to whether the same entity gave birth to us. I am commenting on our friendly relationship based entirely around his amiable, gentle-giant nature. I call my other cat baby. I am not confused that I have somehow given birth to him. I am reflecting that his personality is much needier and more dependent than my bro’s is.

        4. Siege*

          I should add, “Brother” and “Sister” are terms of respect in older/more formal union contexts. While it conveys a sibling-ish connection in our opposition to the boss, it doesn’t have to convey any personal respect for the other person. I have a lot of Brothers and Sisters I cannot personally stand.

          Basically, you can use a term literally or figuratively, and the context is what determines the meaning. A lot of this conversation is happening on the assumption of literal use with no further context.

          1. Loulou*

            Exactly — I do try to say “siblings” instead of “brothers and sisters” to be more inclusive, but my eyes would roll out of my head if someone objected to a senior union sibling saying “brother” or “sister” because they weren’t siblings. Not everything is so literal!

            1. Loulou*

              I meant to say, not *as close* as siblings. It just doesn’t imply that, it’s almost like the union version of Mr. or Ms.

            2. Siege*

              We usually default to siblings, or our elder two-spirit member uses “Sisters, Brothers, and Others”, but I see that as a function of age and her own gender journey more than an attempt to enforce a binary. (Trinary?) It’s definitely a more commonly used title among our older members. And my expectation is the same as your follow up – it’s Mr or Ms, not real siblings/a real sibling relationship.

        5. Dahlia*

          I’m very white but I’m pretty sure when Black people refer to someone as “a brother”, they aren’t saying “every person is literally like my brother”. There are… different meanings to words in different cultures.

      1. Pierrot*

        I worked somewhere where most of my coworkers and most of the clients were Latino/Latina. Papa and papi were absolutely used with the same level of frequency. I can’t speak to the LW’s coworker but there is a linguistic equivalent.

    2. Chick (on laptop)*

      OK, but that logic cuts both ways. There are a lot of cultural norms that may be different than what we’re used to, but not necessarily “wrong.”

    3. ugh*

      Once again, “mama” in Hispanic cultures is not about motherhood. And the cultural norms that are acceptable in the workplace are almost across the board WASP ones, so when you decide–based on a complete misunderstanding of a term of respect in another culture–that something is unacceptable in a professional workplace, you are upholding the standard of whiteness as the most professional and acceptable. That’s a problem, and it’s worth reflecting on.

  33. One Potato Two Potato Three Potato Four*

    I’m wondering if the men at work are being called papa/papi or it is only the women who are being called mama/mami.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        It’s a cultural thing, and it’s a term of endearment and respect, not infantilizing.

        You are making judgments about a culture you are not familiar with. I suggest you learn a little bit about this culture before commenting further.

      2. Pierrot*

        If that’s your personal experience, speak to it, but I worked somewhere where most of my coworkers were Latina or Latino and ‘papa’/’papi’ was used with the same frequency. It seems unfair and presumptuous to state so definitively that “only women” experience this when in that same language, there is an equivalent for men that’s also very common.

        1. Siege*

          I do think there’s a place where the cultures intersect that gets interesting. I only ever heard women call other women mama/mami at the workplace where I had a lot of Spanish-speaking coworkers, and I heard (anecdata but still) no men called papa/papi, but it was a pretty white-male-dominated culture, managerially speaking, so I think it may have been a reflection of that, and of women interacting with women, rather than a culture with more equity between people with a more Hispanic-influenced flavor. Also, I’m not a man, so it might have happened 73 times a day and I just wasn’t around the people using it.

          That said, I don’t for a second interpret it as an infantilizing term, I’m just making a note of a place where there may have been genuine cultural issues at play that altered the way people felt able to speak.

      3. annoyed that i have to say this*

        …it’s not infantilizing. You’re welcome to feel infantilized by it, but I assure you neither I nor any of the other Latines I know have ever used it as to patronize or otherwise put women down. It’s a term of respect and that’s how I have always received it–and your refusal to recognize that reality, independent of your feelings of it, is really offensive and kind of racist.

    1. doreen*

      The only time I’ve ever heard anything close to papi/papa in the workplace is a baseball player who apparently acquired his nickname because he used “papi” not as a sign of affection or respect but rather for people whose name he had forgotten or didn’t know and therefore used it frequently. And that’s exactly the use of “mami” or “mama” that bothers me – when a man * who doesn’t know me calls me “mami” or “mama” , that’s not a sign of either respect or affection.

      * And it’s always a man – I’ve only seen women use “mami” for women they know, not complete strangers.

  34. I Work for Cats*

    I work for a multinational company and am older than most of my coworkers. Without fail, those in the southern part of the US routinely call me Miss Suzie, rather than Suzie. It was weird at first but I realized it was a term of respect.

    You can call me anything you want. Just don’t call me late for dinner.

    1. NeedRain47*

      Adding a standard honorific or title (which Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms, Mx, etc. all are) is really different than adding something that’s not a title and not standard. It’s more like your coworkers called you “Dude” all the time instead. It’s not particularly offensive but it’s also okay not to want to be called that on the regular.

      1. tg33*

        It may be standard, but unless you are a teacher I would find being called “Miss” utterly, utterly bizzare. Being called ma’am is even worse.

        1. The OG Sleepless*

          OK, but that comes back to respecting a culture. Ma’am and sir are standard in the rural South. It is very rude for a child to just say “yes” or “no” to an adult without adding ma’am or sir, and it is commonly used between adults who don’t know each other well and want to be polite. If someone from that culture calls you ma’am and you act insulted, it’s going to cause at least momentary confusion and hurt. I live in GA. I live in the city now and I still spend some time in rural areas, and I do a bit of code-switching depending on where I am.

          1. ADidgeridooForYou*

            But shouldn’t other people sometimes respect a culture where it’s out of the norm? In some cultures, certain things are infantilizing, while in others they’re not. If I were to go to another country, I would try to be respectful of ways in which my cultural habits might seem jarring to others there (like, in the US, it’s more of a cultural commonplace to keep shoes on in the house. If I were in another country, I’d defer to the cultural norm of taking shoes off and not just expect them to accept me because of my cultural expectations). Not saying that other people’s cultural norms should be completely disregarded, just saying that there’s room for understanding on both sides.

            1. annoyed that i have to say this*

              Of course it goes both ways–that’s why you can ask politely to not be called that, and it should be respected. But defaulting to a position of “this is offensive in [other culture] so it should never be done in the workplace” really privileges a certain kind of (white, upper-class) culture and that’s not actually a fair or neutral practice. And if there are certain things that are absolutely anathema in your workplace, that should be spelled out, rather than left for people not of the dominant culture to figure out and hope they don’t accidentally bring a cultural norm into the workplace that will violate that unspoken rule.

      2. Fushi*

        It is standard in the culture that uses it, though. Conversely, many cultures do not use Mr./Ms./etc. You only think it’s standard because it’s your own culture’s way of doing things.

        1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

          Absolutely. Down south, calling an older woman Miss Martha is a way of showing respect. It’s less familiar than just Martha alone, and sounds warmer and less formal than Miss Lastname. I think it’s sweet.

      3. annoyed that i have to say this*

        It is standard. It’s not your standard, but guess what? It’s perfectly normal in many Latino workplaces! White upper-class American cultural norms are not the only professional norms that exist, jfc.

        Also. It’s not like being called “dude” by your coworkers all the time, unless you work at a surf shop. Dude is not a term that specifically indicates respect; mama is.

  35. BigOldBeet*

    LW3: Don’t do it. Alison is right, they’ll be fine. Stick to 2 weeks if you can. I gave my previous employer a month notice (made sense at the time) but if I were to go back I would stick with 2 weeks. After 2 weeks they just treated me like a lame duck anyway. Alternatively they might load you up until you’re gone.

  36. Mark the Herald*

    On #4, the new company’s HR is in the wrong. If someone is non-exempt, you’re actually not allowed to let them do this stuff off the clock. If someone is exempt, you can ask, but it’s important to make sure they know it’s non-mandatory.

        1. Aitch Arr*

          You are quoting the e-CFR, which covers federal employees and agencies.

          The DOL and FLSA distinguishes between New Hire Orientation(s), Trainings, and other onboarding activities and pre-employment paperwork. Orientations, trainings, etc. are generally considered compensable and should not be done before the start date.

          Pre-employment paperwork like the I-9, any NDA or other employment agreement, new hire personal information to input the person into the HRIS, etc. is not generally recognized as compensable time. These are tasks which can be done outside of work hours and benefit the employee.

  37. HannahS*

    OP2, saying “Oh, please just call me Jane–thanks!” is an effective way to ask for what you want without having a Big Serious conversation. You don’t have to have a conversation about my culture vs your culture vs the status of women, etc. Remind people with the same language, every single time it happens, “I really prefer to be called Jane, thanks” “Please, call me Jane, not ‘mama'” etc.

    1. HannahS*

      If it’s reassuring, every time I’ve told people to call me something (whether it’s telling a colleague to call me by my first name or telling someone that I’m not their ‘dear’) it’s been fine. I say it pleasantly. They usually go, “oh–thanks” or “right, sorry” and I immediately continue the conversation. That’s the trick. Say the thing, then move on so no one has to dwell on the awkward.

    2. Sparkles McFadden*

      Yep, that’s it, that’s all. That covers nicknaming people, calling everyone dude etc.

      If the person persists in calling people things they’ve asked not to be called, that a different issue, and usually part of a larger issue.

  38. Keymaster of Gozer*

    OP1: Making big mistakes and then thinking that it only takes a ‘sorry’ to make up for the hours spent fixing it? Yes, have encountered these types in IT and it’s infuriating.

    For big errors; the kind that have taken payroll offline, or shut down the production servers, or resulted in massive amounts of overtime fixing there is, always, afterward an investigation into *why* that happened and *how* to stop it happening again. Those who thought saying ‘oh, sorry!’ would cut it are really surprised to be questioned about how they’re going to stop it again instead of someone accepting an apology.

    Those who say ‘I messed up, I did X wrong, but I fixed it and know better now’ have their apologies accepted and we move on.

    If more screwups occur though, it’s one for the boss because you cannot have someone who generates more work than they were hired to do. However nice they are.

    “I get that you’re sorry, but you need to stop making these mistakes”

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      It seems we’ve come to a place where people feel everything they do is fine as long as they just say “Oh, sorry” if a problem arises due to what they’ve done (or what they’ve failed to do).

      My response has always been “I appreciate you saying that.” Depending on what the mistake was, I’ll tell the person how to fix the mistake. If it’s a mistake I (or someone else) had to fix, I’ll say “We need to figure out how to keep this from happening again.” At this point, you loop the boss in.

      The real issue comes when it’s someone who just keeps making the same mistakes over and over again and management is OK with that. In that case, everyone ends up working around the problem person for fear of alienating the boss who will not intervene to stop the mistakes, but will intervene to ask why no one will help the apologizer fix the mess he created.

  39. Observer*

    #4 – There is a good reason why they are asking you for all of this stuff in advance. Do you want your first payroll delayed? To wait for your badge? To get access to systems?

    None of what they are asking you for is actual work -that would be off the table and a big red flag. This is simply the stuff that needs to happen in order for you to actually be able to get into the office by yourself, start working and get paid on time from day one.

  40. EPLawyer*

    #1 – I get it. We are trained at a young age to smooth things over. So we say its fine when its not. So you have train yourself out of that automatic reply. Which can take time. but practice, practice, practice, until that habit replaces the old one.

    But am I reading this right – she screwed up someone’s pay? yeah that is a BIG DEAL. That’s like conversation with the boss big deal. Your boss needs to have a talk with your coworker about how mistakes keep happening and what the plan is to not to have them happen. Having you fix things is NOT an acceptable plan. If your coworker can’t or won’t work on not making mistakes then it might be time to consider managing her out.

    1. Relentlessly Socratic*

      Yeah, it’s kind of buried, but this appears to be a payroll issue which can cost the company big time if people aren’t paid on time.

    2. MillennialHR*

      Hi – LW#1 here. I think it’s also challenging because of my department (HR) and I am a woman and there is a societal expectation that we’ll deal with it and smooth everything over so there’s no interpersonal conflict in an office.

      My boss also manages Jane and recently I’ve begun copying her on all communication – things that Jane should very well know how to complete correctly, and especially, the pay issues.

      Honestly, my personal opinion is that the position is not a “best fit” for her due to some other attitude issues/compliance issues, but at this point, I’m documenting and waiting for my boss to realize that as well.

      1. Not My Name*

        Hey Op, if people don’t get paid on time or correctly, that’s a really really huge deal, I’m glad you’re documenting everything and copying the right folks. You can’t mess with people’s incomes.

        Our company says that payroll should operate with ‘air traffic control-level accuracy, timeliness, and attention to detail’, because if people begin to expect payroll errors from their employer, they’ll find a different employer and make sure to tell their network not to apply with your organization. Keep this on your boss’s radar so no big snowballs happen.

  41. Emi (not a bear expert)*

    Everyone saying “it may be a nice thing to call someone in some cultures, but it’s not appropriate at work” — in those cultures, it is appropriate at work! That’s why people from those cultures are doing it at work! Calling people strictly by their first names is also a culturally-specific workplace custom. It’s not like Anglo culture is neutral and Latin culture is specific. It’s fine to ask people not to call you “mama” but it’s not reasonable to act like they’re doing something rude just by having a different culture from yours.

    1. HannahS*

      Totally agree. “It’s fine in their culture but it’s not “professional”” is kind of missing the point. There’s no objective standard of professionalism. Let them know that want to be called by your first name, the end.

      1. Don't Call Me Shirley*

        Yeah, when you really want to understand DEI, you have to see that norms are privileging one culture over another. Doesn’t mean you have to just go with it, but understand that you just happen to have the “neutral” background, it doesn’t make it actually more right in any objective way

    2. Observer*

      Yes. 100%

      eg In some cultures, calling someone by their first name is only for *personal* relationships, NOT the workplace.

    3. Pierrot*

      100%, this comment nails it. I keep seeing presumptuous and categorically incorrect comments about this and it’s really frustrating. I’m white, but I worked at an organization where most of my clients and coworkers were Latino/a and I heard mama/mami and papa/papi frequently. Yet a lot of the comments here are discussing how calling a coworker mama must be steeped in misogyny because mama must mean mother. There are times when it might have a different connotation, but that applies to words in English that are still okay to use in other contexts.
      It’s totally fine to prefer that your coworkers not use any terms to refer to you other than your name and pronouns, but there are a lot of people imposing judgment on a cultural norm different from their own which doesn’t seem cool.

    4. annoyed that i have to say this*

      F**king thank you. I’m so sick of having to justify my culture’s right to be present in a workplace, or explaining why “just think about how your culture is going to land at work before you say stuff” is a truly, deeply offensive and exclusionary baseline when we’re talking about Western employment.

    5. RagingADHD*


      The vehement insistence that this custom is inherently inappropriate at work carries a very ugly implication that the people doing it have never had a job before, or that they have never worked in a “professional” environment before.

      Which just carries soooo sooo much ugly stereotyping baggage. Not to mention cultural hegemony. All this projecting on a word that *doesn’t even mean what you think it means.*

    6. Courageous cat*

      Just goes to show exactly the lens many of the commenters here see through. It reads very sheltered to not be able to step outside of your own experience to understand things are done differently in other cultures, and *yours is not the default*, and is not inherently right even if you believe it to be.

  42. JustMe*

    LW 3 – you just need to go, even if your old employer isn’t “ready.” If nothing else, it may prompt them to put together a more concrete transition plan in the future. I have even seen some toxic employers intentionally *not* make any moves to re-hire or prepare the other staff for the transition in order to guilt the employee into staying.

    At one toxic OldJob, my colleague who had been there for over a decade gave 6 weeks notice before he started his own business. The owner yelled at him and said that that wasn’t nearly enough time given how important his role was, and then she completely ignored him as he tried to set up a transition plan. On his last day of work, she very sheepishly went, “It’s not REALLY your last day, is it?” At a toxic OlderJob, a few very critical employees would tell the owner that they’d had it and they were quitting. The owner would say, “I understand. We just need to figure out [very difficult and time consuming thing] before you go.” Then a few years would pass before they gave notice again, and the cycle would continue.

    It’s ultimately not your responsibility to figure out how the work will continue–it’s on your employer.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      My current employer deals with people leaving by pretending it isn’t happening. No planning, no transition, not even an announcement. That is 100% on them.

    2. cncx*

      I quit a job where when I resigned the boss literally didn’t believe me. Had to take PTO during my notice period (europe) so as a courtesy I took it after I resigned and came back two weeks later he was like “so we’re doing this and this in January “ “my dude I am GONE in January and the US I would already be long gone.”They figure it out eventually.

  43. Student*

    #4: I’ve found this has become very common in my industry. It’s not unusual in my industry to take a week off between your last job and your start date for your new job, which helps make this kind of extra admin stuff bearable and is probably baked into their assumptions that you can make random trips to their office before your official start date.

    Thinking back to my last two job changes, prior to my start date, I remember being asked to:
    – Go to Office #1 to get a security form signed in person (digital signatures not accepted)
    – Go to Office #2 to get my badge
    – Go to Office #3 to get my badge credential registered at my regular work site
    (notable: Office #1, #2, and #3 are not near each other, and HR doesn’t tell you the whole sequence at once so you get asked to do a different one each day as you confirm you’ve completed the prior step)
    – Review, fill out, and sign some 40-50 pages of various forms: demographics information, waivers, non-disclosures, banking forms, tax forms, insurance forms, etc. Some of these forms required witness signatures or some research time on my part (particularly comparing insurance plans). Many companies seem to use the opportunity to try to sell you all sorts of insurance types now, beyond the basic health-dental-visual trifecta, so sorting through which insurances might be useful vs which ones are essentially scams now takes some extra work.
    -Sign up for multiple websites: Making a single web site account is not too bad. I usually get asked to sign up for several different job-relevant web sites, though, which can quickly become a huge hassle to manage and a time-sink to register for. All my recent jobs have multiple web sites I need to sign up for to get my benefits, get to work information, access and update my HR information, access my payroll information. None of them share access credentials, because that would cost money to set up. This can easily become 5-10 sites before my first official work day.

  44. I need coffee before I can make coffee*

    Someone once told me that if you are thinking you are indispensable at work (can’t take a day off, can’t leave, etc.), imagine what your company would do if you got hit by a bus one day. I guess it is a more blunt way of expressing Allison’s advice.

    1. TPS reporter*

      Right? One of my team members who is an incredibly hard worker and takes on a lot of work got hit by a metaphorical bus and is out for a few months. And somehow we are making it work without them. The spectre of it happening is daunting but when it actually happens you figure it out.

  45. El l*

    Frequent misconception, comes up again and again. So remember:

    Notice periods do not exist so the company can find a successor.
    Notice periods exist so the departing employee can set things up for a successor to hit the ground running. (And if possible take care of admin departure items, tie up a loose end, and so on)

    Seems like a small distinction, but it means everything when setting the terms of your notice.

    Finding a successor is fundamentally the company’s problem. Not yours. Your problem is just to insofar possible observe the campfire rule: “Leave things in a better state than you found it.”

  46. Lkr209*

    I immediately thought of the Superstore episode where a coworker complains about Justine calling all the female customers “mama”. Gave me a good chuckle this morning!

    1. BellyButton*

      I live in an area with a large population of Hispanic people, I get called mama all the time. I don’t mind, but then again, I grew up in the south were everyone is “honey and sweetie” LOL

    2. TPS reporter*

      I thought of Bowen and Matt’s interactions on the Last Culturistas podcast. I was like, did Bowen write this??

  47. Baron*

    I’m in a situation pretty similar to #3 – I’m the ED of a nonprofit with only two staff, and when I move on, it will be very challenging for them. But the thing is, how much notice can you give? My contract requires me to give a month, which is a lot—but they’re not going to replace me in a month. It’s going to take them three. You can’t ask your new employer to wait three months to start. So I agree with Alison’s advice here.

  48. BellyButton*

    I appreciate anyone wanting to leave their coworkers and the business in a good position, but as Alison said it isn’t your problem. Managers and companies need to plan for people leaving. They need to make sure things are documented, they need to make sure people are cross trained. Succession planning isn’t just for leaders, in fact rarely does a leader leaving cause that much issue, it is the individual contributors leaving that can cause the biggest hardship. This is the managers responsibility to think about these things and plan for them. I always tell people, the company wouldn’t hesitate to let you go with no notice if the business dictated it, so give the standard 2 weeks notice and leave with a clear conscious.

  49. Delta Delta*

    #1 – I think OP can say they accept the apology and then move on to talk about the fact this has caused problems and it needs to stop.

    I once had a coworker throw something at me because I asked a question. The next day she apologized. I told her I accepted her apology, but I wouldn’t say it was okay because it wasn’t. She was thrown off by that response, but I didn’t waver. As far as I know she never threw anything at another person. (Yes, this place was dysfunctional. Yes, I should have seen that at the time.)

  50. This is the bad place*

    LW5 I want to echo what Alison said to not tell your employer. Also, if you’re in the US you may not be entitled to certain health benefits for a certain number of months in your job, including paid time off. So please keep this private for now and only tell your job if/when you need an accommodation or time off. I hope the tumor is benign and that you recover quickly!

  51. BellyButton*

    As soon as HR creates an account in a lot of systems, it is set to automatically send the link to the person to fill out. If you look most will have a due date of at least a week.

    The week before my current position started they sent me all the things you normally do on your first day, but I was traveling and had limited cell service. I did things as I had cell service, but not everything got completed until day 1. I just let them know I was traveling and might not get to everything. It wasn’t a big deal.

  52. AvonLady Barksdale*

    LW #3, others have given you fine advice, but let me give you this very real-world scenario: I just got laid off. It was completely unexpected and I was required to shut everything down before the end of that day. For the first couple of days I felt terrible for my team, because I had a lot of clients and a lot of open business and poof, I was gone and they had to pick up the pieces. Which I know they’re still doing. And I had to let it all go, it’s no longer my problem. Sympathizing with your team makes you a nice person, but this is business and you’re allowed to move on.

    Two weeks is plenty of time to wrap up loose ends and leave some notes. Two weeks is for transition, not for training. In my personal pinch, I would have liked to have had a few more hours so I could send out some emails, but I didn’t– and the world didn’t fall apart. Start your new job on a date that works for you and your new job. Everyone else will live.

    1. BellyButton*

      This is really the point. If they fired or laid someone off, they wouldn’t give them a notice period.

      When I quit I asked my boss daily to brief her on what was scheduled and what had been committed to, she didn’t bother. I finally canceled all my meetings and workshops with a note that said “Today, {date}, is my last day, please contact {boss} with any questions or to reschedule your workshop.”


  53. H3llifIknow*

    Yeah my last couple of jobs (govt. contractor) have had me do a BUNCH of paperwork in the 2 weeks before starting, as well as several hours of training (think security, insider threat, business ethics, sexual harassment in the workplace, etc…). I find it very annoying that I’m not paid for that training time, since it is a requirement of our contract with the govt. that I take it. I did it, of course, but I definitely did it grudgingly!

    1. BellyButton*

      Training should absolutely not be included in the pre-work tasks. Like I mentioned above, sometimes the system is set to automatically send out links as soon as a task is assigned, but often things do not have to be completed by the start date, and will have a due date that is a week or two out. Lots of people may just not notice the due date, which is easy when you are getting bombarded by a ton of “do this thing” emails.

  54. sorry, she wasn't sorry*

    #1, Once, I let someone know as politely as I could that their transgression was not “OK”. I took time out to cool down, thought about specifically what I wanted, and then said that while I appreciated ‘sorry’, there was going to have to be a bigger conversation about why it happened and how to ensure it didn’t happen again. She screamed at me that I was being crazy, and we have never spoken again. So, ymmv.

  55. a clockwork lemon*

    I’m surprised at the number of people who are annoyed about having to fill out paperwork and submit documentation prior to starting their job. I’ve never worked anywhere that this wasn’t the norm, and I personally find it way preferable to having to spend my whole first day at work filling out forms by hand. Maybe it’s an industry thing?

    1. Amber Rose*

      This feeling is why I started sending out paperwork early, because so many people would rather just bring it in done that first day.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      I suspect it’s a matter of degree.
      If someone has to spend hours on paperwork, I can see why doing it unpaid could be annoying.

      1. HannahS*

        Yes, this. My organization required me to spend two and a half business days attending orientation, doing admin work, and completing computer modules before my first day of work. I deeply resented that they felt they “owned” my time and could make demands of me before my contract started.

        1. a clockwork lemon*

          I’ve never worked anywhere that required multiple days of unpaid orientation and training before starting work unless the unpaid orientation and training were certifications I needed to have independently (i.e., lifeguard certification, admission to the state bar.)

          I have, however, worked many places where sure you can bring all your stuff in or fill it out at work on the first day, but it will mean a 3-4 week delay in compensation because they have to process you in the payroll system before you can start being paid on cycle.

        2. Aitch Arr*

          That time should be paid.

          What you were doing is what I’d call ‘onboarding’, not ‘pre-employment activities.’

  56. Purple Cat*

    LW3 – I appreciate that your heart is in the right place, but please just cut the cord with your former company and move on quickly. I gave my oldco 3 weeks to “help make sure” things could be transitioned smoothly and they hemmed and hawed and didn’t name the interim replacements for my tasks until the very last minute. (When everybody “knew” who would be taking over things). There is absolutely not enough time for your company to “find someone” AND “train them” before you leave. Document processes the best you can, and move on. The company put themselves in this situation. You didn’t do it to them.

  57. Anon Story*

    LW2 reminds me of a fond memory of my old company. Listening to the person in charge of collections clearly stating “Sir, I am NOT your momma, and I need you to stop calling me that.”

  58. Morning reader*

    I’m a little envious of LW2. In my working days, I served a largely Hispanic, mostly Mexican population, but usually as a manager and not as directly as front line others in my department. I never got “mami,” only occasionally “la senora,” which was respectful but not particularly affectionate. In retrospect I think it would have been an indication that I was better at my job if I occasionally got mami-ed.

    1. Emi (not a bear expert)*

      This maybe specific to my region (and I would love to hear other people’s experience/examples!) but I feel like at least American English doesn’t really have any terms of address that convey warmth *and* respect the way it sounds like “mama/papa” does, or “aunt/uncle” in some cultures, and I wish we did.

      1. Siege*

        White American English, anyway. Baby girl in Black American English I think conveys a similar warmth and respect, but there’s definitely no standard white American English term. Some people can use endearments and you really get that warmth and respect, but again, “honey” from my mom’s assistant is very warm and kind, and “honey” from the jerk at my first job are very, very different.

  59. Berto*

    Having given long notice periods in the past, the common thread was that the employer didn’t appreciate it, didn’t take advantage of it, in several cases forgot about it, and generally it was a waste of time. If I could do it again, I’d negotiate a start date further out and give a 2 week notice – so I can have a break between jobs.

  60. SBT*

    OP 4 – In some industries, there is a real need to complete aspects of the new hire onboarding/paperwork for security or legal compliance. I support schools and youth-focused organizations and in addition to the background check, there are oftentimes other steps that need to be completed, including trainings, before someone can be around children or take a role as a teacher. I always advise clients to pay for that time where it’s a big time commitment, though. You know your industry best and whether this is the case, but wanted to flag that in many places, you physically couldn’t come to your work site without some of these things completed.

  61. Ocelot*

    Dear OP 5, I’m sorry to hear about your brain tumor. I can share with you what I’ve done after I was diagnosed with a brain tumor in August of 2022. First, I determined my course of treatment with my Neurologist. In my case, I was able to have 3 cyberknife surgeries in September 2022.

    I chose not to tell my employer for a couple of reasons: 1. I am not and have never been symptomatic – the tumor was actually discovered by accident trying to rule out something else. What I mean is, I’ve had no dizziness, gate issues, headaches or seizures that prompted my first MRI. So, basically, nobody had to know. 2. I had the vacation/sick/PTO to cover my medical appointments, so I didn’t have to ask for anything outside of regular time off – or tell anyone why I was taking the time. 3. I was able to have cyberknife surgery which has, in my case, had zero side effects or recovery time. I was able to come straight back to work the following day after each procedure.

    Your course of treatment will probably also inform your decision to disclose or not to disclose. Good luck with everything.

  62. OliviaBenson*

    LW5 – I want to commiserate that I also found out I had a brain tumor in a new job. I was there only three months when I learned I needed surgery within a week that would require 3-9 months off work. I was terrified of so many things, telling my new employer included. They were really supportive, and not just “supportive” for a consulting company.

    I work in HR now, and was new to it, when I learned my brain tumor came back. This team was also lovely, and I realize how similar my experiences are. I thought for sure highly KPI-driven consultants would have responded very differently than HR people, but it was a really similar experience.

    Tell your boss or colleagues when you’re ready, but they will primarily be concerned about you as a fellow person. Brain tumors are scary, every reasonable person would want you to take care of yourself and not give a second thought to work.

  63. Ladycrim*

    OP3: you are not responsible for your bosses’ lack of planning! You say they’ve put “all the work” on you. How many employees’ worth of work have you been doing?

    When I got a new job a couple years ago, they offered me 2-3 weeks to give notice at my old position. I chose 3, because management was already struggling to fill positions (for a reason), and I wanted to have the extra time to transition work to my colleagues if they couldn’t hire my replacement before I left. This was entirely for the sake of my peers, not my managers. In the end, it took them at least four months to hire a replacement! Don’t risk your bosses keeping you for weeks/months and jeopardizing your new job. Give a standard notice date and don’t extend it.

  64. CutenessCentral*

    #4 I don’t know what type of work you are starting. But, in one of my rolls I was an admin for a private school and daycare. State licensing required all background checks and fingerprints be done BEFORE an employee could start. If you are starting a position working with or around children, with adult care, or a financial position such as at a bank or mortgage institution these documents may need to be completed before you can start. Like Ask A Manager said, just take it in stride and complete it ahead of time.

  65. raida*

    3. Can I negotiate more time before I start my new job so I can help my old job replace me?

    This is what you do:
    1. Create decent documentation.
    2. Cross-train where possible.

    that’s it.
    You *can* offer, paid, to come in to train their new staff – which you’ll need to be set up as a contractor or consultant to do – but I think you’ll find in most cases the business will not pay for the help, so how much do they really value it?

  66. Mark*

    For #1, I never say “that’s okay”, “no problem”, “it’s fine” or anything similar. It is a polite, but serious, “What can we do to make sure this never happens again?”

  67. Mothman*

    The subject in #1 is so frustrating and one of the things I think we were most screwed over by in our childhoods. The ONLY acceptable answer was “it’s okay,” which is essentially giving permission. You shouldn’t even have to accept an apology if you don’t want to, though it would make sense to keep workplace peace. I agree on making it action based.

    As for the “mama” thing, I’d drop it. It’s definitely cultural, and it’s likely no one is noticing it other than the LW. In fact, the person saying it probably doesn’t even realize she’s doing it, and it could put her in a weird position between LW’s comfort and her life experience. If she was using something infantilizing or using a condescending tone, that would be different, of course.

  68. Anonomatopoeia*

    Re: getting things set up ahead of the start date: in at least some places, this is because there is a whole string of things that have to move through a whole string of people (some of whom might work different shifts or be on vacation, etc) in order to get your accounts set up and assigned to the right groups and tags and whatever so you can actually do literally anything on your first day given that email, file shares, training videos, the organization website, ID, keys, parking, and basically everything else all rely on the digital identity being all set up (correctly and completely) to even begin.

    Some people at my organization resist doing stuff ahead and so they do the paperwork on the first day, but then their entire first week or longer is spend either trying to come up with analog tasks for them to do, or having other people log into stuff for them (not a great idea in I think any industry), or training them haphazardly on the 17% (nonconsecutive) of the task they can do without credentials – like if the task is baking a chocolate cake but they need credentials every time an ingredient containing the letter a is added to the bowl, every third stir, every time any object is cleaned, every time something is thrown away, and every time a liquid is measured. So their training experience is measuring the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar, waiting as items that are not butter, flour, milk, and eggs (and maybe oil) are put in the bowl, stirring twice and handing off for the third stir (repeat a lot of times), stopping to wait every time a spoon is rinsed or a spilled poof of flour is wiped up, as well as when the butter wrapper and eggshells are discarded, and then eventually putting the cake they “made” in the oven. At the end of this process, which probably took six times as long as making a cake should, they still can’t actually make a cake and there’s an okay chance whoever was providing the credentials along the way could have finished an entire other wedding cake by now.

    All that to say: there are reasons why to do this stuff ahead. The first week or so are SO SO frustrating as the worker or the supervisor if it’s not, and I can’t imagine it’s not absolutely worthwhile to have spend that hour or so on paperwork. I do think the organization should allow the employee to submit a bill for the time as a standard practice, but even lacking that, worth it.

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