boss wants us to “disagree” over LGBTQ inclusion, professional styles for men with long hair, and more

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

1. Boss wants us to “disagree” over LGBTQ inclusion

My big boss is currently obsessed with having “disagreements” despite being very hard to disagree with. She has recently posted on our internal website encouraging us to talk and disagree about our organization’s attitude to LGBTQ colleagues because she has said she is concerned that colleagues with gender critical views feel silenced in the organization. We currently have a LGBTQ staff network and those staff and allies are allowed to wear rainbow lanyards if they want. People are also allowed to share their pronouns and it is currently a place where it would be expected that people respect those. Our big boss has suggested that to make the organization more open to different viewpoints, it might be appropriate to not have the network, not allow people to share pronouns, and ban rainbow lanyards.

This is generally really upsetting to me. I’m trying my hardest to engage with the disagreements but she is refusing to listen when we tell her that her attitude is harming staff morale and making LGBTQ staff feel unsafe. Is there anything I can do to improve how I respond to this? Or is it unreasonable for me to want to keep the network, lanyards, and pronouns? In case it’s relevant, I live and work in the UK.

WTF? To make the organization “more open to different viewpoints,” maybe you can also debate whether women should have the right to vote and whether slavery is wrong. Your boss is just a bigot and she’s dressing it up as wanting dialogue. It makes sense that LGBTQ staff feel unsafe now, because your organization has become unsafe for them.

Beyond UK law (which I can’t speak to), what you and your coworkers can do depends on how much pressure against this you’re able to mobilize and how much power your boss has. (How high-up is she? If “big boss” means anything other than the very top, start by going to someone above her.)

2. Should community leaders have privacy when they leave?

I’d love your thoughts on a situation I’ve now seen twice. One happened years ago in my friend’s church. The other more recently in another friend’s choir. In both cases, a leader (a minister, the conductor) left their position suddenly and without explanation. Both of my friends were outraged and felt that they were owed an explanation and a chance to address the situation before the person left. One friend had contact information for the person in question and reached out privately but never received a response. The other was discouraged by remaining leadership from reaching out to the person who left. Both vented to me extensively about how wronged they felt and how unprofessional this behavior was.

I disagree that this behavior was unprofessional. Over the course of my career, I’ve seen plenty of people leave without providing an explanation to their coworkers. Even the VP of my current company left with nothing more than “Jack is moving on,” and I felt that was sufficient. But my friends argue that because these institutions are more about the community, more is owed to that community.

So what say you? Is a community entitled to an explanation when a leader leaves, regardless of the reasons? Or can someone leave a public position for private reasons without having to expand further?

I don’t think anyone is ever owed an explanation for why someone else chooses to leave a group, but it’s also true that community leaders have more of an obligation to care for their “flocks” (I’m using that term loosely) than in purely business situations, and that can mean sharing a bit more about their decision to leave when that is something they are comfortable doing — and when it’s not, to at least try for bland, if uninformative, messaging (“other opportunities”). Similarly, though, I’d argue that community members have somewhat of an obligation to assume good will and to figure that if someone leaves without offering an explanation, they probably have a reason for not sharing more, and to respect their privacy.

Members are not owed a chance to address the situation before the person leaves. It’s great when that can happen, but there are some situations where it can’t. And it’s not always something the community would be able to address anyway — the leader could be leaving for personal reasons that have nothing to do with the group.

I think your upset friends would benefit from thinking about the many situations where someone might want to keep their reason for leaving private. Why not instead think, “This is someone who was part of our community who we respected, and if they chose to keep their reasons for leaving private, they presumably had cause for that, even if I’ll never know what it was”?

(A big exception is when the person is leaving because of their own wrongdoing. The head of your local games group doesn’t need to share that’s he’s leaving for health reasons. But a church leader told to leave for, for example, exploiting vulnerable members is something the remaining leadership should be transparent with the rest of the community about.)

3. Professional hairstyles for a man with very long hair

My husband has beautiful, well-maintained waist-length hair. He is applying for jobs and will likely interview in the near future. What should he do with his hair? He is a remote worker and normally wears it down, in a low ponytail down his back, or pulled on top of his head in a bun. He works in an academic setting (non-faculty) and has never received negative feedback on his hair, and we live in a liberal, fashion-forward West Coast city. I don’t think it’s a problem but realized that while I as a woman, also with long hair, have some go-to hairstyles I might use for an interview, they would be fussy and unnatural on him (a French twist, for example). I can imagine him interviewing somewhere slightly more conservative or old-fashioned than his current work place and I wonder what the lowest-key way to manage his hair would be. Interested in any ideas from the commenters, too!

I vote long, low ponytail, or possibly a bun (but you mentioned a bun on the top of his head and that will look too casual; a bun for an interview should be lower).

4. My lunch break should be my own time, right?

I work in tech and even before the pandemic, I was working almost entirely from home. A few months ago, I got a new manager who encourages us to come in one day per week — all on the same day, so we can have an in-person team meeting.

I don’t mind coming in one day per week, but my question is about my lunch break. On the days we’re all in the office, we have a team breakfast, a long (multi-hour) team meeting sitting together, spend the whole day sitting in the same office room, and generally have lots of smaller meetings amongst ourselves. It’s nonstop interaction.

My boss also wants us to do a team lunch when we’re there. I usually attend, but honestly, I find interacting with my coworkers for eight hours straight, with zero breaks, to be exhausting and overstimulating.

I have other friends who work at my company and this past week, I got lunch with them rather than my team, and it was so nice to get a break and be able to decompress a bit; turn off my “work persona,” so to speak. But when I got back from lunch, my manager was kind of digging for a reason why I didn’t join them and I just pretended like I didn’t notice.

I shouldn’t have to explain myself, right? The lunch is just at the company cafeteria, so it’s not like it requires any planning or it makes a difference if I’m not there. Any tips for how to handle this going forward?

It’s your lunch break so no, you shouldn’t have to explain yourself — but it sounds like you might need to anyway. If it comes up again, you could say, “Oh, I always need a real break at lunch” (personally I would add, “so my brain works the rest of the day”). Or, preemptively as you’re parting from the group, “I made lunch plans but I’ll see you back here at 1!”

And that day does sound exhausting when you’ve been used to working on your own.

5. I’ve been using my work computer as my personal computer too

I joined a small, new company a little over a year ago as a remote freelancer, doing work on my personal computer. A few months after I went full-time, my boss asked everyone at the business if they needed anything to make their work easier. My computer was on its last legs at this point, so I asked for and received a new laptop (they knew this was because my computer was about to break). At that time, I transferred all my files — including personal files — onto the new laptop and have been using it for both work and non-work purposes ever since. This was naivete on my part; I’m new to this sector and just thought it was nice of them. Now, I’ve received a message that next week all our work computers will be set up in the company’s new management system. What should I do? Do I need to buy a new personal computer to transpose all my non-work files onto, or can I keep my personal files on the same computer? How much surveillance am I opening myself up to? How badly have I messed up, and is it appropriate to talk to a manager about it honestly (saying that all my non-work files are on the “work computer” and asking what I should do) or does that open me up to being punished in some way?

You should buy a new computer for your personal use and move your personal files on to it. The computer they sent you is a work computer — it’s company property, you’ll almost certainly need to return it to them when you leave, there is indeed the possibility that they’ll be able to surveil what you do on it, and there’s even a risk that they’ll be able to do things like remote-wipe it after you leave.

You’re not likely to be punished if you explain to your manager what you did — but it won’t change the fact that you still need to move your personal stuff to your own computer, so you might as well just go straight to doing that.

{ 483 comments… read them below }

  1. the scary trans person who just wants to do their job and be called the right pronouns without getting hate-crimed*

    Transphobes (“gender criticals”) should feel silenced, especially at work. LW 1, I’m afraid it’s likely your boss is a transphobe (based on their concerns that transphobes and homophobes may feel unwelcome by having a LGBT inclusion group and the tiniest gestures of rainbow lanyards and optionally listing pronouns), which is an interesting twist on Your Boss Sucks And Isn’t Going To Change. There’s a chance they’re not and just so committed to the idea of Debate they’re doing this, but I wouldn’t count on it. If you can go over their head, great! But you might have to leave if they’re the biggest boss and unwilling or unable to see that what they are doing contributes to the direct harm of trans staff and trans folks more broadly.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, this. It’s disingenuous to say that all opinions are equal and should be given equal airtime. This is simply not true, bigots can, and should, be silenced in the workplace.

      1. Twix*

        Yup. If we give big boss the benefit of the doubt and assume she’s being sincere then this is a textbook example of the Paradox of Tolerance. I really dislike the idea of tolerance as an ideal for this exact reason – it’s so broad that it can be used to rationalize accepting pretty much anything. I much prefer ideals like inclusiveness and respect and being a safe environment that are unapologetic about rejecting viewpoints that are actively harmful to others.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          Yes, I was just going to say that. This is a fine example of what happens when intolerance is tolerated, as in the paradox of tolerance. I’ve posted more about it here in discussions of religious values in the US.

          Also, bigots will twist anything they can in an effort to make themselves look reasonable.

        2. Marna Nightingale*

          As a very sensible person on Twitter pointed out while ago, tolerance isn’t a virtue. It’s a social contract. We don’t continue to extend it to those who have chosen to break that contract.

          I wish I had better advice for LW1 than this but all I’ve got is: it’s fight or flight time, and you should probably take some time to really think through which one you want to go for before you make any moves, because trying to do both at once is going to make either more difficult.

        3. yala*

          Yeah, I’d be tempted to ask exactly what BB means by “make the organization more open to different viewpoints.” Because it sounds like what she wants to do is make those with pro-LGBTQ+ viewpoints be quiet about that. Does OP have the social capital to ask if people with segregationist viewpoints should also feel comfortable?

          I find it hard to give BB the benefit of the doubt, just because this feels like such a page out of the GC playbook, but it may be best to approach the situation as if she is acting in good faith, and just ask questions to lead that horse to water. Whether or not it’ll drink… *shrug*

              1. Love to WFH*

                Gender Critical = The viewpoint that trans people are mentally ill and/or evil predators and must be stopped.

                This term for bigotry seems to only be used in the UK.

                Someone with this viewpoint should not be permitted to “debate” it at work, anymore than a racist, antisemite, or misogynist should be encouraged to spew their views at their coworkers.

                1. Lenora Rose*

                  Slightly more specific definition: Gender critical are mostly people who claim to be feminists and claim to be critical of trans people on the basis of the harm to women’s rights. It can *sometimes* be distinguished from right wing transphobia, though the two groups overlap, and ally with one another far more than they ought.

                  GC was invented because they started to object to the term TERF (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists) when trans people started using it dismissively, despite the fact that the term was coined *by* a TERF and the dismissiveness was ultimately about the bigotry not the term.

                2. Sasha*

                  TERF is also not massively accurate as very few of them are actual radical feminists, they are just transphobes.

                  GC is what they call themselves, it’s fine to just call them transphobes yourself if you don’t feel like tiptoeing around.

                3. Lenora Rose*

                  Some individual ones are still at least arguably feminists, if mostly second wave at best; there’s even the odd person who pretty much says, “Why are you guy aligning yourselves with Nazis? Can we not?”

                  However, there is a reason the phrase “Feminism-Appropriating Radical Transphobes” was suggested as an alternative (besides the 13-year-old’s-sense-of-humour-effect of the abbreviation.), because many do seem to appropriate the trappings of feminism for their agenda.

          1. Observer*

            If this is not the only place where BB wants “disagreements” then the OP could really play dumb and engage with with it that way. But I do think that going above BB is a more useful path, and will also give them better information about what the company will accept and what it won’t.

            The only other thing to think about here is if you think that BB will say something that’s more overtly bigoted. Because if I understand UK law, overt employment discrimination is illegal. Having someone n authority say something explicitly discriminatory might enable someone who is willing to make a legal fight, win

            1. Random Dice*

              Exactly, this is prime TERF transphobe bigotry at play. I’d ring up the local labor governmental officials.

        4. Random Dice*

          I give her NO benefit of the doubt.

          We need to stop giving the benefit of the doubt to those who are openly bigoted.

          Her positions cause trans people to kill themselves.

          She doesn’t need any enablement.

      2. WillowSunstar*

        Right, it is icky to give bigots space. They should feel uncomfortable voicing their opinions. What if the bigots said we should have segregation? Ugh.

      3. Sopranohannah*

        Maybe this is because I’m in a field where it’s almost too easy to get a job, but I’d be tempted to say there is no debate.

          1. Sopranohannah*

            That is also a good plan. I’m not much of a debater, especially when the debate is stupid. I’d probably go for the “colleagues with gender critical views should feel excluded. We don’t want them here.”

      4. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        This woman and the man who wrote in about the injustice of his company’s Women in Leadership initiative should spend an afternoon together.
        “it’s not fair to me that the male leaders in my company want to help women advance.”
        “it’s not fair to me that LGBTQ can choose their pronouns and note them in email.
        It’s like toddlers at parallel play.

      5. Richard Hershberger*

        I would not actually do this, but I would be tempted to go down a list of every group that has ever been stigmatized, which is pretty much all of them, and go to town on that group. I suspect, however, that apart from all the other reasons not to do this, the point would be lost on this person.

        1. Mad Harry Crewe*

          It 100% would, and that’s super messed up. The answer to bigotry is not more bigotry – it never will be. However, I would probably discover that a lot of my wardrobe just happened to be rainbow or trans pride colors (weird!).

          Or, more realistically, I would discover that I had somewhere else to be and quit. OP, the situation in the UK is really messed up right now. I don’t know how closely/immediately you’re affected by it, but as a trans person in the US I just want to say – it sucks and it’s really messed up. If you’re not directly affected, thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for noticing and caring. If you are, I’m so very, very sorry. I hope you’re taking care of yourself as best you can.

      6. Random Dice*

        Also, “scary trans etc”:

        You are full of integrity and brave to choose a truthful path for yourself in the face of rigidity and bigotry.

        You are as far from scary as can be, and you have EVERY right to be treated with respect and kindness and decency.

        I shouldn’t have to say that, but I want you to hear it anyway.

    2. Felis alwayshungryis*

      Correct. If they wouldn’t be okay with someone going around spouting, I don’t know, Holocaust denial or something else similarly disgusting under the guise of “I’m just asking questions!” then they shouldn’t be entertaining this ‘debate’ either.

      1. NotRealAnonforThis*

        Honestly? The Venn diagram of the two subsets are pretty well a circle, in my thankfully limited experience. The same folks will use the same “we need to tolerate bigotry/we need to agree to disagree” about both LGBTQ scenarios such as this AND discussions about whether or not the Holocaust even happened.

        1. Imtheone*

          There have been incidents of this happening at schools with teachers trying to teach “both sides” of the Holocaust.

          1. NotRealAnonforThis*

            I’ve been informed that there are two sides; the person was not thrilled when I replied “I guess technically “right” and “wrong” are two sides, but in that sense, yes, there are.”

          2. MigraineMonth*

            There is a Texas school district that requires teaching “both sides” of all “widely debated and currently controversial” issues. The fact that it could be interpreted to require talking about “both sides” of the Holocaust is what made headlines.

            Of course, the law was intended to force teaching “both sides” of slavery. (“Sure, it was utterly morally repugnant, but have we talked enough about the benefits of slavery?”) Since this is done so commonly in the US (“states rights!”, that part didn’t make the headlines.

            1. Random Dice*

              They tried that law in my small town, the first in my state, and I printed up yard signs and distributed them, and we made such a ruckus that the a-holes who started it withdrew their ballot initiative.

              One tiny victory in the terrifying war they’re funding worldwide.

        2. Richard Hershberger*

          You have to home in on a group that the specific individual belongs to. Every group has been vilified at some point in history, so there is always material available. What about White people, you ask? This person is either Protestant, Catholic, or neither. One who is so inclined could run with any of these.

    3. MassMatt*

      I agree, and hope this “big boss” is not high up enough in the food chain that she can get away with this.

    4. BaskingInMyWindowlessOffice*

      The folly here is pretending like there have not been hundreds of years of discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community.

    5. MEH Squared*

      Yes. OP#1, your boss is either a bigoted jerk or is doing a good imitation of one. There are some opinions that should be kept out of the workplace (and squashed in society in general), and the ones your boss is espousing are exactly that. If it’s the former, your boss sucks and isn’t going to change. If it’s the latter (trying to be ‘fair’ or some such bullshit), then, well, your boss still sucks and probably won’t change–but there’s a slightly better chance than if the first case is true. Go above her head if you can.

    6. Lilo*

      Enthusiastic agreement here. The “you must tolerate my bigotry or you’re the real bigot” has become a more common argument recently and it’s just so awful.

      No, we don’t get to agree to disagree that LBGT people should be treated like people with rights. Just, no.

    7. Audrey Puffins*

      This. Also, gender identity is one of the nine legal protected characteristics in the UK so although I’m not in HR, she’s legally on very shaky ground here

      1. Becca*

        It might be worth contracting an organisation like Stonewall or your union (if you have one) to get advice and see if there is any potential legal way to stop what their doing. I’m not saying you should take legal action but often being able to quote it is enough to stop this kind of behaviour (especially if you have an HR department you can speak to). But yeah this boss and entire situation is horrific.

        1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

          Stonewall is getting a lot of bad press recently (my organisation have withdrawn from them for unclear reasons, the LGBT soc is very annoyed about it) so I fear that Stonewall involvement might do more harm than good.

          1. Siege*

            You will be shocked to learn that the issue is Stonewall strengthening its support for and work for trans rights.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              That was my (very limited) experience with them too. (kind of a long story follows) The city I moved to 2 years ago, had its first mayoral election, also 2 years ago. I was not too happy about one of the two candidates. This is a “blue island in a red/purple sea” city and both candidates were on the liberal side of things, but there’s also a lot of what is being referred to “economic diversity” in the city, meaning you have people struggling to make their rent and then two blocks away you’ve got literal mansions; and this candidate was making it pretty clear that they would favor the very wealthy. Candidate was likely to win, until our local chapter of Stonewall came out saying that this candidate had come to them seeking endorsement, didn’t get it, and said things during the interview that Stonewall said they had to go public with because of what they were. (Candidate was apparently asked how they’d handle the matter of bathroom access for trans people if elected, and chose to reply with “I’d have to ask the Jews first about what they would recommend I’d do, as they have a lot of money in the city”) Lost support of the LGBT community (and I’m guessing the Jewish community) overnight. Lost the election. I sent a generous donation to Stonewall.

            2. Zoe Karvounopsina*

              YEP. My organisation have gone completely off the rails, and any discussion about it quickly descends into what I once saw a trans friend call “Stonewall transed my goldfish” territory.

          2. Clara*

            Maybe look at LGBT Great as an alternative, they’ve been really helpful in my previous org!

            1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

              Oooh, I’ll point the organisation LGBT society at them, that might be really helpful as we try to a) get Stonewall back b) get commitment that functions will be replaced.

          3. yala*

            It might be worth asking your organization *why* they’ve withdrawn. Because if Siege is right (and it seems likely to me), that’s something important to know, and to have them say out loud.

            1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

              Oh, they said the quiet bit out loud. But you will be glad to hear that the higher ups have empathy for trans people! And they’re giving us a ‘Glitter Ball’*

              …oh, wait, I’m in an office question and answer session, and they just said we can ask questions, and it won’t be recorded ‘for privacy reasons’.

              *Clarified that it is not a glitter disco ball, it’s a party.

          4. bamcheeks*

            Stonewall is “getting bad press” because the transphobic crowd in the media have decided to target them.

              1. bamcheeks*

                :( I’m so sorry. I’ve not had it at work yet but my partner has and it’s so grim.

                1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

                  I’m getting it from a Higher Up I work closely with and someone on my team, and you sigh and keep pushing back, but it is just so damn tiring sometimes.

          1. Rainbow*

            ACAS were amazing when I contacted them about something unrelated to this. Highly recommend!

            As a queer woman in the UK, I’d seriously be asking questions about how legal it is for a manager to consider removing a queer employee resource group (honestly one of the first things I quietly look for on and even before starting a new job) simply because it is a queer employee resource group.

      1. Mister_L*

        I would like to mention 2 points:
        1: Forstater was not “fired” for her views, when her contract expired is was simply not renewed.
        2: There is in fact a transphobic group by the name of LGB-alliance in the UK, so focusing on this portion of the program risks achieving the opposite.

        1. Schmassion*

          As a person with a biology degree, can I just say that the ‘refusing to believe that humans can change sex’ is so tiresome. Intersex people exist too you, but somehow the GCs don’t find it interesting at all that intersex people are born, or people with XXY, XO or XYY chromosomes. Genitals, chromosomes and hormone levels don’t all fit a 0-1 binary and it is beyond irksome to see people deploy some kind of biological essentialism in their bigotry (which by the way never fails to not sound a lot like all the times ‘biology’ was used against women, handicapped people, homosexuality, or used to justify racism. Whenever people use ‘biology’ to limit other peoples’ rights your BS detector should right loud and clear).

          1. Schmassion*

            Sorry, this was not meant against Mister_L’s post, but the mentioning of the ‘belief that sex can’t change’.

            1. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

              Also, if we developed the technology to change our chromosomes, would all these “gender critical” folks suddenly be okay with trans rights? Somehow I doubt it.

          2. Grey Coder*

            I once raised this point with a transphobic relative. I could see the cognitive dissonance on his face as he tried to reconcile “life is much more gloriously complex than your high school biology class could cover” (which he granted was true) with his other belief that “sex is binary and gender = sex”. He changed the subject but I hope I planted a seed.

            For the LW: if you are in the public sector, the (UK) Equality Act 2010 also includes an “Equality Duty” to advance equality of opportunity. So there might be an additional avenue to explore there.

              1. Starbuck*

                And just generally, humanity is such an interesting species, as the story of our evolution over the past several hundred thousand years is that we’ve become less and less sexually dimorphic over time! If you look at our ancestors, and other off-shoot great ape species, they are SO much more sexually dimorphic and differentiated, while we’ve become more and more similar, to the point where on many traits, there’s more variation within each sex, and overlap, than the average difference between them.

          3. DyneinWalking*

            As another person with a biology degree, the scientific explanations for homosexuality and intersex are transparent to me, while I don’t know an explanation for trans people that is quite as straightforward. I did a very superficial research of papers on that subject a while ago and there seems to be a focus on difference in brain wiring – there is a statistical difference between men and women regarding that and apparently trans people tend to fit the brain wiring of their “chosen” (or whatever it’s called) sex/gender better. That sounded somewhat plausible to me but seems to kick a large part of the issue into the fields of psychology and sociology and I’m out of my depth there. It also leaves the question of what’s the difference between feminine men/masculine women and trans women/men. So personally I’m still scientifically confused… but presumably those questions are discussed by people who did much more in-depth research and I’m leaving it to them.

            For anyone taking a scientific view on this debate: It’s only real science if you’re actually willing to change your mind. You do get to demand to be shown evidence (should demand evidence, in fact, that’s the point about science) – but not from any random person who disagrees with you (that’s just basic manners and scientists aren’t absolved from this) and also in the age of the internet there’s no excuse for not doing some basic research yourself (and it should go way deeper than just pop and school science!). And once you are confronted with evidence, you do need to honestly consider it and either refute it with other evidence… or, y’know, change your mind. Or just admit that you’re out of your depth now and shut up.

            I know several people who have a more “critical” view of trans people (only trans since the other parts of LGBTQ+ have strong scientific support) and might cite science as a reason… and none of them would be nearly as obnoxious as this woman. In fact, you would probably barely notice their views. They’d talk about it in their private lives – possibly to me, in which case I’d tell them about my little research and they’d probably say “oh, huh, ok” and stop griping even in private and just go on with their lives. Because overall the “restrictions” on non-LQBTQ+ people are barely there and having to use people’s preferred pronouns isn’t hard and anyway who has the time to get worked up about something that has so little impact on yourself?

            1. Your Local Password Resetter*

              Not a scientist, but it seems obvious to me that transgender identity is less rooted in biology, so of course you can’t find as solid a basis for it in biology. Sex is biological, but gender is a social construct.

              The rules around gender mostly boil down to “because people say so”, at which point you are indeed talking about psychology and sociology.

              So if this was a roundabout way to question the existence of trans people: it’s not. They’re as real as the concept of gender itsself.

              1. Pippa K*

                This is where I stand too, as a social scientist. So I don’t need to know about someones’s biology (sex) to accept their social existence (gender). And expanding the boundaries of gender presentation seems very much a feminist thing to me, so: trans women are women, women (trans and cis) don’t have to perform social femininity by wearing and smiling shyly, etc etc.

                Using someone’s pronouns as they’ve asked also seems to me much like not calling me by my husband’s surname: social practices change over time and “being used to the old way” is not an excuse for disrespecting people who make different choices from oneself.

                Anyway, LW’s boss is, I would bet a lot of money, not really advocating that everything be fodder for debate, and she’ll realize it when someone takes this ridiculous logic and applies it to something she didn’t expect. (This presents a malicious compliance opportunity, but one too distasteful to pursue.)

              2. DyneinWalking*

                Since homosexuality and intersex are biological concepts at heart, looking for a biological explanation for trans people didn’t strike me as weird at all – especially since I work in that larger field and thus have a tendency to look at everything from a biological point of view. And I mean, the concept of psychiatry is basically to explain psychology from a biological point of view which has helped with the treatment of many mental disorders and illnesses (which I benefit from myself) so I really see nothing wrong with the general idea. (It gets complicated here because what does or doesn’t qualify as mental illness is understandably a very touchy subject. Let’s not go there. I don’t intend to make any suggestions in that regard, I just want to point out that the search for biological explanations of psychological concepts is an established scientific field.)

                I certainly don’t mean to question the existence of trans people – good grief, that part is proven by… the existence people declaring they’re trans despite all the difficulties that causes. A few individuals might be doing this for the attention, but all of them? No way. There is clearly something that makes people feel like they belong to the other gender and I’m just honestly wondering what that is. But I understand and accept that this scientific curiosity is not going to endear me to others because too many people use scientific arguments in bad faith. For that reason, I would never broach that subject with trans people (or other people, for that matter) I encounter in real life because I truly do not wish to make anyone feel unwelcome.

                1. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

                  What’s off-putting in your original comment is “So personally I’m still scientifically confused.”

                  It’s odd that you’d be “confused” by simply not having a bio-scientific explanation for something. It’s one thing to look, but a lack of answers isn’t inherently confusing; we don’t have an ‘answer’ to most of human behavior. We don’t have a bio-scientific explanation for homosexuality, either.

                  Further, it’s entirely scientific to look outside of biology in order to understand something. So if your goal were to understand something–to minimize your confusion about, say, the differences between gender identity and gender presentation–you could look into the many writings on the topic.

            2. Emmy Noether*

              I’m a scientist too, but honestly I have never felt the need to find a scientific explanation so I can judge if what people declare about who they are is indeed valid. What does it cost me to just accept it at face value? Like if someone tells me they don’t like chocolate, that’s also very different from my own lived experience, but I don’t have the need to go find out if there’s an anti-chocolate gene that they could potentially have that would explain it.

              Also, just because there’s no explanation currently, doesn’t mean it’s not real. We didn’t know how gravity, or germs, or any number of things worked for a long time. The scientific way isn’t to say “we don’t know the mechanism behind it, so it’s not real”. It’s to say “there’s a phenomenon, we currently don’t have a theory that fits well”.

              By which I don’t mean that it’s not a valid field of study, anthropologically. But seeing as how it can deeply impact people’s lives, I’d be very, very careful with amateurish research. It’s certainly interesting, but dangerous – half understanding is often worse than ignorance. Im going to leave the determination of their identity to the trans individuals as experts on their own lives.

              1. Someone Online*

                Yeah, I don’t particularly care if there is a biological explanation for transgenderism. If someone tells me they are a man or a woman or neither or both I can just treat them with respect and move on with my life and let them move on with theirs.

                1. Insert Clever Name Here*

                  Right? My ability to treat another person with respect is for sure not predicated on me “understanding” them!

                2. Temperance*

                  So many problems would be obsolete if everyone thought this way. Someone being trans is just living their life. You might not “agree” with how they view themselves or identify, but the wonderful thing is that it doesn’t matter what you think.

                3. Humanitarian*

                  Yep, exactly. I don’t really don’t, and never will, understand why it’s so tough for some people to just be decent human beings and accept people for who they are.

                4. Sasha*

                  Yep, it always troubles me when people with chromosomal abnormalities or disorders of sexual dimorphism get dragged into trans debates – to me, it’s obviously a completely different issue, and that is fine.

                  Being trans isn’t “a medical disorder”, any more than the existence of vitiligo has any bearing on people’s experience of racism.

                5. Ex consultant*

                  Not to mention, regardless of whether we know the precise, scientific explanation for why certain people are transgender, scads of clinical evidence shows that allowing them to transition and providing support in that process leads to the best outcomes for them. Like, the medical establishment already tried “curing” it with things like antipsychotics and shock therapy and heaven knows what else. That didn’t work.

                  Established, respected medical organizations the world over have agreed on the best treatment protocols for people with gender dysphoria. And yet for these people, who ironically try to cite biology and science all the time, that’s suddenly not good enough.

                6. Mine Own Telemachus*

                  Just a note: “transgenderism” is often considered a slur that turns a person’s trans status into something ideological outside of themselves. You can just say “transgender identity” or similar.

              2. Some Dude*

                I see it a little like someone telling me their faith. Just because the cosmological view of Islam or Christianity or Judaism doesn’t jibe with how I understand the universe mean it isn’t real to the person who believes it. WTF do I know?

              3. DyneinWalking*

                Um, I really never intended anything like you are suggesting! I’m just very scientifically minded, I love biology, I ponder the basic biological explanations for pretty much everything. It’s a habit, I guess. I take a keen interest psychiatry, too, so you could say I have a habit of pondering the biological reasons of human behavior.*

                Please believe me when I say that I never disbelieved trans identity as such. Ages ago I read that trans people are more likely to commit suicide and I actually never felt the need to verify that – I just assumed that it’s probably true (why shouldn’t it be?).
                So that was the baseline from which I did my superficial research: it’s important enough for people to commit suicide over it. Regardless of the outcome of my little research, I would never have made judgements on individual trans people based on my findings.

                *That habit is oh so rewarding because it does work a lot of the time! E.g. altruism can be explained biologically once you realize that within a lot natural groups of animals the individuals are related to each other. And a lot of general weirdness in human behavior can be boiled down to “brains are effing complicated and if there’s no strong evolutionary advantage to modulate this then it won’t be modulated – and even if it is modulated, what’s the chance of the modulation never breaking down in any individual?”

              4. Lavender*

                I agree. I don’t understand how vaccines work, or airplanes, or the internet, or the human brain—but that doesn’t mean they aren’t legitimate things that actually exist. The issue isn’t whether being transgender is rooted in concepts that the average person can understand, it’s about the fact that human beings can present themselves to the world however they choose. Their lived experiences should be proof enough.

            3. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

              First, I don’t think this is a purely scientific question because psychology never is.
              Even in the realm of science, this speaks to an issue I have with people and science. Because there is science, as in the actual facts about everything scientific, and science as in the scientific method applied by fallible, biased humans, and they are not the same. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, so if something has not been studied adequately, no one can cite science as the reason for their beliefs.

              The only science I am aware of supports trans’ folks experience. So I think the people you know citing science are probably not being very scientific.

            4. DyneinWalking*

              People have been misunderstanding my comment and that kind of bothers me, so for anyone stumbling across this debate a bit later I’d like to clarify: My point is that even with a highly scientific and overall critical mindset, there is zero reason to treat trans people badly or get much worked up about the subject in any way. I was basically agreeing with Schmassion’s comment and was using myself as an example of a person with an extreme trying-to-take-the-world-apart scientific mindset who yet does NOT walk around telling people how they’re scientifically unjustified.

          4. Lavender*

            Also, there’s nothing in biology that says people with XX chromosomes have to use she/her pronouns, or that people with XY chromosomes can’t wear dresses and skirts. All of those things are social constructs. Nobody is arguing that people can change their genetic makeup—the point is that it doesn’t actually matter in terms of gender expression. The “biology” that these people cite in their arguments isn’t just inaccurate; it also isn’t even relevant.

            1. Lavender*

              To clarify my comment above: that’s not to say that medical transition isn’t also hugely important—my point is that a person’s chromosomal makeup or the anatomy they were born with should have no bearing on their gender identity.

            2. alienor*

              Plus, there are lots of people in the world who are walking around with some sort of chromosomal arrangement other than XX or XY and don’t even know it, which seems to make it even less likely that chromosomes have anything to do with gender identity.

          5. Reasontoknow*

            Please don’t use the dated and inappropriate term ‘Intersex’. You should use ‘Disorders of Sexual Development’, or ‘DSD’.

            1. Twix*

              There is a consensus in the medical community that “DSD” is the appropriate term for the group of medical conditions that can lead to atypical sexual development. Outside of the medical setting there is very much not a consensus on which of those terms is the offensive one. A large minority of people to whom the term “DSD” would apply see it as pathologizing their anatomy. A lot of healthcare programs for people with DSD conditions that switched to exclusively using that term have switched back to using “Intersex” when referring to the patient rather than the condition in the last couple of years in response to patient feedback. This is a very complicated issue that should be treated like many other ones around gender and sexual anatomy, which is to say referring to people using whatever terminology they’re more comfortable with.

            2. Jessica Ganschen*

              I’ve actually seen significantly more intersex people say that they feel like “Disorder of Sexual Development” is stigmatizing and othering to them. Intersex is a neutral descriptor.

            3. Temperance*

              People who fit into that group use the term “Intersex”. The medical terminology doesn’t need to be used when the actual community disagrees.

              It’s like calling people who are trans “GIDs”.

            4. Nina*

              This could be a highly regional-specific thing; I’m in New Zealand and here the intersex community absolutely do call themselves that, prefer to be called that, have contributed to naming legislation calling them that, and members and leaders of that community will correct you if you call them something implying that they’re disordered.

          6. Not Tom, Just Petty*

            I’m reading as much as I can in the comments, but I’m also at work. So apologies for asking, but please define GC.

            1. Lavender*

              GC stands for “gender critical.” It’s what many anti-trans activists call themselves, especially in the UK.

              1. Starbuck*

                Yes – and it’s important to note that it’s a label that is meant to sound good (critiquing gender and gender roles under patriarchy – if that’s what they were actually doing – would be great). What they really mean by it is they think the only valid gender is one that’s tied to your “biology” and they’re critical of anything that’s not that – trans, non-binary, etc. I find they waffle on their stance gender non-conformity quite a lot and this reveals the weakness and lack of internal consistency in their whole position. Because while they seem to support many things cis-women want to do that’s non-conforming of traditional gender roles (not wearing make up, rejecting pressure for hair removal and cosmetic procedures, etc) any cis male who wants to embrace anything “feminine” they react with suspicion, hostility, and disgust.

                1. Nina*

                  Several years ago I spent more time than was good for me on a subreddit (yes that one) because I thought it was about… y’know… critiquing gender. And originally there were a lot of people who were there with the express purpose of critiquing gender roles and expectations, but it rapidly got less and less ‘hey the assumption that being a women means you want babies is wack’ and more and more really nasty to and about trans people and then I left and later heard it had got even worse and got banned.

                  Nowadays I take the approach that gender is like Christmas – very important and meaningful to some people, a tradition that doesn’t really mean anything but you’ll observe it because you’re used to it for some people, and pointless and stupid to other people. I don’t have to understand other people’s relationship to gender, I just have to roll with the concrete actions they need me to take (use he/they pronouns for Alex? got it. Never buy anything pink or sparkly for Sam? sure. Call Susie ‘Greg’ in front of their parents but nowhere else? absolutely)

                2. Sasha*

                  Hilariously the logical conclusion of a lot of their arguments seems to be in favour of being non-binary. They just get stuck one step away…

                3. Lavender*

                  There was a whole blowup on Twitter recently because a bunch of GC “activists” went after a self-proclaimed cis man who enjoyed wearing makeup and dresses. Pretty hypocritical, considering these are the same people who insist anyone of any gender can dress however they want.

                  (I mean, I’m fully in favor of abolishing gender stereotypes, but there’s a difference between being a trans woman and being a cis man who likes dresses. Both of those identities are valid!)

            2. Hlao-roo*

              Schmassion is using GC as an abbreviation for “gender criticals,” people like the big boss in letter 1 who describe themselves as having “gender critical views” (otherwise known as transphobic views).

          7. Zennish*

            I don’t think any bigot is actually arguing biology, anyway. It’s just an excuse, much like the “tolerance” conceit.

            If they were capable of being honest with themselves or anyone else, I think their actual position is basically “I find someone else’s existence threatening to my delusion about How Things Should Be, I’m incapable of critical thought, and I can’t handle the cognitive dissonance.” Everything else is just rationalizing.

          8. MigraineMonth*

            I worked on a project to adapt sex-specific formulas used in health to work for trans and intersex people, and it is wild that so much of our health system assumes that “biological sex” is a thing. I guess it’s a recent achievement to even require cis women be included in studies (since their bodies are so weird, and women are basically cis white men who might get pregnant, right?). Pretty much no one has tried to figure out what mechanism causes the differences between formulas used “for men” and “for women”.

            Is it that cis women tend to be shorter than cis men, or that they tend to have higher body fat? Does it have to do with organs like the uterus or prostate? Are the meaningful differences in the hormone levels? No one knows!

            Which means that we don’t have the science-backed evidence to treat not only trans and (known) intersex patients, but also any cis people who have unusual body composition, organs removed or unusual hormone levels.

        2. Lavender*

          Maya Forstater also wasn’t let go from her workplace simply because she happened to have gender-critical views, she was let go (which, as Mister_L pointed out, doesn’t even mean fired in this case) because she was expressing them in a way that had the potential to make others feel unsafe.

          1. Bagpuss*

            Yes, and court case addresses the conflict between two protected rights, the protection against discrimination based on gender reassignment; sex; and sexual orientation, and the protection against discrimination based on a religion or belief. Forstater asserted tht her belief fell under the protected category and as ‘religion or belief’ includes non-religious beliefs, (the test is about whether the belief is seriously and sincerely held and is worthy of respect in a democratic society, so it can include philosophical beliefs (examples of things which have been held to fall into this category have been things like a belief in man made climate change, ethical objections to fox hunting, and Forstaters belief that it is not possible for people to chenge their biological sex.)

            However, in the Forstater case itself, the court made clear that this was not a green light to allow discrimination against trans people – her belief was a protected characteristic and she was discriminated against based on their belief, but that did not allow her to discriminate against others .

            I think that how that applies in LW#1s case is that if members of staff wish to state their personal belief that people are immutably the sex they were assigned t birth then they are free to do so, but that on the same basis, people expressing the opposite would also be protected by the same rules and it is very much not discriminatory to ensure that the workplace is a safe space for LBGTQ people ,and seeking to stop people from wearing rainbow lanyard s or from forming or continuing to have an LBGTQ would be very likely to be discriminatory as they are seeking to prevent those staff members from accessing support.

            LW1, if you are in a union, talk to them, and if you have an HR dept or there is someone more senior, raise your concerns with them and in particular make clear that you are concerned that seeking to silence people or force them and their allies back into the closet are steps which may be discriminatory in their own right and are actions which are likely to discourage reporting of discrimination and bullying because they send out a very strong message that the organisation is seeking to make those groups and their allies less visible and removing support. If yours is a larger public sector organbisation then it’s also worth reminding your big booss / union / senior people when you riase this with them of the additional public sector requirements –
            “A public authority must, in the exercise of its functions, have due regard to the need to—
            (a)eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under this Act;
            (b)advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it;
            (c)foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.”

            Which expressly includes those who exercises public functions so would cover subcontractors working for the NHS etc, I believe.

            This part of the act also sets out what might be included – one part of which is
            “(c)encourage persons who share a relevant protected characteristic to participate in public life or in any other activity in which participation by such persons is disproportionately low.”
            “Having due regard to the need to foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it involves having due regard, in particular, to the need to—
            (a)tackle prejudice, and
            (b)promote understanding.”

            I think that things like the alliance and wearing rainbow lanyards would fall firmly within the class of actions / activities expressly suggested by these parts of the act, as they increase visibility, help to tackle discrimination by making access to support easier and identifying potential sources for support and arguably helping identify individuals who are willing to discuss any issues.
            The Equality and Human Rights Commission as well as / instead of ACAS might be a good place to start looking for help and specific advice

            1. LW#1*

              Thank you! BB’s post was directly connected to the Forstater case and concerns that we were opening ourselves up to the same allegations of people feeling silenced on the basis of their beliefs protected under law but your argument helps make things a bit clearer. I think to some extent she panicked (we’re a pretty left-wing organisation) but I’ll ask the union for advice.

              1. Zarniwoop*

                So do you think these questions reflect her own views, or her trying to figure out what to say to people who hold such views. If she was asking for help in arguing with TERFs she should have told you that so you wouldn’t be left wondering if she’s one.

      2. SatsumaWolf*

        Gender reassignmemt IS a protected characteristic in UK law under the 2010 equality act. You can hold gender critical views all you want but you cannot, by law, discriminate against trans people either directly or indirectly (i.e having policies or treatment that negatively affect trans people). This manager needs to be reported to HR so they can require this to stop.

      3. Zankou*

        I’m going to hope we all recognize that this particular big boss’s support for gender critical views and the things they’re trying to do to support those views amount to nothing more than straight-up bigotry, and should not be allowed for a whole host of obvious reasons.

        The extent to which UK employment law disagrees with that statement is something for the OP to consider in how they respond to the situation, and may prevent the OP or their company from doing what they should be allowed to do to get this particular boss back under control. If that means that objecting to the boss’s actions by citing the damage they would do to inclusion based on sexuality is the best way to protect everyone involved, *including trans people*, then so be it, but I hope we all agree that that shouldn’t be a necessary workaround.

        It sounds like a deeply upsetting situation indeed for OP1, and the only other advice I have to offer them is to say that I share your frustration with the whole situation and hope that you’re able to sort things out, no matter what you have to change in order to get that sorting out done.

      4. Cambridge Comma*

        The right to hold gender critical views could be interpreted as giving the boss the right not to share her own pronouns, for example, but I don’t see how it gives her the right to stop others sharing theirs, as she is doing.

        1. Lavender*

          Yes, exactly. If she’s worried about her views being “silenced,” the solution is not to silence a different group instead.

          Funnily enough, plenty of trans and gender-nonconforming people don’t believe in mandatory pronoun sharing. My pronouns are she/they, and sometimes I don’t want to advertise that because my choices are 1) out myself or 2) misgender myself. So I don’t think many people would object to her not sharing her pronouns!

          1. Imtheone*

            At first I thought that everyone should share their pronouns, but then I learned that some people don’t want to do so because they are not ready to share this with their work (or other) community.

            So should everyone share them? Maybe not, so that those who do not want everyone to know they are gender non-conforming are not put on the spot.

            It’s good to do, and getting nearly universal at my workplace, but it’s probably good that a few people do not do so.

            1. Elitist Semicolon*

              That’s why I don’t offer pronouns during introductions (in meetings, whatever): because I know folks who don’t feel safe choosing between misgendering themselves or outing themselves will notice that I haven’t offered any and then (maybe) be comfortable also not offering any. I’ve never been pushed on it but I have my script explaining this already written in my brain just in case.

            2. LW#1*

              It’s generally encouraged for those who feel comfortable to do so, to share them, so that gender non-conforming staff might feel less ‘put on the spot’ when they want to share their pronouns. But we don’t require it and I don’t think any of us want to require it for the exact reason you mention (and there’s been no suggestion we would).

      5. bamcheeks*

        Cis lesbian in the UK: this is all gender critical nonsense. The judgment in the Forstater case did NOT say that gender-critical views have to be given a space in the workplace. From the judgement itself:

        The Claimant’s belief, whilst offensive to some, and

        notwithstanding its potential to result in the harassment of trans persons in some circumstances, fell within the protection under Article 9(1), ECHR and therefore within s.10, EqA.
        a. This judgment does not mean that the EAT has expressed any view on the merits of either side of the transgender debate and nothing in it should be regarded as so doing.
        b. This judgment does not mean that those with gender-critical beliefs can ‘misgender’ trans persons with impunity. The Claimant, like everyone else, will continue to be subject to the prohibitions on discrimination and harassment that apply to everyone else. Whether or not conduct in a given situation does amount to harassment or discrimination within the meaning of EqA will be for a tribunal to determine in a given
        c. This judgment does not mean that trans persons do not have the protections against
        discrimination and harassment conferred by the EqA. They do. Although the protected characteristic of gender reassignment under s.7, EqA would be likely to apply only to a proportion of trans persons, there are other protected characteristics that could potentially be relied upon in the face of such conduct.
        d. This judgment does not mean that employers and service providers will not be able to provide a safe environment for trans persons. Employers would continue to be liable (subject to any defence under s.109(4), EqA) for acts of harassment and discrimination against trans persons committed in the course of employment.

        1. Dr Sarah*

          Thank you for this. I hadn’t yet got up the stomach to read the judgement, so it’s a big relief to see that it made this clear.

          1. Bagpuss*

            YEs, the issue was that there is (as is often the case) a conflict between two separate rights / protections. Forstater’s right to ‘religion or belief’ was protected (Belief in the context of the Equalities Act includes a belief or philosophical position, the test is that it must be sincerely and genuinely held and “worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity” – not being worthy of respect has generally excluded only the most extreme of views, and the court decided that Forstater’s views didn’t fail that part of the test, so were protected,.
            I think that the outcome of the case probably reflects the fact that they chose not to renew her contract, rather than firing her, if the situation had been that she had been accused of harassing trans people and had been fired as a result then the outcome might have been different, as the focus would have been on her actions not her views. As it was, I *think* that the position was that she had publicly expressed her opinion and there were concerns that this would affect her performance or how she / the organisation was perceived and whether it was trusted. I don’t *think* it was alleged that she had directly harassed anyone in the course of her employment .

            As Bamcheeks has set out, the judgement was a bit more nuanced than it might at first appear.

            (And I think also that the issue of what is or is not worthy of respect might well be interpreted differently over time. )

            1. I have RBF*

              “worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity”

              I don’t consider anti-trans BS to be a belief “worthy of respect in a democratic society”, because at the root they want to deny the right of trans people to exist as themselves. This makes that belief “incompatible with human dignity”.

              But the UK law doesn’t listen to California enbies.

              1. Bagpuss*

                No, me either. But I think they have tended to limit that to things like holocaust denial

              2. bamcheeks*

                The specific test the judge applied in Forstater’s case was effectively “are gender critical beliefs as bad as Nazism”, and the current answer under UK law is “no”. I personally think they’re happily getting close enough to be indistinguishable, but that’s not where the law is yet.

                But like, to be real, the settled law is “gender critical beliefs: not quite as bad an outright Nazism”, so really, it’s one hell of a thing when supposed “radical feminists” are claiming that as a victory.

      6. bamcheeks*

        This is nonsense. Sexual orientation is a protected characteristics, and SO IS SEXUAL IDENTITY. There is no difference in the level of protection under the law. A person who believes that same-sex marriage shouldn’t exist or that same-sex couples should be allowed to have children would have exactly the same protection as gender critical beliefs, and they also would not be allowed to use those beliefs to harass colleagues or violate their employers’ dignity and respect policies.

        Stop spreading harmful nonsense.

      7. Dr Sarah*

        @Despairing Of Humanity:
        People often seem to conflate not being allowed to *act* on a view with not being allowed to *hold* that view. This isn’t about her ‘right to hold gender critical views’ or ‘refusing to believe humans can change sex’. It’s about her actions. LW1’s boss can indeed believe or refuse to believe anything she wants, but the minute she lets that belief impact her treatment of her staff she *is* breaking the law, as well as acting unethically.

        1. Lavender*

          Yes, and that’s why Maya Forstater’s contract wasn’t renewed. (Another important clarification there: she wasn’t fired.) She was expressing her views in a way that was making others feel unsafe.

        2. rusty*

          YES. She can think what she wants. However, that doesn’t mean she gets to stop people from making their pronouns known, nor shut down the LGBTQ group or get rid of the rainbow lanyards (?!!?). The Forstater judgement is clear that the belief is protected but ensuing behaviour may not be.

          1. EPLawyer*

            I know, rainbow lanyards OH NO, how dare they? This is like the most inoffensive thing to attack. And pronouns, okay, share or don’t share, personal choice.

            I love how this boss wants people to be able to disagree, until they disagree with her position. Then she is refusing to listen. This person just wants to spout bigotted nonsense with no pushback.

            1. bamcheeks*

              Wanting to get rid of rainbow lanyards a d the LGBTQ network is a real mask-off moment for TERFs. One of the ways they’ve got so horrifying integrated into the mainstream in the UK is by pushing this line that they are “defending LGB identities”, and we have a credulous cishet media establishment that has allowed this to stand.

              1. rusty*

                Absolutely. Push the idea that trans people are inherently harmful to LGB people and cis women, and you can win over any number of credulous muppets. When this approach does the opposite of what it says on the tin – as in this LW’s case, for example, or instances where gender-nonconforming cis women have been harassed in public toilets for looking too masculine – we just *coff coff* nothing to see here.

              2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

                Exactly. They’ve gotten very cozy with extreme right-wing groups. Including those who want to ban abortion. I don’t know what proportion of TERFs are useful idiots versus social conservatives starting their attacks on the LGBTQ+ community with trans people. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter, since the outcome is the same.

            2. Imtheone*

              And I wore a rainbow pin as an ally when I was teaching in the public schools, or put up a poster in my office. I thought it was important that students know there were teachers they could count on to be supporters.

              1. Irish Teacher.*

                Our school recently had a talk by an organisation that supports teens who are LGBTQ+ and they recommended we do that, to let students know we were “safe people” in this regard. I am on the lookout for an ally sticker for my work laptop.

                We also have displays both in our library and our entrance.

      8. Lavender*

        The LGB Alliance is largely considered to be a hate group in the UK, since they are openly and actively discriminatory toward trans and gender-nonconforming people. One of their central talking points is that the existence of trans people somehow invalidates the experiences of people who are attracted to the same sex (because sex=gender or some nonsense like that). They’re less about being inclusive towards lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, and more about being exclusive toward trans people. Not something that should be encouraged in a workplace, by any means.

      9. LilPinkSock*

        Bigoted Boss wouldn’t be fired for holding disgusting beliefs, they would be fired for acting on them.

        LGB without the T is bigotry. Personally, I don’t particularly care if a transphobe feels “silenced”, just like I wouldn’t feel bad if a racist didn’t feel safe expressing those views.

      10. Curtis E Interview*

        This is a very fuzzy grasp of the outcome of the Forstater tribunal. It said that her gender critical views were protected (ie that she could not be fired simply for holding them), but it did not give her or anyone else free rein to express them in the workplace, nor did it obligate employees to give them a platform to express their views.

        Mandating that a LGBTQ+ forum for staff be shut down entirely because it is making gender critical staff uncomfortable(!) would not be covered – though given the current state of affairs in the UK I don’t doubt that someone would probably launch a crowdfunder for a legal case arguing that it should be.

        1. Dr Sarah*

          My brain is now repeating ‘You keep citing that court case. I do not think it means what you think it means.’

    8. File Herder*

      The boss is a very unsubtle terf who thinks that the Forstater case means that she can get away with expressing and acting on transphobic views as long as she couches it as a philosophical belief. She needs to read that decision very carefully, because it does not say what terfs claim it does. And as ever – Equality Act 2010 claims can be brought against the individual doing the discriminating as well as the employer.

      Not sure which way I’d go on whether this is purely transphobic using LGBT as a group to hide that, or homophobic exploiting other people’s transphobia to shut down support mechanisms for LGB. But I think you’re showing great generosity of spirit saying “unwilling or unable”. The direct harm is intentional.

      (Cishet here, so the effect on me personally is that some of my friends aren’t cishet. And even if I knew nobody who’s a target now, “first they came for the Communists”.)

      1. Emma*

        It’s protected to hold GC beliefs in the UK but not to use them to discriminate against others.
        In the Mackereth v DWP case a GP said he would misgender trans people and was sacked and this decision was upheld by the tribunal.
        The name of the protected characteristic in Great Britian is “gender reassignment” which is outdated but is likely to cover all trans people and even people mistaken for trans.
        The actions of this boss sound like either direct or indirect discrimination against LGBT people. Also these actions would strengthen any claim by LGBT employees who were dismissed or not promoted, that this was duento discrimination. Employers need to prove that decisions were not due to protected characteristics since Igen v Wong.

    9. Sloanicota*

      I find it telling that, in all these examples, the outcome they want to not an action for some people who feel a certain way, rather it is always about preventing someone ELSE from doing something. OP might be able to get some sort of leadership body to make a rule that people should not be prevented from expressing their own gender identity or some other innocuously positive statement to make it clear that the bosses’ ideas are all nonstarters, as they’re all about eyeing other people’s expression. The boss has an action they can take too, after all, which is identifying as their own gender identity / sexuality / whatever.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        This is an excellent point about them wanting to stop others from doing stuff. Especially when the Big Boss wants to put an end to things that are entirely optional. Nobody has to wear the rainbow lanyard or do anything about their pronouns. They just need to not be jerks to other people who do.

      2. Lavender*

        Yes, exactly. The existence of trans people doesn’t negate the existence of cis people. Some people appear to think that trans people want everyone to become trans, when in reality they’re just trying to live their lives, same as everyone else.

    10. HannahS*

      Yeah. This situation is really unfortunate (to say the least) and I think if someone is refusing to hear you, then there isn’t really a “one right way” of saying your argument that will make them listen, because they don’t want to. Harnessing the power of their boss, of higher ups, of HR, or of the law is the best way to go.

      Eliminating bigotry includes changing minds and hearts, but it also involves removing bigots from positions of power.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Agreed. These are not people who can be reasoned with. They keep losing court cases, but deciding they won, actually. In an ideal world, we could change minds and hearts. In the absence of that, I’ll take getting them to STFU and keeping them from being able to harm others.

    11. Generic Name*

      I bet big boss would LOVE a debate about something she holds dear to her heart. Maybe her church or the monarchy?

    12. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      All of this. What the Big Boss is doing is not OK. The LW is not being unreasonable for wanting to keep the LGBTQ group and optional lanyards / pronouns. Add me to the list of people who are totally fine with bigots feeling uncomfortable expressing their bigotry. This situation also provides more evidence that these people are targeting the whole LGBTQ+ community. They will not stop at trans people. (To be clear, it would still be awful if they were only targeting trans people and would merit the same push-back).

      The only thing I can think of that I haven’t seen mentioned is whether the Big Boss has peers. Ideally, there is someone above her who can stop this. If not, perhaps she has a peer who might be able to push back on this hard because of what it’s doing to staff morale / the risk of legal consequences.

    13. Dust Bunny*

      I have literally never met anyone who wasn’t “committed to debate” about something like this who wasn’t actually opposed to it and just didn’t want to admit it.

      1. Lavender*

        Yep. “Just asking questions” has practically become a dogwhistle for “I think this is wrong but I can’t admit it without sounding bigoted.”

        1. I have RBF*


          It would be like me “just asking questions” about whether Christianity should be allowed to exist because of history stuff like the Crusades. (Not something I do, but it’s an example of the same type of thing.) It’s just a signal that the person is either a bigot, or an idiot, but doesn’t want to admit it.

          1. Lavender*

            I mean, it’s fine to ask questions as long as you’re willing to accept answers that conflict with your worldview. It’s like how GCs are “concerned” that allowing trans women to use women’s restrooms would lead to an increase in sexual assaults, but refuse to accept data that proves otherwise. Seems like very few people who are “just asking questions” are doing so in good faith.

    14. tusemmeu*

      Agreed, especially on the “tiniest gestures” they’re making. LW1, I’m afraid she’s already getting in your head a bit. Being allowed to wear a rainbow lanyard is not generous. Being referred to by your correct pronouns is the bare minimum. If you don’t feel able to push back, at the very least you can hold the line and keep reminding yourself that these things that are already being done are in no way too much.

    15. I have RBF*


      The right of any group based in something so essential, like race or gender identity/preference, to exist and be treated like people is not up for “debate”.

      I’m non-binary. I do not agree to allow my existence, humanity and identity to be debated as to whether or not it’s “valid”, full stop. If there are people who want to debate it, I’d call them what they are: bigots. There’s no “dialog” to be had about my right to exist. Absolutely none.

      I get very, very angry about people who think LGBTQIA+ people’s existence is something to “debate”. You can debate taxes, maybe even immigration laws, but not whether people have a right to be who they are.

    16. sundae funday*

      The terminology “gender critical views” so is bizarre, too, because if someone asked me if I had “gender critical views,” I would say yes… meaning, I hate the way gender roles are used to squash and silence people. Certainly not meaning I’m transphobic!

      1. Fushi*

        Yeah, that’s intentional. The TERFs are constantly rebranding to mislead people about their goals.

    17. Dawn*

      Yes, also speaking from the perspective of a trans person, “I am concerned that gender-critical staff may feel silenced by the existence of LGBTQ people and their allies within the organization” translates directly to “I am a bigot who wants to push LGBTQ people out of the workplace,” and given the current state of the UK it’s probably not even worth bothering with whether this violates the law or not, or whether anyone in the media would care.

      My call here is: get out get out get out. This is only going to get more blatant and extreme, I’m afraid.

  2. Peach Tea*

    Re: letter #2: I agree with Alison – when community leaders leave their positions; people will be curious. If a public explanation can be made, go for it.
    It can also be useful role modeling, if no information is forthcoming, that sometimes when people leave, the reasons remain private.

    1. MassMatt*

      The LW’s friends seems oddly upset about this. Most departure announcements are really bland (“pursuing other opportunities” or “spending more time with their family”) I can’t imagine being put out by missing them. And maybe they didn’t leave of their own accord, and the church can’t talk about them for fear of lawsuits. You just never know.

      1. BaskingInMyWindowlessOffice*

        I don’t think it is that odd when it comes to something more personal like the church’s minister, someone who guided you spiritually. If there is a reason to doubt their judgment, I would want to know (obviously the church would want to keep that quiet). Another factor is that members probably feel entitled to more information given that it is their donations, membership, and time that keep the church running.

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          I’m atheist, but I had a similar relationship with my doctor. She had been the go-to doctor for the whole family for over 20 years, she had diagnosed my second pregnancy before even I had an inkling of it, she was a true witch, just the thought of calling her usually made me feel better. When she told me she was retiring I was devastated, I felt she was abandoning me, but once the shock was past I was then able to be gracious about it and tell her she fully deserved a wonderful retirement. Had there not been a lovely reason for her no longer being my doctor, the sense of betrayal would have been very strong.
          Of course she didn’t owe anything to me in the way of an explanation, I’m just thinking that OP may have felt a similar tie to the people leaving her church.

        2. Tuesday*

          Totally agreed. This is usually a person who’s had very vulnerable, personal conversations with church members. And if there’s drama behind the scenes, that can spell trouble for the church body as a whole. I understand why they wouldn’t want to be transparent about things if that was the case, but it is jarring for a pastor or similar to leave with no explanation!

          1. Observer*

            Sure, it’s *jarring*. But that is very different from being a “wrong and unprofessional” thing that they had “no right” to do.

            The fact that one of the congregational members reached out to the departing person privately is FAR more problematic!

        3. Observer*

          No, it’s still very odd. Sure, these are key people. But they are humans and their communities do NOT own them!

          They generally have lives, obligations and commitments that the congregation has not right to be part of. And the community does not get to weigh in on these issues.

      2. harikoa*

        Honestly, I’d be pretty upset if the pastor/priest at my church left with no warning and no explanation – we’ve just had a pastor leave with a good 2-3 months warning and plenty of conversation, and it’s still made a big impact. Having a bland explanation still gives you something to latch onto/acknowledges that the situation is maybe a bit weird, and putting that out into the open makes a difference. You don’t have an entitlement to a reason, as such, but it’s also not unreasonable to want one!

        1. Dust Bunny*

          I think that, while beyond a certain point everyone should have their privacy respected, some positions are by nature more personal and intimate than others and one of the costs of that privilege is that they command a little less privacy. A position such as a pastor that depends on people being vulnerable and trusting seems like one that can’t insist on the same level of opacity if the person leaves the position suddenly.

          1. Observer*

            What exactly does that mean? And how can that even remotely apply to a choir leader, that absolutely does NOT “depend on people being vulnerable and trusting”?

            Let’s take doctors, for the moment. They get to hear and see a LOT of highly personal and sensitive stuff – often more than pastors do (and FOR SURE more than a choir leader)!

            Yet, no one expects them to provide explanations when they leave, much less give people a right to weigh in on the decision or to “a chance to address the situation”!

            1. MigraineMonth*

              This feeling that an explanation (or a chance to remedy issues!) is owed to the community seems pretty wild to me. One can certainly want an explanation, one can be upset that a community leader is leaving, etc, but it’s their job. They’re allowed to leave it at any time for a private reason.

              The exception is if they were removed for misconduct that targeted the vulnerable in the community (sexual abuse, grift, financial misbehavior, etc); in that case, I think that privacy is too often used to sweep the victims under the rug.

        2. Daisy-dog*

          I attended a church for a few years and 2 of the minister staff left in that time. The first was the children’s minister – he was just never mentioned again. It may have been something announced by email to the parents (I am not a parent), but I was a little confused. And then later, the youth minister left to be the lead minister at another church. It was mentioned frequently in the regular service (which the youth group did attend) quite a while in advance. They prayed for him and his family to have peace and strength during this big change. I definitely thought the difference was a bit strange because it was the same church!

      3. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        We had a widely (but not universally) beloved minister put on leave for reasons that were the board was not able to share at the beginning (sexual misconduct, it all came out later). But the church leadership gave a lot of time and space to allowing people to process their feelings and voice their confusion and disappointment. (The one thing they addressed up front was that it did not involve inappropriate conduct with the kids.) I think a planned departure of a minister should involve some pre-announcement and some post-event processing. So, while the people don’t necessarily have a right to know why the minister left, the church should have done more around supporting the congregants in light of the suddenness of the departure.

        1. Observer*

          The OP’s (or their friends’) church should probably have done something, especially in case of the Pastor, as that is generally a position that’s more tied into the community. And many people will reasonably have emotions about that.

          But that’s on the Church, not the person leaving.

          Also, if there is a problem with the Pastor and the Church is pushing them out, then that’s a different story – *the Church leadership* may have an obligation to share some information with the congregation, not the departing person.

      4. ThursdaysGeek*

        I was upset and hurt when our youth pastor left with no warning to us. We’d been working closely with them as volunteer youth staff, and when he left, we were suddenly in charge. I flailed in a job I wasn’t prepared for at that level. We had trusted and confided in them, but apparently the trust only went one direction, and that hurt. I never asked why — if he’d wanted us to know, he would have told us. But the upset wasn’t odd at all – it would be odd to not be upset.

        1. Observer*

          I can see why you were upset. But do you realize that the people most at fault here was not the youth pastor, but the people in charge? They should have handled your positions and should not have left you flailing.

          We had trusted and confided in them, but apparently the trust only went one direction, and that hurt.

          I understand the feeling, but there could be a lot of reasons for that. It’s not clear exactly what your positions were, so it’s possible that that alone would make it inappropriate for them to share. But beyond that, there are a lot of other potential issues that could be involved.

          So while it can legitimately hurt, it’s still not reasonable to demand reasons.

      5. Lenora Rose*

        I think the way to think about it is not as “C-Suite guy from another department whom we never see left.” but as “my immediate superior with whom I have had a lot of frank conversation departed without saying anything at all.”

        Is it professionally appropriate for them to depart with no warning or word? Absolutely. Stuff happens, and sometimes it happens suddenly.

        Would it bother the heck out of the people left wondering not to even have an inkling until it happened? Also yes.

        We’ve had a couple ministers depart our church, and even when the explanation was neutral and mild, the fact that there was an explanation and a lot of forewarning was important to the congregation. (even then, it can end up a big disruption… the last one leaving is part of the reason we haven’t been very active – not that there was anything wrong with anyone that followed, but it was one more thing, alongside kids and Covid, to keep us only distantly in touch)

        Similarly, my doctor didn’t have to announce when she took a second job with a research group and would only be seeing patients a couple days a week, but she did, and she didn’t have to announce her retirement, but she did. A doctor I even saw for less than a month gave an explanation via form letter to all his patients, old and new.

        I wouldn’t have called it unprofessional not to, if something personal happened and the departure was sudden for them, too, but I do see it as understandable for people to be upset thereby, and to wonder and speculate and wish they had some kind of word.

    2. Tinkerbell*

      I think the “community leaders” thing is different when it’s somewhere like a church, where those leaders’ salaries are usually directly paid by the congregation. Not that anyone is owed a full explanation, especially when there’s a lot of nuance or delicate details surrounding someone’s departure, but I think the church or organization really ought to come up with at least a bland statement about “pursuing different goals” or whatnot instead of something that insinuates the congregation is unreasonable for being curious. That’s a very different scenario than a for-profit company (unless it’s employee-owned).

      1. Observer*

        instead of something that insinuates the congregation is unreasonable for being curious

        Except that curiosity is not the issue here. The OP’s friends were not just CURIOUS, they were *indignant*. They condemned the people leaving, claiming that they WERE “owed” not just an explanation, but a “chance to address the situation”!

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I saw shades of the “my boss won’t accept my resignation” letters. Employees–even leadership of church or community–are allowed to just leave.

    3. Well...*

      The situation for LW2 reminds me of a prof at my previous university that got arrested and fired for filming his undergrad tenants while they were showering (he was a landlord on the side). His department said nothing to anyone about why he was let go, and women he had been working with found out on the news. It was crappy not to tell anyone what was up in that situation.

      I also personally know several “community leaders” who were expelled for similar crimes (I was raised Catholic and the national sex scandals led to similar stories being uncovered in my personal church as a kid, plus I have friends raised in other religions with similar stories). I wonder if LW2’s friends have harsh reactions because they don’t trust leadership not to help cover up some kind of scandal. Yes, it’s assuming the worst, but some people have been burned by this.

      1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

        Eh, not necessarily. Arrested isn’t convicted. And he didn’t apparently victimize anyone at work and was fired so the situation was dealt with to protect his coworkers.

        1. Well...*

          He hid cameras in places he controlled… I would argue from the POV of workplace safety people should be aware that he might have hidden them around at work as well.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            That didn’t read to me as ‘defense’ as much as it did “hey, here’s why women who worked with him (but were not victimized by him) heard it on the news and not from anyone directly”.
            The department may have been told to NOT tell anyone else why he was fired because it’s an ongoing case. It’s like how you often hear stories on the news about companies being sued by someone for X issue and when contacted all they can say is “we do not comment on pending litigation”. The administration may have been told to zip it because these victimized students lived in his housing and he was a professor and therefore they’re seen as being material to the case and cannot comment outside of a court.

      2. KateM*

        TBH when someone in such a position leaves without any comment from anyone, I would jump to the conclusion that the reason *was* something like what you described.

        1. Melissa*

          Which is a good reason to give SOME explanation. Our minister recently left because of basically, being hard to work with, having a temper, etc. But the announcements were sort of vague and referenced “difficulties” and a lot of people jumped to the conclusion that she was stealing money or something!

          1. Morning reader*

            I would assume some sex abuse being covered up, considering that it’s rampant in Christian churches. Most likely explanation, if there is no explanation.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          We had a spiritual leader leave a place of worship we had formerly attended (we moved away for my dad’s job) for a totally normal reason, but then leave the next position for reasons about which there was a lot of intractable silence. We later found out he had been harassing a teenaged mentee. There was as much of a stink when people found out about the concealment as there was about his behavior.

      3. learnedthehardway*

        From that perspective, it almost makes more sense to release some reason if the issue is NOT malfeasance. At the same time, you have to respect confidentiality from the person leaving.

        The absence of information is (or can be construed as) information.

      4. Observer*

        I wonder if LW2’s friends have harsh reactions because they don’t trust leadership not to help cover up some kind of scandal.

        I don’t think that this is highly unlikely. But still highly unreasonable. The bottom line is that in a case like this, it’s on the organization, rather than the person leaving to make sure that the congregation can trust them to share the information that the community needs.

        Calling the departing people unprofessional is not a reasonable or realistic response to that issue.

    4. DyneinWalking*

      You also have to keep in mind that people will gossip and will fill the gaps with rumors and assumptions. You don’t have to give all the details when someone leaves (that would be bad, too), but there should be some diplomatic language that differentiates between left for personal reasons/left for professional reasons/was let go.
      When someone leaves suddenly this is especially important because there’s a big chance that people will jump to the absolute worst conclusions. And this information should be given upfront, right around the time of the person leaving, to be seen as sincere – if given too late, it can seem like an attempt to shut down rumors which will only make the gossip worse.

      It doesn’t seem like this was an issue with the examples given by OP, but it should be kept in mind when considering best practices.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I definitely agree with this.

        Headteachers (school principals) typically give several months’ notice in the UK, sometimes a year if the school is prestigious, so when we heard that a HT was resigning with a month’s notice the rumour mill was WILD.

        Also “to spend more time with family” is a UK euphemism for “got fired for being not only bad at their job but also a bad person”.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          I think that’s pretty much what it means everywhere, or at least everywhere in the English-speaking world. In the US we’d definitely think, “Oh, so they messed up that badly, did they?”

            1. Hamburke*

              Me neither – I immediately go to they or someone in their family is dying, or at least going thru some catastrophic health issue.

                1. Elitst Semicolon*

                  Yeah, it means less “this person really wants to be home for dinner every night” and more “ooo, this person’s gonna have a lot of time on their hands now!”

                2. MigraineMonth*

                  I don’t think I’ve ever heard a politician step down to “spend time with their family” over anything but a sex scandal.

              1. Dust Bunny*

                it’s the reason I quit one of my jobs, too, but I was (voluntarily) a little more specific about it. Also, it was a job where we routinely worked 55-hour weeks in four days and everyone there knew my mom was ill so it wasn’t a mystery.

        2. Irish Teacher*

          This is interesting to me, as our last two principals left fairly suddenly. Admittedly, in one case, it was for mental health reasons, which is a particular situation. The other was simply that he was offered principalship of a school he’d worked in previously and apparently really liked (and I have to admit, it’s in a beautiful setting, by the sea, whereas ours is in a slightly rundown area of a city) and he…just didn’t seem to be that bothered, probably because he’d only been with us a few months. He apparently didn’t even pass some information on to the deputy principal.

          It’s becoming a bit of a joke among our staff, that we can’t seem to keep a principal.

          Separately, we had a priest who left our parish for “further training,” which, given the guy, I am pretty sure was a euphemism for something. Let’s put it this way. His highlights including his going on a rant in a sermon about how an eight year old child faced the wrong way when genuflecting. Thankfully, he didn’t name the child and it had happened a week or so previously, so most of us had no idea who he was referring to, but honestly? He sounded personally offended that an eight year old made a really rather minor mistake. He also gave a sermon about how American society was so rude (and yes, this was in Ireland, so speaking about American society was…weird anyway) because in his films, John Wayne never said “excuse me” before shooting people whereas when they were dubbed in French, he said “excusez-moi monsieur” (imagine this pronounced in the worst attempt at a French accent imaginable. I think it included something like “mon-sir”). Because apparently, failing to say “excuse me” is a bigger sin than shooting somebody?

          I doubt he was doing anything like embezzling or sexual misconduct. More likely…something like saying something incredibly offensive to somebody or harrassing somebody who was doing something he disapproved of.

        3. wendelenn*

          That makes me think of the Magical Creatures professor in HP who “left to spend more time with his remaining limbs”.

      2. Smithy*

        Absolutely – I also think that with a lot of these “community leader” positions in places of worship or other roles that emphasize interpersonal ties to the community – giving a longer notice period is normal as part of a “smooth transition”. And part of that smooth transition is an understanding and commitment to community building institutions thriving once any given person in a role has left.

        Putting aside a need to leave for more urgent personal reasons, those professions are usually set up so people can take/accept new positions AND give long notice periods. It’s not that participants of a church choir can’t be adults and accept that their director left due to urgent family reasons and accept with grace a more form “I’ve appreciated so much working with each and every one of you.” But if nothing is said to participants and one day Jane is replaced by John, there may be questions about church leadership, politics, etc etc etc.

        All to say, in that situation it can hurt choir participation, enthusiastic church engagement, etc etc etc. And if ultimately someone goes into those roles to build community than walking out in a way that opens doors for that kind of uncertainty and angst – that does not build community. Especially if nothing untoward is going on.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      I think the community aspect is ramping up the feeling that you get to choose your community, and so should be able to insist that e.g. a beloved choir director stay. Where if work told you that Madeline in Accounts Receivable was moving on, any negative reaction would be along the lines of “That’s going to suck; she’s the only one who understands the XYZ protocol” rather than “I DEMAND a meeting with Madeline and everyone in senior management to address this issue and ensure that nothing changes for me.”

      Also, community members are more likely to feel like they are effectively the senior management here, being undercut by the middle management of the governing board who are waving technicalities around, in a way that doesn’t translate to being one of 500 employees at Central Llama.

      1. Observer*

        I think the community aspect is ramping up the feeling that you get to choose your community, and so should be able to insist that e.g. a beloved choir director stay

        But that’s totally unreasonable. No one gets to “insist” that ANYONE stay. Being a “beloved leader” doesn’t mean that your community actually owns you! Sure, that position does impose more of a moral obligation on the person in that position. But NOT to that extent. People really need to understand that. But if that’s how people are feeling and the person leaving knows that, then NOT sharing or giving a lot of notice starts making a lot of sense. You don’t owe anyone a chance to harass you.

        community members are more likely to feel like they are effectively the senior management here, being undercut by the middle management of the governing board who are waving technicalities around, in a way that doesn’t translate to being one of 500 employees at Central Llama.

        The same way that many people feel that they are the direct boss of any government employee, so they can order them around because “I pay your salary with my taxes.” And it’s equally unreasonable.

    6. Thistle*

      People will be curious, but I don’t think they are owed any more of an explanation than a bland “retired/moved onto new pastures/change in direction” sort of comment.

      Employees of a religious employer are still entitled to privacy,just like anyone else. Just because the users of the service are nosy, doesnt mean they have the right to the gossip information they want.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        They aren’t owed it in the sense of it being legally required, but in the caring for the community sense it’s a good idea to say something that does not read as “it was a sex thing but we just want to push that under the rug.” Or if they can’t say that because it was a sex thing, the leadership covering it up and sending the leader off to abuse a different community is something that will stoke community ire for good reason.

      2. hbc*

        Frankly, people like LW’s friends are exactly the kind of people who make telling impossible. First it’s just “We need to know why for peace of mind” and then it’s “Well, give us a chance to change this thing” and then it’s “That’s not going to change and you’re wrong that it’s a good enough reason to leave.” They always end up more ticked off after having the argument and the leaver wouldn’t “be reasonable” and stay.

        And because the person’s reason wasn’t good enough in their minds, they’ll gossip about what the real, unspoken reason was anyway.

    7. I don’t post often*

      Hi! Pastor and family who have about four weeks notice before departing. Anyone paying attention would have known why we were leaving. We are a congregational lead church: think, now regional or national oversight, lots of lay leaders, lots of committees, regular business meetings, etc. Husband had been the only pastor there for two-ish years.
      We left because the leadership and structure of the church were horrific. Sure there were two members harassing our family on a daily basis, but the church organization allowed this type of behavior. Husband had several meetings with leadership the two months before announcing suggesting and trying to implement new structures. It was a no go. What has happened in this location is that the majority of the congregation just did not care enough to pay attention to what was actually happening in the leadership roles.
      Instead of grandstanding, making a huge fuss, public ally pointing out the problems and problematic people, husband states “we as a pastor and congregation do not agree. If after three months, you have questions about this, I will find a time to discuss, or the church can invite me back to an open meeting.” The only people we’ve heard from asking for more information are the people that had all the info and agreed with us to begin with.
      We chose this method to not destroy the organization, understanding that this organization, without drastic immediate change, will not be self-sustaining within 7-10 years.
      Contrast that with another very public blowup at a large church across town that just happened. Multiple very public meetings, multiple staff resignations within a week, etc. it’s a small community with not much else to do but gossip.

      1. Revnorthwest*

        This. Another pastor here and when this situation occurs I often know it to be next the congregation was horribly abusive to the pastor/ staff member. The things ppl and say and do to their clergy are why so many clergy have mental health issues that make them leave ministry, not to mention when their families are harassed and many times it is simply easier to just leave than fight it, especially if you are trying to take a higher road and not rip the congregation apart. If your pastor leaves suddenly with no explanation other than vague mentions you should evaluate how they have been treated as well

    8. Butterfly Counter*

      I also think that the anger/curiosity about them leaving is the fact that there’s not an equal give-and-take when it comes to these situations.

      Members of a church often lay themselves bare to the church leaders, going to them for guidance and absolution for the issues, sins, and difficulties they’re having. It takes trust and faith for people to be able to do that. Therefore, when those same people aren’t given the opportunity to likewise know the inner workings of those who have been spiritually leading them, I can see it feeling like a betrayal.

      “I’m to trust you to guide me in times I’m having difficulty, but you don’t even send me an email in times that you’re having difficulty.”

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        That’s a good point about people making themselves vulnerable to a pastor–and to a (usually) lesser extent a teacher or coach–in a way that is very different from how much struggle and doubt they reveal to their fellow accountants at work. “Was I stupid to trust this person? Do they pose a risk to me or people like me? Are they being targeted because they care about people like me and try to help us?” is in play in a way it isn’t if Muriel over in Spouts leaves suddenly.

        It would hit at the trust people place in the rest of the community.

      2. DisgruntledPelican*

        I don’t understand this at all. You wouldn’t expect your therapist or your doctor to turn to you in times of trouble, why would you expect your pastor or rabbi to?

  3. AcademiaNut*

    For #2 – this gets more complicated than a typical job situation for historical reasons.

    If I encountered a situation where a minister/priest/pastor of a congregation left suddenly with no explanation, I would assume that the most likely explanation is that he had been caught in some sort of misconduct, quite possibly sexual, and was being removed to avoid scandal, with the victims being intimidated into silence. The powers that be would wait a little while until attention had moved, then quietly assign them to a new parish, who would be unaware of their issues.

    Things are getting better in many denominations, but this used to be a pretty standard way of dealing with misconduct, and resulted in the same person abusing or taking advantage of multiple people.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      And to add a bit – that sort of abrupt departure is very unusual for congregational ministers, short of something drastic happening.

      1. harikoa*

        Yeah I wouldn’t necessarily go straight to sex scandal but I would assume misconduct of some variety, I think

        1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          A church I was affiliated with had a big to-do where the pastor had some sort of breakdown and wound up calling one of the volunteer members of church leadership (female, naturally) and threatening to harm himself. I wouldn’t necessarily assume THAT, because it’s kind of niche and out-there, but if someone like a pastor departed very abruptly, with no warning/explanation, something like that (though not necessarily at-fault on behalf of the pastor) or severe misconduct would be my assumption.

          1. Chidi has a stomach ache*

            I actually don’t know that this scenario is niche. I’ve worked in ministry circles for a long time, and there are a *lot* of pastors who struggle with depression and substance abuse. While I get that mysterious departures tend to raise suspicions of sexual misconduct (not unwarranted), most of them in my (limited) experience were actually related to needing serious inpatient care for mental health. Often this is coded as “on leave” for a certain amount of time, but depending on church structures and resources they might just replace the minister outright.

    2. Becky*

      Honestly, that’s where my brain goes too: there have been so many stories about pastors or priests just quietly moved from place to place and continuing to harm vulnerable people.

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        I’m with you on this. I’ve seen or heard about sexual misconduct on both extremes of Christian spectrum ( Southern Baptists and Catholics).

        1. Sal*

          heh, I would put unitarians at one extreme of the christian spectrum. Not sure where they would fit on the Southern Baptist-Catholic spectrum.

    3. Tinkerbell*

      Even if it’s not that level of a scandal, this sort of split happens a lot in smaller churches where a lot of power is put in a small number of people – when the pastor and the handful of rich donors who sit on all the committees disagree, for example, or when the choir director and the organist pull a “it’s him or me” with the music minister. Often the real reason (that everyone kind of knows) is “Mrs. X is a narcissist who gets unreasonably upset that the pastor doesn’t agree with her pet project, but her donations make up half the church budget.”

      NOT saying anything just invites gossip, though, and turns the whole church into a grapevine of haves and have-nots where the currency is juicy details :-\

      1. Avi?*

        That happened at a synagogue my sister used to attend, several years ago. Some of the richer and more powerful members decided that the rabbi was a little *too* reform for their tastes, and turfed him quite suddenly. It was all very unpleasant.

      2. 2023, You are NOT Nice.*

        I was fired from my church office administrative assistant position without warning. And they never told me why – just kept saying “this was the decision that was made” to every question I asked. I’d been working in church offices for 17 years by that point, I was pretty good at that. This was my second job, but only about six months for the new senior pastor.

        He was just weird in several ways. I’m pretty sure it was mostly a financial decision – they always think they can save money by using volunteers but that doesn’t work for everything. I was fired on July 1, I don’t think that date was accidental. And though they wouldn’t tell ME why, they eventually told the congregation that anyone who wanted to know could ask directly. The previous senior pastor who had hired me got involved on my behalf. During one conversation he asked if I thought the new guy liked women, and no, I think he had nothing but contempt for women, honestly. Small town Southern Baptist preacher. I also think new guy felt I knew too much about him for him to be comfortable with me there anymore.

    4. Well...*

      This is where my mind went. I posted up thread, but this has happened in the church I attended growing up, and to several of my friends in different religions.

      It’s also happened at university’s I’ve attended.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        The case I experienced was one where the pastor had been having an affair with a congregation member (both married), and it turned out it had happened before, but he was moved on quietly. So not nearly as bad as it can get.

        It happens in academia, it happens in the military, it happens in medicine, it happens in sports – basically any structure that’s hierarchical, has particular people considered very high value, is afraid of scandal and has been allowed to self police the behaviour of their members.

        1. o_gal*

          Sometimes they get caught and have to face the consequences. And then their past comes out fully, and they are removed from ministry. It was a shame that our congregation found out that way but at least he could no longer just move on to a 4th or 5th church and do the same thing again. We were at least the 3rd church but we don’t know if had he hidden others when he was confronted at the tribunal.

    5. Alanis*

      In my mom’s church, the priest disappeared one day and then the bishop showed up the next Sunday to explain that there had been financial misconduct caused by a gambling addiction so it’s not always sex, but maybe it’s easier to be public about money.

      1. Chidi has a stomach ache*

        This happened at my parents’ church too (maybe the same one?). My mother called and when her sentence started “Father was removed….” but concluded “…for possible embezzlement” I was honestly kind of relieved (which really says something about the state of at least Catholic churches and the abuse crisis these days).

    6. Ruth*

      Or that they were pushed out unjustly, as in my former church when the one Black woman clergy member was suddenly fired with no explanation that made sense – resulting in an all-white ministry team in a diverse congregation. It completely divided the congregation between her supporters and supports of the lead minister and lots of people (myself included) left.

      Handling these things poorly can have consequences for years afterwards.

      1. OP2*

        At my friend’s church, there was definitely speculation that race was a factor. It was presented as the minister choosing to leave, but my friend and others didn’t believe it was entirely voluntary.

        And I get that a leader owes more to their community, but I can also imagine being in that position and not wanting to share with a whole bunch of people while still going through it. It seemed to me that there should have been more respect for what the minister wanted in the immediate aftermath. But of course, there was also speculation that the remaining leadership was suppressing information with that excuse. It all seemed like a mess. My friend ultimately left the church.

        1. Observer*

          but my friend and others didn’t believe it was entirely voluntary.

          OK, now I am confused! If your friend believed that it was not entirely voluntary why were they blaming the the person who left? If there was anything unprofessional here – and it sounds like there might have been – it was not on the part of the person leaving, but on congregational leadership.

          1. OP2*

            They were mostly mad about the lack of explanation. Not that the person left, but that they didn’t explain why and whether it was truly voluntary or if some sort of pressure had been applied to force them out. And they were mad at remaining leadership, too. Plenty of anger to go around.

            1. Observer*

              Then they were even more unreasonable. If someone is being pushed out, especially if it’s really egregiously unfair, it’s utterly ridiculous to demand that that person take on the extra burden of dealing with the community. Especially since they have no idea of how people are going to react, although clearly they had good reason to believe that people are going to be unreasonable.

              If some pressure was being applied, officially or not, no one is owed a chance to resolve that at that point. In a best case scenario it can be a very difficult road for the person being pressured, and they are not obligated to take on that burden. And in all likelihood, it would NOT go well, meaning that the victim would still have to leave after enduring even more abuse.

    7. Observer*

      If I encountered a situation where a minister/priest/pastor of a congregation left suddenly with no explanation, I would assume that the most likely explanation is that he had been caught in some sort of misconduct, quite possibly sexual, and was being removed to avoid scandal, with the victims being intimidated into silence.

      That’s a real issue. And that’s on the congregational leaders. If anyone is being unprofessional here, it’s the leadership that’s not providing any information.

  4. Another Ashley*

    When I was laid off I was immediately locked out of my computer. I found but retrieve any information I saved to the computer including done personal files.

    1. LCH*

      If the LW can’t buy a new computer at this time, look into saving files in a cloud service temporarily so not to lose them. Or get an external hard drive which aren’t as cheap, but still cost less than a computer.

      1. English Rose*

        Yes, that’s what I came here to suggest. External hard drives have come down in price. I use mine as additional back-up to cloud storage.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Note for OP that, depending on how strict their company’s IT policy is, they very likely will not be able to install an app like Dropbox or Google Drive, and they also might not be able to use an external storage device such as a USB drive or external hard drive, but they should still be able to use the browser to move their personal files from the company laptop to a cloud storage provider.

        1. Willow Pillow*

          Since LW was allowed to use their personal computer, I doubt their company’s infosec policies are that rigorous.

          1. Miette*

            Agreed. But since it looks like they may become so, it’s time to move those files now, OP, as soon as you can manage it.

            Let me also offer advice for when you move those files: copy the files over–instead of moving–especially if there are lots of them and/or they take up a fair amount of space. I have seen files of my own just kind of disappear because my internet connection crapped out in the middle of moving them, and hey were subsequently no longer accessible to me. These weren’t high stakes files–but I am also not such a computer expert so couldn’t figure out where to get them back from.

            So what I do now is to copy files over a few folders at a time, then make sure the number of files in each copied folder is the same before deleting them from the original space.

          2. Observer*

            As @Miette says, that’s likely to change. In fact, if the company is smart, it WILL change.

        2. I am Emily's failing memory*

          Even if the policy allows it, I wouldn’t recommend the Dropbox desktop app in this case anyway, or Google Drive if it works the same way, where it actually mirrors your cloud folders as network synced folders on your local machine. That would give IT just as much surveillance over them as hard-drive-only files.

        3. Dragon*

          Yes. At a past employer of mine, Client X didn’t allow employees who worked on their matters to download documents to flash drives or DVD/CD.

        4. Free Meerkats*

          In my organization, we can’t use any sort of external drive. But I can access my Google Drive – not through the app (which I can’t install), but just using the Chrome browser. Which is good as I needed to move a gig or so of photos and personal documents with my pending retirement.

        5. I have RBF*

          Actually, my employer even bars browser based uploads to Dropbox and other cloud storage. “Oh, your computer is backed up automatically, you don’t need to back up to…”

          Even getting my file copies of documents that I signed off is difficult – so I’m going to be held responsible for what’s in them even after I’m no longer working there (legal agreements like NDAs), but can’t retain copies (unless I physically print them)?? Very, very annoying.

      3. Observer*

        Eh, you can get fairly large external drive for not so much money – less than a year of most services.

        I just hopped onto B&H and I see a Seagate 1TB for $51. YOu can pay a bit less if you are ok with not such “brand” names, and somewhat smaller drives. I’m sure you would find similar prices in other stores.

        By comparison, Box $120 per year for 100GB, DropBox is $120 but you do get 2TB. Google One is the only plan that could be less expensive. The 2 TB plan is $100 annually, bu they do offer 100 and 200 gb plans quite cheaply.

    2. Antilles*

      In my experience (both personal and reading/talking to others), this seems to be standard practice when it comes to involuntary departures.

  5. Greg C.*

    LW 5, at many places (most?) a work computer is completely open to sysadmins at work. Regarding surveillance, anything you type into a work computer should be treated as visible to your employer. Personal documents, bank or tax information, web logins, job applications, anything.

    1. allathian*

      The technical abilities for surveillance are undoubtedly there, but whether or not the employer will use it at will, or only if it suspects serious wrongdoing, is another matter entirely.

      I’m in Finland, and keyloggers are illegal here. We also use role-based email addresses accessible to multiple people and/or ticketing systems for business-related reasons, because accessing a named address like firstname.lastname(at) requires a subpoena or the workplace equivalent. Even then, the employer is only allowed to look at header data, and is allowed to access only those messages that look suspicious. Letter confidentiality is a big deal here.

      1. Greg C.*

        Wow! That’s a massive difference from the US. While you’re right that if anyone will actually look is questionable, my understanding is that you legally have no right to privacy when using company equipment.

        1. Drone in finance*

          Yeah, this has always been my assumption. Before 3rd party email servers, cell phones, and unlimited texting became commonplace (yes, this sentence makes me feel old) people used to use work email for personal stuff all the time and it was never a really good idea.

          My industry (finance) required email be supervised to make sure we were not breaking regulations by making false promises, etc. My manager had to spot-check hundreds of emails per month and it was the WORST part of his job. He was glad I kept mine to work-related stuff because he could not unsee the really personal and graphic stuff some people were sending.

          A lot of email supervision (again, required in my industry) relies on keywords, so an email saying “I GUARANTEE I’ll meet you at the restaurant @8PM” might well get flagged for review. My industry is not the norm, but it wouldn’t surprise me that others that are highly regulated (law enforcement, health care) are scrutinizing things more than most people assume.

          I definitely would not want my creative writing, vacation pics, receipts for taxes, etc on a work computer. Machines and storage are very cheap, if they seem expensive then compare it to losing your data. Your company can overhaul their system and delete non-work stuff at any time.

      2. Bagpuss*

        I’m in the UK, and here I think what can and can’t be accessed is variable – w have a specific policy and the key points are shown whenever you log into a work computer before you can progress, so that there is a reminder each time you log in and so no one can argue they were not aware or did not consent.

        In practice, of course we don’t typically monitor anything but if you chose to store personal documents etc. on a work machine then it *may* be accessed – I know we got formal advice when drawing up the policy and the wording that has to be accepted to log in. From our perspective as an employer, it covers us if things need to be deleted, scanned or otherwise checked to ensure our systems work correctly, and that we can access anything on our systems if necessary (for instance if we were investigating any potential misconduct, but also if it’s necessary to access someone’s machine for work purposes, if they were off sick or dismissed, so we would not be in brecch of anything if they had also stored personal stuff and that was accessed or lost.)

        I know during lockdown, we had to check one machine as there was an alert that it might have been hacked (it hadn’t ben, but the employee had shared their log in details with a family member to allow them to us the lap top, which is a big no-no due to data security and client confidentiality (we could have set up a restricted access log in had we been asked, to allow the family member to use the laptop without being able to access any of our client information, we did in fact end up loaning them a ‘clean’ lap top for their children to use , instead) however, it was when IT were investigating to see if there was a data breach that they found hat had happened and had sight of the personal stuff they were using the machine for.

        IIRC, the advice we were given was that since our policies are clear that we have the right to access and monitor anything on our machines and systems, we would be in the clear anyway, but having a pop up reminder when someone logs in is a ‘belt and braces’ approach, it’s not strictly necessary but would make it much harder for anyone to claim that they were not aware that their usage might not be private.

    2. Tinkerbell*

      Yep – your company and your industry will have a large effect on how much surveillance they ACTUALLY do, but (technologically and legally) they’re free to get pretty darn invasive. If by “personal use” you mean watching Netflix and occasionally checking email you may be fine with that (but still run it past your boss), but I still wouldn’t do anything financial or check social media or look up anything beyond a PG rating. You’re much better off having your own computer for that!

    3. MJ*

      At a minimum, I would setup a personal Dropbox or Google Drive (linked to a personal email, not your work one!) and upload all your personal files to that instead of keeping them on your work computer.

    4. T2*

      As a tech guy, I carry two laptops for this exact reason.

      My recommendation is for complete and total separation of work and personal.

      Someone further down suggested at least a personal Google drive or Dropbox. Here is the thing with those. Any syncing between these services will leave a copy on the computer. That copy can be backed up and restored.

      1. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

        Yes – the Dropbox idea only solves “don’t lose all your data if/when work wipes the machine”, it doesn’t solve “don’t let other people read your stuff”.

        1. Allonge*

          To be fair, that is a big concern – file backup in any case is a good idea.

          But it certainly does not solve all potential issues.

      2. PleaseNo*

        Uploading to a cloud location still looks like data exfiltration too. Companies do not personally audit everything happening on a computer — probably there are some automations that look for certain things (and could include uploading files to cloud storage or USB or external drive or whatever), but if something triggers an investigation (by you or someone else in the company) they will look as necessary. I recommend never doing anything you wouldn’t want to see in the paper on your work computer.

        Get another computer and just start using it for personal stuff. If you have a large amount of files to move off your work computer, talk with IT support and your manager about it to see how to do it completely above board.

        In the future, do not “cross the streams”!

    5. The Original K.*

      Yep, I don’t do anything personal on my work computer. The only non-work related stuff is, like, looking up the restaurant my employer got the holiday party catering from, and even that is work related. My friends and family don’t email me at work. I have a separate phone for work and it’s the same – the only personal contacts I have on it are my immediate family because they’re my emergency contacts.

      I worked in financial services for a bit and my boss told me point blank that they periodically read employee emails, so “keep that in mind.” No problem!

      1. Antilles*

        “Don’t do anything personal” seems a little extreme for most industries; finance has different rules. In most industries, I’d just focus on not doing anything personal that *matters* on my work PC.

        Logging in to my bank account? Preparing my taxes at whatever TurboTax equivalent? Yeah, don’t do that on a work PC for security reasons. And certainly don’t do anything which your employer would disapprove of on a work PC.

        But when it comes to my personal Google searches for a new vet or looking up restaurants for lunch or even unimportant stored passwords like the one for a comment section? No real reason to avoid using the work computer there; it is trackable but nobody’s going to care and it doesn’t particularly matter even if the IT guy does look at it.

        1. Observer*

          “Don’t do anything personal” seems a little extreme for most industries; finance has different rules. In most industries, I’d just focus on not doing anything personal that *matters* on my work PC.

          Not extreme at all. Sure, in many industries it’s “ok”. But the problem is that what “matters” is not something that’s always obvious. So either just don’t do anything personal. Or don’t do anything that would care at all about losing or that you might have the slightest reason to not become public.

          And, from a security point of view, even the password for that “unimportant” account can actually compromise you.

    6. Girasol*

      If you’re using a work computer for personal stuff, one alternative is to store everything personal on a USB memory stick rather than on the hard drive or shared drive. While it’s better to use your own computer altogether, if you can’t get one immediately, at least with a memory stick you can save your personal files from being erased and you can pocket them when you leave every night. You still need to keep in mind that sys admin may be reading over your shoulder, of course, and be sure you’re not showing any information that’s very personal.

    7. NotAnotherManager!*

      Not just surveillance, but if your company is subject to litigation/investigation, the discovery phase often involves capturing and reviewing the contents of relevant corporate IT assests. Your data could very well end up in a review database with contract attorneys poring over your personal materials, even if they’re marked not responsive and not produced (or maybe they get produced as part of a bulk “well, it’s not privileged and too expensive to closely review” document dump).

      Having worked in legal IT for years, it’s truly fascinating what people will store on their work computers. I’ve yet to see a large review database without an “adult content” tag.

      Our acceptable use policy states that you will not use work computers for personal stuff, too. I don’t know that anyone’s been fired over it, unless your “personal stuff” was inappropriate or introduced malware into the network, but it’s strongly discouraged and I don’t think that we’d go to a lot of trouble to retrieve personal data from a machine for a departed employee.

  6. Valancy Trinit*

    LW1 – I don’t have any advice auxiliary to Alison’s, but you are not being unreasonable at all. Please keep at it, and be kind to yourself if keeping at it becomes exhausting.

    LW3 – a low bun looks leaps and bounds more professional than a high bun, regardless of gender. I manage a gentleman with similarly long hair and that is how he styles it.

    1. Poppy*

      I agree about #3. Don’t do the “Pebbles Flintstone” at work. It comes across as rather juvenile in a professional setting. A lower bun or ponytail is great.

    2. cabbagepants*

      I think a high bun can look professional as well but it would need to be very tidy, much more tidy than would be necessary for a low bun.

      I Googled “professional man bun” and there are lots of slick inspirational pictures out there.

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        There is a high bun at the back of your head, and there are high buns on top of your head, and I think that makes the difference. A high bun, still at the back of your head is something fancy you could wear to a wedding, a bun sitting on top of your head looks… not professional.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      I would definitely vote bun over ponytail for the interview. Waist-length hair can sometimes be unusual enough to be a talking point on women, I imagine it would be even more so on men.

    4. Imtheone*

      He could style a “queue” as men did in Colonial times. They made a low pony tail, doubled it over, and wrapped it to make it smooth, with no stray hairs. I think you can google the style and find videos of how to do it. This is even tidier than a pony tail.

      1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

        I was just coming in to suggest this. It’s neat, professional and (I gotta say) quite attractive.

    5. Nina*

      I used to work with an engineer whose hair was about three feet long and naturally fell into what looked like an afro (he wasn’t of African descent at all so not technically an afro though) and he used to wear it in a french braid, which looked very polished.

    6. Sun and clouds*

      I use to take transit at the same time as the most polished professional looking gentleman with dreadlocks. They were gathered in a low pony tail and he always wore a 3 piece suit with French cuffs. I have always wondered how many tattoos those shirts were covering. If the hair is tidy I would think it’s a non issue

  7. LoV...*

    LW5 – depending on your situation, it might make sense to buy an external hard drive. You could move your personal files there and that would give you time to think about what new computer you might get. And yeah, your work computer is fair game for your company to monitor, it is their property after all. Good luck!

    1. allathian*

      Depends on the employer. We are allowed to connect external drives to our work computers, but they’re encrypted so that the drive only works with that particular computer. So you’re only able to access the data you stored on the same computer. In practice, our network drives are big enough that I’ve never had problems with a lack of storage space.

        1. T2*

          Having gone through this, from a compliance perspective, emailing files to yourself looks a lot like exporting of data, which looks a lot like data theft.

          1. Michelle Smith*

            yeah, it’s one thing to forward a couple of meeting invites a year to a personal calendar, like a doctor’s appointment, but if you start sending a bunch of emails with attachments at once that’s a red flag.

          2. Observer*

            That’s why the OP needs to do this *immediately* BEFORE they start monitoring. They should also alert their boss, so that if it does come up, they will have the context.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        I don’t think that a company that lets employees use their personal computers for work (as LW did at the beginning) would do anything this sophisticated to protect their data, because that would be pointless. LW can probably just use the same means they used to get the files onto the laptop to get them off the laptop.

      2. A Simple Narwhal*

        Same, our computers can’t connect to anything via the usb drive that hasn’t been specially formatted by the company. All file sharing/cloud services websites and applications have been similarly blocked. But I work in a highly-regulated industry that is upfront about all of that, it’s the only place I’ve ever worked like that and other workplaces didn’t care about/prevent any of that, so external hard drives or cloud services might be an option for LW.

    2. Zzzzzz*

      And this person may have a hard time connecting an external drive to a work computer (my workplace not only prohibits but computers will not allow the connection). I suggest going to the powers that be, explain, get proper permissions and equipment that works w your system and memory needs for this laptop and the new one to come (most do PC/Mac but some don’t and have to be partitioned a certain way PRIOR to origin data transfer). Do your research, ask questions, make the switch. Sleep easier.

    3. Catwhisperer*

      Instead of an external hard drive, you could also upload your files to Google Drive or Dropbox and delete the versions on your computer. That way they’ll be accessible to you when you do get a personal computer but you won’t run into the issues with connecting an external hard drive that the other responses to this comment mention. FWIW I’ve used both options and they work equally well. The upside of using Google Drive is that I have access to all my files on my phone whenever I need them while the upside of an external hard drive is that my files are more secure.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Yup, Google Drive. I got into the habit of using it a while ago and it’s been invaluable. I was recently laid off and during my termination meeting, as soon as the HR rep told me I would be cut off, I uploaded my folder of personal docs to my Google Drive while she was still talking.

    4. Pink Candyfloss*

      Our work laptops have security settings such that only sysadmin can allow access to an external drive; this is to prevent data theft etc. OP can try this but OP be aware it might not be an option and might trigger a remote security flag as well.

  8. Louisiana Jones*

    Re: #2: When public/community leaders leave a position, sure, it’s nice to know why, or to hear it directly. Obviously this isn’t always possible. And, unfortunately, people often jump to awful and scary conclusions. But people leave jobs all the time – for hundreds of reasons.
    It can be useful role modeling by those who leave for people to witness (and be okay with) not being told anything; not knowing anything.

    1. Jackalope*

      That’s not really the way it works in this sort of situation, though. Someone who’s in charge of a church or other similar community generally doesn’t leave without some explanation unless the explanation is *bad*. It doesn’t have to be super in-depth, it could just be “for health reasons”, for example. But a pastoral position isn’t like other jobs.

  9. Ochre*

    Long-haired male style: I vote for a long neat braid, either with the hair on top combed straight back or center-parted. I think it looks tidy and professional, and less casual than a ponytail (nothing against ponytails for normal work days, but a braid feels one step up from that). If the braid is snug, it helps contain a few more of the short hairs at the nape of the neck, so if viewed from the front it really might just look like his hair is slicked back.

    1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

      I’m also in favor of a simple, low braid, secured with an elastic in a color matching the hair or matching the suit.

    2. amoeba*

      Would also look into a low braid (or the low bun Alison mentioned) because the hair is so long that it’d probably still catch a lot of attention in a low ponytain?
      However – at least in my part of Europe, for some reason a braid would look much more unusual on a man than a ponytail. Like, a low ponytail (parted in the middle) is *the* “normal/accepted” hairstyle for men with long hair, anything else looks at least a bit “eccentric”. So depending on how conservative the place is, would figure that into my calculations…

      1. Other Alice*

        Agreed, my brother has long hair and keeps it in a low ponytail in professional settings, like when meeting with clients. It seems to be the “accepted” style for men with long hair.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Another agree for this. I’m in the UK, and any braiding reads feminine where a basic ponytail wouldn’t. OP’s spouse might be happy with that inference, but he should certainly take it into account if they live in an area with similar norms.

          For what it’s worth, all ponytails are not equal. On a woman, a barrette reads more professional than an elastic, and a scrunchie reads young. I would not expect to see anything but a plain hairtie on a man unless he was making a deliberate statement, regardless of hair length. For a job interview a ponytail (on anyone) should be less like “drag hair into a scrunchie in the elevator” and more “comb and secure any strays, using product if necessary”.

        2. Rebecca*

          It’s a shame that the ponytail is more accepted than the braid. I have had very long, very fine hair, and a ponytail all day would definitely mean an hour of detangling that night. A braid meant no tangles at all, it’s so much more protective.

      2. Bananagram*

        Yes, I think a long, low ponytail, center-parted, with careful attention to frizz and flyaways (which seems to be a major difference between men’s and women’s long-hair styling) is the way to go. Braids and low buns both, in my opinion, are fine variants for everyday, but for an interview, better to err on the side of “normal” so his hair doesn’t pull focus. For context, I’m an academic in the humanities, and I’ve seen long hair on both faculty and staff men. Low ponytails were the chief choice for all non-student types.
        But also… it matters which way he feels best! An interview is not the moment to switch things up.

      3. rusty*

        Yeah, in my (UK) experience a low ponytail is the default ‘tidy’ hairstyle for men with long hair. I love it when men do different things with their hair, but in a conservative workplace I have a feeling it would read as ‘different on purpose’ and people will have some degree of feelings about it, even if unspoken. Though whether he wants to work for those people is another matter, I suppose.

      4. Ochre*

        Amoeba, interesting! Men here (northeast US) wear ponytails and braids, and particularly I notice braids for men with very long straight hair. This likely correlates to certain ethnic groups (ie: people who tend to have that type of hair) as well as societal/community expectations. To me, a braid seems like it’s more work and thus indicates a higher level of preparation for an interview while still being fairly unassuming (since the interview is probably not about the hairstyle).

    3. Hornswoggler*

      I immediately thought of aclubbed braid in the 18th century style – braided and tied at the end, but then folded up on itself once or twice so it lies flat against the back of the neck. I think this needs to come back into fashion!

      I know links take a while to be approved – I found an interesting website with details of military gents’ hairstyles from the 18th-19th centuries which I’ll post in a reply to this comment.

    4. Smithy*

      I say this as a longer haired woman, so not fighting that bias. However my hair is fine, thick and prone to frizz – so when interviewing whatever style can pull the hair back from the face uniformly over time, I find both professional and less likely to bother me over the course of the interview.

      With that being said, for me – with the exception of french braids – I run the risk of both fine hair and baby hairs coming loose around my face with a low braid as opposed to low buns or ponytails. The OP’s partner’s hair might be long enough that this wouldn’t be an issue but I think if the low braid is the decided style – I’d test run it first for a day/ afternoon to see how it holds.

    5. VeraWang*

      I vote for letting him handle his own hair and his own job interview. Why is the wife even asking this? Is it an actual issue or something he’s brought up? He may already know a. how he want to style his hair or b. It’s not even an issue and he’s not concerned about it.

      1. greenland*

        People ask questions on behalf of people in their lives all the time here. It’s not uncommon or weird at all.

  10. Alice G*

    LW1: you could point out that both sexuality and transgender are protected characteristics under the Equality Act of 2010 and you’re not prepared to have a “disagreement” over rights that are enshrined in law.

      1. Siege*

        That is incorrect. The Equality Act of 2010 is UK law. The US Equality Act has not passed the Senate in its current form, and it was last introduced in 2021, when it did pass the House.

      1. Black*

        LGB without T is transphobia, the LGB Alliance is an anti-trans organisation, and ‘gender critical’ is another way to say transphobic. The LW should hold firm to their values and call out the bigotry that they’re seeing happen.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          This thread is the first time I have run across people identifying as gender critical, and it is a weird-ass designation that makes one sound simultaneously bigoted, and likely to start reassigning the genders of all the people in the room because you know better.

          Typed as someone with super boring gender.

          1. Siege*

            Yes, actually, this is exactly what happens. Over the weekend, the GCs decided David Beckham is trans because of the way he walks and his knees, and also apparently he is mtf because he has “male genitalia in bikini bottoms” (actually, that’s men’s boxer-briefs) and ftm because he has chest scarring. And in a serious move to be taken seriously and not at all recognized as phrenology, there is also his “digit ratio” and “skull traits”. They have even claimed that JKR herself is trans based on a mildly filtered photo that was still recognizably her.

            So basically, if anyone reading this thread has that moment of “I perform my assigned gender fine, no one is going to attack me in the bathroom” … these people move the goalposts at the drop of a hat, and there is some very scary overlap with Q-style thinking and justification (literally every celebrity is trans and became famous by becoming trans is a not-fringe-enough view in the transphobic I mean “gender critical” movement.

      2. Anonosaurus*

        The Sunak government is blocking a bill passed by the Scottish Parliament which would amend Scottish law to introduce different rules for obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate amongst other things. The SP has no legislative competence to amend the Equality Act 2010 and is not attempting to do so. The UK government’s position is that the Bill would in fact have an effect on the 2010 Act. In reality all of this is political and both governments are using the Bill as a vehicle/proxy for the disagreement on whether there should be a further referendum on Scottish independence. I sincerely doubt that the UK government cares about equality on any other level!!

        1. Anna Badger*

          I actually think the Scottish parliament does care deeply – revoking section 28 in Scotland was one of the very early things they did when they were formed (thing number 8, iirc, and some of the stuff before that was deeply operational, like the budget and the census.)

          1. Anonosaurus*

            I agree that the Scottish Parliament (certain parties excepted) has a genuine commitment to equality, but I also think that the SNP government knew this would lead to the section 35 issue and has used the Bill to manipulate the Sunak government into exercising that power for political reasons.

      3. SatsumaWolf*

        This is incorrect. “Gender reassignment” is a protected characteristic in UK law under the 2010 equality act. You may be able to hold different views but you cannot, by law, discriminate against trans people at work.

      4. bamcheeks*

        Mate you are straight up wrong! Gender reassignment is a protected characteristic, and applies from the minute someone decides to transition (and it explicitly includes social transition):

        (1)A person has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment if the person is proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning the person’s sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex.

        (2)A reference to a transsexual person is a reference to a person who has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment.

        (3)In relation to the protected characteristic of gender reassignment—

        (a)a reference to a person who has a particular protected characteristic is a reference to a transsexual person;

        (b)a reference to persons who share a protected characteristic is a reference to transsexual persons.

        The Forstater judgment explicitly says that other Equality Act protections ALSO apply to trans people.

        You are embarrassing yourself!

        1. Cj*

          I had a long post almost done, but the internet ate it, so I’ll make this a lot shorter. I did want to point out, however, did I never heard of the Forstater case or the Equality Act before today, so I admittedly know nothing about them, and am curious about a something. I reference bamcheeks comment, but several other commenters have mentioned the gender reassignment protection, but not in as much detail.

          I don’t see anything in bamcheeks post that supports their assertion that social transition is explicitly included in the Acts definition of gender reassignment. What they quoted (I’m assuming from the equality act?) states that gender reassignment involves a process that changes a person’s physiological or other attributes of sex. I don’t think social transition, like mtf wearing feminine clothing and using she/her pronouns is such a process.

          Like bamcheeks says, the Forstater judgment explicitly says that other Equality Act protections also apply to trans people. They specifically included this in the judgment because they said that the gender reassignment protection would only apply to a proportion of trans people, but that the other protections would still apply. It doesn’t make sense that they would say that gender reassignment protection would only apply to some trans people if social transition was included.

          I suppose you could be trans and not out, so you haven’t evened transitioned socially. In that case you can’t be discriminated against for being trans, as no one would know, but you could still be harassed by having to listen to transphobic talk, etc. even if it wasn’t specifically aimed at you. But that seems a pretty far reach as to what the judgment meant by only a proportion of trans people being under the gender reassignment protection.

          1. bamcheeks*

            “Physiological or other attributes of sex” is a reference to social transition, and all the guidance on the Equalitg Act explains this.

            From the Equality and Human Rights Commission:

            To be protected from gender reassignment discrimination, you do not need to have undergone any medical treatment or surgery to change from your birth sex to your preferred gender.

            You can be at any stage in the transition process, from proposing to reassign your sex, undergoing a process of reassignment, or having completed it. It does not matter whether or not you have applied for or obtained a Gender Recognition Certificate, which is the document that confirms the change of a person’s legal sex.

            From Learn With Unite:

            Gender reassignment
            The Act provides protection for transsexual people. A transsexual person is someone who proposes to, starts or has completed a process to change his or her gender. The Act no longer requires a person to be under medical supervision to be protected – so a woman who decides to live as a man but does not undergo any medical procedures would be covered.
            It is discrimination to treat transsexual people less favourably for being absent from work because they propose to undergo, are undergoing or have undergone gender reassignment than they would be treated if they were absent because they were ill or injured.

            From Citizen’s Advice Bureau:

            What’s meant by gender reassignment

            You have the protected characteristic of gender reassignment if you:

            want to reassign your sex from your birth sex to your preferred sex
            do this by changing physical or other characteristics
            Gender reassignment is a personal process rather than a medical one. You don’t have to undergo medical treatment or be under medical supervision to be protected under the Equality Act as a transgender person.

    1. Clorinda*

      If I worked at that office and heard a boss say something like that, I’d be rocking the rainbow accessories relentlessly, and would encourage all my straight friends to do the same.
      Ban the rainbow lanyards? WHY??

  11. Mister_L*

    #1: Are you by chance working for Maya Forsater?

    #2 and 3: Can’t think of anything to add.

    # 4: “Oh, I always need a real break at lunch” could be perceived as rude, I’d suggest sticking with “Already having plans”, or “Having to do something”. If your manager is digging about your lunch-plans, they seem to think they’re entitled to control your lunchtime.

    #5: I’ve heard a few stories about companies firing people and remotely wiping their devices without notice, anything you might need in the future should be stored somewhere else.

    1. Certaintroublemaker*

      #4’s boss was especially snippy since she had lunch with other co-workers. Just tell him you’re taking advantage of being onsite to keep up intradepartmental relationships with other teams.

      1. Mister_L*

        It reminds me of something at an old job. When “not enough” of us in the warehouse RSVP’d “yes” to the company christmas party our equivaltent of HR had us gathered in front of the office and started publicly interrogating people why.
        Yes, the company was dysfunctional in a lot of ways.

      2. anonymath*

        Exactly, this is what I was going to suggest! Intradepartmental relationships, really like to keep in touch with how other divisions are doing, cross-functional lunch, breaking silos, um… synergy?

  12. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

    When a community leader leaves suddenly and with no explanation, something probably has gone Wrong. Maybe that’s a misconception on my part, but I would expect normal happy reasons to be explained or pre-announced or both. So I would be trying to figure out What Went Wrong and what my reaction should be.

    I can think of three general categories of Wrong.
    1. Something bad happened in their personal life, and now they have to resign to take care of their sick mother or whatever it is. It’s sad, but all is well with the organization and all I have to do is give a card/well wishes/lasagna as appropriate.

    2. The leader has done something wrong. Theft or sex stuff come to mind first. I would want to know so I can stop trusting the ex-leader, and so that they don’t have an opportunity to keep doing whatever it was in a future position.

    3. The organization has mistreated the leader pretty badly. Probably egregiously, if they wouldn’t even give notice. I would want to know so that I can work to fix the organization or quit the organization if the problem can’t be fixed.

    And honestly, #1 seems the least likely, since very few people who make good community leaders would keep that sort of thing private. These aren’t strangers, after all. To be a good community leader means being part of that community.

    1. nnn*

      …or they need to sick treatment for a health condition they’re keeping private, or other things that aren’t anyone’s business. Community organizations aren’t just churches, either. They’re choirs (as in the OP’s second example), volunteer groups, gardening groups, hobby groups, all sorts of things.

      1. Anna*

        That seems to me like exactly the kind of occasion where well-wishes, cards and possibly lasagna is in order. That’s what a community is *for*, no? For helping each other, sharing sad and happy things, and sending and receiving well-wishes/cards/lasagna. If you’re part of a community, that comes with social perks and social obligations. If you don’t want to share any information about your private life, you can’t be part of a community, and you also shouldn’t become a community leader.

        I understand that everyone has a right to privacy, and I’m not saying that one has to share every last detail of their or their mother’s cancer treatment, but the advice here seems to me a bit extreme in the other direction. People are not *entitled* to knowing where their community leader went, but it certainly is weird not to hear anything about it.

        I’m Western European, perhaps it’s a cultural difference.

        1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

          Depends on the condition and whether there is likely to be stigma and judgement from at least parts of the community. A minister resigning to deal with serious depression, for instance, might not be treated very kindly in some situations.

        2. hbc*

          Things can be “weird” without being wrong. A lot of people (myself included) absolutely don’t want to deal with the well-wishes, cards, and lasagna that some people think are mandatory. No matter how direct you are about wanting to be left alone in these situations, there’s always a few people who go looking for loopholes or show up with “I know you said you didn’t want a casserole, but….”

          You’re giving lip service to privacy, but also saying that. you don’t get to be a community leader if you won’t spill a minimum amount to the community. Maybe you should just put that in the contract if it’s so important to the group.

          1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

            Yeah, but would you, as a particularly private person, choose to go into this kind of work?

            Building a community is about building relationships, and that requires trust from the leader as well as the people in the community. You can’t stand off to the side and keep yourself closed off from the people you lead. You have to know them and they have to know you. And a church at least is EXPLICITLY an agreement to take care of each other when things are wrong. That’s the point of community: people you can rely on, not people you can have nice chats about the weather with.

            Mind you, this applies more to the pastor end of the situation than the choir director end.

            1. Anna*

              What Elspeth says is pretty much what I mean. If you won’t share (or spill) some amount of your life with the community, then you cannot really be part of the community. You could become a leader for a group that is strictly business, but not of a community. I don’t think that is the kind of thing that should be in a contract either, just like it won’t be in a contract that you say hello when you get together and and goodbye when you leave, or congratulate someone when you learn it’s their birthday.

              1. Michelle Smith*

                I strongly, vehemently disagree. If I have a job and my mother gets cancer, doesn’t want to share that information, and asks me to keep it private, I get to quit that job and go take care of her and/or spend time with her and you don’t get to hear the reason because I respect HER privacy. That has no bearing on my ability to be a part of a community or serve as a community organization leader. You don’t owe people every aspect of your life just because you’re a church leader!

                1. Starbuck*

                  I don’t think people are arguing that you should be obligated to disclose “needing to care for my mother who is ill with cancer” but rather are saying the minimum expectation here would be the level of detail of “caring for a loved one” which seems pretty reasonable, no? For the specific type of community based positions we’re talking about?

        3. MCMonkeyBean*

          What the hell, if you don’t want to share your most personal private situations you can’t be part of a community!!!??? What a mean attitude. Sometimes people want support and sometimes they just want to process by themselves. That doesn’t mean the second group doesn’t still benefit from human interaction.

          If you only help people when they are willing to provide their personal life for your gossip so you can feel good about yourself for baking a lasagna then that’s not a community I would want to be a part of anyway.

        4. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          Or it could be a family thing, where giving details would invade someone else’s privacy.

          A minister might be prepared to share personal information, and their spouse might have accepted that being married to a minister meant sharing more personal information than if they were married to a truck driver or accountant.

          That doesn’t necessarily apply beyond those two people,. We don’t choose our parents’ occupations, or those of our siblings or adult children. My mother or brother or father-in-law’s business isn’t mine to share, without their OK. “I have to resign and move away for family reasons” could mean sick parents on the other coast, or a child with a newly diagnosed mental illness, or someone else’s legal issues.

        5. Just Another Zebra*

          When I went to church as a kid, a much-beloved pastor resigned suddenly. There was no reason given and the congregation was DETERMINED to find out what had happened. No amount of this man saying “Just time to move on”, or “ready for new opportunities” or anything of the sort would pacify them.

          On his last Sunday (he gave 2 months notice and worked it all, so there was no hint of scandal / wrongdoing) he closed his sermon with “BTW I have brain cancer and wanted to spare my children the horror of being asked how I was doing and receiving endless callers when all I want is to rest and enjoy my family. Thanks for denying us that.” It’s a lesson I won’t forget.

        6. Observer*

          That seems to me like exactly the kind of occasion where well-wishes, cards and possibly lasagna is in order. That’s what a community is *for*, no?

          It depends on the issue, who is involved and what the community is like.

          In this case, one thing that jumped out at me was that they believed that they were *owed* the right to “address the issue”. Except that this is not true, and I can see someone not wanting people to try to “address” their personal problems.

          If you don’t want to share any information about your private life, you can’t be part of a community, and you also shouldn’t become a community leader.

          Except that not sharing why you are leaving is NOT the same thing as “not sharing ANYTHING about your personal life.”

    2. Tinkerbell*

      Corollary to #2: Sometimes the leader has done something wrong AND was able to get away with it for a while because the organization has some issues that need fixing. Removing the leader may or may not signify willingness to fix the issue – sometimes it’s a positive step and sometimes it’s just burying their head in the sand. As a member, I would want to know enough details to decide whether I feel the organization is likely to change or whether I ought to move on and focus my attention/money/time elsewhere.

    3. Fuzzy Wuzzy is my head*

      I would also assume that #1 is the least likely. Our church recently lost our pastor because of difficult personal circumstances (illness + burnout + caretaker issues) and we all knew exactly what was going on because we were all close friends with the family. If he had left with no notice, I would have most likely assumed #2, as heartbreaking as it would be.

    4. OP2*

      OP2 here.

      In the case of the church, my friend was leaning heavily towards explanation #3. For that and other reasons, she ultimately left the church. Though I don’t think she ever got confirmation about what happened one way or another.

      The conductor left after six months, having replaced someone who had held the position for over 30 years. All I have is speculation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that were a pretty straight-forward case of not being a good fit.

      1. AnonyMs.*

        I am pretty sure I know exactly what situation you’re talking about (I’m not in a chorus where this happened but I live and sing in a city where it did), and it’s… jarring. (Of course, there are many similar chorus situations, so I’m not going to name names!) Leaving mid-season is a Very Big Deal, especially in the conductor’s first year, after a search. Do I think the chorus/community is owed the whole story? No, but I do think some explanation is in order. Even, “It wasn’t a great fit” would suffice (and that’s my guess too). From there, people can wonder all they want. Choruses are going to gossip, that’s a given, so I would always recommend getting ahead of the gossip.

        I still think it’s really strange– and, frankly, bad form– to leave mid-season with only a few concerts to go. If I were in that chorus (I am not), I would be very confused and would feel a bit at sea, so I don’t blame choristers for being upset and looking for answers.

    5. anon for this*

      There is also #4, which I was witness to recently. Someone beloved & a strong part of the community (and chosen as leader because of that) really just… didn’t maintain those high standards in the job. They didn’t do anything illegal or evil. They just didn’t treat employees fairly (in a social more than legal sense), they let their kids run wild at the site, they failed to hire appropriately for positions, the perception was that they never took other peoples’ ideas, they antagonized other leaders to the point that several threatened to quit or leave the board (depending on position). All the other stuff was ignored because of lack of oversight, but failing to hire to maintain certain certifications: well, that’s it. The parent organization does notice that.

      And I thikn they should’ve said that (politely) to people who asked, because now this former leader is telling folks in the community that it’s #3, they’ve been very mistreated — and because this person is loved, that message is believed. But that perception would be different if people understood that this leader put the accreditation at risk of revocation.

      1. Observer*

        This is interesting to me. Because it does speak to the issue that oftentimes something SHOULD be said. But the saying should be done by the organization, not the person leaving.

        In your case, in fact, what was truly unprofessional was that the person leaving DID speak out – and inaccurately! The leadership may not have been unprofessional here, but they were stupid.

    6. Beth*

      #3 does happen. Many years back, I left a volunteer position and cut all ties with the organization after years of being treated badly.

      When I left, I made the cut terse and complete, because I knew that anything I said, whatsoever, no matter what it was, would be twisted and used against me. They continued to smear me after I left, but they had to invent all the content for the smearing; they could not use anything I said during my departure as grounds for abuse, because I hadn’t given them anything to use.

  13. Mehitabel*

    LW 3: In a perfect world, men with long hair would be able to do as much with their hair as long-haired women can – wear it down, ponytail, french braid, bun, chignon, whatever. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and a man wearing long hair either loose or in any kind of elaborate hairstyle risks having that distract from the interview. My vote is for a ponytail gathered low on the back of the neck. No reasonable person could possibly object to that.

    1. Disappointment*

      In a perfect world, all people would be able to represent themselves in the manner that they see fit but despite that fact that this is the 21st century, we’re still stuck on the gender norms of the ancient past.

    2. Kevin Sours*

      I never caught any flak for wearing it in a simple pony tail. Mine was only middle of the back though.

  14. Roland*

    LW5, if you need more time to decide on a specific computer, consider just getting an external hard drive in the meantime to move your files to. Important things you still need access to can go in a cloud storage service like google drive, dropbox etc which can be accessed from a smartphone or tablet if you have one of those. You can generally get some online space for free, even if it’s not enough space for everything

    1. nnn*

      Building on this, back up the files NOW, even if you don’t have a new computer, i.e. set up your google drive or buy an external hard drive today.

      Sometimes, employer-imposed IT management systems prevent you from connecting external hard drives or accessing cloud storage, for the express purpose of preventing people from removing files from the computer (with the assumption that they’d be removing work-related files and sending them or storing them places they aren’t authorized to.)

      If you can back up under the current system, make sure you do so before it’s too late.

      1. Observer*

        Building on this, back up the files NOW, even if you don’t have a new computer, i.e. set up your google drive or buy an external hard drive today.

        Yes. This is the most important piece of advice. Do this immediately!

  15. Jinni*

    LW3 I think a very low ponytail, but with some elastics halfway down and at the bottom help as well. I’ve seen many lawyers do this in court. I think it keeps the hair from being front and center. I find on video, long hair isn’t too noticeable if pulled back.
    (This assumes the person on the interviewing end has *feelings* about it). TBH, I don’t think most people care. Though I do understand that jurors/judges are a grab bag and my response may lean toward that.

  16. Miri*

    LW4 – Team breakfast plus a team lunch is a lot! Even if you weren’t meeting other people at the company, I would think it’s absolutely fine to say something like “Oh, I need to go for a walk so I can decompress”. As it is, “Oh, thanks but I’m catching up with other people while we’re all in the same office!” also seems totally fine to me.

    1. Tinkerbell*

      Yeah, this kind of sounds like you’re expected to be working the entire day without breaks except one of the meetings involves food. There are some jobs for which that’s unavoidable, but (especially if you’re paid hourly) you might have a chance of being able to push back.

      1. amoeba*

        Yeah, I mean, I’m happy to go to lunch with my colleagues even when I’m in meetings all day, but then we also… don’t talk about work at lunch. A “working lunch” in addition to a long day would be hard. Can do that occasionally for, like, workshops and stuff, but would be less than happy to do it regularly.
        Also, I think meeting people from other teams is a very valid reason! When are you supposed to do that when you have to spend every minute on site with your own team?

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          and ONCE. We were gone for 18 months, then came back on a staggered schedule. It was 2 full years before my group of 10 were all in the office together. By that time, two people had left, and two had been hired. The first day, was crazy social, catching up, being overwhelmed by people, going to lunch, having a cup of coffee talking.
          It was fun, interesting and draining. The next time we were half in, it was still a lot of hey, how about lunch?
          I started to dread it until I was able to own, no thanks, I brought mine/I’m running errands.
          And this was just people being friendly, no expectations. They were going and wanted to include me. Not from a boss level or anything.
          If every time we came in was boss’ “social day” I would lose my mind.

        2. oranges*

          When we have all day meetings, we always have a “working lunch” in the middle. Basically, “everyone grab a boxed lunch off the table and we’ll start again once we all get settled.”

          If this is the (unspoken) expectation of the team, then yeah, LW4 is MIA for part of the meeting. Bulldozing through lunch is probably because a boss or team lead works through lunch themselves and doesn’t realize how draining (or even illegal!) that may be for others.

          It’s worth bringing it up ahead of the agenda for the next in-person day. “Can we have a set time for lunch? I’d like to have time to go for a walk and connect with some other co-workers to recharge for the afternoon, and I don’t want to miss anything critical.” Even better if you can get others on board and ask as a group.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Right – sounds like a full day of meetings with no breaks, except one of the meetings is called “lunch” and makes your day be 9 hours of nonstop work instead of 8, because on paper, it is lunch.

        I’ve worked through lunch, and attended meetings during the time when I normally take lunch, but it was for emergency situations where production was down and we needed to get a fix in asap, or for a one-off important meeting on a big project with high visibility and people from all teams present, or just a side effect of working on a distributed team where everyone is in a different time zone (and then I’d break for lunch after that meeting). Never had I ever have my management announce that we’d be working 9-6 without breaking for lunch one day a week for eternity, at least not without naming a serious reason for this kind of schedule.

        I’ll be honest, it’d take me the rest of the week to recover from a workday like the one LW describes, and this is coming from someone who has worked odd hours, weekends, all-nighters etc. I’m exhausted just reading about it and LW’s manager wants them to do it once a week?

    2. WillowSunstar*

      It might depend on the role and company. If you are any kind of team leader or even a senior administrative assistant , most companies (at least in the US) would expect you to go along with it to set an example. Even if an entry-level employee, many companies will still use the “not a team player” line when it comes to reviews. It is crappy but that is the culture in most companies, tow the line or else.

    3. Helvetica*

      Yeah, I was going to say the same – you already do team breakfast, so the face-to-face time which your manager seems to value has been achieved. I think it is very reasonable for you to state that you want to have lunch with other colleagues, if that’s what you do, since that also makes sense and your boss should respect that.

    4. WellRed*

      I wonder how their overall productivity is faring compared to when they didn’t have what essentially sounds like one giant meeting day.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Yep. Guessing not a lot gets done on meeting day, and that the productivity is also lower the next day as everyone’s recovering from/catching up on things they missed during meeting day.

    5. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      I don’t think I’d do this every week, for the very good reason that it might be considered “not a team player”, but maybe the OP could tell the boss the day before the meeting that they want to catch up with X person over lunch while they’re in the office this week. Overall it sounds like one of those infuriating things you just have to put up with, though.

    6. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

      How is this boss otherwise? They’re clearly an extrovert, and perhaps someone who is a little deficient on boundaries.

      OP, you might do well to explain to the boss that you work better when you’re not “on” and social every minute of the day, that a true lunch break is a real boon to your productivity and your ability to engage in the other activities Boss wants to happen that day.

      Even so, your boss may decide for you (ugh!) that you can stand doing this one day a week is not too much for you. In that case you might want to take a couple extra bathroom breaks during the day or find some other way to give yourself precious bits of alone time that won’t be seen as triggering the “you’re not a team player” reaction.

    7. NotRealAnonforThis*

      Had a few days like this each year (quarterly) at OldJob and they were….a LOT.

      Once every three months still required going to bed about the time I went home, because they were just mind numbingly over-stimulating.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yeah this struck me more as a quarterly-retreat type setup, in which case yes you might be expected to spend eight hours straight with your team. I had to read it twice to realize this was weekly. That’s way too often to have a whole day without a real break.

        1. JustaTech*

          Yeah, I’ve done this when we’ve had a team out from another site, but even then meals were explicitly “not work” and we said “if you need a break feel free to eat in the lunch room or at your desk”.

  17. Posilutely*

    Some of the things in LW1’s description make me think they work for the NHS. I hope they don’t because that would be a horrifying attitude, but also I hope they do because, LW1, if you work for the NHS there is always, always someone more senior you can go to with concerns. Even CEOs answer to someone. There are also Freedom To Speak Up Guardians who can help. If it’s a private company instead then possibly take it to HR or to a higher authority than the transphobic boss? If they are the owner then I would seriously consider moving on but of course that won’t help those who are being treated badly. We really do live in horrifying times when it comes to freedom of speech being used as a mask to wind the clock back at the moment (Elon Muskrat giving so many banned people back their platform as a prime example).

    1. Lirael*

      Yes I also thought this sounds NHS-y and I really hope I’m wrong :(

      This must be so hard OP1. I hope your boss comes to her senses. Or leaves and takes her stuff somewhere that doesn’t tolerate it and shuts it down.

      1. LW#1*

        Thanks Lirael – you are wrong thankfully, I’m not NHS. But it also means that there really isn’t anyone above her that we can go to! Everything has gone very quiet now so I’m hoping she has realised her mistake.

  18. woebetidethelibrarian*

    LW3: My husband with long hair tends to keep it in a simple braid (easier to keep neat than a ponytail) or a low bun. He does fancy braid styles for any formal events etc but it takes effort. A low, neat bun would probably fit what you’re looking for? The response is heavily dependent on perceived race unfortunately – it is not fashion-forward or unusual for people of my husband’s background to have long hair regardless of gender but being not white he does receive racist comments or micro-aggressions regardless of hair style.

  19. katkat*

    #3 his hair is so long, that i would add several bands for a low ponytail, in order to keep the hair back, instead of all over his shirt, shoulders, armpits… (deffenately have had that happen…) if he likes something lowkey quircky and not visible in zoom, using bright-colored bands is my husbands way to go.

  20. 1:1 lunches*

    LW4 I agree that the way to go is to say that you have lunch plans. I would also definitely say that you have a 1:1 with a colleague, this especially works if your job hinges on you having great cross-functional relationships. you can position it as, you’re networking with other teams. it’s always easier to make requests of people or complete others’ requests if you know them as people.

  21. Bilateralrope*

    #1 Bigots like that sound like one of the problems your organizations LGBTQ network exists to deal with. So I’d suggest going to them and asking for advice.

    1. just another queer reader*

      Ideally, dealing with bigots should be the responsibility of company leadership (HR, executives, etc).

      It shouldn’t be the LGBTQ employees’ job to deal with a manager who’s openly spouting hateful views.

      That being said, if the group isn’t already aware, it would be smart to loop them in (and then still escalate to leadership).

      1. Hlao-roo*

        if the group isn’t already aware, it would be smart to loop them in (and then still escalate to leadership)

        Yes to this, and the LGBTQ+ network may be able to identify a good person in leadership to escalate to, because they may know who in leadership is an ally.

  22. Well...*

    Everywhere I’ve worked, lunch has been part of the professional arena. You get to know visitors better (you know, the people that might hire you for your next position or notice and cite your papers), people typically talk about their research or current events in the field, and at some intense institutes the students/postdocs get grilled. The IAS at Princeton is kind of known for using lunch as a chance to go around the table and ask everyone what they’re working on that justifies their existence there. Then they proceed to critique their research on the spot.

    That’s too much IMO, but still, I’ve always seen lunch as an important part of work. It builds up your networking/chit chat about research skills for conferences and job searches. Departments in my field that don’t invite their grad students to lunch typically don’t see their grad students as valuable enough to invest this kind of professional development in, and it shows.

    We also don’t hang out 8 hrs a day though, so it’s a different situation. Still, I’ve never really seen lunch as my personal time. My personal time is when I’m at home.

    1. harikoa*

      I mean – I don’t know about where you live, but in NZ your lunch break is literally your personal time, ie unpaid. I’m a primary care doctor, so I work fairly ludicrous numbers of unpaid hours anyway, and when we do have people come in for lunch meetings as well, I really am not a happy chappy about spending even more unpaid hours doing work instead of clearing my mind for my next 4h of talking to people in the afternoon. (I am talking to people for 7-8 hours straight, most days, so that plays into it!)

    2. Wedded Blitz*

      Sounds like all of your experience is in academia which is a very different beast than an office job, with very different norms and expectations. What you describe is absolutely not typical outside of academia and is irrelevant to the OP who is not in that type of environment.

      1. amoeba*

        It’s also not typical within academia, at least where I come from! And I’ve done a PhD, two postdocs and multiple research stays in different labs in different countries.
        I mean, sure, there might be official stuff like “science lunches” but that happens maybe every few months. I’ve always gone for lunch with my fellow PhD students/postdocs, but a) that was 90% not work-related at all, we were all also hanging out outside of work and chatted about anything and everything at lunch. And also b), if you didn’t want to join, you didn’t join. No expectations whatsoever.

        1. Nesprin*

          Agreed- aside from interviews and maybe conferences, academics like their time to sit in an office and decompress, and would not tolerate 9hr “on” days.

    3. EPLawyer*

      Well this is a day of meetings just among that department. So by going outside the department to have lunch, the LW is actually building up his network. While also giving themselves a huge break from what sounds like an exhausting day.

      LW, the best thing you can do for yourself and your colleagues is to keep going to lunch on your own. Others may feel safer doing so. Which maybe when no one is showing up for lunch, your boss may get a clue that a day long meeting really is not the best use of everyone’s time.

    4. anonymath*

      As someone who’s been both at the IAS and corporate, this is true, and…

      A work onsite (specific short event) is different than the work-from-office day is different than IAS lunch or academic conference lunch. I had to work to build up my stamina for conferences and IAS/MSRI/Oberwolfach-type residencies of various lengths, it did not come easy.

      In a corporate job if you’re not a manager and aren’t gunning for a step up the ladder, downtime at lunch is totally reasonable. Even if you are gunning for the next step, you may need to make decisions about where to put your energy, and lunch with your team may not be it.

      If you’re not at a point where you want to strategize about lunch in order to further your ambitions, just go have lunch with your friends & say “oh I need some downtime at lunch” or “I want to keep in touch with other parts of the company”. If you are strategizing to use lunch to further your ambitions (and also want to have lunch w/ your friends & get some downtime) just get more leadership-y about your description. “Hey thanks, I love building relationships with our team, but I’m also finding it really high-yield to stay in touch with my contacts in (whatever). Did you know that the new XYZ system is presenting difficulties in running the MNOP reports in a timely manner? We may have an opportunity to….”

      I have really well-respected corporate coworkers who go listen to an audiobook over lunch. There are frankly more paths to success in corporate America than academia, so… just go do what you want :)

  23. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP5 (laptop) Could you offer to buy the laptop from the company? Presumably they are OK with “bring your own device” since that’s what you were doing before.

    If not – yes, you need to move those files off- maybe to cloud storage such as one drive (ideally more than one location if you rely on that).

    The urgency of this maybe depends on what the files are, are they downloaded bank statements etc or are they actually work for other freelance clients in which case you potentially have a more pressing issue.

    1. Observer*

      OP5 (laptop) Could you offer to buy the laptop from the company? Presumably they are OK with “bring your own device” since that’s what you were doing before.

      Nope. Do NOT do that. Do NOT do your work on a personal computer. That’s almost as bad as doing personal work on a work computer in terms of vulnerability. And that’s assuming good faith on the part of the employer the whole way through the OP’s employment, even its end.

      1. Surrogate Tongue Pop*

        Yeah 100% agree. And in the realm of hard drives, many organizations ban the plug in of external drive type USB devices to a work laptop. Google docs, dropbox is your safest bet OP5 for now. You can get laptops relatively inexpensively (I got an Asus Vivo Flipbook 14 on Black Friday for $349) these days and you’ll have freedom to do whatever you want on your own machine. Good luck!!

  24. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP1 (LGBTQ “disagreement”) – another aspect to this (I am not diminishing the LGBTQ aspect at all, just to be clear) is outside of the specific inclusion issue that this is about, what you have here is a big boss actively undermining – and trying to recruit others to undermine – this organisational programme, which has presumably been set from the highest level or from HR or someone similarly in authority. And undermining it quite openly at that (posting on intranet). I think any time a boss is working against the official direction (and the official direction isn’t obviously wrong) needs to be highlighted to those above.

    Someone in another comment suggested this may be the NHS. What if the big boss gets bored with being anti-LGBTQ and their next agenda is undermining patient safety protocols for the sake of debate. (Not “fanfic” but rather illustrating why it’s dangerous to allow people like this to go unchecked)

  25. SPB*

    Regarding #5: it seems they were perfectly OK with her working on her private computer before it died, so it seems likely they wouldn’t be too upset about using the work computer for her own stuff, to some extent. You can transfer your files to cloud storage in the short term until you get your own computer. I agree with Alison that that’s the only way to keep your files safe, even if you won’t get in trouble for using the computer.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      An external hard drive may be a good solution as well. Fairly inexpensive, they hold a huge amount of data, and just need unplugging to walk away. (Although, get your own equipment for your freelance to protect against any software license issues and possibility of “helpful updates” messing up your personal information. And then write it off as a business expense.)

    2. Sloanicota*

      I don’t think #5 is in trouble, FWIW. I agree it’s not best practice to use a employer-provided work computer as your own home computer for a variety of reasons, so OP does need to go get themselves their own computer and transfer the files, but I don’t think she needs to bring it up or apologize or whatever. She didn’t know, but now she knows. Sidenote: yes, it is kind of annoying that many workplaces are fine with you using your home computer for them. Ideally, that would not be the case either. I find it only happens at places with loose rules around computer security.

    3. Observer*

      Yeah, the OP should not be in any sort of trouble. But they still need to move their files NOW.

  26. Sue Wilson*

    #1: Your boss isn’t listening because they don’t care about their employees’ trust more than the care about the ideology they are willing to sacrifice those employees’ trust for. Your letter makes me think that you want to argue your boss out of it. That’s unlikely and I’d take actions assuming that wasn’t so. However, I’d look at deprogramming stories myself (I’m not saying all bigoted views are cultish, I AM saying the UK transphobes have developed a echo chamber where ideological purity is more important that the practical harm that might ensue like partnering with clear white supremacists, which is very ironic, and that is more like cult thought than anything else imo).

    #2: For me this is pretty simple. Anything that effects how the community has operated or will operated is knowledge the community is entitled to have regardless of privacy…but ONLY to the extent that the community itself is generally affected. And I do mean community, so church probably. Choir that is more like a hobby group? Less so.
    ex: Preacher Sam can’t have office hours anymore.
    Because they’ve got some stuff to take care of at home? Don’t need to know.
    Because a child said something concerning happened in one of them? Don’t need to name the child, do need to name that there’s an investigation.
    Because you’re not sure Preacher Sam isn’t embezzling funds so you are keeping them away from the cash? Yes, people need to know if they need to watch the cash box at the bake sale.
    Because Preacher Sam and Member Avery keep having loud arguments during choir practice, but they’re just being inconsiderate and nobodys in any danger? Everyone likely already knows this but no, you can make another excuse if you need to.

    1. bamcheeks*

      I AM saying the UK transphobes have developed a echo chamber where ideological purity is more important that the practical harm that might ensue like partnering with clear white supremacists, which is very ironic, and that is more like cult thought than anything else imo

      As Despairing of Humanity is doing a pretty great job of proving with their misinformation about the Forstater case.

  27. Feotakahari*

    For #2, I thought it was normal to not explain why teachers were fired. I just suddenly have a new teacher and don’t know why. It seems like pastors would be in the same position as teachers in that regard.

    1. doreen*

      I was always given some sort of reason when a teacher suddenly left in the middle of the year , although I have no way of knowing whether it was true or not. A teacher who just didn’t return at the start of a new year is another story.

    2. Nina*

      When pastors leave very suddenly with no explanation there is approximately one (1) conclusion that most people will jump to and it is not a conclusion that is kind to the pastor. Unfortunately this is because it has historically so often turned out to be the reason for a sudden unexplained departure.

  28. Scottish Mary*

    LW1 I live in the UK and was sadly not surprised to read your last sentence, that sort of thing seems to be spreading. I suspect it’s not the NHS only because I’d be very surprised if any boss at any level had the ability to affect centrally determined policy in this way — sounds more like a big bank or similar? Still worth following the comment above about checking whether this boss even has the ability to roll back any of this unilaterally.

    LW2 (person leaving) I worked for an organization where the top person left very unexpectedly and with no explanation. I assumed it was serious illness — it later turned out it was misconduct — but regardless I think they were right not to spread it around.

  29. Mornington Cresent*

    #1, your comment struck me because it sounds SO much like a UK employer I left just over a year ago. Others are saying it could be the NHS and maybe it is, but to me, it sounds so much like the multi-national-but-UK-based, multi-divisional engineering contracting firm that I worked for.

    This particular firm just has an entire culture of allowing bullies to rise to the top and a complete tolerance of banter and unkind comments. They also have a system for adding your pronouns, a “Pride in [Company] Network” and rainbow lanyards.
    They also have networks for women and the neurodiverse within the company to connect to one another. None of it makes any difference- if you’re not a straight white guy, you can be liked if you’re useful, but you’ll be tolerated at best

    It could be a different company, I don’t know, it just seems remarkably similar to me. Honestly, when it comes to this kind of crap, it’s exhausting. I left that company to leave my bullying manager, who made my life miserable for two years and felt immensely better afterwards.

    Many of these types of people are just never going to change. It probably wouldn’t hurt to look elsewhere and get into an environment where this isn’t acceptable.

    1. bamcheeks*

      World of depressing reading these responses and half of them are like, “Huh, sounds like academia / large engineering company / NHS”.

    2. LW#1*

      Totally different organisation – I can’t decide if that makes me feel better or worse! I am definitely looking elsewhere and not the only one by far, but seeing how common this is makes me wonder if there’s anywhere where it isn’t acceptable at the moment.

      Thank you for your response!

  30. Cheesesticks*

    LW 5:

    It is never a good idea to mix your personal files, browsing history, etc. on your work computer. Personally, I would not want to allow my employer any access to any of my personal files etc. along with the huge risk of them remotely wiping them.

    You can always find Windows Laptops and even Chromebooks (my personal favorite) very inexpensively.

    1. Observer*

      Yes, look into a chrome book. Of course it depends on what you need, but for a lot of people a chromebook will do everything they need.

  31. ukhrlady*

    The UK has had a lot of high-profile employment tribunal cases related to ‘gender critical’ beliefs at work (which have tended to go in the complainant’s favour), so I would recommend LW#1 get in touch with Stonewall, Mermaids, or other LGBT advocacy groups, which can offer legal advice and counsel if it comes to that. I could see the biggest quibble being if the affinity group provides any sort of training or professional development that wasn’t available for all employees to undertake.

    ‘Religion or Belief’ is a protected characteristic in the UK, and a lot of legal challenges recently have really stretched the definition of what can be considered a ‘belief’ that should be accommodated/accepted at work.

  32. OneAngryAvocado*

    LW 1: we have a similar sort of thing going on in our UK workplace atm (are you working in academia, by any chance? transphobia and gender critical nonsense is riding hard in this sector currently) where our directorate decided to pull out of Stonewall based on a very flimsy ‘consultation’ with a handful of gender critics academics. It’s super stressful.

    Getting support from your wider work community to push back seems the right way to go here. Also quashing the entire LGBTQ network would, I think, be seen by many as one step too far towards active discrimination – I’d reach out to a union or any HR rep about whether this is breaking equality laws, because it certainly feels like it. (Also just pointing out to your HR person that a company that looks actively hostile to queer people isn’t going to be a popular one for hiring etc might be worthwhile).

  33. Old Admin*

    #1 : Your Big Boss is “just asking questions”. That and her other verbiage is typical Conspiracy Theorist/Alt Right Speak.
    You probably can only afford to push back by gently disagreeing *with her* or encouraging others to keep wearing their lanyards/sharing pronouns, . Maybe you can inform your Grandboss/the CEO what’s going on.

    1. Sean*

      This boss claims to be concerned for critics who feel ‘silenced’, yet will brook no opposition to anyone who dares speak up to challenge HER edicts.

      In addition to everything else written above about this boss, she is a massive hypocrite.

      1. Siege*

        No, she’s a TERF and wants TERFs like her to be able to spout their hate so the LGBTQ/anyone who believes in equality will shut up and not make her have to hear about equality for those icky, icky transes.

        1. Siege*

          Also, I just want to be clear – *I* have read all my comments and can see my support, but in case it’s not clear, that last bit is sarcasm, and I apologize to anyone who thought I meant it.

      2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        I do not understand why she cares. It’s a job. Even if folks hate gays with every fiber of their being they need to just type their little reports and go home. This is not the venue for ‘ asking questions ‘

  34. bamcheeks*

    LW1, my massive, massive sympathies. I’m not sure whether you’re LGBTQ yourself or just an ally, but as a cis lesbian, PLEASE don’t accept your big boss’s framing of the situation and keep pushing back and raising this.

    If you want to push back more forcefully, I would suggest highlighting that whilst the Forstater judgment did find that gender-critical beliefs constituted a religious or philosophical belief worthy of protection (unlike Nazism or totalitarianism, which are explicitly excluded from the protection of rights under the ECHR), it also noted that the Claimant’s belief “[had]
    its potential to result in the harassment of trans persons in some circumstances,”, that trans people continued to have the protections against discrimination and harassment conferred by the EA 2010, and that it does not alter the employer’s duty to provide a safe environment for trans people. All of these protections also apply to cis LGB people, of course, and the overwhelming majority of us fully support trans rights and know that the attacks on trans people are part of a broader campaign to undermine LGBTQ rights. You could therefore quite legtimately ask how exactly she thinks this “disagreement” should be framed in a way that doesn’t undermine the duty to provide a safe environment for LGBTQ workers.

    I would also raise concerns with HR and the LGBTQ network. I am aware of at least one place where the LGBTQ is in dispute with senior management because they are allowing gender critical beliefs to flourish and creating an unsafe environment for trans and other LGBTQ folk. Having allies add to the chorus of disagreement is extremely helpful, so if you’re not LGBTQ yourself, thank you. And if you are, solidarity. <3

    1. Starbuck*

      Word. Protection from being fired for just -having- a belief as absolutely not a protection to spout off about it in the workplace! My goodness. It’s sad to see the direction the UK is going with transphobia and sad watching from the US with all the horrid things happening here too, though I’m grateful to live in a state that’s working on getting itself declared a refuge for trans people and their families.

  35. Harper the Other One*

    I have a (sort of) insider perspective on #2 because my husband S is a minister, in a denomination where you apply for positions like regular work (as opposed to being placed by a church hierarchy.) People are attached to church leaders in a way that they are not to most other roles, and often someone leaving has the emotional impact of, say, a PhD advisor or therapist leaving. So most denominations do advise both employees and church boards to provide at least a little bit of information about the departure, even if it has to be immediate.

    That’s not to say that people have to reveal things they want to keep private. S had to take medical leave for mental health reasons many years ago, and very much was not in a good position to share the details at the time. He and the board settled on wording that phrased it as a medical leave for reasons that were “serious but not life threatening” and indicated to the congregation that while expressions of concern could be sent, neither S nor I would be responding. (Side note: thank goodness for good church boards, which are rarer than they should be, because they’re the ones who basically told him “we don’t know what’s going on but you are obviously unwell in some way and we want you to take the time you need to recover.)

    The TL;DR version of all this is that professional expectations do differ a bit in this field. Sudden, unexplained departures with no reason given are generally signs of either malfeasance of some description, or a church board that’s controlling and doesn’t like to be challenged by staff.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yes, with churches, at least the ones I have worked with, is that no news is rarely good news. So, if someone leaves suddenly with no explanation, the general assumption tends to be some sort of malfeasance was going on. This isn’t fair, of course, people should be allowed to be as private as they wish about these things. Given that tendency, I have seen churches strongly advised to say “something” rather than nothing to protect the reputation of the person leaving. Church gossip is very real and can be damaging to folks.

  36. Justin*

    Your boss is very wrong but you know that. I do not know how to get that through her head on TERF Island but combine with as many colleagues as you can to push back, if at all possible.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      They don’t need to get it through her head that she’s wrong (that’s almost certainly a losing battle); they need to get through her head that what she’s doing is very illegal. She needs to stop it and why she stops is less important than that she stops.

  37. Akcipitrokulo*

    LW1 – this is almost certainly going to be in violation of the Equality Act 2010.

    If you are in an union, call them now. If not, find out if any of your colleagues are, and get them to call. Some big legal guns may put this to rest.

    You can also report to/get advice from

    Also contacting Stonewall is a good idea.

  38. Delta Delta*

    #2 – “Outraged” and “wronged” feel like pretty outsized reactions for someone moving on. The friends likely have hurt feelings; they may have been close to Minister X or Choir Leader Y but that doesn’t entitle them to the information. If there’s some sort of systemic or legal issue, it seems it’s up to the organization to reveal. If it’s personal, perhaps it’s meant to stay that way.

    1. She of Many Hats*

      Change in churches often create out-sized drama. Something as minor as choosing between softcover and hardcover hymnals can cause months or years long chaos in that community. Heaven forbid a choir leader change! I know one parish that nearly split over the departure of a choir director who had personality conflicts with some parish leaders.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I agree. I’m also struck that the word “unprofessional” was used when…well to me the complaint really seems to be that it was handled overprofessionally, perhaps a little coldly, when they expected more personal connection in the transition.

      I am willing to chock it up to the fact that I’ve never been strongly invested in a group like this, but the reaction does feel outsized to me as well.

      1. OP2*

        It was the “unprofessional” that got me as well and got me comparing it to my own work experience. But different jobs have different norms, which is why I wrote in.

  39. Zarniwoop*

    Is Big Boss actually planning to get rid of rainbow lanyards, LGBTQ group, etc? Or is she just looking for people to argue with (asking people to debate on company website). If the latter can you all just “grey rock” her and not engage?

    She has a right to hold her views however wrong they are, and to express them within reason, but not to demand company resources and employee time be devoted to debating them.

    1. Rogelio*

      I actually don’t agree that she has a right to express those views within reason at work, because those views are inherently unreasonable and discriminatory.

      I had to deal with a similar manager when marriage equality became law in the US and they were fuming. They wanted to have their own rebuttals posted on the announcement of how it’d affect our financial products (tax changes), post articles about how only a man and woman can raise a child well on our D&I spaces, all kinds of stuff. You have to shut that down quickly just like you would a white supremacist or misogynist or anything like that.

      1. LilPinkSock*

        I agree with you. If a coworker “just expresses within reason” views that are misogynistic or antisemitic, and I feel unsafe because of those views, all the non-engagement in the world won’t really help me. None of it is acceptable, and it’s disgusting how many people seem willing to give transphobes more of a pass.

      2. Zarniwoop*

        Has a right to express their views to whoever they’re having lunch with, but not to misuse their authority to use company resources to promote private views.

    2. LW#1*

      No, I don’t think she is planning to get rid of them. It was posited as an extreme position e.g. one way to make sure everyone’s views are respected might be to not have lanyards, alliances or blogs in support of LGBT issues, where the opposite position was to have alliances and blogs supporting gender critical views – she also suggested that there might be suffragette lanyards and someone rightly pointed out that many LGBT staff might want to wear both. I should have said that to Alison in my letter. It’s too late for “grey rock”-ing – we’ve all engaged now and had the disagreements, and it’s all gone quiet again.

      1. Zarniwoop*

        Unless she has the power to actually do these things, next time “don’t feed the troll.”

        And at least now you know she’s a bigot and to watch out for her.

        1. Dr Sarah*

          I actually doubt she’s a troll; there are so many people these days who actually believe this sort of crap. If she does believe it, keeping quiet is a *terrible* idea because it teaches her that she can keep getting away with it, and leaves LGBTQ people in the org feeling unsafe because they see no-one’s pushing back.

  40. The Original K.*

    Interesting that a high bun is perceived as casual. I (Black, naturally curly hair) wear my hair in a high bun sometimes but it’s a polished bun, not a messy topknot. It looks deliberate (because it is), not, like “I just pulled it up off my neck to go work out.” I have a male friend with long dreadlocks and he sometimes wears his in a high bun. He’s quite successful (in a very white field), so it hasn’t been a hindrance – but again, it’s a groomed bun, not sloppy.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      I do default to “messy” when I picture “high bun”, but I also live in a high concentration of college students where you see high messy buns paired with sweats and other casual clothes all the time (the ‘college student look’, if you will). Any polished high bun I would not read as causal at all.

    2. Generic Name*

      Yeah, I’m wondering if Alison is equating a high bun with a (messy) topknot. I also think that race plays a factor in how long hair is styled in men and how it’s perceived. As in for a white man, the most conservative hairstyle for long hair on men is a low ponytail with a center part. For Black men, I personally think having dreadlocks gathered into a high ponytail looks perfectly professional, for example. A similar high ponytail on a white man won’t read as professionally. I can’t explain why, other than to say a lot of this is arbitrary. A man should be able to wear his hair in a French twist or wear makeup, or whatever but we’re not there as a society.

      1. Marna Nightingale*

        I think FWIW the vibe on white men or even non-Black men in general is more “playing sports”. I remember it was a big thing with soccer/footie players for a long time.

        Mostly that was high bun over undercut, but I think that’s where the vibe comes from.

  41. Marna Nightingale*

    LW3: As a former haver of waist-length hair, I found a braid better than a ponytail for interview-type situations because they were more reliable about staying back and tidy all day without needing to be tight.

    For buns, those spiral pins stay absolutely solidly in place for hours without being uncomfortable.

    My hair is both fine and inclined to be slippery, so he may not need that level of control, but fwiw.

  42. Peanut Hamper*

    #4: breakfast, lunch, and day-long meetings? This is just beyond the pale. When do you actually get any work done? I am so confused by this. I would need a lunch hour curled up alone in a dark closet if I faced a day like this.

    1. I have RBF*

      Just last week I spent 8.5 hours in a Zoom meeting. I ate lunch at my desk. I didn’t even have to do much, just pay attention. I was exhausted by the time it ended – even with cameras off I was “peopled out”. Having to do all that, including lunch, in person? I would be fried at the end of the day.

  43. Lacey*

    I’m glad you mentioned that when community leaders leave because of wrong-doing it needs to be disclosed. I’ve seen too many (pastors, coaches, teachers) leave because of serious harm done to people, but it’s often framed in a way that hides what happened.

    And then they just move on to another organization and do the same thing over again.

  44. Chocolate eclair*

    #5 Be careful here, When I was laid off legal let me know I was not permitted to remove files I created on the company laptop. This was their property since it was created on their property with their systems. What you have may be different and not fall under the same restrictions but once you put something on your work computer you loose some of your rights to that work.

  45. S. Frivolous*

    Letter #1. The boss wants Gender crit voices heard? So she wants to ban LGBT lanyards? Ludicrous. I would say that if she wants she could get GC lanyards. But sounds like she might actually go for that. Sounds like she’s in that place beyond reason. But, agreed, she is veering into employment law areas in the U.K.

  46. Polar Vortex*

    As someone who’d be targeted by your Boss’ rhetoric, there’s been a lot of great ideas above. Our biggest champions can be allies. You sound like an amazing one with how you care and how you want to do something. (I am making an assumption here give you didn’t speak to being a part of the community.) Trans people are at terrible risk for murder and suicide, so if you feel confident to step up and do this work, please do so.

    You can also do minor things like ensure you use your pronouns everywhere, wear Pride colors or an ally pin, do everything you can to let everyone in your org know that you are a safe space for them. Will this make interacting with your boss more frustrating? Yes, but welcome to the lives of trans people, it sucks for us.

    Document the heck out of everything your boss says/does. Why? Well maybe one of the lovely orgs listed above or the powers that be in your organization will find it useful. Every email, every chat, every verbal interaction. UK law is not my bailiwick but there’s a lot of orgs out there that can help as people have rightly brought up. The more fuel you have, the brighter the fire is.

    Organize. As Alison said, together you’re stronger. The more allies you bring in, the safer the LGBTQ staff’ll feel and the more action you can take as a group. It also lets you implement things on a greater scale if the higher people in your org or your HR or someone from the outside who’s protecting trans rights comes in to help. (Plus, yet again more people to document, more and more fuel for that fire.)

    If you have an Employee Assistance Program, you can reach out to them too.

    Lastly: Also take care of yourself. This stuff sucks. I speak it as someone who lives it, and who continues to fight for better in a company that means well but continues to drop the ball on gender stuff. And who has to fight in a country where the goal seems to see us all dead. It helps to have your people, which is why organizing is important, but find hobbies that help you destress. Find the victories where you can, even the smallest ones are still big leaps forward today. Thank you for caring.

  47. Martina*

    My husband is a pastor and I agree that if a pastor, in our denomination at least, left with no warning or explanation it would be a BIG THING and there would be a lot of gossip assuming the worst.

    You can’t go with “new opportunity” because if he left to pastor a new church in the same or a similar denomination that would not be a surprise. It would have been public knowledge that a job offer was even extended, much less that he accepted.

    Retirement only works at a certain age. Health or family health reasons would most likely not come as a total surprise since we are a community, and if the health reasons were sudden absent anything else the pastor would likely stay in the church community, or possibly move to be closer to family. But regardless if it is health reasons you just…. Say that. You can be vague, but the reality is that even a somewhat stigmatized illness like depression is a better explanation than what the rumour mill would come up with on its own. Also everyone knows that “burnout” is a common thing in the ministry.

    Even if it was internal conflict within the church/leadership that became unbearable the most common route is to line up a new job and leave gracefully for a new church. (I know this varies in other churches where a pastor can be fired with no warning)

    Which basically leaves either misconduct, a desire to leave the ministry altogether, or a change in belief. Any of these is kind of the congregation’s business. Especially if he did something wrong or now believes differently than the church (when did that start? Did it affect his preaching leading up to the departure?). If he just feels he’s not called to be a minister anymore it raises some questions about why, and in any case it is just smart to address because otherwise people will again fear the worst.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      This was back in my Southern Baptist days. The church organist was let go suddenly, but the word did get out from official sources that it was for sexual sin. I think it was because of an affair he was having with another church member.

      While I don’t remember the details, I am fairly sure that it came out officially because I wasn’t in a position to know the parties involved.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      But regardless if it is health reasons you just…. Say that

      If you want to, but there still no obligation. It’s your personal health information.
      Yes, it might be a BIG THING in the community, but other people’s expectations don’t obligate you to share information.

    3. Observer*

      But regardless if it is health reasons you just…. Say that.

      And why is someone obligated to say that? Especially if those health problems are NOT the pastor’s but someone else’s. Others have provided several scenarios around this. It’s just not reasonable to make this a sweeping expectation. Sure, in most cases it’s reasonable and sensible. But not anywhere close enough to universally so that you can just say “just say that” as THE way things go.

      Health or family health reasons would most likely not come as a total surprise since we are a community, and if the health reasons were sudden absent anything else the pastor would likely stay in the church community, or possibly move to be closer to family.

      You are making a lot of assumptions. Yes, this is a community. But that doesn’t mean that the community gets to know all the health and family issues a pastor (much less a choir leader!) and their family have, too assume there should be no surprises there. And furthermore “absent anything else” is a HUGE assumption.

      I mean I get it – it’s unusual. But that doesn’t make it wrong. Nor does it make it “unprofessional”.

  48. She of Many Hats*

    LW 1: If you have any sort of Legal Dept. or HR, go to them. Your boss is very likely opening the company up to liability by creating an unsafe work place for employees by encouraging public dialog against marginalized and/or protected groups in the work place. And if that officially-sanctioned-by-her dialog is discovered by clients, it could cost the company business and their reputation.

    LW 3: Besides the long pony, a long braid or French braid would be a neat and low-key hair-style for men.

    LW4: If you are non-exempt, make sure you are being paid for your working lunches!!!

  49. brianna_the_banana*

    For #1: I’m not sure how your LGBTQ+ Network works or is set up, but the one at my company part of an organization of inclusion and diversity employee groups that all have higher up leadership contacts. The group is set up so that in these kinds of situations, they know who to talk to in upper management to make sure the issue is addressed. Again, I don’t know how yours works, and I wouldn’t want to put extra burden on LGBTQ+ people to deal with this situation, but if they are more of an employee support group, then they should be able to help you!

  50. Workerbee*

    #2 I’m actually thinking that a partial reason why these leaders left quietly is because they knew the reaction they’d get. “Outrage” (!!) is something I’d want to just avoid entirely myself. Sometimes people get too invested in a whole other person and forget that that person is, well, a whole other person.

    This is just my experience; I could be missing a rightful nuance.

    #4 One day every week for what sounds like a whole day of meetings? Is this manager unconcerned about productivity? Are these working meetings or talking-about-working meetings? Either way, having had managers like this – indeed, most recently, before leadership caught on to the fact that he was never moving anything forward and indeed stopping others from doing so – I feel for you, OP. This is a lot even for people used to working in-person. I’d bet some $ that part of the first meeting is recapping last week’s meeting.

    So go have your lunch as you want it and affect to not notice any passive aggressiveness on this lout’s part.

    #5 Buy a terrabyte drive and transfer your files to it. This will give you time to source out and purchase a personal computer. And don’t bother telling anyone about your non-work files.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Re #4 – this is a big assumption, but if they are getting the majority of their meetings done in one day and working fairly independently the rest of the week, that could actually be efficient. I know my weekly meeting count is probably more than a full days worth, and the start-and-stop can be as big a time suck as the meetings themselves.

      Lots of assumptions are baked into that though.

      1. WorkerAlias*

        I’m LW #4. None of the meetings are task- or development-oriented. My team is a collection of developers (two specific types of developers) that work on the same software, but we all work on different topics or areas within the software, so we don’t actually work on any tasks or deliverables together. The people I actually work with are on other teams, in other countries. So these in-person meetings are mostly us giving updates to the team on what we’re doing and any admininistrative updates, and then my actual work meetings are done via email/Teams meetings the other days of the week.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          OMG so the actual task-or-development-oriented meetings need to now be scheduled for the other 4 days.

          And 9 hours of admin updates per week? even if your company was having a top-to-bottom reorg every week, that wouldn’t require that much time?

          I’m blown away. I’ve been in all-day meetings (including lunch), but those were work-related and this sounds like… honestly the opposite.

          Either way, LW, I think you’ll be perfectly justified in having lunch on your own, especially if it happens to be with the people you actually work with, to discuss items that you work on together (which you would happily explain to your boss if needed). I would proceed until apprehended.

  51. LondonLady*

    Hello LW1 – some links on UK law below

    Sexual orientation, gender and gender status are among the ‘protected characteristics’ on which it is ILLEGAL to discriminate at work: so your boss is not only a bigot but potentially getting the firm into legal trouble. I doubt the higher-ups will want to tolerate that!

  52. Chilipepper Attitude*

    For #1, is malicious compliance a way to go here? Like here are all the transphobic arguments, since you want a debate. If you are a transphobe you are thinking x, y, z but also it is likely you are gender queer in some way and your transphobia is a way to hide that, even from yourself.

    1. bamcheeks*

      Oh no, please don’t go down this route! The meme that people are transphobic or homophobic because they’re actually secretly queer themselves is gross, and actually super homophobic! It’s implying that queerphobia is queer people’s fault, and it’s not, it’s usually just very unpleasant cishet people.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        And it doesn’t even make sense because if the only people who were homophobic or transphobic were those who were trying to hide their own identities…who would they be trying to hide them from? The idea that there are people so worried about being outed that they overcompensate by seeming bigoted against the group they are part of in itself indicates the likelihood that they are living in a world fairly bigoted against that group which…implies the existance of a lot of bigoted cishet people.

  53. Pink Geek*

    LW5 a cheeper and faster option for you is to buy an external hard drive for all your files. That way you’re not storing them on company property and if it’s not plugged in you’re not vulnerable to a remote wipe.

    You’d still need a computer if you want to *do* anything with your files without being watched but maybe you’re okay with them seeing your recipes and crochet patterns and can stick to reading fan fic on you phone ;)

  54. Saberise*

    Since you specifically mentioned that you find being with your co-workers for 8 hours without a break tiring it sounds like you are being paid for the lunch hour. In that case, it’s reasonable for them to expect it to be a “working lunch.” Now if that would mean you are working 8 hours + 1 hour for lunch than it’s less reasonable.

  55. ATC*

    LW #5

    Moving forward, try not to do non-work things on a work laptop. If you use company resources for personal projects, your employer could make a claim to your intellectual property because you used their resources for your project. This hasn’t happened to me, but I work in tech and IP is always something on my mind.

  56. AA Baby Boomer*

    ref: Boss wants us to “disagree” over LGBTQ inclusion

    I would like to see a day in the future, preferably soon where we do not feel the need to label individuals, etc. Bigots usually have a stronger voice because they feel the need to justify their belif system or ignorance. They know they are wrong & socially incorrect. So they take the best defense by being offensive. We have a tendancy to avoid bigots and their hate. We should be judged on how we treat others, the quality of our work at our job and our relationships with friends and family. Truthfully we shouldn’t be judging others or wish to be judged ourselves. Employers & co-workers need to get past the urge to judge or condemn others for their differences. They should be smart enough to keep their opinions to themselves if others find it offensive.

    Years ago I was involved with somone, smart & intelligent. At the 6 month mark he started spewing ugliness & racism, etc. He was able to control it it long enough that I was entrenched in the relationship before I knee who/what he was. It was bad enough that he got written up at his job for something he said. That was the first instance where I realized the type of person he was. It can be the same for the work environment in some instances.

  57. Observer*

    #2 – Community leaders leaving without explanation. (Posted before reading comments).

    For what it’s worth, I think your friends need to remember that employment is a two way street, and the employer (or the community that the employer represents) does not have the power or standing to decide whether an employee – even one in a leadership position – gets to leave or stay when the employee wants to leave. The employer does not get to weigh in on whether the employee’s reason is “good enough” or if the issue can be resolved if the employee does not agree with the resolution or does not want to resolve the presenting issue.

    We don’t do indentured servitude or slavery in the US (at least not legally). That means that legally, people legally only owe their employers the duty to do the best job they can, and to fulfill any conditions of an employment contract if there is one, or the legal regulations in their locality. Morally and ethically, they have the obligation to think carefully about how their decision will affect their community and to try to work with their employer and / or community *when it’s reasonable and realistic*. What they never have, legally or morally, is an obligation to share their private information.

    To be honest, I would not be surprised if your friends’ attitude – and the behavior of the one who misused their information and reached out to the former employee – was not part of the reason for these people to leave as they did. If something serious enough is happening that someone is leaving with little notice and no explanation in this kind of position, the very LAST thing they want to add to their plate is people trying to argue them out of their decision. And they are also almost certainly not going to want to give anyone the chance to use their privileged information to poke their nose where it doesn’t belong, and it’s a reasonable fear.

    1. Keep Smiling*

      I don’t think that’s fair to the friends. Someone in a position like a minister or a pastor is much different than the person making your sandwich at Subway. People in this position often have access to vulnerable members of the congregation and spend time with people at their lowest moments, learning personal information about each family and becoming a major part of the community. People become close with their pastors in a way that doesn’t always happen even with other church employees. The pastor often determines the sermons, as well, which can totally change one’s churchgoing experience.

      In a situation like that, I can understand wanting to know what happened. Was it a theological difference that might impact the rest of the community? Was something shady going on?

      As Alison said, officials should be transparent if the latter was the case, but I doubt that happens every time. The friends are probably concerned they may have shared vulnerable moments with someone unsuitable, or that there’s some kind of drama behind the scenes that the rest of the church should know about (but likely won’t be told). Even a simple, impersonal “moving on to another opportunity” might put people at ease more than just an abrupt departure that makes it seem like there was bad blood.

      1. Observer*

        There is a huge gulf between “wanting to know”, which is understandable, and “That’s wrong and unprofessional!” It’s neither. ESPECIALLY in the case of the choir leader whose role has nothing to do with dealing with people’s problems. And the idea that the person has an obligation to actually let the congregation weigh in and allow the congregation to actually try to change things before the person is “allowed” to leave? Beyond absurd. Nothing you describe comes close to justifying this expectation.

        If there was something shady that the pastor was doing, then it’s on congregational leadership to provide information relevant to the congregation.

        Doctors and therapists interact with people much as you describe a pastor – but more so. Yet no one in their right mind expects this kind of disclosure, much less meddling! when a therapist leaves a practice.

  58. Observer*

    #5 – Work computer being used for personal use. (responded before reading the comments).

    Alison is 100% correct. But I would put it more strongly.

    If your manager is a reasonable person, it is going to make zero difference if you talk to him or not. They are NOT going to change whatever it is they were planning to do, but they also won’t punish you.

    Having said that, take your stuff off of the work machine TODAY. And then wipe those files from the machine. You want to do this BEFORE they put the management software on there. Because otherwise there may very well be a lot of legitimate questions about the copying of a mass of files from your work machine to a personal device. Just get your stuff off. Now.

    Get yourself a new machine ASAP, so you have something to work with. Till you do, the only thing I would do on your work machine is stuff that is internet based. Although, depending on what they are actually planning to install, I would be cautious about doing anything that you would prefer to keep private on that machine.

  59. Some Dude*

    LW #5 – I suggest you invest in a cloud file storage solution (dropbox, box, google drive, etc) and upload all your personal files there. Also get an external hard drive and back them up there. If you are freelancing you can write off all these expenses and the expense of a new computer, so there is that.

  60. Observer*

    #5 – Using your work computer as your personal device. (Posted before reading comments)

    Alison is completely correct. But I would put it more strongly.

    Talking to your boss should make no difference if they are at all reasonable. The company is NOT going to change their plans regardless (nor should they!) And they also won’t punish you for doing something that seemed perfectly reasonable based on what was going on and what they said.

    Having said that, stop using that computer for ANYTHING except for web based stuff that has not privacy implications. And take all of your files and data off that machine TODAY. Either upload it to the cloud or copy it to an external drive (or both), then WIPE your files. Do it immediately, before the new software is put on your system.

    If the software is already on there, give your boss a heads up before you copy and wipe your files to avoid the possibility of a bunch of perfectly legitimate questions about the sudden copying and erasure of your files – which they wouldn’t know are your files.

  61. IntrovertedCatMom*

    Lunch Break LW:

    I have the same issue. I am an introvert and literally need alone time during the day to function. If I don’t get a break, I feel incredibly frazzled and irritable.

    In the past, I have said:

    “I need a break during the day to clear my head/decompress.”

    “I need to take my lunch so I can be productive when I return to finish out the work day.”

    “I have a personal goal of walking 30 minutes a day while listening to [educational podcast].”

    “I use my personal lunch break to run errands before [business] closes/because I have an event after work and won’t have time to do so.”

  62. cat*

    For our long haired person. I hear you on finding a suitable professional style for men. One of my friend’s sons has long hair, but as he’s in the lab all day so tying it back is required.
    Definitely try a lower bun, with the hair spiraled round and pinned rather than just pulled through a hair tie, it doesn’t read as man bun. A low pony tail as Alison suggested is a classic as well. Also consider trying a knot braid. It doesn’t look like a regular braid, it looks closer to a low bun.
    Whatever style you try, definitely be mindful of how much product you’re using so it doesn’t look greasy.

  63. H.Regalis*

    LW1 – Ugh, I feel you on that. My ex used to do that, like, “If you can’t calmly debate with me whether or not you should have basic human rights, then you are being illogical.” Garbage people.

  64. bamcheeks*

    A generous reading of the Forstater judgment might conclude that you have a right to express gender critical beliefs in the workplace (although that would have to balanced with the duty not to discrimate or harass any LGBTQ employees. It would be a heck of stretch from there to conclude that you have a right to a *platform* to express those beliefs or that the existence of an LGBTQ network would be an infringement of your rights.

    If LW’s boss isn’t transphobic but think the Forstater judgment creates a duty to platform transphobic beliefs, she needs a better lawyer.

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

    LW #1…

    Is this a high school debate team where one person is assigned to speak in favor and another speaks against?

  66. TomatoSoup*

    Re LW2, I can understand their discomfort. A lot of this can arise from how clergy hiring/firing is usually handled.

    I know two different clergy (rabbis in this case) who were fired very suddenly because they got on the bad side of someone on the board of trustees (all congregants). It was only discovered after these actions were taken that the board actually had power to do this, since it generally involves input from the membership. Other than being unceremoniously tossed out, there was nothing untoward happening. I would want to know if that had happened in my congregation and what had happened.

    In general, clergy in my denomination are on 3-5 year contracts and usually stay until those contracts are over unless the individual or congregation is extremely unhappy. Part of this has to do with the fact that rabbis and cantors have a hiring season, which means they’ll likely be unemployed until the next round or a congregation will not have any replacement available and have to pay out the rest of the contract for that year.

    Even if LW2’s friends are not part of a group with such structured employment, I can see them wanting some sense of what happened. I think a better analogy would be a therapist, rather than a coworker. If I got a note that my therapist was no longer able to see me with no other information, I would want to know what happened. Also, as others have mentioned, clergy can very much set the tone for a community and make or break the functioning there.

    1. Observer*

      If I got a note that my therapist was no longer able to see me with no other information, I would want to know what happened

      Do you mean that you would be curious, or are you actually saying that your therapist would have an obligation to tell you the reasons they are leaving? Because sharing any person stuff behind a decision like that would be highly inappropriate.

      If someone got tossed out by the board, via firing, official pressure, or just obnoxiousness by the Board (aka unofficial pressure to resign), it’s not the clergy person who has the responsibility to sooth people down. It’s the congregational leadership that has a responsibility here.

  67. queerteacher*

    I’m a union rep in the UK and active in my union’s LGBT+ network. There’s no particular legal obligation to have a workplace LGBT+ network, rainbow lanyards etc but as others have said, both gender identity/reassignment (including social transition) and sexual orientation are protected characteristics in the workplace. This includes harassment of LGBT+ workers – depending on the context, I think there could be an argument that withdrawing previous arrangements – such as a network, lanyards etc – could potentially be construed as harassment. If you have a union, try to get details for equality reps or contact HQ for advice – in the absence of a union, ACAS are your best bet. I think there is a stronger legal argument around discouraging sharing pronouns – if you have someone who uses they/them pronouns and they are being told at work “no you cannot use those pronouns”, that’s pretty clear discrimination and something that should be taken further. If you are public sector (I think this probably includes organisations which receive public funding) then the public sector equality duty also applies.

  68. TomatoSoup*

    Re LW1 If debate was really the issue, there are so many things on which there can be multiple viewpoints to consider. Is a hotdog a sandwich? Is X approach better than Y approach in solving Z problem? Generally things that turn on personal preference or professional judgement will work here.

    If you find yourself debating whether a group of people should exist in safety and with respect? No. You are not in the realm of debate for debate’s sake.

  69. The Rural Juror*

    To LW#5 – I regularly use my company-issued laptop for personal use, but that’s because I like having access to a couple of programs (such as Photoshop) that the company provides (they pay several suites of different programs that are handy for some personal use). However, I don’t save anything to the laptop. It’s all saved in cloud-based storage so I won’t lose it when my company swaps out my machine or I move on to greener pastures. I’m not aware of any monitoring the company does, but also…I don’t think they’d care if I’m using Photoshop on a Saturday.

    Also, my extra curriculars are mostly personal use! I would be very hesitant to use a company machine for work paid for by someone else. I’ve done some charity stuff (designing signage for a non-profit’s fundraising event), but my company is very supportive of philanthropy and there’s no financial gain for me.

    As a rule, never save anything personal on a company machine that you wouldn’t want someone else to see or you wouldn’t want to lose. Also, try not to use your work machine to make money on side hustles.

  70. Betsy S.*

    Agree, get your files onto your own space ASAP.

    If you don’t want to buy a new machine immediately, you can get a little 2-TB USB external drive for under $200 in the US, although I would not make a single external hard drive the sole backup for any important files, and it can be slow to try to work from one. If you go that route, consider buying two, or copying your most important files onto a cloud service.

    I’ve solved the personal/work computer issue with Remote Desktop. I use RDP to connect to my personal computer and keep everything personal there (I also have some things on Dropbox, in addition to a backup service) That way I can work on my desk on my nice monitors and nothing touches my work machine. IT can see that I am using RDP but that’s all. If they ran keystroke monitoring, that would be another story and I would not use RDP.

    If you need to access some file during the day from your work computer, Google drive is often not blocked. Accessing Microsoft OneDrive can be complicated if your company is also using Microsoft services, which mine is. I find it is easiest to use one browser for my work activities and a completely different browser if I need to access something on Microsoft or Google.

    If your company is over a certain size, they should have a policy on computer use, worth finding and reading carefully. Many companies allow for some minimal or ‘incidental’ personal use as long as you don’t break any laws or do anything abusive; others are stricter. And usually it’s never ok to do anything for another job on your company PC.

  71. Julie Smith*

    Re: #3: Husband could wear a single braid down his back too. It’s tidy and keeps the hair out of the way. I see this often as there is a large Navaho reservation in my state and many men who have long hair wear it this way at work (and school, church, etc.) No one bats an eye.

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