can I tell employees not to bring partners on work trips, coworkers ostracizing a former friend, and more

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

1. Can I prohibit employees from bringing partners on work trips?

My team recently wrapped up a big project that included flying to another city for a week of meetings. One of my newer staff mentioned that they were going to bring their partner on the trip but their partner would pay their own way and do their own thing. It was less of an ask and more of them telling me. It raised a red flag for me but my original impression was that … well, I can’t really say no if this person is just making use of the hotel room and there’s no added expense to our organization.

Post-trip, their teammates reported that they were distracted during the week and the guest also ended up joining business meals even though I explicitly stated it as an example of something they could not do. In my industry, it is not welcome to have random people just join these types of meals. I was not there so I didn’t observe firsthand but several staff members have met with me privately to complain.

I will speak with the employee about the meals but all of this has got me wondering … Can I, as a manager, prohibit employees from bringing partners on work trips? I’m usually pretty hands off about what grown adults do in their free time on work trips but this one thing has become a distraction for our entire team and I don’t want any repeats of it on our next trip.

I think the issue is less that they brought a partner (something people occasionally do) and more that they were distracted during the week and brought the partner to business meals inappropriately. If they hadn’t done those two things, it wouldn’t have been inherently problematic for the partner to have stayed in the hotel room (assuming they were doing their own thing during the day and your employee wasn’t skipping work stuff to hurry back to join them).

You can have a blanket “no partners on work trips” policy — or simply a “we prefer people not bring partners because we’ve found it distracting” response if anyone asks to do it — but I’d rather see you just make it clear what the expectations are on work trips and address it if there are specific problems, because plenty of people do handle this appropriately. Ideally when an employee first mentions bringing their partner, you would just make sure they understood the time commitments on the trip and that the partner would need to do their own thing during business meals … which you did. Normally that would be enough; the fact that it wasn’t is concerning, and you’ll need to have a pretty serious conversation about why they simply ignored that. (I’m also curious  whether the reason it seemed like a red flag to you in the first place was because you were already picking up on something that made you worry — which was then validated by what ended up happening.)

All that said, I do think it’s reasonable to ask this particular employee not to bring the partner again, since it caused problems on this trip.

2. My employee is being ostracized by her former friend group

I was just promoted to a management position a few months ago so all this is relatively new to me.

It’s no secret that employees form friendship groups at work, nothing you can do about it. Lately, though, one person who used to be included in a “work friends” group is being shunned/ostracized. I don’t believe they are actively harassing her, they’re just cold to her. She’s made a few small work mistakes, nothing that can’t be corrected/ forgiven, but her coworkers are no longer friendly to her (more chilly than openly rude). They have stopped inviting her to after-work drinks, and removed her from their “work” group chat. Both are things I can’t really do anything about because it’s outside of work but, obviously, the effects are permeating the workplace.

She’s come to me to let me know, and has also stated that she sometimes goes home crying and has considered quitting. I’m not sure I can, or want to, discipline the other employees just because they are no longer friendly, but I feel that it’s my responsibility to stick up for her even if she isn’t a perfect, model employee. I’d love for all of my employees to be best friends but that’s not how life goes. Any advice?

It really depends on exactly what “chilly” looks like. If they’re just not inviting her to drinks or chatting socially, that’s not something you can intervene on; people get to choose who they socialize with. But if they’re being rude or unpleasant to her or making a show of freezing her out, that’s not acceptable at work, and  you can and should intervene. They need to treat everyone they work with reasonably pleasantly.

I do wonder why “a few small work mistakes” would cause this response! People don’t usually get ostracized for work mistakes unless there’s more to it. Did the employee’s mistakes cause a lot of additional work for her coworkers? Did she try to blame someone else? Was there an ongoing pattern that they got fed up with? It’s worth looking into what’s at the root of the reaction, because there might be more going on that you need to address (either with her or with them).

3. Can my company tell me to remove a land acknowledgement from my email signature?

My ~65-person company does not have any policies regarding email signatures. I have had a land acknowledgement in my signature for the last two years. My CEO recently asked me to remove it from my signature, stating “he doesn’t want to be in the business of policing what is and is not allowed in email signatures, and doesn’t want statements to be made there, so he wants them to be strictly about work.”

Is this something he can ask with no clear policy violations?

Here is what I had in my email signature: “Writing to you from the stolen, occupied, and ancestral lands of the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute), and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ peoples. The company is headquartered on land ceded by the Treaty of Fort Laramie 1851.”

I run the company’s five-person DEI committee, which I started with the approval of the CEO when I noticed a growing trend of racial issues within the company (e.g., mistaking Asian coworkers for each other, calling Covid the Chinese flu in company communications, laying off mostly workers of color in a company that is 90+% white, and more).

When I first started the DEI committee and added the land acknowledgement to my email signature, the previous HR manager and legal counsel for the company were in favor and allowed me to have it. But she left recently, and my CEO is making this request, so I’m not sure if I’m able to push back.

Your employer does have the right to standardize email signatures and ask you not to make personal additions to them. (You can probably understand where he’s coming from if you consider the wide range of personal additions your company might end up having to field if they allow them.)

You can present an argument to him for reconsidering, of course, but legally he’s on solid ground in telling you no.

4. Will going down to part-time hurt me next time I’m job-searching?

I’ve been considering switching from full-time to part-time work at my company. I’ve been dealing with a lot of professional and personal stress the past few years, and now that a lot of the professional stress has been resolved, I’d like to move down to 36 or 32 hours a week to help with some of the burnout I’ve been feeling. I don’t have any concerns about making this change with my current company; they are very supportive of part-time work, including my department head who works part-time herself.

The thing I am concerned about is whether this will reflect poorly on me if I decide to switch jobs in the future. If I am working part-time and apply to full-time jobs, will I be taken less seriously? Do I even have to let them know I’m working part-time if I plan to work full-time for a new company? Another piece of background info is that I’m a woman that works in tech, which is a field that already tends to take women less seriously, and while my currently company is very supportive, I’m guessing that’s more the exception than the norm.

You don’t need to proactively disclose that a job is part-time. You shouldn’t misrepresent it if it comes up, of course, but it probably won’t even come up (and the difference between full-time and 36 hours is fairly de minimis anyway).

5. Should I leave a parting gift for my office when I resign?

I’m departing my first office job on good terms after 10 years. I have great respect and admiration for everyone on my team of about 20 people (we were a very traditional, old-fashioned office that pivoted to a fully remote team during the pandemic, so we’ve been through a lot together!). Would it be appropriate to leave a parting gift for the office, and if so, what would that be? (We already have a coffee maker, toaster oven, microwave, etc.)

Parting gifts aren’t traditional when someone leaves a job — if anything, offices are more likely to give the departing employee a gift than the other way around! If you happen to think of something absolutely perfect (like they all loved the obscure brand of coffee you brought in for yourself and so you leave them a huge bag of it), that’s a lovely gesture … but otherwise there’s no need!

{ 547 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    There’s tons of commentary below on land acknowledgements, much of which is far removed from what the LW #3 is asking about. Please keep further comments on letter #3 to specific, actionable advice for the letter-writer. Thank you.

  2. Indigenous AAM reader*

    For Letter #3: I’m Indigenous and I can tell you that every other Indigenous person I know, and in my community at large we do not like land acknowledgements for a variety of reasons and ask non-Indigenous people not to use them. There are actual and actionable ways to help Indigenous people and our tribes and this is NOT one if them.

    But then again these land acknowledgments for white people are just like when white people use the word Latinx despite no one from the community liking that made up word. My husband is Latino and it’s a big deal in his community.

    1. Dina*

      This will vary a lot depending on where you are. Here in Australia an Acknowledgement of Country is considered good practice. From what I understand it’s based on Welcome to Country traditions in Aboriginal groups.

      (I have a theory that this practice jumped the Pacific thanks to white folks who just thought it was a clever idea without learning any background… But that’s just a gut feeling.)

      1. Happy meal with extra happy*

        But in this scenario, we know what country the LW is in, based on their signature, which is the US. Whether or not a similar/predecessor practice is acceptable in Australia doesn’t really matter here.

          1. Ellie*

            The Australian acknowledgement of country has specific words associated with it that you would need to use though, it’s not just a blanket statement. It also differs if you actually are aboriginal. I wonder where OPs words came from and if they were endorsed in any way by the people they are acknowledging.

            As an aside though – OP, they call covid the Chinese flu? And you think that racism is playing a part in who they lay off? You’ve got bigger problems than an email signature. Maybe think about moving on?

        1. Laure001*

          Happy meal with extra happy, I feel like the comment section is a discussion, like if we were at a dinner table and discussed a subject. A discussion is wider than a precise answer like Allison has to give, it is normal to go on tangents because we discuss a whole theme and not only an individual’s question.

          “It is the done thing in Australia” even if it’s not done in the US is a fascinating info, it is relevant to the topic, even if it is not to the actual question, and I think this is exactly what a comment section is useful for.

          1. Heather*

            Some Americans are really insular about US customs and practices and don’t really want any foreign inputs or points of view, and this site reflects that. I wouldn’t worry about it.

          2. rayray*

            Agree! Thank you for putting this so eloquently and politely. I wanted to say something but you did so perfectly.

          3. Gato Blanco*

            Agreed. I definitely read the top comment as a blanket statement, and it is very useful info when people from other areas of the world chime in with their own lived experience.

          4. Young worker*

            100%! Folks in the comment section can have a weirdly abrupt way of trying to ban any cross cultural comparisons.. I had no idea it was welcome in Australia but perhaps not welcome in the US, and that’s helpful context for my own DEIA knowledge

      2. Fikly*

        Thank you for this addition. Minority communities are not homogenous, which is to say, preferences and many other things can vary tremendously within them, and members of a minority speaking as if there is one true way for the entire community can cause a lot of problems.

        I really appreciate you adding this clarification, along with information on where you are from and where it applies. Statements like the one above that say “my community” without identifying what that community lead to a lot of misunderstandings.

        To the LW – your CEO isn’t policing your email signature for the reason AAM gives. He just wants it out because including that in your signature makes the company look bad. Like most companies that have DEI committees or ERGs, the companies are very happy to have them until they do something that draws attention or they demand actual action in a way that cannot be ignored. DEI efforts, the vast majority of the time, are there to be seen but not heard. You broke that unspoken agreement with your signature. You won’t win this one, and you have no legal right to an email signature.

        1. Dina*

          Well, and “Indigenous” can mean something completely different depending on where you live. (Even *within* a country – both North America and Australia are made of up of hundreds of Indigenous groups!)

          1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

            That’s why those specific tribes are named. Or am I missing something?

        2. DJ Abbott*

          Also, what does having that signature accomplish? It may raise a little awareness, and it might make people feel bad. Other than that, I don’t see any benefit. Maybe focus on doing things that are more likely to lead to lasting changes.

          1. DataSci*

            I think they’re intended to raise awareness, nothing more. It’s also incredibly low effort – it’s not like OP could be doing much else with the five minutes it took to set it up.

            1. Meep*

              I am fine with raising awareness, but it definitely seems like it could be less aggressive and more informative. I wonder if the CEO has more of a problem with how it is written than the effort. It at least made my hackles raise and I am pretty progressive.

          2. Fiorinda*

            From my perspective, as a white settler-colonial background Australian: it’s about movement towards reconciliation, not just at the structural level but at the individual one. Every person of settler-colonial background who takes the time to think about, research and type up an Acknowledgement of Country in their email signature is a person who’s chosen to acknowledge the uncomfortable facts that they live on stolen land and that their ancestors may have been complicit in, and certainly profited in some way from, attempted genocide, rather than trying to airbrush those facts out of existence. As such, it’s a movement towards truth-telling, which is a necessary precursor to both Treaty and Reconciliation. No, it’s not going to change things all on its own, but it’s a thing every person in the country can do to help reshape our culture towards something better, more honest and more decent.

            And that reshaping is happening – slowly, but it is. If things like Acknowledgements of Country hadn’t become normalised, which has only happened during my adult lifetime, it’s much more likely that, for example, the Uluru Statement from the Heart would have been ignored, and without the Statement from the Heart we wouldn’t be about to have a referendum on the establishment of an Aboriginal Voice to Parliament, which is the second most significant movement towards reconciliation this nation has ever taken.

            Like the song inspired by the Gurindji walk-off from Wave Hill Station and Gough Whitlam’s subsequent return of their traditional land rights says: From little things, big things grow.

            1. Ontariariario*

              This is useful insight, thank you. In Canada the land acknowledgements became prevalent in the past decade and they coincide with the very beginnings of work toward reconciliation (with the understanding that reconciliation will take generations of work). They tend to be viewed positively. The most thought-provoking ones are at the starts of conferences and meetings where there is a bit of thought given to what is said in a public space, and where there is additional effort to be inclusive.

              Like many problems, the small efforts like land acknowledgements and cultural terms are likely to be unappreciated if that becomes a way of giving ourselves permission to ignore the wider problem, whereas if I use it as a starting point to learn more and make a larger effort toward reconciliation then the indigenous communities near me become healthier. (I don’t talk with all of them personally, but there is a wider effort to include their voices in media and events, and in those situations there is a growing feeling of community and I hope it gets stronger and more inclusive)

              1. Lenora Rose*

                Even in Canada, they’re trending into the “Nice but only if it’s from a group who do other actionable things or promote them.” So yes, a starting place, never an ending.

                Think of the companies that put up a pride flag or pride themed logo but who are known to be bad places to try and get hired if you’re LGBTQ+ and out.

            2. Tiger Snake*

              I recently went to a conference where they had an elder give the Welcome to Country rather than just a flat standard Acknowledgement of Country, and boy did that feel like a completely different thing. The acknowledgements are cold and clinical, but if it paves the way for us to moments like that poetic history where he talked about His Home then its still serving a good purpose.

            3. Princess Sparklepony*

              I think the US is light years behind Australia in dealing with this. We just aren’t at a point where we can really dig into this. And with all the crazy going on in the past 6 or 8 years, what progress we had made has been set back.

              Here in the US it’s too much of a red flag for some. Like a red flag on a cattle prod. We are very backwards in some ways and yet more progressive in other ways. We can’t deal with the fact that we had slaves much less what was done to Native Americans before that.

              I wish we were better, but we aren’t. On the silver lining side – there is definitely a lot of room for growth.

          3. Lyra Silvertongue*

            Why would you assume that OP isn’t doing other things? The purpose is to inform people of the land that they are on and it achieves that. So don’t love this “I don’t personally like this action so it’s useless and you’re wasting your time and should have been focusing on other things (that I still probably wouldn’t like)” attitude coming out in the comments.

            1. JB*

              How about I just end every email with a statement complaining about the Battle of Hastings? It would be just as relevant and equally effective.

          4. GreenDoor*

            OP, can you, with the backing of your DEI team, see about adopted a company-wide (standardized) statement? Perhaps your CEO would be open to learning more about the context of your statement. And maybe if it’s edited to be less editorial and (ex. “stolen”) and more informative he’d be willing to authorize (or even require) its use. Also, when my organization drafted our land acknowledgement, we consulted local tribal organizations and modified it based on their input. It would be pretty….icky…for your “90% white and more” organization to use an acknowledgment statement without input from your local tribal groups.

        3. Squeakrad123*

          If the signature is important to you, I would ask if some variation would be acceptable. I think the word “stolen“ although accurate might be triggering for your CEO.

          1. Meep*

            Is it weird it is “occupied, and ancestral lands” that bothers me? I think “stolen ancestral lands” is fine. It is the synonym without much flavor that just comes off as aggressive and lazy.

      3. KL*

        Yes, in Australia they’re very usual, in fact I came to comment that my organisation (public sector) actually has a standard one for our email signatures, depending on where our office is! But it sounds like it’s different for the US.

        1. curly sue*

          High ed here, and we’re required to have a specific land acknowledgement statement in our email signatures. It may be a little different in our region because we’re on territory that was stolen after Indigenous title was formally acknowledged by treaty – the ironically named ‘Peace and Friendship’ treaties – and that forms a big part of local conversation.

          1. Community college*

            That’s not so different. Hundreds of treaties between the US Government and Indigenous groups were broken.

        2. Bethany*

          I’m also Australian, NSW government employee, and we start all our meetings with an Acknowledgement of Country, it’s written on all documents we produce, on every website page, every meeting room has a sign, it’s in all our email signatures. When we have large/significant meetings and events, we organise for an Aboriginal person to do a Welcome to Country.

          It’s very standard practice here and its absence would be noted.

      4. We Share a Dream*

        Came here to say the same.
        Still, employees’ email signatures are the domain of the employer because they serve to represent the organisation. If the employer wishes to make (or not make) such an acknowledgement, it is their prerogative. LW was out of line to change their email signature because it risks sending mixed messages to those outside the organisation.

        1. JSPA*

          LW was using a line approved by the previous chain of command. The chain of command changed. The signature didn’t.

    2. Interested Educator*

      Indigenous AAM reader, thanks so much for sharing why this is not a welcomed trend. I have recently attended meetings (I’m in education) and land acknowledgements have been recited with the pledge at the beginning of the meeting. Is this also viewed unfavorably? I found it very disingenuous, but wasn’t sure if my feelings were accurate…

      1. Happy meal with extra happy*

        (I’m white.) After reading Indiginous AAM reader’s comment, I did some googling, and there are some good articles highlighting the issues and concerns with land acknowledgements – I fully recommend checking them out!

      2. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

        White AAM reader. I appreciate this input because I am in higher ed and my daughter is in college and every gathering of every type now starts with a land acknowledgement that is said by rote. It has gotten to the point where I have wondered if it has any meaning left.

        It seems self congratulatory.

        Back to LW#3 though, I think your CEO has made it pretty clear that DEI is not a priority and they want to be able to say they have a DEI person but not actually make any changes

    3. Double A*

      My first question was whether this statement was developed in any way with input from any indigenous people and what action the LW is urging her company to take to support indigenous people, or takes in their own life.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        Double A is spot on about whether a statement is created with input from indigenous people. I work at an organization that actively collaborates with the local tribal community, and their leadership co-wrote a land acknowledgement to be read at gatherings.

      2. Lilo*

        I guess I also question performative but ultimately empty action. Companies tweeting “Happy X Month” while simultaneously donating to politicians who hurt X community. Okay are we supporting legislation here? is there an organization helping communities we can donate to?

        So acknowledging is one thing but if that’s all being done it’s hollow and performative.

    4. Pony tailed wonder*

      During the height of the pandemic, our department had a zoom meeting with HR. There were four HR folks to give us a training session on whatever. Each HR person did one of those Indigenous speeches before their part of the training that lasted around five minutes each. None of us remember the training but we all remember how they started out their talks.

      I am more in favor of having a link to a page about the land and cultural history than speeches after that zoom meeting.

    5. Latinx and Proud*

      I’m Latina and I use Latinx. Generalizations based on personal experience are only helpful when describing your own views.

      1. Latinx in CA*

        I also use Latinx. No one else is allowed to tell me how to identify myself because they “don’t like it”.

      2. Fulana del Tal*

        Exactly just because you feel comfortable with label doesn’t mean we all should. A Pew study for 2020 should only 3% of Latinos in the US used Latinx and 75% never heard of it so why is it still used as a default?

    6. jamlady*

      Thank you for this. I don’t want to de-rail, but it’s worth OP knowing that this topic is not as simple as people think it is. Some communities like them, some find them performative and unhelpful, etc. My rule of thumb is to let the communities make the call (even if that means they decline the use of a statement all together).

    7. Twix*

      I’m not indigenous but I am queer and we see this same kind of thing in queer activism all the time. Taking a positive stance on a controversial issue, intentionally framing it in a way that will alienate people who don’t already agree with you, and then throwing it out into the world indiscriminately is a great way to feel like you’re helping, but in general it does far more harm than good.

      1. Therese*

        Yes this! It makes the person doing it feel good, but actually sets the cause back because it makes a lot more people cranky about it.

        1. Twix*

          Yup. And most importantly, it alienates people who would be receptive to a cause if it were presented less obnoxiously.

      2. ima*

        good way of framing it, imo. i am not necessarily in a position to comment on this specific issue, but yea, i do see similar things where people choose really… confrontational? ways of demonstrating their support. particularly with the lgbt support, this often involves choosing niche vocab that is not yet mainstream, and acting like obviously anyone who supports LGBT rights would already know it and be using it exclusively. (im not saying thats what OP is doing, btw, just that it is a thing i see a lot, for some reason.) of course, obviously some people are just going to be mad if its mentioned at all, bc they dont want to acknowledge any issue theyre not the victim of. cant help them with that.

        1. Twix*

          100% agree with this, and while I think it’s a lot less widespread in real life than online, it really pisses me off. I’ve gone off on people a few times when someone came into an LGBTQ+ space asking for guidance (usually an older person who had had a younger relative come out) and got jumped on for not knowing the right terminology or not “educating themself” or “expecting free emotional labor”. Like I absolutely support the idea that you are not entitled to free education from any arbitrary LGBTQ+ person you come across, but this is a person who has acknowledged their ignorance and come to a public space and politely asked for help from someone who is willing to do that work in order to educate themself. You’re 95% of the way to this person being an ally. Stop being an asshole on principle! The “This is how things should be, therefore I’m entitled to things being that way, therefore I shouldn’t have to do any work for that to happen, therefore everyone else is obligated to do the work to make it happen” mindset is so frustratingly naive and myopic.

          1. Coconutty*

            Excoriating someone who is motivated by genuine desire to act for not being one hundred percent up to date on shifting terminology is such common behavior from perpetual slacktivists and it’s really shameful

      3. DJ Abbott*

        Yes, exactly! So much of this is designed to make people feel bad about things they can’t change, like the past. I’ve always hated this approach for trying to make me feel bad in a life that was already hard enough. I’m sure almost everyone is tired of having to deal with this at every turn, about every cause.

        1. learnedthehardway*

          And it backfires badly. I see it with my youngest and his peer group, whose schools do a land acknowledgement with every assembly / event / etc. It’s a school board policy. It’s a gentler / milder one than the OP had as their signature, and yet the kids start to feel blamed for the situation, then cynical (because the land is not going to be given back, so they see this as purely performative), then resentful, and finally totally turned off. Not sure how this helps anything.

          1. RagingADHD*

            I think in a school setting, there should really be a whole context of educating why it is being done and why it is meaningful (starting, of course, with asking those questions internally to make sure it is meaningful!) Kids are very quick to ask questions like, “if you know it’s not yours and you’re sorry, why aren’t you giving it back?”

            As they should do. No parent or teacher would allow a kid to take something, keep it, and then pretend they are making up for it by saying “oh, this is actually yours, I’m so sorry, but it’s mine now because I want it.”

            If the person making the acknowledgement (like the LW) doesn’t actually have the right to make decisions or make policy, that’s one thing. But if it’s coming from a school board, or a corporation or official body that has legal title to the land, it really sounds disingenuous – particularly when they are acknowledging existing communities nearby to whom they could, in fact, deed back the land if they were serious.

            The whole approach invites a response of “put up or shut up.”

          2. Fishsticks*

            Ideally, a land acknowledgement is more about acknowledgement of historical realities regarding how the nation was built. I’m surprised that the kids felt blamed? That makes me think that the history they are taught isn’t matching up with what happened, making the land acknowledgement feel like it’s jarring/coming out of nowhere instead of a reflection of history.

            1. birb*

              I am also surprised the kids felt “blamed”… This has not at all been my experience with children of any age group in these settings… but kids can absolutely tell when their adults think a mandatory thing is annoying, and are influenced by the attitudes of the adults around them.

            2. Ellis Bell*

              I think that’s the main problem with anything that’s done bumper sticker fashion rather than as part of a dialogue. You should know your audience and your audience should know why they’re being addressed and what you want from them. Is it part of a wider strategy or is this information going to lead somewhere?

            3. Community college*

              “That makes me think that the history they are taught isn’t matching up with what happened“
              That’s just par for the course in the US

            4. Allonge*

              I am not at all surprised that (some) kids felt blamed. Kids often feel that things out of their control (parents divorce, accidents, sickness) happen because they did something bad already.

              We stole the school? Are we not supposed to give things back that we took? How can I give back the school? It’s a difficult enough concept for adults – there is no easy solution, no good answers.

        2. Caraway*

          I am not meaning this as a specific response to your comment, but rather to address something I’ve seen a few times, in these comments and elsewhere on the internet, that these are empty actions designed to make people feel “bad.” I think there is certainly a discussion to be had about whether land acknowledgements actually do anything, but as a white person, the way I’ve taken them is as an opportunity to reflect on my own privilege. It doesn’t make me feel bad but it does help point out to me the systemic advantages I have, and this is true regardless of the individual challenges I, or any other white person, have experienced in my life.

          1. birb*

            I don’t think changing a narrative or norm is an “empty action”, just an action that takes a lot of time to see change.

          2. Twix*

            This is exactly why framing is so important. What you’re talking about is probably the intent, but a lot of people on both sides of the issue absolutely take it as “White people should be held personally responsible for this historic injustice”. If that’s how your message is coming across when your goal was to create a dialogue (internal or otherwise), that’s a problem.

        3. YetAnotherAnalyst*

          You’re right that we can’t change the past. But the point of raising awareness isn’t to make people feel bad about the past – it’s to encourage people to act more justly in the present and future.

          To take just one example, the US has current treaties with various tribes where we’ve promised to respect their right to fish in certain waters. But since those treaties were signed, fish have become less plentiful and access to those waters has been increasingly restricted. We now have conflicts between tribal and non-tribal fishing authorities and we need to make decisions that will hurt someone. Do we honor our treaty obligations at the expense of non-tribal commercial fishing? The only folks who are going to hold our government accountable here are its citizens, so the more of us who think “well, it *is* their land”, the more likely our government gives weight to those treaty obligations.

          1. Ellis Bell*

            That’s something specific, present and actionable. If you send out links relating to that, your audience is more clued in on what you want from them. Not everyone is going to get to that point just from being made to feel aware.

            1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

              Fair. And if your objective is specifically the fishery access rights, you’re definitely better off addressing that than coming at it obliquely. The difficulty is that fishery access is one concrete example of a broader conflict – the USA has hundreds of sovereign nations living within it, and the relationship between those nations and our government is theoretically set out in one of many treaties we have made but generally haven’t honored. It’s hard to predict in advance which treaty rights will need defending, but they usually will come at some cost to non-tribal citizens (the skulls and grave goods will need to be returned to their people, the nuclear waste will need to be buried elsewhere, the new lease for the occupying town will be more expensive than it was last century, etc). So it becomes important to have the general sense that currently, we’re benefitting from an injustice.

              In my previous career as an archaeologist I saw property developers furious that they couldn’t bulldoze a group of burials and build what they wanted. We were working with the tribal historic preservation officer and the alternative proposed was to build around and leave the burial area as respectful greenspace, but the idea that the tribe was still here and had some legal rights regarding their ancestors’ remains was just outlandish to this developer. So while awareness is not the end goal. it seems to be a necessary first step.

          2. Twix*

            I 100% agree with you on all of this. However, that’s why framing is so important. The problem is that whether or not the actual intent is to raise awareness and ask for respect, a lot of the way that message is presented is crafted in a way designed to provoke guilt. And that in turn provokes anger and disdain and ultimately opposition from people who don’t see why they should feel guilty.

            I frequently see people respond to that (on any social justice issue) with different variations of “They shouldn’t have to soften that message because of the historical injustices they’ve faced”. I agree with that on principle, but in practice outreach doesn’t work that way. People by and large are not going to learn enough about the issue to agree with that if that’s how you approach them.

          3. DJ Abbott*

            Whether it’s the point or not, I’ve seen hundreds or thousands of examples in my life of awareness raising that does make people feel bad, and that were so obvious and heavy-handed the writers must have intended this, even if they won’t admit it.
            When I was a teen it certainly contributed to sadness, depression, and suicidal feelings. It was basically, “All these horrible things have been/are being done to people and I, a powerless teen who can’t even get my parents to stop abusing me, can’t do anything to change all this horror.” It was piling on when there was already too much badness. :(

            1. Lucky Meas*

              Respectfully I think the family abuse you faced is the source of the bad feelings, not the heavy-handed writers raising awareness about injustice…

        4. MeepMeep123*

          Yeah, exactly. I’m very supportive of Indigenous rights and I know who the land is supposed to belong to (I looked up the tribal land a long time ago when I was teaching my kid about indigenous cultures). But what am I supposed to do about it? I can’t give my house back to the tribe the land was stolen from, and even if I did, my neighbors wouldn’t, so the tribe would at best only get a 0.1 acre suburban lot in a suburban neighborhood surrounded by non-Indigenous people, at the cost of rendering me and my family homeless. Pretty much the only point of a “land acknowledgment” is to make people feel guilty and helpless, and that’s not what you want in a potential ally.

          I’d love a more actionable “call to action” – even in an email signature. What’s going on for Indigenous people of the particular tribe where you’re located? What’s the particular challenge they are facing right now, as of today? What do they themselves want help with? What can we do as allies to support them? Where is a good place to donate money or stuff? Are there cultural events where outsiders are welcome, and can we learn about the culture of that particular tribe? What can we learn about that tribe, what can we participate in?

          This is not just a country that has historically trampled on the rights of Indigenous people – it is a country that continues to do so, and continues to ignore Indigenous voices even while performing “social justice”. If we want meaningful change, guilt-tripping email signatures aren’t it.

      4. Telephone Sanitizer, Third Class*

        Very true. We need to act in good faith and invite people into the process of building a better community. Yes, there are loads of jerkwads, but some sorts of shaming just makes everyone anxious and defensive and doesn’t help anyone get better.

      5. Meep*


        Breaking it down even further, I am a staunch feminist to the point of probably visible misandry. I have many male friends and am married to a man. Collectively, “all men” suck, but it is only really productive to focus on their individual sexist actions than lump them all in together. Even if it is really easy to look at statistics and see who is more likely to shoot up a school.

      6. nonprofiteer*

        This is my number one complaint of a lot of progressivism I see – often it seems to create in groups and out groups rather than really bring people together. There can also be an elitism to it where the in group uses framing or jargon that is inscrutable to outsiders and doesn’t allow them a path in. I work in social justice in northern california and it is always revealing when someone in my life who is very liberal but not immersed in this world overhears one of my meetings – it is like we are speaking esperanto. It is also amazing to me how much more reasonable even some of the most radical thought leaders on these subjects are in conversation compared to how their adherents show up on twitter.

        1. RagingADHD*

          The creation of in groups and out groups is a universal, endemic illness of the human condition, and it will inevitably creep into any human effort that does not actively, continuously work to counter its pull (and even to some extent when they do). There is no escaping it, only struggling with it.

        2. Twix*

          Absolutely. There are plenty of demagogues in the world, but genuine thought leaders become thought leaders by having ideologies that are well thought out and nuanced. I always try to keep in mind that social media intentionally drives conflict and the views you see online are heavily biased toward the radical fringe, not the center.

    8. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

      Grateful for Indigenous AAM reader for sharing this opinion!

      To share another perspective for other readers, the issue of land acknowledgements at meetings came up at a fairly high level table in my (Canadian) work world today. Two First Nations staff spoke on the issue of land acknowledgements becoming rote and therefore less meaningful, discussed the meaning they derive from hearing them from settlers, and how to make them more meaningful: truth telling (using fewer euphemisms, calling out the actual issues), making it relevant to the meeting topic (my sector is health, and both racism and worse outcomes are huge issues in my juridiction), and, though this is harder to do well, drawing a personal connection where possible.

      Cue my fancy high-ranking boss and me having a conversation about how to bring this information out through some of our leadership tables, to encourage that our land acknowledgements are serving the intended purpose of discomforting those sharing and hearing them. He’s so great! (Coincidentally, I put a ‘radicalize the normies’ shirt in a cart last night, am now considering whether to buy one for my fancy, 60+ yo boss)

      Anyhow, I like OP’s acknowledgement on these grounds. I’m not sure if email signature is really the fight to fight in terms of value to the communities mentioned by their signature, but I like what they’re getting at.

      1. Humble Schoolmarm*

        Thank you for bringing in a Canadian perspective. I know Land Acknowledgements have become very standard here (eastern) and I was wondering if Indigenous Canadians share Indigenous AAM Reader’s thoughts. In education, the Land Acknowledgement is becoming pretty rote, but we are doing a lot more extensive work in treaty education at the same time.

        1. Monday*

          I also work in the Canadian government, and we just got a guideline on how to approach Land Acknowledgements that was created by a committee of Indigenous staff and community members. Part of the document spoke on using it as a moment of reflection, and not reciting it as a rote template.
          I will admit that my particular department is probably more likely to continue using them, since the actual substance of our work is with Indigenous people.

          1. Humble Schoolmarm*

            Thank you! We have it as part of our morning announcements, read by students so rote and poorly read kind of goes with the territory. I can see both sides (making sure students are consistently exposed to the idea of treaties and Indigenous rights vs losing meaning via repetition).

            1. Fran*

              I think for students, it’s a good first step. You have a land acknowledgement but then deeper discussion on what it means and reflection in classroom learning. It can’t just be on it’s own

          2. Fieldpoppy*

            We do it in my (eastern Canadian) university, acknowledging that a LA is the beginning of the truth part of truth and reconciliation, it’s insufficient but a beginning. I use them as reflection about the purpose of our work (in medicine) and make links to things like the movement, or to the relationship between colonization and climate change. They are conversation starters, not the be all and end all. Rotely read, they don’t mean much. Thoughtful, they ground change.

            1. Miss Muffet*

              I sympathize with rote readings being/feeling meaningless, but I also think about other rote things we do, for instance, group prayer in a worship setting. Sometimes you’re saying something like the Lord’s Prayer, which you memorized as a little child, and it’s like saying the Pledge… blah blah blah … but then sometimes, maybe because of something you recently experienced or learned, it hits you differently, and all of a sudden has a meaning behind it that it didn’t before. So sometimes the rote-ness isn’t all bad.
              On the non-rote side: I was recently visiting a university with my kid and they had an amazing video that was recorded by local indigenous people for their land acknowledgement and it was very powerful.

              1. Chinookwind*

                The Edmonton Oilers have one that is done by one of the Truth & Reconciliation Commissioners (who is also an Oiler’s fan and active in supporting sports as a method of healing) that is quite powerful too.

        2. Chinookwind*

          Here in Alberta, my women’s group brought had one of our members who happened to be an educator who is active both with our group and with the local indigenous groups (think active in one of the communities the pope visited last summer). She gave an amazing talk at a regional meeting on Land Acknowledgements as well as Truth & Reconciliation in Canada. It was so good that she not only changed my opinion on them, but we had her in to her give a talk to my local group. She is the first to say that they can be empty, especially if they are othering and create division.

          She highlighted the fact that we are all “treaty people” since we all live on treaty land, a fact that reminded everyone that it is our individual job to honour promises made by our government.

          But, I have to agree with the OP’s boss that it is not her place to put such a statement in a business’ email. She is not their designated spokesperson and she has overstepped her authority. I am the leader of my local group and I implemented the land acknowledgement, but if an other member of my executive or of the general group has insisted on giving one at any of our meetings, especially without my knowledge, I would have shut that down immediately. In fact, I only felt it was my place to do so because it was brought up by regional and national leadership (though I needed to create our own which is location specific).

          OP would be best to lobby to have one added to the website, but only after having input from the leadership. But, because she did it on her own, she may have undercut her stance and made it harder to implement unless she can find someone else to make the case.

      2. marvin*

        I think it makes sense to defer to the preferences of the Nation(s) whose land you’re living or working on as to whether they appreciate a land acknowledgment and how they would like it to be delivered. I know a few Nations where land acknowledgments are welcomed, and often they prefer it to be accompanied by meaningful self-reflection and connection with the community. Possibly the OP has done this already, but if not, it’s probably a good place to start. It’s easy to fall into the trap of using these performatively rather than sincerely.

      3. VT*

        Thank you! My company does land acknowledgements before every big meeting and they are pretty rote. At the end of 2022, my coworker wanted to start doing them at the beginning of our monthly union meeting with the executive team and I was initially against it. But I started reading about ways to write them better from indigenous sources so I volunteered to write the first one. I did a lot of research on the local tribes and looked closer at local events that happened between the colonizers and indigenous peoples and found a good event I could talk about that related to the theme of the meeting. I used straightforward language (genocide, colonizers, stolen), gave high level details of the event I researched, then tied it to equity as that was a theme in the meeting.

        I thought I was going to get fired but I just read my 3rd one yesterday!
        I’ve been told that some people look highly uncomfortable when I’m speaking but so far, no one has voiced any concerns to me and they keep putting me on the agenda so I guess I’ll keep going. I also provide links to local organizations that provide services to indigenous individuals so if someone gets mad/sad, they can channel their anger/grief into a donation to help indigenous peoples today.

    9. KatEnigma*

      In North Dakota, the indigenous people were not against them at all, and it was expected.

      1. Jackalope*

        Yes, to add a data point, I have been at (being vague here so as not to out myself or my location) an event that was centered on learning about some of the history around Indigenous issues in the US, and the Indigenous person who was leading them taught us about how to give land acknowledgements, how it’s done differently if you are someone from the Indigenous community vs. not, and so on. I happen to know this particular person who is a leader in his particular Indigenous community and know that he’s very comfortable speaking his mind on some of the issues surrounding race, the land stealing from his people, attempted genocide, boarding schools, etc. (And in fact we talked about all of those issues and more at this event.) Given that it was an event that he was running, and that he had as far as I could tell total freedom to select what to talk about, the fact that he chose to talk about land acknowledgements and why to do them and how to do them well, all of that tells me that this was something important to him that he thought was a good thing.

        So this is not to go against the opening comment in this thread. It is something that should be considered carefully, and not just done by rote. But just like any other large group of people, Indigenous people are not a monolithic block, and have different opinions on this subject.

        1. Brooklyn*

          I see this a lot in my particular minority community – people are close to their community, and they then assume everyone who shares that characteristic shares the broad viewpoints of their community. You see this above in the conversation about LatinX, in this conversation about land acknowledgements, we see it constantly in conversations about queer issues, etc.

          Are your efforts at inclusion actually about inclusion, or does it make you happy to peeve your conservative boss? If the former, have you heard from the people you’re trying to include that they feel included by your actions? That’s pretty much the only relevant question.

              1. Insert Clever Name Here*

                I just went through all the comments and OP3 has *not* responded to anything…though if they posted in the 30ish minutes it took for me to do that I’d be appreciative of someone flagging what name they’re using!

              2. KatEnigma*

                Oops. I swear I’d read it in the letter. I even had gone back to check and thought it was there.

      2. Ace in the Hole*

        Tribes in my region generally seem to favor them if and only if they’re not the wishy-washy feel good “thanks to native peoples for stewarding the land until we came along” type that glosses over the violent/oppressive history.

        I know several people who would say LW’s is fine because it pointedly says the land was stolen. Ironically, I expect this is the exact reason LW’s boss *doesn’t* like it… any land acknowledgement worth having will make a good chunk of people uncomfortable.

    10. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      I think this will vary depending on. One of my company’s DEI directors (not her title but it’s a college so its weird) is Indigionus and after she started she created and implemented lands statements. They are in many departments lobby’s and offices and before events the land statement is read.

      Also, in your comment about the use of Latinx I know of several Latinos who do not mind the term and actually think its great for those who are non-binary. And of course there are many who don’t care for the term. Just an FYI That your experience is not universal and to maybe not lump everyone together.

    11. Midnight*

      Also Indigenous. Land acknowledgments can be done poorly (performative, rote, treated like a checklist item) or they can be more personal, encourage reflection and connections/kinship/responsibilities we have to one another and the land.

      Google Baroness von Sketch and Land Acknowledgment for a humourous critical take on LAs.

      1. th*

        Indigenous, maternal side, Canadian. I love that sketch, and this is the response I want to make every time I hear LAs. Because here, it’s just rote, in my experience. It’s like the whole anti-bullying and harassment polices put forth in workplaces- they sound great, and look really good on paper, but when you report an incident, you get a heavy sigh, comments about ‘babysitting,’ and then nothing is done. It’s just lip service. Literally theatre.

        “William Shakespeare’s As You Like It: A Radical Retelling by Cliff Cardinal,” is a wonderful piece on the LA subject. Half the theatre walked out, but those who stayed loved it.

        1. Fran*

          Super de-railing the conversation but I was looking to see if I could get tickets to that show! It got extended recently

      2. Nebula*

        As a White person from the UK – where we don’t do land acknowledgements, since this is the only bit of land we already had and didn’t have to steal – I’ve only come across a land acknowledgement once, on a webinar where someone from the US started their presentation with a land acknowledgement, their pronouns, and a description of themself for accessibility reasons. It definitely came across to me like an item on a checklist, even more so as it then didn’t seem to inform any reflection on the institution they were representing and its role in that particular community and landscape. It’s interesting to read this thread and see that this is definitely a thing with land acknowledgements where they are common, and I wasn’t totally off-base due to lack of familiarity!

        I work in the museums sector, where a lot of lip service is currently being paid to decolonisation, but often without any real, sustained changes to institutions. Seem like the land acknowledgement thing can in some cases be another instance of this.

        1. STAT!*

          As an aside from your point: even in the UK, there is land which was definitely stolen according to current views on colonisation, that is the whole of Northern Ireland. (Other commentators might also have opinions on Wales, Scotland, Cornwall …)

    12. Elle*

      I’m so glad someone said this. I try to explain that there are usually material ways people can be actually helpful to the Indigenous community in their area and that they can figure those out if they take some time to get involved. Where I am, we were protesting Trump’s wall all through covid, for example. Seems like most would rather just shove some nonsense into their email signature or waste some time at the top of the meeting.

      I’ve always felt it was such an ironically white, personal-property-focused approach, too, to be so focused on exactly who land “belonged” to.

    13. sundae funday*

      I’m white and this is good to know! I’ve heard of people using land acknowledgements as more of a personal reflection, but never using them in an email signature.

      From my perspective, the email signature seems performative to me because the LW is still working for the company… The land acknowledgment seems to be criticizing the company for being built on stolen land… so therefore, the LW is profiting off of stolen land. It just doesn’t seem like a very helpful stance.

    14. AMarie*

      I learn something new every day. A PBS article indicated that one of the reason Indigenous people do not like land acknowledgements is that is doesn’t really lead to any change. And non-Indigenous people using it is just as helpful as “thoughts and prayers!” Would you say this is accurate?

    15. Annoya_Montoya*

      My husband is indigenous and it feels very “virtue signally” to both of us when people do this “on his/your/their behalf” because “we’re allies” or whatever…. Just…yeah.

    1. LJ*

      I Googled it out of curiosity. A major university situated around the land area referenced by LW, Colorado State, has as its land acknowledgement:

      “Colorado State University acknowledges, with respect, that the land we are on today is the traditional and ancestral homelands of the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Ute Nations and peoples. This was also a site of trade, gathering, and healing for numerous other Native tribes. We recognize the Indigenous peoples as original stewards of this land and all the relatives within it. As these words of acknowledgment are spoken and heard, the ties Nations have to their traditional homelands are renewed and reaffirmed.

      CSU is founded as a land-grant institution, and we accept that our mission must encompass access to education and inclusion. And, significantly, that our founding came at a dire cost to Native Nations and peoples whose land this University was built upon. This acknowledgment is the education and inclusion we must practice in recognizing our institutional history, responsibility, and commitment.”

      1. Michelle Smith*

        This is way, way too long for LW to put in an email signature. I am not sharing my position on land acknowledgements generally because I’m black, not indigenous, and so my opinion isn’t that relevant IMO. But I would be annoyed by a long signature like this regardless of the content.

        1. Avril Ludgateaux*

          I don’t think it was an email signature suggestion so much as a “see if you can get your organization on board with making a public, published statement about this topic on one of their broader-reaching official channels, as CSU did” – if it was a suggestion at all, and not simply an example of how one organization chose to approach the matter.

      2. goddess21*

        This statement is basically a lie. “Founded as a land grant” actually means “we literally exist as the fruits of theft and genocide”–because the land in question is exactly the same land the federal government stole. Jargon like ” land grant” obscures the facts. if this is typical, and something tells me it is, I can see why ” land acknowledgements” would piss people off.

        1. Stay-at-Homesteader*

          Michigan State was also founded as a land grant and similarly has a whole webpage devoted to land acknowledgements (and best practices/responsibilities when using them). It’s a little clearer about what “land grant” really means. I’ll link it in a comment below if anyone wants to read it. There are a lot of ways to do land acknowledgements and if nothing else, all of us non-indigenous folks should take away from this that we need to be extremely careful that what we’re doing is with consideration of the needs and goals of the peoples we hope to support with them. And that’s complicated, because they’re not a monolith.

            1. Felicity Lemon*

              Thank you for posting this, Stay-at-Homesteader. I’m an MSU alum, so some of the history of the ‘land grant’ program is not unfamiliar, but this is an important (and probably not well-understood) perspective on it, very well expressed.

        2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

          Does “our founding came at a dire cost to Native Nations and peoples whose land this University was built upon” not address that aspect?

        3. Anne Elliot*

          I think this is an important comment because it highlights at least one of the thorny issues presented, at least in the U.S.: Do you want baby steps or no steps?

          The commenter appears to reject “founded as a land grant” as dishonest and appears to require something like “we literally exist as the fruits of theft and genocide” — anything less “would piss people off.” But in the U.S. only a vanishingly small number of institutions could ever openly state that they “literally exist as the fruits of theft and genocide.” That is inflammatory language that they likely could not get away with using even if they wanted to – the institution would be punished by its legislature (which controls its funding) and by its alumni, who almost certainly do not believe that statement is true. This concern is especially true for Western (U.S.) land grant institutions.

          If the only acceptable statement is some variation of “We acknowledge we are the thieving descendants of genocidal colonizers” then you’re going to have no statement at all. Which is preferable — a partial true and/or soft-soap statement? Or no statement at all?

          1. Chinookwind*

            Plus you have lot of recent immigrants who can legitimately claim they are not the descendants of those colonizers because they arrived long after the events. LA need to also include those who are benefitting from the past activities even if they didn’t particpate in them.

  3. Tio*

    I feel like I’ve been seeing a lot of letters like #3 lately on the theme of “If there’s no policy, then how can they make me do it/not do it?” There doesn’t need to be a policy for or against everything. Policies are for transparency, not permission. And even if there was a policy about something, the company can change that policy whenever they want and make the new policy effective immediately. Unions may have some restrictions about this, and obviously the policies can’t violate laws, but usually everything’s fair game for change.

    1. ecnaseener*

      I suspect in this case the LW is thinking it’s some sort of free-speech violation, perhaps especially because the acknowledgment is a factual statement – but of course that’s not how it works, the employer is not the government, they can restrict your speech however they want (except for discussing wages etc.) with or without a policy.

      1. mlem*

        Well, maybe … but maybe not. One big argument for policies is consistency of application to avoid bias. If the CEO doesn’t care about email sigs rooting for sportsball teams with appropriative/racist names, for example, but he comes down on LW’s, that creates at least the appearance of bias. (My company has a blanket sig policy — we’re given a specific template and told not to add anything else to it. That means if a supervisor notices an addition and tells you to remove it, it’s far less likely to be commentary on the comment of the addition.)

        Does the CEO here shut down only sigs with particular viewpoints? Could that be seen as acting in a biased manner? I figured that’s where the LW was going with their question.

        1. ecnaseener*

          IANAL but my understanding is that it still wouldn’t rise to the level of illegal workplace discrimination. The question was “can he” not “should he.”

          1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

            That’s oversimplifying the issue. It may or may not rise to that level, depending on a bunch of factors, but it sure as heck would be evidence of bias.

        2. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Bias isn’t illegal unless it creates disparate impact to a protected group. An email signature wouldn’t rise to that threshold.

      2. Adam*

        Even the US government can restrict your free speech when they’re your employer. They can’t police what you say outside of work, but while you’re on the clock, they have approximately the same ability to police what you say as any employer.

        1. Just Another Fed*

          Actually, the US government can police what you say outside of work when they’re your employer. See also: the Hatch Act.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      I think this is because most people and orgs operate with the understanding that “anything that’s not prohibited is permitted.”

      And as this was permitted in the past, LW is confused because now it’s no longer permitted. That’s understandable, given that the CEO is giving some very mixed signals. He “doesn’t want to be in the business of policing what is and is not allowed in email signatures” and yet he “doesn’t want statements to be made there, so he wants them to be strictly about work” which is of course policing what is and is not allowed in email signatures.

      There would have been no question at all if the CEO had handled this better by just saying “Here’s what your work signature needs to be, without deviation.”

      1. doreen*

        It might have been better for the CEO to say “Here’s what your work signature needs to be, without deviation.” but I don’t think the CEO is being confusing. I have never understood the phrase “being in the business of policing” to refer to having rules but rather to making sure the rules are followed – it’s much easier to enforce “email signatures are to be strictly about work” than it is to allow other content in email signatures and then need to determine what is or isn’t appropriate

      2. It Takes T to Tango*

        I don’t think the CEO is sending mixed signals. He doesn’t want to have a very rigid policy put into place, but he doesn’t want an absolute free-for-all, either. If an employee had in their signature line, “Check out my OnlyFans page” few would wonder why the CEO would say that line needed to be taken out. It shouldn’t require the CEO to then say, “From now on, we only allow email sigs with Name, Rank, and Serial Number, single spaced, each on their own line, in 12 pt Helvetica, black lettering, left justified with no additional kerning.”

        The CEO said the signature needs to be work-related only, so that’s no political statements, no religious statements, no sports teams, etc. If the company has a DEI page on their website, OP could put that in their sig, for example. If the company doesn’t, that would be a great thing for OP to advocate for and would accomplish more in the long run than a poorly written scold of an email sig.

        As an aside, I’ve never seen an email with a “land acknowledgement” signature before and I’d be annoyed if I saw one written like OP’s. What am I supposed to do about it? Should I refuse to do business with this company since it’s on stolen land? Is there a fund to donate to which will buy replacement land for those displaced? Am I expected to join some political committee to kick people off the land so the original people can move back? LJ (above) showed the CSU acknowledgement and, while too long for an email sig, that’s an acknowledgement that makes sense. It’s a “here’s what we’re doing” and subtly encourages people to learn more to see if they can help as well.

        1. Fikly*

          This is slightly derailing, so I will make it short, but your annoyance is precisely why email signatures or other acknowledgement is needed. Your discomfort is the point. If the topic is not brought up, you can continue to live your life without a thought to the horrific consequences that continue to this second of all of the genocide and stolen land and cultural extermination.

          The point of the signature is to make you think. That you are annoyed by that, and the email signature not laying out a clear course of action, says that you want your DEI efforts to be easy to digest and contain a clear solution, rather than make you confront the society you live in. Something to think about indeed.

          1. MsM*

            But seeing it in the signature of a business email doesn’t get me thinking about any of those issues in the way that hearing it while present in a physical space surrounded by mostly white faces does. It certainly doesn’t do anything to raise my awareness that there is any kind of ongoing impact if I’m not already somewhat informed on the subject. Maybe it’ll prompt some follow-up investigation into what the company is doing for indigenous employees/populations, but it doesn’t sound like LW has any answers to offer there, easy or otherwise. And if anything, I think the question that’s likely to linger for most people is why LW put this in their signature, which doesn’t do anything to center the people LW is ostensibly trying to draw attention to or their concerns. So is this really contributing to any kind of reckoning, or is it just its own easily dismissed version of “see, I care about DEI”?

          2. Turquoisecow*

            Ok, so I’m uncomfortable and aware (sort of) of the issue. Now what? Does OP want me to donate money? Sign a petition? Just being uncomfortable doesn’t really do anything to help the issue, so I’m left thinking that they’re just shaming me for what my white ancestors did. And I just want to know when the teapot shipment arrives., that’s not really a time or place to be making people uncomfortable. I could see people deciding to contact a different company.

            What might be helpful in the signature would be a link to a page explaining what land acknowledgments are and how I can help (donating, petition signing, etc) or a line from OP explaining how this effects the company’s day to day business: “because we are on stolen land, we do X and Y actions.”

            As a life long resident of North America, I know the land I live on was stolen from indigenous people. What I don’t know is what to do about that, and OP’s signature doesn’t answer the question. And such a response in reply to an email asking about teapot shipments seems kind of the wrong context for that conversation.

            1. Lydia*

              The thing is, though, that now that you know, it’s on you to further educate yourself on how to move that along. Having the knowledge makes you responsible for it; not the OP to guide you through the next steps.

              1. Turquoisecow*

                If OP is going to detail a business email to tell me about an issue they’re passionate about, why is it not their responsibility to tell me more about shot issue? And how many people will walk away from that email going “hmm let me research more,” and how many will say “that was weird, anyway, back to work,” and do no research. If OP wants to spread awareness they also need to spread knowledge.

                1. Turquoisecow*

                  Ugh that sound be “derail a business issue” and “tell me more about THAT issue.”

              2. Advertising*

                Or, more likely, the reader is either indifferent to the message or becomes actively hostile to it.

                You can’t sell a product, service or concept by making your potential customers feel bad.

          3. me just me . . .*

            Should the point of all your business emails be to make people uncomfortable? How does that serve business purposes (that, as an employee, you’re supposed to be furthering)?

          4. NotAnotherManager!*

            The assumption that people who find that sort of signature odd and out of touch with business norms are blissfully unaware of their country’s sordid history with the native population is odd. They’re not mutually exclusive.

            I find it odd and annoying when people use their work email for personal statements, be it those I agree with or those I do not. Employers are well within their rights to ask that business-related emails sent from the company domain not advocate a specific platform or generate negative sentiments that may be off-putting to their customer base, and I doubt that any employer wants recipients of their emails made deliberately uncomfortable unless they are fundraising for their own cause and using fear/discomfort as a motivator.

            This whole idea that deliberately making people uncomfortable is going to effect positive change flies in the face of years of social science research. Lecturing and shaming people (or “educating” them as the lecturers like to call it) does not change minds or bring people to your cause.

          5. Nina*

            You know that thing about how a YouTube ad is so annoying people start refusing on principle to ever buy anything from that company or any of its subsidiaries ever again? (More common than you’d think!)

            Yeah. That.

            Very much against my better judgement and my conscious choices, being needled about a real injustice I cannot personally do anything about every time I receive an email from [my accountant/the university library/a business supplier] is not going to make me more kindly disposed towards, or likely to help with, the cause.

            Can I write to my member of Parliament or to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs to ask them to return a specific piece of land to its rightful owners? can I donate to a ‘give our land back’ fund? can I choose to preferentially support businesses that profit Indigenous people?

            Either tell me what you’re doing to fix the issue you’ve raised and how I can help, or shut up. Constantly raising an issue without suggesting ways to help fix it eventually comes across as whining.

        2. Riot Grrrl*

          “From now on, we only allow email sigs with Name, Rank, and Serial Number, single spaced, each on their own line, in 12 pt Helvetica, black lettering, left justified with no additional kerning.”

          I know you’re just exaggerating here, but in my experience, this comes awfully close to the kinds of policies that are often necessary on everything from email signatures to dress codes to PTO policies. Given a sufficiently large group of people, there is always someone who—like a mouse—will squeeze themselves through the one tiny hole the policy doesn’t cover in order to make themselves into a nuisance. I’m not saying that is true of LW here. Just noting that, in large enough groups, trying to leave things to people’s judgment or sense of decorum is often a recipe for conflict.

        3. Taketombo*

          The previous job I worked at, you could have a signature (vary, very not recommended) but the back-end outlook server generated a uniform company signature the company’s selected font, with the company’s logo and your information (per outlook) and appended it to every email you sent.

          The amount of bureaucratic angst to get “Jonathan” changed to “Jon” or for people who went by first initial-middle name was immense.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Ours does one better and removes all personally-created signatures within minutes of creation. You use the organizations’ format and nothing else. They allow people to use preferred names (rather than government names) in their official signatures, so there is very little complaining. There is really no need to personalize your work email signature block.

      3. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

        I interpreted “doesn’t want to be in the business” with a tone of “well I’d rather not HAVE to have this conversation to begin with, but here were are, so, strictly-work signatures only please.”

      4. Willow*

        I think the CEO means he doesn’t want to have to evaluate every comment someone puts in their signature, so it’s simpler to just not allow any. My previous employer banned shirts with words on them for the same reason—they didn’t want to be in the business of policing which words were ok on T-shirts.

    3. Artemesia*

      when you see a. new policy that seems obvious and common sense, there is a story. You know there is a reason hair dryers warn about use in bed and ‘when sleeping.’

    4. ferrina*

      LW1 and LW3 are on opposite sides of this same question- “There’s not a policy, so is the employee allowed to do anything? Does there need to be an official policy to enforce expectations?”

      No. We shouldn’t expect a policy for everything and anything. There should be nuance for individual situations. No policy can account for every possibility; we get to use our discretion, and that can be a very good thing. And there are times when two intelligent, well-meaning individuals can disagree on the correct course of action. That doesn’t mean we need a blanket policy to decide the issue- a conversation or direct request is usually sufficient (and yes, the boss/CEO gets the final say, assuming there’s no legal or safety issue).

  4. Turquoisecow*

    OP1, I’ve been the spouse tagging along on a business trip several times and I can safely say that I did not interfere with my spouses’s work – I barely saw him most of the trip except one afternoon at the end when his work obligations were finished. I did not go along to business dinners and in most cases I didn’t even meet his colleagues. I did my own thing the whole time and basically vacationed on my own. I’m not sure I’d recommend it since I was kind of lonely and would have preferred to visit museums and etc with my spouse, but since we were in interesting places I did have plenty to do. We paid for my transportation and meals, did not charge anything to room service or use hotel amenities the company paid for.

    My understanding is that this is the case with most spouses tagging along on business trips. This particular employee (or their spouse) either didn’t understand the boundaries or willingly stomped over them, but I don’t think you need to issue a blanket ban in response – just be absolutely clear with future employees what is and isn’t permitted. I wonder if this person was not used to business travel or is new to the working world in general as I’m sure more experienced business travelers and spouses would not do this.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I’ve also been the tag along spouse in the distant past – and also completely did my own thing. The exception was the two trips I went on both times I was explicitly asked by spouse’s manager to go on one Business Dinner, as part of a smooth rough edges effort for one of their employees in HR who was also filling in for some travel coordination duties (she could have given torture advice to Torquemada). But the only reason I went was because I was explicitly asked to (and it’s norm in that niche part of spouse’s industry as well) – if I hadn’t been asked I wouldn’t have gone.

      We also added a few vacation days on the end of the trip – was the only way we could afford international travel at that point in our lives.

      1. Sasha*

        It’s common in my industry for the spouse to arrive on the last day of the business trip, so the employee is working as normal during their “work days” but then gets a few days of vacation with their spouse afterwards (obviously self-funding the hotel etc).

        Though it does depend on the industry – my widowed father in law works in overseas art college recruitment in countries like China and India, and he often takes his adult daughter along. She is treated as his plus one and included in all the cultural trips, meals, art shows, and general VIP treatment, and that seems to be fully embraced by the receiving team. I also know people who examine internationally (India, Pakistan, Singapore), and again spouses are included in the VIP social package. Like a First Lady accompanying a head of state.

        Personally I would find all that incredibly awkward, but I wouldn’t enjoy the VIP dinners/cultural tours/lack of alone time as the employee either.

    2. MK*

      Never been or had a spouse come to a work trip, but I have been the colleague of people who brought their partners along. It has literally never been an issue, the partners do their own thing while we have work obligations and either join the colleague for the social part or the colleague goes off to spend time with them after work is done, usually a healthy mix of the two during each trip. OP thinking of issuing a blanket ban after one person abused the practice is a huge overreaction.

    3. Emma*

      Right – when I was a kid my dad traveled a lot for work, and he would often book holiday immediately after the work trip, and ask the company to delay his return flight until the end of the holiday. Then we’d fly out to join him after the work stuff was over and have a holiday together, which was lovely, and we still saved a chunk of money by not paying his air fare (and using his millions of work-related air miles for our tickets)

    4. radiant*

      My husband regularly has to go to Paris for work meetings (we live in the UK). Earlier this year I finally decided I would tag along for once! His travel and accommodation were covered by his company, so all we had to pay for was my Eurostar ticket. I work remotely most of the time anyway, so I gave my manager a heads up that I’d be working from France for a week, and he was fine with that! In the evenings, we could explore the city a bit. We went for a meal with his team but they also brought their partners along.

    5. Angstrom*

      We did this a couple of times — partner flew out to join me a day or two before the end of the work trip and then I took a few days of vacation before we flew home. Partner was happily self-sufficient while I was working. No issues with work.

      1. MomOf3*

        Spouses tagging along with employees for work travel is very standard in my sector, and I would personally find a ban on this practice to be pretty abrasive/intrusive because technically a partner can buy whatever flight they want with their own money and who sleeps in my hotel room at night isn’t my boss’s business. I think the person LW wrote about maybe just doesn’t know the norms around keeping your partner out of sight out of mind.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          I think this is what felt off to me about Alison’s response: how exactly can a company forbid the spouse from coming along? They’re an adult that is perfectly free to travel to the same place at the same time. Trying to forbid that feels very off to me.

          The company can refuse to book anything for the partner, refuse to reimburse hotel bills with two-person charges on them, and refuse having them at work functions and dinners, but that’s it. I guess this being the US, they could fire the employee for bringing a spouse just because they don’t like it, but companies morally really shouldn’t fire employees for what they do on their own time.

          I bet one could bring one’s partner along without the company even noticing.

          1. doreen*

            “I bet one could bring one’s partner along without the company even noticing”
            Absolutely – but I think that falls into “You aren’t allowed to bring a cell phone to school but the teacher can’t confiscate it if they never see it”. I’m pretty sure no employer (including the OP ) actually cares if their employee brings a partner on most trips – they may think they do , but it’s really being afraid of the distraction, or bringing the partner to dinners or passing up evening events. Things wouldn’t be any better if it was a friend who was local to the destination being brought to the dinner rather than a partner who came along on the trip.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              But they can’t confiscate a partner. Or even send a partner home. I’m not even sure that they can write the employee up for it, what do you say? “I told them their spouse wasn’t allowed in Vacation Destination for the duration of our business trip, and then I ran into their spouse while taking a walk on the boardwalk and that’s a work performance issue”. I do not see a single way in which this ban is enforceable.

              I’ve never seen it done where I worked, and cannot speak for OP’s field, but have in the past dated someone in academia and it seems to be super common there – I tagged along on a couple of conferences with this ex as well (a casual acquaintance is also married to someone who’s teaching at a different higher ed institution than my ex did and that is how this person does the majority of their travel) and I imagine that a ban on it would be seen there as very odd.

              1. doreen*

                Whether they should be able to or not, most employers in the US can fire someone because they don’t like their tie, so they certainly fire someone for violating a “no partners on work trips” policy and if they can fire someone , they can certainly take lesser forms of disciplinary action ( Doesn’t mean they should do any of this , but they can) . My point is that just as the teacher can’t confiscate the cell phone they never see, there can’t be consequences if the company never knows the partner was at the destination.

                1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  Completely agree with your point. I admit I might’ve misread your comment when I first replied, to mean something like “bring at your own risk”.

        2. Retired Accountant*

          One thing that happened at my previous job was someone’s spouse bought a ticket to join the employee on a business trip, then the employee was unable to go on the trip due to a work emergency. So there was much drama about whether the company should reimburse the employee for the spouse’s plane ticket since the spouse didn’t want to go on the trip. Much drama.

          1. L. Bennett*

            That’s bizarre. Why would the company be expected to reimburse for the spouse’s plane ticket?

            1. Texas Teacher*

              I guess since the reason the employee couldn’t go was because of a work emergency, and the whole reason the spouse’s ticket was bought was because the employee was going. I’m not sure I’d reimburse for the spouses ticket either but I can understand the dismay.

              1. doreen*

                I can understand the dismay – but I’m not sure I understand actually asking the company for reimbursement. And someone must have said something, otherwise there wouldn’t have been any drama.

            2. Ginger Baker*

              Oh I actually have a clear understanding of this and of [very likely] how this got all twisted up: At my workplace (and I believe common in BigLaw), there is a policy that if you have asked for approval (and received it) in advance to book a vacation, and then you on the basis of that approval go ahead and book your flights etc. for your Paris vacation on your pre-approved dates, the firm will reimburse you for the lost costs if you have to cancel the vacation at the last minute for client work (say, an unexpected sudden deposition you need to go take instead of being able to fly to Paris). So it is established as a policy that *preapproved vacation related expenses canceled due to client needs* will be reimbursed.

              SO here, the tricky question becomes: was the spouse’s travel in essence a “pre-approved vacation, canceled due to client needs”? Or was it merely work travel (paid for presumably by the firm anyway, or certainly reimbursable thereto) canceled due to [other] work needs and the spouse-travel portion is an unfortunate – but NOT “pre-approved vacation” – expense that the employee is simply out of pocket for?

        3. Avril Ludgateaux*

          It’s so common – and in my opinion, poor management – for companies to decide to make a blanket policy about something as soon as one person screws up, instead of confronting that person directly and explaining why/how they screwed up. I guess it is easier to “objectively” deny a privilege in general than having to apply critical thinking, subjectively, because each situation is in fact subjective. It’s like “zero tolerance” policies in school, carried over to the workplace.

          I don’t travel for work but my partner does, and sometimes I tag along. I, too, would be peeved if suddenly his employer banned the practice, especially if on the basis of one person’s misstep.

          1. bamcheeks*

            YES! There is a lot of that where I work– blanket “people Must Not” and “everyone should be spending NO MORE than 15% of their time on…” and “dwarves can forge swords, but elves must NEVER forge swords, only daggers”, leading to situations where it would absolutely be sensible and helpful if elves could forge swords, but you suggest it and everyone goes, Oh No, Elves Can’t Do That, Because Thranduil Forged Too Many Swords and No Daggers At All and There Was A Whole Thing And Now…

            There are now a whole group of us managers who’ve never even met Thranduil looking at all these rules and going, “Could you not have just talked to Thranduil and told him he was to concentrate on daggers, rather than creating an entire rule that says elves must never forge swords that’s still hanging around even through Thranduil went west several centuries ago?” GAH.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              Ahhh that’s how an OldJob got a limit of 5 sick days a year where there previously had been none. We were told “people are taking sick days to take their car to the shop or take their dog to the vet” okay but that’s a handful of people and what about the rest of us who simply want to be sick in peace?!?!

              And I imagine that by now, people at that OldJob shrug and go, “5 day limit. That’s just how things are. That’s how it’s always been.”

    6. Artemesia*

      Apparently this guy was TOLD not to bring the spouse to business dinners but did so anyway. He in particular needs to be told that this was both a violation and that he is not authorized to bring his partner on business trips in the future. There is no reason to extend that to people who do not transgress.

      1. mlem*

        Yes, this struck me — the letter says the employee was told not to do the thing, but Alison’s response seems to be that the LW should have told the employee not to do the thing? Certainly that’s where the focus should remain, but it sounds like the LW did try to start there.

    7. L. Bennett*

      My spouse has also tagged along on some trips and it’s never been an issue. Just because you’re on a work trip doesn’t mean every hour of the day needs to be dedicated to work. Going back to the hotel room to your spouse at the end of the day is really no different than going back home at the end of the work day. A blanket refusal to allow partners to come is really unnecessary, but it seems like LW was uncomfortable with the idea of spouses coming from the start (“It raised a red flag for me but my original impression was that … well, I can’t really say no if this person is just making use of the hotel room and there’s no added expense to our organization”) and maybe they should examine why that is?

      1. Colette*

        Work travel often means longer days, sometimes including business dinners. Often, it’s not the case that you can go back to the hotel room like you would go home at the end of the day – you may not get back in time to spend any significant time with your spouse.

        1. Avril Ludgateaux*

          I sleep better with my partner beside me. Even if that’s all we got to do because my employer booked us for egregiously long days in the name of “networking” or whatever, it would bring me peace, help me cope with the added stress, and help me sleep to be refreshed for the next day, to be able to share a bed with my partner. “Work travel sucks” is a reason to allow partners to come along, not a reason to ban it.

        2. L. Bennett*

          Sure, but it’s definitely not up to the employer how an employee spends their off-hours. If it’s no additional expense to the employer and it’s not interfering with their work, it’s none of their business.

        3. AngryOctopus*

          This matters less if they’re staying a few extra days after a trip, but also it’s not up to the company if the SO has always wanted to travel to city X, and thus tags along. As long as the employee is doing all the work expected of them and is not including the SO where they should not be (which is the issue with the person in the letter), it shouldn’t be an issue.

        4. Smith Masterson*

          At my previous and current employers, long days with clients and partners were the expectation during business trips. On one trip, a colleague brought his wife, and she was annoyed that entertaining clients lasted until 1 AM and the breakfast meetings started at 6 AM.

          1. Colette*

            Yeah, that’s just it – the expectations for how much of the day is spent working are often much different than at home.

            1. Smith Masterson*

              Exactly! My employer expects to “own” your time for the entirety of the trip. This means putting in a full day at a conference, entertaining clients, and then going back to your room and catching up on the work you missed not being “in.” (I think this sucks. I am not arguing for it, just saying it exists.)

    8. KatEnigma*

      Yep- me too. I saw my spouse more often than you did, but I certainly didn’t see any of his coworkers, except for I think once at breakfast when we happened to be downstairs when she was.

      I know several people whose spouse goes with them on business trips, some where it’s even expected. I do not think LW thought it was a red flag because she sensed something was off with her employee. I believe she thought taking a spouse at all was the red flag.

    9. Lizzie*

      I don’t travel for work, but my dad, who worked in IT, would go to conferences a couple of times a year. My mom would tag along if it was somewhere interesting, and they usually included the spouses at dinners, and would also set up activities for them during the day, while those attending the conference were doing their thing. But my dad would have never brought my mom along if it was employees/attendees only.

    10. PhyllisB*

      My husband and I have both been traveling spouses on work trips, and it worked out beautifully.
      I would say there’s two things to consider here.: first, of course is having company permission. The second is what work obligations will be. The ones we went along for had no obligations after work day was finished. If there are are business dinners or social gatherings that you are supposed to attend, spouse stays home. Even that last one can vary; some companies welcome spouses to the social events. I guess what I’m saying is, make certain it’s okay before you do it.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        I mean, the spouse can still come if there are business dinners or gatherings. They’ll just see their SO less often. But if they want to come and do their own thing and are fine doing so, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be there.

    11. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I’ve been on both sides of it, as spouse and employee, and with a toddler once and a grade-schooler another time. The only time any coworker would have known about the accompanying family is when we told them, as we’ve both been at our respective companies for decades and are friends outside of work with a few coworkers.

      OP, don’t issue a blanket ban, address the actual issues. Don’t be that boss who says no cell phones can ever be seen or heard at the office just because ONE employee spends too much time on his cell phone.

    12. Minerva*

      As a former tag-along spouse it can be very fun and not at all disruptive for sure! I never attended a work event (unless it was specifically noted that family was welcome) and had many a nice time lounging by a pool or exploring a city.

      OP it seems like you want to punish the many for the notable bad behavior of the one. Ban this employee from doing so, and make it clear why.

    13. Office Lobster DJ*

      Along with differences between fields, I think the nature of the business trip also changes things. There’s a difference between, say, a week attending a conference and a week finalizing a project with colleagues in a different city. In addition to a looser schedule, a conference usually means plenty of socializing, and I’ve only ever seen partners and plus ones welcome to tag along and take part in the social events.

      One thing for OP to consider when talking to the employee is who was in charge of the business meals. Could it have been a situation where the host felt it was only polite to include the guest and insisted the employee bring them, and the employee felt it would have been rude to turn them down? If so, perhaps the employee deserves a little more grace than if they had just willingly tossed out the rule book.

      I have to say I’m curious that multiple people have been complaining about this. Have they been able to give credible examples of how the employee was distracted or how an extra person at dinner negatively impacted everyone? Only OP would know, but I can envision a situation where all of this is coming from those who might have liked to have had a guest as well and had their feathers ruffled, rather than actual impact.

      1. Donner*

        “Have they been able to give credible examples of how the employee was distracted”

        That jumped out to me, too. Maybe “distracted” is short-hand for a lot of specific examples that are clearly related to having the partner there, and OP just didn’t get into it for the sake of brevity. Whatever the distractions were, if OP hasn’t already dug into that, that should be part of OP’s strategy for addressing what needs to change. Get more specifics on what made the employee seem distracted, figure out the root cause, and address that.

        Whether there is actual impact to having the partner there as part of the business dinner, well, OP told their employee before the trip not to bring their partner to the business dinner. If the employee thought that was arbitrary and didn’t think there would be a business impact, they should have made a case for that to OP, not just decided to ignore OP’s clear direction on the matter.

        1. Office Lobster DJ*

          Oh, I definitely agree that ignoring the directive from OP is a big problem, regardless of tangible impact.

          Still, I would have some sympathy for the employee if the scenario was the host of the dinner saying “Oh, your partner joined you? Why, of course you must bring them to tonight’s dinner!” and the employee had to choose between obeying the boss and insulting a client’s hospitality. Fanfic, maybe, but I’d encourage OP to approach the conversation by asking the employee why they ignored the directive instead of acting on an assumption.

      2. Saberise*

        Actually conferences can end up with very little downtime. I support doctors that go to medical conventions and the days are full of educational events and breaks/nights are used for networking with pharma/sponsors/collaborators. It would be very unusual for a spouse to attend since that would mean they were solo from like 7am-10pm. The only way that wouldn’t be true is if they skipped stuff which defeats the purpose of being there

        1. Office Lobster DJ*

          Sure, while that hasn’t been my experience, mileage can definitely vary. I think it all speaks to there not being a single set of expectations, and all the more reason for supervisors to be up front about what they expect for a given trip. (Which it does sound like OP tried to do)

    14. Niniel*

      Way back when business travel happened for my now-husband, I was the tag-along “spouse” for one of his trips! I was the girlfriend at the time, but it wasn’t a problem. I explored the city while he was at his conference, and even met up with one of my friends. It was a great experience, and no one knew about my existence on the trip. I would love to be able to do it again someday.

      OP, do NOT put a blanket ban on spouses using the hotel room.

      1. Francie Foxglove*

        Mr. Foxglove used to work below-the-line in the movie business. One of the many times he went on location, the company spent a week in a coastal city. I flew out and stayed in his hotel room. Yes, they were working weird hours, and I didn’t see much of him, but what counted was that I was in the room when he came back, and could massage his feet, calves, etc., which was a *huge* help to him. The rest of the time, I did sightseeing (I hooked up with some other women guests for a few days) or just lounged around. It was a vacation for me, and a boost for Mr. Foxglove’s work, not a detraction.

        Meanwhile, I sure would like to know more details about why the spouse in #1 was such a spanner in the works. Because of what they said or did, or just because they were there?

    15. Figgie*

      My spouse is retired now and I am so grateful to not have to go to his work conferences anymore. My personal preference would be to go along, sit by the pool and read and just enjoy the alone time. Until the time his then boss invited me to one of the business dinners.

      After that, I never had a moments peace and my spouse was told not just to bring me along, but that they would pay for me. Their paying meant that it was extremely difficult for me to say no to going.

      I am an extreme introvert and can spend hours and days alone and enjoy the quiet time. I can, however act like an extrovert and an extremely social one at that. In my spouse’s department there was an distinct lack of social skills. Until I joined them at that first business dinner they invited me to, they would sit in complete silence and just eat, not looking or talking to each other, not even about the conference or work.

      One of my social skills is to get people to talk. Both to me and to each other. I was also willing to talk with other conference attendees and the people who work the conferences and so had a lot of people I could invite to sit with us at the conference happy hours and then I would get everyone talking.

      My spouse told me that the difference was night and day between how he and his coworkers managed before I showed up and when I wasn’t there. And all of the introverts here at askamanager would understand how exhausting this was for me.

      But it was extremely good for my spouse’s career. And I ended up introducing his former boss to his now wife at one of the conferences. That friendship with them has endured and we will be seeing them when we make our snowbird way back to the frozen north in a couple of weeks.

      So, how it is handled about spouses coming along to conferences is going to vary a great deal and a one size fits all answer probably isn’t going to be the best response.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        From what you describe, not only should they have paid for your dinners, they should have paid a handsome consultation fee for your time, hah!

        1. Figgie*

          Unfortunately, they would have probably agreed to pay me. :-) Which would mean I would have to put out even more energy into doing a “job” that I didn’t want or need. I’m just glad that Covid interrupted things and there were no in person conferences for the two years before my spouse retired.

  5. Casper Lives*

    LW3 Your company has bigger issues. You’re focused on the signature. But the other issues you mention in the company are more concerning! Asian coworkers being mistaken for each other, presumably just because they’re Asian; layoffs disproportionately impacting POC in a 90% white company; etc.

    Are you focused on the signature because it feels like something you can change, instead of these systemic issues?

    1. Willow*

      The OP says they started the DEI group specifically in response to those serious issues, so I don’t think there’s any reason to suggest they’re not addressing them too.

    2. nodramalama*

      I don’t see how this comment is very helpful. People can deal with multiple issues at once.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        I feel like the last question Casper Lives asks is an important one, though.

        In the grand scheme of things, an email signature is pretty small potatoes. In my past jobs, I’ve found that when I’m focused on something relatively small, it’s because the small potatoes problem feels like something I can fix, as opposed to the larger systemic things I’ve been pushing against for a while.

        It’s a valid thing for the LW to consider.

      2. MsM*

        Sure, but what does OP feel their company should be doing to advance indigenous rights and equity? Why is that the thing they want to place front and center over, say, reparations or the wage gap? Is it because this is something they genuinely want to inspire reflection on, or is it just what they thought would result in the least pushback?

        1. Lydia*

          What makes you think it’s front and center and nothing else is being addressed? This is the thing the OP wrote in about. That doesn’t mean it’s the only thing they’re working on with their employer.

      3. Sylvan*

        People can also do small, performative things while larger problems carry on.

        Some people at my company put pronouns in their email signatures. That’s nice, our trans colleagues are still treated badly and our health insurance still doesn’t cover much of their care (it’s not great for LGB people, either). Some people put up rainbow “safe space” cubicle signs. Again, that’s nice, but it doesn’t improve LGBT employees’ situation.

        I don’t know if the letter writer is doing that. They did start a DEI initiative. Maybe they’re making some bigger changes. It’s just a thought.

        1. Lydia*

          It’s this idea that there is only one kind of approach and anything else is a waste of time and effort. That’s not how any social change happens. Small quiet efforts and larger more confrontational efforts are both needed to actually affect any change.

          1. JustaTech*

            There’s also the issue of different levels of power/influence.
            I have absolutely zero power to choose our health insurance, or even to influence the people who do choose our health insurance.
            But I can put my pronouns in my email signature as an act towards normalizing that within the company.

            It’s like my director who told me we should disband the women’s employee resource group because we hadn’t changed the gender makeup of the C-suite in our first year (which was never one of the stated goals of the group). Like, what? We don’t have the power to do that. We’re not the board or the CEO, we’re the worker bees. We’re just trying to make it better down here, and maybe build momentum to change the gender makeup of the mid-level managers.

    3. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Agreed. The DEI group is pretty lipstick on an ugly problem. LW is likely unable to effect actual change, so is grasping onto whatever they can. The only real fix may be lawsuits for discrimination, which will force actual change in the c-suite and other high level management.

  6. Brain the Brian*

    I have worked with a number of people who were officially full-time employees but definitely put in no more than 35 or 36 hours a week anyway. Good on you, LW4, for at least being honest with your employer about your current limitations!

    1. Bit o' Brit*

      35 hours a week is a normal full-time contract, at least in this country – that’s what a 9-5 is.

      1. Siege*

        Yeah, that’s why it’s always been an 8-5 for the entirety of my working life, across multiple sectors. 40 hours work plus 5 hours for lunch. In my experience it’s just called a 9-5 as a holdover from a time when you were paid for lunch.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          I don’t think your experience is universal though. I work a 9-5 (literally those are my standard hours) and I am paid based on 35 hours a week. Lunches are unpaid. This has been how my last 3 or 4 jobs have been structured.

        2. doreen*

          I think that varies a lot by location and field. In my entire full-time career , I never worked 8 hours plus lunch – it was always 8 hours including either a half hour or an hour for lunch so either 35 or 37.5 hours of work. ( and it wasn’t a matter of being paid for lunch – I earned 35x my hourly rate) There are lots of jobs which have 3 8 hour shifts – not all of them require any overlap and even some of the ones that require overlap don’t involve working 40 hours. For example, I know of jobs where the shifts are something like 7:30-4 , 3:30-12, 11:30-8 with a hour-long lunch break for a 7.5 hour workday.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            Yes, technically in my job we work a 37.5 hour week. But we don’t get paid any less. It’s more important for contract/temp workers, and it’s meant to ensure that they get a real lunch break.

          2. 40HoursOrBust*

            Every exempt job I’ve ever had expected you to take time off if you didn’t work at least 40 hours in a week. I had one really bad job early in my career that required you to take time off if you didn’t work 8 hours each workday even if you were well over 40 hours for the week.

        3. Eldritch Office Worker*

          All of my full time professional jobs have been 9-5 with a paid hour for lunch. Now whether or not people take that whole hour or sometimes work late varies a lot by position and individual (I always have been an 8:30 start person so I can settle in, read AAM, have some coffee before the grind begins). But it’s not unusual.

      2. allathian*

        I work full time, and that’s 7 hours 15 minutes of work time per weekday, or 36 hours 15 minutes per week, including a coffee break in the morning and another in the afternoon on the clock, and a lunch break in my own time, a minimum of 30 minutes. Our traditional office hours, including an hour off for lunch, are 8 am to 4.15 pm, although norms have evolved and I have a lot more flexibility than that. When I WFH I’m typically at my desk by 7 am and usually stop working at 3 pm, if I possibly can.

        I had a 30-hour workweek for 6 months after I returned from maternity leave.

      3. londonedit*

        Yeah, 35 or 37.5 hours a week is a normal full-time contract where I am. Usually you get an unpaid hour for lunch, so it’s 9-5 or 9-5:30 or similar. I put in ‘no more than’ 37.5 hours a week because that’s what I’m paid for!

        1. UKDancer*

          Same with me. Full time in my company is 37.5 hours which doesn’t include lunch. People should take 30 mins for this (although if we’re pressed that comprises a sandwich at your desk).

        2. BubbleTea*

          Our client file management software (I’m in a finance-related field) treats 30+ hours a week as full time, for the purpose of statistics etc.

        3. Shiba Dad*

          Generally speaking, state employees in my state work 37.5 hours per week and get unpaid lunch breaks. They are considered full time.

          1. Sparkle Llama*

            As far as I know effectively all government employees in my state work 8-4:30 with either a half hour unpaid lunch and two paid breaks or an hour of lunch with half paid and half unpaid. Union employees typically work 8 hours with a paid hour lunch so 7-3 or 8-4 is common for the union employees.

    2. Roland*

      Yeah I’m a software engineer and now that I’m remote I definitely don’t feel the need to be at my laptop 8 hours a day.

    3. amoeba*

      In my country, there definitely are full-time contracts that are 35 h (or 37.5 h), even though they’re not the norm (unfortunately, haha!)
      But in any way, it’s so close to 40 h that I wouldn’t worry or mention it at all unless asked.

    4. Spicy Tuna*

      I think it’s industry specific. I work in finance and in 25 years of work, the only time I’ve only worked a 36 -40 hour week is when I am on vacation. Otherwise, it’s double that! LOL!

      1. Smith Masterson*

        Right? 6AM-5PM (or later) and lunches are all meetings. Plus tons of paperwork and prep over the weekends.

    5. new year, new name*

      Yeah for sure! Even here in the US where most of us don’t have contracts, my full-time job is based on a nominal 35-hr week. At a previous employer, we had a range of available schedules and you could be “full time” (aka benefits eligible) at 36, 32, 28, or even 24 hours.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        I thought if you were salaried you only got paid for 35 hours a week and then people put stuff on your plate for 80 lol.

    6. LTR FTW*

      I work in the US. I work 30 hours a week and it is considered full time by my company (eligible for benefits). I know this isn’t the norm here, but I’m sharing because I’d love to see that becoming normalized.

    7. NeutralJanet*

      Not sure if OP is in the USA, so this may not be 100% relevant, but the Affordable Care Act puts the “eligible for healthcare” threshold at 30 hours per week, so I definitely wouldn’t worry about going down to 36–plenty of places would still call that full-time

    8. Avril Ludgateaux*

      I work 35 hours a week, would love to go down to 30 if it were available. The work/grind culture in the US sometimes make me think you’re not full-time if you work any less than 50 hours… I wonder if, for the OP, 32-36 hours actually is a huge step down because she normally works twice that!

      1. ferrina*

        My boss is one of the rare people who is very clear that she expects my work to take 40 hours or less, not 50 or even 45. Once I tried to tell her I’d be on-call during vacation, and she shut that down. She demanded that I not look at email during vacation, and assured me that nothing would come up that couldn’t wait a week. She’s easily the best boss I’ve ever worked for.

    9. LCH*

      i’ve had FT positions in the US which were 37.5 hrs. so 36 really isn’t that different. and 32 is still a lot more than 20 (which is more solidly PT).

  7. Louisiana Jones*

    OP 2: I’m not really sure that you really want to have all your employees be best friends. There have been plenty of letters and responses from Alison and commenters about how that can turn into a messed work dynamic. Sure it may work out for a few people but even those friendships don’t always remain the same after one or both leave.
    Encouraging people to be collegial, friendly (not necessarily friends), and nice, supportive, and kind should be encouraged and expected. But personal besties? Nope – that’s not a goal for a boss.

    1. TechWorker*

      Given their letter includes saying that they know friendships at work happen and there’s ‘nothing you can do about it’ I think it’s fair to say they definitely do not have people being ‘personal besties’ a goal.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        It was a bit of a disconnect for me. They open with “there’s nothing you can do about it” but close with “I’d love for all of my employees to be best friends but that’s not how life goes”

    2. JayNay*

      yes that jumped out to me as well. You do NOT want your employees to be all best friends, OP, trust me. You want them to be colleagues and teammates.
      They don’t need to share details of their personal lives with one another, but they do need to be friendly and colleagial and willing to support and work well with other team members.
      People freezing out an employee because there was some hangout in the friendship is exactly why you don’t want the “we’re all such great friends here” dynamic. I do think you need to talk to your other employees and tell them you expect them to be friendly and supportive toward team members. Tell them if they run into any issues with their coworkers work to bring them to you and you will handle them, but that it’s not ok to give a teammate the silent treatment over what seems like minor mistakes.

    3. MsM*

      I feel like “best friends” here is less a literal wish and more of a simple desire that people be able to get along without conflict.

      1. Violet Rutherford*

        That was my reading too. “Best friends” was just shorthand for “everybody being friendly and polite without issues”.

      2. LVT*

        OP here. That is correct. Was not a literal wish for my employees to be best friends. Just a desire for all of my employees to get along with each other.

    4. Beth*

      I found myself wondering if the employee had said something casually bigoted or similar — you have to get along with people at work, yes, but there are times when you find out that you really do not want to associate with a person beyond the absolute minimum.

      1. yala*

        I think it’s more likely that they just said something that annoyed the Wrong Person in the group. Sometimes work cliques can have a Queen Bee, and it gets…bad. Could have even been the opposite of them being casually bigoted–they could’ve said something when someone else in the group was.

        I got frozen out of my work friend group and it just made things so much worse. Tbh, I think a lot of the errors I was making were partially because of that stress. And every small thing you do wrong gets magnified once you’re the persona non grata.

  8. Office Gumby*

    Living and working in Australia, I’m used to our Acknowledgements of Country, which are plentiful, common, expected and respectful. They appear on websites, are spoken at every public meeting, and have become standard in many email signatures. They’re designed to name and honour the traditional custodians of the land, and to promote thoughtfulness towards one another. Frex: “We acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we meet today, the Whadjuk people, and pay our respects to their elders, past, present, and emerging.” They tend to vary in wording, but they all have the same sort of reconciliatory vibe.

    The example given by OP#3 feels rather antagonistic.

    If one is to include an Acknowledgement of Country (or the NA equivalent), what is the purpose behind having it? Is it, like here in Australia, to promote reconciliation, or is it to provoke a fight?

    1. nnn*

      It’s interesting to me that you saw it as antagonistic, because as I was reading I was impressed by how neutral it is.

      I (Canadian settler) have seen some weird things happening in land acknowledgements lately, like thanking Indigenous people for taking care of the land (in a very othering way that suggests it’s our place as settlers to do that). So I found it refreshing to simply name the Indigenous peoples and the status of the land, and let it sit.

      1. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

        I (also Canadian settler) think this is part of a move to make land acknowledgements more personal, as part of a goal to make them less rote/tokeny, but was just today discussing with my boss that the specific phrasing around caring for the (land/water/Turtle Island/fill in the blank) has itself become tokeny. However, I also think just naming the status of the land and its ancestral inhabitants is also pretty tokeny. I wrote more above about what two First Nations staff said about acknowledgements at a meeting this morning for more on how to make them more meaningful.

    2. Martin Blackwood*

      White settler Canadian here, not the Most Up on land acknowledgements, but I’d say *one* of “stolen, occupied, ancestral” is enough. I feel like I have heard stolen or occupied in land acknowledgements before, but at physical events, where it’s said in a neutral tone as a fact, or in a “we are at this protest/event to acknowledge an indigenous specific issue so I’m going put a slight emphasis on this word” sorta context. The tone changes over text, though, and with the multiple words.
      The purpose is generally to acknowledge the ongoing and historical injustices against indigenous people as I understand it,which probably falls under reconciliation.

      1. Martin Blackwood*

        I can definitely feel the line of thought though, that this company doesn’t acknowledge non-white people, so LW feels like they have to emphasize the stolen part or else it won’t be acknowledged at all.

        I feel like the stolen land is still just on the side of radical that I can see a company preferring occupied, or traditional, or another term. Might be wrong though

      2. Humble Schoolmarm*

        White settler Canadian too. The most common one here uses the terms traditional and unceded.

        1. Chinookwind*

          And unceded refers to areas not under treaty (like all of BC). For areas under treaty, they are names alongside the Nations that occupy(ied) the land. I am unsure of how it works in the US, but the treaties in Canada, for better or worse, are still valid (and in and of themselves prove that the Nations were nations at the time of signing, since treaties at that time could only be put in place between nations, not groups of individuals).

    3. nodramalama*

      As a fellow Australian it also reads as quite aggressive to me, but it might be more synonymous with including the lines “sovereignty was never ceded” or “always was, always will be”, which are often removed from official Acknowledgments of Country

    4. Peanut Hamper*

      Thank you for this. I just received a huge package of zines from Australia yesterday and some of them had wording like this on them, which was interesting, but also confusing. Now I have context for that and it makes sense.

    5. sundae funday*

      The reason it sounds antagonistic to me is that the way its worded sounds like it’s blaming the company itself for stealing the land, and OP is profiting off of said stolen land because they’re employed by the company. That makes it seem performative.

      To me, the Australian land acknowledgements get the message across without appearing to point a finger at companies or individuals.

  9. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

    #3: I’m not familiar with land acknowledgments. Is that phrasing common? It seems…aggressive. Especially when directed at someone who just wanted to know what color y’all are painting the new batch of teapots.

    1. Allonge*

      I don’t know if I would call it agressive, but it’s indeed very out of context if used in all business communications, and personally I doubt it adds much value to either the business (less of an issue) or the plight of the people it mentions.

      I would find it totally appropriate to have a discussion about the subject at work, or for the company to reflect the sentiment in its actions, of course.

      1. ferrina*

        Concur. I would find it interesting and worth discussing, but also very distracting if I was focused on a work project and it was not related to the mission of the company.

        Could the LW use this for an internal signature and something else externally? Or something like that?

    2. nnn*

      To me (Canadian settler) it reads as a land acknowledgement scrupulously written to be solely a statement of fact, without the possibility of being interpreted as any sort of opinion or stance on behalf of the company. If I see it in a signature, I perceive it as the same way as any other piece of information in the signature that I’m not actively looking for at the moment.

    3. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

      I wrote a comment about this above, but the aggression you’re reading could also be recast as truth telling. If it’s not disrupting the comfort of settler listeners/readers, what is the point?

      1. Siege*

        Okay, but to what end? Discomfort isn’t actionable. My org primarily works on Duwamish land and the tribe explicitly requests land acknowledgments due to their lack of federal recognition and prefers inclusion of something actionable in them over just something in the model of LW’s signature. All of the guidance we’ve sought has been clear that something actionable needs to be included (and that is work we are taking seriously, to the extent of legislative action). Just saying “welp, this land isn’t yours and here’s whose it is!” doesn’t do anything actionable. Or do you find reinforcing discomfort through a controversial practice to be a good entry point into Indigenous allyship?

        1. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

          LOL that last sentence is…beyond. I’m ignoring that and responding with good will.

          LA aren’t largely controversial in my area, and as Indigenous engagement is a significant part of my work, I engage professionally with people from a variety of nations. One of our next big bodies of work is individualizing our approaches to different communities we work with, so many in a couple of years I’ll have more to say about protocol-specific approaches. I am not used to seeing calls to action in our LA, and it would not be appropriate in a number of my work settings (many of which are in response to calls to action from Indigenous people, communities, organizations, and reports), so I can’t comment on that request from the Duwamish.

          Please feel free to find my comment on the first thread of this post – I’m not the one calling for discomfort of settlers, two Indigenous staff (one with a leadership position) at a high level table yesterday morning were the ones calling for it, and am sharing that call in a relevant conversation, as a small part of my allyship. I have heard it from a number of other Indigenous colleagues and instructors before as well.

          I don’t understand the argument (more below than in Siege’s comment) that LA are bad because they are insufficient for change; of course they are not going to end racism and pay reparations! But, done well, they help to disrupt the settler colonial myths that underly North American settler entitlement, like the vanishing Indian, the supremacy of settler law, and the capitalist normalization of owning and exploiting land. To be effective, they need to be done in conjuction with education efforts, which are broad across both of the sectors I bridge, and the LA serves as a reminder to those listening/reading of what they’ve learned.

          To other commenters: there is no “opting out of LA that make you uncomfortable” at in my institution, because they are usually coming from people with more positional power than you. You can tune out, but what, are you going to do, walk out on a meeting because a VP acknowledged your org is on unceded land that others have walked since time immemorial?

          (All this said, I mention in a different comment that I don’t think that a email signature is meaningfully helpful)

      2. Avva*

        making privileged people uncomfortable is incredibly effective as a tactic for getting them to do what you want– people hate being uncomfortable and theyll bend in circles to not have to feel bad about it anymore. but to work, there has to be a clear way for them to know what you want them to do. Do you want them to also acknowledge the land theft? to use the correct names for things? to vote in certain ways?

        there is something to be said for “i just want them to be uncomfortable about it for a while, actually”. That has its own value– But id make sure you know which of those things youre actually trying yo accomplish woth your work email signature

        1. Zelda*

          The action the LW was setting up for here is exactly what they got– people who were made uncomfortable acted to remove the discomfort. By removing the signature.

          1. UKDancer*

            Yes definitely. I’m not at all able to comment on the issue of land acknowledgments as it’s not a thing done in the UK but I can say if you make people uncomfortable there is a strong likelihood that one of the reactions they have will be to make you stop doing whatever it is that makes them uncomfortable.

            If you want them to do a specific thing then it’s better to be clearer what action you’re wanting them to take. One of my friends at work is a mental health first aider and her signature mentions this with a link to the MHFA page on the company intranet and an encouragement to seek help if you need it. So she’s giving them something to do with the information in the sig. I think something with a clearer action / link to information may have a higher success rate. But again I’m not particularly informed on this field.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            “I try not to work with that person, since they make me uncomfortable” seems like another very likely result. With no benefit to the local indigenous community.

            It’s interesting to read about the range of uses here, and I will say I think this particular choice of wording seems like it would lead to an annoyed “… I just asked about the fourth quarter numbers” rather than a thoughtful “That’s an interesting point and it’s made me more mindful of this history.” The latter is about the best I think you can expect from a generic email signature aimed at everyone you interact with, rather than say a statement read at the start of a meeting that will address a specific and relevant issue.

        2. I should really pick a name*

          Is it actually effective?
          I assume if you make someone uncomfortable, they’ll just avoid the source of discomfort.

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            My inclination is that it would depend on the person. I grew up in a part of the US that taught in school the Civil War wasn’t about slavery, and I believed that (I learned this in the 1990s). When I first encountered different viewpoints (i.e., not white-washed ones), they made me really uncomfortable. The next time they also made me really uncomfortable. Then at some point, I started thinking about *why* it made me uncomfortable for someone to say the Civil War was about slavery. At some point after that, my belief changed.

            Without the discomfort, would I eventually have changed my belief? Maybe. But the discomfort I felt definitely contributed to that change.

        3. Nina*

          Seconding, I’m not in a country where that style of land acknowledgement is common at all and while I would feel uncomfortable to receive an email with that kind of signature, unfortunately the most obvious way of removing the discomfort is to stop doing business with the company using the signature.

          Provide a constructive way out of the discomfort.

      3. L-squared*

        I guess as someone in sales, it just seems that, as a company, why would you want to disrupt the comfort of your customers, or really any outside party doing business with you. So if OP is ever sending external emails (good chance she is) I can totally understand why that wouldn’t be something you would set out to do.

      4. Anonymous 75*

        I don’t have a problem with the uncomfortableness it’s just how it’s being done. First, so I question how many people read email signatures (I suspect not as many as people might think), second (less important) does it have anything to do with the work of the business, and is the signature too long or repeating enough that it’s annoying.
        If it’s long and on repeat (shows up on new email and replies) at the end of the day it would just annoy me, which I would think defeat the purpose of the signature.

        1. sundae funday*

          My thing is… and I’m sure this is my privilege speaking… but is work really the time and place to make others uncomfortable?

          If I allow myself to think about it, there are a million things I can and should be uncomfortable with at any given moment. I should be uncomfortable about colonialism, racism, sexism, poor treatment of LGBT+ people, nationalism, ethnocentrism…. but I also just have to function and do my job.

          Do we really need constant reminders of how effed everything is? I don’t know, maybe we do.

          1. Lydia*

            Considering the amount of pushback DEI efforts get because people don’t want to be uncomfortable at work, then yes, it is the appropriate place. If you’re not uncomfortable with how things are done at work around DEI, then you’re going to tend to be comfortable with the status quo and that means the racism, sexism, poor treatment of LGBTQI+ people that might be happening at your place of work will continue. OP is trying to do something at their job because their job is not a good place to work if you’re not white, male, and straight, which means the questions you asked has one answer and the answer is yes.

            1. sundae funday*

              Woah, I never said anything about pushing back on DEI. I’m just not sure that individuals need email signatures reminding others about an awful thing they don’t have the power to change.

              If there was some kind of call to action, I may think differently. Education is important, but I don’t need to be “educated” on a daily basis about something I already know about and that I can’t change.

              1. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

                Yeah but do you actually read people’s signatures so often it would become a burden on you? My boss has a quote in his. I email with him every day. I have no idea what the quote is, or who said it, because I haven’t read it since he hired me half a year ago.

                (also, just a note that ‘Individuals don’t need reminding about an awful thing they can’t change’ is a great example of white/settler fragility; google can offer more info on this idea, or you can find better versions of it relevant to your area and background.)

      5. SchuylerSeestra*

        What about those of us who did not descend from colonizers/settlers?

        I’m African American. My people were brought to the US against our will. I don’t particularly care for the mindset that I need to be made uncomfortable, when no one in my demographic were part of the brutality? Especially when we were brutalized ourselves?

        I’m going to be honest, I do think Land Acknowledgments can be performative. If it’s about shaming folks then I don’t think it’s fair to assume everyone the message is comes from none marginalized groups.

        1. You may never see this...*

          As black person whose ancestors did not descend from colonizer and settlers I don’t consider reading an email signature onerous.

          Your demographic were part of the brutality, so you don’t need to be made uncomfortable. OK, noted.

          1. ...*

            2 words left out…..

            “Your demographic was not a part of the brutality, so you don’t need to be made uncomfortable. OK, noted.”

          2. SchuylerSeestra*

            I mean I come to work to work. I don’t need to be lectured about brutality I’m very much aware of the blood that was spilled by my people and indigenous folx.

            It’s condescending in a way. Assuming folx need to be educated, and it’s your place to do so.

        2. STAT!*

          You’ve raised an interesting issue. Trying to parallel your situation from an Australian perspective: what do we think about discomfiting the descendants of convicts, who were also brought here against their will? What about recently settled refugees? Or the descendants of displaced persons who moved here after World War 2? Or the working class English children separated from their families & forcibly transported here during the 20th century?

          In my opinion, the question is how do we reach a social justice destination for all. In Australia, Acknowledgement of Country is part of that process. But it’s like that old joke: “I wouldn’t start from here if I were you”! Most of us – all of us – are descendants of people who have been abused & brutalised, & people who were abusers. Sometimes they were the same people. Some of us are still marginalised & directly suffering from that history. Others are luckier, or you could say more privileged. We have awoken from the nightmare of history, or at most only experience it as an unpleasant dream.

          My parents were migrants – “it was broken already when they got here!” – but that doesn’t give me an out, because I am privileged. On the other hand, I gotta live, & I can only do what I can do.

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      I live in an area where land acknowledgements are pretty common and this wording feels very aggressive to me. Granted, the one used by my employer always feels very cringe to me in a different way (I don’t want to use the exact wording because it would be too identifying, but think like a “we honor the noble people of this land” type sentiment). I think the use of “stolen” comes across more like the LW is trying to pick a fight than show respect, even if they’re not technically wrong.

      1. Therese*

        I’m so fascinated by these land acknowledgments. Do you put them on emails completely unrelated to real estate transactions, or local government meetings? To be totally honest, they seem like an incredibly bizarre custom, but a lot of customs are if you’re not used to them. How far do you go back? Like most of the people who were there when the white people arrived displaced some other group who displaced some other group etc etc back through time. Land is never owned or stolen, it’s just occupied by force and then by laws and custom. Until some new group decides to impose new laws.

        1. Dark Macadamia*

          The first one I ever saw was a sign posted in the entrance to a public library. I work for a school district and we have a standard wording that’s posted on the district website, and someone typically recites it out loud at the beginning of big district gatherings (1-2 times a year, not regular meetings). Mostly it’s just organizations having one on their website and other publications. I’ve never seen one in an email signature or from an individual.

        2. WS*

          They’re incredibly common in Australia, a lot of public buildings have them as a physical sign. And I can see you’re just asking, but your line of inquiry here is often used as figleaf for racist and anti-indigenous activity, framing British colonisation as just one of a series rather than the massively disruptive event it actually was and still is. In the case of my country, there’s 60,000 years of continuous history and culture and a lot of those cultures have lived in the same place long enough to have stories and science on a geological scale. British colonisation was an extremely clear point of demarcation. If you live in a white-colonised country, or if your country colonised others, you could read about indigenous history in your location or in your country’s colonies rather than rely on an office advice site to go into details.

          1. AGD*

            I agree. The widespread, malicious, recent effort that was European colonization has been dramatically harmful across the board for Indigenous populations worldwide. Distinct from ‘people move around over time’

            1. doreen*

              But it isn’t only “people move around over time” – I think Therese is referring more to “Spain colonized Mexico but before that, the Aztecs conquered and stole land from other groups”

              1. Foila*

                I think the relevant point here is that the current power structures are a direct result of that (say) Spanish colonization. It’s less an event of the past and more the foundation of the present.

              2. STAT!*

                Therese’s comment is that all lands were previously occupied by some other group, which in turn were previously occupied by some other group, etc etc back to the beginning of history. She then rather facetiously asked how far back do you go in acknowledging previous owners? But WS is right concerning all we currently know about human settlement in Australia, including the stories that literally reference events which occurred 25,000 & more years ago. There are no groups prior to those which were here in 1788; no previous owners. Moreover, Australian indigenous groups did not routinely engage in wars of land occupation & acquisition between one another, although they did engage in other kinds of armed conflict. So, Therese’s how far back question is built upon an incorrect premise.

                In any event, how far back do you go in terms of Acknowledgement of Country surely depends on who is asserting a right to be acknowledged. No living descendants of people who were on the land 25,000 years ago? No way of knowing whether those people would find the Acknowledgement meaningful? Then, no reason I can see to do an Acknowledgement. For example, you wouldn’t do one when visiting Teotihuacan.

        3. YetAnotherAnalyst*

          For the USA, at least, the history of colonization and expansion is a history of broken treaties, where the relevant governmental authorities made supposedly legally binding promises and then turned around and broke them. Many of the land acknowledgements I’ve seen – including the LW’s example – reference the specific treaty that the US broke when taking the land. The Treaty of Fort Laramie is still on the books (see the 1980 Supreme Court case). In my neck of the woods the treaties that were broken are more like the Treaty of Canandaigua and the Cornplanter Tract.

          Our actions were illegal by our own laws, and it’s historically not something we really discuss. Personally, I’m a fan of the acknowledgements as a trend towards at least discussing this and starting to hold our government accountable. I’ve met folks who lived barely 10 minutes from a reservation and had no idea that there were “still” Native Americans living in the US, let alone that the land they lived on had been ceded to another sovereign nation by the US and then illegally settled anyway.

          1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

            I’m also going to throw it out there that while acknowledgements don’t do much in and of themselves, they’re part of a broader effort that includes various forms of land restitution and greater involvement of tribal authorities in land-use decisions (eg, fishery access, waste disposal sites, etc). It can be othering and tokenizing if done badly, but when it’s done right it’s a reminder that we’ve made promises and should keep our word.

        4. Fishsticks*

          People are often displaced throughout history, but outright genocide is a little different.

      2. Blue wall*

        This wording is extremely aggressive and not one I’ve seen before. The LW could have done (city, state) (name of tribal land), which is more common in my circles.

          1. Nynaeve*

            Yeah, I agree with the extremely agressive take here. It reads like LW is both calling out his employer for having the audacity to have founded a company on stolen lands, and the audience for having the audacity to do business with a company who would do such a thing.

            1. sundae funday*

              Yes, this is where I stand. It sounds like OP is blaming the company for being built on stolen land… but OP is employed by the company and therefore profiting off of the stolen land, so it feels performative.

              1. Lydia*

                None of us can exist perfectly blameless. I can be critical of the government I work for. That’s not performative. That’s knowing the world is complex.

      3. metadata minion*

        The “stolen” phrasing is pretty common in my experience; I assume it’s regional/subcultural.

        It always feels weird to me, though, to basically say “I am living on stolen land. I’m not obviously doing anything to give it back or otherwise make reparations, but yup, it’s definitely stolen.”

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Yeah, I’m confused about people saying it’s making those with privilege uncomfortable because it’s very very weak and almost kind of saying sorry without doing anything actionable. That’s pretty much the standard move for privileged people not wanting to either give up the practical privileges, or the comfort of thinking themselves aware and moral. If this is in any way welcomed by communities most affected, fine, but I’d be surprised if it was all that impressive to them.

        2. El l*

          I think the only reason their legal counsel could previously have signed off on this “stolen” language was for the cynical reason you outlined. “We said this. So there’s nothing that can be done about it.”

          Because it screams liability to anyone else.

    5. Lilo*

      I do question having it as part of an email signature because it seems like a time and a place issue. Especially if it’s something you feel strongly about, it could be distressing to have that reminder sprung on you when you’re just trying to order some teapot spouts.

      1. El l*

        My thoughts exactly. It’s a little like a letter we had a while back from someone who – perhaps misguidedly following a religious dictate – said in literally every interaction, “If I have offended you in the last year, I apologize.” And the response was, “Um, who’s the audience for this? How does this apply to how you and I have interacted?”

        Point: A blanket statement attached to every single message is not an effective way to get your receiving party to think about injustice. Especially when the person is not there for a long-overdue historical reckoning, but rather for help with a billing issue.

  10. toolate12*

    I’ve sort of been the employee described in letter 2 – my former boss has pretty completely frozen me out – not of social situations but of work communications, which has impacted the quality of our work. She’s also been pretty negative about me to her professional network. I’ve tried to escalate to my current supervisor and talk to my former boss personally, with no luck. I think I made some (not super egregious) mistakes on a project I was assigned to with her about a year ago, but I apologized to her one-on-one and completely changed my behavior (and I have to admit her reaction seems extremely disproportionate to the mistakes I made – I otherwise got really, really good feedback on the project from senior staff). I can’t really explain her behavior except that it seems borne out of her personal insecurities at this point.

    Anyway, all that to say it has been unbelievably demoralizing and got me looking for a new job before she completely wrecks my reputation in the industry. I wish my current supervisor – who is otherwise excellent – took the whole thing as seriously as the letter writer.

    1. ferrina*

      I’m sorry! I think you’re doing the right thing in getting out.

      There is a big difference between frozen out of work and frozen out of social situations. Frozen out of work means you can’t do your job, either because you aren’t given critical information/resources, or because your reputation has been undermined to where you can’t get the necessary rapport. That’s a serious work issue, and the supervisor needs to address it in a big way. (Otherwise what’s the point of having that role if the person isn’t allowed to do the job?)

      Frozen out of social situations sucks, but there’s places where a boss should intervene and where they shouldn’t. If colleagues are respectful and professional, and just not inviting someone to drinks or excusing themselves from non-work conversations, that’s fine. If colleagues are actively turning their back when someone walks into a room, that’s not professional behavior and the supervisor has standing to address it. (i.e., “You don’t need to be friends with everyone, but you do need to be respectful. Part of this role is the ability to be professional with a wide range of people and personalities, and [BAD BEHAVIOR] is not up to the expectations of your role. It needs to stop.”)

      1. toolate12*

        Definitely, for sure. The coping mechanism I’ve come up with for this situation probably applies for both social and work-related freezing out, which has been to detach myself from the people and the organization. I’ve learned a lot of lessons about trust and not overinvesting myself in work in the past 5 years.

    2. curio*

      I feel this, and I feel it hard. And yeah, I definitely feel like reactions to minor mistakes are disproportionate once they’ve decided to freeze you out. Even when it’s not, like, punitive, it becomes a whole “looking into every aspect of how that typo got made, and asking you repeatedly why you made the typo” thing.

      The frustrating thing is, I don’t really think there is a way to repair things once the in group has decided someone is Out. You can’t make everyone be friends. You can’t tell folks to hang out, or chat, or whatever. It would be horrible if you could. At best, a supervisor can avoid aggravating the situation, but if they’re also in the in group, it gets messy.

  11. anonomatopeia*

    I feel like commentary on language ackowledgments as a practice is maybe derailing, but I will say that I have been deeply uncomfortable with their use as a proxy for taking steps to improve the situations of native/Native communities. My white person discomfort is entirely not about feeling icked about garbage behavior of what is more or less my community/forebears; it’s that the use of the LA is sometimes to read it, sometimes stumbling badly over the names of individual nations and groups, because what screams inclusion more than pronouncing a name as badly as possible amirite, as a rote set of sounds like O saken you sea by the donzerly light, and then brushing off the hands and calling our DEI efforts successful.

    Not that this is necessarily what LW is trying to do, but I do wonder, LW, do people respond and ask you how to make amends? Have you found that anyone looks at that and becomes less racist? If someone DID ask, are you prepared to dive into how to pronounce Coquille or why the city is Yakima but the nation is Yakama? Maybe you are, but I mean, aside from the rote recitation issue, I haven’t been remotely tempted to list the nations on whose lands I live, because I am not prepared to teach anyone anything (and also I am not who should be viewed as an authority, you know?). But so I’m wondering if the sig file is even effective, and if so, whether you can replicate whatever aspect of it is effective without the sig, and if not, whether maybe there’s an opportunity to find another small thing like, IDK, find an Arapaho dictionary and see if you can learn about the place-names and plant-names around you so you can extend the use of the words to more people? Or some other better idea? I feel like small actions are how we build big change and likely that’s why it’s been appealing to places to do the LA, but I also think the same small action done over and over by many people mostly just builds ruts.

    Meanwhile, LW 4: I have been on a lot of search committees in my life. I have never asked whether someone’s job was 32 or 40 hours a week. I would care if someone represented themselves as the full time czar of teapots but I then learned they actually dusted several teapots twice a week in their quarter-time housekeeping job (and okay, I would care if they actually only did actual teapot tasks 12 hours a week for two years and were trying to say this meets a requirement of 3 years’ teapotting), but I guess also, if someone won’t hire you later because you worked .9 or .8FTE during the most recent two of your ten years of experience or something, do you really think you’ll want to enter their culture anyway? I think I would not.

    1. Relentlessly Socratic*

      Some application processes ask whether a position was full-time or not. Not all, but I did encounter it on a plurality of occasions when I was last job-searching in earnest (~18 months ago).

    2. Caramel & Cheddar*

      At an old job, we had a discussion about whether or not we could pre-record (!) land acknowledgements to play before public events because the people on stage doing introductions might absolutely butcher the names of the Indigenous groups they had to mention. They decided we definitely wouldn’t be pre-recording them, but it was so odd to me that this was a potential solution rather than just finding people who knew or could be taught how to pronounce the names correctly. If we care about this as a thing to do, we shouldn’t be treating the offenders like broken stairs to be tiptoed around.

  12. KL*

    Thank you Alison for posting the land acknowledgment question in Australian afternoon – I’ll be interested to see the difference in comments now vs during the American workday tomorrow!

    LW3, what about working with the DEI committee to discuss and try to form an agreement? It would be more effective to come to the CEO with “this is our committee’s recommendation for our company’s approach to this issue”, rather than it being framed as you on your own vs the CEO. This would also allow the DEI committee to have the discussion about whether land acknowlegments are appropriate generally, and/or what the best ways are for your company to support indigenous Americans.

  13. AD*

    For letter five, I think it really depends on where you are globally. I live in a large city in Asia and it’s typical and even expected here for people to bring small sweets to share or a cake or something along those line when leaving a role/firm

      1. Cordelia*

        yes, in places I’ve worked in the UK we’d bring in chocolates or something, to leave in the staff kitchen (if we’d liked the job and were leaving on good terms!). No expectations, but its a nice thing to do if you want to , LW5

        1. UKDancer*

          Also UK and same. When you leave or move on you bring in something edible on your last day (if you want although it’s not mandatory). In my company this is usually Krispy Kreme doughnuts because they’re incredibly popular and there’s a shop nearby. There’s usually a leaving gift for the person going (most often John Lewis or M&S gift vouchers).

          1. CreepyPaper*

            Also UK, and it’s been a running theme in our company that whoever leaves must bring in a pack of each kind of doughnut that Sainsburys make so jam, custard and ring. If you don’t bring this, you will be Scorned and Shunned.

            I jest, but it’s an expectation now. Like we always bring in treats post-vacation or for a birthday or other celebration – I particularly look forward to the annual Diwali treats one of the finance team always brings in.

            I think it’s a nice gesture to share a celebration with your colleagues, and food is how most if not all UK offices do it.

            1. UKDancer*

              Same in my company. If you’re celebrating or have been on holiday or away on business, bring food for your colleagues back. Diwali treats are great but Hamantaschen are the absolute best and I always eat far too many.

              That said if someone didn’t bring anything, people probably wouldn’t say anything. It’s just a thing people do.

              Also custard doughnuts are definitely the best.

    1. Helvetica*

      I think this is a definite cultural difference – it is also super common in most of Europe that you throw your own party when leaving, as in bring treats, drinks, whatnot. Same like the person whose birthday it is will be paying for the party, which I believe is the other way around in the US, i.e. birthday person will not pay for anything.
      I’ve certainly brought foodstuff to my goodbye things but that also implies that there will be a get-together.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        Correct, both of these norms are reversed in the US.

        (Yes, I do understand the US is not a monolith and that other people’s experiences here may vary.)

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      While not obligated in the US, I think it’s hard to go wrong with a box of the good doughnuts to acknowledge any major transitions.

      1. UKDancer*

        I think good doughnuts are always a welcome idea by most people in the UK as well if my company is anything to go by. Other things are slower to be completely eaten up but when someone brings good doughnuts they go very quickly.

  14. nodramalama*

    I don’t know if this would defeat the purpose for LW3, but in Australia our sig blocks often will just state the Country that we are on, and if you don’t mind a long sig block, an acknowledgement of country. Some acknowledgements of country include “sovereignty was never ceded” and some don’t.

    Your C-suites issue might be the political nature of the sig block, which does include quite emotive language. Speaking as someone who is not Indigenous and also not familiar with communication norms on this in the U.S., could you compromise and keep the reference to the land but remove the other elements?

    1. fueled by coffee*

      I’ve seen this in academia in the US, too, usually a one-sentence email signature along the lines of “I live and work on occupied [nation] lands,” often with a link to a longer land acknowledgement or a history of the people in question.

      I’m not indigenous so I don’t want to comment on the details of the wording or appropriateness of including these in email signatures, other than to say that the “stolen” wording doesn’t sound hostile to me and is actually very typical of US land acknowledgments. I think OP’s bigger problem is that their company has a problem with racism in general and this email signature is maybe not the hill to die on given the bigger context here. There are other ways to support local indigenous groups, and maybe the DEI committee could advocate for some of these.

      1. Nodramalama*

        Interesting! To me the word “stolen” is quite emotive, but that may be because of the associations of Stolen in an Australian Aboriginal context, so it feels more political than just an acknowledgement of the land

    2. MsM*

      I think part of the reason OP feels they have to explain this in so much detail is that while land acknowledgments have become a more regular part of public gatherings in some places in the U.S., they’re not a thing that tends to come up in everyday communications. I’ve worked for advocacy organizations, and I’d still have a bit of a “huh, that’s interesting” reaction if someone who didn’t work with indigenous populations on a regular basis chose to address this in their signature.

  15. wanda*

    I wonder if LW4 is calling 32 or 36hrs “part time” because the norm for their job is something much longer than 40 hours a week. For example, I’ve read that in at least some cases, “part-time” doctors work 40 hours a week because physicians are expected to work more like 80 hours a week.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Yes, this struck me too. LW’s desire to go part-time might be what other people describe as “maintaining strong work-life boundaries” or “strict 9-5”.

    2. Phryne*

      Yeah. Where I work, 36 is fulltime. I’d say the difference between 40 and 36 is so small that even if a new employer cares, you can still just say you work fulltime, but even at 32 hours it is not like you only show up two days a week.
      Question: is it really strange to work part-time in the US, to prompt this question from LW4? Where I live it depends on industry how easy it is to work part-time, but overall it is considered quite normal to not work full time your whole career, but to match working hours to the various stages your life and financial needs…

      1. BubbleTea*

        That’s the impression I’ve got from reading this site, which surprised me because I know very few people (in the UK) who work full time. One factor seems to be that a lot of US employers limit benefits for anyone who isn’t full time, so there’s a lot more to lose than just a few hours of pay.

        1. Phryne*

          Yes, the benefits thing. Here, benefits are relative to fte, and health insurance is always the same, so that does not matter as much here. But losing all of your benefits is probably and understandably not worth a couple of hours of time off for most people.

        2. ecnaseener*

          You’d think it was the benefits thing, but for the purpose of health insurance, 30 hours the cutoff for full-time. So that’s why people rarely want to work less than 40, but idk why people rarely work between 30 and 40.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            It depends on the workplace. Mine is appropriately staffed but generally needs people to work 40 hours most of the time to ensure their department coworkers don’t have to take on too much of the load. It’s not a problem for vacations or sick time since those are intermittent, but it would be if someone was permanently on reduced hours. We basically have a few part-time positions (evenings and weekends) and everything else is 40 hours.

            1. Phryne*

              But that is just the way you divide work. Why would everyone have to work 40 hours? The total of employable hours is the same whether you have 3 fulltimers or 6 people working 0.5. If there is 3 people working 40 hours now, and all of them reduce to 30 hours, you can just hire another person working 30 hours and cover the work.
              Where I work, (higher education) most people work part time between 0.4 and 0.8 fte, and each school year, tasks are divided between them based on how much they work. If someone wants to work less, we see if someone else wants to work more, or if we can hire another person for those hours.
              Sure, this is not practical for all workplaces, it might be impossible for your workplace, I know there are employers here who are antagonistic towards part-time, but there is no reason why it would not work anywhere…

              1. Allonge*

                There is some overhead that comes with every additional person hired, regardless of their working hours – payroll, office space, IT assistance etc. are not scaled down to 75% if someone works 30 hours instead of 40. So that’s why a lot of orgs prefer people to be full time.

            2. ecnaseener*

              I know 40 hours is the commonly accepted definition of full-time, im just saying it’s not what the IRS uses if you look up how many hours qualifies you for health insurance through your employer. Maybe there are exceptions I don’t know about, but that seems to be the ACA rule.

          2. fhqwhgads*

            It’s partly because a lot of (crappy) employers, if they have someone near the cusp, will cut them to 29 hours for long enough to deny them benefits. So someone whose normal full time job is 30 is less common because a lot of companies would be trying to push those people below the cutoff.

      2. doreen*

        It’s not exactly strange to work part-time in the US – but it is unusual for many jobs . Part-time jobs are generally either 1) because the position only needs to be filled a few hours/days a week , for example, a professional with two offices might have different part-time staff at each office or 2) staffing needs don’t line up well with only full full-time employees – for example, a driving school might need additional instructors nights and weekends. There aren’t a whole lot of part-time positions where two or three people split a 35-40 hours a week position.

        1. Jennifer*

          It’s very common in the US to have several part-time employees, because the company doesn’t want to pay benefits for a FT employee. :(

          1. doreen*

            Not in my experience for jobs that require exactly one or two or three. . . people working exactly 35-40 hours a week . Like that professional office I used as an example – if there is a single office open 9am -5pm 5 days a week, the people who work there are generally full-time rather than part-time.

    3. Cakeordeath*

      right? But it says she works in tech. I dont know anyone in tech who works 80 hours. At my work everyone works 36 hours as standard with longer being for exceptional circumstances as and when they come up. we typically take that time off on other weeks.

      the idea that 36 hours is part time makes me think their full time must be a lot. even 32 hours isnt that low. I would do it and not worry too much.

      1. amoeba*

        I mean, in Germany it’s also not super unusual to work something like 80 or 90% – which would “officially” still be called part time, but probably nobody would worry about it. (Which would be 32 or 36 h for a standard 40 h week!)
        Confusingly, there are also positions that have 35 h as 100% full-time, so I’d think for any potential new employer it would certainly be a non-issue.

        1. Cat Tree*

          I think what makes it different in the US is that benefits, including health insurance, are tied to working full-time, which is generally understood to be 40 hours. There have been plenty of cases of employers gaming the system by scheduling employees for 39 hours to avoid paying them benefits, although this usually happens with jobs that are strictly hourly and are more likely to be part time anyway (such as retail).

          1. doreen*

            I don’t think it has to do with benefits as this was an issue pre-ACA when employers were not required to offer any benefits at all and the ACA considers 30 hours full-time. I suspect it was to leave a buffer before overtime pay kicked in – if you are scheduled for 40 hours and end up working even 15 minutes over , that puts you into time and a half where 15 minutes won’t do that if you were only scheduled for 35-39 hours.

          2. sam_i_am*

            Full-time for purposes of benefits (at least health insurance) isn’t 40 hours. It’s 30 hours/week.

    4. I am Emily's failing memory*

      ha, yes, the WSJ just published an article, “Would you be happier if you worked less?” and the teaser before clicking had referenced full-time workers going part-time and the 4-day workweek experiment… then the piece opened with the story of a physician who was now only working 1/2-2/3 of his previous hours and loving it, having time for his family, vacations, hobbies, etc.

      His previous workload was estimated at 80 hours. So his 1/2-2/3 was… 40-53 hours. Still at or well above what anyone else would consider a normal full-time job!

      1. lunchtime caller*

        I will admit this is how I often feel when I read comments about “how can ANYONE live a life and cook/clean/be social/etc with a 40 hour work week” when that workload would be like living on permanent vacation to me, someone who usually works around 70 hours a week (and still cooks, cleans, is social, exercises, etc, just in much small amounts than I would prefer!).

    5. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah I was really surprised by that too! I thought 36 hours was considered full time, but wasn’t sure about 32. Google tells me that full time in my state is “generally whatever your employer says it is” but for the record, the IRS considers anything over 30 hours per week to be full time.

    6. MrsBuddyLee*

      That’s not necessarily the case. They could be non-exempt, so exact hours count a lot, or exempt but working in an industry where time logging is enforced.

      Where I work (defense contractor), our hours are tracked for billing purposes so full time employees must log at least 40 hours a week of work (or take PTO for the difference). At least in engineering, there is zero expectation to work more than 40 and you’re usually paid overtime if you need (and want) to do more than that.

      Going “part time” just lowers that requirement to 36 hours, or 32 hours, or whatever you sign up to. It seems minor but can make a big difference in quality of life. Where I work, you still get full benefits as long as you commit to 20 hours/week, so there’s really no reason not to ask for what you want.

  16. KL*

    (apologies if this goes through a few times, it isn’t appearing for me when I reload)

    LW3, what about working with the DEI committee to discuss and try to form an agreement? It would be more effective to come to the CEO with “this is our committee’s recommendation for our company’s approach to this issue”, rather than it being framed as you on your own vs the CEO. This would also allow the DEI committee to have the discussion about whether land acknowlegments are appropriate generally, and/or what the best ways are for your company to support indigenous Americans.

    I am working in Australia and our emails have land acknowledgments in our signatures by corporate policy, the standard/policy wording developed with indigenous groups in the area.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Pretty sure LW IS the DEI committee. They said they started it. Which means they are probably the chair at least, not sure how many others are on the committee.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        It looks like there are 4-5, depending on if OP counts themselves: “I run the company’s five-person DEI committee…”

  17. Siege*

    Obviously I have a nasty suspicious mind, but for LW 2, I think you do need to find out what’s happened from both sides, because it’s not going to help anyone to force the group to refriend your employee if it turns out that your employee’s work mistakes aren’t the problem, it’s that they’re a raging bigot or mistreat servers or constantly ask for money or are outwardly friendly and spreading rumors elsewhere about the rest of the group. Minor mistakes don’t really seem to warrant a total icing-out. And personally, I think you have standing to do that follow up since it’s creating a work issue.

    1. LifeBeforeCorona*

      This could be a case of where the LW needs to take one of the ‘de facto” leaders aside and have a candid talk about what they are observing and why the team is acting that the way towards that one employee.

    2. Betty Flintstone*

      I agree. The boss may be aware of “just simple mistakes” but the friend group may know more backstory to it. Frankly I am a bit suspicious of this employee running to the boss and playing victim proactively so everyone else looks like a group of bullies – I think hearing the other side would be enlightening.

      1. Ellen*

        a sort of friend group that I’m part of recently had a situation that has ended up with one person no longer being invited out, because in a group of adult women where ALL of us debated heavily the one drink that we had (most of us shared one alcoholic beverage, then each had a soda or water) she “pregamed” heavily, got very loud and told us things no one needed to hear. our typical gathering involves sitting in a coffeeshop. visiting the tavern was new for us.

    3. Irish Teacher*

      Yeah, I would guess there’s more going on than the minor mistakes. My suspicions went the other way to yours, that the minor mistakes might be due to the tensions or the former friends refusing to talk to the employee to give the full information she needed or even them deliberately undermining her or sabotaging her work

      But your interpretation is definitely possible too. Or it could even be both, that she is being excluded because she behaved badly and started making mistakes due to the tension.

      Either way, I suspect there is something more going on than she made a few mistakes and now nobody wants to be her friend. I know with my work friends, if they started making mistakes, my reaction would be concern, not anger and that would be if the mistakes were relatively serious.

    4. metadata minion*

      Yeah, I’m definitely leaning toward “something bigger is going on here”. It could be the iced-out employees fault, or it could be something like them being ostracized after disclosing a mental illness that they then don’t feel able to disclose to you as the reason.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Or a million things beyond or in between. The employee could even be the victim or the aggressor. I agree, OP should get some clarity on the situation – but OP, that’s due diligence. The outcome you’re seeking is not reconciling the friend group, it’s making sure nothing is actionable for you as a representative of the company.

        1. ferrina*

          Exactly. I’ve seen it both ways- a group of work friends would suddenly drop someone for no reason and ice them out; a person would be quietly avoided because they were a major pain but hid it from the boss then complained that people weren’t’ treating them as nicely as they wanted. And lots of things in-between: someone thought they were being iced out when the ‘aggressor’ was actually incredibly busy and stressed from work (no time for socializing), a boss/senior person had told their direct report not to socialize with a certain person, etc.

          You need a lot more context to figure out what’s going on. Someone isn’t acting professionally, and it could be anyone or everyone. Set standards for professional conduct in the office, have chats with people during 1:1s about how being able to work with anyone is a key requirement of their job (drinks after work is not part of your job, so don’t’ mention that), if they have concerns about someone’s work or their ability to work with someone, let you know (and make sure you address it, either by finding ways to protect your reports as warranted, or by clarifying that you are okay with the behavior and that this is part of their job). This is a really hard thing for a first-time manager to navigate, so I strongly recommend finding a mentor if one is available. This could be your boss, someone else senior at your company, an experienced and wise friend or family member, a former boss, etc. Worse comes to worst, the AAM Friday open threads are always good for a gut-check.

    5. FashionablyEvil*

      Yeah, I think LW2 is about to get a crash course in managing—something is definitely amiss (couldn’t say from here if it’s the individual or the group), and it needs to be addressed.

    6. Avril Ludgateaux*

      Agreed – my immediate suspicion was that the “iced out” employee was being iced out not because of a work mistake but because of something done in the personal sphere. Maybe it is warranted – she deliberately ran over a coworker’s beloved pet! – or maybe it’s not – she wore pink on Tuesday when she knows we wear pink on Wednesdays! – but it may have nothing to do with work at all.

      The thing is, other than the targeted employee being upset and threatening to quit, is it actually creating a work issue? The OP writes that the colleagues are still civil, but cold, and no longer socializing with this individual outside of work hours. I understand how rough this can be for the employee in question – I’ve had a colleague inexplicably turn cold to me, too! – , but what is the solution? You can expect people to be courteous but you can’t force people to be friendly, you can’t dictate how they spend their free time, and beyond that, there’s no mention of actionable disciplinary or performance issues to address.

    7. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      This. We had one employee claimed they were being “freezed”, but in reality they policed people’s language to the point of harassment. And nobody likes that.

    8. Sara without an H*

      What Siege said. LW#2, you really need to do some investigation here, because the facts as you present them are incomplete. Right now you really don’t know who’s right and who’s wrong, so please don’t let your sympathy for Jane the Outcast cloud your judgement. There’s more going on here, and you need to find out what it is before you do anything.

      Talk to a member of this work group one-on-one (maybe the most senior, or the one you consider most reliable) and ask them to fill you in on what happened. Don’t start your conversation with “Why is everyone suddenly being mean to Jane?” Don’t assume that your other employees are automatically in the wrong. But say you’ve noticed that relations between Jane and the others have changed recently and ask them to tell you more about what’s going on.

      You are about to get an accelerated course in management. Do you have a mentor? If not, is there someone senior available who could serve as a sounding board and point out pitfalls? I’m also going to recommend that you brief your own manager and, possibly, HR. Not with the idea that you want them to solve this for you, but to make sure they have your back if one of your staff decides to go over your head. (Which does happen in real life, trust me.)

      Good luck, and please send us an update.

      1. higheredadmin*

        LW#2 – this thread has great advice, and as everyone has said you need to carefully sound it out without any preconceptions. I’ve seen this run both ways, as other posters have noted. What you need to smoke out is if there are any toxic dynamics/people at play here, and shut that down asap (e.g. a queen bee who unites the friend group by targeting one person a la every high school movie, or someone who is very difficult with their work colleagues but is able to hide it from the boss). If it is more mundane, then you need to make it clear to folks that work is work and that they must communicate in a professional manner at work at all times.

  18. Mattheq*

    I’d honestly say 36 hours is full time, even if it’s slightly less than the standard

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Agreeing – it’s close enough that it makes no real difference to the level/quality of the experience that the employee is gaining from their role. And the reality is that most people in slightly reduced hour roles really end up working full time hours – as opposed to the usual MORE than full time hours they were working beforehand.

      If they were working half the hours for a protracted period of time, then I would expect them to tell me they were part-time – because their experience level would be affected. I would also want to know that they were prepared to devote the time and effort of a full-time position, if that is what I was hiring. But a slight reduction in hours is negligible from an experience perspective, and that’s really what is important to the hiring manager (that and the fact that the person can commit to a full time schedule – if they can, then there’s no point bringing it up.)

      1. KayDeeAye*

        Yeah, I have for many years worked 8:30-5, and that includes a paid one-hour lunch, so technically, I actually work 37.5 hours, and that’s considered full-time. Therefore, dropping to 36 hours doesn’t seem very significant to me.

  19. MomOf3*

    I’ve had to do Zoom icebreakers where we have to go around and say “whose land you are on” and while I appreciate the effort (I guess?), it creates an awkward dynamic from the start and doesn’t achieve much in the way of repairing past injustices. Land acknowledgments seem largely performative to me, and having one in an email signature seems… odd.

    1. Delta Delta*

      Ugh. Then you have someone who didn’t expect the question and doesn’t know the history of where they are so they either futz around trying to find it or they say they don’t know and feel dumb for not having that info. An icebreaker is meant to just, you know, break the ice. “I’m Delta and my favorite food is strawberries” would also do the trick without being performative and awkward.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Ugh, yeah, that’s crappy. It’s one thing to include the acknowledgment in something people will read on their own time, prompting them to look up the history of their area (and hopefully to take action – as a lot of commenters are pointing out, American Indigenous people don’t largely appreciate the empty words anyway) but the “icebreaker” is basically quizzing people, with shame if they don’t know off the top of their head. Shame is the tool of people who want to show they’re better than you, not people who actually want to invite you into their activism.

  20. Nonprofit4*

    Spouses tagging along for work travel is very standard in my sector, and I would personally find a ban to be pretty abrasive/intrusive because technically a partner can buy whatever flight they want with their own money and who sleeps in my hotel room at night isn’t my boss’s business. I think the person LW wrote about maybe just doesn’t know the norms around keeping your partner out of sight out of mind.

  21. seriously*

    LW#3 -that signature is inappropriate at best, inflammatory at worst. As a customer/client, I’d ask to deal with another person or take my business elsewhere if that showed up in my inbox. Save your activism for outside the workplace.

    1. Ccbac*

      interesting how some comments are “this is aggressive and inflammatory. save your asking for basis human decency activism for your own time” and others are “yeah, I don’t even notice land acknowledgements anymore since they’ve become so rote. maybe try to do something more impactful”. if I were you, I’d reflect deeply on which side you fall on and think about that for a good long while.

      1. Peanut Hamper*


        Some of these comments…I don’t know, but they give me less hope for humanity.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          The internet will do that. Try not to get too hopeless – there are a lot of people doing good even when it’s difficult.

      2. Avril Ludgateaux*

        Thiiiisssss. I’m seeing a lot of carefully couched tone policing in here, too. “You don’t win over [people who don’t care about human rights] by being mean to them! You have to make them comfortable!” when the whole point is to have them be uncomfortable and, ideally, do some introspection as to why they feel that way, and, in the best case scenario, change their perspective.

        Meanwhile being delicate about the sensibilities of [people who don’t care about human rights] has only ever achieved maintenance of the status quo.

        When I was young, I was abrasive about my opinions. When I got older, I tried to be more inviting, more accepting, more trusting. Still older and in the greater context of what’s happening around me, I’m back to being abrasive about it. Paradox of tolerance and all that.

        1. Roland*

          What people are you trying to win over? Who are these [people who don’t care about human rights]? When everyone who isn’t native in American is complicit, what do you expect them to do when they read this signature?

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          I find the idea that deliberately provoking discomfort in people via email signature is an effective catalyst for change laughable. Discomfort CAN provoke change, but not when it’s dropped into an email sig as a non-sequitur without any other resources, call to action, or context. It also has to be positive discomfort that encourages openness to new ideas and not negative, shaming discomfort that throws up barriers and defenses.

          It’s not tone policing to point out that this flies in the face of basic social science research. The question is do you want to affect change or do you just want to show your superiority via [insert your favorite electronic medium] activism?

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I’m not sure about all the cultural implications of this so I’m a bit wary of what I say – but as an external person, if I dealt with several people at OPs org and OP was the only one with that in a signature, I would assume (rightly) that OP had unilaterally added it and it wasn’t the org’s statement, and (rightly or wrongly, unclear) that OP was indirectly making a statement about the org’s lack of acknowledgement (I hope that’s the right concept) about the origin of that land.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        “I would assume (rightly) that OP had unilaterally added it and it wasn’t the org’s statement”

        OP consulted their HR manager and company legal counsel, they did not make a unilateral decision without going through company channels.

        1. Siege*

          How would you as an outsider know that without seeing it in multiple signatures? Should the LW add (HR-approved!) after the acknowledgment?

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            What people may or may not assume isn’t really the point, you can’t control that and not everyone will react the same way. My comment was in response to “rightly”.

  22. Blergh*

    I’m indigenous from near the area the LW described and I find this sort of thing in the email signature of an unrelated org so annoying. To me it reads as virtue signaling. I don’t want to deal with it when I’m just trying to conduct business with a random org. There are so many injustices in our world. An email signature is just in my view a silly way to address them.

    1. Melissa*

      Total virtue signaling. Because what is the action that I, am a reader, am supposed to conduct, or that you, the writer, are conducting?

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        You are supposed to be aware that you are living and working on stolen land and that the organization you are doing business with also exists on stolen land. Is mere awareness too much to ask?

        1. ecnaseener*

          I know the American education system is spotty, but I think most people are aware that the land was stolen from Native Americans.
          The question is whether knowing the specifics of who used to live in your current home is productive – maybe, if it prompts you to offer restitution to those people or otherwise do something about it, but not if you’re just going to use it to virtue-signal.

          1. Peanut Hamper*

            Knowledge (i.e., “here’s a thing we learned in school and I passed the test so I can forget about it now”) is very different from awareness, which is an ongoing state of being that influences how you think and behave.

        2. Nonprofit4*

          But then to Alison’s point, any employee could put whatever cause they want into their signature to “raise awareness.” I’m a vegetarian because I don’t like how our food system treats animals but if I were to put comments about that into my email signature it would be seen as inflammatory for the vast majority of people. Unless your organization’s role, services, clients etc focus on indigenous issues it seems like a one-off thing for an individual employee to “raise awareness” about and their work signature isn’t the right place or venue to do it in anyway. Land acknowledgments reference historical events, sure, but are not without current political context.

        3. HR Friend*

          There are multiple threads on this letter in which indigenous people are saying this kind of slacktivism is annoying at best, damaging at worst. If you want to spread awareness about the historic and current maltreatment of indigenous people, there are more productive ways to do that. And btw pretty much all companies you do business with exist on stolen land. It’s kind of the basis of the United States.

        4. Blergh*

          I just do not think an email signature is the place. I think it actually diminishes the seriousness of NDN genocide by tacking on a “land acknowledgment” at the end of every mundane email you send. “We offer very competitively priced window treatments! Also this is stolen land.” Imo, gross.

        5. nOT aLL hAES aRE qUICK*

          If the displaced people had no concept of land having an ‘owner’ (not uncommon) then isn’t the inclusion of words like ‘stolen’ in the Land Acknowledgement itself a cultural imposition? Reframing your plight in a way that makes sense to me?

        6. Zarniwoop*

          “Is mere awareness too much to ask?”
          If it doesn’t come with anything useful to do with it, then yes it is.

        7. JB*

          Yes. It is irrelevant, accomplishes nothing, and aggravates people who are trying to work without being preached at. I would actively avoid dealing with this individual.

    2. KatEnigma*

      Oh it’s virtue signalling alright. But it seems to be expected in certain places (North Dakota. SO MUCH in North Dakota)

    3. Violet Rutherford*

      It feels extremely performative to me. “We stole this from someone else. We’re not giving it back, though.”

    4. allibys*

      We do this a lot in Australia and everyone zones out when it’s said in a meeting and no one reads the email signatures. I also enjoy Welcome to Country ceremonies when everyone at the event has lived on that country their whole lives, but apparently actually they haven’t cause they’re the wrong colour.

      Meanwhile, Aboriginal life expectancy is 20 years below the Australian average, but at least HR covered their ass.

  23. Catabodua*

    LW#3 I think standardizing email signatures is very common and I’m glad that the university I work for has headed in that direction in recent years. It was getting to be way too much, with some people purposely trying to be controversial and adversarial.

    But, this got me curious. The university does have an official land acknowledgement. At the beginning it notes that it was created by a coalition of local tribes. I haven’t seen it used at any meetings.

    More interesting to me is that the Native American affinity group at the same university doesn’t include a land acknowledgement anywhere on their websites.

  24. PhilG*

    LW #5 when I left my last position I left the rotating k-cup holder I had brought in for the break room when I started, filled with a selection of different coffees. Just a little piece of me as a reminder to my friends and colleagues who I appreciated and miss.

  25. Llellayena*

    LW1 – I think it was made cheat to the employee that their partner could not attend the work dinner and that direction was ignored (LW stated that they used that as a “what not to do” example. So the issue is the distraction and the ignoring instructions. That’s worth a “what happened, never again” conversation. They said it was a “newer employee” does that also mean young in the work world as a whole? They might just need some serious coaching.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Yes, I was coming here to say this! The part of Alison’s answer about “you should’ve made it clear ahead of time, I get why you didn’t but you should have” seems like she missed where LW said “the guest also ended up joining business meals even though I explicitly stated it as an example of something they could not do.”

      So it seems a talk with that employee is in order about why they agreed to that instruction and then disregarded it. Hopefully that’s not widespread behavior on this staff, so still no need for a blanket ban.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Very serious coaching, if “this is an explicit example of what not to do” didn’t land. I would be surprised if this was the only issue they were seeing with this person.

  26. Melissa*

    #3 And your HOUSE is on….? If you’re serious about your beliefs, I recommend you give it back to its rightful owners and move. (And I am serious. It is GALLING when people think they’ve “done something” by adding an email signature but are unwilling to actually DO anything.)

    1. Ccbac*

      the only thing less effective than an email signature would probably be someone saying “wElL gIVe back yoUR house And mOVe somewhere else to live on other ‘stolen'” thanks for your contributions here!!! very helpful and effective.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        I mean I would happily go back to Ireland or Italy if the opportunity presented itself, as I’m only two generations removed from both countries, but it’s not like that’s a realistic option.

        1. Fishsticks*

          So you definitely see how “Then give up your house and move” is deeply unhelpful as a suggestion or reply.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Very true. But one thing I have learned is that even though this website is very left-leaning, any time something is mentioned that is meant to address the wrongs of the past, a whole lot of white people will come out of the woodwork because they’ve lost their damn minds.

        There are many comments here that are basically “Okay, but what am I supposed to do now that I am aware?” but if you actually suggested anything, I’m willing to bet a lot of people would have a “you can’t tell me what to do” kind of reaction. Indigenous and POC have been putting out “next steps” for literally decades, but this has largely fallen on deaf ears.

        Honestly, an alien invasion would not be the worst thing at this point. I sometimes wish that Alison wouldn’t answer these types of questions any more, or at least edit out the details. In this case “land acknowledgement” could have been sufficient to avoid people losing their wigs.

        1. Roland*

          It’s interesting that you assume that comments saying “well what are you supposed to do about it” are from white people. A nice way to confirm your own opinions based on assumptions. Agreeing with a condemnation of OP based on nothing but assumptions, then going on to make pretty much the exact same kind of assumptions (“you aren’t doing enough”) yourself.

          1. Peanut Hamper*

            An indigenous or POC person would not need to ask that question. As I pointed out, they have been saying what the next steps are for decades. You’ve just made my point that people don’t want to and will not listen to that. Thank you.

            1. Roland*

              Got it, the Native voices who say “I don’t think these are helpful” don’t count. I guess they are a monolith represented by the ones you agree with rather than a diverse group with differing opinions.

    2. Fiona*

      Yep, exactly. I think land acknowledgments are powerful and useful in certain scenarios – I can imagine the state of the union in the U.S. or similar events where we acknowledge that there would be no U.S.A. without the genocide and subsequent oppression of Native Americans. But they’ve become so pro forma and rote and meaningless (especially in the U.S., which I think has lagged behind places like Canada and Australia as far as true restitution and grappling with our past) that we now see irony-free land acknowledgments on websites of prisons. Not a joke.

  27. Melissa*

    #4: I’ve actually always worked part time in my current industry. Believe it or not, nobody ever asked and it never came up. My resume doesn’t say “part-time,” so I’m sure people assume I’ve been a FT employee. It also never came up in interviews!— of course I would have explained it if anyone asked, but they never did and it felt odd to randomly go “Oh by the way I only work 24 hours a week.” I have no idea if my references mentioned it or not, but I got my new job nonetheless.

  28. Won't Get Fooled Again. Maybe.*

    I’m not sure how a company can “ban” a partner from traveling with the employee. You can ban the partner from participating in any company events, including meals, but how do you prevent a non-employee from traveling to the employee’s travel city? You address the employee behavior, not the partner’s travel. If the employee can’t seem to completely focus on work, then adios.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Well, they can’t technically prevent anyone from traveling anywhere, but they can enforce consequences on their employees for whatever they want. They shouldn’t, of course, but there’s no rule that says they can’t decide to fire anyone whose partner comes along.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        Not really. All they can do is discipline the employee if it’s found out that their partner stayed with them.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        How? They can refuse to pay for double occupancy (but the employee could probably work something out with the hotel – hotels are usually very willing to split bills in a variety of ways), but the company really can’t prevent the employee from spending the night with whomever they please.

  29. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP2 (employee frozen out) – what is a “work” group chat? Does this mean work conversations are happening on it? If so – that needs to get shut down and work-related communications only on work channels, for a number of reasons.

    I wonder if the employee thinks this treatment is due to mistakes, or if it is just OP inferring so.

    1. Totally Minnie*

      My work team has two group chats, the one where work happens and the one where social talk happens. We’re only in the office two days a week, so the social group chat helps with team building when we’re working from home. I imagine a lot of offices have something similar.

  30. L-squared*

    #1. This really isn’t a situation where you need a blanket policy, not even for this employee. This requires a conversation. Even if you don’t want this employee to bring her spouse again, I’m really not sure how you can stop it. Are you going to have people spying on her room and call you if they see the spouse entering and exiting? If so, will you put restrictions on who others have in their room?

    #2. My guess is the “Freezing out” has nothing to do with work. Maybe what YOU have seen is the work related stuff, and maybe what the person told you has to do with her “minor mistakes”, but I would guess its something outside of work. And again, the question comes to how chilly they are being. If they are being civil in their work and communicating everything that needs to be communicated to a coworker, no, there is nothing you can do.

    1. Totally Minnie*

      I agree. LW’s problem isn’t that bringing a spouse on a work trip is always bad. The problem is that this employee handled it poorly.

    2. Irish Teacher*

      It’s even possible the employee in #2 doesn’t know the reason herself and may be assuming it’s due to her mistakes if it happened shortly after them, but there could well be reasons she doesn’t know about or doesn’t acknowledge, whether that be because somebody is spreading lies about her that she is unaware of or because one of the group is jealous of her and is influencing the others or because she has shown some side to her character (like bigotry or a tendency to take advantage of others) that she is either completely unaware of or doesn’t see as wrong. It’s even possible it’s because of something she doesn’t know they know, like they could have stumbled upon her social media and either found something problematic (she’s an online bully or expresses extremely bigoted views) or found something they disapprove of (like she belongs to a minority religion they are prejudiced against or votes for a political party they dislike).

      Not sure this is particularly actionable for the LW but just to stress that the situation is probably more complex than she knows and possibly even than the employee knows.

      1. L-squared*

        Right. I don’t want to assign blame here. But most likely this isn’t really a strictly work related issue.

        I’m not ready to call them mean girls like some people, because its not clear if they are actually being unprofessional or not.

  31. Susannah*

    LW #3, it is actually rather unprofessional to use that email signature. We can argue about whether it’s useful at all – it’s a bit if virtue-signaling that doesn’t have any impact on the actual fact of the land-stealing. But more to the point, it doesn’t sound like it has anything to do with your job. And if it does – I have to wonder, why do you work there? Is your point to say that your company isn’t doing anything to provide restitution of some sort?
    How far should we take this concept? If you worked in, say, Tennessee, would your email signature say, “a state where people can legally buy assault weapons and gun down their colleagues at a bank?” It’s not that it’s not true, or that it’s not upsetting. But your/our efforts might be better spent on actually trying to change things, rather than using your work email this way.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Useful? LW leads the DEI committee.

      I run the company’s five-person DEI committee, which I started with the approval of the CEO when I noticed a growing trend of racial issues within the company (e.g., mistaking Asian coworkers for each other, calling Covid the Chinese flu in company communications, laying off mostly workers of color in a company that is 90+% white, and more).

      Totally appropriate if most of their emails are internal.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “LW #3, it is actually rather unprofessional to use that email signature. ”

      Not unprofessional in this context if HR and legal counsel both signed off on it.

    3. Anon Y. Mouse*

      I’d like to point out that Tennessee is also Native land. If LW lived in Tennessee, their signature would talk about the Cherokee and the Chickasaw and the Shawnee and so on.

  32. Any Mouse*

    For #4, for the previous two jobs I had, full time was 37.5 hours a week. For my current job, it’s 35 a week. So your 36 and even 32 aren’t so far off as to hurt you.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I think at my workplace it’s 32, or at least I know that when we went through a rough patch a few years ago and some people were dropped to 32 hours a week, they were kept on our health insurance. (They’re all back to 40 hours now.)

      1. Lorraine*

        Same – our whole company is a 35-hour work week. I consider part-time to be 20 hours a week.

  33. Sue*

    One of the best parting gifts a coworker gave at a previous job was a bouquet of pens – we were nurses and constantly hunting for pens, and it was a great (and hilarious) idea! I’d keep any parting gifts light like this, though – I think something like an appliance would be more than you’d ever be expected to do.

    1. Sparkle Llama*

      I would love if a departing coworker gave us a few boxes of the nice pens we used to get and all loved but are not allowed to purchase anymore!

    2. toolate12*

      Oh, I need to save this idea. Am very open to any other cute ideas out there if anyone else has seen something good!

  34. Kartini*

    One of the podcasts I listen to added “ We are recording today on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the Coast Salish and Kwakwaka’wakw peoples, including Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish, Musqueam, and K’ómoks first nations.” at the beginning of every episode a while ago (besides other efforts to diversify and platform more diverse voices.) They’re Canadian so maybe it’s less controversial there? But it does look like you’re out of step in your own context. It’s not always bad but a group effort would have more chances of being effective. Which is why I’m a little confused because I thought DEI groups are supposed to be a,well, group effort for the company?

  35. One HR Opinion*

    LW #1 – You need to have a conversation with the employee, “Where wasn’t I clear about my expectations…” XYZ happened and it cannot happen again or …

    LW #2 – Definitely more to the story. I’d try to get more info from the coworkers.

    LW #3 – Yes, your company can absolutely tell you what is not acceptable to put in your communications from your work provided email. I understand they have a long way to go, but pushing this issue is not going to help your DEI initiatives.

    LW #4 – Unless someone works 20 or fewer hours per week, I wouldn’t think being PT would be relevant for future employers. This is especially true now that the US gov’t considers 30 hrs to be full time for medical eligibility.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Re: #3 – I think “pushing this issue is not going to help your DEI initiatives” is where I land. I don’t want OP to have to take it down, I disagree with other commenters saying it’s unprofessional, aggressive, annoying, anything else. But there are so many other issues at this company and you probably have a lot of more immediately actionable battles ahead, I wouldn’t spend your capital on this.

  36. Emlyn*

    LW3 – I just want to flag for American readers who have never heard this kind of statement before that in some parts of the world it is not seen as weird/aggressive/off-topic to have a land acknowledgement in your email signature (some people would find the word ‘stolen’ aggressive but I’ve certainly seen/heard it used before in professional settings). There’s an ongoing and active conversation happening about how to make them not performative and empty but I would not assume that the LW is just like…coming up with this as empty virtue-signalling. I’m a white settler so obviously not an authority at all but I certainly know Indigenous people here in Canada who want and expect to hear land acknowledgements as well as those who want them to be done away with.

    1. TyphoidMary*

      yeah in my (white settler experience) if you’re going to do a land acknowledgement, it should be a result of the relationship you are already building with Indigenous people in your area. If you don’t know 1) whether or not the Indigenous people near you find land acknowledgements useful, and 2) what kind of specific info they prefer to see included, then you probably don’t know enough. I’m not saying the Indigenous folks in your life should do the work for you, but what I’ve done is reach out to folks you already know and say hey can you answer a few quick questions about a possible land acknowledgement? and that starts the conversation

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Can confirm. In my Canadian jurisdiction we’re not seeing land acknowledgements in e-mail signatures or on stationery, but we’re generally reciting them when we open meetings, seminars, etc. The better meetings and seminars go on to include content contextualizing the subject matter of the discussion to Indigenous concerns, as well.

      And I don’t know if anybody watched the Jays’ home opener last night, but before their celebration of the stadium renovations and the anthems, they played a pre-recorded land acknowledgment. Not to do so would have been notable.

  37. Tesuji*

    LW#3: This is literally the first time I’ve ever even heard about land acknowledgements, so I’m sure there’s some deep context here that I’m not getting… which also means a lot of the recipients of these emails are also not getting.

    Here’s the reactions I would have if I received this email:

    * The person writing this email hates their company and is attempting to specifically call out their employer for being a racist POS. There’s something deeply unprofessional and dark going on here, and I would prefer not to have anything to do with this company.

    * Unless… are they bragging about this? I mean, the first one doesn’t make a lot of sense (the employer would just fire them), so maybe their employer *is* racist, and their company’s standardized email signature involves them bragging about f__king over indigenous people?

    * No, that doesn’t make a lot of sense either, so I guess the company is engaging is some public flagellation of itself for… being located where they are? Did they build their office building on a tribal burial ground or something? Why don’t they just move?

    * Ohhh… this must be some performative thing like rainbow-washing, where the company’s standard signature line is just about calling out how they (for some value of ‘they’) f__ked over indigenous people, and hanging a lampshade on it then absolves them of having to actually do anything about it. Must be some social media thing I’m unfamiliar with. Weird AF.

    All of which is to say: To people outside this cultural of performative whatever-this-is, it’s not automatically going to hit the way you think it will, and it’s completely legitimate for the company to be concerned that other people will take your signature as being an official statement by the company.

    1. Nonprofit4*

      This is such a good point. Nonprofit life is saturated in this stuff, and I think it is easy to forget that the rest of society isn’t. I don’t know if LW is in a nonprofit; but if they are doing business with the outside world I could see how an email signature like this could rub a lot of people the wrong way, confuse a lot more people, and ultimately doesn’t do a thing to advance their cause of righting wrongs.

    2. The Person from the Resume*

      I’m aware of land acknowledgements. I’m pretty sure I first heard it on an Australian podcast, but I’ve seen it crop on IG as the location which isn’t the currently accepted geographic name of the location ie NY.

      “Writing to you from the stolen, occupied, and ancestral lands of the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute), and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ peoples. The company is headquartered on land ceded by the Treaty of Fort Laramie 1851.”

      My thought on this particular phrasing is that “stolen, occupied” seems quite aggressive. In your email signature implies you are stating opinions of your company/speaking for your company. If you think the lands are stolen and you (the company) legally own the land, why don’t you return the stolen property/land?

      Finally IMO this isn’t a hill to die on. I understand why it seems aggresively political and why your boss wants you to remove it. I don’t think you having it in your email signature does a damn thing – you aren’t taking an actual impactful action for reparations and those words aren’t prompting anyone else to take any action. It’s just words.

      1. Kiss Me I'm Irish*

        I understand why it seems aggresively political and why your boss wants you to remove it.

        This is absolutely aggressively political and will cost the company customers who disagree with the message.

    3. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Good point. I also haven’t heard of it before today, and yeah, my thought process would be similar.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      Same. I work for an organization that is usually pretty up to speed on things, and I’d never seen this before today.

  38. stressball*

    LW5: parting gifts are traditional in my culture when leaving an office. People usually bring in cookies/ cakes / chocolates and hand them out on their last day! Always liked that tradition

  39. Nonprofit4*

    I’m jealous of everyone saying they’ve never heard of land acknowledgements before because they are all the rage in the nonprofit sector. And not just for large gatherings or conferences, but for weekly standing meetings. I hear land acknowledgments at least 5-10 times a week, usually in a Zoom room full of white faces. It is performative and meaningless at best- usually it’s “we are on the stolen land of XYZ etc” followed by ok let’s discuss the budget for the teapot convening. It’s always weird, and hasn’t resulted in a single meaningful action, or even a single proposed solution, to address the historical injustices.

    1. Catabouda*

      I’m one of those people who’d never heard about it before today – and it turns out my employer already has one! But, it’s never been used in any meeting I’ve attended so it feels like someone just thought we should have one, and we can now point to it if the question comes up.

    2. The Person from the Resume*

      Absolutely agree that it’s performative and doesn’t result in meaningful action. Especially not for a LW doing on behalf of his company, but the company leadership isn’t interested.

  40. Delphine*

    LW#2: The psychological affect of being “iced out” is significant, especially if you don’t know what you’ve done to “deserve” the treatment or if you’ve done nothing at all. It’s high-school-clique behavior and I wouldn’t assume that the employee being iced out did anything to ask for it without finding out more information. Personally, I also wouldn’t agree that it’s acceptable professional behavior even if the employee has done something to deserve the treatment. There are better ways to resolve conflicts and coworkers should maintain cordial relationships. They don’t have to be friends. They do have to be not a**holes.

    1. Nonprofit4*

      This is spot on. I had a boss once who unexpectedly stopped speaking to me out of nowhere, for months on end, wouldn’t take a meeting with me, sent very terse emails, then gave me a poor performance review criticizing me for being too independent – which was like well yeah, you won’t speak to me! Then just as soon as it started, it stopped, and she went back to being a normal professional boss and even friendly. To this day I have no idea what was going on.

    2. butterfly*

      Yes. I also disagree that’s it’s necessarily fine to ice someone out of socializing- is everyone except that one employee invited, or are there other employees who aren’t in the in-group? Is the socializing happening or being discussed at work in front of the iced-out employee? Those factors can absolutely make it a work issue. Plus, if she’s being iced out because she made a bigoted comment during happy hour or something, that’s also a work issue and needs to be addressed.

  41. TootsNYC*

    5. Should I leave a parting gift for my office when I resign?

    When I left my job where the boss brought us bagels every deadline-Friday morning, I bought a bagel guillotine and left it behind with a sticky that read “TootsNYC Memorial Bagel Slicer.”
    People loved it, and I was told someone taped the sticky to it, and later someone who hadn’t even known me asked who I was.

    We’d always struggled to cut the bagels with a bread knife, so it was definitely a useful thing.
    It was also unique to us the way a coffee maker wouldn’t have been

  42. D-Majorette*

    Regarding #1 – while a company certainly CAN try to ban spouses from work trips, it would be a horrible idea. After the first year or two, for most people, work trips cease to be “exciting” and become yet one more week in a Holiday Inn Express in Newark.

    Bringing spouses/partners along can turn it back into a benefit, and make employees more willing to take those trips. I spent plenty of time in Hampton Inns (and probably will for the rest of my career), and if a company told me who I could bring and how I could spend my off hours? That company would likely not be my employer for very long.

    The person in question is looking at this the wrong way. This isn’t a “policy” problem. This is a “management” problem. You don’t solve individual misbehavior issues by issuing blanket policies.

    Tell the employee that they can’t bring their partner to work meals or events, and that they need to be able to be focused on the work. That’s it. Simple. If they can do that? Why would you care who was with them?

    And if they can’t? Then this may not be the person you want in that role, regardless of whether they are in Newark alone or with their partner.

    1. ThisisTodaysName*

      While I get what you’re saying, I have a little disagreement with, “…Bringing spouses/partners along can turn it back into a benefit,…” Traveling for work is … work. It is not a benefit. Vacation time IS a benefit, but using work travel for vacation can blur lines and cause issues (as in the LW’s case where the employee’s spouse was brought to work dinners that he/she was specifically barred from). I do/have traveled with my spouse and vice versa for work. BUT we both work remotely, so when I’m at meetings, he’s working at the hotel or vice versa. AND we warn each other ahead of time if “hey this trip is going to include a lot of networking events so you’ll need to amuse yourself in the evenings; are you okay with that?” Some people ARE grown ups and are okay with reading by the pool while the spouse does the glad hand thing but others (like the one in the letter) seem needier and assume that “well it’s after 5pm so work is over and now it’s play time,” and that is NOT how work travel works all the time.

      1. Angstrom*

        Right. So set clear expectations of appropriate behavior, with clear consequences for individuals who violate those policies.

        1. ThisisTodaysName*

          I completely agree. My only quibble was with the idea that travel was “a benefit” and I think that looking at it that way is where these types of problems begin.

          1. JustaTech*

            For some people in some work situations work travel can be considered a “perk” or a good thing “Jane, you did a great job on the Hampton account, we’d like you to go out there to present it”.

            I know when I was first starting my career my first “work trip” was a Big Deal. (If you do it all the time I absolutely see how it would stop being a special thing and start being just part of the job, or something to dread.)

  43. Ann Stephens*

    Re: LW #2. As someone who has also been on the receiving end of this kind of treatment, it’s obvious the Mean Girls of middle school grow up and get office jobs.

  44. Lisa B*

    OP3, I wonder if the CEO would have had the same reaction if the tone of your signature was different. “writing to you from land stolen” is pretty aggressive, and it may have been better received if your signature was just “Writing to you from the ancestral lands of the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute), and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ peoples.”

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Yes, a lot of people seem to have gotten stuck on that term, despite it being true. I can only imagine what people’s responses would have been if the line had been “writing to you from land stolen through attempted genocide” which is also true.

      Nevertheless, your suggestion is very close to some of the Australian ones I’ve seen and would probably be far more acceptable to people, although there will always be someone who gets a bean stuck in their craw about it.

    2. ThisisTodaysName*

      Yeah I like that simple re-write. Of course we don’t know what the company is/does and how that fits in with their purpose/mission/vision but I agree that “stolen from” could leave a bad impression on a lot of the recipients of the emails.

  45. Olive*

    LW2: I strongly disagree that the LW should investigate more into the social aspect or find out what’s “really happening”. As a manager, she needs to enforce that everyone on her team is behaving professionally, but she shouldn’t become their social arbitrator.

    First, I think she should step back and try to observe the team as if she had been brought in as a new manager from another company. This might help her in separating an inability to police personal relationships from a responsibility to ensure that team members are treated with respect.
    Second, she might consider whether there’s a senior manager who might serve as a mentor to her. I don’t think she should use that person as a sounding board about all the social specifics of this issue. A good goal might be to learn about other examples of managers successfully handling problems with professionalism on a team.
    Then, I think she should be able to have a clear definition of what professional and respectful behavior will look like on the team going forward and communicate that to everyone, possibly one on one. She should also be clear about what her role as a manager does and does not include.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I think these are all good followup steps, but I do think that as a new manager seeing this dynamic she does need to ensure there’s no kind of illegal harassment taking place. My gut tells me that’s not what’s happening, but I think that’s the foundation that needs to be set for the other steps to be successful.

      More than likely, this is a basic social issue. But if it’s not, then that has to be dealt with first.

      1. Olive*

        I agree that she needs to look into possible harassment, but my read on the letter is that she’s quite emotionally attached to what’s going on and that she needs to get a strong handle on what her managerial responsibilities are separate from the sympathy she feels for her coworker.

  46. Chairman of the Bored*

    In practical terms, how would a company go about preventing an employee from bringing their partner on a work trip to, say, Paris?

    That partner is an adult, doesn’t work for the company, and has every right to travel to Paris any time they choose.

    My boss can’t ban my wife from traveling when/where she wants even if that travel overlaps with my own work trips.

    *At most* they could perhaps say that employees aren’t allowed to have partners in their company-provided hotel rooms, which would presumably become an issue the first time an employee wants to have a local overnight guest while traveling.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Well a company can’t proactively prevent the breaking of any rules. They can set expectations and enforce consequences if those expectations are transgressed.

      Conduct while on professional trips is a pretty normal category for there to be guidelines around. In this case, it sounds like those guidelines were given and ignored. The response should be consequences for that employee, not a complete policy overhaul. But they’d be within their rights to do either. If they want that policy to encompass overlapping work trips or bringing a local guest back to an employer-paid-for hotel room, they’d have the right in either case.

    2. Punk*

      There’s an issue of practicality. No one could have prevented my partner from coming to Atlantic City while my company’s conference was there, but only employees were allowed into the meetings, events, dinner, and party. The presumption is that the feasibility of buying a ticket, for most people, doesn’t overcome the fact that you’d never get to see the working partner.

  47. Temperance*

    LW3: ditch the land acknowledgement if you want to actually make any impact with your DEI program. If you don’t live in a place where these are common, or work in an org that uses them (like higher education), it reads as aggressive. I’ve literally never seen one as an email signature and I work in a pretty left-leaning industry.

    I know that there’s a great discussion with different POVs from people who are Indigenous, and anti-racist allies on their value, and I encourage you to listen to their POVs, but you also really need to consider your audience and your aim with including it, too. The CEO of your org wants it out, and really, as your email signature, it does look company-endorsed.

    He’s going to be more hostile to your other DEI-improving ideas if you decide to really push this. Is it worth it?

    1. Lyra Silvertongue*

      Can’t help but feel that the response to land acknowledgements in the comments here is much more focused on people’s personal feelings about them than anything that is really relevant for the LW. They’re the head of the DEI committee and had this message approved by HR and legal, only for the CEO to now say “Nope, not happening.” It’s not unreasonable for the LW to feel as if there is more to it than just a dislike of email signatures. This blog is not always restricted to specific advice on what is legal and illegal, but how things should be and how employers are being crappy by not getting on board. I feel like some of that time and care probably should have been afforded in the discussion of this issue.

      1. Temperance*

        You’re not wrong on that front, even though I know this was meant to be a standalone comment.

        I think that the core of the issue is that a.) her CEO wants it out of there, b.) her workplace has other serious issues to deal with and this is becoming a distraction, and c.) some people will feel as if the org is the one espousing this view.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        It’s not entirely unlikely to be a dislike of email signatures though – it’s a pretty bad place to write anything except your name because placing any more meaningful message automatically at the end of a business snippet is going to be jarring and out of context. Even when I see message that I generally agree with, it looks out of place and unconnected with anything. The automatic nature of it alone waters down the message of it being important. There are lots of reasons to avoid rote repetition, especially when you think a topic is important. Just because HR and legal have no problems with the message doesn’t make email signatures a good vehicle for it. If the OP suspects that the CEO is against the message generally and is going to be unsupportive of DEI measures generally, then a conversation about what else could replace it, should make that suspicion clearer.

        1. Lyra Silvertongue*

          I mean it depends on where you are and the industry that you work in regarding it being out of context or jarring. I know people bristle at discussion of cultures outside of the US, but your neighbours up north in Canada have an entirely normalized culture of putting land acknowledgements in email signatures, website about pages, etc.

          But again – your opinion on LAs is a personal opinion about LAs, which the LW clearly does not share. I think there should be more focus both in the comments and the original answer about how LW can broach the topic with their CEO given that they already feel there is a culture of racist microaggressions in their workplace and clearly feel that this is another example of that.

          *By this, I mean that land acknowledgements are common in email signatures and About pages of many, many businesses, including many government agencies, universities, big businesses, etc. I do not mean that Canada is moving towards reconciliation in any meaningful way but that this specific reference to Indigenous lands is common and relatively uncontroversial.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        It could also be that the CEO decided that email signatures aren’t a place for employees’ personal causes and started thinking about what else he might start seeing. Pro/anti-choice statements, political endorsements, etc. and decided to head it off at the pass. We did not have email signature guidelines at work until people started doing crazy colors, GIFs, and personal messages inconsistent with our brand, and now we have standardized, uneditable signatures. Maybe the CEO didn’t need to think about a signature policy before this.

        HR and legal are looking at different things. Something can be fine from a personnel front and legally sound without being good for business, which is what I assume the CEO is concerned about. Pretty much everywhere I have worked, the CEO outranked both the head of HR and general counsel.

  48. Delta Delta*

    #3 I’m on team “Purely Informational Email Signature.” It avoids this whole conversation, it avoids possibly misattributing positions to a company, it takes up less space. If you want to take a position on something, use social media. Start your own website. Make a blog. Whatever. But if I need to know if Client turned himself in on a warrant or if Other Client is behind on child support, that’s the information I need in an email.

  49. HonorBox*

    LW1 – You don’t need a policy. As so many others have pointed out, you can’t outright ban an employee’s partner/spouse/significant other from traveling somewhere that the employee is going to be. You COULD say that an employee is only allowed to sleep alone in the company-provided hotel room. You COULD say that while the employee is traveling, they can only focus on work activities with work-related people. But all you’re going to do is create a situation in which no one trusts anyone. And no one can decide to grab a drink with a college friend who lives in that town, or go see a movie once the day wraps up. People are going to start reporting things that have zero impact on work. And a good employee who brings their partner/spouse/significant other and handles things appropriately has zero impact on work most of the time.

    There’s no need for a stricter policy. There’s a reason for a conversation with the employee in question. You told them very specifically that partner couldn’t join for dinner, and yet they did. They directly went against something you told them they couldn’t do. Deal with that instead of creating a broad policy that only creates more issue/drama.

    Maybe a larger conversation with the entire team is worth having, too. Remind them that if a partner/spouse/significant other joins them on a business trip, the impact they have on the employee and their work should be the same as the employee traveling solo. The partner doesn’t get to join in any work-related functions. The partner’s tour schedule shouldn’t negatively impact the employee’s ability to get ready for work in their hotel room. The partner’s sleep schedule shouldn’t leave the employee tired. If the partner is there and their presence is completely unknown to everyone else, then it is approved that they can sleep in the employee’s hotel room.

    1. Pretty as a Princess*

      Our policy even encourages people to have spouses/family accompany them. The rules are:
      – no additional expense to the organization.
      – no interference with the business of the trip.

      It’s easy peasy.

      I did once have a colleague who had elevated “taking advantage” to an art form. Brought the spouse and kids along on a trip – they actually drove to the place where we were spending 10 hours a day in the client offices. Husband and kidlets spent the week sightseeing. Then she tried to submit toll road receipts for every day, during the times she was in the office with me with the customer. And hey, the policy was clear – they weren’t business expenses. We didn’t have to bar spouses from coming on trips, we just applied the appropriate role/policy to the situation.

      If someone was noticeably distracted on a trip, I’d treat it the same way I would treat them being noticeably distracted in the office on the regular.

  50. BreakingDishes*

    Related to Land Acknowledgement:
    Recently some place I call first has a message about inclusivity. Something like —> Llama Works feels that it is important to include everybody, blah, blah, blah.
    It seems pointless to have this as an answering phone message. How does this help? Am I supposed to be impressed that the company is doing something it ought to? Is it supposed to make me feel more welcome than I otherwise might.

    I get annoyed having to listen to this each time I call before getting to do what I called for. If the message included other things Llama Works does it might take all day.

    Maybe I’m just having one of those days.

    1. Lyra Silvertongue*

      I feel like realistically if you are reflexively annoyed by a land acknowledgement in an email signature at the bottom of the email then the problem is perhaps with you, not the writer of the land acknowledgement. We know exactly what the message from the LW has in it because it’s included here in full.

      1. It is what it is*

        So employers are just supposed to let their employees add whatever they want to emails that represent the company?

        With or without a formal email policy, your company email reflects on the company. I don’t know many companies that want their employees using company email to communicate the employee’s personal interests or such.

        1. Lyra Silvertongue*

          LW got the message approved by HR and legal counsel. It’s not a generous reading to say it was “whatever they want.” Clearly the CEO has decided they don’t want it – I object to the prevailing feeling here that the LW was wrong to do it in the first place or that they’re wrong to be peeved over it.

          1. Kiss Me I'm Irish*

            LW got the message approved by HR and legal counsel.

            …which has now been rescinded, and for very good reasons.

            The general counsel’s role is to determine whether the signature is legal or exposes the company to liability. (Yes and no, respectively.) The CEO’s role is to determine whether it is going to offend customers and cost the company business.

      2. Riot Grrrl*

        Just a note that the person you’re responding to was referring to an outbound phone message, not an email footer. You can’t really get around a phone message intro, which–let’s be honest–is often annoying as hell even when it’s short and to the point.

      3. Lucky Meas*

        You are all over this comment section saying that anyone who has a problem with a land acknowledgement in an email signature is the problem, regardless of their reason for thinking so. It’s very interesting because the reasons are all different, but they are all the problem?

    2. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I understand. You can say the right things, but if you don’t actually DO the right things then what you say doesn’t matter. And those who do the right things often don’t need to say it, because it’s just known. So if someone is making a point to say the right thing, then the question can be asked if they have to make a point to say it because they’re not doing it.

      Dolly Patten doesn’t need to say she thinks literacy is important. Her actions speak for themselves.

    3. Temperance*

      It’s performative. DO the work, show up, be inclusive, don’t make it your phone message ffs.

  51. Immortal for a limited time*

    LW #1: I work in state government, and it would be absolutely prohibited for the employee’s spouse to simply tag along at the taxpayer’s expense. We also have written policies for such things and are required to file expense reports following very strict, well-defined requirements. I realize you don’t work in government, but thinking of it this way might help you feel less awkward about putting clear rules around it for your employees. It might even spur you toward establishing written policies, which could include requiring the employee to get permission for the partner to accompany them before making travel arrangements, as well as the cost and work-time issues you brought up. In the public sector, it’s usually fine if the partner travels with the employee, but if any additional cost is incurred (which would include meals and possibly even a higher hotel rate for 2 people vs. 1 person), it MUST be covered by the employee and excluded from expense reports. I have also worked in the private sector for companies that hold government contracts, and the same policies apply to them.

    1. Lily Potter*

      LW#1’s issue isn’t financial; they even noted that the employee didn’t incur extra costs by bringing the partner along. The issue is that LW#1’s employee doesn’t have common sense, or perhaps they are a just junior employee that hasn’t yet picked up his workplace’s norms.

      A discussion needs to happen with junior before his next work trip: “Your partner can join you again, assuming that their expenses aren’t submitted onto your expense report. You should also remember that this is a WORK trip and your partner shouldn’t be joining you at work events or meals. And, of course, you’ll be expected to attend any off-hours social events that pertain to work without them. Ideally, the client and your co-workers shouldn’t even know that they are traveling with you. Once business has wrapped up, you’re welcome to sightsee to your heart’s content!”

    2. ThisisTodaysName*

      The LW indicated that the spouse was brought along at their own expense. The issue was that having the spouse there “distracted” the worker and that the spouse (was it a spouse? I think they just said partner…but whatever) was brought to work dinners after being told they could not be.

  52. Flowers*

    #2 – Everything about this letter and the replies are giving me major anxiety. I’ve been on the “outside” more than inside. Sometimes I get it, and sometimes I don’t. I’m feeling the freeze right now. 

    At my last job things were great for about 2 months and suddenly I felt the freeze. I asked a friend who worked there who was in the “in” crowd what the deal was and she said some of my behavior was weird, like how I join in on conversations happening around me. Someone else who I thought was a friend sent me a message intended for someone else saying I was the B-word because I don’t help her enough. Eventually I found my “group” but those first 2 years were lonely and tough. 

    At my current job, for my first few months I just observed, lest I avoid making the same mistakes I did in my last job. I thought by now I’d be getting along but it’s not. I chalked it up to being new until someone new came along and they immediately were welcomed into the fold. 

    And it’s not like I have unreasonable expectations; Im not looking to hang out nights or weekends or even texting off hours or follow on social media. and while I’m “different” from them, I can almost always find common ground with people. But things like being included in the lunch or coffee order, the work group chat, the “hey guys guess what I heard about our department” conversation huddles – these are the things that make work fun. (and please I beg of you, if you’re the “i hate my coworkers and prefer to work at home with no one around” type then please bow out of this conversation – I am tired of reading ppls opinions that because I like being around coworkers, I’m THAT terrible awful coworker).

    So I spend hours and hours reflecting over my own behavior – should I just keep quiet and not “intrude” or should I just dive right in, like of course I’m laughing at the joke someone told?

    On one hand I’m supposed to understand social norms and “get” social cues and read body language and all that; on the other hand, not take anything personally. It’s like being on the entrance ramp of a highway where everyone is going 90 and it’s nearly impossible to merge in. 

    TLDR this kind of thing really fks with you. and yes im in therapy for this.

    1. ThisisTodaysName*

      I’m sorry. That sounds awful and lonely and while it wasn’t quite THAT bad, I’ve been there and I just want to say I hope it gets better and give you a virtual hug (if you’re into that…if not, we can also fist bump or just virtually nod at each other.)

    2. Punk*

      My office friends have always been from other departments. Accounting tends to pull from homogeneous/conservative backgrounds, snd it’s even more narrow at the CPA level, so I put on the persona of unbothered lone wolf for the real work (if you pretend not to care about being alone, eventually you stop caring for real) and then take coffee breaks with the tech guys.

    3. toolate12*

      I’m having this situation at work now at a lesser scale – I absolutely feel you. I also am normally one of those people who is similar to you, the fabric of the office is usually pretty important to me (the absolute isolation of pandemic times made me miserable). I usually am someone who is really curious about both people and our subject matter. At this point, after 5 years of painful experiences, I’ve wound up trying my best to detach from my coworkers and the organization and just turn off my curiosity when I come in to work.

      I hope better days are ahead for both you and me. I want to get be curious at work again. I don’t think I’ll ever overinvest in my work relationships again, though. Work doesn’t deserve the best of my heart or my self.

    4. Donner*

      I left my last job bc I wasn’t included. I was looking for about the same level of socializing as you are, and this team also socialized after work (but not with me). As OP2 says, people don’t have to be friends, but feeling excluded is a predictable outcome of not being friends, and yes, it does really fk with you. Plus, lack of connection at work is a predictor of burnout.

      I hope you find your people.

    5. Budgie Buddy*

      Ah yes the “Nonono – when we need something from you, please exist. Otherwise can you just not?” Bleh

      Also the “Well of course they’re mad at you – you totally gave the wrong cues! But why on earth are you reading into their cues? I’m sure they didn’t mean it that way. Don’t be so negative.” BARF

    6. higheredadmin*

      Thanks for sharing and for the comments below. I’m pretty socially clueless and not really one to notice these things, but I’ve recently been made aware by another person at my level (who supervises one of the staff involved) that of the four administrative staff in our office, three are very close both in work and out of work, and that they freeze out the fourth person. They feel she is too loud, and she is also the newest of the four so they already know each other. Of the four administrators, they each have a different supervisor – none of whom is myself. I really like all of them, including the frozen out person. I’m also not someone who is sensitive to noise, so a loud person doesn’t bother me. This whole thread has inspired me to think harder about what I can do to influence this dynamic because it is not cool, and the work the frozen out administrator produces (at least that I review) is excellent.

    7. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Oh dear lord, how awful. I had one coworker at my previous job who treated me like that, and I had already been with the “in” crowd since before she started, and this bullying from just one person was still so bad, it made me dread coming into work.

      It was affecting work, too. We were on the same project and I couldn’t make a suggestion in a meeting without her rolling her eyes, turning to the project lead, and going “Do we HAVE to do this?” Or give any input in a meeting without her turning to others and asking “What did she say?” I guarantee it was derailing the project. I have a great life outside of work, and don’t need work friends, but if I’d gotten that kind of treatment from everyone in the office, or even a group of people in the office, hell I’d quit over that. That would make my work unbearable really quickly.

    8. DJ*

      Sorry to hear you’ve experienced this. I’m so glad my office is far from home and now I’m mainly WFH since early 2020. Thus I have NO expectations to make friends at work as I prefer local friends so there’s not the issue of lengthy travel to catch up. Although wouldn’t knock back becoming friends with someone I really clicked with.
      Because I’m softly spoken I’m considered “quiet” or not social or not interested when I’m very social. So haven’t tended to be included in after work drinks that are invitation only, the lunches that others who do a similar to mine attend, and rarely have there been workplaces where they’ve had all-inclusive drinks so I can go along and show I’m social.

  53. It is what it is*

    If the current upper management wanted me to remove something from my email signature, after I had explained why it was important to me, I would remove it.

    It doesn’t matter what previous management, who is no longer there, allowed. The new management has a different view of what is acceptable. There aren’t any current policies on email signatures, but those are probably coming.

    I represent my company, and my email signature and anything in that email also represents my company.

    When my current employer implemented an email signature requirement, after an incident like LW mentions, typeface, font size, color and department name and title were all apart of that new requirement.

    LW you represent your company first and foremost and if current management (CEO, Owner, whomever) wants you to exclude things from your email, even without a specific policy, they can.

    It’s your choice to decide if this is an issue you want to continue to push against.

  54. ThisisTodaysName*

    Yeah the signature in LW3’s email is…a lot. I think it also, no matter what the content of the email itself is, would leave a very negative/guilty-ish/not good tone to the person reading the email. Also–this could very well just be ME–it comes off a little as virtue signalling. If one of my employees had it, I’d have to ask them to remove it, but we do have a standard email signature format (probably for this very reason–it could quickly get religious, political, self-serving, etc…).

  55. 35 hour work week*

    OP #4, I work at a (US-based) company where full time is 35 hours – I think if you are working 36, you don’t need to go out of your way to call that “part time”.

  56. Donner*


    If dropping below 40 hr/week means your salary/wages are prorated below your 40 hr/week salary/wages, then you should think ahead to what you will say if you are asked what you currently make. I know we all want to dodge the question, but sometimes, realistically, you just have to give an answer (some states legislated that for you, and then it’s easier to dodge the question).

  57. Mary*

    I’m someone who is currently being bullies/frozen out by a small Mean Girl clique at my work, and I can promise that it isn’t because of anything I’ve done. It’s just that one person in that group really likes to buddy up to people and then turn on them, and I happen to be the person it’s focused on right now. It really stinks, my boss won’t do anything about it, and it makes work miserable. Don’t do this to people in your workplace, folks. It sucks.

  58. LK*

    I haven’t read the comments yet, but if the company doesn’t otherwise have rules about email signatures, and the only signature they are trying to remove is one specifically related to a racial issue, is there some argument to be made that that us racial discrimination?

    1. I should really pick a name*

      That’s really not what’s happening here.
      Simply because the term race could be said to be involved doesn’t make something racial discrimination. There is no evidence that anyone is being treated differently because of their race.

      There’s no rule that an employer can’t tell you not to do something just because there isn’t a specific policy against it.
      A land acknowledgement is a very specific thing. There can be completely legitimate reasons that a CEO can decide they don’t want to include one in email signatures.

  59. Utahn*


    I am only recently familiar with land acknowledgements when I heard about one put out by the University of Utah. But as the College of Humanities website for UofU says “Yet, a land acknowledgment is only a starting point for supporting and pursuing equity with Indigenous peoples and their sovereign nations. A land acknowledgement alone risks being an empty symbol if it is not accompanied by substantial changes in the policies, practices, and culture of our University”

    So it is accompanied by a scholarship program that gives free tuition to any students of the native tribes in the area. I have heard of a few different schools doing this.

    If the land acknowledgement is all that is being done by the company/entity it pretty quickly becomes empty Slacktivism.

  60. Chris*

    #2 doesn’t feel like work related. While the frozen-out employee may be attributing it to work mistakes, my intuition is telling me there is something else.

    Maybe we have a mean girls situation and the clique found a reason to ostracize her (for not wearing pink on wednesday?). Maybe the frozen out employee did something offensive like made a few off-color comments or jokes. A pass at the wrong person. Something.

    Whatever it is, it just strongly feels like it’s not just work related. Because exactly as Allison said, it just doesn’t usually happen that a few small work mistakes would lead to this level of freezing.

    As for #3, I wonder if the OP can get the CEO to compromise if they take out the more inflammatory parts of the land statement. I know it’s not WRONG to say they’re on stolen & occupied land… but that REALLY doesn’t make the company look good. A compromise could be to shorten the statement to “The company is headquartered on the ancestral lands of the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute), and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ peoples, as ceded by the Treaty of Fort Laramie 1851.” It recognizes the salient points and is less inflammatory.

  61. She of Many Hats*

    LW3 – After reading many of the comments and your sig line’s land acknowledgement, I can see room to improve the odds of being allowed to use it. But, if you haven’t, take time to consider the nuances brought up in the comments to ensure you are not acting negatively from a position of privilege by using it.
    Re-wording the statement to be less threatening to your CEO and maintain the integrity of the intent might also make him more open to your LA. Something along “Company is headquartered on ancestral lands of the [Tribal Names] which were taken under the [Treaty Name]. We strive to honor these Peoples’ history through our organization’s mission.” Yeah, it’s pretty blah and mushy, yet it would be a start.

    1. Office Gumby*

      Actually, I think that rewrite is pretty good. It states the land the company is on, it gives acknowledgement to how it ended up under the feet of those of European descendancy (by ill gains?) and it also states that the company is actively working toward reconciliation gestures. Also, this one is not worded to start a fight.

      Australians do not word their Acknowledgements of Country to start fights. We’re trying to end them.

      So the CEO is objecting to the original land ack. Is it because they’re against land acks on the whole, for whatever reason, or they object to the wording of this particular one, and would be okay if it was worded differently?

      Again, I state the question: what is the purpose behind a land ack? For Australians, it is to raise public consciousness of to whom the land originally belonged, at a minimum. It is but one link in a very complex chain of Australians of all kinds coming to a reconciliation.

  62. Jake*

    LW4, I once worked at a job for 3 years. My first 2 years there was part time, my final year was full time. When I left, I always checked the FT box on applications for that job. I also never revealed on job interviews that I was a part timer there for 2 years, so I’m guessing they assumed I was FT the entire time.

    It’s never hurt me, but I know your situation is a bit different.I

  63. Coverage Associate*

    My work has a policy that when they would ordinarily pay for an employee to travel home for a weekend, eg during a long trial, they will instead pay for an employee’s partner to meet them in the away destination for the weekend. It’s a small perk that builds goodwill.

    I really hate work trips where the only time alone is sleeping, dressing and bathing, where there are breakfast meetings and after dinner meetings. People should have some time to themselves.

  64. Pam Poovey*

    I’m honestly waiting for someone at my extremely religious/pretty conservative company to give me grief about having my pronouns in my signature.

  65. Can't Pass Again*

    Hello LW #2,
    I was in a very similar situation when I was freshly graduated from college, but in my case, the actions of the offending employee really verged more on bullying (openly mocking me, telling another coworker that I had a crush on him, telling all the employees that I was terrible at my job). In retrospect, the ways that people in power best supported me during an INCREDIBLY difficult period in my young adult life was provide opportunities to shine outside of the regular scope of my job. Is there a committee or some special project that is not solely staffed with her former friends that you could assign to her? For me, I was assigned to train some employees on an element of the job that I had a little experience with and as a result, made friends with folks from other departments. I’m not commenting on how they should have addressed my bully (because they did address it somehow, but I’m not fully aware of the details), but in context of how you can support your younger employees going through this.

  66. Aggretsuko*

    LW2: been there, done this-ish, except I never did anything to deserve the ostracism as far as I knew. Nobody hangs out after work here so that didn’t come up, but they conspicuously shunned me in public, refused to help me on any of my work like they were “supposed to,” and generally made things extremely uncomfortable in the shared office space and meetings. Unfortunately you can’t really make people be normal and friendly again if they don’t want to.

    I note that I saw someone in this situation on Reddit where the poster was being obviously ostracized enough that someone in another office reported it to the boss, and things were said, and then the coworkers had to be conspicuously obviously fake friendly and invite her to things when they did not want to whatsoever, and she said that was even worse. You can’t win.

  67. Rocky*

    #3 a couple of thoughts; First, this reminds me of the letter from someone whose email sig offered their apologies for any offense they’d caused the recipient. This was due to how they interpreted their religious text about a season of self-reflection. In that comment section, even other members of the same religion were perplexed at the performative, meaningless gesture.

    My other thought is (as an ex-Australian now New Zealander) that I really appreciate a welcome to country ceremony or acknowledgement (powhiri) from the local iwi (tribe), but that an email sig would rub me the wrong way. If I read an email sig like this I would think “of course we’re all on Te Ati Awa land, if I go East a few blocks I’ll be on the land of Taranaki Whanui, tell me something I don’t know”. But that’s after New Zealand’s decades of determined re-centering of indigenous viewpoints. I think these reminders can have value, but each company has the right to present their organisation publicly however they want.

  68. DJ*

    LW2 manager of ostracised employee. It’s fantastic that you are concerned for the employee rather than bruskly dismissing her situation. Alison is spot on with her advice. Are they crossing a boundary and creating work related problems preventing her from completing her work well (e.g. withholding information, not co-operating etc)
    Continue to be empathic when you advise (after investigations to see if she’s really messed up work wise to see if that needs to be handled) that you sadly can’t intervene to fix the friendship issue. I was in a similar situation once and was snarled at by my supervisor when I mentioned it. I understand they could do nothing but to be snapped at was difficult (I snapped back saying I wasn’t expecting them to do anything but they could have been nicer in their response). But outline what behaviours aren’t acceptable (lack of work related cooperation, rudeness etc) encouraging her that it’s OK to re approach if this happens.
    If you have an EAP suggest she sees them to discuss the situation, decide on and implement strategies to manage the situation (could be how to communicate, how to cope etc). It’s hard when friendships end but you still have to see them every day.
    Also ask what would help given you can’t fix the situation. Could she be transferred to another location? If there is a hybrid WFH arrangement can she be rostered to WFH on days they are in. Can she and they be placed on different projects.
    Does the workplace have all-inclusive social events i.e. after work drinks that aren’t invitation only?
    So glad I live a long way from my worksite and mainly WFH given the office politics and power trips that goes on in the workplace.

  69. HeatherM83*

    For LW#1 whose employee brought the partner on the business trip, has anyone considered that there might be some domestic violence at play (e.g. coercive control)? If the LW advised the employee not to bring the partner to dinners etc and they did anyway AND that seems out of character for the employee generally, then there may be something larger going on here and you should be prepared going into that talk with that employee.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      I guess I don’t see how this possibility would change the LW’s approach in any way.
      “I told not to bring you partner to business meals, and yet you still did. Please explain to me what’s going on.”

  70. Raida*

    “Writing to you from the stolen, occupied, and ancestral lands of the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute), and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ peoples. The company is headquartered on land ceded by the Treaty of Fort Laramie 1851.”

    Wow. I’m in Australia and ours is something like “We acknowledge the (Jagera people and the Turrbal people as the) Traditional Custodians (of Meanjin (Brisbane)). We pay our respects to Jagera and Turrbal Elders past, present and emerging.”

    I’ve never seen one with the pointed statement that it was stolen and occupied, so I can see why that, specifically, could be requested to be removed in order to tone it down. But if you counter-offer with something like
    “Writing to you from the ancestral lands of the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute), and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ peoples.”
    and that’s still a no-go, then I’d say it’s either overall considered a politicised subject for the business or they do just want a standardised signature block.

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