updated commenting rules

I’ve updated the commenting rules for this site — please give them a read below if you comment. (You can always find them here as well, and they’re always linked right above the commenting box.)

If you don’t comment, here is a live feed of some newborn kittens to look at instead.

First, I will note that It Is A Comment Section. It is full of anonymous strangers from around the world, all with different frames of reference and different communication norms. It at times will be aggravating because that is the nature of comment sections. That said…

how to comment

The comment section here is lightly moderated. Because I’m not around 24/7 and don’t see every comment, moderation will be at times inconsistent, and I rely on commenters to follow these community guidelines.

Comments that don’t follow these rules may be removed without warning.

1. Be kind to letter-writers and fellow commenters. If you wouldn’t say it to someone while you were a guest in someone’s home and still expect to be invited back, don’t say it here. That means:
• Give people the benefit of the doubt. Don’t jump to a negative interpretation of someone’s comment or situation; assume good faith on the part of others.
• Be constructive if you’re criticizing.
• If your comments are unkind, crabby, or snarky, or if you seem to be working out anger issues at the world in general, I may remove your comments, put you on permanent moderation, or ban you, at my sole discretion.

2. Keep your comments on-topic. Because comment threads can get long and unwieldy as it is, I may delete off-topic comments.

3. Limit speculation on facts not presented by letter-writers to reasonable assumptions based on the information provided.
• Don’t invent possibilities simply because you could imagine them to be within the remote realm of plausibility.
• If you’re speculating on facts not in the letter, explain how it’s actionable for the letter-writer. “She might be stealing your lunch because she can’t afford her own” is not actionable (and quickly becomes derailing). “She might be stealing your lunch because she can’t afford her own, and so you could try X” is actionable.
• Do not accuse people in the letter of nefarious motives based purely on speculation. Letter writers aren’t characters in a story; they’re real people.

4. Don’t aggressively shoot down suggestions just because they might not work in one particular circumstance. For example, don’t do this:

Person 1: “I’m having a problem that could be solved by easy things to bring for lunch.”
Person 2: “Sandwiches are easy and delicious.”
Person 3: “Not everyone can eat sandwiches! Some people are allergic to them. Thus, your suggestion sucks and you should be more considerate.”

5. Don’t armchair-diagnose others (“it sounds like your coworker is autistic/has borderline personality disorder/etc.”). We can’t diagnose based on anecdotes on the internet, these statements often stigmatize people with those diagnoses, and it’s generally not useful to focus on disorders rather than practical advice for dealing with the person in question.

6. People are experts on their own situations and know more about their own circumstances than you do.
• This is an advice column, not a court of law; letter-writers don’t need to “prove” the facts of their letter to your satisfaction. Please don’t subject them to, “But are you sure? No, are you really sure?”
• When a letter-writer reports a situation is giving them bad vibes, particularly in regard to safety, harassment, or discrimination, believe them. Don’t search for ways to explain away the behavior or pressure them to ignore their instincts because you personally haven’t had the same experiences.

7. Don’t nitpick.
• Don’t nitpick people’s spelling, grammar, or word choices.
• Don’t nitpick on substance. If someone makes a comment that’s generally true, resist the urge to counter with a really specific, uncommon circumstance where that general truth wouldn’t apply, just to be able to correct the person.

8. Respect people’s anonymity. Don’t make comments like “I think I know what company you work for.” People comment here expecting anonymity and, even when well-meant, these comments can make people uneasy. (Also, they’re usually wrong!)

{ 351 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    For anyone curious, these are the new additions:

    Within Rule 1: ” If you wouldn’t say it to someone while you were a guest in someone’s home and still expect to be invited back, don’t say it here” and “If your comments are unkind, crabby, or snarky, or if you seem to be working out anger issues at the world in general, I may remove your comments, put you on permanent moderation, or ban you, at my sole discretion.”

    Within Rule 3: “Don’t invent possibilities simply because you could imagine them to be within the remote realm of plausibility” and “Do not accuse people in the letter of nefarious motives based purely on speculation. Letter writers aren’t characters in a story; they’re real people.”

    Within Rule 6: “This is an advice column, not a court of law; letter-writers don’t need to ‘prove’ the facts of their letter to your satisfaction. Please don’t subject them to, ‘But are you sure? No, are you really sure?'”

    Within Rule 7: “Don’t nitpick on substance. If someone makes a comment that’s generally true, resist the urge to counter with a really specific, uncommon circumstance where that general truth wouldn’t apply, just to be able to correct the person.”

    1. foobar*

      THANK YOU!!!

      I find it frustrating reading the comments section sometimes because it feels like some people will take umbrage that the LW (or other commenters) did not consider that the situation might be and how dare they not consider this and accommodate accordingly? It has smacked of moral elitism sometimes :(

      1. Violet Fox*

        I’ve mostly wandered away from the comment section because it can get randomly very hostile or weird.

        1. nerak*

          Same–the comment sections end up with a very negative vibe sometimes and I love AAM and don’t want to think of it in any negative way, so I’ve mostly either avoided it, or skimmed it lately.

          1. TechWorker*

            That sucks! I have to say I still prefer the AAM comment section to Facebook/reddit/any other ‘public’ social media I have used – but there’s always room for improvement.

          2. Sheila*

            Yep. An employee of mine wrote a letter here years ago about a problem with that I was helping her with. Allison’s response didn’t really include any criticism of my efforts, but the comments section was pretty rabid, and a few commenters told my employee that I was ***obviously*** secretly helping create the problem. It was weird and hostile, and I’ve pulled back on reading and responding to comments since then. (I did not comment that time, nor did I tell my employee I knew about the letter…she was right to seek outside advice and perspective and I was glad she wrote in.)

            1. hbc*

              Oh, that’s interesting. I sometimes think people interpret “support/believe the OP” as requiring the opposing force to be vilified. We love the House of Bees scenarios because it’s fun to be filled with righteous anger, but most of the time, it’s a misunderstanding or personality clash or difference in preferences.

              I bet it would be very useful to tie. your perspective directly to that letter, but I absolutely get why you’d want to preserve her perception of anonymity. Sounds like you’re a good boss!

            2. Unreasonable Doubt*

              I don’t engage in the comment section anymore precisely because of this – it seems like there is a small but vocal faction for whom nearly all problems boil down to the employer, its HR, and/or a manager/supervisor being Irredeemably Evil. I get that there are a large number of letters where this *is* legitimately the issue (after all, most letter-writers are employees, and they would not be writing if they didn’t have a problem!) but that seems to have skewed the perspective of the commentariat.

              I understand the “be kind” rule is primarily directed at the letter-writers, as it should be! But I am just not up for the amount of hostility that comes into play against the other “characters” (or the employer company itself) in the writer’s narrative (absent an actual example of despicable behavior). There’s very little appreciation for how unbelievably hard it is to actually manage messy, emotional, difficult human beings. Alison makes it *sound* easy (not that she intends to!) because she is incredibly good at it and she has the benefit of being completely external to the environment.

            3. Lana Kane*

              I feel you. When I was managing, I answered someone’s question about supporting people on FMLA and I commented on my approach and how the staff I’d coached on it had been appreciative because many times they didn’t know they had these options. In short order I had someone insisting that employees’ FMLA was none of my business, that I was overreaching and out of line – if this person had EVER been a manager who was trained in FMLA they would never had said those things. But having said I was a manager, I was de facto doing something wrong. I pulled back from commenting for a long time because who needs the aggravation?

            4. Decidedly Me*

              Yea, that happens a lot. The default seems to be that all managers are terrible and must be doing terrible things, whether stated by the LW or not. I’ve seen letters that feel like it could have been written by someone I’ve managed (but I knew wasn’t due to other details) and while what they wrote would have been true from their perspective, there are always missing details from the other side.

              We once had someone leave a GlassDoor review saying we were awful because we hired them and let them go in less than 3 months – it’s totally true that we fired them on that timeline. What was missing was the fact that they kept no-showing shifts without notice, wasn’t grasping the role despite extra trainings, and repeatedly gave incorrect information to customers. Does that make us awful? I don’t think so, but it’s much harder to determine that without the full picture.

              1. I am Emily's failing memory*

                Yeah, not just in this comments section, but in general there’s been a concerning late-1780s-France vibe that has been getting steadily louder as the global inequality gap has been getting wider, and it seems to be rapidly approaching the turning point.

        2. Looper*

          For me it’s the off-topic stuff where somebody starts speculating about some highly unlikely reason for whatever is the topic of the letter and then there are 375 comments that springboard off that and get off on more and more and more tangents. A lot of ‘but what about’ and ‘but what if’.

      2. foobar*

        Weird, that was supposed to be “the situation might be (insert situation that occurs 0.0001% of the time)” (enclosed less than / greater than signs instead of parentheses).

        I guess the site interpreted it as HTML or something.

        1. L*

          Yeah, it was definitely interpreted as HTML and auto-removed. Comment sections generally do that to “sanitize their inputs” to prevent people from running malicious scripts. Sometimes escaping them with a backslash works, but using square brackets for things like that is more reliable.

      3. Prospect gone bad*

        Or just one-upping to be the first to say if it wasn’t a particular thing. Those sorts of comments sounded clever a couple of years ago, but I noticed the same ones pop up every single day, so they no longer sound clever.

        For example the salary survey, some people jumped to be the first to say it should include even more information that was tangential to the point of the survey. It’s like they just wanted to be the first to criticize it.

        1. anna*

          I think you might be interpreting that through a strange lens. People always want additional info from surveys that could be helpful to themselves, I don’t think they were trying to be the first to criticize (or to criticize at all for that matter).

          1. Prospect gone bad*

            I’m speaking about the specific items in that comment thread. Not in general. Go back and look for what people were asking for

            1. ecnaseener*

              I’m with Anna, I read all the comments on the salary survey and don’t remember any coming off as critical – they were virtually all “I wish it included X too” or “Can you add X?” – perfectly reasonable things to say.

      4. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

        I think we’ve been getting an influx of people from reddit and other sources after the subreddit r/BestofRedditorUpdates started up (sometimes featuring updates linked over from here) and after that one letter got big on Twitter last year.

        Not to say they’re not welcome, but those platforms have very different commenting conventions.

        Hopefully this code of conduct post will help inform them.

    2. T.N.H.*

      Alison, is there a good way to report comments? I know you have recommended responding with a link to send it to moderation for you. Is that still best?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes! I’ve looked into various flagging systems but none of them quite work the way I’d need (for example, a lot of them will automatically remove a comment after 3 flags, which seems ripe for abuse and confusion). So yes — respond with a link and a note that you’re flagging something and I will see it (because all links go through moderation).

        1. AnotherLadyGrey*

          Thank you Alison for confirming this! I often have trouble remembering the proper way to flag comments. A small suggestion – you might consider adding this to the “Other things to know” section of the commenting rules. That could possibly be a handy place to look it up in the future.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It’s in there (in the “What if a fellow commenter isn’t following these rules?” question) but it sounds like it might be too buried!

            1. AnotherLadyGrey*

              D’oh! I even went and checked before posting this comment and still didn’t see it. That’s definitely a me issue, but glad to know it is there!

              1. Ella Kate (UK)*

                Not just you, I had to go back and check because I missed it the first time and was going to ask a similar question!

        2. I take tea*

          Does it matter what link? I have flagged a couple of things that way, and have tried to find a link I think you would like (some fun short usually), but maybe it just makes it weird?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Any link is fine — I often don’t have time to notice what specific link the person included (because I’m often moderating in the middle of other stuff) but including something fun definitely does not make it weird!

          2. Somebody Call a Lawyer*

            Oh haha! I hadn’t considered doing that, because I usually just link to the specific comment being flagged. (You can get that link by clicking on the timestamp of the comment.) Maybe next time I’ll include a link to Donte Colley dancing to the Law & Order theme song, because that never gets old. :D

              1. NotAnotherManager!*

                +1 This made my day in a way that I did not know it needed to be made. Donté is so talented!

          3. BubbleTea*

            I have included a fake link of www . spammity spam. com or similar, but I don’t actually know if that works!

        3. DietCokeDinosaur*

          Is there anyway to add a report button in each comment using WordPress so that each report would go directly to your email?

    3. Jessica*

      Hey, Alison, maybe you already thought of this and there’s a reason you didn’t do it, but for Rule 6, could you extend it to commenters as well as LWs? I feel like we’ve seen a lot of members of marginalized groups who are commenting to say they’ve experienced something similar to the LW or something analogous and get the same sort of PROVE IT response, and I feel like more rules-lawyer-y folks might take that as “you can’t negate the life experience of the LW directly but you sure can do it by proxy to any commenters from the same group.”

      1. Miss Muffet*

        If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this site it’s that humanity contains multitudes and for every LW or even commenter (or someone I used got work with) that has this one annoying/whatever trait/habit/tic…there are so, so many people out there with the same or similar. And all of them have jobs and probably family that loves them so there must be a way to make it work. This community of global citizens of all walks of life has been really eye opening, from neurodivergence, to the various ways people live out their sexual identities, to how many different ways we can classify “nylons” :)

        1. Distracted Librarian*

          Yes, and this is such a lovely comment. What a positive way to appreciate differences!

    4. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      Thank you for including a list of the changes! I was trying to figure out what changed, and things seemed to be in the same general spirit as my recollection of what they were before, so it helped me to make sure that hadn’t missed a big new rule (like when the weekend rules changed a while back).

      (I don’t try to remember the details of all of the commenting rules for each site I hang out on, I just try to remember which of the types of comments I personally am prone to leaving don’t belong in each venue, and then double-check the rules if I can’t remember.)

    5. ThisisTodaysName*

      Brava! Brava! Yes. Especially number 3. The constant “oh they are clearly sleeping together” assumptions anytime there is a hint of “my boss treats my coworker differently” or whatever is so … weird to me. Like how is THAT where peoples’ minds go first?

      1. Sheraton St Louis*

        Those are so awful. And so are the assumptions of racism and sexism without evidence. Like a commenter will be like “I’d bet money you’re a woman and your nasty boss is a crusty old white man” and the lw is like “actually we’re both the same gender” or something. Racists, sexists, and various -phobes all exist in greater numbers than most people are comfortable admitting, but that doesn’t mean everyone who does something weird or bad or rude or whatever is automatically a villainous white male and it’s an unhelpful assumption because there’s nothing you can do if your boss or coworker is a racist/etc caricature whereas there are often things you can do about people that are
        actual humans who are simply rude.

      2. JS*

        I (internally) leap out of my chair and yell “Objection! Facts not in evidence.”

        We’ve already established that this isn’t a court of law (per Rule 6), but the judge definitely sustains my objection.

    6. sam_i_am*

      Thank you for listing out the changes separately! It’s really helpful to see the differences laid out.

    7. Flipperty*

      Out of curiosity, how does “be kind” and “don’t say anything you wouldn’t say as a guest” work in practice in the rare cases where the LW is pretty much universally considered to be in the wrong and behaving badly? I don’t mean victim blaming fanfic scenarios, I mean letters like the one from the person outraged their young employee wanted to take time off to attend their graduation, or the LW insisting an employee born on 29th Feb should only be allowed the standard birthday perks once every four years. Or the very religious woman (who I actually felt bad for, since she seemed damaged by her upbringing) who’d called her boss’s daughter a very bad slur starting with W.

      There are ways to say “this is bad and wrong” without being actively unkind, but nothing I or I suspect anyone could say in those three situations would result in those LW inviting me back.

  2. galaxyrow*

    I wish people across the Internet would use #4. Here’s a comment thread I saw on a recipe video on Instagram:

    Person 1: Beans are my favorite veggie!
    Person 2: Beans aren’t veggies. They’re legumes.
    Person 1: Green beans are veggies – the casing is grown off a plant
    Person 2: Well the actual beans are legumes!

    And it went on for a couple more rounds like that. The Internet gets worse every year. lol

    1. Juniper*

      Imagine me rolling my eyes. People like this frustrate me. Like yeah a legume is a TYPE of veggie like peppers, squashes and pumpkin are a type of veggie. Like it would be insane to argue that peppers aren’t a veggie, they’re peppers (or “actually they’re a fruit”). It’s a technicality, let it go.

      1. Relentlessly Socratic*

        Well, if we’re going to talk about fruit…*rummages in closet for springtime bananadress*

        Seriously, though, it really does feel as if people are trying to “well actually” each other to the death sometimes.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes — and I’m hoping the new “don’t nitpick on substance” will get at that.

          I’m under no illusions that simply having a rule will make people follow it, but it should help (and if nothing else, it makes it easier for me as a moderator).

          1. Relentlessly Socratic*

            And it helps us to have the rules spelled out.

            If you haven’t heard it enough, thank you for this space, it’s generally a delight to read through the comments, and you just don’t have that many places where you can say that!

            1. TeaCoziesRUs*

              I’ll second that. I spend way too much time in this website…. because I gain just as much wisdom from the commentariat as I do from Alison. This is one of the best spaces on the internet, and has been for years.

    2. There You Are*

      I have blocked in-person, real-life friends from seeing my social media posts because they only ever commented on them to nitpick and play the “Well, actually…” game.

      Like, yay? You’ve learned a thing that is totally useless and unhelpful in this situation. Go, you.

      I had one friend “Well, actually…” me on the meme about “why don’t cats want to be held like babies when baby-sized?” because… not all cats are baby-sized. I was like, “Did you seriously just go all #NotAllCats on me over a cute meme??? WTH.”

      Here’s hoping Alison’s new rules nip that stuff in the bud here.

      1. DadbodsareFatherfigures*

        Ok, I couldn’t resist. I just read this joke on a site (god I hope it wasn’t this one and I’m THAT bad at remembering things):

        How did the pedant die?
        He fell into a well, actually.

        1. Warrant Officer Georgiana Breakspear-Goldfinch*

          I love that joke, although my preferred version (since I’m a woman in a male-dominated STEM field) is:

          Where does a mansplainer get his water?
          From a well, actually.

      2. I am Emily's failing memory*

        Yep, the most unfortunate thing social media has done is really given people the message that all your thoughts, no matter how banal or idiotic or vicious they are, must be shared. Everything that the algorithm puts in your feed is begging for you to comment with your unfiltered opinion. The networking sites don’t want you to just have a reaction in your mind and then move on to something else. They want us not merely to write out our reaction and post it but have our reaction on the platform, for us to be so immersed in the network that there’s no distinction between thinking a thing and posting it to the network. One is the other.

        The comments section here is a delight compared to all the unmoderated comments sections that are filled with nihilistic rage, dick jokes, and attempts to dunk on someone.

    3. Kit*

      I genuinely require a substance-nitpicks outlet for my general health, which is what I use Reddit for. On Reddit I get my enrichment by helping people who have asked for nitpicks on language learning subreddits (often “why did my teacher say this almost-correct sentence was incorrect”), and it’s great and keeps me from busting them out everywhere and alienating my friends.

      If anyone else struggles with a need to nitpick on substance I strongly suggest joining a subreddit for your work or hobby or anything else in which you are a subject matter expert, because there are people who want that from you and they’re not here!

      PS (sorry, I must) that commenter is being ridiculous about “veggies” which is an extremely poorly-defined category. Either “vegetables” includes all edible plants and therefore leaves, stalks, roots, fruits, etc are sub-categories of vegetables, or we live in a hideous chaos in which zucchini are vegetables and rhubarb is a fruit, in which case there is no place for nitpickers. Legumes are vegetables!

        1. Warrior Princess Xena*

          Fruit as a botanical term and fruit as a culinary term don’t always align well either lol. I can think of a few ‘fruits’ that I would not want to include in a fruit salad, several of which are in the Nightshade family.

          1. Katherine Vigneras*

            Maybe I’ll start referring to guacamole as fruit salad since so many of its components are fruits (avocado, tomato, jalapeño, lime… the onion’s not, but what’s a little allium among friends?) ;)

      1. Jackalope*

        Hah! I often read through and come up with immediate exceptions to the rule of thumb being proposed. Sometimes I think it will be helpful, and so I share it. But if it’s too nitpicky then I just… go over it multiple times in my mind, enjoying the fact that I came up with an exception to the rule, and then move on without sharing. Makes everyone happier, including me.

      2. Generic Name*

        Love this advice. I am a SME on a particular federal permit, and I frequently have colleagues asking to pick my brain on the topic. It definitely scratches my “I need to be a know-it-all” itch. :D

      3. londonedit*

        Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting tomatoes in a fruit salad*.

        *waiting for someone to come along and tell me they always put tomatoes in their fruit salad and it’s delicious, actually

        1. Katherine Vigneras*

          Let’s start telling people guac is fruit salad. Because technically correct is the best kind of correct.

    4. Sunshine Gremlin*

      This topic was being discussed on a Reddit post and some lovely commenter linked us to a bodybuilding forum where some people were debating how many days are in a week (more specifically, how many times you could work out during a 2-week cycle). The debate went on for more than 7 pages of comments and I read every single one. I’m laughing to myself right now just at the memory of this intense nitpicking war.

        1. Mad Mac*

          I love a chance to plug Jon Bois, creator of my favorite things on the internet (if you’ve never enjoyed 17776, I heartily recommend it!), which is what this sounds like.


    5. Fiona Orange*

      The Internet sucks sometimes. I swear, there are days when I wish that Al Gore hadn’t decided to make it public.

    1. Beth*

      And if you don’t like kittens and you don’t like well-moderated, healthy commenting environments, you can always go elsewhere, right?

      Personally, I like both. Both is good!!

      1. Dezzi*

        Both is good, and the feed she linked is both! The chat on that feed is exceptionally well-moderated and kind.

    2. Bibli*

      Who doesn’t like kitties? MY cats. They don’t like this YouTube livestream. I’ve been watching for a few hours now. I took a picture before I realized I can’t post an image here.

      If you want to imagine it: my large-frame male orange tabby cat sits on my laptop keyboard. He’s nosing at the laptop speaker, in the top left corner of the laptop frame.

      YouTube tiny kittens HQ is onscreen.

  3. Same*

    With the very greatest of respect on point 5, if someone is neurodivergent, for example, they often don’t feel safe to disclose this, or may not even know, but it has a devastating impact on people’s success at work. Especially because too many neurotypical managers are not educated in management in general, let alone in how to manage neurodivergent employees. All too often, it ends with neurodivergent employees being fired.

    How can commenters who want to provide information or insight based on their own experience best provide this is the hope of being able to provide support or advice with how to cope with a difficult situation at work? I myself was diagnosed at 30 based on reading such comments on sites like this one.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      You can provide examples based on your own experience without saying that the person in question might have the same condition (I’m autistic, btw). I can say, “I have a tendency to get stuck on projects with too many details and information in multiple locations, and this is what has helped me,” without suggesting that the person in question might have the same problem for the same reason I do. Maybe they do, but maybe they don’t, and either way, it’s up to that person and that person’s managers to figure out why.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s fine to share your own experience as long as you’re not diagnosing others. For example, it’s fine to say, “I struggled with XYZ as well and was eventually diagnosed with __. For me, what helped was…” It’s not fine to say, “It sounds like you have XYZ.”

      1. Blue*

        Coreect me if I’m off-base here, but I think you’ve also made a distinction in the past about when the person struggling is the OP versus someone else in the letter.

        Like, “I struggled with XYZ…” can definitely be helpful for OPs as they’re the ones writing in and could act on the advice, but when it’s referring to their coworker or employee, all it often does is feel like admonishing the OP to be kinder. And the difference to me is related to rule 3b, about how additional speculation should be actionable.

    3. Anon anon*

      I’d argue that we STILL shouldn’t be making assumptions about another person’s diagnosis unless it is explicitly mentioned in the letter.

      1. Roland*

        For sure. You can relate based on your experience of course, but if as someone with diagnosis X you think “gee they should try action Y”, you can just suggest that, it doesn’t require saying “they might have diagnosis X so they should try action Y”.

      2. Prospect Gone Bad*

        Agreed. Maybe it made sense 15 years ago but at this point, ADHD comes up constantly online. We get it. The real problem is that it comes up in situations that impact most people. Not being able to multi-task or stay on track isn’t something unique to ADHD but people online act like it is.

        I think the question is, does it change the advice or answer? Many times it does not.

        1. allathian*

          That’s true. Lots of people have found that things like the pomodoro technique help them regardless of any diagnosis.

    4. NothingIsLittle*

      Alison can respond if I’m misinterpreting, but I’ve said in response to letters, “That sounds like something I deal with as a person with *blank,* this is what I find helpful in that circumstance,” or “it really helps when my manager/coworkers *blank.*” And also, “I have a friend with *blank* who deals with similar problems and resolves them with *blank.*” As long as the comment is predominantly about actionable advice using the diagnosis as a framing device and not trying to diagnose the OP or anyone within the letter, I haven’t seen comments being deleted.

      I apologize if I’m off base! I might have missed something.

    5. Juniper*

      This is so relatable to me and overlaps with my comment below yours.

      I’m struggling to understand your question though. I have an idea but to be clear… are you looking for how to mention “have you thought about if you/the person you asked about has autism?” without breaking the rule? Or are you looking for ways to give advice when it’s based in “this is relatable as an autistic person, and here’s what I’d do”? If it’s the latter, I *think* you can maybe say that like “I relate, here’s what I’d do, here’s why” but I think it’s a slippery slope to say “the why is because I have autism” if it insinuates you think it’s because the letter writer is autistic too.

      1. DutchBlitz*

        I’d also think that accessibility helps both neurodivergent and neurotypical folks alike. If a manager is being advised to do something because it might help a neurodivergent employee, shouldn’t it be something they should be doing regardless? (For example, accepting different communication styles also helps people of different cultural backgrounds or allowing sensory changes like low lighting can help with both overstimulation and someone prone to migraines.) I think the advice should be regardless of any potential neurodivergence that is unexplicit in the letter.

        1. Enough*

          Like this. This is what I thought 30 years ago. ADHD was just entering the general consciousness. And possible mechanisms were always being presented as a solution to help the child with ADHD in the classroom as if the solution doesn’t help all the students. My favorite was about reducing distractions. Because ‘normal’ kids don’t get distracted? Two first grade class rooms. The feel was always different when you entered the rooms. One was organized and uncluttered, the other had every surface covered included the chalk board trays. Had children in both. Room 2 always seemed to be just a couple of beats away from chaos.

          1. Jojo*

            Agreed. I have diagnosed learning disabilities and have been evaluated for ADHD, and I do not have it. ADHD strategies have been my go to for years, and can benefit more than just people with ADHD. I really think the “I struggle with X as well, and this is how I manage it” is the most useful way to present solution in the comments. We all have some quirks, so there are probably tips for managing aspects of many neurodivergences that can help people of all types of minds.

        2. Distracted Librarian*

          Yes. In higher ed we talk about this in the context of universal design. If a particular strategy helps someone with a disability, it probably makes life easier for lots of other people too. The most common example mentioned is curb cuts on sidewalks, which help people who use wheelchairs but also people with baby strollers, injured knees, etc.

    6. KT*

      I think Allison’s rule allows for personal experience without armchair diagnosing. For example if someone is struggling with a particular task, sensory issue, social boundary, but doesn’t disclose they are neurodivergent, that doesn’t means a coping mechanism you’ve discovered for yourself isn’t useful. For example if someone writes in with problems about keeping organized, I’ve definitely seen people reply with “I have ADHD so I struggle with keeping organized too. One way that works for me is *insert solution here.*”

      There can be overlap between different mental illnesses or other disorders especially, and a person’s personal ticks. For example, struggling with strong smells could be a sensory processing disorder, a scent allergy, or just personal preference. If you feel comfortable opening up about your diagnosis and the LW notices a pattern in themselves that might point that direction, that can be helpful without going “oh, if you struggle with X, then you need to be diagnosed with Y.” Even a healthcare provider shouldn’t be diagnosing people just from an anonymous advice letter. There can be times where Allison has said “that seems like something you should talk to your doctor about,” but without being a medical or mental health professional talking to the LW directly, you can’t know the full story.

    7. Jessica*

      So, as other people here are saying, I think you can say, “Hey, I’m autistic and struggle with circumstances similar to those in your letter, and XYZ really helped me,” without trying to diagnose anyone in the letter.

      Accessibility accommodations and making workplaces more hospitable to disabled people, neurodivergent people, and other people with different backgrounds and life experiences from whatever your workplace culture treats as the norm often also help people who aren’t in the same category as the person who inspired the change.

      Ultimately, it doesn’t *matter* if someone in the letter might have your particular type of neurodivergence. They might but not want to be outed, they might have a different form of neurodivergence, it might be a personal characteristic not tied to neurodivergence, etc. but we can’t know for sure. What matters is that they’re struggling with a particular aspect of their job or office culture, and you may have a solution that could be helpful for them and maybe for other people, too. Maybe for everyone.

    8. animaniactoo*

      I’ve sometimes said something along the lines of “Hmm, this sounds like aspects of dysgraphia/dyscalculia/etc.*, it might be worth checking into that if you haven’t already”, and that’s only when addressing the LW themselves. Because I think it’s only useful for an LW who is seeking to understand why they are frustrated and struggling so much with X. And it’s a suggestion of a possibility, not a surety of This Must Be So or Likely Is.

      I think that would still be within the realm of allowable comment, but will wait to see if Alison thinks that’s outside of what she wants to see here as far as helpful actionable advice.

      *These are rarer learning disabilities that I’m familiar with because one of my sisters has them, and we learned a lot as a family about them.

    9. Eulerian*

      Well I’m autistic, and have ADHD, but I find that telling people that is often next to useless. What I mean by that is that neurodivergences are so varied between different people, and neurotypical people can share neurodivergent traits, that it’s often easier for practical reasons to think of them (and explain to other people) as a collection of neurodivergent traits or characteristics, and therefore more effective when sharing experiences too. So it’s more effective to say “I struggle with communication, I can’t know if I’ve presented all the information I need to correctly”, or “I have sensory issues, my brain can’t cope with constantly being near loud or sudden noises”, and this goes for sharing experiences too. I may like to add “because I’m neurodivergent” or “because I’m autistic” but it’s amazing how it often adds very little to an explanation or indeed a treatment / management.

      1. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

        Eulerian: Yes, exactly! I have the same experience as you … and a different dx.

        As Distracted Librarian points out, and others mention, specific diagnosis (or other label, like being member of a particular marginalized group) is often irrelevant to making things more accessible/ less biased for a variety of folks. If anything, it invokes stereotype and fixed mindset, impairing creative problem-solving.

        The exception is when a proposed solution involves seeking accommodations or services that require a diagnosis to access. And even then, it’s not necessary to foreground a presumed diagnosis; one can still foreground the actionable advice.

        “It sounds like XYZ accommodation/service might be helpful in your situation, but it can be prohibitively expensive unavailable unless your insurance or national health service covers it, and they typically require a professional diagnosis. You might investigate what conditions have XYZ as a recommended treatment and whether you meet diagnostic criteria for one. I got my XYZ following a diagnosis with A, and my symptoms were similar to what you describe, so that might be a place to start.”

    10. theletter*

      I always try to follow the curb-cuts rule – something that’s good for someone with a disability is probably good for society as a whole.

      By focusing on a specific task (such as solutions to crossing the street while pushing/pulling/riding a wheeled object) instead of the disability itself, we can sidestep the armchair diagnosis while providing insights.

  4. Juniper*

    I feel like #1 really hits home for me. I’ve had my questions posted before and felt like *some* people were coming at me with really negative interpretations of my challenges or situation. Emphasis on some, because I feel like the majority are earnestly interested in thoughtful and kind discussion and support.

    Also for #5, is it possible to add in also not questioning people when they say their mental illness, disability, what ever affects them? In a letter or question posted in comments, it’s often hard to be really explicit about how having autism (as an example of my personal experience) affects my work without giving away too much of my personal information and I’ve noticed a tendency to say “well I don’t have autism and things like X are still a problem for me”, and it leaves me feeling like “well, I never said it couldn’t be a problem for neurotypical people, but I’m seeking advice on how to handle it if your neurodivergent and it also reduces the unique challenges we face when it gets minimized “just because” other people might struggle with the same issue without the additional layer of being autistic (or maybe they different challenges on other intersectional lives with other mental health/disabilities, gender or race, but it STILL doesn’t answer the question if the solution is “this isn’t an autism problem”. It just shoots me down). I know I’m providing a personal experience in this but I’ve seen it happen to others (again, I want to emphasis that the majority make an earnest effort to help).

    1. marvin*

      I find this kind of response frustrating as well, although I think it comes from a place of empathy. When you’re on the receiving end, it just feels dismissive, though.

      I’d be fine with responses like “I’m not autistic, but I also struggle with X, and here are some strategies that work for me.” It’s the ones that basically start and end with “I’m not autistic and I also struggle with X! It’s not just a problem for autistic people!” that feel like they’re denying the effects of discrimination and stigma.

      1. Juniper*

        Exactly! Like if you’re saying “I don’t have autism but here’s what I’d do in this situation” that feels fine to me because it at least feels like you’re understanding that our experiences are different but you can related to the situation. I’ve definitely felt like people have dismissed the impacts that autism can have.

      2. tusemmeu*

        I’ve dealt with that too and it’s very frustrating. I’ll try to discuss something that is a problem for me and get back that “everyone deals with that”, which is meant as a supportive “you’re not alone” but comes across more like “that’s not a particular problem for you, you’re just the only one whining about it”. They completely ignore that there may be nuances they’re not getting that make it different for me and others like me.

    2. Bunny Girl*

      I think one thing a lot of people need to keep in mind, without voicing these speculations or assigning negative interpretations as you mentioned, is that it’s really difficult to capture everything that goes into a situation when asking a question. In many offices, there are politics, personalities, and backgrounds that the LW just can’t jam into a letter. That’s why I think we should all respond to LW with a lot of kindness, even if we take a less than charitable view of it. We don’t know the whole story.

      1. Wintermute*

        This is a good point. basically that’s the root of why we trust letter writers. If they say bob is sexist and relate a single event that they feel demonstrates this, it probably is not the only thing, just an example. “but what if he’s not tho?!” doesn’t add much to the conversation, the writer presumably has a founded belief based on a lot of small things that add up to the conclusion, as well as whatever example.

      2. House On The Rock*

        Thank you for this. A couple times I’ve sat down to write a question into AAM and got so bogged down in the history of where I work, my coworkers, department leadership, partners/customers/users, etc. that I gave up. When I tried to pare it down to my actual issue, the one on which I needed guidance, I kept thinking about how I’d probably be second guessed and criticized in the comments unless I did give paragraphs of background, which was of course far too much!

  5. Dr. Rebecca*

    Thank you for this, and for all you do here, Alison, and my sincere apologies for the few times I’ve crossed the line. You’ve been gentle and fair and kind, and I am grateful for that.

      1. English Rose*

        Companies should use this as a personality test for job applicants – sit them down in front of this post and see who clicks the kittens link first and who reads the rules first! :)

        1. Irish Teacher*

          I still haven’t clicked the link, even though I do love kitties. This probably has more to do with my being aphantasiac than anything else; I will almost always go for words before images, no matter how adorable. *reminds self to look at kitties*

  6. H.Regalis*

    Rules #3, #4, and #6 especially – Thank you. I have a sometimes-friend who very often is like, “Well, maybe that stranger on the street screamed at you because you look like someone they know who traumatized them” (friend definitely has an agenda in getting people to excuse awful behavior) and it’s incredibly aggravating to deal with.

    1. Melissa*

      Amen. “Maybe your coworker stole your lunch because they can’t afford lunch” is on point for this website, 100%.

      “Your coworker who screams at you and calls you a b***h is probably neurodivergent and you should be more understanding.”

      1. I should really pick a name*

        To be fair, I believe it’s a small number of commenters who do this, but these threads can often start to dominate the conversation.

        1. Melissa*

          You’re right. It is a small number, but they’re vehement so it ends up feeling like more!

        2. H.Regalis*

          Agreed. It’s not the majority, but it doesn’t take more than a few, “Clearly the OP saw her coworker’s identical twin working for the pharmacy’s delivery service and not their coworker who was supposed to be quarantining. OP doesn’t know what they’re talking about” posts to derail the comment section.

      2. LawBee*

        Every time someone talks about coworkers stealing lunch because maybe they have food insecurity, I think of that letter where the dude was stealing all the bagels. IIRC, it was more than he could eat before going stale, and before everyone got to partake. The comment section had a couple of threads that had this guy living in a van down by the river and only subsisting on stale office bagels.

        1. LifeBeforeCorona*

          Was that the guy who was getting to the bagels before anyone else and was struggling to carry them all back to his office?

        2. marvin*

          I also feel like this kind of comment is pretty insulting to the groups of people that the commenter is being “charitable” towards. Like every food insecure person is going around blatantly swiping office bagels.

          I think it’s okay to extend kindness to people who are acting badly without inventing some kind of convoluted backstory to excuse their actions. It’s fair to assume that the guy who puts his hand in the potluck lasagna probably has some kind of struggle going on in his life that’s causing him to act out in this way. It’s a kind impulse to try to understand others but when you start making assumptions and crafting narratives you’re going to bring a whole lot of bias in.

          1. Lana Kane*

            I find that many times, those who do this have never experienced that particular hardship. So they believe they are expressing solidarity when really they just don’t understand what they’re talking about, and it often comes across as patronizing to the people who are actually experiencing the hardship.

            1. londonedit*

              Yep. It’s like when people do the whole ‘well maybe they grew up in a blue-collar home, they just can’t be expected to understand workplace norms’ thing. Incredibly patronising.

              1. Irish Teacher*

                I’m a little amused that we posted the same point and were probably posting at the same time.

          2. Irish Teacher*

            Yeah, I’ve seen this a few times with the white collar/blue collar divide. Don’t get me wrong, every role has its quirks and moving from one industry to another can cause difficulties but there are times when I’ve seen this suggested even for things that would be an even bigger issue in many blue collar environments, like “my entry level employee talks down to me and seems to think he’s my boss” or “my employee is always late and ignores safety rules,” when timekeeping and safety rules are generally a bigger deal in things like manufacturing, retail and food service than in the average office environment.

            I think this again highlights how personalising a thing makes it come across very differently. “Your employee could be me when I started my current role. In my case, it was because it was my first job/first office job/I’d previously worked as a freelancer/contractor and wasn’t used to having a boss as such and what helped was my boss sitting me down and explaining the rules of the office” or “I had an employee who behaved like that and I sat him down and asked what was going on and it turned out he wasn’t familiar with office norms, so might be worth having a similar conversation with your employee to see what is going on” feels a lot different and is more actionable than “well, maybe your employee is from a blue collar background/hasn’t had an office job before/grew up working class and just doesn’t know.”

      3. But what to call me?*

        And it’s like… okay, so if that happens to be the case then I feel sorry for them, but also I still need something to eat for lunch!

        *person who did bad thing to you might have an excuse for doing it* doesn’t invalidate the need to make the bad thing stop happening or obligate you to solve that person’s problems – or for that matter mean that doing a bad thing to you was the only possible thing they could have done in response to their problems.

        (I’m now reminded of that time my bike seat got stolen in undergrad. Maybe the person who stole it couldn’t afford a bike seat and really needed one for some reason. Maybe they needed to sell it for rent or food money or whatever – it was a nice bike seat. None of that changes the fact that it left a 19 year old girl stranded on campus with no idea how to get home other than a 45 minute walk pushing a bike, and had I left much later it would have been a 45 minute walk pushing a bike in the dark.)

      4. CommanderBanana*

        Oh god, I remember reading Danny Lavery’s reply to a Dear Prudence letter when he was writing that column for Slate that was the most egregious example of this I’ve ever seen in advice columns.

        A teacher at a low-income school with a lot of food-insecure children was using her own money to buy health snacks to keep on-hand for her children. A custodian on the night shift (who got a cafeteria meal as part of being on the overnight shift) began stealing them. She left notes, tried hiding them in her desk, and finally reported it and the custodian – who was literally TAKING FOOD OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF HUNGRY KIDS – was fired.

        Danny’s response was that of course the custodian must have also been food insecure, and the teacher was Wrong And Bad for being upset that the food she bought for her students was being stolen because “your former colleague was already struggling with hunger (or supporting a hungry relative)” and that she should have either bought more snacks, taken all the snacks to and from the school every day, or bought a locking container.

        I think this response was toward the end of Lavery’s tenure as Dear Prudence, but I gave up reading it after that because so many of his response smacked of this sort of snotty elitism.

        1. LawBee*

          Yeah, no one was ever just a crap person to him. Everything had a convoluted backstory supported by nothing.

        2. The Other Dawn*

          I remember that letter and thinking Danny was way off in left field. He’s the reason I stopped reading Dear Prudence. Most of his answers, from what I remember, were terrible.

      5. Blue*

        Yeah, I see those types of comments as being similar, too.

        And others have pointed out, these types of comments never seem to consider that the person NOT behaving badly may also have these issues. Like, maybe one of the people who’s food got stolen/couldn’t eat lunch due to office thieves swiping it before the work lunch are food insecure and are put in a really hard place because of the thieves. Maybe the person being sexually harassed/screamed at is neurodivergent. Nope, it’s only the shitty people who are struggling and deserve a pass for their behavior.

  7. It's Marie - Not Maria*

    Thank you for this Allison. Too many people are “keyboard commandos,” hiding behind online aliases to say mean and nasty things they would never say to someone’s face. Others are self appointed experts and guardians of the universe, without whom the world as we know it cannot exist – at least in their own opinions.

    If you can’t say something supportive or helpful, don’t say anything. If it doesn’t add value to the conversation, why are you posting it?

  8. frustrated trainee*

    My question about the armchair diagnosis: When I bring up that someone’s coworker might be Autistic, it’s because I am, and because the suggestions provided can be VERY punishing for Autistic people (who don’t need any more help being punished in the workplace just for existing there Autistically) and I *need* the letter writer to consider that. I’m not saying that the employee in question is Autistic, but that implementation of suggestion Y upon seeing pattern X means that you will absolutely be creating a living hell for Autistics if you implement it. I’ve been called out before for arm chair diagnosing when I do this so my question is, how can I ensure that people aren’t creating terrible situations for their Autistic employees without running afoul of this rule? Is it okay to merely say “if someone was Autistic, Y could be really bad for the following reasons?” I feel like I’ve gotten jumped on in the comments section before but I know from experience what it will mean for at least some Autistic people (not a monolith and we have very little representation, and companies “Autism hiring programs” are usually like if there was a “woman hiring program” that only accepted women who will make sandwiches for the men or watch their children, you know, because of how naturally gifted they are in the kitchen and their maternal instincts?”) It feels very very similar to having to tell workplaces failing women about why their ideas aren’t going to work for us, and I get the same pushback there too. Is there sa way to approach this discourse that still leaves space to get into details?

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “I am autistic and this would be very challenging for me because____. That might be something to consider in case you have ND employees.”

      1. frustrated trainee*

        Things as neutral as that have definitely caused exactly what I’m hoping to avoid, unfortunately!

    2. Observer*

      I think that there are some pieces that you need to have in order to be within the rules.

      Why is this relevant? And the answer cannot be “Well people with autism can’t help doing ~~problematic thing~~”.

      What is your alternative? Do you have an actionable suggestion? Say someone stims loudly in meetings, being disruptive you might say “forbidding Person from stimming is likely to be a problem because x, y, and z” So what’s your solution? Much better would be “Forbidding stimming would be a problem, please allow the option of stiming in ways that are quiet and non-disruptive.” I doubt that this particular example is likely to be relevant in most reasonable workplaces, although it sure is an issue in some classrooms. But it gives you an idea of what really needs to be in the comment.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        I think this falls under the Rule 3 subset If you’re speculating on facts not in the letter, explain how it’s actionable for the letter-writer.

        Sounds like frustrated trainee is following that with “Coworker may be X, and if that’s the case, consider not following advice Y because [reasons].” I agree that adding in an alternative is more helpful for the letter writers, along the lines of “Coworker may be X, and if that’s the case, consider advice Z instead of advice Y because [reasons].”

      2. frustrated trainee*

        Hmm….this is part of what I’m talking about.

        Is ~~Problematic thing~~ actually problematic or is it just something that nonAutistic people don’t like/understand, because it is very often that. And asking us to provide the solution when we can only enter a workplace by appearing as nonAutistic as possible at ALL TIMES means that we basically have no representation and are not considered in anything, like what defines “professional” (because right now, that’s just how nonAutistic people, and generally nonAutistic white men, act at work), what defines “people” as in “people should know not to do X” or “anyone” as in “ANYONE would have figured out that X means, Y, something’s wrong with this person who didn’t” are all using neurotypical norms.

        And it’s very hard to fight against when everyone thinks that we’re fighting to be allowed to be a problem, when what’s happening is the problem is a direct result of centuries of ongoing genocide, discrimination, and being disbelieved. A question like “someone’s stimming loudly in a meeting” shouldn’t be put to Autistics to simply decide how to handle within the framework of keeping everything as nonAutistic as possible, when it’s probably because that framework exists that the loud stimming is happening. We are trying to compensate for being so failed by society that doctors are allowed to refuse to save our lives, without our consenting to not being revived, in the country I live in This is simply because being Autistic I’m assumed to have lower quality of life/be a bigger drain on society whether that’s true or not. To ask us to tell you what fixes this is like asking the women at your company what would make them stop getting sexually harassed, turned into admin versions of their role, or stop being asked to make cupcakes when the men aren’t, if those are problems that exist at said company: HR is supposed to know how to handle this by themselves, not force women to come up with solutions for it. But no one thinks that way about Autistics yet, because we have no representation and are usually just shut up when we try and share our experiences. We’re usually talked over by nonAutistic parents of Autistic children who don’t know anything about what happens to an Autistic person’s day to day lives in middle age because their children aren’t that old yet. We’re talked over by people who got degrees in us, given to them by other people who have degrees in us, who also talked over us. Yet it is assumed that they know more about us than we do and should be making rules that impact our lives.

        So what’s the way to proceed here? Just let policies that make our lives even harder go unchecked unless I can personally propose a blanket solution that will work for Autistics and workplaces?

        My honest advice to someone who goes “their stimming is loud, how can we get this handled” is “hire a panel of Autistics who have managed to get into the workplace for a few years, have them review how you do meetings. Review how you write PIPS. Look through your PIPs/firings and see who you might have punished simply for being Autistic but wouldn’t have recognized it as such at the time…is the same person who fired them still at the company, still thinking that traits X, Y, and Z mean ‘poor communication’ ‘poor employee’ when they might just mean ‘unsupported Autistic person’?

        Keep in mind that people are still looking for our DNA to stop us from being born. We’re under a very interlocked system of oppression and are told that we’re not smart enough to speak for ourselves even though some of us write the computer programs like the ones being used to send these messages back and forth. There are plenty of Autistics who can’t do anything like that but have massive useful intelligence in other areas but aren’t welcome to get started on a career because Autism hiring programs are only looking for Sheldon Cooper or RainMan and we’re deemed poor fits for sales, HR, etc, places I’ve seen loads of Autistic coworkers who have to spend some of their brain power at *all times* faking like they’re not Autistic so they can get hired and have food, shelter, and water.

        1. Willow Pillow*

          This is too many words/too-long paragraphs for my autistic brain to fully read, but I did want to respond to this one:

          “My honest advice to someone who goes “their stimming is loud, how can we get this handled” is “hire a panel of Autistics who have managed to get into the workplace for a few years, have them review how you do meetings. Review how you write PIPS. Look through your PIPs/firings and see who you might have punished simply for being Autistic but wouldn’t have recognized it as such at the time…is the same person who fired them still at the company, still thinking that traits X, Y, and Z mean ‘poor communication’ ‘poor employee’ when they might just mean ‘unsupported Autistic person’?”

          To me, this is not actionable advice. I agree 100% that we need real and diverse autistic representation – I have had those workplace experiences and the ensuing burnouts. That’s say, step 20, however, and we need to do step 1 (and 2 and 3) first.

        2. Observer*

          In all of this, you haven’t really provided anything *actionable*. And that’s really the key. All the rest of it is an important discussion, but none of that helps the person who has a problem going on in their workplace.

          The closest you come is:

          My honest advice to someone who goes “their stimming is loud, how can we get this handled” is “hire a panel of Autistics who have managed to get into the workplace for a few years, have them review how you do meetings. Review how you write PIPS. Look through your PIPs/firings and see who you might have punished simply for being Autistic but wouldn’t have recognized it as such at the time…is the same person who fired them still at the company, still thinking that traits X, Y, and Z mean ‘poor communication’ ‘poor employee’ when they might just mean ‘unsupported Autistic person’?

          And it’s just not reasonable, realistic nor really responsive. The noise is a genuine problem to pretty much everyone else in the room who is trying to hear what’s going one – including potentially other autistic people or people with other divergences. It’s wildly afield to suggest that this means that the company needs a full employment audit because they must have been harshly discriminating against autistic people. Nor is it at all reasonable to expect to go to such lengths so someone should be able to continue to make noise during a meeting.

          1. frustrated trainee*

            it is not realistic or reasonable to expect Autistic people to be charged with HR work (making a workplace safe/inclusive for Autistics) before they’re allowed to say that something is wrong. I understand where you’re coming from and I do provide actionable advice when I’m able but
            1) Autistic people are NOT a monolith. Something that works for one of us won’t necessarily work for all of us, but we can still tell when something is going to be a problem, or when someone is getting punished for what essentially breaks down to “they are Autistic and we’ve been demonizing their natural traits for centuries to such an extent we are trying to wipe them from the gene pool”. Are we just not supposed to say anything in those cases? and
            2) it is excessively difficult to try and find an actionable solution within a framework that CAUSED the problem we’re currently trying to fix. I deal with this exact response as a woman, as a queer person, and as a disabled person, when companies try to get me on their DEI panel to solve “women problems” “queer problems” and “disabled problems” within their company – they want to keep the problematic framework completely in place, and have me offer something nice and free and easy that means they don’t actually have to do anything AND that will shut us up. It puts us in an impossible situation.

          2. GythaOgden*

            Also, as autistic myself, I really need someone to provide me structure and guidance on working with other people. I don’t want to be babied and for other people to end up the victims of workplace leniency if I’m not able to do my job properly. I’ve been there, and work is not just autistic daycare; it’s a place for me to show what I can do for others, and to gain some independence and confidence at what I’m good at, and to work with everyone involved to get things done — from answering phones to delivering good healthcare.

            It’s actually pretty infantilising if you make excuses for us, it just cements us as ‘magical minorities’ (and we’re as human and fallible as everyone else is) and it doesn’t help us actually attain equality and dignity in the workplace.

            I already have a few issues with our workplace neurodivergence campaigns being plastered with cutesy drawings straight out of a picture book. Please don’t further make us out to be special snowflakes; that helps precisely no-one.

          3. Bibli*

            If someone’s stimming is loud during a meeting, allow that person to attend with their mic mostly muted. (via Teams or similar tech) from a separate room. In my industry, a team is often not all in the same location anymore, due to COVID work-from-home.

        3. hbc*

          I get your position, especially when many workplace rules seem to be based on style versus substance. And it’s worth asking if the stimmer is being asked to stop while someone with Tourette’s would be tolerated or if there’s that guy who’s constantly hacking his post-nasal drip who’s at least as loud.

          It can’t just be “X is strongly linked with autism, therefore you must allow X.” Explain how you’ve seen X allowed without problems in a similar situation, or how Y can decrease the frequency of X, or that the road to eliminating X is usually very long so they might need to be patient. Heck, you can even point out that objections to X are often excuses to discriminate and that courts have found against employers when they fire over it. But unfortunately, it doesn’t really matter how much brain power anyone is taking to hit the reasonable requirements of their job.

    3. EMP*

      I think Allison’s request to provide something actionable is the key here. “If Glinda is autistic, managing the situation with XYZ could make things worse. I’d suggest doing 123 instead”

    4. Peanut Hamper*

      I think you are running into this for a few reasons.

      1) Not every workplace problem is related to/stems from autism, so it gets repetitive if regular workaday suggestions get met with “but that won’t work for someone who is NA!” (You could substitute anything else for “NA” here.)

      2) Autism is a spectrum, and while it may be an issue for you, it may not be an issue for someone else on the spectrum.

      3) We are expected to trust LWs with regard to the information they provide us and not extrapolate beyond those facts. So we can’t assume that the people they write about are autistic unless they specifically say that they are autistic.

      So yes, I get that you are concerned about and trying to protect other people on the spectrum, but that is not why people write in. They are trying to get advice on their particular situation, to which autism is only relevant if they mention it. If it’s not relevant, then it’s derailing.

      1. frustrated trainee*

        Well the issue is that we’ve been so ignored, talked over, not hired in the first place, and being fired for Autism when people assumed it must be poor behavior or something, that many, many, MANY, essentially all, workplace problems have the tendency to hit Autistics pretty hard. NonAutistics as a group get to weigh on on what’s professional, too much to do to someone, things liek that, so regarding #1, you actually SHOULD have to hear that something can harm Autistic employees every time it comes up, because we have to get harmed every time it does.

        Regarding number 2, that’s exactly why I’m commenting in the first place…there are differences, and different Autistics need to be able to weigh in on what hurts them professionally that isn’t being addressed. Of course that’s not going to be uniform…would you expect every woman to need exactly the same changes in her workplace for the workplace to not discriminate against women? Should they just shut up until all of us get together and only have one thing to say, regardless of what the needs across the board are?

        And 3, I’m not writing in because I’m going “oh, that person is AUTISTIC!” I’m going “ah, you are seeing something that Autistics regularly do and are forcibly stopped from doing because the nonAutistics don’t like it, and I have firsthand experience in the severe consequences that this suggested solution can cause for Autistic people. Why don’t I say something so that they don’t just implement more punishment for Autistic people without realizing that it’s happening?” and then I get talked over and told that said person can’t be Autistic. Okay, I guess? I’m not saying that, but the suggested solution/perceived problem CAN destroy an Autistic person’s chance at success at that company.

        Truly, I deal with these exact reasons when people stop me from trying to make a workplace better for myself as a woman, better as a queer person, and better as a disabled person. It’s just brick wall after brick wall after brick wall and eventually everyone comes around and feels sheepish for not listening or whatever but it’s exhausting and miserable and we’re losing quality of life until people start listening.

    5. Boolie*

      I agree with this comment. Arguably rule #5 can be contradicted by #3. For example “your coworker might have [neurodivergent diagnosis], so it might help if you [make this accommodation]” would be bannable per #5 but not #3.

      1. Llama Identity Thief*

        You can provide information on how a specific neurodivergence can mean an accommodation is a problem, and suggest alternate ones, without directly stating/assuming/suggesting the individual in question has the same neurodivergence.

        “If your coworker is struggling with [behavior], they may have [diagnosis]. That would make [original accommodation] a problem, and it would be so it might help if you [my suggested accommodation.]” -Not great

        “I’ve lived with [diagnosis], and one of the quirks that’s come up in my life is [behavior]. I’ve been able to work through this with [my suggested accommodation], while [original accommodation] led to severe struggles. I’d recommend trying [my suggested accommodation].” -A ton better

      2. ecnaseener*

        I’m pretty sure a comment that breaks one of the rules but not the other is still breaking the one rule and can be removed. Armchair-diagnosing breaks the rules whether or not it’s actionable. As opposed to just acknowledging that some people in your workplace are bound to have [diagnosis], which can be helpful if it’s actionable.

    6. Willow Pillow*

      I am also Autistic, late diagnosed, and I try to limit comments to my experience. This has been said elsewhere as well. An example off the top of my head (based on my circumstances, not based on any specific letter):

      I am Autistic and I have trouble with vague ad hoc requests too. I excel when I understand the context behind a task, and I either have detail about how it should be done or I can sort that out myself. I find that providing a bit of context myself makes those requests for clarification easier, such as “I want to make sure we’re thinking the same way”.

      If someone else is Autistic (or some other ND neurotype), subtlety really is key in my experience. It tends to be a lot to comprehend and it’s easy to internalize the stigma attached to associated traits.

      (PSA – please consider using “autistic” over “with autism” or other terms [Aspergers, “on the spectrum, etc.], as this is strongly preferred by the community you’re referencing)

      1. Generic Name*

        Oooh, thanks for the tip on the term “on the spectrum”. My son is autistic, and I admit to saying “on the spectrum” sometimes. In fact, I think the last time I said that, my mom goes, “Well, everybody is ‘on the spectrum’.” :/

        1. GythaOgden*

          I’d agree, with one caveat that it will be different for everyone. The only thing I strongly prefer not to be is Asperger’s because of the reputation of Asperger being somewhat tarnished in recent years, and I think there’s a place to recognise that autism can be quite disabling and people may not want to acknowledge it as an identity because it has stopped them being who they want to be.

          In all cases, I think you need to defer to the person involved and their experiences. I’m definitely not ‘neuroqueer’ or ‘neurospicy’, and feel closer to ‘neurodisabled’, because for me autism has been a barrier to what I could have expected from my educational background. But others will have other opinions and that’s totally reasonable.

      2. But what to call me?*

        Caveat to that: if someone refers to themselves a certain way, respect however they choose to refer to themselves.

        Personally, I tend to say I’m autistic, sometimes that I’m on the autism spectrum, and occasionally an ‘I have autism’ slips in based on who I’ve been talking to/what I’ve been reading. That main one that bothers me is ‘person with autism’ because it’s so carefully constructed to make sure the concept of autism doesn’t get in the way of the concept of personhood, although even that one will slip into my speech sometimes because it’s sometimes the path of least resistance in the context of my work and research.

        Among the autistic people I know, autistic and on the spectrum tend to be fine, while ‘person with autism’ feels rather faux-respectful at best, maybe because of the history of neurotypicals trying to tell us what it means to be autistic. However, if someone does feel more comfortable identifying that way then that’s their right.

        1. Willow Pillow*

          Thanks, I was trying to refer to generic allistic labeling but I see how that wasn’t quite clear!

    7. Aut Anon for this*

      Because we autists are not monolithic (nor are people in any other diagnosis or identity group), our diagnosis or group membership does not determine or describe what is useful or problematic for us. So it’s not necessary or illuminating to represent diagnosis or group membership as the essential factor in any interaction. And doing so often promotes stereotyping.

      To approach this discourse without a reductive focus on diagnosis — not even one’s own, let alone strangers on the internet– actually facilitates *more* getting into details.
      Instead of diagnosis, focus on the actual expressed behavior, feelings, and wants/needs of a specific individual, rather than an imagined Generic Autistic (or whatever dx/ group identity Person. And then give actionable suggestions on the basis of that detailed not generalized, real not imagined, information.

      The specific person could be the internet stranger under discussion, like “It sounds like your coworker avoids eye contact, group/public speaking and social interactions, but is very technically knowledgeable and productive on solo projects or ones where team interaction is clearly structured. So asking them to chair a bunch of important meetins would probably be a bad professional advancement opportunity they might hate and do poorly on. But giving them sole responsibility for a high profile, difficult project might be a good opportunity they would enjoy and succeed with. Maybe consider offering them a choice?”
      Or the specific person could be oneself, the commenter: “Like your coworker, group and public social interactions are awful for me (in my case it’s because I’m autistic). If my job nominated me to chair a meeting and called it a professional development opportunity, it wouldn’t help me develop, I’d hate it and probably fail and be worse off than before. What would work better for me would be something like being given responsibility for an important project in my area of expertise. That might be something to consider offering your coworker too, as another option for professional advancement besides chairing meetings.”

      But not: “Your coworker sounds autistic, so couldn’t possibly enjoy or be good at chairing meetings because social interaction and public speaking is hard for people with autism. I know because I’m autistic and my difficulty and discomfort with social interactions was what led to my diagnosis.”

      1. ecnaseener*

        Yes. I’ve noticed this a lot with ADHD as well – we are all very different. For every reasonable value of X, you can find one ADHDer who needs X in a work environment and another one who needs Not X!

    8. Rocky*

      Frustrated trainee, I wonder if you have thought through what a realistic accommodation would look like?. For example you say people offering suggestion X “are creating a living hell for autistic people” and “punishing Autistic people for being in the workplace”. Isn’t this exactly the sort of “All autistic people experience this!” statement that you’re railing against when you say “Autistic people aren’t a monolith”?
      Similarly I have an autistic friend who says that asking her to modify her stimming so it’s less disruptive is “Literal torture”. There’s a really big difference between saying “A better solution for me might be Y” and “You literally want to punish me for existing so no suggestion you make can possibly work”. It just sounds like your passion is a bit misdirected.

    9. Starbuck*

      “that implementation of suggestion Y upon seeing pattern X means that you will absolutely be creating a living hell for Autistics if you implement it. I’ve been called out before for arm chair diagnosing ”

      I think the issue is that you really can’t universalize it like this – if you make it sound like you’re speaking on behalf of autistic people as a monolith, as you said, there are always going to be others who differ! “Creating a living hell” is really intense phrasing for something that might not even be true for the scenario you’re talking about, that’s definitely going to rub people the wrong way.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      It’s like yesterday’s OP who diverted the religious interrogation with her new puppy.

  9. Lynn*

    This is not directed to Ask a Manager or to any of the commenters

    I wish the customers and a certain manager where I work at would follow rule 1

    That rule is what I was trying to articulate to a co-worker of mine yesterday regarding how our customers act as well as that certain manager acts when he told that I need to adapt when that happens

  10. Ace Of Dragons*

    I know it’s a little off topic, but I just had to add: Squeee, another TinyKittens follower!! A little bittersweet, but I’m loving these two and their babies!

  11. foolish hobgoblin*

    I’m a relatively new reader and have already found it an invaluable resource. Thanks for everything you do!

    1. knitcrazybooknut*

      I mistakenly read your comment as a reply to Ace of Dragons right above you and agree! also agree with your actual comment.

  12. Peanut Hamper*

    This post should probably be pinned to the top for a few weeks or months or forevers.

  13. Per Diem Question*

    I am surprised how personally I take a comment.
    My question was if I am not working on the weekend of a 3 week business trip, do I still put in for a per diem?
    My question was answered yesterday and I was truly grateful for Alison’s response and the commentators who were kind and explained how per diem was applied to their different circumstances.
    I now will request the per diem and keep track of personal expenses like museum admission and travel for my own entertainment.
    My surprise was that one commenter who wrote “I’m confused by the question. Why would you NOT put in for lodging / per diem? What would be a reasonable alternative? That you fly home every week? That you check out of the hotel and stay on the street (with all of your work equipment and materials) for the weekend? Not eat over the weekend?”

    This response made me feel foolish and stupid for even asking the question. Someone responded to that kindly and noted it was a reasonable question.

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      I feel you—I posted twice on the Friday open threads and Never Again because some of the replies were so hostile. It’s like people forget there’s a human being writing in and/or that tone really doesn’t translate well. I hope these changes to the commenting rules help!

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I also rarely post on open threads, and spend a lot of time crafting my question if I do. And those are a lot to ask Alison to moderate with the scrutiny she gives a scheduled post she expects to blow up. Such is the drawback of the internet, I think.

        1. English Rose*

          I’ve never posted on the Friday thread but I have a few times on the Saturday non-work open thread and found folks on there to be great. Maybe just been lucky.

          1. anna*

            Most people are great. A small minority aren’t. That’s pretty good for the internet on the whole.

          2. FashionablyEvil*

            It’s the Friday work-related open threads that I find problematic—same sort of issues as with regular posts (making wild assumptions, criticizing the poster, the “but are you SURE??”). Weekend ones are fine.

    2. Lana Kane*

      I agree that was a crappy response. For what it’s worth, I think it’s a good question! (And if Alison printed it, it’s for a reason.)

    3. Emily*

      I’m sorry that someone replied to you in that way. I think the issue that we run into people assuming that the way things are done in their office/workplace is the norm everywhere, which is often not true, but leads people to think the answer to something should be obvious, but it is often not, and rather is based on cultural/workplace norms for that particular place (the best example I can think of is closed doors in the work place and whether it is ok to knock or not, go in or not, etc.).

      1. It's Marie - Not Maria*

        You are right on target Emily. I am an Admin on an international HR Group, and you would think a bunch of HR Professionals would be kind and realize not every work environment is the same. We are constantly having to moderate comments because people are so judgy of other people’s workplaces. Some of the commentors, like some of the people here, appear to work at places which are all rainbows and lollipops, and have never dealt with a workplace that doesn’t have a perfect workplace culture.

    4. anywhere but here*

      I think that commenter had just meant to point out how absurd and evil it would be for your org not to cover reasonable expenses you are incurring over the course of your work for them, rather than make you feel dumb. I definitely understand how it came across though :/ if you’re new to the business world and expensing things it is NOT obvious what all would be covered

      1. Observer*

        I think that commenter had just meant to point out how absurd and evil it would be for your org not to cover reasonable expenses you are incurring over the course of your work for them, rather than make you feel dumb.


    5. Observer*

      I wasn’t trying to make you feel stupid, so sorry about that!

      I was trying to make the point that it would be an absurd expectation for an employer. And yes, there are a LOT of absurd employers out there, but it’s good to be REALLY clear in your own head that it’s the EMPLOYER who is off base, not you.

      TBH, I also had flashbacks to another letter from someone who was dealing with a coworker who was trying to pressure them to not expense things like a cab from the airport to the hotel, meals (the CW suggested that they bring crackers and canned food on the trip!) and I think it kind of affected the way I responded.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        That was really nice of you to explain your thinking to the poster! I hope they see it and it makes them feel better about your response.
        THIS is why I love this blog and the commenters as well

      2. Lucky Meas*

        Kindly, the way you word your comments often comes across as strong and argumentative, especially with your frequent use of capitals.

      3. Per Diem Question*

        Thank you for saying so. I am not new to the work force but have oddly never had to deal with this exact situation.
        I have never travelled for work and not worked every one of the days.
        The written policy only addresses tacking on personal/vacation days on the ends of travel.
        This time I will have a company credit card and a daily per diem.
        I did want the answer to be don’t worry about it.
        I work for a state agency and what I used to do was collect receipts and get reimbursement.
        This is the first time that I will just be requesting the per diem so I won’t have to keep track of receipts with the exception of lodgings.

    6. Sheraton St Louis*

      I’ve gotten some really hostile replies on here, which is more disappointing than other sites because this is usually such a mature and thoughtful site. I change my name a lot partly because of this. I once recommend a service and was scolded because it’s not available on 100% of the habitable Earth. Recommended a different thing and was scolded because some people can’t do that thing even though the LW said she had already done something similar. It’s ridiculous.

      1. Anon poster*

        Yes, I replied to an ask the readers post about advice for a workplace that was unionizing with some things that had led to colleagues and I being very frustrated with a union (with the intention of letting the LW be able to anticipate any similar issues and address them more effectively than our union did), and got immediate “your feelings were WRONG and BAD”. Definitely turned me off commenting.

      2. Emily*

        I think it’s a small amount of commentators who do that, but unfortunately they tend to be very vocal. I’m sorry that happened to you. There are a couple of usernames whose comments I automatically skip over because I know they aren’t trying to help as much as try to make themselves look better than everyone else/just be argumentative.

      3. Piscera*

        Yes. Someone concluded from a post which I purposely made very generic, that I’m totally anti-100% remote work.

        I’m not. In fact, I work with colleagues who are 100% remote from other states.

  14. Kathenus*

    Hi Alison – one suggested addition for number 5 – something along the lines of “If your comment says ‘I know we’re not supposed to armchair diagnose, but…’ – please don’t say it. There are relatively common occurrences where someone acknowledges that they’re not supposed to do this, states something like the above, but goes ahead and does it anyway.

    Just a thought, and thanks for having created one of the most positive and productive commenting sections on any blog I know.

    1. Emily*

      I feel like this is already covered though because one of the rules specifically tells people not to armchair diagnose. If you see a comment saying something like that I think the best thing to do would be to report it so Alison could decide how to handle it.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Agreed, “if you need to acknowledge in the comment that you’re breaking a rule don’t break the rule” is a logic spiral that could go on forever. Just kick it to moderation.

    2. MassMatt*

      I was going to say this. I love the updates, but specifically for #5 many people seem to think the “I know we’re not supposed to armchair diagnose, but…” formula somehow exempts their comment from the rule, which doesn’t seem to happen with other kinds of rule violations. I mean, yes people can make a nasty comment, but they don’t usually preface it with “I know we’re supposed to be kind, but the LW is a huge jerk, how dare they be allowed to live!”.

  15. DisneyChannelThis*

    Is there a preferred way to report bad comments? Or do you prefer we just ignore?

    1. Emily*

      Upthread, Alison said to respond to the comment with a link with a note that you are flagging it because all comments with links go through moderation and Alison will see it.

    2. Lance*

      As mentioned above, reply with a link and a note that you’re flagging the comment (likely also the reason why), and Alison will see it, since all links automatically go to moderation.

    3. Somebody Call a Lawyer*

      And for anyone who doesn’t know, you can find the link for the comment you want to flag by clicking its timestamp.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        It doesn’t have to be a link to the comment.
        Just reply to the comment with any link, and your reply will go into moderation which is how the comment is flagged.

        1. Somebody Call a Lawyer*

          Sure — I just do this so it’s clear what comment I’m trying to flag.

  16. Madame X*

    Thank you for all you do Alison. I have noticed that some letters inexplicably get very hostile comments or have people making the most negative assumption about the letter writer. I really wish that we could apply some of these rules across all Internet comment sections, especially # 1 and # 7. If anything, I think # 1 is the top rule that all the other rules flow from.

  17. anywhere but here*

    Best post on this site – especially with the link to live feed kittens :)

    I appreciate Alison pointing out the changes in the comments – I for one wasn’t really sure jf anything was different! I like the additional clarity regarding standards for courtesy

  18. Nomic*

    I would say, “why do we need comment rules”, but I was just on the bird-site and people are so cruel.

    1. L. Bennett*

      On a bird site?? Does that mean people were being mean on a site dedicated to just watching cute little birdies? Wow. The internet is weird.

      I sometimes venture onto an apartment decor/lifestyle site and the comments there are some of the meanest on the internet, I swear.

      1. beware the shoebill*

        I thought the same thing at first too lol, “what bird site is this and why am I not on it?”

      2. Dinwar*

        “Does that mean people were being mean on a site dedicated to just watching cute little birdies? Wow. The internet is weird.”

        Birdwatchers are a unique breed. They do a lot of good scientific research–their lists and observations are critical to gathering information on various species, and are vital in conservation of birds and maintaining compliance with the Migratory Bird Act.

        That said, you can assume rather safely that any group that routinely gets up at unreasonable hours, slogs through horrible weather, and spends hours hunting for the sparrow with the SPECIAL color of wing, is going to include some fairly hot-tempered people. I’ve found that groups of extremely passionate people tend to accept more…rough-and-tumble styles of discussion than people outside such groups ever expect.

        Having known some birders, it would not surprise me AT ALL if this was about bird watching groups. I’ve seen this sort of thing in storm trackers, in rock hounds, in the maille community….Tell the wrong knitters you crochet (or vice versa) and watch the sparks fly! Then there’s the Bone Wars, along with a thousand smaller-scale arguments among researchers in every field….I can absolutely see this happening.

  19. Phony Genius*

    I was hoping one more rule could be added regarding people from outside the U.S. who comment about the U.S. system for (something) is awful and their country’s is so much better. That’s not actionable advice most of the time (and not always true). It seems to happen a lot here.

    1. LawBee*

      I would also like that. We each live where we live, and no one on this site has direct control over their respective country’s policies. (I’d say it goes both ways, and I’m sure it does. But when it comes to things like vacation, healthcare, etc., the pity stream seems to flow to the US more.)

      It’s nice to see how things work elsewhere, but I could do without the “oh you poor dears” vibe. Or worse, the “I cannot IMAGINE living there omg” with nothing after it. Tbh, it makes me want to dive into their country’s policies and point out all the ways they don’t live in a Utopian paradise. I don’t, because I’m not generally a jerk, but I want to.

      1. TheMonkey*

        Same, same–and not just at the country level.

        I live in a state that is frequently in the news for divisive reasons. I get a lot of “I cannot IMAGINE living there omg” and “I would never go there, even though [popular vacation thing] because they don’t deserve my tourist dollars.”

        I get it, people feel strongly about stuff, but this IS my home after all. A constant stream of pity and/or negative comments about it is exhausting.

    2. Emily*

      I agree (I think the rule could also apply to people in the US commenting about how another country does something). It seems like anytime the issue of healthcare, parental leave, etc. comes up the comments devolve into lambasting the US system, which while true, is not helpful to the LW. Though perhaps this is already encompassed by the rules about only giving actionable advice and staying on topic.

    3. Sleepy Snoopy*

      Tbh, I feel like this falls under rule #1 though, specifically “Be constructive if you’re criticizing.” Also could fall under the “offer actionable advice” rule too.

      But, I do agree… this is something that has been bothering me as well. We all know the state of the US, but things don’t change overnight and we can’t ALL move to more progressive countries (which still do have problems lol)

      1. English Rose*

        Related note – sometimes it would be helpful for LWs to be specific about which country they are living in. Most do appear to be the US but that’s only an assumption.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          And their state within the US. Rights and remedies vary wildly, so while Alison can often say “federal says abc, your state may additionally say xyz” sometimes it can be useful to have the specifics laid out.

          Not at the expense of anonymity, though, obviously. Then “red state” / “HCOL area” / “not US or Europe” etc will often do the trick.

    4. Prospect Gone Bad*

      This is a good one, I don’t know if “we” need a rule on it but sometimes those commenters beclown themselves because they don’t fully understand the American system they’re criticizing or the European system they’re lauding.

      Personally I find it humorous because I’ve lived a few places abroad and then see comments online about how they are these utopias and completely brush over all of the problems there, and end up sounding like people who say America is the best country ever, just in the opposite direction. There is also the complete lack of acknowledgement that you pay for it via taxes and VAT

      Then there is a lack of acknowledgement that there is a quiet majority not posting online that is fine with their situation. I work at a completely normal corporation, and most people have accrued 4 weeks vacation by their mid-30s unless they job hopped to get here, you’re not going to come here and constantly complain about how jobs lack vacation when you are in this boat.

    5. Courageous cat*

      Oh god yeah, this one is horrible. We really don’t need comparisons to Europe work culture all the time, there’s nothing we can do about it and it’s honestly painful to read for the half of Americans that *do* want that sort of thing.

    6. Sheraton St Louis*

      That is SO annoying. Yes, we get it, we don’t have nearly enough vacation time or maternity leave, and our insurance system is terrible. WE KNOW. I promise, we all know.

    7. The Prettiest Curse*

      I do think those discussions tend to get very repetitive and I try to avoid them, and I also agree that telling Americans stuff they already know is pointless. But as one of those evil Europeans (married to an American, lived in the US for a long time), the only thing that really gets my goat is when someone suggests banning all non-Americans from commenting here. The same people who have suggested this in the past never seem to suggest also banning all letters from non-Americans, because that would mean waving goodbye to at least (I think) 25% of the new content on this site. So I think that if you get to comment on us, we should also be allowed to comment on you – and the inevitable outcome of that is that people on both sides are sometimes going to be deeply offended and retreat to their (metaphorical) fainting couch while clutching their (metaphorical) pearls.

      I probably won’t ever comment on this particular topic again, as frankly it annoys me too much. And if you ever do decide to kick out all the non-Americans (which remember is ultimately Alison’s decision) I completely understand. If that day ever comes, I will be sad, I’ll miss many of you lovely people and I promise that I’ll go quietly.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I have never seen anyone suggest that non-Americans be banned from commenting here (doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened; I don’t see everything), but that would be a truly ridiculous suggestion and not one anyone needs to take seriously.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          Thank you for saying that! I have seen it suggested a few times, though not recently and usually in comment threads that devolved into something bad and got deleted. I suspect that actually trying to enforce a ban if you ever tried it would be pretty difficult, anyway.

      2. ADidgeridooForYou*

        Hmm, I’ve never seen anyone suggest anything to that effect. I’ve seen some commenters ask that people in Western European countries refrain from commenting non-constructive things on very US-specific problems, but never that non-US commenters should be banned. I don’t think anyone here is saying that Europeans are evil (far from it, in fact) – it’s just that it can get rather grating and feel condescending when someone from a more progressive system tell us how much better they have it across the pond and that they can’t believe the working conditions we’re subjected to here. It’s not offensive, so much as irksome and upsetting.

        1. Lucky Meas*

          I have seen what The Prettiest Curse was talking about. It’s not a majority, but some people have suggested that, and it’s pretty hurtful.

          As someone not in the US or Europe, in some respects better than both and in some respects terribly worse, I think we should all take this as an opportunity to learn about other parts of the world, and not blame people for the systems they must live under.

      3. ADidgeridooForYou*

        I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anyone say anything to that effect. If anything, people may ask that those from Western European countries not comment non-constructive things on very US-specific problems, just since it can get a bit grating to be told how badly we have it. The difference also seems to be that comments on European working culture are more positive, whereas comments on US culture trend towards negative or even condescending (not saying whether or not those comments are accurate – just pointing out my observations). Someone said it above, but I believe it’s summarized well by Alison’s rule to be constructive. It’s perfectly welcome for a non-US commenter to give helpful advice, but the problem is not really addressed by talking about how much it must suck to be an American.

    8. WellRed*

      I guess I feel like this would fall under the constructive comments rule. Fortunately, Alison tends to shut these threads down pretty regularly. As to the person here swing there have been calls to ban nonAmericans, I’ve never seen that.

    9. Educator*

      Oh, I politely disagree on this. Obviously, any kind of pile-on or repetitive comment is unhelpful. But it better positions us to question and improve our policies and practices if we know more about other possibilities. Different countries and cultures have solutions that might significantly improve our lives, and vice versa. For example, when I worked in the U.S. for an organization that had employees in other countries, the U.S.-based employees argued that their parental leave should be extended because we had shown that we could successfully manage coverage other places. A group in another country pushed to make their in-office interactions more direct because they saw how it helped the U.S. team resolve conflicts. We all have a lot to learn if we see each other as potential models for the things we want to change.

        1. Rocky*

          I think Educator is exactly right. It is what we’re talking about. I value Allison’s firm clear way of expressing things – which is different to the typical New Zealand softly-softly style (especially for ‘hard’ conversations). I’m grateful to see how other countries/cultures manage things.

    10. CommanderBanana*

      Agree. We know, it sucks, and there’s very little we can do in the short term, unless one of those commenters would like to marry me and get me a visa to get out of here.

    11. Violet Fox*

      Some of the reason why those of us outside of the US get a little, sigh, with things is because of USdefaultism online, as in the assumption that everyone is from the US and how the US works is the default way of doing things when in the grand scheme of the world, it’s actually quite unusual.

      There was a letter a while ago, where I asked if the letterwriter was in the US or not simple because my answer would be different since the US has vastly different legal frameworks around digital privacy then EU/EEA countries. The point was to give targeted, useful advice, because this is something that is so different. A lot of people genuinely don’t seem to know that the complete lack of privacy that people in the US tend to have on work devices is very much a US thing.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this. I’m in the EU, and my employer would need to get the equivalent of a subpoena or court order to read my firstname.lastname(at)company.com email, say if I ended up incapacitated in hospital. If I died they could access it because dead people don’t have any rights to privacy. That’s why role-based emails and/or ticketing systems are essential to get any work done.

        I’ve fallen afoul of the “OMG, you poor Americans, how horrible your lives must be” mindset in the past, and I truly regret that. More recently, I’ve definitely refrained from commenting when I didn’t have anything constructive or actionable to add.

        That said, it would make me very sad if we couldn’t discuss the differences between countries/regions without interpreting someone stating a fact like “I get 30 days PTO + 10 holidays and unlimited sick time” as gloating or whatever. This in the context of an open thread where the OP asked something where that response would be relevant, if not directly actionable for the OP. It’s simply stating that things can be different elsewhere. Similarly, I earn about 45k a year and happily pay about 40% tax on it because I think that we get value for our tax euros, like tuition-free education up to a Master’s.

        I hope that AAM continues to be a place where we can learn from each other.

  20. Some guy*

    In regards to rule 6: what if letters are sent in by both parties in a workplace conflict and they have differing understandings of the facts of the conflict? How could we have a productive conversation about that without doubting the facts that at least one of the parties brings forwards?

      1. LawBee*

        If it did, which would be wild, the idea is to remember that everyone is biased in their own favor. Facts are facts – the dog has four legs, this shirt has a ripped sleeve. The respective parties would have their own interpretations of those facts.

        Basically, jury trials.

  21. onetimethishappened*

    Thanks for these updates. I have honestly been a little disheartened by the comment section for the last 6 months or so. There are def repeat offenders of these and I hope they take the time to review the commenting rules.

  22. leeapeea*

    Just a general “yay!” for the added clarity this brings. I rarely comment but often scan for useful things. (I say, realizing this may not be useful outside adding a voice to the chorus of “yays”)

  23. River*

    Thank you Allison for doing this. We need more empathy and understanding on this website in addition to constructive feedback. This is great. Hoping to see more of this in people’s comments. :)

  24. Well...*

    I like the cocktail party rule, it’s a useful lens! It’s nice to have these laid out clearly, thank you :)

  25. Courageous cat*

    My personal feedback on the “don’t be unkind” thing (while totally fair) is that a lot of people here, I have noticed, interpret any degree of critical feedback/advice as “unkind” or “uncharitable”.

    Sometimes advice given on the internet can warrant: a little tough love, OR pushing back on an idea/assumption the writer has, OR being honest about what they think is happening here, etc – you get the idea. But just because it’s not inherently “nice” doesn’t make it downright unkind. I feel like a lot of responses here get dismissed under the “unkind/uncharitable” umbrella and I don’t feel like that’s always an accurate assessment.

    1. Goldenrod*

      ” a lot of people here, I have noticed, interpret any degree of critical feedback/advice as “unkind” or “uncharitable”.”

      I totally agree with this! I feel that “don’t be unkind” includes not accusing others of being unkind, when they are actually just expressing a different opinion!

      1. Courageous cat*

        Exactly. Like, to me, “don’t be unkind” means don’t insult or demean the person, don’t call them names, don’t swear at them, things like that. Calmly stating a critical/opposing opinion doesn’t strike me as unkind – not when you’re writing in to an internet column specifically to get advice.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Agreed. I also think this gets into communication style differences sometimes — for example, blunt is not inherently rude to many people but can feel that way to others. And a comment that doesn’t make you feel great isn’t necessarily rude either (although it certainly can be). And you’ve got a bunch of people here from different regions/cultures/communication styles and boom.

    2. FashionablyEvil*

      I think of it as “does the tone and framing of this comment make it likely that the person will hear what I’m saying and consider my point/take this advice?” There’s plenty of room to do that.

      1. Courageous cat*

        I would counter, here, that it’s not really anyone’s responsibility to make sure their advice is made as palatable as possible to reach max effectiveness.

        If you ask for advice, you should be open to hearing and considering differing opinions on the matter, even if they’re not what you wanted to hear or phrased in the way you wanted to hear it.

        1. Emily*

          Courageous cat: It is their responsibility if they want their advice to be listened to. Sometimes responses to certain letters just become pile ons (it is usually easy to spot because Alison puts a note at the top of the comments). It is much easier to listen to advice when it is delivered in a constructive way instead of a nasty way.

    3. Madame X*

      There have been letters in which the letter writer has expose themselves to be the villain in the story. Allison has no problem clearly telling the letter writer when they’ve messed up. For example, the famous letter written by the guy who abandon his girlfriend in the foreign country they were both working in because he didn’t want to have a break up conversation with her. Years later, she was hired to be the principal at an international school he was not teaching at. It was clear as day, and that letter that he treated his ex-girlfriend terribly. Allison told him as such, and even then she still give him actionable advice.

      However, most letters aren’t quite that black-and-white. Usually the letter writer is just dealing with a problem and asking for guidance. Sometimes the letter writer has an actually done anything to address the problem yet and are checking in with Allison to confirm if they are first impulse for how to tackle it is the correct one.
      In those cases, I think it’s fair to try to give the person the benefit of the doubt they actually want to do the right thing instead of jumping immediately into the assumption of this person is a bad person.

      1. Courageous cat*

        It sounds like you’re actually talking about truly unkind comments though. I’m talking about the critical/neutral/blunt comments that aren’t cruel or rude, but can get read as such by commenters. And the latter type of comment has nothing to do with “jumping immediately into the assumption of this person is a bad person”.

        Unless I am misreading: assuming any critical comment is inherently calling the person “a bad person” is kind of what I’m talking about here, honestly.

        1. Madame X*

          You read me correctly and I think we are in agreement. The challenge with writing comments on the Internet is that sometimes a direct statement can come out sounding more blunt or harsh when really it’s just a direct statement. Some people may interpret that as more critical than it actually is, and you can’t always help that. That said, I know that the way I write, I can sometimes sound a lot harsher than I intend, compared to how I speak. I do try to make the effort to be clear& direct in my writing, without being harsh. I don’t always get the perfect balance, but I think if you make a little bit of an effort to be more constructive rather than just blunt in my criticism, hopefully that helps people see that I’m not being needlessly mean.

    4. WellRed*

      I once replied to a comment from someone posting a situation question and the commenter then accused me of “nitpicking.” I wasn’t nitpicking; they just didn’t like my answer. In fact, maybe that’s another rule: if you post seeking advice, don’t get mad and disagree with all the responses just cause it’s not what you wanted to hear.

    5. WellRed*

      I posted similar below. I was accused of nitpicking but really, they just didn’t want to hear it.

    6. Jessica*

      I think people can have differing expectations of what circumstances are inviting feedback.

      One community I’m part of has a tagging system so people can tag their posts or comments with, I think it was [venting], [seeking community], [seeking advice]. If you’re venting, you don’t want feedback or people comparing your experience to others. If you’re seeking community, you’re looking for sympathy/advice only from people who’ve experienced the same thing. If you’re seeking advice, you’re open to advice from anyone.

      It’s a small, real-names community, so it might not work outside that walled garden, but I think it does cut down on the frustration of say, asking how to handle talking to someone about a health problem you have and getting swamped with unsolicited advice on how to manage your health problem instead.

      1. Danish*

        Yeah, I’m not sure that would work with the format of aam but I do love that framing in general, it sounds super helpful. even just as a person, thinking “am I venting/looking for community/advice” as you write your thoughts is helpful imo

    7. Wintermute*

      yes! thank you.

      Even AAM’s official answers have occasionally had to say things like “you’re off base here and if you keep it up you’re going to get fired” (E.g. the garbage sorter, or one about a potluck I seem to recall) or even “you are being a jerk, do better” (E.g. the “fat girls can’t jump” sticker letter writer, the “I ask candidates their salaries and I don’t care” hiring manager)

      I am reminded of the great Sir Terry Pratchett and his discussion of the difference between “nice” and “kind”. Sometimes being nice is not kind, sometimes being kind is not nice.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Yeah, sometimes advice has to be blunt, because otherwise it just won’t sink in.
        Some of the best advice that I’ve received in my life has been blunt! All of the advice columns I enjoy reading the most (including this one) sometimes feature advice that basically boils down to “this is a really bad course of action and you need to stop it at once.” Being blunt without being cruel is a communication skill that is way too rare.

    8. ecnaseener*

      Yeah, I honestly think that’s covered in the It Is A Comment Section caveat. People from very polite/indirect cultures coming together with people from blunt cultures.

    9. Meow*

      The only time I’ve interpreted feedback/criticism as “unkind” is when they violate the rule of giving LWs the benefit of the doubt. Some comments can get weirdly accusatory.

  26. Avril Ludgateaux*

    I wish the discretion on re: #1 were more evenly applied. I get that there is only one moderator on this site and she can’t be everywhere. Still, when something *does* catch attention…

    I recently commented about the prevalence of plagiarism in my own industry and how I prefer to limit how much overt ‘theft’ I do. I got accused of being inefficient, wasting tax payer dollars, “never making it in law” (which I never suggested my role was even adjacent to?), and almost every response had some bad-faith misrepresentation, like claiming I refuse to use boilerplate, templates, document banks, or even the fruits of cooperative/collaborative efforts.

    My (admittedly defensive) comment, suggesting a person who directly insulted my competence had themself demonstrated poor reading comprehension uncharacteristic of their profession, was deleted with a reprimand (fine), but the provoking comment itself, along with others of similar snark, was left up. In other situations, I’ve seen entire threads deleted for becoming too hostile or derailing – and frankly, I wish this one had been (yes, even down to my original entry into the comments), because the way it was handled felt very much like the message wasn’t “be kind” so much as “let people be unkind to you” because responding in kind gets you labeled as hostile (potentially while rewarding people who strategically abuse/weaponize the poorly advertised ‘report’ system). Honestly, that felt worse than the dogpile itself, like it was implicitly legitimizing the insults.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m really sorry about that, and I’m making a note to go back and look at it. I’m often moderating on the fly, which can mean that if I see one problematic comment, that’s what I address — but you’re right to say I need to look at the whole thread that preceded it! That’s a bigger time commitment on a busy day but it’s absolutely reasonable for you to expect that to happen, and I will be better about doing that.

      1. New Name, Old Game*

        I’ve sometimes been a shitty/frustrated/snarky commenter here, and sometimes said some really insightful and helpful stuff (which I only say because other commenters at the time replied and called me “helpful” and “insightful”). Sorry for being one of the people who makes it difficult, and Alison, thanks for all the work you do so this space can endure anyway.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        To follow up — I just went back and look at that whole exchange. I don’t see snark in other people’s responses there — I do see them disagreeing with you and I think misunderstanding some of what you were saying, but I didn’t think anyone was being rude! I can see why you found the exchange frustrating though; I think you were talking about one thing and people were reading it as something else.

        If I’m missing something, you can definitely let me know (including via email privately if you’d prefer).

  27. Goldenrod*

    These are fantastic guidelines.

    To me, the most important one is #6 – People are experts on their own situations and know more about their own circumstances than you do.


  28. Madame X*

    I also wish there was a rule for moderating introvert vs. extrovert debates. Whenever a letter writer describe a situation in which someone is mentioned as being introverted, it always ignites arguments in the comment section bring up tired, old stereotypes about introverts and extroverts.

    Most of the time it’s not useful at all. Even if there was some relevant point to be made about being introverted/extroverts, there are always some commenters who use this as an excuse to rage against the world about how terrible extroverts are, and how wonderful introverts are.
    (technically this falls under rule 1 and 2, but I still feel like it deserves its own rule because it happens a lot on this website.)

    1. Wintermute*

      I second this.

      Especially because people are often very wrong about these things: introversion and extroversion are about what you do to recharge and where you feel “at home”. Too often people will use “introversion” when what they actually mean is “social anxiety” or even just generalized misanthropy, and “extroversion” when what they actually mean are poor boundaries, pushiness, or being overbearing.

    2. Jessica*


      Introversion and extroversion are about which environments help you recharge/emotionally regulate–alone, or with others. That’s it.

      Even Jung, the dude who came up with the distinction, said no one’s an introvert or an extrovert–everyone’s an ambivert. It’s a spectrum. And neuroscientists are increasingly unsure that it actually exists as something inherent rather than situational. All humans need both interaction with other humans and alone time in order to do basic brain things like move memories from short-term to long-term storage or maintain a sense of self. People need them in different proportions in different circumstances.

      All the “humanity is divided into delicate book-loving deep thinkers and 24-hour party people” stuff is nonsense.

      1. Madame X*

        Exactly, I rarely venture into these the debates, but a the few times I do this is what I usually say. Most people are on the spectrum of introversion and extraversion. Very few people are truly just one or the other.

      2. allathian*

        Hear, hear. I’m an ambivert although more on the introverted side of the spectrum. I usually say I’m an introvert, though, because most people don’t know about ambiversion and I don’t always want to type it all up.

        In Western cultures, and particularly in the US, extroverts have been considered the default and introverts the deviants for a long time. In some other cultures, especially in Asia, the personality traits associated with introversion are seen as more valuable. The current trend of bashing extroverts and praising introverts is only happening online. AAM, like most online spaces, skews introvert.

        My introversion shows mostly in that I don’t have the energy to cultivate a large network of acquaintances although I’m very committed to the handful of close friends that I do have. I’m happy with talking to my coworkers as more superficial social connections. As much as I love WFH, I’m happy to return to the office once or twice a week because I’ve noticed that seeing my coworkers in person at least occasionally boosts my mood and makes me feel seen and valued in a way that simply WFH doesn’t. YMMV, of course.

        My work persona is much more outgoing than my social persona, to the point that less outgoing people often read me as an extrovert. It’s just one of the roles that I play, and that’s true of basically everyone, we present different parts of our personalities depending on the circumstances we’re in at any given time. But if I couldn’t emotionally regulate alone, I couldn’t work as a translator because my job requires very little synchronous collaboration. I’d find a job that required constant synchronous collaboration exhausting, whereas most extroverts would probably find it energizing.

  29. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

    This one: “Within Rule 3: ‘Don’t invent possibilities simply because you could imagine them to be within the remote realm of plausibility” and “Do not accuse people in the letter of nefarious motives based purely on speculation. Letter writers aren’t characters in a story; they’re real people.’”

    I’m seeing lately some bizarre speculations that conflict with this rule. Recently, there was a question about a high schooler in a retail job where the manager wanted a mandatory weekend gathering where each participant would have to pay several hundred dollars for the privilege. Some commenters began speculating that the manager was grooming the employees to be abused. I’m sorry, but that was very uncalled for.

    1. Melissa*

      I saw that thread too and was blown away!! To wildly speculate— with no evidence— that a person you don’t know is a child molester is BEYOND uncool.

    2. Observer*

      Allison can correct me, but my impression is that these kinds of weird speculations are part of what prompted this update.

  30. NSJayjay*

    I want to add one I’ve seen happen to others and personally experienced on AAM many times, but I’m not sure if this falls under something Alison already addressed. Of course, I’m using a different name for this comment…..

    If I differ in my opinion on something, piling on me isn’t going to change my mind. This is an advice column, where people with differing life experiences and view points can comment. LWs can choose to accept or reject advice given by the commenters. It’s not right to make a comment then have 15 responses telling me how wrong I am, how bad I am, I should view the situation their way instead. I don’t have to have the same opinion as the rest of the commentors. And how do these commenters know that the LW doesn’t actually agree with the non-popular viewpoint?

    However, I am grateful that Alison doesn’t hold that belief that everyone must have the same view and she doesn’t shut down anyone who has opposing views as long as it’s respectful. Too many other sites will just ban you if you have a differing view, even if you’re presenting it in a decent way.

    So thanks Alison! And I mean that.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I know exactly what you’re talking about! It’s tricky to manage because a lot of people comment before they’ve refreshed the page so they don’t realize 10 other people have already said the same thing and it’s going to start to feel like a pile-on. But I know it happens even when people do see the comments that came before them, and that I think might be a function of being in a space where the whole idea is to talk about what each person thinks … but when it’s lopsided like what you’ve described, it can end up feeling really different. I don’t have a good solution for it!

      1. Bugalugs*

        I think part of this to is the lack of “like” buttons and things. I think some want to know a comment is appreciated so they want to share that they feel the same way but it can really feel like piling on especially when it’s more negative comments. I know there’s some really great comments I’d love to “like”

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      If I differ in my opinion on something, piling on me isn’t going to change my mind.

      I feel this one so much. I’ve started to reevaluate (repeatedly) if my dissent is really going to add anything (or just incite disagreeableness and argument) to the conversation before I speak up.

      1. animaniactoo*

        As someone who had to learn how NOT to fight the whole world, I have learned to frame my dissent not simply in terms of what I might get back. My standards are:

        1) Does it need to be said… in part just so that it was out there and someone else who feels similarly may see they are not alone? Or because it is an aspect that is not being looked at but needs to be looked at?

        2) Did I consider the opposing argument? How sure am I of the ground I am standing on?

        3) How I frame it – if I know my audience (ha ha, comment section, I know), I frame my dissent/argument to speak to the issues that they are looking at also.

        4) How willing am I to deal with flashback if people don’t like what I have to say?

        Note this is not to say that everyone should follow these guidelines, just that others may find them as useful as I have in my own interactions and lowering the number of headbutting arguments that I get involved in.

        1. Lana Kane*

          “4) How willing am I to deal with flashback if people don’t like what I have to say?”

          This one is key for me, I have to admit. Because I might have (what I consider to be) good advice that could be actionable, but maybe that day I just don’t feel like handling blowback. I’ve hit that “Cancel reply to comment” link so many times!

  31. Feotakahari*

    Regarding #5, this usually comes up for armchair diagnoses of autism, but I think it should also be applied to armchair diagnoses of narcissism.

    1. Wintermute*

      That is tough because “narcissism” is not just related to the disorder “narcissistic personality disorder” it’s also an entire group of traits even healthy people exhibit– in fact it’s an entire category of personality trait in some models.

      Therein lies the problem, we all show some narcissistic traits, but few people have NPD. I don’t think it’s diagnostic to call a BEHAVIOR narcissistic, or suspect that someone has an ego motive for their actions. That’s a far cry from claiming NPD or a related condition.

      1. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

        I found a lot of food for thought in another internet advice columnist’s manifesto on Why We Don’t Diagnose [or even non-diagnostically label] People Through the Internet [not even narcissists]. Jennifer Peepas, aka Captain Awkward. I’ll link it in a following comment.

        It comes down to: Apart from feeding stereotype and stigma, labeling a person, or even a set of behaviors, might, at best, suggest a possible reason *why* they be like that, but it doesn’t tell *what to do about it.*
        The label doesn’t contain actionable advice. (On the other hand, actionable advice does not need to contain the actual label to be relevant to that label. “I knew someone who acted like that, and this response was what worked for me/with them.)

        And in the majority of cases where the person being labeled is not the Letter Writer, focusing on that other person and their label giving advice to the person who actually wrote to ask.

        1. Wintermute*

          Hm, that’s interesting I’m not a big fan of a lot of her advice (I think she has huge blind spots she won’t acknowledge and her advice is thus inapplicable for most people) but when she’s right, she’s right and she has some real gems that have greatly enhanced my EQ and social awareness.

          I would agree if you mean saying “they’re a narcissist” but not using the more generalized term talking about narcisstic traits or ego-driven feelings and behavior. Given how much ego people invest in their work– and how often managers (especially bad ones) invest their ego into having and exercising authority– it’s useful to talk about ego-driven behavior.

          1. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

            Agreed that Captain Awkward has some big blind spots and is not right all the time. I don’t agree with her all the time, and sometimes I disagree with her extremely. But often, even when I disagree, I find her perspective useful to consider. At worst, it shows how a mostly reasonable and well-intentioned person can be completely off base when responding out of unexamined biases.

            In this case, a big thing I take away is: supposing it’s useful to talk about people’s “narcissistic” behaviors
            (a) Why not, as much as possible, call them by descriptors that are less likely to be conflated with a diagnosis or stereotyped identity label? Instead of narcissistic, why not “ego-driven” or “egotistical” “self-centered” “selfish” etc.
            If the less-clinical sounding descriptors aren’t satisfying, maybe it’s because implying a diagnosis or fixed personality trait (and in/validating: justifying or condemning) is more the point than usefully describing the behavior?

            Likewise for any other description that implies a diagnosis or a stereotyped fixed identity trait (introvert vs extrovert, for instance, wow do people get passionate about those, in a way they don’t seem to about “refreshed by solitude” or “energized by socializing”.)

            (b) Why not focus on the actionable advice to help the letter writer, rather than labeling? Even if everyone agrees that person or those behaviors are narcissistic, and it doesn’t spark a derail arguing over whether that’s the best way to describe them… So what? What should one do with that information? Are there potential practical responses that might be worth a try regardless how the behavior is explained? Why not skip straight to suggesting practical responses, and only mention narcissism if it suggests or requires specific or different responses?

        2. 21st Night of September*

          But again, narcissism is a personality trait. We are ok with referring to people with other personality traits. Why should the Dark Triad of personality traits be any different?

        3. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

          Ugh, typo in my original comment. The last sentence *should* say
          …focusing on that other person and their label *overshadows* giving advice to the person who actually wrote to ask.

    2. MassMatt*

      It applies to all armchair diagnoses; I’ve seen plenty on depression, alcoholism/drug abuse, bipolar, as well as other purely physical ailments.

  32. Disabled trans lesbian*

    Thank you for updating the rules, I hope they work to conteract some of the brigading that happens sometimes.
    A question: would it be possible to create a system to get hateful comments moderated faster? Sometimes there’s TERFS coming in and while they do eventually get moderated, having to deal with that is honestly making me reluctant to engage with the comment section sometimes.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      If you see a comment that violates commenting rules, you can reply to the comment with a link (which will send your comment to moderation) and a note that the comment you’re replying to needs moderation. That’s the fastest method that’s available right now, as far as I know.

  33. Noblepower*

    for those of you that weren’t watching just now, all the kittens had excellent weight gains on their 24-hour weights.

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      I hopped into stream just as weighing was happening and mama was being understandably very hissy at the Hand. so cute.

      1. Bowserkitty*

        Now they’re both doing feeding time. Oh man. Why did i click this link!!!! I LOVE ITTTTT

        1. Dezzi*

          I’ve been watching TinyKittens streams since 2015 (before they moved over to youtube), and it’s probably been the biggest contributor to my procrastination for those entire eight years! The chat community there is well-moderated and wonderful, I love it so much :D

  34. BorisTheGrump*

    I just really appreciate this community, this comment section, all the work that Allison does, and this site.

    Also, this post and thread are inspiring me to find a name that’s less… grumpy. I’m grumpy about a lot of things, but rarely AAM!

    1. Former Gremlin Herder*

      I came here to say this! There’s certainly shenanigans that happen in any comment section, but I appreciate all the effort that goes into making this a pleasant and productive place to discuss. It’s refreshing when compared to the ridiculous nature of social media sites.

    2. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

      Cosigned. I appreciate, especially, the work that Allison does in moderating, and the majority of commenters’ efforts to communicate kindly and constructively.

  35. WhyAreThereSoManyBadManagers*

    I wish one of the rules would be don’t just simply regurgitate every little thing that Alison said just for the sake of hearing/seeing yourself comment. So often I see comments that say something like “What Alison said: DO THAT!” or “I agree with everything that was advised, just wanted to say you should follow that advice.” Or they just restate what Alison said with a few minor tweaks, or they repeat it without referencing Alison’s advice but say exactly the same thing. It’s annoying.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Eh I disagree on that one. “Echoing” is a very common way to communicate consensus, and having multiple people support a certain point of view or specific details can help reinforce the message, particularly if Alison and the letter writer disagree. Also, more engagement is typically good for the website.

      1. Observer*


        And it’s pretty clear when you look at some of the follow ups that it can make a difference.

    2. Lana Kane*

      “Or they just restate what Alison said with a few minor tweaks, or they repeat it without referencing Alison’s advice but say exactly the same thing.”

      That does make me laugh when I see it!

  36. Ex-prof*

    (I cheated and looked at the kitties even though I do comment. Some quality felines there.)

  37. M. from P.*

    Hope it’s not too off-topic.

    Alison, would it make sense to group the conments to LWs under separate headings? Sometimes I’m trying to find comments on, say, LW 3 and can’t find them in the sea of other comments? I see how it also could be problematic but just thinking out loud here.

    1. wp baby*

      I believe this site runs on WordPress and there isn’t any way to do that on the platform. Actually, I’ve don’t think I’ve ever seen a comments section that can be grouped or sorted by “type,” unless things are nested, but nesting gets hard to read on mobile. I know what you mean, though — it can be a bit frustrating. Sometimes I just search on page!

  38. Lil Bean*

    I’m glad you’re clarifying #5. It’s very off-putting and unhelpful to read a sea of comments speculating over people’s mental health. Even when people mean well. Even when the commenter speculating has that diagnosis.

    1. Lil Bean*

      I want to add: I do appreciate the LWs who ask questions about employees/coworkers with mental health issues affecting their work, or LWs asking about managing their own health at work, and the discussions we get from those letters. I think rules #3 covers what we need to keep those conversations on-topic and helpful.

  39. kittensarefun*

    I spent way too many hours last night watching that same kitten feed. Been addicted to Tiny Kittens for years.

  40. Wintermute*

    I have been hemming and hawing about posting this but, I think I should.

    Can we also get a rule about acting like a/the authority in the comments? I’ve seen people adopt some very moderator-like language and behavior– to the extent that more than one person has actually apologized “to the mod/mods” for “breaking the site rules” as if the person they were replying to WAS an official site moderator, because they acted like it.

    A rule like “if a post is against the rules, don’t engage, flag it. Don’t try to act like a moderator quoting the site rules at people, that’s my job”.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      I disagree with this. I think a community relies on its members to keep things within bounds, not just its leader. A couple of folks hopping in and saying, “Hey, that’s not cool,” can keep a thread from going south in a hurry.

      1. Expelliarmus*

        Agreed! Especially since Alison isn’t always available. Of course, power tripping and such isn’t acceptable, but gentle correction is a good idea.

  41. Calamity Kate*

    Alison, AAM is one of the only corners of the Internet where I read the comments and I give you all of the credit for that. Thank you for all the hard work you put into moderating discussions and creating such an engaging and thought-provoking space for the commentariat!

  42. Lily Potter*

    This probably doesn’t rise to the level of a “rule”, but I would love it if everyone’s comments were directed toward answering the letter writer’s question only. Way too often, comments end up with unhelpful responses (“Your boss really is an ass!” – yes the letter writer knows that – what should s/he do about it?) or suggest things that go way beyond what the letter writer wants (suggesting unionizing when the letter writer indicates that they just want to handle a problem quietly).

    With respect to the chatter above about non-US commenters – I’m not in favor of an all-out ban on international responders because, after all, some workplace issues are truly universal (I’m sure that people microwave fish in German break rooms and that people in Italy have to go to tedious staff meetings!) However, I’m the first to admit to skipping over responses that start out “I’m from (non-US country)” when the topic at hand has anything to do with something legal. I know that Allison’s response isn’t going to apply to me as a US based person and I know that the comments are going to be full of the “the US sucks” comments about paid leave of all kinds.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Sometimes you’re in a situation that you can’t do much about. It’s helpful to know that:

      a) This is not normal.

      b) You have the sympathy of internet strangers.

    2. Rocky*

      Lily Potter, as a non-US person I skip over the US legal advice. It’s a US blog and it’s fine to be US centric. As to the comments about aspects of US employment law (eg leave) my perception is that it’s your fellow US-ers who are lamenting it, not we outsiders :-)

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah, I still haven’t been able to figure out the whole exempt/non-exempt thing, I have no idea how US taxes or health insurance work, and I have no idea what’s legal, so I tend to skim over letters and comments on those topics.

        I admit, when I first started reading here I was definitely guilty of a few ‘How can you only have 10 days’ holiday?!’ comments. I think the majority of non-US people who go down that route are doing so because they genuinely didn’t know how things like that tend to work in the US. But I read all the pushback on those sorts of comments, and I can absolutely see how a) it’s repetitive and boring to deal with on every single related letter and b) it comes across as super patronising even if it’s not meant as such.

        I do think, though, that opinions and perspectives from all over the world are useful. And I also think it’s useful when, for example, Alison posts a letter about thank-you notes after interviews, and someone from outside the US comments saying ‘Oh my goodness, I’ve never sent a thank-you note – am I getting it all wrong? Will I never get a second interview again??’ and people from other countries can chip in and say ‘No, don’t worry, thank-you notes aren’t a thing where we are’. There’s also a TON of workplace advice here that applies to everyone, not just to US readers!

  43. musical chairs*

    I wonder if there’s value in a specific rule about making the same sort of antagonistic post over and over again in the same comment section. I’ve had it happen at me twice, once as a commenter and once as a question-asker.

    In the first case, this person did not like my addition to the conversation and felt it was necessary to completely misrepresent what I said and then complain about my comment in my thread (fine, part of the territory) and then again when I was replying to someone else about another aspect of what I brought up, and again to kind of mention to someone else downthread just how much they disagree with me. I’d accidentally posted one of my replies to another person’s comment as its own thread and the person responded to THAT just to come after me again for something I did not say. I felt…followed (if that’s the right word) and definitely harassed. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me (especially on the topic that was at hand) but I stopped coming to the site for a while after that cause it was so charged.

    Another time someone commented on a post with my question, called me something rude as their own thread and then when I saw in another thread they repeated the same rude and unfounded thing in a reply to someone else. As far as I saw I think it was three times in separate comments they called me out of my name and it was so jarring. The question was so benign and had virtually no stakes. But any oblique mention of the topic at hand had to include a personal jab at me. To be fair, the comment that was its own thread got deleted and I did appreciate that.

    In either case it didn’t seem like the point was to being a different point of view it was to come for me, personally.

    1. Emily*

      Can we have a rule that people stop suggesting rules? Haha! It seems like a lot of very specific rules are being suggested for things that are already covered by the rules Alison has, and it’s more about the commentator’s personal annoyance. I think the solution is, instead of having a ton of *very specific* rules, report comments that seem to be breaking the rules and let Alison decide how to handle it.

  44. Emily*

    Sorry, nesting fail. This was meant to be an individual comment, not a reply to nnn (I agree about the kittens, though!).

  45. GythaOgden*

    I know what I’m going to have my phone tuned to at work today. Kittens are a fantastic Friday gift — thanks, Alison!

  46. TomatoSoup*

    Thank you! These rules make a big difference in both content and tone of the commenting. This why AAM is one of the few sites where I’ll even look at, let alone join, the comments section and it has been helpful for me.

  47. Swamp Witch*

    I love #5, thank you. I actually don’t reach out for help or guidance as much as I used to because I get a LOT of armchair diagnostics.

  48. Anonymous for This*

    I think the only examples of helpful armchair diagnoses are ones where someone can point to a real life example where medical intervention was required.

    It wasn’t here, but someone told a story about how their wife seemed to have lost interest in being part of their family (there was a lot more to it; I omitted the details). He was thinking of divorce when he spoke with someone he knew who said that it sounded like something that had happened to the wife of a friend or relative of theirs and it turned out the wife had a brain tumor!

    I would like to think that a commenter might help someone experiencing an undiagnosed serious medical condition, similar to things I’ve read about where a dermatologist will go up to a stranger and suggest they get a mole checked out and it’s diagnosed as skin cancer.

Comments are closed.