candidate asked for feedback after I’d hired him, a scandalous mother, and more

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

1. Candidate asked for feedback on his interview — after I’d hired him

I interviewed someone today (two interview rounds). I decided to offer him the job a few hours later and he verbally accepted on the phone. He then called me back right away with a couple of clarifying details and a slight negotiation on pay — no problem, I can understand being mildly flustered in the moment and wanting to call back to make the request rather than just leaving it. I said I’d need to see if the increase was possible and I’d come back to him tomorrow.

He then texted me very quickly after that and asked for feedback on his interviews today. Isn’t that a bit weird? I’ve heard of requesting feedback while waiting to hear if you’re being moved to the next stage, or after a rejection to see how you could improve. But why would you want feedback when you’ve already been offered a job? It’s not like the offer was insultingly low or anything, just on the lower end of his requested salary range.

Possibly relevant is he is very young, this would only be his second job out of high school. Have you come across this before? Do you have any insight?

Yeah, it’s because he’s inexperienced and just doesn’t know the norms around this stuff yet. He’s probably heard you can ask for feedback after an interview, not realizing that that typically means after you’re rejected. If you’re hired, that is the feedback, for most people!

My take would be different if he had asked a more nuanced question like, “Based on our conversations so far, do you have thoughts on where the biggest challenges are likely to be for me and how I can prepare for those?” But it sounds more general than that.

To be clear, I don’t think it’s weird that he wants feedback. Most people would find it interesting to hear an employer’s post-offer analysis of their strengths and weaknesses in the interview! He just doesn’t have the experience yet to realize it’s not typically asked.

can I ask my new manager why she hired me?

2. When your mom was a scandal back in the day

I (F, 57) am a volunteer at a local secular nonprofit and was chatting with another volunteer (F, 60+) the other day. I was trying to recover from hearing some bad news and she tried to comfort me by saying that God would take care of me. To fend off the unwanted religion talk, I blurted out that that doesn’t make me feel better, because my late mother was kicked out of her church after someone tricked her into making a big mistake and her life fell apart. I wish I hadn’t said anything, because it turns out one of my friend’s few relatives in our country lives in my hometown and goes to the same church my mother did.

I don’t know what to do if she gossips with her relative and finds out that my mother was the reason their handsome young pastor needed to transfer to another county back in the day. He seduced her, claimed they had a secret engagement, and denied any such plans when she fell pregnant and refused to get a back-alley abortion. Of course, his version was that she was a temptress who wanted to ruin his reputation, and of course the patriarchy believed his version over hers. He got a new start and went on to a nice career, while my mother got the shame of our whole town without resources to relocate. It happened over 50 years ago, but if it was a sufficiently juicy story in a small town, people may still gossip about it. I know there was still gossip when I was in school because my mother couldn’t even go to my school concerts without people pointing and whispering.

I don’t need a negative story sticking to me decades after I thought I had escaped it by moving to another part of the country. I don’t know if I have the guts to lie and say it’s false too, or what people will think if they find out I lied to cover up an embarrassing story. I don’t want to be our local version of George Santos. But I don’t want to have to move out of the area to get away from the shame — I have rent control and moving is awful anyway. What options do you recommend?

I think it’s highly unlikely that this will be a subject of gossip 50+ years after the fact! Social norms have changed a lot in that time. If someone gossips about you because they believe your mom was a temptress half a century ago … well, that person is being really, really weird, and anyone they try to gossip to about it is likely to find them really weird as well. It’s unlikely that anyone will think negatively of you because of this.

But if someone asks you about it, my advice is: own it. “Yep, my mom was seduced by a man who abandoned her when she got pregnant and then the whole town shamed her for it but not him. Isn’t that horrible? Thank god the world has changed.”

3. I’m being pressured to take a promotion I don’t want

I have worked with my current company for about 15 years, and anticipate retiring from this company when the time comes. I very much love what I do and who I work with and often get asked to assist other teams with special projects, so my work is never repetitive or dull.

I have been promoted multiple times, and on each occasion I have been asked if I would rather manage the team I was leaving. My answer has always been no, as I was working towards a specific goal and have no interest in managing.

I am now in a role I love, but have reached the top of the ladder career-wise unless I become a manager or director (neither of which I want). I was offered the opportunity to manage my current team and said no. My company then hired a manager I love working with, but they will be retiring soon and I have been asked by a very senior person to “seriously consider” taking over at that time.

This will be the fifth time I have been asked to manage in my career, and I feel like saying no this time may damage my reputation with senior leaders and other departments that I work with regularly. Others in my area would love to be considered, so I feel awkward that I truly do not want to do this.

Logically, I can see that I am a good fit, due to my background, experience in other roles, exposure to project work, and relationships with other areas. My team also treats me as their de facto leader if our manager is out. But I just don’t want to manage.

What do I do? Do I just go ahead and take the promotion, even though I know others want it and I don’t? I have no desire to harm my future prospects in the event I change my mind one day, but I secretly wish my current manager would just stay another 10 years.

I feel this sounds like a six-year-old saying they don’t want to eat vegetables, even though it’s good for them, and I feel stupid even asking this question. What normal person does not want a promotion, after all? Please be kind … I realize I sound like a bragging idiot, and that I am incredibly lucky to have this as a problem … but I have honestly cried about this. I just want to continue to do my current job and do it to the best of my ability. How do I get out of managing without harming my reputation?

You don’t sound like you’re bragging or like a whining child! It’s completely normal and okay not to want to manage, and you don’t need to do it just because people want you to. I mean, if everyone else wanted you to, I don’t know, sell real estate or become a voiceover artist and you didn’t want to, would you feel bad about declining? There’s a weird thing in our culture where it’s assumed everyone wants to move up and up, but a lot of people don’t … and even more of them specifically don’t want to be managers.

Having had past managers who clearly didn’t want to be doing the job — and in one case who had protested against having to — I can tell you that people who manage under duress end up doing their teams (and their employers) no favors. If you don’t want to do the work, you won’t approach it as well as your team deserves. But even if you’d be phenomenal, you do not need to take a job you don’t want. Period.

It’s fine to tell your employer and anyone else who’s pressuring you, “I appreciate the offer, but I’ve given it a lot of thought and I am confident I don’t want to move into management.”

4. Can we be required to use FMLA if we get Covid?

My employer has recently sent a “reminder” that now that the Covid emergency has officially been declared over in the U.S., normal sick time rules apply for Covid and anybody who will be out more than three days has to file an FMLA application, regardless of whether or not they have the paid sick time to cover it. So, that’s anybody who gets Covid who isn’t lucky enough to have two of their required minimum five isolation days fall on a weekend. This is strange, right?

I’ve been looking for information about when your employer can require you to take FMLA and all I’ve been able to find is that you can be required to take it after you file the application, nothing about whether you can be forced to request it for an absence of a week or less when you have the sick time. It seems like the lack of information suggests that this isn’t a thing people normally have to worry about being forced on them. What are the possible ramifications of being forced to take FMLA time, possibly repeatedly, for common illnesses where it’s totally within the averages to be out of commission for about a week?

In general: Your employer can indeed require that you use FMLA when you’re out sick, even if you don’t want to, although it’s not the norm to do it for routine absences of a few days. It’s a pretty anti-employee move, because it means that if at some point you need to take a longer leave of the sort that FMLA is normally used for, you’ll have already used up some of your FMLA allotment for that year. (You get 12 weeks of FMLA-protected leave per year.)

Specifically for your situation: The part of FMLA that would be relevant here is the part for “serious health conditions” (as opposed to caring for a new baby or the other circumstances where you can use it). The law defines “serious health condition” as “requiring continuing treatment by a health care provider” or “a period of incapacity of more than three consecutive, full calendar days with follow-up treatment.” If you have a mild or asymptomatic case of Covid and aren’t seeking treatment, would it even qualify for FMLA? I’d guess no, but you’d need a lawyer to tell you for sure (and they don’t seem to know for sure either).

{ 391 comments… read them below }

  1. Dylan*

    Obviously I know my interview went well enough to still be employed there nearly four years later, but sometimes I am curious what my interviewers’ thoughts were. I’ve thought about asking because they probably still have notes, but just never get around to trying.

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      My first permanent job was a bit strange as I had relocated to a new country, but things were not set up in the office i.e. no phones or computer and not even pens and pencils.

      I was asked to spend the working week at the head office, and whilst looking at the files, I discovered my interview notes. It turned out there were few candidates and it would felt I was sufficiently junior to work with the other employee. From the notes, the implication was the other junior role candidates had nearly as much experience as those for the senior role, and there was going to be tension.

    2. MK*

      I think this candidate got the timing a bit off. To me, it would feel more natural to ask for feedback on a successful interview a few weeks after starting the job. Doing it in the middle of a salary negotiation feels awkward, though I am not exactly sure why.

      1. Myrin*

        I think the “awkwardness” feeling stems from the question being somewhat out of left field at that point in the conversation. (Also possibly aided by the fact that he changed the medium – the offer and salary talk was a phone call and then immediately afterward he sent a text asking about the interview. It just all seems out of place somewhat, not prohibitively so but enough to make one go “okay, hold your horses, one thing after another, please”.)

      2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Timing. YES.
        The candidate has a process with expectations (possibly i formed by this site):
        1) first interview: discuss X Y Z
        if offered second interview, then
        2) say A B C

        n) when rounds of interviews are clearly over, ask for feedback.

        Candidate lacks experience to pivot.

        1. ferrina*

          Yeah, I suspect this is just lack of experience. Especially if the candidate doesn’t have a support system that can advise them in their approach to interviews (or if their support system gives them crappy advise). If this candidate has otherwise shown social competency, I’d chalk this up to them being flustered and not knowing the professional protocol. Maybe make a mental note to be extra explicit about the professional norms at your company.

        2. Hannah Lee*

          I also wonder if there’s a third party in the mix somehow, because otherwise he might have just brought it up when speaking to LW.

          Ie candidate is talking to a friend, family member while in the middle of negotiations to finalized the offer and the other person asks about interview feedback for whatever reason and the candidate thinks “oh, I didn’t ask” and sends a text.

          But the root reason would still be the candidate’s lack of experience, since he didn’t realize that inquiry was out of step with where he was in the hiring process.

          1. Skytext*

            That’s exactly what I thought! He got off the phone, then Mom or Dad (who don’t really know interview norms but heard somewhere along the line you’re “supposed to ask for feedback”) says “hey, did you ask for feedback? You’re supposed to do that!”

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        To me it feels weird because most of the time when you ask that after an interview where you didn’t get the job, you are asking for the purposes of “what should I do differently next time.” So even if you want to know just for curiosities sake, I think asking after an interview where you *did* get the job it kind of feels like you’re already thinking about your next job interview.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          Looking as you, and I believe I am, through eyes of experience, yes, absolutely. It looks out of touch, self serving and disinterested in the current situation. This is why I really believe the candidate is naive and over eager (oh, crap, Professors/mentor/counselor/
          parent said ask for feedback. I forgot! I’m going to look unprofessional!

      4. Jade*

        It does and his calls, texts, and asking this seems like a lot in a very short time span. I’d be worried he’s always like this.

    3. Snow Globe*

      My initial thought was that it was weird to ask that question, but the more I think about it, I think it’s actually a great question to ask before accepting an offer. What if the hiring manager says they want to hire you because of your extensive experience in X, even though you mentioned in the interview that you are hoping to move away from X and into doing more Y? Hearing the reasons that you were selected could be illuminating and could let you know if you and the employer are on the same page.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        The more I think, I agree with you that it’s a good question. I also think, as others have pointed out, it was the timing – he accepted and was in the process of negotiations. If he had asked prior to accepting, it might not have felt so off. Or it might have even served him better in negotiations-similar to your example it could have gone the other way where he clarified an area they thought he might need additional training when “oh no, I’ve been doing that for years”

    4. Erin*

      +1 to this! I once gave interview feedback to an employee after they were hired and in the role for a while. It seemed to really boost their professional confidence. I made a point to do this for other newer hires, and the results were really quite lovely.

      It is hard to start a new job, and it is easy to feel totally incompetent (even when that’s so not the case!) and volunteering a positive takeaways from my interview notes has been a kind and sort of “nope, you aren’t an idiot, and here’s a data point that illustrates how I see you, and why I voted to hire you”

    5. Ssssssssssssssssssssss*

      I had a good relationship with my boss, who was on the interviewing team, so one day, months after the fact, I did ask him. “Why did you pick me?” and answer was good. “You were the one.”

      Asking right after the call though is a sign of insecurity. “Did I do okay?”

    6. LW1*

      Hi, LW#1 here – replying here so my comment is nearer the top, if anyone wants a quick update!

      The short version is, I emailed him the next morning to tell him that we’d be able to increase the salary to his requested amount. I decided to just ignore the request for feedback as I didn’t really know how to respond (it was pretty easy to do so as I was contacting him in a different medium, and the text asking for feedback was the only comms in that medium, it’s not like we’d been texting each other before or since). He was happy with that and accepted the offer, and didn’t reiterate his feedback request, so that was pretty much that!

      I sent in my question about a week and a half ago, and reading it back now I can see my slightly panicked tone coming through! This has been a really long hiring process to fill a fairly critical role, and while the position’s been open a lot of the responsibilities have been falling to me. It had taken such a long time to find the right person, and then in the last couple of weeks we finally ended up bringing two suitable candidates to final round interviews. This candidate edged it out, and I was really excited to have finally found someone with the right experience and good soft skills. I was also over the moon at the prospect of starting to shift some responsibilities back off my plate! So when he sent me the text, even though now I see it’s really pretty innocuous, at the time I think my brain went “oh no! something weird?? could this be a sign that maybe he ISN’T the right person?? have we NOT filled the role after all???”

      The other thing that spun me out was that I had no idea how to answer the question – the honest answer would be something like, I’m 75% really excited about hiring you, 20% feeling fairly neutral about some aspects of you as a hire, and 5% a little worried because of how young you are and wondering how you’ll end up settling in to the role, but that’s all workable for me so I’m very willing to go ahead. But it felt weird giving any kind of negative or even constructive feedback right after a successful interview – I suppose I’m not quite sure why? And on the flip side it also felt wrong to disingenuously say, “we loved you, you’re great, that’s why we want to hire you!” and imply that I think he’s completely perfect – feels like it would be setting him up with an inaccurate assessment on his way in.

      Plus there’s the fact of, the reason to ask for feedback after interviews is usually a) if you’re still mid-hiring-process, it might give you an indication of if you’re being moved forward (he obviously already had the answer to that) or b) if you’ve been rejected, to figure out what you could improve on next time (but he shouldn’t have any need for that, because he hopefully won’t be interviewing anywhere again for a little while). So there might have been a bit of, are you planning on going to interview somewhere else before you actually start here?? But he’s signed contracts now and seems excited about starting, so hopefully there isn’t anything to that fear!

      At my company we have an onboarding/probation process, so there’s lots of official steps and stages to give feedback in a new hire’s first weeks and months, and I’ll be very happy to do that once I’ve started to work with him.

      Thanks for the answer Alison, and thanks to other commenters for their perspective!

      1. Hannah Lee*

        Thanks LW for the additional info.

        I completely understand your thought process, why the text freaked you out. So glad things seem to be moving forward in a good (not weird) direction.

      2. Miri*

        the honest answer would be something like, I’m 75% really excited about hiring you, 20% feeling fairly neutral about some aspects of you as a hire, and 5% a little worried because of how young you are and wondering how you’ll end up settling in to the role, but that’s all workable for me so I’m very willing to go ahead.

        To me (UK public sector context) this all feels like feedback that it would be OK to share, even if reframed a little bit!

    7. Allornone*

      Yeah. Thanks to Alison, I had good answers to all the questions in my last interview (where I was hired), but I also know I was super nervous and it showed. I do sometimes wonder how much it showed and if it gave them pause.

    8. Andrew*

      I wondered if there was some specific thing on the candidate’s mind that made him ask the question. Maybe after the interview he had been thinking, “I’m definitely not getting that job–I laughed way too much during the interview.” Then, surprised that he got the job, he wondered if the interviewer even noticed how much he laughed.

    9. Rex Libris*

      Their thoughts might be less profound than you’d think. Mine are usually something along the lines of “They seem like a good fit and will probably do okay.” :-)

    10. tiny*

      We once had a conversation at my job about everyone’s interview and honestly things came up that I wish I hadn’t known. Like that my offer was delayed because the team was split on whether to hire me.

    11. Recovering Grad Student*

      It feel that way about my rec letters. Obviously they were good enough to get a job and my advisor for grant writing said that they were very good, but the curiosity kills me a little sometimes!

  2. Aggretsuko*

    As someone who’s in interview panels for 20-year-olds this week: someone who’s only had a few or no jobs before really don’t know what the heck they are supposed to do in interviews.

    1. CityMouse*

      I mean does anyone really know what they’re absolutely supposed to do in interviews? I don’t think I’ve ever had an interview without some question or occurrence I couldn’t have anticipated.

      1. Quill*

        I’m pretty sure there are a large number of interviewers who don’t know what they are supposed to do in an interview. I was once asked to formulate a plan for what to do with all of Warren Buffets’ money… for a Lab Tech job. (Which I did not get.)

        Thankfully I managed not to blank out and ask who he was and if he was related to Jimmy Buffet.

    2. Awkward Llama*

      I’m nearing retirement and I still don’t know what the heck I was supposed to do in interviews. Every one is different, it seems that hiring is random, and it’s a lot of extrovert crap. Thankfully, being an engineer, no one seemed to care much about my awkwardness, in fact, I think it got me a few jobs!

      1. ferrina*

        “it’s a lot of extrovert crap.”

        *cue awkward laugh* yeah….I’m pretty extroverted and I love interviewing (both as candidate and interviewer). As a candidate, I like to see if I can make a personal bond with my interviewer- I’ll reference a variety of experiences/interests and see what strikes the interviewers interest. I once derailed an interview for 30 minutes chatting about an exotic pet that the interviewer and I had both had. To be fair, I also aced the practical test in that interview, but it gave the interviewer an extra reason to like me.

        Very, very few interviewers actually get formal training and it’s common for folks to “go with their gut”- i.e., attach to someone they like without reflecting why they like that person. If they like that this person is a quick thinker and this is a role that requires quick thinking, great! But if they like that this person is from the same hometown or that this person played the same sport….um, what does that have to do with the job? I’ve seen terrible candidates that are charismatic get way too far in the process, and great candidates that were a bit awkward get dismissed. Unfortunately, it’s part of human wiring that most folks don’t do a great job of compensating for.

        1. ferrina*

          Side note- one of my favorite hires was not super charismatic. She had very flat affect and a non-expressive face. It was very different from the rest of our team. But she was a quick thinker, very calm under pressure, and had some unusual experience in the field that would compliment the rest of the team’s experience. My director wanted to go with a different candidate, but luckily I was the hiring manager. She was great to work with! Very calm, super adaptable- she would help whereever she was needed, and was an amazing teammate. I had to get used to her flat affect and expressions, but that didn’t impact her ability to do the job at all (and a couple years later when she had to take a client-facing role in the project, it turned out that she could adapt to be more expressive when needed- her having a flat affect actually meant she was comfortable around us and didn’t feel like she had to mask)

          1. Parakeet*

            After reading the first few sentences of this, the combination of the flat affect, some specific language my manager has used when giving me positive feedback, and the “unusual experience that would complement the rest of the team” bit, I was wondering if this was my manager talking about me! (the rest of it clarified that the answer is no – I haven’t been at this job for “a couple of years” yet, and I was client-facing while still in my first full week on the job – but that was a hilarious couple of seconds and I am glad that a fellow flat-affect person who knows how to mask around clients has been such a great addition to your team)

  3. No management for me, either, thanks*

    OP #3: At my company, moving into management is seen as more of a lateral move than a promotion. Management is a completly different kind of work, and what makes a person good at one job and therefore “deserving” of the “promotion” does not necessarily make a person a good fit for people management. Non-management roles still need people with good leadership skills, too. So it may help to reframe it that way. You can easily say that you want to focus on the areas that best fit your aptitudes and skills, because that’s where you know you’ll be the most satisfied and the best able to add value to your team. A good company will understand and want to keep you there, and it can actually enhance your reputation in your role if you bring that “this is what I’m great at!” attitude and energy to it.

    1. DataSci*

      This framing of a move to management as a lateral move (to a ladder that may go higher than the one you’re on) is exactly what I came to say! It’s a career change, not just a promotion, and it isn’t for everyone. It isn’t for me. My workplace is currently redoing levels and ladders after a major merger, and the next step for me as a very senior IC is basically equivalent to director level – but it’s leading projects from a technical standpoint, not people.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I worked at a company that for some reason wouldn’t hire managers; they only hired individual contributors and “promoted” them into management (which was pretty much the only promotion available). As a result they never had enough managers and those we had often lacked management skills.

        I had coworkers who didn’t want to manage, but were pressured into it. They would manage me for a couple of years, then go back to being individual contributors as soon as they could. (Or maybe I was such a nightmare to manage they took a pay cut to avoid managing me? I hope not.)

        Management: it clearly isn’t for everyone!

    2. BatManDan*

      It’s certainly true that the skill of managing people is highly uncorrelated with the skills of any particular technical or sales role, and yet there is a general persistence in the belief that a management role is a promotion, and a national progression of a career path marked by success in a particular role. The book the E-Myth Revisited, by Michael Gerber (geared towards entrepreneurs, but still a good read for others) makes the roles of Entrepreneur, Manager, and Technician quite clear and disparate.

      1. DataSci*

        Technician? That’s an awfully dismissive term if it’s supposed to cover all non-management roles!

        1. Orangie*

          My dictionary says a technician is: an expert in the practical application of a science or a person skilled in the technique of an art or craft. Neither of which is bad, and both of which seem to encompass most non-management, individual-contributor type roles. Maybe ask yourself why you think the word “technician” is derogatory or dismissive? I bet it comes from some internal, class-based biases about labor.

        2. BatManDan*

          Michael Gerber is not dismissive at all; it’s short-hand for “the person that does the THING,” which is quite different than “the person that manages the people that DO THE THING,” which is quite different than “the person that runs a business that DOES THE THING.”

      2. Parakeet*

        The persistence is probably also because that’s how a lot of organizations are structured, with managers being paid more. At my previous job at a small organization (less than 30 employees), all individual contributors were the same rank with the same salary, and the only way to be promoted (and make a higher salary) was becoming a manager. I’ve seen variations on this, maybe a less rigid but the same concept of “manager = better pay and more prestige, either not much of a ladder for individual contributors or ‘manager’ is considered a rung at the top of the ladder” at other organizations and companies too, in different industries.

      3. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

        I know myself well enough to know that I would be a TERRIBLE manager. Heck, I can’t get anyone in my house to take out the trash when that needs doing; how can I get someone to send me the Johnson report by end of day Friday? One reason I went for self-employment was that I was tired of people assuming that I should want to be a manager (the funny thing was that at my last job, I had no idea what my manager even did – she was gone for a month on vacation and there was no appreciable difference in our daily work).

    3. KayDeeAye*

      When I had been at my present organization for a few years, my boss retired, and I was asked at least a couple of times if I was interested in interviewing for his position. On paper I was qualified, and I thought about it for maybe 10 minutes. But I had been a manager before, and I had discovered that I wasn’t particularly good at it. And even if I could get better at it (which I probably could have), I had in the interim discovered that I disliked managing *so* much. I enjoy managing projects, but not people, and coming in every day knowing that the only employee I had to manage was myself was gloriously freeing.

      Then, after the person hired to replace my first boss was let go, I was asked again. This time, I thought about it for maybe 10 seconds before saying “No, no, absolutely not.” And I’ve never regretted it, even though bosses of various degrees of capability have come and gone in the years since.

      Has it hurt me? I don’t think so, but even if it has, I don’t *care*, because being in a position that I didn’t want and wasn’t good at would have hurt me even more on so many levels.

      1. LongTimeReader*

        My mom stayed in the same computer programmer role for 40 years and turned down management roles every few years. She never regretted that choice!

      2. Totally Minnie*

        I’ve been a manager, and by all accounts I was good at it. But since managing is such a different skill set from what I had been doing before, being good at it required almost all of my energy. I was working at full capacity at all times with no rest and I thoroughly burned myself out. Part of that is because the organization I was working for didn’t provide any supervisory or management training or support. But the other part is me. I’m extremely people-oriented, and I wanted good things for my staff, but there are times as a manager when you can’t get your staff the things they need to be successful, and that really weighed on me. I’m just not the right personality for that kind of job. A lot of people aren’t. That not anything to be ashamed of, and I’d really encourage LW to keep saying no to management if they know it’a not right for them.

    4. pinetree*

      OP3, before this all comes to a head, you may want to do some further evidence gathering of whether your fear of your reputation being damaged is actually possible and if so, what you can do to hold it off. Can you enlist the manager who is retiring as an ally, who can gently advocate on your behalf to leadership not to pressure you to take the job? Is there anybody within the leadership team who you’d be comfortable talking about this with over coffee? Or if need be, request a chat with the person who asked you to seriously consider taking the position and explain more about why you bring the greatest value in your current position. If you take these types of steps now, before the position is open, the company can better plan and won’t be in a time crunch yet trying to fill the role. Worst comes to worst, you do find out your standing will be diminished, but now at least you can make a more informed decision about how you want to move forward.

    5. Marna Nightingale*

      My spouse has successfully avoided becoming head of his department multiple times over the last few years by saying, perfectly truthfully “I don’t have a real vision of what the department as a whole should be, and I very much do have one for what I’m doing now.”

      This has gone over just fine, although he invariably gets stuck with Acting Head when required, which he regards as fair, and it may be useful language.

    6. El l*

      “My perspective is, management is different work. It’s hard to do well even when you really want to do it, and I’m just not interested in this challenge. I know I’d be an easy solution to this vacancy, and I’m flattered, but after serious consideration, no thanks.”

    7. OP 3*

      Thank you (and everyone, actually) for helping me with how to respond to this situation! I did want to clarify that it is a promotion – my company has different tiers, and this would be a higher tier than my current one. It would be an increase in pay and other benefits, which is hard to turn down.
      That being said, I am positive that I would not be great at management (mainly because I have no desire to do it). Thank you all, including AAM, for letting me feel ok about this and for giving me great feedback on how to phrase my response!

  4. Observer*

    . I don’t know if I have the guts to lie and say it’s false too, or what people will think if they find out I lied to cover up an embarrassing story. I don’t want to be our local version of George Santos. But I don’t want to have to move out of the area to get away from the shame

    This sounds like a really strong reaction – even an over-reaction to the situation. Even if the Pastor’s version of the story were true, who cares? I mean in this context. Why would you need to cover thus up? It’s not a negative story about you, and you don’t need to get away from it.

    That doesn’t mean you need to discuss it with people, of course. If anyone is weird enough to try to pry, Alison’s language works very well I think. I mean, it’s an ugly and unpleasant story and any reasonable person would understand that you don’t really want to have a whole discussion about the ins and outs of how your mother was abused by her Church. Not because you have anything to be embarrassed about. But because it’s not something that reasonable people want to have idle chit chat about.

    As for the George Santos comparison, I think that’s over the top. Even if you decided to lie about it and then someone figured it out it’s just a whole different world from that fabulist. He’s just a liar and apparently a thief who made up pretty much his whole resume to bamboozle money and votes out of people. That’s not even on the same planet are some self protective obfuscation of a story that really is not relevant to your work, volunteering or even your relationships.

    PS It might help you to reframe your view of this. Your mother was NOT ” the reason their handsome young pastor needed to transfer to another county”! He and his terrible behavior were the reason. People may have tried to assign the blame to her, but it really does not belong to her.

    PS2 I know that this is not what you asked, but it strikes me that your issue doesn’t really have to do with your workplace (volunteer or paid) but with the unresolved trauma of your mother’s shaming. Maybe therapy would be useful to helping you leave the story in the past where it belongs, and with tools to deal with any situation where someone tries to make a thing of it.

    1. Pelican*

      I agree. We discovered my grandfather was a Catholic priest. This sort of “shame” runs deep in a family through generations & therapy to sort your own head out can really help. To strengthen your own wellbeing & help you not get knocked off balance by other people

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      OP didn’t say whether she was the result of this pregnancy (as opposed to a subsequent one) but I assumed she was due to the amount of shame that seems to be attached to it. I wondered if it is really just gossip aversion (understandable) or if she feels “responsible” in some way as the baby. Worth thinking about.

      1. alienor*

        I got that impression too based on the timing and OP’s stated age. The fact that people were openly pointing and whispering at her mother during school concerts (!) makes me wonder if OP also got treated poorly by teachers/neighbors, picked on by other kids who had heard about it from their parents, etc. That sort of childhood trauma could stick with someone for a long time and make them skittish about it starting up all over again.

    3. anon in affordable housing*

      I grew up angry beyond belief that my father had treated my mother so badly.

      But that’s not how anyone else in town but us saw it.

      And that’s not going to be how the old ladies tell the story.

      1. kt*

        You may be right about many old ladies. But by this point, there’s going to be one old lady who busts out with, “You know, I always thought that was very unfair how she was treated. At the time I just went along with things but knowing what we know now, don’t you think it was terrible?”

        1. NotAManager*

          This is so true. It’s also likely that the pastor had other victims as well who might only within the past few decades have felt comfortable sharing their stories with their family and community. It’s completely possible that the aforementioned “handsome young pastor” is now remembered as, “that creep who preyed on young girls and was protected by the Church at their expense.”

          50 years is a long time, even in the memory of a small town – the “old ladies” of LW’s childhood have likely passed on, or are in their 80s or 90s. I’d be surprised if they still have malice in their hearts for LW and their mom and if they *do* that’s a mark of their poor character and nothing at all for LW to lose sleep over. In any case, I think it’s highly unlikely that there will be any negative fallout for LW now and I’m really, really sorry that they and their mother were treated so poorly in the past.

        2. Observer*

          Very much this.

          Also, no one outside of the town is going to care. And as @NotAManager says, the events of the last 50 years, including all of the Church scandals, means that people are a lot less likely to insist on the “hussy temptress” narrative.

        3. HotSauce*

          Maybe, but it depends on where OP is. There are places all over the world that are stuck in the dark ages, heck it seems more prevalent in the past couple of decades. The book banning, don’t say gay, overturning women’s rights… I could absolutely see some small minded bigots still holding onto the “shamed woman” idea, instead of the abuse of trust and power it really was. When you live in these areas it can be quite difficult to speak up, if you don’t want to be ostracized.

          1. Francie Foxglove*

            I believe you, but, ostracized phooey. Who’d want to be accepted by people like that?

            1. KH_Tas*

              Perhaps if they’re your relatives or co-workers at a job you can’t afford to just quit?

          2. Observer*

            Even in “those” places, this kind of story is just not going to be a thing. Yes, in the little town where the story happened, could be. But in any of the bigger cities? If nothing else, there is too much other interesting gossip.

      2. Totally Minnie*

        It might not be how the old ladies will tell the story. But the topic of clergy sexual abuse has been in the news for decades, and the ChurchToo hashtag on twitter is full of people like LW’s mom, taking back their stories and placing the blame and shame where it actually belongs.

        If anybody at work brings it up again, I’d encourage LW to respond in those terms. Her mother was taken advantage of by a sexual predator. The shame is his. It’s not fair that she and her children have been made to carry it all this time.

        And I agree that LW might benefit from some time with a therapist to learn how to place that shame where it actually belongs.

    4. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      Observer, +1,000,000 to your comment. I want to add, I’m over 70, and it’s very unlikely that anyone would gossip about something that happened over half a century ago. For one thing, a lot of people who knew are no longer alive. My high school class graduated about that time, and you bet we had some pregnant young women in it. Some did not marry the father of their children, and they’ve gone on to have successful, happy lives. LW, please give you and your mother some grace. She was a VICTIM, not a willing participant.

        1. Allonge*

          No, she does not seem to.

          But one of the ways to be immune to any resurgence of malicious gossip about this is to know, with 1000% certainty, who was to blame for what, and to be willing to say it out loud. To be able to cut off anyone bringing it up and say, with conviction, that the priest and the congregation was in the wrong and anyone blaming OP’s mother now is wrong, wrong, wrong.

          And that can be easy thinking about it over the internet but pretty difficult in real life when this has been a major influence on OP’s life and there seems to be a lot of anger about it still.

          1. Allonge*

            Looking at OP’s newer comments, actually, she does seem to be angry at her mother too.

            OP, this is too big a burden to carry by yourself. You lived decades under the shadow of this. Maybe some professional help would be useful in dealing with it so that you don’t live in so much fear. Nobody deserves this.

    5. Irish Teacher*

      Ireland had a national scandal with some similarities back…in the 90s? The events had happened much earlier but only came out then. What happened was a high profile and very popular bishop was found to have had an affair with and fathered a child by, an American woman. The child was in his teens, I think when it came out or possibly a young adult. I think the bishop also embezzled church funds to pay child support, etc.

      The bishop lost his position and basically went into retirement. He did face consequences because his legacy was destroyed but…there was also a lot of animosity towards the woman he had had the affair with. He was a much-loved bishop. She was a foreigner. I don’t know if it bothered her or not, given that she lived in America and could possibly ignore Irish public opinion.

      A few years back, I was telling this story to my students in the context of discussing how Irish attitudes towards the church changed in the 1990s and what was interesting to me was that my students were focussed completely on the embezzlement, an issue that had been practically glossed over at the time. He was judged for breaking his vows but the embezzlement was seen as something he was driven to and the version at the time was that she had been “blackmailing him” (that he had an obligation to provide for his child was overlooked). I mean, thinking about it, their emphasis makes way more sense, but it was interesting how differently the story was heard twenty or twenty-five years apart.

      1. MK*

        The obligation to provide for a child legally exists if you have resources to do so, in my country. We had a case of a woman having a child with a monk, who isn’t paid a salary and has surrendered all his private property, asking for schold support, but there was nothing for her to get. I would argue that a man in this position has a moral obligation to quit the clergy and get a regular job, but on the other hand people pointed out that she knowingly had a child with someone who she knew had no legal way to provide for the child.

        1. right, blame the woman*

          Um, and how about the man who knew that he had no legal way to provide for the child? Was he raped or did he knowingly have sex?

        2. Chestnut Mare*

          Some entity supports the monks with food & housing. That’s where the support should have come from.

        3. KateM*

          Are you by any chance blaming a woman for deciding not to go to a potentially lifechanging surgery for convenience of a man who conceived a child, surely knowning even better that he had no way to legally provide for his offspring?

          1. Michelle Smith*

            No, they are relaying the arguments of other people who did. Their position, as stated, is that the monk should have been required to provide support.

            1. KateM*

              They are relaying it “but on the other hand” way, meaning that they consider those arguments valid as well.

          2. Myrin*

            How could you possibly have taken that from MK’s comment which literally says nothing of that sort?

        4. Pippa K*

          Another way to put that last part is “he knowingly had a child he knew he had no way to support.”

          1. ferrina*

            He is responsible for his choices. He was in the best position to know his resources and options.” A woman isn’t responsible for running a full background check on history and finances before sleeping with someone

            Though if someone is saying that this is the case…. does this mean that that was their standard practice when choosing a partner(s)? Is it on the third date that you ask for the social security number? When do you ask for the bank account information? Does the man provide a cash deposit so you can split the costs of running the background check? I want to know more!

            1. MK*

              Look, I agree that he should be responsible, but the rest of your argument doesn’t apply. He was a monk and she knew it, she didn’t need a background check to know he had no resources. Congrats on the effort to sound clever, I guess?

              1. Uranus Wars*

                I don’t think he was arguing that…I think he was pointing out how silly the argument that it was the woman’s fault for having sex with a monk sounds out loud.

              2. Anonymous for This*

                It’s called child support for a reason. It’s not about the woman at all. Essentially, this is like saying that the child should have known better than to be conceived by a man who could not support him or her.

      2. Ebar*

        My very devout Grandfather’s comment on that matter was apparently: “Well that’s the last all singing, all dancing Bishop we’ll have.”

      3. GreyjoyGardens*

        I recall that was parodied on a “Father Ted” episode where they find out that Bishop Brennan has a girlfriend and child and Ted blackmails him?

        I also recall the “walking the Appalachian trails” story of that governor who just skipped out of work to be with his mistress, and the big scandal was…why is this guy wasting taxpayer money if he is going to no-call, no-show and not do his work? Lots of people were all, “I’d be fired for that, how dare he!”

      4. Heffalump*

        The Irish connection makes me think of the Magdalene laundries. Even thinking of how women were treated there sends my blood pressure up.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      George Santos’s decisions could provide a whole month of AAM letters.

    7. ursula*

      I think most people these days know not to judge someone by their parents. I agree with others that most people in 2023 are unlikely to identify your mom as the villain in that story, even without a lot of context, but more broadly: you are an entirely separate person from your mother, and it would be very odd for this story to impact someone’s perception of you, even if people were gossiping about it (which would ALSO be extremely weird!). Also, it would be both bizarre and extremely unprofessional for anyone to bring this up with you at work – it’s way too personal and invasive for casual coworker chit-chat, and you could always have a phrase ready in your pocket in case somebody tries to talk about it: “That’s really personal family history, and I’m not going to get into it at work. Is there something work-related you need from me?”

      I’m sorry about what happened to your mom and to your family. None of you deserved it.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes. what’s scandalous has changed a lot over time. My great uncle got divorced in the 1950s and it was a major scandal. He actually had to pay a professional adulteress to go to Bridlington with him to provide evidence and be cited in the case. Nowadays nobody would bat an eyelid at divorce most of the time unless you’re living somewhere very old fashioned.

        People have a lot more awareness of pastoral leaders abusing their position of power now given some of the shady history of the past 20 years. A lot has changed since the OP’s mother was young.

        1. Quill*

          From the context I know what a professional adulteress was, but also I’m gonna be googling that historical tidbit now.

    8. ScruffyInternHerder*

      I’d also probably say, to anyone dumb enough to press the issue (because there’s going to be one) “Just so I understand, you really want to have a whole discussion with me about the ins and outs of how my mother was abused by her Church. Because that’s what it was. Abuse. You sure you want to talk about this? I don’t think I’m going to be the correct audience for your gossip.”

      The shame should be on the Church for failing to protect its members, not on the abuse victims. I have zero qualms about noisily pointing this out.

      1. Observer*

        That’s a good script. Whether to use it is a different question. But it does frame the situation perfectly, so, OP, it might be worth having it in the back of your mind, even if you never say it.

        Because it’s the truth.

        1. Alanna*

          I think a toned down version of this would work well. “I know you’re just curious, but this is a painful story of abuse suffered by my mother and I’d really prefer not to talk about it at work.” And change the subject.

          The original version is more satisfying but doesn’t dial down the drama.

          1. RunShaker*

            I’m woman, 51 yro, grew up in small town (pop. 1500) south of San Antonio. No longer live there but I too believe attitudes have changed for most. Especially with scandals in Catholic church and #metoo movement. In my early 20s, I moved in with my boyfriend and my mom was soooo embarrassed. I told old high school friends about moving in and mom decided to deny it to them and their moms. I corrected her and ensured my friends knew. In late 1980s, having pre-marital sex had become a “not a big deal.” Mom was upset but I had to own it and decided this is my life story. No repercussions. It was hard to shake off what I call “Small Town Puritan Views” at times. In the end, the few that judged me, I showed I didn’t care and I was going to continue to live my life. And I’ve had no negative effect.
            I hope OP moves forward without shame and if needed seek therapy. And only refer to him as the sexual predator.

            1. Francie Foxglove*

              Times keep changing. So many 20-somethings nowadays are unable to move out of their parents’ houses. My friend’s daughter moved in with a platonic friend and his girlfriend (now also a friend) for financial reasons, and makes jokes about menage a trois. Which it’s not, of course. But these days it’s too important to be financially savvy to get hung up on morals and What People Think.

              1. NotAnotherManager!*

                I moved to DC after college graduation, and there is no way to afford rent here on most entry-level jobs unless your parents help you out. It’s hard enough to find roommates you like and a housing location that works for you that very few people cared even back in the 90s if you were living with people of other genders. (I could write a series of humorous essays about my first shared housing search – one lady was going to have to clear her clown doll collection – at least a hundred of them – out of the room I was to be renting.)

          2. ScruffyInternHerder*

            I like this script too. I’ll add it to my rotation :)

            Mileage varies. I’ve had success sometimes with softer comments. And sometimes, I’ve had to provide the verbal equivalent with a clue-bat.

    9. Office Lobster DJ*

      Agree with all of this and with Alison’s response. OP, I’m sure it must have been rattling to find out this co-worker had that connection, especially on the heels of the bad news you were already dealing with, but think about the multiple steps it would have to go through to get back to you:
      -Co-worker is sufficiently curious to bring it up with her relative
      -Relative has heard 50+ year old gossip
      -Relative believes 50+ year old gossip is worth sharing
      -Relative shares gossip with co-worker
      -Co-worker decides bring it up with you again even after your original response made it clear it was a painful topic

      And even if all of those steps did line up, which they most certainly shouldn’t, in terms of having a negative impact on you, there’s the final hurdle of co-worker bringing it up with malicious intent versus wanting to express sympathy.

      Nothing about the story reflects poorly on you or your mother. In the unlikely event it comes up, if you can’t manage the suggestion to just own it, can you manage interrupting and simply saying “As I said last time, this is a painful topic for me, and I don’t talk about it. I’d appreciate you keeping whatever you think you know to yourself?”

      1. Tau*

        And there’d be two final steps necessary for the outcome OP really fears:

        – Coworker decides to share this 50-year-old second-hand gossip about a coworker’s family member with other people at the company
        – Those people think it is worth noting and something that affects their impression of OP

        I just… I am trying and trying and trying and I cannot imagine a single situation where, if someone approached me with this piece of news, my reaction would be anything other than “WTF? Why the hell are you talking about this? How is it any of our business?” The town gossip could have held OP’s mom to be an axe murderer and I’d still think – and say – that spreading that story seemed weirdly overinvested in ancient gossip about a coworker’s personal life. It was fifty years ago, on the other side of the country, not even about OP themself but their mother?! If anyone cares about it it reflects extremely badly on them, IMO.

        1. GreyjoyGardens*

          I agree! I would be *bored stiff* if someone tried to interest me in ancient small-town gossip, from a small town I probably never heard of. If I want juicy small-town intrigue I’ll catch it on Netflix or Hulu, where at least I might get some eldritch abominations out of it.

          Believe me, even the nosiest Parker won’t care about something this obscure and stale.

          1. alienor*

            Literally the only thing I would think is “Wow, that sucks and those people sound awful, glad OP got away from them.”

        2. Observer*

          It was fifty years ago, on the other side of the country, not even about OP themself but their mother?! If anyone cares about it it reflects extremely badly on them, IMO.


      2. Antilles*

        There’s also one more giant step in the middle there where the relative in another county in another city needs to connect the dots between OP’s vague story (relayed secondhand) with that particular 50-year old scandal.
        Seems rather unlikely.

    10. Pumpkin215*

      I agreed that this sounds like a way strong overreaction. Has nothing of interest happened in this town over the past 50 years? There was no better gossip or anything else to talk about? You would think after a few months it turned into “what’s her face…”.

      I doubt anyone is thinking about this as much as the LW is.

    11. Sharon*

      I agree that you probably think this is much more scandalous and important than most people you encounter will. I wouldn’t talk with my relatives in another country about something a volunteer buddy mentioned, and even if I did, the chances that they would link it to a specific thing that happened in their town 50 years seems very unlikely. They probably wouldn’t even figure out that you once lived in the same town.

    12. Momma Bear*

      I agree. I think OP has had a lot of shame from their childhood and therapy might be good to free them from the shame and guilt. Remember, OP, you are not a child anymore. You can be firm and direct with people who are so classless as to gossip (if they even do) about a tough situation that happened to a young woman. I would also say that I was not ever going to discuss it again, and refocus the topic to the work at hand. As a volunteer you might also consider changing what you volunteer for if this person becomes a problem.

    13. lyonite*

      I imagine that the OP was profoundly affected by the gossip and shaming that went on in their hometown, and this is bringing up a lot of old feelings, but I think there’s very little chance of the repeated experience they’re worried about. I was just trying to think about how I would react if a coworker brought up fifty-year-old gossip about another colleague’s mother, and all I can come up with is “Why are you telling me that?” Even if she had done something actually bad, it would have to be pretty interesting for me to even have a passing interest, and an affair is nowhere near that level. (Her mom was responsible for the Dyatlov Pass incident? Okay, I’m listening.) I’m sorry this happened to you and your family, OP, people are terrible. But I don’t think they’re likely to be terrible to you in this instance.

    14. T.N.H.*

      OP, my heart breaks for you that you’ve been carrying around this shame for your whole life (it sounds like). I wonder if part of your fear stems from the fact that you have kept a secret. It might feel really refreshing to talk about it, even anonymously online or in a support group or with us in the comments!

      I’m not sure if this helps but I do some amateur genealogy and if you go back far enough, everyone has this story in their tree. You’re in good company at least!

    15. LCH*

      I am definitely on team “no one who knows you now in your new location would care” but if they do, what sort of s***hole town do you live in? I mean, if it has been a nice place to live so far, with decent and good people, why would they suddenly change?

    16. LCH*

      also, wow, kicked out of her church. that congregation was truly following in jesus’s footsteps. /s

      1. Ashloo*

        Unfortunately, I think this is pretty common in some denominations. When my best friend’s parent’s marriage was on the rocks, it was somehow only her mother who was ostracized at their ultra conservative Baptist church.

  5. Miri*

    In my experience in the UK civil service, both as interviewee and interviewer, it’s typical to ask for feedback after any interview, including successful ones – however the process for recording feedback is much more formalised (it involves scoring candidate 1-7 on the relevant areas, with the rationale for this) and usually the panel chair will have notes written specifically for that purpose. It’s helpful to know if you scored a 5 on a technical question but a 3 for a people skills question, for example, and what you could do better next time or if you should focus on an area for development.

    1. Miri*

      Replying to self to say – I understand that this isn’t usual across countries/sectors, and that it probably isn’t usual for LW#1’s industry, but reflecting that I do find that culture of feedback and comments even for successful interviews really helpful and valuable. Even if you’ve “won” the job/interview you can still reflect and learn from what went well and what didn’t.

      1. BethDH*

        The good bosses I’ve had have all made this a more or less explicit part of onboarding. It’s never been in the form of a rubric like you mention (though we do use them for hiring), but more in terms of goal-setting for the first three months. “We know you came in with strong skills in x, so just get familiar with our version; let’s work on a plan though for y since we know that’s a growth area for you.”

    2. bamcheeks*

      Yes, it’s not AS normal as getting feedback when you haven’t been successful, but it’s certainly kot so weird that it would make me question the candidate’s judgment or think they were inexperienced! I’d just see it as someone who realises that interviews are a skill a s is thinking about how to improve that skill for next time.

      1. Baron*

        “I’d just see it as someone who realises that interviews are a skill a s is thinking about how to improve that skill for next time.”

        And my thought would be, why is someone I just hired already thinking about their next set of job interviews?

        1. metadata minion*

          It seems pretty reasonable if they’re this early in their career. Outside of a few specific fields, they’re probably going to be interviewing again in no more than 5 years or so, probably less. Getting hired means that they’re not going to be interviewing anymore for a while and so why wouldn’t they want to get some feedback while they can? (I realize that, as Alison says, it’s not really a thing people usually do, but it doesn’t seem like a deeply presumptuous question to me.)

          When I started my current job, my manager at the time gave me (unasked) excellent feedback on my interview that I really appreciated.

        2. bamcheeks*

          This is his second job out of high school! I mean, it’s very unlikely he’s going to stay for the next forty years. And it would not be very helpful if he waited a year or two until he was ready to move one and *then* asked about interview feedback.

          1. Baron*

            It’s interesting, some of the hypocrisy inherent in hiring. I absolutely agree with you, a stranger on the internet, that someone written about by another stranger on the internet is statistically likely not to hold a job for forty years. That’s just true. But if I were a hiring manager and a successful candidate did something to imply that they’d be out the door in a year or two, I would be much less enthusiastic about hiring them. I’ll own that that might be unreasonable and unfair – that people still hope a new hire will stay for closer to forty years than forty weeks – but some of us do.

            1. alienor*

              I guess it depends, but I’m a hiring manager and not only expect people to move on, I tell my direct reports that if they get a great opportunity, they should go for it and I’ll support them. That’s especially true if they’re early in their careers – I stayed with my first company way too long out of inertia, so I know what a trap it can be.

            2. bamcheeks*

              Yeah, that seems like an unnecessary level of game-playing to me. I don’t expect anyone to pretend they’re never going to apply for another job!

    3. Adereterial*

      Also UK Civil Service here (well, devolved but we follow the same rules). Feedback is in my experience automatic – the scores and a summary at least get uploaded to whichever system is being used. Asking for more is pretty common and it’ll be given freely and it’s not seen as strange to ask, even if you’ve been successful. Given that onboarding can take a while, I’ve often asked after I’ve accepted but before I’ve started, and I’ve had candidates do the same too.

    4. Madame Arcati*

      Hey fellow uk civil servant! Yes, your dept uses the same system as mine and you still get your scores back even when you get through. Good for the ego to look back when you get a six!

  6. The Count of Monte Crisco*

    My employer had a weird FMLA policy that said if you were out for more than three days you had to file for FMLA. At least, it was a policy on the books, though I never heard of anyone actually having to do it. I stopped worrying about it after I realized it didn’t apply to me because I was part time (something about total number of hours worked per period). But it boggled my mind that someone should have to file government paperwork for being sick for three or four days. I just imagine my employer saw the “a period of incapacity of more than three consecutive, full calendar days with follow-up treatment” wording and jumped on it, like, “We HAVE to make people who are out for more than three days do FMLA,” wrote it into policy, then forgot about it. Anyway, my main understanding was that FMLA was to legally protect your job for your return, which is a reasonable worry if you’re out 12 weeks, but not so much for 3 days.

    1. Generic Mid-Career HR Person*

      Flagging that it’s always a great idea to consistently enforce a written FMLA policy and change it if it’s bad…

      A big concern for employers is that an employee will attempt to start their 12-week FMLA clock after they’ve already exhausted months of PTO through periods of extended absences. PTO can run concurrently with FMLA so that the employer can decide if they want to make employment changes or even terminate employment after 12 weeks of absence. Maybe FMLA should be longer than 12 weeks?

      I believe it’s fairly common to have a policy backdating FMLA if the employee starts the FMLA process during an extended absence, but it gets tricky if someone is out sick for two weeks (no FMLA), then out for a different medical/family reason for another two weeks (no FMLA), then opts to start their FMLA during a third absence later in the same year. If FMLA had already been used, then the employee would have eight weeks of FMLA left instead of 12. Don’t forget to check your employer’s policy AND your state’s actual family and medical leave policy since places like CA and DC go above and beyond the federal FMLA.

      1. me... just me*

        This is my take, it’s a way to limit leave to 12 weeks in a calendar year for those who seem to be out extensively for varying reasons. Of course, it catches even those who rarely are out for extended periods. Another situation where the company has to apply things broadly so they don’t face accusations of favoritism, etc.

    2. Observer*

      What might be going on here is that it’s a way to make people bring in medical documentation, even for unpaid leave.

    3. Arglebargle*

      As a healthcare provider I HATE companies (Ahem, giant internet company that begins with A) who require FMLA paperwork to be filled out for more than 3 days off. We have a local warehouse of said internet giant and a lot of their employees are my patients. If they have a cold or flu, or sprain, or something they can manage at home, and the pt is out for 3 days, the company’s HR ALWAYS requires FMLA paperwork. This is A LOT of paperwork for an already swamped primary care provider.

  7. Viette*

    LW2: ” I don’t want to be our local version of George Santos. But I don’t want to have to move out of the area to get away from the shame” — kindly, I think you are catastrophizing due to the similarity of this to your childhood experience. Nobody has even started gossiping about this yet, much less accused you of being a liar or made your life difficult.

    This is many-decades-old gossip about a woman (your mother) who none of these people have even met. It sounds like it’s making you relive your childhood trauma all over again, but what happened then is not what’s happening now.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        Seriously. I grew up in an absolutely tiny town, and people were still gossiping about my dad’s high school relationships — none of which lasted longer than a year, if I understood it correctly — when he died aged almost 80. Small-town gossip never dies.

        1. OP #2*

          Thanks for commenting, though I’m sorry it happened to him/your family.

          I thought I got away from everything by moving so far away, and didn’t expect to run into someone who visits a friend at that church. (No, I didn’t move just because of the gossip. It was a nice side benefit of moving to a larger metro area with a better job market, though.)

          1. WishIWasATimeTraveller*

            I’m sorry for what you and your mum went through, OP2. That is terrible, just know that most people after hearing that story would definitely not blame your mum. Even hearing a twisted version from gossipy older people, these days we know enough to question what we are told. If nothing else, he was in a position of authority over his congregation, and the more power a person has in a relationship, the more they should be held accountable.

          2. DJ Abbott*

            I wouldn’t blame you if you had moved to get away from the gossip. Attitudes like those are one of the bigger reasons I left Kansas. I’m Lucky nothing horrible happened to me before I left.
            It’s horrible to be a child and not understand why grown-ups are whispering and refusing to talk openly about something. You wonder what horrible things are going on or about to happen. My mothers family didn’t discuss things, and I wondered what was so horrible they wouldn’t talk about it. It adds to the trauma.

      2. Viette*

        Ah, I thought from your letter that you had moved out of that small town to some other place and still lived far from that small town now; I misunderstood. I had been speaking to the idea that new people (other than your coworker with relative) wouldn’t be interested in historic gossip about a stranger from a distant small town. If you’re in the same small town as this all happened then yes, I see how the gossip would come back up.

        1. Myrin*

          No, your initial understanding was correct – OP confirmed in more detail in a comment below.

          1. Viette*

            Oh! Okay. Well, then I would stand by my reassurance that it is unlikely that new people in a different, unrelated town or city would get really excited about very old gossip about someone’s mother’s being badly mistreated by her church and community. This is just based on my childhood in one specific small town in America, though. Could always be different elsewhere.

            1. Jackalope*

              I think this is key. I can totally understand not moving back to the original small town where you grew up. But as someone who also grew up in a small town and then later moved to a large city, my experience is that I’m large cities people just don’t… care as much. Part of it is that large cities tend to be more liberal and so mores around sexual behavior are less likely to be condemning towards a woman who got pregnant outside of marriage. Part of it is that no one knows your mom (outside of maybe your friends there, depending on how long you’ve lived there), no one knows the pastor, and so there’s no emotional connection to the key players in the story the way there was in your home town where people may have felt (for example) a sense of loss at your father leaving town. Without that emotional connection to the story it’s extremely unlikely to spread, especially given how long ago it was and the fact that in 2023 so many people have children while not married.

              1. alienor*

                I live in a large city and absolutely no one would care about something that happened in a small town years ago (or last week, for that matter). If someone did hear the story, the most likely reaction would be “wow, that’s awful, I’m so glad I live in [name of city] where people mind their own business.”

                1. negligent apparitions*

                  Yes, exactly! If anything, you could probably get some commiseration about how ridiculous it is that people still gossip about that kind of thing.

      3. MK*

        Ok, but would people in your new town care that much? Maybe this coworker will find out about your mother, but if she tries to spread the gossip where you live now, are people going to be that interested?

        1. orange line avenger*

          Yeah, the LW said that the co-volunteer has a relative who attends that particular church, but that doesn’t mean the relative was present for this decades-old scandal.

          It’s understandable that this scandal looms large for LW #2 and I believe her when she says that people in her old small town would still gossip about it, but I just can’t imagine that the topic is going to generate much interest for anyone in her current city, unless she continues to bring it up unprompted as she did with the co-volunteer. And yes, blurting out the details of a long-ago scandal in response to an innocuous religious statement counts as unprompted. I lost my religion as part of the fallout of a similar incident, and although it comes to mind when people express religious sentiment to me, but I don’t bring it up, because I know it’s just going to extend the church talk and make everyone feel bad.

          LW, I say this with all the kindness in the world, but I really think you’d benefit from counseling, if only to work out some strategies for how to disengage in religious talk without bringing up something that is clearly very painful for you.

          1. EvilQueenRegina*

            And even if this other volunteer does say something to her relative along the lines of “Oh, it turns out I volunteer with someone who used to live in Smallville, did you know her? Persephone Mulberry?” and Relative is aware of the story…from what you know of Co-volunteer, assuming Relative shares anything at all, is she likely to circulate it more widely in Current City? She really might just think “I don’t think OP would want that sharing, and it’s not something anyone here really needs to know, I’m not going to mention it.”

          2. Michelle Smith*

            Seconding the counseling idea. And if you can’t afford that, listening to podcasts and reading books and articles from people with similar trauma helped me a TON when I was dealing with the childhood religious trauma I carry. I wouldn’t say all my wounds are healed or anything like that, but I no longer feel an intense physical reaction or deep mental anguish when someone uses religious language towards me. I feel much better equipped now to say thank you and move on or say that I’m not religious but I appreciate the kind intent behind the sentiment. I have even asked my religious family and friends to pray for me on occasion, not because I believe it has any impact, but because that’s the language they speak and they feel more included in my life and my struggles when I engage them in this way. I’ve come a long way in the past 15 years on this. I’m hoping you’ll be able to get to a place as well where you are able to manage these interactions with religious people in a way that doesn’t exacerbate your legitimate trauma.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              That’s a wonderful idea if therapy isn’t in the cards right now. I’m glad you’ve been able to find healing.

      4. Zarniwoop*

        “You would be surprised about what people find interesting in small towns.”
        But you’ve moved to a “large metro area” now, and people there will have much fresher and more interesting things to talk about.

        1. EPLawyer*

          Exactly. No one in new town is going to care about a scandal from 50 years ago in another place. Even if coworker talks everyone in new town is going to be looking at her like she is the weird one. Why are you bringing this up? What relevance does it have to here and now?

      5. Heather*

        I am from a very small town. People find a lot of things to gossip about, but not 50 years later! There’s a difference between “Oh!— are you OP?— I think I remember your family. Shame what happened there.” Versus “OMG are you the daughter of that harlot?” I promise you, it’s 2023, nobody has strong feelings about something that happened in 1970. They remember, but they don’t CARE, and that is an important difference.

        1. Uranus Wars*

          I think some small towns might be different from others. In my small town they still gossip about my aunt and uncle to me, about me and my supposed connection, etc.. My uncle was 50 and died in 2001.

          But (hopefully) this will also apply to OP’s situation: while they talk about it in my hometown, no one in my current city gives one flying flip about it.

          1. Seashell*

            Is the gossip bad stuff that your aunt & uncle did or is it, “Oh, are you related to John and Jane Smith? I went to high school with John”?

      6. Yridian*

        But you’re no longer in the small town. Even if someone there still wanted to gossip about 50-years- past events, how does it affect you where you are now?

      7. Observer*

        You would be surprised about what people find interesting in small towns.

        I hear that. But there is still no comparison.

        Also, your volunteer buddy is in the same metro area that you are in, which means that she’s probably not quite as steeped in the minutiae of all the scandals of the last century. Which also means that it’s not that likely that she will make it her business to tell her relatives back home (assuming that she’s close enough to them to talk with them regularly) that she met you. More importantly, even if she does come to mention it, if she tried to make a thing about it or gossip about it to you or at the organization you volunteer for, or anything like that, SHE is going to be the one who looks really weird (or worse.)

        I don’t know where you live, but in the US, I don’t think that there is any relatively large metro area where there is not a ton of juicy *current* gossip for people to get their fix, and it’s often local. So the idea that anyone in your current location would find this at all interesting or relevant is kind of funny to me.

        1. Kal-El’s German Shepherd Dog*

          OP2 is watching too much SMALLVILLE, where everyone in Metropolis cares about what happens in some podunk town 2000 miles away.

      8. There You Are*

        My mom was raised in a tiny town in the South. In 1963, she had an abortion. Then she got married and had my brother. And then she cheated on her husband with another married man and got pregnant with me. [It was a one-night stand, no less!] Scandalous hardly begins to describe how the town viewed her.

        I went to one of her high school reunions when I was maybe 18 or 19 (?). Some old biddy and her daughters pulled me aside to “compliment” me for having turned out so well despite coming from such… questionable… circumstances.

        Having never lived around these people (in fact, having just moved back to the South from San Francisco), I actually, literally, laughed out loud at them. I was like, “You do realize that’s my *mother* you’re talking about, right?”

        I chuckled the whole time I walked away from them. I mean, I’m sorry your life is so tiny that *this* is what you think is exciting?? Maybe get out and see a bit more of the world, eh? Like, I can tell you that they have never — ever — walked through The Castro eating a fabulous gelato recommended to them by the two men in ass-less chaps and thong underwear that they’d met while waiting for a bus. (Which isn’t scandalous, either, btw).

        And you know what? I will happily tell my story of origin to anyone who asks about my childhood. It also involves a step-dad who beat my mom and my brother, and my mom only being able to save herself and get us away from him by shooting him when he was attacking her (for the last time). He didn’t die, but it was still a really, REALLY big deal in our neighborhood of a medium-sized metro area. And in my elementary school. And we did not change schools after the shooting and the divorce.

        The thing is, all that “scandalous” behavior was performed by other people, not me. I’m not going to take on the shame or embarrassment that anyone wants to place on them. That’d be like feeling shame on behalf of, say, a TV character. I, personally, (and my mom, for that matter) have nothing to be ashamed of.

        (1) I didn’t make those choices and, more importantly (2) I’m not the petty Shamey McShamersons who only feel good about themselves if they’re putting someone else down. Ew. If anyone should have trouble sleeping at night because they are embarrassed by their actions, it really ought to be them.

        OP, I wish words from an internet stranger could make a difference, but you really have nothing to fear from the small town gossips. Enjoy the sideshow entertainment of them making asses of themselves by getting off on gleefully trying to cause other people emotional pain. You’re fine. Truly.

        1. There You Are*

          It feels really dumb to reply to myself for this clarification, but my step-father beat all three of us, not just my mom and my brother.

          My kingdom for an edit button! :-)

    1. Chauncy Gardener*

      LW2, I am so deeply sorry to hear what your mother (and therefore you) went through. And I can see how in a small town people just can’t let go of that stuff.

  8. ENFP in Texas*

    “I appreciate the feedback, but I am happy being an individual contributor and have no desire to move into a management role. That is not where my career interests lie.”

    There is no reason that you should be “forced” to take a job that you know you don’t want.

    1. Not Management Material*

      I’m always surprised how many people think they know me better than I know myself. When I say I’m happy where I am, why do people want to argue with me about it? Not everyone wants to manage, and my ambition, or lack of it, are my business. I like being really good at what I do, and I know my limitations.

      1. OP#2*

        I’ve worked for more than one manager who wished they were still individual contributors. Stand up for staying in a career you ENJOY.

        1. English Rose*

          Exactly, I recently got out of a management role I’d taken for similar reasons of pressure and logic.
          Now I’m an individual contributor again (I like that phrase) I am so much happier, and I expect the team I previously managed is too. I mean I wasn’t a bad manager, but I wasn’t great, and it wasn’t where my interests lie. Teams deserve better.

        2. Charlotte Lucas*

          I currently work for a new manager who probably should have stayed an individual contributor.

      2. AlsoADHD*

        I think the problem is that sometimes people aren’t as self aware and they were pushed by someone and it worked out. So they think sometimes people don’t know what they want. I’m like you—I know myself and think actively about what I want. But some people would resist the leadership due to imposter syndrome but do well AND be happy if they were pushed into it, I think, and that complicates stuff, though I’m not saying that’s right.

      3. pally*

        They argue because moving you into a management position solves a problem for them.
        Stick to your guns!

    2. Bagpuss*

      Yes, managing is a different job and it’s not right for everyone.

      OP, you mention others in your area would like the opportunity – is there anyone whose work you are familiar enough with that you could say to the senior person that you don’t want to move o management but you believe that Jane Doe is interested in that kind of role and would be a good fit? It’s not your job to find a new manager for them but it sounds like you have a lot of experience and institutional knowledge about what’s needed, and if you know of people in the field or within the company who you could recommend, doing so might be a positive, both in terms of good relationships with the senior management and in getting a new manager you work well with!

      My dad was similar to you, he was working somewhere which had a structure that meant at a certain point ‘promotion’ to manager was the only way to advance. They kept trying to promote him and he made clear he wasn’t remotely interested, and there was a period where he was working with people who were far less experienced and skilled than him who were on paper ‘supervising’ him (they were all well aware that this was a bit daft, and ‘what shall I tell you to do?’ was not an uncommon question.)
      The last time they tried to force him into management and told him that they couldn’t give him any increase in pay unless he agreed he told them he would be leaving, and would be setting up as an independent consultant.

      He thinks that at that point, local management probably escalated it far enough to point out to the powers that be that paying him to stay on was going to be*much* cheaper than having to hire him as a consultant next time they needed him, because suddenly it turned out that it was possible for them to pay him more and create a new role that didn’t involve management.
      (He had a near- unique blend of knowledge and skills, he’s retired now but one reason for that was that unlike a lot of his contemporaries, he *hadn’t* moved into management so there weren’t a lot of people who were familiar with both the old and the new and how they fit together. )

      1. Michelle Smith*

        This is a great point and one for OP to consider. If the issue is that their structure doesn’t allow you to be promoted further or get raises, perhaps asking them to create a new structure would help. Like you may be Senior Individual Contributor and that’s the highest role structurally before Assistant Director Managing Individual Contributors. But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t make a Senior Individual Contributor II title or an Assistant Director of Widgets title that is still an individual contributor role, but that highlights your subject matter expertise. I mean I worked at an office where they created roles for managers who were preparing to retire and no longer wanted the day to day stresses of managing. I can’t remember the exact title but my boss went from Chief of the Division to something like Senior Legal Counsel. It was considered a promotion, rather than a demotion, and allowed him to stay in our division as a subject matter expert consultant with all the same ability to review and approve our work but without the administrative responsibilities like doing performance reviews or actively supervising (unless he happened to feel like helping you with a trial or something). It worked out well for him to ease into retirement on a more flexible schedule, while also allowing him to support and informally train his internally promoted replacement. I can’t see any reason why managerial titles *have* to be the terminal position for ambitious people – there is always a role for individual contributors to move up and strengthen teams. You may just have to convince your company to create one.

    3. Green great dragon*

      I know a few people in your position and a cheerful ‘no, not for me’ seems to work. People keep asking, because why wouldn’t they, it’s worth a try, but just keep doing what you’re doing, and try to think of them as just asking rather than trying to pressure you. Presuming they aren’t obviously trying to pressure you.

    4. Venus*

      OP may see “seriously consider this position” as pressure when there is none. I can’t know the tone of the manager who said it, but in my workplace it is a way of saying that they think someone has potential. If the person were to respond “Thank you for the compliment! Know that I’ve thought about it carefully and I really enjoy the X parts of my current work and don’t want to change that.” then the manager would be supportive of the choice to not go into management. My response tends to be something about not having the energy to manage the difficult people, and I’ve never been criticized for that! Our workplace wants to encourage more women and minorities to go into management so it’s reasonable for a senior manager to reach out and say “I don’t know if you’ve seriously considered going into management, but know that I think you’d do a good job and would suggest you think about it” but it’s also equally reasonable for that person to say “Thanks, and I have thought about it a lot”

    5. 1,000 Snails in a Lady Skin*

      OP3 – at my company, there’s one person who’s had long tenure, is extremely good at their job… and very clearly not interested in a management position.
      And all the other managers AND individual contributors have extreme respect for this person for knowing what they want and what they’re good at! It’s not limiting, it’s freeing!

      I have a lot more sideeye for someone who was clearly forced into a management position and didn’t want it / isn’t that great at it (both silent criticism at this person for accepting, and of course at leadership for putting them in this position!).

    6. dontwanttobeamgr*

      At my last company, I only worked there 2 years. My manager at the time never discussed with me where I wanted to go in my career, what my goals were and if I ever wanted to be a manager or leader.
      There is this secret program that most employees didn’t know about, called HiPo, and what happens is managers nominate someone from their team for it, then they go and argue in front of all the higher ups for their person to be selected. Only 2% of the entire company get selected as a high potential employee, and receive specialized training to become a leader. Well my manager nominated me behind my back for this and I was selected. When she told me about it, I said I didn’t want to be a leader and she said she didn’t ever envision herself as one either until a manager coached her. She convinced me to go into the program (mostly to CYA for herself).
      I took the personality quiz, and guess what? It said I didn’t have a personality for being a manager or leader. The HR person who went over my results looked confused about why I was selected for this program.
      I felt trapped, like I couldn’t do anything about it without career suicide. I went through the motions of doing all the steps in the plan and I was miserable. It was a lot of extra work on top of my other work.
      One day I finally had enough and went on linked in and the first thing I saw on the app was a job posting doing exactly what I did, in my home state. I applied, got the position, and they paid for me to relocate. I am so much happier now. Also, this is a much smaller company so there is no fear of me becoming selected for a leadership position.

  9. Emmy Noether*

    for #2:

    I was also born into scandal back in the day – teen pregnancy, small town, my mother came from a prominent family and was class valedictorian, my father was new to town. I had the great luck that my extended family reacted well – they treat all children as a joy (also, my mother’s family has been a source of small-town gossip for literally hundreds of years and doesn’t care) – and that my parents stayed together and moved away and I mostly grew up elsewhere. It was never presented to me as shameful when I grew up, just an unusual start to our family.

    When we moved back when I was 16, the gossip did indeed apparently start back up a bit. One if my friends told me about it. I just laughed and confirmed it, and that seems to have done the trick, because it never came back up.

    I also get a kick out of the fact that my official birth records literally say that I was “retroactively legitimized”, like I was some nobleman’s bastard in a history book.

    Now, your story is different in some key points of course, mostly that you still have very justified negative feelings about it (the tricking and mistreatment of your mother, the long exposure to venomous gossip). Still, the less you let it seem to get to you, the less people will be interested.

    1. Emmy Noether*

      Oh, and the gossip was something really backhanded out of my friend’s mother, like she was “surprised I had made a success of myself despite the circumstances of my birth” or something in that vein. I was like, um, thanks?

    2. Armchair Analyst*

      Yes. In the book “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker, he has advised very prominent people what to do if they are being blackmailed. I realize the OP is not being blackmailed, but she feels that another person has control over negative information about her that will influence people’s perception of her. The advice given is to tell your side of the story, as truthfully and as sympathetically as possible, to take control of the narrative. That way, the blackmailer with the information loses control, their information is then freely available and not as valuable as a secret. The example given was when David Letterman had affairs with women who worked for him and was extorted for $2 million. David Letterman stood up on the TV show and told everyone what he did, what happened.

      I know this did not happen to *you* so it’s not something you can REgain control of, but you can take control and tell the story your own way, without the shame, maybe even with pride. Your mother sounds amazing, perhaps like a character in “The Thornbirds”. You have no reason not to be proud of her and to handle this in a way that reflects a sense of self-assuredness, not shame.

  10. RagingADHD*

    LW2, if it makes you feel any better, everyone in a position to judge, shame or ostracize your mom 50+ years ago is most likely dead, and their grandchildren have a lot more current scandals to gossip about.

    1. OP#2*

      I’m not sure why you think I’m worried about Gen Z. I’m worried about old folks like me and my coworker.

      1. Yuna*

        You seem very… determined to stick to your prescribed narrative about how this will go. Please, seek professional help to deal with your issues around this. This is not healthy or helpful, and you won’t feel better about this if your default response to any advice is to reject it and be rude to those trying to help. You deserve to live a kinder, easier, more compassionate life, and right now you are not equipped to manage it. Therapy can give you the tools to handle this. Please, help yourself. You are worth it.

      2. Fieldpoppy*

        As a fellow 58 year old I really don’t think of myself as a hidebound old person attached to gossip from the 1960s. I agree with the poster who suggested that it might be helpful for you to work through some of the shame you carry about this. Even if people find this “interesting” I sincerely doubt they will make of it the sense of judgement or scandal you are experiencing it with. Your lifelong feelings about this are going to colour the meaning you make of it. Even if someone says “wasn’t your mother involved in that pastor situation” I can guarantee you 99% of them are thinking “what a messed up abuse of power,” not “that jezebel.”

        1. Green great dragon*

          Honestly, even if they did think ‘that jezebel’ (and I hope and believe they wouldn’t), then it’s still no reflection on OP, right? OP, you don’t really need to do anything, but maybe try to dig into why you think any ‘shame’ would stick to you. There’s no need to lie, and up to you whether you set people right or try not to discuss.

          1. Fieldpoppy*

            Exactly. Even if they do, that’s their issue. I understand why it feels so powder given OP’s history but truly it only has the weight you give it.

        2. UKDancer*

          I’d also say that a lot of people who are now older (such as my parents) grew up in the 1960s when things were a lot more flexible and have learned to deal with societal change since then. I mean my mother is 70, she marched for peace, supported the striking miners in the 1980s and to stop the war in the 1990s. She fought for her female colleagues to get the same bonuses as the men. People who are old now have grown and evolved, and are not the same ones who were old and gossiping in the 1960s.

      3. Random Bystander*

        I (living in a small town myself) would just yawn and say, “Wow, that’s really old news.” And then proceed with something change of subject. Basically, that it’s too boring to keep talking about something that happened so long ago and there has to be something that has happened more recently that is worth discussing.

        Yes, my grandparents got married in February and had their first child in August of the same year. Yes, I can figure out the implication of that. But I was shocked when I was 21 (40+ years later) that anyone thought it was worth talking about.

        1. tuppence*

          Was reading a historical novel the other day and one character said “The first child comes as soon as they want, the others take nine months”

          I’m in kinda the same boat was doing some geneology and found my grandfathers grandparents in the 1911 census she was a rich widow, he was a lodger renting the forge she owned. Their marriage cert came along a couple of years later and my great grandfather 6 months after the marriage.

          It happened.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Yup. I was studying a family genealogy chart and hey, back in the first half of the 20th century there are several babies putting in an appearance 6 months after the nuptials.

            1. ScruffyInternHerder*

              Hoooo boy. We have a LOT of what I’ll call “oversized preemies” prior to the 1970s….

              1. Quill*

                I would not be surprised if someone, somewhere, has formed some wrong conclusions about the historical survival capabilities of premature babies based on this.

          2. Bagpuss*

            I forget the exact statistics but a *very* high percentage of Victorian brides were pregnant* when they got married. It was pretty common for an engagement to be seen as binding and not a scandal for engaged couple to sleep together (certainly for working class people) I think the figure was in the region of about 30% in some periods. Lower generally the higher up the social scale you went, although how much of that was that women were less likely to have sex before marriage and how much was that they or their families were more likely to be able to conceal the birth, I couldn’t say.

            *based on parish records of births and baptisms

            My mother became interested in family history at an early cage and being quite naive, didn’t realize the significance of the dates she got from her grandprenets marriage certificate and her aunt’s birth certificate… She was planning to use the family tree as part of a school project and my grandmother told her to just use the year, not the precise dates. (I think they were *very* close together, the birth was a couple of weeks fter the marriage. And my mum says that based on later conversations and other information she now believes that the baby was almost certainly born first, but babies being born at home plus the rules around registering births meant that they could fudge the dates. And apparently they always officially celebrated their wedding anniversary on a different and more plausible date. My great aunt was born in 1912…

            1. Beth*

              One of the family stories about my (upper-upper-middle-class) grandmother is that, while on a several months’ visit to Europe, she had an offer of marriage from an actual Italian count (impoverished). She got as far as trying on wedding dresses.

              Every dress in the shop had an elastic panel in the front of the skirt.

              She declined the engagement, went back to the States, and married my grandfather (not noble, highly respectable).

              She did still have a photo of the Count decades later; we found it tucked into a drawer, which is when we were told the story.

        2. RagingADHD*

          Yup, I still remember going through my mom’s papers after she died, and my aunt pointing out in hushed tones the dates of Grandma’s marriage and my Mom’s birth. And all I thought was, “So that explains why she married that asshole. Poor thing.”

          1. Random Bystander*

            Fortunately, it did work out well for my grandparents (who married during WWII). I think they probably would have married anyway and went on to be married for 59 years before my grandmother died.

            Of course, I was also flabbergasted by people who thought it appropriate to make remarks about my grandmother being my grandfather’s second choice. Yes, he was married before he married my grandmother. Unfortunately, his first wife died in childbirth/from complications of childbirth (the people who could clarify this are dead) and the baby was stillborn.

            1. RagingADHD*

              Good for them. My bio grandad was an alcoholic abuser who used to do charming things like drink away his wife’s paycheck, or punch his stepkids in the face at the dinner table.

      4. RagingADHD*

        Well, are you currently hanging around with people in your new location who would care? Because we are of an age to be siblings, and I live in a very conservative, churchgoing part of the country, and even around here I can’t imagine any of my peers caring.

        If they gave it a passing thought, it would be something like, “Oh, it must have been such a hard situation for that little family, the way things were back then.”

        Because everyone I know in our age range is dealing with teenagers or young adult children, and we all know some good church friend or family member whose kids have cancer, or were SA’ed, are on drugs, cutting themselves, or suicidal.

        It isn’t even scandalous anymore.

      5. doreen*

        Nobody thinks you are worried about Gen Z – but for someone to have shamed and ostracized your mother over 50 years ago, they’d pretty much have to be in their 70s or 80s at least. And those people’s grandchildren may be in their 40s , who aren’t going to be interested enough in a 50 year old scandal to gossip about it. Sure, a 40 year old might listen to 85 year old grandma tell the story of how pastor so-and-so left town 50 or 60 years ago – but spreading it to their 40 year old contemporaries is another story entirely. And really the same thing goes for your friend talking to the relative and finding out. Even if I am the world’s biggest, most judgmental gossip around, who is absolutely going to tell my relative this juicy story about people they don’t know – I’m not going to provide so much identifying detail that my relative can connect the subject of the story to a fellow volunteer in another city. Why would I ? Those details aren’t relevant to the gossip. You really don’t need to worry – and that’s not even accounting for the fact that our 60-ish contemporaries are likely to see the entire situation differently , even if there still was gossip among the parents when you were in school.

      6. Observer*

        I’m not sure why you think I’m worried about Gen Z. I’m worried about old folks like me and my coworker.

        I’m in your age bracket. Most of us have a lot more interesting and / or important things to worry about than the circumstances of your birth in some small hick town. Yes, that’s a rude phrasing, but it’s how a lot of people are going to be thinking about it. The rest will just think “Gah! I’m glad things have changed!” and promptly forget about it, because they also have more interesting / important things to think about than some affair that has absolutely no bearing on anything in their lives.

      7. Texan In Exile*

        And I’m an old folk like you and if I heard a story like yours, I would be horrified.

        Not horrified at your “temptress” mother, but horrified at how she was abused and treated and horrified at how the predator went free.

      8. Seashell*

        About 40% of babies are born to single mothers in the US in recent years, so I would imagine even small towns have had quite a few out-of-wedlock births in the past 50 years. There’s no shortage of celebrities who have had babies while not married, and they don’t get shunned by anyone. I’m over 50, and I would be surprised if anyone my age or my parents’ age would make a big deal out of that sort of thing these days.

      9. Just another commenter*

        For what it’s worth, my parents are not that much younger than you, and they’re deeply religious and very conservative. Even they wouldn’t give this a second thought. Especially since you didn’t actually do anything in this story other than be born.

        Incidentally, my sister had a baby out of wedlock several years ago. I can’t say for sure, but based on the timeline of certain events I think this may have been the product of an affair as well. My mom didn’t take it super well at first, but she loves her granddaughter and has never held the circumstances of her birth against her. (She doesn’t hold it against my sister anymore either, although there was a bit of drama at first.) Even my mom, judgy as she can be, never once blamed the baby for what happened. That would just be weird.

        1. Quill*

          I’m much younger than everyone involved, but my born circa 1930 catholic grandmother’s attitude about out of wedlock babies sure changed when my cousin had her firstborn. It settled on “thank god the times have changed and she didn’t have to marry his father, and could get married to the right man when she found him later.”

          (The primary thing wrong with cousinlet’s biofather is that he’s immature and bad at money – He’s a nice guy who would have made a very bad permanent partner for my cousin.)

  11. John Smith*

    re feedback. I (very much over 20, many previous interviews) asked my last recruiter why they chose me (v. several internal applicants) and was told my logic and reasoning skills very much stood out, as did my enthusiasm. I still have the former, but the latter has been beaten out of me. Looking back, I can see myself as one of those internal candidates now. I think it’s fine to ask if there is something specific that they chose you for, but I wouldn’t ask “how did I do?” – that question is answered by the fact you were recruited.

  12. Howdy*

    LW2, it’s sounds like your caring around a lot of shame here, and you shouldn’t be. (I say that because it sounds like you at one point considered MOVING over this.) That guy sucks, and you and your mom persevered despite that loser. You have nothing to be ashamed of.

    I doubt much gossip with ensue and if anyone gossiped at all, I doubt it would get back to you. And if, by chance, if does, hit them with “wow. You were gossiping about my late mother?” and I promise they will be the ones feeling ashamed.

    1. Daily reader, rare commenter*

      OP2: With all due respect, you need to stop being ashamed of your mother, because that sure is what it sounds like. She was wronged. Own it please. And perhaps seek help to deal with how you feel?

        1. Rare commenter*

          OP2, please, why exactly do you think that daily reader is rude?

          I have read all your replies and you seem to be very defensive. Please try to consider that some commenters come from small towns too, understand your sentiment but are still trying to tell you that you are massively overeacting.
          You are not moving to your mothers hometown, your coworker is not from your mothers hometown, they only have relatives there. It is not clear if those relatives did ever participate in the gossip surrounding your mother or if they are gossiping at all. It is not clear if your coworker would discuss your remark in detail with their relatives (or if the hospital visit of aunt Ophelia or the pregnancy of niece Jane would not be far more important). There are so many degrees of separation and you already start consider moving?

          You seem to carry a lot of shame and as long as you believe there IS something to be hidden, you will not be able to shut down any unpleasant remark. Because this is your beloved mother and any insult is rudeness and does not have a place at work.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            This and Zzzzz’s advice below is really on point. OP2, I hope after you’ve had some time to process this the reactions here help you to start viewing it in another way.

        2. Heather*

          OP2, honestly— dozens of people in the comments gently saying you seem to be carrying a lot of shame is not rude. It is supportive. You should seek some in-person advice, as others have also suggested.

        3. Gan Ainm*

          OP2, I understand it can be hard to hear suggestions and comments about yourself, but take a little time to emotionally distance yourself and then see if you can take in the comments in the spirit that they are intended, which is genuinely supportive. It feels painful for you, but that’s not the same as people being hurtful.

          You seem really burdened by this, and with therapy you can likely be a lot freer and happier.

        4. Dona Florinda*

          OP, first I’m so sorry for what you and your mom went through. But please take all the comments to heart. I urge you to seek therapy because such a weak connection to what happened 50 years ago is already affecting you so much that you’re thinking of moving. What if you do move and there’s someone else linked to your hometown?

          Although I doubt that the gossip still has that much impact in your hometown (like others said, it’s possible that those who are still alive don’t care that much anymore, or have a different opinion now), it’s clear that it still weights heavily on you. Even if you and your family still are the town’s favorite subject (which, again, I doubt), you can’t let that dictate your life.

          I don’t mean this to be unkind, but you have to find ways to make peace with your past and not let it affect you anymore, and therapy can really help. Good luck.

          1. R*

            Wow. It seems like you’re carrying a huge burden of pain here that you can’t process, and letting events from half a century ago rule your life in the moment because you’ve integrated them with your identity. I feel for you, but it’s not right to lash out like this. There’s only one thing you need to do about this whole thing, and it’s finding a good therapist.

          2. Fieldpoppy*

            OP, your reaction here underlines how unresolved this is. What Daily Reader said wasn’t at all mean — just direct. Talking about this still stirs up so much for you — therapy or coaching too make it less powerful for you might help.

          3. FrontlinER*

            Woah hang on, that’s kind of uncalled for.

            I’m so sorry this terrible thing has happened to you and your mom. It’s awful and I’m so sorry that you and your mom were the subjects of all sorts of gossip and I can absolutely see why you want to avoid it. But you’re extrapolating the situation to degrees not even in existence yet. And even *if* (and it sounds like a really big if) the gossip does get round, feel free to hit them with Allison’s script and make it extra frosty. I’m going to also suggest maybe looking into some therapy as well, because it sounds like you’ve been carrying this burden for too long and it’s affecting you to the point where you’re lashing out at random internet strangers.

          4. Claire*

            Oh dear. You need help. So much help. You are scared and ashamed and hurting, still, over things that are not your responsibility and that happened decades ago. You are traumatised and that is leading to you and lashing out at anyone who tris to offer you advice. You are the one being mean and unkind here.

            Nothing in Daily reader’s comment was mean, it was blunt but accurate and you couldn’t take it so you tried to hurt them. It’s sad, and I’m sorry for you. But you need to learn and grow so that you can act better than this, because right now you are coming across as cruel, unkind, vicious and rude. I don’t think that’s what you want. I don’t think that’s who you want to be. But your past has caused wounds that clearly have not healed, and you need help.

            Please, seek professional help to process your feelings about this situation and learn coping strategies that will enable you to be a better version of yourself than you have shown here today. For your own sake, and for the sake of those who have to interact with you and who deserve more respect.

          5. Zzzzzz*

            Kindly responding to OP2: putting all of these strangers responses aside, you seem to be carrying such a heavy burden–which is what shame does, especially over the generations–when it hasn’t been processed and instead kept buried through secrets. Shame is stored in the body and deep in the amygdala, not the prefrontal cortex where we make rational decisions so it makes complete sense that you would still be reactive–to the co-worker and to ppl commenting here. If you can, there are trauma-specific focused therapies to help process this. It would stink FOR YOU, (ignore the rest of us and the potential gossips) to have to carry this any longer than you already have. Best.

          6. FashionablyEvil*

            Whoa—OP2, I hope you can read this and see how much this is affecting you. Objectively, it was a really shitty way for your father and the church to behave, but this has clearly been eating you up—and is STILL eating you up—over 50 years later. Those small, mean people don’t deserve your time and mental energy. Carrying so much anger and shame is such a heavy burden— I hope you’re able to find a way to process what happened and find peace.

            1. KTC*

              Agreed. Gently, OP#2, maybe take a moment and reflect on what you hoped to hear from commenters. Everything has been overwhelmingly supportive of you, your mother and your general mental health and well being. You’re hurting and you deserve some peace from this.

            2. Seriously?*

              Agreed. Absolutely understandable why this would be a big issue growing up, but at this point therapy/counseling needs to happen

          7. Yridian*

            I’m sorry, but you solicited advice on this blog, and you don’t get to come here and insult people who give it.

          8. L-squared*

            You honestly seem a bit much. I haven’t read anything as mean, its more constructive criticism. Maybe you wrote this because you felt that this would be a sympathetic place for you to get all the support you were looking for. But that doesn’t mean sometimes some people won’t bluntly say something. Wishing ill on someone else for saying “you seem X way based on what you wrote” seems over the top

          9. EPLawyer*

            Is anyone actually gossipiing about you at work? Or are you just assuming they will because this one coworker has a relative back in your hometown. You aren’t even on your hometown, you are in a different bigger town where they have their own things to gossip about. I highly doubt they care about a 50 year old scandal that happened in another town to adults they never met (they know you, not your mother or dna dononr). They are too busy discussing who screwed who on Vanderpump Rules.

          10. NotAManager*

            OP, I’d like to recommend finding someone to talk to about this, beyond the whole coworker situation. I don’t know if you’ve sought therapy in the past, but it seems like you’re still carrying some really heavy burdens from your childhood. Talking to a licensed professional could help you develop some tools to lessen your anxiety around this issue. You can’t control what other people might say, do, or think, but you can control your own reactions to those circumstances and achieve a measure of peace.

        1. EPLawyer*

          But the thing is you are far too focused on the gossips — who may not even exist. Which is why it is being suggested you seek therapy because what happened in your childhood with the fingerpointing and whispering is affecting how you view things NOW. Even though you are not even in that town and have no proof anyone is actually gossiping about you. You are presuming they are or will. The adage — people think about you a lot less than you think they do applies here.

        2. learnedthehardway*

          I think you were doing the same thing the rest of the community was doing – blaming your mother unjustly for what happened to her. Sure, she decided to have sex, but she was victimized and then blamed for it.

          The shame is on the people who victimized and blamed her, not on your Mom.

          Why do you care what the gossips think? The “let him (or her) who is without sin cast the first stone” VERY DEFINITELY applied here.

          1. learnedthehardway*

            EDIT – sorry, saw your edit after I replied.

            Yeah, you have every right be angry at your father.

            Your reaction to people trying to provide help/support, though – that’s not very nice. Wishing ill on people who are trying to help – not cool.

  13. Brain the Brian*

    LW3: I suggest that you build up a whole rotating set of responses saying “Nope” to management roles. You’ll be asked forever, but it’s perfectly normal not to want to manage. Take, for example, my mother. She did not want to be a manager, and despite being asked for decades by multiple employers if she wanted to move into management, she has steadfastly resisted and is retiring this year at the end of a long, successful career as a subject-matter expert on safety-critical software. She knows vastly more than her managers about that topic, but — trust me — she could not manage people, and she knows it. Stick to your ground, and don’t allow yourself to be pushed into something you don’t want — even a promotion.

    1. Green great dragon*

      I completely agree, but wanted to emphasise that it’s fine to not want it even if you’d be great! I enjoy managing, but it’s a whole new set of challenges and stresses.

    2. Not that other person you didn't like*

      I think the best response to this is “that wouldn’t be the right move for me, but if you want to promote me and give me more money, I’d consider being product evangelist / senior technical architect / director of knowledge retention (whatever makes sense for your field).”

      You deserve continued reward and career growth without having to move into a separate field you don’t want.

  14. Peter*

    The guy who is asking if he has done well in an interview after being offered the job reminds me of Marge Simpson meeting her old boyfriend, who is clearly stilll interested and asks if her marriage has been consumated yet. She gestures towards her three kids and says “Pretty much!”.

  15. PharmaKat*

    Covid emergency? In 2023? I had to double check the post date and to make sure that it is not “reposting old letters” type of answer. I am in the UK and everyone forgot about covid long ago.
    Employers can be weird about covid though. In the autumn 2021, my employer declared that we were not allowed to take sick days if we tested positive. If we wanted to self-isolate, we could take vacation/annual leave days, but obviously no one wanted to use their annual leave just to stay home instead of taking actual vacation and people just kept bringing the virus to work. Yes, it was legal – as per UK government, self-isolation was “recommended” but not required. One person left the company over it, others joked about “it is management’s plot: the longer the pandemics lasts, the mire business we get” and moved on.

    1. Jackalope*

      Did that include people who were ill, or just people who were asymptomatic? Obviously it was a horrible policy either way, but far worse if people who were genuinely sick couldn’t use sick leave.

      1. PharmaKat*

        It only included people who were asymptomatic. If they were too ill to be productive at work, they could take sick days.

    2. anon in affordable housing*

      Not everyone in the world lives in the UK.

      A friend of mine got COVID the other day and now I have to test and make sure I didn’t catch it from him. We’re still having outbreaks in my apartment building, and the staff refuse to wear masks even in the apartments of medically fragile tenants.

      1. Katara's side braids*

        This. It’s shocking how easily and gleefully people have abandoned the disabled, chronically ill, immunocompromised, and those suffering from long covid because “it’s 2023.” 3 years isn’t nearly enough to time to fully understand, let alone dismiss, the consequences of uncontrolled spread.

        1. PoolLounger*

          Yes, all of this. I had covid back in October and am still dealing with after-effects. If I even get a basic cold my lungs will be shot again. I still mask up.

    3. Empress Ki*

      Was it only of you tested positive but were asymptomatic/feeling well ? In the UK, I don’t think your employer can prevent you from taking sick days if you are sick.
      I had Covid last year, and there is no way I would have been able to show up at the office and do my work, even if I wanted to. I was too unwell.
      If my employer prevented me to take sick day when I have Covid, I’d tell them it is flu.

      1. Bagpuss*

        No, you can’t be prevented from taking sick leave but it’s not uncommon to have fairly limited sick leave and it’s not a legal requirement to provide any at all, so it can be a case of taking unpaid sick leave or taking (paid) vacation)
        It you are sick for 4 days or longer then you are entitled to be paid Statutory Sick Pay but this is very low (about £100 a week)

        During the height of the pandemic the rules were changed so that SSP started immediately without having to wait4 days, and the government reimbursed employers for paying it when people were self isolating or had Covid, but that’s no longer the case.

        PharmaKat’s right that there are no longer any official Covid rules in place and very few people mask any more, although there are of course a lot of people with long Covid or vulnerabilities who haven’t forgotten about it

      2. PharmaKat*

        Yes, they can’t prevent you from taking sick days when you are sick (if you are out for less than 5 days or if you provide documentation from doctor for longer absences). But people felt uncomfortable lying about being sick while they were asymptomatic or had only mild symptoms.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          They should push through that discomfort and lie, for the sake of everyone else in the workplace who could have much more serious symptoms or spread it to their vulnerable family members.

          1. Bagpuss*

            Yes, but expecting people to do that when it might mean they don’t get paid, or only get a minimal amount of pay, s a pretty big ask, especially for people with low incomes.
            ( I don’t disagree that people shouldn’t come to work sick, but I can understand why people did and do, particularly if they can’t afford the alternative)

    4. Keymaster of Gozer*

      We did NOT all forget about Covid. There’s a lot of people round here, me included, still wearing masks.

    5. Earlk*

      I think The UK loosened covid restrictions a lot earlier than some places in Europe but it also got a handle on it a bit quicker than some other places so it’s difficult to compare country by country.

      I will say though that the most recent strains going around the UK have been like 1 or 2 day colds so really not that bad. Perhaps in the US some of the stronger strains are sticking around requiring a longer recovery time?

      1. PharmaKat*

        Yes, that might be the case. I was just surprised how different the situation is in the US.

    6. Irish Teacher*

      Well, covid is still around and you can still spread it if you go to work after testing positive. There may not be strict rules about it in many countries any more, but our HSE (the health service in Ireland) are still advising isolating for at least 5 days and remaining apart from people at high risk for at least 10 and they say your symptoms should have mostly or fully gone for at least 48 hours in order to leave isolation after 5 days. It may not be news any more and people may be forgetting about it but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a risk, just that people want to forget it because many had such bad experiences.

    7. Been There*

      The requirement to self-isolate was only lifted a couple of weeks ago in Belgium. The UK is not a shining example in how it handled Covid.
      And your employer is horrible for forbidding you to take sick days when you test positive. Some people are actually quite sick when they get Covid.

      1. bamcheeks*

        You can take sick days if you’re ill. It’s that you can’t take sick days to isolate if you’re testing positive but aren’t especially ill.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          How though are people getting ill? By getting it from asymptomatic people who are forced to go to work and spread it to unsuspecting coworkers…

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I thank you for reminding people that the emergency is only over because the surge is down–NOT because the disease has vanished.

        I have a transplant recipient in my family, and I’m a bit salty getting told repeatedly I don’t need to wear a mask anymore.

    8. Anon for this*

      I live in the UK and I certainly wouldn’t say that this country is the poster child for handling Covid. it’s become abundantly clear that as a country we have decided not to care about the elderly and vulnerable and I find that shameful.

      I get that people don’t want to use holiday time to self isolate but I have frail elderly relatives and I would be furious if someone came to work knowing they had Covid and put my family at risk. for myself, I am single and have nobody to help me financially and I am scared of getting long Covid and being unable to work and therefore support myself.

      Immunocompromised people, the elderly, people undergoing cancer treatment and so on can’t live any kind of normal life in the UK because of the total abandonment of even minor mitigations. I’m not suggesting we lock down but it wouldn’t be hard to wear a mask and stay home if you test positive.

      we haven’t dealt with it well in the slightest.

      1. Yridian*

        Wait, you still want people to mask everywhere they go? I’m sorry but that is completely unrealistic and not appropriate for the broad level of risk posed by Covid today. It’s not 36 months ago.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Words from Anon for this (above), emphasis mine:

          Yes the emergency is over and there are treatments but it’s possibly life-altering or even life-ending for others you come in contact with. Wearing a mask while you’re infected should be as much a no-brainer as protecting your partner from an STD. Or not kissing a newborn when you have an open cold sore.

        2. Chrissssss*

          Wait, you want vulnerable people to have to isolate from society? Because that is a consequence of no masks while the coronavirus is still arround. That is realistic but really a cruel thing to expect.

          1. Katara's side braids*

            Exactly! And inb4 “well what did you do before Covid:” a lot of vulnerable people died of common cold or flu. Or lived in near-complete isolation. For lots of people, the early days of the pandemic were the first time they could fully engage with society, because so much was accessible virtually and more people were taking precautions IRL. Of course it’s frustrating to get a taste of that then be forced back into isolation because some arbitrary amount of time has passed.

            1. Enai*

              Also, and I’m not sure why it must be said, but apparently people can’t grasp the obvious: before COVID, there wasn’t a SARS virus going around. (General) You realise that SARS-Cov-2 is a SARS virus, yes? Not wanting any part of that is not hysterical, hypochondriac or in any other way exaggerated health anxiety. It’s just prudent.


          1. Katara's side braids*

            I do too. I understand the barriers that can prevent others from doing so – highly effective masks can get expensive, and there ARE some medical conditions that make masking difficult if not risky. But interestingly, most people I’ve seen who oppose continued masking haven’t done so on that basis. Perhaps that’s because barriers can be lessened or eliminated, which would leave most people with no excuse not to mask. What I’ve seen far more often is the pathologization of precaution, even for the vulnerable.

        3. PoolLounger*

          Masking everywhere you go, especially when positive for an ill ess, isn’t an imposition. Pre-covid I loved visiting Jaoan because people wore masks when they had colds! Masking with inexpensive n95s you can buy at any Home Depot is an easy way to help the elderly, immunocompromised, disabled, infants, people with long covid, etc not get sick. I still mask, because I don’t want another 8-month long covid disaster further damaging my lungs (long covis is awful and I don’t recommend it).

    9. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

      “I am in the UK and everyone forgot about covid long ago.”

      Who is this “everyone”?

      Some of us are living with long covid. Some of us are caring for people with long covid. Some of us are immunocompromised or otherwise vulnerable and really need to not get it. We haven’t forgotten.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Yes, I’m in the UK and that made me boggle a bit.
        I’m still masking in crowded places or if I need to use public transport. I managed to avoid covid for a long time and finally caught it in October last year, and was quite ill.

    10. Enai*

      And yet, at any point in time since at least last year, 1 million people in the UK are actively infected. That includes during the summer.

      “Covid is over”, my foot!

    11. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      my body don’t listen to that. I get sick as hell. They had to find a way around the FMLA thing for me for COVID because I was too sick to work. Not everyone has the same health

  16. I have some thoughts...*

    Hi Alison, could you please change the title of #2? Her mum was a victim of grooming and coercion, not a ‘scandal’. If anyone was a scandal it was him and I don’t think the word is strong enough to cover it.

    OP I am sorry for what you’ve been through. I imagine your early life and the isolation and stigmatisation imposed on you and your mum must have been awful and probably quite traumatic. It’s no wonder that you are having this reaction now. That fear and panic have been built in to your being from such a young age. So take a step back. Try not to catastrophise. Is anything you have said to this woman actually enough for her to connect the dots? Unfortunately your mum’s story is quite common the world over, it’s likely that she won’t jump to the conclusion you’re assuming. If she does say anything to you I think Alison’s line said as breezily and matter of factly as possible could be quite powerful. Take control of your own story, deliver it as though OF COURSE it was awful for your family and wasn’t it HORRIFIC what men in power could do and then go about your day as though that was the end of the matter. Even with your heart thumping you still get to control your own narrative, and you’ve worked hard to get to a place where you’re not carrying the burden of other people’s twisted morals. You deserve to keep the life you want and not feel you have to move on again.

    1. Curious*

      The LW is the best narrator of their experience. They view it as a scandal, I think that should be respected.

      1. Francie Foxglove*

        But a lot of people are saying that she shouldn’t see it as a scandal, and that’s what’s hanging her up.

  17. Ellis Bell*

    OP2, it might help to lean into the worst case scenario and practice what your reaction to it would be. I’m tempted to believe that only people a lot older than your mother, or tied to the reputation of the church are the only ones who cared at all and they are dead, but you know the area and people a lot better than me. If someone who is a peer to you, or slightly older, “pointed and whispered”… well what would you feel comfortable doing about it? a) ignoring it and gossiping with a friend about how unbelievably ridiculous people can be? or b) confronting them and asking why they are behaving rudely? If someone outright asked you about your mother you could use Alison’s script, or you could decide to tell people off for even asking! Like… give your best death glare together with: “I’m sorry but are you asking for juicy gossip about my mother? Why are you asking me that exactly?” Good luck. I really hope it’s a non issue and you feel emboldened to tell off anyone who doesn’t get that it’s a non issue.

  18. Irish Teacher.*

    LW1, what he did is a bit odd because it’s not the norm, but I wouldn’t think there is anything wrong with it or that it is related to the salary. My guess is that he got some advice at some point about how you should always ask for feedback, it helps you to improve and shows you are interested. He may have though it would signal to you that he will be good at taking feedback once he starts the job or he may have simply thought it was etiquette and it would look weird not to do it.

    I wouldn’t think any more of it than that people often make awkward mistakes early in their career.

    LW2, as Alison said, the world has changed a lot in the last 50 years. Today, I think most people would see your mother as the victim. I know in Ireland today, a story like that would be seen as “what a different country we were 50 years ago. It was terrible what men in the church got away with.” (And not just the church either.) I think Ireland changed more dramatically in the ’90s than most countries, but I still think most of the world has a different view now of relationships with a power imbalance than they did back then.

  19. Irish Teacher.*

    LW3, you do not sound like you are whining about not wanting to eat your vegetables. Taking a promotion you don’t want is not something good for you. There are benefits to promotions but there are also disadvantages and it sounds like you you, the benefits here outweigh the advantages.

    Neither choice is “the obvious one”. The answer will be different for everybody. Lots of people don’t want management roles, for all kinds of reasons. Management is a very specific job. It doesn’t suit everybody and doesn’t interest everybody.

    1. Irish Teacher*

      I will add that I recently turned down an offer to be an Advising Examiner (sort of like a line manager for those correcting the state exams) for the second time because it is not something I want to do. I would like the involvement in deciding the marking scheme, but otherwise, no. Part of what I enjoy about correcting is the freedom to work on my own schedule and once you are responsible for ensuring everybody else gets their work done and there to answer questions to anybody who is unsure and so on, that goes out the window.

      I don’t need the money (the money I get paid for correcting is like a bonus anyway, as it is additional to my full-time teaching job), so I see no reason to spend a month of my summer doing something I don’t want to.

      I think they kind of expected me to turn it down this time as I had the last, but they said they wanted to make the offer just in case the time hadn’t been right for me or something the last time and I would like to do it now.

    2. Viette*

      So true. It’s not good for the OP and it’s not good for other people, either. Alison is very right that nobody wants a manager who doesn’t want to be a manager. The right choice is the right choice for the OP, and in being right for them it’s also right for the company. The company may be bummed OP doesn’t want to be a manager, but they can get past it and more managers will be out there to hire.

    3. Sloanicota*

      The only thing to consider is that, if you don’t want to be manager, it sometimes means the company will hire a manager for you, and you might not like them. If you have great managers or if your role is hands-off enough, then great! But one bad manager will kill your enjoyment of your non-management job pretty quickly in my experience.

      1. metadata minion*

        Most individual contributors are aware of the fact that bad managers exist. And even managers also then in turn have managers unless they’re at the top of the org chart.

      2. DataSci*

        Then you can get a new, non management job more easily than if you had made the career change into management and hated it. “Take a job you hate and are bad at because you might someday get a new boss” is terrible advice.

    4. Münchner Kindl*

      Try to read the original “Peter Principle (1)” book from the 1960s to get a lot of stories why the system of promoting good people is a bad idea in general, both for the people and for the company.

      (1) In a functioning hierarchy, people are promoted from competence into incompetence, until all positions are filled with incompetent people.
      Because promotion is given as reward, but different requirements of higher roles not considered, so a good teacher is promoted to director, where instead of teaching kids – competent – he has to deal with administration all day – not his competence.
      Similar for engineers, programmers etc. who want to work with machines, not manage people.

      Good companies therefore introduce other rewards for people that keep them in their role, hence titles like “Senior…”

      In the sequel, the author also gives some tips on those who don’t want to be promoted out of their competence into incompetence

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Yup. I think I’m a pretty good teacher but I would be a terrible principal. And I’d hate it. It involves the few things I don’t really enjoy about teaching, dealing with serious discipline issues and dealing with parents who have concerns – child being bullied, trouble at home, etc – while not involving any of the many parts I really love.

    5. Dust Bunny*

      I was a supervisor for awhile at a previous job and I will chew off my own arm before I work in anything manager-like again. I hated it. I was functional at it but not great (I was the best option they had since they were too lazy and underpaying to attract outside prospects, and I was too young and unsure of myself to stand up and turn it down). Literally everyone is better off if I am not a manager.

  20. bamcheeks*

    OP2, I am so sorry for the horrible treatment that your mother (and presumably by extension you) received. I’m about twelve years younger than you and can’t imagine hearing any version of this story where I wasn’t furious with the pastor and deeply sympathetic for your mother. If that hasn’t been your experience, I’m guessing you live in a more conservative part of the world than me where people are more inclined to demonise women and give men in powerful positions the benefit of the doubt, which sucks. I hope you’ve found somewhere where that’s not the case though.

    1. OP #2*

      Bamcheeks, thanks for your kindness.

      My mother was too ashamed to go to my middle school graduation because people were still pointing and snickering. (I ended up dropping out of high school after my junior year.)

      I’ve been furious with HIM for decades, yeah, but also fed up with my mother for not moving out of the area after her mother died so we could leave that nonsense behind. It isn’t like we had a support network or anything.

      I moved to a bigger metro area in my early 20s for better job opportunities and it was such a relief not having to worry about whether or not someone was going to bring it up… now I run into someone who IS in a position to bring it up.

      1. English Rose*

        It must be really difficult to be carrying around all these feelings about both him and your mother, and I’m sorry you had these experiences. Do please take Alison’s advice to own it in the unlikely event it comes up. And if I understand correctly, you (wisely) no longer live in your hometown so presumably wouldn’t hear any gossip that starts up there again briefly.
        Remember none of this is your fault.

      2. Bagpuss*

        I’m sorry you and your mom went through that . However, as others have said, I think that if the person does bring it up, it’s more likely that others will see them rather than you (or your mom) as being at fault – raking up gossip from that long ago would come over as very weird in any event, but also, in a modern workplace, many of you coworkers will be, or have family who are, unmarried parents and less likely to be tolerant of this kind of shaming.

        I think f this person does bring it up in any way other than being sympathetic to what your mom went through then the appropriate answer would be something like “Oh, wow, is that malicious gossip still going around in [town]? actually what happened was that my mother was seduced by someone in a position of power who attempted to bully her into an illegal abortion to hide his affair and then abandoned her. I’ve often wondered how many other women my bio-father abused after he left town. If it should ever come up again,. I’m really surprised that even after nearly 60 years, and the progress that has been made in recognizing abusive behaviour, people as still gossiping about the victim instead of the abuse ” You could even add something like “I’m in awe of my mom’s courage and strength of character, I can only imagine how hard it must have been for her ”


      3. Willowby*

        It sounds like you’ve spent your whole life running from this. Maybe it’s time to stop running and face the fear. This has way too much power over you for a minor scandal about someone else from decades ago.

        No one else cares about this like you do. No one else is spending this much time thinking about it. It’s only a big deal if you make it one. And over the time you’ve been running, you’ve made it a really big one. But it’s really not. I promise, this isn’t the bogeyman you feel it is. Your fear is self-protection, and at one point it was necessary. But that time is long past and over, and you are still carrying the burden of that fear. You deserve to lay it to rest. You deserve to be able to stop running. You deserve to live without this fear.

        You deserve so much better than this.

      4. FashionablyEvil*

        OP #2–I said this below, but this is so much anger and shame to be carrying around. I think your anger is justified, but to have that anger and shame still be so raw and consuming is so painful. I hope you’re able to find a way to process what happened and move on—those terrible people have already taken so much from you. Don’t give them more time and energy.

      5. bamcheeks*

        I hope that being in a bigger metro area means that if even if there is one person who wants to bring it up, the vast majority of people will give her a very odd look and go, “And??” I think the idea that that is some kind of juicy story that people might want to get excited about is very much a feature of small towns where you know all the people involved, and if someone mentions it in your new settings most people will simply be baffled that anyone would find it interesting or worthy of sharing.

        I see that a few people have suggested you push back on this by talking about how your mom was the victim and that the pastor and the broader church were the ones at fault– I completely agree with both of those sentiments, but I know I personally wouldn’t want to take such a confrontational stance. Rather than denying it or confronting it head-on, I would practice something much more lowkey, like “I don’t want to talk about that, thank you so much for understanding!” “Oh, I don’t think anyone’s interested in that old story!” The other thing that Alison often recommends for setting a boundary is to change the subject quickly: “It’s very odd that you would bring that up! Anyway, I’m going to get on with sorting out this pile of clothes.” This sounds kind of ridiculous, but I would genuinely practice saying those things out loud until they’re something you can say quite naturally with a smile. It can be really hard to set a boundary like that in the moment, and can leave you feeling flustered and humiliated even though you’ve done nothing wrong and have nothing to apologise for. But if you can signal, “I don’t want to talk about this” whilst staying calm, most people will respect that cue and hopefully simply not find it interesting enough to pursue.

        Best of luck.

      6. Hlao-roo*

        now I run into someone who IS in a position to bring it up.

        I suggest thinking about how you want to respond if your co-volunteer brings it up, and then practice saying your chosen response out loud in private a few times. Whether you go with Alison’s script, “I’d prefer not to talk about it,” or something else, saying your response out loud a few times will help it stick in your brain so it rolls off the tongue smoothly if your ever in that situation and you won’t feel flustered. Hopefully, you’ll never need to use it (because hopefully the co-volunteer will never bring the subject up), but this way you’ll be prepared just in case.

        If you want to, you can also practice a response to unwanted religious talk so in the future you can shut that down without going into your mother’s backstory. Something along the lines of “I’m not [religious/a christian]” or “no need to pray for me [but I appreciate the offer” or whatever works for you.

      7. AvonLady Barksdale*

        This person is in a position to bring this up… but she hasn’t, and if she does, that doesn’t mean you have to do something drastic like move. That’s giving her way too much power. You have your own life, you are not your mother– people talk, and the healthiest reaction is often to shrug your shoulders and keep doing what you’re doing.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          And the intervening decades brought us a host of clergy sex abuse scandals and the Me Too movement–even if 1970 went with “that hussy seduced the helpless older man in authority over her” modern eyes are not going to interpret the same actions through that lens.

          1. Münchner Kindl*

            Yes, this – since the 2003 Spotlight reveal of systematic coverup of sexual abuse, the attitudes have changed drastically.

            I can’t speak towards small towns, but I would be astonished if most people still go with the “bad women led pastor astray” instead of “bad pastor preyed on young woman”.

            Because the only ones still trying that line are the older men at the top of the authoritarian church systems trying to defend those systems – and being called out for it in public, even by their followers.

      8. Hanani*

        OP2, I’m sorry for how badly your hometown treated you and your mom. You’re clearly still carrying a lot of pain and trauma, and I hope you can work with a counselor to process it, because no one deserves to feel like that all the time.

        If the possibility of your co-volunteer bringing it up is looming so large, you certainly can say “I was feeling really raw and blurted out some pretty painful things. I appreciate you holding them in confidence and not bringing them up with me.” It’s not a magic spell, but even if she were inclined to pry and gossip, doing so explicitly against your request is a thing that would reflect very badly on her and not on you.

        Since this was a co-volunteer, if you’re feeling so distressed, can you simply start volunteering somewhere else?

        Finally, I live in a small town, as do many commenters who have agreed it’s unlikely that everyone in your new city is going to seize on this juicy tidbit as they did when you were a child (and I think that element of you being a child, and often powerless in the way children are, has really impacted how you’re feeling now). But let’s catastrophize. Let’s say your co-volunteer tells everyone at your shared volunteer site and all her friends, and every single one of them seizes on it as the most relevant and juicy thing to discuss ever. They start being cold to you. They don’t even bother to lower their voices when you’re nearby. Then what?

        You live in a larger town/city now – most people aren’t connected to this co-volunteer. You are an adult who can stop volunteering in this location, and who can leave any conversation where people are being cruel. You don’t have to move house to have the power to remove yourself from a situation. You can walk away from a conversation. You can stare people down and say “why is this a story of scandal rather than of abuse and abandonment?” Hell, you *can* move house and start over in another city if you want, because you are an adult with that agency. The extreme worst case scenario isn’t fun, but it isn’t devastating – and you have a lot
        more control over your life than you did when you were a child.

        1. Felicity Lemon*

          Underscoring this comment — this situation causing anxiety for OP2 arose from a comment that they made off the cuff to a co-volunteer, in a larger city away from the 50-year-old history. May be a good idea to keep in mind the distance (in time and space and people) that exists now, and the fact that volunteer activities are voluntary, when figuring out what to do next here.

        2. GreyjoyGardens*

          All of this! LW2, you are not the helpless child at the mercy of their circumstances that you were 50 years ago. Even if the very worst were to happen (co-volunteer spills the beans far and wide, and listeners DO find some ancient small-town gossip utterly fascinating) – you are an adult, you can remove yourself from the situation in a way that you couldn’t as a child. For one thing, this is a volunteer job, not your living. If you were to quit and walk away, you wouldn’t be losing a paycheck. And chances are you could fin another volunteer job quickly.

          You are an adult now with agency.

      9. Be Gneiss*

        OP2, it sounds like you are also carrying a lot of anger and resentment for your mother for not moving away, which is really unfortunate.

      10. bh*

        And if they do I’m betting your coworkers will find the whole thing as ridiculous to gossip about as we do. For most of the world, it’s the 21st Century. I really wouldn’t sweat it. This event has already taken up so much of your emotional bandwidth. Don’t let it take any more.

      11. Observer*

        I moved to a bigger metro area in my early 20s for better job opportunities and it was such a relief not having to worry about whether or not someone was going to bring it up… now I run into someone who IS in a position to bring it up.

        I get it. But the thing is that you are jumping to a lot of conclusions here, and then catastrophising about the possible results of those extremely unlikely events.

        Firstly, she MIGHT be in a position to bring it, but she might not. Sure a lot of people did a lot of gossiping, but it’s been a long time since anyone was around to get people chattering about it. Your coworker clearly wasn’t aware of the story, even though she could have heard about it when it was more “fresh”, so it would make even less sense for her relative to bring it up now. And that assumes that you go by your mother’s last name (no name change, no marriage, etc.)

        Secondly just because she would be in the position to bring it up, that doesn’t mean that she will. And I really think it’s highly unlikely that she would. Because to do so would make her look VERY odd, even in a conservative type of environment. I belong to a community that I think can be considered very socially conservative, where a young unmarried woman being pregnant would be seen as a BIG deal, still. But anyone bringing up a story like this close to 60 years later? About the child, not the woman herself? The *kindest* reaction would be a bored, smothered yawn. Most people would absolutely look at HER as the one to watch out for.

        Lastly, say she were strange enough to bring it up. So what? Who do you think is going to care? People who think about it will generally have a sympathetic reaction. A lot won’t even go that far. It’s more likely to be “Uh, so? What exactly are you trying to tell me?” There is just no meat or juice in this story for anyone in your current town for it to land with any impact. The idea that it would cause you any sort of external damage, especially in how people perceive you, is just not rooted in reality.

  21. Myrin*

    #2, is there a reason you assume what you describe is going to be a likely outcome? As in, is the other volunteer the sort to start drama over petty and irrelevant things? You describe her as a “friend” so I assume you generally have a warm relationship?
    What I mean is – it sounds like you’re carrying a lot of shame over this and I wonder if that’s causing you to panic in a way that’s ultimately not particularly realistic. But on the other hand, maybe your coworker is known to be a nasty gossip who relishes in knowing and spreading stuff like this and that’s what’s causing your reaction?

    But I agree with Alison and other commenters – yes, I’m from a small town as well and yes, certain information lives on for generations, but I’ve found that a lot of that is really just that: information. Like, even if it’s something that’s objectively bad, it mostly just gets told as a neutral but interesting thing, especially if we’re talking about something that happened over half a century ago, in another place (very important at least in my town! Thing happened one village over? That better be reeeeally interesting!), and nobody even knows the people involved personally.

    I really love Alison’s upbeat, no-nonsense answer which actually gives the whole thing a positive spin – isn’t it horrible how people behaved? Isn’t it great that we don’t live in a time/place like this anymore? (Especially useful if you actually do live in a place like that – would take a pretty hardy bigot to answer that with “actually, I agree with those people from back then”.)

  22. Keymaster of Gozer*

    LW 2: I’m from a very small village in the UK where people still gossip about stuff that happened over a hundred years ago so I believe you.

    I think Alison’s suggestion of saying ‘yeah that happened but thankfully society is more advanced and doesn’t treat victims like that anymore’ is very good. It effectively returns the awkwardness back to whoever is questioning you – because they either have to agree with you or say outright that they are a horrible person who thinks victims need to suffer.

    It’s hard, but the more matter of fact you can say that the better. A bored tone would be excellent – an air of ‘oh why are you bothering me’.

    I hope things go smoother for you.

    1. Observer*

      Sure, the villagers gossip about stuff that happened in the village. But would anyone in London (where I believe you are now located) even bat an eye if someone tried to introduce some “juicy” piece of gossip about your parents from 50 years ago?

      1. GreenDooor*

        Even if people are gossiping about it, I would imagine with social norms changing they way they have, the gossip would skew towards sympathy for the mom, anger at the church, and being ticked off at the specific pastor.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I’m not in London, not even in a city. Did once work there and never again.

        But getting back on topic: I was just trying to tell OP a quick and easy way to deal with their fears – having a prepared script that you’ve practiced really does help. It can lower the ‘the worst is about to happen!’ feelings too.

        Have read upthread that OP got a little heated about it and would also like to add: having fears about your life being ruined because someone got news of your past history is something I live with. The trick is to disengage your mind when it starts going down into the angry/frightened mode – diversion to another activity or something else that’ll occupy your mind.

        The worst very rarely happens.

        1. Observer*

          I was just trying to tell OP a quick and easy way to deal with their fears – having a prepared script that you’ve practiced really does help. It can lower the ‘the worst is about to happen!’ feelings too.

          Good point!

  23. SwingingAxeWolfie*

    Really commending LW3 for sticking to their guns on this! I was that person pressured into moving into management (public sector… it was really the only way to move up at that point) 6 years ago. Classic case of being good at the work itself but just not cut out for the task of managing others. I was really awful at it, and I hated doing it. Last year everything came to a head and I begged my manager for a pay cut to move back to the level I was before. I haven’t looked back!

    1. Bunny Girl*

      I want to echo what Alison said about the weird pressure there is regarding moving into management. It’s not everyone’s goal and it shouldn’t be seen as the end all be all in career goals. I would probably be a decent manager, as I’m goal oriented and level headed, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would hate it and if I ever was coaxed into a management role I’d probably tolerate it for all of a month before I was job hunting.

  24. Luna*

    LW2 – Was the pastor’s name ‘Frollo’? Maybe that church should play Hellfire from Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, to further make the connection… I doubt you’ll end up being part of the gossip. If you are, put it out as soon as you hear of it. Put your foot down, state that it’s an old story, not about you, anyway, so mouths remain shut.

    1. Ray Gillette*

      The letter says he was young and handsome, so his name would have been Arthur Dimmesdale. LW2’s mom really did live her own version of The Scarlet Letter. It’s too bad for everyone that her neighbors didn’t read the book and understand it.

  25. WS*

    OP #2: I live in a very small town and this kind of gossip is indeed still circulating. Back in the day it was genuine scandal and these days it’s just gossiping old ladies (I say this as an old lady myself). It no longer affects anyone except the most small-minded enjoyers of that kind of thing.

    What does have power is the anger at institutional sexual abuse – my local area was the dumping ground for pedophile Catholic priests from the 1950s to the 1990s, and the damage from that is extensive. It’s actually quite refreshing to see people angry at the priests rather than covering it all up these days. It might be helpful to you to look up about support for abuse survivors from the church your mother was abused by, because it’s never just one victim, and you might be able to connect with other people who feel your anger, and have strategies for dealing with the ongoing fallout from that abuse.

    1. GreyjoyGardens*

      This is great advice. LW2, maybe a group for survivors of clergy sexual abuse would be right for you. There are more groups for abuse survivors (which you were, even if indirectly) and much more anger at the perpetrators rather than the victims.

  26. Green great dragon*

    I think it feels odd to ask for feedback on a successful interview because the assumption is you won’t be interviewing again in the near future (unless you turn the job down, in which case its odd for other reasons).

    1. Fieldpoppy*

      The feedback wouldn’t be about “how did I interview” but rather “is there any part of my skills or approach you think I should pay attention to as I start my job?”

      1. Green great dragon*

        That would seem a really sensible question to ask, though perhaps wait till you actually start work. But I don’t think OP would have written in if that was how they interpreted the question, and it’s not how I would read it either.

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        If I asked of OP1 the same question, that’d be what I’d be trying to figure out. The interviewee could have worded that question better if that was the real thought.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          True but this person is young and new to the workforce. Maybe we all should be giving them a bit more grace.

  27. Panda*

    For #1, could the candidate possibly have sent the text right after the interview but the text not arrive a long time after he sent it? I have had that happen before, sometimes even receiving the text the next day.

    1. LW1*

      Hi, this definitely wasn’t the case as he only had my number to text me after I called to offer him the job (all previous comms had been on email).

      1. Boss Scaggs*

        Do you think it’s possible he could have been texting a second company he was interviewing with by mistake? As in trying to get quick feedback from them since he knew he had to make a quick decision on your offer?

  28. John*

    LW3: I had a strategically important role for 20+ years at my company. Over the years, I refused to manage people… said I was better focusing all my attention on the work. No one could understand that, as everyone of my rank managed teams.

    Eventually I gave in. There were rewarding aspects and I was good at it. But the bad stuff ruined for me what had been a career I loved. (Think having to constantly manage out the bottom ten percent, whether they deserved it or not.)

    Stick to your guns!

  29. NYWeasel*

    LW3: You’ve gotten a lot of good advice regarding not taking the promotion, and I totally respect you for having a strong sense of what type of work energizes you. Still, I’d like to share an opposite perspective that wasn’t easy for me to see from the individual contributor side of the fence.

    I too had zero interest in leading a team. My company expects a lot from the people leaders, in terms of both answering upwards for what the team produces and downwards in terms of guiding and coaching team members. It was work that my introverted heart dreaded with all my might, but one day my manager laid out the options. I could either take charge of the team I was on or I would have yet another brand new manager (we’d gone through a bumpy reorg, so this would be the fifth new leader in just a few months, and the others had failed bc they didn’t understand the work.).

    I was terrified the first few times I took 1:1s with my team, but I started to notice something interesting. As I helped my team work through their questions and concerns I started to learn more about myself and how I feel about work. I also found strength in standing up and protecting my team that I didn’t initially have for myself. About 6-12 months in to the arrangement, I realized that I actually *love* coaching others and learning from them. I feel like I’ve been in a master class helping me become the best me possible. In helping my team feel secure with their workloads, I feel more confident in defending my own. And yes, my company still asks for tons from the managers, but most of that is just simple stuff. Meanwhile being able to apply my deep tactical knowledge to the planning of the work coming in has been a huge benefit for everyone.

    This past year, one of my reports was repositioned from a purely tactical role to a more strategic position. They were conflicted about the new role because they derive satisfaction from completing the tactical tasks. I let them know that if they truly hated the new work, I would help them transition back into their old role, but I encouraged them to explore the new type of work and to see if it might be something they actually love once they get to know it better.

    In our company, the leadership is very open to mobility like that, so I was empowered to give my employee the freedom to explore the new role (and they’ve kept with it and are doing great). I don’t know how your company is structured, so perhaps it’s not an option here, but challenging yourself occasionally with the uncomfortable or unfamiliar can often help you grow in very unexpected ways, especially when you already know about a great resource like AAM to help you with some of the trickier parts. If there is any way to try it out for 3-6 months and see what it actually entails, I’d encourage you to consider that option as well. You may be very surprised at what new tasks you’ll find just as rewarding as the work you like to do now. And if it truly isn’t your cup of tea, that’s 100% fine too. I just know that I really didn’t understand the benefits of managing others bc my previous managers never really mentioned it. They just shared the stuff they didn’t like, as almost an apology for having to tell me to do things.

    Good luck with your decision!

    1. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

      I had a boss who really wanted to train me to take over as manager, and I really didn’t want to, and so he gave me a chance to try out some of the management tasks and responsibilities in a low-pressure kind of way, without formally promoting me.

      It was great that he did that, because when I got some hands-on experience, I found out that…I really, really hated managing! For the same reasons I knew I would hate it and that I was resisting the promotion. I continued resisting it for years, until I was ready. Which wasn’t until a couple years ago.

      Now I’m a co-manager, and still partly an individual contributor, and I like it a lot! It was the right career move at the right time.

      And now my new manager is trying to get me to take over his role as full-time manager so he has a successor and can get himself a promotion to director, and I’m like: “DNW.” He tried telling me I can’t let perfect be the enemy of good, we should always be moving up because there are managers that are younger than we are, and he’s been holding himself back out of some kind of impostor syndrome, and so on. I was like, “Maybe you have; but I’ve been actively resisting promotions that I don’t want, because life is too short to hate your job. How exactly is me being a manager at a marketing company going to make the world such a better place that it’s worth the sacrifice of my day-to-day happiness?” And he got that and has stopped pushing me.

      It’s not just you, OP, and it’s not stupid! There’s a chance that, like me, you’ll actually hate it, and there’s a chance that, like NYWeasel, you’ll find you like it, which is why it’s great if there’s an option to try it out. It might be worth asking. And even if not, don’t beat yourself up over it! Even if you believe in your company’s mission a lot more than I believe in mine, remember that you being miserable in the name of making the world a better place…makes your corner of the world a worse place!

      1. Allonge*

        Totally agree.

        I had a chance to try for about three quarters of a year too, and man, I just cannot with the people management. I had actual physical pain symptoms from the stress.

        I love managing budgets and planning and reporting and project management – but being in the position to have to listen to everyone’s issues and to give constructive feedback was a literal pain in the neck. And the head, too. And I did miss having time for my own individual-contributor projects.

  30. Boss Scaggs*

    My initial reaction to #1 was that the candidate meant to text a different job, wanting an understanding of how that interview went, since he’s now getting an offer from you and wants to know if the other one is still in the mix. who knows though…..?

    On #2, I’m with alison – I can’t imagine anyone would care about any of this all these yrs later

  31. Not a manager*

    #3 – I could have written this letter as well. I finally agreed to move into a leadership role a few years ago. I believe I did a pretty good job for the year I was in it (even got high ratings and everything) but at the end of the year, I asked to move back into my individual contributor role. That year confirmed it was not for me.. everything I thought I would dislike about managing people proved to be true (even with a wonderful team of people!). I’m happily back in my individual contributor role and don’t plan to manage again, although, unsurprisingly I guess, I keep being asked (again!).

  32. I'm here for the cats!*

    I’m sorry Alison but I have to disagree with you a bit about letter 2. As someone who grew up in w small town the older generation will certainly be talking about what happened with her mother still. however in my experience it won’t be as scandalous. I remember my mom (who’s a bit older than the op) talking about how a teacher at the school.growing up got fired because she was in a relationship with the local (divorced) doctor and what a shame it was.

    Op I don’t think it’s going to be as bad as you think and a lot of people, even older folx, are going to look at this from a different viewpoint and probably be on your mom’s side. I really do like Alison’s script and you should use it if anything comes up.

    1. Observer*

      The issue is not what the old ladies in the village are talking about. The OP doesn’t live there any more. It’s whether the co-volunteer will mention this to her relative with enough specificity that the relative with enlighten her AND the coworker will then want to spread this bit of information.

      The first half is pretty unlikely. The second half is beyond unlikely. And if she (the co-volunteer) tries, it’s just not going to go anywhere because outside of the village, no one is going to give a flip. But if someone DOES try to dig or talk about it, Alison’s script is perfect.

      1. I'm here for the cats!*

        but if they are still talking about it now then it’s more likely that the coworkers family member will say something. I do think it’s unlikely that the coworker will go to her family member and ask, and it’s less likely that the family member will say something out of the blue. I’m not even sure if the coworker will know/ remember where the op lived and put 2 together. I’m not disagreeing that it’s unlikely to affect op. I’m disagreeing that something that happened 50 years ago is not still being talked about.

  33. CityMouse*

    I do think I got some blowback for refusing a management position but I was in the acting role so it was slightly an inconvenience to those above. I agreed to cover for someone who was on medical leave but they ended up transitioning to another job. But I didn’t enjoy management and I’d initially just agreed to do 6 months of it, and wanted to go back to my other role. So I do think me refusing to go from acting to the full job cost me some work capital. I don’t regret doing it, as I was unhappy, but it did cost me and I did get rejected for a couple lateral moves I applied for (non management) in the following years.

    1. Venus*

      It really depends on the workplace. Ours has opportunities for acting positions and many people go back to their previous position because they learn that they don’t like management work. We have a culture of acting positions being a trial period with no consequences.

      1. CityMouse*

        Usually that is the case in my workplace but I think they were mad because I sort of bailed in a situation where they were scrambling because someone was sick and I had just gotten a review talking about what a great manager I was. But I was working crazy hours and super stressed.

  34. Ace*

    Negative feedback is not the only useful feedback. I don’t think it’s bad to want feedback after even a successful endeavor.

  35. SherSher*

    Re #2 – Alison, you’d be surprised how long some people hold onto gossip. My husband’s aunt was in a similar situation (although she and the young pastor did marry). When we spoke to that church’s current pastor (who was not part of the church during the aforementioned affair) about christening our baby, he brought up the story, not realizing that it was my husband’s aunt. The “baby” at the center of the story was 30 years old! (The look on his face when Husband pointed out that was his aunt was priceless though!)

  36. Baron*

    #1: there is no rational reason for the new hire’s behaviour to rub me the wrong way as severely as it does, so this is a me problem, but I just wanted to say that I understand why you think it’s weird. Others upthread have made great cases about how “feedback” is a nuanced thing and it’s not just “you’re good/you’re bad”, but still – in practice, “you’re hired” is usually the feedback and asking for more seems, I don’t know, needy?

  37. Allornone*

    OP #2’s mom’s scandal gives some very Scarlet Letter vibes. Thankfully, Alison is right- it is a different time.

  38. AnonToday*

    Wait- I need to know more about your employer being able to force you to use FMLA. (I was, at one point, weirdly encouraged to use FMLA when I didn’t need it.)

    1. doreen*

      If you are out of work for an FMLA qualifying reason, your employer can designate the leave as FMLA leave and if you are taking some sort of paid leave, the employer can run the FMLA and paid leave concurrently. I don’t know how often this impacts people who have an absence of a few days but it definitely comes into play with longer absences – if I have enough sick and vacation leave to cover the 8 weeks I am out recovering from surgery, I am not entitled to decide that the 8 weeks shouldn’t count against my FMLA and I still have 12 weeks of FMLA to use later in the year. That 8 weeks will use up 8 weeks of my FMLA and I will only have 4 weeks of eligibility left.

      1. Armchair Analyst*

        if you use sick leave + vacation leave instead of FMLA…. do the FMLA “guarantees” (that you will not be fired, that your position will be available to you when you return to work – de minimus guarantees, if I recall correctly) not apply? could you be demoted or fired if you take the same amount of time off for the same reason but do NOT use FMLA?

        1. Hlao-roo*

          I’m no expert, but my understanding is that in that case, FMLA protections would not apply. FMLA protections only apply when you use FMLA leave.

          The tricky thing is that FMLA and sick/vacation leave can be used together or separately. FMLA has legal guarantees/protections, but has no provision for pay. Sick/vacation is your company saying “we will pay you for up to X amount of time that you are not working,” but has no legal guarantees/protections. You can take both sick time and FMLA concurrently and you will get paid and have the legal guarantees/protections.

        2. doreen*

          The thing is it’s not your choice about whether to use FMLA. If you are taking leave for a FMLA qualified reason, your company gets to decide to designate that as FMLA leave. The only way you can definitely avoid using FMLA is if your company doesn’t know the reason for your leave qualifies for FMLA – for example, if I have a minor procedure and I am out for two weeks that I requested as vacation, my employer doesn’t know it qualifies for FMLA.

          But assuming that your company allows you to take vacation/sick leave without designating it as FMLA then no, you don’t get the FMLA protections. It would be exactly the same as if you had already used your FMLA entitlement for the year.

      2. Zzz*

        Employer *has to* designate FMLA-qualifying leave as FMLA; that’s not something they merely choose.

        (That’s separate from whether “simple” Covid qualifies for FMLA.)

  39. ZSD*

    The bad news is that people in small towns really do have long memories when it comes to gossip and scandals. My mother (age 76) will still recount gossip from what so-and-so did back in the ’50s or ’60s.
    The good news is that the younger generation doesn’t care! When my mother brings this stuff up, I (age 40) remind her that I don’t know any of these people, I have no connection to them, and I really don’t care what they did back before Nixon resigned. Even if the older people in your town remember this, the younger people (and by younger, I really mean middle-aged) truly won’t care.

    1. I want to be anonymous*

      My family has also “drama” and “secrets” that were scandalous about 50 years ago.

      I had to explain to a relative while I understand not wanting to be shamed or be subject of gossip, I just don’t give people that type of power over me. My relative honestly didn’t understand how I could just not care about these people’s opinion.

  40. Anon-e-mouse*

    I very much relate to letter writer #3 become I don’t like managing either. I’ve been a director and have gone back to an individual contributor role.

    That said, one thing you might want to consider is whether there are any aspects of the manager’s role that interest you and that you’d be willing to take on in exchange for more compensation. For example, I have been the #2 on a number of teams where I took on responsibility for matters like 1) managing the hiring process in our team, 2) managing the substantive on-boarding for new team members, 3) preparing our team’s quarterly reports to management, 4) helping with the annual budget process, and 5) representing our team on certain firm-wide committees (like enterprise risk management). All of these are functions that interested me, that I had an aptitude for, and that were aligned with my role as a subject matter expert.

    What I don’t like (and am terrible at) is day-to-day people management or operations management. I also don’t like being responsible for coming up with or being responsible for implementing strategy, and don’t want to spend all my day in meetings.

    But working with my manager to identify functions I could take on that reduced her workload (so she could focus on strategy and operations leadership) was a win-win. It kept me interested, got me more pay, raised my profile, enhanced my job security and was personally satisfying.

  41. Hiring Mgr*

    I’ve moved back and forth in my career from manger to individual contributor, depending on the company, what I wanted to do at the time, etc..

    As others have said, managing people is hard and can be way more stressful than being an IC, and sometimes (in sales at least) you might even make less $$ than those you manage. It’s completely normal not to want to sign up for that !

  42. Tiger*

    OP2. You felt it for a long time since childhood, so it sank inside you. There are 2 low cost ways you can remove the feelings. One- talk to a dog about it. Two – write about it on a piece of paper and burn the paper. You can get a lot of relief by either of the 2 ways.

  43. NotSoEvilHRLady*

    Regarding OP #3: my former manager recently accepted another role to step down from managing. Our mutual colleague/work friend says he’s much happier. Management isn’t for everyone, even if the person excels at it (he was the best one I’ve had to date).

    I also have no desire to manage either. My strengths lie in smaller picture details and more one-on-one time dedicated to making sure employees understand the leave of absence process (I work at a state agency, so lots of processes and procedures, plus bargaining agreements!).

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      An old manager of mine did the same thing! People sometimes forget that management is a different kind of job than a non-management role in the same field. If you wouldn’t take a job in a different field that didn’t interest you, you shouldn’t take a management role if management doesn’t interest you.

  44. pally*

    For #3: Don’t let others talk you into something you don’t want to do. They don’t have to suffer any fallout -but you will.

    And, for those who offer management positions: need to include ‘how to manage’ training as well. Managing is a skill that requires training. Limiting management training to “on-the-job” only is a disservice to everyone involved.

  45. WantonSeedStitch*

    Ooh, I have something to say to most of these!

    OP #1: I might treat this as an opportunity to educate. Since this new employee is early in his career, I might say to him, “it’s a little unusual to hear someone asking for interview feedback after they’ve been hired! Usually, people do that when they’re rejected because they want to improve their candidacy for the next position. But based on what we discussed, here are some thoughts I have about where you might have challenges and where you might really bring some strengths to the table.”

    In letter #2, Alison, I wanted to jump up and applaud you for the end of your answer. It was *chef kiss*.

    OP #3: I’ve seen this same issue in my own teams. We have some very strong individual contributors who’ve expressed a strong desire NOT to be in a management role, but at this time, we don’t have anywhere else for them to progress in their career. There’s some worry among management that if these folks are able to find a non-managing role that’s a step up in title and pay from where they are currently at another place, they’ll leave. And while we couldn’t blame them for that, we’d rather keep them feeling engaged and valued and happy here! I wonder if your management is feeling the same way about you. It might be worth discussing with your manager whether it’s possible to create a path for career advancement for you that doesn’t include management. For example, could they work with you to create a subject matter expert/specialist/project management role that would allow you to focus on what you’re best at, with a new title and a bump in pay?

  46. Julie1731*

    OP#1 – I see why you were taken aback; I don’t think it’s something typical. However, for someone who doesn’t have a lot of interview experience or who hasn’t interviewed for a while, I think asking for feedback makes sense.

    A few years ago, I interviewed for a different position with my same supervisor. I was offered the position that day (after they’d done all the interviews). I still asked for feedback – don’t remember the exact words, but something along the lines of whether there was anything I could have done better. Obviously I wasn’t thinking of having other interviews soon, but I also don’t know when my next opportunity for feedback will be.

  47. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    As a manager myself, can I tell you how valuable individuals like yourself are on any given team? Someone who is a high (HIGH) level individual contributor, who I can count on if, say, I am out sick or on vacation to be a go-to in my absence, who is willing/able to help train new hires (just not directly manage them), who has a ton of institutional knowledge to impart, etc.? The truth is, you’re an anomaly, and most people like you DO want to be promoted (and would not necessarily be good managers, but that’s a different issue!) and one of two things happens: 1. They are promoted, and though still a great resource for the team, in a different role that sucks up different time and energy than before (not necessarily more, just DIFFERENT); or 2. They aren’t promoted, but that’s what they want (or think they want), so they move on. You’re 3. Not looking to be promoted, and will very much want to STAY.

    If I was your boss’ boss, yes, I’d probably be approaching you about taking the role as well, because I would clearly see your value and not want to lose that! But if you then told me, no, really, I am happy doing what I am doing and happy to help support and pitch in while you find a new manager for the team … well, this may be one of the few instances where I break my own rule and have you be part of the interview team!

  48. learnedthehardway*

    OP#1 – I think that indicates this is an exceptional candidate/person. He’s not taking for granted that he got the job. He’s looking for where he was strong and what potential areas of growth he has in the position – ie. was there anything that caused you concern, so that he can work on that. This sounds like someone with self-insight / self-awareness that they’re not perfect and do have areas for growth, even if they were the successful candidate. So, low ego, which bodes well for them taking direction and advice.

    (Of course, they could be looking for you to simply praise them to the skies, but I suspect they’re really looking for real feedback.)

  49. Clearly*

    #1 The request for feedback from a successful interview isn’t at all odd, the timing of it is very odd though.

    Usually feedback is sought informally and in passing but I arranged to bring my interviewer out for coffee after my last successful interview and it was insightful enough to plan to it again in the future.

  50. learnedthehardway*

    OP#2 – Your mom lived through a modern version of “The Scarlett Letter”, which was extremely unjust and unfair to her and to you.

    The people who did the most wrong here were the pastor and the gossips. (Seriously, if you’re at all religious, look it up – gossip is mentioned more times as a sin than anything else in the Bible.) They’re the ones who should be ashamed of themselves.

    Your Mom sounds like a strong woman, who did the best she could with the cards she was dealt. Sure, she made a decision that turned out to be very difficult to deal with. But she did deal with it, made the choice that she felt was right for her to continue her pregnancy, and carried on to raise you. Having a baby out of wedlock is not the end of the world, nor should it be treated as such. I’m sorry that you dealt with the fallout of gossip in a small town, but rather than feeling ashamed, I think you should feel justifiably angry about it.

  51. Spicy Tuna*

    Years ago, after I started at a new job, one person that I interviewed with told me he didn’t want to hire me but was overruled. That was not welcome feedback!

    1. AnonORama*

      I was told that too. My boss had apparently wanted her personal friend to be hired for the role, but the friend had no qualifications. So, the rest of leadership overrode her and hired the person with years of relevant experience (me) instead. I was actually glad to hear this because it least it partially explained why she disliked me from the second I started! (She was nice enough in the interview, I assume because she thought interviewing me was just a formality and that the team would hire her friend.)

  52. Beboots*

    Re: a successful candidate asking for feedback on their interview… I work for a federal (non-US) workplace, and I hire multiple entry-level roles for seasonal staff annually. I make a point of making an offer to provide constructive feedback on their interview/hiring process, as a part of their learning opportunities, during the 4+ months they’re with my team, because a big part of what I try to do is have them use this seasonal position as a jumping off point for other work in our agency. I’m taking cues from a public service-wide policy that says that internal candidates for hiring processes can ask for a “post-board” – not to challenge the results, but to get constructive feedback to be more competitive candidates in the future. That’s open for successful and unsuccessful candidates. I’m not required by my employer to do it for external candidates but if I have time I do as a matter of course because there are so many barriers to getting a position in the federal service (we’re very bureaucratic as you can imagine), and I want to help less experienced candidates be more competitive in the future. I definitely encourage my staff to ask for post-boards with their new supervisors – while understanding that it’s a request.

  53. MicroManagered*

    OP3 If you don’t want to move into management, don’t. I am someone who didn’t particularly want to go into management but was asked over and over until I accepted. I don’t love it and if I had to do over again, I’d listen to my instincts and say no. I’m now at a crossroads in my career where I need to decide if I want to stick it out and see if I like it better with time, take a demotion, or find a new job. Not fun.

    Having had past managers who clearly didn’t want to be doing the job — and in one case who had protested against having to — I can tell you that people who manage under duress end up doing their teams (and their employers) no favors.

    But I will say (mostly-joking) I take offense to this remark lol. I don’t love managing and often regret accepting the promotion, but I work very hard to be good at it. Actually MOST managers I know feel this way and I’m leery of the ones who just love love love it.

    1. BellyButton*

      Are all your direct reports ICs? I find that a lot of people hate the middle manager role where you still have work work and managing people, but when they move up to director (leader of leaders) they tend to like that better. A lot of people either want to move up or down. Middle manager is the hardest!!

      1. MicroManagered*

        That’s about the size of it!

        My grandboss did discuss that with me during those “over and over until I accepted” conversations. He acknowledged that middle management is really hard but that it’s a necessary step if you ever want to move into more senior roles. It’s arguably true that I’d outgrown the IC role I was in and management was a logical career progression, but damn it’s hard!

      2. Busy Bee*

        Middle management is the hardest for sure. I am still very in the weeds on some of the technical things with my team (partly due to being understaffed overall, but also some employees are new to the job and so still learning). I spend days on client-facing and the supervisory type stuff, and nights/weekends reviewing/correcting. It is… a lot.

  54. BellyButton*

    LW#3 I spend a lot of time convincing leaders and employees that not everyone is cut out to be or wants to be a people leader. I am proud of you for knowing where your strengths are and what you enjoy! Only you know your company and the culture but I encourage you to keep saying what you are saying and letting them know how much you enjoy and contribute in your current role. You are having a real impact and obviously have passion for what you are doing- that is 10000000000000% more valuable to you and to the company. Good luck! :)

  55. Forrest Rhodes*

    OP#2, I can see how painful all this is for you, and I wish you weren’t having to deal with it. I’m hoping you can stand tall, and if anyone is unkind enough to say something to you, look ’em in the eye and say some version of, “Yeah. So?” (Or, if you like, and if you have the info and the stamina, feel free to go total Harper Valley PTA on them.)

    Whenever I was upset about another person’s reaction to me, or something another person said to/about me, my wonderful dad would ask, “Is this a person whose opinion matters to you? Consider the source!” and it always helped.

    This internet stranger is wishing you well, OP, and hoping you can come to terms with this (or not!) in a way that gives you some release.

  56. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

    LW2: PLEASE let go of the shame around this and fiercely defend your mother and yourself.

    This is utter BS and the only way to heal is to put it all in the light. Own it and make them own EXACTLY what they are saying.

    Often we internalize shame as a way of ensuring we don’t engage in ‘shameful’ behavior anymore. We end up shaming ourselves so that others can’t shame us. It’s a really effective coping technique when you’re in an abusive situation and just need to survive. Now it’s time to let that part of you know that you no longer are in that situation and YOU hold the power now.

    Put it in the light.

    You know how people make racist or otherwise horrible jokes, and then kind of wilt when you say ‘I don’t understand the joke, what do you mean?’ And then you make them spell it out. ‘Are you saying that x people are y stereotype? I’m missing what’s supposed to be funny here.’ You can do something similar for this. Don’t let your shame dictate your actions. Don’t let it make you hang your head.

    Content note: mention of assault and stalking follows, but no details. Also some details of gaslighting. The content is bracketed by these symbols so you know what to skip over if you want ////


    When I was raped (I’m a woman and so was the rapist), the rapist stalked me afterward and said if I didn’t make contact with her, she’d out me (for being bi, while in the military during DADT).

    I was initially ashamed and hid the rape because of that shame (and really had no time to deal with it as I reported to a long training course the following week and then deployed a week after the end of the course), but when she threatened me in that way, I was surprised at how quickly I absolutely blew up at her.

    I called her back, furious, and yelled at her to tell! go ahead and tell whoever she wanted to tell, and I would tell too, and I would tell the truth about what she did.

    She immediately backed all the way down and apologized and said she just wanted me to respond to her because she missed me. I yelled some more, you RAPED me, I do not want to be in touch with you and I want you to stop stalking me. (She never did stop, and that was before phones had blocking features, but I deployed soon after and the phone company erroneously gave away my number instead of suspending it, which worked out because she couldn’t reach me).


    End of potentially activating content.

    Alison had a fantastic script:

    “But if someone asks you about it, my advice is: own it. “Yep, my mom was seduced by a man who abandoned her when she got pregnant and then the whole town shamed her for it but not him. Isn’t that horrible? Thank god the world has changed.”

    Please own it. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Let that vulnerable place inside you know that. Protect it. Rehearse scenarios and see how it feels in your body. See what you still need, and meet that need.

    To paraphrase Captain Awkward, return shame to sender.

  57. too much quarantine*

    UGH, sympathizing about covid and FMLA. My 15mo was out for 3 weeks for covid quarantine because she just kept testing positive and under-2’s can’t mask up properly, so she had to be out for as long as she was positive regardless of symptoms. Husband and I covered 1 week with sick leave b/c we were also covid positive, grandparents covered the next week (luckily they’re relatively young and healthy), and then I had to apply for FMLA / PMFL to cover the 3rd week. I was so worried about how they defined “serious condition” that it wouldn’t count. Thankfully I was approved, but it was a nail biter for a week or two.

  58. Lacey*

    OP 2 – While there are certainly still people upholding the patriarchy, I’ve seen a LOT of people coming to grips with the fact that the women (and girls!) who were billed as “temptresses” were actually victims of spiritual &/or sexual abuse.

    Even a lot of people who aren’t all the way there would hear that story and realize your mom was unfairly treated.

    I think there’s a really good chance that if that old gossip does get stirred up, people will be on your mom’s side now – as they should be!

  59. Marie*

    For OP1: Is it possible he schedule an email to be sent out a certain number of hours after the interview and forgot about it? I often schedule those immediately after an interview so I don’t forget and you usually don’t expect to get a response so quickly.

      1. Marie*

        There are apps or plugins that can do that. Depends on your phone and know-how. Or they had spotty coverage for whatever reason and the sending was delayed.

      2. Victoria Everglot*

        Sure they can, I do it all the time when I don’t want to send a text at 3 am but I’m awake at 3 am.

  60. Seashell*

    I would certainly hope that you would isolate and/or wear a mask if you test positive. That should be the bare minimum that people could do.

  61. pleasantly surprised hiring committee chair*

    For OP1 – I can totally get wanting feedback because even when I get a job I don’t assume everything went as well as it could and could really see doing that if I were younger.

    I did once talk to a successful candidate after their hiring and say “hey, you’re really strong in X area, but we only found this out by accident during the interview. I want you to stay in this job, but I also want you to know that you should probably put your experience with X in your resume even if you don’t see the direct connection because if you’re ever working with any kind of Technical Teapots, this demonstrates Y and Z aptitudes which broadly translate and which made us more sure you could successfully pivot from your previous kind of work to this kind of work.” I hope that if they ever leave us, this will help them have more options.

  62. Lana Kane*

    FMLA has something called “intermittent leave” which can be used for sproadic, unexpected absences due to a health condition. The idea is that it protects you from having unscheduled absences count as absenteeism, therefore protecting you from discipline. I know several people who have opened claims for their chronic conditions and whenever they have to call out for it, those hours count towards their FMLA bank. The hours aren’t unlimited but not un-0generous either. Ultimately it gives yiou a layer of protection from being disciplined or fired for absenteeism. (You still have to follow your company’s call-out procedures – that part isn’t protected. So if your company states you have to call out, say, at least 1 hr before your shift, you do need to still do that.)

    1. Lana Kane*

      An addition:
      If you have a mild or asymptomatic case of Covid and aren’t seeking treatment, would it even qualify for FMLA? I’d guess no, but you’d need a lawyer to tell you for sure (and they don’t seem to know for sure either).

      The company administering the FMLA plan for the company will know if it qualifies or not. I would assume OP’s employer would have checked into this with their carrier, but you know what happens when you assume.

      “Serious health condition” is also not that strictly applied. You can file for, say, migraines, and use intermittent leave when you have a flare up.

  63. Sindy*

    OP2, if you’re still reading then consider looking into getting therapy with an emphasis on treating trauma and potentially PTSD. You’ve suffered enough and you deserve a better quality of life.

  64. The Shenanigans*

    “I think it’s highly unlikely that this will be a subject of gossip 50+ years after the fact! Social norms have changed a lot in that time.”

    That VERY much depends on where you are. In parts of the US South, for example, especially in small towns, they’d be talking about this story for generations. The judgment will (usually) fade after half a century, though. At this point, it’s likely just considered an interesting piece of history, but yeah, people are probably still talking about it. That’s especially true if OP is the child in question.

    But, OP, you do NOT need to feel guilty for or ashamed of any of it. You know the truth. The judge-y ladies are wrong, and you and your mother are right.

    If people bring it up, just wave it off with a smile and “Oh, that’s ancient history. Let’s talk about [an important or interesting event in the person’s life]”. People love to talk about themselves even more than they love to gossip about others. As far as the town…you can’t help what other people do, so try to let that go as much as you can.

    1. cncx*

      I’m from the South and hard agree. My grandfather was the product of a Situation and there are still people who talk about it.

      He was born in 1917.

  65. Seahorse*

    Agreed. My birth also involved a pastor and a scandal in a small, religious town. Some people there still remember, but it would be bizarre if someone at my current job found out and tried to bring it up.

    I learned a long time ago to shrug, say “yup that’s the story,” and move the conversation on like it’s no big deal. Of course it was a big deal to the people involved, and some of those scars persist. Anyone bringing it up as work gossip now would just come off as desperate for drama though.

  66. BottleBlonde*

    Re: #1, for what it’s worth, my current organization gives *very* thorough feedback to all applicants, including those who get hired. Imagine my surprise (having come from a different organization) when one of the first meeting invites I received was to a sit-down with my manager to go through every aspect of the interview process and my strengths and weaknesses, accompanied by a multi-page document! So as I now know, it’s not totally unheard of (though definitely uncommon) and it’s possible the employee may have heard of something similar from a friend.

  67. WorkingMomLife*

    For the last letter writer, assuming they are asymptomatic, could they inform their employer that they tested positive for Covid but will be back in the office to work on X date. Assuming that date is before the CDC window, if the employer then directs the employee to stay home, would that not be a paid leave of absence for the employee (assuming salaried)?

  68. Chrissssss*

    OP #2 – about the unfair gossip about mother:
    First, I feel with you. The situation you described is so unfair, and neither you or your mother deserved that.
    Unfortunately you have only very small indirect control about how people behave. In case the gossip begins again, maybe you have a bit of control by owning the situation. Yes, your mother was treated very badly. Yes, she didn’t deserve that. I know this is easier said than done, but maybe it will help you if you manage to be mentally above that.

    As an example in my own life, I have always been pretty sensible, and people would comment and act on it in a negative way. But when I found the self acceptance on my sensitivity, all that bs stopped, I guess partially because people sensed they couldn’t hurt me, partially because I stopped implicitly and uncontiously presenting my sensitivity as something negative.

    If you manage to be above all that, you also reduce the risc of people believing that what your mother did was so wrong.

    Does it make sense?

  69. Victoria Everglot*

    I’m not the kind of person to immediately jump to “you need therapy” every time someone has an issue (always annoying when someone writes to an advice column about a minor spousal disagreement and the comments all jump to abuse and/or marriage counseling), so when I say OP2 needs therapy, it’s not something I’m saying lightly. The reason I think so? Well, her issues are so close to the surface that she trauma-dumped on a coworker over a fairly innocuous comment and then decided she’d have to leave town over it. That’s not someone whose wounds have healed.

    I also say this as someone currently in therapy: it’s easy to believe you’re doing just fine until you’re in the therapist’s office being brutally honest about your feelings for the first time and you realize that no, actually, your issues *are* eating you from the inside out, you *are* still angry and hurt, and you *do* need help. Therapy can really help reframe things and allow you to finally move on, in whatever way “moving on” looks like to you (it doesn’t even necessarily have to involve forgiveness, in case anybody on the fence is worried a therapist or counselor will try to force them to forgive anyone!).

  70. CLN*

    The Manager has obviously never lived in a small town. Stories of scandals get passed down like treasured family heirlooms.

  71. Former_Employee*

    The last question made me wonder if their employer requires FMLA paperwork if someone will be out for more than three days due to something other than Covid.

    I don’t see how they could require it for Covid, but not for the flu or some type of injury.

    When I had to be out for a month, I was required to file for state disability, which made sense, but doing FMLA paperwork for a sinus infection seems absurd.

  72. Silly covid policies*

    All the free PCR testing centres dotted around the place have been closed in my state as of two weeks ago & so my place of work has changed the policy surrounding covid. The new policy states that in order to be eligible for sick leave if we have covid, we need to make an appointment with our GP, get a referral for a pathology centre to get the PCR test, upload the positive result to the government covid results portal then send them a copy of the confirmation email from the government portal.

    I don’t know about you, but the last time I tried to make an appointment with my GP there was a five business days waiting period as they are so busy. SO basically, I can no longer get paid leave if I get covid, so I will be keeping very quiet if I suspect I have covid & just telling people it is a common cold while I soldier through at work.

    These policies are putting people at risk of catching covid because absolutely no one in this town (very small rural town in Australia) is going to be able to get a GP appointment quickly enough to get PCR tested while they are still sick.

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