employer wants to hire my replacement but I haven’t quit, boss’s daughter watches me while I work, and more

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

1. My boss wants to hire my replacement, but I haven’t quit yet

When I started grad school two years ago, I could tell my bosses were very nervous about it. The two years have passed (no promotions), I’ve completed my program but wasn’t able to find a new job while in school. When I started the program, I told my bosses that I would stay at least through grad school. I’ve realized that my direct boss took that to mean “I’m quitting as soon as school ends.”

She has made little comments about me leaving over the last six months even though I’ve said repeatedly that I have no concrete plans to leave. That hasn’t made a difference and today she said they’re going to start the hiring process for my replacement in about a month. Before I have given notice. They got approval already for there to be a one-month overlap between me and my replacement.

I’m terrified because the job market is awful and I feel really humiliated. What am I even supposed to say when people ask where I’m going once the listing goes up? Is there anything I can even do at this point? I’m not going to resign, so do I just have to wait for them to fire me? And in the meantime try desperately to find a new job?

Yes, speak up more assertively, ASAP! Say this, “I think we’ve had an awful miscommunication somewhere. I have no plans to leave. Unless there’s something I’m missing and you actively want me to go, you shouldn’t be hiring for a replacement — I’d like to stay and was planning on staying. Can we put a stop to the plans for replacing me?” (But really, today — you want to do this before things move any further along.)

And yes, this could create an awkward situation if you do end up resigning a month from now. If that happens, you’ll apologize and explain that a perfect opportunity fell in your lap. That’s not ideal, but it’s better than being pushed out of your job before you have another one to go to.

For what it’s worth, I suspect the issue is that you used language like “no concrete plans to leave” — which, in this specific context, sounded to your boss like “I’m working on it, but nothing’s finalized yet.”

my boss wants a timeline for me leaving and I haven’t even given notice

2. Boss’s daughter watches me while I work

My boss’s 19-year-old daughter is interning with my company for the summer. She sits at another colleague’s desk when he is out of town (two week vacation right now). His desk and my desk are in the same small room. She sets her personal laptop on the desk and turns in the chair to face my computer screens while working on her work laptop in her lap. Most importantly, she constantly watches me.

I have nicely offered a spare rolling desk for her to use for her additional laptop (even though there’s plenty of space on the desk) and she says she’s fine.

How do I ask for space? When I scoot out to attend meetings or go to the restroom, I literally run into her legs. That is how close she is.

Be more direct! “I feel self-conscious with you facing me like that while you work, and it makes it hard to focus. Can you use the desk instead? Or is there something you would need to work more comfortably there?”

Or even, “I can’t focus with you turned in the chair and so close like that — it makes me feel like you’re waiting on me for something. Could you use the desk instead?”

3. I accidentally saw my manager’s shocking offer letter

After a very turbulent time in our organization, a new director (Logan) was recruited for my team. From the first, he was abrasive and belittling. He threw his weight around with our suppliers, disrupted projects, tried to manage us via WhatsApp, was completely indifferent to staffing needs, and made meaningless process changes that meant my team’s workload increased significantly. He was not well liked and was certainly not respected. But he was feared.

We moved into a new office about two months into his tenure and had been there for a couple of weeks. We had new printers that connected to a print server and you then needed to tap your access card to collect your printing. Logan sent us (his leadership team) a message asking how the printing worked. I replied, forwarding him the email from the print server company which contained my code, and advised him he needed to look for his mail from the company and use his code or to request a new code from facilities. He thanked me and that was that.

That evening, before leaving the office, I went to collect some work that I was taking home. I tapped my card and to my surprise an offer letter addressed to Logan printed out with the rest of my printing. It was for another supplier VP position (so not a competitor) but was for an obscene amount of money (think a quarter of a million dollars a year, a 20% signing bonus, and stocks and shares) but he had to accept the offer and start at the new job within the next three weeks. The letter was dated that day.

To say I was stunned was an understatement. It felt like I had been handed a bomb and I did not know what to do. I spoke to one of my colleagues, Don, who also worked for him and Don said I should just give the offer back to him when I next saw him. I was uncomfortable with that as I didn’t know Logan well, had no idea if he was vindictive or not, or if he would fire me or make my life a misery. I don’t think he could have fired me as I had done nothing wrong, but the company culture at the time was not great and people were coming and going with such frequency that I just didn’t know. I thought maybe I should hand the letter to his manager and let them deal with it, or just do nothing at all and pretend it never happened.

I opted for the last option, and he was fine with me when I next saw him. Needless to say, he left and we were all delighted. I wonder if I managed it in the right way though. What do you think?

Doing nothing was the right way to handle it. Anything else would have just stirred up drama. It wasn’t meant for you, you saw it by mistake, and the best thing to do was to mentally avert your eyes and move on.

Really, what you saw was good news — a sign that a manager who had made your life miserable might be about to leave! All you needed to do was file away that potential bit of good news and wait to see what happened.

4. My coworker asks for time with me, then doesn’t follow through

I have a younger colleague who will frequently say, “Hey, are you in tomorrow so I can ask you about XYZ?” My response is frequently, “Sure, no problem, just reserve some time in my calendar,” but sometimes also just, “No problem, just grab me whenever I’m free.”

The problem is that she rarely follows through on any of it. I have in the past reminded her to make sure she set up some time for us to discuss XYZ, but if I have to remind someone multiple times to do something, I have to conclude it’s not important to them.

I don’t have managerial responsibility, but I am her informal subject matter mentor as I’ve been in the field a lot longer. My title is Senior XYZist, hers is XYZist.

Do you have any ideas on how to just let it go? It gets frustrating to hold myself at the ready for the consult that never happens. Or, should I just plan a meeting myself whenever she asks if she can pick my brain? I’ve been resisting that, because it’s her question so her responsibility.

You shouldn’t organize the meeting yourself, since she’s the one asking to meet. But why not just ask her about it, especially as an informal mentor? You could say, “I’ve noticed that often when you ask if we can meet the next day to talk about a specific item and I suggest you book time on my calendar or come find me when you’re free, we don’t ever end up talking. What’s going on there? Are you finding the answer a different way and don’t need to meet anymore or…?”

If she says that often she doesn’t still need to meet when the next day rolls around, you could say, “Would you mind circling back to let me know so that I’m not mentally holding space for it?”

5. Reference-checker tried to solicit my references for business

When calling to check my references, a staffing agency solicited my references for business — asking them to use the staffing agency to hire their own employees. My reference felt obligated to meet with them after giving me a reference. I also found other red flags, such as benefits that didn’t meet my needs, after it was clear the employer was very interested in me. What are my options? Can I bypass the staffing agency and contact the employer directly? (The job is also listed on the employer’s website.)

The staffing agency almost certainly “owns” your candidacy at this point (based on typical contracts between staffing agencies and employers, and probably your agreement with them as well) so you can’t go around them — or, rather, if you tried to, the employer would be legally obligated to the loop the agency back in. But soliciting your references for business is really shady. It’s a thing that sometimes happens, but it’s pretty slimy — that’s not why you provided them with those people’s info, and they’re abusing their access. After this hiring process wraps up, you can certainly tell them that, and can decline to work with them again if you want to.

{ 197 comments… read them below }

  1. NforKnowledge*

    For LW4 I’m not sure asking the person to tell you “actually nevermind” every time is going to work since they already seem a bit bad on the follow through. I would just keep responding by asking them to put something on the calendar and assume it was just an idle thought if they don’t.

    1. RedinSC*

      I agree. If it doesn’t show up on the calendar it doesn’t exist and not to worry about it.

    2. Allonge*

      It could be a kindness to mention it though if OP has the energy to do so – this kind of behavior is low-key annoying and it does not hurt to point it out.

      I do agree that OP should treat these as ‘no follow-up needed unless coworker actually comes back’.

    3. linger*

      Agreed, OP can control how they categorize Mentee’s requests in future — but it still may need addressing in terms of professional norms in case Mentee is also neglecting to close the loop with others.

    4. JayNay*

      I actually loved that language! it communicates that OP’s coworker needs to close the loop, so OP’s not left with that piece of mental load. but i understand what you mean!

    5. JSPA*

      “I suspect you often find answers some other way after suggesting we meet, but in case you’re just being diffident, I want to make it clear that the ball is in your court, as far as putting that sort of meeting on my calendar. I’d find it less distracting if you’d first explored other avenues, and then book the meeting directly, on my calendar, if needed–including details of what you want to cover–instead of first checking with me, and then ghosting.”

      1. Irish Teacher*

        I love that. I think there is a reasonable chance the colleague is being diffident or unsure of workplace norms. Letting them know they can put meetings like this on other people’s calendars, even those with a higher rank, would be helpful.

        I mean, it’s equally possible she is getting the information elsewhere and is assuming that not putting the meeting on the calendar is clear enough that she doesn’t need it, but I think that making the norms for both situations clear is a good idea.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        As Irish Teacher said, I think that gets to the salient points a younger colleague should keep in mind: that it’s good they’re figuring it out on their own, but they should also consider doing that legwork first before approaching others for advice, or they might develop a reputation for being needy, uninformed, and/or insecure. (None of which needs to be said directly.)

        1. JustaTech*

          This reminds me of something one of my college professors used to do at exam time.
          You could go ask the professor questions at their office, but often there would end up being a line of people asking questions who would, halfway through asking their question would go “oh, I get it!”
          So the professor set up a chair with a teddy bear on it outside his office with a sign that said “You must ask your question to the bear first.”

          And a *lot* of people would get their question figured out by the act of thinking through it to ask the bear.

          1. Quill*

            Ah, rubber ducking. My phrase for when I discover that the mere act of saying something out loud has clarified the point is “oops, that question answered itself.”

            1. Reed Weird*

              I introduced that phrase to my coworkers who would figure out how to do the thing they wanted in Excel while they were explaining it to me. It’s great, except they started using it like “Oh, never mind, I just rubber ducked you, sorry”.

      3. Willow Pillow*

        I don’t think this would go well – it doesn’t adequately explain the distraction issue, it speculates on motives (unconfident, not checking other resources first, ghosting), and it pushes a solution based on that speculation. Alison’s suggestion is more collaborative.

        1. Life Day*

          I had a strong negative reaction to JDSA’s script that I couldn’t put words to, and you did a good job of laying out my feelings. I like Margaret Cavendish’s version. It’s not just edited, simplified, and less formal, they removed all phrases that assumed intent.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            That script mostly bugged me because it’s too long. For this person short and sweet seems like it’d be more effective.

        2. Terrier and Ives*

          I actually find “ghosting” to be a useful framing, because it highlights that the younger colleague is asking for some of my future attention, which I will hold in mind whether I want to or not, and then disappearing. I don’t think that the term makes any assumptions about their motives for doing it (but I acknowledge that ghosting may have shades of meaning that I haven’t caught yet).

          1. Willow Pillow*

            I don’t think it is ghosting – as far as I understand, LW’s mentee has not cut off all communication, they’ve just failed to follow up on a specific matter. I agree that there is value in LW framing the impact on them of the repeated asks and the lack of follow through, but using the word “ghosting” without any context as to how LW perceives the actions as such seems more likely to further muddy the waters than to provide clarity.

      4. Margaret Cavendish*

        This is really formal language! I have the same instinct, so I’m always editing and simplifying – I would do something like this instead.

        “When you ask if I’m available to meet, I want to make it clear that the ball is in your court to follow up. Feel free to put something in my calendar (or give me a call, or whatever), but if I don’t hear from you in the next day or two, I’m going to assume you’ve solved the problem another way.”

        1. Willow Pillow*

          I like that this script offers LW a means of “letting go”, as they asked in their first question – no follow up in 2 days (or whatever time frame they choose) gives them permission to stop mentally allocating time/energy.

    6. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      don’t you think it might be a good idea for this person to learn not to bug other people for meetings unless it’s actually necessary?
      Also, they might be waiting for OP to ping them with a “we were supposed to be meeting at 3. do you want to stop by my office now?” because even with a meeting set up they don’t dare interrupt OP. I know I hate to interrupt people, especially if I’m new and they’re more senior, and have tortured myself in such ways.

      1. NeedRain47*

        If you have a set meeting with someone you are not interrupting them by showing up at the place and time of the meeting.

      2. Butterfly Counter*

        It is WAY more irritating to send an email to remind someone of a meeting that has been scheduled than to, you know, have them just show up to the meeting. If you don’t want to ruffle feathers or get on someone’s bad side, do the thing you actually told them you would do.

        The issue here is having an amorphous idea of having a meeting that one person expects to happen more than the other. In Texas, that kind of invitation was all pretense and someone showing up for a, “We should totally have lunch!” the next day for lunch would get a, “Bless your heart.”

        I teach at university and the number of students who say, “I’ll stop by your office hours tomorrow,” and don’t fully outnumber those who follow through and do. I’m guessing this person is still operating as though her mentor has these kinds of office hours where they have enough work to do on their own but are open to meetings at the whims of the mentee. Which is not how this works in industry.

  2. Mid*

    While it would have been inappropriate, I would have strongly thought about enclosing the offer letter in a goodbye card that I passed around the office for everyone to sign. I would have never actually done it. But the mental image is lovely. In reality, I would have shredded it and done my best to forgot what I saw.

    1. MK*

      Frankly, I don’t understand why OP3 had this intense reaction to finding the letter. I can see being upset to learn that a great manager is leaving or having a dilemma about whether to inform higher-ups about someone you like jobs searthing. But why feel like you are holding a bomb to learn that a horrible coworker is probably leaving.

      1. Stripes*

        If the terrible boss found out that you’d seen something that he probably wanted to keep under wraps for now, he might be irrationally vindictive.

        Which is why “pretend you never saw it” is the right move, but I could see anxiety in the moment making it feel like he’d still find out somehow and react poorly.

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I thought the “bomb” was that this manager was being offered an ‘obscene’ amount of money as OP puts it. So either the manager is on a comparably large amount of money currently, or OP now feels that better offers are out there and is taken aback by that, or maybe the manager is crap and OP is stunned that someone would offer them so much money!

        1. Mackenna*

          I can understand the worry that he would be vindictive about it if he didn’t want OP3 to know that information and he realised they did. However, I agree that in their shoes my intense reaction would have been at the huge offer on the table for the director’s new job. It has happened to me that I have been in a busy role for a few years and haven’t thought about jobs or salaries etc, and then something happens that makes me realise the pay that is on offer out there for similar roles in other places. OP3 doesn’t say how long they have been in that role, or how many steps down they are from being able to apply for director roles, but if I were in shouting distance of it and found out that eye opening amounts of money were on offer for a successful candidate like they obviously just have, it would come as a bit of a jolt, and I would be re-evaluating my present position and planning furiously how I would close the gap.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Lots of people, going along minding their own business, have stumbled upon something they weren’t supposed to see. Printer output trays being a prime spot for this.

          If the person who sent the document is known to be vindictive and has more power, there’s every reason to be concerned that this is about to be spun into your conspiring against them, that they have to destroy your reputation before you can pass on what you saw, etc.

        2. Observer*

          So? People feel what they feel.

          And the boss was a total idiot, putting the OP in a difficult spot. They had no reason to think that they would ever see the Boss’s private stuff. So, they were in less than optimal position to react with “perfect” equanimity.

        3. Kevin Sours*

          When you print something at work using somebody else’s access code you kinda make it their business.

          1. GythaOgden*

            Ok, but if that’s the way you want to play it, the next time you make a mistake at work, mix up codes or email addresses or whatever and leak personal details to others, they get to make a meal of it and use it against you. It would only be fair, after all.

            1. Observer*

              Indeed, when someone makes this kind of mistake, you SHOULD expect it to come back and bite you. This level of sloppiness with information security is inexcusable in a high level exec.

      3. OP*

        I guess it was for two reasons –
        1) What would he do to me if he knew I’d seen it,as I said – rationally I knew my job was safe but his behaviour had just been so radically “out-there”, I just couldn’t be sure that I wouldn’t be fired or had my life made a misery.
        2) Who in their right minds would pay HIM that much money. And it was a LOT of money, certainly more than double what I or anyone else in the leadership team earn. And he was just so terrible.

        1. The Voice of Reason*

          How much money another employer is willing to pay a candidate is NONE of your business. Shockingly, $200K jobs at the VP level do exist.

          If you’re so concerned about it, approach the company yourself and/or work to build up your own credentials.

          Just because you dislike the guy does not mean he was ineffective at his job. Plenty of companies “throw their weight around” with suppliers quite effectively, such as Wal Mart, and not all changes for the better will always be popular.

          While I’m glad you rejected the option, your threat to disclose the offer letter to his boss is vindictive and wrong. How would you like it if one of your reports did the same thing if you got an offer with a massive raise.

          1. Haven’t picked a username yet*

            You seem to be reading things into the OPs intents that aren’t there. They are expressing their own reaction to being sent a highly confidential document (via her own print code) by a terrible manager, who demonstrated part of his terribleness by sending her said document. We have all experienced bad co-workers, managers etc that go on to roles that seem astounding, and this guy seems particularly inept in OPs experience.

            Additionally, I may have missed it but nowhere did OP threaten to share it. They didn’t know whether to give it back to the manager or pretend they never saw it. The joke about handing it around was from a comment.

            1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

              > nowhere did OP threaten to share it

              They had considered bringing it up with the boss’s boss: “I thought maybe I should hand the letter to his manager and let them deal with it”

              1. Haven’t picked a username yet*

                I mean, I don’t consider listing out all the possibilities a threat, and the original comment I responded to had a harsh tone I don’t think the letter warranted.

                At the end of the day the OP did nothing, no threats l, no sabotage etc. I just don’t get where the tone came from.

                1. MsM*

                  No, the manager thing was just a thought. Ultimately, she did nothing with it. Although I also don’t understand why handing it off would’ve been so terrible for him. Either the boss would’ve tried to counteroffer, or dude would’ve been congratulated on his amazing opportunity and sent on his way. (Or I suppose it’s possible the offer letter was some kind of eighth-dimensional chess maneuver that would’ve somehow backfired if it had gotten into his bosses’ hands even though I don’t know what the plan was if they weren’t supposed to see it, but that seems like pretty strong evidence he isn’t very good at negotiating.) Like OP says, if there’d been fallout, it would’ve been on her.

                2. Hlao-roo*

                  @WellRed no, the OP did nothing:

                  I thought maybe I should hand the letter to his manager and let them deal with it, or just do nothing at all and pretend it never happened.

                  I opted for the last option…

                  The “last option” was “do nothing at all and pretend it never happened.”

            2. Ariaflame*

              I suspect he didn’t send it to her but was just so inept he didn’t bother to use his own code.
              Lesson learned for OP, when forwarding things like this, edit out your own code.

            3. DataSci*

              He didn’t send it to her. She sent him her own print code and he used it. In terms of poor judgment it’s basically no different than if he had left it in the printer and she found it – printing something like that at work, at all, is poor judgment but it wasn’t directed at OP in any way.

              1. Observer*

                The fact that he used her print code is a big issue. And, imo, that’s actually a much bigger deal than the fact that he printed the offer letter in a way that others could see it.

                But also, because it came to her print jobs, the idea that she would have been expected not not look at it is pretty ridiculous.

                1. umami*

                  To me the bigger issue is that OP shared her print code. If you are that concerned about data security, I’m surprised you are letting her off the hook for that, because that would make her responsible for anything getting printed via her code.

                2. DataSci*

                  He only used it because she shared it. If someone asks “How do you log into the system” and you respond by sending YOUR PASSWORD, you share the blame when they log in using it.

          2. I take tea*

            He is at least stupid enough not to understand how the printing works, despite OP:s instructions (that he already had got before and couldn’t find in his own e-mail) and send his highly private print material to another person’s account. Really a case of “I can only fail up”.

            1. MK*

              Lots of brilliant people aren’t good at mundane stuff, partly because they never had to bother with them. His lack of understanding about the printing system, or more likely him not bothering to learn it, doesn’t mean he is incompetent. He may well be incompetent about an incredibly charismatic interviewee, or he could be great at one thing that makes up for everything else for his employers, or maybe OP has misjudged his ability becuad of him being a jerk to them.

              1. Zweisatz*

                OK? It is strange that you feel the need to so fervently take his side.

                We are supposed to take LW’s at their word so he has apparently had a horrible track record at this company. It makes sense for the LW to be confused why this would net him a great offer.

                1. Delphine*

                  What “side”? This isn’t a battle. He got a job offer and printed it out, that’s it. Everything else about this is an overreaction.

              2. Emmy Noether*

                1) brilliant people presumably also have a private life, and a past, where they have/had to bother with mundane stuff, unless they are pushing it off on their partner, which I cannot respect.

                2) if someone wants to embody the “bumbling but brilliant professor” stereotype and have that work, they have to BE actually brilliant, not just really full of themselves, AND be grateful/nice to people. Otherwise I see no reason not to let them fall flat on their face as a natural consequence.

              3. Observer*

                Lots of brilliant people aren’t good at mundane stuff, partly because they never had to bother with them

                If they can’t figure it out, they are not so “brilliant”.

                His lack of understanding about the printing system, or more likely him not bothering to learn it, doesn’t mean he is incompetent.

                Hard disagree. Especially *choosing* to not learn things that are relevant to your operation, is almost the definition of incompetence.

                Would you consider it NBD if instead of his offer letter, he printed out highly confidential records covered by HIPAA, FERPA, or any other serious legislation? This kind of sloppiness with data security should not be waved away.

                1. The Voice of Reason*

                  There is no “data security” at stake here. It’s his own d@mn offer letter.

                2. New Jack Karyn*

                  “Would you consider it NBD if instead of his offer letter, he printed out highly confidential records covered by HIPAA, FERPA, or any other serious legislation?”

                  This seems disingenuous. The only privacy he violated was his own. I’m pro-OP all the way, but I don’t think this is a good argument.

                3. Observer*

                  You guys are missing the point here. The issue is not that he printed out an offer letter. *That* is truly no big deal. If he doesn’t care who sees it, neither should anyone else. So if he just printed to a typical shared printer that’s sitting in the hallway or something like that, ~~shrug~~.

                  The problem here is that he didn’t bother to figure out how the secure system. And he therefore sent something to someone else while not getting his own printing. *That* is the problem. Printers that require those kinds of codes before the job can print are designed for security. (If it’s just accounting, they don’t need to do that – anything coming in over the network can be allocated as it comes in. Only copy jobs would need a code for that purpose.) Failing to realize that he needs to use his own code when he prints tells me that he’s sloppy about this stuff. Fortunately he was sloppy about his own stuff, not something belonging to the business.

                4. DisgruntledPelican*

                  Not everyone works with those kinds of things, so your “data breach” pearl clutching feels a bit extreme.

            2. Glomarization, Esq.*

              Nah, people have intelligences in different areas. For example, I’ve managed to pass the bar and gain admission in 2 very different jurisdictions, but when I used to volunteer at a charity shop, the credit card point-of-sale system completely baffled me.

              1. fairy twinkletoes*

                In its own way, that’s completely adorable. My spouse is the same: brilliant at software (some of you are using it right now), and has no idea how to navigate vast swaths of his life. Including remembering that our college aged kid is home for the summer, unless he directly hears her noise.

          3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            Wow that’s really harsh.

            He may have been effective at bringing costs down by throwing his weight around with suppliers, but he probably smashed all goodwill to pieces. If I needed the work and a client managed to get me to bring my price down, I’d then resent that client and would never let them have a little freebie.

            Whereas the client who accepts my rate and pays promptly, can then ask me to do other small jobs, like translate an extra sentence they forgot to include or had to modify, and I’ll mostly do it for free because billing for just one sentence is more hassle than it’s worth for everyone involved,

            1. Peanut Hamper*

              Yes, this. My old boss liked to do this, and a not insignificant number of our suppliers just up and quit doing business with us.

            2. Hannah Lee*

              Or even, and I’ve been on both sides of this, where the client asks for a lower price after getting the initial quote, like “I understand why that’s the price based on your other work, market conditions, but is there anything you can do on this to bring the unit price down? Because our budget for this is only xyz and I’ve got some wiggle room, but not that much”

              If it’s not a huge difference and if there’s a long term relationship and not a history of haggling over every quote, it can work. Because there’s a mutual give and take cooperation that goes on, so for example, if that supplier calls over in a few months and says cash is tight and is there any way we could release payment this week on a couple of invoices that aren’t due til next month, we’ll do it if we can.

              But that’s different than unilaterally pressuring all your suppliers, all take and no give.

          4. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

            I think you should reread the commenting rules.

            Also, “tried to manage us via WhatsApp, was completely indifferent to staffing needs, and made meaningless process changes that meant my team’s workload increased significantly.” does mean he was ineffective at his job, as proven by the turnover the OP mentioned. The guy SENT HER his letter, I don’t see how that’s her fault.

            1. The Voice of Reason*

              First, I don’t see what’s so damning about “managing us via WhatsApp.” WhatsApp is a communication tool like any other. What’s next? “OMG, he tried to manage us by *telephone*!” “OMG, he tried to manage by email!” “He tried to manage by Slack!”

              Second, as for whether the process changes were “meaningless,” that’s in the eye of the beholder. The hiring company, which probably looked at some of his KPIs at his current workplace, apparently disagrees.

              Third, on the point below that he may have “smashed goodwill to pieces”: look, I have no way of expressing an informed opinion on the merits of squeezing suppliers at an unnamed company, not without a lot more information about supplier power, Porter analysis, and so on. But there are times when it’s a smart move (again, think of Walmart), and not every justified corporate move will be popular. (Perestroika didn’t generate a lot of goodwill back in the day!)

              Fourth, on OP’s complaints that her workload increased because of his initiatives: again, so what? Sometimes restructuring companies means that some teams’ workload increases. If I decide to insource a lot of legal work and lessen reliance on outside counsel, suddenly that means in-house counsel’s workload increases. It’s a free country, and you’re entitled to seek alternative jobs that pay more/require less work if you dislike it.

              Bottom line: I think most of this outrage was caused by the fact OP thinks someone in leadership she dislikes is making money. $200K plus stock options does not seem out of line for a VP or senior VP position.

              And of course it’s not her “fault” that she received the letter, but the question is why it’s even controversial what she ought to do with it. There’s nothing illegal or immoral about searching for a new job. Sometimes you’re judged in your ability to handle sensitive information discreetly.

              As I say, she ultimately made the right call, but seriously contemplating turning it over to the guy’s boss should never even have been a realistic option.

              1. AntsOnMyTable*

                Your comment is really insulting. We are suppose to trust the writers that they know their workplace. If the OP and their colleagues feel that WhatsApp is an effective way to manage them than trust that. If a group of people that have been in their role and understand it say that a manager who was there for less than 3 months was not effective maybe trust that instead of presuming he was some hidden genius?

                This column is rife with examples of poor management and for you to strongly assert that the OP has no clue about their own workplace is ridiculous.

          5. Medusa*

            Are you the manager? This is such a bizarrely defensive response to anything that the LW said in the letter and comments.

        2. Teach*

          “How much money another employer is willing to pay a candidate is NONE of your business.”
          Just wanted to push back slightly on this, since it was stated like a universal law. Definitely in THIS case it was not OP’s business, because it was a confidential letter they saw by mistake, and I think they understand that. But in general, salary transparency in your own field and with your superiors is a good thing, whether for your company or another one. There’s nothing wrong with asking people up front about different salaries.

          1. Grammar Penguin*

            Yes. The LW has an interest in knowing the labor market in her industry for upper management if she’s planning to reach that level herself.

        3. Ellis Bell*

          As far as 2) goes, sometimes the incompetent and malicious type of misery likes to pay for it’s company (I am totally extrapolating from my experience of a company with a bunch of useless and angry dudes at the helm). The company I am thinking of paid eye watering amounts at the very top, just because the dudes in question were quite good at ego boosting each other: “We have tried to hire more women at the top and we just didn’t find anyone good enough” is a direct quote. The rest of the company were paid well above average because of the terrible turn over, and they thought it would stem the leak (it didn’t). They never got any business done, and wasted scads of time either on vendettas or on pontificating and showing off. They used their expense accounts like they were all starring in Brewster’s Millions. Reader, they went out of business.

        4. DJ Abbott*

          I worked for a guy like that. The one thing he was good at was using the good old boy network to talk himself into opportunities. He was incompetent at everything else.

      4. FaintlyMacabre*

        If you’ve been around someone who plays mind games, weird or unexpected situations can feel like minefields. I had a similar situation- going to my father’s office and finding the file that he’d had an investigator compile on the man my mother was seeing. Knowing my father, he left it out so I would see it and tell my mother about it. I also decided to say nothing, to thwart his plans and because I didn’t think it was anything my mother needed to know- while deeply creepy, it was not entirely surprising that my father would do that… which is why they divorced!

        In short, I completely understand why the LW was thrown. But I think they made a good choice. And hopefully they will have a new, better boss soon!

      5. Dark Macadamia*

        Yeah I find this really baffling. If I realize I’ve gotten someone else’s print job while I’m in the copy room I leave it in their box or on the counter, if I don’t realize til I’m back in my room I toss it. I wouldn’t even read it this thoroughly and I’m VERY nosy. It’s someone else’s piece of paper. Who cares.

      6. DarkMatter*

        I fully agree, seems like an overreaction – bordering on the dramatic. It was an easy choice to just pretend that you never saw it and move on?

      7. Observer*

        Frankly, I don’t understand why OP3 had this intense reaction to finding the letter.

        It sounds like two things were going on.

        For one, the OP mentions that the manager was being offered an “obscene” amount of money, so it sounds like they were ticked off that this terrible manager was going to be doing so well for himself.

        Also, they were worried that if the boss found out that they saw it, Boss would react poorly.

      8. Mid*

        For me, it’s the “someone terrible is getting an amazing job that I don’t feel like they deserve” even though it’s an irrational feeling, and not one I’m proud to have. Someone who is making your workday horrible is getting what feels like a golden parachute, as if they’re being rewarded for being awful. Now, that doesn’t mean that the terrible former boss will be terrible at their next job, they might thrive in a different role. But, it still doesn’t feel great to see someone get an obscenely generous job offer after making you miserable.

        1. The Voice of Reason*

          There is nothing “obscene” about it – it’s a compensation arrangement, and not one that appears to be off-market.

          1. Joron Twiner*

            Key thing you’re missing here is in Mid’s first sentence: “someone terrible is getting an amazing job that I don’t feel like they deserve.” Just because it’s market-appropriate doesn’t mean they deserve it based on how they treat OP–this is what is driving OP’s feelings here.

      9. Quill*

        My assumptions are “this guy sucks and they want to pay him this ludicrous amount of money?” and “shit this guy is irrational if he thinks I found out anything at all he didn’t tell me directly is he going to retaliate” were thoughts that followed so close together that they were hard to tell apart.

    2. OP*

      LOL. We did not get him a goodbye card. We were told the day before he was leaving that he was going and he’d only been there for 3 months. No-one was rushing out to get him a card – we were all just delighted with the fantastic news. But that have been really interesting…. :-D

      1. No Longer Working*

        OP, I’ve been wondering what you did with the actual offer letter. Drop it in the trash intact? Tear it up first? Leave it on his desk? Bring it home with your papers and trash it there?

          1. Artemesia*

            my thought too — there is no way anything good comes of him finding out she has it — and so plausible deniability is her best bet.

      2. Kevin Sours*

        As somebody once told me: “You can really get a sense of your standing with you coworkers based on whether you get invited to your going away party”

  3. Bilateralrope*

    LW3, the only thing I think you did wrong was sharing your printing code. That’s a minor issue.

    Next time you have a coworker asks how to print something, edit your code out of the email. Just to close off the possibility of them being too lazy to get their own printing code.

    1. cabbagepants*

      When writing up documentation at my old job, I’d delete my own info from templates like this and put in the info from the company’s CEO. It was a Fortune 100 company with over 10,000 employees so I found it very hilarious to imagine my incompetent coworkers setting up the CEO to recieve, for example, the auto-generated emails from the shipping system.

    2. MassMatt*

      I was going to say this, the manager seems like the type to just use your code vs: actually going through whatever steps to use his own.

      A work place that goes to this length to have security around printing is probably doing it for a reason (monitoring costs or compliance with data security, etc). You don’t want to be held responsible for either the content nor the volume of what someone else is printing.

      1. Observer*

        More likely security than accounting. Because there are other ways to get the accounting that doesn’t depend on people putting in the correct code. (It’s different with copiers because there is no other data that the machine can use for this purpose.)

  4. MK*

    #1, OP I think you should definitely ramp up your job search. You should try Alison’s script, but at this point you might not be able to convince your boss anyway.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Agreed – even if the boss says they understand that the OP will stay, the OP has more or less let on that they are going to leave. Unless the OP’s masters degree was directly relevant to their job, or was done purely for interest’s sake, the manager is going to believe the OP will want to use their degree.

      I think the best thing the OP can do is to really ramp up their job search. Alternatively, tell their manager that they are NOT going to ramp up their job search, and that they are committed to staying for this year.

    2. pinetree*

      The boss’s reaction will be telling. Are they relieved and reassured, skeptical but begrudgingly accepting, or outright disbelieving? The further towards the latter, the more I’d ramp up my job search.

      What might be convincing to the boss is for OP to talk about their investment in staying there. What are their goals for the next 1-5 years? What skills they do want to continue to enhance so they can contribute even more towards the company? What efforts are they making towards networking within the company? Maybe OP is all the while still planning to leave as soon as the right opportunity comes along, but giving a convincing portrait of a dedicated employee in the meantime should help with calming things down.

    3. JSPA*

      well sure…but “no concrete plans” means, “nothing solid yet.” The LW is saying what people say up to and including the point of having multiple offers, and not yet having chosen one, and worked out the details!

      “I’ve been looking a bit, in case you didn’t want to keep me on, but my strong preference would be to stay here, and build my skills and progress, now that I’m not spending X hours a week on schoolwork” (make “X” not actual time spent, but the time you’d be willing to redirect to relevant professional development, as opposed to outside interests and personal life).

      1. EPLawayer*

        do not mention looking. this employer is already taking vague statements as the person is leaving. don’t add to the confusion. just use Alison’s script.

    4. Teach*

      Definitely! I agree that the boss is not handling this right, but at the end of the day, she’s not completely incorrect in her assumptions, right? You’ve been looking for another job, and if you get a decent offer, you’re out of there. I imagine it’s hard for you to use stronger language about guaranteeing that you’ll stay or talking about your long-term goals because it doesn’t feel true.
      That said, she’s being pushy and unfair by conducting the replacement search like this. At most, she should be quietly putting some feelers out. So by all means, use Alison’s script, and do not feel guilty at all if you find a job soon after. You’re both just being strategic.
      And don’t feel embarrassed! It can take a long time to find the right specialized role. You’ll get there!

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, I think Alison may have missed the line in the letter where OP said they were unable to find another job so far–which means they *are* looking to leave their current company. They just want their company to wait to act on that information until they have another job lined up.

        Unfortunately I don’t think there is much they can do here. If your company knows that you are looking to leave then they are going to want to replace you. It would certainly be ideal if they could wait until you’re ready to leave but I don’t think it is realistic to expect they can definitely do that.

        Your options at this point are to either lie and tell your boss that you have no plans to leave, or to ramp up your job search and hope you find something before your month of overlap is up.

  5. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

    Re #2: I definitely agree with being very direct, but I would change one thing in both of those scripts. Instead of saying, “Can/could you use the desk instead?” I would say, “Please use the desk instead.” Or, if that sounds like more of a direct order than LW is comfortable with, say, “I need you to use the desk instead.”

    In other words, make it sound like a statement, not a question. Asking makes it too easy for her to come back with something like, “Oh, that’s okay, I’m fine like this!” Make it clearb that this is not a suggestion, but something you NEED her to do. If she responds with resistance, that would be LW’s cue to ask if she has some kind of problem with the desk that LW needs to address or so forth.

    LW, if you’re worried that addressing this situation directly and assertively might come across as rude or overly bossy, try to let go of that worry. There’s a lot of middle ground between being a pushover and being a bulldozer. Right now, you’re barely into that middle ground. You have plenty of room to move farther into the middle without coming anywhere the “bulldozer” extreme. Good luck!

    1. LegoGirl*

      I’m not sure why she needs to have her personal laptop out at all. I’d flag that for whoever is her supervisor (in addition to getting that person to teach the workplace norm of using a laptop NOT on one’s lap).

      1. Cat Tree*

        This is why the “boss’s kid” scenario is so undesirable. Depending on the company culture, either OP or the intern’s manager might be afraid of even mildly upsetting the intern if they think her high-level parent would also be upset. Maybe the boss wouldn’t care, but maybe they would. I don’t mean that no one can ever work at the same company as their parent, but it definitely makes things difficult for others.

    2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Alternatively, I would look into moving my desk. I may be slightly paranoid but I dislike anyone seeing my desk. I refuse to have my desk pushed against the wall, I much prefer to sit with my back to the wall, looking out at the rest of the office. Right here, in the corner of my living room, I can see all entrances, windows doors staircases, so I know who is where. And I also have a lovely view of my favourite rosebush in the garden. Most importantly, nobody can see my screen.

    3. ursula*

      I guess I feel like you could probably get away with being more direct, too. “Is there a reason why you’re watching me so closely?” / “I kind of feel like you’re hovering over my shoulder, and it’s pretty uncomfortable. Could you find a different way to sit while you’re working?”

      1. Life Day*

        Yes, I would have gone with the direct route as the first suggestion, and even included that her legs are in the way when LW needs to get up. Maybe there is a reason why she is staring right at the LW! If there is, then asking about it directly gives the LW a chance to help her figure out how to get her what she needs without staring right at them. If there isn’t a reason, then move right into asking/telling her to find a different way to sit.

      2. MassMatt*

        It’s strange that the intern/boss’s daughter is doing this when the boss is out of the office. That suggests either that she knows it’s weird behavior and only does it when her dad won’t catch her, OR that the boss has asked her to keep an eye on the LW while he’s out of the office, and she’s just being very clumsy about doing so. Depending on how well you know the boss and how reasonable he is, you know which it is.

        If the boss is generally reasonable , I would go to whomever supervises the intern or the boss himself and let them know what is happening. If the boss seems to have a track record of being suspicious of the LW, you could try to ask why, but it’s not likely to end well.

        1. Life Day*

          “She sits at another colleague’s desk when he is out of town (two week vacation right now).”

          Does “he” mean the boss? I took it to mean the colleague.

        2. fhqwhgads*

          I think you misread it. Intern sits at colleague’s desk when colleague is out of the office. There was no mention of boss being out of the office.

          1. MassMatt*

            OK my bad, but that means it’s far less likely she is being told to do this. Definitely be direct—what is with you crowding me? Get out of my way! Stop looking over my shoulder, it’s creepy! And go to the manager/boss if it continues.

  6. GythaOgden*

    Number 3 sounds like it could be on an Information Governance training assessment. Those usually cover work data, but they’re missing a trick by not often including what to do when you come across personal stuff like this. Also, that he left it there does not make you blameless if you spread it about — the onus is still on you not to compound his mistake and have some self-control. Blame in a situation is not zero-sum — if he left the letter out where people can read it, his mistake does not mean you’re in the clear to violate his privacy by disseminating the information, nor does his prior behaviour towards you warrant you treating him badly yourself.

    So — none of your business, OP. It’s not your job to gossip about anything or invade someone else’s privacy, however obnoxious they are. And yeah, sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander as they say — being a boss or privileged or a wally does not make anyone fair game for gossip or harassment. It’s not even as if you were told this by him and asked to keep it quiet — the way you behave towards others, even those you think deserve it, reflects mostly on you rather than on them.

    An eye for an eye and we’re all blind.

    1. MsSolo (UK)*

      Assuming OP is right and that it actually printed out with the rest of their stuff (i.e. there was nothing on the tray before they hit print) then he used the code from the letter OP forwarded to send it to print to her account, rather than his. So he didn’t leave it there, he actively sent it so only they could print it out. Considering the other behaviour of this manager, pretending it never happened is almost certainly the safest bet, and playing really, really dumb if he challenges them on it.

      1. Jinni*

        I could see a universe where he didn’t know how the printer codes worked. I have worked at a place where you had to put *any* code in to get a printout. It was just charged to your group later.

        1. umami*

          This seems like the most likely scenario – he thought he could use any code and his job would print. Instead, it ended up in OP’s queue. He probably assumed he did something wrong when it never came out, not that OP had to release the job for printing. I’m surprised more people here assume anything beyond that.

      2. DataSci*

        Nah. He accidentally sent it so only she could print it out – if he didn’t know how to print, he probably didn’t know the code was personal.

    2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      What? She didn’t “come across it,” and he didn’t leave it somewhere she might see it, he sent it directly to her personal print queue. Is she supposed to not read her own print jobs in case someone else doesn’t follow directions? He is the one who needs the training to not send his personal information to someone else’s print code and he wronged her by exposing her to information that she did not want. She didn’t gossip about it, she was asking advice of a co-worker, which she was only doing because the manager was so vindictive that she was scared. And what in this letter do you consider “harassment”?

  7. SomethingsMissingInThePost*

    can someone clarify post 5 – I get that they want to bypass an agency that connected them to a potential contract and why that’s not possible, but the rest of the post doesn’t seem to make sense – like there’s a portion of content intended to be there that accidentally got cut or something. Help!

    1. coffee*

      I am guessing the bit that’s unclear is the reasons why LW5 doesn’t like the agency?
      As I understand it, it’s because:
      – The agency called LW5’s referees to do a reference check for a job LW5 was going for. The agency then took advantage of it by turning the reference check into a sales call spruiking the agency’s business.
      – The agency did not advocate well for her, resulting in a benefits package that doesn’t fit her needs.

      1. New Mom*

        This happened to me with one of my former interns. I agreed to be his reference and then the staffing agency got really pushy about setting up a business meeting with me. They were insisting on coming in person to my office to drop off their card. It was so weird and I felt bad for my former intern.

      2. I have RBF*

        The thing with asking their references for business after/while getting the reference is shady as hell. I would want to have nothing to do with that agency after that, but if I still wanted that job, I’d be stuck.

    2. Green great dragon*

      I had to read a couple of times! The staffing agency got details of her references in order to do the reference checks, then when they called to do those checks they also tried to sell their services to the people giving the references. One of OPs references felt obliged to meet the agency due to their sales pitch (I’m not sure why they felt obliged here, but apparently so). So a very shady use of contact details provided by OP for another purpose entirely.

      I feel OP should alert the business that their staffing agency is giving a very bad impression.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        I agree that the business should be alerted. The agency is giving off red flags and potentially scaring away some great people.

      2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        They should only do this if they are hired, though, otherwise it’ll come off as sour grapes.

      3. learnedthehardway*

        I think it is odd that one of OP’s references felt obliged to meet with the agency to hear their sales pitch. Did the agency threaten to derail the candidate’s offer? (which doesn’t make any sense, since it is in their best interest to get the job filled)

        I agree that the agency shouldn’t have pressured the reference for a meeting, but I don’t see anything wrong with them mentioning their services and asking if the reference’s company could potentially use them. Business development as a tangent of providing business services is a definite “thing”.

        Personally, I’ve parlayed one business discussion into another business development opportunity. Eg. a company I had to get information from was impressed with the work I was doing for my client, and we ended up doing business as well. It wasn’t my initial purpose in contacting them, but it did result in a productive discussion about what I do, which led to conversations about what their needs were, and it turned out that I could help them. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. There’s only an ethics problem if there is a conflict of interest or if I use high pressure sales tactics.

        It’s hard to say that there’s a conflict of interest in the OP’s situation – the agency isn’t going to derail her offer (and their payment) by letting the reference’s decision about whether to meet them or not affect their support of the OP’s candidacy.

        You could argue that the agency shouldn’t be doing references on a candidate they are placing – but that’s the hiring employer’s choice of whether to have a 3rd party, their own HR, or the agency handle the references. Clearly, the hiring employer trusts the agency to do the references.

  8. coffee*

    LW2, that sounds so uncomfortable! Staring from close range!
    Really, you would be doing both of you a favour to let her know she should stop. 1) It will help her learn office norms. 2) If she thinks she should be watching you closely, she is using up brain space that should be directed elsewhere – let her use it on something useful instead. 3) Save yourself from the weird environment!! It’s totally justifiable to excuse yourself from the panopticon.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I was thinking that maybe the intern is sitting so closely because she’s hoping to pick up on office norms.

      It really is a kindness to point out to people new to a workplace what the norms are.

      1. Shirley Keeldar*

        The only way this made any sense at all to me was to imagine that someone said to this young woman, “Oh, you’ll learn a lot by observing OP, she’s great at XYZ,” and somehow that translated into…staring at you like you’re a zoo animal? Probably there’s no explanation and it’s just very weird. Best of luck getting your personal space back! Let us know how it goes!

        1. Life Day*

          Yes, that’s what I was thinking as well. I would address it directly by pointing out the pattern and then asking if there is something up. If someone told her to observe OP, then OP can talk about what that should look like. If the intern just happens to prefer staring off to the left rather than to the right, then launch into AG’s scripts.

        2. Peanut Hamper*

          Oh, good point! I have known people who would have interpreted that recommendation exactly like that.

  9. Jade*

    Another reason not to inform your job what you’re doing outside work hours. Unless you need to modify your schedule to go to school, there’s no reason they need to know. The writing on the wall is there, OP. Start job searching and GL.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I think some level of discernment is needed here, though.

      There is a huge difference between going to a poetry slam after work and enrolling in something that is going to take up a huge amount of your time and energy outside of work hours for the next two+ years. It’s fairly typical that people let their employer know when they enter grad school.

      The situation described by the letter writer is definitely an outlier, which is why it’s here.

      1. Jade*

        Employers are on a need to know basis if it’s outside work hours. If it doesn’t interfere they don’t need to know.

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          This is why discernment is needed. Things may possibly interfere.

          If you don’t want your work to just drop things on you on a moment’s notice (“Guess what? You’re being transferred to the location on the other side of the city!”) that courtesy has to go both ways.

          Not all work environments are toxic.

    2. Charlie*

      Given that my boss wrote me a rec letter and my employer paid for more than half the cost of my degree, it would have been a trifle awkward never to mention…

        1. Roland*

          We have literally no idea about OP’s grad school. It’s very possible she got work recs or needed a slightly modified schedule, who knows.

          1. Life Day*

            We know their employer didn’t pay for half of it bc the strings attached to tuition reimbursement preclude discussing leaving either during or right after finishing the degree.

            1. Charlie*

              We don’t know that. My tuition reimbursement was no strings attached and I’m free to leave whenever now that the check’s cleared. My point is just that for many people “don’t tell your employer about grad school” is a non-starter and not particularly helpful advice.

            2. Also-ADHD*

              Not true everywhere. I get money I can use for tuition or professional certifications and training each year and the only strings are justifying it with the form and filling out the info in advance for approval. No paying back or having to stay. I think it creates a tax burden but that’s about it.

    3. You Can't Unbake a Cake*

      Yes, and if there haven’t been any promotions in two years, it sounds like the company doesn’t want to invest more in someone they think intends to leave.

  10. Justin*

    Pleased to see a new (though sadly, old now) show make it into the fake names.

    Just hope it’s not Matsson who replaces him.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I don’t really watch television, so all of this stuff just goes over my head.

      Which television show is this?

      1. DataSci*

        Well, I suspect you watch at least one show. If I ever write in maybe I’ll use Boimler and Tendi for names.

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          I have no idea what you are talking about. I chose this name because it is mathematically perfect.

  11. Irish Teacher*

    LW4, my feeling is that your younger colleague is unsure of what times would suit you/doesn’t want to be a bother/seem too demanding and is hoping that you will suggest a specific time. Is she new to the workforce? If so, she may be seeing it a little like when you ask a teacher to help you with something, where the norm would usually be for the teacher to then arrange an appointment time, not the student.

    It’s also possible she is taking your “sure, just grab me tomorrow sometime” or “put it in my calendar” as a dismissal and an indication you would prefer she didn’t bother you with it. There are people who’ll do “ask me some other time” or “yeah, we’ll talk about that tomorrow” as a polite way of telling the other person to stop bothering them. And if she doesn’t know the norms of your workplace or possibly doesn’t even know workplace norms at all or has previously worked in a dysfunctional workplace, she may assume this is what you are doing.

    It’s also possible, if she’s new to the workplace or new to workplaces where arranging meetings like this is the norm, that she has no idea what times would be OK to put on your calendar. She may be unsure if there are unspoken rules like about not making appoinments at lunchtimes or in the last half hour before you finish work or right before another meeting.

    I’m not sure any of this makes much difference to what you should do but it may help with framing, to think of it in terms that she might be unsure of how to go about arranging the appointment, obvious as it seems rather than her not caring or wasting your time. There are all kinds of reasons somebody might find this difficult, from being new to the workplace to having worked in dysfunctional places where “getting it wrong” was a big deal to being shy or neurodivergent.

    I do think when I started in the workplace, I would assume the responsibility for making the appointment would be with the higher-ranked person rather than the person asking for a meeting. Now, if they told me to make an appointment, I would have probably done that, though possibly with a bit of anxiety about picking an “awkward time for them,” but I can see somebody not doing so for a whole range of reasons.

    1. Babanon5*

      Yes. this! Early on I got so stressed about grabbing time one someone else’s calendar. I’d avoid it at all costs.

    2. One HR Opinion*

      One of the things that I will typically do is to say, “I keep my calendar up-to-date, just send me a meeting request for any time that is free.” This seems to work well.

  12. Reb*

    #5, I reckon you could let the company know that the agency did that. (Though I’d wait till either you have an offer, you’ve heard you’ve been declined, or a month or so has passed – just so it can’t affect your candidacy). The company quite likely would want to know that the agency is behaving in a way that’ll put off candidates and referees.

  13. sunnysouthcoast*

    For OP4, just a quick thought: you say ‘if I have to remind someone multiple times to do something, I have to conclude it’s not important to them’ – but as somebody with ADHD which badly affects me at work, I definitely recognise your report’s behaviour in my own practices. Alison’s advice is spot on and I don’t have anything to add to it – but it might be worth bearing in mind in case it’s a factor.

  14. I should really pick a name*

    I don’t think the staffing agency has anything to do with the benefits.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      My understanding is that recruiters can and often do negotiate benefits. I’m not sure what the definition of a “staffing agency” here is, but perhaps they are doing something similar? I was a little confused by that as well, since in my mind “staffing agency” usually is a “temp agency”.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        I’ve encountered staffing agencies that hire for both permanent and temp positions. I consider the terms staffing agency and recruiter interchangeable.

        (Note, I’m Canadian, so usage might be different)

        1. mlem*

          In the usage I’ve seen, a recruiter is placing a person with a company and then walking away, while a staffing agency is directly hiring people as their own employees and then sending them out to work at other companies, taking a cut of the salary paid by the end companies. I’ve done the latter … but I’ve never known what salary the end company was offering, because my pay and “benefits” came directly from the staffing agency.

          1. Lenora Rose*

            I’ve seen staffing agencies that do both – the permanent positions are usually handled by a different department than temp ones, but not always. I have worked through two different temp agencies over the years)

    2. Moodbling*

      It’s common for the staffing agency to offer a benefits package to the individuals working through their agency at another company.

      1. Somehow_I_Manage*

        Yep. This is the “Temp to hire” model. Employees do a probationary period while employed by the staffing firm.

  15. Peanut Hamper*

    “No concrete plans” means that nothing is firm, but that you do have plans. They’re just made up of something other than concrete: wood, styrofoam, hopes and dreams, sawdust, macaroni.

    So much better to say “I am not job searching and plan to stay here at least two more years” or “plan to stay here indefinitely” depending on your actual situation.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      OP now has to backtrack after implying that there were *some* type of plans to leave. I was thinking something like: “I have been really happy here and there isn’t anything on the market to compete with this role. I would really like to stay, and if possible, discuss progression?” (If the progression angle makes sense)

      1. MsM*

        I don’t know that OP should imply they’ve been searching when they clearly haven’t been. I feel like the explanation is more along the lines of “when I said I’d stay at least through graduation, I meant that I’d use that opportunity to take stock of my situation and decide my next steps then. I didn’t intend to communicate that I definitely planned to job search, and in fact I’d very much like to stay and continue applying my new skills and qualifications here.”

        1. Another freelance*

          Yeah agree. The part about nothing in the market competes with the role implies op has been looking for a new job, even if it’s just a casual job search. Because how would op know that other roles don’t fit the bill unless they have undertaken some sort of job search?

        2. learnedthehardway*

          This is a VERY good way of wording things – it makes it seem like the employer is the OP’s first choice, which is the best way for the OP to convince their manager that they are not going to be looking for other roles/companies.

          Of course, the reality is that whatever degree the OP did will affect how much stock the manager puts in that statement – someone who just did a Masters degree in pharmacology probably doesn’t intend to remain in an HR Specialist role, for example – but if the degree is at all related to their functional area, and if their employer has opportunities for them to progress in the medium term, then it could be a very credible statement.

        3. My Useless 2 Cents*

          I like the taking stock of my situation and deciding my next steps wording. Great at getting across that OP is still figuring out what they are going to do and are not getting ready to quit next week but doesn’t rule out or imply that OP is going to stick around forever.

          The manager sounds like they are very nervous that OP will be gone before someone can even be hired to replace her, let alone help train or cover work while newby is getting up to speed. I think if OP feels comfortable doing it, try and give manager assurances that they’ll give plenty of notice. I’d say something like “Manager, I will try my hardest to give you at least 4 weeks notice but I’m just trying to catch my breath after graduation and don’t have any plans for moving on at the moment.” or “I’m still figuring out my next steps but I promise to do everything I can to not leave you in the lurch.”

    2. DataSci*

      Yeah. “No concrete plans” generally means you’re looking but haven’t accepted an offer yet.

  16. Delta Delta*

    #3 – I’d chalk that up to the manager being inept, and you just gaining a piece of information. No, don’t say anything, and from your comments, it looks like this guy left anyway, so who cares.

    I once found some real estate loan documents on the printer at work, mixed in with a few of my print jobs. Found out the company was basically going under and that my boss was leveraging his house to buy an asset the company didn’t need. Used this precious info to step up my job search and get out before it all came crashing down.

  17. Choggy*

    OP #4 I have a coworker who always tries to meet with me at the last minute usually at the end of the day or right before another meeting he’s facilitating. He always needs to ask me questions and confirm something is correct even when it’s obvious he knows what to do, or if I suggest something, he’ll just do what he was planning on doing.

    I’ve asked him repeatedly to schedule a meeting w/me, not at the end of the day or right before another meeting because I will decline it. If something is that important, then he should make the necessary time to meet with me to discuss it when it works for both of us.

    Let it go.

    1. My Useless 2 Cents*

      They say “Hey, do you have time tomorrow to talk about XYZ?”
      The response they are looking for is “Oh, I have time now, what’s your question?”

      I’ve worked with several people that would try something like this but what they really want is your attention right now :( To make matters worse, they eventually go to manager that I’m unhelpful or never have time but they have “asked for help numerous times”! I can’t catch a beach ball let alone a hint. If you need something just ask.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Huh – that would not have occured to me and I’m usually decent at catching hints. If someone asks me for time tomorrow, I assume they don’t have time right now/today themselves! Else they’d just ask me when I was free without specifying a day. Only way I would offer “right now” was if I didn’t actually have the requested time tomorrow. And if they complained, I’d have no problem telling my boss that they never take me up on my offers of help, with examples.

      2. Nina*

        Oh, I would never in a million years guess that one. I’m already not great at ‘divining what people mean when they’re not saying what they mean’ but this is just bizarre to me.

        If someone said ‘do you have time tomorrow to talk about XYZ’ and they’re a peer or a level up, I’d pull up my calendar and say ‘sure, I have half an hour from 2 to 2:30, does that work?’ If they’re an intern or a level down or someone whose work is less time sensitive, I’d probably do exactly the same as OP and say ‘sure, put it in my calendar’.

        I operate on the assumption that people ask things for a reason, but not necessarily a reason I can immediately intuit. So if they want to ask their question tomorrow, maybe they’re waiting on some data or maybe they want to book the time now but haven’t got the question worked out properly or they’re on their way out the door but wanted to be sure I’d be free tomorrow or something. If they wanted to ask the question now… they’d… ask it now?

  18. KatEnigma*

    LW1: Your boss knows you are going to leave as soon as you can possibly manage it. It’s not unreasonable for the company to decide to make that choice instead of leaving it up to you, potentially leaving them in a lurch. You aren’t owed employment until you are ready to quit! Your boss is telling you that your end date is one month after they hire your replacement. You need to find a new job by then.

    1. MsM*

      I think deciding you’re going to just preemptively push out anyone who’s taken the initiative to earn a part-time degree is a great way to find yourself left in the lurch when your other good employees decide they’d better leave before that happens to them, nobody qualified wants to come work for you because they’ve heard what happens to anyone who dares to try and better themselves, and you’re left with the folks who can’t actually fill the gaps. In this case, OP hasn’t helped themselves by not speaking up to correct the assumption, but I very much think it’s a bad assumption to make.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        I get the feeling that a lot of commenters here don’t respond with good advice in general, but with advice based on their experience with some pretty awful employers, either past or present.

        I know that, because my last job was terribly toxic, and I am still getting over that. I recognize that my gut instincts are often wrong and that they are causing undue anxiety, and that I now have options to choose a different, and better, option.

        With regard to #1, it really is a matter of doing what this column so often recommends: use your words.

      2. Life Day*

        The employer in question isn’t preemptively pushing LW1 out bc they got a degree. The employer is preemptively pushing LW1 out bc LW1 (perhaps inadvertently) implied that they might not stay once they finished. It has nothing to do with trying to better themself. Anytime you imply that you might leave after a particular event, once that event passes, your employer is acting reasonably in trying to find your replacement. If LW1 isn’t planning to leave, then it’s up to them to use their words to say as much.

      3. CommanderBanana*

        Absolutely. I live in a large city on the East Coast, and at times it seems like all of my coworkers are in grad school. It is incredibly tone-deaf to push someone out because they got an advanced degree! Working and getting an MA, MBA, etc. here seems to be far more the norm than the exception.

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

      That’s a really cruddy thing to do as an employer. Any and all of your employees could leave at any time. It doesn’t sound like the boss has had an actual conversation to confirm if the employee is leaving, she has just been dropping hints. This is not a good way to treat your employees. I think the LW needs to talk to the boss TODAY to clear up any confusion.

    3. Lenora Rose*

      Except it doesn’t sound like LW1 is “going to leave as soon as they can manage it”. It sounds like they inadvertently have been using a phrase that implies that because they didn’t realise it implied that (my impression is they thought “no concrete plans” meant “I am not planning to leave” and not “I haven’t decided when I am leaving”), and that the boss is making assumptions based on old data from when LW1 started grad school, and on that phrasing only, without actually sitting LW1 down and saying, “So now that you’re graduating, what are your plans?”

      A good manager should have wanted to properly discuss future plans even if those plans possibly involve departing, rather than just working with two year old information and a passing phrase that is, honestly, a bit ambiguous. ESPECIALLY if they are going to start hiring for the role.

  19. KatEnigma*

    LW3: Head down, eyes open, mouth shut. That’s always how to conduct yourself in any workplace.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Yeah, as a general rule, that is not a good one. In a toxic workplace, sure. But not all workplaces are that toxic. And if you are in one, you need to get out.

    2. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Sounds like you need a new job. With a decent employer, this is not only not helpful it might be actively damaging.

      1. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

        Yes, I’ve got a report who came from a toxic background, and I’m actively trying to coach him out of those behaviors. They’re really hurting him here, to the point of endangering his job. He used that exact phrase to describe what his previous jobs had taught him!

        As I explained to him, what’s an adaptive strategy in a dysfunctional environment may be maladaptive in a functional one, and vice versa.

        1. Kit*

          It certainly sounds like this manager, at least, was toxic, so it was probably the correct strategy in this particular environment (and, fortunately, the environment didn’t last because this guy left, leaving greener pastures behind him).

          OP, you took the best choice you had available with a manager who you couldn’t trust to treat you fairly, and you learned about sharing your printer codes as a bonus. Take the former as an interesting anecdote for the future and the latter as your actual object lesson to be rigorously applied!

    3. Observer*

      Head down, eyes open, mouth shut. That’s always how to conduct yourself in any workplace.

      What the others have said about toxic workplace is true.

      But also, it’s not entirely relevant to this situation – the OP *was* pretty much being “heads down”. The fact that their boss was too lazy to actually read and follow instructions, leading to the OP getting a printout they were not supposed to have, is not something they could have anticipated.

  20. Pasta Queen*

    #5- I briefly worked in a super shady staffing firm several years ago where they trained us to do this. They taught us to flat out LIE to people. The expectation was that we would bring in as many candidates as we could to interview for placement (even if we knew we could not place them) just so they could fill out applications and give these references. We were taught checking references was a great excuse to call a hiring manager directly. They also wanted us to ask candidates where they were interviewing, so we could find out what companies were hiring for what positions, then pitch a another candidate for that job. I hated it. I got fired because I just couldn’t bring myself to do this. You need to be super careful when working with third-party recruiters.

  21. Elitist Semicolon*

    LW1, something kind of similar happened to me once: I had told my supervisor at my crap job in May that I was planning on leaving for grad school sometime in August and didn’t know the exact date, but that I promised to give them the expected 2 weeks’ notice. From May until early July, he asked me almost every day when my last day would be (I wanted to work as long as possible because even at minimum wage, I needed the money). Then one day he said, “I need to know when you’re leaving because your replacement wants to know when he can start, and he won’t wait forever.” I responded, “He can start today” and I walked out. :/

    1. CommanderBanana*

      This is why I would NEVER bring up leaving until I had the concrete day I was leaving or an offer letter in hand. I don’t care if that “leaves an employer in the lurch.” That’s not my problem.

  22. Ninny*

    LW4, how younger is younger? If they’re very new to the workplace this might just be bad communication – when I was new and got told to go up to someone “when they were free” I used to be paralysed with the debate on how free was free, how would I tell, and was this really something I should be bothering them with because they’re busy and I’ve already asked when I thought they were free and got it wrong.

    I got over it, but it would have helped to be told “put a meeting / 15 minutes in a free space in my calendar tomorrow”. It’s a little extra work for you, but it tells them what you mean by “free”.

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

      That is a good point. Does the other person know how to look at OP’s calendar to find a time for a meeting? Or do they know when to come? If OP is always on their computer, regardless if there is someone in their office or not, the employee might think they are always busy.

      I think OP should follow up next time this happens by saying “Hey the other day you messaged me saying you wanted to meet, but I didn’t see you make a meeting. Did you get what you need? If you need help making an appointment let me know?

  23. Somehow_I_Manage*

    LW1- Alison’s advice is probably the best way to protect yourself. I’d feel a little uncomfortable, because you really are open and hoping to change jobs- it just hasn’t materialized. The elephant in the room is that both you and your supervisor know you will be leaving this job sometime in the next 5 years. But if you don’t have a great relationship with management (and their communication so far suggests that you guys aren’t aligned), I think Alison’s advice is the way to go.

    If things don’t go well, or if you do feel you have a cooperative relationship with your supervisor, there is another option. You could attempt to de-escalate things by offering your manager a handshake agreement on a six week notice period if you find a new job in the next 6 months. That would give them time to make a hire, with the 1-month overlap they need to keep the trains running. You can also proactively offer to start now on preparing some written documentation on how to do the position- which is generally helpful regardless of whether or not you leave.

    I wish you the best. These things will work out! And congrats on the new degree!

  24. DJ Abbott*

    #3, Logan was so technically inept he never realized he printed his office letter on your code. :D If he had, I’m sure you would’ve heard about it.

  25. Casey*

    Oh boy, very interesting to read LW4 and add something to the list of “things I was bad at when I started working”! I’d often try to find the answer multiple ways, including asking a colleague/googling/just trying different options to see which one worked. But then I’M someone who has a goldfish memory when it comes to task planning, so it didn’t even occur to me that people would remember my request for help. Sorry to all the patient Senior XYZs of the world who had to deal with 22 year old me!

  26. Glazed Donut*

    OP1 – This happened to me in a similar position. I had just finished a degree, and it was not a secret I was looking for a change in jobs to better suit my new degree. I had even interviewed at my current company for various roles – all of which they had a different, tiny reason why I wasn’t a perfect fit.
    I eventually received a soft offer from a government position, so I set up a meeting with one of the C-suites, and then cancelled after I realized how slow the government process was (& there was no way to KNOW the first date would actually be the first date until much closer to 2 weeks out). I thought I was being nice by giving as much notice as possible!
    Nope – after I cancelled, the c-suite person sent me a text, said she’d be OOO on vacation for a while, and if I had any news to share about leaving, she needed to know then. I softly danced around the plans. Then, my job was posted the next day and I only found out when multiple coworkers asked me about it.
    Overall, it was a lesson in how this workplace handles transitions and communication (poorly), and only solidified my decision to leave. I think it’s important to play nice until you’re out – but also remember both you and the employer have agency here.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Yup. My advice would be to never, ever, ever let on that you are looking or planning to leave until you have an offer letter in hand and a last day decided on.


  27. NCA*

    For letter #4, maybe check that the person knows /how/ to add time to your calendar, especially if they are towards the start of their career? It may seem silly/obvious, but I had almost the exact same situation happening to me, and it turned out the junior agent just….didn’t know how to use Outlook’s calendar functions and was too embarrassed about the fact to speak up. So she got some training from her manager and I, and she was able to add time in the future.

  28. Caramel & Cheddar*

    LW 4, if you’re working in a Microsoft environment and your subscription type allows for it, there’s a new-ish feature in Outlook called “Bookings” where you create different types of meetings (e.g. an hour long training session, a half hour catch-up, etc.) and then people can book those directly with you if you provide them with a link to the booking page. It’s similar in function to an online booking system like a hair salon or dog groomer, etc.

    If you think this sounds more involved than someone just looking at your schedule, it definitely is, but what I like about it is that you can configure it in ways that you can’t with your regular calendar, e.g. if you want at least an hour’s notice for ad hoc meetings, then you can set up your meeting type to respect that. And once you set it up, anyone can book that type of meeting with you in the future.

    I know some people just haven’t figured out how to use the scheduling function in Outlook to see when both parties are available, and this takes some of the guesswork out of that because it will only offer the other person the times you’re actually available.

    1. Life Day*

      So Outlook has instituted a Calendly-like function? Could be useful. If I’m the one requesting a meeting with someone, I just send an invite, but I do wish I knew if, say, the recipient was counting on spending that block of time catching up on TPS reports or if they had a deadline on Wednesday so prefer to meet Thursday or Friday. If instead of saying, “Sure, put something on my calendar,” they said, “Sure, here’s a link to all the times I’m available,” it actually would be really great.

  29. New Senior Mgr*

    For #4, does she know how to schedule on the app calendars? That could be one explanation.

  30. New Jack Karyn*

    LW4: I wonder if this is the flip side of the often-recommended strategy of telling frequent askers to try three things before coming for help. Like, it’s her reflex to ask you for help, then realizes she could try a couple other approaches, and one of them gets her the result she needs.

    If this is what’s happening, a simple conversation could clear this up quickly. A little coaching to try the things first before asking–maybe type the email to you, but leave it in Drafts for 30 minutes and see if any other approaches occur to her before sending.

  31. Random Academic Cog*

    LW1 – unless you’re a star employee (and since there’s no indication they asked you to stay or talked about creating a new role around you once you finished your degree, I’m guessing not), once you said you were planning to leave in a certain time frame your employer likely decided to back off from actively managing you and just wait it out. Now that your original resignation “date” has come and gone, they’re ready to move on. I would have seen an announcement like yours as a pretty clear sign of disengagement, and you’re lucky they decided to leave you alone for two years. I’ve been there with a mediocre employee and a shifting retirement date and it was not nearly as pleasant by the end as it would have been on the original timeline. Your best bet now is to find another role ASAP and leave while you’re still in reasonably good standing. Good luck. And next time make sure you remain engaged and don’t indicate you’ve got one foot out the door until you’re truly ready to walk away.

    1. Parakeet*

      The LW didn’t say they were planning to leave in a certain time frame though. They said they were planning to stay at least through grad school. Employers sometimes worry about workers quitting to go to school full time, so this seems like a reasonable reassurance to have given the employer. It’s not an announcement of intent to quit, even if the boss for some bizarre reason interpreted it that way.

      Where in the letter does it say that LW1 was disengaged during the time they were in school? I don’t see that anywhere. Getting a degree while also working is a totally normal thing and doesn’t mean that someone is disengaged.

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