my first job isn’t what I signed on for, my job is overreacting to me carrying pepper spray, and more

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

1. My first job isn’t what I signed on for and there’s no communication

I graduated college in the midst of the pandemic — May 2021 — and got a salaried job in my field a year later. The problem is, this is my first “office” job, and it’s work from home.

I was hired as a database analyst. Three months in, I was handed billing, and now that’s what I do full-time. I don’t mind that so much, but the bigger problem is that I don’t communicate with anyone else at the company practically at all. I’m not in digital meetings very often — around once every two months or so — so I can’t ask casual questions or even get to know my coworkers or boss. I don’t even receive replies to my emails half the time, and even those are really short and to-the-point. Is this … normal? Should I talk to my boss about this? I’m really confused and stressed and I don’t know what to do.

Yes and no. It’s very normal for email replies to be short and to-the-point. But if you’re asking direct questions in those emails, only hearing back half the time isn’t. And signing on for one job and being given a completely different one isn’t normal either, particularly if it hasn’t even been acknowledged and discussed.

My bigger concern is that this just doesn’t sound like a great job for you because you’re so isolated. I don’t love fully remote jobs for recent grads for this reason! When you’re new to the workforce, a ton of learning happens just by being physically around your coworkers — you end up picking up an enormous amount by hearing how someone more experienced handles a difficult call with a client, overhearing them hash out a problem in the cubicle next to you, or just being able to stick your head in someone’s office to ask a quick question. When junior hires are fully remote, both they and their managers need to work really hard to counter that disadvantage — and it doesn’t sound like your company is doing that at all.

Definitely start with a conversation with your boss — both about the fundamental change in your job (do you want the billing work?) and about the communication challenges. But unless your boss is very responsive to that and you see real changes, this is a reasonable thing to switch jobs over.

2. I’m being followed by security guards at work because I carry pepper spray

I am a top performer at my company. I carry pepper spray on my keychain. One of the managers asked me about the pepper spray hanging on my belt during my last shift. I said it was for stray dogs and wolves, and he said I should keep it away. I put it immediately in my locker. But when I walked into my shift today, right away I was called into my floor manager’s office and they told me to get rid of it because it poses a potential threat.

Then, in the middle of my shift, two security guards came to the floor to follow me. After my shift, I went to see my friend on her floor, and a manager and a security guard were following me.

The managers are very passive-aggressive and my job is hard enough without the security guards following me. I’ve also been warned I could be subject to random bag checks “if necessary.” I think their reaction was blown way out of proportion and very anxiety-inducing. Should I contact HR?

It’s very understandable for them to tell you that you can’t carry pepper-spray while you’re at work. But if that’s the requirement, they should simply tell you that and then enforce it. There’s no need to have guards following you! (Of course, that assumes there’s not more to the story, like if you locked it up the first day but refused to lock it up after that and were hostile when you were told to — but if that were the case, having guards accompany you as you go about your job would still be a really weird response.)

I wonder if there was some miscommunication somewhere, especially if you know your manager to generally be a rational person. Why not go back to her now, say you will be diligent about locking up the spray before your shift starts and won’t have it on the floor, and ask if there’s something more she needs you to do? If the problem continues after that, it’s definitely time to talk to HR, but have a real conversation with your boss first.

3. Accidentally played a few seconds of porn at work

I work as a lawyer in a government agency. While I have my own office, due to how our desks are set up and the thin walls, you can hear just about anything that goes on in the adjoining office.

I was scrolling on my phone this afternoon, and my volume was on, as I had previously been listening to a podcast. A pop-up came up and started, well, automatically playing a clip of extremely explicit content. I managed to close it after a couple of seconds, although it felt like an eternity. I’m reasonably certain my coworker in the next office heard it, although she often wears earbuds so I’m not positive (and I’m too horrified to ask/afraid of getting in trouble with HR or something). I don’t know if I should apologize and potentially draw attention to it, or just pretend it didn’t happen. What should I do?

Ignore it, wipe it from your mind, and move on. Most people have had the experience of something like that popping up when they didn’t expect it, and it’s unlikely that your coworker thinks you were intentionally watching porn at work. If it had gone on for a really long time before you noticed or something — like minutes, not seconds — it would make sense to pop your head in there and apologize. But a few seconds is well within the bounds of “pretend nothing happened and don’t risk making it even weirder by mentioning it days later.”

4. I reported my manager for racism, but HR won’t tell me what they’re doing about it

I reported my manager for being racist (she made racist comments about our staff behind closed doors), and the claim was substantiated. However, HR says they cannot tell me the specifics of what they are doing or the repercussions for her, due to confidentiality. I was told that they “have taken measures to ensure that it doesn’t happen in the future.” Can you please help me understand the confidentiality surrounding this issue especially if I was directly involved in the events I reported? I’m really struggling to accept this outcome.

That’s pretty typical for this sort of investigation. Workplace investigations and disciplinary actions are generally kept confidential because of employee privacy. That’s a principle that’s easy to understand when the issue is something like an employee’s work quality, but can feel less appropriate when there’s an wronged party or parties who have a legitimate interest in knowing whether the problem is truly being addressed … and that can be especially frustrating in a situation like yours, where you don’t know whether the consequences for your manager were proportionate and effective or whether they were a meaningless slap on the wrist.

Ultimately you have to think about how much you trust your company to handle something like this correctly — and you can also watch to see if you observe real changes post-investigation or not.

5. I’m supposed to delegate more of my work … but how?

In my career, I’ve always been the person other people assign work to to get it done. My current workplace is small and family-owned. Over the years, my workload has expanded and it’s getting impossible to get it all done without a lot of overtime.

I’ve been told I need to “delegate more,” but … how exactly does delegating work? It’s never been explained to me when I’ve asked. I don’t know what tasks I have the right to delegate, who I’m supposed to delegate to, what other employee even has the knowledge/skills to do the task, or what their desk looks like so I’m not overtaxing them with the reassignment.

My position doesn’t really have an equal. Nobody else does what I do. So am I supposed to take someone who’s never done this task before, train them, and hand off that task? Am I supposed to automatically know how this works? Is this something everybody else understands and I’m just missing it from my workplace education and need to catch up? How IS it supposed to work? What do I have to know to be a successful delegator?

I’m not thrilled that your manager isn’t helping you with this, because you can’t delegate without the authority to delegate. That authority can come from being someone’s manager, being above them in the hierarchy and knowing they should be handling X, or being told by your own manager or theirs that you can delegate X to that person. Without someone granting you that authority, it doesn’t really work — you can’t go around assigning tasks to people if they don’t know you have the authority to do that (or unless it’s obviously a natural fit with their job).

So the first thing is to go back to your manager and ask for guidance on what you can delegate and to who. If they’re vague, ask for specifics. If needed, use the words, “I don’t have the authority to assign work — unless you want to give me that — so I want to work out with you exactly what I can delegate and who has the skills and bandwidth to take it on.”

Once that’s in place, here’s some advice on the logistics of delegating — but get the clearer authority first.

{ 513 comments… read them below }

  1. learnedthehardway*

    OP#2 – while I think the manager who initially spoke with you was right that pepper spray poses a risk at your workplace, the rest of it is really over the top. If you have no history of aggressive or violent behaviour at work, then it should be enough that you’ve followed directions and are not bringing the pepper spray to work anymore.

    I would follow up with your manager to point out that you have complied with the instruction. It might be a good idea to mention this to HR as well – it’s just weird that security is following you around when you complied with the direction.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      OP2 doesn’t specify whether they followed the first instructions to lock it away, or whether they followed the second set of instructions to get rid of it entirely. I find that a really strange omission because it’s the most obvious de-escalation when people are this twitchy. I’m left wondering if OP wants advice on how to retain the pepper spray going forward, or if they’re fine without it and it’s just how to address the overreaction.

      1. Duchess Silver*

        That was the first thing the jumped out to me. I feel like there are some details missing here.

        1. OP2*

          Hi duchess! There is definitely a lot missing since I have a word limit haha so I just summarized the situation. I’m fairly new at this job so I’m getting to know my managers characters as much as you are. I’m a pretty obedient employee otherwise, most rebellious thing I’ve done is trying to reach HR!

          1. HR Exec Popping In*

            OP, it is typical policy to not allow any weapons on the worksite. You should check the policy but they probably don’t even want the pepper spray in your locker. You should leave it at home or in your car (if it is allowed in the parking lot – it might not be).

      2. Parenthesis Guy*

        “I put it immediately in my locker. But when I walked into my shift today, right away I was called into my floor manager’s office and they told me to get rid of it because it poses a potential threat.”

        The OP states that they put the pepper spray in their locker. It isn’t reasonable to ask the OP to get rid of the pepper spray altogether. It’s more of a defensive measure than an offensive one.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          Yes, it’s reasonable. They can’t control whether OP puts it in the actual garbage can, but they are well within their rights to tell OP not to bring it onto the property at all. If OP keeps it at home or locked in their trunk where no one can see it, obviously that would count as getting rid of it in the sense that it’s no longer being brought in the building.

          1. I'm Just Here for the Cats!*

            what if the OP doesn’t drive? They may have it on their key chain because they have to walk home or take public transit. They can require her to keep it in their locker.

            1. Malarkey01*

              Well even if they take public transportation, the company can still require it not to be brought on property. That doesn’t negate the fact they told her to get rid of it.

              1. The Shenanigans*

                That really seems like an overreach, especially if the OP is using it for safety on the commute. It poses no threat to people in a locker.

          2. Rainy*

            What if OP bikes or walks to work and needs it to keep dogs from attacking them? Where is OP supposed to leave it? I can assure you that anything left on a bike will be stolen within minutes of them walking away from it.

            1. Let's be realistic*

              I’m seeing a lot of comments like this and as a daily cyclist I get more than most that not everyone just can leave things in a car, but that doesn’t change the fact that employers are well within their rights to not allow something on work property. Happens all the time. Not even just with guns, I’ve worked in places with secure documents that don’t allow hoodies to be brought in because of past security breaches.

          3. Gherkin*

            “they are well within their rights to tell OP not to bring it onto the property at all.”

            This is true. The company gets to set its rules the way they want to. If someone wants to bring pepper spray on premises for use during their walk/bus ride home, they can try to make an arrangement–say, they leave it with the security desk when they arrive. But, they should be prepared to hear no.

            I worked at a company that was a bit of a corner case with this stuff. We leased the land from a branch of the military, and we were considered by our landlords to be part of the base, even though we weren’t on the base proper. We could not even have weapons locked in the trunk of our car. If you had a problem with it, you had the option to work somewhere else.

            That said, a simple, “Don’t bring this on the premises” should be fine. “Leave the stuff you brought in today with security to pick up on your way out” is reasonable. Even, “you must remove what you have brought from the premises immediately” would not be completely out-of-bounds. Having security follow OP around after they lock the pepper spray in their locker is absurd.

        2. JJJJ*

          We aren’t questioning whether it is reasonable, we’re questioning whether the employee complied with the directive.

          You might disagree with the decision, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is enforceable policy.

        3. PersonDude*

          It’s entirely reasonable for a workplace to have a no-weapons policy and to enforce it without bias, including pepper spray on the list. And regardless of whether it’s reasonable, it’s also enforceable to have such a policy.

          1. sundae funday*

            It’s reasonable to have a no-weapons policy, but it’s unreasonable to ask people (particularly women) to walk across the parking lot or parking garage without a method of defense.

            There are reasonable compromises, like locking the weapons away or leaving them with security before entering the premises, or having security escort everyone in and out of the parking lot, but forcing people into unsafe situations is unreasonable, even if it’s legal.

            1. Flipperty*

              It’s “unreasonable” to expect people to walk a couple of hundred feet on company property in broad daylight UNARMED?? Where do you live, Mogadishu? Downtown Kabul?

              Americans do not need to be armed at all times.

              1. Anna*

                I mean, in the context of this specific question it’s “walking and public transport in a high-crime area after dark where there is frequent known wildlife,” which is a bit different safety-wise then a few hundred yards on company property in broad daylight.

                But parking lots are statistically one of the most frequent settings for violent crimes here, yes. And it’s often not company-owned / a lot of people’s days do not end in daylight hours.

      3. ferrina*

        I’m also wondering if there’s something missing. The manager’s response is really strange and over the top. Does the OP have a history of unprofessional or even aggressive remarks or behavior? Did the pepper spray come back out of the locker or not go back into it?
        If OP was professional and courteous, immediately put the pepper spray without protest or questions (maybe even a “Oh, of course! I don’t know why I didn’t think of that before” or something to show that they understood and agreed with the managers perspective) and the pepper spray stayed in the locker whenever OP wasn’t commuting….well, the manager’s response makes no sense. But applying Occam’s razor, something may be missing

        1. NotBatman*

          So, I don’t know, but: the missing factor might be gender. As a small woman, I’ve always made a habit of having a knife and sometimes pepper spray on my person. I’ve luckily never used either one, but I’ve held both in hand while alone at night in a parking garage. Most women who find this out go “oh yeah, makes sense” or show me their own small weapons. Most men who find this out are shocked, sometimes laughing uncomfortably and changing the subject, sometimes asking lots of follow-up questions about this ~very weird~ behavior of mine.

          If OP is a woman, and the manager is a highly sheltered man, then the manager might be having an inappropriate reaction to (what seems to him) a bizarre and troubling habit.

          1. Random Dice*

            Yes, this. Men get very uncomfortable when faced with the fact that women have to be afraid of men. Somehow femicide and violence against women becomes about… male feelings, which then are more important than female safety. Which kind of perfectly encapsulates the patriarchy.

        2. MelMc*

          We had a situation at work where a coworker had pepper spray on her keychain for years after being attacked by a student. When her supervisor decided to force her out the pepper spray became a point for HER frightening the students. It was later found out that the supervisor was telling students to write that on surveys so she’d have items for the PIP.

      4. EPLawyer*

        Nope they can tell her she can’t bring it to to work, or must keep it in her locker, but they cannot tell her she has to get rid of it. It’s her property. They can control what is brought to their property but they cannot control what people choose to own.

        Also I think freaking out over pepper spray is really over the top anyway. Its on a keychain. UNLESS OP has a history of reacting agressively just having it on the key chain is no more a threat than the keys themselves. Which we are taught in self-defense class to use as weapons.

        1. Gust of wind*

          In my country pepperspray is considered a weapon. So I would think in my country IT World be more like a switchblade than a key.

          1. Rainy*

            I used to live in Canada, where pepper spray isn’t legal to carry, and I got rid of my pepper spray when I moved there. But it doesn’t sound like OP is in a country where pepper spray is illegal.

            1. Marna Nightingale*

              Pepper spray is sort of contextually legal in Canada, in basically the same way knives are. You can carry basically any kind of knife you want to in Canada, as long as you don’t meet the legal definitions of concealing, brandishing, threatening, or assault.

              In the same way, you can carry bear spray. You can carry dog spray. It’s legal. It becomes illegal if you use, threaten to use, or express or convey by your actions that you are carrying it with intent to use it on a human, or on an animal.

              Basically in Canada you are permitted to carry a wide variety of things that COULD be weapons — knives, pepper spray, hammers, baseball bats — so long as you don’t treat or use them as weapons, and you’re fine, but if you cross that line you are immediately in what I believe is legally referred to as “a world of hurt”.

              (IANAL and this is a loose paraphrase of the relevant legislation and precedents).

              1. Molly Millions*

                I’m also not a lawyer but just wanted to clarify, dog and bear spray are legal in some circumstances in Canada, but pepper spray is classed as a “prohibited weapon” and is illegal even to possess.

                The rules are sort of confusing and I’m not sure how the law differentiates – from what I’ve read, it has to be explicitly labelled as animal spray, and you could still get charged for carrying it in circumstances where you aren’t likely to run into said animals.

                Certain types of knives (e.g. switchblades) are also illegal even to own.


                1. Rainy*

                  So, just because I do actually know this–animal spray has a lower concentration of capsaicinoids than human pepper spray; they’re not typically interchangeable, they’re actually different products. This is because dogs and bears have significantly more sensitive noses than humans, and so it doesn’t take as much capsaicin to distract and/or temporarily incapacitate them as it would to have the same effect on a human. The main difference between bear spray and regular animal spray is that bear spray tends to come in bigger cans.

            2. Flipperty*

              Yes, carrying any kind of blade or pepper spray is very very illegal in my country.

              Reading AAM gives the impression the US is some kind of Mad Max wasteland.

        2. Been There*

          Keys have a different function than disabling someone. That is pepper spray’s primary function. They are not at all equal.

          1. Ace in the Hole*

            Also, keys can’t accidentally explode and fill the room with noxious, disablingly-irritating mist.

            My facility has had to evacuate and temporarily shut down operations because of a burst pepper spray cannister. It’s completely reasonable to not allow them on site.

        3. londonedit*

          Yeah carrying pepper spray is illegal where I live, so any employer would be well within their rights to tell employees not to bring it to work full stop.

        4. Irish Teacher*

          I would have taken the “get rid of it” directive to mean “take it home and do not bring it on to the premises again.” If they meant she had to bin it and was not allowed to have it in her own home, then yeah, that is unreasonable, but it is definitely reasonable to say “get it off this property.”

        5. cabbagepants*

          Pepper spray, even on a key chain, is absolutely a weapon. The fact that it’s non-lethal and primarily used for self defense doesn’t change that.

          1. Just another manager*

            Yeah, in my state, until recently, you needed a firearms ID card to carry pepper spray. You still do if you’re under 18.

        6. The Shenanigans*

          Exactly. Also, the company may not be allowed to ban pepper spray and nothing else. They may not be allowed to ban weapons without a sign posted. They may be able to ban it from the floor, but not from her car, as that is her personal property. It really depends on the city/county/state laws on this. So I’d say doing some research and talking to HR is a good move. Phrase it like, “I want to be sure we are in compliance with the law here.”.

      5. OP#2*

        Hey Ellis thanks for your response! I work very hard to keep a clean image at work and be friendly with everyone. I put the pepper spray away immediately when my boss talked to me and I thanked her for letting me know of her concerns.

          1. OP#2*

            Which question if I may ask? I do not have a criminal record nor agressive behaviour at work if that’s what you mean. I’d say I’m pretty friendly and try to be nice to everyone regardless of their attitude. I greeted the security guards and asked them if I could help them with anything regardless of them following me. I still smile when I pass by my managers. I wouldn’t call myself agressive, a threat, or dangerous.

            1. Observer*

              Hm. I wonder about the demographics here. I could be waaay off base, but I wonder if some stereotypes are coming into play here.

              1. I'm Just Here for the Cats!*

                I’m wondering that too. I take it that OP is female-identifying (as a lot of women carry pepper spray on keychains.)

                I wonder if the boss saw a male employee with a swiss army knife if they would have the same reaction?

              2. OP#2*

                I’m brown..? I really do not have access to cars I walk and take transport in downtown of a big city. Officers are always around the corner. The managers actions confuses me as much as it confuses you. I complied with everything.

                1. zuzu*

                  Ah, if you live in a big city, the “wolves” comment might have thrown off your manager. Stray dogs are one thing (though if the manager lives in a neighborhood where animal control keeps a lid on that, she may not believe that, either). But wolves, unlike coyotes, don’t travel into big cities, at least downtown areas.

                  Maybe if you’d said “coyotes,” she’d have been fine with it! It certainly would have applied in L.A. OTOH, she may just be looking for a reason to target you.

                2. zuzu*

                  Sorry, just read that you don’t live in the US. Do wolves and bears actually travel into downtown areas where you live?

                  Also: your management seems to be all-around unreasonable, and you should probably start looking for another job.

                3. The Shenanigans*

                  Ah, that explains. Of course, they are following you around. Rent-a-cops (and regular ones) DEEPLY overreact to brown people doing, well, anything really. I wonder if there are other employees with similar levels of weapons in their possession who are white and not getting hassled.

                4. SnappinTerrapin*

                  Well, we can’t rule out racial bias here, although there is evidence that they are just generally unreasonable, regardless of race.

                  You are making a good faith effort to follow their policies. Their reactions are not designed to address the concerns that a reasonable set of managers might have in a similar situation.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          It does indeed sound like a badly handled overreaction if you were happy to put it away, but lots of companies won’t want weapons on their premises so I think they care less about your friendliness and more just about the potential liability of having it on the property. I hear you on the safety aspects of getting home; if you really feel that way you’ll have to be much more discreet, maybe get one of those sprays disguised as a lipstick and make sure no one touches it if your bag does get searched. It’s often safer if you don’t advertise a frequently carried weapon anyway; you typically want the element of surprise if something happens.

      6. I'm Just Here for the Cats!*

        I don’t think the boss has a right to tell her to get rid of the paper spray. Yes she can kee it in her locker but what if she has to walk to the bus or train after work? This could be a safety issue for her. Yes there are security guards but if the OP doesn’t drive to work and relies on public transit they have should be able to have pepper spray.

        1. Yorick*

          I agree that keeping it in the locker SHOULD be fine, but it seems that the employer doesn’t want her to bring it at all – and if this is the US, the employer likely has the right to ask that and to fire her if she doesn’t comply.

          1. Yorick*

            But the more I think about it, the more it seems reasonable for the employer to not want a weapon in someone’s locker. At any time, OP could go get the pepper spray from the locker and use it on somebody. I sure wouldn’t feel very comfortable if my coworker had a gun in their locker.

      7. I have RBF*

        They actually don’t have the right to tell them to “get rid of it entirely.” Their ability to command what they do stops at the property line and work hours.

        What this means is that they have every right to say “You may not bring pepper spray onto this property” or “You must not bring pepper spray into the building(s).” However, they have no right to say “You may not own or carry pepper spray at all, ever.” You can carry what you want outside of work and off the work site.

        The thing with security guards and a manager following you? Bananapants if you’ve already locked up or taken the pepper spray off site.

    2. Warrior Princess Xena*

      This is the sort of question where I’m very curious as to some of the local social dynamics in question. Where I live, it is pretty common for women to have keychain pepper sprays (I live near a big west coast city). It’s just considered a safety thing. I have never seen a guy with one, to my knowledge. I’d guess that the manager doesn’t realize how ubiquitous carrying pepper spray is for certain segments of the population, depending on where in the world you live.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        I was wondering whether the LW was a man (they don’t say), and some of the reaction is driven by “why would a MAN need pepper spray?!”. That kind of thing is more likely to be taken as defensive precaution from a woman, and aggressive/dangerous from a man. It’s also unclear how likely “wolves and stray dogs” and other assorted wildlife are to encounter where they are, and how likely it is to encounter violence from humans, and all that will factor into how weird people think it is.

        1. Crooked Bird*

          That’s exactly what I’m wondering. It’s hard to wrap my head around picturing security guards following around, say, a tiny woman just because she has pepper spray. If OP is a large man I can at least imagine what they’re thinking. It still seems very over the top though.

          I’m absolutely picturing OP living in Montana or something, where wildlife are something you have to think about in daily life. If they live in Chicago, certainly, their answer sounds odder!

          1. NeedRain47*

            why would you need to carry it around at work, though? LW doesn’t actually say if they’re going to be meeting dogs and wolves on the job. Having it with your personal items in a locker shouldn’t be any different than having, like, a swiss army knife.

            1. MassMatt*

              If it’s on the keychain, it probably just becomes part of your keychain and you forget about it until you need it. And taking it off and putting it back on is an unnecessary hassle.

            2. MCMonkeyBean*

              Swiss army knife is the perfect comparison because most people put that on their keychain and then basically forget it’s there. The only time I ever think about it being on my keychain is if I go to the airport, and only because one time I *didn’t* think about it being on my keychain and they made me throw it away.

              Presumably OP just never thought about the fact that it was on their keychain once they were at work, and then as soon as someone pointed it out to them they put it in their locker.

            3. Green Tea*

              I have pepper spray because I take public transportation which includes walking home alone in the dark – for me it is mainly to protect against attacks from humans, which are increasing in my city both on public transportation, and on the street. I have zero need for it at work, but I don’t have a car to lock it in, so I don’t really have an option other than bringing it to work with me.

              OP says in another comment she also takes public transportation and has a lot of strays and wild animals in her city.

              1. Dona Florinda*

                Same. Before WFH, I always carried pepper spray with me and for me that’s a hill to die on. I think it’s reasonable to ask OP to keep it in a locker at work, but not have it altogether?

          2. Mockingjay*

            You’d be surprised at the amount of predator wildlife that live in suburban and urban environments. They’ve adapted due to encroachment in their habitat.

            As for why OP is carrying it in the office: habit, it’s on a keychain or lanyard for quick access, etc. For instance, if you go jogging after work, you want the spray where you’ll remember to carry it and it’s easily accessible.

            1. nobadcats*

              This is true. When I was at Old Job (3x), we would regularly have coyotes use the grassy areas of the campus as a shortcut to get where they were going. This was in Tukwila, Washington.

              I only saw them in the early mornings, when the ground was covered with mist. First, I’d just see the tips of their ears or a tail tuff. I didn’t fuss at them, but they clocked me in a hot second, “Oh, there’s a lady over there. Hrm, not moving, no threat. Okay, gang, let’s keep going.” Others who worked late into the evening said that they didn’t see the coyotes, but for their glowing eyes, but heard them.

              Coyotes are a lot bigger than I expected. They’re not just a scrappy little dog.

              1. Quill*

                Where I grew up in the midwest, the urban / suburban coyotes were mostly a threat to outdoor cats and unattended small dogs. But they absolutely will try to intimidate you into giving them food, and if there’s more than one or two of them hanging out I can see why OP would worry.

                1. nobadcats*

                  This was back in the day when I was still smoking, hence why I was outside, so they probably thought I was unappetizingly stinky. Plus, there were two woody parks on either side of our buildings with a fast flowing stream running through one. I just stood still and projected “I’m not a threat.” toward them.

                2. Quill*

                  @nobadcats: similar, except that I used to walk home about a mile and a half from high school sometimes. The coyotes were interested in mugging me because of my lunchbox, but they were easily deterred by me throwing pebbles and shouting.

          3. Me*

            That’s funny, because I do live in Montana. I don’t have to carry bear spray, but cannot leave it in my car where it could explode in the heat. A regular sized pepper spray that you carry on a keychain would not be enough.

            Mt manager gave me a lock for my locker to use when I had it with me and told me not to spread the word around that I have it.

            No problem, but I did ask about it proactively.

            1. Anon for this*

              Also Montana here, and I carry bear spray when hiking etc, but it would be odd in most workplaces (unless maybe you work outdoors for Fish Wildlife and Parks or something). And yeah, regular keychain pepper spray is not a substitute – bear spray cans are big! I also think there are very, very few jobs where one could expect to encounter wolves (and I live where that’s an actual, but remote, possibility.)

              So my read on it is that OP probably carries this for self-defense against humans, like a lot of women do, but might say “wolves and stray dogs” to make it clear she’s not trying to be aggressive to people? But in any case, a workplace can forbid it on their property. The only weird thing here is following OP around, which communicates something other than “hey, we don’t allow pepper spray here.” But it communicates whatever it is very badly, and OP should probably ask directly if their manager/security has any other concern.

          4. OP#2*

            I live in a big city but I pass by foxes and dogs all the time. My job is located right on the most crime prone street of downtown. We have to deal with addicts and homeless people just about everyday. I use public transport late at night in downtown and I’ve seen more than enough. I understand not having it on me during my shift, but not expecting it to “stay home” altogether. I’ll need it for my way back home.

            1. ThatGirl*

              I think you have a right to carry pepper spray if you want to, but please don’t pepper spray human beings simply because they’re unhoused or addicts. Homeless people are way more likely to be victims of violence than cause it themselves.

              1. I'm Just Here for the Cats!*

                What!!! The OP is not saying that they are going around and pepper spraying people just because they are homeless! They have to go through crime-prone streets to get home. They carry pepper spray so if someone trys to attack them they can defend themselves. You really took their comment weird.

              2. OP#2*

                I agree! I never sprayed anyone no matter the circumstances but I still need it for my way in and out of work. I mentioned the homeless because they HAVE been agressive before but calling security or the cops has worked out so far. The pepper spray is a last minute resort where I cannot access my phone or walkie. Most girls I know carry pocket knives but all I got is a spray to be labelled a threat by the managers. It’s upsetting.

                1. Usagi*

                  Most workplaces are going to consider pepper spray more of a threat/prohibited item than a small pocketknife. That seems pretty normal and reasonable.

                  Does your boss know you’re locking it up every day and not taking it in with you? Is there any other detail of the interaction that might lead security to be following you around, even after you locked away the spray?

              3. Green Tea*

                Do you honestly think OP was saying she planned to attack people with pepper spray, as opposed to acknowledging that the risk she will be attacked increases, and it makes her feel safer to be able to defend herself in case she does get attacked?

                You can advocate for housing reform and mental health reform and addition recovery reform and still acknowledge the reality that unhoused people and addicted people can sometimes be dangerous to someone walking alone. Unless you don’t live in an area with large populations of suffering people and haven’t observed how that suffering can manifest as aggression and violence toward others. In which case, please don’t judge those of us who live with that risk every day.

          5. Lexi Lynn*

            While predators don’t typically visit downtown Denver, even the close in suburbs have bears, mountain lions, coyotes (and hearing them scream on the next block is terrifying), and the occasional moose looking for love regularly.

        2. CattyLight*

          I do think carrying pepper spray on your belt in a retail setting in which you are presumedly serving the public in some way is very odd, and I also think “because of wolves” is an odd comment to make. Wolves? Wolves and coyotes are related but not physically similar in size. A customer may have complained. Maybe more than one.

          I do think the best choice would have been from the get go to keep it in a purse or tote and never show something like that at work. I don’t know where you live, but most companies in the US are privately owned and can decide what they allow on their property or not. There are signs on many stores around here that no guns are allowed. Many others say it’s not a weapon, but all of us in the US watched our own citizens turn pepper spray on our law enforcement at the capital. Most of us got really good looks at how pepper spray- or bear spray can be used as a very dangerous weapon.

          I don’t think they are being fair, but I’d be really curious for a follow up.

          1. Coldfeet*

            I live in a major city, in a region that has both wolves and coyotes. Coyotes are living in the city for sure, but everyone always thinks they saw “a wolf”. It’s never a wolf, always a coyote, but unless you really know about their looks, behaviours, and territories, you can’t tell the difference on a dark street. I’d expect it’s just a mix-up with OP2 as well.

          2. Kay*

            The wearing pepper spray on their belt and the wolves comment were the 2 things that really threw me off – and I’m surprised they haven’t been addressed more.

            First – in a professional setting it seems really strange that someone would think wearing pepper spray on their belt would be well received. Unless we are talking rural Alaska for a position in the field – this would indicate a lack of understanding of professional norms, and might speak to a manager’s heightened level of concern.

            Second – though the OP has clarified they aren’t in the US and are in a city, the wolves comment is odd to me, especially combined with the first point. I’m guessing there are some cultural nuances/language issues at play?

            Overall, from the perspective of a US manager, I can see being concerned that someone thought wearing pepper spray on their belt was okay, then responded with a comment about wolves and stray dogs. If I thought my instructions (as manager) meant “pepper spray is not ever to be brought onto the premises” and the next day the OP showed up with it visible again I can see how this escalated. Also, many non US locations are also less tolerant of weapons in general. Either way, I think a more in depth conversation so everyone is on the same page is in order.

            1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

              Suburban Alaska still gets bears. Suburban Alaska generally has more moose than bears. We lived about a 10-15 minute drive from a major university. My family had moose sightings on the property at least a dozen times a year, and sometimes close enough to the driveway/house to require that we stay put for safety. My mother often carried pepper spray when we were going to be working in the garden.

              I agree that it shouldn’t be worn in most workplaces unless the job inherently requires a substantial amount of outdoor time in places where creature encounters are a likelihood.

          3. Flipperty*

            The focus on needing pepper spray to protect against wild animals in a city is bizarre. Wolves avoid people, there’s zero chance of a wolf attacking someone in an urban area. There’s not a single verified case of a fox seriously attacking a human being, and the alleged cases involve babies (and are nearly always proven or suspected to be families blaming an attack by the family dog on a fox). I live in an area where urban foxes are extremely commonplace, I see foxes every day, they are basically domesticated and no threat to people at all.

            Bears are a threat if you’re somewhere remote, but not in a city!

      2. Phryne*

        Where I live, pepperspray is an illegal weapon and bringing it to work would be akin to bringing any other illegal weapon. Might well get you fired. So I find the reaction of the employer quite proportional, except for the security guards maybe.

        1. Jackalope*

          Presumably the OP would have mentioned if it was illegal, though, and probably not brought it with her to work.

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            Maybe, but a lot of people don’t actually know the legalities around whether they can carry pepper spray in their area. I have no idea if it’s legal to carry in my city, and it’s probably a tossup as to whether I would have thought to look it up before ordering a keychain off Amazon or whatever if that was something I was inclined to do.

            1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              Huh. No restrictions almost AT ALL in my state, not by container size, not by formulation, not by user age. The only requirement is that it has to be a compound that will, quote, not cause lasting harm. So if a civilian can get hold of a big back-mounted tank of tear gas intended for crowd dispersal, they’re perfectly within the law. Hm.

            2. Eldritch Office Worker*

              I wouldn’t have known the restrictions in my state until I learned Amazon won’t ship pepper spray here. People carry it all the time, it’s largely unenforced. But I would assume getting arrested or something with it on your person would be bad.

            3. I'm Just Here for the Cats!*

              If your state bans pepper spray or mace you won’t be able to order it online, unless you have it delivered to another state. I had looked at pepper spray on amazon and other online places but my state doesn’t allow online sales (although that has changed). I got a message that They couldn’t deliver in my state but if I had it shipped to my mom in another state it would have been ok.

              1. Pippa K*

                There are restrictions in some states about the size of the canister, the age of the person, and the chemical content of the spray. In Massachusetts, you apparently have to buy it from a licensed firearms dealer, and in Wisconsin you can’t camouflage the container. There are also local ordinances in some places. But in any case the issue for the OP isn’t the legality of the spray, it’s the employer’s rules and odd reaction.

        2. allathian*

          Yes, this. Where I live, men are at a far greater risk of random violence in the street than women are, largely because women take the kind of precautions that men, especially young men, scoff at. Women are far more likely to be victims of domestic violence than random violence. This at least applies to white cis people. Visibly genderqueer people and non-whites are at a much greater risk of random street violence than white men or women.

          Carrying pepper spray requires a permit and getting the permit requires training, so usually only cops and security guards carry it. Carrying a firearm that is ready to use is illegal for everyone except law enforcement and military personnel on exercises, everyone else has to carry them in a locked/sealed container with the ammo in another locked container. Hunting is a common activity, especially in semi-rural and rural areas, but the same rules apply to hunters except when they’re actually hunting.

          Here women are more likely to carry an alarm to deter attacks.

        3. OP#2*

          Pepper spray is not illegal to carry, also I’ve never sprayed anyone before. I repeat I’ve never sprayed anyone before.

          1. Chauncy Gardener*

            I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with this, OP! It’s scary enough to not feel safe during your commute, but your company’s response to this is bizarre. Surely they know what their employees’ commutes are like?

      3. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        “I’d guess that the manager doesn’t realize how ubiquitous carrying pepper spray is for certain segments of the population, depending on where in the world you live.”

        I’d guess that the company has been told not to allow employees to carry it on company property.

    3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      It almost feels like they’re following some kind of pre-existing process for “what to do if an employee brought a weapon to the workplace”. Yes, I know what pepper spray is and that it’s used defensively, but perhaps someone has fitted this into the “weapon” category and is now applying those rules. It seems like the initial manager had it right (put that away and don’t carry it in the workplace again) but then when higher (?) management got wind of it, it escalated into this big security incident.

      Haven’t other employees wondered why OP is being followed by security everywhere they go? I wonder what’s been said by way of explanation to others. I appreciate the HR process in itself is confidential (although is this only on the employer’s side for employee privacy? I think as the employee it would be OK to divulge it, as it is personal information about themselves!)

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Pepper spray can be used offensively, like any other weapon.

        If there’s a rule about not open-carrying weapons at work, it would apply to pepper spray. And OP would be like anyone else open-carrying at work, explaining that obviously they would only use the weapon if something were to Go Down. (And trying to argue that also obviously, no one of ill intent would be able to grab the weapon off them.)

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          OP didn’t explain or argue though, they complied and put the spray in their locker when asked.

        2. Flipperty*

          OP isn’t in the US. The concept of “open carry”, and a culture where it’s the norm for ordinary civilians to just walk around at work armed, is a very specifically American one. American weapon culture/normalisation of being armed at work/school/grocery store is so contentious and politically charged, it’s impossible to discuss weapons culture within an American context without considering those factors.

          Without knowing what country the OP is in (is she is England or Afghanistan, Lima or Calgary) it’s really impossible to gauge, since laws and cultural attitudes to weapons differ so hugely.

      2. zuzu*

        We saw the offensive use of bear spray on January 6, and that’s just pepper spray on steroids. Police use pepper spray on protesters all the time, in big canisters (remember that guy at the University of Davis?). Pepper spray is very much categorized as a weapon in many quarters. It’s sold on keychains to use as a defensive weapon, but it’s still a weapon.

        I’m really curious how many wolves and stray dogs the OP encounters.

      3. OP#2*

        Thanks for bringing this up! A few coworkers started to notice the security guards and managers following me around during me shifts. It’s kind of a game now, we count how many times I get “checked”, yesterday was 6 checks by the manager :)

        1. Snazzy Pants*

          Have you had the pepper spray out of your locker at any time after your boss’s initial conversation to lock it up?

          1. OP#2*

            Nope! Even after my shift I kept it there because I had a gut feeling it would be for the best. And for the best it was, I was followed by security even after my shift.

            1. Hazel*

              If you are off shift and off premises that’s an overstep and they need to cool it. If you are hanging around after work meaning to be nice, I would stop and matter of factly leave. There may have been prior incidents at your workplace that have left people fearful, but you have said you are new, management sounds fearful, and you are carrying ‘wolf spray’ downtown. Can you see how it didn’t add up to them? Your attempts at friendliness may be coming over as total dismissal of a concern they take seriously. Someone else noted a loud alarm or whistle – likely more effective in a city, and not a weapon.

    4. JSPA*

      #2, if you’re in certain parts of Russia, Alaska, or very rural northern Idaho, Wyoming, Montana etc, “wolves” makes sense literally (but unless you’re taking public transport, it’d be more normal to leave it in the car, and ask security to walk you to your car). But otherwise, given the slang meaning, the boss may have heard it as “stray dogs and lecherous men.” That’s a threat against humans… and yes, that’ll get you extra security attention.

      Alternatively, if you’re literally afraid of wolves in most states / most countries, your boss (somewhat realistically) likely thinks you have a warped sense of what dangers you would reasonably encounter, and what constitutes a proportional response. That would also potentially get someone followed.

      But if there’s a ban of weapons being “on premises,” then “in my locker” isn’t good enough, and you’re already not complying. (“locker” can be a one-time solution, with the obvious implication that the next day, you don’t bring it at all.) Find another answer. If you’re not comfortable having it in your car because it might go off if it overheats, then you already understand why your employer doesn’t want it on site.

      Pepper spray can be lethal or near lethal to people with heart conditions or asthma; you don’t have a right to it, anymore than you have a right to carry other weapons in your workplace.

      1. Dahlia*

        Rural Canada wolves, bears, and coyotes can be a problem. My small town has had a couple wander into town this year and if I was walking, which I tend to do, since I don’t own a car, I would probably prefer to have bear spray on me, too.

      2. Good Luck*

        I thought this was strange too, which maybe why the company took such extreme measures as the person being followed.

      3. Bast*

        We don’t know where OP lives to assume this isn’t a credible threat. I agree there’s something off about this, because the reaction seems a bit extra. If there is something left out and there had been other threats or odd behaviors or if indeed the reaction doesn’t match the situation, I could see OP’s boss reaction, but in taking OP at their word, I find it a bit extreme. Not a simple, keep that away/in your car etc, but followed by security? As someone who works in a VERY dodgy area, carrying pepper spray is common and accepted where I work. When it gets dark early, people walk out in groups. Women have been sexually assaulted and men robbed at gun point (not in our office specifically, but a random guy waiting at the bus stop across the street was recently mugged and roughed up). As long as you don’t run around the office yelling LOL GUYS LOOK AT MY PEPPER SPRAY and you don’t threaten anyone it’s quietly understood most people have something. Upper Management also carries pepper spray (She had an incident that ended well, but may not have years ago). I just find the vehement reaction and the assumption that OP must be exaggerating odd. There are bad neighborhoods. There are more rural areas (not all in the US either) where wild dogs are an issue. The boss seems to have reacted in an extreme way to someone who identified what could be a credible threat and seems to be an otherwise good employee.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          If I felt threatened to the point of carrying pepper spray, I’d welcome security guards following me around. Just sayin’

          1. Falling Diphthong*


            If I’m carrying the pepper spray around my workplace, out on my belt where I can grab it in an instant, then having a couple of security guards escorting me should be great.

            1. Silver Robin*

              escorts are consensual. OP did not ask for escorts and clearly feels weirded out that now they are being treated as a threat. If *I* had security set to tail me, I would *not* feel safe because now I am not as clearly in the category of “to be protected” but rather “potential threat” and now I have to wonder if the people tailing me make good judgement calls about my behavior. Besides, they are focusing on *me* while an escort would be focusing on my surroundings.

            2. Insert Clever Name Here*

              This is the part that’s weird to me. I used to live in Washington DC* and a lot of women carried pepper spray on their keys but your keys weren’t OUT at work. The fact that the OP was carrying it on their keys on their belt while at work just leads me to a lot of follow up questions.

              *yes, I know some places in DC explicitly forbid carrying pepper spray. And some of my friends who worked in those places (cough the Hill cough) still carried it when they weren’t at work

              1. Bluebird*

                I was actually thinking that if you work in DC/a suburb but live out in western/southern VA, you could very well need pepper spray for wildlife, not wolves, but bears. I know parts of Ohio, PA, Michigan, KY, CA, Washington state, and other states have similar metro areas that are very near to wildlife. So I think it’s reasonable for the letter writer to have the pepper spray on their keys/person at work somewhere you might not think it’s needed, but also agree it’s reasonable the workplace would want it out away during the day. I do think it seems like overkill for the security guards though, unless we’re missing information.

                1. Golden*

                  I’ve lived in two huge US cities, both of which have an increasing off-leash aggressive dog issue. A lot of people who bike or walk to work carry pepper spray in the event of a dog attack. Not sure where OP is, but non-wildlife animals could be a very real problem too!

              2. Insert Clever Name Here*

                Incidentally, following the OP’s comments in the thread, the only thing weird is their management’s reaction. Being repeatedly followed by security when you’ve done what’s asked and having them follow you off-site is…not good.

            3. JSPA*

              i wonder if either wires got crossed, or management is being a little passive aggressive (for whatever reason), and the escort is literally their way of saying, “see, you’re safe / don’t even start in on how unsafe you feel.” Still weird…but depending what was said in the heat of the moment…I can see “LW gets an escort whenever and instantly” become “LW gets escorted constantly.”

              Even if that’s not the actual motivation it might be a good starting point for the discussion, As it’s a way for the letter writer to assume good faith gone awry, and for both parties to step back.

            4. Dubstep*

              This strikes me as disingenuous. Are black people comforted by being followed around by security when they shop?

              The security guards aren’t there to protect the OP, they are there monitoring and policing the OP. Given the overzealous excesses we see from both police and security guards it’s not unreasonable to be nervous about being followed by them. Am I going to be tackled for picking up a stapler or a letter opener?

              Not to mention the social stigma as all your coworkers notice you are shadowed by not one but TWO guards.

              I’m wondering what kind of workplace this is, and how large, that they have two extra security guards to put on a detail following the OP around.

              1. Trout 'Waver*

                OP#2 is openly carrying a weapon. It’s disingenuous af to compare that to being black.

                1. MCMonkeyBean*

                  They’re not carrying it anymore if it is locked in their locker. I’m so confused how many commenters in this thread seem to be treating OP as an ongoing threat when there is nothing to indicate that!

                2. Observer*

                  OP#2 is openly carrying a weapon. It’s disingenuous af to compare that to being black.

                  No they aren’t. They put it away as soon as they were told and have kept it in their locker since. *Something* is off.

                3. may spring rain*

                  Yeah, this. The multitude of push-backs here are making the case for bringing a gun into the workplace. Locked up or not, a weapon doesn’t belong in the workplace, and this workplace is enforcing that, fortunately. It’s just that straightforward.

                4. Dahlia*

                  OP is not carrying it and has also stated that they aren’t white. So it is indeed probably a factor, considering security is following them off-premise after work.

                5. Anna*

                  Replying to the “making a case for bringing a gun into the workplace” comment cause it won’t let me reply to that directly (I suspect because too much nesting?):

                  Gonna resist the urge to have a convo about disagreeing with that comparison cause it’d get off-topic real fast – but I think replacing this story with “gun” actually highlights part of why the employer’s response bothers me so much.

                  Given I would be even more pissed if they did this with a gun. Because that would mean the company refused to remove the gun from premises despite knowing it was there, refused to give clear instructions to the employee or follow-through with removal/suspension/termination based on whatever their current policies are, and made no meaningful attempt to stop the gun from getting back in the workplace. None of the following and the “might search you” threats actually *do* anything to mitigate risk. It’s not reasonable or effective enforcement.

                  Like, the many people here telling you that the issue isn’t the employer not wanting pepper spray in the building so much as the deeply weird way they’re going about it? This is part of what that means. Security guards following an employee around would be a nonsensical reaction to an actual threat, and it’s even more nonsensical a response in this situation. The only thing it accomplishes is making an employee uncomfortable.

                  If the policy is “no pepper spray on the floor,” given OP has clearly stated multiple times she has kept the pepper spray in her locker since initially being told, they should stop with the following. If the policy is “don’t bring this on the premises at all,” they should literally just say that instead of passive-aggressive hinting. It’s just that straightforward.

        2. OP#2*

          Hey! In my country pepper spray is legal to carry, especially since we DO have a lot of stray animals. Dicy part is using it on humans which is where it becomes illegal. I never implied to use it on my customers and the managers came to that conclusion on their own. I’m new to this job so I don’t know their characters so well but I’ve been learning about their ways. Take this with a grain of salt since I will be biased but from everyone involved in this, everyone generally dislikes the managers. They are disorganized and unprofessional in their approaches, have yelled at a few of our girls, are pretty condescending, not very approachable no matter how friendly you try to be and gossip between themselves. By trying to contact HR I’ve just learnt that they just changed the rules and now we do not have access to the HR portal unless we ask permission for a temporary password from the managers.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            Wait, so an employee can’t contact HR without permission from their managers? That’s concerning!

            1. OP#2*

              No HR reports have been made in the last two years, ever since the new managers came. So yes it is concerning.

              1. Chauncy Gardener*

                Holy cow! That is really dicey. I hope you can find a better job, OP! These managers sound very unprofessional and pretty scary, actually

                1. Pippa K*

                  Yeah, this is where the letter takes a sharp turn in my view. The problem definitely starts to look like a broad “bad workplace” issue and not just a specific “puzzling reaction to pepper spray” issue.

              2. Quill*

                That’s full of bees, OP. This place is full of evil bees. The pepper spray is merely the tip of the iceberg here.

                1. Drago Cucina*

                  And to follow on Pippa K’s post. Not on alligators either.

                  Neighboring city (not Florida) someone’s unleashed golden retriever was just eaten by a gator this week.

                2. Quill*

                  @Pippa K and @Drago Cucina: Another thing is that you should NOT use spray-paint near beehives. The accellerant smells like their alarm pheromone.

            2. Lenora Rose*

              That is absolutely wrong. Does *HR* know you can only reach HR with your managers’ permission? because they should know the myriad issues with that. It creates barriers for every kind of complaint, including disability accommodations and other things that could lead to legal liability in most countries.

              1. Observer*

                Who do you think made that rule?

                HR has to know – no reports in 2 years is not just “a” red flag. It’s a WALL full of red banners.

                1. Lenora Rose*

                  I think it’s possible the managers themselves made that decision, but it would speak ill of HR not to notice or reach out. This is pure house of bees territory. And not house full of horrible bees, house built of murder hornets.

                  And yet, it’s not the part the letter is about…

                2. OP#2*

                  So the “new” managers have been here for the past two years and making HR inaccessible has been enforced for around a year now. I’m scrambling with some coworkers to find the HR email from old coworkers, apparently many tried to complain but just haven’t had access nor permission to access HR because of the managers denying it. Yikes.

          2. Trout 'Waver*

            I don’t want to sound too harsh, but openly carrying a weapon has the implication that you have some intent to use it.

            1. OP#2*

              I understand why I should keep it in a bag or my locker and not at arms reach like I used to. I don’t understand being followed by security for days now even after compliance and good ol kindness towards my managers.

              1. SnappinTerrapin*

                You are a reasonable person. Your managers are not.

                Even if you were a threat to workplace safety, their response is not an effective strategy to manage the risk.

                I hope you can find a better job. From what you’ve said, this is one of many symptoms of their dysfunction.

                Best wishes.

          3. learnedthehardway*

            Not allowing employees access to HR unless they have permission from a manager!??! That’s not at ALL problematic (sarcasm font there).

            Personally, I think job hunting would be a good response to this hive of bees.

          4. Observer*

            By trying to contact HR I’ve just learnt that they just changed the rules and now we do not have access to the HR portal unless we ask permission for a temporary password from the managers.

            I just gasped when I read this. Yeah, you DEFINITELY have a management problem. Is there no other way to contact HR besides the portal?

            In case anyone is wondering about the strong reaction, you might want to look at a piece done a while ago, I think by Casey Newton at the Verge, about Facebook’s contractors who manage the moderation teams. One of the facilities with huge levels of problems (aside from the inherent issues with a lot of the work itself), implemented a policy that staff cannot come to HR without their manager. Because there were “too many” complaints. Given how often the problems were with manager behavior, you can imagine how well that went.

            1. I have RBF*

              Ugh. Run.

              Your workplace is a murder hornet’s nest.

              Seriously, if a place I worked allowed managers to gatekeep access to HR I would be starting my job search yesterday. There is no other way of looking at that except as managers wanting to avoid accountability for their, and their favored reports, bad behavior.

            2. OP#2*

              Yeah it’s just about the same here apparently. I’m going back and forth with them to give me access to the HR portal (they’re not letting me so far). If they refuse it with a big straight NO, I will try to contact the owner since she comes along once in awhile. If not I could try the emergency line but I’m not sure if that’s okay. It’s really my only options left now.

          5. Me Two*

            It doesn’t matter if it’s legal or not – your employer doesn’t want it on site. They can make that rule. Now it’s up to you to decide if you want this to be the hill you lose your job on.

            1. Insert Clever Name Here*

              But it sounds OP2 *immediately* followed the rule and is continuing to follow the rule, yet is still being followed.

          6. theletter*


            I think we found the thing that’s *off*. This place is full of red flags and angry bees!

          7. Gherkin*

            Have you asked for a password? If you did, what happened next? Did you get a password?

    5. OP#2*

      Thanks for your response! It’s definitely difficult to talk to my manager when she is hard to approach and very passive agressive. I’ll keep your words in mind if I end up sending my letter to HR :)

    6. Flipperty*

      I think one thing that’s getting lost around letter 2 is that LW works in a clothing store (that is at least somewhat targeted towards children, and LW at least sometimes works in the children’s clothing section), not an office or factory or other environment where she only comes into contact with other employees.

      It’s possible that she can’t get to her locker without walking across the shop floor. And LW already admitted she had pepper spray on her person during her shift on the shop floor.

      “Carried a weapon in front of customers and children” is completely different from “had a weapon in their handbag under their desk”. It just is. The level of safeguarding is you work a public-facing job is inherently different than if you only come into contact with co-workers; safeguarding for a store that sells products aimed at children is different again; and there’s also a optics side. It’s possible a parent complained about being served by someone carrying pepper spray.

      There’s also a liability issue over OP wearing pepper spray dangling from her belt while serving children, as the pepper spray would be at face height for many children, and children often run around and lack spatial awareness. I don’t know how sensitive these things are but there’s a genuine risk a child could run into or bump into the pepper spray and set it off by accident.

      Not wanting someone in a customer-facing role carrying weapons in front of customers and in front of children is very different from asking an office worker to put their weapon in a locket before clocking on.

      I’m not blaming the LW for carrying pepper spray but the fact she’s customer facing and there are children present does change things.

      1. Anna*

        Okay but it’s been explicitly stated multiple times OP has not had pepper spray on the floor, at all, since the initial convo

        1. Flipperty**

          But she did originally. That’s very explicitly stated in the letter.

          The entire reason they’re monitoring her is because she made the judgement call that it was fine to have a weapon that is illegal in her country dangling from her belt while on the shop floor with customers and likely children present.

          That clearly shows poor judgement. If I have to tell an employee “don’t have illegal weapons hanging from your belt at children’s face height while doing your customer service job around children” then I don’t have much faith in their judgement or their decision-making process, and obviously I’m going to keep an eye out to ensure they’re not making any other poor judgements that could get my company sued or open to criminal charges.

          There’s also the fact LW wasn’t aware that pepper spray is illegal in Canada, which is a whole other pretty crucial aspect. You can defend her all you like but she DID break the law.

          The LW has revealed a ton of pretty crucial context in the comments that’s not in the original letter. Most commentators are assuming things that are not actually true and forming opinions based on a fictional hypothesis, namely that LW works in an office somewhere very rural where pepper spray is legal, and the company brought security guards into the office just to watch her. None of that actually happened.

  2. grubgrub*

    OP 1 – Re: If you want to be doing “billing work”.

    Even if you’re fine doing this now, think through if this is what you’d want to do longer term (or if it’s a marketable skill for the work you do want to do in your career). It’s easy to fall into certain roles at work, but I’d suggest being very intentional about the skills you cultivate.

    You’ll want to make sure you are developing the types of skills (and doing the type of work) that suites your long-term career goals. Otherwise, you can end up “stuck” in a career path you didn’t intend on.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      And in the meantime, if you actually want to be a data analyst rather than accounts assistant – my suggestion (in addition to talking to the boss, of course!) would be to keep up with the personal portfolio projects and learning, and make the most of any and all data analysis work (if any) that comes up in the company.

      I think even if you get promises of things changing from the boss – it seems you’ve been given the billing work because it needs doing (presumably!) so it might be quite slow to change, if ever. It might be time to think about moving on. (I don’t normally say or think “just leave” necessarily but this is one of those times because it’s early career and assuming data analyst is what you actually want to do, this could end up being a massive derail).

    2. bamcheeks*

      I think this is one of the key disadvantages of working remotely as a less experienced worker that Alison mentions: you don’t get to see what other people in other roles are doing and figure out if there’s something else you’d like more.

      1. toolate12*

        I’ve been this isolated early career person before, and a thousand times yes. There’s so much information that is casually available in an office context that you absolutely have no other way of getting otherwise, and that includes lateral awareness of projects that are happening at the same time that you can volunteer for. It is likely the only way this person will be able to develop their skills portfolio in their target area is by doing extra work perhaps through an online program or something.

    3. Beth Jacobs*

      Definitely! A lot of people fall into the trap of taking just any job after college. That can make sense, but it can also pigeonhole you for the rest of the career, because a couple of years later you have no experience with data analysis and your degree isn’t fresh anymore.

      Your chances of getting a data position are better for a fresh data grad with no experience that a seasoned worker with unrelated experience.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Yeah, I would probably recommend LW job-hunt regardless — they’ve been here a solid two years. If they’ve decided they like billing, look for a billing job with a better environment. If they want to do data analysis, the time to still be considered for entry-level positions is ASAP.

        1. garblesnark*

          I do think May 2022 – present is only one year? But I agree with your conclusion.

        2. Lily Rowan*

          Oh yeah — I think most people should be looking to leave their first full-time job after two years in! In a great workplace, maybe that’s just a different role there, but it’s often going to be at a different place.

          1. ecnaseener*

            To be clear, I don’t think it should be automatic — I’ve been at my first post-college job coming up on 4 years and not actively searching. (With a promotion in there so maybe that’s what you mean by “a different role.”)

            But if you don’t like the environment and you’re still in a position to find a different entry-level role, GOOOOOOO

            1. All Het Up About It*

              Yes! Moving on to a different role if one isn’t working for you after a year would still be fine for this OP in particular. They have several options as to reasons for why the are leaving. Decided WFH wasn’t for you (if that’s true, maybe you at least want a hybrid situation?) or the role switched to something different. Any reasonable hiring manager is going to get why someone earlier in their career is leaving after a year.

    4. Random Bystander*

      Agreed. It would be good to think about whether being “fine” with doing a job other than the one you thought you were hired in for is where you want to be, or do you really want to do the job you thought you were getting. Early in the career like this, I’d totally be bailing for another job (another company) if I were in that position.

      If LW1 can get a job that is more in line with desired job, life is too short to do something that is just “not what I thought I’d be doing, but ok … I need that paycheck”.

  3. Observer*

    #3 – This kind of thing is one of the reasons I generally recommend filters and ad blockers on people’s phones and computers. Set your filter for your home computer to block the stuff you don’t want to see AT ALL. And set the filtering on your phone to block the stuff you don’t want to start playing at work / wherever you use your phone.

    It’s not going to be perfect, but you’re a lot less likely to be mortified like this again.

    1. OP3isme*

      OP3 here—I appreciate the recommendation. It’s probably a bit less extreme than my initial reaction, which was to quit and move to another country, or die of embarrassment.

      1. Old13oy*

        This is not even that bad. I know someone who was a DoD liason to somewhere in the executive branch, so he was on a secure network, and he got pulled in and asked to to sending explicit instant messages to his partner (outside of work). But even that wasn’t like one or two messages, it was months of messaging before they caught on and took action.

      2. Quill*

        One of the primary reasons I wear headphones is that media on my phone can stay muted when they’re out. Yes, there’s plenty of adblock, but also, you never know when someone on a podcast is going to swear or their commercials are going to be mildly embarrassing.

      3. Trillian*

        There is a standard for reporting clinical trials called the CONSORT statement (Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials, in full) which came out around the turn of the millennium. As a student in a summer job shortly after it came out, I innocently typed in “” to get to the website, thinking … well, what else would anyone be looking for, right? Absolute explosion of porny pop-ups, flashing pink female flesh all over my monitor. I closed one, three more would appear, until I hit the power switch to kill the system and sat shaking, thinking doom and humiliation was upon me. Fortunately, no one else noticed, or if they did, they didn’t remark on it, and it was pre the era of virulent infections.

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          You are not alone! I was translating a text about lingerie for Christian Dior and decided to look to see if there was anything in English on their website. I clicked on something that looked like it was and naked women started popping up. I couldn’t find how to stop it and soon it was pictures of naked women doing things to each other. I had to turn the computer off entirely, then sat quaking and wondering if that was enough to get rid of them entirely. Luckily it was, but you hear so much about porn sites being full of viruses…

  4. Myrin*

    #3, if it helps your peace of mind at all, I’ve definitely had music or even ads popping up which, especially when cut off abruptly, strongly sounded like moaning when in fact it was just a singer crooning sultrily into a microphone – so unless there was clear porn talk, I’d just tell myself that if anyone heard anything, they’d assume it was part of a song.

    1. Expiring Cat Memes*

      Honestly, a couple of seconds of moaning and cheesy music? My first thought would probably be that it’s another ad for a supermarket dessert that’s supposed to make us women get all orgasm-y.

      1. OP3isme*

        OP3 here—I’m glad everyone else’s minds doesn’t immediately go into the gutter like mine would!

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Remember you also have the bias of knowing what the ad was! You don’t necessarily know how it sounded devoid of context.

          We all have embarrassing stories, you’re okay!

        2. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

          Honestly ads are getting so explicit that I think people are just as likely to assume you were watching an overly saucy ad than purposely watching porn. (Last night an ad came on YouTube with a song that detailed explicit instructions for masturbating. I’m not a prude, but GEEZ.)

      2. Dahlia*

        Oh do you remember those… was it Herbal Essences? The shampoo ads from the 90s where they just had women washing their hair and moaning.

      3. Some words*

        I thought it was luxurious shampoo that had that effect!

        LW, please block the ads and go on with your life. Most people have experienced unwanted pop-ups at some point. I doubt this will even raise an eyebrow.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Apparently, finding the right eyeglass frames or winning at online bingo also have that effect.

      4. MsM*

        Or one of those clickbait game ads that seem to think their audiences are more interested in virtual girlfriends than puzzles.

      5. Seahorse*

        Yup, I used to get an ad for a phone game like that. The graphics showed a cartoon goldfish in a maze, but the sound choices were *really* unnecessary. It certainly taught me to check my volume before opening the app that kept showing it.

        If I heard a questionable noise that was immediately silenced, I’d also assume it was an ad. This won’t be the case for everyone, but I don’t think I’d even register a noise from the next room unless it was very loud or ongoing. I usually have my own noise happening, or else I’m tuning everything out. OP3, you’re fine! It happens. Just keep your volume down.

      6. Always a Corncob*

        Yes! I keep getting this Spotify ad for skincare where the woman is crooning about silky, buttery, soft skin in a way that is borderline uncomfortable with my 5-year old listening.

    2. ferrina*

      Exactly- I’d assume that OP was listening to something work-safe and that the walls were distorting it to sound less so (assuming that the coworker even heard it)

    3. I have RBF*

      Even if I did get a porn ad out loud on my phone, my instant reaction would be a disgusted “Ewww” and quick to close it. But the “Ewww” would be said out loud, not yelled, but said.

      Most likely no one noticed. Even if they did, they’ve probably had similar crap show up on their phones.

      To avoid any of that, I usually set all my non-phone call volumes on my phone to muted. That way I can check the weather during a meeting without some dodgy ad or overly cheerful news anchor gushing about a flood in another state blaring out.

  5. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

    Yes! And as someone who got stuck in her first post-grad job: don’t be afraid to find a new job and quit! It’s not as impossible as it sometimes seems, and you’re ‘allowed’ to, for any reason (and you definitely have reason enough!). There are so many more jobs out there than it feels like when you’re stuck in one, and you won’t know about them if you’re not looking. Good luck!

    1. Beth Jacobs*

      So true! A poor fit in your first job could be detrimental to your whole career if you stay too long.

    2. ferrina*

      Truth. It’s so much easier to find a second job once that first one is on your resume. You don’t have to stay at it very long before moving on- I’d recommend a year to show you had time to learn basic professional norms, then find a better place. You can do better than isolated mediocrity.

  6. me, I'm the problem*

    OP #1 – it is not at all normal to have meetings only once every two months and that is a sign that your company is not particularly invested in culture and allowing people to connect.

    I have only had one remote job after 10 years of remote working that was THAT low on meetings. At most remote companies at least 3-5 meetings a week and a few optional socials are normal.

    Are you a remote worker at a primarily in person or hybrid company? If so I encourage you to head to a fully remote company if you want to continue working remotely.

    Allison’s points are all good … remote work is typically harder for new grads … but just observing that this is way too hard.

    1. AlsoADHD*

      I’m not sure about 3-5 meetings a week (especially for a role with really independent week work, like data analysis or billing, less could be fine, with other communication structures) but I do think most remote work culture that is successful includes structured onboarding, structures like team meetings at regular intervals (weekly, biweekly, even monthly), and most importantly regular 1:1s and possibly skip meetings etc. Some structure to feedback, questions, etc. LW1, you also don’t mention the Slack/Teams chat culture. At places with less meetings and more asynchronous communication or even just non video communication, most good remote companies have an active chat culture. Something. LW1’s job isn’t just remote but very disconnected. Most fully remote companies I’ve encountered do better and many really allow for clear communication, but LW seems to be at the kind of company that “justifies” the remote communication is bad arguments by example. Because no effective structure for communication seems to exist.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Definitely. I don’t usually have 3-5 meetings a week, and no socials since 2020 zoom happy hours, but we do use chat a lot – both for helping each other out with questions and for chitchat.

      2. Daisy-dog*

        I’d say 3-5 meetings per month could be expected for a really solo job. But there would also be the occasional unscheduled call. Or a last minute project update with your manager.

    2. WellRed*

      I think you have a LOT of meetings. Lots of companies aren’t meeting heavy. OPs company is probably in need of more but I certainly don’t want them to think 3 to 5 a week is normal in all jobs. That’s not investing In company culture, that’s just a meeting-heavy culture.

      1. DataSci*

        I’d LOVE to have only 3 meetings a week! I frequently have three a day. And I’m not in a field where meetings are my main job – my previous boss (now my grandboss after she got a promotion) was usually double booked most of the day. That’s meeting heavy. One every other day? Hardly, unless they’re all three hours long.

      2. Colette*

        3 to 5 meetings a week is not a meeting-heavy culture.

        Obviously, some of this is job-dependant – if you work in a store, that would be an excessive number of meetings, but many office jobs require working with others, and meetings are common.

      3. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        This is a weird thought to me, that 3 meetings a week is a lot. When I’m busy, I can easily have 3 meetings a day. Right now, things are very quiet and I have 3 meetings this week and 3 next week (not counting my one on ones).

      4. Roeslein*

        Where do you people work? I rarely have less than 5 meetings a day and I turn down a lot of invites…

        1. GreenShoes*

          lol was thinking the same… I have 7 today and it’s a relatively light day

          Tomorrow it’s 13 – yes I’m double booked for a good chunk of the day.

        2. Irish Teacher*

          I think it really depends on a person’s job. As a resource teacher, I have a meeting once a week with my department and full staff meetings…maybe once a month? Most teachers, however, would only have the once a month ones.

      5. ferrina*

        Depends how you are counting. If you are counting every meeting (company meetings, team meetings, client meetings, 2 person meetings), 3-5 per week is pretty light. 3-5 per day (2-3 hours) isn’t a drastic amount for my role.

        If we’re looking at just required company meetings, I have about 2 of those per month. There’s also maybe 6-8 optional social events and educational presentations. If I had to be at 3-5 required company meetings per week, I’d put up a fuss.

      6. Feral Humanist*

        3-5 meetings a week averages less than one a day and that’s “meeting heavy culture”? I don’t consider my job meeting heavy at all compared to the jobs some of my friends have, but I definitely average that or more, especially during my busy season.

        OP1, most jobs are going to be at least that or more. And possibly you want that, especially this early in your career! Meetings are a great place for people to get to know you and your work and for you to catch the attention of both peers and managers. Not only are you isolated right now, you’re not being managed. In fact, you’re being treated more like a freelancer than you are an employee. You can’t expect to move up under these circumstances. It might be worth speaking to your manager and asking for a 1:1, but ultimately, I think you need to job hunt and move on.

        1. Quill*

          It would be meeting heavy in my field of work because the nature of the work is that people are going to either be spending a lot of time in the lab, or doing analysis of lab data. (Assuming that “meeting” means scheduled with multiple people for more than half an hour – if you added up the on the spot stopping in to check if we have the data for the teapot glazing process, or consulting with someone else when the chocolate looks a little melty, then you could get a ‘meeting’ or two every day.)

          1. I have RBF*

            In my field daily “standups” are very common, and are scheduled for a half hour. That’s five right there, but only 2.5 hours lost.

            Honestly, I look at not only the count, but the duration, of the meetings. Ten each of one hour plus meetings a week is a lot. Ten 15 – 30 minute meetings is less time lost.

            If I spend more than ten hours a week in meetings, as an IC, it’s too much. Managers, though, spend over half their time in meetings, or so it seems.

      7. I have RBF*


        IMO, a “meeting-heavy culture” is two or more a day. Ten a week is when it gets obnoxious.

        Yes, daily “standups” count as a meeting. That’s five in a week right there. So add in a full group meeting, a change committee meeting, a disaster recovery meeting, a security meeting and a 1:1, and suddenly you are at ten meetings a week, every week.

        Is this good? No, but in tech it’s very normal. I’ve worked at places with more than that, as an IC. Some of these meetings should be an email or slack chat, though.

    3. The Person from the Resume*

      An employee’s average number of meetings per day, week, and month are heavily job dependent. Meetings are not there to ** allow ** people to connect. Meeting should serve a purpose. Some people’s job’s are management or very collaborative and they have lots of meetings. Some people’s jobs have very standardized processes (like billing) and since people can submit bills electronically, it makes sense that this job doesn’t involve a lot of interactions or meetings.

      1. Random Dice*

        Don’t you schedule meetings with folks just to connect? I do. Virtual coffee meetings.

        1. Person from the Resume*

          No. Why would I want to “just connect.” We connect when we need to work together, come to an agreement or understanding, collaborate.

          I not opposed to small talk, but the only people who want to meet to “connect” are salespeople spamming me to buy their products.

          1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

            I schedule coffee with my colleagues to catch up, so that when we do need to collaborate, or come to an agreement, there is already a basic relationship.

    4. Elsewise*

      I had a remote job last year that was similar to this. I had a weekly one on one with my boss- I was in this job for five months and we had this meeting four times. I had no way, other than email, of contacting my coworkers, who were often out in the field and not particularly interested in getting to know me. My boss was non-responsive most of the time. I started job-hunting when I realized I’d gone several days without speaking to anyone but my partner. It was horrible. My mental health was a trashfire during this time, I could go weeks at a time without communicating with anyone at work, and I absolutely hated it.

      My current job is also fully remote, but is so, so, so much better. I’ve been here six months and my boss has missed our weekly meeting once. (Although we’re skipping it this week, but that’s because I’m busy with professional development.) We have a chat server, and I chat with my coworkers throughout the day, and text with a few of them outside of work too. We have clear job expectations, regular meetings where we talk about what everyone is doing, professional development, and team-builders. If you have your heart set on remote work, there are ways that it can be done well! Your current job is just bad at it.

      1. toolate12*

        I absolutely empathize with this. I had an *in-person* job as a new grad, but with no team/coworkers and a manager who regularly flaked on our 1:1s, and the internal isolation made me so miserable I quit. I absolutely was not equipped to navigate those waters (especially in a highly political environment where people were constantly turning over). I couldn’t figure out how to fix it and the whole thing made me really, deeply sad when I wanted so badly to salvage things. I know it sounds ridiculous to people with the opposite problem, but the whole situation wears so much on you.

  7. Sheila*

    Re: #5 – this was me a few years ago! You absolutely need more clarity about which tasks you’re going to delegate and to whom. You can just ask your boss to explain…my boss wanted me to figure that out for myself too. I came up with a plan, got my boss to agree to it, met with the managers of people I was delegating to and got them to agree with it, in some cases had my boss meet with those managers when they didn’t agree, then when all that was sorted out, I wound up training people, sharing documentation, and fielding questions and issues until they were able to handle the work independently.

    Here’s a sketch of what a plan might look like:

    Task to delegate: Fielding billing questions
    To: Customer service team
    Buy in needed: Customer Service Manager Bob
    Time taken: 1-4 calls/day, 10-20 min each, average 35 min/day
    Steps: Meet with Bob 6/8, develop FAQ document, meet with customer service team 6/15 to share FAQ, start transferring calls 6/19, offer pinch hitter help through 6/30, fully delegated by 7/1

    Task to delegate: government billing corrections
    To: private sector billing team
    Buy in needed: Mary Smith
    Time required: monthly corrections, 10-15 total, 5-8 hrs/month
    Steps: Meet with Mary 6/19, develop training materials, train billing team 6/23, use June billing to train, team goal to handle July billing independently, fully delegated by month-end close 7/7.

    Task to delegate: manual billing and payment processing for customers not using electronic billing/payments
    To: N/A – discontinue processing physical bills and payments
    Buy in needed: CFO, Customer Service
    Time required: 128 accounts not using electronic billing, mailing bills and processing payments takes 6 hrs/week.
    Steps: TBD. Need customer communication about the change, set deadline, customer service to call individual customers who do not set up electronic billing by deadline, triage process for customers who can’t send electronic payments. Estimate delegation by Sept 1.

    1. LW5*

      LW5 here! And thank you! That’s an interesting way of breaking things down. I think my boss wants me to figure it out for myself as well, and I’m totally willing to do it, but what you’re outlining is, I think, what I’m aiming to do (goal-wise) with my boss: identify what I can transition and make a plan on who it goes to and how to make that transition go smoothly for everyone. I’ll see what I can sketch out and run it by the boss in more of a “here’s what I was thinking, what do you think?” way.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        One of the benefits of the “here’s what I was thinking, what do you think” approach is that it puts you at least a little bit in the driver’s seat on what tasks/responsibilities you give away – so that your boss doesn’t end up delegating away all the parts of the job you enjoy the most and leave you with the stuff you hate. ;)

        So even if you’re not sure who else in your company has the skills/bandwidth to take on a given task and need your boss’s help filling in those blanks, make sure you’re really clear in YOUR mind about what stuff you enjoy doing and want to keep control of.

      2. Persephone Mulberry*

        Apologies if this comment double posts.

        Yes to the “hers what I’m thinking, what do you think?” approach! Even if you need your boss’s help figuring out who has the skills/bandwidth to take on specific tasks or responsibilities, it will serve you well to first get really clear with yourself about which aspects of your job you love and want to keep control of. Too many stories on here of people going to their bosses and saying “I need help!” and inadvertently opening the door having their favorite stuff being passed to the person in the next cube.

        1. LW5*

          I’ll be gaining a whole new set of responsibilities, so knowing what old stuff I can delegate and what I’m going to be keeping will be important to balance.

      3. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        LW5, I was also wondering if you do things for yourself that are someone else’s job (e.g. make your own travel arrangements when there is someone to do that). That would also be a place to start.

        1. LW5*

          Not really. All this stuff was part of my job. I’m moving off the routine things that other can do (think easy client info updates, logging, etc) right now just to get used to automatically giving it to someone else to do when I’m workin mg in more important or deadline items.

      4. Betty*

        This sort of thing was helpful to me when we hired a contractor to help with my work. At first it was hard to know what I should have him do, but now he covers quite a few time consuming parts of my job, and that frees me up to work on projects.

        Also, he has some technical expertise that I don’t have, and that means we can come up with ways of automating processes that are currently done manually. Now, I’m always on the lookout for things he can do, and he’s happy to do more.

        In my first job where I was asked to delegate, I was afraid to do it because I thought it meant there wouldn’t be enough work for me, and I’d lose my job. It didn’t turn out that way the first time or any time after that, so I happily delegate now.

        1. LW5*

          I sometimes wonder if I’m worried I’ll overwhelm other people if I delegate and make them overworked and resentful.

          1. Lasslisa*

            I once helped coach someone who realized be felt bad about giving people boring tasks to do. So he would do everything himself unless it was interesting or advanced enough that he could convince himself he was doing them a kindness by training them up on a new skill set. It helped a little to think, how do you feel about work getting shared with *you* that’s boring but needs to get done? You feel needed and part of the team and useful. So it was sort of disrespecting their own sense of responsibility and team spirit, to assume they wouldn’t want to do the same ordinary work that he had done.

      5. GreenShoes*

        Here’s how I would start (and then you could use the great format above). Sit down and over the next week or so pretend you are leaving your role. Have a document open that you can list out the things that you do. I like the format below. Once you have a pretty good list, then put an X by anything that should be owned or done by someone else and an XX by those things that could be owned by someone else. Focus on the ‘shoulds’ first and then move on the ‘coulds’ using the format above.






        Ad Hoc:

        Meetings I attend/host:

        1. LW5*

          I like this! I’ve tried to keep a running list of all the things I’ve been made responsible over the years, so it should be fairly easy to divide that list up into category likes this

      6. Sheila*

        Yup, “here’s what I’m thinking, what do you think?” is a good approach. A couple of things I learned from working with other managers to delegate things: 1) they ALWAYS want to know how much work it is – is it a daily/weekly/monthly/sporadic process, how much does it happen, and how much time does it take to deal with? So have that information available the first time you approach them, 2) their own relationship with my boss mattered a lot – delegating to a team that reported to my boss or grandboss was always smoother, delegating to the team of a manager who didn’t always see eye to eye with my boss required help, and 3) try to avoid citing the reason for delegating stuff as simply your own workload/being overwhelmed, even if that is the main reason. People getting new work always feel a little overwhelmed, and it’s hard to hear that they’re feeling that way more so you can feel that way less. Focus on why the business process really belongs with their group, if that is true, or on what you will be doing instead (“Boss wants me to spend more time on TPS reports, so I need Customer Service to resolve billing questions on their own instead of escalating them to me.”)

        1. LW5*

          Very helpful! And I definitely fall in the last part of that — moving things over to people because my time needs to be devoted elsewhere on completely other things. There’s a lot of moving pieces going on.

    2. Alz*

      Yes, this has been my experience when I have been asked to “delegate” as a fairly junior person. My manager didn’t really want me to give orders but wanted to know what would be useful to delegate. They were looking for a plan and/or options on who could do what. I would suggest listing out the tasks you could delegate, how long per day/week/month it would save you and who would have the skills. Some jobs are more trouble than they are worth to delegate (if you are already doing X it takes an extra 5 minutes to do X and Y but to do Y by itself takes 20 minutes due to set up time so it isn’t worth splitting the job)

      1. LW5*

        It’s funny you mention this. There is one particular step in a process I was told I could delegate, but if all the steps, it’s the easiest/briefest and just isn’t delegating as it doesn’t seem like it would save me time. I’ll have to pay attention and see just how much time it really does take up cause it could add up quickly over the long term.

      2. LW5*

        Sometimes I think I think, oh this won’t take me long to do… but over time it all adds up. Worth delegating to someone else? Eh.

    3. Cacofonix*

      This is such a good approach and a really practical template. Sometimes managers don’t know exactly where you spend your time, so the succinct ways to carve out discrete responsibilities helps them to define the authority and guidance you need. That said, you manager could have given this kind of help to get you started instead of just “delegate more.”

  8. Kevin Sours*

    I found out the hard way that python dot com is not the home site for a popular web programming language. My first week at that job no less. Things happen.

    1. Oh dear*

      …I kind of want to look this up now, but something tells me I shouldn’t do that at work.

      1. OP3isme*

        OP3 here—torn between morbid curiosity and the knowledge that I know exactly what would happen if I looked that up!!

        1. Be Gneiss*

          At least make sure your volume is off, or you’re connected to your headphones!

          1. SarahKay*

            I was thinking it might be a euphemism for male genitalia. As in, ‘I have to go siphon the python’ which is what one of my male friends likes to say when he needs a p1ss.

            1. Kevin Sours*

              That is precisely what it was at the time (quite a few years ago now). In all of it’s glory. At least the bits of the site I saw while scrambling for the mouse and the close button. Seemed like a *looooong* time. Fortunately there was no sound.

    2. The OG Sleepless*

      One of my coworkers left a note on the whiteboard in our common space, “Hey guys, it turns out D*cks dot com is NOT the website for D*cks Sporting Goods. Just thought y’all would like to know.”

      1. Phony Genius*

        Reminds me of 20 years ago when we got our first training in internet security. For whatever reason, the instructor used Dick’s Sporting Goods’ website as an example. We are in an area that doesn’t have any locations of this chain, and they weren’t nationally popular yet. In short, we had never heard of them. (The instructor was from elsewhere that had locations.) For a while, I thought she was giving an example of what websites not to visit, but it was actually an example of how to check if the site is secure enough to enter your credit card number. Many others in the room were also wondering why this 60-ish woman kept saying “Dick’s,” thinking she came up with a poor choice of the name of a fake company.

    3. Zephy*

      Weirdly, though, I believe Pen Island Dot Com is actually a vendor of writing implements.

      1. Kevin Sours*

        Originally it was a spoof site but that was twenty odd years ago. Wouldn’t shock me if somebody set up a store front. The one that I’m pretty sure was legit was the Italian website for a company called PowerGen (though apparently not the most notable company of that name). Never did see any more than that “under construction” graphic there though (which will date the era of the Web pretty well).

    4. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian*

      Lo many years ago, I had a school assignment for a family member to fill out (a survey to see how much they knew about basic political structure in the US, basically).
      My mom discovered that whitehouse . com was [i]not[/i] the government site.

  9. Ex-manager*

    #4: This is what I find really frustrating about in-house complaints. If this had happened in a public place and the activity was reported to the police and they found a case to answer, you would be told what was happening each step – or should be, and would have the right to ask. The consequence for the instigator would also be public record – everyone would know the consequences they faced. But when this all happens in an employment situation, suddenly there’s “confidentiality” to be considered. Sometimes I think that is an excuse so that employers don’t actually have to do anything.
    Where was the confidentiality when the manager publically bullied another person?
    And yes, I am bitter about this sort of behaviour from employers.

    1. John Smith*

      I entirely agree. Without going in to detail, a substantive complaint I made against a manager was upheld and I heard nothing back. Was disciplinary action taken? If it were, I wasn’t called to the hearing as a witness (as should have happened). The saying that justice must be seen to be done simply doesn’t exist in the workplace. Alison is right in that the only way you will know of anything effective has been done is if there is a change in behaviour/attitude.

      1. *kalypso*

        No way to even know a hearing took place, especially as a vast range of workplace remedies don’t involve hearings.

      2. Colette*

        There generally aren’t hearings in the workplace – that’s just not a thing, nor should it be.

        1. Governmint Condition*

          They are a thing in some government workplaces. I imagine they may be a thing in other unionized workplaces, but it would depend on the contract.

    2. AlsoADHD*

      When I worked in a union job, we were followed up with if the complaint was in this kind of nature and told what modifications would be taken (not necessarily individual disciplinary action fully but how the organization was going to make right the issue, ensuring it didn’t happen again, and make people feel safe), per union contract. It’s not uncommon for companies to use confidentiality (and it makes sense for individual performance issues as Alison said—in the union, that was still confidential too) to cover issues of racism, sexism, harassment, etc. I think while it’s not reasonable to always get into the individual disciplinary details, just saying “it’s been fixed” isn’t enough.

    3. WellRed*

      I think this is a bit of a false equivalency. If a crime is committed and reported, sure it’s public record. If a crime is committed in the office and reported, that will be too. Inappropriate behavior (now matter how awful) isn’t a crime.

      1. Happy meal with extra happy*

        I agree. This also starts tracking too close to thinking employers should follow the criminal burden of proof (beyond reasonable doubt).

      2. ferrina*

        Exactly. Crimes in the workplace should obviously be escalated to the proper law enforcement. Bad behavior in the workplace is only subject to the workplace’s policies.

        There’s sometimes good reason to not share details- if this is a case where the person didn’t realize that they were wrong, a quick reprimand may be all that is needed (I remember a commentor sharing a story where they said a slur not realizing it was a slur- they immediately changed their behavior going forward). In that case, the issue has been addressed and publicizing it would undermine the individual and their ability to do their job. It would also lead to a culture where only those willing to take accountability would be punished. Or maybe HR is building a case for firing the person, and the person is protected by a more powerful person that HR needs to convince (yeah, I’ve seen this happen).
        The flip side is that if HR sits on their hands, there’s no accountability. It can also be frustrating to see people who have no business being a manager be allowed to keep a position they are clearly unsuited for (especially when they are clearly undermining and disrespecting the people around them).

      3. John Smith*

        I’m not equating workplace issues to criminal acts, merely pointing out that an employee who does not know that any action has been taken will more than likely be p!ssed off. In my case, I wasn’t even told that any action had been taken – that would have been enough. btw, I work in a unionised local government dept, and disciplinary hearings are ten a penny – as long as its not a manager. in such cases, its “let’s sit down and be friends”.

    4. tamarack, rack rack*

      This *is* a recurring frustration, and I’d really want there to be thoughtful processes and practices around discrimination complaints at work. Sure, it’s not the same as a judicial process, and I 100% believe in protecting confidentiality. But what I’d like to see is something along the lines of

      a) The loop is always closed with the employee who made a complaint.
      b) The person that talks to them is not a remote (on the org chart) HR rep, but someone who is in a position of responsibility at their very workplace – for example, their grandboss or director (if the complaint is about a manager), their manager (if the complaint is about a co-worker) – someone who was involved in the disciplinary process and knows and is known by the situation and ins and outs.
      c) The person in authority explains what they can reveal and what not, and why.
      d) If the person who makes the complaint is the one harmed by the offender, they get to know on what grounds they can trust that this is the end of it and what the ramifications of their further interaction (if any) will be. The complainant also gets to have a discussion about what to do if any repercussions (be it from the offender or maybe their friends / network) materialize and how they will be dealt with.

      The reality is that very often what we would *prefer* to happen doesn’t happen, and what even a good complaints panel comes up with falls short. Very often some behavior doesn’t quite amount to what you can fire someone over, so corrective action is likely to be over time and open-ended. Which means that there has to be a person in a position of power who checks in with the target / witness and is vigilant.

      (I know of an academic who was just very bad at supervising the field methods summer course that he was in charge of, resulting in an unacceptably bad experience for the graduate assistants who were trying to run the thing, and a bunch of the things that they had to deal with had a vibe of sexism to it. They complained. They were taken seriously. But the remedy isn’t likely to be instant – turning around the culture for field-based instruction and graduate worker supervision, workload, adding additional faculty to oversee it when it’s taught again a year later etc. – and the consequences for him, other than being given training to attend, seem to be playing out in question marks over his promotion file several years down the line… I’m in a position to give input if he applies to certain options and would of course raise my concerns then.)

  10. Siggie*

    Re OP1, you may have experienced a bait-and-switch on your job, and as someone who has been there and done that, you need to have a conversation with your manager, and if you achieve the all-to-rare outcome that they actually put you back into the job you signed up for, I strongly advise that you put that in writing immediately.

    Regarding Alison’s point that it’s important that junior staff work in the office for learning skills and professional norms, in my experience, this really only applies if you have a healthy culture, and the right type of more experienced people around you who are willing to help and have good habits and skills to teach…and that you are in a team where everyone works out of the same office/city/state/country in the first place. This can teach a lot of bad habits as well, and leads to a lot of professionals learning and repeating the same bad cycles, habits, expectations, and so on.

    Best boss I’ve ever had worked in a different state, and the team was spread across 3 time zones. We all met up about once a quarter, and it remains the best experience I’ve ever had in the workplace.

    1. AnotherOne*

      OP1, yeah, my office has transitioned to mostly remote but it was pointed at that for the “new” people (everyone who started since 2020), it’s harder to get to know people, understand how things work, etc.

      so our office is trying to come up with solutions beyond just more happy hours. for example, they’re offering you can opt to come into the office more frequently and having upper management come in more so people can get face time. Everyone lists on a shared calendar when they are coming in so people can plan accordingly.

  11. Jade*

    Coworker probably didn’t hear or notice anything odd coming from your phone. Just carry on as normal. We are much more in tune with what’s happening with us than other people.

    1. OP3isme*

      OP3 here—you’re probably right, and I don’t know for sure that my coworker heard anything, but I felt horrible nevertheless.

      1. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

        If it makes you feel any better, this thing is more common in desk jobs than you probably realize. I once found out a client’s website had been hacked because some EXTREMELY explicit porn was visible on my monitors for a minute, in a large cubicle I shared with several other people. No clue whether any of them saw it but I went to my boss’s office immediately like “hey, so… just in case you hear anything from IT…” and was fairly paranoid about it for a few days afterwards.

        1. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

          Accidentally posted too soon – the key point is if anybody else noticed, and I don’t think they did, none of them said anything or were weird to me afterwards.

          1. OP3isme*

            Op3 here—thank you for the reassurance. Also, ME3 is one of the greatest things on planet Earth.

        2. bamcheeks*

          About ten years ago a Livejournal community that I used to read got spammed with hardcore porn (static images but, uh, REALLY graphic ones.) I was so “what? WHAT?” that I scrolled down the whole page trying to figure out where the language connection was and then suddenly realised that anyone could be looking over my shoulder OH SHIT and closed my browser as fast as I could. But obviously even if it was shut all those photos presumably got cached somewhere.

          It’s ten years ago last month that I left that job, and I still have a kind of panicky reaction when I think about it.

        3. The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon*

          It IS common! I remember at one workplace, our most appropriate “mom vibes” colleague’s computer got absolutely taken over by porn somehow (I think they had to completely replace her computer). She was panicked that everyone would think she had done something inappropriate to make that happen, but everyone just went “oh dear, her of all people,” maybe chuckled and moved on.

      2. Michelle Smith*

        The fact that you are having this reaction means it’s highly unlikely you are a person who is intentionally creepy or gross in the office. If you were Charlie Harass-a-Lot, people might be less willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. But a normal, nice coworker? People are usually inclined to assume the best. It’s unlikely to come up again, but even if it does, your genuine mortification is going to let the coworker know that you didn’t mean any harm.

  12. Jade*

    I can’t think of a company I’ve ever worked for that would allow you to carry pepper spray. I have it but at the bottom of my purse. I would never allow anyone at work to see it.

    1. BubbleTea*

      I think it’s illegal to carry full stop here, so it surprises me that LW would have it visible.

      1. allathian*

        Yup, same here. To be fair, carrying a concealed weapon of any kind is illegal, for civilians at least.

        1. Anna*

          It makes me more curious what the dynamic is re: pepper spray and where OP #2 is living, at the moment. Where I’m living at the moment, not only is pepper spray *not* generally considered a weapon, even things like “don’t bring guns to work” is somehow not considered obvious, to the extent there are actually laws requiring employers to have clearly posted visible policies if they have a workplace ban on guns.

          I can definitely see it not registering to someone that a keychain-volume of pepper spray would be considered aggression, basically.

          But also, if pepper spray is against workplace policy, they should just . . . say that. Like actually just explicitly say “Cannot be on the premises at all” and not just “keep it off you when you’re on the floor.” The confrontational/ passive-aggressive response of *following people* instead of just clearly stating what needs to be done is silly.

          1. meddery*

            Yeah, where I live, it’s pretty common for a teenage girl to be given a keychain pepper spray when she gets her driver’s license/keys to a car. I work with a lot of high school and college age kids, and many of them were even gifted keychain-sized tasers when they went to college. It’s not unusual at my workplace to see quite an array of key chain “weapons” of that sort hanging from people’s keys on the coat rack in the back room.

          2. Anon for this*

            “Where I’m living at the moment, not only is pepper spray *not* generally considered a weapon, even things like “don’t bring guns to work” is somehow not considered obvious”

            Hello from Montana, where one of the triage questions in my local ER is “do you have a firearm on you right now?” I’m not even kidding.

            1. Anna*

              Yuppppp, that’s southern USA for ya.

              I do wonder how much some of the discourse on this thread is due to mismatched cultural expectations. Both in terms of how people are talking about pepper spray, and in terms of the perceived implausibility of someone carrying it to deal with wildlife.

              Like, truly, it is not implausible that someone who uses public transportation late in the day in an area with lots of wildlife would get used to carrying pepper spray. Treating that as proof an employee is a threat is ridiculous, and the number of people assuming it must be an act of active aggression is astounding to me.

              And I’m not even trying to say the employer has no right to not want pepper spray there or whatever. Again, if the policy is “don’t bring it on the premises,” they need to just state that. It’s the following/threatening without communicating what behavior they actually want that’s weird.

              1. Random Dice*

                I think that any time someone’s answer to why they carry pepper spray is


                they get to carry the damn pepper spray!!!

                Wolves, man.

          3. Random Dice*

            The idea that pepper spray is a weapon is crazy to me.

            I work with the workplace violence team, and not once has pepper spray come up. Punching, yes. Guns and knives and baseball bats, yes. Domestic violence and stalking at the work place, yes. Drive-bys from random gang violence that hit the building, sure. But pepper spray, nope. You don’t murder or maim people with pepper spray. (Except for bear spray, that stuff is really dangerous.)

        2. Milfred*

          Depends on the state.

          In about half of states, not only can civilians carry a concealed weapon, they can do so without any type of license whatsoever.

          1. Anon today*

            over half the states are Constitutional Carry, but there are certainly entire countries where only the police and criminals walk around with firearms.

            1. Irish Teacher*

              And countries where the police don’t either. In Ireland, we do have an armed response unit but the average policeman isn’t going to be carrying around a gun.

              I am guessing though, that the LW lives in an area where pepper spray at least is legal. I would imagine she wouldn’t carry it so openly if it was illegal.

              (And this has just had me googling whether our police can use pepper spray and the answer is yes, but it is very strictly controlled and they have to account for every incident and surrender anything left in the canister after it is used.)

              I think the issue with the situation described isn’t so much that the company doesn’t want pepper spray on their premises, which strikes me as reasonable, but the way they went about it, firstly just telling her to put it away, then to get rid of it, then having security guards follow her around. Like, either tell her to keep in her locker or that it’s banned or whatever, but this sounds like she was treated as an object of suspicion without any indication in advance that what she was doing wasn’t allowed.

        3. I'm Just Here for the Cats!*

          If the pepper spray is legal and is on a in the open key chain it’s not concealed. You can open carry a gun on your belt but when you cover it with your shirt then its concealed. an equivalent would be if the pepper spray is in the purse.

        4. I'm Just Here for the Cats!*

          In the US you can get a permit to carry concealed. There are still restrictions like you can’t bring a gun to a school, court, etc. But it is legal.

          1. Anon today*

            If you are still in one of the states that requires a carry permit. Over half the states are now Constitutional Carry, no permit required. But yes, there are certain places where you cannot carry, courthouses, jails, the post office, others may vary by state.

    2. Generic Name*

      I open carry pepper spray clipped to my purse handle while I’m at work. Nobody has said a word to me. So I’m guessing it’s a matter of company policy or local regulations.

      1. Lurker*

        I’ve accidentally carried my pepper spray through airport security (U.S.—I know it’s a huge fine; I truly forgot it was on my keychain). If it’s part of your normal routine to carry it, I makes sense to me that you weren’t thinking others would clock it as strange or threatening. As long as you’re locking it up every day as required, I can’t understand your company’s continued reaction.

        1. Kay*

          LOL – I accidentally had some in the bottom of my purse on a trip that took me through multiple countries and LAX. I thank my lucky stars I wasn’t caught but it seriously made me question the ability of airport security.

          Wearing it on a belt – perhaps not my first fashion choice.

  13. ceiswyn*

    In the case of LW3, I’ve gotta say that I don’t love that they’re apparently listening to stuff out loud despite being pretty sure they’re audible to others. Headphones would make this whole thing a non-issue – and be less annoying for their office neighbours!

    1. OP3isme*

      OP3 here—point well taken. I don’t like wearing earbuds/headphones all the time, but I’ve been trying to wear them more frequently at work.

      1. Observer*

        I know that true wireless earbuds are a big thing, but I prefer neckbuds. This way it’s easy to put them in my ear when I am actually listening to something, but can easily take them out with no fuss or worry about where they are when I am not listening to something. I find keeping anything in my ears when I’m not actually listening to something is annoying.

    2. Totally Minnie*

      Yeah, I have frequently uttered curses against people listening to audio in public without headphones.

      1. JustaTech*

        I joined an entire gate full of people at the airport applaud a guy who got up the gumption to go over to a person watching something on their tablet without headphones and say “hey, your headphones aren’t plugged in”.
        (The guy with the tablet *immediately* stopped his show and looked horrified – he really did think his headphones were working.)

        1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          I was in a *work setting* once, and it turned out that plugging in my headphones did not turn off the external speakers. And yes, I was using the headphones because I knew that whatever I was watching was mildly questionnable. SO EMBARRASSING. (Everyone around me was a really good sport about it, happily, but boy howdy did I ever learn from that experience.)

    3. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

      Ugh yes, who cares about pepper spray, not using headphones is what really needs to be banned in the work place!

  14. SnappinTerrapin*

    Letter 2:

    In my workplace, possession of any weapon is prohibited. If the law allowed, they would extend that to prevent employees from traveling to and from work while lawfully armed.

    I’m one of the unarmed guards they call to handle the situation when a weapon is observed or suspected of being present.

    If you worked here, I would probably be called, and I would submit a report to Loss Prevention, but your manager and/or HR would tell you what the policy is, what they want you to do, and what the consequences are.

    If they want you to leave, I would escort you out and suspend your badge.

    They wouldn’t ask me to follow you around.

    That response is simply bizarre, and does nothing to address any risks.

    My colleagues lack my training and experience in dealing with armed suspects, whether hostile or not, and I am all too aware of what could go wrong, even with my training and experience, but it is the way they expect us to manage the risk when the situation arises.

    I have a lot of years of deescalation experience behind me, but the other person’s decision making is the one variable that I can only influence, not control. It’s up to me to stay aware and alert so I can react appropriately if the situation goes sideways.

    As for your situation, just ask your manager what they want you to do, and follow their guidance.

      1. doreen*

        In some places, “security” comes under loss prevention – for example a store may have security guards at the entrances and asset protection specialists monitoring cameras for shoplifter , all of whom report to the Loss Prevention Manager.

      2. SnappinTerrapin*

        That’s the department that Safety and Security both report to in this company’s organizational chart.

  15. Tom*

    OP#2: This is bonkers–on their part, not yours. I can understand them not wanting you to have pepper spray on your person at work, even if I disagree with the logic, but unless you did something egregiously belligerent this level of reaction indicates that someone above you is, at best, an easily frightened child with far too much influence.

    Unless they get fired, start job-hunting.

    1. Milfred*

      I admit I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the problem with pepper spray.

      You can buy it over the counter or order it from Amazon. It doesn’t cause any permanent damage. It’s not a “deadly weapon”. It’s purely defensive. I haven’t seen a rash of stories about people going bonkers and pepper spraying the office.

      Women are at enough of a disadvantage during an attack. Why take away one of their few legal means of defense?

      Maybe the LW should ask bluntly what the company is actually concerned about.

      Keeping pepper spray on you keychain is exactly where you want to keep it. Makes it easy to access when you are in a parking lot (a common point of attack).

      1. mlem*

        It is not “purely defensive” at all. It’s a way to incapacitate someone, which can absolutely be offensive. In my state, carrying it requires a license from (iirc) the same agencies that license you to carry a gun.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        It’s purely defensive.

        This is such a strange statement to me. Of course it can be used offensively. There is absolutely nothing about pepper spray that magically makes it unusable as an offensive weapon. Including that it can be grabbed off you by someone who decides they want an offensive weapon, to use on you or others.

        It can kill someone with breathing problems, even if it doesn’t kill most people it’s used on.

        When I visit my relatives in Alabama I can pick up guns at Walmart, so I’m not sure why the ability to easily obtain it (as you can knives and a variety of “like a ninja” bo staffs and throwing stars and stuff; probably flame throwers if I knew where to look) means it must be safe and impossible to use offensively.

        1. connie*

          When I was in high school, someone on another floor discharged pepper spray at another student. They were just playing around, but the cloud spread to the second floor of the school trapping a lot of people up there who had run upstairs to try to avoid the cloud. It was terrifying. The LW says nothing about having undergone training about how to use the spray, which is something people who have pepper spray should get.

          And, like, did people saying this is a defensive weapon not clock the canisters of pepper spray on the tactical vests of insurrectionists invading the Capital on Jan. 6. A weapon is a weapon.

      3. Irish Teacher*

        Honestly, we don’t know where the LW lives. I assume it is somewhere where pepper spray is legal, but it may not necessarily be somewhere it is as easily obtainable as just buying it over the counter.

        I would guess the company is concern she might attack somebody with it or that somebody with nefarious motives might grab it off her and attack somebody with it or that she might be careless and leave it lying around somewhere and it might be taken by somebody with nefarious motives or if the company is open to the public, might be picked up by a child.

        I do think the company handled this really poorly, but I also think it is perfectly reasonable for companies not to want any weapons in their workplace, even non-lethal ones and it doesn’t seem unreasonable to me to object to something that is illegal in a number of countries being in your workplace.

        I do think that if they don’t want it there, they should have been clear from the outset. “You cannot have that in here. Put it in your locker for the rest of today and do not ever bring it in here again” or “you cannot have that in here. Please take it home immediately.”

      4. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Pepper spray is not ‘purely defensive’, although that’s how it’s often marketed. It can be used offensively, and I have read about assailants using it to incapacitate their victims.

        Please don’t downplay pepper spray as a wepon because you can buy it online or OTC, or because keychain versions are small. It’s not the size of the mechanism, it’s what it delivers – and pepper spray is designed to incapacitate and hurt someone. You don’t just wash your face and carry on if you get blasted with it!

        Also, sorry to nitpick, but you can buy guns online or OTC, depending on the state. I’m sure many people buy guns purely for defense, too.

      5. Quill*

        No weapon is purely defensive, and pepper spray is considered relatively safe because it would be pretty hard to kill someone with it, but that doesn’t mean it can’t cause permanent injury, especially if someone is sprayed in the eyes. It’s essentially a pressurized cannister of caustic chemicals. I can see why they don’t want it carried in the office because of the potential for injury, either by OP actually using it or by some sort of mechanical failure (cannister overheats or is punctured, etc.)

        What I don’t understand is the following OP around. My guess is that there’s some perception of “defiance” that she had it in the first place, and they’re trying to intimidate her.

        1. Random Dice*

          I hope OP contacts OSHA about the way the workplace weaponized stalking of a female employee by large armed guards.

      6. Parakeet*

        It is absolutely not “purely defensive” (and while it is less-lethal, it can be truly awful for people with asthma or other respiratory conditions, anyone with contact lenses in, etc). Take it from an activist/protest medic who has been pepper sprayed a number of times, and treated more people than I could possibly remember for it. Obviously it CAN be a defensive weapon, but that’s not always its use.

        That said, the company’s reaction is pretty weird. If there’s a no-pepper-spray-on-premises policy – which they have a right to, and I can understand the logic, though I’m ambivalent about it – they should just say that rather than have security guards following OP2 around.

        Tangentially – OP2 has stated that it’s legal where they live, so all the comments about how it’s illegal where various commenters live are a red herring.

      7. Flipperty*

        You obviously can’t have a weapon hanging from your belt while serving customers, in an environment where children are running around.

    2. OP#2*

      Hey thank you for your response! I just got in touch with my logistics manager and he let me know that employees are not allowed to access HR anymore. We are only allowed to access the HR portal if we ask for a temporary password from the managers. This might be why no one has submitted a report to HR in years and the managers simply do whatever they want. Half of my coworkers have left, we’re heavily understaffed and our access to HR is practically impossible. Our managers don’t even accept our unpaid day off requests, yet alone HR ticket requests.

      1. Two Dog Night*

        Yeah, time to look for a new job. The pepper spray incident is starting to look like the tip on an iceberg. Good luck!

        1. OP#2*

          “The pepper spray incident is starting to look like the tip on an iceberg.” You guys are making me realize how many red flag this one incident is showing so thank you so much!

      2. Lyudie*

        RUN there are reasons why they would not want you to contact HR and none of them are good.

        1. laser99*

          I was a longtime retail employee and can attest to often wishing I could spray customers (not with pepper, I used to fantasize about spraying water on people while commanding, “NO! Do NOT bring your drippy ice cream into a clothing store! BAD customer!” :) All kidding aside, retail is surprisingly problematic in ways other non-facing roles don’t experience. Customers develop “crushes”, which can devolve into stalking. I live in a resort area and they would become hostile if I was too occupied to answer questions about where to eat/drink/stay. Surrogate therapy was expected. I could go on for hours.

      3. I have RBF*

        I just got in touch with my logistics manager and he let me know that employees are not allowed to access HR anymore. We are only allowed to access the HR portal if we ask for a temporary password from the managers. This might be why no one has submitted a report to HR in years and the managers simply do whatever they want.

        Yikes on bikes!

        Our managers don’t even accept our unpaid day off requests, yet alone HR ticket requests.

        Get the heck out of there! The place is full on murder hornet central!

        1. OP#2*

          About the HR inaccessibility? It is very concerning and the employees are outraged but I’m wondering if it’s illegal to keep us away from HR like that. The managers probably found a loophole in the system to be able to get away with something like that to begin with right?

      4. Tom*

        Let me revise my assessment. Based on the HR thing, your management has a problem with employees being able to protect themselves. These are not frightened children, these are people who know what they are doing and are actively your enemy.

        Don’t just let your contract run out. Find any way you can to get out of ot.

  16. nnn*

    #3: If you want to be prepared with a script just in case there are questions, you could say something like “Sorry, one of those annoying ads with autoplay audio popped up and it took me a second to close it.”

    If you don’t mention it was porn, that creates a situation where the other person has to take the initiative of mentioning that a couple of seconds of random internet noise sounded like porn to them. (If they specifically ask what it was an ad for, you could say something like “I wasn’t even focusing on the content, I was frantically trying to close it so I didn’t disturb people!”)

    1. OP3isme*

      OP3 here—that was largely what I figured I should do, after I had the chance to reflect calmly, rather than my initial reaction of dying of shame or quitting, moving to Europe, and changing my name.

      1. Bibliothecarial*

        I think you need to read or reread the Mortification Week posts and feel absolved :)

  17. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    #2 Can we have some context on the dogs and wolves? Do you work outdoors and have contact with them? Or do you working indoors and this is something you need for the commute to and from work?

    1. Dahlia*

      I just assumed rural area tbh. People have a bad habit of dumping dogs in a particular place where I live. We also have bears, wolves, coyotes, mountain lions, and wild boars. The bears and coyotes sometimes wander into town.

    2. Jackalope*

      Don’t know if it’s the same, but I lived for awhile in a large city that had a ton of feral dogs running around. People would feed them and such so they weren’t afraid of people; that was sometimes good and sometimes bad, because they could get pretty aggressive. I could totally imagine having pepper spray there.

      1. DataSci*

        Dogs are a reasonable worry many places. Wolves much less so. I’m also really curious about where OP2 is located. Even bears are way more common than wolves!

        1. Flying squirrel*

          Either OP2 is vastly overestimating the threat from wolves, or everyone else in the building is greatly underestimating the threat from bears.

        2. Milfred*

          Odds are if she was located in an area that had wolves they wouldn’t worry if she was carrying a pistol, much less pepper spray.

          The wolf population in the US is depleted. They’ve been reintroducing them into several western states (like Colorado) but they are still rare.

          The LW’s manager may have seen wolves as a smart-arse answer. Better to just say “I keep it to defend myself incase of a mugging.”

          1. Loreasaurus*

            They could also live somewhere that bear spray and equivalents to protect yourself from animals is fine to carry. But pepper spray is considered a weapon and illegal. The dividing line tends to be whether you intend to ever use it as a weapon (even in self defence) against another person. So even if that is your plan, you can’t actually admit it because then it becomes illegal to have.

        3. HannahS*

          I grew up a 15-minute drive north of Toronto. The suburb where I grew up had wolves and coyotes. You would never, ever, guess it, because it just looks like a boring, sprawling suburb. The local greenbelts/ravines are large enough to support a small population, and as their natural environment is depleted, many of these creatures venture into our spaces to find food.

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        I assumed the LW meant coyotes, which are a kind of wolf, but not grey wolves.

        Coyotes are a real problem in some urban & suburban areas.

        The kind of pepper spray you carry to ward off bears comes in a large aerosol container. (Think stereotypical 80s-era hairspray.)

        1. DataSci*

          Coyotes aren’t a threat to adults, though. Don’t leave toddlers unattended and don’t let cats outside and keep your dogs leashed and you’re fine. (When I lived in Arizona I saw coyotes on my street multiple times. They’re really not dangerous to people.)

          1. Shan*

            Super late adding this comment, but I just wanted to say that while that’s typically true, it’s not actually a guarantee – a 19 year old woman was killed by coyotes in Nova Scotia several years ago. I actually just read an article not that long ago which said they believe these coyotes had adapted to hunting moose, so an adult human wasn’t a challenge.

        2. sam_i_am*

          Coyotes are a species of the genus Canis, like dogs and wolves are, but it’s Canis latrans not a wolf (any subspecies of Canis lupus)

    3. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

      it’s possible the LW lives somewhere rural and works somewhere urban and the coworkers don’t understand rural issues. But also, in my city, off leash dogs have become an increasing issue… I carry (legal in my state) pepper spray with me. It sucks, but so does being bitten.

      1. Kevin Sours*

        I’ve seen packs of feral dogs biking to work before in a area I would not consider at all rural (Ontario, California). It was a more “industrial” area of the city were there were a huge number of people around. And you’d be surprised by the number of coyotes that hang out inside city limits.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Now I’m imagining dogs on bicycles on their commute to work, and it’s kinda charming.

    4. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I was secretly hoping this was a sequel to the bear spray letter writer.

    5. I'm Just Here for the Cats!*

      Don’t have to work outside. People don’t realize that there are coyotes and other feral dogs that live in urban areas. Heck, there are studies on how the coyotes in Chicago have adapted their behavior based on traffic. And at one point my mom was almost attacked by a coyote mix just walking from the neighbor’s house. It is a real possibility that they are worried about animals.

      1. Random Dice*

        Oh for sure, coyotes are city animals for sure. Wild dogs too, in some cities.

        But wolves are what threw me.

        1. OP#2*

          Well your wildlife comment is fair. We have wolves around but never had to encounter them in the streets lol I should’ve prolly stuck with coyotes and foxes since I do see those often. It wasn’t my first thought when I was in my manager’s office, I see leashless dogs too but that goes without saying.

    6. Flipperty*

      LW said she works in a store in the downtown part of a city in Canada. Not somewhere rural.

      Wolves and foxes pose zero threat to humans unless you’re somewhere very remote and injured.

  18. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #2 Security following her around is passive-aggressive instead of direct communication – poor management.
    However, it’s unreasonable to want the manager fired at this stage – after something the OP did (unknowingly) against the rules.

    Following around sounds like their “get rid of it” – and this was the 2nd talk – meant “don’t bring it into work again”, not merely that the OP should keep the spray in her locker.
    They may not trust her to always leave it there – has she complained to coworkers or looked reluctant? – or they may have a policy of no weapons whatsoever on site . Their site, their rules.
    Even if it’s just her boss’s policy and not company-wide, HR probably would just tell her to comply.

    The OP should ask her manager why she is being followed by security and what she should do so this ends.
    If the answer is to leave the spray at home and she won’t do this, then it is indeed time to start job-hunting. Also if she thinks the relationship with her managers has been irreparably damaged.
    If the reply is unclear, then it’s time to consult HR before the job-hunting stage.

    1. Seashell*

      I’m not sure why you assumed this person is a woman. Wearing something attached to your belt seems more common among men.

      1. Myrin*

        A lot of commenters (myself included) follow Alison’s early-days-idea of referring to all OPs as “she” unless clearly stated otherwise – I don’t see anything in Retired’s comment which would go beyond that.

        With that being said, wearing something clipped to your belt might be more common among men but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for women to do so. Source: I am a woman who has stuff attached to her belt at work, namely my time card, my work keys, and my transponders, so.

      2. OP#2*

        I appreciate your answer! I am a woman, I didn’t think I had to specify gender in my post..? It has a little clip so I can keep it near me easily including belts or purses. Low on the hips so it’s not just dangling in front of everyone. My keychain also has a coin purse pompoms and all sorts of things. The pepper spray was one of them.

      3. Irish Teacher*

        It’s generally common on this site to use female pronouns if none are specified. Mainly because of how often male pronouns are used in that case.

  19. Uldi*

    LW #3

    It was brief and I promise that everyone around you is going to pretend it didn’t happen as hard as you are wishing it never did.

    On the bright side, at least it wasn’t during a Zoom meeting.

    1. OP3isme*

      OP3 here—very true! I think I would have died on the spot if it had happened on a zoom meeting.

  20. Turingtested*

    OP #2 at my job we had a similar issue. Long term worker who did great work and was a genuinely nice guy to boot accidentally brought in a weapon. (Think hunting knife in jacket pocket. Very obviously a mistake.) However our company has a a very strict no weapons policy and he got fired.

    It seems heavy handed but where do you draw the line? Things like nice person, responsible and so forth are subjective. Has prohibited items is objective.

    I do think you should talk to your boss.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      My sister got expelled from high school for a similar reason – she’d been camping that weekend and forgot to take a 3″ pocketknife out of her backpack. (Her “best friend” was with her when she realized it was still there and ratted her out to the principal before she could take it home after her first period class.) Zero tolerance.

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        A 3″ pocket knife isn’t even a weapon. If I had to defend myself with either a 3″ blade or a chair, I’d pick the chair every time.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          yeah, especially for someone who doesn’t have the first clue how to use a knife as a weapon (like me). Pocket knives are for cutting cheese and bread at a picnic in my world, I wouldn’t even know how to hold it for weapon purposes. It would probably fold at a crucial moment (which is probably why folding knives that can be fixed in open position are prohibited in public where I am, and standard pocket knives are not). Things that can be used as clubs or shields – like a chair – much more intuitive!

      2. Avery*

        Ah, reminds me of my own high school experiences… one of the school’s top students that I knew through Scholastic Bowl got suspended for a week or two for bringing in a box cutter… to cut boxes with… gotta love that zero tolerance policy /s

    2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      imo, firing is too harsh for an unintentional breaking of even a weapons rule.
      A documented final warning would have been fairer.

      1. HigherEdAdminista*

        I agree with this. In schools, there has been an idea of “zero tolerance” for things which sounds good in theory, but in practice ends up harming people unnecessarily. What ends up happening is that there is zero tolerance for say, fighting or violence, so the bully who has been torturing another child for months gets suspended if they start a fight… and so does the victim who defended themselves. Or there is a bully who has been actively bullying a child who knows about the zero tolerance policy and so tries to taunt and torment their victim into putting their hands on them, like shoving them to get them away, and then the victim is suspended while the bully gets to use this policy as a new tool of torture. (Both of these are real examples from folks I know!)

        Living life with nuanced consequences and policies is a lot harder (and these can also be used incorrectly), so most people don’t want to be bothered, but zero tolerance can definitely lead to outcomes that have nothing to do with safety, fairness, or justice.

        1. starsaphire*

          Yep. Zero tolerance usually makes zero sense.

          Says the person whose two best friends in high school got suspended under the zero tolerance for drugs rule, because one of them gave the other one an Advil for cramps.

          Not kidding. One Advil.

          1. Irish Teacher*

            We had a discussion on this in our school – not specifically drugs or weapons, but about whether we should have “students will be suspended” for *insert serious breach of the rules* or “students may be suspended” and we pretty much agreed on the “may be” language for that very reason, that there are always nuances you have to work around. The acting principal actually did give the example of a student bringing in say something that filed under the category of weapon, intending it for a harmless purpose.

        2. Ray Gillette*

          Zero tolerance around weapons specifically also creates an obvious incentive to hide mistakes. One time when I was in school, I accidentally brought my pocketknife in my backpack. Luckily, nobody else saw it, so I got away with it because I knew about the zero tolerance policy and hid it in one of the zippered compartments until I got home. If I’d tried to do the right thing and hand it over to an adult for the day, I would have been expelled.

        3. Quill*

          A big worry in my high school was the zero tolerance policy for drugs / other contraband. The vast majority of the student population had to share lockers, so if your randomly assigned locker buddy had weed in there, you both got expelled. (I’m not aware of instances where this actually happened – largely because I’m pretty sure the locker-sharers, being underclassmen, had much less robust access to weed, but also because the drug dogs came through on a predictable schedule.)

          Zero tolerance policies also rely on witnesses, which means that they in practice target the victims, rather than the perpetrators, of bullying – if a group of students is all standing together and a guy grabs a girl’s butt and she slugs him, guess which action is more visible to the adults?

    3. Observer*

      It seems heavy handed but where do you draw the line? Things like nice person, responsible and so forth are subjective. Has prohibited items is objective.

      “Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.”

      There is a reason one of the characteristics of good manager is JUDGEMENT. That level of “consistency” that focuses that intensely on ONE set of details in the name of “objectivity” and ignores other facts does nothing to foster anything positive. Not even the level of safety that the policy is officially meant to foster.

      In the workplace you describe a decent person and good worker gets fired, which is a real cost to the company but doesn’t make anyone safer. But it’s “objective” and consistent, so it’s all good, I suppose. Now what happens if he gets replaced by someone who never brings in a weapon, but is argumentative, rude and physically intimating. In your depiction, since this is all “subjective”, there is nothing anyone can do. And people will legitimately feel less safe. And they may also be *in actuality* less safe as well.

      This is what nightmare HR looks like.

  21. Rosacoletti*

    #1 WFH is the worst for so many people and for a lot of businesses. I feel so sorry for the OP at the beginning of their career, I hope they can find a company who can provide a welcoming and progressive workplace where they can thrive.

    I understand people who aren’t climbing the career ladder enjoying getting out of the rat race but as someone starting their career, they are sponges both in terms of career but also socially (how many of us met our besties or even partners through work?) so it’s really hard.

    As a business owner tho, it’s very challenging – we want to hire people who will help us move forward as a business while boosting their careers but we are being forced into allowing remote and hybrid working which will sadly be the death of many businesses.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      There are plenty of roles for which WFH works out just fine. I’m one of them and I work to move my company forward every day. I think your last paragraph is completely unnecessary and no doubt untrue for a lot of companies.

      Managing remote work is not difficult; it takes the same things that managing in person does: open communication and trust. It will only be the death of businesses who can’t manage that and thus have a “seats in butts” mentality.

      For LW#1 though, this is a terrible situation and she should definitely consider finding another position. These are not normal times to graduate in.

      1. DataSci*

        The last paragraph made it clear to me that Rosacoletti’s sympathies don’t actually lie with entry level workers or with any workers at all.

      2. AngryOctopus*

        1-LOL at “seats in butts”
        2-From their response, it seems like Rosacoletti doesn’t like WFH (or hybrid for some reason), therefore it means workers are soft and lazy and not performing, therefore they must be overmonitored to make sure they are working, then people leave (because high performers enjoy trust and not being micromanaged for no reason, not because they have something to hide), then Nobody Wants To Work Anymore. Rosacoletti, I work in a lab, and even we, with our main jobs being benchwork, enjoy an occasional day to work at home. No commute, no time crunch, we get our trainings/data analysis/notebook entries done, all while drinking unlimited home coffee and eating the good snacks we stuck on the top shelf. Good workers respond to trust. Maybe consider that. If your business dies because of WFH/hybrid, there were problems beforehand that just got brought out by this.

    2. Irish Teacher*

      I don’t think work from home has anything to do with “getting out of the rat race.” It’s not an easier way of working or related to less ambition. It’s just different, probably going to be better for some businesses and worse for others.

      I’d say far from being the death of many businesses, it will save many businesses, as it is likely to be a cheaper way of running a business.

      It sounds like it isn’t optimal for your particular business and yeah, it’s likely to have some problems in the beginning as various companies figure out if it will work for them, but I suspect in 20 years time, whether people want to work in person or remote will be one of the questions on those “what career is right for you?” questionnaire things kids do at 15 or 16 and will be one of the things people choose their career based on. So if your business is one that needs in person staff, then people who prefer to work in person will choose roles like that and those who prefer work from home will choose roles that work better that way.

      I even think the “start of one’s career” thing is a temporary problem. I agree that people learn a lot from being around coworkers, but I think once work from home becomes the norm (and that was probably going to happen anyway; the pandemic just sped it up), people who are going into careers where it is likely they will work from home for all of their career will a) need different on-boarding (they won’t need to learn office norms as their roles will mean they will be unlikely to ever spend much time in an office) and b) we will develop other ways for them to learn what they need to.

      I’m also not sure about the “being forced.” Even here, where there is legal support, it’s only a right to request work from home. If it doesn’t work for the company and they can back that up with evidence, they can refuse.

      Work from home isn’t akin to going part time or not putting one’s career first. In fact, another piece of legislation that was introduced in Ireland was the right to disconnect, probably because there is a risk work from home will push people further in to the ratrace if measures aren’t put in place to prevent it. It would be quite easy for work from home to come to mean working more than the 40 hour week, “sure, you might as well just work a few extra hours and finish that project” or for people to be under pressure to work even when sick – after all, they can’t infect anybody – or to take less maternity leave.

      Work from home won’t work for every role and of course, it will have disadvantages, just as working in person has disadvantages and probably doesn’t work for every role. But having options is likely to benefit both companies and employees.

      1. DataSci*

        They mean they’re missing out on the best candidates, who will go to less hostile businesses open to hybrid or remote work. It’s just another “nobody wants to work anymore” complaint in a paper-thin disguise.

    3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      It’s difficult when experienced employees can do all or most of their work remotely, but new starters need them around so they can learn the basics properly.
      In such cases, the solution is to make one of the job requirements for senior people to be passing on their knowledge and helping train the new coworkers.

      Hybrid is likely a compromise that could work, together with paying a work from office supplement whose size depends on the # of contracted days in office.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        In such cases, the solution is to make one of the job requirements for senior people to be passing on their knowledge and helping train the new coworkers.

        Yep, job shadowing is a huge part of what I do. I shadowed other people when I started, and now I have new people shadowing me.

        When you build a culture of trust and an “ask me anything anytime” atmosphere, WFH is more than feasible.

      2. Colette*

        I worked on a team that did a great job integrating new people – several of them new to the workforce – while fully remote. It meant a daily check-in meetings, daily “office hours” and social/chit chat time built into the week, and it worked really well.

    4. BellyButton*

      LOL. You are doing it wrong. I have a very indepth and hands on onboarding process for all new hires. Their entire first month, regardless of their position or level, is spent getting to know the business, the people, our culture. There is a very detailed plan that involves every executive, and every team that their position touches. As head of People Dev, I check in with them weekly for that first month, and then every 30 days for their first 90 days. Their manager, and their manager’s manager, has a check-list of information and check-ins that they are to conduct in those first 90 days.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        That’s where I’m landing on this. The LW feeling so isolated and disconnected from the team is a failure of the organization’s onboarding and communication style, not working from home. I appreciate the “sponge” aspect of a newbie overhearing/witnessing how experienced staff do things, but I also never understand why we just assume the only way you can learn this stuff is to hope you’re in the right place at the right time when someone more experienced happens to be doing it. “How to be professional on a call” doesn’t have to be “Eavesdrop on Linda while she talks to a client,” you can do actual training on this. But employers would have to invest far more in their staff to manage this, and it increasingly seems like many (most?) aren’t interested in doing so.

        1. BellyButton*

          Exactly. I was coaching someone on this yesterday. I told the leader just inviting someone to observe a meeting wasn’t enough, she had to put some thought into what she wanted the person “observing” to get out of it. I had her make a list of important things for the observer to listen for, to try to figure out, and then I coached her on how to debrief after the meeting. That is the same thing that should happen in person or on a remote call.

        2. Jujyfruits*

          Thank you!!! Yes, assuming people learn things by being in an office is how people get skewed norms. Office or WFH, onboarding needs some kind of structure.

          1. I have RBF*


            Developing a good onboarding routine is hard, whether remote or in person. I’ve been at offices five days a week that didn’t do onboarding well, and at fully remote places that did a fantastic job.

        3. toolate12*

          As someone who is early career and has had experience in an in-person, remote, and in a hybrid workplace – you just don’t get the same level of knowledge remote that you get in-person. In the example you cited of doing a dedicated training of learning how to talk to people on the phone, it requires (1) someone recognizing that there’s a hole in the new hire’s knowledge, (2) dedicating additional time and resources to the training. Especially with item (1), that’s a huge problem – the new hire doesn’t know what they don’t know till they see someone else doing it, and generally no one else really cares enough to ensure they learn, especially when it comes to stuff that seems outside of the core demands of the job when it’s “soft” knowledge. Across multiple organizations, this has been true. (I know people in management think they theoretically do care about teaching this stuff, but almost always they don’t actually care enough or don’t have enough time to do this.)

          I actually *did* learn how to interview others professionally on the phone from hearing a colleague do it in the next cubicle. There is zero chance I would have learned this in a remote environment. This has been a critical skill in that job and every job thereafter (and I *still* really struggle with using the phone instead of email, but when I hear it modeled it gets easier).

          Not saying that every in-person working environment will always work to confer this knowledge either. But if you have a normal, busy in-person workplace with lots of ways to pick up knowledge (e.g, lateral awareness of what other divisions do, what other projects are out there you can volunteer on, meeting people you otherwise wouldn’t be in scheduled meetings with, “soft” skills/norms/culture) there is absolutely no comparison to online-only for a new hire. There just isn’t. I know people think new hires can somehow pick all of this up some other way through remote, but realistically it absolutely does not happen that way, and realistically new hires have a harder time plugging in and immediately picking up what has to be done and how. (And, incidentally, in my own experience this has led to painful alienation and isolation, when everyone thinks you ought know all this stuff already but you don’t and there’s no way to learn.)

    5. I have RBF*

      … but we are being forced into allowing remote and hybrid working which will sadly be the death of many businesses.

      Forced? Not really.

      Sure, if you want to hire the best, you will have remote and hybrid options, but no one is “forcing” you to do this. If this is so bad, and you don’t want your business to die of it, just do what a lot of corporations are doing and mandate RTO. So what if you lose half of your workforce, since you consider that their preferred working conditions will lead to the death of your business. But don’t try to play “remote/hybrid is bad and will kill my business!!1!!!” then hire and retain remote/hybrid people. It just doesn’t make sense.

  22. Lisa Vanderpump*

    LW2 “I said it was for stray dogs and wolves”

    How many stray dogs and wolves are you encountering in your office?

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Probably none, but we have no idea what LW does to get from home to work, and back again.

      Which is why LW agreed and put it in her locker. She’s not worried about what’s happening at work; it’s journey to and fro that she’s worried about.

      1. Lisa Vanderpump*

        But none in the office, which is why it’s absolutely ridiculous to have it hanging from your belt.

        1. Lizzo*

          If it’s something that’s attached to your keychain, and your keys are on your person at work, it seems completely reasonable that LW2 might have forgotten it was there until it was pointed out to them.

          1. Lisa Vanderpump*

            It seems like it’s a new addition to their keychain. They’ve been there long enough to be a top performer. Either no one had a problem with it up until now, or this is something new. It’s totally fine to decide to carry pepper spray to work, however LW made a really bad choice when they decided to wander around with it dangling from their belt.

            1. OP#2*

              Hey! The pepper spray has been on my keychain for over a year a now, way before I started this job :) I work in retail and encounter a lot of.. homeless and such since I work in downtown. My country also genuinely has a lot of stray animals like foxes wolves bears and dogs.

              1. laser99*

                I was a longtime retail employee and can attest to often wishing I could spray customers (not with pepper, I used to fantasize about spraying water on people while commanding, “NO! Do NOT bring your drippy ice cream into a clothing store! BAD customer!” :) All kidding aside, retail is surprisingly problematic in ways other non-facing roles don’t experience. Customers develop “crushes”, which can devolve into stalking. I live in a resort area and they would become hostile if I was too occupied to answer questions about where to eat/drink/stay. Surrogate therapy was expected. I could go on for hours.

                1. Insert Clever Name Here*

                  We’re asked in the commenting rules not to try and guess where people are from :)

        2. Flipperty*

          The LW doesn’t work in an office, she works in a clothing store. Having a pepper spray around customers is totally different to having one in your bag or whatever under your desk.

      2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        #2 If the OP needs the spray for her commute and for walking from car to house, then keep it in the car, say in the glove compartment (I’m assuming someone worried about wildlife lives far enough in the country that she commutes by car)

        If the work parking lot has dangerous wildlife, then security should hang out there rather than following her.

        1. DLW*

          Why would you assume OP2 has a car? It’s much more likely that she walks or takes public transport.

          1. OP#2*

            I do take public transport and I do not work in an office haha not fancy enough yet! I pass by police officers on a daily basis and the law states I’m allowed to carry it (just not spray humans) so I’ve never been told anything. I’ve carried it to school and work since day 1 and this is the first time it’s ever been pointed out :)

            1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

              Your employer can forbid things at work which are legal outside work.
              You need to find out your employer’s policy on bringing sprays onto work premises. Some places ban them completely, including within lockers.

              It would still be very odd for security to keep following you – your manager should just told you any such policy directly.

              Possibly it is only your manager who bans them for her people and work area. However, in that case HR would probably not overrule her.

  23. Cthulhu's Librarian*

    OP2 – Sorry to say, but it’s time to find a new job. Once an employer starts having you followed by a security team on the floor (especially on the regular), trust has broken down to a point where you will never receive a fair chance at any workplace opportunities there (there’s an exception for if you requested the security follow you, probably). Even when/if you satisfy some people that you can be trusted, other coworkers and higher ups will have noticed, and will remember. Small things will add up, and a decade from now you’ll be underpaid, stuck in a dead-end track, and missing out on all the opportunities you should have had.

    As to the pepper spray… Your self defense tools probably shouldn’t be thrown in the face of everyone around you, because most people are weirded out by seeing obvious signs someone around them is prepared to engage in self defense, even with something relatively innocuous like pepper spray. I’m assuming it was on your keychain so you couldn’t forget it – I recommend figuring out another choice to accomplish the same thing. A purse/satchel is pretty common.

    1. OP#2*

      I carry a tiny purse but they didn’t allow it In there either which is why we decided to keep it in the locker (that didn’t stop them from sending security though) thanks for the feedback :)

  24. I should really pick a name*

    You had the pepper spray visible on your belt during the workday?

    That seems like a really odd choice to make. Would this have been okay at your previous workplace? It might be worth it to step back and see if there are any other things you might think are acceptable, but wouldn’t fly at your current workplace.

  25. SimpleAutie*

    #5, Delegation at work-

    I had the same problem at my job for a while. Eventually I just wrote a list of everything I was doing and came to my boss with it prioritized. I asked her what my highest priorities were and then asked who I should hand off everything else to, piece by piece.

    It sounded like “ok so my priorities are a, b, c. Who do you want me to hand off x to? And y, is there someone you want me to hand that to, or is it low priority enough to just wait til we have more headcount? We’re already giving Bob D, do you want me to train him on E as well since they’re related?”

    Crucially, I was really clear that training takes way more time than I spent doing each task and received approval for overtime for a specific amount of time to do the training, and then looped her in/used her authority for my delegation. “Bob, Celeste wants me to train you on D and E. We’ll need about two hours this week and next blocked out.”

    After week 1: “Trained Bob on D. Have to wait for E because Bob is struggling with these two pieces of D. Expect to have that fixed by next week, I gave him this and that resource and we’ll meet again on 6/10.”


  26. Immortal for a limited time*

    OP 1 makes me wonder if the employer has observed some weird behavior from this employee in the past. Carrying a portable container of pepper spray for dogs I understand. But wolves? Where in the world is this workplace that wolves could attack you on the way to work? Or is wolves a euphemism for thugs? There is something odd about this letter.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      I think that falls under “People are experts on their own situations and know more about their own circumstances than you do”.

      I actually think the stray dogs and wolves thing is the least weird part of the letter.

      1. Juicebox Hero*

        Remember the recent-ish letter about anti-bear spray and bear safety? One person’s WTF is another’s normal.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      Alaska? Montana? Wyoming? Canada?

      C’mon–there are plenty of places in the United States (not to mention other countries) where wolves and other wildlife are an issue.

      There is nothing odd to my mind about this letter.

      1. Valancy Snaith*

        For starters, the vast majority of Canadians live and work in places where wolves are not a threat. Pepper spray is illegal to carry in self-defence in most, if not all, parts of Canada.

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          Yes, but what LW sees as a perceived threat and what is an actual threat to them is not relevant here.

          We are supposed to trust that LWs know their situations better than we do. All of these comments about wolves are just utterly ridiculous. (This could just be an example of LW’s sense of humor that doesn’t translate well when it’s third-hand like this.)

          1. Melissa*

            I don’t agree that it’s irrelevant. If an employee tells me, “I carry this long-handled knife at all times because there’s a risk of aliens,” I will have substantial concerns about their reasonableness/stability. Honestly, I’d have a toned-down version of the same response to someone who said “wolves” (unless it was obvious they were joking).

            I am assuming they live outside the US, since in the US wolf attacks are so rare that there exists a Wikipedia page with the NAME of every victim known.

          2. Flying squirrel*

            It is if you’re using it as a justification for carrying a weapon. And if you give a joking response to why you need it, even worse.

      2. I'm Just Here for the Cats!*

        You don’t even have to be in a rural area. There are coyotees in places like Chicago.

        1. GreenShoes*

          Googled that too:

          Except for Hawaii, coyotes live in all of the United States, Canada, and Mexico. More coyotes exist today than when the U.S. Constitution was signed. Almost no animal in America is more adaptable to changing conditions than the coyote. Coyotes can live just about anywhere.

      3. GreenShoes*

        Just googled:

        Gray wolf packs are known to be in Washington state, Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Alaska. Individual dispersing wolves have also been documented in Utah, Colorado, North Dakota, Iowa, South Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, Maine, Kentucky, Nebraska and New York.

    3. BellyButton*

      I am in New Mexico, yesterday I walked out my front door to see a giant bobcat standing about 10 feet away.

      1. Flying squirrel*

        No one said there’s no wildlife or predatory animals in the continental US. Having lived in northern Alberta, I wouldn’t have blinked if he’d said bears. But wolves is such an odd choice that it speaks to either a very unusual situation (if wolves are genuinely a threat it’s astonishing that no one else is carrying bear spray) or paranoia that may explain management’s response.

    4. BellyButton*

      There is something odd about this letter. Pepper Spray, and any weapon, should not be taken inside the building. Just putting it away in the locker isn’t enough. Do not bring it inside the building.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        See, this doesn’t seem odd to me at all. I know a lot of women who carry pepper spray with them in the purse at all times. Not because they think they’ll be attacked at work, but they just leave it in the purse (and often on a keychain) out of convenience, and also they have to get from the office to their car or public transportation, for which they may want the pepper spray.

        1. BellyButton*

          Having pepper spray wasn’t the odd part to me. It was the reaction of the manager and the guards.

          Every place I have worked has had a sign that stated it was a weapons free building/campus, and that would include pepper spray.

  27. Binky*

    I learned that you need to be careful to use a .gov address, and not .com. Woops!

    I feel like this happens to a lot of people at one time or another. Momentarily embarrassing, but nothing to be concerned about.

    1. Fives*

      Yep! We were taught that in grad school (for journalism) years ago. Our professor had us go to in class so we could see what would happen. And then stressed to always make sure you use .gov. :)

  28. mlem*

    Re #3: This is a great reminder to keep your external sound low or off in the workplace (or keep headphones plugged in), as well as to use adblockers if your workplace policy allows them.

    Tangentially: Rumor has it that someone at my company was sent an explicit attachment by a “friend” and unknowingly opened it on their work device. This exposed a coworker to explicit images, which meant automatic firing due to our harassment policies. (Of course, opening unsolicited attachments also now violates our security policies, so it was just bad ideas all around.)

  29. Peanut Hamper*

    LW#3: Get yourself a DVD of Love, Actually and watch the deleted scenes. There is a marvelous scene of this very thing (times a million) happening to Liam Neeson’s character.

    1. OP3isme*

      Op3 here—My spouse and I love that movie but I did not know about that scene! Thank you.

  30. Parenthesis Guy*

    LW #1: It’s time to get out. It’s hard to tell what you want to do based on your job title, but it doesn’t seem like billing is where you want to go and that’s not going to help you do anything technical or get into analytics. In addition, your office is pretty poor.

    I work full-time remote. To avoid situations like this, we have plenty of meetings to make sure that people are making progress, and give them time to talk to other people on the team. I’ll also reach out to my team members to make sure that they don’t have any questions and they’re progressing.

    I sort of resent the idea that we can’t do our jobs full-time remote. It requires communication yes, but it’s not like it’s impossible.

  31. Czhorat*

    OP 5 – I agree that you should talk to your manager about how and what. One thing I look for when I need to lighten my workload are simple sub-tasks that are easy to pass along to someone with less experience or expertise. Example – I do audiovisual design work. I might not be able to delegate selecting equipment for a project, but could give someone else the equipment list and have them, say, download specification sheets. That’s useful and important, but something that can be given to either more junior design or even admin staff, depending on the organization. If your tasks can break down into things like that then maybe you can pass those parts of it along.

  32. Help Desk Peon*

    LW 1 – where I work, we have a team of data analysts/managers. Our onboarding process (whether you’re a recent grad or not) currently consists of a series of zoom sessions with people from all our different teams so that you have a sense of what team does what and how they interact with yours. Then there are deeper training sessions, then senior analysts pull you into impromptu meetings they think will benefit you, plus scheduled meetings with project groups so you start to see how it all fits. The team has a wiki that’s well maintained, and active slack channels, plus google chat spaces.

    Those are the kinds of things I’d ask about when you interview for your next job, because I think you’re going to want to.

  33. BellyButton*

    Delegating- make a list of the tasks/work that you want to delegate with a description that includes due dates, amount of time it takes to complete, and anything else that will help decide who can and should do it. Then go to your manager to discuss. She may not know all the details of what is being done, how long they take, and what the due dates are. Be proactive in deciding what work you want to do and what work you want to pass off to someone else.

  34. Snazzy Pants*

    Have you had the pepper spray out of your locker at any time after your boss’s initial conversation to lock it up?

    1. I'm Just Here for the Cats!*

      Looks like OP2 stated in another comment that she has not had it out since the initial conversation and that security is still following her around.

  35. HannahS*

    OP4, This is standard. I’m in the middle of a report of a supervisor for antisemitism and have reported others in the past in various workspaces. Even in places that brag about their transparency, all I’ve gotten is, “We will be speaking to this person.” “We have spoken about this issue with this person.” My suspicion is that there isn’t any retraining or anything.

  36. Generic Name*

    #5) The situation of being overloaded with work and then being told to “just delegate some stuff” with no explicit authority or guidance to do so reeks of bad management. The advice you got above on how to approach your manager with a plan is excellent. If you come up with a plan, but nothing changes, it might be time to think about job hunting. Also be prepared to fend off efforts to take back things you’ve delegated but aren’t getting done by the person or group you’ve delegated. Track what you’ve delegated and to whom.

  37. not neurotypical*

    I have a different take on #2:

    OP was carrying a weapon in the workplace. Worse, OP was displaying that weapon in the workplace — wearing the pepper spray rather than concealing it.

    When confronted, OP came up with a nonsensical answer: Presumably, there are neither wolves nor stray dogs wandering the halls of the office, and therefore no logical reason for carrying pepper spray on your belt.

    Manager and security accurately assessed this aggressive behavior as a potential threat to coworkers — a person who brings and displays a weapon in the workplace can’t automatically be deemed safe because they moved the weapon to a locker one time.

    If OP is truly not as aggressive as the display of the weapon would indicate, the thing to do is show that by both verbally and behaviorally showing that they understand why they are being scrutinized, staying calm, and refraining from further displays of aggression of any kind.

    1. Gherkin*

      That is wildly uncharitable given all the information OP#2 shared prior to your making this comment.

    2. AReally*

      I’m so blown away by so many negative responses to pepper spray as some kind of weapon of mass harm! I know regional/cultural differences might come in to play. I’ve spent a lot of my career working on college campuses in the US and it is so standard to see women carrying around pepper spray it doesn’t even register to me. Yes, it can hurt people, but someone having a non-lethal self-defense item being labeled as displaying “aggressive behavior” is truly over the top. Heck, I’ve been carrying pepper spray since I was 16 and my parents handed it to me along with a set of car keys. It makes sense to ask an employee to keep it in a locker while at work. It doesn’t make sense to act like they are a workplace threat because of it.

      1. may spring rain*

        “Heck, I’ve been carrying pepper spray since I was 16 and my parents handed it to me along with a set of car keys.”

        Awesome! Meanwhile, this workplace defines pepper spray as a weapon and therefore enforces accordingly. That’s it.

        1. Anna*

          Do you understand the difference between “it’s reasonable for a workplace to not want pepper spray on the premises” and “there are many reasons why someone might absent-mindedly leave pepper spray on their keychain that aren’t malicious aggression”? Cause those aren’t incompatible.

          Yes, there are decent reasons why having pepper spray in a workplace would make people feel unsafe; risk of someone using it, or of it exploding / being unintentionally discharged comes to mind. But the rational way for the company to have handled this would be to tell OP what the policy is, what the consequences are for violating it, and following through on that. Passive-aggressively following the employee with vague threats of searches and hinting the employee handled it wrong is not “enforcing” the policy in any meaningful way. And it would be a terribly ineffective way to handle an employee they actually did have reason to think was a threat, too.

          Most people here are not talking about the ubiquitousness of women carrying pepper spray because they’re arguing about whether the workplace should allow them (including the very comment you’re replying to). It’s because the jump from “person violated a policy they didn’t know about” to “this person is An Active Threat” without any good faith attempt to communicate or deescalate is alarming and weird.

          Emphasizing the many reasons why some women are accustomed to wearing pepper spray on keychains is relevant to the weirdness of the fact the employer and several commenters reacted like the only reason she could have it was intent to use it on a coworker. Her telling someone how she likes using it on people who mess with her would be “aggressive.” But just not realizing it would be seen as anything other than a standard safety measure for her commute is a plausible misunderstanding- and a responsible workplace should try to handle it as if it was a plausible misunderstanding before escalating like this, *especially* because there’s a long history of bias in terms of which types of employees get labeled “aggressive.”

        2. Random Dice*

          Woman is afraid of bodily harm and carries a very common non lethal deterrent, until told to stop.

          Large armed men start following her everywhere she goes.

          Yeah, SUPER appropriate way to enforce a policy.


    3. metadata minion*

      I agree that they should keep it in their locker, but if it’s attached to their keys, and they keep their keys on their belt, that’s probably why they have it out on their belt at work — not because they expect to use it in the office, but because they didn’t think to specifically remove the pepper spray when they got to work. Plenty of people wear keys on their belt.

    4. Parakeet*

      This is wild. While I agree that pepper spray is a weapon, and commented above about how it’s very much not only a defensive weapon and can also really hurt some people, the idea that it’s inherently a display of aggression to carry it on a belt is very odd. There are tons of people who regularly carry a Leatherman/multi-tool or a Swiss Army knife on a belt, which are also weapons, and if a workplace wants to ban them, sure, but I can’t imagine a workplace deciding that someone is an unsafe person for carrying one. Belts are a very common place to carry all kinds of things. This is not brandishment, which would be a very different situation.

    5. OP#2*

      Thank you for your input. I did everything I was told and still got penalized in front of my customers and coworkers. Bringing in my keychain shouldn’t have labelled me as a threat or agressive person. I haven’t taken my pepper spray out to any shift ever since the manager pointed it out and it should’ve stayed at that. I still get eyed by security and got another security check yesterday. I’m also still followed and met with hostile managers. I got yelled at this morning right as I enter the store because the kids clothing section is a mess and my shift that day was zoned in kids.. I didn’t even have time to reach my floor and they complained about my work not being any good (?). There’s obviously been some tension since the pepper spray incident and I’m also recently learning about how hard it is to reach HR. I’m definitely not renewing my contract.

      1. Random Dice*

        Oh you have a contract. Not American then. Never mind about submitting an OSHA complaint then.

        But… you live in a country with enough worker protections that you have an employment contract, and US AMERICANS are appalled at your working situation. That’s really bad.

        Can you find your government labor board and file a complaint? Stalking by security and barring employees from accessing HR is really egregious.

        1. OP#2*

          I don’t like giving too much personal information but I’m Canadian lol that’s probably why we have similar laws yet not quite. It’s a very big company, also up here we do see wild animals (and wild human beings) in crime prone areas like where I work.

  38. The Person from the Resume*

    For LW1: I’m sorry for your experience, LW. I feel new employees need to be orientate and trained to the culture, organization, and business processes and there should be a formal plan to do so. This goes doubly or triplely for remote employees who are working from home and don’t get in person interactions. They should be scheduled for many teleconferences to meet people and so they can understand the culture and organization. Your company and boss should have done more for you.

    That said I think you need to decide how you feel about billing versus data analysis. To have your whole job duties change is a situation that warrants a conversation; although, I can see a slow creep happening where you started doing some billing and now it’s taking up all your time.

    Decide is you’re fine with billing and only billing or if you want more data analysis or if you want nearly all data analysis. Talk to your boss about it. Decide if you do continue only performing the billing role if you should have more interactions with people in order to do your job well and how to make it happen. Talk to your boss about your career path at this company.

    Your company onboarding process and your boss have failed you. But many people would love a job that requires minimal interaction. You have some decisions to make about what you want and if you want to stay at your first company. But since it’s been a couple of years, there’s no problem with you starting to job hunt if you decide it’s not what you want.

    Some people

  39. Juicebox Hero*

    OP#3, I’ll share my own accidental porn story to make you feel less alone and maybe have a good laugh at my expense.

    Around 2000 or so, I was helping my prudish, uptight mother and one of her snobbish Womens’ Club associates find articles for a kids’ day event their club was planning. I thought of the kids’ magazine YOUR Big Backyard, which has pictures of animals and nature and is as wholesome as you’d want a kids’ magazine to be.

    However, I misremembered the name of the magazine and punched in MYbigbackyard dot com and we were greeted with a full-frontal picture of a big, beautiful woman. This was, of course, on a slower-than-slow dialup connection, and although I hit the “close window” button as soon as I realized my error, it took about 25 years for the window to close as all three of us looked anywhere but at the screen. After it finally closed, Ms Snobby kindly asked if she could use my computer and she’d search for some articles herself. I agreed and went to find a rock to crawl under and die. The incident was never spoken of again.

    So it could have been worse. It could have happened in front of your mother.

    1. OP3isme*

      Op3 here—It does make me feel better, although I’m sorry that’s because of your story, which is 1000 times worse than mine was.

      1. Juicebox Hero*

        If it’s any consolation, I think it’s hilarious 20 years later, precisely because it happened to my mother and Snobby Clublady. And the bonus was that I never got roped into helping with their club projects ever again :D

    2. ZugTheMegasaurus*

      In the pre-Google 90s, I was trying to help my dear sweet grandmother search for something online. I attempted to navigate to my preferred search engine, HotBot. I instead typed “hobot” which turned out to be a VERY different site which I never intended to inflict on grandma.

      1. Quill*

        I suddenly understand why the only “search engine” that my elementary school allowed was Ask Jeeves.

        (No, he doesn’t count as a search engine! All his answers are preprogrammed, and not even accurate!)

  40. Baska*

    OP3: When I was at one of my first jobs (as a subtitle editor), I had to annotate all the slang terms so that the translators could translate them properly. I was on my second day of training and was working on a sitcom where someone used the term “milf”. I didn’t know what that term meant, so I did the first thing one would do when encountering a new term: I Googled it and clicked on the first result. And then very quickly clicked OFF the first result, absolutely mortified. That was the day I learned about Urban Dictionary lol!

  41. OP3isme*

    Op3 here—I’ve had to look up some slang terms on urban dictionary. I quickly learned NOT to use my work computer for that purpose.

    1. Baska*

      Oh, mine was worse that that. I wound up going to milf (DOT) com! Urban Dictionary was actually the *preferred* tool at this company for looking up sexual slang! Much, much better than just googling the term!

  42. Ray Gillette*

    OP#2 has clarified in the comments that she lives in an area where pepper spray is legal, rides public transit to work, and has kept the pepper spray in her locker since the original conversation with management.

    1. Saddy Hour*

      Thanks for summarizing her comments. The amount of speculation about what a rule-breaking, volatile, dangerous liar OP2 is in these comments is WILD.

      1. Juicebox Hero*

        Seconding. The story about bear spray and bear safety was a huge hit. So why is OP2 needing to protect herself from dogs and wolves so unbelievable?

        One former coworker of mine lived in the boonies and found himself nearly face to face with a bear one morning when he went to get his newspaper. I’m sure people who live in wolf country, especially where wolves might be interbreeding with feral dogs, have similar close encounters.

        1. DataSci*

          Because most of us are in North America, most people in North America live in urban or suburban areas, and bears are MUCH more common than wolves in urban and suburban areas in North America.

          Wolves are also more wary of humans than bears are – bears being omnivores find lots to eat in areas occupied by humans, and many have been desensitized. Wolves aren’t going to scavenge from bird feeders or trash cans the way bears are and don’t associate humans with food in the same way. I’ve seen bears many times, both in wild area and urban-adjacent areas, but have never even heard a wolf.

      2. OP#2*

        Being described as volatile is oddly very funny, I’m a volatile :3 sounds like a bird varient

      3. Tom*

        No joke. The number of people who are reacting to this like OP#2 came walking in wearing bandoliers of ammunition and brandishing an AR-15 is wild.

        If I saw someone walking around with pepper spray the only comment I would make would be “Good. You’re being proactive.” That people are freaking out about pepper spray and saying things like that having it out is a sign of aggression makes no sense.

    2. Lady_Lessa*

      She sounds like a reasonable person, and with her taking public transit late at night, I can understand wanting some easily assessable protection.

    3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      The question remains whether
      1) her workplace bans bringing defensive sprays onto the premises.
      2) only her individual manager bans them

      If either, leave the spray at home
      If neither, she should ask her manager why the security scrutiny.

    4. H.Regalis*

      The management’s reaction in that situation is so goddamn weird. Carrying pepper spray/mace seems fairly innocuous to me. I can definitely see having that on my keychain for emergencies. I live in an urban area so all of my scary encounters have been with people, not animals; but it’s be useful for either.

      Also, you can’t commit mass murder with pepper spray. That’s the biggest difference to me with this vs. “I want to bring my AK to work.”

      1. AReally*

        Yeah, women carrying pepper spray is really ubiquitous in the US, especially if taking public transit/walking alone at night. I’m really surprised by all the negative reactions to it.

      2. AReally*

        Yeah, women carrying pepper spray in the US is so ubiquitous, I wouldn’t even think to be upset about it. It’s a defensive measure and non-lethal, and especially gives some peace of mind when taking public transit/walking along after dark. I’m really surprised by all of the negative reactions to it.

        1. AReally*

          Darn, thought the first reply hadn’t gone through and then I decided I worded it better lol. Oh well.

        2. metadata minion*

          I’m kind of curious now if this is a regional thing (I’m in the urban/suburban Northeast) or if I’ve just never noticed my friends carrying pepper spray. I can’t remember anyone ever mentioning doing so.

          1. AReally*

            Interesting! I’ve lived in the southwestern US my whole life and it seems very common here. I’d be interested in that kind of regional data!

    5. Random Dice*

      And that the company has barred all employees from contacting HR, so the managers are out of control.

      And that she has a contract for what sounds like retail, so not the US.

    6. Flipperty*

      OP2 stated that she’s Canadian. Pepper spray is illegal in Canada.

      OP also stated that she works in a store in a city. There is no risk from wild animals in a city, and wolves generally bear very very little risk to humans, and only under certain circumstances.

      And OP had pepper spray on her belt while on the shop floor in front of customers, where there were likely children around, and had to be told not to wear a weapon that’s illegal in her country in front of customers.

      The store she works for sounds like a nightmare, but that does show poor judgement. And unfortunately retail workers do get treated very differently from office workers.

  43. ZugTheMegasaurus*

    Re: #3, I have to recount one of the most mortifying moments of my entire life. I was in law school and had a morning class with a prof who was extremely strict about lateness. I had been watching the X-Files on my laptop the night before and when I woke up it was in sleep mode, so I just closed it, shoved it in my bag, and went to catch the train. The train was late and maybe 8 of us ended up running to class and bursting through the door several minutes late. I took my usual seat in the front row and opened up my laptop.

    The laptop started waking up when it completely froze – it still had the X-Files from the night before loaded up. Anybody remember the episode where Scully sees the UFO at the bridge? Where she’s just repeatedly going, “OH, OH MY GOD”? Yeah, it was that, blaring at full volume repeating the same 5 seconds over and over, sounded EXACTLY like porn, and I could NOT TURN IT OFF. I tried holding the power button, muffling the speakers with my jacket, nothing helped. It didn’t stop until I flipped the laptop over and ripped the battery out (thankfully I’d forgotten to charge it overnight or that wouldn’t have worked either).

    That was over 10 years ago and I’m still deeply humiliated just remembering it. I hate to think what the 100 other people in the room must have thought of me.

    1. laser99*

      Don’t be deeply humiliated. It was embarrassing, but everyone else forgot about it.

    2. OP3isme*

      Op3 here—as I told another commenter, that DOES make me feel a lot better. I’m just sorry it came at your expense. I probably would have dropped out of law school if that had happened to me.

  44. cardigarden*


    I was in my first week of student teaching (9th grade) and forgot (somehow didn’t notice??) that the documentary on the French Revolution that my own AP European history teacher used displayed close-ups of VERY pornographic pamphlets that were used to discredit Marie Antoinette. It felt like I was sprinting an entire football field to get from my desk to the front of the classroom to skip ahead. I spent the next week at least worrying about parent communications.

  45. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #3 I once had a persistent virus on my workstation…

    For weeks, every now & then I’d click a legitimate work video and a man’s voice would bellow
    “Hey everybody, I’m watching porno, Yippeee!”

    I’d immediately shut it down and announce loudly it was that bloody virus again and my delightful colleagues (all blokes) would chime in with “Oh yeah?” in English or German.

    People remembered that for years

  46. Quill*

    @ OP 3, my first day on my first non internship job, I discovered that the laptop I had inherited from my predecessor contained a virus that turned the homepage of google into a wall of genitalia. My then boss was on an afternoon long conference call and I was too embarrassed to ask for help, so I used a colleague’s laptop to google how to remove a virus and removed it (and a bunch of random bloatware) by hand. It took me all day.

    The next day, I asked my boss what information I needed to reinstall the antivirus, which was clearly down if yesterday’s virus was any indication, and he just blinked at me. “If you’re worried about it, go download a free trial,” he said.

    … In hindsight, I should both have quit the job then and that my predecessor might have done that as revenge.

  47. Who Am I*

    Taking OP2 at her word that she needs the pepper spray for her commute from the office to public transport (and presumably from there to home), what do people propose she do for self defense if she’s not allowed to even have it locked up in her locker during the day? I’ve never carried pepper spray though plenty of women I’ve worked with over the years have and do. I have walked with my keys between my fingers before and there are places that, if I had to walk or take public transport regularly I would absolutely have pepper spray on me. Of course my office building is located in a small city where pepper spray is commonplace (I’m WFH now so it’s a moot point for me personally). In fact, after an incident in another, nearby building, a police officer came and spoke to us about safety. He recommended we all get and carry pepper spray, told us what to look for, and even some places to buy it.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      What do her coworkers do? Surely some of them must have a similar commute.

  48. Milfred*

    “The Gift of Fear” is a book about how we should trust our gut instincts and not brush off little signals about people that indicate we are in danger.

    Maybe the pepper spray letter writer should consider if they are giving off other signals that are making those around him feel unsafe,

    The company’s reaction seems over the top (at least to me). But maybe in their eyes it’s not a first time incident, but yet another in a list of impressions the LW is giving that is making that worry those around him.

      1. Random Dice*


        Or just a vulnerable woman in retail, working at a company where managers have figured out how to block hourly workers from being able to contact HR at all. (From the LW’s follow-up comment.)

    1. SnappinTerrapin*

      Lots of possibilities exist.

      Even when employees have the legal right to be armed for self protection on the way to and from work, the employer can prohibit possession of the weapon in the workplace.

      Employers can also choose ineffective and inefficient actions like assigning security to follow someone around to watch them use the weapon, instead of simply giving the employee the choice to comply with the policy or seek employment elsewhere.

      Whether or not we give LW2 the benefit of assuming the truth of her account, we know her employer has more effective options available to persuade her to follow their rules.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      The author of that book has said on a few occasions that women are statistically unlikely to be violent to strangers, to the extent he tells you to direct your lost kids to a woman and the OP is a woman.

    3. OP#2*

      I’m not sure what first time incident they could refer to, I started pretty recently and stay out of trouble. Also this is a little random but what does LW stand for lol

  49. TrueStory*

    #3, I really wouldn’t worry about it. This should help put it in perspective. When I was 25 or so and working as a paralegal, I had an office next to an attorney at another small firm. There were 3 small firms on our floor. One day, I heard a woman’s ecstatic moan. Huh. Strange. I wonder what that was about? I carry on with my work, and I hear it again. Exactly the same. Okay, so it’s a recording. After several more times, I put together that he set his computer sound to moan every time he opened or closed a window. Um, okay, strange choice. But, whatever. This goes on for a couple of weeks. I’m walking right by his office one day and I hear it again, so I say, “So, I’ve been meaning to ask, because I hear it, like A LOT, what’s up with that?” Then he proceeds to tell me about how he’s about to lecture, at a well known university, the law around BDSM. Oh, okay. Then he pulls up his PowerPoint slide show, complete with images and gives me a rundown of BDSM clubs and how he is counsel for many of them. Um, okay, I didn’t ask for the details. “Well, good luck with that!” And I get the heck out of there. Fast forward a few months and my boss has something come up at the last minute and asks BDSM lawyer to cover a hearing for him. We give him the file and he covers the hearing. Everything’s fine. He returns the file to me. As I’m putting it away, a bunch of loose papers fall out. I collect them to put them away, and realize these aren’t part of the file. These are… applications to the various BDSM clubs he runs. No kidding. Wow. There were lots of questions on each application and lots of unusual responses. There was a highly amusing email address that I remember to this day. Here’s the thing though. I just returned the papers to him, like no big deal, “Here, I think you left these in our file.” And no one ever spoke of it again. The End.

  50. OP3isme*

    OP3 here—wow. I’ve read some wild stories today in the comments section, and no disrespect to the other posters, but I think this has to take the cake! I appreciate you helping me put my experience in perspective.

    1. TrueStory*

      Thanks for giving me a reason to tell it. It’s one of my favorite stories from my legal days. As you can imagine, there aren’t many scenarios in which I can casually bring it up.

  51. OP#2*

    Hey it’s OP2! It’s my first time on the blog so I never realized how chaotic scrolling through comments could get lol. Mini update on the situation: I made two requests to contact HR to the managers and they have been very passive (not giving a yes or a no) or plain ignoring me and my emails. I’m keeping the spray in my locker before every shift but tension is still high. I got critiques from the manager first thing in the morning for doing a “bad job today” the moment my shift started lol can’t magically clean the whole store within a minute of my shift starting but okay. I still get managers following me, there’s pressure on everyone. More of my coworkers are quitting, we’re heavily understaffed, everyone’s asked to take extra shifts, I’m job searching, HR is unreachable and the store is a mess!

  52. Anna*

    I’m sorry you’re going through that OP, it sounds like a shitty situation. Best of luck on the job search!

  53. Pam Poovey*

    I get asking #2 not to have their spray on them on the work floor, but it’s not exactly uncommon for people to have it? Especially if LW is a woman, a keychain pepper spray is pretty normal to me. Sad that it has to be but I have a hard time believing they’ve never seen someone with it before.

  54. Anony776*

    1. My first job isn’t what I signed on for and there’s no communication

    although I am not in my first job out of college, I did start a new job in the middle of the pandemic when everyone was still entirety remote and was the newbie in the team when the rest had many years of developed relationships in the office together so definitely felt like an outcast. been a few years remote and I still feel like that so you are not alone. I think if you leave for another remote job, then it will be the same no matter where you go because this is how working remotely is. sounds like you would want to find a role that is either in person or hybrid. that would be the best change for you since you are starting out

  55. Overordering Anonymous*

    At a former workplace, we would have regular “team lunches” that the company would pay for, usually at an Asian restaurant where meals would cost about $10 each, which were tasty, generous serves and good value. There a few guys in my team who would each order 3 meals, eat one at the time, and then get the other two to take-away. This happened every time and everyone just laughed at them / joked about it. Deliberately over ordering and then taking away was not in the spirit of “team lunch” in my opinion.

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