updates: the gnat-infested office, the all-staff emails about mistakes, and more

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager and I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

There will be more posts than usual this week, so keep checking back throughout the day.

1. My coworkers’ plants have infested the office with gnats (#3 at the link)

I have kind of a bizarre update? So, I finally banded my coworkers together to help pin down which plant (or plants) were causing the issue. Good news: it was only 1 that had the problem. Bad news: it was belonged coworker who has been absent for personal reasons.

One of the more plant savvy people offered to take the plant and try to remedy the situation and asked our manager to notify the coworker so they weren’t blindsided by its disappearance. Which, my manager did.

My manager and I are fairly close and she shared (possibly shouldn’t have, I’m not sure, it’s too weird of a situation) that the coworker admitted to knowing it was infested and didn’t want it in their home while they were on leave so they brought it in to the office.

There is already some weird tension in the office with this coworker and things are weirder now. Not sure how it will play out upon their return.

2. My coworker sends an all-staff email any time someone makes a mistake (#3 at the link)

I think Jane was just really unhappy! She was certainly underpaid and underappreciated by the higher-ups, and though we got along outside of our occasional brushes against each other regarding purchases, I understand now that she was just all-around frustrated. She wound up finding a remote position, and in our brief communications since she left, she seems much more engaged and excited about her new job.

The big update is that after I wrote to you and while working at home during the first year and a half of the pandemic, I began taking courses to allow me to switch careers. My boss was supportive, and though I am still in the midst of my degree, when Jane left, I put my name forward to fill her position. So now I do Jane’s job! I know even more intimately now the ins and outs of how difficult our purchasing can be, and I’m still learning every day. I’m much happier doing this work than my previous role, I’ve implemented new systems, and I’ve received feedback that my coworkers appreciate my approach as well. After serving in an interim position for six months, I was just hired permanently and given a promotion.

Thanks for answering my initial question. I think about it often when I come up against a problem, and I use my past frustration to guide the way I treat others.

3. Can I negotiate more time before I start my new job so I can help my old job replace me? (#3 at the link)

I only worked the two week notice period, and it was an absolute misery. For two straight weeks, I was browbeaten for leaving, told I would get fired at New Job, told how I would fail – they even offered to let me stay for exactly zero dollars in an increase in salary. The abuse was ridiculous, and I’m convinced I have PTSD from it since it was everyone there browbeating me to stay.

I’m glad to say that I’ve been at my new job four months, and I’m enjoying it. It’s so different from where I was that it’s like night and day. It’s nice to not be the “it” person for every little thing that comes along. My boss is kind and hasn’t given me any indication that he’s not like that all the time. Everyone else in the office gets along, and it’s just very refreshing from where I left.

Thank you for your advice! I’ll always remember it in the future!

4. Am I the only one excited to return to the office?

About two years ago, I wrote you asking if I was the only one excited to go back to the office. I saw the call for updates on your page and while I didn’t submit a terribly interesting question, I thought I’d give you one. Going back to the office remained more or less optional, and while I tried to go pretty regularly, I was definitely an outlier among my colleagues. I ended up getting laid off from that job this past fall, and found a new one that’s 100% remote for non-COVID reasons. I like my new job much better, it’s the same kind of work but in a different industry. Sometimes I still feel nostalgic passing by a suburban office building. Maybe someday I’ll find my way back to one.

Also, as a side note, this blog was quite helpful when I was job hunting at the end of last year after being laid off. Thank you!

{ 146 comments… read them below }

  1. Allornone*

    How does someone knowingly infect their entire office with gnats and think that it’s okay? Not cool.

    1. Snell*

      Well, there was already weird tension with the coworker before the gnats. So the coworker being a weird jerk is consistent.

      1. Liz the Snackbrarian*

        I know LW is probably hold off from sharing full details for privacy reasons, but I am so curious as to what the phrase weird tension means.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Like, given that, I’m perplexed that the coworker confessed.

        Maybe this is a multi-tiered plan and they are moving to the next phase, like stealing all the sugar packets?

        1. ZugTheMegasaurus*

          That’s exactly what I was thinking too! I can understand not wanting gnats around; it’s tremendously crappy and inconsiderate to put the gnats in someone ELSE’S space (instead of, like, outside), but I can at least *understand* the motivation. But why in the world would you ever admit it?!

        2. ecnaseener*

          My guess is they just don’t care about looking like a jerk – they’re probably the type of coworker who brazenly steals lunches and stuff like that, and then shrugs their shoulders about it.

        3. GammaGirl1908*

          I think the colleague is very disgruntled and has planned a long list of petty inconveniences for the office.

          Step 1: infest the office with gnats.

          Step 2: wet the carpets on the Friday of a long weekend in the summer so everyone comes back to the pervasive smell of mildew.

          Step 3: sign everyone up for a lot of spam email lists.

          Step 4: disable the locks on the bathroom stalls so everyone is always walking in on one another.

          Step 6: Set random people’s computers to other time zones so they miss meetings.

          Step 7: Swap out the regular coffee for decaf and the decaf for triple espresso.

          Et cetera.

            1. GammaGirl1908*

              Ha, I guess Step 5 is to be the left to the imagination, like the Noodle Incident.

              I did once hear of someone breaking up with someone, and unscrewing the hollow posts of their bed and curtain rods and dropping a bunch of raw jumbo shrimp in there to rot

              Not sure how you’d translate that to an office, though.

        4. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

          This was my first question too — and I can’t decide whether or not that makes me a sociopath.

        5. Boof*

          My guess is they aren’t a liar but also really don’t consider other people until confronted by the fact; somehow just don’t connect that shoving a problem away from yourself without actually addressing it or solving it in anyway can actually made it someone else’s problem! But yeah why not just… throw it out. On both sides of this equation.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            Hah! I know this kind of person. It’s like the concept that other people are capable of being inconvenienced is completely foreign to them.

    2. MsM*

      …At least it’s not bees, I guess? (Or at least literal ones? There very well might be some figurative ones involved.)

    3. Antilles*

      That’s some top-shelf Somebody Else’s Problem logic right there.
      If it was up to me, the minute I learned that it was knowingly intentional, that plant would be carried to the parking lot dumpster. You clearly don’t care enough about the plant to deal with the problem properly, so why should I?

    4. Lilac*

      Honestly, “the plant died and we don’t know why” is a soft lie and totally plausible. Just throw it out!! Why suffer a fool’s gnats?

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Plants die! It’s not unusual. You should not grow houseplants if you couldn’t adjust to the death of a vermin-infested one that you’re storing far from your house because of the vermin.

        There was a book where a character was an avatar of death, and she decided to sell plants in the afterlife, and her boyfriend was worried about this choice in terms of it all crashing and burning on her, but it turned out that death was very integral to plant growing and she did really well.

            1. BethDH*

              Thanks! My library even has the ebook available.
              AAMers really come through for me with appropriately quirky and novel book recommendations.

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                I’m just finishing up a series now that I started after reading at thread on it here (Andrea Vernon and the Corporation for UltraHuman Protection)

        1. Lady_Lessa*

          I, too, would like to know the title/author of the book you suggested.

          Thank you in advance.

        2. Curious*

          Plant “ownership” in an office can be weird. I’ve known people who specifically don’t want a plant in their home, but will allow to overrun the office. Bonus points, when they go on leave, they want someone else (at the office) to take care of the plant. I ignore all requests.

          The gnat situation is just rude.

      2. AngryOctopus*

        Even ‘oh the infestation was too far gone and the plant died” is perfectly adequate!

          1. Rose*

            Wow I was going to say that’s not the truth and then I thought about it, and realize there would not be any lies told. genius.

      3. Rose*

        This works well but TBH so does “that bug infestation was gross and not acceptable to foist onto the office so we got rid of the plant.”

      4. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, I feel like I’m missing something but maybe I just don’t get it because I’m not a plant person. But like… if you know a plant is infested and don’t want it in your house, why would you not just throw it away???

        1. Hannah Lee*

          You could be like me, and spend a month (months?) trying multiple solutions to control the issue, because it was an 2 ft tall avocado plant you had grown from seed and you really didn’t want to give up on it.
          And then finally, finally coming up with something that seems to work (periodically dousing the offending plan with a hydrogen peroxide solution)
          And then deciding to take the plant outside for a really thorough dousing one last time when you think it’s all clear but just want to make extra super sure but don’t want hydrogen peroxide splashing all over your living room.
          And when the plant is draining, outside, on an mulched section of the yard with no other plants within 3 feet of it, you decide to run a quick errand.
          And when you come back 45 minutes later, your lawn service has been there … and sliced the thing down with a string trimmer.

          Like … why were they operating a string trimmer on a 10 sq ft section of mulch? And did they not notice the obvious ornamental pot and realize that the very small tree in it was something that did not need to be taken down? Ah, well, you give up a control when you outsource I guess.

      1. HipsAndMakers*

        Can’t stand it, I know your plant’s sick
        I’ma pitch it out, this nasty sprout
        I can’t stand insects when I’m in here
        Cause your diseased plant is making nasty air
        So while you sit back and wonder why
        I’ll take this pot and throw it outside
        Oh my god, it’s no mirage
        We’re shutting down Gnat Sabotage!

    5. Artemesia*

      I would have when no one was looking – maybe ‘working late’ one night, have scooped this plant up and put it in a giant garbage bag and disposed of it on the way home from work.

      1. redflagday701*

        Yes, this is a “somebody solves the problem and nobody else knows who it was, so they can’t accidentally blow your cover” situation if ever there were one.

    6. Observer*

      How does someone knowingly infect their entire office with gnats and think that it’s okay?

      That’s a good question. It’s totally not surprising that there is “already” some tension with this person.

    7. kiki*

      This is definitely not cool, but also… why would the infester reveal this extra layer to anyone! They 100% could have just said, “Oh, I’m sorry! Do whatever you need to take care of the gnat issue.” Them revealing they knew about the issue and brought the plant in anyway either means they are a honey badger and just do not care OR really didn’t think this was an antagonistic thing to do. Just wild!

    8. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

      She deliberately left that plant there when she knew it was infested and that there were other office plants. Gross.

    9. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      yeah we’re gonna need another update for when the colleague gets back!
      I do hope the plant-savvy colleague managed to remedy the situation, but then I’d say they deserve to keep the plant. The other colleague definitely doesn’t deserve to get it back if they let it get infested and pushed the infestation onto their colleagues!

    10. Quill*

      Yeah, that went from a case of carelessness or obliviousness to sheer What The Fruitcake?

  2. GreyjoyGardens*

    #1: “My plant has gnats, and I don’t want my home infested [understandable] so I’m going to bring it to the office so I can fob the gnats off on them! [wtf?]” No wonder there is “weird tension” with this coworker, if this is the way they handle problems. I hope this can be worked out somehow, even if it means the coworker takes themselves and their gnats to somewhere else.

    #2: Hooray! This is a win for both Jane (who has a job more suited to her) and for you (who is more suited for that position)! Congratulations. Glad to hear everything is going well for you, and that you have learned from your frustrations how others feel and how to treat them. And a promotional and a raise! Happy ending!

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I’m speculating, but I’m betting this is the “Oh, copier is out of paper. I will just not print my document,” and walks back to desk.

      1. GreyjoyGardens*

        LMAO. Years (ahem, a couple decades) ago, I had a boss who was so fed up with people using the copier and then just leaving it when it either ran out of paper, or jammed, that she put a sign up above the copier saying “Do NOT walk away from the copier if it is jammed or out of paper! [Name] will hunt you down and find you if you try and hide!” I look back and wonder how she would have dealt with gnats.

    2. HE Admin*

      The irony of the matter is that it’s probably fungus gnats, which like wet soil. If the coworker had just left the plant alone at home while they were gone, the soil would have dried out and the gnat problem would have solved itself. Bringing it into the office where it could get watered only prolonged the issue, in addition to now bothering other people.

  3. Peanut Hamper*

    #1: I’m glad that it was just the one plant.

    I’m also glad that OP didn’t take some commenters’ advice to dose all the plants in the office with insecticide. That would definitely have been overkill.

    1. Jojo*

      I’m wondering if watering the infested plant with salt water might hasten it’s removal from the office. (Not that I’d have a problem throwing out a still living gnat infested plant, but it sounds like someone does.)

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Age has made me utilitarian in many ways.
        Henrietta’s plant has bugs. Henrietta will be out for X weeks. Henrietta’s plant needs to be dumped.
        If Henrietta left Tupperware in the fridge and she were my sit-near-me-coworker and I’d seen it a couple days after she went on leave, I would clean it out and wash it. If it grew mold because nobody noticed it for a couple weeks, it would go out.

    2. Rainbow*

      If they’re fungus gnats (my guess but I’m no gardener), you can get rid of them by putting sharp sand or a thing called Celite/diatomaceous earth over the top of the soil. It’s kinda grim if you look into it, but it stops the larvae from being able to grow up. Well actually it kills them. In a pretty grim way. Anyway, you would only have to treat the plants with the fungus the larvae like to eat, which is often localized to a pot.

      1. Good Luck*

        I am a bit of a gardener and diatomaceous earth and sand don’t really work! Fungus gnats (which these almost definitely are) are VERY HARD to get rid of and many of the suggestions don’t actually work.

        In my experience, the only things that does are: powdered mosquito bits (you have to order a big bag, and the dunks-in-watering-can do not really work), bottom watering (where you put the pot in the sink to soak up water from the bottom drainage hole), and aggressive underwatering+yellow sticky traps (takes longer to work than the other options).

        Off topic, but just in case anyone else is suffering with them!

        1. Lyudie*

          Newish to plants myself (just houseplants) and if a coworker knowingly brought a fungus gnat-infested plant to the office (you can apparently carry various pets home on your clothing, you’re welcome for that nightmare) I would be livid. I’ve avoided them thus far and would be extremely displeased to get them because of someone else.

          1. Lyudie*

            *pests, not pets, though I suppose you could consider particularly bad infestations as pets

            1. Quill*

              I mean, that jumping spider that moved onto my balcony is looking pretty friendly… Might carry some bug pests home for my arachnid pet.

  4. ENFP in Texas*

    I’m so glad #3 sent an update and only did the two-week notice. It sounds like they are far better off, and things would have been much worse if they had offered Old Job an extended notice period out of a misguided sense of “loyalty”.

    1. Antilles*

      Given how they responded, I’m fairly confident that the ‘process of finding a replacement’ would dragged on for a couple months of “we’re in the process” and guilt-tripping enough to keep OP on the hook till the other offer disappears.

      The only question is whether this is followed by them eventually replacing OP anyways (as a punishment for disloyalty), at a time that’s convenient for them.

      1. Rose*

        Yuppp, and the way this place sounds, I wouldn’t be shocked if when OPs offer finally was pulled, the company would probably find someone more junior to do the work cheaper.

    2. Kit*

      They are, and I think the only way they would have been even better off is if they had informed Old Job that if the abuse didn’t cease, their notice period would shift to ‘right now, bye Felicia.’

    3. Artemesia*

      So glad the OP had the good sense to take Alison’s advice. It is too bad, that the second time the boss harassed her and abused her, she didn’t just pack up and let them know her resignation was now immediate due to their abusive behavior. There is on good rec coming from this place anyway — so subjecting yourself to abuse for two weeks is not something you had to do.

      It may have been a financial necessity and you soldiered on, but in such a case you have to be able to disassociate from the abuse — literally look at the raging boss as an interesting zoo animal.

      but you triumphed. Didn’t allow yourself to be sucked back in. Have a great new job.

    4. BethDH*

      Yes, it sounds so much better! Even before I went back to the original letter I could tell how bad it was by how tentative they sound about whether they can trust new boss’ seeming niceness. Bad workplaces cast such a long shadow.

  5. Wendy Darling*

    Has LW1’s coworker not heard of the outdoors? Because that is definitely where I put my plants with a gnat problem that I don’t want in my house!

  6. Jessica Ganschen*

    I feel like if you’re already close with someone at the office, it would probably be okay to ask if they would take care of the plant for a while. It’d be a pretty big favor, being full of gnats and all, but it rarely hurts to ask politely. Just dropping it in the office though? That’s beyond unacceptable.

    1. Dover*

      I think it would be a little weird to ask a coworker to fix your infested plants (unless maybe they’re an avid gardener and enjoy that type of thing?), but bringing it to the office and risking spreading the bugs is totally unacceptable whether a coworker agrees or not.

  7. Kathleen*

    The manager would clearly be in the right to bag up that plant and throw it in the dumpster. Then give the worker a stern wtf talk

    1. Dover*

      Agreed. The plant parent had only two reasonable courses of action: replant and try to fix it or throw it out. Bring it into the office was not reasonable.

  8. Richard Hershberger*

    #4 is interesting: The LW was eager to get back to the office, yet ended up with “tried to go pretty regularly.” I would be interested in seeing that expanded upon.

    1. Michelle Smith*

      I’m not LW4, but I acted much like them when I started a new job last summer. I tried to go into the office every day at first, barring personal things I needed to take care of like doctor’s appointments or deliveries I needed to be home for. The reason I wanted to go into the office was to socialize with coworkers and get to know them — after all, I was brand new! I quickly found that the reason for me to go to the office wasn’t panning out. No one hardly ever showed up and if they did, they weren’t people on my immediate team or my larger department. LW4 may be similar in that the reasons they wanted to return to the office being realized depended on other people either feeling the same way or showing up with any degree of regularity. Being isolated at the office is not always preferable to being isolated at home and the motivation to return to office can wane when you’re still isolated but also losing personal time and money from a commute.

      1. Brooklyn*

        This was my experience. I am grateful that at this point, enough people have started to come in regularly that I have made and kept connections, but no one on my team does, so those connections are mostly social.

        I don’t want everyone to be forced back to the office, but I do wish companies would realize that the WFH/WFO office binary a spectrum. I want to be next to the other people that prefer to work from the office! I don’t want a desk next to someone who comes in once a month.

      2. Silver Robin*

        +1 I still go into the office reasonably regularly, but I do it because I work better there and have mail duty occasionally. I would be happy to be even more regular/consistent *if* it meant seeing my coworkers more. But they come in rarely, so I am pretty relaxed about pushing myself to the office and all the transit that entails.

    2. the cat ears*

      this is me, kind of. I have a coworking space I pay for and it’s entirely optional for me to show up, but my mental health tends to be better when I go at least a couple times a week. It’s a different sort of decision when you have to go entirely on your own willpower and nobody is holding you to it. It becomes something you feel you “should” do more often, like flossing your teeth or packing a lunch rather than going out, but it’s a lot easier to say “eh, I’d rather stay in bed another half-hour” and have that lead to a work from home day when nobody is expecting or needing you there.

      1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        If I may, your self talk here is part of the problem. No one but you is telling you that you “should” go in.

        If you genuinely don’t want or need to, then free up some money and stop going. If, on the other hand, you know your mental health is better when you go in, then I have to wonder why you are knowingly hurting yourself by not going in?

        I mean, I get it, I used to be the queen of staying up too late and being miserable the next day. Until I got a medical problem that means I have physical pain if I don’t get enough sleep – that’s a real motivator. But you are sabotaging yourself, and it would be helpful to figure out why.

        1. the cat ears*

          I mean, congrats on your perfect willpower I guess, I’m glad your home is always spotless and your diet is perfectly balanced and you always get to bed exactly on time. I think most people struggle to balance the different goals they set for themselves, though.

        2. Silver Robin*

          Why are you giving unsolicited advice? It is a supremely common and human experience to know that doing X is helpful in the long run, but have difficulty finding the motivation for it in the short run.

          The whole point of the comment was that internal vs external expectations have different weights/calculus. That is just factual. And then they elaborated with an example. That is not an invitation to do life coaching.

          1. amoeba*

            Yup. And it’s also a very common experience that outside motivation helps (some people more than others, obviously!)

            But see yoga class in studio vs. yoga at home by yourself, running groups, gym buddies, programmes like weight watchers… accountability helps a lot!

        3. Joron Twiner*

          Either go in or don’t, whichever is more helpful to you. Do that every day. Glad we could solve that issue for the cat ears!

        4. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          yeah, it’s the same as going to the gym. You know it’ll do you good, you know you’ll feel great afterwards, but you just can’t be bothered. Gyms make a fortune out of people who’ll sign up for a year but only come in for a few weeks then drop out.

          1. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

            What’s weird is, I felt WORSE after going to a gym. It was a very unpleasant environment for me: too loud, the lighting hurt my eyes, and it smelled in the way all gyms do (I tried several) — metal soaked in sweat mixed with rubber. That trope that you’ll feel better is not an avross the board thing. plenty of us do not enjoy gyms, no matter whst you do with them. No, thanks.

            However, I have never been to a yoga studio I didn’t like! Very clean, very quiet, no smells, no loud music and sweaty people getting way too close. I haven’t been to one in awhile, but plan to restart soon, when I have the funds for it.

            1. Quill*

              I’d also like to find a yoga studio again but the no smells thing makes me want to beg you for recommendations, because the ones I have been to definitely had smells. Not metal, grease, rubber, sweat, and a halfhearted spraydown with isopropanol, but plenty of incense or febreeze!

    3. GreenShoes*

      Probably not that interesting. If they wanted to be in there but nobody else was going they probably gave up as it wasn’t worth the effort.

      “Going back to the office remained more or less optional, and while I tried to go pretty regularly, I was definitely an outlier among my colleagues.”

      I did the same… I was never anti-office or anti-wfh. We’re back to our precovid 3 days in office policy. I’m an outlier in my small office in that I don’t support local operations, so I don’t actually interact with anyone in that office during an average day (for work), coupled with the fact that on average there is about 3 people who are regularly there while I do make an effort to go in enough to keep my plant alive it’s not actually bringing anything to the party.

      So I have now gotten used to WFH and do that more than in office. Pre-covid there was a lot more activity in the office so even if I didn’t work day to day with people it was still interaction. I probably would go in a lot more often if there were more people there.

    4. biobotb*

      Maybe they were excited for the potential social interaction, but never got it because they were the only one going in regularly. If so, then why bother going in?

      1. LetterWriter4*

        Letter writer #4 here, that’s more or less exactly what happened. No point being in the office when no one else is there!

      2. Timothy (TRiG)*

        I was saying that I’d like to go back to the office, mostly to clear up space in my house (and in my brain, having more of a distinction between home and work). But (a) they’ve closed the office that was two minutes’ walk away, and opened a new one in an out-of-town retail park which is a bit of a pain to get to on foot or by bike, and (b) one of the people who is in the office told me cheerfully that they had the heating on on a very warm day when I was sitting home in shorts and t-shirt and with my windows open. So I’m staying at home for now.

    5. HoHumDrum*

      Not the LW, but I prefer working in-person in a general sense, but my work is hybrid and sometimes if I’ve had a busy week I might choose to work from home on a day that doesn’t require anything in-person. Somedays I would prefer to go into work but keep getting caught up with stuff at home, and can’t find a moment between work to commute in.

      I assumed the LW meant something similar- that they generally prefer to work in-person so they try to go in-person regularly but did choose sometimes to work from home. Or that the effort of commuting in sometimes made it hard to go on in, even if LW would actually prefer to be at work over home.

  9. Aquamarine*

    LW3 – good for you for standing firm! Their response sounded like essentially, “Despite being indispensable at this job, you’ll obviously be fired at your next job, so we’ll do you a favor and let you stay (for no extra money).” Yeah, no thanks.

    Glad you found somewhere better!

    1. ferrina*

      The old firm sounds like a purveyor of fine bananapants. That’s just ridiculous. I believe OP when they say they have PTSD- I certainly would! (OP, look up complex PTSD- it’s really common in abuse survivors, including workplace abuse).

      So glad OP did the 2 weeks and got out! Hope your new work is everything wonderful!

      1. OP #3*

        I came home crying every day, because it got so bad that my boss’s dad got in on it because, you know, we’re family. For some reason, I was determined to get those two weeks in, but I should have just cut it short.

        1. Boof*

          I was gonna say, that bad behavior deserves the cut direct! Shame on them.
          Also bizzaro behavior “treat OP3 like crap, that’ll show why they shouldn’t leave!” (uhhh?!) but I guess they’ve got the abuser method of management down pat

        2. allathian*

          I’m glad you got out of that horrible situation and I hope you won’t dwell too much on staying your two weeks. You were in an abusive workplace and abuse messes with your brain.

          I hope that if you ever find yourself crying every day, or even once a week or month, either at work or after work, that you’ll take it as a sign to start looking for a new job.

          For comparison, I’ve been at my current job for 15 years and I’ve cried maybe a handful of times in total because of my work, most of those when I was in my first trimester of pregnancy and cried several times a day at home about things that I normally just shrug at.

        3. PTSD Haver*

          Oh, sounds like my worst job then! Which is not where I originally got PTSD but which DEFINITELY made it worse, so if you feel it would help in any way, I strongly recommend looking into PTSD resources, even if some part of you tries to deny that it was “that bad.”

  10. Johannes Bols*

    Viz. being excited about returning to the office. I’m retired but I would have rather drunk spicy black ink than return to the office. That said, remember that co workers may have a bit of a chip on their shoulder now that you’re one big happy family again. If you find this to be the case, JUST BITE IT OFF! Joking aside, they may be grumpy. Remember, it’s not you.

  11. sushiroll*

    we just dealt with fungus gnats (well still dealing a little bit, they are still slightly hanging on) so #1 sucks extra in my eyes right now. we were able to deal with it (was at our home, only we had to deal with it – and FYI to yall, Mosquito Bits have been working!) but if we hadnt, that plant would have been in the garbage ASAP even though i am attached to it!

    1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      We had some little bugs that may well have been gnats, I don’t know. We were away for a couple of weeks, and came back to find that they are no longer here. Probably because of the plants drying out. I’m no longer watering them as religiously, thinking that the plants all survived the two week drought, and a couple of the orchids have flowered beautifully, so I was probably overwatering them.

  12. Analyst*

    i feel like OP3’s situation would be a perfect example of a time where they would have been justified in just cutting their notice short due to mistreatment. yikes.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Learning the hard way is always the most effective way. Here’s to an abuse-free career for you!

  13. Gender Menace*

    Man, I had read the original posting of #3 a few weeks ago when I was trying to figure out the transition period between my current job and a new one. I ended up asking for 3 weeks before starting, which my new company gladly granted. And while it helped me REALLY make sure I had my ducks in a row before leaving this position- oh, how I wish I’d stuck with the traditional 2. I’m so burnt out on trying to make sure everything is going to be as good as it can be, and coordination between locations and all of it. Plus, the emotional axe over my head of an extra week of work while also trying to onboard for a new job has been so hard.

    Lesson learned. Two weeks is enough, and give myself more than one weekend between jobs.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      Note to all: Most jobs you are transitioning into will be happy to give you three weeks before you start, because they think you will work a two-week notice and then take a week off to start the new job refreshed!

      I’m sorry you didn’t get that break, Gender Menace.

    2. Antilles*

      Presuming you can financially afford it, I’d always recommend giving two weeks notice, asking for three, and taking the extra week off to recharge.

    3. Daisy-dog*

      I gave almost 3 weeks notice when I left my last job. The first 2 weeks were pretty much a waste while I took a few notes and didn’t start new projects. Then they got a temp to come in that last week and I trained her on the basics. I was quitting without a new role lined up because I knew I mentally couldn’t manage the upcoming projects. But even without something lined up, giving more than 2 weeks wasn’t worth my time (except for the continued paycheck).

  14. AnonToday*

    My boss, who infested our department with plant gnats, has now moved the gnat infested plant to another part of the building where it will surely infest whatever else is there. They’re not usually this obtuse, it’s really weird.

  15. Observer*

    #3 – How much notice to give.

    This is classic negging. I’m so glad you’re out of there.

  16. Observer*

    #1 – Gnat infested office.

    So, firstly you have a truly problematic coworker. It’s no wonder that there have been “weird” tensions, and I imagine that it won’t get any better.

    Especially since your manager is a problem, too. This is not something she should have shared with you. Sure, it’s not the WORST thing she could have done, but still it was not appropriate. It makes me wonder how discreet she is in general and how she handles interpersonal problems that affect the office.

    1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Yeah that was pretty weird. But I’d be glad to know, so that I know not to ever go above an beyond for that colleague.
      I’m looking forward to the next update, for sure!

  17. Confused*

    “the coworker admitted to knowing it was infested and didn’t want it in their home while they were on leave so they brought it in to the office.”

    What?????? My brain is short-circuiting trying to imagine how this seemed like a good idea.

  18. DrSalty*

    My guess is #1’s coworker was overwhelmed and just dumped the plant at the office so they didn’t have to deal with it while also dealing with whatever problem they are taking extended leave from work for. I bet they were planning to take it back someday. Obviously that’s still not ok.

    Fungus gnats are not like bed bugs or mosquitos, they are mostly harmless and relatively easy to get rid of, you just have to put a little work in. Maybe that felt like too much while also dealing with new baby/sick family member/recovering from surgery/mental health leave/etc etc.

    Again, a poor decision and not very considerate, but many people make bad decisions when stressed.

      1. Kara*

        I’m gathering from this thread that I’m in the minority, but to me plants are a living thing and a responsibility, and I would offer to adopt a sickly plant before I would ever just throw it away.

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          Me too, but then I’m often shocked at how people talk about throwing things out here. I pride myself on throwing very little away: I take books to the free library, clothes to the second-hand shop or textile recycling bin, any plant matter to the compost… I try to only buy items in recyclable packaging, and I reuse and reduce rather than throw away.
          The plant probably just needs a bit of healthy neglect. We had a few gnats and they disappeared after we were away for two weeks without anyone to water the plants, so maybe that plant needed to dry out a bit.

    1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      I agree. Fungus gnats might take a while to eradicate completely because you have to cut off the life cycle and let the existing ones die off, but generally it’s pretty simple to get rid of them. House plants can be expensive, depending on the kind — I have several that cost about $50 when I bought them, and now that they’re big, they would be worth well over $100 to sell. And a lot of people don’t just throw away a living thing that they have taken care of. Think of it like a pet fish — sure, if the fish tank stinks, I could just throw the whole thing out…fish and all, I guess.

      She might be more ignorant than inconsiderate though. She might have brought it in thinking that a new location with cool dry conditions (like a lot of offices) would end the life cycle of the gnats.

  19. KatEnigma*

    LW1: No, your boss shouldn’t have shared that. The coworker should have also denied all knowledge.

    But the commentariat and apple cider vinegar helped me knock down a gnat problem in my kitchen, thanks to your letter, so thanks for writing it!

  20. Tommy Girl*

    Why didn’t this woman just toss her gnatted out plant in the garbage? Presumably she didn’t have another place to put it like a porch/outside, so she thought HER OFFICE was a good spot? Garbage then! I don’t get this obsessive plant saving. People must have way more time and energy than I do. A friend gave me 40 (!!!!) little cacti for a gift once. I don’t keep plants inside because of my cat. He loves to chew on them and it’s not worth the risk to me. I don’t care if certain sites safe they’re safe, I still don’t want to risk it, had a friend with tons of plants whose cat died of liver failure at only age 3 :-( Anyway, I did feel bad about all those little cacti, but gosh almighty was that a ton of work to rehome all those little guys. I did it though!

    1. fhqwhgads*

      Right, like…if I leave the plant in my home, my home becomes infested. If I leave the plant outside, it dies/ I don’t have anywhere outside. If I leave the plant in my office, either my office becomes infested while I’m not there for weeks and someone else chooses to take care of the plant anyway OR my office is temporarily infested and nobody chooses to take care of the plant for me so it dies in the office after infesting the office.
      Half the possibilities involve a dead plant. So no one at the office is obligated to not throw out the plant.

    2. Snell*

      If you knew nothing about someone’s interests, I could see giving them one (1) cactus as a gift, but 40??? That’s like, a gift for someone who does cacti for enjoyment, like, really for enjoyment.

      1. Snell*

        To be honest, I myself am actually at “I would truly appreciate 40 little cactuses as a gift”-level of cactus enjoyment, but I’m still aware that it’s really a lot of cactus.

        1. Contrast*

          I collect cacti. I have close to 40 plants (a few non-cacti) that I packed into my car for a cross country move. I am aware that it’s really a lot of cactus, and I still want more. :)

      2. Le Sigh*

        I know the point of Tommy Girl’s comment wasn’t really about 40 cacti, but I really can’t get past the 40 cacti. I will fully commit to a good bit and even beat it into the ground…but 40 cacti?

        1. Snell*

          Well, if they were “little cacti,” I’m picturing 2-inch nursery pots, which is the least unwieldy way I can picture this going down. One of my favorite places for succulents and cacti sells mostly 2-inch or 5-inch pots, so 40 of those seems like a bulk deal or something. But 40 2-inch pots is still a gift for a known cactus enthusiast, not a neutral generic well-wishing. If they were bigger, like 40 cuttings of a columnar species, that’s getting into “Here are some freebies for your specialty landscaping business” territory.

  21. Junior Assistant Peon*

    #2 – I admit I was guilty of this at a past job. The job was a bait-and-switch and my boss was a snake. My frustration soured my interactions with my coworkers, and I never gave anyone the benefit of the doubt over a minor mistake.

    1. Observer*

      That’s a really unhealthy way to cope. I’m glad you’re out of there.

      But this person was even worse. The all staff emails go well beyond not giving people the benefit of the doubt. I’m glad she’s happier, though.

  22. Courageous cat*

    Every interviewer I talk to (on the interviews I’m currently going on) is shocked when they find out that I’m looking for a primarily on-site job. Apparently it’s the minority lately.

    (I tried a new job remotely once and it did NOT work out for me – I don’t know how you guys can handle being on Zoom all day training on new complex processes without being able to be there in person. It’s exhausting.)

    I am so much mentally healthier when I’m in the office interacting with other human beings.

    1. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

      If oyu really wander how other people can do remote, I reckon it’s mostly different personalities and job conditions.

      My job changed (same employer, different responsibilities) and I learned several new complex process completely remotely during the initial pandemic lockdown. I was in the office fulltime before that, and have been back in the office full time since lockdown was lifted. In the last little while I’ve moved from a high in-person interaction area to a satellite office where much of my interaction with the main office/other departments is virtual even though we are all on site. Basically I’ve sampled all the most popular flavors and found out which ones work for me.

      I’m mentally healthier when I’m interacting with fewer human beings, and I tend to learn complex processes from written or video documentation and getting asynchronous feedback on practice cases, better than from in-person coaching, unless the process is something primarily social/interactive (building relationships with clients/stakeholders, most of whom are in-person oriented) or intensely physical (how to use equipment or navigate a space).

      Neither remote nor in-person/on site is universally better; different personalities and different job functions just fit better with one or the other.

      1. Le Sigh*

        +1. I have coworkers who were bouncing off the walls by month three of lockdowns because they do better around other people and/or have jobs that don’t translate well on Zoom. Even now, with few people in the office, they go in pretty regularly bc they like the mental separation of work/personal.

        Whereas myself, well, I absolutely benefit from social interaction, but it zaps my energy, so being able to limit it (and put less time into things like getting ready, getting up earlier, etc.) really helps. I occasionally have a day of meetings, but most of the time it’s 1-2 and I’m otherwise focused on getting work out the door and approved. I’m also a creature of routine and it really, really helps my focus to be able to control my workspace, which I can do much better at home. I absolutely could see myself doing a hybrid schedule — I like my coworkers and I do miss the lunchroom/coffee chat and other benefits — but until more people are going in, I’m not going to haul myself across town.

    2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      I WFH very happily. I’m independent and have no meetings. But for my volunteer work, zoom meetings were really draining, so I’m only prepared to do them in person.

  23. Aquamarine*

    I once infested my office with gnats – so embarrassing. So then I went on vacation, leaving the gnats to do their thing.

    No, I didn’t! Only the first part is true, and I got the plant out of there and never had the courage to bring in another plant again.

  24. Anonymous Pygmy Possum*

    OP4 – This may not be an option where you live, but it may be worth it to look into a coworking space if you miss seeing other humans in a work context or if you just need a separate space. I also started a 100% remote job after I was one of the first people coming during the pandemic at my last one (I found I just couldn’t concentrate at home, plus I lived alone). I knew I wanted that separate space, so I rent a personal desk from a space. It’s great to mentally separate work in that way, if that appeals to you.

  25. Comms Dir*

    There is ZERO chance I would complete a 2 week notice period while being abused.

    People, you owe your former employer NOTHING. Just burn the bridge and save yourself

  26. Don't Be Longsuffering*

    OP 3. Also, you are not obligated to work the full two weeks while being berated. You can say “I won’t be treated this way. Today is my last day.” Then pick up your stuff and leave. For good.

Comments are closed.