an affair with cocaine and lies is tanking my promotion, is my email address a problem, and more

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

1. An office affair with cocaine and lies is tanking my promotion

I work in a tiny company with no HR and a manager who openly plays favorites. Two people (both not single) are involved in a sexual relationship that involves doing cocaine at work (this is confirmed). My manager sees them as perfect angels.

In order to cover their tracks, they have told several people in my office that I am starting rumors about them. I didn’t even know any of this was happening until very recently.

My boss is one of the people they are speaking to about me. They are telling her that I am treating them inappropriately and unprofessionally, in hopes that if anything comes out it can be brushed off as me starting rumors. My boss, who plays favorites, told another one of my colleagues that she believes them even though she hasn’t seen me do anything because those two “would never have a reason to lie to her.” She told my colleague that because of this she might have to stop the promotion I was supposed to be getting or give it to me on trial basis. My boss isn’t speaking to me or treating me the same way. I didn’t know why until I found out what was going on.

I feel used and there is literally nothing I can do. The other people who know have no reason to speak up. I’m about three months away from my two-year anniversary. I can’t sleep, I haven’t been able to eat. I have constant heart palpitations. I want to leave but I will look like a job hopper. I have worked so hard for the promotion I am about to lose.

In theory you could try to unravel this with your boss, telling her what’s actually going on and pointing out that you have no reason to lie to her either. But you already know your boss is problematic, she’s looking especially problematic here (she’s not even talking to you about her concerns, just telling your coworker she might have to pull your promotion?!), it’s a tiny company with no HR, and it all sounds like a toxic mess. On top of all that, you’re at the point that you’re having heart palpitations and the situation is harming your sleep, health, and mental well-being. Why not just get out?

You’ve been there close to two years, so you’re not going to look like a job hopper if you move on. The exception to this would be if you have a long string of very short stays (a year or less) and this was finally going to be the job that let you get a solid stay of three or fours on your resume. But frankly, even then, you’re still almost certainly better off leaving a situation that’s affecting your health in this way.

I know it sucks to feel you have to leave a job because of other people’s behavior when you didn’t do anything wrong yourself. But even without the health issues, a job at this company doesn’t sound like a situation that would be worth putting a ton of energy into trying to salvage. There’s nothing wrong with deciding to just wash your hands of it all.

2. Does my email address look like a Nazi dog whistle?

Years ago when I opened my main personal account, I followed the general trend at the time and ended up with the address I’m emailing you from now. It’s (for example “”). Problem is, turns out that the last two digits of my birth year (88) happen to also have a neo-Nazi double meaning. I didn’t make the connection until a few weeks ago and I feel pretty dumb about that.

No one has ever said anything about it and I’m not sure if anyone else has noticed, but how bad is this? Should I change my personal email address? I’ve used this address for well over a decade and most of my accounts are tied to it. It’s on every form I’ve ever filled out and it’s the address that I give professional contacts when they need my personal email. I’m not currently job searching, but if I put this on future job applications, will people assume I’m a white supremacist? I’m not particularly attached to using this address, it would just be a ton of hassle to change everything to a new account. Am I overthinking this?

People are likely to assume it’s your birth year since that’s such a common formulation.

That said … if you want to be absolutely safe and you’re open to changing it, err on the side of changing it. You can easily set up the old one to forward to the new one so you don’t miss any emails.

In fact, it’s not a bad idea to change it anyway, since it can be problematic to include info that signals your age when you’re applying for jobs.

But you shouldn’t feel dumb about not knowing about a Nazi dog whistle until recently. Part of the point of dog whistles is that they fly under the radar, although this one is starting to become more recognized.

3. Is this networking request weird?

I work at a small company and we’re hiring for a new position. I’ll be involved in this process later on but two other people are handling initial resume screenings (this person will report to me on some projects, which is reflected in the job description/posting, but I won’t be their primary manager). Last week, I received this email: “I’m applying for the job opening at your company and I saw in your bio on the website that we went to the same college. I’d like to learn a little more about the working environment at your company, and was also hoping I could pick your brain about our industry. Would you be willing to have a short call in the coming weeks?”

I was a little taken aback by the “learn more about the working environment” part (like does he want to pre-screen us before accepting a potential interview — which, to be clear, has not been offered yet?) but I don’t know a ton of people in our field from my college and I’m generally happy to talk with students or recent alumni. I checked in with the folks who are actually screening resumes, and one of them got back to me quickly and said this person was an excellent candidate and will definitely get an interview. So I responded and set up a Zoom (without revealing anything about his status as an applicant).

A couple days later, the other colleague (who will be the primary manager for this position) let me know that she had received THE EXACT SAME EMAIL. Word for word except with the college connection changed to a mutual acquaintance.

So now I feel like this is even weirder than I did initially, and a bit disingenuous. The call is already scheduled so I don’t feel like I can cancel it. I plan to keep it strictly networking and talk about the industry in general, and make clear that it is not a job interview (which by then he will know he is getting later). But should I address the weirdness of requesting a vibe check on a company before even being offered an interview? Or that sending an identical email to two people who sit next to each other is bound to get discovered? If so, how? (I should note also that this person is a recent grad but not an immediate one. They have some work experience and went to grad school.) How can I be helpful and also maintain proper boundaries? Especially since there’s a chance this person will end up getting the job!

This is actually a super normal networking thing that people do! Personally I think it’s a bit much before a candidate has even been invited to interview, but job seekers are regularly advised to do it at early stages. He’s not being weird! Even though I think he’s doing it slightly too early, it’s smart to try to learn more about the company to figure out if it’s a good fit, and candidates can learn things in informal conversations that they won’t always learn in the formal interview.

You, of course, are free to say no. I realize you’ve already accepted, but just for the future, it’s totally fine to say you aren’t involved in hiring at this stage but might have a chance to speak to him if he moves forward in the process, or any other way you want to decline. But the request itself doesn’t reflect badly on him. Nor do the near-identical emails, really — I mean, I wouldn’t advise someone to do it that way, but it’s not a huge deal that he did.

4. As a people person, how can I find the right company culture when I’m job-searching?

I am recently into my first job post-grad school and I am struggling with the company culture. I am a people person who loves being around and helping people, and I have crafted my career choices to match those preferences. I am very social and have often been told I could make friends with a fence-post. Unfortunately, my grad school experience in the U.S. was unexpectedly entirely remote in nature because of the pandemic, leaving me feeling very isolated. When I interviewed with my now-boss and his second-in-command and asked about the culture there, they talked a lot about collaboration and cohesion and lots of social functions, so it sounded right up my alley and a needed change from my grad school experience.

But at the three-month mark, I am finding this not to be the case. My small department of less than 10 people barely ever sees each other. Half the department works from home and the half in the office do not work near each other. We have a group chat but my efforts to be personable in it are often ignored. We have a weekly meeting that usually only lasts a half hour or so, and it’s all work talk. I have made an effort to learn about my coworkers and their lives but they seem uninterested. I am quite sad because, while I am good at the work I do, I do not feel like this is a good fit for me culture-wise. Even though they have done nothing wrong, I once again feel very isolated. I am not trying to disparage the company because I understand it is merely a mismatch in terms of how they work versus how I work, but I am still displeased with this situation.

I am committed to seeing this job out because it offers a lot of experience and networking options that I need to be an attractive candidate in my field of choice. But when I do shift in my career, I need to know how to better screen for this kind of fit as I would like to reduce my chances of going through this again. Could you provide some advice for how to find out more about how a company culture works versus how your interviewer thinks it works? I fully understand the limitations of this task but any guidance would be greatly appreciated. At the very least, I’d like to have hope that my next job won’t be this way.

I think the disconnect in the interview might have been that they were talking about collaboration and cohesion in work matters, whereas you were hoping for a more expansive definition of that — one that extended to a more social feel to the relationships people have with each other as well. It can be hard to screen for that in an interview, because you don’t want to come across as overly focused on the social (even though what you want is perfectly legitimate to prefer). You’ll probably have more luck getting an accurate feel for it by talking to people who work at the companies you’re considering outside of the formal interview process — using the tips I have here for doing due diligence to root out toxicity, but just applied to a different concern!

I’d also strongly recommend looking for a team that’s not remote or even hybrid; when people are all in the office full-time, the sort of culture you want is a lot more likely to develop. (Not guaranteed! But more likely.)

The other thing to consider is the type of work itself; some jobs lend themselves to more autonomous work, and others have interaction and relationship-building built in (think, for example, of accountant versus trainer).

5. Can I come back from a performance improvement plan?

I’m in a problem of my own doing. I recently got called into my manager’s office and told that I’m not doing enough work or working quickly enough to justify the hours assigned to my role. Consequently I got warned that I could be put on a performance improvement plan and I should be checking in with them daily so they can see my progress in the next few weeks. Obviously I’m concerned for my job, but is there any coming back from this? I completely own the fact that I could be working harder but should I be putting that energy towards looking for a new job?

It’s hard to say with certainty without knowing how bad things got, how likely you are to be able to improve to the level required, and how your office normally uses improvement plans. In some offices by the time you’re on a PIP, it’s pretty hard to come back from it — but in many more offices, PIPs are genuine attempts to help you meet the expectations of the job by clearly laying out what needs to change and giving you the opportunity to demonstrate that you can.

Without knowing more about your context, I’d say it’s smart to begin job searching in case things don’t end well … but I wouldn’t take it as a foregone conclusion that you’re going to be fired and would also put as much effort as you can into meeting your boss’s expectations. The clearer you are about specifically what success would look like and how that’s different from what you’ve been doing, the better (whereas if the guidance you’ve received is vague and just “do more, faster,” I’d be more worried — although the daily check-ins are an opportunity to try to get more aligned with your boss about that).

{ 659 comments… read them below }

  1. Harry*

    I recently saw a resume where the applicant’s email included the number 88, and it immediately made me wonder if she was secretly a white supremacist. I obviously considered that it could be her birth year…except that she appeared older, and her work and education history made it clear that she was not born in 1988. (Like, she would’ve had to have earned her first bachelor’s degree at age 12.) So then I was really concerned.

    I’m not a hiring manager, and the applicant was actually applying to be my boss, but my organization does team interviews where the resumes get passed around. I didn’t say anything, but I’m hoping she doesn’t get the job because then I’d always worry if my boss might be a Nazi…

    1. avaa*

      i mean, id be pretty concerned about an email ending in 1488 but 88 is pretty much just a common birth year

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          Yeah, I only became aware of it a few years ago. The code is that H is the 8th letter in the alphabet, so it becomes HH, which means Hail H*****r.

        2. Stuff*

          14 refers to the “14 Words”, which is a Neo-Nazi mantra:

          “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children”.

          By “secure the existence of our people”, what is meant is expelling or killing non-Whites, and this phrase was literally coined by a White supremacist terrorist who probably participated in the murder of a Jewish man.

          88 stands for the 8th letter of the alphabet, H, with HH standing for Heil Hitler.

          So 1488 basically means “We are White supremacists, Heil Hitler”. 88 could just innocently refer to a birth year, but slap on that 14, and the meaning is crystal clear.

          1. calonkat*

            This is a very educational site! I confess, I hang with a bunch of renaissance history buffs, and if I saw 1488, I might google it just to see what their interest is. The first results all refer to the bad things.

            Possibly they are huge James IV of Scotland fans, but outside a really select group, I’d question that date. Doesn’t seem to be “the year” most people would be interested in.

        3. Ann O'Nemity*

          I only recently heard about it, after a local business faced outrage for having 88 in their name. Although they had a reasonable explanation, some felt that people seeing the sign would think of Nazis and would not realize that the name was based on the company’s founding.

          And I think that’s the advice I would give the OP – even if there’s a good reason for 88, some people are just going to think of neo-Nazi hate groups.

          1. Frieda*

            I wonder if you’re in my area – was it a martial arts place that’s also opening a gun range and is affiliated with a failed medical lab? Because those guys are actually white supremacists, sorry to say.

          2. PlainJane*

            But why should people ACCEPT that meaning? Why just hand them something as common as a number and declare it verboten for anyone else? That’s ridiculous. They have no right to a number.

      1. Velawciraptor*

        Yes, but in the instance this person is noting, they say that it’s pretty clear they weren’t born in 88. Which is why they’re concerned, and understandably so.

        1. Uranus Wars*

          What if their kid was? Or that’s when they graduated from college? I am not saying that they aren’t a white supremacist, I am just grappling with the right course of action. Do you cut someone out of the running based on email alone or are there other ways to find out at the interview stage (assuming they are qualified).

    2. The Shenanigans*

      I think this is an important point. If I was hiring and it was clear through Google snooping that the 88 referred to a birth year, I’d probably be fine. I’d wonder if you just didn’t get the memo on this dog whistle, but that’s understandable if you haven’t. There are a LOT of these, and they shift rapidly. Even previously innocuous things like OK sign are being co opted at an alarming rate.

      That said, OP, now that you DO know, it would be a good idea to change it. Just use some variation of your name if you can. If your name is very common, and all variations are taken on gmail already, maybe add a city or job title to it eg JohnSmithIT or BostonJohnSmith.

      1. Maggie*

        Yeah I know quite a few people that have the OK hand symbol tattooed on them in not invisible spots. It was part of an inside joke a decade before that symbol had any association with hate groups. We’re old and they’ve had these tattoos for well over a decade at this point, probably more like 16-17 years. And now there are people who would see this and think they’re members of a hate group which is insane!

        1. Valancy Trinit*

          I’m hoping that’s the explanation for why one of my new coworkers has a Deus Vult tattoo. I did immediately assume “mega fascist” but I concede it could have another meaning.

          1. Diocletian Blobb*

            Don’t take a stranger’s word on the Internet as gospel on this, but I’ve never seen anyone use that phrase in anything other than a far-right context. It originated in the Crusades iirc, so there’s really never been any historical use of it that WASN’T white supremacist. (I’d love to be wrong about this and about your coworker.)

            1. Pescadero*

              “there’s really never been any historical use of it that WASN’T white supremacist”

              I’d argue Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan’s use wasn’t white supremacist.

              1. The Shenanigans*

                I am not familiar with that person. Would you mind explaining briefly please?

                1. Pescadero*

                  Mahan is a very famous US admiral and Naval Historian (wrote the seminal work _The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660–1783_ in 1890) who used the expression Deus Vult for his argument that Christianity and warfare had a great deal in common –

                  “‘Deus vult!’ say I. It was the cry of the Crusaders and of the Puritans and I doubt if man ever uttered a nobler”

        2. Stuff*

          I really hope none of the Norse stuff tattooed on my arm ever becomes White nationalist symbolism. As of right now, none of it is, I was very careful about that. I just hope I never have to regret my artwork in the future.

          1. JustaTech*

            Yeah, it’s really frustrating. My cousin was really getting into celebrating our Norse heritage recently (it’s real, we’ve got the genealogists to prove it), and I had to be like “dude, I’m really happy you’re super excited for this, but it’s like deer hunting in a swamp, you’ve got to be incredibly careful where you step or you’ll get sucked into a morass.”

          2. Donkey Hotey*

            Good luck. A close friend recently had to cover over her Othala (family and home) rune because it has started catching on among the skinheads.

          3. PlainJane*

            You don’t. They cannot claim these things unless people allow them to do so. We have to stop allowing it by getting skittish. They do not own numbers, they do not own runes, and they do not own the German language or any of the other supposed “dog whistles.” Use them regularly and freely and any connection will soon be lost.

        3. The Shenanigans*

          Yeah, a friend of mine loves the Punisher and has the original symbol inked on his arm. He’s not hateful in any way at all, but unfortunately, a lot of hate groups have co-opted Punisher. This means they clearly haven’t read or watched anything about him. Or, they haven’t understood anything they read or watched. Punisher would, well, punish the hate groups.

          I do wish non-hateful people would fight for some of these symbols and characters and not just give up so easily. It’s so frustrating.

        4. Zeus*

          There’s a business near me that has a large mural of that signal from when it was just a meme. I don’t know if anyone’s told them that the connotation has changed or not, but it could be unfortunate if someone driving past thought that’s what it meant.

        5. zuzu*

          I had a hairdresser assigned to me by the salon after my regular gal moved to Texas. This hairdresser was good, but she was sloooooooooow. Like, an hour and a half for a haircut slow. I gave her a second chance, thinking maybe she had an off day or something.

          And during that second haircut? She was wearing a skirt and I could see the Nazi-skinhead tattoo on her leg. It took me a little time to decipher it, because it was backwards and she was moving around a lot, but I could not believe she was freaking openly sporting that thing at work. My guess is that since everyone else there was about 15-20 years younger, they had no clue what it meant.

          And suddenly, our conversation during the previous appointment where I’d joked that I wanted to shave off all my hair every summer and she told me she had shaved her head in the ’90s took on a whole different meaning.

        1. Salsa Your Face*

          Also Jewish, and with a family member who was born on 8/8/88. Her love for the number 8 has obviously been tarnished.

          1. Sharkie*

            Yeah…. I have a cousin with that same birthdate too. We used to call him super lucky since 8 is a lucky number in some cultures but now its just awkward.

            1. Garrett*

              Yeah my birthday is August 8 and I have an “8” tattoo I got a number of years ago. I almost got “88” but now am glad I didn’t. I don’t think most people really make the connection but it is still a bit awkward.

              1. AnkleGrooni*

                My birthday is also 8/8. Did you know on 8/8/88 the Cubs played their first night game? Which was rained out in a spectacular way?

                1. Broadway Duchess*

                  That would be the first thing I thought of if I saw 8/8/88. That was my first Cubs game and it is legend in our family!

          2. Ann Nonymous*

            Not the same, but my daughter was born on 9/11 (years before the event) so that often gives people pause, especially since her dad is Saudi!

            1. Avery*

              We’ve got a family friend who was born on that date too, decades beforehand. My parents used to have a mental block about when her birthday was… then 2001 happened and they didn’t have that particular problem anymore. But she’s self-conscious about it and sometimes claims her birthday’s the 12th.

      2. Constance Lloyd*

        My first and middle initials are in my email address, which I created in the aughts to search for colleges. They are now profanity laden slang. Think… SmithAF @ email provider. I would rather not change it, so I make sure to use all three of my names when filling out job applications and writing resumes and hope that’s enough for hiring managers to see I’m not just swearing in my email for fun. I’m not sure how to effectively do this with a birth year, so I think I would create a new address for job searching to be safe.

        1. Huttj*

          Depending on your email provider you can format it and it will go to the same address.

          Like, with google you could do on work emails, which might flow better.

          I think – lets you add stuff on gmail addresses and have it be the same, though less useful in this case, like, though that’s more useful for signing up to store websites so you know where the same got the address from.

          For other addresses you should be able to look up if there’s formatting options.

          1. Mad Harry Crewe*

            For gmail it’s + to add an alias: smithaf+jobhunt@gmail delivers to the same inbox as smithaf@gmail

        2. Emilia Bedelia*

          If you have a Gmail account, my suggestion would be to add periods when filling out your email – eg, “Smith.A.F@gmail”
          Gmail doesn’t recognize periods in the email address, so emails to “smithaf, “smith.a.f”, “s.m.i.t.h.a.f” are all the same, but at least to me it looks more “initial”-y with the periods.

        3. Sharkie*

          OH NO… those are my sisters initials as well and I haven’t even thought about that. lol. I don’t think it should be a huge deal if you put the middle initial on your resume.

        4. The Shenanigans*

          Yeah, I think I would just smile for a second, but it wouldn’t be a problem like, say, 14WordsAF would be a problem.

      3. Two Pop Tarts*

        A group of people on 4chan decided to see if they could make the OK sign a hate symbol as a joke–AS A JOKE.

        No white supremacist had ever used it. Up until that time it’s only meaning was “OK”. Within days news stories started popping up about it being a hate symbol (proving the gullibility of the press).

        It has always irked me that a group of immature pranksters (not white supremacist) turned a perfectly good hand gesture people had been using for decades into something hateful.

        I can’t find any evidence (either using google or an ai search) that white supremacist groups have adopted the OK sign. It just looks like the prank that won’t go away.

        1. xylocopa*

          Oh, there have now been several cases of white supremacists using the symbol. The Wikipedia article lists quite a few. It started as a joke but now people in hate groups are using it–probably feeling like the joke history adds to the gesture’s plausible deniability.

          1. xylocopa*

            Rather than “in hate groups” it might be more accurate to say “sympathetic to that ideology.” I’m sure there are plenty of people who sympathize with white supremacist ideas without officially joining any groups.

            Which is sadly part of the problem and power of dogwhistles. Some people use them as (racist) half-jokes or “just to get a [racist] rise out of people” without necessarily being actively affiliated with any groups–but they’re still people who are at the very least fine with using that racist symbolism. Most people using the number 88 or the ok gesture are probably unaware! But there are enough people who DO use those knowingly that it’s fair to be worried.

            It sucks.

            1. ShanShan*

              In Nickel and Dimed, Barbra Ehrenreich said she realized that there’s no such thing as pretending to be a waitress in order to write a memoir. If you pick up food, carry it to tables, and get paid for it, then you’re a waitress.

              The same is true of white supremacists. There’s no such thing as pretending to be one. If you say things that harm people of color and make other white supremacists feel supported and acceptable, then you’re a white supremacist.

              It doesn’t matter why you’re doing it. At the end of the day, food either gets to the table or it doesn’t.

              1. xylocopa*

                Exactly. That’s what I was getting at – sorry if it was unclear. The “pretend” “ironic” “joking” “just for laughs” hate is exactly as harmful.

              2. Banana Tuxedo Junction*

                This. Bigots will try to hide behind the “it’s a joke!” banner, but if you do anything ironically more than once, you will eventually start doing it unironically.

              3. The Shenanigans*

                Yes, I make this case all the time to people! If Random Person is sitting at a table with white supremacists (either a physical or metaphorical one), I’m gonna assume Random is at least neutral to those views. If Random doesn’t want me to think that, they need to walk away. Otherwise, well, I can’t be blamed for treating them the same way I would a card-carrying member of ACME White Pride*. That’s the only way my queer disabled pagan female ass can be safe.

                *Not a real group as far as I know, but you get the idea.

            2. Coconutty*

              What actual difference do you think it makes if a white supremacist is or is not formally affiliated with an organized group?

              1. xylocopa*

                Very little! Sorry, I added that because people can get very coy about saying “oh well he’s not a Nazi, he’s not a white supremacist, he’s not [whatever], he’s never claimed affiliation with any hate group.” For instance, downthread we had Two Pop Tarts saying how few people identify as Nazis. Well duh, most people aren’t going to say “oh yeah I’m a Nazi.” They’re still participating in the hate.

                I wanted to make the distinction specifically -because- people will point to not being officially affiliated with any known supremacist organization as part of their deniability.

        2. Anony-mouse*

          The Anti-Defamation League added the OK sign to their “Hate on Display” database in 2019. According to an NPR article, it did indeed start on 4chan and 8chan, but spread outside those circles and was picked up by white supremacists. The Christchurch shooter flashed it in the courtroom when he was on trial for the mosque shootings. According to the NYT also in 2019, Roger Stone flashed it when he met with the Proud Boys and the US military had to investigate after cadets at an Army/Navy game flashed it on a TV broadcast. It was also flashed by rioters during the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. It may have started as a prank, but actual white supremacists and far right activists and politicians have used it and successfully changed its meaning. Symbols shift meaning overtime and unfortunately this one has shifted to a meaning full of hate.

          1. Disabled trans lesbian*

            In addition to that, the *chan boards are very well known for being a hotspot for far-right hate groups, so if it’s on a *chan board, chances are very high that far-right hate groups are actually using it.

        3. bamcheeks*

          Yeah, but that’s how fascism has always worked. The dividing line between true, sincere fascists and people who think fascism is good for a laugh is wafer thin, and the damage is as likely to be done by either group.

        4. Lenora Rose*

          Yes, that’s how it started. However, A: Ironic white supremacism still supports white supremacists and harms their victims, and B: I have some doubts about your research, because it definitely has been taken on since then by people who really think those odious things, and C: “It’s just a joke” becomes a way to provide cover for sincerely passing the beliefs along.

          Do I assume anyone on the street or in a loud space flashing the ok symbol at a friend to say everything is fine is a white surpremacist? No, it has other uses.

          Do I notice when it suddenly crops up in a very large number of photos of people who have also, coincidentally, marched in the same marches as people with confederate flags or swastika even though they don’t wave those themselves, or with people who wear assault rifle lapel pins instead of American flags, or who keep “coincidentally”
          retweeting and liking the slightly more innocuous tweets by people who also tweet odious hatred? Oh, hell, yeah.

        5. Pyanfar*

          And, it must be difficult for people who communicate in ASL…isn’t the sign for the letter f similar to the ok sign?

          1. NeutralJanet*

            Presumably people who understand ASL are aware of this meaning. I personally don’t know ASL, but if you’re clearly signing and in the course of signing, you use a hand sign that can be a dogwhistle for white supremacy, I can still figure out from context that it’s probably an ASL thing.

            1. Disabled trans lesbian*

              Nobody who is actually signing would use a single letter without any context, so any sign user would use multiple signs which would provide the context.

      4. So Tired*

        I would be wary of putting a city in an email address, just because if you use it for future job searches it could make it harder to get remote jobs or jobs you’d be willing to move for, if people associate you with a different city.

    3. it's my birthday soon*

      I can’t say whether it’s true of this applicant, but some of us were born on August 8! It was in my AIM handle at one point, and I’m relieved I didn’t end up putting it in the email address I’ve had since roughly the same time.

    4. Madge*

      Another thought might be it’s the year a child was born or they were married or 8 is their lucky number (as it is in China, for example).

      I was born in 1988 and I’m glad I never used my birth year in my email. But I don’t think LW should worry unless they also have other things that are innocent but might contribute to the impression (like, I don’t know, they were the head of a norse culture club in college? I fortunately don’t know many racist dogwhistles off the top of my head…)

    5. Maggie*

      This is a little out there my friend… you’re hoping someone doesn’t get hired because they had “88” in their email? That seems kinda extreme. I don’t think even 10% of people even know this reference.

      1. Exile*

        I wouldn’t pay any attention to seeing 88 in an email etc at all. It can be a variety of valid reasons that someone has selected that date outside of a love for Austrians with tiny moustaches.

        Also email addresses can auto suggest adding numbers on creation when first set up if the original wanted name isn’t available. Mine is my name and 84, I paid no attention it could quite as easily been 88 and given how long ago I set it up it wouldn’t have registered.

        Of course of LW is worried about potential bias on the side of hiring managers etc that have automatically assumed any reference to 88 is a red flag the advice to change is valid.

        1. Golden*

          Very true about the auto suggestion! Club Penguin suggested 2 numbers for my username back when I was a kid, and I’ve been using them in my online handles ever since.

        2. lyonite*

          In the early days of message boards, I went to make an account somewhere and since my name was taken it automatically added some numbers. (Not 88, fortunately.) It was easy to remember, so I’ve been using variations on it ever since, though the numbers mean nothing to me. So I wouldn’t necessarily worry about the candidate, but I agree about the value of the advice to the OP.

        3. Llama Llama Workplace Drama*

          Here in the Kansas City area a lot of people have used 88 in reference to Tony Gonzales who played for the chiefs. There are so many reasons one could use 88 but an email address really is a simple thing to change so I could go either way.

      2. Mockingjay*

        I had no idea about 88 until I saw this thread today.

        There are so many superstitions and attributions about numbers. I have enough to manage in my life without wondering whether an email address is code for something ominous. I’m not dismissing the power of symbolism by any means. But email addresses, especially name email addresses, often have numbers appended simply to differentiate you from the hundred other JohnSmiths I would have never thought the number had another meaning.

        1. ShanShan*

          I don’t want to guilt trip you in any way, but I do want to respectfully remind you that not feeling compelled to worry about whether or not your coworker is covertly signalling membership in a hate group is a privilege.

          1. Jackalope*

            I mean… kind of? But I’m also a member of two minority groups that have been attacked a lot in the last few years (both directly and indirectly), and…, It’s already enough work trying to stay on top of any laws the haters are trying to (and often succeeding at) pass(ing), and paying attention to see which people in power are supporting this. I’m honestly too tired to try to keep up on all of the dog whistles and slang used by hate groups to tell each other that they hate me. Not to mention it was taking an emotional toll to listen to their lies and nonsense about me and others in my groups. So I try to be informed in areas where I can make a difference (voting, phone calls, money donations), and do my best to keep myself safe, but other than that I avoid their online stomping grounds for my own mental health.

          2. RussianInTexas*

            As a Jew who knows what 88 means, I would never jump to the Nazi assumption first.

        2. Lenora Rose*

          I’m less likely to view it with suspicion in an email, especially an “obviously had this for a while” email, than in something like a social media handle.

          1. The Shenanigans*

            Yeah, I’d wonder. But a decent Google search would tell me one way or another. White supremacists who have hate symbols in their email address are often not subtle online in general.

            Honestly, I’d wonder more about why they haven’t moved on from AOL or Ymail than about an 88 if it was an older address.

            1. Emikyu*

              Yeah, I think this is a good point. Anyone willing to try and broadcast hate speech in an email address they use for job-seeking is probably not going to be keeping those views under wraps, you know? So you probably don’t have to wonder for long – you’ll hear the slurs (or at least more obvious dog-whistles) and know their views pretty quickly.

        3. Rubber Ducky*

          I’m with you. I pride myself on sincerely trying to be sensitive to and as aware as I can possibly be about anything that could appear to be discrminatory, hateful, offensive, etc. but at some point I just have to stop looking for something sinister in everything. It’s exhausting. I had never until today even heard of the other implications of this number despite feeling that I’m fairly in touch with cultural things. I graduated from high school in 1988! I don’t use 88 for anything but it’s totally feasible that I might have at some point in time simply because it was a year that has signifigance to me and it’s easy to remember.

    6. learnedthehardway*

      It might not be a birth date, but it could be another date. I wouldn’t assume anything about it, personally.

      My email address references because my school had us all convert our school emails to Gmail when we graduated and no longer had access to the email service at the school. Our emails are / were forwarded, but we didn’t have access to our inboxes.

      Which is why I am apparently a couple decades younger than I am, if you go by my email address.

    7. Flower*

      Personally I wouldn’t assume anything based on two digits with multiple innocent meanings (own birth year, birth year of child, own or child’s birthday is on the 8th of August, apparently a lucky number in China,…) but it would be worrying in combination with other things.

      Not everyone spends as much time dealing with this stuff or on the internet – I hadn’t even heard of this before this very letter, and I’m not exactly old.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Doesn’t two eights mean double happiness in China? I also have a two digit year in my email address that definitely doesn’t add up to my birth year; it’s simply the year that I decided to set up a new account.

        1. Anna*

          ‘Eight’ (ba) sounds a lot like ‘get rich’ (fa), that’s why 8 is a lucky number, and the more eights, the better. 88, 888, 88888888… Phone numbers and license plates with lots of eights are worth more, and thus usually used by rich people.

        2. Beth*

          The Boeing jet developed for the Asian market was the 787. Boeing made the decision to go up to that model number in part because it was good marketing for the target.

        3. Lily Rowan*

          Yeah, there’s a Chinese-American restaurant near me that has all the prices ending in .88, which is fine, except they made their lunch special $14.88. I sent them a note letting them know that’s a Nazi number.

            1. Good Enough For Government Work*

              88 – the 8th letter of the alphabet is H, so Neo-Nazi groups use 88 to mean HH – i.e., Heil H*tler.

              14 or references to ‘the 14 words’ — it’s a white supremacist slogan or creed/oath. Begins ‘we must secure’ if you want to look it up.

              Source: I was born on the 14th of the month in the year 1988. And quickly learnt why I shouldn’t put either of those numbers in my online handles…

          1. Beany*

            Are we really better served by publicizing dog-whistle words and phrases that are obviously being used innocently by others? Isn’t that just serving to make the words and phrases more unacceptable by the rest of the community? To me, that sounds like doing the neo-Nazis’ job for them.

            1. Ominous Adversary*

              Yes, we are served better by warning others than by pretending if we don’t talk about it they will stay secret.

            2. Grammar Penguin*

              The point of dogwhistles is the ambiguity of the meaning. As long as it has this “secret” meaning, known only to the initiated, it is useful to them as a way of communicating recognition of and solidarity with *each other* without having to face social consequences of outing themselves.

              They use the dogwhistle and the like-minded respond positively while everyone else is oblivious. This is useful and powerful for them. They can communicate to each other with plausible deniability.

              Publicizing the dogwhistles makes them ineffective as dogwhistles. It denies the Nazis the plausible deniability they need to be Nazis in public without consequence.

            3. Nina*

              Uh, yes. The more people know that, the harder it becomes to hide nazi bullshit behind ‘no I just think Miles Coverdale (b. 1488) was super cool’ because a person with good intentions would be more likely to find a different tattoo design/handle/license plate/email address to express their love for an early modern translator.

          2. Retired Accountant*

            When I worked retail years ago a price ending in .88 meant final markdown. Numbers can mean so many things.

            1. Roland*

              The comment you’re replying to literally didn’t take issue with 88 by itself. In combination with 14 that’s when many reasonable people would want to know!

              1. Retired Accountant*

                We certainly would have things priced at $14.88, as well as probably every dollar amount between 1 and 50. Just as the Chinese restaurant had a menu priced with various amounts ending in .88. It is not reasonable in those contexts to view $14.88 as a dog whistle.

                1. Lenora Rose*

                  Someone elsewhere in the comments notes an explicitly white supremacist website making this one of their most common prices.

                  No, I would think nothing of it in a Chinese restaurant or a big chain store, but you’re pushing the point hard.

          3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            If the local tax rate is 7.5%*, $14.88 comes out to $16 even and $19-$19.25 total with ~20% tip. I could see that as a (naïve) strategy to reduce the amount of (spare) change required during a busy, rushed portion of the day.**

            *Our nearest big city is 7.5%.

            **I’d add $0.02 just to avoid the dog whistle. Until they start coopting $14.90.

      2. Thatoneoverthere*

        I have never heard of 88 being associated with Neo-Nazi’s until today. So it never would have occurred to me that it would be something nefarious.

        1. Haven’t picked a username yet*

          H is the 8th letter of the alphabet and Heil… is what it has been co-opted to represent.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            Where does this game end?

            I is the 9th number, and Ich is the word the Nazi leader used to refer to himself… 5+4 = 9… 1*(2+3+4) = 9… It’s like the 7 Degrees of Kevin Bacon game; is there anything we can’t trace back to early-to-mid 20th century Germany?

            I see 88 and I think of Lynn Swann and Andre Hastings.

            1. ThatGirl*

              Some things are more of a stretch than others, though, and 88 has definitely been co-opted by white supremacists.

              You can still use it if you want to – but I think it’s good to be aware of things that can be misconstrued.

            2. spiriferida*

              The thing is that what they’re doing, while insidious, isn’t novel or unique. We’ve already seen on the internet how references and languages can become memetic and rapidly evolve into something esoteric and incomprehensible to someone who doesn’t understand the references being made. It’s just that in these cases, the references being made are to fascist and antisemitic ideas. They’re doing it at once ironically and sincerely, which is why ostensibly silly or overwrought things can become dogwhistles. They use them as a “joke” to smokescreen their sincerely held bigotry. That said, the neo-nazis have a history of using this kind of numeric code, so it’s a reasonable claim to see it as a dogwhistle.

              Because they’re co-opting innocent things, no one instance is a declaration of Nazi identity, but for people who have particular reason to be wary of facists, it’s a caution sign. And for people who either want to align ourselves as explicitly anti-nazi or don’t want people to have that moment of hesitation, we have the choice either to keep using whatever they’ve co-opted and signpost our anti-facism in other ways, or avoid that particular symbol.

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                The thing is that what they’re doing, while insidious, isn’t novel or unique.

                Yea. If there’s one thing my time on this rock has taught me, it’s that crappy people are going to crap.

              2. Diocletian Blobb*

                So are we just supposed to keep letting neo-Nazis have whatever cultural symbols they want to appropriate? I get it, I wouldn’t want to go around with something that would make people question if I was a white supremacist (although I think OP is perfectly fine to keep their 88 email address), but it gives white supremacists a lot of cultural power to be able to define these things as “their own” and make normal people afraid to touch them. It’s a way to leverage their outsider status into something culturally powerful.

                1. ShanShan*

                  White supremacists have a lot of cultural power. There are ways to attempt to take it away from them, but just ignoring it isn’t one of them.

                2. The Shenanigans*

                  I agree with you both. On the one hand, it’s a disgrace to let white supremacists co-opt comic characters, numbers, Norse mythology, and medieval re-enactment. Kicking them out of these things – the culture generally – is possible but difficult. Reclaiming is definitely a thing, and we’ve done with words like queer. Frankly, it is lazy to just give up without a fight. On the other hand, there is such a thing as ruining something for everyone. The swastika used to be a religious symbol. The actions of the Nazis are so atrocious, though, that it cannot be used in the West at all now. But that’s different than just one or two or even ten white supremacist groups flashing a symbol. There’s a point in this process where regular, non-evil people can and should stand up and say, “Hang on. I’m not letting you people have THAT!”. And we definitely do not do that enough. We can’t ignore it, but we can’t roll over, either.

            3. Waiting on the bus*

              88 is a known symbol for Nazis. In Germany, many places prohibit using 88 or other numbers and letters that are associated with Nazi Germany on car plates, for example.

              I wouldn’t worry about an 88 in an email, but acting as if the association is overblown is absolutely false.

            4. Glen*

              but the thing is, 88 actually does appear in a lot of neonazi usernames online. It’s not something that people are making up, it’s not seven degrees of Nazi. It’s something actual Nazis are using in droves to identify themselves online.

            5. Grammar Penguin*

              Yes, it is a stupid and simple code that wouldn’t fool a child.

              Stupid and simple to the point of absurdity describes a lot of white supremacist ideas.

            6. Nina*

              It ends when everyone shuns people espousing nazi ideology and all the nazis either sort their act out or die, I don’t really care which. Publicization of currently-used nazi symbology? easier to spot and shun nazis. This is good, actually.

    8. MK*

      My YouTube handle ends in 88, I chose it randomly after the 20th failed attempt to register a user name that wasn’t already taken.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I got my number under similar circumstances; it was one that no one wanted 30+ years ago.

      2. The Shenanigans*

        Yeah, perhaps there was a reason no one wanted it. If you don’t want to change it, I strongly suggest a note on your channel page explaining it. Personally, I’d raise my eyebrows and proceed with caution. I’d care more about the content, of course. But it seems like a big risk to take. And, of course, I’d side-eye keeping it now that you know.

    9. Elle by the sea*

      Now this is good to know. 88 is my favourite number – if I have to give random numbers, I would give that. I had no idea it has any Neo-Nazi associations.

    10. Random Italian*

      My father’s email ends in 88 because 8 was a lucky number for our family and when my mother made it for him both [hisname] and [hisname]8 were already taken. Neither of them are Nazis or fascists, it’s just a coincidence and they only realised in the last few years that it has certain connotations (though according to my father the reasoning is that 88 looks like SS, not that H is the eighth letter). Honestly I wouldn’t read too much into someone using 88 in their email (or 18 for that matter).

      1. Donkey Hotey*

        If someone graduated high school in 1988, they are now approximately 53. Perhaps it’s time to let go of one’s high school identification?

    11. Fruitbird*

      My email address has an 88 because my birthyear was taken and I have a bad memory and picked two easily memorable numbers. The thought I might be associated with the same people my granddad fought does cause me some concern.

    12. bathing suit gown*

      “I didn’t say anything, but I’m hoping she doesn’t get the job because then I’d always worry if my boss might be a Nazi…”

      This is a joke, right? Lots of people were born in 1988 or on August 8. Lots of people sign up for an email address and realize that 1000 other people have taken some variation of “” so the system automatically assigns them “lastname.firstname88” instead. I work at a school where the student email addresses include 2-digit numbers but said numbers aren’t necessarily related to birth year, age, or even expected graduation year. So a student could very well have an “88” or even “69” or in their email handle.

      Neo-nazism is awful and you never really know what a person is like behind closed doors…but worrying about a potential new colleague being a fan of Adolf simply because of their very normal email address is honestly insane. And it’s honestly a slap in the face to people who have been victimized by Nazis, neo-nazis, and other hate groups.

      1. tinyhipsterboy*

        It might be a little overworrisome, but 88 *is* a relatively well-known dog whistle at this point legitimately used by neo-Nazis and sympathizers. The plausible deniability is part of what makes it a dog whistle in the first place, which also has the impact of making people who know about it feel like they have to look over their shoulders.

        Especially if they’re someone who’s been victimized by a hate group or is part of a marginalized community typically targeted by them. We don’t know if the OP of this comment thread has had experience with it–they might be someone prone to anxiety/overthinking, they might be well-intentioned and leaping to conclusions, etc.–but I think it’s unfair to say it’s a slap in the face to worry about it.

      2. The Shenanigans*

        I wouldn’t go that far. I think judging SOLELY on that email is a bit much, sure. But I would definitely be listening and looking for other dog-whistles. I’d be very concerned if they start talking about family values or America being great or if they play Jason Aldean over and over. It’s *A* potentially concerning piece of information but not THE deciding piece of information.

        I do find the attitude that “well, I didn’t know, and because of that, it’s not a problem now” to be more concerning than the 88 in the first place.

          1. ShanShan*

            Again, phrases like that are called “dog whistles.”

            The idea is that just like humans can’t hear a dog whistle but dogs can, these phrases sound normal to people who aren’t part of the group, but send a message that people who ARE part of the group recognize and understand.

            “Family values” is a common dog whistle for people who want to signal that they hate gay people/trans people/ single mothers/ feminists/ anyone who doesn’t fit the mold of a “traditional family.”

            The whole reason it’s a dog whistle instead of just, you know, a statement,is that it doesn’t sound bad to most people.

    13. londonedit*

      I think I must live under a rock, because although I’d heard of the 88 thing, there’s no way my first thought on seeing an email address on someone’s CV would be ‘I wonder if they’re secretly a white supremacist’. It just wouldn’t cross my mind! The only time I’ve really heard of 88 being a big thing was a couple of years ago, when a reality TV show here (along the lines of Bake Off but with wood crafts, if I remember rightly) was pulled off air because one of the contestants had a big 88 tattoo – and, it turned out, other tattoos relating to white supremacist stuff. No one on the production team, none of the presenters, none of the other contestants had a clue that anything was amiss – it wasn’t until the first couple of episodes aired, and the TV channel started getting people contacting them saying ‘Er…that bloke seems to have quite the collection of troubling body ink’ that they realised they had a problem. Apart from that, I haven’t really been aware of it being a big thing – and it certainly isn’t the first thing I’d think of just based on someone’s email address.

    14. L-squared*

      Or she could be born on August 8. Plenty of people don’t use the birth year, but month/day format.

      I feel like hoping someone doesn’t get the job based on nothing but a random hunch on an email seems a bit much.

    15. Penny*

      I’m of the age when the years in most of my friends’ emails are the year they graduated from high school or college, so if the applicant is that much older, it’s another possibility.

    16. Haven’t picked a username yet*

      My sons name is Aidan (he is 22 now) but when he was younger in our household I would shorten it to aidy (sounds like 80 said fast) and then is led to aidy-eight and in texts easily 88.

      I no longer call him by that cute lilting nickname.

      1. Dek*

        I mean. There are lots of outright nazis on social media, and even more people trying to be edgy. I don’t think it’s a good idea to inherently assume someone might be a nazi, especially because of numbers in an email address they used on a resume (doesn’t seem useful as a signal, which is sort of the point of a dog whistle), but I get a little kneejerk when I see it.

          1. Cheese Victim*

            There is absolutely a reason to be cautious: have you missed the rising bans on trans healthcare in the U.S.? on book bans? on bans intended to limit or prohibit entirely courses/lessons on racial injustice? Sure, no one outright said “I want to ban all mention of LGBTQ+ folx because I’m a Nazi,” but that’s the thing about Nazis in both historical and present contexts: most of them don’t openly state it. They drive in a wedge by “asking questions” or claiming to want to protect “our culture.” You don’t need a lot of openly aggressive Nazis to get results – you need one person who presents their arguments in a way that plays off other individuals’ insecurities. Maybe instead of doing your research via AI, you could try reading a history book.

            1. Two Pop Tarts*

              You’ve expanded the definiton of Nazi way beyond its historical meaning.

              By your description, anyone to the right of center (at least 1/2 of the people in the US–175 million people) would be defined as Nazis.

              1. Cheese Victim*

                I didn’t say that; you did. But definitely lecture me on the historical meaning of Nazism; one of the tragic things about online forums that often use pseudonyms to protect physical safety is that it’s impossible to know when the person you’re going off on is a historian of Modern Germany. Hi, that would be me. If you’d like to learn more about how, exactly, National Socialism spread in Germany, I can recommend some books for you.

                1. The Shenanigans*

                  Ooh, could you please recommend some books here or in an open thread? I’d be interested!

              2. ShanShan*

                Look, you can quibble about the terminology if that’s how you want to spend your energy.

                There really is a massive, powerful, mainstream movement in the US that wants to harm LGBTQ people, people of color, and Jews. They really are using tactics like book banning and weaponizing laws meant for other things. They really do engage in violence, both rhetorically (politicians “hinting” that people should be shot, hanged, etc.) and literally. And they really did try to overturn one election with violence. One election so far.

                If you don’t want to call those people Nazis, then that’s fine, I guess, but the terminology isn’t the issue.

              3. Ahnon4Thisss*

                Because we are not talking about Nazis in just their historical capacity? There are a large amount of people who identify as Neo-Nazis, and while they are inspired by historical Nazis, they are bigoted, holding those exact values the person you’re replying to described.

                A poll taken of Americans showed that 9% of Americans think holding white supremacist/Neo-Nazi views is acceptable. That is 29,790,000 people.

              4. DataSci*

                Have you heard the saying “If ten people are sitting at a table, and a Nazi sits down with them and they don’t do anything, there are eleven Nazis?” Yeah.

              5. Irish Teacher*

                Admittedly, I’m not American, but I definitely wouldn’t think that talking about those who want to ban books, trans healthcare and prohibit lessons of racial injustice includes anybody to the right of centre. Even our most right-wing party that actually gets seats in government…well, the leader of that party is both gay and his father was Indian (as in from India) and he is…one of the most right-wing people in our parliament in Ireland, to the point that my brother said he was one of only two people who was hoping for a John McCain victory in the US, when all the rest of our parliament would be team Obama.

                I would say that wanting to prohibit lessons on racial injustice is so far right as to be…well, something that would sound like parody if there weren’t real people calling for it.

              6. The Shenanigans*

                You’ve heard the saying, if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it is probably a duck, yes? Well, if you don’t want people to think you are a duck, then don’t act, look, or speak like a duck. Don’t defend ducks. Pretty simple, really.

                Also, where are you getting that half of Americans are rightwing? Current polls put it closer to 30%.

            2. domino*

              Thank you! I find it difficult to discuss this without violating the comment policy but this are scary times and people minimizing it is so frustrating.

          2. xylocopa*

            I’m guessing the majority of white supremacists and other hateful people don’t openly identify as Nazis, specifically, in polls. That doesn’t seem like a good metric.

          3. Ominous Adversary*

            You’re really out here defending people who are “ironic” Nazis? In 2023, when they have literally held terror marches and killed people?

            Oh, but let’s not be “paranoid” because I don’t want to feel bad about my pal who just likes getting a rise out of people?

            Sure, Jan.

          4. Critical Rolls*

            Do you think everyone with neonazi and white supremacist beliefs self-identifies as a Nazi?

            1. I Have RBF*


              IMO, for every person who identifies themselves as a literal Nazi, there are several hundred more white supremacists, generic racists, neo-Nazis, KKK members, etc.

              That’s why you don’t use AI, which is very literal, to do research like that.

              1. Dek*

                I don’t understand why anyone uses AI to do research at all, especially after that lawyer got caught with the fake cases. AI doesn’t think, it just provides the words in the order that its algorithm says you want

          5. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

            The problem is, someone who is making anti-Semitic remarks or “jokes” about hating people may “defend” himself by accusing you of having no sense of humor, or say that he was just trying to get a rise out of you. But that “defense” is saying “I’m not really evil, I just enjoy upsetting people.”

            From outside the person’s head, I don’t know whether to class him as “only” an obnoxious person who I don’t want to socialize with, or as a threat to my and other people’s safety.

            Either way, those remarks mean I and a lot of other people feel less safe, and that is a real harm: maybe that person who claims that Hitler wasn’t that bad wouldn’t violently attack anyone, but it’s one fewer person I can have a normal conversation with.

          6. Llama Llama Workplace Drama*

            I think it’s time to take off the rose colored glasses.

            First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

            Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist.

            Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

            Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

            —Martin Niemöller

          7. Dek*

            What do you mean by “using AI?”

            I don’t think everyone deliberately using nazi dogwhistles is also someone who would “identify as a nazi.” My kneejerk assumption isn’t even “Nazi!” so much as “potentially a nazi or an edgelord jerk.” The end result on social media is more or less the same thing–an unpleasant interaction.

            “There’s no reason to be paranoid that right wing Nazis are taking over the country or influencing anything. Their numbers are too small.”

            That’s kind of a silly thing to say. They don’t need to have the numbers to have the influence, or to put sympathetic people in power.

            All this to say, I don’t think most folks would automatically think OP is a nazi for having 88 in their email, but erring on the side of caution (for that reason and because of the actual information it gives) would probably be best.

      2. Cheese Victim*

        It’s not paranoia to ask or be cautious when organizations that track hate groups identify that symbol/code as commonly hate-affiliated. These symbols work/are effective in avoiding notice because they’re coded or subtle; the folks who know what they mean are most frequently people who align themselves with that ideology (they’re looking so they can find others) or those who are targeted (they’re looking so they can protect themselves). The portion of the public who is not in either group is less likely to be looking. A number in an email, on its own, wouldn’t raise concern for me for all the reasons articulated in this thread, but if the address were NorseGod88 or the candidate showed up with a punisher skull sticker on their laptop, the multiple signals would be a problem. I think our friends in this thread who didn’t know about the connotations of 88 are a little bit lucky, to be honest – but I also think, given the rising visibility of white supremacy in the U.S., it would be a good idea to learn a bit more about these symbols. I guarantee that if you’re in the U.S., you’ve seen at least one of them and not realized it was a hate symbol. (There’s a reason people get freaked out about cops with punisher skull or iron eagle tats.)

        But, in the end, if the OP feels uncomfortable by the idea that someone else might misinterpret their email address, then they should change it. Good on them for being aware that other people may be concerned.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          And People DO need to know how to use discernment.

          I know a lot of Norse recreationists who *really* have to be careful about how to present themselves, but use runes often for their original intended purpose, and sometimes in an explicitly ANTI-Nazi way.

          Plus, there’s an Icelandic Festival in my province which is a huge thing and has the same issue; so many folks there with runic symbols on necklaces or tattoos and the default is to assume unless they use some other symbols (Like, eg. an 88), they’re likely just Icelandic Canadians.

          1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

            This. I have a Norse rune necklace that I bought years ago at a hippie store. I’ve recently checked to make sure it hasn’t been co-opted by Nazis/white supremacists (it hasn’t).

    17. Nancy*

      There are tons of valid reasons for having 88 as part of an email and many people do not spend much time online, so don’t know about all these symbols.

      OP if you are concerned, sure, change it, but I think most people win’t even notice.

    18. MondayMonday*

      Or could they have a child with that birth year? I do a lot with my son’s bday for accounts, etc.

      I had never heard of this 88 thing either.

    19. Dek*

      Yeah, it’s like. It can be a lot of things, really. Birth year, marriage year, year their kid was born, team number, Back to the Future reference…

      But I do have a quick kneejerk reaction when I see it in someone’s handle.

    20. umami*

      I’ve actually not heard of this, and my personal email ends in 88 because that is the year I graduated.

      1. Bee*

        Yeah, like the OP I was born in 1988, and when I set up my Gmail account on graduating from college in 2010 this was absolutely not on my radar; it’s pure luck that the two digits I chose were my graduation year and not my birth year. I have heard about this particular dogwhistle a lot in the past 7ish years, but at that point it was already the email address I was using for everything.

    21. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      As stated, 88 can be so many things. But that’s what interviews are for. I mean you flat out can’t ask if someone is a white supremacist, but you can sound them out in other ways. Like talk about diversity and inclusion.

      But to come to that conclusion based solely on having a certain number in an email address is very unfair.

      1. Grammar Penguin*

        And you also can’t flat out say you’re a white supremecist without people reacting to that. Hence, the dogwhistle. Plausible deniability due to ambiguity of meaning is the whole freaking point.

        1. ShanShan*


          The reason dogwhistles were invented is so that people can say “don’t come to a conclusion based solely on me having a number in my email address — that’s very unfair.”

          If they didn’t want to be able to hide being Nazis in front of unsympathetic people, they would have just said they were Nazis.

          1. Countess of Shrewsbury*

            So you think people should just assume that anyone with an 88 in their email address is a Nazi? So that in case there is 1 person in 100 who is an actual Nazi you’ve successfully denied them a job?

            1. ShanShan*

              I think that the approach suggested by the previous poster (asking them questions about their racial views in an interview) is an inadequate solution, because any Nazi worth their armband will quickly realize why you are asking and lie about it.

              Making assumptions probably won’t work, but asking direct questions about race won’t work either. That was my point

      2. Boof*

        I agree, if you’re wondering about something like “88” in an email signature, maybe just start with asking open ended about it??? “hey, I was wondering about your email, why 88?”

      3. Distracted Librarian*

        Agree. Also, you can Google them and look at their social media. IME most white supremacists are neither smart enough nor careful enough to entirely hide their identity online. I know exceptions exist, but there are enough innocent reasons to have “88” in an email address that I wouldn’t worry about it unless I saw something problematic in their online presence.

    22. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      The secret third option is to continue to use your e-mail address for strictly personal stuff and get a new one for professional things.

    23. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      This is obviously contentious, but I think if you can easily make a change to avoid even bringing up Nazi imagery or references (even where it obviously wasn’t your intent) then that is the kindest course of action.

      Neo-Nazis are increasingly visible and active and though I am white, I am also queer and I understand how you have to keep your head on the swivel and do a lot of threat assessments when meeting new people. If I can prevent someone from having to even worry about me being a Neo-Nazi, I do that.

      I do not think it will hurt your job prospects and people will most closely associate that with a birth year, but some people will wonder and why make them if you can pretty easily avoid it? Also, I can tell you from experience that now you’ve noticed this it will probably pop up in the back of your mind whenever you’re typing in your email address. My initials are SS and while obviously no one would take my initials to be a Nazi dog whistle, I always use my middle initial as well just cause I couldn’t stop the association in my brain once I noticed it. It’s as much for my own sake as anyone else’s.

      That being said, I don’t think it’s like a moral failing to not change it. It would just be a kind thing to do.

      1. Grammar Penguin*

        It would also be a smart thing to do. Yes, most people don’t know the alternate meaning (which is why it’s useful as a dog whistle) but enough do that to use it carries some risk that:
        A. People who aren’t Nazis but know the lingo might assume you’re one of them and think less of you.
        B. People who *are* Nazis will assume you’re one of them and start sharing their ideas with you expecting agreement or sympathy.
        C. Both.

        So, some percentage, however small, of people *will* see that meaning and make that assumption or at least consider it a possibility. For me, even one is too many.

      2. Grammar Penguin*

        A few years ago, I noticed a car in my neighborhood, an older SUV, sporting the number “88” in big stickers on the back and side windows.

        My town is majority Latino and the white minority includes a significant faction that resents this fact. So it’s not implausible that 1) there are Nazis in this town, 2) they’re not out and open about it, and 3) they’d use dog whistles (code words with alternate meanings familiar only to the initiated) to connect and communicate solidarity with each other.

        So for months I assumed this neighbor was a neo-Nazi. Then I saw the house where the car was parked and it was festooned with NASCAR memorabilia. (Think like holiday decorations but all NASCAR symbols and images. Crazy.) Including the number 88 on various flags and signs.

        Turns out the guy’s a HUGE fan of Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose car number is 88.

        (And now I’m wondering if he really is a Nazi and the number 88 on the car is why he’s a fan…?)

      3. Boof*

        I think dolly parton did a great job of handling this sort of thing when the words dixie and antebellum started coming under question for their racism/slavery heritage; she changed the name of “dixie stampede” to just “stampede”
        “When they said ‘Dixie’ was an offensive word, I thought, ‘Well, I don’t want to offend anybody. This is a business. We’ll just call it ‘The Stampede.’ As soon as you realize that [something] is a problem, you should fix it. […] That’s where my heart is. I would never dream of hurting anybody on purpose,”
        … she is so amazing!

    24. eons*

      It could be the year she was married if she is that old? Changed her last name to her husbands?

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

      Maybe she was married or had her child in 88. Or is August 8 (8/8) an important date for her? Maybe she played sports and that was her jersey number.

      Unless you see other evidence of her being a Nazi I don’t think it’s right to judge her by her email address.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, my brother’s favorite number when we were kids was 88 because it was the jersey number of his favorite sports figure. My parents have a lot of passwords and codes with 88 in them because it’s easy for them to remember.

        I would have assumed first that it was a birth year because so many people do that, and it’s in the age range when most of us are still working or have gone back to work now that the kids are in school, etc.

    26. ThatGirl*

      Not job related, but anecdotally, my husband has a much-younger brother who just graduated high school. He’s a huge sports nut and for awhile his online gaming handle included 88 because it was Patrick Kane’s jersey number. (And also Kane’s birth year!) My husband had to clue him in that he should really change it, because to a certain percentage of the online population it would look pretty bad.

      1. Clumsy Ninja*

        This one was my immediate thought when I started reading about 88. Long-time Kaner fans in my household.

    27. a tester, not a developer*

      I have a friend who loves the piano – which has 88 keys. She had to change a LOT of her social media handles, email, etc.

    28. introverted af*

      Harry, in your case could it possibly be the year she graduated high school, or college, or got married, or some other milestone? I know those are less immediate than when she was born, but also not uncommon reference points to use on an email.

    29. Pete*

      If you are from the south, I would assume you are a fan of one NASCAR’s most popular drivers. (Dale Earnhart JR was number 88)

    30. AnonInCanada*

      I think you’re reading too much into this. I never knew the relationship to 88 (or 1488) with white supremacy until just now, and just presumed the email provider way back when this OP created the account either had a relationship with that number (i.e. the year they or a loved one were born/were married etc.) or the email provider said “Sorry, is currently in use. You may use as the closest substitute. Would you like to?” And OP wouldn’t have though the wiser as to the connection with the number and its bigotry.

    31. Peccy*

      When you have to pick numbers a lot of people will gravitate towards doubles—i am an F1 driver and recently there have been an 11, 33, 44, 55, 77 and 88 (and there’s only 20 drivers at once so that’s a pretty big share of the numbers being used at any one time!) When a Chinese driver joined people lamented the fact that he couldn’t pick 88 (I guess 8 is a lucky number in China?) because a former driver had it, and had raced recently enough that it wasn’t available to use

      The thing with dog whistles is that for awhile nobody knows them and sometimes you get random collisions too. Could be a nazi, could be someone born in 88, if older could be someone with a kid born in 88, could just love doubles and that’s what’s available… i wouldn’t jump to conclusions

    32. Random Reader*

      I’m in the same boat, been using a firstname.lastname.birthyear as my email for over a decade. With 88 as the birth year. However my last time is clearly LatinX, example, “” I would hope that no one would jump to white supremacy in my case.

      1. umami*

        That’s why I think I am OK with not changing my email address at this point, since my last name is similar to yours. Otherwise, now that I know I would probably give it some serious thought!

      2. StephChi*

        Unfortunately, there’s a guy who has a Latinx last name who is definitely a white supremacist: Nick Fuentes. It boggles the mind, for sure.

    33. throwaway123*

      88 is also considered a lucky number in Chinese culture. It means double luck. I had it as an ending number on my social media for that reason, and then I realized the other meaning and had to change it.

    34. A Cita*

      Well I have used 88 in user names and it’s not my birth year, but year of high school graduation — don’t ask me why I chose that; it’s not like that was significant for me. I think I just used it out of thin air.

      The problem now is accounts (not email) where I use it (think Etsy, Ebay, etc) won’t allow me to change my user name. I became aware of this issue a couple of years ago and reached out and they refuse to let me change it. I’d have to close the accounts (I’ve had the Etsy one since it’s inception) completely and start a new one, losing all my data.

      It’s a real conundrum.

    35. Xantar*

      I respectfully disagree. I knew about 88 before reading this letter, but I’ve never thought that the number all by itself is reason to suspect someone of being a neo-Nazi. If there was another context clue, then yes absolutely. But the number showing up in an email address doesn’t ping on my radar. And I also belong to a group that Nazis hate.

      1. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

        I have to agree – I’m aware of the meaning but there are so many other reasons why someone would reach for “88” to include in their email, it would never be my first thought. So many people, especially “offline” ones, have zero idea that 88 is used for anything nefarious.

    36. Boof*

      So, I seemed to recall being told “88” meant “I love you” or something from when I was little, google does seem to confirm “In amateur radio, 88 is used as shorthand for “love and kisses” ”
      So it can mean a lot of things, I had no idea about the nazi connotation until now D:

    37. Vi*

      My parents’ email address has their anniversary (not 88) and they would have no idea about the 88 thing even though they’re relatively hip.

    38. SpaceySteph*

      I mean they could be a Nazi but there’s so many other ways to get the number 88– street address, graduation year, number of a favorite sport player (or her own number from childhood sports), her favorite element on the periodic table (Radium, what up!), autogenerated when she signed up for [domain]mail 20 years ago.

      I’m Jewish and live in the American South but I’d still wait to meet them and get a vibe before immediately jumping to Nazi.

    39. Cherries Jubilee*

      There’s a certain balance to be struck with avoiding nazi/fascist/etc symbols vs not just letting them have every single phrase/word/number they appropriate. If people stop using the number 88 in contexts where it’s totally normal, then that will cede even more power to the nazis and it creates a vicious cycle where anything they touch, culturally speaking, they instantly get.

      I know the 88 thing is an older and more established one, and certainly it’s not a great idea for a tattoo or something like that. But it’s a lot of people’s birth year, and people still keeping on using it in a normal context like an email is one way to avoid a situation where its only possible interpretation is malign.

      (Doesn’t mean OP has to keep it and bear the risk of misinterpretation, just that as a whole, normal people might want to avoid instantly ceding anything normal that white supremacists style themselves with, since that’s a lot of things.)

    40. Dona Florinda*

      I’ve know about the 88 thing for years, but if I saw it in an e-mail address, I wouldn’t immediately assume the person was a Nazi, unless there were other signs.

    41. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Do people really signal their Nazi affiliations through an email address? what for? nobody emails anyone casually anymore. I use mine for things like utility bills and such. OK so Bob’s water and sewer provider now knows that Bob is a Nazi, what would they even do with this knowledge and why would Bob want them to know?

      1. ShanShan*

        Because Bob thinks at least a few of them are fellow Nazis who don’t have the courage to publicly admit it because of the mean SJW’s.

        Bob’s goal is for most people in his social circle to never notice the number at all, or think nothing of it, but for the one Nazi working at some company he frequently deals with who does recognize the symbol to write back in a more private channel or follow him on Twitter.

        I’ll add that no one would do this if it didn’t work.

    42. Whyamihere*

      Or 88 was their favorite number until today when they found out it is a dog whistle for racist and now can’t say their favorite number out loud. (That is me. Good thing I have another favorite number with a fan base that will never allow racist to take it even though it is close to another number that they have tried to take and the stoners will not let them) Or her graduation from high school like my brother.
      You know what assumptions do.

    43. Eep*

      Imagine if you had this thought about someone purely based on a number their email address, and it actually turns out that they had family members murdered by the Nazis. See how harmful that can be? Unless you see more evidence that someone thinks that way, do not make these assumptions about people. It’s extremely offensive.

      1. Distracted Librarian*

        Agree. Or they’re part of a group that Nazis currently target. I’ll also note that many, many people have neither the time nor the inclination to spend enough time online to keep up with the latest memes, codes, and controversies.

        1. ShanShan*

          Speaking as someone who is in both of these categories, I actually understand the importance of being vigilant about Nazis and would therefore not be upset about this.

          1. ShanShan*

            I think you’re going to find very few people who have lost family to Nazis who give people the benefit of the doubt about using Nazi symbols, or expect anyone to do so for them.

    44. Sandals and sneakers*

      My take away from this discussion is that there are a large number of people who had no idea 88 was a dog whistle and are confused or horrified that something so simple has been polluted with such hateful meaning, and that there are lots of people who do know what it means to a small sub set and are committed to educating people so it diminishes the power of hate groups. I’m going to conclude that neither of these folks are neo nazis and I’m happy to hang out in the comments with you all.

    45. wanda*

      8 is a lucky number in Chinese. The more 8’s the better. My mother is Chinese and superstitious, and I had email addresses for a long time ending with 888. (Of course I don’t do that now, but I’m upset that these Nazis ruined the number.)

    46. Anon Alt Name*

      I’ve professionally researched and monitored the far right before (and have been assaulted by neo-Nazis before), so I’m more attuned to nazi references than the average person, and I will still say, this seems excessive.

      In some Asian cultures, 88 is a good-luck number and thus widely used in all sorts of contexts. Sometimes 88 is the next number if there are already 87 people using an email service who have the same non-number part of the email address, and people go with it without knowing that it can be a nazi reference. Sometimes someone was born on August 8. Sometimes their kid was born in 1988. And neo-Nazis don’t usually use email addresses that suggest their politics, as their job application contact email address.

      I get it. Occasionally I still see some non-Proud-Boy who hasn’t gotten the memo that gold-on-black Perry polo shirts have a meaning now that they weren’t intending to convey, and it makes me jump. I will admit that I have a slight wince reaction when I see an 88 in someone’s email address. I don’t love it. But…I’ve seen people here in this comments section use the “f**k around, find out” slogan, and that makes me wince harder than an 88 in someone’s email address, but I am aware that it has long since escaped its orbit and the overwhelming majority of people are using it benignly. I don’t suspect every commenter here who says it of secretly being a Proud Boy.

      1. Sandals and sneakers*

        Awe damn it, is that who the f**k around phrase came from? In some ways wide spread use robs it if it’s power and in others it shows how small groups can influence popular culture (although I guess that encompasses all of social media) and validate ‘those in the know’.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          “fuck around and find out” WAAAAAY pre-exists that particular group, even if they may have adopted it as a slogan.

    47. fhqwhgads*

      As common as the number tacked at the end is to be a birth year, it’s also often a graduation year. Both of which are bad to use for age discrimination reasons. She could’ve been a nazi. Or she could’ve graduated in 1988.

    48. StarTrek Nutcase*

      I was responsible for reviewing applicants and hiring at a variety of jobs. I did frequently notice some emails that were poor choices (usually I suspect because it was created in the applicant’s youth). But it had no effect except maybe a snicker or brow raise. I think it wrong to penalize a person for an email choice. (I also believe an employee’s political or religious beliefs are no one’s business unless those beliefs are brought into the workplace.)

      IMHO too many words, abbreviations, etc. have been co-opted, many of which are not universally known like 88, and I refuse to toss them out out of fear of being associated with despicable groups. To do so, gives those groups power they shouldn’t have. (Obviously, there are exceptions like ILoveHitler.)

    49. Tomato Soup*

      Growing up my father in laws nickname for my husband was 88. He used the 88 nickname for log one and even the company softball team having no idea of the connection. Being observant Jews (particularly my FIL the rabbi), I’m pretty sure neither is a secret Nazi.

      He doesn’t use the 88 anymore but it’s a good example of an unfortunate coincidence with totally innocent origins.

  2. Lalalala*

    I was born in *cough* ’87, I would just assume ’88 would also be a birth year. I think it’s common to use your birthday year in emails/usernames if you were born in the 80s or 90s.

    Granted this is the first time I’ve heard about 88 relating to something Nazi related, but I’ve heard about “HH” having a Nazi meaning

    1. Matt*

      Generally knowledge of such Nazi themes and suspecting Nazis everywhere is very much a thing in Germany and Austria for obvious reasons. 88 would probably raise some eyebrows here (I haven’t thought about people with this birth year and how they avoid it yet). You also can’t get a custom car license plate with HH or 88, and in the recent years there were things going on about restaurants serving Eiernockerl (egg dumplings, a traditional Austrian dish that is rumored to have been A.H.s favorite as a vegetarian) on April 20 (because it is assumed that restaurant owners secretly do it as a sign of honor for his birthday).
      There was an AAM article recently about something regarding April 20 as a day that is somehow connected to drug use in the US – I hadn’t known this meaning, but immediately thought of the birthday thing.

      1. Maggie*

        4/20 in America is just a day people smoke weed. It doesn’t have any meaning beyond “let’s smoke weed” but there’s people that certainly think it does.

        1. Elle by the sea*

          I had no idea about this either. When I was at uni (not from the US, but studied there), I was searching for a flat to rent. My prospective flatmates told me that they want someone who is 420 friendly. I asked what that meant. They said straight away they were not interested because looked like a bigot and hostile about that. But I genuinely didn’t know what that was. (Probably I dodged a bullet – I don’t like being around weed smokers, due to some related traumatic experiences from the past.)

          1. Random Dice*

            You definitely dodged a bullet. An innocent question being met with that wild accusation is a giant red flag.

          2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            I had to explain 4/20 to the chair of my department when I was in undergrad.

          3. MigraineMonth*

            My college hosted prospective students one weekend, and I offered some of them a chocolate dessert. The student asked if it was special, and I said it was homemade.

            I thought the student was very odd until I realized it was 4/20.

        2. TriviaJunkie*

          It can have the other meaning, but I think it’s much less common. I’ve heard rumours the drug connection really ticks of the neoNazis, which makes the users I’ve known pettily gleeful, but I don’t know how true it is.

          I definitely remember paranoia about the date in the early aughts, but I was raised on the edge of evangelicalism so it may have just been that subgroup. There was a fair amount of paranoia about the date being “evil” in part for the drug reference, but also it being Hitlers birthday was supposedly the reason the Columbine shooters picked that day for their attack (no idea if true, I was a tween, but that was the belief). Evangelicals can be surprisingly superstitious about stuff like that. Though I think it did fizzle away after a few years, but wouldn’t surprise me if it lingers to a small degree.

      2. Tau*

        Cosigning – I was aware of this dog whistle from a young age and I believe this isn’t unusual for Germans, it’s well known enough that official bureaucracy restricts your ability to have this number (or 18 or similar) on your license plate as Matt said. All the stuff about it being more known as a lucky number etc may be true in other cultures, but if you are doing any business etc in Germany or Austria the Nazi association WILL be many people’s first impression and you’d be wise to get a different email. (I would generally probably err on the side of assuming a foreigner doesn’t know the association, but my mind would still go there.)

      3. Myrin*

        88 isn’t forbidden on licence plates country-wide, it’s Ländersache – I see them somewhat regularly although usually as a full “1988”.

        And I personally, even though I’m German, would always think of “88” first and foremost as year of birth, but that’s probably because I was born in 91 and had and have a lot to do with people who were born in 88 so it’s been my first association from a super young age.

        All of that being said, OP is already unsure about this so for her own peace of mind, she should probably change it no matter how likely someone is to have second thoughts about her email.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Yeah, I’d associate it with a birth year first also, unless there was some other indication, although I was aware of the dog whistle. It’s ambiguous.

          Also, anyone living in Hamburg will have HH on their license plate as a city code (it stands for Hansestadt Hamburg). Just so readers of this aren’t shocked if they ever go to visit (beautiful city btw, recommend).

        2. Tau*

          Huh! I’d probably think of the Nazi thing first, although I was born a few years earlier than you (not 88 itself, though). Interesting how it’s different. And it does depend on context, if we’re clearly talking about birth years or if it’s just out of the blue.

          And I could’ve sworn the 88 being forbidden on license plates thing was universal, although checking Wikipedia it sounds like most states have it forbidden now even if they historically allowed it.

          1. Matt*

            Actually I’m from Austria and I think our licence plate blacklist is countrywide (although we have quite a lot of “Ländersachen” based on what a small country it is and how small our nine Bundesländer are). Don’t know how it is in Germany.

      4. metadata minion*

        Aw, crap, he ruined dumplings, too? I now have this urge to really spitefully make Eiernockerl :-b

    2. Matt*

      HH means “Heil H…” (the Nazi greeting which was compulsory during the time) and 88 it’s “encryption” since H is the eighth letter of the alphabet.

      1. Lilo*

        I don’t know if it’s more common or I’m more aware of it, but I feel like I’ve seen more usage of it as a hate symbol recently too.

        I think it’s best to err on the side of not potentially worrying your colleagues you might be a horrible person. Imagine being a Jewish coworker who’s faced a LOT of these dogwhistles or even explicit hate recently. Do you really want to put them in the position of having to figure out if you’re a safe person?

        1. Jill Swinburne*

          I think, with the internet, dog whistles are getting a bit more obvious. There’s a white supremacist in my country who’s generally known for being an absolute knob, but he did stupid stuff like sell things in his business for $14.88 (14 also being a NN thing), which would not be a normal price to see here. Now, of course, with that kind of crap publicised, more people will recognise it.

          It’s a bit like the person a few weeks ago who wrote in about being sick on 4/20 and were worried their boss would think they were a stoner. That’s also a kind of dog whistle, but lots of non-stoners know about it, hence why they were worried about what their boss would think.

      2. Chris too*

        I have an “88” in my user name on Reddit and I was already an adult in 1988.

        I’m in the metro Vancouver area and we have a huge population of Asian Canadians. Many of them consider “8” to be the luckiest number and I just happen to have it randomly sprinkled thickly throughout my address and phone number. Why would I turn my back on all that potential luck?

        1. Polyhymnia O’Keefe*

          I’m in Calgary, which hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics, and references to ‘88 are still sprinkled around the city as civic pride throwbacks. There’s an 88 Brewery, which is definitely in reference to the city history and not anything else, but it’s yet another disambiguation of the reference. I do tend to think year first, dogwhistle second, but both meanings almost always cross my mind.

          1. Shan*

            I was reading this whole comment section thinking “but… the Olympics :(” so I’m happy to see another Calgarian here who associated it with that!

      3. Elle by the sea*

        I know someone whose initials are HH and was born in 1988. But there is something even better. I took classes in Germany at a university. At that time giving printed out handouts was the norm. I looked at one of those handouts and noticed it had SS written on it. I was a bit shocked until I figured out that SS stands for Sommer Semester (summer semester).

        1. Myrin*

          That’s why a lot of universities use “SoSe” instead – but especially in combination with “WS”, its winter counterpart, you actually get used to it pretty quickly (which was weird to me at first because, being German, “SS” has a thousand times more Nazi association than “88” could ever have and I didn’t think I’d ever not balk at it but it became normal after a while).

      4. Weeg*

        Still context driven- in the west of Scotland HH and 88 would signal that you were a Celtic fan (hail! Hail! The Celts are here…), founded in 1888 and also a likely signal that you’re a Catholic. Not entirely job application appropriate but not neo nazi…

    3. Anonymouse*

      I had no idea this was a thing. In Chinese culture, 8 is an auspicious number so to me, seeing 88 in an email would make me think of that instead. It’s so tricky.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Or a reference to fatherhood, at least in the Mandarin pronunciation (not to mention 881 commonly meaning “good-bye” in text messages).

        I do think it’s worth keeping in mind that references like this tend to be extremely cultural specific, and not widely known outside of the culture, particularly if you’re in a very multicultural environment.

        1. me!*

          Wait, I’m a Mandarin learner and have to ask about this– 881 = babayi = bye bye? I love it.

      2. Lizard the Second*

        Totally agree! 8 has been a lucky number in Asian culture for centuries, and 88 would be a common use of it. I hate the idea that people are assuming it automatically means Nazi now.

        1. Flower*

          If you ever feel like banging your head into a wall, there’s also a lot of videos out there of white tourists in India and other countries where Hinduism has a strong influence being shocked and dismayed at the amount of swastikas and sauvastikas on temples and “how can they not know how problematic this is ???? why are they celebrating this guy ???”

          Yeah, turns out that when you’re not exposed to something you don’t know much about it.

          1. Random Dice*

            I thought that the Asian versions of swastikas were always the reverse of Hitler’s, but Google just told me that’s not true, and that swastikas were ancient holy symbols not just in Asia but in parts of Europe and even in North America among Navajo.

            1. Flower*

              Yup, there’s hundreds if not thousands of years of history to that symbol with, as far as I can tell, positive connotations (health, happiness, friendship, that sort of thing).

              1. Lady_Lessa*

                Without knowing European history the swastika is an attractive symbol, and clearly respected in various cultures. Knowing European history, it turns to a very different meaning.

    4. John Smith*

      I wasn’t aware that 88 had any meaning other than a number or year. If it was 18 (AH), that is a well known dog whistle and potentially problematic. purely for your own peace of mind, I’d follow Alisons advice and change email address (or create a new one used solely for professional stuff). Besides giving your age to recruiters, it also helps scammers. I’d also be weary of anyone who, on seeing your email address, thinks it has connotations other than your birth year.

      1. Roland*

        18 is also very lucky number in Judaism. I know about the neonazi connection with 88, but never heard about 18. I think the takeaway is we probably shouldn’t assume anyone is a nazi based on nothing but two digits!

        1. Roland*

          Which isn’t to say OP shouldn’t change their email for both peace of mind and just professionalism – more to the people in the comments who would actually look askance at a job hunter for having 88 in their email. If they also had 14 and some nordic runes in their signatures, sure. But just 88 in isolation really shouldn’t bias us against someone.

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, and the cultural appropriation of the Norse runes and some corruption of ancient Norse beliefs by the far right makes me angry as well.

            1. Flower*

              Reminds me of a great email from a Norse temple to a neonazi couple who wanted to get married there but discovered that temple also does gay marriages and wanted to know if that was true (please forgive me for cleaning it up a bit). The response from the temple was basically a very polite “eff off” and pointed out they have some very fundamental misunderstandings about Norse religion (and vikings as a whole for that matter – no, they were not all blond white people).

            2. Emmy Noether*

              I highly recommend the youtube channel of the Welsh Viking. He’s a historian doing research on the viking age, and he has OPINIONS (and well-researched facts!) on the misuse of runes and such by white supremacists. Very instructive and entertaining.

      2. londonedit*

        What?? 18 is a Nazi dog-whistle? I have 18 in my email address because it’s my birth date. I’ve never heard of this before, and I’m nearly 42 – is it a recent thing??

          1. Enai*

            It is absolutely a thing, but very context dependent, much like the hanky code. You can’t just assume someone with “18” or “88” in their username to be a nazi, but if they also use the “ok” hand sign you would be forgiven for wondering. Same goes for a shaved head or certain sartorial choices.

            If they then talk about “corruption of bloodlines” you can be sure.

        1. John Smith*

          it’s primarily used by a bunch of morons, sorry, far right extremists called Combat18. Lke I said, anyone who jumps to looking at two digits as anything but a number should be treated warily. unless its a registration plate “KFC69BJ”, but I digress.

            1. John Smith*

              yep. for some, a KFC is bliss (especially followed or preceded by a 69 or bj) but I digress. British humour.

      3. sb51*

        Interesting, I’ve seen the 88 and 14 in the wild a fair bit (I followed a bunch of people tracking anti-Semitism on Twitter until I left Twitter, I don’t hang around with neo-Nazis for fun) but hadn’t seen 18. Might be regional which is more popular as a dogwhistle?

        I’m old enough that I’d guess graduation year over birth year for someone who doesn’t show any other neo-Nazi signs, but I wouldn’t assume maliciousness in an email address in isolation.

      4. sam_i_am*

        What’s behind 18? I’ve never heard of that one, but I thought that knowledge of 88 was pretty ubiquitous at this point.

        1. Good Enough For Government Work*

          18 = first letter and eighth letter of the alphabet = AH. A certain historical figure’s initials.

          1. So Tired*

            This reminds me of a young player on Bayern Munich’s women’s team. Her last name has his last name as part of it (though when she says her name she says it in a way that you can’t really tell) and when she signed for the first team–since before that she was playing for their youth team–she was given the number 18. Quite a few fans in the twitter comments of the announcements were upset, and some of my German friends were as well. They emailed the club and got a response back, and now that player has a different number. In this case it seems like she was completely unaware and given the number by random. Sometimes it really is just an accident/overlooking. But if changing things isn’t a hardship I’d recommend for OP.

  3. LinZella*

    Oh goodness OP #1: Run! Run like the wind. Perhaps you can straighten out a few of the issues with your boss and/or coworkers, but in the meantime, be working on your resume (using all of Alison’s advice and information!).
    It’s time (and you deserve) for a new job with good and decent coworkers and bosses and a company that is being lead by people who integrity and true leadership.

    1. Dances with Flax*

      You also deserve a job that doesn’t quite literally make you sick – which this one is doing. Frankly, those people sound nutty as a almond grove and Alison was 100% right to tell you to get out of there!

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        THIS. Even if you straighten out this mess, what else will happen? Your boss isn’t going to stop playing favorites. This week its you are accused of spreading rumors, next week it i could be someone parked in her favorite spot.

        You cannot let your concerns about being a job hopper get in the way of your health, sanity and simple recognition of business norms. You are so focused on this one thing that you cannot see all the bees buzzing around the place. Get out before it warps your norms further.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        Especially because this level of toxic is going to leave you with warped norms and terrible habits. Read all of Alison’s advice about escaping toxic workplaces.

        Just yesterday a coworker asked, “Can you do X?” and I had to clarify if that was a question or a request. Only afterwards did I realize that’s because a manager at Toxic OldJob would say “Can you do Y?” as a question and then get mad if I actually did Y.

    2. WoodswomanWrites*

      Yes, get out of that awful place as soon as you can, OP 1.

      Your colleagues are doing an illegal drug at your workplace. Big no. And lying to cover their tracks to your manager. Another big no. And your manager is yakking about all this drama to a colleague and threatening to pull your promotion. This office is the land of No, No, and Hell No.

      Even if you were to get a promotion, you’d be working with the same awful people. And this toxic environment is literally making you sick. There is no universe where any of this would be okay.

      You sound like a thoughtful, hard-working person and you deserve to be in a place that is functional with solid colleagues and managers, and your health has to come first. I really hope you will send in an update telling us about the wonderful new job you have!

      1. MEH Squared*

        All of this! OP#1, this sounds like a Gordian Knot that is nearly impossible to untangle. The best thing to do is slice through it, which in this case, is leaving your job. It sucks that you have to do that when you have done nothing wrong. It really does! But as WoodswomanWrites pointed out, even if you get the promotion, you still have to work in a place that is so terrible.

        You deserve much better. You deserve to work with people who don’t lie about you and a boss who trusts you and treats you with respect. You’re not going to get that in your current workplace, sadly. I really hope you’re able to get out of this horror show and find a wonderful workplace that will be much better for your health and well-being.

        1. tw1968*

          I wonder if it would be possible to hide a camera in the office to catch the offenders doing the cocaine. Release the photos to police and everyone at work after you find another job. Might not be strictly legal but we have cameras in our office covering doors and areas where we keep expensive equipment

      2. Smithy*

        Absolutely this – is the promotion a prize worth winning?

        I think very often in toxic work environments, it can get very easy to get caught up in what we’re chasing within that context. A promotion or project that we should be getting, despite it being a promotion or project that would still be in the toxic place. When that energy could be spent on getting a placement outside of that toxic work environment.

    3. coffee*

      People are doing cocaine at work! Your boss has clear favourites! It’s affecting your health! There are so, so many reasons to leave. Also, two years is still a fair chunk of work time, especially since you often have to leave a company if you want to be paid more. I also hope you’ll be able to find a new job soon.

      1. Flower*

        This! Normally I would also suggest tipping off the police about the cocaine but in this case I wouldn’t even do that – it’d be far too obvious who did it (and even if someone else did you’d get the blame anyway).

        Remove yourself from this situation ASAP.

        1. Certaintroublemaker*

          I would also think about tipping off the spouses to do some financial auditing and get a P.I. What trash humans to do all that AND drag LW1 into their drama as a smokescreen. Definitely not worth it to your health to stick around.

        2. mb*

          And once you have your new job I would tell your boss that your coworkers are doing cocaine and having an affair and everyone knows it but them.

      2. ferrina*

        Is this….a TV show? Because it has definite makings of a TV show.

        When your office would make an entertaining TV show, it’s usually time to run. Healthy work environments seldom make entertaining TV. When your office’s dysfunction starts to hinder your career, the time to run was yesterday. When the dysfunction starts to impact your health, hop in the nearest Delorian and stop yourself from ever taking that job.

    4. The Prettiest Curse*

      OP1: this place sounds like a dumpster fire. Even if this situation somehow works out and you get promoted, you’re still going to be in a dumpster that’s on fire. No job in the world is worth the negative impact that this one is having on your physical and mental health. And wrecking your health by trying to stay in this job is going to have a much more negative impact on your career than any perceived job-hopping.

    5. Ellis Bell*

      Yeah, I know the OP is sad that their promotion has been endangered, but you don’t want to be promoted by a boss like this! It’s like taking a loan from a shark. This is upside down world OP: approval means you did something bad, contempt means you’re doing a good job and are incorruptible. Please get out before your understanding of workplace norms are totally warped.

    6. The Original K.*

      Yes! Leave! No job is worth your health and this situation isn’t going to change. Go! Look for whatever the equivalent of your promotion is in your next role.

      For what it’s worth, I’m two years in at my job and am beginning a search because layoffs are starting where I am and I’m not particularly worried about being perceived as a job-hopper. But Alison is right – this job is literally hurting you, and it’s simply not worth it. Go. Think about how much better you’ll feel when you’re out of there!

    7. Daisy-dog*

      I was expecting OP1 to have been at that company for more than a decade and not wanting to leave behind something major that they’ve built and developed for so long. But then I got to the fact that they haven’t been there more than 2 years. Absolutely leave immediately if at all possible. “Job hopping” is leaving a job every few months.

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        Even if you’ve been there 10 years, “my boss is prioritizing the word of my coworkers who are doing illegal drugs on company time” is a leave-on-sight problem as far as I’m concerned. Your boss’s judgement is wildly skewed and your coworkers’ boundaries are nonexistent. Run.

    8. Sara without an H*

      Ditto to all of the above. LW#1, what happens if you wait? You run the real risk that your venomous colleagues will eventually tell your boss something so awful that she’ll be inspired to fire you. Then where will you be?

      You may have worked hard for that promotion, but getting it would just enmesh you tighter in a very bad situation. Check the AAM archives for job search advice, then put your job search into high gear. This is not a safe place for you and you need to get out ASAP.

      Please keep us updated — you have a cheering section here.

    9. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      Your coworkers are horrible people! And worse, they are now trying to bully and gaslight you with your boss, who believe them.

      It totally sucks, but is often the case at small companies mostly, but also sometimes at large ones too. All you can do is leave. Find a better job, and when you leave tell your boss what’s really going on, and let the chips fall where they may.

    10. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Honestly just say it in an interview and you’ll be fine. I left a job once after three months for reasons far less awful. It was my 3rd job in my 3 years in the US and I’d been at my first for 11 months and at my 2nd for a year and a half. They asked me why I was leaving so soon and I explained the bait and switch situation with my current job. When I got to “and I thought my commute would be to (a location 25 miles from me), but they contracted me out and my commute is now to (location 65 miles from me and 85 miles from where I was interviewing)”, everyone on the panel gasped. I got the job basically on that same day, in the sense that they prepared the offer letter and sent it to my recruiter on the same day. Everyone will understand you leaving the situation that you described. If they don’t, they are not someone you want to work for. Lastly, two years is a good length of time. Two years at your company should count as six in my opinion.

    11. goddessoftransitory*

      Absolutely. And don’t worry about this “job hopping” thing–if you ran out of your burning house, no one with any sense would say you were “house hopping” and couldn’t commit. It would be literally blazingly obvious why you got out of there. You are having HEART PALPITATIONS! No job is worth that, let alone this nightmare.

      No promotion is worth this, and if this “company” lasts to the end of the year I will buy a banana hat and eat it. The sooner you start polishing your resume and practicing your interviewing skills the less this slime of incompetent swamp monsters will matter to you.

    12. Banana Tuxedo Junction*

      OP, my heart ached for you reading this. I’ve been at jobs that made me feel similarly sick, and now that I’m out, I don’t think of them as jobs I quit – I think of them as jobs I survived.

      This is going to sound melodramatic, but I’ve lived with emotionally abusive people and had emotionally abusive bosses/jobs, and both are equally draining on the mind, sanity, and soul. (In some cases, the job can feel worse, because it’s your livelihood – and can potentially have healthcare on the line, if you’re in the US.) As a culture, we don’t tend to talk about jobs as sources of PTSD, but I know so many people who have been traumatized at work. So if it helps, think of it this way: you are being mistreated. You are being abused. This is, in many ways, an abusive relationship. And like any other abusive relationship, it’s warping your thoughts and feelings outside of the hours of “direct exposure”, so you carry the war home. This is not your fault, and you have done nothing wrong. You did not fail, because it would have been impossible for anyone to succeed. Leaving will be hard, but one day, you will look back on this from a healthier place and know it was worth it.

      Acknowledging this to yourself won’t fix your terrible workplace. But it will make it easier to endure it until you can get out. After I accepted that my last job was abusive, it took me months to put in my notice. And those last few months were awful, but they were bearable – because I knew that I wasn’t failing, I was being failed, and soon I would be out. I hope you can do the same, and start your exit to a happier, healthier place.

  4. TG*

    I came back from. PIP but I’m being honest when I say it was bill. The CIO hated me and tried to manage me out but I had a lot of folks who wanted me to succeed so I was able to move out of his department to another where I’ve been promoted twice (CIO left and then was fired form next job so karma comes around). I survived the PIP but asking for clear metrics and meeting every single one as well as going to HR Director. She ensured things were fair. Then I got scooped up to my new department m.
    If you don’t think you can get survive it definitely line up resources and job search ASAP. If you have allies at work definitely reach out to them as well. Good luck!!

    1. Mid*

      And I’ve come back from a PIP that was absolutely deserved (my productivity was way too low, largely because I was having health/personal issues and not communicating how they were impacting my work.) My boss was supportive the entire time, and didn’t want the PIP to end in firing, because she knew I could do the work at the quantity and quality needed. The PIP was about a year into my time at the job too, so pretty early on. I communicated better, got my stuff together, and completed the PIP successfully. It has never been held against me.

      PIPs don’t need to be used as a tool for intimidation or bullying. In a healthy workplace, they’re genuinely meant to help people make sure they’re progressing and meeting the standards necessary for the job.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I came back from a bogus PIP, many years and two jobs ago. The advice I got from friends when I was first put on it was to document everything. I reached out to an ally at work as well, who was at the time fairly close with the manager who’d put me on the PIP and who gave me extremely good advice tailored to my specific situation, that I didn’t even fully understand at the time, but followed it anyway.

      I also requested a meeting with the manager and our HR rep, but it didn’t do a lot of good because I was arguing that the PIP had come out of the blue after continuous good reviews and feedback, and he kept saying things like “NO! remember when I called you in and asked you what you were working on and you told me? THAT WAS THE FEEDBACK”

      He took all the credit for my magical transformation from a low to high performer (there was no transformation… I just documented everything and followed the other advice I’d been given), then he was demoted a year after I came off the PIP, transferred to another division, and was let go from there another year later. Guess who had been the real low performer all along! who would’ve thunk?!

      Oh and at my exit interview, four years after the PIP, I mentioned it that I still had no idea why I’d been placed on it back in (year) and the new HR rep stared at me and said “you were on a PIP? I never heard of it” so it certainly did not follow me around, and was not ever held against me, after I came off it.

      1. TG*

        Now that you said that the same thing happened in my ridiculous PIP and the Manager who put me on it was demoted and gone a few months later.

  5. Merus*

    Re: #2: My understanding with this particular dog whistle is that it tends to get paired with the number 14, because ’88’ on its own can have a lot of perfectly unobjectionable meanings. (Among other things, 8 and 88 are lucky numbers in some East Asian cultures, particularly in China.) Having a last name of ‘White’ would be a particularly brutal combination, but if you’re not in that boat, having 88 in your email would almost certainly register as “elder millennial email address” and not “secret Nazi”.

    1. anononon*

      I wouldn’t even think about Nazis or anything else – I’d assume it was a birth date and be concerned about women with ’88’ in their email address being discriminated against right now because it would make them about 35… I’ve had several bosses in the past who would assume ‘woman in mid 30s’ = ‘has kids (nightmare!) or about to go off and have them, and will then have maternity leave AND kids (nightmare!)’

      (And not all of those bosses were male. Ugh.)

      1. bathing suit gown*

        That’s my biggest concern with 88 being in an email address. You could potentially open yourself to age discrimination and/or it’s another bit of info for potential identity theft. But honestly, 88 would be less concerning than “1988” for those reasons.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Yep that is why I don’t have my birth year in any of my email addresses and never will.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, I’d remove any reference to your age in professional correspondence. Infuriating that we have to do that.

      3. Mid*

        I’ve actually had the opposite issue—my email address has 03 in it, and people assume I’m much, much younger than I am. (The 03 was because it was the year I made the email address.)

    2. amoeba*

      In Germany the 88 is pretty commonly known as a Nazi reference, but never heard of the 14 until now, guess that’s an American addition!

      (Also, hey, I was born in 1988 and have to protest the “elder millennial” – we’re pretty much exactly in the middle!)

    1. Fikly*

      What? That’s not how language, symbolism, or communication works.

      You can claim something doesn’t have a particular meaning all you want, but that doesn’t make it reality.

  6. Lilo*

    I was also born in 1988, I’m also sure I used 88 back in like, my Neopets account name. I was also horrified to learn this.

    I’d just change it. It’s easy enough to get a new Gmail address and set up an auto forward with your old address. It’s just not worth it. It’s probably not a great idea to have your birth year in your email address anyway and especially with the risk here, the fact there’s a super low effort solution, it’s just smarter to chance it.

    1. Flower*

      Some email providers also allow you to set up an alias (Hotmail/Outlook for example) so you don’t need to forward anything. In the case of Outlook (the artist formerly known as Hotmail) once you have an alias you can even choose to only let one be your sign-in address – I have done this with Outlook, my sign-in address their is an address I never give out as a security measure (which is necessary considering it’s basically my spam receiver address).

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      Yeah, I was always told that it was bad security practice to have your birth year in your email address, though I appreciate that the available number/letter/character combos often limit the choices and people run out of ideas. Though back when I worked for a family support org, I’d sometimes see email addresses in the format: momof[childname]and[childname], which seems like one of the worst ideas possible from a security perspective.

      1. High Score!*

        It is, you should never freely give access to your birth day or birth year. Or fill out those dumb online quizzes to determine what kind of a vegetable you are. Being is cyber security and knowing about AI & Big data, etc, it’s so frustrating bc people just give up information without understanding. And they roll their eyes when I try to explain.

        1. Jackalope*

          Question for you if you see this: what’s the harm of filling out something random like your favorite vegetable, or which [insert fandom] character you’re most like? I’ve heard that it’s a security risk, and I’ve avoided doing those quizzes as a result, but I’ve never really understood how something unrelated to security questions is going to cause a problem (as opposed to saying that your new [music genre] name is your mother’s maiden name and the model of the first car you drove or something like that).

          1. Dasein9*

            It doesn’t exist in a vacuum. I’m sure a data security specialist can explain it more effectively, but the gist is that when data is gathered from many different sources and associated with you, a surprisingly comprehensive picture of your browsing and consuming habits can be obtained. Even your values and ways of thinking can give bad actors insight into how you might think of passwords, for instance.

            This makes identity theft much easier.

          2. Hillary*

            A lot of the quizzes on FB etc allow the quiz maker to collect information that would otherwise be protected by your privacy settings and/or set tracking cookies. That can be used for targeted advertising (including propaganda disguised as advertising) or phishing. The Cambridge Analytica data scandal is one of the more egregious publicly known issues.

            Remember the memes that pop up periodically for then & now photos? Those created a fantastic data set to train on how people visually age and for facial recognition.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Actually, I was thinking there’s no reason to start using a new address for everything; they can set up a more generic Gmail address for job applications and autoforward *that* to their “MyName88” address that they use for everything. That seems easier to me.

    4. Beth*

      I VERY strongly advocate taking all birthdate information out of email addresses. That particular item of personal information is out there in enough places, but you do NOT need to give away the combination of your name, your email address, and your birthdate all in one public package.

      I’m remembering a purchase I made from eBay back in about 2005 — by the time the transaction was complete, I knew the seller’s full name, gender, date of birth, town of residence, where he banked, and where he was going to school. I did not need or want all that information; he was just really sloppy about his privacy.

    5. SpringIsForPlanting!*

      Yesss set up an alias. In gmail e.g. you can easily have another address or two that just goes to the same inbox. Then you can publish that address for job searching and not have to check anything separately.

    6. Joielle*

      Agreed. Why risk the Nazi connection and the data security issues when you can just set up a new email address with an auto forward and use that for work stuff?

    7. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      It is easy enough to set up an account and it’s worth doing — but what’s not easy is getting a decent address! I just set up a new one specifically for job hunting and I had to do a lot of brainstorming to find a decent combo that was professional, simple, and didn’t give away biographical info. I’m not thrilled with what I got but it’s okay, especially considering 1.8 billion names have already been claimed.

  7. Still haven't picked out a username, sorry*

    Removed — you’re reading really ungenerous things into the letter that aren’t there. – Alison

    1. Happy meal with extra happy*

      I think it’s unfair to the LW to jump to the assumption that they’re trying to force their coworkers into being their best friend when there’s nothing like that in the letter. Especially insinuating that they’re improperly blurring boundaries at work? Is that necessary?

    2. Electric sheep*

      Yeah I think this is taking the request into a place beyond what the LW wrote in about – she wanted to know how she could find coworkers/a team culture who interacted like that already, not how she could make people who didn’t interact that way start to do it. People can have different preferences.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Comments about how you personally wouldn’t like an office like the one the OP is seeking aren’t useful to the OP (or particularly on-topic, for that matter). I’m going to remove any further comments along these lines.

  8. ZK*

    I’d absolutely assume it was your birth year, but that said, change it. My main email is my first initial last name and full birth year. When I started job hunting I created a new gmail account, because no potential employer needs to know how old I am just from my email, haha.

    1. TCPA*

      I think it’s smart that you changed it for job searching! When I’m helping with the hiring process at my job (accounting-related), to be completely honest, I do notice if someone’s personal email has their birthdate or anything other than their name in it… like “surfergirl89” or something and, unfortunately, it affects how I think of them (a little bit!).

      It just doesn’t read as super professional to me, especially when it is so easy to open a new Gmail account! I have about six of them for different purposes…one of my originals which includes a nickname, my main (first initial, middle initial, last name), one for kid stuff, one for family stuff, one for wedding stuff, one for signing up for online retailer discounts so I don’t get spam to my main account… LW#2, I’d suggest just changing it to be safe, to something professional with only your name, initials, or last name, etc.

  9. TG*

    LW#1 – get out of there – you’re physically impacted and it’s not worth that or the mental health issues you are feeling also. This is toxic on so many levels.

    1. Generic Name*

      Yes! And even if you were a job hopper (which I don’t think you are) you still need to get out. Your health is not worth any job.

  10. Kyle*

    I’ve known some folks who used the year of their high school or college class in their email, but that was also a period in time when creating an email address for the first time was a more…novel experience.

  11. nnn*

    This doesn’t change the advice, but in #1 I’m super curious if, when they told people LW was starting rumours about them, if they said what these rumours are.

    1. Teach*

      Same, I was also really curious about that one–and about what it means that their affair and cocaine use is “confirmed.” Did you see both happen with your own eyes? If it was a matter of hearing about it from other co-workers, then they are technically correct that there are rumors going around about them. They might well be true, but still. I would be very careful of who I talk to about this unless there is literally physical evidence. But yes, advice remains the same: sounds like an awful environment OP, and I hope you get out soon.

    2. Boof*

      “Boss! I just want to let you know, if you hear rumors about me being into teapot smashing and llama orange jello wrestling, it’s all made up by [coworker]!” (orly??)

    3. Nomoredrama*

      They said that I was telling people they are sexually involved and that I am also treating them inappropriately and unprofessionally. I never even fathomed this relationship because he’s in his 20s with a live in GF and she’s in her late 40s early 50s with a husband and kids.

      1. MEH Squared*

        I’ve been reading your comments, and I am so sorry that you are going through this. This is not on you. At all. I hope you can get out of this job as soon as possible.

  12. Frodo*

    Gen Xer here. I graduated college in 1988 and have never heard of the relationship between nazis and my original email address: First name last name 88 @ aol. I would think the aol stands out more than the number.

    1. Ink*

      I think that the aol saves it, actually! A gmail? may or may not be a birth/graduation/marriage/etc year. An aol? Almost certainly one of those!

      1. Emmy Noether*

        It will definitely save it for those of us whose age cohorts chose their first email address around the same time. Don’t know about the youngsters.

          1. Ellis Bell*

            I think that’s why they wouldn’t necessarily understand the date range of an AOL account, like an older person would.

          2. Emmy Noether*

            ah yes, I meant the older age cohorts would understand the conventions that led to that choice, while the youngsters may neither be familiar with aol nor the common naming conventions of the time that it indicates.

    2. umami*

      Same. This is the first I’ve ever heard of it! I don’t really use that email for anything but shopping (it is a gmail account though, not aol), but it is definitely on my resume.

  13. Oops*

    Re #3. I echo Alison’s sentiment that the actions described are not uncommon. They are actually recommended by many career centers. Some call them “informational interviews” and the idea is that you have them with people in your network or your network’s network who are in companies or fields you’re interest in to learn more and inform you interests. I also don’t mind that the emails weren’t personalized.

    1. Emmy Noether*

      Agreed. Once you find a good wording for what you’re trying to say, changing it for each email (that is trying to say exactly the same thing) just for change’s sake is kind of… pointless?

      I’d probably try to vary it a bit for people in the same company because I’m an overthinker and would be worried about exactly the scenario in the letter. However, there are only so many ways to phrase the same request to people one doesn’t personally know. One could change around sentence structure and suchlike, but that’s really just to hide the copy-paste to prevent reactions like this.

    2. Also-ADHD*

      Yeah, if it was a new grad, it might have been to try and talk themselves up for the job some, but I’ve done similar informational interviews just to decide whether to consider a job. (Either is reasonable and common these days.) Frankly a job change is a risk for the job seeker too and many processes take time these days, so it’s not unreasonable if they want to feel out the company culture before all that fuss. Some folks in the hiring process like it is one sided and the candidates are game show contestants who all want the prize (job) but frankly the candidates should be considering what they want and may find out they do not!

    3. OP3*

      If I’d received this exact same networking request email without a job being in question, and specifically without the “what is your office like?” question, I’d truly have thought nothing of it. It just felt a bit like putting the cart before the horse to me. But Alison’s (and your) answer makes sense!

      1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        I think it actually makes more sense for the person to want an informational interview when there’s a possibility they might actually work in that office, rather than just asking as a hypothetical. I get the sense you feel they’re “putting the cart before the horse”, but I think it’s wise to do as much due diligence as you can before investing time and energy in a job opportunity that might turn out to be a terrible fit.

      2. Oolong*

        Asking what the office is like is really normal, though, and a person who is not involved in the hiring process is more likely to be candid. I got a similar email once, and I was really candid! It wasn’t exactly the same situation since mine was introduced to me by a mutual acquaintance rather than a cold contact. In my case, he decided not to apply. And I think that’s normal! Why waste time applying to a bad fit?

    4. Daisy-dog*

      I worked with a career coach last year and she recommended something similar. Even if the informational interview doesn’t come out of it, maybe it gets you to the right person to get a real interview. It worked for me to get a few interviews (no offers).

      If you don’t like to have people reach out to you, you can just ignore it.

    5. bamcheeks*

      Especially since LinkedIn messages to people you aren’t connected with are really short! I think they’re only like 500 characters, so there’s not much room for flex!

    6. Anne Shirley*

      I was under the impression that informational interviews *when there is also a specific job opening* were really frowned upon and seen as gimmicky and a waste of the hiring manager’s valuable time. Has this changed??

      When first job-hunting in the 90s, I remember reading a cautionary tale about a job seeker who set up an informational interview and was eviscerated by the hiring manager for contriving a situation and wasting his time. It really stayed with me.

      I’ve only done an informational interview when a college student and decades later, when a job was posted and I personally knew one of the managers.

      1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        There are two meanings of informational interviews floating around, which causes confusion. The one we seem to be talking about here is an informal conversation relating to an existing job. I also see it used similarly as a speculative interview / networking call, talking to someone at the company in the hopes that something someday will open up. It’s self-serving. I think this is what most people think an II is.

        The way I was taught, an informational interview should be to learn more broadly and not be a disguised attempt to get work. It is best deployed when you’re just out of school or looking at a new type of career/role/industry, talking to people about their experiences and finding out what paths are available. It’s more like a research interview *of them*. Not about you.

        I don’t bother with them anymore. I’ve gotten great receptions some of the time but find that even if I approach them with the second scenario, people are wary it’s a trojan horse for the first.

        1. Anne Shirley*

          Thanks, this is a bit more helpful. I think a term such as “informal interview” would make all the difference. I believe that’s what I personally had…my company needed a teapot lid expert and I had the skill set. They had not been satisfied with their applicants. An assistant manager contacted me directly, and he could vouch for me.

          I really feel (and it may just be my cynicism) that the applicant *is* indeed a Trojan horse–two, in fact.

      2. JustaTech*

        I think the difference is that the OP (and their colleague) aren’t the hiring manager, so the applicant really is just asking for more information about the company/office, rather than trying to get an actual interview.
        If I was applying for a job and knew (or had reasonable connection to) someone who already worked there, I absolutely would ask “hey, can you tell me what it’s like to work here?” It’s not trying to get a leg up on the application, it’s trying to figure out if you want to be there at all. I see it as a form of background research on the organization.

        But yes, doing this to the hiring manager would be obnoxious.

        1. Anne Shirley*

          The job applicant *did* do it the primary manager, with virtually the same message.

          I admit I am personally triggered by the letter, including the “pick your brain” part. I can’t stand that expression, and the fact the person has applied for the job makes the whole thing so disingenuous to me.

          1. Paulina*

            Yes. I see a lot of form letters from people who are trying to get their foot in the door for something — graduate studies, in my case — and that letter set off my alarm bells. They’ve applied for a job and they’re form-lettering their way into “informational” chats with people involved in the hiring, as a way of trying to get an edge. I find these attempts at “networking” exhausting and not really all that special — just paste in the “connection” and send it off.

            I’ve also been involved in hiring, and I would avoid having a separate chat with anyone who I was also involved with interviewing. There’s a need to keep the contacts the same as much as possible, and asking for me to make a special effort so that *they* can “stick out” from the hiring pool is inappropriate.

    7. Alanna*

      I work at a company that I think has an amazing culture, which we work hard at and are proud of. Whenever we post job openings, I encourage people to reach out to me to talk about our culture, because I want people to know we put our money where our mouth is, and that it really is great here. I would be delighted to get a networking request like this from a prospective employee! It also makes me happy to know when candidates are doing their research and being intentional in their search.

      Our interview process is designed for candidates to get as much info as they can from peers. Our final step once we’re pretty sure we want to hire them is what we call an AMA, where we get a bunch of the team together on a call with the candidate and they can ask us anything at all, and we’ll ask them culture-ish and fun questions, like “what’s your favorite pizza topping” or “how do you handle working remotely” – it gives everyone a sense of what it’s like to interact with the candidate, and hopefully they get a good sense of us. That said, it’s always less stress to ask questions outside of the interview process and I welcome it!

  14. Flower*

    So the thing with dog whistles to also keep in mind is: yes, they have the power to change something completely innocent into something horrible. But what people forget is that we have that exact same power . Which doesn’t mean you have to be the one to do it, but it would do good if we as a society remembered that that is also a possibility (and that just because someone uses a dog whistle that may not be intentional – see all the tourists in countries like India who are shocked to see sauvastikas and swastikas on temples. Hindus are not going to change their religion because some dude appropriated a symbol for horrendous purposes).

    That said…I agree with Allison about changing it because it symbolises your age – that is not info that others need to know, especially not when job searching. Depending on the email provider, you may even be able to just attach an alias to this one (Outlook allows this for example) so you won’t have to change all the account this address is tied to and won’t even need to set up a forward. On my old hotmail address I’ve even changed the sign in address to an alias I never give out as a security measure (once you’ve set up an alias you can set it up so only one address can be use to sign in)

    1. People Can Change*

      I used to work at a building that had swastikas in its design elements. The building is in the national register of historic places, and was built in 1926 before swastikas had the exclusive connotation in the west of nazism. The building’s design elements are full of symbology and this was just another element of that. We had a pre-written script for addressing it if visitors brought it up, though it was pretty subtle.

      However, while the date the building was designed doesn’t mean it had to be a Nazi symbol, it does mean it could have been a Nazi symbol. At best it was probably cultural appropriation from South Asia. Also, the building was certainly added to the register at some point after WWII. Why didn’t they change it before that? Why not now? I think “not spreading Nazi symbology” is a pretty good reason to expend some effort to make a change.

      1. Flower*

        …are you seriously telling non-white people to throw out hundreds if not thousands of years of positive history because one white dude used it negatively and now other white people get upset at seeing it? Really?

        Also for the record, while Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism are the most widely known use of that symbol it’s actually pretty common as a positive symbol (again, until that one guy). The Navajo used a similar symbol, apparently, though they gave it up after WW2 (which is sad, frankly). In fact this widespread use is one of the reasons the Nazis began using it as proof of the whole “Aryan” thing.

        Symbols only have power because we give them that power. Sometimes a peach emoji is just a peach emoji, and sometimes what might be a symbol of hate can be completely innocent (or hell, even the opposite).

        1. GythaOgden*

          FWIW I don’t think People Can Change is arguing that South Asia should throw out their culture to appease us. In fact I think they’re saying the exact opposite — that the Nazis stole the swastika from Indian traditions and it’s bad that a building built during the inter-war period had swastikas on it and at best it’s cultural appropriation. I mean, there’s a bit more complexity to the swastika lore and I doubt it will ever be redeemed in western eyes, but I think your outrage is misplaced.

          It also legitimately made its way into European folklore before Christianization. It’s found in art from the Baltic reģions. It’s a solar symbol, meaning it’s used by peoples in Europe for whom short summers had to be made the most of and were celebrated when they made an appearance. The symbol is now banned as a relic of the Nazi horror — there are lists of nationalities slated for extirpation once they had solidified their hold on Europe as a whole, including many of the Balts, so understandably they didn’t fight to keep it alive — but it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a part of that indigenous culture beforehand or that anyone decorating a European building with it prior to 1933 was a Nazi themselves.

          WRT cultural appropriation/imperialism etc, cultures are not discrete entities living in sealed bubbles. Indo-European settlers arrived in Europe from central Asia, and the Greeks, Romans and Persians duked it out for supremacy across a wide swathe of land from north Africa to India, then the Turks, Mongols and Arabs spread across the region for good measure, ending up with the mixture of traditions we have today. Few cultures have been passed down completely pure from the ancient world; everyone has some link to the mosaic of humanity as much as they have a distinct ethnic culture.

          South Asian traditions form a continuum between Iran in the east to Indonesia in the east, each layering linguistic and religious traditions upon themselves. This is definitely not to lay claim to Hindu heritage, but it is to explain how the same symbol might be found in various contexts in European art and decor without it either being cultural appropriation or crypto-Nazism.

          And because the swastika also found its way into indigenous American art and decorations, I suspect it’s one of those ancient symbols that was brought over through the Bering land bridge from Siberia. It’s far, far older than any modern nation and it’s just a shame that the Nazis bastardised it.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          “Being against using the swastika is racist” is the kind of hot take I was not prepared to see on this blog.

          1. People Can Change*

            “Some white dude used it negatively” is I guess a way to describe what happened.

        3. People Can Change*

          GythaOgden had a better response than I can give but in short, no I am not advocating that all cultures everywhere remove all swastikas. I think context can matter, just like how having 88 in their email may be viewed differently if the applicant is a person of color. It’s possible in the scenario I was referencing that the designer had some cultural connection to the swastika, but given the time period and other symbolic and literal cultural appropriation present in the building I think that’s unlikely. In my judgment the benefit of the swastikas as architectural elements did not outweigh the negatives of the association with nazism. Other people have different opinions, that’s fine. Hopefully there have been visitors to the building who saw the swastikas as something other than a symbol of hate.

          Sure, symbols only have power because we give them power, but that doesn’t make the power less real. If you were texting your boss about a peach festival, you’re probably not going to use a peach emoji.

        1. People Can Change*

          If it’s 1942 and the building is 15 years old do you think maybe they should remove the swastikas then?

    2. ShanShan*

      I’m not sure we do have that power, though?

      If I choose not to see 88 as a hate symbol, it won’t change the fact that thousands of Nazis do. They’re not trying to communicate with me. They’re trying to communicate with one another.

      1. Flower*

        I’m not necessarily arguing that we have to ignore what it’s used as, but we can change the meaning just as much as they can. Take 88, that kinda looks like two bras or two sets of breasts – make it secret code for being a lesbian.

        They do it all the time to symbols and numbers, we can do the exact same thing and take them back. See, for example, black people reclaiming the n-word or lesbians reclaiming the d-slur or even women calling one another female dogs affectionately.

        1. Flower*

          Also, if we keep using these things innocently instead of dropping them like hot iron and immediately shunning anyone who doesn’t, it will lose it’s effectiveness as a dog whistle because…well, it’s not having the intended effect of being able to identify one another outside of places that are mostly frequented by like-minded people anyway.

          1. ShanShan*

            How would we communicate that we are using them innocently rather than just not understanding what they mean, which is exactly what the Nazis were hoping would happen when they created them?

            1. ShanShan*

              Or, even worse, that we are quietly signaling that we agree with their views?

              Like, what use case are you picturing?

              1. Flower*

                By being a decent person? Or, if you insist on theatrics to show how good you are, by visibly being in groups that advocate for human rights and equality? By stating that when they approach you that obviously it just signals your love of bow ties and ew how could you ever think they would agree with you?

                Basically by doing the exact same thing they are doing but with respect for other human beings?

            2. Jhams*

              I’m sympathetic to the argument, but context is everything with dog whistles.

              If, tomorrow, 4chan decides that the rainbow flag now symbolizes how God killed all the undesirables the first time and now it’s the white man’s turn to do the same, should all of the LGBT community and allies just shrug and say “Shoot, guess that’s ruined for us now. Time to throw them all in the landfill.”

              Idiots can use whatever indecipherable dog whistles amongst themselves they want, but it takes a wider act of cultural acceptance to grant that legitimacy. So a dude in a skull mask with a sonnenrad tattoo protesting outside a drag show throwing the OK symbol? It’s a nazi thing. Any of the countless other normal people going about their lives (or professionals in environments where non-verbal communication is important like live sound engineers or scuba divers or whatever) and using it like they always did? Probably fine.

        2. GythaOgden*

          It’s going to take a huge, huge paradigm shift anywhere in the western world outside indigenous and Desi communities to do that. AAM is a great blog, but not that powerful.

          1. Flower*

            Oh I’m definitely not saying this is solely on AAM to do. That’s why I mentioned “we as a society”. Thing is, right now people don’t even seem to consider this an option, so it can’t hurt to mention that it is actually an option.

            And paradigm shifts start small anyway – we didn’t one day get up and say “hey maybe we should give women and black people the right to vote” and then go ahead an do it.

        3. New Jack Karyn*

          Make ’88’ a symbolic code for lesbians? Please leave me out of this . . . plan.

          There is no “reclaiming” of 88 or 1488. The context is different; it’s not a slur being used against people. This is a shockingly bad take.

    3. What's my name again?*

      Thank you for the common sense! Sad that I had to scroll this far down to see it.

      1. Flower*

        To be fair to the comment section: a lot of the comments above were made after this one. people just react to the first few comments a lot more because…Well at the time of writing otherwise there’s around 400 to get through and no one reads them all.

    4. goddessoftransitory*

      It worked with the pink triangle–it was the patch sewn onto gay prisoners’ uniforms in the concentration camps. It was very deliberately chosen as a symbol of gay liberation and now anyone who sees it thinks exactly that.

      1. justcommentary*

        I do think the key with that example is that it was reclaimed by people who would’ve been targeted with very specific political intent+goals (getting the US government and the wider public to take the HIV/AIDS epidemic seriously). That is to say, it was through pointed political organizing. (There’s also the fact that it was reclaimed decades after its most notable use during the Holocaust.)

        A broad, scattered “let’s reclaim dog whistles” push I think wouldn’t work as well. It may add static and dilution to the dog whistle, but it won’t erase it without a very loud condemnation of the weaponization and bigotry at a minimum.

        1. Boof*

          Not gonna say there’s one right answer here, but “clowning” can be a great way to take the wind out of hate groups and I could certainly see “reclaiming” 88 as something nice or redic as a potentially viable strategy too
          But I would totally avoid picking that as a random number as long as it has that connotation, now that I know about it; and it would make sense to change anything it was randomly on too if I easily could! (fortunately not a number I ever particularly favored in the past!)

      2. Emmy Noether*

        What most of the reclaimed terms/symbols have in common, though, is that they were applied *to the victims*. Then there’s a chance to turn around the narrative from slur to positive identifier.
        It’s much harder when the thing is used by perpetrators to self-identify. You’d have to make them want to stop using it for themselves – create a strong meaning that is positive to sane people, but very negative to them.

  15. T'Cael Zaanidor Kilyle*

    #2: Since there isn’t any reason NOT to change your email, I would definitely change it.

    There’s really no cost to changing it. Assuming it’s Gmail or some similar service, you can set up the old account to forward to the new one basically forever, so there’s no danger of missing any important emails. And then you don’t have to worry about people wondering if you’re associated with something that vile.

    (Oh, and … I guess be glad you weren’t born on January 4th?)

    1. Flower*

      Oh is that what the 14 refers to in comments above? I was wondering what happened in 1488 or any year ending in 14 that would make that relevant and the only one I could make a connection with for obvious reasons was 1914, and even that sounded like a bit of a stretch in my head.

      1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

        (14 is both A.H. and “the fourteen words”, another dogwhistle)

        1. Flower*

          Wait so 4 then as half of 8? Because H is the 8th letter of the alphabet? Or for the first two letters of his given name?

          1. blue rose*

            It’s not 4, it’s 14 as in the 14 words, which is exclusively a white supremacist thing.

            1. blue rose*

              Skimmed a bit too much. I will admit I don’t know how Firefighter connected 14 to AH. 14 as in the words is already a heinous enough reference without further meanings.

      2. MissElizaTudor*

        The 14 is a reference to the 14 words, a white supremacist slogan.

        It doesn’t refer to a date, but if the LW was born Jan 4, it’s possible they might have put the two numbers (14 and 88) together in their email address. That would be more much likely to be interpreted as definitely being a reference to odious beliefs, whereas I think most people who are aware of the dogwhistle give the benefit of the doubt that 88 alone could be a year reference.

      3. Maggie*

        I just googled it and apparently the 14 is a reference to a specific statement made by a white supremacist leader in the past. This is the first I’ve heard of any of this, so I guess I’m out of the loop on all this.

        1. LifeBeforeCorona*

          Me too, I know several of the obvious ones that signal supremacist but it’s sad that there are so many that fly under the radar.

          1. londonedit*

            What’s sad is that we have to spend our time knowing about this shit because there are apparently so many people with horrific views.

        2. Wordnerd*

          The first time I heard of the 14 words is that it’s referenced in a Season 1 episode of the West Wing when white supremacists are targeting Charlie and Zoey. I’m not sure without that first reference I would have picked up on it otherwise.

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      Oh dang my childhood best friend’s birthday was January 4th, and we were born in 1988. I’m only just learning about the use of these numbers, hope she’s not using her birthday as her email!

  16. Ink*

    1- I cannot imagine this ending well for you. Maybe not to the point where you need to leave regardless of whether you have something new lined up! but very easily heading there. If someone is lying about you to hide their drug problem already… time to bail before the worst case scenario has time to manifest, especially if these coworkers get more aggressive in targeting you. If an interviewer ever questions the length of time spent in this job, you don’t want to work for anyone for whom “there were some pretty serious issues with illicit drug use during business hours” or similar does not suffice!

    2- It started being more of a publicized/reflexive thing in my circles to check for stuff like that around 2015-16. You’re probably safe in the eyes of anyone who knew you/your email before then, but I would be concerned if I saw that email coming from someone new. Not concerned enough to disregard an email whose contents are innocent, but definitely a red flag that would doom you if any more followed (including red flags that are personal to me alone and those springing from misunderstandings). It might be worth moving away from that address for work stuff, especially as it becomes more common to find younger people in roles you’ll need to communicate with. I’d be so cautious partially because I *don’t* have experience predating that shift, I wasn’t working yet. That awareness is a more ingrained mindset for a lot of us than I think people with “before” to compare realize.
    Maybe a signature that says “I’ll be switching to a new email address soon, after [arbitrary date] I’ll be communicating from [address]” with specific messages/postscripts to that effect to people you want to be 100% sure are aware of the change?

  17. Jackalope*

    I haven’t really seen this as a solution (if I’ve missed it I apologize), but why not set up a new account just for applying for jobs? If it’s a huge hassle to change your old account on everything, then just have an email address used for this one purpose; in addition to resolving the issue you wrote in about, it also helps insure that any job-application-related emails don’t get lost if you have any kind of email newsletters, spam, and so on at your regular address. (You might want to do this even if you decide to switch your regular account as well so you can make sure that important application stuff doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.)

    1. RagingADHD*

      Exactly. It also affords the opportunity to create a less studenty-sounding handle overall, with just names or initials+name.

      Then you can have the personal address for people who know you, and the professional address for work contacts who don’t.

    2. Sparkles McFadden*

      I have half a dozen email addresses, all for different purposes. One for family, one for friends, one for software downloads etc. It helps me keep things organized.

      No need to switch your whole e-life over to a new address.

    3. Bootstrap Paradox*

      100% recommend having a separate email just for applications and such. It’s very handy to have them filtered to various colors so I can easily focus on the important things first.

  18. learnedthehardway*

    OP#1 – another vote for finding another company/role. I get how disappointing it is that your promotion may very well be in jeopardy because of the lies these two people have told. But your manager is the bigger problem – she’s believed lies without investigating to find out the truth, and she failed to ask you about the situation – but now is gossiping about you with other staff. The company culture sounds toxic – the fact that other people are literally sitting on their hands and not saying a word makes me think they realize it won’t help and that they may get targeted.

    You have 2 years in your role now, and that’s fine for you to start looking. Take your time, find a good company with a good culture, and a role that will take you to the next step (or even half-step).

    If you’re asked why you’re looking, just tell people that you’ve learned all you can with this company, you don’t see an opportunity for progression, and you want to use your experience / skills and grow in a company for the long term, that will offer you future growth opportunities in a good culture. This is quite literally true.

    1. Sara without an H*

      +1. This would be a perfectly fine reason to move on from a “tiny” company, as OP#1 describes it, and look for something with growth potential at a larger firm. I don’t think any hiring manager would look askance at that.

    2. AngryOctopus*

      Yes. Small company + no HR = say “promotion and job advancement tracks are not set, looking for a role that will allow me to grow longer term”.

  19. nnn*

    Is there, like, a list of all the dogwhistles somewhere? Or do we have to pay attention to fascists to find this stuff out?

      1. Emmy Noether*

        That’s a good resource, thanks!

        But whoah, those range from really obvious to “I’m never going to remember all this, nor do I really want to”. Also, some I’d wager are US-specific, while some are more directly taken from Third Reich symbolisms/slogans (the latter I do recognize, as a German). There has been some re-import of US white supremacist symbolism to the German neo-nazi scene, which… it’s effed up, all around, is all I’m gonna say.

        1. BeepBoop*

          I think the database is most helpful when you see symbols/dog whistles being used together or with other problematic/concerning behavior, etc. Other numerical symbols that can be used (according to the database) are things like: 100%, 109/110, 1-11, 12, 13, 14, 18, 23, 28, 311, 318, 38, 43, 511, 737, 83, 9%, etc. etc. etc.

          However, these numbers obviously can mean a wide variety of very innocent things or, you know, just numbers. Context is important to everything. Unless there is additional evidence to support “I think this person is using Nazi symbols”, I would give people the benefit of the doubt that they’re probably not. The symbols don’t exist in a vacuum.

        2. Femme-Fleur*

          It’s even more effed up than you think: the actual Nazis imported some ideas and imagery from the KKK, so the international exchange of hate symbols between the US and Germany is longstanding.

        3. Clisby*

          Yeah, I was scrolling through these, and saw: American Identity Movement (AIM).

          I think the American Indian Movement might take issue with the idea that AIM is a hate symbol.

          1. Critical Rolls*

            AOL Instant Messenger has entered the chat? As the comments have shown, context is pretty critical for the vaguer of these. Guess they wouldn’t be very useful as dog whistles otherwise.

      2. Stoppin' by to chat*

        Also came here to recommend the ADL as a comprehensive resource. I did a training with the ADL years ago, and that’s where I learned about “88” as a neo-nazi reference among other things. Very informative.

    1. Generic Name*

      The anti defamation league has a pretty comprehensive list of hate symbols that are often used for tattoos.

    2. TyphoidMary*

      I mean… you might wanna pay attention to fascists, honestly. at least a little bit.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        If you don’t want to have to pay attention to them even more in the future, it helps to be paying attention to them a little bit right now!

    3. TootSweet*

      In additional to the ADL website, you can check out That’s where I learned of this. Granted, it’s a website for correctional officers (I work in correctional health care), but I found a lot of interesting information on gangs and hate groups in general. It includes pictures of tattoos that are emblematic of those groups, and they’re not exclusive to inmates.

  20. Lyngend Canada*

    As a security reason, I would suggest that the LW change their email address to remove the year. Having part of your birthday or age in your email is giving up valuable information for identity theft.
    no is much better.
    Hides your first name and birthday.

    1. Emmy Noether*

      The problem with that is that for the big, well-known email providers (gmail and whatnot), the equivalent of jdoe is almost certainly taken at this point (it even is for my very rare family name).
      So then you either have to go with a much less known domain (except… we’ve had letters about this coming across “weird” to some hiring managers) or going with something more specific. In many cases, john.doe is already taken as well, though, which is how people ended up putting their birth year, birth date, or middle initial/name somewhere in there in the first place. You can try with a lucky number, or random number, or something, but it’s hard to do the balancing act between “professional” and secure.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        It is relatively inexpensive to maintain a private domain and then create email addresses as aliases.

        So you’d end up with a domain jhdoeprofessional dot net, and then contact emails “jhd at jhdoeprofessional dot net” or “spam at”, all of which point to your johndoe88 at aol mailbox.

        If you have the resources, I do highly recommend this approach.

        1. Polly Gone*

          Gmail allows you to create aliases that feed to the same inbox, so no need to log in to different accounts. I have two currently but will probably create a couple more. Primary email is very much like PollyGone at gmail dot com, and the one I give out for stores, mailing lists, etc. is pgpublic at gmail dot com. Gmail also allows you to tweak a primary email as follows: PollyGone+shopping at gmail dot com, PollyGone+medical, etc.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          The dude who thinks my email is his ‘throwaway’ email just bowled a 300. I got a congratulatory note. I wonder if he realizes the issue yet (also got a confirmation for him for some con he signed up for. Does he not realize he’s not getting email he wants??).

        2. Lenora Rose*

          Yeah, you wouldn’t think there’d be a lot of people out there using Lenora Rose, but… I still get occasional personal-ish info for someone in California. If I think it’s something they genuinely need to see, I make some effort to correct the address, but if it looks like “oh, you signed up for random mailing list” I unsubscribe and bin.

    2. Timothy (TRiG)*

      If you’re giving example email addresses, please us the RFC2606 domain names (,, so that people with real websites don’t get flooded with spam.

    3. DataSci*

      Easier said than done. I’m old enough to have first initial last name at gmail, with an uncommon last name, but by now that option is not available for most. (It occurs to me that having that address probably reveals my age, or at least that I’m old enough to face age discrimination. Damn.)

  21. GythaOgden*

    LW1 — I’m in a position to do it so this is colouring my response, but I’d quit. You don’t want anything to do with these people and you can leave without the arduous process of a month’s notice like I have, so get out of there and save yourself the hassle.

    Sociable LW — I hear you! I’m an introvert and this is what I miss about the Before Times. I’ve got no advice other than to find a job with an in-office culture (I find that small businesses near me are more likely to be in-person than larger firms) but I miss the social life of work an awful lot. We’ve recently had a clinic set up in the building while somewhere else is being refurbished and seeing patients is keeping us more occupied even if they brought their receptionist with them and all we do is ask them to sign in to the building itself. It’s definitely something missed by others even if you’re not generally a gregarious person outside work, so I hope you find something soon.

    1. DJ Hymnotic*

      Re: LW #4–I’m also an introvert, and while I didn’t necessarily mind working from home, I wouldn’t want to do it forever. One step that helped me gauge my new post-pandemic workplace’s sociability was the peer interview stage–because my work is largely team-based, my now-manager set up some time for me to get to know the team I’d be working with before I was hired. While it wasn’t the first or second things I was looking for, I did get to talk with them about the nature of the team-based work and how it could strike a balance between sociability and the recharge time all introverts need.

      LW, I don’t know if those sorts of peer interviews are something you feel comfortable asking for in your next job search, but they certainly helped me find a team-based job where I feel very much a part of the crew with the right amount of socializing and interest in one another’s lives outside of work to meet my needs.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        My office as a whole actively pushed to come back three days a week, and team based work was a big part of it. For me and my ADHD working from home is just absolute hell, I come in five days a week even if I’m the only person in the office.

        Peer interviews are a great idea when you’re trying to assess culture and day-to-day rhythms. Frankly in a lot of roles managers may not even know what the social culture of the role is like.

        1. DJ Hymnotic*

          Yeah, the team-based component of the job I had at the start of the pandemic definitely suffered. We all adapted as best we could, but there was no way around it. I ran into my supervisor from that job about a year ago, we had coffee together and it sounded like a lot of the teamwork and culture was coming back, that the team he built after my departure is doing really well. I was glad to hear that because I know of **a lot** of workplaces in my field where that is emphatically not the case. I was totally behind the sacrifices we made to stay safe and healthy, but they were exactly that: sacrifices. They came at a cost. I’m glad your office pushed to recover some of its positive culture too.

    2. Nomoredrama*

      I can’t afford to leave without another job. I live in a very expensive area. I have a lease and I don’t have any family in the area. I wish I could do that though.

  22. philmar*

    The ADL has a hate symbols database. As you can imagine, it is necessary for them to pay attention to the fascists.

  23. Zarniwoop*

    They’ve already thrown you under the bus with your boss, so if you know where the coke is stored you might give the police an anonymous tip.

    1. bamcheeks*

      It’s *highly* unlikely the police would be interested in personal cocaine use by people who are presumably white-collar workers. That’s just not how drugs are policed.

      1. GythaOgden*

        Depends. I’ve just seen on a UK solicitors’ website that under our laws, if they’re sharing it, it becomes intent to supply — no money has to change hands.

        It’s true that they might only be cautioned if it’s a small amount and for their own use, but I’d want the police to know even if only to give them a bit of a shock. I’d obviously be doing it on my way out of the job anyway, but for the sake of people who didn’t have the luxury of being able to quit, it might solve the problem even if the two wallies using it aren’t actually banged up.

        1. DataSci*

          In the US, involving police to “give someone a bit of a shock” is not a good idea if anyone the police may encounter in the course of administering said shock is Black. Involving the cops here is not something to be done casually, as a way to invoke outside authority, or “just to be on the safe side”.

      2. Cj*

        tell that to my former boss. this was in the ’80s, but a client, who was also his coke dealer, owed him money and came into the office and put coke on his desk instead. all of a sudden two people come into the office from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, guns on their hips. They and my boss want across the hall to an attorney’s office, who was also on the BCA’s hit list.

        my boss wasn’t charged with anything, because all he had said when the coke was put on his desk is what’s this, and his dealer said payment for my bill. the coke was still on the desk other than on my boss’s person, so they couldn’t bust him. but they were most definitely trying to.

        1. BatManDan*

          Okay, maybe he should have clarified, that’s not how drugs are policed IN AMERICA. (for example, the recent cocaine-in-the-White-House hullabaloo – it was NOT found in the West Wing, it was NOT found in public places, and the fact that law enforcement won’t say whose cocaine it was clearly is telling us who’s it was.)

          1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

            It actually was found in a place that is on the tour. And the reason the police aren’t saying whose it is, is because it was most likely planted.

            But more specifically here, yes, OP1 get out. I would NOT count on the fact the cops don’t care. If they are this blatantly using it and everyone knows, there is a small chance the place will be raided. The whole business could be shut down. Then what? You are looking for a job from the place that got busted for drugs on the premises.

            That’s probably catastrophizing, but the advice remains the same. GET OUT. Its gonna take a while to find a job, so you could well be past 2 years by the time you find another job. Or if you can afford it, GET OUT NOW. Even without something lined up.

    2. MissElizaTudor*

      That would make the LW at least as bad as the coworkers, and, depending on what happened, would make them a worse person.

      Do not call the police about victimless crimes, especially ones that are literally just people doing things to themselves, like drug use.

      1. Cherries Jubilee*

        Agree about not calling the cops, but if you look at the supply chain, cocaine use is hardly a “victimless” crime.

    3. My Lawyer told me to stay Anonymous*

      I disagree with this take pretty strongly.

      I don’t disagree because I believe drug use is a victimless crime, though I do believe that. I also don’t disagree because I don’t think the police would care much, though depending on where you are that might also be the case.

      I disagree because the LW could put putting their safety at risk by doing so. The drug trade is policed by violence. You can’t just call the cops when someone steals your coke. Instead you’d call someone like the person I used to be 30 years ago. Me and my “friends” would show up and use violence to both recover your product and send a very strong message that stealing from you was a really bad idea. We did the exact same thing to potential “snitches.”

      It doesn’t matter if the tip is anonymous. Given the info here, the LW’s co-workers will almost certainly suspect the LW of doing it. For that reason, I strongly believe that LW doesn’t want to get involved in this by getting the cops involved. LW should just quit this dumpster fire of a job and move on.

    4. Nomoredrama*

      I don’t want to be involved. I never did. I am hoping to find a new position and leave and never look back.

  24. Juuuu*

    Re #2: It might be a cultural difference, because I‘m from Austria, which was part of the Nazi regime, but I would definitely change your email address. 88 is – at least here – widely recognizable as a Nazi dog whistle. I think it’s likely that people realised you meant your birth year, but I just wouldn‘t risk the association.

  25. Ritxa*

    The best thing about this forum is seeing how people within a same job culture/industry/country/age are not on the same regarding norms on interviewing, networking, salary negotiations. People work their whole lives blissfully ignorant of the informal checks people do before changing jobs using Linkedin, common friends, relatives. This now is practically due diligence.

    I’d do an informal background check for any long term, important relationship : partner, business partner, so why not for a job.

    TBH I’m waiting for a 3rd interview with the direct manager and N+1, after having jumped through the loops of head hunter, 40 min personality test & employer HR.

    Spotting red flags sooner than later would save my time. I have a tight schedule & a 1 year old, I have to manage my looks, travel, work load, stress to pursue the 3+ interviews that are required for any job jump now.

    And LW #4, what do you think would be much better in your perception of the candidate if the emails were uniquely crafted? People need to be discreet about their job hunt, yes! But to their current employer. Not to the next one.

  26. Purple Halo*

    LW4 one thing to ask about is flexible working – is it ok to occasionally wfh etc – and see what they say.

    The best option is definitely to speak casual outside of the interview – do people tend to work in their offices? You can also ask about how people collaborate.

    I’ve found a couple places that the existing team is tightly connected – but that is mostly through online connections. If you aren’t part of that you might as well not be there.

    1. ferrina*

      Yes, I’d suggest LW delve into how often folks tend to come in the office. This seems to be a pretty common question these days. My work is flexible, and some teams choose to be mostly remote, but a couple choose to be mostly in-person. It sounds like LW would do really well in an office where they can be in-person with coworkers. Definitely keep an ear out for offices that have an office space, but no one goes into the office.

      1. Smithy*

        100% this.

        Our office allows for very liberal use of remote work in the office specific to my city, however one team based there has pretty high attendance in the office. Because of that, if your desk is near that team – there’s a greater ability to build rapport with them socially even if not your own team. Also, if you were interviewing to be on that team, their habits are not those of the rest of the organization.

        I think another thing you can ask about is how an office culture has changed after COVID. Thinking of my larger office – those teams who are less present – there has been an effort to engage in organizing monthly office happy hours and brown bag lunch lectures are kind of coming back. Depending on the team the OP was on at my employer, they might have similar feelings about the socialization vibes or feel more accommodated. But think these questions would start to get them closer to figuring out what the specific team culture is like.

  27. LifeBeforeCorona*

    LW1, First, your manager sounds very unprofessional for choosing to believe gossip over an investigation. Second, when you resign, the co-workers will need a new target to hide their tracks. Drug use and illicit affairs are very hard to conceal because both show a severe lack of judgement especially in a workplace setting. When you leave, make it clear to your co-workers that it’s because of this and your manager’s lack of trust and action. They need to know that one of them will likely to singled out as the next target. Also, do you want to keep working for a boss who plays favourites?

  28. bamcheeks*

    It’s *highly* unlikely the police would be interested in personal cocaine use by people who are presumably white-collar workers. That’s just not how drugs are policed.

  29. Irish Teacher*

    LW4, my immediate thought is what kind of work are you doing. There are a lot of jobs, probably the majority, that cannot be done remotely and perhaps one of those would be a good fit. I don’t know what your post-grad is in but…is office work the only option? Or the only well-paid option?

    As a teacher, I am constantly around people and a lot of jobs related to helping people are similar. If there are roles that you are qualified for that require in-person work or a lot of interaction with the clientele, then they might be a good fit.

    1. Throwaway account*

      I’m in an academic library so we work in-person with students and cannot be remote (unless the whole campus is remote) and our motto/key message is we are friendly and helpful and in the interview they described themselves as collaborative. But it turns out, most of my coworkers are pretty introverted and prefer to stick to themselves and we don’t have a shared definition of collaborative! I did not anticipate this based on the work we do.

      So I think TYPE of work and clientele is important, but I think you still have to ask about things like culture and fit.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Yeah, I would think that if the work requires you to be socially “on” all the time, that would make introverted people less likely to want to socialize on their breaks. It sounds like what LW wants is a chance to socialize with their coworkers, not just with clientele.

      2. Bluebonnet*

        I work in an academic library as well and second this. As an extrovert in a sea of introverts, I am socially under-stimulated so have been looking for a new job.

      3. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        Seconding this. I’m in an industry typically filled with social extroverts (the job is very outward facing and you have to be “on” for clients all day) yet I’ve somehow found myself in the most introverted office I’ve ever encountered. Our office is SILENT and any chit chat will earn glares from the most severe of my colleagues.

        During my last job search I wasn’t in a position to turn down any offers, but if circumstances were different I would have done more due diligence and possibly turned down this offer. I love what I do but the culture is making me miserable.

    2. Allonge*

      Absolutely, I was also immediately going for this is a work content issue as much as a work culture issue. The most social job I have done so far was to with people in communications and event management – compared to, e.g. our legal department we were in each other’s pockets every day.

      Other factors could be working in a large enough org that has ‘official’ social events and/or a place that has a bunch of people who moved for work and so get a lot of their socialization at work. And these are things OP can ask about at an interview, if in a roundabout way – how collaborative is the typical workday, are all the staff from around here or do you recruit from further away etc.

  30. DJ Abbott*

    #4, I’m like you, very social and hate feeling isolated, and I made an effort to get a job where I get to work with people a lot after several years in support and analysis positions. A job where are you get to work with clients or customers could help. I love it. :)
    Many people who have been working for a while are wary about sharing their personal lives at work. We’ve all seen colleagues and employers who use a person’s personal life against them. I’ve had trouble with people being jealous at work, or generally destructive using anything they can against me. So it would be good to accept that colleagues might not want a personal relationship for reasons that aren’t about you.
    I’ve found it good to develop a social life outside of work. Pick an activity you like and join a group of people who do it. This way you can make friends with no work restrictions, with people you already have something in common with. I got involved in a music and dancing scene 25 years ago, and my life has been improving ever since. :)

    1. JM60*

      When I read, “I have made an effort to learn about my coworkers and their lives but they seem uninterested,” what went through my mind was a coworker always asking me about my personal life, even though I don’t want to talk about my personal life at work. Perhaps that’s not how the OP was going about it, but that’s what I envisioned as someone “on the other side” who prefers not to talk about my personal life at work very much for multiple reasons. Even if none of the questions are individually very personal, being asked about your personal life when you don’t want to be can become too much at a certain point if the other person doesn’t stop.

      Outgoing people tend to form more connections than others. Hopefully the OP will develop more connections over time which they can use to help screen for employers that would be a good match for them.

    2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      That’s true- although the OP could ask his coworkers to coffee or drinks to get to know them. I try not to be too personal because I know I am weird and don’t want any coworkers to be bothered by it

    3. LadyVet*

      I really feel for the LW, because I am many years post-grad, and started an in-office job about six months ago that I thought would be welcome respite from being stuck at home (at an ergonomically disastrous workstation) but it hasn’t panned out at all.

      I don’t want to be besties with my colleagues, but I don’t even know much about anyone’s work history or what led them here, and no one asks about mine. My teammates don’t often communicate if they’ll be working from home or taking the day off. We don’t use any chat software. The vast majority of us don’t have webcams at our desks, and we can’t upload profile pictures on Teams, so we can’t put a face to a name.

      It’s been really weird.

      I only had one interview for the job, so I didn’t ask some questions that I normally would have asked during a second interview.

    4. SeaCow*

      Sometimes building those personal relationships at work take YEARS. My life does not revolve around my job, and most of my friendships are outside of my career. I am friendly at work (as are my coworkers) and do have a couple work friends but neither of these were instant friendships when I joined the team. I kindly suggest joining groups or clubs outside of work to socialize and build a community, and to do so in different social circles such as a walking/running group, book club, boardgames, pub quiz team, or whatever your interests are (or to maybe try something new!) When I moved to a new country, this was incredibly helpful and I was still open to work friends but my social life didn’t depend on it.

  31. matt r*

    LW3 – disagree…at least take the time to craft something somewhat unique. if you can’t make the effort to realize you sent an *identical* note to different people in the same company? i’m tossing it.

    1. L-squared*

      That seems so petty. This is an email format that clearly works. The important part, as in why they are reaching out to that specific person (the connection) is changed. How many ways are there to say “I’d like to hear about your company and industry” as well as introduce yourself, without this being a super long intro email.

      Some of you people just seem to want to make life harder for other people.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Especially when you, as the person sending the notes, have no idea how closely the people work together!

    2. Eloise*

      This is a ridiculous take! It’s a straightforward email (not a long letter), and he changed the connection to each person to reflect why they were the person(s) he reached out to. Not changing the couple sentences isn’t lazy or rude. This is totally normal.

      1. londonedit*

        Absolutely. If two of my authors for some reason took it upon themselves to compare notes, they’d realise that the bulk of the emails I send to them are identical – I have a range of templates that I use to send the sort of emails I’m sending on a regular basis (like when I send an author their first proofs and ask them to review them, for example) and I just change the details as necessary. It means I know I’m not forgetting to include any important info, and it makes my life easier because I don’t have to type out the same thing all the time. This candidate has done much the same thing, and I really don’t see an issue with it. It would be really weird if my authors started kicking up a fuss because I’m not individually hand-crafting a completely unique and personalised email to them every time.

      2. matt r*

        i’m just not interested in “networking” with someone who just got my name from a list somewhere and is sending an identical “introduction” to dozens / hundreds / thousands of other people. i don’t need to feel special, but i do need you to tell me how interacting with you will bring actual value to my life and / or business. i’m sorry, but a form letter doesn’t do that.

        i’m an architect. i’ve started getting (at least) daily invitations to connect with construction cost estimators – those emails use nearly-identical verbiage, almost without exception. i’m not sure how that’s different.

        1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

          But that isn’t what happened. This person is applying for a job at this company. The people they contacted would be their coworkers/managers.

          You’re letting your own experience color your response into something that doesn’t make sense *in context*.

    3. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Form letters for business requests are normal and efficient, especially since the relevant details were updates.

    4. biobotb*

      You compare your emails so closely with your colleagues that you’d know the notes are identical? Why are you wasting your time like that?

      1. LW3*

        Yeah it only came up because I asked the people doing the interviewing about him and one of them said “he emailed me too” and I asked what he’d said and my colleague forwarded it to me. Definitely not a thing I do normally! :)

  32. Irish Teacher*

    LW1, I don’t think one relatively short period in a job will make you look like a job-hopper. Anybody can have one job that didn’t work out, wasn’t a good fit or have an amazing opportunity turn up shortly after they start a job.

  33. DrMrsC*

    LW4 – I work in the type of office that is the type of social you are looking for. We have some people who engage in sort of, casually friendly ways in the office and others who commonly spend time together outside of work. We just had a new employee start though and the experience was…interesting. Our group is fairly welcoming with new folks, but our new employee just sort of jumped in on day 1 with a presumed familiarity that was odd and off putting. Among many, many, other things he jumps onto conversations and overshares to the point of irritation. He has been with us for just over 2 months and has pretty well alienated himself to the point that people only interact with him about work specific things. It is a tough situation. Most of us feel a bit of guilt in keeping him at arms length, but in our busy office good boundaries are necessary and he is an energy vampire.
    At first I thought, “well I’m just someone that takes time to warm up to people…” trying to cut him some slack for being a bit awkward. But, it is hard to buy into that when I have absolutely enjoyed our last 5 new hires pretty much from day 1.
    My point is, 3 months is not that long when you are trying to integrate into a new team who already has established relationships. There might be some value though in looking a bit more into how your efforts to interact with your co-workers are being received and why. Sometimes a “BIG NEW ENERGY” being added to the mix can put people off early on, especially if like my guy, it feels like relationships are assumed not earned (or also in his case, even two sided).

  34. Chilipepper Attitude*

    #4, I’m social too!
    Alison saw you as wanting to be social outside of work but I was not sure. It sounds to me more like you want to be social AT work. And it is very uncomfortable to spend so many hours a day in a space that is mismatched in this way.

    My current job described themselves the way yours did. But they are no where near as collaborative, even with work things, as they think! And they are not as warm at work as they suggested.

    Others pointed out you can ask if they are in the office and what percent of the time and that will help you gauge things. But I also think you should ask about communication styles and collaboration.

    Maybe not in the first interview, but later, ask about the way they communicate, is this a slack only team, do they have lots of meetings, stop by their offices, etc. And don’t accept what they say at face value, get more info.

    Ask for examples of collaboration – and then pay attention to their answers, don’t accept what they say at face value. Do they describe projects that are done on teams or individually but then they run things by each other and that is collaborative to them? Find one or two follow up questions based on their answers – how often are projects like that one they just mentioned, how many are that collaborative, how did the project with another team/agency come to be?

    Alison has some good threads about probing company culture, use those tips too.

    I also want to add that I know how it feels to be a person who is energized by collaboration, cross pollination of ideas, and interaction in a space that does not have it. It feels like you are at work with photos of people but not real people and they do occasional zoom meetings but not very well. And it takes a lot of energy to constantly pull back and think about not interacting. I’ve had jobs where I had to learn who was more introverted and who was more extroverted but at this job, no one is extroverted and it is hard!! I hope you find a better match next time.

    1. LW4*

      As LW4, I wish I had more time to respond to more of the comments on my letter, but I wanted to address yours specifically because you totally get it. It’s not that I want to be friends with the people I work with, I just have preferences in terms of how invested I am in my coworkers and our collaborative relationship, and vice versa. You absolutely nailed it when you mention being energized by these collaborative relationships and interactions, and you’re right that it’s uncomfortable, demoralizing, and takes a lot of energy to constantly pull myself back from being my natural self. Again, like I said in the letter, I don’t think anyone is doing anything wrong or that they are obligated to treat me any specific way. It’s just a mismatch between how they work and how I work. Like you say, it’s hard!

      I cannot thank you enough for your recommendations about how to find out more about how the working relationships actually are, and not just how people think they are. That is the heart of what I was asking about. Your suggestions, as well as the eerily accurate comments about how I should be working in teaching (I’ve come to that conclusion since emailing Alison, so it’s crazy how many people are picking it up!), have given me a lot of hope for the future of my career. I appreciate your empathy and understanding very much.

      1. Throwaway account*

        I’m so happy you feel like I get it! I feel better knowing you get me!!

        I did not mention teaching, but I have been a teacher. I would suggest a training role or something that balances teaching with other tasks.

        I think information interviews with folks in different fields could help a lot.

        Whatever you do, best to you!

  35. Chairman of the Bored*

    LW1 seems to be pretty judgmental about her co-workers’ affair and drug use; that may be coming through in her interactions with them and causing some of the problem.

    “In order to cover their tracks they are telling people that I’m starting rumors” sounds an awful lot like “I tried to get them in trouble and they denied that they were doing anything wrong”.

    Let consenting adults make consenting adult choices; unless those choices cause a specific problem for you then stay out of it.

    1. Random Dice*

      Honestly I was twigging to that too. They said it was confirmed, then later said the other people who know about it won’t talk to the manager, which seems to be code for them having talked to several people about it. Which is, actually, gossip, though not rumors.

    2. HonorBox*

      Except that the knuckleheads have told the boss the LW is starting rumors and that’s causing the boss to freeze the LW out and put a promotion on hold. That is causing specific problems.

      1. Chairman of the Bored*

        I would be very interested to know if that “starting rumors” bit was in response to LW telling the boss or other people at the office about said knuckleheads sex lives and drug use.

        It seems unlikely that they would arbitrarily pick a random colleague and start telling people that she was “starting rumors” for no reason at all.

        There’s a decent chance that if LW had just let them party and rang it up as “none of my business” she’d have the promotion by now.

        1. HonorBox*

          But “starting rumors” is different than reporting the fact that someone’s doing coke in the office. Forget the affair. That has (potentially) zero bearing on the LW and their other coworkers and I’d also lean more toward “none of my business.” But if someone’s doing drugs in the office, there’s a mountain of potential issues that would certainly raise it to “my business.”

          We don’t know all the specifics of the timeline for when / how things were reported. But if the LW saw the coke being snorted, the knuckleheads could have proactively reported the “rumors” to the boss to plant the seed that anything that is reported would be false.

        2. Myrin*

          I think you got it backwards – it seems to me like OP found out about all of this by pure happenstance (maybe she walked in on them having sex, maybe she saw them snorting, something like that) and the coworkers in question started pre-emptively saying OP is spreading rumours so that when others hear about it – because, for example, OP decides to take this whole coke thing to a higher-up – they’ll think “ah yes, that’s the rumours Cokehead 1 and 2 were talking about”.
          The letter doesn’t read to me like OP ever said anything about the sex and drugs to anyone at all (in fact, it specifically mentions “if anything comes out”, meaning that it hasn’t yet).

    3. Forensic13*

      I dunno, I think we’re allowed to judge people having affairs and doing drugs AT work. The affair is a problem because they’re making it obvious and apparently using it to affect work stuff. And doing cocaine at work—I assume OP isn’t working at SNL in the 70s, so I think it’s fair if they don’t want to be around that at their place of employment!

      1. Random Dice*

        Oh 100% agree, this isn’t ok, but my point is that the LW can take another lesson from this other than the obvious, that next time she (?) should mind her own business more and not gossip about stuff like this.

        Because honestly… who hasn’t had coworkers affairing? It’s a bog-standard thing to have happen, and it helps to remind ourselves that the gods haven’t appointed any of us to be the marriage police for other people. (And who knows how open or closed those relationships are anyway.)

        And far more people do drugs than we squares realize, so it just feels like this person reacted to big. “Whoa what the hell, they did that at work? Gross I will definitely wipe down my desk just in case. Anyway, so for that report did you want…” is the level of reaction I’d recommend, not obsessing and gossiping and this level of judgment.

        1. HonorBox*

          I don’t totally agree. I think this goes beyond pretending this isn’t happening because it doesn’t impact you. If people KNOW versus SUSPECT there’s an affair going on, it means there’s a different dynamic between these, and potentially other, coworkers. And even if we set the affair aside, because you know – consenting adults, doing cocaine AT WORK is definitely a problem. You see them at a bar and they’re doing drugs? That’s probably more in the “not your worry” column. But cocaine at work changes the office dynamic.

          We don’t know enough to know for certain how, when and why these coworkers told the boss that LW is starting rumors. Perhaps she saw them doing the drugs or in a compromising position and they preemptively went to the boss with the idea of rumors so the boss would more likely believe them. Perhaps LW spoke to other coworkers to figure out if they saw the drug use too. Perhaps someone else came to LW with specific information. Perhaps there were some bad feelings one of the affair havers had about LW in advance. We just don’t know. But I think this is far beyond a “none of your business” situations.

        2. M*

          I’ve known people to smoke weed at work and I’ve known people to snort coke there too (kitchens). And I am judging the hell out of the cokeheads because it makes them extremely unpleasant to work with or be around. I’m not impressed with the affair either, but having worked with people on coke in the past, it is a problem on its own.

        3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          “Because honestly… who hasn’t had coworkers affairing? It’s a bog-standard thing to have happen, and it helps to remind ourselves that the gods haven’t appointed any of us to be the marriage police for other people.”

          It’s all fun and games until the affair partner that has more power yanks all the good projects and promotions from other people, that they do not have feelings for, to give them to the other affair partner. And yeah this almost happened to me once. He tried to take me off a project because his mistress “hasn’t done it before and wants to try”, I threatened with leaving, which somehow worked and he left me alone. (But also I really did leave a few months later, not in the least because I couldn’t handle anymore of the drama. He was my boss and she was my teammate and he’d gone after me first, before I said NO enough times that he decided to start an affair with her.)

          If it’s a corporation with 15K employees and two people on the other side of the country, that I’ll never have to work with, are “affairing”, that’s one thing. If it’s two people in a tiny company with no HR, who have the boss’s ear, RIP tiny company.

    4. Lilo*

      I don’t care what people do on their own time, but drugs in the office? I’m comfortable judging that.

      1. not a hippo*

        Affairs are tacky but ultimately no one’s business but the people making poor choices and the people they’re hurting.

        Drug use at work can be dangerous and put more than just the user in danger.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          And who the heck knows when they’ll feel paranoid about getting caught and decide to hide their stash in LW’s desk drawer

          1. not a hippo*

            Or put a family member at risk (see the letter about the ditzy boss bringing in her marijuana plants when the employee’s dad had priors/employee couldn’t trust boss not to throw them under the bus.

    5. Generic Name*

      I’m sorry, but what? I’m a pretty liberal “live and let live type” however I see cheating as a character flaw, and doing drugs AT work shows a breathtaking lack of judgement and recklessness. So yeah, I’d be judging those coworkers hard. OP, please, please look for another job. This is not a functional workplace and it’s damaging your health.

    6. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      This is more than a little blame the victim. These people are pretty blatantly violating office norms — drugs IN THE OFFICE. Which would cause any normal office to FIRE THEM. The fact OP might look at them less than professionally WHEN THEY ARE ACTING LESS THAN PROFESSIONALLY is actually pretty minor. Then Boss is threatening a promotion because OP is acting like a professional about a pretty unprofessional situation. Nope. I would wonder about the judgment of someone who doesn’t see DRUGS IN THE OFFICE as a problem, not someone who does.

    7. Jackalope*

      I feel like if someone is breaking the law fragrantly at my office that is in fact something that could affect me. We had a letter here a few months ago about someone whose boss was raising weed at the office, and lots of talk about how that could affect the LW. Coworkers who will throw this OP under the bus to be able to continue with their current activities are almost certainly coworkers that would throw the OP under the bus by sticking their drugs in her desk if they heard about a police raid, for example.

      And one of the things about mind-altering substances is that they… alter your mind. I’ve been around people who were on a substance and were sure they were acting perfectly normal but from the outside they were… so not. I feel comfortable judging coworkers that would do that to themselves at work; what they want to do at home is their business, but at work I want their mind to be fully functioning.

      And lastly, someone showing judgment that bad is probably also cutting corners or breaking the law in other areas at work. Are they ignoring safety regulations? Skimming money off the top? Keeping “creative” logs? Who knows? But there’s a good chance that there’s something else there, and as the OP I wouldn’t be okay with that either. Maybe it’s because most of my jobs have involved a certain amount of carefulness regarding the law and best practices (working with young kids, for example, where you have to protect the kids very carefully and make sure that your safety rules will catch predators), but I would be concerned about what other judgment calls these two are making.

      1. Allonge*

        Yes – I would feel comfortable judging someone who is drunk at work, nevermind someone doing illegal drugs. ‘Live and let live’ extends so far as me not reporting it as a crime, most likely.

        Outside of medical treatment, wait to have mind-altering substances until you are out of the office, please – also, ideally, don’t do crime where I can see it.

    8. Admin Lackey*

      “I didn’t even know any of this was happening until very recently.”
      “My boss isn’t speaking to me or treating me the same way. I didn’t know why until I found out what was going on.”

      I guess you missed these parts of the letter? Your interpretation is pure fiction.

    9. Cherries Jubilee*

      It’s ok to judge people’s words and actions. That’s part of being a critically thinking adult. She’s allowed to find scummy behavior offputting. And they are causing specific problems for her! They’re pre-sullying her reputation as a backup alibi.

    10. Nomoredrama*

      I found out about all this at once, everything, the affair, the cocaine, the accusations about me, all of it. My colleague who likes to gossip suddenly threw it all at me and showed me text messages all in one go. She said she needed someone to talk to, as if I wasn’t the subject of all of this. I had no idea any of this was going on until she revealed everything to me including her conversation with our boss. Overnight my world was turned upside down. I was blindsided which is why I’m not sleeping and so stressed.

    11. What name did I use last time?*

      It’s “pretty judgmental” to have negative thoughts about adultery and cocaine use in the office?? Oh, kiddo, you’re adorable — not.

  36. Left Turn at Albuquerque*

    As someone born in ’69, I’ve always tried to avoid using my birth year in email addresses and user names (on the rare occasions when I do, I also use my birth month and date numbers).

    1. AMo*

      As someone born on June 9, I was not aware of the other meaning when I created my first email address…

  37. A Pinch of Salt*

    #1…is there a safety line you can report the cocaine to anonymously that could maybe prompt an investigation and action there?

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Maybe, maybe not. They may use some kind of reporting line as an automated HR stand-in.

    1. Nomoredrama*

      Nope! Nothing. No one would believe me either and no one will back me up because they are not in the spot light so what’s the point.

  38. Dido*

    The responses to LW2 are really overdramatic. No reasonable person is going to see 88 in an email address and jump to “this person is a Nazi.” If it was 1488, maybe. But why would anyone be so obvious about being racist in their job applications? I suggest some of my fellow commenters take a step back from doom and gloom social media sites and enter the real world, where the overwhelming majority of people are perfectly normal and not trying to commit genocide

    1. Desert girl*

      Alot of the comments on this site, are quite dramatic sometimes. Things were better for a while after the commenting rules were addressed sometime ago. But I feel like most things are blown way out of proportion.

      1. BeepBoop*

        Agreed!! I think a lot of people here are “very online” and think that everyone else has this base understanding of internet culture which is…. not true. I get that the number thing is common knowledge in Germany, I guess, but that’s a relatively small part of the world and is not common knowledge the world-over. There are so many innocent uses of this number that have absolutely nothing to do with Nazis.

    2. Random Dice*

      A lot of the comments are from Germany and Austria, which has a decided focus on Nazi symbology because of both the history and present.

      But Nazi symbology is very relevant worldwide. We see people in the US doing Nazi salutes while shouting the Nazi line outside of Disneyworld, for heaven’s sake, and wearing Nazi swastikas while committing domestic terrorism. It’s not unreasonable to notice and be alarmed, and choose not to align with their symbols.

      1. BeepBoop*

        Doing Nazi salutes and wearing swastikas is one thing, but wondering if someone is a Nazi because they use the number 88 is making very unkind assumptions about people. Nazis appropriate very innocent things and make them evil so that they can fly under the radar, yes, but it also has the added benefit (to them) of making people distrust everyone around them. I find that incredibly sad.

        1. Flower*

          Yup, and then you’re so tired of distrusting everyone around you that you don’t have the energy to deal with actual issues.

          Divide and conquer. Or in this case, exhaust and conquer. Though they’re doing very well on the divide front too.

          1. BeepBoop*

            Yes! We just end up spending an incredible amount of time (case in point, this comments section) arguing about and wondering whether someone MIGHT be a secret Nazi because of one off-the-wall thing instead of doing the work of actually fighting honest-to-God Nazis.

            As I’ve said, context is key. Don’t just assume someone is a Nazi based on the use of a number in their email address.

      2. sb51*

        Especially early in the day, as the European crew of commenters is online earlier than the Americans.

      3. Emmy Noether*

        I want to push back on this a bit. I’m one of the commenters from Germany, and it wouldn’t have necessarily registered for me either. Yes, we are (appropriately) very sensitive to this crap, but only the more obvious ones, and the actual historical ones, are common knowledge.

        Also, while I knew about the 88 thing, some of the others that are mentioned (and the list that is linked somewhere) are decidedly American. For example, the “14 word” and 1488 thing meant nothing to me. Google tells me that’s an American white supremacist thing (my google search history today is… something).

        Recognition of this stuff depends highly on what one has been exposed to. I wouldn’t make any assumptions.

    3. YetAnotherAnalyst*

      The point of a dog whistle is that it helps identify (and gain support from) similarly-minded individuals, while maintaining plausible deniability with folks who hold opposing views. So, if a neonazi wants to work somewhere that’s going to be friendly to that point of view, leading with a dog whistle in their application is a reasonable way to start. And, if you think of a political campaign as essentially a job application, I’m sure you can find multiple real-world examples.

      1. La La Land*

        I’m sure you can find real-world examples. Doesn’t mean you should assume everyone using the number intends it to be a Nazi symbol.

      2. bamcheeks*

        There’s also the “getting away with it” aspect. Flaunting your political beliefs in front of people who don’t understand them is also part of the game.

        A lot of “this is a far right dogwhistle” stuff DOES sound ridiculous and overblown and silly, which is because — that’s who the far right is! A LOT of the recruitment of the far right is finding people on the Venn diagram of shitty, immature people who are attracted to being part of something “secret” and oh-so-cleverly throwing around symbols that only those-in-the-know are supposed to recognise, and either unfazed by or actively positive about obscene violence to minoritised people and other outgroups.

        I don’t personally want to go down the rabbit hole of understanding all this stuff because frankly it’s vile, but I am grateful to the people who do and who eg. call out law officials with black sun tattoos.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      Is anybody jumping to that conclusion though? Or is it simply a matter of not using distracting and needless things on an application, like you wouldn’t use the number 69 for example. It’s not that putting 88 in your email will make everyone definitely and absolutely auto-class you as a nazi, it’s that it will jump out to anyone in the know, and make you look *possibly* like you subscribe to that usage. From there, the hiring manager will probably assess how likely it is to be a date of birth, because that’s a common formula too. Now they’ve been looking at your application for longer than the average time and they’ve only considered that things like the possibility that you’re a Nazi, and your age instead of the things you want them to notice. I agree with Alison that it’s not obvious knowledge and you should give all due grace to that fact, but why continue to look like you aren’t in the know when you become aware of something? It’s a distraction at best.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Oh, I see your point. When I first read that I took in that they were also considering it as a birth year and just generally doing a bit of off-point wondering, but you’re right; they landed on it as being a bit more than a possibility after considering their age.

    5. Hiring Mgr*

      I couldn’t agree more. I’m Jewish, had family members die in and survive the Holocaust, am familiar with the 88 meaning, and never in a million years would this even enter my mind

    6. Lilspotteddog*

      I’m a resident of a red state deep in the American South. Lots of people here are not “perfectly normal”, and many are actively trying to commit genocide. They make no effort to hide their hate. I would absolutely assume that a local with 88 in their email address is telling me loud and clear what they believe.

  39. Heather*

    #1: “looking like a job hopper” is not the end of the world. Truly! Just leave (now if you can, or as soon as you find something else). I stayed at a toxic job for too long, and now I look back and I can’t believe I did that to myself. It was similar to your situation, in that I wanted to stay on for a career opportunity. But I would have been WAY better off to just walk away.

    1. Nomoredrama*

      I am reaching that conclusion as well. Just need to figure out what to say to potential employers.

  40. Ihadnoidea*

    LW2 – I have never even heard of the 88 thing until now, if makes you feel any better!

    1. Scarlet Ribbons in her Hair*

      Me too! And one of my email addresses is my initials followed by 66. I wasn’t born in 1966. I did not graduate high school or college in 1966. I chose 66 because I didn’t think it would be wise to choose three sixes.

  41. L-squared*

    #3. What exactly do you find weird about this. If everything that they said is true (they went to the same college as you AND they have a mutual acquaintence with your coworker), I’m not really seeing the problem. The way some of these applications are, it makes total sense to do a bit of dilligence before even applying IMO. I’ve had people reach out to me because they saw a job opening at my company and we had some kind of mutual connection. Is it just that its the same email? If so, I mean, that isn’t all that odd to me. If its an email format that works, why not use it more than once? They don’t know you and the person sit next to each other. With as much remote work going on, they don’t know anything.

    I feel like you are making a far bigger deal about this than necessary. And definitely don’t hold this against him in the decision process.

    1. Stopped Using My Name*

      Agreed. It did make me wonder, if you’re not actively looking for work or work in a very niche area, how do you keep up with what’s “normal” and “appropriate.” Norms change. LW is seemed out of touch, defensive and punitive -THE EXACT SAME EMAIL.

      Speaking of changing norms, I was unaware of how the number 88 could be problematic for some. So I’ve added that factoid to my mental database.

    2. Heather*

      Agreed! if anything I think it’s a good sign that the person is doing their due diligence and reaching out to people/researching the job thoroughly. It shows that they’re really interested and your firm isn’t just one of a million places they applied to that day. And to insist that each and every networking email be personally crafted from scratch seems pretty precious.

    3. Generic Name*

      I totally reached out to a colleague who used to work for a place I applied to. He recently moved on, so I wanted to know if it was a decent place to work. Candidates who have options are smart to try to find the best mutual fit. It’s also pretty normal networking. While the duplicate emails aren’t the most artful thing ever, doesn’t Alison recommend using boilerplate emails when sending the same type of emails out in a work context? I would interpret this as someone who cares about efficiency and not doing the same thing twice if they don’t have to.

    4. umami*

      The only weird part to me is that they want an interview with the person who would be the manager. That is precisely what the formal interview process is for, so it feels like a misstep to try to get essentially a pre-interview based on a connection.

      1. Anne Shirley*

        I agree that it feels like a misstep. It would make more sense to me if the applicant personally knew the LW and colleague. In fact, that is how I found my current job. It all began with a friend direct-messaging me on Facebook. I made sure I got the low-down on company culture before emailing the hiring manager directly. (She knew I might contact her.) I didn’t even have to formally apply through the company’s portal.

        Honestly I was surprised by how okay Alison and some of the commenters are with this! I was certain we were getting into Bad Career Center Advice/I’ve Got Moxie territory. It just seems so gimmicky to me. I inwardly recoiled while reading it.

        1. Hiring Mgr*

          It’s really just networking though – if you know or have a connection with someone at a company you’re interested in, it makes sense to try and chat with them. Even if you don’t really know them well, or are just a friend of a connection, etc.

          Personally I wouldn’t do this as early in the process as this person, but just doing it isn’t a red flag or anything.

          Also, even though some of the “gumption” stuff we hear about on this site can be cringy or a misstep, lots of people don’t really care so much about that type of thing. There’s a line of course, but as you’re seeing in this example it’s not always so clear.

  42. HonorBox*

    LW1 – I would strongly suggest going to your boss with whatever information you have about the affair and drug use. Not because you’re reporting these two fools, but because they’ve started a rumor about you to protect themselves. Bring your boss whatever information you have, let her know that you’ve heard that the fools told her unflattering things about you, and set the record straight. It would be especially helpful if you could at least get the others in your office to provide confirmation, if asked by your boss. But at this point, I’m not sure what you have to lose. I’d be looking elsewhere too, but what’s the worst that happens? You’re already being frozen out by your boss, you’re in a toxic workplace, and your promised promotion is on hold… This is far different than you reporting a suspected affair. The cocaine bears threw you under the bus to protect themselves and you have a right to at least attempt to share the truth.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      OP has already said no one else in the office will back her up. Boss has showed favoritism even before this happened. There is no clearing this up with the boss. The boss already made up her mind. If the boss were open to reason she wouldn’t have accepted what was said about OP at face value, she would have investigated.

      Boss isn’t interested in the truth. Boss is only interested in protecting her favorites. OP is not one of her favorites. OPs energy would be better spent looking for a new job rather than trying to get an unreasonable boss to be reasonable.

    2. Nomoredrama*

      She would never believe me. She likes me because I work hard and reduce her workload but she treats those two like her besties. Extremely inappropriate frankly. My boss has yet to actually talk to me and listen to my side. Most of her thoughts have been shared with other people instead of me.

  43. Rebekah*

    As someone who is almost exactly the same age as OP#2 I was worried that creating a new email would be a hassle so I put it off forever, but I finally did it and it’s wonderful! My old email was constantly clogged with junk, even with the best efforts of Gmail sorting, after 15+ years of using it to sign up for things online. My new email I almost exclusively give to real people whose emails I care about, or businesses that I actually want to see all the emails from (eg my drs office). It’s awesome because it’s so much easier to find things and not miss emails. On the downside I have to check two emails but increasingly I don’t check the old one as often.

    1. Two Pop Tarts*

      You can put a plus sign on your current email to create a custom address.

      This is useful for services that require your email but you don’t 100% trust to not create spam., for example, gives out your email to every recruiter in the world.

      Your email:
      Email you give to

      This email will still come to your inbox. If you start getting spam from it, you can create a filter handle any emails addressed to (move to spam, block, whatever).

  44. ecnaseener*

    LW1, another thing to think about is this: what’s the best-case scenario if you stay? You get this promotion, right – so then, what, you’re still working with this couple who has it out for you and this manager who favors them and doesn’t trust you? You’re possibly supervising the couple, and having to deal with them going over your head to the manager about everything you do? It’s not going to get better as long as that manager’s there. Choose your health now.

    (If this promotion is more of a transfer to another area, away from at least the couple, that changes the calculus somewhat – but you’ve still got a manager who doesn’t trust you and favors others over you.)

    1. Myrin*

      That’s exactly what I was thinking. This environment won’t magically change just because you were promoted (unless, like you say, ecna, the promotion would actually physically and work-wise move you somewhere else).

    2. Nomoredrama*

      I wouldn’t be there manager, THANKFULLY. But the people I would be managing are tainted by all this. I would favor staying and fighting for the promotion if my manager had spoken to me and gotten my side instead of speaking to a 4th person who is a lower level within the company than me. But the fact that I have yet to be spoken to about all this is why I am brushing up my resume and figuring what I need to say to potential employers.

  45. Mim*

    LW2, I’d just establish a new main email address for everything, and have the old one forward to it so you don’t miss things that are still sent there by accident. I think familiarity with the dogwhistle meaning of “88” varies a lot, but there are definitely some folks for whom seeing that will raise an eyebrow. I wouldn’t assume that it meant something bad, but I would actively wonder if it was used in the n@zi way or if it innocent. That’s not something you want a prospective employer wondering, but beyond that I’d imagine you wouldn’t want anyone who sees your email address feeling wary or unsure about what is happening there.

    Personally, as a Jew and as someone who lurks a lot on a some social media sites where handles are used instead of names, I am very used to seeing those numbers used both ways. And every time I see them in the context of a username (or email address, I suppose), I will be wondering what’s behind them because I’ve seen so many instances of people using them in the evil way. It does suck that folks born in 1988 have to be careful about using their birth year that way, though as others have pointed out it’s probably best to keep info like that private. (I’ve started revising logins and online identifiers to remove my own birth year, where I might have used it in the past, because it feels like best practice.) Funny enough, even though it’s not my birth year, ’88 is special to me for a couple of reasons. Hate groups suck, and while taking special numbers from folks isn’t nearly the worst of what they do or stand for, it is certainly annoying!

  46. Erin*

    For the person on a PIP:

    Several years ago, a traumatic event in my personal life triggered tanking my performance at work. I was put on a PIP.

    However, I also came back from it. I know some companies don’t tell employees they are on a PIP, but mine did, and yours did as well (bless). My manager gave me a billeted list of the things I did that contributed to my PIP. It was hard to read, but once the hurt wore off, I used that info to craft a document that outlined how I intended to bring my performance up, as well as a timeline for it. I also met with my manager for 1:1 once a week to discuss my progress.

    I got into therapy to work through the traumatic event that happened in my personal life, and I also worked like crazy to fulfill my recovery plan at work. It can happen, but it will require work and an open minded management team.

  47. Countess of Shrewsbury*

    Nazis ruin EVERYTHING. I had no idea about the 88 thing, but for folks in the comments — even if YOU’RE aware of it being a thing (and I see upthread that in Germany/Austria it’s relatively common knowledge), please don’t make assumptions about people based on their use of this number (or any other weird dog-whistle used by people like this). I’ve literally never heard of it before and I consider myself reasonably well-informed. Unless you have other things pointing to someone being a white supremacist/neo-Nazi, don’t make assumptions about one stupid thing that Nazis have appropriated that may not be widely understood where they’re from. Give people the benefit of the doubt unless you see other things that give you pause.

    1. DataSci*

      This is a statement that comes from a position of privilege. Many people – Jews, trans people, etc – put themselves at serious risk if they give a potential Nazi the benefit of the doubt. Yeah, people with innocent reasons to put 88 in their email addresses might have their feelings hurt, or get extra scrutiny when applying for jobs. But for some people their lives are at stake.

      1. Countess of Shrewsbury*

        Look, I get it — if you don’t want to date someone or meet up with them privately or something based on this, that’s totally fine. Do what you need to do to keep yourself safe. If you’re not going to hire/interview someone because of two numbers in their email address that most likely do not mean what you think they mean, that’s not fair.

        1. Velawciraptor*

          An employer has a responsibility to keep their employees safe, too. Being concerned about hiring a potential Nazi is well withing reason.

      2. Roland*

        I’m Jewish. Everyone is a potential nazi, you can’t let that take over your life unless they actually do or say something questionable. The comment you replied to didn’t say “erase all knowledge of 88 from your mind”, it said “Give people the benefit of the doubt unless you see other things that give you pause.” And yes, if literally the ONLY reason you suspect someone is 88 in their email and you are not willing to give them the benefit of the doubt in hiring, just “no thanks” without giving them the consideration you would have otherwise, that’s horrible behavior. That’s not hurting someone’s feelings, it’s messing with their livelihood.

      3. L-squared*

        I mean, at some point you have to give people the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise. You can’t just assume everyone is a white supremecist based on the most benign things.

        I’m black myself. I understand being cautious, but its a bit much to just make blanket assumptions about people, and say “well too bad if their feelings are hurt”

  48. L-squared*

    #4. This is tough. Because I’m a people person like you, but even among people like us, there are levels. And its hard to know the level that will be right for you. Even in interviews, people are often putting on their “professional” face, when in reality they may be a lot more laid back and open. But I would say look for things that are in person. That tends to work much better in my experience than trying to befriend someone virtually. Because often on teams that use slack very generously, you feel you need a reason to slack someone, whereas in person, you can just kind of chit chat and over time learn more about each other.

    Also, I don’t know that this comment section is going to be the best place for advice for you. Anytime social things are brought up, this place is full of “I come here ONLY to work and don’t want to be friends with anyone I work with or forced to interact after 5pm”. So you likely won’t find a ton of useful advice, probably just people telling you what they would find annoying. I see some comments about your letter have already been removed.

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      I agree in that any office that allows some WFH is kind of signalling that it may not be the place for LW#4.

      A team not organized to all be in office on the same day often signals that in person interactions are not valued. A team all in the office on the same day but only 1-3 days a week signals that they do value in person interactions, but there’s still a certain percentage of work that can be done solo.

      Yep, I’m an introvert. Personal chatting over IM with co-workers is not really of interest to me; it’s distracting We do small talk chat while waiting for a Zoom/Teams meeting to get started. But honestly we are kind of overwhelmed right now. Somehow being friendly virtually is more clearly a distraction from work than if I run into someone in the breakroom and chat while we’re both getting a snack.

    2. Lottie Snowflake*

      I agree with all of this. Also, OP, know that developing relationships at work takes time. I have met some of my best friends at work but those relationships develop organically and it takes longer than 3 months. Hang in there!

    3. Kara*

      Heh. Well speaking of advice from an introvert, yes look for places that are in-office, but -also- do some due diligence on whether those places are in-office by choice or not. There’s more than a few companies that mandated returning to the office despite pushback, and an office full of miserable people who don’t want to be there isn’t what you want. You want an office full of people like you who were chomping at the bit to get together again; a la the LW from a couple of years ago who wrote the letter titled something along the lines of ‘Am i the only person who wants to come back to the office?’

  49. The Person from the Resume*

    This is for LW#4. You’ve already gotten good advice on jobs that are very interactive (everyone full time in office, teacher, someone who’s job is to interact with client/customer/coworkers vs working together with coworker on the same task).

    I would suggest spending this time that you’re staying in this job working hard expanding your out of office friendships so you’re not relying as heavily on your coworkers for that. You missed out on the grad school experience and probably don’t have a social network from that. But, many people move after grad school anyway. You could certain look for business related opportunities like professional societies or civic leadership organization for young people. Or some sort of group or club that meets near your office after work. There are probably/hopefully peers in your area looking for connections too.

    1. DisgruntledPelican*

      As someone else who prefers a sociable work environment, I think a lot of people who are suggesting things like building out your outside social network are missing a pretty big part of the picture.

      I have a great social network outside of work. I have family and hobbies and friends and groups that I am a part of. None of that makes 8 straight hours a day of silence and isolation any more bearable.

  50. Two Pop Tarts*

    I’m not sure about other services, but on you can create ten aliases to go along with your primary email account.

    If your email is “” you can create an alias “”, start handing it out to people, and continue to use your same inbox.

    I have found this useful for job hunting. I create a new alias and I know any correspondence with that email is related to my job search.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      This is really smart. I have a completely separate email address and phone number for job searching just for this reason. It really does help to keep things separate like this. It makes it easier to notice incoming messages.

  51. Risha*

    LW1, for your own health, just get out of there. A job should never be making you feel the way you’re describing here. Life is way too short to be putting up with that nonsense from a job. When asked by a new employer why you’re leaving this job, you can say something like there’s no room for advancement. Until you find a new job, just keep your head down and stay away from everyone. If there’s no HR, give potential employers a heads up that your manager may not give you a good reference. I’m sure there’s scripts on this site you can use for that situation.

    This is just me, and I’m not suggesting you do this, but I would also see if I could tell the partners of the people I work with that they’re being cheated on, anonymously of course. I despise cheating for any reason, and as a “thank you” for all the trouble they caused me. Again, this is just me, I’m not saying you should.

    1. Nomoredrama*

      I honestly am just hoping I can find another opportunity and leave and never think of these people again. I hate cheaters too, but right now I’m just upset that I’m involved.

  52. Eat my Squirrel*

    OP 4, while finding a fully in-person job and/or getting social needs met outside of work are good ideas, one way you can phrase the question in an interview for a remote/hybrid job is “what are you doing to ensure that remote employees feel connected to the team and not isolated?” This should get you a good idea of how they operate without it sounding like you just want to chat all the time. I’ve used this question myself and got pretty good results.

  53. Phoenix*

    LW 4, I completely feel you — I would also be miserable in an office where coworkers weren’t friendly with each other. I’ve been in that situation before (in an entirely in-person office!) and hated it. Before I accepted my next job, I did what Allison suggested and talked to someone at the company outside the formal interview process to get a sense of the culture. It definitely helped. I also recommend asking your interviewers which people this role would work most closely with and whether you can talk to those people—that should give you a sense of whether you’ll fit with your immediate team.

    Imo, you don’t have to wait out this job too much longer — you can start looking now or in a few months. The average person only stays in their first post-school job for like 7 months. Don’t stay somewhere you’re miserable!

  54. Charlie*

    OP #1: I agree you should get out if there, but it also sounds like you are maybe more wrapped up in your coworkers’ personal lives than you need to be. I’m inclined to believe you when you say you are not spreading rumors about them, but you do seem to have a lot of information about and emotional stake in things that I would imagine are not supposed to be public knowledge – how did you find out about and ‘confirm’ the affair and substance use? Regardless of the inappropriateness of the behavior you say you discovered, is it possible that you were being invasive or jumping to conclusions about these people? Taking it from their POV, I could see them being weirded out if you were taking active steps to catch them in the act or whatever.

    1. Myrin*

      It’s really interesting (genuinely, not snarkily!) to me that you read it that way because I didn’t get that sense at all from the letter. OP is being super factual about the actual “illicit” stuff going and says she didn’t even know anything about this whole situation at all until recently; if anything, she sounds like someone who isn’t interested in such affairs (ha!) in general and is now being forcibly pullid into something she just wants out of and nothing to do with.
      (If I had to guess, I’d assume she found out, but very clearly so, by accident – like catching them in the act – and that’s why these two clowns have it out for her now.)

    2. Choggy*

      I have to agree I got the same feeling from this post as Charlie. At this point, if you don’t have the support of your manager OP, and they are actively preventing your promotion, better to cut and run. This whole environment sounds unhealthy.

    3. Nomoredrama*

      I can understand your point. I have a colleague who shares everything with me. I don’t ask, and I have said that I don’t want to know but she keeps saying she needs someone to talk to about it. Without asking, I was shown text messages. Additionally, since the assumption is that I don’t know what’s going on, a couple of conversations were had with me in the room. The only reason I know what the conversations were about was because of my over sharing colleague. I keep asking her to not involve me. But now that I know my manager is participating in all this and talking to other people instead of me, I realized it’s something I need to be seriously concerned about. I don’t socialize with people at work outside of work. I appreciate your feedback :)

  55. Public sector worker*

    LW #3 – At my company you aren’t allowed to meet with applicants outside of the interview process if you are one of the people who will be involved in the hiring process. (It might be a public sector issue.)

    1. umami*

      Same. We have a prescribed process and don’t want the appearance of giving anyone an unfair advantage.

    2. Tangentwoman*

      Yes, I really struggle with these types of requests/inquiries given the equity implications. We’re trying to move away from giving people a leg up because of those types of connections, but it’s understandable for a candidate to want to capitalize on them (plus it shows they’ve done some homework). It can be tricky to navigate, but I wouldn’t hold it against a candidate for reaching out–it seems like a very normal thing to do.

  56. New Senior Mgr*

    LW3- This didn’t come across as weird to me. Someone new to the world of business etiquette, sure. It’s hard out there.

  57. Dek*

    LW5 – fwiw, I did. Granted, I still feel on shaky ground sometimes. You can’t really remake an impression, so people who had a bad opinion of you may still have that bad opinion, and it may color the way they perceive you, cause small mistakes to stand out, etc. But if your PIP is just about something as concrete as work quality, that seems like something you absolutely could “come back from” if you work hard, and try to figure out why you were falling behind and how to fix that. Best of luck!

  58. MessyMoss*

    Letter 2: when I see 88 in a username, I find myself squinting at profile pictures to see if that person looks the right age for it to be a birth or graduation year. This is probably because I was raised in a part of California where that particular flavor of racism was popular (the aesthetics of racism can be so regional). It might give you more peace of mind to just change it and not have to worry about people reading something into your email address that isn’t there.

  59. TX_Trucker*

    On #5, I think daily check-ins with your supervisor is a good sign. If you were on your way out, they probably wouldn’t bother. They would just wait the 30-60-90-whatever days of your PIP and then say you didn’t improve. A daily check-in gives you and your supervisor the opportunity to clearly identify deficiencies and correct them.

  60. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    #3: The outreach LinkedIn message is just fine. The candidate has identified a business they’re interested in and they’re doing some networking in their field with a fellow alum. The fellow alum can then decide whether they’re feeling like chatting.

    I do have a concern about the message to the potential manager. It seems that the candidate should have sussed out that this was someone he might be interviewing with, at which point, a networking conversation is definitely not appropriate as it confuses the interview process. He could save the “mutual connection” line for the interview, if indeed, it’s a decent connection to be mentioning.

  61. La La Land*

    “It’s not a bad idea to change it anyway, since it can be problematic to include info that signals your age when you’re applying for jobs.”

    Wait. Couldn’t people figure out your age based on the dates in your resume and, like, meeting you?

    1. umami*

      Yeah, that is my take. If someone is determined to know how old I am, there are plenty of data points that will get them to a ballpark number. It’s not something I want to expend energy on, whether as a screener or as an applicant. If someone is going to be scrutinizing my resume to determine my age or anything else in order to screen me out, I would rather not be associated with them anyway. But also, if I am applying for a job at this point in my career, it’s for a senior role that requires a lot of experience anyway, so they would need someone around my age.

    2. ThatGirl*

      Not necessarily – depends how far back your resume goes, whether you include your graduation year (you shouldn’t, really), and some people look younger or older in person. Also people tend to be bad at guessing ages. I dye my hair (because I want to, not because of Society) and have good skin and most people don’t guess I’m in my early 40s.

      1. GythaOgden*

        Dates of degrees tend to be asked for on UK applications. Mine are 2001 (BSc) and 2012 (MRes), and both the emails I use with recruiters have my birth year in them, and I’m not seeing much of an issue related to getting called for interviews — the stumbling block is a lack of recent experience thanks to the pandemic drastically eroding the need for business administration receptions and being left essentially ‘quiet redundant’.

        I do tend to circulate my CV in the public sector which does blind applications (where identifying information is left off when applications are sent to the hiring managers). I’m careful not to ascribe too much of my struggles to discrimination which I can’t control — I do understand why I’m struggling to convey my skills at interview without relevant experience, and the job where I came close would have been a constant trigger for personal trauma, so despite probably on track to get it I turned them down as soon as I got out of the interview. I’d rather be doing everything in my control to improve my prospects than making assumptions too quickly — mostly for my own sanity.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Your graduation dates put you around the same age as me, which is why you won’t be seeing any issues with ageism. This is also totally anecdotal, but whenever I’ve heard people feeling it’s starting to become an issue, they’ve been ten or twenty years older and in fields which greatly favour the young. When I was slightly younger I used to get my wedding finger checked out and hints about children, which is another consideration. So I seem to be in a nice little in between phase between fertile and past it. You’re right that’s it often not in the control of applicants though – equal hiring practices are the responsibility of the employer. I would definitely make my email address more vague though. If nothing else, it’s an identity theft concern.

      2. I Have RBF*

        This. Plus, I only go back as far as 2004 on my resume, even though my first job was in 1980. Eventually I’ll drop the oldest stuff off. I am 62, but I can easily shave 20 years off my appearance by dying my hair my favorite color.

    3. Roland*

      Every next step you get to is one less instance of discrimination you can avoid. It’s not all (or mostly) malicious people who would see you’re 35 ish in person and immediately hit the eject button, just a series of small decisions, fewer of which can be influenced by unconscious biases.

    4. DataSci*

      I want to get to the point of them meeting me, rather than saying “Oh, she’s over 30, she’s totally obsolete”.

  62. fine tipped pen aficionado*

    LW4 – I hope you write in with an update when you move to your next role! I do not want the same things as you, but I find these kinds of preferences are difficult to screen for no matter what your preference is.

    This obviously is specific to my workplace and I have no idea if it applies more broadly, but in my org the culture of how to socialize at works varies widely from team to team and shifts anytime there’s reshuffling or turnover in management. I just changed departments and it’s like I’m in an entirely new org! It’s a much better culture fit for me but I had no idea how to figure that out in the interview process.

    Anyway, best of luck LW and please do report back with how it goes!

  63. anonymous german*

    Not super impressed with the people who seem to think that the 88 thing is a recent invention of people who like to get offended at innocuous things… without even getting into the fact that plausible deniability is the whole point, please trust me when I say, I learned about this some 20ish years ago *in school*, along with why smoking is bad for you, not to condone bullying, and other such evergreens of keeping pre-teens out of trouble. This is *not* some new tiktok fad, I promise.

    1. La La Land*

      I think a lot of people have simply never heard of it being a thing. It may have been taught to you in school, but that’s likely a very cultural thing. I’m sure there are a lot of things people in the US would understand as offensive hate speech that you would have no idea about either.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        There’s a difference between not realizing it was a thing and deciding that because you have never heard of it anyone who mentions it being a dogwhistle is just overly sensitive. I too had never heard of this, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to downplay it now that I have.

        1. La La Land*

          I don’t think it’s downplaying it to say “please don’t leap to assumptions based on someone having 88 in their email address”.

        2. JM60*

          because you have never heard of it anyone who mentions it being a dogwhistle is just overly sensitive

          Well, it is a sign of rarity if you’ve never heard of something your entire life, and many others have also never heard of it. And the rarer it is to use “88” as a dog whistle, the less reasonable it is to leap to assumptions based solely on that number appearing in someone’s email address.

          I get that the point of dog whistles is often to fall just under peoples’ radars. But even then, most people would’ve likely picked up on a dog whistle much earlier in life if that dog whistle was common compared to its innocent use.

    2. londonedit*

      It’s fairly obvious to me that these things are going to be much more highly charged and culturally sensitive in Germany and Austria than in other countries. Personally, I’m from the UK and the only reason I vaguely know about this stuff is via a) the internet and b) instances like I mentioned above, where a TV show ended up being taken off the air because viewers alerted the TV channel that one of the contestants had some tattoos with neo-Nazi references. As I said above, too, none of the producers or presenters or other contestants on the show were aware in any way that his tattoos were problematic, so I think there are a lot of people in this country who just wouldn’t be aware of the connotations that these numbers etc can have. I’ve literally just learned today that the number I have as part of my email address is apparently also used by a far-right group. It’s certainly not something we’ve been taught in school, and it’s not something we come across in everyday life.

      1. Celeste*

        I also have 88 in my email and just learned about this association today. The thought of someone seeing that and thinking I’m a Nazi just because of those numbers is deeply, deeply offensive to me. People need to not assume such awful things about people based on something so small.

        Also, yes, I just changed it. Still, don’t f-ing jump to “might be a Nazi” on such little evidence.

        1. Heather*

          And also, having one’s birth year (or graduation year) in your email address is VERY common, especially for those born in the 70s and 80s. Let’s be honest, that’s a heck of a lot more common than being an actual Nazi. So if someone’s address is 88, I’m going to assume that’s a date, until I see some other evidence.

    3. Flower*

      There’s too many of these things to keep track of – as the fact that there’s an entire database for these things kind proves.

      That still doesn’t mean that just because something is a dog whistle you automatically have to assume they’re a member of a hate group. Literally the entire point of a dog whistle is a lot of people use it innocently. Multiple of them or in combination with other things? Sure. But on their own? Nah, too high a risk to harm innocent people.

    4. Roland*

      I don’t see any comments implying that. If you do, consider replying to them instead of making us guess what you’re referring to.

      I think it’s important to know these things AND remember that many people don’t. Not every 88 is a) a neo nazi or b) someone who doesn’t care about the threat of neonazis. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar

    5. Heather*

      Today is the first I’ve heard of it. I believe what everyone is saying, but this is the first time I’m hearing it.

  64. Morris Alanisette*

    OP5: I’m a PIP success story! I was put on a PIP a few years back when some mental health issues were impacting my work, I worked my ass off to pass it with flying colors, and have had a great deal of success in my position since. So don’t let just the idea of a PIP scare you. If you’re working for a good company with a good manager, then their goal should be to support you as you work through the PIP.

    My recommendation is to leverage these daily check-ins in order to VERY CLEARY understand management’s expectations. Ask for hard, quantifiable numbers.

    When they flagged your performance gaps, did they really say “You’re not doing enough work or working quickly enough?” Or is the problem that you have a productivity quota/goal that you’re supposed to be reaching but you’re not? For example, if they’ve told you that you need to complete 10 reports a day and you average about 6, then yes, there’s a problem. If they just say that you’re not doing enough, then you need to get them to tell you what your quantifiable goal should be.

    It’s impossible to succeed without knowing what the definition of “success” is. So if you don’t already know this, I’d push to find out. And if management won’t tell you, then I’d recommend job searching, because in that case, it sounds like they don’t want you to succeed.

    1. Lizzie*

      I am as well. Several years into my job where I still am, I was shifted to another part of my department. With no notice, and I’m still convinced it was ONLY to justify my bosses’ promotion. It wasn’t even clear to either my boss, or their boss WHO I actually reported to! It was a mess. I just did my job, but when it came time for my annual review, they blindsided me with a PIP.

      I mean, if you didn’t think I was doing something right, OR not doing something I should have been, then TELL ME, don’t wait and save it for my annual review!

      In the end, I did everything I needed to, no matter how dumb it seemed, and managed to keep my job. I documented everything I did, and as I was supposed to meet with my boss weekly to discuss my progress, I did, and mostly initiated it, as he didn’t.

      I found out much later, my one boss was totally against it, and it had come from above him.

      almost 25 years later, I’m still here! Still a bit bitter about the whole PIP thing though, to be honest.

  65. Exhausted*

    Many managers use Performance Improvement Plans to actually manage an employee who’s struggling. They get a bad rep as a step towards firing, but most people don’t want to fire anyone. We want you to succeed! But sometimes people can’t improve until they’re under the kind of pressure a PIP provides. I once had an employee tell me that she never would have started coming in on time if I hadn’t put her on a PIP.

    1. Corner of the Sky*

      I’m on a PIP right now and it’s…good? I’m also pretty confident that my job is secure and my manager doesn’t WANT to fire me. Obviously if I fail to follow the PIP that’s a possibility, but I think the PIP is good for me. It includes some training and I’m learning new things.

  66. Job Hopper*

    LW 1 – I just started my 5th different job since 2021. first was 6 months at a company with a failing partnership, 2nd was 15 months, 3rd was 8 months and I was laid off, 4th was 3 months at a company with terrible culture & overall fit was bad. in 2 weeks into my 5th job and finally feel like I could be here for quite a while. Like Alison said… you’re not going to be seen as a job hopper!

  67. kiki*

    LW #4: One thing to look for might be bigger organizations that have social clubs and activities organized through work. Like kickball leagues, book clubs, kayaking trips, etc.

    I also feel like my friends who are most social with coworkers tend to work at places that hired folks in a cohort model so there’s almost a school-like vibe to things. That might be a bit harder to find in your second job out of grad school rather than your first, but even if you’re not hired in a cohort, it’s likely that those organizations will be more social.

  68. Colleen0917*

    I was born in 1969. I have never appended my birth year to an email address, user name, etc. I use my birth date instead.

  69. someday*

    LW4 – Just wanted to express some solidarity – I know the isolation you’re describing and it is beyond exhausting. I don’t have actionable advice, unfortunately, but I believe what you’re looking for is still out there and I hope you can find it! (Selfishly, I’d love an update on what worked when you do.)

  70. Kathy*

    Letter #4 is actually a great example of why meeting informally with current employees as part of your job search process, a la Letter #3, is a good idea!

    During the official interview, everyone might feel obligated to tell you what you want to hear (in this case, that the office is very social), but in an informal meeting they are more likely to tell it how it is.

  71. Friend of HR person*

    I had an employee who is doing great after a PIP. The issue was her attendance, coming in late. That can be fixed. If PIP says cannot identify issues, analyze issues, that is different.

  72. Anne Shirley*

    LW #3, I was put off as well, though apparently you and I are in the minority here (which really surprised me). It would make more sense to me if the applicant knew you personally. It comes across as gimmicky and forced to me, especially the duplicated message. It reminds me of the form letters people receive on dating websites.

    I was fully expecting the LW to be advised to assure the applicant he’d go through the interviewing process like everyone else.

    I wonder: if the applicant could not find any kind of connection to the LW and their colleague and still sent them messages, would you all still be ok with this? And what if he were a meh or unsuitable candidate?

    1. OP3*

      Weirdly, if he weren’t being considered for the job I would’ve felt MORE comfortable having a plain old networking call (though I would have waited longer to respond probably, until those rejections had gone out). In the end it really was just a networking call/informational interview — in part because I steered us away from anything that felt like an interview for the open position, but also I think they really did just want general advice and industry thoughts.

  73. What's my name again?*

    All of these codes for Nazis! Where do you find this stuff? I guess I’m lucky that I don’t know any of these people in real life?

    1. Katherine*

      The anti-defamation league compiles a list of hate symbols. Most people hopefully won’t need to refer to it often, but its invaluable to people working in marketing or public communications.

  74. AMo*

    #2 reminds me of when I put my birthday in my first email address, probably around 12 (very sheltered) years old. My birthday is June 9, and it took me some time to learn about the other meaning for 69.

  75. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

    No, they said they’re trying not to discriminate based on age. If it looks like someone might have been born in 1988, or graduated from high school or college then, they treat the “88” as harmless and not a Nazi dog whistle.

    For what it’s worth, it would currently be legal in most of the US to discriminate against someone because they were born in 1988, and are 34 or 35 years old. I’m not a lawyer, and don’t know whether a company could defend rejecting someone who had graduated in 1992 or 1986 in favor of someone who graduated in 1988. Those three candidates would all be in the “over 40” protected class, so the company could argue that it hadn’t rejected the person specifically for being 52 years old. I suspect a company could also get away with rejecting everyone who had any number in their email address, whether it looked like their date of birth or their favorite athlete’s jersey number or a Dewey decimal nu

  76. KS*

    I tend to lean toward your side of enjoying being social with coworkers. I am in a mostly remote job now, but I was actually thinking I wanted an in-person job when I was looking because I felt like I was out of the social loop from the pandemic. The funny thing is, this remote job is actually really good on this front! My team chats as a group and I chat individually with most members of my team. Our meetings include some small talk and we do have an optional weekly “casual chat” call.

    And by contrast, I was at a fully in-person temp job prior to this that the recruiter said had a great culture. Let me tell you that the culture was DECEASED. I understand that a large amount of people don’t want to socialize much at work, I wouldn’t dream of forcing them, but even just a casual “good morning” as I passed someone in the hall, even one of the people I worked directly with, felt like they winced in response. (Once I literally held the door to the building open for the person who I worked with everyday for my tasks, said good morning, and she just exhaled at me.) I thought maybe it was because I was a temp, but in my observation all of the permanent employees there acted this way with each other.

    So this isn’t really actionable advice for you, but I wanted to add my data point in the sociability of remote vs. in person. With all this said, it did take longer than 3 months to warm up to people I wasn’t working with often. And I think if you do end up applying for more remote positions, it is fair to ask what the team culture is on this front. In my job, management makes special effort to try to foster this kind of dynamic, and I think a remote manager that is also cognizant of it and has a special focus on creating this kind of environment would be able to tell you about that. Because it’s hard for it to just happen with remote teams and meetings, often someone DOES have to be the one to put in that (maybe awkward!) effort at first. Maybe that’s you, or maybe the people at your current job are never going to be interested in that.

    1. All Het Up About It*

      These are some good points!

      I think other things you could ask would be follow up questions, like “what methods of collaboration does your team use?” “How do you build that cohesion with new employees?” Or if they say they have lots of social functions, ask them how often these functions happen, do they happen only during work time, what was their favorite? Trying to find some follow- questions that get at the how and deeper than the of course we have a collaborative team rhetoric is probably your best bet.

      I am also curious if you are feeling isolated in work specifically. Some people are assuming you are looking too much for friendship, but I see that you can still feel isolated AT work or AT grad school while having supportive friends and family and active personal life. I learned pretty young that I liked working on teams more than being the only person in a role, partially because I am a venter and a person who likes to talk out loud, talk through a problem situation with others. When I don’t have co-workers that I feel like I can do that with then yeah, I hate it and I feel isolated, because maybe I can go home and complain about people ordering milkshakes 5 minutes before closing, but it’s not the same as venting and commiserating with a co-worker who has also had to stay 30 minutes past close to clean the milkshake machines.

  77. HRtryhard*

    Regarding #1
    Totally agree with Alison. Sounds like a mess you aren’t likely to be able fix by applying logic and facts. I think starting to look and accept you aren’t going to get this promotion is the most logical path forward. Hopefully you can apply for and get a job that is equivalent to or better than the promotion you were going to get!

    Also toxic work places like this have a tendency to skew your idea of normal and keep you there for longer than you should be. You get backed into this weird corner of trying to keep some normalcy amid the chaos and you end up trying to find logical appropriate solutions to situations that really aren’t fixable, at least without major over haul within the org but it’s hard to see how bad it is until you are somewhere healthy and look back on it.

    1. Nomoredrama*

      I’ve been in healthy environments before but I kept making excuses that those places were large corporations etc and a small company is different. I’m off the excuses and wide awake now. Thanks!

  78. Marianne*

    #4 needs to get a position in local government, plenty of time for socializing and chitchat

  79. Potatoes gonna potate*

    #5 – I think a PIP can work if everyone is clear on both sides and there’s no ambiguity. And everything in writing. Even simple follow up emails to recap the discussion.

    I posted about this in an open thread a few weeks ago and everyone gave really great advice that may help you too? I can post the link in a comment. I thought I was going to be put on one but I wasn’t – it was all just verbally said to just try to do better. I’ve been muddling along doing my best for a month now. I have one more month to go (unless my boss decides to cut the time short). They did give me a few specific things to work on, which I feel I have, but I’ve been in a high state of anxiety lately which leads me to make mistakes… ironically the anxiety is over making mistakes. Go figure.

  80. Rick Tq*

    #4, you are assuming your social life is bound to your work. That may be common in college but now that you are in the workforce don’t expect a large fraction of your coworkers to graduate every year. Be as social as you can inside work but expect to find at least some of your outlets in your community.

    1. metadata minion*

      I don’t see any indication that the LW doesn’t have a social life outside of work, and it’s not unreasonable to want to be sociable with one’s coworkers.

  81. Ari*

    LW5, I had two people on a PIP years ago. One of them ended up being laid off because they wouldn’t do the minimum work required—their performance was far below that of their peers. The other worked hard on the PIP and kept that momentum going. Within a couple of years, they were my top performer and got the highest rating on my team. That being said, I’m sure it depends on the manager and possibly company culture. I was interested in seeing them improve and do better, not just working through a formality when I’d already written them off.

  82. Mollie*

    LW 1: +1 that it sounds like a very toxic work environment and not worth the toll on your health and well being. My perception is that you’re not a job hopper if you get the new job while still at the old one. If somebody wants to hire you just shy of 2 years at the current place, then they want to hire you, and (assuming there are no major red flags that come up with THAT company plus it’s a job you want) that’s great.

    Even if you’re not ready to leave yet, I would work on your exit strategy. Best of luck to you and sorry you’re having to deal with this bananas scenario.

    1. Nomoredrama*

      I’ve realized that going back on the job market, finding a new position and giving a respectable notice is the decent thing to do despite the indecent behavior at the company. Thanks for your feedback. :)

  83. Arden Windermere*

    LW4 – Have you considered working at a marketing agency? Agencies are All About The Culture. I started working for an agency a year ago and they are constantly doing things to get people to want to be in the office and also build relationships with each other outside the office. They’ve had trips to local professional sports games (100 people from the company went together, after work hours), they have lunch catered in to encourage people to eat and mingle, they even have coffee hours where they will pay for you and a co-worker to go grab a coffee for half an hour during work hours. I’m a remote worker too far away to show up even if I wanted to (and that works for me because I’m introverted and in a not-very-social period of my life) but I see all the things my company is trying to do to get people to engage with each other, and this sounds like exactly the type of environment you’d really like.

  84. Office Drone*

    Regarding the email address: As an alternate idea, keep your current email address as a personal account for friends and family. Start a new address for business contacts. Then start using the new address for any future job searches.

    Having multiple free email accounts through Gmail is one way I sort my email. I have a personal account, a “junk email account” that I also use for business contacts, and a few other accounts for miscellaneous purposes. Only people I trust have my personal email address.

  85. Heffalump*

    If you’re a gearhead, 88 evokes the Oldsmobile Rocket 88. If you’re a rock and roll fan, it evokes “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats, which of course references the car and is considered by many to be the first rock and roll record.

  86. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    For LW #1, in the most empathetic and caring voice I can muster:

    You are caring way too much about what other people think.

    I get it, I really do. A great deal of media tells us that we’re supposed to care a lot about what everyone else is going to say or think or do, and base our behavior on that, instead of our needs — especially young women.

    Here are the bare facts: you work with insane people who take illegal drugs at work. Because of this, you cannot eat or sleep properly. Make the best decision for yourself and leave, NOW. “But!” no. If you can stick up for yourself enough to leave, you can stick up for yourself in an interview, and confidently provide a reasonable explanation, if it even comes up. Trust yourself, care for yourself and TO HELL with what anyone else might think.

    1. Nomoredrama*

      Thank you for the words of encouragement. I don’t care what they think, I just care that all my hard work to get a promotion was for nothing. I realized I need to leave. I’m working on it :)

  87. Scott C Simmons*

    I have similar issues to writer #2, except that for me, people sometimes assume that my email address is a double entendree.
    Nope, I was just born in ’69. Any other sixty-niners here have that problem?

  88. Fez Knots*

    OP #4 – It sounds like you need to find some social outlets outside of work.

    Early in my career I worked in “friendly” or work environments with fewer boundaries, and it actually made it harder to remain engaged and professional long term. The work environment you’re in currently sounds ideal. It’s a professional, capable team who logs off at the end of every day. In-person offices might give you more of that friendliness you crave, but I’d caution that work environments that are tons of “fun” or where everyone is “friends” or a “family” tend to be the least healthy in the long run.

    Find some fun stuff to do outside of work and see if this doesn’t make your situation more palatable. Go to art exhibits, attend a book launch, join a book club, a cooking or running class, etc. Things that people tend to join and aren’t just solo activities.

    Further into your career, I think you’ll be glad you to have a work environment where you’re able to “log off” at the end of the day, even if you decide in-person is right for you. It’s not a great solution to have work be your primary source of socialization.

    1. Seeking advice*

      I only socialize with outside of work with 2 people in the company. 1 is in a completely different department and not involved. The other is the one who filled me in. I don’t socialize with anyone else outside of work. I don’t like socializing with coworkers and I still got pulled into the drama. Thank you for your feedback. :)

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      “I’d caution that work environments that are tons of “fun” or where everyone is “friends” or a “family” tend to be the least healthy in the long run.”

      Yeees that was my last job before my current one and while I enjoyed the companionship of my coworkers, I see a bunch of red flags looking back:

      – There was an in-group, people who didn’t make it into the in-group but were on good terms with it, and complete outsiders that the in-group made fun of behind their backs. I was in the in-group, at least initially, and it didn’t occur to me to consider how my coworkers in the other two categories must’ve felt.
      – There was gossip, omg so much. My first week at that job, on the first day that I was moved to sit with my team, at 12:00 they all stood up and headed out to lunch, with the intention of leaving me alone in the office. I made puppy dog eyes at them and one guy must’ve felt bad and invited me to join them. And then they spent the!entire!lunch talking about everyone that wasn’t present.
      – It spilled into work. At the same lunch, a teammate who’d been with the company the longest told us a story of how he’d dated a coworker for a couple of years and then broke things off. She was unable to focus on work for a whole THREE! DAYS! after the breakup. Just not being productive and doing not-work things. After THREE! DAYS! he mentioned it to a friend on the team and the friend went to the management and got the poor broken-up-with girl fired.
      – I was part of the in group, invited to all the parties and such, and then one day I wasn’t and I never found out why. I had way too much going on in my life at the time to be upset about it, but it still felt hecking weird.
      – It messed with people’s heads and blurred the lines. My boss was super into hiking, as was his family, as was I (but not my family) so I started hiking with them every weekend. We’d talk about work on our hikes. About people at work. Looking back, I am blown away by how unprofessional it was, but at that time I was already so steeped in the whole “we are all family and friends here” environment that I did not realize that what I was doing was not great.

      And I didn’t have my day of reckoning until, two years after several of us moved on to our next job together, I saw a coworker’s post on social media that was a meme about a “laziest coworker complaining how much they do” that I suspected was directed at me and ONLY THEN did I wake up and go “dear god what have I been doing all these years, is this how the other coworkers felt in the past when he posted about them” and then I blocked him and got a lot more selective and professional about how I made friends at work.

  89. Katherine*

    Perfect answer to #2. I’d also add that if someone looks the right age for it to be a birth year, and there are no other red flags/dogwhistles, I’d assume it was that person’s birth year.

  90. Sunshine Gremlin*

    LW #1, I was managed out of my last position after reporting a manager’s pet that was using cocaine at work. The manager did nothing about it, essentially told me it was unprofessional to worry about my coworker, and ended up telling my grandboss that I didn’t have professional communication skills when I applied for a promotion that I was more than qualified for and had been working toward. The cocaine usage ramped up, to the point the coworker posted photos of them using while at work to social media, so I decided to forward those photos to our corporate HR team. Roughly a week later, I was pulled into a meeting with my manager, told that I had been given an opportunity to fix my unprofessional attitude but decided to try to go over her head, and that she was choosing to terminate my employment but she hoped I would be open to returning in the future.

    Three weeks later, the (former) coworker physically assaulted someone at work, then was arrested and terminated. That manager ended up being transferred to another location for a brief time and is no longer with the company.

    I learned that a bad manager is going to be a bad manager, even if you think any reasonable person would agree with you that something is a problem.

    1. Sunshine Gremlin*

      Whoops, I forgot to get to my point. I definitely think you need to be job searching. I can’t imagine that you’ll be able to be happy and feel secure in this position again. You won’t look like you’re job-hopping. Just make sure to find a “boring” answer to give interviewers about why you’re job searching.

    2. OP3*

      I definitely read this literally for a second and thought a cat or dog was using cocaine at work!

  91. OP3*

    Something I didn’t mention in my question is that we are a teeny tiny company (which is clear from our website, from where this person got my bio), so this isn’t quite the same as seeing a distant connection on Linkedin who works 6 floors away from a department you’re applying for a job in. The part that really rubbed me the wrong way was asking to learn more about the company specifically, which feels to me like a question you ask in the interview — but again it might not be at a larger company where I’m totally separate from all that, not one where we all sit in one room. But I hear everyone saying it doesn’t feel weird to them and appreciate that feedback!

    Anyway, the Zoom happened and it was fine! They were very nice and we had a good chat. They asked a couple questions about the job and I just said “That feels like a question for your interview” as much to not step on my colleagues’ toes as to remind them that this wasn’t one. The truth is I enjoy these kinds of chats and if I’d gotten the request separate from us hiring, I wouldn’t have thought anything of it and we would have had basically the conversation we had.

    To the commenters who said their companies don’t allow this sort of thing — that seems wise! My boss knew this was happening and in this case I think it’s fine just because of how the call went. I will be neither upset if they get hired nor pushing for them extra hard, haha.

  92. All Outrage, All The Time*

    OP2 – I’d advise you to change your email regardless, because you really want to keep as many personal detail private as you can. Anyone who is collecting information to hack you or steal your identity knows that your birth year is likely 1988. If you need a differentiator, use something benign like It’s start to not use your full first name and middle name if you can avoid it, too. I was born in 1970 and started working in 1985. My CV only goes back to 2005 because I want to avoid age discrimination. I wouldn’t reference anything that might be my age in my email address for that reason, too.

    I would get a new email address and start using it for at least public facing things now.

    Hot tip: never let minors have anything related to their birthdate, where they live etc in their email address, user names etc.

    OP3 – get out of there as soon as you can. It’s a toxic workplace. They all sound vile and very unpleasant. You’ll be just as successful in a larger, better run organisation. You’re being scapegoated. You’re not at fault. You’ve done nothing wrong. There are better opportunities out there. Start interviewing stat. There is a labour shortage. Just say you’re looking for opportuntes for growth and development. Rise above this nonsesne and plan an exit strategy. It’s not worth the stress you’re putting yourself through. Honestly, if you could see the CVs of people who often GET jobs, you’d be surprised. A lot of them don’t have a strong work history or even relevant experience. It often comes down to an interviewer thinking you’ll be a good fit, or you have some quality or some niche experience that would be great in their work place. Move forward with confidence, is my advice.

  93. justme*

    For the LW asking about PIP’s- I’m so sorry this is happening to you. If a manager wants an employee to improve, they give them feedback and guidance. If they are not a skilled manager or they want to move you out, they threaten or put you on a PIP. I am so sorry since this is not what you want, but any advice that doesn’t recognize this fact won’t help you.

    It will sound hard, but you now have 5 challenging jobs you need to do – simultanenously-
    1. Do everything in your power to do your very best to meet and exceed your manager’s expectations. In a perfect world, this will be enough and you’ll be working at your current job for many years.
    2. Document EVERYTHING!! I am not trying to make you feel paranoid. But NOW is the time to- save (on your own thumbdrive or cloud) any emails, etc. regarding your work performance, all the work samples you would expect to be able to take/share should you ever be seeking another job, and if it’s legally allowed, consider audio recording with your phone any convos you have about your work performance. In a perfect world, you won’t need any of this, but it can’t hurt.
    3. Start a job search on your own time using your person devices in off-hours. In a perfect world, you won’t need a new job. But if you do, you are ahead of the game. Finding a new job can take MONTHS- way longer than most unemployment covers and you’ll likely have to fight for fair severance should it come to that.
    4. Pay a fee for a one-time consult with an employment attorney in your area. This is the time to get in front of any efforts by your employer to get pushed out. All your confidential meeting with the attorney is learning your options and maybe even mistakes to avoid. In a perfect world, you won’t even need it.
    5. Take care of yourself during this stressful time. Whether it’s exercise, carving out time for a hobby you love, seeking out help (free) from your company’s EAP program (HIPPA, professional ethics, etc. prevent your employer from obtaining details about your sessions.) do it.

    Good Luck!! My responses may seem harsh, but sometimes people get too hopeful in this situation and the balance of power is NOT equal here. If you get pushed out, the company might limp along without you but can likely weather the storm. But you would be losing your livelyhood. So that’s where I’m coming from.

  94. Raida*

    1. An office affair with cocaine and lies is tanking my promotion

    Well, I know it’d be gong nuclear, but since I am a total bastard I’d find a cop to tell about the definitely illegal drugs and when they’ve been taken.
    Then I would not be ‘telling rumours’ but rather saying “oh my goodness, I’d heard they did coke but I didn’t believe it!” and then be the supportive person of my easily-manipulatable boss.

  95. Lusara*

    My email address ends in 88 because my name was taken and 88 is the number of my favorite football player. It ever occurred to me that a number in someone’s email address would be their birth year.

    1. Dek*

      It was really common in the early days of aol to use your birth year in your email. I have no idea why.

  96. PlainJane*

    Grr. I graduated high school in 1988 and there is no way on God’s green earth that I’m going to surrender the number to neo-Nazis. NO WAY ON EARTH. They can’t have it and I will not acknowledge any claim they have on it.

Comments are closed.