should I use our group chat when someone messes up, insisting on being called Ms. LastName, and more

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

1. When I’m managing remotely, should I use our group chat when someone messes up?

I recently moved into a minor management role. I manage a small team, but the catch is that every position in the company is remote work. I have never even seen the faces of most of my employees and coworkers.

You often stress that a good manager leads by example. We need to show that we will act reasonably and responsibly, that we will give good feedback, and that we will be compassionate to our direct reports through our actions, and not just through our words. In a physical office, it’s really easy to build a reputation, because employees directly witness how their coworkers are treated. But that doesn’t happen on Slack!

So do I conduct most of my management in the group chat where everyone can see (which helps me establish a reputation for how I handle things as a manager) or do I conduct most of my management via private message (which undermines that goal)?

As an example, I recently had a situation where I had strong evidence that two of my direct reports were billing for significant amounts of time that they weren’t working. I avoided finger pointing in my initial call with them, and instead focused on the output per hour that I needed vs. the output per hour that they were giving me. I was clear and direct about what was and was not acceptable, and I stated in direct (but not unkind) terms that the issues needed to improve within a specific timeframe, or else they would lose their jobs.

I did this in the group chat. I know that’s not ideal — it might have the optics of being a “name and shame,” which I hate — but my thinking was that it was important for other employees to know what my reasoning was about situations like this, and also so that they could observe directly how underperforming workers are being treated.

My own boss, June, deferred to my judgement on this but cautioned me that she personally would have handled this via private message. What is your take? Any advice on how I should handle situations like this moving forward?

You should always handle individual disciplinary situations privately — never in a group chat. Your other employees will learn how you manage by seeing how you manage them, and seeing how you conduct yourself in conversations that are appropriately group discussions — but criticism, warnings, and other serious performance conversations should always be private. That’s to respect the dignity and privacy of the people receiving the criticism, and it’s also so that your other employees don’t need to worry that they’ll be publicly taken to task if they mess something up in the future.

Read an update to this letter

2. Should I insist on being called Ms. LastName?

I am a secretary for a government agency, paid hourly. I work for some of the most important people while simultaneously holding one of the lowest-ranking positions in the entire organization.

As part of a cadre of support staff who are sprinkled all over the organization, striving for recognition and opportunity for advancement is a daily struggle. I work with salaried leadership who are expected to work whatever hours are necessary without overtime pay. And it seems I am cursed with the dichotomy of being too valuable to be allowed to take time off, but not valuable enough to be given a meaningful career trajectory or commensurate pay.

I am beginning a new assignment this summer and am considering setting the expectation that I will be called “Ms. Surname.” I have no problem addressing my colleagues the same, regardless of their rank. This will likely be a bit surprising to my colleagues as most everyone goes by their first name (except the people I work directly for, who are usually addressed by title).

My reasoning for this is that I am weary of the extreme familiarity and the assumed ownership of my private life. They expect that I will at any moment cater to their every need and always be on-call (just as if I were salaried) when the organization insists that I am “just an hourly employee.” I often do give extra every day and would work to the same standard, for the same respect and recognition of my contributions.

I have 15 years of service and am nearly 60 years old. I don’t want to alienate new coworkers or come across as entitled. What do you think about the idea? How can I introduce it to my boss and keep it up once I get to know my new coworkers? I am a very friendly, extroverted person, but experience has taught me that coworkers are not “friends.”

I don’t think going by “Ms. Surname” is likely to meaningfully change any of the things that are bothering you about the job. It is likely to set you apart and make you seem out of sync with the culture — even more so if you address other people that way when they prefer their first names — and could make people less comfortable with you. (On the other hand, maybe less comfortable is what you want!)

3. All our seating got reassigned and now there is chaos

I work at a government agency of 200 employees and I love my job. I haven’t been here long, but I admire my coworkers and work on important projects and am allowed freedom to contribute unique skills.

Unfortunately, late on a Friday three weeks ago, an email was sent reassigning everyone’s cubicles and offices. Important cases were put on hold and a week of chaos ensued. The top brass is split between staff management, core operations, and external relations. Office assignments, made with little buy-in or consultation, belied how little anyone knew about our jobs, the inventories of our equipment, our work histories, and the relations we’ve made with our neighbors. No clear rules, principles, or justifications were made.

Workers with decades of experience were moved from offices to cubicles and some senior employees refused to move. This resulted, for instance, in offices whose worker was emptied into a cubicle but now sit empty.

I thought this strife was now behind us, but it appears that after all the stress, with everyone’s pictures pinned up and files splayed about in new spaces, management wants to repeat this! New assignments are being drafted and departments are switching floors. This leaves employees jittery and demoralized. What should and could both employees and management do?

It’s hard to answer that without knowing what’s driving the changes and what the purpose is supposed to be. However, as a new employee, you personally aren’t in a position to do much at all.

Ideally, after seeing the chaos caused by the first move, someone in authority would coordinate a more comprehensive review of how space should be used, gather feedback from managers about their teams’ needs, and approach it in a more a more organized way that’s driven by the actual needs of the people in the space. They should also be transparent about why the changes are needed and the factors that went into the reassignments, and give people a reasonable amount of advance notice.

On the employee side, ideally you want to find an input for input as early on as possible, before anything has been settled. Usually that input would go to your manager, who could then send it higher, and should be focused on work-related reasons for why you need to be/not be in a certain place. (Relationships with your neighbors generally wouldn’t enter into that; that’s rightly a low priority relative to the other concerns getting juggled in this kind of situation.) When you didn’t have any opportunity for input before things were settled, it’s harder; at that point the only real basis for pushing back is “the new set-up is getting in the way of work being completed” and even then, it can be a crapshoot whether that changes anything … and will often end up depending on how much influence your manager has.

For what it’s worth, there’s nearly always a certain amount of chaos and resistance with widescale reassignments like this, even when they’re done right  — although this one sounds particularly mismanaged. But if the reason it’s being repeated a second time is because of feedback from the first time — indicating they learned from round one — that at least would be a good thing. (You’ll know soon enough if they did or not.)

4. Telling a recruiter I don’t want to change jobs right now

Earlier this year, my dad was diagnosed with a terminal illness. The diagnosis and all the circumstances surrounding this have made this year difficult, and I am fortunate to have a boss who is supportive and allows me a lot of flexibility.

A few weeks ago, I applied to a different job on a whim. I’m not really interested in leaving my current job, but the responsibilities were things I enjoy and the pay raise would have been an added bonus. Unfortunately, the interviewers are going with someone else, but the recruiter sent me a similar job posting within their company that is more aligned with my skills and experience.

As all of this was happening, my dad made the decision to enter hospice; he signed the papers yesterday. While I appreciate that the recruiter worked to find the similar job posting, I don’t believe now is the time to make any big changes. I am also happy at my current job. Do you have any ideas for how I could respond to the recruiter and not burn a bridge that I may want to cross at some point in the future?

“I appreciate you thinking of me for this. Due to a family health situation, I’ve realized now isn’t the right time for me to make any big changes, and that will probably stay the case for the rest of the year. But please feel free to contact me after that if I might be the right match for another opening, and best of luck filling this one.”

I’m sorry about your dad.

5. I was rejected for a job mid-interview

I had a HR screen/first interview on Monday. The HR rep thought I was great fit and was eager to get me in a second interview with the hiring manager, a VP.

That Friday, I sign on to a video Zoom with the VP. After what I would consider a positive and normal 15 minutes of interview, the VP says, “Well, if you check your email, you will see a email from HR and I don’t know if you want to continue this interview.”

The HR email states that they want to cancel the VP interview as they have made an offer for the role. To be clear, this was sent after the interview started.

The VP said I obviously checked all the boxes for the role, one never knew how offers would be received, and was happy to finish the interview. I stated my disappointed but agreed to go on. The next 15 minutes felt slight perfunctory but we closed out pleasantly enough. Did I do the correct thing? Should I just ended the interview then? I have mixed thoughts on it.

Yes, I think you handled it the best way you could have. By continuing on, you had more of an opportunity to solidify yourself in the interviewer’s mind as a strong candidate for the future if another good match comes up.

That said, if you didn’t feel like continuing on (and I could see how it would be pretty deflating / not feel like a real interview at that point), it also would have been fine to say, “Oh, I won’t take up any more of your time then — I’m sure you’re busy. I’d love to talk in the future if another opening comes up.” You’d miss the opportunity to build more of an impression with him, but you’re not obligated to continue on if you’d rather not.

The timing is a little weird, but I’m assuming he didn’t know before the call started that someone else just took the job (a lot of places keep interviewing until an offer is formally accepted) and just saw the message come through while you were talking … or maybe he did know but didn’t realize HR was going to email you during his call with you, and then figured he needed to say something once he realized they had.

{ 461 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A reminder to please keep comments kind and constructive, per the site rules, even when you feel strongly that someone is wrong. If your comment is critical, ask yourself how you’d word it to a friend who was having a bad day and say it that way. Thank you.

  2. PinaColada*

    Lw 1. Holy heck no, do not demonstrate your management style by public shaming. Praise in public, coach in private.

    1. Artemesia*

      the thing is you wouldn’t do this if everyone were working IN the office either; they wouldn’t be able to see you managing like this. For damage control, you should apologize to these two people and also say something very briefly to your team that this will not be done in the future.

      1. Tau*

        This jumped out at me. The remote part of the question seems like a red herring here – things that would be handled in a private meeting behind closed doors in-person should also be handled in private, not group, chat. (Or in private video call for more serious issues.) Unless LW#1 would seriously want to address this sort of thing in the middle of an open office with the whole team around. In which case, FYI LW1, you shouldn’t be doing that either.

        1. GammaGirl1908*

          This. Even if you were all in person in the office, the whole team wouldn’t be involved in each disciplinary / coaching / constructive conversation. This should not be any different. Yes, information leaks out, but mostly the team learns how you operate by watching* how you operate. They can tell when coaching has happened, and they can tell when clearly it happened in private.

          *especially because, frankly, lots of people, even managers, say they will do things that they then promptly do not do. They see what you do. What you say you will do is less important.

          1. Heart&Vine*

            100% agree. If you are worried about establishing your reputation as a good manager, public shaming is NOT a good way to start, even if those employees were in the wrong. Not only does that build resentment, it lets all your reports know they can’t trust you. A public apology is absolutely necessary here (as well as a private one to the people you shamed).

            When it comes to individual feedback or admonishment, you do that privately. When it comes to giving praise or asking for feedback, you do that publicly. This is how you garner respect and build trust. And when you ask for feedback, just listen and consider – don’t argue or defend. If your reports learn you can take it, they’ll have more respect for you when you dish it out. But, again, dish it out IN PRIVATE!

        2. Emmy Noether*

          This was my first thought too. This would be a closed-door meeting in-office too! (And if you work in an open space, you need to use a meeting room for this type of thing).

        3. Anonys*

          Yes 100%. I am actually surprised Alison didn’t more directly address this point in her response. “John is about to be fired” or “John was put on a PIP” is not normally something colleagues would know in an in-person office either (at least not as a direct announcement from Johns manager).

          If (one of) Johns coworkers had come to their manager saying Johns slacking off was affecting their own workload/slowing down their processes, then OP could indicate to them (again privately) that the concerns are being handled and how the effects on the other coworkers will be mitigated (still without explicitly saying “We will fire John if he doesnt get the llama reports to you on time by next month”).

          In any case, OP is a very new manager and fully remote work can be challenging. I am more concerned that OP’s boss (June) didn’t shut this down more firmly. She might also be one of those people who say “I would not handle it that way for x reason but the final decision on how to manage your employee is up to you” and really mean “that’s a bad idea dont do it”.

        4. TootsNYC*

          actually, I think there’s an element of the remote thing that’s important to discuss.
          This sort of thing (fraud, actually) should be handled with a phone call! That will give it the emphasis and weight it deserves.

          1. MsM*

            Yeah, I also don’t understand why chat is being used as a disciplinary tool at all. If it’s just a quick correction, then maybe, but anything that needs to be talked out or clearly heard and understood is worth picking up the phone or hopping on video for so the nuance comes across.

            1. HoundMom*

              Yes, please pick up the phone. I am astounded at how many misunderstandings ensue from the lack of a conversation. Management should have a human touch.

            2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

              Yeah. Oh hey, you used red in the letterhead and we switched to green goes in chat.

              Time card fraud is a phone call or video call. Immediately. I also have concerns about how the OP treated this as a PIP issue. I need you to stick closer to the actual hours expected than LYING on your timecard. OP, you should have dug more on WHY this happened — maybe they got mixed up on billing codes — but it should definitely have been a You Cannot Falsify Your Timecard conversation, not a I expect better in the future conversation.

              OP, you say you are new to management. It sounds like you were not given much training. But it also sounds like you have a boss who has your back. You need to go to your boss and ask for some training. Or find some on your own.

              1. Green great dragon*

                Hmm, depends how strong the evidence is. If LW isn’t certain it’s fraud I think they’re right to focus on output per hour billed, or raise whatever it is they’ve seen, rather than jumping to YOU ARE LYING when there’s a possibility they’re not.

                1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

                  That’s why I said she should have dug into the problem more rather than have just an conversation about expectations. Maybe its fraud, maybe its a mistake.

              2. Artemesia*

                Good point. This is one thing that is a no warnings firing offense many places. We had a long time respected admin who allowed some time shifting on the time cards for a subordinate — there was no fraud in the sense that she was not paid for what she didn’t do — but there were rules about exact reporting and the admin allowed hours to be reported at a different time than they were worked. It took all the program director’s chips to save her job and then only because of the admin’s long competent tenure and the director’s clout. It was a GIANT big deal to the personnel department.

                1. Worldwalker*

                  I got the impression from the letter that it wasn’t a time card issue, exactly — more like someone reporting that they’d worked for 8 hours on Tuesday but what they got done shouldn’t have taken more than 4 hours, so were they watching videos, or playing with their dog, or napping, instead?

                  Still a time vs. productivity issue but a lot harder to sort out.

        5. Totally Minnie*

          I had a boss who managed this way. She would come out to the cubicle of the person she wanted to correct and tell them at full voice what they had done wrong so that all of us could hear. It was so awful, regardless of whether the person being “coached” was you or somebody else.

          OP, if the point of managing in public is for your staff to develop an opinion of your managing style, you should know that having disciplinary conversations in public is going to make them form an opinion that is not very flattering.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I think 80% of my problems with authority come from being embarrassed in public. Like a gremlin, I go from agreeable and cuddly to an insubordinate monster in 6 seconds, and I do not forgive or forget.

            OP, I think you need to apologize to the reports you reprimanded and hope they’re less vindictive than I am.

          2. Saraquill*

            At my former Bad Job, “discipline” happened across the open office room, often at top volume. Usually about little things, like walking past a manager.

        6. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

          Yes, I think this is partly a stealth question about how to manage a remote team. LW1, I’ve managed a remote team for 3 years, the majority of whom were onboarded remotely. One thing I did was I started having team meetings every week. I would use those meetings as time to raise things that I thought needed to be communicated to the group at large (I have a group of 6, so I think I’d say at least 3 people were having trouble with X or Y issue had come up a few times in the past month; other things were more general office news as opposed to the how we operate in our group stuff). So if you had a lot of trouble with people’s billing, talk about billing and issues you see generally. If it’s one or two people, just talk to them privately, as Alison said. The group meetings allowed everyone a chance to be in the same “space” together. I also got the idea from someone here to have “office hours” where I’d open a Teams call and anyone who wanted to drop in with a question could do that.

          The general guideline is to try to replicate in-office life as much as you can.

      2. BIG yikes*

        Completely agree but would add my 2 cents that it deserves 2 apologies (or I guess 3), one individually to the 2 employees and then something in the group chat.
        You called out their errors very publicly so I would say it’s probably “fair” to post in the group chat something to the effect of “I will use private chats for coaching/feedback in the future and apologise for any distress this may have caused in the past”

        You said you were new to management so you can absolutely do better and the fact that you had concerns / wrote at least shows that you did have concerns / second guessed how it played out, but that was a big yikes from me.

        1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

          I agree except change the ‘apologize for any distress this may have caused’ part. That reminds me of public figures apologizing “to anyone whom I may have offended” which always (to me) has an undertone of the action being potentially not so bad if it wasn’t for those overly sensitive people getting all offended.

          I would prefer them to apologize for what they did rather than how I felt about it. Something like “I apologize for addressing people’s performance in public. I’ve realized that is not good management and have addressed it privately with the people involved and wanted to also apologize publicly. I was trying to be transparent about feedback to the rest of the team and took it too far. In the future I will address any concerns privately and I hope I can regain your trust”.

          And then do it. When people make mistakes, get their side of the story, don’t jump to conclusions. Be transparent about your own mistakes. Evaluate yourself and how you come across when you make a mistake – for example, do you try to deflect blame or hide it or minimize it? Identify a mentor who will demonstrate better judgment and be more straightforward with you than your manager was. Work on whatever you’ve identified. You have to rebuild trust with your team now by managing well.

        2. Petty_Boop*

          “You called out their errors very publicly”
          Ummm timekeeping fraud aka “pencil whipping” is NOT an error. It is a deliberate attempt to steal from the company that you’re billing. As a govt. contractor, this is IMMEDIATE grounds for termination, and fines and possible jail sentences. Should it have been done so publicly? No. But the FIRING of those employees should have been done, privately. I’m amazed they still have jobs.

          1. The Shenanigans*

            Not all timekeeping issues are purposeful fraud, though, not even in government contracting. Sometimes people actually do make innocent mistakes, and a single message of “Hey, did you realize…” PRIVATELY is more than enough to take care of the problem. Treating it like it’s OMG ILLEGAL, HOW DARE YOU, without actually getting the facts first, is not good management, to put it mildly.

        3. Observer*

          You called out their errors very publicly so I would say it’s probably “fair” to post in the group chat something to the effect of “I will use private chats for coaching/feedback in the future and apologise for any distress this may have caused in the past”

          I agree on the need for an apology, but I also agree with @Filthy Vulgar Mercenary that this needs to be expressed differently.

          Express simply and briefly that you handled the matter inappropriately and are going to change this going forward.

          And then, *stick to that*. THAT is going to be how you develop a good reputation for treating people right.

        4. Worldwalker*

          Like FVM said, not “any distress this may have caused” — that’s a non-apology. It should be “all distress it caused” — not “any”, not “may have”. It caused distress. No matter how you meant it, it very definitely caused distress. Apologize for what you did, not for how the recipient took it.

      3. MrsThePlague*

        I want to second the need for an apology in the strongest possible terms. If I were one of the employees who was disciplined in front of the entire team, I would be mortified and totally demoralized. This isn’t to shame the LW, I just really want to impress upon them how hard that can be for some people. An apology (especially if made personally and to the group) would go a long way for me, personally.

        1. owen*

          Agree on the apologies – even if i were not one of the people who were disciplined warned they could lose their job in front of everyone, but a coworker watching this…. i would be very, very uncomfortable.

          LW1 – you did well focusing on the effects and what you needed to see from your two employees, rather than what you assumed to be the cause, but put yourself into your team’s shoes going forward. If you were watching your manager do this to a teammate, or were the one being warned of serious issues that could lose you your job… what would you learn? I suspect it would not be the manager’s carefully thought out logic, but rather something more basic like HOLY SHIT MY MANAGER THREATENED SOMEONE’S JOB IN PUBLIC. (caps because that reaction would honestly drown out everything else. Everything.)

          One additional thought – I hope that your discussion of metrics and what you needed to see also included an offer to come to you for help in case they were genuinely struggling, and that you would work together with them to get their metrics to where they should be (although keeping the timeframe for improvement and ensuring they know the seriousness of the issues). This route might still end with termination, but you will be sure you have done all you could to help them regardless of the cause of their poor performance. And if they WERE slacking – well, they’re still on notice that they need to improve.

          1. Kt*

            I’ll be a lone contrarian here and say that sometimes, the coworker reaction is “finally someone is addressing time fraud! it’s been really frustrating to know that I am eating less than my lying peers!!”

              1. ElsaBug*

                In that case, I can see a general reminder of policy – but not calling out specific people.

                1. Worldwalker*

                  Yeah. “It’s important, so I want to go over the policies on billable hours” or the equivalent would be viable for a group. (though that’s the kind of thing you would want to do in a weekly Zoom meeting, not chat) That would let people know that slacking co-workers are being dealt with behind the scenes, just as all the other team members hope anything they do wrong is likewise dealt with behind the scenes.

                  Remember, also, that the most conscientious people are the most likely to be disturbed by the public shaming thing, and see themselves as being likely victims. They’re the people who worry they’re not good enough, not doing things right, etc., no matter how good they are. The ones you’d really want to target aren’t going to get it because they don’t think they’re doing anything wrong, so it doesn’t fix the problem; instead, it potentially causes a problem with the non-targeted people.

                2. I Have RBF*

                  In my previous career, we had both private and government contracts, so all time was recorded according to government rules. We regularly got reminders about filling out our time sheets accurately and contemporaneously. Because the auditors would ask how you did your time recording, at random. No one was lying about their time, but sometimes if they didn’t write it down right then they would forget the specifics by Friday. I kept a running log, and filled out my time sheet from that.

                  So a reminder to be more accurate filling out timesheets doesn’t imply that someone was lying, only that their timesheet wasn’t accurate. Sometimes it’s just incompetence, not malice.

                  Back to the subject at hand, though. A general reminder about filling out timesheets correctly is fine for public. Chastizing, coaching, criticizing, or calling out specific errors should be done in private.

                3. MW*

                  I’ve had plenty of managers that will do this, instead of just addressing the people individually. And, honestly, it doesn’t ever seem to help the situation. What tends to happen is everybody gets confused and the whispers start.

                  I disagree with what Worldwalker said, I don’t think it lets people know that it’s being addressed behind the scenes. In all of my places of work, it’s always been perceived as the manager avoiding the direct conflict.

            1. Observer*

              That’s only true if there really is a history of situations that have not been addressed. And even then, as a new manager, there are better ways to handle the situation. It might take a bit longer depending on how it plays out, but it will happen. Because either the OP manages to get them to change their ways, which the coworkers will see. Or the OP fires them.

            2. Michelle Smith*

              I think the way you handle it if you want to reassure the others is address it with the people privately as everyone so far has stated, then follow up with the team as a whole, WITHOUT identifying or calling out anyone specific, to reiterate expectations about time recording, and let people know that they can come to you if they have any questions about the policy. There is absolutely a way to raise a larger issue like this with the full group, without naming and shaming, to signal that you are taking it seriously.

            3. MigraineMonth*

              Even in that case, I would care more about results. I don’t care how many warnings or PIPs my lying peers are given, I care that they either a) stop lying or b) get fired.

            4. Petty_Boop*

              You are not alone! I am baffled that people think the manager OWES them an apology when they were committing TIMESHEET FRAUD. They were essentially stealing money! Billing for time not worked is FRAUD. It isn’t “an error” or “a mistake” or “not understanding the policy”. It is a deliberate choice to pencil whip one’s timecard and obtain money that one has not earned. I am baffled at the number of people thinking that they are owed an apology. They are owed a pink slip.

        2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          I think the apology part is a bit more complex than it appears. Of course in general if we’d done this or any other management mistake we should apologise. However given the nature of the actual ‘offence’ (time card fraud, really) OP now needs to make clear somehow that this is still really serious, just the mechanism of giving the correction was wrong but the ‘offence’ itself is unacceptable. It seems to me a different kind of thing than “please try to be on time more often rather than 10 minutes late with a Starbucks” or “you need to be making no more than 5% errors and at the moment your error rate is 10%”.

          1. Observer*

            Agreed. The apology is *completely* about HOW the reprimand was given, not that the OP actually did this. So something like “This is a conversation that should have happened in private and I apologize for doing it in a public forum.”

            That makes it clear what the OP is actually apologizing for.

      4. Constance Lloyd*

        My first job shamed in public! Wells Fargo, right before they got in major trouble for their sales practices. Instead of having his “sell more or be fired” conversations with me in his private office, the branch manager would trade work stations with the banker closest to the teller line. This ensured that every customer and coworker could hear I was “bad” at my job and about to lose it.

        Reader, I left for twice the pay and better hours. If only I’d been familiar with Captain Awkward’s bee analogy I might have escaped sooner.

        1. TootsNYC*

          With what I’ve read about Wells Fargo in that time frame, that was probably a very deliberate tactic. It was a way to say to all the other employees, “sell more or I will fire YOU.”
          That kind of pressure is the only reason so many employees behaved as they did–they were genuinely afraid.
          It was a group coercion tactic.

          1. Constance Lloyd*

            Oh absolutely, it was awful. I stayed a year because I worried leaving sooner would make me look unreliable to prospective employers.
            I don’t want to get too tangential, so for the sake of tying it back to this LW, I will say that while a widespread practice of public shaming is indicative of a toxic workplace, this letter sounds like a new manager who wants to do well but messed up. The fact they reached out to Alison leaves me optimistic they want to continue improving.
            Moving forward they should definitely apologize to their employees privately, and then apologize to the whole team in the group chat. Everyone deserves to know this isn’t how LW will handle things moving forward, and I think this transparency and accountability will help rebuild a more positive reputation for LW.

            1. Observer*

              Yes, I think you are right.

              OP, think about this. You are at a crossroads right now. If you keep this up you’ll create a very toxic workplace and lose your best people. But if you are smart and take the advice Alison gave and take all the (tough to hear!) criticism on board, you do have a road to creating a solid team.

              You’ve reached out and asked the question. That was a good first step. Take the advice here and also get some good management training.

          2. Observer*

            that was probably a very deliberate tactic. It was a way to say to all the other employees, “sell more or I will fire YOU.”

            There is absolutely no doubt that it was deliberate and intended to read as a threat.

            It’s one of the reasons I was so angry about how it went down. The people who made these decisions barely had any repercussions.

      5. kiki*

        Yeah, I thought this as well. In person you would likely meet with employees individually in a private space to discuss something like this and the same applies with digital communication. LW is new to managing, so I get why this may not have been super clear to them, but this was probably super uncomfortable and maybe a little alarming for their direct reports. I would be really nervous going forward that any mistake I made would be called out in front of everyone. I wouldn’t feel very psychologically safe in that workplace.

      6. The Shenanigans*

        Yes exactly. I agree they should apologize – in public – for doing that. Because right now, OP’s employees see that when they make a mistake, they will be embarrassed publically. This means, among other things, that OP won’t hear about mistakes, which is bad for everyone.

        Now it doesn’t sound like the OP wants to be seen that way and that this misstep is from inexperience and not malice, which is very good. It seems like they just forgot that managing is a marathon, not a sprint. They earn respect over time, with private callouts and public praise and taking the time to get to know people. This happens over months, not days.

        One thing for the OP to remember, too, is that nothing happens in a vacuum, even remotely. For instance, if someone makes a mistake, the OP can be sure they won’t be the only one who notices. The person who did it will know, for one thing. Other people will probably see it too. What will happen if OP calls the person out privately is that the mistake maker will apologize and fix it. The team will see the problem fixed with no additional embarrassment to the person who made the mistake. That IS seeing the OP managing.

        OP should eat a little humble pie and then commit to being as fair as possible, both publically and one-on-one.

    2. Sean*

      Regardless of what they did, the two employees were made to feel this -> . <- small in front of their colleagues.

      You have succeeded in establishing a reputation, though not the reputation you were expecting.

      1. Jade*

        Yes. Now employees are going to be continually nervous around this manager wondering when they will be called out in front of the group. Behavior like this is what gives managers a bad name.

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          yeah, and people don’t work as well in such conditions. Whenever my boss started berating a colleague in public, I just downed tools and waited for him to go back into his office. How can you concentrate when your colleague is being shouted at (and being called by the boss’s “problem son”!! in one awful incident).

        2. Michelle Smith*

          It should also be noted that the issue is worse than just harming morale. If I’m afraid that a manager is going to publicly correct me for my mistakes, rather than privately instruct me, am I going to be more or less forthcoming when I make a mistake? Chances are, I’m going to be more likely to try and cover up the mistake rather than own it and collaboratively find a solution.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            This is an important point. If the choices are between lying and being shamed in public, a lot of people would go the “lying” route.

            1. Worldwalker*

              We’re a social species. One of our biggest fears is shame in front of our peers, because that amounts to a loss of relative status.

              Reportedly, people fear public speaking more than death. They fear the derision, even unspoken, of their audience — in other words, they fear shame.

              That common nightmare of showing up somewhere important (speech, meeting, exam, whatever) naked? Again, it’s a fear of shame.

              Most people will do just about anything to avoid public shame. And, especially for the people who are most likely to be the problem, that frequently amounts to covering up something instead of fixing it.

              1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

                Yup. I firmly believe there is not this massive number of lazy/malicious/incompetent workers out there. But there are people who make serious mistakes, who push off a task they hate or aren’t good at until it is WAY past when it should be done, who had a month of drowning in a personal crisis and if you combine that with fear of getting publicly humiliated (and fired/penalized on top) you have created a perfect storm for an otherwise decent person lying and covering things up.

                Maybe that only impacts them, but depending on the job, a mostly good employee could be hiding a huge liability out of fear of what will happen when they reveal it. Setting up a situation where the employee could feel comfortable to notify their manager of the problem with a “I really screwed up” and not be screamed, insulted, or fired on the spot means managers are more likely to learn about issues before they turn into total catastrophes.

      2. Momma Bear*

        The part that I think LW missed is how other people feel watching this. This likely made other team members uncomfortable. I wouldn’t feel like I could go to my manager with a genuine concern without it being aired in public. What needs to happen even in an in-person meeting is for the manager to say they’ll discuss it offline and then go do so – without the audience. If there’s a general management thing that needs to be said, it can be said to the whole team later. Clarify expectations for everyone not “this is what Tim did so don’t do that.”

        How did June provide feedback? My guess is private message. LW should follow June’s example.

        I also wonder how much experience LW has with remote teams. They need to come up with way to gauge work without also micromanaging people. If part of the issue is text vs face time, create some face time with video calls, or even just team audio calls when necessary.

      1. Erie*

        Especially because the LW’s tone in writing the letter seemed so compassionate and reasonable, but the actual words they were typing were bananapants.

        I don’t mean to be unkind, but this does seem fairly obviously bad management, LW1. It sounds like you are conscientious and you read Alison’s blog a lot, but you are also getting entirely the wrong idea on at least one important management question. It is worth questioning whether your judgment is off in other matters.

    3. LabSnep*

      Yes! This is the equivalent of being screamed at in front of the entire office. Not cooool.

      1. Erie*

        It is the equivalent of being reprimanded in front of the office. Bad, but not screaming bad.

    4. TootsNYC*

      Praise in public, coach in private.>/blockquote>

      There’s another verb, which is “correct.” Which should be done in private.

      I would say that some coaching can be done in public—when there is a lesson that one person definitely needs, and others might also need. Because the mistake or misunderstanding might be widespread.

      And even then, it’s important to coach in a way that doesn’t make that one person feel called out.

    5. Bob*

      THiS. Always praise in public and coach in private. And always let others see the praise. They will HEAR about the coaching.

    6. Hans Solo*

      I mean, that WOULD demonstrate your management style to people, it would show them that it’s not really a good style.

    7. Butterfly Counter*

      As a teacher, I tend to equate a lot of “managing” with teaching, though I know it’s not a one-to-one comparison.

      With this, it does seem like individual meetings were needed with those involved in over-billing. It’s a serious issue that could get the whole company in trouble and firing is absolutely what should happen if it continues.

      What can be done on the group chat is to talk about the issue in general without naming names. “I’ve been seeing this issue come up recently: Please be sure that when billing, that you are only taking X and Y into account and are not charging during A, B, or C because auditors will be investigating and our firm could get sued. This is something they check for…”

      I do something similar when I see mistakes or bad behavior from more than one person. Deal with the specifics and the consequences with those students, but make a general announcement that students need to be doing things correctly or face the consequences.

    8. Meow*

      Yeah. I used the word “overwhelmed” at a teammate onshore (which I *was*, I was actually doing two roles on my own and barely any support from my offshore team) and word got to my offshore manager and she freaked out. I didn’t even think I said it dramatically or anything, I just said my work is a bit overwhelming but I’m doing my best.

      She put me on a call – on speakerphone. In full hearing shot with the entire office (she is in an open cubicle space). With my team lead listening in. And yelled at me for using the word “overwhelmed”. I couldn’t get a word in, I just apologized in a small voice and felt really embarrassed. My team lead didn’t have my back – barely heard a peep from him during the manager’s yelling. I felt really demoralized and almost cried the next day when my onshore manager (probably caught wind of what happened) asked me if I was okay and told me “he appreciates the work I’ve done”. I needed that support so it was super nice of him.

      Maybe offshore manager was embarrassed because I was basically saying she didn’t give me enough support? I don’t know. But I wish she had addressed it to me privately.

      Personal circumstances led me to quit that job (it was an onshore contract assignment and I was nearing the end of the contract) – I just paid the fine; I didn’t even feel like going back home to finish that contract (about 6 more months). Really didn’t want to see her face again so when an opportunity came up for me to stay I didn’t really have too much doubts about grabbing it. My managers after her are loads better. :P

      1. Meow*

        Oh yeah – I was not really excited for this onshore opportunity initially (my first overseas assignment and it’s a bit scary!) and I mentioned that to her, but she encouraged me and told me she “knew I could do it”, so okay, it’s just a year (it turned out to be two lol).

        Then yelled at me that “I shouldn’t have been sent” on that darned speakerphone call lol.

        Honestly, that job was burnout central, thanks to almost nonexistent support for me from offshore. I can’t even have a decent weekend off without carrying my work laptop with because the team lead didn’t care to provide someone to work US shift even for a day.

  3. Person from the Resume*

    LW1, that was a bad management decision. I hope you realize that if you were in person it’s not appropriate to hold a meeting with the whole office while you discipline and question a single individuals so everyone can see your management style as you provide feedback. Certain things should be handled one on one behind closed doors. Those things should be a one on one communication by call, email, or messenger for virtual teams.

    Really it does seem like you’re shaming folks and chastising them in public and embarrassing them. Your other employees now think this could happen to them and probably do not like you much. But the do know your management style is the punish in public now.

    1. Artemesia*

      And YOUR manager really dropped the ball by saying she supported your choice. She needed to be much clearer that this is not appropriate for the future. Everyone screws up — just proceed with greater sensitivity in the future.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        Yes, I was really surprised at the senior manager’s reaction! Every other manager would have given OP a hard time (in private!) over that.

        1. The Shenanigans*

          Well, it seems like the OP’s manager is pretty hands-off when they shouldn’t be. That may be why OP got in a muddle in the first place. OP has good instincts – they say that they felt like it was name and shame, and that made them uncomfortable. But then they started overthinking about what a manager looks like, ignored those instincts, and acted badly. If their manager had been doing THEIR job, they would have told OP this from the first, and none of this would have happened. This way, the OP had to, unfortunately, learn the hard way.

          1. Meep*

            Giving LW #1 a smidge of grace, I definitely think the factor of not managing in person really is making them over think it. I wonder if they feel the need to “overcompensate” since they cannot shine in person so they did this publicly for their own manager’s approval?

            1. The Shenanigans*

              Oh agreed. I think the LW is just confused about how to translate their managing skills to a remote environment and made a bad decision. I hadn’t thought about whether it might be for their boss’s benefit, but that makes sense, too.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        SAME. Any manager in my team addressed this sort of issue in a public channel would be in for some coaching and feedback themselves. I am very confused at LW1’s interpretation that addressing this publicly is going to give the rest of the team positive vibes about their management style. They need some management training/coaching. It’s not the same skill set as being a strong IC.

        It is fine to clarify expectations about work the tram does in a public space, but that should not spell out what specific people did wrong, name names, or at people.

      3. SimonTheGreyWarden*

        Came here to say this. I have some serious side eye that OP’s manager did not respond more firmly to this.

      4. HotSauce*

        That was my first thought as well. OP is new to this and clearly needs guidance, their manager really did them a disservice. I think the biggest thing would be to apologize to the team for the misstep and learn from this experience.

    2. Never Knew I Was a Dancer*

      It was bad/not the best decision, but also, the LW says they recently moved into this management position, which I internet to mean that they’re new to managing. They weren’t motivated by wanting to embarrass their team members, or to publicly shame them.

      The mistake was that what they were trying to do (make it a learning moment for everyone) was outweighed by the likely-unintended consequences of doing this in front of others, i.e. likely embarrassment.

      I don’t see the need for a bunch of comments berating the LW if this mainly boils down to a new manager’s miscalculated logic.

      1. Lily Potter*

        Yeah, I foresee a day of slugging through many more comments from people cluck-clucking about how OP1 should praise in public and criticize in private. Note to future commenters – the point has been made. Please don’t pile on more and clutter up the feed by making it again unless you have something new to contribute to the conversation.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          I think this is an unrealistic ask. Not everyone is even awake when the post goes up and many people are going to make a comment without reading the ones that are already there.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Also, this is a crazy popular site that doesn’t auto-refresh comments. In the time between me reading a comment and responding to it, 7 other people may have replied to that same comment. So you end up being the 8th person to say the same thing. It reads as a pile-on, but actually it’s site mechanics.

      2. Mockingjay*

        As part of a mostly remote team, I’d like to offer a suggestion to facilitate comraderie and teamwork. We have an on-camera meeting every two weeks. Anyone can bring up an issue, good news, or a question. It’s a focused meeting, so we don’t spend a lot of debating things; we take action items to look into it. This allows everyone time to be heard. Our manager also meets with us for quarterly one on one’s, again via camera. The end result is a team that functions so well, we were allowed to stay remote when most teams returned to office.

        Apologize to your team, let them know that going forward feedback will be provided privately to individuals. Try the team-directed meetings; these can be awkward and stilted at first. As your team becomes more confident in speaking openly to you and each other, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the wide range of problems and effective solutions offered.

      3. Person from the Resume*

        I posted the second comment and I didn’t see the first until after I posted so I was not a person piling on the LW.

        But, yeah, obvious mistakes do bring out lots of comments about how obvious it was.

      4. Observer*

        They weren’t motivated by wanting to embarrass their team members, or to publicly shame them.

        Morally, it matters. But as a practical matter, it does not make a difference. People won’t know why the OP did it this way. And to be honest, they won’t care. It’s like the whole stepping on someone’s foot thing. Unless standing on someone’s foot is the only way to keep them out of oncoming traffic, you just *need to get off their foot*. All the good intentions in the world don’t change that.

        I don’t see the need for a bunch of comments berating the LW if this mainly boils down to a new manager’s miscalculated logic.

        It’s not about berating the OP – something that Alison has already called out. It’s about the OP needing to realize clearly what they did wrong and why it was a problem.

    3. Alanna*

      In addition to what’s already been said about the specific decision here, LW1, I’d encourage you to challenge the idea of one unitary management style. There are some baseline best practices for managers, and some things you’ll need to require from everyone on your team for it to run smoothly, but you’ll also need to be able to adapt to different people on their team and what they need. I don’t think everyone who works for me has the exact same experience of my “management style,” and that’s OK — they’re different people and they need different things from me.

      1. Anonosaurus*

        this is a really important point. OP could look into the Situational Leadership model. I am a dinosaur so it might have been superseded by something shinier but the point is you flex your management approach depending on the needs of the task and the person. I find it useful in particular to remember that while I prefer Coaching style, some more junior staff need a Directive style for certain work and that’s appropriate and necessary, rather than me being over interventionist.

  4. Fikly*

    LW2: I’m going to be blunt. You don’t need to be called something more formal, you need boundaries. You are an hourly employee working for a govt agency (I’m assuming US) that they can’t seem to function without, you are almost 60 and have been there for 15 years. What are they going to do, fire you? You’ll be retired before they figure out how to do that.

    You say you give extra. Does that mean you are working unpaid hours? Absolutely not, and if they protest, it’s illegal, and of course you know they wouldn’t want to be breaking the law. Overtime? If you don’t need the money, and it’s not actually mandatory, why? They are already treating you badly and making it so you can’t use your PTO. So if you start making and enforcing boundaries, what can they really do to make the situation worse? You have the power to improve things for yourself, and that’s pretty rare.

    1. Observer*

      I think that you are right. You’ll get a lot more mileage by keeping firm boundaries. Work your time, do your work to high standards. Then *GO HOME* at the end of the day, and do *not* pick up the phone.

      You’re “just an hourly worker” after all. You need to be paid for every hour your work, and those hours need to be recorded. And, oh overtime needs to be approved. So the best way to not accidentally get into a problem with that is to just not pick up the phone evenings and weekends. And you don’t have work email on your smartphone or you don’t even have a smartphone that could do email.

      1. Observer*

        To be clear- I put the phrase “just an hourly worker” in quotes because that is apparently how you are being addressed. Which is rude and stupid. But if that’s how they are going to play it, use it to your advantage.

      2. And I'm the alchemist of the hinterlands*

        And take vacation time! I assume you do have some, use it! I never understand it when people have vacation or pto accrued but say they can’t use it because they are too “valuable.” I am no doubting how valuable you are, but that doesn’t mean you are not allowed to take time off!

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          And it’s when you take your time off that everybody realises just how valuable you are! Either because you’ve anticipated every wrinkle and pre-ironed it, or because you can’t.

          1. mb*

            I was just going to say this! LW2 needs to take their vacation. Instead of asking to take vacation, just inform them when your vacation is (assuming work contract includes vacation – depending on country, vacation may be mandatory regardless of contract e.g Canada – 2 weeks, 3 weeks for 5 year+ employees). You can say “I’m going to be taking my vacation – would week 1 or week 2 work better, let me know by next week.” Then just take it. They’ll find out how valuable you are when you’re not there. And definitely don’t work any extra hours at all – if they ask for more, just say “I’m an hourly worker”, is overtime approved?

            1. Mockingjay*

              Don’t ask, notify. “I put in my PTO notice in the system; I’ll be off two weeks in August. Fred will handle X and Clara Y while I’m gone. I put a reminder on the shared calendar.”

              I’ve also had the mindset that “I’m too valuable” or the boss has said “you’re too valuable, I can’t let you have that time off.” Ya know what? That mindset made me miserable, and the boss was a jerk who took off himself while denying my leave. That was the day that I put in for a transfer. It took awhile, but I finally found a good work environment in which all, including myself, were respected for our skills and experience, regardless of role or hierarchy on the org chart.

              OP2, your title isn’t going to earn you respect. A good work environment fosters respect. I will say, that a new job is a new opportunity (even within the same agency) to set boundaries and expectations on Day 1. Here’s hoping that your new position is a fresh start.

              1. Lily Rowan*

                Ask vs notify definitely depends on the job and your boss. Even in non-coverage-based exempt jobs, I’ve had bosses who insisted on deciding whether or not I could take a given week (or day!) off.

              2. Ms. Surname*

                Thank you for the kind words. Setting boundaries in a fresh environment, that is what I’m trying to figure out.

                1. Rick Tq*

                  Going forward give them 40 hours of quality work for 40 hours of pay. No pay for overtime? No overtime work. Period. Full Stop. If you aren’t on the clock don’t answer calls or texts from work, and absolutely ignore email/chat/etc.

            2. Samwise*

              Yeah, that may not be good advice. Plenty of places require you to get the leave approved before you can use it. I’m a state employee –my boss almost always oks my leave requests, but I do have to request them in the online system.

              If OP’s problem is that the leave is never approved, then go to their union (if they have one) or HR.

              If OP’s problem is that they don’t ask for leave, then they need to submit the request.

        2. Pescadero*

          “And take vacation time! I assume you do have some, use it!”

          In lots of places – that PTO is dependent on approval, and no matter how much you have… if they won’t approve it, you can’t use it.

          Sometimes you can go over your bosses head. Sometimes your only recourse is to get a new job.

          1. Ace in the Hole*

            LW2 is a government worker close to retirement with 15 years service doing highly skilled, difficult to replace work. Firing her for something like this might be possible… but it would not be a quick or easy process, and almost certainly would not be worth the trouble it causes her manager.

            1. Pescadero*

              The problem isn’t that they’ll fire her – it’s that the boss can just never approve any vacation time.

              …and if this is like any government I’ve dealt with (and I’m a government employee), no matter how irreplaceable – they WILL fire you if you just don’t show up for work, unapproved.

              1. Lenora Rose*

                So what is the recourse for having earned accrued vacation and never being able to take it? If it’s a union job or HR is responsive, that’s great, but what else? She has a legal right to PTO and likely a contractual one. What’s actionable here? Does she need to lawyer up to get a vacation?

        3. Totally Minnie*

          I’ve had jobs before where getting time off approved is really hard. I don’t know if that’s the case where OP is, but with some jobs every vacation request gets met with pushback. “Are you sure now is the best time?” “Do you really need the whole week?” “You know the (fill in the blank) project is coming up, we were relying on you to help get that started.”

          If that’s what happens in OP’s office, she’s going to need to get more comfortable pushing back. Maybe some practice conversations with a friend or family member could help.

          1. Ms. Surname*

            Subtle pushback or not so subtle must be dealt with every single time a request is made. They make you feel guilty that you are leaving them hanging…when in reality I KNOW they are just fine while I’m gone, but their fears are high.
            Additionally, I’m usually asked, “Who is going to do your job while you are gone?” This is another issue. I don’t think it is my job to find a replacement, but many others do believe this. As I said I am in the lowest ranking group in the entire organization, how do you argue with the “ultimate authority” even if they’re wrong.

            1. Hannah*

              How about responding to “Who is going to do your job while you are gone?” with something like “I’m not sure, that’s a good question. Obviously I’m going to need time off though so how can we handle that?”

              Something like that. Ok, they tossed the problem in your lap but you can toss it back as well. You are just the lowest ranking person anyway… surely they don’t expect you to make big decisions like that on your own? You could even be “helpful” and offer to talk to HR about your inability to take time if you think that would light a fire under them.

            2. Kez*

              Hi there! Firstly, I think that you are right on the money about how their fear creates a push back of guilt that makes it difficult to submit time off requests. It’s good that you’ve realized that push back is unfair, and I hope that you’ll be able to ignore the whining in favor of your own health and wellbeing. If they ever pull some really wacky stuff, there’s always this site to share the story with!

              Secondly, I do think there is some merit in asking for your help arranging coverage for when you’re out. I don’t think a full plan and proposal should be your job every time you submit PTO, but if it will put both your and their minds at ease, a simple coverage plan can be easy to put together and applied over and over again. It’s not in your purview to assign work or otherwise manage folks, though, so when they suggest this I’d try saying something like, “Linda has access to the accounts we use to order supplies because she works in finance, and I’ve written down the number for facilities on a note I’ll leave on my desk in case there’s a janitorial emergency. Feel free to reach out to them directly. Emails will get an automatic response that I’m away from my desk and therefore urgent matters should be directed straight to your email. If you want my phones forwarded to someone or some other team, I’ll need you to approve a request to IT to get that set up. I think that Bob and Nancy will be able to answer most questions that come in because they are my most frequent transfers if a question isn’t about your schedule. Can you email them so they expect more frequent calls while I’m away?”

              Obviously this is a lot of work, but sometimes when you report directly to higher-ups, they have genuinely no idea what your day to day activities look like. To them, things just happen sort of magically, so naming anything that’s on your plate that can’t be delayed until you get back helps them screw their heads on straight about who will be taking care of those things while you’re gone.

              I’m hopeful that better boundaries-setting and keeping yourself clear on your worth and rights as a worker makes this upcoming year easier for you!

            3. noname1234567*

              Ms. Surname, do you have a backup? If not, can you identify a backup to cover for you while you are out? While it is not your job to find a replacement for you while you are out, it would make you taking leave easier. Please work on your boundaries. Practice saying, “I am not available at that time.” And, “I finish work at 5pm. I am not available.” And, “while I can stay late to finish this project, I will be submitting overtime.”

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

          I don’t think it’s the OP that saying they can’t take vacation. I don’t think their PTO is being approved. Which I would push back against. Go to HR if you have to because that is your compensation and they probably don’t pay out at the end.

          1. Katydid*

            Yes, in the US Civil Service, there’s “use or lose” vacation time every year for those who have accumulated a certain number of hours. I was under the impression that managers were supposed to be especially accommodating to vacation requests that are using hours the employee would otherwise lose. If the OP is losing earned vacation time because managers won’t approve any, that’s grounds for an official grievance/complaint. And you don’t have to belong to the union to file it—though as a union member myself during my working years, I’d ask you to pay the dues if you’re going to use union services/consult union counselors/officials. (Been a long time; I’ve forgotten the appropriate title, even though a couple of my friends held it, and helped fellow workers, union and non-union members alike, file grievances against management.)

    2. Silver Robin*

      “What are they going to do, fire you? You’ll be retired before they figure out how to do that.”

      1) thanks for the laugh

      2) completely agree! LW2 this is a great opportunity to do your job and nothing more. They are not willing to help you develop your career or go beyond hourly, but they want you to stretch yourself beyond expectation for them? No. All they get is you doing your job, doing it well, and *only* during your assigned hours. If you are that irreplaceable, they can pay you more, or they can hire another person to provide more coverage.

    3. nodramalama*

      Yeah i feel like theres a big of a fallacy in LWs reasoning. Most people in the workplace go by their first name, and they have fine boundaries around work.

    4. Cherries Jubilee*

      Yes, OP2 you seem to have correctly diagnosed the problem with your current job, and then thought of a response with no relation to the actual problem! You might as well have said, “I’m being asked to work too much and not able to take my PTO, so I have decided to… wear only black shoes from now on.” The one thing has nothing to do with the other!

      You will definitely just come across as weird if you asked to be addressed by your last name, it will just make things worse because people won’t know why you’re acting strange. Stop agreeing to overtime and start job searching for a position with upward mobility. Those are solutions that actually relate to your problem.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        I definitely get why LW went to “Ms. Lastname;” it *is* the way we as a culture sometimes address people when we want to give them (the appearance of) additional respect. But you’re right that is not at all how it’s going to be perceived.

        My mom just retired after a career as a secretary. Outside of the time when she was a secretary in education, the *only* time people called her Ms. Smith were when they wanted something difficult. It might be “Sarah, could you research band uniform companies, minimum order quantities, and lead times and send me what you’ve found in in two weeks” all day until “hi Ms.Smith! Would you get 76 trombones to lead the big parade tomorrow morning? Thanks!!”

      2. Sparkle Llama*

        At least for me and the context I have worked in (also government, mostly local so less formal, all in the midwest which may also be more casual) not only would I find it strange if someone asked to be called by Ms last name, I would think they take themselves way to seriously or are compensating for not being very good at their jobs. All of my college professors were called by their first names except two – both were rather awful at teaching and at least one of them was definitely taken less seriously because he chose to put his effort into insisting on being called Dr. Smith rather than actually doing a good job being a professor.

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          I agree it would come across as very strange for me – across every field I’ve worked in. In my region “Mrs/Mr Surname” sounds like something a kid calls their schoolteacher, not something coworkers call each other. It might be used with people outside the organization in formal situations, but even that’s uncommon.

          And “Surname” without the honorific actually sounds less respectful to me than a given name. Like someone who outranks you barking orders.

        2. Spero*

          This is highly regional though. I’m originally from the Midwest and moved to the South – in the South, it is considered extremely disrespectful to address someone by their first name if they prefer Ms/Mr and it’s not uncommon for particularly older, African American colleagues to have that preference. I quickly learned that if someone older than my mama introduced themselves as or was referred to by others as Ms/Mr – I needed to do it to or it would be considered disrespectful/even discriminatory. And frankly, if someone grew up in the 50’s-60’s being referred to as ‘boy’ because of their race and now wants to be called Mr it is not my place to overrule them with my own preference.

          In the majority of government/nonprofit agencies I have worked in in the south there are 2-3 employees referred to as Ms/Mr X, everyone else referred to as FirstName, and that was completely within the culture of the organization.

        3. GreenDoor*

          If it’s not part of the organizational culture for workers at your level/with your title to be referred to in the formal, and you all of a sudden start expecting it, it’s really going to come across as “desperately seeking relevance.” I agree with others – a name change doesn’t bring respect. You need to *command it* by insisting on appropriate boundaries and on being able to use your time off benefits.

    5. learnedthehardway*

      Agreeing very hard!! The OP is mistaking a formal name with being treated with respect. Those are two very different things.

      Also, calling oneself Ms. LastName is not going to generate the respect the OP is seeking. A) it’s going to sound oddly formal and out of touch, which will reinforce any agist stereotypes their managers/coworkers have. B) They are going to look pretentious and self-important, if / when they correct people to use Ms. LastName instead of FirstName. C) It’s going to be undignified and silly when they have to remind people over and over to use Ms. LastName, rather than the first names everyone else uses.

      Instead, like the person above suggested, the OP shouldfocus on setting boundaries and being treated with respect by your managers / colleagues. Limit your work to what you are paid to do, take your vacation time, and don’t back down when you get pushback.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        Also, LW, realize the problem isn’t with you, it’s with them. Insisting on being called by your last name it’s not going to make them respect you. Nothing will, because they are not respectful people. They probably don’t respect anyone. You can’t do anything about that. What you can do is set the boundaries, and do something fun with the free time you have.
        Look up their procedure for disciplining people. As long as they’re not doing that with you, you’re good.

      2. former secretary*

        LW said that the people she works for are addressed by title. That changes it slightly in my opinion, but not enough to recommend going by Ms Lastname. A long time ago I worked as a secretary too and being “Audrey” when my boss was Herr Professor Lastname did contribute to the difference in how I was treated. When you’re Audrey, when the people you directly work for are not addressed by their first name, you’re seen as “the help”. A secretary in a larger organization at the level were the people they work for are not addressed by first name does important high level work. Most of the work I did then is done by project/operation/etc managers now, who earn multiples of what secretaries do. So I understand where LW is coming from, and if the people she worked for were not addressed by title but were addressed with Mr/Ms, I would fully support following that convention (even if other people in the same company do not). But the fact that they use titles makes enough of a difference that I think it’s more awkward than useful.

        1. Ms. Surname*

          Thank you for the kind words and a unique understanding.
          LOL, Herr Professor Lastname…the Honorable and Esteemed Boss of All.

    6. JSPA*

      Came here to say similar; the problem here is “I often do give extra every day.” If you get requests to work through lunch or work 10 more minutes after clocking out, “that’s not something I can do as an hourly worker, but I’ll be glad to see to it when I’m back on the clock” should shut that down (or make them ask what’s up). Take the vacation you have (and treat the talk about how things fall apart without you as simple praise, not a message to work longer without pay, or skip vacations).

      I don’t think there’s any harm in someone senior-by-age wanting to be called Ms Lastname…but it’ll more likely emphasize your age and your proximity to retirement, than your rank and status.

        1. Cherries Jubilee*

          Agree, OP would come across as some combination of eccentric, frosty, or antiquated, none of which would help the situation at hand.

          Also, you can’t make others treat you with respect by making aesthetic changes to the interactions. If they don’t respect you, you should find some who do.

    7. Covid later*

      Absolutely. Make sure you’re being paid for your hours. Take your PTO. And if there’s pushback stronger than whining-disguised-as-a-compliment, write that letter to Alison.

    8. Ellis Bell*

      I’m kind of digging how much this OP is okay with creating a really frosty and formal vibe though. I really don’t think the formal name is the way to go, but I definitely think more women should have a frost setting on hand for when people start taking advantage. I’m just chuckling at the image of a group of people introducing themselves by first name and then our OP saying “It’s Ms Lastname to you, actually.” I certainly don’t think she should; the people around her won’t have the details behind her decision and it’s just going to be puzzling and seem outdated – but when you know the rationale, it’s hard not to applaud. In reality, I would just tell OP to be more explicit, so her requirements for more respect are not a puzzle or a mystery lurking behind a formal persona. If people are being too familiar with your personal life, just say “My personal life isn’t up for discussion” or “That’s a little bit personal”. If people are taking advantage of your hourly status just say: “Those aren’t the terms of my contract. It’s illegal for me to work for free and I’m not up for it anyway” or “I really don’t feel like my time or person is being respected here”. If you want time off say: “I do need to take time off, and while I appreciate salaried people are compensated because they have to make sacrifices, I am not one of those salaried people fortunately.” Just lean into how okay you are with people not being your best friend, but be explicit. If you have ever seen the Mentalist; channel a Kimble Cho vibe.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I once worked at Widgets Consolidated.
        A friend called it Incorporated Widgets.
        I “frostily” corrected him: “It’s Widgets Consolidated–WC to its friends, but you can call it Mr. Consolidated.”

      2. ScruffyInternHerder*

        I have pulled the “and that’s Ms Scruff to you” before, once, in around 20 years of working in the same industry. Suffice it to say that the room understood my intent without question or blinking, and the new to the business absolute creeper understood that he had zero ownership over me nor did he have any authority.

      3. Ms. Surname*

        Thank you for your input. I love the “digging the frosty vibe,” that is my intention, I suppose. I need to be more frosty, but my nature is to be helpful and friendly with a ready smile. It backfires on me if I have a jerk for a boss.
        There is such a power difference between me and the Ambassadors that I work for but I have to find a way to institute and enforce boundaries. I will check out Kimble Cho.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I think that I’m friendly and helpful, and I also log off at 5pm every day. If someone asks me for something I can’t manage within that timeframe, I will tell them in a friendly and helpful manner that I can point them to someone who can do that for them or I can get it done for them next week. If they keep pushing after that, I will lower the thermostat while repeating that I just can’t do that unless I’m authorized for overtime. Sorry!

        2. Cherries Jubilee*

          Just remember that “frosty demeanor/friendly demeanor” doesn’t have anything to do with “stands up for boundaries” vs. “is a doormat”. You can be sweet and pleasant and still decline extra work. You can be offputting and cold and still fail to assert your boundaries. Don’t get caught up in the surface at the expense of substance.

          It seems like you want to dissuade your boss from making unreasonable requests. You can’t do that, it’s up to you to decline them.

        3. That Coworker's Coworker*

          Using your surname might backfire: you’ll emanate the frostiness you’re going for, but at the same time you’ll signal that you’re operating with outdated, irrelevant references. For me it brings to mind the ever-put-upon Miss Hathaway: the very caricature of a lowly put-upon secretary! I would really have a hard time separating a secretary going by Miss/Ms/Mrs. Anything from the image of Miss Hathaway as a majorette leading the Possum Parade at her boss’s insistence.

          Granted my Beverly Hillbillies reference is also outdated, but at best you’ll be giving off a school marm vibe, because the only place many of your younger coworkers have ever been expected to address people by last name is as children in K-12 – often not even in college settings these days – so people are more likely to feel you’re belittling and patronizing them.

        4. noname1234567*

          Ms. Surname: I knew it. You’re at State and report to Ambassadors. If you’re reporting to more than one, I’m guessing you’re in an EX in a CS OMS position. You can definitely ask to be called Ms. Surname. I’ve seen older OMSs do this but most recently in the 1990s. If your Ambassadors have been around since the 90s, they would definitely have worked with OMSs who have been referred to as Ms. Surname. It’s fine. Please see my other messages in this thread. You need to start claiming OT. And you need to push back on taking leave. Perhaps consider a lateral move if you’ve been treated this way your entire 15 years at State–it just shouldn’t be that way. A great resource for you is the FedFam Facebook page. I’m happy to provide more guidance to you as it seems like you could use a mentor–I could always send my email address to Alison. The CS mentorship program is currently suspended due to lack of volunteers. You can also request coaching from ECS.

          1. NL*

            I know this is well intentioned but the comment rules ask us not to try to guess where people work.

            1. Happy*

              But this comment was in response to the OP saying she works for ambassadors, so it’s not really guessing…

    9. iliketoknit*

      I agree with this, the issue is boundaries rather than name, and while I totally get how easy it is to get sucked in to doing more, perhaps starting a new assignment can be an opportunity to establish stronger boundaries for yourself.

      Also, who are the primary offenders here? You mention new co-workers, but they presumably haven’t been taking advantage of your goodwill up to this point if you haven’t been working with them yet. If they are inclined to take advantage of you, I don’t think going by Ms. will make any difference; just don’t agree to work more than the hours you’re paid.

      You also mention your boss, who presumably is the only person involved in denying your PTO (? unless there’s an intermediate position addressing this). Changing to a new form of address without talking to them directly about the PTO issue and overwork issue isn’t going to help, and if you do talk to them directly about the PTO/overwork, you probably don’t need to change your form of address. If I’m wrong, and the people you work for directly are different from the people who actually approve your vacation and such, do the people you actually work for realize what hours you’re putting in? You may need a couple of conversations.

      I do get that feeling unappreciated and disrespected is awful and unfair (and can be an unfortunate part of government culture around support staff), and that government culture/practices often feel set in stone, so the change in title feels like both a way to address that on a more psychological level, and something you can actually control. I liked the comment further down about how if being Ms. Lastname helps you set those boundaries, there may be something to it. My concern is that the name change itself isn’t going to fix the problems that you want to fix, and has potential negative consequences (making you stand out in a not great way, making you look prickly/sensitive/unapproachable, making you look out of touch in a way that can feed into ageist stereotypes) that approaching supervisors directly about the issues that are bothering you won’t have.

      (You also remind me to look more closely at how support staff are treated in my own office – I know they’re technically not allowed to work over 40 hours in a week without putting in for comp time, which is also only approved for certain tasks, which I hope isn’t putting them between a rock and a hard place on a regular basis. It is very easy as a salaried person to ignore standard work hours without really thinking about it. I am a bit shocked by your PTO requests getting denied, though; I’ve never seen that happen, although I suppose it theoretically could under incredibly specific circumstances, like something completely immovable requiring skills that only one person in the office has or something.)

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Yes. The actual issues need to be addressed. Office feels free to impose on personal time — just say no. I mean politely and professionaly. Oh I can’t stay late tonight I have a thing. Even if the thing is going home and relaxing. PTO denied — I am entitled by the terms of my employment to take vacation when would be a good time if this doesn’t work?

        If you are in a government agency and your PTO is denied repeatedly so you can never take it — you have recourse. Check the employee handbook.

      2. Ms. Surname*

        Excellent comment.
        “It is very easy as a salaried person to ignore standard work hours without really thinking about it.” This is exactly the problem.
        I work for an Ambassador who has an entire team of salaried career individuals working toward his/her goals, and then there’s me. I work side by side with him/her on all issues everyday, keeping schedules, managing paper, greeting guests, managing drivers, protocol and some security issues, oh, and taking care of every “little” extra that someone else doesn’t handle.
        I’ve had calls on a holiday to rebook travel arrangements, then when I turned in the overtime for the work was chided because I should have all overtime pre-cleared before performance!?!
        There is also a maximum cap on the dollar amount I can earn. So when I do work overtime, I do not earn 1.5 times my salary, I earn an extra $2.35 per hour. Alternatively, I can take Comp Time which allows me to take off an hour for every extra hour worked. I already have 360 hours of Annual Leave built up and continue to earn. Anything over that is “use or lose.”
        Yep, I need boundaries. But most people at the top are not interest in my “problems,” they are only interested in THEIR problems.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          Are you going to get paid out for that accumulated leave when you quit or retire? Especially if not, PLEASE start pushing back on their attempts to stop you from using it. Depending on whether you are paid for 35 or 40 hours a week that’s nearly 2 months or a little over 2 months of leave time. They will manage. Take your time!!

          1. MigraineMonth*

            There are also numerous benefits to the company when employees take time off: Improved efficiency/decreased burnout. Cross-training on responsibilities. Preparation in case someone quits/retires. Increased awareness of all the tasks in a particular job.

            Also discovery of fraud, but I assume that isn’t the case here.

        2. Cherries Jubilee*

          “I’ve had calls on a holiday to rebook travel arrangements, then when I turned in the overtime for the work was chided because I should have all overtime pre-cleared before performance!?”

          At that point, you have an easy excuse. Any subsequent requests that would mean overtime or infringe on a holiday, you can reply to with “Last time I did this I was instructed not to take unapproved overtime.”

          Also, stop checking work calls/emails on your time off!

        3. Angry socialist*

          Don’t answer your phone on vacation! Then you won’t have to argue about overtime, PLUS you can actually enjoy your time off. Put that ish on silent mode.

        4. Gumby*

          But most people at the top are not interest in my “problems,” they are only interested in THEIR problems.

          This is absolutely true and while it would be nice if it were otherwise, that is unlikely to happen. Which is why *you* have to maintain your own boundaries. Constantly. Consistently. No one else is going to do that for you.

          Also be clear in your mind – your boundaries mean you control what you do. It doesn’t mean you control what other people do or what they ask you to do. So them asking you to work unpaid overtime – illegal and annoying. The ‘policing your boundaries’ part means you always say no to that. It may or may not lessen the number of times they ask but that part doesn’t matter because your boundaries have to be rock solid and impervious to whatever other people throw your way. It’s hard! But it’s on you to do that. There is no magic wand to make other people care about your boundaries more than you do.

        5. Pajamas on Bananas*

          Comp time is not use it or lose it! If you don’t use it within the designated time frame, it must be paid out! Please, verify that you are being paid out when comp time expires. Also, your employer cannot force you to take time off to avoid paying comp time; however if you make a PTO request, they can require you to use comp time before using other PTO.

    10. WantonSeedStitch*

      This, exactly. Hold the line on only working when you are paid to work–in a firm, polite way. If someone asks you to drop everything and help them with something, “I’m afraid I’m really tied up with X right now. I can help you out this afternoon, or you could ask Jerome for some assistance now.” You can also ask your direct supervisor for some assistance in holding your boundaries, if it’s other employees who are trying to trample them. Having a VP or similar say “any requests for Lucinda’s time have to come through me” can go a very long way.

    11. Anonymous 75*

      listen #2, I’ve been in your position. I was the only assistant to multiple people all top level on the government. I was also one of the lowest paid people there (and exempt so I routinely worked 12+ hour days). having them call you by your last name in a last ditch attempt to establish boundaries is going to backfire spectacularly, most especially since it will be against an already established work culture. I do feel for you but this is not the way to handle your unhappiness at your workplace.

    12. The Shenanigans*

      Yes, exactly, OP should use the fact that it’s damn near impossible to fire in the govt to her advantage. It’s easy to get sucked into the dysfunction around you, so I don’t blame them for going for the surface solution here. But I agree, there are actual substantive things they can do.

  5. yvve*

    I agree with allison that i dont really see how being adressed as Ms. Name will have any meaningful effect on the issues that are bothering you?

    it also seems like it might be tricky to pull off– Do you plan on correcting people, if they call you by your first name? Do you plan on reffering to everyone else as ms/mr, and presumably keeping track of who specifically asks you not to? i think youd end up spending a lot of time explaining the behavior

    1. Madame Arcati*

      I get the impression that OP (understandably) doesn’t feel respected at work and is hoping that of people address her by a respectful title, that the respect may follow. But I don’t think that will work because the causation is a bit backwards.
      Plus given she isn’t a schoolteacher wanting children to call her Miss or an army officer requiring soldiers to address her as Lieutenant Colonel with a smart salute, it’s just going to seem out of touch with the culture of the office.
      As Allison say I don’t think it will achieve her goals – being addressed as Ms Warbleworth doesn’t compensate for unpaid overtime work or being called at all hours.

  6. Observer*

    #1 – Calling out serious problems in public.

    What you did in addressing these issues in the group chat did not just have the *optics* or *perception* of “name and shame”, but the actual fact. You called people out in public, despite the fact that this was not something that anyone else actually needed to know about. You say that you did it to make sure that people know how under-performing staff are treated. And, right now, the way you are treating them is by making public what should be private. Every single person who saw this chat now knows that if they mess up that can expect you to shame them in public and to not give them a chance to have a private (and possibly face saving) conversation. The fact that you made sure to not be rude or unkind is good. But the bottom line is that you disciplined staff in public and denied them some basic privacy.

    I’m going to point out that your premise doesn’t really make a lot of sense. You say that when the work is in person, it’s really easy to build a reputation, because employees directly witness how their coworkers are treated. But they also see how you treat people on the group slack channel.

    If you were in the office wouldn’t you have this conversation in your office rather than at the employee’s desk in an open office? If so, no one else would see exactly how you handle this either. Which is fine. Word gets around. People who don’t need you to discipline or manage them in this way see the results of your management, and *that* is how you build a reputation as a fair supervisor with reasonable, clear and reasonably high standards.

    1. Myrin*

      “But they also see how you treat people on the group slack channel.”
      I’m glad that you’re mentioning this because that didn’t make any sense to me either and I thought I might’ve misunderstood something.
      I’m wondering where that disconnect is coming from – maybe because you can’t physically people’s reactions and conduct, it feels more distant than if another one of your direct reports sat directly next to someone being criticised?

      1. Erie*

        Yes, they were just pointing out that it’s more tough for reputation to be established when you can’t see or hear each other. Slack is nice, but it’s all messages typed directly to a group or individual and there’s no “overhearing”. It’s not a complicated point; I wouldn’t overthink it.

        1. The Shenanigans*

          Well, if people are watching their coworkers get chewed out in the all-team channel, then, actually, they are “overhearing.” The manager clearly didn’t think about that being the same thing as sitting next to someone who’s getting chewed out. That makes their argument rather illogical, which people are pointing out. It doesn’t make the manager a terrible person, just someone who isn’t thinking straight about this issue.

    2. Never Knew I was a Dancer*

      When LW1 said they used the “group chat,” I took that to mean a group DM shared by the members of their small team, not an entire Slack channel. At my work, we use “group chat” vs. “channel” to differentiate the two.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        I think it’s still inappropriate though — that type of conversation should be private to *the individual* not just private to the team.

        1. Gemstones*

          And also ideally not on Slack. I think something like that is probably better handled as a video or phone call, not just texted.

      2. ecnaseener*

        I assume you mean that at your workplace a “channel” is for the entire company or large department? A team can’t have its own channel? (I’ve only used slack with a small team, not a big company)

        Anyway – LW says “everyone could see” so it’s definitely the whole team at minimum.

        1. Oryx*

          A team can have its own channel. At my job I’m in several channels that have only a handful of folks. In one there are only three of us.

      3. Observer*

        When LW1 said they used the “group chat,” I took that to mean a group DM shared by the members of their small team, not an entire Slack channel.

        That doesn’t really change anything. This should have been a private conversation, not one that was happening in front of anyone else.

  7. Sleeve McQueen*

    LW1: if it’s a common mistake that people often making it, I will often say something to the person as I give them private feedback – I am going to send out a general reminder about XYZ – I am not singling you out because everyone does it so I want to make sure everyone understands the process.

    Or if you have process documents, reshare them.

    1. Hazel*

      Great pint, and I think that’s what the LW was trying to get at – to let everyone know ‘this is my expectation about x, and if y happens here’s how I will handle it’ so they learn her supervision style. I would try not to focus on “what I’ll do” right after private discipline as it seems a bit pointed, but “I recently realized I should express expectation x” seems reasonable.

    2. Joron Twiner*

      Yes, the group chat is for reminders (“hey everyone, please make sure to fill out the date on the XYZ form”) not for serious performance warnings for individuals. If other people are not making the mistake, then they don’t need the reminder, do they? So you can have those conversations in private.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Yes, this. When I saw the headline I assumed it would be about something where the feedback was about something much more minor – this kind of performance convo should definitely be private (and probably not in Slack at all?).

        If someone on my team puts a draft powerpoint deck, say, in a chat thread and there are a lot of issues with it, there could be a gray area about whether to respond in the thread or to take it to a private channel. “Hey could you change that font color” is fine to put where others can see it, “I asked for a deck about overall llama grooming trends and this only covers one month of llama hoof treatments and is riddled with serious errors” I’d communicate privately. But I’d probably reply to the public post with “I’ve got some thoughts on this, can we set up a call?” or something so that others could see that I was taking it out of the main thread.

        There are definite nuances, both with what can be overheard in person and what is shared on a chat platform. But OP definitely missed the mark with serious performance feedback in public.

        1. Sleeve McQueen*

          this is a great answer – the nature of my work sometimes means things play out on public channels and knowing when to go private can be, as you acknowledge murky. I might call this “going ghost protocol” just to be dramatic ;)

  8. Jessica*

    LW2, I’m surprised Alison didn’t have more advice for you on what you might more constructively do, but there’s lots of it in other relevant questions she’s answered here! For instance:
    how to maintain work-life boundaries
    how to push back against unpaid overtime (your approach might be different depending on whether you’re willing to do OT if you’re paid for it, or just don’t want to do it, but either way, frame it non-adversarially; say “we,” as in “we wouldn’t want to break the law by not paying me for all the hours i work”; act like this is obviously reasonable and of course they’re going to be reasonable about it (not because you actually think that, but because sometimes laying down that vibe can influence people’s reaction)
    how to insist on taking vacation time (if your requests get denied and it’s clear that the convenient time from their point of view is Never, have a serious talk with your boss in which you say vacation time is an important part of your compensation and you need to be able to use it.
    how to deal with unreasonable expectations, like that you’ll magically do 60 hours of work in 40 hours (ask your boss what they’d like you to prioritize; if you can’t get a straight answer or they’re too busy to have the conversation with, send them an email telling them your plan (I’m going to focus on A, B, and C, which means I won’t get to D or E this week) so the ball’s in their court to either be informed of what’s going to happen, or communicate with you if they want the priorities to be different)

    I’m a government worker too, and you and I are old enough to realize life is short. Very few people on their deathbeds are thinking “I sure wish I’d spent more time at the office!” Don’t set yourself on fire to keep this agency warm. They’ll be willing to take and take and take (your sacrifices for granted), but you know what may happen when you retire? Your replacement will be someone with better work-life boundaries, and then it’ll become magically possible to either hire more help, or for the big shots you support to do some things for themselves, or for some of your duties to become unimportant or handed off to others, or something. The agency will somehow adapt to the person in your hourly job only working 40h a week, and they can make that adaptation right now if you can draw the line.

    1. bamcheeks*

      I think this is all great advice, but I will add that LW, if you feel more comfortable doing all this when you’re channelling your Mrs LW persona and less comfortable doing it as Janie, by all means be Mrs LW! But work on setting the boundaries TOO: if you expect to get more respect because you’ve asked people to use your title + last name and don’t do anything else differently, you’re going to be disappointed.

      1. DataSci*

        LW asked to be addressed by Ms, not Mrs. I prefer first name but when that’s not an option I would prefer literally any other title to Mrs. (I’m a married cis woman). Please don’t act as though the two are interchangeable.

        1. bamcheeks*

          Oops, you’re quite right, I don’t know how I misread that. I’m Ms myself and quite definitely never Mrs!

        2. MigraineMonth*

          In my state, a car is considered joint property for spouses. Hilariously, the way that they enforce this is that when you buy a car, the DMV sends a notification to your spouse, even if you aren’t married.

          I spent a while trying to figure out how to deal with the letter to “Spouse of [MigraineMonth]”. Does it count as tampering with the mail to throw out a letter addressed to an imaginary person?

          1. Jessica*

            You should just hold their mail. I’m enjoying the ridiculous mental picture of you maybe getting married in the future. You get home from the honeymoon and are like Oh, Spouse, here’s a letter for you! And Spouse is like… okay? It’s from the DMV and postmarked 13 years ago?

    2. Sloanicota*

      Another strategy I have found successful for taking vacation in an office that subtly discourages you is to book a loong vacation very far out, then make sure it’s on the calendar and enforce the boundary. You shouldn’t have to do this, but it makes it easier; it was no harder to get a long weekend or a week approved in my old office than two weeks or ten days (in both cases it was hard! But in the second case, at least you used all your vacation time by the end of the year!). And if it’s on the calendar six months out, it can hopefully pre-empt all the stuff that was clearly planned with the knowledge you were out.

    3. AnonInCanada*

      1,000,000 times this. You work to live, not live to work! OP needs to set boundaries and demand what she’s entitled to (the PTO, being paid for overtime). The insistence on being referred to “Ms. Surname” is a protest to a much larger problem. That’s what needs to be addressed head-on with the upper brass.

    4. Rebecca*

      Yes to all of this! I learnt a lesson ten years or so ago that working extra on top of your contracted hours does no one any favours. One of the contracts I left because the demands were unreasonable had been paying me for 12 hours a week; the next person that was hired was paid for 24.

    5. Speak Now TV*

      I would add that since LW2 has been reprimanded for both working overtime and not working overtime, she might try phrasing the boundary as, “I would love to help you [during this Saturday afternoon], however unfortunately we’ve gotten in trouble previously with me working overtime, so I won’t be able to help. Since this issue keeps coming up, would it make sense to start talking about if the way my role is currently structured still makes sense?” And then see if they’re interested in giving you a pay raise and making you salaried. And if they’re not… well, now them asking you to work on Saturdays has become a much bigger conversation about role structures and compensation and how it would effect their balance sheet, which can be helpful for making people remember the details of your role.

  9. nodramalama*

    Ooooh some interesting ones here.

    LW1 i would strongly advise against using your group chat for anything that should be handled one on one, and ESPECIALLY negative feedback. I know this isn’t what you intend, but it creates a sense of public humiliation and condemnation. The only reason I can think of to reprimand someone in a group setting is if they were doing something unacceptable such as sexual harassment or bullying, and you want to call out the behaviour at the time. Certainly not for work feedback.

    LW2 i think if you wish to be called Ms Last Name thats your prerogative (though i dont think it will achieve what youre looking for), but just as you wish to be called your preferred name, extend that curtesy to others and call them by their first names if that’s how theyve introduced themselves.

    1. Julian*

      I appreciate your advice to the second LW! As an enby in the South, I often get called Ms. LASTNAME. It’s meant to be a gesture of respect, but I hate it. Mx. LASTNAME is better, but I personally just don’t like the sound of that prefix. Just call me by my first name and we’ll get along fine!

      1. Bit o' Brit*

        I’ve only ever seen Mx written down, so can I take this opportunity to ask, how is it pronounced? I can see an argument for Mix, Mux or Muz and wouldn’t want to get it wrong in a situation that mattered.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          Big caveat that I’ve never heard Mx. pronounced out loud: I have seen people (on the internet) say it is pronounced either “Mix” or “Mux.” Personally, I would pronounce it “Mix” if I were to say if out loud (my reasoning is that Mr. and Mrs. both have “i” sounds when pronounced out loud–Mister and Misses).

      2. Michelle Smith*

        Nonbinary person in the Northeast and encounter the same thing. It’s grating, but I do prefer Mx. if someone really needs to use something besides just “Michelle.”

  10. Ollie*

    LW1 I’ve experienced this type of situation as a staff member. Blanket statements to all staff demonstrate that as a manager, you’re avoiding addressing the issue head-on. The staff that need to improve are not going to take it seriously and those staff that are doing well, will likely wonder what they are doing wrong, affecting morale. These types of conversations definitely need to be private, one on one discussions so that the message is clear and transparent.

    1. Myrin*

      I think you might’ve misread the situation – OP didn’t issue a blanket statement; she addressed the underperforming empoyees directly (including telling them that lest they improve, they’ll lose their jobs!), it’s just that she did so in the group chat where everyone could see.

    2. nodramalama*

      I think its worse than youre imagining. my read is that the manager isn’t issuing blanket statements, theyre calling out individual behaviours they dont like to the group.

    3. All Het Up About It*

      I actually thought it seemed kind of odd the way the OP described. That they avoided finger pointing…. but was clear and direct. It was on a call…. but on a group chat?

      I’m a little confused.

      I will say that I’ve used some blanket statements as a manager both in chat and in person meetings when I’m NOT sure who’s doing what, but that there is a problem. Sometimes that leads to the person doing the thing to admit it to me and we work it out. Sometimes the thing just stopped and I never figured out who was doing it. And sometimes it still happened and I had to make extra effort to get to the bottom of it. But occasionally you can’t address directly and must do so indirectly.

      I think the OP is really thrown off by the remote element, but hopefully they can pivot and move in a better manager direction from here.

  11. CatCat*

    Oof, #1, I understand, you had private calls with the relevant employees and then said the same thing in a group chat.

    The group chat was a big misstep. As a new manager, you subordinates have very little information to weigh how you manage. Their takeaway is not going to see how fair and even keel you were, it’s going to be that you publicly humiliate employees when they mess up. I think you’ve got to do some immediate damage control to save your reputation with the team.

    What that looks like, I’m not entirely certain, but I think starts with publicly acknowledging your error and how you are going to correct your own behavior going forward.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      Also those employees are going to feel extra bad because 1-you talked to them privately (good!) about the mistakes and expectations. Then 2-SURPRISE NOW IT’S ALSO IN THE GROUP CHAT SO EVERYONE KNOWS!!!. That’s not good. That’s embarrassing for them. You need to trust that the rest of your group sees that those with issues 1-improve or 2-are eventually let go (after being given improvement chances).
      OP, I know this won’t feel good, but you need to 1-personally apologize to the employees who got called out. They didn’t sign up for their issues to be called out in the chat. Sometimes if someone makes a mistake, they might say “oh, for sure you should bring this to the group’s attention so they see it and don’t mess it up like I did”, but that’s a conversation, not you deciding to reveal their issues. And 2-you also need to apologize in the group chat. I do think it’s important for you to mention that you’re just getting your footing as a manager, so doing X seemed like a good idea in your head, and you didn’t think through how the team would perceive it overall, or how it would affect employees directly. It may not feel good, but your employees are more likely to think “oh good, they see why doing this wasn’t a good idea” and will reset their perception of you going forward.

    2. Bunny Lake Is Found*

      Yeah, it is a bit like breaking up with someone and then sending a group text to all your mutual friends about it a minute after you dump them. It might feel like you are “being transparent” because it “impacts the group” and conveying how “low drama” the situation is but man it just makes it look like you don’t get what information you should be discrete about and what information is for blast. Cringe in social situations, cringe in professional ones.

  12. SAS*

    LW1, you are definitely overthinking this. Managing each individual directly is going to give everyone a picture of your management style. If some of them experience your disciplinary management style before others do, well that would be normal even if you were an in-person office.

    1. Allonge*

      Yes, to be honest I don’t need to know what my manager’s discipline style is like. If we ever get there, I will see – in the meanwhile the fact that underperformance is handled is enough, and I am well aware that’s a mid- to long-term thing anyway.

      Reasonable people will indeed understand that there is stuff their manager does behind closed doors, as it were.

  13. Cherries Jubilee*

    OP1 I think your reasoning applies in some positions to technical corrections, not to personal ones. I have been in positions where procedures were so complex and where multiple people might be working on the same thing, and it did make sense for friendly, non-blamey corrections to be done in the group chat because that way everyone learned or was reminded of it, or someone could speak up and provide context for why something happened.

    But conversations regarding lateness or job performance are inappropriate for that kind of public setting!

    1. bamcheeks*

      yes, I was going to say something like this. Something like, “It’s come to my attention that people are filling in timesheets in several different ways. For clarity, you need to do X, Y and Z. This is really important, and it’s a key responsibility in your role, so if anyone isn’t sure about it or wants me to go through it with them, please let me know. Happy to go through it at our next team meeting too if you need me to.” That’s a totally legit thing to do in a group chat, and if you need to follow up with Fred and George in private conversation and say, “seriously guys, you need to get this right and I’m going to be watching very closely over the next couple of months”, you can. But you don’t do that last bit in public.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        This. There is a huge difference between “okay everyone we need to be really thorough about documenting everyone’s time because Agency X is paying for 3FT positions and Agency Y is paying for 4.5 FT positions, so we need to make sure we divide up the project responsibilities right and that the math all adds up if you’re working for 2 different agency projects. If you’re not sure, please do ask, especially if we’ve reassigned your project recently” and “You know Leo, I told you 5 times that you have to split your time evenly between X and Y because of your projects, and you keep putting 5 hours for 1 and 3 for the other and you can’t do that, why don’t you learn?”. The second message is not a public message, and nobody else in the group chat should see anything like it.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      I was thinking this exact same thing and am so glad you brought it up. This sort of thing happens all the time at my organization, and yep, group chat is great for sorting out confusion about procedures. We have had some lengthy convos about these sorts of things.

      But performance issues are always handled privately.

  14. learnedthehardway*

    OP#1 – There’s no difference in performance management between in person vs remote – in BOTH situations, you should praise publicly, coach / performance manage privately.

    The rest of the team does not benefit from being told their coworkers are essentially committing time fraud. All they are learning is that if they make a mistake, they will be called out publicly for it. This will lead to people HIDING mistakes from you. People who have other options will leave your team over this sort of thing.

    The people you are accusing publicly were put on the spot, shamed, and embarrassed. This is not good management. Also, they were not being given a chance to present their side of the story to you – it may indeed be time fraud, but it’s also possible they are making a mistake in how they are using the system, or perhaps there are issues like the system losing work they have done. They may have needed training, technical support, or discipline – you didn’t find out which. That is very unfair to them – even if they DID commit time fraud.

    Your own manager did you an enormous disservice by letting you make your own decision on this. Your manager should have realized that this is something that would negatively affect your team’s morale, and that it was too big an error to let happen. Sometimes, you can let people learn from their mistakes, but in this case, I would argue that letting you learn meant hurting other people, and they shouldn’t have allowed it.

  15. D.C. Paralegal*

    LW2: Other people have covered the need for boundaries, so I’ll focus on the idea of suddenly going by Mrs. LastName: please don’t do this. There’s probably no scenario where this ends well.

    Let’s start with your boss. When you mention introducing the idea to him, are you expecting him to address you as Mrs.? I imagine that’ll understandably be a no-go. Or just inform him that you’re going to require everyone else to? What if he declines to allow it? (Which might well be the right move if he’s trying to maintain a harmonious support staff.) That would be a tough thing to recover from.

    It’s likely to go over even worse with fellow support staff. You indicate that the agency is divided into leadership (who use honorifics) and everyone else (who does not). Asking your peers to address you by Mrs. runs the risk of making it seem like you’re attempting to elevate yourself to the leadership level. Or in the very least, above other support staff. Even if people roll their eyes and play along, to be blunt, unkind things will likely be said behind your back.

    But mainly you should not do it because as Alison said, it won’t actually fix any of the issues you mention. It won’t be at all difficult for your supervisors to go from “Sorry, FirstName, I can’t approve this vacation request” or “FirstName, I need you to stay late tonight” to “Sorry, Mrs. LastName, I can’t approve this vacation request” or “Mrs. LastName, I need you to stay late tonight.” People are still going to take advantage of you. They’ll just do it with a couple more syllables.

    1. Former Retail Manager*

      U.S. Federal employee…can confirm….will not go over well and you will be talked about negatively. We’ve had a few of these folks over the years and, no one thought very highly of them.

      I suspect that your organization is short-handed like almost every other govt agency, regardless of what level that may be, local, state, federal, etc. Unless you are planning to work for 10-15 more years, I’d frankly set boundaries regarding your time off and need to work beyond your set schedule using Alison’s previous advice to other commenters, focus on your time outside work and if the place catches fire, so be it. You didn’t create the situation you are dealing with, and neither did your superiors, but frankly they are well-compensated to deal with it and you aren’t. At this point, your work quality is proven. It’s not like they’re going to fire you.

      Also, regarding your career trajectory, the same issue is present at my org. There are what are considered “low level” admin positions with little to no upward mobility and few transferable skills due to govt specifics of the role, but these folks are the ones holding many things together and their absence is definitely noticed. However, this lack of upward mobility has been the single largest factor in my org losing or being unable to attract admins. It definitely sucks, but I will be honest and tell you that it’s unlikely to change anytime soon, which you probably already know. My org has a union and they have been working on the issue for close to a decade at this point, and only minimal change has been made. I don’t foresee a change before you are ready to retire. But I can tell you that you, and others in your position, matter and some of us do recognize your immense contributions, even if we are unable to improve things for you.

      Set boundaries, enjoy your time outside work, and your bosses can figure out the rest.

  16. Jujyfruits*

    Just another thought for OP1 – can you do zoom meetings with your team (together and 1:1)? You say you’ve never seen their faces so maybe that would help provide you with body language and additional context when talking to your team. I have worked on several remote teams and there has always been video meetings (mandatory or optional).

    1. MrsThePlague*

      Not second-guessing the LW (or you!) or trying to derail, just curious about this point: what kind of work would mean you never see the faces of the people you’re managing? I can see maybe never meeting some of your coworkers, but how would you never meet your manager? Is this a new, (post-ish)pandemic thing?

      1. Green great dragon*

        Any sort of remote or multi-site work really. A team of writers, a distributed sales force, piecework from home. Sure, these days most people would use zoom with cameras (in fact I suspect it’s a lot less common now to have never seen people’s faces than before pandemic), and most managers would try to visit their staff occasionally, but I’m not overly surprised, especially as LW’s newish to the team.

        You see their output in a normal way, and you do the annual reviews over the phone.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Yeah, it’s interesting — there is someone I work with a fair bit who is in a different location. Prior to 2020, we only ever spoke on the phone, so I had no idea what she looked like. Now we always do video calls.

      2. *kalypso*

        I work in law and I was hired and onboarded before I saw or met anyone, even the people who hired me. I regularly go several months before seeing or meeting new hires.

        We have a hybrid workforce. It is just how it is. And I even attend all-staff meetings – it’s just that they put the phone up in the window and then forget about us, so anyone zooming in that day (on any day, up to 4-5 of us) just watches and we don’t get to talk or join in or anything. I do all my work correspondence by email or Zoom chat, which suits my manager as she has flexible hours and can follow up in her own time and I use standard titles for my emails so she knows where to find my timesheets and can put aside ‘i have a low priority question about this situation that the general rule doesn’t account for’ until she has all the information and time to address it.

        It suits me because if I was in the office I would genuinely lose my temper at some of the things people think they can do, but then again, if I was right there they might not be quite so asinine about the things they ask me to do and I’d be putting up with the ‘you are disabled, I must do your basic life tasks for you’ instead, while my manager would be MIA half the time and running around babysitting adult men the other half of the time and would have no idea what I’m doing.

        1. Avery*

          Can second this. I’m a paralegal working remotely, and while I’ve been employed by the same firm for the better part of a year now, I’ve yet to meet my boss in-person. I did see his face… once, on an optional Zoom call. Work communication is by phone or email, and that suits me just fine.

      3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I haven’t met most of my team of reports (including the newest one that I hired) in person and I’ve been managing them for two years. We’re scattered over a 6 hour driving distance and only 2 of us are within an hour of our “home site” – if I call them all on site for some reason I both make them grumpy (because none of them want to make a 3+ hour round trip drive) and lose almost an entire day’s productivity for the team. So far nothing has come up that makes any of that worthwhile. I turn my camera on during meetings but most of them prefer not to. (They’re a lot of “let me log on and do my work then log off and live my life” types, which is perfectly fine.)

      4. ecnaseener*

        It’s not that you never meet – you meet over the phone, or camera-off zoom/teams meetings. (Although I’m sure there are teams out there who exclusively use email and chat with no meetings.)
        My team has not turned cameras on for staff meetings these whole 3+ years, because most of us prefer it that way, management included. Sometimes when meeting with people outside the team we use cameras, sometimes not.

      5. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        My BIL works for the federal government. When they are remote they have to be cameras off due to confidentiality/security issues. They happen to be hybrid, so they do see faces in office, but if they were totally remote they would never see each other.

      6. Momma Bear*

        Not new. I was on a contract once where I was assigned to a client site. My on the books manager only talked to me on the phone maybe twice and I never met him in person. I was managed in my day to day tasks by the manager for that office (who worked for a different contractor) and basically it was a matter of if there were no complaints from the client, there was no problem with my manager. I had another job where I was remote and my boss was in another time zone. Most of our work was ticketed so we were very independent and even though there was a chat to talk to the boss through, the few video meetings we had I could count one handed. I never met them in person. Both of these were long before the pandemic.

    2. DataSci*

      I was assuming that LW wasn’t being literal and they meant something like “never met them in person” rather than literally had never had a cameras-on meeting.

      1. Jujyfruits*

        The point still stands. If chat is difficult to navigate, another form of communication might suit them better.

  17. Lowecat*

    As an employee whose manager used group chat to call me out for an error instead of us discussing one on one in private chat or via phone, that new manager has lost a lot of trust with her team, and especially with the two employees. When it happened to me, later the manager apologized and I accepted it at face value, but I had zero faith in her from that point forward. It’s really important to remember how you wanted your supervisor to treat you and to act accordingly.

  18. amoeba*

    LW2: I agree with everybody that going by last name won’t change anything, except make you seem… a bit old-fashioned?

    However, one thing stood out to me – the people you work for directly are addressed by their title, so, like “Dr. Lastname”, while they call you (and others, I assume?) by first name? Maybe that’s a cultural thing, but that honestly seems super weird to me and gives me school vibes. Since I’m an adult, when somebody calls me by my first name, I’ll do the same with them! Happy to switch to last names for both, but the one-way route gives me super weird power/hierarchy vibes.

    (And I am actually a Dr. Lastname! We’re all on first name terms here, anyway, but back in the day when that was not universal, first or last name/title was always reciprocal.)

    Is that actually more of a thing in the US or are those people possibly a bit entitled?

    1. bamcheeks*

      I used to work as a medical secretary where doctors were Dr Lastname and secretaries were Firstname. All the younger doctors were really embarrassed by it and kept telling us to call them Firstname, but it was so engrained with the senior doctors and secretaries (most of whom were older women) that it felt *weird* to use first names. Never worked anywhere like it.

    2. BagelMarta*

      I’m a professor and we all call each other by our first names unless we’re in front of students. This behavior is really odd in the U.S. and has been for at least half a century. I’m in my early 30s and even when I was in grad school I’d call professors in their 80s by their first name.

      I’m wondering if OP isn’t from the U.S.? This would be extremely out of the norm here, but probably less so in the UK and very normal in East Asia.

      1. bamcheeks*

        No, my impression is that using Mr/s Lastname is much less common in the UK than in the US. The only place I’ve used surnames in the UK is in school and the above-mentioned medical secretary role. My only reference for this is Mrs Landingham in The West Wing!

        1. londonedit*

          I have the same impression. I’ve been in the working world for nearly 20 years and I’ve never come across a company where anyone was referred to by title/surname. I also know that it didn’t ever happen in my lifetime as far as my dad’s working life was concerned (he retired about eight years ago). In most industries it would seem extremely outdated here (like some bizarre relic of Are You Being Served?) – at school here you call teachers Miss/Sir or Mr/Mrs/Ms/Miss surname, but even at university we called our lecturers by their first names even though their titles were mainly Dr.

        2. Lily Potter*

          Bamcheeks – Mrs. Landingham was only Mrs. Landingham because the President had known her since he was a teenager and was reprimanded then for calling her Delores :)

          As I recall, when Debbie Fidderer (sp?) took over the position, everyone called her Debbie.

          It is sad that I remember this but not what I had for breakfast an hour ago.

          1. bamcheeks*

            That’s kind of what I mean– the idea that children and young people would call adults “Mr / Mrs X” is something that’s in a lot of American books, but wasn’t at all typical in the UK! All my friends’ parents and my parents’ friends were Firstname to me. Only teachers were Mr/Mrs/Ms/Miss.

            1. just a random teacher*

              Growing up in the USA in the 1980s, I knew some of the neighbors by last name instead of first name. There was one family that I knew as Mr. Lastname and his wife Firstname, and another neighbor couple that I knew as Mr. and Mrs. Lastname. I think it was partly that if they didn’t have kids roughly my age, my reference for who lived where was the [lastname] family lives in that house, which consists of Mr.[lastname] and Mrs.[lastname], who do/don’t appreciate random kids climbing their trees [or whatever].

              Even today, some of my neighbors tell their kids to call me Ms. Lastname or sometimes Miss Firstname, which I definitely don’t particularly appreciate but I try not to get in the way of what people tell their toddlers. If I’m introducing myself to neighbors I just give my first name regardless of age.

              This is complicated by the fact that I am a teacher and am stuck going by Ms. Lastname at work, so some of it may just be carryover from that context or people hedging their bets in case I teach their kids someday. (I teach high school rather than little kids, though.)

      2. Llama Identity Thief*

        I will just say, to push back on the “isn’t from the US,” I’m from the US and in my grad school professors were still called “Dr. X.” I in fact remember clearly one professor turning to a student who had just given his Ph. D. defense in another discipline and going “Okay, you now have to call me Susan and not Dr. X, and all the other students have to refer to you as Dr. Y now.” The latter half of that was definitely tongue-in-cheek, but it was still the expectation to not call professors by first name unless you were also at Ph. D. level.

        1. amoeba*

          In my group, you got offered the first name when joining as a PhD student – I think the thought was more that at that point, you were there as a long-time group member and not just as a visiting student? Basing it on the title is… less great.

          I did find it very, very strange in the beginning though!

        2. Cheese Victim*

          Yes, this is very highly program- and individual-specific. In my first grad program, there were multiple faculty members who wanted to be addressed as “Dr.” or “Professor” – and would correct students! – and then, once a student was past prelims or had finished their degree, would offer their first name. In my second, I called the first faculty member I met “Professor” and they looked horrified.

          There have also been multiple studies of gender bias/expectations in academia that result in students calling male/male-presenting faculty “Dr.” or “Professor” while also calling female/female-presenting faculty “Mrs.” or “Ms.” or by their first names. Some of that may be due to the perception of women as inherently warmer (therefore the familiarity of first names) or as somehow not having the same creds/authority (therefore titling by marital status/assumption). I have “Dr.” in my professional email signature and still get folks writing to me as “Dear Mrs. Cheese Victim.” (I gently tell them they can call me “Cheese.”)

          1. amoeba*

            Yeah, I’ve had that discussion as well. In that case, however, I’m pretty sure it was because the male Dr. in question was… not well liked among the students and I was happy the students felt comfortable calling me “amoeba” and not intimidated as they (understandably) were by him!

            Ms. Lastname while calling male colleagues “Dr. Lastname” would be seriously annoying, though!

        3. moql*

          This may be school or discipline specific? In both grad and undergrad (different states and very different student bodies) everyone used first names for my professors. There was one department that had the weird quirk of using Firstname Lastname, but never ever would someone use Dr.

      3. UKDancer*

        Definitely not common in the UK. Everywhere I’ve worked has been on first name terms. The last place I worked the person in charge had a knighthood and we still called him by a diminutive of his first name (so he was Sir James Kirk and we called him Jimmy for example). Insisting on a title would be weird.

        Even when I was an undergraduate at a UK university we called all the lecturers and professors by their first names. The chair of the faculty was Tony and the Chancellor whose full name was Sir Shridath Ramphal was known to everyone as Sunny. The ethos was that we were all equals sharing the journey of learning and study. The only person who insisted on full names was the German professor who had 2 doctorates and insisted we call him Professor Dr Dr Schmidt. That was a bit of an outlier by local standards but we all humoured him.

      4. Joron Twiner*

        In East Asia everyone would go by their last name, using the appropriate honorific to denote doctor status, so there wouldn’t be as much imbalance. Dr. X is just as formal as Mr/Ms X.

        1. amoeba*

          Yeah, that’s what I know from Germany (or rather, either that or first names). Both are fine with me, although I prefer the less formal. It’s the imbalance that would annoy me.

    3. FisherCat*

      Its possible that by title, LW means “Assistant Director” or “Secretary of [Agency]” when she says title as that is not an uncommon way for truly senior government officials to be referred to by third parties (I would call the person about 4 levels above me in this manner, but not my direct supervisor, if that gives any clarity on the type of “higher ups” I think LW may be working directly with/for).

      1. Ubergaladababa*

        This what I assumed, in part because you have to be very high up in the federal government to have administrative support like the LW provides. So, the counselors and advisors and other Front Office politicals go by first name but the Principals (like, the heads of cabinet-level Departments or subdivisions thereof) go by Secretary, Director, Administrator, etc.

      2. iliketoknit*

        Agreed, as a federal employee, I assumed we were talking about Directors/Secretaries/AGs, positions like that. Like I bet Louis DeJoy gets called Postmaster most of the time. I don’t generally see PhDs use “Dr.” in the government context (admittedly the government is huge so I can’t rule that out in appropriate settings); if we’re talking medical doctors, I think most agencies that would have medical doctors in positions of leadership would also have lots of medical doctors employed there, so the leadership title is likely to be something other than Dr.

        1. DataSci*

          The obvious counterexample as a medical doctor in a leadership position is Dr Fauci, but I don’t know anyone at the CDC to ask what he uses internally vs public facing.

        1. FisherCat*

          Obviously you don’t have to answer this as it may be doxxing-adjacent but is it possible that if you are working at a post abroad that is the source of the misalignment about work-life balance or similar issues? If so a transfer might alleviate your concerns – or as someone else quite rightly pointed out, flatly refuse to do anything outside your stated duties/hours and by the time anything comes of it you’re likely to be retired anyway.

    4. ecnaseener*

      That is how it often works in my job (healthcare/academia) and yes it is weird! But enough dr’s want to be called Dr that you have to start with that and see what they do. Some of them ask you to use their first name or at least sign emails that way. Most don’t mention it and sign their emails Jane Warbleworth MD. (Don’t get me started on the ones who want different names in different contexts, or addressing groups…)

      1. amoeba*

        Huh. I guess in that case I’d probably be petty enough to insist on being called by my last name, as well! Or not even petty, just… not happy with the imbalance.

        And hereabouts it’s still pretty normal (although getting less so) to be on last name terms (with the formal address “Sie” as well), just not as a one way thing based on status.

    5. doreen*

      I don’t think it’s a US thing exactly – but it’s definitely a government agency sort of thing, which of course depends on a lot of factors such as which agency , the location , and what specific job the person has. For example, in my first government job it was first names from the support staff up through the two levels of supervisors. Managers then got Mr. or Ms. Lastname until the level where someone had the sort of title that could be used with a name, like Commissioner. At the next government agency support staff were called by first name and professional staff were called either just by last name or by Job Title last name – think of those police/fire TV shows where support staff is called by their first names and everyone else is either called by just their last name or Detective/Lieutenant/Chief Lastname

    6. Emmy Noether*

      I think that forms of adress are definitely VERY cultural and do not translate at all between languages and even countries with the same language.

      I feel like for example in Germany, using formal or informal you, and correspondingly first/last names or even titles is definitely a whole thing with a lot of rules around it. Rules like who can propose to go informal (the older or higher status person), can you go back to formal later (not without burning a bridge), until what age can children always be adressed informally without necessarily being allowed to reciprocate (16), etc.

      Other countries’ rules differ. For example in France, one can do first names and formal you (this is common at work). The US and UK – again, very different, lots of first names from the jump. Non-Western cultures will have entirely different forms still.

      It makes international communication… interesting.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I was Frau Cheeks for six months in Saxony twenty-five years ago, which I have never been before or since.

        (I also fcked up using Sie way, way more often than I got it right.)

        1. Emmy Noether*

          I was Frau Dr. Noether to everyone over 40 in my last job, except to my boss, who very magnanimously proposed dropping the Dr. because we both have PhDs (lol)… I’m Emmy in my current job, except to the C-suite. You can tell a lot about how traditional/conservative/stuffy a place is by the proportion of Sie/Du you hear in the hallway on the way to the interview.

          1. amoeba*

            Haha, that is really quite interesting – I’ve actually never worked at a place where titles were used, including university. With the professors, you’d typically use it the first time you addressed them, but as soon as you knew them, they became “Mr./Ms. Lastname”. Same in industry, if it was last names. I always assumed it’s because basically everybody has a PhD, anyway, so nobody cares, but it seems there are differences!

            1. Emmy Noether*

              I think the higher the proportion of PhDs and people getting PhDs, the less people tend to be stuck up about them. It’s in places where they are rare(r) that people start imagining it makes them special.
              My job now has a very high quota of PhDs, and nobody cares. Funnily enough, my grandboss is one of the few who doesn’t have one, and he’s the most competent at technical stuff, so that keeps us humble as well.

          2. bamcheeks*

            I worked for a regional orchestra with an office staff of 5, all of whom were in their 50s and 60s and had been there for a decade or more. It was only 7 years after reunification, so everyone in that generation was really still in their East German mode, and it definitely felt more egalitarian in that setting than stuffy or formal. (It blows my mind that at the time I was 19 and felt like reunification was AAAGES ago, but now I’m like, it was closer in time than the Brexit vote is to now.)

          3. Cheese Victim*

            I did some research in Germany as part of my program and trying to untangle “Herr” from “Herr Doktor” from “Doktor Professor” from “Herr Doktor Professor” when writing to any given (male) professor took a lot of brainpower.

      2. amoeba*

        But Sie plus first name is (maybe more like was) a thing in Germany as well? We often got that from older professors (imagine a kind of “fatherly” vibe).

        1. Myrin*

          I assume there is a regional variant to that – I had literally never encountered that until I was 19 and at my first semester at uni, where one docent was only a few years older than most of us and proposed “the American style” (which I found weird even back then because, well, even the lesser-inclined-towards-English know that English only has one second person pronoun (and if you want to be super pingelig it’s actually the formal one!)) and let me tell you, we all found it supremely awkward although we got used to it.

          Dealing with historical documents, I know that it was actually not uncommon even here in the early 20th century, but only towards teenagers/very young adults! (In fact, I have some historical postcards in front of me right this moment where one says “liebes Fräulein Zenta, wären Sie so nett…”.)

          1. Emmy Noether*

            Agree, must be regional – I’ve never encountered that variant.

            I have seen the reverse (Du + last name) among salespeople on the sales floor, when they don’t want to use first names in front of customers (old fashioned store, name tags have just last names). They do first names in the breakroom though.

          2. amoeba*

            Maybe more in the south (Bavaria)? At least the people who used it were from that area…

            1. YesImTheAskewPolice*

              I’m from Switzerland, and had Sie + first name for my upper secondary education (Gymnasium) and some university courses, especially the smaller ones. Teachers and lecturers were still addressed formally with their last names, though.

      3. amoeba*

        Also, are people still adhering to all those rules? Maybe in different fields, but have never really experienced that whole dance (who proposes, etc.) personally…

        1. Myrin*

          “Also, are people still adhering to all those rules?”
          Probably not as stringently as twenty years ago but yes, absolutely.

        2. Emmy Noether*

          In my experience, the places/people who (partially) stick with Sie at work also follow the rules about it. The places that tell you on your first day that everyone goes by first names don’t need to. We also followed the rules towards teachers and professors (but not among students).

          1. amoeba*

            Yeah, true, with a professor (or line manager), I’d also still handle it like that. Just among colleagues/equals I probably wouldn’t try to figure out who’s older… but then I’ve never had the situation in a “real, professional” job, so who knows.

    7. Dust Bunny*

      Medical school library employee: Doctors and patrons are “Doctor”, usually (because of our patron base), or Mr./Ms. Lastname unless and until they tell us otherwise. Coworkers all the way up to the current ED are Firstname, although past EDs have sometimes been Dr. Lastname if they were MDs or PhDs because they were established under that name and title in their medical discipline. Our current ED is a librarian.

      If the prevailing culture is Firstname, insisting on Ms. Lastname is going to seem out of touch. There are problems here but this won’t address them. The LW’s coworkers have probably forgotten that she’s hourly, and that’s where she needs to push back.

    8. t-vex*

      Interesting… I work with a lot of doctors and I just realized I really flex how I refer to them based on who I’m talking to. Firstname is for our peers, Dr Firstname is for their subordinates, Dr Lastname is for people who don’t know either of us. And I think their direct reports just call them Lastname.

    9. Ms. Surname*

      U.S. Ambassadors are the highest-ranking person in the country to which they represent the U.S. They become accustomed to the status very quickly and expect deference from everyone. As their admin assistant they expect me to always be available. But they all seem blissfully unaware of how we are categorized by the larger organization.
      I guess setting boundaries is my bigger issue.

      1. bamcheeks*

        That sounds incredibly frustrating! Are you formally line-managed by the ambassador, or do you have someone else who does the administrative side of your line management? In a lot of those kind of professional support roles in healthcare, the civil service, academia etc, you’ll usually have a line manager whose job is to go to bat for you against the senior people if necessary and lay down the law about what you can and can’t be asked to do. Do you know have anyone like that?

        1. bamcheeks*

          (I must say, if you are a) hourly b) are on a formal government pay scale that limits how much you can be paid c) directly line-managed by a super senior person who isn’t interested in managing YOU as an individual rather than just someone who is there for their convenience, that sounds like the worst of every world and I really feel for you! Usually the trade-off for “hard-limits payscale and hourly wage” is “formal line-management”, and the trade-off for “vaguely defined hours and no formal management” is “lots of autonomy and money”. It’s completely crap if you’re not getting the benefits on either side!)

  19. Sagegreen is my favorite color.*

    Yikes. I was criticized once by a supervisor in front of others and I was so humiliated and remember it to this day. Please apologize to those two employees and give others respect and dignity in the future.

    1. ElsaBug*

      One time a supervisor joked at a staff meeting about something she had reprimanded me about. I met with her and asked her why she had done that. She apologized, but I knew I could never trust her and left soon after.

  20. Kella*

    LW1: Since I know folks are being a bit harsh on you in the comments I just wanted to reflect: I can see that you misunderstood some of Alison’s common advice AND that you were doing your best to follow that advice, thinking it was the right thing to do, because you wanted to be a good manager. You didn’t do this out of cruelty or disrespect. You made a mistake but I just didn’t want it to get lost that the motivation behind that mistake was to do right by your employees, you just got mixed up on how to do that. Consider some of the advice in other comments about how to proceed with those employees and how to handle those conversations in the future.

    LW2: I think you’ve identified that your job situation has left you feeling devalued and disrespected, which makes sense under the circumstances. You may have learned that addressing someone by their surname is a sign of respect, AND asking people to change how they address you is something in your control, hence this idea. But this gesture is meaningless if it’s not backed by actions that also communicate respect. Look to other aspects of how you interact with your job that are also in your control for more answers about how to proceed.

  21. Green great dragon*

    LW1, in addition to what others have said, I really don’t want to know which of my coworkers are under serious threat of firing. Partly because it’ll just make interactions weird, and partly because if they ask for help beyond what I really want to give I’ll feel really pressured to help them out, even at the expense of my own work.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      This is a really great point. Or I might feel really pressured to not help them out because despite what I said to them, they did it wrong anyway and then I get roped into it. This really does create some uncomfortable situations.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Good point. Also, I feel like this particular situation is serious enough (time card fraud, right?) that it would warrant individual phone calls with the employees to tell them they absolutely can’t do that again.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        And this way isn’t giving the employee a chance to explain/improve! It’s possible that the system is confusing and weird and they didn’t realize things got entered wrong. You calling them specifically and asking could lead to them realizing they chose the wrong project name by accident, or didn’t realize that they had to split time 50/50 even if they spent 23 hours one week on something and 17 on the other.
        I filled a timecard out weird once in my contract job. Being called about it and asked made me realize that hitting the tab key when you were in a cell list scrolled down that list instead of moving to the next cell. So I picked option X in the cell and hit tab, but didn’t pay attention to realize that now the cell had option Y picked. Then I clicked into the next cell, not looking back, because I was annoyed that the tab ‘didn’t work’. Easy mistake to make, easy to fix, but if my boss had said in a chat “AngryOctopus tried to pad their time on the last timesheet and tried to get unauthorized overtime by adding small increments to their day” I’d have been super embarrassed. I also would not have realized what caused the issue, unlike when I had the phone call, went into the timesheet, and realized then.

        1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

          I had a similar thought on the time cards. LW1 says they are a new manager and they find not one, but two people who are significantly padding their time? Maybe the last manager was checked out, but I would have been super leery of threatening their jobs in the one-on-one calls. To then publicly call them out to my entire team would not cross my mind because I would be still concerned that I missed something.

          I used to do legal billing and different departments took totally different approaches so it meant in some practice groups putting down 5 hours on something where you spend 3.8 hours doing the actual task and 2.2 dealing with related tasks would be considered completely correct and others where you would similarly get accused of padding your hours.

  22. Drag0nfly*

    Ohhh. Nooo.

    LW1: not only are you wrong for the reason everyone says, let’s turn it around: If I’m your employee, I return fire. That’s just how I roll. My give-a-damn is busted; my natural impulse it do unto others as they have done unto me.

    So are YOU alright with your employees calling YOU out publicly? Correcting your errors? If I spoke up in the chat to tell you that a poor manager corrects and criticizes in public? And further advised you to get management training because you ought to have known how a true leader treats subordinates? I would be speaking the truth, so is that okay with you if I spoke it publicly and called you out on your shortcomings? If I publicly warn you that have branded yourself as the manager people leave in the “people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers” proverb?

    Have a talk with yourself about how you would feel to be on the receiving end of your own behavior. If you would hate to be named and shamed publicly, then *why* would you do it to your employees? A lot of people may think they *have* to put up with being treated that way, but it’s not a given that everyone will be so cowed. The employees with in-demand skills and good reputations are going to jump ship ASAP. If this treatment is your rule, are you fine with other people enforcing that rule on *you*?

    I suspect not. As you take pains to say you were “polite,” some part of you may recognize that this is not the way to go. As a rule of thumb going forward, always ask yourself if you would want what you are doing to be done to you. Good leaders do not ever ask their people to do things the leader would not do. Don’t ask your people to put up with treatment you would not want to put up with.

    Also. Since you made this transgression in public, you need to apologize for it and correct it in public. Because the mark of a good leader, and a good person in general, is having the honor to admit one’s mistakes, and the integrity to hold oneself to the same standard one holds others.

  23. Kiitemso*

    LW 1, I think you overestimate how much the team needs to know how something is handled by a manager. The only thing someone else needs to know about an underperforming colleague is that it is being handled. When I had a colleague who seemed insecure and would often need reassurance to do a task, I mentioned it taking time away from my own tasks to my boss and she said she would talk to colleague. She didn’t need me to see that conversation or know that she told me the colleague’s job was on the line. That’s none of my beeswax.

    And besides, most people only care about how their manager manages them, if the team is functioning fine.

    Reminders about processes and such are fine in the group chat but discipline or criticism is not, IMO as someone who has been remote since 2020 and had 2 manager changes during that time.

    1. bamcheeks*

      I also think it’s interesting that LW seems to have overlooked a key way that people know how their manager treats people: they talk to each other! It’s very likely that your team has a private Slack channel or a separate WhatsApp group or something for conversations like, “Can someone remind me where the updated pricelist is saved?” and “Who was watching the Wimbledon final? Dan I bet you’re gutted!” and “LW had a right scranny at me today about timesheets D:”.

      If you’re fair and firm in private, your team mates are probably going to tell each other that. They might phrase it as a moan, but people are generally pretty good at recognising when someone is venting about what was actually a perfectly fair comment and when someone is talking about something genuinely unfair.

  24. Need Coffee*

    LW1: I don’t understand why you’re more concerned with how others perceive you than about properly managing your team. Somewhere along the way you were given bad advice, or misunderstood what someone was saying if you think you need to manage publicly so others can see what type of manager you are. I am perplexed by this reasoning.
    Also, does you company or team not have access to any chat function with video? Zoom? Teams? I find it very odd that you have never actually seen your direct reports. I manage a team spread out in multiple states and meet with each over video chat at least once a month. You should be making an effort to get to know your employees on a basic human level and that’s difficult to do when you never see them! In the future I suggest utilizing video once in a while to connect with your employees, which gives you a chance to then address issues, hear their response and provide private coaching if necessary.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      I think it’s a really common newbie mistake to hyperfocus on optics. When you’re new to something you want to project confidence and capability quickly. For people to see that you’re doing what you should be. We all know how it feels to have confidence in a manager, but when the manager is not you, you are willing to let that confidence build over time. A new manager sometimes wants something more instant. I think it’s really ironic that the more desperate you are to prove something, the more out of reach it can be. Patience and doing nothing until you’ve reflected for a minute are very underrated skills.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Yeah, while it’s not exactly the same thing, it is also very common among teachers, to the fact that new teachers often even get advised “don’t smile until Christmas” to “establish yourself.” Personally, I consider this very bad advice because a teacher who is constantly thinking, “I mustn’t smile in case it shows weakness and means they take advantage of me” is likely to give off vibes that they are putting on an act and are worried about not being able to “control the class” which…is a pretty self-fulfilling prophecy.

        Weirdly, it’s when you stop caring about seeming in control or ensuring everybody thinks you are good at being in charge, that you appear to be.

      2. Observer*

        I think it’s a really common newbie mistake to hyperfocus on optics.

        That’s true. And the irony of this mistake is that it actually does the reverse. Instead of making them look like a firm but fair manager, the OP’s attempt to “show everyone” how they operate has made them look like a jerk. And to be honest, what they did WAS a jerk move, so they have now earned a reputation that is the exact opposite of what they want. And that’s on top of the fact that focusing on optics rarely makes for effective management.

        I think it’s really ironic that the more desperate you are to prove something, the more out of reach it can be. Patience and doing nothing until you’ve reflected for a minute are very underrated skills.

        Yes, very much so.

      3. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        It is really concerning LW1’s manager was so blasé about what LW1 did, as well. I assume LW1 laid their reasoning about the optics out to their manager after (if not before) taking this course of action and it is shocking their response was basically “eh, different strokes for different folks.” So I am wondering if it is also possible that some of this “they need to see me manage” confusion is coming from LW1’s boss not giving LW1 better management guidance. Because it seems like LW1 has the right IDEA about what makes good management, but is really missing some of the key elements. At least, however, they were aware enough that they may have made an error and is seeking guidance from a more reliable source than their boss.

  25. Kathleen*

    I think if LW1’s employees wrote in lots of us would be recommending they start job searching. Conducting discipline over chat is very out of touch that I’m wondering what other practices is LW1 using to show their management style.

    1. melody*

      As a new manager? Probably many things that are, ya know, the mark of being new.

      Also, look for a new job over this? Upend one’s life to some extent or other because new manager called me out in front of maybe four other people? Tell me I’m not nearly that fragile.

      There sure is a lot of overreaction on this thread about this situation. Yeah, it wasn’t the best way to handle this, but at least the person wrote in to seek some guidance, which is far more than a lot of other people would do.

      OP: It sounds like you’ll learn from this, and that’s a good measure of your openness and willingness to learn. We’ve all made similar or at least comparable mistakes like this (or even the exact same!); therefore, I hope you’re able to ignore the useless chastising, hold your head high, and continue learning and growing.

      1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        Job searching doesn’t mean “You must leave, quit now”– it means “Hey, this here is definitely a red flag…maybe it’s the only one, maybe there are just a handful, but if it turns out this place is full of bees, you are going to want a head start of getting the heck out”

        And none of this is overreaction given LW1’s letter. LW1 managed to do something that is conveying exactly the opposite of what they were trying to convey. Failure to course correct will be a disaster for them and that is something they need to know, especially since their own manager is doing a terrible job of helping them develop their managerial skills.

        Really, LW1 needs to be aware of that just as much as the fact they made a serious error in judgement– their own manager cannot be relied on as a barometer of the best course of action. This was a big enough stumble the commentariat is united in the “Eeek! Bad call!”, but LW1’s manager was like “well, it’s your choice, it wouldn’t be mine”, as though LW1 decided they wanted to sign their emails with “Cheers” instead of “Sincerely”!

        No one is saying LW1 is the worst manager ever, but they inadvertently made a huge mistake that will negatively impact their ability to effectively manage their team unless they take action to mitigate the damage sooner rather than later. LW1 obviously cares about being a good manager and I can only imagine how much it would suck for them to lose a great performer on their team out of the blue or something simply because everyone told LW1 “well, it was a mistake, but no one would be really upset or look for a new job over it.” People look for new jobs because the person assigned to the desk next to them chews too loud! LW1 cannot undo what they did, but they have been given many options for how they can show they are not the “name and shame” manager they appear to be.

  26. Daria Grace*

    #1 even in private you shouldn’t be threatening people’s jobs unless you are very very sure there’s a serious issue they’ve knowingly caused. Maybe they did all the work they should have but there’s a glitch in the time tracking software or they made honest mistakes entering it. If a boss threatened to fire me for something that turned out to not be my fault, I’d be considering quitting.

    I think you need to be really mindful about what your discussions mean for you verses them. For you, most of these discussions are just another one of a dozen things you have to handle today. For your employee, even smaller things than a threatened firing (eg. not getting a bonus or promotion, having a flexible hours request denied) have potentially substantially consequences for their life in and out of work

  27. *kalypso*

    >that we will be compassionate to our direct reports through our actions

    how is the functional equivalent of a PIP/final warning given in front of the rest of the team compassionate, in any way?

    If someone’s billing for longer than it should take to do a task, the compassionate thing is more geared to collaboratively finding out why and fixing it, on an individual and private level where an employee can speak up about roadblocks without potentially having to do so in front of the roadblock. If that doesn’t work, then you move to more formal processes and work with the employee to define achievable goals and a timeframe. If it’s not achievable then you look at what is and whether that can still work and what can be done about that on a wider basis.

    Going straight to ‘if you don’t measure up to X by Y you will be terminated’ in public doesn’t allow for the employee to work with you to improve. It doesn’t give the employee any room to maintain their relationships within the team. It cannot be compassionate.

    This whole letter feels like someone copying things from a blog or ‘5 tips to be a great manager :)’ clickbait listicle than someone who understands why those words are in the order they are, and can discreetly combine that with the occasional need to proportionally upsize actions to accommodate for remote barriers. Being remote means you lose the lower end of subtle from your arsenal to account for the lack of context from office interactions and body language, not that you need to deliberately make your actions visible to everyone regardless of whether you’d land on that if you took mode out of the equation.

  28. Varthema*

    It’s not even 6am in the US and there’s already 52 nearly identical responses to LW1 – maybe a good idea to call pause on LW1 responses to avoid piling on?

    1. Ellis Bell*

      I agree, even though I think OP1 needs to know that both public criticism of reports, and especially publicly threatening people’s jobs are unacceptable. I’m actually really surprised no one has mentioned OP1’s boss here. I think “deferred to my judgement” is an alarming sign that OP isn’t getting explicit enough guidelines when something is not acceptable. That the boss phrased it as though she would have handled it differently is too soft a message; she has made it sound more like a matter of different approaches and preferences, instead of just telling OP that they shouldn’t do that, and why. Thank goodness OP wrote in. People get really strange when coaching you on management and people skills. Face to face, they think that if they have to tell you firmly to treat people like X, instead of y, they’re criticising your moral character. Online, people think if they don’t excoriate you for doing y instead of doing X then they are not helping you be of good moral character. But managing and people skills are skills, not morals! Just tell people what’s most effective. Meantime we wonder why so many managers operate as though they’ve had no explicit guidance.

      1. Observer*

        ’m actually really surprised no one has mentioned OP1’s boss here. I think “deferred to my judgement” is an alarming sign that OP isn’t getting explicit enough guidelines when something is not acceptable

        Actually, a few people did mention that the boss failed here. And I agree. Boss should have been far more explicit.

        1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

          The boss is clocking in for me as almost a bigger problem. LW1 made a mistake and not even remotely a small one. BUT they brought it up to their manager and the guidance they were given was objectively bad! It’s easy enough for all of us to Monday morning quarterback this situation, but LW1’s own boss sees public humiliation of a subordinate as essentially a coin flip? A personal preference? Heck, at least LW1 wrote in because they thought “I may have messed up”– they get some self awareness points there for acknowledging there may have been an objectively right/wrong choice and that they may have not made the right one.

    2. Boolie*

      Welcome to the site! Not terribly uncommon to have comments parroting one another (also true of Internet forums in general)

      1. Heidi*

        I don’t think that they’re all parroting – that would imply everyone reads all the comments before adding their own. Plus, if only 1 person had responded and all similar responses were censored (either by the commenters or the site), the OP might be misled into thinking that not that many people thought their actions were problematic.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      Sometimes replies post while you were writing your response, so by the times yours is posted there are additional similar ones.

    4. Observer*

      @Dust Bunny is right about how some of this happens. But also, I posted my comment about half an hour after the post went up. In the time between starting to write my comment (which took a few minutes, because it’s waay to easy to get the tone wrong here) and the time I hit post a bunch of additional posts showed up. And the responses to all of those posts means that my post looks like it’s coming after all of this long discussion. But it was actually posted before all of this.

      Which is to say that sometimes it looks like people are posting something that has already been posted multiple times – and that does definitely happen – but really it’s just showing up below a bunch of responses that were posted later.

    5. fhqwhgads*

      This site gets comments with such velocity that it is extremely likely those 52 people were typing concurrently and the posts in question were not visible to them before they hit submit. Or if not typing concurrently, there are just so many posts that if you open the thread and read everything and don’t refresh before commenting, there are a hundred new posts from while you were reading that weren’t visible yet.

  29. Muffin*

    LW5: I’m on a slightly different page from Alison here – I’d take it as a pretty big red flag if a company sent me a rejection email while I was halfway through the interview, don’t think I’d want to work somewhere that did that.

    1. My Useless 2 Cents*

      I agree. Put a pause on interviews if you’ve actually extended an offer to someone else. Why are you wasting my time as an applicant? Complete the interviews already scheduled then extend the offer.
      This just sounds like the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing or there are way too many cooks in that kitchen, either way, doesn’t sound like a great place to work so bullet dodged!

      1. Cheese Victim*

        I interviewed for a job once and got home to find the rejection letter in my mailbox. Which means they knew at least three(ish) days in advance that they weren’t going to hire me: enough time for them to write and mail the letter and for the letter to actually get to me. I emailed and asked why they interviewed me anyway and they breezily responded, “oh, we like to know who’s out there.” :|

      2. Audrey C*

        I disagree with this – just like as a candidate you should keep interviewing until there’s an offer in hand you’re going to accept, as a manager I will keep interviewing until someone has signed the offer letter. If there’s something really easy (delaying scheduling an interview for a day or two) I may do it, but plenty of times candidates have multiple offers or turn yours down. If you haven’t kept your pipeline moving you may miss out on the next great candidate.

        That said, if someone is actively interviewing don’t tell them someone signed an offer letter in the middle! Finish the interview professionally, then send them the rejection before any further interviews are scheduled. The halfway through thing is just really awkward.

        1. Paulina*

          The impression I get from what was described is that HR subscribes to the “stop interviews when there’s an offer made” model, but this VP does not.

  30. Just Another Fed*

    LW3, do you have a union? In many US government agencies, desk assignment is tightly regulated by union contract to an extent I don’t think private sector employees grasp. What you’re describing would be a blatant violation by management on more levels than I can count at both agencies I’ve worked for. If you have a union and they aren’t already involved in this, you should reach out to them.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      Not just unions! The state government I work for has an entire facilities manual that defines what kinds of space different staff gets, including non-union staff.

      This sounds like chaos, though! I’ve moved within & between buildings before at both private & public organizations, but never with so little notice. People need to pack up their items, get them moved, & have any electronic/computer equipment moved & set up. What did they do about people who were on vacation that week? What about any physical accommodations? I am so curious about why this happened, too.

    2. Drago Cucina*

      This was my first thought. It may have been overnight or there could have been months and months of behind-the-scenes wrangling and haggling going on. I know I was told in February that I would be moving. It hasn’t happened yet.

      I’m of a grade where I get a window (this is a big deal). But, while I’m one of the lowest steps in my grade, I have other factors that raise me in the cube choice. Add in legitimate ADA considerations, the hierarchy dance, and the people who have already lodged formal complaints and mix well. There’s a lot of Jenga tower work that seems to be a last-minute decision.

    3. lilsheba*

      I will never understand why management thinks moving everyone around like that all the time is a good idea. All it does is make me feel disorganized and disrupted and uncomfortable. I’m so happy I never have to worry about that BS again. If I move my workspace at home it will be because *I* chose to.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Seriously. We all got moved around once in our department and I was grumpy about it the rest of the time I worked there. Largely because I got moved from a space I really liked that was quiet to a space where my colleague insisted on having the blinds closed and most of the lights off and where he and another colleague would have hour-long, loud work-related arguments 3 feet from me.

        The irony was that the director thought that moving people so we shared spaces with our teams meant we’d collaborate more as a big group. What actually happened is that the few times any of us had to leave our spaces, it was to go next door. So we ran into each other in the open area WAY less than before.

        Yeah, I’m still salty about it.

        1. lilsheba*

          HAH you would hate me cause I’m of the “close the damn blinds and turn out the lights” kind of person, it’s too bright and headache inducing for me.

  31. Madame Arcati*

    LW#3 (seating chaos) I think it would be reasonable when you are next talking to your line manager, to ask if she knows what the thinking/strategy/goal is behind the moves. And if she does know, suggest that it should be shared with all affected. Seniors should really have made this clear – change is often difficult but ime employees feel, and therefore act, a lot better if they know the reasoning behind a change. Otherwise it seems like an arbitrary decision, that causes trouble but has no benefit, which is very bad for morale as people feel like management don’t consider the effect or don’t care.
    You could help everyone at least feel a bit better about it all if you could bring out that actually they have to make space for the otter-cuddling team who are moving to this floor, or that the current cubicle setup doesn’t meet new fire safety regs., etc. Even a frustrating reason (there’s been a department-wide edict that only Head Wranglers get an office, I’m sorry but our hands are tied) is better than surmising that they just felt like irritating everyone.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      Seriously, THIS. I remember a few years back some of my team had been asked to move over a row of desks, we hadn’t been given any explanation and people were confused about why we suddenly had to move and sit with our backs to each other. We just got the brush off from our then-manager, but this one guy on another team eventually said “Oh, that’s so the Alpaca team can sit with Llamas when they move here and the teams merge,”.

    2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Agreed. I do way better when I know the reasoning for a decision. As long as the reasoning makes sense. In contrast, the rationales to force people back to the office are often very silly and it just makes me more annoyed.

      There’s a reason that change management has emerged as a discipline.

  32. anononon*

    Well, if I were one of LW1’s employees I’d be SURE to resign on the public Slack channel. And say exactly why…

    1. NNT*

      LW2, Unfortunately I think your proposed solution is going to make your problem- the feeling of lack of respect- even more acute. I knew someone in an old job who insisted on being Ms when everyone else went by their first name, and it didn’t create the frosty respect I think she expected- people humored her at best, and laughed at her behind her back at worst. (To be clear, I don’t think that was kind behavior, but if everyone is Jane and you insist on being Ms Smith, people will make jokes about it.)

      I understand that all the reasons you feel disrespected at work are systemic, and therefore harder to address than being called ms, but those are the instances you should be addressing because you are right about those, and have the standing to address that. But insisting on this will likely come across as odd and entitled, and I don’t think you’d experience people’s reactions to that as respect. Best of luck- the actual solution to your problem is more labor intensive than changing the way you are addressed, but you should start pushing back when people cross those boundaries, every time.

  33. Dread Pirate Roberts*

    For the letter writer who was rejected for a job during the interview I just want to say I’m in awe of your composure and agree you did the best thing possible. I suspect you impressed them by handling a difficult situation well. I can imagine myself bursting into tears and having to hang up just from being so unsettled.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I don’t think the VP was rude & weird. It sounds like they were being transparent & respectful of the LW’s time.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          Yeah, it’s HR that really messed up here. I’m sure they didn’t know that the candidate they made an offer to would accept at that time. But really, if you know an interview start time has already passed, then you just don’t send the email. The VP was polite and respectful, and allowed the LW to make the decision about using the rest of their time.

        2. MassMatt*

          HR and the organization may want to re-think whether they should continue interviews after making someone an offer. Bad move to email saying they’d like to cancel an interview already under way.

          But IMO the manager was rude to multitask and read email during the interview. People can get away with this more in remote interviews but it’s still rude, a job interview should have both party’s full attention.

          1. amoeba*

            Eh, it might have popped up on his screen (my email does) and if the subject line said “cancellation of interview with LW” or something similar, I get why he had a look at it! I mean, he probably assumed she receive it as well and possibly get the same notification, which would honestly be much worse than acknowledging it. (Or even if you see after the interview that you got the message during…)

            I think he was equally blindsided and handled it well enough in the moment!

      2. Antilles*

        I don’t think the VP was rude and weird, I think he was basically in a no-win situation.
        Saying nothing would have felt way more strange when OP checks their email post-interview and it’s like “wait, the interview was canceled? how come he didn’t bother to say anything?”. Or worst of all, if OP’s computer had a new email notification pop-up mid-interview saying that the call they were actually on was canceled then the VP just pretended to ignore it.
        Mentioning that the decision had been made, then giving OP the option to either bail out or continue seems like the best of a bunch of crummy options.
        The real problem here is HR. Why in the world are you sending a “cancel the interview” email to everybody after the interview has already started? Especially when it’s (apparently?) only a fairly brief 30-minute call. If this was some all-day marathon where wrapping up early saves everybody a bunch of hours of their life, I could see the argument, but not for such a short call.

    1. Gone Girl*

      Same here! I had something similar happen to me – but it was 5 minutes before the interview start, and I definitely burst into tears when I read it. I was allowed to continue the interview anyway (effectively for the network opportunity), but it was probably the fastest I’d ever composed myself, haha. I can’t imagine having to keep it together mid-interview though!

    2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Absolutely. I think the LW made the best out of a tough situation. And it will reflect well on their professionalism.

  34. Irish Teacher*

    LW1, I think you might be misunderstanding what it means to lead by example. It doesn’t mean to do everything publically. Even if you were in the office, you wouldn’t, I hope, give feedback like that you mentioned publically. You would ask them to come into your office and speak to them privately and nobody would know you had corrected them.

    Leading by example and giving good feedback doesn’t mean doing everything in front of other colleagues. It means that people see you give good feedback to them, not to others. Knowing that your manager will not correct you in public is part of seeing your manager lead well.

    I think leading by example can happen just as well when working remotely as in the office, perhaps even more so. A manager who responds in a timely fashion when they are contacted about any problems, who is accessible, who people feel comfortable about contacting, who contacts people appropriately to give feedback or correct people, without either embarrassing them or doing it in a way that lacks authority…all of that leads by example as does stuff like getting your own work done well.

    I think a mistake a lot of people are making with remote work and it is understandable is trying to recreate the physical environment remotely. We are still thinking in terms of in-person working being the “norm” and remote work being some kind of fill-in for it. I don’t think this is anybody’s fault. I think it is just that society is still seeing remote work as a “perk” rather than as a separate way of working that has some benefits and disadvantages. It seems like you are trying to “make up” for the fact you are remote, rather than focussing on how you can manage a remote team well.

    The goal shouldn’t be to make remote work more like in-person work. Some of the requirements for in-person work came about because they are needed when a large group of people are in the same building, not because they are inherent requirements for a role.

    And I really don’t think messaging people privately undermines the goal of establishing yourself as a good manager. I think it is part of it. To me, seeing a manager correct somebody in public undermines that goal. If I saw a manager correct somebody publically, I would think less of them.

    Is it possible you are trying to do what a lot of new, young teachers do and establish your authority? I know I felt that way in my early years as a teacher, that I had to be seen to call out the first student to cause trouble so students could see I wasn’t a pushover. This isn’t quite the same as it sounds like you did your best to be reasonable and were not trying to sound stern, but it does seem like maybe you are trying to give an impression of yourself as “the manager” and in my experience, that tends not to work. Even teenagers subconsciously realise that the teacher who is going out of their way to show “I can deal with this” is doing it because deep down, they fear they cannot and adults are going to be more insightful about stuff like that. We had a lecturer at college who acted like a secondary school teacher – “be quiet in the corridors while you are leaving class,” “don’t turn over the page until I say you can” – and my friend and I were convinced it was because the guy looked about 20 and wanted to make it clear he was the authority and not one of us. It made us respect him less, not more. Yeah, we did what he asked but more out of pity than respect.

  35. maybesocks*

    LW5. Allison, HR said in the email that an offer has been made, not that someone has accepted the job. Also, the interviewer makes it sound as though they haven’t gotten a response to the offer. How does your advice change in this situation, if at all? (What a strange thing to send in an email to an applicant anyway.)

    1. Bye Academia*

      Yes, I was coming to comment this. I agree it’s a frustrating situation, but sounds like there’s still a chance OP could be in the running if that first candidate declines. In that scenario, I definitely think it’s worth continuing with the interview if you can.

  36. Green rose*

    LW2 I don’t think using Ms Surname will do anything to sobre the problems you are experiencing. At best I could see then just seeing it as humouring you. At worst I could see it causing issues in the office.

    I think you also need to decide whether you should accept your current lack of promotional opportunities for the reality, or seek another job. I know job hunting is not easy, but you don’t sound happy with the realities of the career path this role offers.

    Some jobs do not have growth opportunities while in them. The issue might not be that they don’t think you deserve a promotion, but that the role you are in does not require anyone at a higher level. No matter how brilliant you are at that role, that won’t change. It is rare to be able to be promoted in place (doing the same role). And with government pay rises are often collectively determined and given by classification not individual “reward”.

    The unpaid overtime and lack of leave you should definitely not accept.

  37. Lily Potter*

    I am not going to pile in about the public/private component of management in #1. It’s time for everyone to stop beating that dead horse unless you have something new to add to the conversation.

    I have a tangential question though. Is it now common to do performance coaching via Slack and email? I’m not talking about “you entered your numbers in the wrong column in the TPS report” type coaching. I’m talking about things like “You aren’t providing enough output compared to your peers, and your job is in jeopardy” situations. Is this information really being conveyed in written format now? If so, I’m stunned. That’s the kind of information that needs to be conveyed verbally – ideally in person but at minimum on a voice call. It needs to be an exchange of information, not a one-sided proclamation.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      My company uses Teams and we would definitely do this in a call, which you can make through Teams. Monthly 1x1s, CAPA investigations, annual performance reviews, etc.–it’s all done via a Teams call.

      I agree: this is something that needs to be a back-and-forth conversation. It’s much more likely to elicit the kind of information you need.

    2. *kalypso*

      Ideally it should be in a written form alongside a conversation, and never just verbal.

    3. Nodramalama*

      At least where I work, if there are issues with underperformance it is very important that it is recorded. So yeah, even if the feedback is given in person it will be supplemented by an email. But there is a push to have the feedback written down in general

      1. Observer*

        Well, it does make sesne to make sure that it’s recorded. So the meeting should be in person / face to face / on the phone if possible. And then you memorialize it with a follow up memo / note in the file / email / whatever.

  38. Spinning Silver*

    LW1 — Others have pointed out that you should never criticize in public, so the point has been made there. As someone who has been managing people remotely for a few years now, here’s some advice on how to actually achieve your goal of building a good reputation:

    -Acknowledge that you were wrong publicly and apologize. Keep doing this when you mess up – take accountability.
    -When the team is worried about something, acknowledge it and answer any questions they have without judgment.
    -When someone needs flexibility, treat them as humanely and flexibly as you can — privately. Word will get around.
    -Build people up via the group chat. “Andre had killer numbers last week – way to go, Andre!” “Lisa came in clutch with the llama sheering report yesterday. Thanks so much, Lisa!”
    -Send out periodic ‘great job’ messages to the team when they’re meeting certain metrics or have excelled in something.
    -Express your appreciation for the work that your team does sincerely and often.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      This is really great advice! (In contrast to some of the other comments we’ve seen here.) I hope LW sees it.

    2. Gone Girl*

      Thank you for this! Very solid advice for LW1 that I hope they see. All’s not lost, and these are very practical steps to start rebuilding any lost trust amongst their team.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Yes, a lot of commenters are acting like this is the end of the world for LW and it’s not. It’s a learning opportunity for them, as well, and it is very possible for them to rebuild the trust and actually create a stronger team going forward as a result.

        1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

          I think they/we are acting this way because if LW1 doesn’t do something to demonstrate this incident was an anomaly, their ability to lead this team will impacted, and likely pretty seriously. Their own manager pretty much shrugged, so I think the extreme reaction is so that LW1 realizes this isn’t a 50/50, personal preference situation…this was the wrong course of action.

          LW1, in case you need to hear it, it is not the end of the world. But seriously, you need a mentor who is NOT your “deferred to my judgement” manager because you are going to encounter way more complex and nuanced situations than the one you wrote in about and those will require real guidance and experience for you to be able to navigate optimally. You can do this, you just need to get your bearings and try and find better resources around you.

  39. Constance Lloyd*

    LW1, it really stood out to me that you have never seen your employees’ faces. Even with fully remote work, this seems oddly detached and I wonder what overall culture is like. What sort of access do you have to coaching and support for yourself? How to handle disciplinary issues is one of the biggest changes in going from employee to manager so I understand there is of course a learning curve, but you and your employees both deserve for you to be supported in this transition. I believe your intentions are good, you messed up, recognized that, and sought Alison’s advice. Now you know to handle conversations like this privately, but if possible I would recommend seeking some guidance the next time a disciplinary issue arises just to make sure you navigate it appropriately as well.

  40. NNT*

    LW2, I knew someone who insisted on being called Ms in my old job, when everyone else went by their first name. It did not create the frosty respect I think she imagined- people humored her at best and laughed at her behind her back at worst. Some people would make a show of calling her the name “I’m honored to be in the presence of the illustrious Ms. Smith of Queens New York” and so on. (To be clear, this wasn’t kind behavior and I don’t condone it- but it is a predictable outcome.)

    The problems you are having at work are systemic, harder to fix, and more exhausting to address, and I think that is why you are fixing on this as an easier solution (which makes sense!). But this likely won’t come across well, and might very well introduce a new problem where you feel like you are being mocked on top of everything else. Strongly suggest, from experience, that you don’t do this.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      The problems you are having at work are systemic, harder to fix, and more exhausting to address, and I think that is why you are fixing on this as an easier solution (which makes sense!).

      100% agree with this. There are real problems here, but this is not the solution.

  41. L-squared*

    #2. You can insist on it if you want, but I don’t know that you should expect it to happen. In general, I’m ok with the idea that you call people by their preferred name. But if everyone else is on a first name basis, and you have been up to this point, I’m not sure I’d start giving you a level of formality that no one else gets.

  42. doreen*

    LW#2 – you say you have 15 years of service. What exactly do you mean by “striving for recognition and opportunity for advancement is a daily struggle.” Of course, I don’t know how advancement works in your agency but your expectations may not match with the reality. Are you looking to advance to a higher-ranking support role? That may be possible – but if you are looking to move into a non-clerical role it’s not uncommon for your 15 years of service to be irrelevant. For example, if you have been a secretary for 15 years and during that time finished a degree in social work, it’s often not possible for the agency to promote you directly into that title. In lots of agencies, you would have to go through the same hiring process as someone from the outside and being an internal candidate gives you no advantage.

    I’m going to echo everyone else regarding setting boundaries and not working unpaid overtime or being on-call when you aren’t being compensated for being on call. But – are you sure that the people you work for expect that? Are they approving your timesheets? Do they know if you stayed late on Thursday that you didn’t adjust your schedule for Friday or put in for overtime pay? Because it seems very odd to me that the agency would insist you are “just” an hourly worker while the people you work for treat you as salaried – but it’s not so odd if the people who know the hours you worked and the people approving your timesheets are different people.

    As far as not being allowed to take leave, what are your agency policies regarding that? At my last job, there was a cap on our leave accrual – but we could go over if we requested leave in writing and it was denied. Most people’s union contracts said supervisors had a certain number of days to deny a request and if they did not so so, it was automatically approved. If I went to HR and showed that I wasn’t allowed to take leave they would have let me exceed the cap that year, and talked to the person/people who didn’t allow to take off. But that wouldn’t have worked if it was a matter of me asking orally to take off the third week of August , being told it’s a bad time and therefore never making the written request that must be either approved or denied.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Seconding this.

      I’m an archives assistant and no matter how good I am at it, I’m not moving up without an MLIS or DAS. Period. It has nothing to do with my contributions not being respected–it has to do with that is what is required to move on to professional-level library and archives jobs. I don’t have the qualifications.

  43. ResuMAYDAY*

    OP2, this is where thinking like a millennial will work strongly in your favor. Don’t put energy towards being called Mrs. Whatever. Put ALL your energy into creating boundaries, and coming up with scripts that clearly explain those boundaries and leave little room for pushback.
    Figure out exactly how many hours you actually work in a week, then calculate what you are *really* earning per hour. Use that figure to pitch for a raise (sometimes, not possible in a government structure) or to negotiate other things into your workday (membership in a professional group, outside training, conference attendance, etc).
    It’s very likely that the people who ask you to stay late don’t understand your pay structure (hourly) or amount (too low). If that’s the case, don’t hold their requests against them, especially since you have set the precedent that you WILL stay late, that you WILL put in the extra work. Figure out on a practical level what you want, against the realities of this job. Then start working towards that.
    Good luck!

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I got a chuckle out of “thinking like a millennial”. This is why millennials get disparaged so much–because they are very good at setting boundaries.

      And that’s so wrong! Boundaries are a good thing! We should all establish good boundaries and maintain them (and respect the boundaries of others).

      1. pally*

        Echoing this!

        I want folks who work with me to set boundaries and stick to them!
        Help me to respect your boundaries too by reminding me if I assign something late in the day. It sure can be addressed next business day. Don’t think otherwise!

        I’d hate to think someone was sacrificing their personal life for the job. Unless you are the business owner, don’t do this!

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Funny, I’m GenX but come from a strongly pro-labor family. I think of it like acting like a union member.

          1. Peanut Hamper*

            Also excellent framing!

            (And also why certain people dislike unions so much–boundaries!)

  44. Yesterday*

    I’m a little shocked by the VP’s behavior in #5. He could have said, “Oh, I’m so sorry; I’ve just received word from HR that the position has been filled.” Or heck, just finish the perfectly pleasant interview and let OP find the email on their own. But to stop mid-interview and have them check their email for a rejection? So weird. It seems like he did this in the most awkward way possible.

    1. Myrin*

      Yeah, exactly like you, I immediately thought of three better ways he could have done this which would’ve spared both him and OP any awkwardness. I mean, how he did it is not the end of the world but weirdly… tactless? oblivious? Foot in mouth-y? None of these is exactly the expression I’m looking for so possibly what I mean is a mixture of all.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      I think he handled it perfectly well.

      Stopping an interview midway through would come across to most people as rude. And finishing the interview when he knew there was a rejection letter sitting in the LW’s inbox would probably be considered rude and/or oblivious.

      Instead, he handed the power in this situation over to the interviewee. I think the VP handled it well, and I think the LW handled it well.

      And really, I do blame the HR in this situation for having terrible timing and not really having their act together. That’s the most logical explanation for this.

      1. Yesterday*

        I think it’s perfectly fine that he gave OP the option to continue the interview or not. But just *tell* her the position is filled…don’t make her awkwardly pause to look up a rejection email, and read it while she’s on camera with him. So, so uncomfortable.

        1. Mimmy*

          I agree although I got the sense that the VP was caught off guard and probably wasn’t sure what to say in the moment.

        2. mlem*

          Is the position even filled, though? The letter says HR wanted to cancel the interview (already in progress!) because they *made an offer*, not because it was accepted. I think the VP did a nice job here covering for his HR department’s missteps.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Yes, HR is the only one to get a side-eye from me here. They had to know there was an interview in progress, and sent the email anyway. And a lot of things can happen between making an offer and the new person actually starting at this new job, that would result in the person not, in fact, starting at the new job. I don’t see why they had to do what they did the way they did it.

          2. EvilQueenRegina*

            With the VP having said “you never know how offers will be received”, that suggests that (at least as far as the VP was concerned in the moment), the offer had been made but they hadn’t had confirmation of formal acceptance, so if that candidate did come back declining the offer, in theory the OP could still be in the process.

      2. londonedit*

        Yeah, I didn’t read it as ‘go and check your email so you can see we’ve rejected you’. I read it as ‘I’ve just been told that when you look at your emails you’ll find one from HR letting you know that an offer has been made, so I’m telling you now because it’s up to you whether it makes sense for you to continue with this interview’. The ‘Well, if you check your email…’ is a turn of phrase, like ‘Well, if you look at page 64 of the report you’ll see that llama dye has actually increased in price by 6% since last year’. I don’t think it was intended to mean ‘Ooooh, go and look at your email’.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          And this also covers the possibility that the LW has her email pop up previews when she gets a new message, and so she saw the email come through. In that case the VP wouldn’t want her thinking “wait, do I mention this? We already started? Why is this coming through now?”

          1. amoeba*

            Yup, exactly. I assume he got a pop up notification and assumed she might see it as well, hence decided to mention it proactively! I think it would be so much worse to just see the pop up during an interview without any acknowledgement from the other side…

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              “I think it would be so much worse to just see the pop up during an interview without any acknowledgement from the other side…”

              Exactly, it would’ve been so weird to me as a candidate that I’d wonder if I wanted to work there.

    3. Mimmy*

      In addition to what others said above, finishing the interview and letting the OP find the email on their own isn’t great either because the email stated that they wanted to cancel the VP interview. I think both OP and VP handled it the best they could.

    4. *kalypso*

      He didn’t do that, though. ‘If you check your email you’ll find this’ isn’t a directive to check email, it’s a statement that this is in your email. Like…. if you’re reading this comment, you’re on AAM. I’m not telling you to read this, I’m saying that when you get around to reading this, you’re on this website. It’s just maybe not how you’d phrase it if you had time to navigate the situation perfectly.

    5. kiki*

      I honestly think this was a significant blunder on HR’s part and the VP was put into a kind of strange position and tried to handle it as best they could in the moment. HR emailed LW asking to cancel the interview, during the interview. That would be strange to read after the fact. I think a significant portion of people would have been frustrated to have wasted their time with an interview that was unlikely to go anywhere and VP was working off of that. HR should have realized the interview was in progress and scheduled a message to go out an hour or so afterwards letting LW know that the position had been filled. I know they were probably trying to save some time for the VP, but sending that message mid-interview is a really bad look.

      I do wonder how VP was able to be fully engaged in the interview and checking his email, but that’s not the main topic of this letter.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        Agreed – if I had been the VP, I would have had a word with HR about the timing of the email to the candidate, DURING the candidate’s interview.

        Also, it’s just a bit weird that the decision was made while someone presumably involved in the decision process was doing an interview with one of the candidates. I mean, if you’re going to involve your grand-boss or the VP of another department, surely you expect them to contribute to the hiring decision, in some way.

      2. amoeba*

        Eh, I assume he just got notification, no need to actively be checking his email on the side!

    6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I came to the comments to leave a NAH vote for #5. I think everyone did their best to handle what was an awkward situation due to really unfortunate timing. I would’ve appreciated the transparency, and I like that they finished the interview because to me it says that they really liked LW5 as a candidate, and will consider them for new openings in the future.

  45. Liz*

    I’m flummoxed that the poster thinks that addressing individual issues via group chat is appropriate. If I was on that team it would absolutely destroy my trust in that manager (you never ever throw someone under the bus).

    I manage a fully remote team.
    Individual issues are always addressed one to one, via a combination of phone/zoom, chat, email, depending on the circumstances.

    Now, sometimes, in the course of managing and individual issue, I uncover something that might be applicable to the larger team (a process or workflow that isn’t clear, a mistake that might be easy for others to make etc) and I will find a way to provide information to the team, in a general manner. Sometimes I even use mistakes I make to demonstrate how it happened and how I resolved it.

    But publicly calling out or shaming an individual—no.

    I’m surprised that the poster’s manager went along with this. If I had a staff manager do that, I would absolutely be addressing it, as well as trying to figure out if that person should be in a management position at all.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I’m surprised that the poster’s manager went along with this. If I had a staff manager do that, I would absolutely be addressing it, as well as trying to figure out if that person should be in a management position at all.

      I really think you are contradicting yourself here. If you don’t tell me something is wrong, I’m going to assume it’s correct.

      And as far as “if that person should be in a management position at all” — well, this is described as a “minor” management role, one that LW has recently been moved into, and that it is also their first management role, and we have no idea what kind of training, if any, they received prior to being moved into this.

      This is certainly not the end of the world for LW, and I think people need to stop acting like it is.

      1. umami*

        This is key, because OP is not getting good management advice from their supervisor, which I see as the broader issue. OP wasn’t outright told not to do this and why, which is implicit support for their actions. I hope they read some of the comments and reflect on the type of manager they would like to be, since their management is supportive of the actions already taken. When I have had to coach people through poor management decisions, I always ask what their intended outcome is so I can guide them into reflecting on how best to get to that in a way that keeps relationships positive and morale high.

        1. bamcheeks*

          The fact that LW’s manager left it up to them to decide how to do this makes me wonder whether it was closer to a “I just want to make sure everyone is clear on how to fill in your timesheets, the process is…” than “Fred and George, I’m very disappointed in your behaviour, and if I don’t see improvement, you’ll be fired.” It’s possible that LW’s manager is a terrible manager of managers, but it also seems possible that the way LW has told this makes it sound significantly more targeted and humiliating to one or two specific people than it actually was.

          1. Observer*

            The thing is that the OP explicitly says that “and I stated in direct (but not unkind) terms that the issues needed to improve within a specific timeframe, or else they would lose their jobs.

            People are not speculating here. I don’t see how you read this as anything other than an explicit threat of firing targeted at specific people.

      2. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        Yeah, this is in no way an “LW1 may not be cut out for management” situation. If anyone may not be suited to management, it’s their manager who didn’t offer a correction.

        I think the legit concern is that, absent some better guidance, LW1 is headed for being a TERRIBLE manager and that would be really a shame because they clearly are TRYING to be a good manager. We need only look at the number of well-meaning bosses running horribly intrusive ice breakers to see how otherwise decent managers can, quite unintentionally, take actions that achieve the exact opposite of what they hope to achieve.

  46. WellRed*

    OP 1, I don’t know how big your team is but maybe you should start scheduling a quick 5 minute video chat with each to “meet” them, put a face to the name and remember there are actual humans behind those messages on the chat.

  47. Fluffy Fish*

    Oh my goodness OP1 – I don’t want to pile on but managing employees via group chat is a breathtakingly bad decision.

    You aren’t a teacher or a parent (and even if you were group shaming is still bad) – you are a manager.

    Things other people need to know is things like – the file is located here, starting tomorrow submit theses reports to Jane, etc.

    Personnel issues should always be handled privately. The phone and video chat are acceptable tools for managing employees remotely.

    It really seems like you want to be a good manager. You’ve likely done damage to your reputation as a manager with your team – I know I would be job searching after my supervisor did that. Personally I think it wise to pull all, but at least those, employees aside and name what you did, apologize and assure them that know on you will handle and performance/personnel issues privately.

  48. Rosacoletti*

    #1 I don’t understand how fully remote teams can function effectively and positively. To me, people management and development is extremely personal- this post demonstrates the challenges. I really feel for people starting off their careers in this environment.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Well I think it can be difficult for newly-formed teams, or for people with little or no professional work experience.

      But I’ve done plenty of jobs with partially or fully remote teams over the last 10 years and it’s worked fine. You have to choose the right medium of communications to suit the message and the objective. I agree that just doing this over chat is fraught with difficulties. We have all sorts of ways to do voice and video, on-the-fly, for 2 people or an entire group. Take advantage of those things!

    2. *kalypso*

      The other advantage of remote teams is that distance can really help smooth over things that would be small conflicts if people were constantly in the same space. They’re different, not inherently less.

    3. Peanut Hamper*

      Eh, if you go into it thinking that WFH isn’t going to work, then it isn’t going to work.

      It is very easy to be personal and personable remotely if you have the proper tools and use them.

      Please remember that the astronauts who went to the moon were also working remotely, and this was with the tools they had available in the late 1960s. We’ve come a long way since then.

    4. learnedthehardway*

      Being in person vs remote really doesn’t make that much difference from a team and people development perspective – as long as your people are reasonably experienced. I can see it making a difference for junior people.

      I work with clients I have never physically met, across North America – how the team dynamic works depends on the company culture. With email, chat, phone, video, centralized computer systems and online collaboration tools – it’s not too much different from being in person. Just a heck of a lot more convenient than commuting / traveling.

    5. Irish Teacher*

      Being remote doesn’t mean not being personal though. Think of how people form friendships online or in the old days, with penpals. It may involved different forms of communication but it isn’t inherently less personal or less functional.

      To me, this post more demonstrates why it’s not a good idea to go into remote work expecting it to be “harder” or “less personal” and trying to find ways to compensate for that. (I can understand why the LW would; most of us aren’t used to remote work). The rule here is really the same as in person; it isn’t inherently any more complicated.

      Even little things seem complicated in the early years. I remember when jobs first started asking for online applications and there was the whole “do you include the cover letter in the e-mail document or attach it? If you write it in to the e-mail, do you have to include your address and the date in the left-hand corner like in a letter? Just the date? Do you format it like a letter or differently? If you attach the cover letter, do you just leave the e-mail itself blank? Is it blunt to just say “please find attached or should you format that like a letter?” Now, we apply online without even thinking about it. In ten or twenty years remote work will be the same.

      I think people starting off will have a lot less problems because to them, remote work will be normal. Those who spend their whole lives working remotely will be far more familiar with those norms than in-person ones. To them, in-person work will be the one with challenges.

      It’s just a different set of norms. We’ve had centuries to refine the in-person ones, but for many companies, only about three years to figure out the remote working ones and it started rather abruptly. We just got “everybody is working remotely from tomorrow,” when it should otherwise have been phased in over the next 10 years or so. So the norms are still being established.

  49. Risha*

    LW1 please don’t publicly shame your employees. Just think about how you would feel if you made an error and your boss did that to you. But even if you wouldn’t care, that’s still not a good thing to do. Think of how embarrassed your employees must have felt. They may even be looking for another job now. Maybe others who saw the public shaming are also looking. It’s probably a good idea to apologize to them.

    My manager does the same thing, but via email. She’ll point out errors individual staff made but address the email to the entire team. She’ll then ask the staff who made the error to explain why it happened and what they can do in the future to prevent it from reoccurring. Believe me when I say no one on the team is learning any lessons, and we always feel sorry for the person/people who are being publicly called out. It’s causing us to hide errors from the manager, and to not go to her with any questions. We will ask each other, and if no one knows the answer, we’ll go to someone on another team. That’s how it is for us now, and I’m sure you don’t want your team to start being that way. You sound like a good manager except for that, so I’m hoping you won’t continue to shame your employees.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      I could have written exactly that about my last but one boss. If I could resolve something myself without going to “Umbridge” then I would, and we’d all ask each other queries rather than go to her, and yes, there was hiding of errors/trying to quietly fix things before she was aware. She got one employee to the point where she was afraid to do anything without checking it all with one of us first, and then Umbridge told her to stop bothering us all with queries (no one had complained). I’d find myself waiting until she wasn’t there sometimes to ask questions, to avoid a situation where Umbridge heard part of a conversation and started telling someone off without having the full facts (as per comments above, she would definitely have told off these employees without trying to find out first whether there was something like a system glitch in play).

  50. umami*

    LW1, I am mostly surprised by your manager’s take on this. When I have had new managers make errors like this, I talk them through what outcome they were hoping for so that we can devise a better way to communicate moving forward, and then we can address any damage control once they realize their management of the issue was going to lead to a vastly different outcome. Your boss is doing you no favors by supporting a poor management decision, so I hope you can reflect more on what outcome you would like to see, and how best to get that from your team in a way that corrects them without shaming or embarrassing them.

    1. *kalypso*

      I feel like LW1’s manager realised there was no talking them out of it and decided to let it be an object lesson. ‘This is what I would do, but since you’re not listening, see what happens when you do it your way and if you can’t fix it, all three of you go and that’s fine by me’.

  51. IHavetheBestJobEver!*

    LW 2-I feel for your situation. I too am an hourly 65 year old worker with 25 years experience as an assistant. I worry that your proposed solution may make you appear old fashioned and unnecessarily formal. It might also alienate your teammates and isolate you, when truly, the best thing about our working lives can be the people in them. Yes, they are not friends but they can be fun and powerful allies in our crazy workaday worlds.

    I might recommend perhaps not worrying so much about recognition and advancement and instead focusing on doing the best possible work you can within the boundaries you set (i.e., being available when you want to be rather than at the constant beck and call if at all possible). I am hoping you are already charging your time for every second you are working.

    Not sure if it is helpful but at this particular stage of my career, I am doing my best to enjoy what is likely the last, best job I will ever have. If you don’t see it working out this way at your current gig, perhaps it’s time for a change. I know it can be scary at this time, but time is all that’s left to us. Best of luck!

  52. Dust Bunny*

    2. You need a job change, not a name change. The name change is a shiny bauble but won’t get you the results you want, and will risk people thinking you’re getting big for your britches. But some of this is your doing since you’ve set up the expectation that you’re always available.

    If you’re tired of the pay, lack of career trajectory, and lack of control over your work vs. home life, start looking for something else. Stop giving extra–if you’re not on the clock, don’t work.

    I’m hourly and my job is very clear that I am never to work off the clock. If you’re getting a lot of requests for work after hours, point this out to your supervisor and remind them that (if you’re in the US) you cannot legally work off the clock and you won’t be handling this until the next day. And then don’t. And take a vacation. They won’t sink–if you quit they’d have to figure it out, anyway.

  53. Public Humiliation*

    Related to OP1:

    My manger points out every minor mistake I make in our group chat (things like a typos or forgetting to add something that isn’t vital to a record) and makes a big deal out of them. It’s mistakes that I see my manager and coworkers making. (I used to correct the mistakes when I saw them without saying anything but ignore them now because it doesn’t seem fair that they’re not getting called out in the group chat.) It’s humiliating and I’m always anxious about making mistakes, so now I waste time double checking my work and somehow still make mistakes because I’m rushing to get work done.

    My manager never brings up mistakes my coworkers make in the group chat, except when telling me to fix them, so then I feel like I’m being targeted and getting blamed for my coworkers’ mistakes too.

    It’s one of the many reasons I’m job hunting.

  54. Falling Diphthong*

    OP3, I can come up with two scenarios for a chaotic physical restructuring of the office with no explanation.

    1) A newish top person wants to make their mark, hit on a physical reorg, and has little practical experience of moving. The emotional parts completely aside (and those aren’t bupkis), employees have to stop work on the actual job even if you hire movers like normal people, which seems like it may not have been the case here. The top person is thinking visible impact = burnish my reputation as a mover and shaker.

    2) The Leverage team need some documents, and so boldly strode into the office and announced that everyone had to move to a new space. In the chaos, they made off with the plans for the MacGuffin.

    As Alison notes, as a new person you are not in a position to make management handle this better.

    1. Esprit de l'escalier*

      That newish top person you posited in your first point has become a highly successful MOVER and SHAKER indeed.

  55. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    LW1: the group chat is for addressing systemic problems.

    You have two employees who have been underworking and overcharging. You address that issue directly, with them individually, in private.

    But if – IF – you find out the reason that they did it is, eg, the timekeeping software is buggy, you’ve got bad or ambiguous procedures, other people in the workflow are causing issues, THEN you can use the group chat to clarify what everybody is supposed to be doing.

  56. MillennialHR*

    Hey OP #1 – I’ll provide an alternative perspective. Back in January, my pharmacy switched out a prescription for another generic that resulted in a lot of really “bad mood days” to put it politely. I also had a lot of family drama and health problems I was working through. I was a bit of a mess. I was also very frustrated with a coworker who was making a lot of errors that I had to correct. It all led to me acting completely unlike myself, having an attitude, and generally, being a brat.

    My boss could’ve called me out publicly and asked what the heck changed so quickly in my mood, but she didn’t. She called me into our regular 1:1 and asked me what was going on. I was able to explain that there had been some family issues, a mix-up at the pharmacy (without going into details, but I wanted to share the extent of the issues I was facing), and that I was feeling stressed and underappreciated. She was able to talk about how my behavior was affecting my work in a kind and gentle manner, and gave me our EAP information. I was able to use that information and got the help I needed, changed back to my original medication, and worked through some of the family issues in therapy that was paid for by the company through the EAP, which helped alleviate the stress of how I would pay for it.

    I have continued to show up to this job because I love the work, but I respect my boss and the way she handled a challenging situation. Calling out how you’ll deal with disciplinary action and putting it out there publicly that people may lose their jobs isn’t the best way to lead (I cannot imagine my embarrassment had she called me out publicly when I already knew I was struggling). Proving that you’re available to your employees and you’re willing to work with them and behave rationally is a great start. If you take a look at your employees’ tenure in a few months, years, etc., you’ll be able to see how successful that made you as a manager.

    1. Lily Potter*

      I love that the manager had the balls (well not literally, but you get the point) to confront the situation head on. She looked you in the eye, told you that there was a problem, and asked you for some context. She didn’t send you emails reprimanding you like a school child. She didn’t send out a slack message saying “SOMEONE is having a bad day!” In other words, she didn’t take the coward’s way out, and it sounds like she was able to do the above without being overly bureaucratic about it too. You’ve got a good one there, Millennial HR

      1. MillennialHR*

        It was tough to hear, but I needed to hear it and it made me want to do better. This and a million other things that my manager does make me feel very lucky after coming from work situations with a couple of very bad managers!

    2. Observer*

      (I cannot imagine my embarrassment had she called me out publicly when I already knew I was struggling)

      Thanks for sharing the whole thing. I think this line is so important for the OP to think about. I would be willing to bet that not only would you have been embarrassed, but also a lot less able to take the feedback on board constructively.

      1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        This is a big take-away. LW1 is pretty sure this was intentional time padding, but they could have absolutely stepped into “Bob has a chronic health issue that has gotten bad of late and it actually is taking him 50% longer than everyone else to do these tasks.” If the two employees were playing fast and loose with time for funsies and cash then they might not feel too hurt by the public call out, but if I am another employee with an ailing family member or a medical condition I’m gonna be thinking “If it starts taking me longer to do a task will it be assumed I am lying and my job publicly threatened?” Just not an awesome vibe to have out there on the team.

  57. This_is_Todays_Name*

    For #3: This could be our govt. program office! They moved us to another building as we outgrew the offices we had, but then, despite being repeatedly told that there was a preference for seating people by functional teams, the office manager/facilities manager, did the exact opposite. They put people who needed to collaborate several aisles apart, because they decided to seat us in “cross team” quads and making sure each group had 2 or 3 contractors and at least 1 civilian for “oversight”. The only saving grace is we aren’t required to be in the office except 1 day per week, and we all just kinda sit wherever since everyone chooses their own days.

  58. mordreder*

    I doubt that LW2’s plan to solve a fundamental disconnect between the expectations of her job and her personal boundaries is going to be solved by getting people to address her more formally. It probably will solve her being viewed as “a very friendly, extroverted person,” though. Calling other people by [title] Surname as well isn’t necessarily going to help – I’d be pretty annoyed if someone insisted on calling me Dr. Mordreder when I really prefer that people use my first name.

    (It’s possible this could backfire too, although this could be idiosyncratic to me. Insistence on [title] Surname and the formality that goes with it would probably me less likely to be bothered by assigning extra work in an atmosphere where that’s not uncommon – I generally assume that people who are “business is business” at work are comfortable with the job’s work expectations because otherwise they’d have left already).

    1. Shan*

      I was thinking similar to your second paragraph… if the bigwigs all use honourifics, and OP starts using one as well, I think people are definitely more likely to assume she’s also salaried, etc.

  59. Capt. Liam Shaw*

    LW1: I am not going to drag you for how bad this is, everyone else has that covered.

    I think you need to have weekly zoom calls or video chats. What really worries me is the “never seen their faces” comment. I do wonder if what you did was somewhat complicated by that. Just because you are remote doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get to know your staff a little. Seeing faces and putting faces to voices is honestly a requirement here, especially after how you handled the two employees.

    Secondly, what the employees did (if I am reading this right) sounds really bad. But how you handled this is what everyone is going remember. Don’t be surprised if a team member or two leave, even ones who you didn’t shame.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      Speaking from the employee side of this, I totally agree with the recommendation to build a relationship. When I was reassigned to a new manager following a restructure a few months ago, and had jitters about having someone new (this stemmed from a bad experience with my last but one manager), for me what helped with that was building a relationship with the new guy, attending the team catch ups so that I was getting some form of face time with him and the new team, keeping communication open at all times. It’s helped a lot.

    2. Petty_Boop*

      If my manager called out people for timesheet fraud, I’d be cheering inside my head. I work my time and I put in legit time and don’t steal from my company. The fact that they did so and didn’t get FIRED is baffling to me.

  60. Lyngend Canada*

    At one job, they decided we had to use what’s app to get our schedule and communicate with each other. This resulted in management using it as a tool to berate everyone outside of working hours for things not done or missed. Blame shifting etc.
    I was very glad to go on medical leave 2020. Because things kept getting worse. Especially once I was on medical leave. (I had called the assistant manager out on how this was bullying and that I would tolerate it. And that discussions should happen in person)
    I also got proof of religious discrimination against a coworker by a different manager who decided that he didn’t need to consider anyone’s commitments when scheduling or other legal requirements. (my province’s human rights legislation requires employers to accommodate people’s needs to attend religious services. He was scheduling a coworker on Sunday morning when she was supposed to be at temple. No effort was made to not schedule her for these shift when she said that she was not available on Sunday mornings.

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

    in regards to Alison’s response for #1 “criticism, warnings, and other serious performance conversations should always be private.” What if it is a criticism or warning that the entire team or most of the team needs? Like a reminder or something that everyone needs to remember to do or warn them todo. Like “Remember to encrypt all files.” or ” Like Management has noticed that the team is spending too long in chats between customer calls so we need to work on our call time.” If you are not calling out specific people I would think it would be ok to criticize or warn the team.

    1. Medium Sized Manager*

      The difference is where the criticism is pointed. “Joey always struggles with painting the pots correctly” compared to “Our team has made multiple mistakes painting pots. Let’s review X SOP to ensure everybody is on the same page and discuss any questions.” Even then, you should be having pointed discussions with individuals if they are having issues so they know it’s about them. I have found that if you just say “I have seen mistakes painting pots,” then an individual will think “Nobody has talked to me about this so I am doing fine,” especially in a high volume environment.

      1. londonedit*

        Yep; if it’s something that one person’s doing, but that others need to be reminded not to do as well, then first off you have a private conversation with Joey where you tell him that he cannot carry on doing X and he needs to start doing Y in line with procedure. Then, you can have a wider discussion with the rest of the team along the lines of ‘We have noted a number of recent mistakes in the procedure and we all need to make sure that we are doing Y and not X, so we’re going to review how we can make sure that we are all following the correct steps every time’. What you don’t do is say in front of the whole team ‘Joey has been doing X, which is wrong and against procedure, and that means you all have to start doing Y immediately’.

  62. Lady_Lessa*

    LW3, about workspace. This is more of a grin, and an appreciation because I don’t do well with uncertainty either.

    In my previous job, I was moved from an office to a cubical in the same locked lab because the woman getting the office needed it for private conversations with the technician. (whom our boss was trying to get evidence to fire). (hope she had both responsibility and authority to correct issues. I only had the responsibility, but absolute not power for correction)

    Now, I am in a cubical and after going through two losses of technical director (via death both times) the nice office was vacant. One upper management want to save to office for a new director but we weren’t even interviewing for them. We got a new less experienced chemist and I was given the opportunity to take the office and let him have the shared cubical. I like where I am, so the new person has the office.

    One advantage of the cubical is that I get to use “I’m not here” when someone calls out my name. Even after 5 years it still produces a laugh.

  63. Ms. Surname*

    Thank you all for the comments. Yes, the problem is boundaries. For me the difficulty is how to enforce boundaries with my actual high-ranking boss (Ambassador of an Embassy full of sycophants) who isn’t privy to or even cares about the contract I have with the organization. Plus, he/she has experience with others of my peers who have failed to enforce boundaries.
    Vacation has been denied for being inconveniently timed for the principal and some even expect that you will take your time off when they do.
    Weekend calls are usual because diplomacy does not only happen during the workday. IMO it can wait until the next workday, but principals want and expect their requests/needs to be immediately handled.
    An unhappy principal will affect your next onward assignment – whether you will be relegated to some backwater post or to a great livable city for your next assignment of 2-3 years.
    Thanks for your feedback. Just looking for ways to set and hold some boundaries.

    1. Shoes*

      I would like to offer advice given to me by someone who was not happy at their job but for myriad of reasons (primarily finances) couldn’t leave. Seek out ways for joy and respect through other outlets – volunteering, hobby, side job completely unrelated to what you do now. It made the job situation more palatable that I had a different environment(s) where I felt respected and appreciated. Good luck to you.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      You obviously know your system better than I do (not sure if you’re working for a US embassy or not), but have you talked to the operations manager/chief of staff/charge d’affaires for the embassy? The professional, not the political people.

    3. NeedRain47*

      The head honcho is legally bound whether he knows what your contract consists of or not. If you’re an hourly employee and they’re not paying you overtime, what they’re doing may be illegal… is there such a thing as diplomatic immunity from employment law?

    4. Dust Bunny*

      The boundaries are that it’s illegal. If they want it done now, on Saturday afternoon, they either pay you overtime (if you’re available) or they do it without the assistance of a secretary.

    5. Aquamarine*

      Could you have a direct discussion about the workload and your hours? Is it possible that some of your duties could be done by someone else to lighten your load, or could you at least push to be better compensated for your overtime?

    6. I edit everything*

      I forget from the original letter, but would you be open to looking for a different job? Your current job sounds like it would be a better fit for someone who doesn’t have a life and is happy being in the shadow of power. Or are you in a position where you can say, “these are the boundaries and recognition [pay, benefits, availability of PTO] I need to stay,” and if they don’t follow through, retire?

      1. LJ*

        The problem is the bureaucracy – I’m sure Ambassador Whoever isn’t thinking about penny pinching and exploiting their hourly employee with unpaid overtime – it’s not their money! – but whoever determined the payscales thought of it as an hourly job

    7. ResuMAYDAY*

      Mrs S., this is helpful information, and what I was assuming is close to reality. In a situation like this, it is near impossible to establish boundaries. (I’m less than 10 years younger than you, so I’ve been in these boundary-stomping positions, myself.)
      Focus on what else I recommended in my first response to you – try to negotiate other things that will make the job more worthwhile. Is there an interesting conference or event coming up? Ask for a spot on the list. Have you wanted to learn some kind of professional skill? Find a high-level training program. When you ask for these things, mention how they will become a benefit for the organization, or specifically, to your VIP. And if the answer to any of these requests is no, ask what can be given in their place, instead. Assume ownership. Assume that you’ll get a yes, one way or another.

    8. Diplomatic Baggage*

      I wish I’d seen your exact job description earlier because I do feel like this is a unique situation where many of the “common” norms do not apply – which I can say as someone who works in the same system (though not for the US and as a diplomat). This is also the reason I have to caveat much of Alison’s advice, since some of it is hard to translate into these circumstances. Since you’ve been there 15 years, I assume you also have been posted before, so you presumably will not be surprised by me saying the following but if not, then I leave some food for thought, if you’re still reading.
      Postings abroad are notorious for bad work-life balance, including for diplomats, since the job is not constrained to 9-5, and it is indeed true that this often is also extended to secretaries. This is kind of the price you pay for being in this field, though also perhaps more palatable if being a diplomat is your goal and you can’t change careers because this is THE career. So if you want to continue being a secretary in this system, the system truly will not change in a meaningful way for you, I’m sorry to say.
      Perhaps you are not happy with your current Ambassador due to their personality? Or maybe you are unhappy with where you are/will be posted – this a is a very common source of feeling sour. You seem very unhappy with your boss and colleagues (who you rather uncharitably call sycophants, though as I understand have not met yet, since you are taking up a new assignment) and I’m not sure if any advice of taking up hobbies will truly help you be happier. Adaptability, however, is a key tenet of happiness in foreign service, and again, I presume you know this.
      To address your question – I doubt being called Ms Surname by your boss and colleagues would truly give you a meaningful change. It will make you seem a bit quaint, even in a conservative system like the foreign service, and frosty, in comparison to your colleagues. Now, if that is your goal, and you are fine with being perceived as such, that is your prerogative but I doubt it will truly change things for you, other than diminishing the possibility of having cordial relations with your colleagues.

  64. Sophia*

    Letter Writer #2, I am in much the same boat and I am struggling. My part is complicated because until January I was salaried, and now am struggling because my brand is responsiveness. I am only 50, but really fully intended to live out my life with this job. I need a $600 raise to become salaried again and I now have to punch an actual clock. My support is more tangential to IT than administrative, and often occurs on off hours.

    I am definitely dealing with anger from not feeling respected, but I don’t think being called Ms. Would help! I am trying very hard just to let things fail that I can’t get to in 40 hours. Before January I was able to work 60-70 hours on busy weeks to accommodate requests that came in at the last minute and work a little less on other dead weeks. No longer…. I am trying to figure out how to do this hourly thing properly when even my supervisor states they do not understand why I would feel so restricted by the rules (they have only ever supervised salaried employees and have recieved no training). I too would welcome advice

    1. Ms. Surname*

      I love my job and would love to work like a salaried employee, on an equal level with my boss.
      Glad to know I’m not alone in trying to figure out how to set boundaries.
      15 years in to a 20 pension, and no, I’m not leaving. But I want more respect especially from the people I work for.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      The restriction is that you can’t do as much when you’re limited to 40 hours! I don’t know why your supervisor cannot understand that–if you can’t go over X hours, you can’t get X+15 done.

    3. Michelle Smith*

      It’s not rules. It’s the law. Make sure you communicate that to your boss in a matter-of-fact tone that says of course we do not want to break the law. If they don’t seem to understand, approach HR and make sure they are aware that the company/agency is setting itself up for legal trouble if they have supervisors who disregard very clear employment laws.

    4. Observer*

      I am trying to figure out how to do this hourly thing properly when even my supervisor states they do not understand why I would feel so restricted by the rules

      Do they not know that these rules are actually the law? That legally you CANNOT “agree” to unpaid work? That if someone ELSE reported issues to the DOL (or equivalent State agency), your company would be on the hook, even if you were totally ok with working unpaid hours? I’m not saying that you should work unpaid hours, just that your boss needs to understand that it’s totally illegal for them to *allow* you to do that, much less pressure you to do so. And that they could get in trouble for that even if *you* never lift a finger.

  65. Salad Daisy*

    #3 Same this at our company. They moved everyone around. Moved us up to the second floor which was a hardship for some team members who had mobility issues. There’s one elevator but it is at the other end of a 100,000 sq. ft. building. Obviously nobody thought about that.

    Also, our team (6 members) used to have access to a conference room. New location had a conference room adjacent but we were told we could not use it as it was permanently assigned to another team.

    We’re not just cogs on a machine, we’re specks of dust on cogs on a machine.

  66. Carol the happy elf*

    Power and a sort of weird anonymity make for a “Bully/Mean Girl” dynamic. Using group chat to ream someone in the presence of others (even if it’s justifiable that these employees are reprimanded) is a pretty sure way to go from a New Manager to a “Worst Boss of 2032” status.

    Being a good manager is like being a good parent, a good teacher, or even a good horse trainer.
    It’s a messy, draining, housekeeping job, you’re doing the same dance over and over, and it feels like you’re making no progress.
    It’s sooo tempting to “make things easy for all concerned” by shouting, spanking, yanking the reins. Switch to paper plates and TV dinners because the routine of cooking and washing dishes gets boring.
    A case in point: For three years, I had absolutely no energy; my two preschoolers and baby and cheating jerk husband were so draining, it got easy to fix things “in the now” by yelling. Chemo stole my creativity at problem-solving, and my MIL came to help for a few weeks. She was a “Motivate by screaming” person. My house got clean and my children learned to pick up, put away, and fight each other like little wild animals.
    Then she had to leave.
    My Mother and sister came to visit, but they worked differently.
    The house got clean, but it was always a work in progress, because Mom taught them to observe, interpret, decide, and act. The toys became a different kind of issue and the spats and tussles weren’t deep and divisive.

    It was much harder on my mother than on my mother-in-law, not least because I had cancer, but being a good manager isn’t about fast and easy in the moment. It’s about the right things for the future. The learners’ successes were her success. She also didn’t scold one child to control to the other. And never in public, or to satisfy the other child.

    I’m afraid that you have a lot of work ahead, unpicking the mess you made to simplify things for yourself. Apologize and learn.
    You can’t reap the rewards until you’ve worked wisely, otherwise you’ll have to watch your step constantly, because they will be angry and humiliated, and want to regain the pride you injured.

    Best wishes- because there’s work, not luck, involved.

  67. Michelle Smith*

    LW3: The way that you can think about relationships with your neighbors is this. Do you need to sit next to them because you both share equipment that it would cost money to make available on separate floors? Because you frequently collaborate with them in a way that is easy because you can just pop your head the next door/cube over? Those would be ways in which the business needs correspond to the relationships and would be worth bringing up. While simply wanting to be close to your work friends might not be, even though it would improve morale.

  68. JustMe*

    LW 1 – agreeing that discipline should be handled privately, but if you need to discipline someone and feel it might be part of a wider trend that needs correcting (or if it’s something where you think all employees can learn from the lesson), you certainly can use the group chat to let all of your team know about that. ex. “I understand that some of you are confused about when the llama grooming issue needs to be escalated to the llama manager. If the llamas start to rampage in the corral, please let me know right away so that I can contact the llama whisperer at corporate to get it solved. If you’re not sure what constitutes a rampage, don’t be afraid to reach out to me to ask. We’ll also start doing more training in the next few months about how to recognize a rampage and how to soothe llamas before they get to the rampage phase. Thanks!”

  69. Alex*

    LW1, this was definitely a big misstep, and you probably demoralized your team by it. BUT, one element of an excellent manager is one who owns up to mistakes and tries to get them right. It might go a long way to apologize to your team about how you handled it, and let them know that going forward, individual feedback about their work will be given in private, as a collaborative conversation. That could put their minds at ease about being called out publicly in the future.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Agreed. I have much more respect for someone who can own up to a mistake and say what they’re going to do better next time than someone who tries to pretend the mistake never happened. Talk to your team and apologize.

  70. BellyButton*

    #1 it is completely demoralizing to be in on a group reprimand when it isn’t about you. I don’t want a lecture about something that I am not doing. I want my manager to talk to the people who need to change their behavior/output. It also leaves people on edge or questioning if they are included in that message.

  71. Jules the 3rd*

    LW4: I am sorry about your dad

    LW2: As Alison said, the name change won’t help. It sounds like what will help is professional scripts for “Not after normal working hours”. Focus on saying “not immediately” while giving people a reasonable time frame, and if needed, a feel for where there work is in your priorities. Examples:
    “I will put that on the to-do list for tomorrow”
    “I will get to that after I finish X, Y and Z. It may be [tomorrow | a couple of days].”
    “I’m working on X for Joe right now, and expect that to take until EOD. I’ll work on this for you first thing tomorrow.”

    The key is to set your boundary and stick to it. The time frame and priorities are tools to keep people from pushing your boundary. Sticking to it is the most important thing, tho – if you give in because they keep asking, they will just learn to keep asking until you give in.

    If I’m wrong in reading your unhappiness as “they expect me to work extra hours” and it’s really “I’m not paid enough for the hours they expect me to work”, then the solution for that is probably to ask for a raise. Write down all the times you go above and beyond, and take that to your boss. Alison’s got a lot of scripts and support for that.

  72. BellyButton*

    LW: “I have never even seen the faces of most of my employees and coworkers.”

    Wait, what? You don’t have Zoom/video meetings? I meet with all my direct reports weekly 1:1 and those are always on video. It is important to see each other. Our team meetings are also on video. It sounds like there is some serious disconnect in the culture and relationship building.

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      I am not the LW, but in my organization we do not share video. Long time (pre-COVID) reason, stops video from slowing the network, impacting the meeting. Occasional senior leaders appear in video for meetings.

      Since we don’t share video, we also don’t dress for work, have a neat and organizaed background behind us, have a well-placed (possibly external) camera so you’re presenting a professional image and not aimed at their chest (laptop camera) or something like that.

      Asking someone to turn on video would be big inconvenience.

      1. BellyButton*

        But if it is part of the culture and expectations people would be prepared. You can blur your background. At my company, we are all remote, people wear tshirts, sweatshirts, even baseball hats. We do not have to be in office/business casual work attire. People are always able to opt out. When I was sick I let people know I wasn’t feeling well and would keep my camera off. But it is beneficial to see each other when talking, especially in 1:1 conversations.

  73. Wannabe Expat*

    My partner’s job asks them to use the group team’s chat for “coaching opportunities” where you bring up someone’s mistake and highlight how to fix it for the whole team. He’s never done that and finds the idea of doing that mortifying. I’m actually sending him this post so he can feel more justified in his position. Mind you, he isn’t even management. This is their coworker to coworker policy – chastise each other in teams chat when there’s a mistake and call it coaching.

  74. CommentKoi*

    I’m sure others have said this, but to LW2 – of course you have full control over how you want to be known and the name you want people to use, so if you just overall prefer Ms. LastName, you can ask for that. (It might seem odd depending on the culture as Alison noted, but still, you’re in charge of your own name & how you’re known at work.) But that’s not actually going to repair the much deeper issues with your job/employers. If you’re considered “too valuable to replace”, you’ll never get the raise/promotion you deserve, and if the culture asks you to give everything you are to the job, you’ll never find the respect you’re looking for because culture like that is engrained. The name thing, while I think fine to ask for, is a bit of a red herring and still won’t change what you’re hoping it will.

    1. CommentKoi*

      PS – Though I will echo some others and say that you can certainly establish boundaries in other ways, such as not working outside of your scheduled hours and having scripts to push back on those requests. You can also push for a raise that reflects the amount of work/hours that you’re actually doing.

    2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I’ve worked in government and in that organization, it would be super weird to go by Ms. LastName. My boss’ boss’ boss’ boss goes by her first name. Obviously, I don’t know whether this is convention in other governments.

  75. Medium Sized Manager*

    LW1 – this will be one of those moments you will look back on and cringe, but the fact that you asked your manager AND reached out to a third source is a sign that you will continue to do better. It would have been easy to just accept that your manager approved and not reflect any further, so it’s good you are doing the harder part of the job.

    I’ll echo some of the others in apologizing to the team members and also encourage you to find opportunities to celebrate your team members publicly. It’s definitely a hiccup, but we all do pretty dumb things when we first start managing. You can and will recover from this if you put in the right effort.

  76. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    LW2, that sounds super frustrating. And I’ve heard through the grapevine that there are some government admin positions that make it very difficult to move into a non-admin job.

    I agree with Alison that changing how people address you isn’t likely to change the underlying problem. Instead, could you push to start getting paid for all the overtime? Or asking the executive you’re working with how to handle it the first time it happens – either by taking time off in lieu or getting overtime. This type of arrangement puts admin / support staff in a really difficult position and I wish leadership paid more attention to it.

    If you’re unionized, I’d bet that this situation violates your collective agreement, though there can definitely be pressure from management not to report the overtime.

  77. Sharon*

    LW#1, other employees definitely don’t need to see you giving feedback on what someone else did wrong. Aren’t there other ways you can demonstrate your management style? What do your staff meetings look like? Are you getting people the resources and information they need to do their jobs? Do you help remove roadblocks that are getting in the way? Management is not just telling people what they did wrong.

  78. Ari*

    Everyone makes mistakes, but you deal with them individually and privately, exactly like you would do in an office. What you’ve done is ensured that your team is now afraid to make a mistake for fear of being chastised in front of the whole group. That hurts morale and productivity, and it’s harming your reputation as a manager. They don’t trust you to keep things confidential that should be private.
    I’ve been working remotely for ten years now. Even though I go to an office a few days a week, my team is scattered across the country. I’ve never met a single manager or direct report in person, yet I was still able to build a solid reputation based on my actions and performance.
    I think you owe your two people an apology. I’d also recommend looking for videos or articles on how to effectively manage remote teams. LinkedIn and Harvard Business Review usually have excellent content on leadership growth topics.

  79. Candy*

    OP2 – Your new magic phrase any time you’re asked to work beyond your scheduled work day should be “are you approving overtime pay for this?”

    Continually reminding leadership that you’re paid by the hour and any work performed outside of your set schedule will cost them money will be more effective at shutting down expectations that you’re on-call than changing what name you’re addressed by.

  80. ZK*

    LW 1, as most others are saying, dealing with problems privately is the way you earn respect/a good reputation. I used to have a boss who would publicly call people out and it absolutely made us all dislike and distrust him. I left that job ASAP, because even though I liked the job itself, I couldn’t work for someone like the manager. Please, don’t be that manager. You’ve already likely lost some of their respect, apologize publicly and individually to the two people you called out in chat and you may begin to put things right.

  81. Tiger Snake*

    Man, nothing highlights the culture gap between America and Australia more for me than addressee-norms.
    LW2 wanting to be called Ms Lastname immediately detracted respect from her in my mind rather establish it, “Any low level staff would call the CEO by first name, but you wanted to be treated like a school-ma’am? Super rude! No this is a fight your to be passive aggressive about picking, isn’t it?”

  82. PlainJane*

    Number 2 brings up a (to me) interesting question: Yes, it’s out of sync with the culture to not assume first name privileges… but what if you want to change the culture? What if you don’t think the casual culture is a positive change, and want to lead the way in changing it to something more formal? How do you approach being the first person to make a change?

  83. SusieQ*

    I don’t understand why LW1 is making the distinction between remote and in-office environments. As a manager, if I were in the office I would pull somebody aside privately to correct their behavior. And if I were remote I would DM them. It’s the same concept. Discipline in private regardless of the environment.

  84. Ex-prof*

    LW 2, your problem is that people aren’t respecting your time and your status as an hourly employee. They’re expecting you to work hours you’re not being paid for. You want that to stop.

    The solution you propose, asking to have your name formalized, doesn’t address that problem.

    You need to put your foot down about the hours. Directly, not indirectly.

  85. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    Anecdote re LW2 – back in my 20s in Home Country, after I lost my job but we needed money, I pulled some strings and got myself a part-time job as an admin assistant at a tiny private school. (Never saw any of the students – the school relocated to another town 30 min from ours a week after I started, after the last two students in our town were pulled out by their parents. The owner/principal sucked. The school sucked. Definitely wasn’t worth the cash the parents were shelling out in the middle of an economic crisis.) I was in my mid-20s and looked younger, and was already aware of my new boss’s reputation as an awful person and a nightmare to work for. (But we needed the money.) He asked what I wanted to be called – typically I would give people my nickname, like Tammie, but with that guy, I thought I’d get no respect if he thought of me as a “Tammie”, so I said Tamara. I thought it’d help him take me more seriously. Reader, it did not help one bit. He always called me Tamara and still treated me like dirt and I only lasted six months before I quit with nothing lined up. (And then he spent another six months trying to replace me – no idea if he ever did – no one in town wanted to work for him at that point.) TL;DR changing how you want people to address you won’t change a thing, like everybody else already said. I’m living proof. Go by whatever name you’re the happiest being called and address the real issues of being overworked, underpaid, made to be available 24/7 despite being paid by the hour and being part-time, etc, separately from that. PS. current CEO at my current job goes by their childhood nickname that their family had given them when they were a toddler, and are still getting all the respect that is due a CEO. Just sayin.

  86. noname1234567*

    LW#2 are you a CS or FS domestic OMS with State reporting to Ambassadors and/or confirmed and/or appointed employees? If so, given your age, it would not be wildly out of sync to insist people refer to you as Ms. Surname. I think it would be just fine. (In fact, before I saw your age in your OP, I thought to myself, “she could get away with it if she were in her 60s.”) But PLEASE submit overtime. You deserve it. You are non-exempt and you are entitled to it. Having your chain of command insist you are on-call without compensating you is illegal. That culture needs to change. Fair Labor Standard Act training is mandatory for both them and you.

    1. noname1234567*

      I emailed Alison and offered for her to put you in touch with me. There’s a lot I could say but I’ll keep it brief here:
      – Re-take the Fair Labor Standards Act training. That will help you learn how to put in for OT and when it’s OT vs Comp Time (e.g. if you’re asked to stay after the PP starts, it’s your choice of category).
      – Do not ask for OT. Instead, if you have to stay late, you inform ahead of time, “I will be putting in OT for this.” Follow up in writing. If you get pushback, contact your HRO for assistance. Never verbally ask for OT after the fact. Instead, complete the form and send it. Keep your paper trail.
      – You have to work OT. It’s just the way it is at post. You’re on the duty roster, right? Put in for OT when you work duty. Most OMSs stay until the PO leaves for the day.
      – Maybe your final 2 posts should not be FO OMS; maybe it’s not the right fit for you.
      – People often forget that there’s a gap (salary, status, benefits) between our categories. Don’t assume they’re doing this out of any malice. They’ve most likely just forgotten.
      – Are other sections tasking you? If so, that’s not how that works. Redirect.
      – Why don’t you have a backup identified? Talk to the MO about identifying a backup so you can take leave. They should be borrowing an OMS from another section to cover for you. That is standard. And if there are no OMSs at post, they can identify an EFM support person, a TDYer, or a special asst to back you up.
      – Every time you request leave, remind your supervisor that you have use-or-lose. Don’t allow them to verbally tell you no. You have to submit the leave form through our system. This way if your leave is denied you can get it restored.

  87. A Taxing Person*

    I’ll bet you can guess where I work. As person in a role where I deal with the public, my employer actively encourages (if not warns) us not to use our first names and to use a title (such as, Mr., Ms., Miss, or Mrs.) instead, followed by our last name and our employee I.D. number. I do have coworkers who give out their first names to the public, but I don’t. It’s not about respect so much as it is about keeping a degree of anonymity. (Within the workplace, when addressing each other, we all use our first names.)

    In my job, my coworkers and I have to deliver a lot of bad news to people. We don’t have all that much authority and after something bad happens, we’re pretty limited in what we can do to make the situation go away. Mostly we can just give out information, and frequently it might be something that people don’t want to hear, which makes certain members of the general public mad at us.

    There have been incidents. Certain coworkers have been tracked down and subject to harassment and threats. Mostly online through social media, but a few people have received threats through the mail at their homes. Supposedly, some people have been tracked down and had problems with their homes and cars being vandalized. So, if you call my employer and the person who takes your call only gives you a title, and not their first name, now you know why.

    1. LJ*

      I’m sure there was a good reason for choosing title and surname rather than first name, but that sounds almost backwards at first glance. Tracking down “Mrs. Taxing” can be a lot easier than tracking down “Jane in Chicago” depending on how common the names in question are

  88. Molly Millions*

    LW2: I worry that insisting on being called “Ms. Lastname” might backfire. You could end up being seen as “difficult” or “old-fashioned” which could be undermining if you try to advocate for more serious things in the future. (Especially if there’s any sexism/ageism at play – you don’t want to give your colleagues any ammo to say you’re “out of touch” or “too sensitive” when you push back against the unpaid overtime or try to negotiate fairer compensation.)

  89. Johannes Bols*

    One thought on the VP interview where he/she told you an email had been sent when it wasn’t. That would be a punch in the gut to me; it’s personal and a really crappy thing to do to someone. And this person’s a VP? And THIS is how they talk to people?

  90. ADD*

    The public shaming thing reminded me of a manager I once had who seemed to take all of the worst lessons away from the “praise in public, shame in private” saying. To his credit, he didn’t want to publicly shame anyone – but he also was adverse to ever actually take anyone into a private setting to discuss what was wrong. Maybe he was conflict adverse? Anyway, the issue was that a specific team member would continually ignore a particular process, which would ultimately cause more work for the rest of us on the team. Whenever we’d mention this, our manager would just schedule a “in-service” training, where the entire team, all of us, had to go and sit through training on that particular process. This happened several times, and always it would be “we’ve noticed that some folks aren’t following this procedure, so let’s all go over it again just to be sure we’re all on the same page.” But because the offending party wasn’t ever told THEY were the issue, they’d just nod along through the training, and then go right back to what they were doing incorrectly. The manager never actually confronted them directly (publicly or privately) about what they were doing wrong, never laid out expectations, and never set forth any kind of consequences for failure to comply, so the incorrect procedure just kept getting followed (and the rest of us had to keep cleaning up after that person) until that person retired.

  91. Caz*

    LW1 you’re a new manager so I’m going to tell you something that no-one told me when I was a first manager, but that helped me make fewer mistakes after I worked it out:
    If you’re not sure whether to have a conversation with a member of staff publicly or privately, put yourself in the position of the staff member. Would you want your manager to have this conversation with you in public, in full view of your peers, or in private? In time you’ll have more experience to draw on, better honed instincts – but while you’re building that experience and honing those instincts, put yourself in the position of the individual you need to have a conversation with and be honest with yourself about your feelings from there.

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