a coworker threatened to kill me, extending a work trip to make it a vacation, and more

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

1. A coworker threatened to kill me

A coworker, Sam, messaged me to say they were going to do something against company policy and if I reported them, they would kill me. Sam is a known bully who will intimidate people and retaliate against them until they are fired or quit. I have seen, firsthand, how people are fired after baseless accusations from Sam. Sam is beloved by 99% of our company, including our CEO, because everyone Sam does not get along with is fired or quits. Sam reports to the CEO.

I reported Sam through our internal ethics hotline and provided screenshots of the threat. I was told an investigation could not be conducted unless I was willing to have myself identified in the process. Sam has access to my phone number and physical address, and I am scared of them, so identifying myself is not an option I am comfortable with. Is requiring a person to identify themselves, to an accuser, for an internal employee investigation normal? The company has evidence of the threat in screenshots but is unwilling to proceed. Sam has already started their campaign to discredit my work, but it does not seem like I have any recourse. Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated.

Your company has screenshots of one employee threatening to kill another employee but won’t do anything about it unless you’re willing for Sam to know you reported it?! What?! Even if they don’t care on all the obvious grounds — like concern for your safety and not wanting to run a workplace where people threaten to kill each other — they should at least care on legal liability grounds. Because holy legal liability if something did happen.

To be clear, it’s not uncommon for investigations to need to identify the accuser to the accused; sometimes that’s the only way for an investigation to be possible. But they have your screenshots, and they can presumably verify the messages if they were sent on company systems. Is there any chance what they meant was “we want to make sure you know that when we speak to Sam about it, Sam will probably know you reported it”? Because that’s likely true — but it’s not a reason for them not to proceed (there are also ways around that if they bothered to think about it — like the message having been seen by someone else in a routine IT check or so forth).

In any case, it’s illegal to threaten to kill someone, not just a violation of workplace etiquette. Please consider talking to the police, or at least to a lawyer who can guide you from here.

2. Can you ask to extend your work trip to make it a vacation?

My job recently asked me to go to an industry conference outside the country. They’re willing to pay for flights, hotel, per diems — everything is great on that end!

Here’s the thing: Not only is this city and this country a place I’ve dreamed of going for years, but my favorite nerdy hobby is hosting their international conference in the same city the weekend before the event my job asked me to go to. Normally, flying here is a bit out of my reach, financially. But if work paid for my flights and I paid my hotel in the interim and took some PTO between my hobby conference and work conference … I could turn this into the trip of a lifetime.

I don’t know if this is something companies do or allow, but if so, I want to at least try asking! But I have no idea where to start. Would I sound too young/inexperienced for even asking because this isn’t normal? What’s the cut-off for what the company pays vs what I pay? Like when I’ve traveled for work in the past, they’ve paid for an extra day of hotels when I couldn’t find convenient/cheap flights out the day of an event. I know they wouldn’t pay the whole time, but if I’m in the same hotel, how do I split that up? How do I convince them to let me hang out in another country on PTO before the conference? It sounds like I just want to take a vacation on the company’s dime, and that’s not completely false!

This is a completely normal thing that people do. Companies generally don’t care at all as long as it’s doesn’t incur additional expenses for them. So they’d still pay for your flights because they’re paying for those anyway (unless you’re choosing dramatically more expensive flights to accommodate the vacation dates) and your hotel for the nights you’d be there for work anyway. You’d pay for the extra hotel nights and any other expenses during the days you’re adding on for vacation (like food, etc.), and you’d use PTO for the vacation portion. Basically, anything they’d be paying for if you weren’t tacking on a vacation, assume they’ll still pay for — and anything extra, you cover. That’s it!

It doesn’t look young or inexperienced to ask; it’s very, very common to do this.

3. How to ask, “Why do I always need to ask twice to get a task done?”

How can I diplomatically ask someone why I always have to ask twice to get a simple task completed?

Using llama grooming as an example for anonymity, imagine that in our llama grooming business, I get the health certificate from the owner but need to provide this to the llama records department before the grooming appointment can be booked. The llama records department needs to go into the llama’s record in the database and indicate that the health certificate has been received. (Note that I am unable to complete this task myself.)

Almost every time I email the certificate and ask that the record be updated, I have to email again (typically 3-4 days later) to remind them of the task. Usually when I email the second time, the task is completed within a few hours.

How can I nicely ask why I have to email twice to get this simple task completed?

“I’m finding that I usually need to come back and ask a second time for the record to be updated. Is there something I can do differently on my side so it gets done with just the first request? A different way you want me to send these, or something else?”

In other words, allow for the possibility that there really could be something you’re doing on your end that’s making it less convenient for them — or at least frame it that way even if you’re sure it’s not the case, since that allows you to point out the issue in a pretty low-key way.

4. My coworker wants my job after I’m promoted, but she’s not qualified

Our general manager has received a promotion and is moving to a new location. I want her position, and she is pushing for me to have her position. Most of my coworkers want this to happen, and in all reality, it probably will. However, one of my coworkers (I’m technically probably a half step above her, but we work in tandem over different departments) has expressed to me that if I move up, she will be applying to my position. She is not qualified for it, nor do I personally think she could learn the ropes quickly enough to not avoid just losing her job altogether. Perhaps under a more seasoned GM, she’d flourish, but I know how much slack for her shortcomings I picked up in that role; I will not be able to pick up her slack in my new role, while also training her replacement.

How do I gently let her down and not sour the relationship? I think in a year or two, with a serious action plan, she could do it. But not in the next 30 days we’d want someone in role by.

Are the qualification she lacks pretty clear/obvious ones? If so, you could say, “We’ll need to look for XYZ qualifications.”

But otherwise, you should probably wait until things are further along with your own hiring, so that you have some standing to opine on the hiring process to replace you (and you’ve either already become her boss or are clearly about to be). At that point you’d have standing to say something like, “For this role we’ll need someone with qualifications XYZ. If it’s a position you’re interested in working toward, we could put together a plan for you to get those qualifications over the next year. But for this round of hiring, we’ll need someone who comes in with those.”

Alternately, you could let her throw her hat in the ring and give her the chance to make the case for her candidacy, while making it clear you’re conducting a full search and she’ll be competing against other candidates. And then assuming she’s not hired at the end of that, you could explain where other candidates were stronger and offer to put together a development plan to strengthen her in those areas for next time.

5. Can I ask for dividers in our open office to protect me from the AC?

I work in a small open-space office. I really like the job. However, the AC (or some other ventilation) creates a constant draft blowing right into my face. It is not strong, but after 8+ hours it accumulates and now I have constant pain in this side of my face. It is also super distracting — I literally count minutes until I can leave my desk. Our office gets pretty hot so we do need AC, and all other tables are taken so can’t switch. My colleagues accommodate my requests, but it doesn’t change much and I don’t want them to dislike me for making them hot. I tried a lot — brought a hoodie with a big hood to protect my face, a small fan hoping to divert the airstream, even sealed the vent above me — nothing worked.

Now I want to ask the maintenance to install tall plexiglass partitions on the two sides of my table which should hopefully protect me, but I am concerned about the reaction of my officemates/other colleagues. Is it a reasonable request? Maybe you have any other suggestions? It feels ridiculous to struggle over such a detail, but it bothers me a lot.

It’s a very specific request to start with if you haven’t talked to your boss about it yet! Start there — explain the issue to your boss and what you’ve tried and ask if it’s possible to move. The fact that other desks are all taken doesn’t mean they can’t switch things around if someone else won’t be bothered by it (and it sounds like most other people aren’t, unless there’s something about your specific location that’s more impacted than the other desk areas).

If that doesn’t resolve it, then that’s the time to ask if you can speak with maintenance about solutions. And who knows, maintenance might be able to adjust something about the ventilation that solves the problem, or your plexiglass barriers might be the only solution, or they might suggest something else entirely. But talk to your boss first, and then present the problem (not just a single pre-determined solution) to maintenance if your boss can’t solve it.

{ 458 comments… read them below }

  1. Belle8bete*

    There are things that can redirect and disperse the air flow—it’s a plastic thing that gets screwed onto the vent. I’d suggest this as a request first.

    1. Poopsie*

      We have just used a bit of cardboard in the past when we had people with similar issues. Cut a flap off a box, duct tape it to the vent on the side that’s the issue and voila!, the air is directed down on that side instead of out.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        That’s what I did, along with keeping a pullover at work, except OP already tried sealing the vent near her…

        1. AngryOctopus*

          Redirecting the airflow will be more effective than trying to seal a vent. Seals can leak and it’ll be right in the same direction, redirection pushes the flow elsewhere.

      2. Mademoiselle Sugar Lump*

        Yes, that was common in a building where I used to work. Those banker’s box lids work perfectly.

    2. HVAC*

      You can actually change out the ceiling diffuser and damper to adjust it from being a 4 way throw to a 3 way or 2 way throw. If your in house maintenance team can’t do it, it will cost probably $500.

    3. You think this is slicked back? This is pushed back.*

      I have one of those with magnets. I’d recommend a magnetic vent cover, I have some of those in my house to force the air upstairs. They’re under $10 online for a pack, in case the vent is too big for just one.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Sometimes the problem can be a desk by a door –if the intake is on the other side, you’re sitting in a wind tunnel.

      (In one of my temp jobs, opening a specific interior door set up such a current that the UPS guy commented on it.)

      1. pandop*

        Yeah, we have an air current at work that can keep a fire door from latching shut, if you’re not careful!

    5. Or your typical admin*

      Yes! They even have curved pieces of plastic that attach to vents with magnets to keep air from blowing straight down on you

    6. Lucy P*

      I was coming to say the same thing about the deflectors. They even make ones that are magnetic and just sit on the vent.

    7. Momma Bear*

      I’d ask to talk to the building management. I got a diverter installed so at the very least the air isn’t blowing directly on me. It’s imperfect, but it helps.

    8. Csethiro Ceredin*

      I had this – constant air on the back of the neck, resulting in my turtling all day and going home with a stiff neck. The AC people were able to adjust the slats inside to blow air another way, which solved it.

      I’m sure OP’s office can find a workable solution, given the degree of discomfort it’s causing them!

    9. Siege*

      I mean, OP tried completely sealing off the vent and that didn’t solve the problem. Feels like a deflector is a step down from that.

      1. Csethiro Ceredin*

        Hopefully maintenance or the AC company has a better method! We didn’t have much success here with various MacGyver attempts but the company managed it much better.

      2. Hannah Lee*

        A deflector actually may be the solution, because then whoever is spec’ing and installing it can direct where the airflow goes. I have one that was blasting down over me, and the deflector directs the airflow over my head instead of down, so when it settles down, it’s past my workspace and also not as forceful.

        The area still gets sufficiently cool, but I don’t need paperweights to keep my work papers from moving around.

        It’s worth asking whoever does the maintenance or up your own food chain to see if it’s an option.

      3. Sciencer*

        It seems unlikely that the vent OP sealed is the reason for the air flow. The air is probably flowing from a less obvious source, and the maintenance crew might be better equipped to figure that out and fix it.

  2. LinZella*

    OP # 1: What an awful and scary situation.
    Go straight to the police.
    DO pass Go for any other reason AT your work. They’re obviously completely incompetent regarding this.
    Do not collect the $200; DO collect ALL the evidence.
    Best wishes and I’ll be thinking of you.

    1. RedinSC*

      This is soooo stressful. Cops and a lawyer are both needed here.

      Also, it’s time to start looking for a new job, hopefully there’s something else in your area that you can apply and get to.

      Also thinking of you, stay safe.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        Yikes, agree that it’s time to contact both police and a lawyer. Thanks for writing in, OP. Rooting for you!

        1. Carson*

          Agree with everyone here – police and lawyer needed. And my sympathy for you having to deal with your useless company. Good luck!

      2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Agreed time to start looking for a new job. Sam feels safe enough that nothing will happen to him that he can put in writing that he is going to violate policy AND will kill you if you report it.

        Sam is not the only problem here. Even if the company fires him, this is a company that allowed Sam to feel this safe. Him being gone will not fix what is horribly wrong with this company. In normal companies, an email like that would have someone walked out the door that day, maybe suspended with pay while the investigation is ongoing, but they would be removed from the premises and all systems immediately.

        1. Observer*

          Sam is not the only problem here. Even if the company fires him, this is a company that allowed Sam to feel this safe.

          This. Totally. Sam is evil, but so is the company that actively helps them.

          1. JB*

            That’s why he’s got a reputation as a bully. He knows what he can get away with and there needs to be an external factor brought into play to finally end his behaviour.

        2. learnedthehardway*

          Agreeing – the fact that Sam has been allowed to act this way with impunity for years and years says that the company leadership is a real problem as well.

          I would go to the police and lay a complaint there. The COMPANY should have done this!!

    2. occam’s shaving cream*

      i literally was bout to use the monopoly construction the i saw you had done it. yes, call the cops. then get a lawyer and sue everyone.

    3. The Prettiest Curse*

      OP, your employer are clearly going to do nothing about this. If they do any type of investigation, it will clearly come to the conclusion that Sam the CEO’s pet has a unique sense of humour and was just joking. Go to an employment lawyer with the names and as much contact info for Sam’s previous victims as you can gather (in case any of them have evidence that could help you) and go to the police too.
      If you can afford it, upgrade your home security as well.

      I’m very sorry that your employer has put you in this position. Sam is responsible for their awful behaviour, but your employer is responsible for enabling that behaviour.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Addendum: don’t reach out to former colleagues who were bullied out by Sam, just gather their contact info. Let the lawyer reach out for you. It’s always possible that some of the past victims may have settlements and accompanying NDAs.

      2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Oh I am quite sure that Sam has put threats in writing before. And the others ran into the same thing — out yourself to Sam or let it go. They chose safety over stopping Sam — which is a good choice to make. But they probably still have the evidence or at least know what happened.

        1. Carol the happy elf*

          That kind of “safety”, though, always leaves a slime trail through the emotional well-being.

    4. Still*

      That’s such an awful situation. The LW does need to talk to the police… But they also need to be job-hunting. The company is full of bees and I don’t see any way this ends with the LW happily working there.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          Who lets Sam feel comfortable enough to make such threats in writing? Sam didn’t start by threatening to kill people. The company has enabled him.

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Yeah – the “Giant Murder Hornet” doesn’t get that comfortable without people above being willing to cover for said Hornet.

          Please keep yourself safe and get out of there.

          1. Just Another Cog*

            I so much agree with this! Had a Sam at a workplace – bullied everyone, made comments about how “…..I know people who can permanently take care of problem co-workers for me…”, etc. She got away with everything short of murder (maybe did, who knows) and company owners just looked away because she was their darling. Looking for another job was the only way out of there for me. OP, you have been directly threatened! Get the law involved and get out of there. I agree with other commenters, home security is a must!

      1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

        Yeah, it looks like Sam has started the campaign to make LW the next person fired, so either way LW needs a new job.

        1. Ellie*

          More than that – he’s about to violate some policy that OP is supposed to report him for. Depending on what that is, OP could be facing consequences of their own. It might be firing but it could also be fines, prison time – who knows?

          OP – you have to protect yourself by immediately going to the police and getting this threat on record. Then find another job. Then contact a lawyer, and see if you can sue your old company – you should at least be able to get a small settlement and an agreement on what your reference will be. If you don’t do this, Sam is going to shred your reputation, and you will lose your job anyway. You have to get ahead of this now.

    5. TG*

      Hire an attorney to ensure you are protected and go to the police – you have a very real cause to also havryoir attorney file a lawsuit against your company for not acting in a legitimate threat. No one should be scared for their life at work.

      1. Anne of Green Gables*

        If finding a lawyer seems overwhelming, google “bar association matching service Your State.” Most states have a matching service where you put in your zip code and type of law you need and they give you names of lawyers and your first (typically 30 min) consultation is a flat fee. That 30 min is enough for them to get an idea of what you need, initial guidance, and what full cost is likely to be. Where I am in NC, that flat rate for the first appointment is $50; I recently checked for friends in PA and theirs was $30. So it’s worth going through the bar association’s matching service if you don’t know how or where to look for a lawyer.

        1. Zzzzzz*

          Employment lawyers DO NOT charge for an assessment. AND, if they are ethical, they do not charge for cases. They DO charge a % of the settlement based on whether it is settled out of court (a lower %, around 33%) or if it goes to court then the % is higher (50%). ALL OTHER COSTS ARE ABSORBED BY THE LAWYER (except perhaps a notary when certain docs are need).

          1. Breaker Breaker*

            This is actually very nuanced! Ethical employment attorneys definitely do charge by the hour. What you are talking about is a contingent fee arrangement that is common in plaintiff’s side employment and personal injury cases. It is an option if OP cannot afford to pay fees and expenses up front. However, as you mention, the attorney does take a sizeable cut of any eventual settlement or verdict. These types of fee arrangements can be very profitable for the attorney/law firms, and are unique to the American legal system. If you can afford it, paying by the hour may give OP more control over the case progression and outcome because they are not running into the attorney’s decision making around whether the case continues to be profitable or not. The attorney should not be pressuring OP to make decisions based on the attorney/firm’s financial viability in the case, but it definitely happens.

    6. LifeBeforeCorona*

      In these times of active shooters and vengeful co-workers, it’s shockingly egregious that your company is not taking immediate steps to investigate this threat against you and by default your fellow co-workers. Cynical me says contact the police and a lawyer because protecting yourself is more important than following awful company policy.

      1. Lynn Llama-Herder*

        THIS. There is absolutely no excuse in this day and age for an employer to not take this type of thing completely seriously. Please be safe, OP1.

    7. Don't Be Longsuffering*

      Many lawyers do free consultations, in case you are worried about the cost. Anyway, the costs are higher if you don’t get a lawyer.
      If someone threatens your life on the street, you report it to police. The law doesn’t change because it happened at work. That threat is a crime. Report it.

    8. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      This. OP 1. This happened in my company. Employee A told Employee B they wanted yo kill Employee C (in a very real, angry way.)
      Employee B told manager. Manager told HR.
      Employee A was met by security when coming in the next and summarily fired.
      That you are already being mistreated and thinking your option is to quit proves your company is a dumpster fire. Protect yourself physically and personally by contacting police for the first and lawyer for the second.

      1. Anon for this comment*

        Someone threatened in writing to kill a coworker at my workplace (shortly before I started so I don’t know all the details) and they had an incompetent, but generally very nice supervisor and a terrible HR director (no HE background before being moved to head that department) and effectively nothing was done. The writer eventually left of their own choice, perhaps with some encouragement.

        This job was for a city government which complicated the option of going to the police since I can’t imagine they weren’t already aware, but given how there was effectively no recourse for this very concerning behavior if the police is an option you feel safe taking, please do for the safety of everyone else who has to deal with this person.

        I also want to recognize that there may be some extremely real and valid reasons you wouldn’t feel safe going to the police and if you want to leave the job and that is what will make you feel safe that is ok too. Also, if you are in a large city it is likely the police department will have victim services staff who may be able to help you.

      2. pope suburban*

        Yep. Someone brought a gun into work when I worked at an oil and gas company. While he had, as far as anyone could tell, only meant to show it to his colleagues (It was an heirloom piece inherited from a relative, and the culture in the region/field was very gun-friendly), the combination of his stunningly poor judgment and the fact that he had had friction with other employees before got him canned right quick. I don’t believe he ever intended harm, but some things you just can’t do. I’m appalled by this workplace. No one should have to live in that kind of fear, period.

    9. connie*

      OP1 can retain an attorney first and use the attorney’s assistance in dealing with the police. The presence of the attorney may help OP get more or quicker assistance and should Sam be prosecuted, having her own attorney involved will make sure she gets a better resolution. Don’t depend on prosecutors to have your best interest at heart if Sam gets charged.

      1. Sara without an H*

        This is good advice. Also, document absolutely everything.

        And OP1 should definitely be job searching. Hard.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I agree with the lawyer first, and document it OFFSITE. Not only on your work computer. Email it to yourself, whatever; just make sure you can access it if you need to leave or if Sam manages to get you fired. Right now, today.

          I am so sorry this is happening to you, OP.

      2. RVA Cat*

        This. The lawyer can also direct this to the correct branch of law enforcement, because I’m thinking something here makes it federal.

      3. ariel*

        I like this advice. I wouldn’t have the first idea how to approach police about something that I wouldn’t expect them to take seriously, especially if my workplace doesn’t seem to be. Talk to a lawyer and get their assistance and advice, OP. Wishing you ease and well-being on this sh*tty journey.

    10. mb*

      Yes, that was my first thought – just go to the police. Also, get a lawyer and collect as much evidence as you can. But ultimately, you’ll probably have to get another job.
      Maybe go forward with HR and ask for a meeting with them and your lawyer. Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. It’s possible seeing you have an attorney and that not dealing with Sam could cost them a lot of money will be enough for them to deal with it.
      Also, update please when you can.

    11. Laser99*

      You are correct; she must contact the police asap, and without telling her employer before she does it. It sounds like they would discourage her from doing so. I really hope we get an update, I am worried about her.

    12. FrogPenRibbets*

      I’ll just pop my comment here… Yes the OP should go to the police for this.

      That being said, I don’t think it’s wrong that her company’s ethics line (or HR) needs the OP to identify themselves for an internal investigation. I wouldn’t want to work for a company that just fires people on the basis of a screenshot. Too easy to abuse that.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        HR should have met with her and explained the process. They should have assured her they would do their best to protect her confidentiality, but that they could not guarantee that Sam would not figure it out. They should have offered support, ensured that the police were called in to investigate, and launched an internal investigation.

        Maintaining complainant confidentiality (as far as possible) while doing a full and fair investigation is standard process for HR investigations, particularly when there is a threat of retaliation.

        1. FrogPenRibbets*

          I would agree but it sounded like to me that that the OP did an anonymous report (I may have gotten that wrong in my reading).

          FWIW, I agree with everything you said. I was just making the point that a company has a duty to investigate and action against an employee should not be taken on the basis of a screenshot alone.

          And as you say, even if it was a secret investigation by HR and they would have found credible cause to action against him, he have known who he had threatened. Unless he has a long list of people who he’s threatened, it would be pretty easy to work out.

          This is why I said the best step would be the police and not the company. Potential extra protections for the OP.

          1. Spero*

            I disagree. The OP could have showed the message to another coworker or manager and that person could have made the ethics report. Maintaining plausible deniability is a fair safety strategy on the part of the OP. As long as Sam doesn’t know for sure if OP or someone else made the report, OP is safer.

      2. Worldwalker*

        There is a significant difference between identifying yourself to HR and HR identifying you to the person making death threats.

      3. Spero*

        HR would not be firing on the basis of a screenshot. The screenshot gives them the reasonable cause to go look at Sam’s messages and from there to extract the data confirming that Sam did send this message. They don’t need the recipient of the message to be involved to confirm that violated policy, and they don’t need the person who sent the report to be identified to make an employment decision based on data from their messaging program. The ethics report is the prompt to go look at the data, the data itself is the reason to fire Sam.

    13. SJJ*

      This – go to the police.
      Document every person you have discussed this with. Names. Dates. Etc.

      Contact a lawyer.

      If your business has a board – you can reach out anonymously about the ongoing behavior and the fiscal risk of lawsuits and future recruiting (if this ends up in the paper or on sites like Glassdoor *cough*).

      Start looking for a new job. This is not normal and NOT OK.

    14. Momma Bear*

      I’m team police, too. This person has personal info. Has threatened you. Your company refused to investigate and you feel like you are in danger. This is beyond HR.

    15. Nessness*

      I once had someone (who I already had a restraining order against) make a similar threat to me, and caught it on video.

      I reported it to a police officer, but the officer told me that, to a be a criminal threat, the threat has to be specific and show that the person has taken some action to follow through with it. So just saying “I’m going to kill you” or similar doesn’t qualify.

      It’s still worth making a police report to have a record of it (plus, LW probably doesn’t live in my jurisdiction so their laws may be different), but I wouldn’t count on the police taking action.

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        This police officer was very likely incorrect, especially when you already had a PO against the person.

        But it is very true that many police don’t take threats of violence seriously.

  3. Hotter Than the Sun*

    5 – for what it’s worth, there are people who would probably gladly take that spot. I love direct A/C (in Summer anyway… direct heat in Winter sucks).

    1. Richard Barrell*

      Yeah, LW5 may find that there’s someone else in the office who has the thermodynamics of a yeti, is currently jealous of their spot next to the A/C, and would love to switch places. :)

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Ha! Your “thermodynamics of a yeti” comment has raised my spirits on a morning when I really needed it.

    2. Always Toasty*

      Same here! I’ve got some medical things *plus* medications that leave me running very hot, and also very sensitive to heat – what other people find uncomfortably cold I find refreshingly cool. Like, if I had control over the thermostat I’d set it to 65F, lol (I do not do that, as I realize no one else wants that!)

      I’m an extreme case maybe XD But a desk swap might be the easiest/fastest solution for LW5 if they have anyone in their office who’s running warm!

    3. kitryan*

      Yup- at a prior job, my office was one of two added later in the build out of the building (theater company inside an existing armory building). The two offices ended up each containing vent for the floor- my office was always cold and my desk was directly under the vent, while my boss’s office was always hot and had (presumably) the return vent in it.
      My nose was always running and my throat was always dry from the constant cool air blowing on my head/face.
      I am much more sensitive to cold than heat and my boss overheats easily and is much happier when it’s a bit chilly. Unfortunately, due to other factors, we couldn’t just switch offices.

  4. SemiAnon*

    For LW 2 – this is quite common in my field. I’ve had more than one vacation inspired by a work related trip, and sometimes just take a day or two of PTO to explore the area. One time on an East Asia to South America trip, I stopped by Canada on the way home (LA is a lot closer to my hometown than Tokyo). We have to get a quote for the original itinerary from the travel agent, and if it’s less than the new itinerary we pay the difference. We get the per diem for the travel to and from, and pay for our own expenses on the days off.

    If you’re a government employee, check the regulations, though, as some countries have restrictions varying from the vacation time needing to be less than the length of the business trip, to prohibiting you from taking vacation time on work travel to your country of citizenship (seriously – they could fly you half way around the world for a meeting, and prohibit you from taking a weekend to visit family).

    1. My Dear Wormwood*

      I stayed on after a conference in north Queensland once to go snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. It was awesome.

    2. Roland*

      Very normal! I flew in a day early to my last conference because it was in Orlando and I wanted a theme park day.

    3. allathian*

      Yeah, I agree it’s very common in many fields. LW, maybe tell your manager that the extra week will ensure that you won’t be jetlagged at the work conference if they’re at all hesitant about granting you the PTO.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        If “nerdy hobby” means 24/7 programming, OP might not want to set up a “well rested” expectation. (I slept very little at my first science fiction con.)

        1. Miette*

          LOL staying up until dawn is practically part of the program for the Star Trek ones I attend :)

        2. Tricksie*

          I’m hoping it means the Essen Game Fair! And I hope OP gets to go!! It’s definitely on our bucket list.

        3. Worldwalker*

          I’ll be at DragonCon this coming weekend (for work, in fact) and yeah, when I get home, I’m expecting to spend the next day totally crashed. Even though I’m old enough that I don’t do the 24/7 thing anymore, and tend to go back to my room and order out.

          1. Reluctant Mezzo*

            I like to do Nutritious Grazing at bid parties, myself, but yeah, eating quietly in your room is probably better.

      2. Antilles*

        Honestly, I wouldn’t even expect you’d need to offer any sort of excuse/justification like “avoid jetlag”; it’s so commonplace that most workplaces won’t be hesitant at all nor will they require any sort of business justification for you extending the time.
        In my experience, the response I’ve always gotten from various companies has been some form of “sounds like fun, go right ahead! (as long as it doesn’t cost us extra)”.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Agreed — no justification necessary! Just ask. (With the caveats above that government employees may not be able to do it, and possibly others. But there is nothing wrong with asking, even if the answer is no.)

    4. Mackenna*

      My boss actually does this every year! He is a member of an international industry peak body that hosts multiple conferences in various parts of the world each year. Depending on which ones he attends and where and when they are, he works it so that he and his wife (who flies over to join him) go somewhere interesting a short flight away from one of the conference cities for a week or so after it finishes. He particularly likes to do this where there are two conferences a week or so apart on the same continent, he has just stayed there instead of flying home to Australia (24+ hours each way) and then flying back again the next week. Eg a couple of years ago he had conferences in Stockholm and Paris 11 days apart, so he snuck in a sightseeing and golfing break in Scotland between the two.

      The flights to and from the conference city and the conference accommodation are paid by the company in the same way, he just adjusts the dates of the flights. The flights from the conference city to and from the holiday destination and the hotel there he pays for himself.

      1. KateM*

        What is more expensive, flights from Stockholm to Scotland and Scotland to Paris, or flights from Stockholm to Australia and Australia to Paris?

        1. Alanis*

          Inter-Europe flights can be very cheap. I wouldn’t expect either of those flights to cost more than 100 euro. The rental car and course fees would be way more money.
          Having said that, I don’t think the company would pay for those flights, just the ones to and from Australia.

        2. Allonge*

          Depends on, e.g. when you buy them but all other things being equal, a Europe-Australia flight is likely to be much more expensive than a Europe-Europe one.

        3. Mizzle*

          What a strange question… the former two are both roughly two hours. The latter almost twenty.

        4. Bee*

          Guys, I think the point of this question is that the boss shouldn’t have to pay for the two short flights in between because otherwise the company would’ve had to pay for two much more expensive flights.

          1. Iain C*

            That’s very well put. I went from UK to HK many years ago, and then needed to go to Xian a week later.

            I had a company sponsored holiday, with a “keep an eye on your email” expectation. I think I did 10 hours work during that week.

            It came out financially similar in cost, and much better jetlag wise

            1. Bookmark*

              Yep, I’ve done a similar thing on a smaller scale joining a couple of work trips less than a week apart on the west coast. Work paid for my extra couple nights of hotel because it was basically the same cost, and way fewer CO2 emissions, as two extra cross-country flights. I got to take the Coast Starlight and spent a day admiring the scenery out the window of a train.

        5. Mackenna*

          The flights to and from Australia are many times more expensive!

          Because of the length of the flights the company will pay for business class, so you are looking in the region of $10k for a return flight to a European capital city, and often more depending on which city, from Australia. This was before the pandemic, it is closer to $13k-$15k now. Even an economy return flight used to be $3k and up depending on where you were going. I have no idea what they are now, I haven’t had a reason to price any up. The flights between European cities that are reasonably close are a few hundred dollars. Add onto that, my boss is quite happy to take trains like the Eurostar where they are practical, which lowers the cost even more.

          But more important than cost is the time. Why spend 24+ hours x2 on a plane, and work for the week in between, when you can spend 2 – 5 hours x2, and have a holiday in between the two?

    5. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      I did this when I was working for a large company with lots of internal and external bureaucracy (a contracting firm doing Pentagon stuff) and it was a piece of cake. Very common.

    6. Dhaskoi*

      It’s common in white collar work generally. Booking travel is one of my admin responsibilities and more than once I’ve booked hotel rooms for x number of ‘working’ days with the employee using the room arranging to stay on in the same room after that on their own dime.

      It’s common enough that hotels are familiar with the practice.

    7. Llama Llama*

      It is incredibly common. Heck, many of my coworkers had to travel halfway across the world and would then have a several day layover in another country before getting home.

    8. The Cosmic Avenger*

      We turned work conferences in Orlando, Chicago, San Diego, and San Francisco into family trips, and neither of our employers could care less. Usually the one not working did things with the kid, we all had dinner together and did some touristy things, and then tacked on 2-3 days either before or after the conference.

    9. Helewise*

      We’ve done this, too. My husband’s company even used to let returning expats quote a flight home from assignment and if they could find an itinerary that was the same price stop absolutely anywhere. We spent ten days in Hawaii on the way home from our assignment in Asia – we obviously paid for all accommodations etc. while there, but the flights were covered. It was an incredible perk.

    10. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I had a brilliant turn on this type of travel when my nonprofit needed someone to go to one of our fundraising events in the city I was already planning to fly to for vacation. So instead of my flying to a work event and taking a few days of extra travel, I am going on vacation and taking a day of it to work at an event. Either way, work is paying for my flight and hotel for a couple of nights and it was such an amazing bonus for it to work out this way! (I’m also leaving tomorrow so I’m SUPER excited about it.)

      OP, as a fellow nerd, DO IT and have an awesome time!

    11. Smithy*

      Just here to join the chorus of it being 100% normal with plenty of industries…..and sometimes there are pretty firm regulations preventing it. I think the US federal government (or at least some agencies) might be one?

      I’ve found that when there’s an industry that has a wide sweeping regulation like that, that it can bleed over into professional assumptions some individuals can take with them once they change sectors. So, if your supervisor or department head used to work somewhere with that kind of hard regulation – they might take that with them an assumption that it’s a standard professional way of working across many industries as opposed to just a few.

      I provide that context, because if there’s nothing formal included in an employee manual or travel guide – then it can always be worth framing it to your supervisor if there’s a formal process to go about requesting PTO before or after business travel. If for whatever reason your supervisor has some gut instinct pushback from historical jobs – or they are aware that the department head “generally frowns upon” doing it, but it’s technically ok – I think it can set you up well to navigate your next steps knowing your workplace norms and still getting the result you want. Either challenging your boss’ biases from a former job that don’t apply now, or having your boss help you get what you want without ruffling larger department feathers.

      1. PJs all day*

        I work almost exclusively on projects funded by the US government (although not as an employee but subject to same procurement rules) and have always been able to do this. If the flight dates are going to be different I have to do a cost construct and if the new return date is more expensive, pay the difference. If staying in the same hotel I can generally work it out to “check out” on the official end and check back in to same room with my personal card immediately.

        1. Tea Kettle*

          Yeah I’m confused by all these comments about government rules… I work for the US government and we don’t have any rules about this except for rental cars (we can’t use rental cars for personal use and I think need to return them and get a new one if needed if we’re extending our stay rather than splitting the bill), but even hotels we can just ask that they separate our stay into two bills and we’re good. My system to book official travel even has a way to add personal on.

          1. International businessman*

            Foreign governments (Singapore comes to mind) have stricter anti-corruption rules when it comes to travel and extending travel beyond the business trip.

            US government: not so much

      2. Young worker*

        All okay and not inappropriate as per my US government agency! Totally normal, you just pay for anything additional your flight might be on your new itinerary. If you are government, there should be a handout somewhere or a point person who can provide details. The person below is correct – you can’t let a family member use a work rental car, for example.

    12. TootsNYC*

      My mother used to travel from my home state to Washington, DC, for conferences, when she worked for the state government.
      She’d normally fly out on Monday and back on Wednesday.
      The travel person suggested she fly out on Thursday or Friday to DC, take a train to NYC and back to visit me, and fly home from DC on Wednesday. They paid for the train trip, even, because all told, it was less than the cost of the not-over-the-weekend airfare. They didn’t cover food, and they wouldn’t have paid for a hotel, but they paid for the additional travel because it was less expensive.

      We got a few visits out of that before she left that role.

    13. The Original K.*

      Very common. I used to volunteer for trips to a particular city because my best friend lived there then so I’d tack on days to see her. I worked for an international organization and people would extend trips overseas, have their spouses join them after the business part was over for a vacation, etc. I’ve never had an employer have a problem with it – everybody did it.

    14. GasketGirl*

      I had to fly to Colorado for product training. Training was scheduled for Thursday and Friday. I was supposed to fly in Wednesday night, but had a previous engagement so flew in really early on Thursday morning. I was able to stay through the weekend so I could do some exploring, do the brewery tour, check out Red Rock, etc. Though, to be fair, it had been a chaotic start to the year and the Monday of the week I was leaving, they fired our manager, so I think some of the higher ups felt bad for me and knew I needed a break.

    15. Anon-E-Mouse*

      I used to travel internationally frequently for work and I often did this. One warning, though. Aside from planning a recovery day from travel before the work part of your trip begins, generally it’s less risky for the personal part of your trip to take place after the work portion of your trip. This is because something could happen during the personal part of the trip that could prevent you from doing (or doing effectively) what you’ve been sent (on the employer’s dime) to do.

      The most extreme version of this problem happened to a colleague. She was sent to Bali to facilitate a conference. She arrived a couple of days early to get over jet lag (good) and so some sightseeing. She rented a scooter and had a terrible accident-so bad that she almost needed medical evacuation. Obviously, she couldn’t facilitate the conference.

      A less serious version of this could be a situation where, at the conference the OP wants to attend the weekend before the work part of the trip, they catch an illness and can’t do the work they’re supposed to be there for.

      Note that some companies have policies on this that provide that if you do something on your own time before the work portion of the trip begins and that precludes you from doing the relevant work, you’re on the hook for the trip costs.

      Even if your company doesn’t have a policy like this, as a general policy I plan for my personal activities to take place after my work is done. Much more relaxing, too!

    16. Csethiro Ceredin*

      Yup half of the vacations of my youth were my mom and I accompanying my dad on various work trips and we all stayed longer to do the (much fewer) sightseeing things he wanted to do. Belgium, Savannah, Quebec City, Washington DC… all kinds of places I wouldn’t have been to otherwise. The Canadian government (my dad’s employer) was often pleased because staying longer made his flights cheaper.

    17. I Have RBF*

      I did this on my way back from India. I was flying through Frankfurt, and I wanted to spend some time in Germany (bucket list trip). So I scheduled a several day layover in Frankfurt, took PTO, booked my own hotel, rented a car on my own dime and toured around the Rhine Valley. It wasn’t the ideal season, but it was still beautiful. I got pictures.

    18. Artemesia*

      Very common. My son used to do robotics competitions in Europe and then would take a week after to motorcycle in the alps and such. I had a job in Kuwait and took 10 days in London on my way home and a job in Hawaii and took 8 days after for my husband and I to travel the big island and had a job in China and took two weeks to explore other parts of the country.

      The key of course is you take your own vacation days, and you assure that it does not increase cost to the company. Usually a longer airline vacation is cheaper than a shorter one, so it may well save the company a little bit on airfare. Don’t act like it is a big deal and just go with the assumption it will be possible and you need to know how to make the arrangements. It is a great perk of some miserable travel.

    19. J. Jonah Jameson*

      I have international travel most years, and it’s so normal for people in my organization to take personal time with the trip that there are procedures spelling out who pays for what and how flights get split if personal travel adds to the cost.

    20. Alanna*

      I work in tech and I travel for conferences that I speak at, and it’s definitely common and totally okay to stay on for vacation! this spring I spent an extra week in New Zealand and in October I’ll be in France. I just make sure my return flight is about the same as what it would have been had I been leaving at the end of the conference.

    21. Rebelx*

      Not only is it very common and normal, but especially in jobs that require regular travel, I think companies realize it’s considered one of the perks of that type of job. They know that work trips, especially frequent ones, are not universally beloved (it can be exhausting, it takes people away from their families, air travel can be unpleasant, etc.), so letting employees add a few vacation days to the trip is one way of offsetting some of the downsides of requiring them to travel, and thus a factor in attracting/retaining good employees.

    22. Ginger snaps*

      I would check what the industry/company norms are. My job involves international travel and we are very much expected not to include personal travel past a day or two (in Australia, there are tax laws about proportion of business travel vs personal that may see you having to pay part of the flights etc). I have known people to have to pay for most of the flights for this reason.
      I have also found it varies from office to office, my previous job it was the norm to be expected back to the office straight away (mainly because even though you have been travelling and still working, you need to get back and catch up on your regular work). It’s definitely part of the culture that is not great and results in burnout, but it’s good to be aware!

    23. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      Last year, we had a pair of jobs that included two days of downtime between them, in a very attractive place. We were asked who wanted to do them while taking the two days as PTO (all expenses and perdiem paid by the company).
      There were more than enough people who wanted the job under these conditions; the trip was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience and utterly worth it.

  5. Nope*

    #2) My company will actually let us know if we’re tacking on vacation days to let them know and we can get their room rate (paid by us of course, but a nice perk). Totally a normal thing to do.

    1. JSPA*

      caveat: last I looked, the tax situation and rules had changed rather dramatically. Definitely for federal-grant funded travel. Overstays became limited to a fairly modest percentage of the time spent on business or conference travel. I’m not sure what I’ll have time to search for, so I’m throwing this out in case someone else can follow up. Which is to say, It’s totally normal to ask but it is no longer a near-automatic approval as it was.

      1. JSPA*

        here’s one tax site with rules on what constitutes a trip that’s “mostly” for business, as far as tax deductibility for individuals. The corporate and grant funded guidelines, from what I remember, may now tend to line up. Mind you these days, Airline travel disruptions at at a level where it’s only prudent to plan to arrive well in advance. So that’s something to reference.


        1. NL*

          This is about what portion of the business travel might be tax deductible, which doesn’t apply to this question.

          1. JSPA*

            that’s why I pointed out, “The corporate and grant funded guidelines, from what I remember, may now tend to line up.”

            I know that this updated definition resulted in significant restrictions on academic conference travel, and was told that this was only one of multiple indirect effects of the stricter (time-based) definition of “primarily for work.”

            This was the first site I found that confirmed how the IRS tabulates travel that includes weekends, which seemed potentially relevant.

    2. Oryx*

      I haven’t traveled for work since pre-pandemic, but this was the same. As long as the hotel had rooms available, we could tack on some extra nights with the same rate and just pay for those nights ourselves. I did extend a trip and change hotels once and that was only because I had points for free nights.

    3. Artemesia*

      I once had a rental car provided by the company and was able to extend the car for a week — it ended up costing me almost nothing and didn’t increase the costs for the business. My airfare was also cheaper.

    4. kitryan*

      This is what my company told me to do when I was extending a trip after a work event and you do have to be careful as the billing for the room when you do that can be tricky. It worked out in the end but whether the extra 3 days were being paid by the company as part of the main room reservation and then I would pay the company for them after or if I was going to pay the hotel directly became a point of confusion and I worried that it left a general negative impression w/the finance department since it required some extra work to sort out on their part. I kind of wished I’d just booked the extra days myself, completely separately, even if they were slightly more expensive when decoupled from the company’s room rate.

    1. Tio*

      Generally, yes. The idea is they would have to buy you a roundtrip ticket anyway, so moving a few days forward is not a big change. (Sometimes they may quibble if you move it to a more expensive day and there’s a noticeable difference, but mostly not, and if they do sometimes you can just pay the extra $100 or whatever.)

      1. Bruce*

        When I brought my wife on a trip I called the agent and had them get her tickets and charged them to my account, they reserved adjacent seats for us too even though we were on different E-tickets.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        My husband’s old boss actually suggested it because at the time there was an airline special discount that required staying over a weekend. It was aimed at drumming up tourism, and it worked: I flew in to join him for a long weekend of big city sightseeing.

        1. TootsNYC*

          re: staying over the weekend:
          My mom worked for the state government and woudl fly to DC on Monday for meetings, and back on Wednesday.
          They encouraged her to fly the week before (so she would be traveling over a Saturday) and paid for her train trip to NYC to visit me, because adding them together was still less than the Mon–Wed fare.

    2. amoeba*

      Depends on the company! Mine, unfortunately, really doesn’t like that and you’d probably end up having to pay for one of the flights yourself (so, if you stay longer, pay for the flight back, even if it would be the same cost).
      Good to hear it’s different in other cases – or maybe it’s also in this case more usual in the US than in Europe?

      1. DistantAudacity*

        No, that’s totally common in Europe, too!

        Back in the olden days, where a plane ticket across the weekend (night away sat/sun) was massively cheaper it could be positively encouraged – they’d cover the hotel cost for the weekend because it came out less anyway.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        Mh, I’m in Europe and I’ve done this with different employers. My experience has been that they can be annoying about the employee having to prove in detail that it doesn’t cost extra (like getting both itineraries planned out, screenshotted and submitted for pre-approval, then really hoping prices don’t change between submitting and booking), but if that checks out they don’t care.

        It’s also much easier if the employee usually plans and books their own travel and gets it approved directly by a supervisor – if it has to be booked by a travel agency and/or approved by a special department, sometimes they don’t want to do it because comparing prices is extra work.

      3. Ukdancer*

        I’m in Europe and I’ve done this. It’s fine as long as it doesn’t cost more to travel back later and you take leave for any time involved.

        I don’t always stay on but sometimes it’s nice to see a place if it’s not somewhere you’d otherwise visit or if it’s a particularly nice place. So next month I’m at a conference at a very nice spa hotel. I’ve added on an extra day to allow me to have a spa day. I’m paying for the extra night at the hotel and taking leave.

      4. Other Alice*

        It really varies by company. My company had an event last December in my coworker’s home town, she arranged to fly back 3 weeks later so she could spend the holidays with her family. Company paid for both flights, the price difference was negligible.

      5. amoeba*

        I know it’s also possible in Europe, but at least in my experience, unfortunately it’s not a “it will definitely be possible” kind of thing but rather a “depends on your company” kind of thing, so slightly less normal than it sounded in Alison’s reply… I’d always still ask, worst they can do is say no! And it definitely wouldn’t seem out of touch to ask. But the answer could also be a “no”.

      6. Nancy*

        This varies by company, it’s not a US vs Europe thing. OP just needs to ask her boss what their company policy is regarding covering costs.

      1. Bumblebee*

        you could also have your company book your ticket and then pay the change fee to the airline yourself. a pain, and maybe not the most economical, but satisfying to the unbending nature of corporate policy perhaps.

        1. Antilles*

          Unless you work in an extremely bureaucratic place, that’s not necessary.
          Most companies would be perfectly fine with you just printing out two cost listings from the airline (the required dates vs your longer trip dates), showing them to your manager as an indication of the cost difference, then you book your ticket for the preferred dates.

          1. Smithy*

            I will say, the more bureaucracy in a system that formally allows it….the harder I’ve found it.

            So my current employer allows this, and technically allows us to work with our travel agent to book travel arrangements that are tacked onto business travel. However, the one time I tried to do that (which was essentially trying to coordinate a flight with a very long layover in the connecting city on the way home – think ~48 hours), our travel agent insisted the only way it could be done was for a cost difference of $700. I found a way to do this for no difference in price, but because we had to book business travel through the travel agent – there was no way for me to book that travel for the price I’d identified.

            All to say, I think the OP *can* do this, but to sidestep any anxieties about appearing unprofessional – I think the position to take is to ask about whether or not there are formal processes. Because that’s where things inevitably are super easy or trickier.

    3. Well...*

      At my workplace you have to do a cost comparison of the flights the day they planned you to leave and the flights you book instead. They reimburse the lower of the two (usually it’s a negligible difference).

      When I get invited to give seminars somewhere cool I always ask about extra days. I’ve gotten weekends in Paris, Budapest, Barcelona, and London this way. Sometimes there’s a little extra bureaucracy around it, but it’s totally worth it for the sight seeing!

      1. Baldrick*

        I’ve had vacations everywhere over the decades. Two weeks in New Zealand, a couple days to see the Grand Canyon, Athens, and Alaska, a weekend in the Galapagos, and many more weekends and weeks across the US. Any comments from my boss or coworkers are suggestions to spend more time rather than less, so it’s very supported.

        We have to screenshot flight costs from both options (without vacation and with) and pay any added costs, plus pay the extra hotel costs and our food isn’t reimbursed on vacation days, and that’s very reasonable.

    4. Dinwar*

      My company does if you book it in advance. If you have to change flights you would have to pay for the fee to change the flights. As far as my company is concerned they don’t care when you fly; that’s between you and your supervisor. And there are plenty of work-related reasons to delay a flight. Fatigue management is a big one–I’ve flat-out told people “I do not want you going home today, spend the night, sleep in, and drive when you’re refreshed.” And as long as the company expects to pay for the ticket anyway, and you’re not adding significant costs, the company is unlikely to care.

    5. Orange You Glad*

      The company is paying to get you to the work location and then back home. Generally, the dates these things happen don’t matter but changing up the dates shouldn’t add significant additional expense to the company.

  6. Ink*

    …I HAVE had luck with a similar AC situation by wearing a poke bonnet (ideally with a larger brim, even a big hoodie hood is going to come in at least 3 inches shorter than mine) but that’s probably not feasible in most office environments

    1. JSPA*

      1. can the desk be turned to face the room, rather than the vent?

      2. sometimes the key to managing airflow is to pu⁰t a deflector on the return, rather than the vent.

      3. often, the vent above you isn’t the problem (or can be configured to blast up and over you). Closing it off directs more air to the actual culprit (an adjacent vent that is directed sideways, for example).

      We’re taught to bring in solutions when we report problems, but sometimes that’s counterproductive. Tradespeople have real and valid skills! Asking to talk to somebody who is either in facilites or is an HVAC tech–or simply asking someone else to find the right tradesperson to solve the problem‐-is a more effective next step, after asking to be moved (per Alison’s suggestion) than designing your own solution (especially as plexiglass and plexiglass fabrication are not the cheap or easy solution).

    1. Roeslein*

      Absolutely – I am confused why anyone would choose to report a death threat internally *instead* of going straight to the police (and not in addition to)? This is way beyond professional misconduct. And also see an employment lawyer as you likely need to quit your job asap. Would failing to protect an employee from threats qualify as a kind of constructive dismissal (given it leaves you with no choice but quitting for your own safety)?

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        “I am confused why anyone would choose to report a death threat internally *instead* of going straight to the police”
        Not every has the same response to a threat, and there are a number of legitimate reasons why someone might hesitate to go to the police, and we don’t know why the LW didn’t. It’s fine to suggest going to the police, but saying that it’s confusing that someone wouldn’t is bordering on criticizing the LW’s reaction to the threat. That’s not helpful to the LW.

      2. Marna Nightingale*

        Because Bees.

        As slam-dunk as a situation can look from the outside, my experience is that when you’re in one of those situations with either high-but-steady or gradually escalating dysfunction it can take between several minutes and a month — and sometimes the support of another person naming what they saw — for the actual level of bad to really hit home.

        Sam is a Known Problem but up until now Sam has been a Work Problem. Work Problems go to the Work Problems people.

        Fortunately OP’s subconscious is sufficiently on the job to have suggested maybe asking Alison and commenters to take a look at this situation.

      3. MK*

        I don’t know where OP lives, but I live in a country with strict gun control and no history of mass shootings or workplace violence. Most people here wouldn’t take a death threat over email from a bully coworker seriously; a serious threat, yes, but they wouldn’t actually believe this person was planning to physically attack them. In that context, “if you report me, I will kill you” read more like “if you report me, you will regret it”, which isn’t necessarily something you go to the police for.

        1. amoeba*

          Yup, same here. While I’d consider it very unprofessional, I would not take it as a literal death threat and I assume neither would the police. Can easily imagine it rings differently in places where shootings are more of a thing though…

        2. Satan’s Panties*

          Sam made a threat, though. And there are a lot of things Sam can do without a gun. Strangle someone with their bare hands, for instance.

      4. Anon for this one*

        “I am confused why anyone would choose to report a death threat internally *instead* of going straight to the police”

        Because lots of companies do a very good job of warping employees attitudes such that anything that happens at work needs to be handled internally. I know there was another letter where the OP was reprimanded for reporting illegal material on a coworkers computer to the police (iirc the OP was in IT and saw child porn on a work computer), and when I worked for the Apple Store we were explicitly told in training that only management was ever allowed to call the police for *anything* that we saw at work. Most of the time, this stuff is small potatoes (you don’t file a police report over a shoving match between two coworkers in the parking lot when no one was hurt, for instance), but the attitude seeps in and suddenly obviously criminal actions are still seen as HR/personnel matters.

        1. Anon for this one*

          Also, with regards to the Apple Store, management *never* called the police. We had an incident where a belligerent customer tried to demand a free iPhone replacement and grabbed one manager and slammed her head on the table. Two of my coworkers managed to pull the guy off of her and throw him out, while I and a few others blocked him getting back in until mall security got him out of the building entirely. Even after that, they had mall security trespass the guy for some minor stuff (yelling at us for not letting him in), refused to file a police report for the manager who was assaulted, and told us if we reported it we would be fired.

            1. Anon for this one*

              Yes there are, and had it been one of my coworkers I would have 100% taken the risk and called the police. I know it sounds crass, but the manger who was attacked would have been just as happy to stand with the others telling us not to call the cops if it had been one of us assaulted. I was already job hunting (and in fact got accepted to a prestigious graduate program with full funding plus salary within a month), and didn’t see a reason to throw away my paycheck for someone who would throw me under the bus herself.

  7. Observer*

    #1- Coworker threatened to kill you.

    I’m assuming that you are looking for a job with everything you have, because no matter what happens with Sam, this is a TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, AWFUL employer. I think that Alison will forgive the yelling about your employer because I think your employer has about the same level of ethics as the mafia. Sure it’s “only” Sam who is actually threatening you, but the company is explicitly enabling and colluding with them.

    Honestly, you should really consider quitting *now*. I know that it’s easier said than done. But this person is literally a danger to your life. I can’t believe that any job is worth that. And with the evidence you have, you should at least be able to get unemployment till you find something else. Because even if the unemployment people don’t believe that the guy would actually kill you (which is a real possibility), just that level of threat with the refusal of the company to do anything about it would constitute an impossible situation. (I hope you have a copy of you so-called ethics hotline refusing to do anything about the threats.)

    Another thing that worries me a bit is that you ask if your company’s response is “normal”. It sounds like your norms around what is reasonable in the workplace have been badly warped. This is NOT “normal”. And besides that’s not even a reasonable rubric when you are talking about this level of misbehavior.

    1. Jackalope*

      This is an excellent point. The employer’s response is not in any way a normal response, and wondering if it might be probably means that you’ve absorbed other toxicity without realizing it. And I can pretty much guarantee that if your employer doesn’t think it’s worth responding to when someone else gives you a death threat, they have other issues. Many. Issues.

    2. John Smith*

      Completely agree. A former employer refused to take action against a bully I complained about because I was “only the witness” and not the person being bullied – they actually refused to do anything until the victim complained directly.

      Go to the police – this is far beyond a matter for your employer to have sole concern over. Possibly seek an injunction against Sam as well preventing him from contacting you/being within X distance from you. Ifbtgat means Sam can’t do his job/come to work or gets fired, tough on them.

      1. What would you do for a Klondike Bar*

        A former employer refused to take action against a bully I complained about because I was “only the witness” and not the person being bullied – they actually refused to do anything until the victim complained directly.

        I think that is a vastly different scenario than what is happening here, and (while I obviously don’t know all the facts and circumstances), I can some ways in which your company acted reasonably. If the “target” of the alleged bullying legitimately doesn’t think it’s bullying, the company is supposed to act on the say-so of a third person?

        I suppose there would exceptions to this principle if the conduct is egregious enough and documented, but in reality, a lot of behavior may be suspect but not rise to that level.

        1. John Smith*

          In this instance the behaviour was obvious bullying and the victim was too scared to report himself. My point is that it should not take what the OPs employer is asking for there to at least be an investigation,. but I think this may be a difference in UK law to US.

          1. Liane*

            I am not sure about bullying, but Alison has stated many times that a witness to sexually harassment behavior has legal standing to file a complaint in the US.

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              Sexual harassment correlates more directly to a legally hostile work environment that impacts the people who witness it as well as the targeted victims. Bullying is much more of a subjective gray area. Enforceably, I mean, not downplaying bullying or targeted non-sexual harassment.

    3. David*

      Yeah, no kidding. A company not acting on a death threat from one employee to another – made at work, no less! – is one of the furthest things from normal that I’ve ever seen in an AAM letter, and anyone who’s spent a bit of time reading the site knows just how high of a bar for that is.

      I guess to be fair, what LW#1 was wondering about is whether it’s normal for a witness in an investigation to have to identify themselves, and that at least is a more, uh “normal” amount of being not normal.

    4. Slow Gin Lizz*

      What jumps out at me is that Sam told OP they were going to do something against the company’s ethics and the company knows that and is *still* not taking this seriously. (I realize I’m assuming that OP told them that as part of reporting the death threat, so I do know that I could be wrong about that.) What that says to me is that the company not only sucks because they aren’t investigating the death threat (like, WHAT????) but also because they are not taking the ethics violation seriously either. Now, I did just read Bad Blood, the book about the Theranos scandal, so perhaps I’m seeing bad ethics everywhere, but this seems really shady to me, a symptom of a very large problem. OP, talk to the police, talk to a lawyer. I’m sorry that that means you’ll have to out yourself to Sam but I don’t see any way around that, unfortunately. Even if your company did take you seriously and started an investigation about Sam, Sam is going to know it was you that reported them.

      Please stay safe, OP. I hope you can find a new job and peace of mind.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        Right, exactly what I was thinking. Even if they assumed the death threat part were hyperbole and not credible (which is its own problem), the threat was due to Sam for reasons unknown announcing their intention to a Very Bad Thing Workwise. So why the hell doesn’t the company at least care about Sam’s doing that? It’s in writing and they can verify the message. So what the hell, employer?

      2. RVA Cat*

        It makes me wonder if the company is built on crime, like fraud or money laundering. Sam may be the CEO’s pet because he’s running a scam like Madoff or Enron.

    5. learnedthehardway*

      This is good advice, if you can possibly quit now, OP.

      You mention that Sam has begun a campaign to discredit your work. Well, it seems he has been successful in doing this to other people before, and if you can leave before he has damaged your credibility and reputation, at least you would have your references intact.

      Not ideal – everything in my finds the idea of letting Sam “win” revolting – but you can pursue a case with the police and talk to a lawyer about the situation, as well.

    6. ferrina*

      I’d talk to a lawyer first (and ASAP!) IANAL, but I suspect you can sue for lost compensation if you have the right paperwork and ducks in a row. A lawyer can help guide you in what documentation you will need and what damages you can reasonably claim.

      I’d definitely be looking for a quick exit if I were LW. Good luck to them! This sounds scary!
      (and ask that lawyer about emotional distress damages- the company should compensate you for the therapy you may need. This would give me some serious PTSD!)

  8. Observer*

    #2 – Adding on days to a business trip.

    I agree that this is a common thing. I might not get into *why* you want to extend the trip with some PTO. Depending on the particular hobby, some people might be judgy about that. But “This is a really interesting city that I’d love to spend a couple of days exploring” is so common that no one is going to think twice about it.

    I hope it works out. Enjoy!

    1. SarahKay*

      Seconding how common it is to add days to a business trip.
      I’m in the UK, working for a multi-national company and had to travel to Prague for training. Of the 30-ish people on the course about 25 were from outside the Czech Republic and at least four that I know of (including me) stayed on for one or more days to enjoy time in the city. Another UK person flew his wife out to join him (at his own expense) for the weekend after the course.
      Hope you have a great weekend.

      1. HexagonRuler*

        I did something similar with a trip from London to Budapest, and had my wife join me. My employer did not blink about extending the trip over the weekend after the work part of the trip.

        The following year I got sent to Budapest again, and this time my wife and I decided that we had already seen all the museums we wanted to see in Budapest so after my wife arrived we caught a train to Vienna and stayed there for a couple of days. My employer was happy to pay for my flight back from Vienna (it was slightly cheaper) even though there was no business reason for me to be in that city.

    2. Sloanicota*

      I agree that it’s normal to add a few days. If the work event starts Monday and you want to fly out for the Sat/Sun before, as others have said, you may just have to pay the difference in cost. That said, if you want the whole week before, you would have to go through whatever the usual vacation requirements are, with the same odds and considerations for getting your desired week than you usually have, particularly if it’s not an international destination. My boss would admittedly be less likely to let me go to conferences if I routinely added a week of vacation on to them – but that may just be my weird office culture.

    3. Orange You Glad*

      Agreed with this. Just be matter of fact that you want to take some time off in the same location. It’s probably a good idea for OP to do a little research into flight schedules and prices so they can have some details about their travel dates when they ask for the time off.

      1. Calyx*

        Agree. When I’ve done that, I’ve priced out the costs both ways and retained screen shots to include in the expense report.

    4. JustaTech*

      I just got back from doing this: I flew down to a client site in the city where my in-laws live and stayed two extra days to visit with them (though at their house so no extra hotel, and the flight was actually cheaper).

    5. Tiger Snake*

      The only thing I might highlight is that you’re wanting to go to a con/nerdy event. You’re allowed to do that, that’s not the problem.

      The problem might be that the flights are more expensive because of the extra demand. Different companies handle this differently – you pay the difference, or you have to pick flights of certain criteria and that makes the timing weird and you get a bad seat on the plane. It’s just the one thing I’d note to check the policy of.

  9. Observer*

    #5 – AC problem.

    Alison, you say that The fact that other desks are all taken doesn’t mean they can’t switch things around if someone else won’t be bothered by it (and it sounds like most other people aren’t, unless there’s something about your specific location that’s more impacted than the other desk areas).

    The think is that it’s almost certainly a matter of the location. I’ve seen this before, and no matter who you put there, it’s going to be an issue.

    Having said that, I agree completely to not come to maintenance with a specific solution. Talk to your boss, and either get them to talk to maintenance about finding a solution, or their backing for you to talk to maintenance. But let them figure this out. If they seem stumped, you can suggest the plexiglass, but you will almost certainly get better results by starting with them looking at possible solutions.

    1. ItsTooDarnHot*

      Almost certainly not true. Many people get sick if they get too hot but offices tend to take people being too cold more seriously. I’d be shocked if there aren’t folks who would prefer that spot to some location that skews to 74-75-76F or hotter even if the space as a whole is set somewhere in the typically recommended range of 68-72 (and some places set their default higher). And on that point, some people prefer it inferno hot (I’ve seen people on AAM say they’re uncomfortable if it gies under 80F which is not reasonable) and the original poster may prefer something on the hot side, enough so that their current spot wouldn’t even be considered chilly by most people. Do not make any changes that will make others warmer without their input – if you go to maintenance and say fix it, they probably will, but often at the expense of everyone else because you told them this temperature situation us their priority by raising the issue (or at least that’s what happened every time I’ve seen building maintenance get involved).

      1. Shynosaur*

        lol what is almost certainly not true is “offices tend to take people being too cold more seriously.” Last year a coworker of mine asked HR to do something about the AC being set far too low and was told that they don’t want to handle complaints from people who complain about it being too hot, so the coldies have to suck it up.

        So the only thing we can say is that who offices take seriously is going to depend entirely on the personal preference of whoever sits with their finger on the thermostat, and that’s going to vary by office.

      2. Dirtbag*

        The issue isn’t the temperature, though; it’s the airstream hitting OP’s face all day.

      3. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        LW5 didn’t complain about the overall room temperature, they complained about a specific draft. This is what they said:
        > the AC (or some other ventilation) creates a constant draft blowing right into my face.

        And I get this. I sneeze if I get a cold draft on my neck. Even in a warm room, if the draft lands on my neck, I sneeze and can’t stop unless I move or cover my neck.

        What LW5 is talking about is not the kind of temperature complaint that you are speaking of.

  10. SB*

    LW1 – Unless Sam has threatened to kill multiple people it is going to be pretty obvious who has made the complaint. Bypass work & go directly to the police. What they have done is illegal & once they have a criminal record they may not be eligible to remain employed at your workplace.

    1. Just me*

      Just be careful, because Sam getting fired wouldn’t neutralize the threat to LW’s safety. It would result in a Sam who’s angrier at LW, has less to lose and suddenly has lots of free time to ponder revenge.

      Which is to say that yes, LW should stop trying to deal with this situation through the employer’s avenues. And that if/when LW goes to the police (or I’d prefer a lawyer first), I strongly hope LW makes sure the next steps are at least as much about protecting their personal safety as about bringing Sam and the employer to justice.

      1. Knope Knope Knope*

        Yes this was my fear as well!! I was surprised I didn’t see more people saying this.

    2. RagingADHD*

      This is true – any investigation is bound to lead to Sam figuring out who reported it, since it would involve questioning Sam about the actual words they used in the message. Unless they copy-paste the same message to everyone (which would mitigate the credibility of the threat), there really isn’t a practical way to avoid them knowing.

      Which doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be reported! But if the threat is credible rather than rhetorical, LW should probably consider the path that is more likely to result in some personal security, a restraining order, etc.

      Of course, if the threat is clearly rhetorical then LW would be reporting unprofessionalism and bullying, which is an internal matter.

  11. Seal*

    #5 – See if your maintenance staff can install something to divert the airflow from the vent in question. My desk in my old office was right under a ceiling air conditioner vent and couldn’t be moved, so I was always freezing in the summer. Maintenance installed a panel that changed the airflow from straight down on my head to out to the sides, which made a world of difference.

    1. Still*

      Also, LW, I’m amazed you’ve put up with this for so long. This has been putting you in actual, physical pain and you haven’t talked to your boss about it? This isn’t something you suffer through and try to mitigate with a hoodie, this is something you flag and get fixed on day two, tops. Your job should not be putting you in physical pain!

      1. Jackalope*

        I agree that your job shouldn’t be putting you in physical pain, but I also understand why the OP didn’t say anything. Venting systems and air conditioning tend to be sore spots with people and I’ve found it difficult to get action taken when I’ve had issues. I’ve sat and shivered under direct vents many times, and just about every time I’ve tried to say something I’ve been told nothing can be done about it and I just have to deal. At one office I was finally able to make it a bit better; a maintenance person was in working on something with the vents and I quietly asked them to close the part of the vent pointed straight at me. They complied (it was still pointed in three other directions so wasn’t messing with the air flow), and it was so much nicer, but every time a maintenance person came in again while I was in that seat I had to explain to them again that I did NOT want them to reopen the vent and I was happier that way because they were incredulous that someone might not want cold air blowing on them all the time. And look at all of the people who speak up when there’s a discussion on this blog to say that you can’t turn the temperature up, that those of us who get cold can always put on more clothes but they can’t take anything else off, no it’s not okay, etc. That’s a pretty normal response at least in the US, and it has a definite chilling effect (pun intended) on those of us who might otherwise speak up about being cold and miserable.

        All of that being said, I don’t want to discourage the OP from reporting it and seeing what can be done. There are a lot of options here and there’s a good chance that her boss will be able to make this better. But I can 100% understand why she’s chosen to suffer in silence this far.

        1. Shynosaur*

          To be honest I think a great many people try to endure the physical pain their jobs put them through rather than ever rock the boat. I spent years allowing my job to literally cripple me: I have scoliosis and normal ergonomic solutions are like torture for me. Every year without fail I’d have at least one week I’ve call out due to a back spasm that would leave me unable to walk and then walk only painfully for several weeks. I had to spend some thousand dollars on chiropractors and massages and was always hurting even when I could move normally. This was 100% due to sitting in my office chair at my desk 8 hours a day. Once 2020 happened and we all got sent home, I never had a back spasm again. Now in my new position, I made sure my manager knew I had my own seating and sit/stand arrangements, but I was at this company for six years before the WFH happened and only said something last year. The compulsion to not rock the boat can be very strong for people. (or the belief that rocking the boat won’t get anywhere anyway and will just get you labeled a complainer; I had once asked for a standing desk because I saw signs saying they were available, but in my old department, it was “you can’t have one because there aren’t enough for everyone to have one and if they see you with one they might ask”)

  12. Raida*

    1. A coworker threatened to kill me

    I’d respond with “Oh, no need then, if I have to be identified for action to be made from a DEATH THREAT, I’ll just go to the police instead.”

    1. Jackalope*

      To add to this, even if such a complaint were to get the company to respond, and if they were to tell you to let them handle it internally, DON’T LISTEN. This needs to be both internal AND external. Even if Sam doesn’t hurt YOU, they might choose to hurt someone else down the road.

      1. pally*

        Yes. Folks sometimes forget that HR exists to protect the company from legal issues and/or liability. They are less concerned with the employee aspect of any given situation- unless they perceive a liability on their part.

        1. Worldwalker*

          You’d think that the possibility of an employee killing one or more co-workers would be the kind of liability they’d be worried about. That does tend to make the national news, with the company name all over it.

          1. sparkle emoji*

            Yeah, this scenario seems like a glaring neon sign screaming “Liability” to any competent HR person. Sam literally threatened OP, but his actions also figuratively threaten the company(although with a lower degree of severity).

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Exactly. But honestly, do it. Don’t wait for them to realize the company people to realize they are incompetent and reckless.

    3. umami*

      Presumably Sam would know anyway? I mean, how many people is he making death threats to that he wouldn’t know who the complaint is coming from? IOW, Sam already knows who is making the complaint, so it sounds like it’s a formality to tell employer ‘yes, I agree to be identified’ so they can proceed with an investigation. I would just comply and ALSO go to the police.

      1. Ginger Dynamo*

        Allison and several commenters have mentioned that if the message was sent in company servers (Slack, email, etc.) any messages would ideally be monitored by IT for concerning conduct. HR could use IT’s access to message logs to confirm the screenshots themselves, and HR could present the reason for the investigation to Sam as being a result of IT flagging inappropriate conduct on work accounts (not a stretch of the imagination given the word choice including “I’ll”, “kill,” and “you” in succession). Could Sam still jump to the conclusion that OP1 reported the messages and that HR is protecting OP? Yes, and that is a risk that HR should notify OP about. But, if HR was requesting OP to agree to be identified *to Sam* as the complainant despite the violent nature of the threats that directly affirmed Sam’s willingness to retaliate against complainants, OP should absolutely put their self-preservation and personal protection first by consulting a lawyer and then going to the police BEFORE pursuing anything else with HR. HR seems to be showing their hand that at best, they cannot, and at worst, they will not preserve OP’s confidentiality and security in the face of a violent threat. Given that Sam has been allowed to grow so comfortable in their retaliatory abilities at this company, we have to believe HR is telling the truth about their own incompetence in protecting employees from retaliation.

        1. umami*

          Ah, I see that take on it. But it also feels like a distinction without a difference – Sam being investigated for his threats against OP is still going to reveal the identity of who the threats are against despite ‘how’ HR finds out.

          1. Just me*

            I think the difference is in whether HR essentially tells Sam, “The company has noticed you did a wrong thing to OP” vs. “Sam, OP has intentionally gotten you into trouble.”

            The first way isn’t ideal for OP’s safety because even if HR tells Sam that the death threat came to their attention through IT or some automated keyword-based notification, Sam’s anger might still splash onto OP. But it would be better than the second way, which paints a target on OP’s back.

  13. Bruce*

    #2 last Feb. I had a work trip to Malaysia, had the travel agent book tickets for my wife that I paid for and we stayed on for 2 weeks… went to Borneo and had the wildlife trip of a lifetime! So. Many. Primates. Elephants. Birds. =8-0 My coworkers who came from S.E. Asia always extend their trips to include a visit home. So if you have the vacation time then use it!

    1. Writer Claire*

      Yes! Agreed!

      Years ago, I had a business trip to Heidelberg, which is 1) where I spent a year abroad and 2) right next to Mannheim, where my MIL grew up. Opportunity! I got approval from my employer to bring my spouse and our eight-month-old son on the trip. Employer paid for my plane ticket and the hotel room for the first few days; I paid for spouse’s and son’s tickets and our hotel room for the remaining days.

      And I’m so glad I did! I did my work thing. Spouse showed off the great-grandson to his grandmother. And by spending a few extra PTO days, I got to revisit some favorite spots and meet up with my old roommate.

  14. Office Gumby*

    Dude, this is a thing you report to the police. You attempted to report it to HR, who should have reported this to the police and they didn’t.

    If a random stranger threatened to kill you, you’d report it to the police.
    Heck, if a friend threatened to kill you, you’d report it to the police.
    A coworker is no different. If he’s threatened to kill you, report his sorry butt to the police. HR have failed you on this point.

    And do check with some legal advice. Chance are if the police get involved, certain persons within your organisation are going to make things difficult for you. Retain legal counsel at best, seek legal advice at least, and don’t let anyone intimidate you from protecting your own life.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I’d also tack on contacting a help service for people who are being threatened – or talking to a therapist if you have one because this is something where your mental health is going to need some expert assistance in being protected too.

  15. Mialana*

    #2 My company organized a work trip to a very touristy place that ended on a saturday of a long weekend (monday off), so I asked the people normally responsible for booking whether I could stay to extra nights and the answer was ‘Sure if the return flight is cheaper than the original flight that we planned we pay for the return flight.’ So I got the return trip booked with the company credit card. Then the person responsible for booking told me that in this specific case they needed the okay from a person very high up in the organization to cover the expense. So I got that okay. Then they told me that it was FORBIDDEN to stay longer and that they could not have foreseen that anyone would want to (on a long weekend). End of story I did not pay for the ticket but it was a THING.

  16. Still*

    Just want to say I love how #3 felt the need to specify that they are “using llama grooming as an example for anonymity”. I guess they know that we are all anxiously waiting for the day an actual llama groomer writes in, and didn’t want to get our hopes up!

    1. Sage*

      Maybe it already happened, and some llama groomer wrote pretending they where pretending to be a llama groomer.

      1. kitryan*

        I think that it’s more likely that the actual llama groomer pretended they painted chocolate teapots.

    2. Coverage Associate*

      We didn’t have a well groomed traveling llama post early in the pandemic? I remember reading something about a business that would bring its llama to, eg birthday parties, and switched to having the llama attend zoom meetings. Was that not here?

      1. Sharpie*

        I seem to remember that it was. There were photos. The llamas were exceedingly cute. I believe there were even graduation photos though I don’t remember what they were graduating from!

        1. Hlao-roo*

          The llamas were to celebrate the graduation of college seniors (via Zoom)! The original post was #6 of “I gave relationship advice to my employee, company won’t hire me because of where I live, and more” on April 24, 2020. There was also an update, #4 of “updates: coworker reported a colleague for injuring a client but it wasn’t true, and more” on December 15, 2022. Links in a follow-up comment.

      2. New Jack Karyn*

        I dang near sprang for the Zoom llama to join one of my classes, but I decided it might violate my students’ anonymity and FERPA laws.

    3. winter frog*

      What if ChatGPT or some other LLM uses AAM as a source of training data?
      AI: “Llama grooming sure is complicated!”
      (proceeds to dump all sorts of hallucinatory llama grooming “facts” on its users”)

  17. LobsterPhone*

    I work for State government and our HR is the same as OP1 – we had a serial offender who was making inappropriate remarks and harassing female colleagues, behaving aggressively towards anyone who annoyed him. He also took a lot of satisfaction from knowing you were bothered by him and would double down on whatever it was you asked him to stop. They wouldn’t take action unless we’d a) told the offender at the time that his actions were unacceptable and b) were prepared to meet in person with HR and the offender to discuss the situation. I’d been brushing his comments off for years but eventually said I’d compile a list of those remarks for HR to use as evidence to support other reports and they said no thanks, you didn’t say anything to him at the time so we can’t put it on record. One of the female employees he was borderline stalking was actually in the HR team. He was eventually shuffled out during a restructure.

    1. Generic Name*

      It enrages me the great lengths people/organizations will go to protect problematic men while ignoring the safety of women. When I reported a guy who had been sexually harassing me for years, the takeaway message I got was, “Well, why didn’t you report it sooner?” I have a trauma background, and the reason why I didn’t report him was it actually didn’t occur to me that I didn’t have to sit there and pretend to laugh along at his unfunny “jokes” that made me feel uncomfortable.

  18. Famous Amos*

    RE #1: I have been through enough of my own senseless bullying and worked under so much obvious incompetence, I have to wonder if a lot of people have something on somebody else for blackmailing purposes so they can keep their jobs. Or I just don’t understand some key aspect of working life and that keeps me unable to work this nonsense in my favor.

    1. pally*

      There’s no one in your corner with these situations. HR exists to protect the company from legal action and liability. They are not there to protect the employee (unless they perceive a liability issue).

      Bullying is not illegal- unless it’s bullying of a person because they are of a protected class. Hence, HR and management are not going to lift a finger to end the bullying of an employee.

      Really the only thing one can do to protect oneself is to leave.

      1. Student*

        Even if Sam does get dealt with – by the company, police, or both – all of the management problems that allowed Sam to succeed at this shtick will persist. A new version of Sam may well emerge. Changing jobs would be prudent, whether or not the OP takes other measures.

      2. Anchee*

        No. Everyone is in a protected class. For example, bullying a man because he’s a man is still not ok.

        1. I Have RBF*

          Yeah, like the woman who was ragging on a bodybuilder because she didn’t like muscles and was trying to goad him into some sort of rage so she could wreck his life.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Interestingly, I’m not sure that’s gender discrimination! It’s terrible behavior, of course, but it’s not based on him being a man, per se. And if I remember correctly it was all actually to plug her MLM?

        2. Kelly L.*

          Basically, everyone is in all the protected classes, except age, which is just for over 40. It’s not the person who “is in” the protected class, but the trait. Race is protected no matter what race. Same for sex, national origin, etc.

  19. emmelemm*

    Regarding #1/the death threat: OK, so your company won’t do anything specific about the death threat or address it with Sam unless you fully unanonymously participate in the investigation. Fine. But what about the undermining of your work? It seems like Sam has started his campaign to “discredit” you, but they have the texts right there that show that he has it out for you, and yet they’re believing him on whatever he says about you?

    The whole thing is bananas.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      It sounds like Sam has a history of undermining people’s work and being successful, so I wouldn’t be optimistic.

  20. Coverage Associate*

    Re #1, another reason to report to police is that there are free victim resources that may be available. I have heard of counseling and lock changes being offered through victim compensation funds (even when the crime had nothing to do with the home). Large jurisdictions may have a coordinator just to help OP access resources. In addition, if there’s a prosecution, law enforcement can craft a no-contact order as part of those proceedings, rather than OP having to get a restraining order on their own (or with an attorney OP pays). The order could let the work relationship continue, but limit it to only necessary communications and only through particular channels, like only email and no phone calls.

    Or law enforcement may completely drop the ball. These things do vary a whole lot.

    A personal lawyer for OP could help with a restraining order like I described if law enforcement is no help.

    1. connie*

      OP may not need to involve police in getting a restraining or protective order at all. In my jurisdiction it helps to have a police report, but these are two different streams. The orders are granted through the court, not the police. Orders become a police matter after violation, not before.

      1. Coverage Associate*

        Agreed. But if law enforcement is gung-ho to prosecute and arrest, it can be a condition of pre-trial release to stay away from OP. And if the prosecutor arranges that, taxpayers are paying the lawyer involved.

        OP can certainly request a TRO regardless of what law enforcement does, and probably should even if there’s an order as part of a prosecution, but OP will either have to represent themselves through the TRO process, or pay a lawyer.

  21. An Honest Nudibranch*

    LW #1, if you’re not job searching, I would recommend starting doing that. Even in the best case scenario where this ends with Sam being held accountable – your CEO and HR have shown themselves to be extremely willing to put up with blatant retaliation, and that’s near impossible to change when it’s going on that high up. Unless the company has a near complete restructuring or gets sense knocked into them by lawsuits, I can almost guarantee it will stay this disastrous as long as they refuse to protect employees making good faith reports.

    But in the meantime – lawyers. Lawyers are good. The retaliation you’ve described happening before with Sam is almost certainly illegal, so bring that too. Emphasize the “HR refuses to handle death threats unless I reveal myself as the reporter to this person who knows my physical address and phone number” aspect. And if it’s gotten to the point where you’re actively afraid for your safety, I’d inform the police as well.

    1. allathian*

      Even if the LW isn’t actively afraid for their safety yet, making death threats is illegal in and of itself. Even if they don’t do anything about it now, it’s on the record in case something worse happens. And maybe HR will be less sanguine about protecting this guy when he has a police record.

    2. What would you do for a Klondike Bar*

      Is there any chance what they meant was “we want to make sure you know that when we speak to Sam about it, Sam will probably know you reported it”? Because that’s likely true …
      My own hunch is that this is exactly what the company said.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Even if that’ correct, I would still take the view that reporting a death threat to the police is the appropriate response, and also speaking directly to a lawyer an about any other steps OP can take – both an employment lawyer about the pattern of retaliation and undermining, and where OP would stand if she quits to keep herself safe, and about the company’s responsibilities around the threat and this pattern of actions, and also about whether there are any issues around confidentiality (I assume that reporting a crime would mean it was legal to disclose internal emails, or however the threat was made, but OP might want some advice as it sounds as though her office is not normal) also possibly (probably a different lawyer) about an injunction / restraining order against Sam personally . (In the jurisdiction where I live, you’d report the death threats to the police and if Sam was arrested / charged he could begiven bail conditions not to contact OP, but if OP wanted a formal injunction order that would be a separate application made in the civil court in the first instance – I don’t know if that’s the same where OP is or if the police deal directly with restraining orders. Presumably the wording of the order might prevent Sam from being in the office if he were to be forbidden to go to her home or place of work and/or if he was not allowed within a set distance of her

      2. Observer*

        My own hunch is that this is exactly what the company said.

        Given the rest of what the OP has said, I think that this is actually not the most likely scenario. Because as Alison pointed out, there are ways around it. Instead, not only are they not formally investigating, they explicitly pretending that they don’t know about it and allowing Sam to cause problems for the OP.

    3. Dinwar*

      “LW #1, if you’re not job searching, I would recommend starting doing that.”

      I wouldn’t be job searching. This is a situation where I’d go into the office and say “Either you address this NOW or I’m out.” Remember, two weeks is a courtesy, and you absolutely do not owe courtesy to someone who considers a threat against your life to be trivial. Further, as others have said the company has clearly shown that they are willing to disregard illegal acts. I would be shocked if this company wasn’t engaging in other illegal activities, or if the employees weren’t. It’s rare that someone gets to the point where they threaten someone via text without engaging in a number of illegal activities first. You DO NOT want to be caught in that, especially since it’s pretty clear you’re going to be the one to take the fall (someone willing to allow an employee to be murdered will have no qualms about using them to be the fall guy).

        1. Czhorat*

          Yeah. Walking out without having a place to go is really tough if you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck or even anything close to that. Also, if you rely on an employer health care plan you might be on the hook for a huge sum to continue that via COBRA.

          I wish OP could say “take this job and shove it”, but that’s not always a choice.

        2. Dinwar*

          How much money would it take for you to allow yourself to remain in a situation where you are likely to be murdered? How is “Likely eat a bullet” a better outcome than “Be in financial hardship”? And remember, the company has already indicated that they don’t care.

          If this person had made a verbal threat I’d be reacting differently. But he made an actionable threat via electronic communications. I’ve seen this sort of thing before (I’ve been on the receiving end a few times); once they cross the line into making threats that are admissible in court, it’s a very good sign that they don’t care about the consequences any longer. It is absolutely reasonable to treat this as a matter of life and death, and I would argue (again, because of the indication that the person no longer cares) that it’s irrational not to.

          This sort of situation is precisely why horizontal social ties (family, friends, religious institutions, and the like) exist. I understand it can be extremely uncomfortable, but unless you owe a loan shark a few tens of thousands of dollars it’s almost certain that financial hardship is going to be a better outcome than remaining.

          1. Chirpy*

            My apartment complex will start eviction proceedings if you’re even two weeks late on rent. I know because one time there was an office mixup and several people including myself who had paid on time got letters. I get paid so little that I don’t typically have enough savings for a full extra month’s rent, so quitting without another job isn’t something I could afford to do. The OP might be in the same boat. An eviction also makes it extremely difficult to get a new apartment, and being homeless makes it much harder to get a new job. So, sure, your life is not worth the job, but many people can’t afford to just quit because those lateral ties don’t or can’t always come through for you.

          2. Student*

            You give the death threat a lot of credence. While I can understand your analysis here, I think it comes off as a bit naive.

            Most people who threaten to kill you are bluffing to intimidate you. Most people with an active plan to commit murder are not going to warn the victim in advance so directly. If you call people’s bluff on this, they may get aggressive or violent – but they probably will not actually try to kill you. Regrettably, I am telling you this from personal experience on both sides of the coin.

            While it can and does happen, workplace murders are actually rare. There are a lot more workplace murder threats than actual workplace murders. I think people who are not “used” to this physically aggressive behavior may find it extremely jarring – rightly so – but there are some job fields and regions where this kind of verbal threatening and posturing is considered common and widely acceptable, within its own set of internal cultural rules. I grew up in such a place. I was quite glad to leave it, and it’d be considered completely beyond the pale in the area I now live and work in.

            That said, there should be zero tolerance of these kinds of threats. This kind of …culture… should go extinct.

            1. Observer*

              You give the death threat a lot of credence. While I can understand your analysis here, I think it comes off as a bit naive.

              Not naive at all. Especially since the OP gives it credence. There is absolutely nothing in the letter to make anyone think that the OP doesn’t know their situation and what Sam is like and capable of.

              Most people who threaten to kill you are bluffing to intimidate you.

              As others noted, that tends to be in person *not in writing*. But again “most” is not relevant here – the OP believes that Sam is serious, and is capable of trying to seriously harm them if it comes down to it.

          3. Glomarization, Esq.*

            This is bordering on insensitive and victim-shaming. The fact of the matter is, there are plenty of people who absolutely cannot up and quit their job with nothing lined up and it’s quite a bit more than “uncomfortable” to be in that situation. Your comment uses a lot of the language aimed against women who find themselves unable to leave abusive relationships. Do better with your comments.

            1. Dinwar*

              So if someone threatens to kill my my response is supposed to be “Oh that’d be inconvenient, but I have rent due.” I am supposed to value money more than my actual life. Suggesting that one’s life is the most important thing is victim-shaming and abusive towards women. Got it.

          4. Lizzo*

            You’re making an awful lot of assumptions about the financial and social safety nets that might be available to the Letter Writer if they up and quit their job with nothing else lined up, not to mention the implications of losing health insurance. Access to those things = privilege. Please examine yours.

        3. Observer*

          The LW might not be in a position to quit on the spot without anything lined up.

          The problem here is that the OP may not have a choice. If they are lucky, they get fired – HR is clearly on Sam’s side, and it looks like they have informed them that the OP has complained. In any case, Sam is already waging a war against the OP that seems to be getting some traction. And that’s on top of the fact that when there really is a significant credible threat, that does kind of over-ride financial issues – even severe and significant ones.

          That’s why I mentioned documenting – quitting in these circumstances is more likely to enable them to get unemployment insurance than being “fired for (phony) cause”.

        4. Anne Shirley*

          If she’s in the U.S., there might be red tape to get unemployment, but it’s worth considering as an option (if nothing else, for some mental comfort). She certainly will have proof of an unsafe, unworkable situation.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        In an ideal world that would absolutely be the path.

        But this sadly isn’t an ideal world. Telling someone to ‘just leave’ an abusive situation (which this is) is a nice tidy answer that often has a lot of barriers against it.

        I did once walk out of a job because of an abusive situation that had me fearing for my life – but I had the enormous privilege of not having to pay rent or a mortgage.

    4. Observer*

      I would recommend starting doing that. Even in the best case scenario where this ends with Sam being held accountable – your CEO and HR have shown themselves to be extremely willing to put up with blatant retaliation, and that’s near impossible to change when it’s going on that high up.

      Unfortunately, I think that you are completely correct. The rot is at the top, and in every important part of the place.

      The sheer orwellin-ness of an “ethics” office behaving soooo unethically is hard to wrap my ahead around..

      1. I Have RBF*

        IMO, that “ethics” hotline is a trojan horse to find out who actually has ethics in that company and get rid of them. That and a sop to legitimacy – “See, we even have an ethics hotline! We can’t be operating illegally if no one complains to the ethics line…”

  22. Coverage Associate*

    Re #2, I spent a lot of time pricing out various international flights for a vacation today, and some things affected the prices a bunch and others not. I did see a lot of variation based on day of the week, both outbound and return.

    I could see how easy this is for OP depending on how rigid the employer is on travel expenses generally. My current employer will gladly pay a couple hundred dollars more for flights if it avoids a long layover, but I have had employers where I always attached cost comparisons to expense reports for even strictly work travel, because they always complained about something I did, like book a room with breakfast included that was only more expensive by an amount less than my allowance for breakfast.

    1. JustaTech*

      The one time I’ve flown internationally for work I got a call from our finance people because while the rules state that you are expected to fly business class if the flight is over a specific distance (more than across North America), you’re not allowed to do that within the US.
      The problem was that they waited so long to approve my trip that all the direct flights were booked, so I was going to have to stop in New York on my way to Europe, but I’d booked business class the whole way, which showed up as first class to New York (not allowed).
      “Can’t you re-book as coach?”
      “I am booked as business class as stated in our regulations, I can’t control what the airline describes the flight as, and if I re-booked I would lose all my flights and double the cost, so no.”
      “Oh, ok.”

      1. Coverage Associate*

        I am super anal about my travel arrangements and wasn’t thrilled when I learned my job used a business travel agency, but I love that they handle documentation for me. I usually research my trip before I call them (same as I would if I were handling everything for myself, or for a vacation) and tell them what flights and hotel I want, and it’s usually not a problem.

        But even this job can get unreasonable. I once had to fly from the Bay Area to the Inland Empire, and my boss insisted I take Southwest. I had checked Southwest, and there really weren’t convenient flights from San Francisco to a reasonable SoCal airport. My boss was so insistent, he checked himself and sent me the results. He was looking at Oakland. Yeah, not extending the hardest part of the travel to bill for by an hour going and coming back for his ego.

  23. Ludo*

    #5, if you haven’t already, ask if anyone wants the AC seat

    personally I would adore a blast of cold air on my face all all time (speaking from experience, I had it at one job and loved it)

  24. Nene Poppy*

    LW1 – Sam put his threat in a message – proper evidence. Perhaps in the past, his threats may have just been verbal; but, that he felt comfortable enough to put it in writing means that the company enabling him is actually making him more dangerous. Even if not for your physical safety but your mental wellbeing.

    Consider the company are part of Sam’s gang and you are expendable – possibly literally.

    Go to the police AND a lawyer.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’ve removed a long derailing discussion about this. Once it’s been flagged, y’all, please move on so the whole discussion doesn’t derail on it. (I’m now closing this thread.)

  25. UKgreen*

    LW2: very normal! In the pre-plague times I used to travel to the US, to Spain, and to Asia to deliver training, and would almost always extend my trip by a few days, just paying for my hotel/meals for the extra days I was on holiday.

  26. Jinni*

    LW2: please ask. This is how I’ve visited Japan,Korea, China, Czech Republic and Hungary. Also if you’re allowed to use your own credit card, some offer free companion tickets for international travel. It’s how my then spouse did these trips together.

    As a bonus, if your activity is beforehand, you can solve jet lag issues, and work more refreshed.

  27. TooBusyThingsToDo*

    LW1 – yikes, police.

    LW2 – totally common. Usually your company travel policy has rules and procedures on this, like you need to get estimates of the standard trip (eg, flying and hotel for only the approved travel dates) and then the costs of the deviations, and if they are the same, it’s all paid. If not, you take on the difference. I would get those estimates regardless of whether needed, so you have a paper trail. When I travel I also often book on different sites than our travel booking site, which is allowed, but I get a screen shot of what the travel booking site is showing, to demonstrate why I am not using it (usually a cost or itinerary reason).

    LW4 – don’t put the cart before the horse!

  28. Cat's Paw for Cats*

    OP1, this is not an employment matter, this is a police matter. Please get them involved immediately.

  29. TeapotNinja*

    LW1, ask someone authoritative at the company what do you think their liability would be, if Sam follows through with his threat after the company was notified. At the same time make sure to casually mention that you’ve made the evidence of the threat, and their lack of response available to and the police to make sure in the case anything happens, there’s a paper trail.

    1. Zzzzzz*

      No, don’t waste time with this. At all. This will enable the company to destroy any evidence they have before they are told by a lawyer that they have to KEEP all evidence under threat of law (also, who thinks someone whose life is under literal life-threat has the presence of mind to state any of these things calmly, or even look for another job as some have suggested? It’s most likely taking all mental and physical strength to just get through the day!).

      Go to the police. Go to an employment lawyer. And if legal fees are worrisome: this is the kind of case an employment lawyer takes on contingency–you pay nothing up front; they take a % after the fact.

      Good luck!

      1. HonorBox*

        Totally agree. First, any good employer is going to be considering this. Second, as you said, a bad company (which this appears to be) is going to try to get rid of evidence as quickly as possible and brush it under the rug.

        Bringing a lawyer and the police into the situation will definitely ensure evidence is preserved… or there will be larger problems.

        OP should ensure there is a paper trail just in case the company plays fast and loose with the evidence. Save emails. Forward pertinent information to personal emails and the lawyer ASAP, especially if there’s a way to show what was already sent to the company.

      2. Observer*

        This will enable the company to destroy any evidence they have before they are told by a lawyer that they have to KEEP all evidence under threat of law

        Agreed. Completely. At this point, the OP has absolutely zero reason to believe that the company will act appropriately. They should not waste their energy or headspace on trying to make that happen.

        <i.also, who thinks someone whose life is under literal life-threat has the presence of mind to state any of these things calmly, or even look for another job as some have suggested? It’s most likely taking all mental and physical strength to just get through the day!

        I’m not sure what you are getting at. Clearly the OP is looking for ways to deal with this, and even had the wherewithal to write to Allison. So they are clearly not paralyzed.

        It’s one thing for the initial shock to immobilize someone, but the OP is past that. Also, for many people doing something that has some chance of being helpful is emotionally easier that just waiting for the next round of terribleness. And clearly the OP is someone what can take action – they had enough presence of mind take a screen shot to give to the (un)”ethics” hotline.

  30. I should really pick a name*

    Is there a reason you feel you need to let her down beforehand?

    Just let her apply, and if she doesn’t get the job, she doesn’t get it. Who knows, maybe it will turn out that she actually has the skills.

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      Well, and letting her know is also just borrowing trouble. She may not even end up applying and then you’ve soured the work relationship for no reason.

    2. Sloanicota*

      I agree. You don’t have to be super encouraging of the employee if you don’t think she’s a good fit, but it’s really not up to you to prevent people from applying to things. She may be owed an interview as an internal candidate or you may have such a strong pool of applicants that it doesn’t make sense to even offer that. If she asks you to be a reference I see why that’s more awkward, but there are ways to politely decline or at least warn that you can’t be unreservedly positive. If you trust the process, presumably there will be better applicants (and you can also probably put in your two cents along the way) without damaging the relationship by telling her not to even try.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      One way to straddle the line might be to let her know upper management wants to consider people from outside the company because it lets them get new perspectives.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        ie they’ll consider internal applications but it’s not a major boost to BE the internal applicant.

        1. Sloanicota*

          To be fair perhaps OP is feeling weird because they hope their own promotion will be internal with no interview, and perhaps they don’t have some unusual education credit either, so they may have to explain why that was possible for them but might not be an option for this coworker. It might help OP to review the job description for their own new role as well as their old one, perhaps updating the latter to reflect the current status

      2. ferrina*

        Yep, I think this is a good line to take. Let her apply, but let her know that it will be competitive. That also means that LW isn’t locking themselves into not taking her if she’s the best candidate. LW can truly evaluate the candidates against each other and pick the one that is the best fit.

    4. All Het Up About It*

      Agree. Also – LW can downplay her own promotion. “Nothing is confirmed yet. Internal promotions are not always guaranteed. etc. etc.”

      It’s good because 1) It’s true and 2) It let’s the co-worker know that their own possible promotion falls under the same not a sure thing banner.

    5. UKDancer*

      Yes. I’ve had people in my team want to go for more senior jobs and I’ve not felt they had the skills. But by and large unless they ask specifically if I think they’re ready, I don’t try and influence their decision whether to apply or not. They are welcome to have a go and if they don’t have the right skills then they probably won’t get it.

      If it’s an internal job and they’re not successful I do try and encourage them to get feedback on the interview so they can look at what to improve.

  31. Martykal*

    As someone who has problems with attention, for #3, i want to see if most people in this situation rely heavily on verbal asks without deadlines?

    I recently started at a company that is predominantly verbal. I do much better with asks for tasks in writing, or even better, a ticketing system with auto reminders and deadlines.

    It’s been a struggle for me to keep up after coming from cultures where people convey needs and tasks in writing. I don’t see how people keep up with the train of verbal asks, and something I will prove far more in future interviews.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      The thing that irks me about the verbal culture is that I would need to implement my own issue-tracking system. Unless these are literally 2-minute tasks, and I never end up with a queue of more than a half-dozen of them.

    2. Myrin*

      Possibly I’m misunderstanding you so in that case please disregard but OP says “Almost every time I email the certificate and ask that the record be updated, I have to email again […] to remind them of the task. Usually when I email the second time, the task is completed within a few hours.”, meaning the whole affair takes place in writing.
      Or do you mean that the llama records team is possibly dealing with a lot of verbal tasks (made by people who aren’t OP) and as such, the written ones get moved further down the line?

    3. FashionablyEvil*

      You can ask for things in writing! “I get a lot of these requests and it’s much easier to make sure I get you what you need if you send the request via email with a due date.”

      1. ferrina*

        Yes! I’ve done this. Sometimes I even add “I’m sorry, I’m in the middle of something and I want to make sure I don’t forget any of the details. Please email this to me, and I’ll be happy to take care of this.”

        The added bonus is that if you are in a place where there is a lot of wishful “you can do this, right?”, it means people only send you tasks if they are willing to take 5 minutes writing it down. I’ve seen a surprising amount of requests dissapear when I asked the other person to invest a whole 5 minutes into it.

        Caveat: don’t do this with very senior people. Some of those folks really do make sense for them to give verbal task requests and for you to take it down. In those cases, I would compose the email to myself so it was still in my written system.

        1. WestsideStory*

          This. When you receive a verbal request, make an email for yourself – no one else has to see it, but it’s a good way to keep a running list, as most mail systems allow some kind of flagging for follow ups.

        2. I Have RBF*

          I regularly tell people to send me an email or put it in chat. Why? Because I have memory issues such that verbal requests, unless I can write them down immediately, might as well not exist.

          “But I told you I needed X!”
          “I don’t recall any email or chat about it.”
          “I told you in the hallway!”
          “If I’m not at my desk where I can write things down it doesn’t stick.”
          “Why can’t you just remember, FFS!”
          “For the same reason that I only have the use of one hand and walk with a limp.”

          Yes, return awkward to sender. My previous stroke means that I have a sieve for a memory. If it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist.

          But there are a lot of reasons that people don’t remember verbal requests – ADHD, TBI, fatigue, etc.

          If you want a thing done, put the request in writing. It’s not that hard, and then you aren’t demanding things of people’s memories that may not be there.

          1. Lucia Pacciola*

            I find that “yes, I can totally do that! Please shoot me an email, and I’ll get started as soon as I see it. Thanks!” works really well, and avoids a lot of unnecessary awkwardness.

      2. Jaydee*

        Seconding this! When people come to you with a verbal request, ask them to send you an email. Or take a second while they’re talking and email yourself (you can even copy them on the email if you want).

    4. Kelly L.*

      I’m also wondering about this. It reads to me like OP may not be clear the first time about what the deadline is, and when she brings it back up, the employee is like “Oh, I guess that’s a rush” and moves it to the front burner.

      I say this as someone who used to work for a boss who said “no rush” and meant “super duper mega rush”!

    5. Lucia Pacciola*

      I think LW #3 should also allow for the possibility that the first request gets the task into the other team’s queue, and the second request expedites the task on a “squeaky wheel gets the grease” basis. It could even be the case that the team is so busy handling squeaky wheel interrupts that their normal queue-clearing process has been completely superseded.

    6. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      Can you send email to the requestors? “Today you asked for xyz. I’ll have that ready for you by tomorrow lunchtime.”

      Then you snooze the email you just sent so it gets sent back to you (only you!) as a reminder.

    7. Bunny Lake Is Found*

      My thought was (like others) that LW3 possibly doesn’t register that the person may not have simply ignored their first request, it’s just that they have other more pressing tasks. Then once LW3 sends a “is there a reason you haven’t done this?!” email, their coworker has to drop everything to deal with uploading something into the system.

      But then, I found the “why do I have to ask you twice” to be a bit condescending. Unless something is urgent (or you gave a deadline and got no response of “I’m sorry, I am unable to get that to you in that time frame”), following up in 3 days and claiming you had to “ask someone twice” feels a bit overwrought. It is also possible that there is more to this–like LW3 legitimately cannot do their job and will end up needing to work OT or something because their “simple” task is not their co-worker’s most pressing concern. And this would be more of a problem of discussing the issue instead of accusing the co-worker of being forgetful or negligent in their duty.

  32. VP of Monitoring Employees' LinkedIn Profiles*


    I have done that several times within the U.S. with zero ill effects. (“You want me to go to that week-long conference? I’ll visit family while I’m there. See you in a month.”)

  33. For #2*

    For #2 the issue might be that you want to take PTO *before* the conference and not after (for all I know it is much more comment to extend travel after such events rather than before). Even if it doesn’t sound like you (or your employer) are the organisers, there is usually quite a bit of work to be done in preparation for such conferences. Think, preparing talking points for you or your higher ups, reading materials in advance and so on. Also, depending on your sector, the programme of the conference might be shifting up until the last minute and you want to keep an eye on those changes in case they impact your participation in some way. Honestly, in some sectors conferences/events are not even confirmed up until a few days prior, so the fact that you would assume with more than one week of advance that the conference will indeed take place with the same format, days and so on might be a bit of a stretch…

    1. MK*

      I have never known a conference to change its programme in a way that will affect participation. Assuming OP is attending the whole conference and not skipping anything for their own hobby, any changes won’t matter or affect their travel. Also, unless OP is presenting, there won’t be any work that needs to be done beforehand, except maybe some reading.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Depends on type of conference.
        Someone manning an engineering demo booth might be heavily involved with transporting & setting up equipment. I hadn’t thought of that to be honest.

    2. Agreed*

      I was looking for this comment, and surprised that it didn’t come up sooner. In my experience it would be unthinkable to take PTO just before a conference. That’s when you butn the midnight oil, there’s so much to do to prepare. The days after the conference are a bit better, but it still would be an exception.
      Bottom line, know your company and read your audience before asking.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        That’s true if you’re a presenter or sponsor or some other active participant. If you’re just attending, then a conference is like any other work meeting and it’s fine to take time off beforehand. I got the impression that the LW is simply an attendee, not part of the conference itself.

  34. ecnaseener*

    For #3 I’m guessing it has to do with the lack of a stated deadline. You clearly have a deadline in your head for these requests that’s less than 3 days away – maybe a week turnaround is fine for most of the requests they get, so that’s their default deadline. Still ask what would help on their end, but I bet the answer will be “put your deadline in the email.”

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I was thinking the same thing, a couple of days to a week doesn’t seem that long to me – and I am not a patient person!

      Unless the recipient has a stated timeline, or promised to post the certification the same day they received it, or is processing an off-cycle payment, or is handling something more time-sensitive, I can’t see how one would ‘have to’ ask twice.

    2. Fluffy Fish*

      this was along the lines of my first thought – 3-4 days for something to get a response is not long at all. I know for me, I’m not exactly thrilled with colleagues who think they get to set my workflow timeline.

      if there is no urgent deadline I think the advice is different.

      OP may want it done in 4 days and it may be “simple” but the department likely has its own workflow and isn’t simply sitting around waiting to process OP’s requests. OP should ask what the normal turn around time is for processing their requests and follow-up after that.

    3. Antilles*

      That jumped out at me too. The lack of a stated deadline *also* explains why the certificate suddenly gets updated within hours of the second email:
      -They read the first email and think that it’s not urgent since you haven’t specified a timeframe, so they plan to do it on the default timeline. No hurry, I’ll get to it later in the week when things clear up.
      -They get the second email and they’re like “oh, didn’t realize this was urgent” so they rearrange their schedule to jump on it ASAP.

      If I know upfront that you need the certificate uploaded today, I can rearrange things to have you jump the queue and get that done. If you don’t indicate that it’s time-critical or urgent, I’m going to assume it’s something I can get to later in the week and slot you in accordingly.

      1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        This is it exactly. I have a similar cross-departmental tasking situation in my role and I rely heavily on my coworkers sending me the request to a) understand that the complexity of the request can vary greatly and b) if there is a particular urgency (usually because of the client’s circumstances) to make me aware of it.

  35. Zarniwoop*

    A workaround would be to just assume that (for whatever inexplicable reason) you will always have to ask twice, and do so.

    1. ferrina*

      This was my first thought. I know a few of my colleagues automatically disregard my emails, and I’ll need to ask twice before they realize it actually applies to them. I’m not offended- I’m not the CEO or Payroll, so I don’t expect to be the top of everyone’s priorities.

    2. Devo Forevo*

      I manage the llama records department and we hate to keep people waiting on us – the entire point of is to make things run smoothly for everyone else! OP3, this is something your manager should talk to their manager about. We have a shared inbox for these requests as well as a way to submit them through our project management platform if there are, say, a bunch of llama record updates to make at once. We confirm in writing when something’s finished and ready for the next step. If someone has to ask twice, I’m not doing my job.

  36. Fly*

    My husband had planned to go home (overseas) to see his family this October, and his work scheduled a conference the week before in a big city close by. Jackpot! He now has his tickets paid for (except for a small internal flight) and will just extend his trip into his vacation. It’s always been common practice to just blend work into vacation–especially when you have a good worker and it costs you $0.

  37. Bookworm*

    #1: No advice, just that I’m so sorry you’re going through that. Good luck and you stay safe.

  38. Ellis Bell*

    OP1, be very wary of a company who is only using the word “investigation” rather than “fire” and further, seems very unsure of how to safely fire a potentially violent employee. For one thing, even if they were gung ho about firing him, I am extremely concerned that they would want to do so while justifying themselves and overly pinning the blame on you, which is not protecting you in the slightest. If you read Gavin De Beckers Gift of Fear chapters in the workplace, you will see that the worst outcomes come from firing people too slowly, and then firing them with far too much background blame and recrimination to pin on one or more people, so the fired employee, with nothing to lose and having been given a boxing ring set up, inevitably hits out. One employer in the book put their violent employee in the boxing ring with the main complainant while “investigating” and then were mystified about why he targeted her at work, post firing. They then forced her to get a restraining order, which she was afraid of doing, but did so on the point of being fired herself. The outcome for her was not good. The firing needs to be swift, with generalised and impersonal reasons, positive, businesslike and dignified for Sam with the realisation that it’s too late for recriminations and too ridiculous to coach an adult out of death threats; therefore they should not be mentioned, even if the company is acutely aware of them. This is not a company who can handle any of those things. They are just going to shove you in the boxing ring of an investigation, let him target you, and history has shown they’ll let you be knocked out. Just get out of there because they are as much of a problem as he is.

    1. Generic Name*


      If you truly feel threatened by this person, do what your gut tells you is safe. You would not be out of line to quit with nothing lined up. This company cares more about protecting problematic employees than your own safety. Get out.

      1. I Have RBF*


        That place is full of bees. A bully is literally threatening your life, but they all love the bully and won’t lift a finger to help you while he destroys your job and possibly your life.

        “Why are you looking to leave your current company?”
        “A coworker threatened my life but the company won’t do anything.”

  39. pally*

    #1: does this situation qualify as a hostile work environment?

    If it were me, I wouldn’t set foot on the work site after receiving such a threat. And take additional measures to protect myself.

    Over the top? Yeah, maybe. But you never know how deranged someone might be when they issue death threats.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      Probably not (replying with a link to Alison’s post on the topic).

      Not to say it isn’t incredibly serious, it’s just that hostile work environment has a very specific legal meaning.

    2. New Jack Karyn*

      Unless Sam’s behaviors (or the company’s) are centered around the victims’ being members of a protected class, then it is not a hostile work environment in the legal sense.

  40. nope*

    Everyone is saying “police” but I gotta be honest, I wouldn’t expect them to actually do much. Definitely do report it! But mostly for CYA/paper trail reasons and getting it outside of the org, but I think the lawyer is probably the one who will light a fire under HR’s ass. Either they’ll actually deal with Sam (less likely) or they’ll be willing to part with some money to make you go away.

    But also job search because what a horrible place to work. Get out and never look back, LW!

    1. TyphoidMary*

      agreed, doing it so you can cover your bases is reasonable, but if this is in the U.S. I would be extremely surprised if the police acted on this at all. I would guess a lawyer would be the one that could provide some leverage for OP1.

      OP1, wishing you all the best for your safety and peace of mind.

  41. James J*

    OP#2 – at age 28 I got staffed on a project including 10 days of travel to India. I tacked on five days at the back end and had a once in a lifetime vacation. DO IT.

  42. SeriouslySpeaking*

    Regarding post number 1: I once worked for a religious organization and shared with an office with two women. My job duties were completely different from theirs.. One woman who took a dislike to me threatened to come in with a gun. She bragged about owning a shotgun and a handgun. Needless to say, I reported this to HR more than once. An HR rep went around the office asking anyone if they heard this. Of course, they didn’t. But my boss, the two women, and others knew I was the one who reported her.

    They closed the case so to speak that this was a cultural thing, What?!

    Same person, as I discovered later, spent every morning complaining to our boss about me. When it came to layoffs a few months later, I was the first to go. A number of years later, I ran into a former colleague who had worked in the office next door. The sane woman with the gun had knock down drag out fights with the boss and was out and out fired.

    I still feel that HR could have handled this better.

  43. Delta Delta*

    #1 – Lawyer here. Going to suggest first talking to a lawyer about this situation before doing anything else. Sure, you could go to the police. But depending on your jurisdiction, there may or may not be a criminal threatening statute, and the police may be unable to do anything. Or, more likely, there is a criminal threatening statute, and it’s relatively toothless. Or that police don’t actively pursue things like this, or that if they do, prosecutors don’t do much with them. Don’t flame me for this – it’s just part of the reality of crime reporting and prosecution in some places. that’s why it’s potentially helpful to go to a lawyer (for many reasons), because they can help assess whether it’s beneficial to make a police report or not, and also to help make plans for going forward.

    The other thing to consider is if the police do an investigation and then do nothing, it’s alerted Sam to the fact of the investigation, which may invite additional harassment/threats from Sam. OP may not want that for their own sake, and may give this some pretty serious thought. On the other hand, if it does invite additional bad actions from Sam, it potentially turns this into a pattern of harassment, which might rise to the level of stalking (it would in my jurisdiction), which hopefully, would be taken seriously.

    Putting all this aside, the employer has clearly shown OP they want nothing to do with reining in a deeply problematic employee. OP would be wise to get out.

  44. Dinwar*

    #2: The ability to extend work trips to take personal vacations is not only a perfectly normal request, but in my line of work it’s often considered one of the standard perks of the job. Some project managers use it as a way to encourage people to come to their projects–we work near some really, really cool areas (for people in my line of work, anyway), and it’s not uncommon at all for project managers to let people know about nearby amenities and interesting destinations in order to convince people to come.

    You’ve done everything right. The company has to pay for the flight there and back anyway, and they don’t really care when those flights occur (within reason, and a few days is well within reason). You’ve offered to pay for hotel and food, and to use PTO, so there’s no additional cost to the company. If you’re using a rental it could get tricky–they don’t like to split payments–but often a week rental is cheaper than a daily rate anyway so you may end up saving the company money. At any rate, the cost is going to be minimal if you pay for your own gas.

  45. Plexi*

    The plexiglass shouldn’t be a big deal, if there isn’t another solution. For Covid my office installed them all over the place!

  46. Christmas Carol*


    If you’re comming from Canada, and French is your primary language, make sure your hobby is in the right Naples.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        “I accidentally sent my boss to Italy instead of Florida” from April 3, 2017 for those who haven’t read it.

  47. KatieP*

    OP#1 – Please contact the police and a lawyer. I’m so sorry that your employer has bungled this so badly.

    OP#2 – this is perfectly normal, and common. One of my tasks is to approve travel expenses, and I see this often. The one thing that trips my travelers up is that our employer requires documentation of what the flight would have cost without the extra time. Our travelers sometimes forget to get that documentation. So, my advice is to talk to whoever will approve your travel expenses, and find out if you need to submit any cost estimate documentation.

  48. Czhorat*

    I don’t usually leap to firing people, but Sam should be fired, immediately, with no references and no chance at re-hire. Literal death threats against another employee are SO far beyond both professional norms and legal boundaries that someone who does so – especially as leverage to avoid whistleblowing for other wrong behavior – should simply not be employed there anymore.

    The investigation should confirm that the screenshots are real, then acquaint Sam with the door.

    1. pally*

      Agreed! Wholeheartedly!

      Issue is: everyone – including CEO-likes Sam. So they are gonna do all they can to keep him. That includes minimizing his threats against OP. Maybe even making OP the “fall guy” here.

      Near impossible to win in such a situation. If the OP does manage to get Sam fired, there’s gonna be hard feelings towards the OP.

      I had a co-worker who management thought was so wonderful. She didn’t do much work though. And she used to chew me out for imagined faults. Even padded her timecard regularly. But when I went to management, they sided with her. It’s not possible for someone so sweet, to be so mean and deceitful.

      1. Czhorat*

        I agree. It’s just so much more unfathomable when it’s both so egregious AND with a written paper trail.

        Padding your timecard is a fireable offense most places, but it doesn’t come CLOSE to the level of literal threats of violence.

    2. The Shenanigans*

      He should be fired with a negative reference and hopefully a lawyer can negotiate that and enough severance to get through a job search for OP. That’s unfortunately more likely then cops giving a damn.

    3. Tiger Snake*

      I feel that if your company is saying it cannot accommodate anonymous whisteblowing, then someone needs to whistleblow against the company as well.

  49. Pastor Petty Labelle*

    #2 – go get your vacation.

    (long time readers will get the reference).

    Serioiusly, go ask. It’s normal. The worst they say is no.

    1. SarahKay*

      Great call back :-)
      And for OP#2, I know there are a couple of comments from people who have found that even asking *has* been an issue, but they’re definitely outliers – just look at how many more people have had no issues at all. If, for some reason, you asking is treated as a bad thing (truly, very unlikely) then the problem is with the company, *not* with you.

  50. Heather*

    That was a bizarre message from Sam even aside from the threats– why did they message you to say they were going to break policy? Was it something you were going to find out anyway?

    I’m so concerned that when somebody finally addresses it (whether that is HR or the police), Sam will say they were kidding. That shouldn’t be an excuse, but in a toxic workplace, I’m afraid your higher-ups will take it as one. I second the advice to try to get out now.

  51. ZSD*

    1. I’m so sorry you’re going through this. Sam is terrifying, and your HR is dangerously incompetent.
    As a side note, I’m wondering why Sam proactively contacted the OP to say that they were going to do something against company policy. Why not just do it and hope no one noticed? Were they just looking for an excuse to threaten the OP’s life?

  52. AvonLady Barksdale*

    LW #2: The only time I’ve heard of a company outright forbidding extended travel is when my friend’s company sent their entire US office to their East Asian headquarters. Of course everyone wanted to take a few extra days! The company said nope, because that would mean the whole US office would be out for an extended period. I think one guy got to do it and I don’t know his circumstances.

    I learned this because my friend told me about this business trip, and my response was, “Are you taking a few extra days to explore?” That’s how common/normal this is. I haven’t done it myself, but I don’t tend to go to places that are particularly exciting or even far away. Though the next time I go to my company’s headquarters, I promised my partner he could come and we would stay for a long weekend.

  53. Snooks*

    #1 Get a good background check done ASAP! Knowing whether the person has a history of violence will tell you how serious this is, In the meantime, do not engage with the employer. You already know they will not help, and they may just spur the person by making them angrier.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      a background check isnt going to be of any use. him having a violent past or not doesnt change that this should be taken as an actual death threat nor does it change OP’s course of action.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Yeah I agree – if Sam’s background check is clean, that doesn’t mean they haven’t been violent before and certainly doesn’t mean they won’t be violent in the future. To be safe, LW has to assume the threat could be credible.

    2. LilPinkSock*

      It’s a death threat. I don’t think LW needs to putz around with paying for a background check to tell them this is pretty serious.

    3. Observer*

      Get a good background check done ASAP! Knowing whether the person has a history of violence will tell you how serious this is,

      No, on two counts. Firstly, although a history of violence is a pretty good predictor that someone will be violent again, in most cases, *lack* of said history does not mean that there cannot or will not be a first time. When someone makes threats of that sort in this kind of context it’s dangerous wishful thinking to act as though it is not serious if the threatener has never done what they are threatening to do.

      Secondly, a background check might very well not even have that information, especially the kind of background check that the OP would have access to. Even if there is a documented history, basic background checks might easily not show that kind of information.

      The OP should not waste their time, energy and money on this. It’s not useful or relevant.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      Unfortunately there are lots of violent people who are in perfectly good standing with the law, and whose background records are flawless. They tend to use their violence discreetly and upon people whom they have power over. Finding a past history would mean that yes, OP should take this seriously, but they already do. Finding a lack of a recorded violent history is not cause enough to relax, sadly.

  54. Contrarian*

    op2, for a contrary opinion, I was sent to Columbus, Ohio for a week at a previous job and I asked to fly home on Sunday instead of Friday night so I could have one day to play tourist in a new to me city. You’d think I suggested committing a murder. I showed that the flights were significantly cheaper on the adjusted schedule (more than enough to pay for an extra night of hotel, although I didn’t ask them to do do) and I eventually convinced thdm to let me do it (it was clear to me that the damage was already done just by asking and it would not hurt anything by presenting logical reasons why it made sense – and perhaps by showing I was saving them money I could repair the damage I did by asking).

    I’ve since asked around a bit among friends and former colleagues and also seen how various other employers and some prospective employers handle this. It appears to be more normal to allow very senior people to add extra time to trips and less so the less senior you are (at least in tech). Companies are also more likely to allow it after (especially if they think you need to prep in any way for the trip).

    All of that said, your mileage may vary. If your company is really good about time off policies I’d guess they’d be more open to this type of arrangement.

    Good luck!

  55. Tricksie*

    LW#2 I hope it’s the Essen Game Fair and I hope you get to go! But whatever the event, this is a totally normal ask and my fingers are crossed for you.

  56. Oryx*

    OP #3 Sometimes, members from another department will come to me with a “simple” task. The thing is, just because something might be simple or perhaps doesn’t take too long for me to do, doesn’t mean I’m going to automatically bump it to the top of my work queue. It being a priority for you does not make it a priority for me, not unless we’ve had a discussion about it already and come to an agreement.

    It’s also not clear if you’re establishing a timeline with them when you send in the request. It seems like you have in your head 3-4 days, but do they know that (outside of you following up)? And, along those lines, if you do start giving deadlines of 3-4 days, you have to actually give them 3-4 days. I only say this because I’ve had people put in a request for a simple task with a deadline in a week and yet they start asking me about it 3 days in.

    I guess ultimately it just seems like it could be worth a conversation with them about expectations regarding timelines for these requests.

    1. Generic Name*

      Yeah, I’d adjust Alison’s suggested wording to ask what the standard turnaround time for such requests is. It could be that maybe the department handles all those requests once a week or something.

    2. Bunny Lake Is Found*

      Yep, this. LW3 is assuming that coworker is blowing off the task, but they don’t know their colleague’s workload or other deadlines. If there is a REAL reason these need to be done in 3 days TALK to the colleague and work out a system. Maybe send batches every 3 days with a 3 day turn around so the colleague can figure out where over those 3 business days they can set aside dedicated time do them? Or get a standard turnaround time? Or, if a standard time is not possible, ask your colleague to give you a heads up “Hey, I am slammed with the Midwest Llama Stylist Conference until Friday, I am not going to be able to do these until next week” so you can plan accordingly. And, if that is a problem (an actual one, not just that you think she should do your tasks faster), you can let your colleague know that is a problem for X,Y,Z reason, so that they can go to their manager and explain that your tasks need to be prioritized.

  57. HonorBox*

    OP1 – WHAT THE F??? I’m not sure why they’d need you to out yourself as the person who brought the complaint. I’d push back on that and indicate, rightfully, that you’re uncomfortable because the threat is such that you’d be putting yourself in a potentially dangerous situation. And definitely contact the police/a lawyer outside of the work process. That’s a very serious threat and I don’t think I’d want to just leave it in the hands of your company.

    OP4 – I’d try to steer clear of any conversations about that promotion with your coworker. While it sounds like your a shoe-in for the new role, you don’t want to overstep and assume anything until that time happens. Also, you don’t want to make it seem to anyone (inside or outside) that you’re discussing someone’s promotion with them in advance. You could be seen as providing assistance, even if you’re not. Let them know that you’re not in position to discuss any promotions – yours or anyone else’s – until the proper time.

  58. Steve Frasz*

    Re: Letter 2

    Several years ago I was given the opportunity to go to Disney World through work. Yes, Disney World. It was a joint partnership between Disney, Westjet and my company. And because I had the right skill set for the partnership and a child at a great age for Disney, my family and I were selected to go.

    This was the kind of vacation that normally, we would never be able to afford. But with flights, half the hotel, food, fast passes and tickets either paid for by the company or given to me by Disney, you can bet your Mouse Ears we extended that “work” week into extra vacation. We went into a wee bit of debt for it as we had to pay for food and the resort the extra four days we were there, but we basically got a full Disney trip out of it for a quarter of the price.

    DO IT. We did not regret it, and it was so much fun. My company had no problem with me using vacation time for this and in fact, I think they would have been shocked if I hadn’t.

  59. Johannes Bols*

    For the LW whose company won’t do anything about a death threat made by another employee: LAWSUIT.FAST.

  60. Budget Jet Setter*

    OP 2: I just did this with a work trip — the company was happy because I was able to save them money, because of the dates I wanted to come home, the flights cost $600 less than if they’d sent me for work! I’m taking the extra time out of my vacation, handling all my own other arrangements. If it costs extra to fly home on other days, they may want you to pitch in the extra but just give them a comparison and go from there.

  61. Juicebox Hero*

    Please update when you can, #1. Everyone will be worried about you and pulling for you.

  62. Lark*

    In re the llama grooming requests: My bet is that the they are short-staffed and it would typically take five or six days to get your request done. They respond right away if people complain, but they let everything else work its way to the front of the queue naturally. A way to check this would be to wait and see whether a non-urgent llama request gets done in six or seven days when left alone.

    Unfortunately, this is how several areas work at my large land grant institution – they simply don’t have the staff, everyone has multiple duties and they only process things quickly when people complain. This is extremely inconvenient but it’s not their fault. We don’t offer pay that compensates for this type of work, hiring for it is difficult at the best of times and people with the skill to do this work are generally able to get better-paying, more rewarding jobs with the market the way it is. Even a relatively “unskilled” job can be hard to hire for right now.

    1. ecnaseener*

      This, but it’s not even necessary for them to be short-staffed. It could just be their standard process that unless a request is flagged as urgent, you get it done within say a week.

      1. Aquamarine*

        Yes, that’s a good point. We don’t know what their standard turnaround time is for these requests. That might be a good thing for LW to ask.

    2. Aquamarine*

      This is what I was thinking. I’ve worked in an under-staffed office, and when it’s a matter of trying to get through a backlog, someone who complains (or just makes a second request) will move up to the top of the list.

  63. umami*

    OP#1, your identity is already compromised because you are the one receiving threats (presumably that message wasn’t sent to other people), so by all means move forward with the internal investigation and ALSO call the police/call a lawyer. Don’t let Sam get away with this!

    1. Observer*

      so by all means move forward with the internal investigation and ALSO call the police/call a lawyer.

      I disagree. Right now Sam is causing trouble, apparently as a proactive measure. However, once they know that the OP is trying to “force” the company to do something about it, it’s highly likely that they will ramp things up. And HR will *not* help the OP. In fact, I would not be surprised if they help Sam instead.

    1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

      Right? I’m kind of intrigued that the letter is both more dramatic and less dramatic than I expected. Less dramatic: I assumed it was the heat of the moment and the danger was more present (ie: in person, maybe with a potential weapon). More dramatic: the HR is done gone wacky.

      1. Juicebox Hero*

        And it’s actually more scary for being less dramatic. A coworker flipping out in the heat of the moment and coming at you would be terrifying, but at least it would be a one-off (hopefully). Being threatened by an asshole bully who’s forced others they didn’t like out of their jobs, and who’s protected by HR and the CEO, and who’s going to be really, really pissed off if law enforcement gets involved and knows where LW lives is the stuff of nightmares.

  64. BellyButton*

    OP #2 – My company encourages us to do this. We use a corporate booking system for our travel, there is an option to select “extend trip” and it allows us to pick different return flights, and different hotels. We get the corporate discount and then payroll deducts any price differences from the return date on the flight and the hotel from our paychecks. It is an awesome perk we get. For my work trip to Bucharest I paid only $150 to select a different return date than what I needed to for my trip + my hotel for the extra days. It saved me thousands.

  65. Orangetabby*

    #2, not only is it common, it can also benefit the employer. I’ve saved my company thousands of dollars on international flights by tacking on PTO days. If you’re still at all concerned about bringing it up, look for flight options that are cheaper than your business travel dates would be.

    1. BellyButton*

      Yes! I did this on one trip and saved the company $1100 by traveling on different days before and after the days I needed to be there. Because I saved them money, they paid for my hotel for the extra days– still saving them $800.

  66. BellyButton*

    OP#1 this is terrifying. I would escalate this to the head of HR, legal, and security. It is insane that after receiving a DEATH threat they think you should not be anonymous. They have a responsibility to protect you. Report it to the police and lawyer up. Not to mention Sam said they are going to be doing something against their own policies!?! What the ACTUAL F is wrong with your company???

    1. Not Mindy*

      I didn’t even think of escalating to legal but that’s a great idea. If the company has an internal ethics line, I wouldn’t be surprised if they also had a legal department.

      To the OP – I know that it has been said numerous times on this thread, but please report it to the police and, if you can afford it, retain a lawyer. I’m not sure, but I’m thinking that an employment attorney would be the way to go. The investment in an attorney could very well be worth it in the long run, particularly since it sounds like the company isn’t likely to do the right thing, and even if they’re forced to do it you still might not want to stay with the company.

    2. The Shenanigans*

      OP needs to a call a lawyer who can then escalate to legal. No need to tip off the company to tell Sam or destroy records, here.

  67. RagingADHD*

    #2, taking vacation days to enjoy the destination city is so common that it is generally considered one of the “pros” of being in a position that requires significant travel, to counterbalance the various “cons” of business trips.

  68. Something Wicked This Way Comes*

    #1 Simply put, this is assault. You have proof. Go to the police.

    And really start looking for a new job.

  69. LilPinkSock*

    If I received a credible death threat, I’d call the police immediately. LW #1, please don’t waste any more time with this.

    I wish that had been the first line of advice.

  70. Once too Often*

    1. Definitely start with an attorney. In most offices threatening to kill a colleague is clearly meant as a joke. You have info about Sam’s behavior that provides context for that not being a joke. Talk to your attorney about how to present this to the police or your employer to have it taken seriously. Bringing your attorney with you to talk with either will demonstrate that you -&- your attorney take this seriously. Be sure to have paper copies of the threat & your communication with HR. Keep anything related, as well. And keep these at home, not at work.

    If you have contact info for former colleagues who were bullied or otherwise pushed out, put that together. Talk with your attorney about how those former colleagues may or may not be helpful, in terms of broadening the context of the threat, confirming that they are afraid to speak against Sam even after leaving, or something else.

    Talk with the attorney about options like asking for a settlement to leave – what would you need to walk away? (Including what they would say as a job reference. )What else would the attorney want you to consider?

    Going straight to the police could (not would) mean your employer tells the cops it’s clearly a joke, you are obviously unwell, putting your job in danger & potentially costing you credibility with the police.

    I’m so sorry you’re in this situation, & hope you get a comfortable resolution.

    1. Observer*

      Definitely start with an attorney. In most offices threatening to kill a colleague is clearly meant as a joke.

      Not necessarily the case. And not really relevant, because the context of this threat is clearly not a joke. And it’s pretty clear that “ethics” people know this, which is why they reacted the way they did.

      Going straight to the police could (not would) mean your employer tells the cops it’s clearly a joke, you are obviously unwell, putting your job in danger & potentially costing you credibility with the police.

      The police may or may not be helpful, but they are not that stupid.

      The OP’s job is already in danger, and so is their life. Worrying about endangering their job at this point is like worrying that you might get your suit wet when someone has already tossed you into the water.

      1. The Shenanigans*

        Heh well, the cops here can’t spell NPR so your mileage definitely varies on that one! (I exaggerate only slightly, and yes I have evidence to back that view up). But honestly even if they are smarter than dishwater the cops likely won’t or can’t do much, if anything. The best bet is contact a lawyer who negotiates severance for OP, a bad reference for Sam, etc.

  71. This_is_Todays_Name*

    Like literally everyone else here, I am completely gobsmacked at the inaction on the part of your company, LW1! A former co-worker threatened another in our workplace and the security police were called, he was escorted from the facility, placed on a 72 hour psychiatric hold AND lost his security clearance and job. The fact that your company has permitted this behavior to continue through multiple iterations with other people, culminating in a DEATH THREAT, is a clear indicator that your workplace is seriously dysfunctional, and that “Sam” feels invincible. I’d definitely push back against HR asking them what they intend to do to protect YOU when it feels like they’re protecting your aggressor and enabling a seriously hostile work environment. If they’re accustomed to people he bullies just quitting, rather than forcing them to act, they may be hoping you’ll do the same. Don’t let Sam OR HR get away with this! Good Luck. Stay safe!

  72. overhead projector*

    So glad to see the answer to LW #5 – I think too much of the advice out there for “how to be good at your job” starts with “don’t present problems until you have solutions to go with them”. Can’t be too wedded to the solution you think of, as people w/ different knowledge might think of something better!

  73. Yorick*

    LW2: Last Thanksgiving I extended a work trip to stay in the area since it was near family. The way they book flights doesn’t allow for split payments, so my company covered a more expensive flight and I sent them a check for around $150.

  74. cabbagepants*

    #2 — this very common. as Alison says, you’ll be expected to cover any additional costs associated with your personal travel.

    one thing to note is that some workplaces will want you to record what the cost of your airfare would have been if you had traveled right before/after the work commitment and cover any added cost associated with flying on your chosen days instead, if any. I’ve had to do this when I was in an academic role. just ask your boss what the procedure is.

  75. WillowSunstar*

    With the AC, have you tried a tall stack of business-related books or a box to block the airflow? Assuming your workplace doesn’t have any rules against it? Might be easier than getting management to agree to install plexiglass. And hey, if you have a stack of books, there’s reading material for your lunch break.

  76. MuseumChick*

    LW1, I want to add to the voices saying go to the police and get a lawyer. I would also find a place to stay for a while that Sam doesn’t know about and while staying there have cameras/security system installed.

    If you can I would also keep records of what the company said, that they will not do anything about a death threat unless you are willing to be named.

  77. SadieMae*

    I just want to say to OP #1 that while it might be helpful in many ways to involve the police – it might get Sam to stop threatening you, it might help others whom Sam has threatened, and it might help you keep your job if you want to do that (I would want out of there, myself, regardless of the resolution of the Sam issue) – I do not think you have a moral imperative to do so if you feel that it would be unsafe for you. Because if Sam does face consequences from the workplace or from law enforcement, that might increase the physical danger to you. It is easy for us in the commentariat to say “call the police!” but we’re not the ones who would have to worry every day that Sam would come after us and do exactly what they said they would do to us.

    It is OK to decide to prioritize your safety, even if that means just quitting and walking away.

    1. Observer*

      It is OK to decide to prioritize your safety, even if that means just quitting and walking away.

      This is very true.

      I think that most of the people urging the OP to go to the police are doing so out of fear for the OP’s safety. It seems pretty solidly true that this is probably going to be necessary in order to keep the OP safe, especially if the OP doesn’t feel like they can walk off the job before finding something else.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      This is a beautiful message. Do whatever you need to do to maximise your own safety and comfort, there is no obligation to follow any of the advice given here.

      You (OP) are the expert in the particulars of the situation. Not us.

      Just know whatever path you choose, we’re all rooting for you.

  78. ZZ top*

    There are 6+billion people in the world, do we really need to write these posts as anonymously as possible? These llama groomer examples just make it confusing to read.

    1. Jackalope*

      Given that we’ve had people in the past whose coworkers figured out who they were from a letter or a comment, yes. There might be billions of people in the world but you can eliminate most of them given that most people post from a handful of countries (Alison has shared this before), and many specific fields are small communities where everyone know everyone else.

      1. The Shenanigans*

        Actually very few have figured it out but many think they have. But I agree, it makes perfect sense to be as anon as possible. Every data point we contribute online adds up to an individually identifying fingerprint much faster than most people realize. It’s really not all that confusing, either. After all, the industry is relevant to maybe 0.01% of the letters. It doesn’t even matter if the rest of them are real or even all written by the same person. The important bit is the question and answer. Like in the question about extending a work trip it really doesn’t matter if they groom llamas or grow teapots or do interpretive dance. And in the death threat letter it REALLY doesn’t matter.

  79. Worldwalker*

    Dear LW 1’s company: Do you want workplace shootings? Because this is how you get workplace shootings.

    As Maya Angelou said, when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. This particularly includes making death threats to your employees. (yes, you have more employees than just Sam — you might want to take a look at that, while you still do)

  80. Orange You Glad*

    #3 – As always Allison’s advice is solid. Taking the approach of “what can I do differently?” is usually best to avoid assigning blame and maybe there is something different you can do to fit their process. Also, learning more about their process can help you set your expectations (maybe they only file that type of record on Fridays).
    If you don’t get an answer or any changes with the above, you could also try amending your emails to include a deadline or a request for them to act when the item is completed. “Please file by Wednesday” or “please confirm when this is completed”.

  81. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

    #3 When you email the certificate, does it go to a specific person, or a department inbox? Based on my own experience with our general department inbox, we all let it sit hoping that someone else will take care of it until a few days later when no one has responded. If there is a specific person assigned to certificate processing, or one who always ends up doing it, make sure you are sending it to them and not a general inbox.

  82. CSRoadWarrior*

    #1 – Sam… makes my blood boil. Because as a victim of workplace bullying and intimidation in the past, I take it seriously. I don’t understand the logic of your company and why it retains the wrong people. Sam deserves to be fired, plain and simple. If needed, please document everything, record it whenever you can, and please go to the police. This is no laughing matter and your life could be in danger. And start looking for a new job. Don’t try to tough it out and show Sam you will not be intimidated. It will only make your mental health suffer. Just walk away and let Sam have the gutter, because one day, karma will strike back at him.

    #2 – I actually did just this, and as Alison said, it is common. My business trip lasted on Thursday to Friday early afternoon, but I requested my flight to go back on Sunday instead of Friday night so I can explore the city and see a friend who just moved there, as I never been to the city before. Mind you, this is a well-known city I never been to before and I always dreamt of going there. My company had no issues with this at all and booked my flight as I requested. I should point out that no additional hotel fees were added, as I stayed with my friend between Friday night to Sunday morning.

    1. Zarniwoop*

      “I don’t understand the logic of your company and why it retains the wrong people.”
      At a guess: Bully is friends with the CEO, who is also a bully.

      1. Jackalope*

        This is almost certainly true nag is here with you, but it’s frustrating because this is so foolish not only because of the human aspect but also because it makes no sense from a business perspective either. This is how companies go under, no joke. How many good employees have they lost this way, and how much money has Sam cost them? How many good potential employees are seeing the Glassdoor reviews and just quietly not applying? How many clients have left? Imagine if the review by a court, Unemployment, etc. finds that Sam tends stp force out all of the women or all of the people of color, and suddenly the company has a huge fine? I’m sure the CEO believes that they have impunity based on their position, but not if no one wants to work for them or do business with them.

  83. Jennifer C.*

    LW 1: Definitely go to the police. If charges are filed, Sam will almost certainly* be ordered to have no contact with you. That might cause problems at work… but if you are willing to take on the job of being the reason that something is done about Sam, keep in mind that if anyone in your office pressures you to dismiss your charges and you have evidence of that, they can be charged with witness tampering. :-)

    * I’m a prosecutor and in my state, if Sam were charged with a crime he would definitely be given a court order to have no contact with you. But I can’t be 100% sure that’s true everywhere.

  84. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #1 Your company sucks and is outrageously disfunctional. Your CEO is sheltering a dangerous man, at best closing his eyes to all the allegations against a friend.
    A documented death threat to a coworker should mean immediate supension until the documentation can be verified – should be simple in this case – and then immediate firing, no appeal.

    The nature of the allegation probably makes it obvious that you are the complainant even if your name could be hidden, unless he’s sent death threats to multiple coworkers.
    So, if you do make a complaint, it’s best to contact the police first, to make it a criminal complaint, as they can advise you how to stay safe while the case is proceeding.

    Can you afford a lawyer? If so, they could represent you at your employer, maybe obtain a severance agreement with reference for you, in parallel with police proceedings.

    However, if you think you can get another job very quickly and just escape Sam that way, or even quit now if you can afford to be unemployed for a while, that might be the safest option for you.
    You are under no obligation whatsoever to risk yourself to get Sam nailed or to protect other coworkers.

    1. Zarniwoop*

      “The nature of the allegation probably makes it obvious that you are the complainant even if your name could be hidden, unless he’s sent death threats to multiple coworkers.”
      Which is possible.

  85. Anne Shirley*

    LW 1, while I absolutely want Sam to be held accountable and agree with the lawyer/police suggestions, I also hope you find a new employer–even if it means contractual/temping work at first. Feeling physically safe at work is a baseline expectation!

    Sadly, I just don’t see Sam going quietly and the employer getting a reality check (though I would LOVE to be proven wrong). The world is more upside-down than ever.

  86. ProducerNYC*

    I started out in TV news, and when an assignment reporter threatened to kill a reporter, our news director said “Oh, that’s Janet being Janet” and offered to have our security guard escort him to his car “for a few days.” Our security guard was a 70 something year old woman. WHEW the late 90s were WILD. OP, I hope someone takes this coworker’s threats seriously, and I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with them.

  87. I Have RBF*

    Sam has already started their campaign to discredit my work,…

    I think someone already told Sam that you reported him, LW1.

    Police report, lawyer, restraining order and a new job. It’s pretty obvious that this isn’t his first rodeo. When you leave, you need to beef up your personal security, change your phone number, and drop a dime.

    The fact that people there like him, yet he violates the law and threatens people who know about it, and he gets away with driving anyone who doesn’t knuckle under out, makes it seem like you are working for a mob front or something.

    Run from that place. Collect your evidence, but leave. That place is scary

  88. Jen MaHRtini*

    OP #1, if it hasn’t already been mentioned you have a very good chance of being eligible for unemployment if you quit. It’s the “reasonable person” test for constructive dismissal, and in most states a company not taking action for an employee who’s life was threatened would qualify.

  89. higheredadmin*

    #5 Someone joked about a pillow fort, but in seriousness can you pile up books/paper/office items on the two sides that are drafty and essentially create your own barriers? Sounds goofy but it might work. (It would also probably bring this issue to the attention of others in a wonderfully passive-aggressive manner.)

  90. Potatoes*

    Re #2 – so I actually kind of ran into this question last year. There was a continuing education conference in the city close to where some of my family lives so I thought about going to the conference and taking a few extra days to see them; I would pay for the extra nights at the hotel and flight back. My company agreed to pay for the conference but not any of the flight or hotel – which I was prepared for and OK with.

    But this was the odd thing – my boss asked me to come in and had me shut the door (very rare) and said that the company wouldn’t pay for a portion of the plane ticket or hotel. At the time I just cheerfully said “Ok no problem!” and we talked about other things, but now I’m wondering if it was A THING that I asked for that.

    I plan on going to the conference this year but I’m planning to pay my own way for it

    1. Tg33*

      It’s very strange that they didn’t pay for flights or hotel. Do they usually pay for these if you are attending a conference?

      1. Potatoes*

        I think it’s just that people don’t really attend conferences that would require so much travel. We have many CPE events that are held locally, as well as an online library. They were willing to pay for the conference itself though, so that was nice
        (ultimately I ended up not going because I couldn’t afford to pay everything out of pocket/up front and get reimbursed).

        Ironically, I heard my coworkers discussing attending a happy hour geared towards young professionals and said something to the effect of ask forgiveness later. I don’t think I could be that.. “brave” for lack of a better word.

  91. Yes And*

    LW2: Alison said, “So they’d still pay for your flights because they’re paying for those anyway (unless you’re choosing dramatically more expensive flights to accommodate the vacation dates)”. Just to add, I once added a personal trip to a business trip where it did wind up being a dramatically more expensive flight. I paid for my plane ticket, and the company reimbursed me what they were spending on other people’s plane tickets. Very easy, and all above board!

  92. WestsideStory*

    #3 – if this is routine processing, it’s possible that the requests from you and others are being “batched” so they can all be done at the same time, instead of stopping one kind of work to do this small thing.
    One way I’ve solved a similar problem is to arrange with the other party a particular day to submit the task. Like “I would like to suggest I send these requests every Tuesday so I can get them done by Friday. Does that work at your end?”
    It’s entirely possible the other party is holding off on your task till they get enough similar to “batch” the work.
    Setting up a regular system, even informally, may be more convenient for everyone.

  93. Cookie Monster*

    #1 –

    I haven’t read all the comments so I’m sorry if someone else raised this, but is anyone confused why Sam bothered to tell the LW his plan in the first place? Like, why not just violate the company policy? Why tell LW about it first? Did he do it just to make the threat, because he enjoys making people uncomfortable?

    I know this doesn’t change the advice to the LW, but I was just confused on that point.

    1. Aquamarine*

      I’m thinking the LW is in a position to detect that policy has been violated, so Sam wants to tell her not to raise an alarm. Or that was my thought anyway.

  94. Pajamas on Bananas*

    LW1 collect your evidence, and you should be able to claim unemployment. Get an official record of your complaint.

  95. now commenting on the right post*

    W 1 I don’t have any advice, just commiseration. I worked for a real disaster of a place and one of the owners would regularly verbally/physically abuse me and “joke” about “accidentally” euthanizing me. I went to the other owner and was told that’s just his way, I needed to find ways not to upset him, etc etc etc.

    It was my first “real job” and they had me convinced no one would believe me (and no one did, not even other employees who he also bullied)

    I eventually quit and I wish I could say that place went down in flames but sadly no. Some real estate developer bought the place for a tidy sum and no one faced any consequences.

  96. blood orange*

    OP #4 – Earlier this year we had a team-lead level team member apply to fill our open General Manager position (so, two levels up from his current position). We made it really clear to him that we were looking for someone with experience in a comparable position, and it would be very unlikely that he would be ready for the role. He was very understanding, and we offered him an interview. Had we still felt after that interview that he was not ready for the role, we would have given him that feedback along with specific areas where he’d need to improve or gain experience in order to be successful in the future.

    Behind the scenes we knew that while he was really green, he had a ton of potential to be successful. It happens that he knocked the interview out of the park, and he’s now our best GM. I really doubt that’s the case for the team member you’re referring to based on what you’ve described, but I do think the same action plan might be smart – give her the chance to go through the process of applying and interviewing, and give her specific feedback to be successful in the future assuming she’s not ready now.

    If you’re thinking “she’s really just not suited to this position”, we’ve had that happen too! We used the same process, told the employee some specific areas of feedback, and over time his manager has coached him on the position he applied for maybe not being the right route for him. Sometimes that won’t take, but over time this employee has been receptive to that.

    1. DJ*

      And even if the applicant hadn’t proved themselves so strongly at the IV to get the job when not expected it still would have highlighted their skills.

  97. Coin Purse*

    Re: #5….I lost sensation in my left arm from an aggressive AC vent over my cube. I kept asking my manager and building services for help but nothing got done. This was pre-pandemic so no WFH was allowed. I ended up building a roof over my cube space on a weekend day, supporting it with an umbrella.

    I was told to take it down as unprofessional but it did get fixed that day.

    1. DJ*

      I once locked my bag in a filing cabinet, keeping the key in my bag and left a note telling ppl where to get the key because management wouldn’t give me a secure place to put my bag. It was a customer area and thus bags were open to theft!

  98. DJ*

    LW#1 also concerned Sam is now already discrediting your work. Does this mean Sam has an idea. Suggest to workplace they do an IT audit to help them “find this”
    Yes right to seek legal advice not only regarding death threat but also to protect yourself against the discrediting and what that may lead to

  99. DJ*

    LW#4 better to advertise through an open internal method so the person can apply. Having just been passed over for a temp promotion in my section (all think well of my work) via a hand picked recruitment method that excluded me from applying it creates bad feelings and lack of engagement. Open internal recruitment methods also allow people to highlight their skills which is good for future development. And enables the what can I do to become suitable for the position (especially if one gets hit with the admin work limiting building experience)

  100. DJ*

    LW#4 someone I knew had the chance to apply for a permanent internal position knowing the temp incumbent would get it. But because he performed so well in the interview and before that he wasn’t that well known it highlighted his skills and got him future acting opportunities in that role. Employers/managers don’t always know staffs backgrounds/skills until they highlight them!

  101. WildIris*

    I love AAM for the perspective it gives me. Sometimes that looks like, “Wow, I’m not crazy—my workplace *is* toxic!” And other times it looks like, “At least no one is literally threatening my life…”

  102. Marjorie*

    Thank you SO MUCH for suggesting that they go to Facilities Maintenance with the problem, not a solution. Putting up barriers can impact air flow in ways people don’t realize, and unintentionally inconvenience other people. Please let the experts do their job-tell them your issue and let them resolve it.

  103. Dawn*

    LW#5 – I haven’t seen this suggested yet so if you are experiencing constant pain on one side of your face from a draft please consider speaking to your doctor about it, I understand that the breeze is constant but that is not normal and there are specific neurological conditions which can cause this and which can potentially be treated or mitigated (or at least give you an official route to request accommodations.)

    I’m thinking of trigeminal neuralgia in this case but there are others as well.

  104. Typing All The Time*

    OP 1: I would seek legal counsel. Assume that you have to look out for yourself in this matter. Brush up on your resume.

    I was the sole focus of an office bully at my first company. After numerously telling my boss and then her telling higher management about what was happening, the complaint was leaked to her. The bully verbally threatened me – saying if this happened again, she will fix me – and I gave up on trying to solve this problem. I then super-focused on my job search and left a year later.

  105. A person*

    This may have been said, but LW3 also make sure you ask what a standard turn around time is. It might be that the task is 3-4 days. It is not uncommon to have multi-business day turn arounds on simple things because that’s not the only thing they’re doing.

    It’s usually the first question I ask when I run into this situation and it usually clears up any confusion. And then if it doesn’t the next thing I ask is “is there anything I can do to make this go more smoothly” which is what Allison recommended.

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