coworker keeps calling me in the middle of the night, fending off easily searchable questions, and more

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

1. My coworker is in a different time zone and keeps calling me in the middle of the night

I work in a multinational company where many of my coworkers are in drastically different time zones and different countries. I’ve managed to make this work quite well most of the time, but I have a coworker on a project who will not address anything in an email or message, and insists on long (once almost three hours) calls instead.

I’ve already tried gently suggesting that we discuss it in email or chat, but whenever I bring that up, she literally ignores the suggestion. She also regularly calls me — with no notice — at what is the middle of the night my time. On the rare occasion that I don’t wake up to a bunch of missed calls, she sends me multiple meeting requests with five minutes notice when I have other meetings to attend.

Is this the new normal that I have not adapted to? That everything should be a call? Am I just out of touch?

My boss is genuinely wonderful, but I’ve only been here for around four months and she’s constantly overworked, so I’m reluctant to bring up this situation if I can find a solution, especially because I don’t want to be seen as not a team player.

This isn’t a new normal; this is one person being pushy and thoughtless and rude.

Stop gently suggesting email and instead be much more direct! Say this: “I am X hours ahead of you so when you call me during your work day, it’s the middle of the night for me and you are waking me up. I need you to stop calling after X:00 my time/Y:00 your time. And because we are in such different time zones, we will need to handle more things through email or chat.”

Gentle is fine as a first approach, but when it doesn’t work, the next step is always to be clearer and more direct. You might also try blocking her number at night.

You should also start pushing back on the excessive meeting requests — “I can’t fit in X number of meetings with you this week — I can do one hour on Thursday afternoon and let’s plan to handle anything else in email.”

If any of your coworkers also work with her, it might be interesting to ask if they’re encountering this too and, if so, how they’re handling it. And if laying out clear boundaries like this doesn’t work, you really do need to take it to your boss — it makes sense to try to deal with yourself first, but if that doesn’t resolve it, any decent boss would want to be looped in, busy or not.

2. Should I coach my employee on his communication skills?

I’m a new manager, and I’m trying to figure out when I should coach my team members to develop their skills and when I should leave things alone. I have two rockstar employees: “Oswald” and “Bertram.” Oswald is a spectacular communicator who knows how to succinctly explain complicated procedures. Bertram is a great leader, super enthusiastic, but he takes a while to get to a point and tends to backtrack while talking, which can make it hard to follow his train of thought. It’s not an undue burden on his peers or management; it’s just not as beautiful as Oswald.

For both Oswald and Bertram, good verbal communication is an essential skill for their roles. Would you recommend that I try to coach Bertram to help him become a more concise speaker? Or is coaching Bertram on this overly heavy-handed, given that Bertram is really doing a fine job? Honestly the only reason I’ve noticed Bertram’s less than perfect communication is because Oswald is so amazing at speaking. Where is the line between helping someone improve and being overly critical of otherwise good team members?

Would you even be thinking about coaching Betram on this if you’d never met Oswald? In other words, if you weren’t comparing them, would you think Bertam’s speaking skills were just fine? If so, leave this alone — he’s not doing anything wrong, he’s just not as stellar as someone who’s unusually great. It could be something you jointly work on if he’s asking how to stretch to the next level, but that’s different than a failing that needs to be addressed.

But if Oswald didn’t exist and you’d still have concerns about Bertram’s communication skills, then it makes sense to address it, assuming it’s detracting from his success in his role.

3. Diplomatic way to say “let me Google that for you”

I have multiple coworkers who come to me with questions they could answer on their own with a little digging or a Google search. I’ve fallen into the bad habit of answering almost all the time, even if finding the file or looking up the answer would take me just as long as it would take them. Can you suggest a script/approach to guide them to try looking themselves first? I don’t want them to stop coming to me with more complex questions, just the easy ones.

With the simple questions, try asking, “Where have you looked so far?” If the answer is “nowhere,” then you can say, “Check the X doc, it should be in there” or “I’d need to google it to find out — try googling ‘how to use the IF function in Excel.'” Or even, “I usually google stuff like that — try that first and you should find what you need.” If you do that with someone a few times and they still keep bringing you easily-searchable questions, then you can say, “I can help with more complicated things, but with stuff like this, you should try the X documentation or even google before coming to me. You’ll almost always find the answer that way.”

4. Should I ban money collections on our team?

New manager here. Worked my way up over the years from secretarial and assistant positions. Always resented having to chip in for other people’s life events (showers, birthdays, etc.) when I wasn’t paid that much. My attitude was that I was at work to make money, not to spend it.

Now that I have my own department, would it be seen as mean if I insist that employees not take up these collections? I was going to buy a bunch of cards (wedding, birthday, baby) to be kept in my office that they could use if so desired and if needed I would buy a sheet cake once a month to celebrate any occasions they may want to celebrate. Your thoughts?

Yes, please do! A lot of people resent being hit up for money at work, and rightly so — and it can be hard to know when that’s the case because a lot of people will hide how they really feel about it.

You’d be doing everyone a favor if you stopped the practice. You can frame it as, “These things have a way of creating pressure on people, and I don’t want working here to take money out of anyone’s pocket.”

5. Company wants my friends or family to verify my work eligibility

I recently accepted a seasonal position with a company that I have worked with before. They sent I-9 paperwork through a third party company.

As part of the I-9 paperwork, government regulations require the employer or their authorized representative to verify that the new hire can legally work in the U.S. (like passports, driver’s licenses, Social Security cards, etc.). However, they are asking us to designate a friend or family member who will act as the employer’s “authorized representative” and then I’m supposed physically meet with the friend/family member, give them my documents, and have them fill out the required information using a site link that they receive from from the company.

I’m curious to know your thoughts on this practice. This work would normally be done by someone the company is paying, who has a minimum amount of training in this area. My friend or family member will not be compensated, likely will have no such training, and has no loyalty to this company. I don’t have family nearby, I’m a private person, and I don’t like imposing on a friend and taking up their time to do something that I feel should be the company’s responsibility. I’d also prefer not to share some of my personal info (like my Social Security number), even with a friend.

Am I overreacting? To me, this just feels like a really slimy way to cut their costs and pass on what should be their responsibility to someone they don’t even know. I’m uncomfortable with it, but maybe times have changed and this is the new normal? I’d appreciate your take on this practice.

Yeah, this sounds like an attempt to offload their own responsibility, and it’s particularly bizarre because employers are allowed to do I-9 verification remotely! (That started during the pandemic as temporary measure, and a permanent rule allowing it went into effect August 1.)

You could try pointing that out, say you don’t have anyone local to you who you’re comfortable asking, and ask if you can simply use the remote process authorized by the government.

{ 513 comments… read them below }

  1. Raida*

    1. My coworker is in a different time zone and keeps calling me in the middle of the night

    1) Tell them to use the Scheduling Assistant to select a meeting time. Don’t accept meetings that clash.
    2) Tell them, do not ‘gently suggest’ to them, that you will accept meetings with clear agendas (can just be a sentence or two) and after a quick check via chat/email that it’s necessary
    3) Keep on top of the time for the calls – they can’t take up 3 hours if you stop the call at 28 minutes.
    4) Finish meetings/calls with a statement of bullet points summarising it, get confirmation, email it, say goodbye.

    Now you can do this all yourself, or you can outline the issue and these more forceful suggestions to her and ask if you should proceed or if she can bring this up with the Long Caller’s manager.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, this.

      I must say that if refusing to take a coworker’s call in the middle of the night is seen as “not being a team player,” time to get out of that environment before you internalize that idea, LW! You’ve been there 4 months, so time to nip that coworker’s outrageous behavior in the bud.

    2. D*

      I have the same issue as lw#1…. what works great for me is calling them in the middle of their night until they get upset and tell you to stop. Usually a very effective time to point out to them that you don’t appreciate that they’ve been doing it to you.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        This seems to me the obvious course of action. I imagine it would be condemned as “passive-aggressive,” which for mysterious reasons is widely assumed to always be a bad thing.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I’d steer away from anything where you “teach a coworker a lesson” or similar and just enforce the boundary. They call in the middle of the night? Block them. They request meetings too often? Refuse them with a brief explanation that you’re too busy. Can’t get off the phone with them? “Sorry, there’s something I have to do, but if you send me an email I’ll follow-up with you.”

          You don’t need chatty/inconsiderate coworker to “learn a lesson” or understand your pain; just changing your own behavior is sufficient to restore sanity.

      2. T*

        Yup, I was going to say call them and when they answer, “ oh right, time zone sorry, we’ll talk tomorrow”, 3 times a night (just enough to not get rem) for a few days. They’ll get the picture after a few nights of no sleep.

        1. Zap R.*

          I’d ordinarily advise against using things specifically outlawed by the Geneva Convention against your coworkers but in this case it seems warranted.

        1. Deborah*

          They can’t be a night owl AND a day person both. (And they’ve already proven themselves to be really chatty during their day.) They have to sleep sometime. Don’t they?

          1. 3DogNight*

            You’d be surprised. I had a co-worker in Japan who would regularly e-mail during their work hours, and respond promptly (within minutes) of anything I sent during my work hours. I have no idea when they slept (vampire?).

            1. DuskPunkZebra*

              Eh, Japan’s work norms are extremely screwy as a culture (I mean they coined a term for “death by overwork” that is used as the official medical term, and their work expectations and stress is a major factor in their tanking birth rate), so I wouldn’t use them as a benchmark. Poor soul was probably dangerously sleep deprived and praised for their dedication.

          2. Darastrix*

            I am a night owl. I typically go to bed around 4 and my work day is 11:30a-8p. So, yeah. It can happen.

      3. Observer*

        what works great for me is calling them in the middle of their night until they get upset and tell you to stop.what works great for me is calling them in the middle of their night until they get upset and tell you to stop.

        That’s quite passive aggressive and is not going to be a good look for the OP. They need to just state when their availability looks like. And if CW won’t cooperate, bring to the their manager. Now, if manager says that those midnight calls are ok, then the OP can start doing this. Bu first the OP needs to take the straightforward path.

        1. She of Many Hats*

          I might do it twice if clearly and bluntly stated boundaries are ignored & managers have been involved. Give them a chance to change then treat them as they treat you.

    3. Medusa*

      I am genuinely wondering if LW 1 is now working with my former colleague. We were in the same time zone but she would call and call and call and call. She talked endlessly. I told her not to call me unless something was urgent. According to her, everything was urgent. I simply stopped answering her calls. I hope LW gets this situation under control.

      1. Everything Bagel*

        I’m wondering how the letter writer is receiving these calls. Is she using her personal phone for work or just leaving her computer on all the time? I’d start shutting down your pc or at least closing your phone application after work hours. Even if you have a talk with the annoying coworker, that doesn’t mean it’s going to stop immediately or that you won’t have some other time where a caller doesn’t realize the time zone difference.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          I know “phone in the bedroom” is a sadly common thing, but maybe move the phone to the kitchen or someplace to charge overnight? Then you can safely sleep through the calls simply by literally not hearing them. “Sorry, I was in bed asleep at normal sleeping hours” is absolutely always a good enough reason not to respond.

          (Hubby’s phone is in our bedroom, mine is in the kitchen. NOTHING annoys me more than having his phone ping with a text at 2 AM. Partly because he usually sleeps through it.)

          1. Observer*

            NOTHING annoys me more than having his phone ping with a text at 2 AM. Partly because he usually sleeps through it.)

            Assuming a relatively recent smart phone, it’s pretty easy to set a schedule for the phone to go into DND. Ask your husband to set that schedule. (And if the phone is in the bedroom so he can receive specific emergency calls, he can set his phone to allow THOSE numbers, and those numbers ONLY to ring through.)

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I am lowkey addicted to mine, this is why I put it in my home office for the night. I also have silent notifications for the texts and IM and my phone is set to DND during the night hours. Some days I wake up to texts and missed calls. Oh well, I text and call back when I’m back online.

            Caveat that I am not on call 24/7 for work, and none of my family members have anything going on right now that’d require me to be “on call” 24/7 for them (sick elderly parent etc – my one living parent is elderly, but currently doing fine. On a few occasions when she had health stuff going on or was in a hospital, I had to keep my phone in my bedroom.) If OP has any of that going on, then phone in another room for the night is not an option.

          3. Random Dice*

            My phone is my alarm clock, and plays sleep stories that help me fall asleep and stay asleep. It’s in my bedroom.

            But I have it set to DND with the exception of certain people if they call repeatedly. And it’s facedown.

            I would murder my husband if he didn’t put his phone on DND. You might try that? (Or, and this is less interesting but perhaps more legally defensible, you might require him to either DND or leave the phone elsewhere.)

          4. I Have RBF*

            My phone is my alarm clock. That’s why it lives in my bedroom.

            I agree with the suggestion to set “Do not disturb” hours on your personal phone. If you are not on-call, or an escalation point for on-call, you don’t have to accept phone calls after hours.

        2. Mirve*

          I don’t think the LW is being woken up or taking the calls (or meetings). They just want even the attempts to stop.
          They specifically say “wake up to a bunch of missed calls” which I take to mean they are coming to a work number for instance that is just taking messages.

          1. Observer*

            That’s what it reads like, to me as well.

            The OP is completely right – even if they are not being woken up, this is a pain to deal with and their coworker needs to stop it.

            OP, if your phone is in your bedroom then do yourself a favor and put your phone on silent or (better) DND at night. This way your sleep won’t be disturbed by the noise.

          2. Jaybeetee*

            I’d have to think, if this has happened repeatedly (and OP has never picked up), that the colleague is aware that they’re calling outside of OP’s working hours and not expecting an (immediate) answer when she does this. Is she leaving messages in an “action this when you’re back online” sense, or is it literally a bunch of missed calls? If the latter, and this has been going on for some time, that’s spectacularly oblivious.

            As for things like conflicting meeting invites, a simple decline and reinvite for a new time should be fine. The repeated long phone calls are a Problem, and one OP should bring to her manager’s attention if she doesn’t feel empowered to cut those calls short herself.

            1. Observer*

              I’d have to think, if this has happened repeatedly (and OP has never picked up), that the colleague is aware that they’re calling outside of OP’s working hours and not expecting an (immediate) answer when she does this

              Yeah, that’s what I would have thought, but the response indicates that the CW is actually expecting a response and getting antsy when she doesn’t get one.

              that’s spectacularly oblivious.

              Agreed. That’s one of the things that keeps this site interesting….

    4. Well...*

      It’s wild that someone is doing this who works regularly with people in different time zones. It’s only a matter of time before this person pisses off someone important.

      I work pretty generous/flexible hours to accommodate time zones. I’m currently collaborating with a group in Europe & Asia, while I’m in North America, so somebody’s gotta be up at a weird time. During the pandemic I had a California/UK/Japan collab which was 8-8-8 hours apart, so I took meetings that went until 1am. Even in that case though, 1am was my hard cutoff because I wasn’t reliably productive/engaged after that. I openly communicated that to my group, some of which were very senior, big name folks. Also these meetings were planned, and I cleared my mornings afterwards to get enough sleep.

      I would never accept what’s happening with LW1, it’s super bad form and counterproductive to long term productivity on a team that has to deal with multiple time zones.

      1. BatManDan*

        Agree. We teach people how to treat us by what we allow. It’s worth noting that, in order to extinguish the behavior, it will take (literally) 10-20x of the pest NOT getting what they want (a response, etc) before it will even begin to dawn on them that boundaries are the new normal, and this is the way it will be going forward. Get ready for it, and possibly familiarize yourself with the phrase “extinction burst.”

        1. Lils*

          Ignoring requests worked for me when I had a colleague like LW#1’s. I changed my calendar to reflect *my* time needs, by blocking off chunks of focus time that couldn’t be interrupted. I refused to engage in lengthy discussions of good times to meet–repeatedly referring the person back to my calendar. (Sometimes they would literally schedule a meeting to discuss further meeting schedules). I declined meetings unless there was a specific topic and agenda. I declined multiple meetings on the same topic in one week. I ended meetings on the dot if not before. I check my IMs periodically throughout the day but keep the notifications off. I answer their emails with a 24-hour turnaround time but not immediately. Over time, they learned I wasn’t “on call” for them. It took a couple of weeks and a meltdown or two, but the situation improved drastically. I usually am eager to answer colleagues’ communications quickly, but this specific person was abusing my professionalism and therefore lost their privileges. I have no regrets.

    5. mango chiffon*

      Fully support point #3 here. I had a horrible boss who would do the whole “call you and then the call takes hours” thing and I was non-exempt and this would bring me overtime. (Thankfully she either left the organization or was let go, but all that matters is that she is no longer my supervisor). Start out the call saying you have a hard stop at a specific time, and then just leave the call at that time. It’ll be much easier when the person is NOT your supervisor/boss I promise!

    6. Allison K*

      I work across time zones, and it has made my life significantly better that my phone does not make any noises, my email doesn’t pop up with a notification badge, and neither my phone nor computer downloads new email unless I ask it to. I check the phone every 45 minutes or so, so I can address people’s needs without interrupting my focused work. I’m not in a Slack/Teams environment, but if I was I would also check it hourly rather than be constantly interrupted. And that way I can also say to clients in other time zones, “Contact me when you like; you won’t wake me and I’ll get back to you when I start work.”

    7. Amber T*

      Yeah, if this happened once in a while it would be one thing (I’m definitely guilty of calling or trying to schedule something out of normal working hours because of time differences) – but the automatic response should be “oh shoot, I completely forgot you’re in X timezone, sorry! Let me reschedule/email you/figure out a time that works for both of us.” Being repeatedly pushy is so outside of normal that it’s definitely fine to push back on and loop your boss in if it doesn’t change.

    8. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I love this list. I had a coworker (thankfully in my own time zone) whose answer to any question was “let’s have a meeting about it RIGHT THIS MINUTE.” We were on the same team one year and she was in the BA/SME role, so I had to go to her with questions about business logic, and oh my god did it get old fast. I wish I had this list to guide me during that time.

    9. Beth*

      Very much this. OP, your boundaries here are both very reasonable and within your power to enforce!

      Put your phone on DND at night (most phones can automate this these days, but you can also just silence it if yours doesn’t have that functionality). She can call as many times as she wants; it won’t bother you. Odds are good that she’ll eventually realize that you never ever pick up outside your work hours….but if she doesn’t, the wasted time is her problem, not yours.

      Similarly, she can request whatever meetings she wants…but you don’t have to agree to them. You can decline meetings that you don’t have sufficient notice to prepare for. You can decline meetings that don’t fit with your calendar. (My calendar stays pretty full between pre-existing meetings and set blocks of ‘focus time’–obviously I can rearrange the latter if I want, but having them on my calendar does give me the leeway to decline meeting requests if I’m really counting on having that time for a certain task.) You can decline meetings that are too long to fit your needs, and hang up or sign off when you hit the end of your available time. You can tell her, “I don’t have time to meet about this today, please email me the document and your questions and I’ll take a look when I have a moment.” She might push back hard, but if you stick to your guns, odds are she’ll get the hint eventually and accept that this is how it is.

      If doing any of this means she becomes a block to you doing your work–for example, if she continues to refuse to email or text chat about anything, won’t get to the point in meetings so limiting them to 30 mins means you get nothing done, refuses to meet at times during your work hours, etc–then it’s time to talk to your manager. But right now, it sounds like you have the power to do everything you need to do.

  2. Raida*

    4. Should I ban money collections on our team?

    The monthly cake to celebrate everything for that month is a great idea – it’s not an undue cost to you, nobody gets more or less attention than anyone else.

    The one time I wouldn’t try to stop collections is for retirement – if the team wants to chip in a bit each towards something *nice* (we got an Admin a crystal decanter and whisky glasses for example) or towards a bigger spread of food for a going-away, then support that.

    1. LinZella*

      To contrast that, while, yes, retirement is (99% of the time) a one time thing, so are weddings (at least the first obviously), so the OP is almost back to square one. It can be a slippery slope.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          This! A retirement celebration is a way for colleagues to thank someone for their work & celebrate the ultimate work milestone.

        2. Hannah Lee*

          Since retirement is job related, in my mind, that makes any gifts, celebration an expense *their employer* should be covering, just like team milestone celebrations, holiday parties, etc. Or if the employing company won’t do it, then the boss or grand boss of the group the person is retiring from.

          That’s how I’ve always seen it handled, anyway, even at smaller companies.

            1. Random Bystander*

              Also agree–I saw two co-workers retire where one was a quiet competent sort who didn’t contribute to office drama who got what the company provided, and another who was kind of an office busy-body who had a close friend who was pretty pushy who tried to get us all to contribute to a tennis bracelet (!) and fancy crystal vase for said co-worker because “she deserves something really nice”. Well, so did the other co-worker, but Pushy Co-worker wasn’t pushing for extra bonus gifts for Quiet Co-worker, just for Busybody. I wouldn’t have any issues whatsoever if Pushy wanted to give Busybody a gift on her own–it was just that Pushy wanted to give Busybody gifts but get everyone else to help finance it.

      1. Anonychick*

        Without getting into whether I agree or disagree about retirement gifts (because I honestly have no idea), I will say that retirement is somewhat singular in that it’s a life event that DIRECTLY has to do with one’s workplace/coworkers (as opposed to, say, being out of work due to illness or injury). So I wouldn’t worry about it being a slippery slope, because the only thing even vaguely similar is someone getting promoted or changing jobs…which—as I understand it—is usually celebrated with a cake or small office-sponsored (as opposed to employee-sponsored) lunch, rather than any sort of actual gift.

      2. Emilia Bedelia*

        I think retirement is unique only in that you will presumably not see that person around ever again. You’re not just celebrating the event, you are saying goodbye.

        People who get married are generally planning to come back.

      1. Donkey Hotey*

        Fascinating. I’d much rather contribute to a wedding than a retirement. Wedding, they’re just starting out (Wife’s company just passed the hay for a Home Depot gift card for their fixer house). Retirement, they’ve literally had their entire career to prepare.

        1. Anna*

          agree. My first job was as an intern for the federal government. I was the youngest person by decades, and I attended so many retirement parties as a 20-something when I had no health insurance, no paid time off, and none of the other smaller benefits that the regular employees got like public transit reimbursement etc. I would have had an extreme grudge if I was asked to chip in $$ for a present.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Exactly. If you’re asking lower-paid workers to chip in for a gift for a higher-paid worker, it’s a problem, regardless of the occasion. That’s frequently going to be the case for retiring coworkers. It’s an even bigger issue if the retiring person is a manager, because gifts should not flow up.

            I had just joined a department after several months unemployed when my manager retired. He’d been with the department for 20 years, much of that at a manager’s level, so his salary was far higher than mine. I would not have been pleased if someone tried to collect money for their gift (particularly if it had been before they completed my last performance eval).

            The company should be responsible for retirement/tenure gifts, not other employees.

        2. me again*

          Really? That’s odd. Weddings have zero to do with the workplace and noI don’t want to contribute.

        3. New Jack Karyn*

          I know we’re not supposed to nitpick words, but I *love* the typo of ‘passed the hay’! I’m picturing a farm-themed present, such as a delivery of hay bales or a gift card to John Deere.

    2. Just Another Cog*

      I would absolutely love this LW as a manager! In my last two offices, things just got out of hand. We were being “told” our share for someone’s birthday/wedding/baby/retirement gift (often upwards of $20-$25). I’m not proud of not speaking up, but I wanted to be a team player in those toxic cultures. Argh. This OP has the right idea. I’ll bet their employees would be super grateful for that new custom.

      1. Sparkle Llama*

        I have always worked in government, which I think is especially prone to having employees pay for gifts. I have seen it done a few ways that are more or less challenging if you don’t want to participate

        At my current employer for retirements and deaths we send around an envelope to the whole organization with a card and people sign it and check off their names and put money in it they want. There isn’t really an expectation about what will be contributed. I have also done something similar where we had an envelope sitting in somewhere and you were supposed to go and check off your name and put cash in, but you could also just check your name off.

        For things in my current department we agree on an amount and then all contribute that amount. That is very awkward when you make much less than others or just don’t want to participate. When I first started my coworkers did specifically tell me I could contribute less on a retirement that they were all contributing a lot. I am no longer at the bottom on pay and make a very good salary but am now mindful about being considerate of the person who took my old role.

        So while there are shades of discomfort, I think the writer’s proposal sounds great!

    3. Aphrodite*

      I disagree. Keep the retirement events the same as every other one. I would resent that and bow out of it (thereby making myself look bad to others).

      1. Aphrodite*

        The reason I say this is that I am the only one who works for my money and am, therefore, the only one who gets to say how it gets spent.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You still run into the problem of people feeling pressured to contribute with retirement gifts — if the org wants to do retirement gifts, the org should pay for it.

      1. Despachito*

        “if the org wants to do retirement gifts, the org should pay for it”

        This is exactly what I was thinking. The employee had a relationship primarily with the organization, and it seems pretty cheap if the organization attempts to shift the burden of doing something nice for the retiree on the employees.

      2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        YES. If its work related, org should pay for it. People do not need to be dipping into their paychecks to pay for things the company should.

      3. Problem!*

        YES. My company has funds set aside for retirement gifts, the amount allocated is dependent on how long someone has been with the company. So for long-time employees (20+ years) I think they allow something crazy like $2000 for a gift, prorated down to 5 years of tenure. Under 5 you get nothing.

    5. Jackalope*

      I would also add that if you don’t go with the ban idea (for whatever reason), I like the way my office does it. An envelope goes around and anyone who wants to can add money, but you don’t have to. When you get the envelope you sign the accompanying slip saying that you got it, but there’s nothing to say whether you gave money or not. I know this could work out to involve pressure anyway, but in my experience sometimes I have money and sometimes not, but no one else knew either way and I didn’t get any grief about not giving. This might be a suggestion if for example your team feels really strongly about continuing this tradition and pushes back on a potential ban.

      1. Not Australian*

        I’ve been in offices where this system applied, and agree that it’s better than most – as long as the person bringing the envelope round doesn’t stand there pointedly looking at you until you make a ‘voluntary contribution’. There needs to be a certain amount of tact involved. Plus I find there’s pressure to sign the card even for people you can’t stand and would be glad to see the back of.

        1. Agnes Montague*

          My office has the envelope system, but there isn’t anyone bringing it around — you pass it on to the next person yourself, so there’s no way for anyone to know whether you contribute any money or the amount if you do.

        1. Laura*

          It might balance out, with people who have been around forever and know everyone getting larger sums at collections — but they also might throw in much more, because for them, a lot of co-workers fall into the “know and like, want them to have something nice” category. While someone who does their own thing on their own most of the time is likely to be much less motivated to contribute. But no one will ever know.

          Also, some people just have bad luck with timing and would have had their celebration during general remote work, or during the summer vacation time, so they do not get much. But they know that beforehand.

          Still, these imbalances exist, and that’s one of the reasons why gift-giving among co-workers should not become high-stakes.

          1. MsSolo (UK)*

            Yes, I think keeping it low stakes is important to how gift-giving in an office works, if it’s taking place. I’ve always worked at places that did anonymous collections, and the gifts were usually something small enough to take home on the bus / cheap to post (pot plant, bottle of wine, mug, chocolates etc) and a gift card for the rest of the value of the collection, so it wasn’t obvious if there were large discrepancies between collections. It was personal, but not extravagant.

            1. UKDancer*

              Yes. We do an envelope going around anonymously. The present is usually either an M&S or a John Lewis voucher with a small token gift and the collection amounts are never vast. Unless it’s a major occasion that tends to be the safest bet.

        2. BookMom*

          This system can hurt feelings…when I got married in my early 20s, they did a collection of our department of 7 or 8 people and got me a $20 serving dish. (It’s actually lovely and I still use it). But, I knew that my immediate predecessor (also entry level, similar tenure) had gotten married and received a gift valued at about 4x that. The shower organizer could see it in my face that I was hurt and protested, “But it was on your registry!” Looking back, I’m mortified that I actually cared and that I didn’t hide it better. But I still remember this 25+ years later.

          1. PhyllisB*

            Yes on the hurt feelings. When I worked at the phone company there were always collections for something, but when there was a death in my family, nothing.
            Either do it for everyone or no one.

          2. RainyDay*

            Yep, I’ve been on the injured side of this. I worked in an office that looked social on the surface, but was deeply clique-y. When it came time to celebrate me, it was….very clear I was not one of the popular kids.

            (I was in my early/mid 20s, so I was probably a liiiiitle annoying/unaware, but I did my best to be kind and genial to everyone.)

      2. Laura*

        We are doing this via some kind of collection box, too.

        My impression is that often co-workers *want* to give some gift for a wedding, birth, significant birthday, retirement, or moving on, but if everyone who wants to buys a gift within their budget does so, the birthday (or whatever) boy/girl gets a lot of tchotchkes and nothing useful. So an anonymous collection is arranged.

        It helps that we have a generally relaxed work culture, are paid well, and the average contribution (from observation of results) seems to be about the price of a cup of coffee. It’s not a high-stakes decision.

        What the company gives is determined by contract or tradition and totally independent of this.

        However, if a collection-and-gift systems shows any sign of going pear shaped and is eating too much time, money, goodwill, and emotional resources, it’s not worth keeping it, and the person with the standing to shut it down should do so.

      3. bamcheeks*

        Yeah, wherever I’ve worked, you send an email around to everyone except Steve, saying, “there’s an envelope at the reception desk for Steve’s wedding, feel free to drop something in my Friday 21 June”. I’ve never felt pressured to do it, and some people LOVE donating to stuff like this, so you will probably get some pushback if it’s part of the company culture.

        At my last job, we did it for weddings, babies, a couple of similar “big life event” things, people leaving and multiples-of-ten birthdays– if you do that across a department or directorate of around 80 people, it worked out as about two things a month, most of which would be ignored by 60% of the department but plenty for the people who see this as a really important part of the organisation recognising and celebrating people’s life events.

        1. bamcheeks*

          (actually, thinking about it, it’s been “card in an envelope at reception, here’s a link to donate if you want to” since 2021. We went back to physical cards when we went back to the office, but we’ve never gone back to physical cash collection.)

      4. Nope, Not Me*

        We had an envelope that went around, but the expected amount of donation was made known. The shrieking harpy running the gifts kept going around claiming someone stole $5 until one man finally snapped and told her it was the fifth time this month and he couldn’t afford it – at full volume.

        We didn’t have suggested amounts after that, and the envelope was passed around anonymously afterward as well. (Previously, the looming coworker could only be shaken off by a proclaimed trip to the ATM half a mile away.)

        Some people like this sort of thing, so I suggest a way of channeling that energy. For instance, if someone wants to track when to send a card around for birthday signing and create a tracker list of employees (where people can check off that they’ve seen the card), or bring in a stockpile of extra cards, or plan a teambuilding lunch when appropriate, it seems to scratch that unfathomable itch.

      5. LIZZIE*

        My company does this as well, but actually a little better. An email will go out, although usually JUST for retirement, but in the past has been for weddings, babies, etc. All it says is so and so is having this milestone, and if anyone wants to contribute, cards are with this person, and that person.
        Then its up to each person to decide if they want to contribute, or not, and there is absolutely no pushback if someone doesn’t contribute and/or participate.
        I like this as while my company is small, I am not close to, or work with many, so I usually just participate if its someone I’m close to.

      6. zuzu*

        My last workplace did it this way: the deputy director would announce that she was collecting money for some life event (baby, retirement, get-well) and would leave an envelope in her mailbox for those who would like to contribute. That envelope would be there until X date. No pressure to contribute.

        Birthdays were originally (at least when I first got there) completely insane with a monthly spread with cake from a really good bakery, champagne, decorations, and cheese plates. It cost a ton of money, and the wannabe Martha Stewart office manager who threw these things expected praise each time even though no one asked for such elaborate bashes (and they were costing us a lot). When it was gently suggested we needed to cut costs, she threw a tantrum (“YOU DON’T APPRECIATE ALL THE WORK I DO FOR YOU TO MAKE THIS PLACE NICE!”) and boycotted future birthday celebrations. Which we did on our own from then on; someone signed up to make or buy a cake or pie, people brought drinks, etc. It was fine, and she eventually left.

    6. NameAnxiety*

      Alternately, I worked in a government department where at the beginning of the year people who actually wanted to get birthday cards would put their name and birthday on an envelope and put in $5 (essentially purchasing their own card). Everyone in the office would sign the cards but only people who really wanted to receive them would receive them and the admin assistant who went to buy the cards did so on paid time.

      1. Wombat Groomer*

        My government job has a fund where there is a suggested contribution based on role (ie – more for higher paying roles). For life events the gift comes from the fund if you contributed.

        Pros – I get to opt in or opt out based on my finances. No individual pressure to donate.

        Cons – someone needs to manage the fund. Can definitely become its own “thing”

      2. JustaTech*

        My work does virtual cards for birthdays, work anniversaries, condolences, etc, which is really nice because there’s no passing of a physical card (and risking missing whole parts of the building) but it also lets all the remote folks sign as well.

        For a while we did a “cake a month” for birthdays, but that fell apart even before the pandemic.
        The only thing that’s been weird was that our director randomly decided last year to ban baby showers because it “wasn’t fair” that everyone couldn’t come (huh?). This was especially weird since we’d had virtual baby showers during the pandemic and the only request about the banned shower was to be allowed to order a cheese and fruit plate (not gifts or even a cake).

        1. The Rural Juror*

          We have multiple offices across the US and a LOT of cross pollination between locations, so my department does virtual cards to catch more people with relations to people celebrating birthdays and babies. We will do a Venmo collection for babies, usually a gift card to Target. There’s a line in that email template that says, “This is not a company initiative, just coworkers supporting [coworker]. Feel free to sign the card and no pressure to contribute.” The most recent one had folks contributing from like 5 different locations because she works on a lot of remote teams!

          Other departments do something similar, but there’s no standard in the company. We rely on each other to forward the emails to whoever we may have missed (especially from other locations).

          Our local office does Cake Day once a month to celebrate birthdays. I think some of the other locations do donuts. Everyone seems happy with the arrangement :)

      3. MigraineMonth*

        That’s kind of hilarious. Feels a little bit like those people who send themselves bouquets from a “secret admirer”.

    7. Ellis Bell*

      I think this could still play out unfairly in terms of a bunch of things, like popularity. Also there’s the fact that tenure varies, because there’s nothing quite like being someone who changes jobs every few years constantly paying out retirement gifts for the people with twenty year tenure every place you go.

      1. Artemesia*

        My office had a ‘flower fund’ that people contributed to at the beginning of the year. There was a suggested amount for people of different status i.e. salary levels. But no one enforced that sort of thing. Then the admin would get something or send flowers for deaths etc. Worked fairly well.

        I have seen admins who get really wrapped up in gifts especially to bosses and the thing escalates until some event occurs that hurts feelings and it all crashes. We had an admin who disliked me because I made it impossible for her daughter to cheat in my required graduate seminar (as admin we believed she provided advance copies of tests to her daughter; I took control of my own testing and made my own copies elsewhere and oddly she did very poorly on my tests compared to her previous work where Mom made test copies for other professors.

        This admin also really liked to be the office wife and at an event for students had also arranged for a birthday cake and a very lavish gift (leather briefcase) for the director. Someone commented that day ‘you know it is Artemesia’s birthday too this week’ — and so she hastily stuck my name on the corner of the cake and then wrapped up a little patch of fur that had glue on the back to stick under the accelerator of one’s car so that one’s high heels (as if) didn’t get scuffed. (obviously a free thing) It was hilarious — I still have it, can’t bear to throw it out because it makes me smile. When he opened the leather briefcase and then I opened little furry thing and waved it to the crowd there was a roar of laughter — and thereafter, gifts were not given. These things get out of c ontrol because there is always someone trying to be a queen bee of gifts.

      1. Green great dragon*

        I agree that’d be good, but it’s not allowed for government workers. I do think a voluntary donation for retirement or leaving, and maybe first child, is different from birthdays and promotions, of which there’d be several every month.

        1. WellRed*

          The problem with first kid is is is hard to draw the line. If it’s a beloved coworkers third, someone will inevitably take up a third collection. If it’s a new coworker and it’s also their third kid, same.

          1. anne of mean gables*

            Ugh I am in this position now (pregnant with my second). My office took up a very generous donation for my first, completely unbeknownst to me (small office; there hadn’t been another baby in a long time and I did not know norms). I think I need to discreetly ask the office party-organizer to please not do anything for my second, as we have everything we need? Is that the right move?

            Complicating things is that another, more junior colleague is currently pregnant with her first – so she’ll have a work collection/shower, and then two months later I won’t. I absolutely do not care and would vastly prefer for work to not contribute to a baby gift for me – but worry about it seeming weird. I think it’s probably just establishing the norm that we do collections for first (but not subsequent) babies?

            1. EasternPhoebe*

              I think you have the right idea, just ask the organizer(s) in the office to not do anything! Someone at my work did this for their second baby. Of course, someone else – in upper management no less – got a collection for their second baby…but I simply declined to participate. I agree we need more of a norm around not doing work gifts for multiple babies. It just gets way too expensive.

            2. Lizzo*

              Is there some sort of child-focused charity you could ask people to direct their contributions to in lieu of getting gifts for you?

            3. SpaceySteph*

              This is a fairly established norm in the world (i.e. people usually have a shower for first baby, not every baby– although sometimes if opposite sex or if there’s a big gap may have another). I don’t think it would come across that odd– except maybe to the new employee who wasn’t here for your first kid, but that’s easy enough to explain away with “oh I already had a shower for [kid 1] and we’re all set now”

              Someone offered to throw me a shower for my 3rd kid (I was in a different department than my first 2 kids) and a) I didn’t even want a shower for my first kid and b) I definitely didn’t need any more baby crap for my 3rd kid. I politely declined… and I’m glad I did because I ended up interviewing for a new job while on maternity leave, and only came back to my old job for a few weeks.

        2. Sparkle Llama*

          Depends on the level of government! I was shocked when the head of the government org I worked for brought it to the elected officials that when someone who had worked there for over x years retired the org would pay for giving them some amount of money. Might be $200? I think that some government agencies are starting to realize that the stupid cost savings make people leave for the private sector and aren’t actually saving money. Who knows we might get decent pens next?!?

      2. amoeba*

        Yeah, I know it doesn’t work for every department/industry, but we do have gifts for retirements and other big life events like weddings, but it’s all payed for by the company! So for my coworkers wedding, my boss told me the budget and asked me to purchase something nice – generally somebody close to the person or their line manager is the one organising, but we don’t need to pay for it. For birthdays, we usually get a card and a very small gift, the same for everyone that year (think food item or tote bag or towel price range). Losing a loved one means flowers and a card.

        I do like the gift culture, so would be sad to see it go entirely. Company paying seems ideal.

    8. Rachel*

      I actually disagree.

      Retirement gifts should come from the company, not other employees.

      I would rather pitch in for nearly any other gift than retirement.

    9. NoveltySlippers*

      I’m personally not the biggest fan of a monthly celebration that celebrates everyone. To me that just makes it a monthly cake, not a celebration of anyone.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        To me that would depend on whether there was just a cake in the breakroom once a month or whether there was actually some sort of celebration. At one of my old jobs, we had a monthly party like this. My boss would give a really lovely speech about who were the guests of honor for this month’s party and why we were all there to celebrate and then we’d eat together and chat. It was really nice and when it was my birthday or graduation being celebrated, I really did feel celebrated.

      1. Outside Earthling*

        Our manager asks for donations to be made directly into the manager’s bank account and while it’s made clear that it’s voluntary, it feels a little awkward to ignore it. Recently a team member got engaged and there was a request for donations for a gift. No doubt there will also be a request for wedding present contributions too. It feels a bit much.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        I worked for a company where they’d give you a nice piece of pottery on your 5th anniversary. (It was cost-efficient for them because almost no-one lasted 5 years.)

    10. doreen*

      Is it ever really the employer/organization who wants to do gifts/parties and not pay for it? I mostly worked for government agencies in which co-workers took up collections/sold tickets for parties but even when I worked in the private sector it was the employees that wanted to have the gifts and parties. And there is no way to stop them , really. For over a year, due to COVID my job had a ban on gatherings in the office. They still had parties and gifts- they just had them after-hours, off-site.

    11. Orangejuice*

      Please ban. my coworker started a “birthday” fund where we are all supposed to contribute 12 dollars a month to her, regardless of whether or not it’s someone’s birthday. If we don’t donate, she will text you and ask why. We haven’t actually had a birthday celebration for anyone in months. when I suggested we cut it back to 5 dollars she said she couldn’t feed everyone with that (there’s about 15 people on our team) and I suggested that we don’t need a meal and a cake for people, we could just do cake and the 80 bucks would definitely cover a cake. she just said “thanks for your feedback” and continues the 12 dollar thing. she is also not the most competent worker and I think she is just pocketing the money anyway.

      we are also regularly asked to donate to other things. my supervisor had 2 family members die within a week. super sad of course, but the company already was sending her flowers. my grandboss asked that we contribute some towards a gift card. when my current grandboss was my boss, our old grandboss got married and we were asked to donate funds towards a wedding gift, which I thought was ridiculous since gifts should never flow upwards.

      meanwhile I bring my lunch from home everyday, count every penny, and am the ONLY one on my team living on a single income with a young child. no one else cares about donating to these things but I quite literally cannot afford it.

    12. anon for this one post*

      For over seven years I bought baby gifts for people I worked with, some of whom I didn’t even know. We were informed of the baby showers via email invite to everyone at our location (50-70 people, depending). Eventually, I only bought for people in my department, plus others I actually knew. I had taken a cut in pay to work there so had to keep my gifts around $15, not the $40-50 that a lot of people seemed to spend.

      Then I retired. I fantasized and even assumed that a collection would be taken up for me, at least in my department of around 20 people. I thought an iPad would be a great and appropriate gift since we were Mac people. Or an Apple or other gift card. I was well-liked and my superiors loved me. After all I had shelled out for others over the years, when it was my time, there was no retirement gift.

    13. Blarg*

      Worked in a state agency, where there was a pretty strong gift giving tradition that was VERY annoying. Our boss, who generally was not great, handled her own retirement in a cool way, since simply not doing a gift would be so wildly out of the norm. She requested that we donate to the local food bank — a donation that was taller than she was. Almost everyone brought in something, and a couple of us created a food tower that was, in fact, taller than her. Thankfully, she was on the shorter side, cause the stack was getting a little wobbly towards the end.

      1. I Have RBF*

        That’s actually pretty cool.

        IMO, donations to a food bank are pretty neutral requests, and can be money or goods.

    14. NeedRain*

      As an employee, a cake once a month to celebrate anything that happened that month doesn’t make me feel appreciated or celebrated at all. I’m not saying they need to do something else, it’s okay to do nothing as opposed to “nice” things that are incredibly generic.

    15. Shoryl*

      I say go with the ban. My Fortune 500 has banned monetary gifts of any kind (except gift cards) which makes it easy, but being at the 20 year mark meant in a department of 200 people, I not only got my whole unit’s cards, but also random other people who I’d worked with (which was most everyone in a 200 person group) The ban means now our management team buys a sheet cake once a month, but for retirements there’s a dedicated cake and gift (again from management).

    16. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Second monthly cake. An OldJob did this for birthdays. We were a department of maybe 50-60 people and at least half of us were older folks who were all about in-office treats and celebrations. (They were probably younger at the time than I am now – this was in the early 00s – it’s just that they were I guess from an older generation to whom being in the office all day and some nights was normal and who saw bringing in and partaking of office treats as A Very Good Thing.) Our admin did a once-a-month birthday celebration with a cake, song etc for everyone born in that month. Otherwise birthday treats would’ve spun out of control! I loved it. I am fairly certain that Admin expensed the monthly cake. I cannot imagine her buying 12 large cakes a year with her own money.

      Cannot speak for retirement, as I now realize I’ve almost never had someone at work retire while I worked there.

    17. 1-800-BrownCow*

      I disagree with the monthly cake idea. Some people have food allergies, some people don’t celebrate birthdays, some people don’t like cake and some people may be dieting or restricting certain foods. If the manager wants to buy cards and pass around to sign, I think that is sufficient. Outside of that, don’t bug people for money or put expectations on people to be part of some monthly birthday celebration or every other life event that may happen with members on the team.

    18. Sharpie*

      I think the one time I honestly didn’t mind putting cash in a collection was for a colleague whose house got struck by lightning. That we worked for a pretty small company helped, too. I believe the company gave him some gift cards to help with necessary expenses, but we weren’t asked to contribute to the cost of those, that came from the CEO or company funds.

    19. Hush42*

      I genuinely do not understand making employees pay for things like this. My team does lunchtime showers for babies and weddings but the company foots the bill for the food. Last week we did a baby shower and I (using my company card) ordered and picked up the food for about 30 people (we included our team and the teams with whom we work the most closely with). Various members of the team (completely voluntarily) brought in some desserts to share, and the two people closest to the person having a baby purchased a few small decorations (again, completely voluntarily). People did bring gifts but 1. it was made abundantly clear that it was not required, we were just celebrating the employees new baby and 2. there was no specific monetary requirement. If you are the one choosing and buying the gift you can spend whatever you are comfortable spending, if anything. Our HR/Social Engagement team also put together a gift with several items and a onesie with the company logo on it from the company itself.

      1. A Person*

        The way I’m planning to handle this for my small-ish org going forward is:
        * This is pretty much only for baby showers (and so far it’s all first babies)
        * I (manager) plan on the amount for the gift card above what I’d expect contributions to be
        * I ask for completely voluntary contributions that will help offset my cost (and people do like contributing!)

        That way everyone gets the same amount, but people who feel like they want to contribute can. Of course it only works because I as the manager am willing to spend most or all of the cost.

  3. Wendy Darling*

    5. I had a similar thing for a job early in the pandemic — I had to fill out a work eligibility form that had to be signed by someone outside my household. Quite possibly this was before remote verification was allowed, or before that company’s very so-so HR found out about it. I was going to just pay a notary like $20 to do it but happened to bump into someone I was friends with and just had them do it and bought them a coffee to say thanks.

    It was definitely super weird but it was also 2020 so everything was generally so weird I didn’t even think that hard about it.

    1. Babanon5*

      I did my i-9 paperwork at some random shipping place (like FedEx) with a notary who seemed to be doing this as a side job. Maybe, worst case scenario, something like that would be available for the letter writer if they offer to pay out of pocket?

      1. Snow Globe*

        Just FYI, if you have a bank account, your bank most likely will provide notary services for free.

        1. Your Computer Guy*

          My town’s library also has a notary available for free, so it’s worth checking there.

        2. RegBarclay*

          Even a credit card. I needed to get something notarized and didn’t want to use my bank which is also my employer (it was paperwork to run for a minor political office). Luckily the local Chase branch was willing to do it since I have two of their cards. Worth looking into anyway.

    2. Kristine K*

      We’ve had to do this as well, and I recommended an office store notary, which of course the company would pay for!

      The remote I9 verification isn’t as simple as “you can remotely verify these now!” – you have to have everyone set up for E-verify. With 12 different sub-companies that we process payroll for at our locations, plus training everyone on how to transition to EVerify instead of the payroll system, this isn’t going to be a quick roll out for us.

      1. Jinx*

        This is true. You can’t just start using the remote process. You have ensure to be enrolled in E-Verify and if you use a system such as Workday for example to complete your I9s the form needs to updated there and then on top of that you need to ensure employees conducting these verifications are trained and familiar with the new form. I’m not saying it’s impossible to do but it’s not as immediate as one would think.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          Yeah, there was some special ‘you can do it remotely’ blanket policy during COVID, but I think that’s ending soon. I’ve been getting a flurry of emails from our payroll processing company with reminders to be sure to physically inspect any documents that I might have reviewed remotely in the last couple years.

          But moving to E-Verify permanently is a whole thing separate from that.

          1. ThatGirl*

            So, funny thing – I started my job in Jan 2021, and basically took a picture of my passport for I9 verification. I got an email a week or so ago saying they needed to see my documents in person – no problem, I brought my passport to work with me, emailed the lady to ask when was a good time to meet up and she said oh, actually, we don’t need it after all! So… who knows.

        2. Questionable Process!!*

          My husband’s company (technically his company was purchased by another so he was re-onboarded). It was through workday. I was his verification. He is a resident alien and his A number was not accepted by the software. To get it to go through, I left of digits randomly until it was accepted. oddly, we never heard a peep about it… :/

        3. Retired Merchandiser*

          When I was working, what I had to do was make copies of my info and email to HR
          Of course merchandising is a whole different world, and some companies would send supervisor to examine documents in person, but usually it ws email. I worked for companies where I never even met my supervisor.

      2. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        Thank you, glad someone flagged this. E-Verify isn’t a quick switchover. However, agree with the suggestions of taking to a bank or somewhere like that and have a notary do this. Though these documents don’t NEED to be notarized, it is someone who is trained to do this sort of thing. In fact, if I were the employer this is probably what I would request in this circumstance, if going into a local branch is not an option. (This may also be useful for any other onboarding documents – nearly anything related to retirement, for example (or governed under ERISA) typically still requires a notary and a wet signature.

        1. B*

          Not only is E-Verify not a quick switch, some employers choose not to participate for legitimate reasons.

        2. I Have RBF*

          One place that I onboarded with during the pandemic emergency did this. They sent me to a guy who ran a water store and did notary and document verification as well. It was only somewhat out of my way.

      3. Sharon*

        I used to be a notary and as far as I know, this activity does not fall under notary services authorized by any state. Some notaries *may also* be engaged as independent contractors by companies to act as their remote rep for I-9 and other documentation, but it’s not a notary service and you shouldn’t expect a notary to be available for this. The company needs to provide an agent authorized by the company. Asking your friends/family to do this is a major conflict of interest and is also asking them to take on liability on behalf of the company with no compensation at all.

        1. Never Boring*

          Immigration paralegal here. You would be AMAZED how many people who actually have some training in completing I-9 forms still do it wrong. I doubt there is a single company of any size in the U.S. that has perfect I-9s, and I have worked on I-9 audits for Fortune 100 companies (and used to be the go-to I-9 troubleshooting person for a Fortune 100 company). Definitely would not trust a random notary to do it correctly.

        2. Orv*

          Reminds me of a weird issue I ran into once — my girlfriend in Washington was moving in with me in Michigan, and I had to get the lease signed before she was physically there. No problem, they said, we’ll send a copy and she can have it notarized.

          It turns out in Washington documents have to have particular notary language on them before they can be notarized, language that isn’t necessary in Michigan and wasn’t on the forms. She went to three different notaries before one of them finally explained why they were refusing to notarize it for her.

    3. Dianne*

      I had to do it in a similar situation to LW, some random company hired to do the HR paperwork. It’s a bad thing to outsource IMO because the random company has no skin in the game and doesn’t care if the hiring process makes sense. I also ran into a lot of unfillable forms with options that didn’t make sense for my situation, and when I tried to explain, my rep would impatiently instruct me to “just” write down a lie or half ass it in some other shady way. I figured if they didn’t care, I didn’t need to care, and I filled out the form myself with the name of a fake friend.

    4. lunchtime caller*

      I had to do a paper version of this too when I was hired recently, and I just asked a coworker who was a notary (and is often asked to handle docs within the company) to do me a quick favor.

    5. Jay (no, the other one)*

      I had the same thing – my company was acquired in mid-2021, we were still 99% remote and had to do I-9s for the new company. My husband did it for me – or at least I put his name and info on the form and I guess he signed something. He never talked to anyone. It seemed very weird and not at all secure. At least I didn’t have to worry about sharing my private info with someone who shouldn’t have it!

      1. alienor*

        Same here, around the same time frame, but my young adult child did it for me. I believe she got a link via email to sign electronically, and had to supply a driver’s license number or something to verify that she was who she said she was.

      2. irritable vowel*

        I started a new job in fall 2021 and my partner had to do this for me – but we both had to be on a Zoom video call with the HR rep. It was super-awkward but we still joke about how he’s an “authorized representative” of my employer.

    6. Totally Minnie*

      When I worked in a library it was a thing people would ask us to do sometimes. Not everybody has someone outside their immediate family who they could ask for something like this.

    7. Jenny F Scientist*

      I just had to do this for my work- I had my spouse sign it- but I agree that it is weird and inconvenient and potentially intrusive! It would be much easier if the employer facilitated, by lining up a local notary and asking people to do it during work hours, for example.

      (Administration staff in government office are also often notaries and will sometimes do these things for free, though maybe not for another employer; our tiny city office has five notaries.)

    8. Daisy-dog*

      The reason was likely because the pandemic requirement was to verify everyone AGAIN *in-person* once the pandemic was over, so they were trying to avoid having so many to re-do. (This is the requirement now for anyone not utilizing e-Verify.) The importance is to have a person see that these documents are real (though we aren’t actually trained on finding fakes) and not just a photoshopped picture.

      Also, I’ve known some friends have a hard time finding a notary willing to do it. One called half-a-dozen places and everyone refused to complete an I-9. She was going to have to drive to me (~an hour because of traffic), but found someone closer.

    9. MadCatter*

      Yeah, I’ve had to have friends verify I-9 stuff for me when I started remotely at a position during the pandemic. I wonder if this is a hold over from that, or they just found it easier. I don’t recall the form itself being particularly cumbersome, tbh. I think it took 5 minutes. I did also have to get something notarized (I was a FL state employee and they have a weird oath of loyalty). I found a AAA with notary services.

    10. AJ*

      I just filled out one of these for my husband last week! The company he works for is fully remote. They had remotely verified his documents when he started working there but said that some rule was expiring and so the documents needed to be checked in person.

      It definitely felt weird that it was legally allowed for me to verify, but given the remote nature of the company, it didn’t feel sketchy that they decided to do it that way.

      1. HappilyJV*

        My husband just did the same for me at my remote-only job last week. Felt weird but it was basically saying “yup, that’s her passport” and that was that

      2. CV*

        I haven’t been able to find anything about the legal liability the friend is taking on, affirming these things. This seems peculiar.

        On the US Government site about I-9s, it says that while you can ask a notary to do this, if they do it, they are not allowed to do it *as* a notary. It’s outside their ambit. They would be acting entirely as a private person.

    11. QuinFirefrorefiddle*

      I would be so tempted to send them a separate email explaining that you need to find someone to do this for you, and as they already have the relevant info and are unlikely to steal your identity, would they be able to do this? Then if they say no, send them another separate email saying you tried to find someone but were unable to.

  4. living 400lbs*

    Re #1, set your phone to Do Not Disturb during hours you don’t want work calls. Android let me customize my DND work hours and set exceptions for family members, so i will get important middle of the night calls but not work or telemarketers.

    1. TG*

      Agreed I was going to also suggest and do the same for teams so you don’t get the pings waking you up either.

    2. Mid*

      And iPhone has the same feature! Also don’t tell your coworker you’re setting it to DND, just refuse to answer and when asked, say it’s outside your working hours or you were asleep.

    3. autumnal*

      That’s exactly what I do. I set my DND hours along with an exception for calls/texts from people marked as “favorite” in my contacts. Best feature on the phone.

      1. Artemesia*

        This fixes the problem if you want to be available for a family emergency. You can leave it so only particular numbers ring.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          That’s what I did a while ago, it makes a huge difference.

          I’ve got to keep my phone next to my bed because I’ve got a family member who lives nearby who does sometimes need assistance in the middle of the night, so I can’t leave it in another room or turn it off completely. So I excluded my family members from the DHD feature.

          But using DND works great to eliminate those Spam calls that always seemed to come in the dead of night (it’s like spammers operate on the same schedule as my smoke detector batteries …. they ONLY start making noise between 1 am and 3 am).

    4. I'm an engineer*

      Android also lets you set exceptions via your address book. My team leader and boss can call me out of hours (as well as family) but the rest of them go straight to voicemail.

        1. allathian*

          For me it’s the same thing, I never listen to my voicemail unless I’m looking for a new job.

    5. Allison K*

      It’s improved my life immensely to set my phone to not make notification sounds. No beeps, no rings, and email doesn’t have a badge. I live in another time zone from most people I know/work with/am related to, and they don’t have to worry about being considerate or counting zones or remembering if I’m jetlagged this week and sleeping late.

      I work with my phone facedown but check it and email regularly and deal with other people without interrupting myself if I’m doing focused work. I don’t work in a Slack or Teams environment, but if I did I would likely put it on silent and check every 45-60 minutes. It feels a lot better to check in on other people’s needs on purpose than to be interrupted by them!

      1. Random Dice*


        It’s crazy that the tiny little phone sounds and badges can feel so stressful, but… Stone Age nervous system, here, it thinks they’re somehow contributing to life and death.

    6. Gyne*

      Yes, so much this. I even have two phones (one for work, one for personal) and my work phone is set to DND unless I am actually on call. Way, way too many middle-of-the night calls from people at work who cannot read the call schedule made it an absolute necessity.

    7. Donkey Hotey*

      Just be careful with the DND settings. Android has a feature where it will ring through when the same number calls multiple times in a short period.

      1. Katherine*

        That’s another setting that you can turn on or off according to your personal preference IME.

  5. Rosyglasses*

    It’s actually not bizarre with the I-9; this is really common with third party authorization companies and have been around for awhile. It seems weird because most people show up in person but the employer absolutely can ask remote employees to have a physical review of the documents and designate an authorized representative to do so. If you look up any of these companies that provide this service to employers you’ll see this is the recommended procedure.

    1. Sweet Clementine*

      Chiming in to say both my partner and I have taken jobs during the pandemic and have had to do it ourselves. There was no option to come to the office, only option was to get it done by a third party. All of them are big tech employers, so it could be bizarre but seems par the course now.

      1. Tech Tac Toe*

        My partner and I also work in big tech, took new jobs during the pandemic, and both had to reverify our I9s like this recently. I thought it was bizarre the first time, but now it seems like all the tech companies do it this way.

    2. Chaordic One*

      Former H.R. employee and I’ve heard of this. The situation is pretty much as Rosyglasses describes. The third party inspects the documents, determines they appear to be authentic, and then signs off as such on the I-9 Form. The I-9 form is then faxed or emailed to the main H.R. office. Usually they’ll make and include photocopies (or PDFs) of those documents and include them with the I-9 Form. Most employers input the info input into e-Verify, but not all have to. I think they merely need to retain a copy of the I-9 Form and usually copies of the supporting documents. I suppose that a fake document could used and the third party wouldn’t catch it, but I can’t imagine that the third party would be held liable for any deception by the employee. And I suppose that a third party could be complicit in fraud for knowingly signing off on a fake document. I’ve never heard of any such fraud, but it is bound to happen sooner or later. Anyway, I don’t think that OP has anything to worry about.

      1. Snow Globe*

        The weird thing is that the “third party” in this case seems to be a friend or family member. How does that work?

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Specifically, when I’ve done this, my friend (the New Employee) emailed me a link. I opened the link, answered a couple of questions about myself (name, address, and some identifier– I believe it was my driver’s license number), then verified my friend’s information by entering her passport number (not allowed to copy and paste). Then I e-signed, hit “submit” or whatever, and it was done.

          I’m not there to verify that the documents are real– I’m there to verify that she has documents. She uploaded a pic of her passport to the system herself. It took five minutes and it was a favor, and she probably bought me a cocktail for my trouble.

        2. Rosyglasses*

          From the USCIS definitions:

          “You may designate an authorized representative to act on your behalf to complete Section 2. An authorized representative can be any person you designate to complete and sign Form I-9 on your behalf. You are liable for any violations in connection with the form or the verification process, including any violations in connection with the form or the verification process, including any violations of the employer sanctions laws committed by the person designated to act on your behalf.”

    3. Green great dragon*

      The bizarre thing is that they’re expecting LW to find their own third party verifier. Which is even stranger now I know there are firms which do this.

      1. Zelda*

        Exactly! What amounts to “Have your mom call us up and say that you’re totally who you say you are” is the weirdest thing I’ve read all week.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          This should be in the top three of “how Covid changed the Workplace.”
          I remember in the 90s working in a temp agency and being told about these I9 forms the government now needs. We had to track down EVERYONE who was registered, even if they hadn’t worked, to fill out this IMPORTANT GOVERMENT FORM (TM). I moved to another agency, and they were very happy to have someone familiar with IMPORTANT GOVERMENT FORM (TM) for onboarding new potential temps.
          Now it’s: hey, grab a buddy and have them sit there while you fill this out.
          Sure thing, boss.

        2. alienor*

          When I needed to get a passport as an adult, I ran into trouble because there had been a paperwork snafu when I was born, and my official birth certificate hadn’t been filed until I started school. This meant I needed a certain number of supporting documents to validate it. I had one of them (a Social Security card) but for various reasons I didn’t have any of the others on the list of acceptable options.

          The only other possibility was to get a notarized letter from someone who had witnessed my birth, which basically meant one of my parents, because I had been born while my dad was in the military (the organization that messed up my birth certificate in the first place, since I was born in the base hospital where he was stationed) and they were living far from home. So finally, my mom wrote a letter that essentially said “I gave birth to [my name] on this date in this location” and had it notarized. It seemed weird and sketchy, but it worked!

      2. Ccbcc*

        I work for a massive company and those of us who don’t live near an office were given one month to find out own third party verifier (preferably a notary or a lawyer) to review our previously verified documents.

        1. bamcheeks*

          When you apply for a UK passport, you have to get someone to sign your photos to confirm that they’re you, and it explicitly can’t be someone who is related to you and must be someone with a professional licence / registration / membership through which they could be disciplined if they had acted dishonestly or without due care.

          I can’t see what the advantage of “meet up with a friend / family member who will see your docs, take a picture and upload them” over just uploading them yourself– what extra security or probity does this give the company? It just seems to create an extra level of insecurity for the individual without any benefit to the organisation.

        2. AngryOctopus*

          My company did this, but also sent out a huge list of places we could go for verification. I just had to make an appointment at a place convenient for me and go in for a quick document review.

      3. freshly cut couch*

        I’ve been the third party for two friends who had to do this and both were for jobs at large well-known organizations.

      4. Oh no, it's HR!*

        I totally agree that there are firms that will do this for you, BUT they are often terrible, make a lot of mistakes, and/or don’t have a location close to candidates.

      5. grapefruit*

        When my company had me do this, they specified that any adult could perform this role, including spouse, family, etc. I had my husband do it. All he had to do was enter my ID info in the online portal and provide his contact info. I get that it may be more difficult for people who aren’t sharing a household with others, but I think in general it’s supposed to be a convenience to the employee, not a way for the employer to pass on costs.

      6. Rosyglasses*

        The firms that “do this” often will send a link to the employee that they need to forward to a friend or family member. It is not bizarre at all.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Yeah, this isn’t strange. It’s like being asked to witness a will or sign a marriage license– all I have to do is say yes, this is done, and sign. I’ve done this for two neighbors pretty recently. Took five minutes. Far simpler than making them track down a notary.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Come to think of it, I had to do this for my current job, which is remote. My partner signed it. Super simple.

      2. bamcheeks*

        The weird part to me is that it seems to be implied that the “authorised representative” has to take copies and upload them? That’s my identity documents now stored on someone else’s device, probably backed-up to their personal Google/iPhone/Microsoft cloud service, outside my control, with only normal levels of security. I don’t get what additional level of security that provides that is worth that extra level of risk. If it was me uploading my documents to a fully encrypted service and sending a link to a friend or family member to sign in and verify them (as it is for passports), that would make much more sense.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I didn’t have to do that, nor did my partner. The new employee uploaded docs to the verification system. I looked at the physical docs, answered some questions and did an e-signature. This is not uncommon.

    5. Moodbling*

      also, importantly, remote verification is no longer allowed since July 2023! Not only is this not that strange, if the company doesn’t have any employees local to the OP, it’s their only cost-free option.
      and filling out the employer side of an I-9 is really not challenging as long as you read the instructions.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Yes, but for company’s that haven’t until now and want to use e-verify to take advantage of this, they have to redo I-9s for their entire staff – so a lot of places either can’t or can’t yet.

      1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        This month my company is redoing all the I9s for pandemic hires it was annoying but simple enough — we had to resend our docs then hop on a video call so the HR person could validate the docs and see the face matches.

        1. I Have RBF*

          My current fully remote job did this. I had a camera on video call with the HR rep, they were recording, and held up my drivers license next to my face to prove that I was the person on the license.

          1. Rosyglasses*

            That’s what we’ve done since the great panini and now that USCIS has updated the rules to allow it going forward we will happily keep looking at ID via Zoom :-P

    6. Llama Llama*

      I work for a giant company and deal with the back end accounting problems related to payroll. One of which is people’s I9s being wrong. Makes me wonder if this is why.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Exactly. An untrained person has no idea whether the form is right. Nor do they have any incentive to care.

        This blithely oh this happens all the time is making my lawyer soul cringe. These are important government documents that have serious consequences if done wrong. Just designating random person as an “authorized representative” of the company to do this thing is just so wrong. Does no one understand agency law? Have a third party vendor if you must, but the third party vendor needs to do EVERYTHING, not further outsource the work.

        1. J*

          The untrained person isn’t verifying the form though, they’re more verifying that the person has documents in front of them. I’m not OP but this is very specific advice we are getting from immigration and employment counsel to do exactly this. It comes from government guidance. It’s not the form, it’s the identification.

        2. Rosyglasses*

          From the USCIS definitions:

          “You may designate an authorized representative to act on your behalf to complete Section 2. An authorized representative can be any person you designate to complete and sign Form I-9 on your behalf. You are liable for any violations in connection with the form or the verification process, including any violations in connection with the form or the verification process, including any violations of the employer sanctions laws committed by the person designated to act on your behalf.”

          Third party vendors do NOT need to do anything other than provide a secure portal for this to occur.

    7. Armchair Analyst*

      yes this
      it’s no different from “serving” as a witness when a neighbor refinances their mortgage- show an ID, sign some docs, there’s an official part but it is so low-key that it is not onerous and there’s no background check or other obligation

      1. I Have RBF*

        Exactly. I’ve done this for roommates. They had a document that they had to sign, and I had to watch them sign it, and then sign as having seen them sign it, as well as putting my contact info.

    8. redflagday701*

      Chiming in with everybody else to say I just had to do this too, for a remote job I started in May. My wife just looked at my docs and gave the OK. It took a couple of minutes tops, and honestly, if I had done it all myself and signed off on it with her name, I don’t think anyone at the company would be any the wiser. (Not recommending this — just emphasizing it was much more “hoop to jump through” than “laborious demand.”)

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I think I had to provide my driver’s license number or something, so I’m pretty sure they have ways to prevent that. :) Even so, took five minutes max. My first one took a bit longer because I didn’t realize I needed to verify my neighbor’s passport number so she had to come upstairs with the passport.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          if it’s allowed to use a person living in the same household, then getting ahold of their driver’s license number is… not a real obstacle.

    9. HatBeing*

      Came here to echo this! Pre-8/1 remote form rollout, the government required that all remotely verified I-9s be verified in person. The instructions given on the USCIS site note that anyone over 18 and not a spouse can verify the documents. My team then would double check the verification to make sure it was done correctly before signing off. Is it ideal? Absolutely not. But was it the best option for companies trying to be compliant and offer flexibility for workers not near offices? Sure was.

    10. Sara*

      My 19 yo daughter got a job at Nordstrom and she had to have her own I-9 verified. For an in-person (in-store customer service) job. I thought it was crazy.

      1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        It makes sense, given that the reason those forms exist at all is so companies won’t hire people who aren’t authorized to work in the United States. That’s often for low-paying jobs like retail sales, call centers, and waiting tables, some of which are happy to hire people with few options for low pay, sometimes illegally low pay.

        And that can be a Nordstrom’s as easily as a corner convenience store.

        1. kt*

          It’s not that part — it’s that for an in person job, the employer wouldn’t even do the work of verifying the docs. It’s not remote — she’s showing up in a physical location with sentient coworkers — and they’re asking her to have the I-9 verified by “not a coworker”.

          I did plenty of I-9 verifications as a manager; that wasn’t hard. It seems weird to me that given that you have to onboard someone in person anyway for an in person role, you wouldn’t fold in the I-9 process just like it always was done in the past.

    11. Also-ADHD*

      I am used to these because I had to do it with some W2 part time work from home prepandemic and I think honestly it was the only viable option before they let employers everify I9s. My current company has had remote work prepandemic so did this until really recently when we changed process too. Now that you can virtually verify I9s, it’s not needed so could be avoided but I never felt it was a big deal, though in my case, my husband just did it after I filled stuff out. He just had to look at my passport and sign off, took a minute.

    12. nojellybeans*

      Yeah, with the rise of remote work this seems pretty commonplace. I was hired for a fully remote job about 9 months ago, and this is exactly how I verified my I-9.

  6. Educator*

    LW1, I wonder if there may be a cultural component to consider, depending on where your coworker is located. I would recommend an online search for “high context vs low context culture” to see if anything resonates with this coworker’s behavior. If you are in the US, it is helpful to remember that our culture (and most of the advice here) is lower context.

    Regardless of the cultural context, they cannot call you in the middle of the night or bombard you with meeting requests–that’s rude everywhere–but it may help you strategize about the best way to deliver that message and meet your coworker’s needs during your overlapping office hours.

    1. allathian*

      Yup. Although 3-hour phone calls would be inappropriate pretty much anywhere.

      I’m just wondering about the whole thing, because this LW started this job 4 months ago. Just how much help can they provide this coworker so early in the job? In most jobs past entry level, they’d still be onboarding at this stage or just starting out with doing more independent work.

      To me it sounds like those calls are more about the coworker getting her emotional needs met than directly work-related. The LW wouldn’t be failing at being a team player by noping right out of that sort of emotional labor.

      1. I Have RBF*

        Just how much help can they provide this coworker so early in the job?

        Depends on their experience level.

        I onboarded to a high bureaucracy org, that took months to get me access to everything. One of my coworkers, in that first month, had a problem in my area of expertise. I couldn’t log in to look at stuff, but they could screen share. I asked a couple of questions, had them show me some logs, and I spotted the problem. It would have taken them many more hours to find the error if I hadn’t literally been a fresh pair of eyes on the problem. (They’d already had two people working on it for a day.)

        So the LW might be an SME, but their time is still being abused by the rude coworker.

        I will never call someone out of hours unless it’s literally an emergency, that something in their area of responsibility is production and is down hard. But I have needed to do so. Because I only do it when it’s an emergency, they know when I call out of hours I really need their involvement. I expect my coworkers to extend me the same courtesy.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      There might be a cultural component in not getting the hints and needing to be very direct, but I work on international projects with colleagues who run the range from Japanese to Dutch, and none of them would think spontaneous phone calls at 3am are appropriate. (3am telecons sometimes happen, but only when there’s no way to get all the participants at reasonable time zones, and they’re scheduled well in advance).

      1. Well...*

        Yea, I’ve collaborated extensively internationally, and I’ve never seen this behavior. Of course, my perspective is still pretty limited as the world is a big place, but I’ve never seen international cultural differences lead to something like this. Maybe I could imagine a particular advisor or group cultivating a culture like this, but a whole country of people chill with 3-hour phone calls in the middle the night (with or without context clues) seems like a stretch.

    3. Helvetica*

      The difference is that if you work for a multinational company, as LW#1 does, cultural context like this does not actually matter. I work multinationally and if something is different in my original culture, I can still easily understand and follow the context I work in, if culturally different. Understanding time zones and not taking up hours of someone’s time is more common sense than culture-specific. There are plenty of business norms in my current workplace that would be out of sync with my general cultural context but I adapt, as LW’s coworker seems to not have done.

    4. Ally McBeal*

      Calling someone in the middle of the night for a non-emergency is not a cultural thing, in any culture.

      1. Well...*

        Yea sometimes I think naively trying to be open-minded about other cultures can quickly lead to being pretty insulting to those cultures. On the one hand, you’re trying to be understanding of things lost in translation. On the other hand, leaving room for the other person to lack basic common sense can be pretty patronizing. It’s tough to balance, and getting it wrong either way usually belies someone who’s not all that experienced working with other cultures.

    5. Zweisatz*

      Eh. People work differently. I definitely have colleagues who would always prefer chat if possible and colleagues who would turn everything in a 3-hour phone call if they could. All in the same city.

      The LW needs specific things from this coworker so they should just go ahead and make those things clear (or engineer it that they are respected, like turning the phone off etc.). I’m sure they are not going to be rude about either their culture or personality in the process.

    6. Observer*

      wonder if there may be a cultural component to consider, depending on where your coworker is located.

      You know there is a saying “Don’t be so open minded that your brains fall out.” Which is to say that there really is such a thing as being open minded at the expense of using some common sense. This reference to culture is one of those occasions. It comes of as a reflexive and unthinking attempt to be open minded in a way that does not make sense and, as @well…. says, it can wind up being patronizing.

      I would recommend an online search for “high context vs low context culture” to see if anything resonates with this coworker’s behavior.

      This is only relevant to the fact that the CW prefers in person conversations rather than messages and email. And if that were all that the OP were writing about, this would be probably the most salient point.

      But the rest of the behavior that the OP describes has nothing to do with context level. It’s behavior that is disrespectful (and mostly ineffective) in any culture.

      1. Ali + Nino*

        You know there is a saying “Don’t be so open minded that your brains fall out.”

        I did not know that but I love it, thank you.

    7. Joron Twiner*

      A high context culture response would be to look at the calendar of the other person and schedule a meeting time during their work hours.

  7. QADragon*

    Not sure where you are located LW#1 but in my area (Ontario, Canada) we actually have “right to disconnect” laws. We legally have the right to not be contacted by anyone unless it’s an emergency outside of our work hours.

    If your areas does not have this I would just not reply to the message if you see it outside of work and just remind this person of your working hours. Something like “it was 1am my time when you called and I was asleep.
    I work 9-5 EST. I can’t respond outside those hours but I’ll respond to your message as soon as I can the next work day” could work.

    You have my sympathy- this sounds miserable

    1. Bilateralrope*

      If you don’t have “right to disconnect” laws, look at your health and safety laws. Because having interrupted sleep isn’t good for your health. Especially if you drive for your commute.

      1. Random Dice*

        I’m guessing you’re not in the US :)

        Them newfangled inventions haven’t gotten here yet.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      Even if they DO have a right to disconnect law, I’d suggest they follow your advice as a first step.

    3. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      Also, I think you should mention this to your manager, even in just a “this is happening and I’m hopefully dealing with it” kind of way. I would want to know if one of my employees was getting calls in the middle of the night, or having multiple hours a day eaten up by phone calls from someone on another team. Even if I was extremely busy.

      1. Emikyu*

        This. I am extremely busy, and I would absolutely want anyone who reported to me to bring this up. For one thing, people who trample boundaries rarely do it to only one person. Maybe everyone has been successful in fending off this behavior until now, but the offending coworker needs to know that it has to stop. I can’t say anything to them about it unless I know it’s happening, and this is egregious enough that their manager needs to let them know in no uncertain terms how unacceptable this behavior is.

        OP, if your manager is any good at their job, they want to know this has been a problem.

      2. Kit*

        Quite frankly, I’d mention it to your manager for two specific reasons. If you’re getting woken up by these calls, that may well end up noticeable to your manager and explaining why your sleep has been interrupted means she won’t blame you if you’re yawning in a meeting or something similar. And if your international coworker is willing to trample over basic decency enough to routinely call you multiple times in the middle of the night… I would be skeptical that they won’t complain to their own manager or another coworker about how difficult it is to get in touch with you. You and your manager are both better served if she knows why you’re not responding to these calls and can head off any complaints at the pass, rather than being blindsided if they come up.

  8. Lisa*

    What gets even more complicated regarding taking collections at work is when a manager is collecting donations for their employees from contractors they also supervise. That seems like crossing a boundary to me and happens at my husband’s office frequently. Regarding the I9 situation, I’ve done that twice for a family member and both times were for remote healthcare jobs. I also thought it was suspect that companies would essentially outsource that to strangers given the stringent I9 requirements.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Our handbook states that contractors are not allowed to participate in company “morale events/celebrations.” It keeps it simple, fair and legal.
      Collecting donations is so clearly wrong. From an ethical view, it looks like a bribe for full time work. From a legal view, they are NOT employees of the company. From a human view, it’s like older brother gets to ride the sled down the hill, little brother gets to drag it back up. “But Moooommmmm, I AM playing with him.”

  9. Jackalope*

    Okay, OP, do NOT take the suggestion that I’m about to give, because it’s petty and will not make things better…. But what I really want to suggest is that you note what time your coworker keeps calling you your time, say 3 am, and then start calling her back at 3 am her time zone. If she thinks that’s a good time to get work done, let her be the one working in the middle of the night.

    Better, more realistic suggestion: if you are able, in addition to blocking her in the middle of the night (putting your phone on do not disturb, whatever works), also try not to answer when she calls at other times. Instead send her an IM or text saying that you can’t talk on the phone then but you can do text or email. If that’s the only way she can reach you, she may switch. That of course depends on if that’s okay in your workplace; if everyone insists on phone work for whatever reason, you might not be able to push back on that part. (But you can definitely push back on the middle of the night part.)

    1. I need sleep!*

      I had a boss who I kind of appreciated even though she had a passive aggressive approach – our St Louis office would always schedule meetings at 5 or 6 am pacific time and so she would schedule meetings at 4 or 5 pm our time, so 6 or 7 pm their time. Why not make them work late if they made us work early. It’s a bit petty and passive aggressive but I still support it.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        This is exactly the sort of situation where being passive-aggressive is appropriate. My guess is that the person scheduling the 5 am meeting lacks the ability for abstract thought necessary to understand how time zones work and the implications thereof. So remove it from the abstract to the concrete.

        1. Moodbling*

          Definitely don’t get passive aggressive until after you’ve directly named the problem at least once.

          1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

            Thank you. Instead of all these solutions — just be direct. This is my time zone*, I am not available in the middle of the night in my time zone. Do not call during this time. Also, I cannot make last minute meetings. Please email for any issues.

            Then do the block, etc.

            Let they who have never messed up a time zone throw the first stone. BUT, most people apologize when they mess up a time zone and its a sometime thing. But when someone is being this rude, directness is called for.

          2. Observer*

            Definitely don’t get passive aggressive until after you’ve directly named the problem at least once.


            All of these suggestions are fun, but they are a really bad first step as @Jackalope notes.

            1. I need sleep*

              Yeah, to clarify, it wasn’t that they hadn’t been told it was annoying that’s always my first step – hey FYI this is 5 am my time or whatever – but they really didn’t care. This was a company where people saw nothing wrong with setting up 7 am meetings in their own time zone. So it wasn’t like it hadn’t been pointed out to them, just that they did it anyway. So passive aggressive was not the first approach, more of a last resort.

              To be fair, that whole industry was crap. Same industry different job – I had a daily 6:15 meeting meeting M-F morning (same time zone set it up) and a Sat 7:15 am meeting.

              1. JM60*

                Timezone differences aside, I’d consider any meeting before 9am to be very early, let alone 6:15am!

                1. I need sleep!*

                  Right? Me too! At some point they are just like screw you because now you also have to have a meeting on Saturday morning. And trust me that’s what they were doing.

                  You could usually hear one person snoring on the 6:15 call who forgot to mute.

                  It was such a waste of time. 2 hours every morning of managers up through the head of our division. And this is a company with over 100k people so this was a large group – on my team alone I would be me, the other 4 or 5 managers reporting to our director, our director, our Sr Director, and so on. And it was a number of groups like that. All sitting on a daily status call. It was bonkers. And then we would usually have a call at the end of the day like 5 or 6 PM to all get ready for the next morning’s call. I was in about 13 hours of meetings a day there.

                  I do not work there anymore. I do not miss it.

        2. Totally Minnie*

          For a past job, I was on a book related email listserv. Sometimes marketing people from New York publishing houses would send out a message during their morning and say “the first 50 people to reply will get an advance copy of our new book!” And by the time I checked my email at 8AM PST, all the copies would be claimed. I emailed so many publishing people to remind them that time zones exist and ask that they please make these offers in the afternoon so people who weren’t on the east coast could also participate. It never stopped being weird to me that people who worked in marketing couldn’t figure out time zones.

        3. JustaTech*

          I’ve worked with people who weaponized the time difference to try and avoid having necessary West Coast teams join in on calls (because the East Coast team didn’t want to hear what the West Coast team was going to tell them).

          Most of the time 5 or 6am meetings are ignorance. Occasionally they’re malice.

      2. I Have RBF*

        I once worked remotely for an East Coast company. I live on the West Coast.

        My manager allowed me to opt out of anything before 8 am my time. They had a quarterly, all week, planning session that started at 6 am my time. I got up early for the one that most impacted me, but I didn’t have to.

        It still made an impression that I was willing to flex my schedule for one or two early meetings once a quarter. If it had been required I would have pushed back, and if it was weekly I would have been more resistant.

        The planning meetings were with an external, DC based government client, and the client scheduled them. It irritated my boss and my grandboss, but since it was a client they had to suck it up and deal.

    2. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      LOL, your suggestion of calling her back in the middle of *her* night was definitely my first impulse, too, even if it is not actually a good thing to do.

      …and if none of the other suggestions that everyone else has ends up working…I might ultimately resort to that. But I’d try everything else first.

  10. Googlebuster*

    go to “Let me google that for you” do the search and send them the generated link. they’ll get the point

    1. Mid*

      That would be seen as pretty snarky and rude in most offices, unless you have a pretty joking culture established with the coworker you sent that link to. Simply because the link goes through the whole process of typing into Google and searching it, rather than even sending the link to the search results from the first page of Google. It would make a point for sure, but it might not be the one you want to make.

    2. KateM*

      I thought that there was a reason why the title of that is ‘*Diplomatic way* to say “let me Google that for you”’.

    3. Ariaflame*

      I will note that recently Google has started providing answers that are not necessarily useful since it appears to be more likely to promote LLM generated guff.
      I’ve started ducking myself.

      1. Artemesia*

        ah yes. Google was once a wonderful search engine; I could locate people I had not seen in 50 years or identify obscure restaurants I once stumbled on in small villages in the Vaucluse — and you could get a specific result by putting it in quotes — and then they changed how the process works and prioritized advertisers and now it is impossible to use it surgically to get very specific information. The last few searches I did focused on one word not the phrase and thus gave me long lists of utterly useless information and ads.

        1. Dr. Vibrissae*

          Yes, and recently Google’s image search function has started showing videos first..which is annoying because I’m trying to figure out what this flower is, I don’t need a video of someone in a garden

        2. Lucy P*

          I’ve found that if I want decent results from Google I need to search from a PC. Searching from my smart phone gives me dumb answers.

    4. Anonyscribe*

      Re LW #1, does this colleague waking you up in the middle of the night have any issues with completing their work, or not getting information to you or needed tasks done in a timely manner?

      I was working with a colleague in a different department on a months long project, and because we saw each other in person every day would communicate project needs verbally and trust when they said they were on top of things and handling their end. As the deadline got closer our department head was asking for updates, and while I communicated to my direct manager throughout the project where my colleague said they were verbally, and manager believed me when I said I was following up with colleague regularly (I also had texts on my personal phone of us talking about the project), she gave me the very good advice that these conversations should be happening via email or some other trackable medium. By doing so, I had written proof that I was holding up my end of the work and any delays weren’t due to slacking off on my part.

      After my manager told me this, I started noticing which people I needed things from that regularly had trouble following through and I had to hound repeatedly in order to get any follow up or completion on things they knew they were responsible for. 9 times out of 10, it was someone who “preferred meeting or a phone call”. Once I started emailing requests, and sending follow up emails summarizing conversations or meetings, things started getting done in a timely manner, likely because they knew it was in writing and they couldn’t just brush it off with a “things got so busy it just slipped my mind” or fudge the dates on which something was requested. So I’m kind of wondering if the colleague in need of a time zone reminder is one of those that prefers phone calls because it allows them to operate with less or more limited accountability. just a thought.

      1. I Have RBF*

        That would have infuriated me. I have memory issues. If it isn’t written down, in email, chat, or my notes, it might as well not exist. So if someone was calling me in the middle of the night with requests it probably wouldn’t get done, because I do not have the ability to make work notes on my personal phone. Even on regular hours video calls I will ask that people email me the details, because I can’t always transcribe them in the middle of a meeting.

        It used to irritate the heck out of me when working in person and someone would make a request of me while I was walking to the bathroom, and expect me to somehow remember it when I was back at my desk. They would bristle when I asked them to email it, saying “Why can’t you just remember it?” I would then have to explain, once again, while doing the pee-pee dance, why I have memory issues and why that I will never guarantee to remember things told me verbally. It is exhausting.

    5. Auntie Social*

      “When you Googled it. what were your results?” is pretty effective. And I sound helpful!

      1. bamcheeks*

        and is a genuinely helpful question if they don’t know how to frame the google query or how to sort out useful information from low-quality rubbish and Quora pages.

      2. OrdinaryJoe*

        That’s what I do! Insert Google, Help Desk, Help Chat, etc. because it is very possible to take that route, see the ‘answer’ and still not get it. If they haven’t looked themselves, it’s a quick, “OK! Come back to me if, after you do that, you still don’t get it!” (smile)

        Helpful and done usually in 5 seconds ….

      3. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Yup. “Hmm, what did you get when you googled/checked the intranet/checked the department wiki that?” is something I say very frequently. And very frequently I get “oh never mind found it” as a response :D

      4. Corporate Lawyer*

        Yes, this works well for me too. I also often say some version of, “hmmm, I don’t know off the top of my head. I would have to [Google it/check the documentation]. If you don’t find what you need [in your Google search/in the documentation], let me know and I may be able to think of some tips to help point you in the right direction.”

        Importantly, I often say “I don’t know off the top of my head” even if I DO happen to know the answer off the top of my head in cases where I really don’t want to encourage them to come to me for answers, like simple questions or questions that don’t involve my areas of responsibility or expertise. I have learned the hard way that if I make it easier for them to come to me than to avail themselves of the appropriate resources, then they will come to me Every. Single. Time.

    6. Quinalla*

      After you do all the things Alison suggested, you may be able to do this as a last resort. I had to do this with 2 coworkers in the past who were just not getting it. Our culture is very jokey, so it landed well, but would not land well everywhere!

    7. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I came up in the google era spared from jerks/generally thoughtless people who are unwilling to google for themselves. I worked with people who replied, “oh, I thought you knew. I’ll google for myself.”
      So now, I tell people, “I don’t know. I’d have to google. I recommend searching ABC. When you find it, can you send it to me so I’ll know for next time, too?”
      Over the years I’ve never encountered anyone willing to weaponize incompetence in the workplace to the point of “I don’t know how to google.”
      I don’t know if OP has tried this, pushing back at all. But that is the first thing to do.

      1. CC*

        Hah, I have… I shared an office (augh) with someone who would dump his work on other people as much as possible. Honestly not sure what he actually did.

        One day I was asked what some easily-looked up number was. I said, “I don’t know offhand, why don’t you try google?” (this was when google was still functional) then a half hour later he interrupted me and asked for the same number. I told him I still didn’t know, and he acted like I was obligated to do basic searches for him.

        I was already long out of patience for him. Everyone else in the office I was happy to help, because they didn’t abuse it.

    8. ferrina*

      My company actually has someone whose job it is to look up information for other people. It’s not a full-time role- I think it takes up 5-10% of their job. She is a master of diplomatically connecting you with the right resources quickly. She curates an array of verified resources and has a list where you should be checking first.
      If you’re a first-time asker, she’ll happily look at the list for you and send you a link. She gently walks you through what she did so you can easily replicate it.
      If you are a repeat offender, she’ll start with “Hmm, we should have an answer on the resource list. Did that not meet your needs?” Then you either need to admit you didn’t’ look or bluster out why it didn’t meet your needs. If you try to BS her, she’ll make you dig your own hole- she’ll ask for details, where it doesn’t meet your needs, etc, and she’ll do it all because she’s “trying to improve our available resources.” It’s brilliant- if there’s genuinely info lacking, she’ll update it. If you’re lazy, she’ll make you feel the brunt of what you were doing.

    9. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      …I have literally done this to one of my more oblivious coworkers, and the response I got was “Oh, you just always think to use the internet to find things! It never even occurred to me to do that for this.”

      Readers, they were 100% serious, no snark involved. So even “let me google that for you” doesn’t even always work.

      1. AnonORama*

        My former boss, if someone asked a question that could be easily looked up online, liked to say “google that shit!” Not the most polite thing , but it was said in a joking way, in a very informal office, to people who thought it was funny. I passed it on to my entire family and several of my friends, who now say this whenever anyone asks a question no one can answer offhand. I had to call the “google that shit” guy for a reference recently and told him we all say it now. Thankfully he was amused!

  11. I need sleep!*

    I have lovely coworkers in different time zones who fully recognize this and would never expect me to answer calls in the middle of the night or joint meetings with 5 min notice in my off hours.

    However, I supported a division of our business that had zero boundaries. A gentleman in the UK sent me a meeting notice while I was asleep for a 5 am my time meeting. And by the time I woke up and saw it (I in Los Angeles with a later working schedule, doing business primarily with Asia) he had already escalated that he was sending me e-Mails and scheduling meetings and I wasn’t attending or responding. I lost my shit, basically. I was being told I’m non responsive and not helpful because I was literally sleeping at normal hours. I called my VP and told him to take care of it. My VP (whom I love, but is an intimidating figure who also asked me to support this other business unit as a favor outsider my normal job) went pretty hard after this on my behalf. You can’t expect someone to just be available 24/7 in case you call them.

    I wouldn’t have asked him if they weren’t escalating to the highest level of the company my non responsiveness due to their inability to plan. I have no regrets.

    But also I felt in a position where I needed support and if that’s where you are, ask for it. Sometimes
    You need to pull in support even if you’re a strong person. And that’s ok.

    1. I need sleep!*

      PS i will also add that the dude who tried to call me out doesn’t work there anymore. Basically he was in a panic trying to cover his own ass for not getting stuff done and that’s why he dramatically demanded immediate support.

    2. bamcheeks*

      he had already escalated that he was sending me e-Mails and scheduling meetings and I wasn’t attending or responding

      I mean, this would be wild behaviour even if you were in the same timezone!

      1. Mrs. Pommeroy*

        Yeah, his was just a completely unrealistic expectation on his side – not even waiting one business day for the OP to respond is wild for non-emergency workplaces.

        1. I need sleep!*

          Well, there are sometimes things that happen in my job that do need to be resolved ASAP. I would argue that is never in the middle of the night.

          My biggest issue with this guy was that he did literally nothing on a project for forever, then I assume his boss asked him about it and he immediately flailed and threw me under the bus. So it would not have been an emergency at all except for his inability to manage his stuff.

          I will also add that I did have some very strong words with him myself after having my VP address it. I don’t have a problem sticking up for myself but I also was concerned because this was a whole different division of our company whose leadership team didn’t know me at all so I was concerned about my good name.

          Anyway, all of that to say yes all of it is bonkers regardless of time zone.

          I am still at the same company and that guy is not.

  12. Spenser the Denser*

    LW #4, I was just thinking about this in regards to my own workplace. Coworkers who had been around longer than I had wanted to throw a surprise baby shower for our supervisor, complete with a money donation, lunch out of our pockets and an additional gift we’d give on our own, if we were feeling all the more generous.

    The problem, besides the obvious? Leading up to her maternity leave, I was in conversation with my supervisor about receiving a raise and after all of that fuss, was given a measly 5% one that didn’t even adjust for inflation and still kept me way below market value. Naturally, I was not in the most giving mood and stubbornly refused to bring a gift, going to the baby shower only because my absence would have raised more questions. It was awkward, to say the least, but I soldiered on anyway.

    You’re doing the right thing by ending this trend. For those of us, like me, who may never have kids (because I don’t want them) but who are also in the position of having to support family members on one income all while living in a HCOL area, every penny counts. If I give to someone because of some life decision they’ve made, I want to do so out of my own choosing and not because I was forced to.

    Many years ago, while working at my aunt’s salon, it wasn’t uncommon for people to come in and ask for donations, usually those who were homeless. One day, we had someone come in asking for donations for her wedding! The gall! Everyone stared at her blankly until she had the good sense to leave.

      1. Spenser the Denser*

        Haha, it wasn’t meant to be read that way but it’s funny how it captured my true feelings without even realizing it!

  13. P*

    For #3 a trick I’ve used in the past that has worked effectively is to say “you owe me chocolate if I can find the answers in xxx”. This must be said initially in a joking/friendly manner with no expectation of receiving chocolate (or whatever item that is small in monetary value that you prefer) but it gets the point across that you expect them to have done their homework first.

    1. Bit o' Brit*

      That is pretty much how I ended up buying our newest IT guy chocolate. I knew he wasn’t expecting it, but I think I made a friend for life for the bargain price of £1.20

      When I’m on the receiving end of the questions, I tend to earnestly ask “is it not in [documentation]?” Because it usually should be, and if it’s not I will add it. Most of the time it’s the first the asker has heard of there being documentation. For the googleable stuff, I send them the link to the resource instead of explaining myself. In any case, link instead of explain if at all possible, because I am Busy and Important (lol) and maybe in time they’ll learn where to look, or to use bookmarks.

    2. Ewesername*

      I call that “chocolate tax” at work. It has legitimately cut down on requests for things others can easily do themselves

  14. DW99*

    OP 4 (new manager): Yes, PLEASE ban the collections at work. They’re a hideous imposition, not least because at least one coworker in every office does the deeply offensive “So-and-so earns enough to contribute but never does — they’re just cheap!” shtick without knowing anything about others’ financial obligations (such as medical debt that someone, understandably, don’t want to discuss).

    With regard to a monthly sheetcake: very nice idea, but most taste awful and are way too sugary. In one workplace I liked, we took a brief afternoon break on the 1st Friday of every month to celebrate the birthday of everyone born in that month. People who wanted to bring in an inexpensive snack (homemade or manufactured) to share did, and most colleagues were considerate ( = didn’t hog the snacks if they brought nothing, or were chill about those who did freeload a bit).

    1. Mid*

      I was going to suggest rotating through a local treat monthly to keep things interesting (and be more inclusive of different diets.) Donuts one month, dumplings another, that kind of deal.

      1. Yellow cake*

        That sounds like a lot of effort to organise. The moment you are officially serving food as a manager – you have to accommodate dietary requirements. Deal with food handling etc.

        Honestly this sounds so much worse than just letting staff do their thing unofficially.

        1. Mid*

          While ideally every month would meet every dietary requirement, rotating would somewhat alleviate that because if someone couldn’t partake one month, they could the next (hopefully.) (I’m saying this as someone who was not only vegan, but was also allergic to wheat, so I missed out on a lot of food. It isn’t fun, but I’ve accepted that I’m a challenge to feed.)

      1. AngryOctopus*

        I do love a grocery store sheetcake. But I do like the idea of cycling through different treats in different months, just for the variety!

        1. t-vex*

          Our HR team does monthly birthday treats – they started off with cake but eventually went to fruit and chips and pretzels, which everyone seems to like more (and Dunkaroos, which for some reason the millennials on staff go wild over).

    2. Chuck Finley*

      Was wondering how long it would take someone to go all “not everyone can have sheet cake” on this. Well done.

    3. Goldie*

      We typically do a potluck for birthdays. There are 7 of us from different cultures. It’s fun and pretty easy. No one is spending much and there are leftovers.

      During covid, I as the manager tried to organize unique deliveries. That turned into gifts for each person. Omg it got exhausting trying to stay so creative and then being individually responsible for everyone’s birthday. And I do have many other responsibilities of course besides birthdays-haha.

      I think it’s fine to stick with something that works. It’s your workplace

  15. AnonNow*

    I love the idea that your team is that trustworthy, but I fear it could set up a situation where someone filches from the envelope, as there is no tracking with that method.

    1. Emmy Noether*

      I think that if you can’t trust your team to not steal, you have entirely more serious problems. I have heard of a case of the entire envelope disappearing from someone’s desk, though that may have been an outside person who seized the opportunity (and could happen with any collection method).

      I one place I worked, it wasn’t an envelope, it was a piggy bank – that could work as a filching deterrent if it’s the type that needs a key or screwdiver to open, although it is a bit inconvenient to not be able to make change from what is already collected.

    2. PhyllisB*

      When I got married, my company took up a collection for a gift. What I received was a sherbet dish worth $5.00. That would have been fine (this was in the seventies) but there were over 20 names on the card, so I knew they had to collected more.
      Still, I wrote my thank you note with everyone’s name and posted it on the bulletin board. Didn’t take long for someone to tell me they had collected over $100.00 to buy me a complete setting of my China pattern. The woman in charge told me later she was “short on funds ” and “borrowed” the money for a while and would “make it up to me ” later. I’m still waiting. /s

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Oh dear lord. I love it that you did the thank you note. At least, even though you are “still waiting” (sigh…) I hope your note served as an inspiration to everyone never to put that woman in charge of collecting or handling collected money again. The f-ng gall. How many other people that contributed to your gift might’ve also been “short on funds” and she just helped herself to their cash?

  16. takeachip*

    Another argument for banning gift collections at work is that the amount collected can be uneven for lots of reasons (popularity, seasonality, etc.), resulting in some people getting a nicer gift/celebration than others. Or the manager feeling obligated to make up the difference so someone isn’t slighted.

    I’ve never been a fan of work-sponsored celebrations like this because there’s no way to really keep it equal when you’re dealing with life events. Everybody has a birthday, and that’s about it; not everyone gets married or has a baby (at all, let alone while working for a particular employer). It ends up being really exclusionary and reinforces all kinds of societal norms & expectations that just don’t need to enter the fray at work.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, everyone has a birthday, but lots of people don’t celebrate birthdays, their own or anyone else’s, Jehovah’s witnesses, for example. A former coworker didn’t even tell people when her birthday was because she absolutely hated being the center of attention for personal reasons like her birthday. She was gracious when she got attention at work for professional accomplishments, though.

      That said, I do think it’s a bit small-minded to decline to celebrate someone’s life event just because it won’t happen to everyone, just as long as everyone who has that kind of an event gets to celebrate it if they want. So if you celebrate Jill & Jack’s wedding, you should also celebrate John & Jack’s and Jill & Joanna’s weddings. Or if you celebrate the birth of a biological child, you should also celebrate all the other ways of becoming a parent, like adoption.

      That said, my employer officially only acknowledges an employee’s 50th and 60th birthdays (you get to choose a gift whose value can’t exceed 100 euros from a list of about 20 options, an extra paid vacation day, and a card signed by the big boss), and retirement.

      1. Zweisatz*

        I can see where people are coming from when they are contributing to X weddings/baby showers a year, knowing full well that there will be no tit for tat. I’m fairly sure they wouldn’t mind congratulating people on it or signing their name in a nice card, but it’s an additional expense, plain and simple.

        Basically, these kind of traditions assume that everyone has the disposable income and that is just not true. People are being payed very differently and have very different expenses.
        If the company wants to have a tradition of celebrating X and Y than the company needs to shell out.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I was that person at one job! Both because I didn’t want to be the center of attention and because I was one of the oldest people in the office (at my ripe old age of 40-45 when I worked there…) in a famously ageist field and did not want to draw any more attention to it than absolutely needed.

        1. AnonORama*

          I’m seriously anti-birthday: I don’t like aging, I don’t like attention, I don’t need gifts, and I try to avoid alcohol oand refined sugar, so it’s kind of pointless. I’m also the oldest person on the team (40s, but most others are quite young) and don’t want that to be a thing either. I’ve had HR take my birthday off the common calendar; my teammates know approximately when it is, because our company pays for teams to go out to lunch on team members’ birthdays. So we have “Free Lunch for Absolutely No Reason” around my b-day. It’s worked well — we’re not paying for it, and no one is in the spotlight who doesn’t want to be.

      3. takeachip*

        “I do think it’s a bit small-minded to decline to celebrate someone’s life event just because it won’t happen to everyone”

        The issue is that what gets celebrated at work has a way of signaling what is valued at work. And besides birthdays, the only life events I’ve ever seen officially acknowledged in a work place are weddings and babies. It’s exclusionary and it makes people feel invisible and less-than. There are plenty of other life events that mean as much or more to some individuals, yet they go unacknowledged. It’s best not to be in the business of picking and choosing what is worthy of this type of recognition. I opted out of contributing to workplace gifts and parties a long time ago because I realized I generally didn’t care enough about the people/events involved to freely give my time and money, and I was tired of going along with it out of social pressure.

    2. Daria Grace*

      Yes, agreed. I’m leaving as part of a layoff so have about a dozen people of a team of a few dozen leaving the same day. I’ve contributed to SO MANY retirement/leaving gifts over the year and its a bit of a bummer knowing I probably won’t get the same.

      1. Nebula*

        You have my sympathies here, it really does suck when things like that happen. Last year, I left the organisation I’d been with for nearly seven years, and didn’t get any kind of send-off. People were leaving in droves, I’d recently moved to a different, entirely remote team than the one I’d been with for most of the time I’d worked there, and my manager had also left not long before, so there was just no one to organise anything for me. Still made me feel very sad, and it isn’t fair that these things end up being so uneven.

    3. WellRed*

      Yep! I’ve said it here before. After contributing to yet another baby or bridal shower I jokingly asked, “when am I getting a shower?” “When you get married or have a baby.” Well, ok then. How retro!

    4. Armchair Analyst*

      remember the letter from the manager/employer who acknowledged everyone’s birthday with a day of PTO – except for the employee born on Leap Day February 29th?

    5. Dona Florinda*

      I agree. Back in 2020 I had the first pandemic birthday and all my coworkers pitched in to send me a lovely gift. We then started to do it for everyone but a lot of people left the company during the year and by the last birthday of 2020, our team was just me and the birthday employee. Since she had contributed to everyone’s gifts throughout the year, I felt it wouldn’t be fair not getting her something, but since it was only me, I had to pay for it (fully) myself. So in the end it wouldn’t be fair to someone.
      Then there’s the previous mentioned issues of popularity, seasonality and so on… yeah, I personally think it’s safer to just ban individual gift giving at work.

    6. Distracted Procrastinator*

      When I was first hired at my company the HR director said they don’t do birthday celebrations for this reason. Well now 2 years in, the occasional “women’s lunch” (done because we are very male heavy industry and HR wants to support and encourage women collaborating and bonding in the workplace) has turned into “Let’s celebrate birthdays!” Except mine apparently. Birthday lunches were had around my birthday but I was left off the honorees list and not included in the planning like others having birthdays get to do.

      I mean, I’m not leaving my job over it, but it does affect how I feel about my place here.

  17. John Smith*

    re #4. in my department, collections are for retirees only. An envelope is available on a desk for voluntary donations and cards are purchased by senior management. The weird part is that people put their names on the envelope along with how much they contribute, a practice I’ve complained about.

    You could always have a voluntary system so long as it is truly voluntary. Just be prepared for unpopular people to receive far less than others (and in the case of one crappy manager before my time, an envelope full of pennies, paperclips, IOUs and other detroitus).

    1. I'm an engineer*

      Nothing stopping you from writing an amount that doesn’t match what you actually put in the envelope. Do that a few times and I’m sure the practice will stop :)

      1. Harper the Other One*

        My worry is that leading to investigations into the “theft” that happened – which is probably going to end up casting suspicion on whatever admin usually sits at that desk.

        If the amount field isn’t used in some way to reconcile cash, that would be different. But in that case, I’d probably just leave that space blank.

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          Just write that you put in $5 and really put in $10 (or whatever amounts suit you), leaving an overage rather than a short. All of the reconciliation drama, none of the theft accusations.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      My question is why should this be funded by employees instead of the company?

      1. Iris Eyes*

        Because the employer gives the employer gift and the employees give the coworker gift. Like the parents at the birthday party give a gift but all the friends/family at the party also bring gifts. I always assumed this got started when all the guys in the office chipped in money because they didn’t want to have to shop for, purchase, wrap etc a gift and could outsource that to the (usually) female admin but still participate in gift giving.

        If there are two gifts then your relationship with the company is fully expressed, the traditional gift from the employee for retirement that is the same or at least the same value. And the gift from your coworkers that is an expression of how much they liked you and will miss you.

    3. Observer*

      The weird part is that people put their names on the envelope along with how much they contribute, a practice I’ve complained about.

      What we’ve done in the past is have everyone put their name on the envelope *without* amounts. What that does is insure that everyone got the envelope, but no one sees who gave what.

      Now that so many people are remote the envelope with cash is not so practical, but so far on the few occasions that we did a collection, the person doing the collection was the only one who knew who gave anything, and was discreet enough not to share that information. A card, if there was one, was sent around separately.

  18. DW99*

    LW2, if you choose to coach Bertram on his communication skills, *please* make sure that you don’t use Oswald, or anyone else on the team, or anyone else who is equal to Bertram hierarchically as an example to emulate — and *please* don’t ask Oswald, or other employees, to provide tips. This is a sure-fire way to make Bertram feel crummy and to make his relationship with the other person(s) weird and probably bad.

    I was a copy editor at a small national publication, and the higher-ups weren’t thrilled with the copy desk’s headlines (writing great headlines is very difficult), so my otherwise-superb boss asked a somewhat arrogant freelancer who worked with us 1-2 days/week to lead a workshop for us. Yes, his headlines were great — but he wasn’t the best CE overall, plus his attitude sucked, so this was deeply offensive to several of us. (A longtime and much older colleague who was permanent though part-time, and who wrote great heds, would have been a far better choice — but better still to have avoided asking a peer to coach peers.)

    1. Rachel*

      This sounds like an ego based perspective.

      I don’t think Oswald coaching Bertram is good in this specific situation. There are plenty of dynamics where a peer giving a talk or workshop to other peers makes total sense.

      It sounds like there was a chip on your shoulder.

    2. Jay (no, the other one)*

      Yes. I was the peer asked to do the coaching very early in my career. I was (and still am) very efficient with documentation and one of my colleagues was, to say the least, not. At that point I didn’t understand why I was efficient and I could not explain it to anyone. I kind of thought it was inborn and not something that could be taught. I tried coaching him and I think that mostly amounted to me saying “just do it faster” which of course was not at all helpful. I was able to suggest that if he wrote his notes write away he wouldn’t spend as much time trying to reconstruct what he’d done.

      I figured out what I was doing right eventually and was able to coach people when I moved up the ladder and coaching was appropriate for my position.

    3. Smithy*

      I think another way to think about coaching this for improvement is to think about when Bertram being better would matter most.

      If Bertram isn’t as good as hosting regular internal meetings as Oswald, but they end on time and get the job done – then that’s likely an area to leave alone. However, if his work would benefit from better communication around meetings with senior leadership, or very large groups of external clients – then focus just on those. Likely starting with one. Because then it’s a case of doubling his effort in prepping for just that set of meetings as opposed to all meetings. Which is untenable and has the risk of doing more damage overall.

      1. Artemesia*

        I think Bertram is worth training (with sensitivity) regardless of Oswald. One of the things I always did with subordinates is teach them the format I wanted for memos making recommendations or requests or whatever. The subject line had to contain the actual subject e.g. recommendation for X or Request for Y. AND the first line had to be the actual recommendation of request.

        then they could lay out reasons and other justification — but you had to know what it was about and what the point was at first glance. There are people for whom this is very difficult; they tend to be people without good analysis and critical thinking skills who have trouble figuring out what is important. This process really helped those people get focused.

        1. Smithy*

          I do agree – but I think it’s worth first determining whether the training will get Bertram from Good to Great or Average to Good/Great. If the answer is Average to Good/Great, then the coaching should definitely happen with an eye to wider improvement. But if the answer is moving Bertram from Good to Great, then I think it’s worth thinking through when it’s actually worth investing time in being Great, and when being Good is more than ok.

          I actually read letter #2 as being more about verbal communication, but on a reread it could be about written communication. However, either way, I think it’s important to flag the difference between the Average to Good and Good to Great, because depending on the field – most managers (depending on the sector) aren’t actually amazing at coaching public speaking or writing. And if the OP is going to have to do this coaching themselves – how much time do they have to actually coach the process, and how much do they expect Bertram to just do this on his own?

          I used to work with some supervisors who used to say they could teach people how to write, and then inevitably made the worst hires. Because they 100% could not teach people how to write and definitely not how to copy-edit, and also didn’t realize how much work it was for adults to adjust how they wrote along with the skilled parts of their jobs. If someone is already doing a Good job at writing (or speaking), creating a space to change that holistically risks adding stress that can easily diminish their other talents.

          It’s not about taking away the value in a supervisor and direct report talking about weaknesses and stepping up for very important moments. But it’s also about not wanting someone to hyper fixate on something that would actually take time to fix and isn’t genuinely worth it for overall performance.

    4. Observer*

      A longtime and much older colleague who was permanent though part-time, and who wrote great heds, would have been a far better choice — but better still to have avoided asking a peer to coach peers

      That’s your perspective, but it’s not universal in the least bit.

      To take your own example – would you have been able to accept the training from a non-peer who was arrogant, had a bad attitude and merely mediocre at the rest of the job any better just becuase that person was not a peer? Why?

      That’s really the key issue – you state this a a general principle. But you don’t provide any reason at all why this would work that way.

    5. Random Dice*

      Agree – it’s perfectly reasonable to tell Bertram to focus on succinct communications, as a development goal. Don’t bring Oswald into it.

  19. Nope, Nu-uh, No Way*

    Please, please, please do this if you can OP#4.
    I still remember being asked to give money for baby shower gifts for my boss’ grandchild during my first month at my first ever part time job as a teenager.
    This has made me leery about workplace gift giving ever since.

    1. urguncle*

      Boss’ grandchild collection, presuming that the grandparents are not immediately receiving custody of the child is truly off the charts. WOW.

      1. Artemesia*

        So many bees in that request; the BOSS asking for money and the gift not even for an employee.

  20. Code monkey manager*

    LW5: my employer just started doing this too (mid-size national all remote company). Specifically, it’s the same in that the “designated agent” is someone I designate, not someone the company designates. It rubs me the wrong way too, but you’re definitely not the only one.

    Alison, I read the article you linked to, and noticed that it says the permanent remote verification is only “available only to E-Verify participant employers in good standing”. Perhaps organizations that aren’t in that program are scrambling?

    1. LJ*

      Keep in mind there might have been a gap between when the pandemic flexibilities ended (due to the official end of the emergency) and when the new rule took effect on Aug 1. It’s likely whatever processes your company rolled out hasn’t accounted for the absolute latest changes rather than anything sinister

      1. LJ*

        Gap between when they announced the original end date I mean*. Sadly HR processes don’t turn on a dime

    2. Welcomingcommitteeofone*

      I handle the I-9s for a midsize company with many remote workers hired since March 2020, when DHS/USCIS started allowing fully remote completion for all due to COVID. Found out early this year we would have to obtain physical inspection for all hired during that time, and the options our company offered were: Employee travels to the home office (not reasonable for most of our folks); original docs could be sent to home office by prepaid Fed Ex for inspection (not recommended but a few opted for this); or, employee finds a third party to physically inspect their original documents and sign on behalf of the company attesting they are the same as those presented remotely.

      There was little guidance from DHS/USCIS, except for the requirement that it be accomplished before August 30th 2023, and that any employee failing to provide physical inspection by the deadline could not legally remain employed.

      Complicating things for employers in California is the prohibition on using a notary for I-9s, since it’s considered under the umbrella of immigration documentation. There were rumors that UPS stores were able to provide I-9 assistance, but this turned out to be inconsistent. My guess was they weren’t willing to take on the volume of these requests as employers scrambled this year to accomplish this task.

      Permanent remote verification has been given the green light now, but only if the employer uses E-verify, which for many employers including mine is not an option. Third party I-9 services are available through companies including Equifax and HireRight, and we’re probably going to have to use this option going forward.

      There is a possibility that permanent remote verification will be made an option for all in the future, but until then, we’re doing our best.

    3. Antilles*

      I legitimately don’t understand how this works. As I’m reading this, it sounds like YOU pick the “designated agent” and have them review the paperwork representing the company.
      Which seems to completely defeat the point of having a document review since the company has no real reason to trust that my best friend is going to impartially represent the company’s interests. Or that my friend understands what they’re actually supposed to be verifying enough to catch if the documents are out of order.
      Am I misunderstanding something here?

      1. Daisy-dog*

        So I think LW5’s company is trying to make things easier on her. Rather than make her drive out to a designated location, she can just pick someone who lives in her own household or who she might be seeing already. And LW5 is the first new hire who isn’t okay with that. The company doesn’t utilize E-Verify for whatever reason (and isn’t making the switch), but they don’t believe any of their employees are unauthorized to work.

        But ultimately, there aren’t any limitations on who is the designated agent for the I9 and no one actually gets training on how to verify if documents are fake or not.

      2. Roland*

        You’re not missing anything. This is exactly what I recently did and while I didn’t commit any fraud, it would have been extremely easy to commit fraud.

    4. Daisy-dog*

      Yes, not all companies are E-Verify participants, so remote verification isn’t available to every company.

    5. J*

      Not OP but for my employer, that’s exactly it. My company is still waiting to be included in e-Verify so we fall into a gap where we need in person or we need an authorized representative. I actually suspect we’ll clear that hurdle this week ahead of the end of month deadline and all our fretting will be for nothing.

      I help handle outside counsel relationships so I see the emails our immigration/employment attorneys send HR and they’re pretty clear we need an authorized representative during this gap. There’s rules on whether notaries can perform this dependent on state, there are services we can hire, but the easiest and cheapest route is to do a friends and family sign off.

      My notes from the call with outside counsel (not legal advice, just how we decided to operate inside of the guidance we were given): “It is often easiest to ask the remote employee to designate someone to act as the authorized representative and then set up a video call with the designated authorized representative, employee, and the person who normally completes Form I-9 on behalf of the company. The authorized representative will review the documentation and sign Section 2 of Form I-9 on behalf of Company. The person who normally completes Form I-9 on behalf of Company will be on the call to ensure the designated authorized representative completes the steps correctly.”

      They also sent us instructions that my husband will use when he joins the meeting with me and HR to verify my passport and such. The liability falls to the Company, not me or my partner if something goes wrong – the law is pretty clear about that.

    6. dash-it-all*

      THIS! There are SO MANY employers who are not E-Verify participants, which means the in-person verification aspect of the I-9 process is still very much required in many, many cases. There are pretty different requirements along that E-Verify/no E-Verify line that are important to get right.

      Side note: be kind to your HR folks right now, people. We are having to explain this nuance multiple times a day to individuals who insist they’ve “done their research” and don’t need to comply with a reverification request… except they very much do or come September 1 they will be unemployed unless the employer flouts federal law.

  21. Jade*

    Stop with the gentle. Let her know what’s what. The first time someone called me at 3 am I’d let them know to never do that again.

    1. londonedit*

      I wouldn’t even answer a work call at 3am (I have my phone on do not disturb overnight, with exceptions made only for close family members in case of an emergency) but if I discovered in the morning that someone from work had tried to call me at 3am, I’d absolutely ask them what was going on, point out that it was 3am in my time zone, and let them know that I’m never going to answer calls outside my actual working hours, let alone at 3am.

      1. moving on...*

        I would do the exact same thing. Once you set the precedent you are available 24/7, then that becomes the expectation. Boundaries. Set boundaries.

    2. New Jack Karyn*

      I really think OP has never been woken up but the calls, and has only gotten a bunch of messages/missed calls in the morning.

  22. KLV*

    I read #4 and yelled “but government workers!!!” but the norms and expectations about these kinds of things are pretty different from other workplaces that I think OP would’ve mentioned it if they were working in government, but that was my knee jerk reaction.

    Because (US) government money can’t be spent on foods, gifts, or the like for employees, it’s common (*in my experience) to have a sunshine club or something that collects money throughout the year via like coffee clubs or internal bake sales or straight up donations that can be spent on these kinds of events. But the format a slow accumulation year round is also much different than what I think OP4 is describing and I think helps lessen the social pressure.

    All to say, yeah, I think OP4 has the right idea and just to be ready to maybe spend some social capital is this is wildly different from the rest of your company.

    1. Random Dice*

      Ugh but people steal the snacks and coffee. It’s so infuriating. And it’s usually a woman who has to do all the work of gathering money, shopping, and stocking the shelves. The day we got a Keurig was the best – I brought my own stuff in and it was so much easier.

  23. junior*

    regarding i-9 verification
    my company lost many of our verification records and were going to require us to re-verify through a third party. they did not warn us of any of this, at all, but instead had a third party send us an email out of the blue. this was last week.
    most of us marked it as a phishing attempt, and I myself was quite proud of reacting so quickly to a clear and obvious attempt.
    they had to resend the verification request, and then found our records??, so I never needed to re-verify.

  24. pilea*

    as someone who’s worked in a few multinationals, I remain shocked at the number of grown adults I’ve encountered who do not understand timezones, or just generally think the entire company should be working to “their” time. Like Bob, what makes you think a random satellite office in suburban Philly is more important than the global HQ in London

    1. anononon*

      Came here to say this! We installed a shortcut to on everyone’s desktop in OldJob because highly educated people in all three offices (US, UK and South Africa) seemed utterly incapable of grasping ‘you’re x hours ahead/behind’ and people were sick to death of Outlook tennis of ‘no, that time doesn’t work for me, it’s 5am’ or ‘actually that would be 9pm here’.

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        I love timeanddate because I use it to calculate duration of testing, and when I need to make my next car check up.

    2. CL*

      Agreed. And having to explain to colleagues that not everyone uses Daylight Savings Time, changes the same day, or even knows what time it is in London compared to there own is annoying. Seems like this should be a topic in 5th grade but I know we never covered it.

      1. anononon*

        I don’t ever recall learning about time zones at primary school, but I think we covered it (very briefly, as in ‘don’t call people in the middle of the night!’) in GCSE Business Studies. Not, as you’d expect, in geography.

        That said, there are lots of useful adulting things that are never covered at school. I recently met a 17-year old who had NO IDEA what ‘call 999’ meant or how to summon police, fire or ambulance.

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, it really is. Especially as kids as young as 3 can be taught to make emergency calls.

            1. Jay (no, the other one)*

              That’s about when my kid learned, and we still have a landline in part because when she was young I wanted to make it as easy as possible for her. She definitely internalized the lesson. She was about 10 when my mom took a tumble down the stairs while we were visiting. Kid was at the phone about when Mom landed and I held her off until I checked Mom over and then she called. When we got home this ensued:

              Kid: if you hadn’t been there I would have called 911 right away.
              Me: That would have been the right thing to do.
              Kid (disapproving): You didn’t call 911 right away, though.
              Me: Name one difference between you and me.
              Kid (pausing first): You’re a doctor?
              Me: Got it in one.

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

          Yeah the only way I learned about timezones was from watching tv (“mom, what does 8/7c mean?) and because my aunt lived in Mountain Time and we lived in Central, so we were careful not to call to early.

          1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            I also learned about time zones mostly from TV announcements! I wonder if linear TV fading in favor of streaming is going to make this less obvious to today’s kids. (Or more targeted ads within linear TV rather than showing the same promo to a multi-timezone region, for that matter – I haven’t watched TV ads in a long time so I have no idea if this is still a thing.)

            I think my parents also explained them to me when they’d call long distance to certain people, or when we’d travel somewhere, but for sheer amount of repetition it’d have been the TV promos. (And that different things would get bumped for live sports depending on time zones – I think one of the reasons I never got into baseball is that it ruined Saturday morning cartoons for me as a west coast child, and I’d miss parts of plot arcs because of some baseball game that wasn’t interrupting the east coast cartoons but was interrupting the west coast cartoons that week.)

            1. I Have RBF*

              My father would always bump us from our cartoons to watch sports – any kind of sports – including tennis, golf and bowling, as well as baseball, football, basketball and hockey. It did not engender a love of sports in me, since it was not family time at all.

    3. Charlotte Lucas*

      We have a PM who resolutely refuses to pay attention to schedules, & we’re all in the same time zone! Isn’t lesson 1 for project managers something about scheduling? (He claims his Outlook doesn’t work correctly, but I call user error.)

  25. Yellow cake*

    LW4 if it is the norm in your workplace you just make your own team members miss out. Unless you will ban them from contributing to others.

    If you do this – you should be prepared for team members to go outside to celebrate and not worry about this (so long as random people aren’t included). I’ve never been in a workplace that does birthday gifts (monthly shared cake excepted). But baby showers and farewell gifts are super common in some workplaces. If management banned people from recognising major life events from friendly colleagues – then it would just shift to “between friends”.

    1. Anya Lastnerve*

      Yes I was thinking the same thing. Also I would resent my manager “banning” me from contributing to gifts if I wanted to. I’m not a child, if I choose to contribute to a gift for someone, I don’t need my boss telling me no (it feels very paternalistic like they are protecting me from myself).

    2. Llama Llama*

      I remember many years ago management attempting to ban such things from my workplace. The ban was not well received and did not last long.

    3. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

      What’s wrong with the coworkers’ friends taking her out for a birthday lunch? Where I work has gone through every possible permutation of this, and so many different ways of handling it over the years. The one I like best is “oh her team got her a baby gift” or the like. The people who care, and are the closest, do something, and leave the whole (large) department out of it. Are there things that can go wrong with that? Yes. I’ve seen a couple. I’ve seen things go wrong with every suggestion made here. Which is why I like leaving it to the people who are closest/care the most. It’s going to go south at some point no matter what.

  26. So tired*

    xkcd ( A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language) has a great animated circle with day vs night, and specific social times “Rude to call” segment for 10pm to 8am parts of the world, based upon the time NOW.

    I’ve sent the link to several workmates in other parts of the world reminding them I live in Australia.

    Here is the Time NOW link –

    Unfortunately, onethought it meant it was ok to call up until 10pm my time. sigh.

    plus a fun explanation page for those who need it spelt out.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      I keep that page permanently open in my tab list. That clock is absolutely brilliant for the times I have to do the ‘hang on, just because it’s 11am here in UK doesn’t mean it’s even daylight in place X’ calculation.

      (Anyone who calls me at 3am for work will get the VERY British response of ‘you’re havin’ a feckin’ larff mate’)

  27. Roland*

    5 – this just happened to me! For a well-paid full time job with a large established company. My friend started there deeper during the pandemic and at the time they asked them to submit their docs online, but now they are doing the “authorized representative, except that the rep is your friend” thing. Extremely frustrating.

  28. Kate, short for Bob*

    LW2 what worked really well at a company I was at was a regular skillshare – once a month or so a colleague who’s recognised for a particular skillset gave a presentation on their approach. It was a brown bag lunch thing (could be a zoom these days) and really informative. Plus people felt noticed for having those better than average skills.

    So you could ask one employee to talk about communication, the other to talk about leadership approach or employee coaching, go sideways across the company to find someone with a particular set of excel skills or project planning approach…

    No one feels singled out, some people feel appreciated, connections are made.

    Important though to take breaks when there’s nothing to share, rather than booking a session on the WEENUS because you couldn’t think of anything else

  29. Jinni*

    LW 5, cost notwithstanding, my friend (NY) found a Mailboxes, etc., to do this in June. (I don’t know if she asked for reimbursement, was offered, or cared).

  30. WS*

    It’s pretty common here in Australia to have your documents verified by a third party but it needs to be someone who can witness a statutory declaration – police officer, teacher, healthcare professional, etc. Having Joe Random do it seems very odd to me!

    1. Blackcat*

      Professor in Australia here.

      My neighbor, who I had met all of once, asked me to do it for them. I had to Google that 1) I could and 2) how to do it. I’m not from here so I found it odd. There was a designated person who did it for me at work when I started, and I had no idea ANY OF US can.

      Super weird to me but apparently it’s how it’s done? They were on their way to do it at the pharmacy and saw me doing yard work and asked me for a favor.

      1. WS*

        Yes, pharmacists do those a lot because they’re easy to access, but a lot of people who are registered professionals can do them – accountants and vets too!

      2. Artemesia*

        I just had to round up a neighbor to do an on line notary for my daughter who is closing on a house sale this week. It was just about verifying signature and identity and a relative could not do it. BUT for I9. I would think you would have to verify they could legal work in the country. How would I know that for someone else? I would assume my friends are ‘legal’ but if they were not — we moved here 12 years ago — how would I know that and what are the implications of me certifying it. It has also the marks of meaningless CYA process that can’t possibly do the actual job.

    2. londonedit*

      I’ve never had to do anything like this for work, but here in the UK if you need a passport photo verifying (which you only need to do if it’s your first passport/first adult passport, or if it’s a replacement for a lost/stolen one or you’ve changed your appearance to the extent that you can’t be recognised from the old photo – otherwise you can just renew with a new photo) then it has to be someone who’s known you for at least two years and can identify you, and they have to either be ‘in good standing in their community’ or work in a recognised profession (things like accountant, doctor, teacher, pharmacist, police officer, etc).

      I have a DBS (criminal records) check for the coaching qualification I have from UK Athletics, and every two years you have to renew the licence and DBS check, and you have to get someone from a recognised profession who knows you to verify your documents and photo for your coaching licence. I know a lot of teachers, so I usually ask one of them to do it – they have to meet you in person and verify two forms of ID and sign that your photo is of you and that they’ve verified your identity. Even if they’ve known you for years!

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        That actually makes sense. Of course, I watch a lot of true crime focusing on con artists, so I could question if someone really is who they say they are.

      2. Lawyer*

        Canada does this too. A childhood friend who needed to renew her Canadian passport while in the US was pleased I’d gone on to become a lawyer and could more than meet the length of acquaintance requirement.

  31. Harper the Other One*

    LW4: I’ve seen a couple of ways of handling this that avoided some of the issues with collections for gifts/celebrations.

    For birthdays, my father’s university department had a tradition that anyone who wanted to celebrate their birthday brought in their own treat, which could be cake, other goodies, or on one very memorable occasion,- giant charcuterie board. The guest of honour knows for sure they’ll get something they enjoy and anyone who doesn’t celebrate their birthday just didn’t bring something in.

    At one retail location I worked, the company paid for one monthly cake for all birthdays, and part of the new hire paperwork was “do you want recognition in your birthday month.” Any other events were covered by a social fund which was filled using redeemable recyclables and voluntary casual day contributions (nobody circulated to check/collect; you put your funds in a lockbox on the manager’s office door and then a manager and coordinator would count the total at closing time.) The chain had created a guideline for dollar amounts for various occasions so we didn’t run into the “Wakeen got a $50 flower arrangement but we only sent Fergus a $20 gift card” thing.

    I think taking the in person collection stress away is a terrific idea but maybe one of the above will help you set up something that feels equitable while still allowing the office to celebrate notable events.

  32. Angstrom*

    #1: I work with collegues who are 12 hours different. Most communication is email or through shared task-specific tools. The occasional conference calls are set up to be mildly inconvenient for both groups(7AM & 7PM) and are scheduled well in advance.
    Your coworker is being selfish and rude. It needs to stop.
    There are several world clock apps, and the clock app in Windows has a simple world clock function. There’s no excuse for someone not knowing the time difference.

    1. JSPA*

      Any chance that coworker has two people of similar names, and different zones, confused?

      Or has some setting mis-set, such that the wrong zone is displayed for LW#1?

      Or has their own email set to “ping” such that emails from the LW are waking up the coworker, and this is the coworker being passive aggressive about that (rather than learning to mute their email notification)?

      Or that their boss told them how & when to contact the LW, but was mistaken on the details?

      That is, there’s some sort of misconception or incompetence in play, here…but it’s not necessarily, “Imma call you day or night just cause that’s how I roll.”

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

        I’m wondering if the other coworker’s boss is really bad and is pushing them to complete the project by any means possible. So the employee is stressing because they cant get the information they need now because of the time zone. Doesn’t make it right but I think there’s some sort of anxiety on the other persons part.

        1. Angstrom*

          That’s trainable. My colleagues 12 hours ahead know that if they send a complete list of questions/requirements, they’ll get a good answer the next day. If they don’t ask good questions and/or provide good information, the exchange takes much longer. And of course, the same is true in both directions. One has to think ahead to what the other person needs.
          It does require a different communication style than instant chat, but it is not difficult.

        1. JSPA*

          “I’m not Jane Q Smith in London, I’m Jane R Smith in Dubuque. Please make sure you check working hours for me, not for her.”

          “unlike calls, emails do not require a real-time response, but if you need your emails to “ping,” I’d be glad to use delayed send. Please do me the equivalent courtesy of not calling between [hour] and [hour], Singapore time.”

          “your boss is mistaken. If he’s being insistent, I’d be glad to escalate the problem to my own boss, and let them fight it out. Do we need to do that?”


    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      I’m going to go out on a limb here & suggest that anyone who turns work meetings into 3-hour calls is just generally disrespectful of other people’s time.

  33. Indisch blau*

    We collect for weddings, births, leaving the company (so far no one has retired) and illnesses of three weeks and longer. There’s an envelope or a fake flowerpot for the collection and one or two colleagues who know the person being honored well decide what to buy with the money. Everyone can give the amount they want, no one is hit up for a specific amount.
    We celebrate with a potluck lunch, drinks from the company.
    The card used to be signed only by those who donated, during covid we skipped the individual signings (and the potlucks). It’s possible that cards are signed by people who haven’t donated or haven’t donated much, but who cares?

  34. clearlier*

    LW2 – Ideally there will already be a development plan in place for Bertram and that plan will have been developed collaboratively.

    There are certainly times when managers need to tell their direct reports that their performance isn’t where it should be in certain areas but when that’s not the case the decision about what skills or areas to develop should be largely driven by the employee. The managers role in that instance is to understand where the employee wants to go and to advise on what would be the optimal way to get there.

  35. VP of Monitoring Employees' LinkedIn Profiles*

    For #3…

    Unfortunately, every office has that one person with the attitude of “I don’t need to know this because you’re here to know it for me.”

    I usually follow Alison’s script, but in the past tense. (“What did the documentation say about this?” “What did you find when you looked up ‘nested IF statements’?” “What did Boss say when you asked her about this?”) I force them to admit that they skipped those steps AND to do those steps before asking for help.

    1. Loves Libraries*

      Students are bad about asking teachers at school this kind of thing, when they really need to learn problem solving skills. I think they do it because that’s what they do with their parents.

  36. A person*

    Our company does the weird I-9 thing but you’re allowed to have a colleague or your manager do it on day 1. And we are supposed to do the physical hand off of docs but I’ve definitely done it over email before (they don’t know…).

    I agree thought that it feels weird. And it’s relatively new by us and happened when they switched from some paper trail version to an online one.

  37. Rachel*

    2: I would think about your own communication, actually.

    This is almost gushing over Oswald. It’s good to recognize strengths in direct reports and encourage that. It’s another thing to think they are perfect and “beautiful.”

    1. Zweisatz*

      Hu? It’s okay to acknowledge to a third party that somebody is outstanding at a task. Especially when it’s relevant… to the question? (LW didn’t call him beautiful, but his communication style.)

      1. I should really pick a name*

        I agree that it’s not that big a deal, but I think the point here is that “beautiful” is very emotional language to describe something like work communication. Saying someone is outstanding at a task definitely feels less charged.

        1. Zweisatz*

          We’re not supposed to nitpick language in the letters, but also I genuinely do not understand the issue.
          Apparently one person is doing a great job in a particular area of their work (notably OP also clearly praised the other person for their strengths). what are y’all asking LW to change and why?

          1. Rachel*

            I think the OP would be well served to stick with praise usually used in the workplace.

            (1) “Oswald exceeds expectations in efficient and effective communication.”

            (2) “Oswald routinely summarizes complex issues with finesse.”

            (3) “Oswald’s communication skills are beautiful.”

            Can you see the difference between the first two and the last one?

            The LW will be a better manager if even their internal dialogue about their direct reports is professional.

  38. Matt*

    #1: I don’t know if this is a thing regarding your specific job, but is it so out-of-bounds these days to turn your (work) phone off our silent during night?

    It would be a serious sleep killer for me even to know about the slightest possibility that someone might wake me up with a work issue. The only way I would be reachable during sleep would be my landline phone with only my two or three nearest relatives knowing my number. (However I see that many people neither have a landline nor a separate private / work phone nowadays – so in this case I’d ad least block all repeat offenders.)

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      I don’t think OP1 has been woken up. I think she’s just waking up to missed calls/voicemails in the morning.

  39. office gift collections can be ok sometimes*

    Regarding the gift collections at work, I’ve typically hated these but I really like how my current place does it – every birthday is everyone chips in £5 (£10 if it’s a major birthday). So when it’s your birthday, you essentially get all the money you donated back (you can choose a gift or get vouchers or the cash, whatever you prefer). We’re a fairly big team, so it means you get about £90 on your birthday.

    1. Magpie*

      So you’re basically trading cash back and forth over the course of the year? Why not just exchange cards and everyone keeps their cash rather than elaborately funneling it through the team over the course of the year? Not to mention if you leave before your birthday rolls around, you never get your contributions back again.

    2. The Person from the Resume*

      I’m glad you like it. I would find this annoying. Why add the logistics in order to give a B-day present to coworkers that essentially works out to breaking even? Clearly presents are NOT my love langauge.

      Actually I think I’d actually prefer my birthday go unacknowledged at work. I’m there for work, not personal stuff. I’m not hiding it, but I don’t love being the center of attention.

      If you do nothing and do nothing for everyone, it’s not favoritism for one employee over another.

      1. The Person from the Resume*

        I should add, OTOH, if your work is going to insist on celebrating birthdays with gifts, I appreciate setting up a fair equitable process that doesn’t play favorites.

        1. Observer*

          I appreciate setting up a fair equitable process that doesn’t play favorites.

          In many offices this would not be equitable, though. There can be a significant pay gap between the top earners and the bottom ones. That can matter a lot, even if it’s “only” $5.

          So, while I like that it doesn’t play favorites, this can only be ok in offices with a fairly narrow pay band.

    3. Artemesia*

      I’d be afraid of ending up with a crystal box or other piece of junk when I’d rather have my 90 bucks to spend as I wish. I’d love to see a ban on gift collections. The OP has the right idea and his or her subordinates are likely to love this new policy.

  40. anonforthis comment*

    #5 — This is now a thing. This seemed completely nuts to me, too, but I just had to do this for my husband at his new job working for New York State. That is not a small employer!

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        And frankly, I’m happy my passport doesn’t have to leave my home to get an I9 done.

        1. Jay (no, the other one)*

          True. When my kid started her first part-time lifeguard job she had to bring her passport in and leave it with them for several hours, which made me very anxious.

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

            Why did they have to leave it? Any place I’ve worked they took the paperwork, took a copy of my ID and handed it back to me. If they don’t have the time while I’m standing there then they can make an appointment for us to meet when they do have the time

            1. J*

              A lot of times they have you bring it to your first day but you have to go off and do first day things. When I worked high school and college jobs, we didn’t often have desks or even necessarily indoor places or lockers but couldn’t bring purses onto the floor so they’d “suggest” we leave our documents on the person’s desk who would process it some time during their shift. You’re young, you don’t know that this isn’t normal and from experience I can say the only time I ever lost any document in my life was when I left it during one of these scenarios. We didn’t have a copier on-site so the HR person took the bundles to the library and dropped my license in a parking lot. It was later mailed to me by someone who found it there but not timely, long after I got my replacement.

    1. kiki*

      It seems very odd! Especially because my company didn’t require any real verification of the identity of my designated reviewer. I did use a real person, but I could have easily forged the review. I also don’t think most people know anything about verifying the validity of a passport or drivers license. It really seemed a bit useless to me.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        The person verifying isn’t there to determine if the documents are real– presumably someone at the company does that. The person verifying is there to verify that the documents exist and the employee didn’t, say, copy them from the internet. All the random verifier does is say, “Yes, this person has a physical passport, here’s the number.” No special training required.

  41. BellaStella*

    On the issue of time zones, I have a manager in my chain who is in the same time zone and thinks nothing of whatsapping or calling at all hours day or night. This is what mute and dnd are for. It is annoying but yheir manager does not know about it or seem to care so there you go.

  42. A Consultant Type*

    The I-9 recertification process has been confusing for both my company and clients. Before the government issued the final rule allowing remote recertification of documents via live video, many large companies (including my own) had made alternative plans to recertify everyone who was hired during the Covid-19 pandemic.
    Similar to the letter writer, we had to use a 3rd party system to nominate a person to inspect our documents, and there were no requirements on who that person was (it could have been my doorman, to my understanding). I had clients that held large drive-through events to make sure they laid eyes on everyone’s documents.
    It’s very silly and doesn’t provide any additional controls over remote verification; my company inspected my documents through pdf copies and then over a live zoom when I was hired.

  43. Anon for This*

    #4 – I also hate collections. But I have staff who love cake and excuses to celebrate. I handled it by just buying the stuff myself (since I make a lot more than everyone who works for me) and if people offered to contribute, I accepted nominal amounts from them. When there was something big such as a wedding/baby shower, we would have a potluck where I would provide the entree – usually sandwich platters. Once a month cakes for birthdays and the like are fine, but you might want to feel out whether your employees want something more for bigger celebrations.

  44. Alex*

    #5 I just had to do this for two different friends for two different companies, so I think it is definitely “a thing” and not a scam or anything like that.

  45. Tommy*

    I worked one job where all the employees contributed annually to buying a Christmas gift for the company. Yes, for the very profitable company.

    One year it was pots & pans for the kitchen; another year, flatware. We even bought some cheap chairs for the patio off the lunchroom which had gone unused for years — there was nowhere to sit out there and we were forbidden from taking “inside” chairs out. And of course we ate off our laps because we couldn’t afford to add tables.

  46. L-squared*

    #4. I think an outright ban is extreme because things come up. Just recently someone on my team’s fathers health took a bad turn for the worse. They have been out of the office quite a bit, and we can tell they are having a rough time. We pooled our money to get them a Door Dash gift card just to make things a bit easier. Its just a human kindness and a way to show we are thinking about them.

    I’m fine with not doing anything for birthdays, because that is a yearly thing that everyone has, and there is some logic that a company should do that, not individuals.

    Then there are things like baby showers and weddings, which both can be dependent on how often they occur. If you work in a place where it seems you’d be doing a ton of those, I can see wanting to cut down on it. But at my job, we have literally had one person in my office have a baby in 3 years, so not really that big of a deal.

    I guess its a long way of saying every money collection isn’t the same, so just saying a blanket no to all of them is a bit extreme to me.

  47. Falling Diphthong*

    #4 I would buy a sheet cake once a month to celebrate any occasions they may want to celebrate.

    Do not underestimate the value of this. “It’s not about how you choose to celebrate your birthday, Lucinda–it’s about how ‘first Friday of March there is cake!’ gets me through February.”

    Alas, also do not underestimate how people become extremely adapted to an expectation of free simple carbs. It is very hard to take the carbs away.

  48. Hiring Mgr*

    Maybe i’ve been fortunate never to work in a place where gift collecting was problematic, but I don’t think I would want an outright ban – we are all adults and can decide whether we want to contribute to something or not.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      This column is full of examples of people who felt pressured to give money they couldn’t afford, and of social (or professional) punishment being meted out to people who indicated they were not team players by not wanting to put in yet another $25.

      1. Risha*

        I just said something similar to your statement below. In theory, you can just say you can’t afford to give the money. But we all know what happens in reality. It’s held against you. Your manager secretly seethes in anger because you didn’t give another $10. It affects your raise/bonus/promotions. I think an outright ban would be very appropriate. Employees do have bills and living expenses to pay, most don’t have an extra whatever amount just available all the time.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I don’t think that’s the reality *everywhere* — in twenty years of working I’ve never worked somewhere I had to *say* anything about why I was or wasn’t donating money. It’s always understood to be optional, and if anyone was somehow tracking and silently judging people they had the common sense to keep quiet about it.

          If LW is working somewhere where that is the culture, they probably do need to go all the way and ban it, if they don’t think it’s possible to get the instigators of judgment to mind their own business. But I’m not clear on whether LW has become a manager in the same place they’ve always worked, or whether they’ve moved to a new employer.
          If they’ve moved to somewhere where it is optional and people only participate if they want to, banning it is going to seem very weird and high-handed.

    2. Antilles*

      Unfortunately, that’s usually not the way it works in practice.
      People notice and remember who did and didn’t contribute. The person getting married gets the list of people who contributed to the wedding shower (for purposes of writing thank you cards) and sees you’re not on it. The co-worker doing the collections keeps pushing and guilting you into contributing. People will judge your other spending like “you had money to buy Starbucks/replace your phone/whatever but couldn’t bother to kick in $10 for the wedding gift?”

      1. bamcheeks*

        This is definitely not what happens anywhere I’ve worked! I don’t know what the more common experience is, but I’ve never worked anywhere where it hasn’t just been, “Collection for Julie, chip in if you want to, deadline is Wednesday 30th.”

  49. ecnaseener*

    For #3, if I think the answer is somewhere the person should’ve looked already, like the handbook for that process, then I’ll often just say “It’s not in the handbook?” That way, instead of internally going straight to “how annoying that they’re bothering me with this without checking the most obvious place,” I’m assuming a base level of competence and consideration. And if they did not, in fact, check before asking me, I’ve signaled that expectation going forward without embarrassing them or acting annoyed.

    For googleable things, I just say “I usually just google it” or “I don’t have it bookmarked.”

    1. Myrin*

      Yeah, I accidentally went that route recently and the questioner was visibly embarrassed that they tried to use me as a shortcut – that hadn’t even occurred to me so my question of whether [answer] isn’t actually in [x place] was completely genuine but they scuttled away murmuring about needing to check there and I still felt weirdly accomplished afterwards; couldn’t have done it better and more effectively if I’d tried! :D

      1. ecnaseener*

        Yeah I guess I shouldn’t say “without embarrassing them” at all – but without embarrassing them more than the minimum necessary “oh duh, of course I should’ve looked there!” embarrassment that we all feel when we have a brain fart.

    2. I Have RBF*

      The nice thing about “It’s not in the handbook?” is that a) If there really is a deficiency in the handbook, or other resource that you control, you can find out about it and fix it, or b) it reminds the person where to look in case they’ve forgotten (because people do forget.)

      Yes, if they were just being lazy it can be embarrassing. If it’s me and I’ve forgotten, I just say “Doh! Thanks.” because they reminded me of a thing I forgot.

  50. Everything Bagel*

    #5, I just had to do this for my job a couple of weeks ago. I work remotely and live pretty far from our main office. My HR rep set up a video call with me or I just had to hold my ID up to the camera for him to see. He was going to ask me to come into the office to show my ID, but apparently there was an extension given for virtual evidence.

  51. Hiya*

    #1. Would creating standing meeting help? And insisting that everything in between those meetings are emails.

    Also stop picking up and start declining meetings. Block times before meetings for meeting prep as well. This coworker cannot hijack your schedule on their whim.

    Best of luck and please update the AAM community (if you’re open of course)

  52. Nalgene*

    5–My son just had a similar experience working a very entry level job for a global logistics company; I think it may become more of a thing for companies with thousands of employees as it allows a faster hiring process and puts the burden of the verification to a third party, which might not be bad for an international company like this, where local employment rules are potentially VERY different but the locals know them and the third party specializes in them. It worked out fine; good luck to you.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      That’s a good point–third party verifiers negate having to come into a ‘home office’ for verification (good when you might not be close to a home office with any HR), AND they are very familiar with local rules that might have to be followed. I don’t know that we have any actual HR people at my particular company location, so just chose a location from their ‘third party verification’ list and made my appointment.

  53. Silverose*

    Regarding the remote I-9 verification: some companies who used that process during the pandemic are now being required to double check those documents in person. I’m not sure if that means the remote process is no longer available, just giving a heads up that people hired during the pandemic may have to re-verify their I-9 documents. The company I work for is one of those having to do so – I was one of those pandemic hires and just recently had to re-verify my docs.

    1. Daisy-dog*

      Companies need to re-verify documents that were remotely reviewed during the pandemic if they did not also run the employee through E-Verify.

  54. Toolate12*

    I was a Bertram – I would go through my whole thought process in a meeting rather than starting with the bottom line, and didn’t always orally communicate in a way people could follow my train of thought. I had a very kind, more experienced colleague (not in my chain of command) who took time to mentor me through every other week meetings to talk with me about how not to do this. Was and am very grateful to her! This is a good reminder to me to keep focusing on doing this.

  55. Risha*

    LW4, as an employee on a team where this is a thing, I beg you to please stop the money collections. The $20 here and $10 there really adds up to a large amount. I think I could’ve paid one of my credit cards off with the total I’ve spent last year on these “small” collections. I wish I could tell my manager to ban these too, she has them constantly. And if you don’t give money, you won’t be a team player, even if you try to say you’re broke and cannot afford it.

    Believe me, most of your employees, if not all of them will be grateful you banned it. And I was given a baby shower against my wishes (at my last job) so banning these things will prevent that type of thing from happening as well. Not everyone wants a baby shower or bday party or whatever the others think the person should have.

  56. Zarniwoop*

    I think your boss would want to know. It shouldn’t take very much time to explain the situation, and then she can decide how much attention she wants to spend on it right now.

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

      Yeah, it really could be an email,
      “Hey boss, I’m working on the teapot project with Francis, who is in 12 hours a head of me. I’ve asked them several times to not call me, and that email works best, but they continue to call in the middle of the night. If I don’t answer I get harrassed with meeting requests and emails. I’ve talked to them several times but it still persists. Can we work on a solution?

      I bet the boss wants to know because there is more going on here. Like maybe this is something that the team in the other location does a lot because the boss over there is really bad. Or maybe this is a problem with this particular employee and its been addressed in the past and they need to know its still happening.

  57. urguncle*

    OP3: Maybe this is passive aggressive (I’m not that worried if it is, though), but I saw a lot of my coworkers asking questions in a Slack channel in front of their boss that they definitely could have found the answer to by just spending 30 seconds looking up. I created a document that really spelled it out for them by where to search first, second, third, last-ditch, etc and created a video and then posted it on the company wiki. Apparently it still gets sent around.

    1. Artemesia*

      I think this should be part of onboarding for everyone and particularly for newbies in the workforce or entry level hires. Here is how we find information about work processes: here is the handbook, here is the link to the material on the employee website, here is how you google it — etc.

      I look back 55 years at when I was new in the workplace and I know I asked far too many questions about things I should have been able to find. It was before google, so there is that excuse. You really did have to use things like employee handbooks — but I am embarrassed how slow I was to get this done.

  58. Queen Ruby*

    Regarding #1 and time zones… I worked as a PM for a company with offices on the US East Coast, Switzerland (HQ), and India. Because we managed global clinical trials, we had a US-based helpdesk available 24/7. The people in India were all the tech people, who weren’t in a position to deal with helpdesk inquiries, and the people in Switzerland could do it only certain hours due to local laws. So that left the US PMs for covering anything the helpdesk couldn’t handle (they were pretty good, so they called only if they had a big problem). My manager/his manager decided they would put the PMs on a rotating “on-call” schedule for 1 week every 8 weeks, during which time we had to be essentially tethered to our laptops in case the helpdesk needed us. I pushed back pretty hard, to no avail.
    So we took our on-call weeks, and that was bad enough, but then upper mgmt in Switzerland decided that we were used to being on-call now so 5am calls and emails shouldn’t be addressed since we were all now used to pulling all nighters once in a while. Even if they could wait for US business hours.
    I pushed back harder when I was written up by my great-grandboss for repeatedly not answering his calls or being available for meetings during sleeping hours. The entire situation spun so out of control! Had someone with more capital nipped it in the bud, maybe it wouldn’t have gotten to that point.
    Also worth noting is that we did not get any kind of comp/flex time or WFH time when we were up working for hours in the middle of the night. Definitely no pay increases.
    All that to say, don’t let this behavior become acceptable!

  59. learnedthehardway*

    OP#5 – I would mention this to the HR / Recruiting team member who is handling your hire. I have no doubt that they expect the background check company to be either handling document verification themselves, or have you get it notarized.

    When I have to check IDs, I can usually use a scanned copy. I’m not sure that’s any better than having family/friends do the check, from a document verification perspective, but at least I’M looking at the documentation, checking the dates, etc. etc., not relying on people who have a clear bias / conflict-of-interest in favour of the candidate.

    I would mention that this is a strange practice to the HR/Recruitment person who is handling your hire. After you’re hired, of course.

    With the current situation, if you don’t have a friend/family member to help, could you take the document to your bank/credit union, and ask someone there to verify the information? Or, you could pay for a notary to verify it.

    1. Rubber Ducky*

      It’s part of the new I-9 procedure that just went into effect on 8/1. It might seem like a strange practice but it is 100% legit. I am actually impressed that this company is already using it correctly. I’m in HR and took a comprehensive training on this new procedure last month but it usually takes companies a while to get up to speed on new guidelines.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      It’s not a strange process! It’s part of the new requirements the government rolled out for people who can no longer/not currently do remote verification. This is explicitly what employers are told to do – use a person elected by and trusted to the employee

  60. Rubber Ducky*

    #5–This is part of the new I-9 procedures effective 8/1 that were implemented when the COVID I-9 completion procedures expired. The employer is not engaging in anything “slimy”, they are simply following the instructions on the new form for collecting this information for remote employees. It does allow for any person the employer designates to look at the forms of ID required and sign off saying they saw them. It’s really that simple and does not require any special training. It’s meant to be easier for both the employer and the employee when they are not in the same location.

  61. hbc*

    OP3: If it’s basic stuff and the person has approached me more than once, I make them do the typing, no matter how much it slows down the process. (And really, slowing down the speed at which they get answers when coming to me is a good thing.) They’re *s0* much more likely to remember how to do it and try it themselves the next time once they’ve gotten there themselves, even if you direct every step.

    For those who still don’t learn, there’s “I’m in the middle of a train of thought here, I’ll stop by your desk in 5 minutes to help out.” Just really cement the idea that the answers can be found more quickly in their space than yours.

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

    #1: Is there a time that would work for both of you to have a standing meeting each week? Like it might be a bit late for you and early for her but could something work?

  63. HonorBox*

    OP1 – Unless something incredibly important comes up at a time that would be outside your normal hours, you shouldn’t be expected to be available at all times. First, put your phone on do not disturb while you’re sleeping. There are ways to allow certain calls through in case of a family emergency. Second, tell your coworker that you will not accept calls in the middle of the night. Give them your available times. And third, if you can share your calendar, do so. Let them find a time that is free on your calendar to meet with you. Put the ownness on them to find that time so you don’t have to try to juggle. And when you do share, let them know that when they see meetings on your calendar, you will be disconnecting call/Teams with them so you can be present for your next meeting. This is probably something time zone related, I’m sure, and I hope they’re more understanding when you say something. If not, then you definitely need to discuss it with your boss.

    Do not recommend this, but as I typed, I kept thinking, maybe OP should just return the favor and start calling the coworker in the middle of the night their time.

  64. kiki*

    Lw #3: For anyone who is habitually coming to you with questions that are easily answered, I think it is key to make it less convenient to come to you than to do something themselves. So right now, you’re probably a faster route than them looking things up or searching for something themselves. It might be beneficial to start saying, “Hey, I’m super busy at the moment. If you can’t find X in the documentation by tomorrow morning (next week, or however long is inconvenient but reasonable), I can help you look for it.”

    One thing I want to call out about this approach, though, is to use it only on folks who habitually ask you for help with things they should do themselves. You don’t want to discourage folks who are already reluctant to ask questions from getting much-needed help.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I have been known to develop forgetfulness when I answer the same question(s) repeatedly from the same person.

      1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*


        “Oh man, sorry, I haven’t done that in awhile/I’ve never done that. Good luck figuring it out!”

        1. I Have RBF*

          Yep. “Hmmm, it’s been a few years since I did that, and I don’t have it in my current notes. Let me Google it and get back to you.” Ironically, this is often the absolute truth. I do not have in active memory stuff that I last did two or more years ago. But my google-fu is strong…

    2. Zweisatz*

      If the questions are written I also recommend expanding the time delay.
      I’m prone to answering chat messages very quickly. If I want somebody to do their own research I start expanding that time.

  65. Jenz*

    #3: There used to be a great website, http://www.justf* so you could snarkily think about what you want to send your coworker. There are still mirrors around, but the domain has expired.

    #5: Yep, this is a thing. My husband’s work did it (granted this was in 2021, still under pandemic weirdness). I was totally confused, especially since I’m the organized one that keeps track of all those documents. Uh, sure I could verify he has legit documents to work in the US

  66. Workfromhome*

    #3 I had direct reports and still have peers that I create documentation and instructions that would constantly call or email me right after or shortly after sending the instructions asking “how do you do task (that was in the instructions)” or ask for a call to “go over” the instictions.

    Now I have decades of doing this stuff (it was actually part of my job I was trained for in a previous job) so its not a matter of them not being sufficient (while no one is ever perfect). They are far closer to professionally created instructions than most.

    So when I do get these questions I’d simply reply check the instructions and after following them if you still can’t complete the task let me know which step doesn’t work or you can’t follow. 99% of the time I never heard from them again. Im not doing your work for you. If you want my help you have to TRY. No help.

    1. NeedRain*

      I wonder how many of them would turn around and ask someone else to find the information. In my experience, people who aren’t gonna try are NOT GONNA TRY and nothing you say will make them google it themselves. (tho they will leave you alone if you don’t help them.)

  67. Observer*

    #1 – Don’t want to take midnight calls.

    Either your workplace is toxic and you manager is *not* “wonderful” or you are as much of the problem as your coworker. Because the idea that refusing to take midnight calls in all but the most exceptional circumstances is simply toxic.

    If this idea is coming from your workplace, you need to get out of there. Start looking NOW. Because this is just the tip of an iceberg that can wind up consuming you.

    If the idea is coming from you, please reset your thinking – and give a hard look at where this is coming from and how this kind of thinking is affecting your work in other ways.

    In the meantime, when approaching your coworker and you manager if it comes to that, do not even mention the issue of being a team player. No apologies and no explanations. Because Because what you are asking for is simply the normal and reasonable thing to do, and has nothing to do with being (or not being) a team player. Don’t even raise the topic as it’s an irrelevant non-issue.

    And as Alison says, stop “gently suggesting” and start speaking clearly and unambiguously about what you need.

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

      I think this is a bit of an overreaction. There’s nothing to indicate that this is a problem with the workplace. It is this ONE coworker. OP hasn’t even mentioned this to their boss yet, so to say that the entire workplace is toxic is really harsh.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Whoa, that’s a leap. The manager doesn’t know, this a problem with a single coworker. I agree that this is beyond “gently suggesting” – but that hasn’t been done yet.

      OP, turn on do not disturb on your phone at night, ignore last minute meeting requests, and loop in your manager asap – but also just set your boundaries more firmly.

      1. Observer*

        The manager doesn’t know, this a problem with a single coworker.

        I agree. As I said, the question raised here is why on earth is the OP jumping to this rather extreme reaction? Why would they think that refusing midnight calls would be seen as not being a team player?

        OP, turn on do not disturb on your phone at night, ignore last minute meeting requests, and loop in your manager asap – but also just set your boundaries more firmly.

        Totally agree.

    3. HonorBox*

      You’re right that it isn’t a matter of not being a team player. But there’s nothing indicating that the workplace or the manager are part of the problem. Rather, this is about one coworker. This doesn’t feel toxic. It just feels like one coworker doesn’t understand the norms of working with someone in a different time zone and with other projects of high priority.

      1. Observer*

        You are probably right. In which case the OP is a major part of the problem. And in that case it would be to their benefit to figure out why they would think that perfectly normal push-back would be looked at so poorly. And they should *definitely* set the idea aside.

  68. NonProfitHRLady*

    As of August 1, 2023, employers are only allowed to verify i9 documents remotely *if* they are using e-verify. Otherwise they have to either see the docs in person OR have a 3rd party verify. All the advice I’ve seen is to have the employee ask someone in their household to verify. It’s ridiculous.

    1. bamcheeks*

      It seems wild to allow people * who are literally going to benefit financially* to verify something.

  69. NeedRain*

    Well, LW#5’s workplace has found an even worse way to do paperwork… I just had to fill out 25 forms online (taking several hours), then I have to do a half hour zoom meeting to show them my I9 paperwork, then I have to somehow take them this paperwork to copy although I can’t park anywhere b/c I can’t get a parking pass yet. but at least I don’t have to hire someone myself to verify it. Cripes.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Nobody has to hire anybody to do anything. All you have to do is ask a friend to sign a document as a witness. No copying involved either. It’s actually a pretty straightforward and easy process, and if you live with another adult you don’t even have to get dressed to do it. I’d rather do that than fill out 25 documents and present them during a Zoom call.

  70. CommanderBanana*

    A company asking people who don’t even work for them to do their paperwork verification?? Will the audacity never stop? Seriously, what is UP with employers.

  71. TX_trucker*

    #4. How isolated is your team or Department from the rest of the organization? If you are on your own floor or building, I think banning gift requests is easy to implement. But if you are in a shared space and other teams are still celebrating life events, I think that will lead to lots of resentment. Imagine not getting a party, baby shower, etc – and then seeing someone across the hall having one.

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

      Yeah I think the OP needs to consider the company culture. They can certainly make it clear that it is not mandatory and that people are not to track who gave what. And to make it clear that this should not be for people higher up.

      But if the employees want to take it on themselves, it’s not taking a lot of time away from work tasks, and everyone is adult about it and only contributes when they want to it should not be taken away.

  72. Nopity Nope*

    #5: I would view this might be more of an outdated process situation than a deliberate attempt to offload responsibility. I filled out tons of I-9s for our interns. The employer has 3 days after your start date to submit the I-9. Many students opted to have the process done by someone on their school staff to make sure it was completed without incident before they started; I did the rest on their first day. Perfectly routine. This was pre-pandemic, when it moved to largely “friend or family member” out of necessity, and now there’s eVerify.

    It’s not onerous, just typing in some of the details from the appropriate document. Takes a couple of minutes, max. The “authorized representative” is just saying “Yep, I laid eyeballs on these docs and they aren’t drawn in crayon.” Definitely no training required and not something requiring compensation!

    Granted the company would be better served to update their process and get on board with eVerify, but to me this is just “meh” and not “beyond the pale.” You don’t have to hand over your documents; your friend/family member/friendly local barista can fill out the form with you looking over their shoulder. And frankly, I’d rather a friend see my id in my presence than some random stranger taking them off to who-knows-where to complete the form. Unless said friend has an eidetic memory, lol.

    Given that there is a 3-day window (and assuming you’re not remote), you could ask to present your id on your first day of work, but this doesn’t seem like a hill to die on, frankly.

  73. TGC80*

    Have felt the exact same way about those contributions.

    As the admin professional for a large team – the way Ive handled it – is to pool the $.

    Asking people IF they want to donate and to provide what they are comfortable with – and then use all of the collected $ to purchase gifts/card etc has taken the pressure off individuals feeling they have to donate or to a certain amount.

    Might be another idea to help when life events to celebrate come up

  74. Bookworm*

    #1: It’s beyond the “gently suggest” stage and your manager should be involved. This is not a productive or healthy way to work and your co-worker is WAY over the line. I wish you the best of luck–I had a somewhat similar issue recently (not middle of the night, though!) and even if it’s a different time zone this is still not okay.

  75. Anon (and on and on)*

    LW2, it’s important to make the distinction between improvements that an employee needs to make in order to perform their current role well, and skill building to become even better or prepare for a future promotion or new role. It sounds like Bertram is doing just fine at his job, so you don’t need to address communication because of the latter. If there’s anything else that he needs to improve upon to fulfill current expectations, definitely focus on that and don’t mention communication where he’s already doing fine.

    Have you had a career conversation with Bertram? I would start there and get a sense of what his goals are. Does he want to get really good at this job, or is his interest elsewhere? Depending on what you learn, consider what skills would be most helpful for him to develop to reach his goals. It could be that communication rises to the top, but it might not when you consider everything else about his goals and current skillset. Note that you and Bertram should be on the same page about any skills you recommend he build when taking things to the next level, as this is optional professional development and not a requirement for his current role. Clearly frame everything you say as a suggestion or providing support rather than a mandate.

    Lastly, if you and Bertram agree that communication would be a good thing to work on, I actually think it would be appropriate to mention Oswald as someone to model after. Only do this if they’re both in good standing as employees and seem to have a respectful relationship. If Bertram is on board with the idea, you could even ask Oswald to mentor Bertram on this skill. Note all the conversations I recommend you have directly with Bertram first, though! I’ve mentored a coworker on something where I had built up my skillset, and I shared with her what I’ve learned. It was a good professional development opportunity for both of us because I’d never mentored anyone before. Every situation is different, though, so tread carefully here.

  76. Veryanon*

    LW1: I work with people all over the globe and we are all very conscious of each other’s time zones. I’m on the East Coast in the US, so if I have to meet with someone in India, for example, I try to be very careful not to set up meetings during times that don’t work for them. I try to handle as much as possible via email or chat. What your coworker is doing is rude and annoying (unless for some reason they don’t know where you’re physically located) so please feel free to push back!

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yes, this is a subset of workplace etiquette that may not be obvious to you (OP) or your coworker if international work is new to you – but this is extremely rude and you should absolutely nip it in the bud.

  77. Anonymousse*

    I’m an SME at an agency who drafted the I-9 reg, a few things. The new rule for remote examination is available only for E Verify employers which OP5’s employer might not be. There is a rule authorizing remote examination for non EVerify employers on a pilot basis later. As of now, non EVerify employers have to continue with physical examination of documents either through an authorized representative or by the employer. As much as OP5’s employer’s practices give me pause, USCIS instructions for the Form I-9 defines authorized representative as any individual designated by the employer to complete the form on its behalf. However, the employer bears the legal consequences in event of an I-9 audit by ICE even if they used an authorized representative.

  78. Database Developer Dude*

    #5 – I’m a mobile notary as one of my side hustles. The I-9 verification is something we’re often asked to do. OP should tell the company to call a signing service, and they’ll assign a notary to it.

  79. Donkey Hotey*

    LW#1 I can certainly empathize. At Old Job, I worked in the HQ (Pacific) and felt with the plants (two of which were Eastern.) More than once, I came to work to find an inbox full of “why is no one answering our crisis emails?” that were sent at 5am Eastern (2am Pacific). I always did my best to laugh and point out I was in my jammies at 2am. Things got serious when the company actually considered moving me to rural North Carolina to prevent future problems.
    Me: would there be a raise?
    Them: No, but the cost of living is much lower.
    Me: Great, I’ll be able to afford the landscaping to deal with the cross burnings in my front yard. (Partner and I were both heavily left in our politics, involved in minority religions, and in a mixed race marriage. It’s like racist bingo.)
    “Thankfully,” the company was sold a few years later, so it stopped being a problem.

  80. Database Developer Dude*

    #4 – you are going to have to determine how you handle pushback. I know damn well as a customer, if work said I couldn’t buy Girl Scout cookies from someone selling them, I’d be pissed.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      They’re not saying you can’t buy. They’re saying they can’t sell.
      Similarly, they’re not saying you can’t contribute when someone is collecting for a gift. They’re saying they can’t ask you to contribute.

      It’s a fine, but meaningful distinction.

  81. Hiring Mgr*

    I’m confused on the I-9 question. Every job I’ve had i’ve either brought my passport to the office on day 1, or just emailed HR a photo of the relevant pages if it was remote work.

    What is different about this that requires a notary or whatever?

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      If your employer is enrolled in e-verify, that’s still fine. If they’re not, you can’t just email in documents.

    2. Sneaky Squirrel*

      Unless you’re leaving some steps out, emailing HR a copy of the photo without any additional verification is generally not an accepted practice. I believe some exceptions were made during COVID. As of August 1, employers are required to physically verify documents again or designate an authorized representative to do so. There is some exceptions to email a copy of the documents remotely if the employer participates in E-Verify, but they still should be requiring their staff to show their documents via web cam in those instances.

  82. Robbi*

    Woah, I don’t know where you’re getting your information about I9s but this company is not in the wrong here. There are very few companies that you can hire to verify employment. Many advertise their services and do a very poor job. The government required employers to go back and verify in person most of their workforce by end of August covered under the temporary rule. Speaking of that temporary rule that became permanent? There is quite a bit of guidance that has not come out yet to let us know exactly how that will play out long term and no one wants to be in the same boat as they are now with having to go back and meet with thousands of employees. I am sure there is someone at the company who will be reviewing that I9 and their responsibility would not be “off loaded”. You’re way off base here ASAM.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      It’s a little more nuanced than this, but yes the employer is following regulations as they’ve been laid out and not off loading work.

  83. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #5 – As of August 1, employers can verify I-9 documents via physical examination or an authorized representative. An authorized representative can technically be anyone, and only the company is found liable for any violations. I would say it’s unlikely that the employer is trying to skirt any I-9 legal responsibilities as they would be the ones found guilty of any violations. It’s probably more likely they’re thinking about alleviating your burdens as most new hires would probably find it easier to seek out a friend/family member than to go to a notary public.

    Alternatively, IF they participate in E-verify and are in good standing, they can verify documents remotely by having you transmit a copy of the documents to them and then holding up your documents in a video feed so they can inspect it.

  84. YaBetterWerk*

    #5 Family and friends can be designated by the company to inspect documents. This was specifically allowed for during the pandemic because it was thought that access to a truly independent third party wouldn’t really be possible. Companies can still do this, but as WFH becomes more of a norm, you’ll see a requirement to use a notary or a bank to verify your documents.

  85. Young Business*

    To LW1: My goodness! I would be exasperated dealing with a co-worker like that.
    It’s definitely not the new normal. I had co-workers in various timezones in a previous role and asynchronous communication via email was the norm and worked seamlessly.

    This person doesn’t sound organized at all which is maybe the root of the problem. I would be firm in telling them they need to create a checklist or a template which consolidates their asks or requests in a centralized place. And a direct statement like “To be most efficient, we need to eliminate the phone calls when I’m not working. This will facilitate everything you’ll need from me and make things more efficient.”

    And then have them create a work back schedule with deadlines that build in extra time

    Framing it like “Remember, we need to have x issue approved during my work hours or when our hours overlap (if applicable) the day before the deadline,” or something along those lines.

    Then if you need to you can continue to prompt according to the work back schedule and reminding them “I’ll be out of reach during these hours.”

  86. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #1 – I think you need to do several things here:
    1) Consider the nature of the calls from your coworker. Are they asking questions, giving feedback, turning the calls into social hour? Is this a situation where they need additional resources, training? Is the nature of their calls truly urgent? Can you offer a standing meeting to alleviate their need for on-the-spot calls?
    2) Have a very explicit conversation with your coworker about times where you are and are not available.
    3) Talk to your boss; you are not a burden by expressing genuine working issues. This is part of their role as your boss.

  87. Ask A Manatee*

    I’ve noticed an increase in letters that describe something plainly weird or wrong, the end the letter with, “Is this the new normal?” I’m finding it hilarious but also a little sad — do these folks just assume they are the problem?

    Are these letters the new normal?

  88. Petty_Boop*

    LW1: Boundaries! 1.) Do Not Disturb from midnight to 8am or whatever. Boom no wakey wakey calls. 2.) “Meeting in 10 minutes!” “Sorry, I have a prescheduled conflict. We can reschedule, or you’ll have to have the meeting w/o my input.” 3.) Email HER. When she leaves you a voicemail or you get a bunch of unanswered calls, email her and say, “I see you called me 5 times last night. I’ve told you I won’t accept calls after X my time. What was this concerning that it required multiple attempts to reach me? Please respond via email, as I’m not available for a call right now.” Maybe consider Cc’ing your boss if you have to get to that point.

  89. Petty_Boop*

    For LW5, that seems so … bizarre to me. Also, it feels illegal at worst and definitely unethical at best. Asking a friend/family member to vouch for you is SUCH a potential conflict of interest, I can’t believe a company would even consider doing that. I get that if people are geographically dispersed, they may not have a “designated representative” in every location that employees are, but it’s also no big deal to say, “go to your local bank/credit union/BMV/wherever” and have this form notarized or something. I’d push back on this, if I were you, because although it’s prolly not likely, I’d tell them, “I don’t want this being flagged somewhere down the road during an audit as a conflict of interest, issue with my eligibility.” Weird. Just so weird!

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Not illegal, this is explicitly what the new I-9 guidance tells employers to do if they don’t qualify for remote verification.

      1. Petty_Boop*

        Definitely icky feeling to me though. “We need someone to verify your eligibility to work,” “Great. I have my Mom right here and she says, yes!” Bizarre!

  90. KittyGhost*

    OP #5- you’re 100% right, this section two process is super weird. Unfortunately, its also kind of normal. My OldJob involved training companies on how to use a third party I9 software we sold, and part of it was training them on the different remote (and “remote”) section 2 document verification features. The option your company offered you, to have some rando look at your documents, is the option cheapest for them (ie. free) but easily the weirdest for you. A few things for you to know about this:

    1.) While the instructions you got from your company say you can have a family member or friend review the section two documents, it doesn’t have to be. A rando from the Walmart grocery store line is just as legit as long as they can review your documents.

    2.) All this person needs to do is look at your ID(s), say “yup that doesn’t look fake”, then complete the form. Nothing more official than that.

    3.) There is no specific benefit to having a notary do this. There are third party Authorized Agent companies and some of them employ notaries, but USCIS doesn’t care if the authorized agent is a notary or not. You can certainly use your bank’s notary if that gives you peace of mind, but its not necessary and isn’t going to give you any extra security. As far as I know its not possible for a private individual to hire an Authorized Agent company- those tend to work directly with employers or I-9 processing companies.

    4.) When I was with OldJob, some companies who had used the rando Section 2 review process back in 2020 were redoing those Section Twos in 2023 using either proper remote verification or in-person verification just to be safe for auditing. Its also possible USCIS will change their guidance and require I-9s verified using this weird section two method to be re-verified using either in-person or proper remote verification. Just be mentally prepared for that to maybe come up in the future. That’s not on you- that’s on the company for choosing this method. And be grateful that whatever your job is, you’re not the person making sure all those I-9s are re-verified.

  91. H3llifIknow*

    3. It has actually become increasingly common in our office/on our team that when someone asks a “googleable” (I’m almost sure that’s a word) question, one of us will say, “if only we had a device in our pocket with all the knowledge in the world on it,” while looking pointedly at the “question offender”. After a couple of times, people really do start googling/searching file explorer/whatever first.

  92. retired3*

    2.I am a non linear thinker/speaker (A to M to D to J). Some people are like me; some are very linear (A to B to C to D). Think about whether your concern is related to non linear/linear patterns. The second employee may communicate well to people with his/her pattern. I can learn to be more linear if needed; the skill is to match what you are doing with the listener.

  93. DuskPunkZebra*

    Does anyone else feel like LW1’s coworker is avoiding a paper trail? Maybe it’s my government contracting background, but I get really suspicious when people refuse to do routine or simple tasks over email or chat, especially when there’s a time difference. It reads like an accountability dodge – someone who’s been caught bucking processes or who wants to be able to twist your words without receipts. Instead of adapting to the rules, they’re undermining their ability to be held to them.

    The last minute meetings and insistence on calling at unreasonable times also feels like a power play. I had a customer who was pointedly difficult to get hold of, would never reply to emails, wouldn’t give ANYONE access to his calendar so no one knew where he was or when he would be anywhere. On top of that, he’d regularly refuse to give people all of the information they needed to do their jobs and would withhold information from people we were supposed to be collaborating with. He wanted to be the one holding the cards, to be the bottleneck. I genuinely think the only reason I kept decent hours was because I was hourly non-exempt and he didn’t want to pay overtime. (The salaried folks? Constantly kept late for meetings he’d start at 3:30pm with no warning.)

    In any event, this is WAY past “gentle suggestion” territory. I’d both set the firm boundary and check in with the boss about what the expectations are for availability and communications. This gives you a chance to have the actual expectations clarified AND flag this issue for your manager that you may need backup if coworker doesn’t respect the boundaries. Besides, if this is a pattern for coworker and especially if this has been a problem before, boss needs to know it’s happening so she can act on that.

  94. OP#5*

    OP 5 here. Thanks for answering my question Alison! It was interesting to read everyone’s comments.

    After submitting my question I found an article explaining it (which seems a little out of date already):

    I didn’t realize that the rules had changed. If the company had explained why they were doing it this way, I think I would have understood. They told us we’d need to provide the name of a friend or family member, so they knew how the process worked. As it was, a lot of us thought it was a phishing attempt, so it was good they told us that ahead of time.

    In the end I had a friend do it. It’s a fully remote position, there’s no first day in the office. It was more convenient to have a friend do it than to schedule a zoom call.

    1. Database Admin*

      My company (Big Tech Co.) is making us do this too, OP 5. It’s bizarre and the UI is…not good.

    2. Longtime Lurker*

      I believe the virtual inspection option only exists for E-Verify employers. If they aren’t one, that could explain why they aren’t using this new process! Either way, glad everything worked out for you.

  95. Destra N.*

    For LW #1:

    If your company uses Google suite, get into the settings. You can set your working hours and enable a setting that automatically declines meetings that conflict with “Focus time,” which you could set up as a daily recurring event that spans your off hours.

    The second thing I would do is set up Google Appointments or Calendly, limited to 30 minute time slots. I would limit calendar scheduler meetings to something like 10-2pm or even only to specific days of the week so they can’t hit you with a surprise early meeting. Then I would decline any meetings scheduled during work hours that conflict with existing meetings and respond with a note “I have a conflict at that time, but here’s a link to my availability, feel free to book a time that’s open there.” If this person is the only one you plan to send calendar schedulers to, set it up to accept a max of one meeting per day so they can’t block multiple slots.

    Third, block off time in your schedule for working on projects. “Focus time” is once again great here. If this person is taking up so much time that you’re not getting work done, then don’t let them have that time. (I actually recommend this to literally everyone. Think of your calendar as a visual aid that shows your bandwidth.)

    Last, when you do meet, require an agenda at least an hour in advance, and always say you have a hard stop in 30 minutes, and then stick to it. If that agenda doesn’t show up, decline the meeting. Like, don’t even accept the meeting until it’s clear they’ve added an agenda to the call.

    And for your phone, dig into the settings and see if there’s a way to limit late-night calls to family members only. If they leave a thousand voicemails? That sounds like a them problem to me. I would not feel remotely bad about deleting them unread, then waiting until I’ve logged on the next day and already finished my morning coffee before messaging, “I saw you called me last night while I was asleep. Do you still need anything from me?”

    I will preach this until I die: PROTECT. YOUR. TIME.

    1. Angstrom*

      Phone settings: On Apple, it’s Focus -> Do Not Disturb, and then you can add people to allow. One easy way is to put all the people you want to allow in your Favorites list and then Allow Calls From Favorites.

  96. Lizy*

    UGH #5 — I had an employer (temp/contract) do this once. I flat refused. They kept trying to tell me that “just anyone” can do it and I was like “perfect – I’ll have my supervisor do it on my first day” and for some reason that just Would Not Work. I can’t remember how that particular conversation ended, but for this and other reasons, I declined to work there. Redonkulous.

  97. Bad Wolf*

    OP #1 – I’d keep my phone on Do Not Disturb at night and return her calls during your own work hours when she’s the one who’s asleep – “Sorry I missed your call. It was the middle of the night, and I was sleeping. X sounds super important. So let’s discuss it now!” But I’m petty like that.

  98. Semi-retired admin*

    Re: LW5, I just had to do this for a position where all the onboarding paperwork was remote. I uploaded photos of my passport and still had to have someone verify it. Don’t tell, but I just texted her the information being requested (document # and expiration date) and she filled it in on the form, because it’s lame.

  99. DJ*

    Yea ban collections at work unless it’s for something all can share in ie cake. Then alternative could be to bring a plate of food. I’ve worked in places where it all goes to the higher earners and the rest get nothing. Or the amount asked for is ridiculous. It’s like “well no”
    Conversely some workplaces the higher income earners will about the lower earners a drink or coffee. As long as not expected that’s fine!

  100. Kith*

    So glad you published #5. I just had to do this for my husband for a very large, very recognizable national company and I was worried it was some kind of scam (my identity was stolen so I’m a little hypersensitive to that). I found it so strange and had no idea anyone could technically verify.

  101. Curious*

    I almost wonder if Alison might want to update her reply to #5. Lots of employers legitimately don’t use E-Verify, which means they actually can’t do I-9 verification remotely now that the COVID-era flexibility has ended. Even if an employer decides to set up E-Verify now, the remote process would only apply to new I-9s. The ones done remotely during COVID would still need to be reverified in person.

    The process OP describes is definitely odd/annoying, but not an example of the employer “offloading responsibility.” They’re following the process dictated by USCIS, and probably thought it would be more convenient for employees to choose their own authorized representative, given that it can be almost anyone (again, totally weird, but the employer didn’t come up with this process). It probably would have been good to give employees the option of choosing their own representative or going with one found/designated by the employer, but this seems like the only place they erred

  102. Middle of HR*

    As a former notary public, (forgot to renew my license during the pandemic) I find it really funny that people think a notary is more qualified to confirm that your identification is real (or to paraphrase the I-9 form, “looks legit”). They didn’t train us on anything like that! Your local notary is just following directions on the page, same as your neighbor or spouse.
    Honestly, this is just laying bare that the regulation requiring the form/process itself is kinda silly. It certainly isn’t keeping people from working under the table all over the country.

  103. Bb*

    interestingly, #5 describes the exact process to a tee that my employer does. it didn’t strike me as odd as all, to be honest. I wonder if I have the same employer as LW5.

Comments are closed.