do I need to disclose my past fling with a coworker, boss asked how I afforded an expensive vacation, and more

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

1. Do I need to disclose a past fling with a new coworker?

I’m starting an entry-level program where my coworker is someone I hooked up with a few times last year. Our involvement was before he joined the company, and I didn’t know he was on this team. I was an intern at the company but not on the same team. I dislike him as a person and do not think highly of his integrity, but can treat him professionally and have no desire to badmouth him to my manager. We’re not in contact, and the breakup was undramatic. Do I need to disclose this to anyone, and if so, how?

The nature of the relationship is partially supervisory. He isn’t my official manager, but would have the most workplace interactions with me and likely have influence over my performance reports. He essentially would be my team mentor. I want to protect myself from any potential unfair treatment or harassment in the future. This is a large company with capacity to transfer me, but I’d rather not switch teams unless necessary. Also, I can only speak for myself — I have no idea if he’ll maintain professionalism. He didn’t respect my personal boundaries when we spent time together and I’d rather react proactively to any potential inappropriate behavior than reactively.

Honestly, I want to be transparent to avoid potential issues, but I also would prefer to keep my personal issues out of the workplace if possible. My company’s conflict of interest policy mentions current romantic partners but not exes, and given how casual the relationship was, I’m not really sure he even counts as an ex.

I really just want to focus on the job, and I’m not sure if disclosing this sort of thing to HR would get me fired (I’m not asking them to do anything, I’m just not sure if they’d expect me to mention this). Also not sure if *not* disclosing would make me look bad (although I must say I’m very surprised he didn’t mention it to our manager, from his admission). I want to maintain credibility should he behave inappropriately toward me in the future, and also want to CYA.

Me reading your first paragraph: Nope, no reason to disclose it. You hooked up a few times, there was no drama, it doesn’t need to be a big thing.

Me reading your second paragraph, where it turns out he’s going to have influence over your performance reviews: Ohhhh.

So yeah, I think you should probably mention it to HR because the “partially supervisory” bit changes things (and the fact that he didn’t mention it himself makes me question his judgment a bit). You could frame it as, “We had an extremely brief romantic relationship last year — just a few dates — and I can certainly work with him professionally, but I didn’t know if it was something I should disclose since he’ll be in a somewhat supervisory role over me.”

2. My boss asked how I afforded an expensive vacation

This happened a few years ago, but I still think about it and am curious how you’d have responded. I had worked for my then-boss for about six months and we did not jive. (I was actually in the process of moving departments. I’d been at the company for over five years when he was hired.) Every year, I’m very fortunate that my parents pay for a family vacation at a luxury resort. I had mentioned the hotel we go to (but not who pays) and my boss looked it up and asked me in a check-in, “How do you afford that?” I was incredibly taken aback by the question — it feels inappropriate from anyone, especially someone who in theory might control my future compensation. I was so shocked at the moment that I just told the truth, that my parents paid for it, but it felt like such an invasion of privacy and honestly just a rude question. Also to be clear, I made enough that I could pay for this myself, though I probably would not choose to (at least not annually).

Fortunately, I’m out of this not-ideal boss situation now, but I’m curious how you would’ve suggested replying if I’d been able to think more about my response. I’d also be curious if you think I just shouldn’t have mentioned where we stay at all, though I don’t want to lie if someone asks me (this resort is in a popular vacation destination).

Nah, you don’t need to lie about where you’re vacationing — although it’s also true that sometimes people choose to be discreet about this kind of thing if they work with nosy people or colleagues who Draw A Lot Of Conclusions when they get information about your off-hours.

Your boss’s question was rude, but your answer was fine. If you’d had time to refine it, you could have said, “I’m a guest, not the host” or “I’m going to pretend my boss isn’t asking me about my personal finances” or gone with a non-answer (“yeah, going anywhere is so expensive right now”) or anything else you were comfortable with. But you put were on the spot and the way you answered was an easy and low-drama way to respond.

3. How can I avoid shaking hands?

I have arthritis and tendonitis, which both contribute to a right hand that is (to use a medical term) jacked up. I also work in real estate, which means I’m constantly meeting new people, and handshakes are a daily occurrence. And usually, they hurt.

Is there any way to divert a handshake without the other person feeling offended AND without sharing my medical history? It’s not that I care if people know that I have arthritis, but I also believe in medical privacy. Plus that’s a lot to lump in with “nice to meet you.”

Also, PSA: Hardcore handshake grips might be hurting people you’re meeting! I used to do them too pre-illness, but now I really appreciate people being gentle.

“I have an injury so I’m not going to shake your hand, but it’s great to see you/meet you!” Say it warmly and you should be fine.

(Also, with our increased awareness of germs, more people than you might think will appreciate this.)

chill out with the bone-crushing handshakes

4. Should I try to get more flexibility or just quit?

Three months ago, I started a job at a mid-sized nonprofit with multiple site locations. In those three moths, three out of four of my coworkers quit, and I know why—the organization provides no support or training. I don’t love the job either, but feel that I’m at a point where I could negotiate for better conditions since if I were to quit now, the organization would likely have to close this location.

My primary request would be the ability to work from home on the two days of the week when we are already closed to the public. On these days, I make a long commute to the office, only to sit at my desk answering emails alone, which I could easily do from anywhere else. I brought this up to my manager last week and I felt that I strongly hinted at the stakes, saying I was “really looking for a job with this type of flexibility” and outright stating my current dissatisfaction with the job. She rejected the request, saying that unless everyone in the org could work a hybrid schedule, no one could.

I know that I could leave this job (indeed, I already have other options lined up) and I don’t intend to stay for long, but I really would like to be able to see the org through until they can hire more staff (which, at the current rate, could take months). Many of our clients rely on our services, and would be devastated if we closed our doors. That said, I don’t want this to hold me hostage to unnecessarily frustrating work conditions, and I want to use this chance at leverage to negotiate for what I need. Is there a way to say “meet my demands, or I quit,” but … professionally?

Well, you sort of already did — that conversation last week where you strongly hinted at the stakes should have been enough for any slightly aware manager to understand what you were saying, and that they risk losing you over this. It sounds like they simply may not care.

You can certainly try going back and spelling it out more explicitly, but I’d only do that once you’re ready to leave fairly immediately since you don’t know how they’ll react (for all we know, they could have already calculated that they’re okay with closing this location). You mentioned that you have other options lined up, so maybe you’d be fine with leaving soon after this conversation if you need to … in which case, the way to word it is something like, “I feel strongly enough that it’s something I’d leave over, but I wanted to talk with you one final time to see if there’s any room for flexibility.”

But please strongly factor into your thinking that you’ve basically already told them they’re likely to lose you over this and they’re not changing anything. I’d also worry that they’ll agree to what you want just to avert the immediate crisis and then push you out later when they no longer feel as dependent on you — at which point is there a risk that some of the options you’ve lined up now could be gone? If there’s not and you don’t care that much about controlling the timing, this could make sense. But again, I do think you’ve already told them.

5. I have 2 titles — which do I use in my email signature?

The function of my work is completely changing to the extent that it would constitute a career change. I am transitioning from a role that falls under the CFO in the org chart (one that helps the org run) to a higher one that falls under the COO (one that does the day to day programming). They are actively seeking to backfill my prior role, but in the mean time I am splitting my time between the two.

My extremely low-stakes question is when do I change my email signature, is there any reason to list both or switch between signatures? The majority of my communication is internal, but for both roles a significant portion is not. The function of them is wildly different enough I could see certain parties thinking it’s odd to receive an email from the non-relevant role.

It depends on what the titles are. In a lot of cases it would make sense to just list the higher level title. If that seems really off, then potentially both, listing them like this:
Title 1
Title 2 (interim)

But if that’s likely to confuse external people, does your email program gives you the option to choose from several signatures? If so, do that — and then just select the appropriate one for any given email. (It should be fine to just use one of the first two solutions internally though, where people presumably know what’s going on or at least where you won’t have the same perception issues that you might have with, say, a client.)

{ 244 comments… read them below }

  1. JR*

    OP #3, Bob Dole had limited mobility in his right hand due to a WWII injury. I remember when he ran for president, he’d carry a pen in his right hand to head off hand shakers. I think Alison’s response is great, but maybe if you carry a folder, a coffee cup, etc in your right hand (if you can comfortably do so), you might limit the number of times you even need to use it.

    1. Jackalope*

      Yes, if nothing else, the folder idea is a great one. Obviously you know what will work for you, but it’s something that can be carried in your arm instead of your hand if needed, so may be easier than a mug.

      1. Cmdrshrd*

        Maybe OP really does not want to disclose anything about their medical condition, but this seems like a lot more work than just saying “I have a medical condition that prevents me from shaking hands,” or “I have a medical condition and shaking hands hurts.”

        I get not wanting to disclose the specifics of arthritis and tendonitis, but a quick vague citation to medical issues seems like a lot less work than trying to remember to carry something in your hand.

        1. Potato Potato*

          In my experience with saying that, there’s always a chance that it’ll derail the professional conversation while the other person asks about your medical condition. It shouldn’t, but it seems like people’s curiosity often gets the better of them. And those conversations are often more draining than holding onto a folder would be.

        2. Lydia*

          That feels like potentially opening the door to a lot more questions than either “I have an injury” or holding something to make a handshake not an option. In fact, having a silent unobtrusive reason not to shake hands seems like a lot less work than having to allude to any injury or medical issue.

        3. Mayor of Llamatown*

          As Mercurial mentioned below, people might feel awkward, and that “hand left sticking out in midair” thing feels extra awkward. It’s not the OP’s place to manage other people’s feelings, but if she wants to forestall the awkwardness (and who doesn’t?), it’s a good option.

          (I will also add on that it’s other people’s awkwardness that can be returned to sender.)

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I have used the things in my hand approach in the past when dealing with the folks that I knew were “handcrushers” effectively. They couldn’t claim I was rude (well not really legitimately) since I had full hands when we were introduced, and I got to skip having my hand crushed and it then hurting to write for the rest of the meeting.

      1. Mercurial*

        I like this approach because it also (hopefully) prevents people from offering their hand in the first place, stopping from leaving them hanging and preventing that momentary feeling of discomfort that comes with it. It is not a big deal by any means, but why not start off on the right foot (rather than the right hand, ho ho) especially in a business setting.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      On a similar track, I have a wrist brace that didn’t really help my hand/arm issues — but it’s been very helpful for turning handshakes in to fistbumps.

      1. Dizzy Billet*

        I often hold up my hand in a brace or bandage because it’s a quicker and easier way of signalling nope, hand out of action, than explaining over and over again in words. Also good for when people want you to take minutes or help move tables, etc.

      2. Jay*

        I’ve successfully done the same when dealing with a chronic injury to my right hand and arm. Although, I did find the pressure soothing and it made for a nice way to attach various patches with pain relieving ointments, balms, and rubs to my hand.

        1. Your Computer Guy*

          Same, I’ve dealt with a lot of tendonitis and a very light/soft compression brace is helpful for fending off handshakes, keeping patches/athletic tape in place, and reminding myself to not reach for, lift, or twist things with the affected hand.

      3. Critical Rolls*

        This was my first thought. A light brace/wrap does all the work, and might actually be nice for the LW anyway.

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          yes I wore one for a while when I had tendonitis and I would just hold up my hand and say “hi”. People didn’t actually want to shake my hand since the brace indicated injury.

      4. Office Lobster DJ*

        I think this is a good strategy. For many people, it will be a visual cue and you won’t need to get into details. Anyone who asks can get a breezy “oh, my wrist is acting up.” (I use that phrasing myself because I think it implies that whatever is going is nothing to worry about but the situation is probably chronic so we don’t need to have this conversation every time.)

        For what it’s worth, if I were meeting someone with a wrist brace, I’d think whatever was going on was none of my business and move on, whereas if they proactively explained “I have an injury” I’d be wondering how to respond — Am I supposed to ask what happened? Express sympathy? I hope it’s not serious. I wonder what did happen…

      5. Full Banana Ensemble*

        Yes, I was thinking wrist brace, as well. (Bonus if it actually helps with the tendonitis!)

        My instinct, with the pen/mug/folder strategy, is that people will assume you’ll move whatever you’re holding to your other hand or put it down so you can shake. At least, that’s what many years of juggling wine glasses and plates at happy hours has taught me. :)

        The wrist brace is a clear enough signal that most people won’t even need to be told “I have an injury.”

      6. Tired Fed*

        I was coming to suggest just this very thing. A hand/wrist brace with some coverage (to look very handshake unfriendly) should be an easy way to avoid handshakes.

        I buy mine at the grocery store or convenience store when I inevitably lose one.

        1. Wonky right hand*

          +1 – I started a new job having come off my bike and fractured my hand a few weeks earlier. I thought it was healed, but then the handshakes started! Back out came the brace whenever I was going to a meeting or with new people (sat at my desk it was more of a hindrance when typing). Just waving the brace meant no handshakes, and no questions asked.

    4. Stirred, not shaken*

      My mom had a condition that made handshakes painful. She put a bandage (ace bandage wrapped loosely or even a large bandaid) on her right hand to fend off handshakes, especially in church when there wasn’t time for an explanation. She would just wave at people with the bandaged hand and nod apologetically at it, without having to make excuses. In your situation, you could just nod at the bandage and say, “sorry, I can’t shake hands, but it’s very nice to meet you” or something like that. No need to go into details. Good luck!

    5. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      I had tendonitis in my right hand and wore a brace that helped it heal. I found that people didn’t want to shake my hand when I was wearing it, even though it didn’t hurt me. So it might be an idea to wear one when meeting customers.
      (People also wouldn’t let me carry stuff, even though that didn’t hurt either!).

    6. lilsheba*

      I can’t believe hand shaking is still a thing, during a pandemic. NONONONONO. I would just say that it’s something you prefer not to do for health reasons and leave it at that. Yuck.

      1. WhyAreThereSoManyBadManagers*

        Yup. My go to now is “Ever since Covid I don’t shake hands, I’m sure you understand, but it’s nice to meet you.” Quick, to the point; my right to protect myself and my family wins out over societal politeness norms.

      2. Misshapen Pupfish*

        I too hoped that the pandemic could’ve been the death of the handshake. I have literally had my hands hidden when meeting people and they’ll still stick theirs out there and wait for me. I know you can’t always count on people to pick up non-verbal cues but I also feel bad that anyone would have to explain all day long why they can’t shake hands, like at a conference, say.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          It’s such an ingrained thing. After seeing how many people don’t wash their hands after going to the bathroom, I don’t ever want to touch anyone ever again.

          1. Aphrodite*

            I agree about people’s level of … shall we say, non-hygienic bathroom habits. I’ve felt very strongly about this for at least 15 years. One supervisor took great offense at it, and I actually got written up once but I held firm. No handshakes, no way, never.

        2. BlondeSpiders*

          During the pandemic, I would stick out my elbow in lieu of a handshake to suggest an elbow bump. Most people got it then. Now? Not so much. I am constantly surprised that people want to touch a stranger’s skin these days.

    7. Combobulate*

      My colleague who has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome says, “I can’t shake, but it is great to meet you.” while putting their hand over their heart in a gesture that indicates sincerity and seems to stop folks from trying to grab for their hand.

      1. Adds*

        A decade ago, I had a boss at a medical clinic who used the namaste hand posture accompanied by a head nod and ended conversations with “be well.”

      2. Chirpy*

        I personally really like this option. It’s “I acknowledge you politely” without having to touch anyone.

      3. Butterfly Counter*

        I’ve seen this work with Muslim women who don’t shake hands with men, too. I’d maybe do the hand on the heart with a brief wave while stepping back without explanation. It’s kind of what I defaulted to during the tail end of the pandemic when meeting people but maintaining social distancing.

    8. Office Drone*

      For OP 3: Another option is to wear a brace on your affected arm when you’re meeting people. Then use Alison’s script. The advantages of wearing a brace are that you don’t have to carry anything, and when you aren’t able to easily explain before the hands reach out (as happens to me during the sign of peace at church), your brace speaks for you.

      1. Rockette J Squirrel*

        I (female) have rheumatoid arthritis and shaking hands is the stuff of which my nightmares are made.
        My husband worked as an engineer, involved in testing very large farming equipment. The techs were all male. For several years, I often sent treats to work for everyone, so when there was a rare open house, I really looked forward to meeting them – except for the handshaking. So I waved when introduced and said warmly “I can’t shake hands, but I’m SO glad to meet you, (name)!” Every single one was clearly a bit upset/insulted. This has held true many times when I’m introduced to men.
        I quit autocrossing in large part due to the handshaking – I was novice instructor. One very sweet young man would come grab my hand after each of his six runs, so excited, and squeezed hard. I quit soon after. Most just made a face if I really wouldn’t shake, or just grabbed my left hand to shake instead. I can’t make a fist, and what I can make hurts a lot. I do not welcome fist bumps, either.
        Granted, not at all business related – but pain is pain. So now I buy and wear brightly colored stretch bandages when going into a “meeting new people situation” – the type used after blood draws. The tan color didn’t cut it. And I wrap BOTH hands.

  2. Polyhymnia O’Keefe*

    #3 – I’ll admit, my instinct is still (or again? I actually remember both my last pre-pandemic and first post-vaccine handshakes vividly) to go in for a handshake, but over the past few years, it’s become more and more common for someone to say, “are you shaking hands?” If the answer is no, no big deal everyone goes about their business without it. If the answer is yes, then a handshake. I’m generally fine shaking hands, but it’s also 0% weird for me these days if someone says that they don’t.

    (On a side note, it’s also become much more common for my circle to ask, “are you hugging?” Especially if it’s someone that we’re seeing for the first time in a long time. In my usual circle, we don’t really ask anymore, and someone will speak up if they’re sick or aren’t hugging for some other reason, but with less frequent contacts, it’s a pretty common question.)

    1. John Smith*

      An elbow bump was used outside of social distancing rules, but I think that would just look weird now (as it did then). I was thinking to proffer the left hand? Or go with Alison’s script and maybe left hand on other persons shoulder/arm? Maybe a small bow from the waist with hands clasped in front? (I’m assuming the presence of upper limbs). My mother has arthritis and often wears a splint on her hand which usually stops handshakes, maybe that’s an option.

      1. Guacamole Nob*

        I remember the elbow bump, and I thought it was weird that we teach people to sneeze into their elbow and then expect them bring that elbow into contact with other people. I even knew people who tried to link elbows instead of bumping, which was even worse!

        1. LJ*

          I think the point is you aren’t then touching your face, laptop, and everything else with the same elbow as you would your hands, but yes, definitely weird!

        2. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

          I thought it was also that if you’re bumping elbows, it forces you to turn your faces away from each other slightly as you get closer- so less breathing on each other.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        I was going to suggest the elbow bump alternative. I am comfortable with a traditional handshake, but just last week was offered the elbow alternative at church, and it was fine. I don’t think it is weird.

        1. Pat*

          I have had people reach across and put their left hand into my outstretched right hand for a “shake” (over the top of my fingers so their fingers are in my palm. It’s a tiny bit surprising at the time, but not enough to worry about, but you can still give a little grip and shake.

          It precludes a strong grip, and the left-hand-offerer can pull their hand free easily. And it gives me the visual cue that they probably have an injury.

          I’ve only seen women do this, but I don’t see any reason men couldn’t.

          1. Pat*

            FYI- i didn’t intend the “here is the answer, everyone should do this” vibe that I think accidentally achieved with my comment above.

    2. lurkyloo*

      I often ask ‘Hug, handshake or wave?’ for people (and specifically children) that I am familiar with. Which I recognize is the opposite of what you’re asking advice on!
      The brace idea seems the easiest if you don’t want to talk about it all the time. Or stay just out of handshake distance with a warm smile and a ‘so good to see/meet you!’

    3. Cohort 1*

      I love the hugging question. I just don’t like hugging people who aren’t close relatives. It’s awkward. I like the people just fine, but I don’t want to hug.

  3. Uldi*


    You broached the subject, they shut it down. In my opinion, they gave you their answer. I’d say go forward with one of those other options. This place doesn’t sound like they have anything of value to offer you except your current pay.

    1. Artemesia*

      you can’t care more about the clients than the people running the place do; they gave you your answer, it is ‘we don’t value you enough to be flexible with what you need.’ Start looking seriously for a new position.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        For LW 4 –

        You can’t personally save this organization. You’ve only been there three months and you’re seeing yourself as the only thing keeping the branch in operation. If that’s true, that’s on the managers/board for setting up a fragile system.

        You talk about sticking around until they hire someone new, but then you’ll have to train the new person, and hope they stick around for long enough to get up to speed (rather than quitting like the last three people in the position due to lack of training and support). So then you’re looking at sticking around through multiple hiring rounds, until they’ve got new people who are going to hang around for a while. And this is for a job that you don’t like, with management that you don’t respect, when you have options.

        Find your best option for moving on, and give notice. If they’re shocked, you can be blunt about why – after all, a three month job stint can be left off your resume if they take the advice badly.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I sincerely wonder if someone above OP is thinking “If OP quits, we’ll probably shut the Hallifax office.” With no particular emotion.

          1. Snow Globe*

            I suspect they may already be thinking of closing the Hallifax office, and are waiting to get all the plans set in place before telling the OP that they are no longer needed.

          2. Observer*

            I sincerely wonder if someone above OP is thinking “If OP quits, we’ll probably shut the Hallifax office.” With no particular emotion.

            I’m betting that someone *is* thinking that. But with a specific emotion – either relief or satisfaction that they will *finally* be “able” to shut that office down.

        2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          THIS. OP, you are not responsible for keeping the location open, the company is. If they don’t care enough to do what is necessary, then you should not care more. You need to do what is best for you.

          You got your answer. You just don’t like it because it doesn’t jibe with how much you care about keeping the location open. The answer is not going to change even with an ultimatum. You have options, use them.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        I really like the formulation that you can’t care about the business more than your boss does. This brings clarity to a lot of bad boss situations.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          Especially true when you’re not provided any training or support to start with (and three people quit in your first three months!!).

        2. Almost Empty Nester*

          I repeat this mantra daily in my role where the company makes really questionable decisions. It makes my refusal to work many hours of overtime to cover for the people who’ve been laid off much more palatable.

        3. Lydia*

          It has helped me in a LOT of situations. When I worked with young adults, one thing I would say frequently about frustrating situations was that I couldn’t care more about their success than they did. If I did, it would only lead to frustration on my part, less energy for the other people I was working with, and eventually burn out.

      3. bamcheeks*

        Yeah, I am also wondering how the organisation feels about this location, if you’ve lost that many people recently, I wonder whether it’s worth asking for an update on hiring and whether the organisation is committed to keeping it open. I don’t want LW to miss out on those other opportunities in order to keep that office open, only to find that the organisation has decided it’s fine if it closes!

      4. B*

        “you can’t care more about the clients than the people running the place do”

        This is an extremely clear, succinct affirmation that non-profit employees ought to say in the mirror every morning.

      5. ScruffyInternHerder*


        You cannot care more about how devastated their clientele will be upon losing services when the company* refuses to adapt to retain staff.

        *company, non profit, whatever fits here. So long as there’s not statute or licensing requiring X,Y,Z…adapt or deal with churn.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Yup – their answer was basically permission to aggressively job search. Don’t light yourself on fire to care more about the place/job/mission than the manager does.

      1. BatManDan*

        Yup. And if the org isn’t actively (or passively) looking to close that branch, and they are just clueless about what’s happening, maybe it’ll take 4/4 to quit (and the resulting forced closure) to clue them in, when 3/4 wasn’t good enough. But yeah, it’s not going to get better, it’s going to get worse for whomever is there – probably shouldn’t be you.

    3. NeedRain47*

      yep. You don’t actually have any leverage over people who’ve already shown you they don’t care about doing a good job.

    4. Ama*

      I’ve had conversations like OP has had where the boss picked up my implication and actually did take immediate action to keep me from leaving, I’ve had conversations where the boss acknowledges that I have a point about the unsustainability of my job but just gives me a bunch of empty promises or constantly changing plans until it becomes clear they can’t get the authority they need to make real changes and just won’t admit it, and I’ve had conversations where I’ve been stonewalled like the OP with “well there’s nothing I can do because policy.”

      In my experience, there’s no way to salvage either of the second two situations except by leaving; management either doesn’t really think you’ll leave over this or they don’t care if you leave over this.

  4. Certaintroublemaker*

    LW1, new (semi-supervisory) coworker not disclosing your history to your manager is sketchy. “He didn’t respect my personal boundaries when we spent time together,” is worse. Definitely, definitely get on the record with HR.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Yup – HR to let them know you had a previous personal relationship with new quasi-supervisor, and are unsure if the reporting line really makes sense given this new information. But also stress you have no issues working alongside him in a coworker setting.

      The goal is being completely reasonable and professional while getting ahead of any issues Mr Former Fling may cause.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this. The fact that he didn’t respect her boundaries while they were dating is rather worrying. In a situation like that, I certainly wouldn’t want to be supervised by a former fling, no matter how casual it was. I’d much rather switch teams if at all possible.

      2. JSPA*

        Slight edit to Alison’s otherwise excellent script, to deal with the space between “hookup” and “date” (because if they ask him about “dating” you, and he either denies it (because hookups are not dates) or gets graphic and dismissive:

        “We had a brief thing that didn’t go anywhere.” That says, “details not up for discussion” while leaving open the question of whether you were holding hands at the movies, knocking boots, practicing your rope-tying skills or whatever else. It puts the emphasis even more on, “not at all a current thing” and implies “no lingering emotional baggage.”

        If they want a definition of “thing,” just stay vague, and focus on what it wasn’t. “We were never an item or dating-dating. Just a thing that ended as quickly as it started.” (Have several of these vague statements cued up in your head.)

        Mind you, It’s also possible that in retrospect, it will turn out that he’s got a predatory attitude towards new interns, and that he has been warned, and that in retrospect it will come to feel skeevier for you, or have repercussions for him.

        But that’s not something that you are causing! If he’s a bad actor, it’s on him. If not, there’s no reason it should reflect badly on either of you.

      3. Armchair Analyst*

        it’s a new job, LW is new to the workplace. I definitely suggest going to HR and asking if in this situation you should disclose and if so how. “going to hr” may mean setting up a conversation with the HR person who onboarded you and can direct you to an appropriate person.

        I think it’s the kind of situation where if you don’t disclose and something happens later, it will have been seen as though you should have disclosed at the beginning.

        I might be wrong. but it’s worth an ask to HR.

        1. Dr. Vibrissae*

          I agree, and I like Allison’s wording of asking “I wasn’t sure if this was something I need to disclose” because it suggests you’re just being overly cautious because you are new and don’t know policy, rather than you expect it to be “a thing”. It also gets the information out there in case it does turn out to be ‘a thing’ later (or who knows maybe he has a history and HR will be quick to make a move without LW having to actually ask.)

    2. Magpie*

      It doesn’t sound like we actually know whether or not the former fling has disclosed anything to HR or his supervisor. It sounds like the LW has not yet started this new position and is trying to figure out how to handle all of this before their first day.

    3. Overnight Oats*

      OP1 – I would disclose the past relationship to HR in writing (email is fine) and forward a copy to your work and your personal (not work) address. If you decide on a physical letter, mail a copy to your home address and save it sealed in the postmarked envelope, and keep a physical copy with your files at work. Make a file folder for HR documentation and keep it there. Likely, it’ll sit there until you retire. But if something does go sideways, you will have the documentation. People and positions and systems for HR change; save backups of your records, particularly nonstandard records like this.

      1. Sara without an H*

        I like this, although I would probably start with a personal conversation with the HR rep, then follow up with an email summary-of-our-discussion.

        But yes, OP1 should definitely be prepared to document anything going forward that seems the least bit dubious. All emails should be kept and (preferably) copied to OP1’s personal email account. Any physical files need to be kept at home (NOT at the office) and electronic documents of any kind should be stored somewhere besides the employer’s server.

        But I would definitely have a low-key conversation with HR (“I’ve got this, but I thought I ought to report it”). It’s always better to frame the narrative yourself.

        1. 3DogNight*

          OP may need to be very careful about sending work e-mail to their personal e-mail. My company would consider that suspicious behavior and IT will call you the first time. The 2nd time they’ll lock your system. There is, again at my company, a documented process for getting things from work to personal systems, and it does not involve e-mail at all. (It’s OneDrive and moving it to your personal drive. I’m not sure of the particulars, because I haven’t had to use it.) But, OP, follow your org’s policies for moving information, for sure keep copies, though.

          1. Sara without an H*

            That may make sense for your industry, and OP should definitely check on what the local policy is.

            That said, it seems like overkill — but then, I spent my career in higher education, where faculty routinely work at home at least part of the time. Trying to manage how they shared stuff between the university’s system and their personal systems would drive everybody in IT around the bend.

            1. Willow Pillow*

              I agree. I work with sensitive information and my current employer is very restrictive on email – BCCing myself on this sort of email would not be an issue.

    4. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Yes, this. And also for some reason my brain conflated the beginning of that letter and I at first read it as the affair had happened a few years ago, but then reading the answer I realized it was just last year. If it had been a few years ago, I could see maybe not telling HR but given that it was only last year AND that the guy didn’t respect your personal boundaries…well, I’d get ahead of this and tell HR about it. I like Alison’s wording – you don’t have to get into the details with HR – but I’d definitely be wary of working with a guy who didn’t respect your boundaries. That’s very worrisome.

    5. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Perhaps he has already told HR? That’s if he even knows OP is starting at the company – he may know he will have ‘someone’ to mentor but not necessarily who (especially if it is type of entry level role where there is a large intake of people to the same/similar role as part of a cohort). The other side of this letter could easily be “I’m a senior ABC Analyst and every year I mentor people as part of our graduate program, this year I’ve just met the group and one of them is someone I had a few dates with!”

      I would be more worried about his lack of integrity generally than about the prior “relationship” in itself (quotes because OP said it was very casual and isn’t even really an ex in that sense) and would be on the lookout for signs of that in the workplace – towards yourself, and others.

    6. 2 Cents*

      I wouldn’t couch it in so many “but it was short and he’s not really my supervisor.” I’d just state the facts: “Dude and I had an extremely short relationship. Now I’m in this position and he’ll be in a position to rate my performance. I’m understandably concerned about a conflict of interest.”

    7. learnedthehardway*

      Agreeing – it’s important for the OP#1 to speak with their HR person about this. In fact, don’t just call in to the HR line, speak with the HR Manager or Business partner who is supporting your business unit. Schedule a conversation and let them know you have this concern.

      If things were totally amicable and casual, I would be less concerned. But a) the guy was in a semi-supervisory role, and that’s a power differential, b) there’s a company policy against fraternization with people below you in the hierarchy, which the supervisor had to have known about, and c) he didn’t respect your personal boundaries when you were dating casually, so he’s already shown that he isn’t someone to be trusted.

      Taken all together, I feel there is risk for sexual harassment or retaliatory harassment (eg. unfair criticism, bad assignments, and/or a bias against you in performance evaluations, etc.) now that you will be working together closely.

      I think you should get out in front of it and disclose to HR, particularly if the guy is going to be in any kind of supervisory / management role over you in your department. You don’t need to go into details. Just tell HR that you dated several times when you were in X role and he was in Y role (the point that he was in a quasi-supervisory role over you should be obvious). It was casual and you don’t expect any issues, but you felt you should let HR know due to company policies.

  5. Matt*

    #3: I had hoped the handshake would disappear forever in 2020, however it seems it’s back for good and none the worse for wear …

    1. D*

      I can’t remember the last time I shook anyone’s hand. When I greet new people these days, I usually wave or do this weird hand over my heart + bowing my head thing that people seem to recognize as a greeting.

      1. LJ*

        I think the problem is OP is in real estate. A firm handshake seems to be a basic expectation of salesmanship, and it’s hard to *not* do it when all your peers are. It’s up there with repeating the client’s name in your sales pitch.

    2. Contracts Killer*

      I agree! I’m really surprised at the number of people who try to insist on shaking hands even when I’m visibly the gross one. I’ve had people try to shake hands after I’ve been exercising and sweaty all over and also at events where there is finger food. Someone caught me licking sauce off my hand…and STILL tried to shake my hand. I’ll say, “Ooh, I’m really gross, for your sake, let’s not shake hands,” and people are still insistent. I just reiterate that I’m gross and refuse it. People can be very weird.

      1. Sometimes maybe*

        Shaking hands originated as a token of trust. You would shake hands to show you come in good faith without a weapon or anything in your hand. Without knowing the history, I have always instinctively viewed it as a symbol of welcome and trust. It is interesting, especially in the comments, now so many are put off by it.

    3. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      Yeah, me too! It’s so unhygienic, among other things (and I’m not particularly germaphobic even!)

    4. Bear Expert*

      I’m on Team Lets Not Touch People Without Consent. I love hugs. I’m a hugger. If my touch needy self can figure out how to ask before touching, I swear, everyone can. I absolutely believe that humans thrive on touch and being touched. But bodily autonomy wins and we shouldn’t be using professional spaces to meet emotional needs – they aren’t going to.

      So yeah, the professional handshake should die. Germs, cultural limitations, being used as a painful dominance game… I want to just get rid of non consensual touching as a professional norm.

      1. Cmdrshrd*

        I agree with what you are saying generally, but:

        “But bodily autonomy wins and we shouldn’t be using professional spaces to meet emotional needs – they aren’t going to.”

        A handshake is not that, I don’t think people are really going around and forcing people to shake hands.

        Sticking out your hand for a shake, is asking for permission to touch the other person. The other person can consent to the handshake and stick their hand out, or say I am not doing handshakes for xyz reason. At that point it really isn’t any different than a person asking a person before do you do handshakes? Sticking out your hand is just a non-verbal way of asking.

        1. Silver Robin*

          Agreed, though verbal asks make it easier to adjust since leaving somebody hanging feels more awkward. I would be really surprised if anyone was getting emotional needs met by handshakes…except maybe the emotional need of going through a normal-to-this-society greeting ritual with the attendant dynamics of respect/social power. But like, my cuddly partner is not looking to coworkers to meet the hug quota…

    5. I Have RBF*

      I do not have the use of my right hand – it’s a limp fish, functionally. So it’s real awkward if I try to shake with my left. I will either offer a fist bump, or a slight bow or incline of the head. Since I mask in public anyway (Covid is not over, just the official “emergency”) I haven’t had any pushback.

    6. Humble Schoolmarm*

      I’ve noticed a pretty significant shift to fist bumps since 2020, which is a decent compromise for me. That being said, I don’t run in circles where professional handshakes are the norm, so I’m not sure what’s going on in the real estate world.

  6. Goody*

    LW1 – I would absolutely disclose the prior relationship with a caveat – if this was not a heterosexual relationship and doing so risks outing him without his knowledge or consent, you may wish to be a bit more circumspect when getting this information on record.

    1. Observer*

      I don’t think that the OP is morally or ethically to put themselves at risk to avoid outing their ex-relationship person. Now, normally, I would still agree that the OP should be really careful here. But the problem is that not only is the the ex a defacto supervisor, but the OP already knows that this guy doesn’t respect boundaries and has reason to fear that he might not be professional.

      Obviously, this is not a conversation the OP should be having with anyone and everyone. These things should be handled with discretion in any case.

      1. NumberBlocks*

        Yes, I agree with you. I totally understand the previous commenters point, and under most circumstances would completely agree with never outing someone. But the co-worker has already demonstrated concerning behavior. I personally want OP3 to get ahead of any potential fall out early. OP3 only needs to disclose this information to HR and possibly their shared supervisor. The best outcome is that nothing comes of this and it’s never brought up again, but OP3 can work a longside their quasi-team lead without having to be on edge at all times.

    2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      This is a fairly low-key thing, just a fling, although the bit about personal boundaries not being respected might be doing a lot of heavy lifting there. I mean,
      Suppose the prior relationship was homosexual and involved non-consensual sex? At what point are we going to say that what the other person did warrants them being outed?

      1. Observer*

        At what point are we going to say that what the other person did warrants them being outed?

        I would flip the question. At what point do we say that the other person’s protection warrants the OP putting themself at risk?

        PS If the sex was non-consensual, then in any case, he’s blown past the line of any expectation of discretion.

        1. learnedthehardway*

          Agreed – The supervisor put themselves at risk by violating company policy and not behaving well. It’s not the OP’s obligation to put themselves at risk or protect the other person from their own poor judgment.

      2. ErinWV*

        We need to be careful with the fanfic here. I am hoping if actual assault was involved, then the OP would be writing a very different letter. In my mind, not having good boundaries is more equivalent to, “When he broke up with me, he asked for my friend Sarah’s phone number.”

  7. talos*

    #3 – if fist bumps are better for you than handshakes, you may also be helped by proactively going for a fist bump instead; I know some people like fist bumps to try and avoid germs. It’s also a lot easier to get away with using your left hand for fist bumps since the hands don’t have to “match”.

    1. Jackalope*

      Question here: does a fist bump work in a professional setting like this? This is a genuine question, since my experience with fist bumps is that it’s normally been a substitute for handshakes with people I already sort of know, or kids that don’t want to hug me but want a physical contact, etc. I’ve never seen it used in a work setting. On the other hand, my job doesn’t involve a ton of meeting new people so I don’t have the most up-to-date info on this.

      1. talos*

        (caveat, I work in tech, which is very casual)

        I’ve definitely met people at career fairs who go for fist bumps, and I believe I briefly had a manager that did them. In addition to people I knew in social settings. It’s definitely easier to initiate if you have more power in the situation.

    2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Fist bumps might hurt just as much as handshakes don’t you think? OP’s issue is the grip rather than germs.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        Fist bumps don’t involve any squeezing of the hand, so while a bump might also cause discomfort, it will be a different kind of discomfort from what a handshake might cause. And the hand has a LOT of small bones – lots of places for something to move in an uncomfortable way.

  8. Observer*

    #4 – You want flexibility

    Alison says that that conversation last week where you strongly hinted at the stakes should have been enough for any slightly aware manager to understand what you were saying, and that they risk losing you over this. It sounds like they simply may not care.

    I think that this is totally on point. I suppose that your boss is just that clueless, but in the context of already have lost 3 out of 4 people in the department, that’s probably as bad as her not caring. Because being *that* clueless is a real problem for a boss.

    Also, if she is serious about “unless everyone in the org could work a hybrid schedule, no one could”, you are dealing with someone who is making excuses or someone with a childish view of “fairness”. Your odds of getting what you and *and* being treated appropriately going forward are extremely slim.

    Don’t set yourself on fire to make sure the community is served. Sometimes it can make sense to put your own interests to the side, if you are willing and able to do so, for the cause. But when an organization is this badly run with so little willingness to help their staff actually get stuff done, it doesn’t really make sense. You’re not going to be able to overcome all of the problems by dint of your self sacrifice. So, don’t do it.

    1. Jackalope*

      I would ask, to the last point you mentioned, what your work schedule is like right now. If there were previously 4 employees in this location and now there’s only one, does that mean that you’re doing 4x the work? That everything has been cut down drastically? That people from other offices are pitching in? It sounds to me like the writing is already on the wall for this location. I know the feeling of letting people down who are dependent on your services, but if the organization wanted to they would already have hired more people to help you, switched things around, etc.

    2. Knope Knope Knope*

      Or the boss might not even have a say. LW says there are other locations, so we have no idea how big this org is or how senior the people in this letter are. At my org, when our CEO decided it was time for us to RTO, even as a director I had no say in the matter even when I disagreed.

      TBH, LW has only been there 3 months, so I’m skeptical about how successfully they can negotiate on the stance the location would close without them, and to Alison’s point, it sounds like this is a problematic location so I’d be looking for a backup plan now rather than trying to turn this job into something it’s not.

    3. Margaret Cavendish*

      I am a manager, and I like to think I’m at least slightly aware. And at the same time, I am really, really bad at getting hints!

      OP4’s hint (“really looking for a job with…flexibility” + outright stating their dissatisfaction with their current job) was indeed strong, and lots of people would get it. But even “slightly aware” managers might not, depending on the context. For example, I’m incredibly burnt out these days, to the point that I have showed up for appointments at the wrong time, sent the wrong contracts to vendors, and forgotten how to use the Next button in DocuSign. So if OP4 had asked me for flexibility and I said no, I would very likely accept their dissatisfaction at face value. Not because I don’t care, but because I’m not good at hints in general, and I’m especially not good at hints when I’m as tired as I currently am.

      In nearly every other situation, Alison recommends being direct rather than hinting. I would recommend that here as well. Go back to your manager one more time and say “I’m not sure if I made myself clear last time we talked. I’m looking for flexibility – I’m hoping I can get it here, but if not I’ll start looking for another job.”

      **This is assuming you want your manager to understand this, of course! There are lots of reasons why you might not, and certainly you have no obligation to disclose any of it in the first place. So you might be fine with what you’ve already said. All I’m saying is if you want to be absolutely sure your manager knows you will leave over it, then you need to say it explicitly – don’t rely on hints.

      1. Nonprofit ED*

        As a manager, I will people would stop taking jobs that don’t work for them and then try to negotiate what works for them after they get the job. It you want flexibility, then look for a job that has flexibility and you know that flexibility is there before you take the job. If you want flexibility to work for home then don’t take a job that doesn’t offer that.

        1. Mostly Managing*

          I think, though, there’s a difference between a job in an office with several other people – where even on days when you’re closed to the public there are still other humans to interact with – and a job where you’re the only person in the office and it’s closed to the public that day, too.

          I can see being willing to commute to work in the same space as other people, and not understanding the point of going in to sit all by myself. If it’s just me, I’d rather be at home with the dog asleep on my foot!

        2. Willow Pillow*

          There are plenty of reasons why people would need to take jobs that “don’t work for them” – families to feed, for instance, or employers are dishonest. I am autistic and do not disclose for my safety, but I will ask if I can wear headphones on the job because I have a hard time blocking out external sounds. One employer told me this was fine when I interviewed and then said I could not do so on my first day.

          If you have so many people looking to negotiate location flexibility that you’re making these generalizations, perhaps you need to be more flexible.

  9. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    3. Fellow arthritis sufferer here. I don’t shake hands either for the same reason – it can seriously hurt.

    What I typically do when faced with an outstretched hand for a shake is put my hands one fore and one aft of my back and bow slightly. The majority of people actually just accept that without an explanation and take their hands back.

    My nephews/nieces think it’s cool as well :)

    For the very few who ask why I’m not shaking hands or why I won’t shake hands I say something like ‘arthritis, it’ll hurt’. Very rarely have I ever had someone get upset about it.

    (I walk with a cane which causes a few ‘but, you use your hand for that?!’ moments but that’s a trade off between pain in hands and being able to walk)

    1. BlueSwimmer*

      Fellow RA sufferer here. I’m a teacher so I don’t have to shake hands very often, but for parent/teacher night (coming up), I do a similar small bow but I clasp my hands in front of my heart and kind of tilt my head. It feels like a very old schoolmarm move, but I have reached the age where I AM an old schoolmarm, so I guess it fits. I also need to avoid fist bumps sometimes because I can’t curl my fingers into a fist. I just tell people it’s RA, but that’s me, I don’t mind disclosing it.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I might give that one a go myself! I’m firmly into middle aged and it might lessen the ‘Wicked Witch of IT’ image I give off..

    2. Bear Expert*

      If its a day where a brace helps, or doesn’t hinder that can be extra protection/reason in an environment where handshakes are expected, like sales.

      Being extra warm, confident and breezy will also help. Its going to be tough to work against the grain in an environment like sales though.

      Its usually my left hand that gives me the worst problems, so outside of real hand crushing jerks, I’m usually okay.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      I think we should all go with bowing – much more comfortable for people who don’t want physical contact, more sanitary in a pandemic-prone world, and avoids situations in which people of some religious persuasions only shake hands with members of their own gender.

  10. Nic86*

    For #3 how about wearing something like a wrist or hand guard (I hope, that’s the right english name for it, it is a kind of cloth that restricts movement a bit to protect a hand that hurts because of movement – I also don’t know, if that is applicable in you situation..)
    It would already show people that something is up with your hand and ease a “I don’t want to shake hands” reasoning.

    1. My Dog Is On My Couch And I Have Nowhere To Sit*

      Yes, I was going to suggest this! A wrist brace, or thumb brace will signal that your hand is “off limits”. And may give you some relief too! You can find them everywhere: pharmacies as well as Amazon.

    2. Yes*

      I was thinking the same. Even just a gauze or bandage, just so you have something visible on your hand. Then you can wave when offered a handshake, and the visible thing should be enough to avoid further questions or embarrassment.

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

        I wouldn’t do gauze or a bandage because you would have to switch it out often when you have to wash your hands. Also, gauze is more for a cut or burn so people may think the OP is more seriously injured.

    3. Editor Emeritus*

      I was thinking this too. I was thinking that if lw wants to shake hands, it might signal to others to be gentle.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      I still get people trying to shake my hand when it’s clearly holding a walking stick! But for the majority of people I think that might help if you’re not up for the ‘my hands hurt’ conversation.

      They’ve stopped making it here but I used to have the kind of fingerless cotton gloves that had a pouch on the back for you to put special small 8 hour heat packs in. Come to think of it I don’t recall anyone offering me handshakes when I wore those.

      So worth a go!

    5. allathian*

      My SIL is a Lutheran preacher in a smallish rural parish. The Finnish Lutheran church has ordained women since 1983, but many conservatives are still against women priests, especially out in the boondocks. When she was shaking hands after a funeral service about 4 years ago, a funeral attendee my SIL knew by reputation as a conservative hand crusher broke two of her metacarpals in an extremely painful handshake. She had to wear a splint for several weeks and kept her right hand in a sling when she was expected to shake hands for months longer than was really necessary, and either greeted people by shaking their left hand, or with a bow, depending on the person. She’s said that as horrible as the covid pandemic has been in all other ways, and in her job she saw a lot of people in anguish made even worse by the restrictions, at least the ban on handshakes allowed her hand to fully heal.

      1. Breaking Dishes*

        This is awful. I hope the bone breaker received some feedback about the effects of their handshake.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, he did, at least in the sense that my SIL has unequivocally refused to shake his hand since then. He’s a member of some parish committee or other and she occasionally runs into him, and it’s a small parish, about 5,000 people.

      2. learnedthehardway*

        This is a situation in which I think suing for damages would be warranted. Seems like it was deliberate, and it certainly caused damage, as well as pain & suffering.

        Turning the other cheek is all well and good, but sometimes people need to be taught consequences.

        1. allathian*

          I guess, but that could have meant the end of her career at least in that parish and knowing her, she wouldn’t have wanted to deal with all the publicity. And there would have been publicity for this, I can just imagine headlines like “Woman priest sues conservative parish member for breaking her hand in a crushing handshake.”

          I’m in Finland, and here the concept of punitive damages simply doesn’t exist. If you sue someone for injuring you, the most you’ll get are the actual medical expenses, which given our single-payer insurance are usually negligible compared to the US, and some compensation for pain and suffering that usually amounts to a few thousand euros at most.

    6. Myrin*

      Yeah, I wear a brace like that to protect myself from accidentally hitting the stupid ganglion on my wrist. I don’t mind handshakes but basically everyone I’ve ever met when I wear the brace visibly hesitates and most even ask “Can you shake hands?” so this should be the perfect opportunity for OP to get a handle on the situation.

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

      Yes, I was going to say the same thing! My mom used to have this fingerless glove she would wear when she had to type. it was a thin, stretchy material and helped with the pain and inflammation, but its not so bulky like a brace can be.

  11. amoeba*

    LW5: Alison’s advice is great if you’re the kind of person who’ll remember to use the correct signature for each email. I’m… not that and this would probably result in even more confusion! So for myself, I’d go with listing both.

    1. Jinni*

      I have about six signatures. What I’ve found is with Gmail and MacMail and Postbox (PC) that once I use an email with a recipient, it defaults to that one each time. In the alternative, you can set most programs with no signature, then the blank bottom is an indicator that something needs to be added.

      It’s what works for me.

    2. bamcheeks*

      In Outlook, you can set it up to have an automatic signature, or so that you have to add a signature manually. If you set it up so you have to add it manually, it’s not too bad to remember because it’s just selecting and adding the right one instead of remembering to check and switch over.

  12. Jules the First*

    I have a multi-hat job and just use multiple signatures. The one on my phone has no title, just name, email and phone numbers, and that cheesy “Sent from my phone” line. The default on my laptop is the same but I then also have a selection of signatures to choose from depending on the audience. That means that nothing goes out without a signature entirely if I’m in a rush but also that I can sign appropriately when I have the time.

  13. Sean M.*

    #5 – I had exactly the same scenario at a previous employer, where I was managing two different business units in different countries simultaneously (one was supposed to have been interim, but wound up staying that way for 2+ years!). I used THREE email sig files actually during this period – one for each of the business units, and a third one for internal use (which listed my contact info for both locations) – and switched between them depending on the context. It helped slightly that one of the sig files was bilingual due to the country we were operating in, so it was an easy cue to note if I had the wrong one. I also carried multiple business cards – one for each of the roles (again, one bilingual). It was tricky at first, but I got used to it pretty quickly and it was a fun couple of years in the end (albeit a bit hectic at times).

    1. Beth*

      I also have two titles at work; most of my external emails are relevant to one, but when I need to email about Title #2 matters, it’s important that my title in the email sig reflect my authority to ask questions and get information. I have a default signature for role #1 and a separate signature for role #2. Switching between them is very easy and natural.

      I also have two sets of business cards, although that happened more or less by accident; I still had plenty of role #1 cards when role #2 was added. It’s an important title even though it’s only part of my work, so we ordered new business cards for it.

  14. Elsa*

    LW2 – I am also lucky enough to have parents who sometimes pay for my family and me to join them on expensive vacations. And if I ever mention where I’m vacationing to my boss or coworkers, I also mention that someone else is paying. I know that salaries shouldn’t be based on financial need, but I just don’t want any situation where the boss thinks s/he is paying me too much because they see me going on luxurious vacations.
    (That’s not to say that your boss’s question wasn’t incredibly rude!!)

    1. JSPA*

      I wondered if the boss was just hoping he had an employee with someone in the hotel biz, who could help score a big discount for the boss. Not the smoothest way to ask, admittedly!

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Nah. Boss was just rude. Maybe wondering how an employee could pay for an expensive vacation, maybe just one of those people who always want to know what something costs.

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          Honestly I’d have probably retorted “how do you think I could possibly pay for that on my salary?”

    2. Spencer Hastings*

      Hmm…if saying you’re going on an expensive vacation could create a situation where your boss thinks “we’re paying her too much”, then couldn’t saying your parents are paying also create a situation where they think “we don’t need to pay her so much, she’s got rich parents”? (Since the boss in both scenarios would be pretty unreasonable?)

      1. Elsa*

        Fair question, but to me there’s a difference since gifts from parents to adult children are occasional and unpredictable, so they don’t really reflect on the child’s overall financial situation.
        To be fair, I’ve never had a boss articulate any of this. It just seems like something that could affect them on some level, conscious or unconscious.

    3. bamcheeks*

      I am really sorry you feel like this, and what a crap boss you must have! I am actually wondering whether it’s something that’s more likely to affect women and how it plays into pay inequality: the residual idea that men are supposed to maximise their income (because obviously they are supporting a family!) and women are just working for a few extra nice things is so strong.

      1. Silver Robin*

        Yeah, I would not be surprised if this is a factor. Maybe not the biggest factor, but still something.

        1. Elsa*

          I’m not discounting that possibility, but my sense is that it may just be part of the mentality for all employees in certain non-profit jobs where money is tight and comes from donations and stuff.

      2. SpaceySteph*

        It probably depends on your location and your industry. As a breadwinner woman engineer in the American South I’m definitely conscious of this. The idea that of course a woman’s job is the disposable one/one that must cover daycare costs or else she stays home is very strong here.

    4. Accidental Manager*

      The response that popped into my head while reading this was, ‘Well, if you’re asking if you pay me too much, I can assure you you’re not.’ Say it with a smile to soften the delivery and move on to the next topic. I think we often let the power dynamic and blatant rudeness of questions like these make us feel defensive, which results in offering more information than is necessary. Responding with a question gives you a bit it time to think instead of just reacting. I often need that time to remember that just because a question is asked, doesn’t mean it has to be answered.

    5. Sneaky Squirrel*

      I know that can absolutely happen, but that makes me sad to think that any boss would think to base someone’s pay off of their perceived situation in life.

      I would like to hope that the boss just thought they were being conversational and didn’t realize how it would be perceived.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        A boss once told me he was cutting everyone’s pay (illegal but I didn’t know that) except Lesley’s, because she’d just taken a cut in pay along with a shorter working week because she’d just had a baby. I desperately wanted a baby at that point, except my BF of the time said our finances weren’t stable enough, because my boss was always on the brink of bankruptcy. So that really stung. I told him if he cut my pay I’d cut my hours too.

    6. Ann O'Nemity*

      I’ve encountered too many managers who allow employees’ finances bias their performance feedback and even salary decisions. “Joe is hungry; look how hard he’s working.” or “Howard needs a bigger raise this year; he has a baby on the way.” or “Penelope has family money; she doesn’t need this job.”

    7. learnedthehardway*

      Agreeing that it was rude of the manager to point-blank ask how the employee could afford it.

      I mean, how does it make any difference if the person had simply saved up for a really long time? Or (as happened) someone else paid for it? OR inherited money OR won a trip, OR if the person is independently wealthy and works for the joy of it?

      It was nosy of the manager. But I think the OP handled the situation fine in the moment – saying “None of your business” wasn’t an option.

  15. Openwindows*

    OP 3 – I used to live in the Middle East. It was a diverse country where some, but not all, people don’t shake hands with members of the opposite sex for religious reasons. I am a woman. You couldn’t necessarily tell from looking at a man whether he’d prefer to avoid shaking hands [unlike religious women who dressed modestly etc].

    So, sometimes, I’d enthusiastically go for a handshake with a member of the opposite sex who didn’t want to shake hands. No worries. He’d place his right hand on his heart and make eye contact while inclining his head slightly.

    This is an elegant solution. It creates the same moment of connection as a handshake, without interrupting the other person’s flow.

    Maybe try that?

    You’d be surprised, the person will instinctively mirror your gesture and understand what you’re doing. Then you can say, “Sorry, I have an injury so I can’t shake hands”. This may actually be LESS awkward than stopping someone when they’re going for the handshake.

    YMMV. Let us know.

  16. Melissa*

    One option is to stick out your left hand, palm down, to shake. Then as the person goes to take it, there will be the chance for you to say “Sorry, I can’t use my right hand for shaking!” The other person will chuckle and will use your left— which also means it will be very gentle, because the physics won’t be right for a true, strong handshake. It’ll be more like a brief hand-clasp. I encountered someone recently who was doing that, and it worked okay!

  17. bamcheeks*

    I am so interested in the super-hard-handshake phenomenon, and in the pushback against it! I observed a recruitment event once where there were three women and one man on the recruitment panel, plus me observing (female.) One of the candidates was clearly the strongest in every area, but he did a super-hard, literally-painful handshake (and I have no hand injuries or conditions which would make it hurt normally.) All the women on the recruitment panel, and me, were like, eh, men do that, it’s annoying but what are you going to do, but the man was adamant that it was a disqualifying factor and he wouldn’t send out anyone to see clients who was going to do something so aggressive and off-putting.

    In the end, because he was so strong in every other area, the man who was holding out agreed that they would make an offer, but wrote a note on his file then and there saying that he was going to be coached on how to shake hands properly as soon as he started, and that he wouldn’t be allowed to see clients until he’d got it under control. But it was just so striking to me that all of us women were like, huh, you can do that? you can just literally — not hire someone because they did something aggressive and painful? Absolutely crazy how we were all just so de-sensitised to it that we didn’t think of it as a thing we were able to take into account.

    I hope you find a solution, LW!

    1. Beth*

      In Western culture, the “right” handshake is supposed to be FIRM, not crushing. Early in my career, I took pains to cultivate a handshake that was firm and decisive but not too hard.

      In a lot of other cultures (many African countries, for example), the standard handshake is very light — I’ve seen it referred to as a “wet fish” handshake (mostly by Eurocentric writers). In international business, it’s regarded as good practice to know which kind of handshake will make the best impression, and be willing to change accordingly.

      Brutal, crushing handshakes are almost entirely a masculine phenomenon (in my experience). It used to be that men only did it to each other.

      1. PhyllisB*

        My stepfather was military, and one of the first things he taught me was how to give a decent handshake. That was something women didn’t really learn when I was growing up because in those days women didn’t usually shake hands.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I used to always do a “stand up and shake hands with the people around you” exercise when I was running interview workshops with students, because most of them wouldn’t have much experience of shaking hands and it was a good energiser to get everyone to move a little bit and engage with each other. One time we had a student who was ex-military and it was *marked* how much more confident he was than all the others. He ended up doing a short tutorial on how to shake hands properly for all the others in the class!

          1. Polyhymnia O’Keefe*

            When I was in high school and we did an interview/resume class, the kids who went to church were all way more confident with handshakes. We had grown up with “stand up and shake hands with the people around you” once a week for our entire lives, and it showed.

      2. Jackalope*

        For others who haven’t stumbled across this and will find it helpful, I’ve found that when I’m shaking hands with someone (I’m a woman), I go for firm but also immediately try to match their grip strength. Most of the time that results in either a mutually firm handshake or me starting to squeeze a tiny bit more firmly than them and then backing off. But if the person shaking hands is a hand crusher, then squeezing down with all of my strength makes it harder for them to crush my hand so much that it causes pain. I don’t have exceptional hand strength, but I’ve found this to be effective in protecting my hand.

        1. Satan's Panties*

          Okay, All in the Family, the episode “Flashback: Mike Meets Archie”.

          Edith, to Gloria: “I hope Mike doesn’t have a limp handshake. Your father hates that.”

          Gloria, to Mike: “Shake his hand hard!”

          Mike squeezes and pumps Archie’s hand like he’s selling him a Cadillac. Archie: “A-aa-aagh!”

      3. RagingADHD*

        The way I learned it, you don’t squeeze the other person’s hand. You just put enough tension / firmness into your own hand that it isn’t floppy, and make solid contact. Like holding your “frame” when you’re partner dancing.

    2. Bear Expert*

      I love the guy who was willing to make it a deal breaker. Seriously. Set standards and hold them.

      “You can’t represent our company and touch people like that.” is great. I think Hold Out Man was doing something special there, as well as meaningfully protecting the company.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I know, I was really impressed! And the fact that he wasn’t just personally irritated / put off by it, but made a broader case for why it made him a bad hire. It changed my perspective.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      Agreeing with the hold-out, and I’m glad that a man was the hold-out on hiring the individual, too. Go Him!!

      He’s right – at best, it’s oblivious and inconsiderate. More likely, it’s disrespectful and intended to be a total power move to do bone-crushing handshakes. And sending someone out to deal with the public who does this is NOT going to reflect well on the business.

      It’s something coachable, though, for sure, so I hope the hire worked out, and that the new employee learned something about being more considerate of others.

  18. Thatoneoverthere*

    LW2 – I also benefit from my parents taking us to really nice places. I try not to mention it alot for those reasons you listed. However I have never run into your situation. Sometimes I leave the place out and say “Oh my parents rented a large house in XXX and invited everyone to stay.” Even if thats not the truth, it wards off questions.

    However nowadays there are so many ways to travel using points or hacks that traveling is (somewhat) more accessible to people. I realize it is still out of budget for alot folks though.

    1. NYNY*

      I agree. I think the boss was wrong, but LW2 should have just said Italy, no need to say more. She kinda invited resentment.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        WHAT??? People are allowed to vacation nice places. They are even allowed to mention exactly where. if someone is resentful because someone else went to a nice place that is the other person’s problem not the vacationing person. I mean unless the vacationer is being rude about it, just mentioning it should not invite intrusive comments like how they paid for it.

        1. Jackalope*

          Yes, this is on the boss 100%. The boss was actively looking for a reason to be offended by this; she went and looked up the resort on her own and decided it was too expensive. It’s reasonable to expect that sharing vacation info with others won’t involve them going on a snooping hunt to figure out how expensive your lodgings were (or looking up plane tickets to that location, etc.). Plus, not that this matters since what I said already is valid here, but there are so many ways to get discounts (coupons, off-season reduced prices, group rates) that you never even know if the other person is paying full price.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        I disagree with this. Mentioning something is not, in my opinion, inviting resentment. Most people don’t resent somebody for going on an expensive vacation and honestly, I’d be pretty offended if I thought somebody was avoiding mentioning something to me, so I wouldn’t be resentful. (Not that I’d be likely to ever find out that was their reasoning, but I think we should default to assuming that others are reasonable unless they show themselves otherwise, not to assume we have to hide things from people in case they react poorly.)

      3. BubbleTea*

        The boss had to go and look up how much it cost. They were asking to be resentful, if knowing that someone else has something nice is a thing that causes resentment in them.

      4. Observer*

        but LW2 should have just said Italy, no need to say more. She kinda invited resentment.


        I’ve always pushed back on the idea that “bring your whole self” to work means you can say and do pretty much anything you want to anyone you want because “that’s part of me.” But it stuff like this that makes that whole concept so important or relatable.

        Beyond that the idea of *of course* people are going to resent someone who gets to take an expensive vacation is problematic all on its own. Especially when applied to a manager. That’s pretty much the definition of toxicity, in a work place context.

      5. Dona Florinda*

        How did OP invite resentment?!
        There are so many reasons why people can afford nice things, whether because someone else paid for it, because they’re really good at finding deals, because they won some sort of prize… (Happened to my mom not only once, but twice!) None of it is the boss’ business.
        Even if OP was flaunting their expensive vacation, which doesn’t seem to be the case, boss was way out of line.

    2. EA*

      Agreed. It’s not like OP was wrong to mention the name, but I feel like there was no real need to mention the name of the resort in this case. I think if you want to keep things private, then it’s best to avoid details.

      I admit to having a coworker who is constantly sharing her expensive trips on Instagram and wondering how she affords it with our salaries – although I would never say it to her! Her husband is a software developer though…

      1. Observer*

        I think if you want to keep things private, then it’s best to avoid details.

        True. But I don’t think that the OP was especially looking for a high level of privacy. Also, just because you share *some* things about your life, doesn’t mean you have to share everything.

        It’s like if you invite someone to your home, that doesn’t mean that you have to show them every room including your hideout and the bedrooms. Or that you have to give them a run down of all of the costs, and how you are affording it.

        Essentially the boss went from “Nice couch. Where’d you get it?”, which is reasonable, to “Hey, I need to see your bedroom. And how are making the mortgage payments, anyway?”

      2. Cmdrshrd*

        Maybe the amount you wonder is overstated,

        “wondering how she affords it with our salaries ”

        but there are so many ways people may be able to afford it even if their salary is low, spouse/partner that makes more money, family paid trips, family money/trust fund, credit card debt etc…. That I don’t really wonder, I might think that sounds pricey but they are going they can afford it somehow.

      3. Texan In Exile*

        Mr T and I travel a lot. A lot.

        But we are reaping the benefits of his many many many nights spent away from home for work (in software). He had half a million frequent flyer miles and lots of hotel points. We have been chipping away at those for years, taking a lot of international trips. If you didn’t know us, you might think we are rich, but we are just finally enjoying the benefits of his hours and hours in airplanes and airports and hotels.

        (And finally, because he no longer has that job, he travels without his computer and doesn’t spend a few hours a day working. He spent the first night of our honeymoon in Madrid the lobby of the hotel working on a project that he couldn’t/wouldn’t pass off to someone else.)

  19. Bat romance*

    LW1, even if both of you are capable of working together professionally at this point in time , I’d still say “disclose it”, even if it’s just to prevent issues in the future. HR can decide what they want to do with their info.

  20. HonorBox*

    OP1 – Definitely say something like Alison said. A “brief romantic relationship” is a great way to characterize this, and you want to make sure HR knows BEFORE any issues come up that would require a disclosure. Hopefully he can be as professional as you are and there’s nothing more that comes of this, but saying something now helps HR determine whether you should be moved into a different reporting structure.

    OP3 – I’d offer a fist bump with your left hand or your right elbow with the quick explanation that you’ve injured (or another word that fits) your right hand. I think most people would be perfectly understanding, especially given that many people still don’t shake hands post-COVID. Also, thank you for the chuckle this morning with your medical terminology.

  21. Jinni*

    LW 1, you already know what this guy is made of. You’re about to find out what your HR is made of. It’s trial by fire, but at least you start with all the information.

    1. Artemesia*

      yep. by mentioning it now, you pre-empt future problems. Once he unfairly rates you, it is too late to bring it up — by getting it on record, it undercuts any negative action of his.

    1. Kit*

      Chronic pain here (among many other diagnoses) and as part of the medically-diagnosed “jacked up” population, it’s a mood!

  22. Up and Away*

    #5 – I also have two titles, so I have two separate Outlook signatures set up, and I choose the appropriate one for each e-mail. I use one way more than the other, so that one is my default e-mail signature.

  23. Pastor Petty Labelle*

    #1 — I following Alison’s reasoning too. First paragraph, oh no, just everyone behave professionally. Oh wait, semi-supervisory, this could be an issue. Didn’t respect boundaries while together – OH HELL NO. Yes this is something you need to mention, your actual boss or HR so you have the groundwork laid if he does start up not respecting work boundaries. You said the break up was drama free, so maybe he will. But if he doesn’t you need to have that groundwork there to protect yourself.

  24. Katiekaboom*

    #3, do you ever use a wrist brace? Having one on would either impede someone shaking your hand, or make them be gingerly about it.

  25. MicroManagered*

    OP2 I don’t want to invalidate you, but when I read your letter I did kind of wonder HOW expensive the resort was compared to typical salaries in your industry.

    Like if you were both social workers and the family vacation was a Cunard cruise, I could see someone blurting that out without thinking. Managers are people too. I’m sure if you are still thinking of this years after you worked for this person, that probably wasn’t the case but still wanted to throw it out there.

    My favorite way to answer questions that are rude like that is to just let my face STAY in that frozen shock for a second and say “I’m not sure how to answer that.” Most people will immediately withdraw their invasive question and apologize if it was just something they blurted out without thinking. If they don’t, then I say something like “Oh I thought I was being clear that I don’t want to talk about that.” (And yes, I’ve said stuff like this to a nosy boss — it takes practice for sure, but it can be done!)

    1. I should really pick a name*

      I don’t think you can really blurt that out without thinking.

      You need to think about how much this resort might cost AND you need to think about how much your employee is getting paid.

      I really don’t see any point in giving them the benefit of the doubt here.

      1. MicroManagered*

        I’ve definitely been asked rude questions by people who obviously weren’t thinking and I’ve said things in the moment that I later regretted or wished I said differently. If you don’t know that that’s a thing humans do, I’m not sure how to have a nuanced conversation with you.

        1. Observer*

          Sure, saying rude and stupid things without thinking is a thing that people do.

          And sometimes, it crossed a line because “not thinking” is just not a good enough excuse.

          But also, you seem to be unaware that another thing that humans do is to be nosy, intrusive, and boundary crossing even when they are not shocked into speaking before they have chance to speak.

        2. bamcheeks*

          I have to, and if it had simply been an immediate, “Wow. you’re going to the Maldives?! How do you afford that?” I would think it was inappropriate but understandable — the kind of thing we’ve all done but also something that as a manager you’ve got to work on because you can’t just go around blurting things out like that to people you’ve got power over.

          But in this instance the boss apparently heard about OP’s plans, went away and looked it up, and THEN raised it in a check-in. Which makes it sound like the boss genuinely thought that was a legitimate question, and that’s really not great.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        I donno. It really depends on how commonly known the cost of the thing is, and how big a number we’re talking.
        For example (and this is almost certainly not it but it came to mind to me immediately), if OP and Boss were both Star Wars afficianados, and this vacation were to Galactic Starcruiser – minimum $5000 for 2 nights (before the whole thing got cancelled) – the “blurt without thinking” is plausible. Does that person really deserve this much benefit of the doubt? Almost certainly not. My point is there are some things that are just known for being super pricey and out of reach for most regular people, and if this were one of those… well then maybe the boss does deserve a little benefit of the doubt for blurt-factor. But if it’s not, then, nah, rude and inappropriate rather than foot-in-mouth.

    2. Observer*

      I could see someone blurting that out without thinking.

      Except that this is not what happened here. Most people know that cruises cost in the range of multiple $K so you immediately know that it’s a lot of money in the moment. And that also only makes sense if it happens in the moment.

      This did not happen in the moment. The boss essentially put it on his meeting agenda. Not only is this not something that happened “without thinking”, it wouldn’t be an excuse. Because this level of “not thinking” long after the original comment, is simply not acceptable for a manager.

      Also, the boss went to look for the cost. In other words, it’s not that he was shocked in the moment. He specifically went to find the information and then used that in a management meeting.

      No benefit of the doubt here.

      1. MicroManagered*

        I definitely did not read the letter to mean the question was an agenda item for a meeting? Even re-reading I don’t see how you got that take.

        I think you missed that I did carefully point out that “if you are still thinking of this years after you worked for this person, that probably wasn’t the case.” But I do think this is a strange thing to be writing an advice column about years after the fact and was inviting the OP to let it go. People say weird things for weird reason and for no reason. No need to dwell on it for years. You can just give yourself permission to quit thinking about it!

        I stand by my suggestion to the OP for how to respond to intrusive questions in the future.

        1. Observer*

          The OP says that the boss *looked up the cost* and then brought it up in ta check in. Whether it was a formal agenda item or not, it was clearly something that he thought about and decided to ask about, rather than an ad-hoc response in the moment.

        2. Crocodilasaurus*

          If it was an agenda item or idle chit chat at the beginning of the meeting is beside the point. The point is that the supervisor was not just blurting things out, and it wasn’t worth throwing it out there, even with a disclaimer. That’s the push back you are getting.

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

      This wasn’t the boss not thinking and blurting it out. The OP says he looked it up. That’s clearly being nosy. It would be like if the OP bought a house or a car and they looked up the asking price.

  26. ThisIsNotADuplicateComment*

    LW3 – When Emily Yoff was Dear Prudence she got a letter with a similar question and her advice was to wear one of those wrist braces for tendonitis. That way you have an easy visual queue for why you’re not shaking hands, and if someone did go in for the handshake and you reached back out of habit they should use a looser grip. Another option if you don’t want to have to worry about making sure your hands are constantly full.

  27. I'm A Little Teapot*

    OP #2 – While your boss was rude and extremely inept, there are situations where how you’re affording something expensive is a valid question. If you’re in a position which gives you access to finances, then a lifestyle that is above your paygrade could indicate that you’re committing fraud.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Then there is a process for that. The boss flat out asking is not going to uncover the fraud — because the person is not going to say — well I’ve been embezzling from the company.

      Also, if the person were in that kind of field, they would know.

      1. Silver Robin*

        Seriously, if the issue were fraud, flat out asking is absolutely not the way to handle that. An actual situation where this kind of question might be okay? Somebody asking for advice – “oh wow, I always wanted to try doing something like that. How did you manage on our salaries? Any tips?” And even THAT requires knowing the other person is willing to discuss finances like that.

      2. kiki*

        Yeah, even though there are jobs and situations where a lifestyle that doesn’t match salary would be a red flag, the procedure isn’t to quiz your direct reports on how they afford each vacation. It’s also fairly common for people to have lifestyles that don’t “match” their budget. People have wealthy spouses, come from money, or have other jobs on the side. On the flip side, some people have more dependents than average, have past debt they’re paying off, etc. Even though a set of coworkers may be making roughly the same amount of money, their lifestyles can look very different based on individual circumstances.

    2. Bear Expert*

      I don’t think fraud investigations for people in sensitive financial trust positions take place in the hallway with “How are you affording that?!”

      You let the employee go on their three week cruise to Japan and go through the books while they’re gone.

    3. OrdinaryJoe*

      Eh … sure, maybe but what’s someone’s “paygrade” when there are 2nd or 3rd jobs, family or friends money, and just plain old fashion savings and priorities.

    4. Dancing Otter*

      Having worked in such positions, I still wouldn’t say it. If genuinely concerned about fraud, I’d have a quiet word with internal audit.

    5. el l*

      Boss is entitled to think that. Saying that is dumb.

      If there are additional data points and context that suggest fraud, then talk to the accountants and build a case.

      Asking “How do you afford that?” is not going to elicit a confession of embezzlement.

      1. AnonORama*

        I would be tempted to cheerfully say “I skimmed it from the endowment fund!” and keep walking (or change the subject, if in a meeting). I do realize being a snarky ass in this situation would just get me in trouble, which is why I wouldn’t give in to the temptation. But a boss playing fraud cop this way is just dumb.

    6. HonorBox*

      During an audit there will be questions that ask if an employee is living above their paygrade, and often an employee may be asked independently if there are suspicions that the boss is living above their paygrade. If a boss suspects fraud or another financial crime, there are much better ways to gather evidence.

    7. NotRealAnonForThis*

      But I don’t think you’re supposed to say that part out loud, if you’re in a position to actually do something to look into whether the fraud exists or not.

    8. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      And that’s exactly why people working with money are often required to take at least a whole week of vacation at once. What you say is not wrong, but it really doesn’t apply in this setting.

  28. Sneaky Squirrel*

    LW5 – If it were me personally, I would use the title I’m transitioning into as my title for regular day to day communications. I think it helps set the firm boundary internally that I’m only doing this until my role is backfilled. However, for external clients (or internal clients where the message comes off as a corporate announcement), I would tailor that title to something that makes sense to the reader.

  29. RagingADHD*

    LW2, best answer to an overly personal / intrusive question is: “Well, that’s a very personal question,” with a tone of mild surprise.

    Imagine if someone you like had painted their living room high-viz orange and you were trying to be polite, and you said, “Well, that’s a very bold choice.”

    Like that. Then you change the subject.

  30. Firecat*

    You’re in real estate where first impressions and jivng with a potential clients is critical. Alison’s “medical thing” script is needlessly awkward and clumsy here. It’s Arthritis, not leprosy!

    When it comes time for the hand shake just give a little wave with a smile and say Arthritis in an apologetic and smiling way. You’d be surprised how many clients have arthritis and may even bind over the disclosure. I have it in my lower back and right hand and I’m only 35.

  31. OrdinaryJoe*

    Re #2 — I think a generic non-answer is best. People are really weird when they think those ‘below’ them are taking nicer vacations then they are and nothing will usually make them feel better.
    I personally would also avoid the ‘points’ route if you travel for work – I got caught in that one time and caught flack for using ‘work travel points’ for personal travel … even though everyone else did and work didn’t want the points.

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

    LW #5 could you just put both titles in the signature? For a while I was in 2 completely different departments (although technically I had the same title but I did completely different duties). So I would put both departments
    What I did was like this:

    Could you do the same thing? Or maybe add Interim old title and new title.

  33. el l*

    Same answer we give people who are tempted to stay in a job just until there’s continuity:

    Leave on your schedule, not theirs.

    You also don’t owe them ultimatums or notice that you’re leaving. (Certainly nothing further than the conversation you’ve already had)

    Finally, whether they close locations is not up to you – it’s ultimately up to decisions that you had no part in. Not your responsibility, and not your problem.

    Just focus on getting your next job lined up, and then serving out your notice professionally.

  34. Lauren19*

    LW5 – is it possible to have one generic signature? Like instead of Director, Llama Grooming vs. Vice President, Llama Fiance, you could just say Vice President, Llama Lovin LLC?

    1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      Wondering something similar. Is the title absolutely necessary during this period of time? A lot of people don’t display titles. Half my colleagues don’t use any signature at all! Or use something generic, like a level (Director) or just something functional (Finance & Operations).

  35. Dust Bunny*

    #4 it’s nice of you to want to help them through but it’s not your problem. This is the price they pay for being sticks-in-the-mud (and that’s from someone who hates WFH). They could, they just won’t, and they’re choosing to lose people over it rather than make a reasonable change.

  36. anonymous for this*

    Any chance that OP 2 is in a job, like cop or bookkeeper, where buying things that are more expensive than someone at that salary would normally be able to afford might be signs of bribery, misappropriation of funds, or other malfeasance? This comes to mind because I’ve begun to wonder how our small-town Town Manager keeps going on European vacations multiple times per year. In such cases, it might be smart for someone like OP to proactively avoid suspicion by saying something like, “I’m so excited about our annual family vacation. My parents are so generous to invite us all each year” BEFORE people start wondering.

    1. Observer*

      Which is all good and fine. But I suspect that if the OP were in such a position, they would be aware of it. Also, when this is an issue, there are much better, appropriate, and effective ways to deal with it.

  37. Overworked bureaucrat*

    #5– i was once in a position where I had four titles (think A, B, C, and Acting D Officer.) I’d use whichever made the most sense for the person I was writing, or all four internally to say “I’m covering too much and not as much of an expert as you seem to think I should be.”

  38. Mrs. Hawiggins*

    I remember a candidate who came in and shook hands with people and it was pure torture. I reacted visibly and I knew he saw it. Two doors down it must have happened again because my coworker responded with a rather large, “OW, wow that’s some grip!” The coworker leading him around at that point said, “Uh, Fergus you might want to readjust that handshake there.” He didn’t get the job, not because of the handshake (or at least not partly). We were sure we’d all need a hand surgeon if he had.

  39. Dawn*

    OP#2: I don’t necessarily recommend this, but I’d absolutely have taken the chance to side-eye my boss about “Speaking of my compensation….”

  40. music*

    “…but I really would like to be able to see the org through until they can hire more staff (which, at the current rate, could take months). Many of our clients rely on our services, and would be devastated if we closed our doors.”

    I commend you for being so concerned with your clients’ needs but this is not your problem, OP. Your company could have hired more staff/trained people better/etc at any point and for whatever reason, they have chosen not to. Maybe, like Alison said, they’ve already decided that if they had to close this location, they’d survive. You’re better off pursuing those other opportunities before you get trapped at this place.

  41. Sometimes maybe*

    Oh man do I hate a weak handshake. I would rather someone not shake my hand at all than give me a limp hand. Its fine to just gesture you can’t give a handshake. I do not think you need to have an acceptable reason. If I do not want to shake someone’s hand that is outstretched, I usually just non-verbally indicate my hands are sticky or there is something wrong with me, rather than make the person feel uncomfortable for engaging. Personally, I would rather have someone decline than give the creepy hand over heart with a head bow (it kind of gives a “blessed be” vibe to me) or awkward elbow bump, especially in a professional setting.

  42. Crocodilasaurus*

    I don’t think HR is the right place to disclose this. If you had a current relationship to someone at your company, then HR is the right place to disclose to comply with the conflict of interest policy (I assume the policy spells this out).

    However, with review inputs, the recipient is usually your direct manager. I would go to them and tell them that you want to be transparent about the past relationship given the leadership/mentoring role he will have with you and any feedback he might give. I wouldn’t bring it up as anticipating a problem bc many people who are jerks in their personal life are different people in their work life. If he’s in a leadership/mentoring role, he’s probably pretty well-liked, and your manager will trust their own impression of him over yours.

    You should probably make sure you are managing your impression on your manager very carefully as well, more carefully than you would usually do. Be your absolute best self so that everybody else’s feedback is positive and so that their own impression is positive.

  43. I'm Not Phyllis*

    I just wanted to thank OP 3 for bringing that up! I have an aversion to handshakes that has more to do with germs then anything else (and this existed pre-covid too), but I hadn’t really thought other reasons for not wanting to shake hands, sadly.

    I now hate to admit it, but I am always someone that has been a bit put off by a weak handshake (we actually learned how to give a strong handshake in a career course I took back in the day), but I had never considered that it might be painful for other folks. So thank you for raising that!

  44. Humpty thumbty*

    OP3, since my hand injury “normal” handshakes don’t always feel great, so I shake without interlacing thumbs. It prevents people from jarring my thumb or uncomfortably squeezing my hand, but it’s still a handshake so I don’t have to make an effort or excuse not to shake, which I find easier.

    It might not work for you or you might prefer not to shake at all, which is fine! This does work well for me so I wanted to share.

  45. Ouch*

    I have a chronic pain condition and sometimes when I go to events where I would typically shake a lot of hands (trade shows etc) I wrap my hand up before hand. (Pun intended).

    That stops that right in its tracks, without me having to say anything.

    Maybe not a daily thing, but definitely something you could on high handshake days.

  46. LW1*

    Hi all, I’m LW1 and appreciate your advice. For context, this is someone who verbally spoke to me in a very derogatory way (“I just used you for ***”) during our involvement. They backtracked and tried to end the involvement politely over text (while conveying they were still open to “seeing” me), and I responded non-dramatically because I genuinely wanted nothing to do with them again and wasn’t interested in engaging in a back and forth.

    I’m hearing that I should go to HR and essentially say, “I’m not sure if this is worth disclosing, but I was briefly involved with ___ before he joined the company. We are not in contact and I have no interest in resuming a personal relationship. I have no issue being a professional coworker, but wanted to disclose in case HR has concerns regarding my managerial structure.”

    This is my first job and I am understandably very scared to go to HR so early in my career. I don’t want to overshare with HR, especially because this didn’t happen as a written interaction, but I wanted to give context on the boundary stomping I described. It’s not that I’m actually okay with being supervised by him, so much as I’m junior in career and don’t want to risk my employment. Im actually very concerned about the risk of retaliatory or harassment related behavior. I’d appreciate advice on how to voice this to HR without damaging my professional reputation. I interned at the company last year and received top-performer reviews on my work, but this is my first month in the full-time position.

    1. Observer*

      I’d appreciate advice on how to voice this to HR without damaging my professional reputation.

      If HR is competent, then the verbiage you have is pretty good. They will understand the potential issue. If they ask for for more information try to use as non-dramatic language as you can.

      The good piece is that you are a known quantity, so you already have some credibility. Lots of luck with this.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      I think the script you have in your second paragraph is a good way to open the conversation with HR. I agree with Observer’s advice to answer any questions HR has with non-dramatic language.

      In your letter, you say the company is large, so they could transfer you, although you would like to avoid a transfer if possible. I have had a coworker transferred to a different team because of interpersonal problems. Different specifics than your situation, but similar in that (1) the person transferred was not the problem, but was the newer/more junior person and (2) the person transferred initially did not want to be transferred and thought the problems could be worked through/around. Ultimately, the person did well on their new team. They were able to focus on their work instead of the bad team dynamics. A transfer to a different team can definitely be a good thing, and it sounds like it may be in your case as well.

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