family upset that I’m quitting with only two weeks notice, is popcorn an unforgivable temptation, and more

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

1. Family member is upset that I’m quitting with only two weeks notice

Two years ago, I started working for a family member’s business as a favor to them when they were in a tough spot. It was a completely different industry than the one I was in and went to school for, but I found myself loving the pay and other benefits, although not so much the work. Because they are family, they’ve done so much for me, including letting me live with them and driving me around a lot.

Unfortunately, because they are family, I am familiar with all of their dysfunction and am used to explaining it away.

I recently gave two weeks notice and my boss is very upset that I didn’t give her more. She stated that she wished I had given her three or more months of notice. This is a basic secretary/admin job.

She is now stating that because I’m quitting and am one of only three employees, she will have to cancel her month-long trip out of country to visit family. Even if I am related, this is not a normal response, correct? There are also some pay issues where I am aware I should go to the labor board, but that would throw a huge bomb into family life.

Two weeks notice is the standard business convention; there are some fields that are exceptions, but secretary/admin work isn’t one of them. Giving three months of notice is unrealistic and would mean that you’d need to ask your next employer to wait three months for you to start.

I suspect what your relative means isn’t “you should have done this because these are normal business expectations” but rather “because we are family, you should have given me a heads-up that you were thinking about leaving, not made plans in private and only sprung them on me at the very end like you would do with a non-family employer.” And, well … there could be something to that. You’re not wrong for not doing that — this is still business — but she’s not necessarily wrong for feeling dismayed that you didn’t. You put her 100% in the “employer” category where she might have expected you to put her at least partly in the “family” category too.

But if the reason you didn’t give more notice is because you knew from past experience that there would be drama and dysfunction … well, that’s what employers, even family members, get when they run their businesses with drama and dysfunction.

If this weren’t a family member, I’d say just stick to your two weeks and let them be as weird as they want; you wouldn’t owe any apology or concessions. Because this is a family member — one who you say has done a lot for you — it’s probably to your benefit to frame it as, “I’m really sorry for the short notice; this fell in my lap and I can’t control the timing.”

2. We had so many good job applicants that I couldn’t give all of them a chance

I work in a non-academic job at a major university. This month, I got permission to hire a student assistant, and my boss said that they would leave it up to me to interview the candidates and make the hiring decision. Which makes sense since the student will be working under my direct supervision in my specific area of expertise. The problem is, we got nearly 200 applicants! Even after I looked over all the applications (which took hours) and tossed out the obviously unsuitable ones, there were nearly 100 good ones left. I took the 20 that seemed best, put them in a spreadsheet, ranked them as objectively as I could, and interviewed the top five. One of the five proved to be exactly what I’m looking for — right skill set, right experience, came across as quick-thinking and enthusiastic in the interview, etc. So I had HR offer her the job, and she should be starting soon.

Happy ending, except I feel kind of bad about all the other candidates who submitted good applications and never got a chance to interview. There’s no possible way I could find time to interview 100 people, and every interview takes time away from my regular work (and I’m kept pretty busy), but should I have done more? Is there some kind of rubric for what percentage of qualified candidates a hiring manager should interview? How do you handle a huge excess of qualified applicants?

This is a completely normal and routine part of hiring! You normally can’t interview everyone who seems qualified; you interview a small number who seem like the strongest matches because it would be wildly impractical to do anything else. Using a ranking system like you did to select your strongest matches is a smart way to do it, as long as the things you’re ranking them on are clearly tied to the key must-have’s for the role.

You wouldn’t generally pick a number based on percentage of the total pool (I’ve hired for jobs that received over 1,500 applications! Even 3% of that pool would be an unrealistic 45 people.) Generally most employers will strive to interview around three to five finalist for one slot — although depending on what the candidate pool is like and how rare the qualities are that you’re looking for, it might end up being more or fewer than that.

However, ideally you’d do a higher number of phone screens before bringing people in for real interviews. A typical way to do it, although not the only way, might be to do ~15 phone screens, with four or five people advanced to more substantive interviews after that. Phone screens are useful because short conversations like that can help you narrow down your pool in a lot less time and can help you spot people who might be weaker on paper but stronger in real life (and vice versa).

3. My struggling employees agrees with me in our meetings, then disputes my summaries later

About two months ago, I was appointed to my first leadership role with two direct reports at my company. One of my employees, Shannon, has been been with the company three years, but has struggled during that time. She’s been getting feedback around these concerns for a year or more before she was moved to report to me (she previously reported to my manager.) My manager (now her senior manager) has given Shannon a deadline in which to improve her performance, and I have been working to coach her toward improvement.

Because this has been an ongoing issue and my manager is involved, I send an agenda before our meetings with discussion points we’ll cover. The tone of the meetings is always positive. Shannon seems optimistic, asks good questions, and engages with the discussion. We wrap up with next steps and I always confirm she understands and we’re aligned. After our meetings, I send a recap of what we discussed.

Lately Shannon has been responding back to this recap email with a very different understanding of the discussion and bringing up challenges and concerns she didn’t voice in the meeting, in some cases very strongly. It’s feels like a 180 and I’ve noticed she’s been doing the same with my manager.

I’ve made an effort to ask her in meetings to elaborate on her responses, hoping to get a grasp on what the disconnect might be or get her to express her concerns more openly. She deflects or offers surface-level answers, but the pattern repeats after each meeting. I responded to her last email with clarifications on her notes and expressed disappointment that she didn’t bring up key concerns in our meeting, but invited her to do so the next time we connected.

I’m not sure the best course of action. I’m concerned that not addressing the emails in written form implies that her summary is accurate and her sentiments warranted, which is an issue of documentation with performance issues in play, but in addressing them there is a risk of escalating the issue further.

I think you’ve got to name it directly for Shannon in the next meeting: “We have a pattern where we meet, discuss the points from an agenda, recap at the end, and agree we have the same take-aways, but then when I send a written recap, you have a different summary than the one we both agreed to in the meeting, as well as new items that you didn’t raise while we were talking. This has happened enough that we need to resolve it. I need to be able to take you at your word in our meetings when you say we’re aligned. What’s your perspective on what’s causing the discrepancy?”

As for not letting her written account go unchallenged because of how that could play out later: You’re right to note that! You need to respond to those emails by saying something like, “These are different points than we discussed in the meeting, and we had agreed on X, not Y” (or whatever is accurate). Yes, there’s a risk of that escalating things, but it’s not really avoidable, and it’s trumped by the bigger risk of letting her written responses simply stand.

Most important, though: Loop in your manager about how to navigate this, because it’s very much a 301-level management challenge and you’re brand new to managing. It’s going to be crucial to have her guidance as you work through this — not just once or twice, but probably on at least a weekly basis or after each of those meetings. There’s a lot of potential for this to go badly, and your boss should be deeply involved in helping you manage it.

4. Is my popcorn causing unforgivable temptation to my coworkers?

A bit of a silly question. If I make myself a bag of popcorn in the office and snack on it at my desk, is that … a little evil? Popcorn is such a commonly shared snack, and an aromatic one at that, that I suspect some people in my desk area can smell it and may crave popcorn, but I wasn’t really planning to share.

In this particular case, it’s unflavored popcorn (no butter or salt, just popped kernels) and it’s not burned or buttered, but I still wonder if it’s any different than any other food I might bring in.

Nope! Popcorn is a pretty common office food. Yes, the smell may make people want their own, but as long as you’re not burning it, you’re not doing anything wrong by preparing it at work.

5. Freelance etiquette with a full-time job

I work full-time at a very small company in what I find to be a demanding role. Recently a newer freelance coworker who I don’t work with directly asked if I was available for a small-ish freelance assignment. I don’t think there are hard-and-fast rules around freelancing, but am I expected or obligated by general etiquette to disclose this work to the company? And is this normal on the coworker’s part? (The project is the same thing I do at work, but is too small to make it worth working with the company as a whole.) With an uncharitable lens, could this be seen as something that would impede my ability to do my main job?

This can vary a lot by field, and it depends on the project and your company. The first place to look is at your handbook or any written policies, especially anything on conflicts of interest. Some companies prohibit second jobs across the board (which can be an overstep, but isn’t uncommon in some fields), some prohibit them under specific circumstances, and some just require them to be disclosed first in case there’s a conflict of interest. If you don’t find any applicable policies, then the next step is to consider the nature of the work: is it for a competitor, or would it set you up as a competitor to your employer? (Almost certainly a no-go in both cases.) Is it during your current work hours? If you don’t see any issues there, you’re probably in the clear … although if you want to be perfectly safe, ask your boss. Some people will argue you shouldn’t ask — and that if there’s no written policy or obvious conflict of interest, it’s none of their business — but if you’re more invested in your regular job than in doing the freelance work, it makes sense to find out before accepting if it’s likely to become a problem later.

As for whether it’s normal on your coworker’s part, it’s not uncommon for a freelancer to send out work to other potential freelancers. It would only be weird if they were soliciting you to do something your company prohibited or obviously wouldn’t want.

{ 480 comments… read them below }

  1. Mmmmmm...Popcorn*

    Look, I won’t lie, if I smell popcorn, I immediately want popcorn, so someone making it in the office is going to make me mad that I did not think of bringing popcorn for snacking. I certainly would not get mad at my coworker though, but I may comment about what a great idea it is to the cooker of the popcorn.

    I am 100% bringing popcorn tomorrow.

    1. SarahKay*

      I live near to a biscuit (UK biscuit = UK cookie) factory and the scent of their baking will blow in through my bedroom window if the wind is in the right direction. Recently whatever it is they are making consistently smells of popcorn so I keep waking up to this amazing popcorn smell – I’ve eaten more popcorn in the last 2-3 weeks than in the 2-3 years before that.
      I’m not mad at the factory though, and I wouldn’t be mad at a co-worker either. Envious, maybe, but definitely not mad – and I also wouldn’t expect a co-worker to share.

        1. H.C.*

          haha thx for clarifying tho to be honest I’d be tantalized by biscuit smell of either variety!

      1. Chirpy*

        I’ve found that using bulk kernels in a glass microwave container (I have one specifically designed for making popcorn, it looks like a jug with a loose silicone lid) emits far less “popcorn smell” than pre-bagged popcorn, FYI.

        Plus then, you have infinite flavor options, just add butter/cheese/spices/etc.

    2. Morning Coffee*

      Random bag of popcorn is indeed normal in my opinion, but strong smell several times in week every week would start to annoy me

      1. Whyamihere*

        Popping popcorn smell gives me a migraine so my co workers ask when I am leaving as I come in earlier so I don’t get sick

        1. Not Working*

          It doesn’t give me a migraine, but I think the sound of popping popcorn is way too loud/annoying for work.

        2. Runner up*

          I haaaate the smell of microwaved popcorn (not just the burnt popcorn, although that is worse) – but it doesn’t cause any medical issues, so I accept that this is a me thing. I do, however, look sideways at colleagues who microwave popcorn in the morning, because the smell is just too much for me then.

          1. maybe baby*

            I mean, how is the morning any more worthy of a sideways-look than any other time, if it’s just a dislike of smell? I don’t like super strong sweet smells, but it’s no more or less inconsiderate to make the room smell that way in the morning than in the afternoon.

            1. Ann Nonymous*

              I think there are definitely not-morning smells. Sauteed garlic, fried fish, tacos. We are generally not used to it so it seems “wrong”.

              1. Mad Harry Crewe*

                That’s definitely going to depend on what you and the people around you eat for breakfast, and what’s reserved for a midday or evening meal. It’s not at all universal.

          2. Not that Girl*

            I absolutely hate the smell of coffee- makes me a bit nauseous. But obviously that’s a Me problem and I can’t tell people what they can and cannot have in the mornings.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, I’d vote for it to remain an occasional snack ideally–my college roommate ate so much popcorn all the time and it did start to get a bit annoying to be constantly smelling it lol. But if it’s just a sometimes thing that is 100% fine.

        I also vote for being VERY VERY careful not to burn it. Err on the side of under-popping even if that means you don’t get to eat every kernel. Burnt popcorn smell linger soooo badly.

    3. Ellie Jay*

      When I went to the office for my new job, I would bring my own low fat snack – popcorn! What do I see as I approach the floors microwave? No popcorn allowed! Arrrggghhhhh. Apparently people would walk away from their popcorn and burn it, and we know how that smell takes awhile to go away and in an open floor office. I was so sad.

      1. Squirrel*

        Can you not just buy normal popcorn, and not the kind that needs to be cooked by the consumer? (I have to admit I’ve never seen popcorn that needs to be cooked – I think maybe that’s an American thing) – but surely cooked pre-packaged popcorn exists in the US?

        1. Squirrel*

          Sorry I don’t mean normal as in other kinds aren’t normal, I just mean regular popcorn like you just open the bag and eat it.

          1. The Rafters*

            Popcorn straight from the bag is not nearly as tasty as the “real” thing. Ask my family dog who was a true popcorn connoisseur. When we bought a bag b/c we hadn’t yet bought fuel at camp, the dog turned her nose up at it, gave us all a dirty look and walked away in disgust.

        2. ecnaseener*

          I’m not sure I’ve seen plain, pre-popped popcorn in the US, no. Only flavored kinds. That’s so interesting that you can only get it pre-popped – it’s so much easier to store a packet of kernels and stick it in the microwave!

          1. Pet Jack*

            I buy bagged regular salt popcorn. Mostly because most microwaved has palm oil (the scourge of millions of acres of rainforest) like so many processed and packaged foods, so that’s why I choose it, but you are right it takes up fluffy space!

            1. Stoney Lonesome*

              You can make your own microwaved popcorn! Buy a jar of kernels and some lunch-sized paper bags. Put a 1/3 of kernels in the paper bag fold the top down a couple of times and microwave for about 2 minutes.

              It’s super easy, no palm oil, and you can add whatever toppings you like.

              1. Blarg*

                Seriously? Once I finish with my stupid dental work and can maybe eat popcorn again … I’m trying this. A thing to look forward to in like October.

              2. PhyllisB*

                I may try this. I love popcorn,
                but I do hate the additives in microwave (even if it doesn’t keep me from indulging occasionally. ) You don’t have to add any oil to it?

                1. Stoney Lonesome*

                  Nope! No oil. Just kernels in the bag. If you want oil or butter on your popcorn, you can add it after.

                2. Tired and confused*

                  I have a silicon thing that it’s advertised for making pop corn. You can add salt, oil and spices and 2 min later voilá! It’s super easy to clean and it folds when not in use

        3. Hlao-roo*

          Yes, already popped popcorn is available in the US. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen unflavored AND unsalted popped popcorn, though (I’ve seen “flavored and salted” and also “unflavored and salted”). Popcorn is very voluminous once popped, so I think people prefer microwave popcorn because the (unpopped) bags are small and easy to transport.

          1. Squirrel*

            That’s interesting. In Britain popcorn is being advertised/positioned as a healthy alternative to crisps (potato chips), and sold in the crisp aisles. The bags of pre-popped popcorn are basically the same size as a bag of crisps, like palm of your hand sized.

            I don’t think I’ve ever had hot or buttered popcorn. But I’m visiting the US in November and that genuinely is on my list of foods to try, proper American movie popcorn!

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              Individual crisp bags (25g/1oz ish) are, by the way, incredibly British. Most countries don’t have them. So that may not be the best comparison XD

              1. Gray Lady*

                We have the little bags of chips in the US. They used to be common in supermarkets in the “convenience” aisles and in convenience stores, but now stores tend to push the larger 3 oz. bags even as “snack size,” ugh. You can still get the little ones if you buy them by the box, though.

              2. Maggie*

                No they aren’t…. They’re sold at every store in the US and gas stations, and I haven’t been every country obviously but they definitely have them in Mexico and Japan which are the two countries I’ve been to most recently. I’m so confused by comments like this. You’ve done a chip (crisp) survey of a majority of the worlds countries?

            2. Pet Jack*

              Popcorn is super healthy. When you add the fake butter at the movie theater, thats what makes it higher in calories (still healthy though, lots of fiber!)

            3. metadata minion*

              It’s worth noting that movie popcorn is its own unique thing, and is typically *heavily* salted so they can sell you more overpriced drinks.

              1. amoeba*

                Which is, again, totally OT, but interesting, also different in different countries – in Germany, salted is extremely unusual and sweet is the standard!

                1. Dasein9 (he/him)*

                  And “Chicago Mix” is a combination of cheesy kernels and caramel covered kernels! Delicious, but eat it with chopsticks if you don’t want orange dust on your keyboard.

            4. Jessica*

              Squirrel, try to go to an independent cinema, for a better chance of fresher popcorn and real butter. Enjoy your visit!

        4. KateM*

          Precooked popcorn is more expensive, I guess. But surely you can pop it at home and then take it to work?

        5. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          I’ve seen microwave popcorn in the UK – it’s fine, I guess, but it isn’t much better than bagged prepopped, only cheaper. Neither microwave nor prepopped is available plain (you can get salt, sweet or mixed in microwave, and ridiculous obscene flavours in prepopped including caramel coated then chocolate coated – but no cheese etc options).

          Anyway tl;dr: I have never encountered anyone popping corn in a work microwave and therefore would probably consider it antisocial.

          1. Dinwar*

            Antisocial seems unreasonably harsh (with the exception of knowingly triggering medical issues). I’d much rather work with someone who microwaves popcorn–or fish–or even burns popcorn–than someone who has loud phonecalls for multiple hours in their cubicle, where everyone can hear. You’re inevitably going to experience mild inconveniences in public places. I mean, by banning popcorn you are inconveniencing me.

        6. SarahKay*

          You may just have not noticed it, as it’s probably sitting in an unassuming clear plastic bag with other dried lentils etc – it looks like dried sweetcorn.
          I’m in the UK and I’ve been using ‘uncooked’ popcorn since I was about ten (40-odd years ago) – we used to do it over a campfire until we burnt Mum’s large saucepan when we forgot about it for too long. I still buy it as uncooked since it lasts forever-ish and takes up very little space in the store cupboard.

          1. PhyllisB*

            I made stove top popcorn for one of my grandsons. He was amazed. He said, “Gram!! This is so much better!!” Plus the fun of watching it through the pot lid.
            I don’t know why I don’t do this more often.

            1. Hannah Lee*

              When I was young my aunt let my cousin and I make popcorn on the stove. We decided we were curious about what it looked like when it popped, and pulled up some chairs to stand on and took the lid off to watch.

              It was very cool and chaotic.
              Aunt was not pleased lol

            2. NYCWeasel*

              Microwave popcorn is my least favorite type of popcorn. I even prefer popped options like Skinny Pop to microwave stuff. But stove-top popcorn cooked with duck fat or coconut fat (and then with butter & salt added) is soooooo amazing compared to any other popcorn option, I’m pretty sure that it qualifies as a completely different type of food, lol!

            3. Dona Florinda*

              Oh, stove top popcorn is by far my favorite snack, we just had it yesterday. The salt and butter version is insanely easy to make and so delicious, although I sometimes switch to lemon pepper. And now I’m craving popcorn.

        7. FG*

          Believe it or not, you can make your own popcorn without a microwave. The microwave-ready bags are not that tasty compared to the real thing. When I was a kid / young adult, microwaves weren’t a thing – you bought kernels & popped on the stove. (There was of course the packages Jiffy Pop that came with it’s own little pan, but that was just $ for no reason.) Normally you use plain vegetable oil for the popping, & add butter if desired. Air poppers were a popular thing in the 80s & 90s – no fat needed. But you can get some tasty results by popping in olive oil, or duck fat. You can go wild with seasonings other than salt, too. And that’s before you even get to things like caramel corn.

          One thing I found interesting on my visit to the UK a few years ago was how popcorn made it into things as an ingredient. In the US you don’t see it as part of a dish unless it s a snack mix.

          P.S. Movie popcorn can be great or it can be terrible. And don’t overdo it on the “butter.”

          1. Jelizabug*

            Speaking of seasonings with stovetop popcorn… add some jalapeno slices to the oil and cook them a little before adding the kernels. SO GOOD.

        8. RagingADHD*

          Yes, of course you can buy popped popcorn in a bag in the US. I am just sorry that you have only ever eaten stale popcorn, though. Unflavored pre-popped popcorn does not have much of a market in the US, as it is pretty nasty by comparison to the real thing. If there’s no flavoring on it, it really isn’t considered to be worth buying.

          Freshly popped popcorn tastes much better, and if you buy a jar of kernels and pop it yourself, you create less trash. You can even buy dried popcorn on the cob at farmers markets in the fall.

      2. Dog momma*

        Burnt popcorn usually means it sets off the fire alarms. My hospital finally banned popcorn over 20 yrs ago. The fire department was required to answer every hospital alarm..
        .they said they had better things to do than show up for false alarms! and they were right!

    4. AnonInCanada*

      Agreed. But to whoever throws a bag of popcorn in the microwave in the office break room: make sure you’re watching over it! People seem to think “well, the box says 2 1/2 minutes so that should be good,” not reading the rest of the instructions about how microwaves vary by wattage and in big bold print “listen to the kernels popping and hit STOP when they get to fewer than 1 per 5 seconds!.” Because nothing screams “I hate you, coworker” like the smell of burned microwave popcorn.

      1. Eliot Waugh*

        I like mine slightly undercooked, which is nice because there’s no chance of burning. I have to watch it like a hawk to get the half popped kernels I like.

        (Yes I’m aware they self half popped kernels. I don’t like those)

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Does cooking for less time lead to less-popped kernels? I thought it just led to *fewer* popped kernels.

          1. Eliot Waugh*

            If I time it exactly right, I get a ton of half popped kernels towards the bottom of the bag.

      2. MikeM_inMD*

        My brother once quipped, “If the smell of burnt microwave popcorn was carcinogenic, we’d all be dead now.”

      3. JobHopper*

        Yep. We had just installed a new microwave, bought with teacher money donations, and one person burnt popcorn the first week. Long enough ago that it was very pricey.

        The microwave never recovered, and we had to toss it.

        1. Quill*

          Someone burnt their popcorn very catastrophically then…

          (I have burnt bagged popcorn before but you can smell it INSTANTLY)

      4. MigraineMonth*

        Burnt popcorn may cause and evacuation and summon the fire department. Never leave while the popcorn is cooking and listen for the pops. I pull the bag out when there have been 1-2 seconds without a pop.

    5. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      I used to work above a candy/ice cream place. I’d open my window on nice summer days. About 2:30 in the afternoon they’d start making caramel corn, and their kitchen vent was right under my window. It drove me crazy. Regular popcorn pales in comparison.

    6. ferrina*

      I’m in the middle. I used to instantly crave popcorn, now I usually don’t.

      For LW, it depends on your office. I worked in one place where it was an unwritten rule that you had to share popcorn (they’d give you a pass if it was your first time making popcorn and you were new, but they would make sure you knew the rule for next time). At another place, it was strictly understood that there would be no sharing of food, so don’t expect it (again, an unwritten rule).

      I’d start with bringing the popcorn once or twice and seeing how people react.

    7. Freeatlast*

      I won’t lie, if I smell popcorn, I want to flee in the other direction because I hate the smell of popcorn. I don’t like popcorn either—unless it’s caramel corn. But let’s face it, the popcorn is just the venue for the caramel.

      When I brought kids to the movies they knew the rule was no popcorn. They also knew that I’d be bringing giant chocolate chip cookies for them.

    8. sara*

      Popcorn is like yawning… At my old office (where there were snacks provided), we switched from the single serving bags to the family size bags, because inevitably there’d be a queue at the microwave. Everyone just makes a big bag and leaves whatever they don’t personally want in the kitchen. We all just pour into our own bowls – even before covid we had strong group cohesion around serving utensils etc so I wouldn’t worry about anyone putting a bare hand into the group popcorn. Wouldn’t work everywhere but man I miss that 3pm popcorn…

      1. Hazel*

        I can’t seem to reply up-thread, but please be careful with DIY (paper bag) microwave popcorn!

        My wife, as a child, set a microwave on flaming fire doing this!

    9. Natebrarian*

      I came here pretty much to say “mmm popcorn.”

      That being said, I hate the smell of microwave popcorn so I would be kind of annoyed if I had to smell it all the time in my work area.

    10. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

      I really like the bougie Whole-Foods style popcorn that’s flavored with ghee and kosher salt. Unfortunately that’s not the microwave kind, so I end up paying $4.50 per bag!

    11. Princess Sparklepony*

      I just read about popcorn and was compelled to make myself some. It was very tasty! :)

    12. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      I don’t have popcorn so after reading that letter I rummaged in the kitchen and am now snacking on crisp crackers loaded with dulce de leche.

  2. aviana*

    I gave almost 3 months notice only once– because it was a small family owned (though not my family) business’ and because i knew my boss would not force me out. when given a chance to do it this way, its so great for everyone! they were able to hire someone with lots of time, i was able to fully train them, and no one was stressed when i left. Its a privilege the boss has got to earn, though, unfortunately– its a lot of trust to give someone.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      Yeah, sometimes it works. It’s easiest if you’re leaving for something fixed – going back to school, retiring, to be home with kids. If you’re leaving for a run of the mill job, the expectation is usually that you’ll start within a few weeks (two weeks notice plus maybe a brief break in between). Generally, jobs that will wait 3 months between acceptance and start of work tend to be ones that also have long notice periods, or things on fixed schedules (like the school year).

      1. kiki*

        Right, it’s kind of rare (in the US at least) for a job to be willing to wait 3 months after sending an offer letter for you to start. There are definitely exceptions, as AcademiaNut mentioned, but part of the reason the two week standard isn’t longer is just that companies need more time to wait for clients.

        1. kiki*

          part of the reason the two week standard isn’t longer is just that companies need more time to wait for clients.

          *is just that companies need new hires in sooner

          Sorry, combined two completely separate thoughts into one comment

    2. Commentmouse*

      I once gave 5 month’s notice at a job where management was notoriously slow in filling much-needed open positions (think a year+) and was both pleasantly surprised and very annoyed that they somehow managed to find a replacement, just in time for me to have to rush around during my last very last week trying to facilitate some kind of hand-off.

    3. Moodbling*

      One time I was working for a small business and the job was so bad that it was causing a life threatening mental health crisis. I told the owner in writing that I was leaving and stepping down, but didn’t give a firm end date. I stayed on another 3.5 months while I looked for new work. My employer did NOTHING to replace me or build my crucial skills elsewhere on the team. And then when I finally gave my two weeks, he cried and said it wasn’t enough notice. And then I ended up recruiting and hiring my replacement.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I realize this is too late to help in this instance, but as a general reminder: if a job is affecting your health, you can quit with no notice. You’re more important than mildly inconveniencing some business!

    4. The Person from the Resume*

      That is nice you did that (and great that the business does not force people out), but if the job you’re changing to can’t wait 3 months for you to start and you can’t risk being without a paycheck, sometimes 2 weeks notice is what you can offer.

      In the US the standard is two weeks notice so the hiring company understands that and can be patient and wait 3-4 weeks after offer, but are probably not enthusiastic about waiting longer for a new hire to start.

    5. Rose*

      It’s more than just a lot of trust; in most cases you’re not going to know three months in advance when you’re leaving. Regardless of how well you treat people, it’s not a reasonable thing to expect in most fields.

    6. New Mom*

      At my current job that I’m actively looking to leave, I’d love to give three months notice so that my understaffed team isn’t thrown to the wolves. But I’m hesitant because I’ve seen a wide variance of what happens during notice periods, I’ve seen two people give very generous notice periods only to be pushed out quickly and rudely. I’ve also seen people only give two weeks and then be chastised. I’ve also seen others give short or long notice periods and it went well. So I’m on the fence about what I’ll do.
      It sucks because the people that will be the worst impacted are people I work closely with, respect, and who have no control over hiring or workflow.

      1. Observer*

        I’ve also seen people only give two weeks and then be chastised.

        Given what you describe, why would you care?

        I think that you need to think about what you know about your chain of command specifically, and make your decision based on that, and what position(s) you are interested in.

      2. Water Everywhere*

        It sounds like no matter what kind of notice you give there’s a chance it will be the wrong kind in the eyes of your management, so do what works best for you.

        1. Quill*

          Yeah it seems like management has decided that leaving at all is something you should not be doing. So they’re not going to care what notice you give! Just give the standard so that when they talk truthfully to other companies they can’t say you walked out at lunch and never came back.

      3. SoloKid*

        I was in your situation and my advice would be (finances willing of course) to see if you could negotiate a little bit later at a new job, but not months. Maybe 3 weeks. My new place was more than happy to do 3 weeks because I had a specialized skill set, and nobody at my old job could say I “left with no warning”.

        And if you get pushed out, you could up your start date at the new place or just take extended time off (which is what I wished I did between jobs.)

        Meanwhile, quietly improve some processes NOW at your current job, clean up any folders etc, so if you do get pushed out the door you will at least have something for your team. Not so blatantly that it looks like you’re leaving, but more of a “this process bothers me so much to do every day that I wanted to clean it up for myself” kind of thing.

  3. cabbagepants*

    #3 — in difficult stakeholder meetings I’ll share my screen and type up the notes live in the meeting, then email them out immediately after the meeting ends.

    Very difficult people could still backpedal after the email goes out but I’ve found that your standard 1 or 2 sigma difficulty people can be managed in this way.

    1. Free Meerkats*

      This is pretty much what I came here to say. But don’t just email them out later, show them to her and go through them before the meeting ends. “Here’s what we agreed to in this meeting.” type discussion. Then before she even hits the door, hit send.

      1. New Mom*

        This is such a good idea! I’m dealing with a challenging person who “forgets” a lot of things on a large project I’m managing and I’ve literally had people vote on something in the meeting and require everyone (including difficult-person) to vote by raising their hand, and then I write in the meeting notes what we decided and write everyone’s initials. We’re dealing with tough choices that can be highly emotive down the line so it’s been important to me that everyone “remembers” what they said and agreed on, but I love this idea of going over the email in person.

        This week’s letter actually made me kick myself for not following up with this challenging person when they kept arguing things that were not true over email, but it was getting awkward and I didn’t respond to the last one and now looking at Alison’s advice it worries me that their final (riddled with untruths) email may stand as a “fact” since I didn’t refute it in writing. Ugh. I feel like some people bank on other’s discomfort with escalation and then just get away with ridiculous stuff.

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          Dig it out, reply now with “This is so far off the mark and blatantly false I didn’t know where to start unpacking it. I still don’t, but for the record, I’m just saying here that my failure to respond is not to be construed as approval”, and copy your boss.

    2. JSPA*

      I’m not clear how much of the disagreement is disagreement on what was said, and how much is rumination, esprit de l’escalier and deeper analysis, after the meeting.

      IMO, asking people to have all of their thoughts in real-time isn’t a useful ask. I’d go with some of the following (depending how useful any of the rethinking is).

      “I understand that when people rethink a meeting after the fact, there can be new ideas and some level of mental push-back. However, there’s a right way to handle second thoughts. The meeting synopsis must be limited to what was actually said and agreed. That’s not negotiable. But you can end by mentioning that this has brought up some additional thoughts to be dealt with in the next meeting. Then, write those thoughts down for your own benefit; proceed with your work on the basis of what was said and agreed in the meeting; and bring your concerns up proactively before the next meeting, by asking for them to be on the agenda. That’s a proactive, calm approach.

      Contrast that with your pattern, which is to sit relatively passively through the time that your manager has set aside to talk with you, then dump all of your complex analysis and thoughts onto your manager by interleaving them through your synopsis, which then reflects how you wish the meeting had gone. This will naturally blindside your manager after they have moved on to their next task. Most managers–most people–are going to find that pattern intrusive and disruptive, no matter how good your intentions.

      I want to stress that I’m happy, in the abstract, that our talks make you feel good enough about our lines of communication that you want to continue the conversation, and that you care enough about the job to think over the processes. If you foresee lingering issues while we are talking, you can and should flag them for further discussion, at which point I may ask you to get back to me on that specific issue. But outside of that situation, I need you to save the new takes, concerns, process issues and random ideas for our next meeting, instead of immediately tossing your concerns back on the top of my agenda.”

      1. GythaOgden*

        I think the OP knows what it is that Shannon is doing and how problematic it is for them. They presumably know enough about their own field by now to tell the difference between someone who legitimately does revisit the material and adds further thoughts and someone who is putting a facade on their own misunderstandings.

        This is kinda getting into the ‘are you sure you know your own job?’ territory and it only serves to alienate people trying to ask questions about dealing with difficult employees.

        1. misspiggy*

          I’d have found this comment helpful when I was managing a Shannon. My Shannon was very motivated by appearing to be Right and Correct. The explanation above makes it clear they’re not doing formally-docunented meetings correctly, by explaining how those meetings work.

          Some people are aware that you shouldn’t agree to a written record if you don’t feel it’s correct, but haven’t realised that ‘correct’ means ‘a record of the discussion’ rather than ‘a complete summary of the truth’. Even if someone’s position isn’t a good-faith one, I’ve found it helpful to lay out why it doesn’t work in current circumstances.

        2. bamcheeks*

          I don’t agree: the difference between “I’m adding some thoughts now I’ve had time to reflect on the meeting”, “I’m not good at thinking and expressing myself whilst in conversation and it’s only afterwards that I’ve realised I’m unhappy with the conversation” and “I’m actively trying to change the record of the meeting” isn’t always that clear and it’s very much worth OP asking Shannon to clarify which one she’s doing.

          LW, if Shannon feels under pressure to improve or lose her job (which she is!), it’s very much possible that she doesn’t feel able to push back in what you’re saying in the meeting, and it only comes out afterwards. If so, this is really, REALLY hard to manage, and don’t beat yourself up that you’re struggling with it! Sometimes that dynamic isn’t something yoh can correct or fix as a manager, no matter how careful or skilled you’re coaching. As Alison says, keep your manager looped in.

        3. short'n'stout*

          I don’t have anything to add, but I just have to say I love your username! That’s a mashup I think the world is ready for, whether they know it or not, haha.

        4. Punk*

          To be fair, OP might not know what Shannon was doing prior to two months ago, since it was someone else’s decision to put Shannon on the PIP.

          1. Totally Minnie*

            I’m side-eyeing the LW’s manager a little bit here. I think it’s pretty mean to assign an employee on a PIP—or one you know will need to be on a PIP very soon—to a brand new manager who’s still learning the job and trying to get their feet under them.

            1. ferrina*

              If an employee is on a PIP already, it’s not the time to assign them to a new manager. It’s really hard for the new manager, and it can shortchange the person on the PIP. And if either the manager or the PIP person does anything wonky (like Shannon is doing), it’s harder for everyone.

              1. New Mom*

                Yeah and this seems to happen a lot. I feel like whenever my friends and I are talking about work woes there is always at least one example of this at each of our work places. Even at my company there was a very sweet woman who could not handle her job and instead of letting her go they hired someone and told him during his onboarding that it was his responsibility to get rid of her. It just seemed beyond cowardly.

      2. Cazaril*

        This is an important point—Shannon may be re-thinking the meeting and feeling like she didn’t get to make certain points. Some form of JSPA’s wording could help call out the pattern kindly.

        OP sends out an agenda—perhaps she can suggest that Shannon add any points she wants to discuss. Shannon may just be a difficult employee who wants to re-litigate everything, but she also may be someone who freezes in discussions with her manager and then kicks herself later for not pointing out the Big Problem (in her mind) with Project X. Giving her a chance to explain at the next meeting could help her feel heard.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          But then OP brings up the concerns at the next meeting, trying to talk them through and Shannon does not actually get into the concerns.

          Shannon is deflecting. She thinks if she disagrees in writing, that will override everything said in the meeting. That’s why she doesn’t say much in the meetings because she thinks it doesn’t count. So she agrees. Then she gives her own summary thinking this is the one that counts — and will save her job.

          OP, what you did not say in your letter is how Shannon seems to be progressing on her PIP. Are you going over the same things each meeting. It is whack-a-mole instead of addressing patterns? I know you try to be positive but have you made it clear that if she doesn’t improve by the company’s determination, not hers, she will be terminated?

          1. Observer*

            I agree with you.

            But I also think that a shorter version of JSPA’s verbiage could be useful in calling out the pattern, while giving Shanon a face saving out yet *still* making it clear that it can’t go on.

            The only thing I would add is that this should be done via email, preferably in response to one of her inaccurate responses to the OP’s synopsis, in a “this is the kind of thing I am talking about, and it needs to stop” manner.

          2. K*

            I think we are assigning motivation to Shannon that we can’t possibly know.

            Perhaps Shannon is just better in writing and, instead of having these meetings that seem to be a waste of time, they can just do the whole thing through e-mail and save the trouble? Shannon can’t disagree with the synopsis if that’s all she gets.

        2. New Mom*

          I’m also so curious what type of stuff Shannon is disagreeing with. Is it subjective or objective stuff?
          Example, in the meeting they agreed that Shannon needs to complete 15 client projects per week and then afterwards she says that she never agreed to that. Something concrete.
          Our Shannon will argue about semantics a lot. One example that I know will come to bite me is at the 11th hour of a project our Shannon sent out an emergency request for support with no details about she needed help with and then called out for a week straight. Then later her narrative was that she had been asking for help for weeks without getting help, and not acknowledging that she provided no information for us to actually help her. And then an exhausting back and forth had to take place.

          When trying to see the funny side of it, it reminded me of Michael Scott yelling “I declare bankruptcy!” and thinking that was all he needed to do.

      3. Smithy*

        I actually think this is a really important distinction.

        There have been plenty of times in a meeting that when discussing an issue with my supervisor I’ve said ok in the moment, but then on further reflection have wanted to change the approach. That change could be a slight tweak, a 180 or anything in between. But it’s important contextually and how it’s communicated to my supervisor is along the lines of “I understand in our last meeting we agreed on approach X, after sleeping on it and considering points A, B, and C – I’m now thinking approach Y might be more appropriate and I’m happy to discuss this further.”

        If Shannon is coming to all of this in good faith, and just really struggling with communication – this helps over-articulate a structure of communication style in a more linear fashion while making it less combative, more collaborative and affording her that processing time to think about agenda topics. If Shannon is not coming to the PIP in good faith, then it’s still important to be direct about instructions. However, I don’t think the process should be structured with her being bad faith in mind. And a process where she watches the OP write out notes, leans far more into a process of presuming bad faith than modeling what a productive meeting structure should look like.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          Right. While I acknowledge humans gonna human, and she might just not be saying what she means effectively, there’s a big difference between a follow up that says “I know we agreed on A, but now I’m B cuz ReasonThatOccurredToMeLater” and a follow up that says “We never agreed on A in the meeting.” OP’s letter sounds like what Shannon is doing is the latter. So, acknowledging the possibility Shannon is coming across like the latter when she means the former – the conversation AAM told OP to have with Shannon, naming it and asking what’s up with either clarify and it’ll improve moving forward, OR it’ll confirm that intentionally or unintentionally, Shannon can’t/won’t change.

      4. Office Lobster DJ*

        I also wondered if Shannon does her best thinking/explaining in writing, especially in a high stress situation like being on a PIP, and just smiles and agrees to get through the meeting.

        I think LW could try things like asking Shannon what’s up, writing the notes WITH Shannon in the moment, or emailing her an agenda with enough detail to let her get her thoughts in order ahead of time.

        Beyond that, can LW just…..not address her concerns? “I appreciate your thoughtfulness. We’ll proceed as we agreed last week (summary below), but let me know if you encounter any challenges.”

        1. Tupac Coachella*

          I’m definitely someone who thinks better in writing and sometimes needs time to process, and it takes some effort on the part of the person who learns that way (Shannon). I like the suggestion of e-mailing the agenda in advance, I always appreciate that. A few strategies that have helped me, if OP determines that this is part of the issue:
          -I take lots of notes during the meeting, and I put an arrow or star next to any action steps I’ve agreed to take.
          -Related, if the meeting organizer doesn’t already end the meeting with recapping everyone’s action steps, I recap mine out loud to verify and clarify: “So I have down that before the next meeting I need to call the llama groomer to renegotiate prices, update them on the website, and prepare a report on whether order numbers improve at the new price, is that accurate?’
          -The phrase “I need to wrap my head around that a little bit before I can offer suggestions, can I follow up with you via e-mail/at the next meeting?” is my friend.
          -If I notice that someone that I meet with regularly tends to process out loud, I point it out and offer suggestions on how our styles can meet in the middle. We literally negotiate how we’re going to communicate. It doesn’t take long, and it prevents a lot of stress and miscommunication when we understand each other.

          Honestly, though, my first thought was “Shannon’s not listening anymore.” From the shallow answers in the moment and the sudden vehement changes of heart, as well as the longstanding issues resulting in a PIP, I suspect that Shannon’s not paying that much attention and suddenly has to backtrack when she realizes what’s going on. That’s a whole other set of success tips, based on *why* Shannon isn’t listening…but the fact that none of this bothers Shannon enough for her to start paying attention in meetings that seem like they should matter a lot to her makes me wonder if she’s not listening because she doesn’t care as opposed to something fixable (untreated ADHD, extreme non-auditory learning needs, distractions at home, etc.). If she just doesn’t care and then gets annoyed when she realizes that the stuff you discussed actually impacts her work life, I don’t think that’s salvageable.

          1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

            I think its more not paying attention than she thinks better in writing. Because if she thinks better in writing, then when asked later, she could explain further what she meant about what she put in writing. But she’s not.

          2. ferrina*

            I get that some people do their best thinking in writing. But do you then say “we talked about something different in the meeting”, or do you say “upon further reflection, I realized ABC”?
            That’s where the issue is coming in.

          3. Yorick*

            LW says she already sends the agenda in advance. She also says that she tries to talk about Shannon’s concerns in the next meeting, but Shannon doesn’t really have anything to say at that point. Shannon is just trying to make the written record look more positive for her.

      5. Potatoes*

        This is SO super helpful. I am someone who struggles a lot in the moment (in pretty much every single aspect of life, not just my current job) and to convey the correct intention so it really helps to read how NOT to be a Shannon. I didn’t even think that reflecting and adding thoughts could turn into this kind of tricky situation, so thank you for posting this.

    3. Some Internet Rando*

      This is also what I came here to say. Adding a few extra minutes and making her sit with you in real time as you type up the take homes is a great idea. If she is really challenging, you could print them and have her sign them but that’s probably too extreme. I would also make sure to have a 3rd party in these meetings (perhaps your supervisor) and have them copied on the correspondence so you have a witness. I dont have optimism that this person is going to last. You may have to move towards a formal performance improvement plan.

    4. Samwise*

      AGreed. Email *before the meeting ends*’.

      I do this regularly with students. You can certainly do the same with a lying employee. (Yes, yes, I know the employee is distressed and probably has all sorts of reasons why they’re doing this, we should feel sorry for this person — but, they are lying.)


      Very into this idea. I managed a Shannon once who would send me five page emails following a meeting “documenting” what happened. I spent massive amounts of time crafting rebuttals to the documentation on what was really said, why it was said, and what it meant going forward. In her case, I really do think she experienced a totally different meeting than I did, which was not evident during the meeting.

      1. ferrina*

        In this case, I think Shannon just needs to be let go.
        Shannon’s performance issues aren’t new, and now she’s added a level of gaslighting (intentional or unintentional) where she’s rewriting the content of a meeting. I’m with Radioactive Cyborg Llama (comment below)- I think this may be a deliberate or subconcious tactic to keep her job. “If they don’t tell me well enough, it’s not my fault!” I know someone who approaches life this way- it doesn’t matter what you do, if he’s not able to hold up his end of the bargain, it’s somehow your fault.

        LW is putting a lot of energy into an employee doesn’t sound like they are putting the same energy in to keeping their job. LW doesn’t mention Shannon improving or trying hard- just the gaslighting. LW, talk to your manager about what’s happening, and give an honest opinion of whether the improvement you’ve seen from Shannon is a reflection of the time you’ve put in. It’s okay to say “we’ve invested the time and she’s not improving enough- we need to end this and all move on with our lives”.

    6. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      I think this is a game she’s playing to avoid being fired. If they can’t pin her down on what she’s supposed to do, they can’t fault her for not doing it (in her mind).

    7. kitryan*

      I do this for trainings, so it seems like it would help in (disputed) meeting notes as well.
      When I’m going through a task with a new person, I always open a new email at the start and I pop any directions to documents/locations on the server or weblinks in the email as I go, along with brief notes about the process, then at the end, I look at the email with them and ask if there’s anything else they want included, add that and hit send, then they have it as a complement to whatever notes they were taking.
      It won’t keep people from changing their minds about what was discussed after the meeting but it would make it harder if you both review and agree to the doc before adjourning.

    8. Sara C*

      I do this with students (not because they’re all difficult or anything, but just to avoid misunderstanding!). I’ll type up my summary email to them during our meeting as we discuss things, and then have them read it over before they go to see if there are any questions/concerns/missing information. Especially since it can be hard to catch the time for in-person meetings with students, I’ve found this helps clear up most back-and-forth after the fact.

  4. TG*

    Honestly it sounds like LW #3 is trying to setup not meeting the date for improvement and will say it’s you and the meetings/goals not being clear. I’d have someone else in these meetings like HR or your Manager. You could also do them over Zoom and record it. But this employees sounds like they are just not getting it and again, they’re trying to deflect away from their issues not being a good employee.
    Also I’d put a time limit in this approach as well. You really can’t continue to try to coach an employee. It making progress and it sounds like this has been going on for over a year.

    1. allathian*

      One thing occurred to me, since she seems to be raising issues in writing but not in face to face communications, how many of those meetings could be skipped altogether and simply replaced by email?

      I’m certainly not attempting to diagnose anyone, but she may have some verbal processing issue that could be related to anxiety in personal meetings that means that she isn’t really internalizing what you’re saying, and feels the safer option is to simply agree with everything you say. Then when you send the email, she realizes that she misunderstood things again and writes her version that looks like a 180 to you. Especially if she’s intimidated by you or management in general, she may not be comfortable bringing this issue up with you directly.

      Regardless of the reason, this can’t continue forever, but it sounds like you haven’t explored the possibility of simply discussing things with her over email and skipping the meetings. Especially if she’s the only direct report you’re coaching, exploring an alternative way to communicate with her might be a completely reasonable accommodation. IMO it’s worth a try at least.

      1. cabbagepants*

        I think that jumping straight to moving meetings to email, without first asking the employee what’s going on, risks making things worse if it’s not the specific issue you are thinking of.

        1. Allonge*

          I agree, I would not do this unless based on a request from Shannon. ‘Just put it in writing’ seems a lot easier said than done – written communication is just as difficult to interpret / get right as face-to-face.

        2. K*

          Most meetings would be better as email. That’s a pretty common theme from this blog. Save everyone the trouble and just write stuff down.

      2. Tangerine Thief*

        I feel as though this is an interpretation that doesn’t hold up here, and even if it does, the end result is the same.

        If an employee has a meeting with their manager on the very serious issue of their performance at work, sits there and agrees with what the manager says but immediately turns around factually disputes what was said, to the point of 180 degree inversions on substantial things, in a written email this is already a worst case scenario. It’s even worse because when questioned about the discrepancies, the employee is not talking about them or providing an explanation. She just handwaves etc.

        As someone with multiple disabilities, including ones that can affect my processing, it is my responsibility to be proactive about explaining it, especially in very serious situations, like a PIP, and if there are discrepancies to the point my manager is asking me to explain them, it’s time to put the cards on the table. Not to lie or handwave or just ‘agree and move on’.

        Disabilities are not a get out of jail free card and these are not ‘email only’ conversations. These are important discussions that need live, in the moment feedback and clarifications.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Yeah, same. I’ve been fighting with my neurodivergence and work over the last 20 years and it’s hard, but it’s not my employer’s responsibility to babysit me or act as a charity. One time I was sacked with the words ‘I’m so sorry you have issues, but I need the job done’. I was obviously upset but I had just lost the plot at that stage and was better off going on disability and getting my mental and neurological issues sorted out properly.

          Neurodivergence isn’t a pass on getting things together at work, and actually, it’s a real achievement when you manage to find accommodations within yourself and grow into a steady job. I got a Distinction in my Masters — the highest possible marks — by battling through depression and anxiety to get there. (I knew my parents were paying the relatively small fee and wanted to prove to them I could repay their generosity.) I didn’t let coming out of disability hold me back, because I had something to prove to others that I was a person in my own right.

          It’s infantilising/dehumanising for people to pat us on the head and ignore the glaring problems with our work. We’re human beings with virtues, flaws, issues beyond our neurology, the drive to do better for ourselves and maintain our independence. It’s actually quite ableist in itself to cast us as prisoners of our neurology that have to be nannied by employers — it neglects the fact we’re all generally capable of managing our conditions and holding down jobs on our own terms. Those jobs might be lower-rung than we’d like thanks to issues such as, in my case, spoons and the struggle to think about many different things at the same time rather than go into so deep a focus on one thing that I neglect others. I certainly don’t have the energy and drive that my parents used to get to the top of their careers and thus be able to help keep me independent through assistance. But they’re jobs, they keep us (virtually) independent and help us achieve dignity and respect. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, but equally we still have to rise to the challenge of a work position (and that’s before we get to the point of fingerwagging OP about supposedly excess meetings when she probably has no control over some of them, which is equally patronising towards her because presumably she knows what the job requires of Shannon). We can’t let things slide and then use disability as a shield to counter an employer’s responsibility to their company when we get in the way of their needs.

          Accommodations and support are great, but there’s no accommodation or support that can overcome the issues of someone who can’t (or won’t) do the job they were hired to do. At that point, there are other people to think about who also have needs (some of whom might also have issues such as neurodivergence — it’s an invisible disability so you can’t tell just by looking at someone) and this race to the bottom ends up at the same point we started from — that neurodivergence is a terminal flaw incompatible with holding down a job and thus something to be screened for. The bigotry of low expectations, in fact.

          So please stop with the ableism. We’re human beings, not dolls. We can grow and change and develop our skills as much as anyone else can, and everyone at some point in their lives will face adversity that needs to be confronted head on.

          1. misspiggy*

            I agree with everything you said regarding Shannon’s situation, although it’s good to remind managers that they need to be very clear with all employees because not everyone understands. But I also believe that you may find yourself progressing more quickly than you think, later on.

            Getting through a difficult and delayed start to a career requires such self-development and grit that once you get to a middle level you’ll have a good chance to fly upwards, particularly if you have a relevant specialism.

            You might be surprised how willing people are to make accommodations when you’re the only person that can rapidly understand new information, or quickly come up with a good solution to try. The desperate creativity which disabled people need to get by in an abled world is a valuable strength.

            1. GythaOgden*

              Good thoughts! I haven’t personally asked for any accommodations because there’s not much flexibility in what I do. The only thing I asked for when I broke my ankle was permission to wear soft-soled shoes/trainers, and my supervisor asked me if I could get black ones, so I found a really nice but relatively cheap pair (the shoes I wear at other times are supportive running shoes, and those tend to come in high-visibility colours because black shoes would be dangerous while running after dark, but high-viz is not necessarily office-appropriate. (Except my regional manager wears bright green Doc Martens so I don’t think our national healthcare facilities company is terribly fussy — but some of our other customers/building tenants might be and so being a bit more on the conservative side is ok by me.)

              Thanks also for the broader points you’re making :)! I’m finally at a point in my life where I can think about moving on. I’ve had a lot of issues in my personal life so kept the steady but rather boring job so I could devote my time to others and then to myself. It has begun to hold me back, particularly because with mass WFH, there are fewer people hiring business admin receptionists and I don’t have extensive external consumer reception experience that other customer-service people want. I’m struggling to find someone who will let me show them what I can do (I’m one of those funny people who would jump at a chance to do a take-home assignment from an employer, and got my current job temp to perm as well), but what you’ve said makes total sense. Thanks for your insight :).

          2. LibraPsalmorum*

            GythaOgden thank you so much for sharing your experience. As a parent of two young adults with a combo of ADD, anxiety, and autism —one starting her sophomore year in college and one his senior year in high school—your words give me hope.

            As a parent I’ve been worrying how to help them navigate the next stages of life when I see big gaps in their knowledge. Particularly things that people just pick up through observation. I need to shift my thinking that this is their path and they have agency to make mistakes and learn from them. I’ve encouraged independence as they’ve interacted with employers, professors, coaches, and teachers but getting the right balance is hard.

            As you said, neurodivergent folks are more than than neurology. I am using this phrase to guide me as I parent in this next stage of life.

            1. GythaOgden*

              You’re very welcome. Not gonna lie, it’s a struggle, but it can be quite rewarding when you succeed despite everything ranged against you.

          3. Generic Name*

            Thank you for saying this so eloquently. My son is autistic and I have several friends with nonverbal kiddos, and the most common issue I see in terms of schools appropriately accommodating children is that school officials underestimate disabled kids’ abilities far too often.

          4. The Shenanigans*

            Agreed! I wonder if this attitude of “well if they are ND we can’t address problems with them” is why ND people, especially Autistic people, are chronically underemployed. Employers think of us as problems they won’t be allowed to solve, so they don’t hire us. I don’t think it’s purposeful or that many managers are even consciously aware of this bias. They talk in terms of looking for fit or personality or other code that sounds innocuous or even necessary. But that doesn’t change the bias or the impact. Treating ND people as, well, people is a great first step to ending that bias.

        2. JSPA*

          Sort of depends when (and if) those disabilities were diagnosed.

          People who were diagnosed as kids are far more likely to be able to name their issues and figure out (or have been taught) coping strategies.

          Those who slipped through the cracks during their education, only to hang up on a rock mid-stream, once they enter the workforce, may not yet have a name for what’s causing the disconnect, let alone the keywords necessary to do even a rudimentary search for work-appropriate work-arounds.

          I don’t (of course) mean to imply that one can’t integrate the relevant information and fight to get a diagnosis as a somewhat functional adult, but in my experience it seems to be a lot easier when it’s someone’s else’s job to look out for those issues and push for a diagnosis, and when learning tricks and skills happens in the context of gradeschool, middleschool and highschool, when everyone is learning some version of “how to adult.”

          1. Tangerine Thief*

            I was diagnosed at 21, 23, and 30 for my disabilities. It has mot been fun or easy but I have reached a point of stability by myself.

            Shannon is an adult. She knows that she is on a PIP. She has been having discussions about her performance for a year. She has decided, for some reason, to behave very strangely about the PIP and how she responds to her manager in them, including challenging what was said but refusing to explain further.

            In this situation, she has both agency and personal responsibility for herself. It’s up to her to either discuss her missteps in the context of disability or to seek further information on potential disabilities.

            Being disabled is not an excuse or a reset button. It explains the why or the how but if there are problems, it does not make them go away.

          2. Allonge*

            I try to put this gently (and with a recognition that of course a lot of things get easier if one has a formal diagnosis with clarity on what that means and what is supposed to help). An employer is unlikely to be able to provide a diagnosis.

            But there are a lot of things an adult can figure out on their own, and ‘I cannot constructively participate in these kinds of meetings, I would need things done differently, here is what usually works’ is one of them. Shannon knows herself much better than OP will ever do – she needs to be proactive in finding a method that works better. OP cannot be more invested in Shannon keeping this job than Shannon.

          3. AnotherOne*

            I have a good friend who only recently got diagnosed with ADHD but even before that knew that in meetings she would get overwhelmed with emotions and be unable to get her thoughts in order.

            So when we (the friend group) knew she had a work meeting coming up where this was going to be an issue- like a meeting with her managers about an issue, we’d have her write out in advance the points that she wanted to make. That way she didn’t have to worry about where she was emotionally.

          4. Observer*

            People who were diagnosed as kids are far more likely to be able to name their issues and figure out (or have been taught) coping strategies.

            Which is not really relevant to the situation.

            Shannon does not need to name anything, or to have crafted specific coping strategies. But for her to continue in the position, she needs to improve her work which is what this process is all about. And part of that is acknowledging when / if she realizes after the meeting that she actually did not agree with what her manager said.

            What she is doing now is not viable or acceptable. She simply cannot continue to act as though the meeting went differently than it actually did via emails that say “This happened” when that is not what happened.

          5. The Shenanigans*

            considering the damage of a lot of “help” kids get I’m not so sure. The people I know who were diagnosed as kids end up having to unlearn a lot of harmful ideas. Plus they have to deal with the trauma of abuse that’s masked as therapy. Also, it should never be someone else’s job to diagnose and treat ND conditions. The patient should always be part of the discussion – and children rarely are.

            I was diagnosed in my 30s. It’s difficult but not impossible for me to do a job, do schoolwork, etc. I am eternally glad that *I* am the one in control of how I manage things. I listen to my doctor because I’m lucky enough to have one I can trust who works with me.

            I would be incandescent if a manager decided not to properly manage me because they were making all these assumptions. I’m not a baby. I can in fact understand what is asked of me. If I don’t know how to ask about something, I figure it out or I say “I know I am struggling with X. I’m getting lost before this point. Let’s work together to figure this out.”. Also, of managers simply name the problem and discuss it in a “let’s fix this together” way it doesn’t actually matter if they know if I’m ND or not. They just need to me to do a thing. It’s up to me to figure out how. It’s incredibly invasive for employers to think they have to know if I’m ND or not before they can do that.

            In the case of Shannon, she’s clearly not doing the thing and clearly not able or willing to enter into a collaborative discussion it. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if Shannon is ND or not. She’s not in the right job, and management needs to tell her that.

        3. Katie A*

          “these are not ‘email only’ conversations. These are important discussions that need live, in the moment feedback and clarifications.”

          Since this worker doesn’t seem to be explaining things even when they are responding in written communication, this probably wouldn’t help here, but being live and in the moment can get in the way of dealing with important topics and giving good feedback or asking for/providing useful clarification for some people.

          The entire thing doesn’t need to be live, and giving more ground for responding to or even having entire conversations via text is a useful thing to consider. It’s not a wild or unreasonable thing for someone to request as part of accommodations, or for someone to suggest and ask if it might be helpful.

      3. Emmy Noether*

        I was thinking something similar about verbal vs. written communication or in the meeting vs. later. It doesn’t even have to be about verbal processing, it could just be a form of conflict avoidance, or being intimidated, anxiety, etc.

        I know I’ve had it happen that I was in a performance review and didn’t really agree with one of the criticisms, but somehow just… nodded along, because it’s hard to speak up and I was surprised. Then I walked out and was kicking myself for it. Performance reviews have to be signed after the meeting, not in the meeting, for exactly this reason, so I worked up my courage and went back in to rediscuss an hour later (and got it amended).

        If it’s something like this, you could maybe try to transfer some to written communication, or send a more detailed agenda before so she can mentally prepare. Also, it may help if it’s not you who summarizes at the end of the meeting (where it’s tempting to just nod along). Instead, ask her to summarize. This may prompt her to bring things up. It’s also something she needs to work on on her side if it happens regularly.

        1. Allonge*

          I really like the idea of Shannon summarizing, that could work very well.

          But I also think this is (or at least should become) different if it’s not a one-off very high-stakes meeting like performance evaluation for a year, but a series of regular meetings. Obviously people can have different ideas / points they wanted to come back to after the latter as well but hopefully that would be the exception, not the norm. It should be a warning sign also to Shannon that she regularly has things that need to be corrected in the summaries of meetings!

      4. JSPA*

        Zoom, and record it? That way, there’s a transcript, as needed. And (compared to email) there’s somewhat less risk of tone getting as completely misinterpreted.

        1. Tangerine Thief*

          Possible but she would still need Shannon’s consent to record and it foes not stop Shannon from reversing herself in a follow up.

          1. I Have RBF*

            At work, and as a manager, the LW does not need Shannon’s consent to record their meeting. The LW just needs to inform Shannon that the meeting will be recorded.

      5. llama*

        This is a behavioral issue where she is trying to not get fired and blaming anyone but herself. I wish with all my heart that people would stop consider every difficult behavior as a possible sign of some type of abnormality. Normal human behavior comprises a wide spectrum. This is just a typical problem behavior that has so far protected the employee from major consequences. My greater concern is for OP having a boss that would throw them to the wolves with a problem employee the boss was unwilling or unable to manage appropriately.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Yeah, I showed behavior similar to this at my first job (and so far as I know I am neurotypical). The job just wasn’t sustainable for me. I got myself fired from that job, and that’s the best thing that could have happened for my career.

          Sometimes it’s time to move on from a company or job that isn’t working well. That can be a painful process, but so is staying too long or trying too hard at a job that isn’t a good fit.

      6. fhqwhgads*

        If the meetings amounted to OP tells Shannon what’s what, the end, then yeah, should’ve been an email anyway. But it sounds like these are actual discussions, and if they are, they’re actively deciding them during the meeting. So turning it into an email instead is probably not productive, or it’s at least as unproductive as what happens right now.
        I agree with the person who suggested live-typing the notes of the meeting DURING the meeting. In my experience, doing that is standard and works really well. Like every meeting I’m in someone’s screensharing and typing as we go – so if someone disagrees with the way the notes are framed/represents what they said, they live respond. It gets cleared up instantly. Meeting ends. Note-taker clicks publish. Obviously it’s a little different when it’s a PIP check-in, only two people, probably not published publicly. But the idea behind live note taking that is visible is still a good one to avoid this type of aftermath.
        If Shannon really is just stalling/trying to create chaos/argument against her being fired, it’ll be immediately obvious.

  5. It's complicated*

    #2 Popcorn

    I have worked with popcorn makers before and it hasn’t made me want popcorn, but there are two things that tended to annoy me
    1. The office smelled like popcorn for the next hour or more.
    2. The eater crunched it with their mouth open so I had to endure the eating sounds.

    I know the smell isn’t a problem for everyone but me it is much like a too much perfume situation. Some people will find the smell pleasant which makes it hard for those who find it distracting to raise as an issue. I have tried and got a range of responses from ‘you are wrong, it’s a nice smell’ to ‘you can’t stop me’.

    If your office airs out quickly and you chew with your mouth closed you should be good. If there is a good separation between cooking location and working location which means there is lingering popcorn smell, consider popping it at home and bringing in prepopped.

    1. Tin Cormorant*

      I would never make freshly popped popcorn at work. I’m too paranoid about what people would think, and if anyone else did it, it would distract me from my work because I’d be sad about wanting popcorn and not being able to eat any.

      …Even just reading about it, now I want popcorn. =(

      1. Zeus*

        I’ve been sitting next to someone in the office today who has been crunching popcorn, and I had to find an excuse to leave my desk for a bit. This letter made my eye twitch for that reason.

    2. JSPA*

      Only the buttered stuff gives me asthma and active nausea. But by association, all of it reminds me of the buttered stuff, so I’m still borderline queasy. I’m apparently not alone in this(?) so I’d focus more on, “will I be causing anyone intense distress” than “will others want some.” “Wanting some” is easier to control than waves of nausea.

      1. ecnaseener*

        That seems like something individuals would have to raise with LW if that particular smell bothered them. Probably every food smell in the world is distressing to someone.

        1. Eliot Waugh*

          Yup. Gonna continue to make popcorn (I do dislike the heavily buttered stuff, popcorn is my salt lick) at work, but if someone tells me it’s a problem I’ll stop.

        2. Ahnon4Thisss*

          Yeah, for some reason, the smell of beef in the microwave makes me really queasy, but I don’t say anything because it’s not fair to try and “ban” beef from the microwave when its a common protein people use. My coworker has a similar reaction to another common food. As long as it doesn’t make you super sick, sometimes you have to put up with the nausea for a little bit even though it sucks.

        3. Quill*

          Every non food smell too, but fortunately perfumes and perfumed products are optional, unlike feeding yourself.

          1. Dahlia*

            When fragrance free workplace letters are posted, it often comes up that, no, many scented products are not optional. Like I have chronic pain. I use several topical pain relievers to manage it. They all smell pretty strong. I still need them.

        4. Melody Powers*

          Yeah these discussions always leave me feeling like there’s absolutely no food I can risk bringing to work. People always bring up more things I’d never think would be an issue and often there’s a tone that implies that the people eating it are just being inconsiderate rather than the smell not hitting them the same way and not realizing that some others are bothered by it.

        5. JSPA*

          For sure, but this is a smell that tends to permeate and linger. Even people who find it delightful are clear on that.

          I’m pointing out that if you know that a smell will suffuse the entire floor, it’s worth remembering that for some people it may be a strong and lingering yuck, not a strong and lingering yum.

          I had one coworker who kept forgetting that bringing the bowl of freshly popped popcorn over to my desk was…not a kind gesture… until I started dry heaving into the trash can.

          I’m not usually a fan of more packaging, but they sell pre-popped popcorn. It’s as salty as you could wish, and there’s nearly no smell (to the point that even I can eat it). If you can get the same end product without suffusing the workplace, why not do that?

        6. The Shenanigans*

          Yup. It’s on the person who has the medical reaction to the popcorn to say something. If someone told me they were nauseated by it, sure I’d pop at home.

          If it were just a preference/dislike, well, I’d probably tell them that’s just how it is when you’re in a space with other people.

    3. Moodbling*

      I am strongly against all popping popcorn at work. At best the smell is distracting. But microwave popcorn is SO easy to burn – especially in a work microwave, which not only isn’t the same as the one you have at own but often are special industrial setting microwaves that can be unpredictable. Burnt popcorn in smell in a work environment is awful for the people who sit near the microwave.

      1. Starbuck*

        “especially in a work microwave, which not only isn’t the same as the one you have at own but often are special industrial setting microwaves that can be unpredictable.”

        Never would have guessed this, all the office breakroom microwaves I’ve ever used are the exact same ones I can buy at Target or a hardware store for my apartment.

      2. Courageous cat*

        I am too, I’m surprised so many people are cool with it. Even not burned, the smell absolutely LINGERS for aaaaages. Literally can be all day. Not many foods in the microwave hang in the air as potently as popcorn does.

    4. Smithy*

      This is obviously office dependent – but if you work somewhere that has a more remote kitchen or kitchen with a door that closes (that’s not wildly out of the way) then I do think right compromise is to use that one.

      In my current office we have two microwaves, one in a room that has no door, but is relatively tucked away. And then another in a completely open office kitchen in the middle of the space and close to the highest majority of people. Because I do think the issue is that so many of us don’t work in spaces with windows that open and popcorn is a smell that lingers.

      So. if you have the options to wake a bit further away from your desk to use a kitchen with a door that closes, I think you’re being gracious enough.

    5. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I used to work right by the office kitchenette, and a coworker made a bag of popcorn every single day at 10:30a on the button. It wasn’t the worst thing but also wasn’t the best.

    6. Rebelx*

      Yeah, the issue with the smell is not that it would make me crave popcorn and/or think the popcorn eater was rude for not sharing a snack they brought for themself. The issue is that strong smells can be distracting. And in the case of popcorn, the crunch could be distracting too. If the office has a designated eating area, I’d err on the side of going there for any food with a noticeable smell or sound, and stick to less conspicuous snacks at my desk. If there’s not an eating space… it probably depends a lot on the particular office, but I’d consider things like: whether other people generally eat in the office (including things with noticeable smells/sounds), how strong is the smell, how long it lingers in the space, how long I’ll be chewing/crunching and

    7. e271828*

      I really hate the way the smell penetrates everywhere. It’s nice for a split second when it’s fresh, but the stale odor settles in the carpets and everything—it reeks like a grungy dorm.

  6. Janice*

    I so very rarely eat popcorn so I don’t know for how long the smell lingers but I find it curious this smell of food is desirable when so often the advice is no smelly foods in shared spaces (kitchen excluded).

    1. AcademiaNut*

      I was wondering that as well. I love the smell of popcorn, but it is very strong, and if I’m trying to avoid mindless snacking while working, wafting junk food smells over the office is annoying. Also, burnt popcorn smells really terrible. It also makes a difference whether you’re doing the bags of microwave popcorn (which are really strongly scented) or plain air popped, which is a milder smell.

      I’d say if you have a separate kitchen, pop it, and let it cool before bringing it into a shared office area. If the microwave is near people’s desks, pop it at home and bring it in.

    2. It's complicated*

      I don’t know that it is desirable in OP’s office, just that they have assumed that it’s a possible problem as they like popcorn so much. I have assumed they are just unaware that some colleagues may not like the smell for reasons other than hunger or jealousy.

      I am with you on the avoid smelly foods in general but definitely if it can get past the kitchen in to working space.

    3. Zelda*

      IME, popcorn is one of those foods that smells AMAZING when you’re hungry/in the mood for it, and DISGUSTING when you’re full, especially already full of carbs. I would probably avoid popping it in a shared space.

  7. Free Meerkats*

    For #1, you did nothing wrong. The only time I gave more than 2 weeks notice was when I retired in March. I knew it would be a difficult position to fill and would go much smoother if my replacement worked with me for a while. I gave about 6 months, it took us almost 3 months to find a suitable candidate, and he worked with me for about 3 months before I left.

    As far as the pay issues go, if they affect only you and would not be continued for your replacement, it’s entirely up to you whether to report them or not. If there’s a chance they would affect someone else, you should report them and let the bomb fall.

    1. MK*

      Did any of your employers let you live with them for free and drive you around? I am sure OP’s concerns are valid and I don’t blame them for leaving with minimum notice. But they did make a mistake in blurring the lines between the personal and professional relationships: their boss/family member isn’t unreasonable in thinking that OP accepted benefits on the strength of their relationship, but treated them like any other employer in return.

      1. Olive*

        Agreed, “they’ve done so much for me, including letting me live with them and driving me around a lot” felt like a buried lede.

        I don’t want to speculate on OP’s situation, but if they want to detach from this family situation, they should probably decide to move on in every way, not reporting things with one hand while taking favors with the other hand.

        1. Momma Bear*

          I agree…that was kind of in the weeds. If OP hasn’t already done other things to separate their life from the family, then this is Very Awkward. I understand that business is business but I can see the boss/family member’s POV, too. Maybe not 3 months of notice, but longer than average would have been appropriate. Rather than cancel a trip the boss might get a temp since it’s admin work. Maybe find a new FTE that way. And fix whatever OP is alluding to re: pay. I wasn’t clear on what the violation was or if it was about OP or business in general.

          1. Sacred Ground*

            The trip cancellation bit was especially precious. They are attempting to manipulate the OP with a steaming pile of guilt and they couldn’t be more obvious about it.

            1. SoloKid*

              If it was to visit family, it’s likely that it was also OP’s family! It may be obvious but I don’t see how it’s wrong. Who knows, maybe OP overheard the trip planning at a family dinner in the house that they share with their former boss.

              OP could just get over feeling guilty the same way that the family member should get over the 2 week notice, right?

            2. Rose*

              This is a leap. It’s a four person business. It’s totally conceivable that it’s not possible to run it with only 2 people.

            3. The Shenanigans*

              Agreed. The only mistake I see here is that Op and relative just weren’t aligned on how they see this. Relative saw it as family first and then business. OP saw it the other way. Neither are wrong. But it was on the business owner to make their views here clear. After, all it’s THEIR business. This means that, yes, it’s precious to turn around and try to guilt OP on expectations that the OP had no way of understanding. OP should absolutely ignore it, and if relative persists, state that their last day is actually today.

        2. AngryOctopus*

          If your family runs a business and is breaking a pay law enough so that the labor board would be interested, saying “But FAMILY and look what they’ve done for me!” isn’t sufficient to gloss over that fact. Family should 1-not be screwing OP over such that the labor board would be involved and 2-should not be given free rein to possibly do the same to someone else after OP leaves. Family doing you favors like ‘letting you live with them’ does not trump “breaking labor laws”.

        3. fhqwhgads*

          I couldn’t tell if the living/driving stuff is something that still occurs now/recently, or if it was context for the overall picture, but say hasn’t been the case for a few years.

        4. LW 1*

          OP here! The living with them was actually their idea. They had their only secretary at the time leave on an extended family issue and they asked me because I had done some work for them in highschool if I’d step in and help. My main point was at the time I didn’t drive and had no way to get to the job that was out of town. They offered to let me live with them, also out of town, and commute with them. This continued for a few months before I got a car.

        5. Starbuck*

          Well, but don’t forget the “some pay issues where I am aware I should go to the labor board, but that would throw a huge bomb into family life.” !

          That goes both ways I think – don’t violate labor standards with a family member then get upset when they leave!

          1. The Shenanigans*

            And don’t violate labor laws and be all shocked Pikachu when someone reports it, family or not.

      2. Captain Vegetable ( Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

        I think that framing is problematic- if you drive me around for errands, you don’t get to take money out of my wallet. We don’t know exactly what the pay issue is, but doing someone a favor doesn’t mean you get to break the law later. The familial ties makes it more complicated, but if for example they weren’t paying overtime overtime out of ignorance, letting them know so they can correct the issue is kind. if they’re counting on the OP not making a fuss because they’re family, that family relationship bridge has already been burned, but not by the OP.

        1. Smithy*

          While there are 100% family businesses that are run very professionally, I also think there are a lot of family business where the lines just get a lot fuzzier. I certainly don’t blame the OP (or anyone) for leaving a situation like that, particularly when their family issues are complicated – but for all the bosses that freak out when someone gives notice – at a family business you’re still seeing them at family events years later. So they’re also inevitably just different.

          In between undergrad and graduate school, my parents gave me one of their old cars. It was in my name, I paid for insurance, repairs, etc. When I left for graduate school, I wasn’t going to need the car anymore – and my parents “bought” it back from me for $10,000. Was the ~15 year old Toyota Camry station wagon worth $10,000? Hardly, but it was their symbolic way to give me that money for school while taking the car back. However, had I believed that taking that money would have come with uncomfortable strings, I could have always sold it on the open market for what it was worth.

          When it comes to family business choices of that nature, I think a lot of people are left with similar choices. More emotional and personal freedom, but perhaps less fiscal support. And when the sums of money at play aren’t huge, it often doesn’t feel like a lot of choice.

        2. MK*

          “if you drive me around for errands, you don’t get to take money out of my wallet”

          True. But if you let me live with you rent-free for a considerable period, you are not crazy to expect more consideration than a regular employer.

          1. Starbuck*

            Again, the pay violations though! I think that pretty much negates the ‘extra family consideration’ card.

            1. Joron Twiner*

              I think not charging OP rent and saving money on gas/car makes it a bit nebulous though.

              Obviously pay violations are wrong but could the amount OP is missing be offset by rent/gas?

          2. The Shenanigans*

            Mm not when it’s about breaking the law and not when it’s the business owner’s idea. They didn’t offer out of the goodness of their hearts. It was a business decision. If they had different expectations – and clearly they did – the owner needed to have said them explicitly. They didn’t so they don’t get to be mad cuz OP couldn’t read their minds.

        3. Gyne*

          The comment about the “pay issues” confused me, because OP also says they “loved the pay” AND were also getting significant perks of free rent and rides – so I think it’s a stretch to assume the employer was taking money out of their pocket, too.

      3. Sacred Ground*

        But with these vague “pay issues” that OP says she would report them but won’t for fear of personal backlash from her family, that changes things. OP doesn’t specify what the issues are but I’m betting it is misclassification or refusal to pay overtime or otherwise underpaying the OP.

        Her employer is exploiting her status as a relative to treat her worse than they would treat a non-family employee. They expect to continue doing so because they know she won’t complain about the mistreatment. The unlawful mistreatment that anyone else would report without hesitation. That OP won’t report “…because FAMILY”. That the employer is already using this pressure against her just for giving standard notice tells her and us that they will absolutely retaliate against her personally if she reports illegal “pay issues”. (And pretty much any “issues” around pay is illegal.)

        For some reason, *working for* family always seems to mean the employee is giving up any expectation of fair pay and has no recourse if cheated (you can’t report FAMILY, never mind that they underpaid you). At the same time, *employing* a family member somehow absolves the employer of complying with labor laws.

        Sounds to me like there are other issues beyond the pay issues but even if not, that’s a big one. And if they are misclassifying or underpaying the OP, then any familial obligation OP had to them is done. They don’t get a pass to mistreat an employee no matter how many rides they give them.

        If you exploit your family member the same as you would any employee (or you exploit them *worse* than non-family because you *expect them to not report you*), then you are acting like any other lousy boss and should be treated like any other lousy boss.

        And a boss with ongoing “pay issues” that rise to the level of needing to be reported is a bad boss, family or not.

        1. MK*

          That OP was exploited is complete speculation. It’s possible, but nothing in the letter indicates this.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            Yeah, but I’m not sure what “pay issues that the labor board would be interested in” might entail otherwise. Any issue the labor board would take notice of means that the company is breaking some kind of pay law, which kind of necessarily means exploitation? We don’t know if it’s happening BECAUSE the OP is family, but it kind of doesn’t matter.

          2. Dr. Vibrissae*

            LW is one of only 3 employees (it’s unclear if that includes the owner or not). We don’t know that ‘pay issues’ are ONLY affecting her, but it’s not a leap to assume that any pay issues include her. It would be more surprising if she were the only one not affected.

        2. Gyne*

          I doubt OP is underpaid since they said in the first paragraph they say “I found myself loving the pay and benefits.” But the comment later on about pay issues was confusing.

          1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            I think initially she got more money than in her previous job, and things have since soured, like she’s taken on more responsibility without being given a pay rise, and doesn’t get paid overtime, and before she didn’t even know that overtime had to be paid.

      4. Mobster Lobster, the Criminous Crustacean*

        And that letter is the best argument I’ve ever read for NOT working for close family members OR for letting your employer drive you around and live with them! It blurs that crucial line between family-and-friends and your job; your obligations to each are unique and valuable, but this is what happens when they’re all conflated. Keep your job separate from your family – you’ll encounter far fewer headaches and heartaches that way!

        And please don’t succumb to the universal temptation to think “But WE won’t act selfishly or dishonorably if WE hire/work for OUR family members ’cause WE’RE so special it would NEVER happen to US!” Reality check, folks: everyone who’s ever been left stunned and reeling and embittered when a family job went so far south it wound up in Antarctica started out thinking it could never happen to them, too! It can and it will.

  8. Coverage Associate*

    In a business with only 3 employees and a boss, I don’t know that it’s so unusual that a boss couldn’t be away for a month if one employee gives notice. That’s half the workers out, and we know both the boss and LW have job duties the 2 remaining workers don’t have. Also, it’s the admin and relative of the boss who has given notice. Those are both key “keep an eye on things”/ “keep things functioning” roles.

    Should the boss have guilted LW about it? No. But it doesn’t surprise me if the boss wants to shorten or reschedule the trip. I have seen managers of bigger teams have to reschedule vacations in similar situations.

    1. A Datum*

      “In a business with only 3 employees and a boss, I don’t know that it’s so unusual that a boss couldn’t be away for a month if one employee gives notice”

      I thought that as well. Even if the employee in question has a basic secretary/admin job, that is still a full time job that 3 other people now have to split, and the owner also has to hold interviews. I can see her having to cancel vacation.

      1. Sacred Ground*

        It’s not at all the OP’s problem though. The boss is already treating them badly: unnamed “pay issues” that OP would report but won’t because FAMILY. So she got another job and gave notice.

        If any non-family employer tried to pull this guilt-trip crap, we would all just point and laugh. In a business with only 3 employees and a boss, the boss doesn’t get to take a month-long vacation if one employee gives notice. Still not the problem of any of the employees even if one is a relative.

        1. Malarkey01*

          Well if OP is still living there rent free it’s probably about to be their problem.

          This letter just can’t be viewed through an employer only lens. This was someone who was letting a younger family member live in their house, drive them around, and probably thought we’re helping them out with a job. They were acting more in a parent role than employer. Of course the boundaries are now blurred.

          1. Tesuji*

            Oh, wow, I kind of missed that part.

            I hope OP had a fully-fleshed exit strategy here, including other housing she can move into immediately.

            The flipside of it being completely legitimate to only give two weeks’ notice at your job, it’s also completely legitimate for your boss not to want you crashing on their couch.

        2. K*

          It’s not a problem for her as an employee but it could be an interpersonal problem for her as a relative.

    2. MK*

      This is just one of the downsides of being a business owner/your own boss; the only people who find it an unreasonable imposition are those who don’t consider the cons or think being the boss means you get to offload all inconveniences to your employees.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Yes, this is an important point. Owning a business makes things like vacation more challenging, so you should have multiple backup plans. A two week notice is only one thing that could interfere with a vacation for a small business owner – what if a staff member gets sick, or has a death in the family? So if you can’t staff for redundancy yet, you either have to accept sometimes your vacations won’t happen as planned, or you have to have a temp agency/other family member/retired employee/whatever who can step in.

        1. Sparkle Llama*

          Exactly, I have relatives who own small businesses and they have canceled numerous vacations due to staffing over the years and would never dream of taking a month off. Certainly varies by industry, but if you want that ability as an owner you need to staff appropriately to allow for redundancy.

      2. Antilles*

        Part of the deal with being the sole owner of a small business is that, well…you’re the sole owner. On the plus side, you get the freedom, but the downside is that you’re responsible for everything, including stepping in when something unexpected hits.

      3. B*

        Exactly. If you want other people to be concerned about your vacation plans, give them a share of the business. You don’t get to keep all the upside without taking all the downside risk.

    3. bamcheeks*

      At the same time, then, why didn’t OP know this in advance? I don’t think it’s totally unreasonable of the boss to have wanted more than 2 weeks’ notice, but if they never said that out loud and made it clear that’s a courtesy they would like (and in a way that makes it clear it would be respected on their side —no punishing OP or taking them off bigger projects or Disappointed Comments etc, just support and good wishes), that’s on the boss.

      I find it kind of odd that an owner of a small business would be planning to go away for a whole month and wouldn’t have had the kind of conversation with her staff where she makes it clear she doesn’t want anyone to leave in that period, and potentially offers some kind of bonus or higher pay for the period as an incentive to stay. I mean, that’s a LONG holiday for 25% of the staff to be out, and if it’s critical that there are no other absences during that period, do something to make that more likely!

      1. Wilbur*

        On the other hand, it’s clearly an entry level role and not in a field OP1 wants to be in. OP1 didn’t mention this, but it’s possible that they got a job. I think most employers would really push back on hiring an entry level employee that needed to give 3 months notice before they started. Any capital that you have you need to negotiate salary/benefits, as those are going to stick with you for the next 30+ years.

        OP1 should know it’s always going to be a thing with this family member, regardless if they raise the pay issues or not. I’d try and get my money. And if other family members hassle you about it, ask them if they would volunteer 3+ months of their life as an admin so your family member could go to Europe.

        1. MK*

          OP reporting the pay issues (which is what they think of doing) would escalate this from “aunt Mary is upset I left her company and might throw digs for years to come” to “aunt Mary refuses to be in the same room with me”. It’s certainly not as simple as “she is going to be mad anyway, go for the money”.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            If aunt Mary refuses to be in a room with you because you reported her for breaking the law and doing something shady/unethical/whatever with your pay…yeah, you should be OK with that. Why is it OK for her to pay you incorrectly but not OK for you to call it out?

            1. Antilles*

              MK isn’t saying it’s OK, they’re saying that there’s all sorts of family dynamics to consider here.

              What happens if you call the DOL on Aunt Mary is that it creates all sorts of family dynamics. Other family members will feel forced to take sides. Some family members such as your cousins (aka Mary’s kids) might decide to cut ties with you over it. Future family gatherings could be incredibly awkward or devolve into arguments. OP calls it “throwing a huge bomb in the family life” and that’s likely accurate.

              Maybe your response is that you would be perfectly willing to throw that bomb, accept those consequences, and sever ties with family members as needed. And that’s a reasonable choice for you to make.

              But there’s a lot of people who wouldn’t want to go that far over a sum of money (especially if the sum isn’t that enormous) and who might just as reasonably decide that the missing money isn’t worth causing all that drama and losing those other family relationships. It’s not saying it’s “OK”, just that the consequences of letting Mary get away with it (losing a bit of money right now) are less impactful than the consequences of throwing that huge bomb.

        2. bamcheeks*

          Oh I wasn’t thinking of it as giving three months’ notice, but heads-up that you’re job-seeking / have an interview / good feeling about this one, etc. I don’t think an employer is entitled to that information, but when the relationship extends far beyond boss/employee, it wouldn’t be unreasonable. But as I say, it would have been on the manager to make that explicit, not just to expect it as a matter of course.

          1. Wilbur*

            Given that it’s an entry level role, not in OP’s field, and some issues with apy I’d kind of assume that OP was job searching if I was the owner.

    4. The Shenanigans*

      Well, that’s part of being the boss of a small business. Your schedule is subject to change like this. That’s part of the cost of being an owner and the OP isn’t responsible for that. They did the professional thing. It’s unfortunate, but that’s small business for ya.

  9. Dhaskoi*

    LW #1

    As an employee two weeks notice is standard in most industries and you don’t owe your employer more than that.

    What you might owe them as a family member that they’ve done favours for is a separate matter only you can determine.

    1. KateM*

      I think I have been in the place of LW#1 boss in a personal way. It was really uncomfortable to realize that while I was thinking that she was my BFF, she probably just tolerated me out of politeness.

    2. Rose*

      This is an apt summary. Unfortunately it seems like the two have been irrevocably mixed.

      The issue here is that OP wanted all of the privileges of being family: give me a job I’m not qualified for that pays more than I’d make in my own field, let me live with you, drive me around. But then when they give their notice this is their boss, not their family member, and they want this to be a strictly professional relationship and be treated as an employee rather than a family member. You can’t have it both ways.

      While OPs phrasing makes their boss/family member sound bad, when I put myself in their shoes, yea, it sounds pretty awful. You give someone a job as a favor, pay them more than they were making, let them live in your home, drove them around, and then find out that while you were planning a big expensive trip, they were withholding very important information from you that would have significantly changed your plans. I’d be livid. You were happy to take all the perks of being family. You owe your family member a heads up that you’re interviewing and they might need to put their travel plans on hold.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        I don’t think OP wanted this job at all, but took it because the family member asked them to. So I think your third sentence is an unnecessarily uncharitable read. OP took the job as a favor to the family member, not the other way around.

        1. Rose*

          Maybe at the start, but OP was there for two years and says the pay and benefits were better than what she would have gotten elsewhere. I think it’s a pretty straightforward read to say she stayed because she felt she was benefitting from the situation.

  10. cosmicgorilla*

    I find the smell of microwave popcorn, even unburnt, to be god awful. You’d tempt me alright…to homicide.

      1. Ahnon4Thisss*

        I’ll get out my essential oil diffuser to help cover up both smells! What’s everyone like, lavender or mint?

    1. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Agree, I dislike it also. The smell of microwave popcorn is too intense and pervasive for an office.However, it’s one of the snacks we offer but most people have it as a late afternoon snack when fewer people are around.

    2. Not Australian*

      I’d say the same for *all* popcorn in all states of being, and frankly I’d be vomiting.

        1. Not Australian*

          Because nobody can ever possibly react adversely to smells, right? Walk a mile in my shoes.

          1. ThatGirl*

            Of course people can react adversely to smells. I didn’t dispute that. Your comment was the one I happened to reply to, but there are so many overdramatic comments about … popcorn! And the bit about “all states of being” – really? If someone were to open a jar of unpopped kernels in front of you? Or an unflavored bag of SkinnyPop halfway across the room?

            1. Unkempt Flatware*

              But there’s really no reason for you to comment that. Not one that is productive or constructive, anyway.

              1. ThatGirl*

                It wasn’t exactly constructive to say the smell of “all states of being” of popcorn make one vomit, was it?

            2. ADidgeridooForYou*

              I agree with you. People here can seem very angry. But I guess that’s just the nature of online commentariats, haha.

          2. Eliot Waugh*

            Of course you can. People around you can only mitigate that so much, and being angry at someone for doing a perfectly normal thing, even if it negatively impacts you, isn’t exactly fair to them. A person isn’t making popcorn AT you.

      1. The Shenanigans*

        If that’s a medical condition, then you can get annoyed or tell your office it’s medical and please respect it.

        If you are using hyperbole to make a point about a personal preference, well, that’s on you to deal with.

        1. The Shenanigans*

          *a note not annoyed. but being annoyed if it’s a legit condition and no one is taking it seriously is reasonable too.

    3. Paris Geller*

      I really don’t think it’s funny to joke about murdering your coworkers because they popped popcorn, even if you’re not serious.

      1. The Shenanigans*

        Lol “I’m gonna kill ya!” is a common enough phrase/joke reaction that I think the better choice here is to ignore it if you don’t like it. Much like how people who don’t have an actual medical complaint eg it causes migraines should just ignore the popcorn.

  11. short'n'stout*

    I brought popcorn to work one day and my judgemental coworker called me a sociopath and an incel. But they only come into the office so that they can complain how much they hate it there, so I just took it as a compliment.

      1. short'n'stout*

        They were really weird. I stopped trying to figure out how their mind worked really quickly, and just pretended I was watching a nature documentary.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      “My, that escalated quickly.”
      Worst coworker of the year award?
      I mean you, you POPcorn maker! /s
      Love the people who make being miserable their personality. Hope you’re office is hybrid.

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      If my reply to your crazy coworker makes it thru moderation, I meant “your office is hybrid”
      not “you’re office”

    3. The Shenanigans*

      omg that’s the funniest I’ve read today. So making popcorn in an office is the same as feeling so entitled to sex from women that you hate them all cuz they won’t give it up? Really? lol!

      Imma go make me so tasty incel popcorn now!

  12. Virtual Assistant Who Really Exists*

    I read #5 as the freelance work on offer is a service that OP’s company provides, but freelancer is trying to circumvent the company by hiring OP directly. If that’s an accurate read, then I think this is a clear conflict of interest, and I wouldn’t do it without the express permission of your company. The freelancer may feel it’s too small a job to warrant hiring the company, but the company may disagree. To me, this would not be worth the risk.

    1. Sloanicota*

      & If you do it and it’s over $250, don’t forget to pay taxes on the money OP. I pay quarterly estimated taxes to avoid penalties. This may be enough of a hassle that you realize you don’t want to do it for just one job.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      It’s weird to me that the freelancer currently doing freelance work for the company would separately have a need for a service provided by the company for a different client. Or maybe it’s not weird. But it just sort of strikes me as kinda backwards? Like the company hired the freelancer to do some work for them. Now the freelancer has work the freelancer in some universe hire the company for? I’d never expect the freelancer to hire the company. But if it’s work the freelancer can’t do (for a client who isn’t the company) I could see the freelancer get a second freelancer sort of subcontractor for the stuff. But it’s a dumb move on said freelancer’s part to ask OP because it sounds like a very obvious conflict of interest.

  13. Rain*

    I’ve never worked in an office that allowed microwave popcorn. Either someone burns it OR it just smells up the whole office. Most places I’ve worked also unofficially banned fish from the microwave too.

    1. nope*

      Yep, mine only names two foods that are banned from microwaves: fish and popcorn. But bringing in pre-popped is fine.

    2. RegBarclay*

      I’ve never worked anywhere that banned it but at my current place it’s considered polite to microwave it in the cafeteria (which is set someone apart from the rest of the building and obvs already smells like food) and then bring it back to your desk. So the smell is mitigated somewhat in the workspace.

    3. soontoberetired*

      Our office store sells microwave popcorn. And in the past they actually had a popcorn machine that sold it (I don’t think we do anymore but I don’t go down to where it was). And we sell bagged popcorn snacks. The world would end here without our popcorn in one way or the other. Except for me, I can’t eat the stuff and have a working digestive system.

  14. Tangerine Thief*

    For LW3, the fear of escalation is part of being a manager – it’s something any employee can do, especially in a formal disciplinary setting, but you have to be okay with grasping the nettle anyway.

    There are two options here. Either you are genuinely missing out on signs from her about her understanding and take aways or she is intentionally misrepresenting herself in the meeting with regards to what she is taking away. Whichever it is, this is undermining the performance plan that you are holding her to and could be an attempt to rewrite history on you, as a new manager by someone who is not open to the reality that she is likely to lose her job.

    Either way, you do need to dig into this because this is a performance issue that will lead to realistically, a strong likelihood of her leaving. You do not want her to represent these meetings as something else when you are going to be likely firing her. You are saying X happened in this meeting, she agrees verbally, but then she says ‘no, it was y z and all the other stuff too’ and without confirmation it’s he said, she said.

    Perhaps try having her sign a copy of the summary then and there, in the meeting as a solution but also be prepared to litigate this firing, either informally with her (‘you did not tell me x’ when you did) or formally with a lawyer who sees you saying x and her saying y.

    1. short'n'stout*

      Looking back, I realised I used to be Shannon. My manager would start every discussion of her issues with my work by saying “as you know, you are an experienced and valued member of the team.”

      What she meant was “so I am surprised that you made this mistake”. What I heard was “you’re so great! Now let’s talk about next steps for solving this technical issue.”

      Neither of us put our takeaways from the meeting in writing. That could have cleared this up a lot sooner.

      1. Tangerine Thief*

        Strikes me that you were not really a Shannon but you sat in the same office. Alison talks about managers not being clear or softening their language a lot, especially around performance issues, and not being straight forward and really clear on what they mean so employees aren’t clear on it. Feel like that is what happened to you.

        On the other hand, Shannon is in meetings with the end goal of ‘either fix your performance or leave’, saying one thing in them and then turning around and saying something completely different afterwards in writing *and* when given the chance, not explaining herself as to why the discrepancy, *repeatedly*.

        One is people not being clear and missing each other’s meaning. The other is repeated failure to engage in the PIP process in good faith or a fundamental inability to grasp the situation and neither is a good look for Shannon or her continued employment.

        1. short'n'stout*

          Yeah, this was in academia, which is notorious for placing brilliant individual contributors into positions where they not only have to manage the people who do the hands-on work, but also repeatedly justify their own existence to the people above them. Doesn’t typically foster good management skills.

    2. Awkwardness*

      I do not like this much as she might say she was pressured too sign.

      Somebody above suggested to type the summary in the meeting and discuss the points with her.
      Maybe you could have a buffer of 10 min before you end the meeting where you leave her alone with the summary, get back, make sure one final time that she agrees and send it then? If she feels intimitated by your presence, that might help to get rid of the time delay until she voices her concerns.

      1. Tangerine Thief*

        I feel like there isn’t a good answer to this but realistically, I don’t think asking her to sign it is too much. The point if signing it is not ‘I agree wholeheartedly with x and commit to y and love these these points’, it’s a way to say ‘in this meeting we discussed x y z and this is the action plan discussed’. It can even say ‘Shannon says abc about the llama report completion figures but manager says red blue green based off this week’s partial team report so we will review this next week after the monthly report is out’ as it is a record of the meeting and what was discussed.

        Right now, the OP is doing it all verbally and Shannon is negating all of it with her own summaries that explicitly reject what was actually said. Signing for it might actually force Shannon to either put her disagreement first or to create a situation where she has to explain herself.

        And I do not buy intimidation as a reasonable explanation of this behavior. At the core of the matter is there is an employee who has severe performance issues and has for over a year. She is on a PIP. These meetings are essential to her *keeping* her job. And yet she says one thing in the meeting and not a day later, is saying things that never happened and is misrepresenting things. And, on top of that, when asked to explain the difference, she doesn’t seek to clarify or to set the record straight – she handwaves and gives non answers. If she has so much issue with what is being said in these very serious meetings, why is she not reaching out to HR, her former manager, peers or senior people? Why is the OP not hearing or seeing signs of this? Why is she not taking every opportunity to be open and honest with the massive differences in take aways from the same meeting when it quite literally is her job on the line?

        1. Awkwardness*

          I did not understand the letter that way that Shannon misrepresents things and says things that never happened, but that she suddenly finds arguments why the steps proposed by LW3 would not work out or cannot be met.
          If somebody is intimitated or scared (because they know their job is on the line), I can imagine that they grasp the full extent of everything they need to do only after the meeting. That’s when they start to argue with the summary and try to change direction in order to ease the tasks.
          If you know this happens… why not give them a little time for realisation, have a final discussion and wrap up the summary?

          1. Tangerine Thief*

            > After our meetings, I send a recap of what we discussed. Lately Shannon has been responding back to this recap email with **a very different understanding of the discussion** and bringing up challenges and concerns she didn’t voice in the meeting, in some cases very strongly. *It’s feels like a 180* and I’ve noticed she’s been doing the same with my manager.

            From this, at the very least, Shannon is not on the same page as her manager at all and isn’t looking at things clearly. To me, that reads as not coming at this from the POV of trying to fix this but rather to shift blame or to avoid responsibility after the initial discussion. Combined with the fact she is *able* to bring up the problems after the meeting but won’t discuss it afterwards face to face, and doesn’t request it in writing l, it looks like deliberate failure to engage.

            Intimidation is real. Nobody is denying that. But Shannon refuses to help herself here. By not saying anything, not addressing the concerns, not working with the manager in charge of her plan and refusing to engage in the process by just waving away attempts to clarify or provide additional support for her own POV is not helpful, it does nothing to solve the issue, and doesn’t make anybody aware of an underlying condition.

            Managers are not mind readers and they are not parents. They cannot assume the best in everybody and give endless second chances. They have to treat everybody fairly and reasonably; that includes not implying disability where the employee is not invoking it, and holding everybody to a fair standard, which Shannon is failing to meet.

          2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

            She’sbeen on a PIP for a year (!). She should know what she can and can’t do at this point. Shannon is trying to come up with excuses why she can’t meet the requirements of the PIP but make it not here fault. If its not her fault, she thinks they can’t terminate her.

            OP you need to meet with your boss, discuss the ongoing issue, and Shannon’s progress on the PIP. Then you need to be clear with Shannon that there is an end date here, she either improves or she is terminated. You need to be clear and not focus on making sure the meetings are “positive” because that sends a message to Shannon that everything is fine and she just needs to keep meeting with you and agreeing you with you to keep her job.

            1. Jinni*

              This ^^^^ I think Shannon doesn’t want to lose her job. Maybe she needs to. What was the timeline when supervision was handed over ?

              This feels like a lot of work for someone who may not last long.

            2. NotAnotherManager!*

              The length of time also surprised me. We give people 30 to 90 days to make noticeable progress toward goals depending on the issue and severity. A year just seems like dragging out the inevitable and wasting everyone’s time.

              I would also start doubling up on meetings with Shannon to have a witness. If I had someone who was not performing well and was disputing my summary of the meeting, I would be asking someone else to sit in both so I had backing for my version of events and to provide me feedback if I was not being clear enough in my communications.

        2. Mockingjay*

          I think OP1 needs to have a candid discussion with her own boss about the end of this PIP. Sometimes you simply can’t save an employee. At this point, how much more effort should OP1 expend to get Shannon aligned? Not more effort than Shannon, certainly.

          It’s clear that Shannon does not see the job requirements and her issues in meeting those requirements the same way that OP and her boss do. I’ll be kind and call the job a mismatch for Shannon; I think it’s time on both sides to part ways.

  15. Allonge*

    LW2 – we have a hard number of how many people we can interview (8) for any position. We have gone above this number when we knew we were looking to hire two Teapot Groomers, but it did not double – we never interviewed more than 12 people.

    Simply, the investment of time is too much for more interviews – on both sides, really! And that is my point to you: you found someone pretty good for this job. Not interviewing more people makes a lot of sense even in retrospect – you would have been wasting their time as well as yours. You gave them a chance by evaluating their applications as you did.

    1. Furret*

      Thanks for this insight. I’m feeling much better about the interviews I didn’t get, and the ones I did.

      1. Janeric*

        I think the letter — and this response — is a great combination to think about for when I don’t get an interview.

    2. B*

      This is a great way to think about it. You want to be fair to applicants, but you are also not offering them a service by interviewing them. You are looking for the best candidate you can find with time and effort that’s reasonable under the circumstances. That means good candidates get weeded out quickly, and some of them might deserve the job, and some might even have been better than the person you selected. But you only have one job to offer, and you’ll never know for sure how any of the other candidates might have done at the job, and interviewing 100 people doesn’t change that.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, I think since this is a position for students I can understand more feeling like you wish you could have given them all a shot–but ultimately the only real reason to interview more people would be to increase *your* chances of finding the right hire. It sounds like OP got a candidate that is just what they were looking for, so if she works out then there is really no reason to have interviewed more people.

    3. Hannah Lee*

      There also could be a decision making preference and process coming into play for LW.

      In their mind, is a successful hiring process one where you hire the absolutely best available candidate for the job, given all the applicants, with no cap on time, effort, money spent?

      Or is it hiring someone who is well qualified and able to be successful in the job, within a given timeframe and and acceptable cost in effort and money, even if there maybe a candidate who would have been even better, optimal?

      Either one is an okay way to proceed, depending on the position and practical limitations.

      But most of the time, the second is going to be the reality of what the business needs, and hiring managers won’t have the luxury of an exhaustive exploration or 100% of the details of 20-30-50 of the top resumes in the stack.

      Certainly strive to have a process that is fair to all applicants and maximizes your ability to evaluate them against the needs of the opening, without having strong candidates fall through the cracks. But if you’re getting 3-5 top candidates to interview and one or more of them would be worthy of making an offer to, and those you do hire usually work out, you’re probably doing okay.

      And most people don’t want to interview for the sake of interviewing if there’s a raft of stronger candidates making the possibility of a job offer unlikely.

  16. Feotakahari*

    My big worry for #2 is that folks often get ranked as less hirable because of their names. (I used to work at a place where the cooks had names like Hernandez and Lopez, but most management and admin had names like Wildenboer.)

    1. JSPA*

      Avoiding unconscious bias is the point of making a spreadsheet.

      There’s no column for, “name sounds adequately dutch [or anglo-saxon or germanic] to match current office demographics.”

    2. Helvetica*

      Quite an uncharitable reading of the letter – the LW gives no indication that she factored in race but rather skillset, experience, etc. It would be a problem if she just took 5 based on some random criterion but ranking them in a spreadsheet seems to me the most objective way to go.

    3. I should really pick a name*

      The letter writer’s approach does not make this more or less likely than most other approaches.

    4. LW2*

      I agree that this is a potential problem, which is why my spreadsheet ranked people based on things like how many teacup glazing methods they have experience with and how many advanced teapot making classes they’ve taken. I can’t claim to be free of unconscious bias, because nobody can claim that, but I did my best to keep things fair.

      1. Observer*

        Thank you for trying!

        Can you get the resumes without the names, in the future, so you can start the ranking process without that in your head?

    5. metadata minion*

      That’s going to be the case for any hiring process that doesn’t anonymize applications.

    6. Nancy*

      That can happen in any situation that has the names of the applications listed. And using a spreadsheet could actually remove that because you could give every application a number and use that as an identifier if you wanted.

      LW2: We only interview 3-5 candidates for each position. That means many people who are qualified don’t get interviews. There are very few places that have the time to interview 100s of candidates.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes this is what my company does. Only HR sees the names and personal details on the applicants. I get send the applications with the personal data removed so I can only see the candidates by the random number assigned to the application. That way I’m less likely to have as much scope for unconscious bias.

        Obviously sometimes (especially with internal applicants) I can guess who someone is from their application and career history but I think it makes it fairer in the main. I only know their names when I decide who is being interviewed.

    7. B*

      If you have a colleague with an hour to spare, you can ask them to redact the applications before reviewing them. It’s a good practice. Unconscious bias pops in not just in names but in addresses (different neighborhoods or towns have huge racial and socioeconomic significance), phone numbers (area codes–are you from here?), etc.

      I worked at a place that redacted the names of applicants’ colleges because they introduced potential bias — HBCUs, regional state schools that serve more working class students, etc. That was maybe a bridge too far — though there’s lots of elitism and bias in how we perceive school quality, I’m not prepared to say that a degree from every school is exactly as valuable — but it certainly made us focus on the candidate’s specific professional qualifications.

      1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        Area codes? Really? Most people I know don’t have area codes corresponding to where they live now, because people keep their phone numbers when they move. Is this “not from here” in the small-town “your parents weren’t born here so you aren’t REALLY from here” sense?

        1. Quill*

          Your area code generally reflects where you lived when you first got a cell phone, or where you lived when you had to switch services and couldn’t bring the old number along.

          (Yes, people still do have landlines. Sometimes. But it’s more common to have a cell and no landline than a landline and no cell.)

          1. Observer*

            Your area code generally reflects where you lived when you first got a cell phone, or where you lived when you had to switch services and couldn’t bring the old number along.

            It’s been decades since number portability became legally required. But also, area codes generally cover a wide enough area for landlines that I would be very surprised if anyone would really look at that (and that assumes that someone actually knows what area code corresponds to what area.)

            Some examples:
            718 – All of NYC except for Manhattan
            209 – CA covering Amador, Calaveras, Mariposa, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Tuolumne Counties, and portions of Alameda, Alpine, El Dorado, Fresno, Madera and Sacramento Counties.
            415 – San Francisco and its northern suburbs in Marin County, and the northeast corner of San Mateo County

            1. Single Noun*

              Sure, you can’t tell what specific town someone is from by their area code, but I can tell* whether someone is from Western Mass or Boston/Boston suburbs or the Cape, and I can absolutely see having area stereotypes on that level of granularity. (Particularly for a job that’s somehow policy-related, since there’s a general perception out here that the western half of the state gets the short end of the stick.)

              *as Quill says, where someone lived when they got a cellphone, not necessarily where they grew up.

            2. The Shenanigans*

              Yeah, I have had this number for years and plan to keep it when I move to a new state.

              Whether area codes are large or small is entirely regional. When I moved here, I had an out of area phone number and I was constantly running into problems because every cashier and receptionist assumed the area code. But it’s a tiny city in the middle of nowhere so that’s expected.

              Where I grew up, one area code is one third of one suburb. There are at least a dozen area codes within commuting distance plus a huge amount of movement among the population. So when I move back, I doubt anyone’s gonna blink at the area code.

      2. SoloKid*

        It’s true that more prestigious schools often provide better co-op experiences and specialty programs, but if so, those experiences and programs should really speak for themselves on a resume.

      3. UKDancer*

        My company redacts the names, addresses and contact information which I think would probably include the phone numbers (although given that I’m in London which is a big place, you couldn’t tell much from a landline even if they were included and UK mobile phones don’t give you any idea of where people are from I don’t think).

        I suppose if you were somewhere smaller you might get more idea from the address of what type of area someone lived in but London is vast and all post codes have good areas and not so good areas right next to each other so it’s a bit hard to draw much of a conclusion. They remove the addresses anyway.

    8. Observer*

      My big worry for #2 is that folks often get ranked as less hirable because of their names

      What the others said. But also, if that’s an issue, the interviews can exacerbate that. A spreadsheet sorted by quantifiable metrics is far less likely to be subject to that kind of bias.

    9. Tom*

      Permit me to point out that this can be an issue that’s downstream of other ones–to put it bluntly, if the Hernandez’s and Lopez’s are say, very recent economic migrants with high school diplomas and the Wildenboers are well established and have college degrees, you can have absolutely zero unconscious bias and still end up with this dynamic.

      Now, that should change over time, and if it doesn’t, that’s a problem, but as a hiring manager you are not going to be able to fix systemic issues that are the result of decisions people made decades or even centuries ago.

  17. Balagia*

    LW3, I’d advise you step back and look at this entire scenario with fresh eyes. I’d also advise you have a meeting just with Shannon, without your manager (who was Shannon’s manager who kicked off this performance management process) also being present.

    I suspect there has been a significant disconnect, and that Shannon does not trust the process she is being out through. If she is rebutting points in writing, it likely means she does not feel comfortable doing so in the meeting, and/or that the points are not being communicated effectively to her. If this process has been dragging on for some time, she is likely frightened and exhausted.

    You need to reassess this entire scenario. What actual problems are there with Shannon’s performance? That is, what requirements of her role is she not meeting, and are they minor or major? If she is actually doing her job, but has a different approach than the one which you and/or your manager take, that’s a preference, not a requirement.

    Do you, and/or your manager, have the ability, professional background, knowledge and skill set to perform Shannon’s role yourselves, or is Shannon’s job not one that either of you can do? If she is the only one who can actually perform her job, neither of you are the correct people to judge this.

    I’d also recommend you speak to Shannon about what supports or accommodations you can put in place, like flexible hours, WFH/hybrid, and providing feedback in writing rather than verbally.

    1. GythaOgden*

      If Shannon is struggling, WFH would be even worse. If I were one of her colleagues and suffering the fallout from her dropping balls, and she appeared to be rewarded for it, I’d walk. (Or at least start looking, because in the UK even resigning would mean I’d have to wait out a month’s notice.) I’m neurodivergent and this stinks because I’ve worked really hard over the last ten years to do my 100% in-person job through thick and thin just in order to stay still, neurologically speaking. If someone is not performing to the point where they’re on the PIP, and hasn’t asked for accommodation for a condition up to now, it’s way, way too late to give them what are regarded as perks in the hope that the issues OP describes will be magically fixed. Sometimes, the person has to learn from experience that if they do have disorders that interfere with work, they have to be proactive about it //and// then live up to expectations afterwards.

      I know we like to side with the employee but having been Shannon in this situation with neurodivergence as a factor, the last thing WFH would have done would have been making me a more productive and focused employee. I wasn’t supervised enough because of the nature of the job back in the day and was sacked for letting too many balls drop (partly because I work best when my duties are clearly spelled out and systematic, partly because my externally-focused anxiety was not easily appeased and interfered with my work, and partly because I was just bone idle, let’s be frank here) so my boss was reluctant to compound the problem.

      Also, the person has to ask for accommodations as well. You can’t just proceed on that assumption and give them unilaterally.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Thank you, I am very tired of the ‘well if so and so isn’t doing their job maybe they have condition X and you should give them accommodations’ thing.

        Just because our brains don’t brain the same way other peoples do is not a reason to assume we need special handholding that we didn’t ask for. It’s also not a reason for bad behaviour.

        And I was once someone who would argue every single point on a PIP via email and not in meetings. Turns out I was wrong.

        1. Balagia*

          It makes me very sad to see neurodivergent people buying into the idea that they should expect to be set up for failure, and that it’s their fault that they cannot fit into neurotypical norms. Our brains are not designed that way.

          Accomodations are the most effective solution, alongside training and proper management support, when it comes to fixing supposed performance issues.

          And you were not wrong to put PIP related arguments in writing in emails, rather than verbally in meetings where there is no record of what was said and agreed to!

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            That is not at all what Keymaster of Gozer said and quite frankly I think your response comes across as patronizing. No one is arguing that accommodations aren’t important, but there is nothing in the letter to suggest that they are needed by Shannon.

            1. Balagia*

              My comment was not meant as patronising, but I am sorry if it read that way. This is what I do every day, so I am passionate about it. I also am ND, which is probably quite clearly demonstrated by this miscommunication. Please see my reply to GythaOgden below.

              1. The Shenanigans*

                It doesn’t really matter what you meant. Your comments ARE patronizing. You seem to have internalized a lot of really self defeating and ableist ideas. The first being that only disabled people have accomodations. Nope. We all accommodate people every day, which is why focusing on what happened vs why is generally effective. The second is that it’s the employers job to figure out these accommodations. Nope. I, as the person who is having trouble, needs to say what it is and what I need. The employee can then help set me up for success by working with me, but I need to start it. That’s a far more empowering way to be than just passively accepting what the job gives and getting mad cuz they can’t read my mind.

                Also, for the record, NT people miscommunicate with each other all the time. NDs are no worse at communicating. We’re just different. Where NT can set us for success is understand that human communication is difficult in general, and be patient with everyone. That will cut down on a good deal of the problems.

          2. GythaOgden*

            We’re not buying into anything. We’re real human beings with experiences and opinions beyond our neurology. Accusing people of internalising some kind of ableist mindset is unfair for a number of reasons:

            – it assumes you speak for everyone when you just speak for yourself. If you’re not actually neurodivergent, then you’re doubling the injustice by trying to force us ND into a kind of ‘magical ND’ stereotype where you, the neurotypical saviour, tell us what we should think.

            – you assume minorities (because this happens with a lot of marginalised people) are helpless to build their own lives, find their own solutions and coping mechanisms or want to integrate into society. You want to keep us in those cute little pigeonholes that make us the ‘other’, rather than allow society to grow with us as part of it.

            – you assume minorities are the sum total of their parts rather than individuals with families, jobs, etc of their own and who have aspirations to be something more than the sum of those parts.

            I generally hate ‘false consciousness’ narratives because at the end of the day they make the person who espouses them arrogant. It suggests you have the answers that we don’t and that we’re simple-minded sheep that need to be corralled away from others. It actually makes you a bigot yourself — you can’t conceive that someone might feel very differently about themselves than you do, have different goals in life, have different situations (I had to get treatment for GAD when my husband was very sick from cancer, because my position as neurodivergent was eclipsed by his needs, and I needed to start taking responsibility, both for him when he was alive and for my own situation after he died; I loved him more than life itself but I matured as a person through dealing with that adversity) and different outlooks. It smothers people’s own ability to make their own mind up about the world and elevates someone else’s opinion above them.

            Knock it off. It’s highly insulting and offensive, and approaches like yours will do a lot of damage to our ability to hold our own in the workplace and grow beyond our identity (and furthermore, I don’t consider autism an identity any more than I consider my broken ankle part of my identity).

            So please step back and listen to other perspectives and other points of view. The tropes you are invoking here are subtle bigotry in themselves, and you don’t get a free pass on ableism because you think you hold a virtuous opinion.

            1. Balagia*

              I am ND, which this miscommunication is probably be good evidence of. My comment came directly from both my heart and my experience. It certainly wasn’t intended to cause offense, and I am very sorry you have been through difficulties.

              It is not an employer or manager’s job to come up with accommodations; they can make informed suggestions based on previous successes, but need to follow the advice of the person themselves, and their treating doctors. It is not about what I think, or the manager thinks, or the c-suite thinks will work.

              I take a trauma-informed, supportive, objective, and empathetic approach to my work, and have successfully implemented supports and accommodations for ND and NT workers alike, and while managers were not always happy that they couldn’t just fire or discipline someone, it saved the jobs and livelihoods of the workers in question, which was my main goal. I do not want anyone to experience workplace abuse, and want everyone to have a safe and supportive work environment.

              Perhaps my personal context would be helpful for you. I was unlawfully fired three times due to a lack of support and managerial discrimination and bullying earlier in my career, and I take matters like this very seriously. These instances were deeply traumatising, abusive, and damaging for me, and I was left homeless more than once. Performance or conduct problems are frequently overstated or created by managers who want to get rid of workers who they do not like or they feel threaten the status quo, and ND people are an extremely common target of this.

              Take good and gentle care.

              1. The Shenanigans*

                Ah, yeah, having your responses here informed by trauma makes sense. You’re seeing your own unjust situation in EVERY situation, which is unhelpful. Traumatic situations are traumatic because they are rare. The fact you work in it means your sample is really skewed, and you’re applying it to situations that are, in fact, very different. Just because YOU were unjustly fired doesn’t mean Shannon will be or I was or anything else. Maybe step back and into a more normal/less traumatic context and see how your words land then. It can be very easy from your POV to take everything as the big bad business and not see that people have agency and aren’t always (usually?) victims.

                And stop excusing miscommunication with ND. Everyone miscommunicates. It’s not a big deal but it’s harder to change the patterns that cause it if you’re always going “but I’m ND”.

          3. The Shenanigans*

            Personally, I’m dismayed to see someone say that ND people should buy into the infantalizing and ableist assumptions that other people know what’s best for us, and that we can’t be trusted to succeed on their own. Which is what the “but what if ND” comments do. Your use of they makes me think that you aren’t ND, which means you are telling other people what is best for them. please stop.

            (Even if you are ND and just don’t want to out yourself…please stop. We don’t more people thinking we are incapable or need extra effort or cause problems in the workplace. That just adds to the problems we face in hiring.)

      2. Balagia*

        With respect, the easiest fix for so many supposed performance problems is accommodations, along with providing adequate training, SOPs, instructions given via the communication method best suited to the employee, and so on.

        We’re all individuals and have different needs. I’m neurodivergent. I find working in the office damaging to my health and productivity. I’m sorry you lost your job, especially when management failed you so badly. It’s their job to set you up for success. And you need to be kind to yourself: there is no such thing a being bone idle.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Well, thank you, but I don’t need your pity. I wasn’t set up to fail — I failed all by myself. Sometimes you have to take responsibility for that failure, because otherwise you’re going to fail over and over again and never work out why that’s happening. Failure teaches us as many lessons as success does. Resilience is an important part of working life, and you can’t get accommodations in my job.

          Quite frankly, you weren’t there in my office and in my head or that of my managers, and you’re not there in Shannon’s or OP’s head either, so please let’s stop with the handwringing. There’s no accommodation that will allow Shannon simply not to do her job, so yeah, in that case, I think it is too late.

          1. The Shenanigans*

            Agreed! Sometimes I’m late on assignments cuz my brain simply froze and I cannot work, sure. Even then, though, it’s in my best interest to work out what triggers that and make sure it doesn’t happen as much as I can. Also, sometimes I’m just lazy. ND people can, in fact, be as crappy as anyone else, lol.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        I agree that offering WFH to someone who is struggling is probably not the right way to go, but I want to push back on the idea that it’s ever “too late” to ask for accommodations.

        1. GythaOgden*

          I disagree. Shannon is not performing. Asking for an accommodation would end up just prolonging the process — there are few actual accommodations that mean someone can just not do their job like what happened with me. My external anxiety was due to me ruminating on things beyond my control and even beyond my direct experience, and although the meds I now take would have fixed them, I spent a summer on and off different pills trying to find the right ones and thus compounding problems at work. There simply wasn’t anything getting done and my manager — we were a satellite office of two people — legitimately needed someone who could turn up and do the job.

          Shannon also has to ask for them, and she has to be able to reasonably show they’re to do with an actual disability rather than the assumption everyone is making without any kind of indication in the OP that she’s declared it. There are barriers to entry here with any kind of disability assistance which are pretty high, and since it’s her job performance that’s lacklustre, I think anything that can be suggested would only compound the current problems rather than solve them.

    2. Tangerine Thief*

      I feel like this response is kind to Shannon but also kind of implies the OP is wrong about her assessment of Shannon and needs to start from scratch even though there’s no evidence the OP is wrong or the PIP is unwarranted. It also misses that Shannon has had long standing issues for over a year prior to this PIP where she could have raised objections or explained herself.

      Likewise, this : ‘ If she is the only one who can actually perform her job, neither of you are the correct people to judge this.’ is fundamentally flawed. You don’t need to know how perform every task your employee does to be able to evaluate outcomes, set targets, provide feedback or to praise and celebrate successes. OP never mentions that they disagree with the PIP or that it’s overly harsh. It also is implying, unintentionally, that OP is wrong about Shannon and all prior actions are wrong when I understand the rule here is to trust the OPs in their assessments of things like this.

      > I’d also recommend you speak to Shannon about what supports or accommodations you can put in place, like flexible hours, WFH/hybrid, and providing feedback in writing rather than verbally.

      I agree with this but only partially. Accommodations and pointing towards an EAP or resources, yes. Offering things like a break during the meeting or a wellbeing break after to destress, sure. I also agree with a suggestion for a chance for Shannon to summarise first to check her understanding. But feedback like those PIP meetings in writing only, no. Preferences and accommodations should not fundamentally avoid steps like face to face meetings to discuss serious issues like ‘your job is at risk’ level performance reviews.

    3. Allonge*

      Do you, and/or your manager, have the ability, professional background, knowledge and skill set to perform Shannon’s role yourselves, or is Shannon’s job not one that either of you can do? If she is the only one who can actually perform her job, neither of you are the correct people to judge this.

      So who would be the right person to judge? There are thousands of people in jobs that cannot be peformed by their bosses and still they are evaluated by them. Could this cause a disconnect? Sure. But Shannon is a fully functional adult and needs to raise this, or any other issue, in the meetings as well as in writing – if she is using ‘in writing only’ as a tactic, it’s a very risky one.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*


        Having a supervisor who cannot do my day-to-day role in its entirety limits the potential for micromanaging, but does nothing to limit their ability to judge my performance. If my goals are articulated, quantified, and qualified, all the supervisor is doing is evaluating my results against them.

    4. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Shannon has trouble internalizing what’s happened at in-person meetings, so your suggestion is that she work from home, which eliminates in-person meetings? Nope.

      1. Balagia*

        Not everyone processes information in the same way, and many employees do not feel comfortable, safe, or supported if they have to attend these types of meetings in-person. Additionally, many people- myself included – work far more effecitvely and productively from home.

        OP needs to speak to Shannon, or get someone objective from HR who is trained and experienced in DEI and accommodations, to see what can be done to set Shannon up for success. Shannon may be failing all on her own, sure, but in reality, as I see every day in my job, that’s extremely unusual.

        1. The Shenanigans*

          Then Shannon needs to raise that herself in those words, not come back and try to cover her asterisk later. The fact is that it’s just too late for this job. Her best bet is evaluate what went wrong and if she needs medical care to get it before her next job. I have autoimmune issues which mean I can’t work in office if I don’t want to end up very very sick. That’s on me to find a WFH job vs go into an office job and tell them I need to work from home. Shannon is trying to insist that she does it her way which is at odds with what the company needs. The only fair solution to all is to ease her out.

    5. Jennifer Strange*

      Why are we talking about accommodations for Shannon? There is nothing in the letter to suggest she is in need of them.

      1. Eliot Waugh*

        Because no one can seem to follow the “don’t make up stuff not in the letter” rule.

        1. Balagia*

          As it is my job to investigate such matters, and implement training, support, and accommodations to ensure workers are set up for success, I am providing my perspective based on my experience and the information available, which I believe is the point of the comments section. we have no information as to what Shannon’s performance issues supposedly are, nor do we know what supports have been provided so far. Accommodations, training, and adjustment of managerial style and communication are three of the most basic things that can be implemented in a case like this, and from my own work, they solve the vast majoirty of problems.

    6. Sharon*

      What sort of points is Shannon disagreeing with? I wonder if you are getting too deep into the weeds in these meeting about what happened on X day and why (I didn’t get the project done because Aunt Tilly was sick and there was a train strike so it shouldn’t count against me) and not focusing enough on what measurable changes need to happen going forward (meet the deadlines or contact manager for a decision about how to move forward at the first sign of trouble).

  18. Shearshucker*

    Popcorn is totally evil, and I’m all for it. Please keep making popcorn.

    I deliberately pop a bag of microwave popcorn on a regular basis (usually in the afternoons) for the primary purpose of making the whole floor smell of popcorn and drive people nuts.

    What can I say? It’s one of those passive-aggressive things I’m doing in rebellion against the place I work, while my deeper evil plans take much longer to foment.

    (Man, I really need a new job.)

    1. Loz*

      Yeah this is the only reason I can think of why anyone would want to make popcorn. It’s disgusting. Smells awful (burnt or otherwise), texture like polystyrene, odd taste. Ughh! I can smell it just typing this.
      Every time I go to the cinema I question my decision to be there. (Then I get past it, watch the movie then affirm I’ll never go back, but for different reasons more suited to weekend threads about movies being generally crap)

      1. Dinwar*

        “Yeah this is the only reason I can think of why anyone would want to make popcorn.”

        The alternative is that people have different tastes than you.

        Back when I could smell I used to hate going to certain restaurants because the air had more capsaicin in it than I could tolerate. Not an asthma attack or anything, just absolutely disgusting to me. But that was a “me” problem–quite obviously everyone sitting there enjoying their meals disagreed with me. And this came into the office. A surprising number of Indian grad students came to the schools I went to, and a fair few of them enjoyed super-spicy foods. I learned not to ask them questions during lunch. But again, it was a “me” problem–they can enjoy whatever foods they want.

        1. Armchair Analyst*

          one common fast sandwich restaurant smelled so, so bad to me during my pregnancy that it took me until my child was 8 years old to go back there to eat

      2. ThatGirl*

        Well that’s just, like, your opinion, man.

        In all seriousness, I love popcorn, so I’m sorry you feel that way. My parents had an old-fashioned popper we used every Sunday and a lot of days in between when I was a kid. All these comments make me want to pop up a bag, and it’s only 9 a.m. here!

      3. The Shenanigans*

        Lol I’m gonna assume you were being sarcastic there re why people make popcorn. I personally love it. Just had some for dinner, in fact.

        I agree about movies though. I barely go anymore.

          1. The Shenanigans*

            Hey now you’re making the same joke they did, where they implied everyone has to like what they like.

  19. What's popping?*

    Mmmm, I used to work somewhere that tried to improve employee moral by purchasing and occasionally deploying a popcorn machine for the staff. It was effective in that morale briefly, temporarily improved whilst the free popcorn was available.

    However it did have the side effect of drastically reducing morale when someone popped an individual bag in the breakroom microwave. The zombified hoards would come alive at the smell, wander down the halls to the breakroom, and find… nothing. The individual bag popper was long gone, and all that remained was the scent of popcorn and impotent rage.

    Which is to say, it’s probably fine to make popcorn at work as long as it’s not faking people out into thinking there’s free popcorn for everyone. Or you could bring a bag of boom chicka pop.

    1. Teacher Teacher*

      I have a standing No Microwave Popcorn Rule in my classroom/office space simply because high school kids can’t pop it without burning it. After The Great Popcorn Fire of 2016 and the week-long odyssey of bad smells that followed it for over a week it’s a rule I stand by. Fortunately Publix sells pre-popped popcorn so the kids know what to request for Snack Day.

      (on my planning period as I type this so don’t @ me.)

  20. Punk*

    LW3: The conversations with Shannon started a year ago and they’re still ongoing. I’d say it’s likely that the meetings feel like a punishment for her and that she’s just agreeing with whatever you say in the meetings, because that’s what we’d all do if we’d been subjected to routine in-person PIP meetings for a year with no indication that they’ll ever stip.

    It sounds like you inherited Shannon and this process from your own manager. I think it’s fair for you to make your own decisions about her performance and develop a new improvement strategy. The whole situation is very nebulous, with you continuing to hold Shannon to a process based on performance that you might not have observed, and did not have authority over at that time. I’m not surprised that she’s checked out of the whole thing.

    1. ecnaseener*

      The letter says Shannon has been given a deadline, so that’s the indication that the meetings will stop one way or the other!

      I disagree with the idea that we’d all act like Shannon in her shoes — if I were disillusioned enough to be checked out of my PIP, I’d be checked out both during the meetings and while signing off on the notes. I wouldn’t be regularly flipping back and forth like this (and I’m someone who prefers to communicate in writing!)

      1. Punk*

        I have a hard time believing that the initial PIP was set with a deadline a year into the future. This isn’t Shannon’s first go-round. She’s not improving but the company also isn’t letting her go and is instead involving her in this cycle that isn’t stopping.

        1. ecnaseener*

          I don’t see any indication that she’s been on the PIP for a year – the letter says she’s been getting feedback for a year or more, not that the PIP meetings have been going on for that long.
          Anything’s possible of course, but I think your assumption that she’s been in a “cycle” is unsupported.

    1. Generic Name*

      You’d be surprised at how long low performers can stick around, especially if the company is the type of place that gives lots of chances and is also maybe a little or a lot conflict avoidant. I had one coworker who prolonged his tenure by at least 6 months because he was out for surgery fairly soon after hire and then on light duty so his manager didn’t get a change to fully evaluate his performance for quite a while. Other coworkers were shuffled around to different departments to try to find a match for their skill set. On one hand it’s nice to see that a company doesn’t immediately rush to fire people, but as a competent employee it can get demoralizing to be constantly picking up the slack.

  21. Still*

    #3 Share screen and take notes during the meeting, get her to agree with the summary before she leaves the room.

    #4 I’m honestly shocked that popping popcorn at work might be seen as okay. It’s a very smelly food and should be avoided, same as fish and boiled eggs. Make the food and eat it in the kitchen, if you must, but for goodness’ sake, don’t bring smelly foods to your desk unless you have an office!

    1. Still*

      …But I’m working from home today so I’ve just popped some popcorn and it does make for an excellent snack! I wonder how many of us will make popcorn today just because of that post!

    2. MicroManagered*

      I had the same thought about #3. Create the summary notes during the meeting in a format she can see while it’s being created, then send that to her after. AND TELL HER WHY you are doing that and that if anything is unclear you want her to ask about it now so that you both have the same takeaways.

      Or a step further, have HER take the notes during the meeting on a shared screen. If you say “it’s raining cats and dogs today” and she writes down “it’s sunny with chance of snow” that’s your opportunity to say hey that’s not what I just said.

    3. birch*

      I have a feeling this is a hot take and I’m gonna be called a grinch but I agree with you, IMO popcorn as a work snack is bizarre. It’s a food culturally associated mainly with entertainment–movie theaters, carnivals, fairs–it’s messy, usually covered in butter if not other seasonings, leaves crumbs everywhere, smells strongly even when cooked properly, and is impossible to eat quietly. None of those things are conducive to a peaceful workspace. (And that last is the big thing for me, people constantly eating while I’m trying to work is awful. Yes, I get that some people need to eat frequently. Some of us can’t focus when others are chewing and crunching nearby. It’s gotta be a negotiation. So grateful my officemates share a mutual agreement to generally not eat in the shared tiny office space and that we have a nice coffee room nearby!)

    4. The Shenanigans*

      Serious question but how are boiled eggs smelly unless they are rotten? I also grew up on the coast so barely even notice fish smells anymore.

      I guess this just shows why there are so many letters on this issue! There’s a lot of variation in personal taste (and smell).

  22. VP of Monitoring Employees' LinkedIn Profiles*


    You did nothing wrong. If you had given “only” three months, she would have complained that you didn’t give SIX months or a full year.

  23. Minnie*

    It’s so weird to read these as a European – here in Germany it’s standard to give 3 months notice! And yes, the future employer knows they will have to wait three months when they hire someone who already has a job. The longest notice period I have had was 6 months and that seriously terrible. A lot of companies were not willing to wait that long but my employer was unwilling to let me go any earlier than they had to. They even assigned me to new projects. As you can imagine, I wasn’t really motivated to do anything at that point…

    1. Totally Minnie*

      It all comes down to what is standard and expected where you live. If you live in a place where three months is standard, then your new employer expects that when they make an offer, their new hire will start three months from now. However, in the US where most industries operate on a two-week notice, employers generally expect that their new hire will start within 2-3 weeks of the offer being made. In that case, asking to push your start date back by two additional months is likely to cause a hardship for your new employer, and they may end up deciding they can’t wait that long.

      1. Quill*

        I’m guessing that in places where you hire for three months out people who are being laid off don’t find out half an hour before their desk is supposed to be cleared. (And/or that unemployment provisions are such that if you do get laid off and have to wait three months to start your new job you can continue living more or less as normal.)

        That said, many of my previous (US) employers often don’t understand how long their own hiring process takes. “Can you start next tuesday?” Ma’am in my experience if you require a drug test you will be lucky if it comes back in less than two weeks. If you hire me today, they’ll order the test tomorrow or the day after, and they may not manage a same day appointment. Depending on how thoroughly they’re testing and how far they send it, results will be 3-5 business days after. Also, IT won’t start setting up anything until results are in. I can start as soon as they tell me they actually have me in the system. Otherwise I’m going to be spending my first day on the phone with IT to track down what’s actually done.

    2. amoeba*

      Yeah – I can easily see the same situation play out with the German 3 months though! (Especially as the 3 month notice doesn’t really help with finding a replacement without having a gap between – as all other candidates will probably have their own notice periods to work through…)

      It is amusing to read how absurd such a long notice period appears to US or even UK readers though. As so many things, it’s just a matter of what you’re used to…

      1. Loredena*

        It is mostly what you’re used to! I do wonder how often people mentally check out with such long notice though. I’m planning surgery in 2 months and retirement 4 months or so after I return and I’m definitely checked out mentally. (I’m also a consultant on the bench being pushed to work on training and certifications though. I’d likely be more engaged if on a project)

    3. Artemesia*

      There are also laws in European countries that give huge severances payments or notice when someone is laid off and other labor protections. In the US if I give 3 mos notice because I am nice and want to make the job of management easier, they can decide to walk me today and leave me with no income for those 3 mos.

  24. Yellow cake*

    LW1 while you didn’t do anything wrong, I completely understand why your family member was annoyed/upset that you didn’t give them a heads up.

    It is unlikely that your new job literally just fell into your lap the day before. The most likely scenario is you submitted an application and then interviewed and was offered a job. Even more likely is that you started job hunting before that. Depending on the work that likely at least another week if not several.

    It sounds like you have not been functioning as just an employee (living at their home, being driven around etc). I’m surprised you were unaware of their month long trip coming up. I’m surprised you didn’t realise that resigning at this time would be problematic.

    That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have found a new job, and it’s possible that they have been annoyed even I’d they did have a heads up (the holiday might still have had to be cancelled depending on dates). But I think you did owe them a warning that you were job hunting, or at least applying.

    1. kiki*

      But I think you did owe them a warning that you were job hunting, or at least applying.

      It really depends on LW’s trust that their boss wouldn’t push them out of the job early or treat them differently once they’ve given notice. Especially because job hunting can take many months or even years. I don’t know LW’s exact relationship with their family member/boss, but it seems like there is some dysfunction– enough to make LW wary of boss’s reaction. It’s unfortunate because it is more difficult to cover a departure in a small business and it makes sense that boss will need to cancel their trip, but that’s part of what being a small-business owner entails.

      1. HonorBox*

        Yep. In some situations, giving a boss a heads up that you’re searching is fine. But it sounds like LW has some concern about potential dysfunction or a poor response from the boss, and we don’t know all that is going on behind the scenes. Sure it would have been kind to give boss some sort of inkling, but if it put LW in some kind of bad spot, LW had to do what is best for them.

        If boss is laying a guilt trip on the LW now, I imagine the guilt trip would have been as much or more had notice been given further in advance.

        Regardless of the situation, three months is much too much, even for a small business.

    2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      While living in the family member’s home complicates things, it complicates it for the OP too. If she had announced she was looking — knowing the family member is prone to drama — can you imagine the home life? Not only would she be guilt-tripped at work for leaving, she would have been guilt-tripped at home too.

      With drama llamas, the best thing you can do is give them less information, not more. Because they will always, always, always find something to be dramatic about.

      What the OP should have done is moved out, stop accepting rides, etc. to make the break cleaner and easier.

      1. Rose*

        Then OP should move out. You can’t take someone’s generosity and simultaneously say they’re so manipulative and awful that you’re not going to treat them well.

        1. The Shenanigans*

          Where did OP say they weren’t going to treat them well?? 2 weeks is the professional courtesy. Living with them was a business decision on the part of the owner, so they don’t get make any family arguments about it. And yes, with family jobs, they ABSOLUTELY fall out of the sky. Nepotism is very much a thing so I’d be surprised if the OP applied like normal vs being told “I have an opening please start right away”. If the owner wanted the OP to think family first and business second, they needed to have said so.

    3. Lynn*


      Regular job at a family business where you’re keeping things strictly business – two weeks notice.

      But you don’t get to live like a teenager with free rent and rides, and then get to say “but it’s just business”.

      Dysfunctional business or not, you chose to live there and be treated as more than an employee, so I understand why the hurt feelings.

      A specific 3 month notice is impractical, but a heads up to job hunting would have been appropriate.

      1. Rose*

        Thank you. OP is really cherry-picking when they want to be family and when they want to be an employee. It doesn’t work that way. If this family member was SO untrustworthy and manipulative that you can’t notice, you shouldn’t have been taking all of those favors from them.

        The answer is not just “take all the favors you want then leave them high and dry because you don’t trust their integrity.”

    4. SoloKid*

      Agreed. I would say that LW1’s boss’s reaction is perfectly “normal”, even if LW1 is in the legal right. That wasn’t an ordinary employment situation – I don’t live with my employers.

      As for the pay issues, I wouldn’t pursue it unless it was a lifechanging amount.

  25. DJ Abbott*

    #5, if you ask your employer if it’s OK to do the freelance job and they say yes, be sure to get their consent in writing, and keep a printout of it in your home.

  26. notapaladin*

    I am *at best* chaotic neutral, so grains of salt etc., but if you make popcorn and then burn a handful, just enough for a light aroma of burnt, people won’t try taking your popcorn.

    1. KateM*

      Or, next time they will try to take your popcorn away from you before you make it, to make sure they don’t have ti live with burnt popcorn smell.

  27. Cat's Paw for Cats*

    OP3, it may be that Shannon is anticipating making a claim that you were not clear in your expectation for her improvement and therefore can’t terminate her. I would plan for this and have someone sit in on the meetings, possibly your manager or someone from HR. Then distribute a conference summary to all. I would then follow through with whatever action is appropriate if she doesn’t meet expectations.

    1. cardigarden*

      This was the vibe I was getting as well. My Shannon had minimal accountability from previous managers and it was obvious in their complete lack of performance. Throughout the whole (approved by my own management and HR) PIP process, their strategy was to try and portray me as inexperienced and bad at my job to get me to back off. This just feels like Shannon is trying to lay her own paper trail to fight an eventual termination.

      1. Cat's Paw for Cats*

        Were you able to terminate? If you have the backing of your supervisors and HR, you should be fine.

        1. cardigarden*

          Ultimately enough improvement was made to come off the PIP, but I was told to remain vigilant about any ongoing behavior issues. We’re currently in a detente so there’s been nothing to document. Work’s getting done, at least. Although, there were several interactions that should have merited being shown the door had previous managers done their job with regard to documentation.

          1. Cat's Paw for Cats*

            I’m sorry to hear that. It can be a nightmare to follow a cowardly manager. Although to be fair, sometimes they have no support from their managers.

  28. Alternative Person*


    I agree with Alison here, as long as there’s no policy against it, it won’t affect your regular work and you want to/are interested in doing it then you can go ahead.

  29. Managing to get by*

    LW 3, try reviewing the recap at the end of the meeting then sending to her.

    this is admittedly easier if you’re remote; you can take notes through the meeting then at the end share screen and walk through the email with her then hit send.

    in person you may need to recap verbally at the end but try to send the email right away, before she can rewrite the meeting in her head.

    1. Samwise*

      You can take notes on a shared screen at an in person meeting. Open up your email, start typing.

      I do it every single day. I read the email to the student and they can see what I’m typing as I go along, as well. I ask if they have any questions or need to add anything. I send the email before the student leaves my office.

  30. Sally*

    LW#3, the first thing I thought while reading this is that Shannon might just be getting outside input after receiving the email summary. Maybe she shares the email with a spouse/parent/friend who then comes up with a rebuttal.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      But then OP asks about it at the next meeting and gets grey rocked. If someone outside raised these concerns and caused Shannon to think, she would then have something to say about her thoughts.

      Shannon has been have on this PIP a while. Shannon is deflecting in order to make it seem like she can’t be fired for things that aren’t her fault.

  31. Dinwar*

    I think the notice thing and the popcorn thing have roughly the same answer: You’re never going to make everyone happy. A good-faith effort is expected of everyone (don’t quite with a day’s notice; don’t burn the popcorn), but at the end of the day you can’t go through life without some friction. And frankly anyone who expects three moths notice, or who threatens you over the aroma of an extremely common food, isn’t a reasonable person anyway. You’re under no obligation to accommodate unreasonable people.

    I have a very strong feeling that in both cases attempts to accommodate the unreasonable person will be taken as signs of weakness, and they will demand even more. Meeting in the middle only works if the other person is willing to do so. If you’re dealing with an unreasonable person they’ll just shift their stance to be even more extreme (six moths notice is expected! No snacks at all!). You see this a lot in courtrooms, especially in divorces. It’s got a name, which I cannot for the life of me remember.

  32. Juicebox Hero*

    My sister’s workplace has officially banned microwave popcorn because people kept burning it. Apparently people would just set the timer for some random time and walk away. The last straw was when they had to evacuate their very large, very busy building 3 times in one week, in the middle of winter, because of burnt popcorn setting off the fire alarms.

    She said after the ban there was a lot of drama, especially because the vending machines still had microwave popcorn for sale in them, so they could buy it but not pop it and that was just like so totally unfair, man! Management said that was a very good point and the next day all microwave popcorn was gone from the vending machines.

    1. Yeah...*

      Story time…a now retired co-worker set the microwave on fire making popcorn. She set for 6 minutes (or something), the microwave was still running when she discovered the flaming bag of popcorn! She threw the bag away and didn’t clean the microwave. She avoided all conversations about who was the offending cook of the popcorn. The office consensus was a new microwave should be purchased. (It could have been cleaned, but I respect that for communal use items, standards may be different your for your personal property.) She didn’t contribute any money. I always thought that was tacky.

    2. Generic Name*

      I love burnt popcorn drama! In the last building I worked in, it was a shared building if independent office suites but a common kitchen. One of the other suites was a massage business, but it seemed like the proprietor’s daughter also lived there. I was doing a lot of fieldwork at the time, so was often at the office at odd hours, and she was always there. Often seen walking down the hallway in pajama pants and messy hair and generally looking like she had just woken up. Well one day, I come in the building and the entire floor smells like burned popcorn. Rumor was the daughter not only burned a bag of popcorn, but completely incinerated it. Down to carbon. She did try to clean it up and attempted to cover the smell with essential oils, but the microwave was ruined. The office that had bought the microwave ended up replacing it, which I thought was very gracious of them.


      I worked in a large hospital many moons ago that banned microwave popcorn because at least twice a week it set off the fire alarms and they had to evacuate patients on the floor closest to the cafeteria.

    4. JustaTech*

      My company used to have some offices in a giant office tower that explicitly banned toasters and microwave popcorn because of the huge hassle of evacuating a 40+ story building over some burnt popcorn.
      Perfectly reasonable.

      But then we closed those offices and moved the folks to our own, short building where we did have both toasters (that folks had brought from home) and microwave popcorn. Someone from the old building saw them and got upset and went to facilities and demanded that they be removed because they “weren’t allowed by law”. So facilities, who was run by the most easily steamrolled guy in the world, took away the (personal) toasters.

      When the toasters were discovered to be gone there was *much* fuss from the people who were expecting them. I had a free morning and no chill, so I looked up all the laws and got the toasters back.

  33. Han Sola*

    I had kind of an extreme reaction to the popcorn one. I know it the OP was probably being playful, but food is not evil. Eating food is not evil. Now, if you are worried about the SMELL bothering people because popcorn really does stink and linger, that is different, but not the temptation part. In general, you are allowed to eat whatever food you want. If other people want popcorn, then they will get popcorn. And if they want popcorn but won’t eat it due to some reason then…Sorry, this just is a very diet culture mentality and I hate to see it at work.

    1. Dinwar*

      I saw that dynamic play out with coffee. We had a big, fancy coffee maker that would make nearly anything you could want, but it was always going down. Turns out when you put fifty thousand moving parts and sixty different fluids in a machine there’s a lot of failure points (I exaggerate, but not by much). So I got a French press and made my own coffee. People threatened to steal my French press! Like, seriously, we’re well-paid engineers and scientists; take $20, walk to any of the dozen or so stores that sell this sort of thing, and get your own….

      People have really weird hang-ups over food in the office. Objective problems are one thing–don’t kill your coworkers or cause work stoppages due to evacuations!–but “You make me hungry ergo you are evil” would be seen as absurd in any other situation.

    2. Overeducated*

      I read it more as “it’s evil because all the people who will smell the popcorn and want it probably don’t have the ability to walk out of their cubicles and immediately go to the store to get some.” It’s not mildly evil because it’s bad to eat popcorn or make others want to eat it, it’s mildly evil because it smells enough that everyone will notice, but OP’s not providing enough for everyone. I wouldn’t tell OP NOT to bring it to work because workers aren’t children and don’t need instant gratification, but in an open office environment, yeah, mildly evil.

      1. Pet Jack*

        The same can be said for anything you eat though. If I bring a giant chocolate cake and eat it all at my desk in an office plan where everyone can see. Or, basically anything that people bring in and then anyone wants it but cant because there is no instant amazon delivery. It’s one of those…not your responsibility and people are adults.

      2. amoeba*

        Yup, that was my take as well. Like is it evil to tempt my coworkers with the smell of something delicious that they cannot have (because I’m not sharing)?
        Which is obviously a humorous exaggeration anyways, but I didn’t get any vibes of judging food at all.

    3. Sneaky Squirrel*

      I think OP genuinely meant that it would be evil to their peers to taunt them with popcorn smells, not that the food itself is evil (and I agree, diet culture sucks and foods shouldn’t be looked down upon as “bad” or “good”).

      Personally, I say eat whatever foods you want in an office. If it makes others want it, they can bring their own in. However, it is also considered polite office etiquette to be aware that the food you make sometimes emits an aroma around the entire area and it’s rather unpleasant for others to be smelling your reheated fish or broccoli.

    4. Guillermo's Frog Spawn*

      Reading some of the comments here you’d think the OP was suggesting microwaving a live kitten

    5. Still*

      It was obviously a tongue-in-cheek way of asking if it is inconsiderate to eat food that’s both commonly liked and extremely noticeable, and therefore likely to make people hungry for something they probably don’t have at hand. I’m against diet culture but I don’t think this is it. The question wasn’t about putting a moral value on food, it was a humorous way of asking if it’s acceptable to flaunt a tasty snack.

  34. Waaaaay side*

    #3 Build her meeting responses of in person vs later, into your next meeting as part of the PIP. Some (softer) version of you’re either stupid or you’re a liar trying to manipulate the process and neither of these characteristics are what we need in this role.

  35. HonorBox*

    OP3 – Question: How long are you and your manager willing to let Shannon continue to not do her best work? If this has been going on for a year, is it time to put together a formal PIP? Is it time to rip the band-aid and let Shannon go? It sounds like you’re investing a lot of time and not getting results, and at some point it might be worth making a change.

    Is your manager copied when you’re emailing with Shannon? If not, I’d forward one of her messages to your manager and then march in and have a conversation. It sounds like she’s just not getting it and your manager needs to step in to help you figure out the best solution to the problem.

    1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      OP3 says that Shannon has been given a deadline to improve her performance, and they have been discussing what improvements are needed. That may not be formally labeled a “performance improvement plan,” but it’s clearly intended for the same purpose.

      Some companies have policies that say it has to be formally labeled a Performance Improvement Plan, and what needs to be in that, there’s no reason to say “we’ve been discussing how to improve your performance for a year. We are now starting the formal process of a PIP, with X and Y deadlines for Z1-Z4 measurable improvements. If you aren’t meeting them in that time frame, we will have to let you go.”

      Looking at it that way reminds me of the sort of person who will say “you can’t break up with me without my agreement” and demand a chance to address issues that they were told about repeatedly and didn’t care about until it went from “I’m not happy” through “if this continues I’m leaving” to “since nothing has changed, goodbye.”

  36. Pinto Bean*

    LW#2, I also hire student workers at a large university, and receive hundreds of applications for these on-campus jobs. part of the issue for me, and maybe for you, is that our on-campus employment system itself makes it easy, perhaps too easy, for students to apply for multiple positions.

    And for about 99% of the student jobs I manage, an “ideal candidate” needs a willingness to learn our office systems and a general ability to interact with office visitors. We teach them any specific things they need to know. This means that phone screening 15 candidates typically produces …. 15 students who are more than capable of doing the work. There is very little about these jobs that would give one candidate an “edge” over another.

    Some things that I do are:

    -immediately screen for cover letters that indicate that the applicant is interested in my specific campus job, and by this I mean any indication that they have read the job posting before submitting their application.

    -include specific hours in the job posting and ask applicants to confirm their availability for those hours in their cover letter. I only move forward with applicants who do this (you might be surprised by how many do not). Even if you can be somewhat flexible with the hours, go with your most ideal times as a screening tool.

    -if you need a person with a specific skill, ask for the cover letter to provide information that speaks directly to their experience with that skill. If it is not included in the cover letter, I do not move forward with their application, even if it may be on the resume.

    -have a very short (48 hours) application period for the listing, this might be limited by your campus posting system, but go with whatever the minimum posting period is.

    I know our campus system is frustrating to students as well, they apply for many jobs and might not receive any interviews. It’s just too high of a noise to signal ratio for the hiring manager. I don’t know how to solve this systemic problem, but I give detailed feedback to our campus employment department in hopes that it might improve future iterations of campus hiring.

    1. Student*

      When you say, “This means that phone screening 15 candidates typically produces …. 15 students who are more than capable of doing the work. There is very little about these jobs that would give one candidate an “edge” over another,” but then say “It’s just too high of a noise to signal ratio for the hiring manager,” you’re contradicting yourself.

      If you can screen 15 candidates and get 15 people what are capable of doing the job, then you have a signal of 15 and noise of 0. You have loads of signal, no noise – the exact opposite of your second sentence. Unless you left something critical out, you’re in the ideal position as a hiring manager. This system sucks for the students – they are qualified or over-qualified but don’t necessarily get jobs.

      1. metadata minion*

        On the one hand, yes, it’s ideal to have many very qualified candidates. But it makes it very difficult to then decide between them and there’s a huge chance of introducing unconscious bias.

    2. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      This–I also have done lots of student employee hiring, but only ever one student at a time. The best way to narrow it down is exactly what Pinto Bean is describing. Narrow as much as you can based on your needs (schedule, cover letter, short application period, scope of work) when you create the job posting. Then narrow further based on who clearly read the job description. Sometimes that can get you down to a reasonable 5 or so.

      Sometimes, you’ll still have dozens. If we needed to narrow further, we would usually cut anyone in their first or last semester–reasoning that brand new freshmen usually need a semester to get their bearings on their class workload/life balance, and that seniors on their last semester were going to need to be replaced almost immediately, and the training would be better spent on someone who would at least possibly stay for more than one semester. If we still had more than 20 at that point, we would rank by GPA and just start from the top and work our way down interviewing until we had someone.

      The bit about doing phone screens is one of the few times I’ve disagreed with Allison–it’s a great step for regular jobs, but for student employees for a university job, it’s just not going to be worth it. At best, you might screen out one or two students who just don’t like to talk on the phone–which is only a relevant skill if you’re hiring them to do something involving answering a phone (which was never a skill we needed).

    3. Little beans*

      Yep, these are great tips! I just hired student workers and I asked everyone to apply via a custom Google form (not the campus HR portal). I asked for a brief why are you interested in this job, and availability, and selected who to move forward with almost exclusively on those two factors rather than their resume. The truth is we just need a warm body and almost anyone could do it!

  37. Lacey*

    Great advice on #5
    You really have to know your company’s policies.

    I worked for a company where they had a very strict policy on freelancing. I had a coworker who was constantly trying to get me to take on freelance gigs that would have broken that policy (and as obvs breaking the policy himself) and I always turned those down.

    I don’t think anyone would have found out – since he was getting away with it, but it wasn’t worth the risk.

    My current employer doesn’t care what kind of freelancing I do. Because of what the company does there’s no way I’d end up competing with them and they know they’re not paying market rate, so this makes them feel slightly less guilty.

    And then again – I interviewed with a different company where it would be the exact same scenario (no risk of competing, wildly underpaying staff) and they won’t let anyone work a second job bc they want you to save all your energy for them. Rude.

    1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      My company walks a bit of a middle line — it’s okay to have other employment as long as it’s not a conflict of interest AND it doesn’t distract from job duties in any way. (This covers a lot of ground considering our broad set of clients and that we do knowledge/creative work.) It’s a reasonable policy, though it occurs to me that if a boss wanted to make trouble for a moonlighting employee it would be easy to say that any slip in performance/hours is due to outside work, even unrelated work.

      1. UKDancer*

        My company is broadly the same. I’m not allowed to take anything that conflicts with my day job. So I can’t work at the same time for our number one competitor. I also can’t work for any of our supply chain as it would give them an advantage over comparable companies when bidding for work.

        They’re pretty flexible on things that don’t conflict with work, so I’ve one colleague who sits as a magistrate and another who makes and decorates cakes. Both of which have nothing to do with the day job.

  38. Bear Expert*

    There are so many things that could be going on with Shannon.

    I don’t think you can fix it until you ask her what she thinks is going on. Maybe she’s unaware with the work norms around a recap and notes being for what was said, not an opening for more discussion. Maybe she thinks of concerns later and they loom so large that when she sees the “We’re going with Plan Now Obviously Flawed” in email she can’t help herself. Maybe she thinks she’s being helpful. Maybe she’s trying to rewrite history to muddy the waters. Maybe she honestly doesn’t recall the discussion that way. Maybe her attempts to bring up concerns in the meeting are so gentle they’re overshadowed by how she communicates enthusiasm for the over all plan, or at least the way she is trying to communicate support. Possibly telepathically gentle. I don’t know, I don’t think OP knows, and I give Shannon a 70/30 shot that she knows and maybe 50/50 that she’ll share.

    Focus on your goals. You want to have an agreed upon record of what will be talked about (agenda) what was talked about (recap and notes) and what will be done (action items with dates and measures)

    I’d ask her what is going on and what she thinks she can do to support those goals. (You’re the boss, you get to make the goals. She can say she sees issues with the goals, but you get to determine them before or after her considerations.) We’re not getting an agreed upon record of what was discussed. Does she have a plan for how to make that happen?

    One option may be to have her live write the notes and you read them while you do your recap and she sends them out before you leave the room. Google docs, a meeting notes template, and the agenda will go a long way toward having a framework that makes the recording process supported and neutral, but you’ll be able to see her framing and pick up on any in the room concerns. Hopefully.

    Absolutely address the current responses though – direct to adding new concerns to the next agenda, but staying with this course of action, redirect to what action items are due before next time. “These look like valid concerns, but these notes reflect what was actually discussed. I’ve added “friction burns from over grooming the llamas” to the agenda for next time” Or “Those concerns weren’t brought up in the meeting, so they aren’t in the notes, and we will be continuing with the agreed upon action items as set.” if the concerns kinda aren’t valid.

  39. random poster #7*

    LW #2 – you’re doing much better than lots of academic folks in a similar position. When I was in grad school, there was a department that sat at the nexus of a lot of different grad programs and needed a lot of instructors for huge undergrad classes. Since those instructor roles came w/ tuition remission and a stipend, the department received a huge number of applications and eventually I heard that one of the lead instructors (a full-time lecturer, not a student) would hire from among the pool who submitted both an application and an individual follow-up email describing how interested they were in the job. This was a successful approach, I found, as I did it and got hired, but it required people to know the unwritten rule and in no way rewarded the most qualified or those with highest need. Thanks for being more thoughtful than this!

  40. Yossariana*

    Microwave popcorn smell (not ‘real’ popcorn smell, which is fine) makes me nauseated and can be a migraine trigger for me…..thanks for the reminder of one of the many tiny, small, medium, and big reasons why I don’t miss in-person work. Remote work for the win! (:

    1. umami*

      Yes, I have had to ban microwaving popcorn at work because it’s too fraught! Feel free to bring popped popcorn, but you can’t pop it at work.

    2. JustaTech*

      I want to check in with folks, when you say “microwave popcorn” do you mean the kind that is in the bags explicitly labeled “microwave popcorn” with the flavors and stuff?

      Because plain popcorn can be popped in the microwave, either in a special bowl, or even in a plain brown paper bag.

      Like, is it the other flavors, or the sudden strong smell of popcorn popping? (I imagine it’s the flavors in the bag rather than the popcorn itself, but I want to understand.)

      1. Dinwar*

        I know the fumes from the flavored stuff can cause problems–there’s been at least one medical case from (admittedly excessive) consumption, and factory workers had lung issues. The formulas have been redone, so this shouldn’t be a problem now, but this is a reasonable concern. And the odors are fairly strong, especially if the chemicals char.

        I can’t for the life of me figure out what people object to with microwaved plane popcorn in a brown paper bag. Even back when I could smell corn, popped, boiled, grilled, creamed, canned, whatever, didn’t have a strong aroma.

  41. Something Wicked This Way Comes*

    #5 I would not say anything.

    I worked at a company that would fire anyone they discovered had a second job, or was even applying for one. A co-worker in the finance department of our large, multinational, tech company applied for a weekend/evening part time job at a local drug store. No conflict of interest whatsoever. When the company learned she was applying for this job, they fired her on the spot.

    Gibbs rule number 18 – It’s better to seek forgiveness than ask permission.

    1. Antilles*

      Gibbs rule number 18 – It’s better to seek forgiveness than ask permission.
      This is *very* company and industry dependent.
      If you’re freelancing in the same industry, every employer I’ve ever worked for would want to know first so they can check for potential conflicts of interest, contractual requirements, or legal concerns. If you asked permission first, you’d often get a “yes” or “yes with certain limitations”.
      But if you went ahead and did it without asking, you’d potentially get fired for-cause if/when management found out about it. And that ‘potentially fired’ would turn into ‘absolutely fired’ if it turns out there is some kind of issue that would have led them to say no in the first place.

      1. Quill*

        I may be being too reasonable here, but forgiveness instead of permission works specifically for things where it’s actually plausible that reasonable people would not have seen a conflict of interest. Say you’re a llama groomer and you write novels about coffee detectives on the side – the two jobs are clearly unrelated. No reasonable llama grooming company could call that a conflict of interest. Same if you’re a beverage snorkeler for 40 hours during the week and you are a cashier at the local nose ring boutique on the weekends.

        If the two fields overlap, then you definitely don’t want to pull a gibbs – lets say you’re a graphic designer of leaf shaped logos and you also freelance as a graphic designer for flower shaped logos. That could be a potential conflict of interest / poaching of clients / use of company resources (depending on if your company bought the software you’re using, etc.)

  42. Someone Else's Boss*

    LW3 – Something I’ve done with employees who don’t seem to be paying attention might also work here. Why not have Shannon voice the summary at the end of the call while you take notes? Then you can read the notes back to her, ensure it’s what she understood, and send out those exact notes? I find that it’s easy to agree with what someone is saying, even when you don’t understand it, so some employees grasp better if they are forced to think through and summarize themselves.

  43. BradC*

    LW3, I couldn’t quite tell whether these were 1-on-1 meetings with Shannon that she’s later disputing the written summary? Or whether they are group/department meetings involving other people? Because I’d view them quite differently (maybe involving fear of speaking up in groups?).

    But in either case, it doesn’t sound like she is simply saying “I’ve had time to think about X, and I have some further thoughts…” which, although annoying, would be more in the realm of normal.

  44. Brain the Brian*

    I will couch this by saying I am not on a PIP or — to my knowledge — near one. That said… I’m eight years into my current job and still find it difficult to raise issues with my manager in our one-on-ones. It’s a little bit difficult to do when a “regular” day for her is working 7am-9pm, a “vacation” for her always involves doing at least four hours of work every day, and she starts most meetings by saying she’s busy and frazzled and looking for a solution to a 20% finding shortage for the year. Even if I know in my head that this isn’t terribly functional and I should raise issues anyway, I find it very difficult to do so because, well, a clearly stressed human is sitting across the table from me and I don’t want to add to her stress. Very often, after our meeting, I will decide that something I avoided mentioning is too important to stave off any long, and I will send a note about it separately.

    I realize Shannon’s situation is likely different than mine. But, LW3, how would framing this in your own as Shannon being stressed to / afraid of contradicting you or raising additional points in meetings work for your own sake? Would it help you find kind-but-firm wording? Or make it worse?

    Genuinely trying to help here…

    1. Allonge*

      I appreciate that you are coming out of good intentions, but if someone reporting to me would not address issues with me, depite a clarity that issues indeed exist, that would add to my stress, not decrease it. If we have a bilateral and you say all is going well, and then regularly I get an email from you afterwards saying that actually the Llamas account has major issues, that is not helpful – I need to be able to trust what you say.

      If a manager is unreasonable, or if the issues are very infrequent / likely to go away by themselves, that might be a better reason to not address them, but otherwise, this is a surface-level treatment at best and actively making things worse at worst.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        I mean, yes. This all makes perfect sense to me. It does not make it any easier to do in real-time. We get to the two-hour mark, she’s used an hour of the meeting to write emails that she hasn’t had time to write and that my presence in her office is reminding her she needs to send, we’ve spent the other hour doing a deep-dive on one important topic — and at that point, how am I supposed to mention that I need Monday off or I’m still waiting for approval for a proposal that’s a week late or another department is flatly ignoring me or whatever else? We’re both exhausted and still have full inboxes…

        Anyway, my point as it relates to LW3 is that if there’s a possibility Shannon is struggling with how to bring up problems or afraid of being chastised about the problem instead of discussing solutions — something that might be the case if she’s been through three managers in a short span! — LW3 might try framing it mentally that way rather than as a punitive measure.

        1. HipsAndMakers*

          Kindly, if this is a pattern (you are having *two-hour* one-on-one meetings [major flag one] and she uses the first hour as admin time [major flag two]), you have to manage up and put all these urgent things on her plate before she even gets started. If she says “just a minute, I realized that I have to send this email” you have to say “of course, but let me summarize my leave/this approval/this conflict right off so that you can draft any emails or add any calendar reminders that you need with this information in hand”.

          If you get chastised or berated for doing that, then okay, maybe email is the only solution for proving that you raised the issue, but we don’t have any reason to believe that is happening here. Shannon has already been asked why she’s doing it. If LW3 really were demonstrating these behaviors, it seems like Shannon would have said that in her “strongly” worded emails.

        2. The Shenanigans*

          You just…do. Either when you get in, or on the way out, say “Oh one more thing…”. And if you aren’t able to meet with her on what you need, and it’s impacting your job, then the next step is talk to her boss. If you can’t do your job, then your manager isn’t doing hers.

  45. Sara without an H*

    Hi, LW#3 — Does your firm have anybody in HR? Because I think it’s past time both you and your manager sat down with them. Whether or not they have useful advice to offer, you need to loop them in and get clear on your firm’s requirements for documentation.

    From your description, it sounds as though your firm has a culture of dragging out employee issues. Shannon’s been there three years, under two different managers, and appears to have ongoing problems with basic functions of her job. How long do you and your manager plan to keep her on if she doesn’t meet her targets for improvement? Are you both going to treat the issues you describe as grounds for extending the process yet again?

    There are a lot of good suggestions upstream. Yes, by all means, have the conversation Alison describes. But read your employee handbook (if your company has one), then schedule a meeting between your boss and HR, and make a plan for processing Shannon out if she doesn’t show radical improvement within a short timeframe. (Emphasis on “short.”) Dragging this out further isn’t fair to you, Shannon, or your company.

  46. Workfromhome*

    #3 That employee needs to be let go.
    They already have issues and now they are disputing the meeting notes you send them.

    To be safe you need to start putting the notes during your meeting into a document and review it at the end of the meeting. Nothing fancy but a list of bullet points. 1. You achieved 50% of target and we agree you need to be at at least 80% 2. You will submit your report every Monday etc.
    Print it out and have her sign it.
    Then email her the summary.

    If its being done virtually share the summary with her at end of meeting and have her type I XX acknowledge this is accurate and the date

    Its ridiculous and extra work but is probably the documentation and protection you need to get rid of her without incident.

  47. Jinni*

    LW2: I’ve been thinking about this and have only a single thought.

    Since you’re sensitive to fairness, the only thought I have is what is ‘qualified.’ Where I went to school (New England liberal arts), student jobs were required of those with financial aid and students were required to be qualified.

    The result was that students of color were mostly qualified for jobs including washing dishes and cleaning the dining rooms of current students, or working as cater waiters at on-campus events, or handing out parking tickets. White students were qualified for docent positions or library positions.

    ‘Qualifications’ were based on high school jobs or volunteer positions.

    I’m not suggesting this kind of bias on your part, as you appear very conscientious. But this was a glaring difference in school that made me an early skeptic of what it took to be qualified where 90% of the job was learned…on the job.

  48. TiffIf*

    I had a job at a library once where popcorn was expressly forbidden because the smell carried so well. Library staff could have food and had access to the employee break rooms and microwaves etc, but patrons were not allowed to have food. The staff handbook specifically said popcorn and pizza were forbidden in the breakrooms because the smell would carry to the other areas.

  49. gingersnap*

    I have to disagree with Alison on the popcorn advice. I used to work steps away from a shared kitchenette, right next door to a coworker who made movie theater butter microwave popcorn every. single. day. It drove me crazy. Either I wanted popcorn myself or the smell was so strong it made me nauseous. People from outside our suite would comment on the smell – some found it funny, others were annoyed. But every day between 2 and 3pm, this guy made popcorn. I think popcorn falls under the no smelly foods in shared office spaces rule. I guess once in awhile wouldn’t have bothered me as much, but the fact that it was every day drove me insane. Thankfully I’m at a new job and I’m a whole floor away from the kitchen and no one seems as popcorn obsessed.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      It’s kind of a weird one because OP was coming at it from a perspective of “am I being inconsiderate because everyone will know what I’ve done, want some, and I don’t have enough to share” and Alison’s advice sort of takes that at face value. Whereas I think a lot of people would view the scenario as something more like 1/3 people will smell it and want some, 1/3 people will smell it and hate the smell, and 1/3 people will smell it and not care one way or the other. Which doesn’t make the advice wrong: it is a common office food and it’s not inherently wrong to eat/make it. But I think we’re probably more used to seeing acknowledgement of what might seem to be obvious other angles.

      1. The Shenanigans*

        Well, to be fair, none of those really need to be addressed by the OP. whether people want some, or don’t like it, or don’t care is down to them and OP doesn’t really need to care. It’s sort of nice they do, but really, adults can and should be left to manage those things on their own.

        If it’s a true medical issue for someone, that should be addressed.

    2. JustaTech*

      Tangentially, this is one of the worst things about the really “open” open offices – having desks steps from the microwave, where it is impossible to escape the smells, good, bad or indifferent.

      (Though I can’t say I’m super fond of the open office alternative, which is to put all of the food things, including the coffee, on another floor.)

  50. Some Dude*

    I’m just posting to say how weird all of this microwave popcorn chat is. I was born in 1980 and we always popped kernels on the stove. Microwave popcorn is so much more expensive than just buying a jar of kernels. If “effort” is a problem, you can pick up an air popper for like $20 on Amazon. Toss the kernels in, turn it on, and they get ejected into a bowl once they are popped and won’t burn.

    1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      Stove popcorn might be cheaper, but most break rooms don’t have stoves. Most break rooms *do* have microwaves.

      1. Quill*

        Yeah, and the bag is far more convenient to store in your bag or in your single drawer full of pens than the equipment for making unbagged kernels in the microwave, which is a microwave safe vessel with a lid large enough for the popcorn to actually pop in.

        … Though if you REALLY want to leave the office with a bang, you could buy popcorn that was still on the cob. Fill the microwave with a steaming cob and kernels smashing against the door. I wouldn’t recommend eating the results, but if you really want to make a mess, shove the cob in, set the microwave for two minutes (so you don’t actually start a fire!) and walk out, never to return because you have just quit in cod.

    2. Dinwar*

      Often having a heat source is not allowed in offices–insurance, mostly. I have to get a permit for my coffee maker. Microwaves are permitted because 1) they don’t have an actual heat source, so generally if they lite on fire someone did something stupid, and 2) you’re never going to run an office with employees that can’t get a hot meal, so you have to have SOME way to heat food. So a microwave is a sort of middle ground compromise. And that means if you want popcorn you either buy it, make it and bring it in (which isn’t nearly as good), or nuke it in the office.

      An air popper may be a gray enough area to get away with it, but it’s going to depend strongly on office culture. I couldn’t get away with it in my cubicle but they have one in the break room in my “home” office, but my field office isn’t allowed to have one without a Hot Work Permit (we asked). The reason is that no one’s burned down my “home” office with equipment like that, whereas some of my client’s employees have managed to accomplish this at my field site. We’re allowed to have an outdoor grill–but it has to be inspected, be a certain distance from buildings, have a certain poundage of fire extinguisher by it, etc. It gets complicated enough that I wouldn’t blame anyone for not wanting to get into it.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      I’m older than you, and we never popped popcorn on the stove. I remember the old Jiffy Pop aluminum pans at the store, but we never got those or had one of the pots with the stirrer in the bottom for popcorn. We had some microwave cube thing where you dumped the kernels in the bottom, covered them with oil, and then nuked it. Then, you flipped it over and took the base off, and, voila, cube-shaped bowl of popcorn.

      Now, we have an air popper and microwave popcorn at home. They taste very different. I prefer the air popper because I don’t care for heavily buttered or flavored popcorn – just a light spray of olive oil and some salt and pepper. My teenagers think the air-popped corn is flavorless and unappetizing and won’t eat it. My spouse dumps a ridiculous amount of melted butter on it, which seems to make the air-popped stuff wilt.

      1. Dinwar*

        My wife had a plastic bowl thing with a lid. You put the kernels in and nuke it, and when it’s done you take the lid off and you have popcorn. Then you can add whatever flavorings you want. I usually go with a spray of olive oil (it’s what she keeps in the house) and a little salt and parmesan cheese, while my wife prefers pre-packaged popcorn seasonings.

        Allegedly you can use oil or butter or whatever in the microwave with this setup, but we’ve found it doesn’t work very well. Just plain kernels and add the flavorings after seems to work best.

    4. Dahlia*

      I was born in 92 and I recognize people have many reasons for using convenience products, including disability. I’d rather have microwave popcorn and enough spoons to pull my own pants up after I pee.

    5. ?*

      Microwave popcorn was invented in 1981, shelf stable in 1984. I would say by the time a product is ~40 years old, its use no longer qualifies as “weird.”

  51. NotAnotherManager!*

    LW2, I used to hire for an entry-level position that required zero experience and included a comprehensive training program. We would get hundreds of resumes for an open position, and probably half of them could have done the job anywhere from perfectly fine to exceptionally well. That you cannot extend an offer to every qualified candidate is just part of life.

    We ended up adding a few basic culling criteria just to winnow the pool, but that still left us with A LOT of applicants. We started prioritizing people with relevant coursework/even slightly relevant internships/any sort of part-time job, and the majority of our supervisors who are partial to people who’ve worked with the general public (like retail or food service jobs). The ability to speak more than one language will also bump up your application.

    Ultimately, we interview 3-5 people per position (supervisor and then existing team members meet with them). And it still feels like we are leaving lots of great people on the table.

  52. Bumblebee*

    For the student worker question – I’d say your advice is spot-on, EXCEPT it’s for a student worker position. In my experience it’s pretty rare to phone-screen 15 student worker candidates and then progress to 5 in person interviews. That is a lot of time to spend on a student employee, and I want my staff doing other things with their time (I work in higher ed so this is not a hypothetical to me).

    Everything the OP is doing is exactly what I would expect from someone doing this for the first time, maybe even a little too meticulous. In the future I’d probably cut off the posting time even sooner and screen my top choices by academic schedule for the candidates who can work when I wanted them to. It’s no good to have a dream candidate who can’t cover lunches, if that’s what you need, for example.

  53. Heffalump*

    #1: Admittedly this is an unusual situation, but an acquaintance of mine did encounter it some years ago. She was from Canada and in the U.S. on a green card. Her green card was predicated on her having her previous job. To stay in the U.S. and get a new job, she had to get her ducks in a row with the immigration authorities before she could start the new job. This meant that her new job had to be willing to wait 3 months for her to start. What made it rough was her old job was toxic. I don’t know if it was at the level of today’s “Why won’t my company fire my notoriously terrible manager,” but she would make to her car and then cry all the way home. When I heard the story, I was glad for her sake that she’d gotten the new job.

  54. K*

    For number 3 it seems like Shannon is more articulate in writing. Maybe instead of meeting you could send her a written document with your concerns and then she can just respond in writing?

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      It sounds like these meetings require a lot of back and forth discussion, and a written response just isn’t going to be the same.

      1. NeddyTeddy*

        Back-and-forths can happen in writing, and having these types of discussions mostly or entirely in writing is pretty common.

  55. toadcarrot*

    #3 is like a description of my ex-husband who I coparent with. An important issue gets clarified, we seem to all be in agreement, and then a few days later he does something totally different. If this is pointed out, he gets hostile, defensive, and brings up totally new things not mentioned before. He has severe, poorly managed ADHD which I suspect is at the root of the problem.

    1. Avery*

      This may or may not help, but as a paralegal in the family law field… the whole “I agree to that! Wait, no I don’t, and in fact I never did, why would you claim otherwise?” issue is entirely too common in such cases.

    2. The Shenanigans*

      Eh, or he’s just a glassbowl, and I suspect that has more to do with it. I mean he’s a ex for a reason, no? I have severe ADHD I am trying to get under control and I can still manage not to do the opposite of what I say.

  56. Quill*

    LW 4: You are evil because I am going to go make popcorn right now.

    (Kidding, in case that wasn’t obvious… not about the fact that I’m making popcorn though)

  57. Susan G*

    Assuming there is not conflict of interest in doing the work, I’d also make sure to do the work on your own computer and not one provided by your company. Many companies ‘own’ all their employees work using their equipment. So even if you freelance, your current company can become the owners of the work that you do and hold the copyright. I would double check with your company on their policies before starting.

  58. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    My paternal grandparents died when I was 15 and 19, but had a small cabin and firepit. We’re talking barely bigger than an RV inside, probably considered a tiny house now. But there was a big deck, a swing, and a fire pit.

    That grandmother used to make popcorn for everyone by putting kernels in a paper sack with butter, then popping it open-air over the fire. Looking back, probably because the kitchen was so small she couldn’t have myself and cousins (not a huge family but still five of us), jostling for space by the microwave and being upset we would only get a little bit each.

    Now, when I go to the farmer’s market, I buy vegetables and a bag of kettle corn. Balance…

  59. Crunchy Granola*

    I was told (but never confirmed) that the Mayo Clinic banned microwave popcorn. Pre-op patients were fasting and got quite hungry. Post-op patients are frequently nauseous and the smell made it worse.

    Not that most offices are the Mayo Clinic, but some care should be taken for the people around you.

    1. The Shenanigans*

      Well how likely is it that someone in the office will have a true medical reaction though?

  60. zolk*

    For Lw #3 – try writing the summary with her during the meeting! If she helps write it, then she has less room to argue about it later.

  61. Honkus G*

    3. I have definitely experienced something very similar to what your employee claimed to have experienced. I work in a law office as a case manager. I have a very extensive list of daily tasks, but because we are a small office, I am also second in line to answer the general phone line. I asked to meet with my manager to discuss what to do about the fact that I was sometimes spending 6 out of 8 hours daily answering the phone and interviewing prospective clients, leaving me inadequate time to do my own tasks. (And I can’t actually say “my own tasks” because “answering the phone is part of everyone’s job!” Well, yes, but I’m basically holding down receptionist/intake specialist and case manager at the same time) My manager seemed to understand. Then I received her written summary and she said “difficulty multitasking.” I was livid but I didn’t say anything. I’ve been multitasking since day 1 but had no issue completing my tasks until front desk people quit and I inherited their job indefinitely.

  62. Delta Delta*

    Microwave popcorn smells like aspirin to me. Enough so that I don’t think to make it as a snack because the smell is so weird in my nose. That said, if someone makes and offers me some, I’ll probably have some.

  63. Hillary*

    #3 write the summary live during the meeting where you both can see it. we started doing this when we were all on zoom in the chat, calling out TASK or DECISION then typing what we were doing. all can see it as we go, so off the note taker got it wrong we can call it out instantly, then we save the chat and send it out to all. other meetings we use the white board then snap a photo and send it out instantly, or another document that is written in front of everyone and instantly shared for the record.

  64. Pinto Bean*

    That’s probably on me for not describing in more detail. For one job, I might receive 500 applications within 48 hours.

    Of those, let’s say all 500 could do the job — if they don’t know how to print name badges, it’s an easy task to learn on the job.

    However, there are so many applicants who could do the job in theory but not in practice because they aren’t available on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or don’t want to come to North campus for a job when most of their classes are on South campus. These parameters are in the job description, but they applied anyway because they didn’t read it, or they read it and are hoping it is negotiable (it is not). This is noise for me.

    There are also many applicants who ARE available on those days and want to work on North campus, but I will never know because they didn’t include that in their cover letter as requested. This is also noise.

    That leaves a relatively small number who are available for date and location and did include it in their cover letter, but I would have to go through all 500 to find them, and what ends up happening is that I review a small subset of applications until I identify between three and five to interview, and it is rare I wouldn’t make an offer at that point. I know there must be other applicants still in the pool who confirmed their availability as requested, but the volume is just too high to get to them. So that is what I mean when I said there is too much noise.

  65. Immortal for a limited time*

    #4 – I worked next to someone who chewed popcorn in an obnoxious, open-mouth, loud crunching manner that sounded like CAAOWWGH CAOWGH Cowgghh nom nom numm mm. Oh, dear god. If you are not eating your popcorn in a discreet, mouth-closed, as-quietly-as-possible kind of way, then yes, it’s unforgivable. The fact that you asked the question makes me optimistic that you wouldn’t do that, though :)

  66. WhatTheActualFact*

    #3, some people may agree with others in the heat of the moment, but concerns will surface when they’ve had time to think and realise they actually don’t agree with what was said or they’ve thought of other things did not arise at the time.
    Your person may be introverted, not operate well when put on the spot or something else, but not necessarily seeking to be a burden.

    1. NeddyTeddy*

      I second this. I think #3 and Shannon have both been put in an unfair situation, and I’ve been in both sets of shoes, so to speak. Neither of them are very comfortable.

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