my friend is dating my employee, the problem with “gentle reminders,” and more

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

1. My best friend is dating my employee

I own a small cocktail bar in a small town and recently one of my oldest and best friends, who is also a regular patron, started dating one of my employees. (He gave me an opportunity to weigh in beforehand, but I told him I had no right to interfere in my employees’ relationships, so to proceed if he wanted to. Whenever a patron starts dating an employee, there is risk, but it also goes with the bar territory.)

It seems like it is going well for them, so I had a chat with my friend, clarifying that I didn’t expect our friendship to divide any loyalties or anything dramatic, or expect him to share things with me that she had told him about work, or anything like that. He said he assumed that but it was good to hear me say it.

Should I have a similar conversation with her? On the one hand, talking to an employee about her private life seems like an overreach (although she has brought up issues with past relationships before), but on the other, she might also be relieved if I spelled out that she doesn’t have to worry about me leveraging my friendship in a problematic way. And this is a friend that I regularly travel with, including his past partners, so there may be further necessary boundary conversations in the future if they become a truly serious item.

Err on the side of being clear about where you stand, so she doesn’t need to guess. Spell out that you recognize the potential landmines (which are more risky to her than anyone else) and plan to maintain a firewall with your friend, and — most importantly — if things end with him, it won’t affect her standing at work. (You have to mean that, though! If they break up and your friend tells you horrible things about her behavior as a girlfriend, you need to be committed to not letting it impact how you treat her as an employee.)

You also need to be committed to protecting her work environment if it becomes necessary. If they break up and he’s mooning around the bar making her uncomfortable, you’ve got to be willing to handle it the same way you would if he were any other customer, not your best friend. And while it might feel weird to spell that out for her while they’re happy, it’s probably worth saying … because if at some point she does want to end things with him, you don’t want her having to worry about whether it will make things weird for her at work.

2. “Gentle reminders”

Is anyone else annoyed by the phrase “gentle reminder” in emails? It seems to almost always be followed by some sort of passive/passive-aggressive statement. Why can’t we just be direct and say “reminder, X event is happening” or “reminder, please do ABC”? Is it an overreaction to people attempting to be overly polite in emails since tone is hard to convey in the written word? Am I completely neurotic for being irked by this language (and similar language)?

“Gentle reminder” is my number one email pet peeve! It’s like announcing “I think you are very delicate, and I am going to softly tiptoe up next to you and whisper in your ear because otherwise you might be offended by a routine workplace interaction” — ugh!

People are not delicate flowers and they can handle matter-of-fact work communications! Why are the “gentle reminder” people labeling that way? (In fact, why are they labeling it all? Just give the damn reminder and let your recipients decide whether they think it’s gentle, or aggressive, or routine, or whatever. Stop telling them how you want them to feel about your email.)

3. Is it illegal to reassemble a laid-off team before a year has passed?

In January, my entire team was laid off, with the official reason being that our positions had been eliminated. We were a team of four, and there were no other layoffs or positions eliminated at that time. Cutting the entire team meant there was no one left doing the kind of work we did.

I still have friends at the company. They let me know that many people were voicing concerns about my team’s function being cut. In response, they were told that legally, because our positions had been eliminated, they couldn’t resurrect that function with a new team – nor could they re-hire any of us to perform that function – for a year.

I did a quick search trying to find any laws that applied and came up empty. My best guess was that they’d been told that if they let us go by “eliminating our positions” and then soon after hired a bunch of, say, young white men to do those jobs, they’d be open to claims of discrimination. But that doesn’t account for them saying they were legally not allowed to hire the original team back.

Now, nine months later, they are in fact resurrecting our function under a different department. I hear that the first question from folks still there was, would they be re-using the materials my team had created? And again, they were told that there are legal restrictions, in this case preventing them from using those materials.

Of course, it’s not my problem if they don’t want to use our old materials, for whatever reason. But it’s such a strange excuse to give! We were salaried employees creating work-for-hire – they clearly own it and can use it any way they like, as I understand it.

This (probably) has no bearing on my current or future work life, but I’m curious – are there some laws around this that I’m unaware of? Are they in fact legally barred from rehiring any of us for the same job within a year? And/or legally barred from using the materials we created while working for them? (We’re in the U.S.)

No law prevents companies from re-filling positions that were previously cut before X amount of time has past, either with new employees or the old ones. Some companies have internal policies about it to help avoid the appearance that they laid people off for illegal reasons (which could look like the case if the new hires are all in different demographic categories than the people who were cut — for example, if you eliminate a team where everyone is over 60 and then three months later reassemble it with a bunch of 30-year-olds, that’s going to raise concerns). But that’s an internal policy, not a law. (It also doesn’t explain why they wouldn’t hire the same people back, although some companies have that policy too.)

What’s really bizarre, though, is their insistence that they couldn’t use any of the materials your team created. As you point out, they own that material and there’s no legal reason they couldn’t. Either your company is getting really odd legal advice or they had other reasons for wanting to start from scratch that they’re not sharing with your old coworkers (or something just got lost in translation as this made its way through the grapevine, which sometimes happens).

4. My boss and I have the same side hustle — can I promote his work?

My supervisor and I happen to both pursue the same creative work outside of and in a different field from our day jobs, and we both have big new projects in this outside creative field coming out this winter (think book illustration or graphic design, where it’s project-based).

My supervisor has been extremely supportive of my outside work and mentioned that he can’t wait to promote my upcoming project on his social media, brag about me to his contacts, etc. I’m so flattered that he wants to do so! However, I’m not sure how, if at all, I should reciprocate. I regularly promote my friends’ work in this creative field on my social media accounts but it feels different when it’s my boss. But at the same time, I’m also very impressed with his work and think it’s worth promoting — if he wasn’t my boss and was just a friend or a colleague, I’d be shouting about it from the rooftops. But because of the power dynamics, I’m hesitating. Am I overthinking this? If I acknowledge the relationship in my posts (“this is my boss — isn’t his work amazing?”), does that make it better or worse? And if my boss posts about my work and I stay silent about his, is that a bad look?

Since you genuinely like his work and want to promote it, go ahead and do that! I do think you should mention the relationship just for transparency’s sake (I’d frame it as “I get to work with the artist, Burt Burtlebot, in my day job” but that’s really personal preference). It would only seem weird if he were getting a disproportionate share of your focus relative to other things you post about.

But if you didn’t want to promote his work, it would be okay to stay quiet about it. If I were in your boss’s shoes and you weren’t promoting my work, I’d just assume it didn’t occur to you to or would write it off to power dynamic weirdness (because it’s inherent in our respective work roles that I will champion your work as your boss and not necessarily vice versa). But since you’re enthusiastic about it, go ahead and share that enthusiasm.

5. Gift cards from the company didn’t work

This week my customer service team received gifts of $25 prepaid credit cards from higher-ups via email. However, we work remotely in Canada, and these cards only work in the U.S. I brought the issue up to my team and said we should talk to our boss about it next week, who is currently away on vacation.

I’m hoping our company does the right thing and replaces the basically useless gifts. I’m a little disappointed/annoyed this happened and they didn’t do better oversight on the gifts. Is this a big deal? Am I overthinking it?

Sometimes mistakes like this happen, and it would be easy to occur if the person ordering the cards is based in the U.S. and hasn’t dealt with this internationally before.

Your company will almost certainly replace the cards with working ones once they’re informed of it. If they don’t, you’d be right to take issue with that (not only did they not get the gift right but they couldn’t be bothered to fix it once they knew?!) but it’s really unlikely to play out that way. I think you’re being premature in being annoyed, and are in fact borrowing trouble! Give them a chance to learn about the error and remedy it.

{ 574 comments… read them below }

  1. Brain the Brian*

    Ah, “gentle reminder.” I hate receiving it, I hate sending it, and yet my manager insists that everyone in our department use “gentle” before “reminder.” What completely different alternatives do other folks have? I would love to change it up with something that feels less passive-aggressive and wouldn’t run afoul of my manager’s (odd) policy.

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              I find them both grating, and I am someone who sends out reminders all. the. time.

              I used to work with someone who would put either one in emails, often about things I was hearing about for the first time. Just to make it extra annoying, I guess.

            2. And the Skeletons Are… Part of It*

              They’re both not ideal but friendly is better. It’s more “too-chipper camp counselor” than gentle, which has a “older acquaintance I don’t know slowly puts her hand on my shoulder and keeps it there too long” flavor

          1. dackquiri*

            “Friendly” at least implies “I’m not pissed”. It’s trying to dictate how it’s interpreted, which is a hallmark of a lot of grating PA phrases, but at least it’s trying to do so by attempting to convey something. “Gentle” is worse because gentle is a thing you can be in spite of being pissed. In fact, it kind of implies “this is the gentle version of the dressing down you deserve”.

            1. dackquiri*

              P.S. – This is my personal take on these phrases. Everyone’s opinion about ‘friendly reminder’ is 100% valid as so long as you don’t willingly use “gentle reminder”. /j

            2. AnonORama*

              I admit I hate both, and find no difference in the level of condescension (condescening af!)

        1. fhqwhgads*

          To me
          “Gentle reminder” is patronizing as hell.
          “Friendly reminder” means “I am not currently pissed, but if you continue to need to be reminded to do the thing, I will be”.
          “Reminder” means “I may or may not be pissed, no indication whatsoever, but do the thing”

      1. sam_i_am*

        I find “friendly reminder” to feel much more passive aggressive than “gentle reminder” does.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Any time you take pains to announce “The is gentle!” “This is friendly!” “This is suave and debonair!”–especially when repeated–there’s a good chance people will take the opposite meaning.

        Because if it was really gentle, friendly, and suave, people would see that without the prompt.

        1. AG*

          But there is a reason for people to clarify the tone of their message: in e-mail, it can be hard to convey otherwise. After all, there is a reason people use smileys. Of course, you can be annoyed when they save time to say it’s meant friendly instead of writing a friendly e-mail, but it might be less prompted.

        2. Princess Sparklepony*

          Forget gentle and friendly – definitely go with suave and debonair!

          Prehistoric reminder – for something people have been doing wrong for oh so so long!

          New reminder – for something you thought people would know but apparently never learned.

          Fractious reminder – yes, I am annoyed that I have to remind you all about this again.

          Unfriendly reminder – don’t make me go down this road again.

          Unisex reminder – this means all of you. Yes, even you.

          Pretty reminder – I will put little flower emojis in this reminder. Don’t make me take them out by ignoring this nice reminder.

          Petty reminder – don’t make me explain, I’m already annoyed and I don’t think much of you.

          Peaty reminder – I’ll be drinking scotch later. Scotchy scotchy scotch.

          Angsty reminder – I’m worried you won’t like me anymore. I’ll be listening to emo to try and calm down.

          So many different kinds of reminders!

    1. Jolene*

      Sure, but as someone who is currently dealing with a very sensitive assistant who bristles at any reminder no matter how routine…I’m grasping at straws here. It doesn’t matter tone or wording – she bristles at everything. So if I say “gentle”, at least I can say to myself “well, I tried to be GENTLE” when no matter what I’m going to get an offended “I already know that!” message back. (And, she totally probably doesn’t “already know” and she drops a lot of balls, which is why she is the first assistant I’ve had in a decade that needed to remind, gentle or not).

      I’m cool with routine and matter of fact. As soon as everyone stops being so sensitive.

      (It was a rough day on this front).

      1. Artemesia*

        An ‘assistant’ who bristles at direction is not much of an assistant. This person should probably be fired rather than gently reminded.

        1. Jolene*

          If only I had that power! I’m middle management.

          Also, work ethic and personality issues aside (those are big issues!), she is competent at actually doing the para-professional work. And that, unfortunately, doesn’t grow on trees.

          1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

            Wait there is a work ethic issue too. Nah, this person needs to go. Doesn’t matter how competent they are, if they aren’t actually doing the work.

      2. Clare*

        Preface to say that I’m sure your approach is entirely valid and there’s no reason why you should have to change anything.

        That said, if you’re stuck with her and you want to try something different, I have a suggestion. This might not work or be relevant for you since I’m going off very little info here. But it might be helpful, so please forgive me weighing in.

        My thinking is: because you’ve never had to remind past assistants of these things and you shouldn’t have to remind her, your tone might carry a bit of “this is a problem”. Which is true! But if she has some self esteem issues (easy to develop when you’re consistently dropping balls) she might be hearing “you are a problem”. You might have some luck with backing off on ‘gentle-but-serious’ reminders and going with a super casual, upbeat, ‘oh hey, fyi’ tone. A tone similar to the tone you’d use to tell her a leaf just landed on her head.

        This might seem counter-intuitive since you want her to take things more seriously, not less, but if she’s feeling defensive she’s might be beating herself up over every mistake, no matter how big or small; in which case a casual reminder will carry something like the appropriate amount of weight in her brain.

        1. pope suburban*

          This is great advice. It’s so easy to forget this, but it’s generally possible to set the tone for an interaction. If you feel weird or anxious about a conversation, you’re probably going to approach it in a way that encourages those feelings in the other person. But if you keep it light and casual, the other person is likely to do the same. The real struggle here tends to be reframing it in your head, or finding a way to banish the feelings of trepidation or awkwardness. But once you do that, it tends to work out well. For me, I approach it by reminding myself that I am not being unreasonable when I ask people to do something that is part of their job, and that I would want to know if I was incorrect or causing tension- I think of it as a fundamental kindness, because clear communication benefits everyone, and therefore shouldn’t be something I shy from. Sometimes I still have to sit there with it for a few minutes for it to sink in, but once it does, it tends to work well.

      3. Francesca*

        Writing gentle does not mean BEING gentle though – it is passive-aggressive as hell. And that’s how she’s experiencing it. However weak she is as an employee, she can probably tell you’re not being gentle at all.

        If she bristles no matter what, it’s still better to be clear, direct and matter of fact.

        1. rollyex*

          “Writing gentle does not mean BEING gentle though – it is passive-aggressive as hell.”


          1. Donkey Hotey*

            Exactly! And likewise, Friendly Reminders aren’t friendly.

            In my ears, it sounds like they’re about to comment on the amount of flair on my uniform.

        2. Pesad@*

          Absolutely. I had one coworker in an old job who used to send department-wide (40-person) “friendly” or “gentle” reminders every time someone did things in a way he didn’t prefer (not wrong, just not his preferred style). He was a bully and had no authority to send such emails.

          Most of us would roll our eyes at first glance of the subject line and instantly delete. I never understood why management never told him to knock it off. Department-wide reminders need to come from, or at least be approved by, a manager. As a manager now myself, I would never let an employee get away with that.

      4. I should really pick a name*

        If she’s going to bristle anyway, you may as well just use the wording that you prefer.

        1. Bit o' Brit*

          Yeah that doesn’t strike me as being too sensitive and therefore needing “gentle” wording if she’s objecting to the concept of being reminded regardless of wording.

      5. Trout 'Waver*

        People who want to take offense will do so no matter how much you soften your language.

      6. Beth*

        Yeah — when I see “gentle reminder” or similar phrases, I usually assume that the person writing it has had their head bitten off by overly snappish people in the past, and is trying to keep it from happening again.

        I just ignore it.

        1. Parakeet*

          Yep. I first encountered the phrase on social media, and I interpret it as “I’m not trying to start a fight or denounce anyone by saying this” (because it is very easy to accidentally start a fight, or come across as making a denouncement, on social media!). So it doesn’t bother me even though it’s not how I phrase that sentiment, and if I didn’t read AAM I wouldn’t realize so many people hate it. I wonder if it migrated to work settings from there, or vice versa (or some third origin)?

          I guess whatever follows it also matters. If it’s followed by something aggressive, the language-softening function gets negated.

      7. SopranoH*

        Is there a reason you need to be “gentle” with her? If she wants to bristle at every reminder then let her, and then ask her why she has such an inappropriate response to something so simple. Maybe she’ll stop responding that way or get fed up and quit because you aren’t catering to her. Win/win

      8. Hashtag Destigmatize Therapy*

        I’m sorry you’re dealing with a tough situation there. It sounds like you genuinely mean “I’m not scolding you” when you say it’s a “gentle” reminder. But is there any indication that she’s receiving it that way? A lot of people (including me) interpret “gentle reminder” to mean “I have concluded that you are so grievously incompetent that I need to both remind you to do your job and soften the blow when I break the news to you about it.” Obviously that’s not what you’re *trying* to communicate, but if that’s what ends up coming across, you probably need to change tactics. Have you tried talking to her 1:1 in person about this, explaining where you’re coming from, and listening to her perspective? Together, you might be able to find a way for you to send reminders without her feeling insulted.

      9. biobotb*

        If she’s going to bristle at literally anything, why tiptoe around? Just be neutral and factual and let her bristle.

      10. OMG, Bees!*

        Same. I know someone where bringing up or announcing most issues result in him saying “Fake News” or “Didn’t happen” or equally dismissed to outright hostile responses. Softening the tone of issues that can’t be ignored makes it a bit safer to bring up.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        We work with a lot of people who are not native English speakers. I think she figures that they won’t read the condescending tone and will find it more polite with “gentle” than without. But I’ve talked with enough of these folks to know that they *do*, in fact, find the phrase just as annoying as we native speakers. Every manager has their quirks, I suppose?

        1. VaguelySpecific*

          So I have noticed that the folks in my company who use “gentle” reminders (as opposed to “friendly” as I am guilty of using) tend to be non-native English speakers, typically from Asia so I always wondered if this was some sort of translation quirk where the words are similar in another language but not in English.

          1. Trotwood*

            Same! I’m in a new role in a global company where I’m getting a lot of emails from OUS colleagues, and the Japan office is particularly fond of “gentle reminders.” I find it grating but I assume it’s a cultural difference of some sort.

          2. A Thing Like That*

            Can anecdotally confirm this. Whenever I encounter it, it’s from coworkers in our APAC offices…

          3. rollyex*

            The only person in my organization who uses this regularly is from SE Asia and a native speaker.

            Just one data point.

          4. Smithy*

            Not specific to “gentle reminder” – but the people I know who’s English writing has ended up using a lot of obvious softeners through coaching by American & British English as a first language supervisors (think smiley face emojis, exclamation points, etc) are Israeli. One coworker in particular had a particularly brusque style of writing in English, and so when looking for ways to soften his professional English writing he was looking for very clear examples of how to do that simply.

            End results were often the most common examples like telling someone to write Thanks! instead of Thanks.

            I do think that Thanks! makes a lot more sense as a softener than “gentle reminder” – which actually works better as a planning term (i.e. how many ways can we send finance gentle reminders we need this report so it’s not obvious we don’t trust them, when the reality is we don’t trust them to do this on time). But I think that need to use it in professional jargon and confusion with softening language can get wires crossed.

          5. Code Monkey, the SQL*

            Yes, the people who send ‘gentle’ reminders in my team are those who are out of our India center/not native English speakers, while my boss, who is, has never modified her reminders that I can recall.

            It’s similar to how I often see ‘Dears’ on the occasional email from the Bangalore office – just a quirk of the way they write.

          6. Lora C*

            Oh, that reminds me of all the headbutting I had with an Indian manager who insisted I put “please” before commands and requests.

            There is no “please” when were telling employees they must change their default passwords. Or “please check that all cables” are connected. We’re troubleshooting issues, they don’t get to turn down our requests. They HAVE to check.

            1. Troubadour*

              To me “Please” doesn’t imply I’m giving you the option, it’s just a politeness marker. Similarly I recall seeing signage in France where the instruction began with “Veuillez” which very-literally means something like “If you want to” but actually means “Do this thing or you’ll get in serious legal trouble but we respect you as a customer, please have a nice day thanks bye”.

              Actually I think in some cases, I add please to things to emphasise that this isn’t just a casual instruction for them to add to their long to-do list – the thing really does *need* to be done.

              1. sing hey nonny nonny*

                I also read something a while back about how the spot in the sentence that you put the “please” varies between American and UK English (Indian English is more like UK but is its own thing) – and the wrong location will jump out at you, while the other will just fade into the background as a politeness marker.

                “Please pass the salt and pepper” jumps out as someone exasperated who has asked three times and not been heard, while “Pass the salt and pepper, please” is just neutrally polite (as an American English speaker). Etc.

                Obviously there’s also regional variation, but basically the point is that politeness markers not your own sound super weird and come across as passive aggressive/sarcastic/etc. (“Kindly do blah blah blah” is the one that I have to remind myself isn’t sarcastic when I get it from Indian colleagues.)

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        I think it’s likely exactly what the letter writer said–people are afraid of coming across as cold or brusque in emails. I think women in particular get judged for that at work! I know I got comments on it early in my career–I have had to incorporate strategic exclamation points and even the occasional smiley face and now my boss seems satisfied. I imagine many “gentle reminder” users are wary of the same thing.

      3. Esmae*

        Ha. I had a supervisor who would preface any reminder with “I’m sure you already know this, but…” and expected everyone else to do the same. You’re not sure! If you were sure you wouldn’t be reminding me! But for some reason that was the difference between phrasing it politely and phrasing it rudely in her head.

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          I do this occasionally in trainings. Though in my case, it’s “I’m sure you already know this, but I’m legally required to tell you anyway.”

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      This would drive me up a wall – if you’re being forced to use it, then it doesn’t really have any meaning in the first place, either. “Gentle reminder” is one of my top pet peeves – we are all adults and anyone so fragile as to read hostility into a basic, “hey, don’t forget your TPS reports are due to me by noon, thanks!” needs to work that out on their own time.

      Maybe print out this column and the pages of comments that will surely follow reiterating how much pretty much everyone hates it and leave it in her inbox?

      1. Allonge*

        We are all adults, until someone decides to get in a huff about a regular reminder and is in a position of power.

        I would bet that a lot of people go ‘gentle’ or ‘kind’ reminder because they were, in fact, yelled at before for not being polite enough by someone they could not just tell to eff off.

        1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          The correct solution is to BE polite and kind, not passive-aggressive and condescending!

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            This. I’d also want to know if my male colleagues who routinely use the same direct and polite language were being given the same feedback. I find any sort of softening qualification of reminder to read as passive-aggressive or that I doubt my authority to ask for something. Really, a reminder is a courtesy in the first place – if I’m reminding you, it means you were already told to do something and should be tracking professional deadlines yourself.

          2. Allonge*

            Using a word / term that you don’t like is not condescending.

            If the rest of the email is condescending, then ‘gentle’ does not help. But a lot of people here are reading HUGE amounts of bad things into it that may not be there.

            Ignore it and actually do the thing by deadline (if that is not happening) / delete the email if it does not apply?

        2. VaguelySpecific*

          I tend to you “friendly reminder” for things that folks need to be aware of but require no action on their part and “THIS NEEDS TO BE DONE BY X!” for things that do….I am being slightly sarcastic about the all caps but you get the picture

      2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        In my experience gentle reminders are anything but. They are used 1) when someone regularly forgets something/misses a deadline, so instead of pointing out the pattern, gentle reminder is used and 2) they go to everyone to avoid singling out the one person who always messes up.

        In other words, they achieve nothing but irritate the people who don’t need the reminder.

        1. Sparkles McFadden*

          I’ve also seen an additional usage where someone ccs everyone three levels up on the “gentle reminder” email to give the impression that you are not meeting deadlines. Thus, I’ve always associated the phrase “gentle reminder” with smarmy coworkers.

          1. AnonORama*

            Yeah, I had a coworker who did this (not three levels, but they’d cc your boss) and the tone was clearly “not only did I have to remind your direct report to do their damn job, they’re so fragile I had to soften it up when reminding them to do their damn job.” That’s just one person, and they were always smarmy and trying to undermine people in a million other ways too. But that’s probably why either gentle or friendly reminder grates on me so much.

      3. Michelle Smith*

        If I’m an adult, I don’t need a reminder – gentle or otherwise – that the TPS reports are due to you by noon. That’s what I find “gentle reminder – X” grating. Because it assumes that you think I forgot or will forget, meanwhile, I’ve got time blocked off on my calendar to finish it that you don’t know about and I have reminders on my computer as well. Unless I’ve been screwing up on getting things to you in the past, don’t remind me before the deadline that you need something. I know.

        1. Allonge*

          Which is fair – usually I also don’t need them. And if it’s an email just to you, you can ask the sender to not remind you. If they still do, for individual tasks, that’s not good.

          In my experience, reminders are sent because a bunch of people, adults or not, are
          – bad at remembering their tasks,
          – don’t adequately plan for their execution or
          – generally things get lost between the hundreds of other tasks they need to perform.

          I normally get reminders as part of group (all departments need to report on their llama headcount by Date). These are sent to a mailing list and it would be a hassle to take out the people who are good at delivering on time, so I take the five seconds necessary to read the email to make sure there is no new content (starting with ‘gentle reminder’ actually helps in this) and delete it, and go about my life instead of stewing about it.

          1. Le Sigh*

            Yeah, I get why it’s annoying, but as a person who has to round up documents pretty often, I kind of *have* to do the reminders. Some people are always on time, but a lot more of them fully intend to do it but get pulled into other things, get distracted, whatever — regardless of the reason, I then have to chase people down and deadlines get missed. The reminders usually help nudge at least a few people loose, which cuts down on my wasted time. I have found it sometimes helps to say “If you have not already, please….” so that they people who have already done it can ignore the email.

            I refused to use “gentle” though. Ick.

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            Yes, for me, there is a tonal difference between the general group deadline reminder, which goes to everyone and the individual email/call that goes to the person, who, for the 3rd time running has not completed their monthly Llama Headcount and is creating an issue with the Llama Census group’s workflow requiring they do OT to hit their deadline. (The chronic non-compliant also get a mention on their annual review.)

            I’ve found that the generic (not “gentle”) reminder to everyone significantly increases consistent compliance with routine deadlines overall – of course there are people who never need one, but the regular reminder has taken our non-compliance count from 25-30% to under 5%. With the size of my department, I don’t have time to go through and decide who’s getting it and who’s not versus just using the department distro on a monthly basis, and it’s making enough of an impact that we’re not messing with success.

        2. fhqwhgads*

          That’s fair in that context. I’ve only ever encountered these blanket reminders in contexts like “everyone keeps submitting the TPS reports at noon-thirty” and it’s an after-the-fact “stop doing that, start doing this instead” reminder. The “gentle” bit is still crap.

    3. Artemesia*

      Wow. The phrase enrages me irrationally. It is so creepy. It is always passive aggressive. Grownups can speak clearly and politely without sniveling.

      I associate it with busy body types in bed and breakfasts who want to count how many muffins you take.

    4. Clare*

      Dear team,

      Don’t forget, we hand out the armadillo assessments this week, so please make sure you get them to me by 1pm Wednesday at the latest.

      Thanks in advance,

        1. Sharpie*


          That right there is going to have me grinning idiotically at random moments throughout the day. Thank you!

        1. WishIWasATimeTraveller*

          I also like “don’t forget” when the email doesn’t have to be super formal. It doesn’t sound like your creeping around on tiptoes and it has the intrinsic assumption that the recipient already knows and remembers.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            I also like this better.

            When I need a response to an email, I just forward it an say that I’m resending to add to the top of everyone’s email (for busy bosses) or that I can’t find that I received a response. Both are very effective.

      1. Just Another Fed*

        But now you’ve added in a “Thanks in advance,” which is _my_ number one pet peeve in business communication :-(.

          1. Just Another Fed*

            That it should be limited to something my niece shouts in delight as she runs up to hug me!

        1. Brain the Brian*

          An unfortunate quirk of my manager’s own writing is that she says “thanks” without the “in advance,” which confuses a lot of people into thinking that she’s legitimately thanking them for doing something instead of passive-aggressively asking them to do it. Many have tried — unsuccessfully — to get her to stop doing this.

          1. Common Taters on the Ax*

            I guess this is a regional thing? I don’t see what’s wrong with that, although I have heard that some cultures find it peculiar how often (some) Americans say “Thanks.”

            Personally, I hate “Thanks in advance”; it sounds both snippy and like the speaker thinks I’m too stupid to figure out I haven’t done it yet. To my language habits, saying “Thanks” up front isn’t really necessary, but it does convey the expectation that the request will be done, and so makes the request just a polite version of direction…which is appropriate from a manager in an email. (“Would you please stop putting papers on my desk? Thanks!”)

            1. Brain the Brian*

              When she writes it, it’s usually phrased something like “Thanks for handling the XYZ report and returning it to me for review,” which the large number of non-native English speakers at our company misinterpret as thanks for something they’ve already done. It’s… less than ideal for managing workflows.

    5. Twix*

      Uuuuuuuugh. I hate “gentle reminder”. There is no situation where it’s helpful. If you mean it sincerely it comes off passive-aggressive. If you mean it passive-aggressively it works wonderfully, but that’s a bad thing.

      If I’m talking to a person or small group that I’m working with directly and I need some kind of action or response from them, I prefer “Following up on X, where do we stand with that?” or something similar. It frames it as me doing my job by following up (which I am!) rather than me telling them how to do theirs. If I’m addressing a larger group of people or people I’m not directly working with, I really think just “Reminder to everybody that…” is fine. “Quick reminder…” works well if you want to imply that it’s not especially important. It sounds like boilerplate language for impersonally addressing a group of people, which it is, without any of the weird connotations of trying to awkwardly soften the message.

        1. Starrystarrynight*

          That’s my go-to expression too. I think the reason people insert „gentle“ can sometimes be so it doesn’t come across as curt/unfriendly. So writing „quick reminder“ acknowledges that it is just that: A note that is short, but not intended to be rude.

          1. amoeba*

            Yup, I use that. Or, if it’s actually a check-in for something I’m waiting for, “just checking in”.

        2. starsaphire*

          I’m also team “quick reminder,” and then only when I can’t substitute “quick check-in.”

      1. Schnapps*

        If I’m the one sending the reminder, I’ll use one of the following:

        1. “[Appropriate Greeting], I’m resending this Thing in case it got buried.”

        2. “[Appropriate Greeting], did you get a chance to look at this Thing? I can tidy it up, but I need your review on the content. My deadline to get this completed is [date].”

        I find just avoiding the word “reminder” (whether its preceded by “gentle” or not), is just for the best. The first one speaks to a problem most of us have: exploding inboxes, too much to do and not enough resources. The second one explains what you need from them, and a timeframe.

        Of course, this works for the nature of the work I do. YMMV

    6. Free Meerkats*

      Since everyone knows your manager is a {fill in the blank}, they are much less likely to bristle at it and probably clench their teeth just as hard when they add it as you do.

    7. Dark Macadamia*

      Just a reminder, just a heads-up, this is a reminder… I feel like if you’re matter-of-fact about “hey I’m reminding you about the thing” it comes across more like confirming the details rather than being condescending.

      1. Luva*

        Yeah, I know women in particular are advised to avoid using ‘just’ in work language, but “Hey, I just wanted to remind you about…” seems less aggressive/dictatorial than “This is a reminder to do X”. It’s ‘just’ a reminder, not an order.

    8. Earlk*

      Depending on who I’m emailing I’ll either just say “Hi xxx, The deadline for this is x days away, if you anticipate not being able to respond by that time please get in touch before then” of if the person is higher up I’ll possibly include “Sorry if I’ve missed any responses to this but the deadline…”

      I’d triple check that I haven’t before saying about missing responses though.

    9. please don't get angry at my emails*

      I generally am replying to the initial email I sent, and the wording I use is “I’m reviewing my outstanding tasks this morning/afternoon/today. Is there any update you can give on this?”

      I’ve struggled with the wording for such emails (and my role requires following up on requests a fair amount), but I think the above is pretty neutral.

      I class “just” with “gentle” in cases like this “just wanted to check in” can absolutely rub me up the wrong way!

      1. Michelle Smith*

        I like this wording a lot as it does not presume anything negative about the other person’s memory or ability to do their job.

    10. bamcheeks*

      I usually go with something like,

      Hi everyone,

      Just a quick reminder that the deadline for feeding back on the draft clown car specification is Friday lunchtime, so I can go over the comments and turn them into a report for the Circus SubCommittee on Monday afternoon. Thanks very much to those who have already left comments! The link is: Clown Car Spec v5FINAL DRAFT.docx.



      I usually try and give a reason for a deadline and how it fits into my workflow– for me a simple deadline feels a bit more like school where the deadline is Tuesday just Because The Teacher Says So*, whereas information about how someone’s work will be used makes it feel more collegiate. Plus it means that if anyone really can’t do it by Friday lunchtime but could get it over to me on Monday morning, they can check in and see whether I’d still be able to use that.

      *I realise that deadlines are usually about the teacher managing their workflow too, but you generally don’t understand that when you’re 15.

      1. londonedit*

        I use pretty much identical language. If I’m emailing a group and I need information from them, I’ll usually use ‘Just a quick reminder’. If it’s an individual then I’d probably use something like ‘Just wanted to check in on progress’ or ‘Just wanted to send a quick reminder’, as it feels a little bit more personal. If it’s the second or third time, I’ll probably go to ‘Sorry to chase, but we need to go to press on this next week, so I’ll need any further corrections by Friday at the latest’.

        ‘Gentle reminder’ sounds way too condescending and pass-agg to me. It’s also extremely impersonal, I think, and it’s definitely going to rub a lot of people up the wrong way. I know people talk about not using submissive language in work communications, especially for women, but the reality is that in my job I’m often dealing with fragile egos, and I need to keep the relationship cordial, so in many cases a few ‘So sorry but I wondered whether you’d had a chance to check the proofs yet? I do need any final corrections by the end of this week, as we have a 48-hour turnaround with the typesetter’ emails never go amiss.

        1. Elitist Semicolon*

          I’ve tried to eliminate “just” used in this way from my email lexicon because I started to wonder whether it was undermining my stance – if I’m “just following up,” does that mean it’s not urgent or important vs. “I’m following up?”* Like, nbd, I’m just checking, instead of actually needing the other person to respond/acknowledge my email.

          (*Admittedly some of this worry on my part comes from being in a science-adjacent field and having to deal with folks who say things like “evolution is just a theory” because they’re intentionally being dismissive. And the real issue there isn’t the “just” but rather the misunderstanding of what “theory” means in scientific parlance vs. common usage, but that’s another rant for another day.)

          1. Luva*

            “Just” is self-undermining, but in this case where I think we’re trying to self-undermine just a bit to not come across as rude, it’s the right language. It’s what I use. I’m trying to communicate that I really am just trying to remind the person, not order them.

            1. Le Sigh*

              Agree, it’s a balance. I have a habit of overusing it, so I do a Ctl+F for “please” and “just” and cut it by 50-75% before I hit send. Same thing with exclamation points.

      2. Brain the Brian*

        “Quick reminder” is not allowed under my manager. “Quick, gentle reminder” would be fine — but I hate that phrasing even more than a regular “gentle reminder.”

        1. Orsoneko*

          Ew! I’m not bothered by either “quick reminder” or “gender reminder,” but “quick, gentle reminder” really makes it sound like some sort of physical action is being performed.

          1. Le Sigh*

            Yeah I can’t totally articulate what it makes me think of, but whatever it is, it’s icky.

    11. kina lillet*

      Rephrase so you’re not using the word reminder or a substitute! Why are you reminding them? That helps with rephrasing.

      “Gentle reminder, the deadline for X is next week.” -> “Hi, the deadline for X is approaching. Let me know if the there’s any chance of missing the deadline this year and we’ll update so and so asap.”

      Or, “Gentle reminder about this email” -> “Did you have a chance to look at this yet? No worries if not, but I need an answer by Friday if possible.”

    12. Heidi*

      I wish you could put a footnote in your emails that says, “Per policy, all reminders are ‘gentle’ unless otherwise stated.” Then write whatever you want.

      1. Always a Corncob*

        Haha I like this. Then you can send out the occasional “Aggressive reminder, you are late submitting the TPS report”


      2. Brain the Brian*

        Omg this would be brilliant. Maybe the next time my manager is on vacation, a temporary signature change is in order. :)

    13. Monkey's Paw Manicure*

      I’d be tempted to send a “well-lubricated reminder,” but I have no desire to have a chat with HR.

    14. MondayMonday*

      When I first send an email where something needs to be done, the subject starts with “Action Needed” or “Action Required”. Then I set an auto-reminder in Outlook to send them a popup reminder about the email I sent, on a certain day.
      If the things aren’t done after those 2 things, then I will send out another email replying to the original email that said “Action Needed” with a reminder to please do the thing by X day and to reach out if they have questions or can’t meet the deadline.

      1. Mr. Shark*

        Ugh, I hate those auto-reminders in Outlook. I understand their purpose, but it feels like the person doesn’t trust me enough to manage my own deadlines.

    15. Not A Girl Boss*

      Why do we need to label things as reminders at all??
      Why can’t we just say, “Hey team, can you please be sure to complete the thing by Friday” or “All, don’t forget the marshmallow building signups close today!”

      I have a boss that exclusively uses ‘gentle reminder’ when what she really means is “I’m giving you incredibly serious feedback and think you’re a total idiot by making me even explain this to you and if I have to explain it twice you’re fired.” So in my brain ‘gentle reminder’ is the workplace equivalent of ‘no offense’.

    16. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      I’ve used “I thought I’d send a reminder re the review process. Please provide me…” or “Just a reminder…”

    17. Always a Corncob*

      This might annoy people just as much, but I use “Checking in” for reminders. “Checking in about X, let me know how it’s going” or “I wanted to check in about Y — will it be ready by the deadline?”

    18. learnedthehardway*

      There nothing more guaranteed to get my back up than a “gentle reminder”. I LOATHE passive aggressiveness, and that is passive aggressive, per se. If you have something to tell me, do so. Be direct. Don’t pussyfoot around it.

      If it’s a reminder, say “Reminder – reports are due the day after tomorrow”. Or “I didn’t get your timesheet – please submit by end of day.”

    19. Garblesnark*

      Sending people reminders is a significant portion of my job, and since I’m pretty established and have a friendly relationship with most of these folks, I tend to say “reminder to complete [thing] by [date] or I will harass you ceaselessly about it.”

    20. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      I don’t know if this is any less enraging and/of if it’s “gentle” enough, but I often phrase it as a question, e.g.,

      “Hello, may I ask about the status of your review on the TPS report? We need to submit it by Thursday (10/5). Thank you.”

      Optionally add a line requesting they let me know if it’s not possible, but then the email gets long.

    21. AnonInCanada*

      In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need to send reminders, “gentle,” “friendly,” or otherwise. I’m 99.99% on top of my work emails, but yes, there’ll be the odd time one may slip through the cracks.

      My true pet peeve are emails that ask to “kindly confirm” they’ve been received. That grinds my gears. “Please confirm,” I get. “Kindly confirm” sounds like a demand to respond cheerfully, at least to me. The passive-aggressive cynic in me would like to reply “(cheerful emoji) I’m kindly confirming your email. THANK YOU!!!(more cheerful emojis).”

      1. ACanadianThing?*

        I have a colleague that uses “kindly” in every single request. I find it so off-putting that I immediately do not want to do whatever is being requested. Granted, this is also a person that tramples very clear boundaries so that may also influence the feelings.

    22. Decima Dewey*

      For me the annoyance is that I’ve already sent in the Periodicals Selection List, or whatever the “gentle reminder” is about. If some *other* people haven’t sent theirs in, go bug them, not everyone!

    23. Lucia Pacciola*

      Don’t use anything. You don’t have to tell someone you’re reminding them of something. You just have to remind them.

      “Please make sure you have your TPS reports on my desk before the weekend. Thanks!”

    24. OtterB*

      I’m not bothered by “gentle reminder.” I usually take it as “reminder that this needs to be done but it’s not things-on-fire urgent.”

      With people I correspond with regularly, we use “ping.” Sometimes as part of a sentence (e.g. pinging you for the status on this), sometimes as the only word in an email reply to a previous request. But we’re involved with tech and it’s normal vocabulary for many of us – might be weird or annoying for people not in that field.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        Yeah, someone sending me a single word email saying “ping” would annoy me more than anything else described here so far lol

    25. Unfortunate Admin*

      I don’t mind it depending on who it comes from. My boss tends to use it, but he is a very kind person, so it feels more genuine. I however, had to send so many reminders in my last job that I would never be so gentle.

    26. DiscoKitty*

      OP here…I’m considering using uncomfortable synonyms, like “tender reminder” or “balmy reminder”. Lol!

      1. Mr. Shark*

        Tender reminder…lol! That’s not much of a jump between gentle reminder and tender reminder.

    27. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

      How about any other descriptive word that doesn’t tell the recipient how they’re supposed to feel? Sometimes just adding more words–any words that aren’t hostile– can soften tone.

      I hate “gentle” “friendly” etc. but I use some of these regularly:

      Day, date, or time.
      For example: “Hi Wakeen, this is your end-of-month reminder that I need your signature on the TPS report by the first Monday of the next month.”
      “Monday reminder: the period for revisions to last week’s report ends at noon today.”
      “Noon reminder: revisions to last week’s report are closed. If you find a substantive error after this, you must do XYZ obnoxious process to correct it.”

      Role, task, or objective
      For example: “Policy compliance reminder: we’re contractually obligated to file an accurate weekly report on time, and penalized for errors or tardiness. Please make time to review your area of responsibility during the revision period.”
      “Corporate credit cardholders reminder: pet rocks are a prohibited purchase, and multicolored bungee cords require a memo of approval from the Stretchy Things Safety Coordinator prior to purchase. ”
      “Safety reminder: Slingshots made from bungee cords may only be used to launch paper airplanes, not pet rocks.”

      1. STAT!*

        You have to … actually REMIND people to not maltreat their pet rocks by slingshotting them? What kind of monsters do you work with??!?

    28. Rara Avis*

      I don’t frame it as a reminder or follow-up at all. I assume that they missed my first contact and just ask again for whatever information I wanted. Did it today, in fact, and the response was, “Sorry for never getting back to you — I was waiting on some information which I still haven’t received. Here’s the alternative, though.”

      I am dealing with a client who keeps sending me “gentle reminders” — when I have, in fact, responded to their previous request. No more gentle reminders, please — just read your g-d email.

      1. Le Sigh*

        Omg the people who chronically don’t read their email and then pester me drive me bananas. I had one coworker who kept sending me “gentle reminders,” with several people CCd, and then took it a step further by insinuating I didn’t do something correctly and to make sure I do it their way in the future, “because we don’t want to get dinged for the audit!” At first I would reply only to them and point them to the email where I already did that (w/o directly saying “I believe you’re the one who messed up”). After several rounds of this, I started screenshotting the original email, then replied all with, “to clarify, you’d like me to do it exactly the way I did it in this email I sent you in March?”

    29. Frog&Toad*

      My favorite are the automated Saturday, 2am “gentle reminders” that your ticket is going to be closed in 24 hours if you don’t reply. So helpful!

    30. LCH*

      “zephyr-like reminder” it’s a synonym. here is a reminder breezing toward you through the trees.

      honestly, dunno, gentle reminder is terrible.

    31. Elizabeth West*

      We use “friendly reminder” on my team. Like “Hi, this is just a friendly reminder to have your work done by the deadline, thanks!”

    32. Lalaluna*

      Eh, I’ve pretty much only seen “gentle reminder” used in the context of “this isn’t a huge deal but we want to flag it for your/everyone’s attention. But we don’t want everyone to panic about it or focus unduly on it.” Like, “gentle reminder to leave the light on outside the restrooms if you’re closing the building for the night.” etc.

      Not in the sense that, “oh, you’re too delicate to handle feedback so I’m telling this to you ‘gently’.”

  2. RedinSC*

    OMG! I hate Gentle Reminder!

    GAH, seriously, hate it.

    The other thing I dislike is, “I’m sorry but…..” No, don’t be sorry, say that you disagree or whatever, you don’t need to apologize unless you step on my foot.

    1. Clare*

      I don’t personally have any issue with “Sorry but, …” however I also don’t see “I’m sorry” as accepting responsibility. I see it as expressing regret. I would also say, “I’m sorry Grandma but the weather forecast is for rain today, so you’ll have to bring your laundry inside.” I didn’t cause the rain. I merely regret that its existence causes her inconvenience. Otherwise phrases like “Sorry for your loss” or “Sorry to hear you’re ill” wouldn’t make sense to me.

      I’d say “I’m sorry” if someone pushed me on to your foot and “I’m sorry, my bad” if I stepped on it. If I did the thing I’ll express regret + ownership.

      In the disagreement case, I’d be trying to communicate “I regret to have to correct you because there’s a minor risk you might be uncomfortable, but anyway, moving on, I think you’re wrong because of XYZ”. That said, I try and avoid “Sorry but” unless it’s totally unambiguous because I know it’s a common pet peeve.

      It always fascinates me how two different people can hear different things in the same word! English is weird.

      1. RVA Cat*

        I use sorry for regret but it grates on my husband. I get that he wants me to stop reflexively apologizing for things that aren’t my fault (hello female socialization). Interesting that this usage is more common outside the US like Sara K mentioned. We’re both from the same Southern state but I grew up in the suburbs and he’s from the country.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          In Ireland, “sorry” means everything from “excuse me,” (like if you want to get past somebody) to “I accept responsibility and will change my behaviour/thinking on this” to “I want to express sympathy with you” to “how dare you?” to “I didn’t hear what you said. Could you repeat it?”

          It’s generally clear from context and tone which is meant.

          1. bamcheeks*

            When I moved to Germany, I had to retrain myself because there are so many places where you can quite normally use “sorry” in England-English which sound *ridiculous* if you translate them all directly into German.

          2. Charlotte Lucas*

            Midwestern US here, “sorry” can mean so many things! (Commonly, it can mean “I didn’t hear that, can you repeat it?” – so always clarify what you’re sorry about or you feel like you’re talking to a parrot.)

          3. B*

            I studied abroad in Dublin nearly two decades ago and I still have the Irish “sorry” in my repertoire of reflexive responses. It’s versatile and effective!

          4. Bee*

            “Sorry?” is definitely my favorite way to ask someone to repeat themselves, hah! I love the French “pardon” for moving past people – it’s just such a tidy, pleasant word, especially compared to “‘scuse me” – and wish I could use that in English without seeming pretentious.

        2. londonedit*

          Yeah, it’s one of the interesting things I’ve learned through reading AAM – I didn’t realise that in some parts of the US, ‘sorry’ is only generally used to mean ‘I am in the wrong and I apologise’. That’s not at all the case here – it’s more of a social lubrication word! I often use it where you might use ‘excuse me’, but less formally – things like ‘Sorry, would you mind passing me that book over there?’ or ‘Sorry, just wanted to check that you’re still going to the meeting later?’. You use it when you might be interrupting, or as an opening when you want an informal way of asking someone for something. You can do a whole dance with a British person just using ‘Sorry…’ ‘Oh, sorry!’ if they’re in your way. So it’s odd to me when people here are all ‘I will not say sorry because I have not done anything wrong and I will not apologise’. Of course, it has its use as an actual apology, but in British English it’s used in so many other situations.

          1. Pippa K*

            An anthropologist once studied “sorry” usages specifically in England by, if I’m recalling correctly, bumping her shopping trolley into other people’s and waiting to see if they’d say sorry first when she was clearly at fault, and they pretty much always did. She’s English herself and also reported that she found it very difficult to commit mild social infractions on purpose – and then not say sorry right away.

            I’m more or less bi-national and sometimes have to restrain the “sorry” impulse when I know an American will misread it as an apology or admission of fault in a certain context. And don’t know if this has been mentioned below, but a sign or flyer headed “Polite Notice” seems like something not uncommon in Britain but not used in the US. (I always think it’s amusing to define one’s own statements as “polite” or “gentle” up front, but it doesn’t really bother me.)

            1. Rocket Raccoon*

              I’m American and I once got in a fight with an assistant professor over the use of the word sorry. She insisted it meant fault and I insisted it was a lubricant. The argument went all the way to the professor and I WON.

          2. penny dreadful analyzer*

            I kind of doubt there’s actually anywhere in the US where “sorry” is used exclusively to mean “I am in the wrong, I am apologizing for being wrong, and I will try to not be wrong going forward” and nobody uses it as a general social softener or expression of regret; I suspect a lot of people just only recall those use cases when they stop and try to think about the word consciously, and the other use cases are sort of invisible to them. It’s like people who think they never use the singular “they,” or who don’t think people really use third-person singular pronouns very often: wildly off-base from how any native speaker speaks, but so automatic and so deeply ingrained in the language that you don’t notice you’re doing it (and that everyone else is doing it).

            1. Lily Rowan*

              Yeah, my (US) pet peeve is people who react to “sorry” as if it can only be used for “I am in the wrong.” I say, “sorry your dog died,” and people say, “it wasn’t your fault.” No shit, that’s not what I’m saying.

            2. Orsoneko*

              Yes, this. I understand that there are regional differences when it comes to frequency and/or reflexivity of use, but “I’m sorry”-as-social-lubricant is absolutely a thing in general US English regardless of where in the country you are. I’ve seen plenty of people on the internet who seem to think it’s exclusively an expression of contrition and/or admission of wrongdoing, but those people are being overly literal and reflect a warped understanding the way people actually talk to each other in polite society. (I say this as someone who is by no means a stranger to social awkwardness.)

            3. Spencer Hastings*

              I was once very surprised when I bumped into someone on a bus and I said “sorry” and he said “it’s OK.”

              I’m from a “when we bump into each other we both say sorry” part of the US, and he was apparently…not. It was pretty jarring, especially considering that he was definitely the one “at fault” (he tried to get on the bus while people were still filing off it).

          3. Lenora Rose*

            Maybe it’s that I’m a Canuck and therefore use Sorry in a more British style*, but I can’t think of anyone I’ve had extensive discussion with in North America who doesn’t use sorry for all of the above to *some* degree. It may not be the automatic go-to word, but they don’t misunderstand “I’m sorry for your loss” to mean you think you’re responsible for the death of their loved one, or “I’m sorry, can you repeat that?” to mean you feel yourself at fault for not hearing them the first time. (There are people who, even in British or Canadian terms, seem to apologize for their own existence impinging on others, but you can generally tell if someone is that kind of apologetic rather than the quiet, normal social lubricant type.)

            * How do you find a Canadian in a crowded elevator? Step on passengers’ feet until someone apologizes.

          4. Critical Rolls*

            Seconding Penny. I’ve lived in several parts of the U.S. and never been anywhere that the phrase “I’m sorry to hear that” would have been unusual or ambiguous. I wonder if some people are just overly sensitive to it due to knowing someone (or being someone) for whom “I’m sorry” is a true verbal tic. I had a friend like that in middle school, who would say “I’m sorry” to anything in a tone of “I apologize.” But that is pretty distinct in tone, IMO.

          5. Sorry ‘Eh*

            *Shocked Pikachu face* Is this why the US makes fun of Canadians for saying sorry so much???? Because Canada is WAY more align with what you say about the UK.
            It’s such a reflex for us that we apologize to inanimate objects when we bump in to them. In Canada it means: excuse me, oops, regret, that’s a shame, and many more. To the point where if you are in the wrong, “Sorry” doesn’t count as an apology. It needs to be followed up with a couple sentences about how wrong you were.

        3. Boba Feta*

          Are you me? My spouse also hates my reflexive use of “sorry” for regret, but he’s southern and I’m from the Northeast (but raised in a big immigrant family). It’s so damn exhausting trying to remember to add “to hear that” every time I want to express commiseration or whatever but it is what it is (another annoying-to-me phrase of his). I’m so glad I get to regretalize as much as I like at work instead.

        4. RedinSC*

          It’s this! When used in a business setting. “I’m sorry, but the report has to show that we were late on 15 different invoices” when disagreeing with someone who doesn’t want to show the less flattering statistic or some other scenario.

          Don’t be sorry about that. This is a legal thing, not a situation you created.

          “I’m sorry, but I disagree with you.” we can disagree, no need for regerts here! It’s work, we’re not always going to have the same take on things.

          And as you said, it’s part of the female socialization, and I really feel we should stop doing that in a work setting.

          If you really do regret something – sorry we can’t use that adorable cat video in our marketing outreach, OK. But otherwise, don’t apologize for having an opinion or for doing your job!

          1. a clockwork lemon*

            I’m sorry, but I think it’s time to stop policing people’s communications to this degree!

          2. iiii*

            The last time someone pulled this nonsense with me in person, I told him his accent was *really*good* for a non-native speaker, but his language teachers had misled him about the meaning and use of the word ‘sorry’ in spoken English. Which I then went on about (‘sorry’ means regret, but is routinely used in phrases not intended to convey actual regret; ‘sorry’ as part of an apology is a specific-subset use of the word and NOT its sole or even default meaning; people who pretend that ‘sorry’ can only be an apology have either been misinformed or are deliberately trying to neg, which of course he wouldn’t be doing…) until he discovered other business elsewhere.

            Sorry, but if you’re going to pretend to misunderstand in order to set me one-down in the conversation, I will be setting you down right back.

        5. Dek*

          I have a counselor friend who will often call me out when I say “sorry” for things that aren’t my fault and…I really hate it. It makes me so uncomfortable. It’s not always an *apology* and in some cases, it’s more of a filler word or something anyway. (Along the same lines and “yeah, no” and “no, yeah”)

          If it’s not actual harmful language, I think folks should let people be with their quirks. I dunno, I’ve got a friend with a master’s in English who still says “exspecially.” She’s grown, she can read, she can say it however she wants. I’m not going to point it out to her every time. I want the same courtesy when it comes to verbal quirks.

      2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        I think it’s very annoying that “sorry” means both “I apologize” and “regrettably…” It seems like it reinforces the whole “I’m sorry you feel that way” phenomenon, where people use it as if it’s an apology, when they’re really using it as “regrettably.”

        1. STAT!*

          Yes, I think you have summarised the problem really well. Like the commentator at the top (RedinSC), I also dislike “I’m sorry but …”. I’ve seen that Alison uses this frequently in her scripts. She has explained at least once that she uses the phrase as softening language, and not to express an apology. I know that “sorry” has multiple meanings, just like many words/ phrases have multiple meanings. Yet, I still don’t like the “sorry” she suggests for her scripts! I thinks it’s because to me, it has all the meanings EXCEPT “regrettably” – which in the context of the scripts means, regrettably for you. No problem for me!

          Anyway, that’s a long way to observe that you can’t ever please everybody with the language you use.

        2. Clare*

          See, that’s the exact opposite to how I feel about it. I also don’t think “I’m sorry you feel that way” is an apology, but that’s because I don’t think “Sorry” is ever an apology. To me it’s only ever an expression of regret, used in lots of different ways and places. If you want to apologise to me I need to hear the words “I apologise” or else I won’t consider it an apology at all. I’m sorry, but sorry doesn’t cut it.

    2. Sara K*

      ‘Sorry’ has different connotations in different variations of English. As Clare notes it can mean an expression of regret rather than an apology especially in the UK/Canada/Australia/NZ. In fact I often use “my apologies” in a business email if I am apologising for an error to avoid the potential for confusion.

    3. vampire physicist*

      I also cannot stand gentle reminder but become absolutely livid at its rude cousin, “bump”. I don’t love “I’m sorry” when it’s not about regret either though – I try to only use it if there is genuinely something I did I wish I hadn’t, even if it’s as mild as “I took a little too long to respond.”

      1. bamcheeks*

        “bump” is specifically about bringing threads/chats back to the top of a messageboard and it annoys the heck out of me when it’s used elsewhere.

        1. Not Totally Subclinical*

          I have Outlook sorted with newest messages on top, so that’s exactly what I see when someone sends me a “bump” email. (Though I’ve never seen one with just “bump” — it’ll be a longer phrase like “Bumping this up — thanks!”)

    4. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Oh no – I use it, I hadn’t realised how many people hate it, so maybe I will change that. For me it isn’t passive aggressive. It just means “here’s a reminder of something, that I realise may have been forgotten or lost in the general email noise, so I’m not giving you a hard time about it, I really am just reminding you”.

    5. learnedthehardway*

      I am never sorry, when/if I say “I’m sorry, but…”

      What I am is annoyed that the other person can’t see the obvious problem with what they proposed.

    6. Verthandi*

      Oooh! that phrase!

      As soon as I saw “Gentle Reminder” I instantly thought of a website that (I hope!) no longer exists. You could anonymously send hygiene products and notes on how to use them to people who you think need “gentle reminders” about such things. It’s as passive aggressive as it comes, and can’t fail to anger the recipient.

    7. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      Sometimes, “Sorry, but…” can mean “I’m pretty sure you won’t be pleased by what I’m about to tell you, and I regret being the bearer of bad tidings.”

      I really don’t see anything wrong with using it in that way, and if someone was to get bent out of shape about it, I’d honestly think they were being pretty silly.

      Sorry about that (not really)! ;-b

  3. soontoberetired*

    #3 – the one year thing is a rule my company has for rehiring people as contractors once they’ve left as FTEs by company choice or personal choice. It is subject to exceptions all the time but there are certainly no laws governing it.

    and I hate “gentle reminders”, as much as I hate getting included in an email with a one line saying +1 (meaning added to the email chain). I want to know why someone added me to a chain, I don’t want to read a pages of emails to figure out why someone thinks I should be interested in the commuication.

    1. MK*

      #3, sounds to me that someone at that company heard perfectly reasonable legal advice and garbled it beyond recognition. I dealt with it all the time when I was a practicing lawyer: I would tell a client the court was likely to award use of the family home to the parent who got custody while the children were minors, and they would “hear” that they were going to lose their property in the divorce. Or, I would advise that a certain action could have specific consequences and they would think it’s illegal to do it at all. The law is extremely complicated and nuanced and it confuses many people.

      In this case, I think it’s likely a lawyer told the company that it could open them up to a discrimination suit to rehire a different team soon after they laid off the previous one, or that it could call into question the legality of the layoff (in countries were there are restrictions to laying people off) to rehire the same people soon afterwards, and some higher-up heard it’s illegal. Same goes with using the work of previous employees; I can see cases where a lawyer would advise against it (say, if an employee was fired for incompetence and was contesting it, using their work could weaken the company’s defense) and someone applied it generally.

      1. Emma*

        Yeah. Here in the UK it’s not illegal to make a position redundant and then rehire it shortly thereafter, but it is strong evidence that redundancy wasn’t the real reason why you terminated the previous person’s employment. That then opens you up to unfair dismissal claims by the old employee, including on the basis of discrimination, or on the basis that you should have followed the legal process to fire them for performance issues etc.

        There’s no one year cut off, but I can imagine a company being advised that they should wait at least a year so they can reasonably say that the business case for having the position changed.

          1. UKDancer*

            I thought it was illegal as well. I think HR can sometimes imply something is illegal when what they mean is that it’s hard to defend if you get sued. They usually prefer to avoid being put in the position of having to fight a legal case by removing the possibility at all.

            1. MsSolo (UK)*

              A former employer ran into that – made several members of staff redundant by not applying for funding for their roles, then as soon as they were out the door applied hired more people with ever so slightly different job titles under core funding. The whole thing was very much a “not applying for funding and getting rid of them is two shortcuts compared with the effort of actually managing them and making sure they don’t spend all day drinking tea off site”. The former role holders weren’t successful, even with union support, in part because of the funding change (and in part because I suspect they were about as cooperative with the union as they were with their former management), but despite that it definitely helped entrench the idea that the employer had acted illegally, instead of just unethically.

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          When there was a round of layoffs where I work about 10 years ago (UK local government), it very quickly became clear that my ex-manager had approved a structure that went too far and cut too many posts (short version: a combination of her having too many direct reports while being just too hands off meant that she had very little idea of what we actually did, therefore was unable to back up her claims when trying to push back to the CEO about not being able to make savings, and then laid off too many people).

          At the time, they did end up waiting a year before restructuring that department again and advertising to fill those roles, (none of those who had been made redundant in the original restructure returned) – I had thought at the time that there was a cut off point, but maybe it was just advice as you said.

        2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          It does have implications for the (otherwise) tax-free status of redundancy payments though, if it appears that the position wasn’t really redundant. I suppose that is because you’d have a loophole that “bonuses” could be paid tax free by spuriously making someone redundant and then re-hiring them after a week or whatever.

        3. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Yeah this is true in the US as well. You don’t have to wait, but if it’s blatant that you’re swapping out the team for a different makeup then you’ll get tied up in litigation.

          Also there’s just the fact that the optics aren’t great anyway – either you laid off these people and then realized you needed them, so it looks like you have no idea how to run things or what the core functions of your teams are, or you look shady, or you look unstable and shortsighted…it impacts image and internal morale in a way I just wouldn’t personally advise.

        4. DistantAudacity*

          In Norway, I think there’s something about the laid-off employees having the right to get their jobs back. I’m sure this is if the jobs are just posted straight back out within a year, or something to that effect when there is a structured lay-off process.

      2. ecnaseener*

        I was also thinking it got garbled in the telling — doesn’t have to be complicated, just “Legal said we shouldn’t” –> “Legal said we can’t” –> “Legal said it would be illegal.”

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Yes. Legal will often say “shouldn’t” because it will save a headache or two down the road, and that will be communicated as “our lawyers say no, definitely illegal, can’t even consider it” in just one tier of telephone.

      3. Common Taters on the Ax*

        To me, the situation as described by #3 sounds like one of the laid-off team members got angry and suggested they might sue about everything from reopening the positions to reusing materials, and the company either wasn’t sure they couldn’t or quite possibly didn’t even want to have to respond to a lawsuit, even if it was clear they would win. Lots of companies prefer to avoid frivolous lawsuits when they can.

        1. OP #3*

          I’m in regular communication with the two former team members who are based in the US, and I’m confident that none of us has said anything like that to the company. We were all open to offers to return and baffled by the “it’s illegal” excuse.

          That leave the one non-US-based employee, but threatening to sue sounds very out of character for them.

    2. kalli*

      Yeah, no, rehiring people as contractors after ditching them as FTEs, especially for the same/similar work, can actually get people deemed employees by the IRS.

    3. RedinSC*

      I had heard of this as a law as well, when my company was laying off people during the early 2000s DotBomb period. It was stated as law that you can’t lay off people, and then rehire within a year for that position, You’ve eliminated it, you can’t bring it back.

      Now, this is in CA which does have specific rules that other states don’t, but yeah, like the LW I thought it was a law.

  4. Ask A Manatee*

    Oh how I wish matter of fact communication was always taken that way. But I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve emailed “Hi Hortense, reminding you that I requested the TPS reports by end of day. Thanks.” only to have the recipient complain that my tone is “unfriendly” or “needs softening.” When I instead write “Hi Hortense, gentle reminder that I requested the TPS reports by end of day. Thanks!” I get no such feedback. Drives me nuts. Maybe it’s my industry (advertising)?

    1. Pat*

      There’s a contractor who works for my team, and he always uses “gentle reminder” when asking our internal clients to answer the email(s) he has already sent them asking for a decision. He lives in India (I’m in the US), and I assumed it was a cultural thing. Now I’m wondering if I should ask him to leave off “gentle.”

      1. Merry and bright*

        We added a team in the Philippines, and until they started using the phrase gentle reminder, I hadn’t seen it before. Sadly, US business culture is a lot meaner than Philippine culture, so we had to train them to stop using that phrase.

        I would love it if I could find a concise way to send an ungentle reminder that still looks professional, because “I’ve asked you for this deliverable that is a month overdue every day for the past two weeks, and your grand boss is going to lay the smack down on you, because that’s how high I’ve had to escalate your lack of communication” is really unwieldy.

        1. TechWorker*

          ‘Adding grand boss to the mail thread.

          This deliverable is now in day on day slip, which is impacting x,y and z. What is the ETA?’

          Adding the senior people into the thread is making it very clear that it’s being or has been escalated. ‘Day on day slip’ is a somewhat useful phrase comment at my company that means ‘it’s late and is only getting later, we don’t have a projection for how late’.

          1. Thricebitten*

            If I get a reminder, I’m usually “oh shit did I forget that” and onto it immediately. If I get a gentle reminder I might roll my eyes first, then get onto it. If I get an email cc’ing random managers in, you’re getting a reply-all outlining all the reasons the delay is your fault.

    2. Shy Platypus*

      To be honest, I would soften “requested” rather than “reminder” in that first example! Seems indeed a bit harsh to me but ymmv.

      1. Nobby Nobbs*

        I feel like the exclamation point on the thanks! is doing more lifting in the “softening” department than the gentle reminder, but your mileage may vary.

        1. Ask A Manatee*

          I was trying to use as brief an example as possible and I shouldn’t have left out what would be important context. It would be an email sent, say, at the end of the day the thing was due, which would be evident to the recipient by the timestamp. I said “requested” because most of my colleagues are peers, not reports. So technically they don’t HAVE to do it, it would just be weird if they refused. The exclamation point was to illustrate…fake cheerfulness? Open to suggestions! (exclamation point)

          1. ecnaseener*

            I think the issue with “I requested the TPS reports” is that it can feel a little scoldy – it’s sort of leaning on the fact that you asked rather than the fact of the task itself, like your ask / your authority is the important thing. “I need the TPS reports” is just you needing something to do your job, so maybe counterintuitively feels less scoldy.

            Or if you don’t want to even say “I need” then there’s always “Just checking in about those TPS reports!”

            1. And the Skeletons Are… Part of It*

              Agree, “I requested x by y date” sounds disappointed. That’s more the issue. It sounds like you are assuming she’ll miss the deadline.

        2. Michelle Smith*

          I find “Thanks!” to be just as passive-aggressive in that context. If it’s not due until the end of the day, why are you emailing me before it’s due? Nothing grinds my gears more than being reminded to do something I’m literally working on in that moment.

    3. bamcheeks*

      Actually, that would probably rub me the wrong way too! I do think a lot of this comes down to WHY you think a reminder is required. If the deadline for the TPS is end of the second Wednesday every month and I’ve never missed the deadline, I would wonder why you’re reminding me. If it’s a change from the usual, because the TPS reports are usually due on Friday but you’ve got PTO so it’s been brought forward, I’d appreciate an acknowledgment that I’m doing you a favour. If the TPS report is a one-off task and you asked me on Monday, but for whatever reason you’re following up, then an actual question about whether I’m on track or anticipate any issues would be fine. But a blank reminder like that feels like you either don’t trust me to do my job (in which case, there should be a larger conversation) or that you’re anxious about it and passing that anxiety on to me.

      1. A Girl Named Fred*

        Third option, if I may? “My boss has told me I have to send this reminder to everyone, please just delete it and move on if you don’t need it.”

        Maybe it’s because I’m an Admin Assistant and other roles or industries don’t do this, but my boss has requested I send reminders to the whole team about a ton of stuff so I really don’t see it as adversarial or judgmental to my colleagues? I’m either genuinely trying to help, or just making sure I do as the boss says. Or do reminders mainly grate when they’re in a one-to-one interaction, versus someone blanket reminding a whole department?

        1. bamcheeks*

          I can’t think of a situation where I’ve minded it coming from someone at a lower level to me. My go-to example of this was when it came from my boss, and it definitely felt like a micromanaging lack-of-trust thing. When it’s coming from someone who isn’t assigning me a task I read it much more as a request.

          But the more we’re talking about it, the more I think it’s to with the broader dynamics and relationships. I think it’s one of those things that really grates when there’s already tension and conflicting priorities, rather than the words themselves.

        2. Michelle Smith*

          Mainly in a one-on-one interaction. A generic reminder to the full team is not singling me out and thus I just ignore it if I don’t need it. “If it doesn’t apply, let it fly” is a lot easier for me to adhere to when it’s a group email as opposed to one targeted directly at me.

    4. A Girl Named Fred*

      Agreed! I used to be a person for whom “gentle reminder” was the go-to reminder phrase, because I worked several places in a row where I’d get ripped a new one for not being properly effusive and apologetic in any reminder email I needed to send to anyone. The habit stuck for a bit after that, but I worked on shaking it off after seeing people here write how it annoyed them. But it’s a little… I don’t know, dismissive? to say that nobody should ever do that because direct communication is always taken well, when questions to this very site prove otherwise. I get the point about not assuming the other person’s feelings, but geez, I wasn’t trying to be passive aggressive, I was trying not to get yelled at for the dozenth time that day!

      (Thankfully I’m in a better place now and yes, my reminders are just “Hey folks, this is your reminder for XYZ. Thanks!”)

      1. Sloanicota*

        Agree- can’t remember if I’ve ever used the phrase, and will certainly not use it in the future based on the volume of hatred here, but let’s not pretend people don’t get annoyed at being reminded of things they need to do. Particularly when the person doing the requesting is in a lower position / has no authority over the person being reminded, it can be dicey out here. Of course everyone who reads *this* blog never misses or a deadline or is just productively grateful to be reminded, but there’s a lot of other people getting emails.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          People definitely get annoyed at being reminded of stuff, but…I think if somebody is going to be annoyed at being reminded, being told “I’m being gentle here,” would make them more likely to get annoyed, not less. Especially as it sort of implies that however direct the message comes across, you really wanted to be more direct.

          Now, I don’t think most people necessarily mean it that way. I think it’s just a phrase people use without really meaning much by it. But it isn’t saying “I’m sorry for bothering you” or “I’m sure this is unnecessary” or “it’s fine if you don’t get around to it immediately; there’s no rush.” It doesn’t really soften the message at all; it just says “I am softening the message.”

          I know it is difficult to send reminders without sounding like you are annoyed at people or being bossy, but I don’t think “gentle reminder” really combats that. “Gentle reminder that your reports were due two days ago” doesn’t sound any more gentle than something like “hey, just wanted to let you know that the due date for x was such a date.” I think anybody who takes offence at the latter will also take offence at the former, plus some people who wouldn’t take offence at the latter might take offence at the former because it does sound a little like they person is saying “I’m really TRYING to be gentle here and not point out how incompetent you are.”

          I don’t think the point is that one should never use softening language, but rather that telling people you are using softening language doesn’t necessarily mean one is.

          1. ecnaseener*

            Agreed. At most, “gentle reminder” makes me think this message should be read in a “gentle” tone of voice, aka a soft, singsongy tone that you’d never use out loud in the workplace.

            1. Shan*

              Yes! It immediately calls to mind this really manipulative instructor I had in my Ed program who’d been a kindergarten teacher and interacted with her adult students the exact same way. It immediately sends my shoulders up to my ears.

        2. Molly Coddler*

          +100000000 to what Sloanicota said. i’d love to be direct. some of the peeps above me would get hurt to the core of their soul i kid you not if i wasn’t effusive or “gentle” enough with them. it’s part of my job to coddle adults who can’t turn stuff in on time – and those who need to be coddled are usually the ones you need to be “gently reminding” stuff. it’s so frustrating having to treat adults like they’re fragile, but like i said, it’s part of my job.

      2. Corsets and lace*

        This, OMG This…. if including ‘gentle’ stops my particulate information dragon from breathing fire before releasing some of their info horde, I’m all for it.

    5. Delta Delta*

      What about “Hi Hortense, please send me the TPS reports by the end of the day. Thanks, Manatee” ? Take out the part about the reminder all together and it just seems like a message.

    6. Parakeet*

      This illustrates why some people might say “gentle reminder” – as softening language, not passive-aggression – and yet a lot of people apparently read a whole lot of bad intent into that phrase. I think there are better ways to incorporate softening language than to announce that you’re using softening language, which is what “gentle reminder” does, but eh, plenty of other common phrases don’t make much sense when you look closely at them.

  5. AcademiaNut*

    For #5 – once you go international, gift cards are a lot more complicated than a lot of people realize. They’re typically limited to a single country’s store (even for international companies), and often you have to have a credit card with an address in the same country as the tsore to buy the right gift card. So I’m guessing simple mistake.

    My nieces and nephews get Chapters cards for Christmas because most of the alternatives (like Apple and Steam) have these restrictions and I can’t actually buy the cards for them without crossing the Pacific ocean.

    1. kalli*

      I use Amazon-in-their-country and give them an Amazon gift card, which isn’t perfect but is generally preferred over something more specific or an actual gift since it means a month of Prime or ‘something I want but otherwise wouldn’t spend money on’ which can include eligible gift cards on Amazon also.

    2. Sloanicota*

      Particularly if the team is “international” in the sense of US and Canada only, without a range of other countries to remind everyone of this kind of thing frequently, I can totally imagine this happening in my office.

    3. NotRealAnonForThis*

      This is a pile of fun when you live near an international border and have family on both sides, as typically you don’t learn that the GC’s value doesn’t cross the border with you before you try to use a Canadian GC at a US store, or vice versa.

    4. The Starsong Princess*

      As someone whose Canadian company works closely with our US company, I’ve run into this many times. Many gift cards just don’t work. Starbucks does so I often recommend that. works but it isn’t transferable to so there’s shipping and duty for anything you buy. The best work around for it is to tell people to go to and buy Canadian gift cards to places like Uber Eats or DoorDash. US people can purchase Canadian gift cards there but usually they can’t buy them on the original company’s own site because it will default them back to the US.

    5. iglwif*

      This has absolutely happened to me before. In Canada, we are DEEPLY familiar with things (online shopping, chain-store gift cards, Starbucks points cards, Interac transfers, tap-to-pay, mobile phone plans, pennies …) that work on only one side of the border or the other. IME, my colleagues in the US are surprised by these incompatibilities about 75% of the time, whereas Canadian colleagues are surprised only about 2% of the time.

      It is extremely unlikely that OP’s situation was malicious, and extremely likely that it simply did not occur to the USian decision maker that a US thing might not work in Canada.

    6. Jajajaja*

      I used to manage a gift card program. Our cards read “Use in the US only” but could still be used internationally. May be worth a shot online.

  6. musical chairs*

    I truly cannot focus after realizing that on a planet of 8 billion people, the likelihood is not insignificant that someone, somewhere, is named Burt Burtlebot for real.

    I need to go to bed.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        If he’s in England, he’d be a Bertie, since we don’t really have the name Burt here. But posh people here do tend to have weird names, so anythings possible!

        1. UKDancer*


          He’d be a Bertie (if he were upper class) – see Bertram Wooster or George VI (known as Bertie to his family).

          Bert occasionally was used as a more working class name as a shorter version of Albert but it’s very uncommon nowadays in either form and I’ve never seen Burt used in England as a name in its own right – that seems very American to me.

            1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

              Or Bertram. Our cat is named Bert, but his “official” name is Bertram, to be certain that it’s always spelled Bert and not Burt. (Because these things matter! Deeply!) But his daily-use name tends to collect syllables. B. Bert Bertleby is a common one. I often call him “Bert Boy” which gets shortened to B-Boy and then BB, which gets lengthened to BBB, which … it’s endless and amuses us.

      1. kalli*

        Google doesn’t think I exist and I know for a fact that there are at least two other people with my birth name in my country.

  7. Martin Blackwood*

    I thought #5 was three months old and from my team, oh my god. So many details are the same. Exactly same amount, same prepaid credit cards, Canada, boss away. But we’re not remote and the issue wasn’t buying internationally, it was some activation issue that no one elaborated on to me.

    I hope at least this makes you feel better OP5, knowing that this isn’t a rare situation. My boss was on top of it right away when she got back, please talk to yourself and I’m sure they will be too.

    1. AGD*

      Yeah, this happened to me as well! No one could have known that the gift cards wouldn’t work on the identically named Canadian incarnation of a giant worldwide service based in the U.S.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes, I think gift cards are very difficult and people don’t always realise the restrictions. I’d chalk this up to a genuine mistake and ask the company to fix it.

        If they don’t fix it once they know there’s a problem then I’d be annoyed. But people don’t always know there’s an issue if it’s the first time the situation has arisen.

      2. Chinookwind*

        No American would think that. Most Canadians are painfully aware that US based businesses do not have the same entity in Canada (they are usually separate business with different headquarters). Even when I worked for a company owned by Americans, our heads office was a separate business from the US one.

        The irony is that, if they took a moment to buy from the Canadian website (or even checked to see if there is one), they could have bought a functional gift card for their Canadian employees. With luck, a simple explanation will fix this going forward.

        1. Martin Blackwood*

          Eh, if you don’t interact with the US/shop online much I can see you might assume it’s “a few” instead of “Almost all.” Plus like every website will redirect you to your “local” one these days. I have a feeling we’re coming at this from different sides of that phenomenon where people overestimate how many people agree with them/know something, etc. (I wouldnt describe myself as “painfully aware” of this fact! It comes up so rarely in my life, but obviously it’sa lot more relevant to you)

    2. Waffles*

      We had an ‘awards’ ceremony at our last holiday party at our head office in NY and the award for my department happened to be won by a colleague in one of our satellite offices in Europe. The prize was a cheap toy trophy and a gift card for a restaurant near our office in NY. Definitely not transferrrable. He kindly told us in the NY department to treat our junior staff on him.

      But the organizers knew in advance who had won the award. So what the heck?

      1. Antilles*

        I would assume they just didn’t think about it. The organizers annually buy a gift card to the nearby steakhouse, bought the same thing as last year, and didn’t even think through that the chain isn’t in Europe.
        The other way this happens is when you need a bunch of prizes at once – either because you’re handing out a bunch of awards or it’s a monthly meeting where you know you’ll consistently need these. The organizer stops at a CostCo, buys one of those “Five $50 gift cards for $200!” deals, and we’re good on prizes…without really thinking through stuff.

  8. Pillow Fort Forever*

    “Gentle reminder” is on par with “will you kindly” in my book. Not I won’t kindly do it. I’ll do it with a bad attitude and swear words, thank you very much. Clearly I need to spend quiet time in the pillow fort!!

    1. Engineer*

      Ever since Bioshock, I’ll never be able to gear “will you kindly” in anything but a nasally Irish accent again.

    2. Just Here for the Llama Grooming*

      So here for this. My default attitude is sweary and “leave me alone to do my job!”

  9. Izzy Legal*

    I am the only one who hears “gentle reminder” as the workplace version of “bless your heart?”

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Since “gentle reminder” is usually something that I only see written on signs asking people not to do something annoying, I always hear it as if it was spoken by Gangster Mode Robert De Niro after beating someone up: “That was a gentle reminder, asshole. The next one, it won’t be so gentle.”

    2. Avi?*

      It’s definitely in the same class as “bless your heart”, especially in how there’s some people who use it genuinely, and a lot of others who use it because it’s not socially acceptable for them to say ‘fuck’.

      1. MissElizaTudor*

        They’re also similar in that the internet has boosted the second meaning and now some people think that’s the only way it’s used.

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        There’s also a lot of people who do both and you just need to hear the tone

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      YES. Maybe because if I ever use it, I’ve used it this way lol

      Or to remind my boss of something for the 30th time that I know she won’t do unless I remind her but I know she’ll get annoyed at me reminding her about. But in that case it’s usually verbal with a touch of impishness to acknowledge the fact we’re annoying each other but that’s the life.

    4. Magnus Archivist*

      I have used “gentle reminder” in the past and truly had no idea some people hated it so much and I am absolutely horrified that people were enraged by my emails and/or at me.

      Was truly not being passive aggressive, just trying not to sound like a demanding jerk. Just like, “hey — heads up that this thing is happening. I have no authority over you and and am not trying to make it sound like I do and do not expect you to jump to do anything. Just, y’know, be aware.”

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        I’m going against the grain here, but I liked the phrase “gentle reminder.” It’s only come from one person: a very sweet, thoughtful, and kind person and the phrase really fit her personality. I imagine seeing the phrase from someone you dislike can put it in the BEC category and ruin the phrase forever.

        So, what I’m saying is that if you’re a good person and good boss, I’d say most of your coworkers took it in the spirit in which it was intended.

      2. Aitch Arr*


        I often have to remind C-level execs of action items on their part. I’d be considered rude if I didn’t try to imply that I understood how busy they are but I really do need them to do their part.

      3. Parakeet*

        Yeah, also going against the grain here, but I don’t think it’s passive-aggressive unless it’s followed by some actual aggression. Softening language is not inherently passive-aggressive, it’s just softening. Softening language is also not inherently indirect, it’s just adding a couple of words to a sentence, and if that sentence is direct then there’s no indirectness involved.

    5. Smithy*

      To me gentle reminder is a case of someone saying the truth out loud when they think they’re saying a euphemism.

      I’m in a team that needs to get a lot of information and cooperation from other teams where I can only “force” their compliance and timeliness so much. So, do I send “gentle reminders”? All the time. Why? Because otherwise I’d get absolutely nothing on time.

      But the point of the gentle reminder is certainly not to call it a gentle reminder. But rather to get what I need and let all of us save face, that sure I trust my colleagues to respect me and my deadlines – and in no way am I letting anyone know that I think that a) they won’t send it on time and b) incorrectly.

    6. not bitter, just sour*

      Yes and that’s exactly how I intend it to be received.

      If you were doing your job and I wasn’t on my third where the fuck is my shit email, I wouldn’t need to be blessing your heart.

  10. John Smith*

    re #1. Agree with Alisons response, but feel it’s one sided (I’m tempted to say sexist). Whilst the LWs duty is to the employee, the advice given is that the friend will be the trouble maker in the event of a break up, but neglects any possibility that the employee may be the cause of trouble. What if they split due to employees unreasonable behaviour, customer comes to bar to see friend (bar owner) and starts getting verbal abuse from the employee through no fault of his own? I think that if it was thought necessary to tell the employee that they would be protected if ex-boyfriend starts acting up, it should be made clear that the reverse is also true. I certainly hope the advice Alsion gave would be the same if the sexes of the dating couple were reversed.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If she starts verbally abusing the friend when he comes to the bar, the OP should of course address it with her at that point. It would be odd to preemptively tell her she won’t be allowed to do that, because most normal people don’t do that (and again, if it does become an issue, the OP has the ability to handle it immediately).

      But the reason for letting her know preemptively that the OP will keep her work environment from being weird if the guy becomes a problem is so that she’s not worried about that if she does start to consider ending it. It’s much less likely that she’s going to think, “Oh no, I want to end things with him but I’m concerned I might verbally abuse him if he shows up here” and hesitate over ending things as a result.

      1. LW#1*

        LW#1 here. Thanks for fielding my Q, Alison. I will say I didn’t get any sexist vibes, just pro-employee vibes, which I agree should be the focus. Thanks for reminding me that the benefits of transparency are worth the cost of a bit of awkwardness.

      2. Cmdrshprd*

        I know this LW1 said “but I told him I had no right to interfere in my employees’ relationships, so to proceed if he wanted to.”

        But would having a rule “Don’t date customers.” be reasonable? Do you think it being a bar/service industry that might have a bit different standards/norms, makes a difference?

        Based on the potential pitfalls mentioned, and I think many more corporate companies with an employee/customer relationship (sales team and customers, or product support and customers) do have rules like “Don’t date customers,” if OP/other bar owner wanted a “Don’t date customers rule,” would not be unreasonable.

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          In more formal industries, yes, this could be a rule.

          But in food service and other high-turnover, high volume sales industries, it makes less sense. A bar is generally not going to fold if they lose one customer, even a regular. Similarly, a lot of bars don’t expect servers to be there ultra-long term. Having these kinds of rules when other similar places in the area don’t would probably lead to less people willing to work there or patronize there.

          So, yes, I think the service industry would have much different norms.

          Full disclosure: My first boyfriend at 16 years old was my coworker at Taco Bell. My boss didn’t tell us not to date because EVERYONE was dating EVERYONE ELSE at that Taco Bell. It was just what you did.

          1. Cmdrshprd*

            That makes sense, I think you are right don’t date customers is probably too broad of a rule. But idk maybe I am just out there/weird with my thoughts but it seems reasonable to me to not want your employee to date your BFF who is also a regular customer. For all the pitfalls that come with it in the event of a successful or unsuccessful relationship.

            So maybe don’t date “friends/regulars” of the owner/manager rule?

            I think LW1 mentioned in a comment about taking a trip with friends, including with this specific friend that partners are welcome on, employee is not going on this trip, but if things go well employee will probably go on future trips.

            I don’t know that as the owner/manager or an employee I could ever really feel relaxed in a situation like that. Feel that I could let loose. It would seem better to not have to deal with it. It could lead to accusations of favoritism if employee is regularly going/hanging out with the owner. But maybe that does not really matter, in the service/retail environments I’ve have worked there was favoritism between managers/employee even without personal relationships and just work relationships.

            Or in a situation that they break up and it is messy cheating etc… on either side and they can’t stand to be in the room with each other.

            Maybe when it comes to work I am just more risk averse.

            1. Michelle Smith*

              I just think it’s a level of policing interpersonal relationships that doesn’t make sense. In a situation where there are legal, ethical, conflict of interest, or other complications, sure. It would be problematic for example for a prosecutor to be put in charge of their best friend’s partner’s case or could be awkward to be the nurse cleaning up their best friend’s partner in the hospital. But in a bartender/customer situation, those kinds of issues aren’t really coming up, unless the bartender is inappropriately discounting drinks, overpouring, etc. in which case the issue is not the romantic relationship but the employee’s behavior.

              If it would be awkward for employee and LW1 to be on the trip together, LW1 can opt out and find another time to hang out with their BFF (or employee may choose to opt out on their own, also eliminating any potential awkwardness).

              I just imagine a situation in which this rule is in place, an employee matches with someone on a dating app and hits it off, and then 3, 6, or 12 months+ later discovers that their significant other and boss are friends. Then what? Or do you contemplate specifying that the relationship is only prohibited when the employee’s partner is a customer of the bar? If so, at what point does that rule kick in? Is the partner supposed to never come to that specific bar and have to wait outside at the end of employee’s shift in order to protect their job? Is one drink every 6 weeks okay to avoid being labeled a regular? Or what if the employee starts dating the infrequent customer, the customer meets the owner later after that romantic relationship starts, and customer and owner develop a friendship. Is owner now violating the policy? What would be the solution to this – for owner to tell the customer they can’t be friends because of this policy? It all just seems like a lot of policing for no good reason.

            2. LW#1*

              LW#1 here. Given our small town and the nature of bartending, it would be inappropriate/self-defeating to make that policy. Most of our staff are in some kind of relationship and most of those partners are regulars, whether they met beforehand or at our place. The only difference in this case is that the regular is also one of my oldest friends so there is more potential for issues (perceived or otherwise).

              That said, I might not have pursued the relationship in my employee’s place, but importantly, I am not in her place nor empowered to give her unsolicited life advice.

              That said, travel is an entirely different kettle of fish and I am not sure how best to address it when it comes. Probably someone is going to have to give something up, which I can negotiate with my friend, whether it is he or I, as it comes.

          2. Justin D*

            Yeah and with food or drink service “customers” can mean basically the entire town, so it’s not reasonable to ban dating customers the same way you might ban dating a business client or whatever.

        2. Olive*

          It would be extremely weird in food service to say you couldn’t date any customer. There’s not one clear dividing line between an occasional customer and a regular. It would be either subjective and could easily be abused by a punitive manager, or would be absolutely ridiculous. “Bob has come in 5 times now and last time he talked to the bartender for 5 minutes, so now no one can date him.”

    2. Clare*

      But that’s a conversation to have with the friend, just like LW#1 won’t be telling the friend “Oh FYI, if you stalk my employee when you two break up I’ll be backing her”. What you said might be true from a social standpoint but it doesn’t really add to the workplace context. LW#1 will just assume the employee will behave sensibly until proven otherwise, the same way managers don’t pre-emptively tell their young male employees not to abuse their exes.

    3. Dark Macadamia*

      It’s not sexist, it’s about someone being a “captive audience” at their place of employment and being concerned about how a social situation could affect their livelihood.

      1. LW#1*

        LW#1 here. I think that’s a very accurate way of looking at the situation. And I know I won’t be lying when I reassure her that I can keep things appropriately stovepiped.

        1. Heather, who is queer herself*


          I admit the letter had me confused. The employee is male and the friend is female, right?

          At different points the genders seemed switched around, so while I know gender doesn’t matter here, I just want to understand who’s who.

          1. Hlao-roo*

            I think the friend is male and the employee is female. The LW is asking about “talking to an employee about her private life” and has already talked to the (male) friend about the situation.

          2. LW#1*

            LW#1 here. I and my friend are male, my employee is female. (Several commentators have assumed I am female, but I have no problem with that, only setting the record straight because you asked.)

    4. KateM*

      If an(y) employee abused a(ny) patron, OP can put the employee or PIP or fire her. It is much more difficult to fire a friend. So in some sense, an employee has more to fear than a friend.

      1. KateM*

        It’s “best friend” vs “employee”. Employee has far more reason to fear that OP would back their best friend over just an employee even if it was the best friend who was in wrong, than the best friend to fear that OP would let an employee to abuse them.

      2. Yorick*

        The friend could also just not come to the bar while the ex-gf is working if the ex-gf is rude to him. The employee wouldn’t have that option.

    5. Tiger Snake*

      But at the end of the day, no matter the reason LW1’s friend and their employee break up, it’s not going to be a breach of the employee’s expected work behaviour. “It turns out employee is a complete witch in her personal life” is irrelevant to “but she’s still a great server and team player in her work life”.

      That’s why the only talk is between the LW and her friend. It’s not a matter of sides. It’s a matter of; my friendship with you is personal. No matter the outcome, it cannot impact on my choices and decisions as a manager. I’m not firing a great employee just because you don’t want to see her.

    6. Despachito*

      I think this would be an easy one.

      If the employee did this (verbal abuse) it would be actionable irrespective of whether the friend deserved it or not (and OP cannot be a judge in this).

      It is not professional to insult patrons for personal reasons like that, and that would hold even if he was not OP’s friend. OP would have the right (and should) stop it if it happens not because of loyalty to his friend but because it would bother the other patrons.

    7. Bagpuss*

      it’s not oone sided. “Employees are not allowed to verbally abuse customers for no reason” is a pretty basic and obvious rule in pretty much any job, and were it to arise, it would be a disciplinary issue regardless of who the customer was or what, if any, past relationship they had with the staff member.
      it doesn’t require any new or separate conversation to point out that it would not be acceptable

    8. Green great dragon*

      The mirroring comment is for LW to tell *their friend* that if they break up and he comes to the bar and employee verbally abuses him, LW will address it with the employee, not to tell the employee in advance they mustn’t. But I don’t think that’s a necessary reassurance, because friend will probably assume it, and because friend would probably not be visiting the bar in that case. Genders irrelevant here.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I agree it’s not about gender here; it’s about assuring the person in the lower-power/more vulnerable position (ie, your at will employee, vs your BFF, and the person who can’t just stop coming to the bar without losing their livelihood) that you are looking out for them if the relationship goes bad. Having said that, I admit male-customer/female-employee is a commonly bad dynamic.

    9. bamcheeks*

      because the employee’s material well-being is dependent on her job, and the friend’s isn’t. Therefore there’s more at stake for her.

        1. RVA Cat*

          Especially in a small town with fewer opportunities.
          The best way forward may be for the LW and the friend to help the employee move on to a different job.

          1. Michelle Smith*

            Maybe, if that’s what everyone wants. But they shouldn’t preemptively try to do that when employee is presumably happy with their job and there aren’t any issues right now.

    10. Snow Globe*

      The issue isn’t the respective genders, it’s that one person is an employee, who has certain legal rights to work in an environment free from harassment, and one is a personal friend. There is no similar legal obligation on the part of the
      LW towards the friend.

    11. Disgruntled Pelican*

      lol wut? Of course the advice would be the same, genders are totally irrelevant here. The employee should be reassured that her job is not dependent upon this romance going well and that she will be free of harassment from customers regardless of said customers’ relationship to her boss. If the friend can’t handle awkwardness in the event of a breakup, he shouldn’t be dating employees at his friend’s bar—because if things do go south, it’s on *him* to stay out of the bar (and, honestly, he’d be inviting trouble to show up there if the breakup is messy, even if she’s the one “at fault” or whatever).

    12. That's True*

      I agree with everyone else on the power imbalance and relative risks to the friend vs the employee. But also, statistically, women have much, much more to fear from ending a relationship than men do. Obviously this has no current bearing on this specific relationship, where there’s no indication either party will behave poorly, but it’s tiring to constantly see the reverse-gender whataboutism argument pop up.

    13. Yorick*

      You really don’t need to come on every post about a (potentially) problematic man and claim women are problematic too. None of this is relevant to the LW as the employer of this woman and the friend of this woman’s bf.

  11. Dark Macadamia*

    It’s not sexist, it’s about someone being a “captive audience” at their place of employment and being concerned about how a social situation could affect their livelihood.

  12. Ink*

    I have a completely different read on gentle reminders- almost exclusively as sarcasm or as more aggressive-aggressive. But I’m also not doing any in a work context, so.

    I get why #3 is probably super frustrating, because what??? Weird messaging after lay-offs isn’t the WORST thing, but it would bug me because… WHAT?? But I desperately want to know what else the source of those legal opinions thinks is illegal. I can’t imagine this specific scenario is the extent of those.

    1. Jen*

      Me too! To me, “kind reminder” and “gentle reminder” translate as “how the hell can this task STILL be outstanding??”

    2. Sloanicota*

      I don’t know much about employment law, so I’m really curious. The only possible loser of a fake-layoff I can think of is unemployment insurance, which is paying for no-fault dismissal when actually the theory is that the employer fired these people for cause ? (?). Or, as suggested, it opens the employer up to a wrongful dismissal suit because it clearly wasn’t a layoff if they rehired the department directly afterwards, meaning there’s a “secret” reason these people were fired, such as age discrimination. It’s not actually illegal (AFAIK) to fire expensive people and hire cheaper people to replace them, it’s just going to look bad to your own staff.

    3. Arts Akimbo*

      It reminds me of when my child was little, and right before he was about to really get in trouble for not doing what we told him to do, we’d say “I’m asking calmly and in my regular voice.” (I don’t even remember how that phrase evolved in our household, but it worked.) So when I see “gentle reminder” at work, I always imagine the subtext is “I’m asking calmly and in my regular voice, get that TPS report on my desk or I’m gonna lose it!”

  13. GythaOgden*

    I won a US-based online short story contest and successfully negotiated a $10 cash prize to be deposited into PayPal instead of a US Amazon voucher. (As well as pointing out the rights grab issue in the contract given that I submitted am original story with my own setting and characters that I’d want to re-use in future, rather than a fanfic, which was ok with the contest organiser.) I actually did this prior to entering but it worked out well in the end. If they had been touchy about it I wouldn’t have entered, but they took it well and I didn’t go in too indignant about things — just gently asked about both situations before it even became a live issue.

    Just ask — most of the time people just don’t think through these things carefully and have blind spots when it comes to people in different situations than themselves. You’d also want them to be understanding if you made a similar mistake — no-one is immune from messing up and part of the reasoning behind Hanlon’s Razor — never attribute something to malice when you can attribute it to stupidity or thoughtlessness — is that by extending grace to others when they mess up, they are more likely to extend grace to us when we make mistakes.

    1. LJ*

      I suspect there could be a larger pattern of feeling unappreciated or disconnected from HQ – maybe that’s what OP’s real annoyance lies

      1. GythaOgden*

        Yeah, I /totally/ get that feeling — and that’s a very good point. I’ve been on a team which has been largely independent, but unfortunately the autonomy comes with the off-site management thinking we’re running smoothly and doesn’t need so much attention — and when we do need them we have to fight to get their attention.

        It’s obviously worth approaching it in a professional manner and assuming good faith on the other party in the situation, but I totally understand the problems inherent in this situation.

      2. Fellow Canadian*

        yes, I also got the sense that feeling underappreciated is a pattern, and a Canada-based support team getting non-functional gift cards from head office in the US is the latest in a series of “Ugh are they serious”.

        Also, as a Canadian, it can be pretty annoying when people forget that Canada works differently, so I totally get being annoyed by that, on top of whatever else is going on.

  14. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

    This site is likely a biased sample because I don’t know how well direct language goes over in your work place that “gentle reminder” stirs up so much negative emotion. I guess I don’t mind it at all nor do I read into it — just feels like someone covering their ass in case someone else accuses them of being hostile or rude. Truly a damned if you do, damned if you don’t. At times like this, I feel folks should just see the reminder itself.

    1. Allonge*

      I really do wonder how much of this is really about the reminder (it being needed, general level of busyness etc.), or an actual issue with the deployer of the phrase.

      It most likely makes it easier on me that English is not my first langauge – ‘gentle reminder’ is something I learned as a phrase, just like Yours sincerely and Best regards, as something to use in specific places. I really don’t think that much about the meaning of the word, and I agree that a lot of people here would do well to also let it go.

      1. Catwhisperer*

        I work at an international company and have noticed people whose first language isn’t English use it far more than people whose first language is English. I’ve always wondered if it was taught as a formal phrase that’s used for politeness’ sake for that reason, because they never seem to be using it in the same way that native English speakers do. Unfortunately that’s not how it’s going to come across to most native English speakers since there is such a heavy connotation of passive aggressiveness with it.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I’ve worked with an increasing number of ESL speakers over the years and find this to be the case – “polite” or “formal” language is usually about ten years out of date until they get immersed, and small phrases (or idioms, idioms have always been my least favorite part of studying any language) may have changed connotation over time and they aren’t quite caught up on that until someone points it out. If it’s something mildly annoying but mostly innocuous like this, it’s unlikely anyone would point it out so it sticks more.

        2. Smithy*

          I do think that whether it’s part of “formal English” or “business English” – it can also be a way to stretch out a sentence if the context of your message is basically very short.

          If the basics of the message are “we’re meeting tomorrow and discussing the TPS report” – as a native speaker, I think it’s a lot easier to feel confident in sending that as a short email message in a way that still feels professional and polite. When English isn’t your first language and when that email is going to more senior people, the desire to add those professional or formal phrases is understandable.

          To me a phrase like “gentle reminder” is like signing an email “sincerely”. In business communication they have a place to pad out communication and can be used formally without thinking about it too much. But I also get that that it makes those emails feel less personal because the precise meaning or common usage of the words is so much less.

    2. Mangled Metaphor*

      If people have a negative reaction to a spoken “gentle reminder”, we’re truly in the land of overly delicate flowers, not adults.
      However, it is impossible to convey tone through text, especially in media without formatting options, and people do tend to overlay received messages with the emotion and intent they themselves are feeling at the time, even if that wasn’t the emotion and intent of the sender.
      Remind an already over-worked and over-stressed co-worker of something they need to do on top of everything else and using “gentle” becomes a defence mechanism in the face of aggressive feedback. And it sucks on both sides.

      It’s almost as if people need to be allowed to work to only 80% capacity, take their allowed PTO without guilt, have EAP in place and have their EQ and resilience supported and developed.
      But if we worked in this utopia of reasonable bosses and coworker’s, Allison would be out of a blog.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yeah look everyone can have a personal bete noir but you have to realize it’s your own thing. It’s a business phrase as far as I’m concerned. It’s fine to use something else yourself but it’s weird to load a lot of emotion on it.

        1. Anonym*

          Yes. You can find it a little annoying but not ascribe negative intentions or attributes to the person using it. It exists in common practice, it’s a bit irritating to some of us, but people use it for perfectly innocuous reasons.

        2. fine tipped pen aficionado*

          THIS. I personally don’t like it, but there are a lot of very common phrases I hate a lot more and there are loads of very valid reasons someone might be using it. Obviously most folks are doing hyperbole for laughs here, but if you’re getting seriously mad about this phrase you gotta check yourself. Assume as charitable an intent as it makes sense to based on your knowledge of the sender, complain to your friends about it, and move on. If you get genuinely bent out of shape by something like this, perhaps you actually do need to be handled with kid gloves.

    3. Adultier Adult*

      I think you are right… there is only one higher up that uses it at my workplace and she is incompetent and passive aggressive- now I associate the phrase with her. I wonder how I would feel otherwise.

    4. Sparkles McFadden*

      It does depend on your office culture. In my company, emails were usually bulletpoints of facts, so the “gentle reminder” stuff stood out, and not in a good way. It always seemed like a performance to impress the higher-ups. Real reminders came to the people with the deadlines. “Gentle” reminders seemed to be sent to all of management.

      I responded to another comment upthread stating that I have seen this phrase used by people trying to give the impression that someone (usually a female someone) is less than competent, and the emailer is “only trying to help” her keep on top of things. So yeah…I hate it.

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I admit to disliking it. Especially (as an ex-coworker used it) when paired with “Warm regards”. It comes off to me as either patronizing or as the writer being way too much in love with workplace buzzwords, of which, to me, “gentle reminder” is one. I haven’t seen anyone at my work (large corporation with thousands of employees) use it since the one person who did, left a year ago, so there’s that.

    6. And the Skeletons Are… Part of It*

      I’m betting it annoys at least half of people who read it out in the wild as well, they just don’t comment on it but maybe do a slight internal eyeroll.

    7. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      It doesn’t bother me at all! We all have our peeves and that is not one of mine. It’s a little silly perhaps but I get the intent — hi I am reminding you of something and trying not to sound demanding.

  15. Spanish Prof*

    The thing is, sometimes when we’re sending a reminder, it’s preemptively. as in, the thing we’ve asked for or need people to do, is not actually outstanding or overdue or missed. So phrases like gentle reminder, friendly reminder, and kind reminder, acknowledge the fact that the deadline hasn’t actually passed yet, and recognizes that people may very well still have it on their to-do list. I don’t see it as passive-aggressive at all, just polite. I sure as heck don’t like being dryly reminded of things when they’re not even due yet.

    Now if a reminder is needed because a person has missed a deadline – that’s where I can see that phrasing coming across as passive-aggressive. “Just wanted to remind you that X thing was due yesterday” is perfectly fine.

    In short, I don’t think a blanket ban on “gentle reminder” allows for the flexibility of the different contexts in which we might be doing that reminding :)

    1. Irish Teacher*

      To me, using “gentle reminder” or even more so “kind reminder” in the context would imply just the opposite. “Just a reminder that the deadline for X is coming up” sounds like a helpful reminder. Putting “gentle” before it basically implies “I’m toning down my reaction because you haven’t done anything bad yet” and “kind” implies the speaker is making a point to be nice about this because they are such a good person, (I also don’t think one can determine whether something one does oneself is kind or not; that is for others to say).

      If the reminder is meant to be helpful and is before a deadline, then there’s absolutely no need to basically say “I’m going to be gentle here” or “I am being kind to you.”

      1. KateM*

        I just got a “friendly request” and decided it sounds like saying “I’m not a racist, but…”.

      2. Twix*

        I agree. Using it after a deadline sounds passive-aggressive. Using it before one sounds condescending. It comes across as the writer telling you how to feel about the message. That’s only ever going to be unnecessary (if it’s a reasonable reminder) or counterproductive (if it’s Pam from Accounting’s 8th e-mail in the last hour about something she doesn’t need until next week.

      3. Spanish Prof*

        It’s funny how things read to different people! Your example of “Just a reminder that X deadline is coming up” would make me, personally, bristle. Like, do you not trust me to manage my workflow? One of our admins used to constantly send us abrupt “reminders” the day grades were due each semester even though we all knew perfectly well and were simply working up to the deadline (5p). I had never once been late turning in my grades. It was maddening. I finally said something about not subjecting responsible people to unnecessary reminders, and the messages were reduced to one, nicely -worded, morning-of.

        “Toning down because you haven’t done anything bad” is honestly exactly what I expect and prefer! :)

        1. Llama Identity Thief*

          Yeah, I’m seconding this one. “reminder” without “gentle” feels patronizing, like you view me as lesser than me. I don’t read the sarcasm or annoyance into it – it feels so much more like a necessary statement of “you have not done something that disrupts my workflow (yet),” whereas a pure reminder is “WHY HAVEN’T YOU DONE THIS YET YOU PARTICULARLY LETHARGIC SEA SPONGE.”

            1. Spanish Prof*

              Hey there. This whole thread is about tone, and what people read into words. The commentariat, as a whole, seem to be tone-policing people who would use words like “friendly reminder” in a sincere effort to be polite, and asserting that their take of passive-aggressive or obsequious is necessarily the correct interpretation. Regardless, one of the rules of this site is to take people at their word. When I tell you that this admin’s emails were abrupt, it’s because they were abrupt compared to her other communications, in addition to being repetitive and unnecessary. I think it’s pretty vicious and unfounded of you to call me egregious and gross for my response to emails which you didn’t even see, and without knowing the specific.way in which I handled it (which was kindly!)

              However, the point of me bringing that up was mostly to illustrate the difference between a pre-deadline reminder and one occurring afterward.

              There are people on the other ends of these comments. Maybe ask additional questions before passing blanket judgments.

              (Not me, though! At a conference all weekend :) )

            2. Spanish Prof*

              But also, whoa – diagnosing somebody with possible self-esteem issues because they used all caps?? That is also out of bounds – and pretty ironic considering that you’re telling them not to pack personal stuff interpretation baggage.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Send me all the sea sponge reminders, they will make me happy (and motivated to do the thing). Hilarious.

    2. Margaret Cavendish*

      Yeah, I don’t understand the hatred for it either. It’s like the word “moist,” which is a perfectly good word and has a legitimate use – except all of a sudden it turns out that literally everyone has hated it for literally ever, and how do people not know that it makes literally everyone’s ears bleed when they hear it???!?

      I use “gentle reminder” when I’m following up on an unusual or unreasonable request. Especially if I’m passing on a message – it’s a very useful shorthand for “I know it normally takes four weeks to produce a TPS report, and I know my boss just asked you for it last week, but he’s insisting that I check in to make sure you’re on track.”

      Another example: “hey, Executive Assistant, remember the CEO insisted on approving the graphic on page 5 of the TPS report, and I know she doesn’t normally do this kind of thing, so I wanted to make sure it hasn’t fallen off her radar.”

      There are good reasons for using softening language in work communications, and Alison recommends all kinds of scripts for other situations. I’m not sure why this one in particular has people so worked up!

      1. Michelle Smith*

        Because most of us don’t need reminders to do our jobs. “Gentle reminder” is not shorthand for “I know it normally takes four weeks to produce a TPS report, and I know my boss just asked you for it last week, but he’s insisting that I check in to make sure you’re on track” in my opinion. Why not just say, “Hi Jean, I know it normally takes four weeks to produce a TPS report and Bob just put in the request last week, but he asked me to check in to confirm that you’ll be able to produce it by Nov. 1.” Or even “Bob put in a request for the TPS report last week and asked me to follow up with you. My understanding is that these report usually take 4 weeks to prepare. Should we assume that timeline for this TPS report as well, or do you anticipate a different completion date?” You’re not trying to remind me, you’re trying to follow a request from your boss, so why not just say that instead?

        1. Kathleen*

          “Because most of us don’t need reminders to do our jobs.”

          As someone whose job involves a lot of coordinating timelines and deliverables across disparate teams (clients, partners, internal), how I wish this were true.

          1. Laika*

            Yeah, ~15% of my job is following around two especially scattered directors with reminders that yes, if they want to have a say in the monthly Cuddliest Teddy reports, they actually do need to review them before Wednesday at noon.

            I genuinely wish I could spend this ~15% of my time not doing this. But here we are!

        2. DisgruntledPelican*

          See, I feel like “gentle reminder” is actually shorthand for “people get irrationally defensive when they get reminders despite the fact that literally everyone forgets things sometimes, even professional people who are good at their jobs, so I’m pre-emptively telling you there is no need for the defensiveness as I remind you of this thing I need from you.”

          It doesn’t help, of course. People who are going to be defensive about reminders are going to be defensive whether the reminders are gentle, quick, friendly, or rude.

    3. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

      Yeah to me it feels more “I’m not angry, but can you please get this in? I need it.”

      I suspect people upset by this phrase hear it a lot and they’re maybe juggling a lot of things. It’s misplaced aggression and a lot of speculation that on the intent. The intent is probably to remind you to do the thing you said you were gonna do and haven’t….

  16. Irish Teacher*

    I think one problem with “gentle reminder” is that you shouldn’t have to say you are being “gentle”. Doing so sort of makes it sound like “I’m being gentle and not replying the way you deserve.” It’s like saying “I’m not cross” or “I’m not telling you off,” both of which kind of imply “even though I have reason to be”.

    If you have to SAY “I’m being gentle here,” it implies that the norm is not to be, because if the norm was being gentle, you wouldn’t have to say it. It would be taken for granted.

    It also indicates you don’t trust yourself to write clearly so that Tone comes across accurately.

    That said, I had a colleague who used this and it didn’t sound like she was annoyed because it was things like “gentle reminder that I am holding an optional lunch time meeting about x today.”

    “Gentle reminder that your reports are due by close of business today,” on the other hand, sounds like “I am TRYING not to get annoyed here.”

    1. KateM*

      Yes! That’s exactly how it feels! “I am really really mad at you but doing my best to be gentle/friendly”.

      1. Margaret Cavendish*

        But isn’t that a legitimate thing to express? Sometimes you do need the other person to know you’re annoyed, while still being gentle and friendly about it.

    2. Tesuji*

      I’m in the camp that sees “gentle reminder” as code for “I can’t believe that some of you are such idiots that I actually need to remind you of something everyone should already know, so f__king pay attention this time.” I see “gentle” as an intensifier, the equivalent of a parent using their kid’s middle name. Calling it out as a *gentle* reminder carries the implication that the next reminder isn’t going to be a gentle one.

      So, it’s weird to me when I see someone who clearly *doesn’t* read “gentle reminder” that way. I have a colleague who will say something like “Gentle reminder that I brought in cake for everyone,” which just creates a weird cognitive dissonance between the (perceived by me) passive-aggressive condescending language and an announcement that’s clearly not intended to be such.

      1. Margaret Cavendish, passionate defender of Gentle Reminders*

        I see “gentle” as an intensifier, the equivalent of a parent using their kid’s middle name. Calling it out as a *gentle* reminder carries the implication that the next reminder isn’t going to be a gentle one.

        Yep. It falls neatly between a “first reminder” and “raining hellfire.” Sometimes that’s exactly what the situation requires!

  17. PX*

    I’m not well versed in this but wondering if #3 works for a large company? only because those restrictions sound like things I’ve heard around redundancies in other countries (potentially the UK?)

    Wondering if perhaps it was a policy designed for one part of the world being implemented (badly) everywhere else.

    1. Catwhisperer*

      Came here to mention this. I’m an American working in the EU and there are several countries with laws like this. It’s a worker protection mechanism designed to ensure that the layoffs are truly necessary.

      1. Yellow cake*

        I’m not EU but my country has laws about this. IANAL so unsure of specific details – but I believe 1 year is a typical time restriction, however there can be exceptions. If you remove the llama grooming department because the only llama farm in town closes you can re-establish that department 6 months later if a new llama tourist park opens up and there’s one more a business need.

        We also have laws around hiring someone as a contractor if they retire early (formally not informally) and how long you have to wait.

    2. OP #3*

      I’m the OP/LW for #3. The company was around 1000 people at the time, and as a remote-first company, does have employees in the UK/EU. None of my team were based there, but I guess it’s possible they created a worldwide policy and communicated it badly as “it’s illegal to rehire them”?

      1. PX*

        Interesting. Could be! I work for a remote first company too, but our HR, for their many foibles, are in fact good at understanding that different rules apply in different places and they try to manage things differently when appropriate.

        But yeah, I can definitely see an overzealous team/person hearing about this policy, not understanding it fully and then just running with it in a very weird way.

  18. The answer is (probably) 42*

    Gently reminder feels condescending to me too, but I do find myself using “friendly reminder” sometimes. My goal is to soften my tone and make it clear that I’m not being curt with anyone yet, and I’m not really impatient, I just want to keep the thing on their radar. I know that friendly reminder can also come off as kinda iffy, but I can’t think of a good alternative that would convey that tone. Any suggestions?

    1. Still*

      I think I’d react well to “Just to keep it on your radar, I need X by the end of next week”.

      1. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

        I am just confused how this would be received better, but the entire discussion in this thread on that letter had given me a low grade headache trying to make heads of tails of all the emotion people put on this. Some people are honest enough to admit a coworker they hated used it so it’s tainted but I can’t understand the rest.

        1. Yorick*

          A lot of commenters are just imagining a lot of vitriol is going on in their coworker’s minds when they write “gentle reminder” and they should do some reflection about why that is. Do they have experience with vitriolic coworkers that they need to move past? Or is this how they’re trying to passively aggressively write hateful meanings between the lines of their own communications?

    2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      As someone else said above, a “quick reminder” is great. You’re not going to bang on and on about it to the point of wasting anyone’s time, just quickly pointing out that the TPS report is due on Friday. If the person receiving the reminder is annoyed, maybe it’s because they haven’t even started on it yet and they’re annoyed because they know they were going to drop the ball and now they have no excuse.
      It’s just like pointing out any other fault. Someone who gets caught in a lie, will be angry about it. The anger should be directed at themselves of course but the type of person to tell a lie is also typically the type of person who refuses to admit to their own errors, they prefer to play victim. So they claim to be the victim of false accusations.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        Or maybe they’re annoyed because of the assumption that they’re at fault or will drop the ball for not finishing something that ISN’T DUE YET.

    3. Spanish Prof*

      Love your username!

      I’m a fan of “friendly”, too. I think it conveys exactly what you want, which is that you’re not annoyed, you’re just keeping it on the radar. It’s efficient!

    4. kalli*

      I see ‘I’m just following up on my email from date’ with the occasional ‘I need a response by’ or ‘my client is pushing for this but I know it can wait’ or other context added. It makes it clear the impetus is on the sender side and has room to acknowledge it is/it isn’t/it will be levels of priority on the receiver, or add new information without accidentally implying that it’s already been said, the way ‘gentle reminder to send me the paperwork, my client wants it asap’ may read as ‘i already told you my client wants it asap’ but ‘my client wants it asap’ may be new info.

    5. FashionablyEvil*

      Yeah, I usually use “friendly reminder”—“gentle reminder” makes me grit my teeth, but friendly seems okay.

    6. Sloanicota*

      I know I’m not going to enjoy obsessing 500% more about nearly-meaningless phrases in my emails this week. I would have said “friendly reminder” is fine but clearly others have extremely strong feelings about any adjectives at all.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        You won’t be able to please everyone.

        Generally speaking I try to put as few words in my emails as possible so that people actually read the words I need them to, and I’ll throw in an odd exclamation point so I don’t hear about my tone. But one thing I’ve learned at this point is that everyone just has a different writing style, some I hate, none I’ll be able to change, and rarely does it correlate to anything concrete about their personality.

      2. Hlao-roo*

        Yeah, I come down on the side of you’re likely to annoy someone no matter how you word the email so you might as well use the wording you like. Friendly reminder, quick reminder, just a reminder, don’t forget, etc. Whatever floats your boat, and trust the people you’re emailing to handle their pet peeves professionally.

      3. Lexi Vipond*

        They’re not going to be any happier if you say ‘reminder’, they just don’t want to do the thing and resent being asked to. If they wanted to do it, you wouldn’t have to remind them at all.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Eh I don’t think that’s right I know – and it’s reflected in the comments here – a lot of people specifically have a reaction to the “gentle”. It comes off condescending or passive aggressive to them.

  19. MsSolo (UK)*

    I think the answer to 1 also overlooks potential issues if it does work out between friend and employee. LW acknowledges they’ll have to keep an eye on boundaries, but ultimately I can’t see a way LW can keep going on trips with their friend if their employee is coming along as well – it’s weird for the employee, and creates scope for favouritism in the eyes of other employees.

    It’s a bar, not an office, so there’s less hierarchy and higher turnover, which means there’s probably fewer benefits for the employee to potentially reap (preferential scheduling is the main one that comes to mind, especially if these trips take up a chunk of PTO that they might not otherwise be able to schedule), but LW can’t maintain the same relationship with the employee that they would with friend’s past partners, and that is going to impact on their relationship with their friend.

    1. LW#1*

      LW#1 here. This does appear to be coming to pass, in that a trip later this month that I will be taking with my friend, my partner, and another three (single or not-with-their-partner) people is one that some people expected my friend to invite my employee on. I talked with him about it; he didn’t invite her because it felt too soon to him, but he indicated that would probably not be true much longer.

      I have a really good relationship with the only one of our employees who is at a senior level compared to the rest, and I know that I can rely on her to call my attention to any real or perceived favoritism on behalf of the employee who is dating my friend. Other than telling her to look out for that, and to refresh the transparency conversations all around, what should I do to continue to be a responsible boss and friend as their relationship gets more serious? Definitely open to advice.

      (Scheduling and PTO is not a concern–we don’t run our bar like most service industry places, so all our staff can take as much UPTO as they want; nobody is getting time off denied by me except in bizarre cases. And while there are preferred shifts, we rotate them among everyone, so favoritism there would be hard to slip into and easily noticed and corrected.)

      1. Stormfly*

        I think it would be very helpful if she could have an alternative reporting line that’s as objective as possible. Could she be told that she can go to that more senior employee if she has an issue she doesn’t feel comfortable going to you about? Even better if that senior employee could play a similar role for other employees not just about this particular issue.
        I’m not sure how senior she is. If she’s not very, it might not be fair to place that much of a burden on her. If it was workable, you wouldn’t need to say ‘Go to her if you have a problem with me’, it could be ‘Go to her with any issues that you can’t take to me, whether because I’m not around or for whatever other reason’.

        1. Cmdrshprd*

          “I think it would be very helpful if she could have an alternative reporting line that’s as objective as possible.”

          That would work for a few things, but being a bar I suspect not a lot of other hierarchy, so at the end of the day most (all?) decisions will have to rest on OP. It might be good to have the buffer, but likely the senior employee would still have to check with OP on major (most?) decisions.

          Definitely something to consider, but if it really amounts to senior employee just being a messenger, idk if it is worth it.

          1. LW#1*

            LW#1 here. Listening to, collating, and reporting (potentially anonymously) on staff issues is a known-to-all major function of our one middle manager, so this is already a known solution. But when I have the talk that Alison suggested I can certainly reiterate that option. But our place is small enough that yes, all decisions rest on me (though quite frequently that means OKing a good suggestion by a staff member, not me throwing around orders willy-nilly).

      2. Hlao-roo*

        I suggest reading the letter “I’m becoming my friend’s boss — do things have to change?” from April 6, 2021. Your case is different from that letter, of course, but I think anything that answer advises the LW to stop doing with her friend/employee is something you should avoid starting with your employee.

        1. LW#1*

          LW#1 here. Thanks for that recommendation. I read that forever ago but a refresher was good. Some of them had occurred to me–while I have gone out to dinner with my partner, this friend, and his exes before, that’s something he and I know we aren’t going to do this time (he has other friends for those sorts of things, and he and I have other things we can do together to maintain our friendship).

          Again, thanks, that was a good refresher.

      3. Sloanicota*

        This is tough because I know bars and restaurants are much more casual social environments than other workplaces, but I honestly wouldn’t want to go on vacation with employees, and I would hope my best friend might be understanding (but I know people in love rarely are). Perhaps the employee will feel the same way and not want to go …

        1. MsSolo (UK)*

          Yes, I think the travel is where this is most likely to get messy. It’s one thing to bump into each other at a mutual friend’s party or even get dinner at a restaurant together, but travelling, presumably sharing transport and accommodation, not only gives the employee potential positive access to the boss to share suggestions / opinions on other staff / demonstrate skills that don’t arise in their normal work, but also risks raising real negatives for the employee. What if she has a non-work habit that really gets on your nerves? If you have to discipline her at work and spend eight hours next to each other on a plane the next day how are both of you going to relax? If you’re in a thin-walled hotel together, how are you going to compartmentalise not only knowing what she sounds like in the bedroom, but that she may well be able to hear you, as well? Do you trust her to compartmentalise that?

          Ultimately, LW can’t change the the relationship she has with her as an employer, which means its LW’s relationship with her friend is going to have to change. Someone’s going to have to bow out of the trips, at least for now.

      4. Yellow cake*

        LW of you are in a smaller town you likely don’t have the luxury of keeping work and personal life completely separate. There’s going to be crossovers – and there isn’t a way to change that.

        If you ditch your friend – that puts your employee in a horrible position. If you don’t then your employee will be part of your life outside of work.

        Be aware of the conflict and open about managing as best you can – and chalk the rest up to the reality of small town / small business.

  20. PhilG*

    I wonder if the restrictions on reuse of the previous team’s work is related to copyright? If graphic design or art work is part or all of the product and the original creators didn’t sign over all rights that might cause issues.

    1. GythaOgden*

      It would probably come under the work for hire rules if it was created on company time for the company itself. The company would therefore own the copyright rather than the individual creator.

    2. Myrin*

      I have no expertise in this topic whatsoever but wouldn’t artwork produced for the company automatically be owned by the company, no matter which individual actually produced it?

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yes. Employees don’t have to sign over copyright, typically neither do contractors unless their agreements are written differently. If you produce a work product on company time it belongs to the company.

    3. iglwif*

      If it’s work for hire in the US or Canada (idk about other jurisdictions, I’ve only worked in those 2), the employer holds the copyright.

  21. Myrin*

    I have no expertise in this topic whatsoever but wouldn’t artwork produced for the company automatically be owned by the company, no matter which individual actually produced it?

  22. Queen Avocado Delilah*

    Letter 3: My understanding was that if a team was laid off, their positions couldn’t be filled within a certain amount of time to avoid the comany laying off staff and hiring new staff for less pay – but maybe that’s incorrect? Or if they refilled the positions, maybe they have to be paid the same or more?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Nope. It’s not illegal to lay off staff and then hire new ones for less pay, unless there is some form of illegal discrimination involved (like everyone you laid off was over 40 and everyone you rehired was under 40).

  23. Hiring Mgr*

    I wouldn’t use gentle reminder myself, but usually when it’s used it’s because the recipient is late with something… so if anyone’s peeved shouldn’t it be the person waiting on the late work?

    1. bamcheeks*

      I was thinking of it in situations where the reminder is for a looming deadline, rather than one that’s already passed. But if it’s a situation where the deadline has already passed, I think a far more productive way to deal with it is to ask when they do expect to get it to you, and if there’s anything I can do to expedite it. That’s far more useful to me than just a reminder, gentle or otherwise.

    2. Llama Identity Thief*

      See I’ve found the exact opposite – gentle is used when the recipient isn’t late, but especially when somethings different than normal (e.g. I had to create my timecard for this week starting today due to end of FY nonsense, that’s a gentle reminder thing). A pure “reminder” is used when someone is already late and needs to do the thing (e.g. it’s past noon and I brain farted on submitting my timecard.) Company cultural differences, maybe?

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        I suppose I’m thinking of the times where someone has emailed me with GR.. it’s been because I was late with something, so it didn’t really matter to me how it was phrased. I guess it doesn’t seem different than “hiring mgr – we need this by today – thanks!”

      2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        That’s how it’s mostly used in my company — when there is some sort of critical but onerous and time-consuming administrative task (updating OS, doing annual training, signing up for health insurance) that gets multiple abroadcast reminders because everyone is putting it off but it will be a Big Deal if people don’t meet the deadline. It’s not a personal message that carries judgment, it reflects the inconvenience of the task and the reminders.

    3. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      This is not my experience. I tend to get it either far in advance of a deadline or as a blanket reminder to a team of how to do the Thing, when only one or two people are not doing the Thing.

    4. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

      That’s exactly what the vibe feels like here. Someone else replied to my top level comment with a very nuanced opinion that the issue isn’t the “gentle reminder” it’s the harsh workplace environment (overworked, stressed, and overwhelmed.)

  24. bamcheeks*

    I think more people should think about WHY they are sending a reminder, and what they expect it to achieve. IMO, reminders are appreciated when
    1. you’ve asked people to complete a task which is either low priority to them\| but higher priority to you, and you’re acknowledging that and expressing thanks.
    2. where it’s relatively low-priority but the benefit is to them, like remembering to submit your expenses before the 15th or get your conference place booked.
    3. the reminder is going out to lots of people, and even if you meet this deadline every month, there might be other people who don’t so you can just assume it’s for them and ignore it.

    Plain reminders are irritating to me when they come from a manager and it’s either a high-profile deadline that we’ve all been focussed on, or a regular deadline, and there’s no offer or support in the email, it just feels like they either don’t trust you to meet the deadline or they’re trying to manage their own anxiety / pressure from their boss by Doing Something. That kind of thing was a significant contributor to stress in my previous job, and it really annoyed me. Like, if you really worry about my ability to meet deadlines in general, let’s have a conversation about that. If you’re offering support or you need to know if I’m not going to meet the deadline, say that. But a simple reminder which is just, “hey, that deadline that we all know about and have discussed multiple times is still a deadline”, I think it’s kind of annoying full stop, and in my ex-boss’s case adding “gentle” usually signalled that she KNEW it was annoying but she was doing it anyway.

    1. Stormfly*

      Yes, I think the last one is really key. I think it’s off base to get offended if there’s a general reminder to submit your timesheets or whatever. You may not need the reminder, but others probably do, and the amount of hassle/cost involved in sending a reminder is much less than the hassle/cost of sorting out the issues caused by tardiness.
      (As someone who helps run our performance processes, it’s so hard to get everyone to read their emails and action things in a timely fashion.)

      But I probably would find it condescending if my boss sent me an email reminding me about a deadline for an important piece of work that I’ve been giving regular updates on and am clearly up to date on.

      1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        See, situation 3 is not always that clear cut. A few years ago my manager sent out a reminder to the team that if we were going to be working hours such that we were not available for the entirety of 9-5 we needed to let the team know – my colleague who always shifted early so she could leave to pick up her kid at 4:30, which everyone knew, thought this was directed at her when really it was aimed at the “I’ll be working from a different timezone this week and won’t be on until 1 pm” guy.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “in my ex-boss’s case adding “gentle” usually signalled that she KNEW it was annoying but she was doing it anyway”

      this is typically how I’ve used it – but when speaking to people above me, not people who report to me. It’s a “please don’t get mad at me I have to send this” phrase.

      Reminders in general don’t bother me, but I think that might be workplace specific. We all work on a lot of different projects simultaneously, so reminders can be helpful/are rarely harmful or micromanage-y. Depending on your specific workflow I can see why they grate on you this way.

      1. bamcheeks*

        Yeah, I’m really grateful for reminders when it feels like someone taking responsibility for tracking the status of something and acknowledging that I’m not the one responsible for that. They grate when the vibe is more, “you SHOULD be on top of this and it IS your job but you probably aren’t doing it.”

  25. Melissa*

    I’ve never had a problem before with “gentle reminder” but now that I’ve read the complaint, I feel like it’s going to start annoying me, haha.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Resist the temptation. This is how language peeves begin. Someone complains about some utterly unremarkable usage, and people jump on the bandwagon, proclaiming it Bad Grammar. If it reaches critical mass, this can last centuries. This is how, for example, we get the “rule” that you can’t split an infinitive.

      1. And thanks for the coffee*

        What the H is a split infinitive?

        What is an infinitive and how does it get split. I’m sure I would recognize it, but I can’t recall what the term means.

        Age over 70 here, too long since English classes. I’ll have to Google it.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Oh, dear. It would take quite a lot of verbiage. Alison has in the past deleted some of my lengthier grammatical ramblings, which I take as her gentle reminder (as it were) that this is off topic. I just looked at the Wikipedia page on split infinitives. It is actually quite good. Wikipedia is hit or miss, but in this instance it is a hit.

        2. Hlao-roo*

          An infinitive is an unconjugated verb. In English, infinitives are usually* in the form of “to” + verb, such as “to run,” “to jump,” “to be,” etc.

          Splitting the infinitive is putting a word between the “to” and the verb, like in the Star Trek phrase “to boldly go where no man has gone before.”


          1. Richard Hershberger*

            Not always. There is a small class of “modal verbs,” e.g. can, will, could, would, must, etc. Modal verbs are auxiliary verbs, followed by a bare infinitive. “I can walk home.” You can tell that this is the infinitive and not, say, the first person present because is never inflected. “He can walk to the store” not *”He can walks to the store.” And there is no “to” in sight. Modern grammars don’t define the “to” as part of the infinitive, but rather a marker of the infinitive required in some but not all constructions.

  26. Lorax*

    Oh my gosh, AMEN on the “gentle reminder” peeve. It doesn’t matter the context: if your reminder *is* gentle, then that will be evident from the rest of the text. If your reminder *isn’t* gentle, no amount of telling me it is will change that fact… it will just make you look defensive and/or oblivious.

    If you’re getting feedback that you’re too blunt or harsh in your messaging, slapping a “gentle” on it will not help. I cannot emphasize that enough. You either have to choose to be ok with people finding your communication style more brusque than they prefer (because a lot of the time it ISN’T your job to manage other people’s emotions as long as you’re being polite, and not, like, casting aspersions in your routine work correspondence) or you have to work on the phrasing in the rest of your message (e.g. adding other, different “softening ” language like “I know this might come at a bad time, but can you get X to me by the end of the day” or “I know you’re super busy, but this is a reminder that X is due tomorrow. Really appreciate it.”)

    Regardless, the “gentle reminder” phrase gets my hackles up… which is the exact opposite of what the sender intends! In EVERY context, it comes across as infantilizing.

    1. Lorax*

      I’m also going to throw using “kindly” as a sign off into this same bucket. If your message was kind, I should be able to tell from its content. If your message isn’t kind, telling me that’s what you intended in a generic preset does not help. It just makes it seem defensive, disingenuous, or oblivious. Please stop telling me how you would like me feel about your message.

    2. No Tribble At All*

      Shoutout to a former team lead who, after given feedback that he was too brusque/harsh in emails, sent the same emails but with a smiley face. So we’d get things like “your request for PTO is denied because I’m already on PTO that week :)”

    3. ConfusedAboutExpectations*

      That’s great, except that people who are told they are too brusque or natter of fact are explicitly told the solution is to use “gentling” language and gentle/friendly reminder is the specific example always given. Every time. Making a point to use this language – especially after explicitly being told to do so – is a way to show that you’re taking this feedback seriously or trying to address it which like it or not is often a professional requirement.

    4. Irish Teacher*

      Yes, that’s exactly how I feel, but you put it so much better than I did.

      It’s really for the reader to say if a message was gentle or kind or whatever.

  27. Richard Hershberger*

    I’m going to take the contrary position on “gentle reminder.” It is a polite stock phrase. I don’t use it, but it doesn’t bother me when used at me. Indeed, I barely notice it, just like other polite stock phrases. Complaining about others’ use of polite stock phrases you don’t personally care for is a sign of old fogeydom. Were I to go down that road, I would start with “Have a nice rest of your day.” But I don’t.

    1. Lorax*

      Most people I know hate this phrase, and it seems a lot of folks here do too! So while I agree it’s a stock phrase, I’d argue that so many people dislike it, that using it is not “polite” at all! If you intend people to feel good about your message, then actively using a phrase that gets people’s hackles up will not do that!

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Do most people you know hate this phrase? It would be remarkable if most people you know ever thought to have an opinion on the subject. Of course they aren’t the ones talking about it. And it would not be hard to train many of them to hate it. The thing is, it is really easy to get people to eagerly chime in hating a word or phrase or usage, even if it had not previously occurred to them to hate it. There is an entire genre of language peeving based on this. See “moist.” Furthermore, these opinions are routinely stated hyperbolically. People will state an opinion on the Oxford comma as if they are defending civilization itself. People will eagerly describe being overcome by waves of nausea upon hearing whatever usage is the topic of the day. Personally, I have never understood the attraction.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          ” It would be remarkable if most people you know ever thought to have an opinion on the subject.”

          This hasn’t been my experience. You sound like a greatly level-headed person, I think you may be surprised by how irrational people are in their own heads on a regular basis.

          I have my email pet peeves but I don’t usually raise the subject – the amount of times I’ve had people complain to or around me about other people’s email habits is…high.

        2. Margaret Cavendish, passionate defender of Gentle Reminders*

          I used the “moist” example upthread as well. Sometimes people collectively just get a hate on for something, and there’s no identifiable reason for it!

          And I agree that “most people” is probably hyperbolic. Most people *who have expressed an opinion,* sure. But most people overall? I would guess it’s a standard bell curve – a few people love it, a few people hate it, and most people don’t care. The thing is that we only hear from the haters, so it’s easy to assume they speak for the majority.

          Same thing with this site – if all you knew about the business world came from AAM, you would reasonably conclude that it’s a terrible place, full of evil bosses and coworkers who microwave fish. When the reality is, most workplaces are not like that at all – we just don’t hear about them, because the people who work there don’t write in to advice columns.

        3. Yorick*

          I’d bet even a lot of people reading this today don’t really mind the phrase “gentle reminder,” but the fact that it doesn’t bother them doesn’t feel worth commenting about.

    2. bamcheeks*

      Reading the responses, I’m wondering how much it comes down to who you associate it with and how you feel about them! For me it’s very definitely associated with a leadership style where there was a lot of (extremely unnecessary) stress and pressure being handed down the hierarchy– it comes with a lot of baggage of, “I need YOU to be more stressed about this because MY boss is stressed about it and I don’t know what else to do!” I might feel less allergic to it if I’d encountered it in different circumstances.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        I get that – for me it’s “right, peoples” because that was what my last but one boss “Professor Umbridge” would use to gather people around for public telling offs. She’s the only person I’ve come across who said it, but if someone else did I’d definitely be gritting my teeth at it. “Gentle reminders” is more associated with my previous boss who comes with her own set of issues – I won’t elaborate too much because it would veer into off topic territory, but it irritated me recently when she was giving a gentle reminder on an occasion when she had no real reason to be involved at all (she’s taken more interest in us now she’s not managing us than she did in the last few months that she was).

    3. Sloanicota*

      Agree. When people use anodyne phrases I don’t personally care for or wouldn’t choose, I prefer to spend 0% of my mental energy attributing malice to that, and instead move along to have a nice rest of my day, or however others would most prefer me to express that.

    4. Happy meal with extra happy*

      I fully agree with you. I find the dislike of “gentle reminder” to be as over the top as people who dislike having to greet others (which we’ve seen in prior letters/comment sections).

  28. Doc McCracken*

    All of the commenters complaining about “gentle reminder” have most definitely not had support roles where you were constantly chasing people for what you needed to do your job!

    1. bamcheeks*

      I have, but I always sent emails with a rationalisation for why I was reminding them, not just “reminder”. I am sure there is someone who found that annoying and would have preferred a one-line email, though!

    2. Angstrom*

      I sympathize, but in a functional workplace it shouldn’t be a problem to say “I need X by Y to make Z happen.” If you have to tiptoe around people’s feelings for strightforward requests, there are bigger management and culture issues. Your manager should support you and be willing to escalate if other people are preventing you from doing your job.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yep, exactly this.

        I’m not taking the time to soften my emails when I’m chasing people down. Get me what you owe me and we can both move on with our days.

      2. Peanut Hamper*

        I completely agree. We don’t need to have softening language to remind people to DO THEIR JOBS. If I forget to submit a report, that’s on me; nobody should be worried about hurting my feelings to remind me to get it done and turned in. It’s literally what I am paid to do.

      3. Margaret Cavendish, passionate defender of Gentle Reminders*

        Your manager should support you and be willing to escalate if other people are preventing you from doing your job.

        “Should” is the operative word here. It would be great if all managers were like this, but obviously many of them are not! So if your manager is directing you to send a reminder that you know is unreasonable, it’s best if you have a professional way of saying that – otherwise you risk people thinking you’re the one being unreasonable, and it’s your relationships that suffer.

    3. londonedit*

      Not a support position, but as a managing editor whether or not my books publish on time relies on authors and freelancers doing things when I need them to. However working with authors also often involves working with big and fragile egos, and/or with people who are used to other people working for them, not the other way round, so my job involves a lot of managing expectations and gently cajoling people into doing what I need them to do with as little drama as possible.

      I still wouldn’t use ‘gentle reminder’, because it feels condescending and I know it would get my back up. I use ‘just a quick reminder…’ or ‘sorry to chase, but…’, and then I explain what I need and why I need it. ‘Sorry to chase, but I wanted to check that you’d received the proofs I sent over last Friday? We are approaching next week’s press date, so I will need any further corrections by the end of this week at the latest. Please could you let me know whether you are happy to approve the text as is, or whether there are any corrections you would like us to take in at this point’. That gets a far better response in my situation, where I need to maintain a cordial relationship with an author, than ‘gentle reminder’ would.

      1. Doc McCracken*

        My support role was with independent contractor sales reps in the deep south United States. Big egos were the norm and culturally you have to maintain the appearance of manners ie Bless Your Heart. I’m so glad those days are behind me!

    4. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Nah that’s 90% of my life and I still don’t like it. I’ve used it in specific circumstances, and I won’t have a fit about it, but it bugs me.

    5. The Person from the Resume*

      Gentle reminder is still patronizing. If you are REminding someone, it’s about something that they already knew or is late. A “gentle” reminder is for when you think they are unable to handle the truth that they missed something, forgot something, or something is late/about to be late.

      “Hey, just a reminder that X is overdue.” is not actually agressive or mean. It’s just acting like someone can be told that they forgot something without being upset by it.

      There are ways to be aggressive and and angry about reminding people about something, but “just a reminder…” type communication is not that.

      1. Florence Reece*

        The insistence that everyone can be told something without being upset by it is, IMO, a little bit undermined by the number of people here who are genuinely upset about the word “gentle.”

        1. bamcheeks*

          A lot of people are *irritated*– I think characterising it as “genuinely upset” is a radical reading of the text.

  29. Snooks*

    “Gentle” reminder or not, this sounds backwards. The assistant should be helping keep things on track!

  30. I should really pick a name*

    If someone usually uses gentle reminder, does that mean if they don’t use it, it’s implicitly an aggressive reminder?

    1. Anonymous, colleagues who read here will recognize it*

      I will remind students with “Read and Obey” — aggressive, amusing, and effective.

      “Do [action] RIGHT NOW”

      “Get a move-on, bucko”

      Those are all email subject headers

      Alas, not appropriate for co-workers…

  31. DameB*

    I work for a UK company and over there, at least, if you lay someone off (which they call “make redundant” for some reason), you cannot fill that position for … some length of time. I wanna say two years but I am not a lawyer nor am I British. Let me tell you, we had to do some org-chart yoga to refill those positions after the huge layoffs at the start of covid.

    1. londonedit*

      Well, that’s because in the UK it’s not about the person, but about the specific job. If the position is deemed to be redundant – i.e. not necessary for the current success of the company, usually from a financial point of view – then the position is eliminated. You specifically cannot make people redundant, only the job they’re in. So if you have five widget-makers, and there’s a downturn in profits and you find you can only afford to employ three widget-makers, you can’t legally say ‘Well, I don’t like John or Tim, so they’re out’. All five widget-makers have the right to be notified that their jobs are under threat of redundancy, and they have the right to meet with their bosses (with a union or other representative if they want) and put forward their case for why their role should be retained. And then the company makes a business decision on which positions to eliminate. People often say ‘I’ve been made redundant’ because of course ultimately it’s a thing that happens to a person, but in reality they mean their role has been eliminated.

      I don’t think there’s a specific length of time before you can advertise a role that was previously eliminated, but if you eliminate someone’s role and then hire someone else to do the same job very soon after, you’ll be on dodgy ground should the previous employee decide to take you to an employment tribunal, because it can easily be construed as unfair dismissal (i.e. the company was using the excuse of redundancies to get rid of a specific person). I was made redundant early in my career and then ended up being hired back by the same company less than a year later – but that was legally fine because they’d hit the panic button and gone through a round of money-saving redundancies, and then 2/3 of the remaining people in those roles had jumped ship, so all of a sudden they found they actually didn’t have enough people to fill the smaller number of roles they’d been left with. But if they’d made my position redundant, no one else had left, and then they’d hired an extra person to do the exact same role I’d been doing? Dodgy ground.

      1. Observer*

        I was made redundant early in my career and then ended up being hired back by the same company less than a year later – but that was legally fine because they’d hit the panic button and gone through a round of money-saving redundancies, and then 2/3 of the remaining people in those roles had jumped ship, so all of a sudden they found they actually didn’t have enough people to fill the smaller number of roles they’d been left with

        Well, that’s the thing. Hiring the people you laid off back is always going to pretty much be an indicator that it wasn’t the people but a mistaken idea of what positions are necessary. And the OP is also pretty explicit that it was about the positions, and that the people who made the decision really went to far in eliminating the team.

      2. EvilQueenRegina*

        In the example I mentioned above where my ex manager cut too many posts, a couple of people did jump ship very soon after the new structure was put in place, and in those cases, the roles were advertised again (thinking about it now, I remember I did wonder why they weren’t automatically offered to anyone who’d been laid off and was still working their notice period, but were advertising them more widely). Once they realised that actually they did need those posts that had been made redundant, they just filled them with temps until the year was up.

  32. ConfusedAboutExpectations*

    The gentle reminder issue shocks me. As someone who was often told early on that they tend to be too direct and matter of fact and that normal business etiquette requires including more social niceties, I was explicitly told to use phrasing like gentle reminder or friendly reminder or similar for these sorts of communications. As my career progressed I noticed everyone at dozens of companies I’ve worked at uses this type of gentling language. I’ve never heard even the slightest grumble about it. Social niceties of this sort are still one of the first things that go when I get stressed or overloaded. My last performance review was excellent, but this was the one issue that was still mentioned as a possible area of improvement; making sure to include things like gentling modifiers of this sort even when stressed or in a rush was the specific action item I was given.

      1. ConfusedAboutExpectations*

        Yes, and I work in tech, and every boss I’ve ever had has been male. Interestingly, the few times I’ve been told who complained about it the complainer was always a woman.

    1. Angstrom*

      I think “normal” business language may vary widely by industry. I’ve spent my entire working life(almost retired) in the engineering world and have never been advised to use softening language.
      One can be polite, friendly and collaborative without gentling modifiers.

    2. Irish Teacher*

      Personally, I don’t find “gentle reminder” to be gentler language. Gentler language is rephrasing the message, not just basically saying, “I’m being gentle.”

      I don’t consider telling people “I’m being gentle here” to be a social nicety. Actually being gentle, yes, but if anything putting “gentle reminder” before a message makes it less gentle than it would otherwise be as it implies this is the softer version than what you really want to say.

      To me, “gentle reminder that your reports were due yesterday” is a lot blunter than “hey, just wanted to remind you that yesterday was the deadline for those reports. Let me know if there’s any difficulty getting them in.”

      1. penny dreadful analyzer*

        Yeah, I try not to nitpick it because I understand it’s a stock phrase and it’s being used (and, apparently, explicitly taught) as a stock phrase, but I didn’t run into it until I was an adult and thought I knew what all the invisibly meaningless stock phrases were, so I end up trying to read it like the two separate words are being paired together to create meaning, and when I do that… it reads like a stage direction! You wouldn’t write “(insert softening language here)” and expect your audience to make up the softening language for you and read it as if you’d written it when you didn’t; that would be absurd. “Gentle reminder” is basically one step away from that. It upsets my “show don’t tell” sensibilities, and I suspect all the people reading irritation and passive-aggression into it are employing a similar “A king that has to say ‘I am king’ is no king” type of assumption.

    3. Dinwar*

      “Social niceties of this sort are still one of the first things that go when I get stressed or overloaded.”

      Where I work we have a term for this sort of thing–where you’re so stressed out that you start dropping social niceties. We use it to let people know that the stress is obviously getting to them, and we’re here to help. Social niceties are like a thermometer for stress: If it goes into the red, the rest of us take action whether you would prefer us to help or not (and to be fair, once the dust settles and tempers cool, we all appreciate the help).

      For what it’s worth, the management group that uses that term is all men. We all know to watch each other’s backs, both because we like each other and because it’s best for the business.

  33. Put the Blame on Edamame*

    I like to send messages to my team saying, “Gentle, loving, kind reminder: do your frigging timesheets already.”

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Anything coming from HR, finance, or admin – particularly a reminder about a rote task that they have to remind people about every week or month without fail – should get a free pass to be as passive aggressive as they want. Aggressive aggressive even.

      1. Peanut Hamper*


        And honestly, how do so many people forget to submit timesheets all the time? Do you NOT want to be paid? Or do you assume some magical elf is just going to submit for you?

        1. Aitch Arr*

          I mean, most employees will be paid anyway and any adjustment/corrections handled in a future payroll.

  34. Molly Coddler*

    Allison’s answer to #2 is great if you really work with adults. I work in academia – university faculty – and they for some reason need to hear “gentle” and such because they see us admin as less than. I can’t solve that problem myself and I can’t risk being too direct without consequences. I agree that people should handle themselves and I should not have to worry about it. But that’s not how it works in my real world.

    1. Hashtag Destigmatize Therapy*

      Ugh. I’m a former academic, and I have *such* contempt for faculty who see admin coworkers as less than. Y’all do important, difficult work, and deserve *at least* as much respect as faculty members. Academics who fail to recognize that are sabotaging themselves with their own self-importance.

    2. ErinWV*

      I’m also a university admin, and I use “gentle reminder” frequently. It’s almost always when I’m asking a faculty member or director (who outranks me) to please send me the thing my boss asked them to send two to fifty-seven weeks ago and they still haven’t sent it despite multiple reminders. I can’t say “Send this thing already, Jerkface!” I can’t even say, “Please send immediately, thank you,” because as Molly says above, this person who is above me may find that very cold and think they are being disrespected by an inferior.

      My natural manner is direct, no-frills, and early in my career I got dinged for it all the time. I was even forced to go to a seminar on Handling Conflict Gracefully or some such thing. Some people want to be sweet-talked. We may all be adults, but we’re not all grown-ups.

  35. Dinwar*

    I’m in the minority here. I rather like verbal softening in emails and communications. For a few reasons.

    First, we’re not robots, and tone matters. I’ve worked on teams managed by people who think that email should be a short as possible to get the point across. Fortunately I had a history with one manager in question, so when others on the team were worried they were going to be fired because every email sounded angry I was able to calm them down and convince them that no, that’s just the way this manager communicates, everything’s fine. The psychological tole from working in an environment that foregoes social niceties is higher than most “I want to put my head down and do my work” realize.

    Second, it gives you the option of nuanced responses. A gentle reminder is, well, a gentle reminder–something that’s not an emergency, just don’t let it fall off your radar. You can adjust the language as needed if the reminders are ignored. If everything is legal-speak and lacking the human element, you lose that capacity. If you’re constantly using role power, instead of relationship power, role power loses its effectiveness.

    Third, we lose something as a culture when we abandon social niceties. Sure, in many cases the words may be meaningless in the strict sense, but their presence speaks to an understanding that we are humans sharing this experience, not mere tools to be used to advance someone else’s agenda. I’d rather work in an environment where people are at least willing to make the pretense at viewing me as a human, rather than an appliance.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I think one key variable here is how much of your team’s communication is via email and what the general content is. This will vary a LOT by culture.

      For instance, in my office emails are generally one of a few categories: an alert, a synthesis, a reminder, or a request. In many of those cases, if it needs more discussion there will be a note that we’ll talk about it at x meeting, or in person the next day. Informal communication happens more over instant message, where it is typically warmer or more casual, or in person, where tone isn’t lost.

      If 90% of your communication happens over email, then you need to figure out the right balance for your workplace. Some will require more softening – but typically reminders or alerts still don’t need a lot of filler language.

      1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*


        It’s very common when wrapping up a 30-minute conference call for someone to say “Oh, and just a reminder that we need topics for next quarter’s lunch-and-learn sessions.” And that doesn’t grate on me at all.

    2. the Viking Diva*

      I think you’re missing the OP’s point though, and the many alternatives that have been suggested. As is very often discussed here, social lubrication matters. But many of us hear ‘gentle reminder’ as phony, for exactly the reason Allison says: it’s telling me how to feel (you should perceive me as gentle) instead of just taking a light and pleasant tone.

      1. Samwise*

        I think lots of folks take stock phrases as not-stock and thus read way too much into it.

        I’m old enough to remember when “have a nice day” first became a Big Thing. People were ridiculous about it — who are you to tell me what kind of day to have? or, I’m having a bad day and don’t want to/can’t have a nice day. Or, ew nice that’s so flaccid. The sarcastic (aggressive, often with a nasty tone of voice) version was, Have A Day! which is funny for about 53 seconds and only the first time you hear it. And certainly not when you’re a waitron or a cashier who is required by the manager who is directed by corporate to say it as a pleasantry to each and every customer.

        Get over the itchiness about Gentle Reminder, folks, and give people credit for trying to use a pleasantry or softening language.

    3. Angstrom*

      “The psychological toll from working in an environment that foregoes social niceties is higher than most “I want to put my head down and do my work” realize.”

      Yes, but there is a balance. I get frustrated and irritated when language is softened to the point of ambiguity. I don’t want to waste time and energy trying to figure out what you really mean. One can be polite and friendly AND concise and direct.

      1. Dinwar*

        This isn’t an issue with any phrase, though, but rather with styles of speaking.

        My wife and I had this issue for a while. She grew up in an environment where “No, absolutely not, no way, I will not do this” actually meant “I’m not feeling it, but could be convinced.” I, on the other hand, grew up in an environment where it was common to give reasons why something shouldn’t be done, rather than saying “No”–the “no” is implied, after all, so doesn’t need to be said, and one’s reasons are typically more important than one’s conclusions. Created all kinds of fun trying to learn each other’s communications styles. She’d complain that I was being wishy-washy and not saying that I didn’t want to do something; I’d counter by pointing out a 20 minute monolog on why something shouldn’t be done should make my position obvious.

        Neither communication style is wrong. Both are equally effective and direct–as long as everyone is on the same page. The issue is when people who communicate in different ways try to communicate with one another. That’s why cultural fit is so important when it comes to where you work. It’s better for everyone if you come in hearing the same way they speak, but if you don’t it’s important to learn how they hear and speak (everyone’s going to be slightly different, after all).

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          While they might be equally effective, I don’t think you can reasonably argue they’re both direct when your explanation is “the no is implied” and you’re using 20 minutes to communicate what she communicated in one sentence.

          In the workplace, those 20 minutes can be much more disruptive than they are in a domestic setting.

          1. Dinwar*

            “I don’t think you can reasonably argue they’re both direct when your explanation is “the no is implied”…”

            I have found that if someone can listen to 20 minutes worth of reasons why something is a bad idea and conclude “So you’re on the fence”, telling them “No” more directly is not going to be any more effective.

            And I note that you’re not considering the effects of HER miscommunications. An aggressive “No, absolutely not” when in fact you’re willing to consider it you are just leaning towards no creates a lot of unnecessary tension in a relationship, be it domestic or professional. It shuts down communication with people who have different styles, which isn’t effective for anybody.

            “…and you’re using 20 minutes to communicate what she communicated in one sentence.”

            Not at all. I’m using that time to provide reasons for my decision. Sometimes that’s not warranted, sure–in any organization sometimes you don’t have time to explain and need people to just do as they are told. But more often providing the logic behind the decision is more useful because it allows the person in question to understand your conclusion better. In the business world, this means that they can apply this logic to future situations. It’s pretty rare that you get a one-off occurrence of anything, after all, and if you can get the person you’re talking to to understand your objections those 20 minutes may save you hours over the course of a year. When dealing with junior staff they also turn the discussion into a teachable moment, helping them understand the broader implications of the answer in ways that will benefit them in their career.

          2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

            I don’t think either of Dinwar’s examples was direct: Dinwar was saying “No, absolutely not” to mean “maybe, convince me,” which didn’t (as far as I can see here) distinguish between a definite “no” and a “maybe.” So their statement was brief and emphatic, yes, but ambiguous.

        2. Angstrom*

          Fair point. Someone saying “Do those reports take long to run?” may think “It should be obvious that I’m asking for the reports ASAP.” In some cultures that would be true. But there are many valid ways to interpret that question.
          The same phrase can also be perceived very differently depending on who is speaking.

    4. Peanut Hamper*

      A gentle reminder is, well, a gentle reminder–something that’s not an emergency, just don’t let it fall off your radar.

      Or, you know, just kind of, maybe like, I don’t know—put a DUE DATE on the fricking thing?

      The number of times where I’ve seen something slide because the person sending the email didn’t put a due date on it is not a small number. We would not need “softening language” if there were just due dates on things. Just say what you actually want and when you want it by.

      That said, I agree that we do miss some of the social niceties. But I would much rather see “please” — which is straightforward and to the point — rather than “gentle reminder” — which reads as passive aggressive 99.587% of the time.

      1. Dinwar*

        “Or, you know, just kind of, maybe like, I don’t know—put a DUE DATE on the fricking thing?”

        Due dates aren’t always effective.

        For example, if you have new staff–or staff new to a role–it’s often effective to coach them WELL before the due date. They often don’t know the various components that go into getting to done by that date, and approaching that coaching without softening language will, at least in my experience, come off as very hostile and aggressive. Softening language is a way to let them know that you’re not criticizing, you’re informing, and you don’t expect them to know this stuff. “Gentle reminder” is great for those situations where you have told the person before, but the person is human and taking on a new role and has 10,000 things going on, and being a reasonable manager you expect them to do normal human things like forget information that wasn’t immediately applicable. “Gentle reminder” says they’re not doing something wrong, you’re just bring this to their attention so it doesn’t become wrong.

        “We would not need “softening language” if there were just due dates on things.”

        This is not universal. No one’s preferences are. As Eldrich Office Worker pointed out, a LOT of this is going to be cultural. Some people are going to prefer one sort of office, some another. It’s not a moral issue, it’s a style issue. The important thing is to find an environment that you mesh with.

          1. Dinwar*

            Of course it does. If something hadn’t gone wrong, or more accurately if my supervisor didn’t believe something was likely to go wrong, they wouldn’t feel the need to remind me. They’d trust that I have it covered.

            ”There’s a scene in the book “Hornblower and the Hotspur” that captures this perfectly. Hornblower, the Master and Commander of the Hotspur, reminds Bush, his lieutenant, of some details on how to accomplish a task. The lieutenant takes mild offense to this. And Hornblower realizes he overstepped. It’s his job to tell Bush WHAT to do, it’s Bush’s job to figure out HOW to do it. Failure to recognize those different roles would result in undermining Bush’s authority, and ultimately be damaging to discipline.

            I’m not saying that we should run companies on the principles used by early 19th century wooden sailing ships. Rather, it demonstrates that my perspective is neither novel nor terribly controversial. (Fiction is often useful because it can highlight the important bits without the distracting irrelevancies inherent in real-world events.) When you step into someone’s lane and tell them how to do their job, even if you’re coaching them, it can easily come off as insulting, and even a reminder can be such an instance. It’s worthwhile to proactively mitigate such an insult.

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          Nope. “Gentle reminder” still reads as passive aggressive.

          I would much prefer:

          * Reminder
          * Second reminder
          * Third reminder
          * Final reminder

          That makes it much more clear that this task is becoming increasingly urgent because hello, there is a due date approaching.

          Softening language is a way to let them know that you’re not criticizing, you’re informing, and you don’t expect them to know this stuff.

          Why would you interpret any reminder as being critical in the first place? A reminder is, by its very nature, informing. If people are interpreting your reminders as being critical, rather than informative, you have other issues. And I suspect, those other issues stem from passive-aggressive tendencies, such as using “gentle reminder”.

          Just tell me (clearly) what is needed, tack a “please” on it, and then say “thank you” when it’s done. That’s all that’s really needed. People aren’t marshmallows that are going to melt when—gasp—we expect them to do the work they were hired to do, whether new or not.

          1. Quite anon*

            I use “gentle reminder” when someone is asking me to remind other members of my team not to make typos, simply because it’s more business appropriate than “Joe is being a dick and after refusing to spend money on any form of error handling or automation to reduce or correct typos because ‘you can just not make mistakes ever’ he wants me to tell you to stop making typos and also not to slow down, in fact he wants us to process requests even faster”.

          2. Dinwar*

            “I would much prefer…”

            As I say elsewhere, your views are not universal. What YOU would prefer and what MY TEAM prefer may not be identical.

            Why would I interpret a reminder as critical? Because it implies that you think I’ve forgotten the thing–which means, you think I’m bad at my job. I have encountered numerous people who responded to a reminder with “I know! I know! I’m on it, okay?!? Just let me get back to work!!” I’ve experienced it myself–the person “reminding” me was actually micro-managing me, and screwing up my plan of attack in ways that were difficult to adjust to, without giving me a chance to explain myself. If they numbered the reminders it absolutely would have come across as infantilizing–unless there’s an automated system generating these numbers, it comes across as very much “Mom or Dad counting down until they punish you”.

            Again, this all goes back to culture. The critical thing in determining how your team works. If your team works with “This is your third reminder”, great! Go for it! That’s how your team works most effectively, so that’s the right way to approach it. But you cannot universalize from your experiences. People are not identical, and cultures are different between different workplaces.

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              “Because it implies that you think I’ve forgotten the thing–which means, you think I’m bad at my job.”

              That’s a leap

              1. OK*

                In my experience, since people are noting experiences aren’t universal, lots of people take that leap.

                Dinwar is not alone.

              2. Dinwar*

                We’ve obviously had different bosses. I’ve had some that have openly stated that they consider a need to remind me to do something to constitute a failure on my part.

                This is why I object so strongly to the line of reasoning “I prefer things this way, ergo this way is the right way.” The number of cases where context is more important than content for understanding an action are innumerable.

    5. bamcheeks*

      “Gentle reminder” isn’t a softener for me. Clarity about about *why* you are reminding me is.

    6. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I agree. It really helps with tone. It is the difference between a command or order and a friendly chat with a coworker

      For example, if the conversation was in person, the difference would be between an order like “Complete that form by the end of the day”, and a conversation like “Hey we need that form before we can complete the data analysis.”

  36. Dread Pirate Roberts*

    When I moved to the UK I started seeing signs everywhere that started with “Polite Notice” followed by something that’s prohibited and I HATED it. Yeah, I’ll decide if it’s polite or not. I later realised it’s no different from gentle reminder which I also dislike but with slightly less vehemence. Reminds me of when emojis first entered common use and a friend and I called one the “winky face of plausible deniability” because people would say something cutting but thought a cutesy emoji would soften it.

  37. Art3mis*

    #5 I had a boss that once gave everyone on the team a gift card to a movie theater chain that no one lived within driving distance of a location. It was convenient for him, since there was a location near the affluent suburb he lived in, but the rest of us plebs had to hike it 10-30+ miles just to drive to work. No, he didn’t fix it. Most of us sold our gift cards online.

  38. Dr. Rebecca*

    I only use ‘gentle reminder’ or other softening language as a way of saying “you’ve bitten my head off for this perfectly reasonable request in the past, please don’t do so again, I’m just doing my [expletive deleted] job.”

  39. Quite anon*

    I find I use “gentle reminder” in contexts where I don’t actually expect anything to happen as a result of the reminder, but someone else is telling me I have to remind people of something. Our department has a very, very low error rate on tasks, but we aren’t perfect, all requests to roll out technology that would reduce the error rate even further have been rejected due to cost, and we handle enough tasks per day that errors happen fairly often. So we often get people pointing at the one error made that week saying “how could your employees get someone’s first and last name transposed? how could your team miss one person on this list of a hundred people who need to be added to this application one at a time because there is no bulk add?” and demanding that people be reminded to not make mistakes which, short of being able to automate at least some of the points where data is entered manually, isn’t going to happen. So my reminders to not make mistakes are gentle reminders.

  40. rollyex*

    Gentle reminder,

    When an AAM article is located on a website with a paywall, that is so the author can pay the bills.

  41. Ali*

    #3 actually is true in the EU — when a company eliminates a position, it cannot legally reopen that position within a year. There are some exceptions if the company recreates the position and then reinstates the laid-off employee into it.

  42. Kat*

    My manager is insanely passive aggressive and he emails me telling me to do things by “simply” suggesting things or “gentle reminders”. I shrug it off because he’s not a horrible manager, but I hate his emails.

  43. Alex*

    A lot of people in the US don’t realize that gift cards for US companies sometimes don’t work in international locations. I’d assume it was a genuine error and let them fix it before storming the HR office.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      Now I’d like to see Alison’s advice on how to go about storming the HR office…

  44. My Brain is Exploding*

    So for #1, I would be concerned as an employee that another employee was dating the boss’s best friend and that she would get better treatment/perks/whatever because of it.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      It’s a fair concern, but at the end of the day, it’s not something the boss has control over.

    2. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I think the OP can negate those fears by treating the employee the same as all the other employees. Once they see that she’s not getting special treatment the employees should feel better.

      But this does bring up an idea that might happen. From what I understand, working at a bar can be just as dramatic as any restraunt/retail job with people being clique and dramatic. I could see another employee thinking that this employee is getting special treatment and then bullying her or other problematic behavior. So it might be something the boss and the employee needs to keep an eye out for.

    3. LW#1*

      LW#1 here. Do you think a conversation to the -other- employees is in order? Something to the effect of “this is one of those situations that can create appearances of favoritism. I am committed to not doing that and monitoring my behavior to make sure I don’t. But if you see something concerning, know that you can definitely let me or (one middle manager) know without any risk of backlash.” I don’t want to predict a problem where one may not arise, but it might help defuse potential tension.

  45. MicroManagered*

    On Letter #2, I get that certain phrases can be over-used and start to become grating, but I really try to just … not think about it too much.

    Sometimes people need a way to tell you something, sometimes it’s something you’ve already been told, and they’re trying to say it without being a jerk. That’s what “gentle reminder” means.

    If the phrase “not tryin’ to be a dick” is ever considered polite-enough for work correspondence maybe we can start using that instead, but until then, we are probably stuck with “gentle reminder.” Best not to let it steal your peace lol.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      To your last point, though — if somebody is not following through on something, then yeah, I’ve got to be a bit of a dick about it, even if I say I’m not trying to be a dick about it.

      Here’s the thing — if you had just done it in the first place, without being reminded, then I would not have had to remind you, either gently or dickishly.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        You’re suggesting that reminding someone that they have to do something is being a dick about it.
        If that’s the case, then “gentle reminder” starts to make more sense.

        On the other hand, if a reminder is simply a neutral statement that something has to happen, I don’t see any point in softening it because it’s not an inherently negative statement.

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          The thing of it is, we’re all grown-ups here. We are surrounded by technology that will remind us of things that need to be done. (Hell, if nothing else, just stick a post-it on your computer monitor.) We should NOT have to be reminded by others in this day and age. We should have systems and processes in place to remind us of what we were hired to do.

    2. Quite anon*

      Yeah, to me it’s me attempting to soften the language when the person telling me to send a reminder genuinely is being a dick. Like seriously, we’ve brought up the fact that manual processes are error prone because when you’re copying data from one spreadsheet into multiple applications, by hand, because ctrl v ctrl c are restricted due to data privacy restrictions, typos are going to happen, ten times. And the same people who reject our requests to put in automation to feed the information directly from the spreadsheet to the application to remove typos from the equation because it costs money ask me to remind the rest of my team not to make typos whenever someone makes a typo.

      “gentle reminder” reads as business speak correct in ways that “idiot upper management wants me to tell you to act like the machines they won’t pay for” does not.

  46. I'm just here for the cats!*

    #5 I do hope that the company corrects their mistake, otherwise there will be people who will be upset. Every year for your work anniversary my mom’s company gives them a gift card to a local convenience store. You get 1 $10 card for every year you worked there. Since 2020 most people are remote, so last year they mailed hers out. She never got them. She has the informed delivery with the USPS which shows what mail you are expected to get. It never showed up, so that means it was never in her mailbox or en route to her. Someone asked if she got them and she said no and they were going to look into it and apparently resend them. But never did and never asked her about it. The missing cards, which would have been about $50, coupled with the fact that they didn’t get raises that year and they’ve added a bunch of other stuff to her plate really made her bitter. If she wasn’t in her mid 60’s and had physical impairments she says she would look for something else.

    1. TheyTaxGiftCardsAsIncome*

      Not to mention she paid taxes on income she never received. Just a tiny bit, but that would be the insult after injury that would infuriate me.

  47. 1-800-BrownCow*

    #5: I learned something new today!!! For as many times I’ve traveled to Canada, I did not know that gifts cards from the US may not work in Canada. I personally have never tried to use gift cards there and would have just assumed they worked anywhere that the company exists. Honestly, to get upset over someone not doing their due diligence in ordering the gift cards is a bit unfair as likely it never occurred to them that the GC’s would not work in another country.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      1. these don’t sound like company gift cards, like to a retailer. It sounds like its a prepaid visa card.
      2. I don’t see why you think people are upset. There is nothing in the letter that hints to anyone being upset. Maybe people are a bit perplexed or bummed out. But they are going to talk to the boss and get it figured out.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        I’m a little disappointed/annoyed this happened

        I think it’s reasonable to interpret that as upset.

        1. I'm just here for the cats!*

          I guess it depends on what you mean my upset. I take upset to be more than a little annoyed or disappointed. So I guess its just one of those quirks that the same word had different levels of meaning to different people.

      2. iglwif*

        Yes, and the fact that it’s a prepaid VISA card (or similar) makes it even more likely that the person who ordered them simply had no clue they wouldn’t work in Canada — after all, a regular VISA or MasterCard or AmEx credit card can normally be expected to work just fine.

  48. Spice*

    I use ‘friendly reminder’ at work for low-stakes situations, but I like the suggestions for ‘quick reminder’ too. I do think ‘friendly’ or even ‘gentle’ are typically added to convey tone in an email that could otherwise be read as annoyed or aggressive. I also think they help convey the fact that this could be a pre-emptive reminder rather than a reactionary reminder. My friendly reminders are usually along the lines of ‘Friendly reminder that it’s fruit fly season! Please be extra mindful of cleaning up after yourself.’ It’s a friendly reminder because I’m not accusing anyone of NOT cleaning up after themselves, I’m merely bringing awareness to the importance of cleaning up especially now. It’s important but low-stakes. I worry that ‘quick reminder’ would not convey the importance as well as ‘friendly reminder’ does.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Yes, my coworker used “friendly reminder” for our clinicians because someone got ticked off that she was asking them to do something. We are receptionists and have to gather data about appointments. If the clinician doesn’t fill out the form we can’t gather the data. It was part of her duties to send notes to the clinician to complete the form. She didn’t say specifically but she changed her wording to “friendly reminder” instead of just saying “complete X” because someone got their nose bent out of joint because they were being told what to do by the desk staff.

  49. BellyButton*

    #2- I am a person who sometimes writes “Friendly reminder…” thanks for the perspective on why it can be annoying and isn’t necessary. I will stop!

  50. Angela Zeigler*

    Here everyone’s bashing the use ‘friendly reminder’ when I’ve used it to help talk coworkers off figurative cliffs, haha. It makes something sound less ‘reprimand for this thing you forgot/didn’t do’ and more ‘Hey, fyi, it’s not a big deal though, just remember for next time’. Obviously it depends who you use it with, though!

  51. AFormerIntern*

    So, I’ve used “gentle reminder” quite often in my work. I understand that Allison thinks that people can handle getting regular reminders, but that isn’t my experience. Often times I’ve found sending a reminder vs. sending a gentle reminder is the difference between getting an irate email about how much the person has on their plate and how I’m the last thing they need, and getting a thumbs up or a quick ‘got it’ back.

  52. NYNY*

    I think gentle reminder means please get this done, but no one is mad at you.

    If your biggest problem is people using this phrase, you work in a great place.

  53. GentleGiant*

    Adding my voice to the sometimes usefulness of a “gentle reminder”. I don’t use it a lot but my job in academia involves interacting with faculty that are often very busy and forget to do important things or blow past deadlines on the regular. For many of them, a straight up reminder works well, but some of them would bristle at the thought that a staff member would be telling them what to do. So a “quick reminder” (my preferred version) or a “gentle reminder” works best so I don’t have to then do damage control or deal with defensiveness…
    I imagine this would be true in many situations where it’s someone with less power reminding someone with more power that they’ve not delivered on something. To me the “gentle” does not imply that I’m being gentle, just an acknowledgement that I’m being non judgmental of the fact that they did not deliver on a work promise. Everyone gets busy and things fall through the cracks sometimes, so I do mean that I’m not judging.

  54. I'm just here for the cats!*

    After reading the some of the comments about the gentle reminder thing I’m really surprised that it bothers so many people. I do think context is key. Like, you shouldn’t use it for every reminder like one commenter said they have to do. But if you know that the person your sending the reminder to is going to be a jerk you, you might need to use “gentle reminder” or other similar phrasing. I think its just politics.

    I wrote in a reply to someone’s comment that a coworker switched their language to “friendly reminder” after a clinician got angry that the desk staff was trying to tell them what to do, when we needed information from them to do our jobs.

    We also send out messages to our student clients that say “friendly reminder” or “gentle reminder” when we have to do things like charge their university account for a fee, that they might not have been expecting. My understanding is that it is a way to be gentle and seem more caring and not that we are just trying to get more money from them.

    1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      I’m having trouble understanding how “gentle reminder” is different than “how are you”. We have all agreed many times on this website that 90% of the time “how are you” is just a turn of phrase, part of a common social script that holds no real meaning. Why does “gentle reminder” not get the same treatment? Why do folks leap immediately to the most ungenerous interpretation and hold the person who said it responsible for those feelings? It’s unreasonable to expect people to cater to your every linguistic preference when what they’re saying is annoying, not harmful.

  55. JJ*

    #5 I’m a Canadian who has been given U.S. gift cards several times, and the people giving them insist they were told they would work in Canada. They never do, but a lot of U.S. store employees and web sites give bad advice to the buyers, even when people try to ask beforehand. So I wouldn’t jump to assume someone at the company thoughtlessly bought the wrong cards without pondering that Canada is a different country with a different currency etc. It is very possible they were given wrong information. And in their shoes, I’d want to be politely told about it, to fix the situation but also for future knowledge.

    1. iglwif*

      Yep. The number of times I’ve been given incorrect information by US online retailers about shipping to Canada … well, it’s not an enormous number but it is definitely not zero. Some won’t ship to Canada at all, many will ship to Canada only for a mind-bogglingly large amount of money, and a surprising number won’t even let you pay with a Canadian credit card! (This is often because their ecommerce is set up to require a US billing address, so you can fill in your street address and city, but there’s a State drop-down so you can’t give your province, and the ZIP code field is numeric, not alphanumeric, so you can’t put your postal code in.)

  56. Lacey*

    I hate “gentle reminder” and would never use it.

    But. Many of my coworkers ARE delicate little flowers.
    I spend HOURS sometimes editing what should be a simple email saying,
    “You’ve submitted this incorrectly and you need to use X form instead”

    Even worse if they’ve had an IDEA that won’t work.
    The tender care that must be used to explain that they’re not experts in a field they don’t work in is mind boggling.

    Even so, I think “gentle reminder” would send them into a rage and I honestly wouldn’t blame them.

    1. The Username Lost to Time*

      I am also in awe that folks have never encountered delicate flower coworkers. I don’t type “gentle reminder” but I also don’t have any problem reading it since I appreciate that people are being forward about their attempt to coddle our colleagues who need it.

  57. Woodswoman*

    Question #2 brings up a question about my own behavior! While I absolutely hate “gentle reminder” in an email, I DO regularly say “Just a reminder- XYZ is due this Friday by 2pm.” My intention is to minimize- like, I know you’ve probably got this, this is JUST a reminder. But am I possibly giving people the same ick as the gentle reminder??

  58. Nom*

    Alison, gentle reminder will always be the only thing I disagree with you on. The penalty for not being “gentle” is way too high to risk not using it. Sure most people at work are adults that can handle reminders, but too many aren’t. And when I receive a “gentle” reminder, I take it as just a thing people say (similar to “how are you?” without actually expecting a response).

    1. Leandra*

      Agreed. Some people at work are shocked, shocked that they’re actually expected to do their jobs.

  59. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

    I think part of why I’m annoying by “gentle reminder” is that it keeps coming in automated emails asking for things I never agree to do.

    For example, “gentle reminder, $dentist is waiting for feedback on your most recent visit.” The one time I tried leaving real feedback about something, and asked them to change something, they ignored it completely. Or, worse, emails of “gentle reminder, we need [sic] 12 donors from the town you don’t live in anymore.”

  60. Heffalump*

    I wouldn’t feel a need to prefix “gentle” to “reminder,” but I’m not often in the position of giving reminders.

    I do sometimes say, “Friendly suggestion.” IMO a reminder is about something the other person already knows; a suggestion is about something they don’t. I’m in a technical field and sometimes make suggestions about how things should be done. I have no authority to issue an outright directive, so I feel a need to be diplomatic.

  61. Anony Moose*

    I always just forward the original email and say “following-up on the below”. I find gentle reminder to be infantilizing.

  62. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

    Honestly, the conversations on the “gentle reminder” really remind me why some young women and immigrants/ESL folks have a rough time in the office — even when they’re supposedly surrounded by people who are on their side. I really invite people to think about who is using this phrase and why — and 9/10 times it’s not to bug you. The world doesn’t revolve around petty slights — it’s a reminder with a qualifier attached. The people who suffer from this are the people who have been taught to do it to be “polite” or not come off as aggressive.

    IDK, it all feels like punching down. If someone you hate uses this phrase, fine, but that has nothing to do with the phrase and everything to do with your relationship with them. The amount of “they could have, they shouldn’t have, I would be more receptive to…” IDK, maybe just be receptive to doing your job and note reading into the tone of an email. A coworker recently said she would not be doing written communication because tone gets lost and I am hard pressed to find tone in an email except the one you put on it based on how well you know that person.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Idk I find with the kinds of phrases and vocal ticks that annoy people, there’s usually an accompanying “it doesn’t bother me when x does it because I know they don’t know/don’t mean it” – like when your older aunt ends every text with “…” – there IS an implied tone there but you know she’s not aware of that and isn’t inclined to learn so it doesn’t hit QUITE an annoying as it would with someone else. Same with ESL speakers who either use phrases that have slight colloquial issues.

      Also I’d strongly argue that this is typically punching up, not down. The reason it bugs people is because it’s used to condescend.

      1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        I hear that this has been many people’s experience, but I cannot recall a single time in my 30 year career that someone has sent me a “gentle reminder” that I perceived as condescending. It feels like punching down to me as well, I hear it mostly from admins and non-boss people who just don’t want to get yelled at.

  63. Modesty Poncho*

    I feel like I’ve only seen “gentle reminder” online in Social Justice context- a gentle reminder to someone to check their privilege, or to listen instead of talk over, or “gently, this isn’t the right place for you to say this”. In that context it’s emphasizing that the reminded isn’t necessarily being judged, a way to try to head off explosive, defensive reactions.

    I’ve never seen it at work and I see why it’d be weird.

  64. SometimesMaybe*

    Can we just appreciate the irony that people “hate”, “cant stand”, “bristle” and have an overblown reaction to the word gentle, are usually the ones who think people need to not be sensitive to the wording of emails. Like we should not coddle peoples feeling in emails, because it really upsets me.

    1. Brain the Brian*

      I certainly try to be kind in my emails. “Gentle reminder” reads as condescension to me, though — the exact opposite of what its proponents are trying to achieve, I think.

  65. PlainJane*

    I just don’t have an opinion on “gentle reminder.”

    But I am very concerned about bar employees dating patrons, for the same reason as the gym worker being stalked is a problem. Yes, in this individual case, it might be fine. But on the whole… shouldn’t service professions just have a kind of blanket prohibition on this, because it can get creepy SO FAST, and if it’s allowed for this case, what about her co-worker who now doesn’t have an easy “it’s not allowed” to rely on when someone is harassing her at work? (Yes, “No” should just be enough, but let’s be honest–it often isn’t, and having workplace policy to lean on is very, very helpful. Unless it’s obvious that there is no such policy.)

    1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      It might make more sense but from what I know of food service and the hospitality industry, there is a uniquely strong culture of mixing business with pleasure, both with coworkers and customers. I imagine it has something to do with the unusual hours?

    2. SometimesMaybe*

      I think location also matters. The LW says she is from a small town, I get it so am I, my aunt teaches at my kids’ school. My sister is the grocery manager, my ex boyfriend is my father’s tax accountant, and the list goes on and on. Also in the service industry the turn over is so high that a policy like this is really unmanageable.

    3. SometimesMaybe*

      I think a yoga teacher at a private studio is different from a restaurant or a bar. Since the the general public is considered a patron. What would be the criteria for someone you are not allowed to socialize with? Anyone who has ever been to the bar, someone who can never come to the bar again, someone who knows someone who currently or has previously worked there? I met my future husband while I was bartending, and he was the ex of a coworker. Restaurants are not the same as other work environments – That is not to say companies can’t or shouldn’t protect their employees, just that blanket rules like no dating customers are not the best solution.

  66. SusieQQ*

    I use “gentle reminder” often and this post has inspired me to stop.

    At the same time, I wonder how else I can convey my meaning. I don’t say “gentle” because I think the person I’m talking to is fragile; I say “gentle” to convey that the reminder, at this point, is not a big deal. I have also used the phrase “friendly reminder” to try and indicate that if I were speaking in person, I would be speaking in a friendly, not-a-big-deal tone.

    I worry that if I just say “Reminder, please do this” it is going to come across as harsher than I intend, or someone is going to think it’s a way bigger deal than it actually is.

    1. Hiring Mgr*

      I wouldn’t stop if up until now it’s been fine. These are just people’s pet peeves, not major violations. If anyone has a serious issue with someone saying “gentle reminder” that’s on them

    2. Mrs. Hawiggins*

      It’s a pet peeve for a lot of us but please do as you see fit for your staff, because if they’re ok with it, carry on. It truly is just a weird cringey thing for a lot of us. If it helps, for me, I’m ok with Friendly Reminder. Also, I appreciate, “Checking In,” or, “Please Update,” “Status check,” etc or words to that effect. For me that has always laid the foundation that my boss knows I’ve gotten it, am doing it, or am aware that they’re going to be looking for it. Friendly reminder has been used with me, and I have taken that a lot better than the other phrase.

  67. But Not the Hippopotamus*

    re: gentle reminder

    I try not to use it now, but used to use it regularly. It comes from having volatile or toxic coworkers and actually needing to tiptoe around them. That behavior can seep in and color interactions for ages after… particularly when communicating with people one doesn’t know well.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      And I think that’s an important point. If you have to use “gentle reminder” to avoid setting off your coworkers, there are bigger issues at play.

      It’s a very passive-aggressive expression, which itself isn’t healthy.

  68. Fiona*

    Hate hate hate “gentle reminder.”

    It is similar to “no offense but ___” or “with all due respect ____”. Somehow, shockingly, both of those phrases are always followed by something offensive or passive-aggressive.

    I see it on this site all the time – commenters say things like “I’m saying this as gently as possible” – why? If you feel the need to say that you’re saying it “gently” then you are either implying that the recipient can’t handle it or you’re acknowledging that what you’re saying is not particularly “gentle.”

    If you communicate things in a friendly, kind, inoffensive way then there is NO reason to dress it up with passive-aggressive wording. I think it’s telling how many commenters here use the “gentle” reminder and say they need to say it this way to chase people down to do things. So – it’s not particularly “gentle” is it? I just find it to be complete backwards-speak and incredibly irritating. Any of these issues can be solved by other friendly email vibes.

    “Hi! Reminder – XYZ is due Friday. Any late entries will cause ABC issues. Thanks!”
    “Hi all – Just a reminder, XYZ is due Friday. Many thanks”

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Yeah, exactly. This is what bugs me about it so much.

      It’s like people who say “I don’t mean this to be racist, but…” and then say something that is incredibly racist. Saying that you don’t mean to be racist doesn’t get you out of actually being racist by saying racist things.

  69. Samwise*

    Gentle reminder. I’d prefer to just remind, and generally do. But there are some people who are…delicate flowers…and if adding in the words “gentle reminder” smooth things with them, why wouldn’t I take two seconds to type that in?

    Mostly I think this is because it’s so hard to convey tone in an email or text — you can’t be sure the reader sees your friendly smile, so why not add in those words if they help?

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      Because to the non-delicate flowers (most people), the words come across as passive-aggressive and like you’re speaking to them as children. It clarifies the tone, but not in a good way.

  70. Stella*

    I was also not a fan of Gentle Reminders, until our H&S officer (who wasn’t known for his spelling and never used spell check) sent out an email with a ‘Genital Reminder’ to the whole company.

  71. Corgilicious*

    I also dislike the phrase “gentle reminder” or “friendly reminder” but also recall the several times someone complained to my manager that I was too aggressive in telling folks something was due. I guess, ‘heya, project xyz deliverable is due to team falcon on Monday at 4pm.’ is too much for some people to handle.

  72. Mrs. Hawiggins*

    Whenever I see, “Gentle Reminder,” in ANYTHING – an email, a note, a text from the dentist reminding me of my appointment, I have to step outside.

    Why don’t you just say what you’re thinking – what’s been festering up in you since you ‘haven’t heard’ from us in the 5 or 10 minutes you were expecting an answer, or the 1 or 2 days since you sent the first email and how dare we, or because we’ve been on vacation and didn’t see your communique.

    Me: “Thanks for your patience, I was in the hospital having an appendectomy/organ transplant/a baby. I’ll get back to you in a few days when I’m stronger and more established to ___.” You get my drift.

    I’m grateful for, “Hey Mrs. Hawiggins, wanted to check in on this ___”
    Never a problem.

  73. Vio*

    Re: LW5
    Remember that everyone can make a mistake, it’s how they deal with it once they realise the mistake that tells you most about them. If they take ownership of the mistake and are dedicated to correcting it then that’s a great thing to know about your company. If they grudgingly correct it or try to downplay it then that’s something that’s important to learn about them too.
    Try to see it not as an annoyance (yet, at least) but as a valuable learning opportunity.

  74. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #3 – I was once laid off – and my company refused to give me a reference, which made finding a new position nearly impossible. I can only surmise the reason was they wanted me available in case of a recall. They were on the phone with me nearly every day.

    Their rules/policies were = if we have to fill your position with someone before one year is up, they have to recall YOU. They did (verbally) approach me with “would you be so kind as to come in and waive your right to recall”….. to which my response was “hell no, and if I did, how much are you willing to pay me to do so?”

    I later was asked “would you be willing to come back if we recalled you” – by that time I was working somewhere else and had moved on, and could no longer help them out, and no – I would not accept the recall unless there was a three-year no-layoff deal.

    But everyone was gone from there within two years.

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