my wife is cheating with a coworker, employee uses my name in every sentence, and more

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

1. My wife is sexting a coworker on work systems

My wife happened to leave her system up while working from home and I noticed a chat where she was cheating with another employee and there were sexual references and conversation in the messages. How would an employer view this?

Badly, usually. But it’s not your place to take this to her employer — and that would be a really awful thing to do. You have 100% standing to address it with her as her spouse; you have no standing to address it with her company.

2. My employee uses my name in every sentence

I have a new direct report who uses my name regularly in both written and verbal communication. Think “yes, Amanda, I will surely look at that,” “Amanda, I am going on lunch now,” “thank you for explaining that to me, Amanda.” I HATE this, I don’t know why, but it’s something that’s always bugged me (reminds me of a creepy salesman and sometimes feels quite assertive / aggressive — “Amanda, I do not agree”). I think it may be a slightly cultural thing, as she is not from UK / US and I don’t think English is her first language.

Is this something I can address? Or do I just need to put up with it? I know in the grand scheme of things it’s not a big deal, but it’s winding me up!

I hate this too! But I’d bet money that it’s a cultural/language thing in this case.

Either way, try to let it roll off you. Maybe it’ll be easier to do that if you remind yourself that it’s probably a language thing … or possibly it’s just awkwardness, like she struggles with talking to people and read that everyone loves the sound of their own name and misunderstood how to apply that (Dale Carnegie was big on this and bears some of the blame). Whatever the cause, she’s almost certainly not doing it because she wants to be smarmy or insincere, even if it’s coming across that way, and she’s allowed to have personal quirks.

A caveat: if you can see it grating on her coworkers to the point that it’s affecting how she’s perceived at work, it could be a kindness to say something about it to her, framed as “This might be a quirk of English, but sometimes it can come across aggressively when you use someone’s name so often. I know that’s not where you’re coming from, and don’t want you to be perceived wrongly.”

3. Can I convince a board to get rid of their toxic CEO?

Tonight when I happened to be perusing some AAM advice about how to avoid toxic workplaces, I thought I might as well check out the Glassdoor reviews of a company I’m interviewing with and am really excited about. Well … I’m glad I did, but I almost wish I hadn’t. Turns out there had been a change in leadership in 2020, and since then, there have been a slew of reviews of the company about a toxic CEO and a culture of fear.

I was really excited about this job, not least because mine is a very niche field and the job description is one I might have written if I could write my dream job description. However, a few slightly strange things have happened so far that, in hindsight, extend back to the application process:
• This organization literally runs the main job board for my field, yet the job wasn’t posted there until two days before applications were due. Normally jobs like this are heavily advertised over a couple of months.
• The first interview was scheduled for 60 minutes, but the interviewers only asked me three questions! I had a lot of questions for them, which ended up taking up rest of the hour, and we had what I thought was a great chat. But I thought the time management for that step in the process was strange.
• The director I would be working under has no particular expertise in my area. Lots of experience in the field in general, but for that type of role I would have expected a real rockstar.
• A role on the team I would be working on that had been a full-time role (I know this because I applied a few years ago) is now only part-time, yet they claim to be growing the team!

Now that I found the Glassdoor reviews, all of the above to me seems to confirm that the org can’t attract or retain talent.

Is this salvageable?? Obviously I don’t want to work for a tyrant, which this guy seems to be — the Glassdoor reviews were very specific and credible, and the one good review called the others “sour grapes” with no work ethic. I don’t know what I can ask if I get a second interview that might reassure me about working there. But I guess my real question is, if I get an offer, can I tell somebody there that I’d love to work for them if the board would get rid of the toxic CEO? It seems so tragic, because this org has done some truly amazing and pioneering work in my field, and this one guy seems to have completely derailed it all. Can I somehow contact the board and let them know the CEO is driving off talent?

There is zero chance that a job candidate complaining to the board about this stuff would result in them firing the CEO.

The Glassdoor reviews do sound credible and alarming. But the organization already has access to those and almost certainly knows about them. The information that you’d be adding yourself — the four bullet points about your experience in their hiring process — aren’t terribly damning, and definitely not near the level of “fire the CEO.”

If you’re offered the job, you can certainly explain to the hiring manager that you’re saying no because of their Glassdoor reviews. It’s possible that at some point in the future it’ll help them to be able to say that they’re losing good candidates because of the CEO’s reputation. But that’s really all you can do.

4. I told my interviewer I’d been fired even though they didn’t ask

I was recently “let go” (okay, fired) from a job. It was traumatic and I took time to really reflect on everything that had happened. I did not write on my resume or cover letter that I was let go. While I was interviewing, I was not asked why I left my previous job, I, having too much Catholic schooling, decided to alert them to this fact. Needless to say, the interview went south after that and I did not get the job.

Is there another way I should have approached it? Should I have written something on my resume or cover letter about being fired? I have read not to but now I am second-guessing myself.

You’re not obligated to disclose that you were fired. If a company wants to know, let them ask you. You absolutely should not put it on your resume (you don’t put reasons for leaving jobs on your resume) or address it in your cover letter (your cover letter is for explaining why you’re a good candidate; it is not a confessional!). You also shouldn’t bring it up proactively in interviews!

If your interviewer asks why you left that job, you shouldn’t lie — but you should have a short (short!), upbeat answer about why it wasn’t the right fit and, depending on the details, possibly what you learned from it. We’re talking like two sentences here at the most — with a few more prepared to use in case they ask any follow-ups. But you absolutely do not need to raise it on your own.

5. I don’t want a promotion

I started at the bottom in my industry a couple years ago, performed really well, and was promoted quickly. I had all the glamour that came with it — praise from management, decently high pay — but I was miserable. The more my workload grew, the more my stress grew. I couldn’t seem to disconnect from work, even when I wasn’t there, and it was affecting my marriage. I was upset and frazzled all the time.

So, I decided it wasn’t for me and started job searching about six months ago. I ended up moving to a new job where I essentially took a demotion and a pay cut, but my workload was much more manageable and I was noticeably calmer and happier.

Except now it’s happening again. I did really well during my 90-day trial period, and management has talked about training me in more skills and potentially moving me to a new role. I am being assigned more and more work that is outside what I was actually hired to do. I’m getting comments from my boss like, “Of course you want to keep growing here, so we’re looking at continuing your training, and there’s an internal role opening up in such-and-such department, so of course you’ll be throwing your hat in the ring for that…”

Is there any possible way to say in the working world that I do not want a promotion, I do not want to grow, and I’m happy where I am? I understand the trade-offs of such a thing, i.e. getting paid less and having a lower title, but all of that is worth it to me if it means having good mental health. I just can’t seem to stop running into the expectation that I should be taking on more, more, more … and I feel like trying to voice my feelings will reflect poorly on me.

Talk to your boss! She’s assuming you want those things — probably because in her experience most people do — but that doesn’t mean she’ll be appalled to find out that you don’t. But you do need to tell her or she won’t know.

I’d say it this way: “I really appreciate the vote of confidence! I actually took this job specifically because it was less responsibility and stress than I’d had previously; those were big draws for me, so I’m not interested in going after promotions right now. Of course I want to grow in my current role the same way anyone would, but I wanted to make sure you know that the whole reason I took this job was because I wanted to do XYZ (current responsibilities), not ABC (proposed new ones).”

The reason to include the “I want to grow in my current role the same way anyone would” language is because you don’t want to sound like you’re saying you’ll resist learning new things across the board. In most jobs, managers will assume that you’ll get better and better at what you do, and it may be a normal and expected part of the role to add in more projects as you master the basics. You don’t want to sound like you’re going to freeze your contributions at where you were in month three.

{ 308 comments… read them below }

  1. Jolene*

    #1. I’m sorry, I’m sure this is painful. But take it from me (divorce lawyer), raising it with spouses employer will make you look loony-toons, and possibly hurt you financially (if spouse loses job).

    Sorry again, and best of luck.

      1. Advocate*

        Reading the implication, it looks like the chat is happening on a company managed platform (eg Slack, Teams, whatever) and on company time.

        It may be a personal matter, but I would think there’d be a few people in the company invested in stopping a sexual harrassment case and abuse of their services.

        1. allathian*

          Abuse of their services, certainly, but where do you see the sexual harassment? Sexting can be, and in most cases probably is, consensual. It’s just that we tend to hear about the cases where it’s harassment rather than consensual, because people don’t generally talk about consensual sexting, at least not in my social circles.

          If this happened at my job, the employee would most likely get in trouble for allowing a third party sight of company systems.

        2. Ink*

          But there’s not really a way for *the LW* to be the one to tell them without it being weird. Who knows what the office politics are, whether this specific company will actually care at all, and so on. If it was someone seeing those messages on their coworker’s screen they’d have standing to tell their boss, but the company has no way to even know how credible the LW is. For all they know, it could be loosely interpreted innocent messages lighting a fire in the midst of a messy divorce, or a jealous/possessive spouse, or so on.

          …and if it doesn’t get sorted out between LW and the wife and *does* come to separation/divorce they might find out anyway. That’s the sort of thing that spreads like wildfire once word is out, no contact from the LW necessary.

          1. AnotherOne*

            yeah, the only reason LW should be involved is if LW lives in a state where adultery can be brought up during the divorce for some benefit so LW might need the communications.

            and even in that case, LW shouldn’t be directly involved- their attorney should reach out to the company requesting the logs.

            1. butter rat*

              What? Surely the company isn’t going to give logs of internal communications to an employee’s disgruntled husband’s lawyer. If the husband wanted evidence, he should’ve gotten screenshots.

              1. Always a Corncob*

                I don’t know anything about family law, but they could potentially be subpoenaed as part of the divorce proceeding.

        3. KateM*

          Plus, she left her work computer open so a non-employee had access to it. But still, I don’t think OP can report that…

          1. Observer*

            Plus, she left her work computer open so a non-employee had access to it.

            This is also something that could come back to haunt the OP. Because there is a really good chance that people are going to wonder how much “just happened” and the OP just “noticed.”

            I’m not accusing the OP of anything, but there are a lot of situations where that would be the first question the company would think of – and in many situations the questions would be legitimate. Especially since there is a fair amount of space between “the computer was not locked” and “I saw this thing.” Were those messages on screen so that all the OP would have had to do was see that the computer was open and give a second look and see the messages? Or did they notice the the computer was not locked and oh, there is an indicator that there are messages, let’s go see what is in them? The latter is not going to be great for the OP.

            That does present a bit of a catch 22 for the OP. But if they stick to the thing that they have standing in – ie their relationship with their wife, and stay away from the work issues, things are likely to go much better for them, no matter what their ultimate goal is. Whereas going to her company is definitely going to be seen as vindictive.

        4. Bagpuss*

          Sure, but unless OP is also an employee he has no standing to bring it up, those would be purely internal matters.

          1. WellRed*

            If OP were an employee he still shouldn’t bring it up. No one wants to be dragged into a colleague’s marital strife.

            1. Hannah Lee*

              Wading into the marriage issues, sure, steer clear of that.

              But if I came across evidence that, say, a manager was sexting with a colleague, someone else in my department (whether it was my boss, an employee of my or just someone I work with), that would raise issues for me – is there some unfairness in how other co-workers are being treated? Is the sexting-partner getting preferential treatment that means other employees are being held back, getting less preferential assignments, perks, leeway in how things are done?

              Or, as I have seen happen before, are the wheels going to come off the bus when the affair ends, or there is fallout in their personal lives, causing chaos in the workplace. And even if everything stays outwardly stable, are there more subtle downsides to what’s going on.

              But that’s not the case here, and none of the workplace fallout is OP’s concern, “not OP’s circus, not OP’s monkeys”

              For OP, all they can do is address what’s going on in their relationship and their homelife. Oh, and make sure they have the current details of their assets, finances etc, make sure everything is as it should be, so that as things proceed (and if/when spouse’s employment blows up and their income stream changes) OP has a clear snapshot of what, and where, for the inevitable untangling of lives.

        5. Falling Diphthong*

          It’s just the wrong path to go down: Hoping someone else will punish the person for you. OP’s objection here is not to the misuse of slack, or the possibility of a relationship that violates company standards at some company they don’t work for.

          OP would be in rights to take photos of the exchange as evidence, and to decide on divorce or confrontation. Trying to drag in the employer as a third party who will mete out punishment at your direction is likely not to go as smoothly as it does in your fantasy. (Including both “they didn’t care” and “they fired my spouse right when I did not want to complicate our about-to-be-separate finances.)

          Plus if the other party is clearly in the wrong, it’s going to be easier if you keep yourself up on the “I did nothing wrong” platform, rather than dragging each other through the mud arguing about who’s slimier now.

          1. SansaJacklyn*

            Yeah, it reads to me like the OP wants the employer to do the hard stuff for them, or maybe the OP hoping the employer shutting it down will end the affair or something.
            This is something they need to discuss with their spouse. And yeah, if they end up in a divorce, it is NOT ideal to have the spouse you are divorcing unemployed because it will directly hurt the OP financially.

            1. Selena81*

              It sounds like OP hopes the employer will punish his wife and/or put a stop to the cheating.
              The latter won’t happen, and any punishment (i.e. getting fired) can make the divorce far more messy.

          2. tangerineRose*

            “Plus if the other party is clearly in the wrong, it’s going to be easier if you keep yourself up on the “I did nothing wrong” platform, rather than dragging each other through the mud arguing about who’s slimier now.” This!

        6. Observer*

          It may be a personal matter, but I would think there’d be a few people in the company invested in stopping a sexual harrassment case and abuse of their services.

          As others note, there is no way for the OP to be the one that brings it up. Even if there were a harassment claim in there somewhere, the OP doesn’t have any standing. It’s not as if the OP is seeing their wife harassing someone.

          And the reality is that there is not proof that there is a harassment claim in there. Based on what the OP says, there seems to be no issue of a power imbalance or anything like that. Even misuse of resources is iffy. Sure, a good company is not going to like this. But unless the company has really strict policies around personal use of email, this is not really going to be one of these slam dunk “you abused our systems” kinds of situations.

          1. Selena81*

            It’s unclear to me whether the wife is supposed to be harasser or victim.
            Some people will always assume their spouse ‘would only do such a thing if they were forced into it’, especially if the spouse is female.

        7. Nina*

          Yeah, this is not sexual harassment, and unless the company actually has ‘no sexual content on company IT resources’ rules in place already (which, not an unusual thing to overlook), their hands are pretty much tied.

      2. MK*

        No, he wouldn’t. It would be inappropriate and inadvisable, but the urge to hurt someone who betrayed you isn’t some insane idea that would never occur to a reasonable person, it’s what almost everyone would feel.

        1. Flora*

          Both things can be true at the same time.

          Having that urge may be a reasonable response. Acting on it is not.

        2. Smithy*

          I think the framing of the partner’s workplace viewing the act as looney tunes is the critical point of distinction here. As the AAM commenters, we’re a bit more neutral in balancing a commenter and their position and then giving our feedback based on that interpretation. And that’s where the view of lashing out at a partner who’s betrayed you is very normal if inadvisable.

          However a workplace is often going to be positioned to support and be biased towards their employee (aka the partner). And over the years, the numbers of calls from former partners, spurned lovers, exes angry about custody, stalkers, etc etc that they may have received…..if it’s a larger employer – the volume of calls of this nature could be large. And while this OP sounds to be hurt within the realm of average, the looney tunes piece is more about being lumped together with this larger “angry partner” group.

          If the OP’s partner works somewhere that would require such a complaint being formally investigated (thinking government agency), and there’s a termination despite the desires of the team, supervisor – there’s no way things won’t get messier as this relationship dissolves.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Yes, the odds are that the company’s history of (current/former/would-be) romantic partners calling to inform the company of Dire Wrongdoing that should lead the company to punish their employee has probably been that the person calling seems pretty wack.

            Like if you take a normal resume, and then print it in green ink on aluminum foil–the fact that most resumes doing this are from lower tier candidates will move you to that category, even if the substance of your resume is great.

        3. iglwif*

          It probably is what almost everyone would feel.

          It is not what a reasonable person would or should do.

      3. Vio*

        Of course it would be an overstep but I’d imagine a rather common one. It’s unlikely that anything good would come of it, even if the cheating spouse suffers as a result of being reported it’s not going to give any gain to the OP, much as the emotional part of our brains can sometimes insist revenge will make us feel better it tends not to.
        In that kind of situation few people are going to think logically however. If OP can resist the temptation to report it (unless of course there is something in the communication the company really SHOULD know, like if they were embezzling or something) good for them!

    1. linger*

      My immediate reaction to #1 was … why is OP1’s first reaction to ask a work advice forum about this? Acknowledging OP1 may have a lot to process here and may not be thinking entirely clearly, but this choice suggests either that the relationship is already strained or distant, and/or that their overriding motivation is to seek revenge.
      Do not trust that motivation.
      Talk to your spouse first, if you have any standing left to do so.
      If you do not have that standing, then you still shouldn’t be contacting their employer, because that would mean it’s none of your business.

      1. Allonge*

        why is OP1’s first reaction to ask a work advice forum about this

        I would like to think that they know it’s a bad move and also know that Alison gives good advice.

        But in any case because OP has a work-related question on how an employer would look at this. Of course the implied ‘suppose I told them’ that a lot of us are reading there is not that hard to get to, but OP did not actually ask that.

        1. Random Dice*

          I think he/she/they were really hoping that Alison would say to go ahead and blow up the wife’s job.

      2. Old Admin*

        I agree, talk to your spouse.
        This may be much harder than ill advisedly telling her employer (who may not do anything), but much more about what affects both of you personally.
        Don’t give in to petty revenge fantasies!

      3. londonedit*

        It can be hard to think rationally in a situation like this. There have been a few letters here where people have wanted to get a partner’s employer involved in something like this – I think the impulse is ‘my partner’s employer is allowing them to cheat on me, why don’t they do something about it’. Because of course even when confronted with all the evidence, people often still don’t want to believe that the person they love is capable of cheating on them of their own volition.

        I completely agree that what the OP needs to do is to speak to their spouse – it really has nothing to do with their employer, even if these messages are happening on a work platform.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          I wouldn’t be surprised if part of it is that the LW wants to punish their spouse for cheating.

      4. Madame Arcati*

        To be fair to the OP we don’t know that it’s their first or only reaction or that they haven’t spoken to their spouse. This question could be one of a bunch of reactions, some advisable and some not – including talking to spouse, making a bed on the sofa, phoning up spouse’s relatives crying, getting drunk, Googling divorce lawyers etc etc. The others wouldn’t be mentioned in a question to a work advice column.
        Also they don’t actually say their intention is to contact the company – I agree with Alison’s advice because I can’t see why else they would ask the question, but still I think we should stop short of, “they are going to do this [bad idea] and nothing else therefore compounding their wrongness”.
        Heck, at least they asked and didn’t just do it. Hopefully they take Alison’s advice and seek non-work-based advice about other reactions.

      5. Observer*

        and/or that their overriding motivation is to seek revenge.
        Do not trust that motivation.

        Yup. Revenge is dangerous. Not just to the person you want to get revenge on, but to yourself.

        Best case, it leads to decisions that harm you.

      6. anon for this*

        You don’t know that this is the FIRST place OP is asking for help. It’s probably not.

        Guessing at the OP’s motivation for asking the question — fanfic, and frankly, as someone who was the cheated on spouse, your guesses are offensive. In my case, the relationship was not strained or distant as far as I could tell, for sure I was not distant or strained or some horrible impossible partner nor was my spouse, I had no desire to seek revenge. And yeah, my spouse and the affair partner used the employer’s email to engage in their affair, as well as work spaces and work time.

        Stick to the information in the letter, and stop speculating about the OP (which the rules of this blog say, don’t do that)

      7. Excel-sior*

        is there anything to suggest that this is OP’s first reaction? we don’t know how long ago this information came to light or what actions OP has or hasn’t taken between Discovery and writing this email. chances are they are mulling many many things over in their heads, of which this is one and in what is sure to be a mentally and emotionally confusing time for them, this doesn’t seem like something thats outrageous to ask about.

    2. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

      It’s amazing the lengths some people will go to in order to avoid talking to the person they married.

        1. Dulcinea47*

          but if you read any kind of advice column, including this site, it becomes apparent just how very many people will do anything they can think of *except* talk to the person they have a problem with. Even their spouse.

          1. Cmdrshrd*

            Advice columns are not a good representation of the overall population. People turn to them when they have problems, issues, or just need a quick gut check on what they already know/think they should do.

            People don’t really turn to advice columns to report: ” I had a problem but I knew exactly what to do and it involved talking to John Smith about it, he agreed and we resolved it to everyone’s satisfaction.” or if they do they don’t get run because that is not really as helpful/entertaining.

          2. anon for this*

            Because when you discover something like this, it’s terrifying. You don’t want to say anything, because you’re afraid of what you will find out. You are afraid that it’s even worse than it seems. Because then you may have to act on what you learn, in ways that can be very negative for you (will you lose your marriage? will you lose the spouse’s income? will you have to split your child between two houses? will you lose your friend circle? will you find out your spouse doesn’t love you?)

            1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

              None of that is a justification for not speaking though. Those are valid fears, but ignoring them doesn’t make them go away. This is a self-justification cycle for denial.

              Like, think about what you’re saying: if I totally ignore my spouse, somehow that will improve my marriage. Uh, no, ignoring each other is another way to destroy the marriage.

              Also, you’re conveniently ignoring the part about the LW wanting to tell spouse’s employer instead of speaking to spouse. This person is not in denial or avoiding the problem because they want to stay together, they are trying to take revenge. It’s already a failed relationship.

        2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

          How so? Raisin is observing the fact that the LW has written in to Alison about blowing up their spouse’s job rather than talking to spouse directly about their behavior. That doesn’t fit any definition of cruelty I’m familiar with.

      1. And the Skeletons Are… Part of It*

        I don’t think the OP was going to not bring this up to their spouse, too, I think they were just asking whether there was any way to also complain to the employer. Complaining to the employer but never mentioning to your spouse that you found out they were cheating on you is a pretty bananas reading of this letter.

        1. Old Admin*

          Complaining to the spouse’s employer in ANY combination with talking/not talking to said spouse is pretty bananas IMHO.

    3. Lainey L. L-C*

      “possibly hurt you financially (if spouse loses job)”

      THIS. OMG you do not want to mess with their income, because that’s gonna leave you paying more to them!

      Also to OP1 – my ex cheated on me with a co-worker. I never said anything to their employer – but unsurprisingly, they were found out (they were not discreet) and both got fired (one was manager to the other and the other a terrible employee). If they are have nasty chats on work chat, trust me, they aren’t being discreet at work in person either.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        THIS. It’s a work platform and they feel comfortable talking this way on it. I highly doubt no one at work has noticed.

        But yes, this is a personal problem, not a work one. Talk to your spouse. Also talk to a lawyer about what your options are (divorce is not the only option). But do not report this at work. Either work already knows or they will ignore it as someone trying to get revenge on their spouse.

      2. Tired and confused*

        The spouse of one of my colleagues messaged everyone they know (including several pf ys co-workers) with the details of coworker’s affair with another of our co-workers. It was weird and awkward for all of us and kind of pointless. Coworker divorced, married the person they had an affair with and both are still with the company. Sometimes ex-husband is brought back into the conversation as “unhinged out of line guy”.

      3. anon for this*

        Very true.

        My spouse and affair partner thought they were so discreet. After it all came out “officially” so to speak, many many people came up to me and told me what they’d seen for months.

    4. Anonymous for this one*

      #1 – Also a lawyer here. Best advice is to talk with a lawyer in your jurisdiction before doing anything else if you think this will become a deal-breaker for the marriage. (I would generally assume so, but it is your life, not mine). In some jurisdictions there may be liability on the employer’s part, depending on laws, policies, knowledge, etc. You will only hurt your legal position by talking with spouse first, and definitely hurt your position by talking with their employer (that should only be via your attorney with a subpoena or lawsuit, depending on the facts/circumstances/needs).

      Immediate revenge and exposing a cheating spouse can feel cathartic in the moment, but it will only hurt you in the long run. Talk to an attorney – even if you end up reconciling or not pursuing anything, a consult will give you knowledge of your options and a risk/benefit analysis of courses of action.

      1. Nedder*

        I work in liability insurance and this kind of thing (an EMPLOYER being held responsible for something consenting adults decide to do – ridiculous) is why everyone’s rates are always going up.

        1. Anonymous for this one*

          Yes and no…it depends on the jurisdiction and the facts. I am not suggesting it is a reasonable recourse, but that is may be available and you only hurt yourself if you preemptively foreclose an avenue. Many of the these causes of action are based on the idea that the spouse has a property right in the other spouse. Some jurisdictions (North Carolina comes to top of mind) are big business for divorce attorneys because you can sue the spouse’s lover for “alienation of affection” and “criminal conversation” – regardless of who seduced whom – on the idea that the lover deprived the jilted spouse of their spouse’s companionship. People have been successfully sued for millions of dollars for these (IMHO) outdated and disgusting concepts.

          Employer liability would be hard to prove, but if they had a policy against it and somehow it could be proved they knew this was going on, there may be a theory there. Probably unlikely, but again, no sense in hurting your position before you know the facts.

          Subpoena’ing the employer is definitely fair game though…that should be the only way to get the records (other than taking pictures of spouse’s screen if you have legal access to the machine already.

          1. Virginia is (not) for lovers*

            In Virginia it is a crime to commit adultery or assist anyone in committing it or trying to commit it. It is amazing how invested we are in what is under people’s clothes and what they do when they are off….

            1. Commonwealth of Shit*

              And yet you have to show that you’ve been legally separated for 1+yrs (longer if you have children) to get a divorce in this ass backwards state.

      2. Hot Flash Gordon*

        I agree that OP should contact a divorce attorney before even letting the spouse know they found out. Right now OP holds the upper hand and can take steps to protect their assets, etc before spouse knows their caught.

    5. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      LW1, it sound like you want to punish your spouse for her behaviour. And I get it, her behaviour is not OK, unless you have agreed to an open relationship, and it very much sounds like you have not!

      Is it possible that you are focusing on this aspect because it’s too big and painful to ask yourself whether you still want to be in a relationship with her or what you would need from her to be able to do so?

      Regardless, I’d advise you to think things through to focus on how to get the best resolution for yourself, rather than punishing your spouse.

    6. Insurance_Nerd*

      This- my husband and i live on site of his employer (school) and a few years back there was another couple in faculty housing that had some serious marital issues – allegations of chearting, abuse, etc. and his wife (who did not work for the school, he did) sent an email to the entire administration/ faculty and aired their dirty laundry and asking that he be fired because he was not a good Christian husband. it was bonkers. he still works at the school but they moved off campus. I don’t know how he can still show up every day. I’d have died of embarrassment.

  2. Emu*

    CEO issues aside, I think you are likely reading too many things that are different than your expectations as being obviously bad.
    In my experience is not uncommon to schedule more time than you think you will need. That way neither the interviewer nor the interviewee has to start clockwatching if the conversation goes a bit long. And if there are multiple interviews it also gives the interviewers time to have a discussion before the next appointment.
    The best boss I’ve had was not an expert in my field. But it meant they listened more to their team, trusted their guidance and focussed on managing the team rather than nit-picking the technicalities of the team’s work. The worst one was a rockstar, but this meant they didn’t let anyone else do their job without interfering. It wasn’t healthy.
    If there is less work for a particular role, perhaps they have grown the team in a way that there are others who can do some of the tasks that were previously part of the full time role. Maybe it grew beyond what 1 person could do so they’ve split it.

    1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Yeah, most of these are fairly minor issues or things that you would need more context to even call an issue. And none of them seem like “the fish rots from the head” type things.

      1. Sherm*

        Agreed — but I would still take major pause, given that the Glassdoor reviews are indicating a pervasive negative culture.

        1. SansaJacklyn*

          Yes, for OP taking a job, not telling the employer to get rid of someone or they won’t take it!

          1. ferrina*

            Exactly. It sounds like OP really wants the job but knows that it’s too toxic to thrive at, and so they are blaming the CEO. The board won’t listen to a random person who just repeats Glassdoor at them; if anything, they’ll say “Oh, we almost hired that person? Bullet dodged!”

            I get the desire to keep the dream alive, but this is unrealistic, and this dream won’t come true at this company.

    2. English Rose*

      I came here to echo what Emu says about a great boss not necessarily being an expert in the field. It might be a different necessity in LW’s field but the skills needed to manage people are often different from in-depth technical knowledge.

      1. SansaJacklyn*

        My previous boss was very very smart and great at what she did technically but was pretty horrible with people. And ALSO, I never learned anything from her because she didn’t bother to teach anything she knew, so the technical piece also didn’t help, and she refused to delegate so many business things we needed to do didn’t even get done! I spent my time learning on my own and trying to figure out how to get things done with her.

      2. Happy Underling*

        Agreed! TheVP who has jurisdiction over my department has almost no idea of the details of what we do, but they know we do it very well and we have a very good reputation. Also, (LW 5) when they did a (badly-needed) managerectomy on our department, they promoted someone else with less experience to be the new manager. They knew I didn’t want the job and didn’t have the skills for it; the person they chose did. I did ask in a review if they had considered me for the position for more than a second; they replied “I didn’t think you would enjoy it.”

        And that, my friends, is the mark of a great VP.

      3. ferrina*

        Sometimes. But some roles do require a strong understanding of the field. I’ve worked under several bosses who don’t know what I do. More often than not, it was a hinderance. If the boss needs to set strategy and (god forbid) train people, they need to have a strong understanding of the fundamentals.

        Not knowing what their people do can also be a problem in trying to advocate for your people- a boss that doesn’t know what they are advocating for won’t get the right thing (or in one case, the boss only advocated for the other half of the department, because that’s what she knew. My team was desperately short staffed, I had communicated that to her repeatedly, but she wouldn’t ask for more staff because she thought we were just slow or lazy. It was mostly because of the type of report we generated. In her experience, a report only took 10 hours. But we did an enhanced version of the report with a lot of bells and whistles, and it took 20 hours. And she refused to believe that the larger report took longer to create because she had never created one).

        1. bestbet*

          I would argue the issue your boss wasn’t that she didn’t know what you do, but that she wasn’t willing to trust or listen to her people. I doubt that attitude would have changed even if she had experience with the type of reporting you do.

    3. Earlk*

      The interview times seem a very odd thing to pick at, I’d much rather have more time than needed allotted than rush what needed to be said.

      Maybe the LW just got bad vibes and is grasping at straws to find legit excuses for why they don’t want the job instead of trusting their gut.

      1. Zweisatz*

        Eh, if it’s a normal interview (not for example a phone screen by HR to check on some basics) I would certainly expect them to lead through a 60-minute interview with more than three questions. That comes across as not interested or badly prepared. Sure, leave some time at the end for candidate questions but only three overall?

        As for the whole picture, I assume LW has gotten a bad gut feeling and re-contextualizing some stuff. I think it’s fair to do so, even if they’re not egregious on their own. LW, you’ll have to trust yourself here if that sounds like a workplace where you will actually thrive.

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, the whole letter reads like your second paragraph is is spot-on. OP says that “in hindsight” the already “slightly strange things [which] have happened so far […] extend to the application process”, meaning there were other strange things happening and OP has now thought the whole thing over but this time looking at it from a different angle.

        2. Buzzybeeworld*

          Whenever I have severely cut the questions I asked an interviewee in this manner, it has been because something very early in the interview itself told me that the person was absolutely someone I wasn’t going to hire. Like the answer to the first question was so stunningly off the mark, and the next two only reinforced how badly this person wasn’t right for the job that I stopped asking other questions.

    4. Awkwardness*


      LW – I have the feeling that now, with knowledge of the reviews, you want to spot red flags where there are none.
      That is not to say the reviews are not valid. But none of the things mentioned does indicate that they can’t attract talent.
      Most applicants would be happy to not be rushed during the interview and to have time to ask questions. It would be different, if the interviewer was impolite, did not answer questions or cut you short.
      The tasks of this role might have been split between different people, the tasks might be less relevant in their current business (because the focus of their business has shifted), they might have a full-time employee that it’s taking a cut in hours to take care of family or because they are close to retirement. I think that would have been an excellent question too ask during the interview!

      1. Awkwardness*

        I forgot to add: you might have a legit bad feeling. But I think it is important to have a really close look why in order to learn for the next interviews.
        Were your questions not answered? Did you expect something different? Were you too sure to know how the interview was going to be and were disappointed in the end?
        Did you not ask hard enough questions and the reviews are throwing you off your balance now?

        1. Sloanicota*

          To this I would add: How closely is the role likely to work or be influenced by this CEO? This is a question you can probably ask. If your own boss seems good (probe this) and the role isn’t very close to leadership, it may still be worth taking a job in your niche field that takes your career in the direction you want to go.

      2. El l*

        Exactly – wonder if OP is trying to rationalize why they could’ve independently seen their dream job has toxic Glassdoor reviews.

        They couldn’t. If the reviews are credible enough, run. If they’re not, OP will need to have an awkward and skeptical conversation about said reviews…and depending on answers should still consider running.

        Sorry. This is why sites like that exist- job seeker due diligence.

    5. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

      “The best boss I’ve had was not an expert in my field. But it meant they listened more to their team, trusted their guidance and focussed on managing the team rather than nit-picking the technicalities of the team’s work. The worst one was a rockstar, but this meant they didn’t let anyone else do their job without interfering. It wasn’t healthy.”

      Yes, this! I am in this situation now. My boss and I are comanaging a team for which he is the rockstar in everything (promoted without any training or management skills because he was the best) and I am a rockstar in only one subspecialty (promoted for management skills). And there is a major pattern in which everyone’s growth is stagnating because he’s still trying to spell out exactly how engineering work gets done, and then complaining that the engineers aren’t displaying autonomy or mastering the material. And he never has time to focus on learning management because he’s too busy doing low-level technical stuff. Whereas my approach is to encourage our reports to learn the material and rely on their own judgment, and encourage my boss to focus on managing.

      When asked “What does this line of code do?” by a software engineer, it’s very hard for the rockstar boss not to answer with “It does this,” whereas it’s very easy for me to answer with “I have no idea. Do you know how to test what it does? Yes? Sounds like a solved problem, then!”

      Last week it finally got to the point where I basically forbade two of the engineers to ask the rockstar boss questions and forbade the boss to answer questions or volunteer opinions on their work. As a temporary emergency measure, they now have to direct all questions and opinions, respectively, through me, so I can train them on “You need to learn to do this yourself,” “You are authorized to make this decision, it doesn’t call for a manager,” and “You need to learn to let go, you’re a manager now,” When I’ve filtered those out, I’ll pass on the communications that are actually worth passing on. This situation will last until everyone’s formed better habits.

      And all three of them agreed that this feels like a necessary measure, considering the rockstar *cannot* bring himself to not answer a question or make a decision, because he feels so strongly about every little thing (and expresses himself so strongly that he intimidates those two reports out of thinking for themselves).

      Furthermore, with regard to the LW, the higher you rise in an org, the more you’re going to *have* to learn to manage people whose work you’re not an expert in. You’re managing a wider and wider set of people across different specialties in the org, and you can’t be an expert in everything. If you haven’t figured out how to manage someone who knows more about their work than you do by the time you reach director, then you’re probably missing some serious management skills.

      1. Jiminy Cricket*

        I am not an expert in any of the things most of my employees do. That is why I hired them. Most teams are multidisciplinary in some way, so that is going to be the case most of the time, I would think.

    6. OP#3*

      Thanks for your replies, everyone. To answer some questions folks have raised:
      1. They opened the interview with the fact that they only had 3 questions, so it couldn’t have been anything I had said at that point that made them want to cut the interview short. But of course I appreciated the time to answer questions, usually there’s not enough time! I was over the moon about the interview at the time.
      2. As for the expertise issue, I understand why folks are pushing back on that – my current boss isn’t an expert in my field either! But to clarify, (and sorry for the cliche, Alison) my would-be boss’s title is “Director of Llama Grooming” and the position is “Llama Grooming Specialist,” so I would have expected her to have had some significant experience in llama grooming. And I’m not even opposed to a director who has little experience on paper, I understand there could well have been some other strength that made them choose her. But after seeing the reviews that the org is apparently hemorrhaging talent, it makes me think all of the experts in my field maybe knew the CEO’s reputation and ran the other way.
      3. I don’t think I’d have to work closely with the CEO; however, one of my interviewers was also named in one of the reviews as contributing to the toxicity, and I would probably work with her a lot. Also, the role is one in which, to be successful, I would need a lot of autonomy to make calls based on ethical principles, and I don’t see that being “a thing” in a place with an apparent culture of fear!
      4. I absolutely agree that the individual things were not egregious on their own, which is why they didn’t ring alarm bells at the time. But I guess I was trying to say that in aggregate, these things seemed to me to give credence to the toxic workplace claims. I’m lucky enough to never have worked at a toxic workplace, and maybe reading so many AAM horror stories is making me read too much into things, as some of you are suggesting.

      1. coffee*

        Re point 3, you could ask how the role would handle those kinds of calls and see what they say? Like if they started detailing a process where you don’t have that autonomy, you’d have some more concrete data about what working in the job would be like?

      2. Always a Corncob*

        Can you reach out to some folks in your field and see if they’ve also interviewed with this company or heard talk about the culture there? (Since you get the sense that experts are fleeing/avoiding this place, it may be an open secret in a small field.)

  3. Jen Cornett*

    Thank you so much for the letter #5!

    This is pretty much where I’m at right now. I changed companies three years about, to a role 2 steps down, but with less responsibilities/stress. And, honestly, I wasn’t really cutting it as a Supervisor.

    Three years later I did take a small promotion, and am very happy in my current role, amd don’t see myself doing anything else. I have tons of knowledge about our particular area of work and my newly promoted Supervisor relies on me to help him run the shift, especially since it’s just me overseeing things on the weekends.

    My problem is this company shoves “career” training down our throats via LinkedIn Learning, and we have to do QUARTERLY self evals and goal setting. Supposedly, these are for “check ins” with our manager that never happens for our shift. And we have to also set goals on our annual self evals, as well.

    I’ve indicated in the past that maybe I might be interested in training, and I do have the skills and knowledge, but don’t really like speaking in front of groups.

    I feel the constant training and goal setting are not set up for folks who are happy where they are. Why can’t a “career” be just doing what you’re doing if you’re good at it and happy?

    1. English Rose*

      I’m currently reading Kim Scott’s Radical Candor (recommended by someone here on AAM). She speaks SO well about this issue.
      She uses the term Rockstar differently from most – someone who is the rock of the team, who loves their job and is brilliant at what they do but isn’t in a high growth phase of their career. She uses Superstar for people who are in that high growth high ambition phase. No judgement on either, and people move from one to another during their working lives.
      There are so many organisations who don’t have career structures for individual contributors – people who don’t want to manage others. It’s a shame because as we all know, there are many, many folk who are poor managers.

      1. anne of mean gables*

        I love this distinction (rockstar vs superstar), and one I don’t think I’ve seen made explicitly in the workplace. It’s a useful construct to have in-pocket – it should totally be an option to be fabulous at what you do and not necessarily want to ‘progress’ to management, or national-level, or whatever the normative next step is in your field.

    2. Dulcinea47*

      Because you won’t get pay increases that keep up with the cost of living by staying in the same job. Most people can’t afford to get poorer over time so eventually have to take a higher position or at least switch jobs.

    3. Office Rat*

      I am also in the same boat. I just took two demotions at my agency, and am happy. Yet, they keep trying to promote me because “You get things done.” I don’t want the promotion. Like none of it. I am at the top of my pay band, I make decent money, and I am happy here. My office promotions would include managing others, and being in close proximity to the more politically legislative aspects of my job. That’s a lot more stress.

      I think sometimes folks can’t imagine someone is happy just being a worker.

      1. GreenShoes*

        Maybe offer them alternative? I love having people like you on my team. I don’t want them to max out in their band (everyone wants a raise, right?) So I’ve sometimes had to get a little creative to either create a new job description with advanced functions in an I/C role or other ways to promote without necessarily adding people managing.

    4. Clearlier*

      It’s bad management because the manager is just assuming that the OP wants to move forward. It would probably be considered acceptable by many but fundamentally it’s a gailure to communicate effectively.

      OP, I’ve managed people who for various reasons had zero interest in progressing their career. They were worth their weight in gold. I’d say something along the lines of being at a stage in my life where I’m looking for stability, that I value being able to do good work that I’m confident and comfortable doing what I’m doing and that I’m not currently interested in promotions/other roles/insert as appropraite, but that I will let them know if that changes and that they should feel free to check in with me about it when they want to.

    5. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      I very much relate to #5. I am currently in a job that is far below my old role in terms of pay and I would never go back. They keep trying to promote me and I have had to accept some of it, but I am pretty much digging in my heels in terms of “career development”. For the first time in my working life I have a job that ends at 5 and that I don’t worry about over the weekend.

      My husband got promoted reluctantly to manager 12 years ago and after a few years every year on his review asked to have a plan to transition someone else to manager and him back to engineer and they laughed. So he eventually quit. And then they hired him back as an engineer a year later and is so much happier.

    6. Barrie*

      I feel I’m in the OP5 phase of life. I’ve given up on high ambition burnout inducing roles just to be happy in an individual contributor role. Speaking privately with coworkers many feel the same- they want to come in and do the job and go home (many are women juggling families and parent care). However, very few would say that out loud and are still on the surface doing all the required training and evaluations. In some companies expressing you are happy where you and have no desire to “progress” is seen as the kiss of death to your career. It’s a real shame when there are so many people who are great at their job!

    7. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      Several times I’ve turned down the option to talk about a promotion — I don’t want it, I’ve tried that level of work and it burns me out, hard. I took this job as a step back on purpose. But because I’m over-qualified, higher level duties do seem to keep landing on me in the name of doing what’s best the project / team, so it seems I can’t escape entirely. Sometimes I can push back, sometimes I can’t. Officially, my company has a defined “career growth” model that specifically lays out the option of growing where you are without promotion, but they don’t seem to know how to do that.

    8. Not that other person you didn't like*

      This switch happened to me just in the last couple of years. I was always ambitious about my career and pushing to learn and grow and advance. Then a health issue, parents passing, and kid leaving home for college and I was like… no. No, I don’t want a promotion and I don’t want advancement. I don’t want a new job either. I surprised myself with just how many f@#&s I no longer give about any of it (behold the field in which…). I don’t think they’re coming back either. I don’t want to do a bad job or anything, I just don’t want to struggle and stress about it anymore.

    9. OMG, Bees!*

      I have successfully avoid extra responsibilities before. Specifically, I was asked if I wanted to manage a low performing coworker (who was later laid off), but I said no, because I do not want to manage people, ever.

  4. JaneDough(not)*

    LW2: I’m respectfully disagreeing a little with Alison. Tome, the repeated use of another’s name isn’t aggressive — it’s insincere, which is equally problematic. Name-repetition is something that lesser salespeople* do because they’ve been told that they can more easily manipulate the listener if the listener believes that the salesperson has somehow established a personal bond with them. (*Good salespeople understand that name-rep. is bull, so they don’t do it.)

    This name-repetition is grossly artificial and grossly calculated, and for that reason I think it would be a kindness to talk with your employee ASAP — for her success in your workplace and in all parts of her life in the US. (You can frame this behavior as problematic in the US even if it’s not problematic in some nations.) Also, I don’t know anyone who *likes* this ploy, so it’s probable that her coworkers are already annoyed; why let things escalate to “Now her annoyed coworkers are treating her a little badly” when you can nip this in the bud _now_?

    1. coffee*

      LW2 says the coworker is probably a second language speaker, which could so easily be a factor here, so I just wanted to give a little more info about how that could be having an impact.
      – As LW2 says, it could be a mark of respect in her original language, and she’s applied that rule to American English but it doesn’t really work in that dialect (or in many other English dialects).
      – It could also be that she’s learned it’s polite to use people’s first names in American English, and is now over-applying this rule, either because it seems extra polite to her, or because she’s got so much other stuff she’s learning that keeping track of how many first name uses is the correct amount is just too much, or she misunderstood and thinks she’s using it the right amount already.
      – It could just be a personal quirk and nothing to do with either language/culture, because if there’s one thing this site has shown, it’s that life is a rich tapestry and it’s stranger than fiction.

      If it helps, you might think about the learning curve on what form of address you’d have to start using if you were speaking another language. For me, that helps me remember just how difficult these things are and helps me feel more patient in response.
      For example: Japanese and Korean have the honorifics system; many Indo-European languages like French, Spanish and German have the informal/formal You; the Australian Aborigine language Dyirbal has specific variations of the language used when particular kin groups are within earshot.

      Actually you can kind of see it in English too! English used to have the formal/informal You (the whole Thee and Thou thing) – contrary to how it’s used in popular culture, Thee and Thou etc. were actually informal pronouns, so using them to be extra respectful/formal is a modern take. And even further back, thou meant “you singular” and you meant “you plural”, aka y’all, you guys, youse, etc. etc.

      So yeah, I hope that helps contextualise it a bit.

      1. Dot*

        Hi Coffee, I’m not trying to nit-pick but I just want to flag potentially offensive wording that you might not be aware of…while there’s a huge range of opinion within the Indigenous Australian community as to preferred wording (eg First Nations, Aboriginal, Indigenous), it’s pretty uniformly considered that ‘aborigine’ is extremely outdated and considered rude/racist. I just wanted to respectfully point that out because the rest of your post is so interesting!

        1. Throwaway Account*

          I’ve never seen Aborigine before and if I did, I’m guessing I assumed it was a typo. Thanks for sharing that!

      2. allathian*

        Yes, and further to that, if the employee is from a more hierarchical culture than the US, and specifically if they only repeat the name in every sentence with those higher on the org chart but not with peers, they may be using the name instead of Sir/Ma’am. I’m not in the US but from what I understand, you’re generally on first-name terms with your immediate bosses, if not the CEO/C-suite. Heck, I grew up using first names for my teachers, from daycare onward, except for the year I spent in the UK, where classroom discipline was far worse than in any class I’ve ever attended in Finland, in spite of the formal relationship between teachers and pupils.

        1. Dr. Rivka*

          Yes, it reads to me as someone who comes from a culture where you use ma’am/sir to address your superiors – which I think often *is* something that gets done every time you speak, because I’ve heard people get irritated by hearing just plain “yes” instead of “yes, sir.”

      3. Myrin*

        I have to say I wouldn’t be surprised if it weren’t a language thing at all – this is something that, much like in English, absolutely isn’t a rule or a sign of respect or anything other than annoying in my native language and yet every once in a while I encounter people (all native speakers, too!) who do the same thing. I can only assume it was either a family quirk or they were in a job where they were told to do that but I haven’t ever actually found out a reason for sure.

        1. SansaJacklyn*

          I had someone on my team who would respond with my name everytime she responded in email, even when my email was super casual. And she is slightly younger than me (a millenial) so it’s not even an age thing. She IS super awkward though and misses social cues, so I just chalked it up to that and one of her quirks.

        2. fhqwhgads*

          I actually felt pretty strongly reading the letter that it likely is a language thing, but that’s just based on my personal experiences. I’ve had several colleagues who do this same thing (in America), and they’re all not American and English is their second or third language. So it’s a fairly obvious pattern.
          In your examples it makes sense to conclude it’s a family quirk or individual thing since those people are native speakers of your language and doing this doesn’t have specific known subtext in your native language. But there are still a whole bunch of cultures/languages this pattern could be coming from that would quickly explain what’s happening, if the employee in question is from one of those.

          1. Myrin*

            I mean, yeah, that could definitely happen in my native language, too (someone transposing their native language’s rules into mine, I mean), I was just saying that it really doesn’t have to be the case. I’m not sure if you’re disagreeing with me in some way or just providing additional anecdata?

          2. Random Dice*

            If it’s a language thing, it’s a huge boon to explain it, matter-of-factly.

            As someone who’s lived abroad extensively, one doesn’t just pick up on where the rules change from one setting to another. (I learned a lot from the Culture Shock book series, a godsend.)

            If it’s not language and they are having a social cue issue, it would be a huge boon to address it matter-of-factly. The language/ culture thing gives a face-saving out for them.

        3. Weaponized Pumpkin*

          I have a very close friend of several decades who uses my name all the time and it just seems to be a thing with her. It pulls me out of the conversation every single time! She seems to use it mainly as dramatic emphasis, the way people use Reader online. It does also seem to be intended to create an emotional connection — same as the sales trick but I know she’s sincere. I find it very distracting though and it has the opposite affect on me, but I accept it as her quirk. She is a native speaker but does come from a multi-lingual family, plus she’s a teacher so it’s possible she picked it up somewhere in there. Or it’s just her.

      4. Juli*

        Okay, and how is the employee supposed to learn that the cultural rules in their new place are different, if nobody tells them till they snap?

        1. Allonge*

          Yes – in this case, and especially as it really annoys OP, I would definitely go for flagging this. Nobody means anything bad, but especially if it’s a language issue, well, tell them!

          I say this as someone whose first language is not English; I lived and worked in many places outside of my home country – I would appreciate my boss telling me about it rather than spending their energy not being annoyed by this. I don’t want to annoy my boss! It’s like they should tell me not to use ‘gentle reminder’ or whatever phrase that just gets them annoyed.

          I assume by the way that OP and this person will need to work together for some time, it’s not a random encounter where you are reasonably expected to shrug it off.

        2. Hlao-roo*

          I don’t think coffee was saying “don’t talk to your employee about this pattern,” just that approaching the conversation from a place of “this is something you might not be aware of because of language/cultural differences” is a better way to have the conversation than approaching it from a place of “you are being insincere.”

      5. Thomas*

        To add another speculation: she could be copying, consciously or unconsciously, “television English” where characters call each other by name a lot (so the audience can learn who’s who).

        1. Dr Sarah*

          You know, I was just about to write that perhaps the LW has unknowingly stumbled into a novel where all the side characters refer to each other by name all the time so that the main character/reader can learn their names. Hadn’t occurred to me that this sort of fiction might be where the co-worker learned the behaviour in the first place, but you’re right!

        2. Smithy*

          This can have a huge impact on how you experience someone else speaking English.

          I was in a language class when I was in my mid-20’s and there was an 18 year old guy in the class where English was also another language for him. We were just interacting in class, and I wrote him off as being young, a bit rude, and disinterested in me for being “old” based on how he spoke English. As we got to know each other, he eventually shared that he’d learned his English from 80’s/90’s action movies – Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger in particular. All of a sudden all of his speech patterns and “rudeness” made complete sense. He was actually a really nice guy, when you focused more on what he was saying as opposed to how he was saying it.

    2. Electric Pangolin*

      I wouldn’t be this sure about the intention behind it, unless you know the person and have reason to believe that they are aficionados of this kind of “life hack” advice. My mom constantly peppers her interlocutor’s name into conversation like this – and it’s not meant aggressively or insincerely at all, and by no means calculated, it’s closer to a verbal tic. (The only reason it does come across as annoying is because she very frequently gets the name wrong – she’ll call me by my aunt’s or my father’s name, and her friends by mine, or whoever she’s been talking to most frequently in recent weeks.)

      I could see someone who uses such a speech pattern write like they speak without thinking much about it – especially if they don’t have the “language feel” for how it comes across yet…

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        My old primary school principal used to do this a lot. I really noticed it when I had a summer job helping out in the school (helping her to get organised for the next school year) one time. She’d be like “hello, Irish Teacher. It’s great to have all your help, Irish Teacher.” It definitely wasn’t meant to be salesmany in her case. She’d known me since I was 6 and certainly had no need to impress me, in any way.

        She was from the West of Ireland, possibly the Gaeltacht (Irish speaking part of the country; certainly, she seemed to be more confident speaking in Irish than English) so it may have been a local thing.

        Or possibly it was a habit she picked up over years of teaching, in order to learn the names of students, parents, etc. Certainly, she knew and remembered all her students, all their family members, etc.

        Either way, it’s a thing some people without any particular intention behind it, I suspect often completely unaware they even are doing it.

    3. Awkwardness*

      The first thing that came to my mind was a person who might have problems in remembering names and that a coping mechanism, which is to repeat the name as often as possible, might have taken its own life.
      That would not automatically be insincere.

      1. Hierodula*

        This! I have:

        Moderate prosopagnosia- so recognising the face well enough to attach it to the name is often impossible and I will be learning a hodgepodge of characteristics like hairstyle, gait, accessories, body language and voice which takes longer (especially if you regularly change your look).

        Autism- so while we’re being introduced I am usually very anxious about meeting a new person and how I am utilising the various social skills needed for the interaction and whether I am messing one of them up. Plus if the sensory environment is poor that’s added “noise” that I have to consciously ignore while I am trying to learn the name (I am almost certain to instantly and completely forget who you are if you shake my hand when you meet me, because of the sensory discomfort).

        ADHD- so while all that is happening I am battling my naturally poor working memory and struggling with distractions/involuntary inattentive moments that mean I skip over information.

        So yeah remembering the names of people is a special kind of difficult!

        One of the things I do that helps is use the person’s name as often as possible when I interact with them (at least until I feel confident) as that helps build the bridge between name and person in my brain.

        And I’m kind of mortified to read about how rude people seem to find it tbh.

        1. daffodil*

          wow, I’d love to hear from others if the handshake as sensory ick is a common experience. I stopped automatically offering for germ reasons but I’ll pull back even more if this is a stressor for many neurodivergent folk.

          1. Notahugger*

            I think a hand shake is ok but also be ok if someone passes on it. also women are taught to make sure to have strong firm handshakes. I wish we could do away with that. just a quick gentle handshake up and down once and that’s it.
            and a hand shake is way better than the air kisses to each side of the face they do in other cultures. that one for me is way worse because even though there is no touching they are way too much in my personal space!

        2. Throwaway Account*

          I have some prosopagnosia and possibly some of the other issues Hierodula mentioned and I HATE when people keep saying my name. I especially hated it when I worked more public-facing and had to wear a name tag and people would come up and say, “Hello Throwaway! Can you tell me where x is?” You don’t need to use my name, we are not friends!

          To me, using my name a lot makes me feel you think we are better friends than we are or that we are friends at all. I get why strangers/the public assuming more intimacy than there is bothers me. I cannot say why that irks me so much with actual coworkers or acquaintances, but it does.

          But I suspect that using it the way Hierodula does is not as bothersome. You said you stop when you feel confident about their name. In OP#2’s case, it seems to never stop!

      2. Dinwar*

        This came to mind for me too. I’m horrible with names, and the American tradition of providing a name once and then never using it again only makes it much, much harder. Especially if you’re new to a group and have 20 or more names to learn! And of those 20 people, 15 you only see once a week! How are you supposed to learn someone’s name if they only use it once and take offense to it being used more often?

        I’m not saying that using it every sentence is a good tactic to mitigate this. It would be worth pointing out that this behavior irks others. But it’s not necessarily malicious. It’s calculated, sure–but calculated to be kind and respectful, not malicious. It’s just miscalculated in this instance, it seems.

        1. Beany*

          I feel this. I’ve been in a smallish choir (~20 people) for more than a decade, and there are some members whose names I keep getting mixed up because I only ever see them in the choir context, and introductions only happened once, way, way back.

          Some of them have Google profiles with useful photos, so that helps, but still.

    4. Namename*

      I’m really surprised by the strong reaction to using someone’s name in conversation. I do this all the time. I’m a native speaker of American English. I do not do it to be smarmy or calculating. It’s simply the way I learned to speak from observing the people around me and I often interpret it as a sign of respect / consideration when people use my (unusual) name. That said, I have noticed that other people rarely use my name in work conversations, and sometimes that gives me pause and leads me to curb how much I use someone else’s name, but I really reject the idea that the habit always comes from a bad place.

      1. Allonge*

        Thanks for sharing that, that is interesting. I totally agree that it could come from any number of different places and moreover, it’s not helpful for OP think it’s necessarily about a specific thing.

        Even more importantly, I don’t think it matters. New!Report does not have to be a bad person or following bad advice for OP to say something (and I think OP should). The only thing that is necessary for OP to understand that is connected to the ‘why’ is that it may not be something that is easy to stop.

      2. Aeryn*

        I think there’s a spectrum! Some people never use names, which is fine. Some people do it more, which is also fine.

        What I think OP is talking about, and what I have heard a couple of non-native speakers doing, is using it in every sentence clause. “Hi Sarah, do you want a coffee Sarah? I’m going to the coffee shop Sarah, so if you did want a coffee Sarah, I could get you one Sarah.” That’s not standard usage, and would start to grate extremely quickly.

        The two people who did this to me were both Egyptian, but I have no idea whether that is a quirk of polite Arabic, or a quirk of how they were taught English – I know plenty of Egyptian people who do not do this. The two who did were both extremely deferential and were definitely doing it from an excess of politeness.

        1. EgyptianArabicSpeaker*

          I actually speak Egyptian Arabic. Egypt is a very hierarchical culture, and Egyptian Arabic (not any other Arabic variety! Except maybe Sudanese, which is closely related) has a system of honorifics. They’re not exactly like what you see in East Asia, but they do substitute for “you”. Using the honorific conveys respect (though overusing it can be seen as smarmy). Also, quack self-improvement books are pretty popular in Egypt, and their advice gets filtered out through the culture, especially among the relatively narrow class of people who learn enough English to find work abroad–especially with modern social media. Taken together, I can imagine someone using the first name where they would put the honorific, and maybe going a bit overboard.

        2. Mr. Shark*

          Right, there’s a big difference between using someone’s name once in awhile and using it repeatedly like your example, which is overdoing it an annoying.

          I do think it seems like a cultural thing. In the U.S. I hear it less than when I’m dealing with people at my work from India.

      3. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        It’s not just using someone’s name every few sentences. I might think that was quirky if I even noticed, but wouldn’t be annoyed by it. It’s using it in every sentence, sometimes multiple times.

        The only person I’ve met who did this was a smarmy young man I also disliked for other reasons. In his case, if felt like some sort of ‘how to score girls’ trick sourced from the grosser parts of the internet. Unfortunately if you used my name in the same way he did, you would remind me forcibly of him.

        1. Anon for this*

          This. The only person who ever did this to me was a guy trying to manipulate me into wanting to date him. He used a bunch of “negging” tricks and said my name in every sentence. It was really icky.

      4. JSPA*

        If someone uses my name like it makes them happy, it feels different (and sounds different, tonally) than if they’re dropping it in repeatedly as a tool or tic.

      5. And the Skeletons Are… Part of It*

        I find it pretty offputting when people do that (unless they’re clearly foreign and it’s a language thing). I’d do it in a group if I wanted to clarify who I’m adding- “Jake, could you hand me that paper?” But I think it comes across as really fake or creepy when people do it a lot, unnecessarily.

          1. And the Skeletons Are… Part of It*

            And to clarify the finding-it-fake thing, I get that vibe even when people aren’t doing it in an overtly smarmy way. It comes across like they consciously decided to incorporate that tic into their verbal style, because it’s “friendly” on paper, ignoring that it goes from friendly to annoying when it’s dialed up from what’s natural.

    5. Still*

      I don’t think we know enough about the employee’s motivation to call their actions grossly artificial and calculated. I feel like the LW can address the impact it’s having without having to assume any ill-will. And people are often more receptive to feedback if they feel like you’re willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

    6. Irish Teacher.*

      I agree nobody (or at least very few people) like it when it’s done as a ploy, but I find it different when it is being done that way (a salesperson or somebody else who is trying to be ingratiating) and when it is being done naturally and I would guess it is the latter in this woman’s case. I doubt it is a conscious thing for her, unless it is a way she is trying to learn possibly unfamiliar names.

      In my experience, it is generally fairly clear when it is being done as a ploy, as the person will use other tactics like smiling too much, agreeing with you, overusing eye contact. So I wouldn’t assume that people who are annoyed by the “ploy” will be annoyed by the use of a name when it is not a ploy. People can usually tell the difference.

      Yeah, it can be a little annoying, even when done naturally, but no more so than somebody who says “you know” a lot or uses a lot of “ums” or a lot of repetition. I think it would be very weird for people to start treating somebody badly because of any of these things and in that case, I would think the issue is very much with them. If they are going to treat people badly for something so minor, they will treat many people badly and the issue is their behaviour, not the minor annoyances.

      I mean, yeah, it might be helpful to let her know that it can come across as insincere in the local culture, but I think there is a difference between people disliking something being done insincerely to ingratitate oneself with them and their disliking the same thing being done naturally and without any particular intentions.

    7. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

      I’m an editor, and I sometimes see writers include the name of the person being addressed too frequently for the dialogue to come across as natural. On the printed page, it can be done more often than in real life, but sometimes it’s every line of dialogue. (I call it “John and Marsha.”) I ask the writer to read their dialogue aloud to see if it sounds natural, and usually they realize that it does not and remove the excess names.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        I’ve noticed that when I’m reading a section of back-and-forth dialogue, I lose track of who is speaking each line unless there’s some kind of marker. Not every line! But *something* to tell me who’s who.

    8. nona*

      It’s very possible that it’s a language / culture thing. I have a work mate who is Belgian, and she told me recently that even though she’s been in the US for a decade, she still finds the way that Americans don’t use her name when talking to her really jarring (I’d be curious to hear if other Belgians agree with this – my coworker is extremely formal in general). The example we used was “Good Morning”. She said in Belgium it’s rude not to say “Good Morning Amanda”. Now, I say “Good Morning co-worker” every morning — if it’s grating on you, I’d recommend saying something / asking her about it.

      1. Just say hello*

        Belgian here. In the Dutch speaking part of Belgium, a simple ‘good morning’ is totally fine. I don’t really know what the custom is in the French speaking part, but as far as I can tell, my French speaking colleagues do not seem to use my name excessively when speaking to me.

    9. ferrina*

      This was actually my first thought too- it’s called “false intimacy”. It’s not always a calculated tactic. Some people use false intimacy as a short-cut to real intimacy, or use false intimacy because they were never taught true intimacy growing up because their parents were physically present be emotionally distant.

      Repeated name use could be a sign of false intimacy, but it could just be a sign of an innocuous verbal habit or someone who struggles to remember names. It really depends on the context of her other actions.

      Either way, you could just say “Have you noticed that you say my name a lot when you talk to me? I don’t know why, but I find it distracting. It would really help if you could say my name less when you talk to me. I know this is a weird thing for me to ask, but I’d really appreciate it!”

      1. JSPA*

        You lose the learning component once you label it weird, though. I’d couch it in terms of, you don’t greet people every time your paths cross, all day, the same way you do in the morning… and you don’t use people’s names multiple times in the same conversation. If they’re squelching the urge to start with “maam, excuse me maam,” and have been told to use the name instead, maybe they can be encouraged to default to “quick question” when that’s what it is…”as you requested” when that’s what it is…”excuse me +/- name” for a bigger request?

        I’ve been places where “ma’am excuse me ma’am” seems to make up 25% of words spoken, in passing interactions.

    10. lilsheba*

      Yup…It’s a sales tactic that they make customer service people do in call centers too and I ABSOLUTELY HATE it. I never did it myself because it does sound fake. I’ve had customers do it to me and to hear my name in every sentence gives me the creeps.

      1. I Have RBF*

        I really, really hate it when call center people call me “Miss Firstname” in every single sentence. I go by my initials, the only reason they have my wallet name is because it was required. I’m an over 60 married enby, not a “Miss” anything. Pisses me off.

        1. lilsheba*

          That is irritating. When I wasn’t sure if someone was a Miss or Mrs I just said Ms. Figured that covered any bases I needed to.

      2. Orv*

        I used to go to a grocery store where they had a policy of having cashiers say the customer’s name (acquired from their credit card) twice during every interaction. I have an unusual last name, so this just meant I got to hear my name butchered twice every time I bought groceries.

    11. Lauren Squared*

      As someone who learned a second language later in life my *personal* experience is using someone’s name as a filler when I’m struggling with constructing my sentences

    12. Everything Bagel*

      I’ll often use a person’s name if I’m copying others and there have been a lot of emails exchanged so everyone knows who I am responding to right away, but usually just at the top of the message and not here and there throughout the message. I’m not sure if this applies to what you’re seeing, but maybe it’s something to consider.

    13. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      You can’t possibly know that it’s “grossly artificial and grossly calculated”, since you don’t know the woman in question. This is you putting a bunch of your stuff into a situation you know nothing about.

      It’s also possible that her coworkers don’t care and LW is the only one bothered by it. You’ve made quite a leap to “coworkers are already annoyed” – again, this is a you thing.

    14. Dek*

      I don’t think you can definitively say why someone else is doing it. But I can definitively say that I HATE it. Every utterance of my name puts my hackles up a little bit more. It feels aggressive, or accusatory, or sarcastic, even when I reasonably know it’s not mean in any of those ways.

    15. Lyra Silvertongue*

      Assuming that everyone is probably annoyed by the way that your ESL employee speaks and taking it up with them is a great way to look like you value cultural assimilation to a white American standard above all else in the workplace.

    16. GlitterIsEverything*

      Having read the comments on this thread so far, I agree with the general consensus that there’s lots of reasons why this might be happening.

      Regardless of why it’s happening, it needs to be addressed.

      It’s coming across to me as something that’s been taught in some way – culturally, part of learning English as a second language, as a workplace formality, possibly a name memory trick.

      I’m reminded of my training department, who teaches new techs to write a chief complaint with “Patient states” at the beginning of Every. Single. Sentence. They’re aiming at precision but the result is something that’s annoying and hard to read.

      Once I ask these techs to read their writing out loud, they realize that just one “Patient states” in a paragraph is adequate, and they change their pattern

      I suspect that, if LW#2 were to let the new hire know this is a habit that doesn’t work well in this environment, they’ll stop. I could see this as “Hey, NewHire, I noticed you use people’s names really frequently in conversation / email / etc. That’s not something we usually do here, usually just at the beginning of a communication is fine.”

    17. Jan*

      I had a therapist that did this and I hated it. I think it was to “connect” or some assumption that people like hearing their name, but it was so weird and unnatural and one sided. If someone at work did it, it would sound so robotic, I’m sure I’d end up doing it back lol

  5. JaneDough(not)*

    LW4: I would think that the interviewer was surprised not at your having been fired — many people have been, once — but at your deviating from norms (= bringing it up despite not being asked, which seems a bit self-destructive). This prompts me to wonder whether you generally interview well or whether you’re deviating from norms in other ways that are sabotaging yourself.

    I have no reason to believe, based on your brief letter, that you are, but I’m raising this possibility so you can examine your approach and, if necessary, alter parts of it to ensure that you’re presenting your best self. (You mentioned a Catholic upbringing, so I want to remind you that one can be a good, upstanding, truthful person even if one doesn’t reveal, in a job interview, one’s flaws and minor misdeeds; interviewers know that we’re all human, so we all have flaws and an imperfect past.) Good luck with future interviews.

    1. Viette*

      LW4: There’s a sense from the letter that you feel that if you don’t tell them you were fired, you’re lying, but consider this: they’re not asking you about it because it’s not important to them. If they wanted to know if you’d been fired — if that was going to help them make the hiring decision — then they would ask you.

      It’s not your responsibility to try to pre-empt the interviewer by offering that you were fired, or in fact by offering any of what you think are your worst traits as an employee. Or what you think are your best ones! They’re not going to fail to ask you about what’s important to them.

      You’re not hiding it. They’re interviewing you and you’re answering their questions. If they’re hiring based on whether you can walk on a tightrope, they’ll ask. If they’re hiring based on whether you can use Excel, they’ll ask.

      It’s odd and uncomfortable when you bring up potentially negative things that they didn’t even ask about, because it flags to them that you are going to let your personal moral structure override the priorities of the interviewer.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        Ooh this is an excellent way of reframing it!

        A couple jobs ago I was laid off in the middle of interviewing for a new job and I felt so dishonest by not being upfront and telling them I had been let go. I didn’t lie or pretend I still worked there, it just never came up, and I felt dirty by not telling them and stressed that they were going to somehow find out and revoke the job offer or something. But you’re 100% right – if they didn’t ask, it wasn’t important to them and wasn’t going to factor into their hiring decision.

        If I think about it the real issue was that I was ashamed of being let go and felt I needed to be punished or that the whole world deserved to know that I was “tainted”. You’re not tainted or deserving of punishment LW4 for getting let go from a job! No need to wear a hair shirt.

      2. ferrina*

        Yes! This is a great way of thinking about it.

        Many interview processes already account for things like this. During the reference checks, HR will often call up previous places of employment to double check that you were indeed employed there, and they’ll usually ask if you are eligible for re-hire. Usually a firing will make you ineligible for re-hire (though not always, if there were weird circumstances). At that point HR will ask why. If it’s a bad fit, that usually is something to keep an eye on, but not a deal breaker. Plenty of people don’t fit at Organization A go on to thrive at Organization B. If it’s something like embezzlement and they are hiring you for an accounting position, or if its repeated assault, or you start throwing staplers when someone sneezes, then the offer will be pulled.

        The interview usually focuses on other things, because that’s what that stage of the hiring process is designed to focus on! They want to know more than your job history- they want to know how you think, what is the story behind your accomplishments, and how you approach your work. These are things that are best soused out through conversation.

  6. Lynda Brandenburg*

    #5. I have twice in my career said no thank you to promotions. Both were into the C suite and although I worked well with the other C suite people, I preferred to stay below that level. I always preferred working directly with the front line and lower level staff who were actually delivering the product/service. Both times I explained that I was not interested for the reason I stated above and I continued having an excellent working relationship with my boss and the C suite. Both times they understood. So have a frank discussion with your boss. They don’t want to promote people to positions if the person doesn’t want to do that job.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      #5, your boss is not a mind-reader! Let her know what you want out of this job now. If you don’t communicate with her, she will continue down the current path, based on assumptions about what you want. (This would be bad communication from both of you.) If you don’t ever say no to anything and just seethe silently with resentment instead, it’s not going to do your mental health any good.

      If your boss still decides to put you up for promotions or give you extra projects after an honest conversation about what you want out of the job, obviously that’s not okay and that’s probably a sign to start job hunting. But don’t feel that just because your boss assumes you might want to do something, you automatically have to do it. You don’t!

    2. SarahKay*

      Seconding the ‘have a frank discussion with your boss’. A good boss wants their team to succeed, but you need to be clear to them on what success looks like *for you*, including the fact that you know that staying in place will limit pay rises etc.
      I love my current job; I’m an individual contributor with no aspirations to promotion, not least because promotion will come with people to manage and for me that’s a deal breaker. I’ve said this to my manager, and that I realise it limits my salary but that I’m perfectly happy with that trade-off. Every so often he checks back in with me that I’m still where I want to be and I know he’d support me if I did decide I wanted to move up – but he’s also very happy from his own point of view to have me here, doing an excellent job and allowing him to focus on other people / areas.

    3. Ama*

      Years ago the Executive Director of my nonprofit employer said she thought I could do her job someday. I was very polite about the fact that, though I appreciated her assessment of me, I had no interest in an ED job — I find I do better in jobs where I have a clearly defined portfolio, I really don’t do well in jobs where I have to know everything that’s going on (I *can* do those jobs but I find I’m stressed out and overwhelmed all the time). My ED by contrast, does like knowing everything that’s going on and did even when she was in a lower level role at our org.

      Now that I have my own reports I try to make clear to them that when we talk about long-term career goals it doesn’t have to mean moving up — it can if they want it to, but if they want to go two steps higher and that’s it or if they don’t want to move up at all, I will help them craft long-term goals that will help them develop professionally without an eye to moving them up the ladder.

  7. nnn*

    #2: If you do end up having a conversation about how this constant use of people’s names affects how she’s perceived, I’m thinking it might be more effective to specifically mention the smarmy salesman connotations.

    A polite way to do this might be something like “The connotations have been evolving in recent years. For a while it was conventional wisdom that people like hearing their names, and, because of that, salespeople were being advised to use customers’ names as often as possible. This has caused many people to start associating frequent use of their name with aggressive sales tactics and other forms of manipulation, and it now makes many people feel wary and suspicious.”

    This makes it clearer than just saying “aggressive”, and also makes it clearer that this applies to her even if she learned it from Dale Carnegie or LinkedIn rather than by glossing the vocative conventions of her native language onto English. At the same time, it helps her save face with “Language is evolving away from that particular usage” rather than “The way you’re doing it is bad and wrong.”

    1. cabbagepants*

      This is a great wording. The key thing is to approach that issue dispassionately — you’re sharing information about your cultural norms, not smiting someone for rudeness.

    2. Yoli*

      I disagree, only because if the person is still learning the pragmatics of English this 1) is too wordy, 2) doesn’t explicitly say what to do/not to do, and 3) uses a lot of Tier 2 vocabulary.

      I’d maybe have the person look at a written example (like a recent email) and use that to give the feedback.

    3. Notahugger*

      this is a great way to approach it. it assumes cultural/language difference so isn’t attacking the person’s personality. also it it explains the reason for the discrepancy if she had read somewhere that it was good to use names a lot. the only thing I would add is that it is not bad to use names, just maybe a couple times in a conversation rather than every sentence.

      I had an executive that would totally use names in that salesman smarmy way and it was sooo annoying. I just wanted to strangle him every time he said my name. I’m glad I’m not the only one that gets annoyed by this.

    1. Awkardness*

      Exactly this.
      LW, you are not found to be “defective” and now have to confess to every prospective employer.
      Keep in mind that every employer will present themself as well as possible. They will very likely retain information about the micro-managing CEO, the nosy accountant or the grumpy colleague instead of talkong about those issues pro-actively, so you want to start a job there.
      You have the same right to present yourself in the best possible light.

      If they ask, do not lie. But make sure to that you reflected on the reasons for the firing and that you can make sure this will not be necessary again.

    2. Irish Teacher.*

      They may be thinking of the “lie of omission” (I don’t think that’s a specifically Catholic concept, but I guess it fits with the whole concept of the “sin of omission).

      LW4, if that is in your mind, I think a way to think of it is that a lie of omission is more a case of avoiding something the other person would reasonable expect you to tell. Otherwise, we’d be pretty much lying by omission all the time, since obviously, there’s always stuff we don’t tell people, whether because it’s embarrassing to us or none of their business or just not very interesting or not relevant to what we are saying.

      Something like claiming a means tested benefit and only disclosing your earnings and not mentioning you had a big lottery win would be a lie by omission. They might not have specifically asked “did you win a million dollars lately?” but you know it is implied.

      As somebody who is both Catholic and who hates anything resembling lying (possibly autistic or somewhere in that area), I can see how not disclosing a previous firing in a job interview could feel that way; after all, it’s potentially relevant information that could affect the outcome and you are choosing not to reveal it. But there is a tacit understanding in job applications that you are putting “your best foot forward.” I feel lying by omission is leaving out something the other person would reasonably expect you to tell and that they are likely to be (justifiably) bothered to find out you omitted.

      You aren’t likely to mislead your interviewers just by not mentioning something like being fired as they are likely to assume that you are giving them every possible piece of information.

      1. Awkwardess*

        But there is a tacit understanding in job applications that you are putting “your best foot forward.”

        This is such an important point. Both(!) sides operate under this assumption.

    3. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

      It’s great that you’re not, but you should recognize that many thousands of people feel their Catholic upbringing saddled them with an overabundance of guilt which harms them in the secular world.

      1. Don’t be deliberately obtuse*

        “ It’s great that you’re not, but you should recognize that many thousands of people feel their Catholic upbringing saddled them with an overabundance of guilt which harms them in the secular world.”

        There is WAY more than enough problems to lay at the feet of the Holy See, we don’t need to add the fake* problem “a letter writer is maybe too honest and over-thinking for their own good” as well

        *fake as in “this isn’t how Catholic guilt works” not fake as in, OP is silly to be concerned about it.

    4. The Person from the Resume*

      I was also raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools for 13 years and I agree with you. I never understood those jokes that Catholicism makes a person feel guilty.

      The “Catholic” joke aside, the LW saying they feel guilty about being fired or that not admitting their firing (disgrace, maybe ???) generated feelings of guilt in them probably means they have more processing to do. If you didn’t do anything wrong/criminal/dishonest at work to result in your firing, there’s no guilt for you to carry. At least not enough guilt that you should be sabotaging yourself. Simply not succeeding at a job should not be “guilt” inducing. That’s simply “not a right fit.”

    5. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Not everyone experienced Catholicism the way you did. Your experience is not the universal standard.
      OP says differently. I believe them. I also believe you. Neither of your experiences invalidates the other.

  8. Matt*

    #2. I had a direct report who continually referred to “colleagues” which I really disliked. We were a small department and these “colleagues” always agreed with direct reports interpretation/ execution of task/ actions which did not align with my requirements. On reflection it was a cultural use of the term, not him continually announcing the rest of the department considered I has bad judgement.

    But because it was a source of friction I did address it directly with my direct report and the use of the term stopped. Since then the conversations have been much more open and my direct report says things like – “we were discussing egg storage and James and John think we should have one basket per egg rather than your suggestion of putting all our eggs in one basket” and then we can have a good discussion about the cost of baskets, storage space versus value of eggs etc., openly rather than me thinking my whole department thinks I am a heartless egg breaker.

  9. holly*

    #2 Is she Japanese by any chance?

    Although there’s probably other cultures where it’s more polite to use the name rather than ‘you’.

    1. tokyo salaryman*

      That was my thought as well. For those who don’t know, using “you” in Japanese is overly familiar to the point of rudeness, so people are usually referred to by name or title. However, most Japanese people who speak English (especially at a business level or higher) know that’s not the case for English. But it could be a good way to broach the conversation with her if you know what the linguistic norms for her native language are.

    2. Bit o' Brit*

      For a native speaker none of the example phrases need a pronoun or name at all. It could be a name = respect thing, but unless they’re poorly chosen examples it doesn’t sound like specifically a name vs “you” thing.

      1. Holly*

        But she’s NOT a native speaker and English uses pronouns/names in general much more than Japanese so it’s easy for a native Japanese speaker to overuse them when they speak English because they’re not sure what the rules are.

        My Japanese coworkers use ALL the example sentences given, apart from ‘Name, I don’t agree’.

        The ones who aren’t English teachers do it more regardless of their actual ability in English, so even if her English is otherwise excellent this might just be something she finds hard to change. Sometimes they’ll put my name on extra even if they use ‘you’ correctly. Sometimes they do it to ‘start’ their side of the conversation even if I’m looking right at them or even if I’ve initiated it. I’m not sure why.

        To clarify more, it’s not just that ‘you’ is rude in Japanese, you will often not use any pronouns at all in a sentence that would require them in English. So, I could introduce myself in Japanese as: ‘Holly am. Assistant teacher am. British am.’

        So ‘I’m going to lunch’ would be literally ‘going to lunch am’ so hopefully you can see how someone would know they need to add pronouns/names to a sentence and mistakenly add both speaker and listener pronouns/name.

        Questions are literally ‘Alison-san writer are?’

        TL;DR: Japanese people put your name onto all kinds of statements that don’t need it for various reasons. Obviously, no idea if the coworker is Japanese, but regardless of their nationality it would be a kindness to let them know they are making a cultural mistake.

    3. Costa*

      I was wondering Indonesian — you use other people’s names/titles A LOT in Indonesian, both to replace “you” and just as a general polite discourse marker.

    4. Phryne*

      I’ve also seen it in literature translated from Polish. No idea if this is something done in spoken language in Poland, but it happened so much in one book that it made me wonder. The next book in that series it was gone and when I checked the two had different translators, which made me think it was a Polish habit that the second translator toned down a bit.

      1. KateM*

        I have seen from literature translated from Swedish that people talk to each other in third person, as in “So which book series did Phryne read? Did Phryne enjoy it?”.

    5. Dasein9 (he/him)*

      My thought was maybe the report is struggling to replace “ma’am” with something and settled on LW#2’s name.

      1. Nina*

        I’m in NZ, had this problem with an intern from southern USA once – he’d apparently been heavily conditioned to sir and ma’am everybody, but we really, really don’t do that here and people react quite strongly (badly) to it, so someone took him aside and told him that any time he felt like saying sir or ma’am, say the person’s name. It produced results similar to what the LW describes.

    6. sb51*

      Yeah, this was my absolute first thought as someone who has just started learning Japanese as an English speaker; I’m having to do the opposite – names where I’d use pronouns in English or drop them entirely when addressing someone.

      1. Gathering Moss*

        Heh, as an Aussie, that was the one thing I found easy to pick up in Japanese. We tend to drop every possible word from a sentence if context will do the job for us, so learning that aspect was fairly intuitive.

  10. Chocolate Teapot*

    2 If the employee is new, perhaps she is overusing names in an effort to remember them?

    1. Elsa*

      Yeah if it was just verbal that’s what I would think but lw2 wrote both written and verbal communication

  11. Mavis*

    LW5: It’s also worth examining your work habits and communication with your boss about work load. Could she be unaware of the pressure/stress? If you’re doing the work well without raising any flags about it being too much for one person, she may not have any idea that it’s an unreasonable amount.

    Good luck!

  12. Matt (another)*

    #2: I have coworkers who do this too and I’m pretty sure those have undergone some sort of communications training etc. where they have been told that that’s the “personal” way to communicate and people like it to be addressed this way. (I don’t, as well.)

    (However, I’m not neurotypical, I also dislike too much eye contact, which seems the most important thing by all means of classic communications training)

  13. English Rose*

    #4 – I agree it’s not up to the person to volunteer firing, but the interviewer should definitely ask. I do wonder though – what happens if it’s not discussed by either party and an offer is made. Would it then look worse when the firing is discovered during the referencing process?
    If the question doesn’t arise during the interview process, should there be a script for saying, in effect, “Thanks for the offer, I’m delighted to accept. You’ll find out when you take a reference from my last company that I was let go. It wasn’t a good fit for me, happy to discuss with you.”
    It feels risky either way.

  14. Never the Twain*

    #5 It’s the ‘Of course’s that always get me, and when I was younger gaslighted me into thinking I was abnormal. ‘Of course, you’re ambitious and want to move on’, ‘Of course, this position isn’t going to satisfy you long term…’ while I’m thinking ‘No, you’re wrong, I love it, I’m valued, I’m contributing, and yet I have evenings and weekends to do all the other things that make my life what it is. Am I some sort of weird dropout closeted even from myself?’
    No, I wasn’t, and I’m still not, and nor are you. It’s an undervalued attribute of management – the wisdom to recognise when something is fixed and shouldn’t be broken.

    1. Exhausted Electricity*

      same, I’ve seen the hours management/people who have progressed put in and I don’t want to give up my life outside of work.

  15. Helvetica*

    LW#2 is fascinating to me because I, as someone non-American, have often felt that Americans overuse my first name in our contacts, rather than the opposite! So I would definitely associate first name use with the US more but it just means that in comparison to my specific culture, it is excessive. And in this case, I have just learned to accept it and actually have just started to reciprocate, which alleviates the extent to which it grates on my nerves. I’m not suggesting you use her name in all sentences but maybe try to slip it in, and I think her approach will also be less annoying to you.

    1. Bast*

      I am American and in the area of the country where I am from, overusing someone’s first name too often does feel… insincere. (the car salesman approach someone mentioned above is spot on). I am NOT from a part of the country known for being overly friendly, so maybe that is the difference? I am genuinely curious about your experience with overusage of names in the US, as I find people go to great lengths to avoid doing so. In some areas, people are more likely to use Sir/Ma’am/Miss, or Mr. LastName or Ms. LastName instead of just calling you Jane unless directly invited to call you Jane. Where I live, saying to someone, “Good Morning Jane, how are you? How was traffic this morning?” Would be a normal usage of name. Add the name in anywhere else and it would sound off.

      1. Misshapen Pupfish*

        I’m also in the US and my American coworker has a name-overuse habit that annoys me because it rings insincere as you mentioned, but I know I really oughtn’t say anything about it. They start each email with the recipient’s name but then also end it with their name too. “Hi Jim, [body of email] Thank you Jim.” I have no clue how other people feel about it, though I doubt it’s harming my coworker’s image in any way. They are not an insincere person, at all. Something about the cadence just really bugs me!

  16. r.*


    In addition to the advice already given — most managers will always talk to employees that they feel exhibit potential for other roles and expanded responsibilities; doing this type of talent development is part of our job, and that also means that dealing with you situations in a way that’s mutually acceptable is part of our job — I’d also want to add one thing to keep in mind:

    What you’re doing is completely fine, unless the only reason they hired you is because they specifically wanted you to develop in that direction, but as I wrote looking out for development potential is likely part of your manager’s job. That also means that what you’ll be saying to them is, “I appreciate the confidence, but right now I don’t want a promotion, so please suppress your own judgement whether I would be ready for one or not. I want to stay in that role for now.”

    I’ve had people that came to us in exactly the same situation. They were teamleads or supervisors at their previous employer wanting to step down to individual contributor. Completely fine. In this situations I always ask them — in your situation, when you tell me; for new hires, about 6 months in — how they want us to handle it: Do they want us to approach them every 6-24 months (their choice) if they want to reconsider, or would they prefer to us not ask at all until they tell us otherwise?

    I’ve had a (very small) number of people that got annoyed by us not considering them for a promotion coming up during the time frame they told us not to consider them for promotion. Don’t be like them. ;-)

    You also need to keep in mind that should you change your mind it may take months or even a year+ for a new opportunity to appear at your company.

    1. Jay (no, the other one)*

      I climbed the ladder and it was not good for me. Not at all. The job I retired from was definitely a step down and I loved it. After three months my boss took me to coffee and said “I’d like to talk to you about your future in the company.” I said “No! I don’t want a future.” He looked confused and a bit panicked. I said “Sorry. I don’t want to leave. I really like it here. And I want to keep doing exactly what I’m doing and nothing more.”

      Six months later he pulled me aside and said “Look, I know what you’re going to say but I was told I had to ask you if you want to apply for a promotion available in Another State.” I laughed and that was the end of that. When he left my team asked me to apply for his job and I refused – and some of them haven’t forgiven me for that because the guy they hired was awful. Not my fault.

  17. Jessica Clubber Lang*

    On #2, it sounds like a quirk you don’t like, but honestly I don’t really get the problem with it – they say your name when they’re talking to you?

    1. Monkey Princess*

      Former English teacher, here! Who actually taught this to students. In English, it’s a grammatical rule of spoken and written English that you replace the name of the person/thing with a pronoun after the first time you use it, until it causes confusion. There are two ways it can cause confusion: if you’re talking about multiple things, and can no longer keep track just by the pronouns, or if it’s been a reasonable amount of time since you last used it and the reader/listener may have forgotten who/what you’re talking about.

      When you’re talking to one person, using “you,” there’s never any confusion about who you’re talking to. So you don’t even need to use the name the first time, although it’s grammatically acceptable. But after that first usage, it becomes completely unnecessary, because there is no confusion about who you’re talking to. In fact, using it might imply that you either don’t know who you’re talking to, or that the listener isn’t aware that you’re talking to them. For example: “Jessica? Jessica? I’m talking to you, Jessica. Right now I’m channeling any teacher/caregiver you ever had who was lecturing you to focus, Jessica, and did that both in tone any by repeatedly using your name. Are you with me, Jessica? Thank you. Please pay attention to my grammar lesson, Jessica.”

      (See how annoying that was?)

      1. Engineer*

        That’s exactly it – excessive use of a person’s name comes across as either patronizing or smarmy in American culture. In a one on one conversation we don’t really need to use a person’s name at all because there’s only one person to talk to, and even in a conversation between three people names aren’t always necessary if you’re able to physically adjust your body to look at each person when addressing them. The use of names between two of three people is generally used to either get attention (What do you think, Jessica?) or to emphasize a point (The TPS report has to out by 3pm today, Jessica).

        1. JustaTech*

          It’s amazing how long you can go in conversation without using someone’s name. I managed to not use my now mother-in-law’s name for like 2 years while my husband and I were dating because I was so uncomfortable with the idea of calling a parent by their first name.
          She only noticed when a friend of hers asked her what I called her and she realized I didn’t call her anything at all!

      2. Jessica Clubber Lang*

        “Right now I’m channeling any teacher/caregiver you ever had who was lecturing you to focus, Jessica”

        You did that very well in the first paragraph without using my name at all :)

      3. Jessica Clubber Lang*

        But yes, if it’s really happening at that frequency with multiple times in the same sentence or convo, then fair enough I don’t disagree

      4. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Yep. Also, since it feels unnatural to pretty much all native speakers (we know the rules of our language from experience even if we’ve never been taught them), using a name a lot is rarely done except as a specific technique popular with salesmen and pick-up artists. So someone else who’s doing it sounds like them.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes. I don’t think there’s anything logically or grammatically horrendously wrong repeating someone’s name. It just isn’t the standard and makes the person doing it sound like someone trying to sell a not very reputable used car.

          This probably isn’t something one learns in school if English is a second language so it’s not surprising the OP’s colleague hasn’t got it right. It’s like the way I struggle with vous / tu or du / Sie in French and German because I struggle to know instinctively when to tutoie or duze someone. I don’t have the cultural context for when you change so can either sound over familiar or overly formal.

      5. Dek*

        “or that the listener isn’t aware that you’re talking to them.”

        OH THAT’S IT!

        I was trying to figure out why it always felt so accusatory, and now I realize…it’s because it’s how people who thought I wasn’t paying attention would talk to me. Like, each time they say my name, there’s an unspoken “pay attention!” or a finger snap or something there.

    2. allathian*

      I find it annoying when someone says my name in every sentence or every other sentence.

      But then, I’m in Finland and we don’t use names much in conversation. We use them when we introduce ourselves or someone else, or want to catch someone’s attention. So if someone keeps repeating my name in conversation, especially 1:1, it’s like they aren’t reading my non-verbal body language that I’m paying attention to what they’re saying, and it feels like they repeat my name to make sure I’m listening to them, like parents do with toddlers. It feels infantilizing to me.

      But then, Finnish is a very good language for using the passive voice, so I could, at least in Finnish, carry a conversation with someone without saying either “you” or their name.

    3. Nnt*

      I agree with you- can’t people just have quirks? People communicate with me all the time in ways I find a little weird, getting wound up about it is… not a good investment of energy. I feel like LW2 should just write this off as, this is my kind of quirky co-worker that uses first names all the time, the same way you would write off your kinda weird co worker who wears purple socks with everything or your sorta weird co worker who blinks excessively. If they’re not doing anything inherently disrespectful, just work your hours and come home, who cares?

      1. Expelliarmus*

        I mean, that’s basically what Alison told them to do, with the exception of if the other coworkers seem annoyed, tell the employee how it can come across.

      2. Dinwar*

        This is where I fall. The retaliation against quirks is a major contributing factor to the soul-less sterility of many corporate environments. If I know I work in an environment where a harmless verbal quirk gets me a dressing-down (and any time the manager pulls someone aside to discuss communications it’s going to come off as punitive), you can bet I’m going to keep my head down and mouth shut!

        1. Dek*

          I don’t think “hey, this makes me uncomfortable” is a dressing down or retaliation. It’s no different than asking that someone not refer to you as “ma’am” or by a nickname.

      3. Dek*

        Fine, my quirk is that it makes me deeply uncomfortable when people do this. It’s not like I’m *choosing* to invest my energy in being uncomfortably. I just am. As allathian said: it’s infantalizing.

        Somebody wearing purple socks or blinking isn’t wearing socks *at* me. But if someone’s talking *to* me, it’s kind of hard to just ignore them.

        Plenty of folks say they don’t like being called sir or ma’am, and that always seems to be just fine.

        1. Nnt*

          This isn’t as straightforward as that. Someone calling you sir or ma’am can make a minor adjustment in their speech and stop. someone doing this needs to… what? only use your name 20% of the time? 10? what’s the threshold? Do you really want to spend time and energy negotiating exactly how often someone is allowed to day your name when the person obviously means no disrespect and is just weird? If this what you want to spend your social capital at work on, be my guest, but I strongly believe many if not most work conflicts could be solved if we could just accept that people are weird sometimes. but hey, YMMV.

      4. Helewise*

        I agree with this. We all have our quirks, and this is so innocuous – can’t we just let people be who they are? All the policing of the ways others don’t quite live up to our own quirky preferences is exhausting.

  18. Ellis Bell*

    OP1, I have a lot of experience in hearing the reactions of newly betrayed spouses (as a peer, and fellow betrayed spouse in group situations, not as a therapist) and one thing that always strikes me is the betrayed spouse in the immediate period after finding out, is them trying to find the path back to the status quo. Finding the status quo when a coworker is involved, usually involves some combination of: 1) them not losing their job (unless everyone is independently wealthy, losing a job is seen as a logistical nightmare) and 2) their spouse somehow not working with the other person any more (for understandable reasons, sure), and 3) possibly separating but it’s not like anyone has a savings fund for a divorce, so when divorce looms out of the blue that too seems like a logistical nightmare. My advice is to embrace the need to move away from the status quo. The status quo involved you being cheated on and you being led to believe things were fine when they weren’t. Start planning for drastic changes and worst case scenarios (but which may be the start of more positive futures): don’t try to affect the employment of your spouse or the person, but you should plan for them to possibly lose their job anyway. Plan your finances around a potential divorce or your spouse potentially leaving this job if that’s what’s needed. Plan for your spouse to possibly continue deceiving you after confrontation, because they too want to maintain a status quo. Plan to survive, and thrive, instead of looking to just react or make yourself heard, or make this go away. Also, make sure you reach out to someone who’s on your team for emotional support. This is a lot.

    1. President Porpoise*

      This is good advice. Whether the employer punishes your spouse for improper use of company resources is immaterial to the underlying rot in your relationship. Your spouse still cheated, but at least you now know, and presumably have the option to get your ducks, financially and legally, in a row before the big confrontation. Don’t waste this (incredibly not-fun) gift. Make a plan and don’t alert your spouse’s employer (which would potentially cause your spouse to find out you know and make financial/legal moves that drastically limit your options, aside from the previously mentioned financial hit you’ll take if they lose their job). Play this smart, unlike your obviously idiotic cheater of a ‘partner’. Best of luck.

    2. Status Quo Until I Say Otherwise*

      This is excellent advice. I can definitely relate. When I found out my spouse was cheating – for the second time – I was no longer heartbroken. I was just really concerned about the status quo and not disturbing it. I was similarly worried about work implications, but more in the “OMG if their management finds out, they’ll be fired!”, as opposed to thinking of any revenge scenario.

      I’ve been able to preserve the status quo for now. Not sure how things are going to turn out in the end, though.

  19. T*

    #5, “I’d like to be your go to person/expert in area xyz instead of taking on more diverse tasks.” Sometimes it’s nice to have someone who is absolutely freaking amazing at something. Another commenter said the”rockstar” which I like because you are the rock holding the hold place down. Most places need someone to create stability these days with all the high turnover. Good luck!

  20. Beth*

    #1. If it’s on the company communication it’s probably going to get noticed eventually anyway. No need to be the villain

    1. lilsheba*

      Good point there. All that stuff is saved forever too so it WILL come up. TBH your wife is not the smartest doing this on company communication systems. BUT that aside this is DEFINITLEY cheating and you and your spouse need to address that directly. I do hope it works out for the good though.

  21. YetAnotherAnalyst*

    I have a coworker who does this as well (and who is also not a native English speaker), and it really does come off as weirdly angry or aggressive. I’d start a conversation like, “Good morning! Do you know if the first batch of llamas are done being groomed yet? I’ve got the nail polish for the second batch ready.” And she’ll respond, “Hi YetAnother. Yes, YetAnother, the first batch of llamas is being groomed now. YetAnother, I’ll let you know when we’re done. Ok, YetAnother?”

    I don’t think she means anything particular by it (unless perhaps she thinks I’m deliberately not using her name and she’s making a point?), but I do tend to start bristling when I talk to her and need to remind myself that this is a quirk or a cultural mismatch rather than intentional affront.

  22. Yup!*

    #2 – My husband’s father’s family is like this. They use your first name ALLLLL the time, and it can almost feel like a tactic rather than a speech pattern. But they all do it from the town they’re from, so it’s just a *thing.*

  23. Not your typical admin*

    LW 1 – I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I’m sure you’re hurt and in shock. I understand the impulse to want to go scorched earth, and hurt the person that has hurt you. The best advice I can give you is to take a breath, and allow yourself some time before making any kind of big decisions. No one thinks clearly or makes wise choices when they’re in pain. Like others have said, contacting your spouse’s employer will not be good for you in the long run.

    1. Poison I.V. drip*

      LW never said he was considering contacting the employer — he just asked how an employer would view it. Maybe he’s more concerned with the open flouting of workplace rules and how it could affect his wife’s continued ability to bring home a paycheck. Maybe he already raised it with her and she blew it off as no big deal.

      1. Jessica Clubber Lang*

        I think it’s definitely within the realm of possiblity that LW was thinking to do that though given the question and AG’s response.

  24. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

    #4 I think if you take a look at Alison’s compilation of less-than-stellar interview behaviors, you’ll see that lots of people overshare or otherwise do something they’re not proud of during an interview.
    Also, if I’d been interviewing you, I wouldn’t have allowed the interview to go south after you let me know you’d been fired.

  25. Risha*

    LW1, I’m sorry that happened to you. But I agree with Alison and the other commentors to not take this to her job. I know you’re hurting and angry right now, but putting her in a position to lose her job isn’t the best way to go (especially if you have kids together). Take a few days to get your thoughts together, then handle the situation with her directly. This is a marital infidelity/betrayal issue, not really a workplace issue.

    I hope you are able to find healing and peace. Finding out something like this sucks. But don’t do anything impulsive or spiteful. You’re going to need a clear mind to think about what your next steps will be.

  26. HonorBox*

    OP1 – I’m really sorry. This situation sucks. While it might feel “good” to get your spouse in trouble with her employer, it isn’t helpful at all. As someone else said, maybe snap a few photos and then determine what it is that you’d like to do personally. Either talk to her or talk to a lawyer or both. But don’t bring the employer into the mix

    OP3 – I’d agree wholeheartedly with Alison. Mention something to the hiring manager. You don’t have power to influence change. Or if you do want to influence change, take the role. Do an exceptional job. Build relationships. And then if/when the board asks for feedback, you can give it.

  27. Pastor Petty Labelle*

    #3 — if you know you don’t want to work there, the best thing is to withdraw from consideration now. You can tell them why. It won’t make a difference but you will have told them. Thus saving yourself time continuing the process for a job you know you won’t take and them time from interviewing someone they know won’t take the job.

  28. Underemployed Erin*

    #2 I have a coworker who speaks like a G. K. Chesterton novel, and it is completely a cultural thing. I really like her. Maybe we will discuss it eventually.

  29. Heyheyheygoooodbyyyyyyye*

    #4 On some applications, it asks your reason for leaving a position, sometimes with drop-down boxes so you have to choose something. Then there’s a comment section to explain. How would people navigate this if they’ve been fired?

    1. Lacey*

      Come up with a super dry explanation of what happened.

      I got fired from a place that was a toxic mess.
      But, what I told employers is that it turned out that they’d misunderstood what they needed from the role and I didn’t have the skills to fill it properly.

    2. Sean Shawn Shaun*

      I was thinking that for #2 – “I realized it wasn’t a cultural fit when my colleagues were irritated because I said their names too often”

  30. a raging ball of distinction*

    Oh, #4, I have been you. Twice, if I can believe it. Traumatic experiences where I was effectively fired, one of which was handled so poorly I had to retain a lawyer. Traumatic firing is absolutely how I talk about those experiences with my family and friends. Neither of those were firings on paper for the company – and that’s important! You put “let go” in quotations, but that terminology — “let go,” “position being eliminated,” among other things — is super important in the corporate world. Some people get “let go” due to budget cuts, others get “let go” because (speaking from experience) their boss is terrible, can’t plan ahead further than two weeks, and is willing to throw other people under the bus to cover up for it. The specific terminology also matters to your state’s (if you’re in the US) unemployment commission in terms of whether or not you’re eligible to collect. Using language like “let go” is one company’s signal to another that yeah, you might not have been a great fit but you weren’t doing anything egregious. People get FIRED for stealing, lying, sabotage, fraud, the really big bad things. Describing yourself as FIRED to a potential employer implies that you did one of these really terrible things to your former employer. Talk to your friends, your family, your priest (?) about how sh*tty you feel about having been, basically, fired. In interviews, when networking, and when you file for unemployment, use whatever term of art your old job agreed to. Think of it as the one act of grace they granted you out of the whole messed up situation. Maybe someday you’ll be in a position to do the same thing for someone else who’s struggling in their role.

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      No, don’t do this. Don’t overparse the language. There are 2 ways of involuntarily leaving employment: being laid off or being fired. Both are colloquially referred to as being “let go”. That’s it.

      Using the correct word is not implying you did something terrible. Good grief. LW was fired and it’s okay for them to say they were fired. Please don’t give them something else to stress about.

  31. A person*

    #2: I had a colleague turned manager that did the name thing too. He was same culture as I am US Midwest and I still found it odd.

    That said, I also noted that he did it to everyone equally so I learned to just not let it bother me as it clearly wasn’t something that was directed at me. Occasionally others would ask and we’d all just say “that’s just a Mark quirk, he doesn’t mean anything by it”. I’d try as much as you can to just get used to it and let it go. :)

  32. Lacey*

    LW4: I was fired from my previous job and I know how much that sucks and how much it can mess with your head.

    What I told potential employers who asked was that while the role had seemed like a good fit in interviews, it turned out that they really needed someone with stronger skills in X than they had previously believed.

    This was 100% true, but it left out a lot of other details that would have been more emotional or made them question whether I was the problem (ex. My boss threw me under the bus for her mistakes! They told me my work was bad, but wouldn’t say why!)

    Whatever the reason, try to sift out the emotional stuff and come up with a dry way to share what happened. And then, only offer it when asked.

    1. Red Flags Everywhere*

      I ran a search that involved checking with references before the panel interview (common in that field) and one of the references had a very reasonable explanation of what went wrong with the previous job. Then we did the panel interview. Very different story that raised red flags left and right (and we didn’t even ask why they left the previous job – the situation was used as a response to one of the interview questions). The most interesting part is that everything the reference said matched up – just in a diplomatic, non-red-flaggy sort of way.

  33. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

    LW2, I have an intern who does exactly this and I find it really grating sometimes. In her case, I don’t think there is the same language or cultural factor at play, but I also struggled with whether not it was worth giving her feedback about. I decided to wait and just observe what was going on when it happens. I have found that over time, as she has gotten more comfortable the habit is less frequent and when it does happen it bothers me less. I suspect someone gave her interviewing advice about repeating people’s names to remember them and it has bled into other professional contexts as well. All in all, it’s pretty harmless, so I let it go.

  34. Spicy Tuna*

    LW2, I work with a Nigerian guy (about 10 years younger than me) who addresses me as Ma. We have a great relationship and I thought it was just an endearing quirk but I found out that Nigerians often shorten Madam to Ma. It was interesting because instead of being a casual address it’s actually more formal (no one in my industry would address someone as Sir or Madam). Viva le difference!

    1. AFac*

      Yes, I get ‘Ma’ and ‘Maam’ a lot in emails from students from different countries who are applying to enter the department, and often multiple instances in the same sentence. Once they get here, it usually goes away as they see how other students communicate with us.

      But I admit it’s something that annoys me on a personal level, though I try not to let it show because it’s a bit illogical since they’re trying to be polite. I’ve never really liked ‘Maam’ as an honorific no matter who does it, ‘Ma’ is too close to the English term for ‘mother’ and that’s not a role I want to fill for students, the previously mentioned obsequiousness, and technically, if you want to be formal and polite, the correct term of address for me is ‘Dr.’ or ‘Prof.’ (which is often how they refer to my male colleagues).

      1. bamcheeks*

        Same– it’s one of those things where there’s a constant voice in the back of my head saying, “lower hackles, lower hackles, they are being polite and respectful even though you have a conditioned response that says it’s not”. I try and use it to remind myself how much stress international students are going through navigating a whole world where people are doing things that feel aggressive / overfamiliar / impolite / etc!

  35. Marketing Ninja Unicorn*

    LW # 3, I have only seen ‘fire the CEO or lose me’ work once, and it was a grant writer who was responsible for bringing in multiple MILLIONS of dollars in redevelopment grants, which accounted for something like 70% of the org’s operating budget.

    At the time, she’d been with the org for 25+ years. The CEO had been there two. She went to the Board and said, “Either you fire him, or I and my team quit, tomorrow.” The Board read the writing on the wall and the CEO was out by EOB. It was dramatic and I had a front-row seat for it.

    The Board then very wisely put this person on the hiring committee for the next CEO, and although he has issues (all non-profits do), he knows that the Board has before and will again fire someone if they screw over certain departments.

    (FWIW, the CEO who got axed was horrible in every possible way but what pushed Grant Writer over the edge was him trying to override her decision to approve one of her direct report’s requests for leave to deal with putting down her elderly dog. This was after the whole department had worked 60+ hour weeks for two months to close a massive, high-profile deal. He denied the leave, Grant Writer told her report to take it anyway, showed up at the board meeting on Thursday morning and gave her ultimatum. She had previously called several Board members to tell them what was happening so they knew, but her statement was followed by a Board member moving to executive session, kicking the CEO out of that session, discussing how to fire him, getting the solicitor to commit to drafting severance papers within literal hours, closing the executive session, bringing the CEO back in, and summarily dismissing him pending the severance papers. It was by far the most fun I’ve ever had at any board meeting, ever.)

    Also, my current boss doesn’t know or understand what I do, but he is the best boss I’ve ever had because he backs me up, asks for my input, listens to my concerns, advocates for me, and makes it clear he will tolerate no rudeness to our department. That is worth more to me than a boss who knows the ins and outs of marketing and graphic design.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      As someone who has endured horrible EDs and CEOs and boards who have no idea what was going on, this was SO satisfying to read. Grant Writer is my hero.

      The not-very-functioning-alcoholic executive director of one nonprofit where I worked was finally removed from his position…but it took, literally, YEARS of increasingly deteriorating behavior and several embarrassing incidents at conferences for them to finally forcibly retire him. After years in the nonprofit sector I’ve learned to warn newer people that getting a board to remove or discipline an ED is incredibly difficult. Especially if your board members have limited terms.

  36. Karen*

    OP 2, that really sounds like a dose of Dale Carnegie. That man has a lot to answer for.

    Personally I cringe every time someone uses my name, now that it’s become an insult. I’m thinking of changing it.

    1. Karen 2*

      I had that same thought upon reading the idea that people like to hear their names: not likely true among Karens anymore.

  37. Johnny Karate*

    Two principals in my old school district got fired after the husband of one of them walked into the district office and very loudly demanded to speak to the superintendent about “the guy who’s been my wife” and then refused to leave until the superintendent came out. He does not come off well in retellings of that story, even as the assumedly wronged party.

    1. Johnny Karate*

      I tried to put “expletive deleted” in the quote above, but I think the site thought it was a bad html tag. My bad.

  38. Modesty Poncho*

    LW5, let me just say I commiserate with the constant pressure to do and to want more, more, more. I don’t know if it’s my overly literal brain or a real cultural thing but it never feels like good enough can just be GOOD ENOUGH.
    I’m kinda glad Alison phrased her explanation the way she did – I don’t think I’ve ever quite put together on my own that “growing in my role” just means “learning new things to help me in my role”. It always felt like the role itself had to grow and become bigger and do more which is precisely what I’m avoiding by not wanting promotions in the first place!

  39. Dulcinea47*

    Someone told all these people that using peoples’ names repeatedly was friendly/inclusive/something. When I worked at a call center we were required to use the persons’ name (Mr/Ms Lastname) twice per call, and otherwise call them ma’am/sir. I was fully aware of how creepy this is when you do it too much, but if we didn’t do it twice and they reviewed our call, we’d get marked down.

    I’ve also had people who were in the US military tell me that they “can’t” stop calling everyone ma’am/sir constantly.

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

      That is such a hard habit to break. We were required to say their name once per call, which made it really easy in the beginning to say: “Thanks for calling Bram, what can I do for you today.”

      Of course you will get those people who demand you call them Doctor, and not by their first name. We were not supposed to call people mr or ms as that wasn’t personall enough

    2. Matt*

      Yes, this. You hear this in every communications training, not only for salespeople. The theory is that people love hearing their name and can’t hear it often enough. I don’t (as is the case with overdone eye contact too).

    3. Sally Rhubarb*

      Can attest to this when I had a pushy sales job one college summer. I was meant to introduce myself and ask for their name and then immediately say something like “Well Jeffsk, what kind of laptop are you looking for today?” and then repeat their name like 3 or 4 times throughout the interaction.

      All it netted me was creepy old fucks thinking that because we had exchanged first names, they had an invitation to my bed.

  40. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #3 – You CAN tell them that you’d love to work there if they get rid of the CEO, but be prepared for them to dismiss your candidacy. Unless you’re of an extreme desire (the level of internationally famous/will bring the company much work/accolades), you won’t have any pull. It’s likely the company, if not the board, is aware that their CEO is toxic.

    The CEO is of genuine concern but the other areas of note don’t read as red flags. There could be explanations for all of these:
    -The fact that the job wasn’t posted until 2 days before applications were due could mean they knew they could get enough qualified applicants quickly. Possibly could mean that they have an internal candidate.
    -That the first interview was 60 minutes long but they only asked 3 questions is not my preferred interview style, but it’s not an unheard of style. It gives the interviewers insights about to what you are thinking about/valuing in the role. It could also be that the interviewers were not good at interviewing. It could also indicate that they have an internal candidate and didn’t put much stock into the interview.
    -It’s common enough for directors to oversee a number of staff in different areas of expertise. Content experts don’t always make good managers. Perhaps here you could form questions about how staff interact with their directors/get supports when the director is not an expert.
    -There are valid reasons a full time role could go part time. Job duties shift (not necessarily as a result of scaling back work), the incumbent in the role could have needed to step back their time for personal reasons.

    It sounds like you’re stuck reconciling an exciting job opportunity with the fact that the culture might be toxic. It sounds like a difficult decision to make and I don’t blame you for second guessing it. If you didn’t get any vibes about the culture from the first interview, then perhaps consider additional questions about the culture if you get a follow up interview.


    #2 I work for a great company, but my industry has a reputation of treating employees like crap. Our CEO makes it a point of using employee names repeatedly. He explains it as as a sign of respect, and an acknowledgement that he “sees you” and not a random nameless peon.

  42. Aunt Bee’s Pickles*

    LW1 – Don’t contact the employer. If you plan to divorce, use the threat of going to her employer as leverage in your settlement negotiations.

  43. Bookworm*

    LW4: Thank you for asking this question. I am also in this similar position (not Catholic, though) and have overshared since I had been reading an applicant should be upfront. Needless to say, this has likely not helped for most cases but it also hasn’t stopped me from advancing to the next round in certain cases. I was hired for what ended up being a temp job anyway (they weren’t sure if it would evolve into something long term) despite being preemptive about it.

    FWIW: I also take it as part of interviewing them. I’ve had some really compassionate responses, even if I haven’t advanced or wasn’t selected, etc. Part of my situation has to do with the work/life balance and a toxic boss who seemed to not understand boundaries so I also use that to hear what the interviewer has to say and what their work culture is like, etc.

    Good luck to you, LW. And thanks to others who responded, as it was good to read other perspectives.

  44. Cara*

    I actually had an employee come to me with this same information. I was surprised as I assumed that she wanted to be promoted as she was such a high performer. I really appreciated that she felt comfortable speaking with me about it because it allowed me to more realistically plan for succession in my area while ensuring that she continued to receive the assignments that interested her the most.

  45. Random Dice*

    #3 No.

    The fuller answer is “Ha-ha good one! …Oh wait, were you being serious? Oh. Um. No. Definitely not.”

  46. Cowgirlinhiding*

    LW#5 – I did the same move earlier this year. I had moved into a management roll that continued to build and grow until I was extremely unhappy. I would arrive home from work and walk to my room and close the door. Moved back to a admin role I had in the past, I am finding myself again.

  47. Sean*

    LW1. Don’t get your wife’s employer involved. If you want to stay married, humiliating her at work or getting her fired is just going to get you dumped. If you do want to divorce her, getting her fired is probably going to result in you having to pay her spousal support. Either way you lose. And don’t listen to the people claiming to be lawyers telling you to sue her employer. Alienation of affection lawsuits are almost never successful and they require you to humiliate yourself. Do you really want the entire contents of your phone in discovery? You know that everything deleted is recoverable right?

  48. Bog Witch*

    A caveat: if you can see it grating on her coworkers to the point that it’s affecting how she’s perceived at work, it could be a kindness to say something about it to her, framed as “This might be a quirk of English, but sometimes it can come across aggressively when you use someone’s name so often. I know that’s not where you’re coming from, and don’t want you to be perceived wrongly.”

    Yes, definitely say this if you’re into doing microaggressions at your ESOL coworkers. Good lord.

    If another coworker seems visibly annoyed by the quirk (and you are absolutely 1000% sure this is the reason) and you feel the need to intervene…nah, still MYOB, actually. Part of being a human person at work is both having annoying quirks and putting up with other people’s annoying quirks. Leave this all the way alone.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      If I were in another country and doing something considered by that country/culture to be aggressive I would consider it a kindness for someone to gently let me know.

      1. Bog Witch*

        Perceiving aggression because someone says your name in every sentence is absolutely not this speaker’s problem to fix, sorry.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          I didn’t say it was their problem to fix, but they may prefer to be told they’re doing something that is out of step with the culture they’re in. That’s not an attack on them, simply a kindness.

  49. Name*

    LW 4 – I was legit fired in 2009, around the same time the recession hit my area. I put “attrition” as the reason for being let go until I was able to drop it down to a location and time only blurb on my resume (different industry and years ago). No one ever questioned it.

  50. New Mom (of 1 2/9)*

    I’m surprised that Alison did not add her customary “I’m so sorry for [bad event]” to the end of LW1’s letter. I’m sure that she is in fact sorry, but just to say it, LW1, I am so terribly sorry for you, and I cannot imagine the pain that you’re in.

  51. Insurance_Nerd*

    OP#1 – Don’t contact the employer. It will make you look unglued. my husband and i live on site of his employer (school) and a few years back there was another couple in faculty housing that had some serious marital issues – allegations of cheating, abuse, etc. and his wife (who did not work for the school, he did) sent an email to the entire administration/ faculty and aired their dirty laundry and asking that he be fired because he was not a good Christian husband. it was bonkers. he still works at the school but they moved off campus. I don’t know how he can still show up every day. I’d have died of embarrassment.

  52. Luna*

    LW1 – Doing that on work-used chatting programs seems like a really stupid idea. A lot of those are monitored. But if that is what she is doing on work-used programs, be they on or off the clock, is an issue with her work and if it blows up in her face, well, that is her doing. Focus on having seen this as her partner, and on your personal relationship with her. Not even bringing up the work program useage.

    LW2 – Occam’s Razor, perhaps it’s a way for her to ensure that she remembers your name? Like she isn’t good at remembering names easily, so using it in almost every sentence early on makes memorization easier.

  53. learnedthehardway*

    OP#3 – There is absolutely no way you are going to be able to convince the company to axe their CEO so you can work there. And suggesting it is going to be taken as a bad joke or that you and reality are on different planes of existence.

    The fact that the role was posted only 2 days before the application due date probably has nothing to do with the CEO. It’s more likely an administrative error, probably not even one rising to the level of being noticed by the CEO.

    As for the Glassdoor reviews – they might be valid, sure. But it is also entirely possible that the CEO was brought in to clean house and these people don’t like that.

    Also, do consider that while the G

  54. Esprit de l'escalier*

    Re LW2 (name repetition). I was teased for my name as a child, and though I’ve moved from hating my name to tolerating it, I still don’t enjoy hearing it spoken to me or about me. (Dale Carnegie can go suck eggs.) I would have to say something to this employee, because if they kept this up I would be unable to stand being around them.

  55. Iheartyou*

    Long time lurker…my Filipino coworker says my name all the time when she is addressing me. She is sweet and sincere, it might be cultural. While it does sound a little repetitive, I’m getting used to it because her intentions aren’t negative. I don’t think it’s necessary to correct unless it really is aggressive instead of simply mildly grating…

    1. Mmm.*

      This isn’t the culture I was thinking of in my own comment, but looking back at my high school days (close friend was Filipina), this is true. It was to the point where my friend and I made jokes about it! (Hey, we were 15. We could have been doing way worse things!)

  56. Cheaters Are Trash*

    LW1…it would be incredibly tempting to call her employer & rat her out, but this will come back & bite you in the bottom later. My advice, is to follow the example of my best friend. She found out her SO was cheating so she said nothing. She just started preparing for divorce. She lawyered up & ensured that when she did eventually surprise him with divorce papers that she was financially secure & he was unable to touch anything of hers while she was able to claim about 30% of his superannuation & assets plus sting him for child support.

  57. SpatulaCity*

    LW2: as a new direct report, does this person use the constant name usage with other employees that they’ve been around for a while, or just you?

    I’m horrible at remembering/putting names to faces. so I’ll often quiz myself with someone’s name, repeat it often when speaking to them. it helps me to stick the name to the face of the person so I might remember the next time I see them, which may only be moments later.

    (I often see suggestions to not friend on social media the people you work with, but I find it very helpful in a flashcard kind of way to always see their name posted with their photos to help me to remember.)

  58. WhatTheActualFact*

    #2 I can’t stand my name being used all the time either.
    LW2 I’ve had this issue many times and it is solved by simply asking the person politely to please stop using my name all the time. Since its mostly used in a customer service context, I say “I understand this is part of your raining but I really don’t like it and would appreciate you just concentrating on the conversation we are having.”
    Mostly they are fine with it and apologise. I always tell them there is no need to apologise at all but I just don’t like hearing my name every three seconds.
    There is nothing wrong with politely informing your employee of this. Many people cannot stand this weird practice. :)

    1. WhatTheActualFact*

      Yikes, apologies for typos!

      “raining ” should be “training”
      “its” should be “it’s.

  59. Mmm.*

    #2: It feels weird because (in American culture) it’s often a power move. It’s part of why I’m against name tags on hourly workers: Knowing someone’s name means you know something personal to them and can now abuse it. It’s also very much associated with being in trouble. Everyone knows what being triple-named means!

    That said, a particular culture came to mind before I even read the part where English may not be their first language. I *think* it’s a practical thing–they’re unconsciously ensuring the right person hears them. I can’t say that for sure, as I’m more the token white friend, but that’s what I’ve observed. If you’re in a busy office space, it could seriously just be this! If not, I can still say my bestie and their family do use my name more often than I’m used to in smaller groups, though not constantly.

    The way someone learns English can also affect things like this.

    No matter what, they probably don’t realize they’re doing it. I’d just try to get used to it so they don’t end up self-conscious!

  60. Adalind*

    LW5: I relate to this SO much. I’ve been at my job for about 7 years. For the last few, every review my manager asks about me wanting her job. I have told her multiple times I am not interested (it’s just a job to me whereas for her it’s a passion) for various reasons – I don’t want to manage people, it’s not something I’m interested in… she will retire in the next 5 years and I just reiterate the same answers over and over. I may now try to incorporate Allison’s suggestions also. I’m okay being a peon – I want to be done with work when I clock out, not carry it home. I know myself and my mental health would go haywire.

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