new coworker invited everyone to her wedding but me, ouija board earrings, and more

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

1. My new coworker invited everyone to her wedding but me

I’ve been reading through your archives and came across this question, which reminded me of something that happened to me many years ago.

Another coworker, Heather, and I had started at a new job about the same time (no more than one month apart), although I started first (which is relevant). We were both on phones for a small nonprofit, and our team had our desks in a small call center. Besides the two of us, there were three more representatives in the call center and our manager, Veronica.

Heather’s wedding was scheduled for just a few weeks after she started the job. Naturally, the upcoming nuptials became the talk of the room. At one point though, one of the team members made the mistake of talking about attending the wedding in my presence and Veronica shushed her. It turned out that Heather had invited every single person in that room, including Veronica. Except me. It wasn’t a matter of Heather inviting everyone before I started the job. She came on after I was already there.

I tried to “go high” and not let it bother me. But I’ve often wondered about the propriety of what happened and what Veronica ought to have done. She knew what happened, shushed talk about it, but accepted the invitation and attended the wedding. In retrospect, I wish that Veronica had declined to attend, knowing the situation, but I don’t know if that is an unreasonable expectation. What do you think?

Yeah, generally the etiquette rule for weddings and work is that you don’t have to invite everyone (and of course, it’s totally fine to invite no one from work) but if you’re going to invite some people from your team, you shouldn’t leave just one person out.

But the timing here is so odd — Heather started a new job, got married a few weeks later, and somehow in those few weeks decided she liked her coworkers and manager enough to invite them but disliked another coworker enough to leave them out? That’s such a short period of time that it makes me think the explanation is something less hurtful than it might seem — like maybe she and the other four were at lunch and she spontaneously invited them, rather then intentionally excluding you (and then if it did occur to her, maybe they were short on space … especially after adding four last-minute guests). If you pay attention to how Heather treated you outside of this, you probably have some idea how likely that kind of explanation is.

But Veronica … yes, ideally Veronica would have declined the invitation, because a manager attending a social event that a single person on her team was excluded from doesn’t look great. Even assuming there was no campaign to exclude you, it’s just the sort of the thing that will make a lot of people feel crappy and make them question how objective their boss is. But that also assumes a level of thoughtfulness and emotional intelligence that a lot of people don’t have, unfortunately — which I say not to insult Veronica, but because it’s likely that none of this was badly intended, even though it stung at the time.

2. Being told you were never hired — after you already worked a week

I came across this news story about a woman who relocated to another state for a job and worked seven days before being told she had never actually been hired. While she admits she didn’t actually receive a contract or offer letter, she has emails from her would-be boss specifically offering her the job and saying that he would get her into the HR system. The employer did appear to pay her the relocation costs plus $100 (which seems like a small amount for seven days of work) but I’m wondering if she would have any legal recourse for being paid the full agreed upon amount for her week of work (as well as extra for closing her lease in her previous state) without an official signed offer letter?

You can be officially hired without a contract or offer letter. Most U.S. workers don’t have contracts at all, and loads of employers don’t use formal offer letters; they just extend the offer over the phone or email, you accept, you show up and start working, and they pay you. An employer can’t backtrack after a week and say, “Oops, you were never really hired so we’re not going to pay you for the work you did.” The law says that if an employer “suffers or permits” a person to work, they owe them wages for that time. In this case, it certainly appears they permitted her to work; they also gave her a start date and assigned her tasks.

It sounds like there was some sort of miscommunication between the person who hired her and the school’s HR — but that’s something they need to make right, not leave her to clean up. They can’t be forced to keep her on, but they do need to pay her the agreed-upon wages for the days she worked, and if they have any decency whatsoever, they’d also cover her expenses to move back home, plus severance for the massive wrench they threw into her life. But if they’re only paying $100 for the work she did (!), it doesn’t sound like they have any intention of making it right.

3. Are my ouija board earrings offensive?

I wore some small ouija board earrings on an all-hands video call with approximately 200 other people. Later my manager told me word got back to them that someone was offended by them. (For context, I was not presenting on the call, I was just one of the masses listening.) I don’t have the energy to burn capital on something so low-stakes, so I just inwardly rolled my eyes and agreed not to wear them again.

I understand some very conservative Christian people might see these as problematic, but was I wrong to wear them? Are they inherently offensive? To me they’re just kitschy seasonal accessories.

You didn’t do anything wrong by wearing them. Whoever complained overstepped … and the idea that they were that bothered by tiny earrings worn by one participant on a 200-person video calls is A Lot.

Also, I realize this isn’t an angle you’re going to pursue, but for the record: your manager overstepped by asking you not to wear them again! While you only wore them as kitsch, she had no way of knowing that; if ouija boards were part of your faith, this would have been similar to asking an employee to stop wearing a cross — i.e., a violation of the federal law that protects your religious beliefs in the workplace.

(Note that this is different from the letter-writer who was creeped out by a ouija board mousepad at their shared workspace, since in that case they were being asked to use the item themselves.)

4. Asking a candidate about odd, pushy behavior when they applied

I am recruiting for a relatively early-career position in a prestigious, highly skilled field. A candidate reached out to me ahead of submitting their application in a way that was a bit weird: emailing a one-line message asking me to “tell them more about the job,” then again several times to ask for information that was already clearly written out in the job announcement. They are very impressive in terms of profile and experience, so it looks like someone I would probably want to interview – but communication skills, independence, and being easy to work with are also essential.

How can I deal with this in an interview? It seems confrontational to ask, “Why did you ask me for information that you already had?” or “Why did you send such a general, broad question?” but I would like to know if this is someone who will take up my time with those kinds of questions if they come work here, or if something else is behind the behavior (like bad career advice). How can I ask it in a way that gives me useful information rather than just conveying criticism?

If they weren’t early-career, I’d say to consider their behavior useful data and not dismiss it. But because they’re early-career, chances are high that they got bad advice (“connect with the hiring manager by asking questions before you apply!”) or just don’t have any idea what they’re doing. Given that, it makes sense to interview them and just pay a lot of attention to what else you see. I don’t think you need to specifically ask about it; you’ll have plenty of opportunities to observe how they handle themselves through the rest of the hiring process.

That said, if you really want to, the best wording I can come up with is, “I noticed that before you applied, you sent me a few messages asking for information that was already laid out in the job posting. You’d need to function pretty independently and resourcefully in this role, so I’m curious about the story with those messages.” But even just writing that out feels like a gotcha and I don’t like it. Of course, if not asking means you’d otherwise just reject the person, then I suppose you could go ahead and ask … but it’s likely to make most early-career candidates (as well as some more experienced people) feel nervous and a bit crappy. I’d be more inclined to write it off to inexperience and then make sure you have other opportunities in your hiring process to see how well they function independently, spot detail, etc. (In particular, if you’re not already using a short hiring exercise with all your finalists that lets you see how they’d actually approach the work, this would be a good time to incorporate one.)

{ 525 comments… read them below }

  1. Heretoread*

    I read #1 as she got engaged a few weeks into the job, not married a few weeks into the job. Am I mistaken?

    1. Cmdrshprd*

      I think the “was engaged to be married a few weeks after starting the job” to me reads as she was already engaged with date set for a few weeks after.

      If it had been what you described it sounds like a weird way of writing it. I would imagine. a person would write “heather got engaged a few weeks after starting the job ”

      the was vs got us the key difference in my opinion, I could be wrong, but that is my take.

    2. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

      This is how I read it, too. “Heather was engaged to be married a few weeks after starting the job.” = “Heather got engaged a few weeks after starting the job” but for some reason, LW was a bit more formal with it. I’ve heard people speak like this, and the use of the world “nuptials” rather than wedding kind of drives it all home.

      1. LW1*

        Sorry if I sounded a bit pretentious. I’m a writer and try to avoid repeating words in the same paragraph (even in informal writing). I chose “nuptials” for no other reason than I wanted a synonym for “wedding.”

        1. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

          No, it’s fine. I think people aren’t used to that formality and it’s causing the confusion. You’re using the language people use in invitations & correct, I was trying to find a reason why people might be confused and formality came to me — you being a writer makes it doubly make sense.

          Not at all pretentious though.

        2. GOV'T BUDGET GAL*

          I doubt you’ll see this, but just wanted to say I went through something similar and it was so uncomfortable. It was my boss at a small place, like 12 employees. she invited all but 2 of us to her wedding. I didn’t like her, and it was mutual, so whatever, but everyone talking about it and asking me about it was deeply cringe. I don’t know how it could have been different, but it sucked. sometimes that’s inevitable. sorry you had to deal with this awkwardness.

      2. Glen*

        that would be a pretty nonstandard use in my experience. The “engaged to be married in a few weeks/on our shared birthday/whatever” is a fairly common turn of phrase and every time I have seen it the date applies to the wedding, not the engagement.

    3. LW1*

      Heather was already engaged when she started the job. The wedding was scheduled to take place about a month after she began. We knew because she had to take significant time off for her wedding and honeymoon so soon after starting.

      That timing, as Alison noted, was what made everything so weird. Why invite anyone at that point, especially if plus-ones were included. (I don’t know if plus-ones were invited, but that is customary for weddings.)

        1. Endorable*

          Ah thanks! When I read “Heather’s wedding was scheduled for just a few weeks after she started the job.” I couldn’t figure out what was so confusing!

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        Personally, it’s strange to invite people to your wedding that you’ve only known for a very short time. I’d be inclined to turn down the invitation because it sounds like a gift grab rather than bringing together friends and family who actually know you.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          I’d be quite likely to turn it down too, but I wouldn’t assume it’s a gift grab. I’d more likely assume they were having a big wedding and had planned to ask colleagues or their their groom or bride was close to his or her coworkers and was inviting them and they were concerned they might offend their coworkers if they found out the partner’s coworkers were invited and they weren’t.

          Now, in this case, not inviting any coworkers would be better than inviting all except one, but I think inviting colleagues to weddings is common enough that I wouldn’t assume anything nefarious.

        2. Michelle Smith*

          But if it was a gift grab, why not invite the only other person on the team that wasn’t invited?

          1. LifeBeforeCorona*

            It’s my cynicism from getting wedding announcements after the fact with a link to the wedding registry.

        3. Tesuji*

          I feel like this strangeness makes it all the more obvious that there’s something else here that the LW might be unaware of, e.g., Heather actually knows some/all of them from something outside of work, there was a social event at which Heather and the others bonded, the co-workers all eat lunch together while LW goes home and walks the dog, etc.

          If it was just a straight gift-grab, no real reason to exclude anyone.

          The alternative, of course, is that there *is* something highly relevant that an outsider would notice, but that LW didn’t or didn’t tell us about, e.g., she’s different from the others in age/religion/race/ethnicity/subculture/neurodivergence/whatever and is being deliberately excluded because of that. (Saying this as something who’s read more than his fair share of stories that ended up having an addendum of “Oh, yeah, so I forgot to mention that my gf is black and my parents are racists; does that change anything?”)

          1. LW1*

            It was a religious nonprofit (where we all were required to share the same religious affiliation), and we were all young Caucasian women in our mid- to late-20s. So far as I know, Heather didn’t know these women before she started and there were no significant bonding opportunities. (We were hourly employees who usually either brown bagged lunch or picked up a sandwich at nearby delis.)

            The only difference I can think of is that I was a hardcore introvert who didn’t drive much due to health concerns. Perhaps Heather thought I wouldn’t want to drive to the wedding, but in that case I should have been invited and allowed to make my own decision whether to accept. (I have noticed that many hosts try to both issue and answer invitations.)

            1. allathian*

              Were all of your coworkers hardcore extroverts who socialized during lunch while you sat in a corner by yourself because you needed that time to recharge from peopling? (I’m also an introvert, although not a particularly hardcore one. I like socializing with my coworkers even if I have to pay the price for it later by taking a nap after a day at the office. I spent all of my breaks alone when I worked at a call center, though.)

              I’m not looking for excuses to justify Heather’s behavior, just possible explanations. (I was bullied by exclusion in junior high, and stories like yours take me right back to a pretty awful time.)

              The past tense makes me think that you are no longer working with these inconsiderate people.

      2. Lacey*

        The whole situation is totally wild.

        Everyone’s different, but when I got married I didn’t invite anyone to the office – and I’d been there 10 years!

        I can’t imagine what she was thinking. If space was an issue, just don’t invite any coworkers. No one would expect it when the wedding was so soon after she started.

        1. Billups*

          Right? And who goes to a virtual stranger’s wedding? I hate going to weddings of people I love lmao. This whole thing is odd, and OP was well out of it, though I understand that the snub was hurtful, and you’re right to have felt that way.

      3. SpaceySteph*

        Plus ones are customary socially, but it is generally accepted to invite coworkers without plus ones, because they are local, they are already a group who know each other, and because the context in which you know them means you by default don’t know their partners.

      4. OMG, Bees!*

        Is it possibly that Heather invited the manager and other, more senior coworkers as a way of almost sucking up to them? If you were also new, it wouldn’t make as much sense to get on your good side to advance at the workplace like getting on the good side of the manager. Especially with hushing and trying to keep it secret, that’s how I read it.

      5. Ellie*

        That is really, really weird behaviour. The only thing I could think of that made sense, was if she knew those co-workers before she started working with them (say, she was Veronica’s god-daughter and had met them all beforehand). The only other possibility is that these were her B list invitations – 4 people from her original list declined so she extended an invitation to the 4 people she worked with, who she felt closest to. Which is still rude and a really crappy way to behave, especially to leave it unaddressed like that. She could at least have told you what happened and that it wasn’t personal.

        Honestly, their behaviour, and the shushing, was so rude, I’d try not to give it any more space in your head. That’s real high-school stuff.

    4. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I don’t really see why you would think that when it says “Heather’s wedding was scheduled for just a few weeks after she started the job.” That just doesn’t seem like a typographical error. It wouldn’t be her engagement that is scheduled, unless it was an engagement party. I think it meant she was already engaged and the wedding was going to take place a few weeks after the job start, as Alison clearly read it.

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        And I now see that Alison adjusted the wording to make it clearer. I understand why people were reading it differently before. I should have scrolled down more before commenting!

      2. SJ*

        Alison noted above that she changed the wording after initially posting, the comment refers to the letter before the change where it was still unclear.

  2. Error*

    Alison — I think you read #1 wrong. Heather for engaged a few weeks after starting work, not married.

    1. LW1*

      No, Alison is correct. Heather was already engaged when she started and the wedding was scheduled for a few weeks after her start date. I realize, in retrospect, that my choice of words was unclear.

      1. Myrin*

        Eh, you were clear enough. “Was engaged to be married” is decidedly not the same as “got engaged”, it’s just that a lot of (most?) people don’t pay attention to minutiae like that.

      2. Two Fish*

        Agree with @Myrin.

        An acquaintance of mine got himself into some legal trouble that involved his former fiancee. The official report described their relationship as “… and had been engaged to be married.”

        The phrase was an accurate description, because their former engagement was important to understanding the legal case.

  3. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

    Is #2 not promissory estoppel? She has emails and she was interviewed. Meanwhile, HR is saying they only have an application received.

    Really curious on who these people interviewing her were and also the abysmal security of that school that someone could work 7 days without official paperwork.

    1. kalli*

      It certainly could be but it depends what was in those emails as to what was promised. Given that she was paid an amount that likely covers a week’s wages, if the emails don’t promise relocation assistance or housing assistance (I note it says that the school organised and paid for a hotel, but it’s not clear to me whether coach just booked it or he/the school paid for it), then the only thing left for an order is the job itself, and it sounds like time has passed and it might not work out even if people who get their jobs back after legal action didn’t have like a 30% retention rate at 6 months.

      It would also hinge on whether the person she spoke to could have reasonably been understood to be acting on the school’s behalf – it’s apparent enough that he didn’t and the school came down on him for exerting authority he didn’t have, but given the coexistent ad posting they’d argue on that, and likely drag costs in excess of the available monetary award, making a claim counterproductive in that it would cost her more than she’d be awarded – contractual cases in small claims don’t typically result in punitive damages, after all.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Assuming LE is in the US, I would hardly call $100 enough to cover a week’s wages.

        (Yes, I realize there are very low paying jobs out there and that collegiate non-football sports related positions are included in that, but even then you’d be talking about more than $100.)

        1. Another commenter*

          I think the point the commenter was trying to make, is that if the emails don’t promise to cover relocation costs then $1600 is enough to cover a week’s wages.

        2. Michelle*

          The article doesn’t actually say she was paid $100 for a week’s work, though. It says she was paid $1,600 “for her expenses and seven days of work,” and also that she estimates she spent $1,500 on her move. So while she only profited $100, it sounds like it’s the moving expenses they screwed her on, not the work itself.

      2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        “then the only thing left for an order is the job itself,”

        Not really. She was damaged by her reliance on this offer of a job. She quit another job because of it. If she could get her old job back, then she’d incur relocation costs back to her original town, and if she couldn’t she had damages related to being out of a job for whatever amount of time. While I’m not familiar with all the legal arguments related to estoppel in a job situation, it’s certainly reasonable to say she lost X weeks of wages with X being the amount of time it took her to find a new job.

    2. No Longer Working*

      There’s been an update to this story – She was made whole financially.

      “She was eventually reimbursed by her would-be employer for her expenses and seven days of work after she wrote a letter to the college’s HR department explaining the misunderstanding. In total, she received $1,600 in a check, according to a receipt…”

        1. Inkhorn*

          I didn’t get a lot of change out of $1600 the last time I moved, and that was going literally from one suburb to the next.

      1. Merci Dee*

        The story said that she paid approximately $1500 in moving expenses, leaving $100 to compensate for 7 days worth of work. That works out to less than $20 a day for the work she did. That amount doesn’t even come close to making her whole for what happened.

        1. Jaydee*

          But she may have paid more in moving expenses than the university would ordinarily cover. So if they’ll pay for movers or moving truck rental but not a storage unit or housing costs, she may have been reimbursed $500 of her moving costs and paid $1100 for a week of work (I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that assistant cheerleading coaches are not who we complain about when we complain about overpaid college coaches….)

          1. Jaydee*

            I mean, that said, I think the university was short-sighted in not just compensating her generously to avoid bad publicity because “generously” probably would have been something like $5,000, which is a fairly small amount in the grand scheme of things for a large institution.

            1. Tupac Coachella*

              I agree. Bad publicity is exactly what they deserve, and they got off cheap. When the article said she asked them not to name the school for fear of legal consequences, I was so mad on her behalf. With the acknowledgement that I’m making some assumptions to get to this conclusion: it seems to me like they did her really dirty and took advantage of her youth and kind nature (and possibly made some thinly veiled threats) to get away with it without being named publicly. With this kind of mistake, being name and shamed would make hiring *anyone* a lot harder, in a landscape where finding quality candidates for higher ed jobs isn’t exactly going great for most schools. I’m probably not even going to apply someplace that pulled something like that. Mistakes happen, but they would need to have offered up a whole lot more than basic reimbursement for me as a prospective applicant to feel ok with overlooking that story. They should have either given her a package similar to what Alison proposed or, ya know, went ahead and “formally” hired her (did they even consider that option??). This one grinds my gears.

          2. Merci Dee*

            Even if your scenario is correct, where they didn’t compensate for the full amount of her travel expenses and more of that $1600 went toward her 7 days of salary, then she’s still not whole because her moving costs weren’t fully covered. In this situation, where this woman had emails from a university employee that she had every expectation of working under saying that she had the job, and she relied on that information to her detriment, I don’t think the university is in much of a position to be picking and choosing which moving expenses they won’t reimburse. They’ve either stiffed her on the moving expenses or stiffed her on the salary compensation. Either way, it’s not a good look.

          3. New Jack Karyn*

            I don’t think the university is going to cover relocation costs for an assistant coach, for a non-marquee sport.

            1. Cute As Cymraeg*

              And that would be fine *if they hadn’t screwed up her employment*.

              The uni paid her moving costs specifically because they recognised they had screwed her over.

    3. fhqwhgads*

      Yeah the weird part to me was the HR bit. Like, the guy who was her boss told her she got the job, and had her do work. So for HR to then say “no you don’t and we’re moving on with other candidates” implies that the “boss” was not actually the hiring manager for the role and didn’t have hiring authority at all? Every article I’ve read on this seems like the HR people basically just kept saying “nope, no, computer says no”. It’s odd there seems to be no commentary on how/why the dude who definitely gave her something any reasonable person would interpret as a job offer was not actually an offer. Like, the school hasn’t said “actually he doesn’t work here either” or anything. It weird they can just contradict each other like that.
      I get they did make her whole-ish eventually (in terms of cash but not the part where now she had to move in with her parents cuz she no longer has a job our housing in either the state she lived in before or the state she moved to for this job). But the absence of explanation of why the original dude’s offer was not actually an offer is bizarre to me.

      1. Smithy*

        I’m not familiar with this story, but I do think it likely comes down to how small the college is and people making assumptions based off job titles that dont really work when you scale down to places or programs that small.

        While we largely think of college sports coaching staffs as elite level, and full time if not well paid etc. – I went to a very small college where the basketball teams weren’t even in leagues and basically our games with other schools were courtesy games by them (external scrimmages?). So the head coaches hired weren’t full time and were hired via Student Life. If a coach wanted assistant coaches, they could bring in their people – but they’d be compensated via the limited pool of funds the coach had for everything. Or out of their own pocket.

        Now at some point had Student Life decided the program warranted an official Assistant Coach – that person would need to go through the hiring via Student Life, and their hiring manager would probably have been the same person who hired the head coaches. Not the coach. And of course, the Assistant Coach who likely had only ever worked with the Head Coach would not be silly not to realize that.

        So I could see this happening to a major sport like basketball – but at a very small school. Or at a very large school, but a sport that lives under Student Life and not the Athletic Department – like, if a lot of students at a Big Ten school really enjoy organized and competitive corn hole or frisbee golf – it could sense to hire a coach to figure out a competitive league/team. But that wouldn’t necessarily translate to the support infrastructure of Athletic Department sports.

        1. Ellie*

          I figured the sports program had been cut and they were just back-peddling to avoid their responsibilities in terms of severance. I assume $1600 was enough to make them whole – the 7 days of pay, plus whatever they spent on moving expenses, which may have been pretty cheap if they’re young and without much stuff to move. In no way is it going to make up for the inconvenience and distress of moving though. The person should have consulted with a lawyer.

      2. AnotherOne*

        It sounds like the issue was that the coach either didn’t understand what the proper hiring process was (so did it like they were at a private gym) or was trying to work around possible school politics which possibly preferred another candidate (maybe they thought it they provided a fair accompli- the school would just have to keep the “employee” that the head coach hired, which isn’t how colleges generally work.)

        but i did feel for the employee. hopefully the news coverage gets her another job opportunity in the field she wants.

      3. AFac*

        I think there’s also something to say about how colleges do hiring. In many cases, the unit does all of the legwork (soliciting for applications, reviewing them, interviews, etc.) and may even make the decision. But then that material goes to HR for final approval before the unit is allowed to make the final offer. That HR approval can take a long time. My unit is waiting on one and it’s been weeks.

        Most people who apply to colleges know that this process is slow, and units are told to try to keep candidates informed without committing to something that may have to be taken back. But I can see how someone who is new to hiring, and/or a unit that isn’t a ‘traditional’ academic unit (like sports) and/or needs to fill the position urgently got their wires crossed.

        I can also see why it was so hard to pay her after the fact. Morally, legally, she should be paid. Logistically, college budgets are so proscribed it might be difficult to do. There’s no fund that covers ‘oops, we hired but didn’t really hire a person and now have to pay them’.

        1. sacrealgoecc*

          I work in higher ed. I read this story and thought “Sounds like something that would totally happen to my boss” who is forever trying to circumvent policy and then acting aghast when the policy department says “uh, no, that’s not how this works.”

          1. AFac*

            Thing is, sometimes there IS a shortcut–if someone yells loud enough, goes through a slightly different procedure, or even just asks why there isn’t a shortcut.

          2. Orv*

            We’ve had profs promise jobs to people without going through the process before. It was a difficult situation because we legally couldn’t hire them.

    4. The teacher's wife*

      Oh, some schools have abysmal security! My husband was contacted to interview for an elementary teacher position on a Thursday. school started on Tuesday the next week. He interviewed, drive a few miles away, and just waited. They called him half an hour later and he went back to get his keys to the building so he could prepare his classroom over the weekend. They never did a background check or even got a copy of his teaching license or driver’s license prior to him starting. I do think they checked his ID and teaching license eventually a few months later.

    5. Marzipan Shepherdess*

      The apparent lack of paperwork puzzled me, too! Every job I’ve ever had required me to submit my Social Security number (at the very least) and to fill out a form that usually included bank information if I was taking the direct deposit option. NONE of LW2’s experience with this job sounds as if it were legal; how could their FICA contributions be withheld, for starters? VERY fishy indeed!

    6. Reluctant Mezzo*

      Yes, and the various kinds of agency are clearly involved, along with reliance. Someone should talk to a lawyer soonest.

  4. DEJ*

    For #2, college sport coaches do usually have contracts. Still, there is something weird about that whole situation.

  5. MassMatt*

    I’m always surprised how upset people get about not being invited to weddings of coworkers, distant relatives, and other people they are not close to. Even more when someone wants somebody else to decline their invitation in solidarity. Maybe I’m just a wedding party pooper, but in general there’s lots I’d rather do than go to a coworker’s wedding.

    Do something fun that day and let it go.

    1. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

      Gotta admit, I am not sure I’d be bothered by not being invited but the general feeling of being socially shunned for no good reason hurts. And when it doesn’t hurt, it makes the inside walls of your head itch with the ‘why’ of it all. People are human like that (hello redundant sentences, but gotta find someone of saying it).

      Your advice stands though. Be mercenary about it — is your job still safe? Is your relationship with the others okay? Is your manager not playing favorites? If so, just have a fun day to yourself and roll with it.

      1. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

        Give me a moment to write down the phrase “makes the inside walls of your head itch with the ‘why’ of it all,” because that is SO good.

        1. allathian*

          And it’s an apt description! I was bullied by exclusion in junior high, and even when I stopped wanting to spend any time with my classmates outside of school hours, listening to them talking about all the fun things they’d done or would do still bothered me. “Makes the inside walls of your head itch” sounds about right.

    2. Delphine*

      It’s not about the wedding. It’s about being singled out by your coworker and cut out of an event that everyone else was invited to. It’s about the unkindness.

      1. GythaOgden*

        Yeah. I invited both my coworkers and neither could come, but even then when I’d only worked with them two years they were part of my extended ‘family’. It’s more sociable to be inclusive, because even if there wasn’t any ill intent behind it, people read all sorts of things into different acts and being mindful about how things come across to others is just part of living in the same world as them.

      2. pally*

        Years ago, a coworker got engaged. She’d visit my office daily to regale me about all aspects of the wedding planning. This went on for months. I was happy to listen.

        Then one day, very close to the wedding date, she pulled me aside and explained that I was not invited. She was real sorry, but I reminded her too much of work. And she didn’t want any reminders of work on her Day. I’m not fond of social events so I wasn’t too disappointed. And told her so. However, this conversation made me feel uncomfortable. Why tell me this?

        After the wedding, folks in the office were freely discussing the event. They’d all attended. It was a very lavish event.

        I was asked by at least one person why I didn’t attend. Gah! Awkward!

        1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

          WOW! I hope you returned awkward to sender and told them you weren’t invited.

        2. RegBarclay*

          Ooh that is awkward. I had a coworker who got married a few years ago. He talked about the planning in the office – cake tasting, menus, etc. I was quite happy to talk about food, and quite happy to not be invited as I’m not terribly social and didn’t hang out with him outside of work. However if he’d invited everyone in the department EXCEPT me, that honestly would have hurt. It’s just such a pointed exclusion.

    3. Indolent Libertine*

      It’s not really about being excluded from the wedding, though; it’s more about the manager’s actively participating in a clique that excludes one team member. She shushed the person talking about going to the wedding, so she obviously knew by that point that LW wasn’t invited and was the only one uninvited. That kind of behavior would give LW reasonable cause to wonder whether Veronica would manage the team objectively, given that she apparently has favorites; whether she’d always come down on the side of the in crowd against LW, etc.

      1. David*

        I don’t know much about etiquette, but I always thought one of the rules that if you’re invited to a wedding, you shouldn’t talk about it around people who weren’t invited but also know the couple being married. Maybe that’s real or maybe it’s something I just made up and accidentally convinced myself it’s real, but if I believed it, it’s possible Veronica did as well. In which case she may have thought she was just being polite by shushing the coworker, and it wouldn’t be a clear indication that anyone is participating in a clique.

        1. Despachito*

          This is my take as well. And this rule does not extend just to weddings, but to parties and any social dos.

          I was invited to a close friend’s birthday party, and before that both of us were attending a gathering with other friends she loves but is a little less close to. She can’t afford to invite everyone (the concept of birthdays here is that the birthday person pays for the venue, food and drinks and the guests bring presents but do not pay for anything).

          She mentioned her party at the gathering (when explaining she couldn’t come to the next gathering because of the party), but I tried to avoid mentioning that I was invited. Although I do not think the other friends would be offended (they know we are very close), I just consider this as something that is NOT DONE.

          So I understand Veronica in this point.

        2. TechWorker*

          Yes, I think that’s generally polite, although there are situations in which it wouldn’t be an issue (Eg someone asking about a mutual friends wedding when there’s a clear difference in how close the friendship is. If I met my best friends college friend through them multiple times, I have no expectation of being invited to college friends wedding & can happily chat about it with my best friend!).
          I agree it’s not necessarily indicative of a clique, but it no doubt felt like that to the LW!

        3. amoeba*

          Hm, I honestly feel that just makes it worse by highlighting the situation and making the whole thing more cliquey!

          1. Irish Teacher*

            I agree. I would be far more offended by “I won’t talk about x’s wedding because I don’t want to insult you by drawing attention to the fact I was invited and you weren’t” than by somebody telling me about their time at the wedding. The latter doesn’t seem rude at all. If somebody was at a wedding, I’d expect them to mention it, whether I knew the couple or not. Deliberately avoiding mentioning it sounds like either they are hiding something or they think I’m so sensitive that I’m going to take offence even if there is nothing to take offence at.

        4. Gingerbread Lady*

          No, you did NOT just make that up, David; that IS a traditional rule of thoughtfulness that once applied to ALL gatherings/parties – don’t talk about an upcoming party in front of friends unless you know that they’ve been invited too. This was once taught to children and applied to adults as well – it helped to prevent precisely the sort of problem that LW1 wrote in about!

          Today, of course, it would much more difficult to practice that rule. Social media ensures that everyone knows about their friends’ weddings/parties/get-togethers so they also know if they themselves were excluded. But there was much to be said in favor of not flaunting your own invitation to a party in front of someone who hadn’t received one.

          1. amoeba*

            Yes, well, but shushing and acting secretive aren’t helping – I’d argue that actually feels more like flaunting it, because now the person who’s not invited is also the only one on the outside of a “conspiracy”!

            1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

              THIS. Veronica is the supervisor. She knew the one person in the whole team had not been invited. It wasn’t etiquette to be an active participant in the exclusion.

              This was handled badly. I don’t blame the OP for feeling left out and hurt. It hurts to be the only person not in the in crowd.

              1. analyst*

                why are we assuming that Veronica knew before she was hushed? How would she know who was and wasn’t invited? Especially since all the other co-workers were invited…it probably never occurred to her that OP wasn’t invited

                1. fhqwhgads*

                  Veronica = the boss who did the shushing
                  The peer who mentioned attending has no pseudonym in the letter.
                  Hence the question is about Veronica behaving badly. ie the boss clearly knew OP was the only one not invited, because the boss did the shushing. The boss participating in the exclusion is the shitty part. It’s not about the other coworker who may or may not have been aware when they said it.

          2. doreen*

            The rule doesn’t apply to all situations – it was never rude to talk about your grandchild’s wedding or your parent’s anniversary party in front of your friends. Your friends wouldn’t reasonably expect to be invited to those parties. But it would normally apply at work if some but not all co-workers are being invited.

          3. Aitch Arr*


            I remember as a kid my mom telling me I couldn’t invite my whole class except for the one kid I didn’t like to my birthday party. I either had to invite everyone or have a much smaller party with 1/2 of the class (i.e., my closest school friends).

        5. Falling Diphthong*

          I wouldn’t know who else in the group was or wasn’t invited, unless there was A Whole Thing beforehand.

          “I’m not inviting Aunt Delphinium to my wedding because of her behavior at the last family wedding” is a reasonable thing to heads-up people about before Thanksgiving dinner. It’s weirder at work because the relationships are shorter and not as deep as for extended family, and the importance of fairness is important in a work sense.

        6. desdemona*

          I was raised this way, but with all parties in general – don’t talk about a party at school in front of friends who know the birthday person but weren’t invited, don’t talk about weddings with people who know the couple but weren’t invited, etc.

          It’s just polite to not make other people feel excluded.

          1. desdemona*

            adding – to an event they may be invited to ! If I’m telling someone about a wedding of a person they barely know, that’s different.

          2. Typing All The Time*

            Same. An ex-guy colleague of mine but still a friend got married during our time at the same company. Everyone knew we were friends but I learned from a mutual colleague about wedding invites (he was invited, I wasn’t). Ex-colleague guy/friend also invited another colleague and another was a bridesmaid plus their boss. One member on their team wasn’t invited either. I did date the ex-colleague guy/friend briefly—I thought maybe that was the reason—why but the uninvite still stung.

      2. Lacey*

        Yeah, it’s the situation as a whole.
        It feels like junior high and hearing a friend shush people so they won’t talk about the slumber party everyone’s invited to but you!

    4. Over It*

      That’s not really the point of this letter. LW didn’t seem to care much about the wedding itself, but rather they were singled out and excluded when the rest of the department was invited. If Heather hadn’t invited all her other coworkers, I doubt LW would have been upset about not being invited. Excluding someone from an event outside of work can bleed into a very awkward dynamic at work.

    5. LW1*

      MassMatt, as others mentioned, it was the exclusion that mattered, not the wedding. Especially in a very small room in which team members were working in such close proximity. Had I been invited, I doubt I would have gone (although I know that sounds like sour grapes). But knowing I was the only one not invited hurt.

      1. Generic Name*

        Yeah, a similar situation happened to me at work, and I also felt hurt by it. I was excluded from (what I thought was) a work friend’s wedding. I wasn’t super surprised I didn’t make the cut, as I wasn’t a member of her work clique, but we shared an office, and we talked a ton while we were both dating, and she credited me with meeting her fiancé. So I thought we were reasonably close friends. So when I realized I didn’t get invited, yeah, it stung. The whole experience has made me very grateful for my actual friends. :)

      2. MassMatt*

        I see your point. It does sound like cliquey behavior, and it’s especially bothersome given it involves your manager.

      3. Office Lobster DJ*

        LW1, it absolutely makes sense to have been bothered by this, and I say that as someone who is no longer phased by wedding guest list weirdness in general. (And also as someone would have absolutely turned down an invitation from an acquaintance I’d only known for a few weeks)

        Whatever circumstances led to this, both Heather and Veronica handled it poorly.

    6. Media Monkey*

      i was initially invited to a co-workers wedding (she was senior to me but not my boss at the time). most of the company were going – i was very new and very junior and of course did not expect to be invited as most of those going had known each other a long time. i was then uninvited due to numbers/ cost, which i completely understood. what did both me was that a place opened up due to someone not being able to make it and the coworker invited a different coworker (who had never been invited).
      but i went out with friends that day/ evening and met my now-husband of 17 years! so i guess it all worked out!

        1. Media Monkey*

          she does know – we worked together for about 2 more years (at which point she became my boss and was a complete nightmare – caused a lovely coworker of mine to have a nervous breakdown by continually yelling at us in the midde of an open plan office). she never mentioned the situation again!

      1. Two Fish*

        Congratulations, Media Monkey!

        On the flip side, I was invited last-minute to a wedding where I knew several members of the bride’s family, but not the bride herself.

        The couple scheduled the wedding for a legal holiday weekend, to accommodate their out-of-town guests. But several local invitees sent their regrets because they had other plans. I could tell they were scrambling to fill empty wedding banquet tables.

    7. darsynia*

      I think you misread. They’re asking for guidance about whether their instincts about this is correct, and it was a while in the past. The guidance matters because they’re specifically asking about their manager at the time’s reaction– and many people do hope at some point in the future to be a manager.

      This isn’t a ‘just let it go’ situation, it’s a ‘your instincts are’ situation. It feels a little unkind to frame this otherwise, in the comments.

    8. MK*

      The decision to invite someone to an event is an indication of how they feel about you, no matter how much people want to pretend otherwise. If you think you have a relationship of A closeness to someone, it’s hurtful to be basically told they consider you a C closeness friend/relative. Also, with people you aren’t that close to, these events are how a connection is maintained. I have cousins that I spent a lot of my childhood with but don’t see much of anymore; if we weren’t invited to eachother’s events, the relationship would die. A lack of invitation to a large event basically says “I don’t care if we lose touch”.

    9. L-squared*

      I totally agree. Like, sure, it may suck to be the only one not invited, if you are one to be offended by that type of thing. But did you really care that much about going to a relative stranger’s wedding, just because other people went?

      1. Michelle Smith*

        Respectfully, this is a bit dismissive and kind of misses the point. It is a very common and normal reaction to be offended by intentional exclusion. Everyone else who was invited was on LW1’s team AND were also relative strangers. Your framing here seems to suggest that you wouldn’t have cared, which is fine, but most people would feel that this was intentional exclusion and would have feelings about that. And the manager contributing to that as well just feels even worse.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Yeah, I’m kind of wowed by the misassumption that either OP really really wanted to go to a random wedding, or else it would be easy not to care about what was thoughtless awkwardness at best, and a snub at worst.

      2. Office Lobster DJ*

        I think we have to be careful to remember this wasn’t about one friend having hurt feelings about not being invited to another friend’s wedding. As you said, these were relative strangers. The important point of concern, as far as I see it, is whether the motivation behind the exclusion has implications in the workplace. For example, is this an indication that LW’s boss is fine with excluding them in other ways, either intentional or thoughtless? As the answer said, the explanation probably has nothing to do with LW as a person (because again, these are relative strangers), but these worries and concerns are unavoidable.

    10. Ellis Bell*

      I actually think it’s the bride inviting people she didn’t know well which is strange here! OP feeling excluded, I totally get. I think the oddness of the bride’s inviting relative strangers is what adds to the weirdness of OP feeling: on the one hand, of course OP wouldn’t expect to get an invite, but on the other, that just makes it extra strange that others did and that there was any difference between them.

    11. Irish Teacher*

      It’s not about wanting to go to the wedding. It’s that inviting three out of four of your colleagues sounds like a pretty clear statement of “I don’t want you at my wedding because I dislike you.” Even if a person doesn’t want to go, being told “I like everybody else here enough to invite them, but not you” is pretty hurtful.

    12. learnedthehardway*

      I think it is not so much the invitation to the wedding, as the purposeful exclusion of a coworker – which more or less says the person doesn’t like you.

    13. Michelle Smith*

      It’s not about being invited, it’s about being excluded.

      I’ve burned a bridge with someone over that before. Out of our team of 6, I was the only one he didn’t invite to his wedding despite me having spent a lot of time out of work socializing with him and his partner.

      I stopped speaking to him after that. (I left to work elsewhere shortly after and did not freeze him out while we were still coworkers, but I did not keep in contact with him the way I did others on that team and disconnected both of them from all social media.)

    14. Chili Heeler*

      I’m not big on weddings, so I wouldn’t be annoyed at missing one. However, if everyone else in team was invited and I wasn’t, I would wonder what was going on.

    15. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      Well, it isn’t about that. I don’t really like weddings that much honestly. But it is weird to invite everyone else on the team and not OP, and even weirder that Veronica was aware and felt the need to shush the other team member over it!

  6. Woah*

    Something similar actually happened to my husband- turns out the new HR person hadn’t finished their hiring paperwork and then there was a hiring freeze. My husband’s paycheck didn’t arrive at the end of the month and when his boss inquired, they said “oh, new guy messed up again. Well. He can’t work until we get an exception thru to the hiring freeze, it will be 4-6 weeks. We can pay him then once he’s officially hired.”

    Let’s just say the Board of Labor and Industry and the company’s legal counsel had a Very Serious check, my husband was properly hired and paid his wages plus interest and a penalty, and new HR guy is no longer new HR guy. Or any type of HR guy. He no longer works in HR.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      In this case I wonder if it was the immediate manager who screwed up (didn’t follow the correct hiring process so that HR was unaware of the new employee and related promises) or HR was correctly told and lost or didn’t properly enter the information.

      Given that the job offer was rescinded, I’m guessing that it was the first. If there really wasn’t a job there for the employee to take, then paying for the relocation costs (both ways), plus work done, plus severance as an apology would be the right thing to do. Then, coming down hard on the manager who ‘hired’ her, and possibly a general review on the hiring process.

      1. kalli*

        There was a job, it was advertised, it was just the head coach doing an end run around the formal HR process and getting caught out. The school would be annoyed because they’d likely be vicariously liable for his promises given his position, but they’d have enough money to try to argue out of it and make going to court over it deeply unattractive, thus the article instead. Likely, local people would recognise the situation and be able to imply the school, but because it wasn’t named, they wouldn’t easily be able to countersue with a defamation claim.

        1. Ama*

          I worked in college admin for 10 years — we were constantly having problems with faculty assuming they could hire without looping in anyone in admin or HR because they had their own grant money or research budget (normally it was student workers and we could fix the issue fairly easily). I’d imagine sports coaches would be pretty susceptible to that as well.

          I’ve worked around academics for 20 years (after I left academia I now work at a nonprofit that works very closely with academics) and at this point literally no “but why the heck would you think you could do that?” or “you didn’t think you should tell someone in admin about this?” situation surprises me. Combine that with the fact that HR departments in academia are notoriously underpaid and understaffed (which means the best employees move to private industry quickly) and it is very easy for things to fall through the cracks, because the cracks are massive.

      2. Mangled Metaphor*

        I can’t help feeling that Finance would want to get involved at some point too
        Either the budget for the job is there, or it isn’t. And, I’m not familiar with the range of relocation costs, but if they run anywhere near the $1000 mark or more, that’s a cost variance that needs explaining. Especially given that the employer is a school, which tends to have rather more stringent error bars than a multinational Fortune 500 company or whatever.

      3. Mockingjay*

        Head coach doesn’t deal with “little” details. He wanted to hire someone and blithely assumed HR would do everything. “HR will make it happen.”

        I’ve seen this several times with senior managers and bosses. It’s like you get mind-wiped when you reach a certain level of seniority – all the details of hiring: I9 verification, enrollment in benefits, tax withholding, etc. just get blanked.

      4. fhqwhgads*

        It’s even weirder. It’s not that the coach tried to hire her for a role that didn’t exist. It did. When HR finally contacted her they told her they’d received her application and were moving forward with other candidates. After she’d started the job. There’s a lot of makes absolutely no sense to it.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          It does not. She had an interview, they discussed payroll dates. How was she supposed to know the person she was talking to had no authority to hire her? She doesn’t know their structure and processes.

          On the other hand, she shows up and no paperwork to complete? Unless its her first job and she had no clue how it was supposed to go.

          This school messed up and they need to not only give her a lot more than $1600, they need to double check their hiring practices.

          1. B*

            Apparently she is 24, so this may be the first professional job she has had. It’s possible she might have missed some red flags more experienced people would have caught. But that doesn’t even begin to explain or excuse this horrible situation.

            If anything, I think her inexperience is what let them get out of it so cheaply. I would not walk away from this situation for $1,600.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              I don’t know that she has a lot of recourse. She didn’t have a contract, let alone an agreement to pay moving expenses. The head coach really screwed this up, and she’s the one to suffer for it.

    2. LifeBeforeCorona*

      We hired an intern who was 3 paychecks behind. HR kept insisting that the pay was being deposited. It was but because of a transposed number it was being deposited into a random account. The intern finally escalated the matter to the director level because HR kept insisting that they were correct. A simple review of the account numbers turned up the mistake. The intern left a scathing Glassdoor review. To this day someone else received 3 random pay deposits. It’s possible they tried to return the monies but academia is a world unto itself as duly noted.

      1. Jay (no, the other one)*

        I relocated for a year for my husband to do a post-doc and then returned to my former employer. I’m a doc, it was a multi-speciality medical group and basically whenever I wanted to come visit I’d work a few per diem shifts in the ER to pay for my trip. So I was formally hired with a contract and relocation expenses paid. This was 1990, so no Email, and I went down to the Payroll department to ask about direct deposit forms. Payroll informed me I didn’t exist and hadn’t been hired. I disagreed, politely. Payroll said well, if my department submitted the paperwork I could paid after two more pay cycles. I pointed out that I had filled out all the appropriate paperwork a month prior and that I was already working and needed to be paid. Payroll got very agitated and pulled out a piece of paper with the list of new hires. “See? Your name is NOT THERE.” I took the paper, turned it over, and showed where it said I was transitioning from per diem to full time. Oh.

        I was paid. On time.

        1. B*

          These kinds of people are always extremely insistent that it is absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to make any exception to their little processes, until you get someone in the room to tell them the law requires people to be paid for the work they perform and does not care about your payroll system. Then suddenly there is a workaround.

          1. thelettermegan*

            “the law requires people to be paid for the work they perform and does not care about your payroll system” => love this sentence!

        2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          I worked for a city government once. They screwed up my paycheck, instead of crediting me comp time, they deducted 8 hours from my paycheck. I was — not happy. I called them. They huffed and puffed and insisted I jump through hoops to get my check for the 8 hours. I pointed out they screwed up, I was not doing that. They called my boss to complain about my attitude. My boss had my back and made it clear I had every right to be upset with them. My check was delivered to our office (not in the same building as payroll, in fact clear across town, one of the hoops they wanted me to jump through was to go to them to get my check) that day.

          1. Typing All The Time*

            Same. I freelanced for a major online search/email platform where I submitted all my paperwork for payment and send invoice. It took five emails to get paid two months after I was supposed to. Accounting realized their departing AP employee never processed my payment and two others. The department acknowledged it but I should have asked for a late fee on top of what I was owed.

      2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Did the boss want to have a talk with her about how unprofessional she was to actually demand her money?

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Long time ago similar this happened to my husband – he supposedly got hired at a place, started work, had a computer and accounts all set up by IT, proper inductions done.

      Then on first payday. Nothing. Investigation ensued and according to finance and payroll they’d never received the authorisation from higher up for that job post to exist and thus be paid for. So they wouldn’t pay until that authorisation was obtained. The paperwork at that place moved glacially slow.

      Husband told me later that it took a phone call from their local MP to get the firm to pull their finger out and actually pay him.

      (I once got left off the payroll at the same firm – it’s how we met – because finance ‘made an error but don’t worry we’ll pay you double next month’. Gods that place was useless. Added fun it was a financial firm)

      1. I Have RBF*

        … because finance ‘made an error but don’t worry we’ll pay you double next month’.


        Your average person can’t go two whole months without a paycheck. They needed to fix the error and get you your pay on time. Rent and bills won’t wait until next month.

        I would have been livid, and calling the wage and hour people to find out what my options were.

    4. Lulu*

      I also have a similar story from many years ago. I was recruited for a position but still had to go through the full interview process (state college, lots of bureaucratic requirements). I was in touch with my then-future-boss through the whole process, and after my interview went well, he told me that I was required to meet with the College president, who liked to meet all new hires (weird and creepy, yes, but that fit the president…). He said that if it went well, I was hired, and to call him after the meeting to tell him how it went. So I met with the president and it went well, called my then-future-boss, and told him it went well. He said “Great! Be here Monday morning.” So, I did. But I didn’t have an account set up, my log in wasn’t working, and so his assistant called HR to find out what was up. Well, what was up was that they hadn’t hired me. The president needed to direct HR to start the hire process after approving me, and he hadn’t done that. I remember standing in the hallway with my then-boss and a few colleagues, and we just made silent eye contact as we realized how we miscommunicated. He pulled funds from a separate pool to cover my first three days, and after that I was officially hired and paid from the regular payroll. That place was a bit of a disaster (the whole college, not my segment), and I think he was new enough not to realize the depth of bureaucracy he had to wade through at every step.

  7. Cabubbles*

    I got the vibe that letter 1’s coworker might have been trying to schmooze her superiors. It felt like she only invited coworkers that were superior to her either in experience or position. LW being brought on in the same position and relatively the same amount of time might not have made the coworker want to waste an invite.

    1. MK*

      This is my interpretation too. Probably some guests canceled at the last minute, and the coworker decided to use the opportunity to make a connection with her new company.

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      This was my take too – that the engaged coworker wanted to curry favor but didn’t see much benefit in doing it with the other brand new employee.

  8. Hayleox*

    It looks like the total amount that the college gave to the person in #2 was $1600, not $100. It was her moving expenses ($1500) plus $100.

    1. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

      I think the issue is she worked 7 days and was promised relocation money. So they gave her the amount of the relocation, but$100 would seem to be what they’re giving in the say of compensating for the work. Unless her pay was ~$1.75 an hour (or ~$3.50 if she was only part time).

      1. MK*

        they claim that they didn’t hire her, so they wouldn’t be paying her anything for relocation; not paying her wages is actually illegal, while not paying relocation is, at worst, a civil complaint. My guess is the entire amount is for wages, possibly plus the plane ticket.

        1. LW 4*

          The article said they agreed to pay her relocation expenses (which were $1500) plus pay for seven days of work, and that she got a check for $1600. So they agreed to pay the relocation and for her work, with the work being worth $100

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            I don’t see where she ever was promised relocation costs. She was paid the $1600 for the work she did, not to include her moving costs.

            1. LW 2*

              From the article:

              “ She was eventually reimbursed by her would-be employer for her expenses”

              So the payment was meant to cover her expenses in addition to her payment.

            2. Cute As Cymraeg*

              She wasn’t ‘promised’ them. She was paid her relocation costs because the uni’s screw-up meant she had incurred those costs unnecessarily.

              I am deeply confused as to why this seems so hard for so many people to understand.

    2. Melissa*

      Yes I agree— it looks like she was paid for the 7 days she worked, which was $1600. If they only paid her $100, it would be a labor violation (since that would be so far under minimum wage) instead of just a sketchy situation.

      1. kalli*

        She estimated that her moving expenses were around $1,500. The article says she was reimbursed for expenses and 7 days wages, and the check was $1,600.

        That $1,600 is roughly the equivalent of a week’s wages in Florida for a regular teacher. It’s possible that $1600 is for wages but it’s structured as reimbursement+token wages to minimise tax liability (on both sides).

        Also, given the payment exists, and absent a specific statement in the emails that moving expenses would be reimbursed or otherwise covered (and noting that the head coach put her up in a hotel and the article is silent on who paid, as “he put me in a hotel” can be read either way, and the article says that the process of relocation was discussed but not costs promised) then that may be the total of all that the emails can support in term of monetary award.

        I would have expected more $$ and a nondisclosure agreement, but then we wouldn’t have the article.

    3. Nailed It!*

      I wondered if she was paid 1500 relocation+ wages and she received 1600 after taxes (relocation benefits are taxed).

    4. Person from the Resume*

      The article I read just said she was paid $1600, not $100 for pay plus $1500 relocation fee.

      The LW breaks it up that way in the letter.

      It’s very clear the head coach was in the wrong. He was probably trying to circumvent or hurry up the hiring process, and HR wasn’t putting up with it. (Also I suspect he made the young employee do all the contact with HR instead of himself to avoid awkward conversations with HR for himself. He never told HR he hired her which didn’t give HR a chance to stop him and say “no, YOU don’t hire anyone without following our process.”) The person hurt most is the young woman, though.

      1. LW 4*

        Nope, the article I linked to says this:

        “ Spina estimated she had spent about $1,500 moving to Virginia.

        She was eventually reimbursed by her would-be employer for her expenses and seven days of work after she wrote a letter to the college’s HR department explaining the misunderstanding. In total, she received $1,600 in a check…”

        So she only received $1600 for both the relocation expenses and her work.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          Without reading the letters/emails from the university, we can’t be sure that the money paid was specifically for her relocation costs + the week of work. That sounds much less likely that the university paying her $1600 for the work; it’s unlikely they would ever agree to cover relocation costs for an assistant coach for a non-marquee sport.

          1. LW 2*

            I mean, the article specifically states it was for both relocation expenses and her seven days of work? Presumably if that wasn’t the case she would have corrected it?

            it’s unlikely they would ever agree to cover relocation costs for an assistant coach for a non-marquee sport.

            Given the situation I think it would be in their best intro make things right. Not saying they would, but they should.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              That’s how it was phrased in the article, but that doesn’t mean that’s actually what happened. I strongly suspect that HR realized that (due to the head coach’s duplicity) they owed her for the time she worked. They called her a contractor, and made sure her rate of pay would put the check over $1500.

              I will bet you a quarter that the university never put in writing that they were reimbursing her for her moving costs.

              1. LW 2*

                I mean, I can only react based on what the article actually says, not the infinite number of other ways it may have actually gone. If the $1600 wasn’t meant to cover her expenses AND her work both she and the university in question had the opportunity to correct the record.

                1. New Jack Karyn*

                  The university was legally obligated to pay her for her work, not for her moving costs. If they said, “We’ll reimburse your moving costs,” then paying her $100 for the work she did was below minimum wage and thus illegal.

    5. No Longer Working*

      Yes – The story was updated Oct 11th and I assume Alison wrote her answer before that. Alison, maybe you should update your answer?

  9. Woah*

    I would have been terribly offended if I was you, OP 1. The shushing other people from talking about it front of you indicates she knows she was behaving badly.

  10. LifeBeforeCorona*

    200 other people on the video call and one person took the time to scrutinize a random person’s earrings and then complain about them? It sounds like someone was not paying attention to the subject matter at hand. It might be petty but I’d ask my manager if the complainer has issues with other attendees instead of working.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I thought the complainer had issues with OP and finally found something “concrete” (in their mind) to ‘get’ OP on.

      1. Siege*

        Honestly, same thought. I was on a 10-person zoom wearing origami crane earrings and after the meeting my work nemesis called (she never called, or answered if I called her because she “didn’t have reception”) to ask if I was wearing chicken earrings. The note of glee in her voice was genuinely deranged.

          1. Juicebox Hero*

            I have rooster earrings! Also skunks, glow-in-the-dark jellyfish, grilled cheese sandwiches, garden gnomes, cats (several pairs), bunches of grapes, carrots, and some I know I’m forgetting. I have short hair and quirky earrings are my jam.

            1. GreyjoyGardens*

              Hi fellow quirky-earring person! I have skeletons, cats, bats, and octopi. Now I really want jellyfish and grilled cheese sandwiches!

              1. Writer Claire*

                Your earrings sound SO cool. I can’t wear earrings, but if I could, I would absolutely wear octopi earrings.

                1. GreyjoyGardens*

                  I live near a world-famous aquarium, and got the earrings as souvenirs. I also have an octopus keychain! Cats and octopuses, or octopi, are two of my favorite critters.

          1. Donkey Hotey*

            I live near Archie McPhees (purveyors of the finet rubber chicken merchandise in the world). Part of me wants to make rubber chicken earrings!

            1. tinyhipsterboy*

              I didn’t even know that was a place, but that sounds absolutely delightful and now I want to take a trip there tbh!

            2. goddessoftransitory*

              It is fantastic and its physical catalogue is without peer! Really worth getting on their mailing list.

          2. Siege*

            Right? I was like “uh…if I WERE wearing chicken earrings, then I would have put them on, so I would WANT to be wearing chicken earrings, so…I don’t know what point you think you have, akshully.” It was so weird, this bizarre gotcha that I was wearing chicken earrings. Maybe we only wear those after Labor Day.

        1. Mackenna*

          What a weirdo.

          On the positive side, if you have a way of making sure you get her name in the office secret santa this year, now you know what to get her.

          I just quickly googled ‘rubber chicken earrings’ to see if you can get earrings like those gag yellow rubber chickens, and you can get some ugly ones on etsy that would be perfect as a gift for an office nemesis.

        2. Chili Heeler*

          I’d be thrilled by chicken earrings. I’m in food science and have been building a collection of food-related earrings.

      2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        I thought it was the same person who would try to get the Harry Potter books banned from the school library and won’t let their kids go trick or treating because it’s demonic.

        1. Risky Biscuits*

          Y’know, this reminds me… I have tarot earrings that I have refrained from wearing to my library job, but then we did a tarot event with no issue, so maybe I will wear them.

    2. Roland*

      No matter how big a zoom meeting is, some people will be shown to you unless you hide everyone but the speaker. The complainer was out of line but a lot of people are really caught up on the 200 person meeting thing here when that doesn’t seem that significant imo.

      1. Allonge*

        It’s significant to me because:
        – it shows that there was plenty of other things to look at if someone is annoyed by whatever a certain person is wearing
        – it also indicates that in any default setting, the image of OP or any other participant is likely to be the smallest the system will allow, so whoever complained needed to actively change that to really see the earring.

        Obviously neither are the main issue, but to me it shows that whoever complained was actively looking to be offended.

        1. Totally Minnie*

          Yeah, in a meeting that large, each participant you see on screen is going to be in a window that’s only two or three inches large. I would be able to tell that someone was wearing earrings, but I probably wouldn’t be able to make out the specific details and determine OP’s earrings were definitely ouiji boards.

          1. amoeba*

            Hm, maybe Zoom is different, but in Teams, I usually just see three or four of the participants (randomly chosen, I guess?) in a smallish window when somebody’s sharing their screen. This could at least “single out” the ones that were shown to me, even though it would probably still be quite small to clearly see people’s earrings…

            1. gimble*

              Yep, Zoom and Teams are different in that way. By default Zoom shows as many people with their camera on as will fit in the screen, so maybe 20 in small boxes, and then participants can choose to see the speaker big or can choose (if they’re a weirdo looking to complain about earrings) to see any given individual big.

      2. jasmine*

        Yeah, this seems as simple as OP showing on the person’s screen and the person seeing OP’s earrings and being offended. They really didn’t have to go out of their way.

    3. Carrot*

      I wondered if the manager personally had an issue with it (if she was also in the meeting that is) rather than someone actually complaining.

      1. Antilles*

        That was my thought too: It’s the *manager* who has a problem with it (which wouldn’t necessarily need to be during this call by the way), but was using the vague “been hearing complaints” as an easy way out.

        If manager had directly said that she was bothered by the earrings, OP would likely have followed up by asking what about them bothers the manager. But by keeping it as a vague mention of someone else, that closes the whole thing since the manager can just shrug and go “dunno, just what I’ve heard”.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          My thought too. The chances of anyone in a two hundred person all hands meeting, scrolling through the pics of everyone to find the LW and then be offended by the earrings takes some work.

          The LW was not presenting so she would have been just another one of the faces on the screen. So it is more likely the manager was checking all her reports were there and noticed.

    4. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      Yeah. I feel weird about ouija boards, but even if the random attendee who happens to show up on my sidebar in addition to the speaker was wearing ouija board earrings (she said they’re small, so I’m imagining max 1″), I don’t think I’d even notice. And if I did notice, I wouldn’t say anything, because my weird feelings are my problem, and what my coworkers wear in their ears is none of my business, unless it’s hate speech or obscene or otherwise something that would be banned under a typical dress code.

      1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        Same! I am slightly superstitious in that as much as I love Halloween things, I do not play with ouija boards ever. But I would not be bothered by someone else enjoying them as kitschy jewelry or decor or whatever, and *even if I was bothered*, I would not complain to anyone about it, much less their boss!

        It has me wondering if someone was just looking for something related to LW to complain about. Because how obvious would earrings like that even be??

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Me too; I have a firm stance against messing around with stuff like that. But I truly would not care about any earrings that didn’t actually spell out “GoT IS GOING TO DIE” or similar on the call.

    5. House On The Rock*

      If I was told that someone complained about an accessory spotted on a large Zoom call, my first reaction would be to ask why they were scrutinizing thumbnail pictures of participants and not focusing on the presentation. Especially for something that reads as much more “Halloween Fun” than offensive or controversial*. Similarly, if one of my staff complained about something like that, I would have some pointed questions about their focus during the meeting.
      *I realize that the overall occult iconography could be triggering for someone and don’t mean to discount that angle, but the intent was clearly not to offend!

        1. House On The Rock*

          Sorry, I didn’t mean to downplay that, although Alison did address the idea that what is being read as “occult” or “satanic” may, indeed, fall under someone’s religion and that’s yet another reason both the complainer and manager were out of line. Much mainstream religious iconography can also be triggering, of course!

    6. WillowSunstar*

      Also, the fact that the manager didn’t just let it go — maybe it was another manager or higher up who complained? Still, there are places in the US where it’s kind of unsafe to openly be of another religion other than Christian, and people do get discriminated against even though technically it’s illegal.

      1. Chinookwind*

        The one thought I had about AAM’s advice was *except in Quebec*. The law there prohibits Quebec citizens who work in public service from wearing religious symbols while fulfilling their civic duties, so Ouija board earrings could be included.

        Thankfully, most other places aren’t like this and, while I do have issues with Ouija boards, I also know enough that using them as earrings would be more “kitschy” and less troublesome from my perspective. The Ouija mousepad, though, is a completely differently thing.

    7. lilsheba*

      Wearing Ouija earrings is NOT offensive, and you should wear them whenever you want to! So many people consider them “satanic” or “demonic” which is ridiculous because Ouija boards are nothing but a divination tool. But that being said I love ouija anything, and in my workspace I have an Ouija mouse pad and Ouija coffee cup and I wear a ouija planchet necklace every day. If other people don’t like it too bad.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        Okay, but you do realize that “a divination tool” is absolutely seen as offensive and scary and dangerous by a significant portion of the population? Right? I’m not saying that’s fair or that they’re right (I don’t personally believe in spiritual things at all), but I had a religious upbringing and this viewpoint is very, very common where I was raised (Bible Belt). Ouija was specifically warned against and calling it a divination tool doesn’t ease that upset even slightly.

        1. Eliot Waugh*

          I know that’s true from my upbringing, but it remains their responsibility to manage their feelings about other people’s jewelry.

          1. Michelle Smith*

            Absolutely, I’m only addressing the comment above me that suggests it just being a divination tool should somehow make people less afraid of it. That’s literally the part of it that they have a problem with.

        2. I Have RBF*

          So? I regularly use tarot cards in my religious practice. It’s a divination tool, and part of my religion.

          I really don’t GAF if certain people believe that it’s “offensive and scary and dangerous”. That’s their f’ing problem. They need to learn that the world does not revolve around their branch of Christianity.

          1. Michelle Smith*

            AGAIN, I never said it wasn’t their problem. Stop trying to reach for things I didn’t say.

        3. SusieQQ*

          Thank you for saying this. I agree LW should wear what she wants but there is A LOT of judgment in here over someone’s discomfort about ouija boards and…. that’s a little bit weird and gross to me. (Not that it matters, but I say this as someone with no skin in the game, as I’m an atheist who sees ouija boards as nothing else than a board game.)

        4. Ellis Bell*

          I appreciate your caveat that you don’t agree, and you’re just sharing. So, here’s the thing; people who practice divination, or who cast spells, are well aware of what some Christians think about that, and that some Christians have a habit of making it about themselves, and framing it as being done ‘at’ them, or as being ‘anti’ their religion. A lot of old religions and practices are literally demonized, (if it wasn’t appropriated, it was called evil) so it’s pretty hard for us to miss that kind of spin. It tends to be the type of Christianity that leans hard into proselytizing, and other types of being unable to mind your own business and focusing on one’s own practices and beliefs. Thanks for the warning though!

    8. Awlbiste*

      I found this particular question very interesting today, as I’m sitting here at work with a ouija board sweatshirt.

    9. Sloanicota*

      I was concerned it might be the boss themselves making the complaint. Or someone else who works directly with OP who either knew about the earrings already or had some reason to have OP pinned on the zoom with OP.

    10. Felicia*

      I need to point out that LW did not say that the person who was uncomfortable actually made a complaint, only that “word got back to them”, which sounds like it came very indirectly. It also doesn’t say anything about the manager asking LW to stop wearing them. Seems more like an FYI.

      1. metadata minion*

        In that case it’s even weirder that the manager brought it up. If you’re giving me information, I assume that’s because you want me to do something with it.

    11. I Have RBF*


      Not only that, but they took religious offense to someone else’s apparel. That’s a “So what?” in my book.

      I sometimes get annoyed (“offended”) by various types of overblown, gaudy crosses, and certain ugly clothing styles. As long as I don’t have to wear it myself, I don’t have any right to complain to management about their apparel choices, especially in a Zoom meeting where everyone is tiny thumbnail on the screen.

      Yes, people have a right to wear stuff that other people consider ugly, or even “demonic”. As long as it fits the dress code and is legal, no one has a right to complain.

      If I was the person that was complained about, I’d stop wearing the little ouija boards, and switch to three inch diameter pentacles, and then cry religious persecution if they tried to tell me I couldn’t wear them. I’m pagan, pentacles are equivalent symbols to crosses.

      I’m not even fond of ouija boards, but the idea that some prissy complainer could get my boss to tell me not to wear them just makes my blood boil.

      1. Chinookwind*

        I 100% agree. I, as a Catholic, have had to learn to get over people wearing rosaries as necklaces (the bead pattern and crucifix and medallion on it are dead giveaways) even though they are religious objects and I personally find it disrespectful of both my culture and religion (and I don’t care if Madonna started it – she knew what she was doing and had her reasons why. That context has been lost over the decades and instead too many people see “shiny beads in a repetitive pattern” as something that should be worn).

        But, in a multicultural context, as long as it isn’t being worn AT me/Catholics in general (which is what Madonna was doing), I need to remember that it has nothing to do with me. Same goes for the ouija board earrings. If they are not being worn AT you, it is not worth the air to argue about them.

  11. Delphine*

    LW#1, that feels wildly mean. Personally, I don’t think you take steps to hide an event from a person unless you’ve intentionally excluded them. And your manager helped maintain your exclusion? I’m appalled. I’m sorry LW.

    1. Despachito*

      I beg to differ.

      It is generally considered poor taste to talk about events you are hosting or invited to in front of people who are not invited, so in this sense what Veronica did was understandable.

      Otherwise I agree, it is weird to invite all coworkers but one, but I don’t think OP has a lot of options here, just be gracious about it, inwardly roll her eyes and watch out for signs of potential cliquéism.

      1. Tinkerbell*

        That assumes everyone knows someone wasn’t invited, though – it’s entirely possible the other co-worker assumed everyone in the room was invited and didn’t realize the OP had been left out (because really, who does that?) so didn’t realize her faux pas.

        This sounds like a weird situation all around! My wife and I ended up with a similar thing to Heather (wife started a new job a month before the wedding) and we also ended up with a few new co-workers who attended, but a) it was just two or three people who onboarded at the same time as my wife, not X-1 of her new team, and b) it only happened because the topic of the wedding came up and someone literally asked “can I come?” and my wife, not knowing what else to say, told the guy “sure I guess.” By the time the wedding came around, my wife and the two coworkers were on different teams and barely saw each other again.

        1. Mangled Metaphor*

          The coworker making a faux pas by not realising/knowing OP wasn’t invited is forgivable and entirely understandable. It’s the boss who shushed her who is at fault, because the shushing indicates she *did* know OP wasn’t invited.

          Also, the guy at your wife’s place just asked to come to your wedding? That’s a weird breach of etiquette too! I hope it was just to the evening reception, because otherwise that’s a huge overstep.

          1. Tinkerbell*

            It was absolutely a huge overstep, and my wife mostly just said yes because she felt awkward turning him down. Luckily we had fewer people RSVP yes than we’d expected, so it wasn’t a big deal to add a few, but it was definitely odd!

          2. TechWorker*

            How does that make the boss who shushed her at fault? If anyone’s at fault it’s the person whose wedding it is, who could have said along with the invite ‘just so you know I didn’t have space for everyone in the office!’

            Veronica is already in a difficult situation – she knows LW isn’t invited. I don’t think it’s *more* polite to happily join in with extended wedding chat (what’s everyone wearing, how are we getting there, are you excited) in the knowledge that one person in the room is being excluded.

            1. KateM*

              Veronica may be in a difficult situation, but she is a manager – among other things, it’s her JOB to manage difficult situations in the team and make sure nobody feels excluded. I’d think that this would include coaching a brand new employee (Hester) on work etiquette.

            2. Earlk*

              The boss should’ve handled it more sensitively and if she knew only one person wasn’t invited she should’ve one turned down the invite and mentioned to the person getting married that even if it wasn’t intentional she can’t do that.

            3. darsynia*

              There are many ways to shift a conversation away from a delicate situation and audibly shushing is probably one of the worst options. It reflects poorly on the shushing person, especially if they’re in management.

            4. Allonge*

              So, accepting that invites were extended to everyone but OP and boss is going, she is making it worse on top of that as she is enforcing the secrecy on Heather’s behalf. It’s not the worst action in all this mess but it’s not a good call.

              Plus, shushing adults can be frowned upon.

          3. doreen*

            Ok, I’ve got to ask because this is clearly a cultural difference. Why would you hope it was just to the evening reception ? Where I live, a wedding consists of a ceremony and a reception (which usually includes a meal) . If the ceremony is at a church, it’s usually open to anyone and does not require an invitation but it would be a huge overstep to ask for an invitation to the reception ( whether it is in the afternoon or evening).

            1. Michelle Smith*

              Generally in the US, an invitation is very much required for any aspect of the wedding. You would not just show up to the church for the ceremony without being invited.

              There are situations in which you might be invited to the reception only, and not the ceremony. The ceremony might be more intimate, for close family members only, while the reception includes more people. I’ve seen that more frequently with courthouse weddings than church ones, but everyone’s situation is different. Some even choose to do the “reception” on its own day, getting married just by signing the certificate and not having a big ceremony with an officiant at all.

              1. It’s Suzy Now*

                Sorry, but I don’t think that’s true for the entire US. There are many traditions in which the ceremony is open to the entire congregation, and the reception is a private affair. It’s something Miss Manners even talks about in her books.

                I get that this hasn’t been direct experience, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real or even common in areas that center around church life.

                The idea that the ceremony is more intimate than the reception strikes me as very modern and possibly urban. Getting invited to the reception but not the wedding would be hurtful to some, and could be interpreted as a play for attention and/or gifts rather than genuine closeness.

            2. EC*

              In theory anyone could come to a wedding in a church, or in some other type of public space. However, it would be extremely weird and rude to show up to a wedding you weren’t specifically invited to.

            3. Mangled Metaphor*

              Ok, I admit I was putting a more British spin on my outrage. In the UK, being invited to the ceremony (assuming it’s being held in a church, or otherwise public place, where yes, theoretically anyone can sit at the back and join in the hymns etc) really means being invited to the Wedding Breakfast – so named because it’s the first meal the new couple shares as a married couple (and can be served anytime up to about 4pm).
              This is where all the stereotypes surrounding seating plans and not putting Cousin Karen on the same table as Auntie Sharon because of the dreadful things she said about Nanny Pat fifteen years ago….. And, again, to give context to my outrage, it’s £100 per head for the meal!
              Later on is the Evening reception where the DJ lets loose playing Agadoo and Come On Eileen and invoking a weird nostalgia in people who weren’t even born until 1991. But this part of the celebration is catered by a buffet and it doesn’t matter that Flaky Coworker Paul turns up with a Plus 2 because it’s a buffet which always has enough food for 50 more people than are invited and everyone always goes back for a fourth or fifth mini sausage roll because those things are awesome!

              Which is a long winded way of saying, pushing for an invite to the most expensive part of the party is a bit rude. And, for OP, not even being invited to the cheapest part of the day (when everyone else is) is actually even ruder.

        1. Allonge*

          Obviously you cannot, and ideally the inviter would let you know if there are any issues. But in a workplace case like this? I would ask, to avoid exactly this situation.

      2. amoeba*

        Eh. It’s obviously bad to talk at length about the event, go into planning mode, rubbing it in that you’re invited and the other person isn’t. But honestly, purposefully keeping a secret that you’re going makes it *so much worse* to not be invited. To me, it feels at best like pity because I’m the outsider whom nobody likes (exaggerating here – but only a little!) or a “conspiracy” against me.

        Just talk normally like you would to any other person who has no stakes in the situation. Especially in times of social media, 9 times ot of 10 people will find out anyway that the event happened and that they were the only ones left out – and then the secrecy just makes it so much worse.

        I used to work in a group where there were quite a lot of cliques and “only special people invited” events and it honestly scarred me – especially as that was postdoc, so really a place where your coworkers are also your friends/social connections. I hate it, even when I’m on the “inside group”.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      How did the manager help to maintain exclusion?
      They’re not in a position to alter the guest list.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        By accepting the invitation knowing one person out of the entire team was excluded. As manager her job is to make sure no one feels excluded. By not going, LW is not the only person left out.

        By shushing the talk thereby making it clear that just one person wasn’t invited. A manager’s job is to manage everyone, not protect one person who is treating one team member different from everyone else.

          1. Ellis Bell*

            Because she shushed people from talking about it in front of OP, the person who was excluded; this proves her knowing she had been excluded.

    3. L-squared*

      I don’t think that is the case. I get along great with all of my coworkers, but only one is really “hang out with outside of work” close. If I’m having a party and I invite him, I’m likely not going to publicly talk about it in front of everyone, because its rude. I’m essentially hiding it from them, but its not to be mean.

  12. nnn*

    So I had to google what ouija board earrings look like after #3, and, even though I’ve seen a ouija board before, I wouldn’t have been able to recognize what they are without the broader context of a whole ouija board. To me, they look like hearts or triangles or something.

    Which makes it surprising to me that someone whose religion prohibits ouija boards would be able to recognize them!

    1. Delphine*

      Their webcams must be fantastic, I couldn’t begin to tell you what earrings my coworkers wear on video and I only work with a few people.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I am picturing someone with one of those wall-sized video screens, which they use for Zoom calls like some old-school supervillain.

    2. Bilateralrope*

      That depends on what exactly the letter writer meant. A quick google turns up earrings that are:
      – Just the cursor for it
      – The cursor, with the word “ouija” in large text on them
      – A mini ouija board

      1. Satan’s Panties*

        By cursor, do you mean planchette, the little platform to push around the board? Sounds like that’s what nnn saw.

    3. Tiger Snake*

      Good point. Some of google’s results are instantly recognisable. Others are less so. I wonder if that means LW#3 was explaining to people what they were (whether prompted or otherwise)?

      I admit, I’d be bothered by the idea of someone wearing ouija earrings. It just seems like the sort of thing I don’t think should be used as jewelry. But that’s a me thing, and it’s something for me to just deal with. Being bothered isn’t going to kill me. We put up with being bothered every day.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        Why? Planchette writing has been around since 1100ish, but the Ouija board itself was created as a parlor game in 1890. It’s like wearing a mini-Monopoly board as earrings.

        1. lilsheba*

          I don’t tend to think of it as a game, it’s a divination tool and yes it’s been in use in one form or another for well over a hundred years.

    4. EvilQueenRegina*

      Yeah, I was looking at that one and thinking “How did this person even notice what the earrings looked like?”

      1. Phony Genius*

        I would probably not even notice them unless they were comically large full-sized Ouija boards hanging from her ears.

    5. connie*

      Plenty of people who don’t use ouija boards know what they look like! That’s how they know to avoid them!

    6. Free Serpents*

      “ Which makes it surprising to me that someone whose religion prohibits ouija boards would be able to recognize them!”

      My religion prohibits devil worship, but I know what devil imagery looks like. Ouija boards are in bookstores and toy stores. They aren’t exactly obscure.

    7. Dust Bunny*

      Unless they’re enormous and very colorful I definitely cannot make out my coworkers’ earrings on Zoom calls. This person either has way too much time on their hands or, as someone suspected above, it’s actually the manager who has an issue.

    8. Ouija-Wearer*

      Hi, I’m LW3. The earrings are not large – no more than 2″ long including the hooks. However, they are mismatched (one is the rectangular board, the other is the planchette) which probably makes them more eye-catching, plus I had my hair up. And we use Teams, which depending on how your settings are configured, could possibly have me visible in something other than a tiny thumbnail. It still felt weird to me though that someone was looking at my face so intently.

    9. Nina*

      My religion is extremely anti-ouija-boards but like, I know what a planchette looks like because I watch TV sometimes. Would I care if someone was wearing them as earrings, no. Would I care if someone had a ouija-board mousemat, no. Generally if I don’t have to wear it, have it in my space (desk/cubicle/house) or touch it, I don’t care.

  13. Cmdrshprd*

    “While you only wore them as kitsch, she had no way of knowing that; if ouija boards were part of your faith, this would have been similar to asking an employee to stop wearing a cross — i.e., a violation of the federal law that protects your religious beliefs in the workplace”

    I get what you are saying, but I don’t think the manager was wrong to say something because the earrings MAY have been part of someone’s religion. To be clear I do think the manager was wrong to bring it up in general because it shouldn’t have been an issue.

    But I don’t think you can expect managers to have an encyclopedia memory of all items that are or may be a religious item. I think obvious religious items/symbols like a cross, star of David, pentagrams ARE different from other items that might be generally in the culture/zeitgeist but MAY also happen to be a part of someone’s religion.

    The manager in question should accept a this is part of my religious practice because they also should not try to determine what are or are not legitimate religions.

    But I don’t think just because something may be religious based is a reason to not say anything. Even if something is religious based depending on what it is it could worth a mention.

    1. Jessica*

      I agree that virtually anything could be part of some religious practice that you don’t know about. But the more interesting question here is whether, if something I’m doing/wearing is NOT religious for me, do I have any obligation to stop (or does my manager have the right to ask me to stop) because it offends someone else based on their religious beliefs? Where will that end?

      1. Cmdrshprd*

        what the manager has a right to do, what the manager should do
        , and what the manager is legally not allowed to do are all a bit different.

        In this instance I don’t think manager should have said anything. just because something fairly mundane offends someone because of their religion is not a reason to let them get their way.

        I don’t think it would be different if it was something extreme like a t-shirt with the slogan “x religion is stupid/wrong,” “all non-x religion believers will burn in hell” “x religion is wrong,” or “religion is the root of all evil.”

        overall I think it is a sliding scale of where to draw the line and reasonable people can disagree and place the line in slightly different places.

        1. I Have RBF*

          I can see banning the t-shirts because they are propagating a viewpoint with words, whereas things like pentacles, crosses, star of david, tarot cards, even ouija boards, etc are just symbols, not slogans.

        2. Cmdrshprd*

          “I don’t think it would be different”

          That line is actually supposed to say the opposite of what I wrote.

          It should be “I do think it would be different”

      2. Tinkerbell*

        IMHO, it would depend on whether the person is offended because the item is AGAINST their religion, or whether it’s PART of their religion and you’re doing it wrong. Like, if you want to wear a rainbow flag necklace because you think it looks pretty, your fundamentalist Christian co-workers don’t get to tell you that’s not okay even if their beliefs say rainbows are wrong. If you decide to wear a yarmulke to be ironically edgy, though, I think it’s more reasonable for your Jewish co-workers to go “this is disrespectful and making us uncomfortable.”

        1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          That’s a good point. I would draw a line much sooner on things that feel appropriative than on things that a particular religion disagrees with. I think it feels like an insult if it’s appropriation (whether intended that way or not) whereas I don’t feel like “my religion doesn’t believe in X” necessarily gives you the ability to police what other people are wearing.

        2. Jay (no, the other one)*

          I’m not sure I would know that someone was wearing a yarmulke to be ironically edgy as opposed to wearing it for the usual reasons. I’m Jewish, FWIW.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            Yeah, that scenario would have to be something like Jewish coworker sees person wearing yarmulke, says something that implies “hello, fellow Jew” and the wearer responds that they’re not Jewish, they’re wearing it for fashion…or whatever. As in, the wearer has to in some way announce why they’re wearing it for the offense to be apparent to anyone.

            1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

              Maybe someone wearing multiple “competing” religious symbols like a yarmulke, a cross necklace, a pentagram ring, shirt embroidered with swastikas, and pants printed with triskelia. Or displaying a Buddha statue wearing a pentagram necklace.

          2. Michelle Smith*

            Depends on how well you know them I suppose. I knew a lot of my team members’ religions at my last job because we were open 7/365. That meant that people had to explicitly take off for their religious holidays that fell during the week, so it was very easy to know who was Jewish even if they weren’t wearing identifying jewelry. A large number of folks celebrated Christmas, got ashes on Ash Wednesday, and went to Red Mass, making it easy to know they were Catholic and/or Christian again even if they weren’t wearing identifying jewelry. Of course this is not a 100% foolproof system – I went along with the Catholics to mass and just didn’t take Communion, for example, not because I am religious but because I wanted not to be alienated by my very religious team (plus I practiced in front of a Catholic judge who I wanted to respect me more). But it was a pretty reasonable way of knowing. If someone I’d gone to mass with and saw with ashes on their head in the spring all of a sudden put on a yarmulke in October with no other context, I’d definitely be suspicious they were wearing someone else’s religion as a costume.

            1. Jewish-raised Pagan*

              “Of course this is not a 100% foolproof system – I went along with the Catholics to mass and just didn’t take Communion, for example, not because I am religious but because I wanted not to be alienated by my very religious team (plus I practiced in front of a Catholic judge who I wanted to respect me more).”

              Holy shit. You just toss that off as if it wasn’t one of the worst workplace discrimination incidents I can imagine happening to me. Did you think this was ok? It wasn’t. I’m so sorry this happened to you.

        3. Two Fish*


          An online commenter described growing up in a religiously conservative country where her grandfather was their village chieftain. On separate occasions he told a male villager and a female villager not to wear offensive symbols. The man was wearing a swastika; it wasn’t said what the woman wore.

          The commenter asked Grandfather why he involved himself in a seemingly personal decision. Grandfather answered that the symbols at issue represent extreme belief systems, which included killing followers who attempted to give them up. Therefore if Taron wears a swastika because he likes the look, it’s on him to demonstrate that he doesn’t also follow Nazi principles. It’s not on other people to assume that Taron doesn’t follow those principles, unless his actions show that he does.

      3. Snow Globe*

        Yes – Since we are in the month of October, consider that many people consider representations of Halloween to be offensive to their religion. Would a manager ask an employee to stop wearing earrings shaped like a jack-o-lantern or witch’s hat?

        1. LifeBeforeCorona*

          There was a past letter from someone who worked in a office filled with bloody severed body parts, fog machines and a constant sound track of loud screams. To me that’s objectional because it’s too distracting and graphic for a workplace there are people actively working through personal trauma. Raised voices can be triggering so I can’t imagine having to listen to screams all day. 12 foot skeletons may be fun, but seeing realistic dead bodies scattered around the yard is too much for me.

          1. Kivutar*

            Crucially, though, that person worked at a company that produced haunted house and horror movie props. It was pretty clearly a case of “this job isn’t for you.”

            Also, if I recall correctly, that writer was shockingly ableist.

    2. Mangled Metaphor*

      If the manager received a complaint based on the complainer’s religion, they should do their due diligence to check that the object of the complaint isn’t part of a different religion before just taking the complainant’s side.
      A quick check that it’s just kitch means they can say something to the person about not wearing them in the complainer’s presence. A search that reveals its part of a religion, and they have to tread much more carefully.
      Being a manager is hard, and some people really don’t like putting more than the bare minimum in

      1. Dinwar*

        “A quick check that it’s just kitch means they can say something to the person about not wearing them in the complainer’s presence.”

        I strongly disagree with this. In a free society you are inevitably going to encounter things that are offensive to you; that’s not a bug, it’s a feature, it means that we’re each allowed to make up our own minds on things. There are certain boundaries that society has agreed upon–nudity, profanity, and the like are not allowed in the workplace–but beyond that YOUR religion is only allowed to constrain what YOU do. (Oddly enough Christianity gets a pass here. Images of brutal murder are generally not allowed, but crucifixes get a pass.)

        Again, would you be okay with the argument “You shouldn’t eat pork at company functions because some members are Muslims and it’s against their religion”? Would you be okay with banning meat on Fridays because it’s against the religion of some people? Of course not. The rule is to provide accommodations for those religious practices–provide non-pork and vegetarian or fish options at work functions, stuff like that–but after that the folks involved can be expected to be mature enough to handle the existence of people who don’t practice their religion.

        1. Satan's Panties*

          Good grief, you’ve reminded me of back in…Google tells me it was 2004. The Red Sox opening day happened to be Good Friday. Oops! If you’re Catholic, forget having a hot dog. But somehow, this started going around the internet as “OMG, Fenway won’t sell hot dogs on Good Friday, even though it’s Opening Day! Jeez, not everyone in Boston is Catholic! The nerve!” Except, Fenway *was* selling hot dogs, and other meat products. It was the *diocese* who wouldn’t give a dispensation! The hot dogs were there; it was up to the individual to order them or not.

          (This Baptist apologies if “diocese” is not the right term.)

          1. Martin Blackwood*

            Eh, probably the right word, bit it struck me as a weird statement and eventually I figured out why. Catholicism is literally the religion of asking forgiveness, not permission :P
            If you’re devot enough to only be eating fish on Good Friday, you’re devot enough to go to confession regularly!

            1. Chinookwind*

              Eh, but if you go ahead and break a known rule (like eating meat, or breaking your fast, on Good Friday) with the intention of just confessing later, then your adding on to your sins because “gaming the system” is a bigger sin than just forgetting that you were meatless/fasting and buying the hotdog out of habit. It is literally what confession is NOT for (though it seems too many people think that is what we do)

              Though, according to a priest or two that I know, you then have to eat that hotdog because wasting food is a sin, but it is almost guaranteed that it won’t taste as good as it has now been heavily seasoned with guilt. (Having bought a chocolate bar when I gave it up for Lent and then “required” to eat, I can attest that the “guilt seasoning” is definitely not enjoyable.)

        2. I Have RBF*

          Oddly enough Christianity gets a pass here. Images of brutal murder are generally not allowed, but crucifixes get a pass.


          I was raised baptist. I’m not now. Crosses, when I really thought about the base symbol, as opposed to the religious meaning, bother me a bit. Crucifixes bother me more. But I have no standing to ask someone not to wear a symbol of an ancient Roman method of execution by torture, because it has a different meaning in their religion.

      2. Cmdrshprd*

        “A quick check that it’s just kitch means they can say something to the person about not wearing them in the complainer’s presence. A search that reveals its part of a religion, and they have to tread much more carefully.”

        But I think the example in this letter is a good one, something can be part of a religious practice for one person but to someone else it can be just a kitch item. I definitely don’t think a manager should just take a complainants side just because they cite their religion as making it or being offended because of it.

        I think the manager was wrong to bring it up in this situation period. But I don’t think is this item they are wearing part of someone’s religion should be part of the calculation if it gets brought up. To me the question should be Joe Smith complained about John Doe’s tarrot earrings, the question then goes are the tarrot earrings offensive in general or not, without a regard for if John Doe wears them as a kitch item or as part of their religion.

      3. Fluffy Fish*

        An employer should 1000% not be telling an employee to stop wearing something around another employee because they don’t like it or it personally offends them. That is wildly out of bounds for a manager.

      4. Anon for this comment*

        A quick check that it’s just kitch means they can say something to the person about not wearing them in the complainer’s presence. A search that reveals its part of a religion, and they have to tread much more carefully.

        This also assumes that everyone is comfortable discussing their religious beliefs with their coworkers/managers. I wear a pentacle necklace most days. I also do consulting work, and currently am consulting for an organization in a very religious region of the US. My necklace is usually tucked into the neckline of my shirt during Zoom calls, and I’ll actually usually remove it when I have to visit my customer on site. While I know theoretically they can’t discriminate against me for wearing it, my position as a consultant makes that a fuzzier line, and my livelihood is worth removing my necklace when I feel necessary. If my customer ever saw it poke out from my neckline on a Zoom and asked me about it (especially in October), I’m honestly not sure how open I would be with them about my beliefs or if I’d play it off as kitch.

    3. Dinwar*

      “But I don’t think you can expect managers to have an encyclopedia memory of all items that are or may be a religious item.”

      I can see where you’re coming from. Especially since secrecy is rather important for some groups that would likely use this particular item. I certainly wouldn’t expect anyone to recognize, say, the herbal tea I drink as part of my religion!

      That said, there are a few issues working against this argument.

      First, ouija boards are commonly enough associated with the occult that I would find it very, very strange that the manager wouldn’t understand that. It’s one of the more recognizable tools of such religious practices, right up there with tarot cards; it would be like someone failing to recognize the cross of ashes on Ash Wednesday as a religious thing.

      Second, the objections absolutely were based on religious grounds–the person objecting said that someone else’s jewelry offended their faith. Imagine if someone said that me eating pork on a conference call was offensive–not because I’m eating during the call, but rather because eating pork was against their religion. (Obviously a situation where only pork was served at a work function that included Muslims would be a different issue.) We are under no obligation whatever to abide by the tenants of a religion that we do not practice. It doesn’t matter that it’s not part of the LW’s religious practices; the LW has ZERO obligation to comply with the requirements of anyone else’s religion.

      Or, to use a different example, what if the offensive thing had been a picture of a man and his husband? Would you still be okay with the argument “This offends me based on my religion so must be removed”?

      Third, this sort of behavior has a LONG history of being used to suppress minority religions and religious sects. It’s perfectly reasonable to expect managers to understand that and to be sensitive to it. This is a low-stakes opportunity for the manager to show that they’re an ally for a variety of minority groups.

      1. Robin*

        You think it’s very, very strange that a manager wouldn’t instantly recognize a ouija board as a tool of a legitimate religious practice? The vast majority of ouija boards – and tarot decks, for that matter – are used as party games / casual hobby usage. I guarantee you the average person would not understand that the ouija board could be a genuine religious symbol or that someone using a ouija board might be signaling they’re part of a religious minority. Literally nothing like ashes on Ash Wednesday. You live in a verrrry interesting bubble if you think otherwise.

        1. Dinwar*

          Given that these practices have been the subject of persecution and multiple multi-million-dollar movies and the like, I think it’s reasonable to say that these have entered into cultural awareness. I’ll grant that someone could be unaware of them, the same way that someone may fail to recognize Master Chief or Ghostface, but I’d argue that the proper assumption should be that they know what it is until they demonstrate otherwise.

          The “It’s just a kid’s game” thing is a way to dismiss these religions, so I don’t find it terribly convincing.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            Maybe it’s entered cultural awareness where you live, but I wonder if that’s generally true across in the US. I would bet my paycheck that nobody in my family or at my workplace would have any idea that a Ouija board would be used as part of a sincere religious belief. I agree with you, though, that the OP’s manager should not have told her not to wear them.

            1. londonedit*

              As far as I’m aware it hasn’t entered into cultural awareness where I live, either. I view ouija boards as something pretty tame and harmless – at the most just a silly game and also kind of childish. Everyone gets a bit obsessed with them at some point when they’re 13 and having sleepovers with their teenage friends – you watch a horror film that’s too adult for you to watch, you scare yourselves silly with a ouija board, that sort of thing. Same category as ghost stories. Definitely wouldn’t have a clue whether or not anyone would use them for actual religious purposes.

              1. Bear in the Sky*

                I’m Pagan, and I’ve never seen ouija boards used for religious purposes. In my practice, they aren’t a thing at all. There’s no rule against them, but they don’t have any particular religious significance and they’re never used in ritual. Tarot cards sometimes figure in rituals, and most of us know at least some astrology, but ouija boards are the same thing for us as they are for most people: a silly game, probably something you’ve enc0untered in adolescence, probably not something you’ve used beyond sleepovers.

            2. RussianInTexas*

              Basically same.
              I 100% associate Taro cards with Ren Fair and Ouija board with teenagers and horror movies. And The Stand (the book).

          2. Grim*

            I don’t think anyone’s trying to say ouija boards and tarot decks aren’t part of the general cultural awareness, I think they’re trying to say that most casual observers wouldn’t necessarily think of them as items of sincerely held religious/spiritual significance. The mention kids games and toys isn’t meant as an insult or to imply that ouija boards can *only* be these things, it’s just explaining the way that a lot of people (potentially including this manager) would likely perceive them. Like, clearly this manager is aware of what an ouija board is, and I agree most people would be. But I think most people would recognise it in the context of horror movies and hasbro branded party games as opposed to tools of religious practice.

          3. A friendly reminder*

            “I think it’s reasonable to say that these have entered into cultural awareness. I’ll grant that someone could be unaware of them, the same way that someone may fail to recognize Master Chief or Ghostface, but I’d argue that the proper assumption should be that they know what it is until they demonstrate otherwise. ”

            This is way off. I know many many people who do not know what they are, or if they do, think it’s a toy. My wife has been in the US 30 years and doesn’t know what they are at all. I only know them from my grandmother playing around with it with us when we were kids.

            I don’t know any thing about lawsuits or movies and I’m fairly well read. I thought it was toy or a joke based on fantasy or something. Like a magic 8 ball but spookier.

            What movie?

          4. Joron Twiner*

            Planchette writing and divination practices are one thing. But Ouija itself was definitely created and marketed as a game. The term is copyright to Hasbro! Most people don’t associate it with sincere religious practice any more than cootie catchers.

        2. lilsheba*

          Ouija boards and tarot cards are tools of witchcraft, a great deal of which are not based in religion at all, they would only be religious if they were Wiccan. But a lot of witches are Wiccan.

          1. Pescadero*

            Ouija boards are based in Planchette writing – the first known historical instances of which were by Daoists in China. Daoism is a religion.

            …and tarot cards started as just regular old playing cards, then in the lat 18th century French occultists made up a divination history for them.

          2. Jewish-raised Pagan*

            I know you don’t *mean* that Wicca is the only valid religious form of witchcraft. So please think about rephrasing that in the future: “many but not all forms of witchcraft are religious practices,” perhaps.

      2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Eh, I don’t think I agree with your first point. Well, I would if someone was wearing oujia board earrings in March. But someone wearing oujia board earrings in October is very likely wearing them for Halloween for purely secular reasons.

        1. Jewish-raised Pagan*

          Lots of us have a rather prominent holiday that *just so happens* to coincide with the end of the month plus or minus a few days. I would absolutely be more likely to wear planchette board earrings in October, and it would be *very* religious.

      3. Cmdrshprd*

        “Second, the objections absolutely were based on religious grounds–the person objecting said that someone else’s jewelry offended their faith…… what if the offensive thing had been a picture of a man and his husband? Would you still be okay with the argument “This offends me based on my religion so must be removed”?”

        I don’t think I explained what I was trying to say correctly.
        I did include in my previous post
        “To be clear I do think the manager was wrong to bring it up in general because it shouldn’t have been an issue.”

        I agree with you someone citing an offense to themselves or their religion is not a free pass for them to get their way. So in your example a person complaining about someone with a picture of their same sex spouse, or someone wearing a rainbow/pride necklace because it offends their religion should be told that people are free to display/wear what they want with in reason, it should not be brought up to them, person complained about.

        But if someone was complaining about a coworker Joe Smith wearing a t-shirt that said “burn all people of x-faith” or “x-faith people are evil” and someone of x faith complained the person wearing the t-shirt should get talked to and told not to wear that, even if Joe Smith said “but it is part of my sincerely held religious beliefs to bash all other wrong religions.” A manager should not avoid talking to Joe Smith just because wearing his t-shirt might be part of his religion.

        My main point was that just because something could be part of a religious practice is not a reason to avoid talking to that person all together, because to some it is just kitch and to others it is part of their religion.

        1. I Have RBF*

          The t-shirts are not religious symbols, they are propaganda. Things stop getting religious exemptions when they advocate hate, persecution or punishment of others.

          A shirt that said “Proud Christian” would be fine. One that said “All Unbelievers Are Going To Hell” would not be.

      4. Phony Genius*

        I think there’s an important distinction for this particular case. To use this example, the religions that prohibit eating pork generally don’t prohibit seeing somebody else eat it, therefore the sight of it is not offensive. However, some religions teach that merely setting your eyes upon anything that is related to the occult has consequences and you must shield yourself from it at all times. So they’re not necessarily equivalent.

        That said, to any developers of Zoom or similar video conferencing software that may be reading this: Consider adding a feature that allows an attendee to block seeing any specific attendee’s camera feed. It would be a nice feature for people to turn off video that they personally find distracting without affecting what other attendees see.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          Zoom already has a feature that allows meeting participants to turn off incoming video. Sometimes it’s necessary to do this to stay connected to the meeting if you have low bandwidth. If the company has disabled it, that’s a company problem rather than a software feature issue.

        2. I Have RBF*

          However, some religions teach that merely setting your eyes upon anything that is related to the occult has consequences and you must shield yourself from it at all times.

          LOL. IMO, it’s a pretty weak religion that can’t be exposed to the sight of what isn’t allowed.

          More importantly, it’s up to the person with the religious stricture to close their eyes or look away, it’s not up to their coworkers to shield them from seeing things they don’t believe in. The latter makes the coworker into a participant in the first person’s religion against their will.

      5. RussianInTexas*

        BTW, I grew up in a country without any noticeable Catholic population.
        The ash thing was explained to me. I was in my 20s.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          My coworker explained to me when we went for Cajun food and the restaurant owner was greeting everyone with ashes on his forehead. At that point I lived in Texas for few years and was still not aware.

          1. Dek*

            There’s a reason one of the more well-known Cajun cookbooks is “Who’s your mama, are you Catholic, and can you make a roux?”

        2. My Cabbages!*

          I was in my 20s too, and found out when I told a customer “hey, you got a little dirt on your forehead.” -_-

      6. Dust Bunny*

        I am NOT AT ALL surprised that the manager might not recognize Ouija boards as items of legitimate religious practice. Not one iota. Plenty of people lump them into the Random Satanic Panic bag with a whole lot of other things that have nothing to do with Devil worship.

        “Entered into cultural awareness” is not remotely the same as “entered into cultural understanding”. That a lot of people know about something doesn’t mean that what they know is accurate.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      There’s a big difference between not having an encyclopaedic knowledge of religions, and inherently judging something as irreligious and offensive because it isn’t Christian or mainstream. In fact, the less you know about other religions, the less you should say about what is and what isn’t offensive.

    5. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Ouija board earrings, crystals, crosses, Stars of David, ankhs, cornicello horns, feathers, symbols of all kinds…they might be part of a faith-based practice, and they might be worn simply because the wearer wants to. Unless someone insists I wear the same item, or regularly waves their corni horn at me to ward off evil spirits, I don’t get to tell them how or if they can wear it.

      The manager was plain wrong to tell the OP to not wear her earrings and it doesn’t matter if she uses Ouija as part of her faith-based practice or not. The manager should have told the offended party to focus on the meeting instead of what people were wearing.

      1. Cmdrshprd*

        “The manager was plain wrong to tell the OP to not wear her earrings and it doesn’t matter if she uses Ouija as part of her faith-based practice or not. The manager should have told the offended party to focus on the meeting instead of what people were wearing.”

        This is what I was trying to say/get at, although not as succinct as you, and mention that on the flipside if someone wears something that is offensive it also does not matter if they wear it because they just like it or because it is part of their religion they should be told to not wear/display it again.

        1. I Have RBF*

          “Offensive” is subjective. For a while there, as I was deprogramming from Christianity, crosses were offensive to me. It didn’t matter whether they were religious or a Madonna wannabe. I still had no business complaining or asking someone not to wear it.

          Hateful or hostile is different, and should be banned at work – eg “Believe in Jesus or Go to Hell” slogan on a t-shirt.

      2. SomeWords*

        And the appropriate time to guide the complainer to the company’s DEI policies. Sadly it sounds like the Manager also needs to revisit the guidelines.

    6. Some Internet Rando*

      I am surprised at the debate about this! I really liked Alison’s example. I personally don’t like to see crosses. Many people associate Christianity with oppression and abuse, including sexual trauma. But people can wear what they want and no one questions the wearing of Christian symbols. The idea that one person gets to trump what another person wears because of their religious beliefs seems obviously problematic… especially if they are offended by something they see as occult. The earrings could be kitsch or represent a belief system – it really doesn’t matter. I was surprised to see readers debating about if the manager should intervene. The criticism about the earrings seemed like a power move – flexing the power that Christian beliefs get as the hegemony. I would like to see the manager push back telling the complainer to MYOB.

    7. Sneaky Squirrel*

      “but I don’t think the manager was wrong to say something because the earrings MAY have been part of someone’s religion”

      When it comes to Religious discrimination at work, it’s generally about avoiding the unfavorable treatment of a person because of their religious beliefs; e.g the law requires employers to prevent harassment of someone about their religion, and also requires to reasonably accommodate an employee to practice their religion. The extent to which the expression is directed at a particular employee is relevant to determining if it’s harassment/non-accommodating. If LW were wearing their earrings AT their religious colleague, this would be an example of religious discrimination. However, LW merely expressing interest in ouija boards would not be considered demeaning of another’s religious views.

  14. Delphine*

    LW5, I bet you’ll learn more just by interviewing the candidate, without asking about the pre-interview behavior directly. If they do have poor communication skills, they probably won’t be able to mask that during your conversation.

    1. Old hat*

      Agree! There should be questions/in-basket tasks to test independence and skill competence as well. Someone might have decent communication skills with a traditional interview format, but struggle when they have to have to think more on their feet to do a task. The latter is more what is needed in a job than the former, so we need those questions/tasks regardless of how a candidate conducts themselves in the application phase.

      I encountered someone like LW when we needed a temp. He was not new to the workforce, but were moving from customer service roles to a more clerk position. So I wondered if he had received bad advice. He said the right things, but it seemed more that he could parrot what he thought we wanted to hear. His answers were better than others, but we didn’t believe him.

      The question to organize a set of files was where we could see that he would need a lot of hand holding and would struggle with independence. A few questions before was a behavioral question about how one would approach a box of labeled materials. His answer was well formed and followed good logic (how are they used would affect if alphabetical, numerical, chronological, or by function and you might do one organizational scheme followed by another). But that went out the window when we gave him a box of forms and told him that we retrieve them by year issued due to retention period and then by person.

      Usually people run with it. We get to see if someone struggles with alphabetical order, organizes by first name rather than last, or if someone goes further by organizes chronologically (or something else) once they get all the forms for Jane Smith together for a given year.

      Questions tend to be more broad rather than every situation in a vacuum. Even for those who say they follow what their supervisor says to do. This temp asked way too many questions like what to do when the date received was different than the date issued. But he asked this question each time rather than getting an answer and applying it to pretty much the same situation.

      If he was asking this many questions for this task, it would be more for the majority of the filing this clerk needed to do in the months we needed coverage.

      He ended up getting a temp position with another department and it was a time suck because of the lack of independence and weird filing tendencies. It was compounded by poor communication skills. It became obvious that he could say the right things during a training session, but couldn’t communicate what he was actually doing and how he understood the process. And would communicate when he finished every step except for when he finished a batch (the only step that mattered) and then just sit there waiting for someone to assign more work instead of moving to the next batch.

    2. Red flags, red flags everywhere, nor any drop to drink*

      Had a similar candidate a couple of years ago. Hiring manager was going to hire candidate no matter what because of a mutual connection and dismissed the red flags. Went into interviews cautiously, but candidate was great in interviews. Without the pre-interview stuff, would have had zero qualms. Great, big PITA to deal with in the workplace. My “nay” wouldn’t have changed anything, but pre-employment behavior was definitely a preview of what was to come.

  15. Oatmeal Mom*

    #4 My mother always told me to call the person in the job ad and ask questions to “stick out from the crowd, get your name out there”. Being 18-20 years old I had no idea what were pertinent job questions because I’d only ever worked one summer job in my life, so I’m sure I just annoyed a couple of managers by doing this. Now I would know how to ask more relevant, pertinent questions, although I also know to save them for the job interview unless there was some aspect of the job I really wanted to ask about before applying (that wasn’t already in the job ad).

    Really seems like the candidate got bad advice, I wouldn’t weigh it too heavily against them if they’re great otherwise.

    1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      yeah this reminds me of a gauche young lad who came to my previous workplace for an interview. He was clearly nervous, but just as he was sitting down in the lobby he exclaimed, Eureka-style, “oh what a gorgeous view”. Yes, indeed, St Bernard in the foreground, and the Sacré Coeur in the background, it was magnificent. So I agreed and went to let the boss know the applicant had arrived.
      Later in the week he called to see whether there was any news about the application. I asked for his name, which he supplied, adding that “I was the one who commented about your view”. I started to answer “oh but everyone comments about the view” just as I realised it must have been Eureka-boy. He didn’t get the job, but it wasn’t because of this.
      It was all so very painful to watch: he was clearly nervous and was trying so hard to do everything right, but at the same it was so very obvious that none of it came naturally.

      1. A friendly reminder*

        Adding, I had someone who interviewed for an internship with me. She was terrible in the interview. A huge nervous mess. But what also came across was that she was smart and wanted to learn and would work hard.

        She ended up being great for us and also learned a ton too. Ability in an interview is not necessarily the same as ability for the job. In some fields, where speaking and presenting while stressed, they may be. But in some they are not.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Yes, I think this is “Have pity on this poor young person who has gotten confusing advice.”

      See also “You should network to get a job! For example, as a young person just finishing school, you know other young people just finishing school with little work experience–you should all network with each other to land jobs!”

      1. Cmdrshprd*

        “See also “You should network to get a job! For example, as a young person just finishing school, you know other young people just finishing school with little work experience–you should all network with each other to land jobs!””

        I will say for this I think this might be an issue where some nuance gets lost on young and inexperienced new grads. It will vary for people and not everyone will do it/build a network, but you can start to build your network and use other students. If you are only associating with people in your same major/career path I can see where you are coming from, but if you meet/make friends with people in other areas you can absolutely use them to network. Joe Smith the biology major might have an aunt/parent/family friend that is an accountant and might be able to put in a word and get you an interview for you when you graduate with your accounting/finance degree.

        While you are in school you take internships and work with professors to meet and build your network. I know several professors that had contacts in their respective fields and would help students they liked/did well to get internships/jobs. It is also not crazy for student Y to intern at one company find out the role/company is not for them but think it could be a good fit for student Z.

        While I was in school and young, I met someone else at a side retail job also in school and looking for a pharmacy (not my major at all) internship/job. From a different job, I happened to know someone that owned a small local chain of pharmacy stores I was able to put them in touch to discuss potential a internship/job.

        Again I realize not all students will make/have these kinds of connections but it is certainly possible.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          “You need to inherit your parents’ network” is only useful for a narrow range of people. (For example, a family who work in aircraft maintenance can hook you up with that, but not with accounting.)

          I talked to a young person who spent their 20s doing professional dance and then was looking for other work, and their friends from school were now in a position to be hiring. But 10 years ago, they couldn’t help each other.

          1. Cmdrshprd*

            You do have a valid point to some extent.
            If you look at networking strictly as in can “x person hire me for a job,” what you said makes more sense.

            But if you think of it in a broader sense, it could be can “x person hire me for a job, OR connect me to someone that can,” the capabilities are better.

            In you example, maybe the family member has worked on plane maintenance for the owner of a local small/medium accounting firm who likes to fly as a hobby.

            You are right not everyone will have those kinds of connections, but thinking/looking for more loose/indirect connections could be helpful.

        2. Michelle Smith*

          That’s what I love so much about LinkedIn, despite all its flaws. It is a very visual, immediate way to see that a network is not just who you know, it’s about who the people you know know too!

        3. metadata minion*

          ” Joe Smith the biology major might have an aunt/parent/family friend that is an accountant and might be able to put in a word and get you an interview for you when you graduate with your accounting/finance degree. ”

          Is that actually a thing? Why would my relative put in a good word for someone they’ve never met based on the fact that I know them in a context where I also can’t speak to their work performance?

          1. Nina*

            Oh this is definitely a thing.
            My sister got interview coaching for a very prestigious internship in her field from a friend of mine (who she did not otherwise know) who had done the same internship several years before, and we suspect mentioned to his former mentor to keep an eye out for my sister’s application.
            My partner’s (college) students pretty much always get interviews when they apply at my company, because I trust my partner’s judgement when he says the student is solid, and my colleagues trust my judgement when I say ‘hey, one of my partner’s students is applying for this role, can you let me know how they go’.
            My dad’s college friend’s brother-in-law got an interview for a role where I was on the hiring committee partly because he looked promising on paper but also partly because of that personal connection.
            I got my current job because my grandboss has been friends with my postgrad supervisor for decades and gave me some data for my thesis research, so I basically got to skip straight over the first two interviews to ‘well Dr. Supervisor speaks very highly of you so we’ll consider your reference check satisfactory’.
            Knowing if someone can do the job is about half of the hiring – the other half is knowing if the person will be easy to work with, and ‘keen to learn, high integrity, personable and helpful’ are things that an aunt/parent/family friend would know about.
            Actually getting a role through networking (and bypassing the normal selection) is weird where I’m from, but getting an interview that way is very common. ‘Oh, I value my relationship with X person, and I’d be doing them a favor by taking an hour to talk to Y person, who X person values’.

    3. Sparkles McFadden*

      The bad advice issue is something that affects people who are desperate as well. A few years ago at OldJob, we had three candidates who just kept calling, emailing and, yes, showing up at the office, even after they were told they were not moving on to the final interview stage. They just pretended that wasn’t what they were told, and said things like “I want to know what I should bring to the office on my first day” and “What software should I review so I can hit the ground running?” It turns out they had all been to the same career advisor who told them “act like the job is already yours and it will be your job” and advised them not to take no for an answer.

    4. Chili Heeler*

      Yup. I’m in grad school but still get emails from the career center about resources/presentations etc. that is aimed at undergrads looking for their first post-school job. So much of the advice is vague and unhelpful like this. Having been on the hiring side of things, I would try to get them to provide details or better info but it never happened. If I’d been an undergrad hearing their advice, I would have probably made similar missteps. For a long time, I wasn’t sure what kind of questions I was supposed to ask when an interviewer asked, “Do you have any questions for me?” and thought having those questions would make me look unprepared.

  16. BadMitten*

    LW #1, you handled it well and your coworker was rude. I would bet the reason they didn’t invite you was supremely stupid so I hope you didn’t take it personally.

    I’ve seen several advice columnists say that people can invite whoever they want to weddings (but avoid excluding one person as Alison said), but in my experience people take that EXTREMELY personally and get quite upset.

    I personally tend not to care but I seem to be an outlier. I’ve had people ask me why I’m still friends with someone who didn’t invite me to their wedding (I’d never met their spouse at the time). People get outraged on my behalf when I say a cousin didn’t invite me to his wedding. This is all to say that wedding invites are a minefield; I’d say invite no one from the office or basically everyone.

    1. Myrin*

      I’m like you – which indeed seems to be a bit of an outlier position at least to some extent – but the situation in the OP would have bothered me too simply because of how little sense it makes.
      Heather got married a month after starting her new job and since I’m assuming she didn’t wait until two days before the wedding to invite people, she had somehow in just one or two weeks decided not only that she wanted to invite her new coworkers but also that there was someting about OP that made her not want to invite her? Super strange! I probably would’ve gone full detective mode for just a bit simply because of the intrigue of it all. (I’m joking, in case that wasn’t clear, but I’m definitely fascinated by what could’ve gone on here.)

      1. metadata minion*

        Same here! I’m not much of a wedding person unless it’s a dear friend, and I’m vaguely baffled at the idea that I should be offended over someone not inviting me…but a new coworker inviting everyone except me to *anything* major is weird and hurtful.

    2. allathian*

      Now I definitely don’t care if I never get another wedding invitation again, unless it’s as the Mother of the Groom someday.

      But I must admit that it stung when I didn’t get invited to the wedding of a member of my friend group, when everyone else in that friend group did. All of us were recent college graduates just starting our careers in our mid-20s. The realization that she didn’t consider me a close enough friend to invite to her wedding at all when the rest of our friend group was in her wedding party affected our friendship permanently. I still don’t consider her a close enough friend to invite to anything 1:1, and the wedding was about 25 years ago and the couple divorced 5+ years ago.

      That said, I don’t expect to be invited to any coworker’s wedding at any time.

    1. LifeBeforeCorona*

      That might be me. One way to stay awake in a meeting is to study other people. I go around the table and look at peoples’ hands. Next round, count the predominate colour. How many red shirts, how many blue ties. It really helps.

    2. Antilles*

      I’m honestly kind of surprised people are showing their cameras on these massive meetings. In my experience, the presenters will be on camera, but the vast majority of people in the meetings won’t because…well, why bother?

      This isn’t meant to blame OP of course, it was almost certainly just that the default Teams sign-on has your camera (from previous meetings) and didn’t think to turn it off. But if most people aren’t on camera, there’s an easy compromise solution where OP wears the earrings as she likes next time, but just turns off her camera so random co-worker #192 who complained doesn’t see the earrings.

      1. the-honey-eater*

        Eh, my company requires us to be on-camera for all-hands meetings like that. It was the tradeoff for letting us work from home 3 days a week.

        1. I Have RBF*

          Eyeroll here.

          The problem with universal cameras on in big meetings is the bandwidth problem, shipping all that video out to all those people. If someone has a bad connection, it will cause issues.

          But yes, it’s part of the paternalistic “we will only let you work remotely if we can see you working (because we don’t actually trust you like adults)” thing that some companies do.

      2. metadata minion*

        Most of the meetings I’m in are small, so I usually have the camera on in large ones because I haven’t bothered to turn it off.

  17. Karon*

    I’m wondering if the person who complained about the ouija board earrings actually works closely with LW and saw them up close that day or at least heard them being talked about to clarify what they were. Then the scenario of seeing it in the 200-person video call was used to prevent the LW narrowing down who the complainer might be. It seems so weird for someone to be skimming through all of the meeting participants and honing in on that one tiny detail.

    It doesn’t change Allison’s excellent advice of course, but I’d definitely be wondering who had that kind of time and motivation to zero in on that.

  18. Mike*

    I’ll just say that at first I read the headline as “ouija board earnings” and thought we’d found an even more egregious way of awarding bonuses than playing poker for them.

    1. Cj*

      I read it that way too! I thought she might be helping people contact dead relatives as a sidegig or something.

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      Can you imagine the fun headlines?:
      “My boss wants our deceased CEO to approve annual bonuses from beyond the grave.”

    3. Juicebox Hero*

      “For your annual bonus, you must use this ouija board to contact the spirit of a dead pirate, get him to reveal where he buried his gold, travel there, and dig it up.”

  19. Clare*

    A slightly different perspective on letter #3. Due to my upbringing, ouija boards actually scare me, similar to the way some people are freaked out by snakes or spiders. It’s a really visceral, uncontrollable discomfort. I would honestly struggle to talk to a colleague wearing ouija board earrings. I would also never bring it up unless we were having regular face-to-face meetings and you wore them regularly (and only in a “Hey if I seem weirdly jumpy or uncomfortable around you lately this is why” way. I certainly wouldn’t go to your boss! Especially after a meeting in which we didn’t need to interact at all.

    Your boss and the person who had the issue were in the wrong here. But you might like to know that they’re also not just a tacky seasonal decoration on par with a bat or a pumpkin, at least, not for everyone.

    1. English Rose*

      Yeah, I wouldn’t be bothered by earrings, but I clicked through to the link about the ouija board mouse mat and that I really couldn’t cope with, so I do understand.
      Oh and I have a co-worker who’s terrified of even fake bats, so that’s out as a decoration too.

      1. amoeba*

        I mean, there are also people who are afraid of birds, or ladybugs, or dogs, etc. I’d say the best you can do is to of course not take anything definitely offensive or gory or whatever (unless you know your environment very, very well) and otherwise be open and accommodating if somebody happens to be actually scared/disgusted by anything you display!

        1. Clare*

          Exactly! Thank you! There’s no way of knowing or anticipating who will be made uncomfortable by what, and we also shouldn’t expect anyone to anticipate or accommodate all of our reactions to stuff. Every situation is unique. Your approach is the best way to handle that fact. Anyone with an issue to assume that the reasonable approach is the one that will be taken, rather than going straight to someone’s manager!

    2. Ceiling Fan*

      Really, it’s for you to find a way to cope, though.

      I am disgusted by the cross and repulsed when I realize someone is wearing it, or displaying it at their desk. But I wouldn’t dream of saying so in the workplace.

      1. Clare*

        That’s what I’m saying too. The only thing I might do is quietly inform the person of my problem so they don’t misinterpret my reaction as being related to something they’ve said, because I’d struggle to hide it. But I wouldn’t be asking them to do anything about it, just informing them why the sudden change so as not to cause hurt feelings. Unfortunately, while it’s possible to hide disgust and behave professionally towards someone who disgusts you, it’s not possible to hide a phobic reaction in the same way. My subconscious is telling me that I’m in danger! And yeah, I get that it’s dumb, but if we could cure all intrusive thoughts by telling ourselves to snap out of it then I wouldn’t have brought it up. It’s my issue. But the OP asked if ouija boards are more than just kitsch and I wanted to give context that for some people, they are. Absolutely keep your boards, by all means! Just know they’re not neutral to everyone. That’s all.

        1. Allonge*

          What you are describing is perfectly ok.

          I for one would appreciate to know not to wear one specific earring out of my many pairs when meeting you if I can spare you that reaction!

          Obviously mileage may vary on how significant the thing is to any other person, but even in the ‘very significant’ group there will be a lot of people who will accommodate based on such an explanation. And the rest, as you say, you handle the best you know how.

          1. Jackalope*

            Yeah, I can imagine during the time when I felt the need to wear a piece of jewelry with my religious symbol on it (always a necklace for me) I wouldn’t have felt okay not wearing it, for example, but I would happily have tucked it all the way inside my shirt so no one could see it. It was a source of comfort for me rather than a way to share my religion with the world. (Now I have it on a tattoo in a place covered by clothing when I’m at work so no one sees it unless I show it to them specifically.)

      2. CommanderBanana*

        ^^ Same. Ditto crucifixes. I don’t want to run face-first into a torture scene at work. But that’s my thing to deal with, and I would never tell a coworker to take off crucifix jewelry.

        1. Chinookwind*

          I see these comments and am 100% empathetic, but I also know the historical context of crucifixes being banned as part of an effort of removing the Catholic religion from a country. Heck, there is even a battle about this going on in Quebec about the hypocrisy of leaving the giant crucifix from the government chamber (a remnant of its cultural history which was very Catholic) while banning people from wearing them while working for the government (which would include any nuns left working in hospitals as nurses).

          There is an awareness that requiring someone to remove their religious symbols in public (be it hijabs, kirpans or crucifixes) is this simplest way to remove that cultural group from participating.

          1. Astor*

            The idea of using Quebec as an example of discriminating against Catholics seems weird to me. The Catholics are the ones with power! They make up 80% of the Christian population, and the next biggest Christian group after them didn’t identify as any particular kind of Christian. It basically goes Catholics > secular folks mostly made up from Catholic families > Christians (I bet including a lot of Catholic families) > everyone else. I can understand seeing Canada as a whole as historically discriminating against Catholics, and specifically Quebec because of its Catholic heritage, but I really don’t understand the perspective of Bill 21 discriminating against Catholics.

            Up until the 1960s the whole hospital (and education) system of the whole province of Quebec was directly run by the Roman Catholic Church! So, I mean, I will admit that there’s historical examples of “removing the Catholic religion from [Quebec]”, but the secularization that occurred/occurs in Quebec still treats being Catholic as being ‘normal’ and a lot of Catholic practices are considered secular just like people think that Christmas is secular.

            Those laws weren’t put into place because people wanted Catholics to stop being visibly Catholics, they were put into place to stop Muslims from being visibly Muslim and sort of dragged everyone else along for the ride. That’s why they didn’t bother to remove the crucifix until non-Catholic groups protested! I think we can agree that, as much as asking someone to hide their religious items (like crucifix necklaces) discourages participation, it much more strongly affects people who are wearing items prescribed by their religion (like hijabs and kirpans) and even more so when they’re not the majority. I can’t remember the name of it, but there’s literally a psychological phenomenon where people will take a little bit of consequences to ensure that others get punished and I think that applies here.

            But also… did it stop nuns who worked as nurses? As far as I know, for any affected role, people were are allowed to continue wearing religious articles while in the job they had when the law was put in place, they just weren’t allowed to take a new job. I’m an outsider, but I thought that other changes in society would have had a larger affect on the number of nuns working in hospitals while wearing religious items, and that there’s more flexibility for a nun still working in a hospital to keep their job while changing responsibilities than there is for any random hijabi nurse.

            1. Astor*

              I mean that last question about nuns sincerely! I couldn’t find anything online but recognize that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a problem. I was just surprised but the particular example. I did know that it affected people who wear crucifixes; I just think that the law isn’t aimed at them and they have more options than the other affected groups.

    3. Earlk*

      A lot of people have religious trauma from religions with far more commonplace symbols, it is up to you to control your reactions to them, not on your co-workers to alter their appearance for you.

      1. Clare*

        Trust me, I know all too well how people might find religions traumatising, ok? I’m not sure why you think that having been given an irrational fear of a board game that I now need to work through as an adult would make me super keen to plaster myself with religious symbols, but for the record, it didn’t.

        1. Good Grief*

          I think what Earlk may be getting at is that it’s up to you to get therapy for your irrational reaction to a specific item so that you aren’t triggered by it. Then you wouldn’t feel the need to ask someone to remove a personal item in your presence. You could just… mosey on without any discomfort.

          Jettisoning childhood / FOO fears is entirely doable.

          1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

            Or, someone could be kind and not wear the earrings. I think Clare handles it exactly right. She understands it a her problem, so she wouldn’t tell someone not to wear them, but would explain her reaction. Kind people would avoid wearing the earrings around her because why would you want to upset someone if you can easily avoid it?

            Phobias are irrational, we should be kind to people with them, not tell them oh get therapy.

            1. Good Grief*

              Suggesting someone get therapy to reign in irrational fears *is* kindness. It’s what I would tell my best friend if she told me she was about to ask a co-worker to quit wearing Ouija board earrings / inform the co-worker of her fear in the hopes that the co-worker would accommodate her fear.

              The world can’t contort itself to accommodate every single person’s phobia, so it’s in the phobic person’s best interest to work on overcoming the irrational fear.

              1. Dek*

                I mean, it’s a lot easier for someone to not wear kitsch earrings than it is to find and pay for a therapist.

                I think most phobic people are well aware that the world won’t accommodate them, and that their lives would be easier if they could just overcome their irrational fear, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t maybe sometimes ask for a little kindness that isn’t the “kindness” of “have you considered going to therapy?”

              2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

                But Clare isn’t telling people to not wear the earrings, she just is explaining her reaction. A kindness would be to butt the hell out of someone else’s mental health.

                1. Be more charitable*

                  This. I’ve been in therapy off and on my entire adult life. It isn’t magic. It’s not like you go to sessions for a year and boom you’re cured lol. Such an infantilizing suggestion that people with phobias can just get over them if they try hard enough.

                  And like you say, Clare very clearly and explicitly stated they are NOT ASKING others to change their appearance.

          2. metadata minion*

            Mental health care isn’t easily accessible to many, many people, and while phobias do tend to be one of the more easily treatable conditions, this doesn’t mean that everyone with a phobia can just go to a therapist for 6 months and then be cured forever.

    4. Queer Earthling*

      I appreciate you saying that you’d at least try not to be rude about it! I know that’s hard. Here’s the thing though, as someone else who was brought up in a household that was very anti-ouija/tarot/etc and grew up to leave that religion:

      Discomfort is not harm.

      People doing things to themselves that do not involve you are not causing you harm. And part of living in the world is learning to deal with things that make you uncomfortable.

      This also applies to people who are uncomfortable around queer people, people who are uncomfortable around people of a different ethnicity or religion, people who wear weird clothes, heavily tattooed individuals, folks who are dressed more or less modestly than you’d choose, etc etc. Learning to deal with discomfort, and to tell the difference between discomfort and actual offense, is valuable in many directions.

      1. Clare*

        I don’t follow that religion, my brain just tells me ouija board = danger the same way some people are afraid of mice or buttons. I’m not from the US and I guarantee I’m not the person you’re imagining. I actually fit into most of the categories you listed.

        1. Doc McCracken*

          I hope you work with people who would be kind enough to take off those earrings when you have close face to face meetings. While they don’t HAVE to, it costs the person very little to be kind. (unless they couldn’t take them out like in the case of a new piercing.)

        2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          Phobias are irrational. You can’t reason your way out of them. Politely explaining to someone why you might have a reaction to their earrings is perfectly acceptable.

          I have Gephyrophobia. My hubby got me an emotional support rubber ducky. It helps. But only somewhat. It makes no sense but my brain tells me we are going to go crashing off the side into the water. Even thought I know intellectually we aren’t.

          Also hilarious we are having this conversation on Friday the 13th.

        3. Queer Earthling*

          To clarify, my last paragraph wasn’t making assumptions about other things that you might personally find uncomfortable. They were things that many people do find uncomfortable but need to learn to tolerate, by way of comparison. There is definitely a current culture of like, “If it makes me uncomfortable then I shouldn’t have to see it,” which I made a bit of a mental connection to.

          I hope you’re well and able to find ways to manage your phobia. :)

          1. Be more charitable*

            There’s a difference between discomfort and a phobic reaction. A smelly bathroom makes me uncomfortable. I can still use it though. Giving presentations makes me uncomfortable. I still do them routinely as a part of my job.

            If a picture of a spider comes up on my phone, my first impulse is to throw my device across the room. Those fake spiders people put up as Halloween decorations make me so afraid I cannot approach them or walk past them. Seeing an actual spider or a realistic facsimile can reduce me to tears in seconds and make me feel nauseated and queasy for hours after, unable to eat.

            Poop smells and public speaking make me uncomfortable. I have arachnophobia. The two are not remotely comparable.

      2. Angstrom*

        Right. She’s not wearing them *at you*. She’s just wearing them.
        Wearing them deliberately intending to cause offense or make someone uncomfortable would be a whole different story.

    5. tiny*

      I’m sorry nobody seems to be reading your comment before replying to it, but I learned something!

    6. Lainey L. L-C*

      Clare, I get it. I’m religious, but also a horror movie nut, and there are certain things I don’t mess with, and that is possession movies and Ouija boards. And for the latter, partly because I once interviewed a ghost hunter who had a creepy experience with one and…no thank you. So I get how you can absolutely be freaked out by seeing them.

      I agree, though, that the person complaining and the boss were in the wrong. It’s just an object someone is wearing. They aren’t actively messing with it in front of you or making you take part in it. It’s a piece of jewelry. Calm down, Karen co-worker.

  20. LW4*

    Thank you so much for answering my question, that’s a great answer. I’m curious to see how this goes (interviews will start soon). In the meantime, the candidate has reached out again with some even stranger messages though, so I’m a bit hesitant and will definitely need a thorough reference check. It could still be lack of experience/poor email skills/language or culture issues. Whatever it is, the candidate has been able to do very well in their career so far!

    1. Tinkerbell*

      It sounds like there’s definitely SOMETHING going on – and it’s entirely possible the candidate got bad advice *and* isn’t particularly detail-oriented / will need lots of hand-holding / would be a bad fit for the role. Hopefully once you get to the interview stage, you’ll get a better idea of how well the candidate did their homework!

      1. LW4*

        Yeah. Honestly, so many candidates reach out with questions that are clearly just excuses to get in touch and ”stand out”, but usually they are more thought-out. My suspicion is that this candidate got the same advice as those people but didn’t translate that to ”find something that you can actually plausibly ask”, just to ”ask a question”.

        1. Chili Heeler*

          I can absolutely see an inexperienced person get the advice to ask questions to “stand out”. The inexperienced person then asks what kind of questions and then take it literally when the bad advice giver says, “Just ask them to tell you more about the job.” I had that exact conversation once but never sent the literal question because it seemed off to me. Still, I had no idea what question I should be asking, so it was not helpful.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      Have you told them that if they would like more information, it will be handled through the normal application process?

      Continuing to reach out after they’ve been asked to stop is a concern in and of itself.

    3. ecnaseener*

      It sounds like this person is early-career but not brand new to the working world, since they have impressive experience? I would take that into account – if they’ve been working even a couple years (at full jobs not just internships and student jobs), I would expect they’ve had time to learn that you don’t bug people with questions you can easily find the answers to, and if they haven’t learned that yet, they might never learn it.

      1. Ray B Purchase*

        I totally agree. The type of questions they’re asking do sound very “College Career Advisor” level, but I would also assume someone who’s been working full-time for even a year would’ve realized how out of sync with the real career world that advice can be.

        I really really appreciate, however, that Alison always points out that early-career folks often receive ridiculous advice for how to behave when applying for jobs and encourages hiring managers to consider that. I remember when I was applying for 1L summer jobs in Big Law, we were encouraged to reach out to the current summer associates or recent alumni at the firms we were interested in, but given literally no other advice other than just to reach out. So, I would email them, ask to talk, and have NO IDEA what I was supposed to ask or even try to learn from them.

    4. cabbagepants*

      ehhh I would listen to your gut. One or two weird messages could be chalked up to bad advice, but this person is spamming you, evidently without a second thought. Do you really want this quality in an employee?

    5. Red flags, red flags everywhere, nor any drop to drink*

      Posted this for another comment above suggesting you’d be able to judge on the interview, but want to be sure LW sees it for a balanced perspective.

      Had a similar candidate a couple of years ago. Hiring manager was going to hire candidate no matter what because of a mutual connection and dismissed the red flags. Went into interviews cautiously, but candidate was great in interviews. Without the pre-interview stuff, would have had zero qualms. Great, big PITA to deal with in the workplace. My “nay” wouldn’t have changed anything, but pre-employment behavior was definitely a preview of what was to come.

      Good luck with your interviews!

  21. Emma*

    #4 – you could ask a relevant interview question, like “Can you tell me about a time you were given a task that you didn’t know how to complete, and how you handled that situation?”

  22. Double Doors Down*

    So if I was the person wearing ouija earrings for Halloween and *did* want to tell HR that no, I’m going to keep wearing these and that’s not a reasonable thing to ask me, what would some wording be for saying that (and saying why)?

    1. I should really pick a name*

      “What was the nature of the complaint?”
      “In what way is the person complaining being harmed?”

    2. Dinwar*

      Return discomfort to sender.

      “You need to remove those earrings while on video calls.”
      “Joe finds them offensive.”
      “They violate Joe’s religion.”
      “And that affects me how? I am obviously not a member of that religion.”
      “Just play nice with Joe.”
      “So I’m expected to participate in Joe’s religion. Is that what you’re saying?”

      Or you can say you’re doing it to show you’re an ally to folks who’s religions DO include such practices. Mine do (well, ish; I don’t use them anymore–REALLY bad experiences with them–but I know folks who do), so you wouldn’t even need to lie! Just don’t tell them you met the person on an online forum. :)

      1. I Have RBF*

        Yeah, some religions use various divination tools, but all divination tools are not “required”. People have preferences. I do divination. I don’t use a ouija board. But if someone else does, it is no skin off my nose.

        The person wearing the earrings is not demanding that the complainer use them, not do they express any hatred toward the complainer. Therefore, the complainer has no leg to stand on.

    1. city deer*

      Oh, the concept of talking to spirits/ghosts/the dead, even (or especially) as a game, is viewed with extreme disapproval in some religious traditions. It goes against certain beliefs about souls and the afterlife, and may be considered witchcraft, or “inviting the devil in.” I grew up in proximity to a large conservative Christian sect and this was their stance on ouija boards as well as anything similarly in the realm of magic/divination (e.g. tarot).

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        My grandmother taught me the same – that especially tarot cards were a ‘window to the devil’. Or using anything for divination – coins, cards, boards, dice…

        She died 14 years ago never accepting her avidly pagan granddaughter.

      2. Empress Ki*

        I once took a class in Mediumship in a Spiritualist college. We didn’t use a Ouija board, and I don’t think it was even mentioned.
        I wasn’t aware it was used in religions. In this case, people who use Ouija boards deserve the same respect than people from other religions.

        1. Jewish-raised Pagan*

          Yeah, in fact, I’d say that planchette boards are part of my practice exactly because of Spiritualism and some of the responses to it. They work pretty much like any other tool for mediumship.

      3. Ellis Bell*

        I used to get calls on the newsdesk around Halloween from certain local churches who would say they were offering “light nights” as an alternative to all the dark spooky stuff, instead of just not participating. As a pagan it was very irritating.

        1. Nina*

          My church does that and I’m having trouble wrapping my head around how/why it could be offensive – if you have the time and/or inclination, would you mind going into a bit more detail about what the issue is? If it’s something that’s going to be distressing or harmful to pagans or other religions in our area I would definitely raise that with the pastor and get her to put the brakes on the ‘light party’ going forward.

    2. Lexi Vipond*

      If it’s a game, then it’s pointless. If it’s not, then I reserve the right to feel the same way I would about someone trying to build a new kind of nuclear bomb in their shed in order to blow up the world – yes, you’re not actually going to manage to meddle with the fabric of reality, but there’s no reason to approve of an attempt.

      1. Queer Earthling*

        …that seems like an extreme comparison, considering lots and lots and lots of people have used ouija boards or spirit boards or whatever, and very few people have attempted to build nuclear bombs in their shed and, if they do, they know exactly the harm they’re causing if they succeed.

        I get spooked out by the idea of ouija boards but it literally doesn’t affect me if other people use them or, in this case, decorate their bodies with them because they like the aesthetic.

      2. Dinwar*

        The difference is that a nuclear bomb hurts everyone around you, and there’s no way for it not to. The materials used for nuclear bombs cannot be made safe, even before they’re put in bombs; you’re actively harming people who don’t even know you’re doing the thing.

        Ouija boards, in contrast, merely have the potential to hurt the person involved. Your neighbors aren’t going to get cancer because you happen to contact a spirit; they absolutely will get cancer if you bring yellowcake uranium into a shed.

        And communing with the spirit world is a common religious practice, not just in the more occult/Pagan traditions, but in many others. To compare this with a nuclear bomb is, well, inherently offensive. It’s slandering hundreds of religions.

        1. Allonge*

          Exactly. It can be a lot more than a board game for some people, it can be a part of their spirituality / beliefs but it’s not going to change everyone else’s reality.

          Just as any religious idea may be a meaningful fact for those who believe in it and part of a story for others.

      3. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        I’m not sure why you use the word “if” here. It’s mass produced in a factory with other board games and distributed in mundane retail stores all over the country. Of course it’s a game and the point is entertainment.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          Please read other comments under this post. Even just the ones in this thread would be a good start. Tons and tons of people have used planchette writing as a spiritual practice and it is very much not a game to those folks. Ouija was not invented by Hasbro.

          1. Pescadero*

            Ouija is literally a made up word invented by Parker Brothers for the game.

            So while planchette writing is a a spiritual practice and it is very much not a game to those folks, Ouija WAS invented by a game company.

      4. I Have RBF*

        You can feel however you want about it, no matter how hyperbolic it is. But others do not require your approval to enjoy it as either a game or a divination method.

        I disapprove of women wearing tops with their bra straps showing. I think it’s tacky, at best. But it’s not my business to police the apparel of others. At work, as long as it meets the dress code, I have nothing to say about it.

      5. metadata minion*

        There are plenty of religions/magical traditions that involve communicating with the dead. In those traditions, it is not “meddling” with the fabric of reality; it’s interacting with it in a specific controlled way, and in that context panicking about it would come off as being alarmed by the electric lighting your neighbor is installing in their shed.

    3. Irish Teacher*

      In my experience, a lot of people are uncomfortable with Ouija boards, often for reasons they can’t even articulate. I suspect a lot of it is a mix between the objections of some religions and their use in stuff like horror films so people just associate them with “something dark and scary.” And possibly also the way teens kind of often use them, thinking they are doing something countercultural that the adults would disapprove of. There’s a sort of “rebellious” feel to the game.

      I think a lot of people have a kind of attitude to Ouija of “I know it’s not real and can’t really do anything, but…I’d rather not chance it all the same.”

      I have no idea why the coworker was offended by it, but some possible reasons are that they have a phobia of it, possibly from seeing horror films and didn’t want to say that so they said they were offended, that they associate it with teens trying to be edgy and therefore thought the LW was doing something similar, trying to show that she was edgy and countercultural, that they just associated with a pretty dark horror vibe that they thought inappropriate in the workplace, that they belong to a religion that believes in spirits and therefore thinks it’s disrespectful to play at calling them up, that they believe Ouija boards actually work or fear they might and therefore see it as more serious. Or something else that I haven’t thought of.

    4. Clare*

      Best answer is, some people are just irrationally afraid of stuff. Clowns, bats, birds, mice, buttons, worms, ouija boards, heights, small spaces. When you’re trying to use an electrified haggis to pilot a skeleton in a meat suit, sometimes it doesn’t work how you’d like it to. *shrug*

    5. Cj*

      that was my parents view of it, and we played with one when we were young. but when my Jehovah Witness aunt was visiting from another state (meaning we rarely saw her), she got really freaked out. not for herself, but for us, because in her eyes we shouldn’t be using such a thing, as it could have dire consequences.

      1. Frankie Mermaids*

        It’s very much a knowing your audience thing. I had one growing up and there were some friends who wanted to hold “seances” at every slumber party and some friends who wouldn’t come over unless I promised to lock it in cabinet in the basement.

    6. Generic Name*

      Yeah…..I’m reading these comments and I keep thinking that it’s a board game manufactured by Milton Bradley.

      1. Good Grief*


        It’s particle board, plastic, and ink. Oooh, so scary and evil!

        It’s wild to me how people imbue power into things that are inherently neutral / not the slightest bit harmful.

        *(The Googles tell me that it’s made by Hasbro after being inherited from Parker Brothers, not Milton Bradley).

      2. Phony Genius*

        Parker Brothers (now Hasbro) used to make one, and it was sold on the board game aisle at Toys ‘Я’ Us, so the confusion is understandable.

      1. Eliot Waugh*

        I mean, the commonly understood image of it literally is. It’s manufactured by a board game company.

        That doesn’t make it a game for everyone in the world, but it is for many.

      2. Good Grief*

        Except it is.

        It’s written into the original patent for the game waaaaay back in 1890: “Be it known that I, ELIJAH J. BOND, a citizen of the United States, residing at Baltimore, in the State of Maryland, have invented certain new and useful Improvements in Toys or Games…”

        TOYS or GAMES.

      3. CommanderBanana*

        ….yes, Ouija boards are literally game boards. Planchette writing, spirit writing, and spirit boards all way predate Ouija boards, but Ouija boards are literally a trademarked board game.

  23. The yellow dog of workplace happiness*

    LW #1: How much longer did the two of you work there together after you learnt you’d not been invited to the wedding?

    I’m really curious about what the dynamic before and after was with you and Heather.

  24. DJ Abbott*

    #2, I hope the employee puts reviews all over the Internet about this. Elites – excuse me, employees – should never be allowed to get away with such behavior!

  25. cabbagepants*

    #5 I’m very surprised that asking a candidate why they asked for info they was in the job description is a “gotcha”! You have so little information about how this person functions day to day; are we really supposed to ignore this data point?

    New hires who want someone to tell them everything 1:1 (rather than reading existing documentation) are exhausting to train. You generally can teach people, eventually, to read documentation but it is a valuable workplace skill so I don’t see why it’s somehow wrong to ask about it.

    1. cabbagepants*

      I mean LW4!

      I’ve also gotten some weird stuff on Linked In from prospective candidates. Someone out there is definitely giving silly advice.

      Once I got two people from the same university being particularly egregious in the same way, within a week of each other. I sent a note to that university’s career service, leaving their names out, to let them know what would be better.

  26. John*

    #4 I would pass on that candidate so fast. At the very least, I would ask them directly about their behavior.

    That candidate seems likely to be a real pain as an employee.

    Asking one question? Fine. But continually coming back to ask a question that’s answered in the job description can’t be excused.

  27. NerdyKris*

    The linked article clearly states that she was paid for the seven days of work, the LW just misread.

        1. LW 2*

          But it’s not $1600 for a full week of work, it’s $1600 for $1500 in expenses for moving then AND a week of work.

    1. LW 2*

      I didn’t misread. The linked article says:

      “ Spina estimated she had spent about $1,500 moving to Virginia.

      She was eventually reimbursed by her would-be employer for her expenses and seven days of work after she wrote a letter to the college’s HR department explaining the misunderstanding. In total, she received $1,600 in a check,”

      So she was reimbursed for relocation expenses ($1500) and given payment for seven days of work, all in a $1600 check.

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        Unless she worked 10 hours or less during that week at ~10/hr, that $100 is not a reasonable amount of pay.

        1. I should really pick a name*

          Unless the split is different. Perhaps they didn’t reimburse the whole $1500, so a larger percentage of that is actually pay for work.

          1. LW 2*

            Even if that’s the case, it still is a pretty crappy response from them. I would think they should reimburse all costs and give a full week’s salary.

  28. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

    OP 1…

    At one point though, one of the team members made the mistake of talking about attending the wedding in my presence and Veronica shushed her. It turned out that Heather had invited every single person in that room, including Veronica. Except me.

    Does the rest of the team actually know that you are specifically excluded? Or did Heather and Veronica plan to lie about your absence?

  29. Anonymous*

    Ouija boards are creepy! Have you never seen The Exorcist? Just thinking about it makes me feel like I need to build a blanket fort to make it through the day. Even so, not sure that I’d comment to a manager about someone’s earrings on a zoom call. Seems excessive when your other option is to log off the call and move on with your day.

        1. Jackalope*

          Which helps your brain absolutely 0% when a part of it believes that it’s real? The whole point of many fictional movies is to make something that seems to be a real story happening in a certain order even if you know in your head that these are actors in costumes who filmed things in a different order, etc. Some people can totally do that but I know that I for one cannot (which is why I generally avoid horror; it’s not something I can just put aside). I assume that if Anonymous above were able to just say, “It’s fiction,” and move on, they probably would have by now.

        2. Chinookwind*

          The Exorcist (the original movie and book) is based on an actual event with only the “green pea soup” and 360 degree neck turning being really made up (if my memory serves me right – there is a podcast on iheartradio with a real exorcist who says that that move would have killed Roland Doe, but he has seen similarly freaky events).

  30. Spooky gal*

    ouija board earrings:

    I have a pair of ouija board planchette earrings and honestly unless someone is looking most people assume they are guitar picks.. (same sort of shape) This person must have been REALLY invested in your earrings!
    on another note I got banned from wearing spider jewellery into the office after causing a major panic attack in a colleague with a phobia… being spooky is hard! lol

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      Yep. I wasn’t allowed to wear skeleton earrings to an anatomy exam because Possible Cheating… even though there were actual human bones laid out on the lab benches and my little skeletons were far from anatomically correct.

    2. Joielle*

      As the resident office goth and occultist, I wear a lot of Ouija planchette accessories and other spooky jewelry. I do consider the planchette a sort of religious symbol – not exactly a parallel to a crucifix but at least a spiritual symbol for sure.

      For comparison, I do usually keep my spider and snake jewelry out of the office because I know those can bother people, and for me, those are just an aesthetic choice. But I would have a problem if someone asked me to stop wearing planchettes at work, although it would be hard to articulate the reason in a way that would be taken seriously.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      You raise an interesting point. I’m corporate goth but with severe arachnophobia (I can’t even type the S word). I’d definitely not be able to look at your arachnid earrings or have them near me.

      But, would I ask you to take them off? I honestly don’t know. If I could just avoid seeing you then probably not. If you sat next to me I probably would.

      Btw tip from a lifelong spooky person: cloaks are very very good for maintaining that image, especially if they are black with a red lining. Get a thick wool one and it is lovely in winter.

      1. Angstrom*

        I suspect that if you politely asked if they could remove or cover the arachnid earrings while you were together(in meetings, for example), and made it clear that it was your issue, not theirs, a kind person would try to accomodate you. A suitiably goth scarf or headband might be just the thing — it could be the Cloth of Concealment and be something you could joke about. :-)

  31. Coverage Associate*

    I had a more probable explanation re the wedding, but it got swallowed. My less probable explanation is more fun.

    I have a coworker who I am pretty sure is related to the woman we both used to work for, at different times, and our shared former boss is good friends with our current boss. My coworker’s unusual last name is the same as our former boss’s middle name, which is why I figure they’re related.

    But no one has mentioned that they are related, and when I told my coworker that our current boss wants to hire our former boss, the coworker kept a straight face. She didn’t mention that she used to work for the former boss. (At the time, I only knew her work history through LinkedIn, but our current boss has now confirmed it.) She certainly didn’t mention that the former and possibly future boss was a relative, and she hasn’t gotten out in front of my assumption by ever dropping into conversation that they’re not related. (I have a name well known in my profession, and I try to drop into conversation early on that I am not related to anyone else in my profession with my last name.)

    Anyway, maybe there are much longer standing relationships involved than LW knew about, and the weirdness is deeper. Probably makes the whole thing worse management, but less personal.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      If your post disappears, it just means that it went into moderation and should show up later.

    2. anon, anon*

      Maybe coworker is not telling you these things because she doesn’t think you need to know them? Or that it might muck up the candidate’s chances in some way.

      Does your employer have a nepotism policy that would cover this situation (if these people are even related?) I have a lot of relatives I’ve never even met.

      Is the fact that they worked together at all pertinent? Is your coworker a reference for this job candidate?

      Are you the hiring officer in this case?

      1. Coverage Associate*

        Yes, the employer has a nepotism policy, and this would not violate it.

        For my coworker, the past work together is my coworker’s only prior experience in our industry, so the opinion of that former manager is more relevant than a typical reference from years back, for purely professional reasons. Here, that reference would have also had personal weight because the hiring manager is a long-time friend of my coworker’s former boss.

        As the candidate would be very senior to my coworker, my coworker would not be a reference for the candidate in the typical sense. My estimation is that our boss first thought to hire the candidate, and as part of those discussions, my now coworker came to the attention of my boss, and coworker’s onboarding happened before our boss could complete negotiations with the candidate.

        I was not involved in hiring the coworker nor in the negotiations with the candidate, which has been another unusual aspect of the situation. Our boss doesn’t usually hire people in my coworker’s positions in our state. (My current boss was not the hiring manager when I joined my current employer.) Usually lower-level, but more local managers, hire people for positions like my coworker’s, in our state.

  32. Coverage Associate*

    My idea about the wedding that got eaten is maybe just a shorter timeline of “everyone else knew each other before LW started.”

    First, wasn’t everyone invited part of the team before LW? The bride may have started after LW, but she could have interviewed around the same time or even before, so the bride may have met/known the rest of the team before LW. In a team of about 5, I would expect to have the chance at least to meet everyone before accepting the position.

    And I know it’s strange to invite someone you don’t even work with yet to your wedding, but to me it’s almost as strange as inviting someone you just started working with. And some workplaces have or offer somewhat social interview processes. My jobs invite people who have accepted offers but not started work to work social functions in between. And of course lunch or even dinner is an accepted part of a job interview.

    Less in non profits and call based jobs, but recruiting can involve very social things like going to a professional sporting event or a round of golf. I can see the bride feeling like the hiring team were friends by the time she started work.

    I have no justification for the manager. Even without LW in the picture, I think the manager should have declined the invitation to keep the work relationship clear.

  33. bamcheeks*

    Oh my GOD that poor woman in the sports coach story:

    Spina said she was initially embarrassed to tell anyone about the gaffe, but she chalked up the ordeal to a miscommunication.

    “There’s obviously no hard feelings. I’m giving myself peace and just understanding that everyone was doing what they thought they had to do in that moment,” she said

    Honestly, this kinda reads like she’s been gaslit into thinking it was her error. She should not be embarrassed! There should be hard feelings! I totally understand that she is probably looking for similar jobs in the same field and doesn’t want to get a reputation, but I’m kind of heartbroken for her feeling like she has to be nice and understanding about this. At the very least, the school should be apologising and issuing a statement to say that they’re reviewing internal processes. And internally the coach who did the “hiring” should be experiencing real consequences.

    1. Free Serpents*

      Seems like she realizes that holding onto hard feelings is not going to accomplish anything and has enough emotional regulation skills to move past it. We could all do to emulate her.

  34. Fabulous*

    #1 – While it was stupidly rude of her to do that, I have to wonder if there’s an innocent explanation. Perhaps she only had a limited number of seats left and one extra person in the office.

    1. Dek*

      Honestly, it doesn’t really matter if there was an innocent explanation or not. The big thing to me is that the boss should not have accepted the invitation in that case.

    2. Budgie Buddy*

      That’s still exclusion – it means OP was the one who came to mind when it was more convenient for Heather to exclude someone.

    3. sam_i_am*

      I don’t think that’s an innocent explanation. It’s still choosing to invite everyone except a single person, which is still exclusionary. Seems like, if you can’t invite everyone you either (1) don’t invite coworkers or (2) have a conversation with the only coworker you’re not inviting about why.

    4. Allonge*

      In which case she should just not have invited anyone from the office. They knew her for a period best measured in weeks!

  35. Capt. Liam Shaw*

    LW3: I honestly don’t think the manager was wrong to bring the earrings up. You made someone feel uncomfortable. You even say “I understand some very conservative Christian people might see these as problematic.” Honestly many Christians would, not even very conservative ones. I am atheist so no dog in the spirituality fight. Furthermore I have reported employees for having excessive Christian paraphernalia in their cubes. If someone feels uncomfortable they should be allowed to speak up.

    The only thing that is weird to me is if this was a zoom call, how big are these thing rings?

    1. Free Serpents*

      It’s pretty common on Zoom calls for a person to inadvertently make a noise, like just moving something on their desk, which causes the software to think that person is the active speaker and flash them up full screen for a second. A second is enough time to register earrings.

      We’re really fixated on how the coworker saw the earrings as someway os discrediting them. How odd.

    2. Good Grief*

      I am an atheist and feel uncomfortable around any religious paraphernalia, no matter the size or type.

      Good to know that you think it’s OK to report co-workers for wearing crosses or Stars of David as pendants, earrings, rings, or bracelets.

      Or head scarves, turbans, and skullcaps worn for religious purposes. Those things are visible from a block away, and for sure would be noticeable on a Zoom call.

      I shouldn’t be made to feel uncomfortable because of someone’s religious beliefs.

      1. Capt. Liam Shaw*

        Then I would say, I am more tolerant than you. I have no problems with expression, it is when it gets excessive to proselytizing I get uncomfortable.

        1. Good Grief*

          I was using sarcasm to point out how wrong it is to think that the manager was in the right to ask LW3 to not wear those earrings.

          I am uncomfortable around religious symbols, true, and yet I know that it would be 100% ridiculous for me to complain about my coworkers wearing cross earrings, for example. Just as ridiculous as it was for this one employee to complain about the OP’s earrings and the even more ridiculous behavior of the manager capitulating to the complaint.

          The manager was absolutely in the wrong to ask to the OP to not wear the earrings.

          “If someone feels uncomfortable they should be allowed to speak up.” Sure. And they did. And the manager should have shut it down.

        2. AMH*

          I struggle to understand how ouija board earrings AREN’T expression, or ARE proselytizing. I think that level of discomfort is 100% on the uncomfortable person to handle. The manager was out of line.

    3. Lainey L. L-C*

      I’ve gotta say if someone complained that my…(looks around my cube) cat stuff made them feel uncomfortable and I had to get rid of it, I would be finding something of theirs that made me feel uncomfortable.

    4. analyst*

      Just because something someone does makes another person uncomfortable, doesn’t mean the person did anything wrong. Sometimes people have to deal with their own feelings. I’m uncomfortable if people don’t eat Kosher, so what? You think everyone has to eat Kosher around me? Susie’s religion says no gay marriage, so anyone in a same sex marriage has to hid it? Of course not…they’re freaking Ouija board earrings, this is not a problem and the manager needs to manage….

    5. Eliot Waugh*

      Not everything that makes someone uncomfortable needs to be eliminated. In this case the it’s on the other person to handle their own discomfort.

      1. UKDancer*

        I agree. I really find those very stretched earlobe piercings uncomfortable to look at and they make me uncomfortable with an internal shudder. I keep this to myself because it’s my problem and not anyone else’s. People have the right to have that type of piercing, even if I find it offputting and there’s no way I’d ever tell one of my colleagues that their ear piercing repels me.

    6. Fluffy Fish*

      Emphatically no. No one is wearing earrings at someone. They are not generally offensive such as swear words or advocating hate towards anyone.

      Other peoples religious rights do not extend to telling others how they can act or dress.

      It is also completely inappropriate to report people for have religious paraphernalia that doesn’t effect others – having things in your private cube or office falls into that.

      Stop using religion to bully people.

    7. Name (Required)*

      You’ve reported people for ” having excessive Christian paraphernalia in their cubes.”? In their own cubes? Seriously?!?!

      Good grief – I am agnostic but FFS live and let live. That is so not your business and your “discomfort” is your own problem to deal with.

      1. Capt. Liam Shaw*

        Yes I have. If I recall correctly it was 34 items. Crosses (including one hanging on the cube wall of about 1ft in size), mousepad, figurines, bible studies. It was to be blunt, a bit much.

          1. Capt. Liam Shaw*

            Well the head of HR (church going southern baptist) and HR rep (church going Christian) felt I was justified.

            I get y’all relate to the LW because you think it isn’t fair or whatever, or maybe you like the quirky of it all. But that is the thing about DEI and tolerance for others…. Sometimes it means you have to be aware of others and their beliefs not just think everyone should be aware of yours.

        1. Allonge*

          Ok but – what does it matter unless they constituted some kind of safety issue, like tripping over them or them falling on people? Some people have action figures or photos of their kids.

        2. metadata minion*

          I would also find that unsettling, but unless I had to have meetings in this person’s cube, it doesn’t really seem like any of my business.

      2. GreyjoyGardens*

        *This* kind of stuff falls under what I think of as “tattling.” Someone running to a supervisor saying “Susie has a cross in her cubicle and a Bible mousepad! I’m gonna TELL!”

        That’s not justifiable reporting, that someone is making it hard for you to do your job, or they are always late and it’s their job to answer the phones and staff the front desk, or are bullying/harassing you or someone. This is just self-righteousness designed to get someone in trouble.

        People tend to not like or trust tattletales very much. Just sayin’. (Not you, Name, I mean the commenter who says they “reported” a coworker for having too much religion in their cubicle.)

    8. RussianInTexas*

      “I have no dog in the spirituality fight, but I’ve reported people for having religious stuff” seems a bit contradictory.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        Not really, they’re just saying their objection to whatever they reported wasn’t based on it contradicting their own sincerely held religious or spiritual beliefs. And that no one religion feels more right to them than another – they’re all wrong – so their opinion about the earrings in the OP is not colored/influenced by thinking they’re satanic or whatever.

        1. Pescadero*

          “And that no one religion feels more right to them than another – they’re all wrong”

          That itself is a spiritual belief.

    9. SB*

      Where do we draw the line though? What if pictures of people’s family make someone who cannot have a family of their own uncomfortable? Do we then ban people from having photos of their kids at their desk? Or what about someone who is afraid of dogs because they were bitten as a child? Can Susan now not have Rover as her screen saver because it might upset her coworker? At what point do we say to people “hey, your inability to regulate your emotions is not my problem, grow up”?

  36. There You Are*

    The complainer in #3 must be related to the person who threw my stainless steel Satanic Temple tumbler in the trash at an old job.

    Or the woman I worked with ages ago who had a complete breakdown — anger, crying, and yelling at me that when something horrible happened to her at an indeterminate time in the future I would bear the blame — because I said the word “Beelzebub” in a conversation with someone else. (The conversation was about horror / scary movies).

  37. Ex-prof*

    LW #3, I’m picturing this bored coworker carefully flicking through the images of her 199 fellow workers in desperate search of something to be offended at.

    1. jane's nemesis*

      this is unkind to the LW.

      It hurts to be excluded from things. There’s nothing that indicates “bored” or “desperate to be offended” in the question.

      1. Billy Preston*

        Ex-prof’s is a reply to the ouija board earrings so I think your comment may be in error? No one is excluding that coworker from anything.

  38. Former Retail Lifer*

    For #2, it just seems like the coach circumvented the normal hiring process. The coach interviewed her before she had any info in the system, so HR didn’t even know she existed. I imagine that the coach was told she couldn’t be hired because the proper processes weren’t followed, but I don’t see why that couldn’t be corrected after the fact.

    1. Awkward Interviewee*

      So I work in higher ed and have been on hiring committees. Universities usually have fairly rigid hiring processes, so I think it really depends on how far outside the coach was. If he was mostly following the hiring rules but just got a little ahead of himself and offered her the job without having her info all the way through the system, he should be able to get that corrected. But if what he did was really outside the process (examples: he was supposed to use a hiring committee and he didn’t, he was supposed to interview X number of candidates and only interviewed her, other staff in athletics needed to sign off on the hire and have reasons they think she’s not a good hire, the woman hired wasn’t actually qualified for the job, etc) then I can see HR saying no, you can’t do this.

    2. Sparkles McFadden*

      As nuts as that hiring story sounds, I can totally believe it. I have seen managers at my former company try to circumvent the HR process assuming “Once the person is here and working, HR will have to OK it all.”

      I think the only reason this didn’t get to the same point as that news story was because we were in a secure building where you could not go anywhere without an ID badge, so even if the boss signed the person in as a visitor, the person couldn’t get anywhere without an escort. That means the whole plan would get stopped right in the lobby when the poor person would say “I’m a new hire” and Security would check with HR and…nope. I saw this happen more than once so I think some managers have a very skewed view of the world and their place in it.

  39. LucyGoosy*

    LW 3 – Yeah, to me this would be akin to wearing ghost earrings around Halloween. Some may find it offensive (I’ve heard a very religious person say that it’s akin to exploiting a tortured soul trapped in spiritual limbo), some may recognize it as a cultural symbol…………most people are not going to see it as anything other than a seasonal/cultural item. Regardless, you have the right to wear it. I agree the manager overstepped–you cannot harass another employee or create an unsafe work environment based on their religious beliefs, but that one person also doesn’t have the right to complain about what other people wear unless it’s a DIRECT form of harassment.

  40. BellyButton*

    #2 I had something similar happen to me early in my career, before I knew better. I was being heavily recruited from a company. I received and accepted a verbal offer, with a set start date. During my 2 week notice period, I even met with the hiring manager and the director for coffee twice! I showed up on my first day of work and they looked shocked. I was told they hadn’t actually offered me the job, but had just been courting me and thinking about what could be done if they brought me on?? WTAF. I had quit my job! I applied for unemployment and challenged them. I had nothing in writing but I did have a few VM- I did get the unemployment benefit for 1 mo. Which helped me get by and also was an FU to people playing games.

    Like I said, that was very early in my career and I learned my lesson.

    1. jane's nemesis*

      oh my gosh, what did they think the start date you talked about MEANT?? I’m so glad you fought them and got that 1 month of unemployment.

  41. Nnt*

    LW4- is this a difficult position to fill? I’m asking because in my experience, people who require excessive hand holding before the interview process has even started are almost always people you don’t want to interview, no matter how impressive their qualifications look. I’d strongly reconsider whether you want to move forward with this candidate at all, unless there is a shortage of other applicants.

    1. LW4*

      Yes and no I guess, there will be many applicants but it might end up that none are right fit and we need to redo the hiring process. My feeling was sort of the same as yours but given their credentials and the fact of being from a different country my thinking is that a) they must be very good at least in certain ways and b) are there cultural barriers here that I’m not aware of and would I be discriminatory in expecting a certain demeanor that might be culture-specific?

      1. kalli*

        Or maybe people keep giving them a pass and so they never had to learn how to negotiate existing in professional land. Expecting someone to be able to read and comprehend is not a culturally specific expectation, it’s either a requirement of the position (in which case they’ve shown they’re not qualified) or it’s not (in which case you should be able to find someone else).

  42. anywhere but here*

    It’s interesting to note the juxtaposition in the comments regarding LW3: there’s one contingent of people saying that use of Ouija boards is a legitimate spiritual practice for many (and therefore deserving of religious protection), and another contingent of people saying that it’s obviously just a board game like any other (and therefore not meaningfully connected with occult practices or worth the complaint about LW3).

    1. Eliot Waugh*

      That’s just context. Different people experience the Ouija board differently depending on cultural context.

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah…I grew up in a broadly secular country (we have an official religion but not even 50% of people claim to be Christian and even fewer actually go to church) where Halloween as viewed in America is a very recent import. We used to carve swedes and mangolds rather than pumpkins, and in my part of England it was more about Bonfire Night and making effigies of Guy Fawkes than anything ‘spooky’ or trick-or-treating or whatever. That wasn’t a thing that came over here until I was well into my childhood. Nowadays you have Halloween decorations and themed cakes and whatnot in the shops, and small children will go trick-or-treating with their parents, but it’s nowhere near the huge deal it is in the USA. Very few workplaces would do anything for Halloween. People might have Halloween parties, but that’s because we’ll take any excuse for a fancy dress party. And ouija boards have nothing to do with religion, as far as I’m concerned – they’re just a game. The sort of thing teenagers get a bit obsessed with to freak each other out, like telling ghost stories when you have a sleepover with your friends. So in my cultural context I can’t imagine a situation where someone would even be offended by ouija board earrings, let alone where it would rise to the level of someone being told not to wear them at work.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes definitely. I mean some people used ouija boards at sleepovers when I was growing up (along with telling urban legends) but the UK is very secular as a whole and we don’t tend to associate them with religion. They’re just a thing some people do.

          I can’t think anyone in the UK would ever object to these earrings, even if they recognise what they are.

          1. Beth**

            It’s probably not unrelated to the fact that in the late 19th/early 20th century, spiritualism went through a period of popularity and was practised by people who otherwise considered themselves to be Christians. Agatha Christie has a number of characters who do this.

      2. Nina*

        Sure – this is a somewhat hyperbolic example, but if my coworker is wearing a dress embroidered with swastikas and a swastika necklace, is it reasonable for me to be extremely uncomfortable and maybe talk to the boss or HR about it to ask her to not do that again?

        Now what if my coworker is Buddhist and that’s an important religious symbol for her?

        The symbolism to the wearer absolutely factors into the reaction of the viewer, if we’re talking about potentially offensive jewelry at work.

    2. Good Grief*

      And, either way, it was inappropriate for the manager to ask the OP to quit wearing the earrings.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      It’s not that different to other spiritual symbols though if you think about it; some people wear crucifixes because they’re deeply meaningful, other people wear them as fashion.

  43. Ferris Mewler*

    LW #1, I was also left out of being invited to a coworker’s wedding. In my case, I wasn’t the only one not invited, but I’d thought of her as a good friend at work and when she invited other coworkers but not me, it made me realize she didn’t actually like me as much as I liked her.

    In your case, it’s pretty baffling that she would have invited a bunch of near-total strangers and not you. Did the other coworkers and your manager make a point of gushing over the wedding to a higher degree than you did? Maybe she somehow got the impression you weren’t interested in her wedding the way the others were. In any case, weddings can bring out very strange behavior in people. I’d shrug it off as weird and unexplainable and not personal.

  44. Lily Potter*

    LW1 is very generic about their relationship to the bride-to-be. For all we know, there’s a good reason that the BTB didn’t want LW1 at their wedding. The why doesn’t matter, and it doesn’t do anyone any good to speculate on it. LW1’s question had to do with the “propriety” of what happened. The “propriety” answer (and I think most will agree here) is that Veronica as manager should not have attended. For the bride-to-be, from a “work rules” prospective, can exclude anyone she wants. It’s her wedding and the workplace can’t force her to invite everyone. From a “decent human being trying to get along with her co-workers” prospective, it’s murkier. IMO, all other things being equal, everyone in that small office should have been invited if more than half were getting invites. But again, we don’t know the specifics of LW1’s situation and relationship with the BTB to say for sure.

    For LW4, I’d run like a maniac in the opposite direction. I work in an industry where following written details is absolutely crucial. If a job applicant can’t be bothered to read my job posting for answers before bugging me about it, s/he ain’t gonna last long in the job, no matter how well qualified otherwise.

    1. MicroManagered*

      For all we know, there’s a good reason that the BTB didn’t want LW1 at their wedding. The why doesn’t matter, and it doesn’t do anyone any good to speculate on it.

      I had a similar take on this letter. There’s a reason Heather invited all of her peers and her manager to the wedding, except OP1. I dunno if it’s a “good” reason, but there’s a reason. I don’t really buy any of the innocent speculations like Heather had room for 4 more people, but absolutely not 5, etc.

      This letter reminded me of several episodes of The Office where one character has a grudge against another character, who has no idea what they did or considered it much more minor, etc.

  45. ABC*

    It wasn’t a matter of Heather inviting everyone before I started the job. She came on after I was already there.

    LW1, how well did you know your team members? Is it possible that they all knew each other (either socially or professionally) before Heather started at that job, and she had already invited them before you started there?

  46. i drink too much coffee*

    LW#1, same thing happened to me.

    My team is only four people total including our boss. The whole team went, took a “team photo” together at the wedding, the whole shebang.

  47. SusieQQ*

    The ouija board earring post is so coincidental to me because I was just talking to my husband about a work incident involving a co-worker’s ouija board earrings.

    I was at an on-site event for a company where everyone worked remotely. (The org had these a few times a year and flew people in for it). It was during the fall, so it was Halloween season. I had breakfast with a group of co-workers who included a woman who had grown up Catholic and took everything about demons extremely seriously. To her, they were real and you shouldn’t make movies about them, talk about them, joke about them, make toys about them, etc.

    Then there was another woman who loved everything Halloween. She showed up to the on-site event wearing a bat dress, skull tights, and ouija board earrings.

    I don’t think anything came of it, but I wondered what No Demons Lady thought of Halloween Lady’s earrings.

    All this is to say, while I 99% agree with Allison’s advice here, I disagree with the assumption that it’s “A Lot.” Some people take stuff like that very seriously. Which is not to say that you can’t wear them, but just to say that the level of discomfort this person felt may have been significant and legitimate.

  48. GreyjoyGardens*

    Re the ouija board earrings: they sound cool, for one. And it seems like someone found an excuse to be a big tattletale and get the LW “in trouble” for something. Maybe the person was genuinely freaked out about the earrings, but it might be that LW has an enemy who wants to “get” them for something or another.

    I don’t know what kind of work place this is – some are very aboveboard, and some are shark tanks where you have to be constantly on your guard – but I would find out the culprit and be wary around them just in case.

  49. ThisIshRightHere*

    I am a very devout Christian. I actively avoid all things spiritistic and divination-related. As a child, I was taught “ouija boards are bad” before I even understood what they were. And for this precise reason, I’m not certain I would even recognize one, shrunk down to earring size, further shrunk down to zoom thumbnail size, enough to comment on it (much less be afraid of it). Someone was being weird. And that’s if the “someone” who supposedly complained even exists.

  50. Despachito*

    I understood the comparison as saying that of course no one can build a N-bomb in their shed, just as no one is able to do a real harm with an ouija board.

    However, it would be concerning to hear the person is TRYING to do this, as there would be hatred and malevolence behind such activity. It would be the intent, not the effect, that would be scary.

  51. Gadfly*

    Every time folks are freaked out by oujia boards, I have to roll my eyes. Before a movie made it scary, it was considered a fun family activity. There’s even a Norman Rockwell painting. People believe what they believe, but this is very much a modern issue, not the timeless horror so many present it as.

  52. SB*

    From October 1st I wear all sorts of creepy earrings. Today they are tiny jars filled with a blood like substance (it’s glue & red food dye). I also have tiny planchette earrings which will come out at some stage this month.

    I wear Xmas themed earrings from December 1st that get more & more unhinged until Xmas Eve (or my last day of work before Xmas) when the angry T Rex & caught in Xmas lights & his mate the angry velociraptor on top of an Xmas tree make their annual appearance.

    Not one complaint, even when I worked at a Catholic Church owned aged care facility in a family facing role. Whoever zoomed in on your tiny pic to look at your earrings has some issues.

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