I ignored my boss, is reneging on a job offer unethical, and more

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

1. I ignored my boss because I was trying not to cry

I recently started working part-time at a mental health support phone line. Part of my boss’s job is supporting us in managing the emotional aspects of our work.

Yesterday, when she came and checked in and asked if I was okay (she felt I seemed down when I greeted her), to my horror I suddenly felt tears welling up! I thought I was doing okay and had even just resolved a major stressor, but I guess it’s been a rough week/month/year so that comes out very occasionally when someone asks sincerely about it.

I went dead silent because I was afraid I would cry (and be unable to stop) if I said anything. Plus, I didn’t think I could articulate what was wrong, because it felt like it was the culmination of a lot of things but also kind of nothing, if that makes sense. Eventually, after an awkward silence, she basically said, “It’s okay if you don’t want to talk about it” but in a tone that was kind of “that was a bit rude/strange.” She also told me to take a break if needed. I changed the subject, regrouped in the bathroom, and went back to work.

I didn’t end up saying anything because I was worried about drawing attention to it, but should I have sent an email apologizing or said anything about it later? I hate being rude!

If part of your boss’s job is to support you in managing the emotional aspects of your work, she probably realizes silence is a response someone can have when they’re overwhelmed with emotion or something is difficult to talk about. She might have thought it was a little strange but, given the context of what she was asking, probably not rude. That said, you could smooth it over now by saying, “I’m sorry I went totally silent when you asked if I was okay. I thought I was, but when you asked that I got hit with a wave of emotion that blindsided me a bit. I’m doing okay though.” (Leave off that last part if you are not doing okay.) If you feel awkward saying this, it would be fine to stick it in an email instead!

I do think it’s worth following up with something, just to close the loop on that interaction.

2. My ex-employer included a message in an email that I wasn’t supposed to see

I’ve been in a back-and-forth with my former HR due to lay-off miscommunication. I signed off from my job, apparently, at the end of June.

I’ve had questions about severance and extended benefits, so when I write to my HR contact, Caroline, I usually include her boss, Wendy, mainly because I’m vindictive and think that if this company wanted to lay off 1,300 of us, Wendy should hear about it too, even though she likely won’t read it.

The last time, in which I got a massive e-train of information from Caroline, it included forwards to Tracy (other HR in different location). In the midst, Caroline stated, “I am copying Big HR Person as this employee (me) likes to copy Wendy.” Obviously, I wasn’t supposed to see that line, which is basically conveying that they think I am a pain in the ass.

Without cc’ing anyone, I thanked Caroline for her help and asked her if she had wanted me to see that line.She said: “No, please disregard. Let me know if I can help you.”

The squishy me would like to write back and tell her: Hey, no worries, shit happens. And I would also like to explain why I cc Wendy when I write (for example, to keep track of papers that didn’t get processed, and I am 56 and am dead at the idea of being laid off while the CEO got a bonus of $1.3 million). I would like to let Caroline know we are both human and I’m not asking these questions as a joke but because it matters to my life.

The steely me just wants to not answer Caroline right now, get my answers from Tracy, keep dealing with my union, but never forget this little insult that I wasn’t supposed to see and never write back to her to tell her it’s okay. (I don’t think she cares, really.)

I don’t think it’s much of an insult, really! You do like to copy Wendy; that’s factual. She noted that she’s copying a higher-up because you’ve shown a tendency to involve them. That’s pretty reasonable. I know it feels like the subtext of “likes to copy Wendy” is “i.e., she’s a pain in the ass” and I understand why (that probably is the subtext) … but I still don’t think you actually saw anything that’s terribly shocking or insulting!

If you hadn’t already written back to ask if you were meant to see that line, you could have instead said something like, “I saw you mentioned that I copy Wendy, so I wanted to explain I’m doing that because I want to guard against the previous mistakes in how this was handled.” But since you’ve already flagged it, I’d just leave it where it is. I don’t think Caroline needs a “no worries” message of reassurance, and I also don’t think denying her that will send any particular message.

You’re very emotionally invested in this — which is completely normal and understandable! — but they are much less so. You’re better off just focusing on getting what you need and disconnecting emotionally from the whole thing as much as possible. I’m sorry you’re dealing with it.

3. Is reneging on a job offer unethical?

I recently started an MBA program. The career center here has made it clear to students that if you renege on a job offer (i.e., accept, and then later decline, an offer, usually because you received a better one) you can be fined up to $20,000 and lose lifetime access to career services at the university. This penalty seems harsh, but I can understand it from their point of view in that it makes the school look bad to companies if people back out of accepted offers (and it messes with the company’s recruiting plans, and maybe they won’t want to return to recruit at our school if it happens a lot, etc.).

What I disagree with is that the school justifies this policy by saying that it is “unethical” for the student to reneg an offer. After years of reading AAM, I totally disagree. The company would pull an offer from me in a heartbeat if their plans changed, and I don’t know why I should care more than they would.

I brought this up with some of my classmates, and they agreed with the school’s policy — that reneging was unethical. I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Yeah, I can’t really call it unethical; it’s business. It’s true that when you accept an offer, you’re giving your word and making a commitment, and you shouldn’t do that cavalierly. But companies do pull offers when their circumstances change, and if we accept their right to do that, it needs to go both ways.

I do think continuing to actively search once you’ve accepted an offer is unethical — just as it would be unethical for a company to offer you a job and then continue to search for better candidates, with the intent of pulling your offer if they find someone they prefer. And I can see the school’s point of view — they depend on relationships with companies to recruit their students, and they don’t want to jeopardize those relationships — although that penalty is really harsh.

4. Talking about skills learned as a Wiccan priestess when interviewing

I’m applying for a job and have come upon an issue I just can’t decide how to approach! I am a Wiccan priestess. I perform the functions of this role at my home and mostly as a volunteer, although I do charge a small fee to perform weddings. There are a lot of skills I’ve developed over the years that I have done this work with the Circle I lead, such as organizing, planning, writing, coordinating events, and communication. I teach monthly classes as well. Most of these skills are very relevant to the job I’m applying for, which is not a religious or spiritual role at all. Which is fine! I firmly believe that work and religion should be separate. But for the life of me I can’t think of how to translate this experience into a work context! I’d like to be able to talk about it, somehow, without seeming weird. Do you have any suggestions, in case I get an interview?

I would love to be able to tell you there’s a way to do this, because if you were in a more mainstream religion, there would be a way to talk about the pieces that were relevant to work (leaving the religious aspects out of it, of course — but a rabbi or minister could certainly talk about organizing, planning, writing, coordinating events, and communication). But the reality is that there’s still so much stigma against Wicca, and it’s seen as so offbeat in many quarters, that there’s a high risk of it hurting your candidacy more than it helps you. That sucks, it’s unfair, and yet it’s still the case.

(Or at least, that’s my advice for most fields. I can imagine there are some that are exceptions to it, like if you are applying for jobs that intersect with outside-the-mainstream spiritual communities in some way.)

5. How soon can I leave after a promotion?

I am in a job where organizational instability, a big budget deficit, and a generally rough outlook for our industry have combined into an unfortunate Frankenstein’s monster of employee discontent. Many people want out (and many of those out of the industry entirely), and when they go, we cheer their good fortune and also shudder because they aren’t replaced. I am all done with doing at least three people’s jobs while always looking over my shoulder for the latest nasty surprise, and am looking to get out as well.

When my former supervisor got out earlier this year (yay! for them), I inherited most of their work but not their title or salary. I did get a modest title and pay bump, but it’s not commensurate with what I’m now doing or enough to put up with the circumstances I’m doing it in. So, after getting a title bump, how soon is too soon to leave if you want it to count in your favor? If you are searching within a few months, does it suggest to potential employers that even though someone thought highly enough of you to promote you, you never actually learned to do the higher-level job or can’t hack it?

You can leave whenever you want, and it’s not going to suggest that you couldn’t hack it. However, if you leave within a few months of the title bump you’re most likely to get credit for earning the promotion but not as much for doing the higher level work. But in a situation like yours, that shouldn’t stop you!

{ 346 comments… read them below }

  1. Goose*

    #4, is there any way for you to translate your work into a vague “community group”? Leave it off the resume, but if there’s a natural way to say “in my feee time I manage a [neighborhood social club/women’s empowerment group/volunteer group]of [number of people] where I get to use [relevant skill].

    1. D*

      I feel like “spiritual organization” might sound better. “Community group” to me sounds like someone wanting credit for running the school carpool.

      1. Mavis*

        Tangent: Whoever organizes those deserves plenty of credit. (The people in charge of [de]funding school transportation which leads to the necessity of school carpools…not so much.)

        Anyway, I agree that the LW could look for examples of religious leaders‘ resumes and see how they’ve listed their accomplishments and skills and then use that as a template. Good luck to her!

      2. Claire*

        Nah, a carpool is 2 or 3 families. A community group is typically something larger that’s open to the wider community.

      3. Olive*

        I also like “spiritual organization”. While I recognize that there could be a particular bias against Wiccans, I think it’s smart to not come across as possibly “evangelistic” (small e) about any religious or spiritual practices on a resume. Unless it’s very clear what the work and career related skills involved are, it runs a risk of being seen as someone who thinks they need to mention their beliefs at every opportunity.

    2. John Smith*

      I think referring to a religion like that demeans the religion (and the person).

      If mentioning religion is not an issue but the actual religion is, would it be possible to say what you do (e.g, perform wedding ceremonies, blessings, organising services, admin etc) without referring to which religion (which really you shouldn’t have to do)? But then I suppose a potential employer may want some evidence to support these skills which may cause problems if, for example, they ask for a reference/letter from someone who can back you up.

      It’s a shame anyone has to hide who they are (except for Tories…..). Good luck.

      1. Crooked Bird*

        YMMV. My parents used to live in country where by law the small church they pastored had to be registered as a “cultural association.” That language expressed part of what we were rather than all, but that’s not in itself demeaning. A lot of us don’t bring all of what we are to work in particular. Anyway the LW can decide what she feels comfortable with.

        Come to think of it, might “cultural association” or “cultural group” be better language? It seems to express the human depth involved a little better. Or maybe it loses in translation; maybe in the American context it sounds exclusively like a group meant to celebrate a particular ethnic culture (which would be inaccurate) rather than expressing “this has a general cultural purpose.”

        1. Kendra*

          A “cultural association” could also come across as something like an a nonprofit group supporting the local theatre, museum, artists’ collective, or other cultural endeavor. That wording wouldn’t strike me as odd at all, personally!

          1. Polyhymnia O’Keefe*

            In my area, “cultural association” has a pretty specifically national/ethnic cultural connotation. A couple of examples in my city would be the Igbo Cultural Association [city] or the [City] Finlandia Cultural Association. Different regions may use the term differently, but in my experience, it would definitely be ethnic, as Crooked Bird suggests.

      2. Beth*

        Agreed that being vague might be the answer here. “Wedding officiant” is a meaningful and respected thing all on its own. Teaching, running a community group, etc are as well. It might be hard to completely dodge the topic you teach/organize about, but I’m betting it won’t be hard to choose a smaller and more mainstream element of your practice (do you do any crafting, e.g. carving a tool, making paper or candles for a ritual, dyeing thread? what about astrology or tarot, which are often seen as quirky but mainstream in a way that wicca isn’t?), let people assume it’s the whole of the class/group topic, and then spend most of your discussion focused on the organizational skills and coordination tactics you’ve gained.

    3. Vancouver*

      I was coming here to suggest something similar. If you think it’s worth including on your resume, could you call it Circle Name (Community Group) or something like that? Or if you want to be even vaguer, Community Cultural Group. When discussing it in person, Goose’s language sounds good to me!

      I’m sorry that you have to consider this just because your religious practices differ from societal norms. That’s bovine excrement.

    4. Tiger Snake*

      My understanding is that Wicca is less organised than the other religions we can compare it to, because it doesn’t have that centralisation aspect to its management and structure. It’s from THAT perspective, which is relevant to how those skills translate to the workplace and nothing to do with wicca’s validatory as a religion, that I totally follow the idea of comparing it to a community group.

      1. Anax*

        That seems to track to me. I wouldn’t hesitate to call a Bible study group or a home church a ‘community group’ – with no implications on the validity or meaningfulness of that religious practice.

        From a work perspective, some religious organizations have a lot more overhead – real estate, taxes, donations, employees. It feels reasonable to distinguish between the ‘community building’ and ‘logistics’ aspects – and if the job focuses mostly on the former, a ‘community group’ feels like a truthful description. (And conveniently, it ALSO sidesteps some potential prejudice.)

        Certainly, no pressure to describe it that way, but I don’t think that description demeans anyone.

        (On the other hand, I’m very open about being trans and poly and let the chips fall where they may, so my personal tolerance for the risks of disclosure is pretty high!)

      2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        that is where I am coming from too. Where is the accountability? Sure Op is organizing allt his stuff and teaching the classes, etc., but who is evaluating what she is offering. At least a Minister or a Rabbi can say – I was offered a renewed contract, the Elders praised my work in my annual review.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yes, if OP is doing most of this stuff at home and a bit of volunteer work then I wouldn’t think it would really fit on a resume regardless of how “mainstream” their religion is. I think that kind of thing can sometimes fit into a cover letter if you can think of a good way to frame it, but not on a resume.

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              And a lot of volunteer work doesn’t. If you are working with a structured organization I think that can sometimes make sense to include, but to me that doesn’t sound like the kind of thing OP is referring to.

            2. SoloKid*

              Agreed if there is someone to contact about accountability (e.g. Big Brother, Habitat for Humanity, food banks, town sports coaching) where someone can confirm basic things like did you show up on time and length of volunteering.

              If it is a self-run activity, then you could mention it offhand in an interview but I wouldn’t put it on a resume.

        2. münchner kindl*

          Yes, I thought of past letters of people who worked as mothers, organized gaming groups etc.: sure, that’s a lot of organizing, communication etc., but nobody objective is evaluating the work, so leave it off the resume.

          With a non-mainstream religion, I see similar problem. Bringing it up naturally during an interview without getting into details, or mention the skills in the cover letter, but if there’s no neutral evaluation, it’s just difficult for an outsider to tell whether LW did a good job at the responsibilities connected with that role; with the added problem that the average person can guess what a mainstream priest’s responsibilities are, they are likely to not know the responsibilities for a Wiccan priestess.

          1. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

            I was going to make the same comparison to the previous letters about organizing a gaming group.

      3. Duck Rover*

        As an initiate in a well-established Wiccan coven, I had this thought too. There’s no national or international council or diocese that oversees our work; the Elders who sit on our Coven Council and the High Priest and High Priestess govern the coven and manage the property that we own, but there’s no universal standard for how any of that is done.

        Covens or circles can either be really well-run with clear charters/bylaws, fiscal responsibilities, property management, etc. or they can be very loosey-goosey, especially if just run by one person with no council oversight. Even as a Wiccan myself, I would be more hesitant to assume that Wiccan Priestess responsibilities were robustly and rigorously carried out compared to those of, say, a rabbi or Episcopal priest.

        1. Cat*

          There wa no one responsible for overseeing the work of my childhood pastor, but he wouldn’t not put being a pastor on his resume because of that.

        2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

          I don’t know that the lack of oversight is an issue, though. Part of the resume is as a jumping off point for discussion–something she did in this capacity might be the answer to a “tell me about a time when…” type of question. I don’t think it’s typical to vet the truthfulness of every one of those types of answers with a supervisor, it’s more about whether the candidate has answered the question in a thoughtful and intelligible way.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            I think there are a ton of things that might make good discussion in an interview that don’t belong on the resume itself.

        3. Lenora Rose*

          All of this is also true of most items you could put on as Community Groups, though. Nobody above you can say if your book club is well or badly organized, or your SCA group, or etc. – but longevity or consistent/rising memberships are still pretty significant. And if it’s under a volunteer header, employers don’t expect the same level of accountability, either. That doesn’t mean it’s discounted, or we wouldn’t bother with volunteer locales, but it does mean I don’t think this is a valid concern unless the OP does decide to phrase it as something that will specifically lead them to assume she’s talking about Ministry.

        4. lilsheba*

          Frankly I think if it’s ok to list an “organized” religion and duties carried out for that, then list Wicca as well even if it is unorganized. We need to stop hiding these spiritual practices because they aren’t “Mainstream” or “appropriate” or whatever. If more people put this kind of thing down maybe others will get over themselves and it will become more accepted. No more hiding!

          1. Anax*

            Hey, let’s not put the burden on marginalized groups to disclose information that might cause them real harm. If you risk having your kids go hungry or losing your home without a job, or a smaller but still real harm – do what you have to do to stay safe.

            I agree with you in a vacuum, which is why I *am* open about this kind of thing – I’m in a safe enough position personally that I can deal with backlash. Not everyone is.

          2. In The Broom Closet*

            I’d love to agree, but when someone’s part of a marginalized group, hiding can be necessary. Wicca, and witchcraft in general, is still deeply stigmatized in many communities, and it doesn’t help that there are as many ways to practice as there are witches. It leaves a lot of space for interpretation when someone meets a witch, and people often go for the most exciting or deviant version they can imagine. Being open about being in an organized Wicca group on a resume, where there’s no forum for additional context pre-interview, could be perceived as anything from “might smell like patchouli” to “makes sacrifices to Satan.” I am not being facetious. I can’t fault OP for being a little protective over sharing something with so much space to be misinterpreted that won’t impact their work at all if hired.

            It’s true that the more people who are aware that they know and love a witch, the more understanding of what that looks like in the real world infuses into society and the fewer automatic assumptions are made. lilsheba’s definitely not wrong-but many people, myself included, don’t have the emotional bandwidth to be the one to take up that mantle, at least not when it comes to how they earn their living.

            1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

              I agree. I’m a solitary, non-Wiccan witch, and while I wear a religious symbol (silver upright pentagram with a Celtic knotwork border) of a size that no one would question if it were a cross, I leave it off if I’m interviewing. I don’t want someone’s prejudice to fire off about something that I’m in control of during the interview phase.

              Once I am working somewhere, I do tend to wear it openly. In most places I’ve worked, it occasions less discussion than my hair color.

    5. MJ*

      Maybe she could describe herself as a ‘wedding celebrant’ and not mention the religion? Quite a few different faith and atheist/agnostic communities use celebrants.

      1. Hope*

        That was my thought – many people are ordained wedding officiants. They may focus on one religion or one denomination or keep it secular. Keeps the focus on the tasks, not the faith associated.

      2. doreen*

        That will work if the tasks/skills are related to being a wedding celebrant rather than a religious leader – but they may not be. I’m sure there are wedding celebrants who craft a personalized ceremony for each couple they marry – but I also know there are wedding celebrants who use a standard ceremony with either standard vows or vows written by the couple , who don’t coordinate anything and whose organization/communication skills can be limited to communicating with the people hiring them.

      3. Cardboard Marmalade*

        I am just now learning the meaning of the phrase “wedding celebrant”, which I previously would have assumed meant anyone who attended a wedding and got sufficiently festive on the dance floor.

      4. a trans person*

        There are so many more skills used as a coven leader than just as a wedding celebrant, though, so I think something about the group needs to be in there too.

      5. Katie*

        I came here to say exactly this! If somebody said to me they were a “wedding celebrant” I would immediately think “Ah somebody who handles humanist/spiritualist/non-religious/other weddings, how cool”. Where I’m based this is a completely normal job and most celebrants would custom craft ceremonies based on the traditions/faiths/beliefs/backgrounds of the couple being married, so it’s a tough (but I imagine very fun) job.

    6. JSPA*

      I was going to say “cultural community” or “niche faith group with [#] local adherents.”

      Or just separate the skills :

      Officiant (x weddings per year).

      Teaching (monthly topic education in a free, community group setting with x to y attendees).

      Monthly newsletter (x number of subscribers / page views / whatever metric).

      I’d avoid emphasizing anything that looks like it would cut too deeply into your professional time.

      Ditto anything ould make people suspect you feel that boundaries apply less firmly to you, due to your connection to the universe, and your role in interpreting that for others (and I’d say the same if you were in a more mainstream faith group).

    7. DJ Abbott*

      If she does, she needs to be prepared to for interviewers to say “oh how interesting! /how fun! tell me more.”

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Thought same. I don’t think she should bring up the topic at all, frankly, because I’d wonder what activity she was doing.

      1. Kaiko*

        That’s going to come off as wellness-guru-personal-brand-culty if it’s not contextualized with great care and thought.

    8. ldub*

      Could you talk about how you’re a wedding officiant? That’s a known quantity for everyone, and it’s obvious what kind of organizational and public speaking skills you’d need for that role.

    9. anonymous 2*

      I had a similar idea to call LW’s role “wedding officiant” or “spiritual leader of a community of X number of people with XYZ duties”.

      Though it sucks that it might be advantageous to hide this part of LW’s self. In a job search with lots of options, it might be something to include and it would screen out employers who are biased. (Obviously sucks to have to choose between being yourself at work and having a job, and this won’t work in a job search with fewer options).

    10. Silverose*

      Volunteer Minister, Religious Affiliation Withheld

      Then list length of time, size of congregation if fairly large (if small, skip), job duties, etc.

      Been there, done that. Works most places except highly conservative regions – which I would then suggest omitting it completely because your safety and need to have a job are more important.

      In interviews, remain vague – ie, “my faith/tradition” – and be prepared with how you’ll respond to a question about the training/ordination process that will not disclose your specific affiliation – even if that means something along the lines of “my faith doesn’t have accredited seminaries, but instead does a structured mentoring program for clergy in training.”

      I’m getting ready to have to add this info back into interviews in my current company; I’m moving towards promotion and all my prior leadership experience is from my religious life – as an Alexandrian-trained Pagan priestess.

      1. Cmdrshprd*

        I am not sure if you are suggesting they actually say “religious affiliation withheld” or to just withhold the affiliation.

        My gut instinct is that saying ‘volunteer minister, religious affiliation withheld” would draw more attention to it and make it more of a thing versus just saying “volunteer minister” and not listing the religion.

        I think I can see where you are coming from? Saying “affiliation withheld” can signal to a person not to ask what specific religion it is, versus not listing it and someone asking what religion it is. Even though a good interviewer should know to to ask. My worry with saying affiliation withheld might lead to a person discounting the experience entirely.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          They do ask, though. They usually take a tone of friendly getting to know you. Sometimes it’s even sincere friendliness.

          Often in my younger days, interviewers would ask or try to find out indirectly if I was married and/or had children.

          Don’t assume they won’t ask just because they’re not supposed to. Be prepared.

      2. a trans person*

        It’s just, I would *never* describe myself as a “minister”. That just isn’t the right word for what I’ve done in my religious groups, and it feels so very, very Christian.

    11. Beth*

      I have used this approach with pagan event organization and other groups as well — fandom, LGBT, kink, hobby groups, etc. They are all community groups, and the skills in project management and event organizing can translate. I focus on the community organization aspect and the scale of the projects and events, and don’t specify the nature of the interest groups.

      The organizers of major conventions are handling large budgets and huge numbers of personnel, and can pull off a successful event with a hard deadline using an all-volunteer staff. That’s worth noting, whether the convention was IT professionals, SF fans, or furries.

      1. I Have RBF*


        All of my leadership experience is from running SF&F conventions. While I’m also pagan clergy, I’m not Wiccan, and don’t currently run a group.

        But people seem to blow off volunteer leadership positions, in spite of the fact that you have to manage people, budgets and schedule on a year long project with only carrots. People can flake on you at any time, so you have to have backup plan B, C and D. I have even had to fire a volunteer. Then I had to deal with the fallout when my board went around me and fired a volunteer that I had recruited. (They should not have done this – they were out of their lane, and petty as hell.) I have also run departments (registration, dealers) for larger conventions, and it’s not a minor thing.

    12. vscolo*

      This is what I was thinking too! In my free time I organize events within my cultural community, and through that I’ve had a chance to … and learned …
      I think the key is to move directly into talking about skills and learning without leaving a pause for questions before that.

    13. t-vex*

      Why couldn’t LW just put “Religious leader” without including details about which religion? That way it’s clear that it’s more than just running a book club or whatever but still vague enough. Especially if she frames it as not including details because she wants to keep religion out of the workplace

        1. a trans person*

          I mean, that instinct is the stereotype that keeps minority religions oppressed, in large part. I’d urge you to interrogate that feeling.

      1. Nina*

        (disclaimer that I’m looking at this through a Christian lens and have a tendency to perceive things associated with Christianity as more ‘normal’ because that’s what I’m used to) – I’d read ‘religious leader’ as a red flag, that sounds quite culty and possibly like LW has created their own religion, in my country when you see ‘religious leader’ in a news headline it’s usually about CSA. I’d read ‘volunteer minister’ as like, okay, they’re possibly Methodist or Quaker and possibly another religion entirely and clearly they don’t want me to know so I’m not going to ask, but I understand the amount and the type of work they’re doing, this is a mark in their favor.

        1. a trans person*

          But we are not “ministers”. That’s a different religion’s word for a different religious role.

    14. Florp*

      I have heard the term “faith community” used this way. It signals organized religion and actual responsibilities without getting into specifics, which is honestly a favor to an employer that wants to avoid the appearance of discrimination. So “I am deeply involved with my faith community, including organizing large events, writing and communications, and creating and teaching classes.”

      1. A-not-nymous*

        This was my immediate thought. It’s specific enough to get the gist across, and if I had someone refer to their nonspecific ‘faith community’ to me, I’d just assume they weren’t interested in providing specifics for their own reasons (whether that’s being part of a marginalized religion, strong belief in keeping personal religion away from the workplace, just generally being a private person, whatever). The one caveat I have is that some people definitely would prod for more information, so OP should think over ahead of time how she’d respond if someone goes “oh, what church do you go to?” etc.

      2. a trans person*

        I don’t love the phrase “faith community” because my religious communities are communities of practice, not faith. The idea that faith is foundational to religion is a very Christian idea, and I’m not willing to leave that point unchallenged.

        I say “my religious community” when I want to be vague.

    15. dragonfly7*

      I came here to make a similar comment. I refer to volunteer work I did for “a church group” in “tell me about a time” interview questions during most interviews because the work I did relates to the work I am seeking. I’m not sure how you could word it for a resume.

    16. JMR*

      Assuming this is a volunteer role and not a professional position, I wouldn’t list it on your resume, but I would try to bring it up in an interview, and I’d call it something like a “religious group,” “community organization,” etc. I don’t think it’s bad to mention that it’s a religious group, but you don’t need to mention the specific religious group in order to talk about the work you did.

      As I think about this, I’m realizing that my advice would be the same even if the religion was a more mainstream one. If I was interviewing a candidate who said she organized social events at her Catholic church, I might be a bit put off as compared with a candidate who said she volunteered in a religious organization but didn’t tell me what it was. I can’t quite put my finger on why that is, but naming the specific organization somehow seems… gauche? Like it’s too personal? Or like the person is hoping I’m also a member of that group and is trying too hard to bond with me? I don’t quite know.

    17. Witchy Librarian*

      Also (more or less) Wiccan, with a lot of group and community planning experience (and a librarian, so there’s a fair bit of crossover into job duties in a number of jobs I’ve applied for.)

      What I’ve done is do something in my “Other experience” or “Volunteer experience” section on my resume that’s something like “Religious community groups” and then gotten very specific about the output. So things like:

      – Designed and taught a scaffolded year-long curriculum to build specific skills and knowledge (2x a month small-group classes)
      – Created small group events with an eye to inclusive and accessible practices for attendees with diverse backgrounds and needs.
      – Coordinated programming events as part of the board for a day-long community event including seeking out diverse presenters, selecting items suitable to the event theme, coordinating scheduling and space needs, and ensuring correct information to the publications department by deadline.

      (For those translating, that’d be “year and a day classes”, “rituals”, and “board member for Pagan Pride for several years in my past”. The last one was also handy for people who’d be willing to be a reference for my skills from that part of my life, though in practice I haven’t needed it. But in the groups I’ve been part of, other people in similar jobs doing this kind of stuff are often glad to coordinate how they talk about how they know you and provide a reference for the skills they’ve seen in action.)

      And then if asked about it in an interview, do the “I’d rather not get into the specific religion, but I’m glad to talk more about the events and projects I’ve managed in that context.” and then aim at that.

    18. Speak*

      My partner & I met via The Rocky Horror Picture Show where they were part of the cast as well as one of the people organizing the people within the show and prop-bags (selling the parts you can throw during the movie). When it was time to update their resume we made sure to include the relevant talents learned from those activities. We put down that they were involved in a local volunteer theatrical group and in various roles over the years they had help to coordinate the other volunteers as well as leading fundraising drives. My partner was also involved in a local alternative lifestyle group and had worked on their Yule Balls which they also put down stressing the organizational skills learned in that aspect.

      There has to be a good way to spin these skills at least in the resume. If asked in person about any details stress the fact you were in a volunteer religious organization and what tasks you performed, keeping it vague enough that it was in a religious organization and you would rather not specify which one.

    19. teapot community manager*

      Actually I’m wondering if you can simply frame it as a wedding business. All working celebrants who do regular weddings essentially do ritual design, even if they’re in a very traditional religion, because weddings are so personalized today. They use all the skills you mention. If you do this, since it’s leaving out some info, I would practice what you will say if you are asked about the job and any stories you want to use.

    20. Dawn*

      Or even that you were a religious priest/minister/clergyperson who performed various services without ever actually speaking directly about what your “denomination” was.

      They’re not allowed to take religion into consideration in a hiring decision anyway so you should be able to just leave it vague.

    21. snuck*

      I think the OP has to be careful trying to equate their volunteer home ‘church’ to a priest or rabbi. People who hold the title of Priest, Rabbi or other recognised religious leaders are usually expected to hold a PhD in religion/theology/philosophy or the equivalent. OP needs to be careful not to misrepresent their skills and experience.

      It could be phrased as a home business, or a community group, but a big part of the reason why Wicca isn’t a reputable religion is the lack of formal recognition of basic tenants and organisation and higher study that goes with it.

      1. snuck*

        Adding… My suggestion has less to do with this being about Wicca, and if the OP does have a recognised qualification they can add that in. However there’s a huge difference between running a home ‘cell church’ as prayer groups and meetings, including the organisation of classes (equatable to running a bible study group possibly?) and running an entire church.

      2. a trans person*

        I have the paperwork, and have *done* the paperwork, involved for my religious group to be a “real” organization of the kind you’re trying to gatekeep. I still think you’d laugh at me if I talked about it on a resume. You pretend that you’re being objective about what counts as a real religion and what doesn’t. But as someone who is feeling the impact, this is discrimination just like any other.

      3. 1LFTW*

        So, there are plenty of mainstream religions do not require postgraduate work for clergy to be recognized as such (and of those that those who do require postgraduate work, many of those only require a Masters or equivalent).

        Also, your take reflects a rather narrow viewpoint. For me, as for many practitioners of various religions, the lack of centralized authority or creed is a feature, not a bug!

        That does not make my spiritual or religious practices any less valid or meaningful, nor does it invalidate the years of hard work undertaken when a I’ve served those communities as a leader. Our beliefs and practices and organizational habits may not map conveniently onto your personal experience, but that does not make us any less thoughtful or intelligent or rigorous.

    22. Freya*

      Yeah, like this is all stuff that a roleplaying group organiser would need to do, and it’s all stuff that I’ve put on my resume for my dance-related activities.

      (and I’ve been a reference for other dancers who’ve done volunteer work with the dance group, because I can 100% attest to their ability to follow instructions and if they see something they think needs doing, check in and see if it needs doing a particular way before planning and carrying out the task within the guidelines I give them)

      Like, this particular person might have researching readings, distributing them where appropriate, and moderating the discussion about those readings, all of which can be phrased to be at least as socially acceptable as a book club, where that is a group of friends and acquaintances with some specific interests in common. And there’s organising and delegating tasks for seasonal events and regular gatherings, which is something someone I know had ready as a give-an-example-of-a-time when they did it in connection with an online game.

      Having said that, I have never wanted to work at a place where I have actively needed to hide things about myself. Hiding in plain sight by just not bringing it up, yes, that’s par for the course for the less-common traits and Opinions I have (and frankly, a lot of those Opinions have nothing to do with work so it never comes up anyway), but actively lying about important parts of myself is just not a thing I can do consistently or well, so I don’t want to be anywhere I feel I have to. I’ve been lucky, though, and my dayjob field is flexible enough to fit in anywhere.

    23. AnonReader*

      Or call it “pastoral care” or something along those lines. I’m part of a minority/marginalized religion and I’ve adopted all kinds of mainstream terms to translate when I’m not ready to out myself. It is not totally honest but I believe it is still totally ethical.

  2. AcademiaNut*

    For the first letter writer, I’m assuming this applies only to the first job, resulting from the university’s placement/recruitment system. For subsequent jobs, the university isn’t going to know where you apply and if you renege, and if employers are looking at the resume of an employee who bailed after accepting a job, and then tattling to their alma mater to get them punished, that’s just creepy. And if you got a job outside of the recruitment system, they wouldn’t know what was going on either.

    The penalty does seem draconian – I wonder if they have had a significant problem with this and are over compensating.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      I’m wondering how they would enforce that. How does a university levy a ‘fine’ of $20K for this?

      1. Martin Blackwood*

        SAME. Like, do you sign a contract in order to use the career services? I can almost see the logic if you were barred from using the career services and got access back after paying the fine but…if this happens after you graduate in good graces, what’s the incentive to pay the fine? Not going to court? What’s the incentive for the university to take you to small (large? Idk the limit) claims court?

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          I will say that when I got my master’s in accounting the program was like 99% about job placement and the degree was almost secondary, so while the amount of the fine seems extremely high to me I can understand the general concept. The school probably recruits primarily on their ability to land you in a good job at the end of the program, and to be able to keep doing that they have to maintain good relationships with the companies recruiting, and to keep that they need to make sure their students don’t burn those bridges.

          I actually remember there was a bit of a kerfuffle during my program because basically a bunch of companies all come directly to the school and unless your grades are atrocious you can pretty much sign up to interview with whoever you want–and no one signed up to interview with Bank of America and the company was really mad at our school lol. Obviously no one did anything *wrong* in that case, but it definitely harmed that relationship (no loss in my opinion). So I can see how students pulling out of an offer might damage the career services and they’d want to make sure to head that off.

          I assume you sign something when you join the program that would make it enforceable.

          1. münchner kindl*

            During the reports on how bad some non-accredited colleges in the US were several years back, were it turned out they were basically scams to sell huge loans to people who didn’t know better, and that the quality of the classes was useless, one promise the schools made was “guaranteed placement” which turned out to include jobs at McD.

            So I wonder, if a school leans so heavily on placement, how good is the school actually?

            Our universities* don’t give any promises – yes of course it’s structured radically different anyway – but the time when university degree was almost guaranteed a job was back in the 1950s, when only ca 10% of an age group went to AP High School in the first place, which is required to be accepted to Uni. After the “market crash” shock – where the job market was flooded with uni degree holders – it has never recovered and nobody informed would assume anything is a shoe-in, you just improve your chances/ meet the legal requirements with a degree.

            * We don’t have colleges at all, anyway. It may be covered in the Kollegstufe of Advanced High School.

            1. Bookmark*

              There are (at least) two different types of schools that build their reputation/recruitment on their ability to place graduates. One is the for-profit diploma mill type you mention, and the other is certain types of professional programs with strong alumni networks and very job-oriented coursework. For example, in my field, it’s well known that if you want to work in New York City, there’s a particular school you should go to, because they have an extremely strong alumni network and the coursework revolves around getting practical experience in the field in the city. It’s a hard program to get into, and the graduates tend to do very well for themselves afterwards, but it’s definitely less “academic” than other programs. You’re paying (through the nose…) for real, valuable connections, experience and access. It sounds like the OP’s school is more of this kind of program than the diploma mill.

            2. MCMonkeyBean*

              I mean people don’t get business degrees or accounting degrees because they think the subject is fascinating, they do it because they want to get a good job out of it. So the top schools usually use the promise of securing you good employment through their connections and business relationships as a primary selling point because what is the point in paying thousands of dollars for a secondary degree otherwise?

              Just because there are fraudulent non-accredited programs in existence doesn’t mean the good programs are wrong to boast about their 98% job placement rate or whatever, because at the end of the day that’s what the people get into the program for.

              1. Accountant Who Enjoys Her Work*

                I have a BS in Accounting and an MBA (not from any big name schools) and I do actually find the subjects fascinating. :) Everyone’s different.

                1. SarahKay*

                  Yes, I got my qualification in accounting in my thirties (studying around work) after my mother recommended it to me. She’d gone back to college after early retirement and took accounting and would regularly tell me how much I would love it. She was right, too!

                2. ZugTheMegasaurus*

                  Tax law was a mandatory course when I was in law school. The first day, the instructor said, “Almost everyone in this class is here because of the requirement and will never do anything with tax law after today (and that’s fine). But two or three of you are going to fall in love with it, happens every time.” And sure enough she was right, two people in that class ended up specializing in it (and the rest of us just couldn’t understand why, haha).

              2. Platypus*

                I got into excess and surplus lines insurance and get to work on all kinds of risks for liability like football helmets and oil rigs. Sure, it’s not saving the whales or anything, but I enjoy it and I like trying to fend off the brokers that want to get my prices down. Not everyone is the same.

      2. MK*

        I also don’t get the fine. Unless the students have signed a contract agreeing to the fine, I doubt this is enforceable; and even if they did, in my jurisdiction such a term would probably be voided in court, depending on how it was agreed and pharsed. I do wonder if the person communicating this to the students has misunderstood the situation.

        1. WS*

          This article clarified things well, and it turns out there’s also punishment for violations on the company end!

          1. Phony Genius*

            I’ve thought this ever since I learned that most students and alumni refer to them by their business school name, not the parent institution. For example, the Wharton School instead of the University of Pennsylvania or the Stern School of Business instead of New York University. To me, saying you went to Penn or NYU is pretty prestigious. I’m a lot less familiar with business school names, and will likely return a blank stare if you use them instead.

            1. Parakeet*

              This is neither weird nor limited to business schools. I’ve seen it in everything from performing arts to public health.

        2. SarahKay*

          I just read the article and WOW. Just…. WOW! That’s a seriously tough penalty, particularly the college that may also penalise you for leaving a job ‘too soon’.

          1. Sloanicota*

            OTOH (and I don’t support this personally) – I suppose it’s an excellent promotional tool for the college placement center. “We guarantee all our graduates will do X and Y onerous things” like stay longer or accept offers without reservations, is quite the pitch; and it’s true that a college with higher placement rates is more desirable for students too … but you’d think a business school would be more pro-capitalist or whatever economic theory free enterprise falls under (I’m a biologist …).

            1. bamcheeks*

              yes, I was thinking that it’s hilarious that a business school is effectively enforcing “good for the collective is more important than good for you”!

            2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

              Oh they are very capitalist I’m sure. Although penalties can be enforced against companies wanna bet how often that happens? meanwhile the worker bee better put up with all kinds of crap and be grateful that career services even exists.

              1. College Career Counselor*

                Agreed with many on here that this is onerous and likely enforced more on the part of students than employers* (companies have more resources than students generally do, and career centers need the companies recruiting their students more than they need to cut off companies and/or collect sanctions).

                This strikes me as a very MBA-only kind of thing. I’ve been in career services a loooong time (admittedly, not in graduate business schools) and I have never heard of this on the undergraduate level before. Yes, we talk with students about ethics and the potential pitfalls of reneging on an accepted job offer (e.g. you’re not likely ever going to work for that company). Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances (health, unexpected geographic complications), and sometimes it’s the fact that you’d be making 30% more at the 2nd organization, and that’s too good to pass up.

                Others are correct in that students going outside the campus recruiting system are highly unlikely to be “caught” or sanctioned by career services, unless the employer is inclined to be highly punitive. In my 25 years in career services, I’ve only seen a few times where a student was sanctioned. That included loss of access to the career center jobs resources/alumni network (usually for a set period of time and/or until the student wrote a letter of apology–again, this was typically when they jeopardized the existing relationship we had with an employer). We never would have fined them; indeed, we’d have had no way of collecting. Financial sanctions for violating a university honor code are exceedingly rare, and I’d bet this is an “on-paper” option designed to incentivize compliance. I’d also imagine that a business school might find itself sued if it tried to impose that fine or forever hold transcripts/diplomas (IANAL, but “tortious interference” sounds possible).

                *Interestingly, I do recall one instance years ago when one of our employers reneged on an offer a student had accepted (student had stopped her job search, put a deposit down on an apartment, etc.). In that instance, the career center assisted the student and was able to advocate for (and obtain) financial compensation for the expenses incurred in good faith.

            3. Miette*

              Oh, it’s the biggest of capitalist motivations: the ability to market themselves. They don’t want to lose out on the ability to claim that 99% of their graduates get jobs or whatever the number may be, because that helps them in recruiting top students and in securing top employers/sponsors to keep the B-school-to-industry pipeline flowing.

              1. Sloanicota*

                At least this was my theory until the comments said the school was Wharton, which doesn’t really need to “make a name for itself” at this point and probably isn’t too concerned with recruitment or whatever.

                1. Nephron*

                  Given the wall to wall coverage of one of their graduates announcing he understood nothing of accounting so was not responsible for fraud, they might be struggling right now.

        3. Emmy Noether*

          This is a fascinating window into US college life to me (or maybe it’s an MBA thing?). Neither of my (European) universities had career services worth a hoot, and I’ve never done or used alumni anything. So those threats are kind of amusing to me.

          Do those career services work well? Because if they do, that does sound useful.

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            I have several US degrees, including an MBA, and have literally never talked to any of my colleges’ career services or alumni services, let alone been threatened with fines by any of them. So whatever nonsense this is, it is not US college life or even a MBA thing.

            1. Lainey L. L-C*

              My alma mater can’t even get my last name correct! Good luck getting that other Lainey to pay the fine!

              1. A (Former) Library Person*

                My alma mater just sent me two identical pieces of mail addressed to [Legal Name] and [Nickname Name] respectively.

                1. Kelley*

                  And my alma mater (where I got a theatre degree) keeps sending me e-mails to apply for their med school. Granted I did do a whole re-watch binge of Grey’s Anatomy during covid, so maybe I’m more qualified than I think?

            2. Lora*


              Most business schools require work experience or have a substantial proportion of “executive MBA” or returning students who have their own networks and headhunters approaching them for job interviews. If you don’t use the alumni or career services to get a job, they’re not going to know. The article’s schools have specific connections to specific recruiters but if you’re not super interested in working for McKinsey or whoever, it’s sort of a non-issue.

              My MBA school had big connections to Deloitte and a couple of other consulting type companies, but not as much in my field (pharma) so while they came down like a ton of bricks on anyone who flubbed a Deloitte interview, they didn’t care at all what I did with myself. The only company in my field they had any connections to was one that was already on my resume, and I knew more higher-ups there than the career services people did. But most of the people in my classes either already had a job and were looking to move up within the company or were working somewhere with no connection to career services.

          2. Old and Don’t Care*

            It’s a top tier MBA thing. It’s it’s own world.

            I do not have a top tier MBA, but my undergrad college’s career services did a lot wrt on campus recruiting and interviews. Large employers would work through career services to set up interviews on campus. I’m sure career services did other things for the students that I’m not remembering.

          3. Cyborg Llama Horde*

            It’s very normal for US colleges/universities to have a career services department, but most people I know did not find it to be especially useful, unless they were very driven and knew exactly what they wanted to do, and so were asking for very specific things like “Can you connect me with alums who work in large animal veterinary care?” or whatever, and even then I think it’s pretty hit-or-miss. It’s probably most helpful if you’re trying to get an internship doing something specific.

            They offer generic resume/cover letter/interviewing advice, which is often wildly off base (as you’ve likely seen in letters to this column), and my college’s career services were completely useless in helping me figure out what jobs I should even be looking at. (I had a lot of talents and very little direction, so “do something you’re good at” or “follow your passion” was not helpful.)

            1. Sloanicota*

              Yeah, there was definitely one at my school, which was a strong public university, and it was better than nothing for sure (although it’s definitely been suggested that some of them are *worse* than nothing, giving old outdated or just flat wrong advice) – and my school offered some assistance with getting internships too. Personally I really appreciated the hand-holding but it wasn’t a game-changer; they couldn’t *get* you a job like some programs probably can. Lots of graduates probably didn’t use it, if they even knew about it.

            2. Elsewise*

              Mine offered interview advice, practice interviews, resume reviewing services, and even a free closet of interview outfits. But they also got a lot of flak when several female biology majors who were intending to go to medical school complained that the director kept telling them they should go into nursing instead of becoming doctors. (We were a small liberal arts college that didn’t offer a nursing degree but had a very high rate of MD/PhD alumni. To my knowledge, no one took his advice, but if they had, they would have had to transfer out. He was quietly retired after my senior year.) No shade on nurses, of course, nurses are great, but telling specifically only women to be nurses instead of doctors is.. less great.

          4. Just Me*

            Almost all US universities have a career services center of some sort, but what services they actually offer varies widely, as does the quality of their advice (which for some reason is often terrible). It also depends on the type of programs, but big companies do a lot of their recruiting through MBA programs.

          5. ecnaseener*

            Specifically a prestigious-MBA thing, not American college in general. It’s generally understood that networking and job placement are the real benefits of those programs, rather than the degree itself.

          6. Perfectly Cromulent Name*

            I talked to career services when I graduated over 20 years ago, and all they did for me was give me outdated resume advice. If they were actually able to find me a job, that would have been helpful! But no, they were not particularly useful to me. (I’m in the US.)

          7. JustaTech*

            It must be an MBA thing because both my undergrad and graduate career services weren’t worth a darn as far as getting me any kind of job. I could almost understand the undergrad career services – most everyone in my major went to grad school, but I would have thought that my (many years later) grad school would have put in a tiny bit more effort about getting their alumni placed.

          8. Sarah*

            It is a part of top tier business schools (top 20ish). Law also works very similarly. I got my post-MBA job via on grounds recruiting. I think about 70 % of my graduating class did as well. I also have career advisory services for life.

        4. Nia*

          Gross. Universities in general have no business having a “honor code” but especially business schools.

          1. Irish Teacher*

            And it seems particularly odd to expect students to adhere to an honour code after they leave.

            1. Miette*

              I think it mostly applies while the students are still students. Not being able to graduate from some of these prestigious programs due to non-payment of such a fine would be a huge deterrent.

            2. JustaTech*

              I’m pretty sure I’m still held to my undergrad honor code – it’s not like there’s anything they can *do* to me at this point, but that’s also kind of the point of the honor code – you uphold it yourself.

              Then again I’m pretty sure my undergrad honor code is “don’t cheat”. I’m sure the language is more flowery than that, but that was the upshot when I was in school.

          2. Cyborg Llama Horde*

            I mean, I think an honor code that expects students to adhere to things like “we let you take exams on your own time, rather than proctored, and in exchange you need to follow the professor’s instructions for what resources you’re allowed to use” and “you won’t plagiarize other people’s work” is reasonable. In fact, I’d rather agree to an honor code like that than have people breathing down my neck all the time because the school doesn’t trust me to be a responsible and reliable adult.

            To bamcheeks’s point, some of those honor codes can have serious teeth — I’ve seen places where plagiarism could be an expelling offense — but I agree that it’s weird to be holding alums to it after graduation. (I’d find it less weird to have something like “Alums of Upright U are expected to be fair and honest in their dealings with others, and a light of integrity in the community” or something similarly vague. The specificity and the fines through are Very Strange.)

            1. New Mom (of 1 3/9)*

              Yup. My liberal arts college had a wonderful honor code with the effects that you described in your first paragraph.

          3. another fed*

            Frankly, it is all part of the incestous ways the MBA programs and these employers are intertwined. The employers pay for access to the students via career services, funding speaker series, etc., and then more money in the recruiting process when meeting with students. The employers want those fines too as a way to protect their investments, the programs want them to keep the funding amd relationships secure, but also allows them to mentally havr whole portions of each class marked off as employed so they can work with those still looking after the initial interview swarm. And all of this ties back to rankings and endowments and such. That’s an overly simplified explanation from my years in higher ed, but it most harmful to BIPOC and first gen students (or at least elite level first gens) who never have this explained to them and don’t realize their reputational hit will be more severe than when whyte men do the same thing.

        5. münchner kindl*

          While it does mention that recruiters face penalties, they apply this to internships, but nothing mentions at all the quality of these internships. We’ve read tales of internships from colleges that were very bad.

          It sounds not only like a heavy-handed way of the schools to put pressure on the students without any acknowledgment of due diligence in actually vetting the companies, too, it also sounds very off in what they are teaching the students about how business works – very skewed! And worse to call this “ethics” instead of … power play, and that negotiations are normal in business, and that red flags are a good reason to cancel a deal?

      3. Starbuck*

        Probably by withholding your diploma; once you’ve fully officially graduated I doubt there’s much they could do.

  3. Nia*

    Not the slightest bit shocked that a business school is teaching that you should put aside your own best interest in favor of employers or that students getting MBAs agree with it.

    I am curious about that fine though, how exactly is that enforced. And why would anyone ever attend an institution where a $20,000 fine was on the table.

      1. VivaVaruna*

        From a linked article in another thread, it looks like this is a policy held by Wharton, which is the University of Pennsylvania’s business school and considered one of the best in the country. The article mentions a handful of other US schools that have similar restrictions (most of which are also Ivy League), though Wharton is the only one with the fine.

        1. Sharkie*

          Oh interesting. My cousin and his wife graduated from there for undergrad. I kinda want to ask if they know about this. They never mentioned this when they were interviewing fresh out of school!

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I suppose the rich daddies will be paying the$20K when their entitled kids blow it. Not so easy for someone going on a scholarship if a job offer falls through. I hope there is some case-by-case consideration of anything that might trigger the fine.

    1. Ink*

      Also a bit concerned on the fine. The ban would be a bit much on its own, but it’s probably not life ruining. That’s pretty life-ruining money though, especially just coming out of school- is that universal? If you pull out of an offer because you were hit by a bus and have to move to be closer to family do you still get fined? The fact that they made the policy to begin and the “usually” for a better offer with has me leaning toward yes :/

      1. amoeba*

        Eh, I’d assume you’d only risk that for the kind of salary/job where 20k aren’t life-ruining anymore… Not that I’m any kind of expert, but I assume for a typical Wharton graduate that’s probably something they can afford if they need to?

        1. Phryne*

          Kindof like the Finnish fining system. A 100 euro speeding fine can be crippling for someone on low income, while for some rich AH with a Ferrari that is just the small fee to pay for doing whatever they want. So in Finland, fines are based on income, and the richer you are the higher they get.

          The fine here is a bit ridiculous, but if this is a major posh business school and the contacts the schools career center has with large companies generally funnel graduates into the cushiest of career opportunities I can see why it needs to be sufficiently high to work.
          One can always choose not to use the schools career center. And I would imagine the ‘could be up to’ bit is because they do take circumstances in account, like force majeur.

          1. rollyex*

            Removed this and the long off-topic debate about language that followed. Move on please! – Alison

            1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

              Cusshy meaning well paying with lots of room to grow and become very wealthy. As in you get a leg up that MBAs from other schools might not get.

              Just like graduating from Harvard is more likely to get you into BigLaw where you are paid $200K a year but when you consider the hours you have to put in, is probably closer to minimum wage. But, you are on the fast track to partner and easy street.

        2. uncivil servant*

          And there could be an economy of companies paying out the fee. I worked for a public sector college that provided paid training and expected a year of service for every year of training, or else you’d have to pay back your tuition, room and board and stipend for each year. Private companies that hired our grads all knew that their cost was a competitive salary + X years of tuition payback. Maybe it’s just known that an early career Wharton grad costs an extra $20,000?

          1. La Luna*

            As an experienced in house recruiter, in this market I’m advising new college grads to accept an offer but to keep looking. Most companies want to lock up new grads now and that leaves 7+ plus months before they start. A lot can happen in that time and this year lots of offers were rescinded. It is unethical that school is putting company before student. The power imbalance is very high and the school is adding to it. When I was in school, a huge company refused to put offer in writing unless you accepted. We with unwritten offers shared information amongst ourselves, complained to Career Services and big company changed that tactic. I declined due to their behavior.

          2. amoeba*

            Good point. I mean, there’s nothing like that in my field, but an extra signing bonus for, e.g., a clawback clause for education your former employer paid for would be pretty normal. And that can already go into 5 digits – so I’m sure that type of company could cover 20k without blinking an eye!

        3. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yeah, presumably some of their graduates are looking at big time salaries–so if you jump from one job offer because another offered you $30k more then that $20k fine puts you at $10k net gain for the first year and then way ahead every year after…

    2. Daisy*

      I would be very, very worried about this. What if the job responsibilities change from what you thought you’d accepted? What if you realize there’s sexual harassment going on? Family emergency that means you need to move to a new location? Plent, PLENTY of good reasons to back out of a job offer after you accepted.

    3. doreen*

      It seems the only way to enforce a fine is to not deliver the diploma/verify graduation/release transcripts in place where institutions can legally do that ( it’s illegal in NY since 2022). Which means it’s probably kind of time limited – if you renege on a job you got through the career center a year or two after graduation, you’ve already received the diploma and presumably you’re reneging on that offer because you’ve already gotten another, better offer.

  4. Queen E*

    For LW 4- another way to do something similar to what others have said is to just call yourself a Wedding Officiant or something. Lots of folks take that role with no religion on the table at all and you could talk about the skills you have.

    I have actually done similar things with activities connected to a more common religion with some success.

    1. Fi*

      Yeah, ‘marriage celebrant’ (or whatever the standard term is in her country) seems like the simplest way to be able to mention the skills developed without raising religion or sounding mysterious – and it’s the aspect that she gets paid for so is particularly employment relevant.

    2. WS*

      Depending which country LW 4 is in, marriage celebrant can be a restricted role for which you have to have particular training and certification, regardless of religion.

      1. a trans person*

        I have the piece of paper I need to be a legal wedding celebrant — but I wouldn’t use that on a resume, because I’d want to focus on all the other skills required to help run a local religious group. I just don’t think focusing on the marriage skills makes sense for most coven leaders. The people management skills go way beyond that.

    3. LW #4*

      LW here! I hesitated to list “wedding officiant” on my resume because it’s such a small part of what I do. While it’s true that it’s the most mainstream-adjacent part of my duties, I don’t believe it really represents the skills I’d bring to the position I’m applying for. But certainly, there are lots of ways to work it into talking about what I do without mentioning the religious aspect!

    1. Artemesia*

      You always act in your best interest in business, but a business that has given you the work but not the title and money deserves absolutely zero ‘loyalty.’

  5. Viette*

    LW #2: “(I don’t think she cares, really.)”

    This is hugely affecting your life and you are right stay engaged, but trying to track, gauge, or meaningfully affect the emotions of these people is probably not the best use of your mental energy.

    “I don’t think she cares, really” is, despite the unfairness of it all, a decent lens through which all your interactions with Catherine, and Wendy, and anyone at the old job could be viewed. I strongly suspect that they know exactly why you cc the boss on all the correspondence — because you believe you were treated wildly unfairly and you want it in her face as much as possible — but they don’t really care.

    From your own statement, “I usually include her boss, Wendy, mainly because I’m vindictive and think that if this company wanted to lay off 1,300 of us, Wendy should hear about it too, even though she likely won’t read it”, I suspect that Wendy also doesn’t really care in a way that will be meaningful to you. I don’t think there’s anything you could do or say now, snub or no snub, explanation or no explanation, to make any of them start caring more than they do.

    You’re unlikely to get that kind of satisfaction from them, and you may be better off focusing on the achievable financial satisfaction.

    1. OP#2*

      Thanks for the advice! I agree with you and Alison that my best course of action would be to take a step back and stop stewing. I’m trying to put more stock in the positive HR interactions I’m having (there actually are some!) and just keep keepin’ on.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      I really agree. There’s no way for OP to make them care about this the way that they do. No amount of copying someone in, or reading between the lines and letting them know about reading an unintended line is going to make them feel about this the same way that OP does.

    3. GammaGirl1908*

      I also feel LW’s pain, but s/he shouldn’t be surprised when s/he is coming from a place of a little bit of vindictiveness and pettiness, and they aren’t shocked that you’re being a little vindictive and petty — and, clearly, even discuss it among themselves — but it doesn’t move the needle.

      We’ve all been there, and I’m there right now myself in a similar situation, but vindictive and petty mostly feels good to you but doesn’t affect them one bit beyond an eyeroll.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Also, on the spectrum of “rude things I’ve seen accidentally forwarded in emails” that line is like, .00005. And if you add in “rude things that have been inappropriately shared in chat” the spectrum can be measured on the Richter scale.

    4. JubJubTheIguana*

      Describing yourself as “vindictive” is honestly really disturbing – have you considered therapy?

      Also, why on earth would you assume that the boss is completely unaware of mass redundancies, do you think HR just decide to let go of more than a thousand people by themselves without asking or telling anyone else?

      1. Irish Teacher*

        I took that reference to being vindictive as sort of hyperbole. I assumed they meant something more like “because I can be a bit petty and get a bit carried away trying to make a point sometimes” rather than “I go out of my way to get revenge and hurt people as much as possible if they inconvenience me in any way.”

        1. Seahorse*

          Agreed. Therapy won’t help much when a person needs a living wage and health insurance. Emotional regulation can’t fix that, and people are allowed to express anger at frustrating and unfair circumstances.

          I’ve said some very intemperate things regarding a bad financial situation I was in a few years ago. It didn’t mean I was actually going to do anything destructive, but it was a way to express an emotion that didn’t otherwise have a productive outlet. Also, therapy is expensive and slow, and my limited funds and energy were needed elsewhere. Sometimes raging to Internet strangers can serve the same function for free.

          1. Czhorat*

            I completely agree with this, but in terms of actionable advice, the idea that one should swallow your pettiness and try to be as professional as possible is probably the best one; if you’re perceived as being difficult – even if in a small way – then the people you’re interacting with are going to be less inclined to go the extra mile to help you.

            If the HR rep has time to clear one more case before leaving for the day, it’ll be someone else’s and they’ll get to the petty person tomorrow. Is it right? Absolutely not. Is it expected? Sadly, yes.

          2. Observer*

            Emotional regulation can’t fix that, and people are allowed to express anger at frustrating and unfair circumstances.

            Emotional regulation won’t fix job loss, but it will make it easier to cope, and a *lot* easier to get what you need, including whatever it is the company owes you and a new job.

            In terms of the OP, sure they sound like they have a lot of reason to be mad. But the important question for them is not how to “get even” or how to make someone else feel bad about it. Because that is ALSO not going to fix the problem of a job, access to medical care, etc.

            We don’t know enough details to offer any good specific suggestions for how the OP can best go about dealing with those issues. But they are lot more likely to find solutions and implement some successful strategies if their energy and headspace is devoted to finding solutions for those issues rather than trying to get a dig in etc.

            1. Seahorse*

              True. The OP was active in the comments though, which made it clearer to me that they are trying to move on productively.

              And maybe the recent drumbeat of “therapy” in online spaces without any other considerations is a pet peeve I need to be careful about.

              1. I Have RBF*

                And maybe the recent drumbeat of “therapy” in online spaces without any other considerations is a pet peeve I need to be careful about.

                You and me both.

                “Therapy” is not a simple panacea solution to problems that have an emotional impact. “Therapy” doesn’t pay your bills, replace your dead pet, or stop harassment. But I’ve seen it pushed as a “solution” for all of these.

                Therapy is not cheap, is not universally helpful, and with the wrong therapist, can actually do harm.

                I tend to roll my eyes when “therapy” is pushed as a solution to problems that are not primarily psychological in nature.

        2. metadata minion*

          Yeah, the reaction described here is maybe not the most perfectly levelheaded in the world, but people are allowed to be a bit petty and grumpy about being laid off.

          I’m personally highly in favor of everyone seeing a therapist occasionally, just like you get your physical health checked out, but being occasionally spiteful is not a threat to the public good.

          1. Lucia Pacciola*

            “but people are allowed to be a bit petty and grumpy about being laid off.”

            It’s not unhealthy to feel petty and grumpy about being laid off, especially if you were treated unfairly in the process. This does not mean you’re allowed to act like a jerk, as OP #2 is doing. It doesn’t mean you’re allowed to take your feelings of pettiness and grumpiness out on bystanders.

            Now, OP #2’s jerk behavior is pretty mild, on the scale of possible jerk behaviors. But by the same token the level of outrage they’re expressing at the reaction is way out of proportion to the level of pettiness they’re indulging in. It’s also absolutely hypocritical.

            None of OP #2’s behavior here is “allowed” by their totally natural and understandable feelings about their unfortunately situation.

      2. OP#2*

        Please switch out ‘vindictive’ for ‘thorough.’ Irish Teacher’s comment is correct: I used the term as a joke. I know that all the higher-ups are responsible for and aware of the layoff, but they are also completely removed from it, and HR is their conduit. cc’ing someone else in HR was the only way I felt I had a shred of control in a situation where I have zero. My letter to Alison was a massive knee-jerk reaction to a situation that I’m aware is pretty tiny in the scale of offensive actions, and I’m moving on to more paperwork. Thanks for your input!

    5. interplanet janet*

      There’s also a chance that Wendy *does* care, on a professional level. Lots up upper-ups get CC’d on things for situational awareness that they do want to see resolved but still won’t, for policy or SOP or whatever reason, ever reply, so OP is unlikely to ever get any kind of satisfaction out of doing it.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Yeah, I read the bit that OP took offense to as “I’m cc’ing Susan because Wendy may raise it to her and I want to get ahead of it”, which is a very normal thing to do with internal politics around this kind of stuff. Caroline is telling Tracey that they’re flagging it for the higher-up person proactively because of how OP has been acting, not because of any perceived issues with Tracey.

        If OP was cc’ing Wendy in order to be a little bit of a pain in the ass and drag higher-ups into routine interactions, I don’t know why they’re taking so much offense at this small sign that they are, in fact, being perceived as a pain in the ass and that more higher-ups are being dragged into it.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Yeah, it sounds like Caroline may have received the action of cc’ing higher-ups in the spirit it was intended. Success?

      2. Lady Blerd*

        I am HR and I have a situation right now in which an employee is penalized because of my org’s internal rules that limit the application of a benefit he is legally entitled to. And yes my higher ups are CCed in the emails for their awareness especially if he appeals to them which he has done. My office has had multiple discussions about it and I feel for the guy but at the end of the day, my interest is mostly for application of our policy. Adding this just in case: I have told him multiple times that he should appeal said rules because honestly it is very ambiguous as written, a reasonable person could believe that the employee is entitled to what he is asking for. And if he wins the appeal, I will be more than happy to do the paperwork for him to get what he is due.

    6. Malarkey01*

      If it also helps with the framing- the HR people you are working with aren’t responsible for the larger layoff. They may have made mistakes with your paperwork but they are also likely overworked and dealing with 1,299 other pissed off people. That doesn’t mean you can’t be angry or expect them to do their jobs, and everyone should be respectful, but the blame is sort of misplaced when taking it out on a HR tech and maybe thinking of it that way will help with some of your anger?

      I am really sorry this happened to you and I hope things turn around and better opportunities come. Best of luck!

    7. Dorothy Zpornak*

      Whoa, this is not my read at all. The LW may think that’s why she’s doing it, but Caroline is very likely to view this as a hostile personal attack.

      CC’ing someone’s supervisor on a communication to them is an indirect way of lodging a complaint against that person. It’s saying, “Manager, I don’t believe this person can be trusted to do their job, so I’m including you in our interaction to try to hold them accountable.” It’s a way of targeting someone and trying to undermine them (I’m talking of cases where there’s no actual need for the supervisor to be involved, because the issue is within the scope of the primary contact’s role). If I were Caroline, I would definitely see this as directed toward me, not Wendy — basically, it would feel like the LW was trying to get me fired, or at least get me in trouble.

      It wasn’t clear to me from the original letter whether Caroline was the one responsible for the previous miscommunication/error. If so, maybe it could be reasonable to CC the manager as a way of ensuring that you have more of a paper trail if further miscommunications happen. But according to the letter, that’s not why the LW is doing it. I doubt Caroline, who it sounds like is pretty low on the totem pole, had any personal control over the LW being fired or how she was treated afterwards (unless there are a lot of details missing here), so it seems very mean-spirited to go after her in this way. The fact that she’s pointing out to people how you’re targeting her seems like a pretty natural attempt to try to protect herself, not an insult to you.

      1. OP#2*

        Thanks for your perspective. There is, of course, a lot of background to my frustration and bitterness (nationwide company doing massive layoff for shareholders and profit while their internal message is always how much they care about their employees) that I didn’t include in my original letter as it seemed superfluous to the actual subject.

        I’ll try not to get too defensive, as I realize from the many comments here that my actions were petty: I wanted to feel like I was being heard. And then the fact that a mistake did happen and I’ve been missing money for almost a month makes me feel kind of justified about the cc’ing. But as I’ve indicated elsewhere, I realize the drama playing out in my mind was not what was visible to the people I was involving. I have learned and am moving on.

    8. Rach*

      lw3- I would imagine the school would have a heck of a time collecting on that fine. it’s pretty manipulative of them, but I would lobby for a 2 strike rule that would cut off access to career stuff after your second reversal. once, stuff happens, twice maybe they don’t want to waste their time/ reputation again.

  6. Myrin*

    Possibly I’m just slow this morning but I don’t really understand #2. Like, I get where the “pain in the ass” interpretation comes from and the tone in the context OP gives reads as snarky to me, too, but isn’t this, in the end, actually positive for OP? I’m unsure why Caroline didn’t also copy her boss Wendy instead of some random Big HR Person but possibly that makes sense in the context of sending it to Tracy, but other than that, she’s just following their usual pattern and (factually) informing her colleague Tracy of it.

    All that isn’t to say that I don’t understand OP’s upset about this whole situation, which sounds like a right mess. It’s just, ironically, the specific situation she wrote in about that I’m not really following.

    1. OP#2*

      Thanks for your interest! I think I was initially very upset because being referred to dismissively as ‘this employee’ made the whole process seem even more dehumanizing and anonymous. It’s been a tough road trying to negotiate this life-altering layoff with a very perfunctory HR. I do agree with Alison’s take and have calmed down over this one minor incident. Bigger problems to address, for sure!

      1. Phryne*

        I really understand where you are coming from, but realistically, if Wendy is bothered by the volume of your mails she probably set up a command to funnel them straight into some subfolder ages ago. In the immortal words of the worlds most predatory mouse, Let it goooo
        And good luck in your fight onwards!

        1. Sloanicota*

          Spent a good minute trying to figure out why Elsa was a predatory mouse … need more coffee this morning …

      2. Myrin*

        Hi OP, thanks for replying. I can only imagine how draining and nerve-wrecking this whole thing must have been/still be for you. Good on you for managing to calm down (I know I can certainly become fixated on one or another small thing myself!) and all the best regarding your future employment – I’m definitely rooting for you!

      3. Satan’s Panties*

        Waitaminit…I think I just got the names in your letter. From a certain Judy Blume book? I won’t name it in case I’m wrong.

      4. Always Tired*

        As someone who has HR’d for a larger company, I can tell you I have forwarded threads to higher ups and would swap from calling the person from their name to “the/this employee” because if I said “I’m including you because Jane likes to cc Adam.” The first respond would be “okay but who the heck is Jane?” because they will never read enough of the thread to get the context.

        It is quite likely Wendy and Tracy are significantly less invested than Caroline, and she’s trying to communicate with them in a way that gets traction and social capital for her. I realize that isn’t much use to you, but it’s very likely that Caroline is working with a lot of upset soon-to-be-former employees besides you, and as low level HR may be on the chopping block herself.

        1. OP#2*

          Always Tired, thank you. This is a perspective that I need to keep in mind about company employees. I appreciate your comment. Thanks so much.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      > I’m unsure why Caroline didn’t also copy her boss Wendy instead of some random Big HR Person

      Given the size the company must be to lay off 1300 people, I think this must be a situation where there’s a “central” HR (Tracy) and then ‘local’ HR people (Caroline and Wendy) where local could mean local to a particular office, or more often organisationally local so that they are the HR Business Partners for the ‘Widgets’ business unit that OP works in. Often how this works is ‘local’ HR will deal with operational stuff and local issues (disciplinary, accommodations for disability etc etc) for the people they are responsible for, but some HR issues are company-wide in scope.

  7. kalli*

    People ministering in other religions get away with it because those religions have a corporate structure and that ministry is actually a form of employment or happening under a legal volunteering arrangement, with oversight from a larger centralised body or a parish board. Circles don’t tend to incorporate and aren’t always part of a larger network with oversight – sure, stigma and unfamiliarity plays a part in that, but part of it is genuinely that it’s a personal activity and not a corporate one.

    There are many different styles of structures (almost as many as there are religions) ranging from priests being employed by the diocese and sent to work at a parish like it’s a satellite office, where the parish staff are employed (part-time or hourly) by the diocese but deacons and liturgical ministers are volunteers; the parish board manages a non-profit or small LLC which employs a minister and staff and maybe provides an honorarium to significant volunteers, but ministers are centrally trained by the national or state chapter or a specifically religious university funded by collections from all parishes of that denomination; the parish board hires and trains their own ministers on the job and pays for staff; each individual location is its own registered non-profit that’s a franchise of the international conglomerate, and everyone is a volunteer. The key part is that where there are volunteers they are linked to a non-profit that’s set up and registered for volunteering, and there’s some oversight or management as part of the main structure.

    I genuinely haven’t come across a Circle that’s even registered as a community association. If that were the case it would be simple to simply leave the nature of the association out of a resume and put it as ‘volunteer admin at Pagan and Associates’ or ‘volunteer event coordinator at Regional Wicca Assoc’ and list duties neutrally (organised weekly events including hiring space, catering, managing invites and membership vs designed rituals and conducted Circles as Head Priestess). But just because I haven’t heard of it doesn’t mean it can’t or shouldn’t be done, and if you did, you could put ‘created and registered a community association’ on there too.

    1. BluRae*

      There actually are a couple of Wiccan churches with clergy training and oversight. They sponsor Wiccan military chaplains.

      There’s even at least one Pagan seminary, although it’s not accredited yet, to my knowledge.

    2. a trans person*

      My group was sponsored by a 501c3 religious nonprofit, which we also ran as an (attempted) umbrella org for similarly sized circles. All the legal paperwork was done, just like you’re asking for.

      I still would have all the same problems as the LW in putting that experience on a resume. That’s because of religious discrimination, not because of insufficient legal oversight.

  8. Tiger Snake*

    #1 seems like both you and your boss are darned if you do, darned if you don’t. Which is another way of saying; I don’t think she thought you were rude. I think she was worried and was ALSO thinking as frantically as you were to try and pick the best response.

    If you’re silent because you’re stressed and upset, will that push you to your breaking point or make you feel like she understand you? If she tells you, it’s okay to not talk, do you feel neglected or do you feel like you’ve been given the space you need? There is no wrong answer, but there is always room for misinterpretation.

    This seems like the kind of job where it’s always going to be so emotionally raw, you need to just go with the idea you both of the best intentions. You’re allowed to be kind to the both of you by assuming that.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Good point. And it leads to another way OP could bring up the subject— thanking her manager for giving her space when she was overwhelmed.

      That is positive feedback for her manager as well as an explanation of her actions that day. It lets either of them lead into a discussion of how to prevent recurrence.

      1. Office Lobster DJ*

        Oh, I like this a lot. “Thank you for giving me space the other day. I was overwhelmed at that moment, and I needed a minute.” vs “Sorry if that interaction was awkward.”

        Since managing heavy emotions is part of the work, your manager should more than understand, and you can use this to help her understand the best way to support you.

    2. Katie*

      This is the way I read the interaction too. The manager saw an overwhelmed/emotional emotional employee. Saw that they were too distraught to talk and left when they saw they could not help/making it worse.

    3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Excellent insight. Boss was as surprised as OP was. Everyone was human in the situation and so it came out a little awkward.

  9. kalli*

    LW1, your boss recognised it wasn’t a good time to talk and let you take a break when you obviously needed it. You are not obliged to manage their feelings about that, they did their job by checking in on you, seeing you needed a minute and letting you take it. If your boss is hurt that you don’t always process your emotions in a way that involves her then that’s on her to manage; sometimes talking about it is the worst thing you can do, especially in a power dynamic or with someone who isn’t trained to talk you through vicarious trauma helpfully (just saying it over again can retraumatise and enhance the trauma instead of processing it and letting it go).

    You’re fine. The best thing you can do now is keep on with your job. If you rboss checks in with you again, as she should, then you can say ‘I don’t need to talk right now, sometimes I process better on my own instead of talking it over, but if I do need to talk I know where you are’, but bringing it up before then isn’t something you need to do – and your boss shouldn’t make you feel like you have to apologise for having a moment or that you have to ‘process’ in a particular way to keep your job. Your boss just needs to make sure you know what resources they offer to help you if you need it, whether that’s talking to someone without having to explain why you need to talk, a few extra minutes break here and there, or formal EAP or counselling available or subsidised.

    1. Willow Pillow*

      To add to this, scripts can be really helpful to get yourself out of that awkward moment. I think the line in kalli’s post is a bit too long – it needs to be something you’ll remember and can say despite the distress welling up. A simple “can we talk later?” might help. It doesn’t even have to be verbal – you could give a hand signal or have red/yellow/green signs at your desk.

      1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        The flags are a good idea. You know, this seems like something that should already be in place in a mental health hotline office. It sounds like maybe there’s not enough support for people there if the boss hasn’t circled back about the situation.

        1. kalli*

          Or… it’s genuinely ok not to talk about it and boss is expecting that LW will take them at their word and speak up if they do want to talk to boss about it.

      2. kalli*

        I was envisaging a check-in at other times when LW isn’t in distress; when they can set the expectation and reinforce that they sometimes need space, for when/if this sort of thing happens again, so boss will know to give them space *first* and check in later instead of coming in and expecting a discussion when LW needs a minute. Like, in this case instead of boss deciding LW didn’t seem peppy enough when saying hi, instead of moving immediately to ‘are you okay?’ they’d have the puzzle pieces to go ‘hmm, LW isn’t quite their usual self today, I won’t hold it against them if they take a few minutes between calls and I’ll make a note stop by near the end of their shift to see if anything’s changed’. Then if the ‘are you okay’ conversation takes a turn LW can go home and switch work brain off to process, but they’ve also had the same benefit as what ended up happening here but without ending up in tears in front of the boss and being stressed/mortified by that on top of the calls and whatever else is happening. Additionally, by setting the expectation outside of when it’s needed, when it is, boss also has the puzzle pieces to know that whatever version of ‘I need a minute now’ comes out (whether it’s verbal or not, although a traffic light system feels a bit second grade for a workplace; door open/closed, headphones on/headphones off or at desk/not at desk, at water cooler/not at desk, in break room with a book usually work fairly well) actually just means LW needs a minute and not the sky is falling.

        1. Willow Pillow*

          My brain often can’t handle long paragraphs so I haven’t been able to fully read through yours… but my experience as a fellow sometimes-overwhelmed person is that even the best-intentioned people need reminders in the moment. LW is absolutely entitled to that space, and a nonverbal system helps both them and their boss, who is also entitled to context clues.

          I had a morning last week where a customer was pushing back repeatedly against a response that he didn’t like. I had CCed my two managers on my most recent response just in case. Manager 1 came up to me and gave me a suggestion that I wasn’t aware of, saying he’d respond if I wanted but that he would leave it with me unless I asked him to take over. 20-30 minutes later, Manager #2 came and asked me if I hadn’t responded because I was second guessing myself. I wasn’t – I was 1) quite busy with other tasks, and 2) subtly trying to set expectations about response times by not responding right away.

          Both were looking out for me, which I appreciate… but Manager 2’s belief, if it persists, stigmatizes mental health issues (equating a lack of feedback with a psychological issue) and turns into a problem unto itself.

          1. Willow Pillow*

            (Context clues of my own – said customer called and emailed within an hour of my last response to a non-emergency, which was first thing in the morning)

  10. Healthcare Manager*

    RE1 Mental health manager here!

    Please believe your manager when they say It’s okay if you don’t want to talk about it”

    It might have felt like awkward silence to you but it probably didn’t to her. It’s part of the job.

    1. All Het Up About It*

      I agree with this. I think because the OP was feeling blindsided and possibly embarrassed, they’ve assigned tone and thoughts to the manager that maybe aren’t there. I’ve seen some commenters doing the same thing.

      I like some of the above suggestions about thanking the manager for recognizing that OP needed some space. It closes the loop for both parties, but more importantly for OP who is probably letting this build and take up more space in their mind than they need to.

    2. Abogado Avocado.*

      Can I just add, LW1, that it’s okay to feel distressed in light of your work. It’s also okay to say, if you feel you must say something to your boss, that you surprised yourself by being overwhelmed with emotion. And, finally, it’s okay to seek help from that boss even if you’ve previously told her you’re fine or you previously didn’t flag any of your distress.

      In my experience working at a legal aid organization that represented (among others) those living with mental illness, emotional trauma from difficult work may not hit all at once. But when it does, please don’t feel like you can’t be overwhelmed — but please also seek help. As it took me far too long to learn, you can’t help others unless you put your mask on first.

      Finally, thank you for doing the work you’re doing. Please know that your work contributes to the sum total of understanding in the world for those living with mental illness.

  11. Awkwardness*

    LW2, you seem very sad, angry and vulnerable at the same time (which is completely understandable!), but you seem to be probing quite hard for emotional reaction on the other end, both from HR and your former manager. I get where this is coming from, but it will be better for your own mental health if you can let go of this idea, focus on legal/financial aspects, and try to plan your next steps.
    Every advice on this side about pleasant behaviour applies in unemployment as well. HR is a source of information, so try to make things not unnecessary complicated for them. This could, as an example, make the difference in being sent all information (for you to figure out which applies to you) and being sent only the really relevant information. So try to understand if you are acting in your own best interest right now.

    1. OP#2*

      Thank you! I agree, and Alison’s answers and commentariat comments are definitely helping to shift my thinking. I appreciate your ideas, thanks!

      1. Abogado Avocado.*

        LW#2, I am so sorry you’re dealing with the layoff and its aftermath. I can well understand how this must feel and why (it seems to me) you want to share the pain with those at the company.

        My take, from your email, is that, because you’ve been copying Wendy, someone in HR may suspect you’re thinking of suing. Which totally is your right. But HR probably also is forwarding your emails to Legal, too. Which is the company’s right.

        In any case, you’ve gotten their attention. At this point, if litigation is off the table (and I’m not recommending it), you may want to ask yourself what you most need, going forward, from this former employer and let that be your guide.

        I wish you all the very best.

    2. Anonymous was already taken*

      LW4 I asked a similar question once in the open thread about including my renovation projects in my resume. The response from readers was don’t, but use it in your cover letter if it’s relevant. So now what I do is say something like “I have used [insert skills] when undertaking projects professionally and personally”. Maybe you could do something similar, where you are acknowledging that you apply the skills and experience from your job in your personal life.
      Or something.
      Just an idea.

  12. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP2 (cc-ing HR people in messages about benefits after layoff) – OP, I think you are conflating large things (1300 people laid off and the massive impact this will have on you, worry at finding another job, etc) with small and insignificant (the ‘politics’ of who cc-s who on emails when they are people in the same team).

    If I’m honest I think you’ve lost perspective here – understandable given the nature of this situation (and perhaps the self admitted vindictive / petty trait) – this is the part to work on. Letting go that small stuff like whether you deal with Tracy or Wendy or whoever. Likely any one of them are not thinking any more deeply about this than “oh, OP asked a question, need to find out the answer and respond”.

    I’m sure you will get interviews and ultimately a new job despite this setback, though. I do think it’s worth working on this resentment so it doesn’t come across in interviews in such a raw manner. As a hiring manager myself I’ve spoken to (screening or full interview) a few people in similar situations – laid off at what you could call a “later career” age, didn’t feel the decision was right or fair, etc. In itself it would not put me off hiring someone but it would be a negative (the attitude I mean, not the layoff itself).

    1. OP#2*

      Thanks for the advice, and I agree, I was letting this get too much in my head. Am working on a better perspective.

      I appreciate your hiring manager advice! I would like to assure you that the hurricane of emotions in my letter to Alison isn’t something that I bring to interviews or really expose to many people other than those closest to me. I do understand the value of diplomacy when dealing with the bigger world.

      1. OP#2*

        Dear Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd, Not just about me: I always find your thoughts very insightful and fair, whatever you are weighing in on. Thank you so much. Really take your comments into account.

  13. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    For #3, I’m really surprised Alison did not comment on charging students a $20,000 fee for reneging on a job offer. I’d really like to hear her thoughts on that. I think it is outrageous. OP, are they asking students to sign a contract agreeing to that or are they just imposing fee and hoping people will pay? Or are they hiding that clause somewhere in student paperwork?

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I expect the fee will be somewhere in the paperwork already, probably most people don’t read all of that (Always read the terms and conditions! – yes, I know they are a bore.)

      What’s interesting to me is that they presumably have this policy (as OP suggests) because they perceive that it reflects badly on the university for someone to renege on an offer. Why is that? The person is making a decision independently, in their own right. Not as a representative or ‘product’ of the university. Their decision isn’t on behalf of the university but is their own. As leaders, hired for their MBA, will they make decisions in the context of “what the university says I should do here” or of what makes sense in the specific situation and company? I don’t like this way of thinking (on the university’s part) at all.

      1. American Abroad*

        Presumably it’s because most students are getting jobs through on-campus recruitment. So using the university’s resources to secure the job, but then turning around and reneging on it is a bad look for the university and would inhibit it from maintaining good relations with all the various recruiters.

        1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

          And I could especially see this if the bulk of the graduates are young and take jobs in a particular high-pressure, high-stakes industry – investment banking and Big consulting come to mind. I doubt this would be an issue for 40-somethings getting offers from General Motors or the Georgia Department of Transportation.

          1. kalli*

            Well, if they’re young and paying for the dgree with student loans they’ll be paying off for the next 30 years, I can’t see it.

            If it’s aimed at grads who are coming in from industry then taking a step up and part of the deal is that they don’t have student loans? Then I can see it. But I can also see it being part of a negotiation: ‘I’ve already been offered a job through my school; if I don’t take it at this point I have to pay a $20k fine. Will you cover that if I accept your offer?’ Like, these people are at the level where $20k is not their yearly wage.

      2. bamcheeks*

        ‘product’ of the university

        I think this is exactly it– the MBA merrygoround is basically a deal sewn up between the universities, the companies and the candidates. You sign up for an MBA, you are granted access to the golden world of MBA recruitment and pretty much guaranteed a top-1%-salary, but you also give up certain freedoms, such as the right to decline a job. Harvard’s got your back, but only as long as you agree that Harvard owns you.

        1. amoeba*

          Yup. Pretty sure you cannot use the same logic as for a “normal” degree from any university. I think those places have very, very different services from their career centres than the rest of the world… I mean, for my mid-range European university, losing access to their career services certainly wouldn’t be any kind of threat!

          1. bamcheeks*

            Yeah, the top 5 business schools in the UK and Ireland have specialised careers adviser roles, and I’ve looked at the job descriptions when they’ve been recruiting. I don’t think we have anything like this fining business, but it is *very much* a placement role rather than anything like a normal UK / Ireland university careers role.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          I think some of these comments are missing something significant: you can of course DECLINE a job offer!! The penalty does not mean you have to accept whatever is offered to you no matter what! It means you can’t accept a job offer and then later pull out of it–or that you can’t do so without a cost.

          Reneging on a job offer is already pretty unusual, and I think it would be even more unusual in this kind of recruiting environment because unlike most job searches out in the real world you are probably generally getting all the information you need about all the companies at once and can make a pretty well-informed decision from the start. There is much less likely to be a case of “oh I really, really wanted to work for Company A but they were taking too long to decide so I accepted at Company B but now A has reached back out!” because both Company A and B are working with you through the same recruiting program so they will be on similar timelines.

          1. A Simple Narwhal*

            This is a really good point, I imagine the number of people who have accepted a job and then backed out is actually relatively small, especially compared to the number of people who have declined an offer.

            …I still think the fine is completely nuts, but at least hopefully it will never affect most people.

          2. bamcheeks*

            It’s because it’s unusual that this level of punishment seems wild. And tbh the weirdness to me is less the fine than the framing it as an *ethics* issue— when the ethics is about loyalty to a very small (and disproportionately powerful) group of people, rather than a broader ethical duty.

      3. Malarkey01*

        My brother went through one of these MBAs and the recruiting process is nothing like a normal college and degree. The school is setting up the hiring events, they are welcoming the company onto campus, providing the meeting space, usually organizing a reception for the bigger hiring blitzes, pushing certain candidates forward. It absolutely does reflect back on the university if one of the candidates backs out after an offer (it also reflects on them if a candidate bulbs anything- my brother got spoken to for canceling his interview slot at the last minute even though he was in the ER at the moment).

        This is also why it’s a very big deal that some companies are telling schools they are going to cut ties based on protests now. It’s a completely symbiotic relationship.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      I wonder if they also hold companies to account in any way for reneging on offers. I don’t see how they could, but it might be an interesting question to ask.

      1. bamcheeks*

        The article linked above says they do– access to MBA graduates from top US business schools is a significant benefit for companies, and the careers centres will decline to work with them if they don’t honour their own offers.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          Do the MBA grads have some kind of “exclusivity” agreement with the career centre and the involved companies? What does it mean to have “access” to those grads? Anyone has access to anyone on LinkedIn etc these days (or specialised recruitment sites / agencies etc). What value is the career centre adding here?

          1. bamcheeks*

            These aren’t “new grads” in the sense of 21 year olds with BAs: they’re often people with 5-10 years of reasonably high level management or technical experience behind them, and then they’ve been through a fairly onerous application process, and every individual hiree is one link in a network of similarly highly qualified and desirable candidates– both through their previous experience and because of their participation in the MBA programme. If you were trying to find and hire these candidates on the open market, you’d be paying recruiters huuuge amounts to identify and woo these candidates.

            So having them all conveniently gathered, boxed and presented to you, primed and ready to go, is a huge benefit. You can probably expect to do a decent chunk of your annual hiring in one three-day on-campus event.

      2. Sarah*

        Yes, they did at my MBA program. One year a company pulled 8 student offers in April due to budget reasons. They were banned from on campus recruiting for a decade. This is why during Covid you saw top consulting firms offering their new hires $25k to delay their start dates for a 6 months or a year.

    3. trust me I'm a PhD*

      While 20K indeed a lot, I think it’s important to remember that for an MBA, at least at a prestigious university, many students aren’t really “students” in the undergrad/traditional grad sense, taking out huge loans and eating ramen and hoping that their first big job means they can splurge by going to a restaurant other than Taco Bell (or wherever).

      MBA students often come to the program much more advanced in their careers, w/ decent personal wealth; and/or they come from monied backgrounds. They probably have 20K.

      Doesn’t mean I love the solution but “clients” of a service that Harvard or Wharton is providing is probably more accurate than “students”.

      1. amoeba*


        Also, I imagine a lot of reneging on offers happens because people find one that pays even more than the first one – in which case, they might just accept the 20k fine as the price for that. (Or ask their new employer to cover it with an additional signing bonus…)

        1. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

          Framing it as unethical might stop a few additional cases by convincing students that even if you could pay the $20k, you shouldn’t, because reneging would make you a bad person.
          Though that said, they probably have an entire class in the program “How to screw over employees, vendors, and customers for profit without feeling like a bad person 101”

    4. Phony Genius*

      She did touch on it in her last sentence, saying it “is really harsh.” It may be all that needs to be said.

  14. bamcheeks*

    LW1, I would be MUCH less worried about you being “rude” and much more worried about you being overwhelmed! Check in with yourself and work out whether this was just a moment’s reaction to a particularly challenging call, or whether it’s an indication that you’re getting overwhelmed more generally and need to take more breaks, seek more support, or offload more thoroughly. And then go and talk to you boss and apologise, but in a, “hey, I just wanted to let you know what was going on” way, and tell her what WAS going on. If she’s good at her job, she’ll want to hear that much more than she wants an apology.

    1. Allonge*

      Exactly, about being overwhelmed – and I would expect that it’s actually really very ok to cry in a place like this, under the circumstances.

      I am not saying OP has to, but even for regular places the advice is usually not ‘don’t ever cry under any circumstances’. Certainly no need to hide the fact that things got too much for that day. OP, take good care of yourself!

  15. bamcheeks*

    Careers adviser in the UK, and I’m pretty grossed out at the $20k fine! We’re explicitly people-centred and student-centred in our ethics and code of conduct, and we push back on policies which put employers’ or universities’ interests over those of students’ and graduates’. As far as I’m concerned, what you have to balance when you decide to change your mind about a job offer after accepting is your immediate need versus yourown future and professional reputation: it should never be a fine and the reputation of the university shouldn’t come into it. We should never have students putting their own financial or personal well-being second to the reputation of the university, what a warped set of priorities.

  16. Irish Teacher*

    LW4, have you a licence to perform weddings or anything like that? If so, maybe you could talk about being a licenced marriage celebrant.

    1. LW #4*

      LW 4 here! In my state (US) anyone can perform a wedding ceremony, so that wouldn’t help me. I had hoped to highlight the skills I have developed over the course of my ordination training and circle work.

      1. Sleve*

        If you’re currently employed, or have been in the past, are there any skills that you have developed that have also been used in a work or volunteer context? If you are worried about discrimination you might be able to attribute your skills to other sources.

        For example, you say you’ve become more skilful at event planning. Lets say you’re a firefighter and you’ve also planned this year’s ‘see the fire trucks’ community day, but you didn’t really learn much. You could still say in your cover letter “My event planning experience (for example organising our 2023 ‘see the fire trucks day’) has taught me the importance of X and Y in planning events. My philosophy is ‘A backup plan is not a backup plan until it’s been planned!'”. Showing what you know instead of asserting that you know it “because reasons” is a better tactic in a job search anyway.

        Most employers don’t actually care so much how you acquired a skill, as whether you actually do have the skill or not. The ‘How would you know this?’ part is kind of just the initial filter to see whether someone is embellishing their skill set. Many people unintentionally mis-attribute the sources of their knowledge on occasion. I don’t talk about learning how to code from YouTube in my cover letters. I refer to the projects and courses I’ve done – with skills I already had – as though the projects were the source of my skills. It’s pretty standard.

  17. Jade*

    LW 1: I think your boss is thinking way less about it than you are. I don’t think it is a big issue.

  18. Mel*

    LW1: I’ve also worked at mental health crisis lines and this sounds like a very normal interaction. Two things:
    1) if you’re very new to this kind of work it’s not uncommon to get swamped by emotions out of nowhere. There’s a bit of a learning curve to managing them, but it certainly doesn’t involve pretending to be fine when you aren’t. Your manager may actually have some tips on this front!
    2) it would be good to check in as Alison describes and in my own experience it’s not uncommon for managers to follow up on how people are doing a few days later anyway – it can take a few days to process particularly heavy calls.

  19. English Rose*

    #5 Are you applying for other jobs at the same level you’ve just been promoted to? It sounds like it. If that is the case, then it may make sense to stick around for say six months if you can hack it (but put your own welfare first as well).
    And spend those months noting closely what you have to do, what additional skills and experience you’re having to learn that you can point to clearly in your resume and cover letter. Lots of organisations are crying out for people who can manage in difficult circumstances so this should give you an edge. Good luck.

  20. Ellis Bell*

    LW4, I’ve never held any particular roles like yours, but as a Pagan, one of the things that make it easy to fly under the radar is how much it has been co-opted by Christianity and mainstream culture. So, if I’m celebrating Yule or Ostara, people just assume by appearances or activities that I am celebrating Christmas or Easter; they even call it “secular” so heavy is the mainstream assumption. I don’t know what particular words apply to your practice, but anything like “seasonal occasions” “nature” “environmentalism” or even “historical traditions” will tend to be received as very mainstream. It’s a shame we can’t be more open, but it comes in handy sometimes when it’s less safe to be upfront. I like the advice to call yourself a wedding officiant too.

    1. LW #4*

      LW4 here! That’s a great way of putting it, thanks! I was worried about being pressed for specifics in an interview but you’ve given me some really helpful language.

  21. Tom*

    Hope you’re good OP2 – sounds like you’re going through it.

    Would flag that you have, by your own admittance, cc’d Wendy in for vindictive reasons. It’s a peeve of mine when people act vindictively but resent being called out on it, or be treated like they’ve acted vindictively.

    If you’re acting vindictively, you’re getting something from it, even if it is a short term boost of happy chemicals. Power to you, but you have to understand that no one else is going to enjoy it!

    Wouldn’t say this if you hadn’t admitted it yourself. Looks like a shit situation, so take care of yourself.

    1. Caliente Papillon*

      Yes OP, you’re just reacting your own petty, thinking you were being called out. May have been the case but, like, oh well.
      As an admin I’ve been on the receiving end of people acting like this, going “above my head” cc’ing ppl cuz they don’t like what I said, but not even being bright enough (in the moment because that’s what happens when your head is in your own baggage) not even realizing that half the time the one they’re cc’ing is the one that’s giving the answer even tho it’s coming through the admin. Do you really think someone lower level is in charge of these decisions? Yeah, probably not. Ahem lol

    2. OP#2*

      Thanks! I’m thinking I should have used ‘thorough’ rather than ‘vindictive,’ as I meant it more jokingly in my letter. But all you say is true. Working on it!

      1. MicroManagered*

        “Thorough” and “vindictive” are not words that are commonly confused. I think you meant the word you chose in the letter and you know what you’re doing. But I also think everyone here is being very understanding toward you regarding WHY you feel the way you feel the way you do. I know I understand it!

        The HR folks you’re being vindictive toward only care as much about this as their job requires them to. It’ll never be as personal to them as it is to you. They’re not doing that TO you — it’s just the way things are. The people you’re interacting with about benefits etc. probably had nothing to do with the decision to lay you off. I wouldn’t be surprised if they made the exact same observation to each other about the layoffs vs. CEO’s bonus. And now they get to deal with 1300 layoffs?! It’s a crappy situation all around… for everyone but the CEO I guess…

        I hope things get better for you very soon. This situation sucks. I’m really sorry you’re going through it!

        1. OP#2*

          Okay, now I’m going to be defensive: I made a bad word choice. It was a joke. I’m very aware that ‘vindictive’ and ‘thorough’ aren’t synonyms; I was suggesting that I should have used ‘thorough’ in the first place to avoid the flak.

          Also, it’s not like I threw a bag of flaming dog poop through anyone’s window: I cc’d a manager.

          My original question only had to do with how, or if, I should answer Caroline about this one particular missive that I wasn’t supposed to see, that’s it. All these speculations about how I’m being an asshole to so many HR people based on one letter to AAM (which doesn’t indicate my tone when I write to HR, by the way; I’m as perfunctory as they are) are are just that, speculative.

          I would like to thank everyone in today’s comments for all their advice about my issue. Reading the different perspectives (whichare mostly that I should dial back the drama in my head, and I agree) has been very helpful for me.


        2. OP#2*

          Dear MicroManagered: Thank you for your kind words.
          I got caught up in our semantics ideas in my previous answer there, sorry.
          I appreciate your very kind thoughts!

          1. MicroManagered*

            Rereading my comment, I can see how you thought that. But it really wasn’t my intent and I’m sorry if it came across as me piling on. As you might imagine, I’m sometimes on the receiving end of those cc-your-boss emails in my work, so my comment reflects a bit of defensiveness as well! :)

            For the record, I DON’T think you are harassing HR people just to be an a-hole. But I DO think you understand the optics of cc’ing someone’s boss on every email and acknowledged you were making that choice deliberately.

            To your original question of what to do about Caroline … nothing. You already did it!! Believe me, she wanted to crawl into a hole when you responded and she realized you’d seen her comment. But she didn’t call you a name or say anything truly inappropriate, so there’s really nothing else to say.

            Again I really hope this thing works out better than you can even imagine right now and I’m sorry you are dealing with this! :)

  22. workworkwork*

    I belong to a 12 step recovery program and do a lot of things in that community that are directly transferable to the kind of work I do. I wish I could put that experience on my resume, but I haven’t figured out how to do it without “outing” myself, which I do not want to do.

    I understand your dilemma.

    1. Also anon*

      “Anonymous was already taken” above had a brilliant solution: in sum, “I have used [insert skills and experience relevant to job] when undertaking projects professionally and personally.”

  23. Insert Pun Here*

    I think you have to leave the religious stuff off your resume for secular roles, particularly since there’s no formal structure here. That means there’s no boss who can speak to your skills, and I think it would be unethical (coercive) to ask another member of your group to serve as a reference.

    1. MtnLaurel*

      That’s where I come down on it as well. I serve in a leadership capacity at my (mainstream Protestant) church, and if I need to reference skills that I have acquired or honed in that capacity, I do my best to find a work related example.

  24. Falling Diphthong*

    OP2, I think this is the key piece: You’re very emotionally invested in this — which is completely normal and understandable! — but they are much less so.

    For you it’s your life, and your ability to pay bills over the next month. For them it’s a sub-task on Tuesday morning.

  25. Magpie*

    “I usually include her boss, Wendy, mainly because I’m vindictive and think that if this company wanted to lay off 1,300 of us, Wendy should hear about it too”

    I’m confused about your goal here. It seems unlikely that Wendy was personally responsible for the decision to lay you off so why the vindictiveness towards her? If she’s not doing her job and getting you what you need that’s of course something that should be called out but the decision to try and make her life more difficult because someone else in the company made the decision to end your employment seems odd and isn’t sending the message you think it’s sending.

    1. OP#2*

      I think I was believing in the adage ‘the squeaky wheel gets the grease’ rather than ‘you get more flies with honey.’ Part of my frustration actually was that the ball got dropped somewhere, because some of my papers weren’t filed. But I get it; I was being a pain. Thanks for the take on it!

  26. I should really pick a name*

    I don’t think you’re sending the message you think you’re sending.

    It’s unlikely that Wendy was involved in the decision to lay off 1300 people. HR really just handles the admin side of things. Even considering that, she’s completely aware that it happened and what it means to people. Cc’ing her on emails is unlikely to change her feelings in any way.

    If the last thing that Caroline said to you was “Let me know if I can help you”, not responding is just going to tell her that you don’t need any help, it’s not going to be the insult you seem to think it is.

    1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      Adding to this, as HR and having been on the administrative side of handling a layoff, it really sucks. Sure, we tend to have job security as a result of it because they need us to process the layoff(s) but it is not a fun job, and I say that not because employees may be vindictive or petty, but because we are also human and taking jobs away from people is very much not how we enjoy spending our time.

  27. 15 Pieces of Flair*

    LW5- Consider structuring your resume so that the info for your current employer is grouped together under your current title with a note that you were promoted from previous title(s). For promotion in place scenarios where you didn’t take on substantially different work, this avoids the appearance of “looking for a new job immediately after accepting a role” and also saves space on your resume.

    For example, I was promoted twice at a previous employer but was only there for less than two years (chaotic startup). Rather than having three separate listings for each title, my entry for them looks like:

    Senior Manager, Professional Services [Company Name] MON 2020 – MON 2022
    – Deputy Director of…
    – Increased CSAT scores…
    – Created and piloted services offerings that resulted in…
    – Promoted from Program Manager to Manager in MON 21 and Manager to Senior Manager in MON 22

  28. JaneDough(not)*

    LW2, about “I am 56 and am dead at the idea of being laid off while the CEO got a bonus of $1.3 million”: I empathize, having been in a similarly enraging position at 47 (about 10 of us were laid off from a co. owned by one person worth $300 mil — no board of directors to report to, solely his decision, *and* he refused to enact cost-cutting measures that would have prevented layoffs, plus some other factors that made my situation even more enraging, among them the violating of an oral commitment I’d been given when I left a stable job for that sh*tshow).

    Please don’t assume that being 56 means you won’t find work. You will. Meanwhile, do everything you can to process the anger, disappointment, anxiety, and grief — those feelings are not only making your life harder, they’re going to affect how you present yourself when you interview.

    Take care.

  29. Feotakahari*

    #4 seems the same to me as the old letter about putting World of Warcraft guild leadership experience on a resume, but the responses have been pretty different.

    1. Irish Teacher*

      I think the stakes are somewhat different. Admittedly, I don’t know anything about World of Warcraft, but events like weddings are very important to people and they generally expect professionalism from those involved in performing them. And the LW did say they charge a small fee for the weddings, so some of this is paid work.

      And whether it’s fair or not, I do think if Wicca was removed from the equation, most people would view officiating at weddings, teaching classes on spirituality, etc differently from organising any form of gaming. I’m saying if Wicca were removed from the equation as I do think there are still people who would see being a Wiccan priestess as more like a hobby when they wouldn’t feel the same way about a priest, rabbi, minister of another religion. And I do realise the lack of a formal structure makes a difference, but I also think a lot of people just don’t treat Wicca as seriously as they do other religions.

      1. Antilles*

        People at the higher end do take their raiding very seriously and it requires a crazy amount of organization. Like, my raiding guild at our peak topped out in the US rankings at around #500 overall (out of 30,000+), so we were extremely good and among the top 2% or so, but not even remotely close to world class. That level of success required two nights per week, 3 hours per night just for the raiding, plus more hours of playing the game to prepare, plus time spent reading strategy guides to learn from others.

        When everybody else is putting that kind of effort in, there is an expectation that you’re matching the level of effort from the rest of the group, showing up prepared, etc because the game works in such a way that one person who isn’t pulling their weight can single-handedly make the entire 20-person group fail.

        I’ve served on the boards of professional organizations, I’ve been a small group leader in my church, I’ve served as an events organizer for a singles group. It’s not an exaggeration to say that not a single one of those commitments required anywhere near the level of cat-herding and effort than when I was leading raids.

        But you still can’t put it on a resume. First off, there’s still people who hold a stigma about gaming as a “kid’s hobby”. Even setting that to the side, most people would hear it and not really understand what it entails; their experience with gaming is coming home in college and playing a game on the couch with the roommate or playing Mario on nights with their kid or whatever. And on the limited space on a resume, there just really isn’t the opportunity to explain it. By comparison, everybody has enough of a passing familiarity with weddings to understand what “wedding officiant and event coordinator” entails.

        1. Nomic*

          Well said. In both cases here I think it boils down to stigma rather than the work involved not being worth mentioning on a resume.

          (I’m so glad I switched from WoW to GW2 where raiding just isn’t as big a deal, even at the top levels. WoW was worse than jobs I’ve had in terms of unreasonable schedules and extra work you had to do just to be ready to show up for “the job”).

        2. kalli*

          Plus gaming is moving into the professional, accredited sports sphere (it’s even being considered for the Commonwealth Games, although I’m not sure whether they’re just currently looking at ‘esports’ vs looking at specific competitive titles, individual or team titles etc. because from the articles I read I’m not sure they know either) so when people have an awareness of high-level achievements they’re getting a mental picture of sports, not necessarily work. Like how pro level sports players receive professional development and are encouraged to do a degree or certification for when they ‘retire’, instead of putting things like ‘worked as a team to score goals’ and ‘enacted customised strategies to secure objectives, including adjusting in response to situations in real time’ under ‘offensive team leader, Detroit Lions’ while carefully avoiding anything in relation to the Super Bowl. They either come out prepared to coach, commentate, manage or represent, or equipped to start or slot in to a business (which admittedly may be their personal brand and endorsements, although of course the Kelces, Mannings and Bradys will have a lot more luck in that regard than someone who blew out their knee in their second season and didn’t get a new contract).

    2. Slartibartfast*

      As both a witch and (WoW) warlock, that seems totally appropriate to differentiate the answers this way. One is my worldview and how I raise my children, and the other is an evening amusement in lieu of watching TV.

      1. Czhorat*

        Yes. The only similarity appears to be “is not very mainstream”. There are lots of activities that aren’t mainstream, and it isn’t fair to lump them all together. Playing the Hurdy-gurdy is a bit weird but is, as Startibartfast said, a hobby. Gaming is a hobby and a bit of a subculture. Religion is foundational to ones life, values, and identity.

        I think Allison’s answer on this is probably correct, but I HATE that it’s correct; a Wiccan should have the same respect for their beliefs as the follower of any other faith tradition.

        Unless it’s a joke religion like Discordianism or a deliberately insulting one like Pasafarianism then we should take all religions seriously.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        How much it matters to OP is obviously very different, but I think how much it matters to an employer is reasonably comparable. I was thinking about the letters that have come in about people wanting to put things on their resume from being a stay-at-home mom. You may be putting in a ton of effort and you may be doing things exceptionally well, but there is no boss than can vouch for the fact that your skills are actually good and useful.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Two differences that leap out to me:
      • Can people understand the basic functions of the role (organizing a wedding, providing grief counseling, making sure different stakeholders feel heard) without understanding anything about the particulars?
      • Can they talk to someone about your work? How do they know your references Fingard the Terrible and Sssssylvester aren’t just dummy accounts for you?

      In a related example, organizing Little League as a volunteer counts but organizing your family reunion for 87 people as a volunteer does not. Because the latter doesn’t have metrics that translate well, and the people commenting on your work are your family members.

    4. Observer*

      seems the same to me as the old letter about putting World of Warcraft guild leadership experience on a resume, but the responses have been pretty different.

      If I’m thinking about the same letter as you are, I think that there are some key difference.

      For one thing, this LW seems to be more self aware and have a more nuanced view of the situation. For another, what they describe would be, absent the “weird vibe” that many would have because of the religious affiliation (quotes because it’s not *actually* weird, but the LW is legitimately worried about people reacting that way), something that translates very well into the real world on the one hand and is actually contrary to the negative image a lot of people have about this religious tradition. The gamer guy gamer, on the other hand, was a lot less nuanced. But more importantly, their description of what they learned supported almost every negative stereotype of gamers, and they showed absolutely no understanding of the issue.

    5. a trans person*

      My religion is not a WoW guild. I am mortally insulted. Christians get to list this work. You wouldn’t say this to a minister.

  30. Ex-prof*

    LW #4: I wonder if referring to involvement in your “religion” would give you a chance to bring those skills up in the interview, at least in reponse to questions. They’re hardly going to ask you what religion it is.

  31. WantonSeedStitch*

    As a Wiccan priestess myself, I agree with the suggestion some folks are using to simply use “spiritual group” or “religious group” rather than referring to your coven or to Wicca specifically. Unfortunately, even a lot of folks who won’t see you as a devil-worshipping hellbound sinner may well still see you as a flaky hippie if you mention Wicca or Paganism. I’m open about my religious practices, even at work, but I’m careful to pick and choose my time, place, and audience–and I am already well established in my workplace with a lot of capital built up over the years, and I know for a fact that my workplace makes an effort to be inclusive and welcoming to all kinds of people. You don’t have that capital when you’re applying for a new job, and you don’t know the culture of the workplace.

    1. a trans person*

      Same about pretty much everything. I have dodged the issue described by the LW only because I have not *wanted* to put those skills on my resume; I’ve been seeking IC roles and not ones where I need people managing experience. If I ever switched to manager roles, I’d want my religious group leadership experience there, and I would be very worried about discrimination.

  32. Nathan*

    LW3: I have been involved in two hirings where the candidate accepted the offer and then later declined. I can tell you that at least for my company, it is not viewed as unethical. I think if it became obvious that you accepted the offer in bad faith never intending to take the job, THAT would be unethical…but why would you do that? The assumption is that you accepted the offer in good faith but then something changed.

    I will also tell you, however, that it burns a bridge with that employer. Our recruiters would never even send me a resume from someone who had accepted an offer and then backed out later. If for some reason I were to get such a resume, I would consider it on its merits but I feel like I would need an explanation as to why the previous behavior was not evidence of poor professional judgment. For an entry-level or junior position, I probably wouldn’t care. For a mid- to senior-level position, I would be much more wary that the behavior was a red flag…but I would also be open to being proven wrong.

    Just one person and one company’s opinion, FWIW.

  33. NoOneWillSeeThisComment*

    #3 I’m confused on how the school thinks they could ever successful FINE someone after they’ve graduated and received that shiny piece of paper. They have zero mechanism to enforce it. I guess it could be unethical to renege if you had some sort of ulterior motives or something…but that’s pretty strong language to use.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      This is presumably if your found the job using their career services department.
      Departments like this partner with companies to connect companies and students. I assume it wouldn’t apply if you found the job on your own.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      Commenter nnn posted a link to an article with more details upthread, if you’re curious. I think that at top-tier MBA schools, the career service centers are heavily involved in connecting students and companies with job openings and this probably happens before graduation. The school fines a student who reneged on a job offer and then withholds the student’s diploma until the fine is paid.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, I don’t know the timeline of that MBA program but in my MAcc program I accepted my job offer in December and didn’t graduate until the following June–and I was one of the last people in my program to get a job. I was definitely assuming this was for situations where people are still currently in the program rather than after they have graduated.

      2. Sarah*

        This. 2nd year MBA hiring timeline is usually August/ September for offers coming out of internships, many with the ability to wait until November to decide. Or November/ December for offers coming out of on campus recruiting with 2-3 week timelines to decide.

        If you accept in November and renege by May, they are going to hold your diploma. I assume there is not much, beyond preventing alumni career services, that would prevent you from renege in July after graduation.

  34. CommanderBanana*

    “The career center here has made it clear to students that if you renege on a job offer (i.e., accept, and then later decline, an offer, usually because you received a better one) you can be fined up to $20,000 and lose lifetime access to career services at the university.”

    I’m sorry, what? The university can fine you $20,000 if you accept and then decline a job offer? I have never been in an MBA program so maybe I’m off base, but this sounds insane. There are all sorts of reasons one might have to decline a previously accepted job offer, from finding out the company is engaging in fraud to an unexpected change in life circumstances. How on earth does the university have standing to levy a $20,000 fine???

    1. LucyGoosy*

      I work at a university (not a career center, but adjacent admin role). I think this exists to emphasize to students that a) it’s disrespectful to accept job offers and then go “lol nvm” and can impact your professional reputation, b) in cases where the career center is actively building relationships with employers, it damages the school’s relationship with the company, and c) it reflects poorly on the career center and university itself when graduates are flakes.

      Whenever parents go, “Why can’t you GUARANTEE my child will get a job after graduation?” I always want to go, “Because your child might potentially be an idiot.” Seriously. Career centers get a lot of crap, but they take a lot of blame when graduate placements go south and sometimes people act like they should do ALL of the job search, application, and interviewing FOR the student. Anyway, schools can’t say that, so I think they have to rely on threats like this one that sound scary but just exist for that rare instance when one person is just unable to get or keep a job and the career center is done with them.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        > b) in cases where the career center is actively building relationships with employers, it damages the school’s relationship with the company, and c) it reflects poorly on the career center and university itself when graduates are flakes.

        I still don’t understand this part (I commented above under a comment with similar sentiment). Why is an individual’s choice to do something (renege on an offer) reflective of the school as a whole? Is the assumption that employers will think that’s what the MBA program teaches? Surely any reasonable person or company will recognise that that’s an individual’s decision and not ‘owned’ by the school? Why would one person’s actions say something about the nature of the career centre and university as a whole?

        If the MBA program ought to be teaching that a good leadership decision is to press on with a course of action even when the facts have changed and it is no longer the correct choice… I’m not sure what to suggest (although it would certainly explain some of the questionable decisions made at the top of companies).

        1. Sarah*

          You have 2 schools you actively recruit from. At one school no hires renege. At another school, 25% of the hires renege. This happens several years in a row. Which school are you going to continue to recruit with? Recruiting costs a ton of money. At my MBA program, the top employers probably spent $250,000+ annually in sponsorships, dinners, employee time and travel. Of course they are going to go where they get the best results

    2. Antilles*

      First off, the key word of your quoted sentence is ‘can’. They’re going to treat it differently if the reason is because of the company engaging in fraud versus backing out due to simply preferring another offer.
      Secondly, this is very situation-specific to top MBA schools because the schools have agreements with companies too that makes it binding on both sides. The student can’t renege on an offer, but also the company recruiter can’t pull their offer. It would be insane for most schools and most degrees, but this seems to be common within that very narrow niche.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        Interesting! It makes sense that it’s specific to MBA programs.

        My university’s “career center” when I graduated in the Dark Ages was a binder with some Xeroxed job listings that were all out of date :D

  35. LucyGoosy*

    LW 1 – The fact that your boss checked on you, said “It’s okay if you don’t want to talk about it,” and told you to take a break if needed means she’s concerned and recognizes that you may be having trouble. I would imagine that she didn’t think you were *rude* so much as she was trying to gauge your feelings and whether or not you had something you wanted to get off your chest. I had a situation like this at my own workplace yesterday where I was in the place of your boss–I had to give the person news they didn’t want to hear, and she suddenly looked like she was going to cry, abruptly wanted to end the conversation, and said something like, “Do you need anything else? Do I go now?” With NO context that could be seen as rude, but if someone has just received news they didn’t want to hear/had a difficult moment at work and visibly looks distressed, the other person will be able to tell you’re processing difficult emotions if they have any empathy at all.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      LW1 also said she “changed the subject” before collecting herself in the bathroom so I took that to mean she didn’t just fully ignore her boss’s existence in that whole interaction like I first thought, but more didn’t answer that one question. If that is the case, personally I don’t think there is any need to follow up on it at all. It was awkward but I imagine in a workplace like that awkward interactions around feelings are bound to happen and people hopefully know not to judge you for them!

  36. Shoot the messenger*

    OP2, you’re dealing with a lot of very strong emotions in an incredibly tumultuous time with a lot of lingering fear so it’s understandable that everything is feeling so heightened. I just want to point out that HR doesn’t decide who stays and who goes with large-scale layoffs. They are literally just the messenger trying to help coordinate benefits, severance and all the legal pitfalls that come with mass layoffs.

    Caroline did nothing to you. Wendy did nothing to you. They are literally just employees of a company trying to do their now incredibly stressful jobs while probably taking the brunt of some very misdirected anger because they’re the ones who are coordinating with former employees. They are not your adversaries. They are the only people in the company trying to help you in some way. The CEO laid you off. The board of directors and the rest of the C-Suite laid you off. Investors and shareholders laid you off. Those are the people who made this decision that has rocked your world.

    It may help to step back and realize that the vindictiveness you’re feeling towards these HR reps is misdirected and you really are just shooting the messenger.

    1. OP#2*

      Yes, very true. I guess because they are the people I have to deal with, I was using them as actual representatives. Thanks!

  37. Qwerty*

    OP4 – I disagree that it’s just Wicca that makes it awkward. It’s the religious aspect and that this work is directly religious. I’ve had Christian pastors use their pastor experience to showcase these same skill sets and it was weird. Their answers that were not related to religious positions were stronger.

    Your role is intrinsically linked to the religion as a priestess/minister/rabbi in a different way than the accountant so relying on those examples make a big chunk of your interview specifically about your religion whether you intend it to or not.

    1. Pita Chips*

      I would feel uncomfortable too. While I appreicate that someone deeply religious considers their beliefs an intrinsic part of their identity, I prefer my workplace secular.

      I’ve had issues with people in my workplace trying to convert me when they learned I was agnostic. It was rather uncomfortable.

      I would never ask someone to stop wearing a cross, a pentacle, or hijab (or other outward symbol). These are ways to express you hold beliefs without bringing anyone into your scene.

    2. LW #4*

      LW 4 here. Yes, I agree that it’s the religious aspect that’s the problem, which is why I was struggling. I’m really proud of the work I do and I wanted to find a way to use it to talk myself up! You make a good point. I left my circle work off my resume. Thanks for your input.

  38. Drowning in Spreadsheets*

    I don’t agree that continuing to look for work after receiving an offer is unethical. Too many companies these days are pulling offers all the way up to the first day you’re supposed to report to work. You have to protect yourself.

    1. Czhorat*

      We’re drifting into “two wrongs make a right” territory here; if a potential employer gives an offer and you accept then you have both agreed to somethin. If you’re acting in good faith you should keep your word.

      I’d see continuing to look after accepting the offer as a lack of personal integrity and wouldn’t do it because of how I see myself.

      1. kiki*

        I would have strongly agreed with you five years ago, but recently I’ve had so many friends have their offers pulled or delayed due to budgeting/economic reasons. Right now I have a friend who was told their job would start in July, but it’s now been pushed all the way to February.

        Right now, I don’t think it’s unethical at all to accept an offer and keep some additional irons in the fire, just in case.

        1. Perfectly Cromulent Name*

          Same. I also would have agreed at another time in my life, but now I have to physically be IN the job AND know it’s not a total shitshow that somehow did not see in the interview process before I officially stop looking. Companies generally have no loyalty to their employees and they have brought them on themselves.

        2. Pizza Rat*

          Wow! That’s nuts. I hope your friend didn’t already leave their previous job in June or is collecting unemployment.

          I would love to assume companies make a job offer in good faith and I’m sure many of them do. Enough don’t that accepting a job offer and giving your notice is a decided financial risk right now. Restructuring can eliminate a position. Budgets get cut when earnings aren’t there. Someone from the Board of Directors has a nephew that needs that job. These things are happening more than ever.

          1. kiki*

            The friend was in a full-time MBA program, so they hadn’t left a job for this new offer. But the delay in start date wasn’t something they were financially planning on. I think the company is offering them some compensation to hold them over until their official start, but it’s definitely not equivalent to their full pay.

    2. Slightly Less Evil Bunny*

      In some cases, you may have to continue looking after you’ve accepted an offer, in order to continue receiving unemployment.

      That happened to me. I accepted an offer (gov contractor), but couldn’t be given a start date until the agency where the position was accepted my clearance. Could’ve taken a week, could’ve taken 6 months – there was no way to know. In order to continue receiving unemployment, I had to keep applying to jobs. And they had to be plausible jobs – as, say, a teacup painter, I couldn’t apply to astrophysicist jobs. And one of those plausible jobs made me a better offer, with a concrete starting date. So, I took it. I did feel bad about it, like I was being kind of shady, but it seemed like the best thing to do. And for all I know, it could’ve affected my unemployment if I had turned it down.

      1. Pizza Rat*

        In my state it does. If you turn down an offer that will give you 80% of your salary or better, you will lose the benefit.

        1. kalli*

          It’s called mutuality – in exchange for receiving unemployment, you agree to look for work (or in some systems, having a medical certificate stating you are unfit to work, studying, volunteering, training will equally count; others just go on honour system or have ‘you paid in so now you get paid out’ structures). If you do not look for work, if you reject a job that meets certain requirements (from ‘it pays’ to ‘it is better than where you were’ or ‘it is better than what you are receiving now’) then you have “breached mutuality” and you lose the benefits as it’s deemed you are not receiving them in good faith.

          Also a common enough feature of workers compensation where you receive income and medical support but you’re meant to a) engage with medical supports to heal or manage the injury and b) actively engage in approved or assigned return to work activities as medically allowed (again – studying may be approved, or picking up extra certifications, but with an extra caveat that the first preference is usually to return to the pre-injury employer unless they don’t have a role you can work in with the injury if it has lasting effects, or the relationship is otherwise irretrievable).

          It’s meant to disincentivise people from treating income protection systems as free money and incentivise workforce participation – sometimes it’s just an extra source of pressure when you don’t need it, as in cases when you have a job but can’t start, you’ve been furloughed but it’s not recognised by the relevant system, you do seasonal work, or you want to pick up a bit of freelance work or a friend pays you $50 to fix their roof etc.

  39. r.*


    There are business environments where this would be unprofessional, if not unethical — but frankly, for most of the US, no. It is a necessarily acceptable outcome of how US business culture treats its labour relations.

    If a business wants to protect themselves against this sort of risk they can have the candidate sign an employment contract, outlining pay, benefits, duties, … and in the course of that contract they can also determine how it is terminated, and possible remedies for terminating it against contractual regulations.

    But of course for most US business this is not the way how things are done, because it reduces how flexible a company can treat its employees. That flexibility cuts both ways, however; if a company doesn’t want that their remedy is to have an employment contract.

    (Incidentally that’s also the reason why outside of the US offer letters tend to be much less important. You usually negotiate directly over the contract.)

  40. Oh hello*

    LW3- I think the “unethical” aspect is the impact to your classmates, not the company. The employers have a certain number of roles they are prepared to offer to each MBA program, and if you accept and later back out of an offer, the employer moved onto other programs and you’ve cost one of your classmates the job they wanted. If the same situation happened to you (your dream offer went to your classmate, who later backed out, and then neither of you got that role) you’d probably see the situation much differently, and perhaps even think of their move as unethical. Or imagine if you chose a particular program because of its ties to a particular employer, and then learned after starting that the employer dropped your program because the year or two ahead of you reneged their offers. Maybe you’d think of their decision as unethical, or at the very least, not a high-character move. The main reason most of us pursue these full-time MBAs is for the recruiting, so while I think the $20k fine is a bit outrageous, it’s not surprising that schools want to create strict policies that prohibit this behavior. It hurts your peers, not the companies.

    1. Nia*

      Why would you blame the student? Its the company who is allowing the actions of one student to color it’s perception of the entire school.

      You should always be looking out for yourself because a business is never going to be looking out for you. Businesses are unethical as a rule. I’d expect an MBA to know that.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      … or you could argue that it’s unethical for companies to recruit by allowing people (via the “tuition fees” for the MBA) to buy their way into an opportunity with that company. Certainly goes against ideas of equity, inclusion etc (which ironically are no doubt on the MBA curriculum!)

    3. Oh hello*

      You both bring up interesting points (and your anti-MBA feelings are valid) but these things aren’t what the LW is asking.

      I agree that I would hope an employer doesn’t change its perception of an entire program just because of one student reneging! And the letter is definitely not asking about the ethics of higher education and tuition fees.

      I’m simply saying that I don’t believe the school means that the reneging is “unethical” to the employers. Employment is a two way street and of course you have to look out for yourself. The company will move on and find someone else to fill the role. But this sort of move could definitely cost your classmate the role they were after, and that’s what I think the LW’s school means when they say reneging is unethical.

  41. BecauseHigherEd*

    It can be unethical in that it could potentially burn a bridge between the university and the employer, and that in turn could make it harder for other students to get jobs there in the future–but it’s not necessarily the student’s responsibility to take care of that. I would imagine your MBA program has had issues in the past with graduates just burning bridges (and I’ve seen this at my university–some students will just accept as many offers as they can while they wait for THE offer they really want), so they want to push grads to only accept positions if they truly intend to work there. I would imagine this is a scare tactic that isn’t really enforced. There’s nothing like this on my institution’s MBA career site, but I would imagine grads get an in-person come-to-Jesus talk in the career counseling office.

  42. She of Many Hats*

    LW 4: I might put it as Volunteer: various educator and leadership roles within my religious organization: researched & developed seminars for membership, creating lesson plans & materials, marketing events, follow-up surveys on value of sessions. Developed advanced management and mediation skills while working closely with couples to plan and organize weddings. Recruited members for and led community service events…

    1. LW #4*

      LW 4 here. That’s pretty good! Thanks for the suggestion. I was about to add “but I’ve never recruited anyone!” and very quickly realized that half of my current class are people I invited. Ha!

  43. Senior Llama Wrangler*

    I accepted a job offer the same day I got a promotion! Except in my case, I was notified about the promotion after I had accepted the offer. I had been trying to get a promotion to Senior Llama Wrangler for a year or so (even having two contract SLWs working under my direction for months). I gave up and started searching for a new employer just to get the title. I got an offer and went to my manager to ask one last time about the promotion; once again he told me he was working on it. So I accepted the offer. That afternoon he emailed me that I got the promotion! But, without any pay change, so thanks? He was annoyed the next business day when I handed him my resignation, thinking I had used the promo to get myself a better title/pay at the new organization. But he couldn’t really do anything to me with that annoyance. He ended up leaving the organization a few months later, and I heard a rumor that it wasn’t voluntary and was related to the high turnover on the team.

  44. Anita Brake*

    #3, I’ve gotta say that if they fine you $20,000.000 for reneging on a job offer, I don’t think I’d accept career help from that university. Maybe that’s just me.

  45. Mrs. McCarthy’s Award-Winning Strawberry Scones*

    LW #1: Just know you are not alone in how you handled the interaction. When I am close to tears I know I will lose it if I start talking about the thing that is upsetting me. I try to shift gears to a different topic instead as a way to head off an emotional reaction, but that doesn’t really work when the person is coming to check in about the specific situation you are struggling with. What I have done with some success is feign busyness/working on something time sensitive as much as possible when the person comes by so I don’t have to fully engage in conversation. They will usually take the hint and leave me be. If I feel awkward about it after, I will follow up as soon as I am able with a friendly, warm interaction so the colleague knows it was nothing personal and they don’t need to tiptoe around me.

    1. kalli*

      Gosh you’re lucky to have a team that lets you do that – I had a job with a mostly great team and just two totally abusive scream at you for existing if they don’t gaslight you into thinking you don’t exist types as boss and grandboss, and someone asked if I was okay and I collapsed in their office. Instead of letting me be quietly mortified and getting on with things, she threw a fit and started screaming about how she couldn’t work like that, I ended up in a full blown panic attack, during which the marketing manager walked in, picked me up and frogmarched me around the entire floor and insisted I apologise to every single person for the inconvenience (including “you’ll feel better” and “well I won’t let you go until you do”).

      C-suite were just fine with that and very confused when I claimed workers comp for PTSD.

  46. Brit Bratastic*

    LW 1: this is so so normal! My grandma once sent me an email when I was in college where she asked if I was eating ok and I burst into tears. When you’re feeling stress or going through things your brain is just looking for an excuse to let it out sometimes and someone being kind can 100% trigger it. I’m sure your supervisor has experienced this herself and with others. Please be kind to yourself.

  47. Nemo*

    LW1 – Something like this happened to me last week. I was already emotionally fragile, and my boss called me into her office to point out a huge, huge mistake I’d made.
    My mind absolutely seized up. I tried very hard to speak, but a weird, like, croaking noise came out. After maybe 2-3 very uncomfortable minutes (felt like 2-3 hours subjectively) I finally managed to whisper that I needed some time alone and that I’d talk about this with her later. She was sympathetic and sent me home for the day.
    Most people understand what it’s like to be overwhelmed and rendered speechless. Sure, it’s weird to be on the other side of it, but a short explanation later should smooth things over, assuming the boss isn’t an a-hole.

  48. Cee S*

    On #3: The $20k penalty may pay off in the long term if the opportunity enables one to earn more than $20k per year.

  49. Sarah*

    My top tier MBA program also had this rule, I think it is VERY common- the $20,000 fine seems like a lot though. At my school, you would lose lifetime access to career services and any scholarships provided by the school.

    The school is incentivized to encourage on campus recruiting. They build relationships over many years with top recruiters. Their goal is to get every student into a decent job post graduation. If too many students renege on offers those recruiters won’t come back and hire in future years. In the end, you have to make the best decision for you- I knew 2 classmates out of 330 that reneged my year. I don’t think it is unethical, but I do think schools are right to try and prevent it.

  50. Z*

    #5 can you talk about it without talking about it? ie “in my hobby as a marriage celebrant I have learned xyz and this is how it pertains to the role I’m applying for” “in volunteer roles I have found that xyz personality traits have been strengthened which will enable me to carry out xyz duties in an amazing manner”
    If you kept it vague in correspondence when asked about it in interviews, you could then say your spiel about it being your religion but something you don’t think should exist in the workplace, and lighten the mood with a joke about using restraint to not turn problem clients into toads or something.
    I imagine if this part of your life is important to you that it would come up in water cooler chat eventually anyway, so if it really was going to cause issues, you’d want to gauge those red flags before accepting an offer.

  51. DivergentStitches*

    I was the subject of a snotty line in an email once.

    I’d resigned from my job that I’d not been successful at and the VP of HR signed me up for a job search firm to help me find something new. When I went for an interview about what I thought was placing me with a new employer, they started talking to me like I was brand-new to the working world and how to write a resume, etc. I worked in HR and recruiting at the time. So it wasn’t a fit for me and I said thank you but I’ll pass on this.

    At my next job, I was volunteering on the board at my local SHRM chapter and we had a speaker who was associated with that job search firm. She was a big mover and shaker in the local HR world. I introduced myself after the talk and asked if there were any volunteer opportunities in her organizations. She kind of pooh-poohed me, I took the hint, and left it at that.

    The next time I was looking for a job, I reached out to a local HR org that she was affiliated with, and was emailing back and forth with someone who cc’ed her. Her response included the line, “ask me tomorrow about her, there’s a story there.”

    I’m not sure what the “story” was other than I was someone who just needed a job, but I just responded back with “I don’t think I was meant to see that. In any case, I don’t think this is a good fit. Thank you for your time.”

    1. Beacon of Nope*

      She sounds vindictive. Were you able to find somewhere that she couldn’t badmouth you? I’d hate to think of someone being locked out of jobs forever because of one person.

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