updates: my coworker accidentally sent me an email complaining about me, and more

Welcome to “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager! Between now and the end of the year, I’ll be running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. My coworker accidentally sent me an email complaining about me

I really appreciated your advice at the time and getting to hear from other readers and engage in further discussion with them. It helped as well to depersonalize things and to stop ruminating over it.

Unfortunately, shortly after I wrote to you, C ended up hospitalized, requiring emergency surgery, and did not return into the new year. Both of us are relatively young and I firmly believe that we had these issues due to the sustained stress we were under as a result of poor strategic insight from our employer — but I digress.

As things progressed, C wasn’t able to return to work until late January, at which point the pressure we were under had increased again, and disappointingly their behavior deteriorated. I began fielding complaints from members of my team and stakeholders in the wider business about C’s behavior towards them, and on more than one occasion C and I had blunt discussions about their manner towards me. Shortly thereafter, C ended up resigning and admitted they had been unhappy in the role for sometime.

Our relationship has since recovered somewhat to that of a warm acquaintance and we have kept in touch as they have moved overseas. Upon C’s resignation, I again raised my concerns with my line manager about our team’s structure and my proposal was summarily dismissed. I then moved on a few months after into a new role, feeling quite burnt out. Nearly a year later, and in the face of some fairly intense cost challenges, my dear manager has had a great idea and is currently proposing to consolidate the two roles to the two new employees performing them.

Apologies, I suspect this is a bit of a disheartening update for your readers. Ultimately though I am personally doing really well and I chalk a lot of the experience up to the fact that our employer regularly puts its employees into fairly adversarial situations. I’m looking to learn as much as I can from the new piece of work that I am on and then to look for a new opportunity (hopefully in a more functional environment) in 2024.

2. My employee is lying about his title, with our boss’s approval (#3 at the link)

Hustlers gonna hustle. After being rejected by the job previously mentioned where he lied about his title, Joe continued to use the deceptive title with my big boss’s encouragement. He ultimately landed a CEO equivalent job making more money than I (his previous manager) make with less responsibility — and he’s excelling at it. I wish Joe all the best (but continue to question my own big boss’ values).

3. My boss disclosed my pregnancy (#2 at the link)

It has been a wild ride since I wrote to you last. A lot has happened, but not so much good in regards to work. I did get a beautiful baby girl out of it, so that part I am extremely grateful for. I pretty much went radio silent regarding my pregnancy after the disclosure. My boss wasn’t thrilled with it and would often make comments about how private I was being. However, here are some highlights that you may find interesting:

– Another member of upper management ended up disclosing my pregnancy to another employee after being asked not to.
– My boss refused my request to work from home the last two weeks of my pregnancy because that wasn’t an option 30 or so years ago when she had kids. Also said that I was expected to be there in person until the day I delivered…
– They celebrated my baby shower without me (I was at home sick).
– My manager rubbed my belly without my permission in front of a managing director.

There are many more instances, but these were the major offenders.

4. Employer driving us to work during a snowstorm (#2 at the link)

I wrote to you at the beginning of 2021 about my employer driving employees during a snowstorm, and I will be honest — I was a little upset by your answer. In my mind, it was clearly outrageous that our company was demanding people come in. However, I’m glad I wrote it because your advice is always very measured and logical, and it made me stop and think about why I was so upset. I realized that I was definitely at the BEC stage at my job, and I needed to really up my job searching. But it also made me realize that my position wasn’t as bad as I was internalizing — I just think that this particular role and how it relates to the overall organization wasn’t a good fit for me. I am someone who enjoys building new processes and am always looking for ways to improve/change things, whereas the organization is very much “it’s worked for X years, why change it?” I was getting a ton of pushback when I tried to implement changes, and oftentimes I would be given the green light to change something, only for it to be taken back when I was about to implement it.

So, like hundreds of other people, I used the advice from your site and started applying for jobs. I was extremely selective and only applied for roles I really wanted — fully remote, progressive activist organization, clear respect for the candidate, etc. I made it to the final round I don’t know how many times. However, I saw a posting for the “dream role” two months ago, so suddenly I was very glad the last several positions fell through. The role and the organization seemed custom-tailored to my work experience, the work I enjoy doing, and I couldn’t have created an organization that fell in line better with my interests and passions. In my final interview with the president of the organization, she raved about my cover letter (it was written with advice from throughout your site). I just received a job offer Friday, and because of how transparent the organization has been throughout the process, there was no need to negotiate — everything was exactly what I was looking for.

Thank you for your fantastic advice, even when it made me take a hard look at myself and my own issues. While I know no job is perfect, it is awesome to actually be excited about work for the first time in years. Thank you!

{ 111 comments… read them below }

  1. Taylor Swift*

    Am I missing something? If your boss says you can use a certain title, is that not your title? OP just sounds a little jealous.

    1. receiptsplz*

      You are missing something– a job title is meant as shorthand to reflect your role/responsibilities at an organization. The fact that Joe had just been rejected by a place after they found out his real title shows that the title he’s claiming doesn’t match up with the experience and/or skillset they were expecting him to have had based on that title. That’s a problem.
      Of course there’s always variance between different fields, and some places are notorious for fluffed up titles, but it doesn’t sound like that’s what’s going on here. And I don’t see where you’re getting jealousy from all this.

    2. FrogEngineer*

      He lost one candidacy when they found out about it, so it sure seems like there’s a problem there.

    3. Elizabeth T*

      the over-boss needs to officially change the title, not casually offer.
      at a minimum, it will be confusing when 2 different titles are offered – one from HR & references and one from the applicant

    4. Sneaky Squirrel*

      This may be a “boss doesn’t care but HR has their own practices” thing. In an employment verification, HR often uses a formal system title on record. Many of the staff at my company have what we call “working titles”, which is a title that they use with clients. For example, your formal title might be “Teacher” to HR, but you may prefer to go by “Science/Math Instructor”.

      I tell our staff that they can use a working title for business cards, resumes, presenting themselves professionally as they need to, BUT they can’t mis-represent their level in the company (e.g., you can’t artificially elevate your title in the company by using “Senior Teacher” or call yourself “CEO”). If someone were to request our employee’s title in an employment verification, I would confirm their title is officially “Teacher” regardless of what our employee preferred.

      If I were conducting an employment verification on an applicant, I would be lenient if title doesn’t match up exactly but aligns closely enough. However, I’d flag a title that looks like it’s been elevated, which I imagine is what happened when this person used “Deputy Lead”.

      1. Johanna Cabal*

        A decade ago I worked a job where I had a weird title applicable only within that company. Based on advice from here, I put my role in parenthesis after the title.

        It looked like:

        Llama Beauty Engagement Coordinator (Role: Llama Groomer)

        In this situation, the title must’ve been significantly different than what came up during employment verification, especially since Joe is now at a senior executive level. I am surprised that Joe’s manager (now former manager) didn’t just verify the incorrect title during a reference check, unless the other company used a background check service that called HR and not the manager.

        1. Phryne*

          My title in the HR system is *completely* different from what I do. Not just me, everyone with my job within educational institution has this. We are in the system as low level teaching staff, whereas we actually are high level support. There is a (long and boring) explanation for this discrepancy, which almost everyone within the organisation knows. Fortunately, references tend to not work in the same way in this country, so it is unlikely to be a big problem when changing jobs to a different employer.

    5. Myrin*

      You are missing something, which is the fact that a job title isn’t a random additional name bestowed upon you but an expression which roughly reflects what you actually do.
      I work as an archivist and while I guess my boss could theoretically tell me it’s fine for me to call myself a tax collector, that doesn’t mean I suddenly am a tax collector unless words start to lose all meaning from one day to the next.

    6. Ellis Bell*

      To a point, but you still can’t just outright lie about your job role, like claim you were HR director when you were HR admin. It was a big enough change that he was disqualified for a role when a company found out he was lying.

    7. Irish Teacher*

      Not necessarily, For one thing, the boss may not have the authority to promote people to that role. For example, when I worked in a large retail company, the manager couldn’t just decide that I had the title of supervisor. Head office would have to authorise another supervisor and the pay increase that that would mean. I don’t know who would have decided who to promote if they did authorise it. I’m guessing it would be the district manager or maybe the manager and district manager in collaboration, but the manager couldn’t just decide somebody is a supervisor without authorisation.

      However, it would likely be the manager who would give references so I guess he could confirm that somebody was a supervisor, but he would be lying and would be in trouble and would likely be fired if the district manager found out he had done that.

      Also, roles often have particular duties. In that case, being a supervisor meant being in charge of the shop when the manager and deputy manager were off (one day most weekends), it meant having responsibility for the safe on those days and having some responsibilities for things like ordering. It wasn’t just a title the manager could call somebody. I did actually do some supervising and training of new hires, but that didn’t mean my actual contracted job title was “supervisor.”

      I suspect here, a new title like that would also likely involve changes to one’s employment contract, but I know that in the US, people tend not to have contracts. I don’t think a manager could say you had one title if your contract says another.

    8. Fluffy Fish*

      I mean technically I suppose but if the title doesn’t match the actual work that you do, it’s not really your title.

      A boss not caring about someone using an inflated title doesnt equate to the title being reflective of the position. And so the consequences were he didn’t get a job at least in part to a company finding out that wasnt what he did at all.

      1. Joe Alwyn*

        Honestly, I’ve worked through enough staffing agencies to know how disorganized things get from a hiring manager to a third-party recruiter that they can’t always agree on what my job title is and what my actual responsibilites are.

        In the past I would put down the job title I saw on the job ad (that the staffing agency would tell a background checker what my job title was) to avoid issues like in LW’s situation, but I am finding out that it was to my disadvantage, more so because I was a known go-getter but was (at the time) too “shy” and too naive to ask about a conversion or job-title change that would’ve solidified my capabilities to people who will spend only 10 seconds looking at my resume. It’s gotten to a point where I seem to have pigeon-holed myself into a permanent entry-level role because I was trying so hard to play by the rules in a society where the playing level isn’t even to begin with. Plus, with LinkedIn becoming the norm, I can also see people presenting their roles as so much more important than they are IRL, which doesn’t seem all that different from explicitly changing their job title except for HR can definitively verify one but not the other.

        Anyway, this is in response to all the people who are adamant about listing your “official” job title and seem to have taken delight that LW’s direct report was accordingly punished when he was found to be inflating his job title. Although I disagree with the framing that the LW is motivated purely by jealousy, it does sound like there’s a lot of “I paid my dues so everyone else must too” undertone here. I imagine in a world where forgiving student loan debt hasn’t become a good-liberal stance, these people would also frown at the very idea.

        1. Fluffy Fish*

          There’s a difference between using an inflated title and using a working title that reflects your duties. It’s perfectly normal and accepted to use a working title on your resume and putting the actual title in parentheses. I myself do this as my position has evolved beyond what it used to but my title has yet to be formerly updated.

          The reason you list your actual job title is so that when they check references they match. If I decided I’m going to call myself a director of llamas instead of llama wrangler and they call to check references I am now exposed as a liar which is a great way to not be hired.

    9. Friendo*

      Yes, it’s not his actual title. Big-boss said he could use it during his job search but that doesn’t make it his job.

  2. Insert Pun Here*

    How do you have a baby shower without… I… what???

    Many years ago I had a colleague who worked in the office pretty much up to her due date… because the office was MUCH closer to the hospital than her home and she figured, hey, could go into labor at any time, this is worth it. That’s really the only circumstance where that makes sense to me.

    1. SHEILA, the co-host*

      Yeah, that was a new one to me! I suppose if this was one of those all-out catered kinds of things it might have been too late to cancel/reschedule the food, but, then, just have the food and save the celebration and gifts for when the honoree has returned. Don’t go through with the actual party part without them! What the heck!

      1. Jolene*

        I thought that was funny too. My assistant (much beloved by the entire office, so there were a lot of gifts) had a baby during COVID, and we just arranged for the gifts to be delivered to her.

        If there had been a catered affair planned that couldn’t be rescheduled, I envision an email along the lines of “unfortunately Jane isn’t able to be here today for the baby shower, but we will have the gifts delivered to her. Please enjoy a firm lunch at 12 pm” or whatever.

    2. Seashell*

      My office had a baby shower for me and another co-worker who was due a little bit after me. I wound up giving birth a week early, so I missed the baby shower. My co-worker was there at least, and I dropped in to collect my presents later.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        This happened at an office I worked at a few years ago. One of the two mothers due that month went into labor the day of the shower so she missed it. I would have thought it was you but we didn’t do presents so I guess not. :-)

    3. WellActuarially*

      I mean, I have attended a work baby shower where the new parent wasn’t present. It was a departmental (about 15 people) thing, and my colleague and his wife were both supposed to be there. But she went into labor that morning, about 3 weeks early, so they went to the hospital instead of coming to the office.

      We’d arranged it as a potluck, so we still got together and ate all the food that people had brought. And we opened and consolidated a lot of the presents so that it wasn’t such a bulky amount of stuff to hand off to new parents. Then we just sat around for an hour, and all the parents in the department told stories about the crazy things that happened the day their kids were born.

      It was honestly the best office baby shower I’ve ever been to, and I don’t think it was received negatively at all by the new parents. My guess is that this happens more often than we might think. Our department did a lunch with both of the new parents a few months after the baby was born instead.

      But to be clear, that doesn’t at all sound like the situation described here. It honestly just sounds like her coworkers were awful and didn’t value her wishes or see her as an important part of her own baby shower.

      1. Observer*

        I’m so sad for OP3! That sounds like a terrible place, to be honest.

        Yes, it does! And the shower is the least of it.

    4. Percysowner*

      I worked in a small government library. The staff was all female. Five of us got pregnant during our time on staff, although not at the same time. The library always planned a shower for the employees around 2-4 weeks before they were due, around the time they were planning to take off on maternity leave. Every single one of us went into labor early, on the date of the showers, and were not at the showers. It was like the library curse! The staff would eat the cake and drink the punch. The big boss would either show up at the hospital, or at the employee’s home and bring the presents and some leftover cake. This was 35 years ago and they kept you 2 days AND served you a special meal before going home. It was wild, the boss kept moving the showers earlier and earlier before the due date and it was never far enough. All the babies were fine, if small, but it was kind of wild.

      1. Dek*

        ” It was wild, the boss kept moving the showers earlier and earlier before the due date and it was never far enough”

        Man, at a certain point, you don’t want to move them up anymore, unless you trigger Something Bad…

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      It really embraces the idea that workplace celebrations are an excuse to stop work and eat a cupcake, and by FSM nothing is going to derail that once it’s on the calendar.

      If AAM has taught me anything, it is that you should never mess with employees’ expectations of free simple carbohydrates.

    6. Andi*

      When I was pregnant with my oldest / first, my mother had a baby shower for me, without me. Which is actually extremely on brand for her. She invited all her friends, they ate cute appetizers together, then they sat and watched her open the gifts. She mailed them to me in a box later. I wasn’t invited.

      1. Frieda*

        I know I don’t have a sister, otherwise I’d swear we have the same mother. Not-sister, I’m sorry that happened to you!

    7. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I was reminded of a supervisor I had at my previous job whose water broke at the office one Friday morning and she calmly emailed everyone to say she had to go see the doctor, then *took the subway* to the hospital and had her baby the next day. We were all duly impressed when we heard this after she returned from her leave. I do believe she meant to work up until the kid was born but also he came a week before his due date so she definitely wasn’t expecting him to arrive so early.

      1. Bonbon*

        I worked at a hospital in a department less than 200 feet from L&D. You best believe that I was still writing reports 30 min before youngest was born.

    8. ScruffyInternHerder*

      On working til due date…

      I did. On a construction site that was expanding a hospital. The hospital was fully functioning, which was my point to my (slightly more panicked every day) supervisor – if I go into labor, I’m just going to walk over to the L&D triage area in that building over there….

      1. Beka Cooper*

        I worked until my due date…and then another week…and then another week. I was a preschool teacher and by the end, I had parents exclaiming “You’re still here??” I had to be induced, and then that still took forever (they almost sent me home after I’d been there almost 24 hours without going into labor). My daughter is also stubborn now that she’s born :)

        Work wise, all we did differently was modify the arrangements of when we went to the park up the block vs. staying in the backyard play area, so if I did have to leave suddenly, the childcare center would still be in staff/child ratio, or they could adjust so they would stay in ratio. We live in a smallish city with two hospitals within a 10 minute drive so it wasn’t a worry.

        1. Reluctant Mezzo*

          I worked at a government contracting office, so when I was a bit late, at the baby shower there I was issued a Late Contract Letter F03602-A-Baby. I had my son the next day, and I called my friend and told her that I bet she wished all her letters worked that well.

  3. Kai*

    Celebrating your baby shower without you… something similar happened to me at my work wedding shower. They all started eating without me, & while opening gifts left the room & talked elsewhere!
    No, I guess they didn’t like me after all, so thank goodness I left soon after!
    People can be strange for sure & not even be polite about a party I guess.

    1. zuzu*

      I had my office birthday cake (ice cream cake!) eaten without me and no one saved me a slice because I kept having to run back and forth to the courthouse to file a particularly weird type of filing there wasn’t a fee listed on the website for and the court wouldn’t just take our firm’s check and give us change.

      This was before e-filing, of course. And it was a really hot day, so you can imagine how disappointed I was to find out that no one had saved me a slice of my own ice cream cake!

    1. Observer*

      Yes! That was what I was coming here to say.

      I get that you can’t just walk out. But please do start looking. Hard. You deserve better than this!

    2. mb*

      Also, your manager rubbed your belly without permission!? That’s a straight-to-HR type of complaint. So unacceptable. The rest of it – also bad, but it just means your workplace is full of jerks. To me, touching a belly without permission is assault/harassment and should be reported.

  4. RLC*

    #3, The manager rubbing belly without permission, I am absolutely horrified!!! Under almost any circumstances, rubbing a pregnant person’s belly without permission is a violation of that person’s bodily autonomy. Manager doing it, even worse.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      When I was pregnant, a male coworker came up to me and said “I know I probably shouldn’t do this” WHILE reaching out and rubbing my stomach. I was in a small cubicle so couldn’t back away. I think my responding death stare did the trick; he avoided me until I went on maternity leave.

      1. whingedrinking*

        I’m glad the death glare worked!
        I always kind of wonder what people are thinking when they say “I know I shouldn’t do this, but – ” I mean, if you know you shouldn’t, then don’t?

      2. IneffableBastard*

        I would feel tempted to rub his and watch the reaction. Most people get really startled if somebody touches their belly.

        1. Grim*

          Return awkwardness to sender! I’m sure people rationalise it in their heads that it’s somehow different when it’s a pregnant person, because pregnant bellies somehow become public property. But it really is such a weird and invasive thing to do to someone, I feel like the only way to get it through the heads of people who do this is to do the same thing right back. I’d probably accompany it with a firm “This is what you just did to me, isn’t this weird and uncomfortable, don’t do it again!” so they didn’t think I was just joking around.

    2. Clare*

      Rubbing any person’s belly without their permission is an egregious violation of bodily autonomy, pregnant or not. Your torso contains all your vital organs and your belly specifically doesn’t even have a rib cage to protect it. Touching someone there without an invitation is actually really aggressive and fires off all sorts of primal autonomous, ‘I’m under threat, action stations!’ systems.

      Don’t try and touch the bellies of Santas, pregnant ladies, teens in crop tops, pets or others without enthusiastic consent and remember that consent can be withdrawn at any time. Eh, I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but feel free to borrow my explanation if anyone ever needs it.

      1. nodramalama*

        i think the difference is most people would agree its unacceptable to randomly grab someones stomach, but if they’re pregnant people for some reason think its ok.

        1. Varthema*

          My family and MIL kept touching my belly over Christmas when I was about 12 weeks pregnant (so, not showing yet, but I’ve always had one of those bellies that sticks out unless I’m engaging my abs and I was already self-conscious about that). at one point I snapped that I was going to bite off the next hand that rubbed my intestines (because anyway at that point baby wasn’t even where they were rubbing ANYWAY). It really did trigger an adrenaline spike every time, I agree it’s a primal reaction.

    3. Dek*

      Between that and the not letting her work from home because SHE couldn’t 30 years ago, it sounds like this manager does not Change With The Times.

      (I mean, it was never appropriate to touch pregnant people’s bellies without invitation, but I feel like In-The-Year-Of-Our-Lord-Two-Thousand-Three-And-Twenty, it’s more…commonly known?)

      1. I heart bacon*

        One of the most infuriating reasons why we never get anywhere with living wages, meaningful leave/bereavement policies and pay, sane sick leave policies, decent working hours and vacation, non-toxic workplaces, etc. — didn’t get it, so you can’t have it. I live for the day when everyone says, “Hey… it was wrong I didn’t get it, so I want to ensure that others do because it’s the right thing to do.”
        And I really, really hope OP finds a MUCH more supportive and respectful workplace that she deserved all along. My jaw dropped at the audacity of everything she reported in that post. It’s not OK. Any of it.

    4. JustaTech*

      Honestly one of the only nice things about being pregnant during mid-COVID was that it took basically no effort on my part to not have people try and touch my stomach (though having my in-laws live several states away helped). My masked face apparently was enough to turn off even the most dedicated stomach-patters.

  5. Elizabeth T*

    someone reached for my belly when I was about 8 mo pregnant. I slapped their hsnd away before contact. Shocked them. I then looked straight in the eye and said “Don’t touch me.” Luckily this was not at work.

    20 yr later, I would be more likely to grab the other person’s crotch and demand how they like it. No doubt a good thing I passed childbearing age. [and, no! , I would never do that at work! ]

    1. Jolene*

      The only person to rub my belly was my mother-in-law, and even then I recoiled so hard that I had a stiff neck for a week. (I should have just slapped her.)

      1. allathian*

        Thankfully nobody rubbed my belly without invitation, not even my husband. Although he did get a lot of invitations to do so, because it was a way for him to bond with the baby, especially once our son started kicking his hand whenever he felt it. My husband was gentle, but apparently our son could feel him touching me because he reacted.

  6. Ms. Murchison*

    In re: #3 and the manager’s unwillingness to let her work from home –
    The number and unflinching fervor of people who will die on the hill of “Because I suffered, I’m going to make sure that everyone who comes after me suffers too” never ceases to confound me.

    1. Clare*

      There are two types of people in the world.

      Those who think: “I had to suffer, so I want you to suffer too”;

      and those who think: “I had to suffer, so I don’t want you to suffer too”.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        And a similar type, when it comes to abuses of power. The ones who think “If I’m in a position of power, I will do better” and the ones who think “Woo hoo, my turn!”

          1. Ama*

            I just said this to my spouse recently — that unfortunately it feels like a high percentage of humanity that *wants* to be in positions of leadership are the people who are least equipped to be good leaders.

      2. Ms. Murchison*

        A former friend had this attitude but it was less “I want you to suffer too” and more “It is only just that everyone else suffers too, and I’m going to make sure that justice happens,” which was even more confusing than someone who actively enjoys others’ pain.

          1. Salsa Your Face*

            My husband used to have the “I suffered, so everyone else should suffer too” mentality, until one day I asked him “so does that mean nothing can ever improve?” He told me later that my question actually made him think and revise his position. And he’s the most stubborn man on the planet, so I was happy!

        1. Clare*

          I apologise for not making myself more clear. I intended such thinking to be included under “I want you to suffer too”. Your friend wanted justice, and to her, justice required suffering. So it followed that to want justice was to want suffering.

          Wanting suffering isn’t always malicious or out of an enjoyment of suffering. I want to avoid infections, so I want to put antiseptic on my cuts even though it stings. But personally I don’t subscribe to the philosophy of wanting suffering purely for equality’s sake.

    2. WellRed*

      If that’s how the pregnancy went, I’m a little worried about her being back in the office as a new mom.

    3. Notwithstanding the Foregoing*

      I started a new job a few weeks ago and seeing that a pregnant coworker was not permitted any flexibility to work remotely has honestly made me think I don’t want to stay here long term. I am past childbearing age, but the inflexibility to accommodate a high risk pregnancy for two weeks by letting her work remote was appalling. We are hybrid and can do everything remotely. It seemed very much a combination of “I suffered 20 years ago, so you do too” and “if we accommodate you, we have to accommodate everyone.”

    1. Ms. Murchison*

      Witch eating crackers, i.e. everything gets on your nerves, down to someone just eating crackers

      1. Phryne*

        Don’t know if you used witch to avoid the b**ch, but personally I find witch a lot more offensive. B**ch is just a female dog, and I like dogs. Witch is a term that is still in frequent use as a misogynist slur used against women in power, women who do not conform and women who speak out. (For example, see how often the term is used online against female politicians like A Merkel, H Clinton, N Sturgeon.)

    2. ACM*

      Bitch Eating Crackers.

      It’s from a comedian who observed it’s possible to dislike someone or something so much even the most innocuous things they do are offensive to you. The line was “Look at that bitch eating crackers over there like they own the place”

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I learned that expression here, and pretty much apply it to genderless work projects. It really does describe a certain level and type of exasperation.

    3. Teapot, Groomer of Llamas*

      Pretty sure it’s B* Eating Crackers. Essentially it means you hate somebody or something so much that even the smallest things set you off majorly.

      1. LovelyAardvark*

        Yes this makes so much sense. I am working hard to move on from my current position. I realized I needed to ramp up my search when I noticed that I viscerally hate my supervisor’s laugh.

    4. Addison DeWitt*

      Ah, glad to know. I looked up “BEC stage” and got “business email compromise” as in someone hacked the email, and “Bose-Einstein Condensate,” neither of which seemed to quite fit.

      1. Clare*

        I guess you can’t really get a more toxic work environment than one that’s broken you down to the atomic level.

    5. HMS Cupcake*

      lol I’m glad you asked this because the only BEC I know is bacon, egg & cheese, like a breakfast sandwich.

  7. Random Dice*

    I love how #4 took the time to think through the advice that made her so mad, and used that to do some truly impressive reflection. I’m so pleased that it all worked out!

  8. The Taking of Official Notice*

    I still think the AAM advice for LW 4 was unrealistic (for Texas.) Unless you’re a first responder or it’s an emergency, it’s unsafe (again, in TX) to be out in severe winter storms like the ones we’ve had during the past few winters.

    1. funkytown*

      Absolutely agree! Not at all the same as a winter storm in the Northeast or Midwest where that’s expected/normal. This was a week-long full-on emergency.

    2. Irish Teacher*

      I have no idea how bad that storm was but I do know that in Ireland, a snowstorm (as opposed to a sprinkling of snow on the ground, which would still likely be enough to close schools and some other businesses) would likely be a red weather warning, which basically means non-essential services should close and people remain indoors if possible. I am guessing that snowstorms would probably be as big a deal in Texas.

      I guess it’s different in places that have snowploughs and so on, but here, if it snows, the snow pretty much remains where it is until it melts (this is usually within a couple of hours, but there have been times it has remained for days and that was a big deal).

      1. Dek*

        It’s a running not-exactly-a-joke that in the U.S. South everything shuts down at a snowflake.

        We’ve shut down more than once for a freeze. No snow. Just…ice. My buddy and I went walking and it was the eeriest thing because for the first time in our lives, we couldn’t hear distant traffic anywhere in the city.

        We’re just not equipped to deal with it. Beyond not having snowplows, snow tires, or chains or whatever…we just honestly do not know how to drive in it. (Also, in my city…people just plain don’t know how to drive.)

        I was so glad to hear from my friend who moved to upstate New York that her new boss would literally tell her exactly how to drive for each kind of icy or snowy situation.

      2. Engineer*

        Depending on who you ask, Texas is simultaneously part of the American South, Desert Southwest, and Lower Midwest. The south and southwest, in particular, are not climates that generally get snow, and if they do it’s a fairly light dusting that’s gone quickly. The intense snowstorms of the last few years are incredibly rare for the areas of Texas they struck, so the infrastructure just isn’t in place to deal with it. Combine that with the fact that Texas operates its own powergrid that’s disconnected from the rest of the country and that powergrid regularly fails in good weather, an uner conservative state government that doesn’t believe in investing in improvements, and a participant independent mindset of too many of the population that keeps trying to cede from the Union, and you get disaster.

        tldr: the snowstorms in Texas would be your red weather warning, but ‘Murica.

    3. Fluffy Fish*

      In a little bit of fairness it was several days after the initial snowfall and they weren’t asking people to drive in they were sending 4x4s to pick them up. Alison also allowed in her answer that it should have been an option not something people had to do if they were uncomfortable and that people should have been allowed to continue to work at home. I have no idea what the conditions were that day so I really can’t say whether it was totally unreasonable or not.

      That said

      1. given that they worked from home the first couple days it’s pretty ridiculous they weren’t allowed to just continue to work from home
      2. depending on the status of the roads, coming from someone in emergency management, it’s a whole heck of a lot easier and faster to cleanup if people stay the heck out of the way.

    4. SomeWords*

      And the main danger isn’t necessarily the snow, but the other vehicles on the roads.

      Employers, the world will not stop and the business will not crumble if employees stay safely off the roads for a day or two.

  9. funkytown*

    oh, I missed #4 when it came out but I gotta say, I don’t think OP was wrong to be outraged actually!! That storm was not a normal winter situation for Texas AT ALL. Normal cars *could not* go out on the roads and it would have been 100% ridiculous to require going to the office while people were literally freezing to death in their homes. But, I’m very glad OP in a new much better place!

  10. Procedure Publisher*

    I find #2 reminds me of what my sister told me about a former co-worker of hers. The co-worker was a man who was ended up “failing upwards” as she put it. You can probably guess why she might have said that.

    1. Johanna Cabal*

      I briefly worked at a small company with a CEO like that. He also had these Visions that he wanted implemented Right Now, and it was the responsibility of the (mostly) female staff to do all the legwork and even reign in some of the crazier Visions.

      I didn’t last long.

  11. Arctic Tern*

    #2 is so frustrating. When people are doing immoral things we really don’t want them to succeed!

  12. Foreign Privilege*

    LW3 reminded me of this awesome client, an Italian woman in her forties who witnessed our female head of HR (yes…) rubbing my colleague’s very pregnant belly, and who exclaimed “oh congratulations, I didn’t know you were together!”
    HR lady was all “wait, what, no” and Italian client looked at her with the most innocent quizzical look and said “ah, I thought it was yours as you were fondling her.” She said it in really friendly pleasant tones too, like haha, americans amiright. HR lady face was priceless.
    my colleague and I still crack up thinking about it 3 years later.

  13. Paul*

    For Update 2: I can see Joe getting a higher title than OP by lying, but I don’t see how Joe can get a CEO equiv job. Original post makes me think OP is mid level at best in the company hierarchy, and Joe is even lower. Specifics were “First time manager here” and “I supervise Joe, but he works closely with our Big Boss”. I also don’t think Big Boss is CEO of the company, because OP would refer to him/her as CEO and not “Big Boss”.

    Again, how does someone that low on the corp ladder lie their way to “CEO equiv” job, and “excelling at it”?

    1. Johanna Cabal*

      It could be an executive position at a small company, possibly even in a different location. The former manager who encouraged lying about the title may even have referred Joe, so the background check was more cursory.

      I’ve seen all kinds of weird things like this in my career.

    2. Fluffy Fish*

      Not every employer does a thorough background check.

      Big boss could very well be the CEO or he could have a title that’s not CEO but is very similar such as director. I refer to my director as “THE boss”. It’s very nitpicky to pick apart OP’s word choices.

    3. JustaTech*

      There are CEOs and then there are CEOs.
      A VP at one organization might be in charge of more people and a larger larger budget than the CEO of another (much smaller) company.
      So it’s entirely possible that Joe is now the CEO/sales lead/janitor at a very small firm.

      1. Paul*

        That is true. But if my assumptions are correct and Joe was fairly low on the corp ladder, such as “operations manager”, I can’t imagine him to succeed as a CEO, even in a 10 person company. It just takes a whole different set of experiences and skills.

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


    My boss refused my request to work from home the last two weeks of my pregnancy because that wasn’t an option 30 or so years ago when she had kids.

    What kind of stupid “logic” is that?

    Should we also not be allowed to use Google or Windows 11 just because they didn’t exist 30 years ago?

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      This happens a lot. Some people’s responses to their past suffering is “I suffered then so you should suffer now” and other people’s responses are “I suffered and I don’t want anyone to have to suffer like I did so I’m working to make things better so they don’t have to suffer.” The world sure would be a better place if more people responded the second way but I don’t have that magic wand that will change people’s attitudes, so alas, the world is the way it is.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I see it happen more with pregnancy protections than almost anything else (and it does happen with a lot of other things, to be clear, this one is just very prominent).

        My read is that working through pregnancy and taking very short maternity leaves was a *huge* sacrifice that was expected to be made by women a generation ago (or less) if they wanted to be successful in their careers. And unlike other evolving benefits like workplace flexibility, it’s not something they can benefit from now. They’ll never get that time back. I can push WFH policies because execs have gotten used to WFH now and see it as a good thing, but this was such a personal sacrifice that people made to be successful that I find it’s hard for me to have rational conversations about it with these older women.

        Generalizing, of course. But I have found that when people say “I want things to be better for the next generation” – they rarely mean it when push comes to shove. If it happens they weaponize it to look down on the next generation.

        1. OP 3*

          Just wanted to provide another update:

          Turns out my boss worked from home to babysit a dog for three days while I was out on maternity leave… just found that interesting.

  15. LucyGoosy*

    LW 4 made me very happy. I think that when you’re unhappy in your job, it’s easy to get very upset about things that are…maybe not ideal, but not *terrible*, and it’s more a symptom of wanting to get out. I remember at one of my jobs, we were required to do a Tony Robbins training twice a week before the normal workday started to “learn how to unleash our potential.” Some people loved it, but internally I was raging and would sit through each session drafting a new resignation letter. Now I see that having to sit through a non-optional Tony Robbins training isn’t the END of the world, but working for a manipulative boss who was into skirting federal laws to increase profits and justifying it by saying Tony Robbins had taught her not to accept limitations kind of was.

  16. ArtK*

    LW 3 and LW 4 made me think of this: “We’ve always done it this way” is the absolute worst reason to continue to do something. Even if “it” is working ok, it’s always worth considering change and not dismissing it for “tradition.”

  17. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

    #4 Your maturity and self-reflection are inspiring. Thank you so much for this update!

  18. CeeDoo*

    A coworker once texted me a complaint about me. I didn’t actually care, because what she said was not even ugly. She said, “CD keeps moving my cheese.” I cracked up. I had been cleaning up our files in our team folder, and she was having a hard time adjusting. So yes, I was moving her cheese.

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