a guy I hooked up with is joining my team, employee gave me cash for a holiday gift, and more

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

1. A past fling is joining my team and I might need to manage his work

A few years ago when I was living across the country for grad school, I hooked up with a guy (Wesley) a couple of times. We exchanged a few texts afterwards, but our communication quickly faded out and I assumed we’d never see each other again. I moved back home a year later and have been working at my current company ever since.

Well, it’s a small world: Wesley recently accepted a job at my company … on the same team, in the same city. He’s starting work in a couple weeks. We’ll see each other regularly, but as our department does project-based work it’s possible (but not guaranteed) that we would never have to work together. But if we do, I’ll be his manager. He’s a nice guy and I’m not concerned about being colleagues in the same department, but if I had to manage his work I’m concerned about potential awkwardness or perception of bias. I’m guessing he’d also find it pretty uncomfortable.

Our HR has nothing to do with staffing on projects and I’m not eager to involve them. Should I have a conversation with my boss? I’m envisioning something brief and to-the-point, where I share that Wesley and I know each other from a few years ago and that although I feel we can be professional, friendly colleagues, I wouldn’t feel comfortable managing him directly. My boss is involved in project resourcing decisions and I’m hoping she could (without divulging to others the reason why) ensure that Wesley and I aren’t assigned to the same work.

One friend has suggested I’m overthinking this, and that it’s not a big deal at all — I should proceed as if Wesley and I had no prior connection, and if we end up getting staffed together, just manage his work as I would for any other team member. What do you think?

You should not manage the work of someone you used to date, no matter how briefly. There’s too much potential for complications or the appearance of partiality. (For example, look at this similar — although not entirely the same — situation from someone on the other side of it.) And if there is any weirdness (on either side) and it comes out later that you didn’t disclose the past relationship before agreeing to supervise his work, that’s likely to reflect badly on you.

But talking to your boss doesn’t need to be a huge or awkward thing. You can just say, “Weirdly enough, I briefly dated Wesley a few years ago — nothing serious, but given that, I don’t think I should supervise his work.”

2. My employee gave me cash for a holiday gift

I own a small retail business with four part-time employees. We gave our employees a cash bonus for the holidays and to thank them for their hard work during the year.

About five days later, one of our employees presented me with a gift basket and $50 cash! I was surprised in the moment and said all the “oh you don’t have to’s,” etc. But ultimately I ended up thanking her and taking it, as it seemed it would be more awkward in that moment to decline. The basket I could somewhat be okay with but the cash definitely not.

How should I have better handled this? I definitely didn’t want her spending her money to give me a gift. And how do I stop this from happening next year? I’m so glad she liked us enough and was so generous, but it still feels a little icky.

Taking cash from an employee is a really bad look, even though you tried not to, and it’s not too late to undo it now! Bring the cash back to her today and say, “I thought about this over the holidays and I cannot accept it. I really appreciate the thought and intent, but I can’t accept money from an employee. So I’m returning it to you — it’s not up for debate — and I hope you had a wonderful holiday.”

Even if this feels awkward, you’ve got to do it. It’s one thing to accept a gift from an employee, but money is a whole different ballpark. If other employees hear about it, it risks affecting their assessment of your ethics and integrity. And if someone happens to think the gift giver gets the best schedule or any other kind of special treatment and also knows about the cash, it’s really bad.

Here’s advice on heading it off next year.

3. HR manager has a life-sized image of Ron DeSantis on display

A close friend works at a private, medium-sized company in Florida with a large workforce both locally and remotely around the country. The company’s HR manager maintains a life-size cardboard cutout of the state’s governor on prominent display in their office. I think it’s fair to say this governor is a highly divisive figure with national significance. The HR manager and others on the leadership team ares open about their partisan orientation in other ways as well.

An HR manager is responsible for the well-being of all employees, so a display of political orientation strikes me as exceptionally unprofessional. The divisive nature of party affiliation in the country is reason enough to avoid such identification in the workplace. The Florida governor and presidential candidate has made “anti-wokeness” a central part of his governing philosophy. Much of that energy is directed at demonizing and othering LGBTQ people.

How can the company provide a welcoming, supportive, and fair workplace when employees have to stand in the glare of this governor’s effigy to report a workplace issue? What message does it send to LGBTQ employees?

It can’t. By design, that cutout tells a whole range of employees that their concerns won’t get a fair or supportive hearing at the company — which would be a problem for any role but is an especially serious problem when it’s in the office of the person you’re supposed to rely on if you need to report of harassment or discrimination, request accommodations, or hope to be treated fairly during an investigation. You’re expected to feel comfortable reporting, for example, harassment for being LGBTQ while a massive image of DeSantis looms over you? Not going to happen — again, by design. And that’s going to be true from now on even if they take it down.

The fact that the company has allowed it tells your friend all she needs to know about where she’s working.

4. I lied about a meeting

I’m relatively new to my job (eight months) and in a new field. During a WFH day, I missed an important after-hours email delegating work on a project with a tight timeline. It was subsequently buried in a pile of emails from other project members. My lack of response didn’t hold the project up, but it made me and my boss look bad. The following day, I got a talking to about communication. I apologized and took accountability for the mistake.

What I’m still kicking myself for is I confirmed that I met with a project leader in my boss’s stead that day. I did not do this. I felt like I had to save face from looking like I completely dropped the ball, which I absolutely did, and nodding and saying “yep!” was easier than explaining otherwise. The lie probably won’t come up again, but it could, and I feel a lot of shame for both the lie and the initial mess-up. Do I tell my boss?

Oh no. How likely is that the missed meeting won’t come up in some other way in the future? If there’s any chance it will — or if it would harm the work not to let your boss know the truth — you need to come clean about it. You could phrase it as, “I realized after we spoke that I left with you the impression that I attended the X meeting in your stead; I want to be up-front that I did not, which I realize is part of the exact problem you spoke to me about. My plan for making sure this never happens in the future is…”

Even if it’s unlikely to come up again and there’s no actual harm done … well, maybe you can get away with not saying anything now, but if your boss ever does realize it in the future, it’s going to look a lot worse that you lied about attending than if you set the record straight right away. So even in that situation, ideally you’d still clear it up.

For what it’s worth: the instinct to lie because it was easier in the moment is a bigger deal than the initial mess-up. It’s worth spending some time thinking about how that happened and how to make sure you don’t in the future. (One possible motivator is thinking about how much harder it’s made the situation now.)

Read an update to this letter

5. The small business advice group I joined needs too much from me

I have a full-time job but also I started a small business in 2021 based on a craft that I love and am passionate about.

It’s been a rough year for small businesses, and I’m autistic and ADHD, so I have definitely been struggling to build my business. A local nonprofit has a mentorship and business support program for small businesses and I signed up.

Unfortunately it take so much of my time and energy that I’m wasting their time and mine, and I’ve been trying to back out. There’s a two-hour zoom meeting every other Monday with the small business coach, who is great, but honestly the meetings are just everyone chatting about their businesses and nothing new is presented. Add to that, I work in a call center from home, so I have to constantly mute myself on zoom to take a call. It’s very stressful for me. I didn’t know any of this when I signed up.

I did try to back out but got a guilt trip from the organizer. I brought up dropping out with the coach and he talked me into keeping on. But also the other business owners have a restaurant, a hair coloring business, basically real businesses and not a crafting business selling on Etsy. I feel like they need the coaching because they are trying to earn a living where mine’s just a side gig.

Now I really need to stop participating, but I don’t know how. They’re starting to talk about moving to “phase two” of the program, which sounds like it’ll be more of the same.

If you want to drop out, you get to drop out! The organizer might see part of their job as to convince you to stay, but that doesn’t mean you have to agree.

Do it by email since you’ve had trouble resisting their entreaties in the past — and because really, this doesn’t need to be a back-and-forth conversation — and say this: “Thank you so much for all the time and support you’ve given me during this program. Unfortunately my schedule no longer allows me to participate so I am withdrawing, effective immediately, and will not be in further meetings. Best of luck with all the work you’re doing.”

That assumes you just want to withdraw and don’t want to get into the reasons why. But if you want to give feedback about why it didn’t work for you, you can! Just know that if you do, you should be prepared for them to try to find ways to make it work for you or otherwise overcome your objections, so you’d want to be prepared to hold firm with, “I appreciate you trying to make it work for me, but I do need to withdraw.”

{ 328 comments… read them below }

  1. Chaos*

    OP#3, if all else fails, it’s an opportunity to put white go-go boots on the cutout.

    -goes back into the shadows-

    1. Your favorite cat meme*

      LOL! And googly eyes.

      OP3, my sympathies for your friend, who is working for the one remaining RDS supporter.

      1. Frieda*

        I’m hoping this is a reference to Jeff Fortenberry, the former member of Congress who tried to get a poli sci professor fired for liking an online image of one of his campaign billboards that had been … altered with googly eyes and a spelling change, so he was “Jeff Fartenberry.” (link below.)

        Deep cuts of ridiculous nonsense from (now convicted felon) politicians FTW!

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        Fwiw, I read that they were shrimping boots, the kind worn by people who work on shrimp boats. (Don’t ask me why shrimpers wear white boots, lol – that’s just what I read.)

        I guess a lot of people see white boots and immediately think “go-go boots!” either seriously or as a joke. Personally, I don’t think they really looked like go-go boots, except for the color. I had a pair back in the 60s, and they were only mid-calf height, with dark brown Cuban heels. They were also (fake) leather, not rubber like the ones he wore!

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I would be the one who sneaked in and drew a Snidely Whiplash mustache on it.

  2. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    OP#3: this is also a man who believes Black people benefited from slavery. I hope your friend can get out and find a safer place to work.

    1. Failed manager*

      Thank you! Desantis is also racist! Please keep that in mind. He also has gotten into the culture wars on teaching Black history.

      I would question the HR manager displaying politics at work anywhere and on any topic. This takes the cake.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        It shows how ignorant they are. They either don’t know or don’t care about all the damage and harm their ideas do. IME this sort of thing is usually a combination of selfishness in denial.
        Selfishness = they want what they want for themselves and don’t care about hurting anyone else.
        Denial = they are pretending they’re not doing this and making up ways to make it sound reasonable.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          P.S. – they may be in denial to themselves as well as others. Their followers might honestly believe the disingenuous reasons they give for their stance.

        2. Weirded Out*

          Both reasonable possibilities. But I think you’re omitting the reasonable possibility of actual malice – taking enjoyment in cruelty toward others. There are plenty of people who actively want to see people of color and people in the LGBTQ+ community harmed. There are some politicians who are helping those people live their dreams.

          1. Texan In Exile*

            Yeah, I’m going with malicious and evil. There’s just way too much information about how bad these people are for anyone to claim ignorance anymore.

            1. goddessoftransitory*

              Yes. Same with the chuckleheads still trying to defend Texas and its anti abortion stance.

            2. DJ Abbott*

              That’s the denial. People can work amazingly hard at denial, refusing to see what’s literally right in front of them. I’ve seen people do this.
              Very few people want to admit they are evil monsters, even if they obviously are. So they deny and look for justifications for their actions. And consider themselves good religious men.
              If OP’s friend understands this is probably what the HR people are doing, it can inform her coping until she gets out of there.

      2. AskJeeves*

        Yeah, beyond the obvious discrimination issues, HR visibly supporting a specific politician at work is a bad look. (Relatedly, it’s very strange to have a life-size cardboard cutout of anyone in your office!)

        1. The Rules are Made Up*

          I cannot imagine having a productive work day next to a life size cut out of ANYONE let alone Ron Desantis and his dead eyes staring at me all day. The stuff of nightmares

          1. I take tea*

            I know one good example of a life sized cut out at work: There once was a library that in the middle of the reading area sported the boss with a phone in hand doing the traditional Stern Librarian Hush with his finger. I liked that one. It might have worked well because the boss in question was male, so there was a small subversion to the stereotype.

            This example though – absolutely not.

        2. Kikishua*

          I used to have a two thirds life size cardboard cutout of Robert Downey Jr (as Sherlock) in my library office (it was a promotional item that came with the DVD). Freaked out a few people when I moved him to look out of the window!

    2. WellRed*

      I hope the friend gets out and posts on Glass Door. If she even warns away person that’s something.

      1. Hell Job Escapee*

        If I accepted a job at this company and walked into HR and saw this, my first day would be my last. A Glassdoor review would help people to self-select out.

  3. Quantum Possum*

    OP #4 – Oh no, you have my sympathies! We all mess up; it happens.

    I’ve done something similar before, earlier in my career. I’ve also legit thought I did attend a particular meeting and only later realized that I didn’t (so! many! meetings!).

    The best thing is to own up to it, regardless. I’m not sure about the meeting rate at your place of work, but in an organization that has a lot of meetings, it’s only natural that people are going to miss them or forget them or not get the email/invite in time.

    As a manager, I definitely want my employees to tell me straight up if they miss a meeting. It’s truly no big deal usually, even for important meetings (again, it happens). But if you let me keep operating on the assumption that you attended/participated when you actually didn’t, I’m going to be irritated when I find out.

    This is a great script:

    You could phrase it as, “I realized after we spoke that I left with you the impression that I attended the X meeting in your stead; I want to be up-front that I did not, which I realize is part of the exact problem you spoke to me about. My plan for making sure this never happens in the future is…”

    Good luck! Try to go easier on yourself…no good comes from beating yourself up over mistakes. :) And to second Alison’s advice, I recommend doing some self-reflection about your actions and reactions. It’s always good to check in with yourself, especially after you’ve done something that makes you feel so stressed.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      I worked for a manager once whose advice was “make it true” – if you said you did something and realized later you had not, you do everything in your power to make whatever it was happen ASAP. It was an interesting take on ethics, but honestly, there are times when I have been sure I had reached out to or even spoken with someone, and later realized it was someone else or that it had slipped my mind, entirely. So, I pick up the phone and get ahold of the person, have the conversation, and carry on.

      In OP #4’s shoes, they should get whatever information it is that they need from the Project Manager. I would do this by phone or video or in person, rather than by email. At least that way, if they do feel they need to tell their manager, they can say that they were mixed up about the date, but did get the information. That will be better received than telling the manager that not only did the OP miss the other meeting, but that they also did not go to the meeting they said that they had attended instead, and in fact, have not done anything yet about it.

      1. Quantum Possum*

        “Make it true” – that’s a great way to frame it!

        Spot-on advice about being proactive and getting the information ASAP.

        That will be better received than telling the manager that not only did the OP miss the other meeting, but that they also did not go to the meeting they said that they had attended instead, and in fact, have not done anything yet about it.


        1. Miette*

          Agreed. The other part of this that’s great advice is to do this follow up IN PERSON (yes, phone and video count in this case) as much as possible. I know a lot of young people/new workers aren’t too keen with direct communication (I know I’d much rather email than phone someone too), but you have to treat this kind of error with urgency, and speaking with the person is the best way.

      2. Allonge*

        Yes, this – I don’t love the instinctive lie (I have done this myself, it’s not great), but the higher level issue is that the task still needs to be done / information needs to be acquired.

        Two weeks from now, ‘when exactly this was done’ is a lot less of an issue than ‘why it’s still not done’.

      3. lunchtime caller*

        This is perfect, and for exactly the reasons you mention at the end! I’m just imagining it coming up and the boss saying something like “well go talk to them now, then!!!” in the tone of someone bewildered that it’s taking multiple steps on their side to get you to do a basic element of the project.

      4. SpaceySteph*

        Yeah there might still be times when you can’t make it true without a bunch more lying but also plenty of times where you can fix it really easily. OP can’t go back in time and attend this meeting, but they can contact the organizer about notes, actions for their team, etc, to blunt the impact of not having attended.

        1. Matilda Jefferies*

          Definitely. And when you do go back to the project leader, you don’t need to provide explanations or excuses. Just “sorry I missed the meeting, can you let me know if there are any action items or anything I need to share with my boss?”

          It’s tempting to explain the “why” of it all, to feel like you’re justifying your absence. You might need to have that conversation with your boss, so they know you’re taking it seriously, but the project leader probably doesn’t care. Just ask for the info you need, and move on.

      5. Smithy*

        Yes to this.

        The task needs to be done, once it’s done – then the matter of when it was done will be less of an issue. I will also say that in the process of taking responsibility for a mistake, if your instincts are to find ways to save-face….as much as possible try to work on that outside of work first.

        Whether those are from issues from a past job or your personal life, where the way criticism was given was such that you’re immediately looking for face saving measures vs disclosing everything honestly – give yourself safe spaces to unpack that. And as much as you can do that outside of your supervisors office the better. Second, if you are currently working for a place that gives critical feedback in an exceptionally harsh way – finding a way to give yourself grace over grasping at face-saving opportunities is helpful. As well as working on better coping mechanisms.

        1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

          You are correct about once something is done, the “when” is unlikely to matter in many cases. I mean, how many times have things sat in people’s inboxes who are on vacation, then fall into a review queue, drag on and just kind of fall off the radar until someone is like “Where are with Project X?” and you realized I really should have followed up? Or when you have 28 versions of the same document to complete and someone asks “Has the X Version been sent?” and you instinctively say “Yes, weeks ago” only to realize you were thinking of the Y Version and you haven’t even started the X Version? You just go follow up about Project X or complete and send Version X and then circle back with “I just followed up with Bob on Project X and I will see what we are still missing” or “Just an FYI, I had said X Version was sent weeks ago, it was actually only sent this week, I was thinking of Y Version.” Maybe you get a talking to, but unless it IS something where a crucial deadline was missed or there is a pattern of you making errors of this sort, most managers have too much going on to fixate on when things happened.

    2. OP4*

      Hi, OP4 here! I’m very appreciative of both Alison’s and the commenters’ thoughts on this (and your kindness in a pretty unfortunate situation of my own making). I did not talk to my manager about the meeting, mainly because things got a lot worse with the project and whether or not I had met with the person became beside the point regarding my overall performance. Ultimately, too, my manager meant this more as a “did you check in with Project Manager/are you handling this” than a “did you attend x scheduled meeting for the deliverable.”

      I got pulled into a 1-0n-1 with my manager before the holidays to discuss my performance, as the work product I turned in for this project was sloppy and not up to our SOPs, which led to me crying in front of my manager. My work had taken a downturn in the past month or two due to the first anniversary of my father’s death, my spouse’s layoff in November, and my taking on extra work off hours with a friend to make ends meet from the layoff. I let my manager know the layoff and the anniversary were the things primarily affecting this, and apologized for keeping her in the dark (and for the performance issues in general). She was very understanding, and let me know that guardrails/checks could be put in place if needed. Later that week, I had another meeting with her to correct the work product, and I told her I appreciated her understanding, and I felt mortified by the work product and my emotional breakdown, but that I was taking steps to help my mental state (including PTO) and would revisit checks and balances for me to help me stay on track for the new year.

      There’s a lot of reputation management and rebuilding I think I will need to do from here, unfortunately, but currently the steps I am taking are addressing my incredibly toxic perfectionism and reducing/eliminating extra work until I’m back on track at my job. If I had felt like I didn’t have to be “perfect” and appear superhero-level competent at work, a lot of this could have been avoided, including the original lie.

      1. Delta Delta*

        This explains a lot about the meeting; it was more of a “did you talk to X” than a full-on meeting, and your instinct was just to say yes and move on. The way I read the original letter it seemed like you volunteered that you had the meeting, rather than how it went down. Not that it makes it better, but it adds some really helpful additional context.

      2. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        This sounds like the best possible outcome – and it sounds as if you have a good management team, too! Best of all, it sounds as if you’re taking positive steps to handle the issues that you’ve recognized need to be addressed. Good points – all of them!

      3. Quantum Possum*


        I hate that things got worse before they got better, but you should be proud of yourself for how you came clean to your supervisor, clearly articulated your situation, and presented a plan for how to improve your work performance.

        I had another meeting with her to correct the work product, and I told her I appreciated her understanding, and I felt mortified by the work product and my emotional breakdown, but that I was taking steps to help my mental state (including PTO) and would revisit checks and balances for me to help me stay on track for the new year.

        Don’t hold on to that mortified feeling. (I know, easier said than done, right?) I promise you that I’ve seen quite a few emotional breakdowns at work precipitated by intense personal stress (and maaaaybe have even had one or two myself, lol).

        You’re only human, and there comes a point where we just can’t “push through” the stress. I would recommend keeping up with your emotional stress level, maybe via a journal, so you can start to recognize the signs when it’s getting unmanageable. Then you can take precautions to minimize the impact at work — e.g., let your supervisor know (no details required), set up extra reminders, adjust how you’re managing your time, etc.

        I would guess that you probably don’t have nearly the reputation-rebuilding to do that you think. Try to reframe it not as “rebuilding a reputation” so much as “growing into the kind of employee you want to be.”

        Toxic perfectionism is hard. You’re exactly right – it will make things far worse in the long run if you don’t get a handle on it. I found that therapy and cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) worksheets really helped me address mine.

        Give yourself a little grace. Best of luck! :)

    3. ferrina*

      OP, you absolutely need to come clean. I think we’ve all lied in the moment early in our career- but it’s what you do next that makes the difference. This is what will speak to your character. If you are able to have hard conversations honestly, it really speaks to your integrity. It shows that your boss can trust you to speak the truth in difficult circumstances and take responsibility for your actions.

      You also need to take responsibility for your actions to yourself. This does not mean a shame spiral. Shame is unproductive and can give false placation (“well I feel bad, so I’ve already paid the price and don’t need to do anything else”). Go read/listen to Brene Brown’s work on Shame vs Guilt. Guilt is warranted- you did something bad, and you need to make amends. Go make those amends. Will it be hard? Absolutely. Is it worth it? Yes. I’ve had moments at work where I messed up really badly (once to the tune of several thousand dollars), but because I handled it with grace and integrity, my boss ended up being even more impressed with me (that actually saved me from a PIP at one role I was struggling at). Even if this proves unsalvagable, it gives you valuable experience on handling difficult scenarios in the future. Being able to do the right thing in the moment takes practice and repetition; just like any other skill, the more you do it the easier it is and the better you are at it.

      Do not justify the lie.
      In the letter you say: “I felt like I had to save face from looking like I completely dropped the ball, which I absolutely did, and nodding and saying “yep!” was easier than explaining otherwise.” (emphasis mine). The easy road is not always the right road. I know someone who traveled the easy road. It started with little lies to dodge uncomfortable conversations. Just saying “yes, that’s fine” when it really wasn’t. Lying about what he had done/hadn’t done, then when he got caught saying “I didn’t say that” or “I forgot” or “I have a headache and you can’t possibly expect me to do that when I’m sick, can you?”. He got so used to taking the easy road that he stopped seeing a problem with it. His marriage ended because his wife couldn’t trust a single word he said. And he still didn’t see it as his fault- “if she was a good wife, I wouldn’t have felt like I had to lie. It’s her fault she wanted to have a conversation that could have made me feel uncomfortable.” And yes, this guy has some serious issues with shame and self-esteem. He genuinely thinks that because he feels shame, he should get a free pass on bad behavior. “I feel so bad about it, how dare you also try to hold me accountable?! You monster!” This might sound like an extreme example, but it’s an easier path than you think. Don’t be this guy- learn how to hold yourself accountable to others and accept consequences for your actions.

      1. Quantum Possum*

        You also need to take responsibility for your actions to yourself. This does not mean a shame spiral. Shame is unproductive and can give false placation (“well I feel bad, so I’ve already paid the price and don’t need to do anything else”).

        Yes to all of this. I highly recommend Brene Brown, too.

      2. OP4*

        Hi, OP4 here! Thanks to you and Quantum Possum for this advice. I am not typically prone to placation in my shame spirals–more crippling depression and low-self esteem–but this case was one where I needed to address both my lack of experience in the corporate workspace and my toxic perfectionism. I felt like I needed to lie to preserve my image as the hyper competent worker to my boss, even though I was already having performance issues due to my preexisting depression and the anniversary of a family death. I wouldn’t say the issue is resolved, but it has been a wake-up call to work on my mental health while I rebuild my work reputation.

        1. ferrina*

          Preserving the image won’t help in this scenario.

          My story- A few years ago I had a major depressive episode brought on by a bad family situation. The ongoing situation required a lot of my attention and energy. At the same time I had just started a new role on a new team that didn’t know me at all. The team had recently been through turmoil and was in the process of being restructured and the boss went on leave a month after I arrived. It was a bad combination.

          I tried my best, but everything was too much. I could barely function. I began doing less than bare minimum at work. Projects were impacted.
          Somehow I figured out what was going on before my boss did. I got diagnosed with MDD and went on medication. It wasn’t a silver bullet, but it gave me the energy I needed to start untangling the other issues. The chaos with the family situation decreased a little. I wrote myself my own PIP and didn’t tell anyone. I was unhappy with my performance, so I wrote out what I was unhappy with and how I would fix it (it was an unusual take of “be your own boss” to put yourself on a PIP).
          About a month after that my boss realized what a mess I was. I think two things saved me from being immediately fired: 1) I had been clear that I wasn’t satisfied with my performance. Even when my boss was saying “I’m sure it’s fine!” I hadn’t agreed. and 2) she had already seen improvements. She realized that I had recognized the problem before her and I was already addressing it (even if I hadn’t fully solved it), and that was someone who was worth a second chance.
          I was put on a PIP. I continued to slowly improve, but about two-thirds of the way through I made a major mistake. Actually two of them in a row. This was the thousands-of-dollars mistakes. I knew I had just failed my PIP, but I went to my boss, showed her the mistake and asked for her help. I told her what I saw as solutions and how I had set up a process so the mistake would never happen again. I knew I was on my way out, but I was going to leave on my own terms, with my dignity and integrity intact.
          To my surprise, I wasn’t immediately fired. An opening had appeared in another department- one that was tailor made for me. My boss encouraged me to apply. She knew she couldn’t keep me in my current role but still thought I had value to bring. For all my mistakes, I also had really strong, really unique skills that benefited the company, and I had acted with integrity and grace every step of the way.
          I got hired into the new role. It was a great fit and the fresh start I needed. I was able to stay at the company (which I loved) and thrived in that role. It took a long time to heal and there’s still hard days, but it gets easier. Your reputation will rebuild itself as time marches on- the past won’t change, but it can be learned from. Those that learn from the past are the ones that can truly grow and shape the future.

          er….sorry for the TED talk. tldr; all is not lost unless you lose integrity. It’s going to be hard, but you can do this. One day at a time, I promise it gets easier (eventually). Definitely take care of that mental health. You are worth investing in. You, not the image of you. The real you who has real skills and real value.

          1. OP4*

            Thank you so much for this perspective–very helpful to hear from someone on the other side!

            Truthfully, too, I do think there’s a bit of this that’s me not being a great fit for this position. I’m capable of doing well at this job, but this position by design has a lot of slow periods punctuated with higher pressure fast periods. Paradoxically I tend to make more mistakes if there’s not a lot going on at a given time, likely because I’m less engaged/focused, so it’s not a great combination for my personality type. There are likely ways to combat this in my position, but I think after I weather this and make changes I will need to evaluate if I want to stay.

      3. Not my coffee*

        I wish I could upvote!!!

        Dodging of uncomfortable conversations because someone (you or someone else) MIGHT feel bad.

    4. Sloanicota*

      #4 was interesting to me. I think it’s a very human, natural impulse to panic-lie under stress; I mean, we’d never catch criminals if it wasn’t so common. The trick in my opinion is to try to reduce the stress you feel when you mess up so you don’t get to the panic-lie stage. But I don’t think it’s some pathological thing that merits therapy, personally.

      1. Prismatic Garnet*

        Basically, I’d say it’s something that everyone needs to work on if they have a tendency to do it, and if you try and overcome the habit/impulse and struggle to, it’s a good candidate for working on in therapy.

        Whatever you do, never fall into the trap of rationalizing, lying by victim-blaming the person you’re lying to. It’s everyone’s own responsibility to be honest and trustworthy, regardless of the situation.

    5. WillowSunstar*

      To me, if something is highly urgent, an IM or phone call should be used instead of an email. We all get buried in emails from time to time, and therefore, it should not be assumed that someone saw it. If I was the manager, wouldn’t lecture the employee on communication necessarily, but if it was so urgent that would make the boss look bad, email was the wrong format to use originally.

      1. WillowSunstar*

        Should also add, in some companies, you can set your Outlook to an auto response saying “deep focusing on work” or something similar, so people will know not to use email if it is urgent.

  4. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    LW1: This is trickier than it sounds; returning a gift carries with it the implication that “This present (AND you as the giver) isn’t good enough for me. I’m rejecting it AND you!”
    If this sounds too dramatic, stop and think about how YOU’D feel if someone refused to accept a gift that YOU’D given them; you’d (rightly) feel personally rejected, and no amount of verbal fancy-dancing would make you feel any better.

    LW1, you might be able to soften the implicit rejection of returning the money by offering to put it into a fund that will benefit EVERYONE in the office; better coffee/snacks? Holiday or birthday parties? A Keurig (yes, there’s a $50 model!)? You know best what your staff would appreciate, so suggest putting the money towards that. Your employee will know that you’re neither keeping the money for yourself OR personally rejecting them, and the other employees will get to enjoy something special that they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Win-win all the way around!

    And yes; next holiday season, do make it clear that gifts flow down, not up, the corporate ladder!

    1. Quantum Possum*

      I agree that this is a tricky situation, and feelings of personal rejection could complicate it. I really appreciate how gently you recommend approaching this.

      I still think it would be best to return the cash, straight out, and make it clear that this isn’t personal at all. It’s about potential impropriety on the part of the recipient, and it doesn’t reflect on the giver. This also helps readjust the employee’s expectations of professional norms and therefore is just part of coaching.

      I really like your idea about something to benefit everyone in the office. The downside is that you could get into a situation of creating obligation – i.e., the employee now thinks she has to go spend $10 on doughnuts for the team. Sometimes when we try to be “too nice,” we wind up inadvertently putting more burden on the other person.

    2. Artemesia*

      Disagree. It was a real blunder to keep it at all even for a second; this is bribery. Of course we all fail to think on our feet sometimes, but the money needs to be returned. Soften is as the OP wishes but make clear she can’t accept AND next year in about November 1 head off any gifting up.

      Spending it on something else in the office is not refusing it and it must be refused.

      1. ecnaseener*

        I don’t think we can say this is bribery when nothing from LW was asked for in return. It certainly could look like bribery from the outside and for that reason it needs to be clearly refused (and I guess it could still become bribery in the future) but giving a gift to an authority figure isn’t automatically bribery.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      I think it would be best for the OP to return the cash with an explanation that they greatly appreciate their direct report’s thoughtfulness, but that they can’t in good conscience accept it. The gift basket is trickier, because while it would be okay for a manager to accept a gift of a nominal value from their direct report, gift baskets can be pretty expensive. (One of my clients gave me one this holiday, and the vendor left the price tag on it. I was somewhat shocked at how much it cost, given its size.) At any rate, the gift basket is bought, and it will soften the blow for the manager to say they are accepting that part of the gift but ethically need to return the cash. The manager should also set an expectation that gifts upward are not expected, and should never be more than a nominal amount.

      1. KateM*

        I feel like gift basket would have been something one could at once accept as something to put on that kitchen table (or whatever) where people put stuff to share with others, especially if it was edible.

    4. Still*

      What? You’d “rightfully” feel personally rejected? That’s a huge amount to read into it and making it way more dramatic than it needs to be.

      Just be kind and explain why you can’t keep there money and that you appreciate the gesture, it doesn’t have to be a huge deal. Make sure to be warm towards the employee in the following days if you want to make sure they don’t feel that it’s affected the relationship.

      1. WellRed*

        Yeah, cash is such an impersonal gift to begin with. It’s not the same as returning a hand knitted item.

        1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

          Money really isn’t “impersonal” – if it were, it wouldn’t cause so many emotionally loaded interpersonal conflicts! We have no way of knowing what this cash gift meant to the employee who gave it to the OP; cash can mean very different things to people from different cultures, as can the amount of money being gifted. What we do know is that the OP recognizes that employees shouldn’t be giving presents to their supervisors and that they need to establish that before the next holiday season.

      2. Sloanicota*

        There was a letter here last week about someone who gave a coworker a gift and then saw it unopened on their desk, and they definitely assumed the coworker was deliberately sending them a message of rejection (rather than just assuming they got too busy or forgot or whatever) so this definitely varies.

    5. londonedit*

      I can’t agree with this at all. Not accepting a gift isn’t rejecting the gift-giver as a person, and I’d never feel that way! If the employee has a problem with the OP saying ‘I should have said this at the time – I do appreciate the thought but I really can’t accept gifts from employees so I’m returning your cash, no arguments, thanks again and I hope you had a lovely holiday’ then there are bigger problems than the original gift. I also think the OP could have said ‘Thank you so much for the basket – there’s absolutely no need for anyone to buy me gifts and I don’t feel comfortable keeping it all to myself, so I’m going to leave it in the kitchen for everyone to enjoy. Please do share it with me’. Perfectly polite and reasonable and shouldn’t cause offence to anyone.

      In my world trying to give anyone cash as a gift (beyond the usual £10 in a birthday card for a niece or nephew) is totally outside the norm, let alone trying to give your boss cash as a gift. If someone junior to me tried to give me £50 I’d be hugely taken aback and would assume they were totally unaware of the norms around workplace gift-giving – I’d see it as my job to tell them, politely, that as much as I appreciate the thought I can’t accept a cash gift and that there’s no need for them to get me or any other senior members of staff a gift at all.

      1. KateM*

        OP should make it all about themselves not the employee – it’s OP for whom it would be a moral failure to accept cash and gift baskets from their employee, not that employee had done anything wrong.

    6. Can't cook don't cook*

      Nope. Bad idea! The fact that you take things ridiculously personally, over-react, and have poor boundaries does not mean that a) everyone else is equally bad at this (many people can actually be reasonable, weird as that is to you), or b) that an unreasonable person’s overly dramatic reaction is a good reason not to do the right thing.

      1. chill please*

        This is a bit ad hominem, and feels vindictive for the sake of it. I also disagree with the first comment but “you have poor boundaries and are unreasonable” is not really a fair conclusion to draw from “you have an outsize reaction to a specific type of awkward situation”. Especially since they still acknowledge that LW shouldn’t have accepted the money in the first place and shouldn’t keep it for themselves now.

        Alison responded to the initial question acknowledging that rejecting a gift does indeed feel a bit weird/rude, even if it is absolutely the right thing to do. So clearly the initial response wasn’t even that outsize.

      2. Zelda*

        Wow. That was unkind. The idea that rejecting a gift is rejecting, if not the giver, at least the overture of friendship that the gift represents, is not wild and unprecedented.

        1. nope*

          An employer/manager can’t be friends with their employees. There are plenty of letters here explaining why. So the “overture” of friendship is inappropriate to begin with.

          1. Zelda*

            I’m not claiming that the manager should accept it; just that Marzipan Shepherdess is not being melodramatic by saying that rejecting it is a bit tricky and to be done with care and tact.

        2. Caramel & Cheddar*

          This. We just had a letter the other day where someone gave their colleague a gift and then when the colleague left the gift unopened on her desk, assumed the colleague made it “obvious” she didn’t want the gift and wondered if she should take the gift back! People can and are weird about all aspects of the gift giving/receiving process; boss should definitely return the cash, but it’s absolutely normal and common for someone to be have feelings about a gift being returned, even if it was a gift that was inappropriate to give in the first place.

        3. Cj*

          while I agree that the comment was unkind, I do think saying that you would rightly feel rejected if somebody returned a gift is taking it too far.

          some people may certainly feel that way, it’s the rightly part that I take issue with.

    7. Thalia Spillane*

      I am not sure I agree with you in how the employee should interpret the return of their gift but it doesn’t really matter. Even if the employee was 100% objectively right in feeling that way, it would still be necessary. To me, clearing up any misconception that you accept bribes, make unreasonable demands of you subordinates or engage in favoritism is more important than preserving this employee’s feelings.

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      Now that the employee has made it awkward by giving their boss a cash gift, boss needs to make it awkward by returning the cash gift.

      Sometimes, especially as a person with more power in a dynamic, you need to be willing to make it awkward. Rather than hope the problem will fizzle out if no one looks at it.

    9. I should really pick a name*

      First of, this might be how you would feel, but that’s not universal.

      Secondly, returning the money but not the basket clearly shows that the issue was with the money, not the person.

    10. Rebecca*

      There are a lot of professions where we have to tactfully explain that we can’t accept gifts. I’m a teacher, for example. and sometimes parents give us inappropriate gifts – sometimes it’s a well-intentioned error, sometimes it’s, uh, not. It’s definitely possible to have a script about not accepting the gift that makes it very impersonal, even after the fact. I usually cite school/company policy and make it not about them or me at all:

      “This is awkward, but I’ve looked up company policy and it’s not appropriate or allowed for me to accept this gift from you, because it’s cash. I know you didn’t intend it that way, but we can’t let a well-intentioned gift cause either of us problems later, how awful. I really appreciate the sentiment, but to stay within policy, I must return it. Thank you so much for thinking of me!”

      1. Antilles*

        I really like the idea of pointing to company policy, because it focuses the discussion on the professional nature of the relationship rather than making it about the person. Having to reject gifts happens in all sorts of professions for all sorts of reasons – ethics rules, legal requirements, power dynamics, fairness, etc and making it about the policy helps remove the personal sting.
        If you don’t have an actual policy (and as a small retail business, you probably don’t), you can also sort of hand-wave it with some jargon like “management best practices” or “advice from other business owners” or whatever.

      2. WantonSeedStitch*

        I would even be careful with that kind of response, because next year, the same employee might buy the OP a gift WORTH $50, which is still not a good thing. I would make it clear that the OP does not want any significant gifts–cash or material–from someone they manage. “Listen, I was surprised enough in the moment to accept this, but after thinking about it, I really can’t: it can look bad from the outside when a manager accepts gifts from someone who reports to them. I don’t want anyone thinking you’re trying to curry favor–or that I expect my employees to spend lots of money on me! Obviously neither one of those things is true, but we don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression.”

        1. Artemesia*

          next year by November 1 the OP needs to make clear to all her subordinates that gifting up is not appropriate in the office and that they will not be accepting gifts.

    11. Not my coffee*

      Even if OP interprets the return of the gift as a personal rejection of themselves and the gift, the gift needs to be returned. You do not give your boss cash. Your boss should explain why this is not appropriate.

      Yes, it is uncomfortable but uncomfortable happens and I don’t it’s unkind to point this happens.

    12. Ellis Bell*

      There are lots of ways to reject gifts kindly without rejecting the giver or their intentions. It’s not just a case of holding up a traffic cop hand and saying no. Now, maybe people are unpracticed at doing this, or feel put on the spot, but that doesn’t mean they can regroup away from the moment and return the gift while keeping the intention. You simply say it’s not your managerial/company policy, you “can’t accept gifts from subordinates, but thank you for the gesture”. You can reject gifts even if you’re not a manager! For that person who loves to gift gigantic things: “I’m afraid I can’t take this as I have nowhere to put this, but it was so fun an idea, thank you”, for the person who loves to gift smelly things to the scent sensitive: “Unfortunately I’m so allergic to most scents I really can’t take this, but you’re incredibly sweet to even think of me.” Now, I do accept and take away most gifts with a smile, like for example I can’t eat wheat but it won’t hurt me to carry away that box of shortbread and regift it. Same with that bottle of wine even if I don’t drink alcohol. However if a gift is really burdensome (like it makes you look like you accept bribes or will give you a stunning migraine from proximity to scent), well of course you reject it. People don’t want to gift problems and would rather just know.

    13. LCH*

      i feel like returning the gift with the reasonable explanation of not gifting upwards because of power dynamics, whatever, should work.

      but it did not work out very well for me. i didn’t even return the gift. i said thank you so much, how thoughtful, and let them know they shouldn’t feel the need to gift to their supervisors for the reasons generally cited on this page. they were a pretty early career employee at the time. i thought i was really nice about it, but my employee seemed like she was going to cry. so .. i dunno.

      i also commented this at the time on the page linked for heading it off next year. not sure if my wording was bad or if this was just an employee who would have been upset no matter what.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        Often your measure of success has to be “did I get my message across” and not “is the person happy”

    14. SereneScientist*

      I get this reaction, Marzipan, but disagree because the context of this exchange is primarily a business/work relationship. Yes, of course, we want to be conscious that returning a gift can cause some negative reactions in the other person. However, because the personal relationship is (and must always) be secondary to the working relationship; the ethics of this exchange have to take precedent over any sense of rejection or awkwardness caused by returning the cash. Truth be told, I think you’re projecting a tad and providing advice/perspective that isn’t as valuable to the LW because of it.

    15. fhqwhgads*

      It needn’t imply what you say it implies. If you do it and explicitly state “it would be inappropriate for me to accept but thank you” then it’s not implying “you’re not good enough”, it’s explicitly stating, “ethically I can’t”. To hear the latter and assume the former is both a jump and not within OP’s control.

  5. Jade*

    The lying about the meeting thing is very tricky. I feel like if you confess it will have heavy consequences and if they find out, same. This is a hard one.

    1. Quantum Possum*

      Honestly? I expect every employee to lie at least once about something. Because we’re human and we’re doing the best we can and sometimes that is just not very good.

      Maybe because I have such an attitude, my employees tend to be very forthcoming and comfortable with me, and we can have conversations about awkward things.

      I look for behavioral patterns instead. This is why it’s important for the OP to say something like “which I realize is part of the exact problem you spoke to me about” (per Alison’s script). Show me that you recognize the problem and you’re taking steps to rectify it.

      1. Oatmeal Mom*

        I think lies are very different. I might say “I just started that file” when I in fact hadn’t, when asked by a boss, but then I hurry to that file as soon as I end our exchange. I would never say “I finished it already” because that’s too big of a lie and I knew even if I could get away with it, I would feel really bad.

        1. SAS*

          Yeah, involving someone else in a lie is also somewhat worse to me than lying about just my own work. As someone who’s been on the other side of it (“I had a conversation with SAS about it!”) it’s unsettling.

          The advice to go and talk to the person now about what you missed in the meeting is good advice.

        2. Quantum Possum*

          I don’t think it’s necessarily useful to get into “whataboutism” and relativism when discussing these situations with employees, however.

          A “big lie” to one person is a “small justifiable lie” to another. It’s better to focus on how we go forward.

        3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          “I just started that file” might not even really be a lie if you’ve already thought about how to put it together, which previous files you might be able to crib parts from, and so on.

          Once I had to write some copy describing jewellery, and I left the photos of the very beautiful jewellery on a table near my desk. I looked at them every time I went past them, which was a lot, since I had to go that way every time I needed the bathroom or the kitchen. I finally started on the file hours before the paper was due, but I’d done plenty of mulling over while in the bathroom or kitchen, so it went really quickly.

          1. KateM*

            I have done craft projects that had a deadline like that – two weeks of mulling over and getting the idea ready in my head, one week of gathering materials, and then the actual execution one evening shortly before deadline.

        1. ferrina*

          This is definitely a bad look. OP made a mistake, then lied to mitigate the impact of that mistake on herself.

          If the boss discovers it themself, OP’s job is going to suffer. Even if OP doesn’t get fired, the boss will (rightfully) never trust them again. OP’s already shown that they will lie to save their own skin from their own mistakes.

          If OP comes clean, there’s a change. Like Quantum Possum said, almost everyone will lie at some point. The difference is what you do next. If you come back and say “I made a mistake. Here’s what I did and here’s what I’m going to do to make it right” then be careful to always give the correct information (not just not lying, but also not hiding by omission) then you can come back. But you have to genuinely learn and grow. There are no short cuts.

        2. Bunny Lake Is Found*

          I don’t think this is that big of a lie really though, if we are taking the LW at her word as to how the situation went down. It doesn’t sound like LW proactively said “I went to the X meeting” it sounds like the boss mentioned it and LW said “yes.” LW could have said that that simply because she was confused about what meeting her boss meant, or because she was flustered. In this case, yeah, it was because she didn’t want to look bad on top of looking bad, but I think an incorrect confirmation of something, even one that is motivated in saving face, is loads less problematic than LW making up a lie out of whole cloth and telling it to her boss.

          1. M2*

            But LW put someone else in the lie saying they had a meeting with x person. What if x person is asked or they assume x person had this meeting and that person has an issue bc of LW lie?

            LW should fess up and if I was the boss I would look over LWs work and check on what is getting done. I might also pull WFH days if it becomes a pattern. People make mistakes we all do it, but to lie and then lie and put someone else in that lie is not okay.

            I have had high level people do this too and I always call it out. Just recently an aid for the (almost) top person in a big organization/government told my boss something not true at all and my boss asked me why I dropped the ball.

            So I forwarded all my communication to my boss including phone logs with this aid. This person/ aid basically didn’t do their job (at all) and their boss was upset with them so they blamed me. When they also spoke with my boss they wanted to go around policy and get special treatment for their principal, which we don’t do. I had reached out numerous ways multiple times and offered to help, do work, went to meetings and crickets/ no response/ no show. I was told this was the only person to contact. Don’t lie. The truth always comes out and it will hurt you and it can hurt someone else’s reputation. I also had to deal with this right before my Holiday vacation.

            I am now looking for another role bc my boss believed this random person instead of me. I’m senior leadership who is very successful and my boss (also female) finally apologized after I showed the proof that aid screwed up and I went above and beyond and aid just didn’t reply to emails, call back, attend meeting, etc. The aid didn’t even apologize to me about lying. I finally reached her and she denied saying what she said to my boss and said she had replied to emails and called me back (she hadn’t and IT looked at everyone’s emails emails and #s and phone logs and she was lying). I wish someone could tell aid’s boss since this person is clearly not doing their job, but that isn’t my problem.

            So yeah lying can impact other people and can make excellent senior leaders look to leave.

            1. Not my coffee*

              I am sorry this happened to you.

              My story is not as extreme. In my place of employment a “quick phone call” IS NOT “a meeting.” I had a colleague tell their boss they had a meeting with me and I consented to something on behalf of my boss. Completely untrue. The only reason I found out is my boss came to me said they didn’t mind my meeting or my consenting but to let them know next time. I explained to my boss it was a quick informational phone and I did not consent to anything.

              After my boss left I called my peer immediately. I was angry. This time it was not a problem, but next time (because there’ always a next time) it might be. My colleague said when they were talking to their boss it was clear their boss wanted “a meeting with consent” to have taken place, so that’s what they told their boss. I consider this colleague completely untrusty worthy, but we still have to work together.

              The impact on the other people and how those people perceive you is important as well. I don’t care if you panicked

          2. ferrina*

            It’s still a lie, and OP needs to correct it. I had an employee that would get flustered and say “yeah” to try to end the conversation, or maybe she was confused. It caused a lot of problems in the long run when I’d later say “hey, where was the report you were working on?” and she’d say “what report? you never told me to do a report?!”

            Eventually she did this so often she turned into this guy: https://www.askamanager.org/2021/08/my-employee-lies-to-me-about-things-he-just-said-30-seconds-ago.html

            It’s one thing to get flustered once. But you need to correct the misinformation, then take steps so lying isn’t your automatic reaction. Practice saying other things like “I need to double check that- I’ll get back to you” or even “sorry, can we take a quick break so I can double check all my notes on this? I know this is important, so I want to make sure I’m giving you the right information”

      2. Prismatic Garnet*

        Wow, I really don’t think you should! It’s not normal or OK to lie, and you shouldn’t expect or excuse it so easily. Maybe if you have a lot of workers right out of college, who might panic at the moment, but otherwise, you should certainly expect mistakes, but lies should be treated very seriously.

        1. Quantum Possum*

          It’s very normal for humans to lie. I’m not going to hold my employees to a standard that I personally feel is unreasonable.

          That doesn’t mean that I stand up in team meetings and say, “Hey guys, it’s totally cool if you lie to me sometimes.” I always let them know that it’s better to come to me with problems before they get to that point. We address each situation as it comes. Some actions are more serious than others – I’ve found it’s best not to assume much going in, as it can muddy the issue.

          We all have different approaches to leadership and management. This is simply what works for me.

      3. I Have RBF*

        See, sometimes what turns out to be a lie is a mistaken memory. I will sometimes say I started a thing, because I thought I had, but what I actually started was a different thing that is a precursor or related project to the thing.

        It happens. I frame it not as “I lied”, but, “I mistakenly told you A when I was actually thinking of (related) B.”

  6. Awkwardness*

    “The organizer might see part of their job as to convince you to stay, but that doesn’t mean you have to agree.”

    LW5, maybe not only part of their job, but also concerned about certain metrics as attendees, number of attendances or else. They try to act in their best interest and you need to act in your best interest. If these coachings do not meet your business needs or add to much stress to your life you are absolutely free to go.

    1. MsSolo (UK)*

      It’s raising some red flags for me because a lot of these business coaching workshops are part of MLM models, so the facilitators really, really don’t want people to leave (because the coaching workshops they attend about running coaching workshops are piling equal pressure to stay on them). It might not be, it might just be a bad fit, or even just badly run, but it’s not working and LW should leave.
      (season 3 of podcast The Dream, if people want to learn more about coaching MLMs)

      I don’t love that LW is attending while she is presumably on the clock for her primary job, if she’s got to pick up client calls at the same time. It’s not the same as having a coaching seminar on in the background, and if LW doesn’t have permission from their workplace it’s a very good reason to drop out right now. Even if LW does have permission, she can’t contribute in the way she would if she was giving it her full attention, and a well run workshop would balk at having someone only partially engaged like that… but these aren’t well run workshops, and don’t seem to mind, which again makes me think it’s more about having someone paying subs than it is about helping people achieve their business goals.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Whoa, I had no idea that was a thing but you’re right, this does reek of that kind of MLM business coaching. I suppose we don’t quite have enough evidence to prove it really is, but there’s enough that I’d be extremely wary.

        Here’s a brief article explaining further: https://www.talentedladiesclub.com/articles/five-ways-business-coaching-is-like-a-pyramid-scheme/

        And even the FTC is warning people about it, with a link here to actually report orgs that you suspect are fraudulent: https://consumer.ftc.gov/articles/when-business-offer-or-coaching-program-scam

    2. bamcheeks*

      Yes, I’ve run programmes like this and the retention/ completion rate is super important and sometimes the funding depends on it— as in, you don’t get paid for participants who start the programme but don’t complete, or you only get a lower payment. This is not your problem, OP! If that’s a significant metric for the people running the programme, they can do a more rigorous screen at the beginning to find people who are more likely to benefit, or they can make the programme shorter or they can re-think the content to improve it or whatever. You can’t stay in the programme against y your own best interests as a favour to the providers.

    3. Knope Knope Knope*

      Yeah not OP’s problem. I agree with all Alison’s advice, but I’d probably start just getting “too busy” with my full-time job to attend any more meetings.

    4. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I’m confused as to how these coaching meet any of these business’ needs, TBH. Sitting around listening to how other businesses are going for TWO HOURS seems like a colossal waste of time, especially if you are a busy and new small business owner. Does this org offer individual coaching? Seems like these businesses might have very specific needs and concerns that could be quickly addressed in a 15-30 min individual session rather than spending a much larger chunk of time listening to other people’s issues that may or may not be relevant to them. And yeah, I think Awkwardness is right that metrics are probably a big part of why they’re trying to convince you to stay.

      OP, I’d be willing to bet that you’re not the only attendee who doesn’t find these meetings useful. That org may be well-meaning but I’m guessing they just thought, “Hey, we should offer help for new small business owners!” without giving much or any thought to what would actually be helpful for the owners. Or they just want to get funding for and want to be able to tout their “new business owner coaching” program but again don’t care much about results, just about how many people attend.

      And much like you get to quit a job whenever you want, you definitely get to quit this “coaching” whenever you want. I’d say you should email them one more time with AAM’s scripts here, and if they try to convince you again you can simply say, “No thanks, I appreciate all the help you’ve given me!” Don’t give them another opening to respond to, remember that “no” is a full sentence, and don’t respond to any further emails. And then just don’t attend the next Zoom call. Best of luck, hope your Etsy shop takes off!

      1. Tio*

        I’m of two minds on the coaching. On the one hand, there is value in many industries of networking with people and discussing problems you or they have encountered and worked through to share knowledge and strategies. However, it sounds like no one is monitoring or directing these, and/or the business needs are so disparate that at least one person is not finding common ground or good advice from them, which will hinder them in getting and keeping members.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Yeah, I can see that too. I guess I’m just projecting because I have a lot of boring work meetings about issues that absolutely don’t involve me and I find them tedious at best, so I would absolutely haaaaaate attending a meeting like that if I didn’t have to. If OP were willing to give that org some feedback about why they want to quit, they might be doing a great service to the other people involved with it, but OP, you owe nothing to the org if you just want to cut loose from them altogether.

    5. Ama*

      Also I will just stick this here since it is an LW5 thread and they specifically mentioned part of the issue is that the other members’ businesses are very different from their own: I also have a side gig that is craft related and there are small business support groups specifically for craft related businesses out there (I’m in one that’s related very specifically to the exact side gig job I do, but I’ve looked at a few that are for any business in the general type of craft I do). I find that craft-business focused groups are more aware that many people are doing the craft related business either as a side gig or because they need more flexibility (some people are caretakers for family, some are dealing with their own health issues) so while they offer a lot of programming there’s no pressure for you to attend live. So if you like the idea of a group just not *this* group, you might search for groups focused on your specific craft, or for Etsy sellers, etc.

    6. Sloanicota*

      Also, it sounds like there was more clarity needed about the scope of this commitment and what it was going to look like. That’s good information for them to know, and it’s not “your fault”

  7. Artemesia*

    Don’t overthink the past fling. And forget you ‘hooked up’. A bland, ‘We briefly dated; so it would be inappropriate for me to manage him.’ as Alison suggested is sufficient.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        What if you just saw it in the locker room at the gym?

        (It’s still a lovely poem)

      2. Artemesia*

        but you don’t have to admit to your boss that any ween was observed. ‘I f@#$#d him so can’t manage him is tres awkward; we ‘briefly dated’ much less so

        1. Junior Assistant Peon*

          We pretty much avoid eye contact or interaction with others in mens’ rooms, and face straight forward at urinals. Any appearance of homosexuality was highly taboo until recently.

        2. I should really pick a name*

          You don’t see other people’s penises at urinals unless you’re explicitly trying to.

      3. OP1*

        Quantum Possum, you have made my day! (same with the subsequent rhymes… who knew AAM’s readership included so many poets?!) I’ll genuinely have to fight the urge not to embroider that onto a pillow or something…

        1. Quantum Possum*

          Yeah, pretty sure I missed a word there lol, please make sure to use the correct version on all needlepoints! :)

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      LW1 may be overthinking it. But she also stated she would not feel comfortable managing this person because of the past. That right there is enough to not manage him. If you know it might affect your judgment about him, the best thing to do is discuss it with your manager. Your boss may say, yeah it is not a problem, it will be okay. So you do it but be very careful. Even loop in your boss on anything positive or negative so there is another set of eyes on it to make sure you aren’t over correcting either way.

      1. Artemesia*

        She cannot manage him. She must make that clear. but she doesn’t need to be all that descriptive about why.

    2. OP1*

      I’m that letter-writer, and am super grateful for Alison’s feedback. Keeping it bland and brief with my boss is totally something I can do and makes perfect sense. Also I honestly didn’t think of using the term “dated” because we most certainly did NOT date, which led to me really overthink how to explain it. Hearing it so simply stated by you and Alison, it is definitely the right word to use in the context of this (very quick and painless, I’m foreseeing!) discussion with my boss.

      1. Jake*

        Yeah, dated is code for anything that was more than platonic friendship, and you won’t run into any issues with that.

    1. musical chairs*

      I need to know if the cutout also wears lifts in his boots. But the world is cruel and so I will never get satisfaction.

      1. LunaLena*

        I can commiserate with you on this. Back in 2016, Trump had a campaign stop very close to my workplace. I needed to know if he really was as orange in person as he looked on TV, so I used my lunch break to hang around and watch. Alas, he was over an hour late to his own event, so I regretfully had to give up and now I will never know.

    2. Wry*

      You can get cardboard cutouts of anything. We got one of my dog for our wedding. It was custom—you upload your own photo and pick the size. So now consider that this person might have custom created their Desantis cutout. Big yikes.

      1. The Original K.*

        Yep, that’s what I was thinking. An ex of mine worked with a guy who bore a striking resemblance to an actor (like, I thought the actor was a client when I saw a picture of my ex, the guy, and some of their colleagues), and they had a cutout of the actor that they would put in the guy’s office when he was out. I asked him where they got it and he said they’d had it made. So this person likely took time and money out of their lives to procure this DeSantis cutout, and my Black self would run out of this place like the building was on fire.

        1. Database Developer Dude*

          Agreed. This is one of those times where a two week notice turns into “in two weeks, you’re going to notice that I’m gone”.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        I knitted my brother a Doctor Who scarf for Christmas and “wrapped” it by draping it around a life-sized Doctor Who, although not the right Doctor Who for the scarf, but the only Doctor Who I could get.

        Scared the bejesus out of myself when I went down early in the morning to put out the Christmas gifts and there was a strange man in the living room.

        1. The Dark Side Got Me*

          When the original Star Wars movies were re-released back in the 90s and I was in college my stepfather got one of the full cutouts of Darth Vader from a local theater and left it in the living room.

          I didn’t know this and went to my parent’s house one night after working late and am still reliving that discovery. Fortunately I figured it out quickly but….

          1. Arlo*

            My father did that to me when the Tobey McGuire Spider-man movie came out, except it was in his nerd cave on the second floor, so when I walked past the stairs there was always this ‘person’ in the corner of my eye.

          2. Lynn*

            My now-husband worked at a mall bookstore many, many years ago. They had a lifesize cutout of Fabio during his heyday as part of a promotion. A rather large number of people tried to buy and/or steal it from the store. When the promotion ended and it was disposed of, there were more than a few who he says seemed willing to go dumpster diving to try to retrieve it. In the end it actually went home with one of the managers, got dressed up/made up like Dr. Franknfurter and taken to a midnight screening of RHPS on Halloween.

      3. Delta Delta*

        Someone thought, “I’d like this” and then took the steps to either a) purchase it or b) order it online. If it’s the latter, they had to type things into a search bar and fill in credit card information. There were so many chances to nope out of that decision before it happened.

      4. nnn*

        This has me contemplating who would be the funniest person to replace it with another cardboard cutout of.

        Or someone who looks similar enough that you might not notice right away.

        (This is not advice, this is just a random internet stranger being weird on the internet)

    3. Over It*

      Someone at my agency has a life size cutout of Michelle Obama in her office. She’s a less polarizing person than DeSantis, and that person isn’t in HR, but it’s still a pretty weird thing to have in your office IMO.

      1. Tio*

        On the one hand, I feel like no one should be allowed to have life size cutouts of people in the office, period. Just too weird.

        On the other hand, it probably is helpful to have a big “DO NOT WORK HERE” sign on the company in the form of a life size cutout. Answers a few questions pretty quick.

      2. Notmyre Alname*

        Interesting. I’m more aligned with MO, so I wonder if I’d have noticed the obvious conflict if her manakin was in HR. I’d like to think so. Thanks!
        – Employee’s friend

    4. OhGee*

      A house about a mile from me has a larger than life cutout of Donald and Melania in formalwear on their lawn. In 2024. In Massachusetts.

      1. Jenn*

        Do they take them in every time it rains? Are they just waterproof? Do they have back ups for when wildlife or weather inevitably damages them?

        I don’t want to know the answers, but yet I want to know the answers!

  8. musical chairs*

    I was *just* remarking with a peer about how sometimes doing the right thing as a manager feels like you’re being such a…dick! I once got a birthday gift with the kindest note from a direct report. The part of me that is a regular human being was legitimately touched, but the part of me that was a manager to someone newer to the workforce had to figure out how to graciously Shut That Down Right Away. In my context, it made more sense to keep the gift—as it was small and felt overly impolite to refuse—but I made a point to let her know she does not need to give me any material gifts/the best gift was her great work and the way she watched out for her team members, etc. I know it was the correct approach for a work context, but man, it was not fun, like at all.

    Reading #2 felt kind of like the conversation I was having today. Similarly, were commiserating about how frustrating it is to have to give nitpicky, but necessary feedback to someone who is generally working hard and performing well but needs some coaching in advance of a promotion. You can sing their praises and be very effusive about the stuff they’re doing great, but you have to provide fairly consistent, and frankly, annoying feedback on the small things that they cannot make a habit of in their next role, and that can get demoralizing, especially on stretch assignments.

    For the letter writer, it seems from your letter that your employee was just trying to be generous, rather than trying gain favor with you. Instead of getting to be thankful for a kind gesture, you have to immediately think about the implications for your role/other employees. It’s the power dynamics that cast a shadow on what, in other contexts, just a nice person being nice to someone who was nice to them.

    Part of the deal in leading a team! You’re always playing the long game and setting norms and expectations, I get that. I always say that I’m selling my expertise/labor/focus to my employer and specifically not the core of my personality or my integrity (those are part of the package of hiring me). But, while generally rewarding, there’s something about managing people that sometimes requires me to break with my instincts on how I show up for/with people in the world.

    At least I still get to give gifts to my team! Workplace norms can’t take that away from me!

    1. Quantum Possum*

      sometimes doing the right thing as a manager feels like you’re being such a…dick!

      It really does sometimes.

      You’re always playing the long game and setting norms and expectations

      This is what helps me get through those situations. Thinking in terms of “putting on my manager’s cap” forces me into that mindset, making me consider second- and third-order effects of everything I say/do in that role.

      But it doesn’t completely erase the sting, like you mentioned. The Homo sapien social-connection instinct is extremely strong, since our gregariousness has been critical to our species’ survival and success. It makes us feel bad to have to “deny” our basic humanity in the moment…and that’s a good thing.

    2. londonedit*

      It’s one of those where you just have to deal with the brief awkwardness because it’s the best way to move forward. I’m sure the OP thought their ‘oh you don’t have tos’ etc got the message across at the time, but really it would have been much better all round to say clearly ‘Thank you for the thought, it’s very kind of you. But I can’t accept cash as a gift from an employee, and you really didn’t need to get me any kind of gift at all. Gifts should come from me to you, not the other way round. I’m going to give you the $50 back, with thanks, and I’d love to share the gift basket with everyone else on the team, so I’ll put that in the staff kitchen’. That’s not rude or being a dick or rejecting someone’s gift, it’s being a decent manager and enforcing reasonable expectations and boundaries.

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “doing the right thing as a manager feels like you’re being such a…dick!”

      I honestly, legitimately disassociate sometimes when I do this and just go into “auto manager mode” because “EOW the person who wants to make everyone happy” just hates it so much.

      But I’ve also been in the game long enough to see the long term implications are MUCH better when you’re ‘a dick’ than when you try to save social face. So that’s some small comfort.

    4. Database Developer Dude*

      When a project I was on ended, I bought a pricey bottle of tequila for my team-lead as a thank you, because he dealt with a lot of unnecessary crap, and served as a buffer between that and the rest of the team.

      I waited, though, until the particular project ended. He wasn’t supervising me anymore, as we were both going to different projects, and it wasn’t something expected. I think that’s the difference.

  9. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP5 (side business) – this part concerns me:

    > Add to that, I work in a call center from home, so I have to constantly mute myself on zoom to take a call.

    Other than this 2-hour meeting are there other cases where OP is doing work related to the side business while officially “on the clock” for the call centre job? That is potentially problematic in itself.

    In fact this could be used as an easy way out of the networking group — too many of its commitments are during working hours which has been pointed out to you that that’s a conflict of interest with your employed role.

    1. Harper the Other One*

      I agree that the work calls are a good excuse, but I also think we should give benefit of the doubt to OP that they know attending such a group while waiting for calls is acceptable to their employer.

    2. Earlk*

      There are plenty of work from home jobs (like call centres) which are basically as long as you’re available between x and y times for calls anything is fine.

      Call centre jobs don’t tend to have background work, you’re either on a call or you’re not.

    3. The Person from the Resume*

      I thought the exact same thing. However I think honesty “I do not have the time to particpate in the program” versus the not completely accurate “The particular meeting times do not work for me” is better. I do wonder if they have an alterior motive for having the LW continue to participate and saying the time doesn’t work for the LW could lead them to look for alternate meeting time.

      LW wants to quit; she can quit.

    4. OP5*

      Hello! When I signed up, they said the zoom calls would be every other Monday from noon to 1 and I figured I could take my lunch break at that time. It turned out to be a 2-hour meeting instead and I didn’t feel right ducking out at 1 when they were going to keep going for another hour :(

      1. SpaceySteph*

        If you did want to stay, the first thing I’d do is start enforcing that boundary. “My lunch break is over, gotta go” You might start a movement! Or at least signal to the organizer they need to moderate better.

      2. jane's nemesis*

        Hi! Totally understandable to feel awkward about this, but in the future, when the meeting you thought was going to be one-hour keeps going and you don’t find out til you’re in it that it’s actually a two-hour meeting, you can absolutely pop in the chat – “so sorry, was under the impression this meeting was only one hour – I have to get back to work! Bye!” and be on your way. Or even leave out the first part and just say “so sorry, my lunch hour is over! Bye!”

        1. jane's nemesis*

          (You don’t HAVE to apologize, bc you’re not doing anything wrong, but it feels like it might feel less rude to you to do it if you apologize too.)

  10. Knitting Cat Lady*

    #3: I usually don’t ascribe to malice what is sufficiently explained by obliviousness, but this is too egregious.
    I hope HR guy just isn’t thinking, but I fear he’s doing it on purpose.
    And as a queer trans person I’d certainly assume malice to be on the safe side…

    1. I should really pick a name*

      I can’t imagine a situation where you have a life-sized cutout of anyone in your office without some intentions.

      1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        I mean, I used to have a coworker who had a life-sized cutout of Han Solo in his office. He was a MASSIVE Star Wars fan, and everyone knew it. I have no idea if he provided the cutout himself, or if it was given to him as a gift.

        We all thought it was good fun, and occasionally gave Han a seasonally appropriate decoration. But that is a completely different ball game than this situation.

        1. anonny*

          Yeah, I’m not entirely sure a life-sized cutout of anyone, even someone like Han Solo or Worf or heck, even a life-sized cutout of Lugia from Pokemon is appropriate, but at least they don’t send an overt message to your co-workers.

          (Well, the Lugia cutout might – namely that you have a life-sized Lugia cutout that barely fits in the office because Lugia is 5m long, and everything that implies about your decision-making skills and spatial awareness.)

            1. anonny*

              “Design chocolate teapots and groom llamas in an honourable fashion, for the glory of the Klingon Empire!”

        2. ferrina*

          Han Solo definitely sends a message! In this case the message was innocuous and kind of sweet- “I’m a big Star Wars fan, I’m happy to chat about Star Wars!” The Star Wars fan base (in my experience) tends to be a lot of fun, if a bit socially awkward.

          Ron de Santis also has a fan base. They tend to be a very certain type of people.

        3. UKDancer*

          Yeah I had a colleague in a different team who had a cut out of Seven of Nine from Voyager in his study at home, which caused some amusement during lockdown when we were working from home and she was present on Zoom calls behind him. Needless to say after about a week she was moved out of shot because it’s hard to have a serious meeting with a Borg drone in the background.

          I think it’s probably more allowable if it’s a non-politically polarising figure, and if you’re at home and not in HR. But it’s still probably not a great idea for conveying an image of professionalism.

        4. Dek*

          Lol, I still have my Han Solo. My Dad bought it from Suncoast (which should tell you how long ago this was), and put him in my room to surprise me (I think maybe Valentine’s Day?) I didn’t get a fright, but my Maw-maw did once.

          He’s still in the upstairs room at my Dad’s house, faithfully holding badly knitted scarves and looking very put out over it.

          (That said, I feel like those cutouts were easier and cheaper to come by when movie stores existed)

      2. Seashell*

        I can’t imagine advertising your politics unless you’re in a workplace where everyone is basically on the same page. A DeSantis cutout might be reasonable if you work for the Republican National Comittee or a right-wing website. A regular ol’ company? Not so much.

        1. Czhorat*

          I was on Twitter back before it was Twitter, and didn’t separate my political commentary with professional connections. Pretty much everyone in the industry knows my politics, and I’m fine with that. Especially the part of said politics that involve standing up for marginalized groups against racism – that’s an industry problem as well as a national (and global) one.

      3. A. Nonymous*

        For real. This would be bad judgement even if it were, like, FDR or Jimmy Carter. If you work in HR you cannot bring your politics with you to work so blatantly.

        1. Czhorat*

          I don’t like this idea that “all sides are the same”. If one political party consistently attacks civil rights and supports bigotry while the other doesn’t then putting pictures of politicians from one is NOT the same as the other. An LGBTQ employee seeing a DeSantis cutout might feel insecure in being treated fairly. There’s no equivalent for, say, Carter or even FDR.

          If you want to argue that any political signs are inappropriate I understand, but let’s not pretend that these are equivalent.

          1. A. Nonymous*

            I actually don’t believe at all that both sides are the same, nor did I say so. My point, which was clear, was that any political signs are inappropriate.

            1. Czhorat*

              Making that point here, in a discussion of a professional bigot, is an odd choice.

              This is especially bad because DeSantis is a bigot. Full stop. There’s no need to conflate it AT ALL with support for other politicians and create the appearance that you’re drawing an equivalence.

              1. A. Nonymous*

                I really don’t think you’re following the point I’m making. I think DeSantis is a transphobe and one of the most dangerous politicians in the world. I do not support *anything* he has to say, I condone his policies, and frankly I think he’s an asshole (and, again, nothing I wrote contradicts these points).

                If you are in HR, overt support of any political figure *as displayed in your working space* should be avoided. DeSantis is one hundred thousand billion degrees of magnitude worse than Jimmy Carter, but putting up Jimmy Carter still Isn’t A Great Choice.

    2. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

      And this isn’t sufficiently explained by obliviousness, surely? No one is oblivious about Ron De Santis, what he believes, what he stands for, etc.

    1. Melissa*

      Well, that’s not actually a thing, but he’s certainly a controversial figure— and he’s a political figure! Even a bland, generally beloved politician shouldn’t be up in your office.

      1. Antilles*

        This is where I land too. Even if it was someone who was non-divisive and broadly liked, images of politicians* just just don’t have any place in a normal office. And that goes double for HR, whose job function is actively hindered if employees don’t feel comfortable because of the politician in question.

        *At least for politicians who are currently active or relatively recent. If you really wanted to hang a photo of a long-gone politician like George Washington, it’d likely come off as quirky but not really partisan or problematic.

        1. RVA Cat*

          This. I’d say those who have passed on are safe, but a picture of Kennedy hits different than one of Reagan for example.

            1. RegBarclay*

              The department manager where I work is a history buff and has a bunch of presidential stuff in his office. So if he had Nixon memorabilia, or Reagan, or really any president it wouldn’t surprise me. It’s all about context.

              Side note – the money exchange place I go to when I go to Canada used to have a cutout of Paul Gross as Benton Fraser from Due South. Much more appealing and less divisive than any PM I can think of. It’s gone now, and I envy whoever got to take it home.

      2. Double A*

        Many government offices have a framed official portrait of relevant elected officials, but that’s about the only context where that seems appropriate/normal.

      1. Ariaflame*

        Too early in their opinion being until they leave school. They think that students should not find out anything about other sexualities, sexual health, or gender until they are adults.

        1. Jay (no, the other one)*

          Some of those students and their parents/family members are LGBTQ+ so it’s not “other sexualities” to them. It’s their lives and their families that are being demonized. It’s terrifying and dangerous.

      2. bamcheeks*

        Speaking as a lesbian mum, calling it “sex education” when a teacher affirms that my kids have two mums is gross.

      3. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        Those sources define “sex education” to include children’s books where a character has two moms. My kid would probably be banned from bringing a family photo to school in Florida.

        1. KateM*

          Wouldn’t it be at least as much sex education if there were a father and a mother on a family photo? Think what these two probably did to have this child. *shudders*

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Let’s not forget the banning of books written by historians whose last name is “Gay.” You know what happens if you read those, or just stand in the same room.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        In preschool, my daughter’s best friend had two moms. Another tot had two dads as parents, and when daughter started kindergarten the boy down the street had been adopted by a single dad.

        Which of those configurations was too sexy to tell my toddler or kindergartener about?

        (My kids are now in grad school, and even when they were toddlers I felt like a lot of the “I will need to carefully convey this shocking news! Possibly I will tell them in 8th grade, or maybe after they graduate from college” from parents landed to their toddlers as “…. Uh, you mean like Trent’s family?”)

      5. Irish Teacher.*

        I don’t know anything about this particular law, but I am always suspicious when people talk about “too early sex education,” because it’s such a vague phrase (what is “too early”?; what are they counting as “sex education”?).

        In my experience, it often means, “we don’t want kids being read stories about families with two daddies or two mommies.” Or sometimes, “we don’t want kids being taught to tell if anybody touches them in a way that feels bad.” It’s used as a euphemism often enough to make me immediately suspicious when I hear it.

        I think it unlikely any school is teaching five year olds details about sex acts or showing them pornographic materials. With small children, “sex education” usually means, “tell an adult if anybody touches your private parts in a way that feels bad” and I don’t think there is any age that is too young to learn that.

        1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          While I’ve mostly been trying to ignore the Florida nonsense I can’t meaningfully do anything about, your read on this situation is 100% correct.

        2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          I strongly recommend the video “Pantosaurus” which is used to introduce preschool children to concepts of private parts, body autonomy and consent. It’s produced by the NSPCC, a long-established child protection charity. A great example of how you can teach important topics in an age-appropriate way.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      As much as it’s called the “don’t say gay” bill, that’s not what it means.

      It’s a terrible law, but I think it’s also important to be accurate.

      1. Random Dice*

        You’re being literal instead of accurate.

        It’s absolutely intended to scare teachers away from even mentioning the existence of us queer folks. The nickname accurately conveys that.

        We don’t need to hold water for bigots by pretending their transparent lies are reasonable.

        1. I should really pick a name*

          They’re preventing teachers from talking about gay/trans/etc.. people which is absolutely awful.

          They are not making it illegal to say gay in Florida.

          I don’t want someone looking it up, learning that no, it’ not illegal to say gay in Florida, and then deciding it’s a bunch of hyperbole and not learning any more about the issue.

          1. Phony Genius*

            You are correct, but they made people think it was illegal to say “gay” in any context. To the point where a library board (in an adjacent state, mind you) listed a book to be removed only because the author’s name was “Gay.” This decision was made by a board of multiple people who were all fooled. When they reversed course a day or two later, they basically said that they really thought that the word itself was banned in all contexts.

            In summary, lawmakers can ban something by making people think that it’s banned, without actually banning it.

            1. Artemesia*

              That a group of adults would not only come to this conclusion but not say ‘this is ridiculous, we are not doing that’ shows how authoritarian regimes make even supposedly sensible adults cower.

  11. anononon*

    It sounds like OP5 is attending this (non-work) Zoom meeting during work hours, which is either pretty unethical or wage theft, depending on your POV. That in itself is good reason enough to withdraw, with immediate effect.

    1. Harper the Other One*

      This very much depends on the nature of the work. I’ve had a temporary stint taking calls that was essentially “engaged to wait” for overflow/high volume periods – you had to take calls when they came in but it was explicitly allowed for you to do whatever you wanted in between calls, including unrelated work for other employers. I think we should give OP benefit of the doubt that they know joining this group during the time they could potentially be receiving calls is acceptable per their employer’s policy.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        It may be acceptable to the employer, but it’s not actually fair to the coach, or to OP. To benefit from the coaching, you surely should give it your full attention. OP shouldn’t even have been accepted as a recipient of the coaching sessions since they happen during her working hours. As a result, the coach may be paid less because OP is going to drop out. Had OP been able to give it her full attention, she may be missing out on some things, so it feels like a waste of time.

        1. nopetopus*

          It sounds like there isn’t much coaching going on, and the other participants have different small business setups so it’s not like the LW can glean gems from their chatting about their businesses. The group sounds like a mismatch, not a failure because the LW isn’t invested enough.

        2. Antilles*

          We can’t tell for sure, but the way OP describes it sounds *exactly* like it’s a local City/County Small Business Association. If so, I think it’s just not a good fit regardless of how much attention OP pays.

          These sorts of these groups can be useful for small businesses, but are generally targeted for people who own/aspire to own a more “traditional” business (restaurants, salons, personal training gym, etc) as a full time employment, rather than someone running a personal Etsy shop as a side gig. So the discussions, coaching, and learning topics are really more focused around that goal – things like how to apply for local government permits, hiring and managing employees, how to get local word of mouth marketing around town, etc.

      2. ecnaseener*

        Yeah this very much sounds like LW is engaged to wait for calls, and they’re taking the calls when they come in so they’re not shirking any work. It’s a remote call center, is it wage theft to do anything other than stare at the walls between calls?

    2. Chihuahuan Desert*

      If the job requirements are to “be available and take calls” they are taking the calls and meeting the requirement – we should believe that’s the case as presented and not jump to unethical or time theft scenarios. I think LW realizes they are overcommitted and are having trouble politely yet effectively communicating that – Alison’s advice to be direct and definitive in writing rather than conversation seems spot on to me.

    3. OP5*

      Hello! They initially told me the Monday calls would be from noon to 1 pm, so I used my lunch break, but they kept going for another hour and I didn’t know how to back out.

  12. Witch of Oz*

    OP4: “During a WFH day, I missed an important after-hours email delegating work on a project with a tight timeline… The following day, I got a talking to about communication.”
    This wasn’t really addressed in the answer because the focus was on the fib about the meeting, but why did you get a talking-to about missing an email that came in AFTER HOURS? Whether or not you were working from home is irrelevant. If your working hours are eg 9-5 and this email came in after that (whether because you’d left the office or shut down your computer for the day) why was there an expectation that you’d be checking emails beyond your paid working hours? Instead of apologising you should have said, “I didn’t see that email because it was sent at 5.30pm and I finished work at 5 and I don’t check work emails outside of work hours.”

    1. I Have RBF*


      I noticed the after hours thing, and wondered why missing an after hours email was bad.

      If I take off for a medical appointment from 3 pm until whenever (usually at least 6), that I had on the group calendar, I’d get pretty irritated if I got chewed out for missing an email sent to be at 5:30 pm.

      When I log off for the day, I log off. I do not have my work email on my personal phone. I work remotely, so I need to keep a strict barrier between work and not work. If someone has to contact me after hours, the way they can do that is to call me. Otherwise, it waits until the next work day.

      Sure, the OP got confused about what was done when. Easy to do when people send you so much crap after hours that stuff gets buried. But their job seems to be stomping boundaries in an unhealthy way, and they need to bring that up as well, because that kind of stress causes mistakes.

    2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      THANK YOU. That is the part that stood out to me, also.

      The fact that other people had replied to the email thread suggests that this company doesn’t have a good culture of respecting people’s time, but it’s still a very good point to make. “I finished my work and logged out at least a half-hour before that email came in.”

    3. SpaceySteph*

      Yeah this part has me confused as well. I think perhaps they mean they missed the initial email the next working day when it had been buried under newer emails. If so, would be worth working on strategies to address previous evening emails first or get to the bottom of the inbox when starting work each morning, to ensure these emergency after hours notes aren’t missed.

      Either that or clarify if there’s an expectation of being on-call after work hours?

      1. Saberise*

        Yeah I reread it a few times for this reason and decided the same. It had moved down her list. I have the same bad habit when I open my email. My eyes are drawn to the email at the top and sometimes I don’t get to timely emails below that soon enough. Hadn’t really thought about it but I probably should address how I approach my inbox.

    4. fhqwhgads*

      Yeah, I didn’t understand the letter at all and how the thing about lying about a meeting even came up. I was stuck on why not responding to an after hours email resulted in a talking to in the first place. The sequence of events is very confusing to me.

    5. Bleep Blorp*

      Agree 1000%! Email is intended to be an asynchronous method of communication. As a manager, any time I’ve needed something from a team member after hours — ESPECIALLY on a tight deadline — I’ve called or texted to make sure it was clear what needed to happen and by when.

  13. Corporate Goth*

    LW5, for what it’s worth, you DO have a real business. Your business is simply a different, less-traditional type – like working from home versus working from a formal office. It likely requires different advice that embraces its inherent creativity and flexibility when implementing your business plan. Regardless, stand firm; there are plenty of options to explore that could leave you less frazzled. Wishing you the best of luck.

    1. Raine*

      Seconding this! Running your own crafting business is still a lot of work, and there’s a lot you can learn from how other business run. Please don’t sell your skills short just because it’s an artistic endeavor – if anything, it means you have to know all the pieces of your business (taxes, shipping, photography, etc…) rather than hire employees who do it for you.

    2. Irish Teacher.*

      I was thinking the same thing. It’s a different type of business and perhaps the advice group isn’t particularly helpful for it, but it is a real and valid business.

    3. OP5*

      Thank you :) I’ve been pretty down in the dumps for the past few months about all this so it’s nice to hear some kind words!

    4. I Have RBF*


      I have a small crafting business. I mostly sell at craft shows. I don’t produce enough to put it up on Etsy, but eventually I might.

      But I declare it on my Schedule C, and I pay state sales tax on the stuff I sell. It’s a real business, I just don’t have employees.

  14. Cat Tree*

    LW4, was the missed email part of a pattern? Your boss doesn’t want you to apologize; they want you to develop a method to stop missing things. Ideally they would offer suggestions but if not, you can Google for tips. Thinking that you’ll just try harder or pay more attention in the future just isn’t *effective* because presumably you’re already trying hard.

    Organization is a skill just like any other, which means most people can improve at least somewhat with practice and a good system. But you need to have a system to start with.

    I think if you start making strides with an improved system you’ll feel more solution-oriented which should reduce that urge to lie.

    1. Random Dice*

      I actually do want an apology – it lets me know that they understand that it’s important and will fix it.

      But as I tell my kid, the best apology is changed behavior.

      I want the words and the action.

      1. Cat Tree*

        I’ve never had an employee apologize who later fixed the behavior (aside from polite reflexive social apologies). So I guess it’s a YMMV situation. But also, my employee isn’t my kid and it’s a weird dynamic to act like they’re being scolded for being naughty, when all I want is for the work to get done correctly.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          “I’ve never had an employee apologize who later fixed the behavior”

          That’s…pretty unusual, I have to say. You only see changes from people who don’t apologize in the first place?

          1. Quantum Possum*

            I agree, that seems unusual to me, too.

            I think it has more to do with attitude than with the act of apologizing itself. An employee who just throws off a dismissive “sorry!” is much different from an employee who says “I’m sorry and I’m doing [this] to prevent it in the future.”

        2. ferrina*

          That’s a little odd. Plenty of people are capable of doing both a verbal apology and changed behavior. I don’t expect an apology for minor things (“hey, can you make sure you fill the printer? Thanks!”).

          That said, I’ve known a couple people who would do elaborate verbal apologies/shame spirals, then never made actual behavior changes. Or the classic “I’m sorry you feel that way, but I don’t see the problem” (followed by absolutely no change in behavior, or by increasing the problematic behavior to punish the person that called them out)

      2. ferrina*

        the best apology is changed behavior.

        YES! Exactly this! A verbal apology is a very good thing- it’s important to acknowledge “I messed up. I hurt you and/or betrayed your trust, and I recognize that and validate your experience. I understand where I went wrong and I know how to correct things for the future”

        But a verbal apology means nothing without action.

    2. Zzzzzz*

      No one seems to be commenting on having missed an after hours email. Is the LW supposed to check email after hours? It got lost in the mix of the next day barrage… that happens. Was lying good? No, of course not. But is this a larger part of a chaos org that expects too much? Maybe…

      1. We still use so much paper!*

        This was my thought as well. The “after hours” stood out. If LW panicked because they dared take a night off, that’s a sign of disfunction at the company.

      2. Daisy-dog*

        I assume it wasn’t because LW didn’t respond/take action at that exact moment, it was because it was not addressed within a timely period during work hours. It’s possible the email sender was also at fault for not sending the message within business hours or with more time to complete the next steps.

      3. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        Bingo. Either the LW has a habit of missing emails OR she was legit getting a talking to over something that came in off the clock, she didn’t realize was urgent, and instead was doing other work (I assume the next day/morning?). If this is the latter, I can actually understand why LW’s instinct was to lie instead of saying “No, I couldn’t get to that meeting” or “I didn’t think I was supposed to attend that meeting”–if totally normal things are treated as huge problems, how are actual errors treated?

      4. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

        I read it as the LW didn’t address the after hours email in the morning, and if it was time critical, first thing after they read it.

    3. Daisy-dog*

      Agreed. Identify a solution – emails filtering to folders, rules to flag messages from certain senders or using certain words, calendar blocking time to sort emails daily, etc. So when you also admit to the lie – apology is based on your relationship/experience – you also have a plan to avoid being overwhelmed in the future.

  15. robecita*

    NOT a De Santis apologist by any means, but it makes me think about government or other public offices that might have images of the current governor hanging in common areas, meeting rooms, or offices of leadership. It could be that no one in an office actually endorses the politics of a particular governor, but their image still might be prominently on display in the workplace.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      Yes–it’s totally normal for government offices to have portraits of the current governor or president in prominent locations.

      No–it’s not normal for a private business to have life sized cutouts of political figures prominently displayed in their HR offices.

    2. Juicebox Hero*

      “I’m not a Thing, so pardon me while I Thing.”

      A lifesized cardboard cutout of a controversial public official in HR’s office, of all places, is very different from a framed portrait in an entranceway or government official’s office.

    3. M2RB*

      There is a huge difference between a government office/agency having portraits of the current top authority figures on their walls and a private company (as specified in the letter) having a life-size cut-out of a government figure in their HR office. I would not have the same level of reaction to a private company’s HR having a life-size cut-out of the company CEO in their office as I do to a private company HR having a government official’s cut-out in their office.

      (Life-size cut-out = meaningless words now!)

    4. SpaceySteph*

      As a government worker I have definitely not enjoyed walking through the lobby under the gaze of [political figure I disagree with] but I understand that they are technically my boss’ boss’s [several more boss’] boss and that’s the nature of working for the government. When the other party takes power, the other face will be on the wall, regardless of the facility manager’s personal beliefs.

      It’s significantly different when its a personal choice at a private firm.

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

      I think the difference are that it is in the common areas of a government/public office where that sort of thing is more expected where this sounds like it’s in their personal office of a private company.

      Its more expected in public offices because its essentially saying ” this is my boss.” simillar to how some companies might have pictures of the CEO or founder in their waiting rooms.

    6. fhqwhgads*

      Yeah but in that context, the reason the image is there is because the person holds the office. It’s completely different than when an individual has the picture up, or when an employer that isn’t the government does it.

  16. HonorBox*

    OP5 – You owe the group nothing. You’re not getting the same things others are getting from it and it causes you stress. I’m sure the organizer/coach feel like there’s opportunity for you, which is why they’ve suggested you stay. But you’ve learned that not only is it a conflict for your schedule (muting yourself to take work calls), but the focus is on different types of businesses, so it really isn’t a group for you. Lean into the schedule part and let it be that. Just because they’d like you to stay doesn’t mean you have to.

    1. Alan*

      Exactly! “No” is a complete sentence. This isn’t personal; it’s business. Their product is not what you need so you’re not going to buy it.

  17. Capt. Liam Shaw*

    So serious question. If there isn’t an additional job at the company for Wesley in the first letter. What is the remedy? The guy moved for this job. Seems a bit cruel just to let him go without a hefty severance and health care (if in the USA).

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      Hold up! No one wants Wesley to be let go. OP isn’t in line to be their everyday supervisor or manager. Just that there are projects that require collaboration between teams, and it’s possible that a future project would have OP critiquing Wesley’s work.

      OP just needs to tell her manager that they dated briefly a while ago, and while it’s no big thing overall, she shouldn’t be in a position to oversee his work.

    2. Silence*

      Op mentioned it was possible but not likely they wouldn’t be on the same projects without giving someone a heads up, so having a word with their boss just means Wesley gets to work with the other senior people instead of OP, not letting him go which would be an overreaction.

  18. OrigCassandra*

    OP5, if the coaching isn’t serving you, GO. Cut your losses.

    I was accepted once to a supposedly-prestigious coaching group for non-profits. When I got there, I discovered it was 90% woo and 10% excessive and intrusive homework. I bailed. No regrets.

  19. OrdinaryJoe*

    re: #3 …

    Is there any chance that it’s just being stored there? Like it was used previously for some photo-op and it’s just stuck in the office and the HR person doesn’t even see it any more? A work friend of mine had a massive metal eagle statue on the floor of their office for probably 6 months due to a whole host of issues. It quickly became just part of the furniture and a running joke about the ‘screaming eagle’ trophy.

    Clearly OP is the best judge if this is On Display or just Stuck Here.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      The LW describes it as “on prominent display”.

      Even if there is actually some other reason for it to be there (and that sounds like a stretch to me), it could at least be turned around so no one could see who it is.
      But frankly, a company that actually cared wouldn’t store it in the HR office in the first place.

    2. Random Dice*

      It’s’s ok to recognize malice, without arguing it away for our own comfort.

      Then we are not compounding the harm to the vulnerable people who have been targeted by that malice.

      1. Panicked*

        Agree. I cannot think of a single instance where that cutout would be okay in the workplace. Any HR person worth their salt would recognize it as a problem immediately and remove it. This is malicious.

    3. Annaliese*

      1. OP states that it is on prominent display.
      2. Even if you were right and this was “just” being stored, any halfway competent and decent HR person would know better than to store it somewhere that it could be seen by employees.
      3. It’s actually OK not to try to find a justification for awful things. Think horses not zebras, you know? You don’t have to try to rationalise the bad behavior. Some people are just terrible.

    4. Juicebox Hero*

      The devil has enough advocates already.

      I read that somewhere online recently and it’s perfect for so many situations.

      A company that would have photo-ops with a dirtbag like deSantis, even in effigy, is just as scummy as a company whose HR has a cutout of him on permanent display.

  20. AthenaC*

    Depending on the industry, I might disagree with Alison on OP1. If this industry is, say, public accounting or consulting, it would be weird to bring this up. I can all but guarantee you that at least a handful of your coworkers have a similar past together and have moved on with no fanfare or discussion.

    The difference is – the nature of project-based managing in public accounting or consulting is not the close, interpersonal relationship that you would ordinarily think of between manager and subordinate. It’s much narrower, completion-focused, and less judgmental – think “document X” or “ask client Y about this and document their response.”

  21. ecnaseener*

    LW2, check on your employee handbook / policies — I bet there’s something in there about this, and that’ll help you make it even less awkward if you can say “I checked and I’m not allowed to accept cash from you, thanks for the thought but I need to give it back!”

  22. Nia*

    Wait LW4 got an email after hours and not even 24 hours later they were given a talking to for not responding? That’s ridiculous even before taking into account that nobody actually needed anything from LW3 anyway.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Yeah, this was confusing to me too. There are lots of fields where urgency is critical, obviously, but if you want people to check their emails outside of work hours for urgent things, there are expectations that go with that (like telling people they have to do this and compensating them accordingly for this kind of on call access).

    2. Disgruntled Pelican*

      I had the same thought. It sounds to me like the LW needs to ask the boss for clarification on expectations for after hours emails/projects. It also sounds like LW is worried that the WFH piece will be held against them, but based on the letter that part of it doesn’t actually seem related to missing the emails (although an unreasonable boss might argue otherwise).

    3. Cat Tree*

      I think this varies by industry. In many workplaces it’s normal to have some urgent emails that require a response in less than one day, and it’s part of the job to know which emails require that. It isn’t inherently ridiculous.

    4. OP4*

      Hi, OP4 here! This is something of a problem at my workplace. I am forbidden from responding to emails after working hours, but my boss does not follow these rules. So what can happen is I have an email thread or set of email threads that my boss has responded to that I need to sort through the next day to determine what needs to be done. When I was training, she would frequently PM me to tell me what needed to be done off this thread, but she has stopped doing this more recently, so I’m doing a bit more email skim and catch up once I’m back in office. This was something of a tricky case, too, because a key member who would be driving 90% of the work was OOO on the day that I missed the email. There wasn’t really much work I could complete that day without that person’s input.

      1. TechWorker*

        In the nicest possible way I don’t really see how this is ‘a problem’ but perhaps that’s because I work with people in different timezones so ‘sorting through email & working out what needs to be done’ is very standard thing to do. Doesn’t seem unreasonable for your boss to start by pulling things out for you & then expecting you to get better at working out your tasks from the thread as you get more experienced either.

        1. OP4*

          Very fair–I more mean this is something I am acclimating to from my previous workplace/habits (e.g., email when I get something and not when I am physically in a location). But you’re right that it is not unreasonable.

    5. 1-800-BrownCow*

      I read this that the OP was saying an email came through after hours and the next day while WFH, they missed the email from the evening before amongst all the other emails they were sorting through that day.

      1. WellRed*

        I wondered if OP mentioned WFH because there’s an issue, real or perceived, about how well people work from home. You can miss an email either way, no?

  23. Pastor Petty Labelle*

    LW 5 – send the email withdrawing because that is the professional thing to do. Then feel free to delete any emails they send back. For the next zoom meeting, just don’t sign on. If its a new link every time, even either, you deleted that email already.

    And if the meeting is on your calendar, remove it and all reminders.

  24. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    OP 4: “I missed an important after hours email.”

    does this mean “I missed an email sent the day before because I had a bunch of emails in my inbox when I started working and was responding to each one as I read it instead of skimming each one to prioritize my morning.”
    “I normally check my email in the evenings, but didn’t and when I started the next day, I didn’t see it in time.”
    Because if you are normally checking emails and responding in the evenings, maybe you are burning out and just can’t take the constant “at work” mode.
    If not, then yeah, no matter how “oh, this is quick” an email seems to be, skim them all first when you start your day.
    Good luck

  25. OP4*

    Hello all, OP4 here! I really appreciate your comments and Alison’s advice. I tried to post a comment in response further detailing What Happened From This, but it seems to have disappeared, so I’ll try again.

    I ultimately did not get a chance to explain about the meeting, because my boss was checking to see that I had communicated with the project lead (I had) and because my overall performance had become much more of an issue. Since mid-November my performance had started to slip due to my husband’s layoff, the first anniversary of my father’s death, and the holidays in connection with his death more generally. I had also taken on some work after hours from a friend to make ends meet due to the layoff. I hadn’t informed my manager of my mental health struggles up to this point–she knew about the layoff, but not about my dad’s death or my poor mental health since then–so my mistakes piled up over the month, culminating in a sloppy work product for a bigger project that I pushed through out of anxiety over being potentially late.

    I got pulled into a 1-on-1 with my manager before the holiday and she was very concerned, asking if anything was going on, etc. I burst into tears and told her about the layoff stress and the anniversary. She was stunned but very understanding, told me she knew it was uncharacteristic of my usual work, but we didn’t really plan on how I would progress from there. Later in the week, I had a meeting with her to correct the work product and I told her that I appreciated her understanding, that I was pretty mortified by my mistakes and crying in front of her, and that I was taking steps to handle the personal piece, but would be interested in exploring more checks and balances to help me re-regulate my work in the new year if needed.

    On my side, I’m writing some new processes to help myself in the future, since part of the problem was a series of tight deadlines with not a lot of oversight. I’m also pursuing medication on top of my usual therapy and more planned PTO. A major thing that emerged for me from this was my tendency towards perfectionism. I couldn’t tell my boss I wasn’t doing well because that would crack my ultra-competent everything’s perfect persona. I still feel an near-unbearable amount of shame about this situation. So, my come-to-Jesus has pretty much been how serious my anxiety and depression have become, and how direly they need to be addressed.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      I’m very sorry for your loss. The first round of holidays after losing a loved one just suck like nothing else, and the added stress on top of it sounds like an avalanche waiting to happen.

      Good luck with therapy and medication (they did me a world of good after my anxiety got so bad I could barely function) and please forgive yourself for being a human being with emotions and weaknesses and feelings. Letting go of perfectionism isn’t easy but at least for me it was such a relief to learn that good enough is good enough :)

      Kudos to your boss, too, for noticing you were having problems and being willing to help you work things out.

  26. We still use so much paper!*

    This was my thought as well. The “after hours” stood out. If LW panicked because they dared take a night off, that’s a sign of disfunction at the company.

  27. M2RB*

    As a Florida resident who belongs in the LGBTQ+ community but flies under the radar for a variety of reasons, I would have SERIOUS problems with ANYONE having a cardboard cutout of DeathSantis in their office. For an HR person to have the cutout, my WTF level is off the charts. Get the heck out of there, post on Glassdoor and LinkedIn (if possible, depending on the friend’s situation), tell all friends and acquaintances and networking contacts, OMG. The man is a blight on our state, and I flat-out refuse to work at a company that allows HR (HR!!!!) to blatantly support him like this.

  28. Michelle Smith*

    OP5: I remember feeling the way you’re feeling right now when I needed to back out of an interview process that was becoming too time consuming and had surfaced so many red flags that I knew I wouldn’t accept the job even if I was eventually offered it. I ended up doing an emergency call with my career coach to help me draft an email so that I could get the message out before they sent me the materials for a project they wanted done (this is after like 5 rounds of interviews up to and including one with the CEO).

    Ripping the band-aid off and just getting the email out there was the best thing to do. It was anxiety inducing. I actually felt sick to my stomach the entire day. Eventually the recruiter (who was out of office that day) got back to me, asked me over email if she could call and if there was anything she could do to change my mind. I said no and she backed off. Send your email, be as polite and sweet as possible, and if there is a request for follow up just decline to participate in the conversation any further, letting them know that there is nothing that can change your mind. It is almost certain to work and if it doesn’t, you can in good conscience just block them at that point. Your peace of mind after it’s over is going to way, way outweigh the discomfort of having to do it, I promise.

  29. Bookworm*

    LOL at the DeSantis cutout but in all seriousness: yikes, no. Sorry to your friend. It wouldn’t be appropriate if it was Gavin Newsom (to choose at random).

    1. Czhorat*

      It wouldn’t, but Gavin Newsome hasn’t made a career out of attacking the civil rights of various minority groups.

      I don’t care what your opinion is on the optimal tax rate, how much we should spend on the military, or what kind of highway improvement we should invest in. Those are political questions.

      I DO care about those who disagree with “LGBTQ people deserve the same rights as cisgender heterosexual people” or “racism is bad” or – and I can’t believe this is a question – “slavery was bad”.

      That’s not politics; that’s bigotry.

    2. Quantum Possum*

      Right? This makes me glad I work for the government, where partisan political activity is strictly banned (per law) and situations like this just don’t even come up.

      Personally I think that’s a great rule-of-thumb for any employer, unless partisan politics is inherent to the job. No political stuff at work, period.

      My recommendation would be to suggest to the company/organization that they revisit their office policies. Nothing good can come from continuing down the road that has led to a RDS cutout in HR.

  30. DivergentStitches*

    In 2016 the day after That Election, our HR person danced around the office happy as a clam, hooting and cheering all damn day. The gentleman on my team that we’d recently hired, who happened to be gay, said she stood in his office doorway and cheered the results and wouldn’t leave until he acted happy about it too. Astonishingly enough, he stopped showing up for work :(

    If that person happens to be reading this, if you ever decide to sue that company, my friend, please know I will have your back. Go get em tiger.

    1. M2RB*

      I say I am speechless because all the speeching I have would get me banned from the site. What a despicable HR person.

  31. Addison DeWitt*

    What, the kids today don’t know the traditional way of dealing with an image you don’t like?

    Draw a handlebar mustache on it!

    1. c-*

      Hold my sparkly fruity cocktail for a sec, pls and ty.
      I’d find his most despicable (racist, homophobic…) quotes, print them out as speech bubbles on some stiff cardboard, and superglue them to the cutout’s face. They want to promote DeSantis? All right, let everyone know exactly what they are promoting. PSA for every non-asshole in the office.

  32. Kristin*

    #5: This is maybe an overreaction but there are cults which recruit people by offering business/entrepreneur coaching and support like this. The fact that you’re getting guilt trips when you try to leave is a big red flag IMO. I’d stick to your guns and drop out.

  33. Blarg*

    In 2017, I rented a unit in a 4-plex from a seemingly nice woman who owned the building and lived in the unit across from me. When I moved in, I saw that she had a life size cutout of Trump. That she sometimes put outside of her door so I could see it. Writing out those rent checks for a year was … rough.

    When I gave my notice that I’d be moving at the end of my lease, she for some reason started texting me commentary on the people who were viewing the unit. Comments that were discriminatory (“I never rent to people of x race because…”; “I wouldn’t rent to them, he is on disability,” etc). And, it turned out, rose to the level of illegal, despite her having more leeway as the owner.

    I got in touch with the city’s civil rights commission. They sent out test applicants. I didn’t get to know the end result, except to know there was one — that some sort of negative finding was made.

  34. Nom*

    Incidentally, the only coworker I’ve ever had who displayed any kind of political paraphernalia at their desk was in HR. You’d think HR would know better!

Comments are closed.