boss doesn’t want me to read documents before signing them, employer is revoking work-from-home, and more

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

1. My boss said she doesn’t trust people who read documents before signing them

At a previous position, I offended my supervisor by actually reading the many office policies I was given to sign. I don’t like signing documents without reading them and assumed that it was important for me to know the policies so that I could follow them, so I read everything thoroughly and probably asked a couple of clarifying questions.

Much later, my boss revealed that she believed one should sign these documents without reading them as a demonstration of trust in your employer, and that she doesn’t trust anyone who does read these documents because she assumes you are trying to figure out what you can get away with. I was so confused by her reaction, because it was clear these were sincerely held beliefs by this supervisor but seemed so completely divorced from reality that I couldn’t really respond at all.

How could I have responded to her beyond staring in utter confusion? Or respond if someone ever raised that concern in the moment when I’m presented with the policy documents, instead of bringing it up a year later as evidence that I’m plotting against them? (It was a very toxic workplace.)

What on earth?! Does she sign contracts with vendors without reading them too, or is it only your employer you’re supposed to place blind trust in? Moreover, since these were policies you were agreeing to follow, how did she think you’d be able to follow them if you didn’t read the documents to find out what they were? Your supervisor was out of her gourd, and I’m betting this wasn’t the only problem.

As far what to say in the moment, one option was, “It’s been drilled into me never to sign anything without reading it. My lawyer would kill me.” Another: “I don’t even sign anything my spouse gives me without reading it, and I trust him completely.” Another: “I’m reading them so I know what policies to follow; otherwise, how would I make sure I was complying?”

2. My employer is revoking work-from-home but I live 300 miles away

Three years ago, I was hired to work remotely for a midsize nonprofit in another state. Recently, the powers-that-be at this organization have decided to limit remote work to one day a week maximum.

I know that historically the organization has disliked remote work (to the extent that you couldn’t work from home even once in a blue moon, like if your kid was home sick — you just had to use a sick day, even if your job could be done just fine 100% remotely). Obviously, they had to ease up on that when the pandemic hit, and I was hired during that period of time. They hired me knowing I live 300 miles away and have no intention to relocate.

It’s literally impossible for me to comply with the new limit — not just a matter of an annoyingly long commute, but physically impossible within the bounds of physical time. Relocating to be in compliance is not an option — I live in another state and my husband has a state-specific business license here, and frankly my compensation is nowhere near the level it would require to motivate us to make such a major life change.

If they go through with the rollback of the WFH policy, does that count as them letting me go? Or will I technically have to resign/quit?

(If it matters for context: it’s not that they’re trying to intentionally force me out; I’m a top performer and my direct supervisor has said that if I can’t be an employee anymore she’ll just contract with me, which is a nice endorsement of my skills, but I prefer the stability of being an employee. They just seriously have a very old-fashioned view of remote vs. in-person work.)

Before you assume anything, ask directly! Start with your boss, who should find out the answer for you if she doesn’t know herself, but if she’s not doing that then ask HR. Say this: “I would comply with the change if I could, but I was hired already working 300 miles away and relocating isn’t an option for me. Since I can’t commute daily from this distance, what does this mean for my job here?”

Some orgs doing this will make exceptions for people who obviously can’t come in because of distance. Others won’t. But there’s enough of a chance they will that you should start by asking what their plan is. If they give you a non-answer like “there are no exceptions to the new policy,” then you should say, “So given that I’m too far away to comply, what does that mean for my job? Are you letting me go and, if so, what will my last day be?”

Technically this should be considered something like a layoff (and you’re likely to be eligible for unemployment too), but you might have to nudge them to spell it out.

3. My drunken boss tried to kiss me but it’s been handled — what do I say to coworkers?

My question is mostly about how to return to normal after something unsettling at work. My boss is/has been a functioning alcoholic, which came to a head at the Christmas party when whilst smashed he tried to kiss me, I freaked out, and he got chucked out by security for being too drunk to stand up unaided. HR has actually been incredibly good about it, and it’s all been dealt with sensitively and incredibly well, but do you have any suggestions for a script for how to get back to normal now we’re broadly over and done with the admin of it?

Honestly, I don’t even feel that angry at him anymore, mostly because I think of Drunk Boss and Sober Boss as being different men, and he immediately agreed to my resolutions which were an apology and a commitment to get himself into AA or similar.

Obviously people are allowed to have their own feelings about his behavior, but I just need a good script for “Yeah I know, but I accepted his apology and I’d rather not dwell on it, let’s just move on.”

This is for when others are bringing it up with you? If so, your language here works fine! But another way to say it would be, “Yes, but it’s been handled, and I’d rather not rehash it and just want to move forward.”

4. Can I skip recurring meetings that aren’t that useful?

What’s the protocol for attending recurring meetings that take place every other month or so? These meetings aren’t at all mission critical to my work, nor are any specific directives provided. Rather, they’re an opportunity for people in our (very large) organization to come together and talk shop, share insight on projects they’re working on, crowdsource ideas, troubleshoot questions, etc.

Generally speaking, it’s nice to see people I don’t typically work with. But I’ve never left these meetings thinking, “Wow! That was a game-changer.” To be honest, I find them to be somewhat of a chore and they can feel like a waste of time.

My manager has never come down and said these meetings are mandatory, but we’re generally expected to attend. And most of the time, it’s not an issue. I get that it’s polite to show up and put in an effort, but there are times when I have a meeting conflict or I’m in the zone with work and don’t want to stop, etc.

Is that permissible enough reason to skip if I’d like to or is this one of those things where I just need to bite the bullet and go?

It depends on your organizational culture. In some orgs, it would completely fine and unremarkable to skip the meetings when you had a conflict or a deadline you needed to focus on. In others, it would be frowned upon. One way to figure it out is to look at what other people at your level do, but you can also just ask your manager. Don’t ask “can I quit attending these completely?” but ask if it’s okay to skip it when you have a conflict or time-sensitive work to get done.

5. How do I manage an employee who doesn’t want to move up?

I have an odd question in that everything is going great, and I’m wondering if being a good manager means disrupting that. I recently began managing an employee who is fantastic at his job. He also seems perfectly content in it — i.e., he’s had the same title and responsibilities for several years and has displayed neither interest nor action in pursuing anything different. But I’ve always thought part of being a good manager was helping your employees grow and develop beyond their current roles. Does that apply when your employee is perfectly good at their job and perfectly happy to be doing it, even after several years? If not, what are some ways I can be a good manager to this employee? For the record, I’m aware this is not a terrible problem to have!

Part of being a good manager is helping your employees grow and develop beyond their current roles when they want that. Not everyone does! Some people are content remaining where they are and don’t have any interest in moving up or taking on new responsibilities, and managers should respect that. (At least, assuming it aligns with the organization’s needs. There are cases where you might need the role itself to evolve, and it’s reasonable to say you need someone in the job who’s willing to do that — but that doesn’t sound like the case here.) So the way to be a good manager to this person is to appreciate that you have someone who’s great at his job who doesn’t want to leave (a benefit for you!) and ask him what he needs to remain happy and engaged. The answer might be, “Don’t change anything; I find meaning and challenge from other parts of my life, and this job supports that.” Or who knows, maybe he’ll have other ideas. But take your cues from him.

{ 345 comments… read them below }

  1. Over It All*

    Seconding the advice about not pressuring employees to move up if they don’t want to. If I want support growing in my career from my boss I will make it 100% clear to them. Otherwise let me keep doing what I originally agreed to.

    1. MassMatt*

      This is a widespread problem. Quite often the only way to move to a higher position is managing people, which takes very different skills than the original position.

      I had someone on my team in a sales position, he was great at it, but he had no motive to supervise salespeople, or train them, which were two of the most obvious “next steps”. Nor did he want to switch to some kind of support or analytical role, which would take him away from sales. He made the point that while he was very good, he had not mastered everything to know about sales, so there was still plenty to learn, which was a great attitude.

      Annual reviews at this company emphasized employee growth, so I had to have a few conversations with upper managers so he didn’t get dinged on his review for not having those objectives.

      Some people find their niche and are happy in it and good at it, and the review process should be able to fit them. It’s not really possible for everyone to continually move up in a hierarchy, even in a very hierarchical organization.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        Exactly. If we all moved up at the same frequency and pace, we’d have companies full of C-Suite Executives and almost no one left to do any other tasks lol. It just wouldn’t even be sustainable.

        1. CL*

          My C Suite exec has said they want everyone to grow to be C Suite execs. This clearly shows a lack of awareness of our particular staff but also that not everyone has the same professional goals.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Has this exec proposed a budget for paying all of these upcoming C Suite execs? What about for hiring and paying all the support people for the new C Suite execs?

            I’m excited for this plan for a single company to bring us to 100% employment.

      2. Green Goose*

        My current direct report is like this. She is great, we’ve worked together for years and I’m lucky to have her on my team. She once had to cover my duties at an elevated level while I was on maternity leave and she did not enjoy that experience and has said she has no interest in moving up in our org. I get it, there is a lot of theatrics and unpleasant politics the higher up you go and she’d rather keep her head down and do her work.
        What we’ve done is talked about which parts of the work she enjoys the most and I have let her fully take on those parts, for example she is great with data/reports/processes but does not like presenting so I can have her focus on parts she likes more, as long as it doesn’t impact our team goals/my workload.

        1. Miss Muffett*

          It’s always great when there’s a natural opportunity like this to “try on” the new role and see if it suits a person before they get promoted thinking they’d def like to do it and then totally hate life!

      3. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Yes, it’s important for people to do what they are good at. for me to move up I’d have to do stuff I’m bad at ( neat paperwork, pay attention in meetings, talk to angry people) and less stuff I’m good at ( uh…talking to small children. ) Why would the organization want to have people do stuff they are bad at?

      4. Random Dice*

        I had a former coworker who explained that after she had kids her ambitions changed, she needed work to be something she did during work hours and then put down. Now that her kids are older she’s shifted back into ambition mode – but staying at one level and doing a great job at it is perfectly legit!

      5. Czhorat*

        There’s also the “Peter principle” which states that anyone good at their job gets promoted until they reach a position they’re no longer well-suited for. I’ve seen very talented technicians who love what they do end up being most miserable and poorly performing as project managers or supervisors.

        The best organizations I’ve worked in have had multiple advancement paths that fit different skill sets. So instead of your high performing sales person moving up to lead the sales team they might get promoted to “salesman first class” or something and work on either higher profile or higher complexity work in the same arena. Even that might not be a move that everyone wants to make, but it would make it more likely that you can find an advancement path for more people.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I worked at a company that only hired at the individual contributor level, and all people-managers were promoted from those individual contributors. On the bright side, the managers really understood the projects they were assigning and gave great help and feedback. On the downside, they didn’t know how to manage and on the whole didn’t like to do so.

          I had multiple teammates promoted to manage me, do so for a year or two, then go back to individual contributor. They always seemed so happy to not be managing anymore!

      6. Jamoche*

        I had a manager once who’d moved from development to manager and back down again twice already. Third time was not the charm.

      1. JSPA*

        LW4, if they’re in the building / complex, do half in total, 1/4 leave significantly early pleading “need a pit stop before a client thing,” and 1/4 show up significantly late (but looking a bit winded) because “finishing up a thing.”

        If there’s no blow-back, transition to some of the “finishing up” days lasting for the whole meeting.

    2. Jackalope*

      The one thing I would change in your response is that I think it’s good for bosses to take the initiative with conversations about employee growth rather than waiting for their employees to approach them. Even with someone who has been in the same position for a long time and has made it clear that this is where they want to stay might be someone who would enjoy taking on a new project, covering a completely different position for a few weeks to fill in for someone else and learn some new skills, etc.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        This is true and it’s built into the biannual reviews we have at my employer. Basically we’re asked things like what we like about our work, what we don’t like about it (with the goal of the manager being able to assess whether we can shift things around so we spend more of our time on the kinds of projects we like vs. the ones we hate), what our short term goals are, and what kind of support we’d like to see to achieve them. I have plenty of built in opportunities this way to say “I really love working with X clients on X types of projects but find Y types of research projects really boring” or “I know I’ve been super nervous about the Z project, but I’d like to stay on it and take on some work for the similar project that just came up because I’d like to build my confidence and proficiency in this area.” I don’t have to set up special meetings on my own to raise that (though I could if I wanted to) and so far there has been no pressure for me to change my goals to “I’d like a promotion” instead of “I’d like to get better in my role as an individual contributor.”

    3. Free Meerkats*

      I worked the same job for 28 years, same employer, same cube, same manager and was perfectly happy. When he retired, I took over as manager mainly in self-defense; I knew it wasn’t going to be more than about 3 years until I retired and didn’t want to work for an unknown quantity for that time. I don’t really like managing people, but knew I could do it for that long. Besides, the bump in pay for that time has really helped my retirement finances. :)

    4. AcademiaNut*

      I think it is on the manager to bring up the topic initially, rather than waiting for the employee to initiate a discussion about career growth. Not all employees know that this is a discussion they can have with their boss and not all employers are receptive to employees discussing career growth that may result in them eventually moving to a new job.

      If the employee is clear that they’re happy in their job as it is, and aren’t interested in moving up/on, then the manager can be specific about what this looks like at this employer. Is there a salary cap for the position (excluding COL increases), for example. What are the expectations about keeping skills current in an evolving field?

      Then they can put it in the employee’s court; if they change their mind, it’s up to them to initiate a new conversation.

      1. Media Monkey*

        totally agree. in a previous role where i had worked with the same boss for years (and had also come back from mat leave a year or so before – this fact is likely not immaterial!) i had been taking everything that was thrown at me, had a massive workload and great feedback from clients, smashed my objectives, but never seemed to progress. i did raise it with my boss and he said he didn’t think i was ambitious – he’d never asked (likely deliberately because he didn’t want to have to find someone to take over mny current workload). i suspect there are groups of people (maybe women/ minorities) who are less likely to explicitly push for promotions/ payrises who will be more affected by a boss who doesn’t ask!

      2. Snow Globe*

        I agree with this – I once had a discussion with a relatively new employee about career growth, and he was shocked. He told me that in previous jobs, managers really didn’t want to discuss the possibility of a good employee leaving (even within the same company); he was surprised that I was offering to support him in his career development. (This surprised me, because I had always worked for managers who did this, and this was a fairly low level job; of course most people are going to move on eventually.)

      3. MigraineMonth*

        When I started at my current company, the manager made it clear to me that there wasn’t a clear path to promotion unless I wanted to become a manager; I’d basically be waiting for someone to retire. That put a cap on my payscale, but at least I was getting regular raises as my tenure increased.

        I got a new manager who thought that was ridiculous and knew that he would lose his best people if there was no path to higher pay. He went all out to get a new “level” of my position approved so that I had a path to promotion while still doing the same work. His position was that if I was happily doing the work that needed to be done at a high level of expertise, they should be paying me enough to continue doing so.

    5. learnedthehardway*

      While it’s just fine for people to not move up if they don’t want to, the manager could support their employee by ensuring that the person gets training on any new technologies, best practices, and other developments in their function. Perhaps support them to get certifications in their area, or learn adjacent areas so they are cross-functionally trained.

      Another thing the manager can do is to advocate for the employee to be designated a subject matter expert in their company. Some companies do this deliberately (as in create a career track with compensation plans that reflect the SMEs increasing value to the company as they specialize) to accommodate people who really want to just do the function, but not to take on management / supervisory responsibilities.

      An approach with the employee could be that the manager recognizes they want to be a career individual contributor, and that if so, it’s important that the employee develop themselves so that they are always bringing a contribution that advances as the company advances its technologies, etc. This will also help the employee remain current and employable (should they leave the company). It will also help the employee be able to achieve some level of compensation increase over time, while not outpacing the value they bring (which would make them vulnerable to being replaced by someone les expensive).

    6. Forever an Individual Contributor*

      I have for years put “Remain an Individual Contributor”, in my “what do you want to do when you grow up?” section of my annual performance review. I would make a good tech lead, but would not enjoy it due to too many meetings. Since Colorado requires salary information to be posted in job reqs, I can even see that there would not be much/any salary increase. There is a parallel technical track and I had to be talked into my last promotion on it because I wanted to make sure that my job duties would remain the same.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, my first promotion I fought hard for but then my most recent one was an unexpected promotion with my annual review–I felt a little bad because my boss was clearly so excited to tell me about it but I wasn’t sure I wanted it. I asked if I would be expected to put in more hours, and was assured that she wanted to be moving me to higher-level work but not at more hours so then I got on board.

    7. amoeba*

      I would add that you can also help people grow inside their role! Now this is probably very dependent on the field, but for us, it would be great to attend industry conferences, maybe take courses on specific topics we’re interested in, possibly write some publications if you’re interested… basically all things that wouldn’t move you *away* from what you’re currently doing but just develop your skills further. Of course, if there’s really nothing of the sort that might be of interest for the employee, I wouldn’t force it (“do that course you’re not really interested in/don’t need so you have done some development!”), but it might be worth looking into.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Yes and for some people and in some roles, development within their role may be exactly what they want. I am a learning support/resource teacher and currently have no interest in moving up. I would hate to be a principal, deputy principal or year head. I don’t want anything that takes me out of the classroom or involves increased interaction with parents or with workplace politics.

        But I have done numerous upskilling courses, have taken on the position of coordinator for a programme for students with learning difficulties (a voluntary role) and have done training in and become the person who assesses students’ reading ages and eligibility for exam accommodation. I have actually told one of the other members of our learning support team that I’m happy to do those things if she and the SENCO do the workplace politics stuff and the stuff like speaking to parents to recommend investigation for diagnosis, etc.

      2. Abundant Shrimp*

        Exactly – in my field, one can learn forever as new tech never stops coming out. I’d be happy to continue growing in that manner vs vertically.

    8. TeapotNinja*

      I would be crystal clear about what it means for the employee, though.

      For example, in most organizations it means the employee’s salary is going to stagnate unless there was some other way to increase the employee’s contributions in the company.

      1. bamcheeks*

        It’s also part of the manager’s role to raise this as a concern with your own managers, then. There aren’t many organisations where constant promotion for everyone is feasible or desirable, and it’s counter-intuitive if staying in the same role long-term means your pay drops in real terms.

      2. Abundant Shrimp*

        Another tale of caution – two months into my first Fortune 500 company job, the older man who sat next to me was forced into early retirement and left. He’d been with the company 30+ years and hadn’t moved up much in that time, and at one point they told him that his annual raises had added up to the amount where they couldn’t afford him anymore and would he like to please leave? It sounds like an awful choice to me, but if forced to choose between “manage people” or “get the ax”, I’ll have to go with managing people, as much as I don’t want it.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Since I have the privilege of finding a new job pretty easily, I’d rather get laid off than shoved into a job that requires me to manage people and deal with office politics. Pretty sure Manager Me would be the worst possible version of me.

    9. SarahKay*

      Agreed wholeheartedly.
      I love my current job as an individual contributor – I’m good at it but still with enough new things to learn to keep me engaged, it pays enough, and I like who and where I work. I’ve also had a very clear discussion with my manager that if I get given people to manage I will leave; this is my number one deal breaker.
      He intermittently sends me opportunities within the company (we’re a huge multi-national co) but always with a note that it’s just in case I am interested, and that there is no expectation for me to do anything with them. He’s also given me (with my agreement) a couple of short-term assignments supporting other roles or areas which give me exposure to the wider company beyond my site.
      I have excellent annual reviews and when we discuss my results he checks with me that I’m still happy where I am (Yes!) and in return expresses that he’s very happy to keep me where I am if that’s what I want.
      This is a manger that is supporting me to grow and develop, but in my current role which is exactly what I want.

    10. Bagpuss*

      Yes – I think it is appropriate for managers to raise it and make clear that the option is there, as of course some people may be interested but not realise that they would have the option or would be supported by their manager , but it’s importnat not to put pressure on people who don’t want to make that move.

      (My dad had this situation, he was in a technical role but the only way ‘up’ was to move into management, which he adamantly did not want, and that moving ‘up’ was the only possible way to get a higher salary.
      Once he made clear that he was willing and able to leave for a role elsewhere , they discovered that they could, in fact, find a way to increase his pay without forcing him into management, but it was an incredibly short-sighted policy…he was a unicorn with some very valuable, very niche skill combination and a huge breadth of knowledge, do forcing him out of a role where he could use those very valuable skills and into one he would hate and be terrible at was an awful plan. And one contributing factor to his being a unicorn was that the majority of people who had his background knowledge had been ‘promoted’ to management so hadn’t continued to build on that knowledge and integrate it with the newer changes, and the younger didn’t have that same depth of knowledge of what to look for 5 or 6 layers down.)

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Oof, that is very short-sighted of your father’s company to just keep promoting their SMEs to management so they only had inexperienced “SMEs” aside from your dad. I’m the database admin in my very small non-profit. I have zero interest in management ever but my org is pretty good about letting me learn more about the platform and improve my skills. I’m still nowhere near an expert, but I know a heck of a lot more about the platform than I did when I started here almost three years ago, even though I’d been using the platform for several years at that point already.

        I do like AAM’s suggestion that the employee might say “I find meaning and challenge from other parts of my life, and this job supports that.” That is 100% how I feel about my job. I like some work challenges and I actually really enjoy the mindless tasks of cleaning up records and things like that, but I don’t need my day job to challenge me much because I have hobbies and a second part-time music career that nourish my soul. The day job is just to keep me and my cats fed and housed. (And honestly, more so the cats than me.)

    11. DameB*

      Q#5 — Exactly what Over It All says. I am one of those people, OP. I love my job, I am good at my job. I have, in my seven years with this company, expanded the scope of my job, but only once did I move “up.” It was a one-year assignment that involved managing people. I like to think I was good at it (I read Allison’s book! Thank you Allison) but I learned that I hated it. Words are easier than people.

      Since then, my managers have offered me the option of moving up three times and I have graciously declined. And I stay at this company (where I’m frankly underpaid) at least in part because, when I graciously decline, my managers say “that’s fine! Thanks for letting me know!”

    12. Jay (no, the other one)*

      I climbed the ladder early- and mid-career and it was not good for me. When I took my last job, knowing (or at least hoping) it would be my last job, it was a step back and I was very pleased with that. After three months, my boss met with me and said “I want to talk to you about your future in the company.” I said “No.” He looked a little panicked. I said “I have no intention of leaving. I love the work and I like the team a lot. I want to do this – just this. Nothing more. I absolutely do not want to move up.” He said “there are lots of opportunities!” and I said “Nope.”

      A year later he called and said “I know what your answer will be. I was told I have to ask you to apply for a regional director position in Different State.” I laughed. He said “Yup, that’s what I told them.”

    13. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      I agree with you but the “I will make it 100% clear to them” also sounds like you might think it’s pressuring people for managers to even talk to them about their career goals, which I disagree with.

    14. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yes, I’m happy where I am and I do not want to move up–partly because I’m not interested in managing people and partly because I do not want the expectation of being more available outside of work hours which higher level people at my company seem to have. I think I’m the only person left on my team who has refused to download Teams onto my phone (there was another person but they transferred internally last year).

      When my company recently wanted to bring people back in for a hybrid work model I was clear I was not happy with the decision and worked to find a way to stay home (which ended up being a medical accommodation for ADHD). My boss was very supportive of me throughout the process and at one point said that she didn’t want to lose me because she saw me eventually stepping into her place! I felt really blindsided when she said it and didn’t really respond but in a future meeting had to try to awkwardly be like “I really appreciate all the support and I’m so flattered you would think that of me… but I am really not interested in moving into that role” and hope that she wouldn’t support my fight to stay WFH less as a result.

    15. Abundant Shrimp*

      Thirding this. My current, wonderful, boss, once talked to me about looking into moving one level up, but then added that it would mean I’d have to move to another team and no longer work for him. My responsibilities would have completely changed, my work-life balance (from what I heard about working on the team I would’ve moved to) would’ve gone from great to nonexistent, and I’d spent literal years trying to get on the team I am on now and do not want to leave! And that move would’ve been to a job title I’d been interested in for years. I could’ve just as well been offered to look into moving to a lead or manager position (which I would’ve been terrible at). Luckily we both agreed that it wouldn’t have been a good idea, and left it at that.

      Apparently, at one point, he was getting pressure from above because my pay had exceeded the max for my level. But then they adjusted the max for inflation and just like that, I was within the range again. (Adding this info as one possible reason why companies might pressure employees to move up.)

    16. Beth*

      Agreed. OP5, you’re right that good managers help their team members grow–but that means learning where they WANT to grow and helping them on that path, not assigning them growth that will take them towards a job change they don’t want.

      Maybe your employee would appreciate being given the option to lean into their favorite part of your team’s work and really become the go-to expert in it. Or maybe they’d be invigorated by branching out into something your team does but that they haven’t spent much time on personally. Maybe you have a cross-functional area where they’d be a great representative of your team to other parts of your organization. Maybe their real goal is a less in-office one like work-life balance; maybe they’re at a time in their life where they’re leaning into being very efficient and skilled at work so they can have more space to handle other demanding parts of their life. If you think of supporting their growth as helping them to meet the goals they’ve set for themselves, rather than helping them get a promotion, I bet you’ll find some paths opening up.

    17. Elle Woods*

      Yes. A friend of mine is perfectly content in his current role. He has been in it for several years and excels at it. His manager is fine with it too. It’s a rare win-win in his field.

  2. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

    I didn’t even have to read #1 to say “Oh, helllll no.”

    The only thing you can say to that is, “thank you” because they really saved you the time of figuring out how bananapants they are.

    1. Sue*

      My reaction was a belly laugh and “that’s a good one!”
      Very hard to believe the person was seriously saying such a ludicrous thing.

      1. LW1*

        Oh she was serious as a heart attack, and seriously believed that I was plotting against her somehow.

        1. DannyG*

          Reminds me of a sign on one of the ships in the movie “Battleship”: “In G_d we trust, all others we track”.

        2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          MY COMPANY requires employees to take a cyber security course every year. It’s the same stuff, updated with new and worse ways people are manipulated. The ONLY THING that has NOT changed in THIRTY YEARS is the opening statement:
          “If someone one asks you to do something that goes against your self interest they are trying to take advantage of you.”
          Notice it even reads “your best interest” and they flesh it out: your job, your money, your information.
          So I fully believe if someone in my company said, “sign this. You don’t have to read it,” and I pencil whipped that thing off my desk, it would have to be a test and I would be in remedial security class faster than I could say, “but I was just being loyal!”

    2. Ellis Bell*

      My favourite part was “she assumes you are trying to figure out what you can get away with”, because yeah that sounds really trusting!

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        It seems like projecting. She would get away with whatever she can (perhaps by slipping it into the middle of a bunch of wording… but also in other situations) and so expects others would try the same. This won’t be the last slippery thing from this boss.

        1. Random Dice*

          Some fears tell you a lot about the person. This one tells you that she believes workers don’t have rights, and that she is personally untrustworthy.

          1. MassMatt*

            …and that things like company policies are evidently boilerplate nonsense to be skipped over. How does anyone there know basic rules and procedures?

        2. Wintermute*

          ding ding ding you win!

          People always generalize for the self, especially if they don’t have a lot of self-awareness about their flaws. Liars assume they will be lied to because that’s what THEY would do. Cheaters assume everyone cheats. Thieves assume everyone steals.

      2. Irish Teacher.*

        Yeah, that was bizarre. “The only reason somebody would want to know what rules they are expected to follow is to find loopholes.” I mean…what? That doesn’t even make sense.

        My best guess is that she hates reading contracts and stuff and doesn’t bother and has convinced herself it’s not necessary if you are trusting and those that do have some nefarious reason. Sometimes when people don’t want to do something they know they should, it makes them defensive and they find reasons to criticise those who do what they really believe is “the right thing”.

        1. ferrina*

          It definitely shows you how she thinks. For her, blind trust is the only kind of trust.

          I mean, yes, I do read documents to figure out what I can get away with and what the other party is trying to get away with (I’m deeply analytical and deeply mischievous), but I also read documents to understand what the other party expects of me and what they think I expect of them, and clear up any misunderstandings hopefully before it causes issues.

          This supervisor expects that everyone thinks the way that she does, blind loyalty is the only way forward, and critical thinking is an inherent threat to her (to be fair, given how she thinks, logic and questioning probably are a threat to her assumptions)

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Someone has to read the fine text with deviousness set to high. A couple of years ago the New Hampshire legislature failed to do this and accidentally legalized murder by pregnant persons for a short time.

        2. Wintermute*

          I think this is the most charitable interpretation; she’s in mild denial about how contracts work and is projecting her complicated feelings onto the LW. This is actually pretty likely like you said

          That said I like to assume the boss isn’t a bad person but the risk is just too great, people who act like this very very often do it because:

          A) They can’t gaslight you if you have evidence so they want to ensure you never obtain evidence; that way they can play calvinball with you and you can’t prove or disprove you were never told and, in fact, that rule does not exist.

          B) They are a chronic skivver who is always looking for an angle or a loophole and they are generalizing this to assume everyone behaves as they do.

          C) They have an intensely adversarial view of the employee/employer and employee/manager relationship, and take the view that the norm for the whole world is that companies try to dun over the employees for every last cent and the employees return the favor.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      Makes you wonder what the manager slipped into those documents that she didn’t want the employees to be aware they’d agreed to!!

      Always read the fine print!!!!!!

      1. bamcheeks*

        If it’s anything like my organisation, these aren’t policies the boss developed but organisational ones managed by HR, information governance, health and safety, IT and so on. The whole point of signing them is to say you’ve read them and understand them so you can’t come back and say you didn’t know you weren’t supposed to call the CEO names on Twitter!

        I would be tempted to mention this to HR, because this is such a bizarre way to treat these documents that it makes you wonder what other bananapants stuff she’s doing.

        1. FashionablyEvil*

          The whole point of signing them is to say you’ve read them and understand them so you can’t come back and say you didn’t know you weren’t supposed to call the CEO names on Twitter!

          Exactly! Our organization makes you review and re-acknowledge the code of conduct every year for exactly this reason. Makes dealing with difficult employees much easier to say “your behavior is not aligned with the code of conduct and must change.”

        2. Antilles*

          The whole point of signing them is to say you’ve read them and understand them so you can’t come back and say you didn’t know
          In fact, in my experience, the documents will often include a statement right above the signature line explicitly saying this. “By signing, I acknowledge that I have received a copy of the Employee Handbook and agree to follow these policies” or something of that sort.

        3. Random Dice*

          I’ve definitely worked places where the point WAS to slip illegal stuff into writing.

          You must sign this statement that illegally prohibits discussion of salaries because we know that most of you won’t know the law, and we don’t want to have to pay fair salaries to women.

          You must sign this release of all your medical information to company nurses “to advocate for you” even though they’ll just harass anyone who’s too sick.

          You must sign this noncompete clause for a junior position even though it’s never going to make it past legal challenge, cuz most of you won’t find a lawyer.

          Companies can (and do) really tilt the scales if they choose.

        4. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          Wouldn’t stop the boss from slipping in her own policies, you know just for her department. There’s been letters about that before.

          But honestly she just striked me as one of those bosses that trust and loyalty are a one way street, towards the company. The employee should be grateful to just have a job.

          1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

            oh yes, she would be the first one writing that:
            -her employee was not deferential when given money from the company emergency fund after they’d screwed up her paycheck for three weeks.
            -the employee was not willing to loose college study stipend money to work more hours selling things in a boutique.
            -the employee didn’t understand how I expected her to pick up the extra shift even though it was the day of her college graduation just because another time, I the manager made an exception and gave the night of to the guy who’d bought U2 tickets after I put him on the schedule

        5. Wintermute*

          Yes! and this is why I lean towards “this is probably misguided but not malicious behavior” because it would be truly bizarre to try to run a team like they’re playing Calvinball and you only tell them the rules after they impact something important or are broken.

          1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

            shout out to Calvinball and it’s later iteration from Big Daddy, “Julian Wins.”

    4. Bagpuss*

      Yes, I suppose that the only way you could deal with it diplomatically would be to say something like “That’s an unusual take – I’ve always heard it the other way round, that you shouldn’t trust anyone who wants you to sign something without reading it – it it possible that whoever taught you that had got mixed up?”

      But yeah, it’s such a bonkers take that staring in utter confusion seems like a totally normal and appropriate response.

      I’m a lawyer. I *always* read the small print. And I would be very suspicious of anyone who tried to convince me not to. (and yes, I have had times when I have had fun with dodgy salespeople who don’t ask me what I do for a living until they have already dug themselves quite a deep hole…)

      1. Random Bystander*

        Yeah, makes me think of those door-to-door folk that come around trying to get you to sign up for their company for energy “you’ll still get your bill from [utility company] but we will be supplying the gas/electricity” who are telling me that they’ll save me 20% but can’t quote a price per therm/kilowatt unless they “see my bill”.

        Entertained hearing the pitch once, but as soon as they claimed that they could only give a quote after seeing my bill, I told them to get lost. If they see my bill, they would have the account number and I don’t trust them with that info. Of course, I don’t trust any door to door salespeople for any product, but I’d rather not have an essential service like my utilities at risk.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Good call telling them to get lost when they wanted to see your bill — I work for a utility and customer account numbers are incredibly sensitive information that we protect similarly to the way we protect credit card information.

        2. JustaTech*

          My brother did that job for a while and you’re 100% right to not trust those sales people! (In general the sales people are just desperate, but the companies are scammy as anything.)

      2. boof*

        While I totally agree with that take, probably the most productive statement would be to move it away from loaded “Trust” issues and to a puzzled “but how will I know what policies are standard if I don’t read them?” Act like you’re really just trying to be a diligent employee and save boss time from having to ask questions / messing things up that are basic.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        Last year I alerted someone that while their emails about the contract had referred to 21337, the actual contract had a reference of 21357. No one got het up about trust issues.

    5. Random Dice*

      #1 is a giant neon blinking RUN AWAY billboard surrounded by a decorative forest of red flags.

      Seriously LW. There is no way this is her only Deeply Problematic view about (the lack of) workers rights.

      Get out.

    6. AnonInCanada*

      “Here, boss, I need you to sign this. No, don’t read it. Don’t you trust me? Just sign it right there. Excellent! Thank you for deeding your house to me. You have 20 minutes to move everything out before I leave whatever I don’t want on the curb.”

      Seriously, what kind of bonkers world does this boss live in?

    7. On Fire*

      Several years ago, we were making an offer on a house. The realtor was Very Put Out that I read every word of the paperwork before we signed. Caveat: it was the afternoon of Christmas Eve or Dec. 23, don’t remember which, so I kind of understood her wanting to get home, but a) we were still inside business hours and b) I’m not signing a contract obligating myself to thousands of dollars without reading it!

      (We didn’t get the house. The realtor we used later had been the seller’s agent on that house and told us it actually sold for less than our offer, but ended up having some structural problems that nobody knew about until the buyer started to replace floor coverings. So it worked out best for us.)

    8. aebhel*

      I feel like people like this boss always think of their personal rules (or their personal company policy) as some sort of quasi-religious ‘good person’ doctrine that everyone should just follow naturally. If you have to actually read it to find out how you’re supposed to behave, then you’re obviously evil.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        “their personal rules (or their personal company policy) as some sort of quasi-religious ‘good person’ doctrine that everyone should just follow”
        I’ll go one further, that you should just know.
        Why would you read it?
        Don’t you KNOW how to behave?

    9. Reluctant Mezzo*

      Yes, and who knows what invisible clauses are in there? (why, yes, I am giving Hermione Granger the side-eye over that one).

    10. Freya*

      My ‘favourite’ is the waivers that have very clearly been copied off of the American templates on the internet, and the multitude of people who get weird when you write “except as excluded by Australian law” next to the clauses that would otherwise completely void the waiver.

      (said waiver being kinda unenforceable here anyway because it’s been written in legalese and not layman-speak and no one has summarised it or ensured anyone understands it because they assume you’ll just sign it without looking…)

  3. MassMatt*

    #1 How bizarre to expect someone not to read the on-boarding documents without reading them as a trust display. It makes me think of people who invest all their 401k money in employer stock to show their “loyalty”. Yikes. No kidding this was a toxic workplace!

    1. Daisy*

      Dollars to donuts that same boss would pull out the signed paperwork and cite whatever sentence as proof the employee agreed to do whatever. Definitely a workplace full of bees.

    2. Aeryn Sun*

      Employee loyalty is a bizarre concept for me. If a company needed to they wouldn’t hesitate to kick you to the curb. When I got laid off due to COVID the company I worked for checked the fine print to get me the least I could get for my severance. They’re not going to ignore the fine print out of trust for you, why should you ignore it out of trust for them?

    3. ferrina*

      Also- how are the employees going to know what the rules/expectations are if they don’t get a list of them? Onboarding documents exist so folks know what is expected (both now and as a reference in the future).

      Does she expect people to just….magically know what she wants the to do? …..she does, doesn’t she?

  4. MAOM7*

    L4 – Yes, leave them alone! I’ve been doing effectively the same job for 25 years, between two institutions. Have I learned and grown in the role? Yes. Have I kept up with technology changes, learned how to manage processes better/more efficiently, and streamlined many of the processes I walked into? Yes! Yet I have no desire to move up in my organization. My work-life balance is darned near perfect, my stress is manageable even when my work is busy, and I am comfortable and content. I have no desire to get into a leadership position – I’ve watched that structure grind up and spit out perfectly capable people, because it is vicious, and it isn’t what I want in life. You can always bring up a discussion about whether they want to move up at their yearly evaluation or performance appraisal, but if they express that they are content where they are, then you need to leave it be!

  5. Magenta Sky*

    You know who else expects me to sign things without reading them? Con artists. Scammers. Thieves.

    This is so far beyond the pale, it’s unreasonable to even have to explain why it’s bad.

    1. Jackalope*

      I can’t imagine trying to work at a new place without reading whatever their rules are (or the general basic ones, anyway). And signing stuff without reading it is a recipe for disaster.

    2. Sleve*

      You can also add ‘unscrupulous family members in Agatha Christie novels’ to that list – which doesn’t really help the supervisor’s case much.

      1. MPerera*

        Heh. I was thinking of a scene in an Agatha Christie novel too, where someone gave an heiress a bunch of things to sign on her honeymoon (believing she’d be distracted) and slipped one particular document into the stack. But she still read everything, to the point where the guy trying to trick her had to stop the signing before she saw through his scheme.

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          It’s in Death on the Nile. However there are quite a few other Christie stories where documents such as wills are either falsified or unsigned.

        2. Irish Teacher.*

          And her husband is like, “I never read anything. I figure I can trust people” and somebody gets the impression the lawyer is wishing he could deal with the husband. So yeah…wanting to deal only with people who don’t read documents before signing is a major red flag.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            I don’t think you can really spoiler a 1937 book, but it’s worth remarking that it’s the clever wife who is murdered, and the lazy husband who dunnit. In other words, people who don’t read the small print are murderers. QED.

            1. Insert Clever Name Here*

              AND that the sleazy lawyer, after hearing the husband admit he never reads anything, “accidentally” pushes a boulder off a cliff above where our heiress is standing. People who tell you not to read the small print are attempted murders ;)

              (Excellent book, highly recommend.)

        3. Warrior Princess Xena*

          There’s a similar scene in a Dorothy Sayers novel! And similarly there is a murderess involved.

          1. Ms. Murchison*

            I was thinking about that — it was in “Unnatural Death.” Came out 10 years before “Death on the Nile.” :)

    3. goddessoftransitory*

      I’m picturing this boss as having an office that is a pickup truck with the engine running.

    4. John Smith*

      Hire car companies, certain High Street tech sellers, banks (historically), car dealerships, anyone with a website….

      1. Margaret Cavendish*

        Yes, that’s exactly what I would have done! I’ve never had much of a poker face, so if my brain is feeling “utter confusion,” you can guarantee it will show up in my expression as well.

        1. RVA Cat*

          This. One time a shady supervisor wanted me to sign a blank performance review. So glad that even as a naive 20-something I had the presence of mind to not to. IIRC I pointed it out like he’d printed the wrong document which let him save face.

    5. Snow Globe*

      I think when the boss says she suspects people of trying to figure out what they can get away with, that tells you a lot about how the boss operates in general.

      1. I Have RBF*

        Well of course, I’m trying to figure what I can get away with – can I wear shorts and flip flops in the office, do I really have to change my password every 45 days, can I talk about my workplace on social media, can I install my own software on my computer? In reading most company policies, the answer to all of these is “No”, but you’d have to read the policy to know that. HR demanded that we read and sign, to indicate that we read the documents! (Signing says you read the docs, signing without reading is lying.)

        IMO, that boss automatically assumes the worst of people, and it’s probably all projection.

        I would not stop my job search after that BS, quite frankly.

        1. Freya*

          “Signing says you read the docs, signing without reading is lying”… and lying to the company about Important Things is a fireable offence…

  6. Bruce*

    LW4: If there are meetings I can’t attend I let my boss and the organizer know and then I skip them. “Sorry, I have a conflict / urgent task this week”. I also try to prune my schedule since I get invited to a lot of meetings. If I decline officially and someone thinks I really need to join on a particular day they can let me know,

    1. MassMatt*

      There are lots of meetings that could be skipped, but one thing I would suggest is that meetings are not just about the agenda (it sounds as though the agenda for this one is light) but to see and be seen with your peers. It might be worth an occasional appearance if there people you only see in these meetings, or decision makers.

      1. Tinkerbell*

        Yes, absolutely! The meetings aren’t only for you to socialize, it’s for others to have access to *you*. For some people/positions this would be really important, others much less so!

        1. Miss Muffett*

          I think this is a part of the meeting the OP is really missing: that the access to THEM and their experience, to help others, may be a valuable part of the meeting. That doesn’t mean going to every single one, but I would say, especially for a meeting that infrequent, that you are going to them more often than not.

      2. English Rose*

        And also as the meetings LW refers to are so infrequent – every other month or so – I would bite the bullet and go anyway. Sometimes things are about appearances – both literal and figurative appearances.

        1. Also-ADHD*

          It depends how many and what they conflict with though—I have a fair bit of meetings like that and when they conflict with actual project meetings, I skip them with impunity because that impacts deadlines.

          1. ferrina*

            This. It depends on how it impacts other work and how many other opportunities OP has to connect with these folks.

        2. Lenora Rose*

          I’d be tempted to go to every second or third if that was the case.

          My current workplace rarely seems to have meetings that aren’t actually necessary or relevant, and it is so nice. My pre-Pandemic one had monthly meetings for the department which were of the 10 minutes relevant to me and 40 minutes of other stuff at best, and quarterly updates for everyone at this location, which were never ever directly work related but were at least mildly interesting (and sometimes provided breakfast, or popcorn!) If I’d been there any longer I would have started looking into skipping every second one of the monthly, and at least one of the quarterly each year.

      3. Big Chungus*

        Exactly what I came here to say, meetings are not just a list of tasks to be done. They are also a way of meeting with your colleagues to develop a working environment and is an essential part or working with a team.
        LW4, if you only attend task-based meetings, how do you think you come across to the other people you work with? “Only cares about work”, “Can’t be bothered to talk to us”, “thinks they are better than us”?

        1. JSPA*

          “only cares about work” (in terms of time use) is a perfectly good attitude to have, in many workplaces, though.

          Yes, you should care that your coworkers are complex human beings with lives and likes and needs.

          But that’s very different from assuming that you’re each other’s social network. The best way to indicate that you care for them (and their already busy, already complex lives) is often to let them concentrate on work, and to network only when mutually desired and convenient. Not to emesh yourself further than what happens naturally in the course of passing chats that happen naturally, while working together.

          It is sometimes in the interests of management to use work relationships to forge ties that hold people longer than they’d otherwise stay, or hold them on site for longer hours. And it’s temporarily nice for those who don’t have a life outside of work. But frankly, getting a life outside of work is much healthier than subsisting on the “friendship-lite” of work relationships.

          And reading “too busy” as “stuck up” or “snooty” is an “eye of the beholder” problem, frankly.

          1. Jackalope*

            I don’t think it’s something that indicates disfunction in the company to want coworkers to have some awareness of each other as people. It’s can be, obviously, but it also makes things easier to have a little bit of social lubricant to make everyone feel more comfortable with each other. I don’t normally hang out with my coworkers – I have exactly one at my current office that I’ve done something social with outside of work. But even just knowing people a little bit makes it easier to know who to go to for problem X or issue Y, for example, because I know which people really understand X and Y better than others in their positions. It also makes people feel more accessible to each other. I don’t know the LW’s situation here but if the meeting is every other month then it may well be a good soft skills investment into her job to make a point of attending so she can work on this part of things.

            1. Umami*

              Agreed! In my field, so much of what makes me and my team successful is the relationships we have built within our team and within our organization. What we do is highly visible and easy to critique, so the more people understand what we do and why, the more grace we can get when things invariably go awry. Sometimes just knowing what other people ‘actually’ do beyond just their job title is a huge benefit as well.

              Also, if it’s a standing meeting (like mine, 2nd Wednesday of the month), then there’s less excuse to having conflicts. I generally expect my team to schedule around our division meetings, and that they will come to me if they do have a conflict so we can determine the best course of action.

          2. ecnaseener*

            But it still might be worth avoiding those impressions to make life easier for yourself at work. It’s all very well to say “that’s their problem,” but if people don’t want to work with you it can become your problem.

          3. Martin Blackwood*

            I’m definitely not reading “assuming that you’re each other social network” here, unless I’ve mised something saying exactly that. But I’m in a situation where literally yesterday the issue of not knowing people in other departments got brought up at a department meeting. I’m in a production role, and I do not know all the project coordinators still! These are the people I go to when there’s a potential issue. While a semi monthly meeting is impractical in my case, being able to see those people say “this is who I am, these are my major accounts” and make an offhand joke, have them availible to clarify how something works on their end, Would Be A Positive. Passing chats really only do so much even when you’re in adjcent areas where that can actually happen, not in Seperate Rooms For Security Reasons. Theres also maybe a company problem in my case, because I get the sense from my manager that those passing chats aren’t really common.

            Agreed on your last point tho. But having Vaguely Positive interactions with people doesn’t equal using them for your social life. OP might be able to go to every other one at least, I think.

          4. Stuckinacrazyjob*

            This sort of thing is also why people don’t want to move up. lol. If the LW does his work, he’s snooty and if he doesn’t, he’s not doing his work. He just can’t win.

          5. Old and Don't Care*

            The OPs question referred to meetings about work-related topics, not social networks.

            1. Umami*

              They were referring specifically to a standing, recurring group meeting, and those meetings usually have a broader purpose. For example, I have a monthly division meeting for my entire division to ensure that I provide updates on certain topics (such as HR updates, budget, vacation utilization, etc.) and then updates from each department to share with the team. It’s a collaborative meeting that doesn’t necessarily help each individual with their particular job, but it’s one way we ensure that everyone is receiving important organizational updates first-hand. But there is another aspect at work in that these diverse departments have the opportunity to interact and get to know more about each other and what work they are involved with, and creates synergy when topics are discussed around folks who aren’t in the weeds on them and can offer a different perspective. People are expected to attend, but if someone has an occasional conflict, they can miss it as long as they sign off on receiving and reading the meeting minutes (so I know they got the organizational updates). I would advise the LW to definitely ask if it’s OK to mis if there is a conflict, but I would have a deeper discussion with them if they wanted to opt out because they didn’t see the direct value to their job.

        2. metadata minion*

          I don’t see any indication that the LW doesn’t interact with their colleagues in more informal/social ways outside of meetings. There are plenty of ways to develop team cohesion other than meetings, and their colleagues might just as well think “oh, LW is really busy” or “hey, wait, we can skip this meeting??” This is a bizarre reach.

  7. Babanon5*

    #3 – it feels like the letter writer is comfortable with the outcome, but it’s not clear that others are. If I (female) saw my male boss kiss someone against their will I would want to know the details on how this is going to be prevented going forward. I may not think the measures are good enough. I don’t think it’s LWs responsibility to share the details, but I think just saying it’s been handled is unfair to the other people. I think she should say something more like “I’m comfortable with the outcome, thanks for checking! But Maria from HR has lots of details on the next steps boss is taking if you want to talk to her about any of your own concerns.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      It’s an interesting point because I don’t think there’s much “Maria from HR” would be able to add. Presumably they won’t tell colleagues (even if they are concerned) that the boss has agreed to go to AA etc, nor even the alcohol situation itself (especially as that is actually classed as a medical condition), even though it is probably well known or ‘obvious’ to people since it is often more apparent than the person thinks (I have had this situation myself with a manager who would still smell of alcohol in the morning, unable to function until lunchtime and without large amounts of coffee etc – this happened several times a week). So yes, going to discuss with HR is OK but may not yield much. I think all that can be said is “he’s agreed a set of actions to avoid a repeat of this and HR will be working with him closely to track that” (will they though? Does HR have standing to follow up on his progress woth AA? – not sure.)

      1. Sunny*

        That’s probably true but I think it’s still the better solution for OP. It’s not on them to deal with the rest of the office’s feelings, nor is it on them to defend/explain HR’s approach. And if enough people go to HR, it’ll be clear that the response wasn’t satisfactory or that further communication or what have you is needed to the broader group.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I think HR needs to take the lead on messaging for anyone else concerned about what happened. It is not Okay in any stretch to make OP responsible for messaging here.

      I will say I saw something on the surface similar happen. At first the messaging was “person was feeling unwell and tripped, hitting their face on the door jam.” After their bloodwork from the ER (they really started acting weirdly after hitting their face so a coworker took them to the ER – turned out he’d been given a drugged drink) came back the message changed to “Effective Immediately there will no longer be even a semi-official work happy hour at BAR due to recent events including an employee being served a drugged beverage.”

      1. Dee*

        I don’t know if that’s the messaging changing – I mean, it did – so much as actual understanding of the facts of the situation, as well.
        Your colleague was unwell and didn

      2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        I agree. Some people are going to ask OP her side of things anyway, so she should have something ready. But HR needs to put something out that it is handled. Perhaps OP can work with HR to cover both bases — It is handled, changes have been made, do not discuss with OP as she has approved the outcome.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      But it’s not really anyone else’s business, and the female employee isn’t in a position to comment on whether the company response was adequate. And it would be rude and inconsiderate to pester the employee about it. Asking if they are okay and making sure they feel supported by HR/the company is about as much as you should do.

      If you have further concerns, then the place to take them is HR. The employee shouldn’t need to tell anyone that. It’s not the employees’ responsibility to make other people feel protected.

      1. ecnaseener*

        It’s sort of other people’s business if they’re worried about it happening again, potentially to themselves. It’s also somewhat their business if they witnessed it. I don’t have the answer to how much should be divulged, but I don’t think we can say it’s not their business, they naturally have an interest in knowing whether they need to be afraid of their boss.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          THIS. If I saw a supervisor drunkely try to kiss an employee, I would be very concerned about how the company handles such things. I would want to know it was handled to the satisfaction of the employee. Also what steps are being taken to keep it from happening again. Because no one should be subjected to that.

          1. CommanderBanana*

            Yes, and this is such a tricky needle to thread. How can you make sure employees know issues have been addressed while still protecting people’s privacy? I’m pretty jaded because my last workplace had a serious problem with sexual harassment that they handled horribly.

            If I were an employee and saw someone try to drunkenly kiss their subordinate at an event, and that person still worked there, I think I’d assume nothing had been done and the organization tolerated that sort of behavior, because that’s what I’ve experienced.

        2. SomeWords*

          Then the manager should handle this. They have far more responsibility to address ongoing concerns of the rest of the staff than the victim. Badgering the victim for details is over the line.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        I can’t agree, it would be very reasonable for other women in the office to worry about their own interactions with the boss going forward. OP was impacted the most by what happened for sure, but they are not the only one affected by it.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            No one suggested that it was. Just that it is not accurate to say it’s no one else’s business.

            1. Lenora Rose*

              I’d say Babanon’s entire comment, despite the fuzzy caveat that of course she doesn’t have to, reads very much as “Of course she doesn’t have to, but she SHOULD.”

    4. Velociraptor on a Velocipede*

      “Maria from HR” can’t (and shouldn’t) share personal details of a specific case – but it would useful-for-concerned colleagues if LW can make it clear that HR has been genuinely helpful and can be trusted to be allies in a harassment situation.
      We get a lot of HR horror stories here (people don’t write to AAM when everything is going fine) leading to a lot of blanket “never trust HR” rhetoric. Plus there are all the ingrained cultural reasons why people (particularly women) don’t feel comfortable/safe to report inappropriate behaviour and harassment. So (if LW has the spoons to do it at the same time as coping with the whole situation) it’s really useful to let people know this particular HR department can be trusted to do the right thing.

    5. JSPA*

      “I obviously can’t tell you how to feel on your own behalf. Fot me, I’ve had friends benefit from the combination of unearned grace and strong HR intervention, when they were struggling with alcohol misuse. So I’m comfortable with doing that in this case.”

      (People who were secondarily affected can legitimately go to HR on their own behalf, and look for additional apologies, support, and accommodations, and the LW should of course not attempt to shut that down. This script only asks them not to be further outraged on the LW’s behalf.)

      1. LW3*

        Specifically to JSPA, this is partly where HR has been really good, and has been a big part of my response. Unearned grace helped a friend with an alcohol problem sort his life out and get sober, and the general view amongst people who know is that could be the silver lining to what’s happened. Plus i’m more a fan of restorative rather than punitive justice, but I think this is a wise approach. “I’m happy with it and with HR’s actions but if you feel unsafe it’s completely legitimate for you to approach them independantly it’s why they’re there”

        I have been told after my first approach other people did come forwards which is, something?

        1. Rachel*

          Unearned grace is giving him time off to pursue treatment programs.

          That tips into “too involved in work” when you made your deal conditional on entering a treatment program.

        2. JSPA*

          Eventually, most people know someone, I think. Or have been the someone, in some way, large or small.

          I’m a big believer in giving people room to prove that they’re better than their worst moments, if it’s safely possible. Especially when there’s a defined problem or trigger that is easily identified, realistically something that they can address, and when they can be monitored and held accountable.

          This in no way takes away from anyone’s ability to shut down people who hide ongoing predatory activities behind a stalking horse of “outside factor made me do it.” Nor does it hamper the ability to draw clear lines of, “not in any way acceptable.”

          But for a lot of people, “I legitimately didn’t know that could happen, and I’m mortified” is the wake-up call to make big changes; whether that’s getting sober, or realizing some problem of brain and body has rendered them unsafe behind the wheel, or no longer putting themselves in situtations that have potential to trigger any other significantly negative outcome.

          A single unforseen episode of severe boundary-crossing behavior should make everyone uncomfortable, and trigger follow-up. If the target of the behavior is traumatized, such that someone will have to leave, then the perp should take the hit, rather than the victim. But if that’s not the case, then no, the behavior should not automatically lead to firing, nor to ostracism.

          It’s to everyone’s benefit to have more healthy people, and fewer damaged outcasts. People heal better and become better when they’re embedded in society. So when unearned grace and restorative justice feel reasonable, it’s a social good, to make it happen.

          1. Rachel*

            “Monitored” is the big word here.

            It is not the role of a workplace to monitor and opine on addiction.

            I do not think this workplace should fire him or ostracize him. I think they should give him time off to seek professional mental health services.

            I do not think anybody employed at this company in any way should take on the role of monitoring an addict.

            1. LW3*

              There are some really interesting points here about the involvement of a workplace and monitoring that I’ll try to clarify without being specific enough to out myself.

              Absolutely in the usual course of things it’s literally none of my business if he gets some help, but it’s a small company think “we’re a family” but generally not in the bad way of “so we won’t pay your sick time and we have unreasonable demands”, I’d previously considered boss someone I was pretty friendly with, and it’s been a bit of an open secret he’s had problems with booze, he’s been on and off the wagon the entire time i’ve known him, so my suggested resolution to HR was essentially, an apology is non-negotiable, and I’d like him to commit to getting some help, but if he’d said no to that then I would’ve let it slide. But because of the small family style company, I think it was a bit the case that everyone even remotely involved wanted that for him, and as far as i’ve since been made aware it was something he’d already intended to do.

              The silver lining of it all really is that it came as the wake up call for “oh shit I can’t behave like this, at least not at a work event” so I think it’ll eventually all shake out for a long term good. Mostly, we all just want whats best for each other, as well as for the company.

          2. TootsNYC*

            >> It’s to everyone’s benefit to have more healthy people, and fewer damaged outcasts. People heal better and become better when they’re embedded in society. So when unearned grace and restorative justice feel reasonable, it’s a social good, to make it happen.

            So nicely said.

            1. GythaOgden*

              Yup. Forgiveness is a core tenet of many established religions for this reason. It varies between faiths who is responsible and who can do the forgiving, and at least in the Christian book I read on it just before Christmas it doesn’t preclude justice also being exacted or come automatically or forcibly /without/ rebuke and repentance, but it does avoid the temptation to turn every possible wrong into a situation demanding revenge, which ultimately only perpetuates a cycle of violence rather than heals it. It also ensures we don’t forget the times we’ve wronged others and work towards righting those wrongs, because the key concept is that we are also in need of forgiveness by others because of our own imperfections, and thus acting in an uncharitable or unmerciful manner is just inviting retaliation in kind rather than actually sorting out social problems.

              Other faiths have different emphases but keep the general principle of forgiveness being a way to acknowledge wrongs but stop them from spiralling out of control into more wrongdoing.

              Think of it like a fuse in an overloaded circuit — it doesn’t provide a consequence free way to do wrong (you’re still going to mess up the circuit and lose power) but it does stop things escalating dangerously and uncontrollably.

              The saying ‘An eye for an eye and we’re all blind’ comes to mind. It’s crucial to making us all take a step back and ask ourselves what we have to gain from this kind of action against someone else.

            2. Random Dice*

              He might still be employable, with massive life-wide changes.

              He should not be managing employees – especially women – any time soon.

              His redemption should NOT be put in advance of basic safety for women.

              But let’s be real, a male redemption arc will ALWAYS be put before female safety.

        3. Smithy*

          To the point of this thread, I just want to echo that for people still bringing this up – while they may be curious about what actually happened – I do think a way to give more without going into detail is to emphasize a comfort with going to HR and how HR handled this.

          With fairness, HR does not have a reputation across the board of being an entity that is there to help employees first. And while you can argue that what they did was to help the business first by helping you, the fact that it was done thoughtfully, tactfully, and with privacy is still a message you can share about this specific employer with your full chest. So while it doesn’t have to be about the specific outcome of this situation or a full chested cheerleading moment for HR, knowing that they did the right thing in this moment is a conversation worth continuing.

          1. GythaOgden*

            At this point, though, it’s no longer about the actual victim and about you more than anyone else. If you don’t trust HR, then unfortunately it still does not mean you get to place the burden of your feelings and worry on the person who was at the centre of the issue. It sucks sometimes (I have suffered from similar anxieties for a long time and definitely used other people’s reassurances as a coping mechanism at times, with similar results to what’s happening here), but no-one is responsible for your feelings on a matter except you yourself.

            1. Smithy*

              The OP asked for scripts on how to get back to normal. And completely shutting down all conversation about this is a less likely to be the way.

              Well earned, HR does not have a reputation of supporting staff over the institution. Women do not have a history of being defended in the workplace over poorly behaving senior men. And if the OP is looking to defuse and normalize conversation, then stressing that HR handled the situation well, that’s a better way to focus conversation. It allows to move the conversation off of the incident and focus on there being a resolution, but also that HR at this company is a place other women or junior staff can feel like they could go to in a similar situation.

              If the OP had written in and asked “do I have to talk about this” – the answer would be no and it is for others to manager their own feelings. But if the desire is to get things back to normal, that’s not going to be the most effective approach.

              1. LW3*

                There’s been some really interesting points raised here, and it’s definitely I think worth saying and something I have said to anyone who knows remotely that HR have actually been really great about it. One of my big panics was that in a previous job something similar/worse happened and HR’s response was to believe him and fire me. A great look for them. It’s also true that from how well they’ve handled my case they did also reach out to other people they thought might have been affected at the time to see if they wanted to make a report, and i’ve heard that other people have come forward about previous incidents that they didn’t previously feel they could/should’ve. So it’s one of those rare cases of “yay HR” even if you could argue that it’s because losing one senior man is less of a blow than 15 less senior people.

    6. LW3*

      I think there’s definitely been a degree of that from other people, because a lot of my colleagues have taken it much harder than I have. Some people do know the full truth of it because they’re my work friends and HR have said i’m welcome to tell whoever I feel comfortable telling, but it’s not exactly something I want to announce to the entire company.

      It’s true that there’s not much HR can add, but I guess maybe adding that it’s been dealt with appropriately by HR and that I’m comfortable to work with him again might help that a bit. Plus, everyone in the company does know that he’s been suspended for a while.

      1. Rachel*

        People with experience dealing with addiction fueled dual personalities might have a different opinion of this situation than you do, and that is okay.

        Drunk Boss is a walking, talking liability. A gigantic risk. I hope you understand that.

      2. metadata minion*

        I think that in your coworkers’ shoes, something vague but reassuring like “I’m pleased with how seriously HR took the incident” would help a lot, if you’re comfortable giving a bit more of an explanation.

        1. Distracted Librarian*

          I really like this wording. It’s short, doesn’t require OP to share a bunch of details, yet conveys that the company addressed the problem.

        2. Elsajeni*

          Yes, I was thinking that Alison’s script could use a little “… and I’m satisfied with that” addition — “It’s been handled” is fine, but “I’m happy/satisfied/pleased with how it was handled” feels a little more complete, might help reassure anyone who’s worried about whether your HR is generally trustworthy on this sort of thing, and might help dispel any “but is OP REALLY okay about this??” worries that your coworkers have.

    7. Washi*

      I agree, except I don’t think explaining this falls on HR.

      I think ideally the boss would apologize to the team as well for his behavior and potentially making other team members feel unsafe. Not fully the same situation, but I had a colleague get drunk and pick a weird fight with another employee, and afterwards she apologized to everyone and not just the one person. I’m sure it was really hard for her but it went a long way getting it out in the open and making it clear she understood the issue and was taking steps for it not to occur again.

      1. Washi*

        But that’s not on OP! That’s a conversation for HR to have with the boss. Allison’s language is good for what is in OP’s control.

    8. MCMonkeyBean*

      I was thinking I like Alison’s script but would maybe tweak it to say “it’s been handled to my satisfaction”

      I agree that it would be reasonable for other people who saw it to still feel uncomfortable–but I think it will just be on the boss to make sure he behaves extremely professionally and appropriately going forward and hopefully with time everyone who saw the event will be able to move on as well. (And I hope part of the handling of the situation was an understanding that if the boss fails to behave extremely professionally and appropriately going forward he will no longer work there…)

    9. TootsNYC*

      I agree! I came to say this.
      That it’s important to everyone—her peers, and to the people in HR who handled it well—to share that aspect of it.
      Details aren’t necessary, and the advice to specifically say, “I don’t want to rehash or go into details; I want to move on” is excellent.

      But adding: “I was comfortable with the way this was handled” is really valuable for her colleagues to know. And HR deserves the kudos.

    10. GythaOgden*

      I agree with the others that that’s putting more emotional labour on the victim than where it belongs on the perpetrator. I’ve been in that situation before (with something non-sexual but still felt to be inappropriate) and it’s really uncomfortable to be given the third degree about why I didn’t get more angry or worked up about it. Partly because I was new and had been out of the workforce for a while, meaning I didn’t have enough social capital to make a complaint and was unsure of any kind of frame of reference. Secondly, it wasn’t so much to protect the other person’s feelings as it was to put it behind me and look like it hadn’t bothered me. It had — but at the same time it was my mix-up and my mistake so it wasn’t a reaction I didn’t expect, if that made any sense.

      It’s like when people ‘splain to others. Mansplaining is the obvious example, but there’s a lot of ‘splaining that goes on by would-be allies to me as neurologically and physically challenged. It’s the same sort of idea as ‘internalised Xism’ — there are situations where that might well be the case, but in practice it’s often weaponised against people with different experiences or aspirations or opinions or whatever, even when dealing with more equivocal differences or differences in culture. It’s something that actually gets in the way of a lot of genuine social change because it can be used to invalidate different lived experiences and perpetuate this idea that members of minority groups are not actually individuals who transcend their external identity or sexuality or disability and need to be protected from certain things because they obviously have been brainwashed or whatever. That can be just as oppressive as older orthodoxies and hurt the real progress in favour of maintaining the tribalism that is tearing society apart in a lot of ways.

      I also try not to over-analyse situations as they happen. (I save that for posting online.) Forgiveness does not mean there can’t be justice (it exists mainly as a way of stopping the cycle of revenge from tearing relationships apart needlessly over petty matters rather than to paper over wrongs). Justice doesn’t have to be either restorative or punitive; it can be both. The person needs to understand why they’re wrong AND put things right. Understanding our own fallibility is also important and not setting ourselves up as arbiters in things that other people want to put behind them is also justice of a kind, particularly when it pertains to how a victim chooses to act. So if YOU want reassurance the issue was dealt with, you have to go to that extra effort rather than dump it on the person who has chosen to heal that hurt rather than keep reopening it. That goes hand in hand with saving the ‘internalised Xism’ for situations where it’s really obvious, not just when someone disagrees with you on the nuance of the situation or has had a different experience of it altogether.

      So yeah, I’d be rather upset if you were putting that burden on me to clarify things for your satisfaction rather than HR or the guy who did it. The aim of social justice is to create a better society, and allowing someone agency to choose their own path is better in the long run for justice than trying to seek what can end up becoming revenge if you’re not careful and pester someone into feeling that way until they actually get sick of the whole business entirely. Revenge benefits no-one and just perpetuates alienation between social groups and between individuals.

      It would be best to go to HR rather than demanding the person who is probably not wanting to reopen things prove it to you. It shows you really respect THEIR agency, their ability to act as a thinking individual and thus their personhood.

    11. Lenora Rose*

      I’m not sure why it’s the responsibility of the person it *happened to* to soothe the feelings of uncomfortable coworkers or deal with opinions that “it’s not good enough for me” from third parties.

  8. Annie*

    #1: “You’re right. I do read these to see what I can get away with. For example, will my favorite travel mug be considered appropriate for this office, or will I need to buy new one(s) before starting? If I find that the standard company issued mouse causes me pain, can I just bring in one I know I can use comfortably? If not, how do I get to use a more comfortable mouse in this office? What does the company allow outright and what requires a doctor’s note re: staying comfortable temperature-wise? Does the dress code require anything special?”

    Just a few of the things that can trip up new employees that don’t read office policy documents before signing off on them…

    1. Good companies have flexible rules*

      Will the company fix the problem when a 7.2khz + 7.8khz PSU whine starts coming from right behind my head that makes me want to shove a pen through either the equipment or my skull, or will I have to find some way of blocking out the noise myself? Will I be allowed to wear over-ear headphones? If yes, will the company supply them or will I have to buy them myself? If no, will I receive a write-up when the blood coming from my ears startles other people? Will I need a medical certificate to prove that the noise is actually making me lose my mind, or will they take my word for it?

  9. Anonychick*

    Granted, it’s not particularly adaptable to most people’s circumstances, but my go-to line when people tell me not to read the thing they want me to sign (which happens more often than I’d think!) is “I was raised by a lawyer and an editor. I read EVERYTHING!”

    1. John Smith*

      My dad was a trading standards officer (for non UK people, someone who enforces consumer law) and I can tell you some stories. He drilled into me to read *everything* I sign for and get anything said in writing if it was important enough. Going shopping with him for contractual things (mobile phone, hire car etc) was a hoot when sales reps tried skipping through paperwork only to come across his occupation. Some didn’t understand. Those who did….I wish I had a camera to immortalise the look of “ohhhh shit!” on their faces.

      1. Bagpuss*

        My personal favourite was back when I had my first home , at the time when energy companies were notorious for having salespeople who would tell householders they were getting a quote, and then get them to sign up to switch suppliers.

        I’d recently moved house, done all my research and decided which company I was going to use, and as one of their sales people showed up before I had contacted them I decided to let him have his say and see what happened. I don’t know I have ever seen anyone lie so blatantly, and it wasn’t until he was packing up all his stuff to leave that he asked, conversationally, what I did for a living. “Oh,,” I said, “I’m a solicitor” (lawyer, for non UK people)

        I’d read of situations where all the colour drained from someone’s face but I had never seen it happen before. .

        1. SarahKay*

          An now enquiring minds want to know: did this make you change your mind about which company to use?

    2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      I read everything because I was raised by a mother who didn’t.
      She had ESL, was very trusting, didn’t understand contracts or business and was disabled. People soon realised much of this and took advantage. Repeatedly.

    3. ee*

      yep, I get a lot of mileage out of “oh, my dad’s a lawyer, he would disown me if I signed anything without reading it, hahaha!”

      (this is effective enough that people in LW1’s situation might consider inventing a lawyer relative if they don’t have one)

      1. Thistle Pie*

        Amen. The truth is out there and this boss doesn’t know it because she didn’t read the poster.

  10. MK*

    “how did she think you’d be able to follow them if you didn’t read the documents to find out what they were?”

    Well, obviously one should blindly trust their supervisor to tell them what the policy says! Isn’t it obvious?

    1. Wings*

      Exactly my reading too. An employee who actually read and understood the policies can’t be made to follow anything on a manager’s whim.

      1. LW1*

        Oh. Yeah. Now that you mention this, I’d say there’s a strong possibility this was going through her mind.

        1. boof*

          Oof. Extremely possible – less of a “I’m trying to get you to sign on to something against your interests” and more “I like keeping you ignorant so I can make up the rules and you won’t know it”. Total red flag even if it’s a slightly different type.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            “Of course I’m not trying to figure out what I can get away with. I’m trying to figure out what you think you can get away with!”

    2. Green great dragon*

      Possibly LW would be allowed to go and read them later, boss just didn’t want to be hanging around while LW read them before signing.

      1. Allonge*

        That would be reasonable, except it would have to go like:

        1. Boss: Here are the policies on [llama-related requests]. There is also this cover sheet that needs to be signed by you that you received and understood them; could you please review the policies and bring the cover sheet back signed by [Friday] at the latest?
        2. Boss: Here are the policies on [llama-related requests]. There is also this cover sheet that needs to be signed by you that you received them; it implies nothing beyond that, so please sign here that you have access now to these policies.
        If you have any questions or issues with the policies, we can discuss that on [Friday] in a meeting that is already in your calendar; please review them until then.

      2. Antilles*

        That might be the case in some scenarios, but not this one given that the boss explicitly framed it as a trust issue and that “anybody who reads these documents is just trying to see what they can get away with”.

      3. fhqwhgads*

        That’s a more normal experience with someone wanting you to sign without reading, they just don’t want to wait while you read. But given what the letter says the boss told them, we already know that was not what was going on with this boss.

    3. VP of Monitoring Employees' LinkedIn Profiles**

      Or MAYBE she’ll allow you to read it AFTER you’ve signed. (Maybe.)

    4. tw1968*

      Too bad it’s too late for her to write her own employment contract with a high salary, low job requirements, 100% paid full coverage health insurance etc…and ask boss to sign that without reading it. (I’m sure I’m about the 10,191st person to think of that)

  11. DyneinWalking*

    #1: Trustworthy people want others to look out for themselves and take all the reasonable safety precautions. I mean, if you actually care about someone’s well-being you want to reduce the chance of of anything going wrong, right? (And there’s always a chance that there’s a typo or some strange wording in a document that could result in legal repercussions for you if you sign it on trust – mistakes can happen to anyone!)

    Anyone who expects blind trust puts themselves right at the very bottom of the trustworthiness scale. Except that still doesn’t capture the distrust and disgust I feel for such people – let’s put it like this: they don’t just put themselves at the bottom, they dig a hole so deep they end up on the other side of the earth.

    People like that only care about how they appear in front of other people, they only care about the performance of trust. They don’t care one bit about the actual safety and well-being of other people – y’know, the one thing that would actually make them trustworthy

    1. münchner kindl*

      For me, it’s that trust in that context is misplaced.

      An employee should generally trust the company that they won’t cheat or mistreat them.

      Likewise, the company should trust the employee to not cheat them.

      But actual work stuff is about specific details, not feelings.

    2. JustaTech*

      I’m a very fast reader and I’ve had people call me out when they thought that I hadn’t actually read something I was signing. I really appreciated that they were looking out for me like that, and then I explained that I really had read that whole page and provision X makes sense and what is the historical context of provision Y?

      I have a lot more trust in people who *don’t* expect me to blindly trust them.

  12. Science nerd*

    #5 I was a perfectly content individual contributor in a stimulating scientific field. I could always find work as a “worker bee,” didn’t have the stress of project management or managing people, had a great work/life balance. Never moved up. Now retired & still happy.

    1. Not Australian*

      Same with my DH: loved the work, had exactly the level of responsibility (and pay) he was comfortable with, resisted all pressure to move into a more senior role, retired more or less where he started – only with seniority and a wealth of institutional memory that was hard to replace. Some people just enjoy what they’re doing and don’t want it to change: as long as they’re effective at what they’re doing, we should probably resist the temptation to persuade them out of it.

    2. WS*

      +1, my dad advanced through one technical job his entire career. When his bosses finally decided he had to be promoted into project management (he did manage two small teams but still got to do his actual job) he retired!

    3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Same for me.
      I was a happy and valued SME for the last 25 of my 30 years in FinalJob. No desire to manage, other than supervising contractors on larger projects.
      I kept expanding my areas of knowledge and gradually switched to the more complicated fields developing, as the more established ones were taken over by cheaper engineers in India.

  13. Adam*

    I once worked in the same building as someone who refused to attend any meeting with more than four participants, on the grounds that it was too many people to actually achieve anything useful. I have no idea what discussions had happened with their manager or anything, but it was widely known that if you invited them to a meeting with more than four people, they just wouldn’t show up.

  14. John Smith*

    re LW4, if this person is doing a really good job and is happy, why move them out of it? I have seen many a person being promoted to, say, management simply because they are good at their job, but that doesn’t necessarily make them a good supervisor/manager. The phrase “promoted to incompetence” is one I can apply to most managers I have worked with, especially in “target hitting” roles like in call centres. I honestly don’t understand this mindset that everyone has to move on, especially if they are good/happy at what they do.

    1. münchner kindl*

      LW 4, have you read the book about the Peter Principle? Or at least read about the Principle?

      Basically, if the only reward for good work is promotion, the end effect is that you promote competent people into positions – like management – where they are incompetent, where they are then stuck. The solution is to figure out other rewards than promotion, and figure out where each employee’s competence is. A good lama groomer is not a good administrator; a good accountant is a bad finance manager (nitpicking like Guacamole Bob vs big picture), and each job should be a good fit.

      1. londonedit*

        Yep. Earlier in my career I did the whole ‘moving up the career ladder’ thing, because I assumed it was what you were meant to do. I got to a certain level and I hated it. Absolutely hated it. I wasn’t doing the work I enjoyed anymore, I was having to attend all the horrible and dull meetings, and my job basically became more about firefighting and dealing with crap than actually producing books. Producing books is what I’m good at. So I took what you might say is a ‘step backwards’ but really was a ‘step away from’ – I don’t want to be the boss, I don’t want to manage people, I don’t want to have ultimate responsibility for things. I want my little list of books and I want to send those through the editorial process and do that to the best of my ability. So that’s what I do now. Admittedly I now have sole responsibility for managing an entire list of books, so I have ‘moved up’ within my role, and admittedly the trade-off is less money and less prestige. But I can live with those things in order to enjoy and take pride in what I’m actually doing. If I had a manager who insisted I should ‘move up’, I’d be very disappointed as it would show that they didn’t understand how I view my role within the team.

  15. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP5 (direct report doesn’t want to move up) – I have a direct report like this and honestly it’s a gift to have someone who actually wants to be handling the day to day of the stuff they are an expert at, rather than constantly be on to the next thing. You do need a balance of growth and stability in the team. I’ve had the usual conversations with this person (as with other team members) about whether and in what way they want to develop – this person has always been very clear that they are happy doing what they’re doing and their path to growth is to become better at *that*.

    If it works for the person and the team, there is nothing wrong with that at all. There are some companies and teams where this kind of “comfortable where you are” would be a negative due to constant change, fast moving situations, everyone wears lots of ‘hats’, etc. So it has to be a good match between the person and the company/team.

  16. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

    It can be important to find ways of recognising achievements, experience, skills etc beyond promotion (often into a role which is different).

    If he’s doing the same job brilliantly for years, he’s probably better at it now than when he started, and much better than a new person would be. Can that be reflected in his title or pay (especially pay) without him having to move into different work?

    Also, opportunities to grow, learn new things, develop new skills etc can still be found within the same role.

    And do make sure you’re listening to him about what he wants. It might not fit into fixed models. Sometimes the development opportunities that people can see (eg into management) aren’t what they want but that doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in getting better at their work, being better at new areas, and so on.

  17. anononon*

    I have been in the position before of not wanting to move up, and it led to me deciding to change jobs. I’m a trainer (think IT/systems/time management rather than gyms!) and LOVE designing and delivering training and learning interventions – I’m good at my job, and at my most happy when I’m in the classroom. While I’m happily responsible for recruiting and managing a very small team of trainers, I don’t want to write strategy, or attend board meetings, or spend hours each week managing budgets or overseeing large numbers of staff – that’s not my skillset! In my previous job there was so much pressure to be promoted to a senior position, which would mean having very little, if any, actual time delivering training. I resigned – and told them why. They thought I was horribly ungrateful for not wanting to be promoted, which is a very short-sighted attitude. I’d have been totally crap at the senior role!

  18. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    I’ve started several new jobs that handed me a 100+ page personnel manual, then told me to immediately sign a statement that said I received and read it. I don’t think so!
    They were surprised that I refused to sign something that wasn’t true. Seriously, why would I?
    My policy now is to take contracts home overnight, take my time to read it, make any changes, then sign.

    1. LW1*

      I’ve been to doctor’s offices who were shocked that I refused to sign saying that I’d received and read policies they hadn’t given me. And in at least one case, they couldn’t find a copy of it in the office. Yet they won’t let you see the doctor until you’ve signed the statement that you received it.

      1. i like hound dogs*

        Yeah, that really is super weird how they have you sign the tiny screen at the doctor’s office acknowledging you’ve read documents that they … haven’t given you?

        I do it because I’m too lazy to protest but it just doesn’t seem like best practices.

    2. doreen*

      Especially since there’s very simple way around it- at my last job, we were always expected to sign for various manuals immediately. But the statement didn’t say we read it , just that we received it and maybe that we understand that we are expected to comply with the policies.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        Agree — that’s what I’m used to receiving (and signing). Attorney mom, etc etc.

  19. LW1*

    To follow up on Alison’s response:
    It was only employee policies; she wouldn’t expect us to skim over vendor contracts.
    She said that I should already know how to behave properly in an office and shouldn’t need to read the policies for that.
    Correct, this was far from the only problem in that workplace.

    1. Maleficent2026*

      “Yes, I know how to behave in a functional workplace. What I don’t know is how to behave in this bananapants workplace.”

    2. Brevity*

      I’ve seen this in non-profits. There is a species of upper administration people, specific to non profits and higher education, that are absolutely CONVINCED that every mere employee is actively trying to slack off as much as humanly possible.

      The problem is, these are the same organizations that have terrible HR departments, who don’t vet job candidates thoroughly, and frequently end up with slackers, people who aren’t competent, or people who aren’t prepared — therefore, upper management feels justified in treating employees like elementary school children. At the same time, bad actors stay on staff, because bad HR will not deal with them properly.

    3. Clare*

      Ooof. Supervisors who can’t imagine how anyone else could possibly think differently from them (even other supervisors) do not make good supervisors.

    4. Irish Teacher*

      That is ridiculous. How to “behave properly” differs greatly from one workplace to another. Like what is the dress code? Is there one? Can you use computers etc for a personal use or are they strictly for work only?

      Presumably the policies aren’t things like “don’t punch your co-workers,” that yes, any adult should know and a lot of the lesser things differ greatly from one place to another.

      Honestly, she sounds a bit like those running a particular fanfiction site I was a member of years ago where a number of people had their stories removed because new rules were made that they had not followed before they became rules (and I am not talking about the stories no longer fitting the new rules; I am talking things like they reviewed another person’s chapter twice to say “hey, your edits really improved it” and they changed the rules to “you can only review each chapter once) and then they justified it by “it was a common sense rule and people should have realised we were going to make it.”

  20. An Honest Nudibranch*

    “Well I don’t trust people who get angry when people actually read what they’re asked to sign, so the feeling is mutual.”

    Like, obviously don’t say that in real life, it would cause other problems. But seriously, negatively reacting to people reading contracts is a big red flag.

  21. CountryLass*

    I think as long as it’s made clear that, barring a business need requiring it, you have no issues with them staying at the same level and responsibility until they tell you otherwise. And as part of the annual appraisal, remind them that, should they wish it, you are prepared to help with any further training or advancement where possible.

  22. Introvert girl*

    OP 2, I had the same problem in 2023. I live 300 km from the office and was hired remote. A decision was made everyone had to go back to the office 4x week which would have been impossible for people like myself. In the end the policy was adjusted to 2x week for most people and those of us living 300-500 km away could keep on working from home. The company realised they would lose to many people that couldn’t be replaced in a month if implementing this policy. Do you have WFH in your contract? I hadn’t so I had no leg to stand upon if they would have let me go.

      1. GythaOgden*

        I’m in the UK, WFH (to avoid a routine commute and because I’m responsible for helping run a number of sites across a relatively large area) and it’s not in my contract. I don’t think OP is wrong to be worried about the future and she probably needs to discuss this with her boss, but just to confirm that I doubt you can rely on it being in any way contractual to the point an employer can’t make decisions to revise things in the future.

    1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Wonan*

      When my company did return to office last year it is sort of like this. If you lived within a reasonable distance to an office, you were expected to be in 2 days a week, but if you didn’t then you could stay remote. They didn’t expect anyone to move, and no one that lived further away was let go.

      Alison is right, OP2 shouldn’t assume that they are expecting people who live far away to come in/move. Have the conversation and clarify.

      1. LW2*

        Hi! I’m the OP of letter #2. Maybe it didn’t come across clearly in my letter, but I was told directly by my boss that when the WFH policy is revoked, I won’t be able to be an employee anymore, no exceptions–that’s not an assumption, I’m just not 100% sure when it’s going to go into effect. Alison definitely nailed the hidden heart of my question at the end there–I was curious about the “technicality” of it for the sake of unemployment benefits!

        I removed a lot of backstory from my question for simplicity’s sake, but I do believe that they really, really want me to move closer and framing it this way is intended to force my hand. They’ve offered me higher-level positions and higher salary multiple times with the caveat that I’ll need to relocate and be in the office daily, which I have always declined because I love working from home and don’t want to live where this org is located.

        I am going to ask my boss again and push for an exception, because although I thought I’d been clear in the past that I will not relocate (like, if I wouldn’t do it for more money, why would I do it for the same amount of money?) I think I need to straight up frame it as “if you do not make an exception for me to be able to WFH, then I will not be able to work here anymore”. And get clarity about whether they will elect to essentially lay me off.

        1. Relentlessly Socratic*

          If you’re in the US and your manager said that they’d hire you as a contractor if you can’t comply with the new policy, keep in mind that they might not be able to do that as easily as they think and there are regulations around classifying W2 vs. 1099. From your perspective, I think the laws are in flux, but you’d be on the hook for your own benefits and you wouldn’t be covered by unemployment.

        2. Far Away*

          I am so sorry you’re facing this, employers can be really short-sighted! I went through a very similar situation in 2021 after being hired remotely in 2020. I worked with my boss, my grand-boss, and even met with the head of personnel to plead the collective case of those of us unwilling and/or unable to relocate. In the end, we took involuntary terminations, which they would not call a layoff. I continued to fight for my specific ase and they agreed to write me a termination letter indicating it was a no-fault parting and stating they would not contest my unemployment. I would definitely suggest negotiating for something similar if they insist on letting you go. Best of luck, truly!

          1. Against remote work*

            The company in question has decided to limit remote work to one day per week. There is nothing “short-sighted” about this policy. Nor does this policy indicate, contra OP’s assertion, that the company has a “very old fashioned” view of remote work.

            The company has decided that it cannot have an atomized work force, and that employees need to regularly interact with each other face-to-face. I agree with this assessment, as do the many companies that in 2023 began requiring employees to come to the office. Once-per-week work from home can promote morale and allow people time to think and reflect. Permanent remote work undermines the company.

            OP needs to (1) convince senior management that she is so mission-critical, or such a high performer, that she warrants an exception to this policy, (2) move closer to work despite her misgivings, or (3) find another employer.

        3. Clare*

          They might hold out in their silly game of chicken right to the very end and fire you, thinking you’ll cave in first. However, if your boss wants you so badly they might be willing to allow your boss to create a new unique full-WFH position especially just for you in order to bring you back.

          There’s a possibility that you could get essentially what amounts to a month or so of unpaid leave and then just … go on as normal. You might not want (or be able to afford) that, but if it sounds good, it might be worthwhile having an off-the-record conversation with your boss about whether that’s a possible outcome. Especially if they can negotiate a ‘signing bonus’ for you that covers some of your unpaid leave time.

          Like, if they really want you around they might just be shooting themselves in the foot and giving you an extended holiday :)

          1. Against remote work*

            It is theoretically possible that an employee is so indispensible or talented that she merits an exception to return-to-office policies (as indeed is true with most any policy).

            But the company has given little, if any, signals that it views OP as indispensible in this way. On the contrary, they have expressly told her that she will lose her job if she fails to return to the office.

            OP would be will advised to avoid viewing this as a game of chicken, and instead to take the company at face value when it says they want her to return to the office. If she disagrees with the new policy, she is free to look for remote work positions with other employers. If return-to-office is as “old fashioned” as she claims, she will surely have no problem finding more modern employers.

        4. Introvert girl*

          I’m so sorry this is happening to you OP2. It must be so stressful. I so live in Europe so it’s a bit different for me but it looks like they really need you so maybe you could keep working from home.

          1. GythaOgden*

            As far as I’m aware Europe isn’t any more in need of in-person workers as the US is or has any more power to make it a right that most workers could ever take advantage of.

  23. short_stop*

    On 5, about someone who is content staying where they are. I agree with others that having an open conversation about what the actually want rather than making assumptions, and spelling out the consequences if needed is the right thing to do. I think I would also make clear that development, in the sense of ensuring that you’re up to date both with the skills of the role, and the direction of the organisation, is essential. If they’re already doing this, you don’t need to ask them to do extra, but help them make sure that it’s documented effectively on reviews and appraisals.

    1. leeapeea*

      Coming here to second this! Development doesn’t have to mean moving up management chain. It can mean deepening skills in their subject matter specialty, or at least keeping up to date with evolutions in software, processes, norms, etc. With someone like this, if they do have a desire to branch out into a new skill, please promote that! My partner is a CADD designer and wanted to broaden his graphic skills, learning the various 3D software applications used in his industry for both technical purposes and general design/public consumption. His company didn’t support it and it negatively affected his energy towards his job. In my view, it was also short-sighted of the company to not allow him to broaden his talents and abilities for them.

  24. Tim C.*

    #5 – Ahh yes, the Peter Principle: a person who is competent at their job will earn a promotion to a position that requires different skills. If the promoted person lacks the skills required for the new role, they will be incompetent at the new level, and will not be promoted again.
    Basically it says people are promoted to a level of incompetence. Some organizations actually hard wire this concept in. The military has a concept that is “move up or move out”.

    I would leave your managed employee alone. He is happy at his position and appears good at it. We all want well performing happy employees.

  25. Madame Arcati*

    LW5 I have been in exactly this position as a manager so here is my advice:
    enjoy and take advantage of having someone to manage who has great experience and knowledge. It’s great to have new blood but it’s also great to have a safe pair of hands, and to torture that metaphor, hands that don’t need much holding. Mine their expertise and contacts by asking questions!
    Make sure they feel supported and valued and that their work is recognised eg ensuring bosses know when they bring a project to a successful result (do this for everyone but it’s easier for longer term employees to feel unappreciated). Consider higher annual appraisal ratings especially if they mean money. Or awards/commendations if that’s a thing with you. Verbal expressions of thanks and appreciation with detail (you handled xyz really well).
    Make sure you know what challenges and obstacles they face so you can work to remove them. Applies to all, but longer term employees might be more likely to keep schtum and try to sort it alone, so a good manager keeps on top of that. Balance “I know you can handle this” with “but tell me what is in your way so I can do my thing”.
    Do not assume they will stay forever and thus get caught out if life changes mean they need to move on or suddenly decide on a career change (having done current job so long). Encourage and enable them to share and document knowledge; not only for business needs but for their own benefit so they don’t feel put upon, like everything is left to them. A well placed “Wakeen, you’re so experienced in these widgets, can you mentor Tangerina as she does [widget task] for the first time, so she feels confident in best practice? Then she can take some of that load from you” can benefit all sides.

  26. Bookworm*

    #4: It’s probably best to ask. I worked at an org that began having daily meetings every day (and often multiple meetings) to facilitate communication during the pandemic. Vast majority of these were not useful (and often repetitive) and I began skipping them. No one ever said anything to me until my last direct supervisor left and from what I gather they had been unhappy that I was doing this.

    Ultimately it was a sign how awful the organization was (as I said, my last direct supervisor had left and I was left without an actual, official manager for the reminder of my time there). I’m not at all saying this is a sign of what your organization is like (you know better than we do and also have legitimate reasons to skip them, etc.) but just throwing this out there.

  27. Rondeaux*

    I mean i don’t think I’ve ever read every single word on every single agreement I’ve ever signed, certainly not a EULA. My mortgage, health insurance, investments, etc all had hundreds of pages that I didn’t read

    But nobody ever told me not to and just to trust them !

    1. Texan In Exile*

      At the Friday afternoon closing for our house, I did read the documents. When I discovered they had listed only my now-husband, Mr T, as the owner, I asked them to correct before we signed.

      Mr T and I were buying the house together before we got married and needed everything to have both of our names with the stipulation that we were joint owners with right of survivorship (or something like that). But they had only his name on the documents. I had pointed the error out to them three weeks before when I had reviewed the initial documents and they still hadn’t fixed it.

      If we signed the documents as they were, if Mr T died, his parents (who hated me and had told him not to marry me because I was a gold digger) would inherit the house. And the entire $150Kk down payment was from me, from the sale of my house. My money.

      I told them we couldn’t sign until they made the corrections. They said we could sign now and they would correct on Monday, explaining that making the correction involved calling a city office or something and it would take too much time.

      I said that was fine we would wait.

      1. just here for the scripts*

        Yes my non-hubby and I were in the same boat (and yes it’s called rights of survivorship—so your evil in-laws couldn’t just kick you out of your house (or the mortgage company/HOA couldn’t suddenly decide after one of you died that the other didn’t have enough income to continue their ownership)). Luckily for me my sweetie reads all the user agreements and all contracts (I stick to contracts and financials—tech user agreements make my head spin. So we were both in agreement of no signing until everything met our approval.

        Had a wonderful situation with our local Certapro franchise—he welcomed my edits noting that their boilerplate was clearly in need of updating and chose to use me as an involved but unpaid editor/updater! Best partnership with a vendor I’ve ever had!!!

      2. Other Alice*

        Wow, that was ridiculous. I would have been tempted to say I would take my business elsewhere. When I bought the house, the notary read the documents for the mortgage AND for the sale, in full, out loud to both parties. It’s a legal requirement. Quite boring but also I think important.

      3. bamcheeks*

        This is so wild! There are a few places where, “sign as it is and we’ll correct it afterwards” is OK, and it’s things like, “happy for my daughter to go on the class trip but it’s Ellinor with two Ls, not one.” Not buying a house!

      4. I Have RBF*

        Yeah, I wouldn’t have signed that either. Not fixing it and expecting you to sign it anyway was a red flag, IMO, and kind of makes me wonder who else was involved behind the scenes.

        My house is joint ownership with my wife and I, but we bought before we were able to be married, we just had a DP. It was my income that qualified for the mortgage, but I wanted her on the title. Fortunately, it wasn’t a problem.

      5. Wolf*

        When my husband and I bought a house, we showed up to sign all the documentation and the real estate lawyer had filled it out as though we were two unmarried people jointly buying a house. Apparently there are some legal differences in property rights between that and a married couple jointly buying a house. I kept my name when we got married so my husband and I do have different last names but like… bro didn’t even ask.

        I also once had a car salesman try to put me down on the deed to our new car as “Mrs. FirstName Husband’sLastName”, which is NOT my legal name and therefore would probably have implications, even though he literally had my driver’s license with my legal name in front of him.

        Always read the documents.

  28. I should really pick a name*

    You mention that your employee seems content and hasn’t showed any interest in pursuing anything different.

    Have you asked them if they have any interest?

    1. RM*

      Seriously! Some of us would be uncomfortable putting ourselves forward that way for personal or cultural reasons. We might apply for an opening or be willing to discuss, but feel rude bringing it up.

  29. Michelle Smith*

    LW2: Please make sure that if you are brought on as a contractor, your compensation is increased to a level you can be happy with. So many people don’t realize or fully factor in how much it will cost them when they are responsible for more taxes, their full health insurance premiums, and their own 401K contributions sans matches. Make sure before you accept a contract position with your current employer that it will still make financial sense for you over just finding a job locally or a different remote position somewhere else.

    Also make sure you are fully versed in the rules for people under 1099s vs W-2s if you haven’t been down this road before. A lot of articles on here have been about people who don’t fully understand how to classify their employees or are intentionally misclassifying them as contractors to reduce the tax burden and cost of paying benefits on the business. I don’t think your manager or company sounds like they are planning to do something nefarious or anything like that! But the company may not know the manager made this promise and may not be prepared to follow through on it or know how to, so just make sure you know what you’re entitled to.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      So many people don’t realize or fully factor in how much it will cost them when they are responsible for more taxes, their full health insurance premiums, and their own 401K contributions sans matches.

      This is a really good point. Also, contractors don’t get paid vacation/sick time. A rule of thumb I’ve heard is that the hourly rate for contracting is about 2 to 3 times the hourly rate for an employee with benefits. So, if you currently make $10/hour (and have vacation/sick time, health insurance, 401k match, etc.) as an employee, you should charge $20-$30/hr as a contractor.

    2. Antilles*

      Yes, yes, and yes.

      I’m not a contractor so do your own research on this, but the rule of thumb I’ve heard is that the hourly rate you should be paid as an independent contractor should be somewhere around triple the hourly rate (or it’s equivalent) that you received as an employee to account for all the various costs that are now on you to handle. Also, make sure you can handle (both financially and emotionally) the roller coaster of your income and hours fluctuating because, e.g., everybody is on vacation in December, so they don’t need you for a couple weeks.

      1. LW2*

        All of this is exactly why I would prefer to stay on as an employee! I actually contracted with this organization before they hired me on as an employee, which I saw as a win-win–Michelle Smith is correct that my freelance rate is a LOT higher per hour than my salary, but I prefer the steady paycheck to bigger windfalls now and again.

        When my boss brought this up, I did point out that if we switch back to contract work it will be at a much higher hourly rate–and it’ll be higher than it was last time I contracted with them, as that was 3+ years ago, so increased cost of living + I’ve got 3 years more experience. I’m currently doing the math to figure out exactly how much more I’d charge to make it worth it.

  30. Z*

    5 – what’s the attitude/culture of the next layer of your org or the org overall?

    I’m in a job I love for an organisation that is extremely flawed especially the current CEO. But my direct supervisor is awesome at shielding me from the micromanaging and incompetence that goes on throughout the rest of the management team. I stay because I like the work, I would struggle to get similar pay even at a higher level elsewhere, and I like my immediate supervisor.
    If he left his position vacant I would not want to step up into his role and likely would start trying to find other work even if it meant a career change or lower pay.
    I don’t want to be managed directly by any of the other incompetent goons without the buffer of a good manager in between me and them, and for that reason and that reason alone, I resist his attempts to encourage my career progression. Maybe your employee thinks you’re too good to leave too?

  31. Ellis Bell*

    “Oh I thought the signature line on documents asks if you read it, and by signing you are saying ‘yes’. Is this just for a signature sample or something?” “No? Hmm Okay then I think that might be ….. lying.”

  32. Bryce with a Y*

    I don’t know where the idea came from that if you’re really good at whatever your job is, you get rewarded, so to speak, by being moved into a job in which you don’t do what it was that you were so good at, and that requires a whole different set of skills and experience than what you’re good at.

    What happens more often than not is that you end up taking people out of a job they like and are good at and end up putting them in a job they won’t like and won’t be good at. Whenever you do that, you lose two jobs: the job they used to have and the job they are now in and not doing well in.

    It makes far more sense to me to reward people by some other way, such as paying them more, giving them more perks/flexibility, giving them more opportunities to work on high profile projects, public recognition, etc.

  33. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    LW1: Your boss is either nutty as an almond grove or SHE’S trying to pull a fast one by emotionally blackmailing employees into signing off on policies that legally commit them to doing or accepting anything she darn well pleases. Frankly, I wouldn’t trust a boss who resents having her subordinates know what they’re committing to doing or accepting – and you shouldn’t either.

    LW3: It sounds as if you handled the drunken-boss-made-a-pass-at-me situation very well, and that HR did too. I’d take issue with only one thing in your letter, however: you describe your boss as a “functioning alcoholic”. If he’s getting so drunk that he must get thrown out of a party by security (?!), he’s not functioning well at all! Hopefully he follows through on his commitment to get help for his drinking – perhaps he’s been sufficiently shaken up to recognize that it really is a problem for him and that now the whole office knows it.

    1. LW3*

      Yeah, I think we’d all call it “functioning up to now”. One of the HR resolution stipulations was to get some help, and it does seem like he’s taken it as a wakeup call, which is why I especially am happy to just move on and let him? It wasn’t malicious, it’s been well dealt with and we’re both adults who can say sorry, accept it and get on with our lives.

  34. VP of Monitoring Employees' LinkedIn Profiles**

    my boss revealed that she believed one should sign these documents without reading them as a demonstration of trust in your employer, and that she doesn’t trust anyone who does read these documents because she assumes you are trying to figure out what you can get away with.

    “In that case, I’ll want my lawyer to read it, too.”

  35. Medium Sized Manager*

    Re LW5: I’ve also started incorporating that mindset into annual reviews and growth path conversations to proactively catch people who have no desire to move up but are worried about saying it. I typically frame it as their choice of wanting to remain steady or wanting to move up in their career with the caveat that they can change their mind. It’s been especially helpful for new working moms to know that just showing up and getting the job done is fantastic and doesn’t change that, if they want more down the line, I’ll help them work towards it.

  36. RH in CT*

    Like the person in #5 I had no interest in moving up. I worked at my last employer for 28 years, and did very well there. A key point was when I was on a team working on a vital five year project. There were three project leaders a grade level above me, but my role was key to the project and because of my grade level I could not be compensated properly. My boss created a new position at the same grade level as the project leaders, a senior version of my existing role. I stayed there until retirement and that was my last promotion. The point of which is, if your employee really is a top performer it may be possible to create a path ahead that isn’t “up” in a way that would not work.

    1. I Have RBF*

      Most of the better technology organizations have a “Senior Technologist” type of track that is parallel to lower level management, in recognition that not everyone wants to do management.

  37. A Simple Narwhal*

    LW1 I give you credit for remaining silent when your boss said she didn’t trust people who read contracts because I absolutely would have called her an idiot. Your response was much more professional than mine.

  38. WantonSeedStitch*

    Oof. #2 hit hard for me because it could almost have been written by one of my employees. This person is a great worker and was hired even though they live far from our workplace, with the understanding that the position would be remote. However, policies have changed and now people are basically supposed to come in for a few days each quarter. It can be a single block of 2-3 days, so it’s not like they need to come in every week, but even given a compromise by my grandboss, they would still need to travel to our city three times a year and pay for their own travel and lodgings. It’s a lot for an individual contributor, even one who is getting paid at a high COL rate while living in a low COL area. I had to let them know that we weren’t able to make any exceptions, and I could definitely see and hear their disappointment, even though they were very professional and didn’t push back. I am really hoping that the higher pay and good benefits we offer will mean that he will be doing just as well for himself as if he left to take a job more local to him, but I don’t know. If he decides to leave, I will be bummed…but I’ll give him a glowing recommendation.

  39. WantonSeedStitch*

    Oof. #2 hit hard for me because it could almost have been written by one of my employees. This person is a great worker and was hired even though they live far from our workplace, with the understanding that the position would be remote. However, policies have changed and now people are basically supposed to come in for a few days each quarter. It can be a single block of 2-3 days, so it’s not like they need to come in every week, but even given a compromise by my grandboss, they would still need to travel to our city three times a year and pay for their own travel and lodgings. It’s a lot for an individual contributor, even one who is getting paid at a high COL rate while living in a low COL area. I had to let them know that we weren’t able to make any exceptions, and I could definitely see and hear their disappointment, even though they were very professional and didn’t push back. I am really hoping that the higher pay and good benefits we offer will mean that he will be doing just as well for themself as if they left to take a job more local to them, but I don’t know. If they decide to leave, I will be bummed…but I’ll give them a glowing recommendation.

  40. urguncle*

    It seems like “back to office” policies have swung so far to the other side that we’re now going beyond what was reasonable pre-COVID. I’ve worked for plenty of places, again, pre-COVID, who hired remote workers or allowed in-office workers to transition to remote because of family circumstances or to accommodate time zone differences.

  41. Littorally*

    #1 – Reading before signing as a sign of distrust
    On behalf of the rest of the folks involved in actually writing up the things people sign — PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, READ BEFORE YOU SIGN!! We don’t write all that hooey just for fun or even just to collect a paycheck!! We spend all that time because we actually do want you to read it!!

    /breathes into a paper bag for a few minutes

    Okay, okay. I may be sliiiiightly hair-triggered on this one because I get to hear “well who reads the fine print anyway?” about three or four times a day, and it really drives me up the wall. That stuff is written down because we want to make sure the person signing it reads and understands it! Or at least is willing to take responsibility for having had the opportunity to do so! I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gone through my “the cover letter we’re sending you gives you a deadline to respond by, but please, if you need more time to review this paperwork with a legal advisor, just let me know! We can be flexible on the deadline as long as we know the paperwork is coming back, and we really want to make sure you fully understand it before you sign. All my contact information is in the letterhead and also in the body of the letter itself, and I’m the one in charge of deciding when the due date has passed, so I’m very happy to work with you.” And in the back of my head going PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE READ THE THING OR HAVE SOMEONE READ IT TO YOU, WHATEVER, JUST READ!!

    Your boss is an absolute looney tunes weirdo and imo is fundamentally not to be trusted based on that stance alone.

    1. Avery*

      As someone for whom a good portion of my job is correcting people who skimmed ACTUAL LEGAL DOCUMENTS THEY WERE SIGNING OFF ON and then put the wrong information or otherwise didn’t fill them out correctly… heartily seconded!

    2. Irish Teacher*

      Our school is literally dealing with that…actually today. We had an inspection before Christmas – the actual day of our staff party and apparently, one or two people told the inspectors they weren’t sure of the bullying policy, so the principal sent around a copy of the bullying policy and has asked people to sign that they read it. He also came in to the staffroom at break today and actually told us some of the main points presumably because of a concern that people would just sign without reading it, which…is why you get the original situation when an inspector asks “do you understand it?” and people realise that no, actually, they never read it and don’t know the details. (Some of it isn’t stuff that would come up day to day, such as who you go to in the case of a serious incident of bullying that has to be escalated.)

  42. PivotPivot*

    LW2: Even if the employer is going to let the employee go because they can not transition to full time in the office, I would not count on unemployment being available. In my state (Texas), non-profits do not have to pay for unemployment so it is unavailable even if the employee is let go/laid off. This happened to me and it was a nasty shock to find out I wasn’t going to get this.

  43. M2RB*

    LW5: The fastest way to get me to leave a job is to try to promote me, especially into any kind of management position. I hate managing people and dealing with who gets to take off when and everyone needing help right this minute when I have my own pile of work to do. I love doing the daily, routine work, and I love improving my skills to make my work more efficient. I want to broaden and strengthen my skills so that I can be a pillar on the team – I don’t want to grow up. Use employees like me as a resource to strengthen this level on the corporate ladder: do not force me to climb said ladder any higher than I want to go.

    1. M2RB*

      I took the position I’m in now, knowing it would be a challenge, but on the condition that I would not have to do any people management or HR. That any people management work would be training or guiding people in their technical work (which I have done before and am good at doing), and any HR work would be of the type to review HR function invoices, to assist with financial aspects of HR. The role has developed into so much more people management and HR work than I could have anticipated and …. it is so stressful because it is outside of my experience, expertise, and interests.

      Please don’t do this to your employees who are solid in their roles and where they want to be.

    1. Happy meal with extra happy*

      No, not necessarily and, honestly, not likely. If this was the case, “at-will” employment would not exist. If OP wants to know if promissory estoppel applies in this case, they should speak with an employment law attorney in their jurisdiction before doing anything.

    2. Statler von Waldorf*

      I didn’t see anything in the letter about the employer promising to keep them employed. Unless the employer made a clear and unambiguous promise that their employment would continue outside of their current work-from-home arrangement, I’m skeptical that this would qualify.

      The two appropriate words in my jurisdiction are “constructive dismissal.” Though even that may or may not help the LW depending on where they are. They would need to speak to a lawyer licensed in their jurisdiction to know for sure.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Constructive dismissal will only get them unemployment, and they’ll get that regardless in this situation, without a lawyer.

        Promissory estoppel also wouldn’t apply here unless they left another job to take this one very recently and the company knew it was about to change the policy and didn’t tell them.

        1. PivotPivot*

          If they work for a non-profit they may not get unemployment. In my state, Texas, non-profits do not have to pay unemployment. Is this the case in other states? But, OP should be aware that may be the case and no unemployment will be forthcoming.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Are you sure that’s correct? I just did a quick look and saw something confirming nonprofit employees in TX are eligible to receive unemployment (which would be consistent with other states too) but I didn’t look thoroughly.

  44. pcake*

    LR #5 – if you have someone who’s great at their job and knows what they want, that’s a person you’ll want to hold onto, and if keeping them in that position is what works for them AND for your company, I think you’re lucky to have an employee who knows what they want, what they’re good at, and who makes it so easy for you to give it to them. Please don’t overthink or complicate this.

    In most companies, moving “up” means moving to some kind of management. Lots of people who are excellent individual contributors aren’t good managers and hate doing it – it’s a totally different skillset – and unfortunately many companies force-promote them, to the detriment of those they manage and the company in general.

    I was force-promoted from a job I was very good at to management. It was awful, and I ended up so stressed and overworked that I broke down and needed months on disability to recover from the emotional and physical exhaustion of the management position. When I refused to come back after that, it took 3 people to replace me, and the company and I were very sorry they forced me to that promotion.

    1. Umami*

      I agree! I have had the opposite issue in that I’ve had people very eager to move up and into management roles when I know they aren’t suited for management (I even had one person who was excellent at her job but wanted to advance, so when I had a management vacancy I gave her the opportunity to take on the management duties temporarily, she bombed spectacularly, but still wanted to pursue a management role). So I would definitely appreciate the self-awareness of those who are great as individual contributors and willing to stay in that role.

  45. Lily Rowan*

    #4 — I don’t think anyone has said this, but if you are at all concerned about looking like you are trying to get away with something, ask your boss about each specific instance of the meeting you want to skip. “I have X conflict with that meeting — would you recommend rescheduling the conflict or skipping the meeting?”

  46. Sunflower*

    I’m like the employee in #5. I just want to do my job, do it well, and go home. My reviews always “exceed expectations” so they must be happy with my work. I know my lane and don’t want to move up or be in charge.

    I have a coworker who was our go-to person. They know almost everything because they’ve been there for years and years. If they don’t know the answer, just pass it to someone else. Then they became a team lead and hate and regret it. They thought a team lead is basically doing what they’ve been doing; help people and answer questions. Nope. It’s so much more. Meetings, taking on difficult jobs, and dealing with difficult clients. They’ve been asked to apply for a supervisor position because that’s the “next step,” right? No Way, No How for this person. And that’s perfectly fine.

    So if #5 guy is happy, leave him alone.

  47. Avocado Abogado*

    LW 1, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d love to sell your former boss. And, no worries: she doesn’t need to read the Quitclaim Deed of Sale before she signs it and forks over the purchase price. In cash.

    1. Against remote work*

      In the case of contracts of adhesion (effectively, form contracts) it can be disadvantageous to read the entire document. In a nutshell, the UCC rejects the “last shot” rule and instead tries to divine what arrangements the parties actually agreed to. Negotiating a form contract can undermine the reader in this case. IIRC, William Rehnquist famously acknowledged that he didn’t read every form contract he was asked to sign.

  48. el l*

    Yeah, this is another example of, “Boss expects things from employees that they would never agree to have expected of them.” Other examples include accept delayed compensation or disrespectful language.

    You did well to get out.

  49. JS*

    I hate when you could do your job remotely (either 100% or in a pinch) and some flexibility to be home when your kid is sick or you need a house fix is not granted. They prefer you not work at all than do it remotely? Really?

  50. Yellow*

    As a person who is happy in their job, with no desire to move up or broaden my skills… Just leave us alone :) Support us. Check in now and then to see if we’re still happy doing what we’re doing. That’s it.

  51. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    #1. My former supervisor would have 100% encouraged me to just sign, not out of maliciousness but because he was so ADHD that he couldn’t have managed to sit still and wait for it.
    He also told me that I should just tab through the annual mandatory online trainings instead of actually reading it all. And would hand me my late performance review in an open office setting and ask me to sign it while he stood there.

    “Ok, thanks. I’ll take a look and bring it back signed in a bit. Anything else?”

    1. i like hound dogs*

      Wow, this sounds like a former boss of mine. Everything had to be done RIGHT NOW! I think he also had ADHD.

  52. DJ Abbott*

    #1, to me this sounds like the boss was trying to get away with something re the documents, and projecting her own sneaky unethical ways on you. There is a famous person here in the US who’s known to do that.
    Many years ago I worked for a woman who would twist things like this. It was always something with her.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Or she’s sneaking in a clause that you agree to give her a kidney or something should she ever need one….

    2. Mireya*

      I know of a firm that had a sneaky, and even more sneakily worded provision in a benefit enrollment form which severely restricted the employee’s making future changes regarding that benefit. And some people did get flagged down when they wanted to make changes later.

      Sorry for being vague, but think of it as if an employee didn’t sign up for paycheck direct deposit when they were hired, then they couldn’t do it later unless either their account got hacked, or they changed financial institutions.

  53. BellyButton*

    #5 — You can and should still develop the employee in their current role. They may have no desire to move up, but they still have to stay current in their industry/function.

    1. M2RB*

      This is an excellent point. I’m a CPA, so give me opportunities to keep up with my professional education requirements: send me to conferences, let me take courses to keep up with new/updated accounting standards, etc. That’s what I meant in my comment above about broadening my skills; I was referring to my technical skills, not people-management skills *shudder*.

      1. BellyButton*

        I am in Org and people development. I tell people all the time that they have a responsibility to stay up to date with their knowledge, skills, and trends in their area of expertise. What I learned 20 yrs ago in grad school has very little relevance now.

        I recently had a tough conversation with a good friend who is upset he can’t find a new job. He is in IT and has done the absolute minimum to keep his skills up. It baffles me. How did he expect in a constantly changing area to stay employable if he didn’t do anything?

  54. ANONRemote*

    #2, something very similar happened to me in 2022. I had been remote for 7 yrs at that point, well before the pandemic. My role supported people all over North and South Americas. My boss was in another state, and all my direct reports were in another country. There was no need for me to be in the office, ever. I had been given permission to move out of state during the pandemic. Suddenly in 2022 we had a new CEO and he wanted everyone back in the office. HR told me that because when I was hired I had been in the office full time, I had to come back. When I pushed back and pointed out all the changes of my job since then they refused to budge. I pushed hard and manage to get severance based on my 7 yrs there, got them to agree not to dispute unemployment, and got them to pay cobra for a few months.

    So #2, if they are letting you go, ask for as much as you can get.

  55. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

    Yep, my husband has worked in the same company, same position for 21 years. Although he has developed new skills and been trained on different equipment over the years, the only way for him to get promoted would be to become a manager or a supervisor. He has no interest in managing people and is also a staunch union member (he’s been a steward for the last 3 years and on the bargaining committee for longer than that) who would have to give up his union membership if he became a manager. It’s all a big no for him.

  56. Emelius*

    1. she thinks that you should just sign the documents without reading them to demonstrate “trust” in the employer? I’m glad I wasn’t sipping my coffee when I read that because I burst out laughing! if it’s about trust then why bother having anybody sign anything? we can all trust each other right?

  57. HonorBox*

    LW1’s boss is so far off base on this. Beyond trust, knowing what is actually in a document before you agree to what’s in the document ensures you are able to follow through with what has been presented in the document you agreed to. I’m sure the boss wouldn’t be at all understanding if LW chose to wear a bathing suit to work, only work 3 days a week, or charge haircuts on a company card … items that are probably covered in and prohibited by the handbook … and the LW pleaded ignorance.

    It does make me wonder, as was suggested in the response, whether the boss is reading vendor contracts because my goodness, the company could find itself liable for a lot.

  58. She of Many Hats*

    LW1: Reading before signing
    I read a reddit-type story of someone who inserted a clause into their employment contact about a bonus of X number of lemon pies for each year of employment if Y happened which their boss signed without reading. LW should try something like that.

  59. i like hound dogs*

    Re: number 5, I am one of those people who doesn’t want to move up. I’m a proofreader, so I do (mostly) the same thing every day, and it works great for me.

    Unfortunately I don’t think my boss can quite comprehend that. He’s always talking about doing me favors by giving me writing projects, which I’m happy to help with, but I can’t help but feel like there’s some value judgement inherent in it, like, no one could possibly be happy doing only proofreading, because it’s SO BORING. It also makes me feel like he doesn’t value what I do.

    I have told him I like proofreading better than writing but 2/3 of my annual goals always seem to be around writing, which is only 10% of my job. Sigh.

  60. Ex-prof*

    LW #1, when I first moved into my house, a woman from a natural gas company showed up at the door with a mining options contract for me to sign. She said all I had to do was sign it and I’d get $99 for nothing.

    She really, really urged me NOT to read it. I read it. It was three pages long. Among other things, it gave the mining company the right to destroy trees and outbuildings without compensation, and to continue indefinitely for no additional payment any mining operation begun at any time on my property, even if it began on the last day of the contract.

    When I handed the contract back to her with a shake of the head she said “But everybody signs it! Why wouldn’t you want $99 for nothing!”

    Before that, I didn’t always read everything before signing but now I do.

    In the case of behavior that’s expected from an employee– yeah, not reading it means later being called on the carpet for violating a policy you never heard of.

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

    #1 makes me think about when I was at the call center from Hell. Sometimes we would have to log into this system that had notices that we had to read and then sign off. When the new company bought out the old one it was this thing how we wouldn’t sue the company for wage issues and it would be handled through HR and the company. Sometimes the team lead would read through it and then give us a minute to log under our own name and sign off that we agree. It was usually simple things. My team lead would say this is about X sign off on it. But they wouldn’t give us any time off the phones to read it on our own. We had like 3 minutes to sign in to the system, scroll to the bottom of the page and sign.

    Then all of a sudden I kept getting called out from coming back late from break. If you were more than 3 minutes late they would call your name over the sound speaker. I thought maybe I was taking more time than I was, so I made note of the exact minute I went on break. I was gone for 12 minutes and should have had 3 minutes left of my 15 minute break when I got called out. So I went to the person who tracked times and asked what was up I should have 3 minutes left. I was then told that we only have 10 minute breaks. When I asked when that changed he told me when it changed and that it was all in the policy that I had to sign off on. The new policy that we were not allowed time to actually read and that my team lead told me everything stayed the same.

    Oh, we also went from 8 hour shifts to 10 hour shifts with no aditional breaks and still only 30 minutes (which included from the second you clocked out, and had to go through the entire call center to get to your locker to get food so really you only had like 20 minutes).

  62. LW1*

    Huh, I tried to post answers to the questions in the response, but I guess it didn’t take. Here goes again:

    I’m pretty sure she would have expected me to read vendor contracts; this seemed to be just about proving yourself to your new employer.

    She said I should know how to behave properly in an office without having to read the policies.

    Correct, this was far from the only problem with this workplace.

    Side note for everyone mentioning lawyers: this office, this job provided services to lawyers.

    1. Delta Delta*

      I’m a lawyer. I can see this conversation:

      Her: No need to read it.
      Me: I’m a lawyer. I read everything.
      Her: don’t you trust us?
      Me: Now I don’t.

      But lawyers can say stuff like that. Maybe different for an employee to be cheeky like that.

      1. Rick Tq*

        Considering the number of errors I have found in financial documents? YES, I read everything. Wrong lease terms, adding escrow for house purchases that do not require it, missing names, etc.

        At one point my California employer tried to add a Non-Compete agreement to our employee handbook. It was and is massively illegal and unenforceable and I never signed for that version. It was removed on the next update by saner HR.

        Plus, I expect to have an electronic copy in MY files of anything I e-sign any online documents for work.

        1. I Have RBF*


          There are two documents for my workplace that I have not signed because no one can give me clarification on them, and no one can alter the one that I disagree with (no, people, I do not agree to arbitration of all workplace disputes.) I won’t sign them if I don’t agree. That’s all there is to it.

    2. nnn*

      “You should know how to behave properly in an office without having to read a policy. Also, we have a written policy on how to behave properly in the office. Sign here indicating that you have read it. But don’t read it.”

    3. Annie*

      Yes, in an ideal world, people should “just know” how to behave properly in an office. In practice, we all know that “how to behave properly in an office” means different things to different people.

      Imagine being caught by complete surprise when you’re told not to eat at your desk when that was allowed at your last job, or that your travel mug has the wrong type of top and thus isn’t allowed when it was perfectly fine everywhere else you worked, or everyone else wearing the same things in the same style and color fails to register in your brain as, “That’s the company uniform. Wearing it (medical/religious accommodations aside) is a condition of employment.”

  63. Statler von Waldorf*

    In Canada, LW#2 could claim that the unilateral change to their location of employment was constructive dismissal, and thus would be entitled to unemployment insurance.

    The catch with constructive dismissal is that you need to quit in response to that change within a short period of time, or it’s assumed that you have accepted the change to your employment. I don’t know enough about US labor laws to know whether constructive dismissal is a thing in a country where you usually have at-will employment, but it might be worth the LW’s time to do a google search with constructive dismissal and their jurisdiction name and find out.

  64. Ssssssssssssssssssssss*

    I fail to understand why employers are so het up on butts in seats. I get it that there will always be those who will not work effectively from home; my response is to manage that person instead of punishing everyone else. And I get it if you’re stuck with a lease and need bodies in seats to justify the rent. But to move forward with butts in seats with no exceptions will lose you good staff.

    One employer of a friend of mine reduced their rental space – i.e. renegotiated the lease! – and created hot desks/hoteling desks for everyone instead and allowed for flexible schedules and minimum days in the office. It’s been working out well.

    Be careful when asking for your exception.

    Eons ago, my former employer decided to insist that all staff had to be in the office between 8 and 4 or 8:30 to 4:30, no exceptions. My boss asked for an exception for her best coder who wanted to continue to work from 7 to 3 due to her commute and child care pick up. HR denied the request and my boss was very sad to lose her best coder.

    My boss later learned that a different manager also had asked for an exception and was granted it. Boy, was she MAD. It only occurred to me now that unconscious sexism might have been at play at my boss’s best coder was a woman and the other manager who managed to snag an exception, his employee was a man. (This former employer was operated by a devout Christian family but was not a non-profit.)

  65. Festively Dressed Earl*

    A few years ago, I went to an immersive VR attraction with my husband and a couple we’re friends with. As usual, there were warnings about pregnant women or people prone to seizures skipping it. We paid, they handed us a waiver on a tablet to sign. The staff assured me it was just standard stuff, but I read it anyway. Turns out that the ride also posed a danger to people with pacemakers, which one of our friends had gotten the year before. The attraction staff had no idea. We got our money back.

  66. Silicon Valley Girl*

    #5 – please let’s place higher value on the individual contributor! Not everyone wants to be or should be management or whatever ‘higher up’ role exists in the org. Many folks can be perfectly satisfied as individual contributors & should be recognized as such. Bump up their salary & benefits accordingly, & even add relevant ‘senior’ or ‘distinguished’ or whatever title to make it clear that they’re particularly excellent at their job. But don’t push them out of what they do best if they don’t want to be pushed.

  67. Delta Delta*

    #4 – Several years ago I worked at a terrible place that often had staff meetings at a particular time every week. I hated it, and I hated them, and it never got anything done (sometimes it turned into yelling, which didn’t help). I’m a lawyer and I quickly figured out the way I could get out of these horrible meetings was to quietly ask the court to schedule me for hearings during the same time. I couldn’t get away with it all the time, but I could get away with it about half the time. And the great part is that I couldn’t get in trouble for skipping the meeting for, you know, doing my job. Find your equivalent and do that.

  68. Copy Editor Who's Glad to Stay Put*

    LW5, I’m an employee who never wants to move beyond my current role *but* who has always wanted to grow in it. I’ll be specific to help you understand.

    I’m a copy editor, and most copy editors remain in their role for years if not for life — there’s only one copy chief per desk, so most people can’t advance. That said, most copy editors I know don’t want to — they like what they do.

    At every workplace, I’ve asked for increased responsibilities, such as being the supervising copy editor for certain projects, or being added to the list of copy editors who had enough experience to be allowed to handle certain complex projects. At one workplace I was the unofficial expert on trickier grammatical questions (copy editors at newspapers, for ex., are expected to be decent grammarians but not great ones — their news judgement is more crucial). And one copy editor I worked with was far and away the best headline writer on our desk, so he was often asked to rework an adequate-but-not-great hed.

    These are but a few examples of how people can acquire additional expertise and stay fresh in this one field; I assume that your field offers comparable opportunities.

  69. Sorcyress*

    Teacher chiming in about letter 5 here –teaching is maybe one of the jobs where it is most accepted to work at the same level forever. Yes, some of my coworkers have “moved up” and become department heads, deans, or principals, but it is very common for people to stay “just” a classroom teacher for ten or twenty years (or more!)

    My department head was hired into her position the same year I was hired as a fulltime classroom teacher (instead of a paraprofessional or substitute), and I know from watching and talking with her that it’s been a rough transition in some ways –she no longer gets to interact with students as much, since she’s not teaching classes! Could not be me.

    Now, I do think teaching especially is a field where there is a lot of room for growth/change within the role –even in just the seven years I’ve been full-time, I’ve seen a lot of changes, and I like getting more professional development and learning new ways to engage the students. But growing within the role is very different from growing out of the role.


    1. Irish Teacher*

      Just because it might be of interest: in Ireland, department head is a completely voluntary role and not a promotion nor does it pay any extra or anything. In a lot of schools, departments rotate it and each person in the department takes it for a year in turn. I think sometimes it’s done as the longest serving person in the department. It doesn’t involve any great changes in duty, just facilitating the department meetings, arranging times and that sort of thing and liaising between the department and the principal.

      Last year, the English department in my school had it basically decided by one of my colleagues sending an e-mail to all of us in the English department, saying “I’d like to take on the position of head of department next year to have it on my CV. Is that OK with everybody?”

      And yeah, there is definitely plenty of growth within the role as a teacher.

  70. Thunder Kitten*

    OP3 – It may not really be about you, but about other people putting themselves in your shoes and wondering about how they might have responded / things would have played out if the attempted kiss had been them – or if something similar happened in the future.

    What if they didn’t feel comfortable moving on with the boss’s apology and a promise to get treatment ?
    Would HR pressure them to “move on”? Would they use your response as a benchmark for what others can ask for ?
    Would there be untoward consequences to them professionally / socially ?

    1. Pikachu*

      I agree. OP didn’t mention it but I’m wondering if the incident was witnessed by a group and then the company went on and just, never mentioned it outside of whatever was going on with HR behind closed doors.

      If I saw a manager drunkenly try to kiss his subordinate at my company Christmas party, and he was still working there the next week and nobody ever really talked about it again, I’d be asking myself ALL of those questions!

      However, it should NOT fall on OP to have to deal with any of it.

      The company should have acknowledged that a public incident happened, confirmed that proper steps are being taken to address it, and taken the opportunity to update/reinforce policies about appropriate behavior. It could have been a simple all-company email from HR.

      At least I would know that it wasn’t just swept under the rug.

      1. Nope*

        Yeah, I have to say that I think this is a situation where HR has put LW3 in an impossible position. This is 0% her fault and should not be her problem to solve. But the only way to resolve this without creating a weird, unsafe environment for their employees was to fire the boss. Even as a bystander, I’d be looking to get out of there.

        1. LW3*

          I should say it’s been reasonably clear to anyone who saw it that HR have stepped in, drunk boss has been suspended but glossed slightly as “will be away for personal reasons” for people in other offices who weren’t even there, so those who can put two and two together know whats going on, and those who maybe had no idea don’t know yet. We’re all working on what the messaging will be for a company wide meeting at a later date, but one of the things I’ve done has been telling people i’m comfortable with knowing what’s been going on, because in fairness HR have actually done a really good job of it.

  71. Not In a Rut*

    #5 also seconding that advice. I’ve been in my current job for 9 years (as of today actually!) and I have absolutely no desire to move up. Every time a position above me comes open, I’m bombarded with questions about if I’m going for that job. No. Not now, likely not ever.

    I get paid well, I know my job inside and out (I’ve been here longer than my boss) and I’m perfectly content to be at this level. The only thing that’d make me happier is more money!

  72. sewing_scientist*

    I had a similar experience to LW1 – not reading things before signing. I had some questions about our new employee handbook (there were two sections about sick leave that clearly said opposite things) and was treated as if it was insane that I read it and asked a follow-up question. In fact, that was thrown back in my face when trying to negotiate maternity leave! I was accused of being greedy for trying to understand the policy around using sick leave and “unlimited” vacation. Glad I don’t work there any more!

  73. Mireya*

    OP 5: A prospective employer I researched had multiple Glassdoor reviews saying they rarely promoted staff internally; and when they did, it was because it suited the employer’s purpose. They didn’t care that the employee might not want the promotion.

    I could see this employer doing something like what happened to my acquaintance Tracy. A small firm hired Tracy as the office admin assistant. Two months later the office manager left, and Tracy was unwillingly promoted into that position. The OM had wanted to leave, and she picked Tracy as a capable replacement so that no one could say she’d left them in the lurch.

  74. Hashtag Destigmatize Therapy*

    LW1 – I think staring in utter confusion is honestly a pretty good response. When you’re dealing with someone who thinks informed consent is a bad thing, saying something clever to them isn’t going to make a difference anyway. Getting away from them is the only thing that will work.

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