boss is upset over flowers, coworker keeps hitting on me, and more

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

1. I got flowers for an employee whose mom died — and my boss is hurt

I just had a bizarre conversation with my supervisor. Her grandmother, who was 102 years old, passed away a few weeks ago. I offered her my sincere condolences when it happened, both verbally and in an email. A couple weeks afterwards, someone I supervise lost their mother very suddenly and at a fairly young age (this employee is in their 20s). My co-team lead and I had flowers sent to this person we supervise. I asked my supervisor if she would like to contribute, and she said no, that she is still grieving her grandmother. I thought this was a little odd to decline to contribute, but whatever. My co-team lead and I sent the flowers.

Well, today my supervisor pulled me into a conference room and told me that she was taken aback that I would ask her to contribute to flowers for my team member, when she had lost her grandmother a few weeks ago and I had not gotten her anything. I told her that I have always thought that monetary gifts should trickle downwards, and also while other folks on my team have had losses throughout the time I have supervised them (including grandparents), I thought that the loss of a parent warranted an extra degree of care. I reiterated that I was sincerely sorry about the loss of her grandmother. She took this as me saying that the loss of a parent is more significant than a grandparent (I mean, I think in many cases it is) and that while she doesn’t expect gifts, it was inappropriate for me to ask her to contribute. She also said that gifts should be given evenly, regardless of if you supervise someone or they supervise you. We ended up not really agreeing or coming to a great conclusion.

I should add that I work in government, so there is no administrative budget for gifts like this. Things are kind of done on a team-by-team basis, and contributions come from individual resources.

So did I make a huge misstep here? Should I have gotten my supervisor flowers, and should I also be getting flowers for everyone on my team who loses anyone? Just stop the gifts entirely? Only cards? And, how should I move forward with my supervisor?

Your manager is being weird. Maybe it’s because she’s grieving, or maybe she’s always weird; since you know her, you’ll probably have a hunch which of those two it is.

It’s typical for the loss of a parent to be treated differently than the loss of a grandparent (with some exceptions, like if the grandparent raised you) and in fact, many/most bereavement policies do treat those losses differently (offering more days off for an immediate family member such as a parent). It was not inappropriate to ask if she wanted to contribute to the gift for your employee. It also was not inappropriate to not get flowers for your supervisor when her grandmother died; the relationship is different and, as you point out, the reporting relationship is different. You definitely should have offered your condolences, which you did.

As for whether to do cards, flowers, or nothing for people you supervise in the future: Do cards at a minimum. Flowers can be tricky because then you do get into needing to decide which deaths “warrant” them and which don’t, and you won’t always know the nature of someone’s relationship with extended family. So I lean toward either sending flowers for anyone who reports to you who experiences a death (which might be hard to do when you’re paying for them yourself each time) or just sticking to cards for everyone.

As for your manager, don’t ask her for contributions to future gifts, given the weirdness around this one.

2. A coworker I barely know is hitting on me

A few months ago, we hired a new person into a lower level position in the company. I’m several levels above him, but he doesn’t work directly on my team. I’ve probably had less than 10 interactions with him. Most have been directly work-related, but we’ve also had a few friendly, casual conversations in the office.

A few weeks ago, he sent me a email asking if I’d like to check out a new restaurant over the weekend. This seemed out of the blue. I politely declined and said I had other plans but to let me know if he liked it. This is where I probably went wrong, and I should have shut him down more firmly.

Recently, he sent me another message with his personal number and asked if we could start talking offline. We’ve had really limited interactions in the past, so I’m not sure where this is coming from! I’m not interested in dating anyone from work. Even if I’m reading too much into this and he’s just interested in a friend, this was the wrong way to go about it. I’m uncomfortable at this point and want to politely but firmly tell him to back off. I could really use some help on how to deliver the message!

You didn’t go wrong when he suggested he let you know how he liked the restaurant. He went wrong when he didn’t respect your first soft no (something that’s really important to pay attention to when asking someone out in a work context).

Some ways to respond to the second overture:
* “No, thank you.”
* “I’d rather keep our relationship a work one.”
* “No, thank you. I try not to mix work and personal relationships.”
* “I don’t date anyone from work.” (With this one, there’s a chance he’ll accuse you of misinterpreting his interest — not because you did, but because some people feel responding to rejection that way helps them save face. That’s fine! You’ll have delivered the message regardless.)
* Or just ignore it if you don’t feel like dealing with it head-on (although that means he might make a third attempt).

If he takes a rejection badly or if he continues his pursuit, talk to HR. Even if you feel you can handle it yourself, guys who hit on colleagues they barely know tend to do it to multiple women (including those with less power, like interns, who may feel less comfortable shutting it down firmly), and it’ll be useful for HR to be aware in case it becomes a pattern (or already is, for that matter).

3. Sharing photos and hobbies in meetings when I’m more private

I am concerned about my participation in team meetings. We are often asked to share photos of our holidays and weekends and talk about what fun things we did. Of course, this is entirely optional, but I never speak up because I don’t have anything to add. My hobbies feel personal to me, and honestly, they’re not something I’d want to share with my coworkers anyway. I spend my weekends searching for good deals on alternative fashion items via overseas auctions, writing fiction, and playing video games. I don’t have children, and I rarely travel. I am the youngest person on my team (but still very much an adult), so I feel like there’s almost an expectation for me to have a “robust” social life, but I usually just stay at home with my cat. I am perfectly fine living this way!

Is there a way to participate in these meetings more without revealing too much of my personal life? Do I need to get a neutral, safe hobby, such as cooking or biking? I am afraid it is making me look bad if I am silent, especially on such a small team.

Are you up for photos of your cat being the thing you share? Pet photos go a long way toward adding the humanizing touch of warmth that people are usually looking for in this context. Share a cute cat photo each week, and it’s highly likely that no one will notice or care that you’re not sharing anything more personal.

Also, you may not feel inclined to do this, but it can be very enjoyable to lean into an enthusiastically-delivered “I didn’t do a thing this weekend! I stayed at home with my cat and it was glorious” narrative. I have been saying this for years and people are normally more supportive than you might expect. If you do it a lot, it does tend to become a thing you’re known for (in a funny way), which you might or might not be up for, but it’s good for your quality of life not to feel pressured to report on more exciting doings.

4. I was promised a bonus but am getting ghosted when I ask about it

I’m an executive at a finance company which serves a rather niche market. I have been at my company for about two years.

There was an area between sales and the underwriting team that was proving to be a challenging disconnect, so I made some suggestions on how to improve that and was asked to set up a whole new division and team. Mind you, I was doing this on top of my regular job. I approached my leadership about appropriate compensation for this and they indicated if the new team was successful, there would be a substantial bonus paid out to me based on what I could bring to our bottom line.

Well, the success is clearly there. We’re expanding the team, it’s become a marketed part of our services to clients, and has helped increase our revenue by over 30%.

I approached my leadership to discuss the bonus and I’m more or less being ghosted. Other items are being addressed together, but they aren’t acknowledging the promised bonus in any way. No “let’s have a chat” or “we need time to discuss in leadership.” It’s very frustrating.

How do I approach this again? I am genuinely prepared to leave my job if they back out on this (I’ve been fending off other offers for months now) but I’m not sure if threatening to leave is the right way to go. If I do end up leaving, I will absolutely be bringing this up in my exit interview. How can I make it clear this can’t be ignored?

I don’t like this. Address it head-on: “You told me in August that if the new team was successful, you’d pay me a bonus based on what I contributed to the bottom line. By any metric we envisioned, I think I’ve met that mark: we’re expanding the team, it’s become a marketed part of our services to clients, and has helped increase our revenue by over 30%. Can we nail down details about the bonus?” If they put you off, ask for a timeline. And if they’re evasive, there’s no reason you can’t say, “I’m really disappointed in this. This was a clear promise made to me and I’ve been turning down other offers for months because I took you at your word.”  (And if it has to come to that, I’d be inclined to leave anyway once they do pay it out because you shouldn’t have to push them so hard to get what they promised you.)

5. Executive with no online presence — is it a scam?

I’m job searching for an executive level role and was contacted by a seemingly legitimate internal executive recruiter at a well known global company. I completed introductory interviews with this recruiter and the hiring manager (VP level) over the past few weeks and believe they went really well. They both appear to have company email addresses and their LinkedIn profiles didn’t raise any red flags for me (500+ connections, VP has nearly 2,000 followers).

I just received an email and text from the recruiter about next steps, and the next person they want me to interview with is an SVP. Great news, except when I looked them up on LinkedIn they have basically no presence. Under 10 connections and followers — which doesn’t seem possible in this day and age. This global company has thousands of employees and this person holds a global SVP leadership role. I’ve also conducted a Google search with almost no results. Under 10 LinkedIn connections and no press to me are huge red flags, and I am considering backing out of the whole process immediately over it. The job seems incredible, but there is no way in my mind that this could be legitimate.

I emailed the recruiter and called her saying that I want to ensure I’m prepared for the interview but I can’t find an online presence for this SVP and to please share more information. I also asked her to lay out the reporting structure to their leadership team, which I found online. I’ve given the recruiter my resume and cell number only, and had a video interview.

My mind is racing over if this is a scam, and since it seemed so great I’m heartbroken. I’ve heard about people who use voice and video recordings to impersonation purposes. What are your thoughts on this and how to proceed?

You are reading way too much into the lack of an online presence. Some people don’t use LinkedIn. Or maybe they set up years ago and haven’t bothered returning to the site since then. Maybe they just joined last week. Maybe they’re in the middle of purging their account because they find LinkedIn a depressing wasteland. Who knows. It’s not so unusual! You are having a very, very strong reaction to a very mundane situation.

{ 478 comments… read them below }

  1. Viette*

    OP #5 — first off, “under 10 connections and followers — which doesn’t seem possible in this day and age” is a big assumption. It’s very possible! And everything else about this seems completely legit.

    Your reaction also begs the question of why you’re immediately consumed by this suspicion. They’re not asking you to do anything untoward or give them anything. The recruiter has your resume and cell phone number, so I suppose they might try to steal your identity, but this would be such an elaborate ruse for identity theft. It’s not at all clear what you’d even have to lose by assuming that — as every other indication seems to suggest — this is a real job and you should go to it as a real interview.

    This is a big set of feelings. Your mind is racing. You’re heartbroken. You’re considering backing out of the whole process immediately. Is there something about this specific situation, or the prospect of being lied to, that is making you react like this?

    1. European pragmatist*

      Yeah, I’m not really clear on what kind of scam it could be. Nobody would have you do fake interviews with such high level people just for the heck of it. There’s no law saying that all executives must have an up-to-date Linked-in profile. Even if 90% of them have it, it doesn’t mean that everyone has it. And it doesn’t say anything bad about the person. You’re definitely overreacting.

      1. Daria Grace*

        If the person is at executive level it is quite likely they advanced in their career and made solid professional connections before LinkedIn was common so have never needed it

        1. Greg*

          Even then, I am 36 and in a pretty high profile position at my company which has a significant presence in my city and state. If you google my name you get a picture from an interview my father did 20 years ago when I was in high school and my Facebook profile…and not much more. Some people just aren’t very online (he says to a comment section on a well-known website!).

          1. Kaitlyn*

            Some people ARE online and just don’t use every single platform. I’m an elder Millennial, so I’ll be using Facebook and Instagram until I die; on the other hand, LinkedIn and Twitter seemed horrible (always) and I never used them; newer platforms like TikTok are for The Youths.

        2. Tegan Keenan*

          In my job I do A LOT of researching individuals’ career connections on LinkedIn. I have found that very frequently, the more advanced someone is in their career, the LESS likely they are to have anything substantial on their profile. As you note, they have no need for LinkedIn. I always imagine their EA saying, “But Executive, you need to have SOMETHING up there,” and the Executive begrudgingly puts up their name, their current employer, and that they’ve been there a bazillion years. lol

          Interestingly, I’ve also found that people who have graduated college in the last five years frequently have no LinkedIn profile at all. And then you have my spouse, who was six months into a job search before they relented and created a LinkedIn profile. They complain constantly about how “invasive” it is.

          1. Kstruggles (Canada)*

            I only have a LinkedIn because a couple of jobs required it to apply. Now I went from other people with my name as the top results (quite happily) to all results are of me. Not happily.

        3. ChipDust*

          Yeah, the president of my very old and respected national company has zero online presence. He’s a great guy but focuses on the employees not the greater internet world. It absolutely can happen.

        4. Bo Peep*

          My father’s a Legit Executive Businessman but a lot of the people he’d theoretically be “connected” to after decades in business starting before anyone but the very nerdiest of us even knew what the internet was are retired, old farts who don’t do “technology”, or dead.

        5. Cinnamon Boo*

          Right. If you are a CEO who is in the last decade or so of work, you don’t need LI. Also, press isn’t always a thing.

          I think the bigger thing here is that the OP was not just curious about this but really jumped to full on paranoia about this, so I think that is something to really examine for them to find out what the heck is going on for them there.

      2. Heidi*

        I’m also struggling to piece together what kind of scam would merit this “Mission Impossible” type of setup. The OP mentions voice and video impersonation, but if they’d never met the SVP why would the “scammer” need to impersonate anyone? And if they were intending to impersonate the real SVP of a company (who has a real LinkedIn account), why would they need to build a fake LinkedIn?

        I remember a Sherlock Holmes story where the criminals invented a fake job to get the victim to leave his store so they could break into the bank next door.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          Voice and video impersonation? Deep fakes? I feel like OP has gone down a bit of a conspiracy rabbit hole here, honestly. Good that OP doesn’t seem to have expressed “I’m suspicious that this isn’t real” to the recruiter though.

          1. Alice*

            Regrettably, spoof voice calls are absolutely something that scammers use. It’s normally more along the lines of ‘your young relative has been arrested abroad and needs bail money’, but this is something to be aware of!

            1. Lenora Rose*

              Someone is now claiming to have encountered a spoof call that used AI and voice recordings of them to claim to be them on one of these calls.

              Which is a worrisome addition to the existing scam – but not a concern for this particular LW as I really don’t think this is an example thereof.

        2. münchner kindl*

          “I remember a Sherlock Holmes story where the criminals invented a fake job to get the victim to leave his store so they could break into the bank next door.”

          The Red-Headed League. The guy was a pawnbroker, but his business wasn’t doing well, so getting him out of the house for a few hours worked well. The only mistake of the criminals was that they stopped the fake occupation too soon – victim went to Sherlock Holmes, who figured it out and staked out the bank with police, catching the criminals.

          Interestingly, there’s also a story about identity theft in Sherlock Holmes Canon: a company is closed, highly skilled clerks are searching for new jobs, one guy is hired as regional manager for a new company away from London, while the criminal takes his job at a bank. Since the whole hiring was done by writing, the criminal only needed to fake the writing to get the good reputation as skilled and trustworthy clerk.

          The fridge moment is wondering where these criminals got all their information from, but maybe they had shadowed the old company and then went drinking with the colleauges of victim?

        3. Tinkerbell*

          I can’t blame the OP too much. Depending on what sector you’re in – and especially if you’re looking for fully remote jobs – there are a TON of scams out there. My first guess would be some combination of:

          – we want you to do a “sample” project (which we’ll then use and then ghost you)
          – we want to hire you but there are fees involved, so pay up
          – we’ll hook you up with the job we advertised… eventually, because it’s not actually with us, and we’re a third party just generating leads for the company at this point
          – no really, we’re totally hiring for this famous company everyone has heard of, we just need you to do some really scammy work first

            1. Observer*

              Not only is none of that in the letter, the whole set up makes absolutely no sense for these kinds of scams.

          1. Siege*

            Out of deep curiosity, why would anyone require OP 5 to go through one or two interviews with seemingly-legitimate people to set up any of the s and your naming? Literally what benefit is it to them? Any company with the audacity to do this wouldn’t bother with waiting through multiple high-level interviews to get someone to do a bunch of free work. This is weird.

            1. GrooveBat*

              Yes! That’s the part that doesn’t track for me. OP had ALREADY interviewed with the hiring manager! So are we to believe that the perpetrators of this carefully constructed, highly elaborate “scam” somehow forgot one part of it?

              I just don’t get it.

      3. mb*

        Is it possible they’ve been listening to the wedding scammer podcast? Because there is a legit employment scam where some lunatic hires people for a not-real company for who knows what reason and these people work for weeks and end up not getting paid for any of it.

        1. mb*

          Nevermind, I saw further down why OP#5 has these concerns and based on what they’re saying, it actually seems somewhat reasonable to be concerned – but the lack of a linkedin is a red herring. Someone recommended they make a call to HR to ask a couple of non-suspicious questions and see what kind of answers they get – such as a question about the position and the organizational chart.

        2. BKB*

          The Hollywood Con Queen worked kind of like this, too. They impersonated real people on phone interviews and by email and hired them for exciting sounding jobs. It was quite involved and lucrative for the scammers.

      4. Miette*

        Is OP wrong to be at least a bit curious, though? The news near me (USA, CBS network news) recently included a feature story about interview scams. A fellow was ostensibly hired by a well-known firm, after a series of online interviews for a remote position, and when he completed new hire paperwork–including all his financial details, like anyone would who wanted to participate in direct deposit–he’d found it had been a scam and they’d stolen money from his account. OP should at least proceed with a bit of caution and look for other red flags.

      5. Artemesia*

        I joined linked in decades ago but never liked it and thought much of it was silly (I got endorsements for my professional skills from cousins I had never met as an adult). So I stopped being active in it or updating it or even signing in till I couldn’t even remember the password. I was also a hiring manager for years , being in charge of staffing about half the positions in our department and supervising their work.

      6. Governerd101*

        OP 5 – I worked under a Senior Leader once who had to purge all his socials, including LinkedIn, because he was a lead negotiator with one of the unions. During contract renegotiations, his online profiles were getting flooded with comments. It was easier for him to disappear online, especially once the press found his profile and used the comments to make stories about how the negotiations were going. You never know what’s going on, but I’d prep for the interview best you can and see if you get any weird vibes once you’ve talked with the SVP. Good luck!

      7. Rex Libris*

        Okay, so it isn’t Apple Inc. or anything, but I’m the second ranked person in an org of about 100 people. I am also a devout online privacy advocate and intentionally have no online presence to speak of. I’m simply unwilling to add to whatever info packet is being maintained about me by Google or Facebook.

    2. WoodswomanWrites*

      A senior executive at my workplace with decades of experience is not on LinkedIn because a former colleague stalked them. Fortunately the stalker has backed off in recent years, but they’re continuing to be careful just in case by minimizing their presence on all social media. There are certainly other people in comparable situations.

      1. Tinkerbell*

        This was my thought too. The higher up they are, the less benefit they get from being professionally visible online and the more likely they’ve had to deal with some weird internet stalker/rando crap.

        1. Clisby*

          That’s the first thing I thought. My daughter is in a PhD program in Computer Science, and is pretty active with LinkedIn, but if she were CIO of a tech company, I’d expect her to dial it way back.

      2. OP #5*

        I posted some additional background in the comments and this is relatable to my situation although I am on LinkedIn.

      3. Ellis Bell*

        Or they were in an unsafe relationship. There are lots of people who really, really just don’t need LinkedIn at all, but there are also reasons to avoid it even if you think it’s useful.

      4. Yoyoyo*

        Yup, I’ve been stalked via LinkedIn as well and then when I decided to get back on, I found that I was getting emails left and right saying “so-and-so has accepted your request to connect” when I had definitely not sent a request. I hate LinkedIn and choose not to have a presence on that platform. I am very much a real person doing non-scammy things at work.

    3. Viette*

      ADDING: I realize the above post might sound rhetorical, but it’s not. I really mean to say, something is happening here, very strongly at that, and perhaps on self-reflection you might be able to tell what it is!

      The level of alarm you’re feeling looks disproportionate to the situation you’ve described, so it’s possible that the situation is different than you described, or that you’re reacting to something that isn’t happening right now.

      1. Artemesia*

        So you need to ask if something else about the situation is bothering you. Or if something outside this situation has you so anxious. I once rejected an apparently excellent job offer at the start of my career for no reason other than my spidey sense tingling. It looked excellent and I had been interviewed by everyone up to the Chairman of the Board. A friend of mine eventually took the position and told me when he left a year later that the CEO had his hand in the till, the promised community partners who were to collaborate on a major project had been badly burned when promised jobs were withdrawn after they had given notice to their employers and that virtually nothing on the PERT chart was real –nothing had been done in this major project I would have headed. I literally had no inkling of any of this but I was nevertheless warned off by something. the organization collapsed after my friend resigned and I think the CEO in addition to being fired was prosecuted for embezzlement.

        Either you are intuiting something or you are projecting something.

          1. Goldie*

            While I agree with most commenters on the LinkedIn thing, I also think you should continue to do your due-diligence if you have an odd feeling.
            Don’t share your ssn or banking info until you are satisfied

    4. Fluffy cow*

      Yeah, this is such a disproportionate reaction. People are not required to have a presence in social media for perfect strangers to see – even in the not that long ago days of having a yearly book delivery with the names, addresses and phone numbers of everyone in your city it was possible to ask for your info not to be included! There are many reasons to not have any internet presence, ranging from “I just don’t want to” to “I have had to purge my presence due to a stalker”.

      LW, I think it’s worth examining why you are having such a strong reaction to this and why not having an internet presence sends your mind racing with the possibility that this is a scam. Again, this could be a wide range of things, from having anxiety to there being other indicators something is off but this feels more tangible (despite the fact that again, this doesn’t actually indicate anything).

    5. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yes, I would think carefully about this if I was Letterwriter, because sometimes your brain is trying to tell you something that’s not obvious. Maybe there are other orange flags in this process and this is the thing that they’re latching on to. Heightened reactions can just be brain weasels deciding to flare up, but as a lifelong wrangeler of brain weasels, I’ve learned that sometimes they are reacting to something that I should pay a little more attention to. The lack of LinkedIn presence isn’t a big deal, but the reaction to it might be something that’s worth circling back too.

      1. OP #5*

        Thanks for your comment and in reading these and thinking more about it I believe you’re right. I posted additional background as a comment and there is a situation I’m apprehensive of given previous threats I’ve received.

        1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

          If you find yourself up to it, would you consider providing ann update? The concept of trusting your spidey sense enough to figure out what it’s concerned about is really important to me.

          I’ve started conceptualizing anxiety as a check engine light. Maybe a sensor is broken and communicating the wrong error code, or maybe a new problem has arisen, but either way the vehicle needs something. I’m glad to be able to notice, read, and interpret the signals and to try to help them.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        There’s a thing where if you enter an empty classroom where people just took a high-stakes test, you become anxious. These people recognize that they are anxious, and they come up with reasons to explain that to themselves–but it’s never “must be pheromones–hey, did an anxiety-producing event happen in this space just before I walked in?”

        It really depends on whether your gut instincts are usually reliable–perhaps something is hinky, but you haven’t quite latched onto what’s causing it and so your explanations to other people are head scratchy. Or your brain weasels always find a reason to panic even when nothing is going on.

    6. Medusa*

      In my industry there are a number of high-level people who have little to no online presence. It’s not exactly the norm but I’d estimate that about 30% of them have either no LinkedIn profile or a blank one with like 3 connections. It’s makes things a little harder for me in my role sometimes, but I have no doubt that they’re real people with real credentials really doing those jobs.

    7. The Other Fish*

      I built my career solidly prior to LinkedIn.
      I now choose not to use it (even though everyone else is) because it’s a leaky sieve of snoopy people who are judging you without having met you (like most social media).
      LinkedIn might be a professional resume service, but it’s not a quality tool in my mindset – it presents a curated image of a person, and the people who spend huge hours on there could better spend their time often on something else. Having hundreds of contacts on there does not make you important (in my opinion), it just makes you social. It would be useful if I was in marketing, I am not.

      1. OP #5*

        Agreed, LinkedIn for me is trying to cultivate a meaningful network and job leads while trying to avoid the cringe and self help resume writing coach evangelists.

        1. Malarkey01*

          I think that’s what most people use LinkedIn for at this point, and the thing to remember is that most senior and exec people aren’t job hunting from LinkedIn, they are headhunted and most senior people aren’t having to hustle to build their network. They usually already have a huge network and people who want to connect are doing it to benefit them and not the exec. At my very large company we probably have about 20% of leadership on LinkedIn.

    8. Not on LinkedIn*

      #5 Or you could have a situation where you use multiple devices, a couple of which run MS InTune which blocks various things and have LinkedIn throw a complete hissy fit on both your personal and work accounts and despite going through the rigmarole of codes sent to your mobile and personal phones and other hoops to jump through it still point blank refuses to let you into your accounts. [One caveat, I have not gone through their final process which involves sending a copy of my photo Driving Licence as a form of ID – Seriously? With LinkedIns reputation for data protection?]
      At that point you give up and have not used LinkedIn for over 3 years.

      1. Me*

        You could have that happen, and after you send them your drivers license and you might finally get your account back weeks later. Then a couple weeks later it could happen again and you could send your DL in to get into your account weeks later again. Ask me how I know.

      2. KG*

        Yeah, I got locked out of LinkedIn awhile back because I replaced my cell phone and effectively wiped my MFA. They required that I submit a notarized affidavit that it is my LinkedIn account (they wouldn’t accept the photo of my driver’s license I tried to submit over the phone). I didn’t feel well-protected against identity theft, I felt as though they think too highly of themselves, that they’d require someone to jump through so many hoops. Of course, I was job hunting at the time, so I acquiesced… but then, several months later, I acquired a stalker, who found out my employment information from LinkedIn and threatened to contact my employer and make false claims about me. So I shut it down. I’m pretty senior, too.

        That being said, if your spidey-sense is tingling, pay attention to it! But you might want to evaluate whether the tingling is being driven entirely by the lack of profile, or if you’ve spotted other reasons for concern. Personally, I wouldn’t let my employment decisions be driven by a scam I saw on TV.

    9. learnedthehardway*

      From a recruiter perspective, a number of very senior executives do not have a profile on LinkedIn. Reasons vary between having started their career before LinkedIn was a thing, and so they have build network in other ways, to not being interested or recognizing the importance of social networking via technology, to not wanting to be contacted by anyone (recruiters or candidates), to concerns about security / privacy, etc. etc.

      I would look elsewhere for a bio on the individual who is going to interview you. If they are part of the senior leadership team, you may find something on the website (if they have bios of their SLT posted), or just google the name.

      Actually – that’s another thing. LinkedIn doesn’t always show information that it has in its database. I have done searches on LinkedIn for people and had zero results for specific names, and I have even plugged in the profile addresses of people without them coming up on LinkedIn. But when I google them, I sometimes get a LinkedIn profile that works. ie. Google is better at searching LinkedIn than LinkedIn is. Weird, but true.

      1. OP #5*

        Good point – I posted more background in the comments and wasn’t able to find anything in the press on this person which is odd for my industry. I was able to find material on others at this level from the same company.

    10. londonedit*

      LinkedIn really isn’t a big thing in my industry. I have a LinkedIn profile which I sort of half-heartedly update whenever I get a new job, but it just has the bare bones on there and I’m hardly connected to anyone. I very rarely look at LinkedIn, and we don’t really do recruitment via LinkedIn in my industry.

    11. Cat Tree*

      Yeah. I hate even logging into LinkedIn because it shows me as active and I get spammed by recruiters for weeks after. I’m happy at my very large company and have found promotions over the last 10 years by applying internally. I have no incentive to update LinkedIn or even log in.

      When I’m interviewing candidates, I just go by their resume and don’t need to check elsewhere. If any candidate got this upset about my lack of info and self-selected out of the process, I’d probably consider that an unintentional but good screening tool on my end.

      1. Florp*

        Yeah, my experience with LinkedIn is that the profiles with the most information also tend to be the most curated and the least authentic, like a PR flack did it and not the actual person. In the rare case that I would think to look someone up on LinkedIn, I would take everything I read with a big grain of salt.

    12. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Concur. Plenty of reasons why a very senior person wouldn’t be active on LinkedIn

      Time suck
      They have an executive assistant who does all the networking stuff under their own account
      Most of their career has been within this organization
      They aren’t in an outside-facing role

    13. Looper*

      There is no website I find more useless than LinkedIn. I have never once in my entire life looked up a company on that platform and it seems at this point to have become a Substack for bitcoin scammers and people who couldn’t get a book deal for their terrible “business” advice.

    14. Lauren*

      Yeah, this is totally possible if they’ve been in their positions for 20+ years too as there is no need for LinkedIn at this point depending on the business.

    15. HR Exec Popping In*

      Many, many executives elect to not have much activity on LinkedIn because doing so results in a whole lot of random emails/connection requests/etc. If this exec doesn’t need LinkedIn for work connections or networking and generally doesn’t do social media that isn’t too unusual. The recruiting firm is reputable, you are able to research the hiring company, I don’t understand why you are jumping to this being a scam.

    16. Willow*

      I’ve encountered multiple scams while applying for jobs. One common one is MLM schemes disguised as normal jobs. I also had a weird one where they wanted to interview me for a “remote” job but the job description was all in-office tasks. When I asked for a job description of the remote role they wouldn’t send it.

    17. Amanda*

      Yeah, I don’t even have a LinkedIn.

      My choice has to do with privacy reasons, and I’m big enough in my field that I don’t need it for networking.

      Not everyone cares about self-promotion.

    18. samwise*

      There are definitely online hiring scams (identity theft) — my son encountered one, but fortunately he has a good crap-detector, figured it out, and noped out of there.

      OP’s situation does not feel like that, however. I guess see what info they get from the recruiter, and ask during or after the SVP interview for contacts for people you’d be working with if hired — reports, people at the same level, others in the department.

    19. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      Heck, after a former employee had some questionable things online our company went so far as to suggest it would be preferable if everyone removed all social media. There are lots of people who have eliminated online presence as much as possible.

  2. Artemesia*

    Oh absolutely, push for the bonus, take it and then leave. Unless someone at your next overture gushes their embarrassment at not getting it done and it is provided immediately, they are unreliable jerks. Take the money and find a better place to work on your timeline.

    I know someone who was promised a huge bonus if the business was profitable at a certain level — he was developing a critical new initiative that if it paid off would yield big gains. He did it. the gains were there. they hired a new CEO, gave him a huge bonus to sign which took up much of the year’s profit then claimed that ‘oh well, the profit goals were not met.’

    Know someone else who spent a year working for stock and got their entire on line business up and running and then was fired the day before his stock would vest.

    When people show you they are unprincipled do what you can to come out on top and do what you can to find new people to work for.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      If this bonus actually happens I will eat my hat, sorry to say. It sounds like it was just talk in the moment and nothing ever got put down in writing. There will be one excuse after another. If OP has other opportunities I say go for it now.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yeah, try to extract the bonus–but don’t fool yourself into staying put because you can’t leave until you extract it. That just incentivizes the people not paying to keep not paying you.

    2. HR Exec Popping In*

      If the OP has a normal bonus process, it will likely be factored into that payout. I would recommend asking about the bonus through that angle. Something like, we discussed that I would be rewarded if this project was successful. Will that be factored into the upcoming normal bonus structure or will it be a separate payment? And if separate, when can I expect that?

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      I bet you even *read contracts* before signing them…

      (Totally kidding, but that was a wild letter as well)

    2. Exec*

      I deleted my LinkedIn a few years ago when they had that big data breach. I’m a mid-level executive and as far as I can tell it hasn’t hurt my career at all. Nobody has ever asked me about it, and I hope nobody I’ve interviewed ever ghosted because I didn’t have LinkedIn.

    3. Lilac*

      I’m honestly not comfortable about how easy it is to find out where someone works because of LinkedIn. Or even guess how to contact someone not on LinkedIn but from the same company just by knowing how the company formats their emails based on someone else’s publically available information.

      Like it was useful years ago when I was a social work student on placement contacting specific external people from non profits and needing to advocate for clients but I felt ick that it was so easy. So I don’t have one.

      1. Jackalope*

        Yeah, ages ago I got a handful of letters fro LinkedIn trying to connect me to people I barely knew because they’d sent me an email once and LinkedIn had scoured everyone they’d ever contacted (at least as far as I could tell). That seemed sketchy to me, so I never signed up. And in my field that’s not how things are done, so no need.

      2. OP #5*

        It’s big in my field, unfortunately. I agree with your sentiments though. I haven’t had any luck with job board applications but I have with recruiters on LinkedIn.

        1. Andy*

          I am considering getting a job in a related field when I retire from teaching in a few years. I don’t have LinkedIn, but I’ve been considering getting it to begin networking. I really don’t want to though! Ugh – more social media.

        1. Sandi*

          This must vary between fields because in my little slice of IT the jobs are posted online and we don’t use LinkedIn. I might share a job opening with a coworker I like, or find out about one from a friend. I haven’t worked with a recruiter because the community is small enough that we don’t need them.

    4. MamaSarah*

      I also don’t use it. We live in a rural area so the networking options seem limited to me, I don’t like social media (it’s a hit to myself esteem more often than not), and as someone who frequently engages with the public, I prefer a to keep my digital presence to a minimum.

    5. Filosofickle*

      I think it goes the other way. Not having LinkedIn at all is fine! It’s having just a few contacts/comments that feels suspicious — across social platforms, that’s what scam/fake users look like.

    6. snailsharkk*

      Same. Nor do I have any other social media or online presence. I don’t want an online presence and am deeply private. It may not be the norm these days but it’s not uncommon either. I’m curious how “suspicious” I look to potential jobs.

    7. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      Well I am super suspicious because apparently I have LinkedIn? But I think I have nothing on there at all. I think I joined it, decided it was not for me because I was not looking for work at the time and haven’t touched it in a decade. I legit thought it was obsolete.

      For all I know my LinkedIn profile was hacked years ago.

  3. nodramalama*

    For LW1, while I agree that gifts etc should flow downwards, I have found through working in government that my opinion seems to be in the minority. I am often asked to contribute to my managers/ manager’s managers gifts.

      1. L.H. Puttgrass*

        True. But it’s worth noting that while federal employees generally aren’t allowed to give gifts to their supervisors, there are exceptions, which include gifts on “special, infrequent occasions.” I’d think that the death of a grandparent would qualify.

        1. Morte*

          If you follow the link it’s limited to $10.00 and aggregate gifts aren’t allowed (people chipping in) for supervisors.

          1. L.H. Puttgrass*

            That’s a different exception. There’s one exception (in 5 CFR § 2635.304(a)(1)) that’s limited to gifts of less than $10. The separate exception for special, infrequent occasions (in 5 CFR § 2635.304(b)(1)) isn’t limited to that amount.

    1. Reba*

      Both LW1 and her boss should know that, etiquette aside as a fed, LW1 *cannot* give her boss a gift!

      1. Katie A*

        While this supervisor’s reaction is kind of weird for several reasons, this is not correct. That rule has exceptions. Specifically, there is an exception for special, infrequent occasions.

        The guidelines don’t specifically mention deaths, but they do mention illness. The death of a grandparent is a more special occasion than illness and can only happen about four times in the course of most people’s lives, while illness could be more frequent than that.

        There is a very very good chance it would not be inappropriate for a supervisor to accept flowers for a death.

      2. Yorick*

        I’m not sure we know that they work for the federal government. I work for a state government agency and we don’t have a budget for things like this either, but don’t have the strict rules against gifting that the feds have.

    2. connie*

      Outside heavily regulated environments, I have a really hard time calling something given to a person who is grieving a “gift”. When someone has suffered a loss, I think a little extra care can be warranted regardless of where they fall in the org chart.

      1. Lucy*

        This. I’m disappointed that so many people commenting here are jumping on the death hierarchy train, explaining that some deaths are apparently more important than others. Sometimes, the death of a parent or a sibling is a relief. And sometimes, the death of a friend, or a cousin, or a neighbour, is absolutely devastating, but even Alison cites HR policy as “proof” that deaths in an immediate family are more important that grandparents or others. If you are acknowledging one person’s grief through flowers but not someone else’s … that’s just callous. Even when the OP mentions they were a little miffed that their supervisor didn’t contribute to the flowers for the other colleague — judgey much?

        1. Umiel*

          I agree with you. I’m disappointed in Alison’s response and in the LW’s attitude. My boss had a family member who died recently, and I can’t imagine not contributing to a gift for him and his family. As someone who recently lost a close family member, it would probably sting to be asked to contribute to someone else if my loss had not been acknowledged. Maybe some people don’t realize it until they go through it, but a lot of the attitude in these responses just seems wrong to me.

    3. Sparkle llama*

      I work in local government and everyone in my small department who gives Christmas gifts gives them to everyone (including the lowest paid giving to their boss who is the highest paid) but most of us don’t do gifts. We always do admin assistant day (a generous gift card) and have done bosses day maybe twice in five years (card with maybe $5-10 of contribution per person).

      We don’t have nearly the rules of the feds and I think both times we did bosses day were really to thank him for going above and beyond to protect us from some outside forces. So generally I think people get that gifts should generally flow down, but it is not universally understood.

    4. anonymous mouse*

      I also work in government and I have never once been asked to contribute to a manager’s gift. Or anyone else’s gift. When people have a bereavement our office sends cards that everyone is asked to sign. One of the managers gets the cards and then emails everyone to come sign it, I don’t know who pays for the cards but they’re really cheap. There are also pretty strict rules in federal government work about gifts that flow up, as someone else already commented.

    5. My Useless 2 Cents*

      While I agree that gifts should flow downwards, I think bereavement “gifts” would be an exception to the rule. I put gift in quotation marks because I don’t think of this kind of thing as a gift in the traditional sense even though I am buying something for someone else.

      To me, a bereavement “gift” like cards or flowers are more of a “I’m thinking of you but can’t be there personally at this time”. If I can personally relay me condolences in a timely fashion, I will do that. If I hear about the death but know I won’t see them within the week, I’ll probably opt for a “gift”… be it a card, flowers, or some kind of food item.

    6. Lucia Pacciola*

      While I agree that *in general* gifts should flow downwards, for obvious reasons, it’s okay to treat your boss like an actual human being, who feels stress and loss. LW1 didn’t have to fall back on a legalistic, “gifts should flow downwards” rule. It’s okay to get flowers for a recently bereaved boss, not as a upwards gift, but as a gesture of heartfelt condolences from one human being to another.

      At the very least, not asking someone who’s been recently bereaved to contribute to someone else’s condolences seems like an obvious and empathetic option. The boss is acting weird, sure, but so is LW1.

      1. Critical Rolls*

        I think that communicating sincere condolences *is* treating the boss as a human being. A nice flower arrangement is not cheap, and as middle management, the LW should absolutely not be asking her reports to chip in for the boss, which would mean LW is footing the bill entirely. At that point it’s a personal gesture, and those should never feel obligatory in the workplace, even less so in an upward direction.

        It’s hindsight that asking the boss to chip in was a bad idea, because LW didn’t know they had the (wrong) idea that gifts should flow upward and downward equally, or that boss would behave as though losing a 102-year-old grandmother at the boss’s age is fully equivalent to losing a mother in your early 20s. Especially if LW has routinely offered to include the boss on gifts for LW’s direct reports.

    7. Mary*

      In my last section gifts seemed to flow upwards to the better paid who didn’t reciprocate. They also advanced for birthday cakes for all to be scrapped (but ok for them) Also we were asked to contribute a higher amount and there was no range. In the end I said no.
      Strangley they also celebrate decade birthdays

    8. Pink Candyfloss*

      I agree, but sending sympathy flowers is an expression of compassion, not a GIFT. I disagree with the official response on this one.

  4. Educator*

    LW5, I could be that SVP! I have had leadership roles for years, but I am the type to set up press that spotlights other people and my organization’s mission, not myself, so my work is not obviously tied to my name when you Google me. And I hate social media. I set up a LinkedIn years ago to see what it was, discovered a horror of bragging and pseudoscience, and bailed with about ten connections. But I am very much real, and if people did not believe it because my online presence is limited—though to my knowledge, no one ever has when I have been either a hiring manager or an applicant—I would smile, roll my eyes internally, and invite them to ask around about me in their network. They would quickly discover that you don’t need to be great at social media to be great at my job.

    1. Sun*

      That’s what’s so striking to me about this letter- where are LW5s industry contacts that they can reach out to and say hey- what’s the deal with SVP/ this position I’m super keen on etc. ??

      I’m well below executive level but once you’ve been in the field long enough (as I assume LW5 has to be recruited for such a role) it’s generally fairly easy to ask around and find more accurate connections and up to date information than whatever superficial nonsense is on Linked In.

    2. OP #5*

      Hello there, what you’re saying seems plausible! I did ask around in my field and research online with no results, which is odd for my industry.

    3. TheBunny*

      I had a boss in a previous life who would only consider candidates for roles who had a strong LinkedIn as he decided that not having it meant you weren’t a strong networker. Drove me nuts. There are other indicators of possible performance that aren’t whether or not you can use what’s essentially business Facebook.

      1. snailsharkk*

        This is really sad to me. I’m very private and don’t have much of an online presence (or any at all actually). I’m private but I’m also hiding from an abuser. I’d hate to be ruled out of jobs for something so unrelated (obv very different if my role was social media, etc).

  5. Pottery Yarn*

    As someone who has known A LOT of OP3s, definitely lean on those cat pictures! Everyone loves a good cat pic, even dog moms.

    1. Viette*

      And cat pictures are such a normal thing to share in the workplace these days! Personally, I don’t really care for pictures of other peoples’ cats (I don’t dislike cats but I don’t find pictures of animals that engaging), but I do know exactly what to do with them, socially speaking. We all know how to politely and respectfully respond to a person’s overture of a photograph of their pet, just as we know how to respond to a person talking about their hobby of cooking or biking.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Pet pictures are my leading example of things to send to your new college student that they will actually be excited to receive. (Homemade cookies are also good.)

      2. Betsy*

        One of my colleagues has a grumpy cat calendar with funny “quotes” from the cats hanging up just behind her cube. I normally don’t just start talking to people, but that made it easy for me to strike up a conversation.

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      I work for a big university, so there are thousands of people who work here that I’ll never meet. There is a pet photo community on our internal discussion board, and it’s such a delight.

      I’ve commented on photos posted by colleagues I would never otherwise encounter. My first day back at work this year was hugely improved by the person who posted a video of their cat standing on their printer/copier combo and making a photocopy of themselves, then staring intently at the printout. (The cat seemed to be enjoying itself and apparently did this fairly often.)

      1. UKDancer*

        Cute pet pictures (or other animal pictures) are great and make everyone happy. It doesn’t even have to be your pet. One of my colleagues takes pictures of animals he sees when walking and he posted some hilarious ones of grumpy looking cows from his country walks over Christmas that gave us all a laugh.

    3. Tinkerbell*

      Pet pictures are a nice safe bet, too – you owning (or being owned by) a cat doesn’t say anything about your politics, religion, neurodivergency, sexual orientation, etc. the way that many other hobbies would. (Even though people from all walks of life play videogames, for example, there’s a certain segment of non-gamers who sometimes make unflattering assumptions based on gamer stereotypes!)

    4. FYI*

      To me, the issue is that the LW explicitly said, “My hobbies feel personal to me, and honestly, they’re not something I’d want to share with my coworkers anyway.”

      Co-worker does not want to share his/her personal life — perhaps even the cats. That (to me) is completely valid. Some people have really, really solid reasons for not wanting colleagues to know anything about their lives outside of work. (One person I worked with did regular google searches of people’s homes, based on their addresses, so she could see what their homes looked like.) Some people just like their privacy. “Oh, I just hung out with friends / family” — I’d be more inclined to say that then to put up ANY photos. To me, asking for photos of your weekend is very instagram-y and over the line for a work meeting.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        A former co-worker did the Google street view because I happened to live in a very nice neighbourhood and she wanted to know how I could afford a $$$$$house. None of her business, but I was renting the in-law suite. I like the idea of random pics, I take a lot during my walks and I can fill your need for squirrels behaving badly.

      2. JustaTech*

        I had a coworker who loved to dig up people’s house pictures – it was how we found out that our office renovation perfectly matched the person in charge’s home kitchen.
        It was also how we verified the address of a just laid off coworker to send a “I’m so sorry” gift (the coworker had just bought the house and the Zillow pictures were really distinctive), but at the same time, yes it was intrusive and I worked hard to avoid giving her my address when I moved because I *knew* she would comment on the price of the house.

      3. Florence Reese*

        For sure, but the LW also explicitly asked, “Is there a way to participate in these meetings more without revealing too much of my personal life?”

        And realistically, “cat pictures” is a way to participate without revealing much of anything. Unless they run a popular IG account for their cat, nobody can glean personal information from (pre-screened) cat pictures. (Make sure you’re not leaving personal/sensitive stuff in pictures, but realistically we should all be doing that for any picture we share.)

        It’s totally valid if the LW doesn’t want to share that either! But you can’t participate in a sharing meeting without ever sharing anything. That’s just not feasible, and the LW seems to recognize that. I agree that having meetings oriented around personal socializing would be (and has been) off-putting in a lot of scenarios, but that’s what they’re attempting to navigate. If they ask how to opt out entirely, or if their manager wrote in asking for feedback, the answer would be different.

      4. Yorick*

        At some point, it’s weird to refuse to share absolutely anything with coworkers. Sure, some hobbies can be too personal and/or you might not want to talk about a certain hobby at work. But surely it’s ok for your coworkers to know that you’re a regular human who does stuff outside of work.

    5. Artemesia*

      This advice was so great. It is like being asked to share a personal fear in a work group or something else deeply personal — you make something up or you use something trivial. Part of the social skills of being effective in the work place is to maintain your boundaries without it being very noticeable. You are friendly. You love to talk about your cat, or your garden or your love for Shakespeare. You don’t have to share anything intimate or personal. It is part of the social grease that helps people get along in a friendly atmosphere.

    6. HR Exec Popping In*

      The purpose of these is because your colleagues want to know you. Share whatever you are comfortable sharing. You don’t have to participate, but take it at face value – they just want to you know you as a person. Share pet photos, random events (I made a great pasta dish this weekend or visited some family or cleaned out my closet) or let them in to see a little bit about what interests you. For example, I would love to hear about your thrifting. Did you find anything unusual? Get a great deal on something? They don’t want to hear about a “fake you”. So don’t pretend to be someone you are not.

      1. Goldie*

        I think this is the point. Your co-workers are looking to connect. Think about how you want to connect to them. You aren’t obligated to share or connect, but this desire of your coworkers is not rude or necessarily intrusive.
        It can feel weird when you don’t have that much in common with your coworkers. Especially if you are private or introverted. I love the cat idea or share about a book you read. If you find a groove of “you story” that should get you through.
        To me this experience is very common in work places. Also common for extroverts who want to share their pictures ; )

      2. Yorick*

        Yes, I respect that LW might not want to talk about their thrifting hobby, but I don’t understand why. It’s not extra personal (unless you have a personal motivation to do it, which you don’t have to share) and it could spark a good conversation.

        1. Linda*

          I interpreted “alternative fashion” to mean clothes in the leather daddy or burlesque categories, which I wouldn’t be in a hurry to share at work, either, but that probably says more about me than the LW

    7. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I’m a big fan of deciding which are your “public” hobbies/interests and just sharing those in these kinds of situations rather than trying to come up with something from scratch each time. Sure, you’ll get known as “the person with the cat”, “the person who does a lot of jigsaw puzzles”, ” the person who collects vintage glassware”, or whatever-it-is if you only pick one to share, but the point is to pick one or more things that you’re ok with having as your “flavor text” at work (or whatever other social situation you’re using this strategy in) and then just pick the most recent/relevant thing from that category to share so you can stop figuring out what you’re comfortable sharing on-the-fly.

      Pets are particularly great for that because you can take frequent pictures of them and the pets themselves won’t care that you’re spreading their personal info at work. My dog and I frequently do [insert weather-appropriate activity here] together on the weekends! The dog people may ask follow-up logistical questions about good local places to do a given dog-activity (and I might even learn of a new place to take my dog to do dog activities if we get in an actual conversation about that), and everyone else heard a bland fact that dogs like to do dog things.

      1. sparkle emoji*

        Yes, I’ve made baking one of my “public hobbies” even though I do it infrequently because it’s pretty neutral. I can share a short sentence or two about what I’ve made recently, or what my favorite bakes are and then it’s the next person’s turn.

    8. Alanna*

      I’m in a similar position – i work for a fully remote company, and we don’t have many all-staff meetings, but I’m single and have kind of a boring life. But I do animal rescue and have a bunch of pets, so everyone likes my pet updates! Don’t think too hard about it – post pictures of your cat and do it with pride!

  6. John Smith*

    Ire LW3. Must admit I get a bit peeved when I read advice to participate / discuss mundane things in meetings. If someone doesn’t want to share any details whatsoever of their personal life, this should be respected.

    “In principle, a Party member had no spare time….to do anything that suggested a taste for solitude…was always slightly dangerous. There was a word for it in Newspeak: ownlife…”. 1984 is closer than we think!

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      This seems like an odd take for this particular letter, since LW was specifically asked for ways to participate/share.

    2. Myrin*

      OP asked “Is there a way to participate in these meetings more without revealing too much of my personal life?”, of course Alison is going to give an answer about how OP can participate in these meeting more!

    3. The Prettiest Curse*

      The OP mentioned that sharing is optional. I think that sometimes people say that they are a private person, the commentariat here assumes that this means they should never be asked to share any information about themselves at all. I’m a private person too, but I’m also happy to discuss which TV show I’m watching or a tell a story about my dog.

      It’s entirely reasonable to want to know a little bit about your colleagues and share a bit about yourselves. It’s definitely NOT reasonable to be forced to share this information or to force information about your personal life upon others. But that’s not the situation here.

      1. GythaOgden*

        Same here. I enjoy solitude a bit too much but will gladly show off my knitting or cross-stitch or whatever I’ve got up to while on my own. My colleagues can see what I’m into from the pictures on the wall behind me on Teams and I’ve bonded with at least one guy over Doctor Who memes.

        And yeah, 1984 is overstating it. Dude, lighten up a bit — there’s a line between being private and being anti-social, and that’s crossing it IMO. People are not trying to oppress you by asking what you did at the weekend. They’re just being…normal people.

        1. Gracie*

          We have a crafting channel and a pet photos channel on Slack at work – people quite often post photos of their crafty hobbies! Cross stitch, embroidery, knitting and crocheting, beading/jewellery-making, soap-making… Lots of solitary hobbies

    4. allathian*

      Perhaps. That said, I do find it easier to build connections with people I have some personal connection with. It doesn’t have to be much, cat photos are perfect. This basically applies to people on my own team with whom I normally have one or two meetings a week. I provide a service to internal customers, and I don’t have to know anything about their weekends or vacations to do a good job for them because I don’t need any personal connection to do that.

      My work requires very little collaboration, but I must admit that I vastly prefer being a member of a work community like my team. If I didn’t have that social connection, I could work as a freelancer instead. I’ve done that in the past, but the main reason why I stopped was that I missed feeling connected to other people who all contributed to the same goals.

      To truly feel connected to others, it’s generally necessary to share at least something about yourself, even if it’s just that you have a cat.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes, people usually want to have some form of rapport with people and that’s a lot harder if someone won’t share anything of themselves. They don’t want to know all the intimate details of your personal life. I mean in my team I know who supports a football team, which of my colleagues have children / cute pets and broad plans like the fact one of my team is getting married so she’s booked 3 weeks for a honeymoon and another one is doing the Hajj this year (fingers crossed).

        None of this is particularly deep personal knowledge, it’s just stuff people share and talk about.

        1. allathian*

          Exactly. Most of the people I socialize with at work know that I’m married and that we have a kid at home. Sometimes there’s a “tempus fugit” moment when a coworker I haven’t had coffee with for years asks how old my son is now, and they think he’s about 10 when he’s almost 15. I’ve done the same with other people’s kids so it’s no harm, no foul.

          Of course, generally people share a bit more when the relationship is closer than that of mere coworkers. My close coworker who has the same job description as I do is a work friend, and we tell each other things that we wouldn’t necessarily share with the whole team. Because we cover for each other and have a good relationship we tend to tell each other when we’re not up to our usual speed at work for personal reasons (when my coworker’s adult stepson died by suicide a few years ago, everyone knew that he went on leave for a week, but he only shared the reason with me and our boss, we knew it was bereavement leave, others were told it was sick leave).

          In general, I guess I’m more willing to share personal stuff than some and less willing than others. I have been more private in the past, but I trust I won’t be judged for sharing just a little bit because I trust the people I work with.

          That said, I acknowledge my privilege here because I’m happy with my life choices and they’re fairly “standard” as well. I’m a white, cisgender, heterosexual woman, married with a teenager. Both of us work full time and we have college degrees. We live in a fairly middle-class suburb in a one-family house and have two cars, even if both of us mostly commute by public transit.

          We had an anonymous DEI survey (and I trust that it was anonymous, as the link to the survey was posted on our intranet rather than sent to each employee by email) and LGBT+ folx especially shared that they felt uncomfortable/unsafe talking about their family relationships etc. at work.

    5. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      This is a “choose your battles” thing. Even if you hate sharing this stuff, the easiest and socially most appropriate way forward is something fairly mild that answers the prompt and then moves on smoothly. So for OP: a character or scene from that new video game, a couple of details about that vintage shirt they found and what is significant about it etc.

    6. Tangerine Thief*

      There’s a difference between having a socially graceful and acceptable answer to such questions that are surface level but show willing and going ‘no, I’m private, I don’t want to share’ or even always remaining silent. The first option makes you look socially competent and gives colleagues a warm impression of you. The latter two at best make you look closed off and self isolating and at worst come across as cold and out of sync with the culture the OP clearly works in.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Yes, surface level is exactly the right way of putting it. I think this is an example of how distinctions can get totally flattened out in online discussions. There’s a massive difference between chatting for a couple of minutes about a film you recently saw (fine) vs being forced to share your deepest childhood trauma in a meeting (definitely not fine), but sometimes we discuss them like they’re the same thing.

      2. FYI*

        But the OP is being asked to “show photos of your holiday or weekend.”

        Not everyone TAKES photos constantly. I don’t. I would not want to have to post pictures of my life so that the team knows I am not a cold person. I can just be amiable and surface-y in the course of work. I think the request to show everyone photos of your personal world is … weird. I would not be interested in seeing photos of people’s pets or kids every week; I really wouldn’t.

        1. YuliaC*

          I agree. I don’t want to see anyone at work’s photos, and would have to take one specifically for the sharing-under-duress purpose if I had to – because I am just not in the habit of taking photos in general.
          But if I did have to, I’d snap a pic of a tree or a rock, and said that was something nice I saw on a walk :)

          1. Margaret Cavendish*

            Yeah, I mean that’s literally all it is. I don’t read the request as a requirement to share photos, and it’s certainly not a requirement to take photos for the specific purpose of sharing! It’s just about having a bit of personal conversation, which some people like to do with photos, and some don’t.

            Also, if I were in that meeting, I would love to see your tree and rock photos!

        2. Jennifer Strange*

          The OP says it’s completely optional, so I’m not seeing the issue? I’m guessing it’s less of a request and more of an offer, as in “Anyone want to share something fun they did over the weekend.”

          1. FYI*

            Yes, it’s optional. But look at the number of people even here saying that it’s off-putting if you don’t participate. Not everyone is taking pictures of their life all day!

            1. Margaret Cavendish*

              I posted above, but I imagine the pictures are optional as well! If you literally have no cat pictures, or trees and rocks pictures, or any pictures you’d be willing to share, you can still participate just by chatting. Tell people you did laundry and you’re rewatching The Office. No pictures involved, but you’ve done your bit to maintain the social connection.

            2. Lenora Rose*

              You’re conflating people saying it’s off-putting if you don’t share anything, ever, and the specific situation in the letter, which does start falling into that overly intrusive realm. There are even comments talking about this very spectrum and range.

              Nobody said OP is obliged to bring in a photo every weekend; even Alison’s reply didn’t. But bringing in a pet photo every couple of months, and a breezy verbal comment on the other weeks about “spent my time snuggled at home and it was glorious!” is hardly a horrible onerous duty. (The way, eg, bringing in a photo every week and feeling obliged to go into detail about hobbies you don’t want to share would be.)

            3. GythaOgden*

              Not necessarily. I think what people are saying is in response to someone angrily disagreeing with ever sharing anything and likening it to 1984 Ingsoc. The OP is actually asking for help with what to share, so it sounds like they are at least interested in doing so.

              There’s also a difference between sitting out a communal activity like this quietly and getting angry with people IRL about it. If you’re doing the former no-one really gives much thought to it, although if you want to keep your hand in it might be fun once in a while to share something. It’s when you do the latter, like the OP of this thread was doing, that it gets noticed and counted against you.

              (And yeah I had a five minute call with someone that ballooned into 15 minutes because he’s just come back from Australia. It was actually nice to be able to listen for once rather than feel like I’m on the spot a bit — and to imagine for a brief moment what it’s like to be in a more comfortable temperature than minus brrrrrr and not have to have my fleecey blanket and heating pad on all day. I’m going to snap some of my cross-stitch for the next time we’re in person.)

              Now excuse me, it’s almost half five and I’m going upstairs to play Fortnite…

            4. Jennifer Strange*

              Just because some of you find it off putting doesn’t mean everyone does. The fact that some coworkers are participating would indicate that they enjoy participating. Also, one doesn’t need to take pictures of their life “all day” to be able to share a picture or two. It’s a snapshot of going to the zoo or completing a half marathon, not a beat by beat recap of every moment from your weekend.

          1. AnonORama*

            I can’t imagine that folks are required to take pics of their weekend; that would be super weird and I personally (as someone who has barely been photographed outside passport, driver’s license, etc. in a good 20 years) would be looking for the exit. But, can you get away with something like “no pics, but I had a chill weekend with the cats/got a lot of errands done/cooked or ate something tasty,” etc. Totally surface, but not closed off or unfriendly-seeming, should go a long way.

      3. The dark months*

        I think tangerine thief nailed it. And it appears that OP is looking for ways to participate without feeling like people are going to start prying into their social life. One of my friends really likes plants. Like, looovvves her plants. This is often her safe work conversation topic and will share when a plant gets a new leaf or flower with great joy. And then it passes to the next person. While I don’t expect OP to match the level of enthusiasm of my plant friend finding just one slightly personal comment can go a long way. Heck, even the weather can be made personal – I spoke to friend on west coast they are being wimps about the temp compared to us/ friend in much colder place. Small talk is a skill made much more difficult by remote work but it is a part of work and OP has obviously recognized this.

    7. Cute As Cymraeg*

      It’s just a bit of surface-level small-talk to grease the wheels of workplace interaction, Winston. It’s not that deep.

    8. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      Dude, I’m as big a fan of keeping work and the rest of my life separate as the next person, but this is a massive overreaction. Some people are less private and more social.

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      Small talk is a thing for smoothing human interactions, and “what I did this past weekend” is right behind “the current weather” for innocuous topics that humans try to use in these situations. For the latter you can offer from “It sure is cold” to “Lake Erie had a seiche!” depending on the interests and knowledge of your audience, and for the former from “Hung out at home, did some gaming” to “I got to level 17 on that new Zombie-Mario game, but I can’t beat the psychedelic oregano” again depending on the interests and knowledge of your audience. Doing your part to be a pleasant coworker who doesn’t have to be tiptoed around is a standard workplace expectation.

      Even the introverted or private amongst us enjoy that more than we would its predecessor, social grooming.

    10. Nancy*

      Oh stop with the overreaction to a bit of small talk. OP is asking for ways to participate with an optional request.

      Fashion, writing, and playing video games aren’t unusual activities, so OP could even give those basic answers. Pull up some generic free photo as representation. There is probably a coworker or two who enjoys the same thing.

    11. Garblesnark*

      Eh. It’s really not that much to share a detail about your life.

      I usually answer with what vegetable I ate most recently if I’m feeling private. This is basically no information whatsoever about me. Whether I’ve been enjoying broccoli or cauliflower or squash is utterly meaningless and indicates nothing. But it makes me feel a little more human to the people I work with. There’s no harm there.

    12. Gemstones*

      How is this like 1984? The workplace is encouraging people to share their personal lives, not acting like they’re dangerous or weird for having a personal life.

      1. AnonORama*

        Yeah, I’ve heard a fair amount of what sounds like it could easily be Newspeak in various jobs, but this isn’t it. Most employers want you to have some “own time” activities to report, if only so they can pat themselves on the back about their work-life balance.

  7. Myrin*

    #4, possibly I’m reading way too much into a more-or-less random word choice on your part, but what concerns me is the “indicated” – “I approached my leadership about appropriate compensation for this and they indicated if the new team was successful…”; did they clearly say that you were going to get a bonus or were they being vague and more like “oh, we can certainly imagine that” or “that sounds like a good idea”?

    That is no way to treat someone who sounds like a top performer regardless and the “ghosting” is cowardly and just plain wrong but it sounds like it would at least explain their evasiveness a little better (still, it’s then on them to clearly lay out that they don’t intent do give you a bonus, not to simply hope it all goes away).

    Obviously just ignore this comment if they were indeed being crystal clear, but the wording did give me pause so I was wondering if there might be more to it.

    1. münchner kindl*

      Good point. The bosses are still unethical/ not good managers for trying to short-shrift OP, but if they remember “well we suggested something, but didn’t give any definite promise, so we are not required to keep any promise” they can officially log it as simple misunderstanding, not deliberate defrauding of OP.

      It’s still bad management because they will not only loose OP, word will likely get around on how going above and beyond isn’t worth the effort at this company.

      1. Ta*

        Yes, OP, this is an excellent point — and your mission after you give your two weeks notice: make sure everyone at your company is aware of this situation and how going above and beyond and creating a huge increase in income for your company (30% — is HUGE) will get some vague handwaving — and nothing more.

        Good luck, onward and upward!

  8. Dadjokesareforeveryone*

    LW2, I would take a look at your interactions with this co-worker. Have you offered to assist him with scheduling anything? If so I heard that conveys a clear sign of romantic interest to some men. /s

    In all seriousness I’d favor directly communicating that you’re not interested in more than a general working relationship. If he keeps pushing I would go to HR like Alison suggested.

    1. The Other Fish*

      LW2, if you push back on this and mention it a date then the other party gets to act all offended and like they never were asking for anything inappropriate. Which is nonsense, they were, but because they weren’t explicit they can gaslight and pretend they weren’t. If they are particularly problematic they can make quite a song and dance (that they definitely started) and drag you into it, with the bonus that they dirty your name, make themselves notorious and get more face time with you. An ugly feature of the “I just wanted to talk to them about work stuff, not ask them on a DATE!” Folks.

      Just respond with the polite and firm “If you have any work related tasks I am happy to work with you on them or pass you to the relevant party. I am very busy and not keen to increase my work contacts sorry.” And stick to it. If pushed after this just say “But you are a work colleague, WHY do you need my personal number?” And force their hand.

      1. Kella*

        This is why I like Alison’s suggestion of “I like to keep work and personal relationships separate” because it covers the whole range of potential interactions the coworker was interested in, so the coworker can’t resort to gaslighting.

        1. At that price point he can hit*

          This my preferred response too. There’s a chance he could respond with the “oh no, I would never, this is work related” gaslighting that’s been mentioned but OP doesn’t need to entertain that fiction.

        2. Everything Bagel*

          I agree, there’s no reason to say more than what Allison suggested. If the guy suggests that he wants your personal number to talk about work, say “I prefer to leave work at work.”

      2. learnedthehardway*

        I like this, with the exception that I don’t think the OP needs to explain that they don’t want to build their work contacts (which would be odd to say). Just a “Not interested. If you have work issues to discuss, please make an appointment. I keep work and personal relationships separate” type of message will be fine.

      3. Hosta*

        “I want asking you out on a DATE. I would never want to date you!”

        “Oh! Whew, I’m so glad to hear that!”

  9. Kella*

    OP5- even if you consider the lack of online presence a red flag (which Alison made could arguments for why it isn’t necessarily one) red flags should always be considered *in context* not by themselves. Every connection you’ve made prior to this has shown every sign of being legitimate and there are hundreds of people you could contact to verify their legitimacy. You’ve had multiple interviews with them. Scammers don’t tend to put this much effort when a phishing link is all it takes for many to get scammed. And given the information you’ve already offered them through the process thus far, what more could they get from you that would be gained from an additional fake interview?

    I’m curious, have you been badly scammed before? If so, that may have de-calibrated your threat-sensors more than you think, making one unusual data point turn into something panic-inducing. If that’s the case, I hope you can get support for dealing with those feelings.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      It worries me a bit that this is for an executive-level role (which is presumably fairly senior, probably with direct and ‘indirect’ reports?) that OP seems very reactive in jumping to conclusions and is considering pulling out of the whole process based on lack of LinkedIn connections and press for this SVP. Surely there are ways to find out whether these people are genuine (e.g. was OP approached by the recruiter or did they “apply” for the role? Can they verify with others at the company that it is genuine? What would be the desired result for a scammer if this was a fake process? etc). OP has gone straight to catastrophising it seems like. I realise anyone can do that but it just seems worrying in an exec level role, like will they react similarly strongly to other setbacks?

      1. Kella*

        Yes, they seem to have left “problem solving brain” and are living in “panic brain” with regards to these interviews. You don’t have to abandon ship at first sign that something could be a scam. You use independent sources to verify, you take precautions to protect yourself, you keep your eyes open to other red flags etc.

        It’s possible that whatever triggered this panic is hyper-specific to the interview process and wouldn’t come up during normal work duties. I’m assuming OP has experience at this kind of level or they wouldn’t otherwise be a viable candidate so I don’t want to speculate that OP isn’t capable of executive-level responsibilities because of this one issue (that would be *us* making the same mistake of taking a single red flag out of context!). Or it’s possible that this is a new issue that has not yet manifested in work contexts.

    2. OP #5*

      Yes, I posted more background in the comments to help with the context. I’m not saying I’m correct in what I’m thinking may be true, but I posed the question here for a discussion to hear other inputs from this community which I respect!

      I’ve researched and found nothing which is odd for my industry. This job is not on the company career site even though others at this level are. A job role description was provided however there are formatting errors. I was threatened and contacted by a previously fired coworker which I think is a big risk factor here for me.

      1. Generic Name*

        Um, ok, so the job not being listed on the website AND being full of formatting errors seems like a red flag to me. Could you reach out to someone at the company through their website (HR or recruiting) to confirm that the job exists?

      2. Observer*

        This job is not on the company career site even though others at this level are. A job role description was provided however there are formatting errors. I was threatened and contacted by a previously fired coworker


        Now, I *still* don’t see what the scam would be, but I certainly agree that SOMETHING is off here! Very much so.

        I see two issues here. One is potential scam. The fact that the job description and posting are so out of sync with the rest of the company, and even more so, that the job is not posted even though others are, do constitute a red flag.

        The other thing is the threat from a former employee. That might actually explain why the job is not being posted – they may be trying to avoid someone potentially violent. But that’s still a *major* issue. Now, it could be just one of those things that happens and is not the company’s fault, but I would still want to know how the company is handling this. But I would also want to know some backstory, because I would want to know how this came to be? Does the company have bad hiring practices, have a tendency to ignore red flags, etc?

        As another commenter said, “way to bury the lede”. It sure chages the entire question.

        1. Elsewise*

          From LW 5’s other comment, I gather that the person who contacted and threatened them was a former colleague of theirs in a separate situation, not a former employee of the place they’re applying to.

    3. ReeCeeRob*

      There’s a recent podcast, Wedding Scammer, which starts with a story about a man who set up an entire fake news organization, hired dozens of people at different levels, had them work for him for up to 8 weeks, never paid them, then “dissolved” the company. I think scams are unlikely, but not unheard of.

  10. Daria Grace*

    OP#3, I’m similar to you have have found the pet photo route very successful. It doesn’t even have to be your own pet! I don’t have one so I regularly posted photos I’ve taken of my sister’s cat or dogs i saw while out walking and those were always a huge hit.

  11. Awkwardness*

    LW1, I an dumbfounded on the position of your supervisor. I hope she is only being weird because she is grieving.

    There is of course a different emotional impact of losing your parent at a young age compared to loosing your grandparent at a more seasoned age. And even if the grandparent raised her – you are more likely to expect somebody to go at the age of 102 than somebody in their 40s or 50s.

    1. WS*

      I work in healthcare so I see a lot of grieving families and the only constant is that grieving can make you extremely and unexpectedly weird. So yes, I would extend a little grace and assume that this is that specific kind of weirdness and move on. Doing what you did was a nice gesture for the young coworker who lost a parent.

      1. DJ Hymnotic*

        Also work in healthcare, in a role that entails quite a lot of work with grieving families. Can confirm. And being told that someone else’s loss must be more significant than yours would be apt to make the weirdness even more acute. Even if that may be accurate by one metric or another, pointing that out won’t help the LW’s boss process their grief, which is what will ultimately help with the weirdness in the end.

        (Not that it’s the LW’s job to help their boss process because it obviously isn’t, but avoiding such comparisons is a way to not contribute to any potential additional weirdness.)

    2. MK*

      As someone who has lost their grandmother at 102, I can say that, while the grief is not intense, the shock is. My own grandmother enjoyed good physical health till about a month before she died, when her body started to basically shut down due to old age. I was very shocked because, frankly, she had lived so long I had come to believe she would never die!

      1. JSPA*

        There’s what the rational mind knows. Sepatarely, there are the touchstones that we have, that orient our internal universe.

        The weakness (and the strength) of being evolved animals, rather than constructed systems, is that the rational mind is rarely very effective at driving our stronger emotions and reactions.

        I’m not at all surprised that the boss FEELS injured.

        I’m a bit surprised that a lengthy complaint made it all the way out of her mouth, without her rational faculties cutting in at some point. I fear she may be among the (large) percentage of people who assume that if they feel injured, that there must be a perpetrator. In that case, discussion isn’t going to help.

        1. MK*

          Yes, I agree. Even if objectively OP had missteped, it’s very inappropriate to chastise your subordinate for not sending flowers to your grandmother’s funeral, or daring to ask for a contribution for another coworker.

        2. Gray Lady*

          This, exactly. “Grief makes you weird,” check. But it shouldn’t make an otherwise stable person so entirely devoid of rational faculty that you let irrational feelings come out of your mouth in more than (at worst) a snide, self-pitying remark or two.

    3. Empress Ki*

      It really depends on the relationship you have with your grandparent. I lost my grandmother when she was 98. It was expected. It is still a terrible loss for me. I also lost my mum when she was 50, and I don’t miss her that much.
      Each relationshio is unique, and nobody can decide whose death should impact you the most.

    4. Irish Teacher*

      I wonder if perhaps the supervisor had people be dismissive of her grief because the grandmother was 103 and “ah, sure, you must have known it was coming” and this felt like one more person treating her loss as less important due to the age of the person who died.

      I think the LW’s reaction was absolutely reasonable. Not only does the LW have more responsibility for supporting her report than her supervisor in this situation, but the death of a parent when you are in your 20s is likely to be a particularly upsetting loss. It is likely the death was shocking and/or particularly tragic, as the odds are the parent was around their 50s and dying at that age is likely to be due to something like an accident or cancer or something even more traumatic (and the LW mentions it was sudden) and also people in their 20s often still have some level of reliance on their parents. A lot of people at that age and stage of life still turn to their parents for help with things like renting their first apartment or advice about relationships or emotional support if a relationship ends or they lose a job. Many still live at home and even for those who don’t, there is often a safety net of knowing they can return home if anything goes wrong. It is unlikely the supervisor had that kind of reliance on her elderly grandmother.

      So it’s not about saying the supervisor’s loss is unimportant, just that the sudden loss of a parent in your 20s is particularly shocking. But if the supervisor had a number of people acting like her loss was no big deal or saying stuff like “ah sure, it was her time,” I can see how it might have felt like the LW was saying something similar. Sometimes when we have a number of people who react poorly to something, we start expecting poor reactions and assuming them even when people are being supportive.

    5. Nancy*

      No, don’t attach a person’s emotional impact on losing someone to the age of the person who died.

      I pretty much forgive all weirdness that happens when a person is grieving.

  12. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP1 (flowers for bereavement): Boss is seeing giving flowers etc in the context of a “personal” interaction. OP sees it as a “workplace” interaction. This explains everything in the letter, including the boss’s weird reaction (which is perhaps not so weird when read as “well, you didn’t get me anything and now you are asking me to contribute for the other person” in the context of social ‘peers’ instead of a workplace hierarchy).

    1. Phryne*

      I think there might also be a disconnect between what is a gift and what is not. I agree gifts should flow down, but I am not sure if I would consider flowers after a life event a gift in quite that way.
      Not the fault of OP of course, but I also think that it is very cheap for a business not to have a budget for things like this. I work in non-profit/education and we have a budget (it’s called the ‘love and loss budget’). Even on public funds, some flowers here and there aren’t going to break the bank…

      1. Nebula*

        The LW said they work in government: it is illegal to spend public funds on things like this for employees in the US (where I assume the LW is) and also in the UK (where I am). It’s not about being cheap, it’s straight up not allowed.

      2. doreen*

        Assuming the LW is in the US , I’d been really surprised if there was anywhere where spending public funds on flower or gifts of any kind was allowable. But I agree that flowers after a death are not really a gift – and also that there some exceptions to “gifts flow down not up”, and I think this is one of them along with other “life events” like weddings and retirements. However, the fact that I think they are exceptions doesn’t mean I think the boss is right to get annoyed. She isn’t – not unless there’s a group pf people who have multiple managers who have lost grandparents and everyone got flowers except this one.

        1. feline outerwear catalog*

          I agree that grief is weird. I wish I’d learned that sooner, I have almost lost some close friends after terrible things they’ve said while grieving that I did not understand was the cause of it.

          I would suggest cards over flowers every time. Flowers can add emotional labor to grieving folks that you might not expect. When I lost a parent, we were overwhelmed with flowers and the non-local folks could not take them on planes, so the local family members were stuck with them after the service.
          It was a nice gesture, but taking care of flowers is an additional task that you’re stuck with while grieving which isn’t great. Then, you have additional emotional labor of writing thank yous for flowers and such.
          Cards are less likely to cause issues and you can read them to remind yourself that people care after the flowers are gone, and people stop checking in on you as frequently.
          I would only do flowers if you know it’s what the person would want, or they have specifically asked for help with them, such as if the family doesn’t have a lot of money for funeral flowers and you want to contribute. They are really expensive and the funeral homes try to gouge on on them, it’s awful.

          1. Freya*

            This. I was the only family member who drove to my grandfather’s funeral, not flew, AND had spare seats in my car – everyone else lives either too far away to drive, or carpooled. So I got the massive arrangement of gerberas. It was bright and colourful, bigger than me, and exactly what grandpa wanted in his funeral flowers. And it lasted for ages. But it was not an easy thing to distribute the flowers at all, because the logistics sucked.

  13. Tangerine Thief*

    For OP 3, I really feel as though you are overthinking the depth or intensity that people want when they ask.

    ‘Is there a way to participate in these meetings more without revealing too much of my personal life?’

    Literally, all they want is ‘picked up a new video game and my cat was adorable all weekend’. Nobody wants a three page essay or a whole speech. You can just give a tiny insight into yourself and they will be satisfied.

    It’s good to be private at work but it’s also good to bond with coworkers in this surface level way, to humanise yourself and make yourself approachable especially to colleagues who might not see you every single day. You are helping to build connections and to give people some data on who you are as a person. A balance is necessary, rather than skewing one way or the other too far.

    1. D*

      Like the OP, I do write when I’m not at the office. My coworkers mostly know this. I don’t tell them /what/ I write, just “Spent the weekend writing” or “I got through a chapter and then ran into a snag that I’m thinking through.” Do they care? Probably not! But it’s not as if your hobbies have to be banal to mention.

      1. Lenora Rose*

        You probably don’t even need that much detail. People at work know I do pottery, but I’ve never had to do so much as show a photo (And if they did ask, the coffee mug and cute doodads on my desk are from folks who share the studio space, not my own, so I get to deflect from myself there, too). I don’t know if anyone except the couple of coworkers on Facebook would have a way to know I write, too.

    2. Hosta*

      I tell people about my cats and that I spent my time of cleaning. Someone once asked me why I spent so much time cleaning and I explained that I’m really, really bad at it.

    3. londonedit*

      Exactly, it’s surface-level stuff. No need to overthink it. If someone asks how your weekend was, or even asks what you got up to at the weekend, it’s not mandatory to give them every detail – or even to give them any detail. Any response you’re comfortable with, whether it’s ‘Oh, I had a brilliant day on Saturday – my sister was visiting and we went to a couple of exhibitions and ended up eating at that new Vietnamese place I mentioned last week. The food was incredible!’ to ‘Ah, just a quiet one – nice to have some time at home’ is absolutely fine. It’s nice to have that little bit of non-work interaction with colleagues so that you all see each other as human beings. It’s not about revealing personal information – no one at work really knows anything about my life in detail but they do know things like broadly where I live, how many siblings I have and where my parents live, the fact that I enjoy football and trying new recipes and I’m trying to get back into going to the gym. Nothing hugely personal there but plenty of food for small-talk and enough so that I appear like a rounded human being with a personality.

    4. Qwerty*

      Your first sentence so much.

      OP3 – interact with your coworkers based on what they talk about. It sounds like they may be giving more details, so just join their conversation. They probably won’t notice that you don’t do much on weekends besides hang with the cat and catch up on housework/errands if you engage with them on that cool new Italian restaurant they went to or ask them how their batch of home-brewed beer turned out. It’s about finding surface-level ways to connect and have some commraderie during the work day.

      1. Precious Wentletrap*

        This is where you learn an INCREDIBLY important skill for both the workplace and the rest of the world: How to talk about yourself without really talking about yourself. You tell people things you did on the weekend that everyone does on a weekend, like laundry or grocery shopping. You comment on local weather or sports or popular entertainment. You could be in witness protection for all anyone knows but you’ll still be seen as polite and friendly.

        1. the cat's pajamas*

          I struggle with this too. Another trick I used to use was if I was reading a book or watched a movie that had something interesting and work-safe I could share, like a funny anecdote. This is easier with non-fiction books, biographies, etc.

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yeah, I really think that coworkers aren’t interested at all in the details of what you do in your personal life as much as they are curious if they have anything in common with you. So if you, say, share a cat photo, another coworker can share a photo of their cat and then voila, you have a cat photo buddy! Cat buddies are the best! (The exec dir at my last org had started out as my boss and gotten promoted, and thus we had had a close boss/direct report relationship at first and then I didn’t have nearly as much interaction with her when she was ED; after that, our only real interactions involved sending each other photos of our cats. It was really sweet.)

        I wonder if part of the issue OP is having is that their coworkers ARE sharing essay-length stories/descriptions of their weekends. Have no fear, OP, you need not get into that amount of detail about what you’ve been up to, no one cares that much! Another good response when someone asks about your weekend that you could use is “It was so nice to have a day of unscheduled time.” (Seriously, having a completely unscheduled day is SO IMPORTANT to me; even just having ONE THING that I have to get to at a certain time changes the entire mood of the day. The How to ADHD youtube channel just came out with a video about this topic and I was like, “Yes, THIS!”)

        Yesterday I just stayed home with my cats and it was glorious.

    5. H.Regalis*

      I really feel as though you are overthinking the depth or intensity that people want when they ask.


      As part of our weekly meetings, my boss has our team go around and say how their weekend was and if we need more work. Typical responses for the first part of that:
      -“My kids were sick so we were home all weekend.”
      -“I went golfing.”
      -“Saw a bunch of friends.”
      -“Relaxed at home.”
      -“Mowed the lawn.”

      That’s it. One sentence. You’re just making small talk, which is an excellent skill learn. Plus, since your team shares photos, you have the perfect photography subject: Your cats! Animal pics are a perennial favorite with the majority of people.

  14. Elan Morin Tedronai*

    LW#2: You might consider taking a few leaves from this Reddit thread here ( just in case things escalate. You’d also want to go to your boss and/or HR – not to report this coworker (yet), but maybe just so they can be aware of a developing situation. That way you have a trail if/when things escalate and you can control the narrative by documenting things first.

  15. Coyote River*

    LW5, for what it’s worth I don’t use LinkedIn and have little social media presence. Although, I only run a small security firm, I’m not a senior member of a massive global organisation.

    1. Zona the Great*

      One of the great thrills I get in life is starting a new job and someone comes up to me and says that I am nowhere to be found online. Goal reached.

  16. Madame Arcati*

    LW2 I think it might help to remember what LinkedIn actually is. It’s not a government registry (like Companies House in the U.K. or whatever the US equiv is) or arguably a requirement for a business to function in the western working world (like a phone line, or probably the internet). It’s business-focussed social media, loads of people never go near it and I daresay thousands of jobs are researched, offered and taken every day without LinkedIn being involved at all. Facebook has nearly three times as many users and you wouldn’t think someone was inherently suspicious for not having an account on there.

        1. borealis*

          It’s heartening to see that other people’s brains also make this kind of somersault sometimes.

          1. AnonORama*

            Ha, I live in area code 512 (and have for 11 years), but have never changed my phone which has a 215 area code from where I used to live. I’d say at least 1/4 of the people I give it to write it down wrong as 512.

  17. English Rose*

    LW1: people react to grief in strange ways, and it could be your manager’s loss of their grandmother has stirred up some difficult feelings which make their reaction out of proportion.
    So perhaps they’re a bit unhinged, or perhaps they’re just normally weird around all kinds of things.
    Either way, from my own experience of loss, flowers are lovely, but sincere condolences are better, and it sounds like you’re demonstrating compassion well both to your manager and team member.

  18. Madame Arcati*

    LW5 you didn’t “go wrong” anywhere! If, as we have recent evidence, multiple people can try to chat up an actual BOT, then you can be sure that colleague is capable of asking you out without the slightest encouragement (unintentional or otherwise) from you!

    1. Observer*

      If, as we have recent evidence, multiple people can try to chat up an actual BOT, then you can be sure that colleague is capable of asking you out without the slightest encouragement

      I would repeat this 1,000 times if I could.

      But, really OP, this is completely and absolutely true. This had nothing to do with you, and everything to do with him.

  19. Empress Ki*

    1. People who are bereaved can be weird. If she’s otherwise a good supervisor, I wouldn’t draw conclusions about her for this.
    In general, I agree that gifts should flow downwards, but I think it is different for bereavement, because it is about showing compassion to someone who has experienced a loss.
    Unless we know someone very well, we don’t know whose death will affect them the most. Your supervisor may have been very close to her grandmother. I was devastated when I lost mine, though she was old and her death was expected.

    1. Rebecca*

      You are right about compassion—corporate gifts should flow down the org chart, but compassion should flow in all directions. Grief doesn’t care who manages who.
      OP, you were insensitive. You asked somebody who didn’t get acknowledgement of her grief to acknowledge someone else’s grief. On top of that, you are ranking grief to justify it. You should have just skipped asking your manager to contribute.

      1. MamaSarah*

        Hard disagree and I see a lack of compassion in this response. I think LW1 was more than appropriate in both instances.

        Another option might be to pick flowers from your own garden or perhaps stroll the neighborhood for a few blossoms (this works well in the spring, and most folks are happy to share) and make a little bouquet using whatever nice glassware you’d like to share. This gets around the expense, invites nature into the office, and lets the person grieving know that you care. ❤️

      2. MamaSarah*

        I think LW1 was more than appropriate in both instances. They are not obligated to ensure their boss’s grief is acknowledged.

      3. Observer*

        You asked somebody who didn’t get acknowledgement of her grief to acknowledge someone else’s grief.

        Not true – the OP did actually acknowledge their supervisor’s grief and offer condolences.

  20. Helvetica*

    LW#2 – while your co-worker should not hit on you, his actions don’t seem egregious to me either, in terms of asking you to dinner based on a few interactions. He should have understood your first soft no for what it is, I agree, and you should make your disinterest clear but I don’t necessarily think suggesting dinner in that manner is the worst way to go about it.

    1. Czhorat*

      “egregious” is a big word, but it really isn’t OK.

      People are at work to work, not to look for potential mates. There’s a tendency amongst men to look for romance *everywhere* and see every woman as a potential target – see last week’s letter about the email scheduling script that had men hitting on it for an example.

      I’m sure that to women this can be exhausting. I *get* that dating is hard (as much as I can from the perspective of having been out of that game for over two decades), but doesn’t mean it’s OK to turn your office into your own personal singles’ bar. It’s not appropriate, it can make the workplace less comfortable to your coworkers, and it can get tangled up in power dynamics depending on the relative positions of the two people.

      1. Helvetica*

        Thanks, I am a woman and I know well how exhausting it is.
        I mainly meant that in the grand scale of all the things we have seen on this site regarding co-workers and potential for a romantic relationship, this was not the worst thing he could’ve done. I don’t disagree that he should stop the overtures (and should have stopped after her first rejection).

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          Not being the worst thing he could have done doesn’t mean it still wasn’t a poor choice on his part.

        2. Willow Pillow*

          Worse things have happened when men don’t respect a negative response to this stuff, though…

          Nicole Hammond was shot in October 2022 in Minnesota.
          Lily Sullivan was strangled and dumped in a pond in December 2021 in Wales.
          A 15-year-old girl was strangled in London in September 2023.
          Caroline Nosal was shot in February 2016 in Wisconsin (by a coworker who hit on her and was subsequently fired).

          There are countless other women severely injured or killed because their rejection wasn’t respected. Questions on how to safely reject someone do not deserve your “it wasn’t that bad…”

    2. bamcheeks*

      I don’t necessarily think suggesting dinner in that manner is the worst way to go about it

      Maybe it isn’t the *worst* way, but this is just not an It you need to Go About at work at all. Escalating from “a few friendly conversations” to asking someone out is wild, IMO.

      (This always turns into “so are you saying that nobody should ever date anyone they meet through work”, and my answer is that it’s fine if there is a *mutual* interest in moving towards a romantic relationship, and if you think the only way to find out if there’s a mutual interest is to go directly to asking someone out, you are not sufficiently socially skilled to date at work and you should stick to other venues and methods.)

        1. bamcheeks*

          So I would say first of all, have you established a non-romantic, more-than-work friendship — do they laugh at your jokes in ordinary work meetings, do they look pleased to see you, do they come over to you to chat in the before/after bits of work meetings, do you hang out at work social events, when you talk to each other about work stuff do you find yourself frequently going off topic on personal chat and then going, “god, sorry, back to work! I meant to ask you about the TCP reports?”, do you know the names of each other’s pets, hobbies, etc, do you trust each other to keep confidences like, “I am so annoyed at Julie and the way she’s handling this” or non-work stuff like, “my mum’s not well, she’s having some tests next week and I’m pretty worried about it”.

          second, IF you’ve done all that and it’s clearly happening on both sides– you seek them out and talk about stuff other than work, AND they seek you out when you don’t seek them out (ie. they are more than “just being polite” in responding to your questions and not actively walking away when you go over to them), then hooray, you have established a work friendship! At this point it is completely reasonable to suggest something like getting a coffee or a drink after work, or asking them if they want to see a film with you. Hopefully you have a solid enough connection that they will not feel weird about saying no if they don’t want to take the friendship out of work. If they say yes, but then don’t do anything about scheduling or seem super busy and it’s impossible to find a mutually convenient time, then accept that you just have a nice work friendship and stay there. One of my friends talks about how when you escalate a friendship, you always escalate ONE level (eg. from “frequent casual chats at work” to “hey, want to get a coffee sometime and help me out with that knitting snarl you said you’d look at?” and then let them do the next escalation, eg. from “casual coffee with a clear pretext to “regular hanging out for fun”.) On the other hand, maybe it will change to a non-work friendship and you’ll socialise outside work too, and that is nice!

          If you are doing all that and still think there is potential for more, you will probably have mentioned at some stage have mentioned that you’re single*, and they will a) have mentioned that they are ALSO single, b) have mentioned that they are single, but added something like, “and I really like it that way! so not looking for anything right now” or c) mentioned a partner. A) is an invitation to try a romantic overture. Everything else is not.

          Maybe this sounds like a lot! But I think this is just how friendships and relationships naturally develop between people who are considerate and respectful of other people’s boundaries. And there are many settings where you can move faster and be less cautious, of course, but work is where it’s important to be MORE cautious because people cannot usually get out of that setting easily. It’s when people escalate from, “they talked to me twice and I think they’re pretty” to “HEY, do you wanna go for dinner?” that things get weird.

          1. bamcheeks*

            * if you are not single, but open to some kind of relationship with or without the knowledge and consent of your spouse, work is not the place to look for that relationship IMO. No judgment on consensual non-monogamy, but that’s an extra level of complication to juggle on top of not making the workplace weird and you should definitely find some other outlet for it.

            1. aqua*

              This is a weird line to draw. If you’re that close to a work friend you probably have an idea of if they’re open to non monogamous relationships or not. I don’t really understand why starting a monogamous work relationship is fine but a non monogamous one isn’t.

                1. bamcheeks*

                  I don’t think I have– I specified “with or without the knowledge and consent of your spouse” (though should also have said partner!) and said no judgment on consensual non-monogamy. I did not say no judgement on non-consensual non-monogamy because I do judge that.

                2. Czhorat*

                  Yeah, to answer you below, I wouldn’t have specified “ethically” non-monogamous if bamcheeks hadn’t said “with or without your spouse’s consent”; those are two very different circumstances.

                  I don’t think people should seek any romantic relationships at work (and it’s easy for me to say, because I *am* in a long-term monogamous relationship which I hope lasts the balance of my life), but if they do, then the only thing that should matter is that all partners are treated fairly and with dignity. Cheating is a no, but other non-monogamous relationships should all be pretty much the same.

                3. aqua*

                  yeah to be clear I absolutely don’t date at work, although I have several very close work friends who I hang out with regularly outside of the office! I generally think dating at work is a bad idea, I just don’t think being nonmonogamous makes it a worse idea!

              1. Czhorat*

                I agree, if it’s ethically non-monogamous.

                If you’re cheating on your spouse, that opens up an entire potential can of worms that shouldn’t be open in the workplace.

                As the saying goes, don’t crap where you eat.

                1. aqua*

                  I didn’t specify “ethically nonmonogamous” because I don’t like the assumption that nonmonogamy is unethical by default. Nobody is specifying “ethically monogamous” every time they mention monogamous relationships.

              2. bamcheeks*

                Yeah, fair enough, I guess I was thinking about it from the point of intent! If the friendship happens organically and then a chance to hook up / date / go to the same sex club comes up and you’ve established that you’re both in that zone, hey, why not. But numbers-wise, I think thinking of work as a place to meet people who are into ethnical non-monogamy is probably going to be *highly* inefficient, and there isn’t a not-weird way to say, “I’m married, but actually it’s open marriage” in *most* work cultures. Maybe this is different in certain specific cultures– I used to work with academics in sexuality / gender studies, and that was definitely a “not going to assume you’re straight and/or monogamous unless you tell me that” vibe — but in general I’d say that you want to have the friendship *well* established before that conversation comes up and this comment was intended to be Dating People At Work 101!

                1. aqua*

                  it is generally difficult for me to avoid mentioning that my relationships aren’t monogamous if I know someone well enough to discuss relationships at all, due to the fact that I’ll mention multiple partners. It feels like you’re picturing someone with a primary partner having sex outside of that relationship rather than other forms of nonmonogamy?

                2. bamcheeks*

                  Basically I was trying to explain the way people use relationship status *specifically* to signal indirectly whether or not they are open to a romantic invitation, rather than as part of general conversation about their lives. My experience with consensual and aboveboard non-monogamy (which admittedly was only a few years and not very successful!) is that it doesn’t work on indirectness, and I think cultures and spaces which promote and respect non-monogamy in functional and ethical ways rely on it being ok to say, “are you open to being approached? You’re not? Ok” and both people considering that a respectful conversation. I just don’t think that kind of frankness can work in most work cultures. But I’m genuinely interested if that’s it your experience!

          2. londonedit*

            Yeah, absolutely all of this. You need to establish some sort of genuine rapport/friendship, and you also need to establish that the person is a) single and b) open to the idea of a new relationship in general. As a woman, it’s so, so disappointing when you think you’ve had a few good work-related interactions with a colleague (or indeed when you’ve been having a really good chat about football or films or music with a chap at a friend’s birthday do, or whatever) and then all of a sudden it turns on a sixpence and it’s ‘Soooooo…you seem really cool, wanna go out sometime??’. Ugh. It makes you feel like they weren’t actually interested in you as an intelligent person with intelligent things to say – they were just looking for an opening to ask you out. Even more so at work – it makes you feel like they don’t respect you as a peer, they just see you as a nice bit of skirt. Yes, it takes time to get to know someone as a ‘work friend’ and figure out whether they’d be receptive to taking the friendship further and/or moving it into the realms of ‘going out’, but it SHOULD take time. Women don’t exist just to be chatted up by random dudes.

            1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

              I guess part of the difference with me (and yes, I am a woman) is that I don’t think that being asked out means that they weren’t interested in me as an intelligent person with intelligent things to say. In fact, I would expect that a high opinion of my intelligence would be MORE likely to make a lot of guys want to date me.

              1. londonedit*

                I think it’s the way it’s done, maybe. Or maybe the fact that when I’ve experienced it, it’s when I’ve been talking about stereotypically ‘male’ subjects like football or films. You’re having a nice chat and you feel like you’re enjoying speaking to a fellow human…and then they make a move and you’re like ugh, no, they’ve gone all misty-eyed because I have an opinion about VAR. It’s just disappointing – I’d rather I was seen as a human being rather than a potential shag.

                1. bamcheeks*

                  Yeah, there’s nothing particularly flattering or pleasing for me in “a man wants to have sex with me”. Like, I’ve met men before, the bar for that is SO LOW. “Person wants to spend time with me in a romantic or non-romantic setting because they like my opinions, energy, humour, think I’m fun/funny/clever/ interesting/refreshing/whatever”, THAT’S flattering. And if someone is actually thinking that latter but only knows how to express it as the former because that’s the only script he’s got for Talking To Females, that’s also an immediate No.

                2. Holly*

                  I haven’t been asked out in seven years, and that was a male taxi driver old enough to be my father who wouldn’t drive off until I accepted his number. After a date with a man who turned out to be married. I think I got asked out twice before that, neither were good experiences.

                  This experience of being chatted up frequently is not universal amongst womankind, although I’m sure its distressing for the people it happens to. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to be pretty, but it doesn’t sound like it’s much fun at all.

                3. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

                  Maybe that is another reason I apparently differ from the majority of womankind on this: I do NOT assume that romantic interest is merely about sex. For some dudes, yes, it is. And yes, sex is an element in most romantic relationships. But I assume that most guys ask me out because they think I might be someone they could fall in love with. And that even most of the ones who just want sex would prefer to have sex with someone they like and find attractive.

                4. Lenora Rose*

                  I think there’s something about how it’s done. I’ve been asked out twice by someone cis male I was friends with, turned them down, and our friendly relationship didn’t change at all, aside from me thinking well of how gracious they were in the moment. I have also had the experience of the “That Guy” who made every interaction with every woman all about his pantsfeels.

                5. bamcheeks*

                  @Elspeth McGillicuddy– “most guys ask me out because they think I might be someone they could fall in love with … most guys would prefer to have sex with someone they like and find attractive”– see, I think this is another way of saying what I’m describing with the second scenario. I’m not really in a place in my life where this happens either way now, but I’m fine with “person wants to hang out with me and has done some basic groundwork appropriate to the setting to establish that I might be into that” whether that does or doesn’t include sex/romance. I am intensely pissed off by someone who is ONLY acting on their own desire and not making any effort to ascertain whether there’s mutual attraction — even if that’s as basic as making eye contact in a nightclub! For me that’s what objectification means: someone who slots me into their fantasy without any apparent interest in whether I share that fantasy. And the bar for “doing the groundwork to see whether I’m interested” is appropriately a LOT higher at work because the stakes are a lot higher.

                6. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

                  @bamcheeks: See, I figure that “would you like to get dinner with me?” is a perfectly good way of figuring out whether the other person is interested. It’s direct, polite, and allows the other person to say yes or no. Isn’t that the advice given to us women? Just ask him out instead of trying to read the tea leaves.

                7. bamcheeks*

                  @Elspeth McGillicuddy* nahh, I think that’s way too 0-60mph. I would find that way too much for a first approach in a friendship too. Most of my friendships have started with the same kind of hanging out in shared spaces, sitting next to each other on the bus there, coffee after a shared activity etc way before “get dinner together”. There’s no way I’m going to commit to a whole evening with someone before I know whether we get on on a more casual basis. Excruciating if you don’t get on.

                8. bamcheeks*

                  (AlsoI am assuming you’re talking about non-work settings here, not advocating “direct and polite ways of finding out whether someone is romantically interested in you” at work!)

                9. Lenora Rose*

                  Hmm. Trying to think of someone I dated whom I *didn’t* hang around with in mutual social group settings first before we started taking some steps to ascertain mutual interest.

                  The *only* one I can think of was met at a social mixing event, not work.

                  I do know people who dated successfully via work, but the circumstances were never “I talked to you ten times total then asked you to dinner.” Even when they didn’t involve a safe social group or event.

              2. Nebula*

                Yeah, I’m with you on this. I’m friends with people I’ve started out dating and then realised there wasn’t a romantic spark, likewise sometimes you’re friends with someone and then start dating. Sometimes you meet someone new and you might ask them out because you like them, and then either they’re not interested or it doesn’t work out and life moves on. I really don’t think asking someone out you’ve had a few friendly interactions with is a terrible thing to do, and doesn’t mean the person asking ‘only’ sees you as a dating prospect. The thing that was wrong in this situation was pushing back after a refusal. But just asking someone out isn’t a hostile act. But then I’m queer – I have dated cis men as a woman in the past, but that was a good few years and a whole gender ago. I get that the dynamics are different.

                1. Holly*

                  This makes me feel a little better. I hate to think I would have upset a coworker this much by giving him my number. He seems okay with it despite not wishing to go further, so hopefully he doesn’t feel too bad about it. I wouldn’t have wanted to make him uncomfortable, and I would probably not do the same thing again as it seems to be common to dislike that sort of thing.

                  I am assuming the correct thing to do is pretend it didn’t happen, as that seems to be the approach he is taking.

                2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

                  Holly, you’re a woman who gave your number to a man, so you are fine as long as you were polite. Since the number of women who approach men is so low and and because men are so much less likely to be afraid of women hurting them, men pretty much never mind a woman asking them out. Generally, it’s seen as an enormous compliment even if he isn’t interested.

                  It’s not quite fair, but it is the way it is for good reason.

              3. Dinwar*

                That’s my view as well. I’m still friends with almost all of my exes. The only one I’m not friends with wasn’t a hostile breakup–just two lives that drifted apart after college. For my part I have never understood the idea of dating someone that I wouldn’t be friends with, nor have I ever understood why I’m supposed to hate someone merely because one style of relationship didn’t work for us.

                I think Karla from Scrubs had it right. The issue is, does the guy want to DATE you (as in, have an actual, mature relationship with you as fellow human being), or merely sleep with you (as in, a purely physical relationship). I think failure to differentiate between these (on the part of both men and women) explains a lot of the tension in the world of romance right now. I’ve had a few men ask me on dates–turns out gay men also sometimes confuse politeness with romantic interest as well–and I’ve always considered it flattering. Again, I’m still friends with a few, and those I’m not friends with I was until college ended and we drifted apart.

                1. bamcheeks*

                  This is how I feel about relationships too, but that’s exactly why “ask me out without any established friendship or connection first” grates!

                2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

                  Bamcheeks: Some people are just more willing to take a chance on a maybe. Which is totally fair, IMHO. If there is maybe a connection, it’s far easier to get to know the other person over dinner.

                3. bamcheeks*

                  I think the problem is that the chance you’re taking is making the other person uncomfortable, and that’s not something you should take a chance on at work. Even here where LW2 is “several levels above him”, she’s second-guessing “where I went wrong” and spending time trying to figure out the correct wording to express “no”!

                  I just think “what are the chances I’m going to make this person’s life harder” should factor much more in people’s (and especially straight men’s) cost/benefit analysis when they’re deciding whether to hit on someone.

                4. Willow Pillow*

                  It’s not just a comfort issue, either, there are legitimate reasons for women to feel unsafe in these circumstances.

              4. Stopgap*

                What do you make of that recent post where men were hitting on a scheduling bot with a woman’s name?

                1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

                  It’s inappropriate to ask people out when you are at the high end of a power differential.

                  There’s also a very large difference in the amount of interaction the man have had. The bot men had literally no interaction with ‘her’ at all beyond a form letter. This fellow has had a good handful of positive interactions with OP and knows what she looks like. I think it’s totally fine to go “OP seems cool and I’d like to get to know her better. Let me ask her out and see if we hit it off.”

              5. Ellis Bell*

                I’ve had this kind of pleasant experience too; where the date invitation has obviously sprung from shared interests or intellectual admiration. I’ve also had the other kind of date invitation. You don’t know them at all, they just looked your body up and down. Or, they talked over you trying to “impress” you, or implied they were interested in networking professionally and then threw a date invitation into the mix, clearly not caring at all about their work reputation with you.

              6. Sleve*

                Lads. Female friends are great to have. Especially if you’re a single guy looking for a relationship – and I know where your mind just went. Stop right there and listen to me. Female friends are great to have because you learn a whole heap of stuff about women and discover just how much all the movies and books have been lying to you this whole time – part of which is how so many of them actually have cool hobbies, play fun games, and are people you’ll actually enjoy platonically spending time with, totally unlike the stereotypes. If you want to be an awesome partner with an awesome relationship, hang out with loads of women for non dating purposes. It makes the actual dating stuff light years easier. Don’t drop women like londonedit, seek them out. Thank me later ;)

            2. Hannah Lee*

              And in this case, LW specifically mentions she doesn’t know this co-worker well. They have no work-friend relationship, he’s just some guy employed by the same company. He knows very little about LW (unless he’s a creepy stalker) he barely knows LW in a work context, much less having any idea about her beyond that.

              Jumping straight from “you are someone I have said good morning to in the hallway a few times, and maybe saw at a meeting or two. You appear to be female and breathing” to “Let’s go out to dinner together” skips a WHOLE lot of steps and is, in fact, inappropriate to do to a co-worker.

              Work is not this guy’s dating service, and his co-workers do not exist for him to swipe left or right as he pleases.

        2. Observer*

          how do you find out if there’s a mutual interest without asking?

          You can start with something lower scale and intensity, and see what happens. When the OP said no to trying out a new restaurant, that was an indicator that she is not interested! Even that first request was a bit much, but not so bad. But having gotten a no, that should have been the end of it. Maaaaybe another low key invitation to a potentially shared interest. ONCE.No more.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      Hmm – I am half with you, and half not. I’m with you, because I do actually prefer it when I am asked a yes/no question because then I can say just say no and then we are done. I probably would start with the kind of soft no that OP did (does anyone actually say anything other than “I’m busy” when refusing a date!?) but if that doesn’t work I feel good about going to a direct no the second time, and then to HR if direct no’s are not heard. But that’s potentially three steps of work for OP to go through to extinguish a nuisance and it would be much better if guys just stopped at the first hurdle, or even thought “I don’t even know this person, maybe I could just ask out a stranger online!” My first thought would be something like “Oh good, I am being asked IF I want to do this” (My worst experiences have been hoverers and sort of non consensual flirting and comments that would involve me being over-direct if I want it to stop), but my second thought would be “Why do I even have to do this?!”

    4. ecnaseener*

      I mean, sure, it’s not the worst possible thing he could’ve done. What does that matter? I’m sure you’re not saying LW shouldn’t clearly and firmly reject him?

    5. JSPA*

      Adding, many workplaces have jokers or matchmakers who egg people on behind the scenes–“hey, she likes you, I can tell” types. New people are clueless fresh meat for their shenanigans.

      I would assume that the guy MIGHT be a problem, and treating work (or the whole world) as his designated mating territory. But I would not assume that it’s definitely so.

      IMO, it’s useful to name the interaction as you have intended it, which invites him to backpedal without loss of face.

      “Jonifram, this is the second time you’ve suggested connecting in some way, outside the workplace. I firmly believe in fostering and engaging in collegial interactions at work. But that requires drawing very clear lines between work life and private life.”

      And, if true (I hope it’s true?) “Furthermore, you should know that [company name]’s HR takes the stance that even a soft ‘no’ be taken as a refusal.”

    6. Dinwar*

      This is where I fall. Asking a person out isn’t inherently wrong, even at work–a LOT of people meet their partners at work, which makes sense when you consider the fact that it’s where we spend the largest amount of our time while awake. And the first “soft no” could be interpreted as the person not being interested in the restaurant. Further, differences in communication style come into play, ESPECIALLY for new hires. What constitutes a “soft no” for one party may constitute a “regretfully have to decline for reasons I don’t want to get into” for a second. And it’s been observed repeatedly that younger staff are far more informal than anyone in the professional world is used to.

      Both sides should be empathetic here. He should understand that this is more of a risk and he needs to accept a firm “No” with maturity and grace. The LW should provide a firm yet polite “No”, rather than tiptoeing around it.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        I completely agree that being asked out at work is not a terrible thing, and can often be a positive thing. As for where the line is, I feel like it’s pretty sketchy if they know nothing about me and we’ve had no interaction other than them being in the same room, small talk and them knowing what I look like. I also get kind of wowed by people not getting a soft no like the one OP gave. Like I’ve never heard of someone who’s crushing on a dude saying: “Oh I have plans that night but tell me how you like the date I’m not going to go on” in response to being asked out. If you’re into someone, and he finally asks you out, at the very, very least you say “I’d love to SOME OTHER TIME,” even if you have jury duty for weeks onto the future and he’s suggesting the restaurant which is the epicenter of your allergies. Interested women really are not THAT passive in the face of an invitation.

    7. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Maybe not egregious. But really really off. They have maybe 10 interactions, some friendly casual conversation. So he hits on her. This is men seeing any friendly interaction as an opportunity for a date. It needs to stop in the work place. Period. This includes, the person you are hitting on place of work, if you are a patron.

      And even if you misjudge, take the first soft no and STOP. It’s the continuing that makes it clear he sees every woman as a potential date.

    8. Observer*

      I agree, and you should make your disinterest clear but I don’t necessarily think suggesting dinner in that manner is the worst way to go about it.

      Good job of trying to make the OP the one with a problem. The problem is not that he suggested dinner. The problem is that he asked her to start communicating on her personal number out of work – after she had turned him down

      Does that make him a monster? No. Does it make him highly out of line? Absolutely. Does it make him someone that the OP should be cautious of? Definitely. Is this something to report to HR? Quite possibly. Someone who doesn’t take a no, even a “soft” no, can be a real problem. HR having a paper trail is a good thing. If he behaves, no biggie – n0 competent HR is going to make a big deal deal over *just* this. But if it’s part of a pattern, they need to see some pieces of the pattern to deal with it.

      1. Cheshire Cat*

        The most egregious part to me is that the LW is several levels above him in the company hierarchy, which screams that he is also being (or potentially being) inappropriate with women with less power than the LW has.

        Please go to HR, LW, so there is a paper trail.

        As someone else has said, a woman who is interested in a date will either say yes, or ask for a raincheck. Men really need to start acting as if a “no” is really “no”.

        1. Observer*

          the LW is several levels above him in the company hierarchy, which screams that he is also being (or potentially being) inappropriate with women with less power than the LW has.

          I think that this is a hugely important point.

  21. anon for this*

    I am kind of agog at LW1’s boss. I can understand *feeling* that way– I don’t think it’s a rational feeling, but it’s completely normal to have irrational feelings around bereavement. I think it would be absolutely fair enough to complain to a friend or family member and get some sympathy. If this was just a friend, I can just about see thinking you have to say something to “clear the air” or whatever. But using your bossly authority to say, “you were wrong to ask me this” is just … I can’t imagine how someone gets to the point where you think that would be the right thing to do.

    Bosses: you have power, and you have to be really thoughtful about how you use it! Sometimes that means letting interpersonal, non-work-related stuff go, because you simply cannot address that kind of stuff without it looking like you’re wielding your authority really inappropriately.

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      Yes, I thought this as well. We’re all human and have feelings about things, but being a manager means you have a measure of control over the livelihoods of the people who report to you. Your words and actions will be viewed through that lens.

    2. Caliente Papillon*

      Yeah that was ridiculous. The problem I’ve seen throughout my working life is that just because one is “a boss” doesn’t mean they are some well developed person, for lack of a better term. I’ve even had a couple bosses be competitive with me and it’s so stupid and incredibly annoying.
      Many people seek leadership roles because they think that external piece makes them important and now they can lord it over everyone and everyone needs to care about them because they are “the boss”. These are the people who try to demand respect instead of commanding it naturally by being an actual good, smart, mature person. Many of these types of people think of anyone not “on their level” as substandard. Others of us know that all humans are relevant regardless of education, job or financial status. At least I’ll always continue to hope that regardless of actual evidence.
      Hopefully with this boss grief screwed her up for a moment and she’s not really like this – a person who begrudges getting a young team member flowers upon the death of a parent.

      1. Willow Pillow*

        People management is often treated as a reward for competence as an individual contributor, too… I’m pretty sure I have more leadership training than my boss does.

        1. Caliente Papillon*

          And that’s the thin- the way I see it being a leader is a whole different ballpark than “bossing”. And I think most people want to “boss”, not lead.

  22. OP #5*

    OP #5 here. Thank you all for the comments. I realize this sounds over the top and I appreciate hearing everyone’s point of view.
    Adding a few more details on this to provide additional context since I wrote in and people are replying:

    -I’ve checked with a few people within my industry and network with connections to this company and they do not know and have never heard of this person, while they do know other people at this level at this company in this industry.
    -At this level there are usually comments and press statements or otherwise articles to be found online. I’ve found plenty for others as I’m researching the company but none for this person which is odd given my industry, as these articles and public presence are very common.
    -About 2 years ago, I was involved in a situation where a coworker was fired after he conducted verbally and physically violent behavior toward me. This person has threatened me and since attempted to contact me through LinkedIn and other social media and I’ve blocked them. I’ve always been worried about safety and further attempted contact from this situation. I realize this may be driving my apprehension here.

    Will keep reading and replying and again appreciate the input of this community.

    1. Moo*

      Sounds like you’ve been through some pretty awful things, and you’ve reason to be suspicious where things aren’t anchored. Having met other people, albeit online, and this meeting being arranged by a recruiter, it is unlikely that it’s going to be a surprise interaction with your former coworker.

      Is there something you can do to reassure yourself independently that this is legit, in a low stakes way? I’d be thinking of an innocuous reason to call HR – like pick up the phone and ask for their general HR admin and say something like “Hi there, I’m working with X recruiter on X job application, can you give me an idea of what your usual timeline for hiring is?” or “can you send me on an org chart for where this role would fit it?”. Something really unremarkable, but it gives you the opportunity to name the recruiter and the job. So even if they say “sorry we don’t give out that information” and you say “thanks very much anyway, bye”, you’ve given them the opportunity to say if they don’t work with that recruiter or they don’t have that role open.

      I do think it is unlikely that your former coworker concocted this ruse and involved other people, but I do understand the concern and need to independently check things

      1. Awkwardness*

        I do think it is unlikely that your former coworker concocted this ruse and involved other people, but I do understand the concern and need to independently check things
        I think this is the main point. It would be quite an elaborate scheme for the VP to be the coworker if both recruiter and hiring manager are legit and actually working at this company.
        But fear does its own.

        Calling the company through the number that is provided on their website and trying to verify names or telephone numbers might be a low-key approach.

      2. Maggie*

        It’s probably not the weirdo ex co worker, but it doesn’t sound legitimate at all. No ones ever heard of this person? The job isn’t listed on the company website? That seems very fishy!

    2. allathian*

      Given your additional info, I admit that it does sound odd. The lack of a LI presence on its own wouldn’t be suspicious, but your investigation’s turned up plenty of other red flags. The lack of articles in comparison with other people in a similar position and with similar (supposed) experience is certainly a cause for concern. But the fact that nobody in the field you’re in seems to know this person is the biggest red flag to me. The offline job description you mentioned in another post also seems weird.

    3. Fluffy cow*

      This and your post below definitely changes things – sounds like there are a few flags to be concerned about! I agree with Moo, see if you can find a general HR number and ask an innocuous question (but make sure you don’t accidentally imply you’re trying to go around their recruiter in case it’s legit).

      I’m still not sure what the end game would be if this is a scam or that former coworker’s elaborate revenge, but it can’t hurt to try and make sure.

      1. Fluffy cow*

        (Though for the record, it may still be interesting to examine why you latched on to the lack of a social media presence – that is genuinely the least suspicious thing on the list)

        1. Observer*

          I agree with this.

          There are LOTS of red flags here – I really, really don’t want to minimize it. But the lack of LI is just not one of them.

        2. Bunny Lake Is Found*

          Agreed. Like, lots of people don’t enjoy having an online presence–but it is weird if you can’t find ANY indication of this person’s existence within your industry. And you would probably just be like “huh, weird” but given your issues with the prior co-worker, I get why you are on high alert.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      I can see where the reaction came from now! Can you independently verify this by finding your own contact details for HR? I think it’s likely to be a genuine offer but a double check couldn’t hurt.

    5. bamcheeks*

      Can you find the other SVPs? I think my assumption would be that they’d come into this SVP role from another less media-happy sector– in my sector it would definitely be the norm for people in senior positions to have LinkedIn profiles and other types of digital footprint and be well-networked, BUT it’s not unheard of to have a few people in key positions who have come in from outside the sector from industries which are less extroverted in their expectations. It’s kind of an Occam’s Razor thing for me: it might seem odd not to find a digital footprint, but it seems less odd to have one SVP who doesn’t have that digital footprint than that someone would go to the bother of scheduling you for multiple interviews with made-up people, two of whom DO have normal and extensive digital footprints. Although of course, you know your industry best and whether this would be plausible or not.

      So for me this would be a yellow flag, and warrant some digging, but not an immediately red flag. Some possible background checks you could try to get more information:

      – contact the organisation’s HR directly and ask if the role is legit (I don’t think you necessarily have to concoct some detailed cover story for this enquity– I think “Hi, I’ve been contacted by X recruiter for Y role, and I’m just doing some due dilligence to check this is legitimate because I couldn’t find SVP on your website. Could you confirm that this role does exist or that you do work with this recruiter, please?” isn’t a weird enquiry.)
      – meet with this SVP, and ask about their background and the types of project they’ve been invovled with– again, I don’t think you need to overthink this, “Usually I try to familiarise myself with my interviewer’s career before we speak, but you obviously aren’t someone who engages with social media very much, so I’d love to hear more about your background and how you came to this role” is a legitimate upfront enquiry.

      Unless you’ve stumbled onto some EXCEPTIONALLY well-prepared and professional scammers, I think that’s very likely to give you a sense of whether the person you’re speaking to is legit or not.

      Good luck and I hope it is real!

      1. cleo*

        Also, what does your network say about the hiring manager? And does that match the person you interviewed with?

        1. OP #5*

          I haven’t been able to find anyone who knows or has heard of anyone I’ve spoken to, while they know others at the company.

    6. ecnaseener*

      I’m still struggling to imagine a scam that involves you talking to a perfectly legit recruiter and hiring manager at the right company, but a fabricated SVP. If it’s that odd for them not to have a media presence, my first guess would be “unqualified nepotism hire” rather than “doesn’t exist.”

      1. Falling Diphthong*


        It might be worth looking at the email address again and any publicly available email addresses. For example if you have been communicating with “J_Fisher@The_Job” and you find that those with emails publicly available use “J_Fisher@Job,” then that’s suspicious and might suggest someone snapping up related domains for scams.

        But if the people you have talked to to date are real, then I don’t get how or why they would introduce a fake person above them. That’s very convoluted. Also fake emails are good for things like “Hi, this is totally a real person at The Job, and we need to change the banking info you use to pay us.” Unless you are going to be asked to describe how you set up the bank vault security and how one might in theory get around it, it’s a lot less clear how fake emails for multiple job interviews would work.

      2. OP #5*

        Not sure where you’re getting that I’d assume some involved are legit with some not. I follow your logic and agree, it wouldn’t be a mix of some legit and some not.

    7. Rebecca*

      It sounds like there might be missing reasons for the SVP to not have an online presence. Maybe she has a stalker or a violent ex?

      Do you have a contact that you know well enough to ask them to follow up? “Hey. this is really weirding me out. I know you said you know Sally Jones pretty well and she’s a SVP there. Is there any way you can ask her how it is to work for Jane Smith?” That’s probably the best way to determine what’s going on. It could be a totally reasonable explanation.

      1. Ashley*

        My first thought was that the SVP had a stalker and was thus very much offline.
        I would say if other people in the process have been verified to interview and see what happens, and hopefully there is another interview after this with someone else you can verify.
        Also is the company has a whole solid? Anyone there you can ask directly even calling in and talking to receptionist … which I know if really hard these days but if you could at least find them in the directory.

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        My mind went to “They’re using a fake name for the SVP to protect that person’s privacy.” But I have no idea if this is a real thing that happens or if this is a completely unrealistic scenario that my weird brain cooked up.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        Re-reading your question, it looks like you do have info on the others.

        With that context, why are you so concerned that only this one person isn’t as searchable?

        1. OP #5*

          Good points. I can’t add too much more info here without risk, but I will say in thinking through I believe the LinkedIn presence may be a red herring for other issues with this situation giving me pause.

    8. Molly Millions*

      I can see why you’d be jumpy given your experience but I still think there are logical explanations for most of this.

      It’s possible the SVP has a more robust presence under a different name than the recruiter gave you (e.g. they authored articles under the name Loretta Tafetter but got married last month and are now Loretta Stanton; the recruiter gave you their legal name not knowing they go by their middle name or a nickname; many immigrants have both an English name and a traditional name that they may use interchangeably in different contexts…)

      Or maybe the SVP has privacy concerns (perhaps they even went through a similar stalking situation as you) and specifically requested not to be listed on the website or in any public facing communications. Or maybe their role is just inherently less public than others at that level for reasons particular to the company.

    9. Zarniwoop*

      It sounds like you have good reason for suspecting something weird is going on. But it’s also possible Manager has no web presence because they have a stalker too – or maybe they’re just a Luddite.

      So to determine if they really exist why not go old-school and try to contact them by phone?

    10. learnedthehardway*

      Hmmm…. The SVP could be new and could be from a different industry. Or they might be a super private person.

      I was going to suggest you do some of the things I do when hunting someone down, but realized that it might not be helpful for you to try to contact the SVP or the hiring manager at the company, as you might not be able to find them and you don’t want to be noticed trying to verify that they exist.

      I would NOT contact HR to verify that the role or people truly exist. Unfortunately, it will look very odd to the internal HR / recruitment people, and it WILL get mentioned to the hiring manager. Also, if the role is at all sensitive / confidential, they may not know about it.

      I think you’re going to have to decide whether to have the interview or drop out of consideration. I personally (being in recruitment) do not see anything extremely odd or suspicious about the situation. Like I said earlier, I would ask for a site visit to get a better handle on the culture/commute and to meet other members of the team.

    11. Everything Bagel*

      Is there any reason you don’t just call the company using their main phone number you find on their website to ask if you can speak to the senior VP? If you’re told there’s no such person at the company, that’s definitely something to be concerned about. If they attempt to transfer you or ask who is calling, hang up (or say I’m so sorry I’ll have to call back in a minute, then hang up).

      1. osmoglossom*

        Yeah, that was my first thought, call the company’s main number. Even if they don’t have a human answering phones, there will likely be a staff directory menu so OP can punch in the SVP’s name.

    12. Kara*

      I did a quick bit of Googling on “employment scams”. Nothing identical, but several that hit similar notes. (That said, it seems they usually move much faster than yours is.) It also seems that impersonation of people and companies on LinkedIn has been on the rise in the past couple of years. The LATimes had an article from three days ago talking about it: “Fake job scams are skyrocketing online — and they’re getting harder to detect”. I can’t figure out the fishhook if scam it is, but I would personally recommend proceeding with care. Contacting the company directly is risky, but under the circumstances it might be worth the risk.

      Question: I don’t know how your specific industry is doing, but given all the layoffs in the news could it be as simple as your old coworker is trying to lose you your job and leave you in a position where you have no job, few job prospects, and you’re not eligible for unemployment because you quit?

  23. OP #5*

    One more – the job they approached me on is not listed on the company career web site although others at this level are. They sent an offline job description that had some formatting errors which seemed odd for this caliber of company based on my experience and industry.

    1. Ariaflame*

      Sounds like quite a few red flags. This may be the time to politely tell them you’re not interested at this point.
      Do you know for sure that the people who sent you the link etc. are the linkedin people you found and not just saying they are?
      I suppose you could inquire with HR at the company if you wanted to. But it’s up to you if you want the stress.

      1. OP #5*

        No, I haven’t been able to confirm this point. If I could I’d feel a lot better however this is a nagging point for me too that made the LinkedIn red herring more of a flag in context.

        1. BellStell*

          The email with document attached: can you forward to their HR and ask them – while leaving in the receuiter info and email etc as this is a risk to the firm reputation.

    2. civil disobedience*

      This could be a scam, but I do think unless you’re in a particularly scam-ridden field that it’s still not as likely. At my firm, we sometimes don’t post a job on our website and go through an external recruiter if the job posting itself is sensitive. That could also explain the formatting errors, since the posting isn’t going through the normal internal channels. If you’re interested in the job, taking the interview with the SVP may help you figure out what’s going on. You can always ask them, “can you tell me a bit more about yourself and you history with the company” to fill in some of the missing pieces. Just be careful not to be hostile or accusatory because there could be so many normal business reasons for everything you’re seeing.

      Some reasons that a posting may be sensitive: we are about to fire someone and are trying to get a head start on recruiting, we’re really understaffed and don’t want competitors to know, we hired someone to start a new practice and aren’t ready to announce it to clients until we have the full team assembled (this may explain why you’re interviewing with an SVP that nobody’s heard of)

      1. WellRed*

        Yeah, at this point, OP has fallen so far down a hole it might be best for their peace of mind to move on.

    3. MsSolo (UK)*

      I do wonder if between this and the lack of presence, it might be a new SVP who’s trying to Do It Their Way to prove a point to their new colleagues. So not a scam, but possibly a sign you’d be working under someone who is used to different industry norms.

    4. learnedthehardway*

      If the role is going through a recruitment firm, it’s not unusual for it to be not listed on the company’s career site. It may be a confidential role (although normally the recruiter would have told you that and emphasized the importance of keeping it confidential), or they may have determined that the skill set is so niche that advertising is just a waste of time/money, as too many unqualified people would apply.

      Also, don’t under-estimate the potential for people to not edit things. The recruiter might just have gotten an internal job description and not polished it up, or perhaps they sent you a draft, or something.

      Are you meeting the SVP at the company offices? If not, I would express a strong desire to visit the offices, to get a feeling for the physical space and the culture. Unless you’re dealing with a situation like Audrey Hepburn’s character in the movie “Charade”, I think you can rest assured that it’s a legitimate role if they give you a tour of their offices. (Don’t reject the interview, though – the SVP may be located elsewhere, and may be doing the interview remotely for that reason. Just say that you would really like to visit the office where you would be working. Maybe you need to check the commute or something….)

      1. Molly Millions*

        Good point about the formatting of the job description. Depending on what the errors were, it’s also possible the text was copied-and-pasted from a PDF or internal webpage, and the layout got garbled on the way. (I find bullet points and indents don’t copy-paste well into email).

        And lots of reputable major companies don’t have the most up-to-date websites.

    5. Zarniwoop*

      Could be something bizarre going on that’s unrelated to your previous experience. If so it could be unusual circumstances, or incompetence, rather than a scam.

      1. The other one*

        OK, that, THAT is a proper red flag! ( The linked in thing is nothing) So you think the executive you talked to was someone else PRETENDING to be him/her? That, I guess would be a good reason to go around the recruiter, track down a physical mailing address or email independently, and send a thank you directly. If it wasn’t them, you might get a “?!” back! Also, since you know this is a legit existing company, insist that at least final interview be at company headquarters (independently verify address) no matter where actual job will be.

    6. Khatul Madame*

      This is a bigger concern than VP’s sparse online presence. You are within your rights to ask the recruiter about it.
      IME unpolished job descriptions happen at the best companies. Just because a company is famous for its technical expertise does not mean that all the recruiters measure up to the rep.

    7. Just Here for the Llama Grooming*

      Formatting errors are own goals for sure but maybe not dispositive. The job I recently retired from still has errors in the posting that I told HR about the first time the job was posted, four years ago. Same description, with errors, has been used several times since. (to be fair to HR, they took the description my grandboss supplied, and she was not good at details.)

      That said I can understand wariness. OP, I hope things turn out well.

    8. The other one*

      OK, that, THAT is a proper red flag! ( The linked in thing is nothing) So you think the executive you talked to was someone else PRETENDING to be him/her? That, I guess would be a good reason to go around the recruiter, track down a physical mailing address or email independently, and send a thank you directly. If it wasn’t them, you might get a “?!” back! Also, since you know this is a legit existing company, insist that at least final interview be at company headquarters (independently verify address) no matter where actual job will be.

    9. Applejack*

      All of this together warrants looking into. Last year scammers were offering nonexistent jobs at our company, hiring people very quickly, then doing something weird and complicated and definitely illegal (either money-laundering or theft or both) involving purchasing remote office equipment, wiring money, and buying gift cards.

      Not saying that’s what’s happening here, just that if your spidey sense is tingling, you need to get to the bottom of it.

    10. kiki*

      I think this contexts makes your reaction make more sense. From reading your letter alone, it seemed like everything was above-board and you knew you were interacting with the company legitimately and then were set off just by the lack of LinkedIn for one interviewer. Having this additional context makes a huge difference. I would definitely want to establish the legitimacy of this interview process and role somehow. I would focus less on this particular SVP (it is possible they just don’t have LinkedIn and pushing on this too hard probably won’t go anywhere) and more on confirming the legitimacy of this role and application process. If the company has an official website and HR department listed, I would reach out that way directly to confirm.

      I would send something like:


      I have been interviewing for _____ role with X recruiter and Y employee. The role doesn’t appear on your website’s page and was sent to me by email directly, so out of an abundance of caution, I’d like to confirm that it’s legitimate. I apologize for the inconvenience, but there have been news reports of employment scams recently and I’d just like to check that all is above board.

      Thank you!”

  24. Harper the Other One*

    OP3 – my husband and I used to have “cat weekends” and “cat vacations” defined as: spend as much time with our cats as possible, while also living like a cat – eating when we want, sleeping when we want, etc. The number of wistful expressions and “wow, that sounds great” reactions we got was notable! I agree with Alison that people will likely not bat an eye as long as you seem content with how you spent your time.

  25. Earlk*

    KW3- my “introduce yourself to the team” at my current job was telling them that I got a dog so I didn’t need to have a personality and if I’m asked about my personal life I tell them about something dumb he didn’t people seem to like it.

  26. OP #5*

    I hear you! Assuming by your post you are in the UK – how is usage there? I’m in US and I think our use may be outsized versus other countries but I’d love to hear your take?

    1. OP #5*

      Argh this was supposed to be a reply to Madame Arcati – or any others with perspectives on LinkedIn usage in UK.

      1. Nebula*

        I think similarly to the US, it depends on industry. I keep my LinkedIn up to date, and will refresh it before applying for jobs, but really I keep it up just so if someone who is going to interview me googles me, it’s the top thing that comes up. I don’t know many people who use it a lot, and I’ve never found a job through there – if anything, the messages I get from recruiters on LinkedIn are always totally off-base and not related to anything I want to do (e.g. I worked as a temp in a payroll department ten years ago, and I still get messages about payroll positions for some reason). But I work in the public sector, and recruitment always happens through organisations’ own websites, it might be different in a different industry. I think generally speaking, someone not having LinkedIn would not be seen as remarkable at all, though from the comments that also seems to be true of the US, and in your situation as described in the comments, there are other, more concerning factors at play here.

      2. bamcheeks*

        Extremely mixed– high usage in some sectors, almost negligible in others. But even in high usage sectors, I wouldn’t find it odd to run across a few people who just Don’t. If I was looking at someone in say, Business Development or Recruitment who would typically be heavily dependent on LinkedIn and I found that they weren’t using LinkedIn, I would assume that they’d come from a sector which was much more depending on face-to-face or phone contact. You could be an amazing sales or business development person but have working in, say, traditional manufacturing and spent all your time in the car and on the phone because none of the floor managers and business owners you sell to would dream of using LinkedIn.

    2. Polly*

      I have started me career in Asia, worked in US for 5 years and now work in the UK. I feel that it is definitely less common to actively use LinkedIn here than in the US. One obvious exception is people who work in sales&marketing, they do actively post on LinkedIn.
      Moreover, at the OldJob in the UK, we were not allowed to post anything about our company and the work we do on Linkedin, except job title and employment dates. It was in our contracts (technical specialists in a niche area of STEM). Yes, it is legal. Yes, it is a bit weird, but not the level of weird that is worth pushing back or quitting/refusing to accept job offer over it.

  27. r.*


    to be honest you’re making some very weird assumptions about social media, why people might want to use social media — and why they would want either not to at all, or only in a very limited fashion. Your letter reads like you have a very incomplete understanding of this, especially about the later part — and besides causing you to read way too much into a mundane situation might also create a lot of problems for you down the line, considering that you’re applying for an executive level role.

    I usually work directly for the C-suite or at most one level removed from them, even though my position does not always carry the title you’d expect from such a role (because I am an outside consultant).

    I have a very bare-bones LinkedIn profile, and you’ll discover very little beyond that with a Google search and the search terms you might come up with after reading my profile. Not because I am involved in anything nefarious, but simply because I, by choice, lead a very private life.

    By your metric, I’d be untrustworthy, but actually, it turns out a lot of our customers really like that. They feel (IMO not without justification, but of course I’d say that :-)) that people who can keep up this type of separation between professional and private live, and leave so little connecting traces despite using the internet for more than three decades, are more likey to be discrete and much less likely to embarass them by running one’s mouth off on social media. :-)

  28. Annie Onnie*

    Someone combining the unwanted attention and the pet photos, I’ve been using a photo of my friend’s 100-lb rescue pittie at these things. “This is my dog, Muffin. He’s a little protective but we’re working with him… ” (Spoiler, Muffin is harmless to all but stuffies)

  29. Rondeaux*

    I wouldn’t have jumped to a scam, but in many industries/roles it would be very uncommon for an executive to have no LinkedIn presence.

    So not necessarily a red flag, but potentially something worth noting. I’d just ask the recruiter for more info – if everything is legit they should be able to explain

  30. Rondeaux*

    It sounds like your boss is being weird regardless, but in my opinion “gifts don’t flow up” doesn’t apply to bereavement.

    1. Betty Beep Boop*

      My gut feeling is that supervisor’s grief collided with a) her position as a manager and the necessary distance from the people she spends her days with that brings, and b) the flowers to coworker in a way that stung.

      This is not OP’s problem to solve, by any means. But if this is the only outbreak of weirdness, it might be grounds for quietly pretending it never happened.

    2. Turquoisecow*

      Yeah I don’t blame OP for not getting flowers for the boss and definitely don’t think they did anything wrong here but I agree that bereavement is outside of the idea of “gifts,” and would be a situation where the rule about gifts going upwards would be broken.

      My current director is a nice person I’ve worked with for like a decade at this point through two companies. When coworkers were collecting for a Christmas gift for her, I declined. But if she lost someone close to her and I knew about it, I’d donate toward flowers or something like that for sure. I’m don’t blame the boss in this case for their reaction, too, it’s kind of gonna feel like a slap in the face to be asked to contribute towards a bereavement gift like flowers when they were so recently not given an acknowledgment of their own.

      1. Rebecca*

        “It’s kind of gonna feel like a slap in the face to be asked to contribute towards a bereavement gift like flowers when they were so recently not given an acknowledgment of their own.”


      2. Anon for this*

        Yeah – I don’t think confronting OP was the right move but it always hurts to be passed over for acknowledgement of your loss and then get rules lawyered with “Well if your bereavement met the criteria for a REAL loss, and if you slotted into the correct hierarchy, I would have totally acknowledged you with flowers, but sorry, you don’t qualify so my hands are tied.”

    3. commonsenseseometimesmakessense*

      I agree that the rule shouldn’t apply to bereavement. I think I would try to make sure it is the same for everyone, probably sticking with a card in each case.

  31. Anon in Canada*

    LW2 – I think the “I don’t date anyone from work” line isn’t the best way to go about it. A lot of men interpret women’s rejections literally, and saying you don’t date at work means there’s an ever so slight chance that the man will start looking for another job, and ask you out a third time after he’s left the company. Not super likely, but possible.

    That would require you to reject him a third time (when you’re no longer able to say “you just don’t date at work), and would mean he’s changed jobs for something that never had any chance of working out.

    If you use this as a rejection excuse because you simply don’t like him, but later actually end up dating someone from work, it could result in him lashing out because he feels lied to. This could also happen if you say you don’t socialize with coworkers at all (romantically or otherwise), but he finds out that you are in fact hanging out with people from work.

    I think it’s best not to give a reason at all. As Alison suggested, “No, thank you.” Or as Nancy Reagan said, “Just Say No”. Easier said than done, but if you can do it, better for everyone.

  32. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    LW1, you didn’t do anything wrong. Put your supervisor’s overreaction down to grief and move on.

    LW2, you didn’t do anything wrong, either! And I agree with letting your HR know about this, because you at least have the capital to refuse him without retaliation, whereas other women might not be so fortunate.

  33. Bookworm*

    #5: As someone who has looked at social media profiles for recruiting and other similar purposes, there’s also the possibility they set up an account, forget they had one/forgot the password and then set up another account. It just so happened you came across this account.

    Just adding that there as I agree with all of Alison’s (and many others) replies. Not everyone has a huge social media presence and there are perfectly legit reasons as to why they may not maintain a LinkedIn much.

    1. commonsenseseometimesmakessense*

      It sounds like he has looked at various profiles with the person’s name and also has not found any online presence at all, which is unusual for the position and the industry.

  34. GetItInWriting*

    re:bonus did they provide exact criteria for what would be considered success/worthy of a bonus in writing? if not, it’s my experience that you don’t really have a leg to stand on and it will be treated like a misunderstanding. If they felt like they owed you a bonus it would have been paid already
    or communicated about if there was some reason for a delay. Verbal promises related to finances are worth the paper they’re written on.

    1. The other one*

      But you ought to be able to trust your boss about things like work instructions and promises of future rewards. If you’re at the “document everything” stage, you’re either in a toxic environment, or have a seriously scatterbrained flake of a boss (another kind of toxic).

    2. Observer*

      it’s my experience that you don’t really have a leg to stand on

      Not true if they were acting in good faith.

      it will be treated like a misunderstanding.

      Which tells you that these are people who are always going to try to get out of giving anyone credit or fulfilling their obligations without being forced.

      If they felt like they owed you a bonus it would have been paid already

      Maybe. It’s quite possible that they are managers who don’t pay anything they don’t HAVE to even if they owe it. On the other hand, it could be that they don’t it to the OP to actually fulfill a commitment that they made.

      Neither is good thing in an employer.

    3. commonsenseseometimesmakessense*

      Well, they have a leg to stand on in that they are getting multiple offers from competitors! And honestly, that is probably a firmer leg than having it in writing when it comes down to it.

  35. BeThoughtfulWhenBeingThoughtful*

    Ypur boss is being weird, but bereavement is the one case where it does make some sense to gift up as long as we’re talking about a reasonable small thing of the sort you’re discussing.

    That said, be careful you’re not making life more difficult for the person who lost someone. Some people are really allergic to flowers. Some people have dietary restrictions. Some people have to jump through hoops to accept packages or deliveries. My mother passed away almost two years ago and my sister just over a year ago. Both times work sent stuff to me in a way that way difficult to deal with, added stress, and in one case resulted in the items they sent being unusable by the time I acquired them (perishable food that spoiled). This happened despite my telling folks not to send me things without asking me first – if I’d known about them I could have told them how to send them so they were less stressful and actually usable when I got them or gotten something else that didn’t have those same issues.

  36. Chocolate Mouse*

    OP #5 My first cousin is a Wharton MBA and a C suite at a global top 5 financial group. His only LinkedIn presence is a sketchy, half-complete thing with barely any connections or followers and no photos. I sent a request and it’s hooked up to some ancient email address he can’t even find. I think LinkedIn is just not a need for some folks who were lucky enough to get on a hot career track in some sectors before LI became a thing, and they’re personally not interested in building a brand of sharing their thoughts. My cuz also doesn’t have much of an online footprint except for activities related to his honorary position on a cultural NGO. Some executives are very behind the scenes and don’t end up in front of the media much.

    1. Red Pepper Jelly*

      And to that point…the company I work for (and others in my sector) has pretty stringent guidelines on who can speak to the media (on behalf of the company or about certain industry-specific items), regardless of title.

      There’s legislation being kicked around at the moment which will have a huge impact on my industry. There are about 5 people company-wide who are authorized to make public comments on it and I’m not one of them, even though my title begins with initials. That’s just the norm in my industry.

      No public statements or comments wouldn’t be a thing in my world.

  37. VP of Monitoring Employees' LinkedIn Profiles*

    OP #4….

    Your company’s leaders have shown you who they really are. Believe them — and leave them.

  38. animaniactoo*

    OP#1 – I wish that Alison had looked at and called out the idea that this should not be considered in the same category as a standard “gift” that trickles down not up.

    This is a question of human compassion for a loss, regardless of the difference in power/authority level. By treating it as a “gift” (like a holiday gift, or trip souvenir), the LW did not at all think through the likely impact of the action.

    The supervisor is not as out to lunch here as they are being positioned IMO.

    1. Observer*

      This is a question of human compassion for a loss, regardless of the difference in power/authority level.

      It’s not like the OP did not acknowledge their boss’ loss.

    2. Jess*

      I really agree and I’m surprised by a lot of responses as I wouldn’t think of this as a “gift” but rather a show of support. Even just a card would have been nice and/or flowers to the funeral home would have meant a bit more than words. No one NEEDS to contribute but the manager feels a way that seems to be disregarded.

      While I understand why people are seeing the manager’s reaction as wrong, this is about grief and feeling seen and supported, not a gift in the traditional sense. She’s not mad people didn’t celebrate her birthday or the holidays, she suffered a loss and is hurting.

      I also don’t agree with the thought process of assuming a grandparent’s death wouldn’t mean as much as a parent.

      I accept I may be seen as wrong but I agree, the supervisor is not as out to lunch as people seem to be interpreting.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        To me, the “flow down” thing still applies in the work context, not because flowers or a condolence card a like “gifts” in other contexts, but because it seemed weird that the boss would be miffed about OP not sending said boss flowers. If anything, the boss should expect any organizing of condolence from the office from her own boss. OP was doing this for their own direct report. Unlike some other gift, the directionality isn’t about the inappropriateness of spending money on the boss. It’s about “whose responsibility should it be to do something on behalf of the office”. Boss can be disappointed OP’s direct report gets flowers and she only got a card, but her beef should be with her own boss, not OP.
        I also think the boss’s offense taken at being asked to participate for the person who lost their parent is weird because it seems like they think it odd that while she’s grieving the boss shouldn’t be asked to care about someone else’s loss. It’s not that a grandparent’s death can be as or more of a blow than a parent, but practically speaking if your parent (or spouse) dies, you’re much more likely to suddenly have a lot of Things To Do because of it. It’s much less likely to be the case with a grandparent. So, again, in the work context, when the boss is offended they’d be contacted “when grieving”, that makes no sense to me. The reason to not approach an already-grieving person about someone else’s loss is from a practical perspective, not a sadness perspective. If the boss were out on bereavement leave and planning a funeral and traveling and getting death certificates and doing all the things, yeah, don’t interrupt that to be like “hey wanna participate in a meal train for this other person who just experienced a loss?” But when we’re in sign a card with or without flowers territory, it’s just about acknowledging. It’s the “how dare you even ask” part that’s weird.

  39. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #5 is an extraordinary overreaction, since the OP already found that the recruiter and the HM / VP are legitimate.
    This one SVP with little online presence may come from a field where social media is unimportant or may indeed be trying to stay anonymous online and seriously restricting her networking due to a stalking experience like the OP had.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Also, some of us who made our reputation in the days long before social media have never found the need to join now and prefer our privacy

    2. OP #5*

      Correcting your post that I haven’t found that the others to be legitimate. I mentioned no one could corroborate any of them in my network. Obviously, it would be either all fake or none fake – not a mix of the two.

      1. commonsenseseometimesmakessense*

        Yes, I do think the fact that you cannot verify the others is important additional information for your post. It seems much fishier when you cannot verify three different people and their legitimate connection to the company.

      2. Laura*

        Just fyi, this wasn’t clear in your initial question. I thought you just couldn’t corroborate the SVP.

    3. commonsenseseometimesmakessense*

      He has actually stated that no one has been able to verify the identity or legitimacy of the recruiter or the hiring manager. Nor has he found the SVP to have any other online presence, which is unusual for the field and that type of position.

  40. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    # If anyone gives flowers to grandboss it should be her own boss.
    Anything involving expense, even the minor cost of flowers, should flow upwards only. From her reports, verbal condolences are appropriate, even for a closer relative than a GP.

    #3 I always kept a cheerful, very superficial exchange with my coworkers, to facilitate smooth working relationships. It matters because we are humans, not electronic widgets.
    I never mentioned anything really personal or downbeat other than close bereavements. I talked about walks I had done, gym classes, what I enjoyed recently in books, music, films

        1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

          Maybe I’m cheap, but supermarkets in my area have small but pretty bouquets starting at 10 Eur – OK from an individual, but obviously an organisation would need to send something much posher.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      Yes, as I was reading this I was wondering where her own boss was in this and what, if anything, they had done. Maybe the supervisor was upset that her own boss hadn’t done anything and this collection for the other person just reminded her of that?

  41. Maggie*

    Maybe controversial but #2 is where I use misogyny to my advantage “sorry my husband/boyfriend does not allow male friends”

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      #2 I never did that, as I wouldn’t want him to spread the false rumour that I was being emotionally abused. Lies often get you tangled up.

      I stuck to the facts: “it would be very inappropriate for me to talk offline or to meet privately with anyone in my reporting chain.”

      If it was someone at my level trying to date: “thanks, but I don’t go out with coworkers except as a group. Too complicated”

      1. Maggie*

        Well it has an excellent success rate of getting men to leave you alone, and I said I knew it was a controversial, so I don’t think you need to insult me and call me stupid.

        1. Caliente Papillon*

          Yeah it’s perfectly valid Maggie. Unfortunately people here say “do whatever you need to in the moment!” to some people but then when someone is vulnerable they get attacked. Go figure, but I’m sure you know you don’t need to be concerned about randos on the internet.

          I did what you did for a while when I was younger but then I did decided to put it on myself so now I just pleasantly say “Oh, that’s a nice offer, but no thanks! “ Then I keep it moving. They’re usually just taken aback and are like ah oh ok! Lol

      2. commonsenseseometimesmakessense*

        To other women, it would definitely work that way. To men, though, another man’s claim on a woman is the one thing that makes them back off.

        That said, I also would not go down this road. At most, I might lightly bring up that I had a boyfriend or husband in the guy’s presence (assuming I had one).

    2. learnedthehardway*

      Honestly – that’s not a good response:
      1. the guy is just as likely to assume you ARE interested (and possibly will continue to contact you), but
      2. will also assume that you’re being repressed/abused (and possibly therefore a good target for him as well, or will decide he’s your knight in shining armor who needs to “rescue” you), and
      3. it perpetuates the impression that women do not have agency or the right to reject unwanted advances simply because they are not interested. So it just plays into the mindset of the person who already feels entitled to violate professional norms.

    3. Molli Bee*

      You’re lucky that works – when I tried that kind of line I always got “oh, it can be our little secret!” Or “what he doesn’t know can’t hurt him”. Or “just gimme a chance, I can make you forget his name, baby”. You’re so lucky that they weren’t persistent!

      Thankfully I grew up and learned how to say no for myself a long time ago.

  42. JaneDough(not)*

    LW1, although it’s true that your boss is being weird about this, it’s also true that the “Gifts don’t flow upward” rule wouldn’t have applied had she lost a parent: An item sent to mark a loss isn’t a gift in the standard way. If your supervisor had lost a parent rather than a grandparent, it would have been appropriate to send her condolence flowers *if* flowers-upon-death-of-a-parent were your office’s default response.

    I’m echoing Alison and speaking from long experience: Given how sensitive most people are around loss, it would be better to have a uniform response — and given that your workplace doesn’t have a budget for flowers for every loss, a card seems to be the way to go.

    Sorry you had to go through this; here’s hoping that your boss is soon able to return to normal relationships with everyone.

  43. Observer*

    #2 – Coworker hitting on you. Allison says

    Even if you feel you can handle it yourself, guys who hit on colleagues they barely know tend to do it to multiple women (including those with less power, like interns, who may feel less comfortable shutting it down firmly), and it’ll be useful for HR to be aware in case it becomes a pattern (or already is, for that matter).

    This is soooo important. If you have good reason to think that talking to HR could result in problems for you that’s different. (Please do not waste a single second on the problems that might come up for him!) But otherwise, I think it’s really important to report this. Obviously the real solution to the problem is for guys not to be jerks, but until that magical world exists, we need to do what we can. And one thing that often (yes, not always but often enough) helps at work is creating enough of a paper trail that HR / the employer is forced to act.

    I also want to highlight and enthusiastically agree with Allison when she said that your initial response was just fine. And it *certainly* did not invite his second message not by a million miles! And when you talk to HR please don’t even bring it up. He messaged you about this new restaurant, you replied politely and then he progressed to asking you for your personal number. Nope, not a reasonable progression.

  44. Precious Wentletrap*

    OP3: Online thrifting and video games -are- common, mainstream hobbies. You don’t need to explain you spent the weekend competing for a 2002 Angelic Pretty ensemble or practicing for the fighting game circuit. For all they know you’re looking for cashmere twinsets and playing Candy Crush.

    -Everyone- wants the cat photos.

    1. OP #3*

      You made me laugh with the 2002 AP ensemble. :) And you’re right! But in my experience, people are usually curious and want more details when I mention vaguely about my hobbies, which I am hesitant to give. Thankfully, there’s a lot of advice in this thread that can push me in the right direction.

      1. TonB*

        Literally came here to comment and see if my suspicions about the alternative fashion were correct- I hope they are (from a fellow frilly professional who also doesn’t talk about this stuff at work despite having been in the fashion my entire working life and it being my main hobby)

        It’s easy to overthink this stuff- agree with the comments about the cat. Wishing you good luck on those YJ auctions if that’s where you’re lurking!

  45. Observer*

    #3- No exciting hobbies to share:

    this, but it can be very enjoyable to lean into an enthusiastically-delivered “I didn’t do a thing this weekend! I stayed at home with my cat and it glorious” narrative.

    I suspect that a LOT of your coworkers would *love* this response. There are a *lot* of people who don’t have Instagram worthy vacations and hobbies. And even people who do have great vacations don’t generally have them often enough to be able to share every week. And enthusiastic declaration of just being *normal* will probably be a relief to a lot of people.

    1. The other one*

      Except dog people – and non-pet people. Actually, for most of us an occasional cat photo can be cute, but after a few, they all start to look the same. Doesn’t mean you can’t mention that’s how you spend your time. . . all skiing photos/trail photos/kayaking photos look the same after the first few as well.

      1. The other one*

        oops! meant to put this above, as response to person who said everyone loves cat photos. (I like cats ok)

      2. TheBunny*

        All pet photos look the same, LOL. But the point is less the pet IN the photo and more that it feels like LW is sharing something personal by sharing a pic of the cat on the couch (or wherever). I’m incredibly private and have been using the pet photos dodge for years. I come across as open…but I really only talk about my cat or very innocuous things I did, such as clean out a closet (finally LOL) but people feel like you shared.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yeah I mean I’m not a cat person, I have allergies and they don’t much interest me. But you bet when my colleagues share pictures of their cats or talk about what their cat did on a given day, I smile and respond. I don’t like cats but I like the person with the cat and want a good relationship with them so I respond positively.

    2. Cheshire Cat*

      I do this sometimes, and the number of people who respond with “me too” always amazes me. Otherwise I’ll mention that I did things around the house., or talk about the cute thing my cat or a young family member did. I just moved so “unpacking/getting everything in order” has been my go-to recently.

  46. NorMor*

    LW2- can you “work zone” this fool? It says in your letter that you are “several levels” above him, although he’s not on your team. It might be easier to reply as if you’re assuming that he’s wanting a meeting outside of work to network or ask for career advice, and that you’re sorry but in your position you have to look at the optics of providing extra guidance to one employee without equal opportunity for face to face time with all lower level staff. That gives him the option to back off gracefully at that point (while making it clear you’re only looking at this relationship through a professional lens) or push the matter further into more obviously unprofessional territory.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      I think this would work on some people; like if the guy in question has a good EQ and sharp social skills, he’s going to view that response as “wow it didn’t even cross her mind to view us as a romantic prospect” and “Maybe she knows what I was really asking, but if so, she’s giving a face saving decline, here”. Unfortunately this is someone who’s already failed to pick up on one soft no already. The sooner OP gives a direct no, the sooner they can either put this behind them, or tell HR their direct nos are being ignored, if necessary.

  47. Observer*

    #5 – SVP with no linkedin

    Either there is something else bothering you or you’re having a really, really odd response to this situation. There are a lot of people with really high level roles who don’t have much of a LinkedIn presence. Why would they? They don’t probably don’t have the time to curate and grow it, they don’t want to waste the time of their support staff and, they do not need it.

    And there are people who may not be quite as high up / at such major companies, who also just can’t really be bothered.

    I have to say that it took me a couple of re-readings to figure out what you think the scam is, and I still don’t see how you think this would work. I’m going to point out that as important it is to be cautious (and it is!) it’s also important to not be *so* cautious that you appear paranoid. Not because it looks bad. But because you reach a point where it’s not realistic to tell the difference between signals of real potential problems and expressions of what’s essentially background anxiety.

  48. Immortal for a limited time*

    LW #5 is living in a “I use LinkedIn exclusively, therefore everyone else must, too” kind of world. LinkedIn is used primarily by two kinds of people: Those who are looking for a new job themselves (or who network constantly, in case a better offer comes along), and those who are actively involved in recruiting. SVP is probably doing neither. I’ve had a LinkedIn profile for many years but I’d be surprised if I logged in three times in the last six years, only because someone I know sent me a request to connect. I turn down connection requests from people I don’t know. Why? Because I’m not that far from retirement and am not looking for a new position. (Not to mention that in the 20+ years since LinkedIn began, I’ve never needed it to further my career.) I’m also not responsible for recruiting in my organization. In other words, LinkedIn is of no use to me, other than to see where former colleagues and old friends are working now. (Just for fun, I logged into LinkedIn just now and searched for my own manager, who is a highly respected executive. He doesn’t have a profile at all! It’s never occurred to me to look for him there.) Getting suspicious about every interaction to the degree that LW has here? That sounds like a character trait I wouldn’t want in an executive.

  49. Typing All The Time*

    OP 2: I had a similar work situation with a IT guy (who turned out to be a jerk toward women in the office, even our super smart CIO) where I told him I had a boyfriend but tried to say something kind in reply. He kept coming by my desk, asking if I want to do things after work and linger. He gave me his phone number and I realized that I had to stop trying to smooth things over and be friendly to deal with the situation. I loudly told him that I had a boyfriend but I also told a supervisor what was happening. I ever went as far as to put a picture of my boyfriend and I at my cubicle. The IT guy stopped but I wish I put my foot down sooner.

    1. Esprit de l'escalier*

      One shouldn’t need to have a boyfriend/partner to shut down someone’s unwanted attentions. Unattached people are allowed to say something like “Sorry, Bob, I am not interested in pursuing this. Please stop.”

  50. Khatul Madame*

    LW4, as a finance professional, recognize the sunk costs (time in your case), and leave. I suspect that the processes/improvements you implemented are applicable and relevant to other companies, and this is one of the reasons you are in demand.
    Do read any non-compete clauses in your employment contract/handbook before you give notice.

  51. Chris*

    “It’s typical for the loss of a parent to be treated differently than the loss of a grandparent”

    While true, saying this to someone who recently lost a grandparent this is pretty insensitive.

    1. tg33*

      To say this out of the blue would be insensitive. To say it to someone complaining that the death of a grandparent is treated differently to the death of a parent isn’t insensitive.

    2. Nancy*

      It’s insensitive in general. Treating relationships differently based on blood connection is a very outdated notion.

    3. TheBunny*

      Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t get the impression this was said…but thought by the LW.

      I did get the impression the top down gift idea was stated.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        The sentence in question is quite long, so I’ve used ellipsis to highlight it: “I told her that… gifts should trickle downwards, and also while other folks on my team have had losses ..the loss of a parent warranted an extra degree of care.” So it does seem like the OP told the boss that they marked the latest bereavement mostly because it was a young adult who’d lost their parent.

      2. Expelliarmus*

        I got the impression that both ideas were stated, and while I understand OP saying the top down gift thing aloud, she did not need to mention the other one.

  52. Very nice weather we're having*

    LW 3, are you OK being the person who’s hobby is having feelings about the weather? For example, “It was lovely this weekend, so I enjoyed the sunshine.” or “It was cold this weekend, so I curled up inside.” or “I stayed cozy during the thunderstorms yesterday.” None of these say what you actually did, but they feel like they do. I’ve found statements like this often spark conversation, both for remote and local teams.

    My teams know I prefer warm to cool weather, so sometimes if people see my region’s expecting a snowstorm, they contact me to say they’re thinking of me and hope I stay warm. It can be a surprisingly easy way to build some connections.

    1. TheBunny*

      I find pets do this too. My cat is cute. I share cat pics if needed. And it seems to feel personal enough that people feel I contributed when they know I have a cat, a husband and what he does for a living. None of them could pass a quiz based on my life…but it doesn’t seem that way so we’re all good.

  53. Mary*

    My daughter’s friend had an interview scam that was very involved, with several interviews including a skype interview with a senior executive and during plans for onboarding with the candidate (a recent college grad) he was asked for bank account numbers and passport info to “set up payroll”. The company was a well known international company in London. Before giving the financial info. he called the company and discovered it was all a long con on international students. A recent graduate from China had arrived at their office the day before to start the non-existent new job. He also discovered $20,000 had been withdrawn from his bank as he was flying over to London. So to me no Linkedin would be suspicious.

    1. OP #5*

      That’s terrible. So glad they were able to figure it out before implicating more people. I’ve heard of this too and the similarities are definitely there.

  54. Ssssssssssssssssssssss*

    For LW#1, doesn’t your boss have a boss who could have arranged for flowers, if we follow that gifts flow downwards? But…are flowers for a funeral or even as a token of sympathy truly a gift?

    In my corner of the world, government workers are unionized and for sure have rules about how money is spent. I am also unionized (but not a government worker) and my own union has a clause in the bylaws that once the steward is advised, there is a small budget of $50 that can be used to send flowers for a death in the family. This might be an avenue to explore since (a) flowers cost a hell of a lot more than 50 bucks (I did ask when the next bylaw review would be to increase that amount) and (b) it would ensure that people don’t get forgotten when a loved one dies. My SIL is still salty as she got no acknowledgement at all for her mother’s death but collections have gone around for other coworkers’ deaths in the family.

    Since no one reads their union bylaws, you might be surprised at what’s in there.

    Not only that, my employer will also arrange for flowers and a donation based on how close the family member that died was (e.g. for a spouse, you’ll get flowers but not for a parent, or similar). Once again the people who will arrange for the flowers/donation need to be advised by a director/manager. You could be surprised at what HR will offer in these circumstances once advised (like, eons ago I didn’t advise HR that I had gotten married since my new spouse had been my forever boyfriend and was already in the paperwork for benefits etc. Turns out HR paid out a $300 gift to anyone who got married – you just had to let HR know. I had no idea.).

  55. HR Ninja*

    I know this isn’t very helpful for #3, but it reminded of a conversation a former boss told me that he had with his supervisor that made me chuckle

    Supervisor: How about putting up some pictures in your office? It makes HR seem a little friendlier and less “scary”

    Boss: I’m not married, and I don’t have kids

    Supervisor: A picture of your dog then

    Boss: Don’t have a dog

    Supervisor: It doesn’t even have to be YOUR dog. Just get a picture and put it up

    1. GythaOgden*

      I had a picture of one of Alison’s cats on my phone desktop for a while (one from way back where she was comfortably ensconced in the airing cupboard, which is totally where I’d spend my life if I were a cat). I should have saved the rescue cat I saw on the RSPCA website that bore the same name as my late husband.

      Seriously though, another idea might be some artwork or cultural/fandom flavour — I find pictures of The Witcher great for conveying my love of fantasy and Polish folklore/culture. My current lock screen is left over from Halloween that I never got round to changing — a gargoyle I found on an Estonian poster site with very human-looking eyes. Now that really would be quite fun decor for conveying how an open office typical of British workplaces actually feels in practice…

      1. HR Ninja*

        I love that you’re repping Alison’s cat!

        That’s a great idea. It shows what you’re interested in and gives artists an opportunity to have their work seen by more people

  56. TheBunny*


    I feel this. I talk about my cat at work…and funny conversations with my husband. Nothing personal, more along the lines of him complaining about the weather. That’s it.

    No one knows how I spent the weekend, or if I went out or to the theatre…and luckily my cat seems to feel personal enough that I don’t really get other questions…and I read. A LOT… so the what did you do last weekend would be “read on my Kindle” and that’s about it.

  57. Garlic Microwaver*

    OP 1- I see both sides here. Don’t quantify or hierarch-ify grief. Sending flowers or a card to your supervisor for her grandmother’s passing would have been wonderful. Wondering if you had a knee-jerk reaction to her reaction (also not good); I don’t love the “grandparents don’t matter” and “monetary gifts flow downward” response. Be human?

    That said, boss’s reaction was rude. Grief brings out the good, bad and the ugliest in everyone though.

    Lessons learned on both sides.

    Also, to clarify, bereavement leaves are to plan funerals, not deal with the exhaustion of grief.

    1. Dovasary Balitang*

      Also, to clarify, bereavement leaves are to plan funerals, not deal with the exhaustion of grief.

      I’m not doubting you but oh boy, does this make my skin crawl. “You know the expensive consumerist minutia associated with the death of your loved one? You can have eight whole hours off for that, but screw you and your sadness.”

        1. I Have RBF*

          Grief takes months or years.

          This. Especially if the relationship was deep, complicated, or both.

    2. GythaOgden*

      Replying to you, but with one eye on Dovasary:

      Quite often doctors in the UK will sign you off for longer in the understanding that immediate grief doesn’t make you fit for work. (The current paradigm is that it’s certifying ‘fitness for’ work that’s the framing and not ‘too sick to’ work. It was designed to make it more flexible for people to go back when they felt up to it and maybe benefit the employer, but it has also kind of resulted in the opposite as well — it’s been made easier and quicker to obtain one with allowing electronic copies and an increase in medical personnel who can issue one.) My doctor gave me a few weeks and I had already booked PTO for the end of the month, so I went back because after the initial release of hubby dying, because I was bored and I was also cognisant that my colleagues needed a break as well; September was the month that my supervisor usually took her own foreign holiday and it was useful to me to be busy. I got a chance to grieve the following spring during lockdown because I lived too far from work to feel confident coming in due to the restrictions on movement and the lack of public transport until things settled down. (And, yeah, the virus, but the main things that worried me were the logistics of getting too and from the office where I had no choice but to be in-person.) My manager just certified me himself as I’ll and recognised there were multiple things at play — and he made it clear that the weekly check-ins he officially needed were more about me and my welfare than him and his need for a second receptionist.

      If I’d been off work until the grief and sadness subsided…well, I’d still be off because there’s always something that will trigger you. This year I’m the same age as hubby was when he died and it’s also 5 years. 2022 was our sixth wedding anniversary and thus the date of the month lined up with the Saturday on which we tied the knot. 2023 was the ‘seven year itch’. It always hits me even if I try to do something enjoyable on the anniversary: I went to a theme park last year and the first named North Atlantic storm (blowing west to east and hitting Europe) of the year blew through, shutting the rides for a good hour and trapping many of us in a crowded cafe. I’m not superstitious, but, as Michael Scott once put it, I am a little stitious :D. Hubby no doubt would have wanted me to have fun, but Mother Nature thought otherwise.

      If it were impossible to work while grieving many people over the age of 45-60 wouldn’t work and some younger would leave the workforce early. In any social/economic system, people compartmentalise emotional responses and move on, because society only really works to the level of development we have now because of people working, and socialist systems in reality tended to be worse WRT stigmatising people who chose not to work at all. Also, for it to mean a lot of us get to not perform manual labour all day, be it agricultural fieldwork or housework without the numerous devices that make it way easier, something else has to be there to make up for it. I’m better off as a widow now I don’t have people eyeing up my money and pushing me to marry them to get their hands on it and being scapegoated as the local witch or whatever in order to divest me of it. I think I prefer this society than the alternative, because lives in the developed world are orders of magnitude more secure and fulfilling for me as a woman than they are in societies where we don’t have access to modern consumer goods or feudal societies where people get to shirk their burdens and others work harder and longer to make up for it. To each according to their need — but FROM each according to their ability.

      Grief is a universal thing and acknowledging that is what makes it easier to accept the loss of a loved one. Until I was widowed, I really didn’t know how many younger women (or younger men) had lost their husbands (or wives, or any combination of partnerships) and it started to heal the very large gash my husband’s death left on my heart. The fundamental thing about it is that everyone will probably go through it at some point and it can’t stop us living life beyond the loss.

      1. New Mom (of 1 5/9)*

        I’m so sorry to hear about your husband. I’m happy that (it sounds like) you were able to get a lot of flexibility around leave.

    3. danmei kid*

      It’s weird for me to see sending flowers after a loss as an expression of sympathy being considered a “gift”. It’s not! It’s an expression of compassion and support. I don’t think the downward flow rules should apply.

      1. kiki*

        It is something that costs money, though. And flowers are expensive! I don’t think sending flowers to your boss after a death in the family is the same as sending a birthday gift, but expecting that your direct reports will send you, their boss, flowers is out of touch. If my CEO’s mother died, I would feel for them but if I was then asked to chip in for flowers, I’d be irked (unless the company were extremely small and/or I were particularly close to the CEO).

  58. Dovasary Balitang*

    LW#1 – The boss’s response is misaimed but I kind of feel for her here. I just lost a grandparent the other day and the overall lack of compassion my workplace has is really quite striking, including being nickel-and-dimed on the very small amount of available bereavement leave and being lectured about not informing my time off in the “right way”. I wouldn’t say you mis-stepped… but this is definitely a situation where some kindness would go a long way. Grief doesn’t always manifest rationally.

  59. LW #1*

    Thank you Alison and all of the commenters. I want to add that in my office, for any celebration or bereavement, there is no standard/anything done by admin staff – it is typically up to supervisors to organize a retirement party/baby shower/flowers/cards for their own staff. My supervisor is fairly new – less than 6 months – and didn’t know this is how we typically do things. And her supervisor didn’t do anything for her loss in this case. I had a follow up conversation with her where I approached this with more sensitivity than I had previously (because I was taken aback by her initial reaction) and kept any discussion of grandparents vs. parents out of it. She was more understanding of my position in the second convo and we basically just acknowledged we were coming from different POVs. I think in the future though I will stick to cards.

    1. Budgie Buddy*

      Sticking to cards seems good – it acknowledges the grief while being the cheapest monetarily.

      Sucks that supervisor’s supervisor didn’t do any acknowledgment though. Grieving is the worst time to fall through the cracks socially.

  60. Thomas the Engine*

    LW:5 Go to HR. This happened to me once. I was promised and was ghosted for 6 months. I went to HR who looked into it. The bonus was promised by another manager (the company had a policy where any manager could bonus any employee for exceptional work). It turned out that my immediate manager was putting the kibosh on it without my knowledge. He was a relic from the 1940’s. I got the bonus, with a huge apology from the HR department. They changed the policy so that employee’s immediate manager couldn’t have a say if the bonus came from another.

  61. Lobstermn*

    LW4: the promise is already broken. If you have other options, take one. Don’t give notice; we already know that you’ll be fired right away if you do.

    1. commonsenseseometimesmakessense*

      And yet, that still does not mean that OP5 isn’t right to have concerns, especially based on the additional information in his comments.

      These scams are becoming more frequent now. It is not a bad idea to be a little wary of the situation.

  62. Nica*

    As for LW#1 – some people are just really weird about death in general. I have a co-worker “Lisa” who is normally a lovely, generous person. The son of another co-worker “May” died very suddenly and unexpectedly. The reason was not shared, just that he passed (it was likely suicide) and May would be taking an extended leave of absence in the wake of it. May specifically requested no flowers, as services were private. We routed a card and wrote our condolences. When May returned several weeks later, I approached her in the hall, told her how very sorry I was for her loss and hugged her. Unless I completely misread the situation, May was glad to receive my condolences and didn’t seem at all upset after our exchange.

    I mentioned to Lisa that May had returned to the office and I was glad to see her. I mentioned I told May how sorry I was for her loss. Lisa started to YELL at me and said (and I am paraphrasing a bit here), “How DARE you approach May like that? You UPSET here. She doesn’t want to be REMINDED of her loss constantly. You were WAY out of line. I can’t believe you’d be so thoughtless as to do that. We were told NOT to talk to her about her loss.”

    I let her finish her rant and then just said, “Well, first off, I didn’t hear about any ground rules pertaining to May before her return. Second, I think we just feel differently about this topic. What’s done is done, whether or not you agree with it.”

    It was so strange as it was VERY out of character to Lisa to talk like that and to be so aggressive. I asked a couple of other co-workers about the supposed directive that went out about talking to May and basically, the people in her immediate department were told just to use their discretion when talking about it. There was no company wide directive that went out, at least that I could glean. The kicker of all this was May, to my knowledge, was not at all upset. About five years have passed since her son’s loss, we continue to work together and we continue to have a good professional relationship. So, I think the problem here was Lisa and whatever weirdness she has surrounding death.

    1. Saturday*

      I don’t really understand the idea that you shouldn’t talk about a person’s loss because you’ll “remind” them of it. I’m sure May wasn’t “forgetting” her loss for a moment. Yes, people might not want to talk at length about such a thing at work, but it sounds to me like you handled this very sensitively (you had a brief interaction, and it wasn’t right in the middle of a meeting or something). For what it’s worth, I lost someone in a similar way (a sibling rather than a son though), and I think you handled it just right.

      1. Goldie*

        Yes generally never mentioning the loss is the opposite of what most people want. Of course it’s case by case

  63. Flowers for the bereaved*

    #1, sending flowers. Please, potential senders of flowers, be aware that some of us are uncomfortably sensitive to cut flowers. As far as I know, no-one feels ill / can’t breathe on getting a condolence card. I prefer cards in any case, as they don’t wilt and can be re-read.

    I think the florists have sold everyone on the idea that every mourner wants flowers. No, we don’t all want them. And if you don’t feel obligated to send flowers to close survivors, you won’t need to beat yourself up wondering if a particular bereavement falls in that category.

  64. Betsy S.*

    For LW #5, how weird would it be to reach out to the company’s main HR and say they’ve been contacted by xyz about a job and wanted to double check that it was legit? I’d hope they’d value that sort of caution.

    Also do you have the internal email/phone for the first VP, and do they work? If the first VP is listed, and has a company email address, and your thank-you email is delivered (maybe even ask a small question?) seems like it’d be good evidence.

  65. Mrs. Hawiggins*

    My boss consistently forgets about her LinkedIn, and I had to remind her to change her title when she became boss, so it is possible that not a lot of people have followers. In fact she needs to go back and change her employment dates to update when she changed positions. It gets buried in the priority list.

    As for letter #2, why do people use work as their personal dating app? I’ll never know. Now I have been witness to dating and marriage at my place, but both parties really liked each other, kept it totally professional, and had the best wedding any of us have been to in the end. That said, if “Hey would you like to,” keeps happening after two “No thank yous” there’s a problem. I nearly left a job because of it but thankfully the individual was collared in the hallway one afternoon by management. Then, resigned by abandonment. Turns out one woman he pestered next happened to be the boss’ niece. Nobody knew until then.

    Working is great…

    1. Observer*

      Turns out one woman he pestered next happened to be the boss’ niece. Nobody knew until then.

      This is a perfect example of why it’s so important to go to HR if that can be done safely.

      1. Moonstone*

        But LW going to HR at this point seems like an extreme overreaction to me. LW can simply tell him they don’t like to mix their personal life with work and leave it at that. If he then approaches LW for a third time, at that point it might warrant a mention to HR depending on what is said. But it should be relatively simple to shut this down and move on.

        1. Cheshire Cat*

          But the point is that there shouldn’t have been a second approach, after she’d already said no. At this point, it’s more about creating a paper trail to make it easier for HR to name the pattern when he turns to hitting on colleagues with less capital than LW has.

          And I do mean “when,” not “if.”

        2. Observer*

          But LW going to HR at this point seems like an extreme overreaction to me.

          Why? This is not mutually exclusive with giving him a more clear no. And on the other hand, he has really over-stepped in a way that says that he as, at best, trouble with boundaries and accepting a “no”. These are things that a decent HR should want to know about. It won’t hurt him if he never misbehaves again. But if he then either does not respond well to the OP or starts pestering someone lower in the hierarchy, this is going to be important, because it will show a pattern. And HR can’t see patterns if they don’t have the information.

          Again, no one is saying that these things WILL happen. But experience shows that they are so likely to happen that it’s wise to lay the necessary groundwork, just in case.

          If he then approaches LW for a third time, at that point it might warrant a mention to HR depending on what is said.


          This does clarify your first line, but also makes it more puzzling. You really think that there is any real excuse for a third approach? What could he say at that point that would make it remotely OK? The burden you are putting on women to accept intrusive behavior is unacceptable and frankly enables bad behavior.

  66. Pink Candyfloss*

    I rarely disagree with Allison but for LW#1 I have to in this case.
    Asking someone who has suffered a loss (no matter how ‘close’ one may assume based on relationship – you cannot know how grief hits any one person) to contribute more to someone else’s loss than they received for theirs, is insensitive. I don’t think anything is needed beyond a sincere apology and moving forward. But I cringed immediately upon reading the letter and I was taken aback by Allison’s response.

  67. danmei kid*

    Sending flowers after a loss is not a “gift” and I’m surprised to see people applying gift rules to an expression of sympathy. Gifts should only flow downward. But compassion and support don’t have the same rules.

Comments are closed.