employee is a terrible singer, how to say “I’ll quit over this,” and more

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

1. My employee is a terrible singer

I’ve been a solopreneur for years and in the last few months finally made the leap and hired past-time help. After interviewing a few people, I found someone whose work ethic, schedule, and expectations matched my own. She’s great — hard worker, fast learner, willing to jump in however she can, willing to make suggestions on how to improve productivity, and has a keen creative eye.

There are of course some different points of views and some corrections and adjustments that have been needed from both of us … But there’s one issue I’m unsure how to handle. Her singing is HORRENDOUS.

We aren’t client-facing, so I have no problem with her listening to the music she wants to while she’s working. Her choice of music is worship/praise music. I don’t mind one way or another if it helps her stay focused during monotonous jobs.

But she sings along and it’s SO shrill and off-key. I was willing to work around it and wear headphones and that worked fine for me, but now we are sharing the space with another artist/business. There’s no physical division of space (walls) so noise travels. The other artist doesn’t mind the music, but has complained about the singing to me. They’ve specifically said they wouldn’t mind if it was good singing, but … it’s not.

My thought is to approach it as a simple sound issue. Ask her to listen on headphones and keep the singing minimal out of respect for our new shopmate. The only thing that gives me pause is that it’s worship music and it may be seen as a bigger offense if I ask her to stop. Am I overthinking that part?

Yep, approach it as a sound issue. I think you’re feeling awkward about it because you’re focused on the fact that her singing is bad, but even if it were beautiful, a lot of people would find singing distracting while they were trying to focus. Now that you’re sharing space with another business and they’ve mentioned it, that’s the perfect framing to use — “Business X mentioned that hearing singing is distracting when they’re trying to focus. Can you use headphones and save the singing for home?”

That’s an entirely reasonable thing to say and it shouldn’t be perceived as having anything to do with the type of music. It’s generally understood that you can’t loudly sing in offices around people who are working, and especially that you need to be accommodating if you’re asked to stop because it’s distracting others.

2. How do I say “I’ll quit if you make me do this task”?

I work for a small company (sub-20 employees) and have been here for five years. Within the past year, I have been promoted, but my prior position has not been backfilled, so I am currently straddling two roles. Recently, my employer announced to the company (without asking me) that I would be taking on the job of creating an operations manual for the company. During this announcement, he quipped that it was obviously a task no one wanted to do. This is outside of either role I perform, outside my skillset, experience, or bandwidth.

How do I push back and inform him that I am unwilling to take on this task, and if my continued employment is contingent on this, I will resign? I believe that I am good at my job(s) and am a valuable asset to the company. I’m paid fairly and I am willing to continue my work here, but I am also burnt out enough that I am willing to walk away. Unfortunately, I live in a rural area where obtaining comparable employment will be difficult.

Are they planning to fill your old job? Have they cut down the workload enough that covering both is manageable, or do you need to address that too? If that needs to be addressed as well: “I’m stretched thin as it is. I’m covering two roles, which I was willing to do to help in a pinch, but it isn’t sustainable for me to do long-term. I definitely can’t take on a third project — particularly one unrelated to either of the two jobs I’m covering — and what I really need is a timeline for someone taking over the X job. Meanwhile, adding in an additional project on top of already covering two jobs isn’t possible.”

You don’t need to go straight to “I will quit over this.” Say it this way first and see what response you get. If you’re told to just suck it up and do it, at that point you could say, “I want to be up-front that this is so far afield from the work I came on to do, and frankly so far afield from what I’m up for doing, that it’s making me think about whether the role still makes sense for me — and I don’t want to blindside you with that without discussing it first.”

Only say this if you’re truly willing to leave over it, though. If you have a reasonable boss, I suspect you won’t need to, but you’d need to be prepared to. And if you don’t have a reasonable boss, be aware that even if they back off on this, it’s possible that explicitly drawing this line could sour the relationship — wrongly so, but it could. Which you might be completely fine with; I just want to make sure you’re not surprised by that if it happens. Of course, they should be worrying about souring their relationship with you, but they probably aren’t.

how to say “I’ll quit over this”

3. I heard alarming information from a coworker’s old manager — should I tell our boss?

I have a coworker, Juan, who works with my team on projects. He tends to overstep his role by showcasing his extensive experience in the industry beyond his actual role. He’s caused problems on projects, justifying it as helpfulness. He sometimes sides with clients at the expense of the team, and it’s unclear if it’s intentional or if he’s trying to make himself look good. So he is already kind of on thin ice, but his apparent experience in the field is helpful when assuming good faith.

The other day I found out through LinkedIn that he has worked with a close family friend (Emma) who is a regional manager in a leading company in our industry. I told him I know her, and he started going on about how well he knows her, how well they worked together years ago, how they’re still close, and again bragging about his experience from that time.

Then that night, I get a call from Emma to warn me about Juan. She’s a regional manager at an important company, and she spent a good 20 minutes telling me about how she’s his former boss, and had to fight internally to fire him. They keep a polite relationship because our industry is small, but they aren’t close like he implied. Emma advised me not to trust Juan and suggested a cautious approach, including documenting communications, keeping bosses informed, and watching my back because she’s known him to actively lie. She highlighted discrepancies in his resume and offered to review his LinkedIn profile to provide evidence of his questionable claims. She was very insistent and even seemed a little worried for me, even though I haven’t personally had problems with him.

While I have a good relationship with our boss, I’m unsure whether to inform our boss now, wait for Juan to face consequences naturally, or keep this information in case he causes problems in the future.

Assuming you know Emma to be trustworthy and to generally have good judgment, you should fill in your boss. The key is to do it in a matter-of-fact, fairly detached way. Your tone should be “here’s info that might be relevant so I’m passing it on; do with it what you will” — not attached to any one particular outcome, and definitely not “scandal! gossip! what are we going to do?!” Make it clear that you can’t vouch for the info personally, but that you’ve known Emma for a long time and she generally has good judgment.

If the facts of your letter were different — like if Juan had seemed like a perfectly fine coworker up until now, or if your boss were a massive problem themselves — my advice would be different. But a good relationship with your boss and a coworker who has already seemed like a problem? Be discreet about it, but have the conversation.

4. Ethics of interviewing when I can’t accept the job

I have an ethics question about job applications and unemployment insurance. I was laid off (along with 50% of the staff at my old job) between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I immediately started job hunting aggressively, but knowing typical hiring cycles in my industry and that this is usually a very quiet time of year for hiring, I also applied for unemployment. One of the requirements of receiving unemployment payments is that you must do three job search activities per week, whether that’s applications or attending a career fair or the like.

I was lucky enough to receive a new offer quickly, but because of funding cycles, my start date isn’t until late March. And between now and then, I still need to make rent and feed my kids, so I’m still doing my mandatory three applications a week to maintain UI benefits. But I feel awful submitting applications to jobs knowing that it’s vanishingly unlikely I’ll take any of them. I mean, maybe one will be an absolute rockstar of a job, but I’m pretty happy with the team, product, and compensation structure at the place I’ll be joining in March and it’s hard to imagine pulling out.

What do you think? Is it okay to continue sending out my resume? Should I be submitting applications only to jobs where I know I won’t be a top tier candidate, so I’m not messing with hiring managers’ hopes and dreams for filling their reqs? (Having been on the hiring side of the table recently, I know exactly how hard it is to hire people with my technical skills and how frustrating it can be to finally screen a candidate who checks all my boxes, only to have them withdraw from the hiring process.)

It’s okay to keep sending out your resume. You’re playing by the rules you’ve been given, and those rules require you to do that. And hiring managers should never assume any given candidate is a lock; after all, if they’re excited about a candidate, there’s a good chance other employers are excited about them too. Plus, there’s no guarantee they’d be able to agree on salary, and the person could end up not interested once they’ve learned more. On top of all that, anyone who hires knows that someone who looks great on paper might not turn out to be the right match once you learn more. So you don’t need to worry about disappointing hiring managers! They’ll be okay.

That said, there are some complicating factors because of your unemployment benefits. Typically on unemployment you’re not allowed to turn down a job offer except in fairly narrow circumstances (or rather, you can, but then your benefits can stop). So that might mean you’re better off applying for jobs where you’re not likely to end up in that position. At the same time, you wouldn’t want to be in a situation where the job that’s slated to start in March falls through (which isn’t likely! but it’s not a zero chance either) and you’ve forfeited a couple of months of genuine job-hunting as a result. So you’ve got to look at all of those factors and decide how to balance them.

5. Asking to work from another country

I work for the federal government in a position that requires moving to different countries outside of the U.S. every 2-3 years. My spouse is a software engineer who has worked remotely since 2017. We are heading to our next overseas location in June, and my spouse has been trying to find a new remote job for the past year with no luck. His current employer said months ago that they would check if they are okay with him working from the new country and then never brought it up again.

Every time he gets invited to interview with a new company, he tells them early on about the upcoming move and a small few have said “no problem” while the majority have said “no thanks,” and the process ended there. Their main concern is tax implications but since we are abroad on government orders, we don’t truly live there and are not subject to their taxes. We are Maryland residents and pay U.S. taxes as if we are in Maryland no matter where we are assigned in the world. However, the companies would rather not bother to deal with it or risk it and just pick someone without the complication.

As June is quickly approaching, we are getting more concerned. Should he push his current company for an answer so we know if his job has a hard end date in June or not? That feels like running the risk of them letting him go early, which is obviously not ideal.

Should he stop telling the prospective employers early in the process? Should he wait until he is hired and bring it up in May as if it’s something he just found out? Offer to do a trial period to prove to them that it won’t be an issue? We aren’t sure how to move forward at this point.

He should push his current company for an answer. It’s possible their silence means no, but it’s also possible it doesn’t.

That said, for most companies, letting someone work from another country where they don’t already have a business presence is a big deal — and usually prohibitively so for a new employee. It’s not just your taxes that are affected; it’s the business’s own taxes, plus government fees and filings too. They’d also have to monitor and comply with the employment laws of the new country, set up and pay into various new insurance policies, become licensed to do business there, navigate security issues, sometimes find an entirely new payroll company, and on and on. Those can be pretty significant legal and tax headaches, and most companies won’t be terribly motivated to take that on for a new hire. The exceptions are international companies that already have employees in that country, and those might be the smartest employers for him to look at. (But for those reasons, I really, really don’t recommend going through a whole hiring process and then springing it on the employer at the end. They’re likely to just say no and be very annoyed that he didn’t bother to mention it earlier.)

{ 466 comments… read them below }

  1. 867-5309*

    OP5, Your husband might consider remote, freelance roles. I am currently a freelance consultant with all US clients but spending two months in Europe and more generally a digital nomad with a permanent address in Ohio. I did not tell clients until I’d been here a couple weeks because I adjusted my hours to work on their time zone at least two days a week to accommodate critical meetings. Similarly, my cousin’s wife is in the military and they were stationed in Asia. He is also freelancing for a U.S. company. Good luck.

    1. Cmdrshprd*

      “I did not tell clients until I’d been here a couple weeks because I adjusted my hours to work on their time zone at least two days a week to accommodate critical meetings. ”

      Freelancing in a roll that does not require synchronous communication might be better, because even without all the points raised by Allison the time difference/communication could be an issue.

      At. a previous job we had a candidate who wanted to intern/volunteer. they were based out of the US but doing a semester/year in Europe. they wanted intern/volunteer with us, but were on almost opposite schedule, I think they would have 1 maybe 2 hours a few times. week that we would overlap schedules and it wasn’t enough.

      this was a job that some work could be done a synchronous, but also had stuff that came up and needed immediate attention. so we ended up passing on the candidate.

      1. 867-5309*

        Yeah – I have a significant amount of experience and am able to dictate my hours a little more than other people. (For example – I do not take meetings on Friday.) OP’s husband might have to either fully work on the local time zone of the client (which is brutal) or as you note, find something with asynchronous hours. Great call.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        As a freelancer you have to pay taxes to the place in which you are living. You handle all the taxes (part of why your freelance rate should be substantially higher than your regular in-house employee rate), so the problem of the employer paying estimated tax in a different state when a normal employee moves from Ohio (where the firm is located) to California (where it is not registered as a local tax-paying entity) doesn’t arise.

      2. 867-5309*

        @been there, Yes! I addressed the tax implications in a reply below. You have certain amounts of time you can stay in different places before your income becomes taxable there.

      3. Susannah*

        Yes, but then it’s on you – not your freelance clients.
        I worked as a freelancer abroad for 5 years. You have to comply with local tax laws – and that’s on YOU. And if you are overseas for a certain number of days a year (it’s a lot, I recall it being about 11 months total), you don’t have to pay income tax on first 120K you earn (that was 2023, right be higher for 2024). You *do* have to pay payroll tax, though, even if you are an ex-pat. Learned that one the hard way!

      4. Worldwalker*

        The freelancer does, not the employer.

        I work for a company in another state and I’m officially a contractor (and in fact I really am; I work weird hours, for instance, and all that matters is that the job gets done) so that they don’t have to establish a business presence here. It’s annoying tax-wise, but the small company that I work for couldn’t afford to have multiple businesses locations in four states that I know of, plus Canada.

        And one of the things that I do is handle contract work (think teapot design work) from freelancers in five countries and counting. We send them payments, and I think accounting sends annual reports to their respective tax offices (that’s one of the mysteries of accounting) and they deal with the rest.

        Yes, we rely on email a lot for its asynchronous nature! Though being in a kind of weird industry does make it more likely than most that I can be chatting with someone at midnight for either them or me.

    2. Tio*

      Also – Please don’t wait until the offer to tell them you’re moving. This is not like interviewing while pregnant or disabled, where you tell them at the end because they can’t legally change their mind. They’re not going to set up a whole nother legal entity in a foreign country because you waited until almost start date to tell them; they’re going to withdraw the offer and be VERY mad at you about it.

    3. Anon2*

      #5 are you an FSO? Even then and even if you don’t have to pay taxes abroad as a diplomat doesn’t mean your spouses work won’t! Also, all Americans no matter where they live have to pay taxes… some people forget that part!

      I worked for the UN as a diplomat and had a spouse. Luckily my spouse also worked for the UN but I knew many FSOs, military, and other non profit people who had spouses. My spouse actually had a UN job first and I moved to said country and got a non profit role first when I arrived. The pay was awful for Us standards but it got me to do great work and gave me a network I used to then get excellent roles.

      Have your spouse look at multinationals and companies in that country that have a U.S. office. Also he or she should look at NGOs that work in that country. International rescue committee, Mercy Corps, Save the Children, Care international, all are based in the US. They might not have engineer jobs but have jobs with transferable skills. Check out relief web and put in the country you’ll be in but make sure spouse puts in CV they will be in country starting in June.

      Spouse can also look for work when they are there. Have you spoken to other employees who work at that consulate/ embassy? They may have ideas especially if they have spouses. A friend who is an FSO for USAID moved countries and the people at her new embassy found her home, told her the schools, etc. she basically did nothing (according to her). Contact the new office and see what they say. Your spouse might not get the same salary as they have here especially as a software engineer, so if they are looking for similar salary that may not be possible.

      Have your spouse apply to the embassy in a role. Again I have many friends who are FSOs including one in an African country and another in a South American country and both spouses work at the Embassy. One does maintenance stuff (I don’t believe that spouse has a degree not sure) and the other does visa work and that spouse is a lawyer. Another works abroad and their spouse was a former FSO who left and now work as a fellow for a think tank in DC while living abroad.

      The other thing is your spouse could stay for awhile if you need the income and can’t find anything. I stayed in the US (with a baby) for 6 months when my spouse was deployed overseas to a hard ship post. Not ideal, but if you need the money then it is an option to think about.

      Don’t spring it on an employer and you have to tell them and should during the interview process. You don’t want your spouse to get a not-great reputation. I had someone apply for a role and we got to the final interview and the job description said you must be able to work in country of origin. At final interview when they got the offer they told me they had a visa through their spouse but one where they couldn’t work full time. We could not sponsor a working visa for that particular role and I was a bit miffed they did this at the end especially when it was written and discussed with HR. They applied for a role years later in a different department and they weren’t selected to interview in part because HR couldn’t trust that they finally had right to work in said country. I always think it’s good to be upfront either in the beginning or during the early interview stages.

      Good luck!

  2. ThatOtherClare*

    #5, your spouse might have luck with applying to one of the big multinational mining companies. They have operations in most countries, large and small, they have large English-speaking teams, they’re big enough that they have plenty of different openings, and more and more mining operations are being performed remotely. He could be a resident of Maryland living in Addis Ababa writing control software for autonomous forklifts in the Pilbara, and the big mining company that I used to work for wouldn’t bat an eyelid.

    1. Cmdrshprd*

      But what if Taylor Swift or Beyonce decide to quit their day jobs and become teapot designers? surely an exception could be made for them?

      1. MK*

        Not everyone likes them either. And I wouldn’t like constant singing in the office even from my favourite artists.

        1. Phoenix Wright*

          Can confirm. At a previous job, a coworker used to blast Pink Floyd almost every morning. Even though Division Bell is my favorite album of theirs, for a long time I couldn’t stand to hear it anymore because it reminded me of that annoying coworker. So yeah, having to hear my favorite artists singing every single day would only make me hate them.

          1. Jezebella*

            oh dear. You just unlocked a memory of working in a darkroom in college with a boss who was obsessed with Andrew Lloyd Webber. All day, every day. Multiple versions of the same musical. Musicals aren’t really my jam, anyway, but anything Andrew Lloyd Webber gives me hives, all these years later.

            1. Cmarie*

              was the musical Evita? if so, I’ve seen a post from your old boss on Reddit sharing how they didn’t understand why their playlist of various different versions of the Evita soundtrack on a loop was inappropriate in the workplace. I love Evita, but I’d be looking for another briefcase in another hall at that point.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            I love Pink Floyd more than any other band ever and this would probably irritate me too. Especially if someone were singing along, badly.

            It makes no difference whether the music is something you like or not; if it’s distracting someone when they’re trying to work, then it needs to be headphones only and no singing along.

            1. Reluctant Mezzo*

              There’s a radio station which pleaded with Stephen King not to have to play AC/DC 24/7. Yes, he was the owner, but there are limits. They finally negotiated it down to 2-5 all weekday afternoons.

      2. Language Lover*

        I find live singing to be pretty distracting unless my purpose at the moment is to listen to that live singing.

        It doesn’t matter how catchy their tunes or good their voice, it’d be a no go.

        1. Elitist Semicolon*

          Yeah, Other People Spontaneously Singing make me uncomfortable for some reason, no matter how nice their voice is. I have sound issues in general so that’s a big part of it, but when the singing happens in a place where I did not go specifically to hear live singing, those issues get worse for me.

        2. Miss Muffett*

          You wouldn’t want someone constantly prattling away at their desk either – signing voice notwithstanding. In a common space, we should be minimizing any non-necc noise. Music of any sort out loud, conference calls on speaker, long non-work convos between coworkers even!

        1. EmF*

          Some people dislike music, or poetry, or paintings, and I don’t feel too bad for them. All those things are avoidable.

          Imagine hating architecture. Buildings! Buildings everywhere!

          1. Lenora Rose*

            Generally it’s a hatred of specific styles of architecture rather than hating the existence of buildings.

            1. LifeBeforeCorona*

              Mainly because she would be accompanied by dozens of screaming fans who can sense that you’re not a fan and will try very hard to recruit you. :)

              1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                My oldest is dealing with this at school. Their musical tastes run more to 80’s and 90’s rock than current pop (and they don’t dislike Taylor – just wish she wasn’t EVERYWHERE right about now). Blew some friends minds that there were and are musical talents other than Taylor.

                (Oldest asked to go see Foreigner in concert last year for their 15th b-day. Right now they like my radio stations more than spouse – because Taylor doesn’t get airtime on my classic rock stations.)

          1. Czhorat*

            Taylor Swift hatred is a weird, weird phenomenon. It’s fine to not like her music, but some people take it way farther than is reasonable, especially as she doesn’t have a combative or difficult persona.

              1. Rosemary*

                I don’t get the hatred either. Even if you loath her music or the sound of her voice, it is still possible to respect her as a person, businesswoman, etc. She really is quite impressive in many ways, beyond her musical talent (I personally am pretty indifferent to her music. Do I seek it out? No. But will I turn it off? Also no.)

              2. Elizabeth West*

                I like one song a lot (Karma). That’s it. I’m not her target demographic, lol. As a person, she seems pretty cool, though. But who knows. In the last couple of years I’ve learned there can be a large incongruence between what you think someone would never do and what they actually will do, for reasons. So.

            1. Quantum Possum*

              I don’t hate her. I just don’t want to have anything to do with her.

              Now, if KESHA walked in…different story! (Although I still wouldn’t want to hear her sing all day at work.)

      3. Cat Tree*

        Honestly, un-rehearsed spontaneous singing without intentional music backing isn’t enjoyable even from excellent singers.

        And even if the singing was concert-level good, I still need to concentrate on my paid job and well, there’s a reason we don’t set up offices in concert venues. It’s still distracting.

        1. Czhorat*

          Yeah, and if you’re listening on headphones it’s worse, because you’re singing over music only you can hear. It’s not even a deliberate acapela performance.

          I was joking about it elsewhere in the comments, but this is another version of the same issue of the guy who played his ukulele in the middle of the day.

          (I did a new uke last week, with 6 strings. It is tempting ….. )

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I’m classically trained, I’ve been the singing coworker, nobody told me to shut up, and they probably should have.

            1. JustaTech*

              I had a coworker who was a trained singer with a lovely voice who did tend to sing along in the lab, but she almost only ever did it when she was alone or if it was just me (because I didn’t mind).
              I have sung in the lab, but only alone, because no one wants to hear my weird and inventive verses of “what do you do with a drunken sailor”, though I’m sure someone walking down the hall heard something.

              1. kitryan*

                In a past job I would also sing along to whatever I had playing on my ipod –
                I worked away from others in a little corner, accompanied (drowned out) by varying combinations of vents and washing machines and dryers (I was working as a fabric dyer). Generally, no one could hear except possibly briefly when passing by or when they had questions or were dropping off more work.
                When people did come by, they generally commented favorably – however, I imagine that would change pretty quickly if I was in the main workroom and there was no escape.

      4. AnonInCanada*

        Are we mashing question 1 with question 2 here? Because if I had to endure hearing non-stop Taylor Swift or Beyoncé every day at work, I’d quit over that! >:-(

      5. Hokey Puck*

        Actually this would also be awful. Can you imagine trying to think with pop singing all day? Blech!

        1. UKDancer*

          Yeah I think that’s about right. Also Uhura was singing in the canteen after shift, not while on the bridge fighting the Klingons. So she knew there was a time and place for music and it was after work not during it.

      6. thelettermegan*

        I’m a pretty good singer, and I enjoy singing popular songs, and I’ve been told to shut up in the office. That’s just office life.

    2. Llama Llama*

      We don’t live in a universe where people break out into singing with no discernable music source, so this is a very acceptable rule!

        1. UKDancer*

          Yeah same, I sing when I’m in the shower and sing along with things while I’m cooking. Sometimes I’ve music playing but sometimes I burst into random song because I’ve a song in my head.

          I don’t do it at work where people can hear me because it’s weird and I’m not a good singer. But I sing when I feel like it on my own.

      1. Elitist Semicolon*

        Oh, I have a few of those people in my friend circle and it is profoundly irritating when one of them suddenly decides they need to show off that they know a song someone mentioned in passing/that they know a song with that same phrase someone just used/that they still remember the song they sang in their second-grade play. It’s not fun.

          1. Loredena*

            Same. My sister and I are notorious for this. We were known for it in our glass class. Fortunately we never did more than a phrase and our classmates were tolerant of our foibles

      2. ferrina*

        Exactly. The genre of the music is a red herring- I like to listen to Linkin Park while I work, and even though I love singing along, I refrain for the sake of my coworkers.
        I don’t want to start a new divide.

        1. ScruffyInternHerder*

          Because in the end, you’d have to deal with what you’d done, and they might burn it down?

      3. Dinwar*

        Which is sad, to be honest. Communal singing used to be a thing, as was singing by yourself–in the days before music recordings were readily available, that was the primary way to experience music. There are some settings where it occurs, and in the right time and place it’s a powerful experience.

        That said, 99% of work environments are not the right time and place. If you’re off in the field somewhere by yourself and there’s no one around, sure, sing away–I’ve done it to announce my presence to hunters when I’ve taken water samples in woods, for example. But in an office, no. “Don’t pester a captive audience” is a good rule.

        1. OffsetWeave*

          Strong agree that community singing is powerful. I’m sad that in the US, Christmas carols and church are the only contexts where acquaintances sing together incidentally — how are the rest of us supposed to get our fix?

          1. JustaTech*

            Bring back work shanties! Think about how popular sea shanties were online in like January 2021 (the Wellerman!).
            On the other hand those songs tend to be either very profession specific (sailing) or very pro-union. Or religious.
            Man, whatever happened to singing like in camp? Or out hiking? Kids get to have all the fun.

            1. Telephone Sanitizer, Third Class*

              I’ve made jokes before about developer shanties. Let’s get some rhythmic songs about JIRA tickets.

              1. iglwif*

                Yesssss developer shanties!

                And editor shanties!

                Oh! Fix your punctuation, fix your fonts heigh-ho!
                Haul away the extra spaces, blow, b’y’s, blow!

            2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

              I’ve sung at the tail end of a long hike when the sun was setting and we still had miles to go. I can testify that it does help tired legs keep moving fast. Highly recommend.

              Most work nowadays is not communal, which is a pity in its own way.

          2. Beth**

            My employer had a short-lived mental health initiative called “sing-usion” where employees had the opportunity to get together and sing either pop songs or Christmas songs (seasonal) or whatever. it was very optional (maybe 25 out of 4,000 people attended). It ended due to the pandemic *shrug*.

            we also have a company choir, but they mainly do Christmas carols for an annual concert.
            this is not in the US, though

        2. Critical Rolls*

          If my office ever needs to raise a barn or row a longship we are open to revisiting the conversation.

        3. Lenora Rose*

          I love communal singing! I’ve done no few music gatherings over time.

          The problem is that while we work in a communal space, we also all often are working at different stations doing different if similar work, and white collar work with words (emails, memos, editing, typing and composition) and likely programming, especially is not conducive to also singing lyrics en masse. Communal singing is better for hard labour tasks that are generally shared.

          I used to sing all day (sans radio) while filing alone in a room (yes, I *am* that annoying person several other threads have dissed) but I can’t do it while typing; I can often sing along absently to songs that are ingrained into my being, but I also don’t tend to listen as much to music anyone else in the vicinity knows, which reduces the viability of communal music.

        4. Worldwalker*

          Communal singing was a lot more common, yes, but still not in the office.

          Sailors might sing sea chanties, for instance, but Bartleby the Scrivener didn’t.

      4. Deanna Troi*

        Of course they do! I sing (badly) all the time when I’m alone or with my husband and there’s no music. Mostly 70s top 40.

    3. iglwif*

      There can be exceptions, but they’re all the kind of exceptions that would apply extremely rarely.

      At home, including while working at home, I sing pretty often — sometimes because I’m trying to learn something tricky for the next choir concert, sometimes because I’ve got an earworm I’m trying to exorcise, sometimes just because I feel like it. I have been known to hum along with whatever’s playing in my head and not immediately realize I’m doing it.

      I *do not* do this when I am working in a space with other people. It can take conscious effort not to do it! But I make the effort, because we live in a society.

      1. Sorrischian*

        Even at work, if I get really in the zone on a repetitive task, I almost always end up humming or singing a little, because for some reason the part of my brain in charge of staying focused seem to be the same part that’s in charge of holding a tune. But I do my absolute best to stay quiet, and for tasks that I know activate my mental music box I try to work on those in times and places where I’m not in the same rooms as coworkers I might bother.

        1. iglwif*

          Yeah, that happens to me and is one of the reasons I muuuuuuuch prefer working from home. The dog rarely tells me to shut up XD

    4. Artistic Impulses*

      I agree. A few years ago, I worked with three other people in a smallish open office. All of us wore earphones. Some listened to podcasts, others listened to music. It worked pretty well, except the woman who sat next to me listened to a lot of 60s rock and sang in a terrible voice, and not softly, either.

      She was the only one who sang. and it was terribly distracting. After being driven crazy for several weeks, I finally said something to her. Although she was a pretty nice person, she seemed offended when I asked her to stop singing. She also noted that I was wearing earplugs, and she didn’t think I could hear her. I explained that I didn’t have the volume high, just loud enough to have some relaxing jazz in the background.

      I tried to be diplomatic and I never mentioned the quality of her voice, just that her singing was distracting. and interfering witj my enjoyment of my own music. She stopped singing for a short time (a bit reluctantly, it seemed). But she kept relapsing into singing again, and I had to periodically remind her.

      We got furloughed due to Covid, so that took care of the problem. My next job was remote, and one of the things I most appreciated was not having to listen to any more off-key warbling.

    5. ReallyBadPerson*

      I am unable to concentrate with any music in the background, so this is a reasonable rule. It’s not the quality of the music or personal taste that matters, it’s just the intrusive noise.

    6. Yellow-throated warbler*

      Guilty. Even worse, it was at my annual review. My organization has a six-letter acronym (??), each letter of which stands for one of the organization’s values. I used the tune of MOTHER (M is for the many things she gave me) with a line for each value, “Put them all together they spell (acronym), Which is everything that (organization) means to me.”

      I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone. I’ve been at this organization for a long, long time, and I get along very well with my boss and grand-boss, so I can get away with things like this. Someone at a nearby desk said that she had never heard so much laughing during an annual review before.

    7. Totally Minnie*

      I used to be a children’s librarian and sometimes I would need to learn new songs for story time classes, but I always tried to do that when there was nobody else around.

    8. Cactus_Song*

      Absolutely. I’m a classical singer and I have very strict rules about singing (and performing in general) in public. The first one of which is, both parties need to consent to it – the performer and the audience.

      If I tell my colleagues that I’m putting on a recital or singing in a show on a certain date, they can choose whether or not to come. If we’re at a holiday party and someone asks me to sing a song and everyone’s like, “Yes, please do!” then honestly I probably will because I have songs rehearsed for those moments. But I can also decline if I feel like it wouldn’t be a good idea.

      I don’t sing in the office because it’s neither the time nor the place and it’s distracting for everyone regardless of skill level. And I’d rather preserve my voice for practice, performances, etc..

    9. Shan*

      I will forever remember one day in first year uni. Theatre program. We were doing our costume shop lab hours, sewing hats. The shop head was a notoriously cranky woman we’ll call Nancy, who happened to have stepped out of the room to go do something. One person started singing. Another person chimed in, then another, and suddenly half the room was singing. We aren’t talking a random Backstreet Boys song or something equally pedestrian – no, we were in theatre, so I was suddenly in the midst of a full-fledged Gaelic milling frolic.

      …and then Nancy walked in and told everyone to be quiet, and I realised she might well be my favourite person in the entire program.

  3. Observer*

    #1 – bad singing.

    Please talk to your employee. Don’t get into the type of music, or the quality of her singing. She could be playing the “perfect” genre or music (if such a thing existed) and have the voice of an angel. It would still not matter. It’s a simple sound issue – it’s loud enough to disturb the people around her.

    And while it’s kind of you to work around it with headphones, you would need to have this conversation with here even if it were another employee complaining rather than another tenant. Again, even though this particular person says they only care because her singing is so bad, it doesn’t really matter *why* they don’t like the singing. It’s disruptive to them and that’s all that matters. Which also means that you should absolutely not get into her singing or the type of music.

    Let her have her headphones, and keep her participation to humming.

    1. Cheshire Cat*

      Humming carries, too, though. I used to hum fairly quietly at my first office job and people sitting on the other side of the room could hear me.

      At my last job, I had a singing coworker. They used headphones so no one else could hear the music, but they also sang along. I liked the band they usually listened to but their singing was awful. I finally asked them not to sing along, focusing on the effect it had on my concentration. They were receptive to the message, thankfully.

      1. Lady Lessa*

        Knowing the type of music that LW’s employee likes, I wonder if humming might even be worse.

        In that situation, I think that earphones and NO singing, humming, etc. is the best solution.

    2. amoeba*

      If it’s an open office, I’d say there should be absolutely no participation, no matter how quiet! I’m more tolerant to noise in the office than most people and even I’d be super irritated by somebody humming along to the music on their headphones (actually, that would be much worse than if they were humming along to a radio or something, because it sounds so much weirder if you only hear their voice!)

      If everybody’s actually fine with the music sans singing, I’d actually rather suggest keeping the music for everybody but telling her she can only hum or sing very quietly. But please, no humming with headphones…

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        I doubt there’s a way to have music that appeals to everybody. Personally I find it such a distraction I couldn’t possibly get any work done. It doesn’t relax me, it engages me, I can’t not listen to it. Music I don’t like will drive me mad, and music I do like will make me want to dance and sing at the top of my voice. Neither is conducive to working.

        1. ferrina*

          I’m the opposite- I need some sort of sound to be able to focus. But that doesn’t come at the cost of my coworkers who don’t like music while they work. Headphones is the obvious solution, and no singing or humming (because that’s also really distracting). That’s a really reasonable expectation.

        2. amoeba*

          I mean, depends on the environment – in the lab, radio is pretty standard here. In the office, I generally agree, but it reads like there’s actually only three people in that workspace (and the new coworker indicated that she actually doesn’t mind the music) – for those kinds of small numbers I guess it could be different! Would be very necessary to revisit the policy when new people join (and also check in regularly whether anybody has changed their opinion…)

          1. Observer*

            Would be very necessary to revisit the policy when new people join (and also check in regularly whether anybody has changed their opinion…)

            You really cannot do that, though. Because that puts pressure on people to not speak up, be accepting, and to not change their position.

            And getting in to whose music and / or whose singing? Now, THAT is something that is going to wind up being offensive. Especially the singing because that is a truly personal comment about a person.

        3. Worldwalker*

          I used to design websites. Back then, a lot of clients wanted music on their websites. I didn’t even have to explain license fees to them. I just asked them if they’d ever been in a music store, the Border’s music department, etc. Of course they had. So I asked them what percentage of the music there they liked. Usually about 10%. I pointed out that was true for everyone, and it was going to always be a different 10%; 90% of their prospective customers wouldn’t like their choice of music.

          I think only one person got past that and still tried to insist, whereupon I had to tell him that I wasn’t going to be a party to something that could get me sued; he could get a different idea or a different designer.

      2. MusicWithRocksIn*

        Also it’s religious music, which is generally less accepted in an office environment. The OP worried she couldn’t ask her to stop because it’s religious, but I think there is much more room for the office mate to feel uncomfortable with religious music. There are many offices that will allow more generic music like oldies that would put a stop to religious music right away.

        1. Office Lobster DJ*

          It isn’t clear in the letter whether the employee is wearing headphones, just that LW does to escape. If the employee is not routinely wearing headphones, that has to be considered just as important as stopping the singing. And yes, the type of music does make it all the more important — just because everyone currently in the space says they are fine with worship music doesn’t mean everyone always will be (or isn’t fine but doesn’t want to be the one to say it).

          That said, if the employee wears headphones and stops singing, I guess there’s no reason to bring up the type of music.

        2. I Have RBF*

          Yeah, even if they were a concert grade singer I would go crazy with the religious music of a religion that I do not share, and that has negative associations for me.

          I like a lot of music, but I don’t want to hear even stuff I like sung to in an office environment. It’s too distracting.

          1. Worldwalker*

            I actually enjoy religious music from a variety of religions, but not when I’m trying to work!

            I like big band music, too, but also not when I’m working. Same reason.

    3. LifeBeforeCorona*

      I worked with a whistler who was fingers on a chalkboard bad. They randomly whistled to music throughout the day. It reached the point that I had to leave my desk whenever they started whistling. Or I interrupted them with a question just to make it stop. Now I’d ask them to stop because it was distracting but being young and inexperienced made it harder. One nice thing about getting older is your tolerance level for unwanted distractions gets lower.

    4. Sparkles McFadden*

      Humming is annoying too, and people who sing horribly also hum horribly. You just have to tell the person the noise is distracting. You may have to do this several times, big it shouldn’t be a big deal. Just “Hey, you’re singing again and it’s distracting.” Please be aware that the singing will likely get worse if the person is wearing headphones because the person will increase the singing volume so they can hear themselves through their headphones.

    5. daffodil*

      I can’t believe she’s not self-conscious. I’ve sung this type of music into a microphone and been asked back, sometimes for money, so I think I’m a good singer, but I do not sing along when other people can hear me. That’s what car time is for.

    6. The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon*

      Yes, the quality of the singing does not matter. I worked in a library in college (back rooms so no quiet rules) and one of the other employees was a member of an a cappella group who assumed everyone wanted to hear his angelic voice all the time. Fellow commenters, we did not.

    7. Just Another Cog in the Machine*

      My old boss, who I shared an office with, hummed along with her music. And I don’t think it was intentional because it would periodically stop and then start again like she just realized and then forgot not to again. It was very, very loud, and very out of tune. No humming.

      If I *need* to sing and know I can’t, I mouth the words.

  4. Artemesia*

    #1. Before quitting over this, consider quitting this. Give the lines about being overloaded with the two roles and need to have role X filled and not you don’t have time to do a third project. Then just don’t do it. You can push the ‘I didn’t have time to get to it’ for awhile. Maybe it will go away. But meantime, of course time to be seriously searching for another opportunity.

    The issue is not so much a new burden — it is you are the person they think they can dump the things no one wants to do on. ;After all you have put up with being given two roles with no movement to filling the vacant one. They have you as the pushover who will do whatever they want, Maybe calm pushing back will re-set that.

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        I mean, I would probably quit if someone in my office were singing off key to religious tunes all day and no one would stop it, so it’s a fair point either way.

    1. Sue*

      I agree. Pretty poor treatment to make a public announcement without talking to OP first. Calmly standing up for yourself should be a first step in expecting/getting respect.

      1. Lady Lessa*

        Grin, that actually happened to me at my current job. We didn’t have a technical director any more, which meant us lab folks reported directly to the VP. He made me manager with a bit more paperwork to do. I didn’t know about it until the announcement. (I was already the most experienced chemist there)

      2. Helen Waite*

        Worse, the person assigning the task make a “joke” about how it was the thing no one wants to do. Those kinds of jokes are rarely funny to the person getting stuck with it.

      3. ScruffyInternHerder*

        I feel like the way it was handled (public announcement, the making a joke about nobody wanting to do it) really speaks a few things about this company. None of those things are fantastic.

        1. Venus*

          And we know it wasn’t really a joke. It was only labeled as a joke because leaving it as an honest truth would make the person saying it look bad.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Yes, I wasn’t sure if OP was willing to quit because of this specific task, or because of the situation more generally. Would you (OP) be willing to take this on if priorities could be adjusted / dropped elsewhere? Perhaps “creating the operations manual” isn’t a task a lot of people would be thrilled to pick up – but could it potentially be spun into “responsible for company operational and quality process system” or similar later (on a resume / interview)? It could be that there’s an opportunity here.

      1. Dog momma*

        While I can concentrate with the TV on in the background, I can’t do it with radio..or someone singing. This needs to stop.

        1. LifeBeforeCorona*

          Yes, I need the TV on low volume while I’m working on other things like writing. Which is how I get first hand breaking news for almost every major news story over the years.

      2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Except OP said its outside her field of expertise and not something she is interested in learning to do. She doesn’t want the opportunity to spin it later.

        OP the fact that you said the area has few comparable economic opportunities but they haven’t bothered to backfill your position says a lot. Literally no one in your area can even be trained to do your old job? Or have they not even bothered to post it? Your company is getting a Twofer and about to get Threefer, unless you push back. Because that’s only a win for the company that saves money for them, it does nothing for you. You need to make it clear you have space for one ful time job only. But be prepared to leave over it — because the company likes the current arrangement.

    3. Never Knew I Was a Dancer*

      +100 to Artemisia’s suggestion.

      There’s more than one way to push back, to draw a line in the sand, without threatening to quit.

    4. Richard Hershberger*

      Particularly given the specific case of the task being to create an operations manual, the task essentially dumped on a random employee rather than someone qualified to do it. This suggests that they sorta kinda thinks they ought to have an operations manual, but don’t care enough to put any thought or effort into creating it. They instead just waved their hand and said “Make it so.” This is not a display of seriousness, putting this into the category of not caring more than your boss does.

      1. Dasein9 (he/him)*

        Yep. They’re probably not allocating funding or time or any other types of resource to this, so it will be nothing but an exercise in frustration.

      2. ferrina*

        I agree with Artemesia- return pain to sender. They’ve overloaded OP, so OP should say “I don’t have bandwidth for this. I can do X and Y, but not Z or J or K. You’ll need to find another solution for this.”
        If they insist that the manual is top priority and other tasks should be dropped, check in with your boss about every. single. thing. Force your boss to make any kind of decision and give you explicit instructions. Make them take the mental labor of figuring the whole thing out, and you can be a robot that executes exact commands. Usually your manager doesn’t want to do it either, and the project gets reshuffled or buried.

        And OP should also start a job search. Every time I’ve been in a position where I’ve been doing multiple roles with no end in sight, it was because there were other things off about that company. Start that job search. If things do get better, you can always stop a job search.

        1. Ama*

          Yeah, my last job turned into an administrative catchall for any task no one else wanted to do — mostly because my boss would go to every other person in my department and let them all say no to stuff and then I’d have to do it because there was no one else.

          That said when they were considering the (frankly incredibly ill advised plan) to purchase apartments to rent out to our short-term, international employees and the big boss thought they’d just make my role handle all the property management/rent collection tasks, I did put my foot down. I noted to my boss it was very far afield from the tasks I had been hired to do and that our larger employer already had a property management division that would be far better suited to this. I think I won that one because my boss wasn’t super thrilled about having to take on that responsibility, either.

          When I left that job, my boss literally said in my exit interview “I’m trying to figure out how to keep your role from becoming the dumping ground for everything no one else wants to do.” I honestly don’t remember what I said in response because all I recall is how hard I had to work to keep from screaming about how she could have started that process while I still worked there.

      3. Quantum Possum*

        they sorta kinda thinks they ought to have an operations manual, but don’t care enough to put any thought or effort into creating it


        Operations manuals and similar technical documentation are hard to write well. There’s a reason that “technical writer” is a specialist career field.

        But my experience has been that people who aren’t good writers tend to think that writing is super easy. It sounds like OP’s management just might be in that category…

      4. Venus*

        Good point. If they are resourcing this new plan so badly from the start then it won’t get better and anyone who takes on the task will likely end up trying to chase people around without getting any responses (my experience of reading these types of documents is that they rely on documenting what people do for their work, and that requires a lot of cooperation and time from those people). The company is talking about the importance while the actions show that it’s a low priority for resources, and the boss and other employees will treat it that way in future.

    5. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree. If you decide you are definitely willing to quit over this, but are worried about not having anything else lined up, you could start by just saying flat out “I do not have the capacity to take this project on” and just don’t do it while you search for a new job that doesn’t want you to do three jobs for the price of one.

  5. MK*

    #3, do I understand correctly that Emma called OP out of the blue to warn them about Juan? Because that to me would be a bit of a red flag, and I would want specifics about what he did (though Emma might not be able to provide this). Also, OP, please try to be as objective as possible when assessing Emma’s credibility; people aren’t usually best positioned to judge that for a “close family friend”, and a person’s behaviour in their personal life isn’t always an accurate indication about their professionalism. I realize you aren’t positively disposed towards Juan, but frankly most of the things you mention sound necessarily bad to me, and they aren’t really the same things Emma warned you about.

    1. LazyBoot*

      Since OP talked with Juan about knowing Emma earlier in the day, it might not be that “out of the blue”. Perhaps Juan contacted Emma and told her about working with OP, and that’s why she called with the warning.

      1. Sue*

        That was my thought. He knew he had exaggerated his relationship so he reached out to try to smooth things over.

      2. JSPA*

        Or he’s a george santos style liar (does not apparently notice his lies or how much people distrust him) and legitimately called her to natter on about how they have someone in common, and how great that is.

    2. niknik*

      Juan and Emma “keep a polite relationship”, so that probably includes being connected on social media of sorts. Juan could very well have dropped a message a la “Hey, i talked to a friend of yours today (and she agrees how great a guy i am, etc.)..”. Seems to be in character for someone who seems to be quite full of themselves.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I am dealing with a “Juan” at work right now, only my Emma is a coworker who worked with them many years ago. She told some of us a bit of her experience and said she hoped they had gotten better.

        Readers – They did not.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      It’s funny that you don’t see them as the same, the issues seemed to line up quite well to me: OP is new to this person and has seen exaggeration and overblowing their competence to the point of causing problems, and Emma their former boss is warning that it goes as far as lying. I agree though, that there’s room to give someone a chance, but there’s no harm in knowing the backstory.

      1. sparkle emoji*

        Yeah, exaggerating like what LW describes doesn’t seem too far from the lying Emma described. It sounds like Juan’s goal is to make himself look better. They might not be exactly the same action, but they’re related. I’d consider it different degrees of the same issue.

      1. OP#3*

        Juan messaged Emma a text that said something along the lines “hey Emma did you know we’re still connected? I work with [my parent’s last name]’s daughter! ” he showed me the text as he was writing it lol

        Why he’d do that if they ended on such bad (yet polite) terms is beyond me.

        1. Sloanicota*

          The good news is that he’s the stupid and careless kind of liar, which is actually somewhat easier to handle because the stories are not well thought out. Whatever you do, don’t teach him how to get better at it haha. The most dangerous liars are paired with high socioemotional intelligence, which it sounds like this guy doesn’t have.

        2. iglwif*

          It’s a weird thing to do, but it sounds like it’s weird in a way that aligns with his other weird behaviour :/

        3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          Oh wow, dumb and a terrible liar. What a wonderful combo.

          Tell your boss. But leave out the part where Emma seems really concerned for you. She seems a bit overwrought about the guy. Some of her opinion may be shaded by how hard she had to fight to fire him. So that means just the facts. Emma worked with him X years ago at this company, according to her, he ….. whatever he did. I just wanted to let you know.

        4. hbc*

          Coincidentally, the guy I worked with years ago who kept angling to undercut me, lied about all kinds of stuff, and had several serious arguments with texted me last week. You know, to check in on me and express his appreciation for how great I was to work with. (Or that’s what I got from the preview, I’m leaving him on unread.)

          People like Juan think they’re super slick, and that no one catches on to the lies and machinations. I guarantee that he either thinks the relationship with Emma is great or that he doesn’t think anyone is smart enough to compare notes. Probably both.

          I wouldn’t bother going to your boss about it, but I’d do everything she says in terms of documenting and not ever giving Juan the benefit of the doubt.

    4. JSPA*

      The fact that Emma has made regional manager in a large corporation is at least moderate independent confirmation of her professional bona fides. This isn’t, “My neighbor’s Aunt Trudy once hired him to mow the lawn, and says he’s horrible.”

        1. Mister_L*

          We had bosses (even friends) who lied about good employees to keep them or bad employees to get rid of them, but unless Emma is super vindictive, (which we only read about occasionally) she’d have no reason to lie now.

        2. Cabbagepants*

          someone’s professional success within a field is generally considered to indicate their knowledge and competence therein.

          1. Thin Minty*

            It’s definitely more of an indicator to a fellow professional than “she’s friends with my mom”

        3. JSPA*

          Confirmation bias (people who are well-managed don’t write in).

          Look, sure, someone you mostly know socially, and with whom you share profession, could be a terrible manager, despite having risen to a fairly high level, and despite whispers of them being difficult not having gotten back to you.

          But Juan didn’t blanch and demur.

          LW thinks she’s solid, her company thinks she’s solid, the grapevine hasn’t told LW otherwise, and even Juan sings her praises.

          Unless you think that any manager who ever gets someone fired is inherently evil, there is literally zero evidence that she’s not a reasonable source.

          Besides, nobody’s suggesting that the LW substitute her judgement for their own; only that they bring it up with the boss, because it echos and expands upon their own experience.

        4. Venus*

          So because this site has posts about the worst managers, we should assume that all managers are awful?

          I agree very much with Alison, that a comment to a good boss giving a brief summary of Emma’s comments would be worthwhile. I have shared this type of information with others and it really helped them react quickly to problems. We tend to give the benefit of the doubt, and sometimes it isn’t warranted, and it can be useful to know that someone should be watched closely from the start.

          One memorable example was a male coworker who was known to be questionable with his female coworkers, although very subtly so, but over time it eventually became an obvious pattern. His new boss knew me and asked for a quick chat, said that they had recently hired the guy, and what were my views. I said that he worked well and I didn’t wish him harm, but if it were me then I’d address any vaguely inappropriate comments immediately to make it clear that this new workplace wouldn’t tolerate any sexist ‘jokes’ or comments about physical attractiveness.

          In this case OP’s aim should be to let her boss know that Juan used to have a pattern of lying and he should be watched more closely for the same. A good boss should find this information useful, and will know in time if it’s true. I don’t know if my former male coworker was a problem in his new workplace, and I don’t need to know, but if he did try to start then at least he would be spoken to immediately. In this case if OP’s boss tracks Juan’s work more closely and notices lies then they can talk to him right away. In my experience people like Juan don’t like being observed closely and will quickly find a new job. If he’s called on any lies and works to fix them then that’s even better.

        5. MCMonkeyBean*

          I don’t think they are saying “therefore Emma is definitely for 100% sure right about Juan,” but “therefore this is credible information to present to your boss and let them decide how to proceed.”

      1. Sloanicota*

        I would probably offer to put Emma and my boss into a conversation together. That way my boss can judge for themselves what they think of the information without muddying in another perspective that isn’t important (OPs).

        1. HumbleOnion*

          Yup, this was my thought as well. OP, ask Emma if she’d be willing to talk with your boss directly to fill him in.

    5. Filicophyta*

      I assumed that OP looked at Emma’s profile, Emma got notified of the profile view, and saw or got notified of the Juan connection. Then she called OP. Although on re-reading, maybe it was simply Juan who talked to Emma himself.

    6. Kella*

      I was also confused by this but I’m betting either OP or editing left out a detail about how the information reached her. But also, OP leads with describing a situation where Juan clearly lied about the nature of his relationship with Emma and then Emma cites outright lying and resume discrepancies as some of the problems Juan was known for, so OP and Emma’s stories are matching. If Emma is Juan’s former boss, seems like there would need to be *significant* reasons to not trust Emma’s assessment of him.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        I don’t know if I would say Juan lied. I have seen many times, people believe they’re in better standing with others than they are. He might actually believe he and Emma are good friends.

        1. amoeba*

          Yeah, that’s where I fall. He believes they’re on great or at least good/polite terms, whereas she obviously has a very different recollection of their relationship…

          1. RVA Cat*

            This. Reminds me of all the letters with employees on PIP who are all *shocked Pikachu* when they are let go. Some people tune out any negative feedback, just as others of us excessively focus on it.

      2. OP#3*

        Yup he texted her himself, I missed that part on the post apparently. And the reason I believe her is because of her professional success while knowing her to not be a vindictive person or someone who likes to talk badly of people in general.

    7. Wings*

      To me it seems that this all happened within a relatively short timespan. So maybe whatever led to LW to find out that Juan worked with Emma (it sounds to me like this happened accidentally) simultaneously led to Emma realising that Juan now works with LW? It does sound like they are all connections anyway so they would be exposed to each other’s activities and that could be all that there is to this.

      1. OP#3*

        It was within less than a day. I came across it and told him cause I was pleasantly surprised and we were already talking on Teams (like “oh btw I just saw this!”). He texted her right then and then she called that evening.

    8. birch*

      I got the impression that something happened in LinkedIn to make all 3 of them (or at least OP and Emma) aware of their connections with each other. OP says they found out on LinkedIn, so it could be that there was an article posted or a connection made, something that would pop in a notification for all 3 of them.

      1. OP#3*

        You know, that’s the weirdest part of it all to me.

        It was under one of those corporate “we’re proud of having the best team!” group selfie posts, and he commented something positive in the comments, I don’t remember exactly what but it was very friendly. And after I tell him (cause I was already talking to him anyway) he texted her in front of me.

        But why he’d do that is beyond me, she says it’s the same reason he tends to hype himself up with everything else, from the way he texted her he clearly didn’t understand that I was close to her and I didn’t correct her. So maybe he was trying to push that connection on both ends, but it’s still so weird…

    9. OP#3*

      Here’s my reasoning, beyond the emotional, to believe her, cause I did give it some thought:

      Professionally, she has had a great career and I look up to her as a woman who got far working in tech, which is already harder (yet not impossible) for women to do because of the reasons readers of this site generally know.

      And on a personal level I know her to be a kind person who I don’t think has ever talked badly about anyone in my presence. The tone she was talking to me was less sh1t-talking and more “look out for this person and make sure you cover your back, also double check what he says to prevent harm to your projects”.

      And third her comments about him were about his tendency to be very confident about knowing things he doesn’t, which has been a problem in my company too.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        Sounds to me that Emma is entirely credible, and Juan is entirely NOT.

        If you have a good relationship with your manager, if your manager is a good manager, and if you are recognized as a good performer in your role, I think you have some good standing to bring the current performance issues to your manager’s attention. Sounds like that is the case.

        If it had just been Emma warning you, but Juan was performing fine in his current role, or you just didn’t like him / his personality / his style, I would have kept it quiet and just observed (and watched my back). But you have actual, current, observed examples of where Juan has overstated or overplayed his experience/qualifications, that have been real issues in his current work with your company, that Emma’s statements confirm are a pattern.

        If your manager is a reasonable person, they would want to know this. I mean, they might be overly invested in the hiring decision, and not want to look bad because they hired a dud candidate, but rationally speaking, that ship has sailed. Either the manager needs to start the process to exit Juan or they need to manage his performance very closely to make sure he doesn’t cause damage.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        In other words, you have longstanding reasons to trust her, and shortstanding reasons not to trust him. And she basically confirmed what you’re already observing about him anyway.

    10. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Emma’s in the same small industry as OP, though, so OP probably *is* positioned to judge if she’s credible in a way they wouldn’t be if OP and Emma were in different industries. And even if they were in different industries a warning of “watch your back because I caught Juan actively lying” translates.

    11. Oh, sure*

      I know we are to take OP’s at their word, but Emma calling out of the blue on the same day OP mentioned to Juan she knew Emma sure is a big coincidence. It would make a lot more sense and be more likely that OP called Emma.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        They’ve posted in this thread as OP#3; Juan literally texted Emma right in front of OP, and Emma called OP that same night.

      2. Hlao-roo*

        OP#3 commented in this thread and explained that Juan texted Emma to say he worked with OP#3, and that’s why Emma called the OP later that day. You can find the comments by searching “OP#3*”

      3. Also-ADHD*

        It makes more sense as explained in the comments—I agree in the original letter, it was confusing how the communication happened.

        1. OP#3*

          Yeah I left out that part in my final draft so as to not make the letter too long, I thought it was implied that he wrote her and not that it was by chance. My bad.

  6. Bruce*

    #5 my experience with multi-national companies is that if you are working for them overseas then they will pay you at the local pay scale. To be paid US rates your spouse might need to hire on in the US and then negotiate his pay for the remote work. The exceptions I’ve seen have been when a US worker is moving overseas for only a few weeks on temporary assignment. I have no insight on remote free lancing, though the phrase “digital nomad” is current, but local laws may get in the way…

    1. Bruce*

      Oh, I missed that “digital nomad” was already referenced, I was not meaning to cast shade on that comment! I don’t know much about that lifestyle, mainly worry about local rules…

      1. 867-5309*

        @Bruce – I am a digital nomad and no shade cast. :) I am a U.S. citizen who uses my parent’s address for permanent residency. Trouble regarding taxes does not typically start until you’ve worked in another country for several months. This WOULD affect OP/their husband’s taxes so they need a good CPA with international experience. (Which, OP, PS., if your husband goes this route I would be happy to recommend a couple folks. If you end up replying here, I’ll shoot Alison a note with my email and she can introduce us.)

        1. JSPA*

          trouble regarding taxes can actually start on day 1, depending on, and according to the tax law of the country you’re in. You don’t necessarily have to be tax-resident of a country to be taxed, by that country, on income earned while you are in that country!

          In fact, the US is essentially the only major country that concerns itself with money that’s earned while you’re outside its own borders, as far as taxation.

          Most countries expect to tax you on earned-in-their-country-earned income (and expect your employer to pay into relevant funds) based on where the chair that your butt is in, is located.

          And just because the US is taxing you as resident, does not mean that tax agreements automatically will prevent other countries from taxing you as well, or from holding your employer to their employer tax standards and laws.

          Some countries are making digital nomad carve-outs, but plenty are not.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            In my experience, most European countries, at least, expect to tax you where you live, not where you work (at least when there’s a double taxation treaty). So it’s more about where your bed is than your chair.

            1. JSPA*

              That is entirely tax-treaty dependent, I think?

              And while it’s getting easier and easier to say “europe” for “EU,” additionally, not all of europe is EU.

              And then there are different “border” rules in some places. And people get grandfathered in, or not, when rules change.

              See, for example, both Switzerland and Belgium, as applies to french workers, mercifully in excellent english, here:


              Anyone who thinks they can universalize or seat-of-the-pants this is likely in for a hard landing.

              1. Emmy Noether*

                Ah yes, I was familiar with the Swiss-German agreement (had to read because of personal reasons, 0/10 do not recommend) and generalized too much. I believe Switzerland and France also recently renegotiated their treaty? So it may even change with time. And of course then there are all the fun special exceptions (public service, international organizations, diplomatic service,…).

                At least they don’t tax citizens that live and work abroad. A US citizen who lives in France and works in Switzerland will pretty much spend more time on his taxes than working.

        2. Pippa K*

          But the tax status seems like a non issue in this case since they’re (it sounds like) Foreign Service or similar. OP addressed it:

          since we are abroad on government orders, we don’t truly live there and are not subject to their taxes. We are Maryland residents and pay U.S. taxes as if we are in Maryland no matter where we are assigned in the world.

          1. Mister_L*

            Not a tax expert, but I read it like this:
            OP is moving on government orders, their partner moves with them while working remotely for various private companies.
            So the partners tax status is something that probably needs to be considered.

          2. Hedgehog O'Brien*

            The problem isn’t just with OP’s taxes though, there also are tax implications for the company. If they have an employee in a state or a country, then they are “doing business” there which means there are now implications for taxes, IP, data security, etc. Some employers might not be willing to jump through those hoops just to allow someone to continue working remotely.

            I am pretty sure this comes into play even if they are still legal Maryland residents. The small nonprofit I work for ran into some major issues because we had an employee who moved one state away during the pandemic and worked remotely from that state for several months. We are very small, and I think our ED and HR manager approved it because they just didn’t know – but they spent almost 2 years cleaning up that mess. So now we have very clear guidelines around how long someone can work from a different state. Even if you’re just on vacation, my understanding is that if it’s too long of a duration it can still cause problems. So I can approve an employee to work remotely from a different state for a few days but not like, weeks or months.

          3. Person from the Resume*

            In my experience (which is a tad outdated so I could be wrong) what the LW says is not how it worked. Husband working in a country would be subject to that country’s tax and Visa laws even when he maintains his US/Maryland citizenship. So the LW’s family needs to investigate the particular laws in the country they are moving to, and they may be out of luck.

            1. Pippa K*

              I think the issue was husband working remotely for a US employer rather than a local one. There’s lots of guidance on the second scenario (https://www.state.gov/global-community-liaison-office/family-member-employment/overseas-family-member-employment/) but whether US remote work counts as local employment for tax purposes seems more complicated. This addresses it at least in part (https://www.state.gov/global-community-liaison-office/family-member-employment/telework#Q8) but the short version is that it seems to depend on the country in question.

            2. MK*

              The issue is that OP says applies only to themselves and possibly their spouse, and only as far as the US tax authorities are concerned. Whether the company her spouse would work for will be taxed by the US as though the spouse is located in Maryland isn’t clear. And in either case, unless the country they will live in has a special agreement with the US about the matter, it may well require both the husband and the company to pay taxes.

            3. ForeignServiceBrat*

              I’m guessing, like others, that this is Foreign Service or similar. The spouse is permitted to be in the country as a dependent of the person assigned to the country by the US government. This is a weird and special status.

              I strongly advise reaching out to the relevant people at the government agency. There should be some sort of spousal support program to help figure this out.

              In most cases, the spouse will NOT be permitted to work in-country with the exception of a US government job (aka “also get a job in the US embassy”) and possibly other foreign government jobs (“go work at the British embassy”).

              The discussion of tax laws is basically irrelevant because this not “I’m moving to country X, can I just be an X-based employee.” This is, “I’m being sent to country X as the spouse of US government employee.” As such, the spouse has very limited options.

              Retaining Maryland residency is interesting, but also mostly irrelevant because the host country’s position is that if you are working in the host country, you must abide by the host country’s laws, and their laws say that as the spouse of a , you cannot work while in-country.

              1. Jinni*

                Unfortunately, these positions are treated as if they’re held by men with trailing spouses (wives) and children. When they reopened foreign service recruitment some years back, it caused havoc when women I know applied (and were in some cases accepted). The agencies were kind of caught flat footed with ‘husband’ issues.

                All that said, most folks I know go the freelance route.

                1. Person from the Resume*

                  This applies to military spouses too. If you work for the US government in some way okay. You cannot work locally and not abide by local employment law and local taxes. And that includes working for a US company on foreign soil. It depends on the country so you have to abide by each country’s laws but the LW’s blanket statement for everywhere in the world is incorrect.

                  Yes. It is very old fashioned. The “man” works and his stay at home wife follows and takes care of the house and kids. It is very hard for the spouse to have a job, much less a career and career path. But in some ways it’s the international, employment, tax laws’ fault and not patriarchy. But when the patriarchy was alive and well it wasn’t a problem so the problem has yet to be resolved.

        3. sarah the third*

          “If you end up replying here, I’ll shoot Alison a note with my email and she can introduce us.”

          Just as an FYI, I have seen AAM say she doesn’t do this anymore because of the liability/she can’t vouch for folks like that.

      2. AcademiaNut*

        There are some countries deliberately trying to bring in digital nomads, mostly low COL countries where having highly payed foreigners living locally and spending money works as a form of tourist income.

        There are two main ways people can approach a digital nomad life – one way is to do it legally, which can mean hiring an expert to work out the details, as they vary depending on your home country, your country of residence, and occasionally the country you moved from. Then there’s the version where you go in on a tourist visa and simply don’t tell them you’re working, and move on when the tourist visa expires. The LW’s situation is not a good case for the latter, as it could jeopardize the LW’s job, and getting deported from the country your spouse is working in is usually a significant problem.

        1. 867-5309*

          Yep – exactly, AcademiaNut. There is where a great CPA can help. For example, I was living in Norway and freelancing when I moved there with my now ex-husband. All of my clients were in the U.S. but when it came to tax time, we had to file in Norway. Again, a good CPA in the U.S. will help and make sure they still file in the U.S. since you have to do that even if your income is earned else. Additionally, depending on where they are going, taxes can often be EASIER and OP’s husband would just report their income to their tax agency. (Norway is FANTASTIC come tax season because you basically just get a letter from their entity that tells you either what you owe or are being refunded without all the rigamorle and hoops we have in the U.S.)

  7. Polly Hedron*

    L think OP4 should apply for top-tier jobs that look as if they might be even better than the job that starts in March.

    1. Mulligatawney*

      OP4, I don’t know the particulars of unemployment in your state, but in Massachusetts, like this: in addition to keeping records of at least 3 job search activities per week, and sign in to answer questions about your job search. You also have to attend a workshop where they lay out the rules, give job search tips, and tell you about the services they offer. The instructors at the workshops tell you to not to say yes to “did you get a job offer this week” unless it is the week you actually START the job. The instructors emphasized that you should keep job searching and interviewing, because there have been cases where the job offer got pulled because of hiring freezes, or other things like lengthy reference checks, etc.

      If a job seeker says Yes to the “were you offered a job” question, even if the job is scheduled to start several weeks later, their unemployment is suspended. If the offer then falls through, the job seeker has a week of waiting before they can reopen their unemployment claim.

      I’ve been told this by the unemployment people on two different occasions when I was caught in company-wide layoffs: you don’t have the new job until you walk in the door on that first day. You do have to keep records to show your continued search.

      And I’ve also experienced having an offer pulled, I was told “we just had our yearly audit and we can’t afford to hire anyone”. So keep job hunting.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        > The instructors at the workshops tell you to not to say yes to “did you get a job offer this week” unless it is the week you actually START the job.

        This strikes me as odd advice to give out as presumably an official instructor on behalf of the unemployment process. I can understand this being an unofficial approach, but to state it openly? The question isn’t “are you due to start a job this week” and shouldn’t be answered as such (and they can probably cross check with the company as to whether an offer was made!).

        1. bamcheeks*

          I don’t know whether US unemployment benefits are the same but in the UK the system is designed to be as punitive and dehumanising as possible, and often administered by people who try to apply it as fairly and humanely as possible (not all, but some.) So this kind of mismatch wouldn’t surprise me at all.

          1. Mister_L*

            Austrian here. My mothers job used to let most employees go for 2 months in the summer and hire them back in fall. The unemployment office still made her apply to various jobs including in her old field that she had to leave for health reasons in spite of her telling them she’d be rehired in 2 months.

            1. Prof*

              she;s lucky- I have a similar situation and my contract for the next year makes me ineligible for unemployment (US)…

          2. A Simple Narwhal*

            I hear that. When I’ve been through the unemployment process the required classes and actions were all strict and mostly useless (“Did you know you could apply for jobs online?” “Did you know you should have a resume? Here’s [the horrifically outdated and useless] format you need to use, you must show us your reformatted resume”, etc). But the actual people were wonderful and understanding. They knew the process was outdated and there was nothing to be done about that, but they did what they could within the bounds of the system.

          3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

            Yes, it was like this in the 1980s when I was growing up (single parent on benefits) and is worse now. On one occasion my mum was “sanctioned” (payment withdrawn) for 3 months for not having applied for a job she agreed with the ‘coach’ to apply for at one of the sessions (it was genuinely forgotten; they checked up with the company whether they’d received the application) and there was another process to go through to apply for a “hardship payment” if being without benefits for 3 months would leave you struggling (?!) She had a house that the mortgage was low enough on and some kind of payment arrangement that just enough was being paid to not get underwater with the mortgage, but it was suggested on the quiet (I don’t think it was official policy) that if she was to sell the house there would be enough equity to rent for a while and come off benefits. The other issue that perpetuates this through generations is that I couldn’t get a job (at age 15-16) to start establishing a work history, because that would be counted as “household income” and benefits stopped with the expectation of me paying all the bills from a part time job in a shop or fast food place (minimum wage for under 18 was really low).

        2. Phryne*

          It reads to me like the applicants still have the right to unemployment over that period, it is just that it is halted when it looks like they might get a job and then reinstated retroactively when a job falls through. In which case these applicants in the end receive the exact same amount of money, only if it is halted and restarted it just causes a delay in pay-out which might be a financial burden and will also cause extra paperwork on everybody’s part including the unemployment office. If this advice does nothing more than cutting out the extra bureaucracy, it seems like good advice to me.

          1. OP4*

            it’s not just a delay in payout. Your first week of eligibility is never paid, so you have to go a full week with zero income before benefits start each time you restart benefits.

            1. Phryne*

              In that case I would think it is still good advice. Your benefits should stop when you start a new job. Missing a week of benefits every time a job gets offered but can still fall through is a s***ty setup.

        3. Hannah Lee*

          It actually makes perfect sense, when you consider the instructors understand how the answers to that question are applied in the unemployment system. If you say “yes” to “have you received a job offer” apparently the system flags you as employed, and no longer in need of unemployment benefits. or if you don’t immediately start working, that you’ve turned down the job you were offered and are no longer eligible for unemployment benefits.
          As of that week, regardless of when the job actually was supposed to begin.

          1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

            Yes, I understand the reasoning but was surprised that they are saying this in an ‘official’ kind of capacity, as they are presumably paid for by the unemployment office. So I don’t disagree that sometimes you need to answer pragmatically rather than literally, but was still surprised that this is given out semi-officially as advice. You would think if this was a known flaw in the system that that wording would be updated to say e.g. “only answer yes if the offer is for a job starting in the next 2 weeks” or whatever.

        4. Lacey*

          So, in my state the people running the workshops & checking over your job search activities before they’re submitted – aren’t part of the unemployment agency, they’re part of work force development.

          That means their services are available even if you’re not on unemployment and it means they’re committed to helping you successfully navigate the system. They’ll enforce the rules, but they’re going to tell you how to follow them in the way that benefits you most, rather than the government.

          The people who worked at my center were amazing. They care so much about helping people find jobs.

        5. JSPA*

          I suspect you can argue that the language of the requirement is borrowed over unchanged from a time when “at will” was rare, handshake agreements were more binding, unions and unionized jobs were more common, and actual contracts were not so rare as they are now.

          That is, there was a time when a job offer was an excellent indicator of indeed having gotten a job. At the moment, it’s somewhere between that, and merely being on a glide path towards a job.

          1. Pita Chips*

            It takes a very long time for unemployment systems to catch up with the real world. Because I spent several years contracting, I was in the UI system in my state a few different times. In 2017 “Filled out online application” still wasn’t in the dropdown. It didn’t get there until 2020.

        6. thelettermegan*

          it can take a long time for bureaucratic language to match every single instance correctly. It’s entirely possible that whoever wrote the question didn’t consider that an offer received does not automatically mean a new source of income has been established in that week, and decades later, the language still hasn’t been updated.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        So your instructors said to read the question as “…a job offer FOR this week…”?

      3. OP4*

        I’m in MA also, and I signed up for that class, then got a notice saying that since I had not yet been notified that I was selected for RESEA, that if I took the class now, I’d just have to retake it after getting a RESEA notice. Because that makes so much sense right? The whole system is maddening!

        But thanks for the heads up! I hadn’t yet told DUA that I have an offer because there’s nothing written yet — we’re still negotiating benefits and travel schedule.

        1. OP4*

          And I should add, I know there’s nothing certain without a written offer, and even then, until my butt is in the chair on day 1 it could still fall apart. But the context makes me reasonably confident that we will come to agreement on the last few terms — they like me and I like them and we’ve agreed on the big pieces like base pay and equity.

          1. Relentlessly Socratic*

            *waves from the north shore!*

            Yeah, I never count a new employee until they walk in the door, no matter how great we think the fit is, and I never count a new job until I’m logged into the system with a work computer.

            I’m in a field where it’s hard to find people with the right technical experience, so I know how you feel about applying when you know you have something in hand, but you need to look out for you.

        2. Recovering Masshole*

          I also went through MA unemployment and the other thing they stressed was it was 3 job search *activities* per week. Just looking at a job board for updated postings counts as an activity, you can separate out checking LinkedIn, Indeed, and the Job center boards…and there’s your three activities. If your job center has any workshops that you’re actually interested in, those count. As does “networking” mentioned below (e.g., contacted former colleague at Co X about job search). Pretty easy to go weeks without logging any job apps.

          Also, they definitely didn’t expect me to apply for jobs outside my field or that I was overqualified for.

    2. amoeba*

      If those exist, that’s a pretty good way of doing it! (Although in a small-ish field, I might also be worried about burning bridges etc…)
      But I’d say in most fields there aren’t really three jobs a week that fulfill those criteria. Maybe a mix of that and jobs you’re unlikely to be considered for? Most importantly, I’d avoid jobs where you’d be a strong candidate but really aren’t that excited about…

    3. Ex-Sage*

      Was just about to say this is your chance to apply for all sorts of jobs, anything you may have thought of doing. This is how I landed a job going from Software consultant, responsible for a managing entire software Projects to teaching IT in a prison. Applied on the off chance and they snapped me up becuase they never got anyone with industry experience. Loved it and was able to get a Teaching Qualification.

      1. OP4*

        ohh that’s a good point. I should switch from “I’m clearly overqualified and out of this employer’s budget” listings to real “swing for the fences” listings. Thanks!

        1. JSPA*

          Well, only those where you believe you’d thrive, if you got both lucky and tempted, and took the job.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I had a similar thought — apply as usual but use it as a chance to practice hardball negotiations. Increase desired starting salary by 20%, your starting vacation time by a week more than your March offer, etc.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I wouldn’t recommend that (if it’s a company OP would actually apply to in the future) due to the risk of burning bridges. Company / hiring manager will remember OP as the one who went in and negotiated hard, got us to agree to an extra week of vacation which needed senior approval as we don’t normally do that at this level… etc and then rejected the offer.

        1. Jackalope*

          I guess it depends on what the OP plans to do. I was understanding this comment as the OP putting herself in a position where she might ge able to get a better job; for example, one that is all-year instead of seasonal, or that pays more. What you’re talking about is a definite danger if she’s goin go to turn it down for sure, but if she’s open to taking the right position if it’s better than the March job then she would be in a strong position to negotiate.

    5. Tech VP*

      You may also consider activities that qualify as job hunting without actually applying to tons of rules. Have networking conversations, for example.

      1. Skippy*

        I was about to say the same thing. When I was collecting UI in Massachusetts a couple of years ago one of the options for your three job leads was talking to a networking contact. Not sure if that would count now but I certainly counted it then, as there were rarely three jobs a week I could apply for in my field.

      2. Mim*

        Depending on the state, this may or may not count as activities related to a job search for the purpose of qualifying for receiving unemployment benefits.

        I did what you suggested the first week I was unemployed, several years ago, naively assuming that I was doing great work in preparing for a job search. I live in a rural job desert (unless you have some very specific professional degrees, which I don’t have), in a state with a $7.25 min. wage, so there was literally nothing worth applying for. They did not care about all the time I spent on things like revising my resume and contacting references. Or even searching my butt off for anything to apply for. They only cared that I applied for jobs, and bugged potential employers on a weekly basis about the status of my application. It was a complete sh*t-show of a process, which also included mandatory attendance at workshops where they gave decades-outdated advice.

        The silver lining is that I was not expected to actually take any jobs that were a drastic pay cut. At least at the time, most of what was available literally paid less than the meager amount of my unemployment checks.

        I don’t know if my state is the norm or unusual in what they count as job search effort. I really hope they are not the norm, because it was so much busywork, and wasted a lot of peoples’ time.

    6. learnedthehardway*

      Agreeing!! A lot can happen between January and March. It makes sense to have a backup plan, just in case.

      That said, can the new employer start the OP working before March? That seems like a lot of lead time to me. The OP should ask about it.

    7. Caliente Papillon*

      This what I immediately thought- why not look for a better job while waiting on the late start one? I absolutely would.

    8. thelettermegan*

      that’s what I was thinking – if the job offer is in OP’s target salary/title, they should look at positions that would be large stretch for them.

    9. Daisy-dog*

      Jobs that have hundreds of applicants (according to LI) or jobs that have been open for months (seemingly forgotten or on hold)

      1. Tally miss*

        If there are companies you would never work for, check the box that says you’ve been fired. That seems to kill any application.

        Apply tor low level jobs in other states.

    10. Frostie Fan*

      I had to dance around this unemployment comp rule a a couple of times. I had a very good interview with a world-class arts organization for a mid level admin job. The position was a temporary maternity leave spot; if the other person chose not to return (she was expecting twins and had a long commute so there was a good possibility), I would be kept on. If the other person came back, I would be unemployed again at the height of summer when the job market here usually goes on hiatus along with the hiring managers. Before they could make an offer, I told them I was withdrawing even though I would have loved to work there. The employer was one of my three contacts a week or so earlier and I could not risk getting caught turning down a bona fide offer. I did have a couple of other strong possibilities going on and one of them did come through.
      Another instance was accepting an interview via a placement agency for a job that was ideal for me based on the job description I was provided but was much farther than reasonable for a commute. It was a temp (2-3 month) to permanent spot with a company prominent in the industry. During the interview with a very disinterested manager, I learned that the only duty I would be performing was one low level repetitive task at the botton of the JD and that no one had been hired permanently for the job for several years. I caught a vibe that they needed a warm body quickly and I was it. When I got back to my car, I immediately phoned my contact at the placement agency and withdrew telling them that the position was not what was repesented. I was not going to risk my unemployment for something that would probably have me wanting to jump out a window on the first day and was way too long of a commute.

  8. Free Meerkats*

    For #3, how egregious are the discrepancies in his resume? Are they little things like stating “Left-Handed Veeblfetzer Technician” instead of Right-Handed? Or are they more in the stating “Asst Director of Veeblfetzer Manufacturing” instead of Technician?

    Either way, since you are already feeling something just ain’t right with him and you’ve gotten unsolicited information that something actually ain’t, invite him into a meeting with ou and whomever would need to be there to make the decisions and ask him to explain the discrepancies. I believe you’ll learn a whole lot from a meeting like that.

    1. niknik*

      Calling a meeting like that is probably not LWs place to do ? Get in contact with his manager first, let them figure out what they want to do next.

    2. Non non non all the way home*

      LW #3, please do not do this! If your co-worker is a sociopath, narcissist, pathological liar, or other problematic person (which sounds like a possibility), you will not resolve the issue (it isn’t yours to resolve or “learn” about in any case) and are much more likely to make yourself a target of this person. Your family friend’s fears for you are based on something. Why would you want to cause problems for yourself?

    3. learnedthehardway*


      It is not the OP’s place to do this sort of thing!! They’re a peer, not his manager.

      The OP’s only legitimate action here is to inform their manager of the issues, and to let the manager manage the situation. Or to keep quiet and not bring it up – if they feel it wouldn’t be useful / safe / well received.

    4. iglwif*

      Scheduling a meeting with a coworker to challenge them on the veracity of their resume is a pretty egregious overstep. As in, “OP3’s boss is likely to seriously question their judgement about Juan and everything else if they do this.”

    5. Quantum Possum*

      That is not LW’s place, and it would not be received well.

      It’s reasonable for LW to inform their manager that they’ve become aware of possible discrepancies between their coworker’s stated experience/expertise and what the coworker is actually bringing to the team. It’s a potential morale and trust problem, and the manager can monitor, investigate, etc., as necessary.

    6. Free Meerkats*

      I’ll retract the last, I missed the “coworker” part. One would only do that if you were his supervisor.

      But yeah, let his manager know.

  9. John Smith*

    #4, definitely do as Alison suggests and apply for jobs you’re unlikely to get. By that, I don’t mean ones requiring skills/qualifications/experience you obviously don’t have, but rather ones that you *could* do but makes the hirer think “why on earth is she applying for this role when she has X?”. Essentially, overqualified / overexperienced/ unrelated. If ethics does bug you, apply for jobs in roles that have high turnover rates such as sales or call centres.

    I was in a similar position many moons ago. I was fortunate in that my unemployment case handler understood the situation (brand new graduate in a specialised field) and was trying hard to get a role in that field (I did). There was no way employers in other fields I was applying to were going to take someone like me on in other roles I was applying for. The situation sucks as much as the system does. Good luck.

  10. JSPA*

    #1, I’m guessing you’re worried that she will respond, either to you or mentally, “my faith practice requires me to engage in praise throughout the day, as the spirit moves me” or “This isn’t something I can control” or “this isn’t something I should have to control.”

    However, she’s an adult human being. And she knows she is in a workplace. And she’s cheery and kind and competent. Absent any evidence that she’s an entitled rage monster, you have no reason to believe she’ll respond badly. So do her the courtesy of treating her as a reasonable human being.

    You’re a lot more likely to hear, ” Sorry I got used to singing while home during the pandemic” or “sometimes I do it without thinking, but I’ll make a point to be mindful.”

    If you want to make it clear that it’s not about religion (which, of course, it also completely legitimately could be, as there’s no such thing as a right to share religious sentiment with others in the workplace!) wait for her to offer to listen to different music, and explain that the primary problem is “singing along.”

    1. JSPA*

      PS I’d be careful with assuming headphones will help. People who sing along while wearing headphones are legion, and even most good singers become painfully bad when their ears are covered.

      1. Quoth the Raven*

        Absolutely this, and I’ve also found that when I am wearing headphones my volume tends to increase because I can’t hear myself, so I sing louder (not necessarily worse, hah) when I’m wearing them unless I uncover one of my ears.

        1. iglwif*

          I have heard people say stuff like this before and I am always baffled by it! If something I was listening to on earbuds/headphones was so loud that I couldn’t hear myself singing, it would be painfully loud and I would need to turn it down.

          People record themselves singing along to a click track all the time, often with both ears plugged in, and they’re not all oversinging and sounding terrible.

          Am I just a weirdo?

          1. bamcheeks*

            I think it really depends on the headphones and how good a job they do of blocking out sound. There are some where I can definitely still hear myself and if I record myself I sound fine, and others where they block out enough noise that I can’t adjust.

            There’s also a big difference between singing along to something and singing a different line, or singing by yourself. It can be a big shock when you think you know every word to something and then you try to do it karaoke style and realise just how much you were relying on the recording to fill in the gaps, cover up your timing and help you pitch!

            1. iglwif*

              Yeah, it’s certainly true that headphones block outside sound to a wide variety of degrees. That said, doesn’t one’s voice resonate mostly inside one’s own head?

              I’ve never sung karaoke, but I have noticed that “I thought I knew all the words but I don’t” effect when I have to lead a prayer I usually just sing along with. It’s not as dramatic as the “I thought I knew all the words but it turns out I only know them with that one specific tune” effect, but it sure is a real thing.

              (I am Jewish, but I have also been a choral singer for 40 years, which means I’ve sung many many many Latin masses and bits thereof. There are DEFINITELY parts of the mass *cough*Credo*cough* where I can’t remember what comes next until I call up some specific composer’s setting of it! Which presumably is why people started putting words and music together in the first place — the music makes the words stick in your memory better.)

              1. bamcheeks*

                Also a choral singer and the Credo is my worst too! It’s not part of the standard sung Anglican mass and very few Anglican composers set it.

                I think tuning is usually the interplay between your internal resonance and what you can hear outside you— I haaate singing in big symphonic choirs for that reason because it’s so easy to lose pitch you can barely hear yourself. Obviously big symphonic choirs are a thing though so there must be some people who like it!

                1. iglwif*

                  Big symphonic choirs are not my favourite, but they do give you the opportunity to sing big symphonic works. I don’t mind if I never sing the Berlioz Requiem, Carmina Burana, Beethoven 9th Symphony, or Britten War Requiem again in my life, but I am very glad I got to sing each of them at least once! (Or, in the case of those two in the middle, ~5 and ~10 times respectively.) I’m now in a smaller choir that focuses on new and less frequently performed works, and I much prefer it, but I think I appreciate the 60-voice experience more as a result of the 180-voice and 24-voice experiences I’ve had previously.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        ODL yes. A former co-worker has a beautiful, trained voice and sings in an award-winning chorus and in small ensembles too.

        But she sang along when she had headphones on—and because she didn’t realize she was doing it, it was an unpleasant, off-key drone.

    2. UKDancer*

      Yes I think assume she’ll be reasonable and sensible and calm and treat her accordingly. I’m sure if you just say what has been suggested, she’s more likely to be fine with it than not. It’s not about her worship practices or the quality of her vocals, but about not annoying the people in the office you’re co-existing with.

  11. Prismatic Garnet*

    Agree on OP1; she shouldn’t be singing along at all in an office that isn’t unoccupied. And even good singing can be distracting- having spent much of life around former musical theater kids, tbh the “I sound awesome and am in love with the sound of my voice” singing can be just as hard to tune out as off-key jangling.

    1. FG*

      For #2 – I have to disagree somewhat with Alison (a rare occurrence!). If the manual hadn’t come along, then you could have still brought up that you’re doing 2 jobs and that that isn’t sustainable. The complication now isn’t just that you don’t want essentially a 3rd job, but you most emphatically don’t want THIS 3rd job. If you say, “I don’t have the bandwidth to do 2 jobs plus this manual,” and emphasize that your old job needs to be filled, you should be prepared that they’ll say, “OK, you can stop doing your old job & still do the manual then.”

      You need to make it very clear that not only can you not keep doing the old job, but that you also can’t do the manual in any event. I have a feeling that someone who would ambush you with a substantial company-wide project in a meeting would steamroll over any softened objections. So be really direct & clear. You can be pleasant & matter of fact rather than angry or distressed when talking about it – practice if you need to! You don’t have to threaten to quit, either. Just state the bald facts. I might even broach the manual first without getting into the two jobs thing.

      Also, I would suggest they hire a technical writer. This is the kind of project that TWs are born for. A TW can gather scope & other basic info & provide a proposal for how long it would take & how much it would cost. Post on Monster and/or Indeed and you should get plenty of applications.

  12. PNW cat lady*

    OP5 perhaps your spouse could provide prospective employers with actual information from the government indicating what their potential burden would be. Given guidelines might help them realize they wouldn’t be taking on a risk. I remember from high school government class that bases and embassies are considered US soil, so your spouse wouldn’t be working in a foreign country. If your boss can’t provide you with the proper information, it might be worth the expense of a lawyer.

    1. Quantum Possum*

      bases and embassies are considered US soil, so your spouse wouldn’t be working in a foreign country

      This would only apply if he was working on the base.

      Now, if they lived on-base and he worked remotely from their on-base housing, I suppose that would count as working on U.S. soil. (Don’t quote me on that; I’ve never looked into the scenario.) A lot of federal and military personnel stationed overseas don’t live on base, though.

      It’s definitely an interesting avenue for investigation, though – if OP will be living on-base, they may be able to finagle something if the spouse works from home.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      Yes – if there are special rules that mean that hiring the spouse is the same as hiring an American in the US in all respects (not just taxes, but things like local labour laws not applying, and not needing to pay taxes in the destination country, and not needing a visa to work while living there), then they can present that information as soon as is reasonable.

      If it’s not the case, and the employer does need to consider the foreign residency while employing them, it could be worth networking with colleagues in similar situations to find out how they managed and if they were able to find work, and how they got it.

    3. Gigi*

      Hello all,

      Unfortunately, this is a movie trope. Embassies and bases are not U.S. soil. The spaces are respected by local law enforcement under a variety of bilateral agreements and treaties, but local and not U.S. laws still apply in that space.

      1. Quantum Possum*

        True, it’s a weird area. The embassy or base is U.S. property, but generally it’s rented from the host country. It gets murkier when you’re dealing with territories, especially small Pacific islands (which are most of my experience with overseas employment). Regardless, LW’s organization should definitely be able to help here.

      2. JSPA*

        Yep. Otherwise the local tradespeople, cleaning crew, front desk, cooks (etc) who are very commonly locals would all be crossing borders to get to work, and thus need passports, and would be paid US scale wages, and have to pay US taxes (etc etc etc).

    4. Glomarization, Esq.*

      You’re applying concepts of diplomatic immunity and protection from criminal prosecution (e.g., Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London), with the complicated laws and regulations around international employment. Gently, the OP needs to talk with an immigration and employment professional and not rely on anonymous internet commenters who recall things they learned in high school.

  13. Quantum Possum*

    OP #5

    Have you talked to your organization about help finding a job for your spouse?

    I also work for the U.S. Government, and I’ve worked with quite a few couples who’ve gotten jobs for both of them when one of them needs to move overseas. Usually both are federal employees, but I’ve seen it with feds married to contractors, too.

    If your spouse isn’t already a federal employee, of course the Government can’t just up and hire him out of nowhere – although it’s much easier if he works for a federal contractor and has a clearance. (Speaking of government contractors, software engineers are highly sought after in the industry, so he might consider applying there.)

    Regardless, Government organizations are used to dealing with this, and they generally want to help out employees as much as possible. I’m sure someone in your agency will be able to give you specific resources.

    Good luck! :)

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Yes, this– and talk to your colleagues as well, especially the ones who joined the government later in their careers. I know at least one couple where the non-State spouse works for the government and works remotely from wherever they’re assigned.

    2. Around the block21*

      Jumping in here as it seems most relevant to my comments for OP5.

      As Quantum mentioned, your organization should be helpful here for resources. Pay special attention to the terms of your spouse’s visa! Likely, it will be attached to yours as the “employed individual”. Some overseas visas for spouses are very explicit in regards to even IF paid work can be done in the host country.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      One of our neighbors works for the Department of State in a position that requires overseas postings, and they have a pretty robust support program for the family and trailing spouse employment. Any federal government entity with requirements to live outside the US should be able to provide family support to help guide you through the move.

    4. January Twenty Nine*

      Came here to say this! OP #5, search for “spouse preference” for your agency to get your spouse an overseas federal job. Start now because they may have to apply to dozens of jobs. Just treat it like doing the dishes; every day apply to five or so. They’ll need your orders to apply using their preference on USAJobs.

      An overseas job not be in their current field but is the headache of taxes and time zones worth that?

      I tell you from experience that no matter how correct you are regarding your home of residence for tax purposes, your spouse’s private-sector employer WILL NOT UNDERSTAND.

      Good luck and enjoy the new posting!

      1. Vancouver*

        I would also add that, depending on the jurisdiction, the host country may not recognize US tax or employment laws in that way. Even if, under American law, you are an American resident and paying taxes in Maryland, the other country may have different regulations. Even if employment regulations do not impact the worker, the country or subdivision may require the company to register, pay taxes, or otherwise comply with local regulations.

        I would agree with those who’ve suggested seeing what resources your agency has for partners. Failing that, ask some of your colleagues who have been on similar postings. You’re not the first person in this situation, and I’m sure those closer to your situation will be able to give more tailored suggestions than we can.

  14. Magdalena*

    The only thing that gives me pause is that it’s worship music and it may be seen as a bigger offense if I ask her to stop.

    That on its own makes it inappropriate for work. I’d still not focus on that when talking to her because you don’t want any singing, period, but she should not be forcing religious music on her boss and co-workers even if she had a great singing voice.

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      Yep, it seems like the genre is making LW more reluctant to shut it down when it should be the opposite! I don’t think they should say anything beyond it’s distracting and she needs to wear headphones, but it’s really not okay to be playing religious music in a secular workplace. Better to shut it down now than potentially hire someone who objects to it in the future and have it create a conflict.

    2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      This! A lot of people like to spin it as “I can do whatever I want, including not doing key parts of my job, and if I say it’s religious you have to let me” rather than “You can’t single out religious practices for harsher treatment than the equivalent secular ones”.

    3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      I can see where OP is coming from — but religious beliefs and accomodation. However, the law only requires reasonable accomodation. You don’t really have to accomodate singing of ANY kind in the office. The genre is irrelevant. One’s religious observances cannot create hardship for others — like making it hard to do the actual job because of the observance. So letting someone go home before sundown on a Friday, usually pretty easy to accomodate. Singing loudly and disrupting not only your office but a completely unrelated business that you share space with — no.

      Although as noted above, she seems a reasonable person, treat her with the dignity and respect that she is a reasonable person and just say something.

    4. The OG Sleepless*

      It is quite possible that she is singing specifically to get a reaction from the people around her, i.e. evangelizing. If that is the case, she will keep doing it until someone kindly but very firmly shuts it down. I may be off base, but I’ve been around a lot of evangelicals.

      1. JSPA*

        This is yet another example of ascertainment bias.

        Not everyone who follows a prosyletizing faith suffers from a terminal case of bad boundaries (nor persecution sydrome). And for that matter, not all who prosyletize / evangelize in questionable locations will continue, once asked to stop.

        However, those who do so are far and away the most visible (and audible, and memorable).

        You (like most people reading this) have likely have known several times as many evangelicals as you believe you’ve known. You easily recognize the ones who fit the stereotype, while often not clocking the rest of them as specifically evangelical (unless you happen to notice a bumper sticker, or ask them what they’re doing on the weekend). Same for any other faith that people stereotype.

        More generally, eh, it’s not a great look to default to broad-brush generalizations about groups of people–even if acting a certain way is an explicit group belief. (That’s true regardless of whether that’s about others, or about one’s own people.)

        1. The OG Sleepless*

          That’s fair. I did say it was possible, not likely or even definite, but you’re right.

  15. Adam*

    OP#5, along with what everyone else said, you should consult a tax lawyer about your personal taxes in the country in question if you haven’t already. Employees of the US government usually don’t pay foreign income taxes, but that generally does *not* extend to any income earned from private employment, so your spouse may well owe income tax in the new country if they live and work there (even if working for a US company).

    1. Person from the Resume*

      My info may be is out of date, but what LW#5 says about her husband could be incorrect. If he’s working in a foreign country and making money he may need a Visa and may need to pay foreign taxes.

      I’d just caution her to check if she’s not certain and provide references if her info is correct.

  16. WS*

    LW 4 – I’m not in the US, but my business is one of the larger ones in a very small town. We used to get job applications every week from people who are mandated to apply, but have no interest, no skills and no qualifications in the area. It’s annoying but we never held it against the job seeker, because we all know why they have to do it. These days they’re supposed to only apply for posted jobs, which is just pointless busywork for most unemployed people (many of whom are disabled) in a small town with no public transport.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Yup. Many years ago I managed a convenience store. Applications by “candidates” who had no interest in getting the job, and whom we had no interest in hiring, were a well understood dance. I would sign off that they had applied and they would leave happy.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        There’s a really great French film starring Omar Sy, Intouchables, on this very premise, where the guy gets hired despite only asking for his form to be stamped as proof he showed up at the interview. The job is to help with the practical aspects of live for a paraplegic guy. They end up as close friends. Based on a true story, which is especially heartwarming.

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          I think there was also a US remake, but I don’t know how closely it follows the original French film.

      2. Polaris*

        Yep. Used to sign off on many a walk in’s paperwork. 9/10 times, we didn’t even offer the type of work that was listed, i.e. they inquired about a position for an elephant toe-cleaner, when we specialized in alpaca de-knotting. Check the box that says “no positions available”, sign.

  17. Varthema*

    This isn’t helpful for the OP because it’s not something under her husband’s control, but in case it’s useful to anyone else invested in keeping an employee moving abroad (or hiring someone abroad) there are payroll companies that you can pay to be the legal employee of record for your employees in countries where you don’t have a presence. It’s not a substitute for having a branch in a country where you do business, but it’s a good alternative for those who have a few remote employees a little scattered.

  18. Irish Teacher.*

    LW4, this is why I think these requirements are sort of ridiculous. Generally, if people are applying for at least three jobs per week or doing other job seeking activities, there is a good reason for it (such as the one you have) and it’s really a waste of everybody’s time to expect people to just apply to “tick a box”.

    However, since that is the system, I don’t think you are doing anything wrong by “ticking the box.” You are doing what what the rules are supposed to ensure – you are planning to return to work and only accepting UI for as long as you are genuinely between jobs.

  19. Earlk*

    For LW4 I’d mostly apply for roles you’re very unlikely to get but also, with Alison’s advice of keeping in mind job offers can fall through, keep an eye out for jobs you would want and are qualified for and contact the hiring managers to find out more information about the timeline. Realistically you may not get an offer or even a interview prior to your March start date and you’re still productively searching for employment without letting anyone down.

  20. Knitting Cat Lady*

    #5: Depending on what kind of software your husband develops it is possible that export law is a thing his employer could run afoul of.
    Export law is a giant mine field that is very annoying to deal with. Especially the US variety.
    A file simply being viewed in another country counts as exporting it.
    If this is a concern his employer should have a department dealing with that.

    1. Quantum Possum*

      That’s a good point. It’s a critical topic in software and intellectual property, especially with overseas work.

      Because I’m a huge weirdo, I love export law! I’ve taught workforce classes about it. It’s like exploring the Minotaur’s Labyrinth without a ball of yarn.

    2. Warrior Princess Xena*

      +1. My workplace has a rock-solid policy in place that any employee planning on working/bringing a work-connected device while doing international travel needs to check in with legal before doing so. Some countries are “it’s fine, no problem, we’re familiar enough with the laws there that you’ll get a green light, just let us know”. Some countries are “you need to check in with us because what you might need to do could be in flux”. And some countries are “thou shalt not take any work information there, unless it’s absolutely necessary, and if it’s absolutely necessary we’re going to assign you a very locked down travel laptop”.

      Data security laws, export laws, tax laws, employee benefits laws – all of these become much harder when crossing an international boundary, and if your company isn’t already set up in a specific country then doing that setup for one specific employee may not be worth the effort.

  21. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    LW4 could consider restricting their job search to temporary roles that could be completed before the March job begins.

    1. OP4*

      there really aren’t temp roles at my level in my field. it generally takes 4-6 months to onboard someone new in this type of role. And my skills are extremely niche (imagine, not just “teapot engineer” but “hand glazed ceramic spouts for 6-8 cup teapots”). There’s a wide variety of adjacent fields (that honestly I’ve been trying to slide over into for several years now), so I think maybe I’ll take this opportunity to apply for those. Unlikely I’ll actually get one, but the hiring process will help me figure out what skills I need to build to get there next time I’m job hunting.

      1. Polly Hedron*

        I love your plan to apply to adjacent fields, but if you can’t find 3 such opportunities every week, then you could also apply to temp roles
        • above your level,
        • below your level, or
        • outside your field
        thereby fulfilling your obligations to the unemployment office and to your future employer.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        You’re currently (totally legitimately) “jobseeking” purely as a hoop-jumping measure. Becoming very picky about timing or field is entirely reasonable in the circumstances.

        Best of luck with the upcoming changes.

      3. All Het Up About It*

        I’ve had this experience as as well. I think applying to adjacent fields is great. One thing to remember is that NO ONE at the Unemployment office cares about your niche skills. They are more likely to see Teapot Engineer and then focus on the Engineer and send you a job posting for a structural engineer role. Seriously.

        The last week of my unemployment when I was just so tired of jumping through the hoops, I ended us sending out unsolicited resumes to places that I absolutely had no interest in working. My state just required us to apply for positions. They weren’t specific that they were “Open” positions. It was a way to check off those final job tasks and also not waste significant time on my part. I also knew that most places would just roll their eyes and trash the resume and email, or maybe possibly file them and never call me ever.

  22. buttercups and shamrocks*

    LW3: I’ve gotten those calls in the past from trusted sources. I think you should tell your boss. It doesn’t have to be a big deal just “So, Emma called me the other day to warn me about Juan.” You can (and probably should) provide details but treat it as a matter-of-fact heads up to your boss.

    For you, personally, take Emma’s advice: Document, document, document and make sure everything is in contemporaneous writing. Emails confirming things said verbally as well as notes to yourself – on paper in a bound notebook is ideal.

    If it turns out to be nothing then you have done maybe a little extra work. If it turns out Juan really is as bad a Emma warned you, then you’ll have the documentation.

  23. r.*


    given your spouse is a software engineer it isn’t just about tax and employment permission/visa issues.

    By necessity he will have access to sensitive, intellectual property, some of which might (though not necessarily) be stored on his notebook. This gives rise to both potential export law as well as information security concerns whose magnitude depends on both the software he writes, the information he has access to, and the country you will visit.

    For example I will not allow employees to carry their company notebooks or their company phones with them to, say, Vietnam or the PRC. If there’s a concrete business need they will be given specifically set-up and monitored disposable devices, and their duties may be temporarily re-assigned to limit what information they need access to.

    There are of course many levels in between, but they will be even more context-sensitive. Cross US/EU travel is usually much easier, though there are exceptions to this, too.

    1. Team Rocket*

      Oof, yeah, good point. I do a job involving data of interest to basically nobody, and even I have files that I’m not allowed to bring with me into the US or to store on US-based servers.

  24. Justout*

    OP #1, I would own the message rather than blaming it on the other business / person. “Please could I ask you to stop sharing your music audibly? Feel free to listen on headphones without singing along. Thanks so much!” No need to get into the type / genre of music, the quality of the singing, or who does / doesn’t like it, as those will only risk leading to further “what if”s – what if I listen to a different type of music, what if I talk to them and they say they don’t mind, etc etc etc.

    1. Varthema*

      Could the OP just apply for positions with a CV in lime green Comic Sans or Papyrus? (perhaps not in their own industry…)

      1. Yellow sports car*

        Where I am you can be punished for not making a genuine attempt. If you’ve held professional roles in the past it would be hard to get away with that if someone was feeling like reporting you.

        However, you can apply for stretch positions and claim genuine attempt “while I don’t hold the Cert IV in llama grooming, I have had pet snakes my entire life and have been responsible for their grooming and care and feel this experience demonstrates my ability to learn the skills necessary for this role”

        These sorts of applications are more defensible (I was getting desperate, it was worth a shot) – and so are safer.

        But if that’s not a concern for LW – I’d just do online applications and not attach anything, or pick anything with a qualification that can’t be easily obtained and new ruled out quickly.

        1. Jackalope*

          That’s one of the tricky things with this rule. If you’re entry-level then there may be a lot of jobs to apply for (depending on when you’re applying of course). But if you’re further along then finding three jobs a week that you can apply for is trickier.

      2. Oh, just me again!*

        I wouldn’t. Might want to apply there sometime in future and that resume might still be on file. It could make them look very strange!

    2. Fluffy Fish*

      They could but since its been fine up until now, it’s likely to go better with an explanation. No explanation is almost certainly going to lead to questions that the OP will have to answer anyway.

      A simple, “now that we’re in a shared space I’m asking you to listen to music with headphones on and refrain from singing.”

    3. Observer*

      or who does / doesn’t like it, as those will only risk leading to further “what if”s – what if I listen to a different type of music, what if I talk to them and they say they don’t mind, etc etc etc.

      I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I think you have a point. On the other I think that a “what if I talk to them” needs to be shut down very firmly. For one thing they have *already complained*, which means that going to the other tenant is going come off as inappropriate pressure. For another, now that the issue is on the radar, the rules simply have to be changed. This is part of working in a public (ish) shared space.

  25. Dog momma*

    While I can concentrate with the TV on in the background, I can’t do it with radio..or someone singing. This needs to stop.

  26. Yellow sports car*

    LW4 tick the box and starve off increased poverty a little longer. If your unemployment processes are anything like ours you aren’t doing this for fun.

    Follow the letter of the rules, but focus on jobs you are unlikely to make progress with. Avoid places you expect to want to apply to genuinely in the future for added surety. And for best option – bigger companies with popular roles that will be easily filled. Apply for roles that are a clear massive stretch, but not infeasible (at least here they can be punitive if you aren’t making a genuine attempt ). Do NOT apply for jobs that you’d struggle to do until the other job kicks in as you might have to take one.

    Use a generic CV and a cover letter that simply says – thank you for considering my application for this position. Or make it clear the position was brought to your attention by the job agency and while you aren’t familiar with blah you’d certainly be willing to lean.

    And then submit serious applications in for anything you would consider taking instead of the March job.

      1. I Have RBF*

        Yeah, when I was last unemployed and looking for work I used a lot of EasyApply and then copied the info to my application log for filling out my UI. While you only had to have three a week, I would often have five or more. It still took me six months, at age 61, to find a new gig.

    1. tw1968*

      LW4: don’t feel bad–seems like lots of companies are interviewing without any intention of hiring people at all, or putting job listings out requiring high levels of experience and education for entry level jobs. If they can do that, you shouldn’t feel any guilt

  27. Atlantic Toast Conference*

    OP 5, if you will be posted to an embassy/consulate, try contacting your Global Employment Advisor (https://www.state.gov/global-community-liaison-office/family-member-employment/global-employment-initiative-gei/). They can often speak to an employer and talk them through the tax or legal implications (or lack thereof) of working from a diplomatic residence. It can be more effective coming from an “expert.”

    PS: I know that link only mentions Foreign Service family members, but they will work with any EFMs under COM authority. Good luck!

    1. EFM Abroad*

      Yes, this is the right answer! GCLO has language your spouse can use to reopen the conversation with his employer. Also contact HR at your gaining post for information as well. They will know the local regulations. – From someone who lives this life, too!

  28. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    The best way to say “I’ll quit over this” is to find another job and give your 2 weeks notice. When you are inevitably asked to explain, tell them what you told AAM.

  29. Capt. Liam Shaw*

    #2. Here is the thing. I get your frustration, but it doesn’t really sound like quitting is an option. As for the manual, talk to your supervisor and see if you can get something for doing it, like extra money. Also push for getting someone hired into your old role. Doing two jobs would get old really quick.

  30. missagatha*

    For #5 – check with your unemployment office, but in my experience if you have a firm offer, you can provide them with a copy of the offer letter and they will waive the requirement to apply for jobs until your start date.

  31. Czhorat*

    OP1 reminds me of an old letter, which gives a clear answer.

    They need to buy the poorly singing employee a ukulele.

  32. HonorBox*

    OP1 – The solution presented by Alison was the one I was thinking. It probably doesn’t matter whether your employee is Adele or far from Adele. It is the sound. You’re in perfect position to ask that they use headphones and not sing.

    OP2 – This seems pretty awful. I don’t think you need to be explicit that you might leave. Any reasonable person should figure that out. You just need to go in and say something like the following to your boss: “I was a bit taken aback when I heard that I was going to be creating the operations manual. Not only was that the first I’d heard of it, it is something that is far from my area of expertise. As you know, I’m presently juggling two roles, and with everything I am covering in those two areas, I know I don’t have a way to get this done.” And then don’t say anything more. Let your boss fill the space. What they say (or don’t say) will let you know a lot.

    And then make your decisions based on that. You may need to be looking elsewhere because if you’re being expected to do 3 people’s work, whether compensated or not, it is not going to be workable any longer than you’ve made it work.

  33. Davros*

    OP4 this is a great opportunity to apply for big stretch jobs. Stuff you don’t think you’ll get but will be thrilled if you do.

  34. LB33*

    If OP#2’s manager is the one who hired Juan, just be prepared for the possibility that he dismisses your concerns. I’ve seen lots of people not want to look bad for hiring a bad candidate, not checking references and so on. Maybe this won’t happen, but just a heads up that even if you bring it to the right peoples’ attention, nothing might change.

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      Yes, managers tend to take criticism of their hiring choices very poorly. Instead of hearing “There are some issues with Juan” the boss will hear “You suck at hiring.”

      I rarely disagree with Alison’s advice but I, myself, would not talk to my manager at this point in time. I’d use Emma’s advice as a guideline for what to look out for, and when I’d documented some of that, I’d go to my manager then and say “I have some concerns” and stress how the work is being affected. Depending upon how that conversation goes, the LW could bring up the info from Emma at that point.

  35. Late Bloomer*

    #4: I suspect that states vary on this, but when I was drawing unemployment, you were only required to accept jobs that paid X percent of your previous income. It began at something approaching previous income and then, at a certain point, began to decline (70%, 60%, etc.) every few weeks. That was one rule that allowed me to make my required number of job contacts while not sabotaging either my eligibility or my prospects for employment in a job that met my specifications.

  36. Person from the Resume*

    LW#1, you are getting in too deep in this. The problem is not that your employee’s singing is horrendous. The problem is that your employee is singing in shared office. (end of sentence)

    Tell her that the music and her singing is a distraction to others in the office and it needs to stop. If she wants to listen to music when others are in the office, she can use headphones, but she can’t sing.

    And this has nothing to do with how well or how bad she sings. Many people including myself find music, singing, talk radio, TV, all of it distracting. And I would have asked her to stop the moment she first turned the music on even before the singing started.

  37. misquoted*

    Letter #1: I have no problem with worship/praise music, but I can’t work with any lyrics (unless maybe in a language I don’t understand?) — it’s too distracting for me. I agree that it’s fine to ask her to wear headphones and stop singing for that reason (even if there are other reasons you won’t mention).

    Letter #2: I am a technical writer who was on a job search for the last 2.5 months. I am about to start a contract gig doing something similar to your newly-assigned task. If your employer is willing, I recommend bringing in a freelance or contract tech writer to create the operations manual (a couple of months, maybe?). It’s something that will be within their skillset, experience, and bandwidth. It’s worth suggesting — there’s a tech writer out there eager to take on a short project like this.

    Letter #4: I’m in the same boat, but luckily my new role starts within two weeks, much sooner than any other job would likely go to an offer.

    1. Quantum Possum*

      . If your employer is willing, I recommend bringing in a freelance or contract tech writer to create the operations manual (a couple of months, maybe?).


      Also, hello fellow tech writer! I was a tech writer for years before changing career fields. I loved it so much. Congrats on your new gig! :)

  38. Nothing Happening Here*

    #4 It’s just as possible to interview poorly as to interview well. It’s just as possible to dress just a bit off for an interview as to dress professionally. It’s just as possible to have a resume with errors as one that is perfect.

    Just saying……..

    1. Oh, just me again!*

      Don’t! Please don’t! You may want to reapply at that place e later, or you may want to hire someone from there. Or someone from there may may be hired as your boss in the future. Create as positive an impression as you can wherever you go. (Maybe just don’t pull out all the stops on your eagerness to be hired, but be friendly and professional always! Cause you never know. . .)

    2. Pretty as a Princess*

      Oh please don’t. The only potential outcome is burning future bridges. And wasting people’s time like that is uncool.

      I have been on the end of recommending someone for a job and them deliberately tanking an interview. It damaged my credibility, and it made it so that I absolutely will never waste network effort on that person again. They wasted the time of everyone in the process and they wasted the personal capital I spent to get them considered for the position

  39. Margaret Cavendish*

    For #4, I’ve always wondered about the ethics of writing a cover letter that says something like “Dear Hiring Manager, I’m sending this application to fulfill the requirements of UI. I would be required to accept the job if offered, but I’m not actually interested, so I would prefer not to be selected for an interview.”

    It’s a bit like malicious compliance – following the letter of the UI requirement but not the spirit of it – but on the other hand it does clearly signal to the hiring manager that they don’t need to spend any more time on your application.

    The reason I’ve wondered is that my field is pretty specialized, and there are just not a lot of jobs out there for me. Even when I’m actively job searching, there are usually only 2-3 jobs a month that would be suitable for me to apply. So if I have to meet a particular quota of applications sent, my choices would be to apply for jobs that are either well below my level, well above my level, or outside my field entirely.

    Applying for jobs below my level feels unethical, as I would 100% keep looking and be out the door in five minutes if I got another offer. And applying for jobs above my level/ outside my field is a waste of time because I know I’m not qualified. So if UI is forcing me to go through the exercise of sending applications, I feel like the least I could do is be transparent with the people who are being forced to read them!

    1. Lora*

      I suspect explicitly stating in writing that you don’t want to work, would become an issue very fast.

      1. Margaret Cavendish*

        True! I don’t imagine I would actually do it, unless I was feeling exceptionally crabby one day. But I often think of it as a fantasy response. You can’t tell ME what to do, UI office!

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*


        I think the intent is noble, but all it takes is one cover letter to get forwarded back to whomever processes the Unemployment Claims, and one person to care about the integrity of the system, for that to backfire. Potentially catastrophically.

    2. Sneaky Squirrel*

      I would imagine that any explicit indication of not actually being interested in working would be perceived as unemployment fraud as you are not actually looking for work and collecting benefits. Amusing that you would find that to be ethical, but applying to jobs below your level as not ethical.

      I don’t consider applying for jobs below job level as unethical. Any employer who considers you for a job will have your resume and will be able to make a judgement of how your skill compares to the role they have. If they consider you, they are already taking a known risk that you may leave to go find work closer to your level. Especially in your situation where there are only 2-3 jobs a month that are suitable, it could be months before you find one of those jobs.

      1. Margaret Cavendish*

        Applying to jobs below my level would be unethical in the sense that I’d be deliberately wasting the employer’s time. We’ve talked about it a bit on this site before – employers put real time and money into hiring people. It’s not the worst thing in the world to take a job and keep looking, but it’s certainly not ideal.

        Again, I’d never actually do it. But I do take a certain amount of pleasure in the idea of calling it out like that!

    3. AnonInCanada*

      But what would stop a malicious/follow-the-letter-not-the-spirit-of-UI-rules hiring manager from taking that letter and the resume and reporting the applicant to the UI board for fraud?

      I don’t think I would follow this advice if I were OP#4. Besides, it could also be considered burning a bridge should OP#4 find themselves unemployed again and actually wanted to apply for a job at this company.

    4. bamcheeks*

      Years ago when I was temping in HR, I got an application that said, under “Speciality Skills”, “I have two legs and can climb stairs, ladders etc. I can write with both a pen and a pencil”. I have always suspected it was written at the behest of the Job Centre (this was pre JobCentrePlus) by someone who didn’t want the job.

  40. Brain the Brian*

    Good heavens, do I wish I could have a “no singing” rule in some of my friendships. I love these people, and I love music… but their singing is… horrible. Having them sing along with a song can ruin the song for me. Unfortunately, friendships are not office life, so I can’t exactly set a rule like that.

    1. Sneaky Squirrel*

      Honestly, you could be the best singer in the world and I would still appreciate not having music sung out loud constantly.

  41. DramaQ*

    I don’t know about Maryland’s rules but in Nebraska for it to count it has to be full time if that what the position I held previously was (part time jobs don’t count). It doesn’t even have to be in my field or what I did previously as long as I am applying for full time jobs. The thing that makes it difficult though is it has to be 5 DIFFERENT employers. Not five different jobs, five different employers. So if I found 10 jobs I qualify for at one employer I can only use one of those for the week none of the rest count. It’s insane. That is on top of being required to attend “job therapy” sessions both individual and group and attend workshops. The justification is it helps people get into jobs faster. I’m of the opinion it’s to make things so darn difficult nobody can ever collect their whopping $250/week (the max you can qualify for) because you have to make a choice about go to your workshop to pay your bills or miss it and get disqualified because you have an interview? That being said there are work arounds. I am a full time employee so for anything to count it has to be a full time position. They don’t care what. They tried to push me into a $25k a year job with a 1.5 hour commute. So I just started applying for anything and everything that was full time and I knew I wasn’t qualified for. It sucks and I feel dirty doing it but I am playing by the rules. I know people who hire are frustrated with it too but I think most understand that it’s the system. People aren’t trying to scam them they are just trying to afford groceries. There has been pushback because the UE office has been trying to get employers to hire these people despite being unqualified just to get them off the rolls. Everyone besides the state is a victim in the Unemployment game.

    1. Mim*

      Ugh, the 5 different employers thing is ridiculous!

      The whole process was a waste of time and resources in my state, as well. I wish that they had more specifics here about when is and isn’t okay by them to pass down an offer. It was stated more vaguely, but pretty much up to the discretion of whoever was evaluating whether you “earned” your check for the week, adding an anxiety inducing layer of subjectivity to the entire process. I live in a rural area, too, so there usually wasn’t anything worth my time applying for. Especially since I had a very young child at the time, and even if I had been willing to make a long commute otherwise, it just wouldn’t have been possible. (Like, there is less availability of everything around here, including daycare options. If I couldn’t be at daycare by 5:30 every day, I couldn’t do a job, period.)

  42. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    OP 2: “During this announcement, he quipped that it was obviously a task no one wanted to do. ” That was more than a “quip”. That was a literal description of how little your boss respects and values you. He assumes that he can dump unwanted tasks onto you because hey, you’re already doing the work of two employees so you won’t grumble at doing even MORE work (much less quit over it), right?

    Alison is right: set limits now and start looking for another job ASAP. Since you’re in a rural area, would remote working be feasible for you? What ISN’T feasible is to stay at your current company being loaded down with more and more and more work until one day you overhear your boss laughing and “quipping” about how you’re now doing the work of SIX people and he’s planning to hand you yet ANOTHER employee’s job and OF COURSE he’ll get away with doing that because he’s always done so in the past. Uh huh….

    1. Oh, just me again!*

      Yes, and the fact that boss made the announcement publicly, instead of assigning it in a one-on-one beforehand, indicates to me that they either trying to prevent your pushing back or possibly don’t even care if this task gets done, but someone above (or a regulator, perhaps) requested it. Assigning it to someone shows progess, even if it isn’t a priority.

  43. Student*

    OP 5, as a fellow federal government worker, you should talk to your international travel experts about your problem.

    Your statement of: “We are Maryland residents and pay U.S. taxes as if we are in Maryland no matter where we are assigned in the world,” is flat-out wrong. That’s likely a true statement for you, the federal employee, under the special conditions of your job representing the federal government. It is not a true statement for your spouse – and I’m baffled that anyone gave you that impression.

    Tax law (in the US) applies to two potential physical locations. It can apply to where you physically are when you work, and it can apply to where you keep your main residence. It’s not a situation where you get to pick one – both apply. You’ll both need to pay taxes to Maryland if you plan to keep your main residence there. If your spouse travels out of country with you and works remotely for a US-based company, then your spouse will also need to pay taxes to the country you’re living in. You may get a pass, but that’s only because you are a direct representative of the US government.

    You’ll get some level of US tax credit on taxes paid to a foreign government, so the amount you pay in taxes probably won’t directly double – but you should talk to a tax expert to understand your obligations and how it’ll impact your specific household.

    1. Dawn*

      Came here to say this.

      OP: YOU are a federal government employee and YOU are a resident of Maryland as per the terms of your employment.

      Your spouse is not and the terms of your employment do not apply to them.

  44. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #5 – “Their main concern is tax implications but since we are abroad on government orders, we don’t truly live there and are not subject to their taxes. We are Maryland residents and pay U.S. taxes as if we are in Maryland no matter where we are assigned in the world. However, the companies would rather not bother to deal with it or risk it and just pick someone without the complication.”

    ^Are you absolutely sure of this? I’m not knowledgeable of the law myself but we run into these issues a lot at our firm by employees who want to work abroad. Being a US citizen alone doesn’t exempt you from the taxes of another country; though working on behalf of the federal government employee might offer you some exemptions. However, working abroad for a private firm abroad would likely subject your spouse and their employer to both US taxes and local taxes. Not only that but also benefits requirements, visa possibilities, international working regulations, privacy concerns, time zone issues, etc.

    You definitely don’t want to keep this from any prospective employers; even if you are right that the taxes. I would recommend spouse go back to employer and see what they’ve determined. If they haven’t flat out said no, they may be trying to work with a lawyer to understand the legalities from their perspective, which could take some time. You may also want to consult an attorney on this if you haven’t to make sure your own taxes/legalities are being handled correctly.

    1. Former FSO*

      Yes, the LW is right. An FSO posted overseas does not pay local taxes at all (and also doesn’t get local employment benefits, like extensive maternity leave or vacation times, etc.). Many FSO spouses work remotely and generally aren’t subject to local taxation for having done so. They also aren’t entitled to local unemployment benefits or labor rights when they do so, so in my experience most companies don’t have to do anything locally at all to enable remote employment for a diplomatic spouse. A local employer? That can be a different matter and is further constrained by whether the host government lets spouses work on the local economy. It’s a different set of complications for diplomatic families than your typical expat professional family, but sounds like this isn’t their first tour and they’re likely well-versed in the tax implications (or non).

  45. Starfox*

    OP4, my understanding from being on unemployment years ago was that if you have a start/return date you don’t need to keep applying to more jobs. When I had seasonal layoffs with a job that had a restart date in the spring I didn’t have to spend all winter applying for other jobs but maybe it’s changed since then.

    1. BellyButton*

      Oops I just posted the same below, before seeing this. I thought once you had a written offer with a start date, you didn’t have to keeping doing all the other requirements, but could still collect UI.

      1. Pizza Rat*

        Probably. I was on UI last year. I read through the whole handbook and there was nothing in it that accounted for a long gap between offer and start date. Fortunately, my official offer letter came only a week before my start date.

        I do remember lots of different activities besdies applications and interviews counted. Job fairs were one that didn’t take up much time–90% of those are virtual these days.

  46. Cynical B*

    LW2, don’t say you’re going to quit unless you’re truly prepared to do so. Maybe give them 4 weeks of notice instead of two so they have a chance to change their minds and to give you some time to find something new.

    The job market right now is absolutely brutal. I don’t care what the economists say, it’s still hard to find a job and most wages aren’t rising.

  47. WantonSeedStitch*

    Being trapped in an office with someone singing praise music badly sounds like my own personal hell. I’d be tempted to start blasting some punk or maybe some early Einstürzende Neubauten to make a point in response.

      1. Helen Waite*

        Back in the 90s, there was a group that did an album of pop songs to Gregorian chant. They’re probably on You Tube.

    1. I Have RBF*

      Seriously. I would break out the Metallica and start singing along to it in response. No, I’m not a great singer, although I can stay on key.

      Worship or praise music in an office is just… yuck. I wouldn’t want to play the music of my religion out loud in an office, it just isn’t the place for it.

  48. Tim*

    It saddens me the number of people who want to circumvent the unemployment system and simply collect the UI checks. When I was laid off, I was so grateful for the assistance – both financial and non-financial. The additional resources like support group and classes brushing up on skills like interviewing and resume writing were valuable. (Personally, my experience in those areas was fine but I could see the benefit.)

    Of course the government must have requirements in place. It would be insane to put a program in place with no accountability by the job seekers.

    1. Jackalope*

      The issue here is that the LW already has a job, but still needs to eat and live indoors between now and March. Getting a job that will cover just a month is tough – some temp agencies will give you jobs like that but they don’t exactly fall from trees. If the LW could just tell them that she has a job starting in a few weeks and have the unemployment payments continue until the job starts then that would be one thing, but that isn’t an option. So I’m the meantime she needs to keep jumping through the hoops, but in her case the job applications aren’t going to go anywhere since she already has a job.

    2. Lady_Lessa*

      I’ve been on unemployment multiple times, and tend to find the process humiliating, especially before you could do a lot online.

      I’m for accountability, but job suggestions when you are WAY over qualified, or requiring an in person visit, but you only had to sign on to a computer in the lobby. (That was when I lived in one state but crossed the river into another one for work. An hour’s drive to do just that.)

      I’ve also removed myself from being considered in my thank you notes, because I picked up that I and the company’s culture weren’t compatible. I’ve also waited until I got paid before reporting the work to UI. (I was smart, since I didn’t get paid for the day.)

      1. Petty_Boop*

        So, for how long should they be “carried” because they “don’t want to apply for jobs right now”? I mean, that’s not how being an adult, productive member of society works. “I don’t feel like it” is what my 6 year old used to say about getting up and going to school. It didn’t work then, and it shouldn’t work for a grown a-s adult! Should there maybe be a, say 2 week grace period after being let go before you have to start proving you’re looking? Sure. I’d go along with that, but “I don’t FEEL LIKE applying for jobs right now, can you just please support me while I wallow”? No, that’s unacceptable.

        1. I Have RBF*

          Ah, the good ol’ Calvinist work ethic, right? Work or starve? No freeloading, put those kids to work in the mines and mills, the disabled and damaged can just die, the unemployed need to beg and abase themselves for being unworthy of the crumbs they are allowed?

          “How long should they be ‘carried’ because… ” is code for “work or starve, slave”.

        2. Emmy Noether*

          Hard disagree. Most humans want to feel useful and want to work, and aren’t out to scam the system. Some are just really difficult to place. The number of actual deliberate leeches and fraudsters is really small. We’re spending much more time and effort trying to prevent fraud than it would actually cost to just pay the fraudsters no questions asked! And it’s a demeaning and precarious experience for that vast majority of honest people.

          The only reason we’re prepared to lose money trying to prevent fraud is moral outrage.

        3. Keymaster in absentia*

          With all due respect please read the many comments here from people who’ve been in this situation before you start smearing us with lazy comparisons to children.

          I’ve been unemployed, I’ve been disabled and unemployed and believe me we hear enough ‘you just want money for doing nothing’ to last the lifetime of several Vulcans.

          1. Petty_Boop*

            “you start smearing us with lazy comparisons to children.”
            To be VERY clear, I compared the comment, “I don’t feel like it”–not the people. That’s a big difference. I rarely FEEL like going to work, and it’s not because I’m lazy; I just don’t FEEL like it, but I go.”

            “I’ve been disabled and unemployed”
            Again, not the same as “Meh, I don’t feel like applying for work right now.” So please don’t ascribe words or motives to my comment that aren’t there. If someone CANNOT for any reason (physical or mental) work or even look for work, of course there should be a safety net!

            I have ALSO been unemployed and so have many members of my family. But not one of us ever said, “Ugh I just don’t FEEL LIKE applying for a job but I DO feel like collecting unemployment. My one brother was unemployed for almost 6 months. But he never applied for Unemployment because he wanted a break from working and had a little savings to see him through. He didn’t feel like it. Good for him. If he had STILL wanted to be paid for not working, I’d have not felt the same. Sorry. If you don’t feel like working or even going through the arduous task of LOOKING for work, that’s fine. Great even! But, if so, then don’t ALSO expect to be paid is what I’m saying. Should there be other options? Such as above where I said there SHOULD be a grace period before being required to hit the streets looking? Yes. Are there? No. That’s just not how unemployment works in the US.

      2. I Have RBF*

        IMO, UBI would be a good way to assure that no one fell through the cracks because they were sick (like with Covid), or desperately needed a few months to decompress from having been in a hell job.

        This “work or starve” mentality in the US is just disgusting. It tends to make art and innovation into only the domain of the independently wealthy, and disability or illness a potential disaster every goddamn time.

        1. Crunchy Granola*

          I had a contract finish and nothing lined up so I was on UI for a while. I was commanded to go to a seminar specifically for finding jobs for people over 50. I thought, “Great! Jobs that will appreciate my experience!”

          Nope. It was an hour spent giving us a list of websites that were mostly for retail jobs, cashiering, you get the idea. There wasn’t a white-collar job in the bunch. Nothing in management, and nothing that would pay a living wage in my city.

          Not sure what state you’re in that had support groups. That option would have been nice.

    3. bamcheeks*

      It would be insane to put a program in place with no accountability by the job seekers.

      No, it wouldn’t, it would be excellent and also cost way, way less. And the people who genuinely like helping people get jobs could spend their time helping people who want the help, instead of chasing and punishing people who can’t work but also don’t want to starve.

      1. Petty_Boop*

        ” instead of chasing and punishing people who can’t work but also don’t want to starve.”

        It’s not like the Unemployment Office is literally chasing people down. It’s an online form to check in weekly where you’ve applied, etc… But the biggest point here is there is a HUGE difference in what you said, “who can’t work” and “who don’t FEEL like working/applying for jobs” which is what the original conversation started with. NOBODY is advocating that the disabled (physically or mentally) should be forced to adhere to a rigorous process for accountability, but the idea that ANYONE who doesn’t WANT to work or “feel like it” should be entitled to payment … just astounds me. Yes I’m in my 50s, but my kids (early 20s-mid 30s) have very strong work ethics, and have all been employed since they were 16 or 17, and despite many days when they’d grouse, “Ugh, it’s so nice outside, I don’t feel like working today,” etc… they did it anyway.

    4. Keymaster in absentia*

      My experience with unemployment benefits in the UK were that they were overly keen on finding ANY excuse to not pay you. I wouldn’t apply for jobs I simply couldn’t do (like retail or warehouse work) and got yelled at for that. I was told I had to show evidence of job searching for 37 hours a week. I was told I had to accept any job I was offered (and they tried to set me up with a tescos delivery job!).

      It’s the lesser version of disability benefits – you haven’t seen unfair till you’ve tried to go through that.

      There invariably comes a time on Jobseeker’s Allowance when you’ve got to choose between what they are telling you to do and what you actually can do. It’s a system set up that assumes every single person on benefits is a fraud unless proven otherwise and it’s demeaning.

      So yeah, normally I’m all for the rules, but I’ve been there and it’s not that clear cut.

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      It’s great that you had a good experience with UI, but this is definitely not universal. The UI program in our state is very difficult to access (don’t answer the phone, respond to emails, or take walk-ins), the courses they offer are very low-level and outdated, and the base-level assumption seems to be that everyone they are serving is lazy and just there for the check. The advice they gave my mother (laid off after 20 years with an organization with excellent references and decades of solid work experience) on her resume was terrible (“correcting” the right homonym to the wrong one, changing meaningful descriptors to buzzwords, major grammatical errors/typos). They made college career services departments look like geniuses.

      The problem with the job-seeking requirements is that they often expect you to take low-level jobs that put you in the spot of not being able to make a living wage and support yourself or your family (but making enough not qualifying for benefits) and then also not having time for job skills training and the time it takes to continue a strong job search because you often have to work two of those sorts of jobs to make rent.

      1. Keymaster in absentia*

        I had the biggest blow up when the unemployment office here told me they’d found the perfect job for me – delivery driver for a supermarket.

        Firstly, I’m a highly skilled database technician and IT manager. Secondly, I’m disabled. No, I can’t do retail or do deliveries. But they really have this idea that anyone can just go stack shelves at sainsburys and you’re being snotty if you say no.

        And trying to apply for disability benefits was, if anything, worse. If you attend the meetings you’re obviously not disabled. If you don’t attend then you don’t get anything. And the kind of jobs the disability lot recommend you go for are often well under minimum wage.

        It’s a trap.

    6. Coffee Protein Drink*

      “Simply collect the UI checks?” The LW has been searching and has an offer.

      Are they supposed to not eat in the interim time between offer and start date when they aren’t working?

      The assumption that a job offer means you start the following Monday is an archaic piece of business. In a modern, more realistic system, the LW could submit an offer letter and still collect while not working.

      I’m at a loss, reading your comment. Just what do you expect the LW to do?

    7. DramaQ*

      There is accountability and then there is the NE unemployment system. My husband got denied benefits because their own web site was down and one of the requirements is you HAVE to go through their web site for at least one job a week.

      I don’t have five separate employers for my field that all have job postings every week. The biggest employer for my field is the university. So even if I applied for 10 jobs a week there only ONE would count towards my quota.

      The argument used is it gets you “out of your bubble”. The problem is most employers don’t want a random person applying for their positions. They want people with experience or at least a relative degree.

      I’m wasting my time and their time applying for jobs I am not qualified for because I have to eat.

      My husband calculated out all the time you have to spend doing their workshops, group therapy, counseling sessions and just applying. It’s over 40 hours a week. When are you supposed to interview? Do you chose paying your immediate bills by going to your therapy session or do you choose to go to an interview for a job you might not even get?

      The requirements shouldn’t be so onerous that they equate to a full time job themselves. I imagine very few people collecting UE are out to “scam” the system requiring this level of supervision.

      I suppose it worked though because I’ll go back to waiting tables before I ever apply for UE again. I am “lucky” people are now desperate for servers so even though it’s been awhile I could probably easily get hired. I’ll make more too.

    8. Leenie*

      It saddens you that someone found a job that doesn’t start for a couple of months and is using unemployment insurance to bridge that gap? I’m failing to see anything unethical in the LW’s plans or behavior.

    9. Observer*

      It would be insane to put a program in place with no accountability by the job seekers.

      So? What does that have to do with the question at hand. Having accountability is all good and fine. The question is WHAT is accountability? Do the rules actually promote accountability or the reverse?

      In the kinds of situations that the OP and others describe, it actually does the reverse. Because the rules and requirements are not designed for ACTUAL accountability, but as a way to reduce eligibility regardless of need and true eligibility you official aims of the program.

      Story time: A relative lost her job. She applied for UE, and qualified. She was offered a temp job. She was afraid to take it, because she’d heard the horror stories about getting back on UE after a couple of months. But she also did not want to take the job and report it.

      Fortunately, in NY (at least at the time) you could “suspend” you UE when you got a temp job, so the payments would stop, but you would remain eligible *as soon* as the temp job ended. With that information, she took the job – she would rather work than not. And it turned out that this job turned permanent and she worked there for several years till she moved out of state.

      All of which is to say that when you have *reasonable* rules, you have a shot at accountability and people getting off UE *sooner*. If your rules are punitive or untethered to the reality of employment (as is the case in many areas), then you actually *lose* accountability. Because people will do what they need to do to survive, which means obfuscating and “rule book slowdown” behavior.

    10. OP4*

      Believe me, I’d rather be working! My experience with the unemployment office so far has been one of constant harassment and humiliation, for a check that barely covers my rent, leave aside other expenses.

    11. 54lty*

      As someone who has worked for the government department that handles welfare support payments for job seekers in my country, I’m sorry, but this comment makes me extremely angry.

      This is an extremely important issue that affects people’s ability to survive. Please ensure that you are well-informed beyond your own (thankfully positive) experience before speaking out like this. A good starting point would be the 650-page report, and 75 recommendations, about the Australian employment services and welfare support payments system for job seekers. The report and recommendations were released in late 2023, and a memorable quote from it was that the current system – with its ‘mutual obligation requirements – was ‘like using a nuclear bomb to kill a mosquito’.

  49. BellyButton*

    LW1 All the stabbing. Everything you described is my worst nightmare. Open plan, music, religious music, and someone singing! Gah! I would lose it. There is no way I could work in that situation. Within a very short time period I would start to feel frustrated and then angry.
    To anyone listening to music without headphones in an open plan area, anyone humming, anyone singing, anyone tapping along to the music — please, stop.

  50. BellyButton*

    OP4 – maybe this is state dependent, but I thought if you had a written offer and a firm start date you could continue collecting UI until that date without doing all the other things.

    1. OP4*

      a couple of people have mentioned that. I can’t find anywhere on the UI online portal to enter that information though, and it’s been hard to get an actual human on the phone to talk to. I’ll keep trying though!

      1. Chapeau*

        If your state representative has an office, either local or in your state capital, call them. They often have ways to reach out to state agencies that are not available to the general public.

  51. Traveling Nerd*

    OP5 –
    If your husband’s current company is okay with keeping him on payroll but doesn’t have a foreign subsidiary in that country, they can use a service like Oyster HR or Remote to pay him.
    Both of those companies have entities in a ton of other countries, so they are the ‘Employer of Record’ and charge the employer a monthly fee. I used Oyster in a previous startup to hire international employees, and it worked well. They deal with all the local taxes, benefits, and so on and can answer questions (like ‘how does vacation time work in country X?’)
    This won’t solve any work permit issues in the new country, but does mean that his current employer doesn’t need to worry about entities and taxes, since they technically won’t have a business entity in the new country.

  52. Lobstermn*

    LW2: you don’t. You quit or you don’t. Start looking.

    LW3: you don’t. The proper response to your gossip is to either fire him or you. Decide if that’s a risk you’re willing to take (it isn’t).

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

      I disagree with your comment on LW3. It sounds like the employee has already demonstrated bad behavior. And this is not gossip. This was the employees former boss, who had a hard time with the person, not a catty former coworker.

      1. Keymaster the absent*

        Yeah, that’s weirdly adversarial. I wouldn’t fire someone for bringing me *further* evidence that someone else is an arse. It’s also not gossip (which is a pretty demeaning way of putting this) and it comes from a trusted source.

        Actually, from a mangerial perspective, I’d really appreciate the added info.

        1. Lobstermn*

          If LW’s company had decent management, they wouldn’t have flubbed the reference check so hard.

          1. OP#3*

            That’s not a bad point about our management here lol. I don’t think my boss was involved in that hiring decision himself at that time but it’s a fair assessment generally speaking.

            Idk who this guy put in as his references, surely not her from her tone.

        1. Observer*

          No, it’s not. It’s direct information from the person who experienced it.

          Beyond that, there is nothing magic about hearsay. Sure, in legal proceeding hearsay is heavily discounted. That doesn’t mean that it’s not often valuable information. And in an employment decision situation, you are not obligated to adhere to the strictest standards of admissibility in court.

    2. Leenie*

      Just chiming in to agree with other comments that you’re wildly off base on #3. There’s no reason to think that OP and Juan’s previous employer aren’t to be trusted here. And, as someone who manages people, I would definitely want a trusted employee to come to me with this kind of concern.

    3. Jackalope*

      Others have responded to your 2nd point, but I’d also like to respond to your 1st. The LW can 100% tell her supervisor that she’s not willing to take this on. She needs to be ready for the possibility that she could lose her job because of it, but it’s still something she can do. And honestly, it’s in the company’s best interest too; they have an employee working 2 jobs for the price of one, and adding more work might cost them that employee. (Also, this sounds a wee bit toxic, but in normal nontoxic jobs it’s not a weird thing to say that you either can’t take on a new responsibility or else if you do you will need to drop something else. A good manager will want to know if you have too much on your plate so they can make sure nothing slips through the cracks.)

    4. fhqwhgads*

      For LW2: the letter says it’ll be really difficult to find something else, so it seems like they’d prefer not to if they can get this thing off their plate. Your suggestion sort of ignores that part? Sure, they could start looking, and it’s not a bad idea to, but to wait to quit until they find something else sounds like something they were hoping to not wait for.

      1. Lobstermn*

        The one thing I have learned from reading AAM is – the only leverage you have is to always be looking, and the best thing to do is usually just go. This comports with my life experience.

  53. Oh, just me again!*

    OP 2, I think you should explain to your new boss (and grand boss, if they were involved in the hiring) why you are continuing to “job search” just in case they get wind of it. Emphasize that you are committed to New Job and excited about it, and explain the fact that you are not happy about sending out resumes, for ethical reasons, but its a must. Job fairs are a better option, if there are any – you may pick up valuable connections for later, maybe even people you will want to hire or recommend to your new company – but even then, I’d explain, so if it gets back to new boss they don’t think you are being sneaky and pull the offer.

  54. Thomas*

    #4, the obvious thing to do is to apply for temporary or casual roles, even if they’re not in your normal career area. Don’t deliberately apply or interview badly, but do be open that it’s just something to pay the bills and you plan to start a new permanent role in March. You meet your legal obligations, don’t waste anyone’s time, and if you get an offer then it’s more money than the unemployment benefits (usually).

    That, and apply for stuff that looks as good as or better than the offer you have. I mean it’s two months away, it could VERY easily fall through.

  55. My Useless 2 Cents*

    Am I the only one not happy with the response to #2? While usually Alison’s advise is to be straight forward, this response seems to be very imply heavily and they will understand.

    I totally agree with the coming at the problem from the angle of “I’m already stretched too thin doing two jobs and cannot continue indefinitely doing both jobs. There is no way I can take on more work like this extra task.”

    But if they come back with a “suck it up” I think something a little more blunt than “this makes me wonder if this role is right for me” is called for. More along the lines of “I’m afraid I was unclear, I *cannot* take on additional tasks at the moment and I *need* a timeline to address the workload of both jobs I’m currently doing as it is too much for one person and I cannot continue to do it indefinitely.” If OP is close to burn out and very serious about the quitting, I’d even add something along the lines of “if support is not forthcoming, I don’t know how much longer I can stay with the company as this is starting to effect my health”

  56. Hailrobonia*

    “You should sing solo… so low nobody can hear you.”

    “Can you sing tenor? Ten or eleven miles away?”

    1. Polly Hedron*

      When I played “Long, Long Ago” as a child, my father asked if I could play “Far, Far Away”.

      1. OMG It's 2024*

        My children like to ask me, “Who sings that song?” and when I respond, “Artist name” they say, “Let’s keep it that way.”

        Jerks. I raised jerks.

    2. Betty Beep Boop*

      Have you considered going deep into the nearest forest when you want to tell a joke?

      … what, too harsh?

      Thanks to that kind of “humour” I didn’t sing at all, ever, anywhere including campfires, church, rock concerts, and the national anthem, for roughly 40 years. Starting at roughly age 5.

      My throat still closes up if I feel even slightly like other people can hear me and might judge me, it’s super awesome.

      I am completely unable to participate in one of the most lovely communal human activities in existence except by listening, and even that I can’t always really enjoy.

      The issue, as Alison correctly note, is that the singing has become disruptive. Nothing about this requires anyone to shame her for her singing.

  57. LB33*

    The part at the end of #2 gave me pause. If you’re saying that it might be difficult to find a similar job, are you really sure you’re willing to quit? If that wasn’t a factor I don’t think it would have been mentioned in the post…so food for thought before doing anything rash!

  58. Jennifer Strange*

    As someone who has sung professionally, there is a time and place for it. Unless you work in a theatre or recording studio your workplace likely is neither.

  59. Managing to get by*

    For LW 4. Years back I was laid off and was on unemployement. I got a job offer that didn’t start for almost 2 months. I called the unemployment office and talked to them about the situation. They were able to mark me as exempt from the 3 applications per week requirement since I was able to give them a start date for the job. I kept my unemployment benefits until the job started.

    Not sure if it would still work like this or if it is like this in every state. This was in Washington State in 2002. It might be worth checking into.

  60. I'm on Team Rita*

    Kudos to OP #1 for doing such a good job hiring! Like you said, of course there would be a few bumps, but finding someone who meshes with your work standards on your first hire, well, good on ya!

  61. Whyamihere*

    I very recently left a job because of a role change with no job lined up. I meant it when I said that I could not do the role without being remote or a raise. I was already miserable there due to the utter chaos within management and this was their reorganization to solve the entire team’s distrust. I even mentioned if I wanted to do this role I would have applied for the 2 remote positions that does this role. The only positive is I had just clicked over to getting my PTO bank at the beginning of the year so I got 3 weeks of PTO.
    It is not how I wanted to leave the company but I knew I was going to have to leave at some point.

  62. Just Thinkin' Here*

    OP #4 – if your job offer in March contingent on funding? You noted a funding cycle, but what is the funding itself falls apart? I would continue to look for a job that is secure, in my field, and could start with more secure footing. Otherwise, I would demand a sign-on bonus with the March job as you need something to carry you until then. You waiting 3-4 months is a long time to go without primary income.

  63. TootsNYC*

    #2: just start looking.
    You’re burned out, and your boss is taking advantage of you. And added this task without even talking to you about it first.

    Look for work, and leave in the middle of the project.

  64. Michelle Smith*

    LW1 – I’d keep in mind that if you use the legitimate complaint you’ve gotten from the other business in the workspace as your reasoning, this problem may recur if they are not in shop on a particular day or leave the location. You may want to think through how to address it with her if that happens. Maybe something like “I’ve realized I actually focus better without the music as well, so please continue wearing headphones even when it’s just us in the office.”

    LW2 – I think it’s important that you say that you will possibly struggle to find comparable work given your rural location. I’d be very careful about drawing a line in the sand about this manual unless or until you have confidence that you can withstand the financial blow from them taking your refusal as a resignation effective immediately. FWIW I did take a stand like this against an unreasonable demand and was able to continue working until I had a new job and quit a couple of months later. However, I’d been looking for a new job for a couple of years at that point and was in the late stages of some promising interview processes, as well as had a solid emergency fund and a backup plan for what I’d do for housing if that ran out.

  65. Susannah*

    Feds on this site – is this true when it comes to the foreign service? Is he not technically working from MD, for tax purposes? LW is working technically on US soil, if she/he is in an embassy or such. Does that translate to him at all?

    1. fhqwhgads*

      As far as I know, it does not translate to the husband. Unclear whether/why OP thinks it does.

  66. Practical Reasons*

    It’s not an HR problem if you ask her to stop skinging worship music, it’s actually a HR problem if you let it continue. Singing devotional songs when others cannot escape it, is a religious violation, and wholly inappropriate in the workplace. You should be within your rights to say that the singing is distracting others from doing their jobs, and she is free to listen to anything she wants with headphones, but not sing out loud.

    I would NOT tell the boss about Juan. It will make you look like a tattletale. The boss may find out about Juan on their own, but if they have information about him already, and they want to fire him, they could appear biased. Keep the information to yourself, and don’t tell Juan you talked to Emma. I’d do as she said, by keeping a log of all correspondence with Juan, no matter how minor. If he is as conniving as Emma says, it’s best to be prepared, even if something happens a year out.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      Passing along feedback from someone who previously worked with an employee is NOT “tattling”.

    2. ferrina*

      It is an HR problem if you treat religious music as different from non-religious music (religious discrimination). But if you ask her not to sing to any music, you’re fine.

      And “tattletale”? Huh? Tattletaling is a weird concept to begin with, and is usually enforced by people who would rather keep truth hidden. It makes me think of playground politics- peer pressure not to tell the teacher that someone is doing something dangerous, or even a lazy teacher who shoots the messenger because they don’t feel like disciplining kids (if no one tells you there’s a problem you don’t have to act on it). As an educator, I’d rather have kids give me more info than I need- I can always give them feedback on which information is relevant (“Tommy using a green crayon is fine- there’s forms of art where the sky can be green. Let’s talk about different styles of art!” or “Thank you for telling me about Morgan using a slur- I’ll have a chat with them and please let me know if this behavior continues”).

      Pass on the relevant information to the proper authority (i.e., boss) so they have information they may need. As a manager, I’d rather have the extra information that I don’t need rather than missing key information and giving the benefit of the doubt to someone who shouldn’t have it. I’d be very upset if my employee had this information but declined to share it because “tattling”. It’s a very Us vs The Boss mentality- I’d rather be on the same team (both as a boss and as an employee).

    3. Observer*

      I would NOT tell the boss about Juan. It will make you look like a tattletale.

      If I ever heard anyone in my office use that as an excuse for not passing on relevant information, I would never take them or their judgement seriously. This is not really appropriate is grade school, much less the work place.

      but if they have information about him already, and they want to fire him, they could appear biased

      How on earth is that supposed to work?

  67. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

    LW2, that was me.

    Many years ago, I was working for a large teapot manufacturer. My manager told me (and two other colleagues) that we had been assigned to another department for “the Project From Heck” (PFH).

    Without consulting each other, the first words we said were “I quit” (or some variation thereof), which also tell you how bad a reputation PFH had.

    Five minutes later, I started freaking out and wondering what I was going to tell Mrs. NoIWontFixYourComputer.

    Fortunately, our manager wasn’t happy about it all either, and somehow managed to intercede with upper management. None of us were reassigned, and fortunately, none of us suffered any repercussions. I think Grandboss wasn’t happy about it either.

    Your mileage may vary.

  68. Dido*

    Why do so many people insist on tiptoeing around and placating people who are being incredibly rude? You have to have 0 respect for the people around you to think it’s okay to sing in an office, I’d have no problem telling this person that they’re not the main character and need to be quiet

  69. OMG, Bees!*

    LW2, something like that happened to us years ago in IT. The boss decided he didn’t want to do after hours call so all techs (including myself) would be added to the on-call support, something we didn’t sign up for. Another tech and I refused outright, a 3rd quit (timing, he found a job with a significantly shorter commute), but that helped to get the boss to back off. His reasoning was fine, but saying we would give up sleep and still do a full day’s work without asking us was enough it required a push back

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Yea, that’s pretty much how I got saddled with my Saturday shift. Boss was the only one doing them, I took it off his plate to have *something* positive for my annual review, and I own it now.

      Weekends are overrated, anyway.

  70. Gateworlder*

    #5: This might be stretching it but are you near a U.S. military base, consulate, or embassy? If so, maybe your spouse’s company could rent space from these places. Also, does your spouse’s job have any type of government contract? I know this is out there.

  71. Username*

    For #5, look into companies like Remote or Oyster– they’re a workaround to allow employees in one country to work for employers elsewhere and they handle things like payroll, compliance, benefits, etc. If you’re in demand your employer might be willing to work with them, or you might be able to find another role through them.

  72. H3llifIknow*

    I have exactly ONCE in my 25+ year career said, “if you do X, I will leave.” They wanted me to interview someone for my team because “her resume looks so great!” And I said, “yeah, because it’s MINE that she substituted her own name on,” then I told them, that under no circumstances would I interview her, let alone hire her, and if they sent her resume to another team and THAT team hired her, I WOULD quit, which would make my client VERY UNHAPPY. She was put on the “DO NOT HIRE EVER” list. I left that company in 2016 and she’s still on that list. But, the caveat: I was truly willing and able (high demand field) to walk, because I’d have had another job before her first day. I don’t like ultimatums, because I feel like they don’t leave room for negotiation, compromise, whatever, but that one time… nope. I was DONE and it worked for me, but you have to be willing and able to walk if they call your bluff!

    1. I Have RBF*

      One time I worked for a company that sent unsolicited marketing email to everyone who had a registered domain listed in whois. This was spam, of the worst sort. Both myself and another person said “if this happens again, we’ll quit”. We meant it. The company backed off, because it wasn’t the only blowback – one of our related, sister companies was an anti-spam company…

    2. Coffee Protein Drink*

      Someone literally copied your resume? Just when I thought humans couldn’t surprise me anymore.

    3. Observer*

      I don’t like ultimatums, because I feel like they don’t leave room for negotiation, compromise, whatever, but that one time

      Makes sense – it sounds like there really was no room for any of that.

  73. Ms. Murchison*

    LW5, as someone who does hiring, if an applicant waited until the last minute to let us know this was their situation, I would consider blackballing them from future hiring. It is not a small thing and not a decision that the hiring team gets to make. I strongly recommend you follow the advice above re: researching for yourself what the implications are for US companies so your spouse can give the hiring team that information. They’ll still need to verify what he says, but it can change the tone of the conversation. That said, this is your situation, the answer may still be no because the company literally can’t make it work, and your spouse needs to roll with that, not engage in deception.

  74. Gyakuten Manager*

    Solidarity, LW4 – I had to keep doing my “job search activities” for a month after getting an offer somewhere I wanted to be. It’s just so tedious, and it doesn’t feel great.

    I still put in a good application or two at places I would want to be, but mostly I just put in lazy applications where they wouldn’t hire me anyway (I volunteered at Planned Parenthood, so if The 700 Club calls me for an interview that’s their own fault for not paying attention). Now that I’m a hiring manager again, it’s easy to spot people who are probably doing the same. Sucks for everyone involved until we have major improvements to the UI process.

  75. Mim*

    Ugh, I have been there with the unemployment gray zone. The job I finally found in this rural job desert after months required a background check. I had no concerns about that (I am a super boring rule follower, and haven’t ever received so much as a speeding ticket), but because of the time of year and some short staffing issues on their end (ironically including the job I was being hired for) it took about 6 weeks from conditional offer to start date.

    I was not in a position in my career or geographically to have the option to “shoot for the stars” or anything in the applications I was forced to make during those 6 weeks. So I was throwing my resume into the same kinds of black holes I had been, and applying for retail jobs with resumes and cover letters that screamed “overqualified person who will quit the second they have the chance” so they didn’t bother to try to hire me. This did include applying to Target online, filling out the personality assessment that was part of the process super truthfully (overly truthfully for one aspiring to be hired), and receiving an auto-reject email about 4 minutes later. Both proud and embarrassed about that one.

  76. Fez Knots*

    OP 4: Obviously clarify with unemployment services, but as a former social worker and pandemic unemployment recipient, the “job seeking activities” doesn’t just mean three applications a week. It could, but it also means literally job seeking activities, aka, meeting with an employment coach or speaking with a mentor. It could also mean signing up for a new online hiring board or enrolling (signing up for) a new job seeking website. (IE: Joining LinkedIn or participating in a freelancer’s network, etc.)

    Do you have a mentor or someone who could feasibly serve the role for a few weeks? Set up a weekly call with them and log that activity. Those kinds of activities usually meet the requirement and would cut down on the applications you’re submitting. Many of them also take no more effort and you may find speaking with a mentor at this time could be a great way to say goodbye to the old and usher in the new!

  77. Bopper*

    My spouse got a 3 year rotation to Germany and I asked my boss if I could work from Germany… he was happy because he thought I might quit. He said no problem. But then he looked into it…there are tax implications as was said…he wasn’t sure…but then it turned out we had an employee already in Germany so it all worked out nicely. My spouse’s company paid to do both of our tax returns.

  78. Raida*

    1. My employee is a terrible singer

    Explain it in terms of the noise being an issue, no out loud singing and “I wear headphones to block out the sound, and that’s fine with me. It would not be respectful, thoughtful or kind of our business to place the expectation on everyone else in the area to wear headphones.”

    I reckon that since it’s worship music, putting a little emphasis on whatever *values* are inherent in her belief system can go a long way. that could be anything from putting others first, to being modest

  79. tokyo salaryman*

    LW5 – it’s not just about finding a job that is OK with him working abroad, it’s also about whether he will have legal permission to do so in that country. What visa will he be on? If he is traveling as your dependent (so his right of residence depends on you), there may be restrictions on the work type or hours he can do. For example, in Japan, someone on a dependent visa can only work 28 hours a week.

  80. Freya*

    If you were Australian, this would have an effect on the tax withholding rates for your Australian employer. There’s a bunch of tests to determine whether you’re an Australian resident for tax purposes, working overseas for the short term, or a foreign resident for Australian tax purposes, working in another country for an Australian business. Because you’d be resident in another country for 2-3 years (as compared to less than 6 months), chances are good that you’d be considered a foreign resident for Australian tax purposes.

    It may also have an effect on payroll tax (a tax on large employers in Australia) – if you were normally working from NSW while resident in Australia and your employer was based in the ACT, your employer would add the value of your wages to the calculation for NSW payroll tax. When you move overseas, your employer would now pay payroll tax in the ACT on the value of your wages. It’s a Thing.

    Also, lots of businesses here have Opinions on the safety of data transfer through overseas servers. Whether that’s a valid concern or not is besides the point – it’s a concern they have. I can only work remotely from overseas if I VPN in to an Australian terminal, because the finance security systems my workplace uses are set up to prevent overseas access to client finances. We have clients that require all sensitive data to be stored within this country, because they can lose contracts otherwise.

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