managers don’t know we can read their “private” Slack channel, wife’s coworker is trampling our boundaries, and more

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

1. Managers don’t know we can all read their private Slack channel

I work for a small fully remote marketing agency. Our C-suite consists of three people with a Slack channel that they think is private but is not. In that channel, they often talk poorly about others in the company, including my former manager who has recently left. Recently, one of them posted my department’s salaries and raises and wrote some awful things about why some people got bigger raises than others — I was the only one in my department who got a smaller raise. We don’t have an HR department and I currently have no manager.

My question is how or even if I address the comments made about me in the Slack channel, and how do I do that without tipping off to them that the whole company knows about their open slack channel?

You can’t address the comments without tipping them off that their “private” channel is open to the whole company. So you’d need to decide whether or not that’s something you want to do. There’s an advantage to not tipping them off, in that you and others will continue to see their unvarnished thoughts about the rest of you — which gives you a very clear lens into the type of people you’re working for and how they view you.

Aside from this, are you happy there? Do you feel like being there is helping you professionally? Do you get useful feedback, interesting work, opportunities to advance your skills? How’s your quality of life? What kind of pay and benefits do you get? I’m asking all that because this seems like a real shit show — and unless the answers to those questions are glowing, the Slack channel is a sign to think about getting out, rather than anything you need to act on.

2. Wife’s coworker is trampling our boundaries

My wife, 39F, recently started a new job. She has been there three weeks and loves it. There is one coworker, Lisa (57F), who immediately tried to make my wife her friend. Last weekend, Lisa was constantly texting my wife asking her what her plans were for the weekend. She invited herself and actually came to our son’s basketball game, and tried also invite herself to our church. My wife said Lisa is fine at work but outside of work she seems to be obsessive. My wife has tried to set boundaries and they seem to continue to get broken. She doesn’t want to take her concern to HR but is beginning to feel that might be the only option. Do you have any advice for this situation? I’m beginning to stress out over this as well.

Update: I just reread all the text messages. I guess there haven’t been any real boundaries set. There will have to be some set real soon though!

That update came in response to me asking what kind of boundaries your wife had set so far, and your answer is exactly why I asked! So often in these situations, the person whose boundaries are being violated hasn’t really tried to assert any any yet. Often it’s because they feel they shouldn’t have to; since the other person’s behavior is outside of the social norm, it feels reasonable to expect they should just know they’re crossing lines. But clearly, they don’t — so yeah, your wife has to speak up. For example:

Lisa: I’d love to go to that basketball game with you — what time is it?
Wife: Weekends are family time for me, but I’ll see you at work on Monday!
Lisa: I live pretty close to you though; I could just pop by.
Wife: No, thank you. It’s important to me to keep work separate from the rest of my life. I will see you at the office.

I’d bet money that your wife feels holding firm like that would be a little rude, and that’s why she hasn’t said anything similar. That’s one of the ways boundaries get trampled: people worry that the language they’d need to use would feel rude. But it feels rude mostly because we don’t have to say things like that very frequently; when people mostly respect your boundaries, it’s not often that you have to be this direct. But it’s actually kinder to Lisa in the long run if your wife is clear about what is and isn’t welcome behavior, so that Lisa doesn’t spend weeks/months inadvertently pissing off your wife. (And totally aside from kindness to Lisa, your wife has the standing to set whatever limits she wants on her off-hours.)

If your wife is hesitant to do this, remind her that if she skips this step and goes straight to HR, the first thing they’re going to ask is whether she’s done that yet — and if she hasn’t, they’re going to suggest that as the first step.

Your wife might enjoy this:
my needy boss wants me to “adopt” her (and the update)

3. How to answer “describe a time when you disagreed with your boss”

I am gearing up to interview at a company, and a number of my friends there have given me a heads-up that I will be asked a number of behavioral interview questions. One I’m racking my brains on how to answer is, “Describe a time when you disagreed with your manager.” Honestly, I can think of many times when I’ve had a difference of opinion with my boss; but most of them boil down to, “I wanted to do this thing that made sense to me in my position, they said no, so I complied” or “My manager told me to do this thing I knew wouldn’t make sense, but they are my boss, so I did it.” The thing is, this is a small, insular industry, so chances are good that whatever I say will be passed along to my current (hopefully former before long) supervisor.

What is the proper way to respond to this query? What kind of answers does one give that don’t make your current boss look bad or paint the speaker in a poor light?

The key is to leave the judgment out of it. For instance: “My boss wanted to do X, but I was concerned it had downsides we weren’t considering. I figured my job was to explain the downsides I was concerned about and the reasons I thought Y could be better, and then leave it to her to make the final call. She heard me out about my concerns but ultimately ended up choosing X, so that’s what I implemented. I thought the two important pieces for me were making sure she had all the information and then moving forward with the option she chose.”

4. Dream job cancelled after interviews and technical projects

I’m a software engineer and I was interviewing at my “dream company.” I know that concept is kind of BS, but this is truly a company I admire greatly.

Their interview process is known to be a bit involved: since I’m in a fullstack role, I had to do a project for frontend and backend. Each project took about two hours. Then, I had to do two rounds of live coding for 90 minutes each. I also had one behavioral interview. So overall, I sank about eight hours into the process over two weeks. I had no problem investing all this time in such a great company, but I just got an email that the job posting has been cancelled due to budget cuts!

It just seems shocking to me that a well-regarded company would open a position in mid-December, have hundreds of people apply, put people through all those interviews, and then close the posting just like that. It honestly makes me lose a lot of respect.

Is there something I’m missing? Should I write off this company in the future, or should I forgive them and still apply if I see their postings? I’ve been trying to get into this company for years, and I always used to apply to every job I saw from them.

It’s a pretty normal thing to happen. It’s unlikely that they went through all that hiring work for the hell of it — more likely, they had every reason to think they’d be hiring and then something changed (funding unexpectedly lost, project cancelled, strategy needs to shift, key person on team lost and replacing them is a higher priority, etc.). It sucks when you’re caught up in it, but it’s not a shocking occurrence.

That said, that’s a lot of project work to ask from candidates, even if they had ended up hiring someone for the job. Maybe that’s a typical amount in software engineering, I don’t know — but from outside the field it looks excessive.

5. Office-appropriate hats

I’ve been rocking the shaved head look for a while, but I’ve decided to grow my hair out and I can’t figure out how to look less….scruffy. I work in a pretty casual office, so I generally throw on a neutral beanie and call it a day, but are there any other options? I’m assuming a baseball cap is totally out, and I would feel silly wearing a fedora. I’m so close to shaving my head again and suffering through the negative temperature. Any ideas? (I’m a man.)

I am admittedly not up on hats so maybe there’s something I’m missing (hat-savvy readers are welcome to weigh in!) but I think you’ve exhausted the office-appropriate choices. One thing you could try is talking to a hair stylist about ways to look less scruffy while your hair is growing in; they’re often good about figuring out how to do that.

{ 486 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I see lots of hat suggestions coming in! So they don’t take over the thread, I’m going to consolidate them here. Please put any additional hat commentary as replies to this thread.

        1. Shannon*

          I’m here to suggest/defend berets and flat caps for people of all genders. They can look pretty great casual or dressy.

          My local haberdasher has wool berets for about $20US (and a couple cotton in the same range if you’re not into wool) and they come in every color you could want. The flat caps have fewer colors and cost a bit more, but are still versatile.

            1. Elle by the sea*

              Nah, I have worn berets in Ireland so many times and no one said a word. (I’m a woman.) But I think hats are strictly outdoors wear. If I were a man, I would go with a fedora, but if OP feels uncomfortable with, then that’s probably not the right choice. It’s worth a try though.

              1. amoeba*

                Yeah, I was wondering – is that a European thing? For me, any hat inside the office (or, you know, inside in general) looks weird, no matter how formal or informal the environment. I guess it’s a holdover from the olden times when it was considered impolite not to take your hat off when stepping inside!

                1. londonedit*

                  I’m with you (and I’m in the UK) – any hat worn indoors just feels off to me. I guess a dark-coloured close-fitting beanie would be the least noteworthy option – you do sometimes see people wearing beanies indoors – but a flat cap would be something you’d take off when you come in, same with any other sort of hat. Maybe not a baseball cap, but then those are very casual and probably not office-wear anyway.

                2. Emmy Noether*

                  yeah, I had the same reaction (reinforced by years of teachers telling students to take off their caps so they can see faces).

                  The internet says it is indeed a rule (though possibly historically not as much for women? Which makes sense if the hairstyle was built for the hat), but it seems to have somewhat fallen by the wayside along with formal hat wearing and the rules around that in general. The LW doesn’t seem concerned with it, so… they probably know their local culture best, I’d say.

                3. Selina Luna*

                  This isn’t true everywhere in the United States, either. I live in New Mexico, and hats indoors regardless of job are extremely common here. I have teacher coworkers who wear flat caps on a daily basis, as part of their daily “uniform.” On the other hand, I have a friend who worked in Texas for a while, and a male teacher without a necktie was deeply frowned upon, and a hat would have been terribly disrespectful, according to some folks there. I don’t understand that, personally, since he taught early elementary, and little kids pull on ties, but that’s just Texas, I guess. I would have gotten in deep trouble for dying my hair purple there. No one cares here.

                4. WillowSunstar*

                  It can be a religious thing. I’ve known people of various religions, some which are sects of Christianity, who wear hats indoors.

                  I’d think otherwise it would depend on the company’s dress code, if there is one.

                5. ypsi*

                  I don’t think it’s a European thing.
                  I am in Canada and I work for a large software corporation (I happen to work in the headquarters office). Employees in technical roles (such as development or tech support) who do not face customers usually dress in a very relaxed manner, pretty much anything goes as long as your attire is dirty or torn (I don’t think I have seen anyone wear those types of jeans that you purchased with holes in the knee area etc. but I can’t swear on it).
                  It is not unusual to see a man working in a beanie and I bet nobody would blink at a baseball hat either.
                  But that is just our company – you will have to determine what is acceptable at yours or perhaps have a private chat with your manager and ask him if a beanie would be OK etc.
                  Good luck!
                  It’s not that

              2. Quinalla*

                In the US, military personnel in uniform will remove their hats inside as a rule. I will say older men still do too, but most don’t follow this etiquette rule anymore. For women, wearing hats indoors is totally fine etiquette-wise in the US.

                And yes, schools generally don’t allow hats. That is moreso to prevent cheating and not being able to see where the kids are looking :)

                1. Database Developer Dude*

                  Except -all- military personnel (other than those of us under arms in an official capacity, like military police on duty)….will remove headgear, not just males.

                  I’d advise the OP to take Alison’s advice and just go to a good hair stylist to avoid looking scruffy. It’s not worth the arguments that will start if he tries wearing any hat inside.

                2. Sharpie*

                  Historically, men took their hats off indoors, women didn’t when calling on friends (they’d often be pinned to the hairstyle). The military follows this convention and remove their headdress indoors – the British military does the same as the US armed forces in this regard.

                  I don’t think the etiquette these days is so rigid outside the military.

                3. zuzu*

                  Considering how many people pass on the right these days, I think we’ve descended into anarchy, and hat-wearing rules are a quaint relic.

                  Now, white shoes after Labor Day…

              3. EmmaPoet*

                Traditionally speaking, men only wear hats outside. Women could wear them in their offices (there are some great photos of women magazine editors wearing fabulous hats while seated at their desks) but men took them off when they came inside.

            2. Random Dice*

              “Props to anyone who tries to be fashionable in ireland i wore a red beret once in waterford and someone called me super mario”


          1. Dek*

            Flat caps are wonderful! My Dad wears one kind of a lot, and when I went to college and (thankfully) lost my floppy, anime-pin-covered hat for a few months, I swiped one of his, and it’s been my signature ever since.

            …I know technically etiquette is to remove them inside, but…comfy.

        2. Quantum Possum*

          Yesssss, berets!

          Especially the raspberry ones. You know, the kind you find at a secondhand store?

            1. Quantum Possum*

              Even in my office job, I’m usually busy doing something close to nothing (but different from the day before).

          1. CommanderBanana*

            There was a fabulous secondhand store in Boston called Raspberry Beret – not sure it’s still there but I loved visiting.

        3. Marzipan Shepherdess*

          Berets are one of the fashion classics – timeless, flattering and comfortable! LW5, go with a beret; they come in all fabrics and fabric weights, so you can find one to fit every season and they’ll make you look dashing. In fact, you may want to continue wearing them even after your hair has grown out to the length you want just because they give you a polished, pulled-together look!

        1. MapleHill*

          I had to google “flat cap” as I’ve never heard that before, but it’s what I was going to suggest. I call it a newsboy hat (maybe because of Newsies?). I think these are so stylish and professional enough for the office.

          Cowboy hat? The owner at my old job always wore his (p.s. I’m in Texas).

          Funny how it’s so odd to see a hat in a professional setting nowadays. Even as a woman, I’d feel weird wearing any kind of hat, even a fancy one (and trust me, there are days I’d love to hide my hair), even though that used to be considered more formal.

          1. Banana Pyjamas*

            News boy hat is slightly different. It has a round cap, with a light puff, and the cap doesn’t come over the brim.

      1. ad astra per aspera*

        Another vote for flat cap—my husband has a wool plaid one that he wears (as an example) when we’re doing slightly more dressed up sightseeing on a trip.

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I was just realizing that I have no idea the name of the style of hat my brother wears, and then I see your comment “flat cap?”, realized I don’t know what that is either, and lo and behold they are one and the same! I do think flat caps are pretty work appropriate and quite stylish to boot. My brother actually has a few that belonged to our grandfather and it’s always fun to see him wearing one of grandpa’s old hats.

        1. londonedit*

          Flat caps are professional looking? I’m guessing you’re not in the UK? Here flat caps are associated with a) the North and b) outdoor activities – a flat cap is usually tweed and was traditionally a working-class hat, but they were/are also worn by men striding about the countryside in Barbour jackets. I wouldn’t think of a flat cap as being particularly professional office wear – you don’t wear them indoors.

          1. Jezebella*

            In the US the flat cap is dapper and not quite “dressy” but appropriate for office wear. Woodsy folks hear wear ballcaps and beanies.

            1. Magenta*

              In the UK they are associated with the working class or with posher people dressing down because they are outside, perhaps taking part in shooting or fishing and wearing corduroy or tweed. They are heavily associated with the North, which as an area is looked down on by snobs who live in London and the Home Counties.
              They are certainly not traditionally office wear or in any way smart and it would be really odd to wear one indoors.

              1. Rainy*

                I wear hats when I’m outside about 90% of the time because I sunburn easily but for some reason moved to one of the sunniest cities in the US (I’m trying to get back to the PNW where I can be comfortable again), and from fall to spring most of the time it’s flat caps. I buy my flat caps from an Irish weavers’ collective. :)

                But I don’t wear them indoors–the women’s hats indoors thing is for hats that are accessories rather than hats that are functional. If I were wearing a skirt suit and matching pillbox a la Jackie O (or Dr Girlfriend), I’d wear my hat indoors at work. Since I wear functional hats, I take them off at work.

          2. Tupac Coachella*

            I’m in the US, and can confirm that flat caps can be considered professional here. I have a coworker that I actually worked with in two different settings who routinely wears flat caps (I’m actually not sure what he looks like without one) and he’s one of the most professional looking people in the building. He pairs it with an overall “aging professor” aesthetic – wool vests, corduroy elbow patches, that kind of thing- which works out especially well if you have a younger look (comes across as stylish rather than stodgy).

            1. Banana Pyjamas*

              Yes. Flat caps are really common in Chicago. According to google they’re also called Boston caps, so I assume they’re common there as well. Flat caps are much more closely tied to Ireland in the US than they are to the north of England.

          3. Itsa Me, Mario*

            USian here: I don’t think a flat cap is business formal at all, but in a business casual office I think it would be fine. I’m not a hat indoors kind of person, but I see people wear them and it seems OK enough to me.

            There’s no particular class signifier in the US with flat caps, aside from maybe the Kangol hat as a signifier of a certain kind of hip-hop culture adjacent look which might be too “street” for some offices. Or just seem out of place on a middle aged white guy who works a white collar corporate job.

          4. Cam*

            The reason they’re ok in the US is that anything British is slightly classy to the US audience, regardless of the original regional/class connotations. US rural/outdoorsy is a baseball cap (camo print or John Deere). The risk is looking affected.

      3. OMG, Bees!*

        Also a man, I wear a lot of beanies and also notice others wearing beanies a lot. I know you are probably looking for variety, but I want to say a beanie is fine. Maybe try a few more colors.

      4. Not Always Right*

        Personally, I LOVE a fedora, especially on a man. I also think they look great on woman. I get lots of compliments when I wear mine.

    1. Jeannie*

      For OP 5.
      I’m assuming that if you are no on a fedora you’d feel similarly about a trilby, but just in case – they have a similar look with a narrower brim and can look awesome. Or you could consider a flat cap, which would probably work if the material of the cap was good quality.

      1. John Smith*

        I’d second the fedora, a popular choice in my department. Though the people who were them tend to be on the quirky side!

        1. Azalea Bertrand*

          I assume the reason for no fedora is the ‘nice guy’ trope. It’s such a thing that unfairly or not, I (and many other femme presenting people) pretty much expect any man in a fedora to be somewhat unpleasant until proven otherwise.

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              There is a meme about twenty years old of youngish guys wearing fedoras thinking it makes them cool like Bogart or Sinatra, while actually making them look like total dorks. It also ties in with the “nice guy” phenomenon, of the guy who can’t get a date, or at least not a second date, and can’t figure out why, what with his being such a nice guy. The nice guy bit varies, but can manifest itself with flamboyant, awkwardly executed, outdated dating rituals like showing up for a first date with a big bouquet of flowers, i.e. trying too hard. The fedora-wearing nice guy is not necessarily incel, but he has at least one foot on that path.

              I have worn hats with full brims for decades. They usually are not fedoras, but often are close enough that only hat nerds understand the distinction. I also am old enough that I think I dodge the “nice guy” image and fall in “old guy” territory. It likely helps that I am married with teenagers. But a guy in his twenties is taking a risk. This is a pity. Fully brimmed hats are extremely practical, keeping both sun and light rain off your head and neck.

              1. Nobby Nobbs*

                Having been in high school (and internet comment sections less well-moderated than this one) during the relevant period, I’d describe the hypothetical guy’s dating attempts less as “awkward” and more as “tips his trilby-which-he-calls-a-fedora, calls you milady, corners you with a lecture on how feminism oppresses men, is shocked when that doesn’t make your panties fly off.” Fair or not, the association exists. See also Pick Up Artists, Gamergate.

                1. CommanderBanana*

                  Oh god – yes, the Milady. And the all-black shirt/vest combo with a leather trench coat.

                  My vote is for flat cap if you think a baseball hat is too casual. My Gpop was bald and almost always wore a flat cap outside of the house until they decamped to Florida, where the flat cap was swapped for a linen bucket hat. Very stylish. :)

                2. Richard Hershberger*

                  I spent the first twenty years of my adult life in the SCA, where “milady” is a socially appropriate, even neutral word. I would never have occurred to me to use it outside the SCA context. So yay younger me: not totally clueless!

              2. Dasein9 (he/him)*

                To my grief, I bought a very good trilby right before they became the symbol of the Nice Guy (TM). It’s in a hat box and waiting for the time I can wear it without that connotation. I dunno. . . I’m 54 now, so maybe it’s time to break it out again.

            2. Emmy Noether*

              There’s a certain type of man who fancies himself Sinatra, but with none of the actual talent, and is hurt and confused when a hat does not make him a “chick magnet”. I think the phenomenon is already waning, though.

          1. Beebis*

            Bad men and bad 2010s fashion ruined this hat. Honestly I would find a fedora in my office in 2024 so much stranger and attention grabbing than some head scruff

      2. Miette*

        For your consideration: a porkpie hat. If skanking breaks out in the cubicles, you cannot be held accountable.

      1. Quantum Possum*

        Several of my male coworkers rock driver caps, and I love how they look (the hats, not my coworkers, although they’re not bad themselves but also ewww).

    2. Persephone Mulberry*

      #5 – Huh. I (a 40something woman) think of a beanie as at least as, if not more, casual than a baseball cap. I think I see them about equally in my “pretty far on the casual end of business casual” office.

      1. Halley*

        it depends on the kind of beanie I guess – a standard acrylic/woolly or baggy beanie is ultra casual, something more textured/expensive-looking and neutral coloured like a ‘fisherman’ beanie could at least look more intentional rather than like you’ve left your outerwear on by accident.

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

        I think part of what makes baseball caps feel even more casual to me is that they’re usually branded. There are definitely casual workplaces where a clean, plain, non-graphic shirt would be totally OK, but a graphic tee would not be. To me, a baseball cap is the equivalent of a graphic tee.

        1. Matthew*

          Yes, and an unbranded one from an upscale retailer might sneak by on this side of “too casual” in the right workplace. There was some retailer that was following me around the internet with a $100 wool baseball cap that was really attractive, but out of my headwear price range. That would have likely been okay in my (overall casual) office, whereas a baseball cap with an actual baseball team logo would not.

        2. LWH*

          This is actually why baseball caps are the MOST professional hat to me, because I’ve worked in offices where they gave out hats branded with THEIR logo, and that makes them look more natural in the office because they match other logos around and look less like “Jeff just wants to wear his Green Bay Packers hat” and more like “corporate spirit”. If LWs company has branded baseball caps that’s the way to go. Lots of people wear them at my company and it looks different than just wearing any other hat.

      3. WillowSunstar*

        I live in the upper Midwest. Generally, we only wear beanies during the cold months, and not commonly indoors. The only exceptions I have seen are chemo caps, but those are rare.

      4. Clare*

        I’d agree they’re equally casual, but there isn’t really a subculture around beanies the way there is around baseball hats. You can get generic branded baseball caps, but there’s also ones that are very much intended to make a statement. Hence there’s a possibility people might wonder if you’re trying to make half a statement even in a plain one if they’re not a normal sight in your office. Probably they wouldn’t. But they could. I’m not aware of a way beanies can be interpreted other than ‘I want to cover up my head and I’m not too concerned about how that affects my silhouette. I just wanna be comfortable’.

    3. Gretta Swathmore*

      Why can’t you wear a nice baseball hat? Like a high-end golf type one? One with your college or company name on it? That seems better than a ski hat. Flat caps are a bit hipster/trying too hard, but that’s just me. I honestly think you’re probably best going no hat. Hair grows surprisingly fast, you may only look weird-ish a week or two. Good luck! Fashion questions are the best askamanager questions to me, thanks!

      1. Junior Assistant Peon*

        I wear a company promotional baseball cap to work frequently. Nobody will question your hat if it has your own company’s logo on it.

      2. Judge Judy and Executioner*

        One of the people reporting to me frequently wears a baseball cap in the office. It doesn’t bother me at all. If someone at my work said anything about it to me, I’d point out he does good work, is not in a customer facing role, and the office dress code is casual. It is also usually a hat with the company logo, but even if it wasn’t, I still don’t care.

        If it was a person who was more junior in their career, I might approach this slightly differently. I still wouldn’t care about the hat, but if someone was new to the office environment, I might share office norms. Something about dressing for the job they want, and share perceptions that others may have about baseball caps in the office. But at the end of the day, it’s their head and their decision.

      3. Jezebella*

        This. The Boy Lawyer in my office wears those golf-style baseball caps a lot. They’re fitted and neutral, occasionally with a country club logo or the like. My bf, a teacher, has an array of no-logo neutral-toned ballcaps, also fitted. Try to avoid the Ashton Kutcher Von Dutch meshback vibe, and you’re good.

      4. morethantired*

        I was going to suggest asking if it was okay to get a baseball cap or beanie made with the company logo. Where I work is very casual and we’re all remote, so it’s okay if you’re on video in internal meetings in baseball caps or beanies. It’s in the handbook that if, for some reason, we’re wearing a hat on video in a client meeting, it has to be the company logo hat. (other head coverings are covered in a different section because of course there are a ton of special considerations)

        1. Clare*

          Ahh the old “No Aaron, just because Sarah wears a hijab every day doesn’t mean it was appropriate for you to put on a branded Dee’s Nuts cap for the client meeting this morning.”

      5. Starbuck*

        I think this totally varies by region; here in the PNW it’s common to wear a beanie indoors in the winter and shoulder seasons, unless you’re in a very professional place (like a bank). But in most offices it would be fine. Here a “ski hat” would be like a very chunky knit beanie with a colorful pattern and pompom and extra head room on top, and that would be odd to wear inside. For every day wear I usually see men with a much more simple and fitted beanie that often doesn’t even cover their ears (tiny hat, lol).

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this. And it also depends on how fast your hair grows. I (F) can count on a growth of more than half an inch per month, my husband rocks the shaved head look and he shaves his scalp about once a week. He has classic male pattern baldness, so his hair doesn’t really look scruffy even if it grows out a bit.

      2. office hobbit*

        I think this is the best approach tbh (or done in conjunction with a hat), and unless you’re growing your hair out to shoulder length, the awkward stage shouldn’t last too long. I grew my hair from a pixie to ponytail length and a stylist kept it looking reasonably nice throughout the process.

    4. talos*

      As a man who regularly cuts my hair down to like…a 1… very short hair is honestly not that scruffy-looking, and I wouldn’t worry that much while it grows in.

      Also I would like to say that ballcaps that are clean and have either no logo, clothing-company logos, or your company’s logo hit me as much more dressed-up than a beanie.

      1. WellRed*

        I thought this. At first, I assumed LW was a woman going for longer hair. LW, just ride it out! Hats inside will draw far more attention and in mist places be an oddity.

    5. Zombeyonce*

      I’m pretty partial to pork pie hats. They’ve got the coverage of a fedora but less baggage, and I think they look pretty snazzy.

      If you want to go with a more old-school accessory, a bowler is nice and warmer than a lot of hats since it’s a thick felted material without the holes of a pork pie.

      1. Inkhorn*

        Another vote for a bowler. I have a vintage one which is my go-to hat for winter, and which has made an appearance at the office a time or two.

        (I’m a woman btw – bowlers are for all genders!)

        1. Goldfeesh*

          And you can look like a reporter investigating the paranormal and unexplained in ‘70s Chicago too!

    6. Skittles*

      OP 5 I don’t have any useful suggestions but want to flag my solidarity! I’m currently growing my hair back after losing it during chemotherapy last year and it’s at that super awkward phase where it just looks really messy and shapeless. Unfortunately as a woman and working in finance I don’t have many office appropriate headwear options plus it’s summer here so most things are too hot. I’m heading to the hairdresser next week to get the sides buzzed a bit so that it looks tidier and a bit more intentional.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        I’m partial to a nice bucket hat or cloche, myself. So warm! I especially like the flapper kind of look a cloche gives, it works just as well with a nice dress as it does with jeans.

        1. JSPA*

          For a man who intends to present as a man, I’m guessing it takes quite a lot of style and attitude to pull off a bucket hat / cloche.

          1. Random Dice*

            It really does! I have that style and attitude, and even so I save my cloche hats for certain occasions.

            1. IneffableBastard*

              What do you wear them with? I think they look awesome but I don’t know how to pair them with an outfit.

      2. Allison K*

        Light cotton headwrap or headscarf? There’s some good YouTube tutorials for casual hijabi looks that work well for non-Muslims – the key is showing neck.

        1. Anax*

          Wrapunzel might also be worth a look for inspiration/tutorials – largely from a Jewish tichel perspective rather than hijab, so slightly different fashion trends.

          (And congrats on recovery, Skittles!)

          1. Marley's Ghost*

            As an ethnically half-Jewish woman who is currently undergoing chemotherapy and enjoying headscarves… thank you so much for the reminder about Wrapunzel!

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

          Yeah I cover my hair for religious reasons in certain contexts, and would suggest a kerchief as a starter!

      3. EllenD*

        I knew a woman with alopecia (baldness) in her 20s and she wore colourful silk scarves tied around her head and these always looked great. There must be on-line tutorials on how to tie/pin such scarves. She worked in the UK civil service and no-one had problems with this. In winter weather she had a warm hat for outside.

      4. Blarg*

        I’m at the beginning of this journey. Just buzzed my head as was losing my nearly waist length hair due to chemo. I have no interest/energy for wigs, but yeesh my scalp is pretty gnarly. Turns out the psoriasis I’ve had on it left scarring and is flaring up again with the chemo and I assume the cold spell much of the US has been experiencing.

        Fortunately, I crochet, so I’ve just been making my own beanies and entertaining myself that way, but wasn’t expecting my scalp to be quite so unpresentable. I figure when it warms up, I’ll switch to scarves.

    7. Kerchief*

      I had a friend who wore a handkerchief tied around their head for a couple of weeks. It was still pretty casual, so may not be the right thing, but looked more fashion-intentional than a beanie because they color coordinated it as an accessory and such. Maybe people do that with beanies, too, now that I think about it, so maybe that’s not helpful, but I wanted to throw it out there!

    8. Kelsey*

      Stetson Stratoliner – it’s been a classic since the forties for a reason, it looks good on everyone! Welcome to hats!

    9. Azalea Bertrand*

      LW, I’m a woman who has grown out a shaved head in the office multiple times. The trick to not looking scruffy is styling: I highly recommend investing in some styling products and an appointment with a hair stylist who can show you how to use them. You might have some luck by growing it longer on top and getting a fade from a trendy barber until you have a bit of length, then start growing the sides. Will all depend on the shape of your face, head, features etc so absolutely echoing Alison’s advice to speak to a professional!

    10. DannyG*

      I was going to say flat cap (I have a couple I picked up in Ireland I wear golfing & hiking). Another thought would be cloth scrub caps. Options there run from plain black to humorous prints and start around $10 on line.

    11. Lorax*

      Definitely flat cap/Newsies-style cap. I worked next door to a law firm where one of the attorneys wore a flat cap all day every day. (This was in the US.) It was just his look, and no one ever questioned it or commented on it. I think a flat cap stands out a lot less than a fedora or other type of hat that has any kind of height to it: they’re a lot less formal or vintage-looking.

    12. JSPA*

      not a hat suggestion, but this situation is pretty much what the length selector on a beard-hair-body hair trimmer is for. If you’ve been shaving with a non-electric razor, I suppose you might not have one…but it won’t set you back more than a couple of simple hats will.

      Use it every week or two, depending on speed of growth.

      Top and front with the longest option that will trim anything. Side and back with the next shorter length (if there is one), or else same as top and front.

      Eventually, nape and by ears with one down from that, when there is one.

      Then it’s merely very short, not scruffy, and there’s nothing to hide.

      Alternatively, assuming what’s most bushy and uneven is the edges and sides, a sports-type headband could work.

    13. Susan Calvin*

      This might be completely not your style, but when my spouse went through the same issue, the answer wasn’t hats, but pomade!

      We actually fell down a bit of a research and shopping hole regarding old school hair-care and styling, and you might want to find a barber near you who leans into that aesthetic a bit to try out some stuff, because the variety of both textures and scents is delightful but slightly overwhelming.

    14. CJ Teapot*

      As another person who went from chemo-bald back to long hair while working, I’m also chiming in for working with a hairdresser. I used pomades and styling waxes for a while during the most unruly stages. I’m sure my management would’ve let me wear hats during the transition, but I would’ve felt self-conscious as the only person in the company wearing them.

    15. Anonymoose*

      There’s a guy in my office who regularly wears a Kangol type hat and I think it looks nice and fits in fine in our business casual place.

    16. Boss Scaggs*

      G0ogle “Brian’s Hat” and watch that skit for what kind of hat you probably don’t want to wear

      1. slippers*

        100%! Some of the suggestions for hats have been pretty out of the norm for a casual office. By all means wear an unusual hat, but you do risk being Brian …

    17. Oolie*

      One non-hat suggestion: Start growing it out 3 or 4 days before a vacation, if you can, or even a long weekend. The scruffiest look tends to be around the 5 or 6 day point, so the worst of it will happen away from work. You end up with about 1 bad day before and 1 or 2 bad days after.

      And I second the advice to talk to your barber or stylist. My teenage son recently decided to change his look and his stylist had some great ideas that we hadn’t thought of about easing into a new style.
      Sometimes continuing to trim the sides and letting the top grow out is a good transition to growing it out all over.

    18. Jay*

      OP #5, do you work in an office where a nice Newsboy Cap would fit in?
      I find that, depending on what your head looks like, they are a nice middle ground between you baseball cap/beanie type of super casual hat and your cowboy hat/fedora category of “there’s, like, four people who can actually pull of this look, and I’m not one of them” hat.

    19. mb*

      there are many versions of the flat cap but also some very dressy baseball caps that are wool and have a tweed look to them, which i think would be about the same level of dressiness as a beanie.

    20. op #5*

      wow, thanks all! i’m learning so much about hats, which is a treat in and of its self.

      some things i left out:
      – i aim to have a more androgynous look, so my goal is to grow my hair out a lot
      – i try to wear a snug beanie, since in my brain it looks less casual than something loose
      – i often work remotely, which might change the entire premise. as a side note a blurred background is great for pretending you’ve had a hair cut!

      i think overall i just need to bite the bullet and go get a trim a little more often, but i’m definitely going to be trying on every hat mentioned! very appreciate of all of the ideas!

      1. office hobbit*

        Since you’re growing it out a lot–the most awkward stage will probably be when it’s right around ear-length. Gel/pomade and bobby pins will be your friend. There are some intentional ways to style even this length. Once you can tie the top part back like Aragorn in Return of the King, it’s smooth sailing. Have fun!

      2. Lenora Rose*

        Flat caps and berets can be unisex. I wore a flat cap pretty much through university and a few years after, and I present female. I keep wanting to find another good one.

        Even if the goal is to grow out the hair as a whole, there are some tricks a hairdresser can do that will remove minimal hair and still give it a more even look.

        1. JustaTech*

          Yes on berets!
          I (woman) wear one as outwear, but when I think about berets on men I think either dapper French men or Jamie Hyneman of Mythbusters, who always wore his hat indoors a well as out.

          I personally think that soft hats work better indoor because they’re less obtrusive than a structured had like a bowler.

      3. Clare*

        Gel is another option. A high-hold gel or wax paste can be ruffled through the hair to give a sort of ‘intentionally scruffy but still styled to an intentional shape’ look. You can get yourself from ‘short back and sides’ length all the way to ‘small man bun’ length with strong hold wax. I know because my partner does this with every single hair cut before he gets around to visiting the hairdresser, and has done for years without comment. His Mother has short hair and uses the same stuff. I think she taught him how to use it, and they compare brands which is a bit cute :)

        From what I can see he has a tin with ‘Matte Wax – super strong hold’ written on it and he just smears it on both hands, scrunches it through his hair, smooths the sides and walks out the door – for weeks, until his hair at the front is too heavy for the wax and starts flopping into his eyes, then he gets a cut. For you at that point you’d be able to start tying it back and you’d be set. Hats are cool too, just thought I’d offer you another option for your fashion arsenal.

    21. HonorBox*

      If you’re going to pick a hat, I’d say a neutral (non-branded) beanie or a flat paigeboy type hat. Depending on your workplace, though, a baseball cap is probably OK, especially if it is a unique brand/location or a local team. You’ll probably have more conversation with a baseball cap, so be aware of that, since people will want to talk about the park, or the team’s success.

      But if you’re worried about not wanting to wear a hat at all times (or even if you’re not) I’d strongly second the suggestion about talking to a stylist. Even a chain place (Cost Cutters, Sports Clips) would have someone who can help shape the hair so it is growing in stylishly.

    22. Nathan*

      Our company store sells nice, company-branded baseball caps. I bought one and wear it to work pretty much every day. Nobody bats an eye. However, I did forget it once and a co-worker commented that he was surprised by my hair because he assumed I wore a hat because I was balding. Nope! I just like the way it looks. That’s pretty much the only comment I’ve gotten on it.

    23. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I am female, but have Merida hair, and it defies gravity until it is past shoulder length (which is why I spent high school being called Ronald McDonald by assholes). My folks cut it super short when I was too young to have much say, and kept it that way because everyone else in my family has stick-straight super fine hair. When I finally put my foot down and decided I was growing it out, I got one last super short cut (May of 1999) and spent the next two years wearing flat caps and bandanas, depending on the circumstances, until my hair got long enough to be tameable. And other than the occasional trim (which I do myself), nobody has come near my hair with scissors since then. (When I go to a stylist for a blowout or similar, the young ladies ask how long I’ve been growing my hair, and the answer is invariably “longer than you’ve been alive.”)

      1. Jay (no, the other one)*

        My daughter has curly hair. She was billiard-ball-bald as a baby so this didn’t become evident until she was about 14 months old. My hair was always stick-straight and wouldn’t even hold a curl when I wanted it to so I had no idea what to do with hers. When she was 3 my stylist gave her an absolutely adorable bob with bangs and by the time she was 6 she was adamant about letting it grow. So we let it grow and I educated myself. By the time she was 8 and needed a bun for ballet class we’d both figured it out. Mostly.

        And in one of those twists of fate that the universe loves so much….I had gastric bypass surgery when she was 17. There is inevitable hair loss afterwards. Since my hair has always been thick, it wasn’t evident to anyone except me and my stylist. A year post-op I couldn’t get my hair to look decent. It was about chin-length and drove me nuts so I asked my stylist for a pixie – and discovered my hair had grown back curly. So then my daughter helped me learn how to manage it.

    24. Dek*

      I wear a basic flatcap.

      I used to just take it off and put it on a hook on my cubicle, but my manager said I could wear it if I wanted to, and I kind of do (tbh, it…may be a neurodiverse thing? I’ve worn one for nearly 2 decades now, so I feel weird/uncomfortable without it).

      It’s not quite as Statement as a fedora, but it can look a little dressy. I’d stay away from the ones with stripes, or with a button on the top (the former look kinda try-hard, the latter are fine, but can look a little floppier/sloppier).

    25. Barefoot Librarian*

      #5 – I would second the suggestion to talk with your hairstylist (or a hairstylist if you don’t have one yet since you’ve been shaving so long!). Any stylist worth their salt will know how shape even the shortest of hair so it’ll look neater coming in. My son used to regularly shave his head and then grow it back, so we had a few of those conversations with stylists when he was a teen. A little tidying up and maybe some product will get you through that awkward growth stage.

    26. fhqwhgads*

      In my experience even normally-hat-averse offices are ok with a baseball hat if it’s company branded, so if on the off-chance you have one of those, I’d go that way.
      Then again, I’ve also worn fedoras, flat caps, and a bunch of other hats, and didn’t mind being known as the quirky-hat-wearing person.

    27. Abogado Avocado*

      LW#5 — I want to second Alison that consulting a hair stylist you trust is a way to go. However, if you’d rather not do that, you may want to check out Pinterest for ideas. The breadth of subjects there is amazing. Once, when I was thinking of putting an accent color on my hair (think pink!) I went to Pinterest to see all the ways people had used accent colors and it was very helpful in deciding how I wanted to proceed.

    28. kalli*

      LW#5 – it’s far more complicated than just a hat. A lot of hat options come across gendered and with subcultural connotations and we don’t really have enough info to know what you’re going for and how it’s going to read, and whether they’ll actually give you the look you want, or what standard you can get away with (plenty of men never actually need to brush their hair, some women get written up if they just have a ponytail and there’s flyaways – the standards are all over the place). Many larger department stores or larger clothes outlets have stylist services, or you can hire one independently – not only will they be able to help you with a couple of solutions for your hair (hat, scarf, style recs, accessories etc – you might even be able to get away with the sunnies-pushed-up-but-never-worn option) and help you with styling tips going forward for when your hair is long enough to style (which is actually not that long, especially if you use wigs, braiding hair or other options) but coordinate it with the kind of look you’re after, so you can start transitioning your whole work wardrobe over time, learn makeup if you want to emphasise/de-emphasise features, however far in what style you want to go, whether it’s queer or kei or fantasy etc.

    29. Little Miss Sunshine*

      As a woman who lost her hair due to chemo treatments I wore cotton Beanies every day. it was for comfort more than vanity, as I was always cold. our office is pretty casual but I was definitely the only person wearing a hat and no one cared. As my hair grew in, I used super strength gel to “style” it but often kept the hat on for warmth. I now have enough hair that I only need a hat outdoors :) .

    30. Formerly Ella Vader*

      Female, and grow out a shaved-head once every year or two …

      One option available to men in signalling “this is a choice/temporary, this is not sloppy” is to be more scrupulous about facial hair in the weeks where head-hair looks a bit odd. Like, either completely shaved every day or whatever your skin can tolerate, or having a super-groomed short beard or a tidily-trimmed full beard. Having a few days’ whiskers plus a couple weeks’ head hair is more likely to look like you just got in from a camping trip or something.

      My equivalent, before the pandemic when office appearance mattered more, was to dress up a bit more for a month or so. By a month in, I could spike it up with product so it was clearly not just bedhead.

      1. Forty Years in the Hole*

        Maybe a kufti? Available on line. Close fitting on the scalp but with some structure. While predominantly worn by Muslim men, there was a jazz or blues artist – name escapes me – who frequently wore a glowed-up version and it suited him well.

    31. Shermit*

      Canadian here. Just got through a week of Polar Vortex in an older building with inefficient heat – we were ALL wearing touques. Our big boss (M) regularly wears a close crop dark coloured beanie even when it isn’t -45 C.

    32. Heals*

      A former colleague of mine always wore one of those snap-brim hats (I think they’re also called scali caps maybe?) and this was in a business casual environment.

    33. Donkey Hotey*

      Speaking for myself, when I grow back after a head shave, I usually opt for a skull cap aka a snug beanie that doesn’t cover my ears. I’ve also found some lightweight ones listed as kufis. Be mindful, as some of the more decorative types are religious headwear.

      For me, I have a strong dislike of flat caps, but that’s me. Good luck!

    34. Marketing Queen*

      I say lean into it. Wear a top hat one day. A conductor’s cap the next. If you’re wearing a beanie, make sure it’s got a pom pom on the end. Your coworkers will look forward to seeing what headwear you rock next.

    35. Queenie*

      I think that the hat debate is going to largely come down to (a) the office vibe/dress code and (b) OP’s personal style.

      OP says the office is fairly casual, so I would think a baseball or painter’s hat style – although maybe not actual licensed team apparel – could work well. My direct manager wears a baseball style cap pretty much all the time, work is very hands-on most of the time and we all wear jeans and tees or sweatshirts daily.

  2. Aelswitha*

    OP 1: Whatever you decide to do, I’d say make copies of anything on that slack channel that refers to you. You may never have to use it, but better to be safe.

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      Yup. Also, I wouldn’t tip them off. There’s nothing to be gained by doing that and much in the way of potential downsides. I think this is the tip of the dysfunction iceberg so I’d start job hunting.

      1. Bilateralrope*

        I agree with not tipping them off. Unless they do something bad enough that the slack channel will be evidence in legal action.

        Then tip them off as part of the legal process.

        1. Mister_L*

          If they are willing to frequently talk poorly about employees in their slack channel they might just be the “fire the messenger”-type, so I’d definitely wouldn’t tell them.

        2. Pizza Rat*

          I’d let the lawyers be the ones to advise them should it come to legal action. Otherwise, I agree there’s nothing to be gained by doing so.

        3. Kevin Sours*

          I was going to say don’t tip them off, that’s for your lawyer to do. Given how awful the
          “awful things about why some people got bigger raises than others” were, it might be worth having a conversation with an attorney.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        The tip off is really only satisfying, plot-wise, if the company is well and truly collapsing and so it’s only information about the past tossed out by the last employee out the door.

      3. Azure Jane Lunatic*

        But don’t rely on them not finding out — someone in there could figure it out, someone could let it slip by accident, or one of the other people who knows could even say something on purpose.

      1. JSPA*

        Photo of screen, so the capture is not on a work device. Unless there’s a strict “no cameras at work” clause.

    2. Never Knew I Was a Dancer*

      For. Real. Don’t tip them off. As awful as it is that they’re saying this stuff about you and your coworkers, this is extremely valuable insight into what you can expect from these so-called leaders and for your future at the company—with an added bonus of getting a potential heads up before they send another s*** sandwich your way.

      I’d also recommend keeping screenshots, whether of topics related to you or to your coworkers. Better to have them on hand just in case!

    3. Ash*

      Echoing this. If they are memorializing anything legally discriminatory (like saying they are giving certain people smaller raises because they belong to a protected class), it’s crucial to have evidence. Take screenshots and also take photos of the screen with your phone. Definitely keep looking for another job in the meantime.

      1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

        Because it’s easier to fake a screenshot than it is to fake a photo of your entire work desk with the screen showing the application . And take the screenshots off your work computer as soon as they’re taken, so that nobody stumbles on them, and make sure that the only place they’ve been saved is the local hard drive on that physical machine rather than any kind of share drive or system drive or cloud anything. If the images and text files are on and off promptly (think same hour rather than same week) there’s less chance that an automatic daily backup will catch them.

    4. Inigo Montoya*

      Not just comments that refer to you but also any really bad comments about others as well.

    5. M*

      One caveat: if they’re in the habit of *tagging* the people they’re talking about when they do it (an easy habit to develop on Slack, because in true private channels, it doesn’t generate a notification), they will know everyone was reading that channel *as soon as they first realise it was public*.

      If so, there’s not really a good answer – if someone does come forward to tell them, they’ll realise everyone knew and did nothing for ages – but it’s worth OP being aware that they won’t have plausible deniability if/when it comes out.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        I mean, they’re foolish enough to look right at the # rather lock icon next to the channel name all day every day….who knows where their obliviousness ends.

    6. TG*

      Agreed – print those out. I saved off a slack where I was threatened to be choked – maybe she didn’t mean it but she was slamming me to peers. It was a contract job I left and I got severance because of that and letting them know their employee said that.

  3. Bambue*

    #3, one thing you don’t have in your question is any reference to making sure your manager had the appropriate context to why something might not work, and AskAManager added it in in her response. Do you actually approach disagreements with some level of collaboration (as time allows) or do you just roll with the perceived stupidity? You may want to internally shift your thinking to an assumption that there is a difference in priority or information, as your phrasing makes it seem like it could only be stupidity

    1. But what to call me?*

      That might have something to do with their experience with a particular manager. I’ve had one who wanted nothing to do with any context that might put a damper on her newest great idea and who attributed any attempts to point out problems to people just being resistant to change. It can get to the point where the only explanation left is stupidity. Not that you’d want to present it that way during a job interview, but in some cases it’s hard to find any way to present it that doesn’t come down to ‘manager did something stupid but I went along with it because fighting it wasn’t worth my job’.

      1. Quantum Possum*

        in some cases it’s hard to find any way to present it that doesn’t come down to ‘manager did something stupid but I went along with it because fighting it wasn’t worth my job’.

        Which is a big reason why interviewers ask the question.

        You learn a lot about an interviewee from the way they speak about their former bosses, employees, and coworkers — and from how they describe their own role in a conflict.

        Interviewers aren’t just looking at a candidate’s expertise or technical competency; they’re evaluating soft skills as well. For this question, it matters less that you were “right” (which proves your expertise) than how you communicated and reacted (which indicates how well you work with others).

        In fact, one good way to answer this would be to describe a situation when you disagreed with your boss but still executed per their orders, and later realized that the boss was right after all. This shows that you’re willing to re-evaluate your position; accept when you make a mistake; and learn from it.

        1. Rex Libris*

          This. When I ask this question, I’m totally uninterested in who was “right”. I want to hear that the candidate offered their opinion, there was discussion, and if even if they still disagreed, they got on board and did as directed (barring like, their boss was asking them to do something illegal, dangerous, etc.)

          Basically for me, this question is more about how willing you are to see other viewpoints, and whether you’re going to die on every hill, no matter how small. I also want to see how much emotion the candidate is still carrying around over past work events. Describing your previous boss as “stupid” (even if they were) or still showing obvious frustration over an event that happened months or years ago would be serious negatives for me.

          1. Quantum Possum*

            I also want to see how much emotion the candidate is still carrying around over past work events.

            This is an excellent point.

            To help avoid this, I would recommend that interviewees NOT use super-recent examples. Don’t describe a situation from last month, because you probably don’t have enough distance yet to discuss it comfortably.

          2. Potions Program Manager*

            Interesting. The last time I asked this in an interview, that’s not exactly what I was looking for. The job role required someone who would speak if something wasn’t right. I really wanted someone who was comfortable telling their supervisor when something wasn’t working or a decision might not work as soon as possible. Not everyone is comfortable doing that. I wouldn’t have been comfortable doing that early in my career (thanks childhood trauma!), but that’s what I needed for the role.

            The person I ended up hiring had a fantastic (for the role) answer. She gave me two examples. One was a time where she told her boss something wasn’t doable as soon as she realized it wasn’t going to work. Her boss agreed, but there were bureaucratic reasons they couldn’t change the process. She accepted it and did the best she could without grumbling. The other time was at another organization with a different boss. She told her boss that a decision the boss was making wasn’t going to work. The boss didn’t want to hear it. The candidate talked to more senior colleagues to see if there was anything about the situation she was missing. There wasn’t. They encouraged her to talk to the boss again. The boss still didn’t want to hear it. I think the candidate may have even tried a third time with a different approach, but no result. She was very self-reflective in the interview, even speculating that maybe she could have taken a different approach but ultimately concluded that there was no correct wording that was going to make that particular supervisor listen to what she had to say.

            That was the perfect answer for me and this role. She showed that she could accept decisions she didn’t agree with and she could push back when she felt it was necessary.

            I can definitely see that there may be other roles and situations where that answer would not have been great. It just goes to show, that if an interview is being done well, there is no “right” answer.

      2. GythaOgden*

        That doesn’t show me any kind of thought process as to why your manager was proposing stuff, though, or any attempt to find out, and that for me would be a huge red flag that you would just be the same with our priorities. Writing it off in that manner would say more about you than it would about your manager and I’d just worry about you bringing the adversarial tone into our workplace.

        1. Dek*

          In fairness, some managers seem to view attempting to find out (eg: asking questions about their decision after they’ve told you to do it the way they told you to) as insubordination.

      3. Emmy Noether*

        This is a thing that happens sometimes with behavioral questions, where the candidate is set up to fail in their current job, and unable to act in a way that would generate a good example.

        My advice would be to, first, cast a wider net for examples. Maybe there’s a situation with a skip level, or a project lead, or a former job, or volunteer work that could be used (just don’t make it obvious if this was 20 years ago). If that fails, embellish. Recount how it would have gone if your boss wasn’t an idiot. Choose an example that’s really generic, so even if the industry is small, no-one could recognize that it didn’t actually happen that way.

        The other option is to recount your reasonable actions and the boss’s unreasonable ones. Much more risky.

    2. Emmy Noether*

      Yes! What interviewers want to hear is:
      1) speaking up once, calmly, timely and to the right person
      2) realizing you may be wrong and there may be factors and constraints you don’t know
      3) complying with the decision, no grumbling

      This sounds kind of corporate-drone-y, but it’s not. I work somewhere where employees can very much openly say when they disagree, discuss, sometimes change superiors minds, or sometimes get to gather more information before the decision is made. Still, once it is made, you gotta roll with it and not call bosses stupid behind their back. Even if it turns out it was the wrong decision.

      1. Smithy*

        I agree with this. There certainly are very top down, take the orders and be quiet type employers or managers – but most places aren’t or at least don’t like to think about themselves that way.

        I also think that #2 is a really important part of this puzzle that interviewers may be looking for. Often in a role as an individual contributor we may be aware of an “optimal” way to do something that might not necessarily make the most sense for an organization in the long run. So the organization chooses a less optimal way with the hopes of investing in something longer term – I’m thinking of having a new hire or junior staff member lead on work stream because that’s an area you want them to focus on longer term. Having a more senior member continue to do it might be more optimal near term, but you’re investing in the learning curve period for that longer term payout.

        Now that choice can pay off or not in a number of ways. And the person who objects may ultimately be proven right, but from an interview standpoint – I do think you still have the ability to demonstrate an understanding of why that choice was made, how you contributed, etc.

      2. hbc*

        I think I’d say more that people want context behind the decisions you made, an awareness that you were in a specific situation with specific expectations. So your example can be one where, say, you didn’t back down and refused to be the person signing off on X because you couldn’t defend X when/if there was an inspection, but it was a rare exception and that boss is one of your references. Or that your office was one where you were expected to fight tooth and nail for your opinion, so you came off more strongly than you would in other environments.

        1. ScruffyInternHerder*


          I explained in an interview that I had outright refused to do a portion of my job…because the direction that I’d been given by TPTB would have cost a subcontractor their state licensure had it been done. And TPTB insisted upon it, even after I explained that doing so went against *this*, *that*, and *this* and might literally cost a subcontractor their business license. (I was NOT written up or even disciplined, for the record. I was noted as being correct and on top of regulations by my great-grand-boss, preemptively. I think that my department knew what they were dealing with with that particular PTB.)

          Stands out in my work history as “give me an example…” for this though!

      3. They Might Be A Giant*

        if I were ambushed by the “tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss,” it would be really hard to come up with a story that didn’t go like “I was upset that he responded to my comment about my ideas not being heard in meetings with a joke about how that was because everything that came out of my mouth sounded like blah blah dishes, blah blah laundry. I talked to him about not liking that response the next day, and then sat through the resulting session where he processed how bad that criticism made him feel and how important it was for me to know he wasn’t sexist cause he has daughters and it was just a joke, but at no point did he address the way it impacted me or my original concern.” I’m not sure that story would be what future employers want to hear, but it (and others like it) looms much larger in my mind than any of the more sensible disagreements I’ve had with less terrible bosses.

        1. Sloanicota*

          I feel ya. Honestly I don’t feel that guilty making up composite answers to questions like these. The interviewers are really just trying to get a sense of how you think and operate, and with the power dynamic not in your favor it doesn’t make sense to get too personal.

        2. Rex Libris*

          Yeah, it can be a difficult question. Basically though, with all the behavioral interview questions, what they’re actually asking is “Explain how you’ll act like an adult, handle disagreements and feedback maturely, and get along with your boss and coworkers.” They aren’t actually interested in your handling of or feelings on a specific situation, except as it illustrates that.

        3. Artemesia*

          Great reason to look for a new job; bad example for an interview (but maybe great anecdote later when you are hired in a place without sexist clods in charge.)

      4. Samantha Martin*

        As someone who is quiet yet very agreeable, I’ve always dreaded being asked the “conflict” question!

        1. Dek*

          I grew up in the Peacemaker role in my family, while also having the kind of social trouble that an AuDHD kid has, so I can go either way.

          For this question though, I think I’d always have something in my pocket, because while I’m not angry about it or anything, to this day there’s a tiny part of my brain bothered that there is a record in our system that is almost certainly attributed to the wrong publisher because of a possible translation error. But I did what I could, double-checked my original translation, researched my position, presented the information I had…and was told to do it the other way anyway. So I did. And it’s fine.

          …it’s fine.


    3. Ms_Meercat*

      There’s also additional context you could provide through that question that tells a little bit about what you will contribute to your manager/team.

      For example, my example for these things is I used to have a manager who was more of a creative/blue sky type of thinker. I’m very quick in analysing feasibility, path to project implementation and potential barriers (for me it happens almost subconsciously), and so I would often point out potential issues and pitfalls. My manager would get frustrated with me because she felt I was stifling innovation and was nay-saying; I was frustrated because I felt I was right but was being shut down when I was being helpful thinking ahead of what this idea would need. We talked about it and I realized I needed to do more “Yes, and” in the initial phase and bring in pitfalls a little bit later, and she shifted her thinking in seeing my contribution as “This is what we need to think about and solve in the implementation” instead of attempts to shoot it down entirely; my manager came to see me as the practical thinker on the execution side that could help and support her big picture and creative thinking.

      1. Nik*

        You’ve articulated a situation I often find myself in. I’m saying things like “I was just pointing out things we need to think about – not saying that this won’t work.”

        1. Ms_Meercat*

          My suggestion would be a) to talk about the difference in “thinking” approach with respective people on a meta-level, and b) hold back from your initial, instinctual contributions for a moment and try to consciously think of a few positive ones for the beginning of the conversation.
          When the combination of blue sky thinker + practical implementer works, it’s a beautiful collaboration that yields awesome results.

    4. Random Dice*

      I feel like Alison’s reply crystallized something in my head about this kind of situation, where before I held a fistful of sand. She just has such a gift.

      ““My boss wanted to do X, but I was concerned it had downsides we weren’t considering. I figured my job was to explain the downsides I was concerned about and the reasons I thought Y could be better, and then leave it to her to make the final call. She heard me out about my concerns but ultimately ended up choosing X, so that’s what I implemented. I thought the two important pieces for me were making sure she had all the information and then moving forward with the option she chose.””

    5. Sloanicota*

      For number three I was also thinking, if you’ve had a past job at all, just make sure to use an example from that, or shift the example from your current job to that past job so that it won’t reflect on your current manager (interview questions don’t come with a lie detector! Interviewers are not owed complete transparency about your current relationship with your supervisor, who they apparently know and talk to!). If they press for something in your current job, you can say, “I wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about Sharon specifically, since I know you know her, but how I generally try to handle conflict is X”

  4. Heidi*

    I’m suprised that no one has tipped off the bosses about the Slack channel yet. I guess it might have to do with the company being fully remote, but it seems like it would be difficult to avoid mentioning the things they discussed on the channel by accident. They sound like terrible bosses, so part of me is kind of looking forward to the day they find out.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      For me, keeping it quiet that everyone knows the channel is open leaves the possibility of taking some useful screenshots if needed. Not for blackmail, but for if (really, “when” with these terrible people) they talk about how they did something illegal for hiring/firing/promoting/giving raises to only certain groups, etc. I’d leave it as is because knowing what’s happening behind the scenes could prove incredibly useful.

      1. Gem-Like Flame*

        Absolutely! If they’ve nothing to hide (but we know they do!), they’ve nothing to fear, right? This is on THEM; the spiteful comments and the carelessness of allowing their “private” Slack channel to be public.

    2. Bilateralrope*

      I’m guessing that they are the kind of people who will punish anyone who draws their attention to their own mistakes.

        1. Observer*

          I think they’d likely punish *everyone* for not alerting them earlier.

          They will do both. Punish the messenger on some phony excuse, and everyone else for “not being security conscious”.

    3. ferrina*

      I’m pretty surprised HR (or someone functioning as vaguely HR) hasn’t said anything. It says a lot about the bosses and how approachable they are.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        The letter says there is no HR, but I would expect someone in the next level down leadership to mention it. Controller, department director, etc. The fact that it’s going on for this long means that even that level are valuing these insights/potential for blackmail over having the company function. Get out now.

      1. sparkle emoji*

        If they weren’t already unpopular, I’m sure the snarky Slack channel accomplished that

  5. Magenta Sky*

    #3 reminds me of a quote from the movie “Bridge of Spies”:

    “The boss isn’t always right, but he’s always the boss.”

    (Not the right answer in the context of your question, though. At least, not at any place I’d want to work.)

    1. el l*

      Right. And a related concept:

      “You must always listen to your boss. But you should sometimes disagree – for if you never disagree you aren’t thinking.”

  6. A manager, but not your manager*

    #4 I was a full stack eng for most of my career and I’ve gone through my fair share of interviews. The interview process varies a lot, but I don’t think I ever went through something that intensive, even when trying for some of the more prestigious tech companies, so I’d agree it’s excessive.

    1. talos*

      Yes, big tech interviews typically run more like 4-6 hours and pick either “multiple projects” or “block of multiple coding interviews”, not both.

    2. Zombeyonce*

      I just hope for LW’s sake that if the position opens back up again, they save all the results of the interview work so they aren’t expected to do it all over again.

      1. Kiki Is The Most*

        I came here to say this, too. If LW4 does decide to reapply for a similar position, I would reference the amount of work previously accomplished from this round of interviews so that they may not have to do everything again. It’s… a lot.

    3. Adam*

      Yeah, that’s more than I’ve ever seen. By far the most common pattern is a single day of on-site interviews with 2-3 coding interviews, a system design interview, and a behavioral interview, each 45 minutes long. Some companies instead do a take home project, but then they wouldn’t do all the on-site technical interviews. Doing both seems over the top.

    4. Twix*

      Software engineer here, mostly backend but I’ve done my share of interviews for full-stack type roles. I’d agree, the interview process can vary a lot but this seems excessive. I’d expect the technical part of an interview process to be 3-4 hours tops and to be either primarily live-coding or 1-2 projects, not both.

    5. Schmitt*

      It’s definitely on the high end of the scale. As is my company: we ask for a 3-4 hour take-home, and the interview process includes an hour of coding. This is after we look at sample code the candidate provides – so theoretically a candidate should already be vetted when they make it this far.

      Our goal is to keep 99% of hires through the probation period, and we do learn very different things from the take-home and the live coding.

      1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        I really dislike the “sample code” type. Since most people can’t share code they wrote for work, it means you’re only going to consider people who also have hobby projects – which tends to be those without caregiving responsibility. You may as well say “no parents wanted”.

        1. Viki*

          What? No.

          Everyone I know has some simple project–especially when interviewing, specific for this. It’s one of the parts you start prepping when you’re ready to apply. Get your resume and cover letter up to date, make sure your portfolio/code sample is the best it could be.

          1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

            A “simple project” is not going to be nearly sufficient unless maybe for new grads. I’m not going to knock off an end-to-end data science project in an evening.

          2. AnonForThis*

            Everyone you know isn’t everyone.

            I’ve been working in software dev for 10+ years and never gone the portfolio/code sample/open source project/coding blog route. I’ve landed every job, including one at Google, on the strength of my resume and technical interviews.

          3. Wendy Darling*

            Literally no one I know who has more than 1-2 years of experience has this. I have never heard of people doing this except for 1. new grads with no real world work experience or 2. career changers with no relevant work experience. And in those cases typically the point is not for the interviewer to look at the code — it’s to have something, ANYTHING to talk about when asked in interviews how you problem-solve. Once you’ve had a job or two you’ve actually problem-solved in an actual job and can talk about that so the “personal project” becomes irrelevant.

            Also I loathe the entire idea of needing a “portfolio” of sample code. I do not, in general, code for fun. I code for my job. Spending many hours putting together a suitable sample project outside of work should not be considered necessary for me to find work, and I resent people who normalize that nonsense the same way I resent people who spend 10+ hours on take-home projects as part of a job application process because if we all put our feet down about the excesses of tech interviewing, tech interviewing would have to change.

            1. AnonForThis*

              I had a local company contact me to ask me to apply, and I said I’d be interested but I didn’t know any PHP. They said that was fine.

              They also required a project written in PHP submitted as *part of the initial application*. Not even a phone screen first to see if we were a good match otherwise.

              I decided to use the time I would have spent learning PHP just for that one application to brush up on my technical interviewing skills instead and landed a job at Google.

              1. Orv*

                Google seems to be the opposite — they want you to write code off the top of your head on a white board, with no references, in front of three or four people. I got stage fright and completely humiliated myself.

                1. Jamoche*

                  I’ve been on both sides of a lot of those. They want to see your thought processes as you solve a problem; you don’t have to create working code. “I’d start here, then do this, and if that didn’t work try that.”

                  It’s also perfectly fine to say “and at this point I’d do a web search with these keywords.”

                  If they actually do want working code from that sort of interview, it’s one of those cases where you’ve learned something important about them – they’re unreasonable, you might not want to work there.

                2. AnonForThis*

                  I’ve been on both sides of Google interviews, and yes, they do want working (or almost-working) code from most of their technical interviews. (I actually had a lot of fun with the system design interview, which was a lot more abstract.) When I say “I brushed up on my technical interview skills”, I mean I found a whiteboard, wrote out problem solutions on it while explaining my solution out loud to my desk chair, and then tested the code with a few edge cases, over and over. I waited until I felt comfortable with that format before scheduling the actual interview.

                  Yeah, it’s a lot of effort for one interview, but enough places do the whiteboard technical interview that it didn’t seem like as much of a waste of time as learning PHP for a toy project that didn’t show any of my actual skills.

            2. In My Underdark Era*

              hear, hear!

              I’m only able to be so picky because I have a steady job already, but if I’m applying and I see a bunch of coding assignments and rounds of interviews it reflects poorly on the role to me. Are they looking for a software engineer, or just someone who knows how to write a lot of code fast?

              and yeah. I know more people who evangelize about the importance of a code portfolio than people who actually have one. I’m convinced it’s something people just repeat because even if it’s not effective, what’s the harm in whipping up a lil portfolio. the harm is that the applicant who just spent days or weeks making a presentable “sample project” is likely in no better position to get hired than the person who used that time, you know, applying for jobs.

              1. AnonForThis*

                I sometimes go through those “8 Things You Must Have To Get Hired As A Software Developer!” lists for a laugh. I think the highest I’ve scored is 3/8. I also don’t think I’ve ever had a coworker who had their own blog about programming.

    6. WS*

      I asked my brother (a coder for a large tech company) about this, and he says that’s the higher end of the scale but also that he’s seen more of these intensive processes in the last 12-18 months than previously. He’s not on any interview panels but he does often assess interviewees’ work and report about it.

    7. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

      I went through a process that was so almost exactly like that that I’m half wondering if we applied at the same company. It was a fairly big-name company within the field of software development, though not outside it, since what they do is specialized for software development.

      The difference was that my application process was not 8 hours spread out over 2 weeks, it was 8 hours spread out over 5 months. I applied in October, got a take-home exam (which annoyed me because they sent it Monday and wanted it back by Friday, so I had to squeeze it into the evening rather than getting to work on it during a weekend) pretty promptly, then didn’t get my first interview until December, got another interview in January, got a coding interview at the end of January, and they wanted me to do a behavioral interview in late February or March, but by then I had already found a new job. Plus, that interview would only have been the 4th of 5; who knows how long it would have taken to get through the whole process!

      One of the delays was my fault (?) because the hiring manager was located on the other side of the world, so the only availability on his calendar for the week they wanted to do my first coding interview was 3:30 am to 7 am my time. I asked if I could wait until his 10 am slot week or two later, because I wanted to be at my best when illustrating my skills, though I said I would do the wee hours of the morning if I needed to. The other delays were all on them.

      So this definitely happens in software development, but it was an extreme case in my experience. I still remember it several years later.

      1. Zade*

        Agreed, I also recently finished a six month job search in a software engineering-adjacent field and this is normal now. Awful, but normal. I really hope something changes

    8. Round Wren*

      I just finished a software engineering job search (and got a job! yay!). I think there’s a trend right now where companies are doing longer interviews, and also the bigger the company, the longer the process. I saw everything from 6-15 hours total, and I’d put 7-8 as the norm. There was a weak correlation between long process and good pay. It sucks and makes it really hard to interview at multiple places, especially if you want competing offers and already have a job.

      I also had two companies cancel partway through on me, just like the OP! It sucked but well, sometimes that’s just how it goes. Hiring freezes don’t usually get telegraphed in advance, so how would the recruiter know ahead of time?

    9. So they all cheap ass-rolled over and one fell out*

      Last time I interviewed (almost a decade ago – guess I found a good job out of it!) I had a couple places that wanted me to do take-homes. I don’t have an inherent problem with them even if they take a while, as long as they aren’t the first interview before we even have a person-to-person discussion to gauge mutual interest. Those were the outliers, though. Out of the places that had me do take homes, only one actually offered me a job, and they had two-three short interviews beforehand. I didn’t take the offer, I had had one other offer that I accepted, which didn’t happen to involve a take-home test.

    10. ThePear8*

      Software engineer here as well, that feels extremely excessive to me. I’m sure it happens, but that’s a lot of work to do unpaid at just the interview stage and I would advise LW4 to pay close attention to other aspects of this company. How does the work/life balance seem? How is the turnover? Are there opportunities for advancement? I’m not saying this itself is such a huge red flag but I would strongly suggest paying closer attention to these things given how excessive the interview process seems. If it’s a dream company you’ve really wanted to work for I could see it being very easy to ignore red flags, but maybe it’s best to not let the dream become a nightmare.

      1. Your Mate in Oz*

        pay close attention to other aspects of this company.

        That’s really important. When FAANGs do this stuff it’s because they pay very well but expect long hours, so you know what you’re getting into. When some random company does it my first question would be about pay, because if the pay doesn’t match the process that’s a nope.

        OTOH I’m at a stage where if someone tried this I’d say “Why not watch my conference presentation video on {topic} and then ring me back”. But I’ve been in that position since ~5 years into my programming career when I started doing user group presentations (which was before youtube, though!)

        My experience of interviewing people is that a CV scan plus a 10-20 minute coding test normally whittles it down to at least an ordered list where we can bring people in for an interview and one of us can sit with them while they do a coding exercise. That’s two hours out of their day (plus travel time) and also out of ours.

        1. Kathy*

          lol, FAANGs do not expect long hours. many of my software engineer friends at those companies get away with just a few hours a day, or even less. Google recently instituted a new policy that you have to open your laptop at least once a week, because apparently some people weren’t meeting that.

    11. I Have RBF*

      Yeah, I am a sysadmin, and people have tried to have me do coding “projects”, saying it’s “only” two hours, when quite frankly it’s three hours just to set up all the required software and tools on my system. I tend to decline that kind of thing – I’m not a software dev, why are you asking for coding projects? Most of the code I write is short scripts as glue or monitoring utilities.

      1. AnonForThis*

        I’m an application software developer, and someone asked me to set up a server as part of a coding project to sort a list. Why would I need to set up a server to do that?

        1. I Have RBF*

          Yeah. I would be the one to set up a server, but not do the coding. But half the time they demand dev type coding in an environment that I don’t have and would have to set up. But they don’t budget the time for that, just assume that you have a software developer setup just like their environment to code it in.

          At this point I turn down any unpaid project that in my estimation would take more than two hours to set up for then complete. I’ve been doing systems work for nearly 25 years. I don’t sort b-trees on command, I’m not a developer with a degree that teaches algorithms and college exercises.

    12. HG*

      Software development is just hard to hire for. You can’t look at the code a person is writing day-to-day for their job, because that belongs to their company. Most working developers don’t also have time to code on the side, so any portfolio projects they do have are pretty simplistic and don’t tell much about the quality of their day-to-day work. Giving them a take-home project is usually too much work to reasonably expect, and giving them a coding test is often too difficult or stressful even for good developers, especially if you are not a big-N tech company.

      That said, you usually can’t just take people’s word for it that they can code at the level you need, because people lie or are overly optimistic about their abilities and a bad hire is expensive. You really just have to choose between a bunch of not-great options.

  7. nodramalama*

    i feel like for me, the key to answering LW3 is the phrase ‘reasonable minds can disagree’. It’s not necessarily trying to find a time in which your boss was wrong, or you were wrong, but how you deal with 1) differences of opinions and/or approaches 2) how you deal with managers and 3) how you deal issues where there might need to be sensitivity or strategy around how you deal with something.

    1. John Smith*

      An unreasonable mind also. Until I read Alisons answer, I’d struggle answering this question because my boss is simply an idiot and there’s little other way of describing his behaviour and decisions (most of which end up costing us one way or another).

      To give a (real) example, boss wanted to do something that was actually illegal and was informed as much by someone who knew his stuff (me) as to the reasons why. Boss disagreed and asked me to look into it more which I did. Eventually got an answer from high up in a government department who confirmed it was in fact illegal. Boss blames me for asking the wrong question and being “negative” and has argument with government department who simply ignore him. Boss blames me for breakdown in relationships between us and Governemt (where there was none to begin with).

      1. Quantum Possum*

        Agreed, I would definitely stay away from discussing instances like that. I’ve been in similar situations (pressured to do something illegal), and I don’t use those as examples when answering a basic “disagreed with boss” question. No good can come of it.

        Now, I have had the question “describe a time when you disagreed ethically with orders you were given,” which is a similar but smellier kettle of fish. But even that question can be answered without judgment. Rather than get into a philosophical discussion, I used one of those “pressured to do something illegal” situations and focused on the facts (why it was ordered, why it was illegal, what I did) rather than cast aspersions on the people involved.

    2. Zombeyonce*

      I also like to keep in mind that just because you think something is the right way to proceed doesn’t mean that it’s the right time to do it. I have tons of ideas for improvement but they can cost money, a lot of time, or political capital, all of which add difficulty. I may think it’s the best option but my manager has a higher level view of projects and can prioritize my suggestions better than I ever could.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Yeah, the example that occurred to me was when our principal wanted to move to hour long classes and I felt this would not work well for a lot of my students, as I am a learning support teacher and have a lot of students who have difficulty with concentration and also some who are very weak and with whom I am doing stuff like basic literacy or numeracy and honestly, an hour of work on match capital and small letters or basic phonics or adding single digit numbers is kind of a lot.

        It did go ahead and I am still not entirely pleased with it, but I have one mainstream English class this year and I can see why the mainstream teachers are happy with it. I’d almost forgotten how much less you get done in a mainstream class with 25 students than you would in a resource class with 5 and yeah, the hour is really good for that class. But with my resource students, an hour is a huge amount of time. I would say you cover as much in a 40 minute resource class as in an hour long mainstream class.

        So yeah, different priorities. The principal has to think of all classes, whereas my focus is on those students who have additional needs.

        1. Awkwardness*

          Sometimes you can convince your boss, sometimes the boss can make you understand why his position makes sense.

          I think the main point is to show that you are willing to speak up, that you can articulate your disagreement in a rational way and that you are open for discussion instead of sulking.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            My modus operandi looks something like this:

            1. Articulate my concerns without protest.
            2. Accept boss’ decision without pushback.
            3. Prepare mitigation tactics in case I’m right.
            4. Execute tactics from #3 if (and only if) necessary. Ideally with instructions or request to.
            5. Downplay everything so everyone saves face. “Just doing my job.”

            I’ve never gotten this question in an interview, unfortunately; it’s one I could answer with confidence.

  8. Quantum Possum*

    OP #1

    There are bees in that office. Not sweet little honeybees, but killer bees who want to burn the world down. There’s only one thing you can do with a bee-infested office: LEAVE IT.

    In the meantime, I recommend screenshotting particularly egregious comments/conversations that you see. Especially if they’re saying anything that could be harassment, retaliation, or prejudice against a protected class.

    I’m sorry you and your coworkers are having to deal with this crap. Like Alison said, it does give you a clear window into what leadership is like there. And remember – “the fish rots from the head.” (To any ichthyologists out there, I know that’s not technically true, lol.)

    Good luck!

    1. Random Dice*

      This is a great idea. Get photos of their slack channel comments, and hold on to them.

      Use your phone to take photos. Don’t screenshot with your work computer (then it’s on your computer, and you’ll have to get it to your private storage somehow – that leaves a trail).

      1. Quantum Possum*

        Use your phone to take photos. Don’t screenshot with your work computer

        This is an excellent idea. I didn’t even think of that. Thank you!

        1. Goldenrod*

          “Use your phone to take photos.”

          YES, this is a great idea! I would do that on the regular. And – just my two cents – I would keep super quiet about this, so that you can keep reading (and documenting) their comments!

    2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Yes. The slack channel is a symptom that you are grabbing onto as something within your control. Do I tip them off or not? But the problem is the company is diseased, so controlling the slack channel solves nothing.

      Unless this is an absolutely amazing job, get out. Don’t quit with nothing lined up, but don’t coast hoping it will get better. It will not.

    3. Delta Delta*

      Let me tell you about some bees. One day I was on my porch, reading a book and drinking a glass of water. Some evil random bees showed up and started attacking me. I jumped up and tried to brush them off, and one of them got STUCK IN MY HAIR. As I was flailing around trying to get the bee literally out of my bonnet, I flailed my arm, and knocked my water glass to the ground. The glass shattered. Now I’m getting attacked by bees, and I’m standing in water and broken glass. I was, of course, barefoot, and cut my foot on some glass. I finally got the bee out of my hair and went in to get some shoes and a broom. I tried to sweep up the glass, and those horrible bees started attacking me again because they were PROTECTING THE BROKEN GLASS.

      These managers aren’t quite those bees, but may be on their way to this level of bee-ness.

      1. Quantum Possum*

        I’m sorry for laughing, but you told the story so perfectly. :)

        “Bees protecting broken glass” is indeed a level unto itself.

    4. Abundant Shrimp*

      Yep. There is a reason why no one is telling them. My guess was, like yours, that the office is dysfunctional and people use the information they get from that slack channel for tips on how to get through the day, keep their job etc.

      1. Quantum Possum*

        Yes, exactly, I read it is a symptom of a workforce focused on survival.

        In a healthier environment, even if every employee hated every C-level executive, at least one person would alert leadership just to suck up. (We’ve all worked with That Person, right?)

  9. Slack Off*

    I am continually perplexed at why companies want to use Slack. It is a huge time-waster in the office. And stories like LW’s abound.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      My department uses it and it’s incredibly useful. It lets us crowdsource solutions, brainstorm without all having to be in one place at the same time (which is invaluable w/team members in different time zones and busy schedules), and gives us channels to talk with different groups to have discussions that don’t really work in other mediums. It also keeps a record of things, which is incredibly handy. I search for historic conversations multiple times a week and am able to follow up on them easily.

    2. Beth*

      My remote company really relies on it. Since we can’t just poke our heads into someone’s office or run into them in the hallway, we need a casual communication medium!! Lots of work is a quick question or FYI that isn’t serious enough to need a scheduled meeting, and no one wants an email in their inbox about every little thing.

      It’s not as absolutely necessary for in-person offices, but even there, I think the searchability of it is still a big advantage. I can look back and find conversations about project implementations that happened with my client two years before I onboarded. That written record is often interesting, and occasionally crucial if it happens to be a detail that somehow didn’t make its way into other documentation.

      1. ThePear8*

        Came here to say this – I work remotely in a different state from the rest of my team, and while my team does have a significant amount of people in the office, we’re geographically spread apart so much that in our case it’s rather essential for the job

    3. Never Knew I Was a Dancer*

      Comes in handy for hybrid or completely remote companies, and I’ve heard that it’s better than Microsoft Teams at least ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

          1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

            To be scrupulously fair to root canals, if the nerve of your tooth is damaged they are fantastic. I went from needing to take my strongest pain med to be able to drink water, to feeling almost normal.

            I very much dislike how Teams video handles multiple microphones, cameras, and speakers.

      1. Mockingjay*

        We use Teams. It’s like any other tool; you get out of it what you put into it. My team group chat is fairly active, but we’re mostly remote and spread across the country, so we were happy to have a dedicated chat channel for quick convos and to keep in touch, and we use the file and share tools quite a bit.

        The corporate chat channels are mostly used by upper management to relay pointless info or in the case of Great Grandboss, to fault us on data collation that he did himself incorrectly. (We’ve learned to ignore those chats; Grandboss intercedes and fixes things.)

    4. Ms. Murchison*

      It’s an extremely useful tool for remote/distributed teams. There are several useful features and plugins, and the sound quality in huddles is better than calling coworkers on my cell phone.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Seriously. I used to know a couple of people twenty years ago who would just go OFF about how Livejournal was just this huge cause of drama among their circle of friends and I was always like “Right, because these people would be causing no drama whatsoever if Livejournal didn’t exist? No, they’d be doing it through email or text or in person or whatever. It’s a communication tool, not a personality changer. You have dramatic friends, deal.” (And nope, they were just as dramatic through Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat and emails and texts and in person as they were on Livejournal, if not worse. :P )

        1. Keymaster in absentia*

          Heck I can remember BBS drama (yes I’m old).

          And we love Slack here at work. Instant messaging between people in different locations and channels for specific topics yes please.

          And okay, yeah, the pet pictures channel :)

        2. Wendy Darling*

          I always felt like the fact that livejournal called following a journal being “friends” and unfollowing someone was “unfriending” them was an absolute drama maximizer if someone was prone to dramatics at all. It just made it so, so easy to take “I love you but you post Harry Potter fan content 20 times a day and it’s clogging my feed” as “I can’t stand you as a person and want you out of my life”.

          But definitely the latent capacity for drama had to be there already.

      2. Antilles*

        Exactly. This exact same scenario could have happened long before Slack in various forms:
        An internal memo showing all employees’ raises carelessly left in the printer. Executives talking in their office but being overheard because the walls are paper-thin. People on conference calls talking bad about other groups, not realizing that you aren’t muted. Etc…

    5. mreasy*

      It’s extremely useful in my office for quick communications with colleagues to avoid getting stuck in their email queue. Most people prefer something minor addressed over Slack. And for real time / close to real time group chats it’s ideal, rather than trying to find a call time for 5 people to sort out a small thing. It’s ridiculous to me that leaders of a company that uses Slack don’t know how to make a channel private!

    6. Workerbee*

      Eh, same with any type of communication, as another poster said. Including in-person, from hallway convos to “just coming by your cube to ask about the email I just sent” to meetings around a table. It’s all in how you manage and use your time and efforts.

    7. aubrey*

      It’s so bizarre to me that people could be anti-Slack! My fully remote company uses it all day for most of our conversations. I don’t know how we’d communicate without a chat program, I guess we’d have extremely long email chains or be on conference calls 6 hours a day?

      Key things I like: having separate rooms for different topics means I don’t need to hear about all the nitty gritty regarding our servers or all the design back and forth or copy edits. I can search for something I vaguely recall and find it, rather than having to bug people for that info. We can communicate across time zones really easily. And yes – ability to just chat with my coworkers, some of whom I’ve never met in person and who are scattered across the country. We don’t waste any more time on that than we would at the coffee maker, less probably since there’s not the whole setting up and waiting in line etc morning time waste with us all being remote.

      Even in person, I’d be pro-Slack. It’s easier to message someone and get a reply when they have a min rather than some communication method that relies on them being available right now. I hate being interrupted by calls or people “just stopping by”.

      1. urguncle*

        In a multi-timezone company, Slack’s delayed delivery of messages is a godsend. I don’t want to send someone a message at their 10pm, but it’s not really a conversation I want to have tomorrow over email. Boom, set it for their 9am and it’s ready for me when I wake up.

        1. Zombeyonce*

          My team is in various time zones and we just send messages when we are working, not worrying about the other person’s time zone; the whole point of Slack for us is that we don’t have to look at messages/channels 24/7, just when we’re working, and can have asynchronous discussions. When work is done, we close Slack so messages at our 10pm are seen the next day.

          1. Filosofickle*

            This is how I think Slack works best. In my org we’ve been encouraged to delay messages but we can’t know everyone’s schedule. We’re almost all remote and generally work flexibly, scattered across many time zones. I could conservatively schedule it to arrive at 9a, but a lot of people (esp parents) work at odd hours and might have preferred seeing it at 8p the night before or 7a that morning. It should be up to each of us to control how/when we get messages on our end, instead of putting the effort on the senders to guess.

            1. Bitte Meddler*

              That last sentence is so key.

              Not work related, but my 78-year old mom told me she was “beginning to build a resentment” against one of her friends who has a habit of responding to group texts at 3:00 in the morning, which wakes my mom up.

              I had to sit her down and educate her on modern communication etiquette, which is essentially that the receiver is in charge of when they get calls or messages. Hell, even when we had push-button landlines, you could turn the ringer off. And if you had a rotary phone, you just took the receiver off the handle so no one could call you.

              I work with people all over the globe so I get emails and Teams messages at all hours on my phone.

              I have two profiles on my phone: work and personal. The work profile goes into DND mode from 7:00 PM to 7:00 AM.

    8. Also-ADHD*

      Granted, my team is fully remote, as is much of my company, but Slack is extremely useful. I find it the very best workplace communication I’ve ever experienced, for project work, basic communication, camaraderie, everything! There are fun Slack channels my department has, project specific channels, team channels, work review channels, and it’s all organized and much more enjoyable than any other communication.

    9. Quinalla*

      I’ve never used Slack, but I’ve use some kind of messaging program (now Teams) with every company I’ve been a part of since those programs existed. They are great in general even if everyone is in office as that step in between email & phone/in person conversation, vital if you have hybrid/remote/mixed work environments. Can people waste time on them? Of course, just like they can waste too much time with a long chat in person or a phone call or even unneeded meetings :) Doesn’t mean the tool is useless!

      1. Rain*

        Same! I love Slack. It saves me loads of times, reduces the number of emails in my inbox, reduces the meetings I need to have, and allows me to communicate quickly and easily with my team regardless of where anyone is working.

        Add to that the fact that you can schedule messages to go out at a later time (for time zone issues) and flag them for follow up (so you they don’t get forgotten), and it’s a huge efficiency gain for my teams and company.

        (Teams can die in a fire, though.)

    10. mango chiffon*

      I’m an admin who works with multiple different teams at my office. The Slack channels for each of my teams are great for quick messages or reminders. These are things like “my appointment is taking longer so I’m missing X meeting” or “remember to finish the security training by Friday.” We also have topic channels for work related things like DEI where people might share articles, but also non-work related things like pets or food and it does encourage camaraderie. It all depends on how it’s used by staff, so it’s not the app itself that is a time waster

    11. Delta Delta*

      I use Slack for a side business that I’m involved in. There are lots of partners (maybe 200 total) and we have several different channels for our specific chunks, along with a “general” channel. Since this isn’t my primary business, it’s incredibly helpful to have all the information and communication in one place. I’m involved in the same side business in a different partnership that doesn’t communicate that way, and I find it sort of frustrating that I don’t always know what’s going on, who my contacts are, and that the method of communication is via email. Do I need a thousand emails? No. A thread of communication would be much easier.

    12. J!*

      Before we implemented slack at my last job, everyone was copied on all kinds of emails “just in case” they needed background on a project. It was a huge volume of stuff in your inbox every single day, and it made it SO hard to find the stuff that actually needed your action. Once we switched to slack for internal business, which has searchable channels to review those conversations as needed, it made email so much easier to manage.

      Also, a thumbs up emoji with a number next to it instead of eight emails that say “sounds good to me,” “cool,” etc is like a VAST improvement.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        It’s so much better than email and even talking in person in a lot of cases. I can keep up with what another group is up to and how it might affect me by skimming a certain channel regularly rather than asking someone if anything was brought up in a meeting that might somehow affect my job (happens more than you think but not enough for me to attend every single meeting). It’s created so many opportunities for cross-team collaboration without feeling like intrusion.

    13. Always Tired*

      Oh, I love slack/teams/whatever chat app. It saves playing phone tag and having to call all 6 managers about shifting workers around on projects.

    14. I Have RBF*

      Because Slack beats email or going around to people’s desks and interrupting them. Slack is for both synchronous and asynchronous communication.

      When something is written on Slack, like an instruction, I don’t have to commit it to my flaky memory. If I need to have it available, I can copy it to my personal docs. I can refer back to it, or even ask questions and get the answer back later.

      People who rely solely on verbal communication drive me up the wall. I do not remember verbal asks well. Never have, but since my stroke it’s worse. Slack, IRC, Zoom chat, etc all help me a lot.

      If it’s handled in an adult manner it’s not a “huge time-waster”, it’s an integral part of communication with a geographically distributed team.

    15. zaracat*

      I live in Australia, where “slack” is a slang term for lazy, so Slack being a time-waster is apt.

      1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

        It’s slang for the same thing in the US. I’ve always assumed the name was ironic.

  10. Quantum Possum*

    OP #3

    Like Alison said, the key is to keep judgment out of it.

    Can you think of an instance where you disagreed with your boss on a plan but also realized that his plan was perfectly viable? (Even if you thought it wasn’t as good as yours?) I recommend a situation where you disagreed on procedure but not on intent. For example, you and your boss agreed that the company should perform teapot inspections to the same high standard, but you disagreed on which specific inspection process to use to get there.

    The important thing is to show that you understood your boss’s position and articulated your own, without insubordination or petulance.

    I once had to answer that question to a hiring panel that included my former boss (she was not the hiring manager, just on the panel). That was…awkward. But I just focused on the technical aspects, and the interview went smoothly. I wound up getting the job!

    Good luck!

    1. Smithy*

      I hate categorizing “soft skill” questions as gotch ya questions during interviews, but I do think that so often what they’re really looking for is a candidate’s ability to take 5-10 seconds and think of a reasonable, professionally appropriate example. However, questions like times you disagreed with a boss or even things like your greatest weaknesses can so often bring to mind the most catastrophic or sanitized answers. Neither of which are amazing.

      I used to have a wildly difficult and shouty boss, and lots of my stories about her are a bit over the top. However, a very basic and pragmatic reality is that her English wasn’t fluent. A reality of this is that more complicated issues – or disagreements on approaches – would always be best delivered face to face vs in writing/email. Her English reading/writing was weaker than listening/speaking – so that was the best medium for more complicated conversations. This is an answer I can give briefly around one supervisor, and the best way to communicate this type of news but understanding that other supervisors preferred to receive written updates first before having a meeting. But mostly, I can focus on the communication delivery – and less so if or how the message was received.

    2. spcepickle*

      When interviewing for my current job – my boss’s boss (who is now my boss) was on the panel. I was activity in a disagreement (professional difference of opinion on a process we did). I just straight up called it out – Boss I am going to throw you under the bus. This is what we are talking about, this is how I am working on it, these are the potential outcomes I see.

      I am still not sure if it was the right move, but I got the promotion.

  11. Chocolate Teapot*

    2. Re-reading the question, the wife has only been with her new company for a few weeks, so I understand why she wants to be friendly as “the new joiner”. I suspect Lisa has tried latching on to new joiners before.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      > I suspect Lisa has tried latching on to new joiners before.

      Very likely – I expect everyone else is sick of her and has seen this off before (whether directly, or indirectly like somehow always being busy…) and now Lisa has a new buddy to do this with…

    2. Zombeyonce*

      I imagine the previous new person is relieved that Lisa’s found a new person to try and befriend.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        And I feel for Lisa–the loneliness epidemic is real–but this is all tone deaf.

        A few weeks in you should be occasionally chatting pleasantly. You might get lunch together; you might suggest grabbing coffee. You should not be suggesting that a great collection of outings together is whatever the new employee’s set weekend plans are, you’ll come with.

        There was a letter from someone crushing on the boss, and a useful description in comments of how it’s hard to reject someone when what you’re turning down is a weird vibe.

        1. Random Dice*

          I really appreciated the way Alison’s reply had SO much empathy for Lisa while also helping #2 set boundaries.

          We don’t know if Lisa is neurospicy and struggles with social skills… or if she’s love-bombing the new person because she has a malignant personality. Or something else!

          But the advice is the same.

        2. Observer*

          And I feel for Lisa–the loneliness epidemic is real–but this is all tone deaf.

          This is beyond tone deaf. Which is why I suspect that what is going on here is not about the typical disconnection that so many people are struggling with.

          It sounds like she is a real boundary crosser, and that many people are not willing to put in the work to set boundaries that allow her in a little, but not too much. And it’s hard to blame them. It’s a *lot* of work, and it’s a bit risky.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            A theme of the comments on the thread I linked is that it’s significantly less effort to hold a nope-never boundary than a just-a-little-bit boundary.

          2. Dorothy Zpornak*

            OR she is on the spectrum and finds herself struggling because people can’t be bothered to simply be honest and direct and attempt to communicate in a way she can understand, and would rather be judgmental and target her and try to damage her career than try a tiny bit of tolerance and acceptance for those who are different.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              I do recommend the comments on the thread I linked.

              Whenever this comes up, it seems we cycle through “So someone clearly explained the boundaries but I disagreed and tried to argue with them, and now the boundaries are harder and farther out.” That is, a lot of us have had the experience of someone claiming that straightforward honest direct communication with them would be rewarded, and then it wasn’t.

              Also, bluntly telling people “I do not want to be your friend” is considered harsh and cruel–especially coming from women, who are supposed to smooth social interactions–and so there can be a substantial cost to the person trying to set boundaries.

              1. Emily Byrd Starr*

                That wasn’t the case here. The LW said that his wife hadn’t really set any boundaries. I am neurodivergent, and so I only understand the words that are said, not the words that are implied, and it seems that perhaps Lisa also has trouble reading between the lines. Many people have this issue, not just ND people. Sometimes, it’s due to a cultural difference or the way they were raised.

                So yeah, if someone is violating a person’s boundaries when they have not been explicitly stated, then the person needs to come right out and explicitly state them. This is the case even when it’s something that you think everyone should automatically know without being told. Some people don’t automatically know it, and the people who are unable to read between the lines are especially prone to not “automatically knowing it.”

    3. Hornswoggler*

      I’ve seen advice elsewhere (or possibly even on here come to think of it) that the person who zooms in on you to make friends when you first appear at a new job/school/group etc is the person you should put at arm’s length. They aren’t always as ghastly as LW1’s colleague, but they’re often needy or problematic in some way, so it pays to exercise caution.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        That makes a lot of sense. I remember when I was in 5th class (I think it’s much the same as 5th grade), they mixed us up so we weren’t with the same people we had been the previous year and this one girl who had never been in my class before immediately asked me to be her cooking partner and then to be her best friend. Being only 10 and having read way too many books where two kids bond on their first day of meeting and remain lifelong friends, this seemed completely reasonable to me.

        Yeah, it turned out the girl had pretty severe behavioural problems. I think she genuinely did want a friend but she managed to alienate everybody she befriended by being bossy, insulting them, turning hot and cold (like being really nasty to you and then afterwards apologising and being really sweet so you would stay friends with her). Then when people stopped being friends with her, she’d start targetting them and being nasty to everybody else about them. I remember after I stopped being friends with her, we were on opposite teams for P.E. and when my team won, she started saying, “I don’t know how they won with Irish Teacher on their team.”

        I mean, that is a bit different from being friends with the new person since none of us were actually new; we were just from three different fourth classes mixed together. Often genuinely nice people will try to be welcoming to the new person, but I agree that people who immediately decide the new person is their “new best friend” can sometimes be people to be wary of.

        1. Boof*

          While i agree that the person who seems to latch on inexperienced (in various ways) folks may be sus, For what it’s worth, I moved a lot when I was young, and got very used to spotting someone who is a likely friend running up, introducing myself and going from there. I’m pretty sure I never harassed anyone and took cues if things didn’t work out. But it actually seems pretty accurate? I made a lot of best friends who I sort of knew would be my current best friend that way.

        2. Despachito*

          I think that some people forget that a friendship requires GRADUAL investments, and that is, if the other person is ever open to be friends with us.

          Whatever friendships I have forged in my life were not instantaneous. We had to mingle in neutral environment (sometimes a shared hobby, sometimes work done for each other) before for some time, then we found out we had some things in common and wanted to see each other outside that neutral environment.

          Skipping this phase is extremely tone-deaf and reeks of desperation (“I need to fill a position of a close friend with anyone who is available at the moment” rather than “I like you as a person and I would like to spend more time with you”). I cannot see how this could end well.

          I would not give Lisa any information about my private life from now on. I feel sorry for her but I am absolutely not the one to fill her voids.

        3. DJ Abbott*

          Aw, I understand this. I had similar problems growing up, and that’s because this was the example I was seeing at home from my abusive parents. I didn’t know how to treat people because that’s what I was learning at home.
          The way she was treating people is the way she was treated at home. I hope she was able to learn better, because that’s no way to live.

          1. ferrina*

            Agree that this was probably things she was seeing/being treated at home. My household was similar, and it had a big impact on me.

            That said, there was no way Irish Teacher could have solved this. These kinds of issues are way bigger than a kid can or should be handling. It’s a great opportunity for adults in their lives to teach them about boundaries and “it’s okay to not be close to someone as long as you’re still respectful”

            1. Jack Russell Terrier*

              Yes this. I went to boarding school – this was the Eighties. When I was about 15 I was friends with someone like that, slightly different behavior but very similar.

              She asked if she could stay with me for a few days at the beginning of our holidays, before she went home to her father’s. She lived with him.

              A day or so into her stay with my family, her father called. I heard her say to him something like … oh …. oh but … oh … ok, oh ok, … I understand. Her to was SO sad and her posture so deflated. She didn’t argue with him at all, just got sad and accepted it.

              She got off the phone and asked if she could stay a few more days.

              Her dad put her off coming home at the agreed upon time for her holiday from boarding school.

              He didn’t even check if she could extend her stay with us – she had to do it.

              I can’t imagine what her home life was like.

            2. DJ Abbott*

              No, I’m not saying Irish Teacher could have done anything. Just trying to illuminate where this comes from.

      2. Minimal Pear*

        Yeah I’ve noticed this as a pattern in my life, it’s interesting that this is something that’s happened to other people! I think that in my life this kind of person tends to overstep boundaries a little, which is super useful when it means they decide to go to talk to the introvert with RBF in the corner, but then it rapidly becomes… problematic.

      3. Abundant Shrimp*

        That was my thought too.

        A wise friend once told me “someone who goes from zero to boyfriend in six seconds, will go in the other direction just as fast” and I think that applies to work friends too. And the personal/inside information they gain on you while in that instant friends phase can later be used to stab you in the back at work. Lisa sounds like too much, who the heck invites themselves to a random child’s basketball game? I barely wanted to attend my own kids’ school events and Lisa went to OP’s child’s, on a weekend?! like why? of all things to do with her two free days, how was that the most interesting she came up with? dear god. This would weird me out to the point of wanting to keep my distance.

        1. Emily of New Moon*

          Not always. My husband and I made it to the boyfriend/girlfriend stage by our second or third date, and we knew that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together after only dating for three months. We’ve been together for over 20 years now.
          However, the difference between us and the LW is that the feeling was mutual for us.

          1. Abundant Shrimp*

            Oh absolutely yes to your last sentence! I’ve also had friends that I clicked with instantly. This is not the case with LW’s wife and this coworker at all.

            And congrats on your happy marriage. I still haven’t cracked that code, my last relationship was one of those where we both felt we wanted to date each other the moment we met (took another year, and some time being friends first) and it crashed and burned in a rather spectacular way this past fall – at least I have good stories.

      4. Berkeleyfarm*

        Yeah, I have certainly seen this happening in organizations and a lot of times these people are difficult in various ways. They’re either lonely and needy or they thrive on conflict and are really looking to recruit a personal army.

      5. sparkle emoji*

        This is very true in my experience. I initially made friends with a girl who glommed onto me freshman year. When I tried to distance myself after witnessing her lying and being rude to other friends of mine, she began a year-long bullying campaign that included her spitting on me and ended with her sending a misspelling-filled rant letter to me via mutual classmates.

    4. Smithy*


      I consider myself to enjoy social interactions at work and occasionally making friends that carry over into my “real life”. But then I have a friend who genuinely helped a co-worker move who she’d known for just a few months. There is no amount of pointing out to her that her pursuit of very close friendships with coworkers that quickly and the likelihood of them become wildly problematic as being correlated. She really wants close friends at work, and so she opens herself up to people – and gets the wide range that comes with it.

      Bigger picture it’s taught me that even among people who want friends at work – what that means to different like-minded people can still vary vastly. So while my friend or Lisa are on the more extreme ends of the scale, I do think that when we get surprised that people are like that – it doesn’t help us respond kindly but effectively.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Tangential, but I don’t see helping someone move as a very-close-friends-only thing, and I’ve done it for people who were colleagues of my husband’s for a few weeks that I’d never even met before. That’s the way it works sometimes when people are new to a city. But then I’m weird in that I kind of like helping people move, as much as I hate moving myself.

        1. amoeba*

          Yeah, that’s also a thing I’ve both given and received help for from/to coworkers whom I wasn’t super close to! But then we were also all broke, so it was a normal thing – nowadays people mostly just pay a company. I’d still be up for doing it if I get pizza and beer, though!

          1. Emmy Noether*

            Pizza and beer while sitting on moving boxes is absolutely mandatory!

            Our last move was with professional movers that took care of everything, and it was awesome. But the kind of everyone-helping-out spirit of my more bohemian student days, and the sense of community it brings, absolutely also has it’s charms.

            To close the loop to the topic at hand: yeah, some people may use this sort of thing to try to shortcut to a closer friendship, or because they’re craving a community they lack. But some people just enjoy helping out, or enjoy making new people feel welcome.

          2. Abundant Shrimp*

            It’s definitely a younger-people-thing. I cannot in good conscience ask any of my friends to help me move anymore, even though some still offered and we certainly did it for each other in our 30s. I know their health problems and worry that moving heavy boxes and furniture can end badly for them – it sure can for me.

            1. amoeba*

              Ha, thanks for making me feel young for once, I’m usually never included in the “younger people” category anymore!
              (But jokes aside, yeah, if people have physical issues – no matter which age – it’s certainly a different story!)

            2. bamcheeks*

              also accumulation of Stuff as you age! In my twenties, “help me move” meant two suitcases, six large boxes and it all fit in the back of a car with the seat folded down. In my early thirties, I had to hire a van because we had more boxes, some of which had crockery and bedding and books in, a couple of armchairs and a small kitchen table. Now it’s an entire household with multiple beds and mattresses and sofas and solid wood chests of drawers and desks and sideboards and we need a bigger vehicle than someone with a normal driving licence can drive, and pizza and beer just aren’t going to cover it!

              1. Abundant Shrimp*

                Fair point – though in my case, most people in our friend group (including ourselves) were families of four, who were all starting out in a new country and so couldn’t afford to declutter or get rid of anything, so there was a lot of stuff. Packed in uncomfortable boxes that were hard to lift (since no one could afford moving boxes with handles). And somehow I cannot recall any difficulty moving any of that for ourselves or our friends! 20 years later, I had a herniated disc a few years ago, several of the friends had surgeries on their joints, no way am I coming to them with that ask (though my adult children and, for my last move, my then-boyfriend, helped me with some of the stuff, and I helped my children when they both had to move last year) even though I downsized and decluttered multiple times and have less stuff than I used to.

          3. Jack Russell Terrier*

            Ages ago my B&SIL asked me to help with a move with their movers. No worries, they’re delightful people. Only they wanted me to be at the new place. I said that perhas they should be at the new place to make sure everything went smoothly and I should be at the old place. He pushed back. I said I wasn’t comfortable being in charge of the new place.

            He pushed back again – saying he would be at the old place and then go back to work. Basically I was in charge of almost the whole flipping move. I cited that I couldn’t be responsible for paying the movers and that I couldn’t solve any issues that arose at the end of the move since he wouldn’t be at the new place. This wasn’t a soft reply by any means – I literally said that as part of it.

            He pushed back again!! He said he’d give me the check. At this point, I said I was happy to help but I could not be responsible for their move. It was their move and they had to take charge of it.

            He replied – heard!

            Blimey! To give some credit and context, they were young- late 20s and probably had no real idea what they were asking of me. They were also first year associates at different high powered corporate law firms in DC. They were under a lot of pressure.

            But they pushed back way too much.

      2. Despachito*

        Helping move feels a lot different though, provided it comes with no strings attached.

        I can easily imagine myself helping someone I am not very close with and with no intention to ease my way into their friendship like that. It would be an one-off thing and in no way as intrusive as what Lisa is doing.

    5. ferrina*

      Maybe, but wife still needs to set some boundaries. We don’t know if Lisa is a chronic remora or if she’s just socially awkward. It’s even possible that the wife has been so desperate to make a good impression that she’s been giving Lisa the impression that she wants her to join! (I know someone like this- they’ll say anything to make someone happy in the moment, then complain that the person took their words at face value).

      So yeah, wife needs to use her words.

  12. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP1 (“private” slack channel) – Management at many companies have discussions like this. The only difference here is that the channel is accidentally visible, not that the discussions are happening.

    Seen this way, the channel is a rare opportunity to see what goes on in a way you wouldn’t otherwise and I wouldn’t take any action on it. I don’t think it will go on forever though as sooner or later someone will make a mistake and reference something from that channel, at which point it will come out.

    People will suggest leaving over this if managers talk about people this way. Any other company will be the same, you just won’t see it. You can get that effect by just not reading it any more..

    1. Allonge*

      I hate to, but I agree that this is by itself not something to leave over – not because it’s not bad but because it’s something very likely happening in other places too.

      Personally, very likely I could not resist looking at the channel, but overall it would be bad for me – if the information is not actionable, it’s really just making me upset for nothing.

      Maybe something to consider, OP – yes, information is power, but there is a cost to it, too.

    2. Adam*

      It’s true that every company has private discussions between the managers, but they don’t generally feature “awful things” in my experience. They’re often blunt, so they might say, “Jane is completely screwing up the Llama Groomers account and I can’t get across to her that this is important”, but they won’t generally say, I dunno, “Jane is a lazy good-for-nothing and I can’t wait until we can replace her with someone younger”. It’s useful to understand what kind of people you’re working for.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes, I think it depends on whether the revealed private discussions are blunt vs slimy/criminal/cruel.

        I note that with this company the private channel has been visible for some time and no one has tipped off the boss. That’s a remarkable level of “No good comes of being direct and honest with the boss, and knowing what they’re plotting could benefit us all.” Truly they have united the rank and file in a way that those designing corporate ice breakers can only dream of.

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          Yeah, this stuck out as a bad sign. I absolutely tipped off my manager when I realized I could see something on her calendar that I wasn’t meant to (names of internal candidates for a hiring round – an easy mistake to accept that calendar item without realizing), and I believe that at least the more senior folks on my team would do the same for me.

          I had the same question as a person later down the thread about OP’s ability to judge the things said about them – it’s really hard to be objective and an overheard blunt managerial assessment of performance can be really hard to take. But if no one has tipped the senior folks off about this, that’s a really bad sign for the culture, and probably a sign that OP is correct about how bad this behavior is.

        2. Quantum Possum*

          This is a very good point. The way employees react says a lot about the overall culture of the company.

          If employees aren’t surprised by what they’re reading, it’s probably because they already knew what kind of people occupy their company’s C-suite.

      2. ferrina*

        Exactly this. There’s a difference between discussing performance and name-calling.

        I’ve been in the closed-door meetings where we discuss these things. Most managers can do it without insults. Even the diplomatic “ah, yes, the person who left had some…..opinions on that.”
        That no one likes these managers enough to even point out that their conversations aren’t private says a lot.

    3. Coll of Duty*

      I’m sorry you’ve had such negative experiences and I hope your future career develops in a more positive and productive setting. While it’s certainly true that there will be discussions at management level that employees are not privy to, it is absolutely not the case that those discussions will be of this nature. I promise you, most workplaces are not like that! I know it’s hard to realise this when you have a long history of toxic workplaces to go off of, but that level of unpleasantness really is the exception not the rule. I hope you’ll get to see that for yourself soon.

    4. Never Knew I Was a Dancer*

      There is a real difference between venting about a report/employee when you’re frustrated about a situation, vs. saying rude, disrespectful, derogatory things about them.

      We all feel frustration about the people we work with at some point or another, and that doesn’t have to be a big deal. But when you feel and express disrespect, disdain, or scorn towards someone, that will absolutely make its way into how you treat them, even if you try to hide it—and I’d be shocked if OP 1’s C-suite was trying.

    5. Quantum Possum*

      No, no, no…management should not discuss employees like that. That’s a giant red flag with “TOXIC” printed all over it.

      Managers discuss employees bluntly in closed-door meetings, but we are not cruel or scornful. We do not make arbitrary decisions and brag about it. We do not denigrate our employees — even the worst performers are treated with dignity.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        The trouble is we don’t really know what OP is describing as ‘awful’. One of the things they describe as awful in relation to the raises could be “it’s right that Fergus isn’t getting a raise as he seems to spend most of his time watching cat videos instead of working, in fact it’s a surprise given he’s so lazy that he’s still here at all really given the amount he’s (not) managed to accomplish over the last year – or 5 years come to that!” – Is that ‘awful’? but that’s a standard thing someone might say off the record. There’s no evidence that the comments are arbitrary or cruel.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Yeah, that’s basically what my management has said about a fellow admin for whom they’re planning a shift to a position where she’ll be more comfortable herself. Then there are questions about whether some of the people I’ve actually worked with in the past are pulling their weight, and much as I’d like to come to their defence, I’m too close to them to be able to make that kind of judgement on their performance. (I remember one contractor being let go early. I liked him as a person — he was cute and a bit unworldly. But that unworldliness created problems for him in the job he’d been paid to do and the comments when he left were pretty negatively blunt.)

          It can be hard to hear that even about someone else, but it’s sometimes necessary.

        2. DawnShadow*

          Actually, though this seems understandable if not ideal coming from a co-worker, coming from bosses it would be pretty awful, in my opinion. These are the people who have standing to do something about Fergus. Something blunt should be “I’m going to have to put Fergus on a PIP because he’s not accomplishing X and Y objectives” or “I’m having trouble trying to get Fergus to accomplish Z. Have any of you had trouble with him over this?” Calling Fergus lazy is pretty problematic in my book. As bosses, they should be acting, not complaining like they have no agency.

          1. Sacred Ground*

            Exactly. That hypothetical boss is saying “I’ve let Fergus get away with doing nothing for 5 years and all I’m doing about it is giving him a smaller raise and complaining about it to my peers.” And that’s supposed to be the not-awful version?

        3. bamcheeks*

          If it’s in a company Slack, it’s by definition not off the record! I mean, I agree that it’s the kind of thing someone might say casually, but anyone *writing* that in a company-owned message system is really asking for trouble.

        4. Emmy Noether*

          I think you missed that this is top management writing those things? The people with the power to fire should not express surprise that people they didn’t fire weren’t fired, ya know?

          1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

            I did realise it was top management writing those, and assumed (admittedly it wasn’t stated in the letter) that they aren’t the direct managers of individual contributors but rather there’s at least 1 other layer of hierarchy in there. If that’s the case, you do see situations where a more senior manager thinks “why hasn’t Jane fired Fergus already?” but although the senior manager in theory has hiring and firing privileges over Fergus’ level, might not intervene unless it was something egregious.

        5. Quantum Possum*

          True, we don’t know the specifics of what was said. One person’s “awful” could be another person’s “eh, makes sense.”

          For me, the biggest context clue is that no one has yet alerted leadership. In a healthy office, at least one employee would tell the managers that their private chats are being broadcast to the world…but here, everyone is keeping their mouths shut. Of course, I’m making assumptions here and could certainly be wrong.

    6. r.*

      I’ll have to disagree with this one.

      As a manager I firmly believe that all my reports deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, even if I am unhappy with their work, or how they interact with customers, other employees or me. Because ultimately that respect and dignity isn’t owed to them due to how good or bad their work is, but because they’re fellow human beings.

      Consequently I’ll never say something about a current, former or prospective future employee I’d not be willing to say to their face. Of course due to various concerns I’d prefer for some things to remain confidential and within management, but that doesn’t change one rather important point:

      Some of my statements may be blunt & to the point, possibly brutally honest, and without a lot of the usual language you’d add to make it easier for the recipient of a critique to accept it; but they’ll never be something that disrespects them *as a person*, or any sort of other statements that would be called ‘awful’.

    7. Guacamole Bob*

      Add me to the list saying that this is far from universal. I scrolled back through recent threads in the private Teams chats with my peers and our manager, and also with the managers who report to me, and at no point was there anything belittling, scornful, cruel, etc. Mostly it’s pretty boring logistics and bureaucracy, work assignment discussions, etc. There are occasional things like “person X would be available to take on that task but it might be a little advanced for her on technical skill Y”.

      We’re hybrid so most of the real discussion happens in person or in meetings. Even then, last week I talked with the managers on my team about how to support a couple of the junior folks on my team who are struggling a little with picking up some new skills. It was a respectful, productive conversation. Could someone have been embarrassed if they overheard? Certainly. But no one would say it was cruel, and we have a healthy enough culture that if we were accidentally broadcasting that kind of conversation someone would tip us off.

  13. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP3 (describing “disagreeing with boss” in interviews) – the difficult thing with this one is the range of answers that different interviewers will consider the “right” one! This is dependent on role, personalities, company culture, etc. I was hiring someone who is clearly a “challenger” and in fact challenged me on a few things in the interview itself, which is good for that role but other managers/companies might hate that.

    I think when talking about conflict in general, broadly it goes like this: the background/reason for the conflict (e.g. the customer wanted X to be added to the scope of the project, but it was already running late and contracts had been signed, this would mean a significant change in direction and rework at this late stage) – the different opinions (boss thought we should accommodate the request and started planning for overtime but I thought we should push back or at least get them to pay for it). What you did to try to persuade the boss, e.g. I came up with some “back of an envelope” calculations on how this would affect the deadline and costs and then scheduled a catch up with boss to go through it. Boss disagreed for commercial reasons even after I’d fully explained the implications so ultimately we went through with it, but I did feel I’d put the objections across in the best way possible.

    Things to avoid:
    – Boss was wrong and I was right cos the boss doesn’t know Jack about *** (or anything that has a whiff of that attitude)
    – I never disagree with the boss, I just do what they say
    – There’s no point disagreeing because management will do what they want anyway
    – I secretly did the thing anyway and was a hero for doing so in retrospect

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      I can totally imagine myself early in my career assuming that “I never disagree with the boss; I just do what they say” was the right thing to say. It seems obvious now why that would not be a good idea, but I think in my early 20s, I would have thought that it would have shown me to be “easy to manage” and somebody who “gets along with people.”

      Partly because I didn’t have the same understanding of the workplace and how it is more collaborative than say the education system and also partly because at that point of my career, I would have had less situations in which I would have had the perspective to make valid arguments against anything my boss wanted to do.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I think that’s what makes it a good question, IMO — as well as showing you understand how to disagree effectively, it does separate out the new entrants from the more experienced, because you should be able to give some solid basis for disagreeing, whether that’s subject matter expertise, client-level or front-line context your boss doesn’t have, or a preference for a different way of doing something that’s based on solid self-knowledge and an understanding of your own strengths. “Easy to manage” and “gets along with people” are very good qualities to have in your first year or two of work when you’re really just settling in to a professional role!

  14. Anoning because legal issues*

    LW4: You answered your own question when you started with I know dream jobs aren’t a thing, but…

    You wanted this job/company to be your dream job, so you justified to yourself why their behavior wasn’t setting off red flags, and now, unsurprisingly, they acted like any other company out there. It’s what humans do, ignore what’s in front of them because we want so desperately for it to be something else. And it sucks when we have to see it for what it really is.

    I spent 2 years telling myself I worked for a unicorn company, right up until lawyers had to get involved. So many red flags that I ignored, because I didn’t want to see them. Ignorance is bliss isn’t a cliche for no reason. It’s happier that way.

    And even if they hadn’t pulled the role, they still would have put the exact same number of candidates through the exact same process. The only difference is that one person would have gotten a job offer at the end, while the same number of people minus one would have paid the same price and been left with nothing. Is that really better?

    1. MK*

      Well, yes. Putting in a great deal of effort for a chance at a job is better than putting a great deal of effort for no chance; and all hiring processes result in many people putting in a lot of effort for no result, heck, any kind of selection process is like that. It’s an issue that they are asking for that much of a time commitment, but it’s hardly a red flag.

      1. Colette*

        But there was a chance at the point the OP was putting in the effort.

        I would guess they were hitting the end of the quarter and the books didn’t look the way they wanted them to, so they decided to cut staffing costs. It’s easier to cut people who don’t work for you than to cut people who do. That’s how it goes in big organizations.

    2. LJ*

      As the thread above discusses, the intensity of interview process here was just on the high end of normal – maybe a yellow flag – not a giant waving red flag in itself.

      Presumably they wouldn’t actually have had hundreds of candidates go through multiple interviews. Maybe a handful or dozens doing to the project and a smaller number being invited to continue to the subsequent stages, for example.

  15. GythaOgden*

    Alison is wise about taking the frustration out of the disagreement with your boss question. While you may think you have the right answers that would be perfect for the situation at hand because you’re closest to the actual figures and outcome of that decision, your boss often has more of a clue about priorities and budget and all the things that put a dampener on perfect work. There’s a difference between ‘if we mess this up someone is going to die’ like the decision making that went into the Challenger disaster and most ordinary decisions. I’d look for someone who could pick their battles, know the difference between whistleblowing and insubordination, and someone who was cognisant of where their boss was having to ‘make do and mend’ and where they really were misguided or outright malicious and could understand that the former situation was more likely than the latter.

    We’ve been getting a big project done and there have been things that have come up unexpectedly as we ran the postcodes through the government’s environmental planning website. Basically, one of our properties is closer to a river than we thought it was (which the exercise was designed to catch; there are a LOT of moving pieces and naturally priority is given to those properties which have flooded in the past rather than might do in the future, particularly because government reassesses this periodically itself in response to things like climate data) and thus in the most vulnerable category when it comes to flood planning. The plan I was putting together will need a flood risk assessment attached…but we found out too close to the deadline to have one carried out. So, alas, we have to upload the plan without it but we just need something 80% complete by the deadline, not the whole package. Obviously it needs to be as complete as we can get it, but with only a week and a few days left on the timer, it’s not the priority.

    So my boss said that as long as we indicate on the plan that a FRA is forthcoming, we can upload it on time. The perfect is so often the enemy of the good and one thing I’ve had to learn is that while I might have an insight into the day to day running of what I’m doing as an administrator, I’m not privy to all the broader strategic thoughts that management need to comb through. My whizzo scheme on reception for a building portal through which people who occasionally come into the office can interact directly with reception and thus vault over the Berlin Firewall that accidentally got thrown up when the property management company directly took over reception rather than contracting it out took over would be phenomenally expensive.

    As admin for a management team, the frank discussion in OP1 sometimes has to go on in front of me and I’m keeping that under wraps because management also have to be able to speak frankly about employee performance and client relationships — and sometimes they involve people I know and a side of those people I don’t see but their managers do. I don’t necessarily see the whole picture, and there’s a fine line between healthy discussion of individual performance in a management setting and the kind of awful crap in OP1, but it is clear I don’t have all the information about priorities and performance that my boss does and therefore I try and listen to why things are what they are. She is also reshuffling the admin team to move someone into a job more suitable for their strengths, because in my few interactions with them, yeah, they’re not in the right position at all. But what I have now is the low-stress position of team Dogsbody but the insight into how management actually works and makes decisions and prioritises and strategises, which is invaluable for someone who will probably always be in an individual contributor role. Just like trying to run an eBay microbusiness taught me a lot about marketing and why it was necessary to follow the pack and sell what the consumer wanted rather than what I was actually offering, so being a fly on the wall of management decisions makes me understand just how complicated an org is to run when you have to pay attention to the bottom line.

    The point is that you both see different halves of the same whole. As seen in OP1, if we wanted a window into management discussions we might not like what we see, but they have more of the bird’s eye view of the situation. It doesn’t mean you have to be meek and subservient and certainly doesn’t mean they should engage in what they do in that Slack channel, but I was taken on by my boss for showing initiative at a lower level and becoming a subject matter expert on some things, while still listening to management needs. (Even though they weren’t actually in my original job description, for me it’s more important that my day is occupied than I get short-term recognition for things, especially in a climate like the UK public sector where my pay is set by the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself and I won’t be able to negotiate my own raise. So I had to show that I was capable of more to be in the running to move up or move out.)

    Being interested in why a decision has to be what it is and magnanimous in understanding that management might have different priorities may show potential employers that you’re not simply being territorial. If you are interested in moving up into a position where you can make the final decisions, I think I’d want to see where you have experience in compromising and working within constraints as well as having lots of different ideas and opinions about what should be done. But even if you wanted to stay where you were, I’d rather see you understood that when resources are finite (and yeah, they’re always gonna be finite) and management is employed to actively make the best use of them, than see you as combative and aggressive in forcing through your perception of the situation at the expense of those priorities.

  16. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

    Re Lisa, once you assert the boundary, if she still breaks it, draw her attention to it so she’s clear this is an example of what you meant.

    It will probably feel even rude to her but it is surely kinder than going to HR (unless absolutely necessary).

    “Lisa, I said it wouldn’t be convenient for you to join us and that weekends are family time. Did you misunderstand? Why did you still show up?”

    You can say that in a perfectly friendly tone of voice.

    1. WellRed*

      Setting boundaries should include not offering up enough information that Lisa can act on it. “Family plans!”

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        THIS. If Lisa doesn’t know your plans, she can’t crash them. That means being very bland at work, which can be tough when you are new. No advance sharing. If anyone asks what you are doing that weekend, just stuff. You can talk after the fact, oh my son’s basketball game was great. But not before.

        But also, this is huge — you don’t have to actually respond to Lisa’s texts. You don’t have to respond to non-work texts at all. Outside of work hours, it depends on your office whether you even respond to work texts. It seems rude, but just because someone texts you don’t mean you have to respond.

    2. Alucius*

      Church is a pretty challenging one though, now that Lisa knows where LW attends. She can’t exactly ask Lisa NOT to attend that church. However, it should be possible to limit interaction to a quick “hi” before or after the service and shut down attempts for further interaction with something like “Sunday afternoon is family time!”

      1. JubJubtheIguana*

        Also it’s possible Lisa is genuinely looking for a new church.

        Maybe I’m projecting, but someone I barely knew (and wasn’t especially a fan of) mentioned a very cheap hobby class which happened to be something I’d desperately needed and been looking for, then told everyone I’d joined in order to stalk him, when I just wanted the class and tolerated his presence in order to access the class.

        Obviously turning up to the baseball game is a whole other kettle of fish.

  17. r.*


    I am sorry to say, but your current employer sounds like a tire fire. Unless there are concrete reasons why you want to stay, things you are unlikely to get elsewhere, I think you should focus your effort to find a new job.

    It doesn’t really sound like you are in a position to materialy change things *in the company* for the better, so any effort you put into it is just a distraction from what can change things for the better *for you*, and that is to find a new employer.


    that unfortunately is par for the course for certain large companies (and many smaller ones that like to imitate them) IT; I guess “dream company” in this case means something like FAANG?

    I can also guarantee you that your former prospective employer is as unhappy, or even more unhappy, than you about the circumstances.

    More than a decade ago once applied at one of them, and invested several days into the process, including flying out for two days for a series of in-person interviews (after several phone screens and live coding sessions). The employer had offered a placement choice of three different countries, but I was pretty clear early on that I’d only consider moving to one of them — and it was exactly this country that, due to some legislative changes, the company had decided to temporarily put a hold on almost all hiring, including for my position.

    No one was happy with this. I had invested several days into a process that didn’t pan out, and the employer had spent a considerable amount of money on a hiring process that didn’t pan out.

    In your case, even without the in-person part, the employer likely spent several upwards of a thousand dollars on trying to hire you; all the people that interview you, that organize and set up the calls, that look at your projects (a lot of that is automated, but likely not all of it), don’t work for free, and can’t work on something else (hence incurring an opportunity cost) instead.

    If hundreds of people applied the employer spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a hiring series that ultimately was doomed; I am fairly certain they’d rather not had set that amount of money on fire.

    1. amoeba*

      Yup. It happened to me multiple times during my few years in my industry – I am actually currently in one of those jobs! They got a hiring freeze after I had already interviewed in person (whole day on site, presentation, etc.) and was their favourite candidate. They called me and explained and offered to stay in contact and a year later, I was actually offered the position. Same thing is happening to me again right now for a different position – still in the waiting stage and hoping for the best. Another company canceled a position before the interview stage and sent all the candidates an e-mail saying so – which I appreciated, much nicer than to assume they just didn’t like my application!

      The only thing I’d say they could have done differently for finalists would be to call/send a more personalised e-mail/offer to stay in contact in case the situation changes, in case you were the candidate they would have made an offer to. But otherwise… hiring freezes happen and usually, the hiring managers only learn of them basically once they’re in place. It’s certainly the same at my current company right now, nothing we could have done to change it if we’d just been in the middle of interviewing somebody!

  18. AllNormal*

    OP4, open positions get put on hold all the time, and the longer the hiring process takes the more likely it is to happen.

    I once had it happen after five rounds of interviews, one if which involved my giving a technical presentation (on the topic of my choice) to about a dozen potential coworkers. Having to do some individualized prep/work doesn’t happen frequently, but it’s not rare either. Ditto multiple, time consuming rounds.

    The place to make a distinction is whether you’re doing it for evaluation or doing it in lieu of condultants/employees. If the latter, I’ve asked to be paid for that work several times – successfully, albeit at less than a going rate and usually timebox to less time than it took. But I’ve had $200-300 checks cut for unsuccessful interview processes in the past, which makes the process more tenable.

  19. DJ Abbott*

    #2, your wife will have to stop telling Lisa about activities outside of work.
    Lisa will push, and your wife will have to deflect politely until Lisa stops. It won’t be easy but to me, it seems better than having Lisa show up at events and have to tell her she wasn’t invited. Ease her into an information diet, and in a few weeks she might forget you have outside activities.

    1. Sloanicota*

      #2 cracks me up because so many people (and I’ve been one of these myself) have convinced themselves it’s “nicer” to *go behind someone’s back and complain about them to HR / their boss* without ever actually *asking* them to stop. It’s definitely not nicer; it just feels **easier** for you, the person who isn’t used to asserting yourself calmly and kindly. This is sooo common. I think it’s related to that Ask Culture/Guess Culture stuff; this is Guess Culture-ing.

      1. Quantum Possum*

        It’s definitely not nicer; it just feels **easier** for you

        ^ This.

        Believe me, I get it. It does suck to potentially hurt someone’s feelings, especially face-to-face. But something being kind means being uncomfortable.

      2. Budgie Buddy*

        I’d actually put going straight to HR in some third even more aggressive category. “Tell” culture? 0.0

    2. Momma Bear*

      I agree. There are coworkers who like to be chatty but I’ve learned to really keep much of my personal life to myself if I don’t want someone’s unwanted commentary. Lisa may be well-intentioned or socially inept, but either way if your wife is not comfortable, she needs to gray rock Lisa on outside activities. Lisa might show up at church, and if so have a family plan to “need to talk to someone” or “can’t stay and chat, bye!” Or maybe nudge her toward one of the older busybody ladies that seem to just love meeting new people. Maybe Lisa will find a new friend. If Lisa pushes about wanting to know more, be firm that it’s family time and she doesn’t want to hang out outside of work.

  20. Johanna Cabal*

    LW1, your C-suite has unintentionally given you a gift. I’d personally keep quiet and put this in my metaphorical back pocket.


    Unsupportive management can hinder not just your current job but future opportunities. If they start giving out terrible and untruthful backdoor references, you and your co-workers need to know before you even think about a new job. Or if you find out they’re trying to push someone out.

    If only every bad management was this technically inept!

  21. Nathan*

    OP4: I’ve been working in software engineering for 15 years and I have never invested that much time in an interview process. I’ve heard about companies who do that, but these companies have the reputation of…hm…let’s say hiring for mental acuity above all else, to the detriment of softer skills and traits. I suggest taking a hard look at the diversity of the team you’re interviewing for and also evaluating whether your interviewers come across as people you would genuinely like to be around for 8 hours a day.

  22. anon tech mgr*

    OP4: Tech hiring is a mess right now, and the people you interviewed with might not have had any idea the position was at risk of getting axed. The process definitely sounds on the high side, but if the people you interviewed with liked you, definitely be gracious about your reply because you want to be on the top of their minds if the position reopens—they may well be fighting their management to get it back—or at least be in the running if similar one on another team does.

    (I’m very glad my team is full because we’ve had a lot of positions yanked back away from hiring managers lately and I would not have enjoyed telling candidates that news, though at least our process is lighter than the one you went through.)

  23. Gray Lady*

    For #2, specifically with the church situation, you can’t really discourage someone from attending a church unless her behavior there is really out of line. But what you can do, if she shows up, is alert someone in church leadership that there is something going on that is something other than someone who simply wants to join in on the worship and life of the church, and maybe ask their advice on navigating that aspect of the problem.

    At the same time, the church thing makes me think this is more than simply a lonely person who doesn’t understand boundaries well, because if she’s a church-going person, she presumably has a church of her own that she’s just going to abandon so she can hang out with your wife at church, which is weird, and if she’s not a church-going person, it’s also weird that she’s going to start going to church just to hang out with your wife. I’m not saying it’s some big horrific thing but it’s probably more than just “really clueless and needs some boundaries set” and unfortunately may wind up sucking up a good bit of your family’s emotional energy to ultimately deal with.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      My suspicion is that inviting people to meet her for extra things hasn’t worked because they claim to be super busy or already have plans, and so she has hit on accompanying them to those plans. OP isn’t going to skip her son’s game, or Sunday worship, because the coworker has decided to attend those things.

      From way out here on the sidelines, I feel sorry for the coworker. But that’s in large part because she isn’t trying to invite herself along to my child’s sports events.

      1. boundless*

        your child’s sporting events don’t belong to you or to your child. in most cases, kids’ sports-games/recitals/performances and even church are public events. a boundary is something the person setting it has control over. the boundary here might be “don’t tell coworker about my exact plans” as that is something within the control of boundary-setter. requesting behaviour from an alleged “boundary stomper” is not setting a boundary because it cannot be enforced by you. instead, it relies on the other person’s compliance to be effective. you can say “don’t talk to me about x” or “i don’t want you to come to y place” but those things are requests only–the other person has to agree to comply, and lack of compliance is not actually stomping on a boundary.

    2. anywhere but here*

      I think you’re viewing the church change a little reductively. It’s possible that she’s been looking to change churches for a bit (or start going to church) and this is the kick in the pants setting it off. Finding a good church within one’s branch of Christianity can be hard, so if someone trustworthy/with good judgement/etc. says this one is good, that can be worth listening to. Obviously this is not a normal variation of that given the context, but I don’t think changing churches or starting going to church is by default as strange as you’re suggesting.

      1. Gray Lady*

        That’s always a possibility. I considered it, but omitted it because in the context of her other behavior, it’s still a possibility but it’s a stronger possibility that this is a piece of her aggressively friendship-seeking behavior.

        But you’re right, that possibility should be allowed for.

    3. Dek*

      “But what you can do, if she shows up, is alert someone in church leadership that there is something going on that is something other than someone who simply wants to join in on the worship and life of the church”

      I mean, maybe this is just me coming from a very Catholic area where afaik, churches don’t really keep tabs on who’s coming or not, and I tend to play “musical parishes” when I go, depending on what’s closest and who the priest is, etc, but this feels like a huge overreach to me that would make OP look stranger than the boss.

      To me, going to a new acquaintance’s church is less odd than going to their kid’s sportsgame.

      1. Gray Lady*

        True, in some churches, it would be weird. In others, like the ones I’m more used to, leadership is much more engaged with the membership on a regular basis. And I’m not saying ask the leadership to police her attendance but in some churches, if someone is coming regularly for a while, leaders would start interacting more just to see if they had needs or were interested in more involvement. So they should probably know up front if there are things about the person that might make their interest less than genuine. It’s up to them to do what they will with the info.

    4. Irish Teacher.*

      It’s not always that unusual to attend different churches either. If it’s a different denomination, then yeah, but if it’s just a different church building, well, for example, when I worked retail, I obviously often had to work Saturdays, so if I did and wasn’t finished work in time for the 6:30 Mass in my church, I’d go to the 7:30 one in the Mass across town. My dad started going to the church across town regularly, simply because a friend of his used to attend that Mass and offered him a lift.

      1. Avery*

        Relatedly: my grandmother, who didn’t learn to drive until later in life, always said that she raised the family Lutheran because the Lutheran church happened to be the closest/most convenient one to their house.
        To this day, I don’t think anyone in the family is quite sure to what extent that claim was a joke versus a blunt restatement of her actual church priorities.

      2. Dek*

        I kind of wonder if this might be more of a Catholic thing, since we already don’t have priests that stay with a congregation for longer than a set number of years, so maybe we just have less…loyalty is the wrong word, but like…it’s no big thing to just go to whichever church is most convenient?

  24. HonorBox*

    OP1 – Don’t say a word. But take screencaps. Don’t just copy and paste what you see. Screencaps will allow you to have all the specifics (time, names, etc) in your back pocket should you need them. I think saying something will only cause more damage because EVERYONE will end up paying the price since no one said a thing earlier. But there will likely be a time when you need that information, so capture away.

    OP3 – The thing I think will be best is to share how/when you brought your boss information related to a decision they were making. If you can share how you presented the information, why you felt strongly about the need to make the suggestions you made, and then agreeing with the decision that they made, you’ve showed how you can present a different way of thinking and then agreed to move forward. I’d be wary of presenting anything that would seem like you allowed yourself to be trampled over “because they’re the boss” because you want to present yourself as a critical thinker, while also showing that you’re a team player.

  25. Delta Delta*

    #3 – I think this needs context. There are times when employees may disagree with their boss and have to do what the boss says. There are also times when an employee is a licensed professional in his or her own right, and has to do with they believe is the right thing, subject to their own professional and ethical obligations.

    Example: I am a lawyer. Many years ago I worked at a firm and represented Client. Boss was also a lawyer. Boss didn’t really know anything about my case with Client except that it was a case that existed within the firm. One day Boss asked what was going on with the case – more in chitchat than anything else – and I told him I was advocating for Client’s Position. Boss became upset, because Client’s Position was not what he thought the right thing was in the situation; he personally believed Other Position was the right way to go. It was a perfectly reasonable position, but it wasn’t what Client wanted. I told him I disagreed. He told me I should really advocate for Other Position. In the long run, I could not do what Boss told me to do, because it wasn’t what Client wanted. Had I done what Boss told me to do, I would have risked my own professional licensing. If I applied for Job, and told this story, I might not get Job, depending on what the Job was.

  26. HR Friend*

    Soft disagree with the advice for LW1 – Slack channel. I would let one of the execs know that the channel is visible to everyone. While their conversation is harsh, they think it’s private. I’ve been on the receiving end of c-suite venting many times. Those backchannel conversations are happening, if not on Slack then in meetings or on other apps. I’d be more worried about when the execs figure out that the channel is visible and coming down on LW/others for not mentioning it, than gathering pointless screen grabs of conversations that the execs are well within their rights to have. LW already knows about the sniping & can decide if, knowing that, they want to continue working for these people. There’s no leverage to be had by continuing to monitor the channel.

    1. Quantum Possum*

      This seems like the kind of office where leadership would not be kind to the messenger. If that’s the case, it’s reasonable to keep mum.

      I’ve been on the receiving end of c-suite venting many times. Those backchannel conversations are happening, if not on Slack then in meetings or on other apps.

      There’s a big difference between venting and saying terrible things about employees.

      We don’t have specifics from the LW, so it’s difficult to judge this particular instance. But just as a universal rule, we should afford dignity to our fellow humans.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I think what’s telling about the office culture is not that the behind-the-scenes conversation between leads is harsh, but that the channel with that conversation has been visible to everyone for some time, yet everyone lower down has decided that it wouldn’t serve them to alert management to this major public misstep.

      Everyone in the office seems to have concluded that alerting management to the mistake would go badly for the messenger. That’s remarkable.

      1. HR Friend*

        Yeah, good point, and that’s essentially why I said soft disagree. Only LW knows if saying something would put them in a worse position than continuing to play dumb. But I think it’s worth considering alerting the execs, to get ahead of the backlash when they inevitably find out their conversations are being seen/documented by everyone at the company.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          We’ve had past letters about “How do I tell my boss I messed up?” In this particular case, unless a new employee comes on board and tells the bosses the very first time they discover the Not So Hidden Slack Channel, it seems everyone in the office would, if they confess, risk the bosses then determining just how long the reporter had accessed the channel while saying nothing.

          In most cases, the first time I saw the thing I shouldn’t see, I would immediately report it to the project manager in a no-drama “hey, I don’t think this was supposed to come to me.” (I freelance.) If I don’t do that, it’s likely because of a long history with this particular person and how pointing out mistakes never went well. (To touch on the letter about “a time you disagreed with your boss,” and some examples upthread of how sometimes your current boss has made it clear “keep quiet and do it” is the only response that won’t cause them to accuse you of plotting against them.)

  27. kiki*

    For LW 4, Unfortunately, that level of investment in the application process is sort of normal for some competitive and prestigious software companies. It’s also common right now for companies to be reevaluating their hiring strategies, often in disjointed and annoying ways.

    I know it’s really frustrating that you put in so much work for a position that isn’t going to exist, but unfortunately this is just kind of how things are in tech right now. I have massive critiques for tech companies and their continuous failure to strategize coherently, but as rando in the comment section of a workplace blog, I don’t that will carry much weight with them.

    One thing I would double check is how much of a dream company it really is to work at. If we’re talking FAANG, a lot of those companies can be extremely intense and wring the life out of their engineers, especially now as a lot of places are letting people go/not backfilling. Sometimes having a super intense application and hiring process can be a sign that they have somewhat unrealistic expectations for their employees.

  28. Boss Scaggs*

    I’m not sure it makes a ton of sense to monitor the slack channel in hopes of finding something illegal, discriminatory, etc.. Why not shut it down now, or at least mention it’s visible? Who wants to read that kind of stuff all the time

    Plus unless everyone at the company is on board with this, it’s going to get out anyway.

    1. Saturday*

      Yeah, people are imagining a big gotcha moment, but I think that’s pretty unlikely. They sound like jerks, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to be engaging in illegal or discriminatory behavior.

  29. Joa*

    I often ask a variation of #3 and I am looking for the person to demonstrate situational awareness, self-awareness, ethics, and nuanced communication. There is a wide range of “right” answers, but I like to see that a person can identify the difference between disagreements about procedural/operational matters and ethical/legal matters. For the former, providing additional information, communicating concerns, accepting that sometimes decisions don’t go their way, and taking steps to avoid similar situations in the future can all be part of strong answers. For the ethical/legal situations, I want to see that they didn’t just accept the situation and took appropriate steps (or that they learned from it and would handle it differently now.)

    What I don’t want to hear, and is a too-common answer, is “I’d just do what my boss said. They are the boss.”

    This will all vary by employer, but I think that if you are interviewing with an org that genuinely values employee contributions, this is likely to be the case.

  30. Margaret Cavendish*

    #3, I usually answer that question not with a specific disagreement, but about the time I recognized a personality difference:

    Former Boss and I are like oil and water in some ways. She believes very strongly that rules are meant to be followed just because they’re rules, whereas I usually want to know why the rules exist in the first place. Both positions have value, but it’s very hard for two people like that to work together! I thought she was being too rigid, and she thought I was being insubordinate. Which was never my intention – I wasn’t questioning her authority, I just wanted to understand the rules before I followed them.

    Once I realized that, I was able to be more mindful about my approach. I still had a million questions about everything, but I started putting some thought into them first – did I actually need the answer, or was I just curious? In most cases I was just curious, so I was able to put those questions aside and focus on actually getting the work done. This improved our relationship quite a lot, and when I did ask the occasional “why” question she was more willing to answer once she knew it wasn’t getting in the way of what she needed from me.

        1. Margaret Cavendish*

          I’m not sure about my boss, but I’m an eldest daughter! So the “question all the rules” thing doesn’t fit the stereotype…but I also have ADHD, which definitely does. :)

  31. Observer*

    #1 – Slack channel.

    I have not read most of the comments yet, but I see a lot of good advice.

    I want to highlight something here. Given the ridiculous technical incompetence that appears to be in play combined with the really bad behavior of your bosses, I think you need to protect yourself.

    What I am suggesting is to make copies. LOTS of copies. Everything they say about you, yes. But also any instructions they give you. Because on the one hand, I don’t trust these people to not change their minds then blame you, or to not throw you under the bus if it turns out that something they told you to do was incorrect. And I’d be willing to bet that a lot of your slack messages are going to disappear, between bad behavior and the fact that your system is improperly set up.

  32. Mermaid of the Lunacy*

    Letter #1: I’m a chaotic neutral when it comes to work situations, so I would gleefully read the C-suite Slack and hope for some really juicy gossip! Two things that jumped to mind:

    Everyone telling the LW to jump ship: These execs probably think and act like most execs. It’s just that their thoughts are being discussed on a Slack channel. If the LW otherwise likes their job, hopefully they can come to terms with the fact that execs at other companies might be very similar, it’s just that their thoughts wouldn’t be telecast.

    And secondly, if it ever comes to light that the Slack is public, it’s possible that the execs could ask IT for a log of who viewed it. And presumably come down on the people who read it “because they should have known it was meant to be private”, blah blah. So proceed carefully.

    1. Quantum Possum*

      Everyone telling the LW to jump ship: These execs probably think and act like most execs.

      I don’t think we should normalize this idea that executives are not beholden to the same rules of respect that the rest of society is. To the contrary, they should be even more respectful and thoughtful, because they owe a huge part of their position and success to the people working under them.

      1. Mermaid of the Lunacy*

        I didn’t say it was ok, just that it’s going to be a fact of life wherever humans are managing other humans.

        1. Quantum Possum*

          But it’s not a fact of life that managers will be incompetent and/or awful. Most managers will at least be decent humans.

    2. Database Developer Dude*

      If it was “meant to be private”, then the execs could lock it down so that no one else can see. Otherwise, it’s their problem.

      My brother, in the early days of Twitter/X, had an account where you didn’t even need an account to see his tweets. Anyone could read them. My mom tried to call me out for making reference to something he said on Twitter when I was on my Facebook page, and I had to take her to school on that.

      My brother’s since locked his account down. Good for him.

  33. Mmm.*

    I’d screenshot the hell out of those Slack conversations. If they’re too dumb to figure out privacy settings and to realize that putting things in writing can come back to bite you, I bet they’re also dumb enough to say discriminatory stuff. It’s always best to have something and not need it than to need it and not have it.

  34. ELT*

    LW2: it can be hard to establish and hold boundaries, but please know that doing that is way kinder than going to HR. Not to say she won’t need to go to HR at some point, but she shouldn’t start there.

    Best wishes – I do get that clinginess can be genuinely hard to navigate.

    1. Kay*

      Not only that – but if she goes to HR without having set boundaries at all and hasn’t stopped giving her the information she needs to be able to show up at LW’s events, as HR/LW’s boss I would seriously question LW’s judgement. If LW wanted to go into management, wanted a promotion, wanted to lead a project, etc. I would be giving serious pause as to whether they were the right person to handle the role.

  35. H3llifiknow*

    LW4: This happens ALL THE TIME in govt. contracting, for example. Positions are posted for a contract that the company is hoping to win, and then…they don’t. But, if they wait until they DO win to post jobs, they won’t have the people on staff and ready to go day 1. They *should* have mentioned to you at some point during all those interviews that “this position is contingent upon getting XYZ contract/work for ABC Corporation” or whatever. I know it feels rude and like wasted time, but it’s really very common.

    1. Quantum Possum*

      Exactly. When companies are bidding for contracts (especially if they think they have a good shot at winning), they often post jobs in anticipation of ramping up quickly once the contract is awarded.

      Of course, sometimes it can take years to negotiate a contract (during which time they’re not actively filling those positions but probably still recruiting), and sometimes they don’t get the contract (in which case they’ll cancel the positions).

      I agree that the company should let applicants know – but often don’t. If the LW is applying for jobs with a known contractor, I recommend asking if the position is contingent upon a contract award.

      1. Slightly Less Evil Bunny*

        Sometimes, the company uses your resume to help them get the contract, and then hires someone who has less experience than you, for a lower salary.

        Rule #1 if a federal contracting company contacts you – ask if it’s a currently funded position, or if it’s contingent upon contract award. Then, proceed from there.

    2. Industry Behemoth*

      This reminded me of someone I knew several decades ago. While working for Company A, he got a much better position with Company B.

      I don’t know when he knew, but Company B hired him in anticipation of landing a government contract for which its only competitor was Company A.

      Company A won the contract, and he ended up going back to them.

    3. ItCouldBeWorse*

      I’ll do you one better. My very first full time job after grad school was for a defense contractor who hired me for phase 2 of a contract. They didn’t tell me they didn’t have phase 2 yet so I helped them finish the proposal then got laid off when they didn’t get the contract.

  36. Dinwar*

    #3: I think part of what they’re going to be looking for is how you handle such disagreements. It’s not so much the content, but rather your approach. Do you just roll over and comply? Do you get into screaming matches? Do you advocate for your position, lay out the costs and benefits, and if the boss decides to go a different direction you support it? Do you go behind the boss’s back and do it your way anyway? That’s useful information for manager to know. After all, disagreement is part of working together, and knowing how you handle it is important.

    So I’d focus more on the process. Pick a time where you presented your arguments, lost, and supported the boss’s decision to the team–it shows that you will stand up for what you think is right, but you’re a team player.

  37. Jo*

    #2 It sounds like this is a lonely woman thinking she’s made a friend connection and going a little overboard. Honestly – it does seem your side has done nothing to slow things. Seems like the right answer is to be kind, but set some emotional distance. Stop talking about personal stuff/activities around this woman. Don’t invite her or allow her to invite herself. Keep it cordial but impersonal. If necessary, outright say that you like to keep a buffer between work and family. If your wife is willing to have her as a work friend she might convert suggestions, “… no, I’m busy with family and friends during the weekend, but we could have lunch together one day while at work.” But until you’ve actually set some boundaries and you see whether or not this woman ignores/tramples them (thus more direct action needed), please be kind to her.

  38. nnn*

    If #2 is struggling with setting boundaries in the moment, one thing they can do to salvage a particular conversation is act like they don’t know what they’re doing this weekend.

    Lisa: “What are your plans for the weekend?”
    Wife: “Not sure yet. You?”

    Another possible answer: “We’re going to take a quiet weekend with no obligations. We’ve all been so over-extended lately and need a break! You?”

  39. Lobstermn*

    LW4: yes, it was a ghost job. Management is justifying their existence, or they are trying to trick investors into thinking they are growing, or they are trying to trick current overworked employees into staying. This is bizarrely common. Look up “ghost jobs” in the Wall Street Journal.

    It’s a fad that started in the first part of the pandemic, and it let up a little but never went away.

    1. Pizza Rat*

      This. Sometimes the companies don’t even bother going through the interview process and just let applications go into the aether.

  40. Keymaster the absent*

    3. I’ve been asked that question from the other side when interviewing for IT manager roles: how would I handle a staff member disagreeing with me?

    It’s an important question as sometimes the tech with boots on the ground has knowledge that the manager simply doesn’t. A good answer is a factual discussion of risks/procedures/implications with the boss from the techie side. If possible (some IT managers can be very stuck in their ways). Present the facts, let them make their own conclusion and then do your best to make their decision work. And if it doesn’t don’t do the ‘I told you so’ dance with a feather boa.

    If it comes down to legal implications then ideally you’d prefer to be the one who stands up and says ‘no, no way, this is illegal’ but there’s a lot involved in being the person who will say that. As a former whistleblower it can really taint future employers views of you if they know you took *that* heavy a stance. In those scenarios I don’t know the right answer to say in an interview – either as a manager or member of staff. Wiser minds here?

    1. Quantum Possum*

      I would avoid discussing anything illegal in response to this question.

      I mentioned elsewhere that I’ve been asked before to “describe a time when you ethically disagreed with orders you were given.” That question opens up the opportunity to discuss whistleblowing or ethical noncompliance.

      But for the standard “describe a time you disagreed with your boss,” I recommend sticking with process or procedural examples, not ethical quandaries.

  41. NotMyCircusNotMyMonkeys*

    Regarding #1, I would advise that you collect the Slack comments from senior management, and save them offline. It sounds like a bad place to work, and it sounds like you also may need to leave there.

    If the senior managers say anything that describes illegality, or anything that might be extremely embarrassing, you may very well be able to use it as leverage when you leave to gain a better severance package or other benefits. Collect whatever ammunition you can. and don’t let the senior managers know they are giving it to you.

  42. Sarah*


    Why would you even tell your co-worker what your weekend plans are? If you don’t tell her about your son’s basketball game or your church she would never know. Why don’t you just say “nothing special”, “family time” or “We’re going out of town (to family, so no you can’t come.)’

    1. Saturday*

      I assume she told her because she had no idea that the coworker would try to come. That would be really, really unexpected. It wouldn’t seem weird to me to have a conversation like:

      What are you doing this weekend?
      Junior has a basketball game at City High, so we’re going to that and will probably stop at Place afterwards. What are you doing?

      But then coworker decides to go too, which is super weird. But yeah, I assume from now on, she won’t be providing details.

      1. Abundant Shrimp*

        Right, she probably tried not to sound inviting, listed boring, personal events that no one would want or think of coming to, then bam! coworker shows up.

  43. Big A$$ Rock*

    This is another moment of horrifyingly passive behavior. Wife has talked to everyone EXCEPT the person she has an issue with. Now her spouse is writing to a 3rd party about this poor woman. How horrifying and embarrassing for her! I would be mortified if I thought I had been invited to a thing, actually showed up, and then they complained about me. Like, Wife had to give enough details about the location of her son’s soccer game to make it seem like an invitation.

    There’s the tons of articles about how to make friends as an adult, putting yourself out there, showing up for people, etc. This is what she is doing. If you don’t like that, be a human and have a clear and kind conversation. Or give less details. Or say “See ya Monday!” Or something else besides knowing glances to your spous. You aren’t doing anyone any favors by being so weird about it.

    1. SGPB*

      Fully agree. It is astounding how often the advice on here boils down to “have a basic conversation with another adult”

    2. Saturday*

      I have sympathy for the coworker too – but it’s hard for me to imagine that mentioning the location of the game seemed like an invitation. That would just be so odd.

      Fully in agreement on the need to handle this differently in the future though. I’m a very passive person, so I think I would be really taken aback by the coworker’s behavior (and I’d probably talk with my spouse about how to deal with it), but yeah, she’s just gotta start speaking up.

      I hate that kind of awkwardness though, so I feel for the wife too.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Yeah, I can see the wife saying “oh we have to travel to school X for Jr’s basketball game”, but that in NO WAY should be construed as an invite to the person you’re talking to. Lisa is way out of line there.
        I get that she probably now feels awkward about being around Lisa because of this, so the easiest thing is truly for her to either give no details at all, such as “oh we’re just doing typical family stuff” or “haven’t decided yet. Are you doing anything exciting?”. If Lisa tries to say “oh let me know what you decide” or anything, LW’s wife can just say “mmhmm” noncommittally and just let it roll off (IF she feels “family only” or the like is rude. I get it, it’s hard to overcome the polite instinct!). Don’t answer any texts. If Lisa starts Monday with “you didn’t tell me where you’d be this weekend!!” she can say “sorry, I don’t really answer texts on the weekend”. Grey rock as much as possible, and work to overcome the ‘polite’ instinct so that if Lisa keeps it up, she’ll feel better about saying “Lisa, I just like to spend weekend time with my family”.

      2. Tesuji*

        Considering that the husband started with “we’ve tried to set boundaries” and then had to backpedal to “well, actually, we’ve never actually done any of that”, I’m not sure how reliable a narrator is.

        The fact that the spouse who’s actually involved in the situation isn’t the one writing in to an advice columnist feels pretty telling. *He’s* incredibly bothered and willing to take action, but she is either not really bothered or not willing to take even the slightest action.

        I mean, the *least* confrontational action you could take in a situation like this is literally just asking a 3rd person for advice, and she isn’t even the one taking that step. Feels like that tells you a lot about the situation.

      3. Big A$$ Rock*

        Eh, I see what you’re saying, but there still had to be more details for her to show up. Day, time, location? That’s a lot of information. And culturally, people are so passive that I can absolutely see people saying something like “Well, I mentioned the time and place and they didn’t show up! How dare they miss my invitation. They hate me!”

        Clarity and open communication is always helpful.

    3. Observer*

      Wife has talked to everyone EXCEPT the person she has an issue with. Now her spouse is writing to a 3rd party about this poor woman. How horrifying and embarrassing for her!

      True. That is why Allison suggested having a conversation with her.

      Like, Wife had to give enough details about the location of her son’s soccer game to make it seem like an invitation.

      Nope. “Son is playing with his Little League team at WhatEver Park this Sunday afternoon” is enough information to show up, but that is so far from an invitation that it’s like a different country.

      There’s the tons of articles about how to make friends as an adult, putting yourself out there, showing up for people, etc. This is what she is doing.

      She’s gong way beyond reasonable “putting herself out there.” And sure, there is probably some advice out there that encourages that, but it does not mean it’s reasonable behavior. Just like the advice to “stand out” as a job applicant by pulling some stunt or gimmick exists, but is really bad advice.

  44. JaneDough(not)*

    LW5, I know that getting your hair cut while you’re growing it out seems counterintuitive, but it’s the best way to go — and I say this as a woman who has twice grown out a super-short pixie cut.

    Go to your stylist every 8 weeks; they’ll shape your hair into an appropriate cut for its current length, and you won’t look scruffy. You also won’t substantially lengthen the grow-out time, because a stylist who understands your goal won’t cut where they don’t have to.

    1. Rainy*

      Can confirm–I rocked an undercut with a short top in 2019 and 2020 and then grew it out into a shag, basically the worst possible hair transition, and I was in the chair every 4 weeks for a while just so it didn’t look like I’d been living in the land of no hairstylists for a year.

  45. adult-ish2319*

    #1 – don’t tip them off but get yourself a copy of everything somewhere safe that you update for later. You never know when that might come in handy for evaluations, unemployment issues…

  46. spcepickle*

    I always ask a variant of the “conflict question” in interviews. There are only two wrong answers – 1) “I never have any conflict.” From experience these people are either pushovers or they are walking drama fields who have no self awareness.
    2) “I just do what I am told because my boss is my boss”. I hire people who I expect to become experts who should quickly know more about their work then I do. So when I suggest something that will not work I need people to push back and tell me why it will not work and make suggestions about what we should do instead. If you can’t do this in a collaborative, positive way – my team is not the right fit for you.

    I am not asking about a time you had a screaming match or got in a fist fight (although if you did those things at work please let me know!). I am asking what you did (and please don’t tell me what you would do – give an actual example) when adults had different view points and need to communicated those view points to each other in a professional manner.

  47. Prismatic Garnet*

    Boss’s Slack channel – don’t tip them off but do be aware that anything you tell the boss in private could end up on there too, for all your coworkers to see.

    E.G. if you make the mistake of giving detail in why you’re out sick, your whole team could see “OP is out with hemorrhoids” or whatever. Or “OP told me Coworker 2 didn’t cover properly while they were out.”

  48. Pizza Rat*

    I can’t wait until behavioral questions fall out of fashion. As a job seeker, I’ve never had one that I was prepared for and they felt like gotchas. As a hiring manager, I never use them, though others on the panel have and a natural conversation suddenly gets robotic.

    That said, if you have to answer this particular gotcha, I think Allison is right.

    1. Margaret Cavendish*

      I’m so curious about this! Why do they feel like gotchas? And what do you ask instead?

      There’s a ton of advice out there for answering this type of question, so ideally it shouldn’t be too hard to prepare. And they’re a fairly reliable indicator of the person’s conflict management style – to the extent that any interview question is reliable, of course, obviously none of them are going to be perfect.

      I’m not challenging you – as in my previous post, I’m genuinely curious about your opinion! I know lots of interviewees dislike them, but this is the first time I’ve heard a downvote from an interviewer.

      1. Pizza Rat*

        I think there are a lot of questions that you can ask that give you a better idea of how someone would work in your culture.

        –Why did you apply to Llama Grooming, Inc?
        –What tools and techniques do you use to groom llamas? Do you have a favorite?
        –What challenges have you encountered when you hit snarls? How did you handle them?
        –What is your communication style?
        –What qualities do you have that make you a good llama groomer?
        –Your resume says you have experience with Alpacas too, how has that been different than grooming llamas?
        –How do you explain what you to do someone who has just bought a herd of llamas without using industry jargon?
        –How do you manage your time and stay organized?

        I aim for a conversational style interview and hopefully help the candidate relax.

        Another thing to note: since the behavioral questions are so ubiquitous now, there are tons of helpful websites to tell you how to answer them. I find the answers always sound unnatural and rehearsed.

        1. Quantum Possum*

          Both types of questions (technical and behavioral) are important. I think technical questions take precedence for journeyman and subject matter expert positions. For lead/manager positions, the behavioral questions take precedence.

          The bottom line is that I’m looking for someone who can work well within my team, and behavioral questions help me judge that.

      2. Pizza Rat*

        Just realized I didn’t answer the gotcha part.

        While there are many questions about there to prep, nobody can do them all, and blindsiding your candidates doesn’t help anyone. That’s the first gotcha.

        The other is these questions often require you to say something negative about someone. It could be yourself, a former colleague, a former boss, a former work environment. When I was looking for work, the research I did to help me interview always said never say anything negative about anyone. That’s another gotcha.

        1. Quantum Possum*

          these questions often require you to say something negative about someone

          They don’t, really. In fact, one of the purposes of this question is to see how an interviewee speaks about their bosses, coworkers, etc. If an interviewee can’t answer without throwing someone under the bus, then that raises some questions about how they’ll fare on a team.

        2. Orv*

          They always feel like trick questions to me. The interviewer is trying to trip you up into saying something disqualifying, and you win if you manage a bland enough answer to dodge the landmines they’ve set out.

          1. Quantum Possum*

            I get that it can feel like that sometimes, but that’s truly not the intent behind any of these questions.

            Interviewers aren’t trying to “trip up” candidates or force them into a stressful situation. They literally just want to know how you handle conflict and communication.

          2. Despachito*

            I think this is a question of the angle from which you see the whole thing.

            For a lot of people disagreement = fight, negative thing, the one who has a different opinion is stupid/is my enemy. And they cannot imagine it differently.

            However, for some, disagreement = two reasonable people have different opinions, no big deal, they can either agree to disagree or find a mutually acceptable solution or, if in a work environment, figure it according to the hierarchy. No need to throw anyone under the bus.

            I think these questions are basically trying to ascertain which of the types the candidate belongs to.

              1. Despachito*

                Absolutely, but in this case (an interview) you will probably want to convey information that you are reasonable and you inherently expect that they are, too.

  49. boundless*

    your child’s sporting events don’t belong to you or to your child. in most cases, kids’ sports-games/recitals/performances and even church are public events. a boundary is something the person setting it has control over. the boundary here might be “don’t tell coworker about my exact plans” as that is something within the control of boundary-setter. requesting behaviour from an alleged “boundary stomper” is not setting a boundary because it cannot be enforced by you. instead, it relies on the other person’s compliance to be effective. you can say “don’t talk to me about x” or “i don’t want you to come to y place” but those things are requests only–the other person has to agree to comply, and lack of compliance is not actually stomping on a boundary.

    1. Michelle Smith*

      Whether you call it a boundary or a request is semantics IMO – it’s still something the LW should do. It doesn’t matter if the child’s sporting event is public. If my kid doesn’t go to that school or play that sport and I show up anyway to hang out with a coworker that wants to spend time with their family and watch their child who *is* participating in the event, my behavior is well outside of appropriate norms and should be called out.

    2. AngryOctopus*

      Being nitpicky about the phrase ‘setting boundaries’ doesn’t help the LW. This woman took “we’re going to X for Jr’s game” as an invite. That’s not OK. Telling the LW “actually, that’s not stomping a boundary because it’s a public event” is neither relevant nor helpful. This woman has no reason to be at the game except pretending that LWs wife invited her, and they’re gonna hang out and be buddy buddy. No. LW’s wife needs to ‘grey rock’ her information so this woman can’t pretend that she’s been invited places she hasn’t.

    3. Abundant Shrimp*

      Since we are nitpicking, I thought that setting a boundary means outlining consequences? E.g. you are right that “don’t come to my kid’s game unannounced and uninvited” cannot, indeed, be enforced, but adding “if you do come to my kid’s game then I’ll have to do X” (whatever X is) does set a boundary. “Don’t tell coworker about my exact plans” sounds like just OP’s family hiding from this coworker, which will definitely not work, because coworker is going to overhear and show up anyway. (That said, I would’ve probably been like “my weekend plans? Oh I’ll be in my cabin in the mountains with no phone connection, just like I am every weekend. Yep, again! Talk to you Monday!” because I am not good at conflict and my flight-or-fight reaction is always flight.)

      “your child’s sporting events don’t belong to you or to your child. in most cases, kids’ sports-games/recitals/performances and even church are public events.”

      I am… not sure that this is one hundred percent accurate information. Otherwise, stalkers would stalk people to their heart’s content and face zero consequences. (Again, this did happen to me – person started showing to public events of a group where he thought I’d be, but unannounced and without RSVP, so no one knew in advance he’d be coming – and as I said earlier, my reaction was to hide from this person. After the first couple of times of being told by friends that he’d made an appearance, I stopped RSVPing or coming to events, at least until I had it on good authority that he’d stopped doing it.)

      1. Laura*

        Not giving someone information about you that they want is also a type of boundary setting. You’re not just automatically giving it to them because they asked, which is what people usually do because that’s kind of how conversation works

        I’m not saying that people give out detailed info all the time or whatever, just that something like “what basketball team does your son play on?” for whatever just naturally comes up in a conversation about your basketball-playing son and most people wouldn’t think twice about sharing that because you don’t think someone is then going to look up where that team is playing next. (I’m wondering if that’s what actually happened here rather than OP giving Lisa all the info about when and where the game was).

        1. Abundant Shrimp*

          This makes a lot of sense. Some variation of “I’d rather not say where they are playing” would’ve gotten the message across.

  50. Michelle Smith*

    LW3: I’ve been asked that question a lot in interviews for legal jobs. Basically my response has always been a version of “i wanted to do x on a case, boss said do y instead, we had a conversation about it where i tried to persuade them of x, but the answer was still no so I did y.” Then I explain my philosophy around those kinds of decisions: (1) Autonomy and using my professional discretion is important to me. I want to work for someone who trusts and values my opinion and will hear me out, even if at the end of the day they decide to do something different than my recommendation. (2) If what I’m ultimately being told to do does not violate ethical rules or my own morals, I will do it. If it does violate my morals or legal ethics, I’ll quit.

    That answer seems to appease most folks while weeding out those who aren’t open to feedback/pushback from subordinates and those who think I’ll just do whatever they ask unquestioningly. I won’t be wildly and openly insubordinate, but I will not work for someone who isn’t open to hearing the judgment of someone they explicitly hired for their ability to exercise good judgment.

    1. I Have RBF*


      I am a subject matter expert in my job, one of maybe two to four at my company. If my boss tells me to do something that I might disagree with, I ask why. Often their answer clears up my reservations, or I will present a counter-argument as to why that might not go as desired. Sometimes the answer is, “Yeah, I know, but that’s how $stakeholder wants it.” After that it’s “Okay, but I did want you to know the issues with it.”

      I am hired for my experience and expertise. I would not stay long if my boss didn’t at least listen to my concerns. I seldom have the problem.

  51. Dawn*

    LW#3: Here’s my go-to, which hopefully helps give you some idea:

    We had a customer who was upset about an issue with a product he’d received, which was defective right out of the box, and in a way in which it could be reasonably construed that the issue could have happened on our side. (Side note: it couldn’t have been as the product was shipped sealed from the supplier, but that’s harder to convince a customer of.) As per our contract with that specific supplier, we weren’t able to offer a replacement, and they would have to go directly through the supplier for a remedy. And my manager said, this falls within policy, they have to talk to the manufacturer.

    They were very upset, they posted bad reviews in a number of places, and I went to my manager and said, “I understand where you’re coming from; generally speaking we do want to uphold policy evenly. But this one’s a really unusual case (it was – something was missing from a sealed package) and I can understand the customer’s perspective, and they’re going to a lot of effort to make it our problem; why don’t we try offering a gift card for the value of the purchase, which really costs us very little, and see if we’ll accept that?” And my manager considered that, and approved it, and the customer ultimately accepted that remedy and changed their social media posts to say how happy they were with our service, so it was a win for us – and disagreeing on the solution didn’t mean that my manager and I couldn’t come together and give that decision another pass.

  52. Trans Library Leader*

    Letter #3: I ask this question in interviews all the time, and candidates ALWAYS wayyyy overthink it. This is all I’m looking for:
    – Can you discuss a disagreement without badmouthing anyone?
    – Will you tactfully and respectfully point out any mistakes I make that impact you and/or the organization?
    – And yes, will you be willing to drop the disagreement if I tell you “Unfortunately, this is just the way we have to do it.”

    I have a lot of luck with this question though, because people aren’t always great at understanding their competency around soft skills. Them talking through a scenario that at some level, no matter how small the disagreement, demanded a level of tact and respect is a good way to see that competency in action. While the question is not hard to answer, it’s also how I weed out a lot of candidates because you’d be surprised how many people think that the question is an invitation to list out everything they hated about their last manager.

    1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      One million percent this ^^^. And honestly, it’s that for every question—just don’t bad mouth other employers, period.

    2. Quantum Possum*


      people aren’t always great at understanding their competency around soft skills

      This, 100%. You can say that you have excellent communication skills all day long, but I want you to show me that you do.

      Don’t overthink it – the interviewer isn’t interested in knowing every detail of your examples. There is no “right” answer. Just look at these questions as an opportunity to show off your soft skills along with your technical skills.

  53. OP #1*

    well someone tipped them off that we could all see their slack channel (probably after they posted my team’s salaries) So now does that change things? Do I address what I know? I’m leaning toward just keeping my mouth shut! Thanks for all the validation that I do indeed work for a “shit show.”

    1. Billy Preston*

      Nope, I’d act like I never saw it or saw it was there, and ignored it cause it wasn’t for me. Keeping your mouth shut is the best choice. Good luck in your job search!

    2. Quantum Possum*

      If it were me, I’d keep my mouth shut.

      My guess is that the executives aren’t going to reach out to employees to ask about it and might even just pretend it never happened. Even if they do reach out, you don’t have to disclose everything you saw.

      Good luck!

    3. Observer*

      Do I address what I know? I’m leaning toward just keeping my mouth shut!

      No and yes. Don’t address this, and just keep on doing your job while looking for a new job.

      How do you know that someone tipped them off?

  54. Ann*

    On #4, sorry to say I’ve encountered external postings and interview processes where the only purpose is 1) resume gathering, 2) company bylaws require external hires to be considered, 3) to make it appear as though the internal candidate to be promoted had competition, and 4) to not have to pay a consultant for ideas or work done pro bono by applicants to a fictitious job posting.

  55. PotsPansTeapots*

    OP1 sounds like they work at my agency; this is exactly something my big bosses would do.

    I’m working like heck to get out of my situation and I suggest you do the same.

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