my boss announced layoffs while wearing sunglasses, writing job candidates are using AI in their applications, and more

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

1. My boss announced layoffs while wearing sunglasses (yes, it’s Anna Wintour)

You may have seen the reports last week that Anna Wintour wore sunglasses throughout the indoor, in-office Zoom meeting in which she announced corporate consolidation and immediate layoffs of many of those in attendance. I was in this Zoom meeting and as a regular blog reader, I’m curious to know your thoughts. This is not done, right? Right??

In my opinion, the way in which this news was announced (midweek, as gossip with no official statement, while wearing sunglasses) has only propelled a raft of well-deserved unflattering press coverage. Probably not coincidentally, I’m told a number of comms staffers were laid off last month.

You are correct: laying off people while wearing sunglasses is rude and bad management. It sends the message, “I don’t take this seriously, even though it’s very serious to you, and I’m definitely not invested enough to pay you the respect of looking you in the eye.”

As someone whose whole career is built on understanding the messages clothes and accessories send, Anna Wintour knows this.

2. I suspect our writing job candidates are using AI to write their applications

I was recently involved in recruiting a new copywriter and editor for my team. As part of the application process, we asked applicants to answer a few short written questions. We use this to find out about how their experience meets the essential criteria for the role, as well as seeing their writing style and grammar skills.

We got applications from some brilliant candidates, but there were a couple that gave me pause. The first thing I noticed was a lot of American-English spelling in their answers (think ‘prioritize’ rather than the British ‘prioritise’; we’re based in the UK). There could be several reasons for this, but it did set off a couple of alarm bells for me, as I know most AI generators use American-English. I also just got a bit of an odd feeling from their answers — they felt very stilted, impersonal and “buzzwordy” in a way that just felt strange compared to other applications.

On a hunch, I copied and pasted a few answers into an online AI detector, which said that AI content was likely present. (I also copied some other candidates’ answers into the program and those came up as “no AI content detected.”)

I mentioned my suspicion to the hiring manager, who said she’d take a look. In the end, we didn’t bring these applicants forward as we had lots of candidates with far more relevant experience and knowledge. We sent out our standard email rejection to them, just like the other candidates we didn’t move forward.

But how would you handle this if the candidate was a possible frontrunner? I had no concrete proof that they’d used AI for their answers but it did look like a real possibility. Is this just the way things are going these days? Would you have mentioned the possible AI use in your rejection or just left it? I don’t know if I’d have felt differently if the job wasn’t so writing-focused.

There’s no reason to mention your AI suspicions in the rejection letter (which most of the time don’t contain specific reasons for the rejection, especially when the person wasn’t even interviewed).

I think the question about how to handle it if the candidate was a frontrunner is a bit of a contradiction — because you were assessing these candidates’ writing skills and the thing that tipped you off was that their writing was bad/weird/stilted, so by definition they already weren’t frontrunners for jobs where writing is a central focus. But if you had a candidate whose writing was good but something was still screaming AI to you and the person was otherwise strong, a good next step would be to give a writing test during an interview, so you could see their writing skills in real time.

(Of course, unless the interview was in-person, they could still use AI. But at some point, it’s reasonable to conclude they’re either a good writer or they’re good at using AI to generate good writing. You’d need to decide if it matters for your context if it’s the latter. If it does — like if they won’t be able to use AI once on the job for legal/proprietary reasons — you’d want to make that very clear and ideally invest in assessment processes that rule it out, like in-person testing.)

3. Employer is blowing up my phone after firing me for “misconduct”

My small, family-owned employer of four years let me go in early November. I had had a disagreement with the owner and, having seen them fire many employees out of the blue, I suspected I’d be let go at the next opportunity. They opposed my unemployment claim on the basis of “misconduct,” stating I’d made “too many mistakes and had been warned.” In my opinion, I made a normal number of mistakes (two, in the entire year), and had never been warned, in writing or verbally, nor put on any PIP. In fact, I’d always received excellent performance reviews and had been told I’d be receiving a performance bonus the following week and my metrics were up.

Naturally, I appealed the unemployment decision, and the day after I received notice of my hearing date, my former employer began blowing up my phone (three to five times a day, every business day since then). They never leave a message and it’s causing me considerable anxiety. How do you suggest I handle it? Ignore it? Document it for the hearing? Email them to please let me know, in writing, what they need?

You’re under no obligation to talk to them; feel free to block their number if you want to. Personally, I’d answer one of the calls because I’d be curious to see what they wanted and they have no power over you anymore — but if you’d be happier blocking and ignoring, that’s a fine way to go. It would also be fine to email them, say you’ve seen them calling you repeatedly, and email will be the best way to reach you.

Really, any of these options are fine so do the one that will bring you the most peace of mind. (You can document the calls too if you want, although they’re unlikely to come up at the unemployment hearing, which is going to be tightly focused on what led to your termination.)

4. I retired a year ago and my old coworker still calls for help

I retired a year ago. Before leaving, I thoroughly trained the two employees who would be picking up my duties, which included thorough documentation of processes, logins, and passwords.

However, one of those employees apparently lost the instructions on how to terminate a company-paid cell phone account so my work phone account could be terminated. Ultimately, this person (not a manager) made a decision to just keep paying my wireless account and hope their manager didn’t notice. Over the last year, this person has called me once or twice a month to ask questions about other processes or for advice on handling a situation. I have helped as best I can, feeling that since they were paying for my cell phone, the least I could do was help if I could.

But finally in November, they figured out how to transfer the account billing responsibility back to me, and I said basically, “Okay, so now you aren’t paying my phone bill any longer, please don’t call me for work help any more. I trained you and Jane and it’s been almost a year; you should understand those processes by now.”

Now that person is calling me again, asking for help, and I refused. This is causing some hurt feelings. For example, they used to invite me to birthday lunches at local restaurants, but they’ve stopped since I refused to keep helping. It’s a tradition that retirees are also invited to the annual holiday potluck, but I wasn’t invited. When I said “no more calls,” their behavior in the moment was odd, like with a betrayed note in their voice. This person has a long history of avoiding learning how to do tasks that they don’t want to be responsible for.

Other retirees apparently continued to provide help long after leaving and I don’t want my good reputation/relationships to suffer, but there is no compensation possible, and I want my working life to be OVER. Do you have any advice?

It’s not normal to be expected to answer work questions a year after you retired! In certain circumstances, you might be willing to be consulted extremely occasionally on something very important — but not frequently, and not on basic processes the person was already trained on. Frankly, you could have declined to help even while they were paying your phone bill; you didn’t ask them to do that, and it was their decision to continue it. Their paying it didn’t create any obligation that you needed to repay.

As for what to do now … do you care about going to the birthday lunches and the annual potluck? Because if you don’t, this is easy: you’ve already handled it, and now you can ignore this person’s calls (block the number if you want!) and go about enjoying retirement. If you do want to attend those events, coordinate that with a different person in the office so you’re not dependent on the embittered guy for your invitations. (But also, don’t underestimate the value in making a clean break and letting those events stay in the past now that you don’t work there anymore.)

Either way, you’ve made it clear that you’re no longer available, and you can ignore the calls or say “sorry, I’m retired — I’m no longer a resource for this stuff” without any guilt at all. (If you really want to shut it down, you could ask that person’s manager to ensure the calls stop, which would be very reasonable to do at this point.)

5. Commuting reimbursement in a one-car family

My spouse and I have one car. I mainly use it, because I work out of the house and while my job is technically accessible by public transit, the commute would be four times as long and I have some chronic pain conditions which make that difficult.

My spouse mostly works from home, but infrequently has to travel. He does not usually use our car for work. His boss has mentioned him going to a site that is about 2.5 hours away by car.

If they ask him to drive there, would it be appropriate to either ask to rent a car or if they could cover my Uber to/from work? It would probably be in the $60 range roundtrip. I am not sure if this is an appropriate request, or how to word it.

It’s really unlikely that they’d cover your Uber to and from work, since you’re not their employee, but it would be normal for them to pay for his transportation since he is. He shouldn’t frame this as “I have a car but my spouse uses it” (since that’s too likely to raise “can’t you work out a way to use it on these days?”) but rather as “I don’t have a car” or “I don’t have a car available to me during the day.” They almost surely have other employees without cars, and it’s normal to expect them to cover non-car-owning employees’ transportation to other sites when necessary for the work. He just needs to explain he’ll need that.

{ 631 comments… read them below }

  1. nodramalama*

    I’m not sure we can take anna wintour’s use of sunglasses and apply it to other bosses. Anna Wintour famously never takes the sunglassess off, and she’s spoken about why she wears them.

    1. Happy meal with extra happy*

      From my googling, her reasoning for them is:
      “They are seriously useful. I can sit in a show and if I am bored out of my mind, nobody will notice … At this point, they have become, really, armor.”

      …that’s a horrible reason to wear them during layoffs.

      1. philmar*

        She also wears them to disguise the fact that her eyesight is failing so it doesn’t look like she is straining to see clearly.

        1. Lauren*

          Which may be why she still wore them, straining to read the layoff script if she spoke. It still sucks though, she could have taken them off at the end for a minute to say she was sorry that layoffs had to happen.

        2. Observer*

          She also wears them to disguise the fact that her eyesight is failing so it doesn’t look like she is straining to see clearly.

          She could have reviewed her script and used large font. Because at best what this says is that her need to put on a certain appearance is more important that basic respect for other people. What makes it worse is that this kind of pretense says that there is something “wrong” about having issues with your eyesight.

          1. Princess Sparklepony*

            Could her sunglasses have bifocals in them? And that she doesn’t want to be seen wearing glasses, but sunglasses are ok?

        3. Emily Byrd Starr*

          If that is the case, then she should have disclosed it so that people don’t get the wrong idea.

        4. anon with personal connection to Anna Wintour*

          She’s been doing the thing with the sunglasses for at least 30 years, for a variety of reasons besides those posted above. I’m not saying it’s reasonable she wore them during layoffs. Still makes her look like an ass (which she is anyway). However, I find it very odd that anyone is surprised she wore them. It’s more than “she famously never takes them off”. It’s not a public persona thing. She always wears the sunglasses. I mean, I’m sure she takes them off to sleep and shower (not that I’d ever be present in such moments) but she just straight up always wears them.

          1. Observer*

            However, I find it very odd that anyone is surprised she wore them.

            I don’t think anyone is *surprised*. They are commenting because it is an issue, albeit not a surprising issue.

            It’s not a public persona thing. She always wears the sunglasses.

            The two things are not mutually exclusive. And the *does* actually take of her glasses in public, as it suits her (as noted in some other comments.) Also, she’s been clear on why she “always wears” them – it’s explicitly because she thinks it’s more important for her to be able to behave how she wants that to be respectful of others.

            1. anon with personal connection to Anna Wintour**

              Well, FWIW, her public comments quoted about why she wears the sunglasses all postdate her starting to do it, and differ from her original private explanation. Which of the reasons are real or bullshit? Nobody knows.

              The thing with the queen, you get briefed on what to do not do with the queen. The other occasions, I don’t know. I wasn’t there. But you’re not wrong about “she thinks it’s more important for her to be able to behave how she wants that to be respectful of others.” That’s like…her personality in a nutshell.

        5. Shopping is my cardio*

          Or she can just wear regular glasses like the rest of us. She is a jerk, she knows it and she doesn’t care.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        I’d say it’s also (mostly?) a marketing thing at this point. Anna Wintour is one of those people that has created a trademark appearance and cultivates a public persona (and it works! she’s very well known even outside of fashion circles!). She wants to appear inscrutable, unapproachable, aloof, and the sunglasses are part of that. The armor thing is also on point – together with the stiff bobbed hair, it even looks like she’s wearing a helmet. The quote is also part of it. She’s judging your style and she’s that judge that makes you nervous because you can’t read her at all. That’s the effect she’s going for.

        Going for that effect also as a boss is… a choice.

        1. ferrina*

          Exactly all of this. My first reaction was “Anna Wintour is going to Anna Wintour. Of course no one else should Anna Wintour.”

          You put it much more eloquently.

      3. Lady Blerd*

        That was my first thought when I heard about this. Laying off people is not pleasant unless you’re a psycopath so figured she was wearing it as a mask.

        1. Chris too*

          Even I, the least fashion-interested person on the planet, knows of this lady and her reputation – I think Alison is spot on in her assessment ( as always.)

          Otherwise I’d be assuming exactly what you do, and thinking maybe the person delivering the bad news was trying to hide that they’d been crying.

        2. Observer*

          Laying off people is not pleasant unless you’re a psycopath so figured she was wearing it as a mask.

          So what is she hiding? That she’s a psychopath who simply cannot muster even the appearance of being pained by this decision? Otherwise, what is she “masking”? DOes she *really* consider showing that this is hard to be a fault?

          Neither way shows any decency on her part.

          1. Lady Blerd*

            I’m 100% on board with the notion that Wintour shouldn’t have worn her glasses. I’m just speculating as to the why she kept her glasses on. As even Alison herself has mentioned, image is everything for Wintour.

          2. anon with personal connection to Anna Wintour*

            It’s nowhere close to that deep. Wearing them is so ingrained to her at this point, I doubt it even occurred to her to take them off.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              It has clearly occurred to her to take them off in other situations when it benefited her, so if that’s true it;s just another sign of how little she cares about her employees.

      4. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        I’d say she’s wearing them during layoffs as a warning to everybody else that they could get tossed aside in the next round…

      5. H3llifIknow*

        ” At this point, they have become, really, armor.””

        Sounds to me like a good reason if she didn’t want people to see her breaking down. Personally, if I were ever laid off, I’d want it pretty professional and dry. I don’t want my boss, the HR person or anyone else crying, cuz I’ll cry too. Keep it professional. Maybe that’s what her “armor” does for her?

        1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

          I don’t think Anna Wintour is at risk of crying because she has to deliver unwelcome news and becomes empathically overwhelmed, though (source: I saw The Devil Wears Prada like ten years ago)

    2. vogue*

      It’s not true that she famously never takes them off. She’s famous for wearing them but she’s seen plenty of times without them.

      1. Baunilha*

        Exactly, like at the Met Gala. She knew exactly what she was doing when she chose not to take them off.

        1. H3llifIknow*

          Ok. It was definitely a choice and she “knew what she was doing.” I guess I fall into the “So?” mindset here. What would have changed if she had taken them off? “But she might have looked human and sad to her employees”? They all know who she is and what her persona is. Does it REALLY matter that she left them on? Weird? Sure, maybe? Heinous? No, not really.

    3. Came,*

      As someone who is not across Anna Wintour’s sunglasses (to the extent that I didn’t even know that she always wears them) – what has she said about why she never takes them off?

          1. OMG It's 2024*

            I could also see (just because it’s how I think) that it’s possible to look at it more charitably. She’s said she wears them so people don’t see her feelings (e.g. boredom, etc…) so it’s possible she didn’t want to have any tears, sadness, whatever projecting, either and wanted to maintain a bland, professional demeanor. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a bad look all the way around, but, I don’t always like to jump to “malicious/evil/bad” intent vs. “clueless, or other less malicious” reason for a behavior.

            1. wordswords*

              The malicious (or at least callous) interpretations are in keeping with her professional reputation and the demeanor she’s chosen to project and embrace, though. I don’t feel inclined to give her too much benefit of the doubt on this one; she’s not exactly a new manager. She’s made her reputation on stepping on the “little” people without thinking twice about it.

              1. OMG It's 2024*

                1) I don’t read women’s magazines
                2) I have not seen nor read “Devil Wears Prada”
                3) I didn’t “Google” her to check out her reputation for “stepping on little people”
                4) Just trying to not trash her and assume malicious intent based on (for me) one letter
                5) From other comments, it appears she wears them a LOT if not all the time soooo again… Meh

                1. Wendy Darling*

                  For someone who apparently doesn’t know anything about Anna Wintour or care about her at all, you’re strangely invested in defending her and it’s not clear why.

                  Drawing conclusions about people based on their past behavior is pretty okay and normal. People are tending toward attributing this to malicious intent because Anna Wintour has a really long history of being kind of an asshole. If she was famously a super nice, caring, considerate person, people would probably be drawing different conclusions.

                2. myfanwy*

                  Well, if you don’t know anything about the woman and refuse to find out, why are you set on arguing with people who know more? If you say X when actually the counterpoint Y is widely known to be true, people are going to point that out.

            2. Rose*

              Can we stop jumping to the idea that maybe women are just totally clueless, no matter how successful they are? She’s one of the most powerful and influential women in the country, and she’s built that power and influence in large part by very carefully curating public perception of herself. She has notoriously and intentionally cultivated a chilly, uncaring image. She’s talked about it publicly. Maybe she didn’t want anyone to see her looking sad, but it was a very intentional choice either way.

              1. OMG It's 2024*

                Ok? So, it sounds like you’re agreeing with me that it’s possible she didn’t want to “crack” her chilly facade in front of people. So, yes, I agree that’d be an “intentional” choice. How does that in any way imply that I think she’s “clueless”? My comment very clearly stated that I thought it was a bad choice, but that it “may” have been a choice for a reason. Can we also stop bashing people who have an opinion that doesn’t necessarily flow with the automatic “people in power all suck” mentality on display here a lot of the time? Maybe?

            3. Friendo*

              There is literally an entire movie about what an awful boss she is. This is one of the rare situations where we don’t need to try and provide alternate reads on someone brought up by the LW.

              1. She of Many Hats*

                Yup. “The Devil Wears Prada” book & movie was a very thinly disguised character study of Anna Wintour.

          2. Cmdrshprd*

            If you take it as wearing them in the meeting because she was bored I can see that. But just because she wore them does not mean she actually felt bored during the layoffs, but she has to wear them for the other times when she is bored.

            I think it is similar to me, I am terrible with names. So at work (sometimes in general) I almost always avoid using peoples names, even for people who I am closer with and I know their name. If I always/usually avoid peoples names, it would be harder for people to know if/when I don’t know their name. But if you use names more occasionally it might be easier to tell.

            I think same could be said for the sunglasses. Also I think the boredom was one example of more people not being able to see/tell how you are feeling.

            Personally I think if it was someone who never wore them it would be weird, but in this case it is not that bad.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              But just because she wore them does not mean she actually felt bored during the layoffs, but she has to wear them for the other times when she is bored.

              Okay, then why did she wear them if not to hide boredom? If that’s the reason she has given for wearing them so often it’s not out of line for folks to assume that’s why she’s wearing them now.

              1. Cmdrshprd*

                I am not saying boredom was not the reason. The way I took the quote is that she wears them often so that it does not look out of place when she does wear them. So this particular instance might not be for any particular reason other than to give cover for the times she is actually bored.

                In my personal example I avoid using peoples names I do know, so that when I don’t use the names of people I know it is not out of the ordinary. Similar to the advice of occasionally/regularly wearing a suit to the office for no reason at all so that when you do wear a suit for a job interview it is not out of place.

                I was just saying it was possible she wore them without being bored, because she wanted it as cover for other times she is actually bored.

    4. Heffalump*

      Am I correct, Anna Wintour was the prototype for the Miranda Priestly character in The Devil Wears Prada? If so, the latest move is in character for her.

      1. Seashell*

        Yes, it would surprise me if the letter writer hasn’t seen it. If someone made a movie inspired by my boss, I would definitely watch it, especially if Meryl Streep played my boss.

        1. Heffalump*

          If I had a nightmare boss, I certainly wouldn’t want to watch a movie that reminded me of her, but to each their own.

      2. CommanderBanana*

        Yep. Wintour has built a reputation for being, well, kind of The Worst*, and wearing sunglasses while laying people off is in keeping with that.

        *Yes, she is criticized for behavior that a lot of male bosses get away with engaging in, and if I had to pick between working for her or Musk, I’d pick her.

        1. Bruce*

          I worked for three CEOs who were men with some positive traits, but who could be pretty brutal. The first one conducted a round of layoffs, then gave a pep talk to the rest of us saying “bullets are flying, keep your heads down or you will get hit”. (He was a combat veteran so reached for the military metaphor when challenged). The second CEO was infamous for coming to meetings and verbally flaying the presenter in front of the whole group. The third CEO would come out of his office and harangue the guy in the next cubicle multiple times a day, this went on for the first two weeks I was there until the guy quit. So wearing sunglasses in a layoff meeting is bad, but par for the course at that level. I’m happy to say that for the last 25 years I’ve been at jobs where the CEOs had some sense of decency and empathy compared to the first 15 years of my career…

          1. CommanderBanana*

            Yeah, people dump in Wintour, and I agree that is probably a nightmare to work for. Ideally I’d like to see no CEOs engaging in this sort of behavior, but I do think she gets more flak than a male boss in her position would.

            At least she’s not groping the interns.

              1. CommanderBanana*

                The bar could be on the floor in hell, and a CEO out there will dig underneath it rather than stepping over it.

        2. Rose*

          Sometimes when women are criticized for things a man would not be criticized for, it’s because the woman never should have been criticized in the first place. Sometimes the man should be criticized but won’t be. This is the latter.

          Saying you’d pick her over Musk… totally agree but why set the bar on the floor?

          1. CommanderBanana*

            Well, let’s see – here’s a run-down of the executive director / CEOs I’ve worked for in the past:

            1. Non-functioning, sexist alcoholic who was finally forcibly retired by the board
            2. Extreme sociopath
            3. Had obvious cognitive decline related to dementia, made racist comments at staff meetings but would not retire
            4. Was having an affair with his assistant director, which involved them disappearing for most of the day, every day

            The bar is indeed really low. My current CEO-equivalent doesn’t seem terrible, at least in the sense that I don’t think she’s an actual sociopath, except she’s caused half of my office to quit by institution a return to office mandate, although about 90% of what we do is done virtually.

      3. Starbuck*

        Yes; you can also watch the doc The September Issue to see what’s she’s actually like at work (it’s not better necessarily, just less cinematically dramatic).

    5. Pennyworth*

      She takes them off in the presence of really famous people – like when the Queen went to a fashion show in London. She could have learned a lot from the Queen about good manners,and never looking bored even if you are.

      1. The OG Sleepless*

        Right? Everybody has been in boring situations. Most of us have the good manners to just keep the bored look off our faces.

    6. Nobody U Noe*

      As someone who has mostly worked at small to medium sized businesses, about half of the layoff announcements I’ve witnessed over the years were made by people in tears (men, if that matters to anyone). I also don’t follow fashion. So when I heard “someone in fashion announced layoffs while wearing sunglasses” my immediate thought was “they don’t want everyone to see them looking less than perfect.”

      Thad said, other comments lead me to believe this probably isn’t the case with Anna Wintour.

      1. N*

        I was ready to add the same comment from caption alone. I was ready to jump to the defence of someone hiding tears until I read the full story. So incredibly insensitive of her.

      2. Flower*

        my first gut instinct was “they’re light sensitive, maybe having a low grade migraine that they’re trying to KEEP low grade”

        and then I actually read the thing. and determined that my immediate assumption was very wrong

        1. Boof*

          Yeah, my fist thought was “latching on to something superficial when the real pain is from the situation “ buuuut if we’re talking about a boss like the boss from devil wears prada then yeah sounds like a jerk move. But also still a superficial symbol of the real problems?

          1. Observer*

            But also still a superficial symbol of the real problems?

            I’d call it a perfect encapsulation of the real problems.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          I have low grade migraines that are aggravated by computer screens, so I’ve attended a number of video meetings wearing sunglasses. This is not that.

    7. Ellis Bell*

      At her level, (and in her field for goodness sake) she should just know better. She does know better. Other bosses at her level of success and responsibility should also know better, but they might not have thought about accessories in as much depth, to the point they’ve discussed them often.

      1. MK*

        As far as I can tell, she has a reputation for being a boss from hell, and she is unbothered by it, if not actually playing into it. That the film that portrayed her as an abusive boss somehow managed to establish the character as an “icon” and cool probably justified this for her.

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          When she found out about the book she went into a blind rage. Maybe she never actually recovered her eyesight.

          1. MK*

            The book, though a mediocre book, does a great job of giving an accurate picture of petty, pretentious tyrant who is pointlessly abusive towards everyone she considers beneath her. The film, though a great film, goes out of its way to paint Miranda Priestley in a sympathetic light as a grey, but also admirable feminist figure. (Plus, it gave us that superbly pointless Meryl Streep speech).

      2. Quantum Possum*

        You nailed it – “she does know better.”

        I’d bet actual cash money that Anna Wintour knows exactly what message she is conveying, and it’s the message that she wants to convey: “I am better than you and I don’t care about you.”

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Mmhmm..I agree. I love clothes and I think the messages you can send with articles of clothing can be so uplifting, but the Wintours of the world make out like it’s all about being self important and not caring about the little people.

        2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          My first thought, too. She knows better.
          I think she knows best of all.
          She knows that the character she plays does not take off her sunglasses.
          Her image is more important than anything.
          And it worked.
          People are talking about her. Always good.
          People are throwing hate on her. Even better. Less coverage of the layoffs and the reasons behind them. She made it secondary.

    8. MK*

      While a great film, “The Devil wears Prada” has had the unfortunate result of romanticizing a specific kind of abusive boss (currntly cool, but with a sad backstory). Even if Anna Wintour never did take off her sunglasses (not true), that’s not a reason why she should be exempt from showing courtesy to people she is firing? Her gimmick/eccentricity/whatever doesn’t trump professional manners.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        “The medium is the message.”
        The message was not “layoffs”; the message was AW is above you.

    9. JSPA*

      There are any number of (rare-ish) reasons why someone might need to wear sunglasses, or why lifting them might be more distracting and distressing than not, or cause the rumor mill to run wild.* But in context, it’s hard to excuse not at least lifting them for a moment or two.

      That said, Ms. Wintour didn’t write in.

      I’m not a fan of calling out famous bosses by name for style issues, or taking letters where there’s no actionable advice for the LW. The telegraphing of disrespect during firing isn’t exactly a notable thing, which means the only notable aspect that the boss is somewhat famous / notorious. (And, well, female; would the media pile on a similarly famous male boss for firing people while wearing sunglasses???)

      * Eye surgery, swollen eye, pinkeye, bloodshot eyes, black eye, new or extreme ptosis, new or extreme tic, newly visible cataract, botox-gone-wrong, red from crying, new or extreme bags, oddly dilated or pinpoint pupils, palsy…

      1. bamcheeks*

        And, well, female; would the media pile on a similarly famous male boss for firing people while wearing sunglasses???

        This isn’t calling out a Random Female Boss for behaviour that a Random Male Boss could engage in without note, though– it’s specifically calling out Anna Wintour who is probably one of a dozen people who are globally famous *for* their corporate leadership style, along with Elon Musk, Donald Trump, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and I can barely even think of any more. (I can think of a few British people who have the same status within the UK, but I don’t think any of them would have the same recognition level outside the UK that Anna Wintour has outside the US.) Anna Wintour has been sufficiently well-known for her “cold” persona for long enough that there’s a twenty-year-old film which is consistently described as based on her.

        I think it’s perfectly fair to note that Anna Wintour’s leadership style is not one to emulate, but criticising her for it just seems kind of pointless. She knows! Everyone knows! Nobody goes to work at Conde Nast without knowing it, any more than anyone has taken a job at Twitter in the last two years without being aware of Elon Musk. “I never thought the leopards-firing-people-whilst-wearing-sunglasses would fire ME whilst wearing sunglasses!” seems like a bit of a daft complaint to me.

      2. One Eyed CEO*

        Our CEO famously wears sunglasses 24/7 because of an accident that cause him to lose an eye and also some disfigurement. So in some cases there are valid reasons.

        I’ve heard rumors about Anna’s eyes but unless she chooses to se the record straight this comes across poorly.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          I mean, if Stevie Wonder were laying me off, I wouldn’t expect him to remove his sunglasses, but that’s different. (Also, I just feel like he’d be genuinely kind about the whole thing.)

          1. bamcheeks*

            I think it’s partly the one-way-ness that matters. Wearing fully opaque sunglasses means you can’t tell whether someone is making eye contact with you. If it’s someone who is blind or partially sighted or is unable to make or sustain eye contact for whatever reason, then people can and should adjust to it. But that’s different from someone SAYING they are choosing to conceal eye-contact with certain people, and even more different if they reveal eye contact by taking glasses off around people they consider higher status!

      3. mreasy*

        In this case I think anyone would have been called out for wearing them. This was a huge layoff, most of the staff of Pitchfork, including all senior leadership, and putting the future of the publication in jeopardy. If someone has to be wearing sunglasses while delivering this news for medical reasons, and they have any compassion or caring, they would apologetically explain up front.

      4. Ellis Bell*

        There may be no actionable advice for the LW, but if it is someone who has suffered Aw’s arrogance for more than … oooh a week.. it would be very cathartic to point to the public spectacle she has just made of herself and say “did anyone else just see that or is it BEC time for me there?”

        1. LWH*

          There’s already a ton of articles about this, one of which was linked in the letter itself. I agree with the previous commenter, there’s no actual advice being asked and it just feels like the point is to namedrop a hot story.

          1. Ann O'Nemity*

            Re: no actionable advice, sometimes it helps just to hear a management expert say, “yeah, your boss sucks.”

            1. LWH*

              When there’s an entire film about how this person’s boss sucks? I think they’ve already got that confirmed.

      5. MK*

        Yes, they would. You aren’t seriously suggesting that if Elon Musk fired people while wearing sunglasses no one would remark upon it? If anything, Anna Wintour, being known for often wearing them, did have some people, like the firts post on this thread, saying it’s different for her, since she always wears sunglasses. Women often receive different treatment because of their gender, but it’s not appropriate to trot out the “what if a man did it” argument every time without thinking it through objectively.

        Alison does sometimes post letters in which the OP just wants a second opinion about their take on the situation, and it can be helpful to read them. And this isn’t a style issue. I think you are latching onto the “woman is receiving flack for what she chooses to wear” aspect, and ignoring the context. Wintour is rarely seen without her sunglasses, and people aren’t taking exception for this stylistic choice. But she does take them off when the situation demand it; the fact that she, a very experienced professional woman, didn’t think or understand or care that firing many people is such a situation where she needs to show some respect, is the issue.

        1. raktajino*

          > You aren’t seriously suggesting that if Elon Musk fired people while wearing sunglasses no one would remark upon it?

          Does he usually wear sunglasses?

          Grasping for the first “not immediately awful but at least slightly unconventional” thing I associate with Musk: smoking pot in that one podcast episode. I think if he did a mass layoff while smoking a joint, even people who think pot is nbd would remark on it. Maybe you can think of a parallel that works better? I can only think of things he already gets (rightfully) mocked about, not things that people just brush off as part of his “thing.”

      6. Katie A*

        I agree that there’s nothing actionable here for the LW, so it’s not a particularly great post for an advice column on that front (although it might be good for bringing in some readers). But, yeah, actually, I do think a famous male boss would get criticized for being disrespectful whil firing people.

        Elon Musk got criticized for it a bunch, for example, and I’m sure there’s other examples. People may like to criticize women, but they also like to criticize rich or powerful people behaving badly.

      7. Observer*

        I’m not a fan of calling out famous bosses by name for style issues

        This is not a “style issue” and it’s genuinely disrespectful to minimize it as such.

        would the media pile on a similarly famous male boss for firing people while wearing sunglasses???

        Yes, I think so. But it also does not matter.

        We all know that the media is sexist. But it that’s not a free pass to show your true colors as a psychopath, even if a guy could get away with it.

      8. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Someone above mentioned Elon Musk.
        I think in terms of bad(person) leadership, his Twitter reign is comparable. Like Anna Wintour, Musk IS the brand.
        The result: a media crap storm as much (if not more) about how he did things v why he did things.

      9. Prismatic Garnet*

        “Would the media pile on a similarly famous male boss for firing people while wearing sunglasses???”

        Yeah, they would? There have been dozens of news pieces about other male ceos doing layoffs badly and those get attention too.

    10. Quantum Possum*

      I feel like this is just par for the course for her “leadership” style, as well.

      She does not seem like a human being who is prone to having an emotion.

    11. mreasy*

      She takes them off for formal events. A mass layoff feels important enough that it would apply, unless she is truly that callous.

    12. Autumn leaves*

      Fashion in general, is so messed up. In my 20s, I worked for a famous designer (they didn’t do runway because it was too expensive). People were fired all the time. The sales girls were the highest caliber of” mean girls”. turnover was incredible. Mr. design house would call his assistant at all hours of the night for meaningless reasons. Once, he wanted to show her” artistic” photos that his girlfriend had taken of him which were naked photos of him with an erection.

      There were a few kind and nice people there but they usually left quickly.

      The fashion world is a place of its own and normal conventions don’t apply. If she wore her sunglasses, it really doesn’t surprise me that she didn’t care. There really are oodles of people willing to work there so it doesn’t matter how you treat them. There’s even a chance she did it for the publicity.

    13. Lizzy May*

      She’s more than willing to take them off when it suits her. It didn’t suit her to show some respect and look the people she was laying off in the eyes. She revels in being a bad boss. It’s gross.

    14. Observer*

      Anna Wintour famously never takes the sunglassess off, and she’s spoken about why she wears them.

      Yes. It’s “armor” to keep her from having to behave with reasonable courtesy around people. Like on of the examples she gives is that she can act bored at a show and no one will notice.

      So, yes, the *absolutely* stuck to her rule because the people who she was firing did not deserve the courtesy and effort of her actually showing her face.

  2. Budgie Buddy*

    “At some point, it’s reasonable to conclude they’re either a good writer or they’re good at using AI to generate good writing. You’d need to decide if it matters for your context if it’s the latter.”

    It does.

      1. darsynia*

        AI is known to make things up. Depending on the business, as a manager I would be concerned about the output and feel it necessary to more closely monitor an employee that uses AI to write for them. What happens if that tool is down? Does hiring that person despite their obvious use of AI mean that I’m possibly hiring someone who can’t do their job without a 3rd party program? In any case, I haven’t heard good things about AI doing editing work; it’s certainly useful for some things in the editing process, though.

        It is certainly possible for that not to matter! With the penny-pinching going on lately, a company might just seek to use the AI themselves with the staff they already have, rather than looking for a new employee.

        LW#2, please be careful about AI detection tools. As a writer who knows for a fact I don’t use AI to write anything, I was taken aback when a friend of mine ran some of that writing through a detection tool to show me how incorrect it can be. I don’t know if the tools now are any better at that, but if you’re considering running any of your current employees’ work through one, please please be aware that they’re not foolproof and seem to err on the side of ‘everything is AI.’

        1. Mockingjay*

          Agree about caution with detection tools. AI tools – writing and checkers – are being “trained” on a massive swathe of already written works, so yes these can and will flag original works as false, simply through comparison of similar phrases or grammatical structure. AI has no context to truly distinguish real/false or correct/incorrect writing.

          My advice: supplement a writing test with a live discussion of the sample. “HOW” and “WHY” are the missing elements here. Ask candidates to explain structure, research, rules or templates used, and how they would apply these to writing for New Job. Context will tell you much more about a candidate’s skills.

        2. Rebecca*

          Oh, yes, this is really key. I am in education, and the number of professors who are failing students on the basis of these detection tools only to have their own papers (many of which pre-date AI) flagged up by the same tool is embarassing.

          1. Yvette*

            You can bet if a professor failed my original work for that reason I would be running their stuff through it and letting EVERYBODY know.

        3. Observer*

          LW#2, please be careful about AI detection tools.

          100% X 1million.

          Because the companies that released “AI detectors” have for the most part withdrawn them, they are so inaccurate.

          It’s clear that you already have a bit of a sense of caution with this, which is good. But please notch it up. They really, really, don’t work well.

        4. Bitte Meddler*

          In grad school, I had a professor fail my paper because her plagiarism detection tool flagged my paper as 85% plagiarized. I went to her office and made her show me the tool and how it came up with that, because my work absolutely wasn’t plagiarized.

          Turns out, it was flagging quoted content as plagiarism, despite me having the quotes and the citations indicating that the stuff between the quotes wasn’t mine.

          If she had actually spent 30 seconds skimming my paper, she would have realized there was something wrong with her software.

          These kinds of tools should be used as starting points in a process, not the whole process. Like, if the tool flags something as plagiarized or created by AI (and it’s something that is higher stakes than a job application), the correct thing to do is to put a set of human eyes on the thing being scrutinized.

    1. raincoaster*

      One would hope, but to some it does not. I remember years ago pointing to an ad and saying I didn’t know whether the model was human but photoshopped, or completely computer generated, and the person I was with said, “Does it matter?” Given it was an ad for makeup to achieve a particular way human women are supposed to look, I said it did.

      Art matters. Certainly not all business writing is art, but the act of creation is of intrinsic value, if not commercial value.

      1. KateM*

        Yeah. Looked at jumpers in an online shop, and you could tell the photos of one of the jumpers were actually from another jumper with the picture photoshopped to replace the original picture on jumper. I’m sooooo going to believe that the jumper would look just like on photo. /s

      2. hbc*

        Huh. The way people are photoshopped, I’d argue that it doesn’t matter. Who cares if you literally drew someone with the shape of Jessica Rabbit or you took a picture of an actual curvy woman and edited her to have the same impossible proportions? If you claim your acne-covering makeup works by drawing someone without acne, editing out the model’s acne in the After picture, or editing *in* the acne in the Before picture? All of it is basically the same lie.

      3. Observer*

        Given it was an ad for makeup to achieve a particular way human women are supposed to look, I said it did.

        I disagree. Because once you get to that point, the “promise” in those ads is close to fraudulent anyway. Most of those photoshopeed images wind up presenting images that are simply not possible as things that are “supposed” to be accomplished. Like hair that looks a certain way after using THIS particular hair care product. And those pictures are not actually something that can happen.

        1. raincoaster*

          Yes, but the difference is between starting with a human being or not. There’s an intrinsic difference between the human and the synthetic.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Yes, I meant in terms of Alison’s caveat: “They’re either a good writer or they’re good at using AI to generate good writing. You’d need to decide if it matters for your context if it’s the latter.” I have worked in newsrooms and it’s not inconceivable that someone would use AI to first draft something. It could be a way of just plugging in the main points so as to be sure not leave out something critical. I personally think it’s faster to just write something yourself and redraft as you go, so the tightness of the deadlines under consideration would be the main context I would want to keep in mind.

        2. ferrina*

          I think it also matters what the writing context is. For example, if I am a textbook publisher, I really need original content and not AI generated. But if I am doing internal pitches and generating hundreds of communications a day, someone who can streamline that process by using AI well (including verifying and editing) can be a useful tool.

          Full disclosure: Part of my job is writing. I do a lot of it, for an audience that may or may not actually read it, but will definitely miss it if it’s not there. I use AI to create a first draft. I always edit and verify what AI produces, but it can save me up to an hour. Sometimes I’ve been able to keep the bulk of what AI produces; other times I’ve rewritten it completely. I’m all for AI when used in a smart way, but AI should never be used as a replacement for human judgement (and writing requires judgement)

          1. Bob-White of the Glen*

            I’m with you. Helpful for getting a rough draft for a blog post on a subject I know very well. Helps with the procrastination feature built into me. But I edit it carefully, and in the end it sounds like me. But the rough part is getting started, and AI helps tremendously.

            Also good for putting together a compliance manual, where the info has to be correct, and I double check it carefully, but I could not care less about the quality of writing I present to state auditors. Not important for my business. Many, many hours of time saved.

            AI has pros and cons, and can be very helpful in the workplace. But if it’s all you can offer, i.e. you do not know how to write and edit for a job you are applying for, you are gone as soon as they figure out how to get AI to do your job for free.

          2. whingedrinking*

            I’m with you. I do proofreading of academic papers as a side gig, and I just can’t bring myself to mount a passionate defense of 100% human-written methods and materials sections. If it saves a non-linguistically gifted scientist some time that they can devote to curing cancer instead, that’s great. However, they do still need to read over the text and make sure it says what they mean it to say, because I’ve seen things go badly off the rails in terms of sentences that may be grammatically correct but are perfect nonsense.

    2. Heather*

      It does to you, apparently. But we don’t know anything about the OP’s work or whether it matters to them.

      1. Quantum Possum*

        If OP is looking for good writers and/or editors, then it does matter. But it only matters in the sense that it always produces low-quality writing. An applicant whose own writing doesn’t meet the mark is in the same boat.

        The bottom line is that, if OP doesn’t like an applicant’s writing samples, that’s a rejection for a writing/editing position.

        1. Turquoisecow*

          Yeah, if it’s a real person’s writing or an AI’s writing almost doesn’t matter if it’s not up to the OP’s standards. I don’t know if it’s changed but I remember assessments saying it wrote on the level of like a 13 year old. If you need something more sophisticated than that, you’re not going to hire an inexperienced writer with that skill or a computer program with that skill.

    3. Lilo*

      FWIW ot doesn’t sound like.the people using ChatGPT were submitting good writing as they said it sounded stilted and buzzwordy.

      I work in a field where we’ve very easily caught a few people using unedited ChatGPT (law) because ChatGPT just makes up case citations and it takes about two seconds to pop a cite into a database and realize it’s fake. But I also think
      the writing is noticeably weird, too. There’s this very stilted odd aspect to it.

      My organization has banned the use of AI generators, FWIW. In law, the instances of ChatGPT making up caselaw or, when it does pull a real cite, misstating a holding in a case, are serious enough people have been fined for submitting things to the court in that condition.

      1. darsynia*

        I had no idea this happened until Legal Eagle did a video on it (I think it’s called something like ‘don’t use ChatGPT in court!’), but I’m not surprised! When being used to write academically, it does the same thing–makes up books by certain known authors and creates parallels between that imaginary poem or novel and the source material being generated for, stuff like that. I have a few friends who are professors and they yo-yo between laughing hysterically at the obviousness and grief for the Before Times.

        1. Rock Prof*

          I always pop a bunch of my questions into ChatGPT just to see what kinds of responses I might get. I find find the fake citations both funny and disturbing too because at a quick glance they can look feasible, like author names and titles I might expect for a topic, but then they go off the rails.

        2. AnotherOne*

          it’s was interesting. though i’m mid an interesting CLE on how to properly use things like chatGPT as an attorney. cuz it’s tool like anything else.

        3. ferrina*

          Yes! I love that video!

          AI is great to quickly mock up an email; it’s not so great if it’s quickly making up cases.

      2. Grumpylawyer*

        One legal research database now has an AI feature that uses real citations. I just saw a demo of it and, while the sales guy was beaming, my colleagues and I were horrified. For people who make a living with our minds, hearing that any lazy, mediocre lawyer could feed a brief into this thing and get a bunch of AI-generated counterarguments with real, on-point citations was so depressing.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Color me sceptical on how on-point these citations will be. I’d wager they’re a decent starting point (like a good search engine!), but developing good arguments from them is still an art form. About half of the AI arguments will probably be own goals, unless it’s a slam-dunk bog standard case.

          1. Lilo*

            I’m also skeptical because part of it is a deep dive in the case to pick apart the differences when applied to case facts. I wouldn’t trust AI to do that.

        2. bamcheeks*

          I must say, I don’t really understand this point of view! I’m sure there’s a generation above you who felt exactly the same about seeing newly qualified lawyers turn to online databases and keyword searches instead of their hardwon card-catalogue and indexing skills. But that generation proved was that the skills of meticulously crafting an argument, anticipating counter-argumnts and genuine creative thought are *always* human skills, not mechanical or digital ones.

        3. Happy meal with extra happy*

          I mean, I’ve never been a Westlaw or Lexis expert, but I feel like there were similar tools when I was in law school over a decade ago, minus the AI name.

        4. Katie A*

          Why do you find that depressing? Either it won’t work, and the lawyer will still be mediocre and good lawyers have nothing to worry about, or it will work and mediocre lawyers will be able to do some things better, so it will become more affordable for people to get legal help. That would be, on balance, good for everyone except lawyers.

          1. Orv*

            It does raise the question of where future good lawyers will come from, if we replace all the entry-level lawyers with AI.

      3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        The first guy that got busted for using AI for legal citations — okay dumb but bought the hype. The second guy has no excuse. It’s a known issue at this point.

        If you are using AI as a starting point to kick off your own writing — like an idea generator – then it might not matter you use it. As long as the end product is your own writing. But if you are submitting AI unedited or only lightly edited that’s a problem.

        1. Observer*

          okay dumb but bought the hype. The second guy has no excuse. It’s a known issue at this point.

          And anyone after that? Immediate termination with cause and no severance or unemployment. Because it’s a know, repeatable and highly public issue.

      4. Ashley*

        Legal briefs with AI is completely fascinating. I knew about the case where they made up a complete appeal circuit for awhile now. But the news story last month (?) about a client using AI to give citations that their attorney submitted without checking was mind boggling.
        In the LW case I think that they used AI isn’t always inherently problematic (depending on the role) but if they aren’t even going to read what was submitted to ensure things were spelled correctly (in this case not American English spellings) then it tells you the candidate is not into details and may not be a good fit for a writing position.

        1. Turquoisecow*

          Yeah even if it was their own writing they’d presumably need to proofread it before submitting so if they didn’t do that with AI then they’re clearly lacking. Use it for a first draft maybe, but then definitely proofread and edit.

      5. Observer*

        In law, the instances of ChatGPT making up caselaw or, when it does pull a real cite, misstating a holding in a case, are serious enough people have been fined for submitting things to the court in that condition.

        So that brings up the key question. As it stands, I think that this is so important that law firms have no real choice but to ban the use of ChatGPT because the fact checking and editing are so difficult once you get past a single citation.

        But what if ChatGPT got good enough that it stopped doing that. Or some legal tech company created a custom version that was properly trained on the huge corpus of case law and its summaries, and was also designed to work within those constraints (stuff like that is actually happening in other fields, and initial results look promising). In other words, what if someone figured out how to create and train a model that actually provided usable work? Or even *good* work?

        Would your company rethink its policy? Does it matter?

        I think that this at the heart of the question being asked and Alison’s answer. Right now, in this kind of context, the ethics are not that important since the tool is not really usable for this kind of work. But if the tool *can* provide work that is usable, then the ethical question becomes a core issue.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          For lawyers, the ethical question probably isn’t around using a tool that does some of the writing for you; plenty of lawyers have assistants help write their briefs. On the other hand, submitting a brief that sited non-existent cases or misrepresented the decisions in those cases is an ethical issue because when you submit it you are saying that you back everything in the document.

          IMO, ChatGPT can never become a workable tool for a lawyer for anything beyond some nice sentence structure because it fundamentally does not know whether what it is saying is true or not.

          There are plenty of AI methods that are truth-based; I imagine they will do a better job of pulling up relevant caselaw than current database searches, or make writing prettier, but the arguments themselves need to convince human brains so need to be guided by human brains.

        2. Lilo*

          What my organization does, and what most organizations do, is have caselaw banks. Even when I was a clerk we didn’t write mist orders from scratch, someone had taken the time to carefully write out the standard caselaw for reoccurring situations and we just reused it. If a new opinion came out, we updated the standard language. So most of the writing you end up doing is heavily fa y specific and I have a hard time believing AI will get good enough at issue spotting to do that.

    4. Quantum Possum*

      Technically, there is no good “AI” writing, so that’s a non-starter.

      I think this applicant is probably a good writer but used AI for some of the application questions…why, I don’t know. If they were that talented of a writer, surely they would have quickly realized that the quality was poor. Maybe they were just lazy and in a hurry.

      In any case, the very fact that they saw “AI”-generated crap and thought “yep, that’s great stuff” would make me doubt their writing skills.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        In my experience, there are many more people who think that they’re good writers (and good at judging writing) than there actually are.

        1. Quantum Possum*

          “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”
          -Thomas Mann

        2. ferrina*

          I’ve met any number of “good writers” who can’t communicate a point, then blame others for not being “good readers”. That’s…..not how communication works.
          I’ve only met a handful of amazing writers who are masters of tailoring their writing, layout, even mediums to ensure their target audience absorbs the message. Those people are true artists and worth their weight in gold.

      2. Daisy-dog*

        I think the idea is that they’d use AI as the framework and they can go in and edit out the stilted language and buzzwords.

      3. Annie*

        I think the issue is that the interviewer is trying to get an idea of your skills, and therefore you should be doing the work yourself.

        If you get the job and can use AI as an additional resource, and it’s effective, that is okay, but not for any initial screening.

    5. Also-ADHD*

      I have not yet seen AI write anything truly well—though I’ve seen people take something written by AI and improve it, and I also think good writers are more likely to write good prompts that produce better content (which will still need a punch up). AI has some particular downsides (such as whether or not you or your company can copyright content if too much comes from AI) but I think the notion that it’s inherently “bad” in some way is missing the point. It’s a tool, like a calculator or spell check or whatever, and people will use it, though it won’t supplant all writing skills. Instead, it will change what skills are most used to be a good writer.

      1. Quantum Possum*

        What really chaps my rear is that it takes about 20 times as much time and energy to rewrite a crappy source document as it does to just write from scratch.

        I just don’t understand why we seem so eager to do MORE work, especially when that work is 50% babysitting computers. And when the additional labor results in a poorer product overall…baffling.

          1. darsynia*

            It’s so heartbreaking when it comes to translation services. So many people are being asked to ‘punch up’ translation work done by AI… and it just needs redone. No company wants to hear that, they just want to pay them editing prices for translation work.

            1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

              Yup, I can confirm! And somehow, trying to improve a machine translation is so much harder than simply proofreading a human translation. I may not take any more time, but it will give me a headache. I have even accused a client of pretending a translation was human-produced because he knew I’d refuse it if I knew it were machine-generated, simply because it gave me a headache, when it was actually a very interesting subject that I normally would have loved to work on.

            2. k*

              I think this is very context-dependent! I’ve been shocked at the recent uptick in the quality of AI translation (I’m talking about improvements even in just the last 3-5 months) and I’m excited about its potential to improve accessibility across many contexts. I’ve definitely seen AI-produced translations that only need to be edited instead of redone. However this is mainly for straightforward documents or speech — I can’t speak at all to the realm of literary translation.

              1. wordswords*

                I do pragmatic translation rather than literary, and I would say it applies to a whole lot of that, too. Certainly for literary translation I think it’s a non-starter, but even outside that realm I think there’s cause for a whole lot of caution.

            3. MigraineMonth*

              This was one of the drivers of the screenwriter’s strike. They didn’t want to get paid editing rates for completely rewriting AI-produced nonsense into a workable script.

            4. wordswords*

              Yep! And sometimes a client will give you something for unilingual revision, and you’re reading it thinking, “I’m pretty sure an AI translated this, and they’re trying to cut costs by giving it to us for a quick revision instead of translation?” But if they don’t give you the original, you can’t trust anything about the translated version, because the fancy autocomplete versions have so much risk of introducing total garbage errors. (And if they give you the original, a) it’s not as cost-cutting, and b) then half the time you have to come back to them and tell them it really needs to be redone from scratch.) But meanwhile, companies in various industries are firing people right and left in favor of getting desperate freelancers to revise “AI” work for peanuts. It’s awful.

              I know there ARE more tailored versions of DeepL etc, but in my experience they don’t actually save enough time to be really worth it on a lot of types of text. I’m sure it depends on your language pair and on what type of work you do — there is stuff it’s useful for! — but so much of what’s going on is just driven by client cheapness and the buzz about the generative autocomplete that keeps getting called AI (when it’s really not I at all).

        1. Not a Writer*

          I’m not a writer, although I do a lot of writing for my job. I’m great at creating an outline, and at editing, but writing rough drafts is my biggest hurdle. I can see the use for rough drafts in a lot of areas for people like me.

          1. Quantum Possum*

            Oh yeah, if you have the outlining and editing skills, then I can see where it would be helpful. It’s all about knowing where your best skills lie, and finding tools that genuinely help you.

          2. Claire*

            Yes, exactly this. A blank page is my greatest hurdle, but if I have something to work with to edit or re-write I can knock it out.

          3. I am Emily's failing memory*

            Agreed, as someone who was promoted a few years ago from a role where I did a lot of drafting to a role where now I primarily review and edit drafts, I find it infinitely easier to edit than to write from scratch. Creating something from nothing requires a lot of mental labor. Looking at something that already exists and being able to spot all its weaknesses and know what would make it better, is something I could do in my sleep whether it’s coming from a junior writer on my team, or an AI.

          4. Sleve*

            You can chalk me up as another person who is better at editing than generation. Blank pages offer too many options and I freeze trying to make a hundred choices at once. AI can and will just pick between twenty similar options 5 times over without the decision fatigue and I can take it from there.

        2. Katie A*

          That may be true for some people and some writing, and I’ve found it true for me when I’m trying to avoid using the same structure or wording as what an AI gave me. However, if you need a couple sentences on what a chart or a data point means, it can write that up. I don’t use it in my day to day, but I’ve used it a couple times when I couldn’t figure how to word something, and it’s useful for that.

          So, it’s useful to feed data into and have it write up an initial summary. Editing and checking that doesn’t have to be onerous, and editing and checking summaries of data is a different skill set than writing stuff from scratch.

          Not all business writing needs to be good, just passable. That includes some stuff that goes to clients, as long as it’s simple and clear. AI is getting better at that.

          I hope it gets better. The writing part of my job is the part I dislike the most, and I thought that would be the last part to get even partially automated. I thought the data processing would be first. I’m pleased I was wrong on both counts.

        3. Pam*

          Not necessarily. Depends on their working style.

          Some people can edit more quickly than they can write. Give them a draft- good or bad- and they can turn it around more quickly than if they wrote from scratch.
          Others are better at writing from scratch, and having to edit will slow them down.

          I’m neurospicy (ADHD) and my brain alters between styles. Sometimes I need a blank canvas; sometimes seeing that empty paper sucks my mind into a void. When I need a draft, AI is a great tool for magically making a draft appear. (I *never* go to AI to make a final draft: AI only produces rough drafts that still need human editing and discretion)

        4. Bob-White of the Glen*

          Depends, like so much else. I’ve used it to do a basic blog post, and added my voice and editing. With my particular brain it’s getting started that is the hard part, and once I have that it turns on and starts working. Plus, I’ve used it for very dry, mandatory materials – i.e. a compliance manual that has to be correct, but not well written. Got it done in hours instead of weeks. It has it’s pros and cons, but it can be very helpful, especially on boring or hard to start stuff.

          Your brain works differently from mine, and in so many ways you should be glad, but AI makes less work for me, and I am very selective about using it.

      2. Lenora Rose*

        The question now is whether it does that before or after it completely floods out the market, and causes multiple news sources and publishers to have to shut down because nobody can find real book or articles without wading through it. We’re already seeing AI generated junk filling up search engine results, and that’s including the ones that don’t try to game your results for peak monetization.

      3. FrivYeti*

        AI is a tool, but it’s a tool that is *incredibly bad* at the things that it is being promoted for, while also being *incredibly expensive* to operate.

        Using AI for writing or art is like using a set of SCUBA gear to whisk eggs. Yeah, it’s a tool, but you’re wasting tons of power and getting egg fragments everywhere and you’d be better off just getting a whisk and doing it yourself.

        1. Sleve*

          I quite enjoy using AI for my own personal amateur art. I haven’t put any time into learning digital art – I have other creative hobbies. But sometimes I have a vague idea of a picture in my mind, and it’s cool to see something bring that picture to life without needing to be able to decide where every brushstroke should go. It’s not ‘good’ art if you look closely, and if I needed it I’d pay a human to do it properly – but I certainly wouldn’t be better off doing it myself just for that brief happy moment of wish fulfilment looking at a cartoon of a shark in a soap bubble.

          To continue the SCUBA gear analogy: some people are using it to look at tropical fish, even though it’s serious equipment that can be used for welding oil rigs. I could use a snorkel, but the SCUBA gear lets me see different fish and that’s fun. I just need to be certain to only use my SCUBA gear in my hometown and not use it to undermine people’s livelihoods while I’m travelling.

    6. Lucia Pacciola*

      There seems to be a growing consensus that AI has a legitimate role as a labor-saving device for skilled knowledge workers. Even the US Department of Defense sees AI as a useful tool for generating first drafts that will be refined by subject-matter experts.

      Very soon now, “AI whisperer” will be a part of every job description that isn’t a rote task that’s about to be handed off to literal robots.

      If a candidate can get the job done faster and better, by having an AI make a first pass at it, and then revising the output into a fit-for-humans product? Hire that candidate! Your organization will need their skills and insight before the year is out.

      1. 15 Pieces of Flair*

        This. As someone who works in tech, leveraging AI is quickly becoming a required skill for both coders and noncoders. My experience includes work as a technical writer and copywriter, and I still sometimes use AI for first drafts because it’s easier to revise bad copy than generate the same amount of content from scratch. This is equivalent to asking AI how to write functions for a specific application on the coding side, totally acceptable so long as you don’t expose sensitive data and the end product works.

      2. Quantum Possum*

        Even the US Department of Defense sees AI as a useful tool for generating first drafts that will be refined by subject-matter experts.

        Yeah, I get sent those types of documents and have to completely rewrite them. It’s annoying and takes way longer than if they just submitted an outline and let me write it from scratch.

        I wish the Pentagon would stop using shiny things before they understand how aforementioned shiny things actually work.

        1. wanda*

          “Cleanup work on a crap document takes way longer than writing and editing a document from scratch.” This is not true for me, and a lot of people on this comment thread say that it’s not true for them. I would 100x rather have not a blank page, even if I end up completely rewriting it, than a blank page.

          1. k*

            This is the same for me I know a lot of strong copywriters that treat it as a brainstorming tool. Their finished copy ultimately looks absolutely nothing like the writing that was initially produced by ChatGPT, but starting with something rather than nothing helps them get the work moving.

      3. Quantum Possum*

        If a candidate can get the job done faster and better, by having an AI make a first pass at it, and then revising the output into a fit-for-humans product?

        You will never get a better written product more quickly with a computer than with a human. Cleanup work on a crap document takes way longer than writing and editing a document from scratch.

        It’s the same with art. It’s like, ok, get back to me when “AI” can render a human hand correctly.

        “AI whisperer” will be a part of every job description that isn’t a rote task that’s about to be handed off to literal robots.

        That’s depressing. But the good news is that, in about 7-10 years, everyone will realize that they’ve been hoodwinked by tech companies and “AI” isn’t really that great.

        It might be different if artificial intelligence actually existed, but what we call “AI” is nowhere close to that. New technology often gets overhyped (for capitalist reasons) and then underperforms.

        1. bamcheeks*

          It’s like, ok, get back to me when “AI” can render a human hand correctly

          I don’t know, I think that’s a pretty low bar. It’s a great giveaway now but it probably won’t be in 2-3 years time. It sucks if your bread and butter is “extremely bland but well-lit stock photography of smiling men in business suits shaking hands”, but I truly don’t think it is A Loss to the human race, in the same way that it sucked when your bread and butter was “drawing cartoon images of smiling men shaking hands” and print processes got good and cheap enough to reproduce photography, but it didn’t lead to a net decline in human creativity or achievement.

          I think the thing is that technology, whether it’s AI or not, cannot do REALLY GOOD work, but a lot of work doesn’t need to be REALLY GOOD. I mean, I have half a dozen, “Dear Mr Bamcheeks, We’re writing to let you know about this fantastic conference which is right up your street and only £174 per person + VAT!” emails in my inbox most weeks, and frankly, nothing would be lost from the world if they were AI generated. A huge amount of human-written copy is repetitive, cliched, muddled, uninformative, or straight-up nonsense. I think we’ll just find that AI works really well for certain types of low-value writing (estate agent listings, marketing copy for bland or generic events, products and services) and not at all for high-value types of writing.

          1. Lenora Rose*

            Re Art: It’s been caught explicitly copying works almost exactly at this point, where sure, the hand is right, but it’s also no longer producing anything except literal reproductions.

            And Actual, quirky, not stock photographer artists are losing commissions.

        2. k*

          “But the good news is that, in about 7-10 years, everyone will realize that they’ve been hoodwinked by tech companies and “AI” isn’t really that great.”

          Not a chance! This take is like watching Tron in 1982 and claiming that CGI will never catch on. It’s true that some applications of AI are extremely overhyped. But it seems that when a lot of people think of “AI” they only think about the AI that gets the most journalistic coverage, i.e. Dall-E and ChatGPT. There are so many other applications though. AI is already heavily integrated into many scientific, medical, research, and software development/programming workflows and that’s only going to increase over time. (Just search for “AI + CRISPR” for some examples of how deep learning models are being used in scientific research.)

          Besides, seven years is a long time. I’d be willing to bet a lot of money that AI image generators will have figured out how to reproduce human hands in 7 years’ time. In the meantime I already use generative AI for work tasks that used to be absolutely miserable, like extending the background of a graphic in photoshop using the generative fill tool.

          1. Orv*

            I feel like we’ve broadened the meaning of “AI” to the point where even simple markov chain generators or rules-based fuzzers are called “AI” now, in spite of them having no real intelligence of their own.

            I think we need another AI winter to remove the hype and figure out which applications are actually AI and which are just rebrandings of other tools.

          2. Sleve*

            I misread your comment as saying Wall-E gets a lot of journalistic coverage, and my immediate thought was “Which news sites does k read? I need to add them to my feed.”

        3. I am Emily's failing memory*

          You will never get a better written product more quickly with a computer than with a human. Cleanup work on a crap document takes way longer than writing and editing a document from scratch.

          I wouldn’t say never. In marketing it’s almost always a time-saver, because marketing is a data-driven industry that heavily leans on proven formulas, consistent branding, and clear, simple statements that primarily make claims about the product being sold, which the marketer is an expert in and can easily fact-check. Marketing writers often have to write a high volume of pieces that are all fairly short, so they face blank pages more often than long-form writers and can easily fatigue of finding novel ways to say the same basic thing in the same basic format and develop writers block that makes first drafts take a long time to produce. But if they ask an AI to take a first pass at marketing copy, the AI’s predictive ability will deliver something that’s extremely close to usable, and seasoned marketers who know their product well know exactly what needs to be improved or corrected.

          1. anotherfan*

            I will say that a friend of mine in PR has one of his clients run his copy through their AI and it adds inaccuracies, jargon and simply bad writing, but the client insists on using the AI version because it “reads better.” so it’s kind of the reverse of asking AI to do the first draft and then clean it up. They pay for his original work and then use AI to make it exactly like 1,000 other pieces they put out and then wonder why their stuff doesn’t stand out in SEO and whatnot.

        4. Sleve*

          Cleaning up a poorly written excel spreadsheet takes a lot of time and is a miserable process, but we haven’t gone back to using slide rules. Calculators and computers haven’t given us flying cars and fusion power like we were told they would, but they’ve still changed the world. Don’t be mad because AI isn’t giving you what was promised. Work out what it can give you and exploit the crap out of it. It exists now, you might as well.

      4. Keymaster the absent*

        As someone who has worked in IT most of her professional career this made me laugh.

        No. There are limits to computers and they can’t judge whether something makes sense or not. They can be fed an absolute ton of data and based on that produce a item that generally fits within a criteria but until we get to actual synthetic intelligences we humans are not out of the game.

        And it’s not really an AI. It’s just code. Lengthy and complex code but it’s not alive.

      5. Dek*

        “Even the US Department of Defense sees AI as a useful tool for generating first drafts that will be refined by subject-matter experts.”

        I bet the “subject-matter experts” would rather just write the dang thing than have to parse and clean up an auto-generated draft. Humans are used to looking for HUMAN error, but AI can make errors in ways that people aren’t even looking for, which can make editing generated output even more tedious.

        Just because the people at the top say “hey, do this thing!” doesn’t make it something that’s actually better, faster, or more effective. It’s just shiny and new and has a fancy sci-fi word attached to it.

      6. watermelon fruitcake*

        Even the US Department of Defense sees AI as a useful tool for generating first drafts that will be refined by subject-matter experts.

        I don’t know how to say this without getting somebody’s rankles up, but suffice it to say, this is not the endorsement you think it is. The DOD has more money than they need and routinely invest it in useless tech that goes nowhere and either stays a money sink or quietly gets phased out within a few years.

        And frankly, knowing what I know about the level of tech savvy at all levels of government AND how AI is already used in military applications, the prospect of the DOD investing in as-yet imperfect systems to streamline, ultimately, military action… is a frightening one, not an encouraging one.

        (Never mind the ethics of the uncredited datamining used to train current machine learning models, never mind the way generative AI fills in “knowledge” gaps with complete nonsense, including false scientific and historical assertions, that is phrased convincingly enough that the untrained eye takes it at face value.)

    7. Prismatic Garnet*

      Ethically, it absolutely does. Even if a business is fine feeding its readers AI sludge, that sludge is the result of theft.

      1. Dahlia*

        ^This. Beyond AI often just making nonsense up, it’s stolen. AI “art” is stolen. AI “writing” is stolen. Nothing is original. It’s just a bunch of real art and writing put in a blender and mixed up.

        1. Katie A*

          Pet peeve, but I actually think this is important to how we think about this topic. It’s not stolen. It’s copied or plagiarized or paraphrased or intellectual property rights were violated.

          When someone steals something, the person who originally had it doesn’t have it anymore. Ideas for writing and art are not something that can be stolen. Even the exact words or images can’t be stolen.

          You can think IP should exist or that AI using people’s art/words without consent is wrong without falling into the trap of calling it stealing.

          1. Laura*

            “Even the exact words or images can’t be stolen.”

            Well, they can be stolen in the sense that the person who created them isn’t making money off of them anymore. This is why copyright exists.

            1. Pink Pachirisu*

              But it’s the monetisation rights that were taken out of the hands of the creator, not the words or images themselves. This is an important distinction, because it’s how the AI trainers have gotten away with saying “Nothing was stolen”, just because the art wasn’t. If you want to aid the artists, clarity of language helps. They lost their ability to demand payment in exchange for usage rights (even just one-time usage for AI training) and that is what’s objectionable. It’s like wage theft. You haven’t stolen me even if you get free work out of me. You just took away my right to be fairly compensated for my labour.

          2. Joron Twiner*

            “When someone steals something, the person who originally had it doesn’t have it anymore.”
            I don’t think that is the common definition of “stealing”. Identity theft doesn’t mean you are no longer yourself. You can steal files or digital assets you’re not supposed to access by copying them and not deleting the originals. “Stealing” isn’t limited to physical objects.

            1. Pink Pachirisu*

              But identity theft takes away just that – your legal identity. There can’t be two of you, and in a complete case of identity theft the original owner of the identity has great difficulty in convincing e.g. their phone provider that they are the rightful owner of that identity and getting their identity transferred back to them.

              “Stealing” files or digital assets is generally either non-payment for use of files or illegal accessing of privileged information. The first essentially boils down to non-payment for services rendered (i.e. money/time theft) and the second isn’t really theft but a different crime. “Stealing” isn’t limited to physical objects, true, but you can lose access to things that aren’t physical objects, and that’s theft.

          3. Dahlia*

            If you take someone’s original art, put it on a T-shirt, and sell it without their art, it’s stolen art. AI is the same thing.

            This is just being nitpicky, honestly. This is very common phrasing in art communities in discussions of things like this and also stolen art on things like aliexpress or wish or whatever.

    8. Beth*

      It definitely matters if they’re using AI to generate text that sounds like AI, feels stilted, or is full of buzzwords. Using AI as your whole writing process usually produces bad results.

      But using it as a tool to assist in the process, alongside your own abilities? There are a lot of cases where someone who can use AI to get a first draft, then edit for content and style and ultimately produce a good result, is just as useful as someone who can write good content from scratch. Same for someone who can write a first draft that has all the content they want, use AI to proofread or edit style, and ultimately end up with something polished. That can help a subject-matter expert who’s not a great writer, writing in their second language, etc produce high-quality content.

      There are also times where it matters. A role that writes about a lot of confidential info probably shouldn’t be exposing that info to AI models that might incorporate it into their algorithms, a role that often travels into low-service areas shouldn’t rely on an online tool, etc. But OP should think about what’s actually important in their context.

  3. ImGoodLookin*

    Re: No. 3.

    “Naturally, I appealed the unemployment decision, and the day after I received notice of my hearing date, my former employer began blowing up my phone (three to five times a day, every business day since then). They never leave a message and it’s causing me considerable anxiety.”

    Bet good money your employer knows they’re going to lose the hearing due to a lack of documentation and is calling to lock you into a story about it. If you do choose to respond via email, be extremely careful about what you say to him.

    1. ChattyDelle*

      fwiw, I was fired “for cause” because i made an error (that was covered by business insurance so the office wasn’t out anything). I filed for unemployment, company appealed. judge asked if I regularly handled these kinds of transactions before (yes) & had I made this mistake before (no). I win. I hope you do too. don’t talk to them.

      1. Beat Feet*

        I also was fired “for cause”, appealed and won. The behavior she found so egregious was exactly what could have happened, and often did, on any other day. (Left her unassisted in an understaffed practice due to my previously approved, unavoidable departure time at the end of my official working hours– usual for me to be kept late but couldn’t that night). When I described a typical work day, always including procedures she handled alone, and Unemployment found out she hired two people to replace me, it was a quick victory.

      2. Varthema*

        LW4 – Were you ever explicit about the fact that you were only helping because the company was still paying your bill? If not, I can see how the employee might have gotten the impression that you had both settled into a sort of mentor relationship, which would explain the hurt feelings – if they had no idea the relationship was purely transactional on your part but thought it was genuine. that doesn’t mean you don’t absolutely have the right to fully disconnect post retirement (and tbh probably should have drawn the line way earlier and not pegged it to someone making a mistake), but it would explain the hurt feelings.

      3. Laura*

        I was fired for making a mistake (after a series of mistakes – I wasn’t good at that job) and the company gave me two weeks severance and didn’t appeal my unemployment. I had to sign something saying I wouldn’t sue or whatever, but that job wasn’t worth suing over anyway.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      And possibly they were hoping you didn’t understand the details of “for cause”. In general, if you’re fired for being bad at your job, you are still eligible for unemployment. Contesting it is for when the employee actually quit instead of being fired, or is fired for something egregious (e.g. assault, embezzlement), because they refused to do the work they were hired for, or abandoned the job (effectively quitting).

      1. Laura*

        exactly! “for cause” is for egregious things. If anyone who was bad at their job could be denied unemployment, there would be almost no point to having it in the first place.

    3. GreyjoyGardens*

      *Do not talk to them*, do not answer, do not engage, do not give them any fodder to contest your claim. In general, at least in employee-friendly states (which mine is), the onus is on the employer to prove “cause.” Cause usually means something like persistent tardiness, or destruction of company property (like that guy who relieved himself in the office coffee pot), physically assaulting a coworker, etc. Making mistakes, or being difficult to get along with, are not “causes.”

      Without a paper trail, or at least sympathetic (to them) witnesses, it’s going to be hard to prove you are fired for cause. So continue to ignore them; this way anything you say cannot be used against you.

      1. Lexie*

        OP may want to look into the laws regarding prank/harassing phone calls where they live and see if they have grounds to file a complaint.

    4. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      When you can’t get through on the phone, normally you’d then send an email, so that the recipient can read it at their leisure and doesn’t need to react instantly, but get back to you when they can.
      This former employer knows very well that email or even an SMS is not a solution, because they do not want any written trace of what they have to say.
      I would send them a message to say I’ll only communicate via email, or if they really want to speak, I would only agree to it if they also agree to be recorded.

    5. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Do not respond at all. This is now a contested hearing and OP needs to not engage with the employer.

      Document the number of phone calls — it might be relevant at the hearing to show how they behave. Also its worth a consult with an employment law attorney. Your state may have a free hotline.

    6. Ashley*

      I would probably mute their calls and notifications so I still had a record if I needed it, but I wasn’t constantly being interrupted.
      Good luck at your hearing!

    7. Database Developer Dude*

      The only communication I would make to them is “You fired me. I no longer work there. Please stop trying to contact me.”

      1. Sunglasses*

        there was nothing in the letter to make that obvious, and the idea that sunglasses are inherently rude is awful and depressing to someone who wears them all the time. I was trying to normalize the idea that sunglasses are just a normal thing people should take in stride. It had never even occurred to me anyone could take issue with them unless trying to take a picture of me for some reason.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          I don’t think it has occurred to anyone else either, that’s why the claim is not that it is inherently rude. The letter was asking if it was rude in a specific situation and AW is on the record as saying she uses sunglasses to deliberately put herself across a certain way. You yourself say you would have no problem removing them for an important picture and you need them for medical reasons! It’s never occurred to me either that all sunglasses wearing is rude; I wear my sunglasses indoors a lot because they are prescription and its a hassle changing glasses, but I like being able to see. It’s never been seen as rude, but I would take them off for a big thing like firing someone (though even if not everyone could, they’d probably make it clear why, first).

        2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          It’s in the letter that it was Anna Wintour. So her use of sunglasses and her documented statements that she does it as a mask is known.

        3. Caliente Papillon*

          I mean I wear sunglasses all the time however I would not be depressed if some random person thought they were rude. Who cares lol I wear them on the subway day and night. When someone asks why I say because I want to – obvs. Like why would I need a reason or excuse to wear anything at all, other than because I want to.
          Now of course if I have to speak to someone directly when I have sunglasses on, like in a store, then I’ll remove them – out of graciousness only.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Yes – but generally the folks wearing them for medical reasons have not previously claimed to “wear them so you don’t know if I’m bored with you” as Ms Wintour has reportedly said.

      I will also say in my (admittedly limited) experiences personally – the medical reasons person was upfront that “this seems odd – but I’ve got a medical condition and wear these for both your and my comfort and safety.” Most folks safety so that lighting could be kept brighter while walking around, or make it easier for our eyes to read paperwork; and their safety so that they didn’t go blind or suffer headaches due to the light level.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I’ve also done that when I’ve come out wearing prescription sunglasses and forgotten to bring my “normal” glasses– it wouldn’t occur to me NOT to apologise and explain why I’m wearing sunglasses indoors or in sensitive situations.

        1. Sunglasses*

          It would never occur to me to apologize for wearing sunglasses. Ever. I am perplexed and disturbed by the idea that I should. Or that anyone finds wearing them inappropriate.

          Sunglasses are a normal part of life for many people, and are pretty low stakes as medical things go. The idea that I should apologize for every little thing I do for medical reasons is exhausting.

          1. mreasy*

            But you seem like a thoughtful person given what you’re saying here about the feelings involved in wearing them. If you were laying off a large number of people, and they weren’t working with you on a daily basis (therefore knowing about your regular sunglasses habit), it seems like would be enough of an occasion that you’d want to explain. I agree that if you wear them regularly, folks should be used to it and not expect explanations all the time – but in this instance, AW sent the message that she didn’t care about the people whose livelihoods she was cutting off.

            1. Ellis Bell*

              I agree – Sunglasses comes off as very obviously thoughtful! Yet AW does not. It’s not always about the sunglasses themselves.

              1. Charlotte Lucas*

                This! My eyes are very sensitive to the sun, so I wear sunglasses to protect them (I am at risk for further eye problems if I don’t). However, if I have an interaction where eye contact is considered polite (e.g., buying from an outdoor vendor), I remove them as the polite thing to do.

                But I have known people who need to wear them at all times for medical reasons. It is not impolite for them to do so. But it is impolite for me to do so.

          2. Cinnamon Boo*

            This is clearly about Anna Wintour and her over the top rudeness. She has said that she wears them so people can’t tell she is bored. If someone is always wearing glasses for medical reasons its obviously different than someone who picks and chooses when to wear them and then puts them on for a layoff.

            If you have a boss who never wears sunglasses and then throws some on for a layoff, then that would seem rude – if they just had surgery or something then yes, I would explain to people that I am wearing them due to that issue. These people’s lives are being upended and you would be the person in power here. .

          3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Maybe I could have been more clear – but the folks I worked with who had a medical reason for the dark lenses at work never apologized- just matter of fact stated the first time you worked with them this is a thing, let’s concentrate on work though.

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              And it also sometimes comes with a request not to, for example, schedule meetings in the extra sunny conference room.

          4. Dinwar*

            “It would never occur to me to apologize for wearing sunglasses. Ever.”

            Put “crutches” in place of “sunglasses”. Would anyone consider it appropriate to demand an apology from someone who was using crutches? Even if you happen to be laying people off, it would be wildly inappropriate to make such a demand. We don’t get to pick and choose when medical needs arise.

            The issue is that our culture views sunglasses as casual, rather than medical, and so many assume that if you’re wearing sunglasses you’re not being “serious”. Which, in the case of someone who’s job is fashion (read: communication via clothing), sure, okay, I can buy that. On the other hand, again, this is an advice column for workplaces and the advice was expressed as a common workplace norm, clearly intended to be generalized beyond the individual event in question. Challenging these sorts of biases is generally considered a good thing on this forum, and it’s unclear to me why doing so here is considered problematic.

            1. amoeba*

              Sunglasses aren’t primarily a medical aid though, which does make them different from crutches! I mean, yes, they are for some people, but the overwhelming majority of people who wears them does not, in fact, do it for medical reasons, so it makes sense to point it out. When you see somebody using crutches, you’re not going to assume it’s a fashion statement.

              1. Dinwar*

                “Sunglasses aren’t primarily a medical aid though…”

                Depends on what you mean by “medical aid”. Prolonged exposure to sunlight, particularly in highly-reflective environments such as beaches or ski slopes, can damage the eyes. Even ignoring snow blindness and its nautical equivalent, prolonged exposure to sunlight can cause degenerative effects to the eye that decrease vision as you age. People are increasingly aware of this, and wearing sunglasses in part to protect against that. (This is discussed in my site’s safety manual, by the way; it’s something at least some companies take seriously.)

                In that context, sunglasses are an ergonomic aid. Would you complain about someone using an ergonomically-appropriate chair, or a wrist brace, or an ergonomic mouse?

                The fact that these fairly well-known factors are not considered illustrates that unconscious bias I was talking about. These are well-documented issues that I’m discussing, yet they get ignored because sunglasses are associated with fun. I suppose it stems from Puritanism, where fun was considered by its nature evil and any problems that arise were supposed to be endured as penance. For my part, I’d rather practice good ergonomics and not go blind, and would judge someone FAVORABLY for taking such basic precautions.

                1. Lurker Cat*

                  Wearing them outside to protect your eyes is very normal and appropriate use. Wearing them inside is inappropriate use for most people and can actually be dangerous.

                2. Happy meal with extra happy*

                  This is wild. You keep talking about an “unconscious bias” against sunglasses, but ignoring that it’s an actual social norm in many cultures that wearing sunglasses indoors in situations like the one in the letter is seen as rude. Especially when the person in question has explicitly said that she wears them so people don’t see when she’s bored. And you’re still using examples that involve wearing sunglasses outside, which is not the case here.

            2. Dark Macadamia*

              I mean, I think this is more akin to something like shaking hands. There are plenty of valid reasons not to do it, but it’s a social norm and if you just ignore someone’s outstretched hand you’re going to seem rude. A pleasant, vague acknowledgement is how you normalize a behavior that comes across as unusual – you don’t have to fall over yourself apologizing but you can’t be surprised if people are a little put off if you just pretend you’re not doing something “weird” when you are

            3. Ellis Bell*

              I think comparing sunglasses to crutches is a bit ‘apples to oranges’. Shoes would be a better comparison because sometimes “inappropriate” shoes are medically necessary, but not always. They’re also a minor part of your appearance, like sunglasses; they are not so all out important that you’d explain your shoes to all and sundry. However there are one off situations (like an interview) where you might say “do excuse my shoes, I have a medical issue”. Firing a lot of people is one of those rare, important times you would say something.

            4. Prismatic Garnet*

              You can’t just substitute any random word and go “see? Makes you think!” Crutches vs sunglasses are not comparable in this case. This is about Famous Callous Sunglasses Boss wearing sunglasses instead of feigning caring about her staff. Derailing onto “what if, instead, the situation was materially different!” isn’t that helpful.

            5. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

              Please stop with the absurd comparisons. Crutches are never used for fashion. They are not an accessory. They are always used for a medical reason. They are not in any way like sunglasses.

              I also don’t think it’s about casual vs medical. Sunglasses are for outdoors use. Just like hats. Sometimes people wear these items for medical reasons indoors, but that is rare, so it is normal for people to find them out of place indoors. This is not a bias. This is knowing the main purpose of hats and sunglasses. If I instead am wearing a hat to cover my hair loss from chemo, that is an *unusual* use and I would explain it to my coworkers.

              Being surprised at something unusual or being unaware of a secondary use for something is also not bias. I think you do more harm than good by making these comparisons. It seems extremely unserious, like you’re looking for the most extreme possible edge case when you have a reasonable answer right in front of you.

              There is an added problem for sunglasses – not being able to see someone’s eyes can be very disconcerting. They are also associated with shady people who want to hide their faces, like gangsters and thieves.

              And of course, all of this is a side point that has nothing to do with the actual question. Anna Wintour wore sunglasses while laying off employees. She didn’t need to for a medical reason. She did it to make it easier for her to distance herself from the people and task.

            6. NeutralJanet*

              Yes, if you change the words in a sentence, the meaning changes as well, and something that isn’t offensive may become offensive. That isn’t the gotcha you seem to think it is.

          5. Texan In Exile*

            I always take my sunglasses off if I am talking to someone who is not also wearing sunglasses. It seems very rude not to let the other person make eye contact with me. And I wear my sunglasses because glare can give me a migraine.

          6. Laura*

            There’s nothing wrong with wearing sunglasses indoors, but surely you know that it’s not very common and people might question it.

            1. Laura*

              That said, you don’t have to explain it to anybody or apologize for it.

              But your situation is NOT THE SITUATION IN THE LETTER. Also, Anna Wintour is a public figure who speaks to the media a lot, so people know what her deal is and are criticizing her based on the totality of what they know about her.

        2. Anna Marie Julia*

          You might want to rethink that if you are handing sensitive situations with subordinates because it might come off as inappropriate and insensitive to the subordinates.

          1. WeirdChemist*

            People who are using devices/equipment for medical conditions often don’t just get to pick and choose when they do and don’t use accommodations though…. I had a former colleague who wore wrap around polarized sunglasses indoors because he had a condition where both natural sunlight and certain types of fluorescent bulbs (like the kind in our office) caused him severe pain and permanent retinal damage. So you’re saying that he should either cause irreversible worsening of his disability to make others more comfortable, or call someone into a windowless room with all the lights off for a sensitive conversation?

            Obviously with AW, the sunglasses aren’t due to a medical condition, but due to her being a well-known pompous jerk. But in the day-to-day lives of the majority of this comment section, if you encounter someone wearing sunglasses indoors they are almost certainly wearing them for innocuous and inoffensive reasons. And if random Joe Shmoe in your accounting office is wearing sunglasses because he truly thinks he’s too important to make eye contact with or whatever, you will 100% see that in the rest of his behavior (such as with AW, who is known as a pompous jerk for wayyy more than just the sunglasses thing).

            1. amoeba*

              Well, a quick “If you’re wondering about the sunglasses, I’m wearing these for medical reasons” would quickly clear that situation up! People can’t read minds…

              1. Cindy*

                True, but they can give others the benefit of the doubt. I also have a disability that plenty of folks think I should proactively apologize for. I understand that I make some people uncomfortable, and I do provide an explanation in certain situations, but I can’t go through life reassuring every person that I interact with. That would be dozens of people a day. Just be uncomfortable for five minutes, it builds character.

                1. Ellis Bell*

                  I don’t think giving someone the benefit of the doubt negates the idea of sunglasses being rude when they’re being worn to avoid eye contact in a tense interpersonal situation. It’s entirely possible to know that something is impolite, but put the rude conjecture on pause and think to oneself: “This is usually seen as rude, but it could be medical or unintentional..what are the other clues that the sunglasses are necessary/that this person is rude?” Anna Wintour doesn’t really pass the benefit of the doubt conjecture.

                2. Cindy*

                  You’re right, of course. My intention was to support Sunglasses in the idea that most people aren’t AW-type folks who go around being intentionally rude and bragging about it. Unless someone’s just cut me off in traffic, that’s always intentional and meant to ruin my day specifically.

              2. Satan’s Panties*

                All this is reminding me of the interns who petitioned to be allowed to wear sneakers. “Well, if we’d known that one employee had a medical exemption, we would have factored it into our argument!” Except, her medical exemption meant the interns did not *have* an argument.

              3. WeirdChemist*

                Well I would say that no one owes you an explanation of their medical conditions. How many letters have there been on this site where the answer was “you don’t have to talk about your medical problems if you don’t want to.” And yes, there are instances where it would probably make things a bit socially easier to give an explanation, but no one is owed one. That coworker I mentioned above didn’t tell me the reason behind the sunglasses for a full year after I met him. And instead of immediately jumping to judgement when I met him I figured it was probably a medical thing and moved on with my life because it wasn’t my business.

                And to you an explanation is just a quick one sentence, practically nothing! But to someone with a visible indication of their disability, that quick one sentence is something that they have to give repeatedly to family and extended family and friends and friends-of-friends and coworkers and visitors to their office and people they meet at conferences and the dentist and random busybodies at the grocery stores and….. etc. Plus, if you give some people an inch they’ll take a mile, and now you’ve opened yourself up to this person you just met giving you commentary on whether your disability is real, or if you really need the accommodation you’re using, or asking wildly inappropriate medical questions, or the “have you tried essential oils” bs, etc. Even (or especially lol) if you try and keep it vague.

                1. Ellis Bell*

                  I was under the impression that people were simply suggesting the words “medical condition” not necessarily describing or explaining it! That would be pretty unreasonable indeed, I agree.

                2. raktajino*

                  I agree that nobody should have to disclose a medical condition or even the existence of one. If my boss wore sunglasses indoors most days and never talked about it, I would probably move on with my life and not consider it rude, even if she was laying me off. However, if my boss wore sunglasses indoors most days AND talked about how she uses it in order to hide that she’s bored or doesn’t care about other people*…yes then I will take it as rude.

                  * This is different from “hide that I can’t make eye contact for neurological reasons.” Let’s take Anna Wintour at her word and that she thinks she’s too good for everyone else.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        “I realize this aspect of my clothing is outside business norms; here is a boring one sentence summary of how it helps with a medical condition” is a useful opener to take attention off why you are wearing odd shoes, odd rings, or odd sunglasses.

        “I wear these so you can’t see how bored I am” is not the same thing.

    2. Roland*

      To reiterate Alison’s wise words, Anna Wintour knows exactly what message she would send. If it were a medical issue (and she wasn’t known for this already) then she could easily say “excuse the sunglasses I have a medical thing”. People aren’t obligated to show endless good faith towards bad behavior because someone somewhere might have a legitimate medical reason they don’t want to talk about.

    3. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Yup, that’s true. That’s also why OP included *who* their boss is — because in Anna Wintour’s case she has talked about why she wears them frequently, and the reason is not medical.

    4. Dinwar*

      I was going to come here to say that. I get migraines, and sometimes wear sunglasses because that’s literally the only way to function. Fortunately I work in an office with other people who get migraines, so we all understand that if someone walks in and doesn’t take their sunglasses off, there’s a reason.

      And I think this is a valid point to make. While the question is about a particular person, this is an advice column, not a celebrity gossip column. 99.9999% of us do not work for this person; we come here for work advice, and often extrapolate advice given here to our own situations. Which means that most people reading this blog are going to–often subconsciously–generalize the advice. It’s worth noting potential exceptions, so that this isn’t over-generalized to the point where it harms people with legitimate medical conditions. It’s worth pointing out that the response wasn’t specific to this person. The response was “This is rude and bad management”–clearly indicating that this advice is intended to be generalized. It’s not unreasonable to remind people of exceptions.

      Calling out cases where unconscious biases can arise seems to me an effective way to combat them, and the fact that this is making people uncomfortable enough to criticize this comment rather suggests that it’s necessary.

      1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        Disagreeing with someone does not mean the original comment was therefore necessary. It is also possible that everyone is in agreement that it is a tangent because it is a tangent. You’re leaning pretty hard on confirmation bias there.

        This is not a valid point – it is an aside. People do not need to be constantly reminded that there are exceptions. We are all able to comprehend that context matters. Sunglasses, and you, are ignoring the context here to be all “but what if it were a different person in a different situation?” Well then the answer would be different.

        This is very much “some people can’t have sandwiches” territory.

      2. raktajino*

        > The response was “This is rude and bad management”–clearly indicating that this advice is intended to be generalized. It’s not unreasonable to remind people of exceptions.

        I can understand how out of the context of the entire AAM blog, the proclamation reads as strict. There are two bits though that I think softens the guidance: The question and answer are explicitly about Anna Wintour (“Anna Wintour knows this”), and even a shallow look at her archives shows guidance about making medical accommodations.

        Alison has posts on appropriate interview clothing and does not explicitly list out possible accommodations when you can’t follow the guidelines to a tee. Instead, she has separate posts discussing how to navigate situations like a walking cast or a shoulder injury. In both, though, the general advice is “here’s how people tend to read your clothing, keep that in mind with your choices.”

        With that context, I read her three sentence reply in the same vein: “If you are making a deliberate choice to wear sunglasses, this is the message you are sending. If this is not a choice, it might clear the air and make you more comfortable to clarify that, but then that’s your choice to make.”

    5. Statler von Waldorf*

      Yeah, I simply disagree with you on that one. If you are wearing sunglasses inside in a business context, it is going to read as rude. People who wear sunglasses inside for medical reasons are a small percentage of the people wearing sunglasses. Photophobia isn’t that common in my experience.

      Eye contact is part of human communication, and by wearing sunglasses you are interfering with that. It reads the same as having a conversation with someone while refusing to look at them. Most people would feel that’s rude, and wearing sunglasses evokes the same feelings.

      This is not to say that people who need sunglasses for medical reasons shouldn’t wear them or that they should be viewed negatively for wearing them. However, it does mean that like any other medical situation that might violate business norms, a little communication up front will go a long way in preventing others in viewing you negatively.

    6. Annabelle*

      Seeing as how the letter specified that this is about Anna Wintour who is very open about why she wears sunglasses for non-medical reasons (and that she very much wears them for “I just want to be a jerk” reasons), I’m finding it hard to figure out the reason for this out-of-nowhere pivot. The letter and the specific person it’s about have nothing to do with the kind of niche scenario of wearing sunglasses indoors all the time for medical reasons.

      Since a link would get lost in moderation purgatory, it might be a good idea to do a web search for “what about me effect TikTok” for Sarah Lockwood’s video detailing this phenomenon of people reading or seeing something online and deciding to make it allllllll about them (Buzzfeed has a good write up if you don’t want to tangle with TikTok itself). Because I feel like that’s what is happening here and with anonforthis’ thread further down.

      Also why is anyone defending Wintour’s labor practices, you may as well defend Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk as a boss too. All 3 of them are pretty terrible bosses/people regardless of gender.

  4. nnn*

    A couple of thoughts for #2:

    1. I’d be wary of AI detectors. I ran about half a dozen of my own writing through them, all completely original content and subject matter, and got scores ranging from 0% to 100%.

    2. I think it’s unlikely that a frontrunner would be using AI, because AI simply cannot do better than a competent writer. The best possible outcome is serviceable, but it’s more likely to be prosaic with hints of weirdness.

    3. Depending on the nature of the job, one thing to consider as part of the evaluation process is to give candidates a mediocre piece of writing (i.e. not so much that it’s filled with errors, but rather that it’s weighty and hard to read) and have them talk to you about how they would improve it. You may or may not have them actually do the work in real time, but what’s more important is that they have knowledgeable insight about how to actually make writing good.

    1. Goldie*

      With regard to point 2, I have seen some stinky AI. But, we used it for a form letter and it turned out great-better than many prior attempts. We did have to edit it a bit, but it really was an improvement.

      I am known as a great writer and the one AI sample we did for that letter was excellent.

      1. Anna Marie Julia*

        This, AI is great and a time saver for a lot of stuff as a starting point. It can also make different types tables for data that is really cool to compare which might be more useful.

    2. Chris*

      AI detectors are pretty much useless at this point. They suffer from false positives, identifying original writing as being AI generated, far too often to use them for consequential decisions about employment.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        And once you run original content through them, it is now in the system. So it is now part of AI content that will show up later.

    3. yvve*

      yes, please do not put faith in ai detectors. in addition, they are far more likely to give false positives for people who speak English as a second language, who are also the most likely to sound “stilted” or to have learned American english. This will absolutely put non-native speakers at a disadvantage

      1. Phryne*

        If the job is to write English at a native level, non native speakers are always going to be at a disadvantage. That is just the deal with languages. You can always keep asking if, for any given job, flawless control of a language is a decisive factor for hiring, but if the answer to that question is ‘yes, it really is’, then not hiring people who do not have a perfect control of English is a logical decision.
        There are *plenty* of native English speakers that do not read or write it all that well, and they would be disqualified of this job as well. And it is the same for any other skill required. If a job requires a really steady hand for example, I would be disqualified too, just as much as any job requiring perfect English. Might be a bummer, but you really don’t want a person with a tremor disarming bombs.

      2. Cinnamon Boo*

        Stilted writing in this case was something that was not compatible with the job. For somethin where you write but just communication, that is different. Yes, certain people have a disadvantage for certain professions for a variety of reasons, but the work still needs to look like what they want it to look like.

    4. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

      A lot of people who are good at writing would be able to rewrite it and go through to identify what they’d change, but may not be good at talking about how they’d improve it on the spot. I find that a written test (improving a piece or a short written assignment) to be the most accurate way of assessing writing skills.

    5. A.P.*

      I agree about AI detectors. People have gotten false positives after running famous essays, short stories and historical documents through them.

      These candidates may or may not be using AI, but those detectors are totally worthless.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        The false positives make total sense, given that the famous essays, historical documents and short stories were probably used as input for training the AI. Submission by another author would be plagarism, if not direct AI generation.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          At this point I suspect anyone with a published byline may have had their work picked up and used by AI “teachers”. And probably all of us posting on social media

    6. Elle by the sea*

      I agree – I would be wary of AI detectors. I have been experimenting with them myself, and most of the content I have written was classified as 90+ AI generated – content that was written during the times when generative AI wasn’t widespread and wasn’t at all used for these purposes.

      About American spelling: many young British people use the -ize variant of the suffix, simply because they think it’s more “logical” or more up-to-date. Many companies in the UK, including the one I work for, require US spelling for official, internationally circulated documents. I have worked on very young teams in the UK where I was the only person using what you would call traditional British spelling. Furthermore, many applicants are foreigners living in the UK – most of them will use US spelling conventions or a mix.

      About the use of buzzwords: people who have worked for big corporations for a long time tend to adopt that terrible style of writing. It’s often the case that your writing is proofread and corrected to that style by your managers and colleagues. Not a great thing but is far too common.

      So, in general: if you write the overall writing style of the candidate, there is no need to worry – as said earlier, they are either good writers or can use generative AI efficiently. That’s a good skill in itself.

      1. londonedit*

        -ize endings are the preferred style of the Oxford English Dictionary and Oxford University Press, and there are a few British newspapers and publishing houses that use -ize as house style. I’ve also definitely noticed that traditional British English is disappearing online in favour of American spellings – I’m pretty sure no one in Gen Z would write ‘aeroplane’ these days, because all they see online is ‘airplane’. US English is so prevalent online that it’s starting to take over here.

        1. aqua*

          I read something a while ago (which I didn’t check sources for) that claimed -ize has always been accepted in BrE, but Microsoft decided to make their spell checker only accept -ise for BrE and -ize for AmE, leading to -ize becoming seen as exclusively AmE

        2. Phryne*

          As a non-native speaker, half the time I don’t even know the difference, as my English is in equal parts based on Jane Austen and Hollywood movies.
          We learned British English in school. The rule was that you could use American English, but then you had to use it completely, no exceptions, no mixing-and-matching, so that only only applied to the one or two students who had eg lived abroad and learned differently. But school only teaches the basics, and fluency is acquired by use. And my input being both US and UK English, and my output in Europe being mostly conversation with people for whom English is also a second language, and who care little how correct it is as long as it is comprehensible, the end result is probably a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster. Which is fitting for a language which is pretty much that already to begin with.

          1. BubbleTea*

            I feel sorry for any students who learned English in Canada or Australia, because they would appear to mix and match between UK and US standards!

            1. bamcheeks*

              I feel sorry for the people marking it! Being able to switch between marking/editing in AE and BE is elite skills!

              1. Emmy Noether*

                Eh, in my experience the teachers say this, but they only actually notice and correct the more obvious cases (like writing the same thing differently within one page).

                1. EmF*

                  Can confirm. The consensus among my teachers was “either works, but pick one.”

                  Which was fine for ise/ize but was more of a pain for gray/grey, which my mind insists on interpreting as different shades of the colour. (Grey is warmer! Gray is cooler.)

        3. File Herder*

          I am a sufficiently old fart that I was brought up on an older edition of Fowler’s, and have been known to point out the relevant entry to those who claim that -ize is some horrible Americanism that has never been been used in British English.

        4. linger*

          American and British (OUP) uses of the -ize spellings follow different rules.
          In America, it’s phonetic, and can be applied to all instances of the suffix pronounced [aiz].
          In Britain, it’s etymological. OUP uses -ize for Greek-derived stems (baptize from baptizein) but -ise for French-derived stems (advertise from avertissement). But that is more complicated to implement, since most of us do not carry around word histories in our heads. As a result, British newspapers long used -ise for all stems; but with the hollowing out of subediting over the past 30 years, -ize is increasingly retained in stories coming from overseas.
          Meanwhile, New Zealand simply standardised on -ise spellings (even more so than Britain), leaving only a few exceptions to remember that don’t contain the same suffix (e.g. capsize).
          Though note, in typing this out, I have had to fight autocorrect every step of the way!

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        There is a lot of moral panic over AI. In some contexts it makes sense, but in many–including business writing–it is odd. We don’t wring our hands over the possibility that someone used a spell checker, but we will ding them if their writing has a bunch of homophone errors characteristic of using spell checker alone, without also using human eyeballs.

        The thing is, the product of ChatGPT and the like is, for the most part, terrible to simply poor writing, with an instantly identifiable style. Presented with this as a writing sample, but the problem is not that the candidate used ChatGPT but that they thought its effluvium good enough to submit. This person is worse than a bad writer: they are a bad reader. But if the candidate is able to tease out good writing from ChatGPT, or take an AI-generated first draft and massage it into good writing, then what exactly is the problem? Would anyone give this person a spelling test to make sure they aren’t using spell checker?

        1. FrivYeti*

          Answering your question as someone in a business context who has had to deal with co-workers drafting business writing using ChatGPT, the short answer is: it’s fractally bad in a way that makes everything worse.

          The output is bad. It’s bad in ways that people who are not writers do not always realize because it streamlines information in ways that make it frequently incorrect while appearing to be clear and concise, it is usually bad in ways that require more editing from the office’s actual writers than if we had just been given bullet points, and on top of that, there is a very good chance that the whole industry is going to go up in smoke in the next couple years and everyone who trained themselves to use it will be out of luck.

          It’s not like using a spellcheck. It’s like using a spellcheck that has several thousand incorrect spellings in it and also occasionally auto-corrects correctly spelled words into incorrect ones.

          1. nnn*

            Building on this, whenever the goal of a document is to convey information that the reader doesn’t already have (especially instructions, procedures, etc.) AI output tends to be extremely unhelpful because the AI doesn’t actually have the information.

            When a human who doesn’t have particular information writes a document trying to convey the information, the end result is a blank page – there’s nothing there until you have the information. Whereas when an AI that doesn’t have information tries to write a document conveying information, the end result is a document that “sounds right” at a superficial once-over.

            You either need in-depth expertise to determine that it’s wrong in any sort of a timely manner, or you need an end user who doesn’t have the information to try to glean the information from the document, be unsuccessful at doing so, and convey that back to you.

            It takes way longer to confirm whether something actually contains the information it’s supposed to and correct it if it doesn’t, whereas before people started cluttering everything up with AI output, that just wasn’t a thing that existed.

      3. ItsALiving*

        FWIW, I had a job converting British English to American English about 15 years ago and everything was already using -ize.

    7. Quantum Possum*

      I 100% agree that those detectors can be mistaken. I wouldn’t rely on them, unless the detector finds an instance of wholesale plagiarism. But there are better tools for that purpose.

      Most people aren’t great writers (it’s a skill; you must practice; I am nonjudgmental). And even an excellent writer who is writing in their non-native language can easily come across as stilted/overly formal.

      I’ve never mistaken “AI”-generated writing for human writing (it so, so, so obviously is not), but I have thought that actual-human writing looked like “AI” writing (there are still key indicators).

    8. Pretty as a Princess*

      Put no faith in AI detectors unless you know EXACTLY how the algorithm works and what it was trained on.

      Which means, don’t put faith in AI detectors unless you are getting something like 100% text overlap in multi-sentence swaths of text AND the detector can tell you the specific source document from its training corpus.

      Which means… you probably shouldn’t put faith in AI detectors.

  5. Karon*

    I am an aspiring author, and I have already seen at least one magazine mentioning that they do not accept work written by AI in their guidelines. In future OP could probably include a similar warning in the guidelines for the written questions. Of course, it probably would not stop some people from using AI anyway (I have taught academic writing,and I’ve seen how many people try to get away with plagiarism despite being told in no uncertain terms not to do it), but it would hopefully make some of OP’s candidates avoid using it/and or make them aware that OP is on the look out for it and doesn’t approve of its use. Also if the hiring team ends up rejecting someone who used AI, since there was a warning in the guidelines, some of the candidates might get the hint that their use of AI was discovered without OP having to tell them anything.

    1. Quantum Possum*

      I think it’s a great idea to include a note/warning in the guidelines, and you make excellent points. :)

  6. Sleeve McQueen*

    We flag not to use AI when supplying the test and note we may run it through a detector. I figure that will turn off all but the most determined from using it. And, at least for now, I can still get an inkling it’s written by AI.

  7. raincoaster*

    That poor UK editor is about to be inundated with AI applications, as are all the other editors in the UK. Unlike the US, the UK has ruled that AI-generated works are copyrightable, which means there’s a business case for their use. In the US, that’s not true, so you couldn’t have an AI generate a script and then assume it’s copyright. Lots of people in suits are going to be upset when they realize they fired their writers too soon.

  8. anonforthis*

    I am baffled and rather disgusted by the reaction to #1. Speaking as a woman: you are not entitled to see any part of me, under any circumstances. We ought to normalize people taking control of their own bodies, not demonize them for it.

    (A comment upthread does suggest that Wintour’s motives, specifically, might be more suspect, but you don’t actually need a reason to cover yourself beyond wanting to. Please don’t let’s get into “disabled enough” nonsense.)

    1. anonforthis*

      (Also, to be less dramtic-sounding, wearing sunglasses is such an unremarkable thing to do I’m utterly boggled that anyone noticed it at all! Haven’t been out much since the plague but I can’t recall taking specific notice of someone else’s sunglasses in my entire life.)

      1. allathian*

        Wearing sunglasses indoors isn’t the norm anywhere. If Anna Wintour behaves like Miranda Priestly, she’s gonna be judged for it, and for good reason.

        Optics do matter, and in this case, she was clearly giving the middle finger to the employees she laid off by wearing those sunglasses. She couldn’t care less, and she showed it.

        That said, any man who behaved as disrespectfully while laying off his employees should be judged just as hard. I’d argue that sending an all-staff email stating that “if you find you don’t have access to your employer’s systems at noon, you can assume you’ve been laid off” falls into that category.

        1. Engineer*

          Anna Wintour was the inspiration for Miranda Priestly, so…. yeah. Her whole schtick is that she’s a self-absorbed nightmare.

        2. JSPA*

          People not-uncommonly do it in sunny climates with plate-glass-and-steel architecture, or open, indoor-outdoor spaces (for example).

          I imagine it would be vanishingly rare in foggier climates, or in spaces where interior brightness is already dimmed.

          But “it would be freaky in my experience” does not generalize to, “it’s freaky everywhere.”

          1. Totally Minnie*

            I live in an extremely sunny place and the trend in office architecture here has frequently included a lot of windows and natural light. In 25 years, I have worked with exactly 1 person who regularly wore sunglasses indoors and she made sure we all knew she did it when she felt a migraine coming on and was in the time window where she could prevent extreme migraine symptoms by limiting her light exposure.

            Wearing sunglasses indoors without making sure that the people you’re interacting with know why you’re doing it is not the norm, even in extremely sunny climates.

            That’s not to say no one should ever wear sunglasses indoors. But if you need to do it for something as serious as a layoff meeting, you make sure the people you’re talking to know that it’s for a medical reason and not because you’re refusing to allow them to look you in they eye while you take away their livelihood.

          2. EventPlannerGal*

            I am really asking genuinely here: do you actually personally know a significant number of people who routinely wear sunglasses indoors at work for non-medical reasons? Not “I imagine that such people could potentially exist” or “I read a comment once from somebody who said they did” or something like that, have you actually encountered this? I’m asking because I know many people from areas/countries that get a lot of sun and I’ve had many client calls with people working from offices in sunny places, and I cannot ever recall seeing this in my life. I’m sorry to drill down here but I am really very curious.

          3. Critical Rolls*

            I have lived in a variety of sunny climates and large-windowed workplaces and I do not cosign this at all. I have never, in 20+ years in a variety of settings and industries, had a single coworker who routinely wore sunglasses indoors. I would be hard pressed to name one who even wore them *sometimes* indoors when they were not actively coming or going from outside.

        3. hbc*

          I do think it’s possible that her carefully cultivated image would not let her admit that she has vision problems or droopy eyelids or whatever, and that she might play into “I’m too bored with this gathering” to cover for a sympathetic issue. But then it’s kind of a Boy Who Cried Wolf situation–not really sorry if her desire to be seen as mean and cold-hearted resulted in her being seen as mean and cold-hearted in one instance when she wasn’t trying to be mean.

          1. BeenThere*

            Same, I’ve worked with many leaders who won’t admit to any weakness like an issue with vision and will mask it in weird ways woven into a personality quirk rather than a medical issue.

            I get migraines and am photo sensitive, it’s not uncommon for me to be wearing prescription sunglasses in my office.

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        Nope! Wearing sunglasses indoors is in fact quite unusual, and wearing sunglasses indoors during a business meeting is practically unheard of. (Wearing sunglasses indoors during a business meeting where you are laying people off is *extremely* rude.) If you pay so little attention to the world around you that you’re unaware of this then you are probably not qualified to comment on it.

        1. SheepThrills*

          Well, sure, sunglasses indoors is unusual for a lot of cultures and people.

          However, the phrasing used here about not being qualified to comment is pretty gatekeeping for us neurospicy types. Took until I was in my late 20s years ago to realize no one actually cares how you are, it’s generally just a pleasantry. Not everyone defines rudeness or appropriate behavior the same way.

          A lot of comments in the comments are using phrases like “clearly,” and there are enough alternative comments that show it’s not actually 100% clear.

          Anna Wintour may be a jerk, but she also doesn’t owe us her medical information.

          1. Happy meal with extra happy*

            This would apply if Anna Wintour hasn’t explicitly gone on record to say that she uses her sunglasses to hide boredom AND she isn’t one of the most important fashion people in the world, and thus her entire job is being aware of fashion norms and the surrounding culture.

            Attempting to armchair diagnose Anna Wintour is incredible.

            1. Laura*

              Yeah, this is absolutely ridiculous. I think there are a lot of people who don’t know anything about Anna Wintour (I barely knew anything about her until this happened) and reacting as if this is a normal person in a normal situation doing this. It’s not. and context matters.

          2. k*

            I don’t think it’s gatekeeping. If you personally struggle with navigating social norms due to a form of neurodivergence, then you might not be qualified to accurately assess how the majority of people understand and interpret social norms. And that’s okay! Not everyone is qualified to comment on everything.

            Anna Wintour was being rude, and she almost definitely was being rude on purpose (because she doesn’t actually care about Pitchfork or its writing staff). It’s okay to not pick up on that, but it is how most people will view her actions.

      3. Elle by the sea*

        Wearing sunglasses while indoors signals a lack of disrespect in most cultures. Even when you are outdoors and introduce yourself to someone, the polite thing to do is take of your sunglasses at least for a minute. The person OP is talking about is from such a culture and knows very well what the implications and possible interpretations are. So no, it has nothing to do with the women’s bodily autonomy.

        1. Wings*

          As someone who only uses sunglasses outdoors in sunshine but who can’t really see the person (or at least their facial expressions) they are talking to without some kind of glasses on, I’m afraid I may occasionally be perceived as impolite. It’s not about my bodily autonomy nor being bored nor anything about the other person, it’s the whole process of putting down whatever I’m holding in my hands, reaching to my bag to find the regular pair of glasses and then exchanging the sunglasses to the regular glasses to actually be able to continue the conversation. I’ve actually sometimes met people who insist on me taking my sunglasses off even for a brief casual chitchat (which in my opinion is impolite too, perhaps even more so). I’ll comply but I’ll confess I may make a bit of an effort to show how much they inconvenience me (depending of course a bit what I happen to be carrying).

          Anyway, this is a bit off-topic because layoff meetings usually happen indoors and I agree that it is highly problematic for the boss hide behind their large sunglasses.

      4. Roland*

        > I can’t recall taking specific notice of someone else’s sunglasses in my entire life.

        As in you’ve never noticed that someone is wearing a pair? I have trouble imagining that but if I understand correctly, then you should know that you’re an extreme outlier in observation skills. That’s not a moral judgement, it’s a neutral fact, but you should be aware that it’s extremely unusual and thus not a good basis for understanding and judging others’ behavior.

        1. londonedit*

          Especially with someone wearing sunglasses indoors. That’s so unusual that I’d be incredibly surprised if someone didn’t notice. Certainly where I live wearing sunglasses indoors would be seen as very odd and also quite rude and dismissive of the person/people you’re talking to.

          1. JSPA*

            If your “where” is London (as the name suggests), I’m not surprised. Not exactly famous for endless sun pouring through the windows, is it?

              1. doreen*

                Yes, I live in NYC and I’ve only ever known one person who wore sunglasses indoors all day who didn’t have some sort of eye issue. ( At a mall or being indoors for a short time is something different) When sun is pouring in the windows, we close the shades/blinds.

              2. JSPA*

                I’m not addressing “was AW rude.” I’m addressing the overstatement in this specific subthread, that it indoor sunglasses are universally bizarre and rude (absent a medical explanation to all around you, I suppose).

            1. londonedit*

              I mean, we get plenty of sunshine in London. Still doesn’t excuse wearing sunglasses indoors unless you have a genuine medical condition. Otherwise it’s rude.

            2. Winstonian*

              Well as someone who has pretty much always lived in sunny and hot locations, i can tell you that, at least in my experience, wearing sunglasses indoors is not common.

            3. RussianInTexas*

              I am in a very sunny Texas and it would be quiet unusual to wear sunglasses indoors. If/when it gets too sunny, we just close the blinds.

      5. ClaireW*

        Someone wearing sunglasses indoors on a zoom call is *extremely* remarkable, I’ve never seen someone do that in my life.

        1. jane's nemesis*

          especially considering how difficult it is to read anything on a computer screen with sunglasses on. Especially if they’re polarized.

        2. amoeba*

          Oh yes, good point, it was Zoom as well – so probably not a conference room where you’re not in control of the lighting, but your own space where you have plenty of other options in case the lights are too bright! (Certainly if you’re on the level of AW…)

        3. Orv*

          I’ve accidentally done it a couple of times, sort of. My normal prescription glasses have auto-darkening lenses, and there have been a couple times when I took a call and realized that my office was so bright that they had half-darkened. But if I realize that’s going on I generally pull the shades a bit.

    2. New Jack Karyn*

      Unless there’s a medical reason (I think Roy Orbison had such a reason?), it’s rude to wear sunglasses in business meetings, and on a large percentage of social occasions.

      1. John Smith*

        There was a rather good advert for the British Army (might have been RM, it was a long time ago) which shows a armed soldier in a tense standoff situation with another person who is shouting at him in their non-English language and being very irate. Solution: soldier takes off sunglasses and protagonist calms down.

        Unless there is a very, very good reason to do so, it is utterly rude to wear sunglasses when speaking to another person and in the case given by LW, I’d say completely obnoxious.

        And the person’s sex has absolutely nothing to do with the scenario whatsoever.

        1. Orv*

          This may be related to an urban legend that went around during the Iraq War. Iraqis were unfamiliar with the sunglasses worn by American troops, and there was a rumor that the sunglasses allowed them to see through clothing and that they were being used to ogle women.

      2. I take tea*

        I have a colleague who always wears tinted glasses and works in the dark. The glasses look quite different, it’s quite clear they are for a medical reason. Those kind of huge, black ones are used to hide every expression and it is very rude to wear them indoors, especially in this case.

        1. Anna Marie Julia*

          Tinted glasses are inherently different from sunglasses. Tinted glasses do not prevent you from seeing someone’s eyes, thus are completely different situation than what OP posted about.

      3. Sunglasses*

        It is very common to wear sunglasses for medical reasons. Of a variety of things I do for medical reasons it is just about the only one I’ve never had to explain to an employer because it wasn’t strange enough to be considered an outlier and no one’s ever complained about it in any way. Considering the low level, innocuous stuff that people have noted or complained about, that’s a pretty clear sign it didn’t register as a negative.

        1. Umami*

          It is much more common to wear sunglasses for the purpose of blocking sunlight, so I would be surprised that no one in your experience has ever thought it strange. They may not have commented on it to you, but it’s a bit naive to assume no one has ever thought it strange. Sunglasses are not an item of clothing, they are an accessory designed for outdoor use. The fact that they are useful for people who need to use them for medical reasons doesn’t change their main purpose.

          1. Sunglasses*

            People have not hesitated to comment in all sorts of other weird and inappropriate ways about other things I do for other medical conditions so I think it’s pretty clear this is not something they generally care about.

    3. annonie*

      No, that’s not the way it works. They’re not demanding to see her legs, they’re expecting her not to hide her eyes behind sunglasses that she wears so people won’t know when she looks bored when she is taking away people’s jobs and maybe their ability to pay their rent. You can think what you want of the social contract but it’s weird to act like you don’t know about it.

      1. anonforthis*

        But that is absolute the way it *should* work. Nothing will change if no-one pushes for change. (And I have in fact never heard of it being rude to wear sunglasses indoors– hats yes, sunglasses no.) Someone being a total scumbag still doesn’t entitle you to see their face; that’s still a body part and they should have every right to choose not to share it. Rights for all means rights for *all*, no matter how awful someone is.

        1. Double A*

          Humans are social animals and eyes are important for our communication. There’s a spectrum of how people use their eyes amd how comfortable with eye contact people are (personally I’m not great with eye contact! I’d rather not!) but this take is like saying “Yes people communicate with language but that doesn’t mean it should be that way.”

          You have a right to anti-social behavior as long as it’s not harming someone physically but you don’t get to opt out of the consequences, which can include hurting people’s feelings and having them think you’re a jerk.

          1. UKDancer*

            Yes agreed. There are a few countries where some people cover their faces but in most of those you can see their eyes. Even fewer countries where some people (women) cover their whole faces (Afghanistan springs to mind and i think many of them do so there under duress).

            The OP has not indicated they’re in a face covering country nor that the boss belongs to such a culture. Nor have they suggested any medical reasons.

            In the UK (and I think the US) wearing sunglasses while laying people off makes you look like an arrogant tosser. You can argue whether it should but it does.

        2. Ash*

          At this point, you’ve gotta be trolling us, right? Should teachers wear sunglasses while teaching their students without a medical reason to do so? Should therapists wear sunglasses while having sessions with their patients? Just lol.

        3. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          Explaining that absent a specific reason, wearing sunglasses indoors on a sensitive Zoom call is rude is not equivalent to ripping off someone’s hijab or any other article of clothing. There is no slippery slope here.

        4. Cinnamon Boo*

          When I am being laid off, yeah, I DO want to see someone’s face. I want them to look me in the eye while they collect their millions and I can’t pay rent. Have some compassion.

        5. Lily Rowan*

          It was a zoom! If she didn’t want people looking at her, she could have made it a conference call.

          And to some other comments, it being a zoom means she was in her own office and could control the lighting, etc.

        6. Awkwardness*

          I would like you to think through what you are writing here:

          Someone being a total scumbag still doesn’t entitle you to see their face; that’s still a body part and they should have every right to choose not to share it.
          This quintessentially says:
          Masked robbery – no problem.
          Anonymous d*** pics – no problem either. Everybody is entitled to their privacy!

          Not sure if it works like this.

          1. Database Developer Dude*

            I’m not sure anonymous d*** pics falls in the same category. That’s someone choosing to share a part of their body that needs to remain covered up unless invited in private not to. That’s kind of the opposite of the situation here. It’s also more gross, and a violation of decency norms. I can’t imagine any situation where it would be okay to send a pic like that to anyone.

            1. Database Developer Dude*

              I’m sure. No, they wouldn’t. In fact, they’d be more of a problem because you’d know who was sending you a d*** pic. Imagine if it came from a coworker?? That’d be all kinds of awkward.

              I wouldn’t even send one to a woman who was willingly having sex with me on a regular basis.

            2. Awkwardness*

              Is this example exaggerated? Maybe.
              But as with every other act of crossing boundaries, there is less accountability if you choose to not show your face and act out of anonymity instead.
              It is absurd to act as if there was no societal agreement on showing your face (in literal and figurative sense).

        7. Ash*

          Should teachers without a medical reason wear sunglasses while teaching students? Should therapists without a medical reason wear sunglasses while doing sessions? This is not about bodily autonomy. Aside from in very niche contexts, seeing someone’s eyes is a basic part of communication. Your comments are sincerely out of touch.

        8. sunnies*

          She absolutely has the right to wear the sunglasses, as evidenced by the fact that she wore them. Everyone else observing the situation reserves the right to see it as out of touch and cruel in the context of social norms, what we know about AW, and the situation of announcing layoffs. Her rights are not violated when she receives critique.

        9. sparkle emoji*

          Sorry if this is blunt but if you’ve never heard that wearing sunglasses indoors is rude, either your cultural background is a very unique outlier or you haven’t been paying attention.

      1. anonforthis*

        Probably none– I probably should have spelled out a little more there, but my point was that trying to police who counts as “disabled enough” to wear a very common item of clothing would end up hurting some of the people it was theoretically supposed to help.

        1. John Smith*

          It’s not policing. It is common manners, courtesy and, in this case, decency. Your “right” to cover your eyes is far outweighed by the duty to communicate effectively and humanly. I’ve always understood it is bad manners in the extreme to wear sunglasses when talking to someone as it is wearing earphones or some other thing which suggests “I’m not interested in what you have to say”.

          A friend often gets migraines brought on by bright LEDs and at first apologised to people for wearing sunglasses when indoors to stave off the migraine attacks. That is polite and courteous and it is something expected of everyone rather than banging on about rights and generally not giving a fuck about anyone else which is pretty much how you are coming across here and exactly why Anna Wintour is getting the flack she so thoroughly deserves.

          1. Roland*

            Well said. I’m sure it can get exhausting to say “excuse the glasses, I have a medical thing” but in some situations that’s simply the only possible action in order to not be seen as a jerk. Grocery shopping, eating lunch, trying on dresses? Sure, quietly do your thing and if someone judges you, it’s their problem. But laying people off? No, someone who needs their sunglasses would simply have to say the words “I have a medical thing” or they’re a jerk.

          2. Sunglasses*

            I’ve been wearing very dark sunglasses indoors for medical reasons for >40 years and it would never occur to me to apologize for it. Unless someone has to take pictures it’s never been an issue at all. I find this intense reaction everyone is having disturbing and depressing. Excuse my right to live.

            1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

              I presume you are not a multi-millionaire who has publically stated she wears them so people can’t see she’s bored – and wore them when laying off employees.

              1. Cinnamon Boo*

                I really feel for Sunglasses here, but we are talking about large social conventions and a specific case involving a horrible horrible person. People are saying some really extreme things here. Sunglasses inside are generally considered rude. Obviously if you notice someone always wearing sunglasses inside you would assume there is a very good reason. Most people wouldn’t really care unless you having an intimate talk (being laid off is intimate.)

            2. Lily Rowan*

              But you have a medical reason! And always wear them! This particular person is seen pretty regularly without them. (If you do an image search, it’s about 50/50.) So she’s clearly choosing the option in a situation which is probably uncomfortable, but which, as a leader, she should be taking responsibility for.

            3. HR Friend*

              You’re all over this comments section with a completely irrelevant take. LW isn’t upset that people wear sunglasses. LW is upset that her boss, Anna Wintour, wore sunglasses on a massive layoff zoom. Anna Wintour the boss who’s such a nightmare, there were multiple books written about how much of a nightmare she is. Anna Wintour who’s publicly said she wears sunglasses to mask her boredom. You have every right to live with your sunglasses.. no one’s saying otherwise..

              1. Ash*

                And even if she was a nice boss, she has a net worth of $50 million. She is laying off people who probably make around $70k and who are in a notoriously competitive and underpaid field (journalism). The least she can do is look them in the eye.

            4. Too Many Tabs Open*

              Yep, this “NO! YOU MUST NEVER WEAR SUNGLASSES INDOORS! RUDE!” is weird.

              I wear glasses and have prescription sunglasses. I’ll switch from the sunglasses to the regular glasses when I’m going indoors for an extended time, but if I’m going into a building for two minutes to pick up something, I’m not always going to take the time to switch. If it’s horrifyingly rude for me to keep my sunglasses on while smiling and speaking pleasantly to the person at the front desk as I pick up my item, so be it. (I miss my flip-up clip-on sunglasses, but they scratched my lenses too much to keep using them.)

              1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

                Please stop shouting. And exaggerating. No one said it’s “horrifyingly” rude to wear sunglasses to pick up something for 2 minutes. You are deliberately creating a straw man to rail at here. Your use is fine, as you well know. It would be nicer if you switched, but the context matters here.

                It is rude to wear dark sunglasses so that people can’t see your eyes and whether you are even paying attention. This isn’t news to you. It’s in movies and TV shows all the time. It is not weird. It is a basic expectation that you give your conversation partner your attention.

              2. Myrin*

                Oh come on. Can you really not see that the situation you’re describing is vastly different from both the one in the letter and from the etiquette to not permanently wear sunglasses just because you can when talking to people?

              3. EventPlannerGal*

                You are taking this discussion of a very specific and context-dependent incident WILDLY personally. This – “keep my sunglasses on while smiling and speaking pleasantly to the person at the front desk as I pick up my item” – is totally unlike the situation described, namely, an infamously and intentionally unpleasant millionaire conducting a mass Zoom layoff while wearing her trademark sunglasses which she has said publicly that she wears in order to conceal boredom. I don’t really believe that you don’t get that these two things are not the same, or even similar in any meaningful way.

            5. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

              You are really over the top here. This isn’t about you.

              From what you’ve written, I conclude that you are so used to wearing sunglasses you’ve forgotten that you do so and you have just been reminded other people likely have found you rude. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear them, but maybe you could be more aware of your situation and *explain it* if it seems like it would help.

              Saying, “Oh, sorry, I need to wear these for medical reasons” is acknowledging the *other person* and expressing regret for breaking the social contract and making them uncomfortable, not apologizing for needing to wear sunglasses. That’s the distinction I think you’re missing.

            6. New Jack Karyn*

              Pre-Covid, it was considered very common to shake hands upon meeting someone. Refusing to shake hands was seen as rude. Someone might have a perfectly good reason for not doing so, but if they don’t say it aloud, they’ll be perceived as rude.

              The solution is/was to say, “Oh, I don’t shake hands–arthritis/fighting a cold/skin sensitivity–but it’s lovely to meet you!”

              If you don’t choose to do that (for whatever reason), then some people are going to find you rude for wearing sunglasses indoors.

      2. I take tea*

        Narcissism? Or some other kind of “I’m the only one in the universe that matters”-ism.
        / not armchair diagnosing.

    4. Myrin*

      This seems like such an extreme outlier response to the situation at hand that I really don’t think it’s applicable as actual advice to this OP.

    5. N*

      Asking for eye contact by someone who is only wearing sunglasses for dramatic effect is by no means not the same situation as asking someone to remove a head covering worn for religious reasons and is completely reasonable.

    6. Kella*

      I’d compare wearing sunglasses during an indoor meeting where you handling mass layoffs to delivering the news that someone is fired, while keeping your back to them the entire time or keeping your eyes squeezed shut through the whole meeting. You have the right and freedom to position your body in this way. But doing so is blocking the social connection and denying the value of the person being spoken to.

    7. Phryne*

      Wow, that is A REACH.
      Yeah, no. What everybody else has already said. Not normal, not polite.
      And worse, this kind of nonsense is actively harmful towards women fighting for bodily autonomy, by ridiculing the actual issue.

    8. Allonge*

      I don’t necessarily agree with you on all points, but I do agree that the discussion here is not in any way constructive, and part of that is that it is about policing what a woman is doing/wearing.

      If the meeting was not about layoffs, the sunglasses that this person apparently wears habitually would not have triggered anything. People who were laid off are not helped in meaningful ways by confirming that the layoff had a rude aspect.

      It’s of course perfectly for Alison to confirm that this is not appropriate behavior. Chewing this further, here or in other online fora, is very unlikely to help anyone.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        If Elon Musk wore sunglasses in a Zoom meeting while laying off hundreds, he’d catch flak for that, too.

    9. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I can’t help but think of a scene in a favorite (if relatively unknown) science fiction novel:
      “On Dusty Sunday, wearing one’s spectacles in conversation was a deliberate insult. It said plainly that one would rather be listening to someone else, watching someone else.” —Janet Kagan, HellSpark

    10. Ash*

      This is not some gender liberation strategy. People lost their jobs and the least a multimillionaire can do is look them in the eye when she’s telling them they are losing their livelihoods. Choices are not inherently feminist just because a woman makes the choice.

      1. Pierrot*

        100%. If Mark Zuckerburg or any other male executive wore sunglasses to announce a mass layoff, they’d also deserve scrutiny. Anna Wintour does not always wear her glasses in public- they don’t seem to be a necessity. If they were, she could easily say something other than “I wear them to hide my boredom.”

          1. urguncle*

            Heavily disagree that they would not get criticism in the press for *wearing sunglasses inside* on a zoom call. See Apple’s Tim Cook wearing AF1s getting news coverage.

      2. Zap R.*

        “Choices are not inherently feminist just because a woman makes the choice,” sums it up so well.

    11. sam_i_am*

      Speaking as a woman: you are not entitled to see any part of me, under any circumstances

      I am absolutely flabbergasted by this. It’s sunglasses, this has nothing to do with anything that can be conveyed by “as a woman”

    12. Lady Blerd*

      That was an overly dramatic take. She is a boss announcing lay offs, there’a a minimum of decorum she should observe. The only obvious exception being that she’s wearing them for medical reasons and that is not the case for her.

    13. I'm A Little Teapot*

      You’re correct, I’m not entitled to see your eyes. However, I am entitled to draw conclusions about your behavior, motivations, personality, and intent based on what you choose to wear or not wear in various circumstances.

      You don’t get to have your cake and eat it too.

    14. Nancy*

      Speaking as a woman, if you wear sunglasses while firing me indoors and don’t have a medical reason for doing so, I’m going to think you are rude and disrespectful.

      This has nothing to do with people controlling others’ bodies.

      1. Starbuck*

        Right I’m going to think you’re rude – or possibly dealing with a hangover, hah. Is that not everyone’s go-to thought when someone’s wearing sunglass indoors, that they’re suffering from the lighting while hung over? Unless they’re wearing them regularly inside.

    15. Keymaster the absent*

      And speaking as a disabled woman your viewpoint is weirdly hostile.

      I think she was saying a very clear thing – in fact the only way she could have made it worse would be to wear a full V for Vendetta mask – that the people she’s talking to are boring her and she doesn’t want them to see the boredom in her eyes.

      She’s got a reputation for being an ass after all. Would she have just laid them off with an all-points generic email? Probably. She just doesn’t care.

      So your whole ‘showing the body’ and ‘disabilities’ thing is a red herring. This is like when we get letters here complaining of ridiculous or cruel behaviour and someone has to pop up with ‘maybe they’ve got a medical condition!’.

      Sometimes a jerk is just a jerk.

    16. Joielle*

      Nobody’s saying you can’t wear sunglasses, you just have to say “pardon the glasses, I have an eye condition” or “I have a headache” or whatever reason you’re wearing them. If the reason is nothing beyond “you’re not entitled to see my eyes” then people will think you’re weird because that is wildly outside social norms. But if you don’t mind seeming weird, then fine! This is an example of weaponizing feminist rhetoric for a completely unrelated point.

      1. Roland*

        > This is an example of weaponizing feminist rhetoric for a completely unrelated point.

        Right up there with the people who use “my body my choice” to like, refuse to wear nice clothes for a wedding or whatever. Conflating actual problems with being rude.

    17. Winstonian*

      Well I’m a little disgusted that you are comparing a woman’s body autonomy on the same level as a person not having figured out by age 74 (Anna Wintour’s current age) how to hide her boredom when she’s mass firing a bunch of people by Zoom.

    18. RussianInTexas*

      No, I am not entitled to see my boss’s eyes when they are laying me off.
      I am entitled to form an opinion about their character for their behavior during the procedure, yes, including them wearing sunglasses.

    19. Prismatic Garnet*

      … Nahhhh this is a silly take. Wintour declining to remove her signature sunglasses in a rude context is rude.

    20. This troubles me*

      Speaking as a woman: you are not entitled to see any part of me, under any circumstances.

      I just wanted to isolate this part of your comment, because I find it extremely troubling. It seems like you’re equating an extremely common norm of social politeness with sexual harassment or sexual violence.

    21. Nancy*

      With all due respect, as a woman who has been a victim of sexual violence, this comment is extremely disrespectful. This has nothing to do with sexual assault, masculine entitlement, or gendered violence, even slightly.

  9. always-writing-stuff*

    OP1, with respect, relying on software that claims it’s able to detect the use AI is a very, very bad idea. This software is even more error-prone than so-called plagiarism-detecting software.

    I’m a professional writer, who manages a team of writers. I understand your concern, but no, I would not recommend passing over an otherwise strong candidate because you think AI might have been used, and especially if a supposed AI detector has told you AI might have been or was used.

      1. N*

        LW 3 – I would answer a call, (on speakerphone with a witness present if you need moral support, just declare the witness when you answer) and document what is said. If you’re in a state that allows one party consent recording, record the conversation, if you can’t record, have your witness write a basic transcript (not verbatim, but hit the highlights, get exact wording of anything out of hand).
        Aside from hello & good bye, let them speak, do not add anything to the conversation, do not even explain why you appealed. “This is best discussed at the hearing” “the reasons I appealed are outlined in the documents you have/will receive ahead of the hearing” “I would rather not discuss this right now” are your best friends.
        DO NOT ARGUE – you will not win an argument with someone like this, they will take your words and use them against you.
        But I can guarantee if you keep your mouth shut as much as possible and let them rant themselves into exhaustion the opposite will be true and they will say something you can use against them.
        And if it gets out of hand “I don’t wish to continue this conversation, please do not contact me outside of email or *insert official hearing channel mode of communication* again.” Then hang up.
        After you have told them not to contact you again, document the phone calls by emailing them a copy and pasted email each time.
        “In response to your call on mm/dd/yyyy at xx:00am/pm I am reminding you that the last time we spoke I requested that all future communication happen via email or official hearing channels, please outline the reason for your call in reply to this email, and please respect my wishes by not calling again in the future”.
        I know it’s confronting, especially if they’ve caused you anxiety, but you want to be able to establish that they’re acting unreasonable in their actions surrounding your termination, and letting them trip themselves up is the best way to do that.

        1. Colette*

          None of this is necessary. She can answer if she wants, but ignoring them is fine, too. This is an unemployment hearing, not a court case; what matters is why she was fired, not what the employer did after the fact.

  10. Formerly Ella Vader*

    LW5: In the places I’ve worked, if someone is going to travel out of town for work using their personal vehicle, they are reimbursed a mileage/per-kilometer rate that is supposed to be enough to cover gas, insurance, and wear and tear. (When the rate is keeping up with inflation, it’s about double the cost of gas for an energy-efficient gasoline car.) And if they don’t have a car available, they would rent one and claim the cost (or sign one out from the pool, for a government job).

    Although I agree with Allison that he shouldn’t ask his employer to pay for his partner’s commute if he takes your shared vehicle – he should definitely ask for reimbursement of his own travel costs and not just the price of gas.

    1. Testing*

      Yup, the situation with LW5’s spouse and his employer actually has nothing do with LW or the car. It’s for the employer to figure out.

    2. Llellayena*

      Yeah, if the employer is paying federal reimbursement rates then the expense check he’d get would easily cover the cost of the Uber for the spouse’s commute. A 2.5 hr drive would end up being a couple hundred dollars.

      1. Colette*

        But that reimbursement is to cover gas/car usage, not the spouse’s commute, so they’d still be out money (since the OP presumably would not need the same amount of gas or wear and tear to go to her job).

        1. badger*

          But because of the amount of the reimbursement, employer might agree it’s cheaper for spouse to rent a car than to take the family car. It may well be; I drive quite a bit for work and it often is cheaper for me to rent through our work account and get reimbursed for gas, but it depends on the timing (e.g., overnights) and how far.

          1. Christmas Carol*

            I have worked for several companies where this is actually SOP. If the mileage reimbursement is greater than the cost of a rental vehicle on the corporate account, you must rent a car and are not eligable for mileage.

    3. CheckOnReimbursement*

      This assumes someone can drive (I know the OP can). Most companies are much more reluctant to pay for rides as they are considerably more expensive. They need to be very sure they’ll get reimbursed before taking a cab or rideshare if they don’t want to get stuck with the bill. Even those places that have paid for a few ride shares (which, unless you’re going $80. Mileage would have cost them <$5. My current boss had me go into an office in the same suburb but slightly farther away twice right after I started then had a proverbial heart attack when I sent in my expense report for four rides between $30-40 (he did pay up).

      1. doreen*

        No matter what, they need to be sure not only that they will be reimbursed for travel but which method will be reimbursed. My employer paid for my travel – but whether they paid for me to use my own car, or a rental car or if I had to use a pool car or if I was expected to take a train and could only take Uber/a cab to and from the train station depended on the specific circumstances. If I chose to drive my own car when a pool car was available, I would not have been reimbursed.

    4. Sloanicota*

      Yes, as long as the husband’s job didn’t state that access to a reliable car is a job requirement, it should be okay to ask to rent one. Do use the language suggested rather than saying “I don’t have a car” because he’s probably mentioned having a car or driving places before, or will in the future, so you don’t want to seem duplicitous. In a pinch, “my spouse really needs the car that day” is fair too.

    5. Pretty as a Princess*

      Agreed. And further: This might just be a lot of worrying over a non-issue. We actively discourage people from driving their privately owned vehicles on business trips outside the local area because our insurance doesn’t cover your vehicle. It’s literally our travel policy. Taking your private vehicle is at your own risk. The DH should absolutely be inquiring about a rental car as a first line. I don’t think he even needs to go in to “I don’t have a car available” as a first line. Don’t go there unless you have to.

      Had a colleague decide to drive his personal vehicle for a trip 3 hours away because it got killer gas mileage and he wanted to bank the mileage rate (he’s also notoriously cheap, which is a story for another post someday). Well, 75 miles away on his way home he hit a massive pothole, blew a tire, and damaged an axle. He asked if we would reimburse the damage because he was only on that road because of business travel and the answer was a straight up no – because our travel policy discourages personal vehicle use for nonlocal travel precisely because of the insurance coverage. If he’d been in a rental, the corporate insurance would have kicked in to cover the damage. We don’t insure personal vehicles, we say as much, and his bargain wound up costing him a lot more than the mileage reimbursement.

      If the company balks at a rental (which seems silly to me but I also don’t know what industry this is or how big the company is) then the IRS mileage rate is now .65/mile which makes this probably a $200 reimbursement.

      1. Sloanicota*

        This is how it should be honestly; company-provided rental cars. But, employees have reasons for preferring to use their own (typically because they can leave directly from their house when they’re ready to go, not have to first go pick up the car and also drop it off in a separate trip – I have had to do this and it does stink sometimes) – and depending on the circumstances it can *seem* cheaper for the company too. Employees are usually being short-sighted if they view the mileage reimbursement as awesome bonus income. When I traveled a lot for work, the expenses added up; I had a fender bender that wasn’t my fault, got a ticket because I was unfamiliar with the area, and had to do more maintenance on my car.

        1. Pretty as a Princess*

          Right? I regularly travel to a place 5 hours away. The mileage rate might seem decent, but if I’m doing that once a month? 65 cents a mile now doesn’t make me feel better if I’m adding 600 miles a month to the vehicle and reducing its lifespan considerably. I mean, I could save every penny over the gas amount in a separate bank account, but that’s just more bookkeeping.

        2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          It’s also often more comfortable to drive your own car. Mine has granola bars and bandaids in the glove box, a good pillow for my back, and enough scratches and dents that I don’t care if it gets a few more.

    6. Distracted Procrastinator*

      I have a car available, but my company still rents me one when I travel because it’s cheaper to rent the car than it is to pay my mileage. My most frequent trip is only 30 minutes farther away than LW’s spouse’s travel.

  11. BouncyShiny*

    While -ise endings are more common in the UK, -ize are actually an accepted spelling variant (this is not true of -ise in the US).

    At the international company where I used to do technical writing, the style guide specified British English, but with -ize suffixes, because it was still correct, and it simplified translation to US English (yes, it was actually sent off to a translator).

    1. Anononon*

      It may be acceptable but no British person applying for a job with a British company in Britain would use ize unless they’d used AI or use AmEng spellcheck. IMO it’s a good reason to reject a candidate even if they hadn’t used AI.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I think this is a very rigid read of the situation in the UK. While millennial (and older) candidates might prefer -ise, younger candidates will be used to -ize.

        Unless LW has issued a style guide (which would be a good idea, fwiw, and could certainly include a note about AI) I think -ize is likely to be a red herring.

        1. happybat*

          I wonder whether Microsoft has a role in this. I’m fighting a battle with MS Word just now which has decided that even in UK English, -ize is correct and -ise is wrong. This may well be due to set up issues at my end, but I do think that word processing software is having an interesting effect on how we use language. I will die on the hyphenation hill, for what it’s worth – there are some phrases it wants to hyphenate that are just not needed! Oh for the day when I am able to switch full time to LaTeX.

          1. I take tea*

            I have noticed too that most spellchecks tend to underline -ise. I was taught British English in school, but now I sometimes need to double check in a dictionary, because I read so much on this site that I sometimes get confused and the spellcheck always tell me I’m wrong.

              1. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

                Congratulations, you’re basically Canadian! :P I’m in my late 30s, have 3 degrees, and still google grey vs gray at least 3 times per year.

                1. Bob-White of the Glen*

                  Well, I never knew what the difference was and used them interchangeably, but that helps Graey!

                  (Doesn’t help that there are two Gray’s/Grey’s Anatomys in my life!)

        2. bamcheeks*

          I’m not even sure it’s a generational thing, I think it’s an “are you picky about this kind of thing” thing, with an element of “have you been writing in a house style which uses -ize and you’ve got used to it”. The Venn diagram of “people who are professional writers” and “people who are picky about this stuff” has a lot of crossover, but there are definitely exceptions on both sides!

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            Looking at this discussion as an outsider, this screams “shibboleth,” with the point not being that “-ize” is American, but that “-ise” most certainly is not. If you are very concerned with establishing Britishness, fetishising (as it were) “-ize” vs. “-ise” would be a way to do it, if you are willing to overlook the pesky details

        3. birch*

          THIS. These squabbles only matter when there is a house style, and house style can be taught (so it’s pointless to pay attention to in the interview phase). Plenty of people use one or the other spelling or mix them because of how they learned and use English in their day to day life. It has no bearing whatsoever on their writing skills or whether they’re using an AI tool.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            On the other hand, AI might well fail on other differences such as subjunctive tenses (“I wish you would have” is very unusual in the UK where we would use “I wish you had”) simply because there will be far fewer examples in the seed. I would consider that a far more concerning anomaly in a text purportedly by Brits for Brits.

      2. Weegie*

        This is not completely accurate: -ize verb endings used to be more common than they are now in UK English, and (with some exceptions) are actually interchangeable, as long as one form or the other is used consistently – it’s just that -ise endings tend to be taught in schools and so have become the norm. Oxford University Press style guidelines specify -ize should be used in its publications, Cambridge UP says either form is fine, and I think (but don’t quote me!) that Oxford University used to require that students -ize (it doesn’t now). Some applicants might use this form if they were educated that way, and if I receive a job application or submission for publication (I’m an editor) that uses -ize I assume the writer is using Oxford style, not that it’s AI-generated.

        1. Dr Ize*

          I have a PhD which had an -ise or -ize verb in the title, submitted to the University of Cambridge. After consulting the Oxford and Cambridge dictionaries my supervisor and I concluded that I should -ize all verbs except the 30 or so which are always -ise, and of course maintaining the form used in any quotations. I would be mortified if you were to assume my writing was AI generated based upon a thought through stylistic decision.

      3. Lexi Vipond*

        The OED gives -ize spellings as primary and -ise as a varient, and there are definitely people trained to follow that.

      4. ItsALiving*

        It can’t be that normal. I worked as a translator between Britush English and American English (yes, that’s a thing for written stuff) about 15 years ago and all of the British English used -ize

      5. Old Editor*

        Middle-aged Brit editor here: I’d happily look at applications using either -ise or -ize as long as they used it consistently.

      6. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        At school in the UK I was taught that ise and ize were both acceptable.
        Then Microsoft’s US spellcheck kept underlining Britishisms and they decided to add a British spellcheck. An engineer saw that British people would write ise so they coded the software to accept ise and not ize when using the British spellcheck.
        Now, people say that ize is not correct in British English. I take issue with the fact that a US based engineer has dictated what is correct in British English. I always preferred ize, and have had to use only ise because of this, and it irks me no end.

      7. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        I don’t think that’s the case. People are increasingly exposed to international spellings, and since the US is more populous that means people online will see more US spellings than UK spellings. Unless it’s been formally drilled into them, they may just think “I see both ‘ize’ and ‘ise’ but I see ‘ize’ more, I’ll go with that.

        (I’m American, but I can NEVER remember which spelling of “gray / grey” I’m supposed to use, so I have a lot of sympathy here.)

    2. WS*

      Yes! I’m Australian, and recently got a new word processing program and it took me a while to set it to Australian English (which is very similar to British English). For a while there I was -izing all over the place! Regardless of the cause, it was clear to OP which applications were of the skill level required and which were not. AI doesn’t really matter in this context.

    3. londonedit*

      Yep, I’ve worked for publishing companies with international audiences where the house style was British English spellings (behaviour etc) but -ize rather than -ise. Occasionally you’d get an author who would be deeply offended by this, but house style is house style! I don’t see it as a massive red flag for a British person to be using -ize endings. Paired with the stilted language, yes, you’d wonder whether it was AI-generated, but not on its own. If the rest of their writing is good and they’re using -ize consistently, what’s the issue?

      1. Keymaster the absent*

        When I was doing my dissertation there was a lot of scientific publications I referred to – some were US, some were UK and the only consistency was with the publisher with regard whether things were spelt right (and whether ‘spelt’ is a word). For writing the actual dissertation I was just told to stick to one style consistently but that it didn’t matter too much *which* one I picked.

  12. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP4 (keeps being called a year after they retired) – OP has cause and effect the wrong way round:

    > I have helped as best I can, feeling that since they were paying for my cell phone, the least I could do was help if I could.

    They are continuing to pay for the phone so that they can have OP at their beck and call for questions! That’s the only reason (and I think OP realises this as they’ve stated that “somehow” the people have lost the instructions on stopping a phone contract…) – there’s no “they [company] are paying for my phone”, what’s actually happening is company funds are being diverted for an unauthorised purpose so that these people don’t have to do their full job, and I’d go so far as to say that is a disciplinary issue and perhaps even fireable, though I’ll eat my hat if they are fired for this.

    I would contact “the company”, perhaps OPs ex-boss or whoever does HR at that company, rather than the colleagues, about no longer being able to help. I say this because they’ve gone about it in an underhand way rather than openly taking liberties (as I feel like we’ve seen in other questions) in keep calling people to ask things.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        If they bought it? Yes.

        But if they took over payments for OP’s phone service so they didn’t have to supply a phone? No.

      2. Civil serpent*

        I found the description confusing. LW4 said it was a work phone account – I have had separate phones with work accounts, and also had work reimburse me a portion of my data bill for using my personal phone for work purposes. I would think that, in either case, LW4 should either return or deactivate a work phone, or delete the work account from their personal phone. There is no reason to keep a work phone number or email after retirement.

        1. OP4*

          OP4 here. The wireless number (123)456-7890 was mine before I began working for the company. They later picked up the billing responsibility, which is how they handle work calls.
          Before my employment terminated, I did raise this issue with my manager so I could handle it while I still had access, but they told me not do anything immediately for several reasons. After retiring, I was no longer able to initiate the transfer of billing responsibility back to myself, so it was completely up to the co-worker I mentioned in my post.
          Thank you for your comment, hope that clears this up a little.

      3. OP4*

        OP4 here – the company normally gifted a paid-up phone to employees leaving in good standing. It wasn’t the phone that was the issue, it was the billing responsibility: they were paying the bill. I got to keep the phone no matter what.

        Thank you for commenting.

    1. mreasy*

      I had a company continue to pay for my phone for 8 months after I left. They just didn’t get around to changing the account. (I let them because, well, I didn’t want to pay for it if I didn’t have to!)

      1. OP4*

        mreasy, OP4 here. This is pretty much exactly the situation I found myself in. I was fine with them paying for it, even though I knew it would have to stop sooner or later! And as long as they were paying for it, I was okay with those phone calls from the co-worker, but that quid pro quo is now gone, so I’m done. Thanks for commenting.

    1. Quantum Possum*


      I am sorry to inform you that your writing does not achieve synergy with the fast-paced, innovative company culture which we are actively cultivating at this rock star company. I bid you good fortune as you perpetuate your employment exploration.


  13. John Smith*

    lw3, I’d document anything and everything that has happened. years ago I left a rather toxic job and claimed benefits which was initially declined on the basis I voluntarily left my job. I appealed, submitting examples of why I left (which included a voice recording of an expletive laden meeting by my manager). The appeal was upheld and I was able to claim benefits.

    If you do follow Alisons advice in taking a call from your ex boss, don’t give them any ammunition. Listen to them (hell, record them) but don’t give them anything that will help them fight you. I wouldn’t even say “I’ve only done 2 things wrong while working for you”, because I bet they will conjure up a load of other examples to use against you. I’m sorry you have to put up with such nasty vindictiveness. Good luck.

    1. JSPA*

      Only record if in a one-party state!

      But LW3 can take the call on speakerphone, with someone else present. If they think there will be threats, they should have that third person prepared to take notes, and/or give a statement in court.

      If Lw3 can’t bear to deal with the company, they could have a friend pick up and say, “LW3’s phone, Friend speaking. LW3 is asking me to ask you to send an email instead of calling repeatedly. OK, bye!” (What are they going to do, blame the friend of a fired employee for being unprofessional? Make threats by way of a third party?)

      With luck, they want to cut a deal. If so, LW3 should let them do all the talking, not agree to anything, and ask them to send the details along in an email, as the sound quality on the phone “isn’t great for this sort of thing.”

      If they’re calling during work hours, they may be hoping to prove that LW3 “must” have another job, if they’re not picking up calls. And thus company should not be on the hook for unemployment. But…yeah…it doesn’t work that way.

  14. bamcheeks*

    LW2, “stilted, impersonal and “buzzwordy”” is a perfectly good reason to reject a writing sample. And you can absolutely have a clearly stated “do not use AI in preparing your writing sample or submit AI-generated work”. Beyond that, you have to get comfortable with the fact that you can no more tell who has used AI in preparing their writing sample than you can tell who has used spellcheck or who got a friend to write the sample for them. By which I mean, there may be the occasional egregiously obvious example, just as there can be with spellcheck, but 99% of the time you’ll never know for sure. There’s simply no way to tell and you have to get used to judging the sample on its merits and having an in-house writing or editing test under conditions you control if it’s important to you to test for that ability.

    There is also no consensus that *using* AI in preparing a piece of professional writing or a job application is any kind of breach of ethics or professionalism. If you want candidates to confirm they haven’t used AI in their writing prep, you absolutely can. But you can’t rely on a general sense that It Isn’t The Done Thing, because we’re a very long way from any kind of agreement on that. Lots of perfectly respectable sources are recommending that people use AI in the preparation of all sorts of writing, even if they all recommend that it’s only used for an early draft or to organise ideas, and unless you have a strict ban on it you’ll probably find that very good communicators also start using it, just as we all adapted to calculators and word processing.

    I think there are a TON of problems with generative AI, especially around energy use and non-consensual use of intellectual property. But I just don’t think we can put it back in the box. We’ve got to be asking what the quality of the work is and what is the value that the person is bringing regardless of whether they’re using AI.

    1. WellRed*

      But she is looking for a writer so hiring someone who can actually write without use of AI is a perfectly reasonable expectation and us in many cases, an absolute necessity.

      1. bamcheeks*

        This is framed as disagreeing with something I said, but I didn’t say anything that disagrees with it so I’m a bit confused what it’s responding to!

  15. Earlk*

    The spell checker Grammarly can be flagged as AI being used in writing, it’s apparently causing problems at some universities. So I’d take the AI detector with a grain of salt. Also, even if they didn’t use AI, if you don’t like the writing of someone applying for a writing job- don’t hire them!

    1. Angstrom*

      We just had Grammerly banned at work because of its AI component. It could be scraping proprietary information.

      1. Earlk*

        Ugh I hope that doesn’t happen at mine. It’s so much better than MS words own and it works on my emails.

    2. Quantum Possum*

      even if they didn’t use AI, if you don’t like the writing of someone applying for a writing job- don’t hire them

      ^ This times 1,000,000.

      No further reason is needed than “don’t like their writing.”

    3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Personally, I think a writer should be able to write without Grammarly. Grammarly is for (stem) people who don’t understand grammar or remember how it works.

      1. sparkle emoji*

        I’m a non-stem person who uses Grammarly because it’s good at catching the types of mistakes I miss in proofreading, like retyping a word. The free version just allows for the use of spellcheck outside of word processors. I disagree that that should be disqualifying in a writing role.

    4. Orv*

      Another issue with Grammarly is, if you’re not a native English speaker and accept all its suggestions blindly, it has a tendency to turn your writing into something completely opaque and content free. I see it now and then at the university I work for.

  16. anonny*

    My favourite AI-generated writing exercises by candidates at my company, where we ask for a answer of a few sentences to a few questions in lieu of a cover letter:

    1) the one where a candidate ran the “What interests you in [this role]?” question through ChatGPT and submitted an answer beginning with “As an artificial intelligence language model, I don’t have personal desires or motivations.”

    2) The paragraph they pasted was fine, if a little stilted, but ended with a copy-pasted “ChatGPT Mar 23 Version. Free Research Preview. ChatGPT may produce inaccurate information abou”

    Our conclusion on the -ize-ing in BrE was that while it wasn’t enough to rule something out on its own, the person reading the answers could still take it as a red flag alongside other red flags – the extremely uniform sentence structure and length, no personalisation in answers where we would expect specific references to a degree or previous job (like the “what interests you”) etc

    1. The New Wanderer*

      My favorite AI example is an Amazon review (one of many, I assume) that used the somewhat standard 3 paragraph AI response to a prompt where it was clearly fed the item description. It just recycled the item description with the exact adjectives used. Like that technique where the interviewer asks “So would you say this very specific thing is important?” and the response is supposed to be “I would say this very specific thing is important.”

      The even more obvious tipoff was the use of the same six word SEO-bloated phrase in its entirety every time there was a reference to the color of the item.

      AI can be helpful and interesting but it is not a replacement for actual thought.

  17. Enn Pee*

    Re LW3: It’s a good idea to always save off your performance reviews (and customer compliments, etc.) into a separate folder that you’ll have access to upon termination. (Forward it to your private email, save it on your personal drive, etc.)
    For situations like this, it can be helpful to have this kind of documentation backed up!

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      She’s famous enough in entertainment/fashion publishing that this story made it to Variety magazine.
      She laid off the staff of a magazine that was rolled into GQ.

    2. The Original K.*

      She’s the longtime editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine and artistic director for Condé Nast, and thus very famous in the fashion and magazine world. She’s also infamous for being an abusive nightmare to work for. Her wearing sunglasses because she doesn’t care enough about the people she’s laying off to look them in the eyes is very, very on-brand for her.

  18. Quantum Possum*

    OP #2

    I would seriously question the applicant’s writing and editing skills. If they really thought that “AI”-generated writing looked good enough to submit in their application, then they are probably 1. not outstanding writers and 2. terrible editors. And if they were just being lazy with part of the application, then that also does not bode well.

    it’s reasonable to conclude they’re either a good writer or they’re good at using AI to generate good writing.

    There is no such thing as the latter; it will never generate good writing. Someone can end up with a good product if they edit/rewrite at least 75% of the output, but that takes at least twice as long as writing it from scratch. So, another mark against this applicant for time management skills, lol.

    But no, I wouldn’t mention it in the rejection letter. You don’t owe them a reason for not hiring them, and also, you could be wrong about the “AI” part – e.g., maybe English is not their first language – and I think it would be hurtful to read that I came across as a computer program.

  19. Idk*

    Re LW#1, I recently put my Masters thesis through the most popular so-called AI detector. It told me my thesis was 72% AI generated. My thesis was written 12 years ago, well before the advent of AI tools like ChatGPT. And yes, I wrote 100% of my thesis myself. Ironically enough, my thesis is about writing as a human art form.

    I wouldn’t put any stock in what AI detection apps tell you. They are profoundly inaccurate.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        That’s what I was thinking. It’s not the author leveraging AI, it’s AI leveraging the author.

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          yes! a client of mine tried using machine translation to translate a text that I had already translated, but that she had then tweaked somewhat. The machine found my translations on the client’s website and cribbed from them, and didn’t do all that bad a job. Although I did then tweak it all to turn it from “not all that bad a job” to a beautifully crafted and honed text to do justice to the beauty of the client’s website (she produces the most beautiful tapestries depicting avalanches and waterfalls).

    1. Keymaster the absent*

      After reading your comment I shoved part of my phD research through one AI detector as well.

      Came out as 80% AI generated. This was written in 1999!

      I don’t trust computers. I fix them for a living but I will never trust them.

      1. I Have RBF*

        There is a reason that I don’t have things like Alexa or Siri inside my house. The ‘smart’est device I have is a printer.

  20. AllyPally*

    I’m not from the US, can someone explain why a company would want to oppose an unemployment claim? Does it open them up to accusations of wrongful firing? Dies the gov make them cover part of the unemployment payments?

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      Companies pay the unemployment benefits via a tax, and in all but a very few states only the companies pay in, not individual taxpayers. They pay into a fund, and apparently if they have high rates of employees taking unemployment, their unemployment benefits tax rate could go up to cover future costs.

      Wrongful firing is almost never a thing in the US unless it can be proven that someone was fired based on categories that it’s illegal to discriminate against, like gender, pregnancy status, or race. It is absolutely legal for US employers to fire/lay off/let go employees if they feel they are underperforming (without having to document it) or for no reason at all, or for dumb reasons like wearing the wrong color of clothing.

        1. darsynia*

          For added context, there are certain situations that don’t qualify for unemployment, such as being let go for misconduct. One thing shady companies do is let a person go and then fight their rightful unemployment claim by lying about the circumstances. The system does an auto-reject if your employer contests, meaning the only way to get unemployment if you feel they’re wrong is to contest the rejection. It ends up in the shady company’s benefit to contest, because a lot of people don’t realize they can fight the rejection, so it saves shady company money in the long run.

    2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      One of the reasons European countries tend to have lower net pay than the US is the automatic deduction of unemployment insurance (and usually state pension and state healthcare) premiums from both employee and employer.

    3. Emmy Noether*

      I gather from this site that unemployment insurance in the US works sort of like auto insurance, in that the rates (for the company) go up if there are claims. I guess there’s a sort of logic if you consider hiring and firing people willy-nilly reckless. It also provides a soft incentive against letting people go, which is achieved through employee protection laws elsewhere. It does seem to me that it would be a problem for companies already in financial difficulty, though.

    4. GreyjoyGardens*

      Though – varying state by state, some are much more employee friendly than others – an employer who, for instance, fires someone for wearing clothes they don’t like, or because of a “poor fit,” and other arbitrary reasons, will wind up paying unemployment. To get out of paying unemployment (paid by the state but employees pay the state via a tax), the employer has to prove that the employee was fired “for cause.” For instance: habitual tardiness, destroying company property, physical assault on another employee. “For cause” is pretty strictly defined, at least in states like mine which are employee-friendly. Being late to work every morning is “for cause.” Being fired because you’re a grumpy jerk who can’t get along with anyone, well, the *employer* might think that cause to fire you, but the *state* won’t think that’s cause enough to deny you unemployment unless the employer actually shows up and contests the appeal, and most employers do not bother.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        To add onto this, misconduct is not “Johnny is bad at the job, so we had to fire him.” If you are just a bad fit and don’t perform at the level the company expects, but you aren’t breaking policies or engaging in willful misbehavior, you should still be able to get benefits.

        1. GreyjoyGardens*

          Yes, exactly. “Being bad at the job” is not specific enough or causing tangible harm to the company so it can be “cause.” At least in my state, the company has to prove that the employee caused “tangible harm or damage.” That is why habitual tardiness can be “for cause.” But things like “bad fit,” “wasn’t good at the job,” “was grumpy and rude to everyone,” those are all sort of – YMMV-ish – and nobody can prove being a terrible team member who couldn’t do their job “harmed the company.”

          So, you micturate on the boss’s rug? You’re gone, no unemployment. You’re “a poor fit?” You’re gone, but you can collect unemployment. Companies challenge claims because they hope that the former emplonee will just give up. Usually the challenges do not hold up – and there’s the added factor that someone from the company actually has to show up in person at a court, and only a really motivated former employer is going to do that.

          1. I Have RBF*

            Appeals on UI in California start with a phone call with the UI office, IME. They call the employer, get their side, then call you and get your side, and make a determination. Only rarely does it escalate to an in-person court appearance. Other states may vary, and it can also vary depending on the UI agent and caseload. YMMV

    5. ELK*

      RabbitRabbit is correct, as well as the others who have mentioned the taxes. I used to be the de facto “unemployment fighter” for a small company that aggressively fought EACH unemployment claim, no matter how justified. We employed mostly people with only high school diplomas, who simply did not have the understanding or resources to prevail. In many cases I knew that the terminated employee deserved unemployment benefits, but couldn’t or wouldn’t take the time to research the unemployment laws and find a way to beat this slimy company.

      1. Orv*

        Part of the problem is that people who have just been fired are rarely in a financial position to hire a lawyer.

  21. Anon for this*

    Regarding the mixing of British and American spellings… as someone who does this in normal writing, I am not an AI bot! I just read enough books by British authors as a kid and played enough Runescape (I feel safe in mentioning the company because it’s nothing bad, just well known British game) that I use British spellings for some words and American spellings for others. And auto correct doesn’t catch them because they’re all spelled correctly!

    1. Wilbur*

      Yeah, I don’t remember if I’m supposed to use “grey” or “gray” and at this point I don’t care.

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        GRIN, in our master computer program, it is spelled both ways. I tend to use “gray”, personally.

        1. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

          Gray makes more phonetic sense, that’s how I know it’s American
          – signed, Canadian who tries to use British spellings but admits there’s really something to the simplification of American English spelling despite reaaally wanting to pretend she’s not more like Americans than any other nationality of people

        1. Lenora Rose*

          I know a writer who admitted to the phrase “The sky lightened from grey to gray” in a rough draft. (I don’t even remember for sure if it was that order but it’s the one that looks right to me.)

        2. Old and Don't Care*

          I always thought there was some subtle difference that I never learned, like one is used for inanimate objects and the other for eyes, or some slight variation in color.

      2. Dancing Otter*

        Somehow I absorbed an idea that the two spellings denote different shades. I know it’s not true, but when I see “gray” I visualize a flatter, warmer shade while “grey” has a cooler cast to it. Maybe from paint chips when I was young and ignorant?

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Grey is simply the older spelling and gray is the result of 18th and 19th century American spelling reforms, which mostly aimed to simplify spellings at the cost of severing words’ connections with their etymological roots.

          In terms of hue, they’re interchangeable.

      3. Anon for this*

        Yeah… aluminum is easy to remember, because we don’t pronounce it aluminium, so therefore spelling it aluminum makes sense. But everything else…. shrug? I’ve ended up with grey, neighbourhood, and color.

      4. Texas Teacher*

        I use gray and grey interchangeably when referring solely to the color, but grey exclusively if also referring to a mood or atmosphere.

      5. Prismatic Garnet*

        I don’t think that’s regional, if it ever was. Most people (in the US at least) that I know just choose the spelling they find more pleasing, which for me and most people I know is “grey” (it just seems prettier).

        Or I like switching it up for flavor- “gray” if you’re describing something drab and depressing, “grey” if describing something cozy and soft like a sweater. (Obviously o wouldn’t mix and match in the same piece of formal writing.)

        Either way, both spellings are equally known and accepted here.

      6. Avery*

        Same here. I blame Neopets for forever embedding the spellings “grey” and “faerie” in my young American mind…

    2. Hailrobonia*

      I’ve learned this is also common in Canadian English, due to a combination of being a British Commonwealth country and influence from their Neighbor To The South.

    3. mango chiffon*

      I once almost lost a spelling bee for spelling “neighborhood” as the british “neighbourhood” because that’s how I had seen it spelled while playing Neopets for years

    4. Michelle Smith*

      Funnily enough, this is something AI and non-AI spell checks can catch with the right settings. Google Docs spell check and Grammarly have both notified me when I use the wrong spelling of “traveling” for the country I’m in (for some reason, it just looks better to me with a double L, but that’s not the American spelling).

        1. linger*

          It is in Britain (and most Commonwealth nations), but -ll- is strongly dispreferred in American English: its text frequency was about 10% in 1961, falling to 6% in 1991.

    5. ferrina*

      I’m not the only one!

      I’m American, and as a kid, I always used British spellings more naturally than American ones. I could never figure out why. I also was a total bookworm who leaned toward British authors more than American.
      Now my default is for the American spelling, but it’s pretty easy for me to slip into British spellings.

  22. winter frog*

    #2: I agree that there is no need to mention your AI suspicions when rejecting this candidate, especially since, as others have already stated, AI detection tools are not foolproof.

    In your hypothetical case where the frontrunner cadidate may have submitted an AI writing sample, perhaps you could invite them to an interview and ask them about it directly. Their writing sample does not have to be all AI written vs all human written. There is a spectrum where AI assists a human to varying degrees with their writing. Different people may have different levels of comfort of what stage is considered ok vs. cheating. This hypothetical top candidate may have a more permissive view of AI writing assistance or is just bad at using AI assistance to develop their writing. If despite all this they would still be your best candidate, then it might be worth it to ask them directly in an interview about whether they used AI to develop their writing sample and their views on using AI.

    1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      I’m just imagining that I send in examples of my writing, produced only by little me, and I get a rejection letter telling me that I’ve been rejected because I obviously used AI. How galling would that be, to learn that I don’t write any better than a computer!
      (just smarting from seeing a translation I poured my heart and soul into, ripped to shreds by a proofreader with no sense of poetry, and I’m so paranoid as to be wondering whether the proofreader uses AI now!)

  23. Ranon*

    No. 5- I work at an office where it is both normal that employees have a single car or no car in their family and that there is a need too occasionally drive for work travel. If an employee can’t drive their own vehicle we reimburse a rental car, it’s no big deal.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      FinalJob was a large multinational and had company cars and fuel stations at each site for use on business travel. Any additional fuel needed went on a company credit card.
      Very convenient for those who used feet, bikes or public transport to commute, which was a significant % of the workforce.

      If the job requirements didn’t include having a car then the employer must have some system for transporting that employee – but not their family member – which doesn’t leave them out of pocket.

      1. Your Mate in Oz*

        If the job requirements didn’t include having a car

        I once interviewed for a “must have driver license” job and only at the end did they ask “what sort of car do you have?” because it turned out that they expected me to drive my own car to deliver their product and that an allowance for that was built in to the hourly wage. I didn’t have a car or think the wage was high enough to cover me and a car in any case.

        They were so embarassed by the timewasting that the offered me a much more skilled job putting the crosses on hot cross buns in their factory :)

  24. HonorBox*

    OP4 – Apologies in advance because I’m in a great mood this morning (already dealing with people who don’t know how to do their jobs correctly). If you know the boss of the person who has been contacting you, and assuming it is someone you get along with relatively well, I’d make a quick phone call. If someone was reaching out to you once or twice in the year since you’d retired, probably not a big deal. But they’ve been asking lots of questions, presumably about things that are pretty run of the mill, too. Their reaction to you asking them not to call any longer is very out of the ordinary, and the fact that you’re now not included the same way other retirees are is weird. If you approach this more as a heads up to the boss that the employee was constantly reaching out, it might give them some important insight about how the employee is functioning in their day-to-day work. You can mention that when you asked them to stop calling you (which is very normal) their reaction was … odd … and now you’re feeling like you’ve been left out of something that is part of company culture. I wouldn’t make it about the lunches specifically, but that’s good information to share because who knows what the employee has said that you’d said, which may be far different than you did. But it would be good for a boss to know that an employee isn’t willing/able to figure out how to do their job on their own.

  25. rebelwithmouseyhair*

    (You can document the calls too if you want, although they’re unlikely to come up at the unemployment hearing, which is going to be tightly focused on what led to your termination.)

    I’m a little confused by this. Surely the fact that the employer is now harassing OP should be factored in at the unemployment hearing? Like, it’s proof that they are a jerk and anything they say needs to be taken with a pinch of salt?
    (I’m thinking of a famous case where a cyclist knocked over a pedestrian in London. The pedestrian was clearly at fault because she was texting as she started to cross the road, but the cyclist then went on internet and ranted and insulted her, and ended up being blamed for her death. She shouldn’t have been texting, but his road rage was such that everyone said, so what, he’s obviously the bigger jerk.)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Unemployment hearings are very tightly focused on the reason the person was fired, whether they broke rules while on the job, etc. They’re not there to determine who’s a jerk and they’re very, very black and white about the facts that led to the termination.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Thank you Alison! I expect we factor in other circumstances more readily in Europe, looking at the bigger picture, that kind of thing. Certainly that was the case for the cyclist case I mentioned.

        1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

          But your example has nothing to do with unemployment. You’re talking about a wrongful death situation, which would be totally different, would go to court, would have testimony, witnesses, etc.

          An unemployment hearing isn’t a law case, it’s like an ombuds settling a dispute.

  26. Marcella*

    I’ve stopped using 2 “writers” who were just submitting AI work. A real writer with a sense of rhythm and flow would have perceived the stilted, bland tone, the droning passive voice – they didn’t.

    Another ex-client fired his ghostwriter who wrote warm, thoughtful social posts for him. Now his posts are pure AI and his followers can tell. His engagement has plummeted because the authenticity just isn’t there.

    A good writer will at least edit an AI draft for personality – and understand that AI isn’t suitable for every type of project. In house writers are prized for their ability to grasp messaging nuances and reflect those in clever and engaging ways across multiple channels. This is where I see so many AI “writers” failing but I can tell they can’t see it. So I currently look for portfolios that reflect a range of project types and depth of subject matter, as well as versatility of voice.

    1. ferrina*

      Exactly this!

      A good writer is much more than their words- they have an in-depth understanding of their audience, their message, and they have an incredible array of communication tools that they know how to use (word choice, pacing, tone, layout, etc).
      A good writer might choose to utilize AI or not, but if they do, they know to edit the AI content to create high quality work.

  27. DisneyChannelThis*

    We had a video interview with a candidate I’m 60-70% sure was feeding their responses into a AI. They had something open to the side of the screen that they kept staring at and reading from. And sometimes their answers sounded like an AI, like they’d answer a question that wasn’t what was meant and clarifying the question didn’t help. I gave my feedback that they seemed distracted during the interview and inconsistent at understanding what was being asked and I left it at that.

    I have seen some tik toks where you open the AI program on the phone to listen,set it next to your laptop, then it hears the question and types an answer which you can then read. So maybe I’m paranoid. But the questions they were reading off the side whatever weren’t just interview notes, I asked some that wouldn’t be something prepped. Also softballs like “What’s your favorite coding language” that should have been clear answers.

    1. Crunchy Granola*

      I had a candidate that I was quite sure was typing in their questions to either a search engine or an AI. Like yours, they were looking off to the side. Also typing. The answers were stilted, as if they were having trouble putting them “in their own words,” (a phrase I heard often in elementary school reading).

      This behavior was even exhibited when I asked questions about things on their resume.

    2. Chriama*

      I think the AI panic is overblown in the corporate world. Either someone with actual skill uses it to improve their efficiency (by having the knowledge to create useful prompts and effectively refine the results), or someone incompetent uses it incompetently, and the final result is noticeably subpar. I feel like there are very few cases where someone with no skill is able to use AI to consistently produce valuable results. Rather than worrying whether or not something was produced with AI, focus on clear, specific evaluation tasks where someone would have to know what they’re doing to create something useful. Whether or not AI helps them along the way is a moot point, isn’t it?

      1. Lenora Rose*

        The issue is that right now real writers are losing their jobs when their employer decides to use AI and a few (lower paid) editors to tidy the AI instead of their former staff. The readers soon notice the drop in quality (not all of them but enough of them) but by then it’s already too late for the people who aren’t working anymore, and if the magazines fold entirely (as many have) then there’s no new job to replace it.

        1. linger*

          N.B. this problem pre-dates AI.
          Case in point: Journatic’s business model, in which text assembly for hyperlocal “news” was outsourced to second-language speakers of English in e.g. the Philippines, who were paid about 10% of the US word rate, leaving just one native speaker to edit the content. What eventually sank them, though, was their practice of using American-sounding pseudonyms in the bylines of such content.
          (See: Sarah Koenig “Forgive Us Our Press Passes”, This American Life episode 468 “Switcheroo”, 29th June 2012)

          1. Lenora Rose*

            Yes, the trend of trying to cut corners to the point where the actual original mission is lost is not new to AI, but AI is speeding it up.

      2. DisneyChannelThis*

        How am I supposed to evaluate if they have actual skills in an interview when they are actively lying by having an AI answer for them?? The AI doesn’t represent them, it’s not coded with databanks about their particular skillset. It’s just random answers. Using AI to answer a live interview is just totally wrong.

        1. Chriama*

          Well, employers would hopefully be more thorough in evaluating a candidate’s skill than just asking them and taking their word for it.

      3. Orv*

        Many employers have confidentiality concerns about AI, since submitted materials get rolled back into the model and may come out in answers later. So if you hire someone who relies on AI, and then they can’t use it in their job, they may not be a good fit.

  28. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

    #5: it’s none of your spouse’s job’s business how or if you get to work. You can drive, Uber, get a free ride from your mom, rent a helicopter, or get a golden sled pulled by cats. Your choice, your benefit, you pay. If it costs extra money, that’s part of the choice you made to have one car. I’m sure its still cheaper.

    On the other hand, the long trip is the choice and benefit of your spouse’s work. It is absolutely their job to pay for it.

    1. kiki*

      I think LW likely put the option of their spouse’s work paying for their ride to work because it might net out cheaper for the company than having their spouse rent a car. LW estimated the roundtrip cost of getting them a ride to work would be about ~$60. All day car rentals in my area start at about $70.

      That being said, it’s more straight-forward for the company to pay for their own employee’s ride, even if it’s a touch more expensive. It’s normal to have to pay for an employee’s travel to an off-site location. Unless having access to a car is a strict requirement of this role (and it sounds like it wouldn’t be since LW’s spouse mostly works from home), paying to get spouse to this offsite is just a normal cost of business and hopefull spouse’s workplace won’t bat an eye.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        And most places do not care whether it would be more cost-effective. I regularly encounter reimbursement policies that don’t make sense to me from an economic standpoint but they are what they are.

        Example: On certain grants, I am not allowed to be reimbursed for a hotel room that costs more than the federal per diem rate. In order to find accommodations that can be reimbursed, I may have to book a hotel much farther away from the meeting/conference/work location, requiring me to take Ubers instead of walking. The Uber + hotel cost may be more expensive than if they’d just reimbursed a slightly more expensive room closer to where I needed to be, but the rules are very hard and fast on this.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          To be clear, they do reimburse me for the hotel + Uber rides, even though they wouldn’t have reimbursed the cheaper option of the closer hotel that costs $15 over the per diem limit. My boss just shrugs and says that’s the way it is.

          1. I Have RBF*

            Yeah, Federal rules are often penny wise, pound foolish. OTOH, you kind of need that level of consistency in that large of an organization, because tracking or allowing exceptions could become a department in and of itself, so it’s cheaper to waste a little that spend much more formally handling exceptions.

  29. Chriama*

    OP4 – I sort of get the impression that neither party was behaving with full integrity here. OP believes their former coworker continued to pay for their phone bill without authorization from the manager (aka stealing from their employer), and OP was happy to answer questions as long as they were benefiting from that theft? And then when the employee figured out how to stop doing that, OP decided they didn’t want to answer questions anymore?

    OP, you treated this cell phone bill like a retainer agreement, but there was no agreement and the payment was done with stolen funds! It’s especially weird that when they finally stopped paying for it you treated it like the canceling of a contract rather than the righting of a wrong. The employee’s hurt reaction might be annoying, but why on earth would they have reason to feel any differently? If you wanted to cut ties you should have done so from the beginning. Doing it abruptly now feels manipulative.

  30. Luna*

    LW2 – This is something that’s going to happen as AI becomes more and more intergrated into databases and similar. Occupational risk, I suppose. You’ll have to figure out yourself and with your managers if the usage of AI in responses is going to be a deal breaker for applications.

    LW3 – If anything, keep a list of dates and times when they call, and of them not leaving any message. It may not do much, but it would show everyone in court that they are blowing up yor phone for no reason. Could even list it as potential harassment from them. Which it really sounds like that’s what they are trying to do, especially with the constant calling and no messages left on voicemail.

    LW4 – The only words to say here regarding not being invited to birthday lunches or otherwise being excluded because you put a boundary up is, “Boo hoo”. If this person is really going to exclude you because you put your foot down about something (after a *year* of help, FYI), is it really worthwhile in the long run? Especially if it’s true that, according to your letter, only retirees that continue to help/’work’ after retirement get invited.
    That just sounds like an abusive power-imbalance kind of relationship to an outsider like me, and really something to cut off.

  31. Drowning in Spreadsheets*

    I was reviewing resumes recently and I got suspicious when several of the professional summaries sounded quite similar. Because of grammatical errors and buzzwords, I was pretty sure they were AI-written. I ran the summaries through several different AI checkers and they came up as AI.

    Resumes are more heavily scrutinized now.

    1. Chriama*

      Just a reminder that AI checkers are notoriously unreliable. It’s more of a self-soothing tactic than a real verification. I think that if they sound similar and contain grammatical errors and buzzwords, whether it’s AI or plagiarism doesn’t really matter.

      1. Drowning in Spreadsheets*

        The unreliability is why I used a few different checkers. I don’t think they’re completely without value, though. I think saying “self-soothing tactic” is a big much.

        I also have colleagues look at suspicious resumes. None of these methods are ever going to be perfect, so we use what resources are there.

        1. Quiet Lurker*

          I was reviewing resumes recently and I got suspicious when several of the professional summaries sounded quite similar. Because of grammatical errors and buzzwords, I was pretty sure they were AI-written. I ran the summaries through several different AI checkers and they came up as AI.

          Editor/writer who’s been hiring writers in various roles (everything from journalists to technical and policy writers) since the 1990s. AI generators and detectors have been trained using human-produced writing, and both are prone to making significant errors.

          Different people’s resumes will often sound really similar, because that’s how people have been taught and told to write them. The professional summary section is a prime example of this. As for grammatical errors, that can be a sign of a human hand, and it’s not really relevant unless you’re hiring a sub-editor or editor.

          I’ve run human-produced writing through every AI detector I could access, and the writing was everything from feature articles I wrote for magazines 20+ years ago to classic pieces of literature, alongside AI-produced content I got ChatGPT and other AI writing tools to generate for me.

          Imagine my surprise when I was told it was 90% likely my 20-year-old articles were AI-written, 80% likely that Dracula and Pride and Pejudice were, but that it was only 10% likely that ChatGPT’s writing was AI-produced.

    2. anonny*

      Given the amount of companies who use buzzw0rd-seeking hiring algorithms, and that application writing is a specific skill that there’s advice on the internet about, I suspect it’s likely as much a case as applicants taking the same advice as it would be applicants using generative programs.

  32. Observer*

    #5 – Why would you expect *your* employer to subsidize your husband’s use of the car? That especially since what you are asking for is normal commuting.

    Now, since this kind of travel is out of the norm for your husband, and even with an “in office” job, it would probably be a covered travel expense, he should just use Allison’s verbiage. And your husband should absolutely NOT offer to “work it out” with you, or entertain that discussion at all.

  33. RagingADHD*

    If the writing samples immediately give the impression / suspicion they were written by AI, then it doesn’t really matter whether or not they were actually generated by AI or not. The writer’s style sounds unnatural and like cheap, mass-produced content.


  34. LadyPie*

    For the OP who wrote about suspect AI partially due to UK v American spellings. I’m an American who has been living in the UK for over a decade. During this time I’ve worked almost exclusively with UK clients and have had to become very cognisant of ensuring I use my U’s and S’s! Strangely, I’ve noticed that a lot of my younger (think 5 years or less out of uni) colleagues write with very Americanised English. I’m constantly fixing it. I don’t think this helps you, but just something weird I’ve noticed.

    1. Rebecca*

      I’m a Canadian living and working internationally – my use of American vs British spellings is so all over the place now. I have caught myself using ‘civilisation’ and ‘civilization’ in the same document. This is absolutely not an indication that I am using AI or am a bad writer, just that I’m international.

      (We also have to acknowledge that there are more types of English than just ‘British or American.’ )

    2. Gathering Moss*

      As an Aussie, I’ve noticed that more and more spellcheckers are defaulting to American spelling, even when set to Australian or UK English; it’s annoying!

  35. Jo-El*

    LW#4, I wouldn’t just cut the co-worker off entirely. It is perfectly reasonable to reach out to management and say that now that you have retired you’ve moved on with life however you would be available for consulting at XXXXX fee once per week (or whatever schedule you would like).No hard feelings (hopefully) and maybe a little extra income for little effort.

  36. Ann O'Nemity*

    #5 Two and half hours is a long drive and I’d say it’s certainly in the range where it makes sense to get a rental car! Let’s say you’re going 150 miles, that’s like $100 in travel reimbursement. Depending on your local rates, you can usually get a one-day rental car with insurance and gas for similar or less than that.

    1. Mermaid of the Lunacy*

      This. Our company encourages us to rent a car through our corporate travel vendor if we are making long trips. Even renting one yourself and submitting for reimbursement couldn’t be that bad for a 5-hour round trip. Hopefully the company sees reason!

  37. Keymaster the absent*

    5. We’re a one car household household too. When my firm needs me to go somewhere that’s not accessible by train they generally hire me a car. If it is accessible by train they pay for the ticket and the cab to/from the train station.

    Your husband just needs to say ‘I don’t have access to a car that day – how should we work this out?’.

  38. Boss Scaggs*

    I’d say yes, Anna Wintour was wrong to lay people off while wearing her sunglasses.

    But that would be less important than how they handle severance, health coverage, references, and so on.

  39. Jane*

    On AI applicants: There is a use for AI in editing and copy writing jobs. I would lean into candidates who know how to RESPONSIBLY use this resource and not write them off just because of it.

    1. RagingADHD*

      But it sounds bad. If they were using it well, the result wouldn’t make the reader go, “Ew…this sounds like a bot.” It was junk.

      It’s entirely possible that some of the candidates who got passed through also used AI in drafting – but they used it correctly, and the work product was of a high enough quality that it never occurred to the LW to wonder what tools were used in the writing process.

    2. Observer*

      I would lean into candidates who know how to RESPONSIBLY use this resource and not write them off just because of it.

      That’s a valid point. In this case, it’s clear that *if* the candidates were using AI they did a poor job of it.

  40. BellyButton*

    Sadly, the world is talking about Anna Wintour’s sunglasses instead of the people who were laid off. Instead of looking at the reasons the company had to merge with GQ, instead of the bad business decisions and the failings of media.

    1. Zap R.*

      But the sunglasses are emblematic of the problem. The ever-dwindling number of ultra-rich people who control media conglomerates are so out of touch with the journalists who work for them that they literally won’t look them in the eye.

    2. RagingADHD*

      I get what you’re saying, but Anna Wintour is famous and the people who got laid off are not. The world was already talking about AW before this happened, and will continue to do so.

      Crappy bosses do crappy things to their employees all day, every day, and it doesn’t make the news. If she were not already famous, nobody would be talking about it at all.

  41. BellyButton*

    AI use isn’t the issue. The issue is that they didn’t use it correctly. I use AI to generate so many things, but then I go back and add my voice to it, I edit it, I make sure it isn’t stiff or awkward.

    1. Pita Chips*

      Bingo. It’s a tool, not an ultimate solution. Just like Wikipedia is a starting point, but should never be used as pure reference material.

  42. Sara without an H*

    1. When I saw the news stories about Anna Wintour, my first thought was, “Coward.”

    2. Re use of AI in application materials: I suspect this is going to come up more and more often and I’ll be interested to hear how people handle it. I think I’d spend some time deciding which jobs absolutely need original writing and which ones might be done with some AI assistance, as a way of generating a first draft. And I’d make it clear which was which in the job listing.

    But Alison’s suggestion of asking finalists to produce a brief writing sample during the interview is a good one, in any case.

  43. BellyButton*

    I am an American who lived in Canada for most of my adult life. When I moved back to the US it was so hard to switch back to American English! However, you can set your language/spell check to be British or American English. When I get in the writing groove I find that I will still revert back. Gutters will always be eavestroughs!

  44. Audrey*

    I think if you don’t want candidates to use AI, you should test them in the interview or take a look at their current portfolio. In the job market we have now, with the hundreds of applications people are putting in, of course they’re using AI. There’s a skillset to using it properly, but I wouldn’t reject someone for AI alone.

    1. ferrina*

      Agree. Applicants are often applying to a lot of places and answering a lot of questions from employers that they’ll never hear back from. If they are using AI to speed the process for themselves, I think that’s fine. Obviously they should still be turning in good product (accurate information, good writing, no typos).

      If you want them to produce non-AI work, have there be a writing sample later on in the process, once you’ve narrowed it down to your top few candidates. But don’t get mad at people for discretely using AI before you’ve even talked to them.

  45. Oh, just me again!*

    OP 3, maybe they are calling to offer you a settlement of some kind, severance etc. Think you might want to take one call. (Record it, if you are in a one-party consent state) You can always hang up if the conversation is abusive.

    1. Roland*

      I hope it’s something like that, but emailing them to say “use email” is still the better option in that case imo – I wouldn’t really trust anything they say verbally at this point if I were OP.

      1. Cat Tree*

        Yeah, it’s suspicious that they won’t even leave a voice message. They probably want to say something that there’s no record of, not even a hint.

  46. Yep, me again*

    #1 “As someone whose whole career is built on understanding the messages clothes and accessories send, Anna Wintour knows this.”

    Ah, yes. But knowing and caring are two different things.

  47. Lenora Rose*

    LW#4: ” I don’t want my good reputation/relationships to suffer”

    You’ve been helping out for almost a year. Anyone who thinks less of your reputation at the complaint “This retiree was holding my hand for a solid year but stopped!” is not someone worth worrying about.

  48. AI stuff*

    For OP 3 and Allison, a lot of companies right now and a lot of “HR Experts” on social media are telling people to use AI to write their applications and cover letters to get through AI-based hiring software.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      While I’m normally on board with fighting Stupid with Stupid, that would seem to just fuel the arms race between hiring professionals and job seekers, and the most likely collateral damage from feeding infinite BS to an infinite requirements is anyone foolish enough to read or compose an application by hand. It’s possible it collapses the job market entirely.

      I.e. if you want a job for Bank X, you pay a fee to use AI engine Y that Bank X uses to screen its applications to write an AI engine Y application that’s palatable, and that’s why you get the job, not because you’re qualified, experienced, or charismatic.

  49. Zap R.*

    I think we as a society need to finally let go of the idea that Anna Wintour is some sort of yaaasss queen/mother/girlboss/gay icon. She’s Logan Roy with better clothes.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        If there ever was, surely it hasn’t been that way since at least 2003 when The Devil Wears Prada (the book) was published.

        1. Zap R.*

          She’s something of a gay icon:

          She’s credited with introducing feminism to Vogue:

          There’s cutesy pop feminism merch of her on Etsy:

          There’s a not-insignificant amount of internet discourse about how Wintour (and her avatar Miranda Priestly) are simply misunderstood:

  50. Michelle Smith*

    I personally don’t give a single flip about the sunglasses themselves. I do think that in context they make the situation *worse* but if she was otherwise delivering the message appropriately, I’d brush off the sunglasses as a weird, but irrelevant detail.

    It’s far more insulting to me that this was announced in a group Zoom without individual meetings with those affected FIRST. Even if she had been bare faced, I wouldn’t be okay with that.

    1. GroupLayoffs*

      Every layoff I’ve ever been part (or survived) was done in a group setting (other than the time I was told by phone while on sick leave). I think it’s seen as protection against someone flipping out.

  51. DogsInPJsAreMyFavorite*

    LW5 – not really what you asked, but I used my personal vehicle for a work trip and got into an accident. (it was my fault, etc) but it totaled my car and I was then without a car for weeks until i could buy a new one. since then I’ve asked to rent cars for work stuff just because i won’t be risking the inconvenience of a loss of my own car if something happens.

    so I definitely think it’s reasonable for your husband to request a rental.

  52. Opheliasprozac*

    I used to work for Anna Wintour. Once during a massive blizzard, a bunch of staffers, myself included, walked across the city to work because the subways weren’t running. We all bundled into the elevator after our freezing trek, only to have Anna walk in with a man holding her purse for her. As the elevator went up, she looked around the elevator, lowered her sunglasses, and said “Apparently, winter does nothing for fashion,” as a way of insulting all of us who just trudged to work bundled in layers of scarves, etc. This woman is exactly who you read about, and wearing her sunglasses to lay people off shocks me not at all.

    1. linger*

      That could also be taken as a self-aware joke. If said by anyone else.
      Cf. Game of Thrones as someone darkly intones “Wintour is coming”.

      1. Opheliasprozac*

        I can see how reading it, it could be taken that way (jokingly), however having been there, not so much. Regardless, “Wintour is coming” made me laugh, so thanks for that!

  53. Snarkastic*

    For years, I have been deeply bothered by those who are considered geniuses or great at their jobs, but cannot show basic common courtesy.

    I’ve heard a million excuses for Anna Wintour’s insistence on wearing sunglasses in public. At the end of the day, even legally blind and completely blind people do not wear sunglasses 24/7 and it would behoove her to treat her employees with even the slightest bit of respect by removing her sunglasses when telling them they’re out of a job.

    I don’t know why it bothers me so much!

    1. Sunglasses*

      Being legally blind had nothing to do with being photosensitive – someone can be one or the other or both. People who are significantly photosensitive do wear sunglasses every waking moment. People who are legally blind but not photosensitive may never wear sunglasses. People who are totally blind don’t need sunglasses at all but may wear them for cosmetic reasons.


      Legally blind and photosensitive

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Yeah, I’m with you on this one. People with a medical reason don’t need to remove the sunglasses, they just need to acknowledge what’s going on.

    2. New Jack Karyn*

      If someone needed to wear sunglasses to prevent migraines, I have zero problem with doing that in a business meeting–including layoffs. “Please pardon the sunglasses–I’m fighting off a migraine.”

      That’s it, that’s all they’d have to say. Plus, you know, showing your employees/former employees that you respect them and their contributions to the company throughout the meeting.

  54. LurkerExtraordinaire*

    I’m not familiar with Anna Wintour, so this comment doesn’t really have a bearing on the specific case here. But as someone who frequently has to wear sunglasses to deal with migraines or sensory overload it bothers me that so many people perceive the wearing of sunglasses in unusual circumstances as rude or inconsiderate. It makes me wonder if that’s how people see me when I’m wearing them. But there are many many times that I simply wouldn’t be able to function without them.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      A lot of people have discussed the reasons for this–if you search for “Sunglasses” with a capital S, you should find a bunch of those comments.

  55. Jack McCullough*

    Re: Unemployment claim.

    First, 100% agree that there is no reason to take the employer’s calls.

    Second, based on the description the poster was clearly not discharged for misconduct in connection to the employment. Almost all states follow what has been known as the Boynton Cab standard for misconduct, and it specifically provides that mere mistakes and errors in judgment do not constitute misconduct.

    The poster should be successful even if the employer shows up to fight it.

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