coworkers have a mean group chat, company won’t tell us who’s been laid off, and more

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

1. Coworkers have a mean group chat about another colleague

I work adjacent to a group of mid-level managers in a customer service department. We share a similar job title, and my team supports their group (think management, training, quality, etc.).

This group of other managers can be cliquish. A group of five or six have gone on weekend trips together. Almost half in the group of 12 know someone else in the group from a previous job. I prefer to keep work and personal separate, so aside from an occasional happy hour—usually with people at my boss’s level or higher also in attendance—I keep things friendly but separate at work. There are managers who aren’t included in the cliques who feel left out sometimes, but then there is one manager, Pete.

Pete is my least favorite manager to work with and I find him off-putting (filling the screen with his face in meetings, speaking to adult interview candidates like they’re children, not being able to work without constant direction), but I honestly believe he’s completely unaware of how he’s perceived. He genuinely thinks he’s amazing and a fantastic employee.

Pete is not in the cliques, but the other managers pretend like he is. As a joke, Pete gets kudos after he presents at meetings (so poorly that the presentation had to be re-done). He’s told how cool his shirt or hair looks (when it’s 20 years out of date). He gets hyped up when he volunteers for things because he’ll be “so great at that!” (aka, they know they’ll get to watch him bumble around).

Recently I was voicing frustrations to my boss about Pete’s work on a project, and the behavior of the other managers came up in the conversation. I said something along the lines of, “I find myself at extremes with him. I’m either infuriated or I’m feeling upset on his behalf because of how he gets treated.”

My boss asked for details, and I shared what I’ve shared with you, as well as that some of the other managers have a separate chat to talk about Pete. They post pictures taken of him looking silly on Zoom meetings, laugh at what he says in chats, etc. I’m not sure if that’s the sole purpose, but it’s definitely going on. I was told about the chat a while ago, and I truly don’t remember who told me about it or whether it was on our company Slack or via group text.

My boss has taken the information to HR because, unbeknownst to Pete, it’s creating a hostile work environment. Is it a hostile work environment? Should I have gone to HR myself? I’m in agreement with going to HR, and my boss and I talked about it beforehand, but I’m curious what your take on this is.

“Hostile work environment” is a legal term that doesn’t just mean people are being hostile — it means the hostile conduct is based on race, religion, sex, national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information. Could one of those factors be in play here? If not, it’s not a hostile work environment in the legal sense — but it’s still very much one in the colloquial sense! Your coworkers are being truly horrible, and your manager is absolutely right to want to put a stop to it. Pete may be difficult to work with, but creating a whole separate chat to mock him? Complimenting him when they really mean the opposite? This is the behavior of 11-year-old bullies, and if I learned about this as their boss I’d be seriously contemplating whether I could keep any of the perpetrators on. (And these are people in management roles?! It’s prohibitive for any employee, but particularly so for managers. I’m also wondering what’s going on with their manager, who somehow doesn’t realize or doesn’t care what’s happening below her?)

Anyway, this certainly isn’t your fault but yeah, ideally you would have spoken up earlier, to your own boss or to HR, because this is so beyond the pale. It sounds like you’ve been trying to stay out of it, but when there’s targeted, systemic cruelty going on, you should speak up.

2. My boss seems annoyed by the travel schedule he agreed I could have

I took a new job (fully remote) about six months ago, and told them before I accepted that I travel six weeks a year (one to two weeks at a time). My boss agreed, saying I could do a combo of PTO and work “flexibly on my own time” (I only receive three weeks of vacation). I said multiple times by Zoom and email that I travel to other time zones and continents, and while I’ll be available by email I won’t be able to Zoom or respond immediately. He agreed completely.

Turns out, now I get a real sense that he actually doesn’t love my travel. He doesn’t say outright that I can’t travel, but he keeps bringing it up as if he is confused and seems to forget dates I’ll be gone (I have to remind him repeatedly as I see him scheduling live Zoom meetings).

Travel is a priority for me, and I took a lower pay with this job because of the promise of flexibility. If push came to shove, I’d quit this job if I can’t travel (though I like it and do good work, so don’t want to quit). Any advice on how to approach this with my boss? I don’t want to feel guilty taking time off or working flexibly/different time zones, as this is something I brought up before accepting the offer and thought we were on the same pack on.

In situations like this, I’m a big fan of naming what you’re seeing and asking about it. For example: “Before I came on board, we talked a few times about the fact that I travel six weeks a year and would sometimes be in other time zones or unavailable to respond immediately. Since I’ve been here, though, I’ve been getting the sense that the arrangement isn’t working for you. Is there something you want me doing differently?”

The danger in just bluntly asking something like this is that it could prompt your boss to say, “Yeah, this isn’t working.” And if you needed to keep the job at all costs, this might not be the approach to take. But otherwise — and particularly when you’re willing to walk away from the job over it — it’s generally useful to bring this kind of simmering issue right up to the surface so you can hash it out and figure out if the set-up can work for both of you or not. Maybe it can’t! But maybe there are tweaks you could make that would solve most of the problem (or maybe simply talking it through will remind him of what he agreed to, or so forth).

my boss is annoyed by the flexible schedule she already agreed to

3. My company announces employees’ babies … but skipped mine

My company handles employees’ new babies the same way for everyone: after a baby is born, and whenever the parents have time to send pictures (usually 1-2 weeks after the baby is born), an announcement is placed on the intranet and included in a weekly company announcement email. The announcements are all pretty brief and uniform — “Valentina and her family welcomed baby Winifred on March 2nd. Mom and baby are doing well!” plus a few pictures.

I had my second baby in July. He was born with a birth defect that required surgery when he was two days old. He then spent 18 days in the NICU recovering. Fortunately, he is now doing great!

A few days after I gave birth, an HR person reached out to ask if everything had gone okay with filing for short-term disability. She also asked if I had any pictures they could include in the announcement. I emailed back that we were in the NICU, and I would appreciate them holding the announcement until we were home. I never heard back, which I chalked up to her wanting to give me space during a difficult time.

When my son came home, I emailed the HR person to let her know that we were home. I shared that I’d love to have an announcement made about my son’s birth. I sent a few pictures and even drafted the exact wording of the announcement, since I figured she wouldn’t know whether or not I wanted the NICU information included. (The announcement was super brief, didn’t include mention of the NICU, and followed the announcement formula I shared above. I just didn’t address the fact that there were a few weeks in between when I had the baby and when the announcement was being made.) I never heard back, but I was on maternity leave and not thinking much about work, so I let it go.

When I got back to work, I realized that the announcement never got made. I work remotely, so there wasn’t a big “she’s back from maternity leave! How’s the baby?” type moment. As I continued seeing people on Zoom meetings post-leave, it was clear that some of them noted the lack of announcement and were not sure if/how to ask about my baby. This has contributed to a weird lack of acknowledgment at work around my baby — it’s extremely different from the way people asked about my older son when I came back from my first maternity leave, and from how other people’s babies get asked about and discussed at work.

It’s been many months now, and the lack of announcement was presumably just an oversight, possibly coupled with some HR confusion or discomfort around the NICU situation. I keep thinking I should just let this go, but every time another new birth announcement comes up, it makes me really sad. My son is super cute, and I want to show people pictures! And while his first few weeks were tumultuous, his birth was a joyous occasion, and deserves to be acknowledged and celebrated like any other birth.

Given that my son is now seven months old and I’ve been back at work for four months … is it too late to address this with the HR person who coordinates these announcements? I’m almost certainly making this a bigger deal than it needs to be because it taps into a lot of feelings I have about my son’s birth and things going so differently than expected in so many ways … so I would appreciate an impartial person weighing in here.

It’s not too late! Contact the person and be direct: “I’m sure it was an oversight, but Henry’s birth never got announced on the intranet or in the weekly announcements email. I’ve been getting the sense that, because it hasn’t been announced, people aren’t sure if they can ask me about him or if he’s okay. I know it’s late, but could we send out the announcement now? I’d like to clear up the confusion, and it would mean a lot to me to announce him now.”

4. My company won’t tell us who’s been laid off

I’m in a large tech company that has gone through several rounds of layoffs. After every round, it’s always been a difficult scramble to figure out who has been impacted and who hasn’t, with most updates happening through word of mouth, crowdsourced documents by those who are left, or just pinging someone directly and getting an error message. It’s frustrating, severely hinders our productivity, and it’s honestly upsetting!

Leadership at many levels has been asked if we could get a list of those impacted (even just within our department), but the response is typically that it’s a personal matter and it’s not the company’s news to share out of respect for those individuals. My teammates and I are having trouble taking this at face value. Many of us have been impacted in previous rounds and will be officially laid off in a few months, the only way we found out who else was in the same boat is through a voluntary crowdsourced document.

Is there a legal or practical reason the company can’t share an internal list of who has been laid off? I think this is standard practice, but I’m having trouble understanding the logic behind it.

No, they’re being ridiculous. There’s no legal or practical reason they can’t share a list of who’s been laid off, and there are all sorts of practical reasons why they should — like so that you know if a contact you’re relying on is no longer there, if work needs to be reassigned, if that request you sent to Bob last week is never going to be answered, and on and on.

The idea that it’s not their news to share out of “respect” for the people laid off is silly. It’s their news to share because it has direct and significant impact on your workflows, projects, and productivity. And it’s not disrespectful to share staffing changes; if anything, it’s disrespectful to those of you remaining to leave you to piece it together on your own.

our office won’t tell us in advance when people leave – and sometimes won’t confirm or deny if someone still works here

5. What to say when you quit your job to start freelancing

This seems silly to ask, but I’ve never done it before, and I think getting in my own head is tripping me up. I have a lot of freelance work at the moment and am considering leaving my job to take on more. But I keep getting stuck on how to quit. My boss is lovely and knows I’ve not been happy in the role lately, so I don’t think she’ll be 100% shocked, but I’ve also assured her things are fine now (they’re not, but I’m managing).

I’ve never quit a job without a very specific reason to leave before, so that’s part of the problem. How do I give two weeks notice when I don’t have a job I’m about to leave for? It feels wrong that I told my boss things were better when I am frantically looking for a way out the door.

It’s not wrong that you told your boss things were better but now have decided to leave. You’re allowed to change your mind, and it’s not uncommon for people’s thinking to evolve and to feel for a while that a situation is manageable and then decide at some point that it’s not. (Or if you’re feeling guilty because you never felt the situation was manageable and you’ve been working on getting out this whole time … well, that’s how employment goes sometimes. It’s often smarter not to tell the person who controls your paycheck that you’re working on leaving until you’re actually ready to do it. If your boss is as lovely as you say, at some level she’ll realize that the power dynamics inherent in your relationship mean that total transparency isn’t a reasonable thing for a manager to expect.)

When you leave, you could say it this way: “I really appreciate the ways you’ve tried to make this work. I’ve realized I’m ready to move on to something new and my last day will be (date).” She’ll probably ask where you’re going and it’s fine to say you’re going to move to full-time freelancing. Because that means you have more control over your ending date than if you were going to a new company, she might ask if you’ll give longer notice, but — assuming you don’t want to do that — it’s fine to say, “Unfortunately, I can’t without losing projects that I’ll need to start right after that.”

{ 312 comments… read them below }

  1. soontoberetired*

    LW4 – my company does the same damn thing – will not tell people who have been laid off even when it is someone in your own group! We who aren’t laid off don’t get why they don’t let us know. It always impacts projects. My big current project lost 4 people from one aspect of it, and no one told us!

    1. coffee*

      “It’s a personal matter” – it is literally a work matter whether someone still works with you or not?! Could they not come up with a marginally better excuse?

      Reminds me of the time I was told I couldn’t tell anyone my coworker had quit, even when they came over to his obviously empty desk after their emails bounced…

      1. münchner kindl*

        It could be a genuine confusion over “We fired Anne, but Bob quit on his own, and those are personal reasons we don’t want their coworkers to know” with “people need to know that both Anne and Bob no longer work for us”. Only that is the necessary information, not the reasons why Anne and Bob are gone instead of Chad.

        But since LW already tried to push back, I think that excuse is gone. It should have been obvious before that, though, that a simple announcement of “Anne and Bob are ex-employees” is necesary for smooth running of the daily business.

        It can also be a power trip – you never know when you, too, will be gone! – which sounds more likely.

        Anyway, bad management and bad at daily logistics – sounds like company is going down.

        1. Catwhisperer*

          I work in big tech like LW4 and it’s definitely intentional, I know multiple companies have been sharing this exact messaging after every layoff that’s happened in the past year and a half. And when C-suite is asked about it in Q&As, they just keep repeating the party line. IMO it’s a part of an industry-wide strategy to keep layoff logic and reasoning unclear. Unfortunately, I doubt it means the companies in question are going down, along with RTO requirements and benefit reductions it seems to be to be a way of taking power back from the workforce that we gained over the pandemic.

          1. Nemo*

            Yeah, it’s definitely a way to spin institutional confusion and cowardice as compassionate. My former employer even deployed DEI-adjacent language, encouraging laid-off employees to “self-identify” their new status. In several cases, whole departments only found out a new round of layoffs was happening because someone took that encouragement and tearfully penned a mass email. Maybe it was successful at hiding the true state of company finances, but it was DEFINITELY successful at making the leadership look like self-serving hypocrites to be always bragging about it was our best year ever while presiding over month 27 of permanent rolling layoffs.

            1. Catwhisperer*

              Weaponizing DEI language in that way is the epitome of privilege, but I’m sadly not surprised that it’s being done by the same people who are laying off thousands of people to ensure they get their bonuses.

            2. Random Dice*

              Wow that’s really effed up.

              Abusers weaponize the language of therapy against their victims. This is startlingly reminiscent of that.

      2. Hekko*

        This reminds of when out contact person with cellphone provider left the company, and we only found out when I tried to reach him, the e-mail bounced and his phone number was not in service anymore.

        1. ChiliHeeler*

          This happened to the person who was processing our mortgage application! We only found out when he didn’t respond to an email or voicemail. Turns out, they’d left email access on a bit longer so he’d been working on our application on his own time because he knew the bank would take their time in reassigning our application. Technically, this was a huge violation of confidentiality and potential data nightmare, but it was the only way we kept things on schedule.

      3. Armchair Analyst*

        It’s a personnel matter too

        Not sure who in the personnel department should send out the new roll or directory but it should be done

        It’s both personal and personnel

      4. MassMatt*

        It sounds to me as though they are evading responsibility for laying people off by pretending it had nothing to do with the company or its management and instead resulted from “personal decisions” made by the laid off employees.

        Speaking as someone who survived three rounds of layoffs, only to be laid off in round #4, I have never made layoff decisions, but I HAVE fired people, it was not fun, to say the least. Laying people off is a terrible experience for everyone, but the best way to do it is to make the cuts you need to make all at once (if you can), give as good severance as you can, make a clean break, express regret, be as open about it as possible, and move on.

        Treating layoffs as a dirty secret helps no one and if anything, is MORE disrespectful of the laid off employees, and it hurts morale more. If everyone knew Tom, Jane, and Jose were laid off on Monday they could move on, as opposed to only finding out in drinks and drabs over weeks as they wonder who’s going to show up at a meeting or why a project isn’t getting done.

        IMO at his is a real dereliction of duty by the managers, who need to be proactive with reassigning work.

    2. Meat Oatmeal*

      My company does it too! That’s only the tip of the dysfunction iceberg at my company, though, and the overall problems have gotten so dire, I recently volunteered to be laid off myself. Does it also happen at otherwise well-run companies?

      1. KatieKat*

        I’ve seen it a few times. At my current company (better run, although the layoff itself puts that into question a bit) I and I think several other middle managers pushed for the list to be made available and it was after a few days. In that case there was an at least marginally valid reason to delay (some impacted folks were given the option to stay for 3-6mo and leadership wanted to let them decide prior to naming them to others).

      2. YetAnotherAnalyst*

        My company is only moderately dysfunctional, I guess, but we also do this. The usual justification is that we’re multinational, so some employees may not have been notified yet and some may have a right to negotiate or challenge the decision (?). That seems reasonable enough the day the layoffs are announced, but when I’m still finding out about some of my former coworkers via deactivated Outlook accounts a month later, it starts to feel a little silly…

      3. TechWorker*

        I’d say where I work is generally well run, albeit it with pockets of dysfunction like any huge organisation. I’ve never seen them share a list, sometimes someone’s manager will reach out to let you know they’ve been laid off (that happened last week and they were still a bit weird about it tbh, they deleted the message after I’d seen it?). Most of the time you find out from a mail bounce back or from a colleague on the same team. I don’t know why – there are different rules/laws around notifying people in different countries though so I vaguely speculate it’s so that people can’t try to draw patterns/conclusions from partial data.

        1. Another TechWorker*

          Yeah, I know within my “group” if anyone was laid off. But for other groups, even ones we work closely with, I find out about that through word of mouth, or bounced mails.

      4. YetAnotherAnalyst*

        My company does this. We’re only a little dysfunctional, but the dysfunction is mostly along the lines of being very siloed – if you’re not working on a thing, you’ll find out about the thing at the same time the general public does, even if you need to know about the thing to do your job properly.

    3. Long time reader*

      My company does the same thing regarding not telling us who’s been laid off out of respect for the affected parties! It’s super frustrating! We rely on the rumor mill & looking at people’s Outlook status to figure out if they’re still employed.

      1. John Smith*

        My local government dept. does this but only if the person has been sacked or has been paid to go (to prevent an unfair dismissal case or other litigation). They don’t even acknowledge the person no longer works with us (no need for a reason) and the joke is that they become an unperson straight out of 1984.

        Super frustrating as there’s times when we’re emailing said unperson (They don’t delete email accounts til some time has passed) to get no response and not realising we never will do.

      2. Rayray*

        I was working at a mortgage company up until spring last year. There were multiple rounds of mass layoffs and they’d not tell people who all was affected or what was going on. You only knew when you saw people get pulled into an office and then come out to pack their desk, and then you’d check workday and see who was off the directory or if their profile was deactivated on workplace. Management got pissed when people would investigate on their own and let other people know who was gone.

    4. MistOrMister*

      I worked for a place that did this as well and it was absurd. In no way is it respecting anyone’s privacy! What do they think – that because they refuse to tell us who got laid off that we won’t notice the person never comes in/is online again?! I don’t know if these businesses think maybe people will just quietly go about their work and ignore the layoffs if the higher ups refuse to talk about it, but whenever we had them people would spend a good half of the day or more going around talking to everyone they knew trying to find out who was laid off. It inevitably lead to a lot of time spent in speculation and wasted not working whereas if we had just been given a list we would have chatted about it briefly and moved on! It is definitely especially infuriating when someone on your team or that you work with in whatever capacity is gone and you can’t figure out who to give the work you used to send them. Absolutely insane.

    5. Just Want A Nap*

      mine does too, they will not tell us when someone’s been terminated for any reason except retirement.
      I’ve been trying to address it as the security risk, in that “One of us would 100% recognize them and just let them back in if you don’t TELL US” way, and they still don’t inform us who’s no longer with us.
      I’ve found out either by taking over their work or because the terminated person reaches out to me on LinkedIn.

      1. Too Many Tabs Open*

        I wonder if the folks who do physical pen testing ever use recently-laid-off employees as part of the test.

    6. DameB*

      Mine too! We had two very deep rounds of layoffs during the pandemic (travel industry) and the only way we would find out is when I sent them an email and it got bounced back with “Leaver” on the return email address. (Things were so dire there for a while in the pandemic that the Teams wasn’t updated at all and that lead to a lot of confusion).

      I have sometimes wasted HOURS trying to track down something I needed because I had no idea who was even left in the department. I’d assumed it was some weird “UK management thing” but maybe it’s just “dumb management”?

    7. Generic Name*

      That reminds me of when I got a call a couple months after I quit for another job from a client I had at my last company. He had emailed me days prior and had gotten no response so called me. I had to explain I left and gave him contact info of a coworker. I still think it’s bizarre my last company doesn’t deactivate or at least put an out of office reply on people’s emails after they leave. All emails go to one of the principals, who apparently isn’t diligent about responding to client requests in the many inboxes he’s supposed to monitor.

      1. Call me external*

        My former company outsourced an entire department, keeping only a few employees to “manage the relationship” with the outsourcing company. Most employees were given offers to go to the outsourcing company. Not only was a list not published, management refused to even give a number of affected employees and said it was out of respect for their privacy.

    8. CanOfWhales*

      We’ve had the same issues. Three rounds of layoffs and it’s always a scramble to figure out which projects are being impacted.

      After the first round, I did speak up in a meeting with the CEO and HR rep when they announced a second round. I asked if there was a plan in place to keep projects rolling, because some were delayed/canceled entirely because key knowledge-holders were laid off and the projects were not handed off. They assured us it had been taken care of.

      Spoiler: It hadn’t.

      And then round 3 came and we had to cancel actual live meetings with registrants an hour before the event (which was a pilot we were doing, so not a great first impression!) because the person who had been in charge of the event was laid off that morning.

      We’ve heard things that indicate layoffs are decided based on salary (“X person makes more than Y person, so we’ll lay off X regardless of skill level”).

      Then they can’t figure out why that quarter’s projects suffer. Huh.

      1. I Have RBF*

        I have said it before, I’ll say it again: Companies can not cut their way to profitability in the long term.

        Sure, after layoffs the quarterly numbers look better, but since projects die and such, the next quarter they look worse, so they think ‘Oh, sh.. have to cut more people to make numbers.’ Then they do another round, and lather, rinse, repeat, until they are an outsourced skeleton crew with all of their projects in shambles and no new sources of income, circling the drain.

    9. Allura Vysoren*

      My former company was like this and not just with lay-offs. Anytime someone was fired or quit, we’d find out either through the grape-vine or when we emailed them and whoever was placed in charge of their emails would let us know they were no longer with the company.

    10. T.N.H*

      My company does this to “for legal reasons,” I think it’s because if they released the full list, you might find that a certain protected class was hit heavier, even unintentionally. Like if it happened to be 60% women, they don’t want it to look like discrimination.

    11. Nervousmelon*

      my company does this too. The excuse they use is that because they work across different countries, different laws apply (for example, in the UK, there technically has to be some kind of consultation process with the affected employees before they are officially made redundant). But they also refuse to share the list of eliminated roles/laid off people AFTER they have left. It’s completely wild and so confusing.

    12. HelenB2*

      At least in my company, our supervisors have a meeting to tell us if anyone in our group was laid off. But the only way to find out about other groups was through the grapevine. People would start circulating emails with the people who were laid off, and if you knew someone else you added on their names. Super great for productivity!

      We used to be able to download the “phone book” (company phone numbers and mail stop for everyone in our local area) and someone figured out if you got a download as soon as you heard about layoffs and then another a few days later, you could figure out who was laid off by who was now missing. Again, not exactly what you’d want your people to be spending their time on.

    13. Global Cat Herder*

      My company is currently doing this. They claim that GDPR means they can’t say who’s impacted or what their last day is. Which means nothing can get planned around them leaving.

      We’re literally getting emails that say “today was my last day, bye!” from people who … accepted new tasks yesterday, because they thought they couldn’t tell people their job had been eliminated. There’s no handover, no transition plans. It’s chaos.

      1. Catwhisperer*

        I live in the EU and work in tech, GDPR definitely does not forbid this. And it especially does not prevent them from sharing layoff info about non-EU employees.

    14. Nicki Name*

      This is so baffling. The last company to lay me off didn’t even tell the managers which reports they were losing. It’s not people aren’t going to find out one way or another.

    15. Cold Snap*

      Mine does this too, even for voluntary resignations, and they won’t acknowledge the person leaving publicly in any way . We have all-company meetings on Fridays (most people’s last days) and if the person leaving doesn’t say anything, nothing will be said. Even for long-tenured, beloved employees. No thanks for your service, no we’ll miss you, nothing. Sure does make you feel like you don’t matter at all!

    16. Momma Bear*

      Same here, and we’re not big. Unfortunately it’s not the first RIF since I came onboard so now we huddle and try to compare notes. We know approximately how many people but we don’t know who until we reach out and find they are gone, or the person tells us themselves. I might work with someone in Stock once a month and not know they are gone until I need something. It’s incredibly frustrating. The other thing that happens is that people are secretive about voluntarily leaving, too, which I’ve mentioned to my boss. If I need to run a Llama report and get input from the Llama Wrangler, it would be nice to know he’s leaving before the day the report is due. People have gotten way more secretive about their leaving since the first RIF.

      In my experience, this leaves people resentful, confused, and with projects that can’t move forward without a point of contact.

      What’s also weird is that when there’s a layoff, we don’t get the “Joe Smith is no longer an employee and needs to be treated like a visitor” email. We just….don’t know. So potentially Joe could come by for lunch and people treat him like he still worked here which could be problematic. I’ve brought it up with my boss, who has not been able to convince HR or the powers that be that this is an issue.

      It feels to me less like respecting people’s privacy and the decision makers not wanting to get flack by distributing a list, which feels kind of cowardly, like they don’t want the judgement by being more transparent.

    17. Nina*

      At a previous job, it wasn’t especially unusual to send an email to someone you hadn’t dealt with in a few weeks, only to get the ‘I no longer work here’ autoreply.

    18. Kevin Sours*

      There seems to be a prevailing an idea in upper management that if you don’t tell people things then they will have no way of knowing them, so if you don’t provide a list of people laid off it will somehow blunt the shock of deep cuts because nobody will be able to realize how bad it was.

    19. Annie*

      Every company I’ve been in that has layoffs have never actually told us who was laid off, we had to figure it out ourselves. Even recently we had a layoff and there were several people that we didn’t know about until a little later that they were laid off.

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

      My last (dysfunctional) employer would lay off individuals or small groups of people continually, so they didn’t even announce that layoffs were happening. You would usually (not always) get told if you were on that person’s team directly. But otherwise, people would just disappear one day and you only found out if you tried to email them or if you heard through the grapevine.

  2. Fikly*

    LW4: Of course they can tell you who was laid off. They’re simply trying to hide it, particularly the exact numbers and positions, because that gives you information they don’t want you to have.

      1. münchner kindl*

        Which is also stupid, because not telling leads to both problems in the daily work, and speculation.

        So manglement is actually showing the employees “We are bad at management and at logistics” which means “business will keep going down, better job search now”.

    1. Filosofickle*

      Yep. We had a round of layoffs and not only would they not tell us who, they wouldn’t give us the number. They kept saying something like “mid single digits” as the percentage of people laid off. The next round was “less than before”. Now they’re doing the slow drip so we just find out one by one since we are told if it’s someone in our direct teams or project groups. Sometimes I look up colleagues on Slack just to check on them.

      1. Daisy*

        Mine handles things similarly. There’s also a weekly newsletter with new hires and departures listed, that is conspicuously absent on layoff weeks. And in some layoffs the people laid off have been removed from the system entirely right away (normally they’d remain in the system as a deactivated account tagged with a note about who to contact in their place; instead, their accounts are just nuked immediately.) I understand controlling the information, but it makes me very uneasy.

    2. mreasy*

      My old company did this! I was a VP and wasn’t allowed to be told who was laid off. I was always able to figure it out easily, making it even more absurd.

    3. Generic Name*

      Yep. I mentioned above how my last company keeps departed employees email addresses active. Presumably it’s because they don’t want clients to know how many people have left in recent years. I think it some off as disorganized and bizarrely secretive, though.

      1. MassMatt*

        Would they at least monitor the emails so clients could be contacted, etc, or did they just leave them on and let the messages pile up, unread?

    4. LCH*

      yeah, sending out lists of names of who no longer works there will look bad. but… they should still do this. because, yes, spending work time figuring out who is still there when you need to get something done is really going to slow down everything.

  3. Ashley Armbruster*

    About 10 years the DIRECTOR (who was probably in her late 30s) of my department had to deal with lots of sales reps. There was one she was telling us about, I don’t remember the full backstory, but this rep was kind of a bumbling mess or something, and she literally put together a binder filled with all their emails to her and showed them to us while laughing. Seriously, who devotes that much time towards someone trying to do their job? Even back then I didn’t find it funny and gave her a huge side-eye. That company was awful.

    OP#1, some people are just poo-poo heads and that stays with them as they rise in their careers. But they are LOSERS. I really want an update on this one.

    1. Ellis Hubris*

      Agreed! The nature of my work for 13 years was with a religious organization that included everyone and some were taxing. However, mature adults don’t bully others behind their back. Ever. They are poo poo heads and deserve a reminder.

      1. ThatOtherClare*

        Yes, it sounds to me like they have a severe case of capitis excrementus. It can be contagious, so it’s not uncommon to see outbreak clusters such as this. Always sad to witness.

        1. AnonORama*

          Lol “capitis excrementus!” A friend of mine coined (or picked up somewhere) the phrase “rectocranial inversion,” which is slightly different but also sounds enough like a medical term that you can sometimes slip it by folks.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      My friend used to work at a place that hired a lot of graduates. Apparently the higher ups spent a lot of time openly mocking the interviews of unsuccessful candidates.

    3. FlyingAce*

      This. My SO went through a similar situation recently – he started training for a new job a couple of months ago along with several other people, so they would usually go to lunch together. One of the women in the group tended to keep to herself, though, so another of the new hires (the “queen bee”, if you will) started purposely excluding her and throwing subtle barbs at her. My SO stayed out of it at first, but when the clique ramped up their bullying (including having a separate group chat, yes), he called them out on it – so they started trying to bully him as well. He went straight to HR, and the “queen bee” and two other employees (both men) were let go. He tells me the whole situation was straight out of Mean Girls, despite them all being in their 30s…

      1. Uranus Wars*

        Good for your SO for nixing it fairly quickly. And good on the company for noping the Mean Girls right outta there.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        They started it during their training period?! Nice of them to show who they are before the company invested any more time in them!

    4. BongoFury*

      I don’t even understand some of the mocking. He’s wearing a shift from 2004 and somehow that’s just ridiculous? I couldn’t tell you an outfit I would immediately recognize as 20 years old.

      1. SopranoH*

        I’m no expert in men’s fashion, but I couldn’t tell the difference between a 2004 and 2024 men’s button up shirt.

        1. 1-800-BrownCow*

          Same here! Has standard men’s fashion really changed that much? I would say my male coworker’s dress pretty much the same now as they did 20 years ago. I do see the younger generation dressing slightly more in fashion, like tighter fit pants and such. But most of the men wear khaki’s and button down shirts or polo shirts, same as they have for my 20+ working career.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            I’ve found that ties and collars/lapels are the only really accurate markers on what year an outfit comes from.

          2. Feotakahari*

            I’m trying to come up with unfashionable men’s clothing, and all I can think of are leisure suits. I don’t even know what a leisure suit is, just that it’s out of fashion and there’s a video game about a guy who wears one.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          Men’s fashion is glacial. Unless he’s wearing some extreme fashion–1970s baby-blue with huge lapels–there is very little change.

          Also, I don’t remember what my coworkers wore yesterday, so anyone who pays this much attention to someone else’s clothes beyond whether it’s generally OK for work is just super weird and petty.

        3. goddessoftransitory*

          As long as the guy isn’t wearing spats, a swallowtail coat, or flared polyester pants, I wouldn’t be able to pin down their outfit to a year. And what’s so horrible about getting more wear out of current clean, presentable clothes as opposed to contributing to a landfill?

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I would definitely notice if someone wore parachute pants, but I would probably be impressed by their confidence!

        4. Emmy Noether*

          Men’s fashion is weird in that the changes are fairly subtle. Collar shape, lapel and tie width, length and proportion of a jacket, how the pants are cut – things you can’t name if you’re not into fashion, but over time will just seem sort of off. It’s also harder to see the closer you are to it. Like, you’d probably be able to tell that an outfit from the 80s or 90s is out of fashion, even though on paper it’s also a shirt, jacket, and pants. My dad says you can wear a suit 5-10 years and then it’s too far out of style. It’s probably considerably longer for casual wear, though.

          Thats not to say that it should matter. The clothes are clean and in good condition? They’re fine.

  4. ENFP in Texas*

    #4 – it is INCREDIBLY frustrating, and my company is that way, too. We don’t find out that someone has left the company until we start getting emails bounced back, or sometimes the person who is leaving will send an email to their coworkers and peers. But other than that, there is no announcement unless it’s someone in senior leadership.

    While it’s annoying, if I think about the logistics of it, it makes sense. How would they know who to send a notification to? Which teams/distribution lists? There’s no way to know everyone that Bob Smith has been a point of contact for. Or would they send a weekly / monthly email to *everybody* in the company saying “Hey, FYI these people aren’t here anymore” even if they are people you have never worked with or even talked to, especially in a large company? And how would an email like that be perceived?

    1. Alastor*

      When I was in a managerial role, we used to get a list from HR at the end of the day with any terminations or position changes. It helped a lot knowing who wasn’t working there anymore, and who maybe had a promotion to congratulate. It didn’t go to the whole company, but it helped me adjust my expectations for my own team. When we did go through a giant restructuring that involved a lot of people not keeping their jobs, we knew and it was easier to work around. It wouldn’t have to go to the whole company, but people in management or supervisory roles who’d be able to adjust workload and field questions on if Charlie works there or not anymore.

      1. LCH*

        this sounds like the way. send the lists to managers and let them figure out which people their team needs to know about.

    2. Longtime Lurker*

      Many companies have a regular HR email that lists new hires, promotions and departures. “unfortunately, a recent reduction-in-force has included the following employees ; we thank them for their hard work and wish them the best.” People need to know, and you might as well be transparent.

    3. Observer*

      While it’s annoying, if I think about the logistics of it, it makes sense.

      If that’s what they said, I’d say that someone is lazy or incompetent, but not more than that. But that’s not even what they are claiming.

      How would they know who to send a notification to? Which teams/distribution lists?

      Well, a list on the intranet, or a general mailing can work.

      Also, any company that doesn’t know what department someone is in, and what departments that department works with has major problems. In some cases, it’s a matter of physical location, but again, if you can’t figure out what office the person is in, that’s a problem too.

      1. Myrin*

        Additionally, the company doesn’t need to reach 100% of the people a laid-off employee could’ve ever tangentially been in contact with – some outside person of regular but occasional contact might fall through the cracks, for example – but they could at least try to reach as many people as possible.

      2. MassMatt*

        This. If a company has no idea who a laid off person works with or what their responsibilities are, it’s no wonder they are undergoing layoffs.

        Managers should be informed, at the very least, and then they pass the info on to those that need to know. Emails and phone extensions should be updated ASAP also.

        1. ENFP in Texas*

          So your manager knows every person you have asked a question of or interacted with in another department?

    4. AcademiaNut*

      For stuff inside a smaller group, a specific message can be sent around. For cross-department stuff, you can send it through the managers – a mid level manager should have a reasonable idea of what other departments / people their reports will regularly interact with, and can let the relevant people know if someone has left, and who they should contact now.

      For a large company, you can reduce some of the problem by having mailing aliases for common subjects, so you email benefits and facilities rather than Bob and Susan. That way if someone is laid off (or quits, or is ill, or on vacation), the emails can be read by the person who is handling the work in their absence.

      And, of course, emails or messaging platforms should either be shut down so messages bounce (alerting the sender), or passed to someone who can respond to messages and update as needed, or an appropriate out of office / answering machine message should be set. What should be avoided is people sending messages into a black hole and not realizing that no-one will ever answer.

    5. Lady Lessa*

      What my company does is send out emails to everyone with the statement “X is no longer with the company, please contact Y at email.” It also includes titles of the back up person or the manager of X.

      I was thinking that the wording sounds cold, but after reading how many folks don’t get even that, I will take the cold.

      1. Angstrom*

        My former employer would post a generic “X is no longer employed with MicroCorp. We thank them for their contributions and wish them well in their future endeavors” plus contact information for their backup/replacement. Worked well, no complaints.
        Current employer is silent about all departures, and it’s a royal pain.

        1. Random Dice*

          Which is funny, because during layoffs, companies where I am are legally required to provide a full list of everyone who was laid off, with demographic information like age. So they have the list – I’ve been laid off and received the list – but they won’t share it internally. Argh.

    6. Insert Clever Name Here*

      The logistics of this can be very simple. My company is in the process of selling a portion of the company, and there is an FAQ page on the intranet with (among other things) a list of all employees who are going with the sale. Several years ago there was a voluntary early retirement package offered and again, a list posted on the intranet of those who took the package.

    7. Antilles*

      While it’s annoying, if I think about the logistics of it, it makes sense. How would they know who to send a notification to? Which teams/distribution lists? There’s no way to know everyone that Bob Smith has been a point of contact for.
      Does your company not have departments, divisions, project teams, or some other organizational structure? If so, it’s pretty trivial to figure out most of the people he works with regularly.
      Will you get absolutely everybody he’s ever been in contact with? No. But you should be able to get like, 80% of the way there (including all his regular contacts) pretty easily.

    8. fhqwhgads*

      We get all-staff emails that say “So and so departed Company Name effective Date”. They use the same wording whether the person was sacked or left in a huff or anything in between. It’s factual information presented as such. It’s perceived at face value, since it’s consistent.

      1. Bast*

        A larger company I worked at sent a similar generic email — “Please be aware that as of February 19, 2024, Sally Smith will no longer be with ABC Company. Jane Doe will be taking over Sally’s caseload from A-L. M-Z will be handled by Sarah Anderson.” It was the same email whether you quit or got fired. The rumor mill tended to start up regardless, but it was never officially confirmed or denied in the email and at least we all knew not to try to follow up with Sally anymore.

    9. Artemesia*

      It seems at least that layoffs would be announced to managers who could then inform their teams of the layoffs that directly affect them.

    10. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Who to notify:
      Supervisors of laid-off team members
      Two or three levels of report above that
      Project managers
      Product owners
      Scrummaster if the laid-off people are on a scrum team.

      And one request of the people doing the layoff– Acknowledge that this will affect your product delivery times!

  5. coffee*

    Congratulations on your new baby LW#3! I’m sure your coworkers would love to hear an update on him doing well. It’s nice to hear good news when you thought it was bad news.

    1. coffee*

      I was possibly a bit unclear here – I don’t mean you have to explain the whole NICU stuff, you could just go “Belated welcome to LW3’s new baby, enjoy this cute photo of him” and people will be like “Oh, good news then, just a late announcement.”

    2. o_gal*

      This. Because if I knew a coworker had gone on parental leave due to a baby being born, and then there was no announcement, my assumption is that something went terribly wrong. Stillbirth or maybe strep A infection and the baby died.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Particularly since in this case people might have heard on the grapevine that baby was in NICU but not that he went safely home.

      2. English Rose*

        Same. But even so some kind of information would be welcome. A lovely coworker of mine did suffer a stillbirth some years ago. It was awful. But it was dealt with very sensitively by HR from two separate organisations who worked together and with coworker and husband to decide what should be said, who to, and when.

    3. Cheesy*

      A former company I worked for had a baby package that they gave to all parents when they had a baby. It was something like a $50 gift card and a pack of diapers, plus a signed card. When we had our 2nd child, somehow the information never got to the person who set everything up that we had delivered. People knew, since I was gone for a week around the due date and obviously talked about my new baby with the team, but I got no official acknowledgement from the office, not even just a card. I didn’t even know it was a “thing” we did for several more months so I never thought to bring it up. It wasn’t just because it was my 2nd child instead of 1st (who was already born when I started) since the person I learned it from got his care package for his 2nd child. I brought it up to the office person and basically just got a shoulder shrug and told “you never called it in to officially announce it.”

    4. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I’m thinking there’s a good chance whispers of the NICU stay have gotten around but no one knows the outcome, so people are assuming the worst.

      I would also recommend the OP start mentioning the baby more than she might otherwise, just so people know that everything’s fine. Like when someone says “good morning, how are you” she can answer “Oh I’m fine, just tired. Babies just don’t sleep!” or “This weekend we took the kids to the zoo, Henry is too little to really take it in but he loved being outside”.

  6. DataDriven*

    lw4: if your company uses slack, go to the slack analytics in your browser, go to users, sort by account deactivated date.

    1. not like a regular teacher*

      This assumes that accounts are getting deactivated in a timely manner – which they might not be. I recently discovered (accidentally) that my account at a place that laid me off in 2020 is still active!

  7. DataDriven*

    or if you use Google suite, check for Gmail Groups for folks you know were laid off that probably all got the same email

  8. Green Goose*

    Congrats LW#3
    I have two toddlers and would have felt weird too. I actually still have a bit of a grudge against a former boss Miranda* who became my manager while I was pregnant. I remember being hopeful since she had two young children at the time and then really disappointed when she didn’t not do anything about me going on leave which was customary on our team for years. Every single person who had gone on maternity leave had a mini shower, an email announcement by their boss and $100 paid towards their registry and she did literally nothing, not even an email announcement. I know this probably sounds entitled but it just hurt seeing 10+ team members do this special thing, it was such a nice way to celebrate them and I always enjoyed participating so when it was my turn I kept waiting and then realized it wasn’t going to happen and I was bummed.

    But the real grudge was from when I emailed Miranda and HR letting her know that my baby was born and shared a picture she just never responded.
    The HR sent a congratulations, my former boss who had been laid off so that Miranda could be hired, even reached out congratulating me. I never heard from Miranda once during my leave.

    I was relieved when I came back and I had a new-new manager but definitely still have a little grudge about that.

    So I don’t think you overreacted. We spend a lot of time with people from work and it’s nice to share these type of things.

    1. Kiwi*

      This kind of stuff can really stick with you. my grandmother passed away while I was working my last job, and I emailed my supervisor to let him know i may need to be out soon and ask what our bereavement policy was. He never responded, not even to offer condolences (or to tell me we didnt have a bereavement policy).

      A few months later a coworker’s grandmother passed away, and he made sure an announcent went out and flowers were ordered for the funeral. I wouldn’t expect all of that, but the lack of any response at all was shitty. I didn’t stay there long.

      1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        Yes, I think that many managers don’t realize how much a simple acknowledgement and gesture of sympathy can mean to employees suffering a serious loss. When my late mother died many years ago, my manager sent me a lovely bouquet of spring flowers; she couldn’t have known it, but several were varieties that my mother had grown in the garden she’d loved to tend. It brought back some of my happiest memories of her! Of course I told my manager about that, and thanked her warmly.

        To any managers reading this: Your employees WILL notice how you respond to major events in their lives that they’ve shared with you! A simple gesture of kindness will mean ever so much to them. Believe me, it’s worth it!

        1. JJJJ*

          Exactly. My grandmother died in December 2020 (old age, not the pandemic). Both my boss and grandboss knew, as I communicated with them beforehand about it being imminent and afterward to coordinate my bereavement leave. Our university normally does staff-wide emails announcing the death of an employee’s loved one (and birth announcements too), but I never got one. I suppose I didn’t explicitly ask them to relay the news to the office that sends out the emails, but I never said not to, either. Of course, grandboss was pretty checked-out at that point and my boss seemed to hate me (oh, I thought of writing in about boss many times but never did), so maybe neither of them thought of it or cared enough to do it anyway. As both of them are gone now and I’m still here, I’ve moved past it, but do think about it briefly every time one of those emails comes out.

    2. NYWeasel*

      OMG, I worked for a Miranda who had a baby of her own about 5 months before I had my son. She not only didn’t throw a work shower (colleague who’s wife was having her 4th kid at the same time I was due got a $150 gift certificate and a full party), she regifted me something one pack of onesies, and there was zero acknowledgment to me when my son arrived. My husband’s company threw an amazing shower for him and then sent us a lovely gift basket when the baby arrived.

      I’m still salty looking back on it, and my kid has long been old enough to drink!

      1. Ellis Bell*

        I don’t know why, but somehow it seems worse when they remember but deliberately do something rubbish like regifting. Hearing crickets is pretty bad, especially if it was just you, but you could tell yourself that it slipped off their radar somehow.

      2. JustaTech*

        My experience was similar-ish: my VP banned our tiny, entirely voluntary and not-work-funded “baby shower” (another coworker was pregnant at the same time) and then while we were on leave the VP shared photos and congratulations from another coworker (at another site) who also had a baby, but never shared either of our baby photos.
        I wasn’t there to see that my kiddo wasn’t mentioned, but other people commented on it. Just reinforced that my VP is weird.

      3. anon for this*

        My Miranda got married about eight months before I did – I’d been planning and saving for a year already at that point, we had plans announced, I’d had my vacation approved, etc.

        When she got back from her three-week honeymoon, she immediately put out a memo saying that our work was “so vital” that we couldn’t be gone for more than four business days at a stretch, and no preapproved leave was grandfathered. (Our work was not vital, and we covered for one another all the time.)

        I had to quit in order to get married. (The marriage didn’t last, but that’s not the point, lol!) And then, according to a friend who still worked in the department, they didn’t replace me, because there wasn’t enough work to justify filling my position…

    3. Artemesia*

      It really hurts to be an exception to whatever work celebrations there are for milestones. It isn’t that you care about a birthday cake per se, but if everyone but you gets one, you feel like dirt. And it must be 10X worse when it is celebration of your baby.

      1. Just Another Cog*

        Yes it does! I’ve been in that situation. It hurts. It’s hard to not feel like it’s an intentional slight. I do try to give people a pass because often it’s not about me, but Miranda sounds like an insensitive jerk. However, in OP’s case, it sure seems like they fell through the cracks because of their particular situation. I like Alison’s direct approach of just mentioning that new baby didn’t get announced.

  9. Observer*

    #4 – If it were just that the layoffs were not being announced, I would think that it’s just a poor off-boarding process. Not great but not raising huge red flags for me.

    But their “reason” (aka excuse) makes no sense. It’s so absurd, that I wonder who came up with that? And is this kind of nonsensical excuse making a typical problem at your employer?

  10. Kenelm*

    LW#1: it is good that your manager went to HR. You gotta realize that when a group of bullies lets you in on the existence of one secret chat group, that might not be the *only* secret chat group. They might just not care that others know about their hatred against this particular co-worker.

    Here’s to hoping there’s more people willing to fight them and they’re not protected by their bosses.

    1. Artemesia*

      This. Don’t kick yourself about not going to HR. That is always a big step. Congratulate yourself on sharing it with your manager who was in a better position to step in and get something done about it. AND major kudos to the manager for dealing firmly with this genuine awfulness.

    2. AnonORama*

      For sure. I get a strong sense of “if they’ll gossip with you, they’ll gossip about you” from this bunch. They probably have subgroups! All of it needs to be shut down ASAP.

  11. Jen*

    LW4, for what it’s worth, if you work with people outside the US, the answer might be true and they may not be legally allowed to announce a full list of layoffs to everyone. However, in countries with laws like this there is also a legal notice period of a month or more, so the people have time to annouce it on their own terms and hand over, they won’t just dissappear overnight.

    1. münchner kindl*

      What region are you thinking of – EU or Asia or …?

      Because even with the new, stronger, Data protection law in EU, and existing privacy laws, I can’t come up with a reason to not tell employees of Department A “As of 1st March, Bob no longer works with us”, ideally with “regarding teapot questions, please adress John, the manager or Jane the admin”.

      In that regard, it’s like Out of Office messages on outlook: it’s good privacy protection etiquette to not tell outsiders “Bob is on vacation, Jane is on sick leave” so you just write “Jane is not in the office from 1st to 14th March, your emails will/ will not be forwarded/ please contact John who’s her stand-in” which gives all necessary information but not too much.

      1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

        My company does this, but their explanation is that, being multinational, some of the laid off employees may not have been notified yet, and others may have the right to negotiate or contest the layoff. I’m in the US and thus have no idea if that’s actually a thing, but it makes sense on the day the layoffs are announced. When I’m a month or more past the layoffs and still only finding out about former coworkers from deactivated Outlook accounts, not do much.

    2. Catwhisperer*

      I work in the EU for a FAANG company that’s gone through lots of layoffs recently and can confirm that there’s no laws in the major EU tech hub countries saying that the company can’t announce the names of who’s getting laid off.

      1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

        The justification I’ve heard before is less about privacy, but more about laws around employment – I guess some of the people laid off at our European offices have some right to negotiate or contest the layoff, or may have specific notice requirements? Which makes some sense on the day of, but seems less plausible weeks out from the layoff announcement.
        I’m in the US and those notification requirements are not a thing here (to the point former coworkers have found out they’re laid off when they couldn’t log into their email), so it’s hard to tell what’s reasonable in other countries.

        1. Catwhisperer*

          Totally get that it’s confusing (I’m an American living in the EU), but the tl;dr is that while the company can’t select people to be laid off without going through the collective consultation process according to each country’s laws, they CAN make an internal announcement that x person/people is no longer with the company once the collective consultation period is over, they’ve actually decided who’s being laid off, and those people have left the company.

          The collective consultation process is essentially collective bargaining between the company and employee representatives (either from an existing union or elected from the teams the company has identified for layoffs) to make sure that the criteria for being selected to get laid off is reasonable, addresses the reason that the company is giving for laying people off, and that employees are given a fair severance package. It’s also only required if a large group of people are being laid off – where I live the minimum is 100 people in 30 days. Lately my company has been getting around that requirement by doing rolling layoffs of smaller groups of people. They’re also giving us the same b.s. line LW#4’s company is for all layoffs globally, so it’s very clearly not tied to a legal reason.

          1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

            This is helpful, thank you! Sounds like my company is maybe equal parts corporate nonsense and legitimate but badly garbled justification. Which is pretty on brand, to be honest…

    3. Observer*

      they may not be legally allowed to announce a full list of layoffs to everyone.

      I’m pretty sure that this is not the case once all of the processes have been gone through. Which is fine – no one needs a *proactive* announcement that Joe Smith, Sally Fine, and Chris Block are going to be laid off. But once they are actually laid off (which would be after the notice period, etc.) a factual statement with the base line information – which is not private – that these three people are no longer employed by X Corp. is perfectly permissible.

      Now, given the privacy rules in some countries, and even without that, the company is best of sticking to just that fact – the why of any particular separation should absolutely not be widely shared.

  12. Anna*

    Having been involved in multiple layoffs, timing may also be a factor. It’s not unusual that layoff notices happen over a period of weeks due to PTO, time zones, critical projects, etc. In a layoff I was involved in, there were even people who were only leaving 6 months after the initial announcement for various reasons and there is hesitation to announce who is impacted when you know that is not the full list,

  13. Mialana*

    Maybe I’m stupid but how do you “fill the screen with your face” during meetings? I thought how big your face appears depends on where your camera is located (and sometimes you can’t really change that).

    1. John Smith*

      People behave strangely when it comes to cameras and online meetings. Even when told there is no need to present visually, you can bet there will be one person who will put their camera on, have some officious look about them, be oblivious that noone else has their camera on, and…. will usually sit so close to the camera that they put their face fills the screen as though we wont be able to see otherwise. I don’t know why they do it, but you can position a camera or move away from a laptop camera and if you can’t, I’d be sending our health and safety team in to have a chat about posture, positioning and location. You wouldn’t go right up to someone when talking to them in person so that your face swamps their whole field of vision, so why do it on camera? Just no need.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        I’ve always been more annoyed at the reverse – people sitting too far away, unfocused or partially cut off. The images are about an inch or two tall (when there’s a screen share) – even if it’s zoomed on someone’s nose, it’s still smaller than in reality. Also, I can always make them smaller or hide them, but there are limits to how much bigger one can make it.

        1. Dasein9 (he/him)*

          That’s me. I have a bad back and use computer glasses so I can sit further from the laptop and still keep my back in a good posture while working. (An external keyboard and mouse help a lot.)

          1. Emmy Noether*

            Eh, it’s probably not you. I’m thinking more of people who are using a conference room setup (so made for showing multiple people) and not zooming, or not bothering to point the camera in their general direction. If you’re more than five pixels high, and in frame, you’re fine.

      2. Nonprofit writer*

        LW#5, leaving to freelance is just as legitimate as leaving for another job. I did it back in 2016 and it was fine. I did give my employer 4 weeks notice but that was mainly because I’d been there so long & I also had a planned vacation about a week after I wanted to give notice. You can totally give 2 weeks or whatever is standard in your industry, and stand firm. Congrats—it’s an exciting move!

        1. Artemesia*

          This. The LW is leaving for a job. ‘I have some many contracts in my free lance work and more coming in every day, so it is just the right moment to move to freelancing.’

        1. Visually Impaired Guy*

          I have that problem, except that I’m leaning in to see the slides more clearly and turn my video off because no one needs to see a closeup of my eyeball or forehead.

        1. John Smith*

          A deliberate pose they use whilst on camera that they don’t use any other time. Hard to describe, but if you saw it, you’d say “oh yeah, that is odd”.

    2. melissa*

      I came here to say this! Now I’m paranoid. When I have Zoom calls, I just sit what I believe to be a normal distance away from my laptop. I have no idea if my face is “filling the screen” or not… it looks the same size as everyone else’s but maybe I’m wrong!

        1. melissa*

          Right, I know— that’s what I meant by “it looks the same size as everyone else’s.” But I’m sure the annoying coworker also thinks his picture is fine!

          1. ThatOtherClare*

            Don’t stress! If it’s ever occurred to you to wonder if that’s you, even only just right now – it’s not you. The people who do these kinds of oblivious things aren’t self aware enough to wonder if it’s them. Not even just fleetingly enough to go “Is that me? Nah. I’m good.” Ironically they’re confidently reading the comments amused and fascinated by the obliviousness of other people, without a care in the world. Trust me, if you’re asking, you’re definitely fine.

      1. Arthenonyma*

        Are you leaning forward to peer into the camera so that it’s right up your nose? If not, this is not about you.

    3. Myrin*

      how do you “fill the screen with your face” during meetings?

      You get really, really close to the camera. It’s entirely possible that you’ve never encountered this but I can guarantee you that when you do, you’ll know immediately.

      1. LW #1*

        It’s this. Pete leans forward in every cameras on meeting, hunching over his keyboard to get his face into the screen. He is also the person that John Smith described above–who has their camera on in everything, even when the other 15 people on the call have their cameras off.

      2. Maggie*

        Why does it matter if someone does this though? Like who could possibly have the time to even notice or care? Much less criticize someone for this

        1. Myrin*

          I don’t know if you mean to reply to me, but I didn’t say that it mattered, I just answered the question (which I didn’t think mattered for the letter’s answer at all, though).

    4. JayNay*

      No matter how annoying that is, the managers‘ response to it is so juvenile. It could be solved with one simple „hey John, you’re really close to the camera in meetings and it looks odd on screen. can you sit back a bit more?“
      there is zero need to have an entire mean group chat about someone’s slight oddities. Honestly makes me wonder what else these managers get up to.

      1. Observer*

        No matter how annoying that is, the managers‘ response to it is so juvenile.

        That’s kinder than they deserve. “Mean bullies” is a far better description, imo.

        It could be solved

        I don’t even think it needs to be “solved”. Sure it’s weird. And maybe it reflects an out-sized sense of self-importance. But I really can’t see why anyone would make an issue out of it.

        1. Caliente Papillon*

          It’s true that it doesn’t need to be solved necessarily but I think the point that if there is something we feel like making fun of about someone perhaps we should think about just giving them the feedback as instead of “making fun.” That’s said, everyone kinda hates unsolicited feedback. I do think I’d be ok with it though, if someone told me I could just sit normally in front of my laptop for online meetings – how far is this guy leaning in?! Can’t be comfortable.

    5. AngryOctopus*

      He could also be getting close to his screen because he’s leaning in to see things being presented on said screen, and not thinking about how he’s also really close to the camera that’s on. But OP, your coworkers are really immature and definitely need to be spoken to by HR. As someone else said, they likely have other groups chats where they are terrible about others. They were feeling out how you’d react to knowing.

      1. Zelda*

        This is me: I need new glasses, and half the time I can’t read what’s on the screen properly. I take off my glasses and lean wayyyyyyy in– AFTER I turn off my camera.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      I interpreted it as the difference between meeting settings where everyone is in the same size box, and those in which the person speaking’s box is blown up to a larger size.

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        I’m pretty sure people set their box size preferences in their own computer. Or the host does.

    7. Seashell*

      Yeah, I thought that was weird too. Maybe he doesn’t know how to fix whatever he’s doing, and a nice person would offer to help rather than make negative comments.

    8. Butterfly Counter*

      I’m similarly confused. This feels like searching for something to be annoyed by. I have some coworkers who are so backlit on Zoom that they’re basically a silhouette, but who cares?

      Also, and this may be because I’m similarly out of date, but what does a 20 year out-of-date haircut or shirt look like on a man? I’d get it if it were the 90s and he was rocking 70s vibes, but 2000s are pretty much the same as today for most guys, right? Or is it that he’s trying to look like a teenager when he’s a full adult?

      Again, for me this is something to barely even notice. It sounds truly like this group of coworkers actually needs more work to do. They have too much time on their hands.

        1. Observer*

          Exactly. Even “rocking 70s vibes” in the 90’s.

          Do these people even have enough work to keep them busy?!

    9. BongoFury*

      I was confused by this too. All these complaints seem kinda made up? Like they were looking for reasons to make fun of him?

        1. Myrin*

          OP, can I just say that I highly commend you for how you manage to clearly separate your reasonable frustrations with Pete’s behaviour and his work from people being bullies towards and about him? You sound like a class act and these mean girl wannabes should be learning from you!

          1. LW #1*

            Thank you. :) That’s how the conversation with my boss came about—me being mad because I was irate (not hyperbole) about something he’d done as a coworker but then I find myself at the other extreme with compassion for him because of the way he’s treated. I think I likely said something like, “I just wanna be mad at him, but I can’t!” while blowing off steam.

          2. Username Lost to Time*

            “Manage to clearly separate your reasonable frustrations with Pete’s behaviour and his work from people being bullies towards and about him” – it is strange that so many people struggle with this concept. I guess that’s why ad hominem is a common logical fallacy.

    10. The Wizard Rincewind*

      My boss will dial in to video calls on his phone but hold it like he’s using it as a phone. Sometimes we get a lovely close-up of his nostrils.

    11. design ghost*

      I’m gonna be honest, I’m usually too busy looking at my own face to notice what anyone else’s looks like in a zoom meeting lol.

      This is a hot take but maybe the people hyperfocusing on the, like, face:background ratio in everyone else’s display could stand to be a bit more narcissistic. Admire how great you look instead of making up reasons to be mean to other people.

  14. Max Power*

    #4 – had this happen a few years ago! On top of that I was in charge of scheduling people for events, booking travel, etc. months in advance and they STILL wouldn’t tell me anything – when I asked who not the schedule I was told to ‘do everything assuming no one was being let go.’

    It was a weird layoff anyway (a third of the org was laid off with a month’s notice, but I was given two months) and ultimately I got tired of dealing with it and just DMed everyone I scheduled saying ‘I’m being let go in two months, if you’re comfortable let me know your status so I don’t schedule you for anything’ – luckily my coworkers were great and all expressed sympathy and let me know if they were staying or not. Made those final months so much easier.

  15. John Smith*

    Re #1. I’m glad Alison mentioned 11 year old schoolkid bullies because I was going to ask just how old these people are and I really don’t think there should be much deliberation about firing these juveniles IMHO.

    Well done on standing up to them and calling out their unacceptable behaviour. And kudos to your manager too for having your back.

  16. münchner kindl*

    Interesting that LW 1 shows both that Happy Bob exists in real life, and disproves it – because aside from some jerks, not everybody goes along with it, rather, LW told their manager and now action is taken.

    Also, the jerks don’t pretend to Happy Bob to be their friends (a larger time investment), they “only” talk up to him at work about work. Which is still both jerk behaviour and a waste of their own time/ bad for business – a presentation that has to be re-done means his work is sub-par, and time is wasted compared to doing it right the first time.

    Which is another point towards what Alison said: where’s the boss of the jerk managers? Somebody with responsibility should have noticed both the managers being jerks (because bullies often don’t stop at one victim) and Happy Bob not delivering good work.

  17. JSPA*

    #5, on Monday,

    “My freelance work has suddenly taken off to the point where by the end of the weekend, I finally realized I’d worked far more than two full-time jobs for the last month, and it’s not slowing down.

    As of this morning I’ve put a brief pause on new clients, extended the time frame with others by two weeks, and am giving my notice to you now. That will let me give you a solid two weeks of wrap-up and documentation without burning out.”

    If you’re open to it (because you’re freelance-to-be, and used to juggling the jobs):

    “If you prefer, I can alternatively take up to two weeks off, if that allows you time to find a temp who can handle [essential tasks A and B], or if you have someone in mind who might be a fast hire, and would like to use my two weeks to train them, as well as doing A & B, documenting other tasks, and finishing up some loose ends.”

    1. Sloanicota*

      Yeah it’s definitely possible to spin freelance work as if it’s an opportunity equal to a new job, which is what I did, because I’m a coward and didn’t want to admit that I just hated it there and found any way possible excuse to leave. “A really great freelance contract has fallen into my lap and I’m excited to pursue it. I believe it will lead to new opportunities and I’ve made the difficult decision that my last day with X Company should be the 14th.”

    2. Cold Snap*

      I think this is tons more info than the employer is entitled to. “It’s time to move on” is totally sufficient here. Freelance IS a new position.

  18. Ruminator*

    LW1: I know it’s not appropriate to try and diagnose strangers, especially based on second-hand information, but the way Pete is described makes him sound neurodivergent, which could lead to the conclusion that he’s being discriminated against on the basis of a disability. A lot of people who could never imagine themselves bullying, excluding, or discriminating against someone “for being disabled” never stop to consider how they treat people with communication difficulties or who seem out of step with social norms.

    While I wouldn’t suggest openly speculating on Pete’s neurotype, it might be wise to reconsider the things that irritate you about him and whether some of those issues could be addressed by speaking more directly about things you usually expect people to just *know* or at least infer based on context and social cues. Of course, there’s a decent chance that Pete will be taken aback at first because he thinks he’s never been criticized before (in no small part thanks to his coworkers’ ironic praise) and I don’t know to what degree it’s even your place to give him feedback, but if you’re in the habit of gritting your teeth and remaining silent when working with him because you’re flummoxed by his obliviousness, that’s not going to do anything to improve your working relationship.

    1. Observer*

      but the way Pete is described makes him sound neurodivergent, which could lead to the conclusion that he’s being discriminated against on the basis of a disability

      Nope. Sure, he could be neurodivergent, but from a legal standpoint, that doesn’t matter if they do not know that he is neurodivergent.

      A lot of people who could never imagine themselves bullying, excluding, or discriminating against someone “for being disabled” never stop to consider how they treat people with communication difficulties or who seem out of step with social norms.

      Not really relevant. What these folks are doing is not just not having patience, being a bit rude or curt. This is active bullying, and a lot of effort putting in to mocking him. I highly, highly doubt that they would change anything *for the better* even if they had a formal diagnosis.

      While I wouldn’t suggest openly speculating on Pete’s neurotype

      And I would suggest dropping this whole line of discussion. It’s just not relevant. What the OP should do is the same regardless. Ignore the things that are just “odd” (eg the weird clothes) and try to speak directly to him about the things that do impact the OP, kindly, respectfully and clearly.

    2. Boof*

      “speaking to adult interview candidates like they’re children, not being able to work without constant direction” are things that should be addressed directly by Pete’s manager (+/- coworkers who notice it, perhaps, at least the speaking to adults like children part). I don’t think the LW should try to imaging maybe Pete has some kind of neurodivergence that maybe makes it harder for them to do core parts of their job well and try to be ok with that; I agree LW (and others) should always treat Pete (and everyone else) with kindness and respect, and that includes addressing legit work concerns and not lying to their face, not trash talking, it does tend to also include not getting caught up on superficial details like a shirt being “out of style” (provided it’s still neat/tidy/within professional standards) but that’s not about being neurodivergent, it’s just how you should treat other people!

      1. Observer*

        but that’s not about being neurodivergent, it’s just how you should treat other people!


        Nothing changes regardless of whether he is neurodivrgent. Treat him respectfully regarding the inconsequential stuff, and call out directly or with his manager the actual issues as they come up.

    3. LW #1*

      Ironically, one of the topics that the bullies talk about is exactly what you’ve brought up. It’s just as bad to talk poorly about someone and speculate on their disability as it is to bully them because of it. The advice doesn’t change either way, as others have pointed out.

      I do give Pete feedback (kindly and directly) when his behavior diverges from company/social norms *when it is impacting the business/work.* It’s not my job to coach or police his behavior, but I give him feedback with his manager’s blessing/encouragement because it’s more than what he’s getting from other people.

  19. Anon for this*

    At my previous company (non-US university, non-academic department) redundancies were offered as part of a departmental restructure. It was a secret as to who had applied and been accepted. They didn’t even have to tell their manager they were leaving. They could literally just not show up to work after the redundancy date without anyone knowing, aside from HR and the department head who signed off on the redundancy. Most people were okay with sharing the information with their managers and at least some colleagues (200+ person department), but I believe a few refused to confirm or deny their decision.

    It’s a little different, in that the staff chose to leave, and it did mean we avoided layoffs (though some staff were unsuccessful applicants for their own jobs, so…)

    My team and I weren’t personally impacted by any of the departures, but there were issues on some teams when it was realised X had left and only told select colleagues. But then there were many aspects of that place that resembled a kindergarten rather than a professional workplace full of adults.

  20. birch*

    This is going to be an unpopular opinion, but IMO LW3 is why we should keep work and personal life separate by default. This is not directed at LW3 personally but just a general observation about workplace dynamics. Individual people who care about you as a person will ask how you are and for updates on your life. For most people, not everyone at their workplace knows them or cares to get life updates. (This is my dirty lens, but I also think it’s weird to want people you don’t know well to know personal things about your life. What are people getting out of a quick “congrats” or “I’m sorry” from someone they don’t know? I don’t see the value in giving people information about you if you have no idea how they’re going to use it. Don’t volunteer gossip fodder.) Making it a policy that there are announcements, flowers, cards, gifts, parties, donation drives, etc. means that inevitably somebody is going to be missed, either from a mistake or because not everyone shares personal information with their employer. Which just creates this situation where some people who are more open about things get lots of attention and praise, and other people quietly go about their lives suffering the bad times and celebrating the good without the majority of the company knowing, and everyone thinks they have nothing going on in their lives. It sets up a lot of hurtful situations with people going on about their happy announcements that can be really painful for people who are grieving or struggling with things but don’t want to air out their lives at work. Which is a consequence you’re opting into, definitely, but it’s still a weird dynamic. And then there’s that if the announcement or card or whatever is only being sent because it’s policy, what’s the thoughtfulness behind that? Why not just announce things yourself to the people who you know actually care? I know some people enjoy getting the attention at work for personal stuff, and that’s fine. I just think they should announce it themselves to a smaller group of people who know them well rather than having these corporate-sponsored all-company tokens.

    1. Lucia Pacciola*

      Your opinion is less unpopular by one – me. The workplace is for working, not for processing baby stuff, is my feeling. That porous work-life boundary makes my soul itch.

      1. Maggie*

        How is someone knowing your child exists “processing baby stuff”? My goodness, y’all commenters on this site would just absolutely perish at anywhere I’ve ever worked. My co workers even know I have parents!

        1. MassMatt*

          There’s knowing your child exists and then there’s baby showers at work and a lot of work time devoted to babies and raising kids. Moderation is a good policy.

          1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

            OP isn’t talking about baby showers and “lots of work time devoted to having kids”. She’s talking about a passive announcement on the intranet, that people can choose to engage with or not.

            Honestly. People are allowed to be people, with full lives, at work! That doesn’t make them a pathetic loser who just wants attention. Coworkers are not robots or, usually, strangers; it is normal and acceptable to have a warm relationship with them, and having a warm relationship involves sharing small facets of your life.

        2. Lucia Pacciola*

          “I’m almost certainly making this a bigger deal than it needs to be because it taps into a lot of feelings I have about my son’s birth and things going so differently than expected in so many ways”

          This is one of several passages where LW expresses that having her workplace acknowledge her baby kind of a big deal to her. She’s clearly processing a major life event with a lot of emotional weight to it, and she clearly wants her employer to be a more integral part of that process.

          If it was just about people knowing her child exists, she wouldn’t have written the letter. She would have told her team on her return, passed her baby pictures around, and gone home happy. This is about needing her employer to take extra steps to help her process her baby stuff.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            If she were asking for it when no one else got it I would agree with you, but she’s just asking for the same consideration others have gotten.

    2. melissa*

      The thing is that work tends to take up an enormous amount of our day— 8 hours of it, which is likely at least twice as much time as we spend with anyone else. Many of us feel unfulfilled if we literally just walk in, sit next to people for 8 hours, and exchange nothing beyond “thanks for tweaking the PowerPoint.” Obviously you differ, but that’s a minority opinion (as you already indicated).

      Certainly, it’s important to have boundaries, and my coworkers aren’t privy to my inner life in the way that my best friend is. But I am genuinely happy for coworkers who have babies, get married, go on exotic vacations, and the like. It gives them pleasure to share and it gives me pleasure to acknowledge.

      1. birch*

        I don’t actually differ! I have lots of conversations about things other than work with the people I work closely with and have formed actual relationships with. Not all of them are super close, some are acquaintances. There is a huge margin that is not getting recognized between “work robot who never says anything unrelated to work” and “making announcements of personal information to an entire company.”

    3. JustKnope*

      I spend 40-50 hours a week with these people, and have warm relationships with most of them. It’s perfectly reasonable to want major life events to be recognized by people who you spend the majority of your time with! People are not robots.

    4. allathian*

      I get what you’re saying, but in this case it has to be noted that this is a fully remote company with no offices. Sharing in people’s life events is a way to build a sense of community when there are few opportunities for casual chat.

      I also think it’s pretty small-minded to object to people celebrating their life events at work simply because you’ve decided to opt out of celebrating yours. There are some exceptions given that I think it would be unreasonable to ask someone who’s given birth to a stillborn baby to organize a baby shower for a coworker, or even to attend such a celebration. But this doesn’t mean that celebrating baby showers at work should be banned just because a coworker (or several) might possibly be struggling with infertility or with the loss of a child.

      An expression of congratulations or sympathy can be heartfelt even if you don’t know the other person very well. It’s an expression of their common goals as employees of the same organization and our common humanity.

      Obviously all that only applies in functional workplaces where people aren’t constantly afraid of being judged for their personal characteristics, choices, or lives, and where people aren’t afraid that any small thing they might reveal about their life will be used against them later. I recognize my privilege here as a solidly middle-class cis woman married to a man and with one child, it’s very easy for me to be fairly open because my life’s so ordinary.

      Hmm, you’ve actually made me think here, maybe we should quit celebrating Jack and Jill’s wedding shower at work until it’s taken for granted that people are equally as happy to celebrate Jack and John’s or Jill and Jane’s wedding showers.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I started a new job in spring 2008 and got civil partnered a couple of months later, which was only two years after civil partnerships became legal, and I was *so* touched to get a card, gift and congratulations from my colleagues. I am generally happy to take part in mini work celebrations like that for other people, but don’t like being at the centre of them myself, but it still amazes me that in 1998 it was crazy fantasy to imagine having an actual legal same-sex partnership and in 2008 it was card, gift and cake at work.

    5. Emmy Noether*

      I think it’s not really possible to keep things completely separate. If someone is out for several months on parental leave, people are going to notice. And humans are never going to be completely unaffected by their lives outside of work at work. It is useful to know if my colleague has a new baby at home, or if they are grieving, or… so I can give them some slack and be sensitive as appropriate.

      Also, most people like a least a bit of human conection at work. Knowing people have lives and are not robots tends to make interactions friendlier and more cooperative. Getting a congrats and a squee over cute baby pics from colleagues may seem perfunctory, but it serves the same sort of function as greetings and small talk – it’s not strictly necessary, but it is social lubricant, and that is useful.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      What are people getting out of a quick “congrats” or “I’m sorry” from someone they don’t know?
      Basic human connection, and on the latter end context for why there might be outside stuff going on that is affecting how much time and attention they give to work.

      You use the phrase “get attention” often, and I don’t think that’s how most of us view mild updates re our acquaintances’ lives.

      1. melissa*

        Also the phrase “fodder for gossip”. That’s a really sad view of workplaces! This poster has definitely had some different life/work experiences than I have.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            You know the metaphor about the cat who touches a hot pan, and then never touches a cold pan?

            In most human groups, you don’t have to protect yourself from people knowing that your dad has been ill, or your child will be graduating, or you have a broken ankle.

          2. Irish Teacher.*

            I’m sorry to hear you’ve had those experiences (and I mean that genuinely). However, in most workplaces, people knowing fairly run-of-the-mill stuff about one’s life is not something one has to protect oneself from.

            Stuff like X has had a baby or y’s father dies isn’t really interesting enough to gossip about, though I’m sure in a dysfunctional enough workplace, people could find some way to use it. But then, in a workplace that dysfunctional, it would be probably just as risky or even more so to avoid giving any info about oneself because that could well start the gossips speculating as to what juicy secret you might be hiding.

            I mean, it sounds like keeping your life very private works for you and that’s cool if it does, but it’s just a personal choice and the reason people share info and give cards and so on is just because they enjoy it and there’s no reason not to. It’s not usually about wanting attention or any major reason. Just that it makes their life more enjoyable and the odds of there being any major downside is minimal.

            Yeah, somebody could be hurt at being left out if a mistake happens, but avoiding doing anything enjoyable in case a mistake might mean somebody misses out and then it would be unfair to them seems an extreme reaction. And honestly, just sharing with a small group includes that risk in the other direction, that somebody you don’t tell feels hurt that you didn’t consider them somebody you were close to.

            For most people, this really isn’t that big a deal. It’s not something people are looking for something out of or that they put much thought into beyond it makes work more pleasant and no point in denying oneself enjoyment just for the sake of it.

      2. Allonge*

        Yes, I would in turn ask birch what they are getting out of not in any way acknowledging that their coworkers are human and marking small or larger milestones with them? Paying attention to one another does not have to stop at being on time for meetings and setting deadlines considerately.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        One of the really damaging psychological things during the worst of the pandemic was that you assumed everyone was having a rough time, and so you didn’t share any rough times hitting you. And you also didn’t share any happy times. This lack of connection and support had real consequences for people, and I’m now much more aware of its role in our lives.

        Like all human behavior, anything at the extremes is likely to be off, and the correct level is a middle ground. In this case, it’s extreme that one was in a bad office, learned to share nothing so there would be no ammo, and now is very attuned to every instance of anyone else getting attention while one’s own secret joys and sadnesses are secret and so don’t garner attention. It’s like refusing to take part in the office pot lucks, but then rather than end the pot lucks keep happening around you.

        1. Jessica*

          Thanks, FD, this is really insightful. I think you’re absolutely right. Things were so terrible that even if you were really in distress, you might be like “well my entire household didn’t just die, so who am I to complain? whoever I complain to may be worse off and then I’ll really feel like a jerk.” And conversely if anything good happened, you felt like “I can’t ask people to rejoice with me as long as the morgue trucks are parked at the curb.”

    7. Dindle*

      I’m not sure how this is meant to be helpful to the OP? They aren’t setting the policy, they’re asking how to deal with being left out of the way things are. You can pontificate on how they ought to be all day long, but that doesn’t change things for the OP, which is the point of the post.

      1. MsM*

        Yeah, it’d be one thing if nobody did this and OP was looking for special treatment, but the fact that it’s a norm at this workplace that OP hasn’t been included in is going to sting regardless of whether it should be a norm or not. (And I think the awkwardness OP’s encountering amply illustrates why it is a norm.)

      2. birch*

        You’re not wrong, I don’t have any useful advice for the OP, which is technically against the commenting rules. But I’ve noticed that the relevance and usefulness of comments only gets pushback when people disagree with that comment…. I’m not telling OP or anyone else to enjoy what they enjoy. I would recommend that HR departments stop doing this as a default not only because it can be a weird vibe but because it ends up hurting people’s feelings, like OP, when someone inevitably gets left out. And that’s assuming no one with the announcement task has vendetta against anyone. We’ve seen other letters where people in charge of this kind of thing abuse that power. I wish people wouldn’t take this opinion to the absurd degree–I’m obviously not suggesting no one should ever have any power or ever have friendships in the workplace, and I did not suggest that no one should share any details about their personal lives! Just suggesting to those in charge of these things that maybe, especially if it’s a large company, HR doesn’t need to get involved with announcing people’s personal business to hundreds of people. A team announcement would do fine, as does all the other opportunities we have to strike up conversations with colleagues in person. The idea that a mass email announcement is critical to “basic human connection” is ridiculous.

        1. MicroManagered*

          I’m sure you’re getting dragged in the responses to this comment, and I’m not going to spend my time reading each one of them, but I do want to say I had a similar take on this letter and that you’re not a monster for saying it. OR perhaps we are both monsters — after all, AAM comments are nothing if not an echo chamber. You are spot on that “relevance” only gets brought up when someone dares to disagree with the general consensus or advice given on a specific letter.

          Through my own “dirty lens” this feels like a really weird thing to hang on to for so many months. That’s actually EXTREMELY relevant, simply so OP knows it’s one possible response people might have to a request for a baby announcements after so much time has passed. Personally I would calculate that into my decision and probably end up doing what you proposed — sending an email and pics to a select few that I know are interested, rather than requesting a company-wide announcement almost a year later.

          But I suspect HR morale initiatives like company-wide baby announcements are not made for people like you and me, birch. Sometimes they’re really important to other people. If this is important to OP3 — and she wrote to an advice column about it so obviously it is — I think Alison’s script for it is perfect even though it’s not what I would do personally.

          Differing opinions are ok.

      3. LB33*

        It’s just part of the discussion – not every single comment needs to have laser like precise answer to OP’s question

    8. Ellis Bell*

      I think you might be able to get away with this approach as a colleague – not sharing anything and not making comments on other people’s lives (but you would pay a pretty hefty price in terms of social capital, and other people on your team might not go down the same route making you an outlier). However, I don’t think you can cut it with this kind of segregated attitude if you’re a manager though. The people who work for you need to get some sense that you see them as a person and not their robot work machine. That doesn’t mean you should be all up in the details of their business, but being pleasant and sociable about an overall big news item like a baby, is a good way to acknowledge people as humans.

    9. ThatOtherClare*

      The disagreement here might simply be a disconnect between large and small workplaces. You talk about announcing to a small group that you know well, and not a massive corporation-wide announcement. A lot of the replies seem to be focussed on connecting with their team and the people they sit next to every day. For some people that probably IS the whole company, while for others the whole company is thousands of people worldwide who really don’t need to know this stuff, as you describe.

      We seem to all agree that it’s nice to announce to a small group with whom one works closely. Whether that’s the entire company or 0.1% of it is context-specific. I suspect that if we could properly compare, we’d probably find that in actual number terms we all differ far less than we think. That’s my 2c, anyway.

      1. GythaOgden*

        We have what used to be Yammer for workplace achievements (that run from the chief exec down to the cleaner who does a few hours a week) and circulate personal milestones within our team. With people who intentionally or otherwise opt out of celebrating those things, yeah, the emotions to manage are your own.

        Certainly when I lost my husband I told my manager and then the HR rep in charge of leave immediately and they obviously let other people know. On the day of the funeral my mum gave me a card that had come in from work. As the receptionist I knew just about everyone in the building so a massive card with a message from everyone was such a nice thing to have and meant A LOT. In turn, while wedding and baby showers aren’t things that we really do over here in the UK, at least at work, if someone is getting married or brings their baby in I might be a little bit triggered (my mum as churchwarden in the church where I got married opted out of stewarding weddings there for a while, although the pandemic happened shortly afterwards and gave her a summer off to get her head back in the game) but I wouldn’t hold it against anyone, particularly the people celebrating their new partner or child. I actually found it healing to see new life beginning for others and to know that the world was still going on.

        My emotions are my own to manage. Others might have to excuse me if things get a bit rough, but I’m certainly not going to stop people living their lives and force them to turn a collegial, enjoyable office into a mausoleum.

      2. Jackalope*

        Yeah, I work in a small office that’s part of a much larger organization. If I had an announcement like this I would assume it would go to the members of my office, most of whom I’ve worked with for years, but in no way would I expect – or want – it to go out to the whole organization. From what I’ve seen that’s pretty standard in my org.

    10. Seashell*

      Just announcing things to people you care about might not be feasible if you’re in the hospital due to sickness or childbirth or out of town for a funeral. My employer might be an outlier, but I only have email access when I am logged in on my laptop.

      Also, there may be people who you don’t care about personally, but might be affected by your absence. Knowing that you will be out of work for an open ended period of time is different than knowing you’re taking a two week vacation.

    11. Colette*

      Having warm, friendly relationships with people only happens if you share something about your life. (Not everything, of course!)

      And warm, friendly relationships are good. They are good for you personally, they’re good for getting work done, and they’re good for long-term career growth.

      You mention having people announce things themselves, but sometimes you want people to know things about your life but don’t want to have to tell 20 people individually that your child died or that you have a serious illness or even to share happy news. In the OP’s case, the NICU story is one she can share personally; however, the bigger pictures story (baby!) is one that can be shared more impersonally.

    12. Nancy*

      I just lost someone vary close to me due to a random accident. And yeah, having coworkers say they’re sorry does give me a tiny bit of comfort when I am sobbing at my desk. As did the condolence card from my department when a relative passed away a few years ago.

      We spend 40+ hours at work every week. Kind of hard to hide everything, and connection to others is important for many of us.

      1. Dasein9 (he/him)*

        I’m sorry for your loss.

        Until I experienced it, I always struggled with what to say or write in a card. Then, when I was the one who experienced a loss, I discovered that it didn’t matter so much what people said as that they said something and it was kind.

      2. GythaOgden*

        I’m so sorry for your loss. Like you, I drew a lot of strength from having people acknowledge it. Even my ultimate boss made a comment about it when she came in a month or two later.

    13. Dasein9 (he/him)*

      What people are getting out of these interactions is human connection. And yeah, that tends to be messy and have feelings attached, especially when human error collides with human connection. And we try to act like adults and clean up the messes when they do happen because we’re people doing these jobs, not automata.

      There is a wide range of human connection between besties and rivals or enemies, and a wide range of appropriate boundaries between co-workers within that range.

      If you don’t want these connections, that’s fine, but you should be aware that, given how humans operate, you may be giving up opportunities for team cohesion and improved performance.

    14. Curious*

      This is assuming that management willfully did not send the notice.

      Not sure how to articulate it, but LW did not want to discuss the NICU aspect of their situation, so maybe people just did not know how to move forward, so they just didn’t? (Yes, I know LW sent their preferred language.)

      If you create “too many” guidelines for interaction, people may not engage.

    15. Earlierlater*

      Yeah, to be honest, I am so relieved that my workplace doesn’t have a policy of publicizing marriages, babies, etc. It’s already painful enough for me looking at social media and seeing that kind of thing happen for every other friend of mine (I’ve really stopped looking at fb anymore for that reason). I’m happy in abstract for friends and colleagues when I hear about those things, but I’m also past the age when I can look at others’ milestones and feel joy without my own pain.

    16. Karma is My Boyfriend*

      I agree. I know at least five people who had full term pregnancies who ended up coming home with … no baby. I just couldn’t imagine being in a company that announces personal information so publicly.

      1. Critical Rolls*

        There is a flip side to that. I had a colleague who lost a baby in late pregnancy. Many people knew she had been pregnant, and she ended up having to tell a lot of well-meaning people, one at a time, over an extended period. Of course it will vary by person, but it was very hard for her and I know she would have rather a brief announcement with “please respect her privacy.”

    17. Head sheep counter*

      I like knowing what my close colleagues are going through in their lives but would find company wide announcements to be a bridge to far for more most of the reasons you listed (I work with thousands of colleagues). Recently, on a much smaller scale, my work has been stepping up on group birthdays… but because humans are humans… they stepped up with cards for everyone with birthdays within say a week of mine… guess who’s they forgot? The absence was noticeable because of the prevalence of this elsewhere… not because… I desperately needed a card from work. My work group acknowledged my birthday as much as I needed on the day of. But… excluding me from the cards felt… feelings.

      We can be warm to our immediate colleagues and still not want to have a system set up where it is somewhat easy to goof, or where the interactions become performative because… as a newsletter item its actually not personal.

  21. NotMuchYouCanDo*

    LW2, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but these are just some of the things a company can change at will even if put in writing ABC even if you tell them you are exchanging it for salary. It’s happened to me multiple times, even when I’ve had things in writing in my offer letter. You can have the conversation, but I’d count it as a win that they’re not saying no. Realistically, your choices are to accept it or try to find another job.

    1. Uranus Wars*

      I think this could likely be the outcome here, but I also think having a conversation like Alison suggested might also clear the air and allow some type of situation where the OP works out something that works for both parties while they, perhaps, look for a new job.

      My partner is in a similar boat as OP. Agreed upon # of weeks off that were a deal breaker. He was promised it wouldn’t be an issue; on the second trip he took he got some pushback…he’s pretty blunt so just asked what the deal was. It turns out there was one week that was very moveable on partners part that was just inconvenient for the company. So he won’t use that week going forward and didn’t have any pushback on any of his other trips the rest of the year.

    2. HiHello*

      I live in the US but my family is in Europe (I am from Europe). The time difference is 9hrs. Every time I work remotely, I adjust my hours. Many times I would stay up until midnight due to an important meeting. I am not expected to completely change my hrs to US ones, but I am expected to make it to important meetings. To me, it makes sense.

  22. M2*

    #2 I think you should be grateful your company allowed this. Are you senior or staring out/ mid level? I haven’t heard of this (doubling vacation/ allowing people to work while away) unless you are senior or are at a tech start up. I am surprised they allowed you to basically double your vacation.

    Companies I know that allow this tell employees if you are working you are working. If an employee told me they couldn’t go on Zoom and work some normal hours I would probably not allow it either. You aren’t meant to be on vacation (for those extra 3 weeks) mate, you are working, just not from home.

    Sending a few emails is not the same as putting in the same amount of work. I’ll be honest it would tick me off too, but I wouldn’t have allowed this from a new hire. Someone who worked for awhile and proved themselves? Maybe, definitely give them leeway, but not a new employee who I don’t know their work product.

    Are you holding up other work and getting the same amount done when you are traveling as when you aren’t traveling? Are you taking your flights (when you travel not o vacation) on weekends and not during a workday? My guess is no. Maybe you haven’t earned the right yet or your work is not up to par. That would be my thinking if your boss has an issue with it.

    I would never say to my boss if I did this that I couldn’t go on a zoom because of a time zone issue, I would get up early and do the zoom! If there’s an important meeting you get up or stay late and do the meeting! You are meant to be working. To me it sounds like it is not a good fit and you should look for a job that gives 6 weeks vacation.

    I have worked, traveled, and lived all over the world. I have woken up at all hours to get on meetings, not on my vacation, but for 3 of those weeks you aren’t on vacation, but working, so you work. Don’t work during your vacation, but for those extra weeks you are supposed to be working, just from a different place. It stinks but that is life.

    1. ThatOtherClare*

      They say they took a pay cut and that they could leave if they want. I suspect that their company is actually lucky to have them, hence the begrudging agreement to an adjusted benefits package that they seem not to want to have to give.

      Some companies are willing to be flexible to get the very best people, and it looks like that’s what the letter writer was expecting. If they’re now going to try and rescind that, or treat them like a normal employee in the way that you describe, I think the letter writer would be better off taking their valuable skillset and walking.

      Don’t stay where you’re not valued if you can help it, my friends. If you have the freedom, go somewhere your boss thinks you’re invaluable.

    2. Insert Clever Name Here*

      My boss agreed, saying I could do a combo of PTO and work “flexibly on my own time” (I only receive three weeks of vacation). I said multiple times by Zoom and email that I travel to other time zones and continents, and while I’ll be available by email I won’t be able to Zoom or respond immediately. He agreed completely.

      If OP hasn’t “earned the right” to do this, then it’s their employer’s fault for not spelling that out initially. The employer agreed to this set up, including asynchronous work; they could have very easily just said “no, that won’t work for us.” But OP specifically negotiated this set up, so they shouldn’t just quietly back off of it anymore than a person who negotiated 10% over the initial offer should just quietly be ok with not getting that 10%.

    3. GythaOgden*

      Well said. I’d find it really hard, and I have relations in a place where I could plausibly be working on sites, albeit fairly distant ones.

    4. Not A Manager*

      You don’t have to “earn” the things you negotiated for. The LW explicitly traded income for flexibility.

    5. Corey*

      > My guess is no.

      You don’t have to tell us it’s a guess. No kidding! There are a lot of guesses in your comment.

    6. bamcheeks*

      for 3 of those weeks you aren’t on vacation, but working

      Possibly, but it could equally be that they’re working working half-time for all six of those weeks, rather than three weeks off and three weeks working. There’s nothing that says their two weeks’ travelling is one full week off and one week doing 40 hours from another country, rather than 2 x 20 hours from another country spread over a fortnight.

    7. Antilles*

      I’ll be honest it would tick me off too, but I wouldn’t have allowed this from a new hire.
      Would you pretend it was okay in the hiring process, agree to it, then try to change the conditions upon which the employee took the job? OP specifically explained in detail the limitations that would be in play and the boss agreed.
      If your stance is that you’d never allow that from a new hire, that’s fine, but you should have made that stance clear upfront; this just looks like the Boss was acting in bad faith.

    8. Wilbur*

      They didn’t say anything about only sending out a few emails, they just said they weren’t available immediately. It sounds like their doing their job as normal, but for 3 weeks of the year they aren’t available during normal business hours without advanced notice.

  23. Green CTO*

    LW#2 — It may be that your boss’s confusion and memory lapses about your travel schedule are less about frustration and more about it just not being as top-of-mind for them as it is for you.

    Case in point, with the scheduling of zoom meetings, people often look for a free spot on the calendar. Do you visibly block off your calendar as “traveling, not available for meetings,” or just “OOO?” If not, maybe try that and see if it helps.

    It may just be that your boss doesn’t remember to think through, “is this one of the weeks when OP is unavailable, but not officially on leave,” (not something they have to consider for anyone else). If they’re in the habit of looking at calendar availability to avoid double booking, putting visual cues there could eliminate this friction.

    1. Marietos corn chips*

      Yes, I agree and I came here to suggest that you block off your calendar as unavailable for the overnight times when you travel (in Outlook, making it purple).

      When I have worked with people in different time zones, I have used the purple to let people know times when I would be sleeping or not available in my time zone. Learned it from another colleague overseas, who was tired of people scheduling meetings while he was asleep.

      1. Global Cat Herder*

        I do this because certain global colleagues would send me an invite at 9am their time for a 9:30 meeting their time and get MAD that I wasn’t there. Even while acknowledging that yes it’s 3am my time, I still should have told them that I wouldn’t be at their 3:30am meeting. Unreasonable people are unreasonable.

        So I have a recurring appointment from 5pm my time to 8am my time that says “not working hours” and is set to automatically decline any new invites. Basically a meeting taking up every hour I’m NOT available for meetings.

        When I’m time-shifted due to travel or other reasons, I adjust that “open for meetings” window, still blocking out the (different this week) times I’m not available.

        LW2’s boss might know they have trips, but they’re not going to remember which weeks, so help them by being very explicit about when you’re available for meetings. Block out literally all other available options.

    2. Camelid coordinator*

      I was thinking something similar, that LW#2 has only been in the job six months and the boss is not yet used to the arrangement, since it differs from the standard way of working the boss has. Six months in is a good time to remind boss of the arrangement and point out how well it has gone so far.

      And have those six months been typical of your travel schedule or did a bunch of your yearly travel take place then due to the holidays? If you can lay out for the boss what the next six months will look like that might make it more comfortable and predictable for boss.

    3. Sarah K*

      LW#2 – what Green CTO said! I manage a team that has a lot of flexibility. I don’t keep track in my mind where/when some one is working so I might ping them to ask. I hate to admit I don’t always check their calendars either (especially when I’m in a rush to just get something on my calendar), but they know to just decline a meeting/propose a different date. I can’t tell from how the response was described whether the response to your declining was a negative one or just that they scheduled something when you were away.

    4. Leenie*

      I couldn’t agree more! I came here to suggest it, as well. I ask the people who report to me to send me calendar invitations for PTO or remote work (not just WFH, but actual remote). I have about a dozen people who report to me, and it’s hard to keep track without reminders. I actually think the LW should start with that instead of a big conversation. It really could just be a matter of forgetting on the manager’s part, and not an actual problem.

      1. Goldie*

        Yes and some of my staff are resistant to putting their time off on my calendar. I have 13 direct reports, but a few get irritated if I haven’t memorized their vacations and conferences.

  24. Serious silly putty*

    Re: baby announcement-
    Send an updated picture! Or make collage of the newborn picture and current picture. That will be a way of acknowledging that time has passed without getting into the nitty gritty of why.

    1. bamcheeks*

      I love this idea. Depending on how you feel about and what photos you have, LW, you could gently disclose the fact that it was a complicated birth by putting a NICU or post-surgery photo as the birth photo, so it’s clear that your baby had intensive needs, followed by a cheerful smiley seventh month old photo. I think that would kind of give an implicit reason why the announcement wasn’t happening at the usual time and give anyone who has been wondering whether or not it’s OK to offer you congratulations a nice “hook” to do so.

  25. Varthema*

    Fake complimenting so as to snicker with other people In the Know is the kind of middle-school emotional terrorism that had me afraid to take compliments at face value until I was into my twenties. :(

    1. LilPinkSock*

      It reminds me of the part in Mean Girls when Regina George compliments a girl’s skirt and then says “That’s the ugliest effing skirt I’ve ever seen”. Cady flashes back to getting a compliment on her bracelet and now wonders if Regina was being fake to her too.

      It’s just so gross to see grownup Mean Girls, especially when they’re managers, especially when they’re so obviously proud of their nasty behavior.

    2. AGD*

      Very similar story here. I had this done to me by two classmates in eighth grade. After that, my trust in other kids was so low that I didn’t even try to make friends in high school.

    3. The Other Sage*

      Situations like that make me wonder about how this kind of people manage to live into adulthood but never leave their teenage phase behind. I’m not only talking about people in their 20s, but I have also witnessed people in their 50s who are like that. How do you manage to not to mature and evolve despite having had the time to do so?

      1. Gem-Like Flame*

        You manage not to grow out of that kind of behavior when there are no serious consequences to having done it as a kid, when your own character is (A) so weak that you automatically fall in with the crowd no matter what they’re doing or (B) so corrupt that your favorite hobby is schadenfreude – or all of the above.

        That being said – Alison, do you think that this bespeaks a level of toxicity in that office culture, or is it just a bunch of VERY immature, spiteful managers who’ve fallen into a bad habit and need to be shaken out of it via PIPs? What would you recommend that these managers’ own bosses do upon learning of this middle-school mean kid behavior?

    4. Nobby Nobbs*

      It almost makes me grateful that all the fake compliments I got (or noticed) in middle school were off the “obvious lie to make Nobby angry” variety rather than actual attempts to fool me. Which is like saying I’m grateful for being pushed off a hill instead of a mountain; the bar is effing underground and these assclowns still can’t clear it.

    5. Madre del becchino*

      Eighth grade for me was 40+ years ago, but I still remember the 4th period English class I dreaded because the “cool girls” would fake-compliment me on my purse (an over-the-shoulder type at the time that strapless clutches were all the rage.)

      1. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

        I am way past 5th grade, but I can still feel in my bones how I wore an outfit similar to a classmate’s, and another classmate loudly pointed out that she looked good in it because she’s “little and pretty,” while I was “big, fat, and ugly.” [Readers, I was 90 pounds soaking wet, since that was back when I was still in excellent shape from my 3 ballet classes per week.]

  26. MCMonkeyBean*

    I think the script for LW 2 needs to include that travel is a priority for LW–as is I think it is basically inviting the boss to just respond with “yes, please stop traveling so much.” I’d add in something like “I want to be honest that travel is a priority for me and the flexibility that we agreed on is a huge reason why I accepted this job.”

    I think that would shift the “is there anything you want me to do differently” question into inviting more constructive criticisms than just “stop traveling.” Maybe the boss has or would be willing to workshop more ideas on working around the time zone issues. Or else reminding him that this was a core reason for you accepting the job in the first place will make him remember why he agreed to it and if he’s happy with your work then maybe he’ll work on getting over his issues with it.

    1. GythaOgden*

      It may be that he’s not actually happy with the arrangement and things need to be put into words. OP might think she gets everything done but it could actually be more difficult for people back home to keep track of than she thinks.

      Something like this really needs to be the subject of a two-way conversation, and OP also needs to keep in mind that it might not be possible at other companies to do this. Also, she needs to look at visa requirements, given that some countries can be a bit more pernickety than others when someone who is travelling there on a tourist basis actively engages in some kind of work.

      The one thing to remember is that agreements can be made in advance that are great in theory, but can end up having unforeseen consequences in reality. The other thing is that managers are human and keeping track of when OP is abroad but not on PTO might be difficult for him, since he probably also juggles other employees’ schedules. He has needs as well as OP does, so they both need to sit down and examine whether this is working for everyone involved.

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

      I would replace “I want to be honest” part with something like “As we discussed when I accepted the role, travel is a priority….”

    3. NotMuchYouCanDo*

      I second having thus conversation, but there’s no requirement boss honor the deal. Not even if OP got it in writing. They can decide they thought it would be okay but isn’t and change the rules at any time. A good boss would understand it was a change and communicate it that way, but these types of things are not binding. The boss could say I am no longer okay with the extra travel tomorrow and the recourse of an employee when they don’t want to accept it is to leave. I’ve been there, it sucks, but the bottom line is that employers can change benefits, perks, or special arrangements at any time.

  27. Introvert girl*

    L4. I was contacted by a coworker and a supplier on two different occasion because mails weren’t coming through to a specific manager. That person had died 3 months previously and no one was informed. I heard it through the grapevine. Same with our big boss who quite. Those people had important roles and their ok/signature was needed. And noting was communicated.

  28. Wilbur*

    #4 If I was running a company and wanted an arbitrary way to make work harder I’d just get rid of Teams/Slack. All interoffice communication must be done via pneumatic tube. And no central receiving area for these notes, I want them running to every desk. I want the whole place looking list a sci fi dystopia set in the year 2023 as imagined by Hollywood in the 70’s. All paper must be at least 28 lb, and no cheap ass pens.

      1. Wilbur*

        Probably a good idea, all the tubes are going to be routed overhead so lighting is probably not going to be great.

  29. LB33*

    In #2, my hunch is that when the boss agreed to your schedule, he wasn’t thinking it would require you to miss meetings, or not be available at times.

    That’s different than just working somewhere else.

    Agree with the advice though – if you bring it up now you’ll either be able to work it out better, or realize that boss doesn’t want this arrangement after all. Better to find out sooner than later

  30. Cabbagepants*

    #1 the company may have an internal code of conduct that the behavior violates, even if it is legal.

    1. bamcheeks*

      Yes, most places I have worked have had a Respect and Dignity policy or something, which is basically there to ensure that any behaviour which doesn’t necessarily meet the bar of illegal but which is bullying or otherwise anti-social and creating an unpleasant atmosphere.

  31. Ann O'Nemity*

    #4 is damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

    It’s frustrating to not know who has been laid off, especially when it affects your work. However, it is incredibly demoralizing for employees to receive huge lists of laid off employees after each round of layoffs. Mass emails are terrible for communicating this kind of info, and layoff lists can actually prompt demoralized survivors to quit.

    Perhaps a better solutions is to have department heads communicate to their teams when they are impacted, but even then you can end up over- or under-communicating.

    1. bamcheeks*

      layoff lists can actually prompt demoralized survivors to quit

      So can NOT sharing lay-off lists.

      I mean, if you have lots of lay-offs, many of your not-laid-off staff are going to start job-seeking. That’s just a built-in cost, and thinking you can avoid it through secrecy and information-management is poor judgment, IMO.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Eh, I’m not suggesting secrecy is going to help with the morale issues.

        It’s more like, how should a company like Alphabet share the names of 12,000+ employees that they’ve laid off in the last 6 months? Or Amazon laying off 20,000+ employees in like 11 different rounds of layoffs in the last year. I cannot imagine how terrible it would be for remaining employees to keep receiving mass emails with that many names.

        1. Observer*

          The better way to handle that is by department. If a company that size can’t manage that, they deserve to go broke.

    2. YetAnotherAnalyst*

      Layoffs are demoralizing however they get communicated – nobody wants to hear we’ve laid off X percentage of our workforce, any more than they want to go through a list of hundreds of former coworkers. But the day-to-day necessities of work mean not making that list available somewhere means people spend the next several days compiling that list informally, which is disruptive in a way that transparency wouldn’t be. And, for me at least, the horror-movie feeling of wondering who will be missing when you turn around is much, much worse than any of the alternatives.

      1. GythaOgden*

        I can’t speak for layoffs (that was easier for us at least with people who had swipe cards for the building because we were the people who they were handed to when the person ahem went on ahem gardening leave) but I had the opposite problem.

        One of the big frustrations of being on reception wasn’t so much losing people but when new people joined. Having phone calls come in for someone new was usually the first time we’d hear someone had joined the tenant organisation, and there would be a few minutes of confusion before it was made clear that the person was now on board. People probably circulated new names amongst themselves but forgot to tell us on reception, resulting in a bit of confusion as we’d scramble to update our mental knowledge bank. And it took ages to get updated lists of people attached to the building (in the latter years of my tenure there, during the pandemic, some had simply never been in since they picked up their equipment), meaning we always lagged a few weeks behind the curve.

        It particularly infuriated me because in other places and at other times my actual job had been contact database creation and upkeep. I even created one as a work experience student for a new MP way back in 1997. It was just so painfully inadequate that a large public healthcare office system could not keep track of who was attached to the building. (I had ideas like the creation of a software portal/virtual noticeboard that would be able to relay information on a need to know basis, like ‘lift is out of order’ or ‘leftovers are in the kitchen’ without having to spam people who weren’t in the office or navigate which org allowed us access to their Teams network and so on. But although a good idea in theory, it would have come at a huge pricetag and I’m not the one holding the purse-strings :(.)

        So there are very practical reasons why this is a stupid policy alongside the more nefarious ones. I’m actually tasked with keeping a list about people who have been onboarded as contractors (that is, who from which company has been trained in the ins and outs of working on an NHS site) and it’s great to finally feel more in control of information than I did on reception.

    3. Observer*

      t’s frustrating to not know who has been laid off, especially when it affects your work. However, it is incredibly demoralizing for employees to receive huge lists of laid off employees after each round of layoffs

      As you note there are some better ways to do this. But also, keep in mind that the not knowing is not just *frustrating* it can also be extremely demoralizing, and also trigger survivors guilt.

      And that assumes that the company actually cares, which I don’t believe is the case.

  32. Humble Schoolmarm*

    Travel OP, is there any way you’d be able or willing to flex your personal schedule to do the odd zoom if the meeting is important while you’re away? Hopefully, the boss wouldn’t take advantage to rope you into hours-long daily meetings about filtering the coffee water, but if you’d rather not job hunt again, a little more flexibility on your end might resolve things better than an ultimatum.

    PS. I have no idea how much work you’re missing if you can’t meet while traveling. How many meetings are a reasonable compromise will very much depend on that.

  33. periwinkle*

    #1 – Although the other managers are behaving poorly, this might be their way of responding (albeit a crappy, immature, unprofessional response) to the fact that Pete’s poor performance is allowed to continue. Where is Pete’s manager in all this?

    I’d be worried that HR and his manager will focus solely on the other managers’ cliquish behavior (which does need to be shut down hard) and not on Pete’s bumbling, poor presentation skills, poor interpersonal skills, need for constant direction in order to perform his role, and otherwise apparent lack of competence as a manager.

    1. LW #1*

      Pete’s manager and their desire to avoid conflict is a whole other letter. When I spoke with the HR rep, they strongly hinted that Pete has been undergoing coaching for several of the legitimate, work-related complaints.

      1. Ess Ess*

        And if managers are giving false positive responses to his presentations, it is harming Pete because he won’t know where he does need to continue improvement. They are deliberately setting him up to continue failing. The managers that do this should be fired.

      2. linger*

        Which makes the clique’s fraudulent feedback that much more problematic, as if Pete believes it, it undoes the norms set by his coaching.

    2. Blue Pen*

      Yes, I think you’re onto something here that others in the comments section aren’t really acknowledging (and never really do when similar questions are raised). I don’t know if it’s a Pete problem or if it’s a larger work environment issue (or both/more), but in my experience, people are rarely mean like this just because they think it’s fun. Especially managers. I’m not at all condoning it, because I find the outward mocking of Pete most troublesome (that feels cruel to me), but there’s usually larger forces going on that’s driving this kind of thing to happen.

      Maybe this isn’t the LW’s work situation, and maybe the group in question really are adult bullies, but I would venture to guess that there’s more of a toxic work environment at play here. Toxicity breeds toxicity. If there is no outlet or conceivable path forward for change, people are going to act out—and not in nice ways. I’ve been part of work environments where the boss was abjectly Awful; and while no one spoke a work about it on work devices or work communications channels, I could hardly fault colleagues when they let loose in text messages or DMs. They all knew the boss was going nowhere, despite raising the issues to their senior leaders and HR officials in professional manners, so… at some point, they need a place to vent. And so when taken out of context, I can easily see how they would be labeled “bullies” when, knowing them and what they were up against, that really wasn’t the case at all.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I’ve worked in toxic environments, and I’ve vented frustration about coworkers, but what’s described in this letter seems very different for a couple of reasons.

        First, these aren’t colleagues venting about how Pete is affecting their work. These are *managers* who are setting up private chat groups just to mock Pete for innocuous personal habits.

        Second, the managers are actively undermining any coaching that might be happening by telling Pete he’s doing well.

        Third, OP’s manager immediately recognized that the behavior was out of the norm and reported it to HR. In my experience, that’s not what happens in a truly toxic environment.

        1. Blue Pen*

          I agree, and good point about #3.

          I’m not saying that venting your frustrations in response (in private) to a toxic work environment is necessarily “right,” but to me, that is much, much more understandable. Actively egging someone on in the workplace to mess them up, undermining their coaching, etc., is a totally different thing, and I agree with Alison: it’s cruel.

          Still, and I’m not making excuses for this group, it makes me wonder why this is happening in the first place. When someone bullies or turns to bullying behavior, it’s usually a response born out of pain/loneliness and wanting to inflict that on another as a way to “control” for theirs. Could these people just be mean for the sake of mean? I suppose, but that feels like more of a stretch to me. I would still bet that there’s something about that workplace that is causing them to act out in this way.

  34. cheetos_are_yummy*

    LW5 — When I became a freelancer, my old company asked me to stay on part-time. Be prepared in your mind for that conversation — if yes, how many hours are you willing to commit and your fees. I would recommend going at an hourly rate that is much higher than what you make now (since you now have to cover your own laptop, health insurance, accounting, etc). I charged 1.5-2x my hourly rate. They said they were willing to pay me $xx/month, which was equivalent to yy hours at my new rate, and I made sure I did not work over that.

    My rate has gone up over the years. As I get more clients and experience, I am more confident in asking for more $. Good luck! I love being a freelancer/consultant.

    1. Thistle Pie*

      I agree that deciding ahead of time what you’re comfortable with for an offramp is important. I had decided I would tell them X and if they responded asking for more I was comfortable offering Y – part time work at a higher rate.

  35. Gudrid the Well Traveled*

    A fun idea for the missed baby announcement would be to share some current pictures with the original ones with a heading of “look how much he’s grown!” Then add something about missing the original announcement, new and old stats, and maybe mention a recent milestone. Congratulations on the new addition, OP!

  36. Glazed Donut*

    LW1 – I worked at a place where another team had a group chat on their personal devices about people they didn’t like at work. They were a team adjacent to mine – I didn’t manage them at the time – and unfortunately, the skip-level boss only encouraged this behavior (under the guide of “documentation”). It was used for gossip, venting, and back-channeling during meetings.
    The lack of reprimand and professional norms – and encouragement by leadership – contributed to my exit from the org.

    1. LW #1*

      I hate that for you! Luckily, this is an anomaly in my org which is why it was taken right to HR (and why I did the second guessing of whether I should have taken it to HR). I think that’s also why it stands out so much–it really IS a lovely and wonderful place to work, somewhere I’m proud to say I’m affiliated with.

  37. Ess Ess*

    “Filling the screen with your face” is a bizarre thing to get annoyed about. A webcam in a laptop is situation in one location so you can’t change it. And when someone is presenting in a meeting, it is frequently difficult to read/see the small screen share so you have to put your face close in order to see. So complaining about where someone’s face is sounds very petty and critical for simply trying to do what they need to in order to read a screen.

    1. H.Regalis*

      I was wondering what this was meant. Is it that Pete dominates all the meetings and other people can’t get a word in edgewise? It is a BEC thing where he has his face close to his webcam and because LW is already irritated with him, suddenly *everything* he does is irritating?

      1. AnonORama*

        Thinking BEC + some mildly annoying Zoom etiquette. I admit I get irritated that in 2024 there are still some folks who don’t realize they’re close enough that everyone can count every pore on their face, or the camera is looking up their nostril, etc. It’s probably inadvertent (I’ve never bothered, but my recollection is that you can set your Zoom or Teams up so you can’t see yourself).

        1. H.Regalis*

          AnonORama* (or anyone else) – What’s roughly the etiquette for how far away your face should be from the camera? I keep my face ~2ft away, and I filter the hell out of everything and am very careful with the angles because I’m vain XD but if I’m committing some faux pas, I want to know.

        2. Elsajeni*

          I think the context of some of his other issues, especially giving bad presentations, is probably relevant — when you’re in video meetings, “seeming competent with Zoom” is part of your presentation skills, and being the guy who’s always way too close to the camera is a problem in the same way that constantly wandering out of frame, wandering out of mic range, not knowing how to share your screen, etc. would be. It’s minor compared to some of the other issues, for sure! But it’s also not just a BEC/pet peeve thing.

        3. LW #1*

          I also want to tell everyone who says it is because they are squinting at the screen–there is a – / + zoom in option when screensharing in most platforms. You don’t have to get close to the screen, make the screen get bigger for you! lol

  38. Everything Bagel*

    For letter number two, I wonder if it would be helpful for you to have your calendar updated to so you’re availability shows as tentative on the days and times when you are traveling. This might help your boss realize when he’s booking something that it’s overlapping with your travel time.

  39. H.Regalis*

    LW1 – Holy cow, your coworkers! I guess some people never left middle school behind. Even if Pete’s a total clod, appointing themselves the part-time job of making fun of Pete is pretty awful. I wouldn’t have a lot of respect for any of them after finding that out. The only thing I’d trust them to do is act out scenes from Mean Girls.

  40. Jennifer Strange*

    I just want to say kudos to LW#1 for recognizing that just because someone is annoying (and even a poor employee) doesn’t make it okay to bully them.

  41. Freelance Bass*

    LW #5– I was in a similar situation when I decided to quit my full-time job and go freelance. The job I had really wasn’t working for me. The difference is that my boss was a notoriously hard person to work for. BUT she was surprisingly supportive when I told her I was changing gears and even made a few connections for me. Her main concern was when my last day was going to be so she could find a replacement.

    Obviously, not all bosses are going to react so favorably, but it sounds like your boss cares about supporting you professionally. Give your notice, make sure you tie up your loose ends, and be free!

  42. puppy butts*

    #3 happened to me too. Only mine was an adoption. I told my boss the adoption was finalized, and she said “oh Congratulations” and changed the subject. This is the same week that a coworker celebrated a baby shower in the office where people donated money to get her a nice gift. Now, my child was not adopted as a baby. She was 15 at the time, but still. Don’t forget your coworkers that are adoptive/foster/kinship parents. We’re going through a lot, lol.

    1. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

      My husband’s school did an internal mailing one time after a baby boom that also included a teacher who’d adopted her husband’s niece. I felt bad that I’d done baby blankets for the newborns but hadn’t done anything for the six-year-old, so I knit her a funky striped scarf to celebrate the adoption.

  43. Michelle Smith*

    LW2: If the issue is really that he’s forgetting the 3-6 weeks out of the 52-week year that you’ll be unavailable for meetings, why are those weeks not blocked off on everyone’s calendars? It seems like a very simple solution to the problem. Outlook, for example, allows me to mark certain hours or days as “busy” “out of office” or “working elsewhere” to prompt someone to find a different meeting time. My boss tends to forget that stuff so we also have a shared calendar where everyone puts their travel (e.g., Michelle OOO 2-4 pm, Jessica – Alaska Conference, etc.) and if I’m going to be gone for any significant chunk of time, I send her a calendar invite so that it’s on her own calendar that I’m out of office (think all day appointment that says MS OOO today, for each day of the trip). That way, no matter where she looks, she gets a reminder of my vacation.

  44. Atlantica*

    I must be in the minority but when I was laid off I did think it was fairly private and prefer my name wasnt on some massive list (if someone worked with me closely they find out quickly enough from email bounce back or my manager) and when i have had to lay folks off I don’t see the point of sharing a list of names widely. I just quietly let the most relevant folks know (e.g their team, a couple of key partners) and our directory auto updates to something like “ooo till ” or “left ddmmyy” which is easy enough to recognise it you are checking if someone is around.

    I’m suprised so many feel it’s disingenuous to say it’s a private matter, especially at large companies where most layoffs aren’t close to any given person due to the sheer size in play. I’ve never worked anywhere that published layoff names (25 years and counting – UK tech/finance).

    1. Observer*

      I just quietly let the most relevant folks know (e.g their team, a couple of key partners) and our directory auto updates to something like “ooo till ” or “left ddmmyy” which is easy enough to recognise it you are checking if someone is around.

      And the OP’s company is not doing that.

      I’m suprised so many feel it’s disingenuous to say it’s a private matter, especially at large companies where most layoffs aren’t close to any given person due to the sheer size in play

      Because there is nothing private about this information. And obviously, these people are close enough to people who are trying to get in contact with them!

  45. Addison DeWitt*

    One ad agency I worked at that underwent a LOT of change—as in, more than half the 150-ish people on my phone list were gone by the time I left after 10 months (!)—there was one guy who kept track of layoffs on his list, and quickly became the unofficial keeper of the list of who still worked there. People will find solutions, whether management wants them to or not.

  46. K*

    With number 4 they are giving you the answer, they just aren’t being direct. If you ask if someone still works there and they say “we can’t comment on personnel matters” then they were laid off. If they still worked there they’d just say “Yes” even though that’s just as much a comment on personnel as the former.

Comments are closed.