should an employee pay for damage to a work vehicle they caused, who answers the phone, and more

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

1. Should an employee pay for damage to a work vehicle when it was his fault?

My husband is the office manager at a small, family-owned lawn service company. They have a lawn care employee, Jake, who my husband describes as a good employee (on time, good attitude, competent at daily tasks), but who has also made several significant mistakes in recent months. Jake’s made three customer-impacting mistakes, like leaving a customer’s sprinklers running all day. He’s also been in two accidents in his work truck, most recently where he admits he side-swiped a tree because he was texting while driving. This caused $4,500 in damage, which Jake has volunteered to pay for, and the business owner has accepted by reducing his pay about $200 per month (out of $4,000 salary/month).

Based on reading your advice, I say that car repairs are a business expense when you give employees work trucks to use, and that this is not a good employee they should retain. My husband says that they would not require Jake to pay for the damage (and did not do so for Jake’s other accident) but Jake offered, and this is mutually beneficial as Jake gets to keep his job and they don’t have to fire a good employee, be out the $4,500, or have to find a new hire in a tough market. What do you think?

I think there are bigger issues to solve first: namely, what’s going on with Jake and can the company safely keep him as an employee? How is Jake talking about the accident — is he mortified and shaken up by what happened? Is he (credibly and of his own volition) vowing to swear off texting while driving? Is he willing to, I don’t know, keep his phone in the glove box while driving in the future? Or he is cavalier about what happened? And what happened with the other accident? Leaving a customer’s sprinkler’s running all day seems like the type of thing that could happen to a good employee once, but the accidents are giving me serious pause about whether you could safely keep him. (Also, how far apart were the accidents? Are we talking months or years?) What if the next accident is a lot more serious and he injures or kills someone, and the business knew he was a risky driver and kept him anyway?

I think the question about the money pales in comparison to those. But if you made me answer it, I’d say … I don’t love the arrangement, but I can understand how they got there. I just think they’re looking at the wrong thing.

our new admin crashed the company car and lied about it

2. Eating disorder accommodations at a work retreat

I’ve recently been diagnosed with Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, a lesser known and in my case non-life-threatening eating disorder. Basically, for me, it means I have an extremely limited diet; there are probably 20 or so safe foods that I sustain myself on. This is something I’ve struggled with my entire life but have only recently sought out treatment for, and it’s something I still have a lot of shame around. I’ve been seen as the “picky eater” and the butt of many jokes in social and family situations.

My company is mostly remote, but we have an all-staff week-long retreat once a year, where every dinner and lunch are pre-fixed company-wide meals. Last year, this meant I would fill up my plate and push food around with my fork until I could sneak off and go buy a meal I could eat (on my own dime), gorge myself on snacks I packed, or not eat.

Planning for this year’s retreat is already underway. I understand that feeding 75 people for a week isn’t easy and that you aren’t always going to love what’s ordered by your company. But 6 days straight of not being around any of my safe foods is hard on me. I don’t want them to pick restaurants or the catering for the entire org solely on whether or not there is something I can eat on the menu. But is there a way I can explain my situation without getting to specific and ask for a stipend to cover the cost of separate meals I’ll actually eat?

Say this: “I have an extremely restricted diet for medical reasons and I can’t eat most catered meals. Last year I wasn’t able to eat anything that was served at the retreat. This year, would it be possible for me to get reimbursed for buying my own lunches and dinners?”

If they suggest that they’ll try to accommodate you if you give them a list of restrictions, you can either (a) do that and see if they turn out to find something that will work or (b) if you’d rather not get into it, say, “It’s restrictive enough that I don’t feel safe relying on someone else ordering for me; I’ve found I really need to manage it on my own.”

3. Who answers the phone?

If there are two people working at a reception desk, and one of them is in a face-to-face conversation with someone and the phone rings and the other receptionist is available and in view, who should answer the phone?

The one who’s free, obviously. At least, assuming they’re really free and not in the middle of a concentration-heavy task. It’s the kind of question that tends not to come up if the two people are working cooperatively and both have a decent work ethic.

I take it you are the one in the middle of a conversation with someone and you’re annoyed your coworker isn’t pitching in when the ring rings? If it’s a pattern with their work ethic in general, that’s a conversation to have with your boss. If it was a one-time thing and not part of a pattern, let it go.

4. How do I use my network?

I am unhappy in my current position and looking to move on, but so far I haven’t had much luck finding anything that’s the right fit for my pretty niche skillset. I’m relatively well-known in my field as a high performer and have developed a pretty extensive network of contacts, many at organizations I think I could be a good fit for and vice versa. I’m wondering if there are ways that I could use that network to help me in my job hunt.

I hadn’t really thought about this until I was having lunch with a friend in my field recently and I mentioned in passing a position I had applied for. She said, “Oh, I didn’t know you were looking — you should tell Dan (a mutual colleague of ours). He would hire you in a heartbeat.” But I’m not really sure how to bring that up with Dan, or anyone else for that matter. I work remotely, my network is pretty spread out across the country, and I’m unlikely to be traveling for work as much as I once did for budget reasons, so I’m not going to just run into people organically in a setting where I could casually mention it. I feel like it would be weird to send an email like “hey, want to hire me?” but I don’t know, is that a thing people do? I also want to be discreet so word doesn’t get back to my current employer that I’m going around advertising that I want to leave. I have a feeling some of my contacts might even be willing to create a position for me if they knew I was interested so I do think this could be to my advantage if I could figure out how to do it the right way.

Yes, this is a very normal thing people do! Usually the way to do it isn’t by saying, “Want to hire me”? Instead you say something like, “Please keep this between us for now, but I’m beginning to think about my next move and am looking for ____. If you hear of anything that you think could be a good match, I’d really appreciate a heads-up.” That opens the door for them to say, “Actually, we could use you here — let’s talk.”

This is how lots of people get many of their jobs after a certain point. (Not everyone! No one should feel deficient if it hasn’t worked that way for them. But it’s really common.)

5. Helping laid-off coworkers

I know in the past you’ve encouraged people to get over the awkwardness and reach out to laid-off coworkers because it can hurt to not hear from your coworkers when you’ve been let go.

I’ve come across another excellent idea: if someone feels awkward reaching out in a personal way, leaving a recommendation on their LinkedIn page could be a professional way to offer support both emotionally and in the job search. I thought it might be something worth passing along to those who reach out about these situations!

Consider it passed along!

{ 457 comments… read them below }

  1. Cyndi*

    From experience I’d like to propose a caveat to LW3: if the receptionist currently in a face to face conversation needs an excuse to get out of it, then the free receptionist should find an excuse to palm the phone call off on them, as an act of mercy. But this still relies on a certain amount of goodwill and coordination between them.

    (I used to work front desk with another receptionist who was much better at rescuing me from being endlessly Talked At than I was at extricating myself, and I was SO thankful for her.)

    1. Heidi*

      I get the impression that the two receptionists in Letter 3 don’t have that good of a working relationship. I love these short hypothetical ones that are seething with unspoken context.

      1. IRA TE*

        The Co worker in question answers the phone by the 2nd or 3rd ring most days. When another employee or customer has engaged in a Conversation with myself, he will let the phone get to 5 rings.

        I have to excuse myself mid sentence and answer the phone. He then takes over the conversation and the phrase ” my wife ” soon follows.

        1. Toros*

          At this point, just talk to your manager. You are “irate” (undertsnadbly, based on your description) and this is unsustainable for you. There is nothing we can say that you don’t already know or that can improve your situation. Talk to your manager before you waste more time fuming.

          1. IRA TE*

            My female Colleague alerted me to the phone situation. She didn’t answer it after 4 or 5 rings and he sarcastically said ” I’ll answer it then “. I even suggested he stop interrupting my colleague, talking over her. As she is ready to quit. She had to tell him to his face with My direct manager by her side.

            My Manager said he has been doing it for years. Has been told umpteen times. It’s like a running joke. I have gone in to silent mode when we do handovers now. I tried to google what was clearly the order in which the phone should be answered. Common sense and Common courtesy. Thanks for the replies.

            1. Anonymouse*

              in this case it’s a bad management situation and the organization has decided that for some reason they either don’t see his behavior as a big picture problem, they do but don’t want to/know how to deal with it and in this case are ok with losing other employees to it.

              1. Agent Diane*


                Also, he’s capable of answering the phone within three rings *except* when his female colleague is in a conversation? This reads like some gendered hogwash. If the company simply keep excusing his behaviour? I’m afraid the best thing is to move on.

            2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

              Yeah the guy is doing it just to be a jerk and management isn’t going to fix it. this is beyond you to fix.

            3. Everything Bagel*

              Next time, why not tell your customer, “Excuse me,” then turn to your coworker and say, “Would you mind getting that?” and then turn back to the customer and continue your conversation? Do that every time.

              1. Everything Bagel*

                Just thought I’d add, this whole situation only makes your coworker and your manager look bad, not you! If I were a customer standing there watching this take place, I would wonder, what the heck is wrong with this guy and why doesn’t he just answer the phone?

                1. IRA TE*

                  I can be open and honest with this manager. The response is that she can’t change how people are. I sent her a link to Verbal, written, final written warnings. System that was used in my previous employment. Document it, fair warning etc. I work in a Time Capsule unfortunately. Once again I appreciate the input, I don’t like toxic energy or drama and am looking for a more modern work place.

                2. Dust Bunny*

                  Yeah, but she can document their bad work habits and discipline them!

                  Agreed: This is a management problem. Nobody is willing to do anything about this guy so he’s gotten away with being an a** for years. I, too, would wonder why he couldn’t just answer the **** phone and why his manager wasn’t dealing with him about it.

                3. Margaret Cavendish*

                  She can’t change how people *are,* but she certainly has the authority to make them change how they *behave!*

                  And really, this guy’s behaviour is pretty awful. As Agent Diane said above, he’s capable of answering the phone within three rings *except* when his female colleague is in a conversation? And just to confirm, when he says “my wife,” does he mean you? As in, you’re just like his wife, always nagging him about stuff?

                  If I’ve understood both of those correctly, your coworker is 100% acting like a sexist jerk. And your manager is *choosing* not to deal with him – either because she herself doesn’t want to, or because someone else has told her not to. But either way. It appears that you’ll be stuck working with this sexist jerk as long as you and he are both with this organization. That sucks. :/

                4. SpaceySteph*

                  Idk if I saw this with no other context, I would probably assume that answering the phone is only OP’s job and she’s asking someone to cover it for her due to being involved in another task.

                  It also sets up OP as keeper of his tasks which is appropriate. This is absolutely a manager problem to solve.

            4. Leenie*

              It looks like you’re already getting similar advice here, but I’d like to put another vote in for saying excuse me to the customer (or who ever you’re helping) and then saying to coworker, “Pardon, Sexist Asshole (substitute whatever the dude’s name actually is), I’m helping a customer here, would you please grab the phone. Thanks!” Then go right back to your conversation. Every. Single. Time. And the “would you please” doesn’t actually have a question mark, though it’s said in a bright and friendly way. Repeat until you can find a job with a real manager. Good luck in the search!

        2. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

          @IRA TE wait, what does the phrase “my wife” have to do with this? What is the subtext here?
          I can tell you’re trying to write professionally, but I think that’s making you leave out details that readers need to figure out what’s happening. Do you think your coworker is failing to pick up the phone in order to be part of the conversation? You can just say that.

          1. June*

            I think they’re trying to say the receptionist won’t answer the phone unless forced to, and then sometimes the phone calls are personal ones. But I agree it’s a bit confusing.

            1. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

              I think the periods where they don’t belong and the Random Capitalized Words are really making it hard for me to understand, too.
              I guess it doesn’t matter, but now it turns out IRA TE isn’t even one of the people with the problem, they’re just someone chatting while the problem is happening. and that angle wasn’t addressed at all: maybe IRA TE is having personal chats while these people need to answer the phones and do their jobs.

              1. Leenie*

                I don’t think you’re correct about the LW not being the other receptionist. I agree that there seemed to be some shorthand in the comments that was hard to follow, but this part:

                “The Co worker in question answers the phone by the 2nd or 3rd ring most days. When another employee or customer has engaged in a Conversation with myself, he will let the phone get to 5 rings.”

                …really does sound like the LW (IRA TE) is the “myself” who is the receptionist being engaged by coworkers or customers when her co-receptionist refuses to answer the phone.

                1. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

                  Oh yeah, that makes sense! And Margaret Cavendish, I see what you mean downthread, too, I just can’t reply to say so. :)

            2. Margaret Cavendish*

              I’m guessing he is referring to IRA TE as his “wife,” and using the word “wife” as a substitute for “nag.” Or some other word, but either way it’s definitely not a compliment. He sounds like a real peach.

                1. Margaret Cavendish*

                  I don’t know for sure! I’m just guessing from the context – IRA TE said I have to excuse myself mid sentence and answer the phone. He then takes over the conversation and the phrase ” my wife ” soon follows.

                  So I’m picturing this:

                  ~IRA TE is talking to someone in the office
                  ~This F**ing Guy is standing around looking useless while the phone rings
                  ~IRA TE leaves the conversation to answer the phone
                  ~TFG jumps into the conversation and makes a hilarious joke about his “wife.”

                  I could be wrong of course, but once I got the image in my head it was pretty hard to ignore!

          2. IRA TE*

            I just finished work actually, I didn’t expect such a flood of responses. Yes, I am trying to be discreet about details. This fellow is not nasty or sexist, he has been married 30 years and starts most conversations with the phrase ” My Wife ”

            Drives my colleague bananas, any subject she brings up he will jump in with a My Wife story. We are the 2 new hires, approx 18 months. He has been there almost 10 years, others 2 or 3 times that.

            It’s honestly reached a point where you can not speak to anyone in his presence. As he hijacks the conversation and uses the dreaded words. I told him directly and honestly and it had no effect. Now he has a new party trick, the phone call wall. As soon as you answer the phone he starts his My wife routine.

            As I said to my manager, it seems trivial to complain about. But it’s mental.

            Absolute battery drainer, I’m exhausted from even thinking about it. Goodnight Irene.

        3. TootsNYC*

          on the second ring, turn to him and say, “could you get that?” and then go back to the conversation.

          It sounds like he thinks you’re too chatty, or something.

    2. Testing*

      Or on the other hand, if the face to face conversation is just chit chat with a colleague, they can just finish that and answer the phone. If it’s with a customer it’s of course the other person’s job to answer, and the same goes if it’s an actual work conversation with a colleague.

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Yes, I had a similar thought. If the conversation is a relaxing or social one, and the other assistant is busy with a work task, then the non-related work convo should typically be the one that ends, IMO.

      2. Annony*

        Yep. Having a face to face conversation doesn’t automatically trump what the other receptionist is doing. If it is a work conversation, then maybe but if it is mostly social then you need to excuse yourself and answer the phone. Even a non-urgent work conversation may have to be paused depending on what tasks the person not at the desk has to do.

      3. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

        From what they said upthread, it sounds like IRA TE is having a conversation that the male receptionist can “take over,” meaning they’re just chatting with the female receptionist. So, like, maybe stop doing that so much.
        I don’t think anyone in this story is behaving with “common sense and common courtesy.”

        1. birb*

          I don’t think “taking over” necessarily means that, and didn’t get that from their letter at all.

    3. Sloanicota*

      The missing step in the advice to number 3 was to bring it up directly with the coworker first. I don’t know, the coworker may be shy about the phone and hoping you’ll handle it, not have confidence they can answer the question, whatever (but still needs the coaching or whatever to get over it) – or they may just not be thinking about it and need this brought to their attention, or perhaps you’ll have to start saying “can you please get that” and return to your conversation. Before you go over their head, though, try and address it directly at least once or twice!

  2. Yup*

    Texting and driving is not an accident. It’s a crime. The company should be dealing with this appropriately.

    1. Cyndi*

      But what if the phone accidentally fell out of the glovebox into his hand and then his thumb accidentally hit the screen and–

    2. Starbuck*

      Yeah this is terrifying, he absolutely should not be driving for the company any more. Attitudes haven’t really caught up yet but it’s pretty much the equivalent, safety wise, of a DUI and is not something to shrug off!

      1. BubbleTea*

        I’d say it’s worse than DUI in some ways. It’s at least possible for someone to be over the limit and not realise it (drank last night, feel fine this morning). No one inadvertently texts.

        1. Cabbagepants*

          do we have to nitpick on substance like this? both are bad and we don’t need to invent niche hypotheticals.

        2. Venus*

          I don’t want to nitpick, but… I have a friend that has one of those blowing machines for work, and we were surprised at how incapacitated we felt even when we were well below the limit. I don’t think an inadvertent DUI is possible.

          1. Lenora Rose*

            Someone who has built up a tolerance may not feel as incapacitated as soon, and may genuinely not know they’re over the limit. They DO know that they had drinks though, so it’s no excuse at all; I’d rather people just not drive if there’s any chance.

      2. Yup*

        It’s actually statistically much more dangerous to text while driving than to drive drunk (not that it’s a competition or that either are OK).

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Yeah, intentionality aside, driving while intoxicated makes your reaction speed slower. Texting while driving makes your reaction speed slower AND means you are looking away from the road!

          Obviously, both are very bad, and both should not be at all acceptable.

    3. An Honest Nudibranch*

      Ya, LW I would reframe this in your head as “employee did something illegal while on the clock, using company equipment.” (At the very least you should if you’re living in an area where texting and driving is illegal, but even if not it’s still a serious safety hazard.)

      I would consider that to be a fire-on-the-spot offense, especially if he had prior accidents in company vehicles. It can open up the company to legal liability if he gets into another accident while in a company car, especially if it’s found that the company knew he had been driving recklessly before.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        And not “just” illegal but something that could risk his own or others’ lives. (Just is in inverted commas, because obviously the fact it’s illegal is an issue in and of itself, but I think it’s more significant that it is something potentially life-threatening, had he hit a person instead of a tree.)

        1. An Honest Nudibranch*

          Oh ya, agreed. Honestly I think this should be treated as any other form of negligence in the workplace – if you are misusing work equipment in a way that could plausibly kill someone, you should not have that job.

      2. Nomic*

        Gonna take a minority position here and point out that lots of things are illegal that we really ignore: speeding, rolling stops, and yes, texting while driving.

        He needs a stern talking to, but if you wouldn’t fire a guy for speeding, don’t fire him for this either. But also make sure he doesn’t do it again.

        1. Sparkle llama*

          I think this is very different. I know a company I worked for could not employee staff who drive who had a DUI or texting while driving on their record because their insurance would not cover them driving. That is not the case for a ticket for a rolling stop or at least typical speeding. In addition to the practical consequences, if insurers are making that decision, the numbers must clearly indicate the risk of liability is quite high.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I’m wondering if this is already playing out. I would assume that a company vehicle would be insured, and $4,500 seems like a high deductible to me. Yes, the employee was at fault, but doesn’t that usually just increase future premiums?

            Did insurance refuse to pay the claim because the employee was engaging in uncovered illegal/reckless behavior when he caused the accident?

        2. Lenora Rose*

          This is much closer to a DUI than to speeding — and even some levels of speeding would hit the limit for reckless endangerment.

        3. Esmae*

          I would absolutely fire a guy for speeding (or rolling through a stop sign) if he caused an accident that damaged his work vehicle while doing it. Twice.

        4. yeah*

          I think this badly misses the point. He’s been in two accidents so far. I absolutely would fire him for speeding if he caused an accident because he was driving too fast.

      3. ferrina*


        At a bare minimum, this employee should not be allowed to drive the company vehicle. I realize this may mean that he is unable to perform the other basic duties of his job, but you can’t say “oh, this person is great except for their tendency to punch people!” No! The tendency to endanger others precludes any kind of greatness!

        1. inksmith*

          You say that, but I once had a very intense face-off with my boss about hiring a guy with a very recent GBH conviction (less than 6 months ago at the time) – he was the first person we found who could do a job we needed filling, and for my boss, that over-rode the fact that he punched a guy he was playing football with hard enough to send the guy to the hospital.

          I should add that (a) my boss was a man and I’m a woman and (b) my boss worked entirely from home while I’d have been in the office with the new hire. And would have been new hire’s boss.

          Fortunately, I was saved by the temp agency saying they wouldn’t hire the guy and our HR saying the same, but I was ready to tell my boss he could pick me (8 years in post, consistently excellent reviews) or the new guy because I wasn’t working with a guy who might punch me if he didn’t like my feedback.

          My boss still feels, as far as I know, that I’m just prejudiced against people with a conviction.

          1. RVA Cat*

            Yikes on bikes! Classic example of a boss unable to realize it’s a safety issue for the employee when it isn’t for him.

            (Also, at first I misread the charge as GHB and thought he’d drugged someone to SA them….)

            1. inksmith*

              My boss was usually really reasonable and on the same page as me – it was like stumbling into the Twilight Zone for a day.

                1. Peter*

                  and football will be soccer – so not even a rugby-type situation where the injury could have been within the laws of the game but went wrong, but clear evidence of someone being violent. To get a GBH conviction from a football event means that the injuries are major – the wording is that they have the potential to be life-changing.

      4. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        Even looking away from the road for a few seconds can cause a car crash! That’s why so many people dislike touchscreen dashboards that are totally smooth and don’t allow the driver to rely on having memorized the location and feel of actual buttons to press in order to turn on music or the radio. The time spent just looking at the screen increases the risk of crashing the car – and most people spend MORE time when they’re texting. (Yes, of course you can drive without listening to anything and no, of course there are, alas, plenty of drivers who’d rather risk a collision than wait until they can safely stop the car to turn on the entertainment system! Sigh…)

        This employee is a liability, OP; if you can’t fire him immediately, at least put him on a very strict PIP and stick to it.

    4. Matt*

      Yes, but there’s still the possibility that part of it might go on the company’s account because they demand availability and responsiveness in every minute, with no excuse for such things as driving and bathroom use. We don’t know if that’s the case here, but there were some cases of this on AAM.

      (In my company, they don’t like if you use your phone or be unattentive in meetings – on the other hand they also don’t like if you’re unavailable for one or two hours because, well, you’ve been in a meeting …)

      1. Drag0nfly*

        The driver is still the one morally culpable. Even the army does not accept “I was just following orders” as an excuse to do reprehensible things. No one can order *me* to maim or kill someone just because someone at the office wants to talk to me. And Jake is so casual about it, too? Get rid of him.

        1. JM60*

          The employee is culpable. However, the employer probably should make changes if employees feel pressured by the employer to be responsive via phone while driving.

        2. Engineer*

          It’s a root-cause analysis. Yes, Jake bears major responsibility for texting while driving – but if the company requires immediate responses, they too have contributed to the accident because they ultimately created the situation that lead to such a decision.

          When the NTSB investigates major accidents, they don’t just stop at “well it was ths driver’s fault because he was drunk.” They investigate why and how the driver was in the situation. Had he just been at a work event for a company that heavily pushes drinking and also won’t taxi rides or a hotel room? And if you don’t go to those work events, your job opportunities suffer? If yes, the NTSB will label the company as also responsible, because they created the conditions and atmosphere that lead to the drunk driver behind the wheel.

          1. Drag0nfly*

            I get what you’re saying, but at the end of the day if I said to someone, “I want you to respond immediately when I call you,” I do so under the assumption that the person has the moral and cognitive sense not to answer when they’re in the middle of a dangerous task. Just because a company has a rule for employees to be responsive, the employees don’t get to hide behind that particular skirt. The implied subtext is to respond immediately when it makes sense, not at all costs. It’s frightening that this would have to be spelled out to some people.

            I’m at a party where the company wants me to drink, but won’t get me an Uber? Then it’s on me to stay sober, or make my own arrangements. You’re performing brain surgery? Call me back as soon as you’re *able,* not while you’ve got the scalpel in your hand. Somehow, I don’t think anyone would be so quick to place responsibility elsewhere if the neurosurgeon pulled a Jake, but people want to diffuse responsibility because *they* might have pulled a Jake.

            1. Potoooooooo*

              You might have that assumption. Not every manager is that reasonable, unfortunately. Hence this blog’s existence.

            2. Lydia*

              But that’s what Engineer is saying. It isn’t “just” on you. There is context that needs to be considered. Ultimately, the person who will be held responsible will be the person who caused the accident, but getting to the underlying reasons means they can help prevent it happening again.

          2. Come On Eileen*

            That’s so interesting! I didn’t know that the NTSB investigated to that level. I appreciate the nuance behind it.

            1. Grey*

              They do the same with plane crashes. If it’s pilot error, they investigate why they made the error. Poor training, overworked, fatigue, arrogance… They want to prevent it from happening again.

              1. Engineer*

                Yes, exactly. It’s why it takes so long to get the final report for these big accidents – the surface-level cause is usually fairly easy to find, but the why takes a long time to thoroughly determine. Unfortunately the NTSB doesn’t have any regulatory power so all they ultimatrly can do is offer strongly-worded suggestions on prevention.

                But the same principle applies here. Jake’s had three serious mistakes now, two involving a vehicle. He very likely does need to be let go, but the company needs to take an honest look at their practices and make sure they haven’t been doing things that ultimately contributed, such as requiring quick responses.

                1. JustaTech*

                  Yeah, that’s like when you look at the root causes of the Tenerife disaster (off the top of my head) – terrorist attack at another airport, soccer game, fog, working hours limitations on flight crew, and respect/fear of a very senior pilot.
                  It was all those things together that caused the disaster, not just “pilot messed up” or “tower messed up”.

            2. inksmith*

              Admiral Cloudberg on medium writes about plane crashes and the analysis that happens after – it’s a fascinating look at how that kind of analysis works and how they divide up responsibility.

          3. Lucia Pacciola*

            ‘When the NTSB investigates major accidents, they don’t just stop at “well it was ths driver’s fault because he was drunk.”’

            Yeah, because the NTSB is charged with figuring out ways to improve overall conditions and mitigate risk across the board.

            When the DA investigates major accidents, she’s not trying to find systems and processes to improve road safety. She’s trying to figure out if someone knew better than to do what they were doing, and hold them accountable if so.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              The NTSB has a pretty good record at reducing crashes, improving safety and ultimately saving lives. Does the DA?

              1. Lurky McLurkerson*

                DAs can and do revoke driver’s licenses from people who drive drunk, so yes, I’d say they do reduce crashes. Sometimes it’s a process issue, but sometimes it’s a person issue. Drunk driving and texting while driving are person issues.

                1. Lydia*

                  No, the DA does not prevent crashes. So many articles about someone who was arrested for driving drunk or under the influence and causing an accident that hurt or killed someone also include that the person driving no longer had a license due to a prior conviction for the same thing. I literally just read one five minutes ago.

                2. MigraineMonth*

                  Except suspending/revoking a license doesn’t actually prevent someone from driving if you don’t consider the person’s context. If they still own/have access to a car, and still need to use a car to get to their job, and still need a job to have housing/eat… they’re going to drive anyway.

                  This is why interventions that aren’t strictly punitive but are intended to change behavior–such as requiring addiction treatment, adding a device that prevents the car from turning on if you don’t pass a breathalyzer test or even requiring a frequent DUI-er to move within walking distance of a bar–is often more effective in changing behavior.

                  Harm mitigation strategies don’t feel as righteous as punishment, but they are pretty effective in reducing the amount of damage done overall.

        3. blah*

          We don’t have details on if Jake was casual about it, that’s why Alison asks about that in her response.

    5. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      It’s literally against the law to text while while driving in some states, including mine. So yes, it cab be an actual crime.

      When LW’s husband decided to keep this dude on, I hope that came with s warning to not even think of texting while driving a company vehicle again or he WILL be fired. LW doesn’t say whether that happened, but if it didn’t, it should have.

      1. TheSüperflüoüsUmlaüt*

        This. Where I live, if you crashed a company car while driving and texting (sheesh!), you would be IMMEDIATELY fired (and hopefully prosecuted).

        1. Lydia*

          You would only be prosecuted if someone were injured. Whether you think that’s right or not, they may write a ticket and fine someone if the police are called, but they usually aren’t going to fully prosecute someone for it.

      2. Lydia*

        There seems to be a lot of reliance on texting and driving being illegal, so that’s how you get him coming up in the discussion. So is speeding. People don’t often get fired for getting a ticket in a company vehicle. I’m not sure the illegality of the texting and driving carries as much weight as some might wish.

    6. Brain the Brian*

      100%. Perhaps the owner also texts and drives (I certainly know way, way too many people who do) and therefore doesn’t think it’s that big of a deal, but it’s really dangerous. It shocks me how many people cannot put two and two together to realize that *actively looking somewhere other than the road* isn’t basically the single most dangerous thing you could do while driving.

      I think some folks were lulled into a false sense of security several years ago when some clearly moronic researchers published a study suggesting that texting and talking on the phone would pose similar dangers while driving because they took similar amounts brainpower. Which all well and good, but only requires you to — again — *actively stare somewhere other than the road*. Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now. LW, do encourage your husband to encourage his company to take this seriously.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        I think a lot of people see driving laws as more like regulations and not potentially matters of life and death. I guess because most people drive daily, they don’t always keep the fact that any mistake can cause serious injury or death foremost in their minds. “Nothing really bad has happened in all the years I’ve been driving so I can relax and forget that I need to follow the rules and take care to ensure it remains that way.” It’s easy to forget something is dangerous when we do it regularly and usually without problems.

        1. Cj*

          while I agree with you, in this case the employee had has had two recent accidents because they were texting. you would think he would have learned after the first one.

          1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

            Only one was texting that we know of. We don’t know the cause of the other one.

            If it weren’t for the texting and driving I would wonder what is going on with the employee. Are they suddenly making mistakes when they didn’t before? If so, that’s a conversation to have. But the employee admitted to texting and driving which caused an accident. That’s not the time for understanding, its a time for — this cannot happen again.

      2. Engineer*

        Thus is why I hate touchscreens in cars. You have to look away from the road to know where tf your finger is on the dash, rather than being able to rely on your sense of touch of physical buttons.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          My husband literally traded in his 2022 vehicle for a 2018 to get back to buttons and knobs. He HATED the touch screen controls.

          1. Hannah Lee*

            That’s one of the things that led me to buy the Mazda I’ve got. Everything else I test drove had touchscreens and almost no other controls. My car has a master control knob and several shortcut buttons between the two front seats, plus the touchscreen is disabled if the car is going over a certain speed (like 15 mph). It’s simple enough to use so I can do most functions without looking at the screen or with just a quick glance.

        2. SarahKay*

          So much this. They’re such a bad idea since not only can you not just reach out and poke the button / turn the dial, being able to reliably poke the button is much harder when there’s just a smooth screen for your finger to merrily skid across.
          Fine if you’ve got a passenger, but lousy if you’re the only person in the car.
          Given the choice I would actually make it illegal to have (at the very least) the climate control on a touch-screen.

          1. Engineer*

            And the screen glare! Depending on how the light hits the screen you might not be able to see it at all, so now you’re doubly screwed.

            God I hate them. The number of crash reports I read where primary cause is distracted driving and secondary cause is manipulating touch screen keeps going up year and year.

          2. Kay*

            Oh man the climate control! I went in to sit in the model Tesla I was about to buy, turned it on and the AC was BLASTING, like 0 degrees at 100 miles an hour blasting! I am someone who hates the cold, and my eyes hate having wind blown in them. The amount of time it took me whacking at the touch screen to try find the right screen and get the AC off or the temperature down, ANY kind of relief before I succumbed to frostbite was… NOT. Good.

            I decided right then and there that this was completely unsafe and I canceled my order. I understand I would have gotten better with the prompts over time, but to me this setup screamed danger.

          1. pally*

            Glad someone has seen the light.

            I can touchscreen or I can drive, but I cannot do both. Just not that adept, I guess.

        3. ThatGirl*

          My new (2023) car has both, thankfully, so I can navigate volume or heat or whatever without looking at a screen. What amuses me is every so often, as I start the car, I get a screen warning me about looking at the screen too much while driving – and I have to hit “OK” on the screen for it to go away!

        4. Saturday*

          They make me furious. I don’t understand why they were designed.
          Let’s make a giant phone screen and put it right next to the driver. It will be unsafe, sure, so we’ll cover ourselves by putting up a warning about how it’s not safe for the driver to actually use.

        5. anywhere but here*

          +1! Exactly! I’ll just have to keep buying progressively older cars because no way in heck am I giving up the ability to push relevant/necessary buttons while driving without looking.

      3. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        Maybe they were thinking of newer vehicles with Bluetooth integration so you can use speech-to-text and vice versa? (Our 2018 Prius Prime has this, our 2009 Outback doesn’t, so I’m not sure when it started.) Still not super safe – I’ll only use it at a red light – but better than using your thumbs.

        1. bmorepm*

          my 2023 car has bluetooth integration but it cannot control the vehicle functions that would typically be controlled manually whether by knobs or touch screen. so interesting!

        2. Nomic*

          I have a 2018 Prius, and I love that when I receive a text I press one giant button my my touchscreen and it reads the message to me. It means I never think of picking up my phone for any reason while driving.

        3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          Cheaper. One screen is a lot cheaper than individual knobs that need connections.

          According to electrician Hubby.

      4. Bear Expert*

        Oh man, my kid is brutal about texting and driving and I didn’t know because I don’t usually do it.

        We were stuck in traffic last week and I grabbed my phone to text we were running late and from the backseat I get “You shouldn’t be texting! That is so dangerous!” I had to tell her that she was absolutely correct… (but the car wasn’t moving or anything.)

        I don’t like the big touchscreen trend in cars because you can feel buttons without looking. It just seems like bad design to me.

        1. Lellow*

          In the UK you’d still be committing a crime there and be subject to a fine and points on your licence. This is because a lot of texting-caused crashes happen in stop-start traffic, when the driver realises the traffic jam is suddenly moving again and engages the car quickly without properly looking at the situation. Your kid was totally right.

      5. AnonInCanada*

        EXACTLY THIS! Every state, province and territory should treat any activity that involves your hands grasping anything that is not the steering wheel and looking at anything that is not the road while driving as a criminal offense tantamount to driving under the influence. This morning I almost got ran over twice at the same intersection because idiot drivers don’t know what a f***ing red light means and just carry on through making a right turn without even slowing down, let alone stopping. One of which happened to have a phone in his hand. I could’ve been injured or even killed if I wasn’t paying attention to these idiots. Where’s a cop when you need one?

        This goes for wherever OP#1’s jurisdiction is as well. Jake shouldn’t be allowed to drive if he’s caught texting and driving, period. Have his licence suspended for a long time for a first offense + a big fine, and permanent revocation for the second one + a bigger fine + prison time. That goes for anyone caught texting (or any non-driving related distraction) and driving, I may add.

        Actions have consequences. OP should adhere to that while dealing with Jake.

        1. Brain the Brian*

          Some of this is undoubtedly related to the decline in free drivers ed courses (at least in the U.S.). My parents both had free lessons at their high school; by the time I came along, those had been eliminated in favor of more state testing in core subjects. The money is just not in the school budget anymore. And we wonder why people treat roads as their own personal NASCAR courses now…

          1. Brain the Brian*

            That you can do without taking your eyes off the road. (And, like most people now, I have automatic transmission, which cuts down on manual gearshifts.)

          2. AnonInCanada*

            Most people drive cars with automatic transmissions these days. Even still, you can do that briefly and still have your eyes on the road where they belong.

            1. In the provinces*

              I drove a standard for decades. No need to look, either at the clutch or the gearshift, in order to change gears.

          3. coffee*

            My driving test specifically disqualified you if you looked at the transmission while changing gears.

    7. Sales Geek*

      This is a liability nightmare. What if the employee has another accident where another motorist (and/or passengers) is injured or killed? In court his driving record with the company comes out (and it will) it’s more than likely that the company will bear the responsibility for the accident.

      It’s easy to imagine a court scenario that walks a jury through the employee’s driving history. “And after his second accident – where the driver admitted he was breaking the law – your company decided keep him?”

      In reality after this comes out in discovery it will be settled for a hefty sum that will come out of the employer unless they can absolutely show they took concrete steps to curb these bad driving habits. IANAL but the injured party’s lawyers generally follow the money.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        This times a million.

        It struck me that the money would have been irrelevant if the crash had been a genuine accident, because it would have been covered by insurance. There’s only a huge balance to be paid because it’s 100% the employee’s fault and for reasons that would invalidate the insurance (and which would be solidly illegal in many jurisdictions).

        He is a literal and figurative liability. Is his work really so good that it’s worth risking the company getting into some kind of wrongful death lawsuit?

        1. Cj*

          I know not all states are the same, but where I live the insurance would still cover the damages. after all, they cover damages, including liability for injuring or killing someone, even if you’re driving drunk. however, they probably didn’t turn it into Insurance knowing their premiums would skyrocket. and after the second accident for the same reason, the insurance might have even been canceled.

          1. Retired Accountant*

            Or they have a higher than $4,500 deductible, which would not be unusual for a business.

        2. Albatross*

          Yeah, this is where I land. If he’d gotten in a $4500 accident because the other driver ran a stop sign, or possibly even because he ran a stop sign, that’s just the cost of having a business vehicle. Texting while driving is much more serious.

      2. Cat Tree*

        Yeah, I’m really wondering what is going on with the company’s insurance. I’m assuming they just chose not to report it because the employee will pay for the repairs instead. But was there no police report? What if the insurance company finds out and increases rates? Was there property damage too? The whole situation is so shady.

        1. FisherCat*

          In many jurisdictions, if no one’s hurt and the accident doesn’t involve a government vehicle (school bus, police car, etc), they don’t come to the scene or generate a report.

          1. Filosofickle*

            I had a car pop the curb, drive into my yard, and hit my fence. Driver left the scene, but I had his plates and the cops knocked on his door and brought him back.

            I was surprised that the officer said he would not normally write up a report for this, especially considering it was a hit and run. (Driver had no signs of inebriation but was showing signs of some sort of medical event.) Except the car had touched a power pole, so he had to file. Not knowing if I’d need a report for insurance I’m glad I didn’t have to push for that. (In the end, we didn’t go through insurance. The guy was a handyman type and he came and fixed the fence. A surprising ending.)

        2. Lilo*

          They may have chosen not to report to insurance because their premiums would skyrocket. But this could potentially cause issues if there’s another accident and insurance finds out the business didn’t report and they didn’t learn about a potentially dangerous driver on staff.

          Remember insurance companies aren’t idiots. There will be lines in the contract about driver safety and reporting incidents and the business could be left holding the bag here if this guy continues unsafe driving and causes more damage.

        3. jojo*

          He hit a tree. No injury. No property damage. No police report filed. Sounds like the job in lawn service. So a work truck. If I was the owner and it is safe to drive I would not fix it. I would assign only that vehicle to him. He would not get his hands on another vehicle to damage.

          1. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

            The tree could easily be on someone’s property. Was the property owner informed of the accident or did the employee slink off without letting them know what happened.

            And we don’t have details of the other accident.

          2. geek5508*

            ” he side-swiped a tree because he was texting while driving. This caused $4,500 in damage”. Not sure where you get “no property damage” from

            1. MigraineMonth*

              The $4,500 in damage was to the truck (presumably). I believe jojo was saying that there was no damage to someone else’s property (e.g. destroying a mailbox or crashing into a building) that would have required a police report.

          3. Cat Tree*

            How is a tree not property damage? Whether it’s on private property or public property, somebody is affected by it.

        4. Clisby*

          There are a lot of details we don’t know. The OP said the employee was texting while driving, sideswiped a tree, and caused $4500 in damage to the company truck. Anybody who’s dealt with body shops recently probably knows this likely isn’t terribly serious damage to the truck, and possibly not to the tree. We don’t know whether this happened on a public street/highway, or on private property. If it’s the latter, I wouldn’t expect the police to come.

      3. Kay*

        You really need to listen to this OP. This is exactly what is going to happen if anyone is ever injured, property is ever damaged by this guy, etc. Someone will take you to the cleaners.

    8. Drag0nfly*

      Depraved indifference to human life is how I would have him charged. There’s no excuse for texting and driving, and I would absolutely sever an employee from my own company if I knew he was doing this on company time. I’d hold him personally liable as an employer if he harmed or killed someone. There isn’t any excuse anyone can make for texting and driving. It’s criminally stupid and criminally selfish on top of everything else.

    9. UKDancer*

      Yes it’s an offence in the UK to use your phone while driving to text or to talk in non hands free mode. Even using it hands free can be an offence if you’re not controlling the vehicle or not paying attention.

      It can and has caused fatal accidents.

      Every company I’ve worked for has banned employees from using their phones while driving.

    10. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      If the employee had been texting in response to a work request, surely the OP would have included this.
      Hence I assume he was texting for private reasons, nothing to do with his job.
      Several people are trying to excuse him and trying to put some/most of the blame onto his employer – without any evidence – seems the main tactic. Do they themselves text & drive?

      1. ferrina*

        Even if he was texting in response to a work response, that’s no better! As other commenters have noted, texting and driving is illegal in some states- no exception for “but it was an important work message!” If the company has the expectation that an employee will be texting and driving (even just for work messages), that’s an even bigger problem.

      2. Nomic*

        Without judging either way, I assert a *lot* of people text and drive, and depending on the state it may or may not be illegal if they do, and if it is illegal it may only be a crime if they were texting during an accident. Many people view texting-while-driving the same way they do speeding: Of course it’s “illegal”, but lots of people do it anyway, and even if ticketed it’s a minor offense.

        This may be a generational thing: Younger people are more attached to their phones and see less problem with texting while driving, while Boomers, Gen X, and maybe older Millennials (which I perceive as most readers on this site) are not.

        1. footiepjs*

          Just because a lot of people don’t properly think through the consequence of their boneheaded actions doesn’t make it right, so I have no idea what the purpose of your defense of texting while driving is.

        2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          IDK, I’m an Xennial and I have seen plenty of people my age and older texting while driving.

    11. Fellow Canadian*

      Yes, I was going to mention this as well. Maybe texting and driving is not illegal in Lws area(?!), but this is very different from “obstacle appeared in the road, I had to brake suddenly, car tailgating me reat ended me” collisions.

      In my experience, the company pays for damage to cars due to collisions, the employee pays for any traffic and/or parking tickets incurred while driving the company car. But in this scenario, the employee admitted that he was doing something very dangerous and maybe illegal when driving the car, which makes it different. Alison is right to focus on the texting element rather than the “is it ok to make him pay” element. As an aside, I know LWs husband’s business is a small company, but this might be a good time to put a vehicle safety policy in place assuming they don’t have one, outlining how to safely operate a vehicle, what to do if there’s a collision, and the consequences for not following the policy.

    12. Person from the Resume*

      The company should fire him. He has proven unreliable and distracted and will shortly do something else that will cost them money too. Possibly another vehicle accident that could hurt someone badly and then ruin their reputation as this whole situation comes out. The one caveat is if this person is a long-time employee who has only recently proven unreliable and distractible perhaps they can give him one final warning while strongly telling him he needs to address whatever is causing his inattentiveness. (I am having trouble reconciling “good employee” with several serious mistakes and wonder if he’s a good employee because of history or if it’s just most lawn care employees aren’t on time and have bad attitudes.)

      But is it a crime? Only in certain places, I think. Even if it is a crime you cannot call the police after the fact and say this guy admitted to be texting and driving, arrest him.

    13. Msybrd*

      I agree this is scary but does the company expect their field staff to respond quickly to texts? No customer is happy seeing a contractor they hired “on their phone” and “not working” so it is rare for a good employee to text from a job site. If the work expectation is that responses are quick, but jobs are scheduled tightly, sometimes the only time to respond is when going job to job. The business needs to look at their own practices and see if they support the kind of safe habits they want from employees.

    14. Glowworm*

      Yes. Text driving kills. He’s lucky the vehicle scraped, since hopefully that will be a wake up call before he runs over some poor animal or pedestrian.

    15. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

      My only experience with this was getting a ride to work when my car was in the shop. The driver started texting, I asked him not to, and he said, “It’s okay I’m checking a rental I want to reserve,” as if that explained anything. Anyway, I mentioned it in the after-service survey and the mechanic fired him. And I’ve ~never~ seen someone actually get fired for a customer complaint, but the mechanic brings it up every time I go back, that he’s grateful I kept his business from being involved in a tragedy. At first I thought that was overkill, but now that I know someone who died because he was texting, I get it.

      1. Bast*

        It’s a huge HUGE liability to text while driving while on the clock, and an even bigger one if you are transporting a client/customer etc. If that driver had been transporting another person (or you again), and gotten into an accident, particularly if it had gotten out that the company had known about it and done nothing, the consequences could have bankrupted them.

      2. StarTrek Nutcase*

        Yeah, lawn business owner is shortsighted. He thinks it’s a wash cause fixing van costs him zip & he keeps employee. But he’s ignoring the real risk of the guy’s next accident closing owner’s business. Unfortunately, owner is not unique in such shortsightedness – after all employee thought texting & driving wasn’t a big deal – until it was!

    16. lilsheba*

      Yup. YES he should pay for the damage and yes he should be fired too. There is NO excuse for texting while driving. NONE.

    17. M2RB*

      My husband bikes to work every day. If he was injured/killed in an accident where the driver had this driving record, and the driver was driving a company car, and the company had kept the driver on as an employee…. I would call the most aggressive attorney in my state from the hospital and we would take them to the cleaners. I would sue the driver, the company, the owners, every single decision-maker involved, for every last penny they have for knowing that he was a dangerous driver and keeping him in a position where he drove for work.

      This guy needs to be fired immediately. He is a liability to other road users (other drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, etc.), he is a liability to the company, and he needs to face the consequences. This behavior is absolutely criminal and cannot be tolerated.

    18. aebhel*

      Yeah, this. Accidents happen, but this is criminally careless behavior. He should not be driving a company car (or, frankly, any car) after this.

    19. Momma Bear*

      Texting and driving is illegal in many places. I suspect Jake is offering to pay in part to avoid being called out on the texting. I’m in the “I get it but this is a bigger issue” camp, too. It sounds like his accidents in recent months *plus* the incident with the customer. I wonder what else is going on with Jake to cause him to be careless. I think if the company doesn’t get to root cause, there’s going to be something big they cannot gloss over.

    20. e271828*

      I notice there is no mention of an accident report from the police or an insurer in this letter.

  3. SleeplessKJ*

    #1 – you need to take a long hard look at your employee’s driving habits and record. If he gets into a serious accident causing death or serious injury, there WILL be a lawsuit and it WILL be against him as the driver, his supervisor, the business and the business owners personally. If you have knowledge of a history of distracted driving and accidents, that is a pretty clear path to assuming liability.

    1. Glomarization, Esq.*

      This comment is right on the money. The issue isn’t whether this employee should pay for the damage. The issue is whether the company wants to risk the consequences of what happens when, very plausibly, this demonstrably bad driver gets into another accident.

    2. Sloanicota*

      I was like, “what is this doing to the insurance??” Every place I’ve ever worked where there’s a company vehicle – or even employees driving their own vehicles! – insurance is shoving its way in there making demands about driving records and liability.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I have been trying to figure out where insurance is in all of this. Does the company not have vehicle insurance? Did they not report the accident? Is their deductible over $4,500? Did insurance refuse to pay because of the circumstances? Does insurance operate completely differently where LW lives?

      2. Insurance headache*

        I’ve known a few business owners who think interacting with the insurance company in anyway will raise their premiums.

        My stepdad was one. His truck was hit while backing into a loading bay in a downtown area. He had people directing traffic but one guy was apparently impatient and went around and hit the truck. The guys insurance company was trying to assign fault to my stepdad’s company. What is my stepdad plan to fight this? Settle with the guys insurance then sue the guy in court for what my stepdad’s company had to pay.

        I asked him “why not just call your insurance company and let them fight it out if what you told us was true?”

        His response “they will raise my premiums if I do.”

        So he was willing to risk the wrath of an insurance company by suing on an accident he already settled and accepted fault on. I never heard anything else on the matter. I assume his lawyer called him an idiot and spelled it out how bad of an idea it was.

    3. M2RB*

      DING DING DING I just said this.

      I need to back away from AAM today because I am HOT HOT HOT about this issue.

    4. NotRealAnonForThis*

      It DOESN’T even have to be a serious accident causing major injury or death. It can be ANY incident with a company branded vehicle.

      Having witnessed a similar situation (“customer facing mistakes” + at least one at-fault accident in a company vehicle due to laws potentially being broken) I’m sorry, but you need to look at “do we retain his employment, and under what conditions and with what limits on future grace?”, not “do we let him pay for the damage?”. The cost of your insurance, the cost of your reputation, the cost of repairing the damage to customer property, and the cost of legal assistance for lawsuits is going to be far too much.

  4. Caramel & Cheddar*

    Is there actual value to a LinkedIn recommendation, beyond the emotional support for the former colleague? I ask because I don’t use the site very much, but when I do it seems clear that it’s mostly about professional fluffing and I don’t trust most of what I see. I’ve had former co-workers randomly endorse me for skills I don’t actually have (nor ever claimed to), which is part of the reason this feels questionable to me.

    1. Daria grace*

      There’s probably not usually a great deal of value to them when it comes to proving skills but I do really like it here as a way to signal support that doesn’t require a response if they laid off person is not ready to talk yet

    2. nnn*

      You’re thinking skills endorsements but this is about the recommendations you actually write out. I can see it as a nice way to show support.

      1. Random Dice*

        This. Very different functions. Endorsements are useless. Recommendations are gold.

        1. LadyVet*

          Endorsements, and the skills section in general, drive me nuts. I’ve been providing LI feedback for a career services org’s clients, and so many of them have things listed that aren’t even skills! “Teapots” are not a skill!

      2. Calyx*

        Agreed! I don’t pay any attention to the skills endorsements but I do read all the recommendations, both received and given. I look for:
        -what are the patterns in the feedback?
        -how enthused do they seem? Is it formulaic or specific?
        – had the person been generous about giving recos as well? What can I tell about them as an employee or coworker by what they perceived and wrote?

    3. Kyrielle*

      A “this person knows this skill” thing is pretty weak and sits under “skills”.

      A “recommendation” is a message written describing why they’re a good employee or whatever. The person who receives the recommendation can approve it or not, so they’re going to be positive and curated, but they can be useful within those limits. They are also posted with dates, so you can see if something was said a long time ago or the like.

      That said, I wouldn’t quote them on my resume or anything. But they can be a mild help, and at the very least they’re less sketchy than people clicking on skills to make LinkedIn stop asking them to click on skills.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        Oh no I know there’s a difference, I just mean that because the skills thing seems so sketchy, the recommendations stuff does too by proxy. Less so if the goal is just moral support, but I’m curious if people who aren’t the recommender/recommendee put any stock in it.

        1. ThatOtherClare*

          I view a recent recommendation as providing evidence that the person got along with at least one co-worker at their previous workplace. This may or may not be a useful data point to help answer the question “Can this person get along with others?”; that depends on the role and the presence of any other higher-quality data.

        2. MostlyDependsOnWhatTheySay*

          I’ve worked for bosses who were suspicious if people didn’t have any recommendations, especially if they were more than a few years into their career.

          For other folks? *shrug* – but it can’t hurt if they say useful things, and they have been actively positive when talking about things that genuinely differentiate a candidate from what everyone else can do. I have a few that highlight my experience in tasks that aren’t always doable/done by folks with my standard job title and it’s been a help reinforcing those skills if they’re pertinent for a new role. I have another that talked about how I was able to do complex work mostly offsite communicating mainly through Slack (pre-pandemic) that reinforces my ability to work from home even on short term/contract projects which is important to me.

          If they were just “she’s great” or mentioning things that most people in my career can do they’d be less useful.

          1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

            Yeah, I would put a LOT more weight on a specific and detailed LinkedIn recommendation. It wouldn’t get me to hire someone who didn’t have the skills I needed, but it might make me think positively about the candidate if there were recommendations from multiple people highlighting skills/traits/habits I’m interested it.

    4. Endo Ememrfh*

      Not really. It might be a nice thing to do, I suppose, if the person uses LinkedIn consistently and finds it useful, but in most cases it’s going to just be a little piece of emotional fluffing. It’s like a letter of recommendation – practically useless in terms of job hunting, but might make some people feel good about themselves. Which is fine, if that’s what you want to offer, but personally if I was in that position I’d prefer email.

      (And if I was on the receiving end, I’d find it rather patronising, but I’m sure there are plenty of people who’d like it, so, y’know, sandwiches all round….)

      1. ferrina*

        Exactly this.

        As a hiring manager, I’ve never bothered reading LinkedIn recommendations. It’s going to be biased, not just toward people that like the candidate but also to people that use LinkedIn (and plenty of great people have little to no LinkedIn presence, and the roles I hire for don’t need it).

        I agree that some people would be really touched- it’s like the equivalent of getting a thought-out, sincere Thank You email. Personally, I would be confused. I’m rarely on LinkedIn, and probably wouldn’t notice for months.

    5. bamcheeks*

      There’s “how much store do employers set by this”, and there’s “feed the algorithm”. If you’re actively using LinkedIn as part of your jobsearch, then a recommendation is a boost to your profile and popularity and it’s going to make it more likely that you come up in recruiters’ searches or that your profile gets seen across a broader network.

      There are of course many sectors where LinkedIn is barely used and more or less incidental to both your professional networking and your jobsearching. But if you’re in a sector where it is used, then any positive activity is going to boost your profile a little.

    6. Fluffy Fish*

      They’re not really useful for job purposes and this has in fact been discussed by AAM in the past.

      That said – it’s a kind gesture and well meant.

      But also…..I can see depending on circumstances it feeling like a slap in the face that a former colleague doesn’t reach out to you but does this.

      I just think it’s important to be mindful of the circumstances surrounding the persons departure as well as the person themselves.

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        ETA the people who keep claiming OP and presumably the rest of us are confusing recs with endorsements or skills – no we are not.

        A valid recommendation is not someone posting something nice about someone on linkedin is NOT a reliable recommendations. Think about it – what are the chances someone is going to write something negative? It’s the equivalent of putting down a friend as a personal reference for a job.

        Yes I get some people put stock in them. I’m not interested in debating why they’re fairly meaningless. Again AAM has talked about this before, if interested you can look into that.

        All I’m saying is no – we are not confused about recommendation’s vs anything else.

    7. Random Dice*

      You’re confusing endorsements (poking a button to say yes, this person DOES do project management and llama grooming) with recommendations (a written account of why this person excels).

      Endorsements aren’t worth the electrons they’re written with. Recommendations are.

      I’m a hiring manager, and I absolutely read the recommendations section of top candidates. I get so much insight based on what peers call out about them.

      I also like to see how many recommendations they’ve written – are they someone who creates and cultivates warm relationships with others. (My roles require influence rather than authority, and this is deeply relevant.)

    8. Bear Expert*

      I try to avoid LinkedIn as much as possible, so take this with a grain of salt.

      When I’m hiring, I do check LinkedIn profiles and see what I can see. A well written recommendation from someone with a solid background and good knowledge of the candidate can add to my understanding of how the candidate approaches work. If there are a few of those, that’s good. If there are 50 brief and generic recommendations, I give that less weight. I work on the techy side of tech, so seeing the kind of careful analysis and thought I appreciate in the high performers around me reflected in a recommendation does help – the high flyers I know and respect don’t put that kind of work out with their name on it unless they mean it. (A’s pick As, B’s pick C’s, kind of.)

      Similarly, if I’m writing a recommendation on LinkedIn, I consider it as weighing on my reputation as well, just like when I recommend someone internally. So I don’t do friend recommendations on LinkedIn.

      If the recommendation looks serious and the recommender looks serious, that helps. If it looks like the candidate asked their discord server to recommend them, I ignore it.

      The skill endorsement is a toy. I should see if my team actually ever did endorse me for “Takes No Sh!t”

    9. Coffee Protein Drink*

      The skills endorsement doesn’t do much. I know someone who endorsed a friend for potatoes.

      The recommendations are good, though. Lots of people check the LinkedIn pages of their candidates.

    10. Chauncy Gardener*

      I would say a LI recommendation is worth a lot. It’s those silly endorsements that aren’t worth anything.
      The recommendations are worth something because the people writing them are publicly giving them a good/great reference.

    11. MigraineMonth*

      Setting aside LinkedIn entirely, I’ve reached out to a colleague I worked closely with to share my non-work contact info and offer to be a reference.

    12. TootsNYC*

      A written-out recommendation would get me to read it. And then I’d decide if I thought it was credible or valuable.

      It might tip me into interviewing someone.

      But those one-click “Toots is good at X”? The first time I ever became aware of them, someone from my high school clicked that I was good at copyediting—and she had never seen me do it, and she doesn’t even know what it is beyond assuming what the words must mean.

      So no, those don’t mean anything.

  5. Daria grace*

    #1 If it were just genuine accidents I’d say the company should pay and not make a big deal about it. Sometimes people just have a really unlucky run. But texting while driving is such a ginormous red flag about this employee’s morals his ongoing employment needs to be reconsidered. There is absolutely no excuse for doing something he knows puts himself and others in so much danger it is illegal a lot of places. Theres no text message that can’t wait until he’s pulled over. If his judgement and care for other people is poor on this is, it probably is on other things

    1. Mid*

      This seems rather harsh. I’m not saying texting while driving is a good thing, but calling it a moral failing seems extreme and out of touch. Texting while driving is currently very normalized. Like smoking while driving used to be, or not wearing seatbelts. Dangerous, yes. But culturally seen as something minor and mild, so acting like this employee is some sort of amoral scoundrel is unnecessarily harsh.

      1. Support Project Nettie*

        I wouldn’t say that to the relatives of a whole family killed by a driver who was using a phone at the wheel. The point is that it should not be seen as acceptable at all. Many countries have specific legislation banning the use of mobiles whilst driving (and don’t get me started on the whataboutism it causes) as it is such a huge problem but still not a day goes buy when I see these idiots using their mobiles behind the wheel. My employer bans employees from using the phone at all whilst driving, even hands free calls. Society at large has somehow allowed the use of vehicles to be devoid of the responsibilities that would be assigned to the use of, say, heavy machinery or other things and tasks that have the real possibility of causing serious injury and death.

        Maria, and Alison, are absolutely spot on in their comments. IMHO, mobile phone use whilst driving should lead to instant dismissal.

        1. MK*

          Want to know a secret about the relatives of the family killed by a driver who was using a phone at the wheel? Statistically speaking, they most likely also have used a phone at the wheel. The members of the family that was killed, if they were drivers? Also probably have used a phone at the wheel. They may well have been in the opposite position. And no, I wouldn’t say that to them after their bereavement, but that’s neither here nor there.

          I am not saying it’s right or shouldn’t be punished. But the oral outrage isn’t helping anything.

          1. Testing*

            Do you actually have any statistics on this, or are you just talking out of your behind?

            1. Antilles*

              I can’t speak for the direct relatives of the drivers, but in terms of the driving population overall?

              -AAA did a survey in 2022 and found that 93% of drivers think texting while driving is dangerous, BUT 37% of drivers admitted to texting while driving.
              -Drive Research did a similar study and found that 45% of all drivers, including a majority of both Gen X respondants (52%) and Millennials (52%), which are the two largest generations in the workforce.
              -AutoInsurance did a survey and found that a whopping 73% of people said they have ever sent/read a text while driving and 26% say they do it regularly.

              Obviously, there’s some variability in the studies, but even if we take the lowest frequency of 37% in the AAA study would mean that among a group of 20 people, statistics would say that it’s incredibly likely (99.99%!) that at least one person texts while driving.

            2. Observer*

              MDo you actually have any statistics on this, or are you just talking out of your behind?

              Not statistics, but personal experience. I know more that one person who routinely flouted these kinds of safety rules till they, family, or someone they know fairly well are hurt / killed by someone else doing that thing. Then it’s “Oh, wow! I really didn’t realize that this really *is* so dangerous.” And that’s the *good* outcome. I know people who still go on doing what they do because THEY are a better driver.

          2. Drag0nfly*

            I doubt you speak for all such families. A victim’s survivors will often have actually liked and loved their lost one. There’s a reason MADD came to exist, and why it didn’t end with one righteously angry mother, and why it’s now an international organization. People actually care about their lost ones, as a rule. And many people have the mental capacity to see the connection between cause and effect, and have the moral IQ to decide to prevent causes that have undesirable effects to everyone involved.

            Shame is a useful tool of social pressure, and if Jake can be made to feel it, he will be better for it. More importantly, those who encounter Jake when he’s driving will also be better off for it. Shameless people are dangerous people.

            1. Toros*

              “Shame is a useful tool of social pressure” – there is ever-increasing evidence that this is not correct. “I’m going to teach people like Jake how to feel shame” is probably not the basis of good public policy for ending the very real problem of texting and driving.

              1. Drag0nfly*

                But we’ve had a few generations of social experiments to show that boosting people’s self-esteem without cause is twice as dangerous. If you do something wrong, and you’re not evil, you will properly feel bad about it. If you do something wrong you didn’t recognize as wrong, a good person will feel ashamed and stop doing it when they’re called out. A person with a fragile ego who doesn’t want to be made to feel bad? That person is dangerous.

                1. Random Dice*

                  That’s not true. Criminals are more likely to have high self-confidence but that’s not why they crime. Poverty and lead poisoning and trauma and mental illness are more probable causes. This “participation trophy” nonsense is just generational hatred and it’s ugly.

                2. WellRed*

                  What on earth are you talking about? Does this have anything to do with the letter? No. Total detail.

              2. Lenora Rose*

                It will end the problem of Jake texting and driving while on this job, if he no longer has the job, and if he has a new job, it will give him reason to reconsider ever doing it again.

                The bigger picture of ending the general habit is not on the LW, even if this thread mentions it.

          3. Irish Teacher.*

            Honestly, I don’t think that matters. I mean, yeah, a lot of people do it and you could argue this guy isn’t any worse than any of the other people who do it, but…that doesn’t make it any less of a problem. If anything, I would say it makes it more. “They do it too” isn’t an excuse for adults. It’s one of the things that is guaranteed to get my students in more trouble if they say it to me, because the youngest students I teach are 12 and honestly too old to use that excuse. If they know something is wrong, the fact that lots of people do it isn’t a “get out of jail free” card.

            And the employee is an adult. It doesn’t matter how many people do it or how normalised it is. He did it, presumably knowing full well it could cause an accident and somebody could die. And yeah, people make mistakes and maybe just pick up the phone when it rings without thinking, but he has had two accidents. Surely the first would clue anybody in to the fact that they need to take more care when driving and change their driving habits.

            The fact that a lot of people do it is a reason to be harsher when talking about it, not less harsh. Because it really needs to be highlighted that this is not just a matter of breaking a law; it’s risking lives.

            And the LW isn’t the person who was texting and driving. If they were and they were horrified by what they did, yeah, I’d say there’s no need to rub it in, but who is really being harmed by harsh comments on this matter. There is a benefit to being harsh – if even one reader realises how serious it is and takes more care then that is good – and I can’t see any harm it is doing.

            1. Awkwardness*

              The fact that a lot of people do it is a reason to be harsher when talking about it, not less harsh. Because it really needs to be highlighted that this is not just a matter of breaking a law; it’s risking lives.

              Thank you. I am honestly a bit floored by the length that people are going to to justify and excuse this behavior.

          4. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

            I’ve never in my life (I’m late 60s) used a phone – whether to talk or text or handsfree – while driving or had even 1 drink before driving. If I need to adjust or look at my SatNav, then I pull over first.
            I still follow these safety rules even when on my bicycle.

            I’d be very angry indeed if any person wilfully caused death or injury to someone I loved because of prioritising their wish to phone/text/drink while driving. Also, their selfish stupidity would significantly increase the punishment handed out by the courts. Damn well deserved too, selfish bastards.

          5. Lilo*

            That’s completely irrelevant. Someone else doing something wrong doesn’t excuse reckless driving. It’s good to harp on social responsibility, it used to be considered socially acceptable to drive while intoxicated.

          6. Lurky McLurkerson*

            Hi, I believe you are talking about me. I have a friend who was killed in a car accident caused by someone who didn’t put their phone down. I did not text and drive prior to his death, and out of respect for him and his family, have never done so since. His death was one of the worst things that’s ever happened to me, and I pray you never have to experience a loss like that. Please stop talking about things you do not understand.

      2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        He would be regarded as a scoundrel where I am – it is widely understood that taking your eyes off the road for even a second is dangerous and can kill or injure other road users. I’m surprised there isn’t also wide stigma in the USA: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that driving while texting is 6 times more dangerous than driving drunk.

        The UK and EU have general bans use on the use of a hand held phone which includes texting.
        If the police spot you, there is a large fine and several penalty points on your licence, which can also result in higher insurance premiums.

        1. Yellow sports car*

          And yet in my job – I am required to pick up and hold conversations on a radio while driving. I may also need to change stations while driving.

          Touching a phone is mostly illegal. Touching an inbuilt computer system to perform an identical task is not. A phone in your bra is illegal (even if not being used). In a pants pocket is not.

          Where I am the phone laws are seen as strongly being anti-poor laws because rich people can easily use their phone legally while poor people cannot.

          I’m not advocating for texting while driving – but I find that there’s strong moral outrage when things go wrong – and strong expectation that these things are normal when they don’t.

          The responses here seem really over the top and out of step with my society.

          My advice to LW – not your monkey. LW doesn’t even work at the company. Honestly I’d I had the choice between paying a month’s wages in damages or losing my job I’d pick the wages too. And I’d be right pissed if my colleagues were fighting for me to be sacked especially if I knew that they too likely looked at their phone while driving.

          And I honestly can say I’ve never texted while driving unless using voice commands. But I have interacted with navigation (legal) and answered phone calls (also legal), and drink or eat while driving (legal) – all things advocates campaign to be illegal, and I have been in cars without seatbelts (I’m old, that used to be normal)

          1. Morning Reading*

            A phone in your bra is illegal? Where I live a phone in your hand is illegal while driving. When I had drivers in my employ, it was absolutely not allowed to use the phone while driving. (This predated texting.) If I saw someone using the phone while driving, I would have given them a warning about it, not fired them. But if they had an accident while doing something that was clearly not allowed, especially if it was illegal, yes, that would be the end.

          2. JM60*

            I think there’s a big difference between texting while driving (which requires you to take your eyes off of the road), and speaking on the radio (which usually doesn’t).

            Using Inbuilt computer systems while driving can be very dangerous too. Though if the particular function you’re trying to do is something you can easily do without taking your eyes off of the road for about a second at a time, then it may be safe enough to do when stopped at a red light.

          3. Irish Teacher.*

            Where I am the phone laws are seen as strongly being anti-poor laws because rich people can easily use their phone legally while poor people cannot.

            I wouldn’t consider those anti-poor laws so much as pro-rich laws, which may seem like semantics, but it isn’t like the poor are being prevented from doing anything that they should be able to do. It’s that the rich are getting away with doing something they shouldn’t.

            And nobody can use their phone safely, so legally is kind of a minor deal compared to that.

            And yeah, I was in cars without seatbelts too and I am quite horrified by that now (and honestly, I think I was a bit unsure about it at the time; even as a child, I sort of wondered were we really safe without them when those sitting in the front seats needed them to be safe). The fact that you and I were endangered by poor car manufacturing and poor laws is a reminder of how following the law is not enough. We need to be proactive about safety and take more care than just that demanded by laws, because laws aren’t absolute and governments aren’t all-knowing. We should listen to the experts – medical experts, first responders who see accidents, etc – not just those who make laws and who are often quite slow to do so, because they know they won’t be popular.

          4. Seashell*

            Where is the anti-phone-in-bra law? I live in a state where use of a handheld device while driving is illegal. Nothing about where it is tucked away otherwise, as far as I know.

          5. Observer*

            And I’d be right pissed if my colleagues were fighting for me to be sacked

            I’m sure you would. So? Your coworkers would be right. Your manager would not just be right, they would be *obligated*.

          6. Roland*

            Rich people can get away with breaking literally any law more easily than poor people can. Texting while driving is bad even if rich people get away with it when they’re caught.

            1. Pinky*

              There are also a lot more poor people than there are rich. So preventing all the poor people from doing it will actually be already very effective in reducing lethal accidents, you don’t really get to complain about unfair when the subject is not killing people. I am absolutely in favour of the Finnish system were fines are relative to income, but in absence of that, it is statistically the most beneficial to get the bulk of people to stop dangerous behaviour if you cannot stop it at all from happening.

      3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        FinalJob had a complete ban on using a hand-held phone or texting while driving, right from when such phones first came into use.
        It was regarded as a serious safety issue and would have resulted in serious disciplinary proceedings and a driving ban until FJ was satisfied the employee understood never to repeat the offence.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          I worked in a place where I was actively pressured to use the phone while driving.

      4. Emmy Noether*

        It may depend on the circles you are in. Texting while driving is not really normalized among the people I know. Calling while driving, yes, and futzing around with the GPS, yes, so I’m not going to pretend we’re morally superior, just texting seems definitely over the line.

        And if you cause an accident doing any of those, people will DEFINITELY judge you, thinking that you let it take too much of your attention (unlike them, who divide their attention just right).

        1. Drag0nfly*

          What if the people doing the judging aren’t hypocrites, they just think about others besides themselves? What if they’re the type of person who pulls over to look at directions, or they’re the type of person who concludes they can’t talk and drive at the same time, so they opt to set their phone to do-not-disturb while they’re driving?

          It’s weird to me that several people are trying so hard to minimize what Jake is doing. Perhaps some people don’t want to feel bad for doing the same thing Jake does, or for having a similar mentality as Jake’s. And some people aren’t able to figure out if a thing is wrong on a conceptual level until they’re on the receiving end of it. It just never occurred to me that thinking it’s bad to purposely risk killing someone with a frivolous activity like texting would not be universally condemned. Today I learned!

            1. GythaOgden*

              Agreed. Drag0nfly, you’re vigorously agreeing with many people (most?) here.

              Emmy is not defending people texting. Ideally, people should pull over to fiddle with the sat-nav (UK speak for GPS). My mum always asks me to do it when we’re out together and I have been the navigator for trips that stretched the length of the country (Britain, so no handy straight lines :-/), particularly when the sat-nav was trying to take us down a road that was completely closed.

              We’re talking about the employee in the OP, not a hypothetical situation where it’s somehow the fault of everyone else other than the person who did something dangerous and got into an accident while driving a company van. And being held accountable by either others or by physics itself is the way that you actually learn stuff — ask me how I know :(.

              So the guy should be canned. The company might look over its own policies and check to see things are stated explicitly about not doing stupid crap when driving and so on, but the employee can’t get off scot-free here because it was ultimately his unsafe actions that caused the smash.

              1. Ellis Bell*

                Yeah I think because people are noting the (sad, unacceptable) truth that it’s common, people are mistaking that to mean that “socially acceptable” but just because we see that something is commonplace doesn’t mean we think it is okay and are giving those drivers a thumbs up. Driving is one of those isolated activities where no one cares about social stigma. If what other strangers passing thought of you was a deterrent everybody would be an awesome and safe driver.

          1. Pinky*

            Oof yeah. The number of replies going ‘well we all done it right?’ here is disappointing. No, we have not all done it. And it is not trivial.

          2. Pescadero*

            I don’t think it’s an attempt to minimize it – it’s an attempt to point at that handing out a scarlet letter (while being hypocritical) isn’t the best way to solve the problem.

            Drunk driving was reduced by changed laws and changed social mores, not by “shaming” drunk drivers.

            1. Observer*

              Drunk driving was reduced by changed laws and changed social mores

              And also by there being other significant fallout to people who drive drunk, such as affecting their employment. And *that* is what should be happening here. Not “Well, this is normal behavior.”

          3. Hiring Mgr*

            I don’t know if people are minimizing it or not, but many of us have done it a couple times, even though we know we shouldn’t. I think that’s just being realistic, not saying it’s ok.

            I’ve also talked on the phone, sped, drank coffee while driving, eaten, played with the radio, turned around to say something to kids, etc etc. They’re all dangerous and hopefully Jake realizes this now.

            1. jojo*

              Qi used to give my phone to my son after I buckled him into his car seat. Some people would get mad when he answered it instead of me. Of course, I could not reach it from drivers seat. Kid enjoyed it though.

            2. Observer*

              but many of us have done it a couple times, even though we know we shouldn’t. I think that’s just being realistic, not saying it’s ok.

              Yeah. And a reasonable person would be religious about not doing these kinds of things once they have had an accident. But the OP says that this guy has had *two* accidents with the truck. And it looks like the texting one was the second one. So that is really, really bad.

            3. Lenora Rose*

              I figure the fact that when stopped at a red light, I have glanced at a text to see if it is directly related to why I am on the road, or that I have made a phone call on speaker while sitting in gridlock, doesn’t somehow prevent me from having opinions on the danger of typing in a text while the foot is on the gas pedal.

          4. ABC*

            What if the people doing the judging aren’t hypocrites, they just think about others besides themselves?

            Yeah, there’s a big “I’m the only one brave enough to say out loud what everyone else is thinking” vibe.

            1. Emmy Noether*

              I typed a longer reply that is pending, but I want to emphasize that I wasn’t actually saying any of it is ok. Normalized does not equal ok.

          5. Emmy Noether*

            I’ll clarify because you misunderstood what I was trying to say. I meant:
            – not everyone normalizes texting
            – of those that don’t, some normalize other unsafe behaviors
            – none of those behaviours are actually ok
            – people who do those behaviours are often under the delusion that there’s a safe and a not-safe way to do them. So they think that someone who caused an accident did it unsafely, unlike them, who only take their eyes off the road half a second at a time to do the same behaviour “safely”. Again, this is a delusion, and hypocritical.

            I don’t drive that often anymore, and recently I was driving a rental and entering an adress into the navigation system while driving, just like I used to do, and people around me do. As I have, apparently, become wiser with age for once, I noticed that it was taking too much of my focus and pulled over. Probably the fact that I’m not used to it anymore worked in my favor in that case. People get used to all kind of unsafe behaviours.

        2. londonedit*

          It’s all illegal here and it’s seen as pretty socially unacceptable – not quite on the same level as drink-driving but certainly it’s very much frowned upon. Hands-free calling, OK (though I’m fairly sure it’s been proven that even hands-free calls take the driver’s attention off the road) but holding a mobile phone to call and text is very much not the done thing here. I think this employee would be facing more than a repair bill if he was in the UK – he’d most likely lose his job.

          1. Ellis Bell*

            It’s nice to hear this because I see people driving with their phones in the UK all the time. When I worked in a different part of the country, I was covering a court case once where a fatal incident resulting caused by texting (the victim was broken down with hazards on) and the driver was very sure the judge and jury would accept that she would have seen the hazards even while texting “because it’s not like it’s a roundabout or anything”. The police forces I have spoken to are at their wits end with the proclivity of phone use while driving.

      5. Kella*

        Texting while driving is six times more likely to cause an accident than drunk driving is. Drunk driving used to be normalized too. But it’s both dangerous and deeply irresponsible. You don’t fix that normalization by continuing to treat it like it’s not a big deal. This employee is choosing to put other people in danger on his employer’s time. That’s relevant to the advice.

        1. TootsNYC*

          for one thing, a lot of drunk drivers know they’re drunk and they’ll drive more slowly (cops know to look for that) so as not to put themselves in a situation where they need accurate and speedy reflexes.

          But people who text while driving don’t seem to make any attempt to compensate.

      6. Morning Reading*

        No, texting while driving is not normalized. Talking hands free on the phone might be. The other things you describe do not require any more than a glance, to push the radio button or to pick up your mic while keeping your eyes on the road. Not minor, not mild.

        1. Pennyworth*

          Even a hands free phone is distracting, because most of your attention is with the caller not your car and the road.

          1. Chas*

            But it’s surely no more distracting that talking to another passenger in the car, right? I think hands-free calls are generally accepted because of that, whereas texting is more akin to writing down notes, which I’d hope no one would be daft enough to try and do while driving.

            1. SarahKay*

              Yes, more distracting, because if you’re talking to a passenger they can usually pick up on heavy traffic / you suddenly paying more attention to the road than to them, so are more likely to let the conversation pause when needed.
              Someone on the other end of a hands-free call doesn’t have those cues.
              Don’t get me wrong, I agree that a hands-free call is far, far safer than texting, but it’s still less safe than talking to a passenger.

              1. Emmy Noether*

                That, plus at least for me, a phone call takes a lot more concentration. You have to strain to understand more because of the audio quality, etc.
                30 to 45 minutes on the phone (at home on the sofa! not even while driving!) will leave me drained, while I can talk in person for hours.

            2. Seashell*

              I recall reading about a study of that, and using the hands-free phone is more likely to cause distracted driving than just talking.

            3. Fierce Jindo*

              It is more distracting than talking to someone in the car. Someone in the car can see the road conditions and naturally stop talking if the driver suddenly needs to concentrate; someone on the phone can’t. Most of us implicitly understand that and react by unconsciously prioritizing maintaining a phone conversation in a way we don’t with an in-person conversation. Try paying attention to this with your own calls sometime and you might notice it.

              1. Not Totally Subclinical*

                When I’m driving with my extremely talkative child who can keep a monologue going for extended periods, they will stop talking in heavy traffic, because they’ve learned from the multiple times I’ve said to them “traffic’s bad; be quiet; I’ll tell you when it’s safe to talk again”. If child was talking to me on the phone, they wouldn’t see how bad the traffic was and wouldn’t know to pause on their own.

            4. Ellis Bell*

              It’s significantly more distracting because a passenger is watching too and choosing a good time to speak.

            5. Pescadero*

              1) Yes, studies show it’s more distracting than talking to a passenger
              2) Studies largely show that talking to a passenger isn’t particularly safe

              1. Myrin*

                I’m glad – in whatever sense of the word – to read that because I’ve always thought I must be the only person who really can’t hold a conversation while driving lest I completely lose all understanding of what’s going on in the streets around me.
                (More commonly, though, I’m so focused on the road that I simply don’t really hear what my passenger is saying and can’t really formulate a response either because it takes too much brainspace.)

            6. Lenora Rose*

              The passenger can see the road conditions, and might even see a potential issue before the driver does. The person on the phone cannot.

              I might make a very urgent call in the car if it’s something that cannot wait. (Eg: “Hello, (daycare worker) I am going to be 15 minutes late picking up my son because traffic is slow due to the snowstorm” – although actually, yesterday I put my thumb on the phone for the fingerprint, then handed it to my passenger so she could make that exact call instead) but I don’t chit chat. With a passenger, I will talk about how they’re doing, what’s going on with their family… because I recognize these are two different actions with different levels of concern.

          2. JM60*

            I think that greatly depends on the person using the phone. Some people get sucked into the conversation and lose situational awareness when talking on the phone, while others can talk on the phone much like talking to a passenger in their car.

            1. doreen*

              I think it also depends on the phone conversation – there’s a difference between “Pick up a gallon of milk on your way home” , chatting to pass the time on a long boring drive and trying to have a conversation that requires thought.

      7. LGP*

        “Texting while driving is currently very normalized. Like smoking while driving used to be, or not wearing seatbelts. Dangerous, yes. But culturally seen as something minor and mild”

        But the difference is that those things (smoking, not wearing seatbelts) don’t affect anyone but the driver (and potentially their passengers). They only pose a danger to the individual doing them. Whereas texting while driving poses a danger to everyone else on/near the road. That’s why it’s so much worse.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Not wearing seatbelts absolutely kills other people. I am thinking of an incident where the driver was the only one not buckled up and his flying body killed the two people in the back. He was fine.

          1. LGP*

            The two people were in the back of his car? Then that still falls under my “only affects the driver and maybe their passengers” comment. Obviously I think it’s safer for everyone to wear seat belts, but I still think not wearing them doesn’t pose the same risk of (potential) harm to others as texting while driving does.

            1. Lilo*

              It absolutely can affect others outside of the car. When my mom was T boned she was able to regain control of the car and stop it from hitting others. Had she not been belted, no way. Being ejected is also a safety risk for others impacting othet cars and potentially harms other psychologically having to deal with that

          2. UKDancer*

            There was a very famous advert in the UK that began “Like most people Suzy knew her killer.” It reveals that it was her son who wasn’t wearing a seat belt and when she braked really suddenly he flew forward into the driver and killed his mother.

            I always remember it because of the harrowing image of a child killing their mother by accident.

      8. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        It is not something minor or mild. It is illegal. So can we not act like illegal behavior is okay because its just a little thing. First of all, its not. Second, its a choice. You don’t HAVE to text and drive. It is a conscious deliberate act. So yes, choosing to act illegally can be considered a moral failing.

      9. Snow Globe*

        Texting while driving should not be normalized. There is too much evidence that texting while driving causes accidents – drivers are even more distracted than they are when driving drunk. And most states have made it illegal. The fact that many people do something wrong doesn’t mean it is “normalized”. That is the argument of a middle schooler.

        1. Insert Pun Here*

          Normal and normalized don’t mean “good” or “positive.” They just mean “frequently occurring,” “typical,” or “ordinary.” That is literally what the words mean (if you don’t believe me, check with the OED.)

          To state the obvious: not all frequently occurring things are good things that we (society generally) should encourage.

          1. TootsNYC*

            Common is not the same as normal.

            Texting while driving might be common.
            But it should never be considered normal.

      10. Nancy*

        Many states ban texting and the use of hand-held cellphones while driving because they are seen as serious safety issues.

        It is not minor, nor does anyone I know think that.

      11. lilsheba*

        Smoking doesn’t take your eyes and attention off the road like texting does. It should NEVER be normalized. It’s just plain STUPID to do.

      12. aebhel*

        A lot of people do it, sure, and a lot of people also drink and drive, and that’s also morally indefensible. The only way it’s going to become less common is if we start enacting actual consequences for reckless driving, instead of throwing up our hands and going ‘what are you gonna do? Everyone does it!’

        Also, I think that people who are habitually flagrantly reckless drivers think that their behavior is a lot more common than it actually is.

      13. annoyed*

        I, wow, okay. Yeah, no offense, but I would call it a moral failing to knowingly put others at risk of death so that you can text while driving. If your text is that important, PULL OVER.

      14. Starbuck*

        No, it IS a moral failing to purposely drive distracted and endanger others and cause a wreck – and “normalized” is a matter of the company you keep. Where I live and with the people I know, people are pretty strict about it and there’s recognition that it’s unacceptably dangerous. Maybe not everyone watched that horrible tragic PSA in high school like I did, but I know a lot of people have seen that video and understand this can be a life-ruining behavior.

        Someone not being aware of that reality isn’t a reason to go easy on them.

      15. yeah*

        Maybe texting and driving is normalized where you live. I feel really sorry for you and the people around you if that’s true. But it’s definitely not culturally accepted everywhere. It’s similar to drunk driving — sure, people do it, but it’s highly stigmatized in lots of locations.

  6. Why am I always tired????*

    OP4 – the vast majority of my jobs have come via my network – either reaching out to me to say that they know a position they thought I’d like, or, from me reaching out to say that I was looking for a change.

    The last time I reached out, I contacted a couple of people I’d worked closely with. I knew both to be discrete, and professional.

    I emailed both – separately – saying that I was looking for a change and explained why (there was a micromanager involved – and both had worked with her in the past too!!). One didn’t have any openings they could think of, but offered to be referee (she’d been my manager prior to the micromanager starting) so that was great. The other contacted me and said to hold tight, she had something in mind but needed approval, and within 6 weeks I transferred to her department with a promotion and best of all NO MICROMANAGER!

    1. Sloanicota*

      I’m very jealous of people who have figured out how to leverage their contacts that way. I used to have a job where I was in front of everrrrybody and felt like I knew a thousand people, but when I was job searching, I was just applying to job posts like a normie. And even when I was applying with an org/person I had a connection with, and sent them an email about that, it didn’t help as much as I anticipated it would, tbh. Hope this isn’t just me.

      1. ferrina*

        You also have to have a network that is in the right roles. I love to recommend a strong colleague, but I now work in a different field than a lot of my former colleagues, so I’m useless to most of them. Even when I’ve been in a place to make recommendations, I’ve had a 50% success rate for my network. If I know the hiring manager, it usually guarantees an interview, but in one case the person didn’t get the job because she had the same name as the hiring manager, and the hiring manager didn’t like that.

        I’ve gotten a couple jobs through networking. Both times it was because the job was more or less designed with me in mind. The company had a business need, but it wasn’t quite strong enough for them to want to invest in hiring, so knowing I was available meant they had a (sort of) guaranteed candidate.

    2. EngineeringFun*

      I was with a group of people and mentioned that I was looking for a job in my field. Someone I don’t really know said “we are hiring for that. Send me your resume.” I got an interview 2 weeks later. And I start on Monday!

  7. Skippy*

    LW #2: thank you for taking care of yourself and introducing strangers here to ARFID. Food stuff is so hard, but I know several people who are in recovery from ARFID and improving.

    Having recently run a conference with people with different dietary restrictions, including a staff member, I really urge you to push for the reimbursement and “I need to manage it myself.” We tried to manage for my colleague, but she wasn’t always specific enough, and she wound up sending meals back and it was disruptive… It would have been better if she’d brought her own boxed meal. (It will almost definitely be cheaper than the catered meals.)

    1. coffee*

      Food stuff is really hard. I hope people respect the diagnosis and don’t get into nitpicking about LW2’s eating.

    2. Twix*

      I don’t have much to add to Alison’s advice, but I wanted to second Skippy’s sentiment. My partner has a similarly restrictive diet for a different medical reason and has a lot of anxiety around it because of his family not taking it seriously growing up. After 10 years together, he’s still surprised when I menu plan and cook around his needs, or don’t make fun of him when we go to a nice restaurant and he orders chicken tenders, or remind people that my house has a “No one is to ever comment on what J is eating for any reason” rule. It’s both adorable and kind of sad. There is no shame in having a condition like that and screw anyone who tries to tell you otherwise.

    3. The Prettiest Curse*

      I really hope this OP is able to get reimbursement to buy their own food.
      The company should absolutely do this for anyone in this type of situation, but if they won’t do so and the OP is comfortable eating in front of others, the best workaround from an events perspective is to ask to be put directly in touch with the caterer or head chef at the event venue. Tell them exactly what you can eat and get them to (if possible) tell you exactly what they will prepare for you at each meal. (So basically they should give you your own personal menu.) Then get them to put it in writing, print out their email and then, if there are issues on the day, you can say that the head chef (or whoever) told you that you would be served a specific type meal for medical reasons and that you have it in writing. If there are issues, let the event planner know too so that they can work on getting it resolved as well. (Obviously, bring your own snacks just in case.)

      I have done this a few times for people with severe dietary restrictions at event I’ve planned and it is much better to put people directly in touch with the caterers/venue kitchen so that they can describe exactly what they need. It’s also much easier than going through an event planner, who may convey your requirements incorrectly. If it’s a hotel or conference centre, they handle this type of request frequently, so it may not be too much of a problem. But really, your company should reimburse you for your own food.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I have a family member who does this – rather than having an exclusions list (eg I am allergic to pineapple and frogs legs) she has an inclusions list (eg I can eat rice, garlic, cows milk cheese, cooked carrots, and pomegranate). Venues that take dietary requirements seriously can work within those parameters and some chefs relish the challenge.

        At my wedding, for example, the venue created a menu for her that not only met all her needs but looked as similar as possible to the set menu so she could reduce/avoid comment.

        1. Cj*

          I agree with giving them a list of what you can’t eat, not what you can’t eat. I probably feel more in the picky eater category, then an actual disorder, but I pretty much eat meat and potatoes. or pizza with no vegetables on it, that sort of thing. that’s a whole lot easier to say than trying to tell them what I won’t eat.

        2. The Prettiest Curse*

          It’s so great to hear that the caterer did that! There are (justifiably) so many horror stories about caterers and venues doing a terrible job on this kind of thing that it’s good to have a reminder that the better ones actually will work with people to meet their needs.

          Also, I forgot to mention above – contact the venue/caterer well ahead of the event and remind them the week before so that they don’t forget about you. And if you have a bad (or really great) experience, please let the event planners know about it. We absolutely do consider issues like this when selecting vendors and future event venues. I’ve never had to yell at a caterer, but I absolutely would if they messed up something like this!

        3. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          Agreed with this, and I’d add that you may also want to specify whether or not cross-contamination is a concern for you (not being familiar with ARFID I don’t know whether, in the above example, cutting the carrots on a board that was also used to cut broccoli would be OK or not). I had been going to suggest that you provide a couple specific suggestions (e.g. “a cheese sandwich with no additional ingredients or condiments, or an unseasoned grilled chicken breast”) but I think this is even better.

        4. AnonMurphy*

          Fellow ARFID here, I was really surprised when I went on a recent work trip. I love cooking even though I’ll never eat most of it, so when they signed my whole team up for cooking lessons I was willing to just…not eat.

          But as I’ve gotten older, it’s actually easier for me to tell people about my disorder rather than causing (well, experiencing) weird social anxiety about it. I have a list of things I can eat – most people will happily make me, say, a plain chicken breast and some seasoned potatoes.

          So I go into the cooking class determined not to make a fuss, but for some reason I told the head chef about my restrictions. It was absolutely true that the other chefs were used to teaching/cooking the same 6 meals or so and were DELIGHTED to whip up a me-specific menu with what they had on hand. I helped with the bulk, family-style meal prep but got to eat (with everyone else! for once!) something I had basically custom-ordered. It was a great experience.

          Key here is to just get comfortable with telling people about it. I even hate to call it an eating disorder but it really is, one with serious health implications (too many chicken tenders!). In this case, I would stick with asking to order/be reimbursed separately – I will in fact be trying this at my next catered event!

      2. Miette*

        Agree with this. I also plan events, and hotel catering staff are eager to accommodate you, trust me. And working with the staff directly is the best way to have yourself be heard, as you will not only be able to explain your needs in detail, but you will also have that contact when you are onsite in case any thing goes wrong.

        If you’re unable or unwilling to work with the catering staff, then your company should reimburse you. As stated above, whatever you order will likely cost less than half what they’re paying for each meal, so make sure the planner isn’t including you in their catering guarantees–this may help to convince your management to okay your request. It’s not all that much money in the long run, but people can be really petty about this kind of thing. Good luck.

      1. Scott*

        Not making fun of you (David’s Skirt-Pants), but this made me literally LOL. I spent a long time in the US Navy and underway for months at a time in which your choice is to eat or not. I have never met anyone with ARFID or similar but I can only imagine how quickly those afflicted would self-select out of something like a military career.
        I hope LW2 gets a satisfactory resolution.

      2. ferrina*

        Meanwhile, I would love a week off from even thinking about meal planning!

        But there’s a difference between not loving something and having a medical accommodations. If you don’t love it but it’s just a week of something for a work function, you sort of need to accept it. I don’t love waking up at 5:30am for a week, but when there’s a special event at work, that’s necessary and I just drink a lot of coffee. It’s annoying, but no real impact to my overall health. If I had a sleep disorder and a week of waking up early would disrupt my sleep for the next two months, yeah, I’d try to get an accommodation (working with HR and my doctor)

    4. higher ed teaching*

      While my food situation is different, I was at a work thing for 8 days where they fed us for all but one dinner. Cross-contamination made it so I was getting sick and missing some paid time.

      Without some documentation from a doctor I didn’t have, they wouldn’t reimburse my meals. So I started going to nearby places where I knew it would be taken seriously and kept seeing others from my group. They asked, I explained, and it was common for this company (who has 1000s of remote employees). I decided then I wouldn’t be ashamed of who and what I am about this issue. Well, that part is hard to do when there are so many years of thinking one way. But I am getting better at not hiding around food decisions, which in turn has helped me recover from a more general anorexia (food issues do seem to group!).

      All this to say, one of my favorite pieces of advice I was once given is that if one never asks, the answer is always already no, but if one asks, it may be yes. What was I going to do when I didn’t ask? I already had that plan. So I should ask. The answer is still sometimes no (in my food case, I didn’t get reimbursed that time, but in similar situations with other companies I have because I asked). But it’s gotten lots easier to ask and get what I need since that first time.

      I’d encourage you to ask, and if they say no, well, it’s not great, but they had a chance to help you so now you’re doing something else instead.

      Congratulations for getting treatment! It’s the hardest thing I’ve done, but the dividends are huge down the road. It gets better. Much internet love!

    5. juliebulie*

      Food issues are just really tough. I have a friend who is a “super-taster.” The way he describes it, flavors of many foods are too intense, so he mostly eats a the same couple dozen different things that don’t bother him. (Including Oreo cookies. I know.) I think he also (understandably) has anxiety trying unfamiliar foods. I don’t think he has ever attempted to get his employer to accommodate him. He just orders the blandest thing on the menu. At a potluck he mostly takes rolls (not cheap ass I hope) and endures the “picky eater” comments. Sucks.

      1. Cheesy*

        I feel this one. I can’t drink alcohol because just the ‘alcohol’ part is so strong and overpowering that I can’t taste anything else, even when people go “You can’t taste the alcohol, it takes just like X!”. Wine is even worse as it just tastes like vinegar.

        Similar issues with foods that there is usually some ingredient that just overpowers everything. Combine it with texture issues and I was definitely labelled a “Picky Eater”.

      2. Helen Waite*

        I’m a supertaster, too. Some of the things I won’t touch have wormed their way into almost everything, making eating out a challenge. I’m grateful for online menus, so I can see what’s available and accept or decline invitations to eat out based on whether or not there’s anything on the menu for me.

        If there’s a potluck at work, I try to bring a main dish so there will be at least one thing for me to eat. I haven’t had to travel for work, and the idea of an entire week of wondering if I’ll get to eat fills me with dread.

    6. HonorBox*

      Absolutely! Not only will it decrease potential disruption (which is far from the largest issue) and save money, but it will ensure the LW can actually eat. I have several food sensitivities and at the last conference I was at, I ate salad and some of the desserts. My boss was also there and when I told him I was going to grab something to eat elsewhere at one of the lunches, he was super supportive and didn’t question the reimbursement request at all.

    7. Shenandoah*

      I ditto this as another person who has planned this type of retreat! For me, being on the retreat planning team is a volunteer gig (in addition to my regular work), and while it’s easy for us to handle the dietary restriction biggies (vegetarian, nut allergies, etc), the more complex the restriction, the harder it is for us to manage. If you were my colleague and came to me with AAM’s language, I would HAPPILY agree – you would be taking a big weight off of me in both 1) the logistics piece and 2) the worry that I would mess something up and you wouldn’t be able to eat.

      I hope it goes well!

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yeah this is an interesting one. It sounds like OP would actually prefer to bring their own food and I would encourage people dealing with this to go with that option when it’s possible, as I can imagine the various mix-ups that can otherwise occur even when everybody’s well-meaning. I realize serving staff can be seen as a way of showing care and it may feel exclusionary, but for some folks it sounds like their preferred suggestion.

    8. MissGirl*

      I have stomach problem I’m still figuring out what are my safe foods. I found restaurant foods to be hugely triggering I think from the high fat. Not wanting to get sick at my conference, I called the hotel and was able to rent a microwave and brought a cooler. Definitely not ideal, but far better than the alternative. I also can’t each much at a time so I could go up to my room and eat a little during breaks.

    9. Tio*

      I’ve had ARFID my whole life, although I only got a name for it instead of “picky eater” in the last ~10 years. If I try to force myself to eat something not on my safe list it will literally make me vomit, although that may be a little from my past history of people trying to “fix” my picky eating. I’m now an executive that has a LOT of business dinners and navigate this. Here’s what I do:
      1. Say I have medical eating restrictions and ask to see the menu.
      2. Look at the menu and see if there’s anything I can eat
      3. If not, ask if the restaurant/caterer can make a separate meal
      4. If no, then ask if I can bring in outside food for medical reasons.
      5. If also no, either I can’t attend or I will need time for a separate meal before or after the event.

      Most people will work with you, although I do still have some internalized embarrassment about it. But just this week I arranged with a vendor I’ll be eating with at a client dinner that I had to order off the kids’ menu for dietary reasons. They called the restaurant to confirm for me, and were super gracious about it. I think your company will be too.

      Best of luck!

      1. AnonMurphy*

        This is a really good answer and I feel you so hard on the ‘people trying to FIX you’ and actual potential vomiting.

    10. Newbie*

      LW 2 here! thank you all for your kind words and for sharing your own experiences. This time last year I would never have even thought of ever even raising this with our events team but recent therapy and nutritional counseling have really inspired me to advocate for myself.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Best of luck, and please let us know how it goes! A good events team will want to make sure that your needs are met – and please do follow up if you don’t get a response within a reasonable time frame, as sometimes event planning involves a really high email volume and that can slow down response times.

      2. AnonMurphy*

        Yup, we all know the shame that surrounds it, but it’s pretty freeing once you get used to just informing others. It helps that it’s now a legitimate recognized disorder, where 20 years ago, not so much. Hope you have good luck!

  8. ADHDFox*

    Re OP 1: I recently had a drop in my performance at work due to a change in ADHD medication/being affected by the global ADHD medication shortage. From the context of “the employee was great but now he is making various careless mistakes” (if it’s true) it sounds like there might be something more complex going on that OP is not aware of, which may be medical or personal. Perhaps the employee disclosed a medical issue or another situation to their employer and this solution is a way to keep an employee with a good track record. This is not excusing texting while driving, but econtext matters a lot.

    1. coffee*

      Texting while driving the company car, and then getting into a crash, is more than a careless mistake. I also think it’s different from “I forgot to turn the sprinklers off.” Like what, “Oh, I forgot I need to look at the road while driving”??

      I think Alison is right about the two situations being different, and more questions needing to be answered.

      1. Boof*

        Depending on how young the employee is, it’s a strangely easy thing to do. Something grabs your attention and you suddenly realize you’re not looking at the road.
        I was a teen driver pre-texts, but i still remember when someone dropped an empty cup next to me accidentally and it started rolling around and they started fishing for it, next thing i knew I’m hitting the rumble / grass or something (it was not a highway) because i got caught up in what was going on next to me. Texting has a bit more intention but i can see how it happens; my text is so Weirdly intrusive with my car, you think they would make it less so but no. the important question is if the employee is taking it seriously and proposed a plan like keeping their phone in the glovebox or turning on safe driving mode before they turn on the car every time.

        1. Cheesy*

          I was at traffic court in the mid-90s and one of the cases before ours was a guy who ran a stop sign chasing a Gatorade bottle that fell on the floorboard and hit another vehicle.

        2. ferrina*

          This is why the company needs to screen for safe drivers (and why teenagers don’t get to drive company cars). If the company is requiring driving and providing company cars, they have a responsibility to ensure that their drivers/employees can handle that responsibility.

          If this guy isn’t driving safely and/or isn’t taking vehicular safety seriously, the reason is irrelevant. He can’t be behind the wheel. “Let employee with poor driving record drive company car” is not a reasonable accommodation.

        3. MigraineMonth*

          One of the first times I was driving was also one of the first times I had a cell phone (yes, I’m that age). I was trying to navigate an unfamiliar highway exit when suddenly my crotch started buzzing and I nearly drove off the road.

          So, yes, cell phones can be very distracting even when you aren’t talking/texting on them!

    2. Observer*

      Perhaps the employee disclosed a medical issue or another situation to their employer and this solution is a way to keep an employee with a good track record.

      Well, if that’s what they are thinking, they need to include something more than “employee pays for the damage to the truck.” Because it’s simply not tenable to have someone driving this unsafely or repeatedly making mistakes that have a negative effect on the customers. And, no the ADA absolutely does not require a business to allow either of these things. (In fact the ADA *explicitly* calls out that it’s not necessary to allow someone to present a safety risk.)

    3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      A medical issue should never be an excuse to keep a known unsafe driver on the road; med changes, conditions like epilepsy or fainting etc should stop him driving until the issue is resolved – in practice unless this is a large company that can afford to keep him on the payroll, this probably means letting him go.

      1. Lilo*

        Yes, I have a cousin with epilepsy. He is not allowed to drive. It’s very common to have medical reasons you can’t drive.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          True, but that doesn’t apply to every driving condition. I’m short sighted. I shouldn’t drive short sighted, and there was a time I didn’t realise I was; luckily I can address this, as there’s an aid that makes it possible. There’s lots of resolvable health conditions which simply need addressing. This is something that’s only affected the driver recently and he’s been able to persuade his employers he’s handling it.

          1. Lilo*

            ADHD absolutely wouldn’t get you out of a conviction, suspended license, etc for distracted driving. If my cousin decided to just get in a car one day and had a seizure and hurt someone, he would be held legally liable.

            Medical accommodation is a complete red herring here. He broke the law, he did something unsafe.

    4. ThatOtherClare*

      That’s not ADHD, that’s just being a terrible person. Generally people with ADHD make good drivers because they’re highly alert to everything going on around them, so they’re more likely to spot hazards. ADHD medication shortages aren’t the reason to take away people’s driving privileges, a track record of being an uncaring human being behind the wheel is.

      1. Healthcare Provider*

        Unfortunately, that’s not entirely accurate. ADHD, with core symptoms including inattentiveness and impulsivity, is associated with increased driving accidents. That’s not to say ALL ADHDers are bad drivers, but to highlight the increased risk and need for extra accommodation. For example, one recommendation from many providers is to only let teen drivers drive during the hours that their stimulant medications are active. It also highlights the importance of removing extra distractions (phones, food) in a population with increased risk of distraction.

        1. Nightengale*

          Not to derail further but – I’m a healthcare provider specializing in ADHD and related conditions – I’ve seen at least one study suggesting that teens with ADHD are safer drivers on days they take stimulant medication even if they are driving at night after the medication would be assumed to have worn off.

        2. ferrina*

          ADHD comes in a lot of different flavors. There’s a lot of ADHD symptoms, and different people will have different symptoms to different degrees. It also depends on what our brains find engaging (I’m ADHD). If driving is inherently interesting, there will be a very different approach than if the person doesn’t find driving interesting.

          I’m ADHD with an incredibly good driving record. My teenage driving record was about the same as my peers, but as an adult, I’ve got a better record than my peers. Part of this is that my flavor of ADHD is very good with multitasking, part of it is that I’m hyper-aware of my limitations (a lifetime of having more critiques than your peers can do that to you).

          Note that not all ADHDers take stimulant medications (or medications at all). While this restriction might be helpful for some people, would it require people that weren’t using stimulants to take medications that they may not need/want/have a bad reaction to? What about ADHDers who are using non-stimulant medications?
          And should we impose similar limitations for other health conditions? For example, should there be restrictions for anyone experiencing brain fog? (a common symptom with a lot of health conditions) What about people at risk for slower reflexes? And what if people avoid diagnosis in order to avoid having limitations put on them (actual thing that happens- both my grandmothers avoided getting an Alzheimer diagnosis for months because they didn’t want to have limits put on them)
          I don’t think the solution is to single out particular health conditions for driving limitations. Instead, test for the necessary skills for driving in general. Even people without documented health conditions can be bad drivers.

          1. Filosofickle*

            I’ve never thought about how my ADHD maps to driving before! I also have a very good driving record.

            In stressful driving situations — weather/traffic are bad or I’m lost — that’s enough urgency to kick my focus into gear. (But I will be EXHAUSTED after.) I cannot multitask, and drive worse with people in the car as I’d rather talk to them and I can’t do both. I’m the one who turns the radio down to focus.

            But I don’t like driving, and sometimes check out on regular routes or long drives. My distracted brain finds something more interesting to think about than the road, something I see or just something on my mind. It’s unsettling when I realize miles have gotten past me and sometimes I wonder when that will catch up to me and my driving record.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        Depends. I am both a weaker and a stronger driver because I grew up undiagnosed and unmedicated so it was blindingly obvious when I learned to drive that driving was challenging to me and that I might fall for any distractions if I allowed them in the car. It was hard to learn, and it was hard to pass my test. This is where your point about being “highly alert” is true – because I’ve always had to be. I have had to build extra safeguards in and give myself no slack at all. If you grow up medicated, and expect to be medicated, this is will all be new territory. The good news is it’s an easy fix – just don’t allow yourself any possible access to a phone.

      3. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        ADHD has some characteristics that are associated with good driving (noticing EVERYTHING, highly alert – my son with ADHD has been the designated “listen for sirens and look out for lights” person in the car since he was six, because he’s so good at it) and some that are associated with poor driving (reduced impulse control, and again the noticing EVERYTHING being associated with distractibility – oh look a bird! a cool sports car coming the the other way! I think I see my friend in that car!)

        Texting while driving is none of these. It’s just plain bad driving. People can have ADHD AND be bad drivers for unrelated reasons. Forgetting to turn off the sprinklers is totally consistent with untreated ADHD, but we’re not supposed to diagnose here.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Eh, it’s not armchair diagnosing to note a distinct possibility that’s obviously still uncertain. If the OP’s coworker had a recent spate of visual mistakes during a worldwide shortage of glasses, or opticians, no one would think twice of mentioning it as a possibility. It’s not so much the ‘symptons’ as it is that it’s such a recent change to this person’s abilities, that the OP says happened only in in the last few months; changes to a person’s health are slightly more likely than a person’s personality changing.

          1. GythaOgden*

            Agreed, but ultimately, the cause doesn’t matter; the effect is that he banged up the car doing something most people would agree was an unforced error and is illegal in many jurisdictions. It means he needs to seek help and therapy himself; it does not mean his employer needs to keep him with the company or trust him with the van ever again.

            Like that hoarder whose stash was attracting mice. Sure, she needs help. But we also need the mice AND the stash gone. It’s why pleading mental health issues in court only gets you sent to a different institution than prison, rather than sets you free completely.

            Whatever the cause, it’s the employee’s responsibility to get help.

      4. aebhel*

        I don’t think this is at all true, or really how ADHD works. It’s a problem of focus and executive function; for one thing, I notice everything, including things that are totally irrelevant to whatever it is I’m actually doing, which is in fact a big problem when it comes to things like driving.

        I mean, I agree with the sentiment that this is more about careless indifference to the safety of people around him, but ADHD can absolutely make driving a struggle.

    5. Ellis Bell*

      This is possible; a lack of medication for the first time can affect impulsivity and the effects of distractions in an unforeseeable way, and anyone diagnosed has been asked about whether or not they’ve ever had problems driving. I don’t think the medication shortage is going to be solved any time soon, but if this is the employees situation; going forward they can’t have their phone switched on while driving at all. The glovebox might do it, like Alison suggested.

  9. The Prettiest Curse*

    #5 – I have also seen managers post on their LinkedIn feed to say (hopefully with their ex-colleague’s permission) “X person [person is tagged] is a great [job title] and they are looking for a new role due to [reason]. [Sometimes they will add a sentence or two about this person and how great it is to work with them.] If you have a role doing [job] in [area], get in touch with them.”

    I think this is actually a pretty good use of LinkedIn, assuming you get the person’s permission first – and especially if the manager posting is well-known and/or has a big network.

  10. Observer*

    #1 – I think that your husband and his boss need to think very, very seriously about the liability posed by a guy who was texting while driving a company vehicle. Just the fact that the insurance won’t cover the cost of an accident in such a case is a big issue, because $4,500 is actually a relatively low cost – and that’s before you get into the issue of liability for any other damage he could cause, which insurance won’t pay for. So if he had sideswiped a tree on someone’s property and caused $50K of damage, the company would have had to cover that too. If he hits a person….. That’s not just the cash involved. That becomes a potential criminal issue, a reputational problem, and if the company is subject to licensing that could be affected as well.

    The fact that he’s been in *two* accidents in “recent months”, and they still allowed him to drive a truck is really, really going to work against them here.

    And, not to be all catastrophizing, but unless they have taken some action about the inexcusably careless driving, the odds are high that someone could get badly hurt or even killed. (Pedestrians and people in small cars don’t do well when pitted against a truck.) Even if it did no harm to the *business* is this something your husband wants to risk?

    Something similar applies to the customer affecting mistakes. One mistake, especially something like leaving sprinklers on, happens. But “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action” Or in this case a pattern that should be of great concern to the business. Again, what happens when he makes a bigger mistake, or a mistake with a high profile / non-accommodating customer? If there is a law suit, the fact that he’s already made repeated mistakes in the last few months is going to work against them. And even aside from a potential law suit, again, you are looking a a real reputational hazard. People talk.

    Someone needs to find out what’s going on with this guy. But the idea that he can just pay off the $4,500 and all is well with the world is really glossing over some significant issues here.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Yes, imo he should be sacked because of the risk of him killing or injuring someone with a company truck. This shows a pattern of unsafe behaviour while driving which cannot be tolerated, regardless of any “reasons” he might have.
      Obviously for moral reasons and also because of the potential of an enormous damage suit that the employee could never pay off and might financially ruin the company.

      1. Matt*

        I still can’t get over the thought that the company might be encouraging this, not by a written policy but by an unwritten culture and expectation that everyone has to be reachable and responsive at all times. “I have given you a company phone, now the f… answer it!”

        That’s still no excuse – if the company orders you to beat up or kill someone who owes them money you still must not do it (except if it’s the Mafia), but on the other hand it would be quite absurd for the employer to have this kind of culture and then give employees grief for phone use at inappropriate times.

        1. GythaOgden*

          That’s not really in the letter, though. It’s something to consider, but like the argument about ADHD or the one the other day about the employee being rejected for having medical issues, there’s a point where it gets a bit tedious to wade through all the what-if fanfic. Yes, these things happen, but in every single health and safety law I’ve seen, the onus is on BOTH the employer AND employee to be careful and safe while at work, and if the company expects availability on the road, then the employee also needs to pull over before they do anything on the phone. They need to act like an adult and negotiate availability before they set off. There are lots of ways of doing things here and always trying to stretch things in the employee’s favour is actually a problem when this is a practical advice blog for both managers and employees.

        2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

          We don’t have any reason to believe this is the case. Why assume this instead of his being one of those people who cannot leave their phone alone.

          The OP would be very unreasonable not to mention that his texting was in reply to a work communication and that also he would not be allowed to delay his reply until he can pull over. If replies are so urgent, a handsfree phone would be usual in this kind of job, less distracting but still not great.

        3. Eldritch Office Worker*

          This is unfortunately common – typically right up until it starts costing the employer enough money to change

    2. Kesnit*

      He’s been in two accidents. Not “he caused two accidents.” We don’t know what the other accident was. For all we know, he drove through a green light and was T-boned by someone who ran a red.

      That doesn’t excuse the texting while driving! But please do not assume that the fact he caused one accident means he is always at fault.

      1. HonorBox*

        This is a fair point. But regardless of fault, multiple accidents could raise insurance rates and/or could cause an insurance company to drop coverage altogether. And accidents do happen, but when an employee causes an accident like the one that happened while texting, the business absolutely needs to step in with some corrective action.

      2. Observer*

        He’s been in two accidents. Not “he caused two accidents.” We don’t know what the other accident was. For all we know, he drove through a green light and was T-boned by someone who ran a red.

        Well, we *know* that he did actually cause one of the accidents. And we know that he’s made some other significant mistakes in the same time period. Given that reality, it’s a bit of a stretch to think that the other accident was not totally not his fault.

    3. Nonanon*

      Boom. A lot of people are getting hung up on “texting while driving,” which yes, is illegal in many parts of the United States, BUT the issue would have remained if the driver sideswiped a tree if he was, say, drinking part of his afternoon coffee (LESSENED in many jurisdictions but the UNDERLYING ISSUE of “repeated damages to company property due to lack of attention” remains the same).

      My partner has to drive city-owned (taxpayer funded) vehicles as part of his job. If he or any of his coworkers reports an accident, there are protocols in place; sometimes it’s just a write-up if it was easily remedied (flat tire a coworker helped you change) but at some point, you are suspended pending results of an investigation with their insurance (eg getting rear ended at a red light; you don’t get to drive the truck again until its determined who was at fault). I’m not sure what policies OP’s company already has in place, but they may need an overall review; incidents could very easily happen to other employees, and it’s an OVERALL safety issue.

      (Do NOT get me wrong, this is NOT a pro texting and driving post, it’s a “let’s look at all the trees in this forrest” post)

      1. Roja*

        Wait, you get written up for getting a flat tire? I’m all for responsible driving but that seems… extreme.

  11. roster gang*

    Yeah like Alison I also found the phrasing strange for “and one of them is in a face-to-face conversation with someone and the phone rings and the other receptionist is available and in view”

    Is this face to face conversation as in “currently in a meeting” or as in “I’m just chatting with a colleague/client”?

    “available and in view” as in, truly not doing anything? Or as in, completing a task? Finishing an email? Etc?

    Perhaps my perspective is warped as I’ve had some colleagues who truly thought their gossip time was more important and looked down on people who keep their heads down to work, but, well,,,

    Anyway, phone rosters are a blessing!

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Whatever the reason, if one receptionist is occupied in another task, the other must cover. They / their manager can sort out later if someone is prioritising personal chatter over work.

      1. MK*

        I think roster gang meant that just because one colleague is in a conversation doesn’t mean that they are occupied with a work task; or that just because the other colleague is right there doesn’t mean they aren’t occupied. Personal chatter isn’t a task, and I don’t see why you would need to allow it to continue and then go to your boss to judge whether a person on the clock should be prioritizing their work over socializing. If a colleague is having a chat with someone else, I am not covering for them, I expect them to stop chatting and do their work. If they want to complain, they can go to the boss themselves.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Yeah but it’s really unlikely to be gossip; even then, if it //is// gossip, then the gossip generally stops when the phone rings. It’s often a signal that play time is over and breaks it up. No-one is going to prioritise that, receptionist or colleague.

          I’m also not seeing why it’s necessary to bend over backwards to cast the OP in such a harsh light. Reception is a job with a lot of face to face interaction and it’s wild that //so many// people are taking this tack. It’s like they’ve never seen what reception actually do that involves a lot of f2f work. It may also be someone observing from a distance.

      2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        From a business pov if a phone is going unanswered, especially from clients then that is a problem.
        Refusing to answer because the other coworker is in a personal chat means now you are both unprofessional – and you can both expect to be dinged if this is reported by a customer / observed by a manager.

        1. Annony*

          It really depends on the set up. If one is assigned to answer the phones at that time and is ignoring it to socialize and simply expecting the other receptionist to pick up the slack, the person assigned to the phones is the one who should be dinged.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        I think they’re in a face-off where each of them believes that they are engaged in a task that is more important than whatever their colleague is doing.

    2. Brain the Brian*

      I definitely get the sense that this LW wrote in hoping to get a response they could show their colleague (or at least “innocently print out and leave lying around in full view”). And if that’s the case… well, I guess more power to the LW, but I would hope they can address it kindly and directly first.

      1. GythaOgden*

        I think it would, but the colleague should know that already and be doing it. This handwringing is really a bit odd — the old saying is ‘if you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras’ and people here routinely think pegasus zebras with sparkly unicorn horns and pink mane and tail.

        It’s wild how everyone here is assuming OP is at fault for gossiping rather than the colleague is at fault for slacking (I mean, like, seriously — is every day opposite day where the person asking for advice is the one being ganged up on?!). As a former receptionist, 99% of face to face stuff is going to be actually working with visitors and other colleagues needing something from reception, and people just there to gossip will generally not mind if OP gets interrupted and has to deal with someone; in many conversations it’s the unspoken signal that the gabbing has gone on a bit too long and they both need to get back to work.

        Someone not picking up the phone when their colleague is busy is not really doing their job. It would be between the colleague and their supervisor to work out what’s going on, and if OP is already annoyed with her colleague, it might actually be better coming from a third party trained in giving good feedback to someone who’s not pulling their weight.

      2. roster gang*

        Yeah, 100% agreed.

        I don’t know the workplace so I can only speak to my own but in my previous job, we had an informal roster system (that we agreed on by chatting with each other) where there would be multiple people available to the phone, but only 1-2 people would be primarily considered on phones, everyone else on admin.

        We took turns that way to make it more fair, and so admin didn’t get neglected. If the phone rings, primary phone-taker picks it up at any cost, if the second phone rings, other person grabs it.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Sensible. We had that kind of system going for a bit, but since the only admin was printing out and signing meeting room bookings from Outlook, in practice

          My mum was headmistress of a couple of private schools and so was involved peripherally in office management. They generally only had one person on reception at a time, and she’d double up as a clerical assistant to the administration who sat on the floor above her, but they made double and triple sure that they made sure work was only given to her that she could do while being interrupted.

          However the school treasurer once filled in for reception (I’m assuming everyone else was off or whatever) and sat there working on massive budgets — like for million-pound renovation work — and simultaneously handing out badges, forwarding calls etc. Classy guy.

          It gets harder actually when you have more reactive work that involves dropping someone else a line in the middle of the day to ask about what state the Acme account is in or things like routine compliance calls etc. That’s the point where I got to a few weeks ago when covering reception and trying to juggle people needing each ear at the same time.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        I expect that will go the way of warnings to not microwave your soup uncovered.

        “Goodness gracious, what sort of animal makes a mess of the microwave and doesn’t then clean it? Certainly not me!”

      4. Brain the Brian*

        LW has responded to other comments since I commented and made it clear they have talked with their coworker and manager to no avail. I hope they can either make peace with it or just plain leave.

    3. Lucia Pacciola*

      This is one of those letters where I can’t help but wonder, “LW, what did your manager say, when you asked them?” Because this is definitely a question for LW’s manager.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        From the LW many comments upstream:

        “My Manager said he has been doing it for years. Has been told umpteen times. It’s like a running joke. I have gone in to silent mode when we do handovers now. I tried to google what was clearly the order in which the phone should be answered. Common sense and Common courtesy. Thanks for the replies.”

  12. GythaOgden*

    Reception’s job is to answer the phone. It varies in practice, but ideally if a receptionist is given other work to do, it should fit around the need to pick up the phone. The phone, door and other duties should not have to fit around other concentrated work. I mean, needs must in smaller orgs or businesses, but the bigger the org, the more you can have a dedicated reception team and the more you need to make sure their work is generally interruptable, because their /priority/ will be phones, doors and internal needs.

    It’s a truth universally acknowledged though that as soon as the phone rings, one person will come to reception from the office to complain about something /and/ the doorbell will ring with a delivery guy from a lorry pushing a huge cage of supplies who doesn’t know who he’s trying to find to hand off the goods. I used to joke about needing to be an octopus since 4 pairs of hands would be the minimum I needed to handle busy periods. Since I got promoted I have covered reception a few times willingly, and that problem is magnified when you (finally!) have substantial work to do, including calls and meetings on Teams. It’s been stated up front now that the soft FM manager, even though I handle work for her, is not to ask me to cover reception at all. (I was happy to do it over the Christmas period, but yeah, as my workload increased into the new year, the time I was asked to do it was a bit awkward. I also feel awkward going back into that office because the staff there know I /was/ the receptionist and don’t always realise I’ve been promoted and am now /not/ the receptionist. WFH has its benefits but I need to touch base once every so often and it can be really awkward when people come to you with requests to handle issues that are now Not Your Job. I do pitch in, because I don’t want to be That Person, but it’s really hard to go back in and not be assumed to just be back after a long period of leave.)

    So WRT OP, it is always feast or famine but it’s your job to be the front desk person, not be absorbed in deep thought admin work to the detriment of people coming in and out. If the extra work you or your colleagues are being asked to do is taking you away from being mentally present to do reception stuff, you need to talk to your boss. If your colleague is simply refusing to do her job, you also need to talk to your boss about it. We’re in this together and need to be focused on the customers rather than on the screen.

    1. borealis*

      Slightly off-topic, but you must allow me to tell you how much I admire and love your turn(s) of phrase, Gytha Ogden. Not just here, but also the pegasus zebras above.

      1. GythaOgden*

        That’s really nice of you to say — I really appreciate it. I’m having a crappy day and that made me feel a lot better.

  13. Xyz*

    3- is it a work conversation or just social caching up?

    If one is actively working and the other person is shooting the breeze with a colleague/friend, the phone ringing is the chatter cue it’s time to get back to work.

    1. DizietSma*

      Was coming here to say this – if the person cueently ignoring the phone has already answered it twenty times that day whilst the other person has been making social chit chat with everyone passing, they may be making a (passive aggressive) point.

    2. GythaOgden*

      Most people who camp out at reception like that understand that, tbh. The problem really comes when the other person is able to pick up and the gossip-hound can go on with their conversation.

      But honestly, 99% of face to face conversations on reception are legit work-related, so assuming OP is gossiping is a bit unfair here. Particularly when reception is part of facilities or the place is customer/client facing, and gets a lot of foot traffic from both office and outside, that’s not the first thing I would assume if someone is upset that they’re in a conversation with someone and their colleague is not picking up the phone.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      I am truly wondering why you wouldn’t just say to your colleague: “Would you mind getting that while I am helping this person?” or just “Could you get that please Guinevere?”

    4. Riggs*

      Yes, came here to say this too. If one person is constantly socializing and never answering the phone, I can see how the other person would get annoyed and stop reaching for it.

  14. JM60*

    #1 If he’s on the job (such as driving the vehicle from the company lot to the customer and/or back), then it’s a business expense that the business should pay.

    That being said, it sounds like he presents a liability to the company. I’m not a lawyer, but if he causes a more serious crash through recklessness (such as texting while driving), the business could be liable for serious injuries to other people in the crash.

  15. Anon. Scientist*

    The fact that people are rationalizing texting is wild to me. Texting? As in taking your eyes entirely off the road to pick out words on a keyboard? No, it is not normal. It is illegal in all the states I work in. Talking on the phone is distracting but hands free, it’s pushing one button. We have a safe driving policy because we drive a lot for work, and an accident while texting would be an immediate “lost all access to the truck permanently” offense and probably a job ending one.

    1. HonorBox*

      I just held meetings at work to go through some policies that had been updated recently, and because texting while driving is illegal in our location, if someone is driving a work vehicle and is texting, it is absolutely going to result in loss of driving privileges at the very least.

    2. ABC*

      It would be one thing if people were sheepishly admitting that they also did it, but some of the justifications are bizarre. The shame other people make them feel is forcing them to do it, and also anti-texting laws mean you hate poor people? What?

    3. Chauncy Gardener*

      Texting while driving would result in an immediate dismissal in my company. We have a lot of folks driving company trucks, for reference.

    4. Kyrielle*

      My phone will let me press and hold a button, then speak to text, so he may not be picking words out on a keyboard…but when driving, that is *still* distracted driving and I wouldn’t do it. (I also don’t talk on the phone while driving, but voice-to-text is somewhere between that and manual texting, because you may be asking it to read it back before sending, etc. Some of the things it has interpreted me as saying when I didn’t want to have to type it out are…hilarious, anyway.)

  16. Stella70*

    I worked with a woman who only ate fairly plain hamburgers, three times a day, every day her entire life. Burger, bun, slice of tomato, one lettuce leaf. Never a side or a snack or literally anything else. From what I could discern, it was related to food textures. I had to plan company employee lunches and parties and it was not an issue to either choose a restaurant which could provide for her, or order a separate meal if catered. No one thought twice about it (I think we all secretly felt bad she could never have chocolate or pasta or fruit, etc). One time, she missed a staff lunch, and I asked if she would like a gift card and she said to just grab her a pack of Marlboros! :)

    1. You’ve got this!*

      This is such a great point – there are so many reasons why people have restrictive diets! Food allergies, medical diagnoses, religious restrictions, and so forth, that the LW should feel confident that it’s completely normal to bring this up with whoever is organizing this event.

      I don’t have any specific script to share, but do find in these situations that it’s easiest to approach the organizer in a matter of fact way, and with the attitude of this being a completely normal thing for the organizer to do as part of organizing the event. Good luck, LW! You are not alone in having to do something like this, & I wish you all the best as you navigate your way through this!

  17. DawnShadow*

    Here’s a question for those who are saying they never, and would never, text while driving or even touch their phone while driving. Have you never used a gig worker app? How are door dash drivers or Uber drivers supposed to do their jobs without handling phones while driving?

    This conversation is kind of reminding me when people would talk about how they were so good at social distancing, they worked from home and had everything delivered. Like, okay, but what about the people who have to go and get the things you’re having delivered? And the people who had to make the things?

    I agree with the poster who’s calling this discussion out as being a bit … about money, and social class. There ARE professions where you do have to look at your phone while driving, and just because it isn’t you personally, if you’re using the services they provide and you feel that if it’s a moral failing for them to use phones while driving, then aren’t you complicit?

    I’m not saying this to make anyone feel bad, just maybe to take it out of the realm of shame and moral failing. It’s dangerous. People have always had dangerous jobs. They’re trying to make enough to live on just like you are.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      I was nearly killed by a driver looking at their phone on the motorway. I honestly don’t give a flying toss what his earnings were.

    2. Statler von Waldorf*

      I agree with this 100%. There’s a lot of recreational outrage going on in this comment section today from white-collar workers who have never been employed where using a phone while driving is just part of the job.

      1. AMH*

        It’s not recreational outrage – it’s genuine outrage. Would you call people outraged at drunk driving out of touch, or would you agree that there is zero excuse for it? That’s how anyone rational should feel about texting. Gig workers are exploited and the system is awful, but that doesn’t make them immune from criticism for doing something so genuinely, horrifically dangerous.

      2. aebhel*

        Recreational outrage, or the wild idea that people should not be entitled to endanger the lives of everyone on the road with them no matter what their job. Besides, in this particular case, it doesn’t sound like he was texting his employer, so I don’t see how that’s relevant.

      3. Anon. Scientist*

        This is insane. I do fieldwork with contractors and laborers all day. They text and they have an accident, they’re off the job. They are a danger to everyone on the road. And it is 100% blue collar work.

        So do you do blue collar work yourself or you just being condescending? Because it is literally my job to drive safely.

    3. Sunny*

      Literally what are you talking about. Gig workers don’t need to text while driving to do their jobs. An Uber drivers need to use their navigation system while they drive but that’s very different from texting or actively using your phone

    4. AMH*

      What? Gig workers can use their phone BETWEEN stops — at the store when picking up, at the customer’s house — or they can pull over. Sorry, I’m with you on some of the conversations around social distancing, but not this. There’s no excuse for putting everyone else’s lives on the line because of your job.

    5. GythaOgden*

      I’ve been in taxis/Uber and seen this first hand, and no-one is using their phone /as they drive/. The phone is usually on a cradle with the ride details up and they maybe press one button when they set off and one button when they have come to a stop. Payment is either taken through the app anyway (Uber) or when you’re sat on the driveway afterwards. The UberEats guys who phone me if they need to find out where I am do it after they have pulled up in their car or on their bike. It is illegal in the UK and I really doubt that argument would ever be seriously entertained by lawmakers with access to the hard statistics.

      (Also it’s assuming that gig economy workers aren’t also thinking human beings and infantilising them actually makes you look like the one out of touch.)

      In any event, the laws of physics generally don’t care about whether you’re corporate in a limousine or a gig employee on a bike. The tree — or other car — still hits just as hard and the other people your car might hit are still just as squishy. It’s kind of weird to what sort of lengths the internet will go to justify being a twat when in charge of several tons of metal, but I doubt very much many /actual/ gig workers would agree with you.

    6. Admin Lackey*

      Thanks for the sophistry. Do you have anything pertinent to say about the letter or are you just here to defend reckless driving?

    7. Roland*

      Ah, there we go. Where would this comment section be without privilege-based moral outrage over (checks notes) thinking that texting while driving is bad

    8. Anon for this one*

      I agree with a lot of your points. For those saying Uber (and other gig worker) drivers don’t have to use their phone while driving, just the navigation — the app will send notifications while they’re driving about new rides, etc. Sure, they can set it to auto-accept or decline, but most times I’ve ridden in a car, the driver is manually accepting or rejecting them based on the info they see coming through. While they drive. There can be a variety of other reasons they end up using their gig work app (or apps if they’re juggling multiple at once) while driving too. Is it ideal and preferred? No. But it definitely happens.

      I’ve seen a lot of other folks who go from job site to job site needing to respond to messages as they come in about where to go next/schedule changes/responding to clients while they’re driving too. Yes, it would be the preferred choice to pull over to respond to each message, but it’s often just not realistic.

      Again, I’m not saying this is a good thing and that the employees and their employers shouldn’t be doing more to find ways to allow drivers to be safe rather than feel the need to use their phone while driving, but until they do that, many drivers are going to continue to feel pressure to use their phone to keep up while driving.

      1. AMH*

        I understand you are not arguing in favor of texting while driving, but I beg you to reconsider the: “Yes, it would be the preferred choice to pull over to respond to each message, but it’s often just not realistic.” Reframe that with an equally dangerous, potentially deadly driving activity — “Yes, it would be the preferred choice to not drive after drinking, but it’s often just not realistic.”

        Being distracted behind the wheel kills, and ruins lives. There is no “realistic” reason for someone to do it. Obviously everyone here knows it is still happening, but the devil doesn’t need advocates and we don’t need to excuse it.

    9. Head sheep counter*

      Endangering others is a moral issue. If your job was to be a beverage taster and if at the end of the day you weren’t safe to drive… you couldn’t simply say… officer… its your privilege showing that is causing you to pull me over. That’s nonsense.

      You can be rich and kill people. You can be poor and kill people. Neither is more morally acceptable. Killing people is immoral. I don’t understand how this is even a “debate”. And if your point is that he hasn’t killed anyone… I’d say… he hasn’t killed anyone yet. He’s playing russian roulette and the odds of hurting or killing someone are high.

  18. Dog momma*

    If Jake can’t leave his phone alone..while driving!… & has another accident, he’s going to kill someone, and then the company is also liable. It doesn’t sound like he’s learned anything by the info given.


    what they aren’t saying in this article is that the operator’s FATHER, WHO OWNED THE COMPANY, booked it back to Pakistan, where he remains. So he let his son take the fall. And I was never sure if the son was actually aware of all the problems going on in the company or not.

    1. Ex-prof*

      That accident happened quite close to where my mother lived; I was visiting her at the time. Absolutely horrible.

      We always assume businesses are doing everything they should be doing safety-wise; we stake our lives on it.

      1. Madre del becchino*

        I grew up in the same county that accident happened in and know exactly where it happened. Absolutely awful.

  19. Ex-prof*

    On my way to my dentist’s I drive past a pipe organ rebuilding factory, and every time someone on here says they are in a “niche field” I imagine that they are a pipe organ rebuilder.

    1. ecnaseener*

      We’ve found it, the new stand-in for people sick of hearing about llamas and teapots!

      1. Ms. Elaneous*

        With all due respect, I like Llamas and teapots.

        I also appreciate unusual obscure not-their-real-names LWs come up with.

    2. Kotow*

      Not an organist or organ builder but my significant other is! It truly is a niche field and it’s so highly specialized. Some parts of the process can be done from home (mostly involving wiring) and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come home to find wires and boards all thrown across the floor LOL.

      1. Ms. Elaneous*

        The Paramount in Oakland has a working rebuilt pipe organ. It’s amazing. Thank you, Mr. Kotow.

      2. Ex-prof*

        Interesting! I always picture it being all about carving big wooden pipes.

        In fact, it puzzles me that the company’s building is kind of small.

  20. Workerbee*

    Great advice for #4. I still occasionally remember when an ex-boss of mine, after years of no contact, suddenly appeared in my LinkedIn inbox saying, “Workerbee, I need you to get me a job. I need at least $75,000, X, and Y, and….”

    No preamble, no other thought than that. So, yeah: Don’t go that route.

    (And I do still remember posting about it on the Friday work thread, and the commentariat telling me that was perfectly reasonable for him to reach out that way! I will always disagree with that.)

    1. Seashell*

      That sounds nuts. I can imagine him reaching out to say he is looking and if you hear of anything you think he might be good for, he would appreciate you letting him know. But “I need you to get me a job” should not be something you say to anyone.

    2. FashionablyEvil*

      You must have gotten all of the “I don’t want social niceties at work! Just talk about work!” types commenting on your post. (For the record, that’s a peculiar and off-putting way to frame a networking request.)

    3. Ellis Bell*

      No it’s not okay for a former boss to use their referee position to just go ahead and phrase something like this as a demand!

    4. AngryOctopus*

      I got a LinkedIn message a few years back from an IT guy I hadn’t worked with (near? We didn’t work together, I just knew him) since 2004. He did start with pleasantries in the message, but then it was like “I’m looking for a job and you can help me. Here is what I do. You can recommend me for jobs at your company.”. Uhh, I haven’t seen you in 15+ years, I never actually worked WITH you in an official capacity, and I haven’t heard anything about you in years. Why would I devote time and put my reputation on the line recommending you?
      And I disagree with comments you got, this is never an appropriate way to reach out to someone. It’s OK to reach out over LinkedIn if you know the person and had recent contact with them, but this is not OK!

  21. Hiring Mgr*

    For #1, if the owner of the company wants to keep Jake on, it doesn’t sound like there’s much your husband can do. Hopefully Jake will use this as a wakeup call to stop the distracted driving

  22. Glomarization, Esq.*

    What if the next accident is a lot more serious and he injures or kills someone, and the business knew he was a risky driver and kept him anyway?

    Then the company’s insurer will not cover the damages, they will never be able to afford insurance again, and the person who failed to fire him may be found personally liable.

    1. Statler von Waldorf*

      Do you really think this would be sufficient to meet the threshold required to pierce the corporate veil and hold an employee personally liable? I doubt it would in my jurisdiction.

      1. Glomarization, Esq.*

        It’s not about piercing the corporate veil. It’s about the company’s insurer not covering the person who decided to continue to employ a driver whom they knew or should have known was a high risk for dangerous driving. The term you’re looking for is “negligent hiring or retention” and the textbook example is hiring or keeping on a driver who you know has DUIs.

        1. Statler von Waldorf*

          I understand and fully agree that under negligent retention the corporation can be held liable for the actions of its employees, and in this situation the insurer would probably refuse to continue covering them.

          What I don’t understand is how that would translate to the employee being held personally liable for not firing someone if they did that as part of the regular scope of their work while working for an incorporated business. My understanding of the law is that people performing services on behalf of a corporation cannot usually be held personally liable if those services go wrong.

  23. Scarlet ribbons in her hair*

    #3 – Alison said, “I take it you are the one in the middle of a conversation with someone and you’re annoyed your coworker isn’t pitching in when the ring rings?”

    This made me laugh and laugh, because, based on my experience, I thought that it was the other person complaining, because the person in the middle of the conversation was talking and talking and talking to a friend and was ignoring the phone. I used to have a job as an admin where I was the back-up receptionist and sat right behind the front desk and had to answer the calls that she couldn’t answer. Even if the reason that she couldn’t answer the calls was because she was busy either talking with her friends on the phone or talking and talking and talking face-to-face with co-workers about personal (not business-related) stuff.

    To make things worse, co-workers would approach the receptionist and ask her if they could use her phone to make personal calls, and she always said yes. They couldn’t use their own phones, because then their supervisors would know that they were spending all day making personal calls, so they went to the reception desk, thinking that their supervisors wouldn’t find out. They thought it was so great, making personal calls AND getting paid for it! So while they were making their calls, I had to answer all of the incoming business calls. The receptionist would turn around and say innocently, “What can I do? She’s using my phone.” This stopped only when I told the office manager what was going on, and she stopped this, saying that it didn’t ‘t look professional for a client to walk into our office and see the receptionist staring blankly ahead while someone was standing next to the reception desk, talking and talking and talking on the receptionist’s phone. I was annoyed that the office manager didn’t say anything about how this practice was affecting me, but she put a stop to it, and that was good.

  24. Michelle Smith*

    LW2: just remember that if you end up being required to go through a formal ADA accommodations process to get your request approved, your employer is not legally entitled to your diagnosis. A letter from a doctor or dietitian or therapist saying what restrictions you have is sufficient without naming the disorder.

    1. AccommodationsRequireInformation*

      that has not been my experience with any accommodation request I’ve ever made across multiple companies. providing proof of diagnosis is table stakes and required to start the process.

  25. LouLaeLowe*

    LW3 I’m agreeing with others it depends on what both receptionist are doing. One is doing casual/non-work chat or actually sitting doing nothing with another employee and the other is doing a work task. Then whoever is doing the non work task should be picking up the phone.

    I have a similar situation at my work. We have the main front desk receptionist and between other administrative assistants we rotate throughout the day so there are always two people at reception. Main receptionist has ignored the phone to, chat with her work bestie, who is not one of the assistants, so they have to catch up. As well answering the phone only to immediately transfer it to anyone (often to the wrong department so calls bounce back to reception anyway) just so she finish gossip or catch up convos or because she’s deep into sudoku, the NYT word puzzle, or chatting on Teams with her other employee friends.

    Same person also throws a fit and “tattles” to the administrative assistant manager, that we’re not helping her. Which in most cases we are swamped with our own work or covering her work, but I know a few of my coworkers who have refused to help her because of her actions. And the manager doesn’t like to confront her bad behavior so any complaints mean we just get a group email reminding everyone we are a team and should be helpful to one another.

    Sorry this turned into a vent about my workplace. But TLDR for LW3 if things were different you wouldn’t ask this question because the coverage and handoff would be a collaborative environment, and not who should be answering the phone. But at the end of the day someone doing work task usually trumps the person doing non-work task for answering the phones.

  26. HonorBox*

    OP1 – There are liability concerns with the employee and the mistakes he’s making. How much is the business impacted by the mistakes? These mistakes seem larger than some that we’ve read about recently (the three typos over a few months) where they are easily corrected and there isn’t larger impact. Having the sprinklers on all day could cause additional damage – water seeping into the basement for instance – and additional cost to the homeowner for the additional water use. The texting while operating a company vehicle is concerning as well, because not only is it illegal most places, if the company is assuming the cost there’s potential that fault is being admitted/assumed for something that shouldn’t be the company’s liability. Your husband needs to figure out what is going on, and if the employee is kept on, there should be additional safeguards put in place because these seem to be mistakes that will cost the business more than other mistakes.

  27. Mim*

    LW3, I feel your pain. Or presumed pain, assuming this is a situation you are currently dealing with, handling more than your fair share of incoming calls.

    I have been in a similar situation, to the point where I started keeping cover tallies of the inequity. It helped me deal with my frustration, as well as helped me see that I wasn’t just imagining things or exaggerating how bad it was. I had literal numbers to refer to, and phone calls were so frequent that it didn’t take long to see the obvious pattern. It was usually an hour a day when it was only the 2 of us answering phones (due to staggered lunch breaks with the other support staff), and it would be pretty typical for the numbers to look something like me – 20, her – 5. A couple of times I went to our boss to let her know this was an issue, and inevitably things would get better for a couple of weeks before falling back into the old pattern again.

    This was just part of a pattern of other very intentional stuff that happened in that office. Very “mean girls” type patterns of behavior. It was very much a frog in a pot situation, where I didn’t realize how bad it had become until I left. Which I guess is to say, if your phone inequity issue is part of something larger, take care of yourself. It seems silly, but those little daily jabs can really add up and affect your mental and physical health. But fingers crossed you just have a co-worker who is kind but hates the phones?

  28. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    LW1, the texting and driving is a big aggravating factor here. It’s not like he just backed into a tree because it was in his blind spot. He was doing something illegal that’s punishable by fines and points on your driver’s license in my state. At minimum he should be paying for the damage, and you should also consider this a last-chance type of situation. As in, the next infraction means termination. He’s showing a pattern of really poor judgment, and it could cost your company a fortune.

  29. Jane Bingley*

    Fellow ARFID person here! I’m glad you’re getting help. I’m still a picky eater by most people’s standards, but thanks to food therapy my list of safe foods went from low 2 digits to high 3 and it really makes a world of difference. Last work conference I was able to eat enough of what was served to not raise questions at more than half of the meals, which was lovely, and my boss knows enough about my picky eating to gladly pay for my alternatives when it didn’t work out. (Why must so many delicious foods be served already drowning in sauces? Just put the components out, please!)

    Shame around this is really common, because many of us grow up being told we’re weird, inconvenient, or doing this for attention. None of that is true! (Okay, I am weird, but my picky eating is the least weird thing about me.) Letting go of the shame entirely is another challenge, but I encourage you to see your dietary needs in a work context as ones that are as valid as a vegan or celiac. It’s not less of a medical need just because the illness is in your brain instead of your gut. I still deal with a lot of anxiety and guilt, but I do my best to play-act as a chill, cool person who happens to eat next to nothing in work settings.

    I have two go-to scripts when people ask me to explain my dietary restrictions, depending on whether they’re choosing food or not.

    If I’m speaking to the organizer: “It’s not fair to the caterer to ask them to get my dietary restrictions right, it’s just too complicated. It’s far easier and often cheaper to let me buy my own food. Do we have a target cost per meal I should aim for?”

    If I’m speaking to someone who’s just being curious, nosy, or rude about my different meal: “Oh, I have a bunch of dietary restrictions, they’re complicated and boring. But I love [food in front of me] so all is well! How’s the [other meal]?”

  30. LouLaeLowe*

    Reposting because my original comment wouldn’t show.

    LW3 I’m with others on depends on what each person is doing. If someone is doing work task and someone is not it falls on the person who is not. If everyone is working then ideally it’s a collaborative effort to answer phones as needed to help each other out.

    I’m in a similar situation where our main receptionist most of the time isn’t answering the phone because she’s chatting with her work bestie, playing sudoku or the NYT crossword, or chatting with her other work friends on teams. If she doesn’t outright ignore the phone while expect one of us other administrative assistants to pick up, she’ll just pick it up and randomly transfer it since she knows it’ll bounce back to the reception later anyway.

    And she “tattles” to our manager if we don’t help. And all we’re met with is an email to the group of how we should all be helping each other and be a team.

    But for LW3, it should be a help one another as needed if everyone’s working. But if someone is doing a non-work task they can pick up the slack.

  31. Throwaway Account*

    I cannot emphasize how much risk letter writer #1’s husband is creating for the company and himself. I’ve been on a jury in this exact situation: the owner, driver, and boss (ie your husband) were all parties to the lawsuit!

    He needs to fire this employee or recommend to the owners the employee be fired and have that in writing. Seriously, I think all your family assets are at risk!!

  32. fhqwhgads*

    LW1: it is inappropriate for a business to request or accept employee-reimbursement for damage they caused. It’s a business expense. It is appropriate to let someone go for causing said damage. As hundreds of other comments pointed out: this goes way beyond the money for this specific incident and into greater liability, which the company should care about. Even if the owner is somehow nonplussed by these two incidents, I’m surprised their insurance didn’t either: insist on removing this driver OR send their rates through the roof, far exceeding the one-time repair cost. Or both. All that’s before even getting into the part of their position where this would be “losing a good employee”. He’s not a good employee. And they seem to have a huge blind spot about that.

  33. The Other Evil HR Lady*

    #1: PLEASE for the love of all that’s holy, have your hubby make duper-triple sure that Jake signs a form saying he will not text and drive, observe all laws while driving, and send him to a defensive driving course. If he has another accident and the two previous come to light, not only is the company finished, the owners are DONE!

    My company was sued and settled for $7M. This was paid by the insurance, so NBD, right? WRONG! Nobody wanted to insure our fleet, and when we found a company that was willing, they increased the premiums to nearly $500K per year. Is your hubby’s company able to pay that? I’m guessing not, because not many are. Also, can your hubby’s company’s insurance afford $7M??? Do they even have insurance for that much?

    You can’t take the money for the repairs – that’s a non-starter there. The DOL has issues with things like that, so I would give the man his money back and fire him. He cost the company $4500. That’s the truth of it. Are they willing to keep putting up with it? The risk is too great to the rest of the employees working there because he’s single-handedly threatening their livelihood.

    1. M2RB*

      Thank you for sharing your experience – the LW’s husband and his employer really need to think this through from a business perspective in addition to the danger issue they are completely overlooking.

  34. kiki*

    On letter 1:
    “this is mutually beneficial as Jake gets to keep his job and they don’t have to fire a good employee”

    I feel like the company may be thinking about Jake’s continued employment after car accidents the wrong way. The reason to let Jake go in this instance isn’t because he cost the company a few thousand dollars, it’s because he seems to be a danger on the road. Two driving accidents in a few months is a lot! I know in this instance it was just a tree, but what if there had been a person walking along the road? What if there had been a cyclist he didn’t see? The reason Jake’s employment should be in question is because it seems like he cannot be trusted to safely operate a vehicle he has to drive as part of his job.

  35. Garlic Microwaver*

    For OP 2, I know this isn’t ideal, but I would also consider bringing a supply of snacks and safe foods so you are not at the mercy of the caterer/chef there. Or, you can ask for the stipend ahead of the retreat, get there early, and do your own shopping/investigating? It might be extremely difficult for the restaurant to meet the specific restrictions of your ED.

    1. Newbie*

      OP 2 here – Yes! I usually bring as much of my own snacks as I can but packing for an extended stay can be difficult and that combined with the fact that sometimes we’re going directly from retreat activities to meals with no down time so I don’t have the time to grab them from my hotel room.

  36. HailRobonia*

    #3: I used to regularly interact with an office that had two receptionists who seemed to play a game of “chicken.” Whenever I would come in, they would both appear to be busy and not look up. It felt like they were each waiting for the other to respond. You could cut the tension with a knife. They sat across from each other so I would not have been surprised if a tumbleweed blew through the entryway, gunslinger style.

    I felt awkward and unsure what to do, finally after several incidences of this I came up with a solution. I was vaguely aware that though both were receptionists, each had slightly different duties. So I asked them to clarify whom I should ask about the department head’s schedule, who was responsible for finance information, etc.

    This helped a little bit, but many times the task wasn’t specific to either so once again it would be problematic.

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      Some people are just like this. They are very invested in making sure they don’t do more work than anyone else.

      One of my post-retirement jobs was working in a municipal office where part of the job was answering the phone. My coworker would not answer the phone even if I was already on a call, and when I said “Would you mind getting that?” she informed me that it “wasn’t her turn.” She’d do that when people showed up in person, too. I’d be on the phone and someone would show up and she’d tell them, “You have to wait for her. It’s her turn.” I wouldn’t go to the boss with such nonsense, but she eventually did because I wasn’t following her unwritten rules for fairness. I changed jobs as soon as I could.


    #1. Money is definitely the wrong thing to focus on. The leading cause of death in the USA workplace is a transportation related event. Driving accidents are responsible for about 38% of on the job fatalities. The next highest cause at 16% is slips, trips, and falls.

  38. Wendy the Spiffy*

    #4 (and #5) — a helpful resource for this is the book “20-Minute Networking Meeting, The – Professional Edition” by Nathan A. Perez & Marcia Ballinger

  39. The Happy Graduate*

    LW2 – I just want to say you’re so not alone. I’m not diagnosed ARFID but I do have sensory disorder that’s very similar where it’s the texture of foods that I struggle with. For me at company dinners, it’s embarrasing outright refusing some pre-planned appetizers in front of others but I’ve found being very matter of fact about it and then immediately pivoting the conversation to another topic that engages my cohort helps A LOT.
    I hope the retreat goes smoothly for you and that you can coordinate your own meals. <3

    1. Newbie*

      LW2 here! Thank you SO MUCH. I’ve had so much shame around this for so long (and only recently even found out ARFID was a thing) so its great to here from others with similar experiences.

  40. JP*

    For our company, an employee that’s been in multiple accidents or that has a lot of points on their license won’t be covered by our insurance, and would not be allowed to drive company vehicles any longer. I know of at least one person currently in this situation. He’s a good employee otherwise and the accidents were fender benders (backing into a pole in a parking lot, for example), so he uses his personal vehicle when he needs to and submits for mileage reimbursement from the company. I don’t know if that’s a viable solution in LW1’s situation though, since it sounds like there’s more going on than just fender benders.

    1. Lilo*

      If your company hasn’t, they need to check that setup with a lawyer (it depends on a lot of factors). Even if he’s using a person vehicle, if he’s on work required trips, there can be implications for your employer.

  41. I edit everything*

    LW2: My son has ARFID, so I sympathize with your concerns. Worrying about what food will be available at an event is a constant stressor and fills the days with anxiety. I highly recommend The Emily Program as a place to seek treatment. Their staff are wonderful and kind, and my son was able to make a lot of progress.
    One of the things we did with him was focus on foods that come up a lot at the types of places he’d be going, and using foods he already liked as a way in to other foods. Bacon and BBQ sauce are favorites? Then the next step was a bacon burger with BBQ sauce. And then practice and reinforce. If you know that some kind of food turns up regularly at these events, asking your care team to help with that one thing in advance can be a good approach. Or if you can get your hands on the caterer’s/hotel’s/restaurant’s menus ahead of time and pick something out to prep for, that can give you a confidence boost going in. Taking your first bite alone or with a supportive team can be much easier than staring a plate while surrounded by colleagues and judgment. But once you’ve had that first bite, the second is easier.
    Some foods will always be no-gos, and that’s fine. But some things are worth the effort. You should have seen my son’s face when he finally managed to try a milkshake for the first time. I hope you find those things for you!
    Best wishes to you as you move forward!

    1. Newbie*

      LW2 here, thank you!! and best of luck with your son, I know how stressful my condition was for my mom growing up; even as kind as she was she just didn’t have the knowledge or the resources to really help. Glad things are changing for the better!

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

    In regards to #3. I also work reception at a 2 person desk, and I hope my new partner who starts soon will have the same type of relationship as I have with my past coworkers.
    I think it really depends on the situation and the company. I’ve worked some places where you have to answer the phone, even if you are talking with a client or your boss, and other places where it would be ok to let the phone go to voicemail and call them back.

    If receptionist 1 is working with someone, especially a client, then receptions 2 should answer the phone, even if they are working on something that requires focus. That’s just part of the job of being at the front desk. However if receptionist 1 is just chatting with a coworker then they could take the phone, especially if receptionist 2 is working on something that requires focus.

    At my work I have the first desk and its hard to see if someone is at the second desk unless you walk further into the area. If I am with someone, (phone or in person) and a client comes in but only sees me, I will gesture or ask them to step to the next desk or I will motion to my coworker to take the client.

    What I’ve always done is to communicate my needs to the other receptionist and tell them to do the same. So if I am working on something that requires focus and little interruptions I will tell my coworker this and ask that they take phone calls. We also have a “please use next desk” sign to direct people. My coworker lets me know if they are working on a report or something, so I know to take responsibility of any calls/clients that come in. Obviously if we get multiple phone calls and multiple people coming in, we set aside the other work to help. Basically it boils down to communication and letting the other person know what needs to be done.

  43. Leslie Knope*

    LW1: Recouping damages varies by state in the U.S., so in California, for instance, you can’t have the employee pay back the damages. That said, texting and driving in California is also illegal, so as others have mentioned, depending on where you are, the employee broke the law on company time resulting in significant damages. The issue isn’t the dollar amount–presumably insurance will cover it–the issue is the employee’s lack of judgment.

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

      I thought of this too. Also if they are taking that amount of money from his check so that he is only getting $200 that would be making him below minimum wage.

  44. M2RB*

    RE Letter 1, accidents in the company vehicle

    I’ve already commented further up as a reply to Yup about how I would react if my husband (who bikes to work daily) were hit by a driver with this record, and I’m not going to rehash those points.

    I have been the first person to the hospital when someone was hit by a car while riding their bike and doing everything “right” as a cyclist. It was a hit-and-run and the driver was never caught. Those images of my friend in the hospital gurney and watching her slow recovery over months from a very serious traumatic brain injury are seared into my memory.

    Yes, I am very very biased about this – because it is serious! This driver needs more than a slap on the wrist. His next accident could kill someone or leave them with lifelong consequences.

  45. Shannon*

    #2 – I am an event planner and would be mortified to hear that a colleague spent an entire week not being able to eat anything the caterer or venue I contracted served. Does someone specific plan the retreat every year? If so, I would talk to them directly. You don’t have to tell this person anything about your medical condition, just that you have a limited diet and here are the things you can eat. My hope is that this situation is simply someone unaccustomed to planning these kind of things (and if you’re fully remote, that might truly be the case) and just not even aware that this is something they should think about.

    1. Newbie*

      Yes we have an events director who is incredible and so so considerate with her planning but I just have felt so much shame around my ARFID that I’ve not once mentioned it (or alluded to) in a work setting. After working with my therapist and nutrition counselor, I know logically now that the events director would REALLY want to accommodate me but its hard to internalize!

  46. Ess Ess*

    #3 doesn’t specify what type of face-to-face conversation is occurring. If it is a face-to-face with a customer/client, then the free receptionist should answer it. If the conversation is just idle chit-chat with another employee who has stopped by the desk, then the original receptionist should stop chatting and answer the phone because their job takes precedence over personal chatter.

  47. eVents*

    LW2, I work at an event facility with an on-site caterer and we see these types of restrictions more often than you would expect. We primarily provide buffet services, but for something like this, we would most likely provide a plated meal for all meal services. If you want to make sure they really stick to it, make sure you say you have allergies to items.

    I see a few options for this but it is tougher as you mentioned this is a six days of all day meal services:
    1. If comfortable, I would let them know what you CAN eat. I would ask the event planner and kitchen can work through the meals without your intervention, this involves a level of trust which you may not have if it was at this facility last year.
    2. Next, I would provide a list of meal options. You could give multiple options for each meal service as the food services staff could pair it with what is being served to the rest of the group. I provided some examples based on our offerings below. :
    -breakfast – hot oatmeal w/o additives (sometimes this is packets w/ hot water, other times it’s in a hot chafer), fruit cup
    -lunch – house salad with dressing on the side, plain chicken with steamed vegetables (you could mention specific vegetables)
    -dinner – salad with dressing on the side, plain steak with side of potato and streamed vegetables
    3. Order your own food for delivery or provide it yourself. This would be a worse case scenario for our facility as it brings in liability if you get sick. We do not allow for guests to bring in outside food EXCEPT in extenuating circumstances that we cannot easily accommodate (for example, usually kosher items as we do not have a kosher kitchen)

  48. Ess Ess*

    #1 – an accident in a work vehicle should be covered under the business auto insurance and therefore the employee should not be responsible. Even if there is a deductible balance to be paid, that should be paid by the business because it was their decision to have a deductible policy.

    HOWEVER, if this occurred in a location where texting while driving is illegal, then the accident occurred while the employee was deliberately performing an illegal action. Under that circumstance, the employee should be wholly responsible for the cost. The vehicle was being operated in an illegal manner.

  49. LBR*

    No advice, I just wanted to say I’m a fellow ARFID sufferer. I was placed on a wait list for an eating disorder treatment program but it was 8 months long at first and then they kept calling me telling me the wait list was getting longer (?) and so I took my name off the list. I really need help though.

      1. Newbie*

        Lw2 here I’m so sorry to hear that! The ARFID subreddit is a great place for resources and shared commiserating if you haven’t already checked it out.

        1. LBR*

          Thanks for letting me know! I was on the PickyEating subreddit but it just made me sad and wasn’t very helpful. I’ll check this out.

  50. morethantired*

    I am a recovering ARFID sufferer and a lot of people in my family have it too. I still have major food texture issues with some things, and it seems like those always come up during catered dining situations. But I will say that telling people “oh I just have issues with certain textures — even if it tastes good I can’t eat it” or “I’m a wimp and I can’t handle spices.” and people are almost always very understanding. I have even learned that most people have certain food textures they can’t stand! Talking about it in this way seems to help people relate to it rather than criticize it.

    p.s. I am very lucky to now have a wide-ranging and even adventurous diet thanks to the support of my spouse and friends. Taking small steps in terms of trying new things, dealing with my anxiety disorder as a whole through therapy and medication, and developing strategies to feel safe when trying new things (like doing it at home in private, or doing it alone to reduce added fear of making a scene on top of gagging or vomiting) has been effective. It took about 10 years to get to where I am now but if you have ARFID and are struggling — there is hope! I almost never even gag anymore if I try something new and don’t like it. That would have been unthinkable when I was in my 20s.

    1. Newbie*

      Lw2 here thats incredible to hear about your success! I have generalized anxiety as well but only started talking with my therapist about ARFID in the past 6 months bc before that it seemed just ‘TOO BIG” to treat. Working with my therpaist and now a nutrition counselor, it’s slow going but I’m trying to be kinder to myself about it and even that is honestly progress!

  51. Mango Freak*

    LW3: Well…what kind of conversation? Is R1 just chatting with a work friend while R2 is dealing with actual work?

    Who would normally pick up that phone if you were both free? If it would normally be R1, and the conversation weren’t very pressing, probably R1 would be expected to say “one sec” to the person they’re talking to and pick up the phone. They might not even need the “one sec,” since everyone knows a receptionist’s job is to pick up the phone.

    However, if R1 is in the middle of an *urgent and unusual* conversation, R2 should hopefully clock that and pick up the phone. Likely also if R1 is receiving a scheduled visitor, though that can vary by office.

    It depends a lot on what your set-up is, and what the specifics of the moment are.

  52. Veryanon*

    The first letter – this is why businesses have insurance. I would not have accepted the employee’s money, but I would want to know what was going on with the employee that he was having so many accidents. There’s probably more to the story there.

  53. SearchingForABossThatDoesntSuck*

    LW4: In a very similar boat right now. I have found that reaching out to contacts by email has been helpful. They can choose when and how to respond, whether it is to discuss your goals or recommend you for a position. I find that much easier than a face to face or phone conversation. Best of luck in the search!

  54. Jules the 3rd*

    LW2: Internet hugs if you want them. I really, sincerely, deeply wish people would stop with shaming people as ‘picky’ and become more open to the many varieties of people that we have. My family has various dietary restrictions (eg lactose intolerance, allergies, sensory processing), and while it’s been a little work to figure them out, it’s work that’s worth it.

    LW5: Giving LinkedIn recommendations made me feel less helpless about my laid-off coworkers too.

  55. Luanne Platter*

    LW1: an employee who has made several customer-impacting mistakes *and* caused an accident in a work vehicle is not a good employee.

  56. whatchamacallit*

    1. I completely had a parking lot fender bender in my boss’s car, while on the clock. It was fully handled by the business’s insurance. It was the one and only incident like that I had there and I wasn’t texting/on the phone/any other sort of questionable distracted driving. (It was truly just dumb.) I view it as that’s what insurance is for; occasional mistakes. I think it becomes a different conversation when it’s a pattern and the person is openly admitting they were doing something dangerous, like texting while driving! That’s a liability now. Even if they are fine with paying for damages indefinitely, they’re still a liability. So the question is really “do you want someone with this pattern on staff?” I would say no. If I got in multiple fender benders I think my job would be reexamining things.

  57. Burbonk*

    Check your hiring paperwork/contracts/etc before you leave a Linkedin recommendation, some large corporations specifically forbid people from doing it. I am not sure why. I don’t do it just to be on the safe side.

  58. Nicole*

    Re #2: I have a job that involves hosting events at hotels, and accommodating food restrictions can be a lot harder than you would think. At my current hotel venue, I can either pay $1400 a day for the event space, OR I get the event space free with a $1400 food & beverage purchase. So if someone doesn’t eat the available/catered food, it’s not like I have that money to spend elsewhere. Any dollar I don’t spend on food I still have to pay the hotel. The caterer is able to accommodate most dietary restrictions though so that’s probably why the event planners always default to that.

  59. TootsNYC*

    4. How do I use my network?

    Every single person I have ever worked with would be welcome to call me up and say, “Hey, remember me? We worked together at X place. I’m looking for work. If you hear of anything, would you let me know?”

    I don’t care that we haven’t spoke to one another in ages. I know you; I wish you well; I’m happy to help.

    ALSO: there is an advantage to me in knowing who’s looking for work.

    I was taught that networking was an exchange back and forth, and when I was younger, I didn’t think there was anything of value I had to offer some executive.

    Then I was freelancing and looking for full-time (or more freelance) work, and someone pressured me to email the top person in a department in the same company. I hesitated, becaue I didn’t even know her, and I would just waste her time.

    She called me to come meet with her, even though she didn’t have any openings, and she asked me about my work, etc., etc.

    Then she said this, which changed my approach completely:
    “It’s very valuable to me to know who is out there in our field, and what they know, and what they can do. I never know when I’m going to hear from my counterparts that they are looking for someone with a certain skill, and it’s valuable to be able to send them some names. And of course, if I ever need a skill from someone, it saves me a lot of time to have a folder of resumes from people I’ve already met.”

    When I became a hiring manager, I did an exploratory interview with anyone mildly interesting, for exactly that reason.

  60. Hearsay*

    I actually have a similar problem LW 3.
    My coworker likes to do the minimum of things, so what I started doing was telling her when I was going to be occupied. I would inform her I would be doing such and such things so I couldn’t answer the phone.
    I won’t say it works every time. There have been times I’m on a complicated call and she is on a simple call and she wont put them on hold so I don’t have to with a company that can hang up on me at any moment for not being there. I quickly put them on hold, greet and ask the other caller to hold, and once she is off, I’ll let her know the line is just on hold. That usually solves the problem.
    It’s a hard situation cause you don’t want to baby people, but I found that simply telling her I’m going to be unavailable (especially for work or calls she doesn’t want to make) has made it a lot less of a problem.

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