should we have “fun” out-of-office messages, managers trash-talk my old job, and more

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

1. Should we really have “fun” out-of-office messages?

At a company-sponsored women’s networking event last year, a speaker suggested that people should make their out-of-office messages more “fun” — i.e., include details about where you’re going, who you’re going with, fun facts about the location, etc. The thought was it would make you seem more human to the receiver, and they would then be more likely to respect your time off.

I find this advice grating for a few reasons:
– It’s too much information to read through. I just need to know when you’ll be back and who to contact in the meantime.
– I don’t think you should need to know what I’m doing with my time off in order to respect it.
– The fact that this advice was given at a women’s event for a very conservative, male-dominated industry adds an extra layer of ick I’ve not been quite able to put words to.

I’ve talked to a few folks around the office, and reactions have been mixed — some feel it’s too much, and others think it’s fun and I’m being a fuddy-duddy. This is obviously something I can just opt of of, but I just need to know: Is this a thing? Am I totally off-base here? Am I a fuddy-duddy?

You are not a fuddy-duddy.

People rarely read an out-of-office message and think, “Why didn’t she say more about why she’s out sick?” or “But who is going on vacation with her?” or “I wonder why she chose Yellowstone.” And while some people might enjoy reading that your destination in the Bahamas is “home to the world’s largest underwater sculpture,” a lot of other people are going to think, “Cool, but I really just want to know when you’ll be back.” There’s nothing wrong with including something personal (within reason — “I’m on my honeymoon! I’ll be back on the 23rd” is fine) but what the speaker is recommending is overkill and likely to come across as cheesy or odd.

The idea that people will be less likely to respect your time off if you don’t include extra info is bizarre — and it feels like the speaker is telling on themselves a bit there.

It’s extra gross at a women’s event because it plays into the deeply problematic idea that women need to put in extra effort to soften or pep up their communications (“humanize yourself! the most important thing for you is to make other people feel good so be warm! but not too warm or someone will take it the wrong way! no, not like that!”), a burden that’s placed on men far less often.

2. My new managers trash-talk my old job

I started a new job at a charity recently, after leaving the government sector where I’d worked for 10 years. My two managers keep referring to my past experience in negative terms, like “you’ll find things are very different here, we don’t do things the slacker way like where you used to work.”

My new job is actually extremely similar to my old job with the exact same software and processes (and I have a qualification in this area). I’m trying hard to learn the way of the charity and have been getting great feedback. Despite this, comments are made about how I feel to be working in “the real world, where we actually work hard.” But I’m a diligent worker and put in a lot of effort at my old government job and likewise in my new job.

My manager once worked at the government department I’ve just left, so I think he has a chip on his shoulder from his experience there many years ago. In my interview, he asked whether I’m a self-starter because everyone he knew at my old workplace couldn’t think for themselves and was lazy. I was taken aback at this, but I just calmly explained what a diligent worker I am.

I’m getting upset at the constant digs, and this is still being brought up six months after I started. It’s especially frustrating that I’ve been getting great feedback but feel I constantly have to prove myself because of my employment history.

This is Extremely Weird.

It might be interesting to say something like, “You keep mentioning that. Do you have concerns about my work ethic? I’d want to be able to address it if so.” Sometimes taking something like this very much at face value and responding accordingly will highlight how weird the other person is being, and it’s possible that framing it that way could nudge them to stop.

Or you could say, “I can’t speak for other teams, but the team I was on wasn’t like that. I’m surprised to hear you say that so often.”

Or you could just internally roll your eyes and keep in mind that while it’s possible that they had bad experiences with your old department, their constant harping on it is a tell that there’s something weird going on with them and it’s not about you.

3. How can I help an employee without money for food?

I am a supervisor of a team of about 15 in a large organization. One of my direct reports has disclosed to me that she is experiencing food insecurity and relies on charity for her groceries. I suspect she is not eating three meals a day. I would like to assist her but I don’t know how to go about it. I am not able to give her a raise and due to medical issues she is not able to work more hours. An added layer to this situation is that she used to be in the role which I am now in but had to step down due to these medical issues. I don’t want to come across as patronizing and I don’t want to break her confidence by reaching out to anyone in our organization about her circumstances. Are you able to give me advice about how I can help?

Would you be up for giving her an occasional gift card to grocery stores or similar? If you think it would make her feel more comfortable, you could say that someone gave it to you but you don’t normally shop there, or it showed up in your mail and you thought of her … or you could just say, “People helped in me in the past and I’d be grateful to be able to pay it forward.”

Beyond that, is your sense that your organization would assist her in some way if they knew? If so, I think it’s okay to talk to someone discreetly (someone who you trust to also handle it discreetly) and find out what options might be available. I appreciate you not wanting to break her confidence, but I’d put this in the category of “manager acting to help an employee” and sometimes that does involve looping someone else in (assuming she didn’t explicitly say you shouldn’t share it with anyone).

4. Can I ask to be laid off with severance?

I’ve been working for my employer for seven years, with three in a specialized role that did not exist before I pushed for its creation. We provide marketing services for other agencies, and I am the lone employee who creates any kind of marketing content for our organization.

Yesterday, I was told by the CEO that the marketing department (which consists of me, my manager, and a C-suite exec) was being restructured and my role was essentially being eliminated. I was told that I would be transferred to an operations role that I have virtually no experience in and that is, in my opinion, a huge step back professionally. My salary will remain the same, but this role has significantly less autonomy and is far below my skill set. Typically, it’s more of an entry-level role.

While my CEO says the hope is that this move is only temporary, I have no faith that that’s true. The company has historically struggled with lead generation and they’ve cited that the lack of leads is prompting this move. (For the record, I have never been held responsible for this or had any indication in my overwhelmingly positive performance evaluations that this was under my purview.) I fail to see how eliminating this marketing role will help them turn things around, but my larger concern is that this move will take a massive toll on my mental health and my ability to even look for new employment opportunities. The role has unrealistic productivity performance metrics with a high probability of burnout, and I would essentially have to learn an entirely new role that isn’t aligned with my experience or professional goals.

I have it on good authority that the company recently offered severance to an underperforming employee (far less senior than me) as an alternative to a demotion. This former employee ended up taking neither option, which makes me wonder whether there might be an opportunity for me to suggest a layoff with severance instead. The company has been actively trying to avoid layoffs, and part of me feels that the CEO is trying to do the “right” thing by finding a way to keep me employed. I recognize this might not be the smart thing to do, given the current state of the job market, but I do wonder whether there’s any precedent for this. If the worst they can say is no, do I really have anything to lose by asking? I don’t want to let my ego convince me to make the wrong decision, but I feel so depressed about the idea of having to make this transition at work, even temporarily.

You can absolutely try to negotiate a layoff with severance! You could frame it as, “I appreciate you trying to find another role for me, but I’m not sure this one makes sense for me professionally. Would you be open to structuring this as a layoff with severance instead?”

You will probably lose a bit of your leverage on the amount of severance since they know you don’t want the other job, but not necessarily. And you could ask for a specific amount up-front so you’re anchoring the discussion with a specific number from the get-go. Or if they’ve done layoffs before and you’d be happy with the amount of severance people got then, you could ask for it to be matched now.

5. Do I have to tell my interviewers if I’m fired in the middle of a hiring process?

I have been put on an action plan at work. I don’t think they sincerely wish me to improve and I’ve also lost motivation. I am looking for a new job. My question is, if I get let go and I am in the middle of an interview process, do I have to disclose I am no longer working? I know I should be truthful if directly asked, but what if they don’t ask me?

You don’t need to proactively disclose it. If they ask if you’re still employed there, you should be honest — and you shouldn’t talk about the job in the present tense if you’re no longer there — but you don’t need to go out of your way to announce it either.

I lied to my interviewer about being employed

{ 427 comments… read them below }

  1. Atomic Tangerine*

    1. I am a medical provider and this makes me cringe. Some clients are great when they know I went on vacation, others are pretty blatantly offended that I dared take “elective” time off when they needed me. That’s on them, of course, but it’s a level of drama I do not need.

    1. MK*

      Yes, I found the idea bizarre that people knowing why you are on leave is going to make them respect you time off more. If it’s an emergency, the person calling you is more likely to be frustrated (unfairly) that you are chilling on a beach while everything back at the office is on fire. For people who don’t respect time off, knowing that you are, say, visiting family and not sick, or on a actual vacation, might make them more likely to call you, if that’s an option. And a message that someone is out sick would make me wonder if I should respond somehow, like send a card.

      1. Myrin*

        I thought so as well. My work is such that work stays at work and when I’m out, people have no way of reaching me anyway, so I honestly don’t give a flying fuck if they “respect” my time off or not.

      2. Annony*

        It also implies that they have a choice of NOT respecting your time off. I’m not answering my email. The OOO message is an FYI, not asking permission. The few people who have my personal cell phone number and actually could choose to try to contact me that way would already know why I am out.

      3. HB*

        Yeah – this kind of advice always strikes me as the result of someone doing something out of the norm, getting positive feedback from one person and deciding it’s the new thing to do.

        Or the result of someone’s bizarre fever dream.

        1. Ama*

          It feels very sales-focused to me, it’s the kind of thing someone whose career was primary sales and/or relationship building focused (i.e. nonprofit fundraising) would like because then they could use the info when they check back in (“oh, I saw you were on vacation in Bali! I hope you got some good beach time.”)

      4. Wilma Flinstone*

        Hoo boy, this curdles my milk. I had a stalker once (long time ago, everything ended up okay) and there is No Freaking Way I list what-all I’m doing on vacation, let alone that I’m even on vacation. I’m not available. That’s all you need to know. I had a colleague once who posted on the company Facebook that I was on vacation and I raised holy hell over it. Made him delete it and make a formal apology. I have no online footprint for a reason (except for anonymous comment sections, lol!). My job isn’t going to make me change that for nothing.

        1. Princess Sparklepony*

          I wasn’t thinking stalker but I was thinking that putting too much info out there could be problematic on a lot of fronts.

          No one needs to know where you are. You can tell them when you get back if you have that type of relationship.

    2. Guacamole Nob*

      Exactly. People will always judge your reasons for doing things. Besides, most of my out of office messages would say “I’m currently out of the office because I had leave owing to me, and I wanted to sleep in and mooch around in my pjs rather than be here.” Not sure that would go down too well.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        Same and I feel like it would be extremely weird looking to be on the receiving end of that kind of auto responder. It also doesn’t matter to me whether you’re on vacation, out sick, caring for someone, etc. as far as work is concerned (obviously I care on a human level and will send appropriate well wishes if I know something is wrong). I just need to know how long you’ll be gone and, if it’s too long for me, when you’ll be back. After having some deaths in the family, I no longer ask people how their “break” was the next time I see them anyway, unless they volunteer it was for a happy reason. And if I send an email while they are out of office, I either don’t need a response until sometime after they’ve settled back in or I will forward the email to the contact in the autoresponse and cc the original recipient so they know I followed their procedures to get the assistance from someone else. How does knowing the person was on their honeymoon vs. sitting at home in their PJs help me with that?

      2. I am Emily's failing memory*

        Fun fact: My house has the highest concentration of people who are me in the world!

      3. Jaybeetee*

        On a personal level, I would love that!

        On a professional level, I don’t need to broadcast my time off plans, and neither does anyone else.

    3. Antilles*

      Can’t speak for the medical industry, but in my experience, it doesn’t really matter what level of detail you put in your out-of-office message. Why? Because reasonable people are going to be reasonable and unreasonable people are going to be unreasonable.

      If they’re reasonable about time off, they mostly just want to know when you’ll be back and who to follow up with in the meantime; you don’t need extra details to get them to “respect your time off” because they already will. If they’re unreasonable about time off, no explanation is going to satisfy them.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        ‘If they’re unreasonable about time off, no explanation is going to satisfy them.’

        Yep. That’s what I’ve seen since the dawn of voicemail and OOO alerts via Outlook. 98% of the time, people just contact whoever I listed in my OOO alert for assistance and don’t give it another thought.

        For the remaining 2%, no level of detail was/is enough to justify being away. A few memorable sorts even complained to my boss because I was out, even though I had told them I would be out – say, at a funeral service – and made sure they had the names and contact info of my back ups.

        1. Check cash*

          Or they just ignore it. Like, Im SUPER responsive usually and now you have sent 5 messages. Usually I passive aggressively say when I return, hi I saw your emails, I assumed you reached out to the person list on my OOTO while I was out?

    4. Llama Llama*

      Right! People complained that my manager took too much PTO (ie what she was offered and would loose if she not take). Therefore for a while she wasn’t even putting out of office messages! Imagine reactions if she had said she was camping?

    5. Garblesnark*

      Related, I am an admin. I support people who make, at minimum, 6 times what I make.

      I don’t always want to know that they went on vacation to Paris and Tokyo first class, thanks.

      1. Elsewise*

        Good point! I could see a lot of people also making assumptions about someone’s level of pay based on that. “Dang, this fundraiser I’m talking to is going to Bali? How much are they paying their people, do they really need my money?” That would, of course, be a totally unfair assumption, but that doesn’t mean people won’t make it.

    6. Nica*

      It’s also icky from a safety standpoint. That is just yet another public way of letting people know your house is sitting empty. Uh, no thanks.

      1. Emily Byrd Starr*

        Not to mention, there’s the potential for stalkers to follow you on vacation (ew).
        If you want to make messages “fun,” add a cute cat meme or something else harmless.

    7. AKchic*

      I’ve worked in government for years. If I were to put a vacation reason for being out of the office as an away message I would end up with a few individuals complaining about their “tax dollars funding [my] unnecessary vacation when [I] should be in working”. I’ve had that line dropped for not answering the phone promptly because I was on lunch or *gasp* in the bathroom. Government drones are not to be away from their desks at any time during business hours, otherwise they are mismanaging taxpayer monies. Periodt. *eye roll*

      My away messages are “I will be out of office until X date, returning on Y date. If you need assistance before Y date, please contact So and So at Z number or email”, and if they ask, I was on leave. I do not elaborate further on the type of leave.

      1. OldHat*

        That doesn’t count because government offices are not how the real world works. Or do I have it wrong because they are slackers who take too much time off because they could hack it at charities like the other letter.

        1. AKchic*

          The cackle I just cackled. Especially since I’ve bounced between government and non-profit and corporate sector jobs over my 25 year career.

      2. Observer*

        My away messages are “I will be out of office until X date, returning on Y date. If you need assistance before Y date, please contact So and So at Z number or email”,

        Yes, that’s really the best thing. I think that if any of our staff did anything significantly different, someone would be having words with them.

        I mean, there are some variations, such as more extended leaves where it’s not clear exactly when someone is coming back. But the format is pretty much the same. No detail, just the fact that they are out one extended leave and in the meantime, you can contact ~~whoever~~ and ~~number and / or email address~~. Have a great day.

    8. Bluebird*


      I’m out of office for the next two weeks because I’m getting a polyp removed from my colon! Let’s hope it’s not cancerous!!!

      Your bestie!


      1. TheOtherLaura*


        Really, not all PTO is to go places and take pictures to publish on social media.

    9. daffodil*

      I also don’t want the norm to become providing details, because then what do we do if the reason is not very fun? I’m all for adding a bit of personality to boring communication, but mandating it just makes it annoying and harder to get to the actual message.

    10. Really?*

      Agree it’s a lost idea, for several reasons, security as noted below, and when I’m on a business trip I may not want all of my clients to know where I’m headed to avoid awkward questions about what I’m doing and for whom.
      But wanted to mention I love the name… seem to remember a company with a similar name in SF in the late 90’s… loved visiting their offices which had a seemingly endless supply of tangerine flavored jelly bellies…

    11. MedicalOwner*

      Yes! I co-own a medical practice and while I am not a provider, the amount of patients who are so rude when any of my providers are on vacation is crazy. We’re considered “elective” in that we aren’t urgent or emergent, but people come to us because they’re in pain, and I get that, but waiting a week or even two to come in from the time you call to set up an appointment really isn’t that bad, especially post-pandemic when the whole industry is short-staffed. My staff still deserve vacations and time off! They are human beings, not machines, and they need breaks.

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

      I agree, this is very industry and even role dependent. I could see someone in my position (administrative assistant) puting something like I’m on my honeymoon will be back on 28th of March. But one of our clinicians WOULD NOT do that because it crosses a professional boundary and gives the clients more info than they need.

    13. OMG, Bees!*

      Some clients are just very demanding. I’ve had clients refuse to acknowledge I was on a lunch break even when eating at the kitchen/cafeteria table (coming up to me with issues that would require me to be at or fix their computer, not simple question). Got to the point I had to leave the building for lunch if I wanted a break.

  2. nnn*

    My first thought on #1 is that it’s common safety advice not to let random internet strangers know you’re on a vacation away from home (in case they’re burglars) and it’s also common safety advice not to let random internet strangers know where you are at a given moment (in case they’re stalkers). And you have no control over who emails you, so any random internet stranger who scraped your address out of the corporate directory for spamming purposes will now have that information.

        1. Heart&Vine*

          Absolutely! Even if a detailed out-of-office is only sent internally… emails can be forwarded. Information can be passed along. Detailing why you’re away, where you are, who you’re with, etc. is incredibly foolish and risky.

          “Hi! I’m not home! In fact my husband is with me so my house is empty! We’ve even taken our dog with us! And we won’t be back for another 9 days. In fact, we’re not even in the country so we couldn’t get home in a hurry even if we wanted to!”

          Please don’t ever do this or encourage it.

    1. Ridiculous Penguin*

      In Outlook (at my company, at least), my out-of-office settings are such that only internal senders receive an out-of-office notification. No one outside my company is being informed that I’m away on vacation. (That being said, might there be unscrupulous actors within my 1,000-person organization? Sure.)

      1. Polly*

        In my Outlook, I can set up different out of office messages for (a) people in my organization, (b) people not in my organization but on my contact list and (c) everyone else.

        1. BethDH*

          Some people at my work use this to tell internal people a little more — not the kind of detail the speaker in OP’s letter said, but vacation vs sick leave is common. I find it helpful because when I see them after I return it can feel awkward not to acknowledge an absence but I approach that differently if they were on a trip or were on medical leave.
          Shouldn’t be needed to respect time off but I find it helpful for the sort of coworkers I see once a week and don’t know super well.

          1. Observer*

            Some people at my work use this to tell internal people a little more — not the kind of detail the speaker in OP’s letter said, but vacation vs sick leave is common.

            Yeah, depending on the workplace culture, I can see that. But nowhere does it make sense to put in the level of detail suggested by this speaker.

        2. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Same here. I am specific about how long I’ll be gone and who to contact for backup on internal OOO alerts, but won’t do it on external alerts. Previous versions of Outlook didn’t have this feature, hence the blanket ‘I’m OOO until Monday, April 1’ or whatever.

        3. Bear Expert*

          I love being able to do this.

          Rando strangers get shipped to the departmental inbox, someone will sort them out. May or may not have a return date published, just “I’m not answering email right now, contact Department@Company if you need something time sensitive.”

          External people I work with get a few specific redirects, my boss and my delegate, and a date when they can expect to hear back from me, usually 1-2 days after actual return.

          Internal people get a more detailed switchboard (“If you have a new project or more general question, contact delegate. If you have a question or need around Project A, contact Team Lead A. If you have a question around Project B, Report B, or Process B, contact Team B. If this is urgent, contact X. If only I can help you, I will be responding to email after Date.”)

          It means my internal folks don’t get their direct emails shared with every vendor contact who decides to get in touch, and I can set expectations for a re-entry where I get a catch up day to make sure I get all the updates from my boss, my delegate, the various team leads, etc, before everyone who emailed me expects me to know what happened.

      2. Anonys*

        I have not seen anyone share details about their vacation in their ooo, but have on occasion received, “fun” out of office message in the sense that they are somewhat humorous. Think along the lines of: “I am currently on my annual maintenance outage. I will be back in service on x date”. I would assume only go to our internal colleagues, with a more standard message for external contacts.

        I don’t think I’ve seen women do this, the examples I can think of are men in mid-level management positions. It did make me chuckle a little and I think humanized them a little bit/made them seem like a chill and approachable I guess? I think if you have the personality for that kind of jokey message and it doesn’t seem off in your office culture, that’s totally fine though I would also never give blanket advice of “use humor in your ooo” to a larger group of people.

        1. Lellow*

          Someone I worked with years ago got to go to a conference in Hawaii (and take a few vacation days after the conference). He definitely put that in his OOO, and as we were CCing him on everything to do with his clients there were multiple comments a day, “Oh Eric’s in HAWAII? Gosh, if only he’d told us!” in a very amused way. (This is quite a boring story I realise. But we all found it very funny!)

    2. GammaGirl1908*

      This is a safety issue and a professionalism issue. Nobody at work needs to know that I am on sick leave because I’m having an oozing yeast infection treated or that I’m on vacation at nudist camp.

      I am an advocate of putting less information in out of office messages, not more. I need to know that you’re out of the office, whether you’ll be responding to messages, and if not, who to contact in your stead. Beyond that, don’t waste my time.

      1. Support Project Nettie*

        GammaGirl, I’m so relieved you presented those 2 examples as “or”, not “and”!

      2. Nebula*

        I think the LW should put this advice into action with your oozing yeast infection example and see if people think that’s “fun”.

        Jk, but I would actually love it if someone with nothing to lose did that.

    3. anon_sighing*

      While I don’t think what you described is statistically likely (and rather bold for a burglar), the concept behind it is solid.

      The less you say, the better – frankly, because you don’t know how people will use the information in your OOO on a personal or professional level, even information that seems benign like “I’m on maternity leave” or “I’m on my honeymoon.” I am not sure why “I’m out of office until DATE. If you need assistance on X, contact blah1. For Y, contact blah2” isn’t the right amount of work related info.

      1. amoeba*

        Eh, I mean, if you feel like it and it’s your style, “I’m on vacation/honeymoon/traveling the world/at a conference” is absolutely fine, at least where I work (both men and women, maybe even mostly men?) I kind of like it because yeah, it does give a little personal note. But it’s equally fine to just do “I’m out of office until X”.

        What’s suggested here is definitely too much, though! But a little personal note isn’t inherently unprofessional or a potential problem/risk, at least in a sane organisation.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          I don’t go to a lot of work-related conferences or things like that, but when I do I will usually put that in my OOO because it gives folks context for why they can’t reach me right away. Especially if it’s the one big conference that my org puts on every year, because anyone who might be emailing me probably would be aware that the conference is happening.

          And the only times I’ve put anything personal in my OOO was when I was volunteering at and then, a few years later, lucky enough to be running the Boston Marathon, but that’s because the Boston Marathon is soooooo cooooooool. :-D (I might be a little biased, though, because as a born and raised Bostonian I am extremely proud of our little (big) race.)

          1. Michelle Smith*

            I travel for conferences and other work-related activities. I will usually say “I am an a conference” or “I am traveling for work” because I also include that I will be slower than normal to respond to messages. It also helps subtly explain why I might respond at what seems like odd hours given time zone shifts and a busier than normal schedule.

            The only reason I do it though is because I don’t check messages (phone or email) while I’m on PTO. If I’m using leave time, sick or annual or whatever – doesn’t matter, I’m just out of office, not checking messages, back on X date, contact my boss if you need something urgent OR the office is closed so don’t.

        2. Observer*

          if you feel like it and it’s your style, “I’m on vacation/honeymoon/traveling the world/at a conference” is absolutely fine, at least where I work

          Yes, for internal emails I can see many organizations where this is *ok*. But the idea that it’s *necessary*? And that this will somehow make people “respect” your time off more? That’s kind of bizarre.

          So much so that I really have to question the appropriateness of anyone who doesn’t see the difference between “share a *bit* of context with friendly co-workers” (your example) and “beg people to not think badly of my doing something perfectly normal by over-sharing” (the speaker’s suggestion.)

      2. Moths*

        I did include the note that I was out of office on parental leave after the birth of my child, but only because it was a significantly longer leave than would be normal (3 months versus a week or two) and had a more vague answer on when I’d be back in office, since I knew there was going to be a phase in period. I also made clear that the email inbox would not be monitored, so that it was clear that I wasn’t going to be going back through all of the emails and if they wanted a response, that they would need to contact someone else (who I listed in the OOO message). I felt like those factors made a lot more sense in the context of parental leave versus making folks worry that there was a major health/family issue or that I might not be returning at all. However, certainly those might not make sense for everyone.

    4. EvilQueenRegina*

      Years ago, we actually had a policy at my employer that out of office messages could only be sent internally for that reason – people tried to appeal against it, but our Communications department said that an out of office message saying “John Winchester’s gone on a hunting trip” was too much of a security risk. People pushed back against that saying that John Winchester could word his message in such a way that people wouldn’t know he was out of town, and at least that way they’d know that John wouldn’t see the email until at least X date, that there was the option to redirect queries to “Sam/Dean/Bobby”, and then people could make the judgement call as to whether they needed to contact one of them or whether it could wait for John’s return.

      The eventual outcome was that we were given the option to put a message on for external contacts (we can either use the same message as for internal or a separate one tailored for external, and we still have the option not to put one on for external if we don’t want).

      1. Check cash*

        Very industry specific. All of our work is with outside brokers so we would want them to know who to contact on their time specific stuff.

    5. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Thank you! Two very important safety considerations, one of which more obvious to female-presenting colleagues!

    6. Marzipan Shepherdess*

      Excellent point, NNN! That’s WAY too much information given to strangers who have no need for it at all.

      And really, aside from your family and closest friends, what honest individual WANTS to know where you’re going on vacation, to a family wedding, etc.? All that business contacts want and need to know is when you’ll be back at work; tell them that and no more.

      1. amoeba*

        We mostly have internal e-mails and I do like seeing that the Tom from legal is on his honeymoon or that Sarah from toxicology is on a three-week holiday! (It also has the added benefit that for sick leave, I don’t see their return date as fixed, because of course you never know when you’re feeling better – with a planned absence, it tends to be more fixed…)

        But of course I’m also fine with no info. It does make me a little happy to read those slightly personalised ones though, so I don’t see a problem with that level of information, *if* the person actually does it because they feel like it, not because of some bogus advice. (And of course, no more details than that! I definitely don’t need fun facts about your holiday destination…)

    7. Letstalkaboutmysurgeryindetail*

      Yes this!

      Common information security advice is to give as little information as possible, otherwise it can be used against you or your company by threat actors, whether impersonating you to get others to take action or by knowing you will not be there to catch the issue if your role is targeted. There are many articles out there saying to keep it as minimal as possible.

      For internal emails, sure go ahead and give details of when you will be back and who to contact in your absence.

      For external emails, I know it seems very unfriendly and not useful, but a generic “I am away from the office and will respond when I return” is the best way to go. You can send an email in advance to external clients you communicate with regularly if they need to know you will be gone for X period of time, but not every rando that emails you needs to get that information.

    8. Rainy Cumbria*

      I came here to say the same. In a previous job we were specifically instructed not to do this, because of the risk someone could use it to give legitimacy to requests for information, documents, or access to something. For instance, someone could contact one of your colleagues saying “Rainy said she would send me Top Secret Document X before going on her honeymoon to Jamaica but it looks like she forgot, could you send it to me instead?” The extra detail supposedly makes the request more believable.

    9. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Exactly my first thought. Why is this advice for women to give out lots of information about their whereabouts? Yes men can be in danger too, but it tends to be women who are in danger.

      The key here is — would this same advice be given at a men’s event? I think not. Which tells you all you need to know.

    10. Sleeping Panther*

      Not only is it a common-sense safety measure, my last employer (a defense contractor) strongly suggested that we *not* say where would be or give any details beyond just “sick,” “vacationing,” “on leave,” etc. in our out-of-office messages, especially OOO messages for external recipients, as a security measure.

    11. el l*

      Yes, even if you can have different OOO for inside vs outside organization, it’s generally not a good idea to broadcast until after the trip.

      Plus, as mentioned below, you can’t control people’s perceptions of your activity:

      To someone, yes, perhaps it’ll be like “Oh, they went to the Bahamas, I connect!”
      To someone else, it’ll be “That entitled __, I need __ from them and they’re in the Bahamas when I need them.”
      To someone else, it’ll be “That clueless ___, they get paid twice what I do. So be it, but don’t rub it in.”
      And to someone else, you’ll give them conversation fodder trying to build connection with you…and you may not want to connect much with them.

    12. Random Bystander*

      And then there’s the times when you don’t want to have the details shared. (Like when I went out due to having a surgery for cancer scheduled–I’m now three months short of the three year mark cancer-free.)

      The best out of office messages are short and to the point: just say that one is out of the office (return date, if known–I remember the return date was uncertain when I went out after my cancer diagnosis because it wouldn’t be until after staging that the chemo/no chemo question could be answered–no chemo, 2.75 years cancer free now), and who to contact if immediate assistance is needed.

      On the receiving end, I don’t really care why the person is out–in most cases it is none of my business. I just want to know when I might expect that person to return or who I need to go to next if I can’t wait. It’s business, and most of these people are not friends.

    13. GrooveBat*

      It’s possible in Outlook to differentiate your OOO messages between “internal” and “external.” At my old company, we’d reserve the fun OOOs for the internal audiences (and people were super creative and funny) and keep the external ones bland and generic.

  3. Daria Grace*

    #1, what is it with women’s business events and silly advice? It wouldn’t be wrong to put a little more info in your auto-reply if you really genuinely wanted to but its a bizarre thing to suggest as a good idea for everyone. It’s completely unnecessary and risks creating problems for people. It’s a big invitation for boundary crossing behavior or worse. If you say you’re doing something at home like renovating, there’s a risk people will assume you’re in the area and available to be interrupted. If you say you’re going overseas, anyone from inside or outside the organisation who emails you now knows that your house and car will be unwatched for a week. If everyone in your org puts overly detailed away messages and you don’t, people might start wondering why you aren’t saying what you’re doing.

    1. Artemesia*

      It feels like something someone would have advised women to do if there were out of office internet messages in the 50s. The level of girly icky is high. It is one thing to share personal details with co-workers and quite another to broadcast such details to randos and the world at large. Truly terrible advice.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          This is it, this is exactly the ick thank you for putting it so succinctly.

        2. Observer*

          Even our automated messages aren’t safe from the command to smile more.

          That’s such a good way of putting this.

          OP *this* is why you’re icked out.

    2. scandi*

      They give silly advice because they ultimately have very limited ability to address the serious structural issues that affect women’s participation in the workforce. Their primary value is as a forum to network (which is valuable, just like similar spaces for other marginalised groups – I’m not disputing that). When they feel called to “do something” on a regular basis, it’s extremely easy to end up with just silly, superficial things because the meaningful things are extremely hard to do.

      Moreover, there are a ton of bad popsci “facts” circulating out there one can base events and trainings on, and a ton of inspirational speakers willing to cite said popsci as actual facts in expensive talks that they sell to various companies and organisations that want to be seen as “doing something” without having to address any of the hard questions.

      1. the Viking Diva*

        “They give silly advice because they ultimately have very limited ability to address the serious structural issues that affect women’s participation in the workforce.”
        YES. And not just lacking ability to address them but lacking willingness to even recognize when issues are structural rather than matters of women’s individual behavior. It’s just an OOO message but it’s yet another example of how it’s easier to police women than to call out injustices in the system.

      2. Grenelda Thurber*

        This! I’ve always been bewildered by the idea that a marginalized group can fix the problem of being marginalized themselves, if only they would just do something, e.g. network with each other/make themselves more “visible”/(insert latest fad idea here).

        1. Alternative Person*

          It’s been a real issue at my soon to be ex workplace. For all the women’s network is very well meaning and supportive they can’t overcome the structural issues and networks that keep them out promotions and the like.

      3. Observer*

        it’s extremely easy to end up with just silly, superficial things because the meaningful things are extremely hard to do.

        The thing is it’s one thing to come up with superficial stuff that’s meaningless. It’s another to offer advice that could be problematic. And that places a ridiculous burden on people. And also propagates some really toxic ideas.

        Potentially problematic because of all the things that people have mentioned – potential security, the very real possibility that a lot of people are going to have Opinions and Reactions to the reasons for the leave. And also, because it can wind up sharing information that the person would be better off not sharing, while obscuring the information that people *actually* need (ie when the person will be back, if they are checking their messages, and who to contact in the meantime.)

        A burden, because while it’s not a BIG burden, the idea that people need to come up with “just the right” OOO message, is just another thing that someone now needs to do when they are going to be out.

        And propagates toxic ideas like the idea that you need to convince people to “respect” your time away from the office. No, in any healthy work environment that’s not an issue.

        1. Alternative Person*

          I think it’s because there’s still a lot of problematic and toxic ideas baked into the system that women who break the ceiling end up perpetuating (how deliberate or not it is, I can’t comment).

          It’s a variation on the classic woman becomes a manager and treats their women juniors terribly because it’s what they went through.

      4. Elizabeth West*


        The pop-sci stuff really chaps my britches. I’m tired of DiSC and Myers-Briggs and MMPI and PIB and whackadoodle personality tests that are really no better than asking coworkers what their zodiac sign is. At least they’re not making people do trust falls anymore. Remember that? I’m cringing just thinking about it.

        None of that helps women with pay disparities, pregnancy discrimination, and gross managers.

    3. Helen Waite*

      The ick factor to me is that this came from a women’s event. The advice sounds like justifying why you’re not available, which opens the door to judgement. We get judged all the time for things nobody blinks an eye at for men. This is terrible advice.

    4. Vacation all I ever wanted*

      My out of office reply says the dates I’m gone, that I won’t have access to email and my extension, and to contact my team for urgent issues. With the exception of one eccentric guy who adds a random baseball fact in his, it’s pretty standard here. This is crazy to have to justify that.

    5. Texan In Exile*

      “what is it with women’s business events and silly advice?”

      I worked at a company that was almost all men. They hired a female communications VP from outside and she volunteered to speak to the women’s group. I was hoping for something like “How to support the younger female engineers” or “how to be a mentor” or “how to find a champion because clearly I, the new VP, have never been promoted because of my accomplishments, a fact that will become clear when I am fired in two years.”


      She talked about essential oils.

  4. Educator*

    The juxtaposition of letters one and three is a little painful—imagine being worried about where your next meal was coming from and getting a “fun” out of office about why your colleague is having a great time in the Bahamas. So many reasons LW 1 got terrible advice.

    1. Daria Grace*

      That’s a really good point. Hearing about executive’s trips in their newsletters to the division when we were struggling to get leave requests approved was bad enough. Struggling to eat and hearing about other staff’s trips would be so much worse.

      1. Support Project Nettie*

        This problem actually exists at my organisation. The CEO keeps sending weekly emails which start with what they’ve been doing in the week (usually on a personal level – holidays, activities, going to the gym etc) and how something ties in with organisation values. Sometimes it just comes across as bragging and other times utterly sanctimonious. Yeah chief, I’m glad you’re all refreshed after your week break in the Bahamas and ready to get back to work. Meanwhile the rest of us are being pestered about work issues on the 2 day leave request we had to fight for and will probably need a another holiday to get over that one.

        1. Tracy*

          My last boss was very angry that one employee gave notice and ruined his vacation to Aruba. One of the reasons we were quitting (I did so as soon as he came back) was because of low pay and living paycheck to paycheck while working insane hours for this clown. We had about zero concern about his two week vacation to the tropics with the way he treated us.

        2. Belle Jolie*

          At an all team meeting we had a c suite share photos from their recent trip to Bali.

          It did not go over well with employees.

          1. JustaTech*

            We had a new CEO introduce himself with a “joke” about how his high school aged daughter only wanted to fly first class “Coach is a bag Daddy, not a way to fly”.

            Uuuughhhhh on so many levels.
            (He didn’t last long.)

      2. learnedthehardway*

        Seriously – when I was a wee young recruiter, it seriously stung when senior partners didn’t understand why the peons got upset when bonuses weren’t at expected levels. Having it rubbed in my face that they were vacationing in places that cost the equivalent of my annual salary – to say there would have been morale issues would have been putting it excessively mildly.

    2. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      This is indeed painful. I’m crunching numbers because my car has an unexpectedly high repair bill while waiting for a Zoom meeting to start. It opens with the Grand Boss showing pictures of his winter vacation with comments about the high cost of all the side trips. I miss on-site meeting because people can give each side eye when advised they absolutely need to visit Barcelona.

      1. AKchic*

        Oh, I’m that petty one who asks if we’re going to get salary bumps to be able to afford trips to Barcelona, and then drops my actual salary amount in the conversation and admits I’m living paycheck to paycheck.
        But, I like to watch when wealthy bosses get hit by the clue by four I’m swinging.

    3. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Been there.

      Seeing photos of the the company president’s vacation with his much younger girlfriend, and then a company picnic hosted at the vice president’s house (new build, very well appointed), all while trying to figure out life after a 10% “belt tightening” pay cut? And then listening to both complain when I took a second job because, well, I didn’t have any company funds to pay for the vehicle I needed to get to work?

      I didn’t schedule karma, she works on her own, and work she did.

    4. Eldritch Office Worker*

      My boss (co-lead of the company) sets egregiously out of touch OOO’s full of emojis and comments about how much fun she’ll be having – they bother me for EXACTLY this reason, especially if she does it, say, when we’re in the middle of pay evaluations and people aren’t feeling great about their own disposable incomes.

      She’s got a lot of capital in our industry and no one’s going to respect her less for having an unprofessional OOO – but if she didn’t, they would, and as it stands it still elicits a lot of eye rolling

    5. Office Lobster DJ*

      Yes, came to the comments to say this! Please don’t make your entire office sift through “fun facts” about your fabulous destination; I can guarantee more than one person is in a financial situation where it’s an unnecessary sting.

    6. Looper*

      Even in the best case scenario, I’m working, the other person is on vacation, and while I’m stuck sending out dumb little emails, here’s an itinerary of all the fun this other person is having while not reading my emails. Like, great? Enjoy that margarita on the beach, someone found a fingernail in the breakroom ice dispenser :/

    7. Kyrielle*

      Also a good point! And conversely, if someone is taking off time for a medical procedure (theirs or a relative’s)…they might really not want to share that, to put it mildly.

    8. Observer*

      The juxtaposition of letters one and three is a little painful—imagine being worried about where your next meal was coming from and getting a “fun” out of office about why your colleague is having a great time in the Bahamas

      And it doesn’t even have to be this level of painful to be bad.

      Others have mentioned medical issues. Or the person who effectively has no vacation time because all of it is being used up for care giving. Or, or, or. So many potential scenarios.

      And that assumes a reasonably healthy organization where people get some PTO and are actually and in fact allowed to take their time. If it’s an organization where the CEO gets to take lavish vacations, but the line staff are treated like slackers if they take more that 2 paid days off, that’s rage making.

    9. OldHat*

      Or one and two. Maybe the managers in LW2 got an ooo from someone who followed the suggestion made in LW1 and that’s added to the fire.

  5. smiley sticker*

    #3 I can second the grocery store gift card idea. It’s a great way to let recipient choose their particulars (unlike some charities, but no negatives on charity, they have different rules to adhere to)
    I have received a couple grocery (or dept store, like target/walmart etc) cards without asking, but when I really needed it. It made a big difference in my morale and self thinking in those moments.

    1. CB*

      Thanks for the encouragement, it’s great to hear that receiving help when you needed it improved your morale. I’ll take your advice and purchase some cards.

      1. Waiting on the bus*

        This might just be my preference, but if you go the gift card route (which I think is the best idea) I’d use the paying it forward phrasing Alison suggested. The other options sound like thinly veiled charity to me and would make me feel worthless (though admittedly, I struggle with self-esteem issues).

        And can I just say, props to you for wanting to take steps to help your employee in this situation. Not everyone would, even though you’d hope otherwise.

      2. I Count the Llamas*

        Does your work have an employee assistance program (EAP) or similar? If you think the employee wouldn’t be comfortable calling themselves, you could call and ask if there are any options you could pass on so the employee could remain anonymous.

        I did this for one of my employees once, and the EAP gave me a list of local resources to pass along to the employee as well as a $100 gift card for a local grocery store chain.

    2. LBD*

      Gift cards are great. If they are uncomfortable accepting them, let them know you are paying it forward, and their turn for that will come.
      You could offer to pick up coffee and a muffin for them when you are getting something. Make it clear that it is your treat.
      Is there a chance that your employer would agree to stock women’s sanitary supplies in the washrooms for anyone who needs them in the moment?

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Love your final paragraph. It is completely reasonable to include menstruation products with sanitary provision in workplace bathrooms along with toilet paper, soap, hand towels, etc.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          My work does this. Health equity is one of our stated goals, and it’s really nice to see them walking the walk and not just talking the talk.

        2. Gumby*

          2 of the 4 jobs that I have had did this. Two different industries, both of which are heavily male-dominated; both small businesses (fewer than 100 employees). At least one person outright told us she took the job at Company A because the bathroom was stocked. That was around 2000-2001. When I worked for larger companies? Supplies were not provided. But that is an exceedingly small data set so I can’t really draw larger conclusions.

      2. FricketyFrack*

        We do a lot of, “Oh I bought this whole pack of muffins because I wanted one, please eat them so they don’t go bad,” in our area, which might also help. No one keeps track of who brought what when or who’s eating what, so there’s no expectation of reciprocity. I don’t know if it would work with OP’s particular office, but my smaller group literally always has food available. I hope that if any of my coworkers were struggling, they’d take advantage of that fact to fill in the gaps a bit.

    3. JSPA*

      Another one, if you know her diet is not (say) vegetarian, pescatarian, kosher, halal, gluten-free, lactose intolerant, alergic to some common food item / doing atkins (or whatever)…and you are any of those things… is to say that someone got you a gift basket subscription, and you can’t use most of it, but you also don’t want to hurt their feelings by canceling, so would she like those items? (Or, there’s something your family loves that only comes as part of a set, and you’d love to buy it, but you can’t use the rest. There are all sorts of variants on this polite fiction of extra food / can’t use.)

      And then either subscribe to such a gift basket, or make a monthly note on your calendar to bring in some cheeses / summer sausage or bacon / nice canned soups / citrus fruit or sun-dried whatever / spices / whatever fits the description you’ve set up.

      Ditto, “we just got two large boxes of what was supposed to be no-salt-added canned [whatever and whatever else] for my in-laws, but half of it is only reduced salt, and it’s not returnable, and not something we usually use. Would you like it?”

      1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

        I do that with my Costco runs. When I get a 12 pack of tissues or paper towels I always give a few away under the guise the otherwise they will sit in my closet for a year.

      2. ProfessorTeapots*

        I did something similar a few years ago, although not for charitable reasons: I wanted to sign up to a farm share subscription but it’s only my husband and I here, so each week I offered half the produce to a different friend. It worked out fairly well.

      3. LL*

        My boss will occasionally accidentally order/forget to cancel/order too many meals in a meal kit delivery box and will offer it to us saying he can’t use it all and doesn’t want it to go bad. Those are nice because the meals have everything you need except oil, salt, and pepper. Be it charity or not – we love to take them off his hands.

    4. A Simple Narwhal*

      A good option I’ve seen floated here before is to say something like “I was given this giftcard but there isn’t a [store] near me/I rarely go to [store]/etc, would you like it? It’s going to sit unused otherwise.” as a way to make it easier to for the recipient to accept.

      It can be really hard to accept help sometimes, even if it’s given with the best intentions. It’s not as serious as food-insecurity, but my husband told me a story about when he was a young teen his friends found out he didn’t get anything for his birthday or Christmas (his parents were divorced, financially struggling, neglectful alcoholics) and they pooled all the money they had to buy him a bunch of gifts. I thought it was a beautiful story and was touched by his friends’ kindness (especially at such a young age), but my husband said that while he was extremely grateful at the time, he was also embarrassed and felt like a charity case. I had never considered that aspect, I thought that help was help, how could it be anything but good? But it’s not always that simple.

      It can be so hard to accept help, so if you can help the person retain their dignity too, it’s an extra kindness that can mean a lot.

    5. MigraineMonth*

      Food banks are wonderful for their purpose (reducing food waste by giving it to people who need food), but they just aren’t as effective at feeding the hungry as cash-equivalents like SNAP or gift cards. This got a lot worse during the pandemic when a lot of places that allowed you to go in and select what you wanted had to switch to giving away pre-packed bags, which added a great deal of randomness.

      For example, my lactose-intolerant roommate cannot get them to stop giving her milk and cheese, and on one memorable occasion we got over a pound of funny-looking peppers I only discovered were jalapenos after biting into one. It’s also really difficult to eat healthy when you’re given tons of fancy desserts, donuts, cookies and sugary cereals.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      It really does. I was having a difficult time once at OldExjob, and one day I came in to find a $100 Walmart gift card on my chair. Though I suspect I know who put it there, no one would ever admit it.

  6. RedinSC*

    LW3, do you have budget to cater in food for your team, with maybe some leftovers that your staff could take home regularly?

    Also, if the employee is working part time, she might qualify for SNAP benefits, which would put some money into her pocket to purchase groceries. It can be a little hard talking about that with people, but I approached some friends who were struggling and just said, “Here’s the cut off for benefits, and here’s a number where people can help you sign up if you’re interested”. Since your colleague mentioned she’s short on food, this wouldn’t just be coming out of the blue.

    1. CB*

      Great idea, thanks RedinSC. I do have a catering budget for meetings and can definitely over-cater to ensure there are leftovers. Unfortunately no SNAP benefits in our region.

      1. JSPA*

        So, not US? Because SNAP operates (albeit sometimes under different names) in all of the US states and territories: “EBT is in use in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam.”

        As a kindness, I’d first google, “What is the highest income to qualify for SNAP?” to see if it might be relevant in your employee’s case.

          1. justcuriousinacuriousworld*

            Does she qualify for New Start? My aussie friend said that it can be used for folks who don’t make much as well as those who are unemployed.

      2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        Echoing JSPA here – SNAP assistance is available in the entire US and is administered by the USDA, not the individual state. You might be thinking of other benefits some states have declined? has a clickable map to take you to your state’s main web page.

      3. Insert Clever Name Here*

        I was going to suggest having meetings catered as well — glad to see that’s something you would be able to do!

      4. Constance Lloyd*

        When catering, see if you can also try to focus on leftovers that will freeze well so they don’t have to be eaten immediately. Things like pasta or assemble your own burrito situations (chipotle or similar) can be packaged up and stored for later much more easily than, say, a sandwich platter.

        1. Wonderer*

          Sadly, going by some past letters here, some total jerk that doesn’t need the food is probably going to come in with containers and steal half the food before the meeting even starts!

          1. Wonderer*

            Maybe you can guard the food and pack it up yourself, then give it to this employee directly at the end of the day? Don’t rely on them just seeing it and grabbing some to take home.

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

              That was my thought too. The OP could make sure the employee gets first dibs.

      5. longtimelistener*

        In my workplace we’ve created some “take a snack, leave a snack” drawers in the break room. Everyone can contribute, and I can also use some of my catering budget to supplement it. It certainly won’t solve someone’s food insecurity, but it’s a good way to make sure there’s always a granola bar or bag of pretzels or instant oatmeal packet on hand for whoever needs it. It’s also a good way for anyone who does shop in bulk to clean out their pantry and share with their coworkers.

  7. Lorikeet*

    How I would love to see an out of office that over shared intimate medical details (not necessarily truthful details, mind) to highlight what a gobsmackingly awful idea this. My colleagues in my large organisation don’t need to know the details of *just how bad* my appendectomy went or that I’m in Melbourne watching the Australian Open, they just need to know who to contact in my absence and when I’ll be back!

    1. Happy meal with extra happy*

      I had a coworker at a prior job who put in his OOO that he was participating in a medical study! He was a bit odd generally, but that was definitely a highlight.

      1. Fierce Jindo*

        I think that’s cool, actually! It doesn’t specify the study. But this can be a great way to help others that isn’t always on people’s radar.

    2. Cat Tree*

      A couple years ago I had to take a bunch of sporadic days off, often with little notice, while moving my sick parent into a nursing home and sorting out the one million weird things with her estate. It’s not just the move. It’s taking them to an attorney to arrange power of attorney, taking them to various medical appointments first, cleaning out and selling their house, taking their cat to the vet so I could re-home her with a family friend, and going to the social security office to get things sorted out.

      I told my boss about it ahead of time, but otherwise I just had a generic away message. One time I was in a meeting after a few days away, and one colleague started to say something like, “I hope you enjoyed your vacation” but realized mid-sentence that I wasn’t necessarily on vacation and said something like, “I hope you enjoyed your time off”. I just said I was taking care of some family stuff. I had no interest in sharing the details then, and I certainly have no interest in preemptively sharing those details now.

      If someone doesn’t respect my time off unless I make my case to them, that’s their problem.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      I don’t want to hear my relatives excessively detailed emails about their medical issues. The very LAST thing I want to know is about co-workers’ / clients’ / etc.

    4. yllis*

      I would want to see ordinary, gross-ish stuff for even a small time away.

      OOO – Bra clasp snagged on shirt. Gotta fix that
      OOO – HUGE zit I just gotta pop
      OOO – switching out my tampon

      1. Alright Alright Alright*

        Haha I could have used this when I was desperate to leave my last job.

        AFK – crying in the bathroom
        OOO – secretly at a job interview, back in an hour

    5. Jamjari*

      I listen to the Ologies podcast and the host recently had an episode about her hysterectomy. Can you imagine? “I’m off getting my baby maker removed.” “Still off recovering, but here’s a photo of a disembodied uterus! Cool, right?” Because I would also totally have a photo of that.

  8. Leenie*

    One thing that my boss recently started doing that I like is sending an auto reply that he’s vacationing with his family until x date and you can contact these two people in his absence. I think it’s good modeling from a higher level manager, to not emphasize any availability that he might have while he’s gone, and also to normalize uninterrupted vacation time. But it’s short, to the point, and there’s nothing cutesy about it. So very different from the suggestion that the LW described.

    1. T.*

      This! I don’t think it needs detail about where but I do think stating vacation or unexpected time off or saying you’re out sick frames the response time and normalizes taking time. I started actuating out sick or unplanned absence when I am so people don’t feel like I took vacation and abandoned a response to them . Frame of reference, hr/office side of education here so my job is a little more balanced than some corporate fields.

  9. Double A*

    I feel like the bosses in Letter 2 are leaning into the “useless government” trope and expecting it to be received as common sense when really it’s just lazy and myopic on their part. It’s kind of like diet talk: very problematic but it would not occur to many people that someone might object to it.

    I do think the LW can and should push back a bit, saying something like, “That wasn’t my experience and I’m proud of the work we did.” Or something a little less cheesy. But I find it extremely irritating when people paint all government services with one big Lazy and Incompetent brush.

    1. Myrin*

      Interestingly, I’ve found this a fine line to walk because, working in local government, the unflattering stereotype is definitely true for a good percentage of my coworkers (and most of all the mayor, sadly) but it’s actually much more impactful that the apparatus as a whole is slow and basically rewards incompetence in a lot of ways.
      But then again, I honestly don’t really see that much of a difference to non-government jobs, where there’s also a mixture of slow and fast, lazy and hardworking, apathetic and engaged workers.

      I do seem to be standing out positively by my quick response times combined with nonetheless thorough research behind my replies to both coworkers and the public but in fairness, I have a job where, when I get some sort of enquiry I can usually stop what I’m doing and immediately start working on that, which is not the case for a lot of other jobs here (most of my work is either “okay, this should’ve been done 15 years ago so I’ll start doing it now, better late than never” or “this should be done sometime during the next six months”, neither of which involves tight or outside deadlines).

      1. Filosofickle*

        In my younger years I accepted the idea that business is inherently more efficient and productive than government (and therefore things should be privatized), then I started working for giant corporations! The bureaucracy, inefficiency, and waste I have seen there is staggering. It depends a lot more on the person / team / organization than the category of organization.

    2. bamcheeks*

      Yeah, this manager would be dropping lower in my estimation with every comment. Cos there’s a bunch of things here. It’s very unlikely that a whole category of workers are just “lazy”. So he’s either telling me that he’s a tedious misanthrope who likes making sweeping generalisations, AND has no tact about the fact that he’s making them about LW’s former colleagues, or he’s showing me that he didn’t understand the types of structural challenges that often make large corporations and government entities slow — like lack of funding, bureaucratic processes, short-term funding and leadership, and so on.

      I’ve worked in slow-moving government organisations, and the problem was never the people doing the work. It was far more often the way they were used as political footballs, subject to frequently changing priorities and processes, and never sufficiently well-resourced to make those changes whilst carrying on the essential operational work which *could not* stop.

      I totally understand why someone would decide they couldn’t do their best work in that atmosphere: it’s a perfectly fair decision! Slagging off the people who *do*, when it’s often critical work that keeps large parts of society functioning, is just tedious and ignorant.

      1. honeygrim*

        Yeah, this is like refusing to pay a living wage and then complaining that people “just don’t want to work”; the manager is aiming his ire at the wrong target. The people this manager is complaining about are probably the ones with the *least* amount of power to actually make the government office run more efficiently. Also, in my experience, it is often the case that the people who complain the most about ineffective government workers are also the same people who vote for politicians who actively prevent government workers from doing their jobs effectively.

        I mean, the U.S. Congress *only just* passed an actual budget for FY2024, six months after FY2024 started. There’s a lot of stuff that needs to go on in the first six months of the fiscal year in order to accomplish things in the last six months of the fiscal year. All of that work was basically stalled until the budget got passed. So a lot of government workers were probably forced to sit around and wait until they were given the funding and resources to do their jobs. This manager would probably say all of them were lazy.

    3. Jay*

      I’ve seen this happen in very conservative organizations.
      I’ve done a lot of work in fields where we work closely with various government entities (also plenty of private ones).
      Private orgs that lean heavy right (or teams that just have a heavy right culture) can have a real contempt for anyone who chooses to work in a government or government adjacent position.
      People coming from those positions have two basic choices:
      1) Accept the institutional abuse and resultant career handicaps.
      2) Make it abundantly clear that you left because you were disgusted by (whatever their preferred negative stereotype of government employees is). It’s not entirely outside the realm of possibilities that this person is trying to either add another layer of protection to himself, reinforcing his reputation as being “too good” for “that kind of work”, or possibly even trying to give OP the opportunity to start building a reputation of her own for being “too good for the government”.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      I wonder how comfortable OP feels pushing back on the assumption, because there is no mention in the letter of having done this. If I felt even averagely comfortable, I would probably automatically say something like “Oh really! That actually surprises me, but departments do differ quite a lot.” and later on when I felt it was still being mentioned over and over, I would say something like “I know you had some bad experiences at my old stomping ground, but I hope you’re not seeing anything that reminds you of that in my work” or “Actually, I think I am doing things in a very similar way to my old role – is what you’re seeing from me ok for you?” However, sometimes you just get a vibe that even mild pushback like “Oh really? I’d never have guessed it was ever like that!” is just not welcome because now you’re One Of Them and Clueless.

      1. Ex-gov employee*

        I’m the letter writer and just checking the comments, thanks for your input. I’ve not felt comfortable pushing back because I’m in my probation period and the manager making these comments has such strong opinions and can cross the line of professionalism. I’m taking his negativity about where I used to work as part of his complete lack of a filter! I’m keeping it polite and cordial with him and just keeping my head down in my probation period.

        1. Plate of Wings*

          This makes total sense, it sounds like this is one of many weird comments of his. I know if someone said something like this about my former work setting, it would really sting!

          The other commenters suggesting a general anti-govt work sentiment make a good point. If I had a long, secure tenure at my job, I would maybe push back against needlessly disparaging comments about a previous workplace. But I would not bother getting into it with something like this, which is likely to be a deeply-held stereotype/belief/political opinion/moral high ground.

          Congrats on your new-ish job <3

    5. Asii*

      This was exactly my read on it as well. As a government worker, I’m used to the stereotype that all government workers are lazy and unmotivated and just “wasting the taxpayer’s money” and it feels like LW’s bosses are someone who subscribes to that and probably isn’t even really thinking about how frustrating and off base it is. But also to say that to someone specifically implying that they and/or their former colleagues are bad workers and clearly expect them to laugh along with them, also shows an outstanding lack of tact.

    6. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      I think the chip on the shoulder aspect is big here. Like OP’s boss has something to prove – he was ineffective when he worked in the government because of all those lazy people, but now that he’s out he’ll show them.

      1. Jellyfish64*

        I had thought the chip on the shoulder was that he left because he felt his colleagues were lazy/ineffective. And maybe they were! I wouldn’t argue with his experience, just as you don’t like him arguing with your experience. I’d just say “things changed since you left – my colleagues were pretty hard workers and the department was run pretty effectively.”

        1. Ex-gov employee*

          That’s a really good line, thank you!
          I haven’t felt comfortable agreeing with the trash talking about my old place because most of my social circle are friends from there, and it wouldn’t sit right with me.

    7. xylocopa*

      Yeah, go ahead and push back a little! I’m pretty familiar with the range of relations between government and non-profits, and the range of workstyles in government departments. I’m at a nonprofit and I complain a fair amount about the way state policies clash with our needs, or particular state employees we need to work with–but I have lots of family who are state employees and they’re working as hard as anyone else. Some of the offices are busy and some are slower, some offices are toxic and some are great, some people are motivated and some are burned out, same as anywhere else.

      It doesn’t do anyone any good to wallow around in negative stereotypes, it’s not helping anyone.

    8. Smithy*

      It sounds like the OP’s boss also used to work there so is doing the combo of mixing their previous bad experienced with a general vibe of government agencies being bureaucratic/slow moving.

      I will say that I had somewhat similar vibe where I am and our department head both came from the same previous employer. That employer does have a general reputation of “being awful”, which was also my experience – but she’d take that general experience to even talk to me about how we shouldn’t be hiring people who came from there and just focus on good hires. Now obviously it was easy to see her referring to me as a bad hire, but when you saw how many people she hired who also worked there (cause she knew them and of course they were the “good ones”).

      Ultimately, I came to terms with her being unprofessional and it was more part of that overall dynamic than specific to me. I know that telling someone to just let unprofessional behavior go isn’t the most inspiring, but I will say it helped me reframe the chat as part of a larger part of her choices and behavior and not specific references to me.

  10. anon_sighing*

    For #2, government work is not for the weak of heart. It’s so bureaucratic, full of rules (so you CAN’T think for yourself), and SLOW.

    It can make people feel/look like slackers while being simultaneously overwhelmed – you’re working on maybe 18 projects at once to keep yourself busy (and because they need to get done because you’re always understaffed in government roles), but all at a snail’s pace until suddenly there’s movement on all of them at once and you’ve got a solid 8 full hours of work and then some.

    Not gonna lie, #2, I bet you will find this new job a lot easier once you get over the learning curve. Just let them whine and “mm-hm” your way through it. I cannot imagine having a chip over what your new boss is upset about years later…whatever actually happened or whatever they did though, it doesn’t really matter.

    1. Brain the Brian*

      Absolutely correct. I work for a company that does a lot of government contract / grant work, and there will be months and months of earsplitting silence about new projects or approvals for current projects followed by OMG WE NEED 17 NEW BUDGETS NOW AND NEED TO SIMULTANEOUSLY DEAL WITH SUBCONTRACT APPROVALS FOR ALL YOUR ONGOING WORK BECAUSE WE NEED TO OBLIGATE $100 MILLION BEFORE THE END OF THE MONTH. But we never know *quite* when those rushes will hit, so we’re always terrified to take any vacations. It’s like trying to forecast floods without knowing whether it’s rained upstream, and — by God — is it anxiety-inducing.

    2. ToI*

      It depends on the type of government work. I always find it strange when people generalise, because there are so many different types of jobs in government and so many different parts of government. It’s a bit like generalising about ‘people who work in banks’ without any regard to whether the person is a receptionist or an IT worker or an investment banker or an HR specialist or a cashier, and again, which bank they work in.

      Personally, it would be impossible to do my government job without thinking for myself – it is literally my job to think of ideas and solutions and offer sound advice in order to advance the government’s policy agenda. We employ a lot of people with advanced degrees for that reason. It’s a job that requires very strong analytical abilities.

      1. anon_sighing*

        > it is literally my job to think of ideas and solutions and offer sound advice in order to advance the government’s policy agenda.

        While I agree with your point, this job is not representative of most government positions. You, by admission, are in an agenda-setting role – which means you’re in a role that enables you to dictate, and isn’t forcing you to take dictation.

        My work at the federal level was at a notoriously underfunded agency and it was in data science. I would say I have an advanced degree. My job was still slow, often monotonous, and bureaucratic. My work now is at the state level – it’s slightly faster, but also at times agonizingly slow and processes are opaque with no means for ever figuring out what the hell happened or why (at that point I’m just glad I got the thing I wanted) and how come the rule suddenly changed and no one told us?

        None of my comment suggested people don’t try to think for themselves or that their thinking doesn’t come into their work; they aren’t mindless robots, it’s just that many roles get bogged down by rules and bureaucracy that kills momentum. You yourself are now generalizing that advanced degree = always a thinking position in government and a decision maker. If you’re a lawyer for the DoJ, you are probably thinking. It’s the nature of your work to come up with arguments and your responsibility to present them with a team, of course. But plenty of project and program managers are thinkers as well and they don’t need “advanced” degrees (typically a bachelor’s, although I don’t want to discount the degree, just don’t know if it’s considered advanced.) They just have to think within the confines of agency directives and feasibility of their ideas within their agency’s structure.

        It’s not a generalization to say government, as a whole, is slow. It is without a doubt, just by it’s nature. It doesn’t mean it’s ineffective or not good at what it does – often times the slowness and bureaucracy is checks and balances (as well as client and capacity overload). If there are responsive places, there are facilitators to this (e.g., ability to automate, more power players up front and involves so decisions are made faster, top-down efficiency, and/or their work allows them to be productive [requests are not marred by lots of steps to complete/people are empowered to act].)

    3. JSPA*

      Really depends where you are. And when you worked there. Some government departments are now extremely responsive, or have nearly-fully automated the layers of flow-chart-permissions, or both. Some have not changed much in the past 20 years.

      In OP’s shoes, I’d be tempted to go with, “you know, I think I’ve heard that about your old team,” and just letting it ride. (But…nah.)

      Instead, if there was even a year or so between the date when boss left that government department, and the date when the LW joined it, I’d probably make up a factoid like,

      “Yes, I’ve heard that those problems were really bad before [date in the interim period]. But I started after [that date], so I didn’t see much of that while I was there.” And, “it must have been maddening to work in [department] back before [year], for it to have stuck with you so strongly! I’m really glad I didn’t experience most of that.”

      Or, “luckily, I was mostly in contact with other newer workers, and we were all pretty hungry, coming in, so if there was institutional rot among some of the long-termers, it didn’t really touch us.”

      Or, “Hunh, I wonder if there were one or two people who were creating that culture back when you were there, and they left before I got there, because I didn’t see that sort of inertia at all.”

      Or, ” Wait, was it really that bad when you were there? I assumed you were just busting on the public sector like some people bust on lawyers, as a reputational thing or a shared joke. Because I didn’t really see much of that at all–people on my level were all busting their butts and problem-solving. Or maybe my team was just odd that way!”

      IMO, if your government department process sucks, it’s worth checking if another city, county or state has much more streamlined processes (especially if they’re operating under largely the same legal framework that you are).

      1. Ex-gov employee*

        Great ideas, thanks!
        My old boss worked there about 15-20 years ago so it’s really odd he keeps talking about how useless that department/government in general is as it’ll be totally different to the present day.

    4. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      You hit the nail on the head here. A lot of people – ESPECIALLY at not-for-profits – think Government workers are lazy and it’s based in exactly zero fact.

      (Some of it is because many of us are unionized and/or have tenure protections; have more attractive benefits and leave policies, etc., and there’s a lot of noise around that as well.)

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yes, coming from the nonprofit side I think it can be easy to misapply the frustration with slow / ineffective processes and policies to the actual government workers, like if they wanted to they could do a better job on the issues we care about … but it rarely comes down to the level of individual laziness, it’s generally larger cultural forces that create bureaucratic policies that don’t serve people. Almost all the government staff I’ve worked with are dedicated and competent.

      2. MsM*

        Which is weird, because I know I get defensive about people acting like we don’t do any “real work” in our sector; I don’t see why we’d want to spread the misery.

    5. Lebowskya*

      Anon Sighing – appreciate this perspective. I just left a three letter agency and am doing my second act as a contractor in a different government agency. I’m coming to the realization that government is not for me anymore, but the perks are great. Any advice on getting me past the mental block of getting away from government all together? The learning curve is intimidating me and if I do it, I’d like for this to be the last time I’m “starting over yet again”

    6. AnonForThis*

      There’s been a huge push to put my department into alignment with the agency’s overall strategic objectives (the ones that it takes 3 years to decide on, when we have elections every 4 years), so they’ve decided to stop us from doing any work by putting in place a ludicrous project management process without actually having the budget to hire any project managers. Apparently they’re so concerned we’re working on something unimportant to the overall strategic goals, they’d rather have us work on nothing.

    7. tangerineRose*

      I’ve worked with a lot of people who work for the government, and a whole lot of the people I’ve worked with are nice, smart, hard-working people.

  11. anon_sighing*

    Is there a precedence for the burglary and out of office message concern? I have seen it twice in just the handful of comments so far, but it seems so out of left field to me in a work context that I think I might have missed some news on a string of thefts from “The OOO Bandits” (okay, the Home Alone reference will not come through easily…but yes, thinking of the Wet Bandits and how they cased homes they knew were on vacation). I kind of get it if you have a customer service role with outside clients or vendors, if I think about it a bit more (never been in a role where my email would be a touch point for anyone other than other employees).

    Frankly, I think there is more harm in revealing your maternity leave than in a burglary. Many people reveal they’re on vacation in their OOO and it doesn’t seem to be a huge problem…

    I just wanna clarify I agree the the advice #1 got was awful, but only because it’s irrelevant and no one actually cares why you’re out of office. An OOO message is basically a message no one who really wants to see when they need something from you so it’s best to just tell people where they can get the info they need. I did see one person a picture of their (?) dog in their OOO after a brief message and I thought that was novel…but I think that’s as far as I’d go.

    1. Fikly*

      Probably not, because this is not how people write out of office messages.

      However, there is plenty of precedent for people sharing information on the internet that they shouldn’t, more publicly than they should (or more publicly than they are aware they are doing) and then getting robbed or otherwise hurt because this information was available.

      Going from A to B isn’t that hard. The reason spam email for criminal purposes is so incredibly common isn’t because it has a high success rate. It’s because it’s incredibly cheap to do, and so it can have a good return on that cost even with an incredibly low rate of success. You have an out of office message with this kind of info in it, it will respond to email spam, essentially. And it will reply to messages slipping by a spam filter, or spoofing a legit email address, including internal email addresses. It’s not a hard tech problem for people to get around.

    2. Anonychick*

      I think the burglary concern is based on the advice some of us received to never, EVER tell ANYONE that you were going to be out of town, lest burglars know when they could strike safely.

      To this day, my father is APPALLED that I mention on Twitter that I’ll be away for [however long], despite the fact that the only people on Twitter who know (or can find!) my real name, let alone my address, are friends I’m close enough to that they probably knew already for practical reasons: “Can you please check my mail on Tuesday?” or “If you need me to drive you to your next appointment, it can’t be the second week in April.”

      1. anon_sighing*

        I got this impression – I guess it was just the work context that tripped me up. Although workplace thefts are a thing! I just thought those were crimes of opportunity…never really occurred to me my colleague would burgle my house or that this was a common scam burglars pulled (which again, I feel is easier to do with the assumption of a person’s fixed schedule and actually physically scoping out the house because just because they’re on vacation doesn’t mean their house is empty…roommates or house-sitting or someone there to pet-sit…)

        I 100% agree about internet safety. I would not broadcast that level of person detail to a large, open group of strangers. Even if they didn’t have personal info…you never know what someone can do with trickles of information here and there.

    3. The Prettiest Curse*

      There have been burglaries of high profile people which took place during events that those people were known to be attending. But burgling Dua Lipa or Lewis Hamilton’s house is going to be more enticing than, say, Jane from accounts.

      I think minimal info in an out of office message is all that’s necessary. But if your message says that you’re off work for a week in the summer (or a local holiday time), people are likely to assume that you’re going out of town even if you don’t give additional details.

    4. Support Project Nettie*

      I dont think it’s a case of there being a precedent that has led to this advice, it’s just a sensible precaution – you don’t have to be a member of the public to be a burglar. One of our offices was broken into by an employee during a shutdown. Police knew it was an inside job and eventually arrested the culprit and his accomplices. Do you want them to know you’re on a family vacation? I wouldn’t.

      My OOO simply states I’m not available, when I’m back and altrrnative contact details meanwhile. That’s everything anyone need know.

    5. MK*

      Statistically it’s highly unlikely that someone who contacts your work email will also be a potential burglar, or even pass the information to one. It’s just a general precaution to not advertise that your house is possibly going to be left unattended.

      1. Criminologist*

        Many burglaries are committed by non-strangers who know you’ll be out of town or otherwise out of the house at that time – or someone they passed the information. Family members are even common.

    6. Phryne*

      Houses being burgled during holidays is certainly a thing, I know people who have fallen victim to it, but a potential burglar mailing your workmail, getting a OOO, and then finding out your home address seems like rather a lot of effort when they can just cruise the neighbourhood and make a note of which houses don’t have the lights on at night a number of days in a row…
      Not having your address clearly visible on your luggage at the airport and putting some lamps on timers are way better preventatives for vacation burglars.

      Not that that OOO advice is not dumb, but I’d say it is inane rather than dangerous.

      1. People suck*

        I’ve heard of bad guys reading obituaries and then robbing houses while the family was at the funeral. If people will do that, I wouldn’t put it past them to use information from an out of office message for nefarious purposes.

        1. WellRed*

          But how many “bad guys” are randomly emailing people’s business accounts in hopes of getting an OOO? It’s a bizarre notion and it’s so far off topic as to be unhelpful.

          1. TheOtherLaura*

            I’d suspect, because
            – most people do not put such details truthfully into their OOOs
            – not all OOOs go to external addresses
            – IT has an anti-spam-list
            – not all work e-mail accounts contain the full legal name, so the info that mesabu72 is visiting her grandmother, back next week, won’t necessarily lead to a street address

            Doesn’t change that there are few good reasons to indiscriminately share personal info online, and “being more fun” isn’t one of them, unless you are a professional comedian.

        2. doreen*

          I don’t think anyone is “putting it past” burglars to use that information – it just seems to be an awful lot of work to read the obituary/out of office message , figure out where the people live , hope there is really nobody there , hope they have something worth stealing when the burglars could simply drive around and look for houses that appear to be good targets right now. There’s no reason burglars need people to be gone for a week or even a couple of days. And if the burglars are targeting a particular house ( say because they are known to keep tens of thousands in cash) they probably don’t need the OOO or obituary to know when the house is empty.

        3. Annika Hansen*

          My parents are from a midwest city of 50,000. They used to put the address in the obituarty… Like Sue Martin of 2312 Elm St died on 3/23/2024. My mom made sure that her mother’s address was not posted. Someone from church stayed in her home during the funeral for safety and to be there in case someone sent food or flowers. My grandma didn’t live in the nicest neighborhood.

        4. Telephone Sanitizer, Third Class*

          My mom says the same thing about the graduation yard signs- thieves will know you’re at the school instead of at home on graduation day. I don’t know if it’s ever actually happened though.

        5. Irish Teacher.*

          I think it’s a lot easier to get information from an obituary though, because well, at least in Ireland, generally has the deceased’s street mentioned, so you know a house in that particular street will be empty whereas you don’t usually know where the person lives when you contact a company. And of course, it is a lot easier to just type “” into your browser and then type your town into the search bar on it and you’ll find all the funerals in your town than it is to call companies at random until you get one where somebody has an Out Of Office message mentioning that they are abroad. (I know not all countries have a direct equivalent of, but still.)

          And of course, if you choose a major funeral, one after a high profile accident or a prominent person in town, then they odds are most of the town will be at the funeral, so again, much easier to use that than an Out of Office message.

          While the funeral thing is nastier, it’s also a lot more convenient. “A popular local person has died. Most of the town will be at his funeral. That’s a good time to steal” is a lot different from “somebody in the local x office has mentioned they are abroad. I should look up where they live and break into their house.”

          Not saying the latter is impossible, just that they aren’t really the same thing.

        6. Criminologist*

          These aren’t always “bad guys.” Joe from accounting or Jane from a vendor company might already know where you live, and they might not work closely enough with you to know that you were out of town. Now, just getting any OOO message might make them consider burgling your place, but it could be a little more likely if you explicitly say in your OOO that you’re in Timbuktu for the week.

      2. Toros*

        “Inane rather than dangerous” is a great way of describing this and a great reminder that you’re allowed to think things are ridiculous or bad without inventing a reason that they are somehow harming you.

        1. Smithy*

          This reminds me of the suspicion that letter writer had a few days ago regarding giving an emergency contact. And that ultimately there are certainly employers or managers who are bad actors (see that manager who followed up on a staff member at a funeral), but just because of that doesn’t mean the question on its own is concerning.

          The advice is bad, but I even if applied individually – I do think that the harm in types of advice like that is very often when your next OOO is for something you don’t want to share and you do want privacy. Very much the Princess Kate effect, when there’s an expectation of being given a lot of information regularly – the second you want privacy it is more distinctive as concerning and noticeable.

      3. starsaphire*

        This is kind of a byproduct of modern times, too, really.

        100 years ago, the society pages were full of “Mr. and Mrs. Gottroxx Sail To Europe” but there was no burglary risk because “everyone knew” that the Gottroxx mansion would still be full of staff. Those swanky vacation homes that sat unused 9 months out of the year often had staff/caretakers there too, so there was less risk.

        We kept the “society page” aspect of it a lot longer than we kept the “house full of staff” aspect, and that eventually bled over into risk. It’s not that we were foolish or naive to print addresses in the paper, back in the day – it’s that modern lives changed and it takes time for all the little details to catch up.

        To kind of bring this back to the point – cybercrime is still fairly new (relatively speaking) and we’re still evolving to catch up with it. Eventually we learned not to put Gramma’s address into the obituary – now we’re learning how to manage vacation info on social media and still avoid scams.

        But yeah, announcing that you’re in Aruba for 2 weeks while your co-worker (who’s a contractor and gets no vacation) juggles all your accounts seems kind of awful on every level.

    7. CyberSafe*

      The bigger risk is cyber criminals.

      Think of all the scams that go around where the caller says “It’s me, Johnny, I got hurt on my vacation to Aruba and am calling from the hospital and need help getting back” or “I just got arrested in _____ and need money” or “My wallet as stolen and I need _____” Those are very common.

      Also very common are the scams where someone tries to push through a purchase or money transfer, usually for higher level employees like “This is CEO, I am on vacation but we have a time sensitive purchase, please send money to ____” or “This is Events Person, we must send a deposit to this vendor for the ____ event right away, I am at the nudist colony with a oozing…well, never mind, just send it!”

      These are very common and can target anyone at any level, and they are actively exploited.

      1. Scarlet2*

        Yes, I think it’s a much likelier threat than a potential burglar/stalker/murderer. In any case, it’s generally a good idea to keep a firm separation between private and professional communication. It’s one thing to chat about your vacation plans with your coworkers, it’s quite another to broadcast your private life to clients and outsiders.

        I also have a big issue with the idea that anyone should make a special effort to have their time off “respected”. It should obviously be respected by default and the gender aspect apparent in the letter makes this situation extra icky.

    8. Ellis Bell*

      I used to cover the kind of low level courts where you would hear the details of burglaries, and it’s definitely happened with some regularity when people have put their plans on social media. It’s very easy for people to cruise the internet looking for how many “sleeps” people have until their holiday abroad. It’s actually a lot easier than cruising a particular neighbourhood looking for signs of an empty house; even a very quick burglar could be disturbed by someone coming home unexpectedly whereas you will actually get a much better idea of people’s return date online. It’s probably less likely to be spotted on an email but it’s not exactly secure either. You’ve also got the danger of a well-meaning colleague posting something like “I heard you’re in Thailand until next week! Wow! Any pictures?” on your social media, and at that point you might as well have posted it online yourself.

      1. Phryne*

        Yeah, sure, but posting something on social media is really not the same thing as an OOO message on a work mail.

        1. Fikly*

          Just because you don’t understand how OOO messages can be exploited in very similar ways doesn’t mean they cannot be. Spam emails + AI could do this incredibly easily, and may well be already happening.

          The habit of paying attention to someone with knowledge on a subject, and then countering with your opinion based on something you do not have knowledge on is a dangerous one.

      2. doreen*

        I’m intrigued – do you have any more details about these burglaries ? I often hear the advice not to mention vacations on social media – but if I do mention a vacation on Facebook , only my friends will see it. And my friends are actually people I know , who probably would know I’m on vacation even if I didn’t mention it on Facebook although plenty don’t know where I live. My guess is that the burglaries you refer to happened when people mentioned vacation plans in some sort of neighborhood group but I’d like to know if that’s incorrect.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          It was a combination of factors. Some people were posting very widespread manner without really closing off who could see their feeds. Other people were not, but their friends list wasn’t limited to a few people, but more like friends of friends/colleagues/acquaintances, which is fine, but word of mouth spread it to the wrong person quite innocently. Some people spend literally all their time striking up conversations with others about holidays and family emergencies in order to get this kind of information. People think “Oh they don’t know who I’m talking about”, but when I was a reporter I was able to find random people without even having a name quite easily. I think the most interesting source of information for burglary I ever came across was a deal between some taxi drivers (the vast majority in the town were honest, but you only need one or two) and the local thieves. The drivers placed in local taxi firms were initially telling the burglars when people were going to the airport, but this became a bit too easy for the cops to retrace. So, they started focusing more on second hand information by getting people chatting about trips more generally. If you know a fare’s address and she then talks about her sister going away for Easter, it’s not that hard to figure out who she is.

  12. ChattyDelle*

    LW3: at my old office, my manager sent a general all-office email that she was concerned that some employees were experiencing cash flow issues and so she would supply the office with shelf-stable food that anyone could access anytime no questions asked. she purchased multipack instant ramen from Costco & put it in the break room cabinets. just a thought?

  13. WoodswomanWrites*

    For #1, while I agree that the advice given was ridiculous, a counterpoint is that a more detailed out-of-office reply can make sense if it’s relevant to your job. For instance, I work for a nonprofit with an environmental mission. If I’m away doing something related to that, I’ll add a few words such as “I’m away exploring X Park and will return on Y date,” with contact info for the person filling in for me. That tends to further dialogue with people who wrote to me. However, that’s a far cry from rambling on with “I’m away exploring X Park, backpacking for 7 days on the A trail in a pink bunny suit and staying in all my favorite campsites.”

    1. Wings*

      Still people should aim to have their return date (the most important information anyway) on the first line of their out-of-office message so that it’s visible for your internal contacts already on the preview in Outlook/Teams/whatever without any further action or need to dig deeper. It’s always a pain when someone puts in a lengthy prequel however personable and then you actually have to send them the e-mail to get to the most important bit (“If I had known that they are on an extended leave until x, I would have contacted someone else in the first place.”)

      1. bamcheeks*

        In Outlook hovering over the first line when it appears at the top will usually show you the whole message.

      2. WoodswomanWrites*

        I always include my return date in the first few words, followed by whom to contact while I’m away.

    2. Emily Byrd Starr*

      “a counterpoint is that a more detailed out-of-office reply can make sense if it’s relevant to your job.”

      I can see how that could make sense in your workplace, but for most people, if it’s work related, it’s not really a vacation.

  14. Point de Croix*

    LW2, just wanna point out if everyone was lazy there, that would include your manager.

    Now I wouldn’t recommend *saying* that to him, but it’s interesting to keep in mind.

    1. Ex-gov employee*

      Good point! He says these comments in a really haughty way… Like ‘well that place was crap when I was there and because I’m intelligent I was a square peg in a round hole’.
      Honestly I think there’s a story there, that he left under a cloud or something. And seeing it on my CV has stirred up some memories!

  15. Awkwardness*

    #1: I had a colleague once who put in “fun” OOO messages. Not filled with too much detail, though some, but in the sense that the sender should be thinking of him and wishing him well so he works return upon the mentioned date. The writing voice was distinctive and fun to read – the very first time. Then it became repetitive and I would have strongly preferred to see the returning date at first glance and not buried in a paragraph of text.

    Don’t do it.

      1. Dasein9 (he/him)*

        Yeah, I thought “fun” OOO messages were a bit of silly doggerel, not sharing details.

        More Like: Roses are red, violets are blue; I’m on vacation, wish you were too! + essential information

        Less Like: We’re going to Disneyland!

    1. bamcheeks*

      When Eyjafjallajökull erupted and European airspace was closed, I had several colleagues who were abroad in continental Europe and stranded. Four out of five were frantic messages apologising for not being back and explaining how many different routes they’d tried so far and when they expected to be back. My favourite, though, just said, “Stuck in Italy. Poor me. See you when I see you.”

  16. Chad H.*

    1. Absolutely not. You don’t know who’s going to email you, you could be sending a message to a potential thief that your home is empty.

    Maybe in a small company where you trust everyone you could do this for internal senders only, but for those sizes you probably don’t need an out of office message anyway.

    Mine doesn’t even have a return date, just the name of my manager for urgent queries.

    1. S*

      The chances of a random potential thief a) emailing my work email address on one of the days I just happen to be out of town and b) knowing where I live is so extremely low that this is a total non issue in my eyes.

      And you should absolutely be including your return date (if known) in your OOO.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Yeah, I understand not blasting on Facebook when exactly you’ll be gone, but at work it feels like a bit of an overreaction. And putting when you’ll be back is like, pretty important?

      2. AKchic*

        I think it’s industry-dependent. I’ve worked in drug rehab and a prison. I absolutely had individuals convicted of theft, robbery and burglary emailing me (and calling and coming in to see me in person).
        In my current role, I still regularly interact with similar clientele. Where I live, pretty much everyone knows everyone. The “joy” of a low population. It wouldn’t take much to find out where I live, even though I recently moved and I rent (and only 5 people have actually been to my new place).
        But, I also think that the likelihood of someone trolling for victims via email OOOs is very very slim.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Burglars do troll for victims wherever they can; they just don’t do it with email because it currently isn’t worth it in a genre where the details are usually limited to “I’m off work this week”. The OP’s company is looking to change that level of detail. Scammers are already looking for as much information as they can from within workplaces, like people’s names in company directories.

      3. Sad Desk Salad*

        It might be small, but when it happens to you, the small likelihood suddenly becomes very large. Most of us don’t walk around waiting for the sky to fall or anything, but it’s really easy to dismiss a small likelihood if we haven’t been burgled before.

  17. Teaching teacher*

    OOO messages-
    “I will be out of the office until Decembuary 32. I am going to my father’s funeral – by myself. I haven’t seen him in four years because we had a very complicated relationship!

    “I will be out of the office until Janember 35. I will be recovering from surgery. Fun fact- health insurance at this company is terrible and the deductible will put me in debt!”

    “I will be out of the office until Marchuary 39. I will be moving my mother to a nursing home by myself because I am an only child. Fun fact- she’s a hoarder and I don’t have enough PTO left to get her house in order to sell!”

    Also I could totally see being on a fun vacation and making someone resentful that you aren’t there to help them, or make them think they can call you cause it’s not like you are doing anything important, just laying around in the beach. or if you are home recovering from surgery, they can just call you because you are home doing nothing anyway and you’d probably welcome a distraction. What a terrible idea.

    1. Taco Thursday*

      LOL! The way I laughed out loud to this one! Bravo, dear internet friend, for you have given me the first laugh of thy day.

    2. Glazed Donut*

      Yes, this is what I was thinking – my most recent OOO have been for funerals. How on earth would I make that fun?!
      (but also I would NOT want to discuss any of my OOO with most of the people I work with, vacation or otherwise!)

  18. Random manager*

    Can someone please enlighten me on where this stupid myth about lazy public servants comes from? OP2, I feel your pain – I love working for government, but it’s also basically the hardest I’ve ever worked: I just finished yet another 11 hour work day. I’m yet to meet a lazy public servant, or one who doesn’t do anything all day. Perhaps we’re being confused with politicians?

    1. Mark Greene*

      I don’t know where this comes from either. I also work in government and everyone on my team works incredibly hard. It is frustrating to hear things like this because I do work very hard at my job and care a lot.

    2. Point de Croix*

      My best guess it’s because they usually have more protections in place with regards to firing, so they can actually set healthy work-life boundaries?

    3. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Reagan? Grover Norquist used to say he wanted to get government so small he could drown it in a bathtub.

      The Republican party generally has been harping on bloated government and lazy, entitled workers for more than 50 years. They make cuts and charge agencies with unfunded mandates and then when the staff at those agencies can’t perform miracles it’s given as another example of failed government.

      (Back in the day of the old boys’ network, civil servants were often just friends of the guy in charge. I think that may be the origins of the trope and it’s just never dropped out of the public mind. And then the Republicans built off of that.)

    4. Anon for This*

      Having worked in government, non-profits, and the private sector, I can tell you people are people. All organizations have high performers, slackers, and lots of people in between. There is nothing unique about government employees, they are no more lazy than the people at the last company I worked for. In my view the reason government employees get tagged this way so often is because the public is paying government employees, and never seems to think they are getting their money’s worth no matter how many unpaid hours my government colleagues put in.

      1. Johanna Cabal*

        I’ve worked in non-profits, startups, and other places. There’s always a mix of folks. I’ve also worked at a startup with an unfireable person who drove myself and others away (I’m convinced that person had dirt on the CEO and short of doing something that gets them on front-page news, they’re staying even if they drive all the other staff off).

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        And forget coffee wars! The public wouldn’t pay for our coffee. We need to work for it!

        (There’s some budget for food in certain cases, but private sector people would be aghast at the expectations behind it.)

        There are all kinds of reasons for the belief that government employees are somehow not doing their jobs. (Teachers are one of the best-known government employee groups, and think about the attitudes they deal with.) Many have to do with some very, very old practices of cronyism, but somehow it’s transferred to places where that isn’t an issue.

        I have worked in both private and public sector jobs, and government employees have been some of the most competent, dedicated people I’ve had the pleasure to work with. (Not all, people being people, but overall I’ve been impressed.)

      3. Jellybeans*

        I have also worked in all three sectors, currently in local government. Your entire comment is spot on, particularly the last sentence. The public complains about paying our wages but want potholes fixed NOW and snow plows to be in their neighborhood NOW and storm drains cleared NOW and graffiti removed NOW. They want employees to fix all of it NOW but don’t want to pay for it, nor pay the employees fixing the issues a decent wage.

        I work with a lot of incredible, dedicated people who do the best they can with the constraints that come along with government work.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          I think all schools should have a required class: Why taxes?

          The people who shout loudest against taxes are almost always the same ones that want government to Fix Everything That Inconveniences Me Personally Now.

    5. Audrey Puffins*

      If public servants in the US are anything like civil servants in the UK, I have a strong suspicion that the politicians perpetuate the myths so that they have a built-in scapegoat for anything they don’t get done.

      1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        Not quite. Here a subset of politicians who want to eliminate or greatly reduce the size of the civil service deliberately cultivate the lie.

      2. Jay*

        This has a lot to do with it.
        Low level government employees have become both the whipping boys and sin eaters for the upper levels.
        It is also a way to push for worse treatment (hence less pay, hence short-term budget savings), with the eventual goal of eliminating union positions in favor of limited time contractors with few benefits, low pay, and little to no influence.

    6. fallingleavesofnovember*

      And as several other posters mentioned on a thread above, there are bureaucratic bottlenecks that mean that even the hardest working individuals or teams have their work stalled…sometimes for months. That and shifting priorities and direction from above are to me the biggest roadblocks (as well as internal coordination between departments and jurisdictional issues that mean you can’t actually fully solve an issue the public might think you should be able to action immediately).

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        And, just to clarify, even without the official bureaucratic* bottlenecks, there is very little you can do without minimally getting a green light/heads up to move forward, if not a general consensus, even if you’re high level. As I’ve said, even the [Insert Municipal Executive Here) can’t do most things unilaterally. It’s called checks and balances, and it is literally by design.

        *Bureaucracy exists in large private organizations as well, and for good reason. Standard policies and checks and balances are a good best practice, generally.

      2. Sloanicota*

        Yes, I think that’s part of it. Government programs, through no fault of the individual staff, are often inefficient and from the outside that makes the people in the programs seem like they must not care about doing a good job (I say this with professional experience as my main job right now is trying to get government agencies to enforce their own laws, conduct inspections of facilities and actually get things fixed – it’s definitely an uphill slog). Whereas in reality, there’s external issues like funding hasn’t been allocated yet or regs aren’t final, and there’s nothing anyone can do until it comes out of the higher-ups, or there are burdensome requirements placed on the agencies for transparency. It reminds me a bit of the discussion on here about the foster system. The system is sick and often doesn’t serve the children involved, but of course many of the individual people who foster are generous and loving. They just can’t singlehandedly fix the system.

      3. JB (not in Houston)*

        It really depends on what kind of government work that you do, though. I work a government job and do not have bureacratic bottlenecks that cause my work to be stalled. things are always moving at my job, and I am always busy (and I have no lazy coworkers). My sibling works for a different government entity, and it’s the same for her.

    7. Lab Boss*

      To some extent it could be based in which government employees your average person actually interacts with most, which I would speculate are counter staff at the DMV or other similar customer service roles. You’re often interacting with them at inconvenient times and under difficult or inconvenient circumstances, and it’s not totally unreasonable for “person at the counter doing their job without any particular sense of rush” to start to feel like “lazy person taking their sweet time when I need an emergency issue resolved.” Think of the joke in the movie Zootopia, that all the clerks at the government office (I think it was the DMV?) were sloths, taken from “frustratingly slow” to “must be lazy to be this slow.”

      1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

        They were sloths and it was the DMV. And it was hilarious but it could have been anywhere not just a govt entity. I loved the working against the nay-sayers story line.

      2. JugglingPlunger*

        This is a really good point. I’ve also had some very sloth-like experiences with the DMV – but I’ve also had those experiences with rental car companies. The meme about lazy government workers makes people remember those encounters more, but also probably makes them put it into the large category of “government”, whereas when I have to spend an hour in the rental car line because the company a) doesn’t hire enough people, and b) makes them try to upsell every person on 18 things, I put that in the category of [company], or at the most in the category of rental cars, I don’t put it in the category of “the private sector”

    8. Myrin*

      I’d guess it’s a mixture of several points:
      1. Government as a whole is demonstrably slow in all manner of things.
      2. Dealing with the government in some form or another is something everyone has to do, and generally regularly, too, so it’s one of these things people feel they have knowledge about. I’d guess most people don’t often interact with art galleries, for example, so they have no need to be thinking about whether they find gallery workers lazy or not.
      3. Governmental decisions are in the press every day, often distorted or at least with a buried lede. Such articles can often be summarised as “and again, nothing is getting done/moving forward” and people don’t question that.
      4. They know one or two lazy public servants personally and extrapolate from there, not thinking about the facts that lazy workers exist at literally every workplace and that you can’t really generalise from that.

      1. Johanna Cabal*

        I have family that works in the government and I’ve had to deal with government staff in the course of some of my jobs. A lot of things need multiple levels of approval. At the startup I worked at, if the CEO wanted a new payroll software yesterday, it was implemented quickly. There’s much more red tape for things like this in government and it makes sense since there’s so much scrutiny.

    9. Constance Lloyd*

      As a State employee, I used to set a 5 minute timer to cry at my desk, shutting off the water works the moment my timer went off and going back to work. I served a vulnerable population and had an incredibly high caseload, it was brutal and I had to keep going.

    10. Wings*

      At least the government functions I get to interact regularly professionally (Europe but not UK; oversight authorities whose expenses we pay, not in the form of taxes but in the form of licensing fees) seem to have quite outdated and inefficient ways of working. So it’s not that any one employee is lazy but they might send 10 people to a meeting when we send two. Each one of those 10 people are probably very busy and overworked with attending all those meetings and everything but as a government entity, they don’t seem to be prioritizing effectively and quite frankly don’t get a lot done as a result.

    11. winter frog*

      In part, it may be a relic of a time when government jobs were patronage jobs in some areas — a politician would get elected and then put their cronies on the government payroll. The cronies would do nothing and get a free paycheck. I think civil service reforms enacted over the years have helped to limit this now.

      But I also believe it is a manifestation of the “paranoid style in American politics,” as the historian Richard Hofstadter put it once. Politicians have been using the trope of the lazy government worker as long as I can remember in order to get elected and to also cut/hamper/privatize government agencies and policies.

    12. bamcheeks*

      My thinking is that the existence of public services fundamentally undermines the narrative that capitalists need to keep perpetuating, which is that there is a class of people who need to be forced into low-paid, low-status work by the threat of destitution, and a class of people in high-status and highly paid jobs who are motivated by high salaries and the ability to consume more. It is much harder to accumulate vast wealth in a society where most people are doing OK and happy doing OK. Having tens of thousands of people who work because of a public service ethic, mid-level pay, and good benefits undermines that whole thing, so you have to make it some kind of moral failing or the whole system breaks down.

    13. Irish Teacher.*

      In Ireland, I think it comes partly from a certain amount of jealousy about our job security and a thought that “well, if I ‘couldn’t be fired’, I wouldn’t bother working hard.”

      Now, it obviously isn’t that simple. I’m not sure about civil servants but as a teacher, we have to reinterview at the end of our first year in a school and at that point, we can be not re-employed for any reason or none at all, just “we got a better candidate.” If you are re-employed for a third year, then you get a “Contract of Indefinite Duration” and it is difficult to get fired, other than for serious issues, so I guess you could start slacking off then, but I think most slackers would have been weeded out at that point, especially since I say you have to reinterview after the first year, but…there are restrictions, like covering a maternity leave or a sick leave doesn’t count, so it wouldn’t be unusual to have to impress for a number of years in order to get the CID. In my case, my first two years in my school didn’t count, so I was there four years before I got CID.

      But especially during our recessions, there was a certain amount of resentment, to the point that public servants in Ireland now have to do an additional unpaid 33 hours of work a year. This is often box-ticking and gets kind of irritating. Most ironically, our school used one of those hours for a talk on “avoiding burnout and work-life balance,” so we had to stay late after school to attend a talk on…avoiding burnout.

    14. kiki*

      I live in DC and I hear this myth the most from consultants. I think a lot of consultants at the major firms are expected to regularly work ludicrous hours and tend to have poor work-life-balance (e.g. sending non-urgent work emails on their wedding day, etc.). So then they work with government employees that tend to have a more 8-5pm culture and they perceive it as lazy. “I emailed them at 5:30pm and they didn’t get back to me until 9am the next day! Why wouldn’t they respond last night??” But then you actually look at all the work consultants are staying up late over and so much of it is actually just pinging each other back and forth with minor revisions to slides proposing work that will be done by somebody else.

    15. Jackalope*

      At least in the US, I’ve seen it done like this: politicians who make a career of being anti-govt workers basically want to strip govt agencies of any ability to be useful. So they cut budgets to a point that is utterly infeasible, institute hiring freezes even if more staff is desperately needed, put laws into place that utterly devastate the ability to carry out their actual jobs, and otherwise make it not feasible to carry out their actual missions. Then loudly berate them on tv for “being lazy and not doing their jobs” to change the public perception of them. If they do this enough over time, they can gut a federal agency (or state, or local), and then loudly proclaim that said agency is useless and should be cut or filled with low-paid nonunion contractors or what have you, and then carry on until they’ve pretty much destroyed it. All while blaming the workers for the politicians’ actions and saying it’s just laziness.

    16. Sparkles McFadden*

      This stuff is in the private sector too: “We work so hard here in Department A! It’s not like you lazy people in Department B, and we’re constantly picking up the slack from Department C!” All the terrible coworkers I ever had would constantly inform everyone around that they were the person who did “all of the hard work no one else here will do.” The jerk manager referenced in this letter would be a jerk who says stupid, belittling things to people no matter where he worked.

    17. Not Totally Subclinical*

      So many of the people who complain about lazy government employees are the same people who are loudly supporting the military or the police. And when you point out to them that the military and the police are also government employees, they’ll say “Oh, but they’re different.”

    18. Over It*

      I work at a highly unionized government agency. It is pretty impossible to get fired after you pass your probation year unless you commit a felony or something. All union staff get a small annual pay increase that is not tied to performance and is not a COLA either (we get those separately every other year or so). Unfortunately, there is a sizable minority of people who do the absolute bare minimum and still collect a decent pay check and enjoy great job security. It’s not the majority of people. There are a lot of people here who work very hard and want to serve the public! But it is a widespread enough issue that it hurts culture and productivity and unfortunately plays into those stereotypes.

    19. ThursdaysGeek*

      I worked for a government contractor, and we worked hard. We didn’t want to waste our own tax money either!

    20. Jaybeetee*

      I’m a fed worker in Canada, and when I encounter the “lazy government workers” stereotype, the following is usually (not always, but usually) true:

      1) The individual works a physically demanding job – trade, medical where they’re on their feet all day, that kind of thing. They tend to view all office workers as “soft” to some extent, and government workers most of all due to the relatively cushy pay and job security.

      2) The individual has been fed a lot of anti-union BS, views unions as obstructionist, and views union workers as slackers very hung up on their “rights”. At this time, the various levels of government in Canada likely have some of the strongest unions in the country. I personally don’t always agree with my union, but I very much appreciate being part of it.

      3) Related, the individual has a lot of sour grapes about government benefits, such as the relatively higher salary, pension, health benefits, etc. Again, this comes down to government having strong unions – a lot of those “perks” used to be the norm in the private sector in a bygone era.

      4) The individual tends to dislike teachers and other front-facing government workers.

      5) The individual tends to have a very cynical view of politics/government overall.

      6) Finally, in some cases, the individual is part of some internet echo chambers that share around out-of-context memes to make government seem even more ridiculous and inefficient than it is – such as exaggerated DEI training points, that sort of thing, that feeds this stereotype that we spend all our time in training seminars learning about pronouns and microaggressions on the taxpayer dime rather than working.

      6.5) Since the pandemic a variation on this has emerged with the fact that government workers were mostly WFH during the peak of it (most are on a hybrid schedule now) – so add on “people working from home aren’t actually working” to the list of misconceptions.

    21. Emily Byrd Starr*

      I think it’s because people who work for the government are paid with our tax dollars; so on the occasion that a government worker, say, takes a week of vacation two weeks after coming back from another week’s vacation, people complain that their tax dollars are being wasted. Now, I’m not saying that government workers are necessarily more likely to take more vacation time than people who work for a private company. However, when someone who works for a private company does the same, people don’t mind as much because they’re not the ones paying their salary.

    22. AKchic*

      DMV is slow (to get me out of their building).
      DMV must be slow because the people aren’t working fast enough.
      DMV workers are government workers.
      If DMV workers are slow, all government workers must be slow.

      Of course, logic does not enter into the equation that the DMV is full of people and that each person has a task that takes 5-20 minutes each to process, and that each DMV worker has to do each process fully or else it isn’t valid and legal and there are only so many DMV workers per site.

      Now, extrapolate that to every other government agency.
      Yes, there ARE some lazy workers, much like any other business in any other industry (corporate, non-profit, or otherwise), but generally, it’s not the worker being slow, but the systems in place slowing the worker(s) down, or holding the processes up, or the processes themselves are time-consuming.

    23. fhqwhgads*

      I don’t have a source for this but my impression is it arises somewhat out of the “so much bureaucracy you can’t actually do anything” trope. So it’s not so much “lazy” public servants as “accustomed to slow-as-molasses timelines” public servants…which then in some people’s Puritan brains translates to “lazy”.

  19. Knitting Cat Lady*


    Standard out of office autoreply in my company:

    I’m out of office untild $date. For matters concerning X contact $employee1, for matters concerning Y contact $employee2. Emails are not forwarded.

    1. Eule*

      This is so elegant and short! I like it even better than what I’ve been using: “Out of office without email until . I will respond to emails when I return. If you need assistance while I’m away, please contact .”

    2. tangerineRose*

      Nice and short, gives a return date and tells who can be contacted when you’re out – that’s all most of us really want in this kind of email.

  20. Little Owl*

    #1 reminds me of the colleague I had some years ago who took annual leave to go and watch some kind of motorcycle event. He set an out of office that said “I will be out between [DATES] watching men in leather”. With no further explanation. To everyone in our very large organisation (and possibly externally too).

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      We had one once who said something like “I will be in Portugal from X until Y. Please do not email me during this time as last time I came back to about 250 and opening them takes up a lot of the time I have left before I retire.”

      Some people thought that was funny. The director who got that bounce back to some communication he sent out during that guy’s holiday? Not so much. He got a talking to when he was back at work.

    2. Lab Boss*

      I’ve worked and volunteered at summer camps my whole life, including helping to shoot photos and video at events that are then packaged into musical montage videos for the kids to take home as a souvenir. Whenever I take time off to go volunteer for that job I’m tempted to say “I will be out of office taking pictures of children,” just to see what kind of reaction I get.

  21. Kenelm*

    LW1: I have a colleague who puts book recommendations in his OOO, which is cute and very much in line with the office culture.

    We do pay attention to setting two different OOOs: one for internal with a casual tone and some room for details about who to contact and an external one that is more formal and will just ask the receiver to mail the general e-mail address.

    1. kiki*

      I do enjoy fun OOO messages, but I think they only really work when they arise organically from a person who has a fun OOO idea, likes doing that sort of thing, and feels comfortable enough in their office culture to do so.

      I would probably enjoy hearing about my coworkers’ vacations a little bit, but it wouldn’t change how much I “respect” their time off or regard them in the office.

  22. Dog momma*

    Just like you don’t blab on social media to all & sundry about your personal plans, you don’t put your plans in an out of office memo.
    1. the whole world doesn’t need to know.
    2. even serial killers, thieves etc have day jobs and could use this information for their benefit.. and your possible demise. That a woman brought this up does a disservice to women living alone, or in an abusive relationship or otherwise vulnerable. As crime increases, we need to stay safe!

    1. BubbleTea*

      I’d be very interested to see details of a single case, anywhere in the world, where someone was attacked as a result of their out of office email message. Let’s not scaremonger here.

      1. Seashell*

        I don’t know about out of office messages, but I have heard of burglars striking because of survivors mentioned in an obituary and the burglars knowing they would be at the funeral. Kind of a similar concept.

          1. Irish Teacher.*

            It’s definitely a thing for people to be burgled while they are at a funeral. How common it is, I don’t know, but it’s gotten a fair bit of media attention. But I think that is a lot different from an out-of-office message.

            At least in Ireland, it is very easy to find information about funerals and the death notices give a certain amount of information about where the deceased lived. “The death has occurred of Michael Murphy of Davis Street, Kilcoole, Co. Wicklow. Deeply mourned by his wife and three children. Funeral will take place at x church at 3pm on Wednesday the 19th,” tells you you will find a house on Davis Street empty at 3pm on Wednesday the 19th,” whereas a workplace message firstly isn’t available online for anybody to scroll through as these are and secondly doesn’t tell you where the person lives. It seems like it would take a lot more work to find their home than to just go on, type local towns into the search bar and find all the people in your area likely to be at funerals over the next couple of weeks.

            1. Irish Teacher.*

              I made up the details, by the way. As far as I know, there isn’t even a Davis Street in Kilcoole.

            2. LWH*

              I haven’t seen any media attention about this but I tried to look it up. I found a brief reference from a police bulletin to a group in Seattle who hit several homes using this method before getting caught, and like one other case of a family being robbed during a funeral that didn’t say anything about the burglar using obituaries to know they’d be out of the house (versus just a regular “nobody was home” burglary). It doesn’t seem like something people need to be worrying about unless they lived in that part of Seattle before that particular group got caught.

            3. Aitch Arr*

              This situation actually happened to my great-aunt when her husband died back in the late 50s in Boston. The address was in the obituary and when everyone was at the funeral, burglars struck.

        1. Allonge*

          Obituaries are reliably found in newspapers or -boards. You need to send hundreds of emails to get an out of office message and more to get one with info on where the recipients are. A lot of them will be home!!! It’s really not the same thing.

          1. TheOtherLaura*

            Sending hundreds of e-mail is less time intensive than buying and skimming a bunch of newspapers (or subcribe to their electronic edition to access the classifieds).

            Also, basic data security measures with very little (if any) cost should not be turned on or off based on a case-by-case-basis after statistical back-of-an-envelope analysis.

            1. Allonge*

              Look, the idea to share info like this in an out of office is stupid for many reasons – I am not arguing to do it. There is however no need to do the fear-mongering on Scary Criminals Will Get You.

      2. Myrin*

        I mean, more outrageous things have happened so I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d be able to find a few such cases, but I agree with your overall point – I’m a woman living alone and I find that line of thinking as well as the way it’s been brought up in the comments so far almost bizarre.

        1. LWH*

          Yeah I’m also a woman living alone and there has never once been a time in my life where I thought to myself “I need to make sure nobody knows where I’m at so that a serial killer doesn’t come after me”. Even the idea of burglars striking your house because you posted you’re on vacation is extremely iffy, I don’t think this happens as much as people think especially given that being on vacation doesn’t mean nobody is at the house. But serial killers???

    2. Toros*

      “As crime increases…”

      Is crime actually increasing? So many of the statistics I see say the opposite. Do you have a source for this?
      I’m not asking this to be pedantic – the perception that crime is increasing when it isn’t can drastically impact our risk-assessment, politics, etc. and it can actually be kind of damaging to just toss out assertions like this.

        1. LWH*

          I’ve had to calm my mom’s anxieties about stuff like this before, because TV news will tell her “did you hear what people are doing these days???” and it’ll be one instance of it, and not quite as they told it. Sometimes I remind her she grew up in the era of Ed Gein, she just didn’t have 24/7 news coverage of him.

          I once saw a news article about how “people” were outraged over the old Rudolph cartoon and their source was a HuffPost Comedy section article and a few tweets from people with no followers who were also joking.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Crime is actually decreasing, and I definitely hate the fearmongering that keeps happening. There’s an NPR story from Feb 12 titled “Violent crime is dropping fast in the US – even if Americans don’t believe it.”

      2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        “If it bleeds, it leads” is an old saying about the news, and also there are people outside the news business who want us to think crime is increasing, for a variety of reasons other than selling more commercials. That includes politicians who think fear of crime will get them votes, police departments that want budget increases, and companies that sell products such as alarm systems, safes, handguns, or bullet-proof vests.

      3. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        And also, “crime” is so broad. Car thefts and carjacking are so different. Burglary while you’re away and being mugged on the street are so different. Warehouse thefts and murder are so different. But they’re all “crime”.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          So is someone hacking into your bank account, which is more likely to happen than someone stalking your OOO to steal your jools.

  23. Lexi Vipond*

    I am intrigued by the possible intersection of the people who object to a single person at their work having a phone number which might reach them and the people who know that everyone who emails them has their home address freely to hand for burglary purposes.

  24. Millie*

    LW3, does your organization have any assistance programs for employees? I work in a large institution and we have a lot of resources for employees, financially, medically, etc. I would think you can ask HR without making it obvious/specifying it’s for that one employee. Maybe you could ask HR something like: “Can you tell me more about assistance programs we offer for employees? I want to make sure my team knows their benefits and that they can take advantage of these resources.”

    1. Pretty as a Princess*

      This is what I came to say – I’d ask if there was an employee assistance fund of some kind, and also if we had an EAP. If there’s an EAP I’d definitely refer the employee to those resources and make them aware of any other employee assistance programs.

  25. Cinderella*

    #4, I could have written your letter myself. I did ask for layoff with severance but they argued that my new role was consistent with my original job description so my request was denied.

    Although I’ve sent out many applications, I haven’t had any success finding a different role, so here I stay 18 months later, sufficiently paid but underemployed and trying to overcome my resentment. Fortunately, I’m close enough to retirement that if I can put my head down and survive it, I will. But I feel for you! And I hope you can get your career back on track quickly.

  26. Hotdog not dog*

    For #3 (food insecurity) – if your office does catered meetings, you could also quietly send leftovers home with that employee. There were times in my early career when the office pizza was the only meal I got that day. I had one manager who would assign me (as her EA) to pack up the leftovers and gave me extra Tupperware and told me to bring some home.

    1. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

      Yes to leftovers whenever possible. I’m also wondering whether LW3 works in a place where an office snack bowl might be something they would cover, or that she could cover out of pocket if able and so inclined. Fresh fruit, snack packs of almonds or olives or crackers/chips, etc., that are freely available to the team can let the person bulk up breakfast and lunches at the office and discreetly take some items to round out meals at home. It has the fringe benefit of being a nice perk for the rest of the staff.

      May not be a practical solution for every office, especially if the employer won’t pay for it, but if it’s feasible it may be worth exploring.

  27. Percysowner*

    With LW1 all I can picture is “I’m home with period cramps and bleeding like a stuck pig “ or “I’m off to Los Vegas to gamble away my life savings”.

    1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      My favourite is always going to be “anal fissures” no one is ever going to ask follow-up questions.

  28. ed5*

    “The fact that this advice was given at a women’s event for a very conservative, male-dominated industry adds an extra layer of ick I’ve not been quite able to put words to.”

    I can put some words to it. Women (and femme-presenting people) are still often treated like objects, a collection of body parts for the approval of the male gaze. Telling a group of people who are historically dehumanized by society how to make themselves seem “more human” instead of expecting society to treat them as human is vile. It puts the responsibility to be seen as “human” on the impacted person and holds no responsibility for the perpetrator to do better.

    1. Helen Waite*

      Hard agree.

      Also: Including the reason for time off and “fun facts” is a lot like asking permission and proving that you actually did the thing you said you were doing.

      So many comments are already bringing up envy and resentment. We’re already judged for things men are not. We don’t need to be adding to the already colossal mountain of judgement.

    2. Artemesia*

      And to ‘humanize’ themselves by being more feminine, when clearly being feminine is why they are objectified and dehumanized. ARrrrrgggggghhhhhhhhhhhhh

      1. Emily Byrd Starr*

        I’m just curious: why do you think that letting people know where you’re going on vacation makes someone “more feminine?”

        1. Observer*

          The idea that somehow someone needs to “explain” where they are so that their time off should be “respected” is really only something that would be expected of women- most men would assume that their vacation will be “respected” without any further thought.

          And for some reason, men are not expected to “humanize” themselves in their OOO messages, or effectively “explain themselves” for the sin of being out of the office.

  29. You Can't Pronounce It*

    #3 – Can you provide some snacks for the office? Apples, bananas, granola bars, nothing elaborate, just a few things to keep for your staff to select from and then she’s not singled out. Can you provide a team lunch once in a while? Again, nothing over the top, just some pizza or crockpot soup as a show of appreciation?

    I know not everyone will eat something someone else brings in, but it provides her a lunch without singling her out.

    1. Hawk*

      I’m going to add a separate comment below about my direct experiences with this and with other suggestions, but I’m seconding this comment.

    2. DisneyChannelThis*

      I came to the comments to say this! If you have the budget or ability to do so that would be helpful and non intrusive (starving employee can take extra granola bar home for supper) without coming off like charity or overstepping. You can even do the classic “my kroger pickup order accidentally gave us XYZ in double quantities, its in the breakroom if anyone can use it please take it!”

    3. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

      +1. Any opportunity to provide food to the team is worth exploring – team appreciation pizza, catered meetings with vendors or clients, trainings with boxed lunches.

  30. Bast*

    #1 is such a weird take, and frankly, I’m not sure most people care WHY someone is out so much that they are. I mean, sure, we’ve gotten some long term clients that hear their attorney/paralegal/whatever is out for a few days and say something along the lines of, “Oh, I hope Mary is okay,” but no one wants a run down of your Disney vacation itinerary or loads of details about yes, you were out for your second cousin’s funeral only to please your mother, as Cousin Steve was a jerk who you hadn’t spoken to in 20 years. It’s just… weird detail to add to an email signature and in some instances, really blurs the line between personal and professional. Most are something bland and vague (for planned absences) as in “I will be out of the office from April 1 to April 7 with no access to email. If your matter is urgent, please contact my paralegal/associate/partner, Anne, at 123-456-7789.” I don’t see a need for any other detail, and would find it strange if I received an away message detailing anything else.

  31. 34avemovieguy*

    there’s something so “do you know where your children are” about the idea that you shouldt post where you are in case there are stalkers and burglars. Like I get the concept, and it’s not like I’m posting my hotel room number and home address. But I can’t shake the feeling that it comes from conservative fear mongering meant to keep the lower class chained to their work and the upper class afraid of lower income people.

    1. Bast*

      I’m of the mind that if someone really wants to burgle someone, they can find out information. For example, if I know you work on site at Office, and Office is open Monday through Friday from 9 to 5, I can infer that you are (likely) not home from 9 to 5 Monday through Friday, and unless you live in a neighborhood of retirees, most other people likely won’t be home either, making it a prime time to burgle a house. I can pick up info on your spouse, any potential others living in the home, etc, quite easily on Facebook, and if I sit and watch your house for a week or two, I have a good idea of your routine and when you are statistically the most likely to be gone, including if you tend to go out for dinner (or a fitness class, or something else) that takes you out of the house multiple times a week at a certain time, etc. I get not wanting to make it easier for people to rob you, but many people tend to put SO MUCH information out there without realizing it anyway.

      A relative of mine had their house robbed years ago, and we came to the conclusion that they must have been casing their house to know exactly when they had a good chance of no one being home. They watched enough to know both of the adult’s work schedules (and one worked as a hospital nurse with rotating shifts, so not exactly a standard Mon-Fri 9 to 5 job), when they took the kids to sports every night, etc. The nasty shock came for them when one of the family members had stayed home sick on a day when they’d normally be at work and thus, was at home during the burglary. They got upstairs, saw my relative sleeping, sick, in bed, and took off, but not before taking a lot of valuables with them. This was in the days before Facebook/Myspace, so if they could figure it out then without the aid of social media, they can figure it out now, particularly with the trails people tend to leave on there.

  32. Irish Teacher.*

    LW1, I would find an out-of-office message that gave “fun” details mildly annoying. I’d be thinking “can they get to the point?” I’m not really interested in the details of a stranger’s vacation. Something like “I’m on my honeymoon at the moment and will be back on x date” would be fine but I wouldn’t want any more detail than that.

    LW2, I’m guessing the reaction you are getting is related to the assumption (at least in Ireland and I’m guessing wherever you are has something similar) that government work is “cushy,” “a job for life,” “nobody does any work and everybody claims huge expenses.” It is a joke here to the point that when my brother was in primary school and he and a couple of friends offered to do a job for the principal to get out of class and then spent as long as possible drawing the job out longer to miss more of class, the principal told them he’d reccommend them for a job in the council!

    Not that that makes it OK. The fact that the jokes are common doesn’t make them less offensive or dismissive of people’s work and telling you everybody at your job is lazy and doesn’t think for themselves even goes beyond that.

    Here, I think there is a certain amount of envy involved, over the greater job security in the public sector over the private sector so it’s a bit “oh, they can’t be fired so of course they aren’t going to work hard” (which is obviously a massive over-simplification).

  33. CheesePlease*

    OP #3 – I was a supervisor in a similar situation. Through a series of health issues, personal issues (divorce), and bad luck (house fire) an employee I supervised, and her son, were experiencing homelessness and food insecurity. She was employed full-time but living out of her car. HR sat down with her and helped her apply for aid programs, housing programs etc a few times a week, during her work hours which I approved for her to do. Our president and other managers pooled together groceries for her once a month for a while. Any sort of “employee perks” were doubled or tripled for her (ex: grocery gift cards during the holiday season, she took home leftovers from the company lunch).

    There are many ways to provide help. We really phrased it as “we want you to regain stability, and we know that keeping your job will help you in the long run. So staying fed and housed will help you be here when you need to be at work, keep your health insurance etc.”

    1. lilsheba*

      what’s sad is EVERYONE in the US is going to be in this situation or very close to it if things don’t start changing and employers don’t start paying a livable wage!!

      1. Artemesia*

        Corporations are having the highest profits in 97 years so they can’t afford to pay workers.

    2. Bast*

      This sounds like a wonderful environment. Plenty pay lip service to wanting to help, your company stepped in and made it known they cared. I hope all worked out for your colleague and her son.

  34. Kesnit*


    I used to be a public defender. At the same time, my dad would take my wife and I on really nice vacations once a year. Vacations that I would not be able to afford on my public defender salary…
    I cannot imagine the optics of a client who was charged with shoplifting at BigBoxStore in order to have Christmas presents for their kids* calling me and getting a message that I was out of the office for the week because I was on a Caribbean cruise!

    * Yes, this was a regular occurrence. I jokingly referred to February and March as “shoplifting season” because that in when all the Christmas shoplifters would have their trials. At the same time, it broke my heart…

  35. 2024*

    #3 is me. I usually don’t have enough money for food, I rarely eat 2 a day, I have to ration what I do have, and hope someone brought something to share at work. Not being able to cook at home is a huge problem (very decrepit apt). So yeah, food insecurity, I know thy name. But I guarantee you no one in my dept would care, even if they knew. So life sucks.

    I hope you find a way to help her.

  36. Hawk*

    For LW 3 and anyone else (especially in management or in charge of an office kitchen budget): I’ve had way too many coworkers with food insecurity. Many of them were older and needed other support due to health issues. Food insecurity is a huge, growing issue.
    The one thing I want to suggest for everyone is to place in a widely seen communal spot the information for local food distributions, especially those that distribute fresh and frozen food. Unfortunately many food pantries don’t have that access, and not everyone can consume canned goods (low/no salt diets, diabetes, etc). It’s good to have the information out regardless of staff needs — maybe more than one staff member is facing food insecurity, maybe a staff member has a neighbor or family member they know is going through a hard time.
    Here are some things I’ve seen in my workplace (municipal government public library) that can supplement what has been suggested so far and has helped coworkers facing food insecurity:
    1. Keeping nut/non-nut butter and jelly/jam in the kitchen area with bread (also gluten free bread is often kept in the fridge or freezer, which helps it last longer) as part of the communal kitchen budget. Anyone can use it — it’s for the whole staff.
    2. A developed culture of bringing in “extras”, like fruits and veggies from your home garden, packs of ramen that you got in the grocery order that you can’t eat, the extra three cans of green beans you discovered that you bought extra, etc. Sometimes it’s baked goods (I stress bake). The extras are placed on a table in the kitchen with a note to enjoy the food. I once unknowingly provided my coworker’s lunch when I brought in fresh tomatoes from my garden as a thank you for a kindness as we started to reopen from the pandemic shutdowns. This culture already existed when I started at my current branch and I’ve seen the impact that it has firsthand.

  37. Cj*

    in the letter about asking for a layoff and severance instead of moving into a different job at the company, they say that and underperforming employee was offered the choice of severance or demotion, and that they chose neither. how can you choose neither in this situation? get fired instead, and therefore probably get no severance?

    I hope that the OP with the comment section and explains this, because it doesn’t make any sense to me.

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      In my experience, many people who are offered options such as leaving with severance or getting demoted, turn the offers down, because they don’t believe anyone will actually fire them. A lot of times, they’re right. Some managers don’t want to do the work of firing people, or they feel bad about firing someone, or they’re afraid of what will happen if the person gets angry. So, the underperforming person refuses to make things easier and earns a salary while management decides whether or not they want to do things the hard way.

      This LW should 100% negotiate severance. Management will likely give the LW a decent offer as it makes things easier for them.

    2. Lauren19*

      Severance almost always comes with an agreement that the employee will not file a termination lawsuit, or other conditional terms. Could be that the amount of the package didn’t outweigh the conditions.

    3. Letter Writer 4*

      OP #4 here! I don’t have the full story, but yes, my understanding is that this former employee never made a decision and was unreachable/no-showed until they were let go.

  38. Hiring Mgr*

    #1 is silly but the chance of someone in a work context seeing your email and deciding to rob you because you’re out of town seems extremely low. Look at every conference that lists their speakers on their website – I doubt they all are getting burgled during those events

    1. HR Friend*

      Seriously! And just to play out the absurd premise that burglars and stalkers and serial killers (lol) are monitoring out of office replies, lying in wait… — if they know where you work, they know you’re *at* work on any given day. They could do crime at you any other day of the week!

      Like.. I agree that “fun” OOO messages are unnecessary and maybe problematic in other ways, but the conclusions some people are coming to here are so incredibly outlandish and weird.

      1. Allonge*

        Just about everything happens once or twice, what with there being 8 billion of us. Also what you describe is NOT the same as random out of offices – phyical contact existed.

        It’s not a real risk. People have been hit by meteors – are you walking around with a shield above your head? On the other hand: do you drive? It’s the most dangerous thing people do on a daily basis.

  39. LWH*

    LW3: I have to strongly disagree with the advice here: do NOT tell other people at the organization without the employee’s permission, this isn’t a conversation where someone should have to say “by the way keep it to yourself”, that’s a given here.

  40. Jam Today*

    LW1 – It will be a cold day in hell when I give anybody with whom I am not intimately acquainted access to my location or what I am doing on my PTO.

    LW3 – My suggestion for your food-insecure employee is to pay her enough money that she can afford food.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      LW3 – My suggestion for your food-insecure employee is to pay her enough money that she can afford food.

      Per the letter: “I am not able to give her a raise and due to medical issues she is not able to work more hours.” Please keep in mind that someone can be paid a fair wage and still suffer from money issues due to outside factors (debt, medical bills, divorce, etc.)

  41. Lora*

    I only give a reason for being out when it’s a public holiday, cause that usually means nobody else is available either and nothing is going to happen to we are back at work.

    Otherwise not available and whom to contact instead it is.

  42. CoffeeIsMyFriend*

    currently have an out of office up for maternity leave. maybe I should add fun details about sleep deprivation…or not…

    1. JustaTech*

      Yeah, my OOO for maternity leave did say maternity leave to give the context of “JustaTech will be out for a long time”, and also why there wasn’t a specific return date.

      1. Observer*

        One of our staff is out on maternity leave. She decided (with the active encouragement of her management) to just put in “I’m out on extended leave”.

  43. The Rafters*

    Not exactly out of office. Eons ago, our lovely department decided to really cheap out on toilet paper, i.e., sandpaper. The backlash was epic. One woman sent an email that she was going to be OOO that afternoon so she could go to the gynecologist for the rash she already had from using that TP. The original brand was returned to us by noon that day. I would have been soooo tempted to use something like that in an OOO.

    1. AKchic*

      Oh my. That reminds me of when a contract I worked on decided to change our tp from really cheap 2-ply to a single-ply SINGLE TISSUE PULL dispenser! Of course it was on a military installation. Of course my boss was getting a bonus commensurate with his cost-savings. There were only three women on site out of the 35 staff. He refused to change the soap (both my mother and I were allergic to it) and would not get better toilet paper.
      I started bringing my own toilet paper. The men started having… issues… with the toilet paper. A union grievance was filed. The toilet paper never did get changed back. I still laugh at the fact that someone filed a union grievance over the tp situation though.

  44. CzechMate*

    LW 1 – I work in international education, so if I’m out of the office for a US holiday, I may sometimes add a description of the holiday and a link to read more about it–this makes sense, though, because I work in an educational context and the people I’m emailing may be overseas or may not know that there’s a bank holiday. (Typically this is something like, “The office is closed for x and will reopen on y. X is a common US holiday and you can read more about it here.”)

    Doing a “fun” OoO just seems…odd. (If anything, it can sound like bragging. I don’t need to know an exec can afford to take a month off to go to Venice.)

  45. Leah M.*

    Vacation privilage drives me crazy. You have to have money and feel safe to travel which means those that take vacations tend to be able bodied, wealthy, white people. I use most of my days off as sick days and don’t travel because I don’t have the money or health to do so. I don’t need to hear about your trip to Bermuda in your out of office.

    1. lilsheba*

      Agreed. I don’t ever go anywhere on vacation, the most we do are local drives to different places (we like ghost towns and old cemeteries) for day trips on long weekends. If I could afford to actually go on a vacation that would be great!

    2. These commenters have lost their minds*

      I mean we are just making up privileges now…vacation privilege, get over yourself and let people be happy about things

    3. HR Friend*

      Vacation privilege is not a thing. Disabled, poor, and non-white people take vacations. I’m sorry you feel you’re unable to do so. But people using their PTO to travel is not some social power that needs to be corrected.

    4. Typing Privilege*

      Hey, now, it sounds like you have sick day privilege!

      No, seriously, this is attaching the concept of privilege to something that actually is not relevant (and also implying that disabled people and non-white people never go on vacation, which, by itself, is problematic).

    5. Bast*

      Some people use vacation days to sit at home and do nothing, catch up on cleaning, go to appointments, etc. Just because someone is taking a vacation day doesn’t necessarily mean they are going somewhere fun… or anywhere at all, and even if they are doing something fun, it doesn’t have to be an expensive trip. A few years ago I took a vacation day to have a relaxing, childfree day at the beach to read a book and enjoy the sun in peace. It was glorious.

    6. Observer*

      which means those that take vacations tend to be able bodied, wealthy, white people.

      That’s totally not reality based.

      If someone wants to to change something in their life (or society at large), you need to start with a base of reality. And treating people doing commonplace things as people being selfish is also a good way to alienate anyone who might actually be interested in making positive change.

    7. Tea*

      “ able bodied, wealthy, white people.”
      …this is really not a good look here, implying that no POC or disabled or poor person any where has ever taken a vacation of any kind, even one town over.
      Like, you’ve clearly never been to any of the Jersey shore towns if you think only rich, white, able-bodied people are going there for a vacation.

      Was this supposed to be a parody comment???

    8. Gemstones*

      As a person of color (granted, one who doesn’t travel much), I felt the need to chime in that this comment in no way represents my experience or speaks for me. (Some of the ways in which people on this site discuss POC are a little unsettling these days.)

      1. Tea*

        “(Some of the ways in which people on this site discuss POC are a little unsettling these days.)”

        Word! I’m white and the “racism masquerading as social justice” is getting out of hand here lately :-/

  46. Yes And*

    Can you imagine if the employee in letter #3 had for a manager the speaker in letter #1?

    “I’m experiencing food insecurity, is there anything the company can do to help me?”
    “Sorry I can’t respond, I’m off skiing in Switzerland!”

    So many ways the speaker’s advice in LW1 could go wrong.

    1. Kristin*

      That’s a really good point. Vacations are not always used for vacation – whereas others are used for going off to Antarctica, etc. It could get classist pretty quickly.

  47. Moo*

    #1 – I can’t imagine doing this at all. After some of the responses I got to my no-end-date medical leave OOO last year, how are you supposed to jazz that up? “Hey, I’m having XYZ traumatic medical issue and I’m out while I deal with that! Can’t wait to get back to work but until then you’re stuck talking to ABC!”

  48. Gin & Soda*

    LW5. This happened to me. My first HR screening and first interview were when I was still employed and the next one was after I was fired. It never came up. There’s no reason to volunteer that information. Like Allison said, if asked, be honest that you were fired

    Lots of people have been fired over the course of their careers. Unless it’s a pattern, nobody should raise their eyebrows at it. I’m not saying some people don’t judge, but I’ve noticed that stigma lessen over the last few years.

  49. But what to call me?*

    Apparently someone thinks out of office messages should take inspiration from recipe bloggers.

    I’m glad you had a lovely time making this with your nana when you were ten/I hope you have a lovely time on your ski trip, but will you please just tell me how to make the food/when you’ll be back in the office?

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      As someone who has gone through the same thing in regards to recipes, if you put in front of a url to a recipe, it will transform it into just the ingredients and steps.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          You’re welcome! I saw that the first time a couple of months ago on FB, so I am happy to spread the good news :)

  50. Person from the Resume*

    I started a new job at a charity recently, after leaving the government sector where I’d worked for 10 years. My two managers keep referring to my past experience in negative terms, like “you’ll find things are very different here, we don’t do things the slacker way like where you used to work.”

    I have worked for the federal government my whole life. It’s incredibly bureaucratic. I do say that to do well here, you have to be okay with that or you will be endlessly frustrated.

    … but I just realized that after reading AAM for over 10 years now, I no longer believe that it’s less likely to fire a government employee than it is to fire anyone in a commercial company or nonprofit. Managers, HR, higher up bosses not wanting to obvious troublemaker and lazy person for inexplicable reasons.

    And I learned that a lot of nonprofits seem to have some very toxic traits of their own.

    1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      It’s HARDER* to fire them. That doesn’t mean you can’t. And as we’ve seen, people are reluctant to do this, generally.

      *Harder as in more work/more steps.

  51. Kristin*

    My sister, a retired HR rep, told me a story of a receptionist who told everyone’s business about where and why they were out of the office, and a client took this information and broke into an administrator’s home. True story.
    It’s never a good idea to advertise why you are out of the office. But I’m troubled by a larger issue here: while I certainly agree with networking and speakers to support women in the workplace, I cringe when I see “women” turned into a corporate object, an excuse to “come up with new marketing ideas” to “target” them. This sounds like a younger speaker who had a “good idea!” We are women, but we don’t have to always think in terms of being women – because women are people. That’s the real point, and the real goal – to be seen as people, who are working.

  52. L. Ron's Cupboard*

    Letter #1: I can’t think of a worse idea than letting online randos know your house is sitting empty while you’re in the Bahamas for 2 weeks.

  53. Out of Office, Out of my Mind*

    On the OOO response: I also find that it just doesn’t matter when it comes to my industry. I try to format mine in a way that sets expectations (I’m out for an appointment and will be back tomorrow, I will be out and unavailable from date to date, etc) and if people want to message me, they’re going to anyway. I’ve come back from a week long vacation to people having full conversations with my auto-response.

    More to the point, I was out for roughly 2 1/2 weeks earlier this year because my mom was admitted to the hospital, then on hospice at home before she passed. It was very quick, but I wanted to formulate an out of office that made it clear that I wasn’t out galavanting but didn’t unnecessarily traumatize people – I still had people calling and responding to my auto-response or rudely following up the day after they got the email. The message truly doesn’t matter.

  54. Anon21*

    I thought this was an interesting aside from LW4: “I recognize this might not be the smart thing to do, given the current state of the job market”

    Assuming this person is in the U.S., the job market has essentially never been better! But there’s a strong folk wisdom that unemployment is high or even that the economy is on the verge of (or even already in!) a recession.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      The local job market can vary greatly from what the national average is.

      1. Anon21*

        Of course! And some industries shedding jobs while others fight over applicants. But the way the LW wrote it, it came across as something the reader would find obvious. This is something I see a lot on social media, and I find it interesting because it’s so extremely disconnected from the economic reality!

      2. Enough*

        Yes, to this. I have seen at least 10 notices of layoffs in my state over the last 3 months. Mostly similar areas. Not to mention layoffs of bigger companies around the country.
        Also it also depends on what you do. There are lots of retail jobs (mostly part time) available where I live but that doesn’t mean lots of full time office jobs.

        1. Anon21*

          There are certainly regional and industry variations. Overall, the unemployment rate for management, professional, and related positions is very low: 2.2%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    2. underhill*

      Care to share more about this? Literally everything I hear about the job market says “bad time, don’t quit.”

      1. Ashie*

        In my area (southeastern US) we have about 2.7% unemployment and a million open positions. It’s so hard to hire right now because *everyone* has options.

      2. Anon21*

        You’re not alone there! My vague theory is that media negativity bias and social media’s perhaps even greater negativity bias leads to many people seeing nothing but bad economic news, but the simple fact is that the U.S. unemployment rate is as low as it was in 2000, the post-1960s high point. Because of the tight labor market, low-wage workers have experienced sustained inflation-adjusted wage growth for the first time in four decades. As I said above, there are of course variations by region and industry, but in general, right now is a great time to quit your job and get a higher-paying one–so maybe LW4 can take the plunge with a little more optimism.

        Here’s an article about income gains for low-wage workers:

    3. Glazed Donut*

      While unemployment is generally down and the economy is generally good, for many industries there are too many qualified applicants for too few positions. ymmv of course – In my field and others it is taking a VERY long time to find employment comparable to the last role in terms of salary. I have not come across anyone who shares your sentiment that “the job market has essentially never been better.”

    4. Pizza Rat*

      The “State of the job market” could also be referring to the many obstacles out there to finding a new job. Unethical recruiters who just want your data, job listings for jobs that aren’t there, bait & switch, the prevalence of people who ghost candidates. lack of salary transparency, salaries posted that were borderline low in 2017, long interview processes (my personal record is 5, but I’ve talked to people who’ve had 8 rounds).

      Then there’s the dehumanizing and demoralizing practices like video auditions, IQ tests, personality tests. It’s a big decision to put yourself through that and it’s not for the faint of heart.

    5. Letter Writer 4*

      LW 4 here! You’re right about unemployment rates, generally! I just personally know a lot of people who have been experiencing layoffs and difficulty finding new jobs.

  55. CTA*

    For LW#3

    Does your employee use Facebook? There might be a Buy Nothing group for her neighborhood. Sometimes people give away unexpired and unopened food. She could also create a #iso post explicitly asking for food.

    I realize a lot of people will say they don’t like Facebook or don’t trust asking for help through social media. I’m only suggesting this option because I’ve seen this activity in the Buy Nothing group that I joined.

  56. tabloidtained*

    LW1: There are a few people in my broader network who add their personality to out of office messages. That personality is not details about their destination and the message is always short and includes pertinent information (return date, etc.). I do enjoy those messages, but they aren’t forced, and they’re professional. Giving the “fun out of office message” advice to large groups that may not be able to implement the advice in a way that works well is just setting people up for failure.

  57. Alan*

    Re #2, someone clued me in to something really interesting lately, which is that even casual comments are often a subconscious attempt to convince you not to believe what you see. That’s why managers will say “We’re a family” or in this case, “We’re not slackers here”. Things that are actually obviously true don’t need to be said.

  58. CJ*

    I use the same out of office every time and just switched the date I will be back. I am not spending anymore time trying to think of something “fun”

  59. H.Regalis*

    At my old job, I had a coworker who used to work for the place I work at now—albeit different department in a gigantic organization—and they did something similar, especially after I put in my notice to go to Big Place. Everything was a horror story about how awful it is. Definitely there can be bad things, but they clearly had an axe to grind and that superseded everything.

  60. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    That advice in letter 1 is some of the most out of touch workplace advice I’ve ever seen. I can’t even understand the thought process there.

  61. anywhere but here*

    A good friend of mine spent some time working in government, and basically came to the realization that after a certain amount of time, you can decide to do something or to do nothing, and either way you will keep your job. (Not that they personally tested this, just observed it.) There’s something to be said for the impact of a combination of bureaucracy, extreme job stability, under-market wages, and insubstantial raises on a person’s morale and motivation.

  62. Mermaid of the Lunacy*

    #2: A guy got let go from my company. I also went to church with him, so I’d often see him after his layoff. For YEARS after that, he’d corner me at church to grumble about his layoff. He’d try to get me to gossip about how awful the company was. Did I mention this went on for YEARS? I finally just started saying things like, “Yeah, you’ve mentioned that before.” “Yeah, I’m not sure what’s going on with that team.” “I don’t know, I didn’t hear that gossip.” Basically just went all gray rock on him. Took a long time but he finally stopped talking about it.

    1. Artemesia*

      I went through an awful merger where whole departments were cut to avoid lawsuits and I was in one of those departments. I had an also laid off colleague who was this guy. He whined about it for 20 years every time I would run across him. Meanwhile I had managed to right my career and prosper. I had a friend who interviewed this guy for a job and all he wanted to talk about was how he had been done wrong by the organization that laid us off. He didn’t get the job. He probably would have if he had done a competent interview because he did have what they were looking for, that is why they interviewed him.

  63. Umami*

    For #3, I have addressed that by getting a thank you card for the staff member to say how much I appreciate something specific they did that helped me, a team member, or a client, along with a gift card as part of the thanks. That way, it seems like a true appreciation gift (which it is!) and not a handout, but also helps them and their family not go hungry. The first time I left it at her work station, and she came to see me to say thank you and how it really made her day.

  64. Jenthar*

    #1. Oooh out of office responses. At my last job, we played a game – is this OOO message from a man or woman? We had a mighty collection of ranges of OOO from “away – call Dave if you need something” to “Greetings colleague, I’m off enjoying nature, time in the mountains [blah blah blah refreshing spirit living in the moment whatever] and unavailable for response until DATE”. We guessed man/woman, internal/external/regulator etc, rated them on creativity and helpfulness (Dave WHO?!?! HOW might I CONTACT DAVE????)

    1. Chanel No. π*

      “(Dave WHO?!?! HOW might I CONTACT DAVE????)”

      I wonder if that might be a passive-aggressive way of cutting down on traffic. Like, if you don’t know who Dave is, you shouldn’t be bothering me?

      1. Cat Tree*

        I once had a passive-aggressive coworker who went on a 3 week vacation. His away message was just, “I’m OOO. If you need anything, contact someone.”

  65. NotARealManager*

    We had a senior leader out for a trip recently. Their OOO was very colorful and “fun”, but the problem is I’ve seen their work calendar (and previously shared an office with them) and they don’t actually work that much when they’re in office. So the extra fun OOO gave me an even worse impression of them*.

    *Not that people shouldn’t have fun vacations. They should! But when you know someone is already not a diligent worker, it’s bad optics.

  66. Bobby*

    #4 – is there anything that comes to play there of getting transferred to another job they’re not qualified for? Is this a way companies can get around layoffs/severance and try to get employees to quit instead? I’m just wondering if there’s something legal there that prevents them from doing that…

    1. Letter Writer 4*

      OP here! I am qualified for the role being offered to me (it’s below my skill set and experience). In this case, I believe my employer is actually trying to protect my employment. I know that’s not typical in many cases, though!

  67. AW*

    Exactly once have I ever been tempted to leave a fun out-of-office message. This was when I took the day off to watch Good Omens, to the effect that I would not be back because the world would be ending on Saturday, just after tea. I refrained because it was not a done thing at that office and no one would have gotten it. Also, I do not actually want my coworkers to know when I have taken a day off to watch TV, just as I do not want them to know what I am doing on my personal time at any time, ever.

  68. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #1 – If you want to make your away message fun, by all means. But I’m of the mind that if you want people to respect your time off, the best way to do so is to hold firm on the boundaries.
    For me this is a simple message that “I’m out of office and will be unreachable Please reach out to XXX.” Otherwise you get colleagues forming their own assumptions of how important your time off is and whether or not you’re reachable.

  69. Lebowskya*

    LW4 – The company has historically struggled with lead generation and they’ve cited that the lack of leads is prompting this move.

    They’ve struggled with lead generation, and they’re eliminating your role to move into a burnout-prone position and they don’t know why they can’t get customers?

    Your company leadership sounds like they don’t know what they’re doing.

    Take the money and run!

  70. Terry Does Love Yogurt*

    Re: #3: I’ve been food-insecure at work and appreciated supports that helped me eat and save face. A reliable weekly catered lunch with leftovers explicitly reserved for people in my role (which was the lowest-paid role in the org) was a relief.

    You say it’s a large organization. Do you have the budget to expense meals? Even though you can’t give this employee a raise, can you give this employee the authority to expense their lunches while they’re working? Is there a work justification for that or can you create one? Maybe a project they’re working on with recurring meetings needs to be rescheduled for lunchtime, so it’ll be a working lunch on the company’s dime. Maybe as a supervisor you can set regular team meetings for mealtimes/mid-morning brunch/afternoon tea. This still works for remote work—I know of a company that provided $20 Grubhub gift cards for a weekly lunchtime team meeting for a fully remote team. Sharing what they’d each ordered for their “treat” meal was part of the team bonding.

    Building on Allison’s recommendation about a gift card, if you’re willing to spend personal money or if your company has funds to support employees with extraordinary or emergency needs, what about offering your employee a meal kit delivery service? That’s less cost effective than a cash-equivalent gift card, but it potentially feels more like a “fancy gift” and less like a charity. I dunno. Maybe a gift card’s best, unless money isn’t an object for you and saving face is an issue for the employee.

    Maybe you can sell your employer on the return on investment (productivity, morale, employee retention) of a daily breakfast bar (even as simple as a variety of yogurts in the fridge/instant oatmeals by the electric kettle) or snack array, too.

    Last thought: if your employee seeks government assistance, tell them you understand it takes time, since they’ll need to travel to appointments during the work day and likely will be kept waiting there for a while. I had a boss who was a stickler for punctuality and rules, but when I told her I needed to go to the government assistance office for appointments about food assistance she was so wonderfully understanding and told me good luck, get to work whenever I can, don’t rush, and don’t use any vacation time. That gave me one less thing to worry about!

  71. e271828*

    The way to get people to respect your time off is not to respond to requests to do things during your time off. The out-of-office message tells them you’re not available. That’s all they need to know. Crikey.

    I am horrified that someone put that idea out for a meeting of women workers!

    1. Emily Byrd Starr*

      “The way to get people to respect your time off is not to respond to requests to do things during your time off.”

      And this is why landline phones will never become obsolete, at least not at the office. A LOT of people don’t want to get work calls when they’re not at work.

      1. my account*

        One of the very nice things about my job is that I do not have a work phone and no one other than my boss has my cell phone number (for necessary purposes; he has never contacted me). Everything else is via computer and Teams.

  72. hypoglycemic rage*

    I was put on a PIP with my last (toxic) employer, and I ultimately decided to leave on my own after suddenly making it to step two of said plan. I never mentioned being on a PIP at all in my interview process, but instead focused on why I was interested in the job itself and only talked about why I left if prompted. But even then I basically said that I was moved into a role that was way different than the one I applied for (which was true) and it wasn’t a good fit. I also didn’t feel like leadership was supportive or wanted me to succeed, but I wouldn’t have mentioned that in interviews.

    1. Artemesia*

      When people don’t know you, whining about your job even when you are dead accurate just lets them know you are a whiner because they have no other information about you or about your job. Ignoring it and focusing on the positive is the winning play. (with maybe a couple of very thoughtful ways to address direct questions related to your leaving)

  73. HonorBox*

    OP1 – I’d hard pass on providing more detail than necessary. I don’t think I’d care enough where someone is or why to need that information. Plus people could start to ask questions you don’t need to answer. “How is it that Jane can afford that trip to Switzerland?” Simply stating that you’re out of the office and returning on “date” is enough for work. Also, my initial thought was probably more negative than needed, but I thought about the advice people are given not to post on social media when they’re out of town that they’re out of town. It opens doors to those who might want to use that information against you.

    I don’t even think I’d say something like, “I’m on my honeymoon” because it opens up a door that you don’t want opened. Even in my small company, when we’re setting up out of office replies internally, it is just simply that we’re out of the office and will be returning on whatever date we’re returning.

  74. BarbieMovieFan*

    In the response to LW1, this parenthetical comment from Alison gave me Barbie Movie vibes and I am here for it:

    “humanize yourself! the most important thing for you is to make other people feel good so be warm! but not too warm or someone will take it the wrong way! no, not like that!”

  75. TootsNYC*

    1. Should we really have “fun” out-of-office messages?

    Some people really can’t resist the urge to “round up.”
    Nothing is ever complicated neough for them. They can’t leave well-enough alone.
    And the thing is, you can always find something to add on. That doesn’t mean it’s worthwhile.

  76. Orora*

    #1. For my most recent out of office message, I used a picture of a beach (since I was going to the Caribbean) and “Out of office. I’ll be back on *date*”. But no one needs to know who I went with or why I went there.

  77. Lauren19*

    LW4 – I have a lot of thoughts on this, but can only react to the info provided here, so take this with a grain of salt.

    1, I think what your employer is doing is actually really gracious. They needed to eliminate positions to maintain their balance sheet, and unfortunately your role was deemed non-essential. This likely has nothing to do with your performance in the role, but the direct role it played in winning and servicing business. You clearly mean a lot to them because they found a way to keep you employed and your salary 100% in tact. My guess is you are being way overpaid for the role you’re actually being transferred to, which is where the graciousness comes in.

    2, You say you have no faith in their comment that this is a temporary placement, and that a primary driver of the situation is low lead gen. Given you’re in a marketing role, can you propose a demand gen campaign that will quantifiably tie your work to generated leads? That may be an area they want to invest in, and success there gives you a lot of future security.

    3, Consider the market you’re in before voluntarily becoming unemployed. For many skill sets it is TOUGH out there, and is often easier to get a job when you already have a job. Plus, you don’t know how long you’ll be unemployed. Just something to consider.

    4, If you decide to move forward with the severance agreement ask, remember to negotiate more than just the number. If you have a non-compete, ask that to be waived. Get clarity on how your termination will be recorded (something along the lines of voluntarily and in good standing). Some places offer a lump sum and some offer continued pay (ie regular paychecks for X number of weeks or months), figure out which will work better for you and request it.

    I’m so sorry you’re going through this.

    1. Letter Writer 4*

      OP here! Thanks so much for this thoughtful comment. I believe your take on my employer is 100% right (and definitely rare). My current compensation is in line with the higher levels of the role they’re suggesting, so my rate remains unchanged but not out of the scope for other established members of that team. Unfortunately, I’m really not privy to their strategy moving forward, nor was I really ever in a strategic role, and I’ve essentially been shut out of that aspect of things as of now. You’ve given me a lot to think about!

  78. I watered your plants while you had covid*

    As for #1 I don’t give information regarding where I am and why I’m on leave but I do often include animal facts in my OOO email for internal responses – external emailers get just the boring “On leave on January 37th, I will respond to your request when I return, if its urgent here’s the phone number of the coworker I like least”

  79. Porch Gal*

    Letter #1 – I had two thoughts. First, this smacks of the common sexist advice to women that they need to SMILE more. Second, never ever tell people you don’t know and trust well that you’re on vacation!

    Why isn’t it allowed for women to be professional and discrete like men? “I’m out of the office until April 15. I look forward to responding to you after my return. If your request is time sensitive, please contact Emily Cooper at”

    Ugh, ugh, ugh.

  80. my account*

    If you have “fun” out of office messages, you will be memorable. I still recall specific out of office messages people have left.

    You do not want your out of office message to be memorable. You want it to be informative.

  81. Lizy*

    #3 – “oh darn it I ordered a platter of sandwiches instead of just one – here want the rest?”
    “I really wanted pizza but just one slice – would you be willing to take the rest if I ordered one?”
    “I made burritos last night and the recipe ALWAYS makes more than I expect – want some?”
    “We ordered too much food for this meeting and SOMEONE has to eat all the leftovers – take them!”

    As someone who would have gone without many, many times, these types of things saved me and fed me and my husband.

  82. Fluff*

    I am in the middle camp for the out of office.

    Sometimes I include a detail to normalize it or remind people about “X conference”. First because often many others are at said conference who might have forgotten their OOO. (Ok, that was me. My informatics folks came to the rescue).

    Other times I have left an OOO “At DragonCon” with return times. This has resulted in some unexpected work friends. Same for out of health reasons. Gives me some wiggle room when I drag my tired self back to work.

    The key is choose wisely, short, and with who youshare.

  83. Sad Desk Salad*

    I don’t post on social media when I travel because I don’t want people I don’t know well to know my home is or could be empty. The only ones who know are close family members, neighbors and the house sitter. No way am I telling everyone who could email me during my PTO (which could be anyone from coworkers to vendors to complete strangers) that I’m not going to be home. Sure, they could discern that info themselves by virtue of my out-of-office reply, but why hand it to them?

  84. Zip2*

    #5 – If you end up getting let go, I wouldn’t mention that. If a potential employer asks if you’re still at your previous job, just say you left. Telling a potential employer you were fired from your last job will pretty much torpedo your chances of getting hired. Most previous employers will just confirm dates of employment and nothing more, so verify that with your current employer if they let you go. All that being said, obviously do your best to find a new job before anything happens at your current one.

  85. blood orange*

    OP #1 – This is such terrible advice, and it’s made worse that it was only given to women. That speaker either didn’t think through their advice, they have very misguided views, or they actively think women should position themselves in ways that are harmful to their career.

    If I had a very personal (“fun”) out of office message while my male colleagues either had a more traditional one OR didn’t even bother to have one at all, I’d be sending a pretty bad message about myself (either my professionalism or the way I’m positioning myself in the org).

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

    #4 I know im a day late but I sure hope you or anyone in similar situation sees this. Could you start a food pantry at your work? My old job did this after their was numerous thefts of lunches. It was because some people didn’t have anything to eat.

    If your company is able they could maybe contribute to it and then encourage people to add if/when they are able to. We had one cupboard in each break room. Their were easy things that were shelf stable. Think mac and cheese cups, soups, etc. I had a few things that I had gotten that I didn’t like or that I found out I was not able to eat. And I would add those. You can make it so that it’s not a “I’m poor” thing but a “Oops I forgot my lunch” thing.

    Also, if you can if there’s ever any catered events can you “order too much” and give her first dibs on the leftovers.

    thank you for being someone who cares.

  87. Introvert Teacher*

    #3 if you want to do something that doesn’t single your employee out, what about either a free catered lunch periodically for your team, or alternatively, placing lunch items in the break room that are non perishable such as microwavable soup, ramen, protein bars, etc.? otherwise, i like the gift card idea.

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