coworker says she loves shoplifting, asking to take over a specific person’s job, and more

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

1. Coworker says she loves shoplifting

I’ve been angsting over a coworker interaction that I just let go by. I am the oldest and most domesticated person in my workplace, but I try hard not to give off “work mom” vibes. Maybe I have been too successful?

“Jane” works full-time in an admin role at our public library. She is fresh out of high school, so new to the workplace. She was chatting with “Cindy,” who shares my work space, when she started talking about how much she loves shoplifting. She hastened to add that she takes things only from large corporations and obviously would never steal from the library, where all our things are free. She concluded, “I love that I can say that here.”

She emphatically cannot say that here! She definitely can’t say it in front of me! I do not supervise her work but it’s hardly outside the realm of possibility that someone would ask me for an opinion on her and now I have major doubts about her integrity and her judgment.

What, if anything, should I have said in the moment? She wasn’t even exactly talking to me. Was I right to ignore it? I’m worried I gave the impression that I DO think shoplifting is okay.

“You really can’t say that here” would have been a fine response. Or, “Definitely do not say that here, or at any job.” Or, “Whoa, no, that’s not something you should say at work.”

But it’s so normal that you were too surprised to say anything in the moment! And I don’t think anyone observing would come away assuming you condone stealing.

2. How do I talk about where I went to college without people assuming things about me?

I’m in a phase of my career where people are, rightly, often asking where and in what I received my undergraduate training. I went to a not super well-known college, but when people know it they are very aware that it is deeply religiously affiliated (mandatory chapel, extensive religious coursework, strict behavioral code, etc). I was religious when I attended there but am not anymore and am uncomfortable with people seeming to assume that I still follow that faith when I tell them where I went to school. But I feel equally awkward launching into an “I was religious but I’m not anymore” spiel when I see that people recognize the school. I am proud of the education that I received there and believe it was sound so I don’t feel the need to hide it overall, I just want to avoid the assumptions. Any advice for good verbiage to navigate these situations?

“I’ve changed a lot since I chose it.” Leave it there; it’s short and sums it up without going into defensive-sounding detail.

That said … if the school is known for bigotry (something like Liberty University or similar), there’s a high risk of people assuming you’re aligned with its anti-LGBTQ and anti-civil-rights views. If you’re not, I’d make a point of looking for other ways to demonstrate that.

3. Can I ask an old employer to take over a specific person’s job?

This question is purely theoretical, as I intend to be at my current job forever, but what are your thoughts on calling up an old employer and asking to take over a specific person’s role? I normally wouldn’t dream of it but there are a few things in this situation that make me think there’s an outside chance this might be okay:

1. My boss had been preparing me for a supervisory role, and I only didn’t move into that position due a company acquisition where they retained all their staff and someone higher up the chain decided to keep on the supervisor from the new company.
2. I had been routinely doing multiple tasks that should have been done by this new supervisor, but she never got the hang of it. While I was working there, I could not have told you what she did on any given day, and she never seemed very knowledgeable about routine business operations.
3. From what I understand from employees I’m still in contact with, she’s routinely unavailable for hours at a time, mishandles routine technical issues, and still can’t give basic answers. The duties I’d been handling that should have been under her umbrella got passed on to a different employee who is on the same level I used to be.

I admit that she may have very time-intensive duties that keep her away from her phone, Teams, and email and may have extensive knowledge of some other part of the business that others are not aware of. That said, I’ve heard from a few people that it looks like she does nothing all day aside from occasionally micromanaging employees about minor issues, and you’d generally expect a supervisor to be more available to their employees and to be more knowledgeable about the business (especially since she’s been there for going on four years now).

With all that in mind, would it still be an overstep to call up and say, “I’d like to come back and have so-and-so’s job”?

It would be overstepping. You can’t call up a company you no longer work for and say, essentially, “Fire Jane and hire me instead.”

But what you can do is talk to whoever’s in charge of that role and say, “If Jane ever moves on, I’d be really interested in talking with you about moving into that role.” And if they’re unhappy with Jane’s performance, that might nudge them to get moving on it (and knowing they have a person they know and trust to take over can sometimes get people over the hump of “who will we ever find to replace her?” if that’s something they’re stuck on).

But for what it’s worth, for someone who doesn’t work there anymore (and who intends to be at your current job forever!) you sound too invested in what’s going on at your old company. You don’t need to think or care or even know about any of this anymore!

4. Is this the one time I should accept a counteroffer?

I have read all of your columns about not accepting counter-offers from your current employer. I love my current employer, but I applied for another job somewhat on a whim. See what I’m worth in today’s market. New Company offered me a job with a 24% increase in salary.

My current employer and I have been discussing promoting me to a manager in the next 2-3 years. When I gave notice, they tried to counter-offer but the CFO would not increase my comp at this time. But they said the manager role would be included in next year’s budget and the salary in the manager role would be the same as what this new job offer is.

The new job is more money now, but it’s a consultant role and not as safe from layoffs. My current job is very safe. Does it make sense to stay?

That’s not really a counter-offer. They’re not paying you more! They’re promising they will next year … but they’re not doing it now, and all sorts of things could change between now and then. How will you feel if next year rolls around and they tell you, whoops, there’s no money in the budget for it now? (And to be clear, they wouldn’t need to be planning on screwing you over for that to happen. Something could come up that they consider a higher priority or the budget could be tighter than anticipated.)

Choose between your job and salary as they are now and the other offer. The option they’re trying to convince you will exist next year isn’t real right now. If they want to convince you it is, the way for them do that is to actually make those changes now.

Relevant horror stories:

my company made a counter-offer to keep me — and now is attaching strings to it

my employer made me a counteroffer, then rescinded it

5. How can I get more info on maternity leave without starting a conversation I’m not ready for?

I just found out I’m pregnant (YAY!) and am struggling to get clarity on maternity leave policies for my organization. I’m about a year into my role. Knowing that starting a family was in my future, I had made a point of asking about the culture around family planning during the interview process. I was assured that it’s a very parent-friendly workplace, as someone on my team was able to take six months of leave recently. They didn’t share the specifics of how she was able to do that, though.

Now that I’m pregnant, I’m on the hunt for information about the leave I can take. I’ve searched our benefits site, but all I’m seeing are state-mandated 12-week parental leave policies. I also dug up the benefits documentation I was provided at the time of my hire, which doesn’t spell it out clearly either. It’s possible that parental leave may be part of the short term disability coverage (which would be up to six months), but I just can’t tell! We have about 10,000 employees so it’s a big company.

I want to ask someone in HR for more clarity and alleviate some of the stress I’m feeling about this, but I’m still a few weeks away from being ready to share the news with them, my manager, or any of my colleagues. If I were to reach out to HR, what kind of confidentiality can I expect? I know that they work for the company, not for me, and I’m worried that they could bring it to my manager’s attention even if I frame it as a question “for the future.” Can you advise?

Generally speaking, the larger your company, the safer it is to ask — the less chance an HR person will mention it to your boss (and also the less chance they’ll see it as a significant disruption since they’ll have plenty of experience with people taking parental leave). At a 10,000-person company, I’d just go ahead and ask. Frame it as, “I keep meaning to look into our parental leave policy. I’m not able to find it on our benefits site.”

They’re likely to just forward it to you without inquiry the same way they would if you asked about health insurance open enrollment or similar. But if anyone does ask you anything, respond with a breezy, “No current plans, just curious for now.”

{ 559 comments… read them below }

  1. Mia*

    Oh man, remember the OP who was biased against people who went to women’s colleges? Letter #2 is reason 1,602,395 why that OP was so wrong. People change and you can’t assume a thing from a decision they made at 18 (if the decision was theirs to make).

    1. DEJ*

      BYU is a lot less expensive than many other colleges. That is a great example of a perfectly logical reason to go there despite everything else.

      1. Piso*

        BYU is a great university with excellent standards and departments! really fantastic students come from there. Hopefully most people recognize that, and focus less on the religious but if they pry I think I would stand in the integrity and high standards they uphold and let people figure things out for themselves. We don’t have to explain our lives to others, and they can judge us as they see us in our own behavior. I have known non-LDS people who went there and they really liked it. and did well.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          On the other hand, if I know you went to BYU and you don’t give any additional explanation, I am not going to come out to you or introduce you to my life partner. I won’t “pry” into your life, I won’t let you into mine, and we’ll never be more than distant work acquaintances.

            1. DrSalty*

              Frankly this is veering into discrimination based on religion, which is illegal in hiring.

            2. Random Dice*

              You mean you would discriminate against someone based on their religion?

              Maybe don’t say that part out loud.

              Or do, so people know.

              1. Rincewind*

                Then you’re committing religious discrimination. Your opinion on their beliefs should be irrelevant.

        2. Prof*

          I mean…you do in fact have to explain you life/career related choices to potential employers. If you attended a college or worked for a company with bigoted beliefs, you should expect some questions about that. I would absolutely have concerns about hiring someone with that in their past without good explanation, preferably of your not sharing those beliefs….

      1. Bbobb*

        Just looking for “women’s college” should bring it up – the letter is literally titled “I’m biased against people who went to women’s colleges”.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Your parenthesis is critical. How many teenagers are sufficiently financially independent of their families that they can stand on principle?

      1. bishbah*

        Critical? I read that as the opposite. Because teenagers *aren’t* financially independent, we can’t assume the decision to attend a bigoted institution was even theirs in the first place. So we should give them grace.

        1. M2RB*

          I read the sentence “Your parenthesis is critical” as “Your parenthesis is essential”, not critical in the sense of criticism. Of course, I’m not GvK, so I may be off-base, but I think you are saying the same thing?

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            You read me right. Critical as in “of critical importance”.

            Apologies for confusion.

            1. Mango Freak*

              You weren’t confusing. It would be odd to just say “Your parenthesis is a criticism” because it’s not inherently bad to criticize; you would’ve needed an adverb like “unfairly” for the other reading to make sense.

        2. TooTiredToThink*

          Critical as in “having a decisive or crucial importance in the success, failure, or existence of something.” Not critical as in “expressing adverse or disapproving comments or judgments.”

      2. allathian*

        Yes, this.

        I’m in Finland, and because we start school later, generally the year of our 7th birthday, it follows that the vast majority of students are legal adults by the time they graduate high school (the year they turn 19). Tuition is also free up to and including a Master’s degree, so college students are generally assumed to be fairly financially independent by the time they start tertiary education.

        Even given all that, some wealthy parents still attempt to blackmail their kids. I have a business degree, and I remember one classmate who really didn’t want to be there. But she was a trust fund kid, and the better grades she got, the more they paid into her trust fund, and they threatened to withdraw the trust fund completely if she didn’t get the degree they wanted her to take. She was very determined and got great grades even though she hated every minute of it. As soon as she graduated and got irrevocable control of the trust fund, she went NC with her parents and back to college. I lost touch with her a few years after graduation, but last I heard she was a teacher. Because her parents were stupid and stubborn and because she (understandably) didn’t want to give up the financial security of the trust fund, she wasted 4 years of her life on an education she didn’t want before she was able to pursue her true vocation.

        1. lost academic*

          In the United States, it doesn’t matter if you are a legal adult – your parents’ financial information and input is required for financial aid pretty much everywhere for the undergraduate period. There are SOME exceptions, but in general, you aren’t considered independent from them and their financial standing will both influence how much aid you can have, how much you can borrow, and if you can borrow at all (or receive any aid from the college, because they have to submit a lot of information on their ability to pay and many colleges won’t give you anything without complete information). A lot of this is to prevent fraud from families who want to separate their finances from the aid calculation. It takes a LOT to demonstrate that you are truly independent.

          So parents don’t even need to directly blackmail their kids with the actual money. It’s just not feasible to get the money to go to college without them being involved in filing forms every year. Happened to me, in particular, which is how I know this and so much more – I didn’t have ANY capacity to get ANY money from my mother but if she didn’t submit a lot of information in time every single year, I couldn’t get any grants or loans of my own either.

          1. Why are you like this?*

            My friend applied to med school and they required her parent’s information on the fafsa! A 28 year old with her own child and they still wanted to see how much her parents could contribute. Looking at the AAMC website, it seems like schools have the option of not asking but I wonder how many don’t considering it determines how much money the school itself gives you.

            “As a medical school applicant, you are considered an independent student for federal student aid, and parental information is not needed on the FAFSA form. Parental financial information may be required by some medical schools for students who wish to be considered for institutional financial aid (aid granted by the medical school).”

            1. Laura*

              That’s wild. I applied for my Master’s when I was 24 and turned 25 before I started the program and I don’t remember them asking for my parents’ info at all. I was considered independent at that point (my parents weren’t paying for the program, I was taking out loans).

          2. MigraineMonth*

            Parents are also taking student loans out on behalf of their kids now, meaning that a significant number of the people in the US saddled with student debt they’re never going to be able to pay off are senior citizens on fixed social security income.

          3. JustaTech*

            I had a classmate in high school (private, expensive high school) who’s parents decided, April of her senior year (so, well after you’ve submitted all your college applications) that they weren’t going to pay for college.
            I remember her coming into the ceramics classroom, completely hysterical, sobbing, hyperventilating, and just terrified. We the students tried to comfort her, but we all knew that unless she’d managed to get a merit scholarship (very hard) she was utterly screwed, because no school would believe that her parents just wouldn’t pay.

            Finally the ceramics teacher sat her down and said “You will get through this. And some day *you* will choose *their* nursing home.”

            It was such a shocking, dark thing to say that she stopped crying.
            (Eventually it did turn out OK and she did get a merit scholarship to her last-choice school, but any school is better than no school.)

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              Yes, my parents did this (and doubled down when I thought I was going to have to drop out during my final year for lack of funds). Fortunately it was “only” a four-figure problem in my country rather than the five- or six-figure problem it could have been elsewhere.

              We also note that I was ineligible for any of the hardship funds because of their income.

          4. Anon for this one*

            I was estranged from my horrid single mother for numerous reasons, but basically this meant I got to pay cash for my education. I couldn’t get anything being as I was never legally emancipated and she was in no way going to cooperate. It truly sucked being as I was a broke kid trying to go to school yet I could get zero help in the way of loans, financial aid, etc. I don’t wish it on anyone.

      3. EmmaPoet*

        Agreed. If your parents hold the purse strings, and you don’t have the option of a scholarship that will cover everything, you’re either going to end up taking huge loans to get through (if you can get them), or trying to work your way though (which is hard), or go where your parents tell you to get that degree. I’m not going to blame a kid who chose option three.

        1. Jaina Solo*

          I went to a religious university for 2 reasons–1) I thought I should b/c that’s how I was raised, and 2) one of my parents worked for the school so I got free tuition. It really was the least expensive option, and because I hadn’t broken away yet, I stayed around for grad work and a job. I did leave a few years later, but the perks did keep me around longer than I should have stayed.
          I feel uncomfortable like LW2 because my school (prob the same as theirs) has a reputation for some bigotry. No idea where they are now with their beliefs b/c I stay away.

    3. S*

      I highly recommend saying, “I was raised Mormon, so I went to BYU for undergrad.” (Or wherever, but I personally was raised Mormon and did go to BYU.) The nice thing about it is that the phrase makes it clear that you are no longer part of that community without being disrespectful of anyone’s religious beliefs. I have found that it’s helpful to have an immediate pivot into something related but not judgmental, in case people follow up. Sometimes I hear, “Wow, you don’t seem like the type,” and my go-to deflection is “I have eight brothers and sisters!” But it could as easily be “I have mad hotdish skills” or whatever you got out of your religious subculture. Just stay nonjudgmental–this is not the time to go off about your experiences leaving the faith.

      1. darsynia*

        Yeah, it’s probably BYU, though I went to Geneva College, which is exactly like what the OP described. The difference is, though, I don’t think anyone who sees the name will instantly make snap judgments about it.

        Geneva was so restrictive that if you had a guest over or were watching TV in your dorm and your RA or a college employee heard swearing, the student would get a $50 fine. Back in 1998! You also couldn’t print anything, play instruments, or cook on Sundays, because they’re Reformed Presbyterian and believed in the whole ‘no work on the Sabbath’ thing. I wasn’t RP, only attended there because I grew up in the area, loved the campus, and had friends already attending, but again, I doubt anyone would know this stuff if they just saw the name!

        1. darsynia*

          Out of curiosity I just googled my college name + scandal and found out they fired a gay coach for being gay just last year (I attended 25+ years ago at the same time as my gay best friend, heh); it’s still a good idea to mitigate assumptions, since the internet exists!

        2. Persephone Mulberry*

          I don’t think BYU counts as “not super well-known,” though.

          After high school a friend of mine went to a deeply conservative local Christian college. We fell out of touch a bit (this was pre-Facebook) so I don’t know a lot of the particulars of her student life, but I went to her wedding (to another student, before they graduated) and they were not allowed to have dancing. At their OWN, off-campus wedding.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              I think Persephone is disagreeing that the LW is talking about BYU since they (the LW) said it was a not super well-known college (and BYU is pretty well-known).

            2. Lydia*

              You said you were guessing it was BYU after the OP says the school is not super well known in their letter.

              1. darsynia*

                Ah I was responding to/agreeing with the person who was responding to the letter, that’s where it got garbled. I did scoot up to refresh my memory about the letter, but I a) never heard of BYU until Brandon Sanderson’s lectures there caught my attention, and b) didn’t really consider it well known personally, so I couldn’t speak on that. I was more hung up on the ‘reputation’ part of the letter, and how I could illustrate that there are many other small religious colleges. I’m sorry that my throwaway mention of BYU got more attention than the material point of the comment, my bad, I guess.

        3. Sasquatch Turtleneck*

          Very niche response, but I went to Westminster in roughly the same timeframe and I had no idea that Geneva was that restrictive. Westminster was theoretically religious, but in reality not so much. I always thought of Grove City as the restrictive religious college in the area.

          1. darsynia*

            Westminster! I met my husband of 22 years there, but not at college–the regional chorus event was happening there, where you try out for 10 seats per voice part, then come back a few weeks later and practice a concert. It was a nice looking college! This is a great example though, Geneva, Westminster, and Grove City are all Western Pennsylvania small religious colleges. There are plenty of them out there, so saying ‘I went to a small religious college’ should work out well for anyone not looking directly at the resume, LW#2!

            As for Geneva, the best way I can describe the restrictions is this: on our orientation day, when we met our assigned roommates and our RA gave us a speech, she announced there had been some changes. She said women were to wear ankle-length skirts every day, and that male and female students could no longer eat together at the cafeteria. In addition, the schedule for the cafeteria would favor the male students, because they were to grow up to be the spiritual heads of their households.

            She then told us it was all a joke, and we should be grateful for the lessened restrictions we would actually have (including ‘one foot on the floor at all times’ if you had guests over, and the door to your dorm had to be open with guests over)! Soooooo, yeah. I ended up leaving early because, and I wish I were kidding, I was crying about losing my dad while sitting outside. A staff member saw me, didn’t say anything, but assumed I’d gone to harm myself afterwards when I wasn’t there the next time she checked. They asked me to ‘sort myself out’ or I couldn’t return. Bad for the school’s image I guess?? The Dean of Students went to my mom’s church so THAT was awkward.

          2. Mrs. Badcrumble*

            As a Grove City College graduate I can verify that it totally was restrictive, religious, and still is. I went there 25 years ago, and my line when someone recognizes it (and no one has in 20 years) is to say it was inexpensive and a decent education for my major (and came with a free laptop!). I went on to graduate school and that is really my pertinent education — if that’s an option for OP2 I recommend it.

      2. Ace in the Hole*

        I would not take “I was raised Mormon, so I went to BYU for undergrad” to mean someone was no longer part of that religious community. To me, all it sounds like is explaining that you were brought up in the religion vs converting later in life. I know several very religious people who would say something like that about a community they’re still part of now. In that regard it would come across worse to me than saying something like “I thought the academic programs were really good, even if now I’d hesitate to recommend it based on their DEI issues,” or “yes, I they offered me a good scholarship,” or even just not mentioning it at all.

        To convey what you’re going for, may I suggest a slight change in wording: “My parents are [religion], so I went to…” It may seem picky, but to me this implies that the parents are part of the religious community as opposed to the speaker – who as a child/young adult may have been subject to a lot of parental control over what school to attend.

        1. Random Dice*

          Agree. I would never get that from that phrase. Most people stick with the religion they were raised with.

          A better phrase might be “I used to be Mormon.”

        2. JustaTech*

          Oh that’s interesting!
          I’ve always taken people saying “I was raised [blank]” to mean that you’re not that anymore, because then you would say “I am [blank]”, in the present tense, rather than the past tense.

        3. Coverage Associate*

          I have a Jewish name. My last name is my father’s. I don’t volunteer it, but I have used “I was raised evangelical” to explain that I am not a Christian convert even though I say that my father was/is Jewish. And I used something like that when I was still evangelical. Sometimes I explain that my father converted, but that usually requires explaining that he converted long before I was born, etc. I am usually trying to shut down such conversations quickly.

          I think my siblings just pretend that they don’t know they have Jewish names. “My family is Christian” or something.

      3. John*

        I feel like if I heard “I was raised Mormon” I wouldn’t think the person was no longer Mormon. Maybe “My parents were Mormon so I went to BYU”?

        1. Mango Freak*

          maybe “so they sent me to BYU.” But anyway agreed that this probably isn’t BYU.

    4. DameB*

      My kid just got accepted to Smith (with a generous grant!) and I keep thinking about that OP as she tries to decide where to go!

      1. CAHikerGirl*

        Congrats to your child! My daughter graduated from Smith a few years ago and had an amazing experience.

      2. Nancy*

        Congrats to your kid! I went to MHC and had a great experience, and have had positive responses to where I went. Not to say no one like that OP exists, but I have personally never meant anyone like that. They had a lot of incorrect info in their letter anyway.

        1. ReallyBadPerson*

          I went to MHC also, and my daughter went to Wellesley. Most employers seem to view these schools in a positive light.

      3. Noup to Suts*

        I went to a religious women’s college (two strikes!) and, as far as I know, it’s never hurt me in the job market. I later attended a decently highly-ranked law school, and after that no one ever cared where I went to college anyways.

    5. Spero*

      I often hire from a local extremely religious evangelical Christian school that offers a bachelor’s in my field, and it’s not something I screen out because so many of the kids I know were sent there as missionary kids or pastors kids with no control. I’ve worked with a lot of folkswho went there and later realized they were gay, got kicked out of the family for an interracial relationship, etc. If they are willing to apply to my organization knowing we primarily serve LGBTQ, s*x workers, and substance users, I’m willing to speak to them. My interview process includes giving specific scenarios of work they would do for my company that violates the rules of that religious group and they wouldn’t be ok with if they were continuing to adhere to it strictly, and I ask them how they would handle it. If they answer appropriately, I am willing to hire them without asking further about their current adherence to the religion. I also ask the same questions to people who went to the local public university, and I’ve had more people from there tell me they would not serve the client due to their religious beliefs than I have people from the ultra religious one.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        I agree that this is the best approach for being fair to both your candidates and your organization’s focus. I think it would apply very well to any organization that places a value on DEI.

        People do not always have a choice in where they get educated. It’s all very well to say, “Well, I wouldn’t accept the money to go to a school I don’t agree with!!” but when the choice is to do that or have NO economic future, or be perpetually dependent on someone else – well, let’s just say that you have to walk a mile in someone’s shoes before you really understand their life. Perhaps school of any kind is an escape for the person, perhaps that’s all they can afford, or they got scholarships that enabled them to get an education.

        It’s also entirely possible for someone to believe one thing at a point in their life, and to learn a different perspective / attitude later.

        Far better to look at what people’s actual attitudes are TODAY – and to do so with ALL candidates. Just because someone went to a secular or even socially progressive university – it doesn’t mean they hold those values, either.

    6. NotAnotherManager!*

      I would not call going to a women’s college a youthful “mistake” someone made at age 18 – that OP was working off a very biased and misguided base that was entirely their issue (though they were making it others’) and not that naive 18-year-olds just don’t know they “should” go to a co-ed school. Women’s colleges don’t come with the baggage of clearly religious schools, especially the ones that are more religion than school.

      1. Mia*

        My point was more that even if the OP’s assumptions about women’s college attendees had a basis in fact, you still have to consider that not everyone thinks the same way at 25, 35, 45, etc that they did at 18. Even a person who picked a women’s college because they had all the terrible qualities at age 18 that the letter mentioned could have grown out of those qualities, just like the OP here no longer identifies with the religion in question.

    7. not nice, don't care*

      Nope. When I was 18 I still knew not to support religious extremists who want people like me dead. Money doesn’t buy back lives or freedoms. As someone who grew up poor and experienced extreme financial hardship, it’s still better to be poor than give anything to vile haters.

      1. H*

        It’s great that you had such strong convictions at such a young age, but some 18 year olds have been indoctrinated into harmful beliefs their whole lives and it takes time and experience for them to learn that they can believe something different.

        I also had a friend who grew up in LDS whose parents would only pay for college if he went to a BYU school, so he chose one knowing fully well he didn’t agree with the church but would fare better in the world with a college degree.

      2. bill gothard sux*

        Nah. I was raised in the same cult as the Duggars, where the father is the ultimate authority and the women are only allowed to be subservient homemakers who pop out babies. My parents wanted me to get married right after I graduated high school and become a housewife.
        The ONLY way I got out of that (physically, verbally, sexually) household, and, eventually, the church, was by convincing my father to let me attend an extremely conservative Christian university to study Child Development, ostensibly to prepare me for motherhood. The (limited) freedom of attending college away from my family allowed me to realize how messed up my family was, start to deconstruct, and gather resources to eventually get out.
        If I hadn’t made that choice, I’d probably have 5+ kids with a husband twice my age, no financial independence, and still be in that horrific church. Miss me with that black and white morality crap.

      3. NoisyNora*

        My college (as many colleges do, I’m sure) had a freshman year facebook where you were supposed to list you name, hometown, interests, and intended major. There was at least one person on every page who had listed a major the college did not offer (engineering, business, journalism, education, architecture). It was a small liberal arts college. My point: dozens of kids had enrolled without knowing what programs the school did and did not have. Entirely possible a person could enroll at a bigoted school and not know it. Not everyone gathers all the facts.

  2. Ismone*

    Oh man. One time I asked for our parental leave policies “for future reference” and was asked when I was due. I was like, uh, per my last email I’m not, I just wanted to know what our policies were.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      That’s such an odd question for HR to ask with no context for why they’re asking. Plenty of people look at benefits before getting pregnant or when they’re considering leaving for somewhere with better benefits; asking about them shouldn’t lead to assumptions.

      All that being said, since they don’t have any info beyond state- and federally-mandated stuff available on their site, it makes me think they like to claim they have good family leave when they just provide what’s legally required and nothing more, unless you pay out the nose for it in short term disability.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        I’m very much getting the impression that there is a sizeable minority out there who cannot fathom anybody asking a question for any reason other than an immediate need for it. I noticed in the early months of covid, if you mentioned something was considered a possible risk factor, people tended to assume you had it or knew somebody who did or if you were following the stats, people assumed you were very worried about catching it.

        Some people don’t seem to have any interest in information until it affects them right now and they don’t seem to grasp that people might want to plan in advance or might have an interest in knowing facts.

        Though HR should surely know better.

          1. Sparkles McFadden*

            Nope, not a minority. People who think things through and plan in advance tend to associate with people who operate in that same way, so we fall into the trap of thinking that’s the way everyone does things. Most people just react to whatever happens and they think planning in advance is a waste of time.

        1. Rex Libris*

          “Some people don’t seem to have any interest in information until it affects them right now and they don’t seem to grasp that people might want to plan in advance or might have an interest in knowing facts.”

          Actually, I think you more or less just described the entire underlying cause for the current American social and political situation.

      2. Llama Llama*

        I work for a company that offers 16 weeks of maternity leave. I have multiple times tried to find the policy on the website for other people in my team and UGH. It’s extremely difficult. It’s there but but you have to dig through a lot of stuff to find it. I turned them over to HR who had the answer, policy ready when seconds.

        So just because she can’t find something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

      3. Double A*

        I’ve had pretty good leaves and it was indeed covered by short term disability, which wasn’t insanely expensive.

        1. Zombeyonce*

          My short term disability was very expensive, and you had to be signed up for it the year before you might need it or you couldn’t use it. That meant that I had to pay for it for 2 extra years before the year we needed it when planning a pregnancy. It also meant that people with unplanned pregnancies often ended up not getting to use it at all.

    2. Free Meerkats*

      Had a coworker at a previous job who had the same worries, so I, a male, asked the question of HR for her. Wasn’t planning to ever have children and didn’t, but got the info she needed and passed it on to her.

    3. pally*

      I despise when folks make assumptions like that! Company benefits are something every employee should be informed about.

      I wonder how they might respond if your inquiry was about the bereavement policy?
      Would they be so crass as to ask who was dying?

      Or the life insurance coverage or payout?
      Would they fear you were planning something rash and push the mental health care options contained in the health insurance they offer?

      Or the tuition reimbursement policy?
      Would they inquire whether your classes will impact your work time?

      1. CherryBlossom*

        Having been a reader of this site for years, I fully believe there are people in HR who would be crass enough to ask all of those questions and fully jumpy to the worst conclusion. I don’t blame LW for wanting to cover their bases, just in case.

      2. Avery*

        Relatedly, one possibility that occurred to me was asking about a bundle of policies like that all at once. If you just ask about parental leave, it’s possible that will be taken as a Sign. If you ask about parental leave, bereavement leave, tuition reimbursement, life insurance coverage, and 401K plans all at once, they’d presumably just shrug and think you’re trying to cover your butt, plan ahead for many possible futures, or possibly compare benefits with a potential new job.

      3. Zephy*

        My company’s bereavement policy has a specified list of approved relatives for whom you are allowed to use bereavement leave. I had to submit a copy of my grandpa’s obituary in order to charge 3 out of 5 days’ leave to bereavement instead of burning through my own PTO. I was named among the surviving family but I’m almost certain they wouldn’t have approved the bereavement leave if I were not, if the obit had just said my grandpa was “survived by his wife, two children, and eight grandchildren.”

  3. The Gnome*

    What LW 1 experienced turned me into Ma Otter from those Emmett Otter bloopers.

    “Hubba WAH? Hubba hubba WAH?”

    Jane…no. Just no.

      1. The Gnome*

        It did indeed allow me to read it, since it was shared by a subscriber! They did an excellent job differentiating between someone who thinks they’re Robin Hood or somebody who acted in manner of Jean Valjean.

    1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

      I had an absolutely bonkers coworker at a former job tell me about two instances where he broke the law- one where he trespassed into a gated community (by cutting the fencing!) and fishing in their lake, taking a huge fish out of their pond and another where he would clock in, leave work, and then come back at the end of the day to clock out. He was proud of himself for both and I was completely amazed that he felt comfortable tell me about these. Not only were they illegal and unethical, the second really screwed his coworkers over- I already knew he was incompetent, but this proved he couldn’t be trusted as a coworker to literally even attempt his job.

      My point is, some people are just completely clueless.

      1. WellRed*

        This is the same person who, if he saw you drop your wallet, would pick it up and say it’s his, because “finders, keepers.”

      2. Sparkles McFadden*

        I had a similar coworker who would brag about things such as stealing a cable feed from his neighbor or making a bogus insurance claim. Thieving coworker was very confused when another coworker said “I don’t know what’s worse. That you think these things are worth bragging about, or that you think that the rest of us would admire you for all of it.”

        1. Allie*

          We were in a large training class as new auto insurance adjusters. Day 2 of orientation. To the shock and horror of EVERYONE in the room, one of the new hires told us all how he’d committed insurance fraud when he was 17. He’d backed his dad’s truck into a pole in the parking lot & claimed another car hit him. He told us he did not drop that lie even when his dad & the adjuster pointed out that the dent was very narrow & filled with yellow paint scratches. He only dropped it when SIU got involved and showed him parking lot video of him backing into the pole. And only then because they threatened to have him charged.

          I’ve never heard a training room so silent before.

          Amazingly, the company still let him work there!!! (Though he did get fired about 4 months later for calling out “sick” to work, going to Coachella, & posting picks of him at Coachella on an Instagram account where his team lead was a follower.)

          1. But what to call me?*

            Wait, so he actually bragged about unsuccessfully committing insurance fraud?

        2. Random Dice*

          “another coworker said “I don’t know what’s worse. That you think these things are worth bragging about, or that you think that the rest of us would admire you for all of it.””

          Clap Clap

        3. The Gnome*

          “another coworker said “I don’t know what’s worse. That you think these things are worth bragging about, or that you think that the rest of us would admire you for all of it.””

          Other Coworker gets a round of applause for that one.

      3. TootsNYC*

        a cousin of ours, about age 27, was bragging about how he’d dented his car, then parked it in a parking log and claimed to the insurance company that someone had struck it there.

        Later he was bragging to younger male cousins about how he was going to break up with his girlfriend but was going to wait until the end of the summer because he was living with her and didn’t want to have to move out.

      4. Wendy Darling*

        I had someone at work tell me that he’d been out after the bus stopped running one night so he badged into the office and slept on the couch in our team’s workroom.

        He was not my report (I was in fact an IC), but his manager was my peer on the same team AND my best work friend. I didn’t have any kind of moral problem with what he did, but it was unprofessional, and your manager’s work bestie is not the right person to tell about your unprofessional behavior!

        I was like, I had better never find out you did that again. I’m not saying you better not do it again, I’m saying no one had better find out about it.

            1. Boof*

              I guess… I would feel like it was just chatter and said “I’m glad you had a safe place to crash!” or something … nice/sympathetic? That isn’t entitlement that’s just weathering a crazy situation and chatting about it.

      5. Bast*

        I wonder if we worked at the same company or employed the same person, because we had someone who did the same thing. He worked an overnight shift who would come in, clock in, leave to go home, and only come back in time to clock out and leave. He eventually got caught and fired. This was only possible to get away with for so long because the overnight shift was a skeleton crew in a rather large building and he was the only one in his particular part of the building, so it was fairly easy to overlook.

        1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

          As far as I know, this was day shift and his mom had gotten him the job- so, egregiously, he had burned a bridge with this employer AND made his mom look bad. I probably have a book of stories about this person. He was a trip.

          1. Bast*

            Yikes. There’s nothing like sticking your neck out for someone and then having them act like that.

    2. Phony Genius*

      I never expected to see an Emmett Otter reference here. And I’m not sure how many other readers even remember it. (Even my memories of it are fading – now I have to go rewatch it.)

      1. The Gnome*

        It was my favorite Christmas special growing up and I got so excited a few years ago when I got it on DVD that I actually happy danced in the checkout line at FYE. (That was about 4 or 5 years ago I think and I’m turning 37 this year, soooooo…lol)

        The blooper reel is a thing of beauty. Frank Oz’s comedic timing is absolutely legendary.

    3. slightly hypocritical*

      To me, this is not about whether that’s “ok to say here” and more about whether shoplifting is “ok to do.”

      You don’t owe it to your coworker to give them a heads up that revealing their lack of integrity could cause work problems and they should hide it. You learned your coworker steals, and it’s not a bad thing for you to know that about them.

      I’d like to think I’d have said in the moment “I think shoplifting is wrong and this makes me less likely to trust you in the future.” The coworker can decide for themself whether that influences her choice to shoplift, her choice to talk about it at work, or neither.

      The world doesn’t benefit from untrustworthy people learning how to hide their untrustworthiness better.

      1. Ali + Nino*

        YES! That…distinction? bugged me. It’s not that talking about it is wrong (if anything, I could respect that – you’re owning your actions), the thing you’re doing is wrong.

      2. Despachito*

        This! Thank you.

        The problem is definitely NOT she is not hiding it, the problem is she is DOING it.

  4. BurnItAllDown*

    Uh, my take on LW’s coworker, if she thought you would have a problem with what she said – tell anyone, etc. – she would take measures to discredit you. Stay well away from her.

    1. Lucy*

      That’s a weird take when there’s literally no indication of this. I kind of get assuming it, if you assume that someone who shoplifts from massive corporations therefore has zero morals at all, but I think that’s a weird assumption in itself.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I would assume it’s someone who is used to scrambling to cover their oopsies, and casting bystanders under the bus is part of that.

        I will note that OP seems to be higher up (but not the Very Young Person’s manager) and so I think cringing in fear of the new hire is really the wrong move. But I certainly wouldn’t be putting faith in Young Person’s judgment, ability to represent the organization, etc.

        1. Smithy*

          I will say that the #1 reason this young person would benefit from being talked to is because these are the sorts of assumptions that your coworkers will make.

          I think that shoplifting is one of those crimes that really falls of a spectrum of how people react to it. Whether it’s seen as youthful mischief, reporting people who say they brought their own bag at self checkout before taking plastic bags, or if they’re old enough to think of Winona Rider in a luxury department store.

          Basically, the impact in how people can think of you as it relates to trustworthiness really fluctuates based on their own relationship to a petty crime. That depending on who they are, some people will emphasize the “petty” and others the “crime”.

          1. Dasein9 (he/him)*

            And the reasons for it. I’d be sympathetic to someone who shoplifted food when money was tight but worry that someone doing it for thrills might make poor decisions in general.

            1. JustAnotherCommenter*

              Absolutely. Personlly? f I see someone shoplifting individual quantities of necessities like baby formula – no I didn’t.
              But anything else? Nah.

              I noticed it was a trend for a while to be really casual about stealing from big box stores and corporations just as LWs coworker does out of a misguided sense of stick-it-to-the-man “activism” – but that’s actually not helpful because it’s not the CEO who takes a pay cut when shoplifting rates are up at their stores, it’s the minimum wage employees who get their hours and perks cut because profits are down and then the stores hire more security people and the folks who might be shoplifting out of true necessity are more likely to get caught.

              Frankly, I find it really embarrassing for anyone to be proud of shoplifting.

              1. WillowSunstar*

                I would think too, those costs get pushed over to consumers in the form of higher prices.

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            I think talking about how much you enjoy stealing things and then claiming that it’s okay because you only steal from “big corporations” is generally a display of bad judgment and poor critical thinking skills. She thinks that the only ill affects are on the large corporation? Nope, there’s going to be inventory/cash discrepancy hassles for the low-level retail employees and increased costs for other consumers that aren’t interested in picking up her “fun” pastime. She’s not stealing to survive, she’s stealing for kicks.

            I would not trust her not to say something boneheaded to volunteers or, worse, friends of the library organizations that help with fundraising or one of the book-banning yahoos hellbent on showing that libraries are eeeeeevvilll. Does she belong in jail? No. Should she be given substantial responsibilities or positive feedback for her hobby? Nope.

    2. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

      This is such a tangent but could you elaborate on that a bit? In my head, someone who is open and positive about shoplifting from large stores is the opposite of the kind of person who would (or even could) Macchiavellianly (sp?) plot to discredit a coworker for repeating something she was happy to share in the first place. Obviously neither of us knows, but I’d be interested to hear more about your perspective because I don’t intuitively grasp it and I’m always interested in my blind spots.

      1. melissa*

        I agree— this girl sounds absolutely clueless to me. She doesn’t sound like someone who is going to be one step ahead of you and plan your career demise.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          Agteed, chatting about how much she enjoys stealing doesn’t make her seem like the most cunningly strategic employee of all time.

        2. Jaydee*

          I’m not sure she’s clueless. Definitely naive. I think she has kind of thought this through or at least rationalized it. It seems like she thinks she’s doing some kind of “ethical” thievery (only stealing from nameless, faceless, evil, giant corporations). Just because they are large companies doesn’t make it any less illegal, and “but I was doing a Robin Hood” is not a defense that holds up in court.

          That said, I think someone who thinks they’re doing something ethically isn’t immediately going to jump to scheming against the LW. I imagine she would be quite shocked to find that the LW still felt her shoplifting wasn’t okay even after her justification and would be trying to rationalize it to the boss/HR.

        3. Resentful Oreos*

          I agree: Jane is clueless, and my guess is nothing in her family or upbringing has really prepared her for “normal” life. She genuinely might not realize that it’s not normal to brag about shoplifting. There are so very many families who do a terrible job of raising their kids to be competent adults, it’s very very possible that Jane has gotten this far with nobody sitting her down and saying “Ocean’s Eleven is not reality.”

    3. darsynia*

      I think ‘I love that I can say that here’ makes it pretty clear that the coworker doesn’t have any concerns like that.

      1. OP #1*

        OP here! Yes, no part of me is worried about retaliation from a 19 year old who has worked less than a year at a place I have worked since she was in middle school, with mostly people who have known me for over 5 years. I’m a known quantity.

        Also- I genuinely like this girl! She needs a little seasoning, but didn’t we all? And people can tell when you genuinely like them.

        1. JustAnotherCommenter*

          If you genuinely like her and are up to it then I would suggest taking her out for a coffee and talking about this. When I was a little younger than her I had an older employee take me out for coffee once in a while to chat about work things and it was a really great low-key way to get friendly “big sister” style mentorship. Sometimes we’d talk through my issues or questions or sometimes she’d tell me about her stressors and the ways she handled them professionally – but it felt like swapping stories rather than “here’s a lesson” which was what I needed at that age.
          I learned so much from her and absolutely helped me adapt to professional norms much more quickly.

        2. Resentful Oreos*

          If you genuinely like her, and think she’s an OK person except for the bragging about shoplifting, then it might be time for a “business lunch” where you have a heart-to-heart with her about what is OK and not OK to say in the workplace.

          It sounds like she’s not this sneaky Machiavellian type, but someone who is young, and new to the work world, and has this vision of herself as a Holly Golightly wanna-be. A surprising number of people enter the adult world as if raised by wolves. They don’t have a clue that “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” or the Danny Ocean series is not how the real world works, and their families are, for whatever reason, not capable of teaching them to act like regular adults who can succeed in the workplace. (Remember the letter about how one coworker tickled another? And the one whose coworker either pinched or kicked them hard at meetings?) I think there are people who just honestly *do not know* the first thing about how to interact outside a very structured environment such as school or the military.

          Jane might just need a kind, but frank, talk about what kind of conversations are well-received in the workplace and what will get the side-eye. “Jane, shoplifting is illegal, and your coworkers won’t applaud and think you are sticking it to the man or being the cutest manic pixie dream girl ever, they are going to give you the side-eye and think you are not trustworthy.”

        3. Alright Alright Alright*

          She sounds a little immature, which is understandable at 19! It would be a kindness to pull her aside privately and say, “It’s great that we all get along and can chat with each other, but you shouldn’t talk about shoplifting with your coworkers. It could damage your reputation here.” I don’t think you have any obligation to comment on the shoplifting itself; she will likely get caught and learn that lesson for herself soon enough.

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

      also, this is someone right out of high school who has no professional background. She doesn’t know NOT to say these things.

      1. Resentful Oreos*

        Yes, bragging about shoplifting is very very high-school edgelord-y stuff. Normally it’s one of those phases that passes when the shoplifter is caught, or when they wise up and realize it’s not really any kind of activism, and it only hurts consumers and retail clerks.

        Jane doesn’t seem like a bad person, just in need of guidance. A lot of people from functional families take for granted what you learn from them, and what you don’t learn if you are unlucky enough to have a terrible family.

  5. Elk*

    OP 5: I’m just starting the process of working with a fertility clinic, so I’m not even pregnant yet but hope to be soon. My employer has very little information available about leave, and since that impacts some decisions I’m making now I’ve been discreetly asking a couple of coworkers who have recently taken advantage of the (really quite awful) leave we do get. If you have someone you trust, other people that have recently been pregnant might understand the need for discretion and have helpful information.

    1. Cmdrshprd*

      I want to second this, I was this person to a coworker. I had recently one back from parental leave and they had questions about the process/policies. I was happy to help and keep it confidential. They told me they were expecting.

      But even if they said just planning for the future I would have been happy to talk to them.

    2. Zombeyonce*

      Each time I returned from maternity leave, I quickly learned who else was doing family planning. I got a lot of DMs from team members asking how the parental leave benefits worked and how extensive they were. I was happy to explain what I knew and keep the questions to myself.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        It’s amazing to see that so many people are having to resort to such strategies to find out information that should be very easy to find.
        Almost as if they wanted you to have to ask…
        Call me paranoid!

        1. Lydia*

          I think for some HR staff it’s probably to make sure people get accurate information, but it can be weaponized.

        2. Cmdrshprd*

          I will say for my company, our policy was very accessible in our employee handbook, that everyone gets on their first day.

          I am the kind of person that reads the handbook/policies in detail, asks questions, and makes sure to keep a copy handy. I know many other people who do not. I was the go to person for company benefits/policy questions in our regional office.

          The person I talked to had the handbook/policy, but they asked more detailed/nitty gritty information about the mechanics/practical side, of informing boss/HR, filling out paperwork, how supportive they were etc…

    3. Malarkey01*

      The other thing I found with each of mine is that the “policy” is 12 week FMLA. The practicality was you want 6 months? Okay and here’s how that can be managed.

      It is very possible that HR will send you exactly what you’ve already found but recent parents or when ready to talk to your supervisor will yield the actual info.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        I’d agree with this. At my public agency people have found the best way to use our paid parental leave, FMLA, sick leave balances, and the sick leave bank program in a somewhat confusing overlapping way to get the most paid time off. Different aspects are managed by different people in HR, so other people who’ve taken parental leave recently are likely to be the most helpful in figuring out how to approach it.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I work in government, and at one point I wrote up a chart of the six different types of leave I was granted, which types didn’t automatically roll over, which were capped, which expired, which had restrictions on how they could be used, etc. They’ve simplified since then, but for a while deciding whether I was taking a day off for “wellness” or a “sabbatical” required checking that chart.

      2. No Tribble At All*

        Yes, and the recent parents had the advice about when you need to tell HR, what paperwork you need from your doctor, etc

    4. Peon*

      I agree; I’ve discreetly answered questions regarding my maternity leave AND about my experience using our health benefits for fertility treatments. Also shared about using the lactation rooms after. I’d also be happy to take the hit for the OP and query HR for her. I don’t care if anyone thinks I’m pregnant, they’ll find out different soon enough.

    5. Silver Robin*

      One of my coworkers came back from parental leave a year ago (good lord was that a year ago??); he had managed 3 months off. In our first meeting to catch him up on a new process, I commented on how nice it was to see that he was able to take three months and he *immediately* gave me a short version of how he did it and offered to walk me through it if I ever wanted to know more specifics. It was really sweet, and I appreciated it even though I am not planning on children yet.

    6. GoldenHandcuffs*

      This is the way. Find someone who recently returned from leave and ask for a discreet rundown. I also did this for several colleagues near my leave times. We also have an on-site daycare so this would also be my opportunity to educate them on the waitlist for the daycare and how it’s so long and if they wanted that option, to get on the waitlist ASAP.

      I was also able to extend my leave because my leave timed out perfectly to encompass two years worth of FMLA and the leave from my state. So I was able to add a few extra weeks that I wouldn’t have known about it if another employee hadn’t clued me in that it was a possibility.

      Does your company have any employee resource groups related to parenting? That would be another great source of info.

      1. Kyrielle*

        My state has a law that in many cases makes for additional (albeit still unpaid) leave being possible, depending on your circumstances and a few other things. It overlaps with FMLA in some cases, but adds additional time in others. Our HR at the company I was at when I had my kids was happy to comply with it, but had no idea it existed – they were headquartered in another state. There are so many niche things that can play into this sort of thing – I clued another coworker in a while later about it also.

    7. Janeric*

      When I was first pregnant with my child, our HR was known to tell their work friends about office pregnancies as soon as they were informed. I too called a coworker who had recently returned from leave and bought her a coffee while we talked about the “hypothetical” situation and how to hypothetically optimize my outcomes. We said “hypothetically” about seven thousand times and we figured out an optimal path for leave.

    8. Festively Dressed Earl*

      This. LW 5 mentioned that another coworker on her team recently took maternity leave; is it possible to ask her a few curiosity questions here and there?

  6. Artemesia*

    Counter offer. Maybe someday we will contemplate promoting you but we certainly can’t pay you any more now. Make the decision assuming you will get nothing. But now if you say, you will have told them you will accept nothing. Then you can have the joy of watching some new guy get hired with a bit less experience in a similar role and paid 25% more.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      Even if they really do plan to promote LW, they’re offering a bad deal. The economy is volatile right now and companies are changing budgets often due to external circumstances. Even if the promotion came through, why would you want to take a job with more responsibility for the same amount of money you could be making right now for what you’re already doing?

      LW should take the new job, see if they can get more and varied experience, and if their current company creates the manager position in a year (or more), they can apply for it and have an even better baseline salary to start with.

      1. ReginaFilangy*

        LW here, you and Alison are totally on point. I also left out some details in an attempt to make my question 600 words or less – the promotion would have included meeting the salary of the new job I’ve been offered. The salary is in the range of that title. But you are right, there is a huge risk that something will come up and they can’t promote me next year. And internal promotions usually don’t come with a 24% salary increase. Thank you all for the perspective!

    2. niknik*

      I also don’t understand how LW thinks their situation is so different to those described in the blog they say they read ?

      1. ReginaFilangy*

        LW here! I think I left out some details in my original question to try and keep to Alison’s 600 word recommendation :) the current job said, when promoting me next year, would match the salary of the offer I have. I just thought my situation was a little different because I love my current team and my job, so there’s a risk I won’t love my new team as much. BUT Alison’s response and the comments have really affirmed for me to take the new job.

        1. Mango Freak*

          Anytime someone takes a new job there’s a risk of the unknown.

          But anytime someone takes a counteroffer that’s “big raise to meet the other place’s salary” there’s a HUGE risk of “and that’s the last time you’re ever getting a raise from us.” At the new place, it’ll be your *starting* salary, and you’ll get raises from there.

          Your team could all leave. Hell, if you turn down this role, maybe your favorite coworker will take it.

      2. ReginaFilangy*

        LW here, I left out some details in an attempt to meet Alison’s recommended 600 word count:) I felt it a bit different from previous columns because I love my job and my team now, and so there’s a risk I won’t love the new job and new team. I also fine with the money I make now and don’t feel I’m underpaid. But Alison’s and the commenters responses are spot on and I thank this community!

        1. Mari*

          I had a job that I loved. I had been there a significant amount of time, felt appreciated, loved my coworkers and the work. Then an overly ambitious, manipulative new hire changed the vibe. Then he got promoted and I found a new job. Things can change quickly at any job.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        I mean, the entire basis of advice columns, and their focus on relationships (here, working ones), is that people are convinced their own case is the rare unicorn and not like all these other relationship examples.

      4. watermelon fruitcake*

        I really thought, with the title of the submission, that they had some truly exceptional scenario. That we would finally see Alison say, “you know what, yeah, it’s still a risk because you are emptying your social/professional capital for this, and you might attract undue attention, but damn this is an offer even I would not refuse.” Like if their employer came back with double the raise and an immediate promotion, plus 10 additional days vacation, with the employment agreement stating as much ready to be signed RIGHT THERE, on the spot, effective the nanosecond the signature dries.

        And instead it was worse than the usual counteroffer. It’s not even a counteroffer – it is the potential of a counteroffer next year.

    3. linger*

      If considering taking the outside offer, OP3 needs to confirm whether like is really being compared with like in terms of after-tax income and the available benefits package (including healthcare cover). The outside offer may come with a 25% higher before-tax salary, but may still end up costing more, because it is a position as a consultant and is not permanent. Changing from employee (pay received = after tax) to contractee (responsible for paying own tax), and changing from a secure to a non-secure position, both require more money upfront just to break even.

      1. amoeba*

        Does consultant mean “contractor” in this example? I assumed it was a salaried job at a consulting company (a la McKinsey etc.), for which at least here in Europe the benefits would be the same as for any other salaried job. But I might be wrong and yes, that would certainly change things!

        1. Cmdrshprd*

          “Europe the benefits would be the same as for any other salaried job.”

          In the US the benefits vary widely with salaried jobs, especially comparing between small, medium, to large size companies. But even with companies of similar size they might have general common benefits (health/vision/dental/retirement), but the specific details/costs can vary from, especially depending on your specific situation.

          I recently compared benefits for two similar sized companies and the family health insurance coverage costs and payout were very different. I think the individual/employee were about similar.

        2. Random Dice*

          The terms get used interchangeably in the US, but can also be different. A contractor can be independent (no benefits) or working for a company that holds a contract (usually with benefits). Consultants should have benefits if hired by a company, but can also be independent (someone who set up shop, no benefits). It’s a mess.

      2. ReginaFilangy*

        LW here! It’s a permanent salaried position in the US but that makes total sense! I did do the math and the after tax pay including all of my deductions would be significantly more than I’m making now.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Take the new job, Regina! As AAM is often saying, do you really want to work for a company that will only give you a raise when you threaten to leave? That’s not even taking into account the fact that they are only promising you a raise next year, which is just bonkers. And even if the new job doesn’t seem quite as safe from layoffs as your current one, even if they do lay you off in a year or two that’s a year or two of a much higher salary than you’re making now. And also, I should think that just working for a company who is willing to pay you – as a starting salary, without even your having to negotiate – what you should be getting paid (IMO :-) ) would be a nice change for you.

          I’m actually looking at new positions myself and while my younger self would say that money is no issue, this time around I refuse to even apply for jobs where the pay is less than 25% more than what I’m making now. My industry recently did a survey of salaries for people with my training and I’m making 25% less than the average so I’m only applying for positions that make average salary and above. I’m worth more! You are too, Regina!

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          Take the new job. If they are not able to immediately make good a promotion and salary increase, they’re not really making you a counter.

          I had this happen a couple of years ago – one of my best people got recruited to take a similar position for a major increase. They loved our organization, but the money was too much to say no to immediately, so they called to ask if we could get closer to it. We gave them a substantial increase to match their offer effective immediately, and they’re still with us and have since been promoted to a senior-level role.

        3. KHB*

          I don’t know…I think there’s a lot to be said for staying in your current job too. The salient factor to me is that you weren’t unhappy in your current role and you weren’t looking to leave. And unless there’s a LOT more evidence than you’ve given here that your current employer is prone to mistreating people or dealing in bad faith, I don’t think it makes sense to conclude that that’s what they’re doing here.

          It seems believable to me that they can’t readjust your salary in the middle of the year, but they can do it next year. And this is a promotion that they were already talking about giving you, even before you got the new job offer. So it’s not like they’re just making things up to get you to stay.

          Job security is worth something, and so is being at an employer you love with a team you know you get along with. I don’t know your financial situation, so I don’t know what a 24% raise would mean to you, or if it’s worth potentially losing those things to get it. But the job that’s offering you the highest salary RIGHT NOW isn’t always the best one in the long run.

          (And again, unless your current employer has a history of breaking promises to people – which would make me wonder why you love them so much – I’d think there’s every reason to think that a 24% raise is still very much on the table at the current job too.)

        4. MigraineMonth*

          Yes, OP*, take the job and 25% pay bump that’s available now!

          If your old company posts a management position with more stability in 1-3 years, you can always apply for it then. (If they don’t, you’ll know you made the right choice because it was never going to materialize.)

    4. BubbleTea*

      Yes, the wording definitely left room for them deciding to use the budget for the manager role to hire or promote someone other than LW. It’s not a counteroffer, it’s a vague hope.

    5. Clearance Issues*

      I had an old company say they’d “review my pay to see if I was qualified for more in November” (at the time it was April) and I was just. I had been going above and beyond and I had an offer to start at the new company next week for 33% more… and I knew VERY well if they didn’t upgrade the pay there and then, I would not get a raise, even if it was in writing. I’d watched it happen to multiple coworkers.

    6. pally*

      One can always get hired back by the current company for a new position- after taking a job elsewhere. It happens all the time.

      Take the job offer, then see if this new job materializes and then apply for it (assuming they post the job to outside applicants).

      1. lambchop*

        This is exactly what I did – took a contracting job for 60% higher pay, lasted 14 months before my position was eliminated due to budget issues, and am set to go back to my old company in a new role that pays 10% more than the original role I had with them. I’m taking a huge paycut now, but for a much more stable position, and my year contracting allowed me to move to a much nicer house, support my sister’s family for 3 months after she got laid off, pay off quite a bit of debt, and plan 2 European vacations. It’s been hectic but I’d absolutely do it over again for the financial boost the contracting role gave me!

    7. Momma Bear*

      I agree. It’s vapor unless it’s in writing and firm. I wouldn’t even consider it as an option. I agree to compare what OP has *now* to the other company’s offer.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I wouldn’t trust an in-writing, firm job offer for a year from now (outside of certain fields). It’s too far away!

    8. learnedthehardway*

      Yeah – that’s is NOT a counter-offer. That’s a tentative plan to do something in the future, that may or may not come to fruition.

      This is definitely a bird in hand vs bird in the bush situation. The manager title and raise are definitely the bird in the bush.

  7. Educator*

    LW2, when people are just making conversation–like not an interview or a planning meeting with a new team lead, but just getting-to-know-you chat, can you dodge saying the school name all together? Do what the Harvard people do and say you went to school “near Boston.” Throw in a fun detail about the city in general, like “I got to see the Red Sox every opening day” and you can take the conversation in another direction entirely.

    And when you do have to say it, as someone who would feel pretty unsafe around you if I thought you had Liberty University-esque views, I would appreciate if, in addition to finding ways to show that you don’t, you straight up said something like, “obviously, they have anti-LGBTQ and anti-civil-rights views that I find abhorrent.”

    1. Carl*

      I also have reason to raise an eyebrow if someone said they went to Liberty-esque U., but I think Alison’s suggested language of “I’ve changed a lot since I went there” would suffice for me. I don’t need to know that you agree with my politics. But I do need to know, if you ever want me to feel comfortable around you, a subtle recognition that you’re not with the total loony birds.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      The “near Boston” and “in Connecticut” responses from Harvard and Yale alum drive me bonkers and are completely transparent. LW’s reasons are different, but just throwing that out there. I might say, “it was a tiny religious college, best option at the time” and move on.

      For what it’s worth, this question usually goes away after a while. Very few people I know have any clue where I went to college. Which was outside of Boston and was not Harvard.

      1. darsynia*

        I also just want to agree with that wording, as there are many tiny religious colleges! It doesn’t always have to be the ones well known for their bigotry, though realistically this LW probably knows theirs will be recognized as such. I went to one myself (Preacher’s Kid, evangelical family, 20 minutes from my house, grew up around it and loved the campus, etc.), but no one would know it by the name.

        1. sparkle emoji*

          LW could even drop the “religious” if they’re concerned, totally fine to say “tiny college in New York” or similar if it’s a little-known school and they don’t want to bring religion into it.

      2. bee*

        I went to school “in New Jersey” and I totally get why it’s annoying but it’s a real lose-lose situation, honestly. People are weird about it, and make a whole set of assumptions that can be hard to shake (it was actually cheaper than my state school, and I graduated without loans!) so if it’s not relevant to the conversation it’s sometimes easier to just breeze past it.

        Relatedly, in college, I had to learn to say I’m from “western North Carolina” and not “the Appalachian Mountains.” People are weird about stuff!

        1. Jay (no, the other one)*

          I stopped with the “in New Jersey” answer when I was about 40 and finally decided that other people being weird about it was their problem, not mine. It was not coincidental that I had reached a point in my career where that attitude wouldn’t come back to bite me. And the weirdness was compounded by the fact that I’m a woman who started there less than ten years after co-education became a thing…so people had ALL SORTS OF ASSUMPTIONS. Sigh.

        2. Silver Robin*

          I also went to one of those schools and now live in that city. I have flipped it around and made it a test for other people. I state it breezily and like it was no big deal, move on immediately with a follow up, like Alison always recommends. Most people then take the cue and treat it as unremarkable. Those that do not are the weird ones and now I know they have insecurities or hang ups or preconceived notions that I need to look out for.

          The only exception is when I need to make a good impression with people who put stock into that kind of thing; like with the in-laws when my partner used my degrees to brag about how cool I am. I will sit in that conversation topic a little longer, but not much.

          1. Jay (no, the other one)*

            Oh, yeah. I’m perfectly capable of swinging it around when I need to. Doesn’t happen very often these days. When I was younger and starting out in a male-dominated filed *and* looked about ten years younger than my actual age….it came in handy.

            1. Silver Robin*


              Good lord, I also had a moment where a friend and I were discussing politics and she kept saying “as a trained historian” because she had an undergrad degree in history. It got so irritating that I eventually asked which school she went to (did not recognize it) and then explained that I, too, have a history undergrad in [highly regarded institution everyone knows the name of] and a masters in [another highly regarded institution everyone knows the name of] so if she wanted to play the academia game, I have her fully beat. But, instead, she could also just tell me what she thinks and provide evidence without swinging the degrees around because if I learned anything after getting out of academia, it was that there are a *lot* of ways of being an expert in something that has nothing to do with classrooms.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            I have lived in the DC area for 20 years (on the Virginia side) and still get comments about being “from Virginia”. Someone at work recently told me they could “never live in Virginia!” like Arlington or Fairfax is so much different than MoCo or upper NW.

        3. fidget spinner*

          I wonder how many people didn’t go to Princeton but use the “in New Jersey” because they went to a state school….

      3. MicroManagered*

        near Boston” and “in Connecticut” responses from Harvard and Yale alum drive me bonkers and are completely transparent.

        It’s truly a “damned if you, damned if you don’t” situation. If someone says they went to Harvard, some people will instantly make assumptions about them that may be unfair. If they downplay it by NOT saying Harvard, some people are driven bonkers because it’s completely transparent.

      4. Retired Accountant*

        I agree. I won’t be needing a fainting couch if someone tells me they went to Yale. Or Harvard, or Princeton.

    3. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      Yeah, I couldn’t care less about your personal religious beliefs or journey. I care about whether you think I deserve basic civil rights or if you think my marriage should be declared void by the government. The “I find their bigoted beliefs abhorrent now” part, if true and relevant, is the most important part.

      1. metadata minion*

        Yes, exactly. (I will admit to being interested in someone’s religious beliefs with that kind of thing, but that’s the sort of nosy question I know not to actually ask :-b)

        There’s a significant chance that someone went to Liberty U or whatever under duress, but there’s also a significant enough chance that they literally think I’m an embodiment of evil that I’m not going to feel safe around them until I get some sort of confirmation that they don’t share the school’s beliefs.

      2. not like a regular teacher*

        Yep, making clear that you’re not a bigot/that people don’t need to mistrust and fear you is the priority.

      3. MigraineMonth*

        Full agreement here. What I need to know:
        1) Are you going to be violent towards me if you find out I’m queer?
        2) Are you going to undermine me at work if you find out I’m queer?
        3) Are you going to cause a scene or socially freeze me out if you find out I’m queer?
        4) Do I get a pass because I’m white/cis/not one of the “bad” ones, but you’re going to cause those problems for others?

        Your personal journey and religious beliefs are secondary to the above safety check.

    4. M2RB*

      I went to a small liberal Baptist university (definitely NOT LibU), and I have phrased it as “I was on my way out of the church” or “It was a good way for me to transition out of my parents’ super conservative household into the ‘real world'”.

    5. MicroManagered*

      I think this is the bit of advice that AAM’s response to Letter #2 is missing… What if you DID go to Liberty University? What do you say? If you really DO want to show that you are not aligned with those views, you need to say that part out loud.

      1. Jay (no, the other one)*

        I’ve been working with a trainer for about five years and last week for the first time found out he went to Liberty. I already knew that he was part of a conservative church and he’s well aware what I think about their views on women (I’m a cis woman married to a cis man who also trains with him). I was taken aback when he said it and I’m pretty sure he knew since I’m not good at masking my reactions and doing TRX squats at the same time. And I realize now I haven’t said anything to my husband.

        He’s a really good trainer and the work we’re doing has been important to me for a variety of reasons. I’m not going to leave him over a decision he made more than ten years ago. At the same time, it’s definitely colored how I feel about the guy.

        1. quercus*

          For the school question, another phrasing is “I went to X. I wouldn’t choose it now, but it was a good education”, which lets people know you don’t agree with the cultural stuff, keeps the ending focus on your professional capabilities now, rather than your personal journey.

          1. Jen*

            It’s not a good education though. liberty teaches creationism along with some other religious anti science concepts

      2. Laura*

        Right, plus a lot of these types of schools ARE very bigoted in the same way Liberty U is.

    6. I am Emily's failing memory*

      I agree with this. I often don’t mention where I went to undergrad by name because it’s a large, academically mediocre state school with no football team, in a state with many independent state schools rather than a federated system, so few people outside of my home state are familiar with it and I no longer live in that state.

      I’d probably give the acronym with a parenthetical “(it’s a public school in [State])” if directly asked, but I honestly can’t recall the last time I was directly asked where I went to college. More often it’s just optional context for whatever the topic of discussion is, so something like, “My undergrad had an open campus, so most people didn’t live in the dorms past freshman year, and my freshman year roommate was a local who often slept off-campus because she had so many friends living locally,” or, “The area where I went to college was really flat around campus so biking was the way to get around,” or, “When I was in college I spent a lot of time hanging out in graveyards because we had a few big historic ones with scenic drives near campus,” is actually more meaningful and relevant to the conversation than name dropping a school name that doesn’t mean anything to the people I’m to talking.

    7. Trinity of Texas alumna*

      I have sort of the opposite issue – I went to a college that sounds like it’s religious, but it’s not. Trinity University, it’s in Texas, so-called because three colleges united after the Civil War due to waning attendance. Affiliated with a church, but not owned, ruled, dominated, or otherwise really influenced by the affiliation. People make assumptions when I don’t explain the name.

      If they know I went to a Catholic high school, they assume it’s Catholic. Which is a whole other issue, since my family was never Catholic.

      Anyway it’s not fair to assume you know people’s religious and political beliefs due to a choice they made (or their parents made for them) when they were teenagers. But people do it, all the time. Sigh.

      1. state school but by chance*

        I agree… a lot of these comments are making me pretty uncomfortable. There are a lot of hiring managers admitting to “interrogating” people from a religious school… and even a comment flat-out saying they would NEVER hire someone who went to BYU. Um, yikes! That’s not okay.

        I actually wanted to go to a religious university when I was younger because I was religious (and still am but no longer at all religiously conservative) but couldn’t afford the private tuition. My current boss went to a VERY religiously conservative undergrad and he doesn’t have those beliefs now. Luckily, his undergrad was small enough that most people haven’t heard of it.

        I just find it very uncomfortable that so many commenters are admitting to blatant religious discrimination.

        1. Orv*

          Religious people are doing a lot of discriminating against others these days, so I think a certain amount of pushback is understandable, if questionable on an individual basis.

          1. Educator*

            Right. I don’t think it’s religious discrimination to feel an obligation to learn more if a job candidate has institutions on their resume that are actively, publicly working to undermine the humanity and dignity of other people they will be working with. I would not automatically dismiss a candidate who went to a school with a significant religious component, but every candidate needs to prove that they will be able to work well with my (very diverse) team and clients.

            1. state school by chance*

              I am curious as to whether that would be considered religious discrimination to ask certain interview questions about a potential hire’s beliefs based on their presumed religion.

              I have no idea if it is or not… but it does seem like common sense to make sure that someone you suspect to be anti-LGBT+ is not going to be bigoted in the workplace.

              On the other hand, it starts to feel a lot more “discriminatory” if you apply it to religions other than Christianity. Like, would it be okay to be equally suspicious of a practicing Muslim who went to a Muslim school? They don’t exactly have a better track record with LGBT+ rights and inclusion.

              But the comments saying they would NEVER hire someone who went to a particular school is blatant religious discrimination.

              1. Educator*

                I would never ask about beliefs–that’s irrelevant. I would absolutely ask about actions. Examples of times they had to challenge biases/assumptions, how they managed difficult conversations, how they get different perspectives on their work, the kind of anti-ism practices they engage in. In my industry, education, everyone who is doing their work ethically should have ready answers to those questions. And I for sure ask everyone, including people who present as having different religious backgrounds.

                1. state school by chance*

                  That makes total sense. I suppose it would also be industry-specific.

                2. JM60*

                  I don’t think those questions are a perfect way of assessing whether someone would be biased. I went to a conservative college, and did a 180 on my conservative beliefs before graduating. However, I might genuinely have a difficult time answering a questions like these. Those changes for me often happened through seeking out different perspectives online, reading book, and/or through thinking things through in my mind, not because of something in particular that happened to or around me in the real world that I can really give as an answer to questions like these.

                  If you used questions like these to determine whether the conservative college on my resume is indicative of my beliefs, you might come away that thinking that I’m homophobic (and other “-ists”), even though I’m a very gay liberal.

              2. Prof*

                Of course it’s ok. I literally don’t care which religion we’re talking about, you have clear ties to a system of belief that involves bigotry, I’m looking into it. Same for non-religious affiliations- I find out you’re a big blue line supporter, I’m absolutely going to be especially careful to be sure you’re not racist. If something in your history, especially history relevant to to work, shows links to anything bigoted, your beliefs/potential behavior absolutely should be called into question. Heck, we need to be checking this out with everyone, but if there’s reason to be more concerned, really check.

              3. WantonSeedStitch*

                You don’t ask questions about beliefs. You say things like “our organization is committed to belonging, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Can you talk about your direct experience with and/or ways that you have made impacts in this area in your previous work?” or “Please share with us what diversity, equity, and inclusion mean to you and why they’re important.” And you ask that question of ALL interview candidates, regardless of their background.

                1. JM60*

                  I think the latter is asking about beliefs. You’re asking why they believe diversity, equity, and inclusion are important. (I don’t think that you should avoid asking about beliefs. There are all sorts of beliefs that make sense to ask about, and are not discriminatory.)

            2. Jackalope*

              I haven’t noticed anyone saying that it’s wrong to make sure that someone would be able to respect and work well with a diverse group of employees and clients. But there are people who’ve stayed in this discussion that they would flat-out refuse to hire someone who went to a religious university or college, and that IS in fact religious discrimination. Even if the college they went to belongs to the dominant religion, it’s still discrimination and therefore still illegal.

              1. state school by chance*

                Yes, exactly! People keep answering my comments with how they ensure people of whatever religion (or no religion) are able to work with a diverse group and fit the industry.

                But no one is engaging the fact that comments say flat out “I will not hire anyone from X religious school,” and that’s blatant discrimination.

                1. Educator*

                  Well, if I am hiring for a job that requires, say, a BA in science, and someone got their science degree from a school that openly teaches falsehoods in that discipline, I have to take that into account. That’s not about their beliefs–that’s about their qualifications.

                  When I can, I want to give people opportunities to prove themselves, but there are some cases where you have to consider the legitimacy of a person’s qualifications.

          2. state school by chance*

            Religious discrimination is still illegal, though, whether religious people “deserve it” or not.

            I’m actually curious as to whether or not asking specific interview questions to suss out a potential hire’s beliefs based on their religion is considered religious discrimination or not. I’d be interested if Alison could weigh in on what’s legal and what’s not.

            1. Prof*

              It’s not discrimination to refuse to hire someone if their beliefs are bigoted- if that’s a religious belief, well…that’s telling on the religion in question more than anything else. Bigoted beliefs aren’t suddenly ok or protected because they’re religious in origin. Never hiring someone of X religion or who went to X religion’s known school isn’t ok, but it’s absolutely ok to see that as a flag and ensure their beliefs towards other people- like their co-workers- won’t be a problem. If I know religion X is anti-gay, and I bring that person in and they discriminate against LGBTQ folks in the company, the company is going to have potential lawsuits on their hands- and rightly so.

              1. Laura*

                “Bigoted beliefs aren’t suddenly ok or protected because they’re religious in origin.” They’re not suddenly ok, but Republicans are working very hard to make sure they’re protected.

      2. Butterfly Counter*

        I went to Trinity for a year before I transferred away to a similar college. I certainly got my workout every morning going up Cardiac Hill from lower campus!

        I don’t think anyone outside of Texas knows about it, similar to the school I went to. My response when people ask where I went was, “It’s a tiny liberal arts college in Texas I’m sure you’ve never heard of.”

        1. Kyrielle*

          I mostly hate to give the name of my college because everyone assumes I mean the university by the same name, so I have to add a disclaimer. No, they’re famous, mine isn’t.

    8. Web of Pies*

      I hired a few people who went to highly religious colleges (one being a school I personally bristle at) and they all ended up being great fits, HOWEVER you better believe I was probing at whether that background would affect their fits during the interview!

      You do NOT need to discuss your current and past religious views, or even bring it up your college directly, but I agree with Alison that you need to take care to send signals that it’s not something you’re going to bring into the workplace.

    9. fidget spinner*

      I have a similar “problem.” I went to a state school, but before that, I went to an evangelical Christian missionary program and lived abroad for two years as a missionary. I’m always trying to find creative ways to mention my experience without being like “uh yeah I was a missionary” because people have all kinds of expectations and probably think I’m Mormon (I’m not now and I wasn’t then, either!)

      I’m actually still Christian, but not the evangelical kind. I mostly did peace work between two religious groups, so I sometimes call it an “internship” or just lean into the peace work stuff … but I’m one of those painfully honest people and I feel awkward feeling deceptive. I usually admit to the missionary part and just say I’m not that type of Christian anymore, but it feels so awkward.

      I do sometimes say “I was an intern at a church doing peace work in [country]” because it just sounds a lot less loaded than “missionary.”

    10. Laura*

      The whole “I went to school in/near Boston” is so wild to me, because everybody knows what it means now.

      I do understand why people do it though. I was at a small gathering at a friend’s house once and asked one of her friends where he went to school and he said the same thing and I was like “Oh, you mean Harvard?” (because I assumed people said that because they were being snobby and I liked to call them on it) and he said he did. I just said “cool” and tried to move on with the conversation. Another person started talking about this guy having gone to Harvard in a way that made it clear he (second person) thought he wasn’t smart because he didn’t go there but was also jealous of him for having gone. Meanwhile both people involved (as well as my friend) were in PhD programs at a different prestigious US university. The whole thing was so uncomfortable and I finally understood why people don’t like saying they went to Harvard.

      1. But what to call me?*

        Not everybody!

        Probably irrelevant to these people’s situations, but I had never heard of people doing this before reading this comment section. I also have no idea where any of those schools are other than probably somewhere vaguely northeast. Maybe I’m in the wrong industry and the wrong part of the country for this to be a thing.

  8. nnn*

    I’m not sure if this would be useful, but putting it out there just in case:

    For #5, is there a broader category of information you could ask about that would include maternity leave policies? e.g. sick leave? leave in general? benefits?

    (Whether this would be useful depends on how your employer categorizes maternity leave, and whether you know enough about how they categorize it to ask the question that would elicit the answer you’re actually looking for.)

    If it falls under some kind of sick leave or disability category, would it be helpful to frame it as “I might have to get a medical procedure in the future and I’d like to be aware of what my options would be”.

    (Whether this would be an improvement depends on personalities and culture.)

    1. Zombeyonce*

      While that might work in some cases, it really is different with pregnancy. There are so many state and federal rules (and often company policies) around that kind of leave that don’t really apply in many/any other circumstances. LW needs to ask specifically about parental leave if they want comprehensive and accurate information.

      1. Carl*

        Agreed. No need to beat around the bush here.

        If it was a smaller company, my recommendation would be to go to a trusted peer who has “been there, done that” to inquire. But, it doesn’t seem like OP should have that concern, since it’s a huge company.

    2. Higgs Bison*

      That’s how I did it when interviewing with a potentially pregnant spouse (confirmed less than a month later). I feel like that would be harder to pull off with a company you already work at, though, since there’s not usually the clear reason to be investigating benefits you may not be using soon that a new employer gives you.

  9. Jessica*

    LW5, if there’s anyone at work that you trust, they don’t even need to be another new mom. I’m a childless woman and I would happily front for a coworker and ask questions to HR and find out the answers to their policy questions.

    1. Carl*

      That was going to be my suggestion for smaller company, but it works here too.

      Either asking someone who has “been there, done that” for their personal experience, or asking a bold friend to recon on your behalf.

    2. SarahKay*

      Yup, childless (and in my fifties) woman and I’d be happy to ask without telling HR who it was on behalf of. I’m also very serious about privacy so would have no qualms about flatly refusing to share your name if HR pushed as to why I was asking, so if you do go this route maybe look for a co-worker that you know to be consistently and reliably discreet.

      1. Annika Hansen*

        Same. A 50-something executive assistant was responsible for getting a lactation room at my work. Employees had been told to pump in the bathroom. The EA was telling me about this. I sent her links that showed what the requirements of a lactation room. She immediately started filling out work orders. She approached the director and told him he better sign this so we don’t end up in legal trouble.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          It’s not really a funny story, but I kinda LOLd at this. “Mr. Peterson–ok, George–look, we are on the wrong end of this. The builders will cost less than a lawsuit or EEOC claim, trust me and sign.”

      2. pally*

        You are a good co-worker!

        Seems to me, regarding employee benefits, the “why do you ask?” question should be a non-starter. You are asking because the information is not found elsewhere. That’s a failing on HR or management’s part.

        Course, being my snarky self, I would answer with something along the lines of “IVF for this over 50-year-old looks very intriguing!”.

        Let that grind through the rumor mill.

        1. Kyrielle*

          I’d be tempted to lay one hand on my belly and say, “Oh, no reason, just curiosity.”

          No, I’m not pregnant nor planning to be again, but if they want to assume…I’m happy to help them.

    3. Ama*

      Yes I would be happy to do this, too! At my work I’m pretty well known for wanting to know all the background info, so people would probably not even wonder at a question from me if I was like “I’m just trying to make sure I understand all our existing family leave options in case it comes up with a report,” or whatever.

  10. Grim*

    Yeah, regardless of your personal feelings about shoplifting, from large corporations or otherwise, that’s really not something you can just come out and say at work! Even if you’re a morally upright and/or law abiding citizen in every other respect, even if you would never dream of stealing from your workplace, it’s still going to raise doubts about your integrity for most people overhearing it. Hopefully someone will point out to your coworker that this is not generally considered normal or appropriate workplace banter before she has to figure it out the hard way.

    1. Ganymede*

      The thing about shoplifting is that big stores have a policy of monitoring habitual shoplifters, then waiting until the amount stolen adds up to a felony and then making an arrest. The colleague may not be aware of this – I only know about it from lurking in legal subs on reddit!

      There actually used to be a shoplifting sub on reddit, which was closed down. It was pretty eye-stretching, and often a plaintive post would be made on the lines of “I’ve been caught and they’re charging me with X accumulated thefts, how do I get out of this?” They had normalised stealing so much, and been mistaken that getting away with small thefts meant that the stores didn’t care, whereas Loss Prevention is actually relatively sophisticated these days.

      Obviously this colleague is morally and legally in the wrong, but if you think you want to steer her right from a distance, it might be worth slipping a googled link to a story on shoplifting to her, or to another colleague closer to her. Consequences might hit harder than the stuffy old message of just not being a petty thief…

      By the way, I also find that a lot of people don’t understand the added gravity of “breach of trust” if charged with stealing from an employer (were she ever to do so). Maybe she’s not interested in nicking staplers.

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

        exactly. I think that someone should tell the employee that what she’s doing is not only wrong, but that it can be damaging to her reputation. She could be charged a lot.

    2. Momma Bear*

      I agree that if it comes up again in any context to tell her it’s not a good thing to brag about. I think a lot of younger people either do not yet have the professional experience to know where the line is or are just used to putting every thought on social media and don’t think about how it will be perceived IRL.

      1. Catfish*

        How about approaching it from its INTERNAL failure. Good shoplifters don’t talk about shoplifting with strangers. You need to keep that s-“t to yourself.

  11. MistOrMister*

    OP3 – Best to just stop thinking about your old place. I had a coworker who stepped down from a role and left the firm a fee months later. At one point she said she had heard her replacement was struggling and maybe she would come back to take that position over again. It was very odd as there was no way they were going to fire or demote anyone for her. Why you are wondering about this if you don’t plan to leave your current position, I do not know, but unless someone responsible for hiring contacts you, I would assume you would not be in the running and that they would think it was beyond weird for you to even ask.

    1. Emmy Noether*

      I think LW is hung up on this because they were set to get this position in the first place, and now it looks like giving it to the other person instead was a mistake. So it’s tempting to fantasize about “correcting” that mistake.

      However, I’d warn that this may not be as obvious in the minds of the higher-ups, who may not see it as a mistake, or may not think that promoting LW would have been the better choice, or just don’t believe in do-overs.

      1. Awkwardness*

        However, I’d warn that this may not be as obvious in the minds of the higher-ups, who may not see it as a mistake, or may not think that promoting LW would have been the better choice, or just don’t believe in do-overs.

        Also, the company may not be the same as it used to be before the aquisition.
        LW should try to avoid getting hung up on an idealised idea of their former company.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        OP, gently: You don’t come across in your letter as someone your old coworkers are going to tell “Wow, the woman who took the role you thought was yours–she’s just great. Excellent decision by management there.”

      3. Antilles*

        this may not be as obvious in the minds of the higher-ups, who may not see it as a mistake
        Reading OP’s list of reasons, this was my interpretation too.
        It’s totally normal for a supervisor to be unavailable for hours at a time because of various meetings and coordination. The duties being passed off is easily explained as a redefining of the role after the acquisition. And OP’s coworkers not being sure what their manager does all day is also pretty common, because a lot of managerial duties (e.g., budgeting, department management, sales, etc) are visible to upper management but not necessarily visible to subordinates or peers.
        Even the lack of technical knowledge might not really be a problem in the minds of higher-ups; it’s not ideal but it also might not be particularly relevant to the role.

      4. londonedit*

        I agree…the OP is basically going off gossip here, and while it’s tempting to enjoy the schadenfreude of ‘the person who got the job I wanted is terrible at it’, that might not actually be how the company sees it.

        I think the only way this sort of thing could work would be if the OP saw the position actually being advertised – then, they could absolutely contact the hiring manager and say that they’d like to apply (I think in this case a brief conversation before sending in an application would be a good thing to do). Or, as Alison says, if the OP knows someone in the appropriate role, they could feasibly get in touch and say ‘I’m not actively looking at the moment, but I wanted to let you know that should there ever be another opening for a Llama Liaison Manager, I’d really appreciate it if you would give me a heads-up as I’d love to be considered for it’. But you definitely can’t just contact the company and to all intents and purposes say ‘So I hear Jane is rubbish at the job – would you consider getting rid of her and hiring me instead?’

    2. Anon Again... Naturally*

      Honestly, the fact that the OP thinks it is a reasonable thing to ask demonstrates such poor judgement that if I was the hiring manager and I was getting ready to post the position in question, I wouldn’t consider them. The question comes across as so entitled and out of touch that I’d have serious concerns about their maturity and ability to be an effective supervisor.

  12. Rika*

    LW 1. Reminds me of a friend in college, who, when we asked her where she got all that new lingerie, cheerfully answered that she got it for free at H&M. We asked her what she meant by that. She said, “You know, I just took them.” In a tone as if it wasn’t a bad thing at all! The room fell dead silent. She never mentioned it again.

    1. Not Australian*

      Yep, I knew a pair of sisters who freely admitted to stealing tapes from video stores (we’re talking about a *long* time ago!) – and it wasn’t as if they were short of money either, they were doing it for fun. I can’t wrap my brain around this sort of thing: “I deserve it, therefore I’m just going to take it.” Pure entitlement.

    2. Belle Astre*

      I wouldn’t be surprised if she expected you all to say you shoplifted as well. A thief thinks everyone steals and all that.

      On the plus side, at least she got to learn that you probably shouldn’t say that openly BEFORE she got a job I guess?

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        There are DEFINITELY people who think that. I read a novel where somebody mentions shoplifting and there’s a line about things getting awkward since everybody did it, but nobody wanted to admit it. And it didn’t come across like the author was trying to characterise her characters, more like the author just assumed that was a general rule for life, that everybody shoplifts but most won’t admit to it.

        And the coworkers comment about being able to say it makes me think that yeah, she assumes most people just won’t say it, but they all do it.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yeah, I had a flatmate at university (who was in no way badly off by student standards) who shoplifted and just assumed it was a thing everyone did but people didn’t admit to. She was really surprised when the other three of us in the student accommodation said we’d never done it and genuinely meant it.

          I’ve worked in retail as a teenager and it usually hurts the staff (on a minimum wage) when things are stolen because corporations tend to blame them for being insufficiently vigilant. Tesco or Asda may be large corporations but the people who are blamed aren’t the CEO but the local people working in the shop.

          1. OldHat*

            My roommate in college mentioned stealing things like toilet paper from big box store retailers and even then it seemed like it wouldn’t impact the CEO.

            Surprisingly some friends mentioned doing this recently at Hobby Lobby. Meaning it was a way to make them feel better if they bought something at that store. Not even that would convince me to enter that store.

            1. UKDancer*

              Yeah I think if you don’t approve of a shop then don’t shop there. If you do shop there then don’t steal stuff to make yourself feel better because that’s just hurting the person on the shop floor. I mean there are a couple of places I won’t shop because I disapprove of them for ethical reasons. But I don’t go in and mess with them, because that’s pointless and petty and also giving them way more time in my mind than they merit.

              1. OldHat*

                Granted this came up because JoAnn’s is consolidating their stores and I was planning on getting some things there and they just closed my go-to one. But I just picked another store instead of going to one I normally refuse to shop at.

                Hobby lobby has a shrinkage budget, so shoplifting something isn’t a productive way to protest. If nothing, it would pressure me to steal crap. And I have to get rid of it.

          2. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

            Right. Add to that the truth that When the large company shuts down a store due to losses and an inability to prevent inventory shrinkage, they generally don’t keep all the workers; most everyone is just getting laid off, and shoplifting from large corporations is not the sort of moral high ground people like this coworker seem to think it is.

            If people really want to stick it to large corporations, they need to get involved in policy reform (ie, adjusting corporate tax rates and incentives, compensation policies, anti-trust laws, etc), or in building coops and community owned businesses. It’s not as thrilling as stealing, but it might actually make things better in the long run.

            1. juliebulie*

              Your last paragraph there is what OP (or someone) should tell that young employee. If she really wants to bring Walmart to its knees, she has to understand that her shoplifting is irrelevant.

            2. JustAnotherCommenter*

              “If people really want to stick it to large corporations, they need to get involved in policy reform”

              I wish more people really understood this – most of the time useful forms of activism are pretty unsexy. A deep understanding of government policy and legal structures to propose, support and participate in realistic steps that enact change is the heart and soul of activism.

            3. Elbe*

              My guess is that “I only steal from big companies” is more of a justification for their behavior and not because they actually have an issue with capitalist corporations, in general. I think that they want to steal things while not feeling bad about it.

          3. Prairie*

            It also seems like people who haven’t worked retail don’t get how stores address loss. I had a friend who comfortably talked about shoplifting but only from big retailers (kinda like the woman in the letter) so it was ok. I was like “Big retailers know how much money they lose to theft each year so they inflate their prices to compensate. So you’re just making things more expensive for honest people who now can’t afford everything on their list.” It sunk in for her bc later she asked me if just the store I worked at did that and I had to tell her that was a normal business practice.
            I would recommend this approach if you don’t mind being a killjoy.

            1. Elbe*


              If companies can raise prices for no reason other than sheer greed, what is supposedly stopping them from raising prices due to product theft? Nothing!

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          There was a letter here about how all of us are constantly googling our coworkers to research them, and obviously anyone who said otherwise was lying. I think it’s a very common thing to tell yourself about behavior some would characterize as outside norms.

          1. Texan In Exile*

            Every accusation is a confession.

            (My husband’s brother accused my husband of stealing from our nieces and nephews’ – including brother’s kid – trusts, for which he was the trustee. Which my husband would never do. Never. But his brother would, I think.)

    3. aqua*

      the responses to this are incredibly funny because in my social circles it’s extremely normal to shoplift and people would find it weird if you were judgemental about it. people think it’s a bit weird that I always pay for stuff. but it’s probably a class difference as my social circle is mostly very poor and/or homeless. I find it hard to get worked up about.

      1. BubbleTea*

        A lot of people are poor and don’t steal, while a lot of people who steal are rich. It’s a moral values difference that doesn’t follow class/affluence lines.

        1. UKDancer*

          Goodness yes. I worked at a stately home at one point. They hosted a lot of office awaydays / team days etc. In my experience it was the most senior people from the big companies who helped themselves to large amounts of tea bags, kitkats, glacier mints, pens and even loo roll to take away with them (far in excess of what they could consume on the day). They seemed to take the view in many cases that because they were using the premises they could take anything not nailed down.

        2. Managing While Female*

          Being poor doesn’t necessarily mean that you steal, but I’d encourage you to read (or watch) Les Miserables if you believe in the Kantian view that it is ~always~ morally wrong.

          1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

            I never hear about people stealing bread in modern America. I had a pair of coworkers who shoplifted cute purses and clothes from Target. I’ve heard a lot of stories like the ones on this where someone stole nice lingerie. And my local Walmart keeps makeup and electronics behind glass, not the food.

            Probably some necessities are being stolen too, but a very large fraction of it is things people want to have but don’t want to pay for.

            1. Managing While Female*

              My point was not that it’s okay to steal if you’re poor, nor that the coworker in this letter is right for shoplifting. My point is that you can’t make a blanket moral statement that ‘stealing is always wrong and the circumstances don’t matter.’ There is nuance there – like in most moral questions.

            2. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

              One of the most commonly shoplifted items in grocery stores is baby formula.

              1. SchuylerSeestra*

                Yes, because it gets resold on the black market. Baby Formula, Laundry Deterget, and other household goods.

            3. Trinity Grad*

              I live near downtown in a small-t0-midsize city, and a lot of the stores in my area have the body wash and soaps locked up or behind the counter. People are stealing toiletries, because you can’t buy them with SNAP or WIC and people need to, you know, WASH THEMSELVES. So here in modern America, it’s not bread but it is basic necessities like soap and toothpaste that people are desperate enough to steal. And I cannot get myself in a moral fuss about that kind of shoplifting.

              Go check out the body wash and condoms and toothpaste at your Walmart and see if they’re locked up. I bet they are.

            4. Lenora Rose*

              Those aren’t the items the store will protect, because they’re low-profit items and necessities, both, and the store will get NO sympathy if they complain. There’s even a meme of “If you see someone stealing diapers and food… no you didn’t.”

              When FORMULA started being locked up during the shortage (and select kinds for infants with special dietary needs became “over the counter”) it created an uproar in a way having the make-up and electronics locked up rarely does*.

              Makeup and electronics (and formula during that recent stretch of time) also have worth for more organized crime as they can be resold, and shoplifting *rings* are a real thing.

              *rarely, because people also caught on that stores would, shall we say, selectively protect those items in neighbourhoods with certain demographics and not in others. At least until shoplifting rings also caught on.

              1. LaurCha*

                I am LITERALLY TELLING YOU that stores in my area keep body wash, condoms, soap, and shampoo under lock and key. Not all of it, but the mainstream inexpensive brands of shampoo and bodywash? Lock. And. Key. You have to get someone to get it for you. CVS, Walgreens, and WalMart. I have seen this with my own two eyes, all over my part of the world.

            5. metadata minion*

              The Target nearest me keeps underwear locked up. Not fancy lingerie, cheap multipacks of briefs.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          It’s not a euphemism, it’s a specific kind of theft. Wage theft is stealing but not shoplifting. Breaking and entering is stealing but not shoplifting. Bank robbery is stealing but not shoplifting.

          This is more like saying “salsa” instead of “dance”.

      2. Curious*

        And, if grocery chains close stores in areas where many poor people live because of excessive “shrinkage,” creating “food deserts,” would you still find it hard to get worked up?

      3. Bast*

        I think many people I know have in the past, but it’s mostly been the stupid kid stuff you write off and not something you tend to brag about ie: “When I was 12 my mom said I couldn’t buy this CD, so I stole it instead” or, “My mom wouldn’t let me buy a candy bar when I was 5 so I hid it in my pocket.” Youthful indiscretions that they look back on and are mortified, not a way of life or something they did more than the one time. There are also the people who shoplift food because they are struggling and hungry. I categorize both differently than Person Who Routinely Shoplifts as an Adult Because They Can. Your social circle seems like they shoplift more from need than from “because I can,” if I’m reading into it correctly.

    4. T.N.H*

      There’s an idea right now among certain groups that shoplifting from major corporations is really a form of protest. I don’t agree with it but a lot of people think it is morally right – this isn’t a fringe ideology anymore.

      1. JustAnotherCommenter*

        I hate that ideology, it’s so naive – all it does is harm low-wage workers and make it harder for people who are shoplifting out of necessity.
        So many people only want to participate in activism when they think it’s fun, benefits them directly and makes them feel morally superior without a lot of effort.

        1. Emily*

          “So many people only want to participate in activism when they think it’s fun, benefits them directly and makes them feel morally superior without a lot of effort.”

          This is 1000% correct, and it is maddening!

      2. Head sheep counter*

        Sometimes… I have real questions about the general sense of community and well-being of “these people” because… a Walgreens job is better than no job… and no job is what your going to have if the Walgreens closes. You aren’t going to ruin Walgreens. Your going to ruin jobs at the entry and just beyond level that people really need. You are also creating retail deserts for areas that need them.

        Protest and activism should not look like theft. If the two are equal… there’s something wrong with one’s lens.

    5. sparkle emoji*

      Yes, I had a friend in high school who shoplifted makeup while we were on a school trip to a small, poor island where goods were more expensive due to shipping costs. Her wealthy parents were chaperoning and would have happily given her the money, but she got a thrill from shoplifting. Her casual attitude really disgusted me, as she didn’t see the negative impact that shoplifting tourists would have on the locals.

  13. Free Meerkats*

    LW 4, the only way in this universe I’d accept that offer is with a written contract stating that you will get X job with Y responsibilities and Z pay scale on A date. It would also have to include a one-time bonus to compensate me for the added pay I would be giving up between now and when the raise is budgeted.

    And that’s never going to happen in the US.

    1. ReginaFilangy*

      LW here, you’re very right. I asked for the comp to make me whole and they couldn’t do it at this time. Which says something.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        OP, my spouse took the counter offer some years back. It was the right move. The company really valued him and wanted to keep him, and he was in fact happy to be kept doing the same work for a substantial raise. Talking to the other option clarified some negatives with that role that he hadn’t realized when it was all a hypothetical.

        Note that the money for the counter offer appeared right away. I agree with those saying this isn’t even a counter. Wasn’t it just last week someone discovered that the “huge pile of money” she would receive if she stayed nine months and did three people’s work for the same title and compensation was a cost of living raise in March?

        1. Hlao-roo*

          Wasn’t it just last week someone discovered that the “huge pile of money” she would receive if she stayed nine months and did three people’s work for the same title and compensation was a cost of living raise in March?

          Yeah, the “I was promised a raise for doing a lot more work … and it didn’t come through” was posted March 26. Triple the workload for nine months was “rewarded” with a single-digit percent increase and single-digit percent bonus in an area with 6.1% inflation (so possibly no increase in terms of inflation-adjusted dollars).

  14. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP4 (counter offer) – Would you take the new job if the “counter offer” wasn’t mentioned at all, or would you prefer to stay in your current role? If this specific offer isn’t for you, I’d be inclined not to accept it but start a search with roles that are perhaps a step up from where you are now. The discussions about promoting you in 2-3 years time seem baseless unless they are part of a more general “career development plan”. I’ll bet dollars to donuts that the manager job doesn’t make it into next year’s budget (when is next financial year? often is is April or Jan, so you’ve either just missed it and will be waiting a year, or will be waiting quite a few months anyway) and then there will be some other excuse.

    1. ReginaFilangy*

      LW here, I would take the new job. I am excited about the new job! But I think I felt a bit duty-bound, which I know can be the kiss of death and I have to remember to do what’s best for me. I just really like the team and the job so it will be hard to leave. Our year resets in Jan, so it would have been a promotion (including a salary that matches my current offer) in early 2025. You are right, there is a ton that couple happen between now and then that makes the promotion unavailable.

      1. Awkwardness*

        At that point or is no counter-offer, it is only promises.
        This reminds me of old boss who always told me how hard he was trying to get a raise for me and that this time, this time!, it will surely come through.

      2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        If you get on well with your colleagues now, there’s every chance that you’ll get on well with your new colleagues.
        (Like the story of guy who asks an old man sitting out in his garden whether the people in that town are pleasant. The old man asks what the people were like where he came from. He says they were nasty jerks, the the old man says you’ll find them the same here.
        Then a woman comes and asks the same question. The old man asks the same question. She tells him the people in her home town were friendly and kind. The old man says you’ll find them the same here.)

      3. theletter*

        I say go ahead and take the new job – if the current company were to really work for you in the long run, they’d give you a matching counter offer now.

        I’ve never done consulting myself, but I’ve heard it can do wonders for careers, even if you only stay in it for a little bit.

  15. Brain the Brian*

    I went to a very expensive college — on a very large scholarship. I always make sure to mention that in the same breath as the name of my school to — hopefully — pre-empt any ill will.

    1. Varthema*

      Have you encountered ill will without the disclaimer? to be honest, if I hear someone went to an expensive college (and TBH that’s pretty much all of them that aren’t state schools – there’s this perception that the most prestigious schools are the most expensive but even middling private colleges tend to have a similar sticker price), I know there are so many paths through that financially (anything from well off parents, a generous grandparent, a big scholarship/financial aid package, insane student loans you’re still paying off, any combo of the above) that I don’t assume ANYTHING about the person.

      (if anything, the most expensive/best endowed colleges are often the ones that offer the cheapest education for some students, but I know that’s not necessarily the commonest knowledge.)

      1. Rosemary*

        Same. I’d never make assumptions about someone because the go/went to an expensive college because so many get financial aid.

      2. BubbleTea*

        I’m in the UK where (almost) all universities charge the same, and I’ve had weirdness about the fact I went to an internationally renowned university. Mainly people assuming that I’ll judge them for not having done the same (nope) or that I think I’m better than them (also nope). It’s tiresome. I also went to two other universities for different degrees and don’t get anything like the same reactions to those, despite one being a higher degree.

        1. Be Gneiss*

          Really? Because a lot of scholarships lean significantly toward being needs-based (or at least heavily considering financial need in addition to other criteria) as opposed to being strictly merit-based.

        2. SLAC*

          Oh, I don’t think so. I don’t say I got financial aid to be boastful. Part of that financial aid was a scholarship, but again… am I boasting? No. I will own that I am perhaps I am a tad defensive when people assume I come from wealth and my parents paid my way through my rather expensive private college (neither is true).

          But also! What is wrong with being proud of getting a scholarship? Nobody ever is ashamed of getting a football scholarship, why should anybody else be ashamed of theirs?

  16. Bleah*

    LW4, you mention this is a consultant role, does that mean that you are going to handle your own taxes, health insurance, time off? If so, that 24% increase is probably not as large as you think and might actually be a pay cut.

    Make sure that the new offer is actually more than what you are currently getting. Then you can figure out if you want to stay.

    1. linger*

      THIS. The external role on offer seems quite a risk, whether or not any better full-time role eventuates at LW4’s current workplace.
      LW4 is probably better off long-term staying put for now, taking on some visible higher-level tasks, adding those accomplishments to their CV … and preparing to interview for full-time positions elsewhere at that level in the (not unlikely) event that the proposed raise and promotion do not eventuate.

    2. ReginaFilangy*

      LW here, it’s a permanent salaried position. In a teapot company, I would be teaching their clients how to use our teapot. I did the math and after-taxes and my normal deductions and the take-home pay would be significantly more each month. But you are right – I had to do the math to confirm when I was talking salary with the new job.

      1. linger*

        In that case, I’ll revise my recommendation. If you can advance your career longer-term by accomplishments at the external position, then that is probably the way to go, even if the external position ends and you’re jobhunting again a year later. The important thing is, you know that’s a possibility going in, so you know to prioritize adding CV-enhancing accomplishments to better position yourself for that.

    3. Anonymoose*

      Consultant =/= contractor (and on that topic, government contractor =/= 1099 contractor). I see a lot of people making that mistake today

  17. In My Underdark Era*

    For #2, my hometown has a college like the one described. it’s fairly well-known in town that the student body isn’t in monolithic agreement with the university-approved theological worldview. kind of an open secret that some students BS their way through the religious requirements just for the degree.

    that perspective could be unique to locals, but I’m hoping that most people you talk to who’ve heard of the school would know not to assume any details about your personal faith based on that.

    but if you’re looking for a way to subtly signal that you disagree with the school’s ideology when you know someone’s heard of it, a well-placed, emphatic “it was an interesting time” can speak volumes to someone who knows what you mean.

    1. The Valeyard*

      Yep, this. There are several colleges/universities like this not terribly far for me and I wouldn’t assume anything about someone who went to one of them. I’ve definitely heard that suggested phrasing, as well as “it was an interesting place.” It’s like a code.

  18. For LW2*

    LW2: you could also try the script I used when I was in a similar situation. “I studied at [university name]” and then if I could tell they were raising eyebrows “but if I had a do-over I wouldn’t study there a second time.” said in a sardonic tone. Most people understood what I was implying about the institution and moved on but if people explicitly asked why I would say something like “I’m sure you’ve heard about [insert controversy here] and that’s really not something I can condone.”

    1. Potato*

      Yes, I have a similar situation and I usually just say “I wouldn’t choose it now” or some variation. People tend to get it.

  19. JM60*


    I went to one of the most conservative Catholic colleges in America, and transitioned from a typical student from that school (except for being gay) to being a liberal atheist who is anti-religion. How can people like me signal on their resume that they aren’t bigots, and can work on diverse teams?

    In my case, I could somewhat de-emphasize that school on my resume because I got my masters degree from a much more moderate-to-liberal Catholic college. Also, I downgraded my potential theology major to a minor, and left my minors off of my resume.

    1. Jenn*

      If you don’t care about lying and just want people to not think of you in a particular way you can just say you got a free ride or something and took the opportunity. No one needs to know your true reason or finances.

      1. JM60*

        Having my parents pay for school was genuinely *a* reason why I picked that college, so I could say that if asked. However, that wouldn’t happen unless I’m at least at the interview stage and given a chance to talk about the subject.

        There’s a chance that someone could look at the name of the college on my resume, and pass me over for that (although I don’t think that has happened to me very many times, if ever).

    2. HannahS*

      Well for one, you might not want to let your colleagues who belong to the many minority religions that were are and violently oppressed know that you’re anti-religion. You know, because they might think you’re a bigot.

      1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        What a weird take. You might want to stop making assumptions yourself since atheists are one of the most hated minority religious groups in the world.

        One can be anti-religion without being anti the people who believe in that religion. I am an atheist and yet I can conceptualize religious people existing as full beings with equal rights to me. They are quite often not so accepting – as the oppression indicates. The oppressors of minority religions are usually majority religions.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          Co-signed. I’m not an atheist, but I am anti-religion in that I believe my relationship with any higher being is mine alone, not something I need to be part of an organized group to have. I have no issue with folks choosing religion for themselves (so long as they aren’t using it to oppress others) I just don’t think it’s necessary.

        2. HannahS*

          Being an atheist is not the same as being anti-religion. Lots of Jews and Muslims and Hindus are atheists and engage in their cultural and religious practices as traditions. If someone at my workplace says, “I’m anti-religion,” what I take from that is that they are telling me that they are against religious beliefs and practices, that they have bias against religious people, that they may think less of me for wanting time off for religious practice. Because they SAID that they were anti-religion. If that’s not what you mean–if you mean that you consider belief a private matter–then say that instead.

          When it’s someone who was raised Christian–i.e., in the dominant religion of North America–who proudly tells me that they are now anti-religion, what I take from that is that as a child they learned that Jews would go to hell for not being the same as them, and then the person grew up, decided they weren’t Christian anymore, but still can’t bring themselves to respect other beliefs and worldviews. Again, if that’s not your belief, and if what you mean is “I was so hurt by organized religion that I no longer wish to participate in it,” then say that. If what you really mean is, “I was so hurt by organized religion that I think it should no longer exist for anyone,” then yeah, you might want to think about whether you really untangled evangelicalism and cultural dominance from your attitude towards others.

          1. Happy*

            Or you could ask such a person what they mean by “anti-religion” rather than just taking the least charitable possible interpretation.

            1. HannahS*

              It’s not the job of a person in an oppressed class to ask someone what they mean when they say they’re against your identity. The person at the top of the thread AND the OP asked how they can signal that they are not bigoted; step one is not announcing bigotry. It’s not my job to assume the best of people who say they’re anti-me; my job is to keep myself safe.

              1. Happy*

                Religious people as a whole are not oppressed in America (though plenty of particular religions are). Atheists are, as a group, oppressed in America.

                A gay atheist from a conservative Catholic environment is absolutely someone who has dealt with oppression and I think it reflects poorly on people who decline to give them the benefit of the doubt.

                But you do you.

                1. Laura*

                  Christians aren’t oppressed in America. And, frankly, atheists aren’t THAT oppressed in many places, especially compared to how certain minority religious groups are treated. But you really can’t separate religious people from Christians in that statement, because religious people who aren’t Christian absolutely are oppressed.

                2. JM60*


                  There are many forms of oppression, but there have been several studies that show that Americans are less trusting of atheists than other religious minorities that are polled. Also, it’s possible to simultaneously be oppressed, while also oppressing others.

                  (I think who is more oppressed usually matters less than whether or not someone is oppressed, but I’m pointing out this relative difference here because mostly because you find it relevant.)

              2. JM60*

                I think the onus is indeed on you to refrain from assuming that just because I’m anti your religion, that I’m anti you.

            2. metadata minion*

              This is the first place I’ve seen the phrase “anti-religion” used to mean anything other than “I think that religion is bad for the world and shouldn’t exist”. If you’re not actually against religion other than as a personal preference, then maybe pick a different label?

              1. JM60*

                This is the first place I’ve seen the phrase “anti-religion” used to mean anything other than “I think that religion is bad for the world and shouldn’t exist”.

                I do mean anti-religion to mean that religious beliefs are bad for the world. As for “shouldn’t exist”, I certainly don’t mean “anti-religion” to mean that I think religion to be forced to not exist (which I don’t think you can really do with beliefs anyways). However, the above comment jumps to so many assumptions based on me saying that I’m anti-religion.

                If you’re not actually against religion other than as a personal preference, then maybe pick a different label?

                I don’t go around randomly introducing myself as anti-religious (in part because many people treat being anti their religion as being anti-them). I mention myself being anti-religious in my comment to highlight just how different I am now than when I entered my extremely conservative Catholic college as an 18 year old Freshman.

          2. A trans person*

            Strong +1 about common patterns in Christian praised atheists. Not universal, but as a practitioner of a minority religion, I see this so often.

    3. theletter*

      Is there any volunteer work you could highlight with any groups that are distinctly liberal? If not, anything that encourages people to vote ought to do the trick.

      You could also toss up some tasteful LinkedIn posts about civic duty to vote or habitat for humanity or something you like about our current Department of Transportation, or even just something about how much like New York City / Chicago / San Francisco / Portland OR. A post about a good art exhibit or play you saw recently might work as well.

    4. Coverage Associate*

      The typical advice is to get something on your resume that indicates that you y have changed, usually volunteer work for an organization contrary to the very religious school’s ideas.

      1. Coverage Associate*

        Also, pronouns on your resume, if that’s acceptable in your region and industry. (Greetings from San Francisco!)

        1. JM60*

          That’s a good idea! As a lazy person, I especially like the fact that it hardly takes any work for me to do.

          I think I’ll edit my resume now…

      2. JM60*

        The main problem there is that I’m lazy, and am not willing to do work beyond my typical 40-ish hour per week job. I’m also not willing to lie about doing volunteer work that I haven’t done (not that you’re suggesting that).

  20. Bob Wilson, Anchorman*

    LW4- take the new job. Your company are offering you nothing more than vague promises with a load of caveats. I made the mistake of believing this kind of nonsense a couple of years ago, and when the time came for my company to put up, it all suddenly became ‘well, we didn’t actually PROMISE you, nothing was in writing’ – and now I’m stuck, unable to find another job (the previous offer is long gone).

    Good luck!

    1. Generic Name*

      I totally agree. The fact that you are getting such a large raise by leaving tells you something about how they reward your loyalty.

  21. Lucy*

    Re LW1 I’ve never shoplifted – I think I’d be way too scared of getting caught – but I do think the colleague had a point about the giant corporations thing – I really don’t believe it hurts anyone and don’t particularly think it reflects badly on her ethics. (My stance on ethics: “does it hurt someone in any way? If not, it’s fine.”) That said, it definitely reflects badly on her judgement to casually mention it at work. Since she is still so young, I expect she has very little context to understand how many different stances and opinions people around her might have, and how mainstream some of them (e.g. “stealing is wrong”) are. She likes you, so she assumes you’ll have the same life views. It’s quite common in younger people.

    If you wanted to help her out, you could take her aside and warn her that she’s likely to shock people and give them a bad impression of her, if she says things like that at work, and that in some cases she could get into real trouble. But you have no responsibility to do it if you don’t want to, and no one is going to judge you for what she says.

    1. Belle Astre*

      With large corporations being large corporations, I wouldn’t be surprised if they blamed the workers for the thefts – either directly or indirectly.

      As much as I agree with the general idea, I’m not convinced that this is always a victimless crime – especially when someone is shoplifting for fun rather than necessity (someone who steals a shirt for funsies vs someone who steals that same shirt because it’s the only way they’ll get a functional item of clothing are not the same in my mind)

    2. Ganymede*

      Well, Loss Prevention in large stores would disagree with you.

      They often watch habitual shoplifters until they’ve committed enough small thefts to amount to a felony, and then, as we say in my country, you’re absolutely stuffed. (I know this from lurking on US legal subs on reddit!)

      LW1 might want to warn the thief by dropping a link (possibly via a closer young colleague) to one of the tales of woe online that start “I’ve been charged with a felony at Target, I only stole small things, how do I get out of this instead of going to jail, losing my job and ability to vote and giving my aged parents a heart attack?”

    3. NorwegianTree*

      There is no such thing as a victimless crime, and it is a morality question. She is stealing, it is wrong, as well as illegal. Stealing from corporations could affect the store employees, as well as increasing the prices for the rest of us since the corporations have to factor in missing products in their bottom lines, and they are not going to take it from their earnings. It is going to cost someone, but not them. I would not want someone on my staff that steals, even if it is not from me. Different thing if it was something they did in the past, but not anymore, but this sounds like an ongoing thing, and I would expect them to steal from the workplace or coworkers if they “thought it didn´t hurt anyone”.

      1. Katie A*

        There definitely are victimless crimes. Stealing just isn’t one of them, since even if you think it’s ethical, there’s still a perpetrator and a victim, a person who did something illegal and a person who had something illegal done to them.

        But things like drug use and sex work are classic examples of victimless crimes. Neither of those inherently involves a victim, unless you specify other details. Drug use has one perpetrator and sex work has two perpetrators. There’s no person who had something illegal done to them, so they’re victimless crimes.

        1. Not So Fast...*

          EXCEPT when human trafficking is involved, which unfortunately is the case far too often in sex work and porn. Also, watch “Secrets of Playboy”. Eye opening, lots of female victims in that world, although some would say they chose to be there so how could they be victims? Sad series.

          1. aqua*

            most human trafficking is agricultural labour, I wonder why that isn’t bought up every time someone mentions farms

            1. Katie A*


              That’s an especially good point for this conversation because illegal immigration is another example of a victimless crime that can involve a victim if you add other details. Illegally entering the US is a crime that involves a perpetrtor (a person who committed the crime) but no victim (a person who had a crime committed against them).

              But if the person is trafficked, that trafficking involves a victim, so the situation as a whole is no longer victimless.

              1. Ali + Nino*

                I don’t want to get into a big fight but I think we can agree to disagree on whether or not illegal immigration is a victimless crime. This is getting outside the scope of this conversation and very far from the topic at hand but I just really disagree with your take. I think it’s glib and myopic.

                1. Katie A*

                  It isn’t glib or myopic to acknowledge that no one is the victim of someone else entering a country without permission of the government.

                  You can think something is bad or harmful for social or economic reasons without there being a victim.

                  “Victimless” doesn’t mean “doesn’t affect anything” or “good”. It just means that there isn’t someone who has had a crime committed against them.

          2. Katie A*

            I included “unless you specify other details” to account for this sort of comment. Your examples add in either an additional crime (trafficking) or additional details (mistreatment and abuse), and yes, those involve victims. Those things aren’t inherent parts of sex work.

            If the example of “sex work” is too distracting, then just replace it with “illegal but consensual sex.”

        2. BubbleTea*

          Drug use and making use of sex workers are both examples of things that support industries rife with exploitation and abuse. Being a sex worker isn’t a crime in a lot of places.

          1. Dinwar*

            As I said below, most of that is because it’s illegal and there’s significant social stigma against them. For my part, for every “Sex workers are horribly exploited” story I hear, I also hear stories from sex workers who find the work very satisfying, and psychological studies of people working in the adult film industry that show they are thriving in numerous areas of their lives (some of these studies were biased against such findings). (I know some folks in that and adjacent fields, so I’ve had reason to dig a bit. I’ve also had this conversation with a few prostitutes, some legal, some less so.) The real story is really complicated, and pretty much anyone presenting a simple narrative is selling a particular view of the subject.

            For me, the best case-study is Rum Runners. During Prohibition they were violent and aggressive. Once alcohol became both legal and (within certain limits) socially acceptable, they formed NASCAR.

        3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          Firstly is sex work a crime?
          Secondly is infecting people with STDs a good thing?
          Thirdly do the profits from purchasing drugs go to good causes or do they help to enrich criminals?

          1. penny dreadful analyzer*

            Thirdly do the profits from purchasing drugs go to good causes or do they help to enrich criminals?

            This line of thinking is actually explicitly why some people think it is ethical to steal stuff from big corporations, so I’m not sure what side of this argument you think you’re taking here.

        4. PhyllisB*

          I actually disagree that drug usage is victimless. I have three children with varying degrees of addiction. One is clean and sober and works helping other addicts, one is still struggling, and one is not using what she was addicted to but is a heavy drinker. I am not directly affected by the two users anymore because they don’t live close to me and I am not privy to what they’re doing, but they caused a lot of pain when they were local. Theft, totaled cars and jail sentences. So no, drug use is not a victimless crime.

          1. Dinwar*

            A lot of this is due to the criminalization of drugs, though. I’m not saying that drugs don’t make you do stupid things (I’ve known enough addicts to know it does), but a big part of the reason is that by doing drugs you’ve already crossed a pretty significant line in our society–one that will necessarily get you punished–so even without the drugs you’ve re-calibrated what you consider acceptable behavior to include violations of social norms. Further, because drugs are illegal drug users are necessarily going to be pushed to associate with other drug users. You become the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

            Look at drinking. Sure, a certain number of drinkers do bad things. But the majority of drinkers are responsible people who have families, hold down jobs, and generally are good, solid contributing members of society. And a lot of that is that there’s no stigma against having a glass of wine or a beer after work. You haven’t crossed a line or engaged in socially unacceptable behavior–so you have not recalibrated what you consider acceptable to be outside the societal norm, and the people you are associating with are probably just normal people.

            In brief, you can’t build social structures that intentionally punish a behavior, and use the punishment from those social structures to justify calling the behavior problematic.

            For what it’s worth (and to preclude the inevitable), my recreational drug use is limited to caffeine, alcohol, and on rare occasions (weddings, births, return of a friend from a combat zone) tobacco. Never did anything else, wouldn’t be tempted even if every recreational drug was 100% legal. This is a matter of logic to me.

          2. Katie A*

            I’m sorry, that sounds really rough. Addiction is awful and really hurts a lot of people. I hope things improve for you and your family.

            That doesn’t change the fact that drug use is a victimless crime. There is not a specific person who is victimized by the simple act of another person using drugs. It can contribute to harm, and someone could suffer knowing that another person is using drugs, but they’re not a victim of drug use in the same way that someone who has something stolen from them is a victim of theft.

      2. metadata minion*

        There are still places where being gay is a crime, and plenty of places in the US are passing legislation making it illegal to do things like sleep in public, as if banning homeless people from public view will magically make them have homes.

        I agree that shoplifting does have consequences, especially for minimum wage employees, but states make all kinds of things illegal that do no harm to anyone.

        1. Dinwar*

          There are places where my religion would result in my execution. There are many areas even in the USA where I am de facto banned from certain occupations, holding political office, and the like.

          The idea that there are no victimless crimes is right up there with the idea that the innocent have nothing to fear from the police–an idea that can only be held by someone in a privilaged position in society who’d never had to deal with the rougher aspects of law enforcement.

    4. SarahKay*

      I worked retail at a large chain department store, and I assure you that shoplifting hurts the store. The store leadership were held directly responsible for ‘shrinkage’ and I was told that at one point the store manager was put at risk of losing his job if our loss from thefts didn’t decrease.

      1. ABC*

        You can always tell who hasn’t worked retail when they make confidently wrong statements like the one you’re responding to.

      2. MsM*

        Yep. Companies don’t just shrug and go “oh, well, it’s only 1% across all our profits.” They look at which stores are having problems and take it out on them.

    5. Holly.*

      A store won’t get hit by only one thief, there will be more, and it all adds up.

      Even if an individual worker doesn’t get directly punished, theft reduces profits.
      Less profits means less money for bonuses and pay rises.
      Enough cut in profits means less money available for staff pay, leading to lower staff numbers, needing to do more with less people, and potentially redundancies and stores closing.

      Theft hurts workers, it doesn’t matter the size of the company.

    6. melissa*

      This is the same attitude as (I work in medical care) doctors who will order unnecessary stuff because “it’s free, your insurance will pay for it.” It’s not FREE— insurance paying for it means that we all pay for it with our premiums. (Or for patients on Medicare/Medicaid, we all pay for it with our taxes.). Nothing in life is free. Either you pay for that shirt at Walmart, or someone else pays for it.

      1. Gyne*

        You work in a very different part of Healthcare than I do- I have only ever had this request/rationale from patients. (And I hear it daily.)

      2. Lenora Rose*

        The weird thing about your example is that this logic is often used as the argument against universal health care (or single payer, or whatever the current term is). “Doctors will ask for unnecessary things! Patients Will!” Yet that’s not how it’s treated in actual countries with that system.

        (There’s also a fine line between “unnecessary” and “your case has some puzzling symptoms/lack of symptoms, this may help narrow it down.” And telling people “This won’t cost” might be a necessary step to convincing a person who is reluctant to get even an actually necessary test in a system where everything can cost – especially if they’ve had an experience with insurance rejecting them after it’s done.)

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      I am… really getting some eyebrow configurations going at how the earnest young shop lifters do Leverage-esque research into who they’re stealing from to make sure no one will get hurt when they pocket those earrings.

      For example, if it’s the locally owned grocery store BUT they are stealing Fritos–and Fritos are part of a large company! Fritos are always moral to steal!

      1. Not So Fast...*

        It’s just rationalization. There are times when lying is the moral thing to do because it’s saving a life or preventing harm, but in general lying is not approved of. But stealing because you want something you could pay for and why should you pay for it just like the rest of us shmucks, no. I would not trust my personal belongings around an admitted thief, and that person would get permanent side-eye from me. Who says that anyway? It’s like someone breaking in my home or stealing my car and saying, well they have insurance, so no real harm. What??? I paid for the item and the insurance! There’s freecycle, dumpster diving, curb cruising for those who don’t want to pay a lot or anything or stuff, I encourage that. But retail theft is wrong, full stop.

        1. Seahorse*

          I’ve had two separate cars stolen, and insurance covered jackshit. I was just out money and a car when I really, really couldn’t afford it. My city wasn’t walkable and public transport was abysmal. I had no choice but to go into (more) debt to be able to get to work.
          I have *very* negative feelings toward anyone who thinks insurance or “sticking it to the man” justifies whatever crimes they want to commit.

        2. Sparkles McFadden*

          I had a friend who took a collector’s DVD set from my house while she was visiting. Just shoved it into her bag while I was in another room. I noticed after she left. I drove to her house and found the set along with a couple of other, smaller things I thought I’d lost or misplaced. I took everything back and told her never to contact me again. She sent me a long email explaining how disappointed she was in me for “not valuing people more than things.” This is the kind of pseudo-morality crap people trot out to explain away the fact that they’re just thieves who take what they want simply because they want it.

      2. Grandma*

        It all comes out the same. The actual name for such a person as the young woman at the library is Thief. “It’s a thrill,” “It doesn’t hurt anyone,” “Stick it to the big corporations,” “Everyone does it,” it doesn’t matter how one spins it, it’s theft and that person is a thief.

    8. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

      Others have mentioned how employees are hurt already. Shoplifting also hurts the community a particular branch of a store serves. When corporations decide to close a location due to losses (as has happened with thing like grocery stores and pharmacies fairly recently), often the community it was located in is left underserved (or sometimes entirely unserved). This creates “deserts” of that service type, which have massive and endemic long term impacts on the residents of any given community.

      It’s not victimless by any means, and the number of people who have managed to delude themselves into thinking it is is a big problem.

    9. Jackalope*

      In addition to what others said about it affecting the people at the bottom no matter how large the corporation is, I would be concerned about her comment for other reasons. She doesn’t think taking stuff from corporations is wrong? Okay, what if your library orders 20 copies of a new book by a popular author and she decides that there are a lot of copies so she can snag a few for her friends? What if there’s a new supply order and she takes a couple of boxes of pens? Or filches part of her coworkers’ lunches on the regular and justifies it to herself as, “Well, I still left them most of their lunch, it’s fine”? People’s ethics in one area tend to spill out in other areas as well, so I would be concerned about having a staff member who thinks that theft (especially regular theft for “funsies”) is NBD.

      1. Silver Robin*

        To be fair to the coworker, she did explicitly say she would not steal from the library. If the reasons she does this in the first place are for anti-corporation reasons, which is likely, then a library is very clearly not a corporation. You are stretching things and it is unreasonable to go from “steals from Target because corporations suck” to “takes coworkers lunches because I wanna”


          Oh, if someone told me that they were a cold blooded thief but calling them a liar would be a step too far, I would laugh in their face. Disordered moral thinking tends to contaminate everything around it. Sure, a man who beats his wife wouldn’t necessarily beat his children, or someone who poisons wild animals (“they make annoying sounds!”) wouldn’t necessarily poison neighbors’ pets but I believe the likelihood goes up sharply.

        2. OP #1*

          OP here! FWIW- I don’t think she steals lunches but I heavily suspect her of stealing coffee creamer, which I no longer keep in the communal fridge because it was always gone when I needed it most. Yes, even when it had my name on it.

          Maybe it was someone else. Could even have been the night people. But like, if someone admits to shoplifting from corporations that they think can afford it, naturally my mind goes to- maybe she thinks I can afford to lose my creamer. Just one of many reasons her comment was unwise.

        3. Head sheep counter*

          Today one is stealing from Target… tomorrow why not steal from your colleague? They get paid more than you. Its not fair as you are oppressed by being young and a junior employee… so really you are just leveling the playing field. Why not take your bosses car? Its nicer than yours and you are oppressed by having to drive the car your parents bought for you.

          Honestly – if your morals point to its ok to steal… that’s all I need to know. You will steal from me some day if I allow it.

        4. Jackalope*

          I stand by my examples, and refer you to the Al Capone method of stopping sexual harassment (if you aren’t familiar with it, you can find it pretty easily with a basic search). The idea is that people’s morals are all tangled together, so a belief in one area (for good or for bad) will predict their behavior in multiple areas.

          In this case, the coworker in question doesn’t seem to see anything wrong with taking stuff that isn’t hers. Note that she says she wouldn’t steal from the library because everything there is free. It’s not that she thinks she shouldn’t be able to take what she wants, it’s that she thinks taking it from the library isn’t considered stealing. As many people have mentioned in other comments today, someone who is willing to brag about shoplifting is probably not limiting themselves to shoplifting only, or if they are they won’t continue to limit themselves in the future.

    10. MuseumChick*

      Interesting. I personally do think this reflects very badly on her ethics. People have ways of justifying all kinds of bad behavior (in this case stealing) and she is working in a library. Public libraries are funded through the local government. Will she start stealing because she wants to stick it the government the same way she wants to stick to a big corp? Or, at library at college campus, same thing, will she start stealing to stick it a massive institution she has some disagreement with?

      Additionally, it really doesn’t hut the corporation. All they will do is close down the location if things get bad enough and remove a resource from the local community.

      1. Ali + Nino*

        I agree. I’m honestly shocked by the many comments on this thread expressing agreement with the worker’s sentiment and just wanting to warn the worker not to express this at work (!!). I live in a city hit hard by looting at scale. Guess what happens? Companies close down their stores and leave, which only hurts the neighborhood and locals.

        1. I should really pick a name*

          I don’t think there are actually all that many, and they’re getting a ton of pushback.

    11. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      My local Walmart has started keeping small valuables behind glass or on locked hooks. A very sensible response to shrinkage. Which means that I have to track down an employee with a key when I want to buy new earbuds.

      The follow on effects of things like theft affect other people in the community. Employees have to work to prevent theft, other shoppers have to deal with inconvenient anti theft procedures, and there is an increased level of suspicion.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I’ve also known places to simply cease stocking products that have too high of a shrinkage rate.

    12. Sindy*

      This is not the case at all. Large corporations routinely close stores that suffer a lot of shoplifting which economically impacts the area because suddenly dozens if not hundreds of people lose their jobs. The management of retail stores routinely get fired for not stopping shoplifting and I’ve even heard cases of people getting their pay docked to make up for the costs of the stolen items.

      Shoplifting does not hurt the corporation. It hurts the retail workers, the working class that everyone is so dependent on but our society insists on treating like garbage. Do you have any idea how many stores in my city have closed down as a result of shoplifting and how many people have lost their jobs because of your mentality?

      1. Silver Robin*

        Target was also caught lying about shrinkage being a reason they closed stores. If one of them is doing it, the rest of them are too, so while I can see the logic of closing a store that is often stolen from, I do not trust that shrinkage is a primary motivator.

        Also, if they wanted less shrinkage, they could hire more employees to actually be on the floor instead of locking everything up, but instead they go for skeleton crews that need to run themselves ragged just to keep basic functions going. These are also corporations that made incredible amounts of money during the pandemic, but apparently did not spend any of it on improving things for their employees.

        Corporations have choices to make and they are always going to make the one that increases profits for the execs/shareholders, regardless of what customers are doing. Shrinkage is just an excuse.

        Does that mean I am pro shoplifting? Ideally, I would like a world where people did not do that. I personally do not, but that is because I think it is ineffective as a form of protest. If other people do it, well, it is not the hill I am going to die on in our current context.

        1. Dinwar*

          “If one of them is doing it, the rest of them are too…”

          By that logic everyone here is a shoplifter for thrills. After all, we have one example, so obviously everyone does it! (The fact that you say you’re okay with theft indicates that you probably believe this to be true; I’m curious as to whether that’s the case or not.)

          “Also, if they wanted less shrinkage, they could hire more employees to actually be on the floor instead of locking everything up…”

          A lock costs what, $5? Maybe less per lock–Uline tends to give pretty substantial bulk discounts. Plus it’s a one-time investment (you have to pay the employee to be there anyway, so them unlocking it isn’t influencing this equation). In contrast, an employee is going to be making tens of thousands of dollars a year plus benefits. For most things, the math favors the lock.

          I don’t think your understanding of the economics here is fully developed.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            And I think you’re ignoring what Silver Robin is saying. Corporations lie and cheat in the name of profit. We know this. Wage theft is the largest category of theft, but it isn’t against the criminal code in most places.

            We also know they made a ton of profit while pleading poor. They act in their own self-interest, but are shocked–shocked!–when their short term thinking leads to long term problems. Quit carrying water for big corporations.

    13. jasmine*

      Lots of people mention that shoplifting hurts the store and the retail employees, but even if it didn’t… If everyone had this mentality, then these stores would go out of business. Theft is wrong, plain and simple.

      It’s one thing to steal if like your family is starving or something, it’s another thing to say it’s just fine because corporations are bad.

    14. Dinwar*

      “…but I do think the colleague had a point about the giant corporations thing – I really don’t believe it hurts anyone and don’t particularly think it reflects badly on her ethics.”

      What’s your threshold for “Rich enough that taking your property doesn’t hurt you”? That is, fundamentally, the argument being made here. Or is it the “corporation” that’s the issue? In that case, remember that most corporations are tiny–mom-and-pop shops that incorporate as a liability mitigation measure (which is what corporations are, really).

      Second, while profits in terms of dollars may be high, many stores operate on extremely thin margins. We’re talking 5% or less–sometimes as low as 1%. That means that it doesn’t take much theft to push the store into the red, which means it doesn’t take much theft to get a store closed. And it won’t be the CEOs that are harmed; it’ll be the cashiers and folks stocking shelves and and the like that are going to be out of luck.

      Third, I think it absolutely does reflect poorly on someone’s ethics if they’re willing to commit theft–and even more so if they brag about it. I have the utmost sympathy for someone who steals to feed their children; I have none for someone who steals merely for the thrill, and who brags about it. I don’t care if it hurts anyone or not; the fact of the matter is that this isn’t her property, and she’s taking it. In a business context I’d be VERY concerned that she’d take the same view towards embezzlement and theft of company (or client) property. Once you start crossing those lines it’s really hard to recalibrate and remember where the line actually is. Failure to remember where that line is has caused more than one “giant corporation” to go under.

      That said, this it not always the case. Stores CAN take the same view as you. I worked for a store as a cashier once where the cashiers had a certain leeway in cost–we could lower the cost of an item by a certain amount without consulting anyone. And we were encouraged to do so with certain demographics (little old ladies; it was the Rust Belt, and the little old ladies ran their families, as far as shopping was concerned). Their reasoning was that the increase in loyalty from giving them a discount or randomly “forgetting” to scan a $2 item was worth the loss. (Many cashiers were young; attractive members of the appropriate gender often got the same discount. Of course, an attractive woman who knows she’ll get a discount from X store is more likely to spend her money at X store, so same rules applied.) But the logic is completely different from shoplifting. As a representative of the company I was empowered to reduce prices; the store had determined that it was in its best interest to do so. Someone who routinely walked out with items without paying would (and did) get banned, even if it was below that threshold.

    15. Stuart Foote*

      I am glad that most of the comments below are pushing back on this horrible attitude, but one perspective I haven’t seen below is the perspective of the people working at the store being shoplifted from…it’s hard to imagine them wanting to work at a store where people just steal the merchandise. I’d imagine it’s pretty demoralizing.

  22. JSPA*

    #2, unless it feels like a lie (which it isn’t, quite) you could preface the name of the college with, “for family reasons, I went to X.” That’s a signal that present-you would likely not have chosen the place for past you.

    The borderline lie is that it suggests that past-you would also have chosen differently, had it been possible.

    And assuming that the intense religiosity was partially or entirely instilled by your parents, it’s overall a fair statement, I’d say.

    If (and only if) they make a face on hearing the name, “I managed to piece together a solid secular education there, and since then, all the same.”

    Most people, hearing that, will understand that you’re not espousing the theology and social stances of the institution.

    1. funkytown*

      I don’t know that “for family reasons” would necessarily distance someone the way I think you mean it here- if someone said that, with no other context or background, I might assume they are close with their family and share the same beliefs. Like they could be saying, this school aligns with not just me but my whole family’s values! I think adding something more explicitly distancing would be more clear, like “it’s not what i’d choose now”. I also like the suggestion to be vague/change topics if possible, “oh it was a small school in the Midwest! I hated the winters”

      1. Sam*

        Or they can grow up because why someone went to the school they went to is no one’s business.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          If someone went to Liberty University, I want to know if they believe what that school teaches. It’s pretty important to me to know who believes I’m going to Hell just for existing.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            One of my biggest professionalism fails was when I helped a woman at work learn a difficult task. She thanked me profusely and told me to Heaven.

            Without taking a second to think about whether it was appropriate or not, I answered, “Not according to most of the world’s major religions.”



          2. Orv*

            Or that they’d be religiously justified in undermining me at work because I’m one of Satan’s minions.

        2. fidget spinner*

          except there are multiple comments here admitting they would interrogate someone about their current beliefs if they were from a religious school… and even a comment saying they wouldn’t hire someone from a certain religious school.

          So, unfortunately, it does matter.

  23. JSPA*

    #4, you can say, “it pains me to leave, especially as it’s unclear whether the job I’m leaving for is long-term or not, but I can’t reasonably pass it up. When the managerial position here is funded next year, I’d be honored to apply and be considered for the job.”

    Why can’t you?

    “You are asking me to give up 9 months or a year of 24% higher pay, and no improvement to my resumé in the interim. That’s a huge ask.”

    If they act like you’re burning a bridge, or guilt trip you, or get pushy:

    Would you and the other managers take a 25% pay cut to stay in your current job, out of loyalty?”

    If they say no, that’s their answer.

    If they say yes (some people are like that) you have a come-back:

    “Oh! Well, in that case, when you’re trying to keep someone who’s leaving for higher pay and new responsibilities, you can all ask the business to cut a little from your salary, to cover their promotion.”

    1. ReginaFilangy*

      LW here, yes this make sense. I will probably word is similar to your first paragraph. So far they haven’t acted like I am burning a bridge, but I also haven’t been ecstatic with their attitudes.

  24. Airway*

    LW5, I would be careful in assuming you’d get six months of parental leave under short-term disability – generally STD eligibility is subject to medical necessity, up to a maximum of six months. It’s not parental/bonding leave.
    (I think for an uncomplicated birth or C-section disability is usually 6 and 8 weeks.)

    I think some STD benefits administrators also administer parental leave, so it’s possible they are offering six months of parental leave and just not communicating that clearly. But I doubt it – that’s the sort of perk that’s advertised in job ads, not hidden in a benefits portal.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I know someone who was also told something like this (“one of our employees recently took X months for maternity leave!”) and then later found out that was completely unpaid after some miserly amount of time. So it’s true, but it may not be relevant to you.

    2. kage*

      This this this.

      Short Term Disability (STD) policies will only pay out for the time deemed medically necessary and births typically have very short coverage periods (usually capped at 6 weeks if traditional or 8 weeks if c-section). The other incredibly important factor is to know the specifics of your plan’s waiting period. The waiting period is the time that has to pass from the date of birth before the policy starts paying benefits but doesn’t extend the total coverage period. Meaning – if you have a traditional birth and your STD policy has a 2 week waiting period, you’ll only actually be paid out for 4 weeks of coverage (6 week birth coverage – 2 week waiting period = 4 weeks of paid coverage). I personally have seen that waiting period be as low as 1 week and as high as 3 weeks.

      Other STD policy things that can vary drastically between carriers:
      – payout amounts (50% of weekly pay post-tax; 60% of weekly pay pre-tax; etc.)
      – whether payouts will taxed at time of payout or not

      It’s really important that your review your personal STD policy with that carrier in detail so you can plan for exactly what your income might be while out on leave (I frankly wouldn’t even necessarily trust an HR person to get it completely right if they haven’t dealt with the process before). I’ve had 3 kids while at 3 different employers and every time the STD coverage was different with different results.

      And of course STD coverage is only one small part of the parental leave policies/coverage puzzle that new parents have to navigate here in the USA: FMLA/protections; paid leave policies -whether mandated or optional; how your employer handles benefit deductions during and after leave (do you need to still pay your insurance premiums while on leave, will your employer cover those in full, will you need to pay all those leave-months as soon as you go back to work, if you don’t return – can your employer claw back those benefits, etc.); how your accumulated PTO works with leave (do you have to take it, can you save it, etc.); etc. The whole USA process is a nightmare the first time through because you just don’t know what you don’t know. If possible, I highly highly recommend finding a colleague you can trust who recently has gone through the process with your employer as they can give you the clearest real-world information for how it might shake out for you.

      1. Alice*

        This is such an important comment and one I wish I had read before getting preganant. I naively assumed that because I had 6 months of STD time available, that STD would be paying me for the entire time I took off. The waiting period bit was especially shocking and annoying, I’ve been making an effort to tell other women at work about this so they aren’t suprised if they decide to start families.

  25. Cat Sandwich*

    Ohhh #2 did you go to Oral Roberts University?

    That’s the college my parents LOVED to joke about sending me to if I didn’t get my shit together.

    1. Just smile and wave*

      my thought was High Point university. small, not super well known, and (at least from what I remember a decade ago) strict behavior code and mandatory chapel.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I mean, the small Mennonite college my parents went to has a fairly strict code of conduct, though it’s definitely loosened up somewhat over the years – but I know when I was applying, chapel was definitely mandatory, opposite-sex visitors to dorm rooms were very strictly regulated (door had to be open, for instance) and there was no dancing allowed on campus. And yet it’s not a “bad” school or really known for its religious extremism.

      2. Generic Name*

        My son is getting bombarded with mailers from High Point! He’s not remotely interested in going there, but I had no idea they were religious.

        1. Just smile and wave*

          I may have incorrectly remembered, I know the tour I went on was weird enough to make my parents make cult jokes (there were people standing an exact distance away from each other princess waving)

    2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      I do believe that speculation is frowned upon round here, OPs won’t write in if they get doxxed!

  26. I should really pick a name*

    I’m in a phase of my career where people are, rightly, often asking where and in what I received my undergraduate training

    Can you elaborate on this? Outside of an interview, I’m not aware of a particular career phase where this would be a frequent thing.

    1. UKDancer*

      I’m not either, I’ve never been asked where I went to university in any of my jobs after the first job. It’s on my CV but now people in my company don’t ask about it. I know where some of our newer starters went to university because I interviewed them and they mentioned it, but it doesn’t really come up. I had one colleague early on who told everyone he met he went to Oxford and looked down on people like me who went to red brick universities but he was the exception. Other than that I don’t know where my colleagues went to university.

      I had assumed it was more of a US thing as it seems like people talk a lot more about their university and seem to have a lot more sense of pride / engagement about it, wearing merchandise featuring the university etc. But I may be wrong.

      Also the UK has never had religiously affiliated universities in the way the US seems to. Apart from theological colleges all of ours are pretty secular. Even Oxbridge colleges established in the 12th century as religious institutions and with names like Christchurch / Corpus Christi / Emmanuel are a long way from that now. So where someone went probably says less about their views than it does about where they were and what they wanted to study.

      1. londonedit*

        Yes, I was going to say all of the same. Our universities all cost the same in terms of tuition fees (unless you’re in Scotland) and none of them are associated with a particular religion, or a particular viewpoint, so that’s not an issue I can fully get my head around.

        But I’ve never really been overtly asked where I went to university. I also get the feeling it’s less of a ‘thing’ here – with the exception of Oxford and Cambridge, our universities are on much more of a level playing field, so any interest is more likely to be geographical (‘Did you grow up here? No, I moved here for uni and stayed on afterwards’). In the early stages of my career people did occasionally ask what I’d studied – usually as ‘Did you do English?’ because it’s publishing and people assume you’ve got an English degree. But it’s very much a small talk thing and not a case of people wanting to find out (or indeed caring much about) where you went to uni and what you studied. It just doesn’t really tend to come up.

      2. Antilles*

        I had assumed it was more of a US thing as it seems like people talk a lot more about their university and seem to have a lot more sense of pride / engagement about it, wearing merchandise featuring the university etc. But I may be wrong.
        It’s definitely a thing to have pride in your university. In every office I’ve ever worked at, the majority of people had some form of school merch hanging somewhere in their office – a pennant or flag, a bobblehead doll, a framed photo of the stadium, something like that.
        It’s also very much tied into sports fandom too, which probably plays into it also. In a lot of places in the US, college football in the fall or college basketball during March Madness are common chit-chat topics of conversation, which can naturally lead into chatting about where you went to college.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes, that’s definitely a US thing. I’ve never seen UK people with university merch around. We don’t really do college sports in the same way. People are more likely to have something for their professional football team or favourite TV show. So I have a good idea which football teams most of my colleagues support (split between Spurs, Man U, West Ham, Brighton, Rangers and Everton), better in fact than my idea of where they went to university.

          1. SarahKay*

            Yes, I’m in the UK and when I was at uni the campus shop had a small section of university merchandise. My recollection was that it looked… let’s say unloved.
            Snacks, drinks and pads of paper (this was the 90’s) seemed to be what people wanted to buy.

        2. londonedit*

          Yeah, definitely not a thing here. Those US-style hoodies with the name of the uni have become more popular over the last 10-15 years I think, but we don’t have the whole flags and merch and displaying it years after you graduated thing. Our sports (with the exception of the Boat Race which is generally treated as an oddity by most of the non-Oxbridge general public) also have nothing to do with university and we don’t have all the sports scholarships etc – as UKDancer says, of course football is massive here and people will often have some sort of merch to do with their football team, and there are rivalries there, but not when it comes to universities. School and uni seems to be much more low-key here – if you play sport at high school you might get a few parents watching but generally you just go and play the match. High schools and universities certainly don’t generally have their own sports stadiums etc, beyond a few football/rugby/cricket pitches.

      3. Lily Rowan*

        Older US universities were generally founded with religious affiliations that don’t exist anymore, as well. But there are also this whole swath of new, more religious, more religiously extreme schools. And a bunch in between those two groups!

      4. Fozzy*

        I had never heard the term “red brick university” before and had to look it up — that’s fascinating. In the US, our education system is so much newer that the universities built in brick are likely to be the oldest and most prestigious, while our equivalent of UK red brick universities are largely concrete, glass, and more modern building materials. So I had your comment entirely the wrong way around until I got to Wikipedia!

        1. londonedit*

          Here we have Oxbridge which are the most prestigious, then the ‘red brick’ ones, and then generally the newer the university the more likely it is to be seen (by some, generally more snobbish people) as being less prestigious. Then you’ve got the category of ‘ex-polytechnic’ – a few decades ago a polytechnic was something like a vocational/community college would be in the US, and many of those then got university status, and some people still have a hangup about other people going to a ‘poly’. My university was/is jokingly referred to as ‘Strand polytechnic’ because although it’s one of the oldest universities in the country, it’s always had a reputation for mopping up students who didn’t get into Oxford or Cambridge (which is one of the roles of the old polytechnics – they were an option for students who didn’t get the grades for traditional university).

        2. UKDancer*

          Yeah in the UK, Oxford and Cambridge are the oldest. Then the famous Scottish ones were built in the 15th century (Edinburgh, Aberdeen, St Andrews and Glasgow). They’re all made of stone originally I think.

          There was a growth in universities in the early 19th century in London and Durham. Then some in the late 19th and early 20th century followed with the emergence of what we call Red Brick universities because they were built in red brick. Then in the 1960s the next wave came and they were called “glass plate” universities.

          Some Oxbridge people look down on the later universities but this is fortunately not common.

        3. Ellis Bell*

          A red brick uni is actually quite prestigious… for precisely the same reason why the brick, ivy covered buildings in the US are prestigious; the buildings are old and historical. Most major cities have one redbrick and one “new” university, which are the former polytechnical colleges who achieved university status later on, and those buildings are concrete, glass etc. Redbricks still aren’t quite as prestigious as Oxbridge colleges, but I think you have to be a particularly insufferable snob to harp on about the difference. It’s a bit like someone from Harvard looking down on a different Ivy league college that isn’t quite as old. I agree with londonedit that the snobbishness is more subtle/invisible. If you say you went to uni in Liverpool or Newcastle people will only ask which one (redbrick or new) if they know someone else you might now. Money is not really a bar to going to a type of school, your grades might be but it usually boils down to what type of course you want to do. Snobs do exist of course.

          1. Ellis Bell*

            And TIL that the Victoria building in Liverpool inspired the term! Absolutely beautiful building (it glows in sunlight) that was by far my favourite on the campus.

    2. metadata minion*

      I think it’s pretty common to ask someone just a few years out of college where they went, as a getting-to-know-you kind of thing. Though I’m not entirely sure what the LW means by “rightly”, since unless you’re in maybe the sciences or something where “I studied at X lab” is directly relevant to your work, I think of it as a question that’s more or less small talk.

    3. BubbleTea*

      Newly qualified nurses are often asked where they trained, at least by people who are familiar with the system.

    4. HannahS*

      Newly graduated, I guess? Or in grad school? It’s a frequent question in those settings, and I think most people don’t realize it can be a loaded question.

      Being vague and changing the subject (“I studied political science in Utah. It was fun to live there for a few years, but I’m glad to be in [location] now. Are you new to the area, too?”) or, if pressed, adding a quick qualifier before moving the conversation forward (“I studied political science at BYU. My coursework was fine, but I don’t really associate myself with them anymore. Anyway, [your major] sounds really interesting; how did you wind up in [field]?”

    5. bamcheeks*

      Hm, I think it’s fairly standard when you’re a recent graduate and in a role where your undergrad major has a technical element but isn’t directly related. Like, if you’re a quantity surveyor and you had to have a degree in quantity surveying, people might ask where but they won’t ask what. But if you’re in, say, lab science, then asking, “What was your undergrad degree in?” is useful because I’m going to assume different sets of knowledge and strengths depending on whether it was pharmacology or biomedical science or straight biology.

    6. fhqwhgads*

      I take it to mean they’re right out of school, and thus have little relevant work history and school’s the thing they’d get asked about in interviews. That’s sort of the only “phase” that matches the description.

    7. Coverage Associate*

      Another thing is that undergrad is more often residential in the US, in that people reside on the campus, which may be thousands of miles from where they grew up.

      My post secondary education path is unusual even for the US, but 14 years into my career, that’s the context I get asked about undergrad most often. (Which means sometimes I can answer “California” to “Where did you go to undergrad?” rather than naming the school.)

      Also, American accents cover almost by definition much bigger regions than British accents, and a lot of our personal history questions are about where people have lived, as above.

      Also also, there can be business reasons for wanting geographic diversity, as different regions have different economies. We are also not a one City country like England. New York is not our London. I interviewed with several law firms that had only California and Chicago offices, for example.

  27. FashionablyEvil*

    LW5, this may seem like a basic suggestion, but have you searched for “expectant parents” on your company’s intranet? Ours is a little bit separate from the main benefits documentation, but it’s there. With 10,000 employees, I’d be surprised if they don’t have it.

  28. 34avemovieguy*

    I once remember a comedian (Kate Berlant I believe) who made her thing for a while that she shoplifts. She said it was a feminist right because she stole from Sephora and it was her way of hurting patriarchy and unrealistic beauty standards/pink tax. I feel like a lot of white women, or maybe just privileged women, see shoplifting as a victimless crime against evil corporations. And they know that they are unlikely to be severely punished for it the way a POC male would be so it’s pretty sage. A lot of reasons why this is faulty reasoning and many commenters above pointed out how shoplifting hurts retail workers.

    1. NothappyinNY*

      Wow, no need to stereotype.

      I think all shoplifting is wrong and stealing. It is just wrong. But it hurts more than just retail workers. If a lot of theft, stores will close. Some Targets are closing, and some sell food. This can be a hardship on people without cars.

      Shrinkage hurts shareholders. They are not all wealthy. 401Ks may have funds with retail com

      1. uncivil servant*

        Yeah, anecdotally I don’t see shoplifting as associated with women. I’d probably stereotype it as a young male thing because of all the young men I see on my local subreddit posting about how they steal groceries to stick it to the man. But I recognize that that’s more because of the demographics of Reddit.

        Now I’m curious about the demographics of shoplifting in the self-checkout era. I think it’s not going too far out on a limb to say that overall women are more likely to put an expensive cosmetic in their purse, and men are more likely to be more brazen, like the guy I saw walk out of the grocery store carrying a TV. But who are the people who code all their produce as bananas??

      2. 34avemovieguy*

        Sorry I’m just rereading what I wrote and I cannot believe how bad it sounds. My apologies. I meant to connect the comedian with the person in OP’s story as a reason why she was so casual about shoplifting. Only because that’s my only reference point for casual shoplifting

        1. MigraineMonth*

          It’s absolutely true that POC in the US are subject to heightened scrutiny and anti-shoplifting security measures that white people aren’t. Being followed around the store. Being asked, “Can I help you?” in that aggressive “I’m watching you” tone.

          I’m white, and there have been times I’ve set off the security detector at the door just to be waved through while they check the bag of a black person who didn’t set off the detector. It’s not a wealth/class thing, either; Oprah Winfrey was once accused of shoplifting.

    2. Shoes*

      A lot of different types of people see shoplifting as victimless crime. This definitely affects who is more likely to get caught. People bring their prejudices with them wherever they go. Race can be a factor. So, the “expensive” looking person will probably get away with stealing what a “less expensive” looking person will not because security is not watching the “expensive” person.

  29. Hiring Mgr*

    If I was planning a heist, I definitely wouldn’t want the library employee on my crew. You can’t start talking like that in public where anyone could hear what you might be up to. Discretion and silence are of the utmost importance

    Rather than laying low, she would probably end up buying a flashy Cadillac or furs like the guys in Goodfellas – and we know how that turned out.

    1. OP #1*

      I don’t think she’s going to get rich boosting chapstick from the 7-11! It was pretty clear in context that she meant items for her personal use.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        I went back and read more closely and saw she just graduated high school which puts it into more perspective. Probably just a kid doing stupid things, or maybe just boasting thinking it sounds cool or something

        I shoplifted a bottle of shampoo in college once – was immediately caught – very embarrassing to say the least.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        I definitely think she should get the lowdown on professionalism and I’d go as far as saying she should even start paying for her chapstick, but the comments on here about how she’s definitely headed for a life of crime and will also single handedly ruin the honour of the library are making me howl with laughter.

  30. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    LW4, they have not made any concrete promises or put anything in writing. They just want to keep you hanging on. Take the other job.

  31. Lab Boss*

    LW4: Leaving aside any questions of whether your current company will actually come through with the offer they’re making you, remember that they’re not offering you a “raise,” they’re offering you a promotion. That means the additional money comes with additional work, and if you feel underpaid for your current workload there’s a good chance the higher salary will still leave you feeling underpaid for the higher workload.

    That’s not to mention the fact that they went from “planning for it in 2-3 years” to “we’ll immediately budget for it.” If you take them at their word it means they think you’re good enough for the job within the next year, but were going to make you wait years for it until you threatened to leave.

    1. ReginaFilangy*

      LW here! At my current role, the promotion ‘next year’ would have come with a raise to match the salary at the new job. So, it would be a promotion along with a raise. I don’t feel underpaid right now! That’s the struggle – I am happy where I am at but this new offer came long. But you and Alison are right, I have to act based on what is in front of me right now – not what’s promised to me in the future.

      1. Lab Boss*

        I guess what I actually meant was that a raise that comes with a promotion is different than a raise without one. One is getting more money for your work, the other is getting more money AND more work- I don’t know anyone who’d turn down a raise for their current position, but plenty who would/have turned down the chance for a promotion raise because of the extra stress/responsibility that would come with it.

        I may have read between the lines that you felt underpaid, though, based on saying you were willing to leave for more money- if you feel fairly compensated in your current job, then it’s more likely you’d feel fairly compensated at a higher one too (which does make your decision tricker, but I still agree that it’s not guaranteed, a bird in the hand, all that).

  32. Hyaline*

    LW2, I think your discomfort is making the issue seem more complicated than it is. For one, in social situations, there’s no rule that you have to even name the college. If people ask, you could just say “oh, I went to a small college near where I grew up” and swiftly pivot to “what about you?” and get really interested in whatever they have to say. Second, if it’s not very well known, as you say, most people probably won’t be aware of the affiliations, or have strong feelings one way or the other. I think this is a case of other people not thinking about/caring about us nearly as much as we think that they do. Obviously you can’t hide it on a résumé or during a job interview and then you can use phrases like Allison suggested, or other opportunities to show that you’ve grown and changed— or not because people probably care a lot less than you think they do.

  33. Juicebox Hero*

    My aunt is one of those people who tries to get a buck’s change out of every quarter. She’s been known to move sales signs at stores. She used to swap price stickers at the grocery store and was actually angry when stores went to either bar codes or labels you can’t peel off without wrecking them.

    The capper was when she bragged to my mother and me about how her shredder broke, she bought a new one, put the old broken shredder in the box, and returned it to the store saying the new shredder was “defective”! I was working retail at the time and read her the riot act for being a thief plain and simple. Then I caught hell from my mother for being rude to her sister.

    I don’t understand people.

    1. NothappyinNY*

      OMG, my grandmother got like this, but not till she was in her 90s. We had to carefully plan outings. Fortunately her eyesight was so bad she could not see prices.

    2. Texan In Exile*

      My grandma once refused to pay more than like $40 for a pair of shoes, telling the clerk they shouldn’t cost more than that. But this was a small town and my aunt was behind my grandma, mouthing to the clerk that she would come back later with the rest of the money, which she did.

    3. LAM*

      I’m pretty good at finding patterns with numbers. During my retail days, I knew the pattern from the originating barcode to each level of discount. There were plenty of people like your aunt who I basically thought the sticker was the end all, so I had to honor it. Nope, I could quickly tell that the sticker was from a different product. I just let it roll off, and they had to let it roll off or else be caught trying this crap. Plenty did like putting their old shoes in boxes and wearing those new shoes out the door.

  34. ThatGirl*

    Re: counteroffers – a close friend of ours just went through a related ordeal and I’m still not sure if he did the right thing or not, but I understand why he did it.

    He was making around $55k at his current job, and was very unhappy with the overall environment and workload, so he started job searching. He got an offer for a new job where a former coworker had recommended him, and told him it would be much less stressful – but also the highest they could offer him was $53k (and that was coming up a good amount from where they would typically have offered). Still, he thought it was worth the paycut (and no, the benefits didn’t make up for it).

    Then he told his boss he was leaving and they offered him $70k to stay. And of course he got kind of irritated that all of a sudden there was more money there – but that’s also a huge increase for him, so it took it, with the conviction of saving up as much as possible over the next year or so and continuing to look for a(nother) new job.

    I don’t blame him at all – but like I said, I do wonder if it was the “right” thing to do.

    1. Awkwardness*

      But this is an example of somebody talking the counteroffer with open eyes and critical mind. And that is a good thing.

    2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      But that’s a counter-offer with the money right there right then. No wishy-washy promises that will likely fall through.

      1. ThatGirl*

        agreed – but the point being, the issues that caused him to want to leave are still there.

  35. Kesnit*

    I may have a weird perspective on shoplifting. I worked retail (big box store that no longer exists) for about 18 months and my wife worked retail (for multiple big-box stores) for most of her adult life. I spent 6 years as a public defender, so obviously represented a LOT of shoplifters. I am now a prosecutor.

    I had a lot of clients who didn’t think shoplifting from big-box stores was a big deal. Some would be receptive when I told them that the consequences don’t fall on the corporate brass; they fall on everyone because of higher prices. (There was a judge who also liked to make that point, and he was really good at laying on the guilt!) Some pretended to pay attention, but I could tell they were ignoring me. (And then there was the client who had a diagnosis of kleptomania, but anyway…)

    At the end of the day, your co-worker is going to have to make her own decisions and pay for her own consequences. I can tell you that LP knows who the shoplifters are, and the more she does it, the more likely she is to get caught. And if she does get caught, the store can bring multiple charges for all the instances that they still have evidence for. I have seen that happen.

    Where I practice is a few hours away from Liberty U. At one point, about half the local prosecutor’s office were graduates of Liberty Law. One was a graduate of a military academy and then Regent Law. As a member of the queer community (not in a way that is obvious), this made me a little uncomfortable! But I had to work with them (this is when I was a public defender), so locked my closet door and acted professionally with them. (I will add that leadership of the PD office knew what I am, so would have been able to support me if there had been an issue.) One of the attorneys where I work now is a Liberty Law grad.

    To my surprise, I found that they were not all raging ‘phobes. The more I talked to them, the more I found that most did not agree with the political stance of the university’s leadership. Some went there because it was close to their parents and they could live with their family and save money while in school. Others went there for undergrad and stayed for law school, but over time, lost the fanaticism. A pair of interns from Liberty that we had in the PDs office said they went there because that was the only way their parents would help them pay for school. (And to be fair, the Liberty grads I know acknowledged that the law school environment and atmosphere was different than undergrad.)

    Were there occasional comments? A few, yes. But most of those were more confused than hateful, and the speaker was at least willing to listen to my rebuttals.

    So OP2, my recommendation is to let people get to know you as you before you tell them where you went to school.

    1. HidingDoesntWork*

      Except it’s on your resume so everyone’s gonna know before you start, and it may impact the ability to get hired.

      1. Kesnit*

        OP2’s letter indicates they are already employed. From the sound of it, the issue is conversations with coworkers and not getting a job in the first place.

  36. HR Person*

    LW5 – It pains me that you would even need to consider that HR would not keep your question confidential! I work in HR for a large university, for a group of 180 people. I start every conversation with “Everything we discuss is confidential unless and until you give me permission to share it more widely. The only exception to that confidentiality is if you intend to harm yourself or someone else.” People tell me just about everything (I think!) I am so sorry you even need to ask this question.

  37. MuseumChick*

    LW 1, as someone who works in the LAMs field (Library, Archives, Museums) I would NEVER trust someone who brags about stealing. I would even consider reporting the conversation to someone above me.

    1. Jam on Toast*

      Exactly @MuseumChick! I spend a lot of time in museums and archives for research and there are serious security policies that I have to adhere to as a visitor. I have to show ID, have my bags locked away, have my notebook and laptop searched when I leave the secure space etc. Archival materials and library collections can be valuable $$$$, because they’re often one of a kind. There was a case just last year at the British Museum where a staff person was able to steal thousands of valuable artifacts from storage for decades and sell them. It was a huge deal.

      So for the librarian who shoplifts…integrity matters. It matters in big things. It matters in little things. So I’d say something to your co-worker, because I agree with other posters who’ve said that she is trying to normalize something that isn’t normal. “The other day, you seemed to boast about being a frequent shoplifter. I was very taken aback and didn’t say anything at the time but I want you to know that shoplifting isn’t something ‘everyone’ does and bragging about things like that can have a negative impact on how you’re perceived by coworkers.”

      Then I’d have a quiet word with your manager. Not in a FIRE THEM NOW! tone but a ”I learned something that might be important for you, as their manager, to know about Ermentrude’s judgement” framework.

    2. OP #1*

      I’m not gonna report her. She’s a kid working full time- I don’t think she has family to go back to and we live in a city where a lot of young people are a couple of missed paychecks away from homelessness.

      I’m not responsible for trusting her or not but if someone asks me…

      1. MuseumChick*

        That is totally fair and I can completely see your perspective here. Something that I would suggest you think about is this, if the person does steal from the library and gets caught and it is found out that you knew she had bragged about stealing, it would come down hard on you. I’m NOT saying you should report her in the “She needs to be fired.” kind of way but more in a “Hey, I heard her say X, Y, and Z. I really don’t think we have to worry about her doing anything here but in an abundance of caution I wanted to let you know.”

      2. Bear in the Sky*

        All the more reason why she needs to know what’s at stake if she keeps shoplifting, let alone shoplifting and bragging about it at work.

        Reporting her won’t get her fired. If she does get fired, it will be her own fault. It’s not very likely that she would be fired just for saying she shoplifts, but if and when she gets caught shoplifting, what will happen? There’s no way anyone could shoplift indefinitely and never get caught, no matter how immune they think they are.

        1. MuseumChick*

          This is a really good point. It would be a kindness to her to take her aside and say basically, look, this could lead to you losing your job if you are ever caught or even if a higher up just hears you talking about. Is the thrill really worth risking your employment over?

  38. CzechMate*

    LW 2 – yes, it really depends on the type of university. My office thought VERY long and hard about hiring someone who had once attended Oral Roberts University because of its LGBTQIA+ discrimination…and we *work at* a religiously-affiliated institution.

  39. Ex-prof*

    Sooner or later LW #1’s clueless coworker’s hobby is going to rise to the level of being prosecuted, and that’s absolute heck on one’s career.

  40. RagingADHD*

    #4, I’m reminded of the White Queen in Through the Looking Glass, for whom it’s always jam tomorrow but never jam today. A raise next year and not a raise now, often turns into next year, and next year, and next year.

    I understand the concern about giving up stability for a consultant role, and I wonder whether the raise you’re seeing would be a 24% increase in total compensation, or would you lose benefits, vesting, matching retirement contributions, PTO?

    If you aren’t confident about the consultancy offer being better long term, you could always stay put / take the counter and keep looking. But you should decide that on the merits of the consultant role, not on the merits of the “jam tomorrow.”

  41. HailRobonia*

    #1: Meanwhile I still feel shame and guilt over the typewriter eraser I shoplifted when I was 7 or 8 years old. It was one of those discs with a brush thing that looked like a pizza cutter. I stole it because I didn’t know what it was but it vaguely reminded me of the walking eye robot from Johnny Quest.

    1. UKDancer*

      I stole some My Little Pony stickers from a shop (probably about 50p in value) when I was a small child in the 1980s and I still feel bad. I knew then it was wrong but I didn’t have any pocket money for them. Nobody found out ever but I still remember how guilty I felt for ages afterwards.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        When I was eight or nine I stole some dollhouse ice trays from Michaels. They were out of the bag (loose on the platform below the dollhouse stuff, which was hanging from pegs) so I convinced myself it didn’t count. I felt so guilty I stole them back into the store on the next visit.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          A couple of years ago I bought a few pairs of jean shorts, then decided to return a couple of pairs. One of which wasn’t on the receipt. The employee was very apologetic about not being able to refund the money, while I was completely mortified that I’d accidentally shoplifted something.

          Apparently there’s no return process for returning stolen merchandise. In the end, I quickly looked both directions to make sure no one was watching me, stuffed the shorts into a pile, and quickly walked out before anyone could accuse me of un-shoplifting.

  42. Michelle Smith*

    LW4: The only thing stopping me from saying “obviously take the offer, why are you even asking” is that you say you applied for it “somewhat on a whim.” If that’s the case, I would encourage you to reexamine why you applied and really think carefully about the pros and cons. If there aren’t any major red flags, then I’d grab that job and not look back.

  43. HailRobonia*

    LW #2: I would suggest looking up the organizations DEI statement – or anything in their mission statement that suggests inclusivity etc. and mentioning that in your cover letter, maybe something like “One of the thing that attracted me to Acme Industries is your commitment to DIE. In my post-college career I have come to see the importance if diversity & inclusion and have witnessed first-hand how important it is…”

  44. Middle-Aged IT Guy*

    Per LW1, years ago my company hired someone to work in shipping/receiving in our warehouse. New guy bragged to a co-worker that he regularly shoplifted from the local Walgreens. Co-worker was alarmed, and gave his boss a heads-up.

    Sure enough, on the next inventory some equipment goes missing. New guy plays dumb when asked about it. Police are called, warrant is obtained, and missing equipment is found at new guy’s apartment, and he’s arrested for felony theft.

  45. el l*

    Let’s not confuse which offer is the bird-in-hand versus which offer is the two-in-the-bush.

    Offer letter from new employer is far more of a commitment to you than your current employer made:
    1. A lot of reasons can and do happen between now and next year’s budget for current employer to not honor their commitment. New employer can pay you that now.
    2. It’s deceptively hard to accurately predict which job will have the more reliable income stream and/or be safe from layoffs. And a small amount of that questioning…is just your situation now. You already have one foot out the door, and everyone knows it.
    3. The hesitations would be more understandable if you had say reservations about new company’s culture, or the professional ceiling you can have at new company. But the tone is more of “loss aversion,” about potentially losing what your current employer has. That’s not a good enough reason. Let’s face it – you stand to get 24% more at new employer, not 4%. That’s certainly enough to move for.

  46. Alex*

    If an employer really wants to keep you, they will give you the promotion right away in the face of your saying you have a new offer. This is what I did–I applied for a job, got an offer (for the record, I had actually fully intended to take the job when I applied, but during the interview process realized it wasn’t as good as I’d hoped), and when I told my manager that I would leave unless I got a promotion, she gave me that BS line about “maybe next year, if you stay.” I told them I needed it by the next day or I would leave. And what do you know, when the higher-ups heard, my promotion was given to me the next day.

    I would only recommend this tactic if you are truly ready to walk, though (I was).

  47. LB*

    Re #4 counter offer
    You said the new job that pays 24% more is a consultant. Consultants don’t usually get benefits, healthcare, vacation, etc. If you have those now and are not factoring in the value of them and just comparing salaries it is not apples to apples. Contact/consulting jobs are almost always higher pay to make up for the lack of benefits. Please keep this in mind!

  48. NerdyKris*

    ” She hastened to add that she takes things only from large corporations and obviously would never steal from the library, where all our things are free.”

    Sure Jan, pull the other one, it has bells. Every time someone says this, they will also twist themselves into pretzels to claim anyone they want to steal from is a “large corporation”. It’s never about “principles”, it’s about being entitled to free stuff. They’ll steal from a mom and pop store just as easily as Walmart.

    The worst are “creators” that will steal everything they can while shouting to the heavens that everyone should support them and not steal work.

  49. Apples and oranges*

    For #2 honestly instead of Alison’s response, I think I would say “I used to be very religious.” It’s still succinct but a little more to-the-point that the person probably doesn’t buy into any bigotry people assume (whether rightly or wrongly) about a school. And if the person asking happens to be very religious it also signals “I’m not exactly one of you.”

  50. AnonDMV*

    Re #1: I worked at a small medical office and we hired a new receptionist. She was fairly young, but there were no red flags during the interview process. On literally her first or second day, she told me and our office manager about how she had married a guy solely for military housing benefits. They weren’t dating or anything, basically just roommates. Considering we handled sensitive patient data, this lack of integrity was a definite concern and we let her go right away. At least she was so forthcoming about it! Imagine if she had been more savvy.

      1. LaurCha*

        Right? I’m sure people will be like “but mah tax dollars!” but she’s just living in base housing with him. Housing is expensive, you do what you have to do.

        In the before times I knew a gay man in the army who married a woman so he’d have a beard and could keep his career; she got to be on his health insurance. Win/win if you ask me. Sure, it’s dishonest, but the army was discriminating against gay soldiers back then, so fuck ’em.

        People get married for all kinds of reasons. I say let them.

        1. MidwesternEnnui*

          This comment section is bringing out a lot of weird conservatism. Unclear how marrying for housing security = cannot follow HIPAA.

    1. Bear in the Sky*

      Marrying for housing security is really the traditional reason to get married, if you think about it.

      As long as both parties in the marriage agree on its terms, it’s no one else’s business why they got married. Says nothing about their integrity either.

    2. Kesnit*

      I am glad to see other people wondering why this is an issue. I was trying to figure it out myself.

    3. Elbe*

      Considering that love and affection are not (and have never been) requirements to get married, I don’t really see the issue here. And I certainly don’t see an issue big enough that it justifies firing someone.

      He seems to understand the situation, so he’s not being misled in any way. If the benefits are for married people who occupy the housing themselves, then I think these two satisfy the requirements perfectly well. It seems like they have a legitimate relationship, even if it’s not a romantic one.

  51. HR DOO*

    LW#4 – Ask HR! I’m HR and I’ve had 2 different employees come and disclose their need for parental leave before they were ready to tell their supervisors. I was able to explain all of the policies and next steps, as well as answer any questions they had. I knew for almost 4-5 months before anybody else and never discussed their need for leave with anybody. Obviously, your HR may behave differently, but it helps to receive policy clarifications as soon as possible so you’re prepared.

  52. HRNotAutomatic*

    These suggestions for OP5 assume that they work somewhere with competent HR, or any HR for that matter. I’ve worked at plenty of places where this was not the case. I’ve had a male CEO begrudgingly doing as little HR as he could (and screwing stuff up, like giving the wrong dates for when we had to fill out forms so that we lost the ability to get some promised benefits for a whole year, and don’t even get me started on how COBRA went there). I’ve worked at companies where the comptroller was forced to do HR and didn’t understand that anyone had needs she didn’t or how things like getting forms from doctors actually work so put in policies that were not useable in the real world. I’ve worked at places that had a huge, centralized HR department that was only accessible via email but never responded to emails they were sent. I’ve worked at places that said HR dealt with company issues and weren’t allowed to deal directly with individual employees. And that’s just one person.

  53. Phony Genius*

    On #1, if the LW was the shoplifter’s manager, would there be any action they should take? Would the library want an employee who admits to stealing outside of work?

  54. SometimesMaybe*

    #2. I think people need to remember that just because someone is religious, does not necessary mean the share far right or conservative view points. I don’t think the OP necessary has to go out of her way to prove she not a bigot just because she got her education at a religious college. Her character should be assessed by her work and behavior at work, just like everyone else.

      1. SometimesMaybe*

        I agree, but I do not think the OP was necessary referencing these schools. but rather the one of the hundreds of small religiously affiliated colleges. She even specifies it is not very well known. You would think by a lot of the comments, people need to hide or be ashamed of their religious affiliations in order to be respected in the workplace. I simple mean people should not have to justify their religious beliefs or lack there of at work.

        1. metadata minion*

          Are those schools known for being “deeply religious” with a strict behavior code? There are tons of religious people who are left-wing, or gay, or otherwise appalled at the values of schools like Bob Jones. I’d be very surprised if the LW is talking about having gone to a random school that happens to be religiously affiliated.

    1. metadata minion*

      There are religious colleges that aren’t notorious for being homophobic or otherwise bigoted. I would feel uncomfortable around someone who went to Liberty U in a way that I wouldn’t around someone who went to Boston College, which is Catholic.

    2. fidget spinner*

      Considering there are comments here saying they wouldn’t hire someone who went to a religious university, I think LW2 is right to be concerned.

      1. Sometimes Maybe*

        I am hoping people recognize that would be religious discrimination. I think since most people assume the LW is referencing a Christian school so we are basing our biases against Christianity, but the same principles should apply to other religions as well; do Muslims need to prove they are not terrorist or Wiccans prove they don’t sacrifice animals. Obviously those examples are ridiculous and extreme but the point remains the same. The bias, from many commentators at least, seems to be people of religion need to prove themselves in the work place to a greater extent than the non-devout. Liberty U is the extremist example that is being used to justify discrimination against the much larger group of religious colleges.

        1. fidget spinner*

          I’m not sure people realize that? The specific comment saying they wouldn’t hire someone was saying they wouldn’t hire someone who went to BYU, at all, ever.

          Other comments are saying they’d hire the person, but only after interrogating them to make sure their “values” align with the company… which also seems uncomfortably close to religious discrimination. Many of the comments assured that they did this in a way that didn’t ask about a person’s religion… but how? And is it still considered religious discrimination if you ask different interview questions of someone from a particular religion or who went to a religious school? I’d be interested if Alison could weigh in on that because I’m not really sure.

          But yeah… it seems like it would be a really cut-and-dry case of discrimination if someone who went to the Islamic College of Minnesota (which is a real college that I just googled) was interrogated about not being a terrorist.

  55. Temperance*

    LW1: library jobs are hard to get. I would honestly consider firing someone who is so comfortable admitting that she has bad morals.

    Why steal things when Buy Nothing exists? She’s not Jean Valjean.

    1. OP #1*

      If we hired a 19 year old for a FT job… I don’t think the applicant pool is what it used to be frankly!

      1. not like a regular teacher*

        Is that related to the pay on offer? Could low salaries possibly be related to people getting more comfortable with shoplifting?

        1. Dust Bunny*

          It’s a library. Nobody is getting paid much. But that’s not an excuse to steal. I very much doubt she’s stealing to survive rather than just to get stuff she wants.

          Also, she is conveniently forgetting that the first people to get punished for theft are the employees on the ground, not the CEOs.

          1. Bear in the Sky*

            If she says she loves shoplifting, she’s definitely not doing it to survive.

            Someone who’s really only stealing to survive wouldn’t be saying that they love it.

            1. Lucy*

              Tell me you’ve never worked with a vulnerable population without telling me you’ve never worked with a vulnerable population.

              As it turns out, the most vulnerable in society don’t actually look and speak like Oliver Twist… But keep on searching for that perfect victim, eh.

  56. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #1 I’d never trust a repeat shoplifter or thief (I’d overlook one incidence of idiocy committed in childhood) and I’d report their comment to management without hesitation.
    Regardless of whether they only steal from big firms or rich people, it’s a fundamental character flaw.

    It’s not the way to “stick it to the man” – most of my social circle are socialist and not a single person has ever condoned theft.
    I’ve only lived in European countries with socialist parties which are in govt either currently or fairly recently; hence they have are realistic, sensible means to achieve change.

    #4 Promises of future money mean nothing unless written down in a contract. However, consider whether the 24% salary increase compensates for less job security. Also, if by consultant you mean a contractor not a regular employee, or if the salary would be dependent on a performance bonus, then it’s too little.

  57. Devo Forevo*

    LW1: Am I the only person that took her statement “I love that I can say that here” to mean “I love that everything is free at a library and that’s great”? If she’s super new (to there and to Work) I’d keep this all in the back of my mind in case any red flags pop up later.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      Regardless of what was meant by that, the rest is pretty damning.

      She was chatting with “Cindy,” who shares my work space, when she started talking about how much she loves shoplifting.

    2. OP #1*

      Nah, she meant that she loves that we’re a bunch of counter-culture radicals. But that is only partly true, and less so for me. I have a mortgage and a minivan full of kids! I am Establishment!

  58. NotARealManager*


    As someone who has been told I am “definitely getting a promotion” in more than one workplace and it never happening, don’t consider your current job’s counteroffer in your decision process. Weigh only the facts of your current job against New Job when deciding.

  59. Ms. Murchison*

    In re: LW#1: But what did Cindy say?!?

    LW, while working in a library, I had an intern tell me that she would lie about her skills to get a job and then work hard to learn them on the job. While I empathize with the upbringing that led her folks to teach her that, I would never be able to give her a positive reference after hearing it. A young coworker showed you who she is and now you know.

    To bring it up again, you could start from setting her right that things in public libraries are not all free. They’re funded by taxes and belong to the whole community. Employees who in any way equate the availability of library collections with shoplifting need to be set straight.

    1. OP #1*

      Cindy said nothing at all and the conversation moved on.

      I’m legit not sure how Cindy feels about the shoplifting. I do know she feels that asking Jane to cover her midriff is unnecessarily cramping her personal style in service of outdated, judgy, possibly racist and/or misogynistic ideas of what people should look like at work.

      I… think people should not wear bra tops at work, but I am middle-aged.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Another library employee here, although I’m in a private academic library so we get a more specific type of eccentric: I think people who work with the public have to err on the side of making their patrons comfortable, and sometimes that means curbing our personal style during work hours. Otherwise, I’m welcome to look for a different job. And I don’t think that covering your midriff at work is asking much. I’m also middle-aged but I was a twentysomething in the 1990s when the only clothing you could get that covered your midriff was the giant flannel shirts.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        I wouldn’t even read much into Cindy’s reaction or lack thereof. It’s very possible she was smiling and nodding and moving on, and internally screaming NOOOOOOOOO.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      I don’t really think there’s any point to mentioning the taxes and the community. There’s no indication the employee doesn’t know that. I am in not way condoning what she does, but it sounds pretty clear her logic is “steal from giant corporations which she presumes to be evil and have large profit margins in order to stick it to the man”. And her comment about not stealing from the library was to ensure her audience knew she was definitely stealing to stick it to the man, not just for the hell of it. She was explicitly NOT equating the availability of library collections with shoplifting.

    3. New Jack Karyn*

      How was your intern’s work product? Did she learn the new skills quickly?

      A lot of ads say some specific skills are required, but that’s not necessarily true of the position. Being prepared to dive in and learn is more valuable in the long run than a bunch of specific, concrete skills.

  60. fhqwhgads*

    LW5, I wonder if it might help to think about it from this angle:
    Is there something you could find out about the parental leave policy that would make you leave this job? Or make substantially different choices today vs two months from now?
    I know when I was expecting my first kid my brain sort of went into hyper-must-plan-all-the-things mode. And that was with a leave policy that was clear. So I understand the impulse to want to know now what the deal actually is. I get it.

    But, if you’re not going to quit your job over it, or need to defer some major purchase, or take some other action that would be very different if you knew now vs later, then maybe that can reassure you that, actually, if you’re worried you’ll end up in a conversation you’re not ready to have, it’s ok to just…not have either conversation just yet. I know this is easier said than done. On the other hand, if there are actions you’d need to take sooner rather than later depending on what the policy is, then yeah, AAM’s advice on how to handle it right now is probably the best bet.

  61. Buffalo*

    OP1, I’m also a library person who has dealt with a similar situation very recently, and “I love that I can say that here” hit me right where I live. Libraries attract a lot of oddballs—I’m certainly one—and also people who are very kind and accepting. That’s usually a great mix, but sometimes it leads to exactly what you and I have just seen—“Hooray, I’m with my people, I’m safe, I can be myself, I can be a little quirky, I can CROSS A MAJOR BOUNDARY, because hooray, I’m safe!” Reining that in—“yes, you can be yourself here, yes, you’re safe, but no, don’t tell us *that*”—can be difficult and even heartbreaking. It’s okay you didn’t know how to react in the moment. It sounds like you’re doing a great job.

  62. Dust Bunny*

    I once worked for an out lesbian and atheist who had gone to a small religious college in her home state. It had a good reputation, it offered her an excellent scholarship, and it was close to her grandparents, who were not in great health, so she could see family regularly.

    I was fortunate to be able to go to exactly the college I wanted but I don’t side-eye people for getting an education by whatever means present themselves.

  63. Dust Bunny*

    “she takes things only from large corporations ”

    Yeah, because that totally comes out of corporate’s pockets and does not in any way penalize the people on the front line.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I rewatched The Wolf of Wall Street the other night, and keep picturing how Wolfie and his massively wealthy friends would react to that. They would think it was hilarious, encourage the little people to get theirs by stealing from whatever businesses provided basic goods in their neighborhoods, wonder what they could prod them into for laughs (bum fights?), and pile up some more millions safe from consequences.

  64. Elbe*

    Shoplifting is one of those things that only seems harmless in situations where the majority of people choose not to do it.

    True, a corporation isn’t going to suffer much if someone swipes a candy bar. But now that the shoplifting has become more common, it’s actually causing a lot of problems. Stores are closing, people are losing their jobs. Everyone is paying more for products just to cover the cost of losses and security and prevention measures.

    People who shoplift aren’t sticking it to the man. They’re taking advantage of a system that is only sustained because most people 1) don’t steal and 2) are paying more for their items.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      Yeah, it’s one of those things that makes everything slightly worse. Your insurance covers it, but everyone’s premiums go up a bit. You can still do business there, you just have to set aside enough money to bribe the officials as well. Petty theft, corruption, insurance fraud, etc. don’t cause the system to crash down, they just add a bit more friction to the system. As long as it’s not too much, everything keeps going though.

      1. Elbe*

        Friction is a great word for it. Forcing people to follow rules/laws (and punishing them when they don’t) cost time and effort and money.

        I never really understood the logic that shoplifting hurts companies. Do people honestly think that if everyone steals $X from a company, the company will just shrug their shoulders and take that $X out of their profits? Because that absolutely doesn’t happen. The same capitalist horror show that allows companies to inflate prices for no reason certainly allows them to raise prices to cover losses.

        The logic doesn’t hold up under even the most basic of scrutiny. It makes me think that people who say they do it for this reason are either extremely naive or just using it as a justification to get free stuff while not feeling bad about how it affects others.

  65. Lucy*

    Removed. I closed the earlier thread because it had gone off-topic and was derailing. – Alison

  66. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

    I just want to comment about the use of ‘domesticated’ as a self-description! I’ve never heard it in this context – is it common? This is not a judgement of LW for using it, it just made me reflect on how undomesticated I am, and maybe getting less and less domesticated as I get older (heading into my 40s, seems like it can only be downhill from here for me!) I’m enjoying thinking of myself slowing transmogrifying from a nice golden retriever to a feral raccoon…

  67. IAmNotTellingYouMyName*

    Re: #1 – I remember when I was 16 and got caught shoplifting years ago. They let me off. I wasn’t 18 yet. But the detective on the case said, “No one wants to hire a petty thief.”

  68. samwise*

    OP1 (shoplifting)
    Apologies if someone’s already said this but:

    Even though this is not OP’s direct report, probably a good idea for OP to meet with Jane for a serious one on one to discuss (1) that’s not something you should say in any workplace and (2) stealing from a large corporation is still stealing, and shoplifting is stealing.

    Or perhaps OP should just go to Jane’s supervisor?

    Unless she’s Jean Valjean and stealing bread to feed her starving family, Jane’s behavior is unethical and the fact that she doesn’t already know this is a sign of a lack of integrity. And damn poor judgment, both for the stealing and for talking about it.

    (Please don’t say she’s young — not young enough for that to be an excuse)

  69. Sneaky Squirrel*

    LW4 – If we were making a counter offer with a promise to change someone’s title and salary down the road, this is something that would be putting in formal writing. A promise of future opportunities is empty unless it’s formally documented otherwise. It should explicitly list a date of when the promise will be executed (e.g, on April 1, 2025 you will become X title and your salary will be $X) and any contingencies that need to be met (e.g., contingent upon good performance). People come and go from companies all the time, companies change directions, budgets change. So many people make empty promises that they don’t intend to keep.

    On the other hand, with considerations towards the consulting job, make sure you’re factoring in total compensation and not just base salary. The base pay is 24% higher but what happens with your PTO, medical, retirement? Many consulting jobs don’t offer those benefits, hence the reason for higher base pay.

  70. acorn*

    Non-religious person here to speak up on behalf of my co-workers and friends who went to religious colleges! Please, please do not assume that because a person went to a religious college- even a notorious right-wing one like Liberty or Hillsdale- that they are bigoted. I have known plenty of people both personally and professionally who graduated from schools like these and are kind and accepting of all people. In fact I think you can look at the political news and see far more examples of politicians who graduated from “elite” schools known for their liberal values and somehow came out bigoted. (Ted Cruz! Josh Hawley! Ron DeSantis!)

  71. MidwesternEnnui*

    For #1, I don’t think it was smart for the co-worker to say this, and as many people have pointed out, shoplifting can get you in a lot of trouble so this young woman should be aware of that and how it could effect her. I don’t think shoplifting is some noble pursuit, but the all this hand-wringing about it seems sort of…Puritan? Especially given how rampant income inequality is. Another commenter pointed out that the most commonly shoplifted items are personal care products and baby formula. Our tax dollars are subsidizing corporations like Wal-mart that pay so poorly their employees need to use publicly funded social services. It’s nice to say everyone should work at a government level to change these laws, but people are going to do what they’re going to do in the meantime. Large corporations have been caught lying time and time again about how much “shrinkage” effects their stores or business, and the “shoplifting epidemic” is clearly a thinly veiled attempt for stores to pass the blame (often to poor people and minorities) on rising prices, cutting hours and closing stores. The idea that if there was no shoplifting all of a sudden corporations would pay well, keep all their stores open and treat their customers and employees well is very naive.

    There are plenty of articles about corporations manipulating data and outright lying about shoplifting data that can be found with a simple search, but here’s a fairly recent one:

    1. Lucy*

      Thank you. I think I didn’t have the mental energy to say this so clearly today but yes, all of this.

    2. Boof*

      Maybe I’m biased but “I really love shoplifting!” doesn’t strike me as “I’m so desperate, this is how I have to survive” but more like “ooo what a thrill” which I think is… really gross. This is not sneaking over a fence to swim in a pool after hours that harms no one (I assume, IDK, I never did that but that seems harmless). Corporations may be playing their own game. But it is absolutely taking something that is not yours and is pretty much symbolic of some gross entitlement mentality to me.
      I’d also like to know if parents are actually shoplifting all that baby formula or if it’s being sold. does that sound crazy? yes… but there are literally scammers out there who go to message boards and pretend to have unexpected triplets, please help send diapers and… IDK I assume they are selling the diapers etc. Anything you can easily sell on amazon or somewhere is worth it if you get it for free, get $20+ bucks for it, and can move a lot of that kind of stuff pretty regularly.

      1. MidwesternEnnui*

        It’s interesting that what you took away from my comment is “people shoplifting baby formula and basic human necessities might be SCAMMERS.”

    3. Head sheep counter*

      I think Lil Ms “I Love Shoplifting” isn’t the oppressed person people keep trying to paint her as.

      The retail crime in the bay area has a lot more to do (at least when talking volume) with crime rings reselling stolen goods, thus the Baby Formula isn’t necessarily the sad story some want you to believe. Sure there are people who do desperate things because they are in desperate circumstances… but there are also a lot of jerks… I say while waiting to have my four wheels replaced because of theft. Or says the hundreds of folks impacted by catalytic converter thefts. Sometimes… thieves have sad back stories… but sometimes… they are thieves and always… a sad back story doesn’t ever entitle a person to another person’s belongings.

    4. Elbe*

      No one here is saying that shoplifting non-necessities is society’s only issue, and that without it retail would be a dream. I seriously doubt that anyone is weeping for Walmart’s bottom line.

      You don’t have to be pro-corporation to understand that there are other consequences for this type of behavior that 100% affect other people.

      If we, as a society, could shoplift our way out of inequality and power imbalances, I would certainly consider it. But the reality is that it’s just making an already-bad situation worse.

      1. MidwesternEnnui*

        Nowhere in my comment did I say shoplifting didn’t effect other people. I said that the comment section is acting puritanical and the hand wringing is out of proportion to the issue at hand, which is that a 19 year old said she loves shoplifting from giant corporations to a senior co-worker. If people want to use a question about how to deal with that conversation as an excuse to get dog-whistly about looting or ask us to “think of the shareholders” (direct quote), I guess it’s no skin off my nose but the vibe is more cranky Nextdoor comment section than reasonable and inclusive work advice blog.

        1. Jackalope*

          I mean, as someone who has had some of my stuff nicked, and seriously disliked it, as well as having had friends and coworkers who had stuff stolen, I’m not excited about having a coworker who thinks stealing stuff is NBD. It’s important to me not to feel like I have to haul my wallet around everywhere I go in the office, or worry that I’ll suddenly be without half my lunch without a ton of good options in walkable distance on my lunch break. And I consider it perfectly reasonable to assume that someone who said she’s fine with stealing if she can justify it to herself might be able to justify stealing from me. If that makes me puritanical or Nextdoor-ish, I can live with that.

          1. Ali + Nino*

            100%. All that is to say, this coworker just gave you insight into her behavior and what to expect from her, without having to go through the pain of actually having your stuff taken! It would be foolish not to take that into consideration and act accordingly. As I said above, actions – including her shoplifting, and her sharing commentary about her shoplifting – have consequences.

  72. Lentils*

    LW 2, can you turn it into kind of a joke or self-depricating? I went to a very similar college to the one you’re describing, and if it happens to come up in conversation my inner standup comedian comes out (pun intended). “Yeah, I went to a super Christian school, like dancing was LITERALLY banned and we had secret dance parties in our dorm rooms! It was so wild! You can imagine what it was like when I realized I was gay at 19, eh? I know, right, can you imagine ME at a place like that, sneaking Tegan and Sara albums on my iPod and secretly watching Kristen Stewart movies in my dorm? And just wait until you hear about their R-rated movie policy and how we had to hide our DVDs during room inspections!”

    1. Coverage Associate*

      My attendance at religious schools sometimes comes up in the context of gaps in my pop culture knowledge. I say I had 12 years of convent school to try to convey the shut off from normal life aspects.

  73. Coverage Associate*

    Re questions above about screening applicants whose resumes reflect past association with bigoted organizations (usually schools, but I imagine the people with concerns would have similar concerns if someone worked at such an organization, etc.)

    I am not an employment lawyer, but it seems to me just general good practice to have applicants talk to a diversity of people at your organization before extending an offer. Then a question about the applicant’s experience with diversity programs, or interest in them, because I guess now if they graduated from any school in Florida or Texas, the schools even wouldn’t have had DEI programs, so your workplace could be their first opportunity if they are straight out of school.

    I would also ask references how the applicant gets along with others.

    But given even long hiring processes are at most a few hours actually talking to the applicant, they won’t screen all bad apples.

  74. Eat the Rich*

    I don’t think stealing from big corporations should be talked about at work, but I also don’t think it’s something anyone needs to lose sleep over. Corporations will be perfectly fine. Instead of angsting, do your best to let it go. If you’re friendly with them, you might want to gently nudge them about work-appropriate topics or oversharing since they probably aren’t used to workplace norms just out of HS.

  75. Rincewind*

    #2 – I’m a transmasculine person and I attended a women’s college. (I don’t say trans man because I don’t currently identify as a man but if you met me at work you’d assume I was male.) The college was very small, so most people don’t know it, but those who do tend to have a high opinion. So it benefits me to share where I went to college, and risk people getting weird thoughts.
    When people do recognize it, or when it’s relevant to bring up that I have experience with women-focused educational institutions, I usually just go with “yeah, long story. It was a great experience, though, and I learned a lot!”

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