I’m worried my coworker is abusing his wife, a chronically late colleague, and more

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

1. I’m worried my coworker is abusing his wife

I know you’ve covered how to help a coworker is being abused, but what do you do when the person you work with might be the abuser? My coworker displays some very concerning behavior towards his wife. She is a stay-at-home mom, but he doesn’t allow her to drive their daughter anywhere. They have several cameras in their house that he monitors constantly throughout the day. Comments he’s made make me think he controls all their finances as well. Her sister lives 3,000 miles away and her parents are in a different country, so she’s very isolated here. I’ve met her a handful of times, but do not have any kind of substantial relationship with her. Is there any way to reach out to her without overstepping as a coworker? This doesn’t feel as straightforward as helping a coworker I believe is being abused.

How horrible. I suppose it’s possible that there’s some other explanation (like, I don’t know, she’s an alcoholic and he worries about her driving and caring for their kid), but of course you’re concerned! Ugh.

Is there any way you can develop more of a relationship with her? Can you encourage him to bring her to more work functions and try to get to know her better? It’s very difficult for even people who are close to the person being abused to get them to leave, so unfortunately you’re not  well-positioned to help her … but generally speaking, the less isolated she is and the more people treat her as a good and worthwhile person, the better off she will be.

Before you do anything, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for advice: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

dealing with domestic abuse in the workplace

2. Should I tell my boss about my chronically late coworker?

When and how should you do something about a coworker’s chronic lateness?

My coworker is frequently 30-45 minutes late to an early morning shift. This leaves me to deal with stuff alone, and it’s hard to plan how to handle various tasks with the uncertainty.

They have also admitted to clocking in but being away from their computer. I’ve asked for time-sensitive help during their work hours, and they haven’t responded for 20+ minutes, which is very unusual for our team.

Our team often works remotely and signs on via a team chat. The message timestamps may have tipped off my boss, but I doubt they are checking that.

I’ve said a few things to the chronically late coworker. I told them that it’s hard to plan out the morning when they’re late. I shared my sympathy and tips for waking up early when they complained that it’s hard — but it keeps happening.

I want to tell boss about the lateness. I like this coworker a lot as an human, and so does my boss. I’m worried about souring relationships by saying something, but it’s frustrating and unfair. How can I get relief?

The answer to when you should say something about a coworker’s chronic lateness is: when it’s affecting your work or the team’s work. And in this case it clearly is.

Talk to your boss. Explain that your coworker is frequently 30-45 minutes late, which leaves you deal with stuff alone, which causes XYZ problems. Say that when you ask for time-sensitive help, you often don’t hear back from them quickly enough (based on the norms of your team), which causes XYZ problems. Ask for advice on what you can do.

This isn’t “tattling” (a word you used in your email’s subject line). This is looping your boss in on a problem that’s affecting your work and asking for help in handling it. You’ve already told your coworker that their lateness is causing issues; your boss is the next logical step to figure out a work solution to a work problem.

3. Creative application materials

I’m dating someone new who has been job searching for over a year after finishing grad school. She says that all of her mentors and professors advise “creative” application materials (think a resume in the style of a restaurant menu or a cover that looks like a film script). This is for communications field jobs. What do you think?

Good lord, no.

Hiring managers want resumes that are organized so that they can be easily skimmed and with all the relevant info where they expect to find it. They do not want gimmicks that sacrifice function to form.

4. Can we tell clients work didn’t get done because our old manager sucked?

My department at work was run until last year by Zephaniah, who had no idea what he was doing (think: a math teacher who doesn’t know algebra) and who had no interest in doing better. We were all constantly fighting fires to make sure basics of day-to-day operation were getting done.

Management managed him out and now we are happier, but we’re still frequently finding important tasks he didn’t do. This year a number of clients are now wondering why jobs haven’t been done for them. Is it okay to just dump the blame for everything Zephaniah did on him? Is there any need to be diplomatic and make excuses when a client asks why some product hasn’t been delivered yet?

You’ve got to bring this to management above you to figure out how to handle it. Clients won’t be happy to  hear their work (that they were presumably paying for) didn’t get done because of a bad employee. That’s requires some kind of appeasement — like a discount or something along those lines — and your management should be involved in figuring out that messaging.

5. Can my old employer make me give them my notes binder?

I was fired from my job on Monday. When I packed my desk, I took my notes binder with me. My old manager called me today to tell me to bring back the notes binder because it might have some of the company accounts info in it. It only has my notes. Is this legal for her to want this from me?

Legally, your employer owns work you create in the scope of your employment, which includes notes about your projects. So if the notes in your binder are about work things, they can indeed make you return it.

{ 313 comments… read them below }

  1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    LW2 “Tattling” and “ratting” should never be used in a professional workplace. Legitimate work concerns aren’t taken seriously because of a word that belongs in the playground and not even there. The words put a negative spin on the messenger instead of the message.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, absolutely. If it’s something that impacts your work, it’s a legitimate work concern, not tattling.

    2. nodramalama*

      Eh, I think tattling still exists in the workplace, it just doesn’t apply to THIS. If OP wanted to tell their boss about their coworker who arrives late but it has no impact on their work, that would be tattling. And it does happen all the time.

      1. Allonge*

        For me, even if there is no impact or it’s harder to define, someone – especially in the beginning of their work career – can go to their manager and ask what’s up with Coworker arriving late.

        It’s up to the manager to say ‘there is no impact [on you], so I see no issue / I am handling this, don’t worry / let me know if it extends to XYZ but until then, this is not a problem’.

        We don’t all come to the world with knowing where the lines are on this.

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          I think the difference is intent. Somebody who is asking because they aren’t sure if the manager should know isn’t tatting. Somebody who tells the manager because they dislike the coworker and has been watching them to find a time they do something wrong so they can report it, is.

        2. Also-ADHD*

          You need your boss to tell you if there’s an impact on you?

          If there’s no impact on you, you’re either tattling or being kind of nosy about asking what’s up with Susie being late. It seems bad form to me in most cases, if it has no impact on you. If it has a direct impact like LW totally different, and I can even think of gray areas with indirect impacts, but there are truly many times it would have no impact on colleagues. It just depends.

          1. Uranus Wars*

            Yeah in general I agree… but also I think people new to the workplace don’t just automatically know this so I can see them being like “hey, if Joe is allowed to be 45 minutes late everyday, why am I not allowed to?”

            Especially if all they have held before are hourly or retail/service jobs where “Early is on time. On time is late.”

          2. Rex Libris*

            This. Susie could have a medical accommodation that the manager can’t discuss, morning therapy appointments, childcare issues, be working an extra four hours on the weekend, or a million other things. The longer I’m a manager, the closer my patience for people worrying about what their coworkers are doing approaches zero, absent an actual work issue.

            1. GythaOgden*

              Which is fine, but Susie is also committing timecard fraud by saying she’s at work when she isn’t and is leaving OP to pick up her work in the mornings, so this is pretty major and probably something you’d want to know about.

              1. Rex Libris*

                It’s also not up to someone’s coworker to manage their clock-in, clock-out time, especially when they know that information is easily available to their supervisor. The only standing the coworker has to address this is in relation to obstacles it causes for their own workflow.

                1. Greta*

                  People’s schedules should be transparent as much as possible. I’m talking about something like putting their typical work hours (regardless of the examples in your early posts) in their calendar or out of off if they do something like 4 10s or 9 9s. The reason isn’t important, and shouldn’t have to be shared, just something to set expectations for a response.

              2. goddessoftransitory*

                This. This isn’t some prearranged thing where frankly, Susie’s clock in time should be formally adjusted instead of having her coworkers guess whether or not she’ll be available to work on time, on tasks that affect their own jobs.

                The LW’s example has the person fake-clocking in, being unavailable for a significant chunk of time, and complaining about how hard it is to get up so early. Well, yeah, guy, it sure can be, but if you literally cannot report to work on time, it’s on you to talk that over with your manager and get your schedule adjusted, not leave your coworkers hanging every morning while expecting them to cover for you.

              3. Also-ADHD*

                Well, that’s in this case, where there’s agreement that LW has a reason to speak up (though even in this case, no fraud is established, with the details given—certainly possible but not necessarily). But it’s not the case in the situations we were discussing that could be tattling where the coworker is unaffected.

                1. GythaOgden*

                  She’s clocking in without actually being there to do the work — what is that if not fraud?

          3. Allonge*

            I don’t need my boss to tell me if there is an impact on me.

            I also have worked for over 20 years now and have been reading this board as well as others for ages. So I would have the savvy to ask my boss indirectly, e.g. to ask what kinds of exceptions exist for arriving by 9 and not to ask why Jadelyn is coming in at 10:30.

            But we are not talking about me, are we? And as someone who has been a manager for over a decade now, I am not going to penalize people who don’t have my experience or very specific communication-related background on how to ask why some rules apply to others and some not.

            Now, if someone makes a habit of this, that’s a different discussion. But first offence gets an explanation (in general, I am not going to disclose private medical info!) of how the rules work.

            1. Also-ADHD*

              I couldn’t believe any human being would need someone else to assess if their colleague’s arrival time, availability, etc are impacting them. But if they are, a good rule of thumb to me for not tattling is, “Would you raise this issue to your boss if they were the one in the role and creating the impact?” Because that suggests there’s a problem you’re raising to be solved, rather than looking to get someone in trouble, seek fairness because you also wish you could be late, etc. Is there enough impact to raise the issue based on that?

              1. Allonge*

                I couldn’t believe any human being would need someone else to assess if their colleague’s arrival time, availability, etc are impacting them.

                This is really not what I am saying. My point, likely not that well made, was that not everyone will know instinctively that they need to assess what the impact is on them before they ask their manager about it.

                Also, in some cases the impact is not that clear.

                ‘It annoys me that the rule is we start at 9 and Bob is not there’ is an impact.

                More seriously: I know lots of people work independently here, but I always worked in places where your availability is part of the job – where yes, you would be expected to act on things in 5, 10, 30 minutes with reasonable frequency AND for a lot of things we need more than one person. So what is the impact on me if someone is unreliable? Nothing today because there was no urgent task. Maybe nothing tomorrow. Maybe it messes up the whole day the day after tomorrow.

              2. Nina*

                There’s ‘is it impacting me’ (fair to ask if you’re quite new and don’t have a great sense yet for the difference between normal variation and actual bad impact) and there’s ‘it is impacting me, and is management okay with that impact to continue’ (should be fair to ask regardless of tenure)

                Sometimes business reality is that yes, your coworker is doing some stuff that normally wouldn’t be allowed, and that is upsetting your workflow, and management for whatever reason (including ‘coworker is going through some stuff and we can’t tell you what it is’) has decided that this is just how your job is now.

        3. Starbuck*

          “can go to their manager and ask what’s up with Coworker arriving late.”

          I mean, you can ask it in the framing of “is it possible for me to get similar flexibility in X way because of Y reason” but otherwise… yeah it’s still tattling if it’s clear your motivation is to get them in trouble. If it’s truly not affecting your work, why would you need to ask?

          1. Allonge*

            My point was more that with most of us not being mind-readers, it’s not going to be so easy for a manager to figure out what the intention behind the question is. Most people don’t come to tattle with an evil cackle or nyah-nyah noises!

            So unless this is a repeat occurrence, or it’s from someone with a lot of experience who really should know better, I am not going to penalize people for not bringing up the issue in the exact appropriate manner. Once, they get an explanation on how it works.

            1. I am Emily's failing memory*

              Most of us aren’t mind readers, but frankly, most of us aren’t good actors either. The ulterior motive for asking a leading question designed to put someone else under fire is often pretty transparent… but the quibble side, your larger point is right.

              It’s worth noting that one of big context clues a manager has hinting at an ulterior motive is that people who do that kind of thing don’t tend to just do it once, and asking leading questions isn’t the only way they try to meddle and mudsling. So generally the only way someone asking this kind of question for the first time raises an alarm for me is if it’s the first quote-innocent-unquote question, while also being the third-plus time the employee has found an excuse of some kind to report on their coworkers, and I’ve already done my duty as a manager in response to the earlier incidents by telling them to keep their eyes on their own paper. Only if we’ve already had the, “look, policing your co-workers won’t fly with me if it doesn’t impact you,” conversation will I really negatively judge the question being asked. It’s only fair to my employees to judge them on stuff that I personally have made clear to them, so they’re not left guessing what behavior is expected. (And let’s be real, plenty of managers will encourage and reward tattling, so I won’t hold it against a new employee who might come in sincerely thinking that’s a way to endear themself to me, as long as they swiftly adjust their behavior after the first time I tell them it’s not.)

          2. Also-ADHD*

            That’s what I meant, honestly, but I think you can note (especially without names) that you’ve noticed arrivals later in the morning to start a conversation about Flex Time etc if it makes you more comfortable.

        4. Llama lamma workplace drama*

          I disagree that someone should go to their manager and ask what’s up with a late coworker if it has no impact on your work. I made this mistake when new to the workforce and my manager looked at me and said ‘his wife has cancer and he takes her to chemo appointments.’ That made me look like a real azz. People need to worry about themselves unless it is impacting their job.

          1. Allonge*

            Sure, but until we all learn about this in kindergarten, there needs to be some leeway to make honest mistakes.

      2. Irish Teacher.*

        I agree. I think petty stuff is sort of tatting, whether it’s to a teacher, parent, boss or say the council, but tatting is when you are doing it to get somebody in trouble, not when there’s an actual reason they need to know.

        Somebody who complains that their co-worker was five minutes late when it makes no difference to anybody’s work is tattling. This is not.

        1. Thank you sheep*

          I agree. I think it extends even to “if someone is 45 minutes late” (not just 5 minutes). If the co-worker does nothing to negatively affect their team or clients, then it’s unhelpful to report it. Lots of people are chronically late because of immense difficulties (Eg, undiagnosed, untreated illness) that cause them huge stress, and getting in trouble at work would just make everything worse.

          If lateness does affect the team or clients, or the co-worker is just so unengaged they don’t care (which does affect team morale), that is different.

          1. GythaOgden*

            The lateness here definitely affects the colleague writing in and there’s also timecard fraud going on.

        2. sheworkshardforthemoney*

          Yes, that’s the difference. Tattling on Fergus because he was 5 minutes late for the second time in a year is petty. It’s not tattling when chronic lateness affects the ability of co-workers to do their job effectively.

      3. Lily Potter*

        Curious – how would people handle a hypothetical scenario like this one. A salaried work group is required to be butts in seat by 8 am. Everyone manages, with sometimes great effort, to meet that expectation – even if it means taking earlier public transportation or driving in early to be sure to miss traffic. One coworker, Fergus, is chronically late but their lateness doesn’t directly impact workflow. Is it tattling to go to the boss and ask if everyone in the group can start whenever they like, since Fergus does it all the time anyway?

        1. Also-ADHD*

          Alison has addressed situations like this and the answer is usually to ask for your own flexibility first if you’d like. “Could I flex my start time? I notice there’s not a strict atmosphere to starting at 8 here, but I wanted to make sure it was okay. Some days, would it be okay to come in a little later if (reason etc).” Or whatever applies. Or depending on the atmosphere, just come in as you feel comfortable/want too. You could also ask more generally about norms etc. If you feel you’re truly held to different standards, you could ask about that, though there could be reasons people can’t get into (accommodations you wouldn’t know about) and other reasons that might not be your favorite (what they bring vs you, seniority, capital/relationships, whatever) and you shouldn’t overly press once you’ve addressed it. If there’s unfairness you can’t live with in the end, you hunt for a new job. That’s life.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          If your goal is to be a person whose butt isn’t in a seat at 8 AM, better to take a note from Fergus that management does not actually care, and quietly start coming in later yourself.

          The crab bucket urge–if I’m suffering, everyone should get down here and suffer with me–is a very human one. But notice who’s charged with enforcement of keeping everyone in the crab bucket.

        3. Ms. Anne Thropy*

          No, it’s establishing whether the rules actually do apply to everyone. That is an issue that affects morale in the workplace.

          1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

            Arguably butts in seats at 8 am with no work need affects morale more than one person coming in late all the time.

            If management hasn’t noticed Fergus is late — and they haven’t because it has no effect on work flow — then its not your job to raise it. Because it does not affect your work. The better solution is to stop trying so hard to get in at 8 am. If everybody does it maybe management will figure it out. Oh and salaried employees can form unions — just sayin’

            1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

              +1. Seems like the extra lengths to have butts in seats at 8AM with no apparent actual reason is the larger problem here.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                *sketching AAM fanfic in which management actually does not care about the hard 8 AM start; that’s Joaquin’s hang-up and he’s convinced everyone else–except Fergus–that it’s a Very Serious Rule From Above*

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  *also, Joaquin retired 3 years ago; his legacy lives on in firm admonitions of the remaining employees to any new hires*

            2. amoeba*

              I mean, there could be a legitimate work need for the office to be (almost) fully staffed but one late person wouldn’t matter. Which, I’d argue, is just good practice because you never know who might be sick/have an emergency. But Fergus just exploits that by always being the one who’s late.

              Just because something doesn’t create a problem when one person is doing it doesn’t automatically mean it would be fine for the whole group to do it on a regular basis…

            3. MassMatt*

              I think you missed the part where the LW says they are doing coworker’s work for them when they are late and can’t move ahead with projects when they don’t hear from them.

              The fact that it’s not affecting work flow for management to notice is because LW is doing extra work. IMO this is not a coworker problem, it’s a management problem. I would stop doing coworker’s work for them and see what happens.

              I managed someone who was chronically late, not just minutes but often hours. This was a call center where having staff on time was important (something it seems many commentators here are… not familiar with?) and he was working from home (long before pandemic) so his “commute” was walking downstairs. In his case his problem was alcoholism, but he would claim he “looked at the wrong week’s schedule”.

        4. L-squared*

          I’d say so.

          My last job I worked in the HQ of the office. I was the only one in my department who was there. As an office, we had work times that we were, roughly, supposed to be there.

          If someone in a department that had nothing to do with me was constantly coming in late, I personally wouldn’t be the one to bring it up. Its not really my concern how they spend their work time, if they are late, etc.

          I think the way you are framing it “since Fergus does it I just want to know if I can do it” is just a roundabout way to tell on him and get him in trouble.

          I used to teach. I’d have kids tattle and they’d try to frame it in the exact same way to be like “oh I didn’t tell on you, I just wanted to see if everyone could do this thing I know we aren’t supposed to do”. So good job, you now have the creativity of a 7th grader.

        5. Rex Libris*

          The staff shouldn’t presume that they know as much or more about Fergus’ situation as the boss does, or that they have all the information. If you have a legit need to come in later, that’s what you discuss with the boss, not what Fergus is doing.

        6. Mytummyhurtsbutimbeingbraveaboutit*

          One other thing to consider – that person might have an accommodation made with management to come in late. But in that case I think just coming in late as well would be ok, it’s up to management to explain that if you get caught

          1. Cicely*

            But then management should let LW know they’ll have to take on extra work as a result, or whatever the work flow becomes, because someone else has an accommodation.

            As manager, I cannot imagine not making arrangements to make sure my team was as little impacted as possible by an accommodation for someone else. If “as little impact as possible” means that I take on more work, then so be it, but to just let the cards fall where they may is a fast ticket to losing good people.

        7. Ava*

          Makes sense to me to ask for more flexibility around start time (not starting whenever they feel like it) if being a few minutes late doesn’t really impact work flow. Who knows what the positive outcomes might be if people aren’t rushing or depriving themselves of sleep to get the 6 am bus instead of the 6:30 am bus?

      4. Dinwar*

        The issue is that here are legitimate concerns, and then there’s just being nosy and obnoxious.

        We’ve all heard stories of overbearing coworkers who stick their noses in things that are none of their business. Coworkers that pounce on any perceived violating of the letter of the law (and who as often as not fail to live up to those themselves). The coworker who runs to the manager because Jane was 5 minutes late again, that’s the third time this month! That sort of thing. THAT is tattling. It’s a childish behavior, and deserves a childish name because it deserves to be shamed.

        On the other hand, there are legitimate work concerns. If Jane is rolling in 30 minutes late and keeping everyone from getting started with their work, or is leaving work early pretty regularly for no reason and dumping a bunch of crap on everyone else’s plate, that’s a legitimate concern and worth discussing with the manager.

        There’s a third factor as well: A desire (which I consider good) to keep things at the lowest level possible. If Jane and I can resolve our differences between us, without getting the manager involved, we should. We are supposed to be adults, after all. If the coworker and I can resolve our differences between the two of us, it has less potential to negatively impact anyone’s career. If the boss gets involved, it’s usually going to be bad for someone. This third factor can make it difficult to know where the boundary between the other two lies.

    3. JSPA*

      That’s vehemently absolutist. Low stakes stuff that isn’t yet a pattern can be tattling, as can situations where you really should keep your eyes on your own paper, rather than coming up with hypotheticals. Here are some slightly anonymized versions from past work places that IMO fall clearly in the “tattling” / “eyes on your own paper” / “mind your own onions”/ “manage your own irritation or anxiety” side of the divide.

      “Jan left the milk for the tea on the counter twice last month when an important call came in.”

      “Heli was looking at his code and said something that sounded like ‘f#ck me’ under his breath as I passed his cubicle; what if he does it louder while a customer is present?”

      “Ab’s phone was face up on the table in the break room. I noticed a group family chat where people were using an informal version of the N word to address each other. I understand Ab is Black and I’m not, but what if a Black person who doesn’t know Ab comes by and sees the phone?”

      “Jai admitted to ‘rinsing out’ her personal lunch Tupperware with boiling water rather than washing it with soap, and thinks it’s safe to do that so long as your meals are vegan. I’m worried Jai will get food poisoning before our big presentation.”

      1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

        You made me recall a tattling episode that backfired on tattler. I was checking out wedding related products on my phone while on my break. A co-worker passed behind me and glanced at my screen. They paused for a moment and kept going. Later that day I was called into my manager’s office and lectured about looking at inappropriate websites at work. I pulled up the site in question and their colour scheme was similar to that of an infamous cheating website. My manager rolled their eyes and the tattler was told mind their own business.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      And I think in general in adulthood.

      Live your life so that someone correctly stating what you did doesn’t cause drama. If you’re going to execute a cover-up, that’s on you to manage smoothly, not on any hapless coworkers you can rope in.

      I feel like the Venn diagram of people warning you to never tattle, and people making their little subgroup a better and more functional place, has little overlap.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Adding that reports of minor things that don’t matter can be dealt with by “Pete Campbell, who cares?”

      2. CityMouse*

        I’ve had to report errors by colleagues that affect me and who I report it to and how does affect it. It’s also how you handle it.

        I hate the term “tattling” and ” tattle tale” as it’s childish and I remember those terms being used on me when I reported being physically harmed and sexually harassed as a kid. I want my kid to be comfortable reporting about those things.

      3. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        I think maybe your definition of what it takes to make a subgroup a better and more functional place might be limited to the ways you do that and not recognize the ways other people do that.

      4. Dinwar*

        “Live your life so that someone correctly stating what you did doesn’t cause drama.”

        The problem with this is that it means allowing the most easily-offended person to control you. And to be clear, we’re not necessarily discussing things that are not appropriate at work here. I live in the Bible Belt; me wearing normal religious symbols (such as a pentacle) would “cause drama”. I know one office that had a trans worker, and that caused all KINDS of drama! Or look at all the posts on food–apparently not eating a big lunch can “cause drama”. (And no, “That’s illegal” is not sufficient here. That something’s illegal doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.)

        Worse, there’s no way to know what will cause drama until someone does it. So you’re not even generally operating from the premise “Behave in such a way that my coworkers won’t react poorly”–you’re really expecting us to behave in such a way that the most obnoxiously nosy busy-body we can imagine wouldn’t react poorly. In other words: Live our lives as if we’re under a constant state of threat and guilty until proven innocent. A team where everyone treats each other as a constant source of danger is not going to function well.

        “I feel like the Venn diagram of people warning you to never tattle, and people making their little subgroup a better and more functional place, has little overlap.”

        I quite strongly disagree. The argument that one should address problems at the lowest possible level has substantial justification. The issue is that this policy can be abused. Abuse does not negate use, however.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I mean “drama you care about.” And am picturing things like “Someone mentioned to Pat that they ran into me at the convenience store, when I had lied to Pat about where I was–WHY do they not realize that they are now blood sworn to engage in a cover-up of my actions?”

          1. Dinwar*

            “I mean “drama you care about.” ”

            Given the context, I must ask: Is your belief that people who are being openly threatened with violence (a Satanic Temple was bombed last week) shouldn’t care about it?

            The problem is that you’re putting the burden on the victims of tattlers to manage the actions of those tattlers. And not everyone who tattles has your best interest at heart. In my experience, a fair number are doing it for personal gain (those that are honestly looking out for the organization and team tend to try to deal with it without managerial involvement first). In other words, we need to factor bad actors into this equation as well, and I think you’re underestimating the significance of such bad actors.

    5. Also-ADHD*

      I mean, in a way you’re right. But there are also people who actually bring the mindset of “tattling” sadly (just as there are people who don’t address legitimate concerns).

      LW here has actual concerns, but if I were to try to police my colleagues for their start time and point out when their status is present or away, I’d be out of line. Because in my case, unless they miss an important meeting or deadline, whether they start late, leave early, flex times, or stay at their keyboard all day isn’t any of my business (since I do different work from LW and it doesn’t impact me). Yet, I’ve had to deal with situations where as team lead, someone brought up how X coworker was always on yellow because they had a weird tattle mindset once they were held to deadlines (the said yellow coworker had higher productivity, met all their deadlines, and had a higher workload overall). I’ve also seen people just tattle lightly as though it makes them look better or because they have some kind of weird righteous idea. People are weird, and they do tattle at work. So it’s good Alison notes very clearly when to address these issues, and that LW isn’t doing that!

    6. Czhorat*

      It depends on what, and to what degree..

      “Jon got back from lunch five minutes late once” is different than “Jon comes in 40 minutes late and messes up the shift change”

      “Sally finishes her ham sandwich at her desk, despite a no food in the work area rule” is not the same as “Sally microwaves an entire fish in the breakroom and eats it at her desk”

      “someone used the stapler for their kids’ homework” vs “someone took an entire box of copy paper home”.

      There’s a point at which you ARE being a nuisance – to the manager as well – and a point at which it legitimately affects you or the business an dyou ought to say something

      1. Greta*

        If there is a no food in work area rule, there’s probably a reason. It could range from people proving they won’t cleanup for themselves and attracting pests to the work area needs to be sterile due to the work being done. Both are safety issues, so both parts of the range would warrant reporting.

        1. Dinwar*

          Agreed. I have made areas off-limits to food and drink, because we process listed hazardous waste samples in those areas. Food goes here, stuff that will kill you slowly goes over there, and never the twain shall meet. If it’s an occasional “Sorry, I brought my coffee over because it’s 6 am and I forgot”, that’s fine, I just remind people of the rule. Egregious and continuous violations of this are a safety hazard, and are addressed as such.

          We’ve also had issues with the local wildlife making themselves a bit too comfortable in our office. Had to put all food in sealed containers, and minimize the amount of food onsite (ie, bring it in in the morning and take it home at night). After one guy got bit by a rodent (he was fine) everyone realized there’s a purpose for that rule!

          Tattling would be “Joe was reading at his desk instead of working”, when in fact Joe was on his lunch break and thus not supposed to be working.

      2. Heffalump*

        Past posts “Nosy coworker is too interested in my house sale” and “My employee complains that her coworker has too much flexibility” come to mind.

    7. kiki*

      I think tattling is a real thing that somebody could do in the office, it’s just so broad and willfully misapplied by others to try to cover up their wrongdoing. If my coworker reported to my manager that they saw me printing a couple personal documents at work (assuming there’s no strict printing policy) or noticed that I was 2 minutes late walking into the office a couple days a week when my lateness impacts nobody, that is tattling.

      At school, it would be tattling to report that your classmate was reading a novel under their desk instead of fully paying attention. It would not be tattling to say that you witnessed one student bully another. The same framework applies at work. Relaying all the small, harmless minutiae about your coworkers to your boss– tattling. Letting your boss know about serious issues impacting your work or the workplace– not at all tattling.

    8. MassMatt*

      I loathe these terms in any professional or adult setting and cringe when I see people use them. The site is about issues in the workplace, not kindergarten.

    9. goddessoftransitory*

      This. It’s amazing how fear of “tattling” manages to make the employees who aren’t doing XYZ cover for the one who is, and feel bad about even thinking about complaining.

  2. Marilou*

    I have a coworker, let’s call her Susie, who’s chronically late. We do shifts in a hospital, so this impacts other people’s work. Sometimes the manager deals with it by requiring Susie to make up the time at the end of the shift, so if she was ten minutes late to arrive, she leaves ten minutes after the rest of her shift partners. But that hasn’t really made Susie punctual. It’s always a toss-up as to whether she’ll be only three or four minutes late, or nine or ten.

    Someone also told me that back in the day, another coworker, Jane, was supposed to come in for a night shift, but overslept. This meant one of the evening shift people had to stay there until Jane arrived, because we needed the coverage. The evening shift person wrote down her request for overtime, but not wanting to name names, put “coworker 1/2 hr late” as the reason.

    The manager read that, assumed it was Susie who was the late person, called her into the office and told her being half an hour late was unacceptable, and she shouldn’t do this to her coworkers. The best part? Susie nodded and said she was very sorry, it wouldn’t happen again. To her, it seemed like the kind of thing she would do, so she assumed she’d done it and then forgotten about it!

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      > Sometimes the manager deals with it by requiring Susie to make up the time at the end of the shift, so if she was ten minutes late to arrive, she leaves ten minutes after the rest of her shift partners. But that hasn’t really made Susie punctual.

      This is a management mistake, IMO. In normalising this and giving Susie a way to ‘pay back’ for being late if she chooses to – of course Susie isn’t going to make any effort to be on time, because now she just thinks “oh I’m 5 mins late, so my finish time is 6.05 rather than 6.00” or whatever.

      1. Venus*

        There was a study where daycares wanted to improve pickups and charged parents for being late, and that just made the parents more consistently late because they had a financial guilt-free consequence to their actions. Human behavior is quirky.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          That was such an interesting finding. Once I’m paying to inconvenience you, it becomes okay–I’m exchanging $10 for a service from you.

          This is one reason the frequent “Hey, charge money for this thing you don’t want to do!” bits of advice don’t work–because then rather than doing a favor for a neighbor, you’re just their employee and need to get on with the job they’re paying you for.

          1. MassMatt*

            The key thing to making the strategy work is to charge not some nominal amount, but the actual amount you would need to make the hassle of doing the task worthwhile for you. You neighbor wants you to bring in their garbage bins? Sure, $100 per week is great.

        2. Hot Flash Gordon*

          I’ve seen it for parking enforcement too. Give someone a ticket for parking in a non-parking zone? Well, that’s just the service fee for parking there if the offender can afford it. Some people would rather just pay a fine than modify their behavior (i.e. almost every instance of shocking corporate malfeasance I can think of).

          1. MassMatt*

            But in my area, at least, parking tickets escalate in cost the more you have, and if you don’t pay them they put a boot on your car. Many places are patrolled by towing companies also, and getting your car out of jail is a huge hassle.

            1. Beany*

              This is the way. Fines should rise to the level that they cause actual pain. If $10 is just the cost of doing business for one person, their next one should be $25, or $50.

          2. JustaTech*

            And for some people it won’t matter how much the ticket is, if it lets them avoid changing their ways.
            My mom had a boss (waaaaayy back in the 1970’s) who was so chronically late that he regularly just abandoned his car at the Departures drop off at the airport so he would make his flight. Nowadays that would get you in all kinds of criminal trouble, but even back then your car would get towed and impounded, but apparently that was less fuss for this guy than actually learning to be on time for his flight (or getting a cab).

        3. NotRealAnonForThis*

          That is quite interesting.

          I definitely used the per minute late charge when I had someone try to schedule me for a meeting that was outside both core hours and my normal working hours. (My hours lined up with industry standards; his did not by any means) “So, we’re having a meeting at 4….I know that’s outside your hours….” “That’s correct, and not only that, I have to pick up my kids by 5 and my spouse is out of town – who do I have the aftercare program invoice so that its covered” “Oh, we’re not going to…” “I will not be in attendance then; I cannot afford a $5/minute/child hit for a meeting at 4 pm when my day ends at 3:30”

          My days started at 6:00 a.m., for the record. Had he given me a day or two warning, or even more than at 1 p.m.? I might’ve been able to do it…but he wanted a (ridiculous) update meeting to a project I was barely involved with and couldn’t be arsed to be in the office til 11:30 a.m. that day.

          1. JustaTech*

            Good grief. At least the people who scheduled a meeting for 5:30 (when daycare closes) have the excuse of 1) not actually knowing me and 2) being on the other side of the planet.
            (And I got a day’s notice so I was able to swap drop-off/pick-up with my spouse.)

        4. Lily Rowan*

          I was a daycare worker in college, and we had that policy, and it worked pretty well, I think. But especially when I was the late worker — I didn’t have keys to the building, so the last full-time person would leave me and the last kid outside waiting for the parents, so we looked very pathetic if the weather wasn’t great.

          1. sparkle emoji*

            Yeah, I’ve worked at places with this policy and it worked but we also had a pretty high charge per 5-minute increments, and kept calling the parents at about that interval to check in on where they were. The combo was so annoying and expensive that I rarely saw anyone go past 20 minutes after close.

        5. Yorick*

          My library got rid of late fees and now I’m much more motivated to get books back on time. The website tells you how many people have the book on hold and I think about that instead of “I’ll just keep it a month longer for $x.”

          1. Happy*

            That makes a lot of sense to me! Especially for something like library fees – it’s easy to look at that as contributing financially to something you enjoy and want to support.

            1. TeaCoziesRUs*

              Now, for the fun of it, I’ll slip a $1 or $5 into a book when U drop it in the bin. Either a worker finds it and it either becomes their tip or gets tossed in the library’s find… or another esoteric reader enjoys stumbling upon a valuable bookmark! Either way, I’m supporting the library and my fellow readers… and it’s fun to think of what happens when someone finds it. :)

          2. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

            I am the same! I feel almost excited, like I’m giving someone a gift of the book they are eager to read. If there are people waiting for a digital version of a book I’ve got on hold but am not ready to borrow yet, I’ll postpone delivery so that the next person in line can read it.

      2. Anon y Mouse*

        I would say this can sometimes be an appropriate approach – not with Susie if her lateness is impacting things, but perhaps the manager doesn’t take in that it is?

        I’m chronically late if the start time is before 9.30 to 10am. I have done everything I can think of not to be (I likely have ADHD, but getting diagnosed where I live takes years and I have not come to the top of the waiting list yet). More than one employer has noticed this but rather than sanctioning me, just given me a flexible start and departure time instead. My current work has flexible hours for everyone so long as we are there for a core period, so it’s a non-issue, and I can now take my kids to school in the morning.

        1. Gyne*

          Nursing shifts and other coverage based work CANNOT have flexible start times. if the person you’re relieving can’t leave until you’re there, they are stuck with an unpredictable end of shift. I can’t imagine how staffing a nursing unit would work if all the staff had “flexible” hours.

          1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

            I’m not sure I understand your point? Neither Anon nor the LW said their job is nursing.

            1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

              Adding: the LW’s colleague is affecting the group, so that IS a problem. But it’s not always a problem for people to have different start times.

            2. Hlao-roo*

              The top-level comment here from Marilou is about a late coworker Susie, who works in a hospital. I think Gyne’s point is that Anon y Mouse’s flexible hours solution doesn’t work for certain types of jobs, like nurse shifts and other coverage based work.

              1. GythaOgden*

                As someone in healthcare facilities, most if not all general jobs in a hospital would be in that category and run to a specific, fixed schedule.

            3. MassMatt*

              It’s an example of the many kinds of work which DO require prompt start times, and an antidote to the “stop being such a ‘butts in seats’ hardass, who cares when you come in?” attitude that’s very common here.

              1. Lydia*

                I wouldn’t say it’s common. The general feeling is that if it isn’t necessary, don’t be inflexible.

                1. GythaOgden*

                  It’s common in just about every job that’s not office based, for starters, and common in my office-based work.

            4. Gyne*

              LW and the top-level commenter both work in industries where coverage is needed. LW is being left alone to cover tasks that their late coworker should be doing because the coworker is late. “Let all employees flex their hours” won’t solve LW’s issue of being stuck with more work while waiting for their coworker to show up or respond. Part of staffing appropriately is ensuring that there is adequate coverage at any given time, so if there are tasks like answering phones or greeting people coming in (or answering patient calls, administering medications, etc in nursing, like the top-level commenter’s field), you really cannot have flex hours for that – there is an amount of work that needs to get done during a specified time period and from a manager’s perspective, to divide it up appropriately means people need to show up and be present when they have agreed to be there.

              1. Marilou*

                Yes, flex hours wouldn’t be appropriate for us (we work in a hospital laboratory). Even being ten minutes late can be a problem because the last fifteen minutes of the shift is handover, when we pass on information about patients or about work in progress to the next shift. This can take some time, especially if we’re halfway through a complex procedure or there’s a heavy workload.

                So if someone arrives at, say, 8:15 instead of 8:00, they’ve missed handover, which means one of their shift partners now has to bring them up to speed while the other shift partner starts on the work alone, rather than everyone being on the same page and tackling the workload together.

      3. Marilou*

        I agree, it’s not the best way to handle the problem. Though I suspect the manager just didn’t know what to do otherwise. Talking to Susie doesn’t work, she’s not very conscientious or considerate so she doesn’t care about the impact on others, and I doubt deducting the (small) amount from her pay if she’s not putting in the full 7.5 hours would make any appreciable difference to her.

        That said, a supervisor position once opened up and Susie applied for it. I was the only person hoping she would get it, because I figured that if she did, her tardiness would become management’s problem rather than our problem. But of course she didn’t.

      4. goddessoftransitory*

        Agree with this. Susie staying late isn’t getting me out the door on time when my shift is over.

    2. 2024*

      I admit I’ve been late coming in to my current job. I don’t mean to be, but it’s harder to get moving in the mornings. I’m older, body parts hurt and need more time to operate. And frankly I hate my boss so much (she treats me like gum on her shoe), so it’s depressing. I’m usually maybe 5 minutes late. This morning was 15. No one has said anything yet but one day…

      1. Orv*

        I’ve had three new bosses in eight years. I’m pretty sure my current boss just assumes whatever time I come in is when one of my previous bosses arranged for it to be.

    3. Not A Girl Boss*

      I am a manager with a few chronically late employees, and its a really challenging thing to navigate. I’d be open to any helpful advice on how to manage it.

      In my case, their lateness doesn’t really directly effect anything, except that our internal customer is dead set on having a 7am daily team meeting to “kick off the day”, so my peer from the other department is always complaining to me that the meetings are being missed by my team.

      However, no amount of communication about the chronic lateness really seems to work. They all seem really guilty and apologetic when I “catch” them, but they never change the behavior. I’ve tried all my usual tactics – setting expectations, gentle reminders, teasing reminders, firm reminders, serious sit down conversations, emails documenting expectations I’ve even gone so far as to say that if they need a different schedule, we can work out a permanent accommodation. They always say they don’t need one, they’ll be better, and then the next week are back to being late. And for one employee, we are talking REALLY late – like an hour+.

      I also admit that I’m a night owl and someone who struggled with the early start times in our industry early in my career. While I ‘grew out of it’ eventually (after walking in sipping the coffee that made me late on the Wrong Day for a particularly tough boss), I’m definitely sympathetic to my employees who are not morning people. Maybe that makes me come across too soft on it? These are good employees who always make up the time and mostly get their work done on time, but it seems like the only option is to fire them or accept the chronic tardiness.

      1. Greta*

        I think you are being too soft because they have learned to say they will be better but haven’t proved it. You might have to give them a chance, but spell out that if it doesn’t work by x date, you will have to change their permanent schedule. Predictability can be underrated.

        And you haven’t addressed the issue with the internal customer wanting a 7 am daily team meeting. I get why it might exist, so it’s a bit of a requirement as it exists now. Is there a way to flip it to a late in the day meeting, have some members of your team have an early schedule, or reduce the number of 7 am meetings?

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          The real problem is the 7 am. meeting. Which you might have to use some of your capital to push back on having one every day. Does it really produce anything productive or is the other manager just controlling that nobody can plan their day until this meeting is held? Does skipping it really effect your team’s work? If it doesn’t then that is where you need to focus your pushback.

          1. MassMatt*

            The comment used the term “internal customer”, so it seems likely the customer calls the shots on whether to require this meeting or not, though I agree there are lots of meetings that could be cancelled or streamlined.

            1. Also-ADHD*

              I think in this case, the biggest problem is that the 7am meeting is seen as unnecessary (the manager statement here isn’t how important it is, it’s that the internal customer wants it and complains) so there’s no real consequences. This made me think the meeting was the issue too, but I also understand if that’s not moveable, it needs to be communicated as an important job requirement, there need to be escalation in consequences for lateness (up to firing), and that needs to be buttoned up. Granted, if these jobs are hard to fill in any way, that’s not feasible either. A 7am meeting is a rough job requirement (I’d mention it pre-hire, even beyond a 7am start). And you can’t control time management like this if you aren’t willing to part ways over it and see it as important. It either is essential to be on time or it isn’t (and in many jobs, it more often isn’t than people admit—I say this as someone usually early or on time, but that’s just reality).

              1. Freya*

                Any job requiring a 7am meeting every day is _not_ one I’m taking – letting people know about that before they sign on is absolutely the right way to go if you absolutely _must_ have that meeting!

                (sleep issues mean I need chemical assistance to get to sleep at a vaguely reasonable time on a regular basis, and a 7am start is less than 8 hours after my evening dance class finishes, when you take into account travel time)

          2. Greta*

            Sure, the 7 am daily meeting is rough. But it’s a current requirement of the job. Even if skipping doesn’t affect your work, perception matters.

            I agree that there might be room to push back. That doesn’t mean that the OP can’t try to address both as I’m sure some 7 am meetings may still exist and those few chronic employees may still need to be on time at least some of the time.

            And changing their schedule if they don’t meet the current one might make it easier to push back on the meeting time or frequency.

          3. Cicely*

            It seems to me that the “real problem” is the LW of this thread being unwilling to set any consequences for the team ignoring instructions to get to the 7 am meeting. The meeting is a job requirement like any other, regardless of whether lateness to it impact’s the team’s work, and outright ignoring it is the problem.

        2. Not A Girl Boss*

          Thanks for the advice.

          Unfortunately I tried escalating changing the 7am meetings to our mutual management chain, and the 7am meetings are a hill that everyone is willing to die on. I do worry that my team is picking up on some of my tone (I have a heard time extolling the virtues and importance of a 7am meeting that…. actually isn’t very important at all, but is part of our fundamental ‘operating system’ and isn’t going to change). But I have listed the reasons that my management chain thinks its worthwhile.
          Also, these same employees are also late for my 8:30 twice-weekly meeting that (I think anyway) actually is important, so I don’t think getting rid of the 7am will fundamentally change things.

          1. Greta*

            Is there a carrot or consequences you have in your control? Realistically, lack of promotions, interesting projects, and merit raises are probably the most visible. There might be something else, like having coffee available if they show upon time. It’s about what’s important to them. Promising coffee if they hate coffee, won’t do anything. Is there a time that they came in early? If so, see if there is something to implement more frequently.

            Or have someone they respect in the management chain explain why it’s important to be there. A different voice saying why and “showing” they feel it’s important for your team to show up might make them stay on track more. Ask them to explain why a 7 am versus option alternatives. As it shows your team that you are trying, but that this is final. Who knows, it may lay the ground to eventually reevaluate the 7 am meeting structure to feel more useful.

            You might have people decide they no longer want the job. But you let them come to that conclusion.

      2. kiki*

        I do just want to ask if the 7am meeting is really necessary? From your comment, it really sounds like it isn’t, there is just some person asking for a 7am daily meeting. If there’s not a reason that 7am meeting is actually needed (to accommodate time-zones, etc.), I personally think you need to push back on it, if possible. Because 7am is really early and makes it difficult for anyone with kids or dependents. Also, even without kids or dependents, being on-time to a 7am meeting that’s in-person might mean waking up at 5am, depending on commute time and other factors. That’s really early!

        I also think that this meeting not being super essential also contributes to how your employees perceive the need to be on-time for it. If they can tell you think this meeting is not necessary, missing the meeting doesn’t impact their ability to do their job and they’ve never faced real consequences for being late, it makes sense that they’re not going to prioritize that system.

        1. Ink*

          Yeah, knowing I had to do an early meeting I saw as pointless if I showed up on time, EVERY DAY, wouldn’t *help* tardiness.

          1. Cicely*

            Unless there were consequences. I mean, I don’t know of any workplace where employees get to decide what they will ignore because they see something as “pointless.” That is hugely disrespectful, and, as a manager, I know I wouldn’t tolerate it.

      3. Yeah...*

        “Maybe that makes me come across too soft on it? ”

        First let me commend you on your self-awareness. I too am soft on people who are late because I’m late a lot too. :)

        That being said when there are “real” consequences for my lateness, I show up on time. (I am aware of how this comes across.) You must provide consequences to this person in a manner that is appropriate for your situation.

      4. Laura*

        Why not try to get the other person to stop having 7am meetings? Assuming you work regular daytime hours, that is waaaay to early to have to be at work.

  3. Anon for this post*

    For OP #1, I would consult National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) — the resource Carolyn Hax always recommends — first before calling out your coworker. When I was a victim of domestic abuse, I was at times on the receiving end of s*** rolling downhill from outsiders calling out the abuser’s abuse.

    Thank you for noticing and caring. It matters.

    1. Anon for this post*

      I should specify, even if you only call their behavior weird and never mention “abuse” or “control” etc.)

    2. Hrodvitnir*

      Absolutely this. This is something specialists in domestic violence should be able to give the best advice about – I personally would not recommend mentioning the monitoring to coworker, as all that’s likely to do is alert him that you’ve noticed and maybe hide it more, which will only make it harder for you to help at all.

      I’m sorry you’re in this situation.

    3. anon_sighing*

      Big hugs to you – too many people want to act, a totally normal reaction, but sometimes action should come only after fact-finding and planning. The victim’s safety should also be in mind when thinking “what if I do this? what will happen to them then?”

    4. WoodswomanWrites*

      While I don’t have any expertise, I’m thanking you from afar for caring and for asking how you can help. To all who are recommending the National Domestic Violence Hotline, I appreciate your spreading the word about them for anyone who might need their guidance.

      1. unpleased*

        Please add the phone number for the NDVH to your answer above. A lot of your readers don’t read the comments. This is the single most important piece of information. They can help the LW make sense of what she’s seeing and also help her to manager her desire to want to help with resources for herself if she continues working with someone who may be an abuser.

    5. AnonyOne*

      Came here to suggest this as well – they are the experts and can advise you on ways to support this woman.

      1. Maddie*

        Yes. Calling out the husband or trying to make contact with his wife can have very serious consequences if this woman is being abused. Best left to people who are trained to deal with these situations.

        1. Ellie*

          If he’s monitoring her at work though, does that create any issues that you could legitimately claim were work related? Is he distracted? Is there an IT or bandwidth issue? It might be possible to stop it from happening without having to involve his partner at all.

          I agree though its good to discuss what you’re going to do with an expert first, because you don’t want to inadvertently make it any worse. On the other hand, you don’t want to look like you’re condoning it either.

          1. jasmine*

            > On the other hand, you don’t want to look like you’re condoning it either.

            Why though?

            If not saying anything to the coworker is the safest thing for his partner (it might not be, but if it is, according to the experts LW talks to) then what difference does it make if the coworker thinks you’re condoning his behavior?

    6. H.Regalis*

      Yes, OP, please talk to some people who understand abuse dynamics. You’re gonna get a lot of stupid advice from random people on the internet about what you should do, and following that could have very bad consequences for your coworker’s wife. This isn’t the time to wing it.

    7. Maddie*

      Carolyn Hax is the best. This is absolutely the answer. This kind of intervention requires training.

    8. Ainsley Hayes*

      You can also start reading about ‘coercive control’, and how it is finally being recognized as legitimate and not just women “complaining”. Dr. Emma Katz is one of the best resources on this topic.

  4. Posilutely*

    LW1 – this comes with a big caveat that I do not live in the US so the situation may not be the same. Where I am, you could call children’s social services (which anyone can do) and tell them of your concerns. I understand that the child, to the best of your knowledge, is well cared for, but there is what could be emotional abuse/coercive control going on in the parents’ relationship and in some countries that can be looked into because of the potential effect on the child.

    1. Garblesnark*

      PLEASE OP I am begging


      Abuse escalates after visits from services like CPS in situations like this nearly 100% of the time, please start with the domestic violence hotline which will not start by alerting the abuser and inviting him to escalate.

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        You MUST call CPS first if you have the slightest reason to think the child is subject to physical, mental or emotional abuse, which includes witnessing their parent being significantly abused,

        The welfare of a completely helpless child must always be prioritised over possible further harm to an adult.

        1. peasblossom*

          This person isn’t saying don’t call CPS at all, but they are advising (accurately) that the dynamics of abuse are very complicated, making it a good idea to seek professional help before taking additional steps. This is important for protecting BOTH adult and child.

          More critically, the NDVH is a great resource, and, while I understand people feel strongly about this issue, I would encourage any commenter offering advice other than “contact a DV expert” to take a step back. The OP knows very little–and we do too–but a trained professional can advice the OP how to make best use of the resources available to them–including CPS, DV shelters, immigration, etc.

        2. JSPA*

          This presupposes that the outcome for the child is better if you call CPS first. Depending where you are, this may be manifestly and dangerously untrue.

          Compare how the courts are only beginning to get a handle on the pernicious claim of “alienation of affection” (where if one parent makes allegations of abuse against the other in a divorce, courts have been more likely to give unsupervised custody to the abusive parent, on the mistaken presumption that the person making the accusation is vindictive, unhinged and otherwise not a reliable reporter).

          Plus we have no evidence that the children are so much as observing anything more overt than control, or that the control is increasing. In this situation, crafting the intervention that is most likely to work takes precedence over doing something ASAP, to salve one’s sense of needing to do something.

          1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

            In this case, nothing to do with one parent making allegations against another, only what the OP herself has observed.

            Observing abuse can have lifelong effects after only a few years:
            e.g. I have an acquaintance who suffered physical abuse from her husband. They were both teachers and their fellow teachers & social circle didn’t want to get involved.
            She left him when her daughters were aged only 5 & 7.
            Now in adulthood, both daughters have gone from 1 abusive partner to another. Both have had their children taken away as toddlers due to physical abuse. So in retirement, she now has had to bring up all her grandchildren, whom her daughters are not allowed to see alone, because the alternative was that they would be placed in care and maybe even adopted.

            1. Lenora Rose*

              That is tragic and unfortunate, but it actually is not an argument in favour of the competence of CPS/CFS — they were not, in your story, involved at all when the first set of children were children — or for prioritizing calling them over calling the DV hotline first. Nor does it in any way counter the demonstrated fact that CPS/CFS showing up at the door out of nowhere can trigger worse abuse, if abuse is involved, and can lead to worse outcomes for a family where abuse is not involved, if CPS is sicced on them without cause.

              I could tell all about a couple I know, too, but I won’t, because it’s irrelevant. The stats stand for themselves.

            2. jasmine*

              Growing up in a home with domestic violence is deeply traumatic. The experts on DV know that. They’re trained in that topic, as well as in CPS and the family courts. Which is why they’re the best people to call.

            3. Humble Schoolmarm*

              I want to (gently) push back on the idea that other people simply didn’t want to get involved. I have a co-worker and close friend with two children in a similar situation and we have done what we can (one colleague is documenting things that friend has said about partner, I’ve offered my house if friend and kids need to leave on a moment’s notice, bosses have covered for me to help friend call hotlines). In the end, she isn’t ready to leave and she has valid concerns about what would happen if she did. I have reason to believe that the trauma is taking a toll on friends’ kids but by calling CPS I would be (short term at least) a) making things horrible for my friend b) ruing our friendship and taking away a support person that she needs and c) further traumatizing the kids.

              Doing nothing more concrete than trying be moral support for my friend is hard, but it’s the only choice I have right now.

        3. Someone Online*

          The welfare of the children will not be served if the abused parent is further abused or even, heaven forbid, murdered.

          1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

            Leave it to the professionals at CPS to assess the danger. Don’t assume they are incompetent when you yourself are not trained to protect children.

            A teacher friend taught a boy who was brain-damaged by his dad.
            The man “only” ever hit the mum, never the child, so all who knew them focused on not putting the woman in more danger or having her child removed – until that one day her partner really lost his temper, punched the little boy and smashed his head against the wall.

            1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

              DO NOT DO THIS DO NOT DO THIS DO NOT DO THIS. Call the Domestic Violence Hotline first. They are best placed to give advice on how to handle this.

              A woman is most in danger when she tries to leave. CPS just showing up could be a sign she is trying to leave. Which means more abuse. Also CPS doesn’t just drop everything and rush over there. They very well could stop by while coworker is home. Then what? He denies everything, wife denies everything, kid looks fine ( we don’t know the ages of the kid, they might not be old enough to be interviewed or knows enough to not get daddy in trouble so lies) so CPS leaves. Then coworker lashes out at wife for getting the authorities involved.

              Random advice on a work issue site is not helpful in this case. Leave this one to the domestic violence professionals.

            2. Anon for this*

              I may not be trained to protect kids, but I WAS the abused child who had CPS called on them. CPS is often incompetent, has limited ability to do anything (you think an abuse victim is going to admit this to them when they didn’t report themselves? they say no- as I did- and there’s nothing CPS can do absent major evidence)- calling them often causes more harm. The abuse gets worse, and now, the abuser is going to be on the lookout for whoever reported- and they will further isolate their victim to prevent a repeat. Call the domestic violence hotline, do nothing else until you talk to them.

              1. Bitte Meddler*

                Or, in the experiences of too many people I am acquainted with, CPS removes the child from the home, places them in an institutionalized setting or foster care, and the child is abused there.

            3. Decidedly Me*

              I’ve dealt with a lot of incompetent CPS workers in my time both as a child and as an adult seeing a family member (rightfully) investigated.

            4. Ellie*

              We don’t know that any of that is happening here. What we know is that OP has witnessed some alarming things, which may indicate abuse. There are other explanations. CPS is not going to get involved at all based on what OP has written in this letter. They’re overworked and have too many, far more alarming things to investigate on their plate already.

              The best thing OP can do at this point is educate themselves on what they’re seeing.

          2. Student*

            You’d be surprised.

            When I was an abused kid, I told a social worker about it only when one of my parents finally started to threaten to kill my younger sibling. Usually, they only directed their abuse at me.

            The social worker told me that they couldn’t do anything for me. It was a time where the bar was very, very high for anyone to step in when children were abused, and children basically could never clear the bar on their own – an adult needed to witness and report it.

            But the social worker promised that if my parents killed or hospitalized me, they’d be able to use my report to get my brother out to safety. It probably sounds insane, but I found that very comforting at the time.

            1. Bitte Meddler*

              1970-ish: My mom was being beaten bloody [again] by my step-dad. The neighbors called the cops. I watched Step Dad open the door, smile warmly at the cops and ask how he could help them. They said they were there for a domestic disturbance. My mom, bruised and literally bleeding all over the entry tile, did her best to smile through a swollen face and told them everything was fine.

              The cops said, “You sure you don’t want to press charges?”

              She said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

              They said, “Okee-dokee,” and turned to go. The neighbors who had been watching all this (it was an apartment complex and we shared a living room wall with them) asked them why they were leaving.

              Cops: “If she isn’t going to press charges, there’s nothing we can do.”

              Neighbor: “What if he kills her?”

              Cops: “Oh, we would arrest him in that case.”

              The cops saw my brother and I, aged 7 and 6, respectively, standing in the hallway to the living room and just… walked away.

              My mom got taken to the ER that night because Step Dad extra beat the sh*t out of her after the cops left.

              The neighbors learned that intervening was worse than doing nothing.

              1. LilPinkSock*

                That’s horrific. I’m so sorry you and your brother and your mom went through that.

              2. Ellie*

                In the 1980s, we had a neighbour who frequently beat his wife. One night their four children came running to our house screaming that dad was going to kill mum. My mother rang the police, they arrived within 5 minutes, and we saw him being dragged away into the police car as he waved his fist threateningly at our house.

                The next day (after his wife had bailed him out), he knocked on our door, cap in hand, apologising profusely for disturbing us last night. He reassured my mother that she’d absolutely done the right thing, he had drunk far too much and was out of control, and thanked her for looking out for them.

                The guy was a louse, he drank every weekend knowing that he’d end up beating his wife, and she always took him back. But phoning the police was still worth it – it stopped him in the moment, they knew the house, knew to come quickly, and imagine how we would have felt if he actually had killed her, and we hadn’t called?

                Every abuser is different, it is incredibly difficult to know what the right thing to do is. But doing nothing is not the answer.

        4. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          That’s a very simplistic view. CPS doesn’t just swoop in and remove the child. They have been known to blunder on investigations quite often. They might even blame the wife for not protecting the child. Which doesn’t do her OR the child any good in getting away from the abuser. Or worse, they show up, see nothing wrong and move on. Except now the coworker knows authorities have been involved. Which does not have the effect you think it does. It does not cause the abuser to be more careful. It just causes more anger which gets transferred to the victim.

          1. Abundant Shrimp*

            “They might even blame the wife for not protecting the child.”

            My first thought was along these lines – won’t they just investigate the person the child spends most of their time with, so, the mother? And if they find (or sound like they found) something against the mother, won’t that cause the abuser to abuse and monitor the mother even more? “see, you’re so unfit that even CPS came out to investigate you. Clearly we need more cameras.”

        5. BuildMeUp*

          I think you may not be understanding the purpose of the hotline. The OP would not be calling to make a report; they would be calling to get professional, experienced advice and guidance on how to best handle this situation. Whomever she speaks to will absolutely take into account that there is a child involved.

        6. jasmine*

          No no no

          This directly contradicts my (albeit very limited) training in domestic violence that I’ve had thus far.

          I had a lot more written up, but I decided this conversation is distracting and not helpful to OP. Because OP should not take advice from random commentators but should call the hotline. People who work in the field of domestic violence are trained to understand how it intersects with child abuse, trauma, and well-being.

      2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        I would call CPS first, before a domestic abuse hotline -if I witnessed a child suffering.

        Too many cases where a child has suffered harm or even death because observers are too anxious about the welfare of a parent, or about the child being taken into care.
        Let the child protection professionals decide if action is needed, rather than deciding yourself it is not.

        1. Dek*

          The problem is that a lot of abusers can make nice for the CPS, and then escalate the abuse afterward. This isn’t about being “too anxious about the welfare of a parent, or about the child being taken into care.” It’s about understanding likely outcomes of a scenario.

        2. unfortunately experienced in this manner*

          Hi there – you’ve got a lot of people telling you why calling a domestic violence line is preferred before calling CPS. As someone who was interviewed by CPS several times in childhood… they are right. You’re making this assumption that CPS will swoop in immediately and take the child and put them in a safe place – this is really and truly incorrect, and removal of children barely happens, even when warranted, on a first visit. CPS is not infallible, and a complete fumbling of cases is not outside the realm of possibility, especially in certain states/districts. CPS was of no help to me as a neglected child. I understand your insistence, in the abstract, but please listen to what people with experience here are saying

          1. Lenora Rose*

            And half the time when removal of a child happens, it isn’t necessarily the case that there’s more proof of abuse. We have so many examples of proven cases where a child was removed from family for reasons that amount to racism, classism, etc.

        3. singularity*

          The OP has not witnessed a suffering child. They are basing their conclusions on how the husband acts/behaves and what he says. It’s inappropriate to involve CPS if OP doesn’t have direct knowledge of harm coming to any of those children. If she’s in a state like Texas, foster care is often an equally abusive and harmful environment to children. The fact that you are focusing on this is very strange, since the post is clearly asking what to do about the potentially abused SPOUSE not a child.

        4. Starbuck*

          But the LW has not witnessed child abuse, there’s no indication of that in the letter. It’s not good advice to call CPS first here, what would you even tell them? It’s most likely to lead to nothing, or possibly backfire.

        5. Lydia*

          I would shut up. You have been told multiple times why this is a bad idea, and you refuse to listen. It’s time you stopped talking about what you would do and start listening to people who know a bit more than “I know two people who have had bad outcomes that I have assumed come from witnessing abuse.”

          I’m done being nice about this. Step. Back.

        6. Lizy*

          The local “child protection professionals” were instrumental in helping to bust apart my family on the word of a grounded teen. They gaslit us, terrorized my other children, and taught a kid that he just has to cry wolf and he gets exactly what he wants.
          The same “protection professionals” refused to actually help him when he really was being abused and neglected. I guess a 5 year old around meth is ok?
          The same “protection professionals” are in the process of returning the sweetest little boy to his birth mother because a drug addict deadbeat “mom” is better than fosters who have parented him for roughly half his life, often on VERY short notice.

          Let the experts (NDVH) decide how to advise, rather than deciding yourself that “child protection professionals” know anything.

  5. anon_sighing*

    #1, Seems like the kind of situation where I would encourage more office parties with family included…The CCTV is really scary. The “no driving with child in the car” thing can be an anxious response to something, but the CCTV is just…weird. :s She could be okay with this situation and there could be context you simply don’t have that explains why they live like this. But those are all huge red flags for abuse.

    #2, you’re not tattling — if your coworker wanted to do this, they need to be able to be on top of their work while doing it. I wouldn’t be an issue if they didn’t leave you in the lurch. I have had many coworkers who came in late, left early, went on lunch too long, took their breaks back-t0-back, etc. They never let it get in the way of work, so no one cared – we weren’t minutemen (and we had our own things to do).

    #3, A communications resume that does the opposite of communicate in a clear, context-appropriate manner….would confuse me.

    #4, Alison is so right here…why is it up to you to clean this mess up? Management took their sweet time managing him out, they can talk to the clients. “Our clients have been asking for explanations on why their projects under former manager were not completed in a timely manner. I wanted to pass on these messages so leadership can advise on what message clients should be receiving.”

    #5, this isn’t the hill to die on. Just return the notebook and process the firing.

    1. GythaOgden*

      Sounds like OP2 is in a coverage based, hourly job and colleague is blatantly engaging in timecard fraud to boot.

      Additionally, in my job (property management, UK public sector) even the people who would be exempt in the US are in reactive jobs where anything could happen during working hours, so need to be available throughout the working day. Maybe it’s just a very different culture, but someone doing even what your colleagues are doing would be being talked to — at first it would be to figure out if they’re ok but then it wouldn’t really be acceptable to fudge around with time like that. (Apart from everything else the job is pretty busy anyway.) Even in jobs like my first one out of uni people didn’t do that kind of thing; there was enough to keep us busy.

      It’s OP’s business because the colleague is being paid to be there at a certain time to carry some of the burden that OP is carrying. Flexibility is one thing but the OP explicitly explains how much they really are dropping the ball. And by their actions here I don’t think they would earn the trust that increased flexibility along the lines of your office culture would need.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        Yeah I have to wonder (based on some of the comments here, and similar ones on previous questions) what jobs people have where they are an “island” with no interaction and interdependencies with other people/teams. Even if a role is largely independent, surely people get asked (instant message, email, visit to their desk etc) about things that are their area of expertise, and the person asking needs a timely answer for legitimate reasons. Or they are in a more senior role and things get escalated to them for a decision. Perhaps this is a UK-US cultural thing, because at many companies “persistent lateness” is characterised as such (rather than flexing time) and would be the start of disciplinary action if it happens too much.

        1. anon_sighing*

          > at many companies “persistent lateness” is characterised as such (rather than flexing time) and would be the start of disciplinary action if it happens too much.

          Yes, at many companies in the US this would also be a problem – a lot of companies have a “3 strikes, you’re out policy” – even if you’re 1 minutes late. If you messed with the work flow, you may be on a “final warning” the first time around. The system is very punitive in the USA, which is why a lot of US-based commenters take the attitude that the work should come first rather than punishing people for things that may be out of their control or things that could potentially be corrected (i.e., a later start and end time). In the letter linked, this script is the healthiest way to approach persistent lateness that isn’t just punishing someone:

          “Several times a month, [example coworker] comes in several hours late and says she slept through her alarm. When this happens, it causes X and Y, and I have to do Z, which is a problem because of W. I’ve tried talking to her about it but it’s continuing to happen, and I’m getting the sense that she doesn’t understand the impact on the office. Can you help me figure out how to handle this?”

          Notice that with this language, you’re not just reporting wrongdoing; you’re framing it as a problem to be solved — which it is — and you’re doing it in a collaborative way.”

          *sigh* One issue with internet forums is taking a statement or issue out of context and applying it to another different situation that’s only in the same general realm. You have to understand that AAM commenters are not nessasily representative of the US workforce as a whole. A lot of people would be gleeful to go for their coworker’s throats (and indeed, we see examples of that laid out in letters here and in the free-for-all comments on Fridays – it’s not LaLa Land in the US work place…many people are overworked, over-managed, and overwhelmed…)

        2. Varthema*

          I might work on something that could be perceived as an “island” – my company is 100% remote, with people scattered across European, North American, and South American time zones. While I do work with other departments, we just take it for granted that any given communication may have lag time in response, because whomever you’re talking to might not have started work yet, have already logged off for the day, and that’s not even getting into the variety of lunch hours, national holidays, etc.
          Of course, your own manager and direct teammates generally know when you are and aren’t available, and some teams like prod support and engineering have on-call shifts, but for the company as a whole, it’s just a mindset shift that involves things like pinging a team with a time-sensitive question instead of an individual, building a bit of time into expectations you set with customers, everyone keeping their Google calendars religiously up to date so that others can schedule quick “syncs” with you if there needs to be a back-and-forth about something time sensitive, etc.
          It’s actually an extremely civilized way to work and my favorite part about the job. But it has to be baked into the culture of the whole company, otherwise it doesn’t work.

          1. Varthema*

            That said, in the OP, there was clearly coverage issues, so escalating makes total sense.

        3. Earlk*

          My role and most people in my teams roles are needed to put out fires a lot but we’re also usually able to set our own schedules. This is because we’re technically 9-5 workers (7.5 hours a day m-f) but we support 24/7 teams so having some variation in when we’re working is beneficial.

        4. bamcheeks*

          I am very definitely not an “island”, but I can’t think of any part of my job where there’d be an expectation that I’d be available to respond to something within an hour or even two hours. There’s functionally no difference between me sitting down to start work at twenty past nine and me having a meeting with a colleague or a client in the first hour of the day, or closing Teams and Outlook to do some deep focussed work. The most “urgent” anything gets is “really need an answer by lunchtime/end of the day”, and that’s typically unusual circumstances like someone didn’t realise they needed to ask me something about a project or application and there’s a hard submission deadline.

          1. Grange1*

            Many work contexts are not islands but also don’t have the expectation of constant avalability for in the moment responses. I’m somewhat of an island, do a lot of long-range work, and collaborative work has flexibility. My partner has a team and they cover for each other. They have specific areas of expertise, and they all deal with a combination of emergencies and long-range work as well as a combination of on-site and in-office with some wfh work. People can’t expect constant chat or email availability because someone could be on a site for hours, driving, might be putting out a fire, might have been up in the middle of the night putting out a fire even though it’s theoreticaly a day job, etc.

        5. Also-ADHD*

          Even if I am working, many of my tasks require heads down focus, so I won’t answer/have notifications for messages during large blocks of work time. For me, there is actually less heads down time than my team because I’m a lead so do have some regular times each day open for team support/issues that come up. I might have a team member on a project who only answers chats/emails once or twice per day, and it’s standard in some cases for replies to be followed up in a day or two, as long as no deadlines are missed. We have a project board that everyone updates, I know the status of all projects and also leave tips and review notes there. We work across multiple time zones very asynchronously and people flex their schedules all the time. There are meetings set to check in regularly, but very little reactive work daily even as lead and almost none for my regular IC staff.

          1. Also-ADHD*

            This isn’t to judge LW, just to respond to the notion of jobs being an island—my job isn’t an island, but many jobs with project based work like mine ARE not super time dependent. Plus if something requires heads down work (writing, designing, coding, accounting to name a few), it is normal not to respond to messages or be available for long stretches. That’s obviously not the case for LW here, but it is not cultural so much as company culture + role. I’m personally pretty miserable with work where people frequently interrupt or want responses immediately, because deep thinking work is much more satisfying.

        6. Office Plant Queen*

          I work in a job that’s flexible about start and end times, but generally everyone is expected to be present between 10am and 3pm, with some people at the edges doing 7-3 or 10-6, but most doing roughly 8:30-4:30. For my job specifically, “time sensitive” can be as little as an hour but that’s uncommon, with most time sensitive stuff being more like half a day to one day turnaround time.

          There are quite a few offices that operate on a core business hours model, with varying degrees of flexibility. My workplace is on the higher end of that flexibility. But there are a lot of reasons to not do that, because there are plenty of teams and companies where you either really need everyone working at the same time or you really need consistent coverage!

        7. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          So, I don’t by any stretch of the imagination work on an “island”, but many jobs just don’t have the sort of situation where an answer is needed in ten minutes, except in very rare circumstances. I’ve always been in that sort of situation – the tightest deadlines we have are “end of day” or “by this meeting at 3 pm”, and if there’s a meeting where our input may be necessary then we’re IN the meeting, not just expected to be at our desks and on call such that stepping away for a cup of coffee would be problematic. My co-workers cross many time zones (I’m on the US East Coast and work closely with people on the West Coast (three hours behind) and in the UK (five hours ahead). So other than meetings most of our communications are via Slack, and instantaneous responses are not required. So no, it really truly does not affect my work if a co-worker steps out for a half-hour for an appointment, or gets in a half-hour late, as long as they aren’t missing a meeting. It’s not about being an expert or not, it’s about the timescale of a “timely answer” – is that measured in minutes or half-hours? This is obviously not the case for the OP or for any coverage-based job, but it’s really not uncommon in a non-coverage-based situation.

        8. Lydia*

          I mean, in my work, I can be late, and it wouldn’t affect anyone. I’m not an island, but I’m also not doing anything that people are waiting for me to show up for at 8am. Basically, the things people need from me aren’t going to be affected by me being late because that’s not the kind of work I do. I imagine that’s the case for a lot of people making those kinds of comments. The things that need to be done aren’t too affected if you show up at 8am or 8:15.

      2. anon_sighing*

        > It’s OP’s business because the colleague is being paid to be there at a certain time to carry some of the burden that OP is carrying.

        I think you’ve fundamentally misread my comment. I’ve said it’s not tattling and “[it] wouldn’t be an issue if they didn’t leave you in the lurch.” So, yes, I already said that LW should say something because their coworker’s behavior is affecting their work. Their colleague continually drops the ball and that means they don’t get flexibility. In my workplace, people do this and it does not affect work — I very much would say something if it did. We are in agreement here.

        I don’t work in a field where there is likely to be an emergency in the middle of the day (research data analytics) and where we have busy periods & periods that are less than busy or we’re in a holding pattern, so it’s completely fine. What isn’t fine is being late to meetings, not showing up to meetings, missing deadlines, not answering emails in a timely manner, not following up on requests, etc. We’re all salaried, too — at least, I don’t think there is anyone around me who is hourly, but if they were, they would just clock out if they needed extra time for breaks or if they needed to leave and work the extra hours that day because they needed the money from the time they took off.

        I suppose where we disagree is that I need to manage my colleague’s time or ensure they’re taking their breaks on time or coming back from lunch at the right time in general…yeah, I’m not doing that. As long as they get their work done, I’ll let their manager manage them in that regard.

  6. Bex (in computers)*

    LW4: your clients are not asking why you, individually, did not do work. They are asking why the company did not do work. It does not matter that your manager sucked – the end result is still that the company messed up. Pitching the guy who has left under the bus will not help – especially if the issues with him weren’t apparent to clients, as it would likely (and rightly) be seen as blame shifting.

    Management needs to be involved and designate someone to check these accounts and handle inquiries. Your response now should be, “I do apologize. I’m going to put you in touch with Sara, as I believe she’ll have more information for you.”

    But I can promise – anything shifting it to your old boss is just going to come across as an excuse to your clients, and it’ll do you no favors.

    1. Sherm*

      100%. The company first hired someone who was woefully unqualified, then kept him in his job for what sounds to be a significant amount of time. The buck stops at the top, not with Zephaniah.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Yes and pinning it on Zephaniah and his incompetence isn’t the ready-made excuse it seems to be anyway, because this risks more reputational damage to the company, especially if customers are in a position to talk to each other or if it’s the kind of business where they would write online reviews. “My thing was late because the company hired (equivalent of) a mathematician who doesn’t know algebra” isn’t going to be taken at face value and forgiven. This is potentially quite sensitive. A lot internally will depend on how this situation came to be as well – was he hired by the people who then managed him out, or (as I suspect) has there been a change in leadership since he was hired?

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I’d be really interested in an update as to whether this imminence actualized. And whether the problems were then firmly resolved, or continued to fester.

        2. Smithy*

          If the leadership change is forthcoming, then I’d wait for their steer on how to handle this. If they’re an organization with external facing services or clients or whatnot, and are taking over from otherwise problematic leadership – then it’s still the overall brand name of the organization that is harmed.

          If someone today went to purchase the name Lehman Brothers for a wealth management group vs. starting a new name, they’d have to spend a lot of time explaining their new leadership, how they’re going to be run now, etc. Basically as a company brand name, the bad outweighs the name recognition.

          Whatever was happening at your employer I’m going to assume wasn’t nearly on the level of a Lehman Brothers or Enron or whatnot, but the leadership messaging around how they’re going to proceed going forward, new management, new ways of working, etc etc – that’s a far larger messaging task and finger pointing is likely just not the way.

          1. kalli*

            Waiting for someone to say what to do without responding to the concerned client isn’t going to help either.

    3. Beth Jacobs*

      Exactly. OP, put yourself in the customer’s shoes. If you on-line order never arrives or the cleaner you paid for never shows up, what would you expect from the company to make it right.

      “Oh, Sarah was a real flake so she never got around to that and she doesn’t work here anymore” wouldn’t appease you. You’d want the company to either provide the product/service (and discount it) or refund you in full – and probably some extra compensation as well.

    4. Irish Teacher.*

      Pitching the guy who has left under the bus will not help – especially if the issues with him weren’t apparent to clients, as it would likely (and rightly) be seen as blame shifting.
      Yup, if I were the client, my thought would be, “oh, this guy has left the company and now they are trying to put the blame for everything that went wrong on him because they know I can’t speak to him either to check or to hold him accountable.”

      It would make me think less of the company, not more, especially as I would also feel it showed they had no loyalty to their employees.

      1. Antilles*

        I agree, especially since the “until last year” part of the email appears to imply that he’s been gone for several months (e.g., even if he left at the end of December, that’s 4.5 months until today in mid-April).

        There’s a real statute of limitations on me-the-client buying a “someone left and we’re trying to backfill” excuse. A week later? Sure, I get that you’re still sorting through his stuff. Months plural later? Nope.

        1. bamcheeks*

          yeah, this definitely takes it from “bad luck in hiring” to “systemic management issues”.

      2. Hannah Lee*

        Blaming it all on Zephariah is not the silver bullet/flex LW thinks it is.

        Because a) customers are finding stuff that LW’s team never did … instead of the company management proactively doing a full audit to see what was never completed and should have been. and b) was anyone managing Z? Did they have no process in place to notice how bad they were and how they weren’t doing their job over an extended period of time?

        The customers need some messaging, but I agree with those who say the new management team needs to first figure out messaging on how this will never happen again, what changes they’ve made and what they are going to offer to those who go the short-shrift. I’m guessing many clients already have one foot out the door, Company blaming it all on Z will likely drive more away.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      “Your job didn’t get done because we hire crappy employees” is not what I want to hear. My business is going elsewhere.

      Your frustrated customers want to hear solutions. That probably include something like a substantial discount for the delay on your end.

    6. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, if I were the client this would sound to me like your company doesn’t have its personnel ducks in a row and took far too long to either shape up or fire a crappy employee. Zephaniah may have been incompetent but surely it was someone’s job to notice and handle that? Why did it take all year (or more)?

    7. goddessoftransitory*

      This, for sure. When something’s messed up, a customer/client wants to know what you’re going to do about it, not who/why it happened. “We had this hapless flappy-armed nitwit in charge” isn’t going to make them go oh! okay, it’s fine!

  7. nodramalama*

    LW1 I would be veeeeery cautious in the way you act around this person, and like others have suggested, speak to someone with experience in this before doing or saying anything to him, and I think that includes saying anything directly to him like Alison has suggested. Above all else, if he is abusing his wife its important to make sure that nothing happens that could make her life worse.

    1. anon_sighing*

      I think the best thing LW can do is monitor this situation and try to understand what is actually going on in that home. Right now, they have bits and pieces as a tertiary observer to this relationship (LW is a coworker to husband, barely knows the wife) but if they know he has CCTV feeds that he watches and they know all these little tid-bits, then coworker must be fairly open about his home life. Subtly probing if these are one-sided dictates or if there is something else going on (without being obvious) may help. It’s a tough place to be worried from — this woman is a stranger and anything LW does affects their workplace relationship (because frankly, accusing a coworker of any kind of abuse is a big deal…so LW should act with a bit more proof than what they have in the letter).

      LW should also be ready to accept that this might just be how their relationship works even if it’s full of red flags. Because the wife may know these things are bonkers, but is willing to put up with it for some reason.

      1. Pretty as a Princess*

        I really appreciate this response!

        I once knew someone who crashed her car with her kids in it because she had a seizure (out of nowhere, cause never determined). She suffered a head injury and AMNESIA that affected her for at least a couple years. Amnesia to the extent that she did not know her husband and kids and had to be reminded of the accident itself – everything before the accident got locked away. (I understand that with time and therapy she did improve significantly.) This took a huge toll on the family and some of the steps that they had to take to keep her safe? She was not allowed to drive anywhere (medical restriction) – but she had amnesia and on a bad day could forget that too. Easy CCTV at home was not a thing back then (this was over 15 years ago) but there was a pretty complicated network of scheduled checkins by friends and family to visit the house every single day to see if she and the kids were ok. (What if she had another seizure? The kids were wee little.) These days I am certain that they would have resorted to CCTV cameras in the house.

        It’s a bonkers story, right? Totally and completely true. She used to introduce herself to people “Hi, I’m Thumbelina. I have amnesia. Do we know each other?”

        It was pretty openly known in the community what happened and so I am quite certain the hubs was probably open about it at work. But I can imagine if he said something to a new person about the checkin schedule and her not being allowed to drive, it would have sounded terrible without the context.

        So is there something to be concerned about here? Maybe and I would also have concern – and I love this response about monitoring to see if you can understand better. Because yes, there could be a situation where someone is in trouble, but there also could be something complicated that isn’t apparent from the sliver of visibility the LW has.

        1. MeepMeep123*

          Yes – and while a brain injury like you mention is something that people can be reasonably open about, a severe mental illness or addiction is something that will be more hidden and require more monitoring. If someone is an alcoholic, it may be necessary to monitor them like that to make sure they stay sober and the kids stay safe, for example.

  8. Introvert girl*

    OP2 First talk with your coworker. I had a similar problem at my previous job. My coworker was around 45 minutes late each day and us talking to her before talking to our boss really helped.

    1. Myrin*

      OP did that, though: “I’ve said a few things to the chronically late coworker.”
      Unless you think she should have more of a big picture talk with the coworker (going further than what she cites she has mentioned before) but then one could say that that’s not really her place and falls more in a boss’s territory.

      1. GythaOgden*

        And the timecard fraud is something to escalate to management anyway. This isn’t just someone being flakey and owning it; it’s someone who’s saying they are where they’re not and deliberately being elsewhere.

      2. JSPA*

        Unless they’re logging in with a bot, or logging in before they shower for half an hour, they may legitimately believe they’re adequately “present” (swinging by the computer while they microwave breakfast and make coffee and feed the dog) even if they’re not sitting at the computer…but are simply not functionally present until (say) the coffee (or adderall or whatever else they need to focus) kicks in, and their butt is in the chair.

        “Jan, you’ve mentioned that mornings are rough for you. I’m sympathetic on a personal level. But lack of responsiveness between your login time at 10 AM is a big problem on a professional level.

        Personally, I know that I can’t function in this job until a half hour or so after the coffee hits my brainstem, and only when my butt is glued to the chair. So I make sure I’m ready to work from the minute I log in, even on days when it’s hard.

        I don’t want to get you in trouble for time card fraud, but mornings are hard for me too, and they’re twice as hard when I’m carrying your full load, as well as my own, for up to an hour.

        If this continues past today, I’ll need to speak to [boss] about how essentially all calls seem to route to me at the start of the day, and how we’re risking coverage gaps as a result.”

        And to your boss, “Boss, I talked to Jan about equitable workloads through the shift, to deal with some gap risks in our coverage. I think we have it sorted out now, but I’ll let you know if not.” That way, if the coworker decides to screw you first, there’s a (relevant but mostly neutral) paper trail.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Condense it down from four paragraphs to one and you’ll have a great script. It’s likely with all that extra verbiage, the colleague will tune it out, particularly the bit about time card fraud.

          What trained me in punctuality was almost missing a flight as a teenager the first time I flew without supervision. I was at the airport all right, I just forgot that the time a flight takes off isn’t the time the doors close, and I wasn’t even through security yet. I made it with moments to spare, and my autistic brain took that as a sucker punch. Add to it a reliance on public transport and you’ve got someone who would rather hang around for a while waiting for something (I was three hours early to the airport on the way home from that trip) rather than someone who flies in the door last minute. And yeah, if I’m being paid to be there at a certain time, that’s when I definitely show up come hell or high water. If you struggle with it, you develop coping mechanisms or adapt your situation to best manage it. If you’re late through no fault of your own, you ring in and let others know when you’re going to be there (because a freight train broke down on the only line north so you have to do the Surrey shuffle and slingshot around Guildford and Woking ::rolls eyes it’s always a damn freight train good for them for using the rail network more than the roads but they could improve the reliability…::).

          The colleague just needs to be given a kick up the pants, particularly because of the fraud situation here. There’s no way on earth she’s not consciously doing that and it just makes the whole business a lot less forgiveable.

          So yeah, maybe it’s just the way my brain works but I’m used to making things work this way. It’s not that tardiness in others is completely unacceptable (my mother is a busy person so she flies from one thing to another and so I’ll often account for it when I make plans that involve her) but the cavalier approach to punctuality here baffles me.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        Sometimes what seemed in someone’s head like a clear “HEY! You being late is making it hard to do my job, for these three reasons” actually came out as “Lot of traffic today? I empathize.”

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I think in this case OP has already tried that (paragraph 5) without success. Time to bring it up with the boss. I wouldn’t be surprised if the “overslept”/”hard to wake up” explanation is covering for something else (especially given the mystery mini-absences during the day as well). There are many things that this could be due to and I won’t speculate here, but the boss is in a much better position to flush that out.

    3. I need coffee before I can make coffee*

      I was going to say this, too. Although she has “said a few “things”, she really needs to convey the message “get it together within the next (whatever timeframe) or I will bring it to the boss’s attention.” Maybe not those words exactly, but that’s what needs to come across. Then follow through.

    4. Cat Tree*

      Did she consistently start showing up on time? The pessimistic part of me wonders if it’s even possible for chronic late people to start being on time consistently.

  9. pcake*

    Regarding Alison’s last suggestion for LW1, which was “Separately: can you ask him point-blank why he’s monitoring her during the day and tell him that’s weird? Maybe social pressure could make him ease up on that part of it at least.”

    You could tell him it’s weird, but if you ask point blank, chances are he’ll blame his wife somehow. And what he’s doing is VERY weird, unpleasant and awful.

    1. Calyx*

      I was thinking the same thing. So often we focus on talking to the victims, but I’d love to see people giving more negative feedback to people demonstrating abusive behavior. If more people spoke up when they saw this and said “hey, not cool,” it could have an impact over time. It could gradually dissuade abusers who are less locked in to that mode by making them question themselves a bit.

      If it’s about stuff that you’re seeing in the moment, then hopefully the victim won’t be blamed for it. If they are, then likely it would have been something else if it weren’t this.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        I would be very careful about this. If he is an abuser, he’s now gotten warning that someone suspects. That will make him more careful about covering up.

        And it’s very likely that he will find some way to blame his wife, and take it out on her. Call the experts before saying anything to him and making it worse for her.

  10. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP5 (notes binder) Assuming it is a binder of work info – it isn’t “your” notes, really. It’s the company’s notes that you’ve made in the course of your role at that company. So even if there wasn’t a possibility that it has company accounts info in (sounds like a face-saving way to ask for it though) it shouldn’t have been removed when you left.

    1. Ganymede*

      This may be true, but if there are things in there that you need to keep, there’s always scanning, photocopying or simply photographing.

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

      exactly. I was let go and I had to leave everything on my desk and they boxed things up. They took the papers out of my binders but sent the binder back.

      If the issue is that this is “MY” binder one that the OP bought and maybe its special design or something, then she can return the paperwork.

    3. Yeah...*

      I understand LWs can’t capture everything in the letter, but I think it would have been useful to describe the contents of the “binder.” I empathize that anonymity is important.

      Not all notes are legally or ethically required to be returned, but you need to know what’s in the notes to offer a valid conclusion.

      Storytime – 2 entities. Entity 1 had a policy that Entity 2’s employees must provide their notes taken at meetings with Entity 1 to Entity 1. At which point, Entity 1 would send Entity 2 copies of their notes back. Entity 1 kept the originals. It was implied that no one at Entity 2 should question this process because things “could happen” legally. Due to attrition, no one at Entity 2 knew how long this process had been taking place. Entity 2 got a New Attorney. When New Attorney found out about this process they told Entity 1 to kick rocks. Entity 1 stopped mentioning the notes and the “could happen” legalities.

      Entity 1 seemed to be taking advantage of Entity 2. Entity 2 realized it. I would say it damaged the relationship, but was the relationship ever really good in the first place?

      1. Starbuck*

        Unless the notes were entirely personal (shopping lists, personal calendar, etc) the default is that if they were done on work time at the workplace, they belong to the employer and probably never should have been taken home in the first place. Especially since the employer knew about the notes, presumably they were work related.

    4. Lenora Rose*

      I would like to know what was in there a bit better (still abstract but closer in detail) because the first thing I envision is my own notebook I use to track tasks with its insertable refill pages (which sometimes segued into planning for personal stuff, and which I also want to keep as a particularly nice notebook of its type), and if I took that home, literally nobody at work would care or ask for it back. (If I was leaving work by my plan/with notice, I’d pull and shred anything even a wee bit possibly confidential-ish in advance and take home a much skinnier notebook; if I was kicked out with no time, I’d take the whole thing then shred the offending pages in my home shredder rather than demand to have the chance to go through it at my desk).

      The sort of notes I’d have to be carrying to have someone at work demand to have them back to look at, I’d imagine would have to contain a lot of client confidential info or proprietary work; early drafts of final designs, notes on client preferences…

  11. Zippy*

    Has it ever occurred to anyone that the reason for the behaviour of OP1s colleague is that his wife might, for example, have mental health issues and she requires being monitored?

    OP1, it’s none of your business.

    1. nodramalama*

      Yes, it has occurred to OP, because they acknowledged there might be other reasons for it. But her REQUIRING to be monitored, is frankly, a far less likely reason. Hear hoofbeats, think horses.

    2. anon_sighing*

      All of those things are very red-flag for abuse. Whether it’s happening or not isn’t established, but LW isn’t unduly worried. You may be right that there is a reason, but more often than there being a normal “ahhh, I see…” reason like you have laid out here (that is, the wife may have mental health reasons that necessitate these precautions) is more rare than what LW is worried about.

      However, to give the benefit of the doubt, the CCTV (which disturbs me the most because it gives the impression she’s a prisoner at home and needs to be in his sight at all times) could be at the wife’s request, too – some people get scared at home all day with young kids and they might feel “protected” knowing husband is “there” in his own way. There may have been some kind of event in the past ( a break-in or something) that made them settle on this. Not having family around may even be related to this. Same thing with the daughter in the car – maybe it’s a mental health thing or again, maybe they were in an accident in the past. LW does say they “think” coworker controls the finances (then again, it sounds like coworker is the sole income earner so it could sound that way because of that in particular). This may be a simple case of a lot of suspicious circumstances that end up being mutual agreed upon by this couple.

      However, most of the time, this isn’t the case and I don’t think there is anything wrong with LW wanting to know what to do if this situation was more straightforward. For instance, LW got good info here — do not reach out to this woman (which is what LW wanted to do, I think) because the coworker will definitely find out and if what they suspect is true, this only makes it worse for the victim. They got a resource that will give them their options…which may even be “butt out because you’re too far from the victim to do them any good and you will make the situation worse.”

      1. GythaOgden*

        Yeah. My CCTV (Ring doorbell) points outwards. His points inwards. I could buy a pet cam being something that people would normally have, but a cam pointing at his wife who is presumably a responsible adult at home with the kids…yeah, that would feel like something different.

      2. Frieda*

        I had a co-worker who had what I thought was a ridiculously invasive setup in his home – he could monitor (at least) the LR/DR in real time from his phone (he didn’t show me other rooms but I’m guessing he had cameras there.) He had some kind of skewed beliefs about safety in general but the purpose of the cameras was to be able to see whether anything was happening in his home while he and his family were away, and to be able to offer a “presence” of sorts when he was gone overnight. He was also not from the U.S. and may have had prior experiences in his home country that made all of that seem necessary (IDK.)

        The big difference between that situation, which I found weird but not alarming, and this one is that my co-worker’s wife (also from his home country) had a job, and a car, and went about her business each day outside of her home, and I presume based on what I knew of them that she agreed to the cameras. They were also great, loving parents.

        To me, the situation the LW describes sounds very alarming and outside the bounds of even overly safety-conscious monitoring.

      3. Immaterial*

        I dont want to discount that this could be abuse, in which case the LW should tred carefully. However, I do want to add that while CCTV monitoring sounds scary, i too have multiple cameras in my home that I sometimes monitor while at work. They are baby monitors. The way they are angled I can see the whole room. back when I was newly returned to work I would check in on my husband and little one throughout the day. given I usually turned on the light or sound in order to say hi. Between baby mo motors and pet cams I don’t think its not uncommon to have cameras in the home.

    3. bamcheeks*

      This is a weirdly defensive response. There are very good reasons not to go blundering about insensitively when you suspect domestic abuse and coercive control, like everyone else has already said, but “it’s none of my business” is not one of them. And someone talking about “not allowing” their partner to drive is a giant red flag even if there’s a solid physical or mental health reason for it.

      1. metadata minion*

        Agree. Maybe she has early-onset dementia or something and needs this sort of oversight, but if she just can’t safely drive, most people would just say “oh, my wife can’t drive”, even if behind the scenes it was a struggle for her to accept that she can’t drive.

        1. Ariaflame*

          Would you leave someone with early onset dementia at home in charge of your child alone?

          1. bamcheeks*

            I don’t think that was metadata minion’s point– they weren’t saying that early-onset dementia was a likely alternative to domestic abuse, they were saying that *even if* the cameras were justified because of a physical or mental health condition, “I don’t allow my wife to drive” would be an inappropriate way to talk about it.

            1. metadata minion*

              Yes, exactly. I would normally expect someone to give a more neutral explanation like “my wife can’t drive” except when talking to close friends. That both avoids having to give complex explanations and preserves some dignity for his wife, who might not want everyone and their brother to know how vulnerable she is.

    4. Armchair analyst*

      Mr. Rochester, is that you?

      Perhaps Bertha does set fires around the house, endangering your ward and her new governess. But then is locking her in the attic with only a nurse companion the best course of action?

      Jane Eyre, please do ask the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and also make sure your ward is OK, and also do NOT work with Mr. Rochester if you can help it! I don’t care how great that red room is, there are other employers

    5. Violets*

      There are a lot of things it could be besides abuse, but since abuse is not ruled out, “none of your business” is a disgusting approach.

    6. New Jack Karyn*

      “It’s none of your business,” used to be the death knell for many, many women and children. It’s better now than it used to be, but reading this in 2024 gave me chills.

  12. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #5 Why is it important to you to keep the binder?
    If it has any personal stuff, of course remove that first, but if it includes any notes about the company, your job or your work, that belongs to your former employer.

    If this information could be useful to you in future jobs, e.g. personal checklists and Excel tips, then copy the non-proprietary parts.

  13. KeepingFiles*

    OP5, at one of the places I worked they had a formal policy that you had to offer your notes/notebooks/written files to your boss, the head of any department or group you work with, and any coworkers doing the same job before you left. If none of them wanted them you were required to shred them before you left.

    Other places aren’t that formal, but it’s pretty standard for departing employees to leave behind notebooks and papers, many of which are of absolutely no use to anyone else and either get sent to some storage area just in case or get tossed.

    You can ask for and receive permission to take certain paper of electronic files to use in portfolios and similar, but this almost always has to be negotiated and may involve redaction or a very limited sample set or other restrictions such as only allowing others to look at them in your presence or reciting a disclaimer/allowed use statement when providing to others for an allowed purpose.

  14. Irish Teacher.*

    LW4, I would think less of a company that pinned the game on a particular person, not more. It would make me less willing to deal with them in the future.

    Yeah, it seems unfair the rest of you have to take the flack for Zephaniah’s mistakes, but the clients don’t even know if you are telling the truth or if your bosses have forced you to throw somebody under the bus. It also puts the client in an awkward position. This may be partly cultural, but if somebody is being blamed for something like that, there’s an instinct to support them/play down their mistakes. And it also makes it awkward for the client to complain in future if they think any criticisms of emloyees could be discussed with other clients.

  15. ChurchOfDietCoke*

    Lateness is my absolute pet-hate in the workplace. I am a trainer, and on an average day, around a quarter to a half of people will be late arriving at a face to face or online course, which ends up keeping the punctual people waiting (rude) and means we have to squash the training into a shorter time.

    In OP2’s case I would definitely set out to the manager exactly what is going on. 45 minutes late is ludicrous as a one-off, but regularly? Ridiculous.

    1. Emily*

      Why are you waiting on the late people? Start when you said you were going to start. It’s not fair to keep the punctual people waiting.

      1. Mermaid of the Lunacy*

        This +100! Let them walk in late and make a big deal about it and diplomatically embarrass them. :)

      2. bamcheeks*

        That’s fine if you’re just planning on talking at people, but if you want to facilitate discussions and get people talking to each other, it helps a lot if you have a critical mass of people in the room from the start. It’s kind of rubbish starting with three people and then later trying to go into breakout rooms with fifteen people, twelve of whom missed the housekeepings, expectation setting, contracting, etc.

        I’m doing training with a lot of non-professionals at the moment, and realistically, I tell them to arrive at 9.45 for a 10am start, and plan to start at 10.15. I tell the people who arrive before ten that we probably won’t be starting to 10.15 and that they’re welcome to get a cup of tea if they want. Doing anything else makes the training course harder to teach and less valuable for participants!

          1. Emily*

            Yep! I’d be super annoyed to have my time wasted like that. It’s very disrespectful of people’s time.

      3. ChurchOfDietCoke*

        Because I am required by my boss (who is the CEO) to wait, because the courses I run have a statutory completion. Latecomers can’t just ‘catch up’. I have compromised that I now wait 10 minutes then the latecomer(s) have to rebook onto another course.

      4. Also-ADHD*

        Yeah, part of why people are late to trainings all the time (and that is a big issue—people who wouldn’t be late to other meetings might be late to trainings sadly) is that trainings seem to often not start on time.

  16. Agent Diane*

    OP3 ~ I’ve been working in comms for over two decades and…no. Admittedly I’m in a different country and have worked in the more serious end of things but when I was shifting applications I was looking for clearly presented stories of what someone has done and the skills they used to do that. Cutesy applications would not have got past the first stage.

    There may be some firms in the more sparkly marketing side of things that would enjoy a creative pitch from candidates but I’d expect them to say that in their job advert.

    If your date doesn’t trust a bunch of strangers on the internet over her tutors, she could find some course alumni via LinkedIn and ask them for their “how I got my first job” experiences.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      “There may be some firms in the more sparkly marketing side of things that would enjoy a creative pitch from candidates but I’d expect them to say that in their job advert.”

      Spot on. If they want to see an example of your work in this way, they’ll ask. Otherwise you describe it in your resume, or include a portfolio.

    2. Emmy Noether*

      I’m not in comms, but I’d guess that knowing the purpose of a document, and designing it to serve that purpose is an important skill.

      Application materials need to do two things. (1) be skimmed quickly to see if it’s a potential match and (2) give clear information on a more in-depth read. Cutesy, gimmicky stuff tends to stand in the way of at least (1), and likely (2). If there is a large number of applicants, it will probably just be discarded in the skim step.

    3. Dek*

      I remember back when I was trying to break into comics, one of the most common things our teachers told us about submissions was that companies love Creatively Done Submissions–because they can put them right in the bin. Following instructions, and making a clear and easy-to-skim submission was always more important. If you want to do Clever Ideas, then put them in your portfolio.

    4. LaurCha*

      I believe graphic designers have a little leeway in terms of creative resumes, but it still has to be pitch-perfect and easily scannable.

    5. Anonym*

      Yep, I’m in corporate communications and clarity is the foundation of what we do. Clear, concise, efficient and effective delivery of information is what we’re looking for.

    6. Not The Earliest Bird*

      A family member is a career academic. Has never worked outside of academia. Is a great professor, well loved by colleagues and students. Loves to give terrible advice like “Creative resumes make you stand out.” Once posted that people should stop using traditional resumes, and instead just put links on an email cover letter. I flat out told them that I would NEVER blindly click links on a cover letter, and that a traditional resume is expected. They got mad, and refused to speak to me at Christmas the next year.

  17. It's a monday*

    #LW 5.
    Scan it/Copy it then send it back.
    I’ve done this many times but usually before I left. It’s mainly things I’ve done for work like training courses on generic software – think Word or Excel. So I’d only be writing it back out again.

    1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      If the concern is that there is sensitive or proprietary information in the notebooks, this wouldn’t help.

  18. Angstrom*

    #5: Employee notebooks are records that can be used in legal proceedings — contract disputes, patent applications, etc. The answer to “When did you first hear about _____?” may be in there.
    The company has a legitimate reason for wanting it back.

  19. Marta*

    I don’t think I would try to befriend the wife in #1 or get him to invite her to more events. This sounds serious enough that the only thing to do is call a professional and ask for advice.

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

      You know that makes sense. Especially if the OP is a man, it could make the husband more angry. From my experience controlling SOs will blame the other person if someone takes interest in them, even if it is just mild friendliness

  20. LW4*

    LW4 here. Yeah, you’re right, why haven’t management been taking responsibility for this? Honestly this is something I raised in my last annual review and didn’t get a straight answer about — most of the management team don’t even seem willing to admit to us internally that they made a mistake hiring Zechariah. I’m not in the US so there is a different managerial culture, but honestly, we put up with him lying to us and to management for five years on top of having to clean up his messes…why they didn’t do anything about it until his initial contract timed out is probably a question we’ll never know the answer to. Ah well — new senior leadership is coming in August.

    1. TechWorker*

      You don’t need to get them to ‘admit’ the hire was a mistake, you just need to get them to tell you how they want it handled externally.

      1. Emily*

        Yeah, OP4, I think you are a bit too focused on trying to get upper management to admit they made a mistake. The info you need to get from upper management is how to handle it when a customer is rightfully upset that their project did not get completed.

        1. Saturday*

          Yeah, the information you give to clients needs to make them feel more confident that the work will be handled well now. Essentially saying that the last person was terrible but now we’re picking up the pieces doesn’t do that.

    2. Just Thinkin' Here*

      I’ve sat on the other side when an outside vendor admits the situation went sideways. It’s admitting they failed to manage the situation properly, but there are ways to own that without throwing shade. Admit the situation wasn’t what they intended. But that shouldn’t have to come at your level. That you are getting a new senior management team (entirely?!) later this year sounds like the Board or someone at the top is cleaning house. So someone is watching and responding, which is a good sign for the future.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      In your situation, I would refer the client to your manager for any inquiries about why projects haven’t been done. I would say something like, “I wasn’t working on that initiative/I wasn’t managing that initiative,” (ie. make it clear that this isn’t your fault) “and we have had some staff turnover. Let me have Manager get back to you on this issue and the plan going forward.”

      Basically land it in the lap of whoever’s responsibility it is to deal with it, and don’t comment on the reasons why things happened.

      Senior management can figure out what to say about it, and are in a better position to work out how to mollify the client (whether that is with discounts or contract terms changes, or whatever).

  21. Don't be *that* person*

    Domestic abuse is linked to child abuse.

    Child abuse is everyone’s business.

    1. Don't be *that* person*

      This is in the wrong place
      should be a reply to whoever said it isn’t OP1 business.

    2. The Other Sage*

      Thank you for saying that. I believe that we as a society do better if we take care of each other, so that other people being abused is our business.

  22. Office Plant Queen*

    LW2: I’m someone who is chronically late. If a coworker told me that my lateness was a problem, I would start showing up on time, although probably only temporarily. If my boss said it was an issue the same thing would happen, but the timeliness might last a little longer. Consistently being on time just takes an enormous amount of mental energy for me, which is why it doesn’t last forever.

    But in any case, talking to your boss is the right thing to do. Either the threat of consequences mean they start showing up on time, they realize that they need to ask for some kind of medical accommodation if that’s relevant, or they figure out that they need to find a different job that has either a later start time or a more flexible one

    1. Area Woman*

      I think finding a more flexible job is key for folks with time-blindness or whatever executive function difficulties they have. I had to fire an employee who was chronically late, probably not fully her fault, but the job required it. There is only so much patience I can have for this kind of thing.

      1. Orv*

        The hard part is figuring that out in the application or interview process. You can’t just ask if they’re flexible about start times because they’ll interpret that as you being lazy and wanting to slack off.

        1. Allonge*

          You probably should not ask if they are flexible about starting times, but you can ask if the job has fixed hours or a core hours setup with some flexibility on the starting times. Or just ask what a typical work day looks like.

  23. Lorax*

    For OP #3, I’m hiring for a communications role right now, and I see a lot of “creative” resumes and cover letters. The advice your partner has been given isn’t untypical for the field… but it’s still BAD advice. (Like, really bad.)

    Even in creative roles, the person hiring needs to be able to get all the relevant information with a quick skim. If they can’t find the relevant information quickly and easily… the resume and cover letter will likely be put in the “no” pile. Creative and communications fields are competitive, and with so many applications, no one has time to spend digging through materials to try to locate or understand basic info. And also, with SO MANY people trying to “think outside the box”… well, that gets old and comes across as transparently gimmicky. (Ironically, trying to “stand out” can make you more run-of-the-mill!) Even if something weird catches my eye, the value of “interesting” materials plummets to almost nothing after the first split second, and, believe me, I will look at all resumes and cover letters regardless of their format, so it’s not like anyone has to do anything special to “get attention.” It’s not about making your resume “pop.”

    Rather, the highest value in creating a resume and cover letter is about giving your target audience what they need. Which, honestly, is the bottom line for communications roles in general! The best people in communications roles are not people who do things differently for the sake of being different: they’re the people who take the time to understand the communications need and the needs of the target audience and craft an effective solution to meet the need. In this case, the need is getting information quickly, efficiently, and compellingly. Anything that compromises that will work against the applicant, both because it makes my job more difficult AND because it demonstrates a lack of a central skill I’m looking for.

    Now that’s not to say that presentation doesn’t matter. A resume or cover letter that’s sloppy or TOO generic can be bad for a communications role too. The materials definitely need to look clean and classy, but that’s about stylistic tweaks from within a standard resume format, not about reinventing the resume format all together.

    As for what your partner should do:
    1. Start with some kind of standard resume and cover letter template.
    2. Modify that template to create a “brand” for themself. This might include:
    – choosing classy, stylish fonts (but nothing crazy or illegible)
    – playing with the color scheme (fonts should be black, primarily, but header/footer/sidebar boxes might be different colors or have a border… but again, nothing too crazy)
    – playing with format (information should be organized into clear sections, but you can, for instance, move contact info or education info to a sidebar rather than up top, etc.)
    3. Write concisely. Bullet points are welcome on resumes. Information does not need to be repeated between the resume and cover letter.
    4. Tailor the content. Don’t just tell me why you’re great in general: tell me why you’re a good fit for this SPECIFIC role. Use specific examples.
    5. Make sure they have an organized, easily accessible portfolio. The place to demonstrate creativity or range of skills is in a portfolio. The portfolio can be linked to on the resume, but your partner should also be prepared to submit portfolio materials in PDF format as an attachment (or in a packet along with the resume or cover letter), depending on what the employer requests. (And PAY ATTENTION to what the employer requests: submit information how they ask it to be submitted.)

    That’s it! All other considerations will come down to your partner’s experience, hard skills, and soft skills. Those can get further assessed during interviews, but in order to get to the interview stage, I just need the basic info presented professionally and compellingly.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      (The best comms people) take the time to understand the communications need and the needs of the target audience and craft an effective solution to meet the need.
      This is so well put.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      There are various resume formats that provide good readability and still look quite attractive. I would look at some templates for resumes for people in communications or marketing that the OP can find online. Given that they are in a communications role, it makes sense to look at the format of the resume – the medium is the message, kind of thing.

      One problem with them is that some Applicant Tracking Systems systems aren’t optimized to read them, but they will generally capture the content, even if the formatting doesn’t copy over well. Recruiters at companies where this is the case will know to ask for a good copy of the resume before providing it to the hiring manager.

      I wouldn’t go as far as being gimmicky (ie. the restaurant menu or film scripts idea) – that’s not going to help, and it may very well cause hiring managers to questions whether the candidate has good judgement in how they craft communications. But you CAN have a visually attractive resume that does provide all the important information.

  24. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    LW3, the only time you should do that is if you’re applying to a job involving graphic design in some way. Definitely not for anything involving communications unless, again, the job involves working with graphics/visual presentation. Slightly concerned that your partner’s teachers are advocating this approach…

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      It’s a recurring theme here, the surefire hiring advice of people who have not hired.

    2. ArtK*

      Wouldn’t a portfolio be the right place for creative stuff if you’re applying for a graphic design (or related) job?

  25. JelloStapler*

    Something I used ask my kids is- “Are you telling me because you need help solving a problem or because you want to get someone in trouble?”

    You are trying to solve an issue

  26. Laura Persists*

    LW3: As a hiring manager for creative roles, I do think it’s important for resumes to reflect design skill to an extent. I wouldn’t want to receive just a menu, but getting a well designed PDF in a more traditional format plus something more creative would be fine imo.

  27. Blahblahblah*

    Contact the National Domestic Abuse hotline for suggestions first. Just want to provide context to something no one may have thought of… granted it was a mother/daughter relationship. But at my old job I had my phone on my home cameras 24/7 at work while working because I would get so absorbed by my work so I would forget to check the cameras if I didn’t have them on. My mom has health issues and we had five dogs that don’t get along. So I just kept cameras on because 1. I needed to know if she fell 2. or was forgetful/blacked out and needed to see if anything happened to her or the dogs 3. if she ever left the house so I knew if she was gone longer than usual and something probably happened. I also had her gps but again for health issues. She also didn’t make much money and I helped alot financially so a few times I made comments about financially providing to very few people who knew my situation. But from an outsider it could’ve come off as abusing my mom…. She also had no friends and never really left the house to begin with. I am hoping it’s just something you have no context for. Maybe she suffers from depression and/or has physical/mental health issues and they don’t have a carer or community to help and he’s doing the best he can. Maybe she has/had an addiction issue. But definitely call the hotline, just really hope it’s personal matters and not abuse. But thank you for being concerned and trying to help in a safe way.

    1. The Other Sage*

      I had a coworker who spoke about his ex-partner in a way that made me wonder if he had abused her. He treated my male coworkers badly and the only time he spoke to me it was when no one else was around. He never ever looked at me.

      What I want to say with my anecdote is, that if OP1’s coworker is abusive, he may be displaying bad behaviour towards you or other coworkers. This is not a bullet-proof test though, some people are only abusive at home or at work, but not both.


    #3. If you are applying to a large company that uses an ATS for applications, a non-standard resume will be translated into gibberish and probably not even make it to the hiring manager.

    The military has an office dedicated to helping retired vets get a civilian job and their advice is terrible. I instantly can tell when a Vet get their “help” and try to be a bit more tolerant when scanning their resumes. I wish people not involved in hiring folks would stop giving resume advice.

    1. bamcheeks*

      Honestly, it’s often the other way around. I have done a moderate amount of direct hiring, but a LOT of talking to and listening to professionals in a huge range of industries. The terrible advice often comes from business owners who do a reasonable amount of hiring, but who don’t have professionalised HR so they very much go on their own whims and talk about the last six CVs which stood out to *them* rather than broadly actionable advice. The last-but-one I saw speak to a group of students told them to always put their hobbies on their CVs because “the last guy I hired caught my eye because he does MMA and I just thought that was cool”. And also to change their names if they have “foreign” “hard-to-pronounce” names. The last-last one at least wasn’t a DEI nightmare but she also talked about how much she liked to know about people’s hobbies.

      IME, design and comms are particularly susceptible to this kind of thing because it’s very often small agencies and freelancers who are available to come and chat to the next generation– big corporate comms people and hiring managers who might give more broadly applicable advice are much less available!

      1. wendelenn*

        Just finished watching This Is Us. Rebecca’s second husband Miguel Rivas did not get hired when he submitted applications as Miguel Rivas. He got hired when he submitted applications as Mike Rivers.

  29. Stuart Foote*

    For LW#1, I agree that something is probably off here, but without knowing more about the situation it’s really hard to say for sure it’s abuse. The cameras seem weird to me but I’ve been seeing ads for Ring encouraging people to use them basically like the guy in the letter is, so I guess some people do use them that way. Maybe this guy suffers from anxiety and he watches his family for that reason. That being said, yeah, it’s probably what it looks like in this case.

    I would also be very careful before doing anything to try to help, since trying to help without knowing the situation could inadvertently make things 100 times worse. I have a bit of first-hand knowledge of this kind of situation (unfortunately), and it’s very possible that the wife doesn’t realize or doesn’t want to realize she is being abused, even if she is, which would make helping her even more difficult, especially for something without much knowledge of the situation.

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

    in regards to #1. I am not condoning anything that the husband is doing, as it does sound controlling. However, as Alison says there could be more things going on. The not driving could be because she has a medical condition, like epilepsy. Maybe in the past she drove and passed out and now the husband is being overly cautious. The same thing could be for the cameras. He watches to make sure she doesn’t pass out, etc.

    Unfortunately it more likely that he is controlling her than she has some type of medical issue. However, I do not think the OP has enough information to call authorities. I think OP should be on the lookout and try to befriend the wife to learn more.

  31. Hiring Mgr*

    Personally, I don’t really care what a resume looks like as long as everything is presented in a readable way. Go boring, bland, colorful, creative, outside the box – all good to me

    1. Pizza Rat*

      Readable is the key here. I’ve received resumes with words highlighted in the middle of sentences–and not just key words like skills. It’s a pain in the butt to convert a PDF to where I can turn off bold. Otherwise I get a headache reading it.

      I also could do without bright red headings. Fortunately, I only saw that once.

  32. Just Thinkin' Here*

    OP#3 – Your significant other should really reconsider why it’s taken a year to get a new job given that the unemployment rate is less than 4% nationwide. While their resume being in an unreadable format may be driving the majority of it, especially with large corporation HRs, there’s probably something else going on with their job hunt that is also … askew. Yes, their professors are completely out of touch. Would the University hire a professor who applied for a teaching job with a resume like that? Probably not. So why should private industry be any different? My concern would be – what other bad advice did they give?

    OP#4 – Unfortunately, you hearing from your clients is a symptom of poor senior management. When your direct boss would ‘managed out’, the senior group he reports to should have had a scheduled frank discussion with the client’s management team about the situation, offered solutions, and been tracking the follow-up. Maybe they thought the client wouldn’t care or wouldn’t notice? But obviously the clients do care, so your grand boss needs to intervene. At minimum, you need to notify your boss and say ‘you need to address this’ and push it up the food chain.

    1. Pierrot*

      I agree that long, fruitless job searches can be a yellow flag (at least), but it’s a mistake to compare the overall unemployment rate for the US to the communications industry. Layoffs, hiring freezes, and companies closing up shop that have impacted large swaths of that industry. AI tools like Chat GPT have not helped. I know someone with 10+ years of experinece who was laid off from a comms role, and she has applied for many jobs and interviewed at several but has not had any luck. Her manager was laid off a few months after her. It is a really hard time to enter that industry. LW’s partner should definitely dig deeper into where they’ve hit road blocks and adjust accordingly (ie have they been getting interviews and then striking out? or are they not even contacted for screenings?) Listening to bad advice certainly won’t help. But I do want to cut people in this industry some slack, because it’s rough out there.

  33. Its not what you think*

    The “abuser” may keep his wife from driving because of a medical condition. My sister is not allowed to drive due to narcolepsy. Don’t assume abuse off the bat. This could also be the case for numerous cameras.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      It could be a medical condition, for sure – my sister has been told by her doctor (and by the gov’t) that she is no allowed to drive due to seizures. If her seizures were more serious (they’re mostly “absent” type), it would make sense for her and her husband to have some kind of monitoring system. Although – I’d think that something that would identify falls would be more appropriate than cameras, honestly. Certainly would provide more autonomy.

      I think the OP should contact a women’s abuse organization and get advice.

    2. bamcheeks*

      Honestly, I think “X is not allowed to drive because of *medical condition*” and “I don’t allow my wife to drive with our child in the car” are very different statements. It’s possible that LW totally misunderstood, but if it is the latter, that’s concerning even if the ostensible reason is a medical condition. Adults should not control other adults.

      1. Pizza Rat*

        Exactly. “My wife doesn’t drive,” wouldn’t warrant a camera. “I don’t allow my wife to drive,” is a red flag.

    3. Anon for this*

      Neither my partner nor I can safely drive, because of (different) medical issues. That doesn’t mean we don’t go out, separately or together. We walk, or take transit, or call a cab or Lyft, or sometimes get rides from friends.

      The point here is that “you can’t safely drive, therefore you must stay home” looks different from “you can’t safely drive, let’s figure out ways you can get to the doctor, see friends, or enjoy the nice spring weather.”

      1. RagingADHD*

        Oh, I read the letter as saying specifically that the wife does not drive the child. Not that the wife never leaves the house. Was there an update I missed?

        If it’s a situation where the wife does not drive with the child in the car (but does drive wherever else she wants), that sounds more like an agreement / compromise the spouses have come to for safety reasons, than the husband being controlling.

  34. Star Trek Nutcase*

    LW5 Live and learn. When I quit without notice (finally) due to a division head’s shifting blame to me again because”politics”, first thing I did was shred my extensive notes & password protect all online docs I created for my use in “working smarter, not harder”. My job could still be done, but my manager (who didn’t speak up for me & will be doing my job for months before a replacement is hired) will get to enjoy repercussions of her actions.

    Petty? Hell yes. Illegal? Maybe, but let them prove it.

    1. Jaina Solo*

      I was going to suggest LW5 spill water/coffee on everything in that binder, but shredding works too! They could frame it as “I was trying to respect the company’s security guidelines by shredding my related notes.”

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

      I don’t see how shredding your personal notes and passwords could be considered illegal. Now if you created SOP and destroyed the only copy that would be different, but still the company should have had backups anyways.

    3. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      If your boss isn’t smart enough to ask IT to help them get into those online docs, well, they deserve every bit of pain in the ass they get.

  35. Cam*

    Especially if LW1 is a man, it may be possible to say directly to the coworker, “Hey, it’s not right or normal to surveil your wife!” or “wow, that sounds controlling!” “your poor wife” or other direct expressions of concern/disgust when pieces of this come up organically.

    It’s not the same as direct help, but abusers often believe that all other men are as nasty as they are behind closed doors, and what they’re doing is perfectly normal and appropriate. It’s a service to society to disabuse them of this and treat this stuff with the disgust that it deserves.

  36. HugeTractsofLand*

    LW1- is his constant surveillance cutting into his work in any way? I wonder if you could bring it to his boss’s attention as a productivity/optics issue, similar to the situation with a mom who was watching her kid at daycare all day. I know that doesn’t necessarily help this man’s wife, but it might cut down on something that’s so disturbing to observe.

  37. Beans*

    I am a hiring manager in the communications field. Agree with the other posters – it’s very, very bad advice to try anything “creative.” Spend that time making sure it’s very well-written and that there are no typos. That’s critical in our field.

  38. Michelle Smith*

    LW3: If they followed some advice and it isn’t working after a year, it’s about 8 months later than I would have changed course. Try a traditional resume.

    LW5: There’s nothing that says you can’t copy that information first. If you have a way to scan it or anything like that, I would, especially if it’s training notes and things that could be useful to you later.

  39. Melissa*

    My company is headquartered in another country. During Teams calls —everyone is always curious who came into the office. I live 5 minutes away and come in every day. But I don’t like “reporting” on my coworkers who live 15-50 minutes away. (They come in once a week, there are 3 of them) HQ wants people in the office to build relationships. Everyone is used to working from home. If it weren’t so close—I’d be home more too. Although I’m most productive in the office setting. I want them to quit asking me and understand that an honest answer will kill my relationships!
    Advice? How would you respond?

    1. Cicely*

      “Oh, I don’t know who’s here. I’ve been working. Perhaps you can ask them [in an email, etc.] if they’re in the office today.”

      If your boss is asking you to report on who is thereon a given day, I’d let your co-workers know boss is asking (and it’s terrible of your boss to do).

      1. Melissa*

        Thanks. Will do. And all the people there ask now. Because he says it with others already in the teams call. Now they all think it’s ok to ask me and be nosey!

  40. pagooey*

    LW3: Back in the mists of time, I had an internship at what was then called the Children’s Television Workshop (the Sesame Street people), in their magazine department. Toward the end of the semester, one of my tasks was screening resumes that had come in from the next batch of potential interns. I’ll never forget it: one applicant had origami-folded their resume into a football-ish shape, and then collaged Ernie’s face on it with cut snippets of colored paper. I was awestruck, because I was also 22. “Why did you ever even hire me?” I asked my manager, in vague despair. And it’s only this moment, 32 years later, that I’m realizing I have no IDEA what that resume said on the inside, none at all. I only remember Ernie’s head!

  41. djx*

    ” She says that all of her mentors and professors ”

    All? I doubt that. This person’s judgement and listening skills are probably flawed.

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