I walked in on two managers in a compromising position, reapplying to a team that fired me, and more

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

1. I walked in on two managers in a compromising position

I am a newly hired manager. Today I was asked to visit a storage building to pick up some items for staff. I arrived at the building and noticed two other managers’ cars. I unlocked the door to the building and entered — and walked in on the two managers in a compromising situation. I quickly said sorry and walked out, got in my car, and drove to a neighboring parking lot. I waited a while and returned to the building. They were gone. I went in and picked up the items I was sent for and then returned to the office.

The male manager attempted to talk to me about it and I just told him that I didn’t want to talk about it and it wasn’t my business.

I looked in our handbook and there is no mention about employee relationships being prohibited, so I don’t feel that it is my place to spread what I saw around. I don’t want to tattle. I really want to forget what I saw. But I also like my job and don’t want to be brought into drama when this blows up because it will. I am worried that knowing and not saying anything will impact my job. Am I handling this the right way?

If they’re not in each other’s chain of command, you’re free to ignore this. There’s no particular reason to worry you’ll be involved in their drama if it blows up at some point. First, people date coworkers without it blowing up. Second, if for some reason it does blow up, it’s very unlikely that they’d have any reason to announce that you once walked in on them having sex. (What would either of them gain by that?) But if for some reason they did, you’d simply explain that since they’re not in each other’s chain of command, you didn’t think it was any of your business and you preferred (and still prefer) to stay out of it.

(This assumes you’re not senior to them and they’re not in your line of command. If they are, that’s a different conversation — one about their lack of judgment — but it doesn’t sound like that’s the situation.)

2. Reapplying to a department that fired me after a PIP

Seven months ago, I was terminated from my job at a large nonprofit. I worked for them for close to two years. The first year I had one set of duties — the ones I applied for — and even was given a raise after less than a year. But after my manager changed duties, I was also given different tasks to perform. Within three weeks, I was put on a performance improvement plan (PIP) and then fired for failure to perform after 90 days. They just let the PIP run and run until my manager saw enough minor errors to provide the documentation to HR for cover. They were truly minor errors (typos, mixing up names frequently when talking on a Zoom call, etc.). I had deliverables and positive relationships with everyone I worked alongside — but not with two key figures related to my changed duties, one being my direct manager — and the other being a department head who had worked with my manager for 12 years. I worked with two different department heads: one raved about my work, the other one complained to my manager. I believe the “good review” department head was a rival to the one who complained about me, but who knows?

The director of the department (who was hired after me) said he’d be a future reference for me and made some comments to me privately that I had been “screwed” by the situation. I was professional and non-hostile all the way to the end — even when HR screwed up several times by sending me emails announcing my firing before it happened and when my manager accidentally posted to our department Slack that I was on a PiP.

I saw a posting in my old department at the same place. I applied because I was curious what would happen. Also it’s been seven months and I’m out of unemployment. Would HR just deep-six the application? The department I worked in was large, but the job ad wasn’t specific enough for me to figure out who is managing the role. I guess I wondered what my former director or manager or HR might do with someone let go after a PIP? I don’t recall if the termination letter ever said I couldn’t be hired again, but it’s a big place with a highly professionalized HR department.

Does it seem embarrassing to apply for another role in the same (large) department since my ex-bosses still work there? My guess is a lesser HR person hiring will see the resume, take it above them, and watch it get kicked around with the people involved in hiring (and my firing).

It’s pretty unlikely that you’ll be hired back into a department that fired you less than a year ago for performance reasons. Given the history, it also might come across a little oddly to just apply without first reaching out to a contact there, to run the idea by them. If you really wanted to apply, ideally you’d have contacted the director who sounded sympathetic when you left, said you saw the posting and are interested, and asked if he thinks it makes sense to throw your hat in the ring. (And if he did support the idea, this would have the advantage of him possibly helping move you forward.) You can still do a version of that now, adjusting it to say that you applied and weren’t sure if he thought it made sense, but would love to talk about the role if he does.

3. Being charged for guests when you live on employer property

I work seasonally, and in the summers I’m a raft guide in the mountain west. It’ll be my third year working for this company.

They’ve changed their camping/living on property policy every year, and this year we newly have to pay $100/month for camping on site. This gets us a bathroom, water, a cold water sink, and an indoor lounge space (notably no kitchen, shower, or actual living space). Paying for few amenities is industry standard, though not universal in the area, and my managers have explained the new cost as about the land as an asset: They also offer camping to the public at $35/night, and any camping spot we use can’t be sold.

My specific issue is another policy that charges friends or family members who stay with us $20/night. This is if they stay with us, not if they take up any additional space. I have close friends in the area, but who live an hour or more away, who would stay in my camper or in their cars, not taking up any space that would otherwise be sold to the public. My managers have explained this by saying “we even charge our friends and family to camp here,” but I see this as equivalent to charging friends and family to stay in my house that I pay to rent! Do you have any suggestions on how to push back on this?

First, a big caveat: I never camp and I have no idea how this works. I’m happy to try to reason through it, but make sure you’re getting advice from someone who knows the industry, too.

So. Is charging employees for guests standard in the industry? If so, I’m guessing it may be less about charging guests for the specific spot of land you’re already renting and more about charging them for being additional people using the resources of the campground as a whole (since presumably three people staying in one camp site leave more of a footprint than one person does). If that’s the case, I don’t know that you’ll have much success pushing back.

Otherwise, though, your best bet is to push back with a group of coworkers, because multiple voices have more power than one. Also, does your site charge non-employees by the person or the spot? If it charges by the spot, point out that you’re already renting that spot — at a discounted rate because of the labor you provide, but you’ve still rented it just as much a non-employee has rented theirs. But if they charge by the person, I suspect you’re on weaker ground.

4. I’m not allowed to talk directly to a subject matter expert

I work in a state agency as an instructional designer (ID), which means I develop training materials. We IDs typically work with at least one subject matter expert (SME) who helps with content. An SME, Mary, was assigned for my current project — revisions of a few short videos, not a major time commitment.

But I am not allow to communicate with Mary directly. Instead I was instructed to send questions and review links to my boss, who would send them to Mary’s boss, who will send them to Mary. At first I didn’t quite understand (or maybe didn’t quite believe it) and messaged Mary a question. My boss sent me a “polite reminder” that I wasn’t to contact her directly.

Again, Mary was assigned to the project. I’m a pretty reserved, respectful, careful person. I’m also about 20+ years older than either of these managers. I should add that this is not the first time that doing this job has felt like trying to walk with one of those rubber bands around my ankles.

Should I talk to someone about this? There’s a form employees can fill out about concerns, which can be anonymous or not. In the past, I’ve also had a few long conversations about my job with Mary’s boss’s boss, which she encourages.

I’m in a term limited position that ends at the end of September (when I’m pretty much retiring) so there’s not much risk. The gain would be feeling a little less crazy as I finish my time in this job.

No. There could be all kinds of reasons you’re not privy to for why they’ve set it up this way. Maybe Mary has had problems with IDs in the past, and they’ve agreed to this arrangement to appease her. Maybe Mary is a pain in the ass to work with, and things go more smoothly when communication is funneled through her boss. Maybe Mary is swamped and her boss is helping manage her workload. Maybe the two bosses are in some kind of turf war that’s way above your pay grade. Who knows. But it’s not a big enough problem to try to escalate, and definitely not to report anonymously.

At most you could ask your boss why it’s set up that way. And if it’s legitimately causing issues — like if things are being lost in translation or you’re not able to get responses quickly enough — you absolutely should raise those issues with your boss. But if you just object on principle, you’re better off letting it go.

5. What can I tell a coworker about why I’m not advancing a candidate they referred?

I am presently interviewing to fill a role on my team and have had a candidate come through via a referral from one of my colleagues. I decided not to move forward with the candidate because his resume was a disorganized disaster. Obviously I wouldn’t use those words, but would it be fair to tell my colleague that I had ruled out their referral because his written communication skills were not sufficient for the role? Or is this invading the privacy of the candidate?

You’ll typically get better referrals when you explain to people why someone they referred wasn’t a strong candidate for the job. They’ve already opened up a discussion about the candidate by referring them to you; you’re not invading anyone’s privacy by closing the loop on that conversation. And “we really need someone with strong written communication skills for this role, and unfortunately his applications materials weren’t at the bar we needed” is a reasonable thing to say.

{ 274 comments… read them below }

  1. Dawn*

    LW3: If I have guests in my home that I rent, my rent does not go up. But my electricity bill probably does; my water bill probably does. I understand that the amenities that you get are limited, but resources on a campground as a whole are limited, and your guests are using more resources than you would be yourself. I suspect that’s what you’re seeing here.

    Don’t think of it in terms of space, think of it in terms of utility costs, insurance costs, so on so forth.

    1. Worldwalker*

      The resources in question appear to be … cold water and a bathroom.

      I can’t see anyone using $20 a night of either of those.

      1. Allonge*

        I rented an apartment once where all utilities were included in the montly rent, but I had to pay 10 euros / person / night for guests. It was mostly to ensure that nobody randomly ‘stayed over’ for a month or so.

        I think the same applies here: the extra fees are not to cover any particular costs, it’s a signal that you cannot have guests, especially longer term, in competition with the camping ground itself.

          1. Rebecca*

            Right, that would be illegal with the long term residential lease I have too. But the LW doesn’t have a legal residential lease. She’s being given a discount at a campground as part of her salary. Hotels and air bnbs charge for or disallow guests too.

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              In my state, that wouldn’t make a difference. Anyone paying for lodging who stays longer than 30 days in a row is considered a tenant and has full legal protections, whether or not there’s a formal lease. Hotels are only exempted if they provide full services for guests (a private safe, telephone, maid and room service, and on-site meals/restaraunt).

              I’m not sure how this would apply to a campground where the resident supplies their own tent or RV, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it still counted as regular tenancy.

              1. doreen*

                I can’t know for sure about your state, but generally employer-provided housing is treated differently than other housing in at least some ways – for example, a superintendent who is given a free or discounted apartment will lose the apartment when they no longer work for the company even if the landlord can only evict rent paying tenants for specific reasons.

          2. Rebecca*

            Sorry Amoeba, I just saw that you were replying to a comment about an apartment, not the LW.

          3. Siege*

            It wouldn’t be illegal where I live, since my lease says any person residing here longer than two weeks needs to be added to the lease, so I guess this is just one of those wondrous situations that vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and have a myriad of reasons behind them. In our case, it’s fire safety. They want to know who to look for.

            1. amoeba*

              Well, yes, after two weeks (or some longer stay), sure, same here. But having visitors for shorter term can’t be controlled, pretty sure that’s the law here and I’m sure there’s a definition of how long/frequent counts as a “visit” vs. “living there”…

        1. Also-ADHD*

          The costs are significant (a guest for one night is $20 and a month for LW is $100, so 1/5 of LW’s rent per month). LW probably can’t afford a lot more cost to work seasonally—a lot of the way folks do this kind of work as I understand it (raft/ski/other outdoor traveling instruction etc) is living cheaply. If LW’s friends want a different spot, the $20/night from $35 is a good discount, but this effectively means LW can’t subsidize any guests (as most people can cheaply in their homes) without a massive % increase to monthly rent.

        2. Worldwalker*

          That might be true (though it’s pretty skeevy if it is — just implement a rule that guest cannot stay more than 2 nights or something; don’t say only rich people can have guests) but I was replying to Dawn’s statement that it was reasonable because of the additional resources used by the guests.

          The last time my water bill was even half that was when an outdoor faucet burst and was trying its best to flood the whole street!

          1. Dawn*

            Yeah but your water isn’t being supplied by a campground that probably has significantly higher costs to supply water.

            Also missing the point a bit, which is more that they have limited resources available there, and each additional person is using some of those resources. That includes consumables like water and ephemerals like bathroom space, parking space, increased insurance costs per guest, higher staffing requirements, so on, so forth.

            Your private residence simply does not have the same considerations regarding resources that a campground does.

      2. Cat Lady in the Mountains*

        Eh, a lot of BLM and Forest Service campgrounds charge $10-15 a night for first-come, first-served sites with no amenities or mayyybe a long drop if you’re lucky. So depending on the local standard for publicly-managed campgrounds, it wouldn’t surprise me that a private campground with water and bathrooms and the certainty of being able to stay there on weekends is charging $20 for access to those amenities.

        That said, I am in the whitewater world in the southeast (not specifically in raft guiding), and my experience with rafting companies – especially the bigger brands – is certainly that they nickel and dime their staff. The industry norms are pretty exploitative, it’s good for everyone if people push back on stuff like this, and it seems like one round of pushback would be pretty low risk especially since you’re a third-year guide. Maybe having a few other senior guides join you would help as well?

        1. ScruffyInternHerder*

          Adding to the camping knowledge listed…

          State parks where I live (USA, midwest) charge between $29-45 a night for water and electric services (for a tent or an RV/camper), with a maximum occupancy of between 4-8 humans. Those are ranges obviously and vary based on what park, what view, and what site you chose. There’s no discount for a single occupancy, but at the same time, it seems that $100 a month is super cheap too for where you are.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            I don’t think it makes sense in context to think of $100 as super cheap. The job requires them to live onsite, and probably doesn’t pay very well. So the difference between the $100 and the going rate is part of the job’s compensation.
            It reads to me like what the company really wants is for staff to not have guests at all, but instead of making that policy, they’re saying they can, but for a price. In other words, the framing from the employer side seems kinda like you have to live here for this job, we’re not going to pay you to cover the entire rent, but will some of it, you pay the rest. So from the employer side (not saying this is necessarily fair/good/reasonable, just that it’s what I think their take is), they’re partially paying for the staff to live there. They’re not paying for anyone else to live there. So even if there’s no material cost for the guest being there per night, they’re still excluding it because they want that compensation/benefit (being on site) to be non-transferrable. Like I think from their end it’s less “you can’t have other people in your living room in your apartment you rent from us” and more “you can drive a company car, but you can’t let anyone else”. Not the best analogy but I think that’s the ballpark.

          2. Wilbur*

            I stayed at a state park recently (Illinois) for the eclipse, it was $18/night with a limit of 4 people per campsite. I’ve never stayed at site that charged more per person. I will say I’ve heard more state parks are changing their policies and pricing-Gulf shores state park was getting a lot of complaints about snowbirds renting campsites for 4-5 months so they raised prices and changed how longer you can stay in one spot. Illinois and a few other have surge pricing for holiday weekends.

            Anyway, the issue isn’t the $100/month, but charging for guests. I can’t imagine they’re even making much money from this to have it be worth it.

          3. Worldwalker*

            The rate of $100 a month is part of the OP’s compensation. It’s not “super cheap” — it’s company housing, that they nonetheless have to pay for.

          4. Quill*

            Camping rates can also depend on how busy a place is (on average) – I live in the mountain west and some places will bump their prices by $10 or more on holiday weekends.

        2. Hannah Lee*

          “… it’s good for everyone if people push back on stuff like this, and it seems like one round of pushback would be pretty low risk especially since you’re a third-year guide. Maybe having a few other senior guides join you would help as well?”

          Especially because LW is a 3rd year guide, they may have more good will/influence built up, so that them approaching other guides about the policy seeing if anyone else wants to join them in raising the issue to management could prompt others to want to speak up too, employees who didn’t feel they had enough standing on their own to speak up.

          I’m wondering if a group of employees approach management about this, if they might get more insight into what’s driving it and that could give an opportunity to get management to change the policy so that it still addresses what the driving issue/concern is, but doesn’t hit the already low paid guides too much.

          For example, if they are trying to avoid guides hosting week long or month long open house if guests could stay free (which would not only use park resources, it would also clutter up the experience for ALL the other guides and paying guests, for example if 1 guide has 4 guests every weekend when it’s busy or like a roommate who has their boyfriend move into to a small apartment they already share with 2 roommates so the people who live there can never just chill on their own sofa) maybe they could allow guides x # of guest stays per month at no charge with a max of # of guests at a time (say 4 guest stays, which could be 2 guests for 2 nights, or 1 guest at a time for 4 different nights) with a $20-$25 charge kicking in for any guest stays above that.

          If the company is just trying to nickle and dime the staff, it probably won’t change anything.

          But if there’s a genuine “don’t degrade the resource”, “protect the experience for others”, or “we need an systematic way to know who is staying at the site every night, and making sure we don’t exceed max capacity on any one night for safety/insurance reasons” there may be some solution that works for guides and employer.

          1. tetrafish*

            Right, camping spots are $30-45/night, and the LW pays $100/month. However, I suspect that the guide is being paid little money, in part to subsidize the meager housing costs. If you were actually charging the guides “market rate” for the campsites, you’d also have to increase their pay substantially.

        3. spiriferida*

          I wouldn’t be surprised if the additional charge is simply being implemented as an attempt to disincentivize employees from having guests at all.

    2. KateM*

      You also need more lounge space and have to clean your bathroom more often. :)

      I wonder if $35/night is per person or per camping site. If per person, then they are already getting a discount on their guests. Like it would be $15 for living space and $20 for amenities.

    3. Artemesia*

      I suspect a raft guide is not very well paid; I am sort of appalled that they are being charged to camp at the site in the first place. Trying to gouge him for another person to use the bathroom and some cold water seems pretty stingy.

      1. Anonym*

        This was my reaction, too. I don’t know about the industry, but employers charging employees anything that’s fundamentally a condition of employment smacks of company store style exploitation. But again, I don’t know anything about working in that field, so perhaps it’s not as bad as all that.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          It’s possible that charging what the company may view as a nominal monthly fee (even if the guides don’t think it’s nominal) in a formal agreement may give them more standing to manage who is camping there and when, vs just “come stay free” which could open the door for current or former or one-time guides to set up camp.

          Or give them more pull with the agency who owns the land to carve out x # of campsites dedicated to employees that won’t be available for public use.

          1. Worldwalker*

            Why would allowing employees to use campsites “open the door” for non-employees to “set up camp”?

            If a company has, say, an employee-only parking lot, as many do, that doesn’t somehow make it legal for anyone but current employees to park there. If they want to get the former CEO towed, they can.

            They can assign camping spaces just like a company can assign parking spaces.

      2. Rex Libris*

        They probably have to do something about guests, or there would be people with 6 or 8 friends at the campsite 24/7, but it seems like they could easily give each guide a number of guest passes to use throughout the season. …and I agree that they shouldn’t charge the guides themselves.

        1. Worldwalker*

          They can do a lot of things aside from limiting guests to only well-off employees, which is approximately the least-fair way of handling it.

        2. Linda C*

          Speaking as a full-time RVer, fees for people visiting us are pretty standard at private campgrounds for precisely this reason. $20 per person per night is really steep in my experience, though – I’d expect to pay $8-10. I wonder if the resort charges that rate to campers and just set the same rules for employees, or if they’re jacking the fees to keep employees from having guests for whatever reason.

      3. Quill*

        Yeah, paying to live onsite when it’s part of the job really seems exploitative on the part of the company. Do they also make you buy your own PPE, like life vests?

        1. doreen*

          It doesn’t actually say they are required to live onsite. Sometimes employees live onsite because they are required to and sometimes they do so because it’s cheaper or more convenient than other housing under the circumstances. At my last job a number of people lived in staff housing. None of them were required to. Mostly, it was people who took an assignment very far from home, so that they would stay in the staff housing M-F and go home on weekends rather than maintaining two residences , one near work and one with their family. .

    4. Also-ADHD*

      It sounds like LW is being nickle and dimed far more than industry standard to me. The economy isn’t amazing, but it’s still a worker’s market in certain jobs, including seasonal labor. (There’s a white collar downturn so if it feels crappy out there to you, you’re not wrong, but blue collar, physical, retail, and seasonal jobs, especially with any kind of niche or specialized background, like a rafting instructor, aren’t filling that fast.) So I think fight it. The company sounds like they’re looking to make a buck wherever they can, even off the backs of employees. A lot of times these decisions are made and companies wait to see if anyone pushes back. I seriously doubt they have done the analysis and determined a meaningful cost that led to this decision.

    5. Momma Bear*

      Many campgrounds have bath houses, pools, and other amenities that everyone can use. It’s not just the physical camp site space. I’m thinking of day tripping with friends over Memorial Day weekend and even if I don’t stay, there’s a day pass fee to cover those things + parking. While $20 may feel a little steep, I don’t think a guest pass/day pass fee is unreasonable or uncommon.

    6. Up the Down Staircase*

      I worked a summer guide job in the Sierras for three summers in college. Room and board (a real bed, hot showers, same food the guests ate) were included, not extra. We could have guests, but rarely did, because work was 12-14 hours a day, 7 days a week. So it wasn’t unheard of, but definitely not common.

  2. Bambue*

    LW3: based on what I hear from my cousin who guides rafts for many years now, is that norms are all over the place and what you get is very dependable on who is hiring you. I think your best bet is to push back as a group rather than trying to figure out a logical argument.

    1. Lab Boss*

      “Industry standard, but not universal” was the phrase that jumped out at me, and I interpret it to mean “it’s completely arbitrary how it’s handled between properties, but at least some camps charge employees for at least some amenities.”

      I’ve worked at camps over the years and have friends who have worked at different ones. One of the most common denominators is that they’re staffed by the passionate- people who will work hard, in rough conditions, for low pay, because they love it. That also means staffing camps can be hard, you can only find so many passionate people. I don’t know about the raft guide scene specifically but for most camp staffs you can get a lot of mileage by pushing back on things, simply because the camp CAN’T just go hire new people at the drop of a hat.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I think you get farther pushing “X is the norm” than “X is the logical position we should adapt because of logic.”

  3. H*

    LW2’s job description was completely changed up and then they were promptly placed on a PIP for poor performance of those new duties? It sounds like LW was either caught in the crosshairs of a bad political feud or the termination was personal and they were disliked for whatever reason. Either way, that’s not a place I’d want to go back to.

      1. niknik*

        Can we also appreciate for a second how colossal of a waste of space that director is ? “Screwed by the situation” ? The one that they had supposedly the authority to control ?

        1. Lab Boss*

          OP says the director was hired after them, so the Director had been there >2 years maximum (and possibly less). It read to me like the Director got hired into the middle of an ongoing management fight and didn’t have the political capital to fight OP getting pushed out. Just because they “should” have been able to on paper doesn’t mean they have a practical ability (and in the kind of workplace that changes someone’s duties and nearly instantly puts them on a PIP, I would not be surprised to see manipulative backstage maneuvering).

        2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          I think that director is being duplicitous in privately telling OP that. I think it was all driven by the director.

    1. WoodswomanWrites*

      Same. LW #2, unless there are no other places that are hiring in your area, this sounds like it would be miserable experience if they hired you. You would have to deal with a lot of drama by higher-ups and you certainly don’t deserve that stress. Find another place to work instead of going back to that place.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        This! It definitely sounds like the OP could find themselves in a similar or worse situation.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        Yeah, the best thing about being fired (in my experience) is that at least you’re free of the place that fired you. After how they treated you, and what you know about the politics of the place, and the way your reputation has been affected, what makes you want to return?

        You escaped the axe-murderer’s house. DON’T go back in!

    2. MK*

      I am not sure what OP is doing here? It sounds as if he has no real expectation of being hired and is running some kind of experiment to see what his old job will do if her applies. I understand it was a bad experience, but this sounds an unhelpful (to OP) level of investment in their old workplace.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        He said he was running out of unemployment, so I guess he figured he should try anything and even if there’s only a 1% chance of being hired, well, there’s a 0% chance if he doesn’t apply.

        I realise there are other considerations like the impact it might have on one’s reputation but when somebody is running low on unemployment, I think most people are inclined to apply for anything that’s even a remote possibility.

        The LW has also said that it’s a large department and I get the impression they are hoping the main issue was the new manager and that they might be reporting to somebody more reasonable if they were to get this job.

        I agree that it’s very likely the problems here are greater than just one bad manager, especially given that the director seemed to realise that what was happening was unfair and yet didn’t step in to advocate on the LW’s behalf and that the PIP was left to run and run with nobody questioning the manager about why it wasn’t coming to an end one way or the other, but the reality is that for a lot of people, even a bad job can be better than no job. There is a certain amount of privilege involved in being able to choose which jobs to apply for. Often people just have to take what they can get and if the LW has been unemployed and had no income apart from unemployment for that time, it is possible they are getting to the point where “earning money to live on” is important enough that they are willing to accept dysfunction in order to maintain basic needs.

        I very much doubt this is a social experiment. It sounds more like they are at the point where they are just trying anything because they need some job and it sounds like they liked the company and job before their job changed, so I’m guessing they are hoping for a return to the original situation under a different manager.

    3. Aggretsuko*

      LW2, the typo writeups happened to me too. Whoever did that to you hated you and wanted you gone. However, I think at this point you have a Bad Reputation there and there’s no point in wasting your time applying, even if management has changed or if you were applying for a totally different section. I’ve been told once people see my HR file, well, forget it.

      1. MsM*

        I don’t even know that LW necessarily has a bad reputation with anyone but the manager; it’s just that minus a total turnover in HR along with whoever was behind the PIP push in the first place, there’s no guarantee this won’t happen again if someone else with pull decides they want to make changes.

        1. Anonym*

          Yeah, it doesn’t have to rise to the level of having a bad reputation, and *certainly* not the the level of hate (!!). Please don’t introduce the idea that OP was hated! There’s no reason at all to think that, and it can only add anxiety to start contemplating an angle like that.

          They wanted something different to happen with the role and/or org structure and, either in a planned way or just by passive/avoidant mismanagement (which is sadly so common), managed OP out.

          1. Hannah Lee*

            I’ve seen at least one case where a manager was hired, brought in a few people they previously worked with, and did a bit of “house cleaning” ie targeted a few existing employees they didn’t vibe with or who were in roles they wanted to carve out to bring in someone else from their old team, driving people out. And then that manager and their squad crashed and burned, got bounced, the company did a reset and hired back some of the people who had been pushed out.

            But in that case it was clear that the mid-management team who’d cleaned house were gone, upper management realized things had gone off the rails and the company reached out to see if particular former employees were interested in coming back.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              In a similar situation you have to hope that BadManager didn’t get HR to label the wrongly terminated employees as ineligible for rehire.

        2. ferrina*


          Unless all the players from the first situation are out of the picture, there’s no point in applying. They’ll still have a bad taste. If there had been heavy turn over (the manager is gone and HR is gone), I might try it. But the manager clearly singled out OP, and even if OP gets hired back, manager will 100% talk behind their back and try to sabotage their reputation and work.

      2. Siege*

        It’s worth considering that this varies by workplace. When I was contingent faculty at my local community college, there were adjuncts who took it as a point of pride how many times they’d been fired and rehired based on political feuding between deans and chairs. (To be very clear, these were not people fired for cause. Technically, I was fired, and it’s so strange that the paperwork marking me as ineligible for rehire never made it to my file because the Dean who did it knew I had a solid legal claim against him for it.) It can be really normal, when the situation you’re in is political (and write ups for typos and forgetting a name sound political) to be rehired by someone else. I think Alison’s advice is pretty solid, based strictly on my own experience of a political workplace.

    4. TG*

      I thought the same – apparently there was a lot of politics here also and I wouldn’t want to step foot into that situation. Use the person who said they’d be a reference and focus on leaving that place far behind you in your career.

    5. Jellybeans*

      Typos and repeatedly mixing up people’s names in Zooms aren’t necessarily minor errors.

      1. Allium Ad Astra*

        Yeah, that struck me too. Especially as it sounds like these errors were repeated. If those typos were in materials that were for outside use, or going to senior figures, that’s a concern. If they were messing up the names of senior figures, or outside contacts etc, that’s a problem. And if they were warned about them and continued making those errors, that’s a serious concern. OP kinda glossed over that part, but if these errors kept happening and there were enough instances in 90 days to cause concern then I might think this role just wasn’t as good a fit as they think it was.

        1. bamcheeks*

          Well, it sounds like they knew the second lot of duties wasn’t a fit– but they were moved onto those duties after a perfectly normal year in the first set of duties. Obviously changing people’s duties has to happen sometimes, but if you’ve hired someone for one job, and then move them somewhere else and immediately start dinging them for typos, that’s a bit suss.

        2. Jackalope*

          The thing is that in my experience people tend to be fairly consistent with the number (on average) of typos that they make. Either they make several, or just a small handful, or none, but it’s something that tends to be about the person and how they interact with text. The letter says that the OP was at the job for almost two years and the PIP was about 90 days after 3 weeks of the new job. That makes the timing here suspicious to me. However many typos the OP was making, she was probably making the same number in the first year and a half that she was there, but it was fine? And then all of a sudden her job position changes, with no notice that she has a new position it sounds like, and suddenly the typos are so numerous that she must be on a PIP? That makes it sound to me like they were just trying to get her out of the job. Obviously I could be wrong, but the timing is suspicious.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Unless the typos were mostly in more obscure but also more vital professional terminology? (Example: I work for a medical school library. We’re both more likely to misspell medical terms because they are complicated and we don’t use them every day, but it’s also a lot more important that we don’t misspell them because it makes them un-findable when you search our website and also makes us look like goobers.)

          2. Elsewise*

            It’s also possible that the changes in job duties meant that their audience changed. My first role at one workplace put me in contact mostly with college students who worked for our office. If I made a typo or mixed two of them up, the worst that would happen would be they might (gently) make fun of me for a bit. My second role had me writing mass communications that went out to high-profile donors, where a typo was a bit more of an issue. So they [i]became[/i] more of an issue than they were before. (That being said, a reasonable workplace would still have approached this very differently than how LW’s workplace did.)

          3. Jackalope*

            Okay, I reread the original letter and am more convinced that the typos and misnaming were just a red herring. The HR person accidentally sent the OP a letter telling her she was being fired when she wasn’t MULTIPLE TIMES. That’s a HUGE mistake and I can’t think of any typo that would be as bad as that. And given that the OP was allegedly on the PIP trying to improve to keep her job, while this would have been a good example of the writing on the wall, it’s so irresponsible that I don’t even have words.

            I would tell the OP if she’s reading today not to try returning to this employer because it’s not worth it. But I would also say that HR accidentally sending employees notices that they’re fired when they’re not, multiple times, is such an egregious mistake that the typos can safely be considered not a real issue.

            1. Original LW*

              Re: Jackalop. I’m the OP. HR made a couple of major mistakes but they only sent me advanced notice for my firing THE DAY before my last meeting. I was asked for a meeting the next day, and then at 7pm I got an email from HR asking me to turn in my laptop. I replied to that email and cc’d my supervisor, head of department and HR. No one replied. I come in, I work until meeting (let’s say 1pm) and only THEN does HR talk about me getting a pre-mature notification. They also gave me some messages during my PiP that gave me the idea they were running this PiP until my manager wanted it done (why I think it ran 90 days, summer season. I worked for a University). I told HR that I had a screenshot of my supervisor talking on Slack about me being on a Pip (with the Department Head) in the public channel. They deleted it shortly after and NEITHER said anything about it. They were clearly hoping I didn’t see it. I never shared the image with HR because I didn’t trust them, but I told them I had it.

              Last remark re: typos. Here’s the funny thing: the supervisor had TYPOS in my performance review! Words that were easy to spell-check. I still have a copy with the 3 typos highlighted. I never got to throw it in supervisor’s face.

      2. Irish Teacher.*

        It really does depend. I agree they aren’t necessarily minor, but it’s possible the manager went combing through e-mails and finding mistakes like one “it’s” where it should be “its” in one e-mail out of three and writing each one up. It also depends on the job. If these were just internal e-mails and were fairly casual, that’s a lot different than if they were e-mails to clients and a large part of the LW’s job.

        I’m guessing, since the LW says they were very minor, that they weren’t a significant part of her job and wouldn’t usually be included in metrics.

        1. Seashell*

          It didn’t say the typos were in emails, so it could have been work product that they were spending a lot of time on and was expected to be typo-free or pretty close to it.

          Frequently mixing up names in Zoom calls doesn’t sound minor to me. I can imagine that happening once every so often for most people, but frequently sounds like there’s a lack of attention or a memory problem.

          1. Mouse named Anon*

            To me it depends on how they messed up the names. In an important Board meeting and called the Board president a different name over and over. Yes thats a big deal. Messing up Katie and Susie in Accounting bc maybe they look similar or remind them of someone else, not a big deal to me.

            1. The cat's meow*

              But also, weren’t these Zoom meetings? Where everyone’s name is clearly visible under their box? That, to me, makes messing up names inexcusable, and could point to larger issues. The names are right there! I could see excusing it the first time, but OP said it was repeatedly messing up names on Zoom calls, and I just don’t understand how that is possible.

              1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

                I’ve messed up my own client’s name in Zoom court, and in person. You get on a roll and just make a mistake. Now I caught it and corrected myself. Which not catching it is more of a problem than making it.

                But it doesn’t matter if they were minor problems or not. 7 months out from being fired after a PIP is not a good idea to apply there. 5 years where you could demonstrate how you have improved, maybe. But this soon without showing anything has changed? Into a place with a lot of a drama? No.

              2. Saturday*

                Well, the LW doesn’t say they were mixing up the names of people on the call – maybe they were mixing up the names of outside vendors or something. Or maybe there were 40 people on the call so that the names weren’t “right there.”

                I just think we don’t know enough to say whether this was a big deal or not, but to me it seems very unlikely to be something people would typically get fired over.

              3. AnonORama*

                It would be awesome if every job standardized putting the full name in the Zoom box. I have plenty of coworkers who use their initials, nickname, or something non-name-like, at least for internal calls. I’ve been here since dinosaurs walked the earth and I don’t tend to mix anyone up, but on a non-camera call I still sometimes forget who’s Kay_Ess and who’s KZ. (Changed examples, but not super far off.)

                1. Siege*

                  My “favorite” is the one where we have regular annual events with a less zoom-savvy constituency and they can’t figure out how to change their names from IPhone, but also can’t figure out how to come off mute to tell you who they are. Or they connect on an account set to their spouse’s name and same problem. If Katie has registered and IPhone or Andrew hasn’t, but I also have six other people doing the same thing, it can lead to guessing and hoping they’re camera-on to at least nod.

              4. Ginger Cat Lady*

                The names are not always there. I’ve been in meetings where I’ve seen that spot say things like “Kids’ iPad” or “Rob’s LAPTOP” (when Rob was the husband of the employee, Amy). Occasionally I present to a group that asks you to change your Zoom name to a childhood nickname, or your favorite ice cream flavor or some other stupid ice breaker, and I’ve seen members of that group who have forgotten to change in back in meetings weeks later and it still says “Rocky Road” under their name.

            2. Miette*

              Agreed. I mean , if you’re insisting on deadnaming someone on a Zoom call, see ya later, but if you’re just confusing names or whatever, then whatever happened to giving people some grace?

              I have a last name that is similar to a common female first name, and people call me that ALL THE TIME. If that had been used as a jumped-up excuse to fire someone, I’d be mortified.

              1. Baunilha*

                We have a case of two people in the same department with similar sounding names. Think something like Mirian and Marianne. Even their manager mixes them up every now and then.

                Also, the timeline here indicates that the problems came up right after OP’s duties changed and they were put on PIP immediately with very little support, it seems. My guess is that the typos and mix ups were just scapegoats. It doesn’t change the advice, though.

        2. ferrina*

          Exactly this. I’m inclined to believe the LW. Lots of jobs have wiggle room for a couple typos or mixing up names. There are a handful of jobs where this would be a big deal, but it sounds like LW isn’t in one. I’ve been called the wrong name plenty of times, and no one has ever been fired for it. The only time I’ve heard of someone being fired for a typo was when I had a boss that was looking for a reason to get rid of me. I had made 2 typos in 3 months- one was bad but not fireable, and the other typo had gone THROUGH THE EDITORIAL TEAM. My manager tried to fire me because someone else had made a mistake on their job. (HR turned it into a layoff- it was pretty clear that the boss was looking for excuses to fire me, and HR felt like I deserved a layoff opportunity. Not sure why the boss worked so hard to find a reason to fire me–we worked in an at-will state).

          1. Aggretsuko*

            I used to not make typos. I got nitpicking and scrutinized so much I started making errors all over the place and I didn’t even notice. Stress causing you to be a screw up can happen and maybe that was the case with OP here, for all I know

    6. Mouse named Anon*

      OP – I would really reconsider going back. It sounds like this wasn’t the fit for you, for many reasons. Going back to a place that so quickly placed you on a PIP, isn’t a good fit for almost anyone. Good luck.

    7. M2*

      You’re hearing one side. lw2 I would not apply for a role at the old company as you were let go less than a year ago. If you had been gone a few years and were successful at another organization? Sure, but reach out first before applying.
      If someone makes lots of typos and mixes up names in Zooms for work is a big deal since attention to detail is very important in my work. If I had discussed this with a team member and it didn’t change then yes they would be put in a PIP. It is about double checking and not rushing your work. Also, did they move you to see if you would be more successful in another area?

      I had a team member who was not successful in their work, they couldnt do it. We discussed it and they didn’t seem to understand they were not up for the task. I ended up moving them to another department (because otherwise it was mandatory PIP and firing) and they ended up being successful in their other role. They aren’t a superstar, but they are better than before and will now keep that job. So sometimes people are moved because otherwise they would be let go.

      I also find that people usually aren’t put on PIPs right away. Everywhere I have worked people are given weeks or months to improve / told multiple times and only when things don’t significantly changed then they are put on a PIP. Many of these people are sadly shocked by it, but in every situation I have seen it has been made clear what needs to change. I say this as someone with 15 years experience so I don’t see PIPs all the time but have seen them throughout my career. Everything can’t be everyone else’s fault!

      I have also seen people on PiPs think they do good work or twist words that have been said to them out of kindness by others. That is why when I handle them I don’t ever say platitudes and just state facts. I heard a manager tell someone they were sorry it happened to them and that person automatically thought that they had been unfairly let go. Their work product was bad, but they were a nice person so the manager “felt bad.” If it’s not a good fit, leave.

      To me applying again after 7 months shows a judgement issue. You need to let this go, move on, use your network to apply for different work. I worked in the nonprofit world and it really is a small network so you might want to diversify your applications. People talk and even if your director gives you a decent recommendation sometimes they still ask around, so I would apply to tons of organizations to make sure you get the best chance. Also, can you reach out to the Director and see if they know anyone that is hiring?

      I would look inward and work on attention to detail so it is not an issue in your next role. Don’t fester but try and move on. Good luck to you

      1. Michelle Smith*

        Respectfully, I’d like to push back on part of this advice. I don’t think attention to detail was a problem for this LW in the entire first year of their job. It was only when their job duties dramatically changed that they began having issues. I don’t necessarily think everyone is suited to get things perfectly correct either just because they double check and don’t rush. One of the people I look up to the most in my field got fired from a prestigious law firm because he had “poor attention to detail” in the form of frequent typos. He just wasn’t suited to that kind of work. It doesn’t matter how brilliant he is (he really is extremely smart and graduated top of his class at a school I couldn’t get into), how well he established relationships (it’s hard to find anyone who dislikes this guy, he’s just very good at relating to people), or how often he checked and rechecked his work – he’s just not good at seeing the small details. He changed fields to something where his big picture skills were valued over the nitpicky small detail stuff and is now thriving.

        I’m a small detail person. I can’t really be bothered online, but at work I’m the go-to person for anything that needs to be proofread or edited. Not everyone has that skill or can develop it, because all of our brains work differently. We need all kinds. I think LW would be better served trying to find a job that meets the skills they do have rather than insisting they rewire their brain to become better at something that might not come naturally to them.

        tl;dr: Making mistakes like this is not always people just being careless. Some people just have different skill sets and that’s okay.

        1. Oh boy*

          And things like dyslexia, for example, should not be considered “not paying attention to detail” but a learning issue that doesn’t impact the overall work as a whole. A company can find workarounds for things like this.

          The advice does feel like it fails to take the main issue into account: someone performed well in the tasks they were hired for, and was booted quickly when those tasks shifted. The person themselves didn’t do the changing–the job did.

      2. Smithy*

        Without knowing anything beyond what the OP wrote – I think that there’s a lot of possibility of being somewhere in the middle.

        The large nonprofits that I’ve worked for have regularly been a) political, b) had management that would fluctuate between moving fast and slow and c) uneven in how they managed teams/direct reports. The end result is that I’ve regularly seen staff in roles where they’re struggling due to a lack thereof management and/or poor management. This can result in people getting into roles that are really poor fits and instead of working with staff – quantitative errors start to be called out. Either in a demoralizing, micromanaging way or in what can appear like an expedited PIP process.

        Affording some room for an unreliable narrator, I’ve just seen this happen in a number of different ways where supervisors are very poor at actually coaching and managing direct reports. I call all of this out not to excuse the OP’s mistakes, but rather to say that in the nonprofit sector – you regularly need to find ways to be your own supervisor. To be able to identify when you are being micromanaged or treated unfairly, but still be able to identify the threads of what are in fact valid critiques and feedback. It’s 100% a weakness of many large nonprofits and how supervisors aren’t taught to manage – but it’s a skill where the more you can cultivate it, the more success you can have in the industry.

        In one job I had, there was a 2-3 page document that my supervisor asked me to revise 3 or so times. After the second time he asked for changes, I realized I didn’t understand what it was he wanted – but also to accept that what I was doing wasn’t meeting the assignment. I asked for examples of what he was looking for, so I could try to match the styles. He had no examples, and just asked for it to be done again. At this point, I could accept that what I was doing wasn’t meeting the assignment but also that my supervisor didn’t have the ability to teach or coach that in someone. Being able to see those contradictions is really important in being mindful of those areas where you’re going to need to find ways to improve but without support from your supervisor. And also to not let your supervisor get you to a place of feeling defensive.

        1. MsM*

          +1. I watched this exact thing happen to someone who’s had nothing but glowing reviews from every other manager they’ve had, in that exact kind of environment. Were they doing their absolute best work? Maybe not, but considering it wasn’t the work they were hired for and they were given very little guidance or feedback on the new goals, they were making decent progress on getting up to speed until great-grandboss suddenly decided this project was top priority and started nitpicking everything.

          1. Smithy*

            Exactly. I’ve also seen this happen with hires where exactly how much experience was truly needed for a good hire changes.

            Essentially, they hire someone with “5 years experience” – and the person who got hired has 5 years, but in junior roles showing increased responsibility over time. However, in reality it was a need for those 5 years to have been experience doing/leading that exact kind of work. And instead of really identifying what’s missing from that experience gap, and how to provide or support-training – it’s just easier to push them out/fire them and then hire that more experienced person.

            Or worse, give them a period of a year or two accepting them as new and just onboarding- and match that with either positive or very soft critical feedback. Then at some point realizing it’s not working and acting fast to push them out.

            I don’t present this as either all nonprofits being terrible nor to tell younger employees to be happy with this reality – but more so as a means of calling out this weakness of the sector. And if that weakness ends up with just dismissing all negative feedback, you don’t grow. But if you take it too much to heart, it’s demoralizing.

          2. Original LW*

            +1 A friend said to me “you just can’t come back from bad managing.” Supervisor probably wanted me to work out but gave me no space and everything immediately became a reprimand instead of coaching. I had a bike accident and then the next week I got put on the PiP anyway. (which didn’t help that I had injuries for months afterwards). I’m sure the new role wasn’t a good fit, and some of my mixed up names was in front of a Head of School marketing (I brought up a topic meant for another school. Not a secret and quickly realized but for the Head of School a huge boo-boo. But I only did that mistake a couple times early in the new duties. And no one complained but supervisor). I felt I could have smoothed out these mistakes with more time but after being put on a PiP the mixed up names became a complex for me. I started getting sweats over pronouncing anything. I am an American English speaker so it was just a quirk. I never did it to anyone outside the school.

        2. Siege*

          Yep, this. I had fantastic reviews and really good relationships with our vendors, external partners, and board, and I still got set up to fail a PIP when the director realized we no longer needed a designer, we needed an event manager. Because I wasn’t a good fit for the team and was close friends with someone our parent org had massively falsified documentation to fire, I wasn’t offered the choice of whether I wanted to switch gears, I just got a PIP with nebulous goals and none of the promised support (weekly check-ins). Surprising no one, I failed the PIP but did get unemployment because they lied to the ESD about why I was fired (supposed threats of violence that the caseworker said if they were true I would have been escorted out immediately.)

          1. Original LW*

            Yikes! I’ve always been in a fortunate state for unemployment. An employer has to make a serious case in objecting to unemployment. I even worked for an employer who tried to deny unemployment to an employee who stole clients from her and still failed at the hearing. The employer has to take real steps and if they just don’t respond then the ex-employee always gets it.

            1. Siege*

              My state is very friendly on unemployment as well. Honestly, if they’d stuck with the reason they told me they fired me it would’ve been a harder case to challenge, but the parent org’s head of HR always was an overreaching moron. (My friend who got fired had unsigned write ups in her personnel file, against protocol, and the head of HR forced the head of IT to claim that my friend was logging into and out of her personal email at a volume we worked out would have required a complete login/logout every two seconds 24 hours a day. Surprising no one, the head of HR later fired the head of IT, but I was gone by then.)

      3. Irish Teacher.*

        To be fair, while people aren’t put on PIPs right away at functional companies, there are bad and vindictive managers out there, so I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that the LW was placed on a PIP with no warning.

        1. Dan256*

          Completely agree. I’ve seen PIPs weaponised many times, and have experienced it myself not once, but twice. Awful.

      4. Dan256*

        I’m really glad you’ve had nothing but positive, fair experiences in workplaces regarding PIPs. Many of us, including LW2, many AAM readers and commenters, and myself, have not been that fortunate.

        I’ve been put on 2 PIPs in my career, ten years apart, and both times, the boss in question has tried to have me fired. Both of these cases went to the relevant tribunal, and not only was I given a large cash settlement, but I was also reinstated and redeployed.

        The “reasons” behind both these PIPs were so flimsy that the first boss was demoted, and the second one was fired. Both bosses had gone to the extent of fabricating problems and documentation, and one was when I’d been in a new job for less than 5 weeks.

        The experience I had with both those PIPs do mirror that of LW2. It was extremely unpleasant and actually quite damaging.

    8. Pita Chips*

      “Accidentally” posting the PIP on Slack makes it sound personal to me. I would put that place in my rearview mirror with more than all due haste.

    9. Colette*

      Or the business direction changed, or they weren’t actually doing well at their original job and they were moved to one that their manager thought they’d do better at, but when that didn’t happen, they went with a PIP.

      You can be the best llama groomer in the world, but if the company decides to focus on chickens, that won’t help you.

    10. Turquoisecow*

      Yeah I was expecting the OP to say something like “it’s been five years and the people I had problems with are gone and the one who liked me me is in more of a position of power.”

      But it sounds like nothing has changed so I doubt they’ll be hired back and also don’t know why they’d want to go back.

    11. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Yeah! I get that they still haven’t found another job, but who’d want to go back for more mistreatment like that? If it were several years and the managers involved had all left or moved to different roles, it would be different.

    12. Original LW*

      I am the LW and I appreciate her advice. I honestly never thought about reaching out to the Head of Department about the role. I should have. I mostly applied to see what might happen but I could have done it better. (to make things easier, it was a large university, I was in an administration role working with the different schools within the university).

      Thanks for the feedback about the situation. What happened was the Person at Law School I worked with for a year was UNHAPPY about my role. She had her own direct report before I came but the university changed things and got rid of all the schools staff and re-organized. That’s when I got hired and, a couple months later, the Head of Department(HoD). My supervisor however was technically assigned for another temporary role working with her Med School (which she’d been with for a decade). She was also a boomer and the HoD is a millennial boss. I’m Gen X. Law School woman kept complaining about me — she had very unrealistic ideas and didn’t know the role I did as well as she thought. (ex. She wanted 10 reporters to attend for a discussion featuring reporters. I got six to show up, which was a huge success as my HoD and I thought.) HoD and my supervisor were very sympathetic when I was mostly working with her. My supervisor did NOT like Law School woman whom she’d known for years. But when they couldn’t fill *same role* for the Med School that my supervisor worked at (she sort of switched duties and was covering for unfilled role at Med School ) they asked if I would switch to the Med School as my supervisor had “come back” to her regular duties now. I wasn’t given much of a choice as I knew Law School women had been complaining almost since I started and our Department had to have positive relationships. I worked for Med School from Jan-Sept. I made a lot of faculty happy with my role. In my entire time there I don’t believe a single faculty member or anyone but Med School Person & Law School Women complained about my work and I got a lot of really appreciative comments from faculty. Another VIP within the Med School was extremely happy and gave me public credit after knowing I was getting dinged for not having a positive relationship with her. I believe the woman who gave me the credit was a Rival to the Med School Person. They viewed their duties in competition. I started the new duties in March and by April I was on a PiP. My supervisor took the position that my successes were her “carrying my load.” I gave her things to copy edit and she literally marked any edits as “mistakes.” Some of which were editorial choices, not mistakes. (Ex. I pluralized something she DEMANDED was singular). Every two weeks I got a report on all my mistakes. Every single mistake was minor. I had a front-facing role and no mistake effected any outcome. Because it’s a school and people go on vacation after May, I think that’s why they let the PiP run till September.

      Both my supervisor and my HoD when I was still working with them encouraged me to apply for other jobs within the university. Including suggesting I follow the person who gave me praise to her new role. (Maybe in time, but there wasn’t an open position). HoD is the one who told me I was “screwed” by the situation with the Law School. But my supervisor was his colleague and if she didn’t want me, nothing he was going to do. She was there longer than he was an outranked me. Technically both said they’d be a reference but I’d only use HoD. The kicker to the story? The Law School woman apparently left the university a few months ago and I haven’t been able to confirm yet but it’s also possible so did Med School head (not my supervisor, the person we both had to make happy).

  4. Nail Polish*

    OP2, I’m so sorry you’ve been through this. If it’s of any comfort, I can relate to your experience. It’s beyond awful to be pushed out if your job and livelihood for reasons that are exaggerated at best and completely fabricated at worst.

    It can also be a really damaging to your finances, career, and health, so I’m surprised that Alison’s response was so brief.

    1. Baldrick*

      I think we can all agree that it’s damaging, but I’m not sure how one would make the response much longer?

  5. mlem*

    LW1, are you confident neither party will attempt to retaliate against you because they assume you’ll make trouble for them? I think we’ve seen that happen before. (I don’t know if your HR is competent/trustworthy or would listen if you said you didn’t want the happy couple to get into trouble-trouble but just wanted something on record for your own safety. Then again, you and other employees really shouldn’t have to be confronted with surprise coitus, or worry that you might be.)

    1. Artemesia*

      This would be my fear. I think the OP needs to establish some sort of record of the event in the case that retaliation occurs. I don’t know if a letter to self postmarked would be of use down the road. Or perhaps they really do need to let HR know as a precaution. I don’t know what I would do — but I would fear retaliation and would want someone to know what happened close to the time it happened in case events get out of control down the road.

      1. mgguy*

        Perhaps in this sort of situation write an email to yourself(on work or personal email-not sure if one would be better than the other here?) recounting what happened while it’s still fresh in your mind. I’ve done that sort of thing before if I wanted to document something that I didn’t necessarily think need to be reported at the time but thought it might be down the road.

        Email still gives you a time/date stamp, but has the added advantage of being easy to retrieve and is not a physical piece of paper to keep up with…

      2. learnedthehardway*

        I think an email from one’s work email address to one’s personal email would be fine for now. If nothing happens, then fine. If something does, then at least there is a record from the time in question. One could even write oneself a note to the effect that one has no intention of taking this further, but that one wishes to have a record in case of any issues.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      LW1, are you confident neither party will attempt to retaliate against you because they assume you’ll make trouble for them? I think we’ve seen that happen before.

      Yeah, there was an earlier letter/update where one of the walked-in-on people tried to retaliate against the letter writer. Fortunately, it backfired for the retaliator and the letter writer ended up OK.

      The letter is “I walked in on a coworker making out with our married colleague — do I say something?” from April 18, 2022. The update is from June 22, 2022. Links in a follow-up comment.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        It appears here, though, that the two people aren’t married to other people so there’s no “covering” something, just likely embarrassment all around.

    3. nerdpower*

      Exactly. It’s way, way better to say something now than to wait. I’m saying this from my own experience.

    4. Beany*

      Wouldn’t this count as sexual harassment (of the LW), too? If LW1 was in a place there they were expected to carry out work duties, they were exposed to sexual activity without their consent, even if it wasn’t directed at them.

      Though perhaps that doesn’t really dictate the LW’s next steps, if they’re confident that it was accidental and they don’t want to get the two participants into trouble.

  6. Ellie*

    OP#1, unfortunately I once had to advise someone in a similar situation, she walked in on two of her co-workers in the back stairwell together. In that case, the woman was a team lead and the man was on her team. Both married to other people too, although they didn’t work at the same place. She was really uncomfortable reporting them, but was basically told (not just by me) that she had to. They were both fired.

    Honestly even if there was no chain of command concerns, I think I’d report it just to cover myself. Employees shouldn’t be exposed to the possibility of walking in on their co-workers together, and it shows such a profound lack of judgement, I would be afraid it would reflect poorly on me not to report it. Mind you, this is only if I saw it with my own eyes. I wouldn’t report something like this if it was just gossip.

      1. amoeba*

        To be fair, we don’t know they were actually having sex, do we? My first thought was more like making out, which would be a very different situation than actually full on sex. I’d probably ignore it either way, but the latter would make me question their judgement much more, and yeah, the “exposure to unwitting coworkers” aspect would be much worse. While for making out, I feel it would mostly be uncomfortable for them, not so much for anybody else.

        1. Carl*

          This is a good point. It’s not clear what OP observed. If they were fully clothed, just kissing, are both single and not married to other people, and not in each other’s chain of command – I think there would be very little possibility of retaliation. If one or more of those things is not true – I would be more concerned about retaliation, and maybe want to create a record.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            TBH the “single and not married to other people” is neither here nor there. A workplace shouldn’t be policing people to that extent. The concerns are 1-chain of command and 2-bad judgement about their tryst.

            1. Myrin*

              Carl is talking about the situation from a “possibility of retaliation” angle, though. I agree that whether the people involved are already partnered shouldn’t factor into how the workplace deals with the whole thing, but I also think that someone is indeed more likely to (try and) retaliate against someone who just witnessed them cheating.
              So it’s a thing for OP to take into consideration (although probably not the most important point) with regards to how she wants to proceed, but not something for the company to pass judgment on.

              1. Carl*

                Yes, exactly. I was referring to odds of retaliation. I don’t make it my business to police fidelity – and, as a family law lawyer, I know as well as anyone that not all marriages have the same rules.

            2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

              Intensely bad judgment. Whatever the actual circumstances were, they were doing it on work property during work hours.

              This is going to blow up into a lot of drama. Because the two involved have intensely bad judgment.

              But one thing, OP1, you are a manager now, you have to get over the idea of tattling. This is work, reporting relevant information is not tattling.

        2. Cat Tree*

          Frankly, I don’t want to see my coworkers making out either. They shouldn’t do that in a semi-public place.

        3. Ali + Nino*

          I am so tired of this line of thinking – “well, it wasn’t full-on sex, so it’s not that bad.” No one should be in an intimate situation at work, including making out! Are these high schoolers or grown adults? It all goes back to having sound judgment.

          1. amoeba*

            Eh, sure, but still, kissing and full nudity fall on pretty different places on the “inappropriate” spectrum (as well as in the level of distress they’d probably cause people who walk in on them!)

            1. Bitte Meddler*

              Yeah, seeing two co-workers who are fully clothed and kissing is icky and inappropriate.

              Seeing one or both of them naked and being forced to view their genitalia is a whole different level of shock and ick. WHOLE different level.

        4. Ellie*

          Well, in my case, it was a sex act being performed on the man. Not sure what OP observed but given they were in a locked storage facility, I was assuming the worst.

        5. jasmine*

          Yeah I think Alison’s answer makes sense if all their clothes were on but if not…. that’s an issue

      2. Person from the Resume*

        To the point that we don’t know exactly what “compromising position” means, it’s still very awkward for coworker to witness this at all, it is even more awkward if there has been clothing has been removed.

        I’m a bit concerned it may have been on the more extreme side since the LW said

        asked to visit a storage building to pick up some items for staff. I arrived at the building and noticed two other managers’ cars. I unlocked the door to the building and entered — and walked in on the two managers …

        This was an arranged rendezvous in a normally empty storage building that employees have to leave the office to drive to. This was more planned out and time away from work than slipping into a stairwell or empty office in the normal office space. They were very much taking actions to avoid getting caught.

        I don’t know if it changes the answer, but I think it means the people who got caught are possibly more involved and invested in hiding it. Or, maybe, they just have the options others do not. IDK.

        1. Project Maniac-ger*

          I admit I’ve never had an affair but there’s got to be a, uh, softer and cleaner place to do activities than the storage warehouse of your employer?!?!

    1. ecnaseener*

      I just don’t get how it’s safer for LW to report it than to not report it. Currently, there’s a possibility of the two deciding to push LW out, but no real reason for them to think it’s necessary since LW made it clear they don’t think it’s any of their business. Whereas if they report it, unless the two get fired (possible if they were having sex on company premises but by no means guaranteed) then there are guaranteed to be two people at work who have reason to be angry at LW for saying “it’s none of my business, nothing to talk about” and then turning around and reporting them.

      1. L-squared*

        Totally agree here. You have an option where they just let it go, and the other option where you DEFINITELY have 2 people pissed at you. And its very possible that, depending how “compromising” the position is, that nothing will happen if OP reports it, but then she has just made enemies of her 2 colleagues for no reason.

      2. Czhorat*

        I’d probably not report it either, but the argument would be that if you saw them didn’t report then *you* could be considered to have poor judgement if it becomes known that you saw and did nothing about it.

        If you’re the boss of either of them you absolutely have to fire them.

        1. Reebee*

          If not their manager, why is it the LW’s obligation to report what they saw? It’s not like they knew what they were going to walk into. The company ought to take the responsibility to be pro-actively preventive.

          I wouldn’t say anything myself, unless I was bound to my my authority. Absent that, nope, just gonna be on my way, thanks.

      3. MK*

        Yes, but there would be two people who are known to be angry at OP, which protects her from retaliation to some extent. If OP says something and a month later one of them accuses OP of something, or they try to sabotage her ignore indirectly, there is a paper trail that this is someone who has reason to dislike them. If she says nothing, and the guilty parties try to get her fired in some way (because they want to get rid of a witness or because they are lashing out of shame or whatever), she won’t be credible if she claims that they are acting against her intentionally.

        1. Ellie*

          Exactly. Getting it on record protects OP if its a large enough company. If its a small company and one of the party is good friends with the CEO, then the equation changes on what’s safer. But I have been involved in situations where I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and happened to see someone being disciplined before. They were obviously uncomfortable about it and actively tried to get rid of me after. I can see that happening here.

          But also, what if someone else walks in on them at a later date, and reports them. Where does that leave OP? Do they pretend they never saw anything? Because it could come out that they did, and ignored it, and maybe lied about it, which could also cause them problems.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      There’s a great scene in For All Mankind where the two employees on the space base who have been subtly flirting subtly arrange to be in the same lab and this time they Get It On. Subtly. And the camera pans through the wall to the next lab, where the rhythmic thumpings and other sounds clearly carry, as their coworkers sigh and roll their eyes.

    3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Yeah, that’s not good. And fair point that it’s not cool to have a work environment where there’s a risk of people being exposed to super inappropriate stuff in the workplace. Though, as amoeba points out, we don’t really know what the LW saw. It could be relatively tame or very inappropriate.

      In the LW’s particular case, I don’t think it’s wrong to report it, but I also don’t think it’s wrong to not report it. And the odds of anyone else finding out that the LW saw stuff is pretty low. Hopefully, these two have learned a lesson here about where they get amorous and it won’t be an issue ever again.

    4. AnotherLibrarian*

      I do think there’s a profound lack of judgement. Isn’t there also a sexual harassment thing here? Because no one should be exposed to unwanted sexual situations at work, even if it is just walking in on other people.

      This happened at a work place I work at and while I was not the person who walked in on the two people in question, they were both reassigned and one of them lost out on a very prestigious internship, because of it.

  7. Lisa*

    LW2, if the same manager is still the manager of that department, it doesn’t matter what your director thinks, the manager is not going to hire you. It’s worth reaching out to someone just to find that out; I would have done that before I bothered applying.

  8. I didn't say banana*

    Alison, it seems like LW2 has already applied for the role. Would that change your advice?

    1. Myrin*

      Yeah, I was surprised to see “If you really want to apply” in the answer because I thought I’d misread the question but no, OP says she has indeed applied for the role already.

    2. Reality.Bites*

      In that case, there’s really no need for advice. The company will hire them, or not. Almost certainly not.

      1. I didn't say banana*

        Well, they asked how embarrassing it was for them to reply and who was likely to have looked at their application.

          1. Original LW*

            Re: I didn’t say banana. I felt a lot of shame re-applying. But the benefits at the University were fantastic and I really would love another shot. But I needed someone from the outside to say “7 months after being fired for a pip is unlikely to hire you.” However I agree with most people (and so does my family) that going back wouldn’t be good for me. Money-wise, I’m pulling out of my 401k, which is only so big because of the matching % at the university.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Well, I really want them to have contacted the director first! But assuming there is no time machine to redo it, they can do a tweaked version of the advice — it’s not as ideal but it’s better than applying without saying anything. I adjusted the answer to talk about how to do that.

    4. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I’m really curious how OP referenced the termination in the cover letter.

      1. Original LW*

        Not well. Almost provocatively like I knew all the players would end up reading it. It wasn’t a taunt but it could have been handled better.

  9. Rebecca*

    LW3: consider that it might not actually have anything to do with actual material costs and might be a general disincentive.

    I worked at a school once where they provided housing on campus as part of my salary, but charged 10 dollars a night for guests. It turned out that if they didn’t do that, there was a high probability that at least a few extended families would just move in with the employee. It wasn’t about the resources a guest would use in an evening two but what they would use if they moved in indefinitely, not to mention the liability. Charging ten bucks a night to prevent it was easier than dealing with evictions – personally and legally.

    Could that be a factor here?

    1. Allonge*

      This is what I was thinking – the extra fees are applied to keep occupancy low(er) in general, not to cover any particular costs.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      That’s sort of what I was thinking – they don’t want people coming and staying with employees as a free way of getting access to the park, or staying for extended periods of time, so they charge, but discounted from the regular price.

      I also wonder if there are any insurance implications in having people who are neither employees or paying guests staying over night, or tenancy issues if someone stays for an extended period.

      1. Coverage Associate*

        There are liability and therefore insurance issues with having people on site who are neither employees nor paying customers, yes. These are partially addressed by having everyone on site accept a limitation of liability, but that would take management time to implement, at least.

    3. Artemesia*

      Or they could have an actual policy that prevents more than X number staying the night and a limit of 3 nights or some other rule to prevent that instead of punishing sensible people doing sensible things.

      1. Lab Boss*

        That’s what I was thinking. When I was in group housing in college our lease spelled out how long a guest could stay before they were an illegal extra roommate, so when we had a friend on hard times staying with us we knew what was and was not acceptable and made sure not to fall afoul of the rules. No fees necessary.

      2. Agnes*

        But that might require more monitoring and policing than a flat rate does. I can imagine it’s less staff time and less prone to arguments/rules-lawyering to just charge a discounted amount for everyone.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          This. The company staff doesn’t want to argue about how it’s OK for Tangerina’s brother to stay for 3 weeks because he really wants to hike in the area. They’re just gonna say “whatever, that’ll be $420 for your brother’s stay here”.

      3. Emmy Noether*

        Yes. I remember when I lived in student housing, we were allowed to have guests, but there was a definition of what a “guest” was. I believe it was a limit on number of consecutive nights, and nights per month. Also only one at a time, because the rooms just weren’t that big.

        I bet there’s a phenomenon like when daycares charge per minute for late pickup, there’s actually an increase in late pickups (because now it’s a paid service, and therefore a legit choice). One should be careful about using fees to discourage behavior.

      4. Golden*

        My previous apartment complex had that rule, and people’s guests would just stay somewhere else for a single night and return for 6 nights. The people above me almost always had 3-12(!) extended family members doing this in a 1-bedroom apartment.

        That complex was wildly lenient and rarely evicted people, but that tenant was evicted. They were also apparently putting weird things down the garbage disposal – we got several oddly specific reminders about things you can’t put in there, usually on the day after we’d hear maintenance working on their sink.

      5. Anon4Nudity*

        Having stayed at these types of places, having employees have non paying guests onsite staying really does change the dynamic for paying guests as space is now more crowded, you’re competing for the same amenities, and for guests it’s a free trip. Charging also sets the expectation that this isn’t your friends home but a working campsite for paying guests.
        I think it’s really fair to say we’re giving you a very large friends and family discount but you can’t have others get this service/experience for free.

    4. Saberise*

      That was my first thought. It’s a deterrent to people taking advantage of the situation and having a lot of guests.

    5. kiki*

      Yes, I experienced something similar in college where the fee was intended as a disincentive/ limiter. I went to a school in New Orleans so, predictably, there was a certain time of year where everybody’s friends wanted to come visit. Without any sort of restriction or delimiter, the dorms would be way too crowded. I think the fee (during Mardi Gras) was $100 per guest. So less than a hotel room would cost, but enough to discourage every college student from crashing with their Tulane friend or encourage them to get a big group together and split the cost of hotel room/ airbnb,

      During the rest of the year, guest passes were $20 per night, but the fee for the first 10 guest passes were waived for each student each year. The goal was to prevent people from having friends or family basically move in with them.

  10. Bilateralrope*

    Something to consider for #1 is that the body fluids released are a biohazard. You don’t know if they have anything infectious. How many staff have consented to that risk ?

    Which means reporting the sex for health and safety reasons to make sure the area is cleaned.

    Though there is no way to remain anonymous after that, so you need to consider the risk of retaliation.

    1. bamcheeks*

      this is a bit of a reach! Obviously the thought of other people’s sex fluids is gross, but there are no viruses or bacteria in semen or vaginal fluid that survive long enough outside the body to harm someone else who comes into casual contact with them. Unless someone else is immediately going in and licking the place they had sex, there is not H&S risk here. It’s just weird and gross.

      1. ecnaseener*

        I agree it’s a reach, especially the whole idea that people need to consent to… being in a space where sex has been had. We simply don’t operate that way as a society, and thank goodness for that.

    2. amoeba*

      Well, “compromising position” really doesn’t indicate the presence of any bodily fluids though. (Even if they did have actual sex… which isn’t clear. And then they were also interrupted, so I really wouldn’t worry about that.)

    3. Chrysoprase*

      I hope nobody reading this comment is eating lunch, but semen and vaginal fluid – like fecal matter, urine, dead skin, nasal mucus, sweat, sebum, and a dozen other gross substances – is all over everything. People touch their genitals and then touch other things. People masturbate and then don’t wash their hands, or their clothes. We share toilets. You can’t catch STDs from any of this, thank goodness. It’s the feces that’ll getcha.

      (I don’t bring this up to gross everyone out but I honestly object to the really important concept of consent being hammered into places where it doesn’t fit. Almost nobody gives their explicit consent to touching trace amounts of fecal matter or urine all day either, and yet we are, all the time! It’s on all the door handles and keyboards and everything! To be clear, people shouldn’t have sex in in a storage room at their workplace. It’s inappropriate. It’s not the standard of conduct expected of them as employees. It might cause distress or embarrassment if someone happens to catch them doing it – as it did in this case – and if those people were on the clock, they definitely weren’t doing what they were paid to be doing. We really don’t need a convoluted house-that-Jack-built justification for why people shouldn’t do it.)

      1. Admin Lackey*

        “I honestly object to the really important concept of consent being hammered into places where it doesn’t fit.”

        Thank you! As a queer person, I’m very wary of this line of thinking and I hate to see it brought up more and more

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Yep. This is why “Don’t touch your face until you can wash your hands” was good advice even before the pandemic.

    4. Econobiker*

      Don’t stay in a hotel or motel then if you’re against exposure to potential trace amounts of other people’s leavings…
      “Sanatized for Your Protection” doesn’t mean completely void of matter as we’ve recently seen with the Covid-19 pandemic situation.

  11. Cinn*

    LW4 I think Alison’s point about “is info getting passed along” (and appropriately fast enough) is the key. If the info is being shared back and forth then leave it.

    However, I’ve been in a similar position (though kinda reversed), I was the designated person for people to come to for help with one of our systems, but one team’s manager insisted none of them contact me directly everything (their questions and my answers) had to go via him. Except he almost never passed either along. Even though I think it was a daft set up the real issue was that he didn’t do his bit within it.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      With the caveat that my design work may be very different than the OP’s, I disagree with Alison’s answer. I would be willing to burn a *lot* of capitol on being allowed to communicate directly with the SME. There are already a ton of miscommunications; I’m not going to add a game of telephone through two managers to that. Every time I’ve designed something without directly consulting with an SME, it’s been a disaster that took months or years to fix.

      1. works with realtors*

        Seconding this. I rarely disagree with Alison, but not being able to speak with a SME slows down work at best, and creates terrible trainings at worst. When a new manager came in to my old job and made it so not only were us IDs no longer able to communicate with SMEs but even to collaborate with each other, our output quality and quantity tanked.

        OP, I’d bring it up as a roadblock to see if this is a management style choice or if the SME warrants this chain of command – and push a little if this is management style, because this will be the block on any future project with your manager.

      2. JustaTech*

        I’ve got two projects running right now where the technical teams on both ends have had to push really hard to be allowed to communicate directly, but it really was necessary.
        In one case the game of telephone between me (the sort-of expert) and the technical expert on the other end ran through 4 people and 3 languages and was going nowhere (because none of the people in between understood the questions that I and the other technical people were asking).
        Finally I insisted on a meeting with everyone and good gravy in 15 minutes we got more done than we had in the previous 3 months!
        In that case everyone was on the call to make sure 1) everyone heard the answers at the same time and 2) no one would feel like they were being cut out.

  12. Also-ADHD*

    Not an ID at the moment, but I’ve been in ID and I can’t imagine having my primary SME being someone I couldn’t talk to. That’s really not tenable if there’s real ID work to do. It sounds like possibly the video edits are basic enough that you don’t have to do much actual ID work, digging into action mapping or process design. But that’s a wild system, though I’ve heard of short term folks dealing with some doozies. I feel like Alison’s answer here definitely doesn’t reflect how truly unusual and problematic it is for the particular job. If you can’t get timely and nuanced information from a SME (and sometimes you actually have to go observe folks etc), it can be nearly impossible to do much more than content development.

    1. instructional designer, too*

      Agreed. This is an example where knowing the field really affects how you perceive this situation. The standard models for instructional design emphasize back and forth discussion and questioning as part of needs analysis and development. Imagine being a veterinarian who had to ask your manager questions about the pet’s medical history, and your manager would then relay those questions to the pet owner in a different room — you could probably get most of the information, but the level of inefficiency there would almost certainly keep both parties from discussing as deeply as they would if they were in the same room.

      As an ID, I’ve worked in exactly one situation where a manager was intervening like this, and it was unworkable and part of the reason why the team had constant turnover. I’d take this as a red flag, and if it ultimately gets in the way of completing the project successfully and on time, it’s likely something the manager’s manager would want to know about.

    2. Artemesia*

      This. It is like one of those kids’ games where you pass a comment along a chain of people and laugh at what comes out the other end. If I am designing training I absolutely need direct contact with both my subject matter expert and my client who will use the material.

    3. azvlr*

      So glad to see I’m not the only ID who feels this way.

      I’ll admit I didn’t consider some of the other scenarios at first, but I have worked with a problematic SME, and the way my manager handled it was for me to keep working with them and keep them in the loop. They stepped in when things got untenable, but my manager had their own job to do besides coddling a SME.

      If my manager had made me go through two other layers to reach the SME, I would have lost all credibility with them. By working directly with them and keeping it professional even when they didn’t, we eventually came to an understanding.

      I see this as micromanage-y and somewhat of a red flag. You should ask your manager if this will be the case with all SMEs (I’d not stay at a job that was like this) or at least to help you understand why it is with this one.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Yes. I’m not in ID but I have been the middle person between a client and a sub-contractor while working at an agency. We were never supposed to put the two parties in contact with each other, in case they then swapped phone numbers in order to no longer work through the agency. On one project, which was particularly technical, the sub-contractor had lots of questions. I was merely acting as a go-between, or a letterbox, and I was not exactly following the discussions. At one point both client and sub-contractor asked if they could just chat on the phone together instead of sending emails through me and the boss wanted me to take part, but I explained that I didn’t really understand the ins and outs of the discussion, so it would be a waste of time. Finally he reluctantly agreed. The sub-contractor did not steal the client, but made great progess in understanding the product and getting his job done.

  13. Lissa*

    Regarding number 5 – I had a coworker sent their sibling’s CV and the CV really was a mess. Their experience did not align with what we were looking for so that’s the reason I shared with them, but I did ask them “Would you like me to share some feedback on your sibling’s CV?”. They said yes so I mentioned a couple things that could be improved and that was it. Felt good about it but I like to think I was being helpful and that this person will have a better chance of landing good job with a stronger CV.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Came here to say the same thing. I think it’s a kindness to ask, ‘May I share some feedback about your referral’s resume?’ even when the referring employee doesn’t ask about it. It’s kind to let the candidate know they have errors or unclear content on their resume, and it also helps the employee to be more thoughtful about future referrals.

      We used to have a team member who was the primary person to screen employee referrals and get them into hiring manager review if warranted. Employees were told that referrals did not automatically get interviewed for the role, and that they would get a fair review with said person. They would also get tips for their resume and coaching on interviewing. That last part made a difference – we got fewer referrals but they had more solid qualifications.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        I think in cases where people are being recommended, they might think they don’t really need to polish up their CV, that the recommendation would shoehorn them into the role without having to try very hard at anything. So telling them that it’s a mess and that it reflects badly because the role involves producing slick documentation, is actually a kindness.

    2. Khatul Madame*

      The coworker should have helped the sibling polish up their resume (or at least read it to determine whether the sibling is a good fit for the position). I would mention this. Goes to being a good sibling and caring for one’s reputation at work.

  14. L-squared*

    #3. the best way I can say it, is when you live on employer property, they make the rules. So its up to you if you want to live there. I worked for a couple of years at an amusement park that had company housing. Your guests had to sign in when they came. The rule was no overnight guests who didn’t also live in company housing. While it was pretty hard to get caught, it wasn’t impossible, and I knew people who were fired for it. While I didn’t love the rule, they knew they were breaking it. It was made very clear to everyone.

    Those types of things are why some people chose not to live on site, because they didn’t want that type of oversight.

  15. HonorBox*

    OP4 – As I read your message I had two competing thoughts. First, it seems like extra steps in a process that might slow things down unnecessarily. And second, I wonder if either Mary has run into issues before with people demanding things from her and this is a boundary she’s established OR if Mary has dropped the ball before and this is the most effective way for her to get her stuff done. No matter what, I think it is fair to ask about, because it’ll help you understand the “why.” But if it does slow things down a bunch and you’re delayed in finishing your work, it is worth flagging too.

    And one more thing… given that we’re approaching summer and people may take time away, I’d suggest asking your boss what to do in their/Mary’s boss’s absence, should that be something on the horizon. Again, you don’t want to get stuck not getting your work completed because the chain of communication breaks down.

  16. Czhorat*

    LW 1 – I’m assuming some form of infidelity on the part of both managers; if you can’t have sex in either of your homes then you have to either pay for a hotel (and hope your spouse doesn’t see the credit card statement) or find some other place for your dalliances.

    You’re right that it’s very poor judgement, and also right that it might explode messily. I think you’re also right that you didn’t see anything, have a horrible case of short-term memory loss, and enough momentary face-blindness that you didn’t recognize you.

    Neither your circus nor your monkeys.

  17. RIP Pillowfort*

    For OP#4- I’m an SME at a state agency. It is incredibly common for things to be filtered through my boss or another manager to me for review. Especially if it’s something outside my core duties being performed for another office.

    I’m pretty personable and easy to work with. So people like to bypass management to talk with me directly but I can quickly get overloaded if people contact me directly looking for status updates, conversations, etc. Sometimes I have to put some layers between me and the requestors to manage my workload efficiently.

    1. Malarkey01*

      I’m in a similar position. People don’t believe when I say I can easily get 200-500 email a day asking questions or for help. So many people think SMEs are the same as help desks instead of highly in demand experts working on complex problems or writing policy and processes, etc.

      The fact that LW didn’t believe it and messaged over a question sort of confirms to me the need for protective boundaries. The SME most likely cannot handle the drips and drabs comments that come over from other groups and needs them to be run through someone to consolidate them and handle any fast easy ones. Reporting this up isn’t going to make the SME look bad, it will most likely make LW look a little out of touch (which could be understandable if you aren’t in a job that needs gatekeeping).

      1. Disgruntled Pelican*

        This is so interesting! I’m also an ID/LXD, and going through my manager to talk to my SMEs would drive me absolutely nuts (especially given that my manager is also overloaded and she doesn’t always get the nuances of my questions). But I haven’t yet been in a role where the SMEs were swamped to the point that they couldn’t easily make themselves available to me. I see your point, though. Thanks for this perspective!

      2. NotYourMom*

        The fact that OP has already tried to go around the boundary really stands out to me to, and makes me wonder if there is more missing information.

    2. gracialight*

      This. I’m an SME at a federal agency. The IDs I’ve worked with don’t really get that when I am assigned to be an SME absolutely none of my other job duties get reduced. So I have to set up a workflow that protects my ability to do my core job.

    3. Bart*

      It makes sense to go through the SME’s boss if she’s getting too many direct requests. But why add LW’s boss in the loop as well? That’s just unnecessary inefficiency, I’d hate that too.

      1. Ama*

        I wonder if they’ve had problems in the past with ID’s asking for things their bosses didn’t want them to ask for. (Not saying the OP is doing this, this could be a legacy setup prompted by someone else.)

        We had an issue at my work a few years back with two employees under different bosses who were supposed to collaborate on a lot of their work, but the more experienced one started delegating more work to the junior one (my report) than she was supposed to. I got frustrated because my report was always busy helping the other person and unable to do the other work I needed to assign — but when I went to that person’s boss, I learned she had no idea her report wasn’t doing that work on her own. So we ended up with a system very like in this letter –if more experienced employee needed help beyond previously set limits she had to ask her boss who asked me, and my report was instructed that if the other employee came to her directly with extra work she needed to check in with me first before saying yes.

      2. JustaTech*

        I feel like this is another one of those cases where the bosses explaining *why* they both have to be filters for the information exchange would clear up a lot of both confusion and frustration.

        Is it because Mary is overwhelmed? Cool, and maybe OP will adjust the way they ask questions to be more efficient for Mary to answer.
        Is it inter-department politics? Ugh, but at least now the OP would know.

  18. Jennifer Strange*

    I’m also about 20+ years older than either of these managers

    Anytime a LW feels it necessary to point out how much older they are than their manager it makes me think part of their issue is feeling they should outrank the manager simply based on age.

    At the end of the day, this is the process that has been decided. There might be a good reason for it and there might not be, but unless it’s causing an actual issue for your work it’s not really worth complaining about.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Eh, my take is, ‘Hey, I’ve been in the workplace for a while and know how to behave, in case you’re concerned about that.’ Doesn’t have anything to do with rank, but business maturity and understanding communication protocols.

      1. Kes*

        I mean, they might think that, but trying to go around your manager and the process they specifically told you to follow isn’t exactly good behaviour or understanding of communication protocols.
        I tend to agree with Jennifer here; it comes across as OP thinking they know better than their manager because they’re older. It’s understandable why OP finds this process and way of doing things frustrating, but there may well be a good reason for it, and either way OP isn’t entitled to just decide to ignore what they’ve specifically been told to do because they want to or it’s easier for them.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I didn’t disagree with abiding by the request, nor did I suggest the OP should ‘go around’ their manager when they’ve been directed to use a specific process. That’s quite a leap.

          I only said that I didn’t take the comment about 20+ years as the OP establishing rank. Nothing more.

      2. Lisa*

        If they had said “I have X years more experience” or whatever, I would agree with you. Pointing out that they are “older” reads as having an attitude about power and rank.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I think that’s only one possible take. It seems to be the least kind one because it suits the reader’s particular narrative, and no other possible ones.

          There’s nothing wrong with reminding your boss/colleagues that you’ve conducted yourself appropriately in similar situations…heck, I’ve heard younger team members remind our boss they’ve been ‘doing this’ for X number of years. All I thought was, yeah, our boss needed a reminder that the person could do the job without handholding.

          If you choose to read that commentary as ‘power’ or ‘rank’, I think that says more about you than the person making the comment.

          1. Space Needlepoint*

            To me, at first glance this process does seem like it’s about handholding. I’d feel a bit weird and possibly a little resentful if I had to run a routine task through my boss every single time. I would feel not trusted, and if I had some years in the workforce my back might be up.

            I’ve been surprised at how many commenters say this type of information passing is a standard operating procedure where they are.

          2. Observer*

            There’s nothing wrong with reminding your boss/colleagues that you’ve conducted yourself appropriately in similar situations

            Except that this is not what the LW did. Instead they simply ignored the rule (which they “did not understand” aka did not believe, per the letter), and messaged Mary directly.

            I’ve heard younger team members remind our boss they’ve been ‘doing this’ for X number of years.

            Well, if that’s what the LW meant, that’s what they should have said. “I’m not new to the workforce (and I know how to behave)” is fine. “I’m older than you” is not the same – it’s a comparison where it’s just not relevant.

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              Oh, good grief, why is it so difficult to give the OP a pass on their choice of words? We can talk about what ‘should’ have been said, but y’all are assuming the worst of the OP’s comment.

              1. Jennifer Strange*

                It’s not a choice of words, though, it’s including information that isn’t relevant unless they feel it means something.

        2. NotYourMom*

          What really makes me agree is the other descriptions of behaviour. “I have more experience … I don’t like the protocols in place … I circumvented the protocols … Is there more I can do to get around the protocols”. Without those last three points I would read the age comment differently.

    2. Velawciraptor*

      That’s how I took that too. It just had a vibe of “these kids are idiots regardless of their title and I know better than this ridiculous process.” Particularly given that LW has decided at least once that they know better and went around the process.

      In my experience, if this sort of chain of communication has been set up, there’s a reason for it. Rather than assume it’s just dumb, you know better, and ignoring it, it tends to be better to find out why things are set up that way and address any problems it creates for you with your manager, as Alison suggests. And that means actual problems, not just “this is dumb and I should be allowed to do it my way.”

    3. Pummeled by PowerPoint*

      I don’t think that’s necessarily so. My take on this was this process could be seen as a level of micromanagement that the LW thought she was more than mature enough to not need.

      The process is very likely not about the LW at all, but since management decided not to offer an explanation, I don’t blame the LW for being peeved. They’re stuck with a process that is going to create an issue for their work because two extra steps have been added and that akes time.

      1. blah*

        If there was no explanation offered, then LW could have asked for one. Instead, they went around both managers and ignored the process that’s in place.

        1. Pummeled by PowerPoint*

          The letter mentioned that was done once as LW didn’t understand. I didn’t take that as being deliberately obtuse or defiant.

          Yes, they could have asked, but a good manager would have explained why it was important to do so. I’ve noticed from years of managing people that they are much more likely to internalize and retain knowledge if they’re given reasons.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            But why offer an explanation when the LW hasn’t asked for one? They may think it’s obvious.

            1. Pummeled by PowerPoint*

              You offer an explanation because you’re a manger who wants your employees to succeed and it’s your job to give them the best tools to do so. Explanations are tools. Just telling someone what to do may be being boss, but it isn’t managing.

              Someone who thinks the reasons for what they say are obvious is basically expecting someone to read their minds, which is poor management.

              1. Jennifer Strange*

                And yet there are people who, if the manager did explain it to them, would feel the manager was infantilizing them by explaining something obvious.

                Not every request requires an explanation. If the LW feels they need one they are free to ask, but the manager isn’t doing anything wrong by not giving one right off the bat.

            2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

              Because it’s obviously frustrating to have to go through several people.

              1. Jennifer Strange*

                Folks who do this type of work have stated in the comments that this is SOP, though, and in that case it would be obvious.

    4. Dancing Otter*

      Or the managers might be giving off an ageist attitude towards LW. Age discrimination is real.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Yes, it is. And who knows, it might be behind some of the comments on this topic.

      2. Jennifer Strange*

        But then why not mention that instead of just stating how much older you are than them?

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Because people should be able to express themselves without having to assume the worst in their audience. As it were.

          As long as we’re on the subject…why not assume that the statement was not about POWER or RANK or anything else that’s perjorative? You made a decision to choose the least flattering possible intention, and could have easily done otherwise.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            Sure, people should be able to express themselves, but we can only take from it what they give. They mentioned their age in relation to their managers, despite it having nothing to do with the content of the letter. I have a right to state how that comes across. Not sure if you’re the LW here or what, but you seem to be bristling quite a bit at a fair comment.

  19. Lily Rowan*

    #4 – I used to work at a place where that was SOP: I was never supposed to go directly to my counterparts, was always supposed to go to my boss, who went to her counterpart and back down to my level on the other side. It was insanely inefficient, but definitely How Things Were Done there.

    1. TheWallIsReal*

      LW4, I’ve spent most of my career as a tech writer. My experience is vastly improved when I’m classified as part of development in the org chart rather than marketing. I mostly work on very technical products so the folks I most needed to interact with were usually developers, but even when I needed to talk to SMEs in various other parts of the orgs this was true. That’s because it gave the dev managers a vested interest in my success and they usually had enough say to cut through red tape even in other parts of the company.

      I have worked in what we called “toss info over the wall” environments twice. That’s a typical name for environments where a wall exists between two different parts of an org and only gatekeepers can pass through the wall. Both times the wall was put up to protect dev folks from neverending questions from consultants, sales engineers, marketing, etc. but the wall was in place in both directions. When I worked on a product we designed to help the consultant group customize e-commerce sites we built and hosted for customers (this was back in the early days of such things) I was protected from getting overloaded by the consultants so well it was nearly impossible for me to get information about their needs from them. It was awful, and it was never solved. I ended up guessing most of the time.

      So your mileage may vary. I would also assess the relative importance given to their roles vs yours in your company. If you think you have more soft power in the org than they do, you might be able to break down the wall. Maybe. Otherwise probably not.

  20. el l*

    Why exactly do you want to work with these people again? I ask because…look, money and mission are important. But as a general rule who you work with and who you work for are at least as important, and those considerations are undervalued.

    So why would you go out of your way to work with (as far as you can tell) the exact same people who for whatever reason threw you under the bus?

    You have better choices. Don’t go back.

    1. Garblesnark*

      Yeah, I know unemployment is stressful and unpleasant but… did you have fun getting fired?

      I’ve been fired and can attest that it was not fun for me.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      OP2 is running out of unemployment. I think this sounds more like a desperation idea.

  21. Oh boy*

    LW#1: Back in the day when I worked in advertising, everyone was doing everything with everyone else–openly at parties, on the pool table (leaving a note!), in offices, behind the backs of the people they were cheating on their spouses with. It was considered a rite of passage for the men, and they would prey on the new women (usually young and in low positions) who were hired. There was almost no way to push back on it back then (and I was stuck in a difficult position twice and had to talk my way out of it), because you would be ostracized. So glad things are changing.

    I would personally report this because it is inappropriate behaviour on company time, it could be mutual or it could be coercion or a power imbalance, and in the me-too era this kind of thing no longer has to be ignored or swept under the carpet. No one should have to walk in on this and have to deal with it. I’m sorry you had to.

    1. HR Friend*

      Hey Don, I’ve been wondering where you’ve been since you left Sterling Cooper!

      Disagree with your advice though. There’s no indication there’s any coercion happening. What the couple did is inappropriate but also, it happens. LW has already dealt with it – they left & told the guy they didn’t need to talk about it. I’m sure the couple is so embarrassed that they won’t be doing that again any time soon, so what’s reporting it going to accomplish other than cause trouble? Suggesting there’s something illegal happening on top of it would be even worse!

  22. Fernie*

    LW 4, I recently had sort of the opposite experience – I asked our agency project manager to set up a meeting with me and one of my internal colleagues. I provided the colleague’s name and email address, and times we were available. I saw that the agency PM sent through the invitation, so I thought we were all set, but at the last minute I noticed in fine print that they had asked me to forward the invite on to my colleague, and hadn’t included them in the original invitation. What? I thought, why on earth wouldn’t they just include my colleague directly? How do I add any value by acting as a go-between? But I think it might be a culture difference, wherein the PM felt spectacularly rude reaching out to someone to whom they hadn’t properly been introduced. I will have to talk to them to find out more, and align our expectations.

    1. Llama herd*

      I once worked with a Professor who would do something like this. She’d send me an email adding me to ask someone else a question. It was never someone I knew nor related to a project I was working (she was not my professor, I was sort of tangential student help). So then I would email this other person myself and copy the professor. I was never sure why I needed to be the middle person. It was the email equivalent of ‘Let me Google that for you’ and drove me nuts, but I didn’t really have a way to address it since I had little power in the dynamic.

  23. Margaret Cavendish*

    Within three weeks, I was put on a performance improvement plan (PIP) and then fired for failure to perform after 90 days. They just let the PIP run and run until my manager saw enough minor errors to provide the documentation to HR for cover.

    HR screwed up several times by sending me emails announcing my firing before it happened and when my manager accidentally posted to our department Slack that I was on a PiP.

    LW2, this place sounds actively hostile to you! Your manager put you on a PIP three weeks into your new role, and didn’t do anything to help you improve your performance. The director thought you were being screwed, but also didn’t do anything to help you. The “highly professionalized” HR department somehow sent confidential information multiple times, and your manager posted to the whole department that you were on a PIP. That all sounds deeply unpleasant.

    It sounds like you applied just out of curiosity, and now you’re wondering if that was a mistake – it doesn’t look to me like you’re actually considering going back there. But if it comes to that – if they call you in for an interview, or goddess forbid offer you a job, please think very carefully about this! I understand you’ve been unemployed for a while, and it’s tempting to look back and think it wasn’t as bad as you remember. So when you’re considering your next steps, please keep in mind this was a group of people that actively wanted you gone, didn’t give you a chance to improve, and was careless with confidential information related to your job. This is not a place you want to go back to, if you have any other options.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Yes. My biggest question reading this letter was why the LW wanted to go back. I get it, in the context of being out of unemployment and needing something to pay the bills. We all need food and shelter. But this sounds a lot like walking back into a workplace that’s Full of Bees. Best case scenario, the LW ends up with a chain of command that doesn’t include the people who have it out for her and gets a supportive manager, but the odds seem high that those people are going to cause problems for the LW.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Going on my own experience and what I was told, my HR file alone will damn me if I apply there again. I’m guessing OP is going for something not involving that manager, but unless there was a miraculous turnover in the staff, I don’t think OP2 would get anywhere.

  24. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    LW 1 = same situation many years ago, I worked an overnight shift and while delivering printed output, heard noises in a conference room. Saw it and kept my mouth shut.

    LW 2 = I was asked, at least three times, in my nearly 50 year IS/IT career, to come back to jobs I was forced out of. The first one, I was “starved out”, but tried to negotiate without success. Four weeks later, at my new job (where I was earning enough to pay my bills and keep our house) , I received a phone call asking if I’d like to come back. They wanted me back at my old salary and “we could talk”. I countered, “make an offer, send the letter to my house and I’ll say yes or no, but make it worth my while. ” Talking with those clowns would have been fruitless. A second one – where I was laid off, and they asked if I’d accept a recall – I said “not without a no-layoff contract”… The last one, I was called but since I told them I had signed a contract with a competitor, I wouldn’t go back, and I am adhering to the contract as I am a man of my word.

  25. Anon Just for This*

    LW4, as someone who has worked in government for quite some time, I relate to this so hard. I’m at the senior staff level, so not in management. There have been times where if I have questions for or need something from a staff person in another part of our ministry, it has to go 2 or 3 levels above me (which is very high in our org), then across to an executive in the other part of the ministry, then down to the staff person. I think there’s a few things going on in my situation, including people being territorial (e.g., I don’t get to tell their staff what to do), political stuff (office politics and not pissing off the political side), and my executive wanting to protect us from demands from elsewhere. And probably other stuff I’m not aware of.

    That’s the thing with government work – you often don’t get a lot of autonomy. At this point, I just sigh and accept that they want to do things in an inefficient way.

  26. Red Rocks*

    I have worked seasonally and it sounds nickel-and-dimey for sure. Unfortunately, as I’m sure you know the only thing this type of employer typically responds to is who leaves over a policy like this and who doesn’t come back the next summer. I hope pushing back as a group works, but I don’t think you can out-logic this one. Honestly, add this to the tally and when it reaches a breaking point, go work for the next rafting company down the road.

  27. NopeRope*

    LW1: One thing Allison missed (rare thing for her, tbh) was this: it’s not okay for you to be on company time, on a company property, where there is a chance, no matter how slight, that your colleagues can catch you knocking one out. My old boss was dating another manager from another department and someone always risked catching them going at it at least once or twice a week. People should be able to control themselves at work, and when I was constantly catching my boss out it felt like I was a nonconsensual participant in their weird sex games. He even said part of the “fun” was the risk they’d get caught. I’d report it, if I were you. They’re already showing terrible judgment and if the next person who walks in on them is one of their direct reports, how are they going to behave?

  28. Over It*

    I respectfully disagree with the advice for #4. I was once an SME who knows nothing about ID working on building an online learning module, and the IDs I worked with knew nothing about the subject. I was allowed to communicate directly with them, but they strongly preferred email and a shared Google doc over meetings. Well, pieces of the course they kept turning in were all wrong. After a couple of frustrating months on all side, I said we had to start meeting weekly so we could discuss each element of the course as it was being built, assign tasks before the next meeting and followed up via email in between meetings. Maybe your situation is less of a skills mismatch than mine was, but I would imagine that you need some sort of regular meetings where you can talk directly with the SME on building the course (and if both bosses want to attend those meetings too, so be it as long as calendars aren’t too tight).

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      I think that the point is that if this is the system that the Boss is asking for, than the OP should follow it unless or until it causes a problem. They don’t know if it will cause a problem and since they don’t know why the system was set up and they should tread lightly until they have a reason to push back. I’ve done both ID work and been the SME. I do also know SME’s who work for a state agencies and are swamped, because along with doing this course on bear safety, they are also trying to go out and tag bears. So, yeah, they would really rather not be bothered with basic questions while they’re trying to do their other work.

  29. Another Hiring Manager*

    LW2, if you were fired after being on a PIP, no matter how unjustified it was, it is more likely than not HR is going to have an “ineligible for rehire” on your record.

    I understand the desperation of being out of unemployment insurance, but I wouldn’t expect any kind of response to your application.

    1. Pickle Shoes*

      That was my thought. It’s all a moot point in the face of that little detail.

  30. Ex-prof*

    LW 1, it seems like the issue is not so much dating co-workers as, er, doing so on company property during company time.

    1. Onomatopoetic*

      They might of course have clocked out for lunch and seems like a really remote spot too. Not that it’s a good idea anyway, but they might have thought that on their own time in a place nobody usually is around is reasonably discreet. People do get stupid when they are horny.

  31. Former Retail Lifer*

    #4: I work for a third-party company that manages properties for a variety of owners. I am not allowed to communicate directly with the owners at this location (despite being able to at past locations). The reason in this case is one that Alison suggested: they’re a pain in the ass. They make a big deal out of nothing, can be rude, and often ask us to break policy. As a result, everything has to be filtered through my boss. It slows everything down so much, but it keeps the peace.

  32. Ess Ess*

    #4 – I’ve worked on projects that had a similar setup for reaching out to SMEs. This occurred frequently when a SME was assigned to multiple projects for x% of time on each project. By funneling through the boss, there was better control over the amount of SME time allocated to each project instead of one project swamping the SME with direct requests that take up the entire day and keeping the SME from doing the needed work for another project. Also, depending on how the resources are being billed, it is possible that one department is charging the other for the amount of SME time used so going through the bosses makes it easier for them to track and verify billing.

  33. CraigT*

    OP2: I don’t think we’re getting the full story here. Seven months into your unemployment, and you’re worried about your benefits running out? Have you spent the last seven months applying for other jobs? Doesn’t sound like it. You should have been. Unemployment has been at near record lows for some time now. Employers in most parts of this country are begging for good people to apply. It’s not that hard to get on a payroll. Also, most employers are not in the habit of terming good productive people. I find it hard to believe that your former managers’ version of events leading to your termination would match yours.
    They are not going to hire you back.
    Go find another job.

    1. Space Needlepoint*

      If LW has been collecting unemployment benefits in the US, then they have had to demonstrate documentation that they have been looking for work in order to remain eligible. I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say they haven’t been looking just because it wasn’t specifically mentioned. In the spirit of believing the LW, and knowing those requirements exist, it’s better to assume they have been doing so.

    2. Pickle Shoes*

      Let’s say that LW was 100% accurate in their retelling. I’d expect their manager’s version to be wildly different, on account of that being what sketchy liars do.

    3. fhqwhgads*

      A much more logical conclusion is they’ve been applying everywhere else for seven months, their benefits are about to run out, this place has a posting suitable to their skills (like the original job they had, not the one they got switched to and fired from) and since no other applications have resulted in an offer yet, they panic applied back to this company because they’ve run out of both options and time.

    4. Rego*

      Also, most employers are not in the habit of terming good productive people. I find it hard to believe that your former managers’ version of events leading to your termination would match yours.

      What a deeply unhelpful, hurtful, and cruel thing to say. It’s also completely wrong: plenty of good people get fired for reasons that range from exaggerated to completely fabricated pretty frequently, as anyone who’s been in the workplace longer than 5 minutes should know, along with anyone who reads AAM.

      Managers are not automatic paragons of virtue who always tell the truth and nothing but the truth. The fact that the manager has a different version of events does not mana that what they’re claiming is accurate, objective, relevant, or even useful.

    5. Pizza Rat*

      Employers in most parts of this country are begging for good people to apply. It’s not that hard to get on a payroll.


      Do those employers pay enough to live on? Last I looked at the Bureau of Labor and Statistics the industry with the most job openings was “private education and health services.” Teachers get paid crap in the US. People like nurse’s aides barely make above minimum wage.

      It is that hard to get on a payroll. How many AAM comments have you seen from people with long stretches of unemployment? During my last stretch, I was getting one interview for maybe every 25 applications and my skills matched the job description from 80-100%. This is the norm right now for jobs that pay a decent wage.

  34. NotARealManager*

    LW2, it is 99% certain they will not hire you back (and I’m really unclear on your reasons for wanting to go back if that’s the way they treated you). As someone else mentioned, you are likely noted as “ineligible for rehire” in the HR paperwork and the manager who didn’t like you still works there. It sounds like what happened was deeply unfair, but you have to spend less energy ruminating on what could’ve, would’ve, should’ve been at that workplace and more energy on finding a new job.

  35. Moose*

    LW 4: It sounds like you’re taking something personally that likely isn’t about you at all. I would let it go unless, as Alison said, it causes issues.

  36. Jo-Maroon*

    OP 1: No problem, clearly touch is just their appreciation language at work. *eye roll*

    I’m so grateful Alison included this debacle on the same day as the letter about touch being used as a workplace “appreciation language”! XD

    1. Original LW*

      It was a university. I could have theoretically earned another degree for free (over 6-10 years. I was just beginning to look into using my available credit hours per semester). Also their matching for 401K was rather big. And the hours were gentle compared to other places. I’ve been hoping for a place that was financial stable, not tied to economy (at least this role) where people have stayed for decades. But I’m getting the feeling I shouldn’t even consider it this decade.

  37. NotYourMom*

    LW #4, I’m wondering what your past interactions with Mary have been like before this project? On the one hand, the structure that they are providing does sound like a lot of hoops to jump through. On the other hand, it sounds like you are trying to work your way around them and have directly messaged Mary despite being asked not to.

    We simply don’t have enough information to know why this is in place, but a portion of me wonders if it is at Mary’s request.

  38. Another ID*

    LW #4, this is very unusual. Mary’s job is to make sure you have the correct content, tone, jargon, etc. for the materials you’re developing and putting two people between herself and you is oddly formal and obstructive. I have no doubt you’ll be able to get your deadlines adjusted accordingly, given your experience level, but yeah, it’s weird.

    Congratulations on your impending retirement!

  39. Head sheep counter*

    LW #2, I empathize. I explored going back to an organization that put me on a PIP. I talked with the supervisor and almost pulled the trigger when my friends kicked my butt. You see… the person who put me on the PIP was still in the management chain. Even if I had somehow got the job and did well… that fact would have sat there like a turd and colored all of my interactions and fears. Note: it had been years since I’d worked in that group, the PIP was unfair and I wasn’t fired but instead escaped to another group at the organization.

  40. Pickle Shoes*

    I can appreciate putting steps in between people and a SME. My job has processes in place to dictate communication channels and it causes actual problems when people try to circumvent them, to the point where I completely ignore emails and phone calls from anyone who isn’t a coworker or client. Even responding to remind them they’re being inappropriate doesn’t help; it just leads to more contact attempts, like picking up a robocall.

    It’s odd that this process only seems to apply to Mary, though. There could be all sorts of reasons for that, including management being concerned about her work.

  41. I Have RBF*

    LW #2, you are barking up the wrong tree. If a place literally set you up to fail, then fired you, and hasn’t had a serious management turnover? You would be walking right back in to the toxic mess that spat you out. Just… don’t.

    You would do better to look in adjacent fields, maybe even avoid the non-profit space for a while.

    Don’t go back to a place that abused you.

  42. Erica*

    Every developed campsite I’ve ever stayed in charges *per spot*, not per person. There is usually a maximum vehicle occupancy limit of 1-2 cars, and probably some rule that you can’t bring like 30 people and have a rager, but in 30 years of camping I’ve never heard of differential pricing for 1 vs 2 campers in the same car, whether on public or private land (ok, one exception: camping at fancy developed hot springs where camping includes access to the spa/pools – but that’s a pretty far cry from LW’s situation.)

  43. Derry Girl*

    #4. Oh how I feel for you! I was in exactly the same position, not allowed to approach people with whom I was meant to be working directly. Like you, I didn’t really understand the reason at first but over time it became clear that my manager wanted to control everything that happened. An example: We would get an email asking what our opening hours were. We weren’t allowed to reply directly but had to forward the reply to the manager for her approval before sending it out. All queries were the same- her first and then the customer. I worked in a library so I wasn’t giving away trade secrets or anything. Eventually I could stand it no more even though I had only a couple of years until retirement and I applied for a different job, same money but my boss trusts me to do it myself. I’m so much happier I can’t explain. Hope you eventually manage to work things out.

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