someone emailed me about my employee’s behavior outside of work

A reader writes:

I recently got an email from someone with screenshots concerning an employee of mine. They were of a personal nature directed to an organization outside of work using her personal time and her personal equipment. They didn’t concern work at all. They weren’t racist or hate-filled rants or anything of that nature.

It was between her and her child’s school. It was sent to me semi-anonymously. I personally wouldn’t have handled the situation the way the employee did and think it could have been handled better by both parties, but I have read through the correspondence and I could care less what happened between her and the school. I also don’t have the whole story, nor is it any of my business. There were no threats made, although she used some colorful non-hate-related swear words. She also didn’t mention our company.

This employee is great at her job. She is passionate and straightforward and some of her demeanor can read as adversarial, which is honestly what I pay her for. I have no complaints about her work or the person she is while she is here. I don’t know her outside of work. I am the owner and also her manager.

I don’t even want to mention to her that I got the email. I just want to say it is none of my business and delete the message and forget about it. Can I just not tell her I received anything and chalk it up to this doesn’t concern me? Should I respond back to the person that this isn’t my concern (or my company’s) or is it best just to not respond at all?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 171 comments… read them below }

  1. Juli G.*

    Tell the employee. I’m in HR and I get this type of thing at least once a month. Twice in my time, when I talked to the employee, I found out the reporter was someone that the employee had a restraining order against.

    I get why it’s awkward and it might put your employee on edge but if you don’t have the full story, I would let them know someone is reporting their behavior to their employer.

    1. ursula*

      Telling them also heads off a situation where the employee later finds out that this email was sent (eg. because the reporter brags about it, which seems very possible) and worries about what you’re thinking and whether this is going to affect them at work.

      1. EngineeringFun*

        Tell the employee. I was an adjunct professor and a student cyber bullied me by emailing chair, provost, president about how horrible I was. I didn’t find out until a police officer show up to my class. The school waited until it got so bad that they could prove it was a student. It was scary for me as I am often alone on campus late at night and we didn’t know who it was. I figured it out only after I was allowed to read the letters….

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          When my student tried doing this to me (chair, dean, and president), her emails were fully signed and I was cc’ed! She didn’t threaten me or anything. She just let everyone know how terrible I was as a professor for scheduling the exam when I did (during a scheduled class period students were supposed to attend anyway).

          1. Noncompliance Specialist*

            Ugh this takes me back to my time in admin at a college. I was in a position where I had to say no to people a lot (or even just ask them for supporting documentation) and people would just immediately email to the VP of my division and/or the president complaining about me, without even responding to me first. I honestly thought I was going to be fired the first couple of times it happened. Until I realize that the president definitely wasn’t reading most of his own emails and 99% of these issues were completely beneath his notice.

          2. EngineeringFun*

            Yep mine was over a few points in a homework that was worth less than 2% of a grade. Super frustrating.

    2. AnonCat*

      Definitely tell her! I once had a stalker who started sending hate filled rants to my work’s social media account. I secured a restraining order that prohibited him from harassing me at work. Thankfully my boss told me, and he was held accountable for violating the restraining order. Even though he didn’t physically go to my work, his behavior was still violating it. I’m so grateful my boss told me. It helped knowing my work had my back during a frightening time.

    3. goddessoftransitory*

      I agree with this. It’s not fair to leave the employee out of this loop that wasn’t of her making, and she should know to at least change her passwords, lock down her social media, and so on going forward.

      Obviously, LW, you want to make it clear you are just letting her know, that this does not affect her standing at work, and you consider it none of your business, but it is hers, and you aren’t going to keep her in the dark.

    4. Generic Name*

      Yes, please tell them. I found out that my ex had emailed my employer (via the “contact us” button on the website) demanding to talk to the CEO and complaining about what an awful lying liar I am and threatening my employment. HR didn’t proactively tell me, and I only learned about the message when my lawyer suggested I ask because he had said he was going to contact my employer in an email to my lawyer. The HR person didn’t think it was relevant, but that piece of information helped me get a protection order from my abuser. Please tell.

  2. Matthew*

    It’s despicable the way people try to settle personal or political disputes by bring others’ employers into the mix. And it’s frankly bizarre that any employer gives such tactics the time of day.

    1. Jeez-it*

      In this case, I agree. But in general, I think there are some cases where it’s important to let employers know who their employees are. In cases of racism, abuse, and behaviour that is harmful to others, please send that anony email.

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        It’s nearly always someone with a personal grudge, not anything relevant to the employer, their coworkers or the employer’s reputation.

        I’d be very suspicious of any anonymous communication and would probably bin it, especially as it is more likely photoshopped or hacked.

        1. Wade*

          From a Robert Heinlein novel: “Before my revered father died he made me promise him three things: first, never to mix whiskey with anything but water; second, always to ignore anonymous letters; and lastly, never to talk with a stranger who refuses to give his name.”

      2. Maisonneuve*

        I don’t think there’d be many cases for me where an anonymous email would carry more weight than personal experience with an employee especially for situations that aren’t work related. Also, I’m not sure the employer is often best place to solve issue where there’s a real concern about harm that’s not work related.

      3. Laura*

        I reported an acquaintance who was saying horribly racist and classist things on her (public) Facebook page. She taught head start and at least some of her posts were about her students, whom she was also posting photos of. She got fired; I feel zero guilt about it.

        1. The Kulprit*

          Thank you for doing that, it was absolutely relevant to her job and the effect she’d have on the kids she worked with.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          This I have no problem with. She clearly A) was a terrible person and B) allowing her terrible beliefs to affect her work. Plus, posting pictures of kids who trusted her? NOPE. That’s the definition of fireable offense.

          1. 1LFTW*

            Posting pictures of kids when she probably did not have permission to post them? Also the definition of fireable.

            Every job I’ve had involving kids has had a waiver form that parents have to sign in order for my employer to use photos of their kids in *official* communications only. Unofficial personal social media? Nah. Maybe others’ experiences are different, but every employer I’ve ever had would consider that to be a huge potential liability.

      4. Candace*

        No, it is almost never this. It’s usually someone behaving utterly unreasonably over some personal grudge or conflict, or violating a restraining order. If it IS something serious, have the guts to sign it. Cor rightly, the employer won’t believe a thing they get anonymously.

    2. Teacher Creature*

      Unfortunately, parents do this to teachers all the time. A good friend of mine who performs as a drag queen on his own time in his own space just lost his teaching job because parents dug thru some drag performance pages and found his photo.

      Another coworker was in hot water because she posted a photo of herself on her personal facebook at the beach holding a margarita. Apparently teachers aren’t supposed to have fun ever.

      And this is in a blue state.

      1. Too Many Birds*

        Horrible. Where TF are the administrators who can shut this shit down?!

      2. Enai*

        That is still a failing of the school district: a terse “Our teachers’ conduct outside of school has no bearing on their employment unless it is criminal” should be all the complainant(s) receive.

        In hot water or even fired for performing at a drag show or drinking (what looks like) a margarita at a beach is completely outrageous. What’s next, the swimming instructor fired for publuc indecency in front of children (read: wearing a swimsuit to the pool, to teach, you know, swimming)?

        1. kupo*

          There was a marketing person fired from Nintendo of America for performing fully clothed burlesque shows.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          Quite probably. I can see certain groups whipping up a frenzy over a “too revealing” bikini or similar.

        3. Band-Aid*

          Are Olympic athletes unable to get future employment as teachers because they’ve been photographed publicly performing in (required!– ugh) progressively skimpier “uniforms”?

      3. Irish Teacher.*

        Honestly, I’d blame the principals in those situations more than the parents. I am pretty certain that if any parent told my principal I was holding a drink in my facebook photo, he’d just roll his eyes at the ridiculousness of the complaint and go on about his day.

        And in the first case, the teacher lost his job because the principal or head of the board or whoever chose to fire him. Yeah, the parent was wrong to send that photo, but whoever fired him was, in my opinion, far more to blame. They had the choice to ignore it or to act and they chose to act and to use the absolute most extreme and ridiculous response.

        There are always going to be parents and students who have grudges against teachers. Administrators should know better than to pay any attention to them.

        1. Flasher Bat*

          My aunt was a principal and my uncle a teacher, and everyone in the family was told in no uncertain terms to never post any photos of them holding an alcoholic drink, even if they weren’t tagged or otherwise identified. Apparently the school board paid investigators to comb through employees’ families’ socials to find anything even marginally inappropriate (in their view) that a student hypothetically could be exposed to, with the employees facing termination as a consequence. So even if, say, a relative posted a photo of a family dinner (not during the workday, not at a school or school function) and the principal or teacher (both over 21) were visible holding A GLASS OF WINE (a legal substance), they could have lost their jobs. Not dancing on the table, not wearing revealing clothes, not screaming and pointing at a cat across the table, just sitting in a chair chatting pleasantly with other adults, but holding a glass of the devil’s own wine. Even if a friend of the relative who doesn’t even know the teachers reposted it without their knowledge, the teachers could get dinged.

          This was a public school district in northern Illinois, btw, not even a religious school or the Bible Belt. It was completely insane, I don’t know how it was legal, and some relatives still have bruised feelings over it.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            Unfortunately this crap has a long, long history. It used to be that female teachers automatically lost their jobs when they married (because SEX) or got pregnant (because children can’t realize Miss Pattie is also an adult woman starting a family.) Goes back to the days of The Little Red Schoolhouse.

            1. Sivvy*

              Yup. My mother announced to her principal that she was pregnant with me right after the Supreme Court heard the first pregnancy discrimination case in 1973.

          2. Quill*

            Yeah, this is why so many teachers I used to know had facebook in what wasn’t their full legal name, because there was always one of these things going on in the district, or in another nearby.

            It was usually parents (or kids old enough to understand how much of a pain in the ass they could be) who were mad that they weren’t getting special treatment, or who were finding reasons to dislike a specific teacher that weren’t (as) obviously discriminatory.

        2. Delta Delta*

          Yep. I had a friend who was a teacher who got in trouble for being in a group photo where there was a beer bottle on a table on the the other side of the photo.

      4. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        When I was teaching, I had a fellow coworker who went out for margaritas with friends the night her divorce was finalized. She says that she admittedly got a little tipsy, but not loud or obnoxious, and she did not drive herself home. Everyone with her was over 21. In other words, she was doing everything a responsible adult should do, and for god’s sake, she had just gotten divorced.

        The next day, a parent who recognized her at the restaurant called the admin and complained. She got a freaking write up for it.

        Everyone asks far, far too much of teachers.

        1. Uranus Wars*

          I used to be a bartender. These stories of teachers getting “tattled on” for drinking baffle me. Our teachers were our wildest (and most fun!) patrons. They got rip roarin’ drunk but never drove, never caused a scene and tipped really well. In a bar in their own school district, during happy hour.

          Once there was table dancing (of the innocent very uncoordinated variety) but that was during a private party they held each year for Christmas.

          1. Bruce*

            It must depend on the area and the district. When my wife was teaching she would meet her teacher friends at a local brew pub once a month… we went for our first date on the usual brew-pub Friday and once of her friends spotted us walking by holding hands… she was teased a bit at work the next week :-)

          2. Quill*

            There was a bar in my hometown where the teachers went for “thank god it’s not midterms / finals / parent teacher conferences anymore” and TBH I think third servings of beer and onion rings kept it afloat.

        2. Frieda*

          We ran into two teachers from my kids’ school when we went out to dinner as a family at a popular local Mexican place once – each of them had one of our kids in her class! We considered sending margaritas to their table but instead just warmly said hello and left them to their conversation, since we didn’t know them socially outside of school.

      5. Spaypets*

        The teachers in my very small town have written into their contract that they are allowed to have private lives. (I forget the exact wording). Because apparently at some point there was pearl clutching when a teacher was seen buying beer in the town’s only store.

        1. Bruce*

          My brother in law is a retired Methodist minister, when he started they were no longer required to “take the pledge” to abstain from alcohol. He and my sister still felt they had to be careful where they bought their moderate supply of wine and beer since a lot of their parishioners assumed all Methodist ministers were teetotalers.

      6. Christmas Carol*

        In my town, when the interwebs was young, a group tried to ammend the Teachers Code of Conduct to include that any posting on Social Media of any activity or action that would not be legal for a student would require immediate terminaton of employment. It was pointed out by cooler heads that that would include such behaviors as driving a car, werving on a jury, taking out a mortgage, or getting married. The resolution eventually failed, but not without threats of lawsuits on both sides.

        1. lbd*

          Or working. Students are very restricted in the hours they are allowed to work, especially on school days. Or outright banned from working at all, for any under at least middle school age!

      7. not nice, don't care*

        Maga in blue states can be really aggressive in attacking when they think they have some legal/official grounds to do so.

        1. Observer*

          Maga in blue states can be really aggressive in attacking when they think they have some legal/official grounds to do so.

          This has nothing to do with MAGA – this stuff has been an issue before the term existed. And some of the worst offenders are absolutely not MAGA or red.

          You know what’s common among these types? A high level of judginess and self-righteousness.

          1. Magenta*

            Absolutely this!
            Judginess, self-righteousness and the need to control are found on both sides of the political spectrum.

      8. don'tbeadork*

        Uxorem Caesaris tam suspicione quam crimine carere oportet.

        Yeah, teachers are not supposed to have fun ever. We’re supposed to live perfect little lives in shallow little ponds and never, ever let anyone think we’re human beings.

      9. Laura*

        People’s attitudes towards teachers are completely unhinged. And it’s even worse that these teachers were fired for this stuff. Teachers are people! They have lives!

      10. CatMintCat*

        I am a teacher in Australia and, thank goodness, have never seen anything like this. Many of our parents give us bottles of wine as Christmas presents.

        1. TinySoprano*

          Hear hear! My teacher bestie goes to the cocktail bar across the road from her school when she’s had a rough day. Though she does send her housemate to the supermarket sometimes, to avoid the students.

      11. Nik*

        Teachers often have to sign a contract saying that won’t post certain things on social media (alcohol, political speech, etc.) even when it is on their own time and unrelated to the school.

    3. Beth*

      I think there are cases where it makes sense, but this isn’t anywhere near the bar.

      There are behaviors and opinions that we as a society are better off not tolerating. People expressing or acting on their hate for a given race/religious group/sex/gender/etc shouldn’t feel safe in their behavior. Same for people acting predatory or threatening towards another group. We’re all better off when there’s backlash and material consequences for that. Plus, given that people like this don’t leave their opinions at home from 9-5, most employers would be very interested to know that one of their employees is virulently racist/homophobic/threatening towards women/etc.

      But the report described in this letter isn’t that. Swearing at your kid’s school administration does not make you a menace to society.

    4. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      “between her and her child’s school”

      Also sounds like a serious breach of confidentiality at the school.
      Whoever is leaking or being careless about security needs to be stopped

      1. Squidoo*

        Depends on what was contained in the messages… We don’t have enough info to know if this was any kind of FERPA violation or similar.

      2. Kyrielle*

        If it was an email exchange, sure. If it took place on a public Facebook page or on Twitter, etc., maybe not.

        And if it was an email exchange that included details about her kid or a situation related to her kid, there’s a real likelihood that whoever shared it (assuming a school employee and not a fellow parent) violated FERPA rules, too.

    5. Irish Teacher.*

      And I think it’s worse than usual in this case, since it appears to be somebody from her child’s school (though I do recognise it could be somebody like her child playing a prank, if they are a teen or an abusive partner who sent it rather than the school employee she was corresponding with). Not only is that incredibly unprofessional and more something that should be reported to their employer than hers but also, they are…sort of in a position…not exactly of power, but they have the ability to set boundaries. They have a fair bit of control over the situation, which makes it even more bizarre to involve the person’s employer.

    6. JTP*

      I disagree. I reported an acquaintance’s husband to his employer — he is a cop. Someone was asking on FB if an upcoming BLM march would be peaceful because she wanted to bring her child.

      The cop replied, “Come on down, it’ll be fun!” along with a silhouetted image of cops beating a person.

      1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        I mean, that’s arguably pretty related to the job itself, so wouldn’t fall under the same thing everyone else it talking about here. A cop talking about how he and others are going to behave as a cop *is* work-related, not just political/personal.

        1. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

          No arguably about it. If I posted on social media that I planned to perform my job badly* on purpose for political reasons, regardless of the job and even if it was a good cause, it’d be more in-bounds for my employer to take notice of that than of the issue in the original letter.

          *assuming for the moment that the police want to maintain at least a fig leaf that beating up peaceful protesters is not part of their job when it’s performed correctly.

      2. not nice, don't care*

        Thank you!
        I know cops in 6 different agencies. Far too many are actively engaged in speech and conduct that is politically-motivated threats and bullying. Cops that don’t share this mindset are at risk of being fragged, so often don’t speak up, or have experienced retaliation from up the food chain when they do speak up.
        Bigoted cops should not be cops. Ever.

      3. RagingADHD*

        It’s interesting that both the examples cited in this thread as supposed exceptions or disagreement to the top comment involve statements and actions that are directly related to the person’s job and likely violate policy and /or the law.

        The top commenter here was talking about “personal and political” disagreements. Not disparaging the business’s clients, violating privacy policies, or a public servant making violent threats against community members.

        1. JTP*

          There were people in my local community’s public Facebook group spouting hateful rhetoric and slurs about the trans community. I wouldn’t have thought twice about reporting them to their employer, whoever it may be, if it was named in their profile. You may call that “personal and/or political,” but if they say that in a public forum, what are they saying to people they may work with? Or clients?

          1. RagingADHD*

            And if they had a public connection to their employer, it would clearly be relevant to the employer to deal with. Many employers have social media policies barring employees from publicly naming their employer for exactly that reason – they don’t want to be associated with (or deal with) whatever people may be spouting.

            If the person were expressing those views at work, it wouldn’t be a secret. Customers or coworkers could complain and the employer would be able to deal with it directly.

      4. Quill*

        If the laws weren’t so screwy about cops I’m pretty sure that would be legally a threat.

  3. Dr. Rebecca*

    The other day, someone on twitter stated they were going to report some mean tweets to the person’s employer, in this case Princeton University, where the second person is a professor.

    Having worked at many universities, and worked with people from Princeton? Yeah, no one’s going to care at all about anything that doesn’t effect the university. Not one bit. You’d have to rent out an ad in the paper declaring yourself to be speaking on behalf of the university and then do some REALLY bad shit before they would even sic the media office on you, let alone have it effect your job in any way.

    Thank you, LW, for handling this well.

    1. Kevin Sours*

      My favorite in this genre was the person who replied on Twitter with “Good luck, I’m the person you would report me to”.

    2. Orv*

      I think it does depend on the university. Some university administrations are very conflict averse and will throw employees under the bus at the first sign of trouble.

        1. College Career Counselor*

          Agreed. Not-yet-tenured OR staff members have a very different landscape to navigate.

          1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

            At state universities like the two I have worked for, the non-faculty support staff jobs are often classed as civil service, which can make those employees very difficult to fire.

            in other words, an administrative assistant working in the office of the School of Llama Grooming at Acme State University often has more job security than non-tenured faculty members. A lot more.

        2. Butterfly Counter*

          I mean, if they are tenured, good luck throwing them out for anything less than being truly abhorrent.

          1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            Sometimes, good luck throwing them out even if they’ve been consistently abhorrent.
            But fair point that the same is not true for non-tenured folks and staff.

    3. CherryBlossom*

      I can’t believe the Kendrick/Drake beef even made it to the AAM comment section! This truly is everywhere. (Tldr: two rappers have been swapping diss tracks and it’s gotten very, very viral.)

      Seriously though, it really is awful how often people try to escalate twitter fights and involve workplaces, families, friends, schools, etc. I’m just glad LW hasn’t let it affect their view of their employee.

    4. djx*

      ” Yeah, no one’s going to care at all about anything that doesn’t effect the university.”

      I think in the current environment, for adjuncts and other non-tenured academics who hold progressive views, the situation right now is far worse than in the past.

      1. Rock Prof*

        Yeah, I know of multiple instances where some academics and researchers have lost jobs or been not allowed to teach their regular classes specifically because they espoused climate change and environmental issues in their classes or in outside activism. Different issues, but we’re also seeing this now with the campus protests and faculty joining in.

        1. Quill*

          It’s telling how some people are persecuted for teaching the actual science and some people are given unlimited platforms to lie, cheat and steal.

          Or, you know. How some people’s violent “counterprotest” is somehow more protected by free speech than people who are actually gathering nonviolently.

    5. Shoes*

      He has since walked back from the as the internet can be a cruel mistress. He seems to be saying it was some sort satire/learning experience. It may have been, but the internet is not a place for nuance.

      1. FAFO Flamingo*

        It definitely wasn’t satire. There are some other dynamics at play that make it clear (racial/gender) but the most important being he actually tagged in the Princeton account in multiple
        tweets which means whoever runs it was made aware of the exchange. He very notably didn’t tag them in the tweet where he tried to walk it all back, once he realized that he was out of his depth and his attempts at intimidation didn’t work.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          Yup. And who is this man to have any business imposing a “learning experience” on a Princeton professor. The delicious irony is that his initial thread included saying “Don’t try to change your words now” in response to his threat to report her to Princeton.

    6. …and Peggy*

      Ohhhhhh DJ Vlad

      He (rightfully so!) got roasted for being a mega-Karen.

  4. learnedthehardway*

    Agreeing that the employee needs to know this is happening, and also needs to know that you have no personal or business concern about the email you received. This is a time when delivering a stressful message that something has happened really needs to be accompanied by support and solidarity.

    You might want to ask your HR business partner if this is the company approved way to handle these situations, though, just in case they have a policy about this kind of thing.

    1. Resentful Oreos*

      I agree with your comment. Inform the employee *and* let her know you have her back. Employee deserves to know there is a busybody and/or a person with a grudge out there, and to know who it is, and protect herself accordingly. And she will be reassured that you know about this, and don’t care, and she is not in trouble or in danger of being fired.

      People can be so amazingly petty. Sure, there are some things (potential violent behavior, open bigotry) that should not be tolerated, but losing your temper with the powers that be at your child’s school is not anyone’s business but theirs. Same with writing steamy fanfics, practicing a non-mainstream religion, in fact anything that is legal for adults to do and isn’t actively harmful should mean mind your own business and don’t go tattling or doxing.

  5. Aelswitha*

    After you talk to your employee and before you put it out of your mind – make copies of everything and make notes about how/when they were received and what you did. Then seal all that in an envelope and keep them. If this comes up a year down the road for some reason your notes will assist with your memory and carry weight. Retired cop here, so maybe overkill. But also maybe not.

    1. RLC*

      Great advice and not overkill in my opinion. Decades ago in university our engineering law professor made the same recommendation about notes and records (construction related concerns can show up long, long after a project is completed). When I retired I had many sealed envelopes with notes and records about observations on everything from site conditions to civil rights violations to employees’ interpersonal conflicts I witnessed. A few times those notes were used in official court testimony.

  6. Hotdog not dog*

    I once got an email that my employee was DRINKING! In a BAR! In PUBLIC!
    He had TWO beers and was flirting with a lady!
    Reader, the gentleman in question is a) in his 30s and b) married to the lady in question. We still have no clue why the person who sent the email bothered to do so. I did let him know in case it might be something he was dealing with, but he was as baffled as I was.

      1. Tradd*

        If he knew the name of the person, easy enough to find them on LinkedIn. Also, a lot of people list where they work on Facebook or other social media, which I think is not wise at all, unless their social media use intersects with work. I actually had to hibernate my LinkedIn profile. Someone was causing trouble for me online due to a bland comment I made that they didn’t like. I didn’t want them finding where I worked, so LinkedIn profile went night-night for the time being.

        1. I Have RBF*

          Pseudonyms are wonderful for keeping social media and employment separate. My name is rare, so my off-hand snide remarks can be traced to me if made under my wallet name. So I have a long running pseudonym.

          The irony is that I found out that some people were stalking my pseudonym, to the point of driving around my (then) small city trying to find my address. But the pseudonym was not tied to an address, so they couldn’t find me. The reason for the stalking? Religion. They didn’t like the fact that I was pagan.

      2. metadata minion*

        If it’s a public-facing job, or the email was from a client, it’s not that weird that the letter-writer recognized the employee. Everything else from that point on is bananapants.

      1. The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon*

        Shades of “one does not dance with one’s OWN wife at the ball!”

    1. Antilles*

      I would have let the employee know too and been just as baffled.
      I also assume the conversation would then turn to more detailed questions about what he was drinking, whether it was good, how the vibe of the bar was, food quality, etc. You know, just because I am a concerned citizen who wants to understand the quality of local establishments.

    2. Paralegally Blonde*

      Had a previous government employer who prohibited us from wearing attire with the employer name anywhere on it outside of work (while simultaneously requiring many staff to wear uniform shirts, so I guess everyone was supposed to change in the car), just in case we went to a bar or something on the way home. This is fine. I totally understand that wearing a government-issued shirt in a bar doesn’t have great optics.

      Then, that same government administrator absolutely lost their marbles when they saw a fire truck at the grocery story. “What will people think if firefighters are buying food on duty?!?!” Hmm, could it be, we’ll think you make them work 24-hour shifts, they might like to eat while working a 24-hour shift, and that it is more efficient for them to respond to an emergency if they have the whole team and the truck with them than if they have to wait for Brad to drive back in his Corolla from the store so they can head out to that fire?

      1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        I would not be able to help myself. I would write an email to that govt admin and say exactly what you just wrote. “Jimmy, I haven’t been able to get your reaction out of my mind even though it happened in 2019. You were worried what people would think. Here is what I think. ___”. and then put the latter half of your last paragraph in there verbatim.

        1. Paralegally Blonde*

          Well, it was from 2015 (May 4, in fact) and I neither lived in the county or worked for them any longer, so don’t really feel I had standing. Having just gone to dig up the old news stories, I see the real complaint was that they drove to the store to get breakfast supplies, when the policy is they’re supposed to schedule their errands to take place only when returning from calls. The next day, the news reported that the fire chief declined to discipline anyone, but did order retraining on the policy. (Also, it was an elected official, not the administrator, who complained.)

          Coincidentally, while they were at the store buying sausage, biscuits, and orange juice, there was a medical call and crash right next door they responded to while they were there.

      2. Lana Kane*

        I see firefighters buying groceries aaaalll the time, and have seen this is a few different states. Isn’t this a normal thing?

        1. Birdie*

          Very normal, imo.

          In fact, one of the local fire stations stops at a nearby grocery store at 10 am on Saturdays (barring an emergency), and so when my kid was little, I made sure our Saturday grocery trip occurred at the same time. The firefighter who got stuck waiting in the truck for everyone to finish shopping would always oblige all the kids, letting them peak inside and handing out stickers. And the fire fighters in the store would happily give high fives to all the little kids who would run up to them and say hello.

        2. Nik*

          We had a local firehouse that would drive their firetruck to the YMCA (which was very close to the firehouse) to work out.

      3. Elle Woods*

        I saw this happen once! Maybe it your employer I witnessed lose their marbles at a grocery store because a fire truck was parked in the fire lane? It was one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen someone argue about.

        1. Christmas Carol*

          No, bizzare would be losing you marbles seeing a cop at a dounut shop.

          1. Resentful Oreos*

            These days, at least in my area, Starbucks has replaced donut shops as the go-to cop refreshment stop.

      4. metadata minion*

        I would be briefly alarmed if I saw a fire truck in front of the grocery store, but it’s usually going to be glaringly obvious whether or not the truck is there for professional reasons, and I am fine with enduring a moment of worry in the name of firefighters being able to buy cereal :-b.

        1. AnonORama*

          My local supermarket is often frequented by fire fighters in their truck, and they park in the waaaaaay back. That way no one thinks the store is on fire, and they’re not taking up several of the good parking spaces. I’m good with seeing them there — I’m sure they can take emergency calls from wherever, and we want them to be adequately fueled and hydrated!!

        2. Rose*

          I’m guessing it wasn’t glaringly obvious (fire fighters deal with a lot of non fire emergencies) and that’s why the person freaked out? Because a fire truck “shouldn’t” be in the fire lane if they’re just there getting snacks. Ya know, in case an actual fire broke out and they were blocking the fire lane from a different fire truck coming from further away? /s

      5. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

        People are so weird! I had a colleague who drove a university vehicle to a meeting at another school. On the way, he stopped in a rest area and ate a sandwich in the car. Someone called the university to report him for misuse of a government vehicle (he didn’t get in trouble for it, but they did tell him about the complaint).

        I heard about another employee who was fired – he had checked out a vehicle to drive to a site early the next morning, and stopped to pick up a six-pack of beer on his way home. Someone reported him and he lost his job.

      6. Double A*

        There is a fire station next to my usual grocery store and most of the time when I go in there are firefighters shopping. I just assumed they were shopping for the station? Like what else would I think? I even assumed they were using taxpayer funds to stock the fire station. And if they need to pick up some personal stuff too, using their own funds, sounds efficient.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        That is literally what came to mind for me as well. “OMG how dare you hug that man… [who is your husband]”

      2. Not Your Sweetheart*

        Connie Schultz is a treasure. I follow her on FB, and subscribe to her Substack. She rarely gets into politics, but when she does, she doesn’t hold back.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I did let him know in case it might be something he was dealing with.
      I think this is the best part of the advice–that an angry person going to these lengths shouldn’t be relevant to the employer, but it could be relevant to the person being “reported” for snarkiness outside of work.

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

      Was the person a teacher or someone who works with kids? I’ve seen that happen a lot.

      When my mom was a teenager (so 70’s) there was a teacher who was essentially ran out of town, because she was seen in the back yard of her boyfriends (a divorced or widowed dont remember) man. They were both the same age. She lost her job all because they were kissing in his fenced in back yard. Nothing was done to him, but because she was 1. a woman and 2. a teacher she lost her job and was ostracized

    5. lilsheba*

      Wow that is a person who is a nosy pos and who has nothing better to do than “tattle” on people.

    6. Part time lab tech*

      I was working as a field officer on a a biosecurity contract with about 100 other people. Over 6 plus suburbs with no office to return to. Someone was swinging during their lunch break.
      The supervisors rolled their eyes and didn’t quite say the residents were being ridiculous. They still told us to take off our high vis and not to all go to the same parks so the optics were better.

      1. Enai*

        Forgive me, but they were doing what during their lunch break? Swinging, as in, the dance? Swinging, as in swapping sexual partners? Practicing golf? Tennis exercises? I am confused.

  7. umami*

    Definitely tell the employee and also emphasize that you plan to ignore it. Something very similar happened to me when I was in one of my first jobs – an ex of my boyfriend at the time found out where I worked and called my boss making all sorts of claims against me. I was mortified when she told me, but the fact that she said she was just letting me know and that she wasn’t the least bit interested in the information that was shared just meant so much to me at the time. And it was a bit of an ongoing issue I was dealing with concerning that person, which did lead to a restraining order, so the information was helpful to know.

    1. Nilsson Schmilsson*

      Same! Ex-wife of the hubs, called the president of my company. He just came in and said, “I’m not dealing with this shit.” LOL This was just before she contacted the police in her town, who called me to find out why I was harassing her. I had never even spoken to her. The officer that called me was not amused and suggested that he was going to pay her a visit. And it never happened again.

      1. umami*

        Wow, that really resonates! That was a lot of what she was saying about me too, that I was the one calling her and harassing her, even though I had never spoken to her before in my life. She even once convinced my BF (before the calls to my boss) that I had called her and said some nasty things to her, and at first he believed her because she called him so distraught and with a very specific script of things I had said. I’m like, what, of course I didn’t say any of those things! He couldn’t believe what an actress she was, it was pretty awful for a while.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      This highlights another reason to tell the employee in the letter: if she needs to or is building a paper trail for legal reasons, that the person who is harassing her is calling her work should be documented.

  8. Momma Bear*

    I agree to tell her, clarify it doesn’t impact work, and move on. It may not affect you, but it might affect something she’s dealing with outside of the office.

  9. Zona the Great*

    I would definitely want to know if my employee (if it was an employee of the school) was doxxing parents or otherwise patrons of the school.

    1. Glazed Donut*

      +1. If this person has this information because he/she is an insider at the school (another teacher, a secretary, etc), I would think it would be important for that person’s supervisor to know that private communications are being shared. Depends on the situation and the language used – but in general, information concerning children shouldn’t be shared with third parties (ie the LW). As someone who works in education, this would definitely concern me regarding the semi-anonymous person’s judgement.

    2. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Yeah, in addition to OP letting their employee know, I would also be contacting the school. Schools aren’t allowed to share information about students!

  10. Spero*

    I’ve been on the receiving end of these messages about my team, and we handled a few different ways. First, if we felt it was truly nothing relevant to work we did respond to the message stating we did not feel this information was relevant to their work, then informed the individual that someone had reached out to us but that their concern did not merit any workplace action. Second, we did have someone who we asked to remove their social media profile listing that they worked for us if they were going to have these types of interactions through that profile, but again no workplace action. However, in one case the individual was harassing others online and we did let them know we could not move forward with them if they were harassing others due to the nature of our work and the fact we did have a pretty broad conduct policy. What you described sounds like category 1 to me.

  11. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    I would let the employee know, while reassuring them that I give this semi-anonymous person’s opinion no credence. I would also be strongly tempted to write back to the “reporter” and let them know that what they are doing is uncalled for, unwise, and can expose them and their organization to legal liability, and that they should never do it again.

  12. CityMouse*

    My initial reaction was to say just delete it but Alison and the comments convinced me otherwise. Especially from a school, the fact that they’re leaking private conversations is really terrible and the employee needs to know about it.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      If I were the LW’s employee I would be livid that whoever this was sent information concerning my kids to anybody! (Among all the other reasons to be livid.)

  13. SALC*

    Tell the employee for sure, and if this is a situation with somebody who works at the school the employee may want to escalate it to their supervisor. Just like you don’t care what your employee is doing out of work but if AT work they were dealing with an obnoxious client/customer/whatever and went to that persons boss instead of pulling you in to help deal with it, you’d be questioning their judgement

    1. Artemesia*

      the principal of the school needs to know what his staff is doing; forward it to them.

  14. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

    It’s official: “Colorful Non-Hate-Related Swear Words” will be the title of my band’s next hit single.

      1. Panicked*

        Reminds me of those old Orbitz gum commercials. “Who are you calling a cootie queen, you lint licker?”

  15. Yup*

    There is a time and place and subject matter for this kind of thing–and this is not any of it. Parents at my local school pushed back on a teacher for posting Islamophobic, sexist, deeply problematic content on their public social media. This was a real issue that had to be dealt with, even if many people thought personal pages = none of people’s business. But for a teacher who is in charge of Muslim, girl, and racialized students, it said A LOT about their biases in and out of the class.

    But this isn’t that, so I would say it’s not that sending info to an employer is wrong, but that looping an employer in to your personal bugaboo battle is wrong, and this person needs to be told to back off.

  16. theblues*

    My brother-in-law fought a long custody battle for his children, when their mother was truly incapable of caring for them and also cutting him out of their lives entirely. Ultimately, something that helped his case was that his manager received an absolutely unhinged text from the mother. So yes, I would definitely let the employee know, and just be very, very clear that you are only passing it on as information – no judgement in any way.

  17. pally*

    Another reason to let the employee know about this -and sooner rather than later:

    If the emailer person decides to taunt the employee -directly – about emails they’ve been sending to their employer, that employee is going to be in a difficult position. Having no idea about these emails prevents them from getting in front of something like this.

    And they are going to be disappointed with their employer for not providing a head’s up when they could have.

  18. Marcia Langman*

    Dear Pawnee City Council,

    I am lodging a formal complaint about your parks department employee Ron Swanson. This Ron person frequently performs a saxo-phone show at a night club. His performance is inappropriately arousing particularly to women as well as my husband Marshall and I demand he be fired immediately.

  19. Art3mis*

    I was on the other end of this, which Alison answered a question about. An eBay transaction went sour, the buyer found me on LinkedIn, and threatened to contact my employer about it. I had to tell my manager about it just in case. He thought it was weird and gave HR a heads up. If the guy ever did contact my company, I never heard about it. All because the buyer didn’t know how to request a return. But if I hadn’t alerted them, I’d want to know, just in case there was an ongoing harassment issue with the person.

  20. Bob*

    What’s the business equivalent of “cool story bro” because that’s what’s needed for a reply.

  21. TheBunny*

    Tell the employee. She is in the best position to know the motivation behind it being sent.

    I agree with Alison to make it clear that there is no concern as her boss, just that you thought she should know.

  22. so very tired*

    Eons ago, I worked for a small online magazine and I had this exact thing happen to me. Some anon person sent my boss, the editor, a “concerned report” about my activities on gossip websites etc. This was mid-2000s internet days, so we actually had those back then. Fortunately my boss had my back 100% – he brushed it all off as a concern AND told me as a heads-up. He wanted me to know that some doofus was doing too much and that it wasn’t a problem or issue for us and our work. There was literally no proof either. Some people get in their heads that they’re going to try to ruin your life.

  23. Anon in IL*

    Would be tempted to send the classic Cleveland Stadium response (but would not do so). Link in reply. Language NSFW.

    1. LizardOfOz*

      Also, a more recent one, linked for the details because it involves a t-shirt with some obvious (if censored internet word filter style) profanity:

      The response to the letter intending to assert that LAPD is a copyrighted term is masterful in its brevity (unlike this comment, XD): LOL, no.

  24. hello*

    It would be nice if we could get the links to the original post for these Inc redos, unless I’m missing it somewhere? I’ve just been searching the first few sentences of letter text to find the originals.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      I have no problem going to the Inc website but it’s impossible to read anything there on my phone. The text keeps freezing for multiple pop ups and videos so I usually give up before I have managed to read it. I’ve flagged it to them a few times. Ironically, I have to click back and reclick the link a few times just to get the first par read, so it probably looks great in terms of traffic.

  25. Have you had enough water today?*

    My top tip for all the new employees I hire is to have a different name on socials to the name on their Linked In so creepers cannot track them that way.

    This is a good policy for everyone because you have info on your Linked In that tells people where you work, often your general location (which can also give away where your kids go to school if the area is not big enough to have several different schools), as well as where you will be on certain dates if you travel to conferences & expos for work & this is posted. Don’t give weirdos the chance to track you down IRL!!!!!

  26. Ms. Elaneous*

    WHYY fired an employee for performing as a stand-up comic ( they didn’t like the jokes and perhaps missed the verbal sarcasm font).
    Fortunately, the employee had a union contract(SAG-AFTRA), and the union went to bat for him.
    The employee prevailed in the end, but I heard WHYY went well into 6 figures paying for outside counsel.

    God Bless unions – and the Lawyers who work for them.

    WHYY Ordered to Give Comedian Jad Sleiman His Job Back

  27. H.Regalis*

    I had to handle these calls when I was a receptionist at a place where the employees were all out in the field and we had an admin office that was supervisors, admin support,
    and a hub of picking up supplies, doing trainings, etc.

    Wildest calls I got:

    1. A man called and wanted to know the current location of an employee. They had had some kind of Facebook Marketplace sale that had gone south. He wanted to show up at the guy’s worksite and fight him, I guess? Then he called back a couple of hours later and apologized to me for being such a hothead.

    2. An after-hours voicemail I was so glad to palm off on our HR person. Guy calls and leaves a message accusing our employee and his husband of damn near everything under the sun: They’re part of the Sinaloa cartel, they sell coke, they’re human traffickers, they molest children, on and on. He didn’t say they committed genocide, but it was close. Our HR guy got the fun task of calling the employee and being like, “Hey man, someone you know really doesn’t like you.”

  28. Kenneth*

    Nice to know cancel culture is still alive and well where people try to escalate personal conflicts and vendettas. The bad thing is that you make the situation sound egregious enough with exaggerated or even out-right manufactured details and the employer very easily may terminate the employee in question without giving the employee any chance to defend themselves.

    And with how easily deepfakes can be made online, how easily text conversations can also be manufactured, it really cannot be understated how skeptical employers need to be with anonymous reports about an employee.

  29. Chronically Online*

    Small request! Could you possibly make these links open in a new tab instead of the current one? Love reading your outside articles (and definitely happy to give you a click), but sometimes I don’t have time to read right away and want to leave it open until I’m ready.

Comments are closed.