coworker pries into my romantic life, telling an employee to be less uptight, and more

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

1. Coworker keeps prying into my romantic life

I’m a woman who’s not straight, and not out to anyone where I work. I’m in my mid 20s, and a coworker who has to be in at least her 60s is constantly making remarks about me having/getting a boyfriend. In one instance that happened today, I was typing something on my phone and when she saw this, asked if I was “texting my boyfriend.”

Even though it doesn’t sound as if she means anything malicious by it, her comments still make me really uncomfortable. I’m not sure how to best address this because I’m not a very confrontational person, and I don’t want to out myself accidentally. Do you have any advice for how I can respond to this coworker if she does this in the future?

Give her a weird look and ask, “Why are you always asking me about a boyfriend?” Or: “Why are you always asking me about boyfriends? It’s a weird thing to keep saying.” You said you’re not very confrontational and so you might feel rude saying this, but I want to stress that it’s not rude! It is really odd of her, and if she’s well-intentioned, she’d want to know that she’d making you uncomfortable / coming across strangely.

But if you want a softer option, let your face look visibly unhappy/uncomfortable and say, “Could you please stop making comments like that? It makes me really uncomfortable.” This is also not rude to say! This is letting someone know they’re doing something they probably don’t intend (making you uncomfortable) — and again, if she’s well-intentioned, she’ll appreciate knowing (like if you kindly tipped her off to a massive chunk of spinach in her teeth). There’s also, “I prefer not to talk about my dating life at work, thanks for respecting that.”

There’s a certain breed of person who, once out of their 20s/30s, assumes everyone in their 20s has a wild dating life or wants a wild dating life, is possibly wistful about not being in that mode anymore themselves, becomes intrusive on the topic while thinking they’re being supportive, and nearly always assumes heterosexuality. You’re allowed to correct these people’s boundaries and tell them the comments are unwelcome. (There are other explanations for the behavior too, but this one is especially common.)

2. My dad says I shouldn’t ask what kind of training I’d get as a new manager

I have applied for and received an interview for a new position. The position is manager level, and it would be my first time managing a group of people officially. Throughout my 10+ year career, I have led various projects and teams of people, so “being in charge,” delegating workloads, delivering feedback, and other various managerial tasks will not be new to me. In my opinion, not having an official people leader role on my resume is my biggest weakness on paper. I fully believe in my ability to be a manager; it does not scare me.

I know you typically advise against taking job-searching advice from parents, but my dad works in the same industry. I was discussing with him the list of questions I had for my interviewers, which included a question about what type of training the company provides for new managers. My dad said that I should not ask that question, or any question relating to leadership training, because it will come across like I am doubting my ability to manage and would require training to be able to do it.

Part of the reason I am interested in this role is the potential for advancement beyond the manager level, so I am curious about how this company prepares their people for advancement. Is asking about manager/leadership training a terrible idea? Is there a way to frame it so it doesn’t come off like I doubt myself?

Don’t listen to your dad. When I’m interviewing someone who would be formally managing for the first time, I want to see that they have a healthy appreciation for the challenges of moving into that role and that they’re not assuming everything will be smooth sailing or that they have nothing to learn. Formally managing for the first time is a huge learning curve, and it goes far better when the new manager understands and expects that. You don’t want to seem insecure, of course, but you also don’t want to come off as cocky or like you don’t think you’ll need any support.

And for you as a candidate, it’s far better for your first management position to be with a company that offers new managers support and doesn’t just throw you in to sink or swim.

The one tweak I’d make is that rather than just asking about training, I’d ask about what kind of support you’d get as a new manager. Formal management training is fine as far as it goes, but you can get much the same from a book or myriad YouTube videos if you’re motivated to; what you really need is ongoing support and mentorship.

3. Career opportunity vs. marital sacrifices

For over 20 years, my wife has dedicated herself to the same company, now serving as an executive who genuinely loves her job. Since 2015, she has been able to work remotely, which allowed us to move three times to accommodate my career. Throughout this journey, her patience and accommodation have been remarkable – I am truly fortunate.

We’re currently residing on the east coast, but our situation could change yet again. A year ago, I experienced a mental health crisis that led me to leave my job. Since then, I have taken a dead-end role in a field outside my expertise. Not only is the work unfulfilling, but the pay is also inadequate. An incredible opportunity has now presented itself – an amazing role that aligns with my experience. However, accepting this position would necessitate yet another move across the country.

The prospect of constantly restarting in new communities at our age (in our 40s) is daunting. Moreover, the time difference between the potential location and the east coast would strain my wife’s remote work situation with her colleagues. I am torn – I don’t want to remain in this dead-end job or settle for any available position just to stay put. Yet, I also cannot fathom negatively impacting my wife’s health, happiness, or career, for she has been more accommodating than any spouse should ever be expected to be.

We are at a crossroads, weighing our options. We could stay on the east coast, where I would either continue searching for a new job or potentially not work at all. Alternatively, we could relocate across the country, which would mean my wife working 2-3 hours behind her colleagues and the arduous task of building a new local support network. A third option would be for me to move alone, leaving us to navigate the challenges of residing apart while finding ways to visit one another regularly. None of these scenarios seem ideal, as they all present significant sacrifices. The question that weighs heavily is, how can we strike a balance, pursuing our respective careers while nurturing the profound commitment of our marriage?

You’re putting an awful lot of weight on this one single job. If it’s not right for your family (because it would strain your wife’s work situation, ask something grueling that she’s already done quite a lot at this point, or require you to live apart), it’s okay to decide it’s not right for your family and keep looking. That doesn’t mean that you’re dooming yourself to the job you’re in now. It just means that one across the country isn’t right for you.

But this is also very specific to your marriage, and to your wife. Maybe your wife is the rare person who enjoys moving around and starting over socially. Maybe she’s not daunted by the prospect and is encouraging you to do it. But since you’re citing the work challenges for her and considering living separately, I’m guessing that’s not the case. So where does she stand on this? If she’s anything other than wholeheartedly enthusiastic — this person who has already uprooted herself three separate times for your career in the past — then I think you’ve got to decline the west coast job and keep looking locally. That’s a sacrifice, yes, but she’s already made a bunch of them and it may simply be your turn.

4. How do I tell my team member to be less uptight?

I am the manager of a new marketing writer, “Adam.” Adam joined my team six weeks ago and I am finding his uptight nature at odds with company culture and the work that we do.

Adam is very reserved and incredibly polite. All his interactions on chat and email are formal: hope you’re well, etc. In meetings, he is very scripted, reeling off actions and status updates. There is no banter, light-heartedness, “how was your weekend?” or joking about.

When we interviewed him, I really warmed to him as someone who was quiet, but pleasant and cared about doing well. Now in employment, that has translated into awkwardness and a reluctance to say when he is finding things hard and needs help.

My company is in a classically traditional, corporate space but we are actively about not being like that, and being creative and conversational and interesting instead. I have found Adam’s uptight nature filters through into his writing, which is dry and corporate—even after he has made efforts to make it less so. Adam is unlikely to pass his probation period at this stage.

As a manager, I am casual and friendly, swear like a sailor and like to have a chat as well as talking shop. This is the same for other team members, so the cues are there that it’s okay to be more informal. How do I get Adam to lighten up? I want to tell him to relax, but I know that will only make him self-conscious.

Separate out the work issues from the social ones. If Adam were doing great work, wouldn’t it matter much less that he’s formal in emails and meetings and doesn’t banter or relax? Those things aren’t — or shouldn’t be — the reason he’s unlikely to pass his probation period. But the work issues very much are, so focus there. Right now, he’s not writing the way the job requires, so give him clear and direct feedback about where his writing isn’t hitting the mark and what needs to change. Give that feedback on individual projects, but also talk to him about the pattern — be clear that this is a broad issue with how he’s approaching the work in general, not just small tweaks to individual pieces of writing. And if you haven’t been up-front with him that you can’t keep him in the job if this doesn’t get fixed, be honest about that; he deserves to know so he can make good decisions for himself (like starting to look around at other options now rather than being blindsided when he’s fired one day).

But try to separate out the social stuff. You’re seeing it all as part of the same problem — and perhaps it is — but the really relevant and actionable pieces are the ones about his actual work.

5. Did my old company own the rolodex I created while working there?

Years ago, I worked as a paralegal at a law firm. When I started working there, I had come from a much larger firm where one of my tasks was to request medical records. At the new firm, it turned out that this task was the bulk of my job and I quickly noticed that many of my colleagues used Google to locate contact information each time they needed to call a facility. I decided to create a rolodex for myself to keep track of contact info for the places we routinely requested records from. It just seemed silly and inefficient that I would request information from ABC Medical Center three times a week and would have to google their number every time I needed to follow up with them.

At first, the rolodex was hardly useful and only had a few names and numbers. But by the time I left, it was full with almost every single medical facility you could think of, their main telephone number, their direct line to the medical records department, and the name of the person handling the records, plus a supervisor’s name. At my desk I even had taped up lists for entire medical systems with all the hospitals/clinics in the system and all their contact info. People often came to my desk to browse the rolodex and would sometimes leave post-it notes or email me asking for contact info. All that to say, if you needed to get a real person on the phone, I knew who that was and how to reach them.

About a year before I left, they hired Jane. She was inexperienced and had a rough time getting used to the job. Eventually I moved on and when I did I took my rolodex with me. I heard through the grapevine that Jane did not improve and soon after an old coworker told me that when management pressed Jane about some of her issues, she blamed me for not having the proper contact information. That same week I got a call from my boss practically breathing fire and threatening legal action because I had taken my rolodex. She said that my rolodex was the firm’s intellectual property and I had no right to it and was keeping Jane from doing her job well. I was confused and initially refused to “return” it because in my opinion it never belonged to them. It was something that I created for myself to make my job easier, that no one else at the firm had seen fit to do, and that everyone else benefited from while I worked there. After my boss spent 10 minutes speaking legalese at me, I offered to make her a copy but told her that I needed the rolodex in my new role. She was less than nice about that suggestion, and I got upset and flat out told her that it wasn’t my fault that people relied entirely on me for something that I didn’t have to do — something that anyone else could have done, that anyone else could still do if they felt like it (or, ya know, they could go back to googling like they were doing before I got there). We were at a stalemate and as I was young I got the “this is how the real world works” lecture with veiled threats about how this could impact me and my future career. I thanked her for her “concern” and hung up.

My old coworker recently joked about it but framed it as if I was in the wrong. Something along the lines of, “Remember when you told Old Boss to shove it and they couldn’t have their rolodex back? Haha.” That mildly annoyed me but got me thinking. Was it “their” rolodex and not mine? Should I have just handed it over? Again, I was more than happy to make a copy but old boss wasn’t just upset that they didn’t have it. She seemed more upset that I was using it to “thrive elsewhere.” Quotes as those were the exact words she used. How should I have handled it?

Yeah, legally they owned it. It was your idea to create it and your work putting it together, but that was done as part of your work for that company, so it falls under their legal ownership. (Just like if you had the idea to create any other new initiative while you were there; if it’s done as part of your work for them, legally they own it.)

Your boss handled it really terribly, but she wasn’t wrong on the fundamental ownership question.

{ 810 comments… read them below }

  1. Daria grace*

    #3. This could be something that might be worth getting a couples therapist involved with. Professionals like that don’t just have to be for when something has gone terribly wrong but can also help people sort through their relational dynamic and productively work towards a way forward that works for both partners

    1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Actually I think an individual therapist for LA. They sound like they’re what we call in recovery speak “pulling a geographic”. Moving/new job doesn’t solve problems that are primarily with your mental health since you have to take your brain with you.

      1. Meep*

        +1

        My aunt is a lot like this. She flights between dead-end jobs (once she quit after less than because I quote “[her] boss was a b*tch”) and often moves states to do it. She is coming back to Arizona from Maine in the fall after leaving Arizona because “it was too blistering hot” and made her “miserable”. Doesn’t have a job lined up and relying on her parents in their 80’s to support her, instead of addressing the underlying problems.

    2. ThatMom*

      This.

      The tone of this letter sounds very much like OP is viewing this decision through a binary lens: either he rages the job and his wife is miserable, or he doesn’t take the job and he’s miserable.

      There’s a middle ground here.

      It also sounded a bit like he doesn’t feel he can trust his wife’s responses to the question of “would this work for us” for some reason.

      But all in all, this sounds more like a communication problem than a decision-making problem.

      What are your goals as a couple? Are there children involved? (My family moved a lot when I was a kid, all the moves were fine except the one while in high school, 1/10, do not recommend. Highly recommend trying to stay planted long enough for any kids involved to complete all 4 years of high school in the same place.) Are there older parents involved who may need care down the road? Cultural concerns? (both my kiddos are LGBTQ+, we won’t live in states that aren’t affirming/supportive)

      There are a lot of decisions about where to live that go beyond getting a job.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        ^^ This. The OP didn’t tell us what sort of mental health crisis, and I don’t want to speculate, but I had a sibling who had a specific mental health issue and part of it was this incredibly binary, black-and-white thinking and catastrophizing. Part of that was believing that everything going right hinged on one particular thing happening and if it didn’t, everything would collapse, or everything was ruined because one particular thing hadn’t happened at one particular point in their life.

        If I were in the wife’s shoes, I would be very, very not enthusiastic about leaving all the positive knowns of my job to move across the country for a job that my spouse may or may not like or succeed at, and is definitely not going to fix all their issues. There is no One Perfect Job, and there are so many unknowns here. Surely there is more than one amazing job that aligns with his/her experience. Also, as the kid of someone who got dragged around the world as a trailing spouse and had to keep starting over, I’m kind of side-eyeing someone who wants yet another move for their career. I would feel way better about this if the LW was able to find some way to thrive where they are before deciding to make yet another big life change.

        1. So they all cheap ass-rolled over and one fell out*

          We have no idea what lw3’s wife’s position is on moving or not, because her thoughts seem to be entirely missing from the question. For all we know she might actually be enthusiastic about it. I know at least a handful of people who work East Coast jobs from the West Coast and love that they log on at 7 am, log off at 3 PM, and then have the rest of the afternoon and an entire evening to do stuff.

          1. CommanderBanana*

            Right – which is why I said that would be my position based on my life experiences. Maybe the LW’s wife is champing at the bit to do a fourth relocation for LW’s career and is looking forward to working the opposite coast’s hours. Only the LW’s wife knows that, which is why the LW needs to have this conversation with them.

            1. So they all cheap ass-rolled over and one fell out*

              Oh, I would feel exactly the same as you, and I don’t even have either of your life experiences backing it up!

              My comment was more about how it really varies depending on the specific person, and it’s really conspicuous how absent LW3’s wife’s opinions are. She’s the one and only person who can tell LW3 if she is enthusiastic, very very not enthusiastic, or somewhere in between.

              1. CommanderBanana*

                Good point (also, 5/5 microwaves for the “cheap ass rolls” username).

                Also, speaking as someone who had a mental health crisis that affected their career, it would absolutely have been a disaster for me to relocate for That One Dream Job, thinking that it would solve everything. Because at the time I would have totally believed it would have solved everything and it would definitely not have. I had to spend some time getting a handle on the mental illness first. Turns out it wasn’t the job after all, it was a chemical imbalance!

            1. Wonderer*

              I guess it depends on what sort of “early bird” she is. I believe in this case she would be starting work at noon and continuing into the evening? That’s usually not as interesting to most people, but maybe she plans to make really good use of her mornings?

      2. Hannah Lee*

        I did get the sense that there was some binary thinking going on. And also that if for some reason LW’s wife was NOT up for a move, what would play out over the next 6-12 months would be some variation of LW viewing anything that is not going well through the lens of “this wouldn’t be happening if I was able to take that one perfect job”

        Looking at what the LW wrote, they have relocated roughly every 3 years over the last decade. While some people may take that kind of upheaval in stride, for me, after the 2nd move for my spouse’s career, I would be a bit burnt out from starting over someplace new.

        The 3rd move would have felt like “this is it” and having to be the one with stable productive employment through all of that … NOW seeing my spouse struggling and spouse determining that the ideal solution to that struggle is doing Yet. Another. Move. especially one that would take us clear across the country* and add complexity to MY work life, particularly on the heels of all the disruption from the pandemic AND spouse’s mental health crisis – I would be VERY hesitant to make that move.

        My sense for LW is that while this new position seems like THE one and only perfect fit, it may also be appealing as a ‘reset’ from all the difficulty of the recent past. It might be better if LW continues to job search somewhere that everything else about the couple’s life can stay the same … only LW’s job will change. I like the idea people have suggested of LW applying things that are an improvement over the current position, but that have opportunities for growth. And focusing on things that would not require ANY relocation, ie they are either in the current area or can be done remotely. That way LW’s job can improve without completely upending the couple’s entire world.

        (Note that moving is one of the top life stressors. This couple has already absorbed with the stress of 3 moves in the past 8-9 years. I would not be looking to order up another round of that … no matter who’s career it would be for.)

        *away from all our current support systems, resources that we’ve established over the past few years, including LW’s mental health care team

        1. Wonderer*

          I remember learning that moving 4 times is roughly equivalent to a house fire, in terms of the amount of damage/loss to your possessions! It’s not just about the mental impact and stress!

      3. Boof*

        Yes – I was sort of assuming no kids because they weren’t mentioned but I also moved a lot because of two professional parents, and as a kid I thought it was a grand adventure; except switching schools my senior year of high school. That sucked and I don’t think it did me any great favors though I guess living in chicago for a year gave me a slightly more diverse friend background (as much as one gets a more diverse friend set going from public to private school anyway; there was certainly an entitled attitude culture that didn’t provide the best launch to college even if I tried not to pay it much attention).
        Vs, my now husband, says that a move in middle school was absolutely the best thing that happened to them, becuase they were stuck with a group that relentlessly bullied them (outrageously tall + ADHD = easy target / lots of buttons to push I guess) and having a new start in high school made a big difference for them.

    3. Anon4thisan*

      This but also why are you looking for roles across the country? Look for ones in your state or east coast, there are plenty. I had a sibling who tried to mess up others lives because her life was not in a good place. Moving across the country does not mean your life will be in a better place. It means your wife, who has supported you and is the main earner now has to make more of a sacrifice for something you might not stay for? Sounds from your letter like your wife has to stay in her role because you have moved around so much and have had mental health issues. That can be hard in a spouse.

      I had some mental health issues and my spouse had to stay at their role because if it and it caused them their own health issues. They didn’t feel they could be open with me about wanting to change because of what was happening to me. I figured it out within a year, but your partner also needs support.

      What about your network? Can you ask around? Get a certificate? You may need to take a lower role that has growth potential (which is what I did after my health crisis). Apply widely and don’t just apply for roles at the level you were at before and above. Apply for some that are a level below but have growth potential.

      I think it’s also a good idea to volunteer. I volunteered and I realized that life really wasn’t so bad and I was in fact very fortunate and it helped with my perspective on life. Doesn’t solve everything but it personally really helped me with my mental health.

      Sounds like your wife is an executive? Is it hard for you that your wife is the breadwinner? How do you support her? Do you do the majority of housework if your wife is working more/ when you left your job? May be a good idea for you to go to therapy alone to unpack all of these things.

      1. Hamster Manager*

        Yeah I agree, my first thought was ‘why are they even looking at jobs so far away?’

        This isn’t the only job out there, and it doesn’t sound like you’re even in the running for it yet? So you’re tying yourself up in knots over something that’s not a reality at the moment.

        I’m sure there are plenty of jobs that would be a great fit that are either local or remote. OP sounds a bit adrift at the moment, so I would really not recommend uprooting everything for a maybe good job, and making your very patient wife’s live significantly harder. Take Anon’s suggestions on finding something close to what you want to do where you currently live, and avoid major life changes right now.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          I agree as well. If this is a once in a lifetime dream appointment like “Santa’s elf” or “great white shark researcher” that is specifically tied to one location, well, that’s–that kind of job, but most jobs aren’t that niche in terms of physical proximity being a non-negotiable.

          I wonder if the LW found this dream job so irresistible BECAUSE it’s so far away–a combination of “fresh new start where everything is perfect!” and “oh well, it would have been nice to take perfect job, but at least this way it can’t disappoint me.”

      2. Sopranoh*

        The “why” is such a good question to ask. You’ve moved 3 times for this job. You don’t need to be tied to a specific location. Why is the one that is so “perfect” the one that will cause the most upheaval for your spouse? I would reject any type of move until I’d unpacked this with a therapist.

    4. CubeFarmer*

      This is good advice.

      It seems like, instead of writing to AAM, LW#3 needs to have an honest conversation with his wife. Speaking for myself, if I were in LW’s wife’s position, another move wouldn’t bother me, especially if it meant that my spouse was more fulfilled and secure than before.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Whereas it would bother me a great deal. I am the primary earner in my family. I would never endanger my own job under the circumstances LW3 describes by moving across the country and being that far from my team and/or shifting my hours that significantly for my own mental health. What if he has another mental health event with the new job, and my job is no longer as secure? Given the upheaval it sounds like their family has been through, I’d crave some stability/security for myself and strongly prefer that my spouse be the accommodating one for once.

        1. Meep*

          Yeah, I don’t mean to be unkind because sometimes it takes awhile to find the right job for you (my own dad started off as a research scientist, moved into insurance, and ultimately became a teacher in a span of 15 years – thanks to my mom being the breadwinning exec), but I am always skeptical of people who go into jobs thinking it is going to fix everything. It is a job. Not a magic potion that is going to make your life miraculously better. And thinking otherwise sets you up for failure. Hell, I could easily see the first time something very minor goes wrong, he starts spiraling because he lacks the coping skills.

          My own aunt is a job-hopper in her 60’s because she keeps thinking the next job is going to change her situation for the better and she doesn’t want to put in the work to build her own path. (She wants to be a studio photographer but never wanted to intern for someone, so now she does secretary/pay roll work for medical facilities and is miserable about it.)

          I think he is better off not working at all right now and working on learning to be happy with himself.

        2. Mad Harry Crewe*

          They’ve moved three times in ten years. That would be way too much for me. LW3, you’ve asked your wife to uproot three times for your career – each one of those is a big ask, and at the end of the day, you left your career. Have you made equivalent large compromises for your wife? Be really, really honest with yourself about this. If not, I’d urge you away from asking her for another.

        3. goddessoftransitory*

          Plus, it sounds like her health insurance is keeping the family afloat in that regard–if she did lose her own job, could the LW take on that responsibility at this new workplace?

      2. Petty Betty*

        I’ve been the stable earner. My 3rd ex bounced from low-paying job to low-paying job and refused to get treatment for his mental health, physical health and addiction. It was rough. The constant fighting. The constant stress. The constant worrying about money. I wanted to leave my job because it sucked, but I couldn’t. Then I got a better job and he got mad because HE wasn’t succeeding. I had to baby his ego instead of celebrate my achievement. We moved to a better home and his mother bragged about how HE was the one who made it happen. He never did get better. We divorced. I kept putting my own health on the backburner that I had a full mental breakdown last year.

        At some point, something’s gotta give in this LW’s life. How much support is she getting. Does she like moving so much? Why do you need to move so much?

        1. Bananapantsfeelings*

          I’m sorry, that sounds so hard. I wish for good things for you as you recover!

      3. What_the_What*

        Having moved 24 times, it would bother me a lot. Especially now that I’m entrenched in a career that I love and am thriving in and have a great network. The wife is an executive and he’d be putting her career at risk moving due to the time difference, etc…It shouldn’t all be about HIS feeling more fulfilled and secure. THEY both need to feel fulfilled, and he shouldn’t be applying to jobs so far away they’d even generate this level of angst.

  2. Person from the Resume*

    LW5: You were in the wrong. You created it while you were at work so they were paying while you created it.

    I doubt you would have had any issue or complaints with taking a copy with you if you had left the original there so they could keep using it.

    But, honestly, they paid you to create it so you should not have necessarily taken it with you to a new job to help the new company. OTOH they would not have cared if you’d left a copy at the place that paid you to create it.

    1. Oui oui oui all the way home*

      I’m surprised they were okay with letting her take it to use at her new workplace. Ordinarily, anything created while working not only belongs to the employer, but it can’t be taken by the ex-employee to benefit another company.

      I wonder where LW got the idea that it belonged to her. If that were the case, then anything someone has created while working would belong to the individual. Imagine if this were the case and happened in different workplaces (would NASA engineers own the rockets?)

      1. Cmdrshprd*

        “I’m surprised they were okay with letting her take it to use at her new workplace. ”

        I guess that no one really knew OP took it at the time, because it is not like an employee walking out with a computer/laptop etc….. I imagine it is just a paper file with contact info. Maybe it was a actual Rolodex, that would be a bit different, but when I left my last job I walked out with a box of stuff that was all personal items, no one checked/inspected it to make sure I didn’t take any company property, so I could have taken some company property/files with out people knowing if I wanted too. I didn’t , but I could have.

        I think OP would have been fine to take a copy and leave original, or vice versa, because it really isn’t any proprietary information it is all public knowledge it just takes time to gather it all.

        1. Allonge*

          To me, the most surprising thing in all this is that it was a paper file. If OP created this in times when Google worked to find the numbers, it would have been already easier (and easier to both take it and leave it) to have an electronic version.

          Anyway, yes, created on work time = belongs to the employer in the overwhelming majority of cases.

          1. serenity*

            That’s exactly what I was thinking. Google but no ability to save searchable information – say in a spreadsheet?

              1. Triplestep*

                Same. If this happened post-Google, the Roladex was already obsolete. There were any number of tools OP could have been using to create a shared contact list, for example Outlook. That could have been exported (or even printed in a pinch) to take with her. Usually arguments like this are about the propriety of someone taking any digital files or contact info when they leave, the assumption being they’ve left the originals behind. I can’t imagine this conversation happening since the invention of the floppy disk.

                1. KateM*

                  I can imagine only if OP grew up during time when rolodex was The Thing and was very comfortable using it, but Google was a new thing for them.

                2. Clisby*

                  Oh, I don’t find that confusing. I was a computer programmer for 27 years, am very familiar with Google and Outlook, and I would find an old-fashioned paper Rolodex far more convenient. Just like I know how to use Outlook or Google calendars, but I don’t – I think a paper calendar is easier.

                  I doubt the company really cares what form it’s in – they just want the info that was created on their dime. LW should send it to them.

                3. Lyngend (Canada)*

                  Honestly? I find a paper list of phone numbers and departments easier to locate on the internal website. Y company has the. Trying to relocate the list of numbers every time I need it. And with how many tabs I usually have open, easier to find if I needed it everyday. (due to our phone system I only need it for external numbers and security called from my personal phone)

                4. Yorick*

                  If you’re about to make a phone call, it can be easier to flip through a paper file or Rolodex than find the file on the computer and then go through it. I’d definitely have it saved digitally, tho

                5. Triplestep*

                  Genuinely surprised at all the people saying paper is more convenient. “CTRL+F” brings up “find” in MS Word. Type in the name you’re looking for, and it takes you right to it. No flipping through a roladex or stack of cards or papers.

                6. Yasmin Kara-Hanani*

                  On the topic of paper vs. a spreadsheet: this could also be partly a law firm thing. Every law office has at least one lawyer who just prefers everything on paper and can’t be talked out of it, no matter how hard the support staff tries.

                  “Would you please print the entire Jarndyce file for me?” they’ll say.
                  “I can start now,” you’ll say, “It will be ready the week after next, assuming the printer doesn’t overheat. Also, it will consume our entire supply of printer paper for the month and I’ll need to pick up about 75 extra binders. Would you still like me to print the entire file?”
                  “Please and thank you,” they’ll say. “I really prefer to work on paper, not a screen.”

          2. Cat Tree*

            Yeah, I’m confused by this and that it became so popular among others. It takes 2 seconds to find the number from Google. I personally wouldn’t need to make a separate note of it somewhere else because essentially Google *is* the rolodex.

            Having the extra info about direct lines and contact names is definitely useful, but just having the list itself of regular phone numbers would be less efficient for most people if it’s not searchable.

            1. Aqua*

              I think it’s definitely easier to write it down whether that’s on paper or electronically, information online gets moved to weird places or removed all the time.
              I’m a 31 year old programmer so I grew up with phone books but am very comfortable with search engines. Search is getting worse and companies are increasingly directing people to “online chat” rather than a phone line so writing down phone numbers seems very sensible to me.

              1. OaDC*

                Yes, I found the responses that said you could just Google the number for the company then ask for the department then ask for the contact person, amusing. Companies really don’t want people to call them these days.

            2. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

              I mean it was searchable, you just had to search the hard copy and it sounded like people did come to OP’s desk to look through it. Which is kind of why I was wondering why no one mentioned it to the OP’s management, of ‘hey, where’s the rolodex’ until Jane told them OP took it.

            3. Slothallama*

              Google is not the end all be all. If you need direct extensions and contact people to accomplish your task, then it really doesn’t help you at all, where as a rolodex – physical or electronic – would actually be helpful. I can google a contact number for any of my clients’ organizations – and then spend 20 minutes in phone tree hell and never actually reach my contact person. OR, I can get my contact person’s actual direct number and save it in a form of my choosing for my own convenience. For one client we service regularly, the only number to be found on Google is an 800 number that takes you to a call center, that has zero to do with what we service them for. For medical records? Multiply that by 1000.

              1. nonprofit llama groomer*

                This is so true! I had to request medical records a lot in a prior job and it was essential to save and continually update information about the actual contact info for the person you needed to follow up with. Also, hospitals REGULARLY changed the companies they contracted with to provide medical records so it was always crucial to keep up to date about contacts, fax numbers (weird HIPAA rules at least then about them not being able to fax to cloud-based fax numbers), etc.

            4. NotAnotherManager!*

              A lot of places are making it much more difficult to find a number on their site and want you to submit your question through a portal or chat. A number of my teams have a contact sheet that includes numbers buried on websites, direct extension that are not published, and even the numeric series that gets you through the automated prompt system to talk to someone useful. (They are electronic, though, and filterable in Excel – one or two people have a printed list sorted in alphabetical order because that’s what they prefer.)

              1. Dawn*

                Right, when I was at my past job I made some three different lists full of phone numbers and other contact information because not only are search engines getting worse by the day, a lot of companies deliberately obscure this stuff, and a lot of it isn’t publicly available at all; at least a third of that list was internal numbers that would never be released outside of the company in the first place.

                Heck, frequently those search engines are straight-up wrong now, because they’re being paid to promote certain businesses; we had any number of employers call my company looking for a completely different company in the same niche, because they “just called the number that Google gave them”.

                Mine happens to be in Excel but I write stuff down a lot, too. It just depends on the overall purpose.

            5. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

              “if you needed to get a real person on the phone, I knew who that was and how to reach them.”

              Google does not tell you that. Google gives you the number that you call to listen to the message that tells you to listen to the whole thing because the options have recently changed and then press 1 if you’re a medical provider, press 2 for appointments….

              1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

                while holding because call volume is higher than normal.

                Which is the new normal, so not true.

              2. Antilles*

                Google also does not tell you other information people normally append in a Rolodex/spreadsheet. For example, that the records manager doesn’t work Tuesdays or that the billing department gets swamped in the afternoon so better to call first thing in the morning.

                1. Dawn*

                  Paper is practically free and everyone knows how to use it, CRMs cost money and require training, employers frequently dislike spending money and employees frequently dislike having to learn new things. Not certain where the confusion is coming from.

              3. OP here*

                Of course not. That was kind of why I created the rolodex. Because every single time we had to call a location, my colleagues would google, press 1, hold, ask for someone else, press 2, hold, etc. It was so time consuming. And after doing the job for as long as I did and calling the same place over and over and building relationships, I eventually got a direct line and contact info which for some reason no one else seemed to ever think of doing I guess.

                1. Kit*

                  The thing is, OP, you built those relationships as a representative of your old employer – it’s useful info to have, and has apparently served you well at your new job, but it is entirely legitimate for your old employer to be miffed that you not only are benefiting from relationships built under their name and identity, you have prevented them from doing the same. That’s work product; just like a programmer who created code to automate a routine process rather than doing it from scratch each time, taking it to a new job and removing the ability for your old job to keep benefiting from it is what makes you in the wrong here.

                2. Mickey*

                  I’m with OP, even though it’s clear it’s incorrect. I’ve made so many resource lists that no one else has bothered to take the initiative to do. I get the frustration of doing work that is available to anyone to put together but then losing ownership of it and when no one else put anything into it. It’s one thing to say that xyz is part of the job (somebody posed nasa scientists owning the rockets) but another to say that the ways that I’ve personally chosen to make xyz easier for myself belong to the job. Sorry, OP.

            6. Sopranoh*

              It’s likely the direct lines and contact names that LW’s company needs, not the google-able info. Finding the right person/department in a hospital can be time consuming, and there’s a decent chance that the front desk operator sends you to the wrong department. Having direct contact info would be a huge time saver.

          3. Rosemary*

            LOL I had the same thought – weird to see both “Google” and “Rolodex” used in the same paragraph. I assumed it was not an ACTUAL Rolodex but rather a printout of a document. Which if that is the case – why not just leave a copy unless she was being spiteful.

            1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

              I emailed records of goodness knows how much work to my manager at my previous company and they didn’t bother to file it away in a safe place so it was all lost.
              OP should have made them a copy for them to lose.

          4. br_612*

            And if it had been something electronic, that could go on a shared drive (or even just be emailed to people) then it wouldn’t have needed people coming by her desk all the time AND it could’ve been a group effort to maintain/add to as contacts left their positions or new facilities were contacted.

            LW5 was territorial about this in a kind of odd way.

            1. Yadah*

              That’s what jumped out at me too.
              Personally, I would find it SUPER annoying to have coworkers bugging me for contact info all the time, I would have created that rolodex digitally just so people could get the info for themselves and stop asking me.

          5. Willow Sunstar*

            Yes, and most employers will put this in writing when you sign on, either in the employee handbook, or a contract, or some other official policy document. I agree it would have been better in Excel. In my current job, we keep all contact info in Excel, and it lives in a shared drive.

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

            I thought the OP was using Google as a verb, like they searched for it. For example if this was late 90’s I could see someone using something like Yahoo to search for business names and phone numbers but still wanting a physical copy in a rolodex.

        2. Dog momma*

          The “paid while created” stumps me. A phone # takes what ten seconds to write down? Along with a contact name? Was this a cheat sheet or an actual Rolodex..that she bought and paid for at say Staples?
          and yes agree its all public knowledge.. no proprietary/ confidential info

          1. Emmy Noether*

            Well (1) getting the right person on the phone (which may not be the person and number google says), getting their name and extension, then writing that down takes more than 10 seconds probably. (2) even if it didn’t, those 10 seconds here and there add up over time. By that logic nothing one does at work ever belongs to the employer, because everything can be broken down into 10-second tasks. If it’s done for work purposes during work time, it belongs to work, no matter how (not) long it takes.

            If I, say, wrote down the outside temperature every day to check the influence on an experiment I’m running, the final graph still belongs to my employer, even though every number took a few seconds to write and the information is by definition public and probably available elsewhere.

          2. I should really pick a name*

            While it’s not quite the same thing, taking a list of clients can be a big deal in some industries. and that’s really just contact info.

            1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

              Clients are a special class of people to the company and usually not publicly known/available. What she had was information publicly available, organized in a way useful to the company.

              I can go online and find out who the medical records person is for Big Hospital in City. What I cannot find out is the patient (client) for whom the records would be requested.

              But yes, the rolodex belonged to the company. And sometimes paper is a faster search than an online spreadsheet.

          3. NotAnotherManager!*

            The LW was very clear that this phone list was augmented with information that is not publicly available (direct extensions, front line/escalation names, etc.). It was made on company time while LW was getting paid and used directly to support her job. The information may be partially public; the consolidation, organization, and augmented info belongs to the organization that paid for it.

            We have similar lists at work, and I can assure you the public agency does not put, “Best time to call is 11 AM to 1 PM because Guacamole Bob isn’t on the phones then; try to talk to Jane if it’s about [specialized item].” on their website. Or Jane’s direct number.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              Yeah, it was made during paid time as part of LW’s job to support their job; this a clear-cut case of the company owning what it paid LW to produce. It doesn’t really matter if the company specifically instructed LW to create it or LW decided to do so themselves. There are a lot of notes/drafts/models I create that’s part of my job that I couldn’t take with me when I go.

              They did have the right to refuse to allow LW to take a copy (especially for use at a competitor).

        3. Petty Betty*

          I don’t think the higher-ups actually realized that there was a hard-copy database with all of the information. I think they assumed there was a spreadsheet on a share drive or something similar (which is what *I* would have created, if I’d been in this kind of position) so all of the people who needed access HAD access.

          Instead, they learned that it was a singular hard-copy file that the LW had, and the LW took it with them when they left. The higher-ups were so far removed from the day-to-day workings of the employees that they didn’t realize that the employees were googling the information multiple times a day and didn’t have any kind of information storage, let alone one they could all access; and once one WAS created, they didn’t realize that it was created by the initiative of the LW using LW’s personal supplies.

          Yes, LW should have given a copy to the company since the hardcopy information was created on company time. However, the rolodex itself seems to have been the LW’s personal property, so LW could absolutely take that (and the information) with her.
          My personal issue is: why wasn’t this information in a spreadsheet on a share drive so the other employees didn’t have to constantly come visit the LW all the time? It would have saved time, and it would have kept the company from needing to reach out after the fact. But, that is a moot issue for the LW.

      2. holdonloosely*

        I can understand getting that idea. It wasn’t something LW5 was asked to put together by a manager, and it was a collection of information that was available even to people who didn’t work there. It feels very different from, say, a report or an archive of files on products. It also feels a bit like a personal collection of contacts, because LW5 was communicating with the people in question, and apparently continued to do so after moving to a new job. The rolodex absolutely did belong to the employer—it was put together while LW5 was getting paid by them—but I get how that could be blurry in someone’s mind.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          I generally see this confusion when it’s something the employee created for their job, but on their own initiative. I think they have the idea that if your employer told you to do it, it’s theirs, if you thought it up, it’s yours, which is not how it actually works.

          1. Alexander Graham Yell*

            Yep, this is where I see that kind of confusion, too. And the OP notes that they created it to make their job easier – but I think if they changed the framing for themselves slightly, it would be clear that it belongs to the company. Because this isn’t about making *OP’s* job easier, it’s about making the job *OP was doing* easier. It’s an object that’s part of a process improvement specific to the role, not the person doing the job, and that stays with the company.

          2. doreen*

            That’s where I’ve seen it too – someone creates a form letter or a phone listing or some other document that they find useful in their job and they get upset if other people start using it (even while they are working at the same place). Because although they used the employer’s resources and did it during work hours , they feel that it’s theirs and no one should use it or have a copy without their permission.

            I’m actually kind of wondering how it happened that there wasn’t a copy left behind – if OP offered to make a copy for the former boss it must have been possible ( not thousands of cards).I wonder why none of the co-workers ever made a copy rather than asking the OP every time. Unless maybe the OP wouldn’t allow it?

            1. OP here*

              That was what kind of upset me during that convo woth Old Boss. She was so angry and all I kept thinking was “they all had the chance to copy this info from me but instead they decided to come to my desk every single time for it. But I can make you a copy now” Like I just didn’t understand at the time. But now I know, it was work product and ultimately theirs. Fine.

              1. Observer*

                hey all had the chance to copy this info from me but instead they decided to come to my desk every single time for it.

                Because no one thought of it – it was still such an improvement over what they had before.

                But I can make you a copy now

                Yes. Your former manager should have have just responded “OK, do that.”

                Your handling of the situation left something to be desired, but I really do understand why you were ticked off. And as long as you can see it more clearly now that you have some distance from the situation, I think you’re good. No one handles every situation perfectly and in the grand scheme of things your error was not all that egregious.

              2. Goldenrod*

                OP, if it helps, I was shocked by Alison’s answer! I don’t doubt that she’s right, I just personally would have assumed the same thing that you did – that the Rolodex was yours.

              3. nonprofit llama groomer*

                I employed a legal assistant at a small law firm primarily to request and follow up with med records requests. I encouraged them to develop these relationships with medical providers and asked them to make a template or other format to keep the information in case they were sick. I knew how valuable this information was because I’d developed my own document and asked them to turn it into a document that worked best for them. If they’d have left with the new information that I paid them to acquire and asked them to save without giving me at least a copy, let’s just say they’d better never hope another small firm asked me about whether they were a team player.

                True story, about a year or more after one employee left someone did call me and ask about my employee’s work for me even though she didn’t list me as a reference. I gave her a glowing review.

                1. OP here*

                  The difference here is you seem to be an attorney that understands the importance of this and these relationships in order to do the job well. My managing partner and some of the other attorneys clearly did not. They didn’t seem to care at all how the job got done which is why I found a way to make it easier. As a very young paralegal at the time, I was taking a lesson from my boss and the way my firm was operating. If I was under the assumption that she didn’t know this existed then how would I clearly know that she’d care about losing something she never even knew she had. I was aware that I might have left some coworkers in the lurch but honestly my thoughts were (wrongly) that they could do what they used to do.

                  It’s the attitude from part of your comment (“they’d better never hope another firm asked me if they were a team player”) that turned me completely off from my boss because that’s how she started the convo from the beginning instead of clearly explaining to me what was what. All I heard were threats over a piece of information that she herself didn’t understand well or knew exactly how it was used (there’s tons more about how clueless she was on how things actually got done). The bottom line is, sure I was in the wrong but if you could call a person up and calmly explain instead of doing what she did (or what you claimed you do which is torpedo a person’s job reference?) then this probably wouldn’t have been as big an issue because the sheer fact that I made this and shared it with everyone without hoarding it while I worked there shows that I was a team player. I just truly did not understand what I had done wrong.

                  Funnily enough, a year or so later I met another attorney and he knew her. He told me later he had asked her about me after meeting me and she said nice things. I felt like either he made that up or she just completely forgot about what happened between us. I’ll never know.

        2. Archi-detect*

          What’s odd to me is that sales people get to take their contacts, at least from other questions here, I have never worked in that field. It feels almost similar that this paralegal built up contacts though most of them were public info

          1. Your Former Password Resetter*

            It’s not really about the relationships, just the physical file OP took with her.
            I assume the salespeople don’t get to take the only document with the contact info with them when they leave, they just make a copy for themselves.

          2. Michelle Smith*

            And lawyers at the firm who leave can take business/clients with them as well.

            I don’t think OP was right to refuse to leave the information with the employer who technically owned her work product, but I also don’t think she did anything wrong by taking it with her. What I am trying to say is that if OP had made a copy of that file and taken it with her, leaving the original, I wouldn’t think she had done anything wrong at all. Just because she left Firm 1 for Firm 2, she has to completely redo the entire thing? That wouldn’t seem right to me. As a lawyer, when I left one place for another, I absolutely got permission to take certain things I had created (like motion templates, training materials, copies of research, etc.) with me and it would have been really weird for them to say no.

            1. Not that other person you didn't like*

              “got permission” being the operative word

              Even making a copy of the information to take without permission would be just fine if the person didn’t rub the company’s nose in it. But from the standpoint of the employer, this employee took a system that everyone relied on away with them when they left. And that’s what this is… a system of useful information with organization and context based in useful on the job knowledge. And the employee took it away with them? Effectively stole it? As their manger, I’d have been unhappy with that situation as well (though I’d have handled it less confrontationally).

          3. NotAnotherManager!*

            This is definitely not always the case – I think most sales people continuing in the industry DO take a list of their contacts but many employers care very much. When I worked in litigation, we did multiple suits that involved theft of company information, including customer lists, and send demand letters that company property be returned/all other copies in the former employee’s possession be destroyed and certified in writing.

          4. NonSolicitationClauses*

            Actually in many cases they don’t, at least not right away. Most places I’ve worked have non-solicitation clauses, meaning you can’t use contacts you made at the job professionally for 6-24 months after separating from the company. You can’t try to sell them something, you can’t try to hire them, and you can’t try to work for them.

            This is for all positions – sales, programmers, writers, project managers, whatever.

            Now they have to know you did it and decide to sue you over it, but you as former employee usually signed something agreeing you won’t do this and owe them reparations if you do.

            1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

              It’s worth looking into whether such a clause is actually applicable. Often the employer makes the clause far too restrictive, to the point that the employee wouldn’t be able to work in the same field (which is ridiculous if they have studied exactly that). In such cases, courts often dismiss them out of hand.

        3. Star Trek Nutcase*

          I created something similar & in various forms (electronic files, bulletin board notes, printed & pdf policies, etc) that I developed over 10 years as part of my compulsive organizational nature. Most of which I deliberately shredded or made inaccessible online when I quit with 15 minutes notice (long story). Did I know I shouldn’t? Yes. Do I care? No. Did I do it for revenge against a toxic boss? Yes. I freely admit my ethics took a hit that day. (And I’d bet it never occurred to my boss that such existed and was a significant reason I was a star performer.)

        4. Really?*

          Have to admit back in the (pre Google) day when there was still such a thing as a Rolodex, I usually took mine with me when I moved on and never had a second thought about it. So did most of my colleagues. After all, I developed my contacts over time and it never would have occurred to me that any one else would need or want my Rolodex— everybody was issued a brand new one of their very own when they started. Later when contact databases went electronic, I used to just take a copy of mine with me, because of course the computer would be left behind. Frankly I’m surprised that none of the other folks that used the data didn’t take a page from her book, and copy down the numbers & contacts to keep at their own desks…certainly my old colleagues did. If I needed a number for xyz corp, and Jo had a direct line and a contact there, I’d write it down in my own Rolodex or database so I had access to it if he or she wasn’t around. Now that I think about it, it makes sense that the company owns what you produce on their time, but I wouldn’t have thought of the Rolodex as a work product back then, because I wasn’t hired to produce a Rolodex. I wouldn’t have taken a client list or removed project data, but wouldn’t have thought anyone else would want the contact list!

          1. Your list is Our list*

            It is late in the day so you may not see this.

            I think this is function of technology. Technology has led to what used to be “owned” by one person to being “owned” by the collective. Crowdsourcing is the word I am thinking of. In this case, why should anyone else have their own contact list when one has already been created? Thus, no one can take the list when they leave because it belongs to whoever is in the group at that time. Not sure I agree with that either, but that mind set seems to be prevalent.

      3. Seeking Second Childhood*

        My assumption was it’s a physical item that she purchased, and she was not reimbursed for it.

        That explains how others could flip through it easily.

        1. bamcheeks*

          That makes a lot of sense actually– that LW thinks of it as a physical thing that she paid for, rather than a piece of work that she completed on company time.

          It does sound to me like part of the problem is that this was never recognised or rewarded as a valuable work product whilst LW was in post. It shouldn’t have been an informal thing, but something that was properly taken up and integrated as part of the team’s workflow, which would almost certainly have meant turning it into an electronic file. The fact that boss didn’t know the rolodex had gone until AFTER Jane complained shows just how much LW’s work and initiative had gone under the radar, IMO.

          1. OP here*

            Maybe that’s why I was so prickly about this. Still am to be honest. But yeah it was a very informal kind of thing. “Ohhhh you made this. So now I can just ask you for the contact instead of googling. Thanks kid” The way my rolodex became popular was initially friendly chats with younger attorneys about how long things take and what we do to make things easier. Word spread “OP gets follow up done fast because she made her own rolodex, go ask her ABC Meds phone number” But ok sure I get it now. It belonged them, fine fine.

            1. Observer*

              Maybe that’s why I was so prickly about this. Still am to be honest.

              That’s a legitimate thing to be prickly about. This *should* have been recognized for what it was. And it’s legitimately annoying when that doesn’t happen.

              Take a lesson for the future – if someone comes up with a good way to make life easier, make sure to recognize it. And if you’re not in a position to specifically reward it in some way, try to bring it to someone who can. Like “Suzy can up with this little hack that’s been saving staff hours every week. Can we do something for her?”

              1. Mickey*

                I agree that this is a good lesson to recognize people’s work and maybe it wouldn’t feel as personal. I’ve also been thinking that if there’s a way for the idea to be shared so that everyone starts contributing to it and it’s a communal work, rather than only one person’s. Obviously, it’s all in the past for the OP, but I could see myself in this kind of a scenario and I’m thinking about how do we not get to that point.

                1. OP here*

                  This is a good point because in my case, if someone came to my desk and looked for a number and it wasn’t there they’d just walk away and google. But they never once came back to me and said “You didn’t have this one in your rolodex, but I just called them so here’s the contact.” It was all these little things that were probably playing in the back of my mind when I got the call. It all felt like a slap in the face at the time. I was young then but I’m still young enough to take this lesson forward in my career and learn from all the comments in this thread.

                2. OP here*

                  My comment posted before I was finished. But all that to say, the fact that it wasn’t communal is what warped my view and just contributed to my sense of ownership I suppose.

        2. Snow Globe*

          Yes, that was my thought – if this was a physical rolodex that she purchased with her own money, then I’d say she has a right to keep that – although the information belongs to the company. She should have left them the copy.

        3. jojo*

          This is the most likely. I have a rolodex I bought at work. I also bought the pages in it. It is organized the way my mind works. It is also marked as ’employee owned personal property ‘ . Company property has a company inventory sticker on it.
          Others use it but it is mine. If they want to copy info in it they can. If I leave this company I will take my rolodex with me. I bought and set it up to organize me, not the company.

        4. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          Oh trust me, this was a law office, there was an unused rolodex laying around somewhere. Those things were ubiquitous in law offices before computers. Depending on the firm, they were probably still being used by the partners. Which means she didn’t buy one, she just got one out of the supply cabinet and started .

          1. Snudence Prooter*

            Man, I would love a rolodex. An excel spreadsheet wouldn’t work for us because we can’t really share documents like that except by emailing, and at that point, accessing email, finding the particular one you saved, opening the file and waiting for excel to very slowly open – it takes up to five minutes. What we use instead are paper lists of numbers that we can visually scan. A rolodex would be even quicker, more durable, and less likely to get mixed up in the nurse hand off sheets and lost.

            Shoot. Now I need to get a rolodex.

            1. Michelle Smith*

              Or you can use Microsoft 365 and just open the spreadsheet in a browser. It is incredibly easy to share and access Microsoft Excel documents without email. I have the one I track my time in bookmarked on my browser’s toolbar and it takes approximately a second to load.

              Google Suite also has similar functionality with Sheets. No emailing of files required.

            2. too many dogs*

              I’ve had a rolodex for years & I love it. Don’t have to go online, open a spreadsheet, edit a spreadsheet. Just find the little card that you want. When it changes, just change the card. Helpful to put the year on the card, so you know the information’s current.

          2. don'tbeadork*

            I don’t think it’s fair to OP to assume she didn’t buy and pay for her own physical rolodex.

            1. Analyst*

              it doesn’t change the main answer, which is that the information on the rolodex belongs to the company she left. If she bought the physical rolodex, she needs to provide a copy of the information. If she did not, she needs to leave the physical item. Given this information was all publicly available, it’s probably ok to for her to have the information…maybe?

          3. hypoglycemic rage*

            I work as admin in a law firm – I can confirm that even today, we have several rolodexes sitting in our supply area……

          4. OP here*

            Haha this! Except I fished mine out of the trash because everyone was trying to steer the older partners away from using them. So no I didn’t buy it but did buy the extra cards when I ran out or needed to clean things up.

            1. HoundMom*

              I know this is against the tide, but the fact that this is a physical rolodex with your connections in it, makes a difference to me. In my past (consulting) lives when we used rolodexes, they were not considered company property. I took my physical rolodex with me from my first three or four jobs as did others. I can’t remember anyone thinking anything odd about it. Now my contacts are in my phone so I will gladly give you a contact, but would I leave you my phone contacts? No, it would never occur to me.

              I think you were pretty generous with sharing the wealth while you were there. I am not a lawyer and not thinking about this in a legal sense — just a common practice sense.

              1. bec*

                “In my past (consulting) lives when we used rolodexes, they were not considered company property.”

                Emphasis mine.

                Consultants and contractors are treated with common sense, where what they create is only considered company property if the company specifically hired them to create it. Employees, on the other hand, are treated less with common sense and more as property.

      4. Tio*

        I’ve kind of done something similar in that I made an Excel doc with a bunch of contacts of govt. agents we would need occasionally while I was at jobs, but I always left a copy with the last job and no one ever cared. I think what’s complicating this is that it sounds like OP only had an actual physical rolodex. If she had taken the time to write out a list or something and leave one copy with the firm, she probably wouldn’t have ever been contacted. But it sounds like the person who called OP just wanted to be mad and was using whatever ammunition they could to do it at OP.

      5. RagingADHD*

        Asserting ownership of work product is one thing. Asserting *exclusive* ownership over a directory listing of publicly available information is another, and much weaker.

      6. M*

        The bit where she used a physical rolodex over a google sheets/excel file kinda feels like the clue to the answer here. There’s a lot of industries where, particularly pre-linkedin, your personal rolodex was part of what an employer was getting access to by hiring you in particular – and for certain areas of legal practice, that’s very much a thing. It’s obviously *not* a thing when it’s a rolodex of public-but-hard-to-find direct phone numbers for other companies’ service desks, but I kinda get why a LW old enough that her first thought is “this problem needs a rolodex” was thinking about it as more equivalent to a partner’s rolodex than an internal company directory file.

      7. Meep*

        I mean, if it was a physical rolodex, I could see them thinking “well I bought this with my own money so it is mine”. With that said, if I thought that way, I think I might just be spiteful and take the rolodex with me while leaving the paper.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Yeah OP has inadvertently stolen the rolodex, and then not realising that this is the case, has reacted strangely (from their perspective) to the company and colleagues asking about it…

      The distinction is that OP could go to a new company with knowledge of how they set up the rolodex, an approach to managing this information in general, and of how to find out the information (e.g. if the info on Google is wrong or missing and they aren’t answering the phone, is there another source of this info) – and then use this to build up another rolodex-like thing at their new role. It doesn’t include taking the original artifact or the actual information in it.

      Not sure if a repository of information can be IP of the person who collated it, but it is certainly company property.

      1. MK*

        It can’t be IP, there is nothing original about the concept of a rolodex or a compilation of publicly available contact information. If you want to be pedantic, speaking strictly according to the letter of the law, OP should have left the rolodex and not copied it, but as she could have just gone home and created an identical one, it’s an incredibly petty stance. But yes, she should have taken a copy.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          I don’t think this is correct (though it may vary by jurisdiction) as the collection of published data certainly can form a copyright work – for example, sporting federations may have copyright in league tables or fixture lists.

        2. CityMouse*

          This is not legal advice. This is heavily context and jurisdiction dependent.

          In general Copyright does not apply to contact lists. Some companies to apply trade secret law to these lists, but that also depends. Whether this is a client list and contains personal information is also relevant.

          If this is just a collection of publicly available data, it’s a different question.

          So classic answer: it depends.

        3. NotAnotherManager!*

          There is substantial case law supporting the idea that a compilation of public data is indeed a trade secret, particularly if it’s organized and enhanced by a skilled professional using their experience/expertise. It is not the information itself that is protected, it’s the organizational structure, bringing it all together in one place, and supplementing it with information one’s experiences indicates makes it more useful – all of these apply here.

          Had she created this at home on her own time, it would belong to her. She created it during her work hours on her employer’s dime, so it’s theirs.

        4. IAAL*

          Tell me you only finished 1L without telling me you only finished 1L.

          This is the tip of the iceberg of an incredibly complex concept. None of it is hers, it is all theirs.

    3. GythaOgden*

      The issue with taking anything with her at all, even a copy, is that it’s personally identifiable information. Some contact numbers in this kind of database may well be publicly accessible elsewhere, but others will be private numbers, particularly if the firm takes on individuals as well as corporate clients. Information governance is a hot topic quite aside from the issue of work for hire, so even taking a copy would be frowned on.

      Source — worked on reception, had the same paper book of contact details, even bought the original notebook myself, but had to leave it behind me as it contained confidential information.

      1. MK*

        Eh, no? OP says this is a list of contact information for medical facilities that she found by googling them. It has nothing to do with the firm’s clients and none of them are private numbers.

        1. TechWorker*

          The numbers might be easily available information, the names of who deals with what is probably not on Google.

          1. MK*

            It’s still something one can find out by calling the facility and asking. And in any case, it’s not confidential information that belongs to OP’s former firm.

            1. Sloanicota*

              Also typically companies are cagey when the client list is related to sales or customers; they don’t want their rival companies to have those contacts. It doesn’t sound like that’s the case with OP’s list of contacts so much. They just wanted to be able to onboard a new person faster.

            2. NotAnotherManager!*

              Multiple the time it takes to make that call by the number of facilities/departments and it amounts to a substantial investment of time for which LW was paid by the emplyer. Add tips/notes, information that is not publicly available (names, direct unpublished extensions), and you have a compilation of public information that likely qualifies as a trade secret.

              LW’s list of pertinent info significantly reduces the time required to perform the job, which is a competitive advantage for the employer. A basic google search will provide some of the parameters under which publicly available information can be compiled in a manner that makes it a trade secret. There is case law going back quite some time on it, there are statutory provisions, and many, many law firms have written blog posts, articles, or professional guidance about it.

              Heck, if you really think about it, Westlaw and LexisNexis, which charge law firms through the nose for access to their legal databases, are really just aggregators of public information (court documents, statutory compilations, and case law reporters). Law firms could absolutely go through PACER or whatever e-filing portal each jurisdiction uses or get copies of the documents from the court itself or someone could search government websites for the U.S. or state code, but it’s far easier to search in WL/LN and they’ve added headnotes.

        2. Nodramalama*

          We really don’t know enough to make that judgment one way or another. It could be, e.g that public information has a group inbox and LW knew the individual behind the group inbox and has their particular phone number and email.

        3. Insert Clever Name Here*

          I think it’s that she found the *initial* contact information, the main telephone number, on Google but then fleshed out everything else so you didn’t have to spend 5 minutes working through various phone trees to get the right person on the line. Direct line to the medical records department found on Google — possibly. The name of the person handling the records plus a supervisor’s name found on Google — highly unlikely, in my experience.

        4. Snow Globe*

          It sounded to me like the initial numbers (say for the main desk) were found via google, but over the years she added names/numbers of people she spoke with as she got transferred to different departments by the front desk. So those names weren’t on google.

          1. MK*

            It’s still not something that is confidential to OP’s former employer, and likely something anyone can find out by asking. The only case I can think that one may say the opposite, is if the only reason OP was able to find out he name was because she was employed there.

      2. Archi-detect*

        I have never heard of phone numbers being PII. now if the rolodex had social security numbers or birthdays that could be something

        1. Nodramalama*

          In my jurisdiction what constitutes personal information can be very context dependent. While a phone number in isolation may not be identifiable, when it is alongside other identifiable information, it becomes identifiable.

          1. Haven’t picked a username yet*

            But from what I understand these are business contacts not personal. So even though it lists a persons name, the phone number or address listed in the Rolodex is not related to their personal phone number or address.

            1. Nodramalama*

              Again it depends what jurisdiction you’re talking about, but it doesn’t necessarily matter. A businesses’ contact number is not the same thing as an employees work number.

              1. doreen*

                I don’t think I understand you here – are you saying that the ” direct line to the medical records department” might be a personal phone number of the person handling medical records? I suppose there are some situations where that might be the case ( for example, a customer might have a sales rep’s personal cell number) – but not at a facility that has a main number and a direct line to the medical records department.

                1. Nodramalama*

                  No personal information just refers to information that can identify a person. It doesn’t mean personal as in “outside work”

      3. Dog momma*

        Confidential info I can understand, but if the whole thing is your own answer to the phone book ( I used that too, yes I’m A dinosaur), I don’t understand

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Except that it’s more like going through the entire phone book and collecting all the numbers for people with addresses within a mile of your workplace, or something. The collection itself has greater value than the sum of its parts.

          For a business it might have the value of multiple work-hours per day across an organisation, which you could certainly put a dollar figure on.

    4. DeskApple*

      I can’t be the only one wondering why this wasn’t a shared digital registery? Either way, OP comes off as not caring about burning bridges

      1. learnedthehardway*

        Agreed. The OP burnt bridges, but the manager didn’t help. They should have explained that building the list of contacts and maps of companies was done while she was being paid, and so thus the information belongs to the company. Clearly, the OP didn’t understand that, and the manager should have seen that the OP didn’t understand. Rather than being confrontational about it, the manager should have been solution-oriented. The OP did offer to make a copy – the manager should have taken the OP up on that idea and stressed the urgency of getting it done, perhaps said some flattering things about the OP’s idea to build the Rolodex.

        The OP was being very literally minded, and the manager didn’t see the forest for the trees.

        1. DeskApple*

          my guess is the manager tried and OP blew it off such as when they say the manager tried to intimidate them with legalese… probably telling them it was in fact legally their product.

          1. OP here*

            Incorrect. She threatened immediately. I had no idea what she was talking about. Her first words were something along the lines of “You took something that doesn’t belong to you. Return it by the end of the week or legal action will be considered.” When I asked her what she was talking about she couldn’t even clearly explain what I had (because she did not know what this was or really what it was used for). I only realized she meany the rolodex when she said that my theft was impacting Jane’s performance and therefore firm business. To be clear I had not intended to burn any bridges, I left on good terms and thought everything was perfectly fine. Her calling me like that is what burned the bridge imo.

    5. Doneese*

      I wonder why create all the animosity. It should have been copied before leaving. Leave the original at work. It belongs to the company. I compiled an excellent list of contacts for my job that everyone used and I never considered it “mine”.

    6. DJ Abbott*

      Maybe, but I love that she stood up to the bully who tried to threaten her. <3 I bet if the boss and asked her nicely to make a copy of it, she wouldn’t have had any issues with that.
      The boss should have learned from that to be nice and cooperative in her approach to people, but probably didn’t.

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, my first thought reading this letter was that I absolutely love OP’s response. It’s the wrong situation/circumstance/moment for it and OP is in the wrong regarding whose property the information is but I think especially for someone who was very young at the time, the way she kept her cool and stood up to a rude person trying to intimidate her is quite impressive.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        How is this bullying? LW basically took work product she was paid to create for the organization, refused to return it, and doubled down on the entirely incorrect idea that it belonged to her when asked to return it. I generally prefer the honey v. vinegar approach myself, but, I can see how theft of company property would be irritating, especially if it impacted someone else’s ability to do their job, and giving LW the legal justification for claiming ownership of the file to counter LW’s assertion that it belongs to her isn’t necessarily an attempt at intimidation but explaining to her why she her position was not correct.

        All I could think while I was reading it was that LW was wrong in her entire assessment of the situation, and she basically ran down the legal test of what exactly it is that makes compilations of public information a trade secret under federal law (which is frequently incorporated as state law).

        1. DJ Abbott*

          She says the boss called breathing fire with veiled threats when she didn’t know she’d done anything wrong, and escalated to threats of legal action when she offered a compromise. Sounds like bullying to me.
          I wouldn’t cooperate with someone treating me like that either, no matter how right they are.

        2. Karak*

          She wasn’t paid to create it. She created while being paid—which is slightly different.

          In terms of legal ownership, basically everything someone does to help them with their job, including notes, job aids, etc belongs to the company. This is the company’s Rolodex. I’m not disputing that.

          But from her POV, she wasn’t given time/resources to do this project. In fact, she had to do the work to put together/maintain the list *and* perform the rest of her responsibilities. She did extra work, for free. If it’s necessary for someone in her job to have this document to be effective, she should’ve been recognized/rewarded at the job. Otherwise she’s being paid the same to do more work, that’s vital company work—which is the same as being paid less than everyone else.

          It does grind my gears when an employee spots a need outside their job duties, gets zero recognition, and then the company demands they needed the thing they had no interest in paying for or supporting until it’s gone.

          If it was “valuable company resources” her boss should’ve made damn sure the company had a copy of the thing in an accessible spot with an assigned person to maintain and update it. Instead the boss didn’t even realize it was gone (or even that it existed) for months. The boss tried to cover for her own incompetence by acting like a jackass to OP.

          And could boss/company sue OP? Sure. But then Boss would have to admit to their incompetence and cost the company God knows how much in legal fees.

          This fuckup is 100% on the Boss, and they know it. Which is why they’re trying to scare OP.

          1. OP here*

            I think I said this somewhere else in this thread but this was what made me prickly about it. No one asked me to do this. They were fine inefficiently googling. Sure, I created it in the course of my job but no one really acknowledged that I did this extra thing other than to start to use it. They went from googling nonstop to stopping by my desk nonstop. Old Boss had no idea and Jane was really crappy to blame me for not being able to do her job. Sure the rolodex made the job easier but not having it didn’t prevent her from doing the job. And I get that even though they didn’t ask me to do it, I still did it in the course of my employment with them and the work product belonged to them (well, now I know that last part) but the whole thing just put a bad taste in my mouth, from the laziness to taking me and my rolodex for granted, up to the threats after leaving.

            1. OMG, Bees!*

              I get the sentiment of “I took the time to create this, I should own,” but that’s not how it works when doing it during working hours.

              Another way to view it, I and countless others have created documentation relevant to a company while working there, and that documentation ends up being owned by the company. It is typically information specific to helping the company. Heck, I’ve also been a contractor and such clauses are explicitly in there saying any work done while contracted is owned by the company, which is near identical to creating a rolodex of contacts on company time.

    7. Sloanicota*

      Yeah the move is to quietly make a copy that you take with you. But I know it sucks to go above and beyond of your own initiative and now really be rewarded for that, or having it just become and new status quo that’s taken for granted. But it was indefensible to take the rolodex and refuse to return it when asked

    8. Database Developer Dude*

      I wholeheartedly concur. As a software and database engineer, if I write a utility that makes my job easier, I leave a copy when I leave, heavily commented. Doesn’t mean I don’t take things *I* write from job to job, but work for hire is work for hire.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        When you say you “leave a copy”, does that mean you also keep copies of utilities/scripts you wrote on paid time?

      2. NotYourCode*

        At most of the software companies I’ve worked at this could get you sued, and almost certainly would get you blacklisted or otherwise be problematic for your reputation. If you ask and they say yes, that’s a different story, but just taking code you wrote on their dime? It’s their property not yours.

    9. OP here*

      This was maybe about 10 years ago so google was a thing and the idea of a rolodex was already a thing of the past. But this firm (as was all law firms I’ve ever worked) had old school partners that still used things like this.

      Also something that wasn’t included in the letter was the fact that when I started this I had already included a few locations facilities that I remembered from my time at a previous law firm. so essentially when the rolodex started it wasn’t with ANY information that I knew or had obtained while I worked at this place. My thoughts were they essentially benefited from some things I knew before even working for them (at least in the early days of the creation).

    10. Vio*

      Wouldn’t ownership of the physical item be the deciding factor? If my employer provides me a tool to do my job then that tool belongs to them and stays with them when I finish working for them. On the other hand if I buy myself a tool to use during my job then when I finish that job the tool still belongs to me and I can take it with me to another job.
      Obviously if there were confidential information on the tool then that would complicate things but it doesn’t sound like that was the case.

      1. Nodramalama*

        No. That just means that she could remove all the information from the Rolodex and take it with her at the end. The information is what is valuable. Also, she didn’t.

  3. Person from the Resume*

    … the only thought I have for LW#3 is that his wife doesn’t have to work 3 hours behind; she can just start her day very early but then she gets to finish her work day very early too.

    It seems like it would be hard to be an executive working out of sync with the rest of the office but if she offsets only a bit she can still be available for meetings and maybe have an hour working after everyone else has left for quiet focused work.

    I do know that people on my team in the mountain and pacific time zones do start quite early in their time zone, but it’s not ridiculously early.

    The person who was in Hawai’i had to be up crazy early for her time zone, though.

      1. Archi-detect*

        Yeah if you normally start at 9 that is now 6. If you start at 6 that is 3. 6 AM is probably manageable but 3 would be horrible

        1. Brain the Brian*

          One of our C-suite folks regularly goes to visit family on the West Coast and doesn’t shift hours as a point of pride. She regularly takes 3am calls when she does this. True madness, if you ask me.

          1. KateM*

            Maybe she thinks that pushing all calls to *her* time when she is in another time zone because of visiting her family (not directly work reasons) would create discontent among her team, and if she is getting to spend time with her family, taking calls on her team’s time is fair exchange?

            1. Brain the Brian*

              This is definitely how she views it. As someone under her, I would much prefer that she delegates some of those calls to other people and gets enough sleep so that the work we get from her on the things that other people cannot do in her stead is high-quality. She may not see it herself, but her work slips when she starts to sleep so little — and pointing it out is difficult because she’s very senior to almost everyone.

          2. doreen*

            Or maybe she doesn’t shift her time at all – depending on where/why/how long I’m traveling, I might just stay on Eastern time as far as my sleeping and eating schedule go. .

            1. Brain the Brian*

              She keeps her wake up time on East Coast time but shifts her eating schedule and bedtime to match the family she’s visiting — basically cutting three hours out of an already-short sleep schedule. It’s not good.

          3. Meep*

            See, I take meetings from 9AM – 3PM my time, because I know after 4 PM you are not getting the best me and I get the most work done that hour before 9AM when left alone. (My coworkers don’t usually start until 9 then there are questions every 5 minutes) I think I would be useless if this was me.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yes, this would be a total no-go in our office. Work is highly collaborative and client-facing, so you need to generally be working the same hours as the team and the clients. My spouse works for the government and has a lot of independent work, so he’s able to flex more as long as he works core hours. That is not an option at my job.

      3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Which is why OP needs to talk to his wife, to see if she’d be up for it!

    1. Drag0nfly*

      This doesn’t work though, because she’s now out of sync with her family. If her husband is keeping hours appropriate for their new time zone, she will necessarily go to bed around the time, or soon after he’s getting off from work. Getting up earlier means going to bed earlier. And what is the use of getting off early if you’re not able to spend time with friends and family who are still at work? Besides this, the earlier time may not be friendly to her own circadian rhythms.

      Nah, one time zone over is one thing, but two to three is pushing it. At least, if quality of life is a factor at all, including quality time with a spouse / kids.

      1. amoeba*

        Eh, I mean, it really depends on the person and the company culture. In my small department alone, we have start times staggered from 6.00 to 9.30 ish. All in the same time zone and building. Quite a few people are really happy to start early so they have more time for their families in the afternoon, most of my colleages with kids start before 8. In addition, we have international colleagues both in China and the US (we’re in Europe), so we’re very used to taking different schedules into account. So in our case, it probably wouldn’t even be very noticeable, although you might have to make yourself available for early meetings every now and then. Also, I guess WFH would help quite a bit? I mean, I would never ever chose to start my workday at 7:30 in the office, but with WFH that might actually work quite well, as I could still sleep almost as long as I do now with the added commute.

        OTOH, if everybody else works a very rigid schedule or if you’re very much not a morning person and your regular start time is already early for you, it’s certainly less than ideal!

        But also, it doesn’t need to be an either/or – you wouldn’t need to either work exactly the same times as everybody else and be the whole 3 h out of sync, or start work at six. I’d probably go for something in the middle.

        But that’s definitely something the LW’s wife knows best, anyway! So if she says it’s a problem, it’s probably a problem. (If, however, the LW is just assuming that without asking her first, it’s of course a different story!)

      2. Elsajeni*

        I don’t think this logically follows; we’re talking about a difference of 2-3 hours, not 6-8. Lots of households have one person who starts work at 6 am and one person who starts work at 8 am, and even most people who start work very early don’t go to bed at 6 pm. It may not work for them for a variety of reasons, but it isn’t really in “you would be living on opposite shifts” territory.

    2. Leenie*

      Nah. She’s disrupted her life several times already. I was happy that Alison actually answered the question at the end, instead of staying neutral. If LW’s wife doesn’t want another move and if staying doesn’t have an unreasonably negative impact on their financial position, I think it’s her turn to make a choice.

      1. JSPA*

        #3, if there are no children under the age of (say) 16 and no issues with temptations of “cheating” (however the two of you would define it) and you are no longer feeling at risk of a mental health spiral, I urge you to consider trying two 3-month periods essentially fully apart, with both of you free to delve into work intensely, and rediscover or find new hobbies. (Negotiate a 10 day holiday between the two, and have a substantive phone call once or twice a week, but no constant texting).

        It’s the planned, healthy version of a mid-life crisis: you both get a chance to check in with who you are now, individually, and concurrently build up goodwill at work / good references / spare funds. And you each are reminded what “looking after one person’s practical needs” involves. In my experience, this is a great way to clarify what a fair division of labor looks like, and a way to rekindle one’s enthusiasm and spark.

        By 6 months, the job will have lost its mythical perfection. You will or will not have made some social contacts. You’ll have much better grounds for suggesting (or not) some further upheaval. And you’ll have recent experience to apply to job searches that let you either work remotely, or a reasonable train ride from your east coast base, if the field is indeed great for you.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Moving three times in nine years is a lot.

        Unless she is the rare bird who loves the variety. But even someone who started off with that mindset can now be like “The first move was easy and fun, each subsequent one less so” or “I’m a decade older now and don’t have the spoons to create a new network every few years” or “This spot really feels like home to me, plus if we do the math you’re going to want to move again in 2-3 years.”

        1. Lizbot30316*

          The math is spot on. It sounds like OP needs to build up some stability and boot make any major moves (geographical or otherwise) if his wife is in a good spot and the family is ok financially. There are plenty of unfulfilling “for now” jobs out there, if his isn’t working he should find a better one.

        2. ThatMom*

          We moved every 2.5-3 years for the first 8 years of our marriage. Even in our current location, we’ve lived in 3 different homes in the same community! We’ve been in this community 9 years, in this house for 4, and it’s the longest I’ve ever personally lived anywhere. 5 years in one city as a kid was my previous record.

          I actually like moving – I like meeting new people, exploring new areas. I like the decluttering inherent in packing/unpacking. I enjoy figuring out what to do to set up a new home.

          We’re likely planted for at least the next 10 years, and that feels so bananas to me.

          (My husband’s parents still live in the same house they bought when he was about to start kindergarten, his experiences were a bit different! I went to school in 4 different states.)

          I’m enjoying the idea that my kids will have roots and a hometown. I don’t at all regret my parents moving around – it made us very close, my siblings and I relied on each other a lot in new communities, and my parents always made time for us to have fun as a family (family dinners, exploring the community together, etc.).

          There are challenges and benefits to both moving & staying put, but those decisions have to be made with both partners being very honest with each other about what matters to them, and making the decision through the lens of what is best for the family as a whole.

          1. AF Vet*

            Same. I grew up in the Army, served in the Air Force, and am married to someone still on active duty – and was a brat himself, albeit with far fewer moves. Although he’ll be eligible to retire in 2 years, neither of us are quite ready to settle down, so we’re probably looking at two more 2-3 year tours. Our kids are currently in middle school, and they’re seriously excited about our next assignment.

            Some people thrive with roots, others thrive with wings. Hopefully by now, OP knows where in that spectrum their wife lies.

          2. HBJ*

            Yea, some people are just fine with moving a lot or even like it. I had a job when one of the women working there resigned to move out of state m. When asked why (casual convo among coworkers), she said it was just that time. It had been 3 or 4 years, and they were ready to move on. I think she had been a military kid, and he was former military and maybe a military kid, too. And maybe they’d moved around a bunch while married while he was still in the military. Something like that, and that mentality/part of their personality/whatever you want to call it just stuck with them.

        3. MsM*

          Yep. I was the “need a change/burnt out every 2-3 years” partner, and my husband finally had to put his foot down and go, “I love you, and I support your desire for meaningful work, but I really need you to consider that even the best job in the world is not going to fix the things that are making you unhappy.”

        4. goddessoftransitory*

          That last sentence is the ultimate key. This pattern suggests that he’s going to want to move again no matter how “perfect” the job seems now.

    3. Emmy Noether*

      I’m in similar position to LW’s wife in that I’ve moved several times* for my husband’s job opportunities and am now remote. “Just” organizing my whole day several hours early is definitely where I’d draw the line. No forking way.

      *I do regret one of those times – the first one, which was also the one we talked the least about before doing it. Talking it through is key.

    4. AcademiaNut*

      From a practical point, it’s not that different from people who work shift work, or in service jobs, where starting work at 5am can be completely normal, and a non-trivial fraction of the work force is managing to do this. That doesn’t mean it’s pleasant, however, and the LW’s spouse is 20 years into a career at a particular company, so the option of moving to a new job if it doesn’t work well is a pretty drastic one.

      In any case, the spouse in this situation has moved cities three times in about eight years for their partner, has supported them through a major health issue, and is now being asked to move cities again, work a shifted schedule, and re-build social and local professional networks. That’s a lot to ask, and I agree with Alison that it should only be done if the spouse is actively enthusiastic about it.

    5. Audit*

      She may very well have to work her East Coast hours. You have no way of knowing. Meetings will be on that time schedule. It’s not always as easy as adjusting your hours. It’s up to her company.

    6. CityMouse*

      I have a colleague who lives in Hawaii and shifts her hours but she chose that to be near her parents (she grew up there) and we do allow some flexibility. I’ll also try to never schedule any kind of meeting she has to be at for earlier than 1 EST, 8 her time if at all possible.

      But there’s a LOT more to moving than just a schedule shift.

    7. 1-800-BrownCow*

      If my spouse told me to “just start my day very early”, I’d tell them to shove it. I live on the east coast and get up at 5am. So, you’re now telling me to get up at 2am on the west coast so I can start my day at the same time I did on the east coast? LW#3 didn’t mention kids, so I’m thinking they might not have kids. But I do have kids and making my sleep/wake schedule on the west coast to align with the east coast company, while also caring for 3 kids, would not even be possible.

    8. Analyst*

      This would work beautifully for my husband, and be a nightmare for me. I’ve actually been applying to remote jobs on the west coast and midwest noting that I am happy to work those hours (I am NOT a morning person). I suspect if OP’s wife was a early morning person, this whole situation would not be a concern….

    9. Once too Often*

      So, what about the husband working remotely & the wife keeping her current job? Why does his job move them yet again?

      1. HBJ*

        Not all jobs are able to be done remotely. In fact, statistically the majority of jobs in the US cannot be.

        1. Sopranoh*

          Definitely true, but it says something that OP has found a job in 3 separate locations and presumably has some closer options. They still went out of their way to look for a job in a place that would deeply inconvenience their spouse yet again. It sounds like OP needs to unpack that before making any major asks.

    10. Observer*

      she can just start her day very early but then she gets to finish her work day very early too.

      That’s not all the easy for most people. Even relative “early birds” will often have a problem with start times that are *too* early. And 3 hours is a lot.

  4. Brain the Brian*

    LW4: please do not try to force your employee into lightening up. Some people are reserved at work for reasons you might not want to know. Let them be reserved, and keep the focus on their work product.

    1. Daria grace*

      This. I’ve had managers try to force people to be positive, extroverted oversharers at times when I had a lot going on in my life and it made both work and my personal life more stressful

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        Agreed. LW4 reminds me of the managers people write in to complain about for asking them why they don’t smile more.

        If LW4 feels that an outgoing, casual, friendly-with-everyone demeanor is such a key part of working successfully in this organization, perhaps they should make more of a point of screening for those qualities when hiring.

        Signed,
        A serious introvert who resents being expected to be a constantly smiling social butterfly at work

        1. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

          Yes! And in addition to hiring for it, they should make sure they’re the type of organisation where everyone can truly be open, relaxed, jokey, sharing their lives etc. That includes big things like ensuring no casual homophobic microaggressions etc, but also making sure there’s no general culture of “that person is a bit odd for reasons unspecified” or whatever.

          None of that might be present, I’m not claiming it is, I’m just saying there are so many people are reserved at work (when new!) and as an outsider, the new employee might actually be assessing those vibes more clearly than you (LW) are.

        2. 1-800-BrownCow*

          Another introvert here is when extroverts expect me to become more like them in order to be a better employee. Why can’t extroverts be more like me??

          And I caution LW4 to only hire employees that fit one specific box of personality types. Everyone being “outgoing, casual, friendly-with everyone” sounds great and all, but when you get a team of employees that all think and act alike, you miss out the great things a shy, formal, reserved employee could bring to the table. Maybe they’re the one a client wants to work with because they align with the client’s product. Or maybe they’re the one who enjoys doing certain work that doesn’t require them to interact with others that no one else wants to do because they find in boring.

        3. Miette*

          I have to say most of the writers I encounter are very introverted and reserved–it’s part of the territory with large swathes of the talent pool for that role, and that’s okay. Writing can be a solitary thing, and those that lean into it as a profession have done so for a host of reasons (including that writing can be a solitary thing lol).

          LW4 needs to rethink what they really mean when they say someone isn’t a culture fit. Why is that so important in this case?

          1. marketing lady*

            I manage a team of marketing writers and agree with this observation. However, the team is great at writing fun/clever marketing copy (which is on brand for us). You can absolutely be a quiet, reserved person and write in nearly any voice that exists, from stiff and corporate to breezy and cheerful.

            1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

              yes, I’m a translator, so I write. And I’m an introvert, definitely no fun at parties. Yet I have forged a reputation for lively, energetic prose full of clever puns and poetic licence, that gets people to click on “buy now”. They don’t realise that this doesn’t just spew out of me, that in fact it takes me a good while to craft such texts. People who meet me online first, are sometimes rather surprised and disappointed that I’m much more reserved and quiet in person, the jokes don’t just pop out. They don’t realise that I think of the joke several hours after I read the remark the joke is in reaction to. So there’s definitely a disconnect between who I seem to be and what I produce.

          2. Georgia Carolyn Mason*

            Agree 100%. As someone whose jobs have always involved writing for different groups, being flexible in your writing style depending on the audience can be an important work skill. If this is something Adam needs to learn, cool. There are likely training and coaching opportunities for Adam to improve this skill set, which he should be offered during his probationary period if at all possible.

            Changing your personality to be more jokey and small-talky in meetings, however, is not, and OP4 should back off on that part.

        4. Lenora Rose*

          I get the impression that the LW meant to further discuss the fact that the writing was itself overly stiff and formal and didn’t match their marketing copy style, and got caught up in the employee being stiff and formal as a person, as if you can’t present as stiff and formal and still write copy that’s a different tone.

          1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

            This. I’ve been up-front that I’m awkward with small talk and I never jump into the “water cooler chatter” at my work (though at times, to fit in, I will stand with the others and laugh politely), but I’ve been able to meet the requirements of the job perfectly in terms of adapting my tone with the people we work with, and THAT is what matters.

      2. ThatMom*

        This.

        I’m an extroverted “life is an open book” person.

        My sister is not.

        She is excellent at her chosen career.

        Being told by a manager that she needs to be something she is not (extroverted) even though the work product is good, would definitely have her looking for another job.

        On top of that, some people just really do not warm up to others quickly. I had one coworker at a previous job who took about a year to warm up to people. He’d been in that position (quite happily!) for almost 20 years, and had seen people come and go. He just want going to put in the effort until their proven they intended to stay. Politely distant, helpful with work tasks, etc. just not going to be a work friend for a while.

        1. MsM*

          Yeah, if I were Adam (and from the sound of it, I easily could be), someone assuming that I’m not naturally quiet and needed to be coaxed into being comfortable with swearing or having people hang around my desk when I need to be focusing on all this stuff I’m having trouble picking up would make me more withdrawn, not less.

          1. Helewise*

            This is how I am – the more you push, the more I withdraw. The pushing indicates to me that I can’t trust you because you don’t really respect me. I would really dislike working for this LW and think Adam deserves better.

        2. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

          But the whole point is that Adam’s work product is not good, and part of that is communication style – not with his coworkers but with the readers of his writing. It’s not unreasonable to think that if Adam is completely uncomfortable with informal, open communication and can’t even fake it for a few hours he’s not going to be a good fit for that particular role.

          1. Ineffable Bastard*

            Why are you assuming how he feels and that he can’t fake? Why should he be faking? To appease others?

            His personality and his writing are two different things. I am not an extrovert but I communicate very informally and love jokes and puns. My writing? Much drier, specially in my first language. I can change voice and style, but my first draft is almost always academic and dry, the opposite of what you would believe if you met me.

            Adam needs to work on his copy writing skills. His communication style is not the issue here.

          2. Jellyfish Catcher*

            Adam is blocked, for some personal reason:lack of exposure to cultures or informal meetings; trying too hard to be professional, afraid to fair, who knows.

            I started as professional and stiff, with my idea of a “work persona.”
            One day, I realized that I didn’t need a “work persona” beyond being professional, kind and capable.
            I could bring the real me to work: droll sense of humor, snark, occasional eye roll, It opened up a new sense of freedom, enjoyment, contacts and the desire to learn.

            Adam needs to bring that side as well as the professional side – but that’s not your task to take on. Your decisions also of course depend on how rare these writers are.

            As a last resort, ask him to write a memo about something he personally likes and why (assure him he gets it back, only you read it) and deliver it to you in 45 minutes.
            Then you’ll possibly have an opening with him. Otherwise, it just isn’t a match.

        3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          I’m wondering whether OP hasn’t inadvertently ruffled the employee’s feathers at some point.

      3. goddessoftransitory*

        This. Focus on his work output only–any hint about “lightening up” will have the opposite effect, I would bet. It will make him tense and wondering what everyone is saying about him and that’s hardly a recipe for relaxing or getting to know coworkers.

        And if he does concentrate on his work and ease of expression there, it might actually translate into greater ease in general as he gets a handle on how things are done and what’s expected of him.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      I also really can’t imagine why this person who is at risk of losing their job might not be cracking jokes and behaving like they’re on a cruise. I understand the employee’s demeanour is the stand out issue for OP but I wish they’d focused on the more concrete issues.

      1. Nodramalama*

        I agree that theres nothing wrong with Adams personality and its fine for him to be more introverted.

        I’m interested in your line about how he might be more reserved because his job at risk. Do you mean because LW has communicated to Adam that his work is not up to correct standard, or just because Adam is on probation? Just because in general I don’t really see people who are on the mandatory probation period as particuarly acting like their job is at risk

        1. Brain the Brian*

          Well, I for one certainly hope that the LW has communicated to Adam that his job is at risk for some reason — even if it’s something we commenters might not like as a termination rationale. If not, that’s an even more serious problem than anything Alison addressed in her own feedback.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          No, I wouldn’t automatically assume it of every probation employee either – but this is one who is failing. I just think it’s instead of assuming it’s a mood causes performance problem, it could be that awareness of his performance is affecting his mood. Here’s someone who is considered likely to not pass his probation who seems to be the opposite of relaxed. The employee could easily be aware that it’s not a good fit, or that he is not hitting it out of the park.

        3. Irish Teacher.*

          If he is not meeting standards, he is probably aware of it. She said he has made efforts to make his writing less formal but it is still too formal for their company. This sounds like Adam realises he needs to change his style but is struggling to do so. Even if he doesn’t know his job is at risk, it definitely sounds like he is finding the job difficult and is probably trying to adapt to a very different writing style than he used previously.

          When people are finding a job difficult, it isn’t uncommon for them to focus very much on the work and not feel they have time to socialise or to be simply stressed at adapting to a job they find difficult and therefore not in the form for banter and small talk.

      2. Sean*

        I could understand someone who (in LW’s own words) swears like a sailor failing their probation, but I think this is the first time I’ve read that an abundance of politeness and courtesy could contribute towards the termination of a person’s employment.

        1. Andromeda*

          I think this is a bit of a strawman, as someone who has been in Adam’s exact position — it’s clearly not “too much politeness” which is the *actual* issue here, though I also object to the LW leading with the social stuff rather than the issues with the actual work. When you write professionally, you *need* to be able to find the right voice for the thing you’re making. And unfortunately, sometimes someone’s personality does make it easier or more difficult to find the voice they need for a specific application. IMO LW needs to be honest with Adam — but also with themselves about whether their feelings about him socially are clouding their ability to mentor him.

          1. Sean*

            This is true. I would imagine that LW’s sweary persona is not one they immediately adopted during *their* probationary period. A new starter looking to make a good impression is always going to be on their best behaviour.

            It could be that Adam is simply playing safe during his probation, not daring to put a foot wrong, and might relax a bit if he passes at the end of it. After all, he demonstrated enough good qualities during his interview to outshine the other candidates.

          2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

            I wonder if Adam’s work is really not where it needs to be. It’s just more formal and stiff. Does that mean its wrong? Or does it just not look the way OP thinks it should? Is it reading more formal and stiff because OP is looking at the rest of the behavior? How were other applicants writing at the same point in their employment?

            I think OP really wants someone fun, but hired for quiet and now realizes what that means.

            1. MsM*

              Yeah, it’s not clear to me how much Adam’s writing tone actually matters to whatever they hired him for. OP suggests there are other tasks where he’s not asking the kind of questions he needs to be asking to stop making the mistakes he’s making, but everything else just seems like a personality clash.

              1. Brain the Brian*

                The LW says Adam’s job is marketing / comms and requires writing “as the brand” in a specifically informal style. (For instance — and this may not be the specific case here — some brands do not use capital letters when posting from their social media accounts as a way to seem “relevant to young people.) Let’s take the LW’s word that that is indeed the case when Adam is writing for external purposes.

                1. MsM*

                  Fair; I did overlook that in the…everything else that was going on in the letter. I still can’t help but wonder if they have clients who appreciate a less buttoned-up firm but could use someone who can still communicate with their more traditional stakeholders, though.

                2. Brain the Brian*

                  Yeah, there’s a lot going on in the letter that feels very unsaid. I hope it works out for everyone in some fashion or another.

                3. Never Knew I Was a Dancer*

                  I’ve reread the letter a few times but I can’t see OP4 indicating anywhere that their issue with Adam is that their work product (marketing copy, etc.) is too formal; their focus was all about the way Adam communicated internally.

                  Adam is very reserved and incredibly polite. All his interactions on chat and email are formal: hope you’re well, etc. In meetings, he is very scripted, reeling off actions and status updates. There is no banter, light-heartedness, “how was your weekend?” or joking about.

                  Unless OP4 has a post in the comments somewhere that I missed?

                4. Brain the Brian*

                  From the letter: “I have found Adam’s uptight nature filters through into his writing, which is dry and corporate—even after he has made efforts to make it less so. Adam is unlikely to pass his probation period at this stage.”

                5. Nina*

                  Yeah, if you’re in comms and you (for any reason) can’t match the brand’s style, you should not be there.

            2. Andromeda*

              “Too stiff and formal” absolutely can be wrong, especially when you’re writing for external audiences and especially when you want to project accessibility or approachability as an organisation. However, it’s possible that LW is reading *more* stiffness into the writing than others might because of their view of Adam as a person.

              I also wonder how clear LW has made to Adam what the extent of the problem is, and what kind of documentation there is about the voice they want from their writers. Especially if Adam is early career, he is probably getting vibes that his work isn’t satisfactory — but may be unsure how to broach the subject or improve things. I do think LW owes it to him to be absolutely clear, in a discussion that doesn’t mention the social stuff at all, that a chattier or less formal writing style is required to succeed in that job. And provide as many examples as humanly possible.

              1. AngryOctopus*

                This x1000. Adam is new. He needs guidance in doing his actual job. Writing tone can be hard to adapt to, especially if you come from a formal environment into a less formal one, or vice versa. OP owes it to Adam to say “your writing isn’t matching the tone we need for what our finished products look like”, give examples, and let him try to match them. His personality as it manifests at work should not be brought up at all. He can be as formal in his work interactions as he wants to be! But he’s clearly not meeting the outlines of his job, and you need to focus on that–he’ll either adapt, or he may realize he doesn’t like adjusting his writing output, in which case he’ll know to look for another job that matches him better.

            3. Zona the Great*

              No, if LW says the work product isn’t where it should be, we must take her at her word.

              1. Georgia Carolyn Mason*

                For sure, but the work product can likely change without the other stuff changing. It doesn’t really matter if LW4 thinks Adam’s stiff writing stems from his reserved personality or not. There’s a work issue that may be trainable/coachable, and a personality issue that isn’t.

                If LW4 focuses on the writing issue and Adam can’t adapt, and the clients really do hate Adam’s style, Adam isn’t the best fit for the job. But wanting to be all-business in meetings instead of cursing or talking about the weekend isn’t a reason to get rid of someone. Vive la difference!

          3. Daisy-dog*

            Agreed. It could just be that Adam is nervous and trying too hard to make a good impression on the social side. But it still can mean that he is the wrong fit for the writing side (the actual job side). Focusing just on the social side could lead Adam to just feel insecure and uncomfortable (which may already be the case as he is a new employee!) and not actually make any progress on his job!

          4. Lyra Belacqua*

            Yeah, I think readers are being too harsh on LW4. Capturing the right voice for a particular application is a social skill! It requires reading vibes and shape-shifting based on your understanding of what others will want/expect. Someone who is quiet and formal may be perfectly capable of doing that, but if their writing is also formal and stiff, I don’t think it’s wrong to suspect that it’s a personality problem that isn’t likely to change with coaching–which it also sounds like OP has been doing, since they note that Adam has worked on loosening up the voice but still isn’t hitting the mark. “Not a good fit” isn’t always a fig leaf for bias, and Adam sounds like he’s just not a good fit. (All this said, next time the OP is hiring, they should require applicants to submit a sample blog/social media post/tagline in the company’s voice to ensure whoever they hire is able to capture it.)

            1. Brain the Brian*

              Regardless, unsatisfactory work product is a legitimate reason to fire someone. “Doesn’t swear like a sailor in office conversations” is not. Keep the focus where it needs to be.

            2. Pizza Rat*

              Allison nailed it though. The LW needs to focus on Adam’s work and find a way to effectively coach him. He’s only been there six weeks and the LW has already given up on him. They’re in the wrong and hardly giving the man a chance to actually fit.

              Also, “personality problem” is quite nasty.

          5. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

            Yeah, as a writer I don’t think people are getting this. Anyone who basically knows the language can write words in an order. The skill is in achieving personality through the writing, and if you can’t be a chameleon your career options are limited.

            1. nofiredrills*

              I get that you need to be a chameleon in writing but does that have to translate to your in person personality? I’m not sure why they have to correlate so I just agree to focus on the work product

      3. Katie*

        Right? When work is stressful, the more closed off I am. I am not cracking jokes because I am worried about XYZ. This poor guy is probably worried about getting his work down right and doesn’t feel it’s time to ‘breathe’.

    3. The Magician's Auntie*

      Yes. Wanting someone to “lighten up” and saying they are “uptight” is hugely problematic. They just have a different personality to what you like. Diversity and inclusion are about *personality* as well as legally protected characteristics to do with race, disability, and so on. You absolutely should not be criticising this person just because they’re not your type.
      This is not a reasonable aspiration towards cultural fit, this is a discriminatory attitude towards someone who’s just a bit different to what you like. Please have a think about this! Can you ask yourself what the strengths of this person are? Do they bring things that the others don’t?
      In biology, a healthy ecosystem has diversity. A community will be safer, more effective/powerful, more resilient and long lasting, if it has different elements who can do different things. Difference of approach/personality in the workplace can be valuable.

      1. Lady Lessa*

        I am wondering, since writing is more subjective than some science, if LW’s view of their new employee is causing them to pick up on things in their writing. Just the way we are more aware of red cars, if one almost hit us, vs a non-eventful commute.

        1. Andromeda*

          It’s possible! But I think we should take the LW at their word that there are significant issues with the way that Adam writes. And there’s still an issue with the way that LW views Adam in that case!

          1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

            But what is the significant issue? OP says its more formal but says nothing more. The next line is he might not pass his probation period. Why? What is going on with the writing that is so bad he might not get through the probationary period? Its kinda glossed over with one line.

            1. metadata minion*

              I don’t think letter writers should feel obligated to give every single detail the commenters might think to ask. If they say there are problems with the employees writing, there are probably problems. Maintaining a consistent “voice” can be really important, depending on what kind of writing they’re doing. If you usually see chatty, upbeat things from a company and then one reads like a mortgage contract, it’s going to feel offputting, even though the more formal one might be very well-written for a document of its type.

              1. AngryOctopus*

                Yep. If his writing style being different is noticeable to the staff, the customer base is going to wonder what happened between the last notification and this one. Companies do have a voice that they adopt in their communications, and someone being out of sync with that will definitely be recognized.

              2. Gumby*

                I agree that giving every single detail is not necessary. However, from my reading there are only 2 sentences about legit work-related things. (Tone in his writing, not asking questions.) It is possible that those two are reason enough for Adam to fail his probation at this org. But if a LW is going to be selective in giving details, it’s telling when the details that they choose to convey are so heavily weighted towards personality/culture fit. There were way more than 2 sentences about how Adam needs to chit chat, banter, be lighthearted, relax and, apparently, swear. We don’t need all the details, but from the balance of details in the letter it is not unreasonable to conclude that Adam’s personality is just as much a contributor to LW’s feeling he won’t pass his probation as the actual work-related issues.

            2. Andromeda*

              (I do write professionally, so this is from experience) When you write for external consumers, whether they’re other businesses or the general public, you *need* to be able to write in the right voice. It’s basically priority zero for writers, and the way LW expresses this issue is the same way my boss would have talked about me (correctly) two years ago. I agree that LW could be allowing their feelings about Adam personally to cloud their feelings about his writing. But I think we should believe them as a writer that the discrepancy between Adam’s voice and their company’s is genuinely significant. And yes, an excess of formality absolutely can be an issue depending on who your audience is.

              1. Brain the Brian*

                The classic example these days is a brand that doesn’t use capital letters in social media posts from their accounts as a way to feel more “approachable” to younger audiences. But that’s specific, actionable feedback — not vague “loosen up and swear like a sailor two months into your new job” personality policing.

                1. Andromeda*

                  Also: it is HARD to chameleon into the right voice without good documentation, which includes (in fact is probably mostly) examples, and a solid style guide. I’ve had issues before with confusing advice which was basically just “chase the manager’s very specific idea of cool”, and would be chastised on asking for clarification or some advice on how to apply it to IRL writing.

            3. Nina*

              It really depends what Adam is writing. I’m a scientist working inside a fairly large company. To be good at my job, I have to be able to write fluently in at least four different registers –

              – ‘published science’ formal like you see in journal articles – this is difficult because it has a strict style guide that is slightly different for each journal, and you have to be very exact, very concise (word limits), and use no idiom (do you know which of the words you use everyday is a regional thing that journal readers from, say, Australia, will misunderstand?)

              – ‘warm and friendly’ casual – to get your colleagues onside and be pleasant to work with. This does not come naturally to me and it varies depending on who I’m talking to and who they’re likely to forward the email to. It has to be clear without sounding like it’s trying too hard to be clear.

              – ‘internal communications’ formal – something someone with a MBA and no science background will a) understand and b) do what I want them to do with it. Has to take into account that the boss won’t read past the first paragraph under any circumstances and that his boss will read everything and nitpick semicolons.

              – ‘SOP’ technical writing formal – absolutely everyone in the company has to understand this and follow it, from the technical director with a PhD in the field to the guy on the production line who dropped out of middle school. And it has to be clear and unequivocal. And it has to be short enough that people will actually read all of it.

              If you see something in the wrong register and you aren’t someone who regularly has to think about which one you’re using, ‘too formal’ is by far the most common non-specific complaint. If a big part of someone’s job is pulling off all those kinds of writing, then yeah, not being able to pick the right register and use it fluently is kind of a handicap to succeeding in that job.

    4. Cat Lady in the Mountains*

      If you give your employee (specific, actionable) feedback on how their writing needs to change, they may be able to meet that feedback. I’ve been your employee in this situation and found it pretty easy to fake my way into a different voice in business writing, once I understand the voice I’m supposed to be going for. One thing that has really helped me with this is having my manager live-edit the document I wrote in front of me, so I can see their thought process and ask questions.

      If you give them feedback about changing their behavior, when it isn’t actually harming anyone, you’re pretty much guaranteeing they will fail at fixing their writing. It’s SUPER hard to perform the type of personality you’re asking for if you don’t naturally gravitate toward it. If I were your employee, I’d need to put so much energy into behaving the way you want me to behave that there’s no way I’d be able to consistently uphold that in my work product as well. Things would slip.

      1. I Have RBF*

        This.

        I know that when my manager tries to change my personality I will balk, dig in my heels, and start looking for another job. Why? Because while they can ask me to adapt my behavior to X, Y or Z, my personality is not theirs to change. It’s who I am, and that is not for sale. To me it’s no different than requiring adherence to a religion, working with a workplace therapist, or even following a specific sports team when the job doesn’t involve sports.

        The LW is perfectly within their purview to ask them to adapt their writing voice to what is appropriate for the brand. This is best done by giving him samples and pointing out where his writing is too stiff or formal. That’s general coaching.

        But wanting him to be a jokey extrovert when he’s not? Fuck right off with that. You don’t get to rewrite your employee’s personality.

    5. Too social*

      I had the opposite experience at a job years ago where I was told I wasn’t serious enough. I was told I made too many pleasantries with my colleagues (how was your weekend? any travel plans coming up? etc.)

      1. Mad Harry Crewe*

        Don’t forget the letter a few years ago about an office that forbade humor. I’ll find the link and put it in a reply.

    6. learnedthehardway*

      Agreeing about the person’s work style. However, the writing product really needs to conform to the marketing strategy. If I were the manager, I would focus on that. No matter what a person’s individual personality, if they’re a marketing copy writer, they need to be able to flex.

      Really, this is something that should have been caught in interviews – a few “how would you write this marketing copy for a X demographic? then shift to a Y demographic” would have measured flexibility.

    7. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I really appreciated how Alison delineated the two issues here.
      OP does not click with the new person. The new person does not seem to fit the culture or be the personality that matches the current group. AND the work product is not what OP needs. I get that one informs the other. But OP can’t jump to: This guy is just not who we need for this spot without having a conversation about work product, not personality.
      Good luck, OP. Use that friendliness and genuine interest in other people to invest a little bit of time in this person. Then, yeah, make your decision.

    8. el l*

      Yes, OP is conflating personal style (like small talk) with job performance. And that’s dangerous.

      Where they have a point is that he’s not meeting job expectations. True. Specifically, they’re not meeting them in exactly 2 areas:
      1. Not asking for help when they need it.
      2. Writing is not in the tone expected.

      Both of those are reasonable things to set standards, coach, and – if a big enough problem and not enough necessary progress – fire. But uptight, reserved, scripted – all of those terms have gotta go from this scenario.

      There’s no reason a reserved person can’t write informally if that’s the job. They just need to know that’s the job.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Exactly – it concerns me that LW has the work performance issues wrapped up with the social/personality differences and makes me wonder if Adam is getting the feedback he needs to be successful (and getting it delivered in a clear enough way for him to implement). Telling him to “lighten up” is not actionable feedback; telling him that his writing style needs to be less formal and providing examples of how that should be incorporated into his latest work product would be more effective.

        I worked with a guy for years who was very formal and painstakingly polite, and it turned out that his mom was a high-ranking diplomat in his home country so he’d received etiquette and protocol training from an early age. In his world, it was always better to be too formal than too casual. It was a bit out of step with the informality of rest of the team, but he did good work and was perfectly pleasant to be around. As we got to know him better, it turned out he also had a wickedly sharp sense of humor, but it took some time to warm up and get to know everyone before we saw it. If Adam is currently in his probationary period and is getting a whiff that his boss thinks he’s too uptight, there is no way he’s going to relax enough to be what LW seems to want.

        1. el l*

          Great story. And agree too that many people start formal and loosen up later, especially when a person is brand new to the workforce. I certainly did.

    9. Observer*

      Let them be reserved, and keep the focus on their work product.

      Yes! There is no downside to letting people be themselves (as long as they behave reasonably) and focusing on getting the work you need out of them. There is a LOT of potential downside in trying to force people into a single social mode (and it doesn’t matter what that mode is). And you are seeing one of them right now, in that it’s distracting you from the thing that *is* your business and your job. Because you are focusing on the social aspects, you’re not dealing with his work.

      1. Georgia Carolyn Mason*

        Totally. Give Adam a chance to gain flexibility in his writing and back off the other stuff. If Adam can write well in one style, there’s a decent chance he can adapt. LW4 is doing Adam a disservice as his manager if he lets the clock run out on Adam’s probation by trying to force Adam to develop a different personality, rather than addressing writing flexibility as a skill-building opportunity.

    10. tree frog*

      As an autistic person, I felt like this letter could be describing me. I really have to go out of my way to remind myself to banter and chat during work. This isn’t because I hate fun, but just because I’m not always good at knowing when to switch from work mode to casual mode. There are many times at work when it’s inappropriate to act casual, but the (neurotypical) expectation is that everyone should instinctively know when it’s formal time and when it’s banter time.

      I just wanted to mention this because it sounds like this letter writer thinks Adam is going out of his way to be formal, but it seems more likely that he would have to go out of his way to fit in.

    11. smirkette*

      Seconded. As an job-seeking autistic introvert, I’m despairing of ever finding a new job despite having a good work history because every. single. job. in my field puts “energetic, friendly, highly social” as requirements. I get why these are valued attributes, but every place I’ve worked, people like me were still very valuable and productive, and despite being quiet and reserved, was well-liked because I did good work and was a team player.

  5. Aristonandonandon*

    Can’t exactly put my finger on why I think this. Does anyone else get the sense that LW#3 knows their wife reads Ask A Manager and wants them to stumble across the question being asked here?

    1. K*

      I didn’t exactly put it in those words, but I got a very performative vibe from that letter, like the LW wants to be granted permission to move for the job while also getting credit for being the kind of husband who respects his wife’s career, isn’t at all threatened by her having more success than him, and would never sacrifice her career in favor of his own.

      1. Cats Ate My Croissant*

        Same. Also, “I could stay here and not work” as an option rubbed me up the wrong way. Maybe they discussed this, she’s fine with it, and he’d fully embrace being a house-husband… but I’m sceptical. Possibly biased, having with someone who quit their job then was unemployed for YEARS waiting for The Perfect Job to fall into their lap, but didn’t pull their weight because they were ‘too busy and stressed by job hunting’.

        1. amoeba*

          Eeeh, to be fair, depends on your field – I’m definitely now in a situation where I’ve been stuck in a job I really want to change and have been looking for 2+ years to get out. Actually, we’ve just been in a somewhat similar situation, with an internal opening across our (small) country that would’ve been great – but my partner isn’t remote, so I ended up not applying. But that was already hard. If he could actually work remotely and it had been an actual offer for me, not just an opening, I think it would have been pretty clear for us. Being stuck is miserable and no, it’s not always the choice to wait for the next, better opportunity – or maybe it is, but once you’ve been trying and failing for that for years, it certainly feels like a big, big risk and the possibility of ruining your career forever.

        2. Tea Time*

          “’I could stay here and not work’ as an option rubbed me up the wrong way.”

          Especially since they just said that the pay at their current job is inadequate. At first I assumed that meant they really couldn’t afford it, but then suddenly not working at all is on the table.

          “Pay is inadequate” would seem to be an ego thing, nothing more.

          1. Observer*

            “Pay is inadequate” would seem to be an ego thing, nothing more

            I was trying to figure out what was bugging me so much about the comment re: not working. *This* is the answer. If not working makes any sense, then who cares about the pay? Except for the LW’s ego of course.

          2. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

            Eh, pay being inadequate is a perfectly good reason to dislike a role even if you don’t ‘need’ the money. It affects your future career progression if you stay at the same place, possibly even if you don’t, and frankly most people would rather take care of their own stuff for no money than take care of someone else’s stuff for a little money and then have to go home and take care of their own stuff on top of that.

            1. Observer*

              It affects your future career progression if you stay at the same place, possibly even if you don’t,

              And not working does not?

              It’s not that I don’t think the LW is not allowed to think about pay even if they don’t specifically need to. It’s just that *in this context* it’s a really bad idea. Placing a bit more money which is not all the important over the welfare of a person who has been highly supportive and patient is really problematic.

          3. NotAnotherManager!*

            Eh, the pay being inadequate isn’t necessarily about ego. We could get by on just my salary, but we’d have to cut back on retirement and college savings and some therapies for our special needs child in addition to kids’ activities and luxuries. I’d want my spouse to to get a better-paying job so we wouldn’t be living paycheck to paycheck and also because being in the position where losing my job would mean losing our house or something is very stressful.

          4. Audrey Puffins*

            Unless part of what makes the role miserable for the LW is knowing that they are underpaid by industry standards and they already know from experience – other people’s or their own – that there’s no hope of getting a raise. It could so easily be “inadequate by the standards of the role”, not “inadequate to our personal financial needs”.

          5. Boof*

            It could mean pay is inadequate to compensate for all the downsides LW is facing; either not enough for them to feel happy doing (whatever unfulfilling thing they are doing) and/or LW thinks if they were full domestic they’d be able to lower some expenses there, or a combination of the above, etc.

        3. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          It’s like you are looking into my life right now with the second half of your comment.

      2. Snoodence Pruter*

        Yeah, I get this vibe from the very rigid way the options are presented. Like, there’s an amazing job but his wife would be uprooted again and end up hours out of sync with her coworkers, OR they can stay where they are and he’ll just have to be un/deremployed forever, OR he can move on his own. No serious consideration of the option where he puts up with his current boring job while he keeps looking for better paying work in their current area, even if whatever he finds is less shiny than this East Coast opportunity.

        Work is often not perfect. It’s frequently a bit tedious and not what we would ideally like to spend our days doing. And couples compromise all the time on this stuff. When did LW last seriously compromise for someone else’s sake, in the way that his wife has been doing for almost a decade?

        1. bamcheeks*

          Possibly because I’ve been through almost exactly this with my partner’s job situation in the past year, but my thought was that LW hasn’t actually been offered the job yet, or perhaps even applied, and all of this is pre-game anxiety in their own head. I think they might be doing the thing of worrying out all the “options” six steps ahead when none of them are actually options yet. It’s incredibly easy to get into rigid thinking in that situation when you’re trying to solve problems that don’t exist yet, and you don’t have any real data about other people’s feelings except those you’ve assigned to them.

          LW, if you have actually been offered this job and are I were a marriage counsellor supporting you in this decision, the first thing I would ask is what were the circumstances of those first three moves. Are you in a career where moving every 3-5 years is part of the deal and something you both signed up for? Or is this a case of each move expected to be permanent, and then for some reason it didn’t work out and you started looking around again? If it’s the former, there’s something to discuss and see whether you both still want to live like this or whether you’ve reached the stage where that doesn’t work for you. If it’s the latter, then I’m giving it a hard no.

          But either way, you need to talk more to your wife!

          1. Snoodence Pruter*

            Ahhh, maybe. I read it thinking LW had either been offered the job or was at least fairly confident about how their application was going (and while I was aboard the assumption train, I see I also decided LW was a man on no evidence – sorry LW!). But yes, good point.

          2. Myrin*

            Yeah, for some reason it didn’t even occur to me before reading the comments that OP could’ve already applied for or even been offered this job. Probably because if she were at that stage already, it would be mighty late to be asking these questions, but also because the whole letter sounded somewhat “theoretical” to me and because I can all too well understand the anxious spirals of possibilities presented in it.
            The letter read like “Should I even apply to this job (and jobs like it)?” to me.

          3. Jaybeetee*

            This is a good comment. I actually went through a smaller version of this issue a number of years ago now, and long story short wound up doing a one-off with a counselor to help me decide. The questions were along the lines of what you have here, but basically helped sort out the wheat from the chaff in my decision-making process – what factors I really needed to consider, versus external stress and clutter that was bogging me down (but was ultimately transitory stuff that perhaps shouldn’t have been influencing my decision as much as it had been). In my case, taking the job was the right call, and led to my current career.

            That said, the vibe I get from this LW – maybe due to my own projections as well – is less that he’s champing at the bit for this job and looking for justification, and more that he’s off-the-hook anxious, thinking he “needs” to take this job whether it works for his family or not, and trying to figure out how to make the pieces fit. It might be that his best move is to stay put for a minute and wait for the next opportunity (not “not work”, which sounds like anxiety-brain taking over there). However, I’m not LW, nor his wife, nor do I know anything about either of their careers beyond what’s written here, so hopefully LW figures out what’s best for them regardless.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          It’s frequently a bit tedious and not what we would ideally like to spend our days doing.
          And this was true when the job option was hunter-gatherer, or subsistence farmer. Sometimes you find digging up edible roots boring.

        3. Olive*

          But just imagine the huge difficulties of trying to look for one of the rare jobs on… checks notes… the East Coast.

      3. Still*

        Yeah, it’s like he expects his appreciation of the wife’s sacrifices to weigh heavier than… her actual sacrifices.

        LW, this isn’t the only job and the choice isn’t between uprooting your family and you never working ever again. Commit to finding a good job where you are. And don’t use “I might be un- or underemployed forever” as a veiled threat to convince your wife to move.

        1. Still*

          I’m sorry if that sounded harsh. I know it’s scary and stressful to look for a job.

          I just meant that “what if we stay and I never work again” can be an anxious thought in your mind that you journal or talk to your therapist about, but it should not be a real scenario that your wife needs to consider as an alternative to moving again.

          I’m not saying that you personally would do it, but there unfortunately are people out there who will present their partner with a choice, while making one of the options (the one they don’t want) purposefully stressful and hard on their partner, in order to make the other option (what they actually want to do) seem like less work.

        2. Van Wilder*

          They have given up on the entirety of the East coast as possibly having a suitable job for them. The only one that can satisfy them is this one on the West coast.

          1. Clisby*

            I wondered about that, too. It wasn’t clear whether the wife was just DONE with moving at all, or if the real kicker was that she was unenthusiastic about moving from the East Coast to the West Coast. The East Coast is a pretty big place. Like, for all I know, if they live in Atlanta, she wouldn’t object to moving to Charlotte, or the Washington DC area, or Philadelphia. Or maybe she’s just tired of moving so often, period. I would be, but people have different tolerances for this kind of thing.

            (If they have kids, that’s going to present the same complication no matter where they move, but the LW doesn’t mention that.)

            1. Van Wilder*

              Yeah, I also would be tired of moving, period. I hope OP can find a solution that works for both of them.

        3. AngryOctopus*

          Yeah, it’s a tough job market and maybe you don’t find something great, LW, but maybe you find something better than what you have. It can’t be a binary between “we move again and I complicate my wife’s work life” and “welp, might as well just quit and be unemployed if I don’t get this job”, and you’re not doing yourself any favors by framing it as such in your head.

      4. Irish Teacher.*

        It wasn’t the vibe I got. Not to say you are wrong, but I more got the impression of somebody who is very stressed and is thinking of worst case scenarios in both directions, either he makes life difficult for his wife and potentially damages their relationship or he ends up unemployed and not contributing or spending the rest of his life in a job he hates.

      5. allx*

        What K says. I think the letter is about getting LW3’s wife to agree to another move for the sake of LW3’s desire, and not about a lack of communication at all. LW3 wants to take the job. LW3’s wife probably doesn’t want to make another LW3-based career move again. Moving a 4th time in less than 10 years is a big ask and I could see LW3’s wife being reluctant especially when LW3 hasn’t seemed to stick a job. Wife could clearly be over making moves for LW3. LW3 is looking for the greater weight of authority from AAM/commentariat to override wife’s position.

        1. Baunilha*

          I agree with all this. Not only are 3 moves too much (for me anyway) but also the idea of moving across the country for a job that might not even work out… OP should look for jobs where they are now, since there are other options other than “uproot their lives again” and “being stuck forever”.

          1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

            A job I wasn’t even clear on whether OP had interviewed for/been offered.

      6. Margaret Cavendish*

        Captain Awkward calls these letters “Who is more right here, and why is it me?”

    2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Yes, I also thought it performative and that he might have expected AAM & commenters to approve the move, so he could show his wife.

      1. Doneese*

        I think wife has supported him enough and now it’s her turn. There are other jobs. And it’s ok to just work for money. Most jobs are not soul-fulfilling. They pay the bills.

        1. Van Wilder*

          Yeah. I don’t know what else to say except “the gall.” It’s a certain kind of narcissism that everyone around me should drop everything so I can realize my dreams.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          It’s important to find one that isn’t soul-crushing, but yeah.

          I think that paid work should be meaningful, at best, not soul-fulfilling.

      2. TooTiredToThink*

        I read it as just the opposite – asking for permission to *not* make the move. If he feels like he’s supposed to jump when a job is offered then he might be looking for validation that he doesn’t. My POV/bias: I literally never realized it was ok to say “No” to a valid job offer until Alison’s column.

        1. AnonToday*

          I also got more of this vibe. I know it’s partly me projecting, but when I’m faced with a difficult decision, I end up feeling totally paralyzed and wanting someone else to give me “permission” to take one option or the other. Even if option A is something I really want with only positive aspects, and option B is something I hate with only negatives, I get so anxious that it feels like I *must* have permission to take option A, even if from the outside it seems like a no-brainer.

      3. TooTiredToThink*

        I thought I had already made this comment but it doesn’t appear – so if it shows twice, sorry!

        But because of my own POV/Bias – I took it as him looking for permission to *not* move. Due to the way I was raised, culture, etc – it wasn’t until this blog that I found out that it’s ok to not jump on the very first honest job offer that comes along. I can see that being very hard for other people.

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          Sometimes comments go into moderation either because there’s a word in them that frequently comes up in topics that require some oversight or just because sometimes the filter is weird.

          But yeah, that’s a good comment. It’s very easy to fall into the thinking that “you should be grateful for a job offer and willing to adapt your life to take it; otherwise you are being entitled and ‘precious'”.

          1. TooTiredToThink*

            Yeah, I had another comment that didn’t go through for one of the other LW – so I don’t know if it’s moderation or what not. I don’t think I had anything bad in either comment unless it was an Sc*thorpe Problem.

            But yes – the ‘entitled and ‘precious” commentary is exactly some of which I was trying to convey. Thank you!

        2. Jaybeetee*

          Yes, this is true. Especially when you’re trying to break into a certain field, or *back* into a certain field in LW’s case, it can be really hard to turn down an offer that appears be exactly what you’re trying to get, and you don’t necessarily know if you’ll get another “break”. But sometimes, even if it is in the desired career/industry/whatever, it’s just not the right fit. It happens.

        3. Snoodence Pruter*

          I’d initially read it the opposite way, but now that people are pointing this out, I can absolutely see it either way. I’m not sure if LW *wants* the job because they’re bored and underpaid but is aware that yet another move is a huge ask, or if LW feels they *should* take this job because it’s wrong to waste an opportunity to earn more and use their skills, mental health and other consequences be damned.

          I think another key factor that’s missing from the letter is – why has all this house-moving happened? 3 big moves in 9 years sounds like several drastic changes in quick succession, culminating in a mental health crisis that brought the whole thing to a halt. Are we talking about a field like academia, where jobs are rare and pretty niche and you really do have to move for them? Or something else? What drives the changes each time? What makes LW think that this new job and new location are going to stick, when previously that hasn’t been the case? What’s the pattern here, and why, and does it need to change?

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Do they think the new job is permanent? It’s not clear to me if the new job will be another 2-3 year stint (in which case living separate might make more sense) or is expected to be permanent.

          2. Hannah Lee*

            Those are really good points. I wish LW had given some more background on what was driving the moves and why did none of those jobs stick long term (even progressing to different roles in a career path, or with a given employer)

            The 3 big moves in 3 years, all driven by the same partner’s career, that’s a lot, unless it is a profession, career path where relocation to different service areas is required. (But a lot of those cases are in larger corporations, financial companies where that relocation is driven by the company … sometimes as part of their management training program, which doesn’t sound like what LW was experiencing)

            I’m thinking this might be a time for LW to check in with their mental health care team for recommendation to a good counselor to spend some time looking into their patterns for decision making, building life satisfaction and meaning, etc just to be sure there isn’t some subconscious self-limiting thing going driving the frequent job/location changes.

            It could be all is well on that front, but it may be that there is some other need, unrelated to LW’s work life that’s driving dissatisfaction or a desire for novelty that could be helped by less disruptive measures than changing jobs and uprooting the whole household yet again.

    3. LateRiser*

      I think it’s the emphasis on concern for their wife’s potential feelings and wellbeing without relaying anything about her existing feelings and wellbeing. At first I thought they’d not discussed it yet and maybe this letter was to help build the argument, but “we are […] weighing our options” implies that maybe they are discussing it, so it’s odd that we have a clear window into LW’s feelings but none on their wife’s.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        I think this is it. While reading, I was thinking “talk to her!”, and the I came to that line with the “we”, and apparently they have talked, but what she says isn’t considered relevant enough to include?!

    4. WitchyToday*

      I think saying “I also cannot fathom negatively impact my wife’s health, happiness etc” whilst in the same breath asking if they can take a job which they say would strain their wife’s work situation is the issue.

      If they truly believed the former, haven’t they answered their own question already?

      But it might be one of those situations where the OP needed to put it on paper to see that.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        Great catch!

        Your comment made me think of a thing my friend says, when discussing certain family members who always seem to be at the center of whatever upheaval is going on in the extended family’s life. “I just wish, just one time, they would dance off stage already! It’s been the Cousin So and So Show, Starring Cousin So and So’s needs and drama for YEARS!” Even if it’s just for a little while … but there’s that one person who always seems to be the one with something going on, some need for change, something new they need everyone else’s help with, sucking up all the collective oxygen. And the steady-eddies are just keeping it together, not getting a chance to just be calmly steady-state, or even GASP! focus on something special THEY want to focus on that requires heavy lifting.

        Not that LW is doing that, or doing it purposefully if it has been happening.
        But I wonder if, having written in, seen Alison’s answer and some of the comments, LW is able to reflect a bit on what his wife’s career goals and life desires, ideal plans might, talk with her about that and put them front and center in their planning, be without the prospect of a LW3-driven cross country move (otherwise he’ll never be gainfully employed again) driving the conversation.

        1. Petty Betty*

          The wife may not even have clear goals and desires right now after nearly a decade of dealing with 3 moves and spousal career stuff. She may just be metaphorically treading water right now. I know I was when I was dealing with similar issues with my 3rd ex-husband’s cr*p. I can honestly say that once I allowed myself to just not care about his crisis of the week/month anymore, or his financial problems, or his health, it got so much easier for me.

    5. watermelon fruitcake*

      I have a friend whose situation is eerily similar to this. But for the fact she is not an executive, and they haven’t had *quite* as many moves (more like 3 in 10 years). All of their lifechanging decisions (moving, higher ed, having children, buying a home, etc.) have always been driven or limited by his pursuit of jobs in a notoriously volatile and not-lucrative industry while she has followed, bearing the weight of almost fully supporting their family financially. Now he is unemployed, again, so the “almost” has disintegrated…

      I have a bias against this friend’s husband for multiple reasons, only one part of which is that she has already sacrificed so much so he could pursue his dream career, with seemingly no concern for her dreams or goals… So, unfortunately, by projecting this experience onto the LW, I find myself given that letter a less charitable read than I might in another scenario.

      I recognize I have a chip on my shoulder about this and, again, am projecting details that aren’t necessarily there, so I’m choosing not to engage too much in that conversation. It’s not fair or helpful to the LW to build an image of them based on a friend’s husband whom I already don’t like. But I did want to chime in that I also gleaned a weird ‘vibe’ from the letter that seemed validation-seeking rather than advice-seeking.

      1. Petty Betty*

        I agree. I find myself very much projecting myself onto the wife and I read very negatively, so I really try not to comment much.

        1. Resentful Oreos*

          Same here. I think that if the LW3 had been in one of those jobs that required frequent moves (academia, the military) they would have said so. It sounds more like they are job or career hopping, or chasing some sort of dream, and their wife has put up with it for a long time and now wants to put her foot down. I can’t blame her. LW looks to me like they are looking for “Job Charming” so to speak, and have put their wife through a lot. I don’t have much sympathy tbh.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            “Job Charming” is the perfect way to describe that kind of hopping around.

    6. tabloidtained*

      I think when comment sections dissolve into wild speculation, it pushes some LWs to write in a way that preempts the most egregious/least useful speculation (e.g., here, “LW is a bad spouse trying to strong-arm their partner into their own preference”). That can feel performative.

  6. Jessie J*

    Letter 1: I feel for you here. Be prepared for their response if they are used to you not ever standing up for yourself and they are narcissistic.

    I had a similar experience with an older woman asking me for years “who that man is or this man” whenever we were around people, implying that I had a lot of men hanging around me. It was soo strange and stressful. I finally said “why do you always ask me who these men are?” She was shocked I asked her why and she broke down and started to fake cry and denied ever asking me before. It just made ME look like I was soo mean to the little old nosey lady. No one cared that she implied for years that I had a lot of men around.
    Ps I’m extremely shy and didn’t have men around me in any sort of way.

    1. Brain the Brian*

      Perpetually single gay man here noting that several of my coworkers have spent years trying to get me to “slip” and accidentally out myself at my notoriously anti-queer workplace by “casually” asking about my dating life. I just cheerfully answer “Nope!” whenever they ask if I’m texting a girl or “Nothing to report!” when they ask if I’ve been on any dates lately. But it’s so obvious what they’re doing (I am not out, but it’s also difficult for me to hide some of my stereotypically gay mannerisms completely), and it’s exhausting. I hope that’s not what’s going on with LW1, but either way, a breezy brush-off is the way to go.

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        That was my first thought too: is she trying to out the OP, or at least to find out if she’s gay?

        1. Jen*

          My instinct is that she’s just a nosy gossip. But as a queer woman I will say that in my experience learning the OP is queer will not shut down this type of behavior. I like Brian’s short and cheerful responses.

          1. MsM*

            Yep, she could be the kind of person who just switches to trying to set OP up with every lesbian she knows, and it could still be incredibly invasive and annoying.

            1. Observer*

              Exactly. Which is why I like Allison’s responses so much. CW is being weird and nosy, and the reason why would not change it.

            2. Brain the Brian*

              Oy vey, the setup attempts. Hah! Those never end once friends / family / coworkers / anyone learn you’re queer of any flavor.

              1. Petty Betty*

                Even when it’s hetero set-up attempts. Some ol biddies just like to play match-maker for the sake of meddling.

                I had one co-irker who got hired on as the receptionist. She had two sons. One was single, one was not (had two kids with his long-time partner but hadn’t married her, and since she didn’t like the woman, she considered him single too). She would continually try to set every woman of “marriageable” age up with her adult sons. No amount of HR intervention would get her to stop. Her sons couldn’t get her to stop.
                I turned the tables on her and introduced her to a friend of mine for a date. I told her that every time she p*mped out her sons, I’d do the same to her. Was it unprofessional? Absolutely. Did it get her to stop? Yes.

          2. A Library Person Again*

            In fact, the worst version of this after finding out someone is queer is insisting that they find a “correctly” gendered partner (“oh, have you met a nice boy yet?”). I don’t want to project that onto OP’s coworker specifically, but I do think it’s useful to note for anyone else struggling with this at work. People can have really strange reactions after someone comes out/is outed, and someone who is already fairly lax about reasonable personal boundaries like this is more likely to go to those kinds of places.

            1. JustaTech*

              I had a coworker who was quite odd and said some pretty weird things.
              One time he asked our grad student if he (the grad student) had a wife. “No, I have a boyfriend, I’m gay.”
              “Oh. You should get a wife too!”
              It was kind of funny, and the coworker never made an issue about it to the grad student, but hoo boy did it show his thoughts about women! (Of course the grad student would need a wife, there’s no way two men could keep themselves fed and clothed, eye roll.)

              1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

                TBF, I am “the wife”, and if I could have a stereotypical housewife-wife (that I could support and who would in turn keep my house from looking like a hurricane was actively ripping through it), I would honestly go for getting a wife in addition to the partner I already have.

      2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        Brain the Brian, I’m really sorry to hear yore being subjected to people trying to trick you into outing yourself. That sucks! It sounds like you’ve found an effective way to deal with it, but I wish you didn’t have to. Good luck continuing to evade their sly tactics!

        P.S. I love your handle. I had a cousin named Brian, and some of our younger cousins had a terrible time learning how to spell his name correctly. Your handle always reminds me of that! ;-D

        1. Brain the Brian*

          Eh. I’ve dealt with it since high school in a tiny little town in pre-Obergefell America. It’s not “fine,” but I can handle it.

          Among other people who have misspelled my name in precisely the way you described was the DMV once — on my driver’s license. I got a good laugh out of that and vowed to memorialize it in some fun ways! An AAM handle seemed to fit the bill. :)

          1. Archi-detect*

            funnily enough my coworker had our facilities people do the same exact thing, and that spelling appeared on his cube name tag (though he eventually got a right one) and several seating charts. At least none of that was a legal document though

            1. Brain the Brian*

              Yeah, I had to use my passport for ID for a bit while I sorted out the license situation with the DMV. Thankfully, I was not pulled over while driving anywhere. That would have been fun to explain to a police officer.

          2. Lizbot30316*

            When I was a public defender, we saw “trail” typo’d so often for “trial” that we started saying out loud “So and so wants a trail.”

        2. Brain the Brian*

          And I should add that I also love your handle! As tonight was the Tony Awards, I’m in a particularly theatrical mood. I can’t tell from afar whether you’ve based your handle on the musical Cats or the source poetry, but either way, it’s a good one. Betty Buckley’s performance of ‘Memory’ the year that she won the Tony is perhaps my favorite Tony Awards telecast moment of all time.

      3. New laptop who dis*

        Yes that was my knee jerk reaction, that the coworker was putting out feelers and hoping for a “slip” to satisfy her own curiosity. People are so nosy.

      4. Chirpy*

        Yeah, also-not-publicly-out-Ace woman here. I agree with you that it’s super tiring, because I’ve also occasionally had people try to “welcome me out of the closet” as lesbian…. they’re still insistent on me having a partner regardless of gender as if singleness is extremely weird/ wrong. Hence why I don’t tell most people, even some of my LGBTQ+ friends.

        So my general answer to “why don’t you have a boyfriend” is “I haven’t found the right one yet”, which is technically true, and usually ends the questioning or shifts it to comiseration about bad dates. Most people won’t understand that “heteroromantic demisexual/asexual with trust issues” means I’m unlikely to find “the right guy” and am not terribly interested in the first place.

      5. Artemesia*

        yeah since the LW is gay and not anxious to be outed, she simply has to let this run off her back and blandly respond if at all. The moment she pushes back she will risk becoming more of a romantic focus and being outed. It sucks, but she needs to protect herself with bland indifference to the queries.

    2. Annie*

      Bonus points if pushing back intrudes on some “work parent/work child” role they’ve taken on — it’s often unconscious! Not necessarily in the “I mean you harm” sense, but more in the “But I thought this is how we support each other. I’m just trying to help” sense.

      What kind of “support” or “help” would this be? Why, it’s to nudge you along The Path of Should because, well, should! Wherever you are on The Path of Should, these “friends” are here to nudge you along to the next step! How dare anyone, much less the one being “helped”, try to interfere!

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Ah yes, The Path of Should.

        I was very careful to follow The Path of Should for my entire childhood, then somewhere in young adulthood I veered off into uncharted territory. I haven’t seen a recognizable milestone for years and years, now.

        (Far off on the horizon I can see Crazy Spinster Aunt With Roommate And Too Many Cats, which looks like a fun destination when I’m done exploring.)

        1. JustaTech*

          Litany Against Should

          “Should” is the mind killer.
          “Should” is the little death that brings total oblivion.
          I will turn away from “should”,
          I will let it pass me by
          And when the “should” is gone, I will remain.

          (Apologies to Frank Herbert, author of “Dune” and the Litany Against Fear)

    3. Jellybeans*

      Can we not diagnose literally every single “person who isn’t the OP” in every single minor conflict ever as being a narcissist?

      1. Mo*

        Most people aren’t narcissists. It’s really weird/inappropriate to assume this one probably is.

        1. CubeFarmer*

          If you’ve ever been on Reddit and read enough comments, it seems like over half the population is a narcissist. People confuse narcissism with being a jerk.

      2. MissGirl*

        Thank you. She’s probably just a busy body. When I was in my twenties, I dealt with the same thing. A breezy, I’ll let you know if I have something to report followed by never having something to report ended it. There’s one in every office.

      3. Jessie J*

        We see narcissistic being used often today as a knowing way to describe a certain persons response. This is when they don’t respond politely to us asking why they pry into our personal life. If they respond like a victim then it’s the narrative of this type of narcissistic personality.

      4. sparkle emoji*

        Agreed. Maybe this coworker is prying to be nasty but nasty isn’t the same as narcissism.

      5. MigraineMonth*

        The original meaning of narcissist is someone who is self-involved; it was later adopted by psychology. I think that saying someone is a narcissist *isn’t* diagnosing them with narcissistic personality disorder, just like saying that Judy seems depressed today isn’t diagnosing her with major depressive disorder.

      6. Nah*

        Putting “narcissist” up on the shelf along with words like “gaslight” (no, not every single person that has ever lied in their life is gaslighting you, Carol) and “pedo” (liking cartoon characters is not the same thing as actively doing terrible things to real life children?????) until the internet learns that serious words mean things and shouldn’t be applied onto every single conflict.
        Not to mention the whole stereotyping mental illnesses thing – not just for narcissism, but schizophrenia and autism/ADHD also fall victim to this type of thing.

    4. Nodramalama*

      If every coupled person who was nosy about my dating life was a narcisst I’d be surrounded by them. Some people are just weird/overly curious/don’t understand boundaries.

      1. Annie*

        Yeah. It’s far more likely they believe (consciously or not) they are helping people around them grow up or realize their full selves, or they don’t know what else they can sustain a fulfilling conversation with you about.

        Advice: When asked about relationship status, just keep saying, “No boyfriend” or “Nope, haven’t found anyone”, then follow up with a change in subject. Not likely to stop the “just trying to help” part, but it can stop the “but what else can I talk with you about” part.

        1. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

          I would suggest not saying “I haven’t found anyone”, that implies LW is actively looking and invites further conversation (especially for a colleague who is already nosy).

          Saying you clearly don’t want to talk about it, in a perfectly polite, calm way, is better in the long run.

          It’s not our colleagues’ place to help me “grow into my full self” at all and it’s worth nudging back on what a massive overstep that is.

        2. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          A phrase I have used on both coworkers and grandparents is “I’m not really looking” or “It’s not a priority right now.” (And, if you start getting people being follow-up nosy, I recommend things like “I’m happy with my life the way it is” or “I don’t need a boyfriend.”)

          1. Anon For This One*

            “I’m one of nature’s singletons” seems to shut them up pretty well.

    5. Trillian*

      A simple, mild, “No,” with a faint upward lilt of perplexity is probably least effort.

      Then you could develop some outrageous responses. “Texting my revolutionary cell.” “Texting my FBI handler.” “Texting my Hollywood agent.” or, “Good grief, no. Keep them guessing, is what I say.”

      1. Violet*

        ^ This sounds like the kind of response I give to any question I don’t really want to answer. Say something obviously false/outrageous/funny and hope that the person takes the hint. Usually it derails them just enough for me to come up with an escape plan.

      2. Clisby*

        You could try the general-purpose comment someone came up with in response to the letter about the Ouija-themed mousepad. “I’m superstitious.”

      3. JustaTech*

        Or even the super cheerful “Nope!”
        Like if they’d asked about a hobby you don’t do.

        It’s not likely to stop the determinedly nosey, but being cheerful about it will throw them off a bit, and might (maybe) make it harder for them to create gossip about it (if that’s what they’re after).

      4. Abundant Shrimp*

        I’ve had a lot of luck with “No, why?” to a personal question like that.
        A strong runner-up is “No; are your TPS reports working today? Mine threw an error” or whatever work-related comment is appropriate.
        And I like just “No.” too. Eventually she’s got to get tired of asking.

    6. I'm here for the cats*

      When I was a teenager, my work place had this man who was obsessed with my sex life. Turned out he was the same with the 16 year old girl who worked for him, and immediately spread to the entire place about her being sexually active. I think those are predatory calculated behaviours, and I agree with you.

  7. Not That I've Ever Done Such a Thing of Course*

    LW #5, for future reference most people make copies of things like this so they leave one at the company & take one home.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I don’t doubt that this is the case, but I don’t understand why the new company would be OK with that. If I had a new hire who showed up with a complete directory of relevant info that had been collated during their previous job and then (a copy) taken away with them, I’d be wondering (and I would ask them directly but not everyone would) what assets I could expect to be copied and taken to a new company from my place??

      1. MK*

        They are ok with that because, while the old company might own the rolodex, they don’t own the publicly available information it contains (I am assuming nothing in the rolodex is information OP became privy to because of her job, if so, the calculation changes). OP could have left the rolodex and then created an identical one on her own time; it would be a chore, but it sounds like something anyone can do and it’s not protected by copyright. And I think it’s a stretch to assume that someone who took what is basically a list of phone numbers that you can find via Google will steal from you.

        1. KateM*

          Their direct line to the medical records department, the names who had to be contacted could have been because of OP’s job – that they had first called the publicly available number, then being sent here or there, until they at last landed on the person they put down as contact in their rolodex.

          1. Rebecca*

            I see what you’re saying here, but then where is the line with experience you can carry over? To me, it makes sense to leave the contacts at the old job, but it doesn’t make sense to pretend you don’t have them and start building a contact list from scratch on principle at the new job. These aren’t clients that he’s poaching, presumably the people he has the contacts for don’t have exclusive arrangements with any one company, and it isn’t a product that the old company is using or selling or advertising with. There’s no exclusivity to contact information.

            1. AngryOctopus*

              Yeah, these aren’t clients, they’re people you contact in the course of your job to obtain things like medical records. So OP having the right person to contact at Clinic X for patients who need Service Y is helpful information she has gleaned through work, but it’s not proprietary in any way–if she left before she got a contact at Clinic A, she’d just go through the process and find the person’s name and write it down. And anyone who is newer to the job could go through the phone menu and talk to several different people before realizing that there is one Clinic X person who always has the ability to get the info, and just contact them going forward.

          2. MK*

            That only applies if the only reason OP found out additional information is because of her job. If anyone can call the front desk and ask for the records department, and then can the records department and ask for the name and line of the relevant contact, it’s information anyone can know.

            1. AngryOctopus*

              Yep, and even if you don’t get the same person every time, but you have to call a lot so that you find that Tangerina always finds the information quickly and is pleasant to work with, you’re probably going to get her contact info so you can then call her directly. The rolodex isn’t holding confidential information, it’s just a method to streamline the work.

          3. doreen*

            I think there’s a difference between “I called the public number and got transferred to the medical records department and I spoke to the supervisor Mary Smith – but I only called in the first place because of my job ” and ” They only gave me the direct contact info for the medical records supervisor because I work at Dewey, Cheatem and Howe and the hospital attorney knows Howe – they wouldn’t have given it to an employee of Screwham and Burnham” . Sometimes it’s the second but usually not for this sort of directory information.

        2. OP here*

          This was exactly my thoughts! Because when I started the rolodex, I included names and numbers I remembered from doing this work at a previous firm. So in the beginning the info that I had was in no way related to whatever work I did for them. In fact I remember once calling a hospital on the weekend for my own records and reminding myself to include the information in my rolodex when I got to work on Monday. It really was just numbers and contact info anyone could have gotten if they had thought to write it down instead of just not. Also, we kept logs of collected medical records in excel so whenever I called a facility I would make notes including the main number I called and the contact person in case someone had to follow up for something on that particular case. Idk I just feel like anyone could have done what I was doing but they were lazy and chose not to but then felt justified in blaming me for the reason they couldn’t get things done.

          1. Consonance*

            I think that what’s tripping you up is that your logic is good, and it makes sense. But it’s not the way our system works. Just because you’re “right” doesn’t mean that you’re *right*. Yeah, anyone could have done it. But you, their employee, did it as part of your work, to be used for work. It’s like saying that any time you do anything new in a workplace, your employer doesn’t have rights to it. Or if you weren’t specifically directed to do it, it’s not part of your work. That just isn’t how work works.

            1. OP here*

              I guess you’re right. At the time I didn’t know I had done anything wrong and saying I’d give them a copy made Old Boss so mad that I just couldn’t understand it.

              1. Observer*

                This is a perfect example of two people bring wrong about the same situation on opposite sides.

                Yes, you were wrong in how you handled it. But so was you former boss. And TBH, I’m side eyeing him more than you. Because you seem to be responsive to reason, while she was apparently on a tear and not willing to be reasonable, despite being a lot more experienced in the work world.

      2. WellRed*

        They are called contacts, it’s useful information and it’s not private, protected or proprietary.

    2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Yes, everything at all work-related that you created during the time you are paid to work belongs to your employer.

      For non-proprietary info, imo it’s reasonable to make a copy provided that does not involve more than a few seconds at work to copy a file. Copying a physical Rolodex seems cheeky and likely noticeable at both old and new jobs.

      Paper work records disappeared for me after the millenium, so it would have been trivial for me to take a copy and then quickly add some new internal contacts as soon as I moved to a new job.

    3. Innocent Bystander*

      The difficulty here was that LW5 chose to keep this info in a literal Rolodex, which is hard to copy once it has a lot of entries!

      (The traditional way would be to take out 6-10 cards at a time and attach them to a piece of paper with Scotch tape, then photocopy or scan that page…. But if the cards have a long flat edge at the top, maybe 8-12 at a time could be placed into a desktop scanner with fingers crossed to avoid paper jams.)

    4. TheyDoWhatNow*

      I find this comment baffling. It is still stealing from the company if you don’t have permission.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        If this is publicly available information, the compilation itself doesn’t render the information proprietary.

        I’m just absolutely gobsmacked that the OP created a Rolodex. Even an Excel spreadsheet would have been better. It would’ve been much easier to also make a copy.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I disagree. If I did research for a company on company time, my research notes would belong to the company even if the sources were public. It’s clearly work for hire. Her rolodex included easily-accessible information (public number on the website) and notes taken over the course of her employment (direct contact’s name and number).

        2. OP here*

          Haha. This was 10 years ago and it would have been much easier to create something electronic and can’t even think of why I didn’t do that other than both firms (this one and previous) had old school partners that still used things like this so I thought it was normal. Strange indeed.

          I did mention elsewhere that we kept logs for medical records for each case in excel and I would make notes with the exact number I called and the name of the person I spoke with. So the info was still there somewhere in our systems but I guess not helpful for new cases if they didn’t want to look for the info in the records of old cases.

    5. OP here*

      I guess it never occurred to me to do this because I wasn’t the only person at the firm doing this kind off work. I just found an easier way to do it. All my colleagues could have done the same. no one asked me to do this, I did it because I hated going through the whole process of looking up the same main number calling and waiting on hold for ages. it was annoying. So instead of my coworkers doing like me, they instead relied on me for giving them the contact info (that they would normally google if I hadn’t thought of this) and then got mad at me when they didn’t have something that they wouldn’t have had without me in the first place. Idk I guess you live and you learn

  8. Msd*

    LW4 – almost all of your question was about Adam’s personality and how his style doesn’t mesh with you not his work product. It seems like he’s going to fail his probation period because you don’t like him. I think you should really look at that and perhaps consider he does bring different strengths to the team.

    1. Nodramalama*

      LW explicitly says Adam cannot adjust his writing style as required and is reluctant to ask for help. While the letter is muddling work issues and social issues, those are both work issue.

      1. Magdalena*

        To be fair, it does make me wonder if he’s getting the same support he would be getting if he fit the OP’s idea of a creative person. It’s certainly possible that Adam does not have what it takes to improve but I’m also wondering if he’s feeling supported and welcome on his new team. I do find it remarkable that OP gives more space in their letter to Adam’s personality than to what feedback and support he’s been given.

        1. Bird names*

          Yeah, definitely. I wonder whether the feedback has been as clear and straightforward as Alison recommends. Some workplaces manage the balance between casual culture and clear communication as needed, but the latter needs to be actively pursued.
          How is this workplace in general with more reserved people? Is Adam the first one or are there others, who, while more reserved, still manage to live up to the expectations around this company’s communication? If he is the first/only one right now, why is that?

      2. Msd*

        Yes he did say that but I still think this manager wants a team of outgoing social members. Would they have a problem with LW1? I think they would. Many new employees are reluctant to ask for help and it’s not clear how much writing is part of Adam’s job or what exactly is their writing work product. Is their main job writing? The LW says they work in a corporate environment so Adam’s writing may not be so out of step with the company as a whole. The LW’s expectations of what makes a successful team member seems off to me.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Just to clarify, the LW says their industry is classically corporate but their company is actively about not being like that, and that Adam’s writing is dry and corporate, which isn’t the right voice for them. If that’s the case and if writing is a key part of the job, that’s a very big deal. You need people who can write in the correct voice. Adam may be able to fix it with very clear feedback — but if not, that could indeed reasonably be a deal-breaker. (Not asking for help when needed also could be, although that depends very much on what the consequences are of that, and how clearly he’s been given feedback on that as well.)

          1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

            Not asking for help when you need is can definitely be a problem, but I’d also say that learning to tune your when do I ask for help/when do I forge on on my own to the specific company’s culture can be very challenging. (That said, if Adam has been given clear feedback on that and LW isn’t seeing any progress, I might also be doubting whether Adam is a good fit, even without the brand voice issues.)

          2. Writer view*

            Speaking as a writer, if they want a voice/vibe outside of the industry norm I’d expect that to be a big portion of the interview. I’d expect them to let me determine my comfort level/ability to do what they need and I’d expect to have them assess whether I’m willing and able to do so.

            It seems to me this OP expected the new employee to figure out solely by osmosis and is upset they didn’t. It’s not even clear they’ve laid out expectations about the writing in any real way or if they just jumped right to it’s the wrong style, they should do better.

            Of course, the new employee should also have asked some questions about writing process and expectations too, but I’ve worked with enough people who think that writing is automatic and immediately produced as needed not to see some type of “why don’t they just do what I need” vibes.

            As far as their personality goes, I see some level of “this person writes like their personality and therefore the personality is the problem” which is not helpful but may be part of why it’s being stressed do much.

            1. another editor*

              I was thinking about this too. It’s odd to me that a new hire’s writing style is so out of step with the company’s that he’s unlikely to make it through the probation period. What was the hiring process like? For a writing position, I’d expect that the hiring team looked at a portfolio/writing samples and/or gave some kind of sample writing task.

              The OP says she found him pleasant and someone who cared about doing well during the interview – but doesn’t say that she saw work samples that demonstrated an ability to align to the company’s voice. Since they’re not about being stiffly corporate, but are hiring in a corporate space, were they anticipating that most applicants would have corporate training/experience and would need training on house style? Was that conveyed to Adam? Did he think it would be easier to pick up than it has been?

        2. Nodramalama*

          I think we have to take LWs word that they know what the required writing style for their own team is.

          1. Zelda*

            The only question is whether their feelings about Adam’s personality are coloring their assessment of his writing. If they’re sitting down to slog through whatever ol’ stick-in-the-mud is forcing them to read and ‘hearing’ it in his ‘voice,’ it’s possible they aren’t perceiving it the way someone who didn’t know the author would.

            Depending on how writing is assigned, it may or may not be possible for LW to try reading a week’s worth of production blinded to all authors’ names. If not, try calling in a second opinion from someone who isn’t primed to perceive it as dry (which means asking for the critique very carefully so as not to prejudice the reader).

        3. Irish Teacher.*

          My feeling is that if the company is very different from most of the industry, it’s quite possible that Adam is used to the industry norms and is struggling to adapt his writing style. If he has worked in this industry for a while or even gone to college to study for this industry, it is quite likely he has gotten into the habit of writing in the style favoured by most of the industry and that…doesn’t work for the LW’s company.

          So he probably needs coaching about their style and support with adapting.

          But if that support is being given with banter and so on, that may feel less to the LW like being cued that this is a friendly environment and more like he is being laughed at for being out of step. The LW and others might mean it as not seeming too harsh, but it might not feelt hat way to him.

          1. sparkle emoji*

            I think this is insightful. If he’s stressed because he knows he’s not doing well and all coaching is delivered in a way that feels casual or jokey, it could be hard for Adam to adjust and learn.

          2. boo bot*

            This is a really good point, and I would add that sometimes (not always), communication that strives to be casual and relaxed can also be imprecise; for the LW, it may be worth reflecting on whether they’re giving feedback that amounts to “be less uptight” when it’s actually both possible and necessary to be more specific. Some examples might include:

            “We don’t use periods as end punctuation; if an exclamation point or question mark doesn’t fit the sentence, leave off the punctuation altogether or use an emoji.”

            “Our tone is ‘text message to a friend who is already a fan of our products’—don’t explain what the features are, explain why the speaker is excited about them.”

            “We want our copy to reflect the way people in our target demographic talk, so grammatical ‘errors’ are not an issue if they reflect actual speech, and proper grammar that doesn’t reflect common usage should be avoided.”

            Even a relaxed and casual house style should be captured in a style guide.

            The writer should also be given a bunch of examples to refer to—either the company’s own past marketing material or those of other companies. At that point, it is on Adam to adapt, but the LW needs to make sure they have been clear about what that means.

      3. Observer*

        LW explicitly says Adam cannot adjust his writing style as required and is reluctant to ask for help.

        Yes. But a lot of that seems to me to be because of the LW’s focus on his “style.” Look at what the LW says. They focus on his “style” and in passing mention that his work is poor. And it sounds like all he’s been told is to be “less dry an corporate”. But what does that mean? I mean, I’d be willing to bet that the LW does *not* want Adam to reflect “swear like a sailor” in his writing. So what DOES it mean? And why is the LW only thinking about how to tell Adam to “lighten up” rather than how to guide his work? It really sounds like that’s what the LW thinks it’s all about.

    2. Awkwardness*

      It seems like he’s going to fail his probation period because you don’t like him.

      I did not have the impression OP does not like Adam. More that Adam stands out because of his personality, or that OP realises he might have taken a wrong hiring decision, or that OP does not know how to manage if an employee has a different type of personality.

      OP, social and work issues are not necessarily the same. Stop trying to solve them the same way. Somebody could be outgoing, laughing and swearing and still not manage to get the writing voice correct.
      And depending on the interviews and how clearly the casual environment was mentioned, Adam might ask himself to if he made the wrong decision and is putting himself under additional stress. It will not help if you make this about his personality.

    3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Focus on telling him exactly how you want his work to improve – and that it is essential for him to pass his PIP.
      Important to give him just as much support and coaching as you would to someone you like and think a good social fit

      Being more chatty may happen naturally after /if he passes and gets to know you all better, so please don’t ding him on that. Anyway, he may feel he needs to be on his best, overly formal behaviour during this period and to concentrate on his work.
      It would be totally different if he were a jerk, but banter is not essential so long as he is polite. It sounds like he does indeed interact socially, just not – yet – in the casual manner you expect.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this. It’s always easier to start out formal and then relax when you know your new coworkers and managers better than it is to start out casual and find that you have to adopt a more formal demeanor to be successful. This is because the vast majority of people are by nature more formal with strangers, and it takes a while for complete strangers to become familiar enough as coworkers so that a more reserved person can be comfortable with them. Of course, there are those who prefer to keep every coworker at arm’s length, and that’s also okay in general, although I’m certain it wouldn’t fly on this LW’s team.

      2. Irish Teacher.*

        Exactly what I was thinking but phrased so much more clearly and concisely than I phrased it.

    4. New manager*

      This. My company just had a training on interpersonal communication and we all took the DISC test. This was very helpful in learning everyone’s different communication styles and how to work well with each style. It sounds like you’re uncomfortable with this person’s style. You both have work to do. Having a diversity of styles on your team is a strength even if it requires more work for you as their manager. Maybe getting a training like this one would help all of you. Focus on his work issues and adapt to who he is as a person. Your team will be better for it.

    5. Andrea*

      This was my take too. There’s a guy on a team adjacent to mine that I work with occasionally, and my experience with him has been stellar — he responds quickly to questions, he’s friendly and helpful, he was new to the field and pretty green but learned quickly, and he did some really good work to solve persistent problems. I actually got asked to participate in a 360 review and I said he was great.

      Later I learned that that 360 review was part of a PIP, that his manager hated him, said he didn’t communicate to stakeholders (not my experience) or document his work (not my experience) or understand how to manage a project (DEFINITELY not my experience). He actually showed me examples of his manager complaining that he never updated stakeholders as a response to an email updating stakeholders. finally got pushed out and will be taking a pencil-pushing job elsewhere in the company.

      So I am nervous that a manager starts off with “I don’t like this guy” or “this guy’s kind of a stick-in-the-mud” as a way to discuss that they don’t like the person’s work.

      1. Markie the Editor*

        So I am nervous that a manager starts off with “I don’t like this guy” or “this guy’s kind of a stick-in-the-mud” as a way to discuss that they don’t like the person’s work.

        I couldn’t agree more.

  9. Nodramalama*

    Yep LW5 the company owns the Rolodex. I’m a bit confused why you didn’t leave it behind in the first place. It would make sense if you wanted to keep a copy (assuming there are no legal or security issues with copying it across to your personal device) but what was the harm of leaving it behind to be used?

    Unless you were just frustrated with Jane, which doesn’t seem like a good reason.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Sounds like it was a physical item, so copying it would’ve been a significant amount of work, and LW was thinking of it as their own possession so the default thing to do was take it with them the same way they took their personal items.

    2. Anon for This*

      My company refused to buy me a rolodex and cards, so I bought my own. It was my property and I took it with me when I left. Sometimes old school is actually more convenient!

      1. Helen*

        Same here. Purchased with my money and will go with me if I ever leave. It was easier for me than trying to Google everything.

        1. Ownership*

          You may have paid for the rolodex, but the company owns the information inside it. Full stop.

          1. OP here*

            Umm if the info inside isn’t proprietary then how does the company own it. Anyone could literally google the information that was inside mine. And while I didn’t buy my rolodex, I did fish this one out of the trash in the office mailroom. it was actual garbage before I took it and I ordered rolodex cards from a stationary store online when I ran out of space lol

                1. OP here*

                  I guess the question is then could I or should I have handed it over and would it have been OK to remove the work product from my previous firm and the numbers I put in on my person time (just probably 1 pr 2 when trying to retrieve my own medical records). Obviously I wouldn’t even bother or be that petty no matter how nasty they were to me but if this is the case then they benefitted from work product that didn’t belong to them as well, right?

          2. Helen*

            I never said I wouldn’t give them a copy, but I’m not leaving the original for them. Most of the info inside is actually available on various phone lists/spreadsheets/shared drives that are available to everyone; it was easier for me to jot it down and have it at hand vs having to open multiple spreadsheets or links to get the info. Anything I didn’t want to share wouldn’t be in the building.

    3. OP here*

      There was no harm. It just never occurred to me to do this since there were like 4 other paralegals who were happily googling numbers all day getting half their work done because it took so long to do what they were doing. Then completely stopped bothering even to do that part of their job and just asked for the info on my desk. We’re all doing the same job, I don’t mind sharing my idea and information. When Old Boss called I would have gladly made a copy but she was nasty about it. Plus if I hadn’t done this, everyone would have continued on the way they were. After all, no one asked me to do this. I did it to make my own life easier.

      1. Helen*

        The name/numbers in mine are available on various phone lists/spreadsheets/shared drives and it was easier on me to have the numbers I needed right at hand than to spend 10 minutes checking all the sheets. I bought mine (the paper and container) from Staples with my personal money. If they want a copy that’s fine, but everything in it is available to anyone with access to the lists/spreadsheets/shared drives and the next person can spend the money for the cards and container.

      2. Starbuck*

        I think the dissonance there is you thought you were offering a favor by making the copy; but the boss was right to say the work item you created never should have left the building, and was rightfully theirs. Them letting you keep a copy at all was a big favor to you and your future workplace, to whom they didn’t owe that.

  10. DEJ*

    LW4, it probably took 3-4 months before I was somewhat comfortable socially around my new coworkers last time I switched jobs. Starting a new job is like coming into the 5th season of a tv show. It takes time to mesh with a long-established cast. And if he isn’t writing the way you want him to, coach him on it. I have had to alter my writing style to fit into what my boss prefers, he may be able to do that also.

  11. holdonloosely*

    LW3: Sometimes what seems like an amazing opportunity from afar doesn’t measure up once you’re actually in the role. (This can especially be the case when you’re in a rough situation, as you are, because you desperately want something better.) Do you know this offer is incredible, or is it possibly just a pretty good one that you’re building up in your mind? What factors might you not have considered? What if something changed, like a key person left?

    I would not put my spouse through another move and such a big adjustment for a job that could turn out to be less than what I hoped for. And even if you have solid evidence that it *is* incredible—well, that itself is evidence that other good offers are within your grasp.

    1. Moving away*

      I agree. Better to make job decisions based on life than life decisions based on a job. I still remember a coworker moving for a job at our office and then the company fired her within a month. She was stuck with an expensive eleven month lease in a pricey part of the city she didn’t want to live in.

      1. amoeba*

        I mean, to be fair, it really depends on the job. There are fields where it’s definitely very expected that you would move for a good opportunity (academia for sure, but also adjacent fields – I’m in science/R&D and moving for a position is the absolute standard.)

        1. sparkle emoji*

          Sure, but it might still be a good idea to have a chat about if that field still makes sense for LW and their wife at this point in their lives. LW’s wife could also be fine with a move in the same time zone but not cross country, doesn’t seem like LW knows these answers yet and they should find out.

      2. JustaTech*

        Yeah, I had a coworker who’d taken a job half to be closer to her son and granddaughter, and half because this was where her new husband lived.
        Within her first month of work she discovered her husband had been cheating on her the whole time they were dating and married. She also learned that being “grandma in the same city” is a different relationship than “grandma in the next state”, so she was delighted to take the layoff 8 months later to move back to her old life.

    2. Awkwardness*

      : Sometimes what seems like an amazing opportunity from afar doesn’t measure up once you’re actually in the role.

      This is one of the things I hopefully have internalised when job searching again. There are a lot of letters here that something as a “dream job” does not exist and to not be too hyped up when looking.

      Also, I so not know the kind of work LW is doing. They say they moved three times in 10 years which could equal to the jobs in 10 years, making them 3-4 years on average per job. This could be completely fine or required according to the field of work, or it could indicate that LW is jumping ship too quickly, not taking enough care in choosing their positions, always searching for the new and so on. This makes me even more hesitant to give advice.
      LW, you need to talk to your wife. This is more important than some Internet strangers!

      1. kiki*

        Yeah, there’s a lot we don’t know about LW’s situation. It’s possible this amount of moving is really normal for their field and career path. But the amount of moving in less than ten years makes me worry that perhaps LW may have a little bit of Pa Ingalls syndrome– thinking another move or new career will solve all their problems instead of working through things in the same place. That is something to be wary of because constant moves can be so hard on family.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          Pa Ingalls syndrome! Great way to describe it.

          Wherever you go, there you are – so if you’re hoping a new location or a new job will magically fix you, it won’t.

        2. spiriferida*

          Yeah. It may be true that it’s an industry that requires it – there are a couple, but video games spring to mind. There’s a huge boom-and-bust culture with studios hiring workers for a project and then laying them off, and there are often only a few studios in a given area, or you can’t guarantee you’ll be hired by one of the ones in your geographic area, when you’re competing with the potentially hundreds of other workers who just got laid off.

          But those industries are often really hard to work in long-term, and it’s probably worth it for the LW to evaluate their field and their life with their partner and figure out whether they do want to continue in their main industry, or if they should think about making the switch to a new industry, that doesn’t require the same cross-country moves but makes better use of their skills and fits them better than their current job.

          1. Resentful Oreos*

            I agree with your last paragraph. Industries like video game production are very hard to work in long-term, and not just because of geography; they have a churn and burn culture because so many young people are clamoring to work in video games, so they don’t have to offer the kind of benefits that people in their 30’s with families and commitments tend to want (reasonable working hours, benefits, time off, etc.).

            If this LW is looking for work in a very niche, geographically constrained, or “eats its young” industry, they might want to consider switching fields. Constant moving is not sustainable for many people, and LW has already made a lot of “asks” of their wife. If LW worked in a place where jobs were very limited and hard to come by, that would be one thing, but there’s no indication in the letter that this is some kind of “company town” where all the jobs are in local government or tourism (to name one type of place). LW needs to broaden their horizons and not chase rainbows forever.

    3. Camelid coordinator*

      I also can’t tell if LW#3 has a job offer in hand or is daydreaming about the possibilities/looking for a geographic solution to bigger problems. I do think three moves in nine years is a lot and that four moves in ten years would be too much.

    4. learnedthehardway*

      I was going to say exactly this. There’s a considerable amount of risk to moving across the company for a job, and that risk is compounded by the fact that the OP is OVERLY motivated to change jobs, and that OP’s wife is killing it in her current company.

      Whatever the couple’s decision is, I would suggest that the OP do a very serious job search in their local area. There may very well be other opportunities closer to home – they don’t even have to be as good (on paper) as the West Coast role to shift the balance towards staying put.

    5. CommanderBanana*

      ^^ Yup. There’s so much that’s outside of your control. I’ve taken jobs and had my boss immediately quit, I’ve taken jobs and the organization then restructured, I’ve taken jobs where it turns out the job wasn’t what it was advertised as, and on and on and on. There is a lot you don’t know from the outside.

      I get the sense that LW thinks this is the One Perfect Job That Will Fix All The Things and that does not exist.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        I once took a job because it was commutable from a city I’d always wanted to live in, doing collaborative cross-functional work that I was really good at.

        Accepted the job, found an apartment, put a deposit on a new car I’d need for the commute. Yay me! I’m winning at life!

        A month into the job, while I was staying with friends waiting for my lease to start, the company announced they were relocating 20 miles south of their current location, to someplace where a commute would be double the time from the original location … not realistic. Then I got word from Toyota that they were discontinuing the car I bought and were refunding my deposit. And then the director of the department decided to cancel the cross functional work (because she wanted the control that came from our department hoarding our information, only giving it to her favorites, instead of sharing it based on process, functional need) And then I realized they were doing some unlawful things in their financial reporting (they were a publicly traded company)

        So dream life in dream city with great new job totally fell apart.

        Canceled the lease, kept the old car, quit the job … and within a month I was back at my old employer for a ST contract (better pay, more interesting work) Best laid plans, etc, etc. I was lucky I had a good support system, including people who gave me confidence to quit the now awful new job, that it would somehow work out. But yeah, what looks like the One Perfect Job that Will Fix All the Things … was not, and didn’t.

        I was eventually able to move to my target city, and get a pretty great job there. But it took some incremental steps, planning, and some good luck. Fixed some of the things and still working on the rest, but incrementally better is … better.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          Damn. That is a LOT. I haven’t had something on that level happen, but I did take a job specifically to work for one person, and they quit three weeks after they hired me. The person that was hired on after that sucked.

  12. Heidi*

    Letter 5 triggered memories of my dad’s rolodex. The cards always started out nice and neat, but then people’s contact info would change, so there would be multiple cross-outs and he’d have to squeeze in the new information around the cross-outs. Or he would white out the old information and type in new information with a typewriter. He also stapled business cards into the rolodex. What a great example of how stuff got done back in the day.

    1. Sunflower*

      I still keep notebooks because it’s easier for me to look up information on paper. It’s a mess but I know where everything is and were and how to look. If my workplace demand it, good luck deciphering it. LOL

    2. OP here*

      Oh yes that’s how it was for me! But I’m a neat freak and I would order new cards and clean it up and throw the ugly cross out ones away.

  13. Persephone*

    LW4 – as someone who could match your description of Adam, it’s interesting to see the other side of the situation.

    I’m autistic, by the way. Not that that has anything to with social interaction or anything.

    When it comes to the writing, have examples been provided or was it just general feedback? Have you sat with him and worked through it, shown him what you wanted? Because I know that’s what I would need, otherwise it’s basically making stabs in the dark.

    1. Meh*

      The saying “if you’ve met one autistic person, you know about one autistic person” is a thing for a reason. I’m also autistic and pretty much incapable of being that kind of formal, while my non-autistic partner defaults to a very formal tone in writing and would need guidance on changing that voice. Clear expectations help everyone, not just ND folks.

    2. Miss 404*

      Yes, someone who said what I was thinking! LW4, while I don’t know enough about Adam’s situation to say for sure (obviously), this miiiiiiight be an ADA or local equivalent situation. Obviously the issues get a little muddy if the disability in question is undisclosed, but I’d hesitate to jump to any sort of conclusion.

    3. BicBiro*

      this! I suspect I’m autistic and currently failing at work because I’m not at level expected but no specific examples or support like x is good, you do y and it’s bad because. it’s very exhausting!

    4. allathian*

      Regardless of neurotype, explicit instructions take all the unnecessary guesswork out of the equation. Most people prefer that to attempting to read the mind of the person making the request.

      But yeah, the company voice is important. It’s possible Adam can be coached in it, but it’s far from certain.

      I’m betting that Adam is a poor fit for this job, and the sooner he learns that he stands a real risk of not passing his probationary period, the better. I suspect he’d do better in the sort of formal environment the LW’s company, or at least their team, is trying desperately to get rid of.

      I like pretty much all of my coworkers. None of them are my friend-friends, but we do talk about more than just work, especially during our in-office days when we go to lunch together. But we’re a bunch of different personalities, some are more social than others, and that’s okay.

      Sure, neurotype can explain some of the differences, but there are other potential reasons. In some cases it’s just personal preference, or a more formal cultural background, for example.

    5. Irish Teacher.*

      Yes, the LW seems to assume that Adam knows how to write in their company style but is just too “uptight” to manage it. Which is understandable. She is used to their company style and if she’s worked there for a while, it probably comes naturally to her and anything else seems obviously wrong. But it sounds like her company is very different from most in the industry so if Adam comes from another company in that industry, the more formal style will be what has been engrained in him and he will need to be actively taught to write in a different style, not just told “it’s OK to be more informal here.”

      I bet if the LW or any of the other employees moved to one of the more formal companies, they would also struggle with writing in a different style and also with socialising in a more formal way. (Interestingly, as a society in general, we are often more aware that people need coaching on adapting to more formal cultures/writing more formally, but we often assume that the opposite should be a lot easier, when really they are just two different styles.)

      Obviously, I don’t know if Adam previously worked in one of the more formal companies, but if the industry standard is pretty formal, it is reasonable to assume that a lot of new employees are either going to have experience working in formal environments and/or are going to have learnt to write formally when training for this career.

    6. Generic Name*

      Just so you know, in a world of people who proudly proclaim they “swear like a sailor”, I really appreciate the quiet, soft-spoken, polite types. Old fashioned manners are a lost art.

      I agree about giving specific feedback. Saying his writing is “too corporate” is too general. What about it is corporate? Use examples. Then give examples of how a sentence could be rewritten to the tone you prefer.

      Also, OP, I’ll caution you about cultivating a culture that is overtly “anti-corporate” and involves casualness and swearing. I left a company that was like that, and the sexual harassment and poop jokes became intolerable. Be sure you are not tolerating a hostile work environment because you think it’s “uncool” to be buttoned up.

    7. Markie the Editor*

      This is a great comment, and exactly what I was thinking, too, as an AuDHDer.

      OP4, when I’ve dealt with similar situations before, I’ve given the team member annotated examples of what the writing should look like, and what it shouldn’t look like. I’ve always found providing a number of examples that cover the spectrum from awful to excellent to be very helpful. In the annotations, explain why elements of those examples are excellent, good, bad, or okay, and especially for the awful/bad ones, show what should have been done instead, and why.

      I’ve always found this to be an effective method.

      I’d also implore you to not fail Adam’s probation just because he seems quieter than other team members. A diverse team is an effective team. And it is also pretty irrelevant. Focus on his work reformable. That’s it.

  14. Susan*

    For #2, I think I agree with Dad. If the other candidates might already have managerial experience, I wouldn’t want to point out that I don’t.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Believe me, they’re definitely going to be aware whether the LW points it out or not! (Or if they’re not, that’s a bad sign about the job and what kind of support they’re likely to get.)

      1. Just Thinkin' Here*

        Agreed – the hiring committee has the son’s resume, they are aware of his lack of prior experience. You aren’t going to hide that. I’d be shocked if they don’t ask questions related to that. Better be prepared.

    2. Emmy Noether*

      If a candidate has an obvious “weakness”, it comes across much better if they proactively talk about what they’re going to do about it rather than… not mention it and hope no-one notices.

      Also, you don’t want to work for a place that will employ an inexperienced person and balk at training them. Whether that’s because they didn’t notice the person was inexperienced or because they expect them to magically know things without training – both are bad.

    3. BubbleTea*

      The goal isn’t “get any job” but “get a job that I can succeed in”. If having existing management experience is a requirement, LW doesn’t actually want this job.

      1. Susan*

        I wasn’t envisioning it as a requirement, just as an area where the LW might be less competitive.

      2. kiki*

        I think this perspective changed my career outlook for the better. I am great at framing myself for interviews– I can almost always present my strengths and skills in a way that makes me seem like an excellent fit for the job. BUT not all these jobs are really environments I would thrive in.

        From experience, I’ve learned I need somewhere with real processes, mentorship, and actual managers with training. I can sound like I’ll be a great fit at a buzzy new start-up and can work hard enough to make myself successful, but I won’t be happy there. I will not thrive. In the interview process, it’s just as much about getting information I need to weed out bad environments for as it is about making a good case for myself in the role.

        1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          A bit of a tangent to the question, but LW, it’s also worth being aware, as you step into management from the first time, that you are choosing the boss from whom you will learn how to be a manager. (I’m not saying that you can’t start with a bad boss and then learn better, but if you can start by getting guidance and mentorship from a good boss, that will be MUCH easier.)

          1. SB*

            LW2 here, this is part of why I am interested in what the company provides. I’ve worked for some poor leaders in my career, and want to know what else is available besides the folks above me.

    4. linger*

      OP2’s father should note that OP2 needs to know what the company norms are around supporting people into new roles, not just for OP2’s own future advancement, but because it impacts what OP2 will be expected to do to advance the development of OP2’s own subordinates. So a general question along the lines of “What resources are available at Company for guiding the career progression of employees?” could be asked from either perspective.

      1. Susan*

        I like that phrasing better.
        But also, I think my response is colored by never having worked at any company that offered any particular support to new managers at all.

        1. Plate of Wings*

          I totally agree with you. I’m not even that advanced my career (technically “senior” IC) but it would be out out of touch to first bring up any lack of experience I have in the context of wanting training or asking for resources. Starting by acknowledging the learning curve is smart, and makes you come off as a person with good judgement who has learned new things successfully before.

          You can find out if they have formal mentorship or structured training in that discussion, but there are plenty of good jobs at good companies where part of your job is making sure you get the resources you need without a predecessor or program. A lot of jobs don’t have anything formal in place but will follow your lead and provide time and money for those resources if you do the legwork. If you are okay with that, it’s worth communicating that it’s something you’re eager to arrange.

      2. Ini*

        I like this. Alternatively, you can say: “What resources are available as I transition into this role.” This is a general question that works for all roles at all levels and lets them know that you understand that anyone starting a new role will require additional support at the start. Depending on how they answer, follow up questions can focus on training for new managers.

          1. Wonderer*

            I think it’s also useful to come at it from a perspective of “what does direct managing of a team look like in this company?” For example, what’s their performance review process, how much authority do you have to approve budgets/travel/training?

            I think it’s a good idea to ask the question as “I’m interested in continuing to develop my management skills and I’m wondering what kind of resources or support would be available to help with this?”

    5. learnedthehardway*

      The recruitment team and hiring manager are going to know the OP’s level of management experience (or should) from the interviews and their resume. Not acknowledging that they have an area of growth in the role may equally harm their chances. When I have a candidate who doesn’t have management experience, for a role that is a manager, I look for similar experience, but I also look at the person’s attitude and recognition that they would have a learning curve.

      1. Susan*

        I think that recognizing that there’s a learning curve is different than going into an interview and asking for help in an area that you’re weak. Ideally, if you were going to bring it up, you’d present a plan for dealing with it.

    6. anonymous anteater*

      I could see it go either way, it comes down to two different philosophies almost. Don’t show weaknesses or be honest about your strengths and room for growth? If you ask about resources for new managers, that shows self-awareness, motivation to learn and to excel. I would take these any day over someone whose resume shows no managing experience but who promises me the world. But surely there are also the “your dad”s out there. If you believe that a job interview is a two-way conversation, this question can select out the hiring managers that are more like your dad!

  15. Mark*

    #1 I have a similar lady on my team at work. She is in her 40’s and wants people to be “as happily married as she is”. She considers it banter and a fun way to chat to younger staff. It was only by reading AAM that I realised unwelcoming constant questions about a love life were unacceptable in a work dynamic and I shut it down after that. I told her staff had commented on her weird obsession with younger staffs love life and to cut it out. After protesting it was just chit chat, a way of having casual conversations, I said if a topic is unwelcome to the recipient there was nothing acceptable about it, and it was weird on her side to continue to bring it up.

    Last week I heard she was doing it again to my newest team member, so time for another conversation.

    1. Everybody gets a humpback whale!*

      Strangely enough I had a middle aged coworker constantly pry into other peoples relationship status and give unsolicited relationship advice.
      Out of nowhere she would bring up her marvellous marriage, and she was sure to remind everyone that they’d be doomed for eternal loneliness if they didnt find someone.

      I found out later that she was in fact stuck in an awful marriage with a neglectful husband with an illicit substance addiction.

      Sometimes I wonder if her pushy behaviour towards others was really her trying to convince herself that marriage was better than she made it out today

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Yeah, the only time I have ever had unsolicited relationship advice paired with the “I have been married x decades” as the lead in – it was the wife of the guy in the office who was well known for cheating on her. I’ve been cheated on myself, so it’s not like I think that disqualifies her from giving advice – it was just strange how we talking about something else entirely, and we suddenly ended up in this conversation where my new marriage was going to be just like hers, if I listened up.

      2. Jaybeetee*

        Yeah, I’ve found from personal experience that if someone is being really pushy with me about something (or, I’ll be honest, times when I’ve been too pushy with other people in the past), it’s often been a projection or insecurity on the pushy person’s end. Like, the people I’ve encountered who have been very pushy with singletons about dating/marriage/etc were often miserably married themselves, but Had A Lot Of Feelings about other people being happily single.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          It’s sort of a “If I can’t be happily single because I’m in this situation, you shouldn’t be either, because you remind me of what I want” thing. Really annoying when it’s visited on you.

          1. Jaybeetee*

            Or alternatively, “I’m clinging onto an unhappy relationship because I’m afraid of being alone, and you being happy on your own makes me feel bad about that, so I need to mentally recast you as a Sad Sack Singleton who would be happier in Literally Any Relationship, so that I can resume feeling comfortable in my actually self-imposed misery.”

            And yes, still annoying when it’s visited on you!

          2. Boof*

            I suspect it’s more that they’ve internalized the same messages they’re telling you. They basically convinced themselves their situation is fine but need to keep convincing because actually it isn’t, but if it was easy to change gears they would have done it.

      3. CommanderBanana*

        ^^ This. Like how some people are really, really, really insistent that you must have children.

        Misery loves company.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      There’s a theory that gossip replaced social grooming as a way to bond our group of primates together. It might help to visualize it that way: Sondra is trying to maintain and enhance light social bonds that make it easier to function as a troupe, and needs some direction about appropriate topics.

    3. theletter*

      you could always give her the old ‘You never know if someone’s going through a rough divorce or breakup and is really hope work will be a welcome distraction. Or they might missinterpret your questions and go way beyond the boundary of what’s appropriate in an office. Maybe you could ask them about new tools, music, celebrities, hobbies, their last job, favorite trips, etc. What are they most excited for in their new job? Has anything confused them so far? Have they picked a favorite lunch spot yet? You know, office stuff!”

      1. Nah*

        “Or they might missinterpret your questions and go way beyond the boundary of what’s appropriate in an office.”

        Not gonna lie, if I was stuck in that situation for so long I’d be sorely tempted to respond “You seem oddly and overly invested in the details of my love life, are you trying to come on to me? That’s quite inappropriate in a workplace environment!”

        I typically dislike the “what if the genders were different” argument, but a middle-age man constantly pestering an uncomfortable younger woman about if she’s still single would (I would hope) also be shut down as not appropriate for work.

    4. Irish Teacher.*

      I once made the mistake of telling a colleague like this that I write stories and was asked “what type of stories do you write? Romance?” and on giving an emphatic “no” to that, got the reply of “why not? A lovely young girl like you?”

      1. Selina Luna*

        I do write romance, but mine is fanfic, extremely gay, and extremely explicit, so I also answer with an emphatic no, just to ward off other, less comfortable questions.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        Ew. This reminds me of when I told a particular guy I was going in to journalism, and he said “fashion?” Best use of Miss Manners phrase “No, why do you ask?” ever.

  16. Christine*

    I am in my sixties and neither I or my friends in my sixties or aged over do not overstep boundaries on younger people’s dating lives.It is a stereotype and it is not common.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Yup, I’m late 60s. I’ve never asked about coworkers’ love lives, bowel movements, finances, religion etc. NSFW questions imo.
      I kept my work chat to pleasantly superficial and not too much of that either.

      Such overstepping is a nosey person characteristic, not related to age.
      Possibly concerning for the OP in this case is that it could also be someone trying to “sniff out the gay”, or I am being overly suspicious?

    2. ChattyDelle*

      another 60+ yr old here! I think it is (unfortunately) very easy for the older ladies in the office to become the “office mom”, whether they want it or not. At my last job, I made very sure I was not put in that position; but another older woman happily took it on. Especially as an older worker, I think it does us more harm than good. Not only annoying our younger coworkers, but it’s easy to get saddled with all the “womanly” tasks (planning parties, decorations etc) that, fairly or not. detract from our professionalism. At my age, I didn’t have career aspirations (I actually just retired), but it would have damaged my credibility and standing with my boss

    3. Ray of Darkness*

      Good for you. However, while I’m sure you are correct that it is a stereotype, it is based on reality. I have encountered this behavior multiple times in my career and it has always come from an older woman. It’s been pretty common in my experience. I’m delighted – if a little surprised – that it has not been so for you.

    4. Grey Coder*

      I do associate that prying behaviour with a particular age, but the age I am thinking of is twelve.

      1. allathian*

        I’d say five. Most twelve-year-olds have at least some idea of the appropriate social conventions in their culture, at least unless they were raised in isolation and never got the chance to interact with people outside their family/school. They may break these conventions, but by that time it’s intentional in that their curiosity gets the better of them.

        However, five-year-olds are very curious and they don’t really have a filter yet, so they’ll say whatever is on their minds.

        1. Grey Coder*

          Ha, I was thinking more of the “Timmy said he likes you, do you like him” “I like him but I don’t LIKE like him” conversations I remember from that age. But yeah, five works too.

    5. Brambles are not the only fruit*

      Thanks for clearing this up Christine. These sort of comments are just ageism, pure and simple. If anyone is in any doubt that that such comments are wrong then just try substituting ‘woman’ or ‘PoC’ for any word that that refers to an older person and see if you still feel the same.

    6. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I am also in my sixties and do I not ask about my co-workers’ dating lives or press them for details about their personal lives. It just isn’t my business and I don’t care to pry.

      Funny thing, though. A couple of 30-something co-workers volunteered very personal dating information at a team lunch – their first overnighter with the new person in their life and other related info. They took me to task because I DIDN’T ask for details because if I really cared about them as people, I’d want to know.

      1. a trans person*

        Does this mean they were trying to come out to you? Possibly about being queer or being polyamorous? Apologies if they really were pushing something inappropriate, but I have had bad experiences where the other person would probably say something like what you said here.

    7. Resentful Oreos*

      I am also, ahem, “of a certain age,” and I am not the stereotypical nosy, overbearing, busybody, all the negative labels that get attached to older women. People hate us enough as it is simply for existing, now we’re undesirable coworkers because we’re always taking on the “office mom” role.

      For me, I never really notice or care who is texting who unless they are being very obvious about it (howling with laughter in between texts, etc).

  17. Christine*

    Amended
    I am in my sixties and neither I or my friends or work colleagues of the same age or aged over overstep boundaries on
    younger people’s dating lives.
    This is a stereotype of older people and it is not common.
    Also please remember that some of us are dating ourselves and working and also keeping all of this separate from our younger work colleagues.

    1. Kella*

      I didn’t see OP1 attributing the behavior of the coworker to her age, but mentioning the age to contextualize the social dynamic.

      For what it’s worth, I have also experienced comments like OP1 did and they have almost exclusively been from folks over the age of 50. For example, once when I told a customer I was quitting my job, she asked me if I was getting married (???). I don’t in any way believe that such patterns of behavior are inherent or exclusive to that age group but it’s undeniable that which topics are considered appropriate for work socializing have changed a lot through the years, and a subset of people haven’t adapt to those changes.

      1. amoeba*

        Yeah, I feel like it would definitely be a different (not necessarily better! It would still be inappropriate!) thing if the coworker was the same age/single. More of a “trying to be friends/bond about dating/men” thing. So I’d say it’s relevant info!

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I am not defending older people, or anyone for that matter, for asking about someone’s dating life or marriage and family plans either in or outside of the workplace. It’s truly Not Their Business.

          But for some folks, it’s, um, explainable, because those questions were not always unwelcome. In fact, questions about one’s dating and family plans were not only asked, but eagerly answered, for decades. Think about it, it wasn’t that long ago that women were brought up to be wives and mothers, and men were brought up to be husbands and fathers. The 40s, 60s, and 60s aren’t ancient history yet! It was pretty common for young people to get set up with someone’s son/daughter/niece/nephew from work or church. Casual discussions often led to fixups, and it was understood the point of meeting someone was eventual marriage.

          Again, it isn’t okay to pry, but I think there’s still a generation or two that asks about this because it was just done. And I imagine younger generations will react the way they do now 30 years in the future, for the same reason.

          1. Ginger Baker*

            Uhhhh just to slight counter-point this, it was my mother (born in 1949) who gave me her stellar comeback to “why aren’t you married yet” type questions: “You’re right! Most people are working on their second marriage right now and I haven’t even started my first!!” (Yes, my mother was an ABSOLUTE BALLER, why do you ask?)

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              Uhhhh, please note that I did not state ALL PEOPLE OF THAT ERA asked questions like that. I said it was pretty common. Please don’t make my comments absolutes when they are more general.

              Also: I loved you on ‘Wheels of Fire.’

              1. Ginger Baker*

                Geez I had no idea “slight counter-point” was so absolutist. Certainly didn’t mean to offend you with what I thought was a pretty light-touch comment that shared a related script my mom used that I happen to love.

                1. SheLooksFamiliar*

                  Fair point. I should’ve said, ‘Why make a counter point against a point I did not make?’

                  Also: ‘Fresh Cream’, too.

            2. pally*

              Love your ma’s response!
              Better than my “Oops! I knew I’d forgotten to do something!”

          2. Observer*

            But for some folks, it’s, um, explainable, because those questions were not always unwelcome.

            All fine and good. But I’m closer to 60’s than 20’s. And while it’s been acceptable to *ask* and still is in many cultures, it has never been acceptable to *push* and to *keep asking*.

            The age may be relevant because of the social dynamic at play. But it does nothing to “explain” the rude behavior.

            1. Clisby*

              Maybe they weren’t always unwelcome – but I’m 70, and remember how annoyed I, my sister (now 69) and my similar-aged first cousin (who would be 71 if she were still living) were at being quizzed at family reunions on when we were getting married. Note: Our parents, our aunts, our uncles, never quizzed us on this. This was one particular obnoxious older cousin.

              1. Observer*

                Our parents, our aunts, our uncles, never quizzed us on this. This was one particular obnoxious older cousin.

                Right. As you note, *quizzing* is something that has never been ok. Only the “obnoxious” cousin did that. And that’s pretty much what the LW’s coworker is doing.

                If the CW were writing in, I’d tell her “Don’t be the obnoxious cousin.”

          3. PhyllisB*

            Yep. Like the question do have kids? Or, do you want kids? used to be a perfectly beign question. Maybe the second not so much, but young married/engaged women talked about this stuff all the time.
            I’m 73 now and would never dream of asking anyone about their romantic life or plans for children, but it was not considered a hot topic when I was younger.

      2. Some Words*

        Are you something other than heterosexual?

        This is not to be snarky, but my experience being a non-out (at work) self identified lesbian, my 20 something co-workers never stopped trying to get the dirt on my dating life. I was very clear that it wasn’t a topic I was going to discuss. This was years ago. My older co-workers didn’t do this. There’s definitely an additional dynamic when the person being questioned isn’t straight.

        Nosiness isn’t age related.

        I had hoped this was something that we were past, culturally.

        1. anonny*

          +1, agreed!

          However, what is the difference between a “lesbian” and “self identified lesbian”? I just wasn’t sure what this means.

        2. Kella*

          I am but I don’t have any visual indicators that would make that obvious, I’m in a long term relationship with a man, and this particular customer had never met me before. I definitely agree that there’s an added dynamic when queerness is in the mix, and also, I’ve experienced these nosy questions regarding my heterosexual relationship too. Being a woman who’s over 25 and in a long term relationship with a man and has no plans to marry or have kids is another version of resisting the status quo, which can sometimes garner social scrutiny.

  18. David*

    Hmm, letter #5 is prompting me to do some amateur “lawyering” (note, not actual lawyering as I am not an actual lawyer)… I wonder if the rolodex would really be intellectual property at all? I mean, based on what I read in the letter, it sounded like it was a directory of contact info that another person could look up online or by making enough phone calls of their own. And I know that in some cases, compilations of factual information – like phone books, back in the days when those were widely published – are excluded from copyright protection (in the US, anyway) because they don’t count as creative works, which means they would not fall under the “work for hire” provision that a company might normally use to claim ownership of something created by an employee. This wouldn’t make the rolodex the letter-writer’s intellectual property, it would be nobody’s IP in that case, but that would mean the company would be wrong to claim that it’s their IP, and I guess wrong to claim that the letter-writer wasn’t allowed to take it. (Unless some other law kicks in, maybe trade secrets or something.)

    Of course this is all speculation, and I guess we’ll never really know unless this situation actually winds up in court, it’s just interesting to think about whether this could be one of the extremely rare exceptions to the principle that your work as an employee is owned by your employer.

    1. tabloidtained*

      There’s a “minimum creativity” requirement for IP. Since it seems that LW chose what to include and not include in the rolodex, that could qualify it as intellectual property.

    2. OP here*

      This was how I felt about it at the time. This tool zero brain power or creativity. Googled a number, went through the prompts, got Sally on the phone who says “Hey, you again? Nice to hear from you. Here’s my direct line if you need to call again. And ask for Barry if I’m not here, he’s my manager.” The end. Like I wpuld literally speak to these people at least 2x a day 3-4 times a week.

  19. Ellis Bell*

    OP1, I would treat this as though she were asking you about vegetarianism, or rock climbing, or some other kind of odd non sequitur topic that you didn’t introduce to her. “Are you getting me confused with Kelly? She has a boyfriend.” If your colleague says “Oh no, I was just asking you IF you had a boyfriend”. Just say “Yeah, it’s Kelly who has a boyfriend, I’m pretty sure I’ve never mentioned a boyfriend to you.” or “I haven’t said anything about boyfriends, I’m pretty sure.” Or “I’ll let you know if there’s anything I want to report”.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Thankfully, I never worked anywhere so nosy as to ask – unless it’s about work, engineers communicate mostly in grunts – but I’d have cheerfully replied: “I keep my private life out of work – so no sex, religion or politics here for me”

      1. ecnaseener*

        Interesting — tbh I would find that very odd if you implied that any mention of dating was actually about sex! I’d wonder what was going through your mind whenever someone innocently mentioned their significant other.

        1. Sloanicota*

          One of the reasons this isn’t a great work topic is that most responses sound a bit awkward/stilted/uncomfortable … because you’re trying to deflect a highly intimate conversation that you don’t want to have (“I’m actually gay but I did get a few hits on grindr this week so fingers crossed for the weekend!!!”).

        2. wavefunction*

          Yeah, I would also find mentioning sex very odd. If I didn’t know someone who made a comment like this, I’d worry about being out to them, because so much of homophobia is framed as gay people discussing their partners = them shoving their sex lives in people’s faces. Not saying this is what the commenter is doing of course! But it’s good to be aware of how this comment could come across to different people, especially if they’re new to you.

        3. BikeWalkBarb*

          Sex, religion, and politics = the list of the “big 3 topics to avoid with people you don’t know well” in etiquette advice going way, way back. I never took it to mean sex explicitly, just the whole arena of romance, dating, love. Said with a light touch *when someone is asking about your private life* isn’t the same thing as having X-rated thoughts when someone mentions their SO; I don’t view the two as equivalent.

          1. ecnaseener*

            Agree to disagree I guess. I certainly don’t think most people mean “don’t talk about your significant other or dating” when they say “don’t talk about sex.” If a lot of people are thinking that, they’re good at hiding their disapproval when people mention their SOs at work!

            If I heard person A ask person B something like “do you have a significant other?” and person B says “I keep my private life out of work, no sex religion or politics!” I’d interpret person B’s statement as “I can’t answer that without talking about sex (or religion or politics).”

            Worth knowing how this may come across if you want to use it.

    2. nnn*

      I am really enjoying the idea of an office having a token Person Who Has A Boyfriend, like the Person Who Does Rock Climbing! Seriously, this framing is delighting me!

      (“Yeah, it’s Kelly who has a boyfriend. I mean, I have tried Having A Boyfriend a few times and it was fun enough, but it just take so much work and organization and planning that I kind of…haven’t gotten around to it in a while.”)

    3. Yours Sincerely, Raymond Holt*

      I feel like that could potentially add confusion. And maybe even be taken to indicate further conversation is welcome.

      Alison’s scripts are all much clearer.

  20. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

    Adam is still on probation, so perhaps that’s part of why he’s still reserved.

    I take time to settle into a new job enough to be relaxed and “banter” (!) with colleagues. Because I know I can easily be seen as too much, or weird, or my sense of humour is a bit off, or a million other things that can be hard to read when you’re new.

    I agree with Alison to focus on the work. And keep in mind that if he is made permanent, over time, he may naturally open up. He probably doesn’t think he’s *less* likely to pass his probation due to a lack of “banter.” If anything, he probably thinks he’s playing it safe.

  21. I didn't say banana*

    Hang on, Letter 5 made a physical rolodex in the age of Google? They didn’t just put it in an Excel spreadsheet that could be updated, shared, added to by others, and copied without any hassle?

    1. misspiggy*

      If you’re about to phone someone it’s much quicker and easier to reach for the rolodex than find, open and scan a software file.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          It very well could be:

          – Grab Rolodex, flip to letter, flip to card.
          – Open file explorer, open correct network drive, open correct folder, find correct file, open file, filter or ctrl+f to contact. (Or hide desktop, open shortcut, filter or ctrl+f to contact)

          FWIW, I’m 38 and there are certain reference materials I keep printed — even though I’m hybrid — because it feels easier to me to reach into my bag and pull out the folder with 6 sheets of printed excerpts of information than it is to go to where that same information is bookmarked on my computer.

              1. AnonInCanada*

                If you’re constantly referring to it, you’d more than likely would either pin the file to the START menu, or hit &ltWINKEY&gt and start typing “contact” in the search box until your contacts.xlsx file shows up in the results. That’s how I call up frequently used files.

              2. AngryOctopus*

                So save a copy to your desktop so it’s there?
                The biggest reason to save it in an electronic format in this day and age is SHARING. OP could have shared it with her coworkers instead of them having to come and ask. She could have sent herself a copy when she left, and made sure her replacement had the original file. So easy.

                Also, OP, in whatever form you created it, it belongs to the company. Full stop.

                1. Insert Clever Name Here*

                  Well yes, obviously an electronic version is better for sharing and obviously what OP created was company property. But I was commenting specifically on the idea that a physical copy can’t be faster than electronic.

          1. CRM*

            I think it depends on the individual’s preference. Personally, I would much rather have access to it electronically. Are the names in the rolodex listed alphabetically? If so, is it the primary contact listed first, or the the name of the hospital/company? Or is it sorted based on how recently OP added their contact to the rolodex? If so, that would be extremely confusing and laborious to sift through!

            I would much prefer to search an electronic file, even if it takes me an extra 60 seconds to get there. Not to mention OP’s coworkers who reference the file, they need to spend time making the trip to OP’s desk, when they could just access it at their own desk.

            1. Clisby*

              Every rolodex I’ve ever used had those A-Z tabs, with cards behind them. It would never have occurred to me to file the info any way but alphabetically. So “Aardvark Medical Systems” under A, “Bering, Strait MD” under B, etc. If there are enough entries to need multiple related cards, then you have “Aardvark Medical Center, Cardiac Care Billing”, “Aardvark Medical System, Billing Office”, or whatever. If you haven’t ever used a rolodex, maybe it doesn’t seem obvious, but I’ve never seen anyone do it differently than I’ve described, and it’s very simple.

              1. CRM*

                To be fair, my only experience with a rolodex was in my first job at a small organization, where one of my tasks was to digitize the rolodex in the new donor management database. The rolodex had hundreds of contacts, and oh man, it was a real mess. There were tabs, but within the tabs the cards were just stuffed in there without any organization or sorting. Also, companies vs primary contacts were not filed consistently – sometimes Company ABC whose primary contact was Jane Wiggleworth would be filed under “A”, other times under “J”, and other times under “W”. It was pretty much up to the discretion of whichever employee or volunteer was updating it at the time. Also, there were some that were misfiled altogether, likely accidentally stuffed in there when rushing in between meetings. Also, some would have multiple records for one company, which was confusing (especially when some of those cards were out of date).

                So yeah, that may have biased my opinion a bit. But I think the general message still holds: rolodex can be handy, but an electronic file is easy to share, easy to organize, easy to update (and keep track of different versions), and easy to use. I stand by my personal opinion!!

          2. Observer*

            Open file explorer, open correct network drive, open correct folder, find correct file, open file, filter or ctrl+f to contact. (Or hide desktop, open shortcut, filter or ctrl+f to contact)

            Way too many steps. If this is something you use all the time, you pin it to your start menu or the task bar. Or you just leave it open.

            Flip to letter, flip to card works easily if your rolodex is not over-full and you are100% consistent in how you file and notate stuff. And that gets progressively harder as the information changes.

            I’m not saying that everyone is going to find the file method easier, even with all of this, but it really is the case that for the most part it does make more sense to use a digital file.

        2. Jiva*

          I just tried it and yes, it is. I have a physical rolodex of contacts on my desk by the phone, and there is an electronic version of the data on the company SharePoint (we are not permitted to store this data on the desktop). It took me more than twice as long to locate the contact info using the electronic version. With the rolodex, it’s flip to correct letter, flip to correct card, read number. With the electronic version it’s open SharePoint, navigate to correct section (3 clicks), scroll, click to load the document, wait for it to open, hit Ctrl+F, type search parameters, hit enter, then read number.

          Hope this helps!

          1. Sloanicota*

            I also find in a Rolodex you get attuned to “ah yes the one with the bent corner / scuffed edge / the one written in hot pink pen because that’s all I could find that day” which makes it easier to flip to the one you want quickly. People still use business cards so I’m amused by the rolodex incredulity here for a phone-heavy job. But I guess OP did run into the exact weakness, being not easily transferable.

          2. Observer*

            With the electronic version it’s open SharePoint, navigate to correct section (3 clicks)

            Why don’t you have a link to the document on your desktop? That gets rid of the whole initial set of steps.

            And also, in many cases (especially if you have decent performance) even with the extra steps it still takes less time than the fewer physical steps.

            My point is not the the computer version is The One Right Way. But that it is very reasonable to wonder why it was not an electronic file to start with, as properly set up it should be faster to use AND it’s far more shareable (which is something that the LW explicitly says was happening.)

            1. Insert Clever Name Here*

              Maybe your network is fast enough that when you click on the SharePoint link it opens immediately, but even when I’m hardwired into the network in my office it takes my computer about 15 seconds to open files. Longer if something is really large, like my very involved reference sheet of purchase order information that is pinned to my start bar. By the time that’s loaded, I’ve pulled out my physical copy of the report, found the line about the Sanderson PO, and told the person on the phone that it expires in October instead of November.

              More shareable being electronic — absolutely! Unequivocally faster — maybe but also maybe not!

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          I’ve gotta join Piggy et al here: That’s why I have a cork board with numbers for the dentist, eye doctor, etc.

          1. Banana Pyjamas*

            Yep. At my last office everyone printed the phone list. Most people taped it to their monitor. I had the most important numbers taped directly to the phone. I did try using the Excel file for a couple months, but just getting to the file took longer than referencing the list.

      1. amoeba*

        Er, what? No? Like, the document would also have a search function, which would almost certainly be faster than locating the numbers in a physical file? (Nowadays, I’d probably also have it on my phone so I could directly dial without typing out the number manually, but I guess as it’s been a few years, this might have been pre-work-smartphone/virtual phones…)

        1. bamcheeks*

          I think this depends on size of document and how well you know it. I could well imagine that a physical rolodex with up to a couple of hundred entries physical file that you personally created and know very well (“Spire Healthcare in Leeds– that’s under K because it’s Freddie Knott, third down on the page and I think I wrote it in purple, here he is”) is quicker than loading a spreadsheet and flipping between screens, especially if you don’t have a particularly fast computer or connection. Electronic is going to win out as soon as you’re working at scale or having multiple people want to use it, but paper files can easily win over short distances.

        2. WantonSeedStitch*

          I’m with you. A commonly-used file like that would probably live on my desktop, and I’d open it up first thing in the morning and just keep it minimized when not in use. I’d pop it open and search for what I wanted when I needed it. Super fast.

      2. Cat Tree*

        It takes me less than 3 seconds to Google a company’s phone number. I always have Chrome open, and I don’t even have to finish typing the name out, especially if I have searched for it before. Essentially Google is the rolodex.

        The extra info about direct lines and contact names is nice, but if I have to go over to someone else’s desk to see it, that’s not very efficient for me.

      3. AnonInCanada*

        I think it would be a lot easier to open that contact file and hitting either ^F or F3 to go searching for said name would be a lot faster than fumbling through a Rolodex IMHO.

        Wow. I don’t remember the last time I saw a Rolodex on anyone’s desk. I remember using one… twenty years ago, maybe longer.

      4. Observer*

        it’s much quicker and easier to reach for the rolodex than find, open and scan a software file

        Let’s just put it this way – A LOT of people are going to disagree with you. Especially if you have a large list and if you understand the most basic functions of almost any software that has existed in the age of Google (ie how to use Ctrl-F).

    2. EllenD*

      I’ve been leaving spreadsheets of contact info for 25 years at each job I’ve left. One of the first things I do in a new post is create a contacts spreadsheet, which I build up, and share with colleagues in my team. I ask them to add to it and update as things change. I’d often retain a former contacts name (no other details) with a notes column that said now replace by x, whose contacts details were in the worksheet. In one job there was a massive crisis, (before everyone had laptops) and a colleague was able to print the key columns in the spreadsheet and carry it with him to senior meetings and looked really in control by having the info to hand. He got the praise and recognition, but did acknowledge the info systems I’d set in place was what had let him look good.

    3. Snarky McSnarkerson*

      No one uses Outlook Contacts? Which would have likely disappeared when she left old job, depending on how the company handled old email accounts.

    4. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Yeah, I haven’t used paper for contacts, reminders, checklists, reports, process docs etc this millenium.
      (and I’m late 60s, so it’s not an age thing)

    5. theletter*

      I think it’s a comfort level thing – when I look at paper, I see future mess. I see things that have to be ‘dealt with’, things already out of date. I see people making fun of my handwriting.

      Electronic documents can scale to whatever size needed, can be easily changed over time, can keep of history of changes, can be imported into new applications. I’d rather have to dig around a shared drive than to have to keep a highly specific machine with speficially sized cards on my desk that can’t be easily shared.

      But that’s how I work best! These are things to keep in mind when bringing new people on to a team. Something that could work really well for one person might be terrible busy work for someone else.

    6. Texas Teacher*

      This whole thread kind of explains why the LW felt that the Rolodex and its contents belonged to them personally. Something that works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another.
      However, it should’ve been copied and left with the company, since it turned out (with people regularly coming to access the tool) it was useful to the company itself.

    7. OP here*

      This was maybe 10 years ago. And it was most certainly easier to flip through the rolodex less than a centimeter from my hand on my desk. Plus we had no document management system to speak of and sure if I saved it on my desktop that could have been fast but whatever, it worked for me at the time. Don’t think it’d be something I’d do now tho. I’m looking at my desk and think it would be annoying.

  22. English Rose*

    #4 I do hope you manage to coach Adam’s writing skills so that he can make the improvements you need.
    On the social side of things, I think there’s a fine line between needing staff who can work within the company/team culture and having a team who are all too similar to each other. Different personalities bring different strengths, which can balance a team much better.

  23. Doneese*

    OP 3, your wife has made enough sacrifices. This is just one job. I would not live in separate states if you want to stay married. A single job is usually not the solution to all life’s problems.

    1. Tuckerman*

      Right. I wonder if part of the lure of a new job far away could be that it would be an opportunity to part ways with the fam, at least temporarily, and not have anything holding him back from making lots of $. Are there other stressors at home, like caregiving (kids or older relatives)?

    2. PhyllisB*

      Here’s another thought: assuming LW has applied for this job and gets an offer, why couldn’t he move alone, try the job and see if it’s a good fit/where he wants to stay? He’s already made three moves in 10 years and none of them turned out to be “the one.” This one may not be, either. Why couldn’t he find a short term rental (six months or so) and give the job a real chance? If it works out and wife is willing, then she can relocate and they make permanent living arrangements. If it DOESN’T work out he can just go back to her area and start again.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        That can be an option. I’d only advise people to do long-distance if they know there will be an end date. But I’d also only advise this if the job was so uniquely suited to LW that there isn’t an equivalent open currently.

    3. Anna K*

      Yes, my parents were faced with a similar decision decades ago, and my dad still talks about how it was a tough choice to say no to the job, but that he is so, so glad that he didn’t leave the rest of the family even for 6 months, which would have been the time frame before the rest of us could have moved. That at the time, the job seemed like everything, but in retrospect, the strain on his family would have had longer reaching consequences in his life.

  24. Cup of Ambition*

    Lw4: I would argue that a company culture that gets so annoyed when a person is not as relaxed as them is not actually such a relaxed culture. The writing is one thing, but requiring a certain type of personality to thrive in the workplace is just a different type of formal and oppressive! In certain situations it could be perceived as ableist also.

    1. Cheap ass rolling with it*

      I agree. The workplace description reminds me of “bro culture”. If so, try to be open to other personalities otherwise you could be missing good talent.

    2. Sparkles McFadden*

      This letter really bothered me because it sounds as if the LW wants to have a “fun” workplace, and those are the worst work environments by far. The fun workplace is a place where no one has appropriate boundaries, and coworkers just harass each other endlessly. This LW made me think of the saga of the workplace with the beer brewery runs and the manager who “unmanaged” one of the staff members into quitting. That started out with the question of “Is the work environment I’ve created on my team too exclusive?” and ended up with everyone getting fired.

    3. Cinnamon Stick*

      I agree. I also find myself wondering just how welcoming the team has been to Adam.

  25. r.*

    LW2,

    ignore your dad, bring it up.

    You’re not telling the interviewing side anything they don’t already know; they can read the fact that you have leadership experience, and limited, informal management experience, but not formal management experience right from your resume!

    All you’re doing is acknowledging a gap in your experience in a proactive and constructive way, instead of trying to sweep it under the bush, or just “winging it”. This is a good thing!

    Especially since your letter reads to me like getting that formal experience, and the support and mentoring you’d get along the way as professional development, might be one of the reasons why you’re interested in that job in the first place.

    1. SB*

      LW2 here, you’re absolutely right. That is part of why I’m interested in the job! I was beginning to think I was crazy, all I was wanting to do was acknowledge a gap in my resume, like any other skill.

  26. Mimsie*

    LW5 – agree it was the company’s property but why didn’t they just… make a new Rolodex? It sounds like it would have been good training for Jane as well. With all the back and forth they could have probably made a new one in the same amount of time. To be clear, it should have stayed! But it was also very badly managed.

    1. ArtK*

      Why should they go to the significant effort of recreating the Rolodex? They already paid for the first one through the LW’s salary. It’s a work product created on company time with company resources.

      1. OP here*

        Um not quite. Partly because the rolodex also included names and numbers from a time *before* I worked there as well as a number or 2 I called on my own time when having to retrieve my own personal medical records.

        I guess I’m just confused about why no one else thought to do what I did. They were literally googling these numbers before. Old Boss probably didn’t even know the rolodex existed until Jane used me as an excuse for why she couldn’t do her job. Again, they were googling before so….was that not a thing she could have kept doing to not get in trouble and then start writing down her own numbers.

        Also perhaps commenters are hung up on the idea of people coming to my desk to get the information somehow proving that it was something that belonged to the company. It was mostly attorneys doing this because they obviously wouldn’t have or know this info. But other paralegals who were doing this work before I got there that never thought of it? Then a new person who also started googling when she started but then saw (from the behavior of the attorneys) that she didnt even have to bother knowing who to call and when because she could just come to my desk and let me spoon feed her the info? I didn’t mind sharing but there was definitely an element of laziness there.

        1. I should really pick a name*

          I guess I’m just confused about why no one else thought to do what I did. They were literally googling these numbers before.

          But other paralegals who were doing this work before I got there that never thought of it?

          While it’s totally fair to wonder about this stuff, and I get why you would be annoyed, it’s unrelated to the subject of ownership.

          Basically, if you create it during worktime using work resources, it belongs to them. Even if it isn’t useful to them.

        2. Antilles*

          I guess I’m just confused about why no one else thought to do what I did.
          Initially, they probably just didn’t think of it. There are a lot of corporate processes that are inefficient but people are used to the way it works so it doesn’t get changed.
          Then after you created it, it doesn’t make sense for them to re-invent the wheel. Why duplicate the wheel when it’s already built?
          In my industry, we do a lot of calculations. My last firm had some people do these calculations by hand while others would use extremely simple spreadsheets which require extensive manual input that could easily be messed up. I used my Excel knowledge to program some much more detailed spreadsheets. Formulas protected so you can’t accidentally delete them, color coded input cells, drop-down boxes, error-checking for values well outside normal ranges, the works. Once people saw my spreadsheet, they were all impressed. But did they go program their own? Of course not. They just made a copy of mine, because everybody knew it works and it wouldn’t make sense for them to try to re-create it from scratch.
          That said, for a hard copy Rolodex, it is odd that nobody wanted to ask for a copy of the Rolodex or get it scanned in while you still worked there. But I suspect that’s simply that they reasonably assumed it would continue to exist so why bother spending an hour or two with the copier when they can just swing by your desk for 10 seconds.

    2. CRM*

      We don’t know how long it took OP to create their rolodex. It could have been months, perhaps even years, of work! They didn’t just record public info, but direct lines for important contacts, which can be extremely useful (and is probably the reason why OP’s rolodex is so valued by the company). It would be senseless to ask Jane to recreate all of that work when it’s already been done, especially if her coworkers are now expecting that information to be readily available and it’s impacting Jane’s performance to not have it.

  27. Lilac*

    I once worked in a place that I think thought they were more friendly and positive than they actually were. In reality they might have been kind and positive amongst themselves but as the new person I was just left feeling like I was left on the outside of the clique. Like there was a staff group chat that I was never invited to and I never learnt about until my last week when someone asked if I was doing the bingo.

    I lasted three months before I resigned because I knew that I didn’t fit with the organisational culture and that I wasn’t going to pass probation at 6 months (Australia). It really negatively impacted my work performance too, since I didn’t gel with my managers and they saw me as less competent in my role due to my social performance. And so my training was impacted as well as my self confidence.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      While US, I wonder if part of this challenge is how much normal turn over is, if low or very high, there might not be as much investment in newcomers as in places with moderate amounts.

      I’ve noticed something similar in both work and social life, since I’ve moved around the US a fair bit.

  28. LondonLady*

    OP1# I find that being incredibly boring can be a polite but effective rebuttal to intrusive workplace questions, eg “Oh, just something personal…[put phone away]… was there something you needed from me?”… or “Hi there… [put phone away]…is there something I can do for you?” Show mild surprise to be asked, put the phone away in a relaxed not furtive way – a signal that this is now out of discussion – and conclude with a cheery question and a complete lack of satisfying intel. And Alison’s evergreen advice to follow up with a work question eg “Has the agenda for the team meeting gone out?” to divert the convo back to safe ground.

  29. Dog momma*

    #5. I created several “cheat sheets” in a former life. we ( all experienced staff has them, I made my own list.) as described by LW. I made copies for new staff for those who wanted them. Not everyone did. When I left, I shredded all of them. Everyone had all the info and the one who didn’t, well she was half way out the door.. she had informed me previously that she was not about to look ANYTHING up, it was just easier to ask me…grr. My supervisor and manager were informed. She wasn’t there much longer for a variety of reasons.

    1. Jordan*

      There is this assumption in coupled world that “i am so happy with my person, I don’t want you to struggle/suffer like I did before I married”. My cousin, well meaning but not understanding would say “I’ll pray for you to find the (spouse) for you.” I started with “you don’t need to…” but finally laid it out “please don’t. I am not looking and not interested, it’s not something I want at all”. She was flummoxed, but we got past it.
      Some people just can’t contemplate a different mindset, until someone explains it as an option.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        This reminds me of a certain Irish politician who is gay and whose sister was being interviewed when he got an important role and was talking about how she didn’t mind him being gay at all, she’d just been worried he was too much a career man and wasn’t going to get together with anybody and later mentioned she’d felt a little annoyed that he came out to their other sister before her.

        My thought was that I didn’t blame him. She sounded like the type of person who once she knew what gender he was attracted to would immediately start trying to set him up with somebody. After all, if he was just focussed on his career and not ready for a relationship yet or aromantic asexual or otherwise prefered to be single, that…wouldn’t be a problem either.

        So yeah, there are some people who just can’t grasp the idea of people being happy without a romantic relationship/significant other.

    2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      I’ve never deleted/shredded any work product when leaving, because it all belongs to my employer; it’s up to the remaining employees & manager to delete or keep.

    3. Teaching teacher*

      A Roledex today costs about $40. I get the intellectual property part, but if she bought it herself is she just supposed to eat the cost and hand it over? I’m coming from the perspective of teaching, where spending your own money on your classroom is normalized. If I buy a book to read to my class and on my planning time I write questions and vocabulary in the margins to discuss while I read it, did I just convert the book into the school’s intellectual property and lose ownership of it? And if not how is that different from the letter writer bringing in her own personal property that no one asked
      for and writing on it? If she had something really useful written in her notes app, she wouldn’t have to leave her phone when she left.

      1. Teaching teacher*

        dang it, how did this turn into a reply? I hit the post button at the top of the comment section, I’ll repost as its own. sorry!

      2. doreen*

        Even if she bought it herself without being reimbursed, the compilation of the information still would have belonged to her employer even if the physical rolodex was hers. . And that’s if she bought it herself – the letter doesn’t say, and my job would have provided me with a rolodex if I wanted one right up until I retired two years ago.

      3. WellRed*

        It’s not intellectual property. It’s publicly available information. Yes, the company was in the right but OP didn’t violate anything either. These are called contacts. Salespeople have them, journalists have them, etc.

        1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

          Even publicly available info that is collected in work time is a work product which belongs to the employer.

    4. OP here*

      I think this is what bothered me! Jane got to used to just asking me for contact info for what the main part of her job and when I left she probably just stopped doing her work altogether. Or maybe went back to googling but I know how long that took and when Old Boss noticed it was just easier to blame me.

  30. CityMouse*

    I grew up with a parent in the military so 4 moves in 8 years wasn’t out of the norm for me. Obviously being a child in this situation is different from being an adult, but it was just terrible. Some moves, I was able to slide into a group and make friends, some moves I wasn’t and felt isolated in school. My mother also expressed that in hindsight she wished my father left the military earlier because it was so disruptive to our lives and she didn’tfeel like she fit in with the military wife dynamic. As an adult, I settled in the same metro area since college and it would take a lot to convince me to move (I do have a kid myself). If your wife had managed to find a community despite all the moves already, think really hard before asking her to move.

    1. Plate of Wings*

      Same. I found my “adopted home” in my current city 14 years ago and I plan to be here for 50 more!

  31. Michigander*

    LW5: I could see not understanding that it belonged to the company when you left, and thinking that it was just your own personal list of contacts that others liked to borrow. But I think when the company contacted you to get it back is when the issue started. That’s probably when I’d apologise and say I didn’t realise it was technically their property, make a copy for myself, and send back the original, not double-down and refuse to return it.

    1. OP here*

      I only refused when Old Boss started threatening me. Not before. Plus there was the added fact that Old Boss probably didn’t know this rolodex existed (she wasn’t exactly involved in the day to day) and only heard from Jane that I was the reason she couldn’t do her job. That (and OB’s attitude) is what really rubbed me the wrong way since before I made this paralegals were still able to do their job. It might have taken longer but not having my rolodex wouldn’t keep anyone from actively fulfilling their job duties.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        All your reasonings here explain why you were irritated by the request, but none of them indicate you were in the right. Because you weren’t. You were wrong. It doesn’t matter that the boss didn’t know it existed til someone else pointed it out. It doesn’t matter that they didn’t ask you to make it. It doesn’t matter that they could go back to doing things how they did before you made it. It doesn’t matter there were other ways for them to accomplish what you did by using it. What matters is you made it at work, for work, while employed by them. That’s really all there is to it. You didn’t like being threatened with legal action over it, but they were not wrong in telling you that it was theirs and you were obligated to return it, legally. The tone they took with you when demanding it back sounds like they assumed you knew better. Clearly, you didn’t and perhaps would’ve responded more appropriately if they’d opened with kindness or assumption of misunderstanding. Is it reasonable to be peeved they were snippier than necessary? Yup. It is reasonable to continue to believe you were not in the wrong on this issue? Nope.

  32. Cabbagepants*

    #3 I also work in an industry where moving around the country is common. after a few years of this, my partner and I came to the realization that would could choose to prioritize stability (not moving) over job choice. So I’ve been in a 7/10 job, and my spouse made a career change, but we have also gotten to put down roots.

    Unless your financial straits are dire, you can choose to stop considering any new job that would require a move.

    1. Boof*

      yea – my spouse met me knowing I was planning for medical school, residency, etc and that that would likely drag me all over the country. I’m with him because he was willing to follow me, but that was sort of one of the basic things we established starting the relationship – they sort of had a career but it wasn’t their priority and eventually when I was done I’d be earning most all everything. The tradoff is now they don’t have to work and get to pursue their passion of game dev and social media? I mean it’s not exactly what we planned to start with (they were going to be a teacher, and were for a while, but the stress of teaching at low income disorganized schools just got to the point where it didn’t worth it now that I can float the ship, eh)

    2. Jackalope*

      This would be my recommendation. Don’t apply for jobs outside of your current commuting area (with exceptions for remote work, obviously, if that’s an option for you in your field). That will restrict what work you can do but also helps you avoid this issue.

  33. FashionablyEvil*

    #1: When she asks “Are you texting your boyfriend?” you can just say “No” in a neutral tone and then not say anything else. Sometimes not giving the person any sort of satisfaction and just letting the question sit there can prompt them to realize they shouldn’t be asking things like that.

    1. Jen*

      Yes — this is sometimes referred to as the Gray Rock method for disengaging from people who are bad at boundaries.

  34. FashionablyEvil*

    #3–as someone who has moved a lot (4 different states and several in-state moves in less than 15 years for my partner’s career), I’d be cautious about asking your wife to move again. The stuff about the west coast job is all hypothetical at the moment—what are the real pros and cons to making this move? Is it wishful thinking on your part that this job would magically fix things? I read your letter and if I were your spouse, I’d be saying no to that move.

    1. BubbleTea*

      I wanted to have a sense of how significant a move this would be, so I googled how far it is between East and West Coast USA, and then where is that distance from me in England, and the answer is… Nigeria, Uzbekistan, the North Pole, or Quebec. Yup, that’s a significant move alright!

  35. Teaching teacher*

    A Roledex today costs about $40. I get the intellectual property part, but if she bought it herself is she just supposed to eat the cost and hand it over? I’m coming from the perspective of teaching, where spending your own money on your classroom is normalized. If I buy a book to read to my class and on my planning time I write questions and vocabulary in the margins to discuss while I read it, did I just convert the book into the school’s intellectual property and lose ownership of it? And if not how is that different from the letter writer bringing in her own personal property that no one asked
    for and writing on it? If she had something really useful written in her notes app, she wouldn’t have to leave her phone when she left.

    1. Ferrey*

      Teaching is its own weird animal but I don’t think its reasonable to get to keep work equipment because you never bothered submitting for reimbursement. If you took notes on your personal device an employer wouldn’t be entitled to keep it but they would be justified in asking you to delete the information when you leave…. and in any job I have had that would be a violation of data and security policies anyway

      I am still very confused about why anyone would choose to create a literal physical rolodex instead of listing everything in a spreadsheet though, especially if other people were regularly coming to OP4 for this information.

    2. bamcheeks*

      There are lots of jobs where you’d be explicitly banned from making notes on a personal device because of the IP and control issues, too.

      I think there’s a broad spectrum of where the boundaries are between personal property and work product, with maybe teaching at one end and law and tech at the other, and LW and her boss came from different sides and neither understood the other’s assumptions. I think the manager handled this really badly, but I can see where the conflict came from.

    3. Alexandrina*

      I am still sore about the time my old newspaper company made me hand over my book of contacts as intellectual property. It was pre-purchased at a previous job and had the contacts of two other newspapers in it. It was common practice at the time for journalists to have their own contacts book which they took from job to job. We did discuss with leaders what access to contacts the job actually wanted from us to keep permanently, so they asked that we also kept an updated electronic file of our most useful contacts. When I gave in my notice, I deep dived into my contact book to make sure I had all relevant and current numbers in the electronic file for a better handover. Because they weren’t planning on replacing my role due to cuts they got it into their heads that they wanted my entire, physical contacts book. Unions got involved because when my colleagues heard, they were aghast – some had contacts books that had been all over fleet street with confidential numbers in them. I don’t know if they managed to keep hold of theirs; I decided to just photocopy mine and black out anything sensitive. It was totally legal for them to ask for it though.

      1. Markie the Editor*

        As a journalist and editor of many years, this horrifies me. I am so sorry you went through that!

    4. Colette*

      And a Rolodex is non-trivial to copy (especially if your goal is to end up with two Rolodexes).

      I think the information belonged to the business, but I agree that the physical Rolodex may be a different story if the OP paid for it originally.

    5. Hyaline*

      I think this is why giving them a copy was a viable compromise and why the situation is a little less cut and dried so the old boss should have approached it less like a firebrand.

    6. Caramel & Cheddar*

      It’s different because we underfund schools and have unfortunately made it “okay” (it’s not okay) for teachers to spend their own money to supply their own classrooms. This LW worked at a law firm; they can and should be providing office supplies for their admin team even if there are other jobs where that may not be the case.

    7. Jennifer in FL*

      As a teacher myself, I’m coming from your vantage point- and it doesn’t even begin to touch the things I’ve purchased with my own funds. Is my school entitled to the lesson plans I’ve created over the years when I leave? What about the master copies/patterns for different units and learning centers that I designed? I mean, I think my reaction would be to laugh as I was walking out the door if a director or principal tried to tell me I had to give them all of my resources/work before I left.

  36. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    4. Focus on the work not the personality (unless the personality is really unpleasant or offensive). If their writing isn’t fitting in then definitely raise it and provide clear examples of what is right.

    3. Exact opposite. I’ve been married for well over 20 years now and have learnt the key thing is always have good lines of communication with your spouse AND be realistic. Basing big things like a sudden move off a job/opportunity you’re not even sure is going to last or you’re going to enjoy is something that you might need to even sit down with a couples therapist to raise.
    I’ve been long term unemployed and yeah, it sucks beyond the suckage of suck island. It’s so tempting to believe that a change of location and a new start will fix everything but if anything it just adds to the high levels of stress.
    I won’t tell you what is right or wrong – just talk to your wife. About your fears, and listen to any of hers.

    1. Slightly off topic*

      Basing big things like a sudden move off a job/opportunity you’re not even sure is going to last or you’re going to enjoy is something that you might need to even sit down with a couples therapist to raise.

      I find myself wondering if that would helped a friend’s marriage. The job offer in another state really drove a wedge between them because one spouse simply expected the other would just uproot and go. Talking it out in a safe and neutral environment sounds like a fabulous idea.

  37. Irish Teacher.*

    LW1, another suggestion is just to reply pleasantly, “I don’t have a boyfriend” when she asks about one and “oh, I’m not looking right now” if she mentions you meeting somebody, how you’d make a nice couple with somebody, etc.

    This sound to me like somebody who thinks everybody thinks like her. “Oh, I was big into dating in my 20s, therefore dating is the most important thing to everybody in their 20s and if I want to be friendly with my coworker in her 20s, I must engage with those interests.”

    So “oh, I’m not looking right now” and then a quick pivot to something you are interested in might work. Like if the text was about something you were comfortable mentioning, you could say something like, “oh, I don’t have a boyfriend. I was just double-checking the times for my flower-arranging class tonight. Have you ever tried flower arranging?”

    LW4, I am somebody who has sort of been the Adam. I will say, in my case, it is usually a response to a team that is too “pushy” (by my standards, which are probably different from other people’s here). I don’t really understand stuff like banter and if people start off teasing me and expecting me to know how to respond to that, then I’m liable to give a very literal answer and clam up or just completely “freeze” and be unable to respond.

    Often, if you back off and let me engage at my own speed, I will. The best boss I ever had used to react to my “freezes” by just doing both sides of the conversation herself, guessing my answers. Like “would you believe a customer said X? *pause* “Yeah, you’re probably thinking ‘um, yes, I would. I’ve been here long enough now to have seen just about everything.”

    Obviously, I don’t know if Adam is the same or if your culture is one where there is pressure on people socially but I agree that telling him to relax is more likely to prevent him from doing so. Remembering to relax…doesn’t really work.

    It’s also possible that part of the problem here is the fact that he is unlikely to make it through the probation period. The issue might actually be working the opposite way around from the way you are seeing it, not that he is “uptight” and that is filtering through to his work, but that his work is not in the style you want, he can see that and is struggling with his work and this means he is stressed and focussed on trying to improve his work and most people aren’t relaxed or in the form for banter and small talk when they are under pressure.

    And quite frankly, it may just be that this is not the right cultural fit for Adam. Maybe your company just doesn’t suit him. Now, of course, people can’t always be choosy, but if he has made an effort to write as your company needs him to and he is still struggling, it may be that he just isn’t right for this job.

    However, I would try backing off a bit on the socialising/banter thing. It is quite possible that the expectation to join in socially is contributing to his underperforming with regard to the job. It may not be that he is “uptight” and that that is coming through in his writing. It may be that the pressures to socialise and the realisation that he isn’t performing to standard is making him nervous and this is leading to him coming across as “uptight”

    I think you might be seeing this quite differently than he is. You’ve said the cues are there that it is OK to be more informal, but he might well be seeing that as the cues are there that there is pressure to have a different personality type than he does. This doesn’t mean he is uptight. Reserved introverts can be just as relaxed and laid back as outgoing extroverts. They just express it differently. For some people, an atmosphere of banter and small talk isn’t a cue it’s OK to relax and be informal. It’s a cue that there are very high social expectations in this workplace and you are expected to spend a large amount of energy decipering coded language (which is what banter is) and figuring out how to joke back without offending anybody (when is it OK to joke that somebody has made a complete mess of something and when does that slip into bullying?) and put as much work into that as into your job while still being expected to perform at a high standard.

    I suspect some of your other employees might not think that the more formal workplaces have all the cues that it’s OK to be reserved and quiet, but rather see that as a negative/something that makes work more difficult, he may be seeing the banter and small talk as making work more stressful and difficult. Again, this does not mean he is uptight. It simply means he finds a different atmosphere relaxing.

    Maybe give him some more coaching on how to write, show him examples, etc, but I would say be careful not to include banter or be too jokey when discussing this. That doesn’t mean be very stern and formal; you can be relaxed and friendly without putting pressure on him to act out a certain personality type, read between the lines in what you are saying, etc while also learning to adapt his working type. And take care not to think of him as being “uptight” or “needing to lighten up”. If you do, that will come across in your interactions with him and that in itself will put him under pressure.

    Instead try and think of it as his needing coaching on the specific writing style of your company and maybe say something like, “hey, Adam. I’m afraid I need to talk to you again about your writing style. I can see you’ve made efforts to adapt to our style here, but it’s still not really the style we need,” and then make it clear what you do need and that meeting those criteria are crucial to his success in the role.

  38. Scott*

    Regarding LW #3:
    I find it fascinating how many people over the years of AAM write to a workplace blog when the question is really about managing their relationship with a spouse or SO.

    It’s similarly fascinating how many people comment here assume the gender of the LW when it was not stated. I realize AAM defaults to calling managers “she” when that was not part of the letter. However, in this case LW #3 wrote about their wife without providing their own gender, but comments assume LW #3 to be a man.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      It’s wired into humans to be pattern recognisers and problem solvers. It’s just our brains are not actually all that accurate in either. So we see an issue, see it’s *related* to work and thus latch onto how to fix the WORK problem.

      Basically we’re more like computers than we realise.

    2. Marlene*

      Because the percentage of the US population that is heterosexual is 93%. And commenters should not be required to consider whether a couple is gay or straight every time they make a comment.

      1. WellRed*

        Thank you. I don’t even see why it’s relevant half the time, including this letter. Would it change the advice? No.

        1. Dinosaur With The Little Arms*

          It adds very important context to the advice – even though the advice to a wanting-some-privacy straight single person would get a similar bullet point advice about intrusive questions.

          Being in the closet is emotionally and cognitively draining. You have to consider how anything that you say (or don’t say) might be taken as evidence for or against the societal assumption of heterosexuality.
          Being out in our current world is also emotionally and cognitively draining. I’d love to live in a society where it genuinely made no difference but we aren’t there yet. You have to consider how anything you say (or don’t say) might be taken by “Schrödinger’s homophobe” (who might not even be the person you are currently talking to but someone who overhears or picks up gossip about you).

          I don’t want to downplay how annoying this kind of constant questioning is to a straight person but it will be even more stressful for a not-straight person, when homophobic violence is sadly still a reality in the world.

            1. Dinosaur With The Little Arms*

              O dear, yes, I misread – I’m sorry.

              For letter #3 a small way that gender changes (well, more adds to) the advice is that if OP is a man (which as people have said is statistically likely) then he should reflect on whether his thought-process about the potential move is being semi-consciously influenced by old fashioned ideas about men’s careers being more important or somehow more real than women’s?

        2. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

          I think it does make a difference because the advice being given seems to come from a place of assuming that the wife is feeling socially and emotionally pressured to move for LW’s job, not doing it because she genuinely enjoys moving or is indifferent; and because the LW’s concern about causing the wife difficulty is performative, not caused by genuine anxiety (possibly medical-grade, perhaps environmental and caused by LW’s current crappy job situation). Both of those assumptions make more sense if people are reading with a long history of women being expected to sacrifice for men’s careers as the background, and not focusing only on an individual relationship between relative equals.

          1. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

            Personally I’m reading LW3 as someone currently so anxious and depressed about a string of real or perceived failures that they feel like they don’t deserve to have dreams or chase happiness any longer, and using a wife as a pretext for that feeling even though she might well be happier with a happier spouse — but that’s also a healthy chunk of projection!

      2. Andromeda*

        If it changes the advice we’d offer, we probably *should* consider that! Not that anyone is “required” to do anything. But given the realities of discrimination, sometimes it’s safer not to eg be openly gay at work.

        1. Observer*

          If it changes the advice we’d offer, we probably *should* consider that!

          Of course. But I cannot see any way in which the advice for #3 would change regardless of genders. I don’t think that the LW is thinking about this reasonably, and I can’t think of any gender configuration that would change that.

          #1 (which someone mentions in a reply) is a bit different. And it is relevantbecause the LW doesn’t want to out herself, and also because of the extra load. But even there, the advice stays pretty much the same.

          1. Andromeda*

            Mmmmm. While I agree the advice might not change a lot, I think people are reading gendered dynamics into #3 that may or may not actually be there because they assume it’s a hetero couple — and I think it’s causing people to be harsher on LW3 than they otherwise would. Which I kind of get, since these dynamics are known to exist in some man/woman relationships, but also all we have is text on a page and the subtext people read into it is likely to vary a lot from person to person along with being influenced by the biases that people have. Tbh it’s an interesting conversation.

    3. Daisy-dog*

      I think part of it goes back to that recent update. The LW realized they were putting up with too much because their unhinged boss was NB. If the boss was a cishet man, LW probably wouldn’t have put up with nearly as much. So in this case, commenters are reversing it. They’re much more comfortable critiquing an anonymous cishet man rather than a queer woman/NB person.

      Plus, spending too much time speculating on genders muddles the message. On the “I don’t make mistakes” LW, he did identify as male in the first letter. There was still a little speculation about his gender in the comments of his update, but really that doesn’t change that the LW was sabotaging his job search.

    4. Salty Caramel*

      You’re absolutely right that we shouldn’t assume. On the other hand, I think it’s safe to say we’ve seen more men asking how to manage their wives than wives managing spouses of any gender.

  39. Wren*

    For #1, I feel like the first script offered is really passive aggressive in a way that won’t work and would frankly make things weirder. Just…ask her to stop prying into your love life.

    1. MissGirl*

      Yes, these responses felt over the top for a first communication. The busybody interested in your love life in your twenties is really common. A first response should be something simple like, I don’t really like talking about my dating life at work. Thanks for understanding. If that doesn’t work, then something more firm.

  40. Boof*

    LW3 – I have to ask, did you talk with your wife before applying to this job on the other coast? What if you move, and you find you hate it as well? Are you the sort of couple who wouldn’t mind living apart, or would be miserable (I figured out in my 20s I do NOT do well with long distance relationships / “alone” (for whatever reason a long distance BF didn’t “count” for my neurochemistry), and I wouldn’t care to test that again now in my 40s, myself).
    My sense is 40s is a crossroads; it is getting to the point where it may be less attractive to keep rebuilding. I think maybe you should focus less on finding fulfillment at work, and more in your life in general (i was a little confused if the problem was finances or life satisfaction/mental health for you. Are you in therapy? I realize it’s hard to find a good therapist but even just as session or two might help you clarify your overall goals for the next 10 years, and whether this job really meets them – by the description it sounds like it just isn’t the right job if your wife doesn’t want to make the move; and you shouldn’t twist her into it by presenting it as the one road to your personal happiness/fulfillment )

  41. I should really pick a name*

    #3
    This looks pretty straightforward to me.

    Your wife is well-established at her job of 20+ years that she likes, has moved multiple times to accommodate you, and from the sound of it is currently the primary source of income.

    You have an incredible opportunity, but at the end of the day, you can’t know if it’s as incredible as it sounds until you’ve actually done the job.

    This would be risking the sure thing (your wife’s job) for an unknown.
    There are other jobs there. This opportunity isn’t the only one.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Yeah. Makes me think the LW is so over their current job/state of mind that they’re ready to take a whole lot of risks to do it.

      Not worth it, LW. Keep looking. Do what you need to do to reframe or reset yourself, and keep looking.

    2. Awkwardness*

      Yes, there is so much missing. Does LW have a high profile job that warrants a lot of moving or is the wife as executive the main source of income? What is inadequate pay? Of somebody had 170.000 before, 120.000 might be inadequate for their qualification (but still not bad), or it might be 30.000, when they had 60.000 before.

  42. Bast*

    LW4 — Adam JUST was hired 6 weeks ago? He is still VERY new, and for many shy and/or introverted people, it can take awhile to feel comfortable in a new job or social setting. As a very introverted person myself, I can say it was about 3 months before I truly felt any degree of comfort in my New Job, despite the fact that everyone here has been nothing but nice and professional. I felt like I was constantly balancing on a tightrope, because socializing with new folks just isn’t easy for everyone. While it could be true that Adam may just be a formal person, but he may also just be adjusting to a new place with new people and new rules.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Try applying the rescue dog rule to Adam – it takes most 3 months to fully settle into a new home. Even longer if they’ve experienced trauma at previous homes.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        This is so real. Add in: any time something critical to role changes, there will be a new adjustment period.

  43. I should really pick a name*

    #4
    I’m concerned by how much this letter is about Adam’s personality and how little is about his work performance.
    I see two work-related issues, but it’s hard to tell how serious the are because you only mention them in passing.

    I have found Adam’s uptight nature filters through into his writing, which is dry and corporate—even after he has made efforts to make it less so.

    Now in employment, that has translated into awkwardness and a reluctance to say when he is finding things hard and needs help

    It should be a pretty high bar for someone not to pass their probationary period. And it should not be primarily because they’re “uptight”.

    Diversity should be encouraged in a workplace, and that doesn’t just mean age/race/gender. Diversity of personalities can be a good thing. What actual problems are being caused by him “not relaxing”?

    And on that point, not swearing and chatting doesn’t mean that someone isn’t relaxed. You may be seeing him as uptight, when it’s really just that his natural way of behaving isn’t the same as yours.

    1. Colette*

      It sounds like Adam is very reserved, which can be a problem. Friendly communication between the team helps people build the relationships that help them get the job done – and in this case, would probably help Adam be more comfortable asking for help.

      But having said that, I agree that his work performance should be what determines whether he should keep the job or not.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        My guess is that Adam has a very different communication style from the rest of the team and that, just as his style may be putting them off, their style may be putting him off. Swearing and banter doesn’t necessarily come across as relaxed and informal to everybody. Don’t get me wrong; there is nothing wrong with it, but it’s not automatically more relaxed than other forms of communication and to somebody used to a quieter atmosphere, it could come across as loud and pushy and even judgemental (if you aren’t used to it, banter can often feel critical and undermining).

        It’s possible Adam just isn’t the right fit for this culture but it’s also possible both sides are just misinterpreting each other and it’s escalating because…well, Adam starts a job which is noisy and more direct than he is used to. He also finds that he has to adapt to a different form of writing than he is used to and that he initially struggles with. As he is feeling self-conscious about his difficulty with the work, the banter and teasing starts to feel like criticism which makes him nervous about asking for help because he feels his mistakes will be mocked rather than supported. The LW then, naturally, is irritated at his refusal to ask for help and as she is used to the banter, sees it as people being friendly and him as unfriendly for taking it as an insult.

        I must say I would be rather unwilling to admit mistakes in a company that goes in for a lot of banter because I would feel my mistakes could become company jokes. (Now, of course, banter can mean many things and it may be that people don’t get teased for making mistakes or being quiet or anything like that, but even if that is true, Adam may not realise that, with only being six weeks in the firm. If he hears a lot of teasing, he may assume mistakes will be mocked.)

        1. Colette*

          Maybe! I have to admit I’d find someone who regularly swears at work a little odd, and constant banter could be exhausting. But never asking how someone’s weekend is, for example, is also out of the norm. I’ve worked with people who would never talk about anything other than work – and only very direct questions about work. It does come across as very reserved and they miss out on a lot of stuff that people don’t have to tell them – the more organic information that happens because of relationships instead of because someone has to tell you.

          1. Michelle Smith*

            I don’t know this person, but I know that at least for me, I am very reserved when I first meet a group of people. I think LW4 wouldn’t like me very much either if I were her writer, even though I am generally very talkative after I get to know people. But I don’t volunteer a lot of personal information with people I just met and I don’t look for it in return. If I don’t really care how Bob’s weekend was because I don’t really know Bob yet as a colleague, I’m not going to ask him just because there is some unwritten rule that says it’s polite to do so. I’ll listen politely and nod along if he shares a story, but it is simply not going to occur to me to proactively ask if I don’t care.

          2. Irish Teacher.*

            My feeling is that Adam might be uncomfortable with things like asking how somebody’s weekend is because of the culture in this workplace. He might not be as reserved in a company that didn’t have a culture of swearing and banter. But if people are regularly teasing and bantering with each other, he might feel, “if I ask anybody about their weekend, they’ll ask about mine and if I say I just stayed home and played computer games, I’ll be setting myself up to be teased about being ‘boring’ and ‘having no life,’ so I’ll just avoid the conversation.”

            I generally talk an awful lot, but in cultures where there is a lot of banter and so on, I tend to go silent because I can’t do banter and people who like it often seem to think I’m stupid or don’t get jokes when I reply to it with a literal answer because it’s the only answer I can think of.

            I could definitely imagine in such a culture, only asking questions about work, not because I see that as the norm, but because the culture would feel unwelcoming.

            The swearing and so on wouldn’t bother me, but it might well bother Adam and might be something else that makes him feel unwelcome and more likely to opt out.

            Given that he seemed pleasant in the interview, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if his reserved behaviour is not the norm for him but simply because the communication style is so out of sync with his and he doesn’t feel welcome.

    2. metadata minion*

      I would also caution the LW to keep in mind that it’s only been six weeks! Plenty of people can hit the ground running, socially, but some people need more time to warm up to a group. The unwillingness to ask for help is a significant issue, but otherwise, you wanted a quiet person and you got a quiet person. Over time he might become chattier, or at least the sort of person who’s heads-down while working and then has interesting conversations over lunch, but he’s likely to always be more reserved than the rest of your team.

      1. Lorraine*

        If my new manager swore lots and dismissed me as uptight, I might be reluctant to approach them for help.

        Even if the manager has not directly called Adam uptight to his face, it’s likely that Adam’s antenna will have picked up on that vibe. Especially since the manager’s very open style of communication would make it harder for them to conceal their distaste from someone new in the job and tuned to pick up on it.

        1. Salty Caramel*

          and telling someone to relax is about as helpful as telling them to calm down.

    3. House On The Rock*

      My question for the LW is whether Adam’s writing style has been called out by others as off, or whether this is a case of the LW preferring a different style but it is not required. This is not to dismiss the fact that there are some industries and jobs where a specific “voice” is needed, and not matching that is a serious concern. But it’s also true that there are lots of ways to say things that are not really wrong, just different. And LW mentions that their overall industry is quite corporate, so perhaps that’s where Adam is coming from.

      It took me a long time to realize that reviewing and editing others’ work didn’t mean rewriting it in my own style! It meant making sure that it was clear, accurate, and did what it was supposed to do.

      It’s also true that if Adam is more reserved and introverted, he may indeed feel uncomfortable bringing up questions or concerns to an extroverted, highly familiar manager who “swears like a sailor”. Especially in his first few months on the job! LW should probably take a step back and think about how they’ve been supporting Adam during his onboarding and training and what they might need to tweak in those areas before going to “he is failing his probationary period”.

      1. Markie the Editor*

        You win the internet today! This is exactly what I was thinking, and it is an extremely common occurrence.

    4. Yellow rainbow*

      My concern is that the LW’s personal dislike of Adam is a significant part of her dissatisfaction with his work – and that he isn’t being judged the same way as she would her mates. I’m not dismissing that she is dissatisfied with his writing – but I do question that it is unbiased evaluation. If his writing is so poor as to warrant sacking – surely that would be the primary focus – how do I coach my new writer to adopt the informal tone we need?

      There’s a lot of focus on being of the right character – swearing, joking around, mates more than colleagues. This suggests that this is LW’s chief concern. It sounds like she wanted a cookie-cutter version of her existing team. I wonder how much diversity there is amongst the team – not just superficial appearance diversity, but diversity in family structure, culture, religion, where staff went to school, SE background etc. I struggle to take LW fully at her word given that her serious criticism of his work includes giving status updates in meetings (the horror).

      I do think Adam would benefit from adjusting to the local culture, and learning that light banter (how was your weekend style of thing) is important for building rapport with many colleagues. But much of the rest just sounds like you’re different to me and I don’t like different.

  44. Gustavo*

    #4: So, basically you are going to not pass him on his probationary period because you think he isn’t fun enough for you? There is NOTHING wrong with someone being polite, conservative, formal, etc at work-that’s just who some people are.

    If there’s an actual work quality issue (not really anything cited there other than him not asking for help when needed) then support him in those but do not expect him to change his personality so he can meet your personal social preferences.

    1. Czhorat*

      There’s no indication that this is what’s happening here, but this is also how various forms of unethical and even illegal discrimination are perpetuated. Is the “not fun enough” employee a different age group? A diferent gender? Are they older people with families who don’t join in general chat because it tends to be about weekend activities with families? Are they a parent with a family who doesn’t join the chatter because it’s about clubs and concerts and other things that don’t fit into their current lives?

      I agree that this is a case in which OP needs to reevaluate their position and see if they’re addressing a real need or a personal preference that they might want to move past.

    2. WantonSeedStitch*

      The LW does say that Adam’s writing style does not fit with the writing style that is expected at the company–and Adam is a marketing writer, so I am assuming this doesn’t just mean “his internal communications sound less fun and chipper than everyone else’s.” If a marketing writer isn’t able to write in the company voice, that’s a performance issue. That said, it sounds like the social dynamic here may be intimidating Adam and preventing him from asking for help, and it might be making it harder for the LW to give effective coaching to help him improve because LW is seeing the problem as “Adam is a fuddy-duddy” and not “Adam needs to learn to employ techniques X, Y, and Z in his writing to get the kind of voice we want.”

  45. RePa*

    I would gently suggest to LW2 that he might consider that his thinking is not entirely as ordered as he might perhaps believe. It is an inaccurate narrative to frame this new offer as: “I will either take this job or forever be in a dead-end role/unemployed.” That is not a healthy thinking pattern. Rather than ask his wife if she’s willing to sacrifice (again), recognize how this role is not the right role at the right time for a wide variety of reasons. Alternatively, rather than ask your wife (again) to telework – how about you negotiate a telework arrangement with your new employer? There are a wide variety of options here that don’t involve uprooting your family (again) to accommodate you (again). Give your wife and family a chance to come first, for once.

    1. Hyaline*

      I came here to say basically this. “This job or my dead end job forever” is not only a false dichotomy, it’s suggesting some catastrophic framing of the situation. Unless this field truly is so narrow that jobs only open up very rarely and have tons of people apply, there will be other jobs. I’d take the current opportunity as a sign that jobs are out there and you can land them, not a do or die decision.
      And with that in mind, I think OP is putting the cart before the horse applying for jobs that might not even be a viable fit. Talk out move parameters with your wife and then focus a search within those parameters.

      1. Excel Gardener*

        To be fair there are industries that are that competitive, and here you often have to move to secure a good opportunity. Academia is definitely this way. But LW would know and presumably have mentioned if they were in an industry like that.

        1. Resentful Oreos*

          Exactly; I think the LW would have mentioned if this was an especially competitive and/ or niche industry, or one that required frequent moves like academia or the military.

          There was one LW who wrote in a couple years ago, a woman whose husband found a unicorn job in a very competitive field, but that forced the family to live in a rather undesirable area with no real work for the LW. I felt a lot of sympathy all around for that LW and her husband, as the husband’s job apparently was a true unicorn for his field, and LW had some health problems that precluded a long commute.

          But in this situation, I don’t see any mention of a specific field that is super-competitive or requires frequent moving, or this job as some kind of once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The East Coast is pretty full of cities with lots of jobs.

      2. CommanderBanana*

        ^^ This. I’m not speculating about the LW’s mental health issues, but I mentioned earlier upthread that I had a sibling who had a specific mental illness that was characterized by this sort of binary thinking and catastrophizing.

      3. Myrin*

        OP doesn’t say “this job or my dead-end job forever”, though. She says “I don’t want to remain in this dead-end job or settle for any available position just to stay put” which seems like a general expression to me and not one tied to this particular opportunity.

        I could be wrong, of course – maybe she really meant it in relation to this one job – but honestly, the whole letter read more like an… example? representation?… to me. It does seem focused on this job right now, yes, but there’s also an undercurrent of “And if not this job, what about another one which is also far away?”.

        The answer, of course, remains the same, and there should be a particular emphasis on talking to the wife – what does she think/feel/expect/want? It sounds like the two of them have been through a lot together and work well as a team, so that’s the place to start.

    2. CityMouse*

      I agree with this completely, LW seems to be hyperfixating on this job. I don’t know if those past moves were all for new jobs, but I have to wonder.

    3. FindingWork*

      Clearly you’ve never been in a long job search. Speaking as someone who has had several extended periods of unemployment (just one example: my post 9/11 layoff lasted 19 months, and was broken only by a 3 month contract not another fulltime job) there is no guarantee when the next job is coming along and it’s really difficult to turn down a viable offer. Now, is this a viable offer? That’s part of what OP is trying to figure out. It is reasonable to think about that, and try to determine if it’s wotkable. And depending on where they live it may not be hyperbole to think not working not by choice is a potential outcome. I deliberately moved to one of the two best cities in the US for the type of work I do early in my career so I’d have an easier time finding work in the future. Those extensive periods without work happened there – post 9/11, recessions, frequent layoffs, etc. so there’s no bulletproof solution.

      I don’t know if moving is right, and they could move and find themselves in the same position again a year later. Life’s a crapshoot. But it’s not unreasonable to think about whether this is a viable option and to think long and hard as a couple before saying no.

  46. Yup*

    LW#4: Oof, that sent me right back to my first copywriting job. I was young, shy, introverted, awkward, and really, really new at writing for advertising. It was such a long, hard slog to move up from there and learn, because I felt constantly reminded of how uncool I was. (My own manager used to humiliate me in front of others–like throwing things at me in meetings. If only I could turn back time and respond to her now! That was the extent of how unwelcome I was made to feel for not fitting the agency’s culture.)

    In the end I learned to write advertising with practice, patience, and the help of people who took the time to sit with me. I’ve made a career out of it. But being shy and introverted is neither a character flaw nor a detriment to your company–quite the opposite. It means someone who is respectful, willing to work hard, open to learning, and a complement to the team you have. Take the time to see them for who they are and help hone their skills. You are judging them for not being extroverted and at ease in a way that makes *you* feel comfortable, which is clearly a you problem.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      But being shy and introverted is neither a character flaw nor a detriment to your company–quite the opposite. It means someone who is respectful, willing to work hard, open to learning, and a complement to the team you have.

      This is doing what the LW is doing, but in the opposite direction.

      Shy an introverted is a personality. It is separate from respectful, willing to work hard, and open to learning. You can be those things whether you are a shy introvert, or a gregarious extravert (or a gregarious introvert for that matter).

    2. Nodramalama*

      I don’t think being shy and introverted is a character flaw. But I also don’t think it means someone is willing to work hard and willing to learn. That’s like saying someone who is outgoing is lazy. Some introverted people are lazy and some work hard. It really has nothing to do with the other.

    3. CommanderBanana*

      I also think the LW is assuming Adam isn’t going to work out because Adam isn’t exactly like them, personality-wise. Which is a very immature way to look at your team.

  47. Hyaline*

    FWIW I can see LW5’s frustration that her former employer expected her to either eat the cost of equipment she purchased or do free labor copying the information. It sounds like they were completely clueless the amount of work she had done to make the job easier and how much others relied on her, probably a pattern of behavior in general. Copying the Rolodex or reimbursement should have been part of the conversation about her departure from the job—but her boss had no clue it existed until she left. This is a “technically they’re right about this while also being wrong about a lot of other stuff” moment.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      ” either eat the cost of equipment she purchased or do free labor copying the information”

      The OP didn’t say who purchased the Rolodex and the “free labour” is only if she wishes her own copy of the data. Her old employer just wanted her to return it, since she created it during her paid hours.

      Leaving all her paid work product is absolutely standard and should not need to be specified as part of her handover, any more than not taking the desk or computer they purchased.

  48. Not always right*

    Re: OP#5. I once worked at a place where I was part of a three person team. We each had our very specific duties. Monica was on charge of keeping a spreadsheet that we all used updated. Every Monday, data was pulled and uploaded. it was her job to pull data daily and modify the report. My job was to use the spreadsheet, make calls and enter results in the sheet. It was Ross’s job to use the data and create A final report. (this was in the early 2000’s) Anyway, I kept a copy of the final report on my PC strictly to help me in my job. I added columns and rows with formulas that we helpful for me so that I could be more efficient in my job. it made my life so much better. Well, another company bought us out which was no skin off my nose; however, when I was going over my job duties, they glommed onto my “personal” spreadsheet. I didn’t care, except they would ask for alterations to it to include data that had nothing to do with my part of the job. OK, no problem at first, but they kept asking me to tweak it to the point that it was no longer useful to me, so I would copy the “Monster” spreadsheet and delete the data I didn’t need. It was such a colossal waste of time which caused me to be less productive in my job. I celebrated when I was finally laid off. I actually got double paychecks for a few months, as I had found a new job pretty quickly, and old job paid out severance in biweekly increments so we could keep our health insurance going. All this to say is that I sympathize with OP. I did have a hard time with feeling like the spreadsheet was my baby. lol

  49. H.Regalis*

    LW1 – I feel like you’re getting the other side of the same coin as the letter where someone’s coworker was asking them stuff like, “Did you go make a baby over lunch?”

    I 100% think you can get her to back off without outing yourself since straight women wouldn’t inherently be more amenable to being asked all this stuff. It’s possible that she might pull out something like, “If you won’t tell me who you’re dating then you must be a lesbian!” in an effort to manipulate you, but that’s all it is; and I think you can roll your eyes and be like, “Sure, Blehmilda, that’s totally the reason I won’t get into gory details with you, my coworker, about who I’m dating” and take the fangs out of her gambit.

    This is a good time to learn that there’s a difference between standing up for yourself and being confrontational. It’s not rude/aggressive/drama-seeking/disrespectful/[insert negative quality here] to tell someone to back off if they’re being a jerk. She may react extremely poorly to it, but that doesn’t mean you did anything wrong by asking her to back off. If you don’t want people to walk all over you, you have to learn to stand your ground and be willing to live with their displeasure.

  50. IT_rocks*

    OP#5 – In the IT world, we are always creating content for use by others BUT you ask permission before taking anything with you. Many employers don’t begrudge you showing hard work you put into documentation and/or materials you might use in a future job. And if they say no, you know that it’s the agency’s property and move on.

  51. pcake*

    LW3 – I live in California and have been working remotely since 1996. I worked with people in New York, England, Spain, the Philippines and many other places; my day just starts early so I can deal with people across the world. It’s never been an issue for me.

    Perhaps your wife wouldn’t mind moving and getting up earlier in the day to work on EST. Have you asked her? Maybe she’d love it, maybe she’d hate it, maybe it would seem normal to her, but no one can tell you except your wife. Anything else is just guessing.

    1. Elizabeth Proctor*

      If I didn’t have kids to manage in the morning, I’d love to work something like 7-3. Especially in the summer.

  52. Michelle Smith*

    LW4: Do you not have older examples of how things are written by your company that you like that he can refer to? If not, do you have examples of content written by other companies that are in the tone and cadence you’d like this marketing writer to emulate? If so, share those with him. He doesn’t have to have a bubbly, outgoing personality to write in that tone, if that’s what you’re looking for (just as an example). It would be really, really crummy to not give him a heads up that he isn’t meeting expectations. Show him exactly what you are looking for, if you haven’t already. He is not getting it based off of the vibes of your team. Spell it out explicitly.

  53. Marlene*

    LW #3
    Can your wife legally work anywhere in the US for a single company? There are tax implications to residency.

    When my husband got a remote job from a company in another state, he had to work as self-employed until that employer was legally able to register in our state and pay my husband as a regular employee.

    1. LJ*

      They’re an executive. It’s an easier sell to get your company to register a presence in a state if the CxO is moving there.

  54. BW*

    Wow, I really feel seen by all these questions.

    OP#1: Ugh. I remember my first real job (computer programmer / DBA). I was getting married and all the Vice Presidents were discussing what they were going to do with my position when I got pregnant. I had no intention of ever having children. It was also none of their business. They were so many levels above me, too. WTF? OP: Tell her it’s very unprofessional to ask about your love life.

    OP#2: My last job sent me to management training courses. They were wonderful. Definitely ask what sort of management support and training they provide.

    OP#3: UGH! Darling hubby and I had a year where he was offered a position out west 3 weeks after we had just moved east for my new position. It was the worst year of our lives. Don’t do it. And what if you take the job and you hate it, or they fire you after the probationary period? Ask if you can do your job remotely, work from home, with the occasional fly out to headquarters once a quarter, or something like that?

    OP#4: UGGGGGGH! You swear like a sailor? At work? NOOOOOO! I’d be formal and uptight, too. I know I would, because I had a boss like that, and they almost fired me because I was very uptight around them. We had weekly meetings to get to know each other better. I loosened up a little bit. But they had to quit the swearing and the porno talk around me. It was unprofessional on their part, not mine.

    OP#5: Anything you create while working for a company is owned by the company, especially client contacts. If you really wanted your Rolodex, you should have discretely made a copy for your own use and taken it home without anyone seeing. You should have left the original with the company, or at least returned it when asked. Yeah, your ex-manager was a jerk about it, but they weren’t wrong.

    1. Nodramalama*

      I mean not for nothing but more and more swearing is becoming common place in work places. I wouldn’t say it’s unprofessional.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        At my last job, I had to learn to drop the occasional expletive so I would be heard at all.

      2. BW*

        There’s swearing, and then there’s “swearing like a sailor.” And there’s a huge difference between working in a professional office where clients might walk through vs. working in a warehouse where it’s all behind the scenes. For me, we were a professional office, expected to dress business formal, and had clients walking through occasionally. The swearing and porno talk was not appropriate. And the men on the team took the lead from the swearing boss. When bosses changed, the swearing went way down.

      3. anonny*

        Swearing is a not a monolith- I don’t think this flies at all.

        I’m glad people are more relaxed, but you don’t know somebody’s background (Amish/Mennonites, Judaism, most denominations of Christianity, cursing can also be a form of foreplay, etc.).

    2. OP here*

      Re#5 Just to clarify, these were not clients. they were medical facilities that if I named right now, you could google, call, go through prompts and at the end of the call literally have all of the information I had in my rolodex, no more no less.

      1. BW*

        Thank you for the clarification. But it still wasn’t your Rolodex. It was the company’s Rolodex. Every note, spreadsheet, widget, flippitygibit, etc. I made at my job, even if it wasn’t an end product that was sold to clients, but they were just my notes to help me, belong to my company.

  55. TPS Reporter*

    For OP2, I like the idea of asking about support versus training. “Training” is definitely a lot different for managers versus staff, more of an ad hoc experience. As a manager of managers I don’t have a ton of time to do really formal training. However, our HR does have more formal but very non department specific manager trainings.

    I would love if someone asked me that in an interview, it shows a level of thoughtfulness required to be a good manager.

  56. Nancy*

    LW3: what does your wife think about all this?

    LW4: people who are naturally reserved usually need more than 6 weeks to feel comfortable around others, and it is not odd for employees still on probation to still to more formal interactions. Trying to get him ‘to relax’ won’t get him to relax more. If there is an issue with his writing, give him examples and help him work on that.

    LW5: yes, their contact list belongs to them, even if you created it using something you bought.

  57. MissouriGirl in LA*

    #4 Why does it matter if he’s “formal” or not? It is about his performance. I’ve struggled in the agency I’m in. Why? Because this agency is very southern and the social niceties that I didn’t encounter in other workplaces, I have to navigate here. I generally have a lot on my mind and need to get the information. I’m constantly corrected and made to pause. Unfortunately, I have to bend to the culture of the agency and sometimes, it comes across as rude. I’m not a rude person and nice but I am running some of the biggest projects. I am also a bit socially awkward on top of it. It’s difficult for me to figure out what to say. Give your employee a break.

    Judge him on his work. He doesn’t have to be your best friend and, believe me, somebody who is good at their job, you want to keep them. Don’t worry about the other stuff and make sure your team doesn’t give him a hard time about it, too.

  58. RagingADHD*

    #4, having done a good bit of copywriting and ghostwriting, I see that you are making the very common error of conflating Adam’s personality with his writing style. Perhaps Adam is, too.

    A writer who only writes in their personal voice either has underdeveloped skills, or is not paying enough attention to rewriting their “vomit” drafts. Address that skill gap and/or effort gap, and leave his personality alone.

  59. Observer*

    #1- Nosy coworker.

    She’s being really weird. And Allison’s scripts are good. Keep in mind that her behavior is weird, regardless of your orientation. So calling that out doesn’t risk accidentally outing yourself. And if you do get to the point where you decide you don’t care, it still works perfectly well because it’s weird any which way. Especially since it’s pretty normal to not text your romantic partner during work. I’m not saying that no one ever does that, but it’s far from universal.

    But also, it’s pretty weird to ask “Who are you texting”, even if she never mentioned a romantic partner! Which makes me wonder if she sticks her nose into other places where it doesn’t belong.

  60. ijustworkhere*

    #3 Why is this an either/or? Keep looking for a job that better suits you and doesn’t necessitate yet another move. Sounds like you are well aware that this is not the best option, so say no and keep looking. The right thing will come along.

  61. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    LW 1 – I’d start dealing with these questions with stunned and puzzled looks like they just started asking about some other unrelated non-sequitur. And then after an extra long pause, I’d say “Oh, um, nope, I’ve got nothin’.” Just like I would if they started asking about something else that is not relevant in that setting.

    I’m a not-looking, not-caring kinda relationship person, and I just leave those conversations on the table.

    1. Rain*

      When people ask me nosy questions that I don’t want to answer, I just say “Oh, no thank you”.

      Ex –
      “Ooh, who are you texting?”
      “Oh, no thank you”

      “So how’s the dating scene?”
      “Oh, no thank you”

      Repeat ad infinitum.

  62. Trout 'Waver*

    OP#2: Good for you! I’d be highly skeptical of any first-time manager job that didn’t involve training.

    There are quite a few “first-time manager jobs” that in reality are babysitting jobs because the real manager can’t be assed to their job. You don’t have any authority but you’re held accountable for the work of those beneath you on the org chart. You don’t want those jobs. They’re toxic and terrible. If a hiring panel rejects you because you asked for training, I’d wager it’s that type of toxic job.

    1. SB*

      LW2 here, absolutely agree! The question is also trying to gauge whether they’re a match for me too.

  63. el l*

    OP3:
    Important other questions which can help with the answer:
    1. Being ruthless, how rare are opportunities this good in this field?
    2. Some careers are stacked towards moving, and little way around that. How much does where matter in your field? Are you in a field like academia or the military where you’re expected to move for jobs? Or a field dominated by one city (NYC for lots of fields, Houston for energy, etc)?
    3. How much is remote work an option here? Related, if you have to be in person, would you have ability to say work 4 days on west coast and rest of week at home on east? How much pull do you think you’ll have to dictate your schedule? (That last one will have to be checked via questions during the job interview)

  64. Crencestre*

    LW3: “…I also cannot fathom negatively impacting my wife’s health, happiness, or career, for she has been more accommodating than any spouse should ever be expected to be.” Neither can I!

    You nailed it in that one sentence, LW. It sounds as if your wife has been hauling herself around time after time in pursuit of YOUR career AND that she basically supported you while you were dealing with your mental illness crisis. You’re right to acknowledge and appreciate all that she’s done for you and it speaks well for you (and for the future of your marriage!) that you’re doing so.

    Now it’s time for YOU to put HER first. Look around in your area for something more rewarding than your current job and look into the possibility of remote work for yourself. Most of all, remember that you can never tell if what looks like a “dream job” really is one: AAM is filled with letters from disillusioned employees who took what they were sure were THEIR dream jobs only to find themselves living in a workplace nightmare instead. Your best bet will probably turn out to be a lot closer than you think!

  65. menace to propriety*

    LW4- I’m the Adam at my job. I work in marketing at an *incredible* company that closely aligns with my values but is known for being more uncouth and radical, and learning to get the stick out of my butt about communication and our “voice” has been more of an uphill battle than I thought it would be. I’ve spent most of my life in much more formal environments, and also have a neurodivergence that just makes formal, scripted communication flow more easily for me than letting my actual voice shine through.

    It’s been a bit rough, and even a year later I’m still getting feedback about it (I hope this wasn’t my manager writing in, haha), but what’s helped me the most is specific examples and ways of thinking about it. My grandboss gave me the general (and I believe joking) feedback that I should just “be weirder,” which .. didn’t make me feel great!

    But after talking it through with them and my direct manager, we landed on a few things that are helpful, like-

    -Instead of posting “New product is in!” with a small blurb about said product, I can instead think about how I would excitedly tell a friend about it, and use that instead. (Saying it out loud to my partner helps)
    -adding exclamation points into communications, since I tend to girlboss-edit them out
    -Working with my therapist to get through my anxiety about “being myself” at work

    All of this has helped me get more comfortable, and I still feel like I can be my more private, shy self, while still better communicating in my company’s voice.

    Assuming Adam is in a warming-up period, clear expectations and coaching on reframing the work parts will be the most helpful. But he might not be able to, and might not be a good fit for the role after all, and that’s ok.

    But I really do agree with Allison- separate the work from the social and see where that gets you first.

  66. Sindy*

    Kind of fascinating to walk through the comment section in response to LW#5. General theme doesn’t really have anything to do with the actual content of the letter and whether LW#5 should have made a copy of the contact info. (After her boss made threats against her future positions! That part’s getting overlooked a bit.)

    Instead, lots of users are very worked up that LW#5 had the nerve to make physical copies of her information, because that was what she was comfortable with, instead of using Google Sheets or Microsoft 365 or her Outlook calendar. It’s a little odd how antsy people are about it actually. Physical hardcopy is still a preferred format by many including myself.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        “Wait, is ‘rolodex’ a code name for the person with all the secrets, like on that Netflix show?”

      2. Sindy*

        No, it’s a little more significant than that lol. I just find it interesting that so many users chose to get agitated about it and go on at length about their disbelief and confusion.

    1. WordDoesntMeantWhatYouThink*

      I’m perplexed too – they didn’t even state whether it was a physical or electronic rolodex.

      1. Myrin*

        It must have been physical in some capacity since “people often came to [OP’s] desk to browse the rolodex”.

      2. Sindy*

        It was certainly physical in some capacity and actual rolodexes are still sold, they’re just more specialized now. LW#5 was able to pick it up and walk out the door. I find it more than a little careless that no one at LW’s former company actually stopped to check if they had a copy of the info and it’s also extremely idiotic for their ex-boss to try threatening them into giving up the rolodex. “Give me that information if you know what’s good for you or else you’ll never work in this town again” does not make grown adults in the real world want to do you a favor, no matter how in the right you are.

        1. OP here*

          Yes! The convo basically went:
          OB: Give. me back what you stole or we’ll sue.
          Me: What did I steal?
          OB: (gibberish about what it is because she didn’t know) Jane is impacted so my firm is impacted.
          Me: My rolodex? But I made that.
          OB: It’s not yours. You have no right to it! You’ll be tied up in court over this. Can you handle that, blah blah:
          Me: I can make you a copy.
          OB: *Full on yelling*
          Me: Yeahhhh, no I’m not giving you anything. Have a good day.

          OB had a chance to tell me where I went wrong. From that convo I didn’t understand.

    2. OP here*

      Yeah, I think for some of those comments they’ve overlooked the “Years ago” at the very beginning of this letter. It was 10 years ago and in the legal field it’s still fairly common to use a rolodex. The partners of a lot of firms at the time were very old school (and many still are I’m sure). I was young enough at the time that even I thought the general idea of a rolodex was weird but early enough in my career to accept them as a norm for the field.

  67. Lacey*

    LW4 – I think it’s worth taking a hard look at the feedback you’ve given to see if you’ve been really specific about what you need to see or if you’re issues with Adam’s personality have over-shadowed his need for concrete feedback.

    And maybe you’ve given great feedback and he really just can’t deliver what you need.
    That happens.

    But, as an introvert myself, I’ve noticed that some managers can’t get past the fact that I’m not who they want me to be personally, so they kinda half-ass the feedback or project instructions.

    1. Cinnamon Stick*

      I was thinking the same thing. People respond to different types of feedback. Some like examples of what is expected, others prefer conversations. We don’t know what was said. There was some improvement on Adam’s side.

      Demanding outgoing behavior isn’t fair and pressuring someone to do so is a great way to make them uncomfortable and not be able to work effectively. We also don’t know how the other team members are treating Adam.

      If I were Adam, I’d be looking elsewhere.

    2. LostCommenter*

      At my first ever official job, I’ve received a verbal warning for not greeting everybody in the building each morning and another for not eating lunch with them every day.

      I of course greeted the people I met along the way, but from then on, I spent the first half-hour of my day going around, trying to catch everybody so I could greet them. And seeing as I worked in a factory where people moved from job to job, I did a lot of walking. I ended up being worked out by management because I didn’t have the right personality. My work they had no complaints about, but they couldn’t get over the rest.

  68. Czech Mate*

    LW 3 – you’re creating a false dichotomy by making this a choice between “making my wife start over in a new place v. being doomed to a dead-end job.” As Alison says, you can just say, “This particular job isn’t a good fit” and find another one. But you could be dealing with some executive dysfunction that could be worth talking to a therapist about.

    Also! It could be good to talk to your wife about where you see yourselves in the next few years, where you can be flexible, and the types of things you would be willing to do to support each other’s careers. I moved across the country with my husband for his career, and now we’re discussing moving again–he’s said that he’ll defer to my choice since we moved for him the first time. Having a dialogue with your spouse about your goals will help this feel more like a team effort and less like an impossible ultimatum.

  69. PayRaven*

    LW3: You put a lot of emphasis on how lucky you are, how wonderful your wife is, how much she supports you, but the fact that you’re writing this letter at all means that even with all of these wonderful qualities, it didn’t occur to you to put her first and keep looking. What answer are you hoping to get here? From the tone of your letter, it SEEMS like the answer you want is “oh, you’re such an incredible spouse, of course you deserve to take this new opportunity, regardless of its impact on your wonderful, sacrificing wife.” That seems…maybe a bit off, to me?

    Maybe sit with that for a little bit.

    1. PayRaven*

      Found the thing that pinged me about it.

      “I can’t fathom negatively impacting my wife’s health career” — but you can fathom it. You’re fathoming it right now.

      There’s a disconnect here.

    2. DecidingWhatToDo*

      On the other hand, you often can’t just snap your fingers and find a job. Speaking as someone who has had several extended periods of unemployment (just one example: my post 9/11 layoff lasted 19 months, and was broken only by a 3 month contract not another fulltime job) there is no guarantee when the next job is coming along and it’s really difficult to turn down a viable offer. Now, is this a viable offer? That’s part of what OP is trying to figure out. It is reasonable to think about that, and try to determine if it’s workable. And depending on where they live it may not be hyperbole to think not working not by choice is a potential outcome. I deliberately moved to one of the two best cities in the US for the type of work I do early in my career so I’d have an easier time finding work in the future. Those extensive periods without work happened there – post 9/11, recessions, frequent layoffs, etc. so there’s no bulletproof solution.

      I don’t know if moving is right, and they could move and find themselves in the same position again a year later. Life’s a crapshoot. But it’s not unreasonable to think about whether this is a viable option and to think long and hard as a couple before saying no. The key is to discuss as a couple and make a decision together about what is and us not workable for them. It could be that another move is off the table. It could be a long period of unemployment is a worse fate than another move. Thinking it out and figuring out what is viable is far better than making assumptions about it.

      1. Gyne*

        I think for me it was the “my wife has supported me through thick and thin in multiple ways, all while moving up in the ranks at her company” and then this speculating on taking an opportunity that would potentially derail the wife’s career which has been THE source of stability for the two of them.

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

    #1 For some reason I don’t think that the coworker is trying to live vicariously through you by asking about your boyfriend(s). I think its more likely a busy body who wants to know “when you’re going to settled down already.”

    Use any of Alison’s suggestions and just ignore her.

  71. Sunflower*

    #5 This is the reason I have notes that I share with coworkers, and there are notes I make for myself. Not to “steal” company secrets but I figure if I share the basic information, each coworker can build on that and figure out shortcuts that work for them.

    I don’t think I would keep a rolodex of the contacts though. Maybe if the contacts are government officials or office supply companies that is useful in the future and public records that anyone can Google, at least I would make a copy for myself.

    1. OP here*

      I mean I did share it with them if they came to my desk to get the information. Coming to my desk for the info is like.googling all over again. Before me instead of having the info they were googling the same numbers constantly. After me instead of having the info they just came to my desk to get the same number over and over again. It makes no sense.

  72. Kristin*

    OP#4 – Adam is “relaxed.” You’re being uptight.
    A “creative workplace” can and should adapt to many personality styles, as long as the work performance is there. Is he seriously going to fail probation over this? It sounds like you misled him.

    1. anonny*

      OP #4:
      They did mention they made his writing less “dry and corporate”- so I assume the cursing like a sailor and “relaxed” environment must be in jive with the the product they’re selling/corporate mission (think of a startup that helps amplify a company’s social media presence vs an established accounting firm where the norm is dry and corporate).

      Alison’s advice implied the OP must see severe mistakes in his writing, not minor issues being blown out of proportion by a small personality clash from a first-time manager wielding power over someone else’s livelihood.

      1. Andromeda*

        It’s fully possible that there are significant issues with Adam’s writing AND LW is confusing a personality clash with a work issue. (In fact, both are probably feeding into the other.) Yes I am commenting a lot on 4 but a) I’ve been an Adam and b) a lot of people who are commenting on this aren’t writers and do not get why Adam’s writing style is something he would need to fix to succeed.

        Also, SOP here is to take letter writers at their word!

  73. Anon for this one*

    For #1 – I would say something like, “I prefer not to discuss my relationships at work.” every time anyone asks. That is a very reasonable boundary.

  74. BikeWalkBarb*

    In asking about how they support a new manager to be effective I’d listen for whether they say they’ll have your back, whether they work closely with HR when they face a challenging situation (“we wing it” would be bad), mentoring for new hires (not just you but any new people you’d bring on). As someone else said, if I were promoting someone into their first managerial position I’d want to know they were realistic about needing to learn some things.

    I’d add to Allison’s advice to ask about professional development. That’s broader than managerial skills and you want to know they’re going to support your growth generally. Do they have formal professional development plans? How well do they support access to professional memberships, conferences, and other elements of growing in your skills and connections? When you move up to a new level you should gain access to new opportunities. Those can be the ways you expand your managerial knowledge, skills and abilities and find mentors outside your organization for a reality cross-check.

      1. SB*

        LW2 here, thank you for this! Definitely going to be incorporating these suggestions into my questions.

  75. CTT*

    LW5, I’m a former paralegal/current lawyer and a lot of my work in both roles was to maintain “working party lists” for transactions that had all the contacts for each project, so I understand the work that goes into that. One way I would reframe this is that, although it was created to make your job easier, the Rolodex is really for the clients of the firm. Even if they’re not seeing it, it was created to streamline your procedures and do their work more efficiently, so it would stay with the client when you leave, even if you used it across multiple clients.

    1. OP here*

      I guess I understand this. But for me it was a way to streamline MY work. Because it didn’t streamline anyone else’s really. They just replaced *googling constantly* with *go to OPs desk constantly* It’s still the weirdest thing to me.

  76. Isabel Archer*

    *it’s like he expects his appreciation of the wife’s sacrifices to weigh heavier than… her actual sacrifices*

    Still, you nailed the ick factor on the head!