we have to cook food to feed our well-paid managers, employee sends stream-of-consciousness Slack messages, and more

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

1. We have to cook food to feed our very well-paid managers

I work for a branch of government. The leadership team of another branch is having a meeting with the leadership team of our branch. The STAFF has been asked by our independently wealthy leadership team to sign up for a potluck to feed the visiting independently wealthy leadership team. Some of the staff bring home approximately a fifth — if that — of what our leadership team makes. Any one of our leadership team could whip out a credit card and feed the visitors without thinking about it; they all had highly lucrative careers before joining the government. Staff have not been invited to partake and mingle with the visitors. Apparently, we’re supposed to supply the food and disappear. Also, the meal starts at a time that most of us are not even at work! The signup sheet is out in the open, so anyone can see who is signing up and who isn’t. For those who aren’t signing up, I have to wonder how this will affect the funding of our departments. This is just wrong isn’t it?

Yes, this is ridiculous, and frankly pretty gross. Can you speak up as a group and say your budgets are tight, many of you can’t comfortably afford the request, and so it’s not something the group can do and you’re letting them know now so they can make other arrangements?

Alternately, you could just all not sign up; it’s unlikely that not bringing food to a potluck will affect a government department’s funding.

2. My employee sends stream-of-consciousness Slack messages to me during meetings

My job uses Slack to informally communicate and message one another throughout the day. An employee I manage has a habit of spamming my Slack channel during meetings with stream of consciousness type thoughts, reactions, and emojis, like “haha” or “yesssssssssss” or laughing emojis or “ditto.” Sometimes she asks questions, too. These meetings are taking place virtually, and we are both on camera, and I cannot both be attentive to her messages and focus on the meeting. Because Slack notifications pop up on my screen when I receive them, I find these messages very distracting. So far, when she starts to do this I usually just close Slack so I don’t see her messages, and I ignore them until the meeting is over. Afterwards, to address any questions she had about the call, we meet and discuss. I should also note that before we used Slack a lot, she would do the same thing but would text me instead, and I ignored those too until the meeting was over.

I am not sure how to handle this. I was hoping she would get the message when I consistently ignored her until the meeting was over, but that doesn’t seem to work. She is also extremely sensitive, and part of me feels like she benefits in some way from having an outlet for these stream of consciousness type thoughts during the meetings, and she doesn’t expect me to respond to them and has never seemed offended when I ignore her. So that brings me to you, should I say something or just keep ignoring? Other than this, she is a good employee and I’m not concerned about her performance.

How bothered are you? If you’re fine with just closing Slack during meetings and ignoring the messages until afterwards, it’s fine to keep doing that. You don’t need to tell her it’s annoying if you have a solution that works with minimal drama. But it’s also perfectly okay to say, “Would you mind not sending Slack messages while we’re in meetings unless it’s something I absolutely need to see? Otherwise it’s tough to focus during the call.” Even if she benefits from having an outlet for her stream of consciousness, that doesn’t mean her outlet should be her manager (or anyone who’s annoyed or distracted by it).

It sounds like she’s been doing this for a while, so she probably assumes it’s fine with you. It’s okay to let her know it’s distracting you.

I realize you’re asking which of these options you should pick but, truly, either is reasonable; it just depends on how much you care. (Although it’s also potentially useful to her to have you point it out so she doesn’t do it to someone who will be less patient in the future. Plus, if you were doing something that was irritating your boss, you’d probably rather be told so you didn’t keep doing it!)

3. How do we balance flexibility with making sure the work is getting done?

I work at a university where undergraduates do big capstone projects in their final year. Each faculty member supervises 12-14 student projects every year. Faculty are allocated a certain number of work hours per student to do this in the course of an academic year – for meeting the student, reading their proposal, checking their materials, etc. Every project is unique; some students need more of their supervisor’s time and others are more independent.

Some faculty are known shirkers who spend as little time as possible with their supervised students. They might respond to emails only after a long delay or give too little or perfunctory feedback on project design. Most supervisors are much more involved.

The department is looking at our procedures around the project. Some colleagues want to implement a new set of minimum standards about how supervisors have to interact with students (e.g., offering a one-to-one meeting every X weeks). To those of us who are diligent and put in the time to help our students succeed, it seems misguided that we’d create a straitjacket of rules to address misbehavior from ~5% of faculty. Bad supervisors will just engage in malicious compliance with any new guidelines (though perhaps this is better than the minimal engagement they currently do?). And the rest of us would feel obligated to tick all the boxes while our souls slowly withered. This might not result in a better experience for students, since good supervisors are already meeting their needs anyway.

Is there a way to balance the need to give faculty appropriate flexibility with the need to ensure students get a fair supervision experience? Ideally we would recognize that students are unique and have different needs, allow good supervisors the flexibility to do what we do best, and help managers identify shirkers. (Shirking could then theoretically be dealt with by line managers.) There are already minimum guidelines around the project: that students receive X amount of one-to-one time with their supervisors per semester and that student emails are responded to within X days. But these don’t add up to equal supervisory experiences for students. Do we need additional guidelines?

I should add that measuring supervisor performance by student outcomes (grades) wouldn’t be a viable option because there is variability in supervisor assignment, natural variation from year to year, etc.

Whether or not this is feasible in an academic environment is its own question, but speaking from a non-academic perspective: ideally you’d solve this with more attentive management. Managers should be paying enough attention to know who the shirkers are so they can then address it with them forthrightly.

In a non-academic environment, I’d say that the fact that that’s not happening indicates there’s a management problem, and that your managers need to be more actively engaged. With faculty members, the model is different — but since you’re referencing line managers who theoretically could identify and address the shirkers, I’m going to assume that an option here too. If it is, take it — that’s a better solution than saddling everyone with rules that don’t actually serve most people well. And to facilitate that, you could consider a system for getting feedback from students mid-year about whether they’re getting what they need from their project supervisors or not, so there would be time for managers to intervene if needed.

4. Hiring manager wants to cut out the recruiter

I have been looking for a new challenge for a while and a week ago found out about a role through a recruiter. It sounded like a good fit so I decided to apply. While speaking with the recruiter, it emerged that the role is with the company that acquired my previous employer, and the hiring manager is my old boss, who is hiring his replacement. I left that job several years ago on very good terms and it’s not clear why he didn’t reach out to me about this role before engaging the recruiting firm.

After our discussion, the recruiter sent my resume to HR. My old boss then messaged me to suggest a catch-up. During the conversation, he made it clear that they want to move forward but are looking to cut out the recruiter and say we were already in ongoing discussions.That is obviously untrue. The recruiter is now asking if they have contacted me directly as she has not heard back. How do you suggest I handle this? Is there a standard practice for this kind of situation? I don’t want to jeopardize my relationship with either party.

This is weird, because typically recruiters’ contacts with employers specify that recruiters don’t “own” the candidacies of people who are already in the employer’s own pool of contacts — and while there’s often a time limit on that (like people who applied the company on their own in the last six months), I’d expect “this person used to work directly for me” to qualify.

In any case, I’d say this to your former boss: “I’m happy to talk directly with you from this point forward and I agree it makes sense since we already know each other, but I don’t want to misrepresent anything to the recruiter. Could you talk to them and work out how to handle it?” Hold firm on that; you shouldn’t lie to the recruiter and it’s crappy if your old boss is asking you to.

5. I used the wrong company’s name in my cover letter

I recently submitted two different job applications to two different companies. After submitting, I was editing the cover letter I submitted to suit a third, separate job, and realized a mistake — I accidentally left the name of an earlier company I applied for in one of my sentences (second paragraph). There are no options to withdraw my application. What do I do now? Am I screwed?

Obvious moral of the story is proofread three times over, but hoping for advice on damage control.

Well … some people will consider it a deal-breaker, others will consider it a strike against you but not a fatal one if you’re otherwise strong, some people won’t care much at all, and some people don’t pay much attention to cover letters and thus won’t even notice it. There’s not really anything you can do about it now, though; you’ve just got to let it play out. (I don’t recommend contacting them to correct the error; that’ll just call more attention to it and make it a bigger deal than it should be.)

{ 601 comments… read them below }

  1. Macy*

    I think you should definitely say something about the stream of Slack messages. You’d be doing her a favor by teaching her some professionalism.

    1. English Rose*

      100%. Even if the staff member is sensitive, it’s important for them to understand professional norms. And if it’s irritating enough for LW to write in about it, then it’s seriously irritating.

    2. Brain the Brian*

      Definitely. Where I work, this would be a Big Deal and potential a firing offense if someone further up the chain found out it was going on. Please speak (kindly!) to your employee, LW1.

      1. QuarterMaster*

        Why on earth would she be fired for this? If I messaged my boss during a meeting and wasn’t told it was inappropriate, I would assume it was fine to continue. “I’ve tried nothing and it hasn’t helped!” is the real problem here. The employee probably assumes this is fine, since they literally meet right after to discuss.

        1. Ghostess*

          Right? I feel like if being annoying over Slack were a fireable offence I wouldn’t have any coworkers left.

          1. MassMatt*

            This letter, others like it, and the many comments here make me very glad I have never worked anywhere that used Slack, or any other chat program. IMO it’s an annoying time waster at best and a potential minefield of problems at worst.

        2. LinuxSystemsGuy*

          My coworker and I do this all the time on meetings where we aren’t the presenter. We’re often in meeting just to provide brief technical context and/or answer questions in what are primarily management level meetings. As technical team leads we’re basically the engineers they invite to the manager meetings a lot of the time. We provided semi-comedic commentary to each other through the whole thing.

          I’d find it a bit maddening if he did it when I was a presenter or fulfilling another key role, but 90% of the time it’s fine. All of this to say that what the employee is doing is not uncommon and many people would welcome it/find it funny. OP just needs to let her that in this case it’s distracting (or, for that matter just continue ignoring it).

          Firing is *way* over the top. Who would fire someone over something like this? Even if it continued after I told her to stop I’d consider it at worst a minor offense unless I’d asked several times.

        3. RagingADHD*

          The only thing I can think of is that if the laughing emojis, etc, were mocking others in the meeting (rather than responding in kind to what was said), that would be really inappropriate. But that doesn’t sound like what the LW is describing.

        4. Brain the Brian*

          Upper management where I work would see this as a waste of company resources and making fun of a coworker. I’m not saying I agree with the policy, but it’s there.

          1. Michaela T*

            Yeah, some places have a (reasonable) rule about not putting communications in work channels that you wouldn’t want other people to see. It depends on if this person was laughing at a joke or at someone’s expense, but better in general to keep it to your personal devices.

      2. Friday Person*

        It’s a Big Deal or firing offense to be slightly overenthusiastic on Slack during meetings?

        1. AngryOctopus*

          It could be used as an argument that the employee isn’t paying attention in meetings, just messaging people instead. I’d say it was only fireable if combined with other issues in their work, but also it heavily depends on company culture, so not an absolute.

          1. Leenie*

            But she’s commenting on things happening in the meeting. I’m not suggesting this isn’t annoying. But it sounds like she’s actually confirming that she’s paying attention through the content of the messages. If we’re focused on how much attention she’s paying, this would be similar to firing someone because they’re taking notes.

            1. JSPA*

              yes, this. active listening is a great way to force yourself to engage fully with presentations, especially if the pace is slower than the pace that your mind works at, or you’re subject to going off on tangents, or you’re trying to flag a specific point as being questionable or specious, without actually interrupting either the meeting or your own focus on the meeting.

              For me, the act of “having communicated” also sets up an asterisk in my brain, that there’s a point to raise in the post-mortem.

              Writing down for yourself, “are Jene’s numbers compatible with what Luce is claiming” or “isn’t this verbatim what she said six months ago?” is another way to do this, but then you can lose the next sentence in the presentation.

              “Writing but not sending” doesn’t trigger my brain’s footnote function. Nor does “sending to myself.” And “sending to outside person” seems way more iffy.

              Sure one can make notes of the time stamps, and then go to those points during the post mortem, and try to recreate the reaction. But that’s often slower and more cumbersome.

              If the employee’s insights as well as their work are good, I think it’s worth finding out if this is a memory and focus tool, not a random bit of eye-rolling chattiness. And if it indeed serves a useful function, continue to mute.

              1. Brain the Brian*

                Insights and real questions are fine. The employee should continue to offer those. But really, “haha,” “yessssss,” and a stream of emojis is unprofessional. And to their manager! It’s undermining the employee’s professional reputation at best.

                1. mlem*

                  My supervisor and I chat each other this way during meetings all the time. I think it’s a know-your-workplace/workgroup thing.

            2. Brain the Brian*

              Notes are professional records. Upper management where I work would see this kind of behavior as childish and obnoxious.

              1. Leenie*

                I was specifically responding to the comment saying that this was an argument that they weren’t paying attention in meetings. They’re clearly paying attention. That said, I think viewing this as a firing offense (particularly when it’s never even been addressed) is bizarrely draconian. It’s just something that, at most, needs a direct comment telling the employee to knock it off. The LW specified that she’s a solid employee. I certainly wouldn’t want to lose a good worker over something like this.

                1. Leenie*

                  I completely agree it’s a bad idea to annoy one’s manager. But it’s the LW’s responsibility to let her employee know that she’s being annoying. I don’t think there’s anything in her responses to date that gave her employee any clue about that. And the mixed comments on whether or not this is even a bad practice are enough for LW to now realize that it’s unlikely that her employee will simply intuit that she’s doing anything that her boss considers wrong.

                2. Brain the Brian*

                  Well, yes. That’s why I said the LW should ask their employee kindly to stop. Don’t go straight to firing, please! My company is certainly more draconian than most about this sort of thing.

        2. EC*

          Overenthusiastic is one thing, unprofessional spamming emojis on a work channel is a different thing. Work is for professional behavior, not sending emojis like your discord chat with friends.

      3. Erica*

        This completely depends on the company culture. Where I work, a stream of jokey Slack commentary is pretty normal during routine meetings (not mission-critical stuff). Which is why it is important for the manager to clarify their company culture. It’s certainly not a firing offense or even frowned on everywhere.

        1. Seashell*

          Unless the person was saying something offensive (which ditto or yessss are not), it sounds quite odd that anyone would get fired over that without so much as a warning to stop. Do companies really want to go through the aggravation of hiring someone new over something so minor?

          1. Brain the Brian*

            “Yes” with multiple Ss on the end would be seen as offensive in my workplace. We are a humorless bunch.

            1. Seashell*

              Offensive for what reason? Are you all spelling teachers or is someone afraid of sounds that snakes make? What if it was just a typo?

              1. Brain the Brian*

                I mean, teaching English is one of many things we do, and we are expected to model professional behavior and proper spelling grammar in all communications on company systems. All of the above.

                1. katydid*

                  teaching English is the *only* thing I do professionally and part of what that job entails is teaching how the written language can be used expressively to imitate speech patterns, which is clearly what “yessss” is doing.

            2. Lils*

              That is honestly bizarre. I find this Slack behavior to be entirely normal and a good learning/teaching tool, both as a manager and an employee. I think YOUR office should definitely explain to new employees that you have a humorless culture with abnormally strict ideas about what is offensive.

            3. Purpleshark*

              Well if they were saying something like “everybody gets a special bonus!” then it would seem entirely appropriate in context. The LW did not really explain except to say that the chat was distracting, but did not say inappropriate in context. I think in most cases there needs to be due process unless it is an egregious offense. this feels like a zero tolerance policy that does not take into account the learning curve for new employees learning workplace ettiquite. Her boss is responsible for helping to shape that and in this case they need to be more direct.

            4. Zero Calories*

              I’m genuinely curious in which industry multiple Ss would be considered offensive. At least offensive in a fireable (discriminatory, hostile, agressive, bullying) type way. Organizations are made up of human beings. Every human being has habits or idiosyncrasies that might be perceived as annoying to someone but you either do as most people do, and learn to tolerate them in turn for them tolerating your oddities or I guess you could let them know that they are annoying but FIRING someone over it? Especially someone who is a good employee with no performance issues? (Those are sometimes hard to come by, you know?)

            5. Ask a Manager* Post author

              If that’s accurate — offensive?! — this might be even weirder than the letter we had about a company that banned humor. I hope you know how extremely odd and not anywhere even slightly close to normal that is so that it doesn’t mess up your sense of norms when you leave.

              1. Brain the Brian*

                It’s true, I swear! In another example, I once got a talking-to after I said “Good morning” too cheerily. The coworker to whom I said it had had a student die overnight, and everyone assumed I already knew, so no one thought to alert me. But the tone of the talking-to was not “Sorry no one filled you in. Can you apologize to Sandra?” It was “Don’t say ‘Good morning’ too cheerily, because you never know what someone at the next desk is dealing with.” HR told me I was lucky not to be fired for it.

                I’m aware this is not common. But when you’ve been someplace as weirdly negative as this for as long as I have, other companies start to look falsely cheery (like: what is there to be so happy about?), and I honestly don’t think I have the energy to move to a job where people smile all the time.

                Anyway, sorry to derail the discussion so badly today.

                1. Brain the Brian*

                  As much as I would *love* to be interviewed for AAM’s “interesting jobs” series, the “interesting” parts would make my company (and probably me) so easily identifiable. (As far as I’m aware, we are the only company that does our specific work in the specific set of locations where we operate, and it’s navigating the differences among those places that’s the juicy stuff and makes otherwise bizarre practices commonplace. And clearly, I have some thoughts that management here would find less than complimentary.) I’ll have to respectfully decline, at least as long as I work here, but thanks for thinking of it!

      4. JSviw*

        I am not sure where this would be a fireable offense – just annoying. I wonder if employee is doing it to prove they are engaged in the meeting.

        1. Kara*

          Or even to -stay- engaged in the meeting. Meetings are deadly if you’re not one of the people talking, and a chat like the one described sounds like a good way to stay engaged enough to continue paying attention, without (knowingly) disrupting the meeting for anyone else .

        2. LisTF*

          I immediately thought maybe she was doing it to demonstrate to her boss that she is paying attention. I could see someone anxious/newer to remote office work world feeling like she needs some way to ‘prove’ she’s engaged when she doesn’t have an active role in the meeting

      5. Gimme all you got*

        An employee might be fired because they were slacking another employee informally? Can you elaborate because that sounds way overboard

        1. Brain the Brian*

          Yes. Work is for formal communication. We have a rule that if you wouldn’t want it to come out in an audit or you wouldn’t talk to the CEO that way, you shouldn’t do it — period.

          1. JSPA*

            But surely you know that

            1. this is not the norm?

            2. No auditor would find something malign or actionable in “yesssss!” ?

            3. Many CEO’s would be fine with someone texting or slack-chatting or saying “Yessss!” to them in the right work-related context (sinking a putt during a client/business golf outing; announcement that a major contract had unexpectedly come through; major pop star to perform at the annual party, or just really happy to finally get buy-in from a hard-to-convince deaprtment head)?

            it’s not profanity, nor even slang– it’s just english with typographical indication of spoken emphasis.

          2. I Have RBF*

            Meeting: “And, going forward, we will be paying an on-call bonus if you actually get called outside your regular hours.”
            Me in chat: “Yesssss! Awesome!”

            I would be fine if that was read out in a court of law, and I’d say it to my VP of engineering or the CEO.

            Context matters.

            1. Brain the Brian*

              The “correct” response where I work would be “Thanks for letting us all know.” We have it beaten into us pretty early on not to show emotion — positive or negative — when leadership makes announcements. In this example, I actually would worry myself about looking insensitive to overseas coworkers who are already paid a lot less than me if I were also now going to be earning an on-call bonus.

          3. Gimme all you got*

            Interesting – sounds harsh but I suppose it eliminates a lot of grey area. Industry, geo might matter too

            1. Brain the Brian*

              I suspect this is a big part of it. We have offices in a dozen countries and communicate cross-border and with non-native speakers every day, so upper management has always strongly discouraged slang in any communication. Our records from one country can be subject to inspection in another (for instance, to check for consistency of cost treatment) so we have to be careful not to say anything that a foreign audit firm or government might find objectionable as an “aside” in an audit finding.

              Without getting too much more specific, things are now even more tightly controlled because we have multiple offices in active conflict zones, so our management doesn’t want us expressing anything too “fun” in work channels for fear of appearing insensitive should someone from one of those offices see it. It’s depressing, honestly, but there’s not much I can do about it.

          4. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Work is for effective communication.

            I would be shocked to encounter a workplace that would fire someone for “yessss.” That’s honestly extremely bizarre.

            1. Brain the Brian*

              A single instance would probably be okay — but an ongoing pattern would be a problem where I work, even in private communications to a single person. That might be a bigger problem, honestly, because management would see it as trying to “hide” “inappropriate” communications. It’s bizarre, I agree.

              In this case, the LW really needs to say something. If it’s bothering them, it’s enough to ask an employee to stop.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Employee might have picked up on the lack of reciprocation but only as a style thing, rather than registering that the recipient found it annoying. So someone has to tell her.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        All employee knows is that questions do get answered after the meeting. Other than that, she has no reason to believe its a problem and needs to stop.

        Because OP, she is getting what she needs out of it, the outlet during meetings and then her questions answered, she literally has no idea you find it a problem. You were hoping she would figure it out from you not immediately responding, but immediate response is not what she is looking for.

        This is very much a case of use your words. You need to tell her that it needs to stop. She’s going to react how she is going to react. That’s not your responsibility. If you are reluctant to give this even minor feedback, what else won’t you tell her because you perceive her as sensitive? Your job is to manage, not hope your employees guess what the issue is.

        1. Carrots*

          +10 Anytime you use the phrase “I thought they would take the hint…” the problem is you, not the other person. No one should have to live their lives hint-seeking and adjusting one’s behavior based on guesses.

          1. metadata minion*

            There are plenty of cultural contexts where it’s expected that you hint, but if you drop hints and the other person doesn’t pick them up, you should be more explicit, not continue to drop increasingly exasperated hints.

            1. MCMonkeybean*

              Especially if the “hint” is just doing nothing! Sure, some people would take their cues from that, but plenty would need more than that to go on.

            2. MigraineMonth*

              Exactly. Hinting is fine as a first step and can let everyone save face, but if those hints aren’t picked up it can’t be the last step.

        2. AngryOctopus*

          1000%. You have to tell her. She sends messages and doesn’t expect immediate feedback. It’s on you to either say 1-this is annoying and you need to stop or 2-I need you to pay attention in meetings and not message me constantly.

        3. LinuxSystemsGuy*

          The questions particularly could be seen as a shorthand way to take notes. I could make a note to ask you XYZ question after the meeting, but we have real time communication right here! Why not just ask while the whole thing is completely fresh in my mind. Even if you don’t read it until after, the record is permanent enough to save writing an email based off of notes where I may have already forgotten some context.

      2. Double A*

        Yeah, my team totally messages each other during meetings with questions and commentary. Some people participate, others don’t. I assume those that don’t have it muted.

        Working from home is isolating, and having chats going on one way to stay connected to your team. It’s the equivalent of making eye contact during an in person meeting or quietly asking a side question to someone you’re sitting next to.

        Obviously different cultures are going to be different, but personally I value a chatty team. It makes remote work feel more engaging. I know the prospect of chit chat and side comments are horrifying to a decent chunk of this commeteriat, but to me it’s pretty normal and friendly.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          People often ask questions in the chat where I work. It’s pretty normal. If you have a group question, you ask the meeting chat. We do it this way because we’re pretty strict about meeting timings, so if we run out of time, the presenter will go back to the chat and answer questions in it. If we have time, people will ask their chat questions in the meeting. But I can 100% understand that other meeting cultures will see “constantly in a chat” as “not paying attention and giving the meeting short shrift”, which could count against them for reviews.

          1. Double A*

            Fair! And also something I kind of overlooked is that this is an employee messaging her supervisor. My team’s chat, were all peers.

            I also have to wonder if the employee sees sending reactions as showing she’s engaged.

          2. Quill*

            The style of chat is also likely to come off as more unprofessional, because it’s more of a liveblog / live react style to go “yessssss” and spam emojis.

            In this case I would say unprofessional and disengaged are not the same thing.

        2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

          This sort of comes across as your way is right and people who like different things are unfriendly.

        3. cheap rolls*

          “Obviously different cultures are going to be different, but personally I value a chatty team. It makes remote work feel more engaging. I know the prospect of chit chat and side comments are horrifying to a decent chunk of this commeteriat, but to me it’s pretty normal and friendly.”


        1. Double A*

          Hahaha my teammate actually will “live chat” meetings that are relevant to us but that the whole team isn’t in (that is, he provides summary of relevant information that he’s supposed to communicate to us anyway).

    4. Smithy*

      In addition to providing some nuance on professionalism – it can also open the door to get some insight on the employee.

      This employee might prefer a more communicative/talk things out relationship with their colleagues and supervisor than they’re currently getting – and while their exact preferences may not be achievable, there might be another kind of adaptation that would work for the OP. something like splitting up their one on one time from a single block of time into two shorter blocks of time but happening more frequently. Or maybe there’s something else going on.

      Either way, if this is never mentioned, then it declines an opportunity to learn more about this employee and how best to work with them.

    5. ferrina*

      In my organization, this is not a big deal and wouldn’t be seen as unprofessional. I’m someone that has no problem with this. I love a lively chat while a meeting is ongoing! For me, this is partly an ADHD thing- my ADHD looooooves multitasking, and often reading/sending these kinds of messages helps me engage more and get more out of the meeting.

      But the important thing is that it’s distracting for LW. It’s important that your employee know how to best communicate with her boss. Just tell her exactly what you want (Alison’s script is great). Then the employee knows what to do and should do it (if she refuses, that’s a different issue)

      1. Another Use of the Identify Spell*

        A lively chat during a meeting is great – when it is in the *meeting* chat. This person needs to ask questions in the actual meeting instead of taking up the manager’s time separately. A blanket reminder to everyone to discuss and ask questions in the chat (or Q&A section) is pretty normal where I work and wouldn’t appear to be targeting anyone. If there isn’t a mechanism to chat/ask questions in whatever system they are using, that is something that needs to be solved ASAP, for everyone’s sake.

        Personally, I would absolutely not give my running commentary to a supervisor like that. I do sometimes have backchannel conversations with a colleague. Otherwise, I use my knitting to help me control the urge to snark and/or mentally wander off.

    6. EA*

      Classic issue where the manager should have said something immediately if she felt it was unprofessional. It’s only awkward now because she didn’t just tell the person to stop quickly enough.

  2. Rebecca*

    I used the wrong company name in a cover letter. I still got an interview.

    Some people will care, some people won’t.

    1. Certaintroublemaker*

      Yeah, managers realize job hunters are sending out a few of these at a time and mistakes happen. It’s a little tough if someone has personalized their cover letter to a different opening’s requirements, but you can usually tell from the resume if they’re still worth talking to.

      1. Donut Maven*

        I’ve been in my current job for almost a year. An internal position opened and I decide to apply, so I opened my initial cover letter file so I could use it as a template for the new one. I was horrified to see that the letter was addressed to an entirely different company, about an adjacent but not identical position. Mentioned it to my supervisor, who cringed and said they’d hoped I would never discover my mistake.

        Still embarrassed but it confirmed what I already knew – I work with good people.

        1. Consonance*

          Yes! For a previous job, I made an identical mistake. Wrong company name in the second paragraph of my cover letter. When I met with the provost as part of second-round interviews, he had my cover letter on his desk, and had highlighted parts he was interested in. Including the wrong name. He saw me see it, I said “Oh goodness, I see I made a mistake there. That’s embarrassing.” And then I launched into the actual answer to his question. He kind of smiled, and it wasn’t mentioned again at any point in the process.

          As a hiring manager, I’ve also seen this happen. I’ve even seen entirely wrong cover letters included. I email all candidates who are missing materials (I consider this “missing” a cover letter), and give them the opportunity to complete their submission before distributing materials to the committee for review. (Caveat: I generally have small pools of candidates, <20) I don't give them very long to do this – generally about 1 business day. It was their mistake, and I don't need to bend over backwards to get materials from candidates who might have made the mistake because they don't really care about the job and weren't paying close attention. But I do like to give them the chance, because we all do it from time to time, no matter how careful we are. If it's just the wrong name in a sentence, I simply ignore it. I get it.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I created macros in Word for the things I knew I’d be repeating in cover letters. It worked much better than copying and pasting.

        Don’t know if this happened to me; if so, and I didn’t hear back, I didn’t re-use that cover letter, so I guess I won’t know unless I look. And I don’t really want to look, lol.

        1. MCMonkeybean*

          Huh, I honestly did not even know you could use macros in Word! I’ve only ever seen them in Excel

    2. English Rose*

      Back when I was a hiring manager this exact thing happened. The candidate was otherwise strong, the job required more in the way of creative thinking than attention to detail. We interviewed and hired. The candidate did mention at interview they’d spotted the error, without prompting, and that went in their favour.

    3. Chocoholic Librarian*

      I used the wrong institution name in a cover letter – it didn’t help that it was very similar to the name of the place I was writing to. Something like: I was applying to both “Llamas University” and “Llamas and Alpacas University,” and left “Llamas and Alpacas” on my cover letter to “Llamas” in one sentence, while correctly using “Llamas” the rest of the time.

      I got to the final interview stage at Llamas, and the head of the search committee, who would be that role’s direct boss, gently let me know at the very last check-in of the day what I’d done. I was horrified; she was very kind. I got the job and worked there for 6 years, and it was generally a great place to work! The boss I had after that first boss retired was horrified that my first boss had even mentioned the typo. The way I see it, people who will be decent bosses will look past it, as long as you demonstrate that you know where you’re actually applying and what makes their institution unique.

      But do I still cringe at the mistake? Absolutely. Will I check future cover letters even more obsessively? Darn tootin’ I will.

      1. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

        I had an out-of-state applicant use University of instead of State University in their cover letter. Even though that was our institution’s arch rival, I just confirmed via e-mail that they meant to send the application to us. That was not one of the items on our evaluation rubric, so it didn’t ding their application.

        1. Genevieve*

          Haha when I moved to a Coast from the Midwest I definitely took a much harder line against everyone who confused my alma mater, State University, with our (more prestigious) arch-rival, University of State. But only personally, not professionally.

    4. BubbleTea*

      I just had an application that referred consistently to an adjacent-titled but unrelated job role (think Llama Grooming Assistant but I’m hiring Goat Feeding Assistants). That wouldn’t have been a total deal breaker if the application had seemed like they had read the job description but it didn’t. Also an AI detector said it was 100% AI generated. Sorry, no. A mistake is one thing. Total lack of engagement with the advert is another.

      1. Archi-detect*

        I gotta start the discussion about AI checkers being nonsense, but I imagine you only checked after it felt off to you.

        1. BubbleTea*

          I was suspicious that someone whose covering email was almost incoherent could write such a fluent application (albeit unrelated to the actual job). Then out of interest I ran the same check on a couple of other applications, plus the job description. One other candidate also came back as AI generated, one was 41% which I interpret as “not actually written by AI” and the job description was 0% AI (can confirm, I wrote it). I know the detectors are not an exact science but it’s a bit like a plagiarism checker. 0-40% could simply be common word choices. 100% suggests something is a bit off.

        2. Another Hiring Manager*

          I started checking when I started getting resumes for one position that had the Professional Summary at the top sounding nearly identical. I would use three different checkers. If I got similar results, I would assume it’s AI.

          A better way, I’ve found, is when I put the job title into generative AI myself and seeing what the results are and comparing.

          You get a feel for it after a while. Another clue is if the bullet points or job descriptions have the grammatical errors that indicate English is probably not the candidates first language, but other parts would get an A in a college grammar course.

      2. Another Hiring Manager*

        if the application had seemed like they had read the job description

        That’s a much bigger deal to me than getting the company name wrong.

    5. Brain the Brian*

      I used the name of the wrong college in a scholarship application ages ago. They still gave me a boatload of money. Don’t get too worried.

    6. Miette*

      FWIW LW5, I once interviewed–and subsequently hired–an intern based on her incorrect cover letter. It was clearly an honest error on her part, one I didn’t hold against her. Because the letter was very well-written, which was important because writing skill was foremost in my mind (we were trying to backfill a bit for our blog writer, who was going on parental leave).

      That’s not to say that there aren’t others out there who do hold simple mistakes against applicants, or who judge them by random things they do or wear or whatever (I once worked for someone who paid too much attention to applicants’ shoes for example). I’m in marketing communications, where writing style and grammar are important–but they’re not the only things, either, and I happily don’t hold simple typos against people either.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        This reminds me of what my mom, an editor, always says about writers: good writers need good copyeditors. Your intern applicant was a good writer so it didn’t matter about the minor error on her letter since you know the copyeditor would (hopefully) catch it in anything that was to be published.

        It’s also possible that this is why I’m not a good writer, because I’m a pretty good copyeditor myself…. :-)

    7. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Years ago I applied for a job at a company that I thought was a completely different organization. That is, the posting was for, say, Llamas.com, a for-profit company in my geographic area, and I thought it was for Llamas.org, a NP that was located completely across the country (though I didn’t notice this when filling out the application). So I wrote what I thought was a brilliant cover letter based on the mission of the NP and how I really believed in their mission, etc, only to realize after I hit “send application” that I’d mistaken the NP for the company. Oops. I decided to ignore the problem. They emailed me a day or two later to tell me of my error, to which I replied that I’d realized that and sorry to bother them (because I wasn’t interested in working for the company). I did ask if they’d had other applicants make the same mistake but I don’t recall if they told me one way or the other. I can’t imagine I was the only person to make this error, though.

    8. Midwest Manager*

      I once received a CL addressed to one hiring manager at my org (not me but same first name), noted a position (not mine, and not the incorrect hiring manager’s but valid title in the org), and in closing referenced a totally different company (e.g. I can bring a lot to , and hope you agree!).

      That was too much, and the person was not invited to interview.

    9. LCH*

      I misspelled the project’s name in a cover letter. Job still acquired. It probably depends on your competition.

      1. linger*

        If it’s a typo like “pubic speaking”, either they’ve seen it before, or they’ve missed it too.
        One occurrence of a similar/closely-related company name isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, as that’s an error you should expect from some relevant candidates.
        A completely different and irrelevant company name and/or position title, though, indicates a scattershot application process, so should be a deal breaker unless the remainder of the argument is very tightly linked to the actual position requirements.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Whenever I’ve had to write emails to someone named Bobby I’ve wondered how many times that person has receive emails with their name spelled wrong….I’m always careful to quadruple-check with that name.

          1. I don't get it*

            Bobby? Are people especially likely to spell Bobby incorrectly? Or is there some similarly-spelled word that would be especially embarrassing to type instead?

            I don’t understand why this name in particular would need to be quadruple-checked…

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              Are you trolling me? If you’re actually being serious, think of a word with two Os in the middle instead of two Bs and you’ll be on the right track.

              1. I don't get it*

                Thanks — I cannot believe I missed that. I’m usually pretty good at word puzzles. Anyway, not trolling, and thank you for responding.

    10. Ray B Purchase*

      I’m the second line of interviewing for roles that my team hires and I have never even received a cover letter from our recruiting team. I assume some candidates don’t provide them, but definitely not all. I don’t know if the recruiters themselves read them, but if someone used the wrong company on a cover letter I’d never know the difference.

    11. Artemesia*

      And the only play is to ignore it. If someone mentioned it, then act mortified ‘oh no!! I can’t believe that happened.’ And then nothing more said. I have been on a committee for a high level position where the applicant misspelled the name of the company. I thought that should rule him out, the rest of the committee didn’t and he was one of the 3 finalists we flew in. He turned out to be a real squirrel so I had my smugs. But if he had been great, well then it wouldn’t have mattered that he did that careless thing.

    12. Wendy Darling*

      Same. Got an interview and they never mentioned it.

      I applied to two very, very similar jobs at different companies at the same time, so I just wrote one cover letter and then made some edits for the second company. Unfortunately most of the edits were at the beginning of the letter and I missed that I mentioned the company name again in the last paragraph. And the names were about the same length and started with the same letter, so… whoops.

      I’m not sure if they didn’t read my cover letter at all, saw the mistake but didn’t care, or were just reading about as carefully as I was by the end and missed it.

    13. Audiophile*

      Years ago, I did the same thing for a role at a law firm. It really sunk in when I looked at it again, printed in front of me during the interview.

      Whether this is a dealbreaker will truly depend on the company and interviewer/hiring manager.

      Since LW can’t withdraw anyway, this is just a wait-and-see scenario.

    14. PeachesAndScream*

      I am the first person to see resumes and cover letters in my organization. This error is far more common than you’d think. While it will depend on the individual hiring manager if it ultimately matters, I wouldn’t stress about it too much.

  3. Observer*

    #1- “Potluck” by low paid workers to feed high paid “leadership.”

    Perhaps some of you could express concern about the possibility of this getting out. “People might not understand this, and we would have a hard time explaining this.” and “It could look like a violation of our gift policies. Of course we know that couldn’t be the case, but it’s probably going to be hard to explain that, and some people might feel that it’s a violation in spirit if not in fact. ‘They got off on a technicality’ is probably not a good look for us.”

    Very collaborative tone is important here, although I imagine you’d rather be anything BUT collaborative. But seriously, have these guys not moved past 2010 or so? Unless that sign in sheet is in a secure facility where staff are not allowed to bring in cell phones, a leak is a real possibility.

    1. bamcheeks*

      Perhaps some of you could express concern about the possibility of this getting out

      On a related note, I was going to ask whether you have any Lady-Thistledown-style newsletters or commentators that you could leak it too.

      1. Lady_Blerd*

        This was going to be my suggestion because I have a feeling that OP1 works for lawmakers.

    2. WeirdChemist*

      Yes, if this is a US fed government office, this would probably be in violation of gift-giving policies. I’m pretty sure that the amounts allowed to be gifted up can be considered as a cumulative total (so everyone is asked to contribute $5, which adds up to $100, which is in violation). The fact that it’s a potluck, which is generally allowed, may be a complicating factor (although management benefiting without contributing, and employees contributing without benefiting make this a more obvious gift). The fact that some of the people benefitting aren’t in the employees chain of command (if I’m understanding the question correctly) may also muddle things.

      If LW1 is in an office covered by a union, definitely talk to them! Even if you aren’t a dues paying member to the union they could still provide help!

      1. Seashell*

        LW 1 suggests that the higher-ups should be paying out of their pocket for the visitors’ lunch, but I wonder if that violates a government rule.

        I think the problem is just the lack of sharing. I had a government job where we had a yearly holiday luncheon that was potluck. Most people brought something regardless of their pay level, but no one was shunned if they didn’t. The key was we all ate it.

        If LW does bring it up, I would say to avoid the “you’re so rich you could pay for it all” argument. You don’t really know how much money they have, and, even if you did, it’s unseemly to spend others’ money for them.

        1. WeirdChemist*

          I don’t believe the same ethics rules apply to people at an equal level as you, just up your supervisory chain (or from outside of the govt). Although if the outcome of this visit will influence their office’s budget (as the LW seems to indicate, although that’s not a structure I’ve encountered in govt offices before), then the LWs managers providing a gift in this way could still be seen as improper (but equally so if the employees are providing for it…)

        2. Miette*

          It’s more the term that’s the key here: a potluck is meant to be shared by the people that made the food. If the makers of the food are absent, it’s catering.

          OP should call it what it is. Are their bosses okay with the optics of lower-level staff catering this meeting? And not being reimbursed for it? I do not believe there’s not budget for this kind of thing, either. It’s power play.

          1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            Dang, great point. If you don’t get to eat it, it’s not a potluck.

            1. 1LFTW*

              And pot luck etiquette, every place I’ve lived, is that it’s pretty crappy to just dive in and eat if you haven’t brought anything. This is *definitely* not a pot luck.

          2. Annie*

            Yes, that’s the right term for this. The not-sharing the food makes it so much worse than if they were at least part of the eating process.

            It is basically them catering the lunch. I’m surprised they don’t have to help serve it as well.

            1. ypsi*

              IMHO, the staff should go ahead and provide the potluck.
              Judging from the potlucks that sometimes happen at my office, there are usually 3 different kinds of meatballs, some disgusting layered dip for tortilla chips, and some bags of potato chips, doritos, cheese puffs and similar (because some people do not cook). I think it would be fun if all staff provided were bottles of pop and various munches (store-bought, examples as mentioned above). Nothing else. That should teach the management that they need to provide proper catering or take the visitors to a restaurant.

              1. Gumby*

                I was thinking all the same dish. My mother tells of one potluck picnic she went on with friends. Everyone met up out to the country and proudly brought out their dishes. All of which were potato salad. At least it was about half German-style potato salad half American-style potato salad. (I believe it was meant as a horror story for me as I like neither mayo nor vinegary things.)

              2. Festively Dressed Earl*

                Or they should intentionally replicate the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving dinner. Charcuterie style arrangements of jellybeans, popcorn, pretzels, and toast.

          3. goddessoftransitory*

            Catering for which they are expected to pay their own money, use their own time to cook, and not be paid for any of it. Which frankly crosses the line for me into theft.

          4. MigraineMonth*

            Since OP works in government, it’s actually probable that there’s no budget/reimbursement for food. It’s considered a “waste of taxpayer money” to even provide bottled water or coffee to government employees.

            (Note that it’s not considered a waste of taxpayer money to run a department to crack down on government waste, even though that department inevitably costs more than it finds in waste.)

            1. LoraC*

              Those departments exist for deterrence. I worked at a place where they conduct data analysis on government programs to determine their efficiency, and their conclusion is that even though those departments operate at a loss, their existence prevents more extreme wastage.

              Same with health insurance upcoding fraud. The DOJ spends more trying to catch Medicaid/Medicare fraud than they make in fines and penalty, but their job isn’t to make a profit; it’s to arrest criminals and protect patients from unnecessary services or substandard care.

            2. Festively Dressed Earl*

              If the higher-ups are having a working lunch and/or someone is presenting information during the meal, the agency can provide lunch and LW’s boss probably doesn’t want to do the paperwork. If it’s not a working lunch, they can go to a local restaurant on their own darn dimes during lunch hour.

        3. Nomic*

          ” it’s unseemly to spend others’ money for them.”
          It sure is. Which is why well paid managers shouldn’t be requiring their less-paid subordinates to provide them lunch.

          1. Chauncy Gardener*

            THIS. I had a “what the actual f–/flames on the side of my face” moment reading this post!

        4. StressedButOkay*

          Spending other peoples money is exactly what the higher ups are doing and, even though OP doesn’t know the higher ups actual fiscal situation, they DO have access to the pay bands since it’s government.

          Overall, this is just gross – they’re being shamed (list of names visible) and pressured to cater (not a potluck at aaaaalllll) an event they’re not even invited to. This absolutely breaks all kinds of gift regs.

      2. Arcade Kitten*

        I came here to say this I am 100% this violates ethics rules they beat into us every year in the Fed. Leaders can’t ask subordinates to provide this. The lawyer in my section here would be joyful when squashing this LOL

        1. honeygrim*

          Yes, exactly; the situation could almost be an example in an ethics training course for new government employees. Whether directly (by feeding their own departmental leadership) or indirectly (by helping their leadership feed another department’s leadership), subordinates providing a meal out of their own pockets–without being able to partake in the meal–could look like an attempt to curry favor, which is wildly unethical. Asking subordinates to do this is nuts.

          If the LW’s leadership team okayed this, then at the very least they are completely oblivious to the optics of the situation. And the government cares very much about optics, at least in my experience.

            1. My cat is the employee of the month*

              And maybe some delicious “gifts should never flow up” salad?

        2. MollyGodiva*

          Yes, but that amount of illegal and unethical behavior management gets away with is staggering. The people above them don’t care.

        3. The Dullard*

          We don’t know that (1) this poster is from the US, or (2) if she is, whether she’s federal government or state/local/cross-border government.

      3. Namename*

        There might also be a ethics office you could ask for advice. I work for local government, we have one, and they’ve been very helpful when I’ve had questions.

        1. Bored Fed*

          If you’re in the US Federal Government, you may want to contact your Designated Agency Ethics Officer asking whether this would be a prohibited gift to an official superior under 5 CFR 2635.302.

          And/or drop a dime and call your agency’s Inspector General’s office.

          1. Annie*

            I like that, because it’s the higher ups that are violating the ethics, so you don’t have a good person to go to in order to complain unless you get all of the employees to take a stand together, which may be more difficult. A whisper in the right ear will get this shut down immediately without having to leverage any political capital you may have.

          2. 1LFTW*

            At least where I am, State and Local governments have ethics hotlines. LW’s jurisdiction may have them as well; it’s worth looking for!

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

        Also those contributing to a potluck cannot participate. Which really means its not a potluck. They are just making and paying for the food

      5. MCMonkeybean*

        I feel like you can’t reasonably call it a potluck though if the people who are bringing the food are not even allowed to partake!

    3. jojo*

      Skip all that. Just go to HR and ask why management is asking employees to feed managers and outside reps instead of using the company funds. And act as wait staff to boot.

      1. Ally McBeal*

        Seriously. It’s not a potluck if the people who bring the food can’t have any, that’s just unpaid catering and it’s unethical to the point where it can and should be raised with the ethics and/or HR department.

        1. Elsa*

          Yes, agreed. They are using the word “potluck” to make it sound like something legitimate, but this is not a potluck at all.

      2. ursula*

        Yeah, I wondered about sending this to HR, anonymously if possible. It may or may not be a violation of any specific rule, but halfway competent HR should immediately see why it’s inappropriate and put a stop to it.

        1. TrixieJeep*

          We’re having an end-of-year potluck/picnic this week at my gov’t (education) job. Every time we do this, the employees paid the least provide the most, plus do set-up and clean-up. I’ve been keeping my eye on the sign-up list, and have announced that unless and until the top tier ($$) staff get their names on that list, I’m not contributing. They (top tier) always act like their presence is their contribution. Sorry, but you’re NOT that charming or funny. It is NOT a thrill to see you put the food I paid for put into your mouth. After 25 years…I’m out. Buy your own potato salad.

          1. Strawberry Snarkcake*

            I started doing this as well. I used to bring high ticket meat items while the management would bring napkins & plastic forks, if anything at all. I now just choose to opt out & bring my own lunch that day.

      3. WeirdChemist*

        This is a government office, there’s no “company funds” to use to pay for this. Any office party/gathering/meal must be paid for out of pocket or be done potluck style. Within govt ethics rules, the situation LW1 described would absolutely not be allowed and they should definitely talk to their union/ethics office/etc first

        1. doreen*

          Maybe – when I first became a manager at my government agency, we could be reimbursed for providing meeting refreshments. When that stopped, the rationale was
          “We don’t have to feed our own employees to come to meetings” – but we were still able to be reimbursed for providing refreshments for outsiders, and while the agency did not pay for parties, they did provide food at all-day meetings where we worked through lunch.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            This. There is usually a per person limit, but you are allowed to feed visitors at a lot of government agencies.

            But you can’t make your staff do it, except for an optional potluck that everyone is invited to.

            1. WeirdChemist*

              Would it change if the visitors are also within the government vs outside visitors? I’ve never been lucky enough to experience this haha, every time I’ve had food provided for a meeting it was always a supervisor paying out of pocket just to be nice (and usually minor snacks, not full meals)

        2. Anon Just for This*

          I work for a government in Canada and there are circumstances where food could be provided at a meeting. Though I suspect this is usually when consulting with stakeholders or multi-day offsite meetings with senior executives. I’ve never attended one, though, since I’m at the staff level.

          A key difference between the US and Canada is that the public service is generally unconnected to political party. Our obligation is to work for the elected government of the day. Even the most senior leadership generally keeps their jobs – or gets shuffled to another portfolio rather than let go – when the government changes. Only the Ministers’ Offices are made up of political staff.

          1. Anon Just for This*

            Actually, I have attended a meeting where lunch was provided. It was on an all-day site visit to an organization that is not part of government. My Ministry provides oversight for this organization and owns the legislation governing how the organization operates. The session was to collaborate on something both groups are working on. Since it was in another city from where we’re located, the organization fed us. And the discussions kept going through lunch.

          2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

            The public service in the US, with the exceptions of the uppermost levels of political appointees and staffers working for a specific elected officials, are also apolitical. I know lots of government employees who have been there since the Obama administration.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              Yeah, the majority of government positions are non-elected and non-appointed. They are also known for their stability: people tend to stay for a long time, regardless of who’s at the top. Unfortunately, this means that mass layoffs or resignations can have ripple effects for many years afterwards; a lot of departments that had their budgets cut under Trump still aren’t fully staffed.

          3. StressedButOkay*

            Generally, only the top top TOP people in government end up getting switched around when an administration ends (along with the White House staff). My dad worked 30+ years in government – from the Reagan to Biden administrations. None of his positions were politically appointed so he only changed jobs when he actively was recruited or applied.

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

          I think it really depends. I work for state university and have to abide by state law regulations so it might be different. But in my job if there is work being done over lunch then you can use funds to cover the lunch. Typically we go to someplace that the university has a contract with for billing or do some sort of catering. If people are traveling on business they get a per diem to cover meals.
          Since this is a business meeting then the budget should cover the cost to cater the lunch.
          WeirDChemist is right that there are no “company funds” but the budget should be able to include these types of business expenses. Granted they wouldn’t be able to just pay for lunch just because . But a business reason should be covered.

        4. 1LFTW*

          Definitely, call your union if you have one – because this could violate your contract if you’re being assigned work that’s outside your job description – and your ethics hotline whether or not you have a union.

          Thing is, even in non-union positions, lots of government jobs have strictly classified duties. You don’t send an administrative assistant out to write a policy recommendation, or maintain a trail, or prune the shrubs, or pave a street, or prepare and serve food. If any of these things are assigned off the clock? Hoo boy.

          1. AnonyMoose*

            I just received a generous offer where I could work additional hours for the state by cleaning a huge event arena.

            I am a software developer with zero training on how to clean. I have no idea how they think this is supposed to work.

      4. Glasses*

        The sentiment is true, but if fed, HR is not the office – look for the appropriate skip-level(s) supervisor or the ethics office.

      5. Purpleshark*

        I really want to ask if all or most of these employees are women and if management is mostly men.

    4. HailRobonia*

      Bring in a poster of kittens and say “I’m an abstract cook. This is food for the soul.”

        1. Abogado Avocado*

          Or you could bring an “M&M Casserole” — a mini one from a one-serving bag!

    5. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I second someone else’s comment that this is all unnecessary and they should go straight to HR. The phrasing here makes it sound like the employees agree it’s actually perfectly normal and fine, and that the only reason *not* to do it is the illusion (rather than the fact!!) of impropriety here. This wouldn’t be okay even if it were allowed.

    6. Overthinking it*

      So, you providing the food, doing the labor off the clock, and then not even invited to partake of this “potluck”? Your management is clueless and you will be doing them a fa or to straighten them out! Even it it’s voluntary, DON’T do it; push back. As a group, say: ” Let’s be clear: you are requesting tge we, the underlings, too lowly to dine with the muckety-mucks CATER a meal for them. you expect us to donate the food, a d perform this labor off-the-clock. Oh gee, we’re so worried that if this ever got out to the wage-and-hour people, the just wouldn’t understand. (It would be great if you could also truefully point out that there are employees whose kids are on free lunch – not naming them of course.)

      Seriously, this sounds like the kind of idea that would come up at small to medium non-profit, where volunteerism gets seriously confused with employment. Still wrongheaded (abd illegal), but a more understandable wrong-headedness.

      And be sure to use the word “cater” to characterize what they are asking of you here. They may be thinking it’s sweet and welcoming but if the peons are even allowed to mingle. . .it’s so, so not!

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

      They should also look to see what the actual policy for potlucks are. I was shocked to find that technically speaking that potlucks are not allowed at the state college that I work at. Because if someone got sick from eating at a potluck then they could make a claim against the university or some such nonsense.

      I wonder what the leadership team from the other branch is going to think about a potluck. It just seems very tasteless to make your underpaid staff pay to feed these people, and not even be able to contribute.

      1. WeirdChemist*

        At the US fed govt level, potlucks are allowed. The language specifically states that gifts of food to coworkers are allowed if it is “shared” and it must be voluntary. So the fact that the people contributing can’t have the food is a big no-no, and if there were any pressure to participate that would be a no-no as well.

        I’m also wondering what the other team will think of the potluck for a different reason. In every govt office I’ve been in, the vast majority of the potluck food was grocery store potato salad and store brand cookies level of foods. All of the main dishes/nicer foods were always provided by management. So if LWs leadership is expecting this “potluck” to impress the other team I think they might be in for disappointment, even without a coordinated effort to provide crappy food as suggested in other comments lol

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Would be funny if everyone showed up with a bag of generic potato chips and nothing else, and then all of them filed expense reports for said chips.

          (don’t do this lol)

          1. Quill*

            Not to mention other classic AAM dishes like repackaged salsa, chili skimmed off other people’s pots…

    8. Nonprofit Lifer*

      Why not just send a message (preferably as a group) along the lines of:
      “Regarding the potluck sign-up, can you clarify how we can get reimbursement for the cost of the food we buy? Also, is there a particular way you want us to mark our timesheets to note the time spent on purchasing, preparing, and delivering the food?”

      You can act like, “Of course, you couldn’t possibly be expecting us to do this work off the clock and at our own expense,” and force them to spell it out. And if they do so, you can come back with the classic Ask A Manager: “My budget doesn’t permit me to do so.”

      1. Philosophia*

        That’s what I came here to recommend! Form a committee, set up a time for the committee to meet with management for planning purposes, bring note-taking apparatus, and run through the questions. “Okay, what’s our budget for this? Let’s see, we won’t all be able to bring the office credit card, so some of us might have to put in for reimbursement, but there won’t be a problem with that, of course, will there? Who will be communicating with the attendees about food restrictions and gathering that information? Would you rather we put in for overtime or for comp time to cover shopping, cooking, and transport? Oh, and we’re getting mileage, right?”

    9. Not on board*

      Yeah, the comment that said this is “catering” and not “potluck” are spot on. I’d just say it’s not in my budget and that having employees cater this could be problematic – both because it looks like employees are being asked to provide a gift, and there’s the potential for problems with the food itself – food allergies, food poisoning, etc. Using a business to cater and/or takeout reduces the risks significantly.

    10. Sunchokes are Very Healthy*

      I would bring soup and roast vegetables of the sunchoke variety, to partner with all of the people bringing buns xD

      It would be unfortunate that I wouldn’t be there to caution folks to go easy on portions, but that’s the way it goes sometimes… at any rate it would add some joviality to their meeting, I’m sure.

    11. Artemesia*

      No. This needs to be ‘it is not reasonable for management to expect low wage employee to pay for lunch for visiting dignitaries — this needs to be paid for by the organization.’ This is really egregious and abusive and pussyfooting around won’t get it.

      1. Artemesia*

        Asking what the catering budget is for this and how to expense the time and food is a more tactful way of saying the same thing.

    12. Marthooh*

      It’s amazing that OP1’s bosses are just openly soliciting kickbacks like that, but I guess it would be gauche to say so.

    13. NovaDelMarva*

      If this is the federal government, asking you to do this could be an ethics violation. In the Executive branch, it is illegal for a higher paid employee to receive a gift from a lower paid employee, and it is also illegal to accept a gift from someone in your supervisory chain. There are a few exceptions (weddings, birth of a child, retirement) but those gifts have to be disclosed.
      I’d drop a line to your Office of General Counsel, or to your Inspector General. The latter can be done anonymously. They’ll quickly put a stop to this nonsense.

  4. Certaintroublemaker*

    LW1, alternately, everyone in your office could sign up to bring the most inexpensive, easiest foods you can muster — beans & weenies, macaroni salad, garlic toast from white bread and garlic salt, the cheapest generic brand cookies, etc. “Well, the price of groceries these days, we’re all economizing. But we’re happy to make our budgets stretch to feed you, too.” That should be the last time staff get asked to feed the management class.

    1. Never Knew I Was a Dancer*

      I still support the recommended approach of pushing back and trying to shut this down.

      If that fails, my recommendation is easy, cheap, and—above all—gross.

      Anyone up for an appetizer of boiled hotdog bites with no-name brand ketchup? How about not-freshly toasted cheapo white bread cut into fancy triangle slices? How about mashed potatoes (a five pound bag is only a few bucks)—but since you don’t know who might have certain food allergies or restrictions, best to serve it without any seasoning.

      1. Just My Two Cents*

        Potluck: I would speak to your union rep about this. (I’m assuming you have one. the government office I worked in had an employee union with reps in each office).

        Slack: is there a “do not disturb” setting on Slack? When I am leading a meeting, I put my status in Teams as DND and add an automessage to say there I can’t look at chats until X time due to leading a meeting. However, getting folks to stop adding conversational chars is a whole other issue.

        1. WeirdChemist*

          Not all government employees are considered bargaining unit (ie union eligible), but a significant chunk are. If LW is in a position covered by a union (even if they aren’t a dues paying member), they should definitely speak to a union rep about this!

          1. Mianaai*

            Also there aren’t unions covering all of the offices, even those considered to be union-eligible. E.g. I’m a union-eligible fed, but there’s no union that covers my department so I’m SOL unless I want to lead the charge (and paint an enormous neon sign on my back).

        2. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          There is both a “do not disturb” option in slack, and the ability to mute a particular conversation (though you have to remember to unmute afterwards).

      2. Jan Levinson Gould*

        All with human and pet hair mixed in.

        This thread should get good! Something to look forward to tomorrow morning.

      3. Goody*

        “How about mashed potatoes (a five pound bag is only a few bucks)—but since you don’t know who might have certain food allergies or restrictions, best to serve it without any seasoning.”

        Including milk, butter, etc… :D

        1. Zombeyonce*

          I would love to drop off a bag of instant mashed potatoes, unprepared. Don’t even go to the trouble of adding hot water, just the bag of generic potato flakes.

      4. Zombeyonce*

        That’s too much work! Deliver a 5lb bag of potatoes (they can microwave them if they feel like it), or a loaf of generic bread, or a package of hot dogs (uncooked with no ketchup or buns). If they’re forced to contribute, make sure the contributions are dripping with resentment and disdain.

      5. The other sage*

        How about some Spaghetti (or other noodles) with ketchup? Like some poor people so because they can’t afford proper tomato sauce.

        1. I Licked Your Salt Lamp*

          My grandmother used to make spaghetti with tomato sauce and a scrambled egg mixed in- my dad loved this but I found it disgusting and refused to ever make it. However, a company like this might give me reason to…

        2. Llama face!*

          When my mom was a young poor student she once ran out of everything but macaroni noodles and mayo. Not that I’m suggesting anything ;) ;)

      6. goddessoftransitory*

        INSTANT mashed potatoes, government issue, with a side of government cheese.

        1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          Can’t you join up to *all* bring army-surplus field rations (MREs)?
          They do not need any preparation and are likely not directly detrimental to the consumer’s health, no little legal risk.
          And anything remaining uneaten can be used on your next camping trip, so little waste.

    2. ThatGuy*

      Ramen noodles. Campbell’s tomato soup. Stale Wonder Bread and a tub of ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter’.

      1. Not A Manager*

        But sign up for “Japanese noodles in broth,” “Soupe a la tomate,” and “soft white bread dipped in seasoned oil.”

      2. ChurchOfDietCoke*

        Make sure to stand a knife, Excalibur-style, into the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter

        1. Ipsedixitism*

          Ideally, serve even cheaper non-branded butter alternative with lots of toast crumbs and preserve smears already present.

          1. Ann Onymous*

            Just as a side note, some of the names of knockoffs of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter are amusing:
            What, not butter!
            Could it be butter?
            Butter, it’s not!
            Wow, I totally thought butter!

            1. Media Monkey*

              if you haven’t seen the Vicar of Dibley episode with the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter monologue from Alice, you have to look it up.

      1. AnonInCanada*

        Or sign up, but instead of actual food, you leave pictures of food on paper plates. Tell the upper-crusts “this is all we plebs can afford in our budgets for your uppity-uppity event that you’re asking us to cater for free and off the clock.” Then report them all to your ethics department and/or HR before any retaliation comes forth.

      2. Tippy*

        Seriously. As “hilarious” as this might seem all it’s going to do is come back poorly on the staff when the answer is that the entire thing is likely illegal/against ethics rules and needs to be brought up to HR and or an ethics office. Or at the very least flat out ignored.

          1. bamcheeks*

            Honestly, I’m struggling to think of a reason not to do this. Like, it’s government, you are pretty well protected from “senior management doesn’t like me” when it comes to promotions, raises and other opportunities.

          2. Slow Gin Lizz*

            Uncooked instant ramen. That is, DIY. “Here’s some ramen and a pot and stove you can use to cook it. The sink is over there.”

              1. AnonInCanada*

                … or leave one of those can openers that never can grasp the lip of the can when you try to attach it and it doesn’t open no matter what. :-P Record them trying to open the can. Post video on YouTube/TikTok. Hope it goes viral.

        1. Annie*

          I was thinking just saltine crackers, so if they ate them, their mouths would be dry as could be.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Store-brand potato chips. It’s perfectly acceptable as a potluck dish, it’s just not great when it’s *every* potluck dish.

      1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        Everyone is bringing napkins! The free scratchy ones from the cafeteria. Or that you get free with takeout, preferably still in the package with the plastic fork. No, seriously don’t do this, the whole idea is terrible. Push back as much as you can.

        1. Bast*

          The napkins can go with the 100 packages of soy sauce that come with every Chinese food takeout… But ONLY bring the soy sauces and nothing else.

      2. PhyllisB*

        I once attended a pot luck where everyone brought green bean casserole. Luckily we also had plenty of wine.

    3. Varthema*

      Love this thread. One of my pet peeves is when people use “malicious compliance” to mean “just-do-the-bare-minimum compliance” because there has to be an extra element of malice involved, and these suggestions definitely deliver!!!

      my only concern is that management would totally miss the point and try to school the employees about “putting your best foot forward” etc.

    4. yellerdog*

      Sign up for a generic baked good (bread, cookies, etc) then raid the day-old section of the grocery store for whatever looks most stale.

      Bonus: Look for items with a big orange “Manager’s Special” sticker. Serve them in the original packaging with the sticker.

    5. Four Lights*

      I can’t stop thinking about personalized fortune cookies now.

      “You will feel shame that you made your subordinates pay for your dinner.”

      “You will spend the next week wondering if cats licked the dishes your food was made in.”

      1. BW*

        Snort laugh on the personalized fortune cookies.

        I actually thought about suggesting bringing the cheapest ass, stalest food, but everyone is on a tight budget. Definitely push back and shut this down.

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        “The ethics board might come calling sometime in the near future.”

        “Investment in morale with your subordinates could go a long way.”

        “There are five lights.”

      1. Chirpy*

        This. First try to get it shut down, but if management pushes to keep it, everyone brings store brand chips. This actually worked to kill potlucks at my job (unintentionally, but they don’t pay us enough to care or afford nice stuff.)

        I’m also going to say: NOBODY bring utensils, plates, or napkins. Make them get paper towel from the bathroom.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          I was thinking everyone bring cheap-ass dry crackers. At least potato chips taste good (even store brand, IMO).

          1. MagicEyes*

            Store brand nacho chips are a step down from generic potato chips. I’d bring that, and a can of cold pork and beans, vienna sausages, and maybe some Libby’s Potted Meat Food Product.

          2. Chirpy*

            The point is, there’s nothing for lunch but 30 bags of chips, which makes for a really disappointing lunch of nothing but chips. It doesn’t matter if they’re good at that point.

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

        Everyone should bring cheap-ass rolls — except for one person who manages to bring Cheap Ass-Rolls instead.

        1. La Triviata*

          Didn’t Martha Stewart do something like this a few years ago for the company holiday party? had staff assigned to cook a holiday meal (I think there were a number of staff involved and multiple meals on different days) at their own expense … I remember a lot of controversy about it.

    6. Caffeine Monkey*

      But who will bring the Hawaiian rolls?

      (I’d never heard of Hawaiian rolls until that post, and I’m still not entirely sure what they are.)

      1. metadata minion*

        They’re a particular type of soft, quite sweet dinner rolls. I find them underwhelming, but they have a devoted following. I’m not sure if it’s a regional thing (beyond presumably Hawaii, though going by (PLACE NAME) (FOOD ITEM) patterns, I wouldn’t be surprised if they have nothing to do with Hawaii), because I didn’t encounter them until adulthood.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Yeah, I’m a bread snob and the only time I’ve ever had them was on airplanes and I thought they were pretty unremarkable. But then I’ve heard that food doesn’t actually taste as good on airplanes as it does on the ground (really! there are studies on this and everything!) so maybe I’d like them better if I at them at sea level. But they’re not really my kind of bread anyway, so I’m going to bother to test this hypothesis.

          1. Chirpy*

            They’re ok, but they’re just sweet white bread, without being sweet enough to make it special like a bread with fruit or spices would be.

            One time I tried King’s Hawaiian tortillas though. Those were strange, but might have been good for a dessert taco.

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              Yeah, if I want sweet bread, I’m going for pecan roll or apple fritter, not Hawaiian rolls that are too sweet for me if I want bread and not sweet enough if I want a sweet treat.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          I think it’s that they are a standard at celebratory meals, and so they ding a primal “I taste a Hawaiian roll; this is like Thanksgiving.”

          Like Kelloggs Pop Tarts can taste like Saturday morning cartoons.

          According to their website the rolls started in Hilo, of which I have quite fond memories and so that would boost their flavor. Even if the food I actually remember from that trip is papaya right off the tree, which is utterly different from New England supermarket papaya.

      2. Seashell*

        Yesterday, I got a text from a family member asking if I liked Hawaiian rolls, because the store was out of the potato rolls I had put on the list. I’m not sure if I ever had them before, but maybe? I will be eating them tonight, so we’ll see if they’re good.

        1. It's Susie now*

          Well the thing they have in common with potato rolls is that they are soft! I like both, because I like that texture. I also like the salty/sweet combination, so putting a savory food like a hamburger on a sweet Hawaiian roll makes a lovely contrast in my opinion.

      3. Artemesia*

        they are even more sugary than most US bread — very gross but somehow viewed as extra good by some people.

    7. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I’d be tempted to ask leadership what they’re bringing to the potluck in the hope of shaming them. But it sounds like these people have no shame.

      1. Lime green Pacer*

        Ask them when you’re going to have the reciprocal potluck, where only management makes all the food and only the lowbies eat.

    8. Peter the Bubblehead*

      If this is a government agency, there should be money in the budget to cover this exact kind of event! No employee should be paying for the meal of an official organization event! That is the norm!
      Every staff employee needs to speak to whoever proposed this and say they are not participating – especially in light of the fact they must provide but not partake?!
      Just no!

    9. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      Yes, bring a can of some random thing you have close to expiring in your pantry… like cream of mushroom soup.

      1. Miette*

        NGL this option is hilarious to me. Perhaps OP and their co-workers should pretend they misread the situation and treat it like a food drive instead, since management is clearly too poor to afford to… (checks notes)… buy a sandwich tray? Just empty your pantries of all the old soup cans and stale granola you’ve got.

        1. Chirpy*

          Ooh, I like this idea. And don’t open any of the cans, so when management notices, you can say “oh, wasn’t it such a great idea to do a food drive this time of year!” Then they have to take everyone (or at least the guests) out to lunch, and a food pantry gets a donation.

        2. Chirpy*

          (though as someone who’s sorted food pantry donations, please donate good stuff there.)

        1. Jan Levinson Gould*

          Yeah, but everyone else would be subjected to the stench. There was a sardine eater at my employer’s home office that would stink up the shared office kitchen. Social graces were not this guy’s strong suit. I didn’t work in the office, but I worked with him every so often. Sardines were always the first thing that came to mind when speaking with him.

  5. Observer*

    #4 – Cutting out the recruiter.

    If your former boss keeps trying to cut out the recruiter, take that as a red flag. Either you are now seeing a shady side to your former boss that you hadn’t seen before, or there is an issue with the company. Either one is not great and should make you cautious, especially if you can afford to be picky.

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      It depends.

      If it’s a retained recruiter, that’s one thing. But if it’s an unsolicited third party recruiter, that’s another.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        If the employer engaged the external recruiter, they are obligated to meet the letter and spirit of the fee agreement. Being retained instead of contingent doesn’t change their obligation.

        There is nothing in the OP’s letter that sounds like the recruiter elected to represent the employer without their approval or even knowledge. In fact, OP’s former boss acknowledged they wanted to ‘work around’ the recruiter, something they wouldn’t need to do if they did not engage said recruiter.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          There’s nothing in OP’s letter that sounds like the company retained the recruiter either. If the recruiter apparently didn’t know OP used to work for the hiring manager, it points towards the recruiter being an unsolicited third party.

          There isn’t enough information in the letter to tell which case is correct.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            There actually is enough to determine what’s what.

            As I already said, the hiring manager acknowledged they wanted to ‘work around’ the recruiter. There would be no need to ‘work around’ anybody unless that recruiter – retained OR contingent – had been engaged to work on the role.

            Also, you’re conflating terms. Retained means the employer paid a portion to kick off the search, and will pay in installments and/or at final hire. Contingent means the employer engaged the recruiting firm, (should have) signed a fee agreement, and agrees to pay a fee only if a hire is made. In both cases, the employer should not attempt to ‘work around’ the recruiter.

            Hope this helps.

            1. Trout 'Waver*

              There actually isn’t enough information

              One scenario I’ve experienced is when an unsolicited third-party submits a candidate for consideration (with identifying information removed) but the hiring manager is able to identify the candidate anyway. Calling the candidate directly would accurately be called “working around the recruiter”.

              I can’t imagine continuing to work with a recruiter I solicited if they sent me the resumes of former direct reports unknowingly. It shows a staggering failure of making connections for a profession that is all about making that kind of connection.

              Hope this helps.

              1. SheLooksFamiliar*

                Oh, but there is. From the OP:

                ‘While speaking with the recruiter, it emerged that the role is with the company that acquired my previous employer, and the hiring manager is my old boss, who is hiring his replacement.’ The recruiter would not know this unless they had spoken with the employer about the role, and been given the green light to begin the search. It’s pretty plain from the rest of the OP’s message that the employer acknowledged the recruiter’s involvement, and hoped to work around them. Again: if the recruiter had not been engaged, there would be nothing to ‘work around.’

                You said, ‘I can’t imagine continuing to work with a recruiter I solicited if they sent me the resumes of former direct reports unknowingly.’ Huh? It’s not a failure if they didn’t know prior to the call. Even if you know the industry or company well, it’s not always possible to know who USED TO report to whom.

                You also said, ‘It shows a staggering failure of making connections for a profession that is all about making that kind of connection.’ Again, huh? The recruiter is literally making connections – an ongoing process in an ever-changing employment landscape. It is perfectly reasonable for a recruiter to source previous employees/direct reports and build their connections, that is literally how building a talent pool works. The only failure here? The OP was right that it should have been the hiring manager contacting her in this case. This is not a misstep on the recruiter’s part.

                I’ve been in corporate recruiting over 40 years, hired retained and contingency firms, and can tell you you’re getting a lot of this wrong. The only problem I would have here as the employer is the egg on my face because the recruiter did what I should have done. That would not make it okay to ‘work around them.’

                Hope this helps.

                1. Trout 'Waver*

                  “It emerged that……” could mean OP had a realization, or that the recruiter told them. You’re reading certainty where there is ambiguity, and it’s likely due to your bias towards your profession of 40 years. Anyway, semantic debates are tedious. I understand that people who work around recruiters are a direct threat to your income.

                  Also, in regards to my statements, when I engage with recruiters to fill advanced roles, we have a conversation or two about the position, which generally includes my background as well. There are several recruiting agencies in my field with extensive notes on my entire career because I’ve hired through them a couple times. I’m not special. I believe they do this for everyone.

                  Maybe my standards are artificially high, but I expect a solicited search firm to know where I’ve worked in the past and be able to identify candidates that have worked with me in the past. It’s a small world. Its really easy to figure that kind of thing out if you try.

                  Anyway, my whole point was that it is ambiguous as to whether this recruiter was solicited or not. If the employer had a prearranged agreement with the recruiter, they should honor that agreement. If the recruiter inserted themselves unsolicited into the process and was unaware of the pre-existing connection, I’d have no problem working around them.

                  Also, ending your posts with “hope this helps” is condescending and you should stop doing that. Unless you’re intending to be condescending. In that case, keep on being you.

                2. SheLooksFamiliar*

                  ‘I understand that people who work around recruiters are a direct threat to your income.’ You couldn’t be more wrong. I work for a Fortune 35 company and we do not use external recruiters.

                  ‘I believe they do this for everyone.’ They do not. Your belief is incorrect.

                  ‘Maybe my standards are artificially high, but I expect a solicited search firm to know where I’ve worked in the past and be able to identify candidates that have worked with me in the past. ‘ Your expectations are not high, just unrealistic due to your limited interaction with agencies.

                  ‘ If the recruiter inserted themselves unsolicited into the process and was unaware of the pre-existing connection, I’d have no problem working around them.’ The OP’s own letter tells you enough to know the external recruiter was not unsolicited. The hiring manager’s own comments and behaviors tells you that, as well.

                  Hope that helps, and bless your heart.

        2. Roeslein*

          OP4 here – I omitted some details but the employer definitely engaged this recruiter!

    2. LinuxSystemsGuy*

      I agree, the hiring manager is pretty clearly trying to get out of paying the recruiter a fee. If the callout to recruiter said the job was fee paid (and we can’t know for sure, but I seriously doubt the recruiter would’ve touch the job otherwise) they need to work the process and pay the recruiter. Recruiter found you a qualified candidate, the fact that you happen to already know the person only means that you should have reached out before getting recruiters involved.

      It’s not the hugest red flag (at least in tech, recruiters have a somewhat deserved reputation for being shady, so some people see screwing them as fair play for times they’ve been screwed), but it’s definitely orange and something to think about. If he’s willing to screw the recruiter, what else is he willing to do?

  6. Bilateralrope*

    #4. That dishonesty from the hiring manager might be a sign of deeper problems within the company.

    I’d suggest being completely honest with the recruiter here. How the hiring manager reacts to that could tell you very useful things about the company. Maybe the kind of things that make you reconsider if you want to work there.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Yeah it seems to me that since being acquired by the bigger company things may have changed, not necessarily for the better. OP wonders why the hiring manager didn’t reach out to them directly for this role – I expect this is because new-company has a policy that all (external) recruitment goes through a recruiter/agency, they most likely already have recruiters on their “preferred supplier list” (like vendors) and anything outside of that has to be justified and usually won’t be approved. Similarly, I bet the request to cut out the agency has come from HR rather than the hiring manager, even if the HM was the one to make the request to OP.

      1. Las*

        Regarding the slack messages, I almost wonder if you could use it as an opportunity to teach her how to take important meeting notes. Rather than send numerous messages, she could make a note in a separate document about what she agreed with when she means ditto, or what she appreciated about something when she said “yes” emphatically. I say this because I use this tool to keep me engaged in virtual meetings and seminars regularly, and if this is an outlet for her it could be useful. It sounds like you are both debriefing after these meetings and this could guide her thoughts as well.

    2. Blue Horizon*

      Agreed. Tell the recruiter (no need to go into the ‘ongoing discussions’ detail, just say the manager has proposed dealing with you directly) and ask them to talk to the manager and get on the same page with them.

      They have some kind of commercial agreement. One of them is wrong, but you don’t know which one, and it’s not your job to figure that out for them.

      1. bamcheeks*

        They have some kind of commercial agreement.

        They might do. It’s not unknown for recruiters to try and insert themselves into recruitment processes that they haven’t actually been hired for (although they probably wouldn’t have passed on LW’s resume at this point if that was the case.)

        1. Industry Behemoth*

          Yes. I heard of an instance in which a recruiter laid claim to a company and a candidate who had connected on their own.

          The candidate was currently registered with the recruiter, and the company had used the recruiter before. Management told the hiring manager to drop the candidate, rather than risk a dispute with the recruiter over a placement fee.

    3. TeapotNinja*

      You do that, and you can kiss that job opportunity goodbye. Alison’s suggestion is the way to go. This is between the boss and the recruiter. Get involved as little as you possibly can.

    4. Typing All The Time*

      Agreed. I worked in a recruitment company’s office as a teen and they’ve had companies try to encourage applicants sent by us to bypass us. Have your recruiter talk to the company directly.

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

      I don’t see this as being dishonest. As Alison said “typically recruiters’ contacts with employers specify that recruiters don’t “own” the candidacies of people who are already in the employer’s own pool of contacts”

      It sounds like the boss is just going about this the way they would have if they had found out elsewhere that the OP was looking for a job. I think the OP should tell the recruiter that since she already worked with the hiring manager, she is part of his network, and didn’t realize that he was the hiring manager until after going through the recruiter. Explain that yes she has had direct contact since the manager is within her own network and that this is how the manager seems to want to work.

  7. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

    #1. I have this to say about an “independently wealthy leadership team” who expects low paid staff to cater a meal for them and their equally wealthy guests (that the staff doesn’t even get rpto eat themselves): they suck. Also, shame on them! I hope the whole staff decides to participate.

    Seriously, wtf is wrong with these people? I am aghast.

    1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      That was supposed to read “I hope the whole staff DECLINES to participate.” (Blankety-blank autocorrect!)

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        It reminds me of the story from one of the potluck or Christmas threads where the highly paid bosses contributed paper napkins and fizzy drinks and the lower paid employees were expected to bring the expensive gourmet food, which the bosses preferred.

          1. Justme, The OG*

            I would prefer them not participating over a token participation. For me the token participation is more of a slap in the face. They know they’re being cheap.

            1. ecnaseener*

              To each their own (among terrible options), I guess – I definitely see it as more of a slap in the face that they’re so brazenly demanding their underlings provide food for them without even getting to partake, and calling it a potluck.

    2. Meg*

      My last toxic/abusive boss would throw a tantrum if the staff didn’t buy him a gift card to his favorite restaurant for Christmas. We all had to contribute $15 which was about 2 hours pay for the lowest paid staff. In return we once got company branded shirts. I pushed back on advice I found here and got absolutely reamed by his pet office manager about “how much he did for us.” If he didn’t feel he got sufficient attention and gratitude for employing us we all had to suffer his bad mood and punishments like extra work.

    3. doreen*

      I think the whole story sounds weird – why would the leadership of one branch host a meal for leadership of the other branch at all ? Management asking staff to pay for and prepare a meal that they are not invited to which starts before their work hours would be one or more ethical violations in the governments I worked for – forget about whether the money spent is an inappropriate gift from subordinates to supervisors , there’s also the issue of government resources ( employees) being used for a non-government purpose – after all, if the meal was for a government purpose, the staff wouldn’t be paying for the food. And how are the staff being paid for their time ? If it counts as work hours, we’re back to government purpose and if they’re expected to “volunteer” , it’s no different from being expected to volunteer to watch the boss’s kids on your day off (ethical violation)

      It doesn’t really matter if the leadership is wealthy – but I will say it’s unlikely that the letter writer knows the finances of the leadership teams of two separate branches well enough to know they can all afford to whip out a credit card and pay for this meal (and I’m not really sure what is meant by “branch – are we talking about two different departments , or the legislative branch and the executive branch or something else? ) Sure, the LW can know how much they are paid in a place where that’s public knowledge – but just because I knew the head of my agency had a $200K salary doesn’t mean I know how many kids he had or whether he was paying $50K a year for an aide for a parent.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I feel like the LW probably has some idea of leadership’s finances; maybe leadership brags about their exotic vacations and luxury vehicles, or that they have four houses or something. True that LW might not know about leadership paying for eldercare for a parent, but if leadership talks about their personal lives at all the LW could get some idea as to what’s going on in their lives (and thus, their finances).

        But unless the other leadership team – the one being treated to lunch – is also as terrible as this leadership team is, I would think they would find it surprising to be treated to lunch at all. You would think they would be like, “Uh, who paid for this lunch??” But of course I don’t trust that any gov’t officials aren’t corrupt, so who knows.

        1. doreen*

          It’s entirely possible that the LW knows details about some of their own leadership’s finances – what I think is unlikely that they know about the finances of all the leadership of both teams. I mean, maybe the relationship I have with the one the leaders ay my agency is such that I hear them bragging about their four houses – but it’s pretty unlikely that I have that same relationship with all ( or even most ) of the leaders at both agencies. Unless I am one of the leaders myself – in which case I wouldn’t be expected to cook for this meal.

          1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

            Why do you feel the need to question their knowledge? I definitely knew the financial situations of my former leadership team. I sat through a presentation at a team meeting of my director’s multi-week cruise from Alaska to Russia to Japan.

            But that’s irrelevant to the fact that they are asking staff to feed them. You seem to imply that it would be okay to do that if the leadership team were not wealthy. You’re focused on the wrong part of the letter.

            1. doreen*

              No, like I said “It doesn’t really matter if the leadership is wealthy” and it doesn’t. Whether the leadership is wealthy or not, they shouldn’t expect staff to provide the food for this event. But it seems the LW thinks everyone on both leadership teams is wealthy and any individual one can afford to pay for this meal and one or more of them should- and that’s right either. There’s a difference between ” They shouldn’t expect staff to provide the food” and “One ( or some) of them should pay for the entire meal “

              1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

                Since they work for the government, their likely only option is to pay for it themselves If they want food, they need to figure out a way for there to be food that isn’t getting their staff to buy it.

        2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

          It does sound weird, I’ll grant you that! But Alison always says to take the OP at their word, and that’s what I was doing.

      2. kiki*

        On your last paragraph about LW not knowing the exact financial positions of their leadership team– that is right. The leadership team shouldn’t be expected to personally fund this dinner either. People sometimes do have expenses (health care needs, familial support, etc.) that mean their higher salary isn’t being put towards luxuries, like internation vacations and a Maserati. But I also want to say that people who make lower salaries also have kids, aging parents, and all sorts of additional expenses.

        The leadership team seemingly punting responsibility for this onto their staff– who make even less than them– definitely is distasteful.

      3. La Triviata*

        If it’s a government agency in the U.S., wouldn’t their GS ranks be pretty much known?

    4. CommanderBanana*

      I worked as a contract for a U.S. government agency and our facility had a yearly holiday party. The overwhelmingly young, female admin staff that were almost all contractors were usually sent to the planning meetings for their respective offices, so we’d be the ones nagged about why no one from our offices was signing up to bring stuff and would end up either bringing more contributions just to get the front office to shut up or getting bitched at for asking for people to bring food.

      Fortunately, one year I had an out because a fed employee took a break from his busy schedule of sexually harassing my coworkers and not doing his job to accuse me of violating the U.S. government standards because I was “soliciting donations” in the office. I forwarded his email to my contract officer and told the office that someone else would have to coordinate our office’s contributions that year.

    5. Governmint Condition*

      I’ve been in government for over two decades, and I can’t envision a government agency in the U.S. where the whole leadership team is wealthy, except when dealing with elected officials. Except maybe a quasi-government agency that has a board of directors. But the ones I have dealt with wouldn’t care about being fed by another agency in a meeting.

      I am wondering if this is something that has been done in the past when these two agencies met, making it a “tradition” of some kind. Or maybe it was done differently (like including all employees) and is being misremembered (kindest possible interpretation) by current management.

      1. Gyne*

        I would also think independently wealthy elected officials aren’t going to “risk” a staff potluck hosting each other… if you want a nicely hosted decent meal, you’d get catering, but this situation is weird all around.

      2. Abogado Avocado*

        At the top levels of US federal agencies, there are the regular officials who gain their higher offices through promotions and parallel political appointees. The political appointees usually get the appointments for services to the ruling party’s campaigns — i.e., through campaign contributions (either personally or bundling others’ contributions) — and, unsurprisingly, usually are wealthy. It’s entirely possible LW works at the upper levels of a US agency where the folks who have decided on this volunteer luncheon catering operation are political appointees.

      3. 1LFTW*

        It depends on how politically corrupt your jurisdiction is, and how serious wealth inequality is. Where I am, it’s not uncommon for higher ups to make more than 10x my minion salary.

      4. MigraineMonth*

        LW mentioned that the leadership had high salaries in their *previous* careers. That makes me think of investment bankers who switch careers to take jobs at the SEC, and later take jobs at investment banks again. Or the large number of people who move back and forth between enforcement jobs (e.g. EPA) and lobbying for various special interests.

        If the government job is powerful, then there’s plenty of money to be made, even if it isn’t directly from the job’s salary.

  8. vito*

    #1 sound like that charity from a few years back that made job candidates cater a dinner for the executives at the mansion of one of the top people.

  9. Retiredacademic*

    Re:LW in academia-as someone who has mentored and supervised many students projects, I don’t see the problem with requiring a set number of meetings or number of hours that each faculty spends with the student. The issue here is equity for the students, not that faculty would get their nose out of joint being asked to do specific things around timing. If you already do these things, why is it an issue?

    Given that faculty are not doing what they are supposed to do, and my experiences there are always some faculty who won’t even do the bare minimum for projects like this, why not set a minimum?

    1. AcademiaNut*

      I figure they know who the 5% of faculty who are doing a half-assed job are. The department chair or dean could then meet with those specific before the projects start to discuss things, then check in at intervals during the program to make sure they’re actually providing decent feedback in a timely fashion.

      Another option – have one of the more senior faculty act as course coordinator for the final project. They can start off by meeting with the students at the beginning of the year, outline the requirements and expectations, including expectations for feedback from their supervisor, and be responsible for checking in a couple of times to make sure things are going smoothly. Because it really sucks if you’re the student of one of the slackers, and it’s 3/4 of the way through the year and you’re worried you’re going to do badly on the final project because you can’t get feedback.

      Removing the bad supervisors from the duties is probably not a good idea – once it’s clear that doing badly is a loophole that gets you out of the work, others will follow. And it’s important to make sure that if they’re specifying amount of meeting time and things like that that it matches with the hours allotted to the task – being required to do 10 hours of meetings when you’ve got 5 hours budgeted to it means that they’ll be expected to fill in the extra in their spare time.

      1. bamcheeks*

        have one of the more senior faculty act as course coordinator for the final project

        The problem with doing this is that that senior faculty member probably has zero power to force other staff members to meet their obligations.

        Academic is made up of people working themselves into an early grave because they can’t bear the idea of getting a disappointed look, and people who have figured out that “getting a disappointed look” is probably the worst that can happen and that working themselves into an early grave isn’t worth it. I work alongside academics and honestly, I would 100% be the latter if I’d stayed on the academic side because the expectations are *ridiculous*. Even in the best-run, most sane departments. This kind of stuff is absolutely a result of massive cultural and structural problems in universities and I don’t think there’s a management solution.

        1. Prof*

          This is correct, especially if (as is likely) the culprits have tenure. There is literally no way to enforce any requirements for these people. No professor in the department has power like that over another. Being put in charge of something in academia is….messy. You basically are only able to enact something if the department actually wants to do it. You basically can only fire a tenured professor if you eliminate an entire department or if they’re jailed or something.

          You might have some ability to tie in performance on this to tenure and promotion, but again….people will do the thing, get tenure and then stop bothering.

          1. Evelyn Carnahan*

            Maybe it could be addressed through post-tenure review? My (red state) state university system requires periodic post-tenure review and tenure can be withdrawn if you don’t keep up with tenure standards including student evaluations.

          2. Artemesia*

            I have seen faculty like this given higher teaching loads and lower salary increases when they were not productive scholars e.g. Tenured faculty normally taught two classes a semester, one if they were bought off of one by a grant. Unproductive faculty were assigned 3 courses. Teaching another course is much more arduous than advising senior projects.

            But yes, there are not many levers to influence irresponsible faculty. When I was a chair I was lucky to not have many irresponsible faculty.

        2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          I think there are some levers the department chair still has, if they’re willing to use them. Stuff like raises and what courses the faculty member is chosen to teach. Or whether they’re allowed to have graduate students. In a lot of departments, the grad students are absolutely essential for carrying out research projects which, when published, the supervisor gets authorship as well. There’s even a reasonable argument that if faculty are terrible supervisors for undergrad students, they’re probably terrible supervisors for graduate students.

          1. Orv*

            My experience is that the chair is usually a rotating position that no one really wants to hold, and as such they have very little real power. Everyone knows you can just wait them out. The chair is more of an interface to the campus bureaucracy and meeting facilitator than an actual manager.

          2. judyjudyjudy*

            Chair is usually a rotating position, and usually has very little power. Holding back raises (if a Chair can even do that alone) will not lead to productive change.

          1. bamcheeks*

            I don’t know that that’s true. I usually work with senior faculty who have direct responsibility for teaching leadership, and they are extremely diligent about both their leadership responsibilities and their student-facing roles. They don’t have much power when it comes to re-directing more junior staff who have decided to prioritise research or other activities over teaching, however.

            1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

              Fair enough. It may depend on the type of institution. Larger institutions tend to put a heavy emphasis on research goals and I could see faculty (esp. senior faculty) feeling put out by having this requirement as well. However, this type of requirement is typically not seen at larger institutions (at least, not at an undergraduate level), and most of the faculty at those institutions tend to be more teaching/mentorship focused.

        3. S*

          Professor here. The other side of it is that student projects can often be a box-checking waste of time, especially if all students (not just good students who opt in) do a project. (Which sounds like the case here, based on the 12-14 students per faculty member.) The average undergraduate isn’t a self-starter, and is going to approach a project like they approach coursework: tell me what to do and I’ll do it. As a professor, that means you have to essentially do the project yourself, or at least any part of it that is at all exploratory.

          It also depends on the subject. Some topics lend themselves to student projects better than others. But based on the wording of the question (“line managers,” plural) it sounds like this may be a college-wide thing, that is shoe-horned into all departments in College X whether it makes sense or not, just so that their marketing materials can say “All of our students do capstone projects!”

          So, yes. If I were at this school I’d probably be one of the shirkers. In my experience, these kind of projects don’t benefit students much (except really good students) and waste a ton of the faculty supervisor’s time.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I had a *group* capstone project I had to pass in order to graduate. It was a train wreck from Hell. I was so stressed out I had to take medication to sleep and I had trouble eating solid foods.

            I’m pretty they only passed us because they didn’t want to deal with us any more.

      2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        “Removing the bad supervisors from their duties” is exactly what they’re hoping for. This is weaponized incompetence. Send the slackers to training about how to be a good supervisor instead.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          Or they just DGAF and don’t think there will be any consequences for being bad at this part of their jobs. Though, in this circumstance, there’s a fine line between selfishness and weaponized incompetence.

          1. bamcheeks*

            And between sensible self-preservation in an unreasonable environment. You don’t actually know what people are prioritising over student supervision, but it’s not necessarily selfish or self-serving. Academic workloads are out of control pretty much everywhere.

        2. judyjudyjudy*

          Will never happen. I think their priority (and frankly the priority of the department) is to get grants and drive research. At best, you could offer an optional mentorship workshop.

      3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        I did an honours degree in my undergrad, which involved a thesis project, and that’s pretty close to how it worked. One faculty member was in charge of the honours stream. We also had a part-credit class with him up to twice a week. We did it twice a week in the first semester, but it tapered off in the second semester, as we were all busy doing our project work. Probably not feasible for large departments where all graduating students have to do a capstone. Our honours class was, I think, 24 at the start of the year.

        1. Hyaline*

          Honestly I could see a course being a good strategy for streamlining the process if it’s covering elements most/all students will need. Why have every supervisor explaining how to access the library special collections or whatever when you could cover it with everyone at once?

          1. bamcheeks*

            Lol, I have run several programmes like this, and on the one hand it is absolutely the most sensible way, but on the other, it’s a total bugger getting students to turn up to them. Everyone wants to know how the special collections work on the specific day and hour that they realise they need to use the special collections: no-one wants to attend a one-hour lecture on how the special collections work on a wet Tuesday in Semester 1 when they don’t even know they need to use the special collections yet.

            1. Fíriel*

              Yes, this – also, having something be a 100% required course that you can only do in your final year can cause issues – for example, when I did my undergrad thesis, the required class that went with it was at the same time as the required final class for my minor, and I had to use a loophole to be able to skip the thesis class so I could graduate on time. The other issue is that you put together a bunch of people who don’t need the same sort of help (for example, someone conducting research on the 16th century probably doesn’t need to know how to conduct interviews or work with live subjects), which can make people even less likely to show up/pay attention. When I had to do a similar programme in grad school, highlights included historians being lectured by a political scientist on what good history research looked like, and a guest lecturer showing up an hour late and visibly hungover because he found it so unimportant. It was sensible in theory but in practice I don’t know anyone who got much out of it either time.

            2. Hyaline*

              I guess I’m thinking more “one semester course for which you get credit and theoretically treat it like a normalsauce class” than an optional one-off, but of course I’m a stodgy old crank who is all too happy to fail students who don’t show up, so.

    2. Starbuck*

      I wonder how helpful it really is for the students to force professors to do this work if they arent willing? A reluctant advisor does not seem like they’d be so helpful, even with more facetime. Is there a way to incentivize it, or allow professors who be up for doing more to take on that load, in exchange for other duties? My understanding of academia is there tend to be a lot of various job duties all jumbled together and piled on to people, with little pay. I wonder if this university pays more because of this added/unique duty? I did a STEM degree at a large unjversity but was not required to do a capstone project; some majors had that but most didn’t seem to.

      1. Hyaline*

        My thoughts exactly—if you can incentivize this (course release, stipend, points toward sabbatical, whatever) you can perhaps remove crappy supervisors and reward good ones and everyone is happy(er). Like it or not, plenty of departments don’t really run as though undergraduate education was the top priority. It’s entirely possible that supervisor slackers are research grant all stars or publishing a ton and a) no one is punishing them because they let the ball drop on some undergrads and b) maybe their time is better spent elsewhere.

        1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

          This was my thought exactly. Positions of department chair are similarly incentivized because, spoiler alert, no one actually wants them. A friend of mine was able to secure tenure because, in part, he was willing to teach a full class load AND be chair of the department.

          12-14 students is … a lot. This honestly sounds like a full class load. If professors are on, say, a 3:3 contract (for those not familiar with the terminology, 3:3 means teaching 3 classes per semester – this is a pretty common workload for someone on a tenure line*), does this supervision count as one of their three classes that semester? If it doesn’t, that makes the incentivization all the more critical here.

          *I know this doesn’t sound like a lot, but believe me when I tell you it can be depending on what you’re teaching. If you’re teaching 3 different classes (vs., say, multiple sections of the same class), that’s 3 syllabi, 3 different sets of reading and lessons to prep each week, not to mention the grading. 3 sections of the same/similar class is a *little* easier as it’s only one prep vs. 3, but these also tend to be larger classes (i.e., 100 or 200 level gen eds) so you probably have more grading. AND there’s usually a research/publication component that is required for tenure consideration on top of that.

      2. metadata minion*

        Yes, it’s not fair to the students to saddle them with unwilling/incompetent advisors. There are faculty members out there who genuinely love the teaching/mentoring aspect — and as you say, because they’re expected to be 5 different things that fit under the general title of “professor”, those same faculty can end up being penalized because they’re spending too much time teaching and mentoring and not enough time publishing. In my undergraduate department, we lost an instructor everyone loved, because she was a brilliant teacher but hadn’t been able to finish her dissertation and without a doctorate she was never going to get tenure. This was at a purely undergraduate institution where teaching should have been the main focus.

        If you have any ability to allow faculty to emphasize the aspects of their position that they actually enjoy and are good at (which the LW almost certainly doesn’t, but might be able to get enough allies on board to make it happen), everyone will be happier.

    3. Allonge*

      If you already do these things, why is it an issue?

      Because they need to be tracked now, which is extra work. Because for some students, meeting them four times instead of five (just making up numbers here) per semester is more than enough, but anyone taking their job seriously will now have to meet the minimum five. And because you can have a meeting with a student that is completely useless for them, but still ticks the box.

      I don’t necessarily disagree that some minimum standards are ok to introduce! But as with many other jobs, there is more to academia than basic performance indicators.

    4. Alz*

      Also, as a former student with a slacker supervisor- while grades shouldn’t be the only measure it is the kind of thing that should be considered in feedback to the supervisors. You don’t want to punish the supervisors who take on the struggling students (getting a P student to a C is way more impressive than getting a D to a HD even if it is the same number of grade points change), but if a supervisor is getting poor marks consistently and poor student feedback then that is an indicator that they need assistance in how they supervise. I would think that the supervisors that aren’t getting either good feedback or good marks should be the target group for manager intervention and required meeting times- some will luck out with amazing students who will still be getting the high marks regardless of supervision quality but it is unlikely they will always be lucky

    5. One-off name*

      The issue with setting a minimum is that the easiest thing to measure (and thus, to set expectations for) is not usually the same thing as the best thing for students holistically. This means that the slackers will continue to do whatever the least they can get away with is, and the ones who want to do a good job now have additional boxes to remember to check that may or may not be relevant in addition to the things they need to do to support the success of that particular student and were going to do before the extra requirements were added.

      (My job is going through something similar with how many hours we’re supposed to spend “available to students”. The slackers wander off from their desks during their scheduled available times and/or sit there with headphones on grading rather than looking approachable and have nothing in particular prepared for their scheduled group help sessions, and so now I’m being expected to keep track of my lunch break to the minute and make sure to spend enough minutes with my butt in a particular seat even though I proactively reach out to my students, offer individual appointments at a variety of times, prepare additional help materials for review sessions, and generally am where I say I’ll be when I say I’ll be there. It’s easier to measure “minutes sitting in a particular building” than it is to measure “students get the support they need to pass their classes and can get help when they need it”, so now I have to make sure I have x hours of time sitting at my desk onsite exactly within a very constrained range of possible office hours rather than focus on whether or not every student that tried to make an appointment with me that week got one, regardless of whether they preferred a virtual appointment or to come in person to meet with me at my rather uninspiring desk in a shared office.)

    6. Irish Teacher.*

      Having been one of the students with a supervisor like this, on what sounds like a similar project, well, pretty sure that if my supervisor had been given such requirements, he would have offered the meetings while trying to dissuade us. I remember him, not related to this project, telling the entire class that we were welcome to come to his office if we wanted to ask us anything, but he had to warn us, it was not a smoke free zone (this was the turn of the millennium, it wasn’t yet illegal to smoke in such places, but I think the college had rules against smoking anywhere but the student union and part of the canteen – he just ignored them). I had the impression he was trying to imply, “come if you must, but I hope you don’t.”

      I mean, I can see the need to do something and I guess this might be worth a try, but I think as a student, I would have been more annoyed at having to give up my time to meet with a supervisor who…honestly, didn’t even seem to remember my name or my project. So I can see the LW’s concerns too.

      1. Meg*

        I also had a similar project in school and my advisor just completely ignored what she was supposed to do. I didn’t even get a response to my draft until 2 days before the final draft was due and that was to say that she disagreed with my entire premise (it was a compilation of research on a medical treatment). No one cared and I got a terrible grade.

        And then the school assigned me a “mentor” who was unfortunately dying of cancer and did not still have the spoons to deal with me and made me feel guilty for taking up any of his limited time left. We met once and he died 6 months later. They never assigned me anyone else.

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          Sorry to hear you had to deal with all that. That’s awful.

          At least my supervisor gave me a great grade, but he responded to my draft with “yeah, it’s fine. Let’s see what I wrote on it. Oh, I didn’t write anything. Guess you don’t need to make any improvements, so” sort of thing.

      2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        I knew a faculty member in my undergrad who set his office hours at 8:30 in the morning to dissuade students from showing up. Which was weird because he was otherwise pretty friendly. I mean, his classes were chaotic AF, but interesting, and as long as you tried, you’d get a good grade.

        1. Hamster Manager*

          This whole thread makes me realize none of my professors ever shared their office hours with us, I didn’t even know to ask at that time. It’s possible it was listed on the syllabus, but “you can get help if you need it” was absolutely not the vibe.

          One prof even told us it wasn’t his job to teach us the coding language in the uncompletable-without-heavy-coding project he assigned to us (using code that you’d have no way of knowing unless you took an outside coding course. It was not a code-related major). Absolutely wild.

    7. EngineeringFun*

      Former capstone adviser here: we had 2 faculty dedicated to making sure the capstones were completed. I sponsored one of the topics, so I advised that team. We had very specific rubrics for the students to achieve by the end. Students are bad at time management so I also added monthly goals. The students would obviously miss them but at least they could see they were falling farther and farther behind and then pull an all nighter…. But they are still learning.

    8. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      The thing that got me is that it sounds like there’s already a minimum — advisors are supposed to respond to students within X number of days — but LW mentioned taking a long time to respond to student emails as one of the problems. It sounds to me like either X is bigger than it ought to be, or advisors already aren’t meeting the minimum standards that have been laid out. And if there are already rules that people aren’t following, I don’t think adding more rules is going to help — there needs to be some form of accountability for adhering to the rules that are already there.

    9. Former Academe*

      I worked for an academic institution with a similar issue with capstones. Subject matter experts had to supervise, but had various levels of interest in doing so. Librarians came to the rescue! The reference librarians led a unit on research, and eventually developed a capstone “class” in the LMS with milestones and deliverables that was so effective and helpful, it became required for all capstone projects.

      1. Evelyn Carnahan*

        As an academic librarian I really appreciate the shoutout to the librarians, but also I’m rolling my eyes because of course the librarians had to step in and figure this out for the slacker faculty.

    10. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      I’m looking at this part:

      “Faculty are allocated a certain number of work hours per student to do this in the course of an academic year – for meeting the student, reading their proposal, checking their materials, etc.”

      I’d love to know how that is tracked, if at all such that if Professor Shirk isn’t putting in those hours, they’re yanked — or rather, re-assigned to some other duty. Incentive (like honoraria) is always better than punishment, but it might work to have something in place saying that if such-and-such hours aren’t put in, then sure, you don’t have to see the students but you DO have to teach two more sections of the 100 class, or something.

      It might be more trouble than it’s worth to try, I realize, especially if there’s no way to track the time. Maybe this could be done in addition to the minimums.

      1. judyjudyjudy*

        It’s really hard to make tenured faculty do anything they don’t want to do. They don’t really have supervisors. Providing this data might result in a faculty nember being released from mentoring students from capstone projects — to that professor’s delight and relief! I can guarantee there will be no substantive consequences. I sincerely doubt the LW can threaten them with a higher teaching load, and all that will do is drive more bad behavior and departmental dysfunction.

        LW, I have no advice for you here, except to try to get mentors that want to devote an appropriate amount of time to capstone projects. I don’t think there is anyway to compel better participation from these slacker mentors. Sorry :(

  10. nnn*

    Another thing for #3 to consider in working out how to address this is reaching out to former students who have been through the capstone project (maybe especially those who have just finished this year) and talk to them about whether they were getting what they needed, what the consequences were of them not getting what they needed, whether there should be requirements or flexibility, etc. They’re likely a useful resource!

    There might even be some graduates around who have gone onto teaching roles (whether as grad students or otherwise) and would have insight from both sides.

    1. Web of Pies*

      I’d agree with this, this one made me a bit angry because I attended a similar school (perhaps the same school) where I got NO capstone assistance outside of classtime reviews.

      You really need to sort this out, because the shirkers are ripping off their students aka their paying customers. I’d advise anyone who asks not to attend the school I did, and I would imagine your students will as well, so this is a priority.

  11. Rosacolleti*

    #4 they can deal directly with you but assuming the recruitment company have half decent contracts, the full fee will still be payable. If the company looking to hire want to try and screw them over, stay clear is that. No point you burning bridges as well.

  12. AbbyJo*

    LW3 shared an accurate description of how student-centered work happens in higher education. Some faculty do most of the work, and others do nothing. Problems at colleges and universities are often addressed through creating a new or revised policy, having discussions and debates about the policy, and then implementing the policy in ways that complicate workload for people who never needed the policy in the first place. However, new guidelines or policies rarely result in changes to behaviors. The shirkers will continue shirking and spending as little time as possible with students. Because that’s who they are, and that’s how they behave, and they don’t face real consequences for not supporting students. Feedback from students won’t change what they do because they don’t care about students in the same way that the people doing the work care about students.

    1. Language Lover*

      This. It’s 100% a management problem and whether the managers are willing to do something about it. If you need to create a policy as backup (because faculty do use a lack of a formalized process to push back), then do it. But you’re only going to fix it if there is a process to hold the slackers accountable.

      The truth is, a lot of managers will like 95% of what the faculty member does and won’t consider it a fireable offense that they don’t do that 5% we may be talking about here. It sucks for the students and those who do the work required.

      1. Yellow rainbow*

        There’s also a chance that at least with some of these faculty – they’re bringing in big results where it matters, so nobody is going to risk them walking.

        Before focusing on a management response make sure (a) workload reflects the expectations and (b) promotion/performance reviews etc value them.

        I can’t do everything expected of me – so I focus on the things that first benefit me, and second are low effort. Outside that my extra commitment are this I feel are right to do – but that wanes as workload gets more unreasonable.

      2. Pescadero*

        ” It’s 100% a management problem and whether the managers are willing to do something about it.”

        It’s important to remember that “management” may be UNABLE, not unwilling to do something about it.

        In general a department chair cannot fire faculty – but faculty can fire a department chair.

      3. College Career Counselor*

        Most academics went into higher education because they don’t want to be managed. That’s a large part of the appeal of the gig: beyond some very basic parameters (you have to teach x # of students, do publishable research, and some “service to the university”) it’s basically up to the professor how/when/to what extent that gets done. And the dean is a paper boss only with very little practical authority in many ways (many deans are former faculty and they don’t want to tell their colleagues what to do either).

        TL;DR: The dirty little secret of higher education is that there’s very little you can *make* a professor do/do differently than they want, once they have tenure.

        1. judyjudyjudy*

          So true. And faculty already have so many responsibilities, and it’s often communicated to them that their research should be their first priority!

    2. Brain the Brian*

      The problem is particularly acute in academia, but this sort of thing persists across industries and functional areas. At my company, someone got caught using their department credit card to buy thousands upon thousands of dollars of personal items and colluding with the people who filled out the payment log and took receipt of orders to falsify receipts. Did they get fired? Nope. The company just instituted an arduous, paper-heavy quadruple-check process that means our C-suite has personally to approve every purchase in writing, no matter how small (even things like $10 parking vouchers). The payment logs now take four times as long to fill out and get approved, and the volume of approvals that our C-suite now has to issue mean that they can’t possibly be checking them all thoroughly — which leaves us right back where we started, with a wide-open door for people to abuse the system.

      Bottom line: people suck. Not much you can do about it except fire the worst offenders, if you can (and I know you often can’t in academia).

      1. Tangerina Warbleworth*

        Tenured faculty can’t easily be fired, true. But how many universities are still regularly hiring faculty on the tenure-track? The switch to non-tenure track positions has skyrocketed over the past decade. Depending on OP’s situation, maybe something could be leveraged for the non-tenured faculty.

        Plus, I’m having trouble defining “management” in academia. I don’t see that as the chair of the department so much as Dean of the School/College.

        ….. or one of the Associate Executive Vice Assistant Provosts for Academic Innovation in Standards Amalgamation, or some such. There are so many to choose from, you’d think we could give at least one or two of them *something* to do. I’m sure they could put together a Task Force……

        1. Brain the Brian*

          IME, the non-tenure-track faculty are the ones working hardest for and with their students. With the exception of my advisor, who was truly excellent and won a university-wide named award for teaching excellence the year after I graduated, tenured faculty clearly did not care about students in my undergraduate experience.

  13. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP2 (stream of consciousness messages on slack) – This would be annoying but maybe tolerable from someone who is a peer, but I noticed that this is from the employee to her boss. I wonder if there are any other signs that she sees (or treats) OP as more of a peer than a boss. It’s important to be “friendly” (or at least cordial) with the people you manage, but not friends as such. Does she think you are friends?

    1. Allonge*

      Hm, I read these more as signs the employee is demonstrating to boss they are paying attention in the meeting, not as overly friendly. But you are right, could be something to look into, especially with the no-real-content comments.

    2. Brain the Brian*

      Absolutely where my mind went, too. I am deeply protective of my reactions to topics when I’m talking to my manager. It’s bizarre to me that an employee would be this open to a manager.

      1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        My previous manager and I would sometimes side-channel on Slack during meetings. Not like this, but things about the presentation that weren’t necessarily suited for the larger channel. Things like “not this again!” and so on.

        1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          I definitely side-channel talk with my manager during slack meetings — but I save it for big meetings where he isn’t on camera (or if he is, is one of 50+ little boxes), not tight departmental meetings. It’s not the same sort of side-channel chat I have with my work buddies (“ugh, the unclear tree metaphor again!”) but if I’m having Opinions, I think it’s useful to pass that feedback up the chain (“I think these pictures of Bob’s vacation are supposed to humanize him to us peons, but given that a bunch of people got laid off last week, it’s coming off really badly.”)

          I try to do less stream-of-consciousness than an idea of my perspective on the meeting, and whether it’s accomplishing what leadership wants it to accomplish. (“This new compensation structure stuff is clear as mud — I think they need to present it per-department or something.” “Spending half an hour of all-company meeting time on something that only affects the Sales department seems… a less than fully efficient use of time?” “How are all of these new goal targets going to affect us?” etc.)

          Sometimes my boss will add his own commentary during the meeting; sometimes he’ll get back to me after. I try to phrase my comments with enough context that it’s clear what I’m talking about if he looks at them all in one go after the meeting.

          1. Brain the Brian*

            Yes, but the employee in LW2’s scenario is not doing this. The comments about which LW2 is talking could easily be interpreted as making fun of coworkers, which is something you definitely don’t want to do to your boss.

            1. Parakeet*

              None of them seemed especially spicy to me. “Haha” and a laughing emoji are not necessarily about coworkers, and “yesssss” and “ditto” don’t immediately suggest mockery.

      2. Malarkey01*

        Ehhh I’ve worked with my director a decade. We have a professional relationship and aren’t friends but it’s definitely more relaxed and casual. A lot depends on culture and working relationships but we often engage in these sorts of discussions.

        I also supervise fairly autonomous SMEs and I’m friends with none of them but there’s a fair amount of casualness. Only once did I have someone who took that informality too far where I had to back up and say wait I’m your boss and this is a directive.

    3. Double A*

      Yes that is a good point! My team (peers) and I chat (virtually) during meetings, but I rarely send a message to my supervisor even though we are very friendly and on a peer level in many ways. And if I do it’s related to the content.

  14. Advice please :)*

    Regarding letter 5, what would you do if you submitted an older version of your resume rather than the most updated version? Luckily the older version was recent enough to where the necessary skills/responsibilities were covered, but it wasn’t written in the best way, and it’s missing information on the publication I helped write. Should I resend the updated resume? Similar to #5, there’s no option to edit after the documents were submitted.

    1. Sherm*

      I got my current job using a resume that had a rather wince-worthy formatting style, in retrospect. I would not re-send cover letters or resumes unless there was a serious deficiency. You don’t want them to think that, if hired, you will frequently say things like “Use this file. Wait, ignore that, use this one.”

    2. ecnaseener*

      I don’t think there’s any point in sending it now. If you get a phone screen with a recruiter you could provide it at that point so they can send the new version on to the hiring manager. (If it was just improved wording I wouldn’t even do that, but the publication sounds significant.)

    3. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      Don’t send it, but if you get an interview, DO bring it along and tell them it’s slightly updated while handing it over. (Don’t ask, just hand it to them while saying it’s updated.) (You should always bring copies of your resume to the interview anyway.)

  15. Leenie*

    Tell Samuel Alito to make lil’ smokies in BBQ sauce in his own slow cooker. Harlan Crow can provide the non-cheap-ass rolls on behalf of Clarence Thomas.

    In all seriousness though – rich people at the upper echelon of a branch of government want to feed other rich people at the upper echelon of another branch of government office potluck food? Exploiting their workers is definitely the worst part of this. But I also find myself wondering exactly how they’re envisioning this brilliant plan unfolding, with all of the multimillionaires chowing down on Rotel Velveeta dip and baby carrots in the break room. Even in less rarified environments, that’s not really how upper leadership teams would normally entertain each other.

    1. Anonymous cat*

      I was kind of wondering about that. If they’re wealthy, have they ever been to a staff potluck? Do they realize what they’re getting?
      I mean this in seriousness, not snark.

      (And not picking on staff potlucks! I’ve been to some really great ones, but they’re probably expecting expensive ingredients.)

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think they are picturing one great staff pot luck where Pat brought lasagna, and not realizing that the contexts “to feed myself and my close cohort” and “to feed wealthy strangers–I don’t get any of this food–because the top brass are cheaping out and trying to force the cost of a meal onto the lower staff” are wildly different, and so will produce wildly different meals.

      2. metadata minion*

        Yeah, I miss the days of staff potlucks because we have a significant percentage of people who genuinely enjoy cooking and are really good at it, but I would not be breaking out the good cinnamon roll recipe to feed upper management and not get any myself.

    2. Bechamos*

      It’s probably similar to prisoners cooking and serving meals in the Louisiana Governor’s Mansion. The entertainment doesn’t come from the quality of the food, but the feelings of power coming from “lesser people” having to “properly and graciously” serve “their betters”.

    3. CV*

      After some truly epic food poisoning from potlucks, I’m wary of even REAL potlucks where we all share food…. Much leas this zombie catering plan.

    4. Antilles*

      rich people at the upper echelon of a branch of government want to feed other rich people at the upper echelon of another branch of government office potluck food?
      The only explanation that makes sense to me is one that others posted in a couple other threads: The department flat out doesn’t have a budget for entertaining other offices and ethics rules prevent any of the execs from just writing a check. But you are allowed to have employee potlucks, so this is a way to (attempt to) end-run around those rules.
      Of course, it still seems baffling to me that someone’s idea for how to impress other senior management is trusting entirely in random staff members’ ability to cook, kitchen cleanliness, reporting of potential allergens, etc. Just feels like you’re taking a huge risk because while potlucks can often be great, when potlucks go off the rails, they tend to go off the rails hard.

      1. Observer*

        The only explanation that makes sense to me is one that others posted in a couple other threads: The department flat out doesn’t have a budget for entertaining other offices and ethics rules prevent any of the execs from just writing a check. But you are allowed to have employee potlucks, so this is a way to (attempt to) end-run around those rules.

        Except that this doesn’t make any sense either. If these people are actually thinking about the ethics rules they would know that having staff cater a meal for the higher ups and not take part in the meal is just as much a violation as them paying for it. Possibly even more of a violation. Calling it a “potluck” does not change that.

  16. Kella*

    OP1, I agree with Alison’s approach of pushing back as a group but also please don’t ever call it a potluck. What you are describing is not a potluck. A potluck is sharing food *with each other*. This is a meal train: Donating free meals to someone else. Maybe it’s petty but I would make a very big point to call it a meal train or food donations at every opportunity and hope that their classism gets triggered enough to call the whole thing off.

  17. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    # Absurd and a clearly violates the “don’t gift upwards” principle.
    I’d organise with all my coworkers so that noone signs up.
    Also, give feedback to your manager how outrageous this is.
    Are all your leadership team selfish idiots? OK, obvious answer.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      I can only assume that your leadership think being wealthy is a virtue in itself that should be rewarded, whereas the lower class peons need to be punished and have their noses rubbed in their failure.

    2. Allonge*

      To be honest, it’s even worse. ‘Don’t gift upwards’ is a classic for a reason, but if someone really wants to give a bottle of whatever to their boss, there is no harm done as such.

      This is instructing employees to fund a company event from their own budget (which is bad enough), without contributions from management (worse, but wait, there is more) and without staff even getting the benefit of the traditional potluck (you get to eat something, it’s a team thing etc.) OR fulfilling the purpose of the exercise (there is a reason that catering is a whole profession). Like, what?

  18. niknik*

    LW2: Does Slack not have a “Show as busy /offline” or “Do not disturb setting” ?
    I’d be slightly annoyed by any type of message popping up at all while following a meeting.

    1. Alisaurus*

      I was coming here to say this. You can pause notifications in Slack (the option is there when you click on your profile in the corner: Update Status, Set as Away/Available, Pause Notifications. You can choose for how long to pause them, and anyone messaging you will see a little message notifying them that you’ve paused your notifications.

      Depending on your work calendar, you can also integrate it with Slack to auto-set your status as “in a meeting.” Although, I haven’t figured out how to make it pause notifications at the same time.

    2. Maggie*

      It absolutely does. A quick google search would tell OP that. I’m confused why they wrote into a site to ask what to do when they haven’t googled the issue or talked to the other person involved in the issue. They tried absolutely nothing.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        In my experience, unless you’re presenting, there are good reasons not to pause notifications during a meeting. It can be very helpful to chat people during. It’s just an etiquette thing you don’t stream-of-consciousness dm your boss. Yes, OP could turn off notifications, but that blocks everyone, not just the person being disruptive about it. It may well be the best option if after talking to the employee they don’t stop, but that doesn’t change that the behavior they’re complaining about is Not The Done Thing.

  19. Saturday*

    I wish I could ignore the slack messages I get in meetings, but they’re from my boss.

    1. Nah*

      But first anonymously snap a pic and/or just send it itself straight to the ethics board. And possibly an outside media outlet if that doesn’t get results right-quick.

  20. Language Lover*

    lw#2 Slack Messages

    I’d recommend telling your employee to stop sending them because you find them distracting and would prefer to focus on the meeting. Plus, by the time you see the messages, they’ve lost context.

    But if you feel like she does need an outlet, tell her that instead of sending slack messages, she should open a blank email where she can note down her reactions to things discussed in the meeting. Things she likes. Things she has questions about. Things that frustrate her. If she feels there are things she’s dying to share about the meeting, she can polish up the email with the appropriate context and send it to you.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I’m puzzled why #2 has been this passive for this long. Unfortunately, being in leadership means you need to speak up directly. Even if an employee is “sensitive”! The time to address this was the first time it happened – you’ve made it much weirder and harder now by hinting and passively-aggressively closing the slack without telling her why.

      1. Kat*

        I’m surprised at the LW’s thought process that the employee should have known she didn’t like the chats because she didn’t answer them. I would think the exact opposite in the employee’s place—it’s okay for me to keep sending the chats because the LW never objected to them!

  21. TeapotNinja*

    #1 – This is what malicious compliance is for. I could think of several “wonderful” dishes from my college days the visitors would surely enjoy.

    1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      Food prepared in advance by strangers which has sat at room temperatue for hours. Sign me up.

    2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      I offer you my college housemate’s spaghetti recipe: overcooked noodles, unseasoned canned tomatoes, and microwaved frozen mixed veggies, all stirred together. No cheese because she was vegan.

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        One thing that my mother used to make when I was growing up was canned spaghetti over tuna. Tastes better than it sounds. When I first started cooking for myself, I ate it a lot. Now, I don’t remember when I last did it.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Sadly, besides the Chef, there is generic canned spaghetti and it tastes pretty much as you would imagine. >_<

    3. pally*

      Thinking this is the way to go if there’s no other way out of this situation.

      Maybe half the group signs up to bring potato chips and the other half brings onion dip.
      Then act completely surprised when boss gripes over the menu. Boss isn’t expecting folks to actually cook, right?

    4. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

      I think it’s time for aspics to make a comeback. Mmm, savory jello with canned asparagus, olives, and spam cubes… slathered in mayo.

      1. Miette*

        Excuse me, this is for Fancy People–we will be squirting the mayo in a decorative fashion from the squeeze bottle.

        1. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

          Ooh, you’re absolutely right. Dollar store Vienna weenies it is!

    5. Brevity*

      That awful Mock Apple Pie which is just store-bought pie crust filled with Ritz Crackers.

      Or how about my MIL’s recipe for Crustless Pumpkin Pie? Buy one can of pumpkin pie filling, dump into pie pan and bake. Now THAT’s home cookin’.

  22. bamcheeks*

    LW3, I have been in a couple of academic departments where exactly the same thing was happening, and the problem wasn’t clear expectations or identifying the shirkers (honestly, everyone knew, and I bet you do too), but the almost complete lack of options for the manager to do anything about it. It’s a core academic problem which IMO is in part created by the ridiculousness of academic workloads: everyone *has* to de-prioritise some supposedly-essential work or burnout, and sometimes people deprioritise critical work like student supervision. And yes, workload models, they get hours etc— but I’ve never seen an academic department where the “workload model” didn’t add up to way more than anyone’s contracted hours if you took it seriously.

    Instead, I’d look more broadly at the incentives for doing this well. Is anyone’s promotion or tenure going to depend on this? Could there be a more deliberate release of less-desirable committee engagement for people who do it well? Is it possible to create a cohort of people who actively enjoy supervising capstone projects and make it a more prestigious / visible / better paid role? Chances are you can’t do any of that because this is just one thing amongst a hundred other things academics are supposed to do well in a sixty-hour week in which case… there’s your problem.

    1. Hyaline*

      Yep–I rambled more below, but if you can create carrots to compensate for academia’s lack of sticks, it might help. But I recognize that may be beyond the scope of the LW’s role to do so (and so many universities are getting stingy on even things like basic course releases…or hiring enough people to take up all the work).

  23. Green great dragon*

    Even if you were prepared to lie (don’t), since you’ve already had a conversation with the recruiter in which you presumably asked basic details about the job, surely the recruiter would know you are lying? I’d just say to old boss you can’t pull it off.

  24. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    LW1. So Kraft Dinner with cut up weiners for 10? That is my contribution. Also, I would be leary of eating random potluck food prepared by disgruntled workers. People are rolling the dice with regular office potluck offerings. This cannot end well.

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      It would NOT be brand name though. It would be store-brand, no-name version thereof!

    2. AnonInCanada*

      They’re not worthy of Kraft Dinner(tm). They get the generic No-Name brand mac and cheese. You know the stuff the costs 50¢ a box (well, at least it used to, but that’s an argument for another website.) No milk or butter either — just mix the powered cheese on the raw noodles after draining. Serves two entitled bosses per box. Yummy!

    3. I Have RBF*

      I wouldn’t bother with weiners. I’d make one of these:
      * Spaghetti with cheap generic marinara (not my homemade, just the stuff out of the dollar bin.)
      * Rice and lentils with generic tomato soup as a sauce – cheap and fast, don’t bother with spices
      * Ramen noodles cooked, with the spice packet added, with some cheap frozen vegetables
      * Generic box mac & cheese, made with margarine and powdered milk
      * Rice with egg and frozen vegetables, maybe with a bouillon cube for flavor

      Why yes, this is all stuff I ate when I was poor. These freeloaders don’t deserve anything more, if at all.

  25. Varthema*

    Someone could point out that it’s only a potluck if everyone brings a dish and everyone partakes – that’s the whole point, everyone has vested interest in the outcome and with the investment of a single dish you get a ton of different foods.

    If some people bring people and serve it to others, that’s not potluck, that’s catering, and you could point out that you’re not trained in catering so can’t guarantee quality, food safety, etc.

    1. bamcheeks*

      so can’t guarantee quality, food safety, etc

      This is honestly what’s baffling me about the whole event! I know plenty of people who simply won’t eat at a potluck because they don’t know eg. who lets their cat walk on the countertop and who doesn’t know about storing meat safely and who forgot that Parmesan isn’t vegetarian because of the rennet. Part of being in any kind of communal food-sharing is trusting the people you’re sharing food with. Who on earth wants to eat food made by people who have no food safety training, and absolutely no stake in making sure the food is actually tasty or safe to eat?

      But maybe if you’re independently wealthy you’ve never worked in a kitchen so you have no idea about what goes into basic food safety…

      1. HailRobonia*

        So much this. If you order catering and get food poisoning or have another food issue, the caterer is probably responsible and you could sue them (I think) – I would reckon they have insurance for this.

        If you make your employees cook for your visitors and one gets sick or whatever, who is responsible?

        1. HonorBox*


          A good caterer will be licensed and insured. Food will be prepared in a kitchen that has been inspected. Things can still go wrong, but they are less likely to go wrong.

          What if someone’s crock pot shorts out? Or doesn’t get turned on properly? Or they used something they *thought* was still good, but had expired? Or, heck, even accidentally cross-contaminated something and someone with an egg or gluten allergy gets really sick?

          1. Empress Ki*

            I am a specialist of cooking with expired ingredients and let pots to cool down on the counter overnight. I’ve never been sick but wouldn’t let other people risk to eat my food.

        2. Antilles*

          Honestly, for the meeting planner, it’d be less about responsibility or lawsuits than it would be peace of mind. If I hire a caterer, I know they’re going to meet basic levels of food quality and safety, they’re going to ask and understand about potential allergens, I know they will plan sufficient food for X people, there will be a decent variety of stuff, they’re going to bring required side items like plates and forks, etc.
          Because I’m paying them to do it and that’s their business.
          With a potluck from whoever signs up? All that is completely in the air. Of course potlucks can be successful, but going potluck sure feels like a lot of risk when I’m trying to Impress Powerful People from another branch.

    2. Love me, love my cat*

      “If some people bring people and serve it to others, that’s not potluck…” No, it sure isn’t. It’s cannibalism:):) Sorry, had to say it.

      1. Love me, love my cat*

        Sorry, meant to be a reply to Varthema. Augh! That’s two apologies already, and it’s not even 6 a.m.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      This is actually a really good point, and it’s possible someone in leadership would have a lightbulb moment when told that this isn’t a potluck, it’s free catering.

      1. Zombie catering plan*

        Note it does not improve things if staff are allowed to partake as well just to allow a more accurate use of term “potluck”, if management of both groups turn up and eat 2/3 of it without contributing anything. In effect, staff would be catering for themselves as well as the freeloaders, which just means even larger contributions expected from the staff.

  26. Yellow rainbow*

    LW3 does the work allocation for supervisors cover the time expected? Eg if a supervisor is expected to do 5 hours of one-on-one meetings per student per semester does their work allocation include 6 hours for such tasks? I include additional time because there is always an admin load, rescheduling, and asynchronous communication that takes time.

    My own academic experience is that good supervisors typically provide 2-10x the time allocated to them for such projects (usually by underperforming in other areas or more commonly working a lot of unpaid overtime).

    Secondly – are performance reviews, funding, promotion etc valuing these roles? Or do staff know that while it’s in their list the strategic response is to do as little as possible cause they aren’t actually valued and they’ll do better to get another grant in/write another paper etc?

    I can’t help suspect (cynical academic that I am) that one or both of these aren’t working for academics.

    Guidelines for what is expected, and mock ups of what supervision would look like is probably helpful so long as it is not prescriptive. For new staff it lets them know what’s expected of the role (I just had to guess when I started and years later still do). For existing staff it provides clear instruction against which they can be evaluated. Also – if the workload allocation doesn’t match the guidelines that makes it easier to push back against the expectations.

  27. Safely Retired*

    #1: Gather up some take-out menus from nearby restaurants. Print them from their web sites if necessary. Look for local catering websites and print those too. Pile them up by the sign-in sheet.

  28. nnn*

    It could be entertaining in #1 for everyone to act as though they obliviously think the potluck signup sheet is for people who are invited to the event. If asked why you didn’t sign up, just give a bright and cheerful “Oh, I’m not in that meeting!”

    (Also, the combination of working in the government and independently wealthy and not prepared to pay their own way at a restaurant is super weird)

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Yes, because a potluck is when the meeting participants bring food to share.
      This is the peons having to pay homage to their betters

  29. Not Jen from The IT Crowd*

    #2 – explore your computer’s options for focus/do not disturb functionality. You should be able to set it up so that when you’re in a call, you can either disable all notifications, or just those you specify. Then it’s all automated and you don’t need to worry about the distractions.

  30. Despachito*

    LW1 – the simplest thing would be that no one signs up. Problem solved.

    I cannot wrap my head around how the management can be so clueless. I don’t think potlucks are a good idea in work environment at all (what about people who can’t/won’t cook/don’t care about food prepared by non-professional strangers), but this takes it yet at another level. Lowly peons serving food to nobility, on their own dime. This is the optics and is GROSS.

  31. Bookworm*

    #5: I’ve made similar errors (grammatical, misspellings, etc.) and it hasn’t always killed me. I’ve definitely done the wrong company name before, though and I think that was a deal-breaker but as Alison said, YMMV. It happens and I’m sorry! Could be a sign from the universe that the job were intending to apply to wasn’t for you, though!

  32. Jenga*

    it’s not a potluck unless those bringing the food get to eat the food. Employees are being asked to cater a lunch for management without being compensated.

    1. linger*

      Conversely, it’s not really a potluck if those partaking haven’t contributed. The current plan fails both elements of the definition, but it would still fail if staff were allowed to partake too.

  33. Irish Teacher.*

    LW3, I went to a college where we had a project like that (actually we chose the topic in our 2nd year, we’d an off-campus year for 3rd year and had to hand it in in 4th year) and I had a supervisor who basically was one of those shirkers and I agree with you that the rules aren’t going to make much difference. Even when he did do stuff, like read my draft and I went to speak to him about it and what I could improve, I got something along the lines of “it’s grand. Let’s see what comments I put on it. Oh, I didn’t put any. Must be OK as it is, so.”

    Luckily I was doing one of those projects that didn’t need much oversight (it was on poetry and how Thomas Moore and Thomas Davis used their poetry basically for propaganda to inspire people to see Ireland as an independent nation). I had friends whose projects involved interviews or who were doing it using original sources for history (I guess poems count as original sources, but you know, they are easily accessible ones whereas back at the turn of the millennium, a lot of other original documents were more difficult to source). So yeah, I can see the difficulty with setting guidelines.

    I don’t really have any advice, just to say that from the point of view of a student who experienced this, I think you’re doubts about the current solution are valid.

  34. OrigCassandra*

    Hi, OP3. There’s a fairly well-studied phenomenon in US academia where white men skive off student care and office housework, letting white women and people of color take up their slack.

    (My department has a Woke White Dude, unfortunately tenured, who is absolutely notorious for this, as well as other dubious practices aimed at self-puffery. But wow howdy does he ever trumpet how incredibly just and inclusive he is. He is just. A piece of work.)

    You don’t specify whether this is happening where you are. Possibly it isn’t, in which case ignore me, but possibly you haven’t considered it. Consider it! Because if it’s a pattern, and there is still a DEI office where you are, you may be able to get them involved, likely in the have-a-quiet-word-with-the-chair way.

    If you’re unionized, there may also be a grievance process you can use.

    1. Hyaline*

      I think the Woke White Dude is standard issue in academic departments. It’s not a humanities department unless you have at least two.

      1. MyStars*

        And the two hate each other and think the other one is full of himself and Fake Wokeness.

  35. Yup*

    #3: I just finished my degree with the worst supervisor ever. Uninterested, unengaged, as little feedback as possible, never showed up to anything we participated in, kept meetings to 5 minutes, would not re-read edited work) or even read the finished thesis), you name it. They were as uncommitted as a professor. We all complained, all the staff knew the problems, other staff had to help answer our questions about graduating, and the result?

    Nothing changed. Tenure is a hell of a thing. Good luck.

    1. Meg*

      Same here. I’ve had it happen multiple times. Heck my undergrad advisor almost kept me from graduating because he screwed up my schedule so badly and I was short credits! No one cares enough to do anything.

  36. Mo*

    Supervision is handled in my academic department by having a member of faculty in charge of overseeing supervision. The department has managed to create a culture where students generally feel that they can approach the overseer with issues and that person will endlessly harass professors into doing their job and adequately supervising. I’m sure it matters that we don’t have anyone actually malicious, just some real space cadets who forget to do half their jobs unless reminded.

  37. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #2

    LW, I would not go the route of saying nothing at all. Regardless of whether you are bothered by your employee’s messages or not, please talk to her about it. You may not be particularly bothered, but by not saying anything at all, she may get the idea that it’s perfectly fine to send messages like this to everyone, even someone higher up than you who may be much less tolerant of these messages.

    1. Observer*

      she may get the idea that it’s perfectly fine to send messages like this to everyone, even someone higher up than you who may be much less tolerant of these

      That’s true. What worries me more is that she might to this to people who are not in a position to stop her. People on her level who may feel like they can’t say anything for whatever reason, and people who are lower on the hierarchy who are even more likely to feel like they can’t push back.

      Also, if she takes it as tacit consent it’s possible that if someone does try to push back she’d point to the LW’s lack of pushback as “proof” that this is a perfectly fine way to operate.

      LW, say something.

  38. Jay*

    LW #1, how “Wealthy” are we talking here? As in, well regarded college professor (who normally don’t make anywhere near what most people think they do) that now works for NOAA/The USDA? Or something like a White Shoe Saw-Firm Partner who now works directly for/with the highest echelons of the government?
    In the first case, these people don’t make as much as you think they do, they have way less power to push back against employee push back, and you are fine raising a stink, Union or no.
    In the second case, be very, VERY careful. I’ve worked with companies that contract with the government for most of my career and the people at the very top don’t get into it to follow the rules, they get into it to MAKE the rules. They can be the most petty, vindictive people I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet. There is a REASON I don’t use my real name here. Basically, if you are “hosting” a Congressman/high ranking Judge/Lawyer/Political Appointee, be prepared to play “Happy Peasant” for the American Peerage. Or be prepared to find a new job, and probably not a government one, at that.

  39. HonorBox*

    #1 – This is such a bad idea for several reasons. I think you’re focusing on the wrong one of those reasons, though. The money part isn’t the biggest issue, though it is a huge issue. I think I’d focus on the fact that there are so many things that could go wrong with a potluck. There’s no way of knowing for sure how food was prepared, no way of knowing if it is done safely, no way of being sure hot / cold foods are hot and cold enough, and no way of being sure you can identify potential allergens.

    The money thing is also an issue, but potlucks can be problem even if it is just a potluck amongst peers. I’d lean toward that when concerns are raised.

    1. Typing All The Time*

      Agreed to all of this. Someone who was new to cooking brought in a potluck dish that resulted in food poisoning. Let a professional caterer handle this.

      1. La Triviata*

        I read a story about a “professional caterer” who was under the impression that health and safety regulations did not apply (because they were politically connected) and sent over 30 people to the emergency room.

  40. Hyaline*

    LW3–I think the first step here is addressing if this is a true problem–as in students are feeling unsupported, are having a poor experience, and/or are completing lower-quality work because of this–or whether it’s a frustration that some people are crappy about this part of their jobs but aren’t being penalized. Honestly, if it’s the latter (“but it’s not fair that Prof Jenkins blows off his job!”) I would chalk it up to “that’s academia” and just focus on guiding students away from Professor Jenkins. For assessing if it’s a true problem, I know you can’t rely on grades alone, but there is an indication in patterns of overall scores (especially if these are reviewed or graded by a faculty panel). In some departments I’ve been in, we’ve done regular calibration, which could help, too–if you’re identifying that Prof A and B consistently are passing projects that don’t come close to the regular standards of the rest of the department. But you can also rely on the students–regular check-ins as suggested, and if you can an anonymous survey at the end (if you use Canvas it works well for this.) And don’t underestimate students–they talk, and probably know that Prof Jenkins is going to be completely hands off but Prof Thistleberry will be very available. Believe it or not, some students may prefer and actually thrive on less intervention (and have other options on campus, like librarians, writing center, and other faculty, too).

    I agree that the minimum expectations you currently have (turnaround time in emailing, things like that) are probably sufficient but reviewing them could be….well, at least useful for everyone feeling like you’re doing something. I would far prefer to leave the nitty gritty of number of meetings, process, etc. alone as faculty and students are often very different and need different things. Maybe there is potential in leaning into “offer X number of meetings” or “suggested timelines” in terms of training new people so they don’t mimic the slackers, though. (Admittedly my perspective is a very involved faculty member who as a student mostly wanted to be left alone and that worked very well for me.)

    I know this might be outside your ability to effect change, but part of the problem is that there are few sticks in academia, so can you create a carrot for this? Perhaps restructuring the project assignments so that faculty may have more of them, but they come with a course release, or even a small stipend. If it’s “we all have to but some people slack” there’s not much that can be done; if it’s “this is something you may be allowed to do and comes with a perk” you can strip the slackers of the option and maybe give people who do well with the work incentive to keep doing well.

    1. Elsajeni*

      And as far as assessing whether it’s a real problem — if you’re not currently tracking this kind of feedback, or if you think it’s collected but then it just kind of goes into a file and no one ever looks at it, or something like that, you probably have assessment/institutional effectiveness staff who could help! (Getting faculty to actually act on feedback is a perennial problem for assessment folks, so they may not be able to help on that end — but collecting and analyzing the data that would show that there is a problem, and possibly even facilitating the meeting where everyone looks at the data and discusses how to improve the capstone process, is exactly the kind of thing they are there for.)

  41. Parenthesis Guy*

    LW #1: This is extremely entitiled and unethical behavior on your bosses part. As stated, this would be of questionable legality in the US due to ethics laws, which leads me to believe that you’re not in the US. Not to mention that while top US govt employees make good salaries, its probably not five times what their lower-ranking govt staff makes.

    This makes me wonder whether you’re located somewhere where you may have fewer protections than one would in the US or Western Europe. If so, I wonder whether you can push back or if you wouldn’t be fired en masse for not obeying your bosses whims. In that case, you may need to knuckle under.

    Is this the first time this has happened? If you’re relatively new, it may make sense to reach out to someone with longer longevity to see what’s going on and whether there’s room to push back or how to react to this request.

    They shouldn’t be doing this. It should be evident that this is immoral. And yet, here we are. They clearly think they can get away with it, which means we have to at least entertain the possibility that they can.

    1. doreen*

      “Not to mention that while top US govt employees make good salaries, its probably not five times what their lower-ranking govt staff makes.”

      I’m not so sure this is true – I looked up the Federal GS pay schedule for my locality and Grade 1 step 1 is about 30K while Grade 15 step 10 is about $191 K. And that’s assuming it’s Federal government and GS positions – the differences in my state government or even in the Federal system with other salary classifications are even larger.

      1. Parenthesis Guy*

        As of 2018, about .2% of government employees are between GS1-3. It’s lower in 2024. The average entry-level employee with a college education starts at GS7 maybe a GS6 (depending on locality), but moves up in rank very quickly. Likewise, there are very few employees that are GS15 Step10. These would be people that are extremely high ranking, and if they pulled this kind of stunt it would get in the papers.

        In addition, most employees that are GS15 are in Washington DC. You don’t have GS5s in DC. You have them in places that are in the middle of nowhere where the top person is a GS12 or something.

        In theory, you could have what you’re suggesting happen happen. In practice, not a chance.

        1. Just Thinkin' Here*

          I assumed the math to be $40/50K vs $200K. This would be in line with certain government agencies that are clerk, customer service, or physical labor heavy. It could also be a VA hospital staffed with CNAs vs the hospital leadership team / physicians salary. There are caps on salaries in the Federal government, so the math wouldn’t work much higher than that, even with geopay adjustments. If they are Federal and located in DC, $40K is a tight salary in Washington, DC metro.

      2. Astronaut Barbie*

        Often the upper management are in the ES (executive service) scale. So even am ES 2 could possibly make 5x more than a GS6 or so.

        1. Parenthesis Guy*

          If that’s what’s happening, this person just needs to speak to a reporter and this is going on the front page of a major newspaper.

    2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      You somehow missed the part where they got all their money and *then* took the high level government job. Sounds like the legislator to consultant to appointee pipeline. That’s totally American. As for your last paragraph, also very American.

    3. B*

      It certainly does not sound like a US federal office for a number of reasons. Could be state, could be another country. I hesitate to give advice based on experience in the US federal government, which, for all its faults, does have robust protections against precisely this kind of nonsense and many mechanisms to invoke them.

    4. Media Monkey*

      i think pot lucks are mainly a thing in the US. so i would guess this was US-based.

  42. Overthinking it*

    If the were providing the food, and requiring you to cook it, cooking time on-the-clock, that would be a little bit different. Falling under “other duties as required” perhaps. But they ought to offer you facilities to do the cooking, in that case.

    1. WellRed*

      It’s pretty unlikely asking a typical office worker to cook will ever qualify as other duties assigned. If that were the case, I’d recommend burning it or leaving out seasoning.

  43. CommanderBanana*

    This is a great time for your kitchen to be out of commission – broken stove, repairs being done, gas line being replaced, whatever.

  44. doreen*

    Not to mention that while top US govt employees make good salaries, its probably not five times what their lower-ranking govt staff makes.

    I’m not so sure this is true – I looked up the Federal GS pay schedule for my locality and Grade 1 step 1 is about 30K while Grade 15 step 10 is about $191 K. And that’s assuming it’s Federal government and GS positions – the differences in my state government or even in the Federal system with other salary classifications are even larger.

    1. Just Thinkin' Here*

      I assumed the math to be $40K vs $200K. This would be in line with certain government agencies that are clerk, customer service, or admin heavy vs the senior management team. There are caps on salaries in the Federal government, so the math wouldn’t work much higher than that. If they are Federal and located in DC, $40K is a tight salary in Washington, DC metro.

  45. Anony vas Normandy*

    As someone in academia – the department chair from LW3 definitely knows who the slackers are. Probably faculty on the other side of campus know who the slackers are, because students are not shy about telling people when their instructors/advisors/mentors aren’t cutting it. The issue is how to actually fix it. If the slackers are tenured/otherwise permanent faculty, it can be really difficult to make them do anything they don’t want to do, unless it’s spelled out very explicitly in their contract/faculty handbook/etc. Changing the guidelines for the whole department might really be the best way to either make them step up, or create a paper trail for “for-cause” dismissal. Of course, it might also trigger a faculty senate issue. Management in academia gets real weird sometimes.

  46. Prof Coffee*

    as a current tenure track faculty member, I will say two things: (1) supervising undergraduate student projects is absolutely not the best use of my limited time, either for the department or myself. (2) if my department chair met with me to ask me to please be more attentive as a supervisor to undergraduate projects, I would do it, because it’s politically expedient to comply with requests from above.

    I actually like supervising undergrads and voluntarily have a handful working with me at any given time. the challenge is we are a big program and there are way more students interested in doing projects with faculty than there are faculty to supervise, and so there’s constant pressure to take on more students even though the numbers just don’t work.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I mean, we all have things in our jobs that are not the best use of our limited time or resources. If it’s a requirement of the job, we still do them, and if they’re untenable tasks, then that’s something we have to take to the people managing and handing out the work rather than just not doing it and hoping no one will notice.

      1. Prof Coffee*

        you’re right, of course. I think the point I want to convey is that there’s a huge mismatch between the perception on the student side and the perception on the faculty side. I think many students think faculty should be doing as much as possible to help students, subject to constraints imposed by other aspects of the job. the reality of the tenure process at many institutions however means that my job is more like doing as much as possible to further my research, subject to a minimum level of effort for students.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          That’s interesting because my experience as a student was that I absolutely thought 90% of the faculty wanted as little to do with students as possible. Of course, those faculty were not required to supervise any projects I did. But by far the impression was show up to class, do the work, go away. Then again, I never expected otherwise so I wasn’t bothered by it. But I guess I never ran in circles of students who thought faculty should help them.

      2. Pescadero*

        The issue is – that generally the “people managing” a professor… is the professor himself/herself.

        Basically imagine every professor running a research group as the CEO of their own small company, that brings in their own funding, and the department chair can’t really do much of anything to.

    2. Overworked in Academia*

      I also think that there’s a huge problem in academia where people think faculty time is somehow unlimited because they have tenure (or are working towards it). Often requests like this to mentor students one-on-one on an outside project is additional to other advising, teaching several courses (and working with those students/answering emails/grading/etc.), participating in departmental administrative things (job searches, serving on various committees, etc.), and research (where faculty are expected to be publishing journal articles if not books, most of which is work that happens *during breaks* because who has time for that during the academic year?). Most of the faculty I know are working nearly around the clock and on weekends. It’s one of the reasons faculty are leaving the profession in droves and looking for regular 9-5 jobs so they can have some semblance of work/life balance. So, in addition to management needing to be more clear with faculty about the requirements of how much time/what kind of time needs to be spent on these students, management also has to factor in ALL else that faculty are doing to see if what they are asking is actually reasonable. If people are “shirking responsibility” on this, I would first assume faculty want to help students but that other priorities are winning over on this particular task.

      The days where tenured faculty can just coast along doing nearly nothing are over. Too many universities are struggling financially. Universities are making tough choices about what departments are financially viable, which ones are not, and relying more on adjunct labor so they don’t have to pay the large salaries of tenured faculty. Lots of departmental shut downs, layoffs, etc. And then they put more and more expectations on the faculty that remains. No one is safe. It’s all to say: there may be a management issue going on, but it might be the managers who need to shift expectations, not the faculty.

      1. Hyaline*

        I know in my own department, we’ve lost more people than we’ve replaced, and we’re replacing tenured faculty with lecturers who don’t qualify for tenure AND teach higher course loads. The amount of work has increased as enrollment has increased but the man hours to do that work keep dwindling.

        Not the question, but if LW’s situation is similar, maybe there aren’t enough people to have personal capstone advisors for every undergrad anymore and the whole system needs rebooting.

  47. learnedthehardway*

    OP#4 – your prior manager is over-complicating this. All they have to do is to get their HR/Recruitment team to tell the agency that you are a prior employee of the company, and thus already on their radar. The manager should have HR deal with this (or whichever department is managing the contract with the recruitment firm).

    Whether or not your manager CAN exclude the recruitment firm really depends on the contract terms and the overall relationship between the company and the agency.

  48. Juicebox Hero*

    I’m a stream-of-consciousness texter. I don’t know why, but I tend to give everything the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment and texting it to someone means you are Heard. It doesn’t matter if they reply or not as long as I can get my thoughts out in the world. I limit it to family members and friends who say they don’t mind, or even join in.

    Thankfully my job doesn’t have meetings or I could easily see myself doing it at work, too. But I wouldn’t do it to my boss because she really doesn’t need to hear my internal monologue.

    1. Underemployed Erin*

      This type of interaction is better among peers IF your peers are into it. It seems strange to be doing this with a manager.

      1. La Triviata*

        I was once in a meeting to instruct the entire staff on a new database. The person next to me was using the time to schedule appointments for her family, complete with flashing lights and beeps … I found it nearly impossible to concentrate on the presentation. I was rebuked for having asked questions about things that I was distracted from.

    2. Distractable Golem*

      I, too, am this person. It’s tricky when I don’t have the right outlet for my monologue, but I can perform to an imaginary audience in a pinch.

  49. Underemployed Erin*

    LW #2

    You don’t have to close Slack. There is a pause notification option built into it that you get if you click on your profile picture and select “Pause notification” and set a duration.

    Then you can tell your employee, “Hey, I found out that I was being distracted by Slack messages during meetings, and I am now using this ‘Pause notification’ feature that I learned about during these meetings so I can pay attention to the speakers. In the past, you have sent me many messages during these meetings. If you have an important question, please provide some context for it if you are Slacking me during the meetings. If you are just reacting in real time to what is being said, those messages are going to be pretty meaningless when I see them after the meeting so I am asking you to just message me with things that are truly important.”

  50. Berin*

    LW1, is this the federal government? Is there a union presence for your branch? My workplace is covered by AFGE, and even though I’m not a member, our union rep would be VERY interested in knowing about this sort of thing.

  51. kiki*

    For LW #1, I’m curious if there’s any possibility this is some sort of misunderstanding and much of leadership would be horrified to find out that folks have been asked to provide food for a potluck they are expected to not actually attend?

    I totally believe that a leadership team exists that sucks enough to be explicitly asking for this, but I’ve also seen wild situations occur when somebody in leadership suggests that a potluck should be planned to coincide with the visit. The person in leadership assumed that the potluck could be a chance for people down the chain to mingle with upper leadership. They also are never in charge of planning potlucks, so they don’t realize that nobody else on the leadership team actually ever brings food to these potlucks. The people below the leader who actually execute on planning the potluck assumes that the leader knows this will turn into lower-level staff being exploited to serve leadership, so they don’t raise anything. And the plan actually gets implemented and everyone below the leadership team is upset about it while leadership is oblivious to what a bad look it is until the event takes place.

    1. Nah*

      Honestly, thinking about this having been a big chain of badly butchered telephone makes a lot more sense to me, thinking about it. I doubt most Mr Moneybags upper brass types would be actively gunning for Debra’s mayo casserole, but I suppose we’ve heard weirder!

    2. Just Thinkin' Here*

      At my last workplace, the potlucks stopped when the women realized we were the only ones providing food. The next set of holiday office parties, I talked with my female coworkers in the building and we agreed not to sign-up or bring anything except our own lunches. It was the men’s turn to cook. Most office parties had no food or the occasional bag of chips. It brought a lot of laughter from the women and some very confused, hungry men.

      1. Agnes Grey*

        I love that you did this! In my workplace we do have some men who will bring food, but the women do most of the organizing, set-up and clean-up. I have a relatively new boss who I think already recognizes the dynamic so I’m hoping this may shift over time.

  52. fine-tipped pen aficionado*

    This is only 1/5th related to LW2’s actual letter, but I do think it’s your responsibility to manage your own notifications. Not saying that you shouldn’t let your employee know that they are misinterpreting your relationship with them and they should not be sending those messages to begin with, but getting bothered by pop-ups is your problem to solve, not theirs. Slack has notification controls, your computer has Do Not Disturb settings… You will be a lot happier if you take back control of your notifications from your software and don’t misdirect that annoyance at people.

    1. Antilles*

      Agreed. Teams has settings to automatically disable notifications whenever you join a meeting and I assume Slack does too. Taking control of the notifications can really help limit those sorts of interruptions.

  53. Star Trek Nutcase*

    At a younger age when I was a doormat, I would cave and sign up. But I was petty even then, and would bring the cheapest and grossest dish imaginable. And if questioned about it, put on my very innocent face and claim that’s what I always ate as a low income employee. In my later, non-doormat years, I’d refuse, leak this to anyone/everyone publicly, and willingly take any consequences. But YMMV.

    1. Bast*

      Frankly, I love the idea of malicious compliance. Everyone bring crappy rolls or something like coleslaw or jello molds (imagine trying to have a party with 20 versions of coleslaw or jello).

      1. Bast*

        And then if anyone says anything, “This is a treasured family recipe from Great Aunt Gertrude! We look forward to this every holiday gathering!” no matter how terrible it is. Act shocked anyone could disagree.

  54. Shoes*


    The responses are interesting. It appears to depend on what your profession is. Teachers are not afforded grace for resume errors.

  55. MollyGodiva*

    LW1: First, they are not “leadership”, they are management. Second, what they are doing is very much against federal regulations. File a complaint with the OIG of your organization.

    1. Kristin*

      I work in government too and was about to say this. There’s no way they can require this or even talk about it.
      But – me being me (and protected by a union) – I would be tempted to introduce these Mucky Mucks to a recipe from one of my favorite YouTube channels, The Wolfe Pit.
      Like this one. https://youtu.be/TG6vzyVWPRE?si=8AMUdXkEZxoLvwsS

  56. Just Thinkin' Here*

    OP #1 – You note your managers are independently wealthy and that they should pay for the lunch. No employee of the government should be required to supply food for official government business. An employee’s prior employment or salary has no bearing on this. It cuts both ways – staff shouldn’t pay out of their pocket and neither should management.

    Government agencies have budgets for meetings and it’s common to cater such a meeting with inexpensive casual fast food options. If management doesn’t want to use their existing budget for meetings, then they are responsible for their individual lunch costs, just as any other government employee.

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

      I think the OP put that there that it would be much easier for the leadership to put something together for a potluck than it would be for the other employees who make much less. Also, a lot of the times the people who are independently wealthy just don’t get that people can’t always just go to the store.

  57. Ebar*

    Academia in my first and second hand experience is a place where people get away with things that would get fired or possibly prosecuted anywhere else. Too many of them get away with doing the bits they like and not troubling themselves with the bits they don’t. It might be worth seeing if it possible to clear student’s not to put shiftless supervisions names on their thesis – or well down the list (there is I understand a running order). De-fund their projects if money gets tight or prioritize that of more active members. Oh and don’t get blinded by past accomplishments. Maybe Prof Bloggs won a Nobel Prize twenty years ago, but what he done lately?

    1. academic*

      I’m an academic and I agree that there is egregious behavior in academia. However I don’t agree that people don’t get away with this outside academia – see many letters on this website that show that people get away with bad behavior and incompetency in non-academic jobs all the time! It’s an interesting bias that many people have that this happens more in academia than not, and I don’t know how one could ever prove or disprove that there’s a difference.

      1. Hyaline*

        Yeah this is what nonacademic folks don’t get—Prof Mcjerkface could have negative course evals and have skipped committee work since 2008 but if he brings in good grant money, he’s not going anywhere.

        1. Captain Swan*

          Exactly, my MBA program had a well known prof that taught not one but 2 required classes. He was a horrible professor, course evaluations were terrible for years. He had entire classes of students protesting his teaching (for years). He was also had the most research grants of anyone in the department, so he wasn’t going anywhere. The year after I took the first class with him, they found someone else to teach one of the classes. Everyone was much happier after that.

          1. Candace*

            Some professors are lousy teachers on purpose, so they can spend more time with their beloved research.

  58. SwampWitch*

    LW 1, if you’re in a Federal or even State government job, there are a lot and I mean A LOT of regulations against what they’re asking you to do as I think it falls under the realm of giving gifts to a superior or something of that nature. Check the regulations through HR or call the ethics hotline and get their take on it.

  59. talbot's junkie*

    I’m not going to lie, LW 2 has real, “we’ve tried nothing and we’re all out of ideas!” Ned-Flanders’-parents-vibes going on here. With a side order of, “I learned it by you watching YOU!” too. I mean, people are saying the direct report needs to learn professionalism but who is she going to learn it from if not the boss who apparently has to write into an advice column to figure out a pretty simple, basic thing like “hey, maybe ease back on the Slack messaging during meetings” (or to just mute their Slack notifications during meetings, for the love of Pete).

    1. Maggie*

      Yeah kind of having a hard time taking the LW seriously when they haven’t even googled how to mute a slack notification. Man, if your biggest problem as a manager is someone chatting you “haha” you’ve got it made!

  60. Choggy*

    I’d love to know if LW1 is in the US or not. I can’t imagine you and others have no recourse here? As an aside, why in the world would they request home-cooked food over a professional caterer? You don’t mention what your actual work entails or that of the other individuals expected to provide this food. Unless you are all professional chefs, this is a very strange thing to ask of their staff.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      If a US boss can demand an employee’s liver, a potluck is very believable

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

    For #1, I would invoke the principle of “Nobody can take advantage of you without your permission” and then stop giving permission.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      I agree with the premise in this situation, but I can see a lot of situations in which this quote doesn’t apply.

      1. Bast*

        The crappiest of cheap ass rolls, of course!

        I’m not sure why I have “crappy rolls” stuck in my head over “cheap ass rolls.” :/

  62. Oldsbone*

    LW#4, it looks like your old/new boss is penny wise and pound foolish as the saying goes. If you talked to the recruiter first, s/he knows how you found out about the job. If your boss cheats the recruiter out of their fee, they might just stop working with the company and now your boss has burned a bridge for the entire company.

  63. HappySummer*

    LW2 – “mute conversation” in Slack would be great if they were just an annoying colleague. However, as their manager, a kind conversation about how you like to communicate (maybe a post meeting catch up over Slack/email/meeting) might be in order.

  64. MissMeghan*

    #2 I think is getting overcomplicated on what is a simple problem with a simple answer. Just say that you don’t like to have side chats during meetings, and let your report know that it’s not in your office’s norm and could come across as unprofessional, even if reacting to things said in the meeting.

    FWIW this is not at all unusual in my office. In a large group meeting, double-checking something and not bringing it up to the whole group, or just having someone to share reactions with, happens often. I like it, and working from home I feel like it keeps me engaged when back to back zoom calls can otherwise blend together or get mind-numbing, but I know that’s not a universal feeling.

  65. Jaybeetee*

    LW1: I work for government, and understanding that different levels of government can operate very differently – and even that governments in other countries can operate very differently – this sort of request is still a hard no. At least here in Canada, hosting these sorts of VIPs would likely mean restaurant or catering, not a potluck with your grandma’s macaroni casserole and someone else’s salad with cat hair in it. If your department is literally too strapped for that, there are bigger problems.

    Do you have a union? You don’t need to involve them immediately, but I bet they’d have a lot of opinions about this…

  66. Rainy*

    Has LW2 considered changing their Slack settings so that the messages don’t pop up? Or changing the settings for that specific person or conversation so that the messages don’t notify and they can just go look at that conversation when they want to?

    Or, since it sounds like this hasn’t happened, just *asking that person to stop*???

    This feels like the sort of thing where LW2 is super mad and expecting the report to read their mind and just stop the annoying behaviour instead of either talking to them OR changing their Slack settings to minimize the annoyance, and I have SO much sideeye. I have a colleague who refuses to change any of his notification settings for Teams and then shouts at people in the groups he belongs to for saying anything he doesn’t want to see. This has literally been going on for years and he hates getting notifications but also won’t change his Teams settings to just not get notifications, and LW2 is giving me the same vibes.

    Expecting the people you work with to spontaneously develop ESP is *not a management strategy*.

  67. Deborah*

    I didnt read through all the comments, but if the potluck can’t be cancelled, then it has to be low-budget food. Rice and beans and CHEAP ASS ROLLS.

    1. Coffee Protein Drink*

      Rice & beans is the perfect response if they must do it. When I hear someone talk about the price of groceries or how they’re having trouble making ends meet, there’s a privileged person saying, “Just eat rice and beans. They’re cheap.”

  68. DancinProf*

    #3: Depending on typical class size, teaching load, and overall workload expectations, 12-14 students per term could constitute 1 course toward one’s teaching load and be billed/paid for, compensated, and evaluated accordingly. Someone would still have to oversee the capstone supervisors, but it seems to me that the structure for making this activity officially A Part of One’s Job instead of “other duties as assigned” could already be in place. If students enroll in a capstone course and pay tuition each semester that they’re working on this project, then you have tools available to you: money to pay the faculty, course evaluations for students to complete, expectations for a syllabus and course calendar and everything else that a faculty member would do for a regular class. That way it’s not this special, exceptional thing with its own set of rules, and people might be less inclined to try to skate by with the bare minimum.

  69. UpstateDownstate*

    I just hired a candidate that addressed their cover letter to a competing business. Their resume was by far the strongest and I decided to give them a pass. After weeks of interviewing they were the one that my boss decided to go with. I never brought up the CL error and hope I don’t regret that in the future but as someone who also struggled to find employment for a period of time I know how stressful the process can be and I am sure I made a similar error at some point.
    I wouldn’t bring it up either, but if they do, be honest and say that you would have corrected it and it’s a lesson you have learned from.
    And best of luck in the job search!

    1. Kuleta*

      I saw someone mistakenly include an earlier letter addressed to Company A, in their application to Company B. The two companies were on opposite sides of the job specialty.

      Company B did interview the candidate. The mistake became a moot point, because the candidate got another offer during B’s process.

  70. Inkognyto*

    I suggest looking more into notifications on slack and how to handle them.

    You can set yourself to not receive notifications, be ‘away’ etc.
    You can even mute discussions where you just do not get pop up’s.

    All of this is very useful in allowing you to receive the messages but also work and look at them at a time when you can, without closing the application.

    I have some channels where they spam for 12 hrs a day work related questions, and even tag me in them and I just ignore them unless I get a PM, by the simple act of keeping the channel muted.

    I’m in the overall dept but I don’t have time to answer 30 simple questions because people cannot look up on the website where to find information.

  71. Oh, we do pot lucks!*

    LW#1 (pot luck)- If you absolutely have to bring something to the employee catered lunch- sorry, “pot luck”- I have some great recipes for you. They are all hits at the pot lucks I’ve been to over the years! I’ll reply to this comment so those who don’t want them can skip them.

    1. Above commenter*

      – Velveeta and Rotel: Practically legally required in some states. 1/2-1 cubed block of Velveeta with 1-2 cans of Rotel per half. I use 2 and drain one so it’s not too runny, but maybe you like messy! Serve in a crock pot with a ladle and an open bag of tortilla chips alongside. They’ll surely have enough plugs to keep it hot.
      – Cottage cheese jello salad: My family’s favorite party side growing up. Dump 1 large container of small curd cottage cheese in a big bowl with 1 large can of crushed pineapple. Stir in a box of jello (we do orange). Stir until well combined. Cut in a thawed container of Cool Whip, then refrigerate. Make sure you use a really big bowl to accommodate all the awesomeness! Maybe even a double batch will be appropriate! Keep refrigerated until serving time. They’ll surely have the fridge space.
      – Grape jelly meat balls- Open 1 or 2 bags of frozen meatballs, thaw on stovetop, then dump in crock pot. Add equal parts grape jelly and ketchup until you are happy with the amount of sauce. Adjust flavors as needed: not sweet enough? More jelly! Need tang? More ketchup! Put tooth picks next to crock pot for people to pick them out; spoons are just extra dishes. Be sure to label the crock pot “grape jelly ketchup meatballs” so that once they try them and realize how awesome they are (really, they truly are) they can Google the recipe.
      – If you want to be fancy, do the above but with Li’l Smokies and barbecue sauce. Don’t forget the toothpicks! That makes them classy. Serve in a crock pot to keep hot.
      – BLT dip- The night before, mix 1 C sour cream and 1 C mayonnaise together and then add a package of bacon bits (size up to you). Let sit overnight. In a separate container, have diced, de-seeded tomato. Add instructions to stir it in right before serving so the salt doesn’t make it limp and soggy. Serve with Ritz style or club crackers. Where’s the L, you ask? It doesn’t exist. But this unhealthy dip tastes so awesome, no one will care.
      – Lime jello with carrots: This is my husband’s family’s thing, and I don’t make it. But if you Google it, you’ll get tons of variations, all 5 stars. Some even have cabbage. It’s truly a cultural phenomenon. The big 9×13 casserole dish is always empty at the end! Don’t worry, they’ll have the fridge space.
      – Pimento cheese spread: my husband and FIL are both pastors, so they go to many funerals. In one state, this was so popular at funerals that it was dubbed “dead spread.” I don’t make it, so again, I can’t recommend a recipe, but Google has plenty. It is served with crackers. Or be fancy and plate it on a plank of wood (my local grocery store has them for $1) in a ball. Be sure to stick toothpicks in it to keep the plastic wrap from touching it. They’ll definitely have the fridge space to accommodate your delicate, hedgehog-like bell of cheese.
      – Be the hero… bring deviled eggs: The ultimate pot luck food. You probably don’t have the fancy, layered Tupperware that lets you maximize storage space, so maybe you want to get some secondhand 9×13 containers so you can fit all 48 egg halves, since you considerately brought so many to make sure everyone can have all the eggs they want. They’ll have the fridge space, right? These require a lot of work, but you can minimize it by buying them pre-peeled. I’m sure the texture is fine. Or you can do the work and save some for yourself. And maybe bring a box of baking soda for the work fridge the next day.

    2. Above commenter*

      – Velveeta and Rotel: Practically legally required in some states. 1/2-1 cubed block of Velveeta (or generic processed cheese food) with 1-2 cans of Rotel (or generic) per half. I use 2 and drain one so it’s not too runny, but maybe you like messy! Serve in a crock pot with a ladle and an open bag of tortilla chips alongside. They’ll surely have enough plugs to keep it hot.

      I tried to make one comment with all the recipes, but it wouldn’t post. Maybe too long? Or they will show up all at once, in which case, I apologize.

    3. Above commenter*

      – Cottage cheese jello salad: My family’s favorite party side growing up. Dump 1 large container of small curd cottage cheese in a big bowl with 1 large can of crushed pineapple. Stir in a box of jello (we do orange). Stir until well combined. Add a can of mandarin oranges if you want to be awesome. Cut in a thawed container of Cool Whip, then refrigerate. Make sure you use a really big bowl to accommodate all the awesomeness! Maybe even a double batch will be appropriate! Keep refrigerated until serving time. They’ll surely have the fridge space.

    4. Above commenter*

      – If you want to be fancy, do the same as the meatballs but with Li’l Smokies and barbecue sauce. Don’t forget the toothpicks! That makes them classy. Serve in a crock pot to keep hot.

    5. Above commenter*

      – Grape jelly meat balls- Open 1 or 2 bags of frozen meatballs, thaw on stovetop, then dump in crock pot. Add equal parts grape jelly and ketchup until you are happy with the amount of sauce. Adjust flavors as needed: not sweet enough? More jelly! Need tang? More ketchup! Put tooth picks next to crock pot for people to pick them out; spoons are just extra dishes. Be sure to label the crock pot “grape jelly ketchup meatballs” so that once they try them and realize how awesome they are (really, they truly are) they can Google the recipe.

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        I can vouch for the grape jelly meatballs. Sounds familiar to what a friend used to make for church pot lucks. Never made them myself. They are surprisingly good.

    6. Above commenter*

      – Lime jello with carrots: This is my husband’s family’s thing, and I don’t make it. But if you Google it, you’ll get tons of variations, all 5 stars. Some even have cabbage. It’s truly a cultural phenomenon. The big 9×13 casserole dish is always empty at the end! Don’t worry, they’ll have the fridge space.

    7. Still me*

      I think the system thinks I’m spamming, so I might have to stop. But lime jello carrot salad is BIG in my circles.

  72. km85*

    Oh HALES yea #3! Are you my alma matter?

    Just bribe the profs with tootsie rolls :)

    Love, ’08 grad

  73. Dawn*

    It’s been so long since I used it I don’t know if it has the same function, but Discord has a timed mute feature, where you can turn off notifications from any person or channel for 15 minutes, 1 hour, 3 hours, etc. If Slack has a similar capability, and I really feel like it should, you could just put this person on a one hour mute when a meeting starts and be blissfully unaware.

  74. Janeway, Her Coffee In Hand*

    Re: putting the wrong company in a cover letter, I’ve done that and still got an interview. It really depends on the person and what else you have going for you. Don’t despair!

  75. EA*

    That’s a bummer LW5 – probably a dealbreaker, and you can’t do much of anything at this point. I’d just hope the hiring manager doesn’t notice and keep applying to other jobs!

  76. DoItIfYouSignUp*

    OP3, however you handle this, make sure that once a student has a commitment from a professor to do a project with them that commitment is kept.

    My undergraduate honors thesis advisor disappeared with no warning for 8+ weeks two weeks after agreeing to be my advisor and when it was too late for me to change course. He came back, I had to change to a less interesting project because my final version – not a draft- was due just under 3 weeks after he reappeared. I spend 21-22 hours a day 7 days a week working on it for those three weeks and just barely managed to cobble together what would have been a passable draft (a herculean effort for a project that was supposed to be ~40-50 hours of work for ~12 weeks) but not very good for the final paper, did a good job defending it so I was given another week to clean it up, didn’t do a great job at that because I was exhausted and brain dead, but managed to get a B-, the lowest passing grade.

    It sucked, and it was all the professor’s fault for agreeing to be my advisor (which he did not have to do) then disappearing for who knows why for so long (he never explained himself).

  77. Candace*

    Re #3 – if those shirking faculty are tenured, there won’t be a darn thing you can do that will actually work. Being a crummy project mentor to students and doing the minimum work will not rise to the level of firing a tenured professor. And I’m speaking as someone who HAS gotten a tenured Vice provost fired – but a) he was embezzling grant funds and b) it was still nearly impossible. And the shoot-the-messenger price was pretty high. I had to not give up, and it still meant I was never promoted again. I left. But I did get the crooked jerk fired.

  78. miles of olau*

    LW3 – This is actually a systemic problem with required capstones. Requiring all students to do something is a recipe for shirking and headaches. I know that assessment teams like capstones because they close the loop on program objectives but they are a total pain. The institution rarely wants to put resources behind the required capstone (i.e., staff) and just wants it done. I will go to my grave arguing that capstones only work for some programs/majors in some instances.

  79. Nopity Nope*

    #1: The solution is a big fat marker with which to write “NO” in big fat letters on the sign-up sheet.

  80. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

    My mother is retired SES (career service employee, not political appointee), and I showed her OP 1. She was absolutely floored that anyone would remotely think that this is OK, and agreed that you should go straight up the food chain and get this shut down.

    She also said that at the level of OP’s bosses (and hers), it’s just expected that all the leadership pitches in $20–30 and gets themselves whatever they want to eat.

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