is my employee taking credit for my work, manager favors our two-faced coworker, and more

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

1. Is my employee’s conference presentation taking credit for my work?

My question is one part reaction check, one part management advice. I run a small marketing team that didn’t exist at this company before I created it five years ago. I had some adjacent experience and figured everything else out as I went. Last year, we had an internal transfer to my team; she also didn’t have any marketing experience, but was eager to learn. She was brought on to expand upon and lead some social media marketing projects that I had done some work on, but had been stretched too thin to dedicate the time needed for it.

Fast forward 18 months, and she reached out for financial support to attend an industry conference. She wanted to learn more about social media strategy and develop her skills. This is great! I love continuous education opportunities for my team! I approved the request.

The next week I found out via a LinkedIn post she made that she applied and was accepted as a speaker at the conference, with the topic of how to create a social media function at a small company. In this post, she shared that she was able to build this function on her own, and she was excited to share her expertise with others at this conference. She has not mentioned to me directly that she will be a speaker.

So going back to my two-part question: First, the way she describes her role and her projects in the post effectively cuts my work and guidance out of the picture. I know I’m taking this too personally, but how “too personally?” I want to be a supportive manager and I want her to feel empowered, but frankly, this makes me less excited to be a cheerleader for her because it feels like she just took the credit.

Secondly, I think there is some genuine feedback to give here, but I’m struggling to parse it out from my personal feelings. She misrepresented her goals for the conference in her proposal and she’s misrepresenting her expertise to conference attendees (who are paying thousands of dollars!). However, it’s not affecting her work at our company, so is it even something I should be addressing? If so, how? If not, advice on letting this go?

Is she misrepresenting her expertise to conference attendees? It’s pretty normal for speaker bios to present the speaker in the best possible light, and usually they don’t include things like “under the tutelage of ManagerName” (unless the manager is so well-known that their name would be a draw). Granted, I don’t have all the facts that you do, but it doesn’t sound that outrageous for her to frame her work as building out your social media function; it sounds like she was hired to lead those projects. That doesn’t negate the work you did before she came on board or undermine you as her manager. If there’s something specific about the way she’s framing things that feels truly fraudulent, you’d of course want to address that — but otherwise this sounds like pretty standard conference speaker stuff.

It’s not clear to me whether she knew she was speaking at the conference when she asked you to fund her attendance. If she did, it’s a little surprising that she didn’t mention it, but not necessarily nefarious. You could just raise it with her and see what she says! For example: “I saw you’re leading a session on X! That’s great. You didn’t mention it when you asked for funding, so I wanted to make sure you know that’s something we love to see and would always appreciate knowing about.” (And if there are details that make this weirder that weren’t in the letter, you could change that to, “I was surprised you didn’t mention it when we talked about funding to attend — any reason for that?”)

2. Our manager favors our rumor-spreading, two-faced coworker

I work in a small team within a big organization. The team has been fairly close, but that all changed recently when we found out that one of our coworkers, Sam, has been spreading malicious rumors about another coworker who had to take time off for personal and family issues (miscarriage/sickness/vacation), saying things to the management team like how they’re always out or calling out sick whenever. They also spread rumors about people “taking advantage” of the hybrid schedule whenever we were not on-site. We confronted Sam privately (and separately) and they said there was no malicious intent. We later found out multiple other teammates had asked them to stop spreading negative rumors about their own teammates.

Then we realized our direct supervisor was privately emailing Sam for assignments and projects, and none of the rest of us would ever be included in the communication. So whenever Sam would call out for a broken fridge or car troubles, we would suddenly be asked to do double work because there had been no communication previously about the work. As time went on, we found out that Sam had also been stealing credit for the team’s work, which we also asked them to stop — but they believed they were right to do so, based on “last person to touch” logic.

We spoke with management about the lack of communication and respect from Sam, but also the lack of transparency from our supervisor funneling all communication to Sam. The resolution was that the supervisor would speak directly with Sam.

A few months after their conversation (which no one else was present for) the supervisor continues to privately message Sam, who now informs the team that they’re working on “something else” for the supervisor, but never shares the information with the us, likely out of spite. Sam also gets super passive-aggressive whenever the team decides to work on projects and not include them. I’ve tried pushing for collaboration and open communication, but so far nothing has improved. What can I do? Should I just look to transfer/promote to another team?

Yes, or even look outside the company altogether. Your managers know about the issue and, for whatever reason, aren’t acting on it. There’s too much drama around Sam and your supervisor, and you don’t have the power to fix it. Your best move is to just get out.

3. How did I make this terrible hire?

I’m an in-house recruiter in a medical start-up. About three weeks ago, I made a job offer to someone I felt was an excellent fit for a sales role. They happily accepted. Well, the hiring manager informed me two weeks ago that I might have to find a replacement because the new hire had been rude to her and to the trainer her first week. Very odd as these are both friendly and professional people. I don’t know the specifics but was told that the hire was very rude and mean during training, which is done over video (we’re a fully remote company), and in several emails to the manager. This rather shocked me as the candidate was perfectly lovely to me, behaved professionally, and was very well qualified for the role.

Last week, this hire resigned suddenly, claiming they hadn’t been paid. We pay bi-weekly and the deposit had not yet hit their bank account. I always go over the specifics of pay during the screening so they were fully aware of this.

Nothing like this has ever happened to me before and I’ve made hundreds of hires over the years. I’ve been in HR for many years and thought I had developed a thick skin, but I can’t shake the idea that I’m partly to blame for not seeing something during the interview. I can’t recall a single red flag either during the screening, formal interview, or afterwards in our emails. And no, we didn’t contact references. My company doesn’t do reference checks. Maybe we should start?

Sometimes you are going to make bad hires because it’s not a perfect science! If this is your first hiring mistake after hundreds of hires, you’ve been very lucky … although I suspect previous bad hires might have been more along the lines of “can’t do the job the way we need it done,” whereas this person just seems like a jerk and so you feel like you should have spotted that earlier.

Except it’s not always something you can spot in a hiring process! Some people interview very well and can hold it together for a few meetings or when the stakes feel particularly high but are horrible to work with. It sounds like this person was one. (Alternately, any chance there’s something else going on, like that you and the candidate were both male and the manager and trainer were both women? It’s worth thinking about — but sometimes people are just jerks and there’s nothing deeper happening.)

However, yes, you should do reference checks. They can significantly decrease the chances of surprises like this.

4. My housekeeper’s daughter doesn’t have any books

I employ a housekeeper, Maria. I am very happy with her work. Maria is a recent immigrant who speaks only Spanish. I used to speak Spanish well; I now have a medical condition that makes it hard for me to remember words in any language, but I still do my best.

Recently, Maria had a childcare issue and brought her first-grade daughter, Katie, to my home while she worked. That is not a problem. I gave Katie the basket of age-appropriate toys I keep on hand; Katie entertained herself for a while, then went out of her way to talk to me. Katie also only speaks Spanish. Katie told me that she had a book that was teaching her to read and write before she immigrated with her family, but she had to leave it behind, and now she does not have any books at home. I pulled out my collection of age-appropriate books and Katie spent the rest of her mom’s work time reading and describing pictures to me, I think very happily. I confirmed with Katie that she goes to school; she gave me several relevant details that make me completely sure she is in school.

I know Maria is a good mother who cares deeply about her children. Also, there’s a child in my community who obviously loves reading and says she has no books at home. If Katie were any other child in my life, I would know exactly what to do: make sure the family has access to the library (which has a great Spanish section), get Katie a couple books of her own, and let Maria know I would be happy any time to help make sure Katie always has access to books.

However, Katie is my employee’s daughter. Maria is great at taking feedback about her work, but she is less open to feedback in other areas. (Once, I forgot the word for “light” when she told me something was light, so I asked if she would like help carrying it; she gave me a speech about how she is an independent woman and I should let her work.) I think I have a generally positive relationship with Maria, but I know my impression is complicated by her having to be nice to me for her job, as well as cultural barriers. I also do not think Maria working for me means she has to hear my thoughts on her parenting.

However, I would love to help Katie have access to books at home if there is a reasonable and respectful way for me to do this. (For example, my niece has outgrown several books that are bilingual in English and Spanish and her parents want to give them away – could I offer them to Maria? I would also be happy to buy Katie new books.) If there is a good script for this situation, there are fluent Spanish speakers in my life I could contact for help getting it exactly right in Spanish.

I think you might be overthinking it! Buy Katie a few Spanish-language books or get the ones your niece has outgrown and ask Maria if Katie would like them. You could say, “I saw how much she loved looking at books when she was here so I wanted to give her some as a gift.”

I suspect you’re worried there’s some inherent criticism of Maria for not supplying Katie with books herself, but that doesn’t need to be the subtext at all. After all, you could offer Katie some books even if she had her own extensive stash at home — and you can approach this just like you would then.

5. How do I correct people who call me the wrong name via email?

You recently published a letter where the writer asked how to get people to spell their name correctly, and it reminded me of a similar (and kind of bizarre) issue I’ve been having.

Our email addresses are all in the format [first initial][last name], and we have a standard Outlook signature that contains our full name, company website, etc. Surprisingly often, clients will respond to an email from me with some form of “Thanks, [my email alias]!” instead of “Thanks, [my actual name as shown in my signature]!” Weirder still, they don’t even spell the alias correctly as it appears in my email address.

Let me try to illustrate what I mean. Say my name was Katherine Eavon. My company email address would be, right? And all of my emails are signed, in bold letters, “Best regards, Katherine Eavon.” But I have clients responding with “Thanks Kevin!” and even calling my office — having presumably gotten the phone number from the signature with my actual name — and asking for Kevin.

It’s such a small issue but I just can’t wrap my head around the logic. I could maybe understand the occasional “thanks Keavon,” but like … do they think my email alias is my first name spelled incorrectly? Are there that many people using software that purposely hides email signatures? Is my name really Kevin and no one told me?

It happens so often that it’s become a bit of a running joke in our office. One of my coworkers gave me a Hello, My Name Is Kevin name tag as a gag gift. It’s all in good fun around the water cooler, but how do I reply to clients and say, “Hey jackass, check my signature, that’s not my name” without sounding rude?

I think it’s the same basic reason as why people address their emails to Allison when my email address with Alison is right in front of them. In your case, their eyes are glancing on what they process as a version of the name “Kevin” and their brains go “noted, Kevin,” and then their brains convert it to the spelling they’re most familiar with when they type it out. They’re not thinking about any more than that (definitely not to the point of wondering why your email address spelled it differently).

I’d just include “My name is Katherine, not Kevin!” when you reply … but, similar to the letter from earlier this week, the more you can not care, the better.

Also, though, any chance your company would change your email address to katherine@? Big companies are often wed to standardized email address formats, but if you’re at a smaller company they might be willing to just change it.

{ 534 comments… read them below }

  1. Anona*

    My petty mind immediately thought something romantic or sexual could be going on between Sam and the supervisor. How do they interact? Does Sam suck up, flirt or always talk to the supervisor? How does the supervisor treat others who are not Sam?

    Agree to get out, however I know that might not be doable to get out ASAP and you don’t want to go to another terrible place.

    1. Brain the Brian*

      Not gonna lie — this is a weird take to me. Sam just sounds like an annoying, pushy employee whose various crackpot ideas and overinflated ego management is tired of dealing with to the point that they’ve collectively given up trying to rein him in or push back on him. He’s running roughshod over the place, but I don’t think it’s because he’s having an affair with his supervisor. The LW should still try to get out if possible.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        (I do want to acknowledge that I’ve misgendered Sam here; the LW’s comment below says Sam is a single woman. But really, an affair is quite a leap to make, and although I don’t have complete information, I still think Sam just sounds like an annoying coworker who knows how to keep management in her corner.)

      2. Cat Tree*

        Yeah, life isn’t a movie where every drama has a sexual scandal behind it. It’s just standard office politics.

        1. Lucci*

          I’ve found sex to be the root of strange office management or behavior more times than I can count. I’ve also mostly worked in offices full of 20 somethings, so my view may be skewed.

          That said, there’s no way Sam would be getting away with this behavior if she wasn’t involved closely with someone higher up. I do not mean to say she slept her way into her job, or anything of that nature, but behavior like this that goes completely ignored by anyone higher up generally means she’s protected by someone – and unless she’s related to someone at work, sex is the easiest way to get that protection.

          1. JGRV*

            It seems to be a popular opinion going around the office (so much so that it’s been the source of some nasty nicknames).

            One of my teammates and I have come to a hypothesis that perhaps Sam has something related to legal HR issues that they’re holding onto that they’re leveraging. They’ve gotten a promotion that at least 30 other people within the same department got passed over, because management wanted to specifically help pay in finishing Sam’s degree. One of the requirements for the promotion was to have a degree, and we had at least half of the people in that 30 that I know of personally, who actually had a completed degree. This raised a lot of eyebrows in the organization, and I was also curious what allowed them to bypass the hard requirements set for the promotion.

            While I’m likely biased, this promotion does not affect me as I have a higher position, but watching it all unravel, and the promotion getting skipped on some very talented people did make me also question how Sam was able to get it before any of the other contenders for the position.

            1. Jellybeans*

              Can you explain why Sam making a factual statement that someone is out a lot is “gossiping” but you and your friends badmouthing her and inventing wild theories about her blackmailing people and giving “personal” favours isn’t far, far worse gossip?

          2. bamcheeks*

            This is so wild! I’ve seen this kind of promotion and protection go on for all sorts of reasons– we get on because we support the same football team, we went to the same fancy uni, we are both from the same working-class area unlike the rest of these poshos, you remind me of myself at your stage, we both like going out drinking, we’re the only two here who work hard and hustle unlike these checked out losers– there’s a million possibilities!

    2. JGRV*

      I think you’re probably closer to the truth so I don’t think it’s petty at all — Sam’s a single woman and have been getting a lot of benefits at work even when you compare their interaction to other female coworkers who actually have technical skills and aptitude for the job they were hired for. For instance, Sam takes 4-6 hours to do a simple report, something that multiple peers, even new hires, do within 1-2 hours (not exaggerating), and Sam also continuously gives wrong data in their reports due to their lack of understanding.

      It’s not included in the letter, as it’s speculative and my response is likely biased, but several coworkers outside our team have observed and drawn the same conclusion about the biased relationship between Sam and the supervisor. Many of us suspect that there may be something going on behind closed doors.

      The supervisor frequently engages in casual conversations and catches up with the team whenever Sam is present. However, when Sam is absent, the supervisor rarely enters or passes by the office. This pattern, noticeable to even those outside our team, suggests a distinct bias.

      Sam can be described as a professional in office politics, adept at navigating the dynamics to their advantage. They have been notably attentive, often ingratiating themselves with supervisors and management to an extreme degree, bordering on flirtation. This behavior starkly contrasts with their interactions with peers, earning them nicknames like “Rudolph the Brown-Nosed Reindeer” and “Knee-Pads” from individuals not directly affected by their actions. These names reflect the widespread recognition of Sam’s tendency to steal credit for others’ work and throw colleagues under the bus to enhance their own standing.

      Despite efforts to address the issue directly with Sam, the enabling supervisor, and even by distancing ourselves to maintain productivity, it has become clear that the situation is untenable. Sam’s behavior—stealing work, feigning distress and sorrow to solicit help, and using political maneuvering, gaslighting, and blatant lying—has demoralized the team and negatively impacted the morale of surrounding teams who have witnessed Sam’s duplicitous nature.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        Please get out of that workplace as soon as you can. You’re in a team with weak management that has allowed the situation to get so bad that people make up childish nicknames for an (admittedly aggravating) coworker; clearly, your workplace is warping your idea of normal in all aspects. These are not people I would want to associate with, if I could help it; if they’re saying nasty things about and spreading rumors of an affair (!!) involving Sam, I would surmise they might be unkind things about me when I’m out of earshot, too. And Sam is a vortex of unaddressed problems, as you’ve outlined extensively. Go find someplace with decent management and respectful coworkers!

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I’ve got to second this. Management have shown you how much they care about the situation, and how important they think it is to change it. Meanwhile your coworkers (understandably or not, I can’t say third hand) have taken the crab bucket approach of wallowing in group bitterness.

          Don’t crab bucket yourself down in there on some sort of “If I leave I’m letting management win” scenario. Management is winning now. They are getting exactly what they want.

        2. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Agreed, OP, you need to get out and fast! I’m totally mystified as to why management, when hearing about the problem with Sam and the supervisor, thought the best response would be for the supervisor to speak to Sam. Um…what? “Hey, management, we think Sam and Super are shutting the rest of us out!” “Ok, we’ll have Super talk to Sam about that.”

          No, the correct response would be for management to talk to Super about how he can’t treat Sam differently than he treats the rest of the team. Management is either completely clueless about how to do their job, or they don’t care what’s actually happening, or they are also on Sam and Super’s side and are totally onboard with shutting the rest of you out. In any case, the only solution would be to remove yourself from the situation. So sorry, OP, that sounds like a tough situation to be in.

          1. Anne Shirley Blythe*

            That baffled me too. I reread the sentence to make sure I wasn’t missing something.

            1. JGRV*

              Yes, this baffled me as well when I found out that the resolution after management had a meeting with every single teammates with different testimonials (some from people outside of the team), and that was their big solution. That’s when it all spiraled out of control.

        3. Norma*

          If my coworkers were calling me “kneepads” (!!!) behind my back I would be going to HR to report them for sexual harassment, FYI. That’s just gross.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        These names reflect the widespread recognition of Sam’s tendency to steal credit for others’ work and throw colleagues under the bus.

        That’s not what those nicknames mean.

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          Those nicknames are pretty horrible. I get that Sam’s coworkers are frustrated with Sam and with the management and it sounds like they have reason to be, but I also don’t think the coworkers are blameless here. Those nicknames are completely unacceptable regardless of Sam’s behaviour.

          Honestly, this workplace sounds toxic all around. It sounds like undermining people, spreading rumours and being nasty about them is widespread. Sam is being horrible spreading rumours about colleagues but it sounds like others are also bullying Sam with nasty names and pretty much spreading rumours or at least making insinuations about Sam.

          I really think getting out of that workplace sounds like a really good idea.

        2. But maybe not*

          Yeah, big time yikes on the nicknames. Get the hell out and quick. What a horrible place to work.

        3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          Yeah. If nothing else, OP, while job searching please do not participate in the name calling of Sam. Sam is unprofessional but you don’t have to follow their lead.

          The whole place is a toxic dump piled on top of a toxic swamp.

          P.S. Sam is totally acting out of malicious intent. Don’t freeze them out of work, but the bare minimum is all you need to do. Limited interaction is the only way to protect yourself.

        4. JGRV*

          You’re right. I explained it poorly, I probably skipped over some of the things Sam’s known for — but generally that nickname I think originated from when Sam got their promotion and their open borderline flirtation with management in multiple occasions. I guess for the brown-nose part at least, I’ve seen them many times change from being tired and unhappy about the workload — to suddenly laughing and smiling whenever management walked in to talk about something. It’s somewhat surreal when I look back and see how fast their demeanor and mood changed and how they always laugh whenever management talks. They would accept any and all requests, even if it’s unreasonable or stepping on other teams’ toes, because it would be a request from management.

          One clear example I can infer to personally, was when Sam said yes to a project request that was clearly impossible for the application we manage, and when the entire team said it’s not a good idea, Sam agreed to take on the responsibility. When we questioned why they did this when the entire team was against it — their exact words were “I can’t say no to management, they’re my manager.” And it would be one thing if they resolved it, but they later called out sick and I had to be one of the people picking it up and fixing it because now there was a deadline for it and we had to work hours to make a workaround to partially fulfill the request. They later took credit for it, from multiple meetings we were not invited to.

          I couldn’t really explain how the other nicknames came about, since I find out about these nicknames in a conversation randomly, and I feel a bit awkward/uncomfortable when I hear things like that — but I can only guess it’s due to events like getting a promotion while not meeting bare requirements, and openly sharing the story (Sam themselves gloated about it to another teammate while I was not there) about how the management team wanted to help Sam financially in an ethical manner.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            It does not matter how you explain it, that nickname is unexcusable under any circumstances. Sam is not the only person who looks bad in this situation.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              I should have added–i agree with others saying you should get out of there because between bad management and employees thinking that kind of nickname is ok, this place sounds toxic all around

          2. Anon for this*

            Yeah, it’s just nasty, it’s not just inappropriate, it actually likely constitutes illegal harassment/discrimination. This is like a textbook example of a hostile environment.

            If people are openly sexually harassing someone, I wouldn’t really be trusting them to tell the truth about this person. Who’s to say she even spread those rumors?

            I used to work in a place like this where everything was twisted. “Jane said her degree was funded fully, that must mean the company funded it!” (But actually, Jane had a scholarship.) “Jane has a terrible work ethic!” (Jane once said “Working hard or hardly working?” as a joke.)

          3. Malarkey01*

            I think your perspective is wrapped- which happens in toxic environments. Not complaining and being upbeat around managers is fairly normal- lots of people don’t vent to managers. Having a problem pushing back to their manager’s request is also incredibly common and many people feel like they need to follow manager directions and find solutions. While you should work on pushing back and explaining roadblocks that doesn’t deserve being called a brown noser (also a gross nickname).

            It also seems like you keep really glowing over knee pads which is serious sexual harrassment and having it stem from a promotion and saying she flirted to get it is a really really bad look.
            Please know that from an outside perspective this would reflect badly on the team and not Sam and make sure you don’t take these attitudes to a new job as it would be really out of place in a nontoxic job (which is the real danger of toxic workplaces).

      3. flag*

        Even from a LW, I don’t think we should tolerate “she’s a woman, so she’s probably sleeping with her supervisor” as the goto explanation.

        1. HonorBox*

          While there’s obviously no direct proof, the LW does have quite a bit more context about the biased relationship. Speculating that something else might be going on isn’t exactly a stretch, especially since it isn’t just the LW going there. It doesn’t mean that they’re sleeping together, but it is obvious that Sam is flirty and there is a different dynamic between Sam and supervisor.

        2. Six for the truth over solace in lies*

          Yes. Is there open speculation of an affair? Would the same people say those things if it was a man operating the same way? If not, if the speculation comes partly because of Sam’s gender, then that’s a real problem and another sign of toxicity.

      4. Vincent*

        “Knee-Pads” is so shockingly misogynistic and inappropriate that it’s making me question everything else in your account of Sam’s behavior.

        1. Silver Robin*

          sounded to me like other teams gave that nickname since it was folks not directly affected by the issue who use them.

          Agreed though on the awfulness; my eyebrows reached the sky.

        2. Ms. Norbury*

          That’s a bit of a leap, OP gave no indication that they aprove of or use the nicknames, just that other people do. It’s unquestionably gross and innapropriate, but blaming OP for it seems unfair.

          1. k.*

            Disagree with this. Anyone who heard that nickname and didn’t at minimum say “that’s completely unacceptable” needs to do some serious soul-searching.

        3. Irish Teacher.*

          It certainly puts context on Sam being passive-aggressive when not included in projects. Given the nastiness of those names, I think it very likely that when teams work on projects and don’t include her, it is done in a way that makes it clear she is actively being excluded and not just that her input isn’t needed.

          It does sound like there are problems with Sam, but honestly, it sounds like there are similar problems with other members of the team and the whole place sounds like a toxic middle school class, with people being excluded, calling names, sneaking to the “teacher” with tales, passing around rumours…

        4. Pippa K*

          I was scrolling down to say the same thing. Makes me think a letter from Sam’s perspective might describe a very different situation. “I get on well with my supervisor, but some of my coworkers seem to resent that and constantly trash my reputation. It’s not just that they criticize my work skills and don’t share assignment info with me; they actually call me sexist names like Knee Pads. It’s so demoralizing.”

        5. JGRV*

          The nicknames are definitely inappropriate. I just shared what was being used around in multiple chats I happen to be part of. I’ve been the only one who Sam still talks to within the team, since I’m still the only one making an effort to keep a civil interaction. The rest of the team blatantly ignores Sam, and it gets very awkward when people involved are in the same room (virtually or onsite).

          As I probably and poorly explained, I believe there’s something going on behind closed doors, my personal hypothesis was something to do with legal HR issues since Sam always used to brag about having a very close friend with HR and the supervisor in question sometimes does questionable things (even prior to Sam joining the team).

          As you can probably deduce, the popular opinion going around the office is that Sam has been having some other ‘dealings’ behind closed doors, based on those nicknames going around. Mainly tried to give context that Sam has a questionable reputation amongst teams, and that the organization itself seems somewhat toxic (I’ve clearly become desensitized to it).

        6. Knope Knope Knope*

          Yeah I did big record scratch when I read that. Like Sam is a problem but she is not the only problem here. Get out OP. Talking about someone that way is gross.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I suspect this is one where if you resolve the Just One Thing glaring issue taking up all the attention, it will turn out there were a whole lot of other problems.

            1. JGRV*

              You may be right, reading on comments from outside — somethings that are clearly apparent and obvious eluded me. The entire place is toxic, and I don’t even know anymore haha… I’m just defeated, but at the same time I feel like the conversations here have helped open my eyes a bit more on how toxic and crazy it is. I definitely need some time away and use my many weeks of PTO accrued to readjust my sense of normalcy.

              I genuinely just want to continue clocking in, work, clocking out since this is genuinely my first time experiencing something like this at a workplace.

              1. Festively Dressed Earl*

                I hope you don’t think we’re piling on you. On the bright side, you haven’t bitten anyone yet. On the non-bright side, this is the sort of dysfunctional hellhole where biting people eventually seems normal, and it can take a long time to shake off the skewed norms even when you’ve tried to stay out of the mess.

                Here’s hoping we’re reading about your successful escape from this situation in a Friday Good News sometime soon!

                1. Six for the truth over solace in lies*

                  Yes, get out now before you mentally normalize blowjob jokes and nasty gossip and take that to your next job.

              2. Deanna Troi*

                JGRV, I’m very impressed that you are paying attention to the comments here and aren’t being defensive. Working there has numbed you to how horrifying and toxic this workplace is. I’m glad you’re realizing that it is never okay to refer to anyone by these names, no matter what the context. I hope you can find a new job where people are decent and kind to one another.

      5. Hyaline*

        Wait—Sam’s gossip mongering per the letter was limited to negative framing about time off work but the entire office is gossiping about her purported affair with the boss going as far as to give her sexually explicit nicknames? Yikes—Sam is not the only problem here. Sounds like this office culture is a cesspool.

      6. HonorBox*

        I think the whole situation is past the point of toxic and fixable at this point LW. I’d find a way out as quickly as I can. Issues have been raised with your supervisor and nothing is changing. Sam’s behavior is awful, and the supervisor allowing/supporting it makes the situation impossible for everyone else to work happily and productively. Who knows what exactly is going on between them, but there’s clearly support for Sam’s behavior, and unless you find yourself with a new supervisor, I don’t think Sam’s behavior will change. Even Sam leaving (which, why would they…) doesn’t change the fact that the supervisor has shown you enough to know that they’re not someone who you can trust to be effective and supportive to the rest of the team.

      7. Sparkles McFadden*

        I’ve been where you are and you can’t fix this. For whatever reason, your boss values Sam. Sometimes, it’s a sexual thing, but the why of it hardly matters. I’ve seen people value the employee who told the boss what he wanted to hear, or the guy who was the son of a friend, or the guy took the boss out drinking every night. One boss created a job for his brother-in-law. We never found out what the guy was supposedly working on because he wasn’t trained on anything the rest of us did, and he never came to the office except for departmental meetings. One boss promoted another completely unqualified person to management job and told the very qualified rejected candidate “He reminds me so much of my father, I know he’ll be good at being in charge.” (He wasn’t.)

        My point is that damaged people bring their dysfunction to the job, and bad managers use their position of power to protect the favored employee no matter what anyone else says or does. No amount of evidence will sway such a boss. As Alison says “Your boss sucks and is not going to change.” You need to find someplace better.

        1. JGRV*

          You’re definitely right. Reading what others have said, I think I’ve just tried to change things and make things work when there clearly is no way to fix it with what power I might have (if any). I guess this is just my first time experiencing this weird dynamic, and I might have not even realized the toxicity goes beyond just Sam and the supervisor. I never realized what it meant to be desensitized to something until I read the comments to be honest, and I feel kind of sick thinking that the toxicity has become a ‘norm’.

          1. Plate of Wings*

            Aww LW, this sounds so frustrating. I’m glad you wrote in and I hope the comment section is helpful in the long run even though it’s probably not a fun realization now.

            You sound like someone who values a solid team working well together to accomplish big things in little time. I hope you find another team where that happens!

          2. ThatOtherClare*

            It’s ok JRGV. You’re in the right place to help you re-sensitise yourself as you search for a new job.

            I was once in a very similar workplace to yours, except Sam and Super were two straight men making the toxic comments about the women in the organisation. I had read a little AAM before, so when I realised how messed up my workplace was, I started reading back through the archives in my lunch break to recalibrate my sense of normal. It worked surprisingly well as a reminder of what isn’t normal and what I shouldn’t have had to put up with. The job searching I did at home on a personal computer. Best of luck with your own upcoming search!

      8. JGRV*

        Working in this environment for several years has undoubtedly warped my sense of normalcy. The nicknames for Sam originated from various coworkers, many outside our team, who also had unpleasant experiences with Sam.

        I generally prefer to clock in, work, and clock out, avoiding office politics and focusing on doing good work and maintaining civility. Reflecting on this, perhaps I could have done better, but I feel like I’m the only one left from the team trying to keep the team together while understanding why Sam changed and began throwing people under the bus. One to two members of our team transferred to another team, and many of us are looking elsewhere now already.

        There have been instances where Sam misrepresented situations to management. For example, when a coworker called out sick and informed us a few hours in advance on Teams, Sam would falsely claim that the coworker “always calls out,” painting a negative image. I had to correct Sam several times before management got the wrong idea, but usually, the initial impression stuck. Another instance involved a coworker who had a miscarriage. Both Sam and the supervisor knew this coworker was on leave to be with their loved one, but Sam spread nasty rumors about the coworker in their absence, which I later learned from another team member.

        Perhaps other coworkers are also biased or over-exaggerating, but when I later questioned Sam during a team outing before our fallout, Sam made a careless and heartless remark about their teammate going through a rough time with the miscarriage.

        It is challenging to describe all that Sam has done without sounding biased, as I have been in the middle of it all, trying to hold things together when management should be retaining skilled team members. Hearing the nicknames from multiple teams made me think it was normal. Looking at it from an outside perspective, I see how bad the nicknames are, although I have heard worse. Sam blamed new hires, who were highly motivated and trying to gain experience, for their bad numbers with baseless remarks. As a result, the supervisor demoted the new hires to less visible shifts, putting them on nights and swing shifts.

        Additionally, when our team tried to avoid drama and politics and focus on work, we were deprived of work because everything was funneled to Sam. When another team leader sent us a project request, I tried to use it to unite the team. Sam was included, and I tried to ensure everyone worked cooperatively towards a common goal. However, Sam took over the project and presented it to management without inviting two of our teammates who were on their regular day off. Those working from home were only looped in at the end of the meeting because Sam “forgot to send everyone an invite.”

        A few months later, we got involved in another project. Sam was visibly deep in many projects but avoided inviting everyone by claiming they were working on “something else” and evading questions. Since Sam was busy, the rest of my team took on a project, presented it openly to all management, and kept Sam in the loop. This presentation was recorded and available to all staff. Sam, who was invited to the meeting, came in later that day and, upon hearing about the project from a coworker, became passive-aggressive, ignored the team, and made underhanded comments like “secret project” in front of management.

        In recent months, I have noticed Sam’s close friends at work asking several people during outings for birthdays and holidays whether they should trust Sam or be more careful around them. These questions arose randomly, without any mention of Sam. During another recent outing, I was enjoying a meal with friends when a team from a different building asked another coworker why Sam is so favored by management in the entire department, questioning what Sam does differently. These incidents stand out because they highlight a growing distrust towards Sam, even among those who were once considered close friends of Sam — and that generally is something I remember since it seemed a bit off that a close friend would openly question their teammate.

        I’m rambling at this point, so I’ll cut it here. I brought this up in the first place because I was confused if there was some missing puzzle and I could somehow ‘fix’ the situation. But I’ve also somewhat lost the drive to fix this entire ordeal and instead focusing my efforts on promoting out or transferring laterally. I came to this conclusion when one of my teammates mentioned that they dread coming to work only because of Sam — and they sometimes have nightmares due to the office politics. I realize myself and many of my teammates negatively affected are not great with office politics, but I’ve started to feel the same dread and can’t feel comfortable even using my PTO to rest because I am concerned what will happen if I’m not there.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          You are not a supervisor, not your job to keep the team together. Stick to your plan of clock in, work, clock out. Stay out of the politics and deal with Sam as little as possible.

          1. JGRV*

            Yes, you’re definitely right. I just wanted to keep the team together because besides the drama and the crazy stuff going on — I genuinely enjoy working with the teammates I have, and believe they’re all very talented people.

            I feel very powerless since nothing has improved, so I’ve been just working and trying to stay out of it all. It’s just a bit hard when Sam gets funneled a lot of the work from the supervisor, so sometimes the remainder of the team has to find projects or the ‘hard tasks’ that no one wants to do and are left in the list of ‘to-do’ in the office.

            1. Great Frogs of Literature*

              I agree with everybody else. GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT.

              It sounds like you’re giving your all trying to be the glue that holds this place together, when in fact the “place” is just a conglomeration of rusted saw blades leaning against each other in a vaguely office-shaped configuration. And you’ve gotten sufficiently used to it that you don’t even realize how awful it is until we’re staring at your further explanations in utter horror.

              1. JGRV*

                I can definitely see after reading feedback from others’ insight on this, that I may have become so desensitized I didn’t even realize how bad it really was. Reading how toxic it really seemed (not just Sam and the Supervisor, but the organization), it just ‘clicked’ to me how bad it really is.

                It’s crazy when I look at it now after the comments and my responses — how bad it truly is. I enjoy the work I do, and I kept my head down where possible, but I guess I’ve inadvertently chosen to ignore all the other toxicities that’s been present.

                It really does suck though, since I enjoy the work that I do, and I feel like I’m always learning so much. Everyone has their strengths, including the notorious Sam, and I always just assumed things would work out with time, but I don’t think it’s good for my own health to stick around ‘waiting’ if I’ve come to consider this the norm.

        2. Hlao-roo*

          I want to comment on two parts of your comment:

          perhaps I could have done better

          Maybe, but as Pastor Petty Labelle said, if you’re not a supervisor it’s not your job to keep the team together. And it’s also not your job to fix (what sounds like) an overall toxic vibe. Major culture change can only effectively come from the top, so don’t feel badly that you didn’t/couldn’t single-handedly change things.

          I brought this up in the first place because I was confused if there was some missing puzzle and I could somehow ‘fix’ the situation.

          You’re not the first person to write in about one (small-ish) problem, share more details in the comments, and have people chime in that the whole company sounds like bad news and the best course of action is to job search. When there’s crazy stuff going on outside of our control, it’s pretty natural to ignore that and only focus on the smaller problems that we feel like we can control.

          Keeping your head down and avoiding politics while at work seems like a good short-term plan to me. I think job-searching so that long-term you’re not at a company where people think it’s OK to insinuate a disliked coworker is sleeping with a supervisor is also a good idea.

        3. Knope Knope Knope*

          I don’t think you actually do see how bad the nicknames are. Sam is being sexually harassed at work.

          1. JGRV*

            Reflecting on the comments and my own responses, I am beginning to truly understand the severity of the situation at our workplace.

            I have always felt uneasy about the nicknames for Sam, and while I could have spoken up against them as inappropriate or wrong, I chose to avoid getting involved. I felt that taking sides would only entangle me further in the drama I was trying to avoid.

            Early on, I involved myself in discussions with management to resolve the situation, believing there was a way to fix it. I also attempted to mend the relationship between Sam and my peers through project cooperation, but I was often left disappointed and burnt by the process.

            The nicknames are indeed bad, but they have become so commonplace along with other negative remarks that I became desensitized. It wasn’t until reading the feedback here that I realized the true extent of the problem. That the entire place is toxic, and I probably am getting affected by this environment whether I try to avoid it or not.

            I probably am part of the problem for not doing more, but perhaps I could’ve handled things differently, but it feels like a one-sided battle.

            1. Brain the Brian*

              I’ve likewise come back to the comments after several hours away, and — wow — did things spiral even here! Lots of good advice to get out when you can.

              None of us can assess what might truly be going on with Sam from the outside — not even you, LW — without being in her meetings with management. Maybe she has different metrics than the rest of you and is more focused on securing business than seeing it through, maybe she overcommits herself to try to stretch her capabilities and advance before panicking at the last second and taking sick days to avoid the problem, maybe she’s ignoring management instructions to stop overcommitting and then playing nice in front of them to save face, maybe she’s following other advice on trying to advance in the workplace, maybe she’s truly unaware of how all this looks… or yes, maybe she’s having an affair with someone in management. It’s impossible to tell from the outside, and I encourage you to ignore idle gossip about it.

              Because you obviously can’t just leave tomorrow (job searches take time!), a few humbly-offered suggestions for your remaining time at this company:

              1. If people call Sam nicknames, ignore it. In a more functional workplace, I would encourage you to report it since the nicknames are so egregious that they’re almost certainly a legal violation, but in this situation, I’m worried that your non-Sam coworkers might turn against you if you did so and try to sabotage you in any subsequent investigation. So… do not engage. Grey rock. Just keep calling Sam by her real name and move along.

              2. If Sam calls in sick or otherwise disappears and you have to take on last-minute work for her, tell your manager what you’ll need to drop to pick it up. (“To finish project X for Sam, I’m going to push projects A / B / C until tomorrow / next week. Let me know if you want me to prioritize differently.”) You may already be doing this — but if not, start. Encourage your coworkers to do the same, and model it for them. The key is to do this calmly and professionally, not in some panicked state.

              3. If Sam overcommits to a customer beyond your system’s capabilities and it’s turning out to be impossible to finish something, take the same tactic: “I thought I raised this when we first discussed this project, but maybe not forcefully enough. Our system just plain can’t do this. How about alternative X instead?”

              4. If there’s an exit interview when you do eventually leave, calmly and professionally lay out everything: the horrific name-calling, yes, but also the impression that Sam is playing nice to management and throwing her coworkers under the bus, Sam’s taking credit for work that others have done, the fact that management really seems much more invested in Sam’s success than other employees’ — all of it. Tell them that given how much management seems to favor Sam and how much your coworkers have turned against her, you’ve been afraid to raise these things until now (when none of them have no real hold over you anymore). But do it as objectively and professionally as you can. If management is only hearing one side of the story — for whatever reason — they may not realize how severe others’ responses will be if they take any action. If you share part of the truth with them, you owe them the rest of it.

              5. In general, try not to engage in groupthink about Sam — but also try not to get too close to her if your coworkers start to push you away. Maintain the balance that it sounds like you’re already trying to strike.

              6. Try not to think too much about Sam or your coworkers or the awful management at your current company when you’re not at work. I can tell based on your comments here that you have a lot of pent-up feelings about this whole mess of a situation, and I really encourage you to find some good hobbies and spend quality time with friends and family to maintain your own mental health. Don’t take responsibility for things that should have been management’s problems to — ya know — manage all along.

              There are probably a lot of details that I’ve missed given the sheer volume of comments. For your own sake, don’t take us all *too* seriously here. We are anonymous advice column commenters, after all! :)

              1. k.*

                As a counterpoint — if I found out a colleague I worked with appeared to tacitly approve of a sexually explicit nickname and let it pass by without comment (even if they didn’t use it themselves), I would never trust them again.

                1. Brain the Brian*

                  I agree, actually, and I’m struggling with that part of my advice here, but I really think the whole environment is so toxic that the LW risks being forced out early if they raise their voice about anything other than pure workflow. This is an impossible situation, as people have discussed at length all day.

                2. k.*

                  @Brain the Brian. Yeah, making the ethical choice isn’t always easy or without personal cost. You can choose to ignore this behaviour for your own personal comfort, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. We teach children about not being a bystander when other people are being bullied, and it’s worth holding adults to higher standards.

                3. Brain the Brian*

                  You know, the more I’ve sat with this today, the more I agree. I think I hadn’t fully internalized just how bad the nicknames were earlier (“knee pads” in this context??? Good Lord!), and now that I have, my advice isn’t sitting right with me anymore. I probably should have realized how off-based my first bullet was even based just on the affair rumors, but I digress.

                  LW, you have got to start speaking up when people use these nicknames and spread rumors that Sam is sleeping with someone in management, and you probably need to report it to HR as sexual harassment and a hostile work environment, too — especially if your coworkers don’t stop. It’s a textbook example of a hostile work environment, honestly. If someone else reports it and you’re found to have known about it but let it go unchecked and unreported, you will likely be fired right along with the rest of your coworkers. There will probably be investigations from HR once you report, other members of your team may be let go or severely disciplined as a result of those, and your non-Sam coworkers may start to freeze *you* out, too, but you can’t just continue to be a bystander. There are laws in place to prevent retaliation for reporting something like this, so make sure you know what those are and can articulate them if your coworkers — or, especially, your supervisor — try to freeze you out (although, honestly, it sounds like your supervisor is on Sam’s side here anyway). Management cannot solve a problem they don’t know about, and this is one ingredient of a very toxic stew that’s been brewing under their nose and now needs solving.

                  Bottom line: Sam is annoying, and her work style seems grating, but creating a hostile work environment by spreading sexual rumors about a coworker and using horrible, sex-related nicknames behind their back are illegal — end of story. It’ll be difficult to shift course and put yourself out there in an environment like this, I’m sure, but it’s the right thing to do.

                  And yes: get out of there as soon as you can, before anything else hits the fan. I’m sorry you’ve found yourself in the middle of this mess.

            2. Zarniwoop*

              You are not “part of the problem” for not fixing severe systematic management failures that you have no power or authority over.

        4. Endorable*

          I will be totally honest here. The original post gave me the creeps, and nothing said since has changed my mind. This is definitely a toxic office, but I think that the OP has a bad case of main character syndrome and thinks it’s up to them to fix everything. Put your head down… do your work.. don’t contribute to the incredibly nasty office gossip.. and don’t believe everything you hear from the office grapevine! I get a very bad vibe that there’s something amiss with the relationship between OP and Sam… jealousy… unreciprocated interest… there’s gotta be some reason why they care so much!

      9. Office Plant Queen*

        You probably can’t fix it and your best bet is to get out, but it might be something you can address with HR? Even though you don’t have proof of anything in particular, they might want to know that there is undue favoritism, that the favoritism is causing concrete work problems, and that it’s to the point where many team members are speculating that Sam and their boss have a close relationship outside of work. And also that when problems were brought up to higher level managers, the problems persisted and got worse. The nature of the potential relationship doesn’t matter (romantic, sexual, or good friends) so much as that the preferential treatment is so obvious that people believe something is going on

        1. JGRV*

          I’ve thought about going to HR about this at some point (alongside my teammates), and one of my teammates who talked directly with upper management has been undergoing so much harassment at work, that they’ve opted to just take any job outside of the organization, even if it means making a lateral move (income-wise).

          Since then, many of us have been avoiding making anymore mentions of this, and are trying to keep our heads down and work. I mentioned in another comment, but Sam only talks to me in the team chat, and the other teammates only talk to me — it’s very awkward being the ‘mediator’ and I guess it’s taken a toll on me overtime which led me to send this question in when I’m usually just a lurker.

      10. k.*

        If you hear a colleague calling a woman “Knee-Pads” and don’t immediately shut that down then you’re part of the problem. To me that’s worse than anything you’ve described Sam as doing.

        1. k.*

          (I posted this before reading some of your other comments, and see that you’re reflecting on this. I really encourage you to get out of this misogynistic workplace.)

      11. lime*

        I gotta say…. “Knee pads” is such a gross nickname. Please cut that out. It’s harassment, whether Sam is problematic or not.

        That said, I’ve seen a very similar dynamic in my workplace between two married, straight-presenting men, the director of a department and a manager he supervises. In this case, I think the dynamic is caused by Manager being extremely politically gifted – he’s great at kissing up and kicking down, at appearing to be a charming, impressive guy in front of Important People but then turning around and bullying people below him. Manager is very well-connected at our organization, while Director is newer and therefore less connected. So my theory is that Manager is helping Director by hooking him up with important contacts, and as a result, Director tolerates Manager’s bad behavior and protects him from consequences.

        So… there may not necessarily be a sexual component to Sam and Supervisor’s dynamic. Sam could just be really good at flattering the right egos or maybe she has some kind of other leverage.

      12. Moose*

        Dude you work at a place where other co-workers are basically calling someone a cocksucker in official work communications and you’re justifying it. This is actionable sexual harassment. I think you need to start looking for a position elsewhere and do your very best to unlearn some things that seem to have crept into your view of professionalism at this job.

        If you were previously participating in the name-calling, you need to stop immediately. It is highly inappropriate.

    3. Hyaline*

      I didn’t jump to affair but I did jump to “bet Sam is a total brown-noser” given that she’s getting what seems to be special one on one treatment. I see the gossip mongering and the cultivation of a one on one rapport with the boss as two sides of the same toxic coin—this person will weasel whatever they can to get what they want.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Yeah, until I read the further context this just seemed typical toxic coworker who believes the way to get ahead is to stomp on everyone else. Which is most likely the case. Sam is just using what works in this particular office, using the supervisor’s obvious interest to their advantage. If this were another office, or a different supervisor they would be using another tactic.

        1. JGRV*

          Sam’s shared that they’ve jumped around about 10-15 jobs before joining our organization in the span of a few years, and it does make me question whether it’s because a different supervisor might have not allowed Sam’s toxicity to poison the well. But looking at it from outside, Sam was only able to act this way because management refused to act and rather enable these behaviors. I’m more unhappy with management’s involvement in making the situation worse when personally for me, I just wanted to continue working with the team and thought it’d all get better with time. I might just be a bit inexperienced with office politics, and the nastiness of some folks (as highlighted in how toxic the environment has gotten besides just Sam).

          1. 2 and a Possible*

            “I might just be a bit inexperienced with office politics, and the nastiness of some folks (as highlighted in how toxic the environment has gotten besides just Sam).”

            Your frustration is valid, but there doesn’t seem to be a clear path for making Sam stop. Whether you choose to find another opportunity or not, you may just need to keep head down and only address that which affects your work directly. I know this is not a satisfying answer.

            You may be inexperienced, but good on you for asking questions. IMO, it doesn’t get stated enough the office politics is art and science. The ratios are seldom 50-50.

            1. JGRV*

              Yes, I genuinely think Office politics is its own specialty. My past jobs, I’ve always had the mentality that hard work and merits would be all I need, and it felt like that belief was confirmed from multiple promotions from various organizations in my past jobs.

              This organization, I’ve also been promoted a few times, but this whole ordeal has opened my eyes to the true world of politics. Every step I take feels like there’s some metaphorical landmine, and I prefer being left alone to work rather than being enshrouded in this puzzling mess where it’s not all black and white, and it feels like there’s something off on all sides.

              1. Zarniwoop*

                Office politics in a functional workplace is very different from office politics in a hot mess organization like you’re currently at.

          2. Irish Teacher.*

            I don’t think it’s necessarily that you are inexperienced with office politics as that what is going on in your workplace…does not sound at all like normal workplace politics. It sounds to me like you are a normal, reasonable person in a deeply toxic workplace.

            My impression is that management is a problem, Sam is a problem and the people calling Sam names, excluding her and speculating on her relationship with the supervisor are problems. This is toxicity, not just office politics and I don’t think many people would be experienced with that kind of behaviour because thankfully, it isn’t that common. Most people are inexperienced with that kind of nastiness because it simply isn’t a thing in most workplaces.

            I really don’t think you can influence things to change here. There is just too much toxicity and it all seems to be reinforcing each other. Management seem to be reinforcing Sam’s behaviour by permitting and encouraging it and in turn Sam’s behaviour (and the support for it from management) is reinforcing that of other members of the team who are getting nastier about Sam because they are frustrated with her behaviour and that is also probably reinforcing Sam’s behaviour because it makes her feel excluded and dislike her workmates.

            I really think all you can do is stay out of it and hopefully, find a more healthy workplace.

            1. JGRV*

              I think after reading everyone’s insight on this, I think I just need some time away from this organization in general. I enjoy the work, but it’s not looking like there’s a real solution and I’ve just been lying to myself that things might get better if I tried to fix things where I can.

              I feel powerless in this instance, and like many have advised, I should just look to get out and continue to keep myself out of politics. I’m going to continue my endeavors of improving myself, learning new skills and making myself into a better asset and go elsewhere.

              I’m horrified as I read some of the comments and coming to realize how terrible the place is. I’ll continue to try and ignore and avoid the drama, and conflict where possible while I navigate myself out of this organization. I really can’t defend how some of my peers have used nasty nicknames, and my own bias is showing in the responses that perhaps I don’t even realize how bad they really are until now as I’ve always kept my head down and categorized it all as teammates and coworkers ‘venting’.

      2. Jellybeans*

        But objectively, the LW and their friends are the ones doing all the gossiping.

        Stating that someone is out a lot is not gossiping.

        LW freely admits to spending time in the work place inventing and promoting theories that a female employee is engaging in blackmailing and giving men “personal favours” for career advancement.

  2. Nodramalama*

    Yeah, like Alison unless there’s something missing, it seems like it’s taking this presentation too personally. If I’m giving a presentation or talking about my job to externals i don’t go into detail about who does what specifically in my team.

    1. Bag of Goods*

      I see your point but I have a different opinion. If I’m presenting on my work, I credit who was involved if possible, or refer to the fact that my achievements were built on the achievements of [X], or were made possible by [team]. I toot my own horn but don’t claim anything I really didn’t do. (Not least because some people might spot the innacuracies, and that wouldn’t help my reputation.)

      It does read as if the employee here is saying that they created a social media function at a small company. (Whereas they arrived in post about 3 years after OP had created it, and learnt the ropes from OP.)

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, this is one of the rare letters where I disagree with Alison (although I can see her point).

        Of course, a post on LinkedIn doesn’t necessarily accurately represent what is actually going to be mentioned in depth in the actual presentation but I can 100% understand OP’s concern – the employee “was brought on to expand upon and lead some social media marketing projects” which had already existed because OP had created them. If the employee literally wrote that “she was able to build this function on her own”, that’s straight up wrong.

        That doesn’t mean that she can’t give a talk on “how to create a social media function at a small company” – she has been hired specifically for social media, after all, and only four years after OP created any kind of marketing department at all (that’s possibly something that might trip people up, too, btw: marketing =/= social media, social media is just one part of marketing; who knows how long the actua social media function has been active, especially if other parts of marketing took precedence); I feel like that’s still early enough to be able to talk about starting social media, especially since she seems to be working closely with OP and has probably heard a lot from her about the very early days.

        But that’s not the same as claiming to have build something by yourself. I would absolutely talk to her about it, not least of all so that OP has an idea of what employee is going to talk about irrespective of this issue – like others already said, that’s a pretty standard thing anyway and I’m surprised the employee hasn’t brought it up herself, if only so that she can be in-line with company messaging.

        1. Firm Believer*

          I agree with everything you said. I was a little surprised by Allison’s response. And the fact that she wasn’t transparent about being a speaker is telling.

          1. seanchaigirl*

            To be fair, she might now have known her proposal had been accepted – or she might not have submitted one – until after she confirmed she had financial support to go. I always make sure my company will pay if I get accepted before I submit a proposal.

      2. SomeoneSomewhere*

        I agree. I think there’s no reason to be clear on when the employee came in (except possibly to take credit for the supervisors work and not mention the presentation to hide it.) The post says the employee specifically stated she “built the function on her own” which is not true. You could frame it as – this is something we did at my company etc etc. there are many options for giving credit appropriately. To me, this would be concern about the employee’s ethics.

        1. Madame Arcati*

          Agree. It’s the “on my own” that bothers me. “I did this” could easily be a summarised version of, I contributed to this, I did this with my team, my company started this and I drove it forward it or was taken on to deliver the final version. “I did this on my own” cannot. It’s not true!

          1. HonorBox*

            Totally! If it was framed in a different way, without suggesting that the employee built it from the ground up, it would be much more palatable. What they’re suggesting is not factual and there’s actually a chance that they’re unable to answer some questions after their presentation because they don’t actually know.

          2. Mockingjay*

            This is a letter in which both sides will have different viewpoints. OP1 started these social media projects but didn’t have the bandwidth to manage them, so they were turned over to Junior Employee in a dedicated role. While neither OP1 or Junior had real experience or training in managing social media, that full-time endeavor likely allowed Junior to take something ad hoc and build out a robust social presence.

            There’s not enough info in the letter to determine just how much OP1 had done first and whether that hasn’t changed, or if Junior completely revamped things behind the scenes; perhaps OP1 only sees the resultant media, including a LinkedIn post which is likely just advertising in disguise to generate interest in the event. (I said this in a comment earlier this week: LinkedIn is social media and not vetted – people post exaggerated claims all the time.)

            I’ve seen similar situations – you recognize a need, start something to address the need, but don’t have the capacity to really make it work. So someone else gets brought in to work on it and gets to do things their way. On the one hand, you’re happy that the project is being brought to fruition. On the other hand, there’s a bit of pride in that you were the first to recognize and fix the need, even if you couldn’t sustain it, and it stings a bit when the new person gets or takes credit.

            All that said, I’m going to concur with most of Alison’s advice. If the topic is how to build a social media presence at a small company, presumably Junior can speak to that. It’s on the conference organizers to vet their speakers and the extent/veracity of their experience.

        2. Gone Girl*

          I wonder how much it would change OP’s feelings about the situation if their employee had used “grow” (which indicates they expanded an existing function) instead of “built” (which implies creating something net-new).

        3. LAM*

          I suspect that at lot of attendees are curious about wrangling and securing resources, getting buy-in with stakeholders, and lessons learned from this stage. Building something implies the presentation is going to talk about this and it’s likely there will be some questions bout this. All of which are things LW did to be able to get employee. That doesn’t mean employee needs to give LW credit, more that LW should be part of the presentation review process to make sure that’s accurate. Employee would say they entered the process at x junction.

          In my field, there’s been a couple situations where a presenter can trip themselves up if they inherited something or was a resource brought in part way. At best, they say they don’t know but will find out. Not a bad thing, but I don’t see this happen too often. At worse, they start making stuff up or don’t really deliver on their presentation goals.

      3. BioBrains*

        Agree, I think this could be the part that rubs OP the wrong way and I can understand why.

        It would probably be different if A) the employee would have written something along the lines of “as [current job title] at company X, I will talk about how we created and fill such a postion in our team” and/or if B) the employee had communicated about getting the speaking spot.

        I don’t necessarily think this should have been known at the time of registration/asking for funding, maybe they were spotted by the organizer as an interesting speaker after registering, but it is a bit weird that it didn’t come up in conversation afterwards.

        I don’t know what organisation or company this marketing team is in, but if in general there is a mutual benefit to present the company and/or the team in the best light, then I could see how the manager could inform the employee about such a best practice: sure, we want you to have the spotlight and take your moment to shine, but please pay attention to x, y an z since you are also representing the team and/or the company so it is in everyones shared best interest to consider [whatever].

      4. Annony*

        I think it depends on exactly what she claims in the talk which is really hard to say from a brief blurb and also on how much social media work had been done prior to this employee starting. It is not clear from the letter so I can honestly see it going either way. If all that had been done were a few social media posts a some vague plans for the future, then I don’t think the employee is overstating their role. If everything they did was at the direction of OP then I agree that they did overstate it and should have been more clear on their level of independence. Most likely it is somewhere in the middle where a case could be made either way.

      5. Cordelia*

        I do see your point, and think the employee could have said “we did this” rather than “I did this”. But, I have just been to a large conference where more than one speaker spent an unnecessary amount of time crediting other people in their team by name, explaining their involvement and how helpful and amazing they were. I didn’t know – or care – who any of these people were, and I expect most other delegates were in the same position. It was a tedious waste of time.

    2. Also-ADHD*

      And even if I plan to mention coming onboard as the second team member to expand the scope of marketing and build out the social media, the first team member wouldn’t be noted in my speaker bio. Plus there’s usually less pressure to ensure you aren’t stealing limelight or credit from your manager than your reports, frankly. Not that you should lie, but if you work on something with your manager, I’ve never seen it required to call out their contributions the way you would if a direct report supported it. It really sounds odd LW1 got upset unless there’s something they didn’t share. The only piece that seems jarring at all is the worker asking for funding to attend and not mentioning speaking—but unless they’re pocketing money or something, that’s more along the lines of misunderstanding or could easily be that they needed to secure funding first and hadn’t been approved to speak at the time of ask, like mentioned.

      1. SomeoneSomewhere*

        I disagree. I think the employee could just as easily have been accurate about her own role- saying that she expanded the function and not built it on her own.

        1. Cmdrshprd*

          But I wonder if employee explicitly said they built it on their own or just said they built it?

          “She was brought on to expand upon and lead some social media marketing projects that I had done some work on, but had been stretched too thin to dedicate the time needed for it.”

          Without knowing the specifics, it seems like OP maybe did some of the very initial/preliminary work like 2/5% and employee did the rest/most of the work.
          .so employee saying “I built the social media team/marketing plan.” I don’t think is out of line. or even saying “I built the social media marketing on my own.” would not necessarily be out of place.

          I think it would be like if person A laid/built the foundation and person B built a deck and person B says “I built the deck.” or “I built the deck on my own.” both statements would be accurate/true in my opinion. Unless you are being directly/specifically asked exact contributions to a project/job you don’t need to say person A did XYZ, and I did abc on my own.

          1. Part time lab tech*

            I disagree with the foundational marketing being such a small part. That’s like saying the house foundation or an initial draft is only 2-5% when the house or final draft can’t be built without it.
            On actionable stuff, I would simply express surprise that you weren’t informed that she was going to be a speaker and make it clear you are looking forward to watching a recording. (Maybe check she hadn’t okayed it with someone else in the organisation first). Perhaps hint that sharing credit makes the speaker look good. (Also I don’t work in marketing, but don’t companies normally want to ok anything with their name on it?)

      2. PB Bunny Watson*

        I don’t know that not mentioning the speaking is necessarily all that odd. It is very likely they just didn’t know yet. Depending on the vibe there and their relationship with their manager, they may not have wanted to say anything and have it become common knowledge if they weren’t picked. I’ve presented at conferences where registration opened before sessions were all accepted (it’s not great practice for conferences to do that). If I saw a conference I wanted to attend even if my session was rejected… I might be concerned that mentioning my submission might lead to a misunderstanding that it’s a definite thing (or even jinx it).

        1. Smithy*

          This is likely super industry dependent – but where I work, it would be pretty unheard of to submit to be a speaker at a conference and not have your submission shared with your manager. Especially if you were asking for work to pay for you to go. While I wouldn’t expect my supervisor to overly review my bio or anything – my session or presentation would have to be at least acknowledged if not approved.

          So when I read the OP’s letter – my eyes mostly went to the OP not knowing the team member had applied to be a speaker and under what topic. While ultimately this might not be egregious, I could easily understand why that would be the larger piece that is bugging the OP.

          1. A Person*

            100% – at many companies I’ve been at you need approval to be a speaker since you’re representing the company. For a smaller company it’s usually a pretty quick sign-off, but if they have any sort of communications/PR department they likely would want to look at the presentation. Even when I was working for a small startup when I gave a talk I told my manager and our PR people made sure I was using the right logo / formatting.

        2. Accidental Manager*

          As a speaker, is she getting paid to speak or is part or all of the conference fee being waived? That would concern me, since the company paid the conference fee, is likely paying the employee’s salary while she attends the conference, and the employee didn’t see a need to disclose she was also benefiting financially? At the very least, the lack of transparency leads to questions of character.

          1. Baby Yoda*

            Correct, I used to speak at regional writer’s conferences and got both — payment and conference fee waived.

          2. Leenie*

            Normally conference panel speakers aren’t paid, in my experience. You may have some well known headliner/keynote speaker that will get a fee. Everyone else is just doing it for industry exposure. But the fee being waived is common, maybe close to universal.

            Where I work, there are only a couple of major industry conferences where the company pays directly for us. Normally, I’d pay and be reimbursed. So, depending on how things work at the LW’s office, the company might not actually have even paid for anything yet. So there’d be no double counting, or really any need to disclose the fee situation. You just wouldn’t submit anything for reimbursement later on. I still think it’s weird that the employee didn’t tell her boss that she would be a speaker, but I wouldn’t assume that she’s gaining any financial benefit.

      3. green beans*

        It also depends on what they mean by “function.” (And for clarity, I do run social media as part of my job.)

        If the OP had set up some social media accounts and published to them occasionally, I wouldn’t really call that a function. So the employee comes in, builds out an actual social media position and strategy, and that is indeed building out a function.

        In the actual presentation itself, yeah, I’d want to be clear “we have X social media accounts and we were publishing Y content on Z schedule…” before diving into what building a social media function looks like. But I also think that’s a super realistic view of what building a social media function at a small company looks like – they’ll usually have opened a few accounts, published to them kinda randomly, and not have best practices/content guide/strategy. Someone coming in and building out a social media position, with best practices, strategy, content guideline, etc… is building out a function.

    3. Boof*

      I’m in academia and have always been in academia so I don’t know if industry is wildly different, and/or if the employee is so new to the industry or conferences that they don’t have a grasp of it; but it would be really weird to submit anything such as a poster, presentation, or article in which someone else did a substantial amount of work and not at least list them / offer them authorship – like a major snub. That being said step 1 would be for LW to try to ask their employee about it with an open mind, like just start with: “It looks like you’re doing a talk on ___ at the conference!” and see what they say – and if the norms ARE to share authorship then talk them through that (again, openly if possible; if there’s some reason they do think this employee has a habit or is trying to take credit for others work or hide it or something that’s a whole other can of worms and maybe worth an update or separate letter)

      1. Nodramalama*

        Imo it would be very weird for a speaker bio to list a bunch of other people that work with her. It’s really not synonymous to your examples

  3. The Prettiest Curse*

    #1 – Alison is correct, this sounds like a fairly standard conference speaker talk description. If you’re really concerned, you could ask to look at her slides ahead of time or watch the live stream or recorded version of her presentation, if those options are available.

    1. Alz*

      When I give external speeches I need to have my presentation approved- even when we are talking about really personal things (mentoring disadvantaged high school students), if there is any chance of me being introduced as “person who works for X” my company wants to know and have a rough idea on what is going to be said. I don’t think there is necessarily anything nefarious about the way she presented herself but I would be concerned not having any idea what she was going to say. I don’t think you are overstepping to ask to see her slides and get a rough idea of what she is going to cover

      1. Transitory Property*

        Related, if my company pays for something like this, they ask you to speak at the monthly department meeting (5-15 people) for 15-20 minutes.

        If you were a speaker, you share a summary of what you presented and the discussion that happened. If you attended, you share a few things you learned from other panels or posters.

        1. allathian*

          Yup, my team does the same thing, although the presentation is shorter, ten minutes at most, a few bullet points on a few slides.

      2. Brain the Brian*

        Spot-on. There’s less risk of brand misrepresentation when it’s someone who’s already in comms, but it’s very standard for a manager to look over an employee’s slides if they’re presenting about the work they do for the company. That’s not “taking it personally” — that’s just doing your due diligence as a manager to make sure the company and its work is presented well.

        I actually would be concerned that the employee didn’t mention this beforehand, though. My antennae would be raised that she was trying to avoid having someone review her presentation — and all that might imply about its potential contents.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          Advance review/approval of conference slides is standard in some industries. Sometimes the approval process goes through marketing/PR, so it wouldn’t look strange for this OP to review the slides first.

        2. Sloanicota*

          True, but I think OP should do their best not to review the slides with “is she taking credit for my work??” as her frame of reference. It might be better to have someone else in the org review the slides and test yourself; do they notice independently that anything is amiss? Good employers build up their employees and they understand that doesn’t happen by constantly being humble and crediting your boss before explaining anything you did. Now if the employee is misrepresenting entirely (Company X had no social media when I started) that is worth correcting.

          1. Also-ADHD*

            Yeah that’s not really what the review would usually be about—it should be more about, “does this make our company look good?”

        3. TeapotNinja*

          This is especially interesting, if the employer in question is junior with little presentation experience. At my company, not only are every external presentation required to be approved by the communications team, but we have rehearsals, at least one, to make sure the presenter can actually do the presentation. We will offer coaching, if needed, and in some extreme cases have cancelled already scheduled presentations when the topic doesn’t align with company values, or the speaker(s) do not have the appropriate skill level to represent the company in public.

      3. Lisa*

        I came here to say exactly this. At minimum I’d be expected to show them to my manager, and depending on the topic my slides might have to be approved by Legal. If they’re representing your company the company needs to know and vet what they’re saying. That’s completely separate from the question of whether they are overstating their personal role.

      4. learnedthehardway*

        This makes total sense and would be a good way for the OP to ensure that the presentation is accurate wrt who did which part of the work.

      5. WhoKnows*

        Thank you for this. I made my own comment further down but most companies don’t allow folks to just go represent their business at a public conference without any oversight or review of what they’re saying.

    2. Some Internet Rando*

      I came here to say something similar.

      Honestly I do get a sketchy vibe if this person pitched the conference as a chance to learn and then OP finds out they are a presenter…. that should have been mentioned upfront and its weird not to mention it. Something feels off…

      Since the OP doesnt have enough information to know how much credit the employee is taking or how they are representing their role, reviewing the slides in advance makes sense. Especially if the organization is paying to fund this person traveling as as a presenter. The employee is presenting on work that was done at the organization and is representing the organization…. so I think what they say should be reviewed by someone in the organization.

      Matter of factly asking to see the slides in advance could clear this up or give an opportunity to discuss if there are problems. Separately if the OP did a lot of this work, in addition to taking credit unfairly, it is also possible the employee doesnt actually know all of the details and could be getting things wrong. Reviewing the slides would solve a lot of issues.

      1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        At any conference I’ve been to, the presenters (except maybe the opening and closing keynotes) are also there to learn as well as to present, so that part of it doesn’t bother me. I’m in tech, though, so it’s more of a “always keep building new skills” field than some.

        1. Happy meal with extra happy*

          Yeah, as a lawyer, I’ve done a couple CLE (continuing legal education) presentations at larger conferences, and I always attended the other presentations as a regular attendee (which is super common).

        2. Caramel & Cheddar*

          Yeah, unless this presentation was the *only* presentation (highly doubtful!), there are lots of others she would have been attending as a learner.

      2. Smithy*

        Yeah – this is where my brain went. Where I work, even speaking at a very industry insider conference would fall under the larger umbrella of profile raising. Even if just in the greater sense of being visible to other potential applicants for future roles.

        I can easily see there being industries where perhaps this type of presenting externally happens so often that it’s not mentioned, but where I work, this would be the area of critical feedback.

    3. el l*

      This is what’s frustrating – OP is basing their entire reaction on unspecified words from a LinkedIn post, rather than the actual talk the person is giving.

      Ask to see the presentation/script, OP. It is common practice* (and certainly true of every place I’ve ever worked) to at least show your boss the slide deck before giving the talk.

      Reserve judgment till you see the actual script. If it really does cut out the work of you and your team, you’re on solid ground to tell them to make edits.

      *In some places, particularly those with an investor relations department, it’s a fireable offense to not get the signoff of not just your boss but also required committees before giving the talk.

  4. Raine*

    For #5, I get a similar thing fairly frequently, since my work email is under my legal first name, not the nickname I’m commonly known by. I simply say, “By the way, I go by Ray, not Raine”, for the people I’m working with frequently. Most people accept that matter-of-fact statement and fix it. I also have it written out clearly in my email signature.

    1. Stella*

      This is why I was so glad to find out that my company uses I also learned a long time ago to NOT put my legal name on my resume because when I did that, my email address usually ended up using that name, which is not the name people know me by. I hope it’s more common now to – I dunno know – maybe ASK people what name they prefer.

      1. Sharpie*

        On the flip side, the company I’m working at does, which I like because I’m the only person on the planet with my specific first name + last name combination.

        There’s reasons I don’t do social media that expect a real name.

      2. Sloanicota*

        I prefer first.last too, but it does mean the company needs to have a policy about being able to change it as people’s many names change (sometimes more than once!) over the course of their lives. And the full name spelled out may ping worse than the portmanteau name.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          That’s true for first initial last name emails too though! You’re right that the full name might be an issue. Eric Ockland is going to have issues with the full name, Betty Itchni is going to have issues with the abbreviation. Really some flexibility around standardization is better for everyone. It can be administratively more difficult, but it can also be genuinely difficult to conduct business with a distracting or misleading email address.

      3. Slow Gin Lizz*

        At my new job, they let people choose their own handle. It’s a great idea. I went with first initial last name, which is the same as my gmail and the email address I had in college and is very comfortable for me. But it’s also confusing, since I use my full first name’s first initial (E) but my nickname (Liz) has a different first initial. I acknowledge the confusion but it’s way easier to type the e[lastname] since all the letters are near each other on the keyboard but an L would muddle it all up when typing it.

      4. Tisserande d'Encre*

        My company uses first@, and I go by that name (and it’s not a name that has any standard nicknames). People STILL address me by the incorrect name in emails! (think robin@ and people say “Hi Rachel”)

    2. AnotherLibrarian*

      I have a staff person to whom this happens. We’ve all decided that she has an evil twin who had that name and we blame things on this evil twin. However, I can imagine it gets grating over time.

    3. NerdyPrettyThings*

      I am dealing with this at my job right now. We are a state-funded and monitored institution. The state has recently decided that the name in the payroll system (which has to match the social security administration, so it must be the legal name) has to match the email, or else the state “can’t” verify that the person signing up with that email address is licensed and cleared access a particular system. (Somehow it’s been done for years until now, though.) It’s annoying for people who go by a nickname or middle name, but it’s devastating for people who consider their legal name a dead name. I think people just don’t understand how many little ways a hostile government can find to impact the daily lives of groups of people they don’t like.

      1. Frankie*

        This change was not made at people who changed their names.
        It was made to streamline the access protocol.
        Not everyone will like new changes, but that doesn’t mean they were made in bad faith.

      2. Elle*

        “ I think people just don’t understand how many little ways a hostile government can find to impact the daily lives of groups of people they don’t like.“

        Truer words. People really do not get it and it’s shocking how unkind they can be.

    4. misquoted*

      I occasionally have a similar (and probably common) issue, though the email alias doesn’t contribute: My first name is somewhat uncommon, and my last name shares the first several letters of a more common first name, so I get that first name a lot instead of my actual first name. Think: my name is Skye Brandwein, and I get called Brandy.

    5. FirstName Middle Logan*

      I get this all the time. My last name is Logan and I get called Logan via email ALL the time. As does my husband. I don’t correct it, it’s not worth it. lol

      1. Cmdrshprd*

        I am in a similar boat, I have a last name that has two very common versions spellings one with an S about 60/55% and one with a Z about 40/45% my last name is frequently misspelled I go by the less common spelling.

        further people often misenter/type my email, name is John Stevenz and email is people usually do I try to correct people but this has led to some issues due to missed emails.

        I had enough and realized it was easier to try and work around it and had my company creat an alias email of the common misspelling so that both go to me.

        also due to my name issues I try to be aware/cognizant of people’s name, but even I have occasionally misspelled people’s names, because I was moving too fast or just misremembering.

      2. Rainy*

        My work email is just my last name, which is double-barrelled with hyphen, and the number of times I get called by my spouse’s last name as though it were my first name is quite literally unreal, especially because it’s always internal people and MY ACTUAL NAME appears in the to: line as soon as you finish entering my email. So it’s actually more work to type out “Dear Hislast” than it is to type “Dear–” and have Outlook autocomplete it to “Dear Rainy”!

    6. kiwiii*

      I have a coworker with two first names and an email address that looks like it Could be a name but isn’t, though all versions feel feminine. Similar to Samantha Hannah (Shannah); I swear she gets Hannah as often as she gets Samantha, and she gets Shannah about 5% of the time. Flagging the mistake fixes it about 95% of the time and the rest of the people can just continue to be wrong, that’s fine.

    7. Clymene*

      I get this with my last name since our emails show up as Last name, First name in people’s inboxes. Hilariously, my last name is a pretty standard last name that I guess could be a first name but I’ve never heard it. My first name is a regular old middle aged first name. So think Nicole Price, and people email me saying “Hi Price…”

    8. Great Frogs of Literature*

      The thing that bothers me about what happens to both me and LW (and I don’t know what field LW is in, but I’m in a male-dominated branch of tech) is that people see what they think is a man’s name in my email address and assume I’m a man.

      I already get enough assumptions that I don’t “really” belong in tech because I’m a woman; I don’t need it from random clients who reply to my emails.

      (Thankfully, I now have a first.last email, and rarely deal with clients, and this happens much less often.)

    9. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      My last name is a name that is becoming increasingly common as a first name. Even though my email is firstname.lastname@company and my signature is FirstName LastName, about 25% of people send me email addressed to Lastname.

    10. Crankysaurus Rex*

      I used to work for a place where email addresses were last.first and the display name for people was Last, First Middle – so everyone who had a middle name had it in their display name. I worked with a guy whose full name was something like Timothy Michael Smith (Smith, Timothy Michael). His signature line was his preferred nickname for his first name (Tim Smith), but he would frequently get emails addressed to “Mike” – a nickname for his middle name

  5. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP1 (conference presentation) – I disagree with the posted answer, in that it seems clear to me that she’s misrepresented her work and is using it for industry clout. Yes, she’s leading some projects, but that’s very different from establishing the social media function in itself at a company.

    In many companies (may not apply here due to the size) it’s a fairly senior level decision for someone to be allowed to speak at a conference on behalf of / connected to the company. I suppose in this case as head of marketing OP might have that authority. Given their position OP must know that speaking in public in connection with the company needs careful management (and probably approval of the content etc) – OP at a minimum needs to know ahead of time what the employee will present.

    I also would bet money that she’d already been accepted as a speaker before asking OP about going to the conference.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Oh.and the fact that she knew she was invited to be a speaker but didn’t mention it to OP – seals the deal for me that her intent is dishonest. Was she hoping OP wouldn’t find out due to not being involved in the land of conferences? in which case all I can say is that’s ironic (or “social media fail”) given that hype on LinkedIn gave her away!

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        It’s SUCH an odd thing not to mention. Even if she didn’t know at the time (which feels unlikely to me), I would tell my team immediately if I was going to be doing something like this. I dunno. It’s a really weird vibe.

        1. radish*

          I would not assume that it’s okay for me to give a presentation at least without having my supervisor review and approve my slides beforehand. But I come from academia.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            If not the supervisor at least the head of marketing/communications or some other approval entity. And to do that without looping in the supervisor would feel like going over OPs head to me.

      2. Sparkles McFadden*

        In my company, speaking at any conference had to be approved by two levels of management. You were literally representing the company, so you had to show management your presentation in order to be allowed to speak at all. This sounds like a smaller place, but the idea is the same. As the the person’s boss, the LW should know what’s going to be said. I see nothing wrong with saying “You are representing the company so I needed to know that you were invited to speak” and having a frank conversation about it.

      3. fhqwhgads*

        That part wasn’t that weird to me, but I suppose it depends on the structure of the conference. The big annual conference my company holds has various calls for presenters to apply. Especially right after you register. It seems entirely plausible to me she asked for permission to go, registered, and very shortly thereafter got a (potentially automatic) invitation to propose a presentation, and went ahead and proposed something because it sparked interest.
        I agree she should’ve run that by her boss before submitting the proposal to speak to make sure the employer would be ok with her presenting in the first place. But the assumption that she must’ve applied to present before asking to go (or been invited to present before asking to go) is an unfair jump to me. It may very well be the case here, and if so OP would address accordingly, but I don’t think it makes sense to assume that must have happened.

    2. Allonge*

      I agree that this could be the case – in my world, this is the situation the word ‘enhancing’ is used for.

      You don’t claim you built something from the ground up when you come in and it exists; you would introduce the starting level and show off on how much you added to it. I don’t see that starting from scratch is such an essential point of the presentation, presumably this person will not just talk about ‘how to register an X account’.

      So if she is indicating she did it all, it’s also unnecessary: the ‘how to grow your social media presence as a small business’ works very well as a presentation!

      But depending on what she is claiming and what OP had in place before she came on board, it may not be a huge issue either.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        Starting from scratch isn’t just about “how we registered an X account” though – it’s also about higher-level topics like: how to get buy-in from senior stakeholders that this is worth pursuing as a company; developing a strategy; “people architecture”, etc.

        1. Allonge*

          Hm. You are not wrong, of course, it’s just that my experience has been more that it starts with a manager saying ‘oh, we should have instagram, everyone is on instagram’, maybe some assessment on what that will cost in people-hours and it takes some time before the strategic considerations come up.

          I don’t actually have any facts on how often it’s like this!

    3. Yellow rainbow*

      I’m actually surprised that speaking is unexpected. I would have just assumed that asking to go meant presenting and that would have been the time to go through any relevant approvals processes (so you need to approve the abstract? Full presentation etc).

      I think people are also taking things a little too literally. Presentation abstracts aren’t really the place to clearly define the point where you took over. I find some presenters spend so much time ensuring everyone is recognised exactly according to their contribution that it wrecks the app story. Is anyone actually thinking she single-handedly did everything?

      She posted on LinkedIn – she clearly isn’t trying to hide things. I’d guess this is just a mis communication that could be cleared up with a simple I saw your LinkedIn post, I’m sorry I didn’t realise when we spoke you were presenting – congratulations on getting selected. And if there is an approvals process, or specific templates or style guides that must be adhered to bring those up. If there’s nothing then just say – I’d love to hear the presentation how about we pencil you in for a run through at the blah team meeting. And then if necessary just provide feedback about acknowledging the team (not you specifically)

      1. Sloanicota*

        Also there’s a conference I attend where part of the registration is “are you willing to participate in a panel? If so, please list a few topics” or where you apply to present in a different track from the registration date. I’m not sure why people assume her not talking about being a speaker means she was being duplicitous.

        1. Lab Boss*

          Seconded- I’m in a different world than OP, but I recently registered for a conference with the understanding that I might help introduce speakers or facilitate a Q&A panel, and found out about 3 weeks before the conference they’d decided I should actually be giving a full presentation (because they needed to fill slots and had my name). Sometimes weird stuff just happens.

        2. But maybe not*

          I agree. Or, it’s possible she applied to be a speaker, hadn’t heard back yet, but wanted to get the registration in under some early bird deadline. It really depends on conference planers how organized they are about filling speaking slots ahead of times. I’ve been to plenty of conferences where they’re still filling slots two weeks before. (As a recovered conference planner, I would die if I took this approach, but I digress.)

        3. Caramel & Cheddar*

          Yes, this — I’ve presented at conferences, but I only got asked after I registered and the organizers saw I was attending.

      2. Irish Teacher.*

        This may differ by field but I would definitely not assume that asking to go to a conference (especially asking to go in order to learn more about a topic) meant that the person was presenting. Any conference I have attended (and there haven’t been many, so I may not be the best judge) has had maybe ten times as many attendees as presenters (and the presenters aren’t usually teachers anyway; they are often people working directly for the Department of Education or psychologists or social workers or otherwise working directly with whatever the presentation is about).

        I don’t think the employee necessarily did anything wrong, but not mentioning that she is presenting does seem a little odd to me, as to me “I want to go in order to learn about this” would imply, “I want to see the presentations as they are about things I don’t know enough about,” but again that may differ by field.

      3. Eldritch Office Worker*

        “Presentation abstracts aren’t really the place to clearly define the point where you took over. ”

        No certainly not, but it’s odd framing on a social media post. It calls judgement and comm skills into question if nothing else – which is part of OPs question, where is the room for genuine feedback.

      4. WellRed*

        Millions of people go to conferences. I doubt the majority of them also present. Or be put to work in any way.

      5. MCMonkeyBean*

        I don’t really see how it could ever be a reasonable assumption that asking to attend a conference means presenting? Every conference will have dozens or hundreds more people just attending then they would have presenters so the majority of them when asking their respective bosses for the time and funding to go would not be presenting.

    4. Gen*

      Yes I also read it as if she’s claiming she built the function from the ground up in a company that didn’t have one, rather than joining an existing function.

      1. SomeoneSomewhere*

        Right- that’s how I read it. And its such an easy fix instead of claiming you built in on your own and want to share your expertise which the OP states. “We built this and I was involved in expanding.” I’m actually quite surprised how many folks think its a non-issue, especially since the fix seems so easy.

        1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          Titles are supposed to be brief and punchy. They’re marketing! The talk may well give proper credit and clearly describe her own role, which is why the suggestion for LW to ask to review the deck is a good one.

          Projects interesting enough to give a conference talk are rarely solo end to end. So either they’re given by the top manager, who provided strategic leadership, or one of the people on the ground, but either way they should talk about the work as a whole and credit the team as a whole. (Disclaimer: I’m in tech. Other industries may be inclined to have conference talks on smaller projects, or different conventions about whether leading IC give talks.)

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            It’s not about the title though, it’s about the hype paragraph OP wrote on social media where “she shared that she was able to build this function on her own, and she was excited to share her expertise with others at this conference”. That’s not a punchy attention grabber, that’s a description.

            1. Cmdrshprd*

              sure but I think it is getting into. very technical definition of “built.”

              based on OPs description they kinda started social media stuff but never really had time to devote to it.

              Using Legos it sounds like OP gathered the pieces and organized the bricks, or maybe even laid the first layer(s), but never had time to actually work/build it.

              Then employee came along and built the death star or empire state building. in this instance I don’t think it is a lie for employee to say they built the Lego death star/building on their own even if they did not do 100% of the work or laid every single brick themselves.

              1. green beans*

                yup, this. although I’d bet it’s more than OP bought a few starter Lego kits and took a brick or two out occasionally.

              2. MCMonkeyBean*

                I don’t think the “build” is inherently an issue but the “on her own” certainly seems like at least an orange flag.

                1. Cmdrshprd*

                  I get that I still think in the my example above and potentially in OPs situation saying “built on their own” would not be false, even is someone didn’t do 100% of the work.

    5. House On The Rock*

      I don’t know the details of this conference, but in my work it’s very common for presenters to be lined up ahead of registration being open. Last year I had a staff member submit a presentation for a conference and then, when it was accepted, we approved her attendance, but registration was still at least a few weeks out.

      I agree that the employee not getting this vetted by their manager first is a red flag. I (myself a manager with a lot of autonomy) would never do that. It’s also very different to take general responsibility for project work than to say you single handedly built a department! That’s more than simple resume bolstering!

    6. Ally McBeal*

      Completely agree. I work in comms/marketing and it’s very common for companies (especially if they’re large and/or publicly traded) have a policy explicitly forbidding people to speak as a representative of the company without prior approval.

    7. Khatul Madame*

      100% agree.
      As the head of Marketing, OP1’s responsibility is to review the presentation slides for accuracy and branding, as the employee took it upon herself to represent the company. Conference funding should be contingent on approval.
      If the employee claims that she will not be representing the company, then the company should not pay for her attendance and travel.

    8. Daniel*

      Another question I have: speaker opportunities at some conferences are pay-to-play. Was the funding for this conference for attendance, or is the company paying to have this employee present?

    9. Your Former Password Resetter*

      One potential factor in this whole thing is that the marketing department may not have any real guidelines or written rules around conference presentation, because they never actually did one before.

      In which case the employee would have had to decide for themselves if and how to tell their manager, and decided the speaking part wasn’t important enough to mention.
      They’d be wrong, but they wouldn’t necessarily be trying to hide anything.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Right. Yes, lots of places require your slides to be approved. If the OP’s did, that would presumably be mentioned in her letter as among her concerns, or she would simply ask to see them (which she still can if she wants). I highly doubt the employee is flouting basic workplaces rules of their company on this; the LW, who is trying to figure out why she feels weird, almost certainly would have mentioned that.

        1. Also-ADHD*

          And the vetting of slides to ensure the company looks good is a different concern than LW raised, which was about who did what at the company. I feel like the policies to review exist to protect corporate brands, not ensure X presenter doesn’t forget to give her manager credit.

    10. Physics*

      At least in academia (such different norms I know) you’d at least put a close collaborator or advisor on as a co author

  6. Myrin*

    #1, possibly a minor thing but I don’t understand the relevance of whether the employee already knew about giving a presentation when she asked OP about attendance (other than yeah, it would be a bit strange if she already had the spot but didn’t mention it to OP at all) and OP doesn’t ask about that aspect either, as far as I can see, so I feel like I might be missing something?

    1. MK*

      One thing that occurred to me about that, and I was surprised Alison didn’t mention, is that speakers generally don’t pay to attend conferences. In my field, even when they don’t receive actual compensation, they don’t pay the usual conference fee and their expenses are covered. I was confused about her asking her employer for financial assistance to attend, as she shouldn’t need any. Or is that not as standard as I thought?

      1. Language Lover*

        For the conferences in my field, only keynote or invited speakers get their attendance covered along with an honorarium and travel reimbursements.

        But for presenting general sessions, the only waived fee I’ve had was only applicable for the day I was presenting. If it was a 3 day conference and I only presented once, I’d still pay what amounts to 2 days. Other times speakers had a reduced fee. And sometimes, speakers got no reduction.

        1. JenLP*

          I’ve received a $20 gift card for the conference bookstore as a “thank you” for presenting. Which really amounts to me spending more money than just the conference fee cause you want to get the full benefit.

          In other words, it’s all different all over the place.

      2. Moose*

        This is not true in my field. Except for Keynote speakers, all presenters have to pay conference fees.

        1. Anne of Green Gables*

          Same for my field. Sometimes there is a presenter’s rate for registration but it’s reduced by very little.

        2. The Prettiest Curse*

          This varies a lot by conference size type and industry. With the current conference I organise, speakers don’t have to pay for registration, but we don’t pay speaker fees either. (We only have plenary speakers, though – no breakout sessions.) The impression that I get is that bigger conferences are more likely to charge speakers.

        3. AcademiaNut*

          Same for my field. The main variation is that large conferences (the kind held at a conference centre) charge fees to attend, often significant ones, while smaller more focussed meetings (the kind held at university facilities) often don’t have a conference fee.

          Generally, however, you need to be presenting either a talk or a poster to get the travel approved and funded – going to a conference just to listen is unusual.

      3. Happy*

        In the fields I have experience with, presenters sometimes can pay a reduced rate but still have to pay to attend a conference and definitely don’t get expenses paid!

        I think the talks must be more widely sought-after in your industry. lol. In mine, typically a large fraction of attendees are presenters.

        1. allathian*

          The annual two-day conference I attend generally has about 150 attendees and 10-15 speakers. It’s a small conference so there’s only one “stream” and no workshops or poster presentations. The fee is waived for presenters and they get travel and hotel expenses. Meals are included in the conference fee, and I’ve never stayed at a hotel in Finland where breakfast wouldn’t be included in the price.

      4. Also-ADHD*

        That’s not true. It varies by conference but in many conferences, I would say speakers still pay a partial conference fee and room and board and some they pay fully.

      5. Hyaline*

        In my field it’s not standard to get any compensation. Speakers/presenters might have the conference fee waived but are on the hook for travel. Only a keynote/guest of honor type would be riding totally free.

        1. Jellybeans*

          It very much depends. In my industry standard is to get all your travel and )extremely nice) hotel covered, and the fee could be anything from nothing to several thousand.

      6. Lab Boss*

        The biotech conferences I attend generally have dozens of speakers and everyone pays full freight (well, I guess I’m not sure about the truly elite headline speakers, I don’t run in those circles).

      7. But maybe not*

        Yes, not standard.

        In my experience, the most disorganized conferences (where a speaker wouldn’t know they were a speaker until much closer to the date, as I suspect happened in this scenario) are also the ones who are big moneymakers for the orgs. Nobody gets free registration because the point is to make a crap ton of money.

        The conference I used to organize only cared to cover costs, so we gave free registration to all speakers.

      8. Caramel & Cheddar*

        Definitely not standard. My “fee” for being a presenter has ranged from a small gift (under $25 value) to a cheque cut to my company for my time, but definitely not anything that would cover the fees let alone the hotel/flight/per diem.

      9. fhqwhgads*

        Not standard at all. In my field, maybe the keynote speaker doesn’t pay to attend….but they probably also don’t really attend. They might be around on the day they speak, but not generally participating in the conference. Sometimes they show up, give their talk, and leave.
        Whereas presenters for breakout sessions or panels, at the conferences I’ve been to, absolutely do pay to attend. They’re presenting one session and attending all the rest. Other than a hearty thank you, they don’t get anything special for also presenting.
        I’d expect there are other industries/specific conferences where it’s somewhere in the middle.

    2. Awkwardness*

      I think that this way the employee has an audience and possibility to build a name as a speaker/adding something to the resume with LW financing it.

      1. Myrin*

        I mean, that seems like the intent in general (and also pretty normal? Giving presentations is always about building a name and adding to your list of accomplishments, and if someone else pays for it, all the better!), but I don’t see what that has to do with my question? (That reads so snarky but is not intended that way at all, I just don’t know how else to word it – or did your comment simply nest in the wrong spot?)

        1. Awkwardness*

          I think you are right with your original question. It does not matter much if the employee got the speaker role before or after registering for the conference, the problem is that they did not mention it. This feels as if they were trying to get around some kind of approval process within the company what kind of story they are going to present. If they are going to present their work and thought process correctly, nobody should have anything against it. No matter is the work is misrepresented, the process feels sneaky.

          (This is so interesting. I agree with the answers almost all of the time. But this answer feels off to me and I am still struggling to find the correct words why that is the case)

          1. Myrin*

            Ah yes, I agree with you, especially with the part in parentheses (and I have a comment in moderation right at the moment which says much the same thing, but in a more extensive way – maybe I’ve been able to convey what you’ve been thinking, as well).

          2. Sloanicota*

            This one is divisive enough that I’m guessing there’s a range of conference formalities that are affecting people’s views. Conferences in my field are pretty casual and presenting at one is really not a huge honor, although of course it’s nice – but I mean, they’re pretty hard up for presenters some years it seems like. The audience is really only your own peers and other presenters and it’s a learning thing for them – nobody’s status is being greatly enhanced. It would be weirdly micromanagery to me to have my boss all up in my business about it … and especially if their real motive in checking everything is to make sure I’m properly crediting *them.* To me, it’s a tiny opportunity to let your staff shine, that you’re trying to quash to make sure you shine more? But, if conferences are highly regarded in your field and frequently attract clients etc, I assume that’s why it’s different and more formal and it would be normal to be alarmed they didn’t mention this immediately and get the powerpoint reviewed by all and sundry.

            1. Sloanicota*

              Adding, the purpose of the talk would be to train attendees in how to launch social media, not about necessarily personally “take the credit” or whatever. If the employee is qualified to explain that to attendees, it doesn’t seem that weird to me. But I’m in nonprofit and we view helping our colleagues in other orgs as part of the mission, so I realize this might not be at all standard.

            2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

              Yeah, same. I’m used to a large fraction of attendees being presenters, with multiple streams of 10-15 minute talks for several days. So to me for a manager to begrudge their direct report’s professional development because of a *title*, not having seen the actual presentation, seems off. Presumably LW can go to conferences too, if they choose!

              1. But maybe not*

                “Presumably LW can go to conferences too, if they choose!”

                I kind of wonder if this is what is fueling LWs discomfort. They may feel like if anyone is giving this presentation, it should be THEM, but they had never thought to do that before, so it just feels weird.

            3. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yep, massive variation by field (you can see in this comment section, with some people taking things as standard for conferences and then a bunch of people saying nope).

          3. Also-ADHD*

            If this is a very small company/startup, there’s not as likely to be an approval process required. People probably act a little Wild West and sort of make their own rules on stuff like that so I wouldn’t ascribe malicious intent like getting around processes etc. and that wasn’t LW1’s concern. As a manager, I think you have to let go of “credit” more and your reports to shine and I’m not sure if LW1 is in that mindset.

    3. nnn*

      I think that was because the OP seemed like they were wondering if the employee was intentionally hiding the speaking gig.

    4. Nodramalama*

      Im also confused by the reference to the employee not “directly” talking about the speech. So they’ve mentioned it indirectly?

      1. Myrin*

        I think OP meant she found out indirectly through the LinkedIn post instead of directly through a talk with the employee.

    5. Laure001*

      I think you gave the answer in your question, Myrin. If she knew she was speaking beforehand and she did not mention it when they were arranging the conference details… Well, it’s pretty weird. How something like this does NOT come into the conversation? So in this case there is a higher chance she meant to hide it.
      While if she learned it after, it could just have slipped her mind to mention it.
      So it’s really about intent, in one instance her behavior is more suspicious and it seems more than she hide it on purpose.

      1. BubbleTea*

        Slipping her mind seems odd though – I’ve been invited to speak at a few events in the last six months or so (and been paid for it), and I still do a little excited dance and tell my friends when it happens – I don’t have any colleagues or supervisors to tell. If speaking at conferences was so common for this person that she’d be blasé enough to forget about it, I’d imagine LW would have been less surprised about it.

        1. Also-ADHD*

          I often forget to mention I’m speaking at events especially if speaking gets added to an event I already planned on attending. I’m sure it varies—and if I landed a very coveted or difficult to get speaking gig I’ll note it more. But I mostly just auto set up my LinkedIn and calendar and half forget about it. Speaking isn’t a huge deal for me, I guess? And it’s not that I speak at so many events necessarily. It’s just that stuff like that gets lost in the shuffle for me until it’s actually happening.

        2. fhqwhgads*

          I think the distinction here may be related to the directionality of how one becomes a presenter:
          If you’re invited to speak at a conference, that’s an accolade and you do a little dance.
          If you’re going to a conference and apply to speak and that application is accepted, well some people may do a little dance. But others might feel like it’s just something they signed up for as part of attending.

  7. Azure Jane Lunatic*

    I got around my email address problem at a big company with a clever use of distribution lists.

    Despite the company standardizing on a pattern, there were still employees around with email addresses from before that policy, so it wasn’t a sure thing. I hadn’t quite switched to AJ professionally at that point, but I did sign my quick internal emails that didn’t need a formal signature as AJ. So people started emailing instead of alunatic@. And this email system doesn’t send out bounces.

    After this had happened definitely more than once, I gathered my evidence and went to IT. I wasn’t able to get my email address changed, but I was able to get them to create a distribution list of ajlunatic@ with one member: alunatic. So I was able to capture all further mis-emails in my time there, and I requested that they take down the list just before I left.

    1. Everything Bagel*

      This was a clever solution to your problem, but the letter writer’s problem is that people are calling her by the wrong name when addressing her in an email, not that they are sending emails to the wrong email address.

      1. bishbah*

        An alias like AJ’s would allow her to use an address containing her full first name of Katherine. Then they would never see “Keavon” at all.

  8. Rich*

    OP#3, years ago, I used to listen to Jack and Suzy Welch’s Business Week podcast where they would discuss management and insights from their amazing careers.

    When they would discuss hiring, they consistently treated it as incredibly difficult, and something to expect you might get wrong 1/3 of the time, having to change course shortly after you got a candidate on board.

    That probability seems feels high to me, but it was important to recognize that even exceptionally experienced and capable people are going to make hiring mistakes. It definitely helped with my own self doubt around it.

    Alison’s advice is great. And it’s important to reflect to see if there were clues you missed, processes you could improve (like reference checks) or threads you should have pulled but didn’t. But if it happens to the best in the business, it happens to all of us. Don’t beat yourself up over it.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      1/3 might be high, I think it depends a lot on what kind of roles you’re hiring for, but I definitely agree with the sentiment. I recently read something that described hiring as risk management, and I hadn’t really thought of it that way but it’s true. You can only get so much from an interview, so you look for qualifications, value adds, and red flags. From the way OP describes things, they did all of that. Just bad luck, not a skills issue.

    2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Sometimes you make a bad hire. This one hid who he was really was to get the job. Once he got it, he reverted to his true self. I think the quitting for not getting paid was an excuse once he realized that he would probably be fired for being himself.

      But yes, add reference checks to your hiring process. Then you can find out what the person is like an employee, not a candidate.

      1. Nonanon*

        We had one new hire whose resume was good, interview was good, and references were good… come to start the job and they just SUCKED (think sending emails at 1am and expecting an immediate response or asking for feedback and then doing what they wanted). Bad hires are unfortunately part of the game, even with the best possible information you have.

      2. Just me*

        This hiring instance just proves that all in all interviews are bs. People are putting up a fake front and what good does it do? You could end up hiring someone who interviews well and just sucks at the job, or pass on someone who doesn’t interview well who would be excellent at the job. You can’t really tell anything at an interview.

        1. Rosacolleti*

          Gosh, interviews can be incredible, but it takes time to develop good interviewing skills. And then reference checking skills are a whole other ballgame. I get called for references regularly and most of the callers haven’t got a clue what or how to ask, or more importantly, listen.

    3. Pyjamas*

      OP said the company was fully remote and training was done over video and in emails. Also OP is in charge of recruiting, not working with the employees. Could there have been a switch?

      1. OP3*

        Hi, All. Thank you for your thoughtful remarks. Wish I had time to respond to everyone but here’s so further info for those who are wondering / interested.
        Everyone involved with the hire is female as is the former hire. The hire and me are POCs but the others aren’t. To help avoid unconscious bias, we don’t use video during interviews although some candidates choose to leave theirs on. This hire didn’t.
        The comments here have been so helpful for me and I’m moving forward. Thank you to all who read and / or commented!

        1. learnedthehardway*

          I’ve had something similar happen – perfect candidate on paper, in interviews, and even in references came into one of my clients and flamed out spectacularly. They showed who they truly were, no doubt thinking that the company had that same (toxic, racist, sexist) culture. They found out very differently, very quickly, and were fired and walked off the premises in 2 weeks. As it turns out, my client had a zero tolerance approach, promotes an inclusive culture, and stands by it.

          The hiring manager, HR manager, and I were all mystified as to how we could have missed this, and finally concluded that the person had just hidden their attitudes very well during the hiring process. Why they thought they would be safe from being called to account for their nastiness once hired, I have no idea.

        2. Dawn*

          I ducked in here just to see if anyone else made this suggestion, so I’ll also add – this sounds like someone might have pulled a switcharoo on you.

          It’s great that you’re so supportive of remote work, DEI, etc! But occasionally bad actors will take advantage of that.

  9. Martin Blackwood*

    #5 – No advice, just agreeing that its weird that they call you keavon…Basically every email program i use (outlook, gmail, generic samsung email) shows the “Display name” so to speak? like for example, it doesn’t say in the from field, it says Bandcamp…I’m sure theres a setting you could turn off somewhere. But itd be weird to do that. Maybe email yourself and make sure that display name is right?

    1. pennyforum*

      Coming in to second the display name.
      Our *email* convention in work is
      Our *display* convention is last,first

      Its fine if you have a name that locally or internationally is known only as a last name, e.g. Potter,Harry
      But I’ve lost track of the number of people, internal and external who make a mistake e.g. address Thomas,Dean as Thomas or even Tom or Delacour,Fleur as Delacour

    2. Nebula*

      People really just don’t read things properly. At a previous organisation I worked at, the email addresses were, but the Outlook display names were Last Name, First Name. The number of times someone called me by my last name thinking it was my first name was ridiculous – and it’s not a last name that is ever used as a first name at all, and doesn’t sound like one. So that’s kind of the opposite of what you’re describing, but people just default to the first thing they read, even if thinking about it for a second would suggest that no, that’s not right.

    3. Willem Dafriend*

      Yeah, that’s what the IT department did at my job to get my legal name to stop showing up everywhere in company systems. I didn’t realize you could use your lived/chosen name on your CV or on job applications until after I started this job, so my email’s still [legal first initial][lastname], but my display name is Willem Dafriend and nobody notices the first initial. Definitely cuts down on inadvertent deadnaming, now it happens maybe a couple times a year from strangers instead of often and from people I know. I bet the same thing would work here too.

    4. Me*

      +1 to changing the display name – when I changed the display name of my work email people started calling me the correct name instead of the odd combination of vowels that make up my first initial last name.

  10. Awkwardness*

    #1: I have no idea about speaking at industry conferences, so I am struggling to understand if a speaker rule is something that just happens. I always thought you apply with your concept and then get selected, which would assume clear intent on the side of the employee. As LW1, I would feel blindsighted too if the employee kept something like this from me intentionally.

    1. MK*

      Occasionally the organizers reach out to possible speakers themselves. And it’s always possible that a speaker had to withdraw last minute and they scrambled to replace them?

      1. Allonge*

        I agree that it may not be part of the plan from the start, but it’s not going to be a last-minute surprise in most cases either. A message to my boss on ‘OMG, I was invited to present’ would be expected at any stage it happens.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        All the speakers at the events I arrange are invite-only, though people can tell us that they’d like to be invited. (That doesn’t mean we’ll invite them, though!)

      2. A Simple Narwhal*

        I could be totally interpreting this wrong, but LW1’s employee has no experience outside this one project/job, so I can’t imagine she would be a prime speaker candidate.

        Unless the campaign was absolutely groundbreaking and garnered a huge amount of industry attention, or the employee is realllly good at creating a personal brand that made her well known. But I feel like LW1 would have mentioned the outlandish success if it happened, and someone who knows how to create a personal brand probably has some marketing experience.

        I could be totally wrong though! And maybe I’m ignorant about how much experience conference speakers actually have.

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

          It could be something about breaking into an industry or changing careers. Something like I started in X company doing Y and then I switched to marketing. I learned these skills and help to further their social media.

          I think the OP is overthinking things and making them worse than they are. She should talk to the employee and just ask them what they are going to be speaking about.

        2. Also-ADHD*

          A lot of the conferences that don’t give free tickets to every speaker really aren’t that hard to get into and actively want speakers. Plus if you have a network, which this person might, that factors in. There are so many conferences. In my function/field, a lot of speakers aren’t anyone special, whereas in my industry (I perform a function that’s not marketing but like marketing exists across industries), they look for doctorates, huge research, high level certifications, it just varies.

        3. Nodramalama*

          There is nothing to indicate she’s the key note speaker. She could be one of hundreds speaking about her work

    2. Lozi*

      In my experience there are different types of speakers. Things like keynote speakers, plenary sessions, and panels would be invited (whether or not their cost is covered probably varies widely).
      Then, there are often breakout sessions, workshops, paper presentations, etc. where anyone can submit a proposal and try to get accepted. In my field, I would typically talk to my supervisor FIRST to get the time off and $ approved, THEN once I know I can go, I would submit a proposal to present.
      All this to say … this situation does not seem suspicious to me!

      1. Nebula*

        Yes, I’ve been to conferences before where they were still looking for speakers for those kinds of sessions when I signed up. It is odd that this person didn’t say to her manager she was accepted as a speaker before posting on LinkedIn, but I do think it’s plausible that her intention when she signed up was just to learn and network i.e. she wasn’t misrepresenting anything at the time she asked for the money to go to the conference.

      2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        There’s so much variation in conference types, how many speakers there are, who the speakers are, etc, that we’re all bringing our own assumptions and experiences. (We always do, but it’s especially obvious with this letter.) I know people want to be anonymous, thus llamas and teapots, but a general outline from LW about how conferences work in their field would have been really helpful.

    3. Also-ADHD*

      I’ve been to conferences where you check a box and list potential topics when you register, indicating you’d be willing to speak. If the person wanted to attend, got funding, saw that in the registration, and filled it out, they might not think to double back and announce to the boss they were now speaking. Speaking as a non-keynote isn’t a big deal at many conferences and is more casual, though it depends on the conference etc. Social media marketing is definitely a topic I could see at a very casual conference though.

    4. Petty Betty*

      It really does depend on the conference. Sometimes events will ask ahead of time if people would like to present, and if so, could they send a proposal of what they’d like to present for approval.
      Other times, the event hosts have a very set idea of what they’d like presented and reach out to specific people they have in mind for a theme with set topics they’d like discussed and pay those people a speaking/appearance fee.
      Sometimes, speakers/presenters end up dropping/backing out on short notice, and then replacements have to be found at the last minute.

      To me, this sounds like the event asked attendees if they had potential topics they wanted to present/speak on and to submit their topic ideas ahead of time for possible selection. There was no guarantee that the submissions would be selected, so telling the LW right away really wasn’t an issue. From my own experience, until the programs are printed/posted on the website, the speaking/educational exhibit isn’t officially confirmed yet. But, my experience is also that if you are officially a speaker/exhibitor, you no longer have to pay to attend the rest of the event (your “speaking fee” covers your event cost).

  11. Jinni*

    #5. Can we have some sympathy for those of us choked by autocorrect and AI grammar integrations? Various apps ‘correct’ names all the time. I suspect to avoid the very problem they’re now creating.

      1. Love to WFH*

        Autocorrect is useful for common words which are spelled consistently — names aren’t.
        It you turn autocorrect off , you do lose value

      2. Jinni*

        I like it for other easily mistyped words. A name is just a single word. What I find is that you have to correct names twice to get the non-traditional spelling. The other words being correct is more important to me.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Not many I know of change Katherine to Kevin. This doesn’t seem like an autocorrect issue. And for something like names, you should double check.

    2. A mathematician*

      I was also suspicious about that. I’ve had my email accidentally “correct” the name of a potential student to “American” (they were Iranian, just to be extra embarrassing). I even checked the name as I was typing it to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes – I just failed to notice it changed on me once I’d pressed the space bar. Autocorrect might not have changed “Katherine” to “Kevin”, but it’s certainly capable of changing “Keavon” to “Kevin”.

      Someone further up suggested getting IT to set display names, and that would probably help #5. Maybe also checking how clear the signature is, particularly when viewed on a phone etc.

    3. Lime green Pacer*

      This is a real problem for a lot of people. According to the “I am not a typo” campaign, 41% of UK children’s names get flagged as typos, and most of them are African and Asian names.

  12. Msd*

    I think it’s odd that the employee didn’t tell their manager they were presenting. Any place I’ve worked the presentation/speech content needed management approval before given at the conference.

    1. Allonge*

      I have seen this work in different ways (some places only care in theory), but I also think it’s a reasonable expectation to know that someone working at your company is presenting (and what).

    2. Brain the Brian*

      Yep yep yep. It’s not personal, but it reeks of someone trying to keep management’s eyes off their presentation. Why? The LW needs to find out — and quickly.

    3. Hyaline*

      I’ve never needed approval to present at a conference. In fact I’d be kinda offended if my boss demanded review, because it’s totally outside her lane. But that’s my field—I think a lot of the reads on “weird or not” on this question are based on industry norms and personal experience.

      1. Love to WFH*

        The fact that a company has a policy about presenting is unlikely to be known to an employee unless it’s been brought up to them.

      2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        I’d expect to run my talk past Legal to make sure there’s nothing they don’t want exterior eyes to see, and offer to give a practice talk to the team, but in my field this “stealing credit” notion would be odd. It’s a team effort. As you say, though, there’s a lot of variation here, so the lack of details from LW means we’re all just sharing our own experiences.

      3. Brain the Brian*

        This is definitely field-specific — and probably job-specific within industries. I wouldn’t expect an academic researcher to need approval for a presentation at a conference in their field, for instance, but I would expect an accountant at a university to need approval before presenting to other education accountants about a novel way of handling student grants. It all depends how much your regular job involves researching and presenting your findings to other people outside the organization. In social media marketing — especially for someone junior, and most especially if it’s the first time they’re presenting at a conference while working at a company — a review from management to make sure you’re presenting the company positively would definitely be the norm. But the LW needs to separate that from any feeling of credit-stealing, which shouldn’t factor into their review of the employee’s presentation content. A learning moment all around.

    4. HonorBox*

      I was just asked to “speak” (I use quotes because it is a panel, not a solo presentation) at a conference, and didn’t need to seek approval to say yes. I also knew that my boss would absolutely agree to my participation. That said, I do think it is odd that the employee didn’t mention anything at any point. It may be that they were asked to speak following their registration, but I don’t see the point in not mentioning anything… unless the employee knew that they were presenting something that wasn’t really “theirs” to present.

  13. AnotherLibrarian*

    #1- I don’t know the situation as well as you do, but as someone who has presented at a lot of conferences, in my experience when you write up an abstract for a presentation, one of the goals it to universalize the experience. A good presentation isn’t about the precise work someone did at LlamaGroomers inc. It’s about experience at LlamaGroomers inc that can be universalized to also work at Vanilla Teapots & Things. So, the whole point of the abstract is to show how the work you’ve done can be adapted by others, which means it’s inevitably going to sound both higher level and also more general. It’s not about erasing the contribution of a good manager, but about trying to make it sound appealing to as large of an audience as possible.

    Now, if she has shown herself to be someone who tends to self-aggrandize and tends to over emphasize her contributions that the expense of others… well, you have a totally different problem on your hands. However, if you haven’t seen that from her, I would do some real soul searching. One of the most important things a manager can do is learn to let people take full ownership of the work they’re doing.

    1. Bag of Goods*

      That’s valuable insight into the process of creating a conference presentation.
      But OP’s letter gives me the impression that the employee is talking not about their own business or their own freelance practice across several companies, but specifically about this company’s work. Don’t you think that if they’re presenting on the company’s work, it’s a bit odd they’re trying to do it independently, without consulting the company?
      It could be because of being both career-hungry and naive (nothing wrong with being those things), and that the OP would be helping everyone if they stepped in.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Not necessarily. Some companies require approval, some don’t. It sounds like the company doesn’t require pre-approval of presenting so its not odd they didn’t consult first.

        I think OP is taking this too personally as she is seeing it but I came up with the idea its mine. Even though she admits that this person was hired specifically to do what she did not have time for. The social media presence got built up enough that its worth presenting on because of the employee’s work, not the OPs.

  14. Jalene*

    LW #5, my work email address and signature both include the full spelling of my name as a woman, yet I’ve received responses to “James.” And I have a teammate Matt who is regularly called Mark. No ill intent, people just read too fast.

    1. NeonFireworks*

      I’ve heard that James is becoming more gender neutral in the U.S. and being given to lots of AFAB kids so unfortunately this may get worse!

      1. PhyllisB*

        I worked with a woman in the 70’s whose legal first name was James. She went by Jimmie, but if you saw her name on the posted schedule it was James. This woman was in her 60s then, way before the era of creative names, I just assumed her Dad wanted a boy. I also worked with a woman whose name was Mary George. Her dad was George, so that was was easy to pick out. I was named for my uncle (first name) and dad (middle name) but they’re the feminine version of those names.

    2. londonedit*

      Yeah, I said on the post the other day that my name is something like Alex, it’s in my email address as Alex (ours are first.last @ ), it’s in my display name as Alex, I sign off as Alex and it’s in my email signature as Alex. I get a surprising number of emails starting ‘Hi Alice’ and ‘Hi Ali’, as well as more creative spellings like Alix and Alyx – I swear people just see the ‘Al’ and their brains fill in the rest.

      1. Seashell*

        If people can use a voice to text option, I wouldn’t be surprised if that is turning Alex into Alice.

        1. londonedit*

          I highly doubt people sending me work emails are using voice to text – and also my real name isn’t actually Alex, it’s something similar but I’m not going to use my actual name here.

      2. RecoveringSWO*

        I really think it is a weird brain-filling-in thing. I knew a Mark whose email was firstinitial middleinitial lastname. His middle initial was r so it read: mrdoe. Every time I got an email from him I read it as “Mr. Doe” in my head. Even though I knew what was happening, my brain still made that leap!

    3. Radiant*

      I work in a pretty male-dominated industry, and my name is Rachael. I get emails/replies at least once a month addressed to “Richard”. It’s just funny at this point – I screenshot the “Hi Richard,” bit of the email and send it to the group chat. At least one of my friends has me saved in their phone as Richard now, just for the bit.

    4. Sloanicota*

      I’m going to keep in mind the example of the person the other day who emailed that nobody gets their name right, but misspelled Alison’s name in her email. It just goes to show that your own name is always so much more important to you than it is to anyone else. It happens to the best of us sometimes! I think it’s just one of those things where you need to give people grace and stay humble about it, because I guarantee we’re all doing it to someone else.

    5. Linda with a Y*

      My first name is Lynda, and my entire life I’ve had people see my name and call me Lydia. Not just in email, in any context where my name is visible.

    6. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Yes, and as I commented on in the other recent post on this topic, a lot of people actually can’t read very well or they aren’t really word people so they don’t notice subtle differences in how things are spelled or word placement or the like. It can get annoying to be on the other end of that for sure, but I try to give people a lot of grace if they miss details.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Not “word” people – yes, a lot of people see a single word as a block, rather than sounding out each letter, which makes it easy to miss slight or even not-so-slight variations in spelling. It’s a heuristic to read faster at the cost of accuracy. Commonly I hear people say they loved a book but can’t even give the main character’s name because they skimmed over it as a block of text. As critical as Lindsay/Lindsey feels to you when it’s your name, it may not even register with someone else, particularly as it has no impact on the meaning or pronunciation to most people.

    7. Sparkles McFadden*

      It doesn’t help that some people who are mistaken don’t listen to any corrections.

      I had one completely bizarre exchange where a remote department thought my last name was my first name and addressed me that way (with a major misspelling to make my last name look like a first name – something like Mickey) via emails. Nothing I said changed that, so I just let it go. The department head ended up having to call me (and got the number from my email signature), and we had a discussion where I clarified what was in my email. Well, the guy who spoke to me thought he was speaking a different person because I answered the phone identifying myself by my first name. He then wrote me an email saying “Mickey, you need to go talk to Sparkles and she will explain everything to you” and he included multiple levels of management on this. I had to Reply All and politely say “I just talked to you. That was me. I am not two different people. No one named Mickey works here.” My boss had to arrange a phone conference to explain to everyone that I was one person and what my name actually was. He reiterated all of the contact information and asked them to send a confirming email. After that meeting, they put same email address in twice, and addressed it “Dear Mickey and Sparkles” and cc’ing my boss. I knew he read it when I heard his frustrated yelling. We had to have a video conference (which was not a common thing at the time) just to have that department understand what my name was and that there was no one named Mickey involved.

    8. learnedthehardway*

      I get “Amy” all the time. I am not nor have ever been named “Amy”. Lovely name. Just not mine. My name doesn’t even start with an A.

  15. Conference person*

    LW1 – As someone who has attended and even ran many conferences, you have standing to address your employee’s presentation at a conference. Many organizations actually require approval before an employee can present, and many organizations require approval (such as a copyright grant form) from a presenter’s company before allowing a presenter to be on the schedule.

    Use this as an opening to make sure that all your employee’s ducks are in a row. Feel free to ask to see the content beforehand. In fact, you can even ask her to present it to you, which, in addition to everything else, would give her good practice.

    1. HSE Compliance*

      This was what I was thinking of as well. At nearly every place I’ve worked, if I am representing the company or a big company project, I would need approval from the company that I could do so and what I was presenting. That part of the letter came across oddly to me.

  16. Oh dear*

    “I really enjoyed reading with Katie the other day. Can you pass these books on to her? They were some of my/my nieces favorites and I’d love for her to have them.”

    Also kids aren’t super reliable narrators in many ways, it’s possible she has a million books and visits the library every other day but doesn’t have your particular books so said she doesn’t have any…

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Your last point is crucial. Particularly since there is a slight language barrier (OP is rusty) this could have been based on a very small mishearing/misspeaking (eg cama/casa) with the child not having the emotional maturity to elaborate or disambiguate.

    2. Green great dragon*

      Passing on outgrown books, toys etc is so common* that giving her your nieces books wouldn’t raise any questions at all. Actively buying books to give her feels a little different and probably would need a script like Alison suggests.

      *Recipients range from being so well off they’d never notice the cost but appreciate the curated gifts and saved effort, to those whose kids otherwise wouldn’t be getting the things.

      1. Hohundrum*

        Yes, I was coming here to say OP I grew up with plenty of book, and I still have memories of various people in my parents orbit buying me books or small treats as gifts simply because they were being nice/people like buying cute kids little treats sometimes. As an adult I’ve now done the same with kids in my orbit, especially books for kids who love to read, always a feel good gift to give.

        I think you’re thinking of this as like a charity thing and that’s what’s making you pause because of the inherent power imbalance of that (“I am a person with things to give, you are a person with nothing to give only needs unmet”), but it doesn’t have to feel like a charity thing, it can be just a kid thing. Cute kid, you had a nice time talking to her and she likes to read so it’s nice and fun to gift her some books because everyone likes encouraging kids to read. It doesn’t have to feel like commentary on what her mom provides or a power thing if you aren’t thinking of it that way, present some books just as you might to any other kid in your orbit you enjoyed spending time with.

    3. Wonderland*

      or even ‘i no longer have that book so I don’t have any at all!!!’ which is an interpretation I’ve seen from my nephews and children I’ve babysat.

      just treat it like you would any other child you want to encourage to read, after all you can always have more than nothing, that’s logic.

    4. Nebula*

      I also thought this, that just because she says she doesn’t have any books doesn’t mean it’s true (entirely possible that it is true! But who knows) – that’s why Alison’s advice there is good and the OP is overthinking it a bit, the kid likes books so give her some books, it’s just a nice thing to do.

    5. londonedit*

      Good point – if you listened to my nephew you’d think he never does anything at all at school. ‘Did you do any reading today?’ ‘No’. And then you find a new book in his bag and an entry in his reading log for the book he read that afternoon. A couple of months ago he went on a school trip to a museum, and the only thing he was interested in talking about was the fact that they went on a bus to get there.

      1. Myrin*

        For some reason, the bus part is absolutely hilarious to me.
        I had a school class visit me in my archive a few months ago and while they were quite uninterested in general, for some reason, the weight (as in, in kilograms) of the newspaper archive was of utmost importance to several of them – something I had never thought about and had to guess (extremely vaguely) judging from the estimated weight of one bound book.

      2. Ipsedixitism*

        This is so true. My son went on a trip somewhere interesting, and came back (all the kids did) bubbling over with excitement. Why? They’d seen a car on fire at the side of the road. Couldn’t tell us a darn thing about anything else they’d seen or learned. Just “It was on FIRE! With FLAMES!”.

        One track minds, bless ’em.

        1. londonedit*

          Absolutely – if my nephew saw a car on fire at the side of the road he’d be talking of nothing else for weeks!

        2. MsM*

          Even at the time, the only thing that stood out about my third grade trip to the Smithsonian was that trying to eat a picnic on the National Mall was a bad idea if you didn’t want to be mobbed by seagulls.

      3. Irish Teacher.*

        This even happens with teenagers. I’m a learning support/resource teacher, so I will sometimes ask “have you done this with your History/Maths English teacher yet?” or “you probably learnt in English/Maths/History about…” and will get a “no, we haven’t done that yet.” Occasionally, I’ve checked with the teacher because it would be something I would definitely expect would have been covered and sure enough, they would have done it.

        Sometimes they are making excuses, “this is too hard, our main teacher never makes us do stuff like this,” but sometimes they seem genuinely unaware of it.

      4. FashionablyEvil*

        Hahahah, yes, or that their favorite part of an expensive vacation was the fact that the hotel breakfast buffet had Frosted Flakes.

        1. londonedit*

          Yes!! My nephew came back from a family holiday last year raving about the fact that he’d been allowed to fill up his own cup from a soft drinks dispenser :D

        2. Bumblebee*

          My tweens literally still do this. We have started pushing a little to get them to reflect on their trips! Also, big escalators are always a hit.

        3. ReallyBadPerson*

          So true! My family took a cross-country (USA) road trip when I was a kid, and my favorite memory from that entire adventure was the indoor/outdoor pool at a hotel in Idaho. We probably saw bison and beautiful vistas, but that pool….

        4. But maybe not*

          My SIL and I were just talking yesterday about how you can do the most wonderfully exciting activity (hike behind a waterfall in Iceland!) and if you ask the kid what their favorite part is, they’ll say “I got goldfish crackers!”

        5. EmF*

          We went to Florida when I was 12, and a pelican pooped on my dad! Best trip ever.

          (Pelican poop, for those of you who are unfamiliar, is an aerosol.)

      5. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        It’s a family joke that any young child’s report about a school trip will look much like this (but with charming “phonetically plausible” spelling):

        On Friday we went to the Llama Farm. We got to school at normal time and Mrs Teacher made everybody go to the toilet. Then we got on the bus. It was blue. I sat next to Fergus. We played I-Spy and I spied a black sheep beginning with B. When we got to the farm we went to the toilet. Then we had our lunch. I had a ham sandwich and orange juice. I sat next to Tangerina P and Wakeen. A llama did a poo!!!!!!!!! We got back on the bus. I sat next to Alison. Bobby was sick.

    6. BubbleTea*

      There are children who don’t have any books at home. My previous careers involved visiting a lot of families’ homes, and it was depressing how many were bookless. It’s why Dolly Parton set up Imagination Library, and in the UK we have Bookstart.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I find the idea of no books at home sad, but unsurprising. Plenty of financially successful adults with college degrees don’t read books. For them, reading is a work skill. The idea of doing it recreationally is simply foreign. I would be surprised if they supplied their kids with books. Yes, for compulsive readers like the commentariat here, this seems downright abusive. But we are the weirdos.

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          I’ve even heard people involved in education argue that it would be better if we didn’t start to teach reading until 7 because studies have shown that children who don’t start until that time read just as well by 10 as those who start at 4 or 5. No other arguments in favour of changing, no perceived benefits, just…it doesn’t cause any long term harm, so of course that means they are better off not having to learn to read for a few extra years.

          As somebody who was begging her mother to teach her to read before I started school (she didn’t want to because she was afraid that if I was too far ahead of the other kids, I’d be bored and get disengaged), it seems really weird to me that the people making those arguments don’t even address the idea that children might want to be able to read at 4, 5, 6, 7, but it seems like a number of people have the assumption that the only benefit to learning to read is to be able to participate academically in middle school/secondary school and that once you can read independently by then, why would you be bothered learning any earlier than necessary?

          (Yes, there are genuine concerns about pushing kids before they are ready, but these arguments don’t even address stuff like that.)

          I suspect this may be part of the reason the OP is concerned. I suspect the OP is somebody like us for whom books in the home are the norm and the idea of not having them something sad and therefore she feels that offering books would be calling attention to Maria’s “failure” to provide something so important, but it is unlikely Maria sees it that way. For many, possibly most, people books are just one more thing like building blocks, computer games, colouring books, toy food, that kids sometimes get as presents and “hey, my niece has some old books she’s throwing out. Would Katie like them?” won’t register as any different than “my nice has some old dolls she’s throwing out. Would Katie like them?” or “my niece has some old Lego toys she’s throwing out. Would Katie like them?”

          1. Lexi Vipond*

            While I *feel* much the same as you do about it – and taught myself to read when I was 4 – the usual argument I’ve seen in favour of it is that it’s done that way in Denmark/Germany/some other apparently sensible country and works well there.
            And I’ve had sensible (and well-read) friends from those countries who find it deeply weird that we would be enforcing regimented learning at an age when they were still learning through play or practical activities or spending loads of time in nature or whatever it is they do at that age. So if I try to think about it logically, it must all work out in the end.

            1. Irish Teacher.*

              Yeah, it’s not that those countries are necessarily “wrong.” It’s that people argue that it is better solely because it means the kids don’t “have to learn to read so early and they still end up able to read their textbooks when they are 10 or 12, so there is no disadvantage at all.”

              The odd thing isn’t that different countries have different educational systems. It’s how so many educated professionals used to a system where children start learning to read at 4 do not even consider reading as anything other than a chore and without knowing anything about the systems in which it is done, leap to “it must be better because it doesn’t ‘inflict’ reading on children so early.”

              They aren’t thinking about things like spending time in nature because they don’t even know what kids in those countries do. They are just thinking of less reading as a good thing.

              1. JustaTech*

                The ones that really get me are the educational philosophies that *forbid* learning to read until age 7 (or whenever your adult teeth start coming in, and yes that is the criteria).
                When I learned about that, as an early and life long reader, I was apoplectic. I fully agree that children shouldn’t be forced to learn to read very young, but to tell the ones who want to and are ready that they’re not allowed? What the heck? That’s not child centered learning, that’s just mean.
                (My 18mo old currently has at least 82 books and his own library card.)

                1. Hroethvitnir*

                  Yes! I was severely disturbed when I heard about that. Accommodating different learning styles and paces in the classroom? Great. Holding kids back? Noooo.

                  I also could read (out loud) at 4 – I loved books, but also my parents had no idea what was “normal” so I was also pushed (I was also one of the only kids who could tie my shoelaces when I started school). I had finished the entire children’s section at our public library by 9 and got a “young adult” card early so I could get out books for older kids. The idea of not reading until 7 is horrifying to me. And I really do think most kids love reading unless they’re taught otherwise (indirectly, by the adults at home) or have a reading disability that isn’t being accommodated properly (sadly, more common than not).

                2. Humble Schoolmarm*

                  I launched a (successful) campaign to go to a different school for primary (age 5) because I overheard my mom talking with the neighbour about how her kids started school reading and then lost the ability over the year. I couldn’t figure out how you could stop a child from reading, but my very fertile imagination supplied all kinds of ideas related to closets, dungeons, dragons and creepy crawlies of various sorts. Yup, I was taking my vintage Nancy Drews to a whole other school rather than risk that thankyouverymuch.

            2. LingNerd*

              You also can’t fairly compare to countries that speak a language other than English. English is objectively more difficult to learn to read and write than any other European language. Regardless of what age kids start, it will take English speaking children longer to reach the same level of proficiency in reading than children who speak other European languages. English pretty much got run through a food processor over the last millennium and now there’s chunks of other languages all mixed in together, which makes the language really interesting but also a nightmare to spell. Plus we make most of our unstressed vowels into schwa!

          2. Helen Waite*

            There’s a huge age gap between me and my older siblings, which meant that they played “School” with me. I was enthusiastic about it and I learned how to read, write, and count to 100 before starting kindergarten. Sesame Street never went past 20 and I’d eagerly await finally getting a skit about 21 and beyond.

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              My kids were reading before entering kindergarten. I ascribe this partly to being read to, and partly to PBS Kids, particularly Word World. It does a fantastic job of teaching phonetics in an entertaining way.

        2. Love to WFH*

          As a teenager, I babysat for a neighbor family, and was aghast to see no bookshelves. There was one romance novel next to a comfy chair, and a copy of “Who’s Who in Philadelphia” on the mantel in the living room.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            It could be worse. I once house sat for a family whose only books were the Left Behind series.

        3. Abigail*

          This is pretty dramatic.

          Nobody thinks homes with books are weirdos. People just have different interests or check out books from the library or read on a kindle.

          I can assure you, college educated parents typically know how important reading to kids is and their kids rooms usually have a ton of book.

        4. Cmdrshprd*

          “For them, reading is a work skill. The idea of doing it recreationally is simply foreign.”

          To further bolster your point, when I was younger/in school (HS And below) I was a huge reader sometimes got in trouble for reading in class, read 1-3 books a week.

          Since college I have not read as much for fun as I used to, I might read a handful of books a year. Part of it is I read soo much for work reading for fun isn’t as appealing, and mixed with not a ton of free time often leaves me wanting to do more brain off activities.

          I don’t buy books, mainly because I don’t usually consume media more than once (books, movies, tv etc…) so I usually check stuff out from the library, and we don’t have the space to store a ton of books. shelf space is reserved for my kid’s books.

        5. MPerera*

          I had a friend who didn’t read anything unless it was work-related, like a training manual. We worked in the same field, and there was a book exposing a huge fraud involving a different organization in that field. The book was well-written and thoroughly researched, and I found it gripping. So I lent it to my friend.

          After a year, he had literally read 25 pages. So I took the book back.

        6. Pescadero*

          I think the weirdest one to me is that how much a parent reads to a kid has almost no correlation with educational attainment, but the number of books the parents own (even if they never read them) does.

          1. Cmdrshprd*

            Not an expert by any means, but it kinda makes sense in that how many/owning books is likely a proxy for financial economic status.

            So I would guess it really is more of a parents with higher incomes tend to have kids with higher educational attainment.

            it could also be that just having them in the home encouraged the kids to read on their own, learn better study habits, and/or see learning/education as valuable.

            1. Six for the truth over solace in lies*

              Yes, I’d be super curious to see whether the study or studies controlled for socioeconomic status. Because I remember a weird one—people who consumed full-fat dairy were healthier than people who consume low-fat dairy—and IIRC it ceased to be the case if you controlled for family financial status.

        7. Nancy*

          Adults do not look at other adults as weirdos for owning books. And there are plenty of adults who read for fun but don’t own books because they read ebooks, listen to audiobooks, use the library, or give the books they do own away when they finish.

      2. sparkle emoji*

        Dolly Parton Imagination Library does also cover parts of UK, Ireland, and Australia, not just the US!

        1. JustaTech*

          There is also the PJ Library, which is specifically Jewish books for Jewish kids. We signed our kid up (my husband is Jewish but I’m not and neither of us practice any religion) and I don’t know what it is but those books are Kiddo’s absolute favorite. (I think part of it is the thickness of the pages, they’re slightly thinner than most board books, but stiffer than a paper book.)

        2. Rose is a rose is a rose*

          Also Canada! My niece who lives in a remote community was always so thrilled to get her imagination library books in the mail!

      3. Letter Writer 4*

        Yes, especially when a family has more pressing financial concerns about food and housing, books are not always available.

      4. Momma Bear*

        My child’s elementary school donated books during the Scholastic Book Fair to ensure every child got at least one book a year to take home.

        I would just have books in the house for Katie to read and if she really likes them and they can be passed on, tell her she can take that one home. If there’s a Free Little Library nearby, OP can point that out as another place to find books (and there are Little Libraries all over the place so once Katie knows about it, she may visit more). I just wouldn’t make it a big deal. People have varying levels of material things, and sometimes it’s shocking for people do discover how other people live. I grew up with not a lot and I appreciated it when handmedowns (of any kind) were passed along quietly without making me feel less than. Dignity is important, too.

      5. Florence Reece*

        There are! But even with that context, there can be various reasons why. My parents were divorced and my dad’s apartment had no books; he was a long-haul truck driver so he was only home every three to six months, and our tradition was to spend time together…at the bookstore, where he bought me books to bring back to my mom’s house. He owned maybe a dozen books in his lifetime but that didn’t stop him from encouraging *my* love of reading one iota.

        And (aside from my bedroom stuffed to the gill with books, but where you might not see it) my mom’s house didn’t have much in the way of books either. Because she’s a professional organizer and hates clutter, so she got all of her books from the library. She’s quite well-read and does so voraciously, she just doesn’t see the point in *owning* a bunch of books when she doesn’t enjoy re-reading them.

        I think the point here is just that we shouldn’t assign class- or education-based assumptions to a family based on the books in their house.

    7. Hotdog not dog*

      Excellent point. Even as an adult, I sometimes lament that there is “nothing to read in this house!” when what I actually mean is that I am not interested in reading any of the hundreds (possibly thousands) of books already present; I want something else.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Yeah, I regularly joke that “I’m bookless”. When I say this to my mum, she will roll her eyes and make some comment about how yeah, one thing I am really short of is books, but what I mean is that I can’t find anything I want to read right then or am looking for an example of a particular genre that I haven’t read numerous times.

    8. Me*

      “my niece outgrew these books and they need a loving home” is also a nice way to offer the books.

    9. Nonanon*

      There’s also a chance they don’t have PHYSICAL books at home, but they download onto a tablet. I realize my partner, a voracious reader, only has a few physical books; most of his reading is done via his Kindle.

    10. Letter Writer 4*

      I understand that Katie may have some books at home. At one point in my letter I phrased it that she “says she has no books at home.” However, I think it is generally good to believe children, and it is clear that she loves books and would like more access to them.

      1. Nonanon*

        Hi LW4! Independent of if Katie actually has books at home, I just wanted to thank you for doing what you can to give her something she was clearly interested in

      2. RagingADHD*

        Understanding that young children speak their feelings more often than objective facts is still believing them.

        The point is not that you shouldn’t share books with Katie – you should!

        The point is that you don’t even need to consider giving the books as a commentary on Maria’s parenting, because they are totally unrelated.

  17. Allonge*

    LW5 – our company recently switched from flastname@ to firstname.lastname@ as an email naming convention.

    It made no difference in the number of people who latch onto my last name as a first name (not totally unreasonable by itself as it looks like a common first name). It helped with people mis-spelling my first name… maybe 10%?

    This is not going away as a problem. By all means correct people who get your name wrong if you have a longer relationship. But it will keep happening with new people (sorry)!

  18. An American(ish) Werewolf in London(ish)*

    Regarding Q5 (the names) – my name is Kate. My email address includes my full first name (as opposed to an initial). My signature does too. I introduce myself as Kate. Everything but the most official documents use Kate (official documents, of course use my FULL first name).

    The number of people who subsequently call me ‘Katie’ is something to behold. And it’s not like I’m a girly looking girl – I’m a 50 something year old woman. It doesn’t bother me greatly, but it surely baffles me.

    1. Brain the Brian*

      I once had a coworker named Katie — not Katherine, not Kate, but Katie. That was her legal name, from her birth certificate onward. The number of people who defaulted to Katherine as a mark of respect gave us all a good chuckle since it accomplished the exact opposite.

    2. Madame Arcati*

      Yeah people don’t pay attention. Let’s say my name is Marie. I often get Maria and once had a whole conversation with someone who then sent a fax (yes I’m old) to “Anne-Marie”… :-/

    3. IntoTheWoulds*

      Ugh, something similar happens to me, too, and it can be tricky to figure out when they are just deciding to bestow me with a nickname and when it’s a hearing loss issue.

      And I do think there are a ton of people out there with damaged hearing. I really started noticing after a medical treatment left my voice weaker than it used to be. My normal speaking voice is the same volume it always was, and I can still speak louder than that just fine, too. But I can’t always get up to a very high/yelling volume, and it’s become clear that sometimes people literally need that before they will understand you. Happens so much when I’m somewhere I need to give my name. Like, sorry, my voice doesn’t go to yelling volume today, and have you considered visiting an audiologist? (Only took several years for me to convince my husband to go and get diagnosed with hearing loss. So I’m sure a quick suggestion to the person behind the counter at the pharmacy would work? /s)

    4. HSE Compliance*

      One of the following is my actual name… and the rest are what people *think* is my name.

      Catherine, Katarina, Catalina, Katrina, Kaitlyn, Katie, Sabrina, Khloe, Karinna, Tina, Cassandra, Colleen, Marissa.

  19. Yellow rainbow*

    LW3 if they were a bad hire be happy they resigned. You won’t always get hiring right.

    But I have to say I couldn’t help wonder if maybe the problem wasn’t them. You got no specifics (despite the rudeness being in writing) and you’re being told that you might need to replace them. That feels weird. I’d expect that if they were proposing someone’s position be terminated during training that there’d be issues being documented. Also, I’d expect you to ask for specifics along the lines of what happened/what did they say? Although I’m not in the US and employers can’t just sack someone cause they want to.

    On the pay issue – my work tells us pay day is a Wednesday – I always get paid Tuesday. You might want to adopt the practice of staying pay day as the day funds will be available to the employee. If someone had experienced non payment issues with an employer when they didn’t have the pay on pay day I could understand just deciding it wasn’t worth it (start ups have reputations for cash flow issues). Especially if I’d had trouble with the trainers.

    1. Myrin*

      I picked up on the vagueness as well (OP even says “I don’t know the specifics” so it’s not like she might’ve simply not mentioned them in the letter) but OP is not the hiring manager – that’s the person who told OP she might need to find a replacement in her function as a recruiter. I read that as a heads-up in the sense of “hey, just so you know, I might need to let this person go and you’ll have to kickstart the whole searching process again”. So the hiring and firing itself isn’t OP’s responsibility – that’s on the actual manager.

    2. JKateM*

      A lot of the discrepancy in funds availability is up to the bank and not the employer. all the employer controls is when “payday” is, that is when the deposit will be officially complete to the receiving bank. whether the bank chooses to release this a day early, or on the given day, or even place a hold, is up to the bank and not the employer. different banks will have different rules so an employer won’t necessarily know the exact day the funds would be made available.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        My experience has definitely not reflected this. Paid on Friday meant the funds were transferred Friday.

        1. Magpie*

          In order for funds to be available on Friday, they actually need to be transferred to the bank a day or two ahead of time since banks have some processing time for fund transfers. Depending on how the specific bank handles these kinds of transfers, the funds might become available in the employee’s account before Friday even if the company’s intent is for everyone to be paid on Friday.

        2. Pocket Mouse*

          My workplace’s payday is Friday; people receiving paper checks can only pick them up on Fridays and not before. But we get alerts to submit our timesheets by Wednesday so that payroll can be processed correctly, and with direct deposit at my bank, funds are alway available to me on Thursdays.

        3. Eldritch Office Worker*

          It depends on when/how payroll is processed and can also vary depending on what bank the employee uses

          1. sparkle emoji*

            Yes, every job where I’ve had direct deposit set up my bank will send the money to my account 1-2 days before my job’s official payday because they had some sort of “early payday” incentive to get people to bank with them.

        4. Name (Required)*

          Most, if not all, electronic payroll in the US is sent by a system called ACH and is sent two days in advance to guarantee it will be available on the payroll day. A lot of credit unions (as opposed to banks) give you access to your funds as soon as they get them because they don’t hoard their depositor’s money the way banks do. I routinely get my pay two days before the actual payday.

      2. Aphrodite*

        I work at a California community college. We get paid on the last business day of the month. I bank at a credit union. It was, I believe, around June of 2020 that they announced they would release any deposit as soon as checks hit the banks’ clearing house. Since the college seems to send paychecks out a few days before the last day of the month, I often find I have full access three to five days ahead of time. Used to drive me nuts.

    3. Magpie*

      In the US, many employers have a probation period for new hires that lasts a few months. During this time, they don’t need to go through any sort of process to let someone go, they can just decide it’s not working out and let them go immediately.

    4. Reluctant Mezzo*

      I would like to know if the LW actually looked at the video to discover if the new hire was rude at all, or just was rude to the guy hitting on her. Just sayin’.

  20. Fernie*

    For #5 –
    As Alison says, this is just a thing that people do, and they probably won’t stop doing. But as to why, I think it might be because by the time one is typing an email, your email address has scrolled off the top of the screen, and your original email with your signature has scrolled off the bottom of the screen. A responsible person would scroll and check before they hit “Send”, but if people are replying quickly, they won’t.

    Sincerely, a person who referred to a colleague by the wrong name on a Teams call yesterday, when her correct name was even moreso “right in front of me”!

    1. OP3*

      My company doesn’t do this due to a severe lack of staff. HR is a party of 2, atm. I’m hoping to suggest reference checks if I’m ever made a FTE.

  21. BanSansSerif*

    I sympathise so much with Kev- sorry, Katherine. My birth last name starts with an I for India, which, as we all know, looks just like a lowercase L for Lima in a sans-serif font. On top of that, it’s also not a name most people in the anglosphere are familiar with.

    Cue me seeing it spelled with an uppercase L in far more situations than you’d expect, both at work and outside of it, at which point I’d have to decide how much of a pain in the ass I need to be about it. Now, like most people with names that get misspelled often, I aim for a good balance of assertiveness and tolerance when it comes to spelling/pronunciation. But the I/L thing is INFURIATING because like, the implication is that I don’t know how to capitalise my own name, right? It’s a huge imposition!

    I don’t have a solution for Keavon – I ended up making a change to my last name for a different reason which solved the problem – but I share the frustration. Some people’s mental flowchart is just bananas.

    1. Seashell*

      I have lower case L’s in my personal email address, and they often get confused for I’s. When my kids were smaller, I switched to another email for a while for school stuff, so I wouldn’t miss any more emails from teachers or birthday party invitations.

      If I had known it was going to be a problem, I would’ve picked a different email in 1999 or whenever it was.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Just saying, a name like “liliana” is not fun with the embrace of sans serif fonts.

    2. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      This probably won’t make you feel better, but as someone with a first name that starts with an L, half the time if I don’t specifically capitalize it as L, I end up missing emails because people emailed me as though it were an I, or even a 1.

      I really really wish serif fonts were the default for programs. It wouldn’t fix the times where people are just not paying attention, but it would help!

    3. ThatOtherClare*

      This advice is not aimed at you, BanSansSerif, but to everyone else who reads this:

      Please consider cultivating a habit of always copy/pasting names that start with either an I or an L from the person’s signature and into your ‘Dear [name]’ line. Even with people you know (you never know when someone might acquire/drop a nickname). If you always do it, it stops feeling like ‘effort’ and starts feeling like ‘good sense’.

  22. F P*

    I had this once with Accounts Payable Clerk and Director of Finance years ago. Then I had something like this in my last company. This is a sign to move on because this supervisor has favorites.

  23. Marlo*

    This is probably completely irrelevant but I was curious in the housekeeper/book letter why the LW mentioned that the daughter was in school and that she went out of her way to confirm that.

    Is there something more going on? Either way I don’t think you need a big script, just offer the books

    1. CDM*

      when my kids were in elementary school they had a library period every week and brought home books of their choice weekly, in addition to short books brought home from the classroom to read.

      I would normally expect a child in school to have access to books and to bring some home.

      Although I am also aware of many news stories 5-10 years ago about the lack of school libraries in inner-city schools due to lack of district funding for school librarians and due to the aging and increasingly unsuitable catalogue of books. I think that’s less of an issue now (in my area at least) since the problem has been publicized and a lot of organizations have concentrated on fundraising to remedy that lack in low-income schools.

      Also, most of the classrooms had a classroom library also, (often funded by the teacher, though our PTO fundraising provided an annual stipend larger than the district provided one for teachers to use for classroom supplies) and kids could pick out books to read if they finished work early and could bring them home temporarily. With the rise in book challenges from a certain sector of activists, I am hearing anecdotally that many teachers have removed the libraries from their classrooms so they don’t get parents complaining to administration.

    2. Silver Robin*

      I read it as books at home being part of a child’s education. OP is probably trying to avoid making it sound like Maria might not be invested in the kid learning to read/education more generally, which is counteracted by the kid being in school.

      People might also assume that Maria is undocumented and that she is keeping her kid out of official/public institutions to avoid ICE detection (not usually necessary, ICE generally focuses elsewhere). Similar impact as the above, and OP wanted to stave that off.

    3. Letter Writer 4*

      I made sure Katie was in school because educational neglect is a serious issue for children and I would handle the situation differently if I thought she had no access to learning at all.

    4. Peanut Hamper*

      Because schools have libraries and the child could check out books from the school library is how I read that. But it may be that the library doesn’t have any/many Spanish or bilingual books and it definitely won’t be available to the child when school is out for the summer.

    5. lunchtime caller*

      honestly the entire letter had weird vibes to me of the LW being really self-conscious about the class/language differences here but a lot of people are weird about the liminal role of in-home service providers so I’m almost used to hearing strange details when housekeepers/nannies/etc enter the conversation

      1. Letter Writer 4*

        You might also consider that I have a medical condition affecting my ability to use language disclosed at the beginning of my letter.

        1. B*

          For what it’s worth, you’re articulating yourself very clearly.

          I think this scenario is touching on a whole lot of social topics that make people uneasy and/or about which they have a lot of subliminal and unexamined beliefs (immigration, race, class, parenting), and there is a good deal of projection happening in the comments.

        2. Hroethvitnir*

          As someone who has developed a very mild aphasia from chemotherapy, I have so much sympathy. The fact you can communicate well enough to get by in a second language still is very impressive!

          I can’t speak to whether you’re communicating exactly what you intend, but I want to ditto that you are communicating very clearly. I actually think people are falling into the ableist trap of over-reading into excessively precise language, as is common in a bunch of neurodivergences (I have been guilty of this too! But it’s good to be cognisant of).

      2. Boof*

        I mean, yes? We know we have to be careful about employee relationships, blurring the lines, race, class, and so many other things; can’t be subject matter experts in everything and certainly can’t have lived experiences in everything? And on top of that some other factors as the LW notes below? If they didn’t mention that how many comments do you think would be asking/speculating about what resources the kid did or didn’t have access to???

      3. Dahlia*

        I don’t think it’s weird that LW wants to avoid being rude or condescending to people in their life.

  24. Richard Hershberger*

    Hiring: I have just gone through this process from the employee side. I am fortunate to have a skill set that is in demand, and received two offers. So which to choose? The thing is, a job interview is like a first date. Both parties are on their best behavior (and in my case, all dolled up, to prove that I own a suit). Yes, some people can’t manage winsome even for a first date, but most people can put themselves forward well for that long, even if they are deeply unpleasant people once you get to know them. My choice was informed in part by the fact that I know the department head and worked with him in the past, giving me some confidence in the work environment. The other firm looks fine, and in some respects made a better offer, but there is that lingering uncertainty. From the hiring side, it is unsurprising that someone managed good first date behavior, but promptly dropped the mask once hired.

  25. Irish Teacher.*

    LW3, the odds are this person was polite during the interview because they were looking to be hired, then thought they could behave as they liked once they had the job. People tend to be on their best behaviour during interviews, so you aren’t going to see the full range of a person’s behaviour.

    And yeah, it is always possible that there is some reason they didn’t respect the hiring manager and trainer as they did you, from their being women to their being younger than the bad hire to their being members of a minority or appearing to be from a working class/blue collar background. Heck, we’ve had letters here from people who didn’t respect their manager because he/she didn’t have a degree or didn’t have post-graduate qualifications or because they weren’t technical experts.

    Checking references is definitely a good idea because how somebody behaves in an interview is not necessarily indicative of how they will behave when hired. But beyond that, I don’t think there is much you could have done.

    LW4, I think you are seeing not having books as a poor parenting decision and offering books as indicative of correcing how Maria parents her daughter or at least, you are afraid she will see it that way.

    But as said, I don’t think it has to be that way. I think you can just say, “Katie really seemed to like these books when she was over here. My niece has some she has outgrown and is looking to get rid of them. Would Katie like them?” You could even leave out the first sentence and just say, “I’ve a niece a bit older than Katie and her parents are clearing out some of her old books. Would Katie like them?”

    It’s not unusual for kids not to have books at home and you don’t have to treat offering her your niece’s outgrown books any differently than you would offering her your niece’s outgrown Barbie dolls or toy trucks or superhero toys or whatever.

    1. Letter Writer 4*

      No, I am seeing Maria as someone who has strong boundaries about her life outside of working with me that I want to respect, and I want to balance respecting those boundaries with my desire to give her daughter books. This is why I say in my letter that Maria is a good parent.

      1. Marlo*

        That all makes sense, I just don’t understand why offering the books would be somehow violating the boundaries. Obviously you know the dynamics of the situation, but from the outside it seems like a pretty common and mild thing to do

        1. 2 and a Possible*

          In some cultures, accepting items from outside the family or close circle just isn’t done. So you also do not offer things to people not in your circle.

          LW’s concern about violating boundaries is valid.2

      2. Cmdrshprd*

        I commend you trying to respect Maria’s boundaries, but I think it might be a case of overthinking it a bit too much.

        As others have suggested I think a simple “my niece outgrew these books, would Katie like them?”

        If Maria seems put off I would drop it.

        Not that I can speak for everyone or even some, but as someone who had parents in similar jobs, we appreciated when people offered us stuff we could use. From books, clothes, toys, furniture etc… It was never expected but always appreciated.

          1. Dahlia*

            I sometimes have found that it can help if you frame it as something they can do FOR you. Don’t lie, obviously, but think about things like is there a convenient place for you to donate books? Would it help with decluttering, would it save you a trip that would wear you out, would it help you get rid of them if you knew they were going to a good home because you get a little overattached to things (like me lol)?

            None of those might be true for you, but if it would also help you, go ahead and say that.

  26. Anon for This*

    OP 1, in my field speakers at conferences generally get to attend the conference free, sometimes receive stipends. I’d recommend you ask your employee about that – she could be double dipping on some of the expenses. I also note that I am very accustomed to others taking credit for my work, though it is more often the trope of men taking credit for the work done by women. I would also ask her about that – call her out on it – so she knows she didn’t get away with it. And check for other incidences of dishonesty about her work.

  27. Anne of Green Gables*

    It’s not clear to me in #1 if the employee was asked to be a speaker or applied to be a presenter. In my field, one or two keynotes are asked, everyone else goes through an application process. And everyone at my workplace is expected to mention to their supervisor when they apply to present to a conference. It’s usually a super informal conversation, but it would be weird if someone skipped it.

    I’ve never been asked to be a conference speaker but I have been asked to present one-hour webinars in my field. I don’t ask my supervisor about those, I just schedule them into my day, but I usually tell them, mostly to informally document that I am involved in the profession beyond our institution.

    So the employee not telling LW/their boss is weird to me. The credit part isn’t, I agree with most other commentors that a brief summary of a session is not where “and this is what was in place before I got there” belongs.

  28. LMNOP*

    Today I learned that conference experiences vary widely.

    I apply for professional development funds pretty often without knowing whether I’m speaking or not. I apply to speak at the conference, but I need to register fairly early to get the best price, and the approval process from my job takes a bit. That usually means I don’t know whether my presentation proposal has been accepted or not when I ask for my job (academic library) to pay.

    It’s hardly nefarious. I’m not taking money I’m not entitled to or stealing credit from anyone. I don’t hide it if my proposal is chosen, but I don’t make a big deal of it either. I’m one of many minor presenters, not the keynote speaker. No one needs to approve of my slides / script / poster in advance, and it would be seen as extremely micro-managey if my boss asked to do that.

    It would also be odd to list out my managers or coworkers in a conference bio or abstract. No one cares who my coworkers are at a national level conference. They’re just looking to see if the presentation looks interesting or useful to them. I give credit in the presentation when it’s relevant, but bios are not the place for that.

    Everything described in the letter sounds normal and above board to me, but clearly, different industries have different standards.

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      Ah, that is really interesting and makes the whole thing sound far more normal to me.

      The whole part about not mentioning she was a speaker was the only part that originally seemed off to me because in any conference I have attended, the speakers and attendees are two completely different groups. The last one was about a new curriculum being introduced for students over 15 with General Learning Differences. The speakers were those who are involved in creating the curriculum, two people whose job is specificially related to curriculum development whereas the attendees were teachers from both special schools and mainstream schools from whom they wanted input on whether they had failed to include anything we thought would benefit our students or whether anything they had included wouldn’t work in the actual classroom.

      Another conference I attended was about learning support in general and again the speakers were people often from outside education or people who had expertise in a certain area. The main reason I attended the conference was to get training on WIAT testing (testing students’ reading skills) and one of the speakers, who was presenting for about 3 hours, was something who was qualified to give that training.

      So somebody asking to go to a conference to learn how to administer the WIAT (or any other particular skill) and turning out to be the expert who was training others on how to administer it would be very strange indeed.

      But it sounds like this varies greatly by field and may well be unremarkable in the LW’s.

    2. Pocket Mouse*

      But surely you’re mentioning it to someone that you’ve submitted a proposal to speak, or intend to, at the time you’re requesting funds to cover the cost of registration? That’s the weird part, if there’s an obvious person to mention it to and you just… don’t… especially if not mentioning it extends after your proposal has been accepted.

      1. Salad*

        In higher ed and government, not necessarily, because you may not even be speaking to someone, often it’s just a form you fill out and submit to your manager. I’ve requested and been approved for conferences with very minimal if any actual conversation about with my supervisor beyond a “oh great, I’m glad you’re applying!”

      2. LMNOP*

        In my case, I’m expected to do a certain amount of professional development every year, and I’m expected to present at least every couple years. Both doing my own research and keeping up on developments in the field are part of my job. One of my “perks” is a limited amount of funds that I can use at my discretion for things like conferences or classes. There’s an approval process, but it doesn’t involve saying whether I’m speaking or not.

        Like I said, I don’t hide anything, but I don’t make a point of telling my boss or coworkers that I’m presenting somewhere. They’re often attending and applying to the same conferences and have access to the programs. We often attend each other’s presentations as a show of support, but there’s no formal (or informal) process for announcing every upcoming presentation.

        If I switched jobs and went to a place that expected more involvement in conference & presentation planning, I wouldn’t necessarily know that the first time around unless someone made the expectations very clear. OP’s employee may be in a similar boat.

      3. AngryOwl*

        Nope, not necessarily. They might have decided to submit later, they may worry they won’t get picked, all sorts of non-nefarious reasons.

    3. Bumblebee*

      Right, as someone in higher ed that was so odd to me – but I only have one set of norms to compare. I love when my team members present and I assume there’s going to be things in their presentation that I at least told them to do, if not things I started myself. Particularly with younger staffers I expect that. It’s far worse when I realize my boss is not giving me credit in public for things he knows darn well I did myself (he takes the idea that the buck stops with him as not really needing to give anyone else credit, unfortunately).

      1. But maybe not*

        +1000 to this comment. I’d much rather have a direct report feel ownership over a project enough to take credit for it rather than my boss acting like everything is his idea.

    4. AngryOwl*

      I’m right there with you. Nothing the employee has done (as described here) is odd to me and the manager’s reaction feels very outsized.

      I realize that there may be rules at their company I’m not aware of and that would change things, but so many folks in the comments seem convinced there are standards everywhere and there really just aren’t.

    5. Moose*

      I don’t work in academia or education in general, but this is how it works in my field as well. I often apply for travel funds without knowing whether or not I am presenting. We do have an approval process for materials, but that happens very last minute. And it would be seen as very unusual to mention a manager in any part other than that Thank Yous at the end of the presentation.

    6. Another Academic Librarian*

      Agreed. I wouldn’t think twice about the situation the OP has described. In my workplace, presenting at conferences is expected (that is, required), and it is far more unusual to go to a conference as an attendee. I don’t need my supervisor’s permission to present, and I would be beyond shocked if I were expected to have my topic, abstract, or slides approved as some people have described. When you submit the form requesting funds to cover attendance, you can check off whether or not you’re a presenter, but that’s not for approval — it’s because presenters tend to get more financial support.

      I’m also a little confused by the suggestion that this person stealing credit. The OP describes her as someone who was hired to “expand upon and lead” a specific and important function that they didn’t have the time and bandwidth for. If this employee is leading it, then its success should be attributed to her… shouldn’t it?

      Clearly norms around conferences vary greatly, but… I think it’s worth saying, gently, that I would see it as a huge red flag if my boss reacted this way to a conference presentation I did.

  29. Woman Adjacent to STEM*

    As someone who works behind the scenes planning events like these for an association, I agree that you are taking this personally. There are a lot of unspoken expectations around these kinds of presentations. If you are more senior, they might seem obvious, but it wouldn’t for someone new to this world.

    I often see some tension between what counts as work for a company and what counts as personal volunteer work for the association putting on the event. This isn’t a universal experience, but it happens.
    I see a ton a variation in how different companies, individuals, and even cultures approach that tension. This is a great opportunity to talk about you and your company’s expectations going forward. I wouldn’t assume ill intent unless there is something egregious that I’m missing. It is also 100% possible that she was not a speaker when she requested funding. She may have even been a last minute alternate or just didn’t receive her acceptance until after she registered.

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for some credit for your input. This will depend on your industry. There may be an option to include your name as a contributor in the program, but more likely your employee will have an acknowledgment slide that mentions contributions from others. From my POV it would be really odd for you to get a shout out in the presentation description.

    1. AngryOwl*

      This is a good point. The OP described this as professional development, which is not the same as the “going to represent a company” that is discussed elsewhere.

    2. kt*

      Yes, there is a ton of variation. I was in academia and now have been in corporate life. At one company, we were encouraged to speak, and if it was to an academic or student audience we needed no vetting, while if it was a to an industry audience we needed to have speaker training about what we could say/not say (publicly traded company) and have our slide approved (not hard, but had to be done). Now at a new place, and asked about this. They don’t have many employees present at non-customer events, I did not need any speaker training, I had a choice of whether to use my own plain slides or company branded slides. I submitted a speaker proposal on a whim after registering for the conference and got accepted long after registration.

      Reasonable things: to have employee submit slides for approval if they’re using company logos and branding; to discuss with an employee what they can say about financials, long-range plans, etc; to ensure they’re on-message with company initiatives that may be related. It might be reasonable to have the employee say, “X people at the company identified this area as an opportunity for investment and I was hired to do Y” and give you a little shout-out. It’s not reasonable though to prevent them from talking about their work because you’re the one who came up with their job description.

  30. Xochitl*

    Op4- absolutely do not offer the books. Instead, leave them out where they are visible and let her express interest in them. Then you can casually say “take them if you’d like, I was going to throw them away “. As a speaker of another language (Spanish) who has been immersed in the culture, the other scripts suggested are too complicated. Maria needs to feel that she controls this particular interaction from beginning to end. Aiding her in this helps protect her dignity.

    1. Marlo*

      I’m not a Spanish speaker so I defer, but it sounds like alot of game playing for something seemingly minor (giving away some kids books).

      1. Madame Arcati*

        I tend to agree – dignity might be a consideration if lw was purchasing books specifically but genuinely second hand needs a new home? I don’t see the issue you’re not offering her your leftover food.
        I’d go for “oh my sister’s daughter is bilingual and has outgrown these books, would they be useful to you? I don’t want to waste them!”
        I don’t think she would express an interest if lw just left them out. I mean what world she say? Not, “can I have those/are they for me?” by the sound of it!

      2. Hyaline*

        My reaction too—feels like game playing and forces her to express her interest, which might not be something she’d ever feel comfortable doing. You can make the offer in a normal “parents pass stuff on when kids outgrow it” framing that, unless LW has a history of patronizing Maria, shouldn’t come across as undermining her dignity. (I’m almost inclined to say not treating her as part of the normal “circle of kids’ hand me downs” and making her play a guessing game that the books might be available feels more undignified to me)

        1. Reebee*

          I’m sorry, but “patronizing”? “Game playing?” “Undermining her dignity”?

          That’s wayyyy over-thinking it. “Hi [name]! I’ve got some books here. Feel free to take a look and if you like any they’re yours!”

          I mean, it’s books. It’s not complicated.

          1. Dahlia*

            The suggestion was, “Instead, leave them out where they are visible and let her express interest in them.” That is what is being called patronizing and game playing, because it is. You’re suggesting basically the opposite.

    2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      What about offering them to her and saying “I was going to donate these books” (with rare exceptions that do not include “kid outgrew them” I do not throw books away)? It’s the specific “cleaner” nature of the relationship that I’m thinking of here, which might make her extremely reluctant to express interest in any of LW’s possessions.

    3. Letter Writer 4*

      Maria is a professional who would never “take an interest” in my possessions in the way you are describing.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I appreciate you defending Maria in these comments the way you are. There’s some microaggressions all the way up to regular aggressions from various people and it’s disappointing to see.

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          Yes, it’s weird how the minute you mention that this person is a Spanish speaker, a whole lot of hidden biases suddenly come out of the woodwork. (I doubt very much that this would happen if Maria spoke Polish or Korean.) I applaud LW for trying their best to respect Maria’s dignity and boundaries.

          1. Marlo*

            I think the confusing part, at least for me, is how offering her kid a few books is disrespectful to Maria’s dignity or boundaries. The OP is the one who seems to have an issue – most of the commenters are saying it would be fine

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              OP is trying to respect dignity and boundaries by thinking proactively about the power dynamics involved in an employer-employee relationship. Overthinking, perhaps, but we see too many people doing it in the opposite direction, we can’t be critical when someone asks the question.

              1. Letter Writer 4*

                Yes, and I have to think hard about my communication because I have a language disorder.

        2. HR Friend*

          The amount of mental gymnastics people are engaging in because Maria is an immigrant/Spanish speaker/service worker is the micro aggression. Maria doesn’t need OP to agonize over how to “preserve her dignity” (seriously?). And the amount of thought OP is giving to Maria’s parenting abilities is bizarre. OP’s confusing respecting cultural/language differences with treating Maria like someone who has no agency.

          Just ask if she wants the books, OP. It’s not charity or patronizing, it’s just being nice because you know she has a kid. I’m sure she’s been offered a gift she doesn’t want at some point in her life so she can turn you down, or take them like we all sometimes do and dispose of them later.

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            Eh, OP has had Maria respond in an unexpected way to a “normal” question before, so it’s reasonable for her to be questioning how to offer something she wouldn’t have questioned offering before that experience.

            Once, I forgot the word for “light” when she told me something was light, so I asked if she would like help carrying it; she gave me a speech about how she is an independent woman and I should let her work.

          2. Letter Writer 4*

            The amount of thought I give to my communication is not bizarre for someone with a language disorder.

      2. Irish Teacher.*

        I assumed Xochilt meant that if Katie was with Maria, you could leave them for Katie to show an interest in, as a child will often look at or comment on anything like that.

        1. Letter Writer 4*

          Maria has been working for me for a long time and has only had a childcare issue once. Katie is not a regular guest at my house and I think that this also presumes a lot about Maria.

    4. I should really pick a name*

      How does “I’m done with these books, would you like them?” hurt someone’s dignity?

      1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        Some people have problems taking what might be considered “cast offs” or hand-me-downs, because they feel like it implies they’re not worth getting items new. It’s something that can definitely be an issue for someone who was say, the 4th girl in a family of 6 that only ever got what their older sisters outgrew. Even if reusing something like a book is entirely reasonable, it can chafe at a person who grew up in that situation.

        Not saying this is a good or bad thing, just saying that this is a possibility that LW is obviously trying to take into consideration.

    5. Saturday*

      It seems very unlikely to me that she would express an interest in them – she’ll assume they belong to the OP and will mind her own business like I’m sure she does with all the rest of the OP’s things.

    6. Boof*

      This seems unnecessarily passive + if I was an employee the last thing I would do is try to sample someone else’s stuff without any explicit permission. I think it’s really normal in our culture and in most cultures to offer kids small gifts regardless of how you know them and offering some books isn’t an overstep in any scenario that I can come up with as long as it’s done in a way that LW would probably do for anyone, and not in a “oh your poor dearie said they have no books” way. If someone gets offended well, individuals will always vary, and we can’t / probably shouldn’t try to anticipate people’s emotions around everything and try to manage them ahead of time?

    7. Cordelia*

      Maria is a professional housekeeper, I think it highly unlikely that she would “express an interest” in her employers belongings.

  31. Rae*

    I want to share that I requested a name change at work recently, including updating email address, and it was amazingly easy. My company prioritizes giving people their preferred name. I just emailed HR and it was done. HR made the arrangements with IT, I didn’t have to do anything else.
    At a previous job, it took many emails, proofs, reminders, and 8 months!

  32. OrigCassandra*

    I have a slightly different take on OP1’s situation, though I don’t assert it’s automatically the correct one. OP1, is your employee afraid of you? Or concerned about how you will react to them receiving a professional opportunity?

    I am absolutely asking this question because of a former boss, who had been my peer until he was promoted to lead the unit we were both in. He was fine at the work, but I was better and everyone knew it. I had been happy for him, actually — but he immediately turned my worklife into such a horrorshow of micromanagement that I moved units to get away from him.

    Not saying that’s what you’ve done! Just asking how you think your employee views you, rightly or wrongly, and whether that might have had some impact on the behavior here.

  33. Barbara in Swampeast*

    #3 – Are you sure the person who was in training was the person you talked to and hired? Being fully remote, could there have been a switch?

      1. OP3*

        Oh, wow! I wonder… I’ve got no way of knowing since only the trainer ever saw the hire. Maybe there was a switch!

        1. Anonymous on a bad hire*

          This is a pretty funny hypothesis. You saw the hire (Interviewee), then the trainer saw someone (Trainee). If that’s a different someone, then Trainee quitting the job for Interviewee blaming the payroll posting seems like a lot to invent. And why would Interviewee send Trainee for training Interviewee would need to do the job? Occam’s Razor applies here: Some people interview well and aren’t who they presented themselves to be.

          I say this due to direct experience with what felt like a dramatic personality change or disguise of one’s true nature. Same person throughout so no stunt doubles involved. I’m sharing a brief story light on detail so as not to reveal too much to colleagues who may read this column, and yes, we did reference checks and they were all positive in addition to us having a professional HR team and processes involving a search committee and two rounds of interviews.

          We hired someone who interviewed well, came across as highly enthusiastic, had great knowledge and many years of experience. 100% telework living in a different city from everyone else including their direct supervisor who reports to me. Lots of contact with people throughout our organization, all virtual. Came to in-person staff meetings, again enthusiastic and participatory although also prone to complaining about things in a way that landed oddly (at one point in one virtual staff meeting apologizing for “being dramatic” when they’d actually felt a bit rude to me and to others).

          They were hired at a senior-ish subject matter expert level expected to be self-directed and everything in their work history indicated they were used to this. Supervisor found they had to coach them a lot on follow-through and taking ownership of projects. This supervisor is experienced and is clear and direct in setting expectations but this wasn’t working out and was approaching time to institute a PIP.

          For a variety of reasons only partially related to this we did some restructuring and decided to change reporting lines. New supervisor, also very experienced manager and clear/direct in feedback and coaching, works with others outside our team who need to interact with this position. New supervisor decided to contact some of them to discuss how the position is working out so as to have the transition and new structure work well and to be able to do a reset on performance expectations.

          Come to find out, someone who was immediately very, very contrite that they hadn’t spoken up immediately tells us that on the third day on the job (!) this new hire was rude in their very first meeting, said a bunch of negative things about their supervisor, and it got worse from there as they worked together on a project over several months. Behaviors included yelling in meetings, constantly complaining, not doing their portion of the shared project which was one of the things they were being coached by their supervisor to own and lead, and at the same time complaining their expertise wasn’t acknowledged and they were being asked to do low-level work that was beneath them (work that was included in the position description), speaking in derogatory terms about colleagues and the entire organization. The list goes on. And on. And on.

          Believe me, that person who didn’t tell us all of this now knows that if they have an issue with anyone on our team they are to speak up immediately and talk to that person directly to give feedback (“This isn’t how we talk about colleagues here. Sounds like you need to talk to them directly about your concerns.”) and to their supervisor. Everything described was 100% unprofessional and unacceptable and it wasn’t a one-off having a bad day. This person has years and years of experience and absolutely should know this isn’t how to work with others. Further discussions with other colleagues beyond our unit also daylighted concerns people hadn’t shared, including the possibility that another valued employee in a different unit actually quit because they thought this person was taking over their responsibilities based on how they presented themselves.

          Long story long, we ended this person’s employment and they were stunned and surprised. All our interviews make heavy use of behavioral questions and we always ask for examples of conflict or differences and how they approach those. We listen to the answers and ask follow-ups if we hear potential red flags. This hire was definitely one person in the interview and another person once on the job in ways that mostly were hidden from their supervisor’s view.

          Moral of the story that isn’t about your scenario, it’s about working with people in general: If you have a bad experience with a colleague and it recurs, don’t assume their manager knows they’re creating problems. Tell them. Too many people must have assumed we knew already or that it wasn’t their place to tell us, and yet this meant we had damage control to do on a number of important relationships because this person had been a bridge-burner. The information about what someone’s like to work with needs to go up the chain so future reference checks have more complete information behind them.

          1. Cat*

            I think that the suggestion is that the interviewee was just doing the interviews then disappearing and the trainee is the one who took the job when hired

  34. Hyaline*

    LW4–if you were offering books cold I think there’s room for it to be misinterpreted. But since you have an in already—observing Katie enjoying books—and an occasion—a stack of books that need rehoming—I would use it. “My niece asked if I knew anyone who would enjoy these books, and since Katie had fun reading the other day, I thought of her first.”

    If she says no, obviously don’t press and drop it in future. But I think your good intentions to not be hurtful are morphing into trying to control for what would be an unreasonable reaction. If Maria has an unreasonable reaction, that’s not on you!

  35. A Pinch of Salt*

    #2: I did this last year in almost the exact same scenario. I also went into my exit interview with stats on how much money these shenanigans cost, all the illegal shit they were doing (I worked in tax administration) and was very clear that the only reason I was leaving was because of that one person. Nothing happened to them, but at least I can say I tried if she ever ends up on the news.

    1. JGRV*

      Reading about it more, it seems like this is more commonplace than I thought. I’ve never really experienced having to be in this kind of a scenario in my previous jobs. I’m sure once I depart, I’ll realize how truly terrible it really was.

  36. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

    LW4, since you mentioned your Spanish is rusty, one thing to look out for if you do want to mention the library – watch out for false cognates. “Library” in Spanish is “biblioteca”. “Librería” means “bookstore”.

    1. Letter Writer 4*

      I will get a script from my close friend the professional Spanish translator.

      My problem is not that I don’t know Spanish. It is that I have a language disorder.

  37. Applesauced*

    #4 – you could recommend she signs up for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library!
    It is a free program that mails books to kids, regardless of income
    (I checked, they carry bilingual books)

    You can share the information and say “I heard about this and thought of Katie”

  38. A Simple Narwhal*

    #1 I’m more blown away that someone with only 18 months of experience in something is now qualified to speak as an expert at a conference?

    Maybe I’m just bitter/jealous that someone with zero experience somehow managed to get a job leading an initiative when a degree and years of experience has gotten me rejected for similar or lesser roles.

    1. Nancy*

      Conferences have a wide range of speakers presenting their work, including people new to the field. That is not unusual.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        Fair enough! 18 months seemed like someone still very junior to me and not ready to present at a conference, but without knowing the exact framing of the talk it’s impossible to say for sure.

        1. Nancy*

          I work in research and 18 months doesn’t seem odd to me at all. We often send our research assistants to present at conferences. Depending on the talk/conference, we send them instead of the higher level researchers specifically so they get experience.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        When she got the job with LW1 she had zero experience:

        “Last year, we had an internal transfer to my team; she also didn’t have any marketing experience, but was eager to learn.”

        1. Also-ADHD*

          No experience in that function doesn’t mean no experience though. Marketing is a field where experience in other functions can be valuable and we’re not given her background. She’s not necessarily a new grad etc.

  39. Salad*

    LW3, I feel for you! I’ve done something similar, where I was on a committee that recruited and interviewed someone for a team that I work with, but not on directly. There were members of the actual team on the committee too, FWIW.

    The hire we picked ended terribly, and did not last more than a few months. It was a big hit to my morale and ego and I felt really terribly about how it panned out. But, just as Alison said, sometimes these things happen and it’s hard to foresee. I appreciate Alison’s take on references, and I do still do them, but I honestly put minimal weight into them. My terrible hire did not have terrible references. Why would they? They’d agreed in advance to speak on this person’s behalf, they either had a positive experience or are going to obfuscate the difficulties to make sure the person successfully moves on.

    Make sure you’re you’re trying to do your due diligence as much as you can, and try to shake it off as something that happened, not something you did.

  40. Peanut Hamper*

    LW #3: I did risk analysis at my last job and all the research I did says that hiring is one of the riskiest things a business can do. If we buy materials, we can get certificates testifying to their quality, and we have an agreement with the supplier with regard to sending material back if it’s not up to spec. The same thing with buying a service–if it’s not done correctly, we have an agreement that says the supplier will have to redo it correctly.

    You get none of those guarantees when you hire.

    You say you’ve done hundreds of hires with no issues. The fact that you’ve had just one bad hire in all of that means that you really are good at hiring. But every once in a while, a bad coconut gets through. It’s something that you can’t avoid.

  41. MagicEyes*

    LW3, some people look good in interviews and present themselves well, but of course you can only know what they really are after you’ve worked with them for a while. We’ve had people who did a fantastic interview, but found out later that they were horrible to work with. It was a surprise to all of us.

  42. BBB*

    #5 most of the time, people are just moving too fast and make mistakes
    I regularly get called by a variation of my last name in emails because it is similar to a common first name.

    I called a colleague the wrong name in an email the other day (think Anne and I said Annie) not because I didn’t know their name or couldn’t read their email to know the correct name but because I have an Annie in my department and my fingers are far more used to typing Annie because I correspond with them more frequently.

    All to say, it happens to me, I do it to other people, they are just mistakes and all we can do is apologize and move on (and maybe take it as a reminder to slow down and double check before we hit send).

  43. Fluffy Fish*

    1. OP it DOES sound like your employee created the social media function. You having done some work previously doesn’t negate that – it wasn’t a full program yet, per your own words it was barely a thing do to your own workload.

    3. “My company doesn’t do reference checks. Maybe we should start?”

    Oh dear god yes! Like yesterday! I honestly can’t believe you haven’t had other dumpster fires because of the lack of checks.

    They’re not fool proof but they can be an effective tool.

  44. Nancy*

    LW1: it’s a speaker bio post on LinkedIn, it’s not going to list managers. Those names go in the acknowledgement slides at a presentation.

  45. Lils*

    Kevin: just wanted to comment in solidarity. I read this post over breakfast and not 5 minutes later I received an email with my name misspelled. It happens weekly, from external clients and internal colleagues. I have a rare name but accidentally changing the last letter changes it to a very common name. I have resigned myself to being consistently addressed by the wrong name even in written communication, with my GIANT email signature, but it still grinds my gears every time! :D

    1. Flor*

      I have this problem as well! My name is also pronounced differently (final letter aside) from the variant that’s more popular where I live, so people who don’t misspell it tend to mispronounce it and stress the wrong syllable.

      It’s like if I were Eleanor, but lived somewhere that Eleanora is more common and Eleanor virtually unheard of. So Eleanor (at least where I come from), is EL-uh-nur. Eleanora would be el-uh-NOR-uh. And then instead of calling me EL-uh-nur, people call me el-uh-NOR, because they assume it’s pronounced like the variant they’re familiar with.

      1. Lils*

        I also deal with that same regional-mispronunciation thing! I’ve had people tell me “I’m sorry I can’t say your name the way you do.” I’m just happy they’re trying and using my actual name instead of the wrong name.

  46. Nathan*

    I have a story tangentially related to LW#5, or specifically Alison’s answer:

    The company I worked for right out of college (BigCorp) took the stance that your email address is your email address and no way no how will they ever change it once it’s assigned. Which is extra bizarre because they didn’t even have a standard format such as first initial + last name, it was just whatever the IT person who did your onboarding decided to give you.

    They also had a second policy, which was that employees who left (or were laid off) and rehired could not get their old email address back. This was actually a pretty big issue at the company because they had frequent layoffs where they would let quite talented people go and then would discover that the people they had let go were actually doing important work and then end up re-hiring them.

    Anyway, a fairly important and talented engineer ended up leaving the company. The company ended up wanting him back so badly that a VP went to him (virtual) hat in hand to beg him to come back. He agreed to do so, but made it a condition of his re-hiring that he get his old email address back. Lo and behold, when a VP stipulates it, suddenly IT gained the ability to reinstate an old account!

    The lesson I took from this is that when IT say they can’t do something, it usually really means they WON’T do something, and if you push hard enough sometimes it turns out they actually can :)

    1. LingNerd*

      That is such a bad policy! Like, okay, it’s pretty crappy to refuse to change someone’s email if they get married and change their last name. But it’s particularly awful if someone gets divorced from their shitty ex and can’t ditch the name at work, or, even worse, someone undergos gender transition socially and they’re constantly getting dead named by colleagues, including new ones who would’ve otherwise never known them by their previous name.

      Or, since there’s no formula for it, what if someone makes a typo when setting up the employee’s email address? Or someone’s dealing with a lot of external customers/vendors that have a draconian filter set up and the employee ends up with a scunthorpe problem? It’s not like those are common reasons to need to change it, but at a large enough company I bet it’s happened at least once

  47. LW1*

    LW1 here – For clarity, I agree that a conference bio/session description isn’t a place to give credit to others. This was a personal post sharing why she decided to be a speaker.

    Also, as I said, I know I’m taking this too personally. I’m still a newish manager and trying to improve. I’d love to hear how folks have found success separating their personal feelings from professional responsibilities when managing others.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      It’s not easy at times! But you’re asking questions about it, so you’re doing the right thing. I’ve known a lot of managers who wouldn’t question something like this, assume the worst, and then just hold a massive grudge against the employee.

    2. But maybe not*

      I struggled with this a lot as a new manager, too! I agree with Peanut that you’re taking the right steps by asking about it.

      It was especially tough because I more or less hired someone to take over my old job (which I had essentially created from scratch) as we expanded. I really did have ownership over the beginnings of the projects they came in to take over, and it took time and deliberate release for me to let things go. I needed to focus on the *department* getting wins (which had previously belonged to only me).

      Part of how I did that was to have more empathy for my employees – if I felt personally wronged by something, I would put myself in the employees shoes and figure out what their motivations might be that had nothing to do with me. I thought I was empathetic before becoming a manager, but supervising employees with their own lives and career goals really helped me shed the idea that I was the Main Character in everyone’s story.

      It also helps to be proactive in talking about their professional development and their career goals and making sure they know that you are there to help them, including celebrating their successes. I think you would feel very differently if you knew that she aspired to be a speaker at a conference and this was her achieving that goal. Try framing this as a success for someone you’re mentoring, which in a way, is your success, too.

      1. LW1*

        Thank you for the helpful comment; it’s especially appreciated since it sounds like you were in a very similar situation to what I’m coming out of! This probably also speaks to some of my frustration, bc I try to have explicit development and goal conversations on a regular basis (every 2-3 months… that seems often to me, but I’d love to hear if others think that’s not enough), so it was surprising not to know about this. But remembering to always lead with empathy is a good tip.

    3. Willow Rosenberg*

      LW1, I sympathize, because even as an experienced manager, I would have gone through exactly the same thought/ emotional process as you did. One thing that I would encourage you to think about: as a manager, what support are you giving (or can you give) to your supervisees to build their professional credentials? I ask because I used to have a boss who routinely presented at conferences on a program that I created and worked on. It was so frustrating at a time in my career when I needed to make connections and add lines to my CV. If I had been offered a speaker opportunity that I thought she would snatch out from under me, I might have engaged in similar subterfuge to make sure I got my shot. Except that I wouldn’t have been dumb enough to slap it on my social media before the fact. So, yeah, call her in gently on that — it’s important that she knows that you know, and also that you practice giving rational feedback in situations like this instead of letting them fester.

      1. LW1*

        Gosh, I hope she didn’t think I would try to take the speaking spot; but your comment and OrigCassandra’s above are good reminders to be aware of how she thinks I might react to these types of things. That could be an argument in favor of having the feedback conversation. It could be a good opportunity to calmly point out my concerns but also to highlight that I do want her to have chances to build her own creds/connections.

        Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    4. Also-ADHD*

      I think the key to managing is trying to do the best to serve your employees as long as they serve your goals/vision for your team. You can’t worry about personal glory for yourself because every win for a report or the team is a win for you. It’s really important that managers never take credit for their employees work, you want them to feel ownership over the work! So I think your personal feelings just have to tunnel more into the goals/vision than personal glory—that’s what being a manager is inherently. If you’re a great manager, and you build relationships with and support your team, they’ll appreciate and acknowledge you, but managers can’t focus on needing that. (Down that road lies the worst sides of Michael Scott.)

    5. AngryOwl*

      Just being aware of this reaction and wanting to manage it is a great sign. I’ve found a lot of it just time and feeling secure in my own contributions (sometimes easier said than done).

    6. Moose*

      Do you feel like your contributions are being acknowledged elsewhere in your organization? Usually when I start taking something super personally it’s because I have other emotional needs that aren’t being met. I would do some thinking about what you need to feel valued in general.

      I also want to add a story of caution here: At my organization we had a director who wanted to be involved in presenting any work that she felt could be traced back to her. A member of her team and I built a webpage that got some national attention. She approved the work and guided us through the communications plan, but she didn’t contribute beyond that. But still, she had to be the one presenting the webpage during the site visit from a national organization that took a big interest in our work. When her team was asked to present a social media campaign that got a lot of positive press, she had to be the one doing most of the speaking. But, though the campaign was her idea and she laid the foundations for it, she wasn’t the one creating the content or working with community members.

      Both of these situations led to awkward times where sure she was “presenting,” but she couldn’t speak to the parts of the work that people were interested in. Yes she started the foundations, but she couldn’t describe the process used to keep the social media campaign engaging or how they chose the images they did. She had no idea how we vetted community organizations for our webpage OR how we were able to build the partnerships we needed with a very isolated, vulnerable community.

      All of this is to say that first, I think you should definitely be presenting your work. If you have done something you are proud of, then definitely submit it and get it out there! Second, I would think very hard about contributions to the project. What exactly is she presenting? (There’s not enough information to tell, TBH.) When you think of questions that could reasonably be asked about this topic, are you truly the best person to be answering them? How much hands-on experience have you had with these things in the last 18 months?

      I don’t know if she’s taking credit for your work or not. I would just mull these things over.

  48. DramaQ*

    I haven’t presented but from seeing other people prepare for them it would be considered odd to lead in the abstract that it is thanks to your investigator (manager) that this happened. That is what the author credits and acknowledgement slide is for.

    At the end of every presentation it is customary to have an acknowledgement slide thanking people for their role in the project. That is the time where the work others did is discussed.

    The primary presentation is about the work itself and the results. Presentations would take forever if the speaker had to preface every person who was involved.

    The abstract/presentation summary is to let people know what is being presented so they can decide if they are interested in attending and is usually limited to a certain number of words to keep it from running on like an Oscar speech.

    She’s likely using LinkedIn to drum up interest in attending her talk.

    You have every right to review her slides. Our investigators and our PR department were involved in reviewing all presentations before they would go out and there were multiple practice sessions in front of members of the department before it would be public.

    So I am surprised she could just be a speaker. Do you have formal rules regarding presenting company projects? Maybe she didn’t know she had to tell you she was presenting? Presenting is still a learning opportunity because being able to do the project is one thing, being able to communicate what you did so others can follow in your footsteps is an entirely different skill and I can understand why she would want to take that leap.

    If you don’t have now might be the time to discuss in general with higher ups how do you want to handle conference talks in the future. Every conference attended for scientific research sends out a list of rules to the university and the university has its own rules. Those are all made clear up front when the invite is extended.

    I wouldn’t go into it as she was “stealing” your work. For all you know there is a slide at the end thanking you profusely for launching it off the ground and giving her the opportunity to run with it.

    Usually the most obvious thing is the answer. I would go into it as it was an oversight/miscommunication on her part and offer to help her complete her presentation deck and offer to help her practice. That would be the time to assess if she was truly trying to “steal” your work, just didn’t think to credit her manager, or there were rules regarding when/where she can mention credit to others and that is why it isn’t in her abstract.

    1. Boof*

      While I agree the abstract doesn’t need to get into details of exactly who did what, in my industry (health care / academia ) it WOULD be a big slight to present a topic someone else did substantial work on and not invite them to be part of the authors at least, and generally seek their input on the talk etc. I don’t know if this industry has author lists etc and those are part of “academic currency” so it’s kind of a big deal to “scoop” someone / not share credit, especially since usually just including someone on the author list has almost no downside (usually the presenter and senior author are focused on a bit but otherwise there’s no “dilution of credit” or something to including almost any number of others – commonly there are several.
      But there’s a lot of nuance here I just don’t know; did the employee think it was a stretch and wanted to see if it was accepted first, then collaborate; is this even an industry where it’s common to do that or are authorships and talks no big deal / “extra” so they thought it wouldn’t matter. I think LW just needs to ask their employee about it.

  49. Hamster Manager*

    LW2 yeah, just get out of there. If your supervisor is playing favorites with Sam, they’re playing favorites with others too. If your Sam was anything like my Sam, their behavior will only get worse, because they know they have management’s favor and protection. Plus, the more you push on this, the more likely management is to dig their heels in defending Sam to avoid admitting they’re a bad judge of character/got taken in. Either decide not to care or change jobs, there’s not much you can do to fix the situation unfortunately. Good luck, Sams are the worst!

    1. JGRV*

      Thank you and sorry you had to deal with a similar situation. I always thought this was only in TV shows or dramas, but this really opened my eyes to what a bad work environment is, and what a poor management looks like. Hoping to get out of this situation fast.

      1. ThatOtherClare*

        Reality can be stranger than fiction. If you haven’t had the truly mind-bending experience of reading the Hellmouth letters on this site, I highly recommend it.

        This is the original letter:

        There were several published updates, and in between, the letter writer also started posting in the weekend open threads as ‘I work on a hellmouth’. Ctrl+f and ‘hellmouth’ will quickly find their updates in the open threads.

        May their katabasis inspire you as you chart your own legendary journey to freedom.

    2. Jellybeans*

      Or maybe Sam is a perfectly nice person and a good worker and the people who hate ambitious woman and think it’s fine to call women “knee pads” that are the problem?

  50. FG*

    Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library donates books to kids who need them. Since links are moderated, I won’t post one but Mr. Google will take you right there.

      1. Temperance*

        Do you have Buy Nothing in your neighborhood? I bet a lot of local parents would happily pass along books that their own kiddos have outgrown.

        1. Dahlia*

          I would not recommend asking your neighbours to crowdsource books for your housekeeper without her permission. That is… off.

          1. Letter Writer 4*

            No, I was thinking of offering her either new books that I buy or bilingual books (in Spanish and English) that my niece has outgrown and are being decluttered anyway.

  51. NotKevin*

    OP5 here! Thanks for the advice, Alison*. I’m definitely leaning toward the “try not to care” side of things, especially since my coworkers are aware and know to direct Kevin-related inquiries to me. I actually did think about asking for an email address change (we have a few team members who do use their first name only, so it’s not unheard of) but the issue there is my first name is incredibly common in the US, and there is a non-zero chance of us hiring another NotKevin and chaos ensuing.

    It’s somewhat comforting, albeit still bizarre, to see other commenters have the same or similar issue. I think names might be kind of a touchy spot with me because while my first name is very common, my last name is very not-common, and I grew up having people either butcher the pronunciation horribly (not their fault of course) or not even bothering to try (their fault). So nowadays I try very hard to call people their correct names, and respect the pronunciation/spelling thereof, and I get a bit peeved when I don’t get afforded that same consideration. Ah well!

    *I have probably checked and double-checked Alison’s name fifty times in the course of writing my initial letter and this comment, because holy crap would that be ironic if I effed up her spelling after all this!

  52. fat scientist*

    LW5: this is amazing because I actually emailed Alison about the same thing recently, except for me my first initial+last name does not resemble any name I’ve heard of before. Also it only happened once, with a student I had met with to give career advice, and I didn’t know if some of the career advice I should give was checking if they got someone’s name correct (I ended up just emailing back to note my correct name). It was so baffling to me too, I sign my email with my name and this person actually met me in person! So I just wanted to share that I kind of feel your pain.

  53. ThisIsNotADuplicateComment*

    LW4: Books are fun and happy children are cute. That’s literally all the reasoning you need to give some as a gift. Just tell Maria you/your niece/whoever was decluttering and you thought of Katie.

  54. House On The Rock*

    OP 3, I’ve generally been lucky/successful with hires, however I do have one that stands out as being Not Good and I still wonder what I could have done differently.

    Everything went very well until the person actually began doing the job. His resume and cover letter were fantastic, phone screens with myself and one of our team leads went well, interviews with myself, team members, and another manager showed no flags, his references were glowing. Everyone was really enthusiastic about the guy. Additionally, our interview teams intentionally included staff from multiple backgrounds/demographics/roles to try and suss out potential issues with how he dealt with different types of people. And then he started his job!

    While he was friendly and personable, it was clear from the get go that he was in way over his head with the work. As this got worse, he became prickly and defensive with both me (his manager) and other staff who became increasingly frustrated. We were able to find a niche for him where he did well enough, but I did a lot of soul searching on what went wrong. What I determined was that he had managed teams of people who did the job for which he was applying, so he knew exactly how to talk about the work and give examples of the work…but could not, in fact, do the work himself!

    Because of our institution and culture, it’s almost impossible to get rid of someone, so he’s still Broken Stairing along, although I’ve been gone from that group for a few years.

    1. Rainy*

      We had someone in our office for a while who was a stealth asshole. She interviewed fairly well (and it turned out the person who hired and managed that position had just accepted another job but hadn’t given notice yet, and I think it was a little bit of a fuck you) and had *glowing* references, probably from prior managers who were desperate to get rid of her. Apparently she actually did do really good work really quickly, sometimes. But she spent most of her time scheming and backbiting, currying favour with the higher-ups, and making passive-aggressive Mean Girl comments. She was also a liar.

      Unfortunately, office leadership doesn’t fire people for reasons that amount to a combination of “working the progressive discipline process takes so long no is willing to start”, “if we fire this person we won’t get a replacement approved and hired for a year and the current asshole does do a *little* work *sometimes*”, and “can’t everyone else just dodge around this missing stair that is also on fire and insults you whenever you’re near it”.

      She’s gone now but by the end, the directors of all three departments she dealt with had to have any meeting that included her jointly because she was such a liar. Imagine putting three people who all make six figures in a room together for 30-60 minutes every time any of them need to meet with one low-level functionary, all because a shitty graphic designer who makes 60k couldn’t tell the truth if her life was at stake and no one was willing to fire her.

  55. Temperance*

    LW4: there are tons of children’s books that actually have both Spanish and English text in them, and these could be a great tool for this little girl.

    Do you know if she’s in school? A lot of schools have an English Language Learners program or a bilingual program with English/Spanish that her mother may not know about, due to her own lack of English proficiency.

  56. Aggretsuko*

    Regarding making a terrible hire: one of my favorite bosses of all time managed to hire four closet a-holes. They are all very competent people and come off as pleasant enough when you meet them and I’m sure they came off competent and just fine in interviews. However, it turned out that three of them started showing their true colors after a few months, and the fourth one kept his a-holery way under the radar enough that I never knew about it until someone told me later. Some people are just very good for awhile at hiding their true natures and then letting them out when it’s too late to do anything about it.

  57. WhoKnows*

    As a Corp Comms person, OP #1’s story is filling me with annoyance. When people apply to speak at a conference on their own – especially if they’re going to talk specifically about their work function at one company – they are essentially becoming a spokesperson for the company. You cannot just do that without approval, especially if you’re a large, multinational corporation. This happens SO MUCH, it’s wild. I understand ambition and wanting to showcase your work, but if you’re doing it as part of a company, you really have to be upfront with your manager and comms people.

  58. Panda Jones*

    Maybe the only way for LW1 to find out for sure is to quietly attend the conference themselves to hear what Employee actually says. If Employee is truthful about her role, then LW1 comes across as a supportive boss. If she actually takes credit for LW1’s work, then they can do some damage control by making sure to network and talk casually about what it was like to build the marketing team from scratch, how they overcame some obstacles and how weird it is that Employee is saying she did XYZ because she wasn’t there when LW1 created it.

    1. Boof*

      I think this would make for a great sit com plot but way too much work / passive aggressiveness for a real world business. That’s a whole lot of work on the bosses’s part that would be much better resolved with probably just one direct conversation.

    2. Rainy*

      That’s a fair amount of time, effort, and expense to undertake just for the dubious pleasure of standing up at the end of her talk and screaming “Gotcha”.

  59. Colorado*

    OP #1:
    I do find it odd your employee did not tell you she’s presenting at a conference and the fact her bio mentions she did it all on her own, well, that would bother me too. I would ask her about it and why she didn’t mention it.
    In my industry (pharma), this WOULD NOT FLY. I would never apply to be a presenter in an industry conference without specific approval from my manager. I would also have to have the slide deck approved and most likely a dry run to my team beforehand. But again, pharma ;-)

  60. Knot Another Darn Rewrite*

    Hoo gracious, #5: I feel this So. Hard.

    At my last Corporate Job, our emails were first and my last name is a common first name so despite my full name in my signature, one of our vendors addressed all emails (and greeted me over the phone) by my last name.

    And it was only me – all other* emails sent to my company used the correct first name for the recipient. I ended up just laughing about it with my supervisor, because they were such a great vendor and it was such a small thing.

    *Unless they were sent to the email list I was a part of + my specific email – then, all bets were off.

  61. TrixieD*

    I worked at a company where the naming convention for email addresses was the first five letters of your last name@company.
    This was in the early 90’s and my coworker’s last name was Mulvaney. The Seinfeld references went on for YEARS.

  62. Texas Teacher*

    For LW – I would make sure that Maria knows that the US has free public libraries. I worked at a Title 1 – largely immigrant population school. I was shocked when parents returned the county library card applications we sent home with new children (state law), saying they couldn’t afford the library. I got a bilingual teacher in for the parent conference to translate. (We are required to have a translator and it can’t be the child). The teacher explained to me that the country the parents fled did not have free libraries and that it was frequently a new concept for our immigrant parents.

  63. HowDoesSheDoItAll?*

    LW4 – It is kind of you to worry. There might be other reasons the family doesn’t have books that don’t have to do with finances – maybe they have a dog or baby that would destroy them, etc. Personally, I read e-books because I don’t like to clutter my already messy house.

    If you already have some unused books, then that would be great to offer them to Maria if she wants. Or you could give Maria a bonus/tip and leave it up to her how she wants to spend the money.

  64. BikeWalkBarb*

    LW #5, use camel case for your email address when it appears in text. Instead of keavon@ you’d be KEavon@. This creates at least some visual cue that this isn’t one word. It’s also recommended practice for readability for people using a screen reader, those with dyslexia, and others. You’ll have a more accessible email address and potentially reach at least a few of your fast-typing correspondents.

    Other option is full name addressing, which your IT team should be able to set up as an alias, so you become Katherine.Eavon@. More typing, but very clear.

  65. S A M*

    I was recently in a Sam-like situation. I had a co-worker who was not performing at a very high level, refused to try to learn new policies or processes, and as a result made constant (and costly) mistakes. Their solution was to simply pretend they were working from home and let deadlines get to the crisis point so that someone else would rescue the client and perform their work at the last minute. They then started engaging in a smear campaign, painting themselves at the victim of being steamrolled. One supervisor took their side, the grandboss was afraid to lose that supervisor, so while acknowledging this was happening, kept saying it would sort itself out in time. The other supervisor was tired of the situation and stopped communicating with the rest of the team, choosing to just assign their important tasks to me. This allowed my co-worker to credibly complain about this private communication with the supervisor and claim additional work was falling on them. I had 3 direct reports and we were performing the bulk of our team’s (13 people) labor. I tried to keep my direct reports out of it, but I did vent a little to others who were at or above my level about the situation. In this scenario, I was Sam, because the appearance was that I was being malicious to my co-worker that my additional unknown tasks were putting a strain on the people who in reality were not willing or able to perform at the same level at my sub-team and that I was the one spreading rumors because my co-worker’s complaints were backed up by the knowledge that a supervisor was communicating with me privately. In the end I outlasted everyone and had to clean up many messes left behind.

  66. MMCM*

    For #1, my employers have always had rules around presenting work content at industry events. In some cases I wasn’t able to use my employer’s name and they still wanted to review and approve the slides.

  67. Free and easy*

    LW4- Pride can be an issue with things like this, but there is an easy way around it. Volunteer to get rid of those books for your sister. Then leave them in a shallow box (so they are easily visible) somewhere conspicuous in your house. If people leave things on curbs in your area, you could even mark the box “Free,” as if you plan to do that. When Maria arrives, apologize for leaving them out, but you need to get rid of the books for your sister and haven’t gotten around to it yet (maybe you are waiting until you add some of your own items?). If you can get the Spanish wording prepared to your satisfaction ahead of time, this shouldn’t be any harder than an explanation of why you are giving her books. This leaves the door open for her to take them- or not- as she wishes. But if she did take them, then she’d be doing you a favor, because that’s less for you to do! No worries about pride, parental criticism, whether to give new or used, etc.

    1. Letter Writer 4*

      Would it be strange to you if you arrived to work and your boss apologized that there was work for you to do? Your suggestion is that I apologize to the person whose job it is to put my things away that there are things to put away, and that seems strange to me.

      1. Free and easy*

        The idea is that they are not for her to put away, but are in her way. It’s a task for you to complete that is left out in a conspicuous place- kitchen counter, dining room table, coffee table, sofa, somewhere she will have to interact with. Then she can see you are getting rid of them, they are a task for you to do, and maybe she could just… take them off your hands.

      2. Free and easy*

        If you need to leave out the apology the idea still works. She just needs to see them and know that you are getting rid of them.

      3. Nancy*

        The suggestion is strange and unnecessary. Just ask her directly if she wants any of the books. Or if you really think it will offend her to accept books from you, donate the books to a local little free library or another local program.

  68. Manic Sunday*

    re: letter #5 – Sometimes weird things happen when people’s eyes are trying to process text. An HR person at my org has a hyphenated last name, and the first element is also a common first name. Think “Nancy Lindsay-Jones.” Emails from our org show up with “LastName, FirstName” as the sender–which I am now totally used to, but during the hiring phase, I got emails from this HR person to my Gmail where I was used to seeing first names first.

    Even though in some part of my brain I knew her first name was Nancy because it wasn’t our first interaction, one day my eyes latched onto the wrong thing, and I opened an email to her with “Dear Lindsay.”

    When she wrote back, the last line of her email read: “Also, my name is not Lindsay.”

    To be honest, even though I felt bad for getting her name wrong, I was kind of taken aback by the reaction. She was basically a stranger I’d interacted with a couple of times over email. I was really busy that day and was focused on the purpose of our correspondence–trying to send paperwork she requested in a timely manner and according to instructions! She could have said something like, “Also, I want to make sure you saw that my first name is actually Nancy.” In any case, I apologized and never got it wrong again. But I also would have apologized and never gotten it wrong again if she had been less snarky. The snark was not necessary to make me see the error of my ways.

    Also, I have an uncommon first name that people get wrong all the time even when it’s right in front of them in my email address and signature. I have never not given people grace when they mess it up. Including when they call me by my last name.

  69. Fez Knots*

    Fellow Kevin here!

    My name is one letter different than a really common name, but my entire life I have been addressed in person and on paper as a male variation of my name spelled similarly but totally different….think Tammi (versus Tammy) and being called Tommy.

    If it happens just once with a colleague I rarely interact with or a client’s assistant, I usually don’t correct folks. People take it so personally when you do, no matter how casually you mention it. But recently I had to correct a colleague who called me “Tommy” because there was the potential for the entire group of folks to use the wrong name if I didn’t speak up. Sure enough, she responded as though she’d been chastised, saying something like, “I pride myself on attention to detail.” And I thought, do you??

    From the Kevins and Tommys: please take the two seconds it takes to double-check someone’s name and if you get it wrong, be graceful about it and realize it’s no big deal!

    1. Fez Knots*

      After reading a bunch of the responses, I see a lot of folks saying when they’ve used an incorrect name for a colleague they feel really bad, but didn’t mean to and the person should get that.

      Well, yeah. I’ve never thought someone MEANT to call me Tommy (except for a pharmacist in Indiana but that’s a story for another day) but when you’re the third or fourth person to do it in a week (or a day!) it’s frustrating and demoralizing. We’re ALL busy, but we all want to be respected. And you made the mistake, no matter how minor it is. The burden is on you, not me, to take responsibility and move on. Getting defensive just makes it worse!

    2. Rainy*

      I think the weirdest part for me (I also get a lot of incorrect naming, verbally and in writing, first AND last) is how apparently someone calling me the wrong name is fine, but pointing it out makes me the jerk!

  70. judyjudyjudy*

    LW1, the only thing that seems a bit weird is that she didn’t mention that she applied to and then was asked to give a talk at the conference. Many companies like to have approval of the slide deck, use branded slide templates, etc, so there should have been a discussion beforehand. Perhaps you should clarify what you want her to do going forward — I could see it being an honest mistake from someone new to the field. However, it’s an exciting opportunity for her and your company that she gets to speak!

    I way less concerned about her not giving what you consider appropriate credit. I work on projects with several people, and would find it weird if someone giving a talk at a conference clarified constantly who did what — so distracting. It would be appropriate to have the last slide be an acknowledgements slide, where every who worked on project X would be listed.

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