my coworker wears pro-gun t-shirts, custodian brings me food, and more

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

1. My coworker wears pro-gun t-shirts

I work at a financial/banking company where we have a “dress for your day” dress code. Most internal employees wear jeans everyday. My coworker has started to wear NRA apparel in the office. He’s always struck me as an odd person so I have tried to avoid him, but the shirts make me uncomfortable. I abhor guns and think the second amendment should be repealed (I am realistic enough to know that is unlikely). Is this something I can make a complaint to HR about?

Yes. And not just because it’s guns, but because any shirt with a controversial political message is a bad choice for work and most companies (and particularly companies in conservative industries like banking) prohibit them.

If it turns out they don’t care, then so be it, but it’s likely enough that they do that it’s reasonable to flag.

should I put my politics on display at work?

2. Custodian brings me food, and I want to turn down some but not all of it

I work with a very small staff at a nonprofit, and we just hired a new custodian who is wonderful! She also runs a catering business on the side.

Many mornings, she will bring us breakfast. This might be homemade foods from her catering business, but it also might be a fast food breakfast she bought on her way in. She’s even inquired about people’s dietary restrictions and accommodates them. She does not ask before bringing food, but simply shows up with it.

The thing is, while this is very kind, I’m uncomfortable with this person bringing me food she bought! First of all, I don’t love the idea of a person who makes significantly less than me bringing me purchased food, but also, I’m not a big fast food person. But at the same time, the homemade catering treats are really nice and don’t cost the custodian extra (because they’re leftover from gigs she worked, so she was paid to make them).

Can you think of any way to convey, “It’s very kind of you to bring food, and I’m happy to take leftovers you’re going to throw away otherwise, but please don’t buy me meals from other vendors anymore”? We always make sure she’s included in staff lunches, etc., even though she works different hours than the rest of us, and I’ve brought her my own homemade treats a couple of times. If the only thing to do at this point is put the kibbosh on her bringing me any food, I’ll do it, but I was wondering if it’s possible to thread this needle.

You could try, “I will happily eat catering leftovers if they’ll otherwise go to waste, but please don’t spend money buying me anything — I don’t feel right accepting that.” Or you could just say, “I love your catering leftovers, but I’m not a big fast food person.”

But really, whoever manages her should talk to her and say it’s incredibly kind of her to bring in food for people, but they don’t want her to spend her own money feeding the office.

3. I was asked to give negative feedback on my coworker

I joined my company about a year ago, at the lowest tier on our team. I have received great performance reviews and expect to be promoted soon. In anticipation of this, the team lead has hired another person at my level, Emily. In the few months that she has been on the team, Emily has not met expectations: she struggles to finish work on time and leaves the office early. When I tried to train her on one of my projects, she struggled to do basic computer tasks, like copying and pasting data between spreadsheets.

There is an unsaid feeling in the office that Emily is incompetent, but nothing has been done up until this point. A few days ago, I received an email from the team lead. In the message, she began by writing, “Emily has received negative feedback” and asked me to provide an example of working with Emily that detailed 1) how long it took to train her and support her 2) if the work was done on time/correctly 3) how long this process would have taken me and 4) screenshots of messages between Emily and me about the project. The email stated that this information would be referenced in a meeting with HR and Emily for her “success plan,” which I assume is a PIP.

This email made me extremely uncomfortable. I am not Emily’s supervisor — I have the same title and ostensibly the same responsibilities/pay that she does. I believe that this asks too much of me, and it creates a weird power dynamic on the team. I can’t imagine Emily facing people in the office after she hears specific details of their interactions (or even sees screenshots of private messages) in her meeting with HR. Additionally, the email suggests that if you do not meet expectations, your coworkers will be solicited for dirt on your behavior. The email requested a very prompt response, and so I provided a vague rundown of a project that I worked on with Emily, but I did not relay any incriminating details.

I am already looking for another job because of other managerial issues on this team, but I want to ask if you have the same reaction that I do. Is this inappropriate? I regret even responding at all, and am weighing whether to tell my team lead that I thought she put me in an uncomfortable position. How could I approach the lead about this?

Yeah, this is a weird way for them to do it. To be clear, it’s very normal for a manager who has concerns about someone’s performance to talk with others who work with the person for their impressions; sometimes that’s necessary and the only way to get enough information about how someone is doing. But that should be done discreetly, and it’s generally a conversation, not the sort of interrogatory email you received. I think you would have felt differently about this if your manager or team lead had met one-on-one with you and asked, “What’s your sense of how Emily’s doing?” and “Where are the areas where you think she needs more support?” You still might have felt uncomfortable, because it can be awkward to be asked for info that you know won’t reflect well on someone! But I don’t think it would have left with you the feeling you have now.

That said, it sounds as if you might object to being asked at all. There are jobs where to get a complete picture of someone’s performance, you do need input from colleagues, and if you frame your concern around that part of it, you’ll likely come across as a little naive. But you could certainly talk to them about the way they did it — although since it sounds like there are other problems with the management there which have already driven you to job-search, it might make more sense to just chalk this up as more of the same.

4. Is it normal to include an expiration date with a job offer?

Is it normal to write an expiration on an offer letter? The last few people we’ve offered positions to (whether they have ended up accepting or not) seem to blanch when we tell them – and we are up-front about it when we make the verbal offer. (“We enjoyed meeting you, we think you’d be a good fit, we’d like to offer you the job and will send out a formal offer letter today with the details, just so you know, there is an expiration on the offer.”) I set the expiration at seven days.

There is a shortage in our industry, and I know every qualified candidate has multiple offers right now. I think seven days to let me know whether or not you want the job is more than fair – or to come back with questions or counteroffers. But I’m not an HR person. We’re a small business so the responsibilities fall on me, but I have no formal training or anything. This is what my predecessor did, so it’s what I do. Am I wrong here?

It’s not unusual to set a deadline for when you need an answer by, and a week is pretty reasonable in most fields. But the more relevant question is whether the practice is working for you. If you’re hiring a majority of the candidates you want to hire, then it is. If you’re not — and especially if you’re getting feedback indicating that the expiration date is part of the issue — then you’d want to re-think.

In the latter case, you could make the timeline less of a formal one: instead of including an expiration date in the offer letter, try simply saying during the offer conversation itself, “Ideally we’d like your answer by (date) — is that doable on your end?” That way you can have more of a conversation about what their hesitances around that date are, if they have them.

For what it’s worth, I’ve never used formal offer expiration dates and lots of employers don’t. So if you’re doing it purely because your predecessor did, feel free to change things up.

how long should I give a candidate to think over a job offer?

5. Should my resume include an award for a project after I left?

A project I worked on for about a year received an award after I went on leave. Should I include the award on my resume?

If you can talk in concrete terms about your contributions to the project and you were there for a signifiant amount of the work, not just the planning stages, yes!

{ 303 comments… read them below }

  1. Ginger Cat Lady*

    A week expiration is plenty. I once got an offer at 10am with a note: “I’ll be in meetings all day, but I’ll check my email before I leave the office at 5. If your acceptance is not in my email, I’ll move on to the next candidate.”
    It was an immediate no.
    The short deadline, not being available for questions/negotiation, and I was OUT.

      1. Adam*

        Yeah, exploding offers are generally looked down upon in software as being a signal you’re a second-rate company. I just finished up a job hunt and took an offer after 10 days, which is a very normal thing in my field. If you’re interviewing with a half dozen companies, it’s rare that their interviews will line up exactly, so you just tell the first company that you’re going to hold onto their offer until all your interviews are done, and they’re pretty much universally okay with that.

        1. darsynia*

          Oh lord, my mom would just about faint to hear that about interviews! She thought it was a dirty secret to let on that I was applying to more than one place, to the point where she wanted me to lie about it. I’d like to say she had job offers mixed up with ‘don’t let your boss know you’re looking till you’re ready to move on’ but that was not the case.

      2. Bananapantsfeelings*

        I hadn’t heard of this before, what a good term and what a good article!

      3. MassMatt*

        I’m not so keen on the article, given he suggests a company asking to hear back by 12/31 is unreasonable. He doesn’t specify when this hypothetical interview and offer takes place but the article was published 11/26/08 (so, in the midst of the ’08 recession) and references college students looking for jobs after graduation or summer internships.

        Since most people graduate in June, requesting a response within six months (!?) hardly seems unreasonable. I’ve NEVER had a hiring timeline that long. Even assuming he’s dating it from date of publication, a month to hear back doesn’t sound like a pressure tactic.

        1. Kevin Sours*

          I think you may have the timeline mixed up. He’s talking about on campus interviews taking place in December and January for internships or jobs presumably starting after the school year ends. The aren’t giving the student candidate months to decide. The point is that they’re demanding an answer in December to cut of interviews scheduled for January. (This is much earlier than on campus interviews at my school but we still had them well before the end of the year and they tended to be spread out over several weeks).

          I’m not sure it’s entirely the same thing because the interview happening months before the job is even going to start so there really isn’t that much need for urgency.

        2. David*

          It’s not about the specific dates. The point is that an “exploding offer” is specifically timed to expire before the candidate has a chance to meaningfully compare it with other offers they may get.

          This example might illustrate the point better: the candidate receives an offer on, say, Wednesday, they tell the recruiter “I have a couple more interviews next week, I’ll have to get back to you after that”, and the recruiter says “Oh sorry, this offer expires on Friday, so we need to have your answer by then.”

    1. darlingpants*

      7 days is reasonable, but I turned down an offer that had a 48 hour window (for a few reasons, but the extremely short deadline after I’d been interviewing with them for 3 months left a bad taste in my mouth).

      As a hiring manager I’ve been frustrated when we’ve had an offer without a firm deadline and the candidate waffled about it for two weeks. But we didn’t have a backup candidate so there was no reason to put an arbitrary deadline just so I didn’t have to feel uncertain.

      1. MCMonkeybean*

        Wow yeah that’s pretty appalling to drag out the interview process for months and then demand an answer in two days!

      2. A Simple Narwhal*

        I’m guessing it wasn’t so much that the candidate was waffling during that time, but waiting to hear back from other companies.

      3. Kevin Sours*

        I think that’s key. Where things get awkward is when you *do* have multiple candidates. In may situations if you give candidate 1a a couple of weeks to think it over then candidate 1b is going to be gone by the time you hear a no. And if the selection came down to a coin flip more or less that’s going to grate.

        I still think phrasing it as a expiration sounds off. “We need a response by … ” sounds friendlier. Especially if conveyed verbally.

    2. Sloanicota*

      I agree the timeline is normal, but something about the way it’s being used here is awkward and offputting to me. It comes across as a pressure-y sales tactic right when you are trying to make the best possible impression and you’ve just committed to this person (especially if you’re saying it in the same breath you offer the job). If your job is great you don’t need to apply pressure. It’s like “I love you, will you marry me? This offer expires in seven days by the way. Tick tock.” There is still an expectation that someone will respond to your proposal very quickly, and after seven days with no response it’s clear you will be taking it as a no, but I don’t think it needs to be stated upfront like this.

      1. Cynan*

        Agreed, it’s an issue of framing, not substance. “This offer will expire in a week” just feels off compared to “please tell us your decision within a week.”

        1. HailRobonia*

          Great point – I can’t put my finger on it exactly but your phrasing seems not just warmer, but also allows for the possibility of the candidate to respond with something like “I appreciate the fact that you need my decision in a timely manner, but due to (circumstances) would it be possible to provide my decision by X date?

          1. Jaydee*

            The first one feels like a high pressure sales tactic or power play or like some kind of a move out of a pickup artist dating guide. The second one just feels like an attempt to keep the hiring process moving in an efficient way so they can get a good candidate hired quickly and get the position filled.

            1. A Simple Narwhal*

              Yes exactly! A demand based on “cuz I said so” versus a request based on reasons.

        2. ferrina*

          Exactly this, and I love this wording:
          it’s an issue of framing, not substance

          That’s exactly this. Putting an expiration date on the letter itself makes the company feel rigid, whereas if they put it in an email in gentler language, most candidates would have no problem with that. It also gives room for candidates that might need an extra day or two for whatever reason (and it means the company isn’t locked in to losing those candidates if the company really likes them).

      2. LW4*

        When you phrase it like that…!

        To keep my letter short, I didn’t add the part where, about 10 years ago now, a candidate verbally accepted the offer, then ghosted for two months, then came back wanting to know the start date and trying to negotiate the salary. Someone else had been hired by this point, but the first candidate threatened to sue, hence my predecessor’s institution of an expiration date. It made sense to me, especially given the circumstances, but also that I had previously had job offers with expiration dates, so I had no qualms.

        But I appreciate everyone’s comments and will definitely be rephrasing it, and coaching the director who is giving the verbal offer, too!

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          one weird candidate should not dictate a continuing policy. Especially one from 10 years ago. Definitely if it is being cited by current candidates as a turn off.

          You can’t let the threat of someone suing cause you to overcorrect. Most people who threaten to sue don’t actually because it costs time and money to do so. And sue over what? The person hadn’t even accepted the offer yet so there was no agreement. An offer is just that, an offer until it is accepted.

          1. Cmdrshprd*

            “You can’t let the threat of someone suing cause you to overcorrect.”

            Them is fighting words, lawyers would not be able to make a living/buy a third house, if people didn’t overreact to the threat of litigation. Even cases brought by people without attorneys can be an issue and cause significant cost expense.

            I think the wording could be updated to what has been suggested, but I don’t think having an “expiration”/deadline it out of line, even if no one had threatened to sue.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              There is no amount of butt-covering that can prevent some people from suing, and living your entire life trying to never potentially upset can actually open you to significant legal liability.

              Lots of employers have problem employees they won’t fire because “what if they sue?” Yet the employers may end up in legal hot water later because that problem employee was creating a hostile work environment for colleagues and the company didn’t take any action.

              Besides, anyone who would threaten to sue after ghosting for 2 months would threaten to sue even if there had been an expiration date. After all, they verbally accepted the offer before ghosting, right?

            2. Sovreignry*

              As an attorney (not yours and likely not licensed in your jurisdiction), pro per litigants are worse than the ones brought by other attorneys.

            3. AnotherOne*

              I feel like I’ve seen (and heard from friends) about the “expiration” dates being put in the emails the offer letter is being attached to a lot.

              Given that email is generally only a sentence- having a second sentence with a date in bold of when the company needs a response by.

        2. MCMonkeybean*

          It doesn’t sound like this “expiration” would have prevented any of that though? Someone can still accept the offer and then disappear. And just because someone threatened to sue doesn’t mean they would have had a case, people can threaten to sue you for anything and you can’t really build all your policies around that.

        3. Observer*

          but the first candidate threatened to sue, hence my predecessor’s institution of an expiration date

          You should never put policies in place based on one off-the-wall *attempt* at a law suit.

          Especially since it wouldn’t have mattered. This guy never had a case. He would not have had a case even if he had accepted in writing. When you ghost your employer for 2 months, that’s job abandonment. You could have replaced him with *ZERO* chance of him having a case even *if he had already started work*. You simply do not need this kind of language to protect you from this kind of stuff . On the other hand, it’s almost impossible to keep idiots from filing ridiculous law suits.

          The real thing you should be doing is making sure that your communications are clear and timely. That’s not going to avoid every possible suit that some lunatic comes up with, but it will make it a LOT easier to win, or even get the suit dismissed.

          1. djx*

            Agreed. Worth noting it wasn’t even an “attempt” – it was a threat. Did they even retain a attorney? If not, it was a *weak* threat.

        4. ferrina*

          I’m really glad you’re taking a second look at this and open to updating it!

          One loon shouldn’t be the standard by which we make rules. That candidate was wild, and they wouldn’t have a leg to stand on in court (yes, I know, the company would still need to go to court, which sucks).

        5. Anonymous Educator*

          What might make sense here (not that you can necessarily prevent frivolous lawsuits) is just notifying candidates when you’ve moved on. Email and/or call people you’ve made offers to (you won’t have made offers to more than a handful) and just say you haven’t heard from them in a while and are thus moving on to other candidates.

        6. Sloanicota*

          Even then, the offer letter can contain a sentence to this effect, perhaps at the bottom, without having it be something you literally say to candidates as you extend your offer.

        7. Statler von Waldorf*

          In my jurisdiction, that expiration date would make zero difference if the situation described actually led to a lawsuit.

          Did your predecessor actually talk to a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction about this? Or did they just assume that this would legally protect them somehow? My gut read is the latter, not the former.

          This is something worth looking into. If you’re potentially losing candidates over a policy that doesn’t even do what it’s supposed to do, it’s a bad policy and should be changed.

        8. Coverage Associate*

          It didn’t feel great, but during my last job search, rather than receive an offer with an expiration date, I got a letter that the offer had been withdrawn. Probably it would have felt better if I had gotten a softer, but clear, contact ahead of time: “If we don’t hear from you by x date, we will have to formally withdraw the offer.” Instead, I just got the usual “please reach out with any questions.” I don’t think I even got, “let us know where you are in your search.” So the formal withdrawal was a surprise. And, yes, I had been waiting on other offers, but the one I guess I ghosted was the worst of 4 or 5.

          Anyway, withdrawing offers instead of putting expiration dates on all offers serves a similar purpose but is targeted to ghosts and dallies.

    3. Cat Tree*

      It’s weirdly formal though. I’ve had hiring managers ask when I expect to be able to an answer or verbally request a certain timeline (usually less than 7 days). But calling it an expiration date seems very rigid, and choosing 7 days just seems arbitrary. I would consider it weird to be on the receiving end. Not necessarily enough to turn down an offer I would otherwise accept, but it would seem weird.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        It’s also okay to just communicate and agree on something instead of dictating a predetermined deadline. Here’s an offer. We, of course, want you to have some time to think about it before getting back to us. How much time makes sense for you? If they come back with 9 days, that’s probably reasonable. If they say they need three months, you can push back (or rescind).

        1. Oh Snap!*

          I don’t remember the exact wording but our letters all have standard wording to respond to HR within 3 business days. I always verbally deliver the offer and say let’s touch base in 2 or 3 days to answer any questions. We want to hear back (ie did you get the offer, do you have questions), and not get ghosted. but we give more time if people have a reasonable ask, like a week.

        2. djx*

          This is good, but I don’t think it’s worth the time to even open the conversation on how long; just pick a date and warmly say if they need more time, you’d be happy to discuss. Keep it simple and warm:

          “To keep us moving in our hiring, I hope you can provide a response by Date. If that would be difficult for you, I’d be happy to discuss a longer timeline – is so let me know. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to reach out you have any questions about the offer or working with us. I hope you do decide to join us. Thanks again!”

    4. Bast*

      Yeah, that would be a giant red flag for me. I’m sure plenty of candidates are already employed and may not have the ability to check their personal email during a busy work day, and wouldn’t even have time to respond, much less process and think the offer over. This isn’t even including things like being sick, on vacation, etc. I’d say a couple of BUSINESS days is the absolute minimum. I emphasize business days as someone who once received an offer on a Friday, asked them to give me the weekend to think it over, only to get a call Saturday morning to ask if I’d be accepting, to which I reiterated to please give me until Monday, which was followed by another call that same evening. Extreme persistence and forcing someone to make a decision “under the gun” so to speak is a red flag for me.

      1. Another Use of the Identify Spell*

        They certainly gave you things to think about! Mainly (I hope) how to phrase your rejection and the relief of learning what they are like before you got trapped there.

    5. AngryOctopus*

      I mean, my offer for CurrentJob was fast (they were moving to hire before the year was out, in order to set their budget for the next year properly) and when I asked for the weekend to consider they said “Of course, let us know by Tuesday at 5 your time, and let us know if you have any questions!” and I said “Great!”. Saying “You have the day and BTW there’s no discussion because I’m not around all day” is an immediate dealbreaker, I think.

    6. Knope Knope Knope*

      Yeah, when someone extends me an offer or when I extend someone an offer the tone is usually “we’re so excited to invite you to join the team!” Leading with “hey this job expires in a week” changes the tone to “you’re replaceable.”

      If that’s the attitude OP’s company has towards employees—and hey some places do—then it’s probably not bad to let them know upfront and OP should just expect that people who pick up on that it’s pretty reasonable they would self select out.

      If OP wants to strike a balance of being up front but enthusiastic I’d recommend a script like this when calling someone to make the offer: “We’re really excited to extend this offer and hope you’ll accept. (Talk a little with the candidate, find out how they feel about the offer or if there are any concerns or questions…) Candidly, we urgently need this role filled and it was a really competitive candidate pool so we’d love to get a final answer by DATE. Our official offer letter has some weird wording around this and says the offer expires in a week, but tell you what, if I haven’t heard from you by (three days from now), why don’t we check in. Otherwise you can call me at any time with questions you may have”

      This gives OP a chance to a.) treat the candidate like a human, b.) see how they feel about the role without the expiration date first, c.) get a jumpstart on answering any questions or addressing concerns right away so you all have a better shot of meeting the deadline and d.) reframes the expiration as deadline that you are both working towards and makes the candidate feel valued rather than replaceable.

    7. That Coworker's Coworker*

      Maybe it varies by field. 7 days seems very short to me. Usually once I’ve received a written offer there have been things in it that I want to try to negotiate, and sometimes its content has raised additional questions that now I want to ask. That back and forth sometimes takes as long as a few weeks, usually because the employer needs to “bring this back to the partners for discussion”, or something along those lines. Also sometimes I’m waiting on other offers that can only happen after some other firm’s bi-weekly management meeting or some such.

      An expiration shorter than 2 weeks at a minimum would feel to me like the company culture is going to be impatient and inflexible, and oblivious to the needs of the job searcher. I understand the need to answer as quickly as possible, but since that’s been longer than a week in most of my past job searches, I would probably just pass on the offer once I see that sentence.

      1. Chriama*

        My assumption would be that any ongoing discussion would not be affected by the expiration date. If you’re in active negotiation with them, presumably you’ll take the job if you come to a mutual agreement. It would be bad faith for them to say “you need to accept this offer now” while waiting for HR to confirm the benefits info or approve the salary increase requested, so I believe the “expiry date” is more to avoid people saying “I’ll think about it” and then dragging things out for 2 weeks before turning you down because they were waiting on another offer.

    8. Fierce Jindo*

      These issues are very tricky in academia because the timelines are so long (we hire in one academic year for the next academic year, so it can be six or even ten months in advance of the position start) and don’t line up nearly with each other. So candidates have a good reason to want to stretch things out, potentially for several months, so they can complete their other interviews, but schools rightly worry that the second and third-choice candidates may have taken other offers by then. It’s a mess!

      In my experience, what typically happens (in universities like mine; it’s different for different kinds of schools) is that the candidate gets a formal expiration date of around three weeks later (often with encouragement to bring their partner, if they have one, to come visit the area during those three weeks) and then can extend that maybe two or three weeks more, but not usually longer than that.

    9. Arden Windermere*

      I also was offered a job and was told I had to let them know that day. It was a recruiting agency and they were upfront about the timing, and I did end up taking the job, but I was also very clear with them that I thought it was a bad practice and that I felt highly pressured. When I started the new job I eventually asked my manager if this was their policy, since that is what the agency had said, and he was stunned – it was not at all their policy. He spoke with someone else who had been recruited by the same agency around the same time I had and her experience had actually been worse. My company has since ceased doing business with this agency, and I definitely think it’s for the best.

      1. Plate of Wings*

        Good thing you said something, and how nice that it changed things!

        I don’t know much about agencies but it wouldn’t surprise me if their incentives don’t match those of the client (the hiring company) when it comes to timing, so they used this shady explanation… but what a blow to candidate experience, yikes.

    10. Nina*

      Yeah that wouldn’t be legal where I am – here you aren’t considered to have accepted the job offer until you’ve signed the contract, and all job contracts I’ve seen include a ‘I acknowledge I have been given a reasonable amount of time to seek legal advice on this contract’. Usually 2-3 working days.

    11. Rosacolleti*

      7 hours to potentially have a lawyer check a contract? Crumbs, they sound like they were hoping you wouldn’t get to read the fine print

  2. Observer*

    #1- Messages on t-shirts.

    I agree that you can raise the t-shirt issue with HR.

    Two caveats, though. Keep your opinion of the 2nd amendment out of it. It’s really not relevant to the discussion. The NRA and guns are controversial and disturbing enough, even for people who do not agree with you about the 2nd amendment, that it doesn’t belong in the office.

    Realize that whatever HR does about this is likely to apply to most political stuff as well as most things that can be seen as “controversial”. And the judgement is not necessarily going to match yours exactly.

    1. TheBunny*

      This. If you want to keep anything political or controversial out of the office, and I would argue that you do, it has to be all the things, not just the ones you don’t like.

      1. Bananapantsfeelings*

        HR will pay more attention – and pull in the Security/WV team rather than just the HR team – if you state it as “a concern about workplace violence indicators”.

        Workplace violence training teaches behaviors of concern. Gun clothing could be considered a veiled threat. They’d assess whether other behaviors are there.

        1. cabbagepants*

          You can try, and it will depend on what’s on the shirt, but I think taking the “workplace violence” angle risks distracting the issue unless the shirt is very explicitly violent. I just went to the NRA apparel store and there is plenty of oblique stuff, like an eagle flying past the letters “NRA” and an American flag.

          1. MsM*

            OP says there are other things about the coworker that make them particularly nervous about this choice of attire even above and beyond their own feelings about the Second Amendment. Assuming they have concrete examples to back that up, I think presenting it as part of a pattern will make it harder for HR to dismiss the complaint.

        2. Stuart Foote*

          If you try to claim that wearing a shirt advocating for a widely popular (and also widely hated; the NRA is obviously extremely polarizing) group is a workplace violence indicator you will come across as untrustworthy and hysterical, and turn what would most likely be a sure win into a huge battle you’ll probably lose. Just ask that HR request people not wear controversial political shirts and take the W.

        3. Rex Libris*

          I think it’s over the top to try and argue “This person could end up being a workplace shooter because T-shirt.” Anything that sounds like that is going to undermine the argument. “This person is wearing political messaging that is likely to make many customers and staff uncomfortable” should be more than enough for any reasonable HR department to tell them to knock it off.

        4. RagingADHD*

          There is nothing in the letter about threats, veiled or otherwise, nor that the LW feels unsafe. They said the coworker is odd, and they are uncomfortable about the T-shirts. I’ve been through workplace training too, and these are not actually behaviors of concern. It would be disingenuous for LW to characterize them that way.

          HR would pay attention to the LW making unfounded accusations just as much to the coworker wearing inappropriate attire, and the potential blowback to LW would be much worse than for the coworker. The coworker would be told “don’t wear that,” while the LW risks a serious hit to their credibility by reporting a coworker to security for a T-shirt.

          The fact that the coworker is wearing political slogans / messaging at work is plenty of reason to say something. There’s no reason to overreach.

      2. Tippy*

        And this is probably the best way to go about it especially in this case. With the industry being banking I’m willing to bet that the apparel in question is not t-shirts and instead NRA branded polos or button downs, so the branding is going to be way more subtle than a slogan or something.

      3. jasmine*

        I saw a message on Slack the other day about how the Supreme Court decision threatened our democracy and while I also disagree with the court’s decision, it’s really not something I want to see at work. I wanted to say something, but I wasn’t sure how.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          I’ve had good luck with saying, “Hey, let’s keep politics out of the workplace.” I think it works even better when I actually agree with the statement in question, so I don’t have a defensive tone.

          1. InsufficentlySubordinate*

            I successfully re-routed a workplace Teams discussion from a politics (debate) to Finnish death metal which morphed further to saunas to heavy metal ratios by country.

      4. not nice, don't care*

        Yeah, no. As a gun violence survivor, I can absolutely advocate for keeping gun porn out of my workplace, while also supporting human/civil rights of sexual minorities. Americans don’t have the luxury of ignoring violence and violent messaging. And we sure af don’t need to shoot ourselves in the foot by allowing haters to neg us into removing support for messaging that supports human/civil rights.

        Be upstanders, not bystanders!

        1. Tisserande d'Encre*

          I don’t necessarily think that disallowing shirts with political slogans is bad for workplaces. I mean, I have some pretty explicitly political shirts (pro-abortion, ACAB, anti-police-violence, etc) that I don’t wear to work because I don’t feel they would be appropriate. I still wear shirts with Pride flags etc and speak up frequently about DEI as well as my own queer/trans identity.

    2. Caroline*

      I think there is something to be said about how inappropriate the shirt is relative to workplace violence, too. I’d be inclined to overlook some mild political references (example: a coworker’s mug with a Ruth Bader Ginsburg quote) but not that one. Maybe that’s my bias showing, but shrug.

      1. Mongrel*

        “I’d be inclined to overlook some mild political references (example: a coworker’s mug with a Ruth Bader Ginsburg quote) but not that one.”

        Often, in my experience anyway, a person wearing such a politically provocative message will start challenging anything that’s even vaguely political, equating an inspiring quote to “Hur. Gunz good!”

        1. TeaCoziesRUs*

          But would you give stink eye to someone who brought in a mug with a quote by Antonin Scalia?

          RBG was an awesome woman, but if we talking about keeping politics out of work, then I’d just stick to wearing a collar of pearls. It’s classy dressing. ;)

      2. not nice, don't care*

        We should always be biased against violence and implied threats of violence.

    3. Harried HR*

      My only concern about going to HR regarding the T-shirt is if the employer is Government or Government adjacent then Freedom of Speech could potentially be violated

      1. Happily Retired*

        Huh? Retired Fed here, and we were VERY restricted as to what we wore, pictures on wall, desk decorations, etc.

        Members of the public dealing with government employees should never have to wonder or worry that a public display of political views implied that their issues would not be heard.

        1. Student*

          Current fed here. Government has some very specific rules around this, but I’m afraid you’re not up-to-date on them.

          The rules that feds and their contractors must follow in the workplace are called the Hatch Act, designed to prevent the federal government from overtly picking its own boss and prevent general political corruption. You can look up various official guidance online – OSC issues guidelines & updates in major political years.

          The line gets drawn at promoting candidates and specific political parties. You are generally still allowed to promote issue-based groups, as long as you don’t stray into candidate or party promotion.

          So, for example, NRA shirts are allowed because NRA is issues-focused, but “NRA for Candidate” shirts would cross the line. Similarly, BLM is issues-focused, so BLM hats are allowed, but “BLM for Political Party” hats are not allowed. This gets a little weird and academic when the “issues” are now so closely tied to parties, as in these examples. In theory, these issues do not need to be aligned with the parties, have been aligned differently in the past. In practice I think most people promoting either of these issues would prefer that they not be party-line issues.

      2. Seashell*

        The letter said financial/banking, but government employees can still have a dress code. Police officers can’t walk the beat in a tie dye tee and sweatpants. The Hatch Act would prevent political activity for federal employees while on the job.

      3. AngryOctopus*

        If anything, Feds are MORE restricted in what they can/can’t display at the office. Most agencies need to show absolute neutrality. They don’t want someone saying they got bad service or their issue wasn’t taken seriously because “the agent’s political message doesn’t align with mine, therefore they treated me worse”.

        1. Harper*

          Yes, I have friends who work for various courts and they have told me they aren’t allowed to even put up political signs in their yard, for the exact reason you mention.

        2. Learn ALL the things?*

          Exactly this. I’ve been working in government since my part time college job, and we’re expected to be entirely nonpartisan in the workplace. You can have all the political opinions you want in your off time, but you don’t discuss or display them in the office.

      4. Bumblebee*

        That is not, in my experience, how this works. As government employees (even with a couple of degrees of separation, which I have) it is more about not accidentally becoming an agent of the state and oppressing someone else’s 1st amendment rights. My own are entirely beside the point while I am at work.

      5. Bast*

        Dress codes are fairly common, even in places that allow for dress down. My husband works a government job in a non-public facing role, and even for “dress down” days you are fairly limited in what you can wear — basically anything with writing/cartoons is a no-go, political or not. Apart from a brand name, they don’t want any writing at all, even something as non-incendiary as “I Heart Coffee.” Jeans are a no-go, khakis are okay. Sneakers are never okay, even on dress down days.

      6. Observer*

        Government or Government adjacent then Freedom of Speech could potentially be violated

        I think the LW would have known if they are in government. And Government adjacent is a different thing.

        But even a government workplace is completely within its rights to restrict certain types of speech. Especially if the restriction is *content and viewpoint neutral.* Which is one of the reasons why I mentioned that the LW should be ready to have other stuff banned as well. It’s one thing to say “No NRA logos.” It’s another to say “No organizational logos”. That’s a general rule that does not restrict one viewpoint more than another.

      7. Worldwalker*

        Freedom of Speech is not what you think it is.

        An employer (even a government one) can absolutely have a dress code, and as other posters have pointed out, the government in particular is required by law to not have its employees endorsing any given viewpoint or organization. Not NRA, BLM, save the whales, pave the whales — nothing.

        1. Emily of New Moon*

          Absolutely. Freedom of speech just means that the government can’t arrest you for what you say (barring slander and threats of violence).
          It DOESN’T mean that private companies can’t have dress codes.

    4. Hyaline*

      I’m kind of surprised policy doesn’t already include a “no political, derogatory, sexual, or profane messaging or images” caveat, even if it is very relaxed! It be there is one, and everyone will be getting a reminder, or perhaps LW1’s inquiry will spur them to create one. But yes, expect it to cut both ways.

      1. Annika Hansen*

        When I worked retail, they had a rule that said our T-shirts could not have words on them. A small name brand on the shirt was fine. I thought that was an easy way to avoid this whole thing.

      2. Some Words*

        I suspect the LW might find this is already part of the dress code. I work in mortgage and it’s always been part of the dress codes wherever I’ve worked.

        Yes, mention it. It’s overtly politically controversial and has no place in this type of workplace. The person wearing it is being purposely provocative.

        1. Hyaline*

          Maybe he’s being intentionally provocative. Or maybe it’s a super boring logo tshirt he got free with a donation and it was clean so he wore it, with a logo so small that you have to squint to read it and LW is grossly overreacting but either version proves the point: Keep political attire out of the workplace, it only creates conflict and reduces everyone’s ability to just get their work done without additional hassle. Which is what most of us want at work!

    5. MamaMing*

      To OP on #1 – just came here to say I also abhor guns and I agree that the second amendment should be repealed. I also understand this is very unlikely to happen. I’m with you!

      1. John F. Opie*

        No Amendments to the Constitution are repealed, but rather superseded with a new Amendment that nullifies the previous one (see prohibition). If you don’t like the 2nd Amendment, you need to get a new Amendment passed through the House, approved by the Senate, signed by the President and then ratified by 34 States, either by their legislatures or by holding a ratifying convention to ratify the Amendment.

        1. Andy*

          The President has absolutely nothing to do with the process to amend the constitution. The 21st amendment specifically uses the word repealed (“The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.”).

    6. dackquiri*

      Yeah, it’s unfortunate that “where does your opinion fall in the Overton Window?” is a pertinent issue for this kind of thing, but HR often needs to try to come off neutral and when it comes to a Bill of Rights Amendment, “overturn it” is gonna come off as more radical than “keep it” and that might be used against you. Keep that close to the vest, and make it about the character of the apparel—if they have pictures of weapons, or contentious slogans, that ought to be the focus. (It’s kinda easy to get desensitized to any of the standard political bumper sticker quips we’ve heard for the last 40 years, but oh my god, so many 2A slogans are just barely-veiled threats.)

  3. Goldfeesh*

    For LW 1- I would want to be sure that any complaint about the shirt would be anonymous, just to be Capt. Obvious.

  4. Roland*

    I admit I’m struggling to understand LW3’s POV. Peer feedback has been a part of every office job I’ve ever had, good and bad.

    1. Raine*

      Wording of such a request matters. Sometimes, like I suspect it happened in this case, it can read completely wrong, like you’re being asked to do manager-type feedback when you aren’t that person’s manager.

      1. fine-tipped pen aficionado*

        I agree. It’s normal to expect to give feedback on peers and have your manager get feedback on you from your peers. But people aren’t dumb and generally can tell the difference in genuine feedback and when a manager is collecting the evidence they need to fire someone.

        Between the leading questions, the screenshots, and telling LW3 about the purpose, it seems to me like they’re picking up on signals that the manager has already decided to terminate and is just going through the motions required. Maybe LW3 doesn’t have the experience to know there is a positive, developmental version of this but I don’t think they’re read of their specific situation is wrong.

        Hopefully the response and comments will prepare them for the good version of this at their next role!

        1. Butterfly Counter*


          I’d have no problem giving feedback on my opinion of whether or not a coworker is doing their job properly and/or making my own job harder.

          But screenshots? Emails? Nope. Not unless I was volunteering them in a CYA/something big got botched and my name is attached type of situation.

        2. Kevin Sours*

          Where I land is that if you want there to be a formal process for performance issues — either PIP or termination — then you need the ability to collect evidence and formally document the issues. That means written statements from people with first hand knowledge. It means collecting emails showing the issues and other documentations and making them part of the “record”. It sucks to get pulled into it but the alternative is “some people told me Emily wasn’t performing well”.

      2. Smithy*

        I do wonder if the wording was a result of over correcting in response to people not providing critical or constructive feedback. And if they do using so many euphemisms or coded language that the intent isn’t clear. Something like “LW3’s coworker has a unique style of copy editing that is new to the team”.

        With that being said, if that is a tendency of a team – I’m not sure if the email was the way to push people to be more precise in feedback that isn’t positive.

        The last person on our team who was let go for not being a good hire, there was a period where we were asked to give feedback at a time of year/her employment when it wouldn’t be expected. We could all sense that this wasn’t part of a positive request, but I didn’t really have any concrete examples I could easily write down. So I didn’t response. If that was a necessary step and they needed more feedback from what they had, I don’t think pushing me harder to try and write down my experiences would have been better. However, taking the time to talk to me a structured interview would get closer.

      3. My Useless Two Cents*

        She wasn’t Emily’s manager, but OP was responsible for training her (at least on one project). Unless there was more to the email then included in the letter, the questions asked were perfectly fine and appropriate. OP feels like it’s tattling because Emily is not doing well. If management asked for the same feedback because Emily was doing great and up for a promotion, my guess is there would be no issues.

        And OP, messages between coworkers regarding work projects are not personal or private. Asking for screenshots of the communication is not invading Emily’s privacy or going behind her back. Always proceed with the assumption the company is reading all of your messages & emails while working. Good rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t say it to your manager, don’t write it down so the company has a record of it!

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          My thought was that if they needed screenshots or copies of emails, they should just get them themselves. I’m not going to do extra work to get a coworker fired because management doesn’t want to do the dirty work themselves. It’s part of their job, not mine.

          But I agree that the questions they asked were fine. I do think coworkers’ opinions and experiences are relevant and something management can’t know without asking.

          1. Kevin Sours*

            Are you suggesting the manager should be going through OP’s or Emily’s email to find what they need? That seems like a far greater intrusion than asking OP to produce them.

        2. Kevin Sours*

          Yeah that stood out. I’d also like to know the contours of “on of my projects”. Because if OP is responsible for things like tasking Emily on that project as well as training (or would be if the training hadn’t been successful) then OP has an informal supervisory role.

          It’s clear that Emily’s manager wants documentation of performance problems for a formal process — either a PIP or a termination — and in many cases where there is informal project leadership the manager may not have enough direct involvement with the details to produce it. I’m not sure that anybody is well served by having a manager document that second hand after an informal conversion with OP.

    2. Adam*

      I think it’s mostly the wording. I’ve had to provide peer feedback in every job I’ve had as well and it was a vital tool when I was a manager. But leading with “Emily has received negative feedback” sets entirely the wrong tone, and if the manager hasn’t been soliciting feedback on peers regularly it makes it seem like the only purpose is providing ammunition for firing someone. Which it might be in some cases, but you don’t want people to feel like that’s all it is, which is why it’s important to solicit feedback regularly on everyone.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        I agree, it read like “help us torpedo Emily, we’ve already started”. Plus there’s a vast difference between people knowing they’re in a peer review culture that will review everyone equally, and being the only one, and confronted with private messages that happened outside of that context.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          > it read like “help us torpedo Emily, we’ve already started”.

          A PIP (or similar process) isn’t “torpedoing” someone, or at least shouldn’t be. When used properly a PIP is about noticing something deficient or unacceptable in a person’s work, and if possible helping them to course correct, of course in many cases it becomes clear that improvement isn’t possible (because most people don’t set out to do a bad job and are already operating at the capacity they can). Characterising it as “torpedo” someone makes it personal, rather than part of the management process. Most managers do not want to put someone on a PIP, they’d really rather the person was performing as they need to be, easier life for everyone. OP acknowledges that there are real performance problems with Emily (and I doubt OP and the team lead are the only people who have noticed), so it isn’t an arbitrary process to push people out. The comment I’m replying to here does seem to have quite a “management are out to get you” tone, imo.

          1. Brain the Brian*

            Like it or not, PIPs are often used as a formality — lengthy, but a formality nonetheless— when pushing someone out. In this letter, it seems pretty clear that management has already decided to fire Emily and is seeking negative feedback to speed along that process — exactly the opposite of how you say a PIP should be used. This is why it feels wrong to the LW.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              See, I feared the exact opposite: That management wouldn’t actually get around to firing, but would frame this as OP’s criticism. Torpedoing Emily and OP’s working relationship, and possibly her relationship with other coworkers if they thought OP shouldn’t have said (insert exact quote from email) because that wasn’t really fair. (Bamcheeks has an excellent point about being trained to give neutral feedback.)

          2. bamcheeks*

            I don’t think a PIP in general is “torpedoing”, but I do think this is a poor way to gather evidence. It feels like the manager is looking for shortcuts on gathering the necessary evidence by asking LW to make judgments and put things in writing which are above her paygrade. A much better process would be an open conversation with LW about Emily’s strengths and weaknesses, with management exploring both what has gone wrong and what has gone right, and asking for more details about specific areas they have concerns about. LW would probably feel much better about something like that. It would be more work for the managers working out which parts of that information was relevant and which wasn’t, but it’stheir job to make those judgments, not LW’s.

            It’s not that a PIP in itself is a bad thing– I think everyone recognises that there are times when they’re necessary! But this is a bad way to approach it.

            1. MCMonkeybean*

              I highly disagree that asking how she’s been doing in training, if she’s completing things by expected deadlines, and how long OP would generally spend on a task are “above her paygrade.” Those are all normal things to get OP’s thoughts on.

              1. bamcheeks*

                I’m not saying you shouldn’t look for those details, I’m saying this is a bad way of getting them. You can frame the whole email in a much more neutral way: “We’re looking to get an overall picture, what’s been going well, what’s been going badly, please do speak up if you have concerns. Specifically, can you let us know how she’s doing in training, completing things by deadlines and what your sense is of whether she needs more support” would probably get a better response from many people than “sounds like Emily sucks, please give me specifics on how badly she sucks”.

                And it sounds like this was not a successful way of gathering that information: LW says they “provided a vague rundown of a project that I worked on with Emily, but I did not relay any incriminating details.” A one-to-one conversation which was framed as constructive rather than punitive would probably have drawn LW out more.

          3. Mongrel*

            “A PIP (or similar process) isn’t “torpedoing” someone, or at least shouldn’t be.”

            It should, however, be confidential.

            1. Ellis Bell*

              Yes! Between Emily and her manager a PIP can absolutely be supportive, even if it ascertains it’s the wrong job for her. Opening it out to the floor for anyone to have a go is going to seem punitive even if it isn’t the intention.

          4. MsM*

            But that’s the problem: the way the request was framed makes it seem like torpedoing, and doesn’t leave room for OP to present honest feedback that might support giving Emily more leeway to improve. As the letter points out, it also raises concerns about how OP will be treated if they find themselves in a similar position to Emily.

          5. Observer*

            When used properly a PIP is about noticing something deficient or unacceptable in a person’s work, and if possible helping them to course correct

            Well, yes. But the bolded words are the key here. This is absolutely not the way to design and implement a PIP! So to start with, we know that this PIP (ahem “success meeting” in Orwell Speak) is not properly designed.

            And the issue is not the PIP per se. It’s that the email starts “Emily is not doing well. Give us more information on how badly she is doing” and explains that it’s “so we can beat her over the head with it when we meet with her”.

            rather than part of the management process.

            Well *this* implementation is absolutely not a (reasonable) management process. And that’s the real problem here.

        2. Brain the Brian*

          Exactly this. It would be much different if management had said they had received some concerning feedback about Emily’s work and were trying to get a full picture as part of working with her on her performance. Then, the LW could say whatever they liked — but as it’s been worded in the letter, it feels instead like a directive to provide negative feedback whether it’s warranted or not.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            Or even just “I know you’ve worked with Emily on [project]. Can you tell me what it was like to work with her?”. Just looking for whatever information you can give on her, be it good or bad, to round out a full picture of her work performance.

        3. Snow Globe*

          It doesn’t even need to be a culture where people review all their peers all the time. This was a new employee, and it’s pretty common for peers to help train new employees and for the trainer to provide feedback to the supervisor on how the new person is doing.

      2. Observer*

        But leading with “Emily has received negative feedback” sets entirely the wrong tone

        Exactly. And if you are simply doing peer feedback to get *genuine* information (rather than confirmation), it’s just not necessary. Sure, I get that you want to encourage people to be honest even if the feedback is negative, but this is not the way to to it.

        if the manager hasn’t been soliciting feedback on peers regularly it makes it seem like the only purpose is providing ammunition for firing someone

        Yeah. I don’t think that it’s at all likely that this is anything but an ammunition gathering exercise.

        Either that, or someone is trying to protect Emily and is trying to make it look like they are gathering information while actually trying to discourage people from giving honest feedback. “Remember, we are going to tell Emily *exactly* what you said, and we are going to make you the fall guy for her PIP / Termination.”

        Or maybe they just want people to shut up, and this is a good way to get people too REALLY hesitate to ever bring anything to management.

    3. Magdalena*

      I would not feel comfortable providing detailed negative feedback in writing. For many reasons, including not wanting to be pulled into litigation down the line.

      1. Nodramalama*

        That seems odd to me. Most organisations I know what feedback in writing precisely so that it isn’t manipulated or misremembered or misinterpreted

        1. Brain the Brian*

          And this is why I hate providing feedback in writing. I really hate the notion that someone could take my exact words and use them against me because they don’t like my feedback or my tone when writing it out. If I only give verbal feedback, there’s at least a “game of telephone” excuse if someone doesn’t like it.

          1. Nodramalama*

            But if feedback is being collated to give an overall feel of how someone is going, they’re not going to ask every person to give that feedback to the individual face to face.

            1. Brain the Brian*

              Things have a way of being “accidentally” forwarded with someone’s name attached where I work.

              1. Just Here For This*

                I got asked to do a detailed evaluation on a coworker, who did eventually end up scrambling out the door to avoid a termination, but I also got thrown under the bus by management when someone wanted to keep her and tried to save her by making me the bad guy. I was vindicated after she left and we found nine months worth of undone work locked in her desk drawers. But the damage to my reputation, since she played victim so well, was pretty well permanent. I ignored her mostly, as I had an office down the hall and I stayed in it. The target got painted on my back after a department head asked me to evaluate her work, I did not volunteer for that.

          2. Lady Lessa*

            We are a small company, which is now a division of a larger one. I will often respond professionally to info requests from our owner company, but be more snarky verbally to co-workers who have similar issues with the big one. Acts as both a double check on my perception and a relief valve.

          3. Observer*

            If I only give verbal feedback, there’s at least a “game of telephone” excuse if someone doesn’t like it.

            On the other hand, verbal stuff can be REALLY blown up. And someone who is going to “accidentally” forward your stuff is also likely to repeat *a* version of what you said and it might not reflect well.

            The bottom line is that if you have to worry about this stuff, it’s a problem. In a reasonable place, something in writing is better for everyone because no one can try to claim that you said something you didn’t, or left out something you should have included. And it makes sure that everyone who needs the information has the same information.

            But that’s in a *reasonably* managed place. This team lead does not seem like a reasonable manager.

            1. Brain the Brian*

              If they repeat it, I can always blame them for twisting or exaggerating things. I can’t do that if it’s right there in my own writing. I refuse to keep a private journal or written to-do lists for the same reason, actually.

        2. bamcheeks*

          I think if you’re going to ask for written peer-to-peer feedback, you need to train people on how to do it constructively. I’ve coached people who have left jobs over peer-to-peer feedback because it destroyed their trust in their colleagues.

          This is outside of a structured 360 process, LW hasn’t been trained people in how to write useful but neutrally worded feedback, and it’s asking for a lot of judgment on her part (“provide an example of working with Emily” — should she pick one which makes Emily look good or bad? That’s a big decision to put on a co-worker!) I think a one-to-one conversation in which the manager is asking questions and probing into LW’s experience of working with Emily, using their judgment to decide which examples need more detail and relying on their notes to structure the PIP is a much better process for this.

          1. Bumblebee*

            Yes! I’ve never seen this worded like you did and this makes so much sense to me now. Most peer feedback I have very gotten is like a yelp review – only written if someone is really mad or really happy, and not much help either way.

      2. engie*

        Yes, my organization does peer feedback, not quite as bad as for this LW, but still it’s a formal questionnaire with fixed questions and in the context of known low performance it seems setup to fail the person being asked about. I really loved Alison’s answer because I would indeed have no problem having a conversation, where you can also give some qualifiers for some answers. What would be the recommended way to deal with being asked to give this very scripted feedback? I want to respond that I’m not comfortable filling it in but would be happy to have a conversation, but I don’t know if that’s the right approach, because so many people see no issue with these specific forms.

    4. BigLawEx*

      It’s the screenshot request for me. But hey, I used to practice law. I believe in lots of discreet conversations, but not everything should be in writing/captured.

      1. Nodramalama*

        Interesting because I am also a lawyer and would expect all evidence that was used to make an assessment about someone’s employment to be very well documented.

        1. Managing While Female*

          Yes. At my job, if you’re putting someone on a PIP, you basically need to document every last piece of evidence that they’re not meeting expectations. It can’t be in the least bit vague. If So-and-So is not responding timely to emails, you have to show evidence of that or nothing is getting done about it.

          This is what I see as super contradictory about the commenters on this site — they want management to hold underperformers accountable, but to do that, managers need to point to the ways in which someone is underperforming. This often requires peer feedback and documentation.

          1. Green great dragon*

            Yeh, your second para stood out to me too. I thought the request needed a lot more context and a prior conversation, but underneath it it’s a manager asking for documentation of how much of the team’s time is being taken up training this person, the quality/efficiency of her work, and whether she’s still asking very basic questions, which you’d need to judge whether you need to let her go or not.

            1. Observer*

              Well, that’s the real problem here. This does not feel like a good faith effort to do the kind of information gathering they should be doing.

              The issue is not that they are asking for stuff in writing. There is the opening, which clearly sets a tone that they are looking for negative feedback.

              There is the fact that they are asking for screen shots of messages – which clearly indicates messages that Emily would have reasonably expected to be private is another problem. Expectations of privacy are a legitimate thing, and a manager should not violate those without REALLY solid reasons. Asking line staff to do that is really a lot.

              And then there is the whole issues of explicitly referencing a coworker’s complaints during the PIP meeting. That’s ridiculous – humiliating for Emily, and making their relationship very difficult while the PIP process plays out.

              It’s one thing to gather information – that is GOOD. It’s also a thing to make sure that everything is well documented, and I agree that having it in writing is a good way to do that. But what his email is doing is about the worst way I can think of to accomplish those tasks without a ton of collateral and totally unnecessary damage.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      I feel like this is the sort of thing that works better as a conversation than an email. Both because of the back-and-forth nuance of the task, and because of the rule about emailing like it’s being read aloud at a deposition.

    6. Catwhisperer*

      Same. I suspect this is industry-specific, because this email (including the request for screenshots) would not be out of place in my industry. I’m wondering if they’ll actually share the screenshots and word-for-word feedback in the PIP conversation, because the email only says the info will be referenced (not shared directly). In instances where I’ve gotten critical peer feedback, my managers have either de-identified the comments or summed them up in their own words. It’s fully possible that the team lead has solicited feedback from multiple people and will do the same here, which isn’t something they would necessarily share with the LW. The LW could also have asked the team lead exactly what would be shared before they responded, both to mitigate their concerns and tailor the information to the appropriate audience.

    7. Cat Tree*

      Terms like “incriminating” and “dirt” make me think LW doesn’t have a realistic understanding of how feedback works. That said, giving useful feedback is a skill and often feels weird at first.

      The manager also asked for this feedback in a very weird way. I think both people are off-base about this.

      1. Catwhisperer*

        +1, critical feedback is not “dirt” on someone, it’s a tool to help them grow.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          Yep, it’s absolutely PIP-worthy for a manager to say “you’ve worked with several people on [projects] and they all mention that you had trouble adhering to deadlines, and that your excel data was often misaligned and unusable. We need you to make sure you hit deadlines with the team, and that you double/triple check your work to make sure that all the rows and columns make sense and can be fed into Program with few to no issues”. If she can’t meet those expectations, then she shouldn’t be working in that sector, but if she somehow doesn’t realize the issues her work is causing, it’s giving her the chance to change.

        2. dackquiri*

          It’d be one thing if LW suspected an off-base grudge was motivating their manager’s behavior, but… LW, it sounds like you also are of the opinion Emily is not meeting the expectations intrinsic to her job! I understand skepticism to being party to something that may be unpleasant for Emily, but ascribing bad faith to processes of accountability, while a very human impulse, makes it difficult for any good-faith or non-punitive accountability to work. (Also, imparting my own lessons-learned-the-hard-way at the risk of coming off preachy: it really can affect how you view and experience a workplace.)

          I’m not saying Emily won’t be upset if she identifies your contributions, but that’s pretty easy to shut down: your boss asked for details about the training (a task assigned to you), and you were above-board about it. Could you have covered for her? Maybe, but that might reflect on the effort your manager assumes you put into training her. And it might be for nothing; maybe it’s a PIP that truly, nonpunitively aims to I her P, and Emily is in no danger.

          I’m not preaching fealty to authority here; I’ve absolutely lobbed my fair share of bullshit to shield a coworker because I didn’t like how they were being treated. But it’s a story to keep straight, a strategy to maintain, mental energy expended, and a risk that what I say doesn’t have the benign effect I intended.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        Same. If Emily is not performer her job, and LW is on the front lines and has the experience to see it, asking for that info is not unusual or wrong. The framing is terrible and muddying the perception, for sure, but there’s nothing wrong with asking for objective feedback. No should be asking OP to say that Emily is terrible and should be fired, but asking how long tasks take, how many times things have been explained to her, and for neutral observations is pretty standard.

        On the flip side of this equation, this drives me nuts when people come to complain about their coworkers but then don’t want to provide actionable information and get upset when they feel there are no consequences for their coworkers’ underperformance. I can’t just discipline/fire people without a process and a reason where I work. I also manage a wide array of subject-matter experts, so the details of their job proficiency is often best detailed by other subject-matter experts – I can see productivity and work quality but not some of the details that are best described by another SME. We have to provide appropriate training/oversight, provide feedback, document issues, and be very clear, if we want HR to take us seriously at all.

    8. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      I think OP3’s problem is that they are specifically asking for negative feedback. It’s not a “tell me what you think” but “this worker sucks, please give us details about how she sucks”.

    9. LW.3*

      LW 3 here! In the year at this workplace, the email about Emily is the *first* time I have ever been asked (by the team lead or anyone else) for feedback on a peer’s work. I even struggle to get feedback about my own performance!

      I am now trying to frame the experience as “this workplace does not have a culture of feedback, mentorship, and growth in general” (which is why I am on the job hunt again, I suppose). Thanks all for the interesting comments.

  5. ExpirationDate*

    As a candidate, I don’t love expiring job offers, but as long as you’re reasonable about things like holidays (including religious holidays) and are available for questions/negotiations and adjustments (if we agree to any) in the interim I’m okay with it as long as the timeframe starts when I get the written offer, not four days earlier when you started preparing it and you extend if we’re still discussing terms.

    1. Duckdown*

      I’ve never seen it done and so it seemed a bit ‘off’ to me…somehow a bit aggressive in tone? I’m UK public sector so I’ve no idea if my response is at all normal, but if people seem to blanch then yeah maybe others feel like me. Using Alison’s softer version gets rid of that feeling entirely, I wouldn’t mind being told they had a timeline.

      1. TechWorker*

        Right, it makes total sense you can’t sit on it forever, but that is a bit different to it being called an ‘expiration date’.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          My sense is the expiration tends to be verbal–“We’ll expect to hear from you by next Wednesday.”

          1. MigraineMonth*

            In my experience it’s always been presented as a negotiable timeframe. “Can you get back to us by next Wednesday?”

            Which leaves room open to say something like, “Due to a family health situation, I’ll be out of the country all next week” or “I’m expecting to hear back from another organization next week” and push the deadline to the following Monday.

            Given the length of the interviewing process, a couple of extra daysusually doesn’t matter for the company but can make a huge difference for the candidate.

            1. Observer*

              I think this is a good way of looking at it.

              You don’t want someone dragging out the process. But there are better ways to deal with this and worse ways.

        2. Cat Tree*

          Yeah, it feels too rigid. If some weird sitcom-esque series of unlucky events happened in my life, would they be willing to be a little flexible by a day?

          1. AngryOctopus*

            I’d guess that if you called them and told them, and that you needed more time, then probably yes (unless they really really needed someone to start by a week from the expiration date).
            I had a friend who got a job offer. They asked for her answer by Friday (she had at least 72 hr IIRC). She wanted time to discuss with her husband (who was travelling), BUT (and this is key), she did not ask them for more time or say “I need time to discuss with my family, but my husband is away for work until [time], may I have till Monday?”. She then called them to accept on Monday and they were like, “we didn’t hear from you by the deadline, so we offered the job to someone else”.
            All this to say, you can probably negotiate to move a deadline, but you have to be clear about what you need, because the deadline is them being clear about what they need.

          2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

            It doesn’t have to be a weird sitcome-esque series of events, and the implied lack of flexibility in the phrase “expiration date” rather than “Please respond by X date” is what people are objecting to. It’s pretty common for a candidate to say something like “I had a final interview with Y company, and I’m expecting to hear back from them in a few days, so I won’t be able to get back to you before that.” (And then to tell Y company “I’ve had an offer, can you please let me know one way or the other as soon as you can?”)

          3. NotAnotherManager!*

            We will always afford candidates an extra day or three because life happens. The issue comes up when there is no response/communication about timeline or when we are asked for “just a few more days” multiple times. Without knowing that an answer is coming at some point, it’s tough to know if you’ve been ghosted or if the candidate just needs more time. If we’ve been ghosted, we often want to move on to the next strongest candidate in a timely manner.

          4. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            yes and if it’s given verbally, the interviewee can then say “oh but I’m off on holiday till next Thursday so I won’t be able to check up on X, would Friday still work for you?” and it would probably be OK.

      2. Martin Blackwood*

        i feel like calling it an “expiration” is more aggressive than calling it a deadline, but I couldnt say why

        1. ampersand*

          Agreed. Even though the intent is the same, “expiration” sounds like it’s going to go bad, or cease to exist. That term isn’t used so much in business and I think that’s what’s making it sound off.

      3. Gathering Moss*

        Yeah, as another non-USA person, this would read to me like an attempt at a hard sell, and I’d be wondering what they’re trying to hide that they need to use pressure tactics. It wouldn’t necessarily stop me accepting an offer, but it would definitely give me pause. It’s not something I’ve seen before in my career, either.

        1. amoeba*

          Yup, I agree. “We will need a reply by date X” basically says exactly the same but sounds so much less weird to me!

        2. Cat Tree*

          That really articulates how I feel (I’m in the US). I hate deadlines that feel manipulative or like a sales tactic. And 7 days is twice as much as I would need, but it still feels like pressure to put an expiration date on it. It wouldn’t necessarily make me turn down the offer, but I’d look back at the interview in a new light and see if there were other signs of a high-pressure culture.

          (Also, this isn’t a US thing. Many of us wouldn’t like this either. People writing in to advice columns generally don’t represent the culture of most of the country.)

          1. Gathering Moss*

            Ah, I wasn’t trying to suggest it was some kind of US norm! I’m just aware that my culture has differing norms for a bunch of aspects of professional life. I try and be clear that my perspective comes from that place, rather than suggesting something is a norm elsewhere. Sorry if that was unclear!

        3. metadata minion*

          Yeah, “hard sell” is my reaction as well. *Obviously* a job offer isn’t open indefinitely, so emphasizing it feels very pressure-y.

        4. I edit everything*

          I’m a US-ian, and it comes across as a hard sell to me, too. “Act now!” “Limited time offer!” “How can we get you into a comfortable desk chair today?” It would immediately make me start looking for the catch and reading all the fine print. But that might just be me. If there’s pressure, I push back automatically. My mom pushed me to read a book when I was a kid, more than the usual, “Hey, you might like this,” and I’m 100% sure it’s an amazing book, but I still haven’t read it. Maybe after she dies.

          1. Turquoisecow*

            Yeah, being rushed rushed rushed makes it seem like there’s some kind of catch or fine print in there that they’re legally obligated to include but don’t want me to see, like every third paycheck goes back to the company, or you have to pay for your own office space or something like that.

      4. Earlk*

        Also UK public sector. I’ve generally offered a verbal guideline of when we’d like to hear back from them but as the salaries aren’t often negotiable and I’m not hiring high level people i usually get a yes immediately.

      5. londonedit*

        It’s not something I’ve seen before, either, and I might bristle at it – it does come off as a bit of a hard sell, or like they’re saying ‘If you don’t want this job we’ve got plenty of other people to offer it to’. Bit pass-agg.

        I don’t think there’s anything wrong with following up if you don’t hear back after a day or so, and at that point saying ‘If we don’t hear from you by close of play on Thursday, we’ll move on to another candidate’ or whatever. But stating a deadline straight up does feel a little aggressive to me.

      6. bamcheeks*

        Yes, in the UK public sector the usual practice is not to get back to other candidates until you’ve had a verbal acceptance from your chosen candidate. I’ve never come across a “expiring offer”, but there’s a soft pressure of knowing that other candidates are being kept on edge until you’ve accepted, and the expectation is usually that you’ll accept during the offer conversation or ask for a day or two to think about it or “discuss it with [my] partner”. It’s rare for it to take more than 3-4 days to come to an agreement.

        It’s funny how, “We’d like to be considerate to other candidates, so please let us know as soon as you’re able” (expectation under 5 days) feels much less pressurey than “Get back to us within 7 days or the offer expires”. I think it’s one of those weird influencing things, like the story about how charging parents for late pick-ups from nursery increased late pick-ups, because people now saw themselves as purchasing a service rather than inconveniencing people. I think this is the same thing– “expiry date” sounds like an impersonal kind of pressure, whereas, “this is our timeline because we have other people in the mix and want to firm up plans” is asking for your consideration and appeals much more.

      7. kiki*

        Yeah, “expiration” just seems like a strangely harsh way to put it, but I totally wouldn’t mind hearing, “we need to hear back from you within a week unless there are extenuating circumstances on your end.” Something about the word expiration makes the offer seem a bit gimmicky? It seems like an attempt at pressure? Like, “You better think fast if you want this role!” For context, I’m American, midwestern-raised, but have lived all over the country.

        1. Georgia Carolyn Mason*

          Yeah, it’s mostly the word — it sounds like the job is going to spoil! And once I start thinking of the job as potentially sour milk, I’m not that enthusiastic. “Deadline” is fine, or just “we’ll need to hear back by X date,” as long as it’s not like tomorrow.

    2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      I’d suggest something like “please let us know by next Monday EOB whether you accept this offer. If something unexpected arises to delay your decision, please let us know also by this date”

    3. Coverage Associate*

      Also, in the US, as long as the “offer” included all the benefits information, not just salary. I’ll take a 5% lower salary for a 6% 401k match, for example.

      When I was last looking at offers, I compared salaries, hours expectations, 401k match, 2 employer-provided health plans for me with my husband, and what the total numbers looked like if we put my husband on Obamacare. I ended up accepting the lowest salary because the benefits generally made up the difference.

  6. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP3 (negative information about Emily) – instead of looking at it as “dirt” on someone which is a very emotive word, think of it as collating concrete examples from the people best placed to speak about Emily’s work. The approach here (a structured set of questions and they’re clear what format of answer they need from you) tells us that the manager, and likely the company as a whole, is approaching the PIP process in a rational and evidence-based way. This is a good thing.

    I expect the manager / people involved in the PIP will ‘synthesise’ the feedback you, and others, have given about Emily into a coherent whole, rather than go item by item through each person’s feedback. A PIP does need to have specific details of the behaviour that isn’t suitable, and concrete ways of knowing that that is so, and of knowing whether it improves (so during/after the PIP “improvement period” you will likely get asked again about whether you see any improvement with Emily).

    Promotion to a more senior role, even if you aren’t managing people, does often bring with it a need for handling these kind of interpersonal situations (like formulating feedback).

    1. Catwhisperer*

      +1, LW seems to share the perception that many other letter writers have, which is that critical feedback = tattling. Critical feedback is incredibly important in helping someone grow and I wonder if LW gave any directly to Emily when she was training her, given how uncomfortable she is about giving feedback to Emily’s team lead. It’s much less fair to Emily if LW just let her think she was successful at training and didn’t provide corrections when necessary, only for Emily to get put on a PIP.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Yes for the tattling.
        Thing is, if you feel that it’s OK to give positive feedback “Jane is really quick off the mark, I love working with her”, then you need to also give negative feedback. It’s harder, but ultimately more important. Especially with this Emily who is having trouble copying and pasting!

    2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Yes, so many commenters here complain that poor performers are just left in place, but then object to being asked to provide evidence that the performance is indeed poor.
      You can’t deprive someone of their career / livelihood with a wave of the hand or wishful thinking. There must be due process, which means standing up to provide evidence.

      imo, transparency is vital when it comes to letting someone go for performance or demoting them etc.
      Also, clear evidence and opportunity for them to examine this, with a union rep and e.g. to say if something was untrue or biased.

      Performance failings need to be documented, with screenshots or other evidence. Coworkers with complaints against someone should put their name to it and then let them agree or dispute the issue.
      If only managers do this, then they may too far from the coalface/ not have the technical background to be 100% sure whether the complaints are justified or serious enough to act on.

      FinalJob did not normally do peer reviews; only on the very rare occasion when someone was not up to the job and refused to accept this (to be demoted / retrained/ transferred/ resign with severance).
      On the one occasion (in 30 years) I had to do this for Fritz, about 20 of us filled in a long standardised Excel questionaire – including our name – which was then combined into 1 large docu and discussed in a large meeting with Fritz & his union rep, both of whom recvd the docu well in advance).
      This was a standard process for serious performance problems, as set by the Works Council, with union agreement.
      I found the process embarassing but necessary to be fair to Fritz; he was able to hear what his coworkers thought and present his own pov. We all would have resented it if he had just been demoted by his manager without this open discussion.

    3. kiki*

      Yes, I know it can feel unpleasant to give feedback about a coworker and know that because it’s negative that your feedback is likely going to facilitate them being put on a PIP or eventually fired. I know it can also feel like it’s “not your place” if this feedback is about a peer rather than somebody you manage or have any sort of authority over.

      But in some work environments, an employee’s manager doesn’t really see how their direct report is doing and relies on feedback from their teammates. If somebody is struggling, it’s important and kind to regularly provide that feedback to the struggling employee’s manager. I know it can feel like tattling, but the only way a struggling employee will get the support that they need is if their manager knows about it. Letting somebody struggle for a long time without saying anything until things get absolutely untenable will feel super confusing for the struggling colleague.

  7. D*

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have a time limit on needing a response–but framing it as “expiring” might be the cause of the weird looks. It feels like the wording scams use to try to get my personal info in malware ads or spam email because limited response times leads to pressure that makes people make bad decisions–a week is plenty of time after an interview process, but the language sticks! “This offer expires in a week,” just feels like, “Take it or leave it, or we’ll take our ball and go home.”

    I agree that trying, “We’d like a response in a week if possible,” or something would probably alleviate the weird looks.

    1. LateRiser*

      I agree that calling it “expiring” is weird and makes it feel like a hard-sell, but if the intended message is “we need an answer soon” then a soft script like “we’d like a response, if possible” is an overcorrection.

      Something like “we will need a response by [date]” is far more direct and wouldn’t feel so out of place in the “please let us know if you have questions” postamble.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        This. People’s brains will interpret these things differently.

        Personally, I like the word “expiration” because it’s pretty clear and difficult to interpret any other way.

    2. dmk*

      “Expiration” is an odd word, but if there’s a reason you need an answer within a certain timeframe, and you let the candidate know that, it becomes less weird. So, we hire for a position that is a two-year job; the people we hire all start around the same time and the people that are departing leave around the same time (with some overlap for training, etc.). When we make offers, we need to know quickly, otherwise we won’t have time to interview and make offers to someone else if the candidate declines. But we are very up front about that – every candidate is told these details when we reach out to interview – so it doesn’t come across as a hard sell when we tell them we need an answer within X days, and that if they don’t respond, we’ll move on. (Also, we are not inflexible about this! We had a candidate who missed the deadline because their college turned off their student email sooner than expected and they missed the email. They accepted the offer and were hired.)

  8. George Thomas*

    Addressing the matter of provocative messages on workplace attire with Human Resources is absolutely warranted.

    However, it’s crucial to bracket off personal views on the Second Amendment for this discussion. The presence of NRA and firearm-related content provokes strong reactions that extend beyond the spectrum of individual opinions on gun rights, illustrating its inherent incompatibility within our professional setting.

    It’s essential to acknowledge that any action HR decides to take may very well extend to encompass a broad range of political and otherwise contentious issues. This means the ultimate judgement on what’s considered “controversial” might not align perfectly with our personal criteria.

    1. Mangled Metaphor*

      Our workplace handles it by just have a “no slogans/printed content” rule.
      That means no band tees, no “I’d rather be golfing” joke tees, etc.
      A discrete designer logo is OK (like a small enough to hide behind your name badge Nike swoosh), but that’s about it.
      Nearly everyone wears a variation on different coloured polo tops by default and there have been no complaints. We’re having our summer social in a couple of weeks, so that’s when the pineapple tees are very much allowed.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        This used to be our “casual Fridays” policy pre-pandemic. (Now we’re hybrid and hardly anyone comes in on Fridays.) It saved us from having the decide what was appropriate and not.

      2. HonorBox*

        My workplace has a very specific requirement when allowing for tee shirts similar to yours. It works very well because there’s no need to judge the content.

        I mentioned in a comment below that just because “dress for your day” is pretty general, it doesn’t need to mean that people can wear whatever they please. There can be guidance… especially because what is objectionable to some may not be to others, and vice versa.

      3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        FinalJob had no problem with graphic T-shirts & tanks; we just had to avoid overt campaigning or controversy.
        e.g. before equal marriage was legalised (Germany) I wore my umpteen Pride T-shirts that had no writing, but I kept those with equal marriage slogans for outside work.

      4. Coffee Protein Drink*

        Ours was “no graphic t-shirts.” If anyone had a problem with it, I didn’t hear about it.

      5. NotAnotherManager!*

        This is also my office’s policy. (We’re in a more conservative industry, so even jeans and non-graphic/slogan tees are a major upgrade from pre-pandemic dress codes.) I think the only exception is if groups of people from the office are participating in an event that gives you matching t-shirts (fun run, community service days, etc.).

      6. Turquoisecow*

        Yes my workplace is the same. No logos or text unless it’s company branded attire, unless it’s a theme day like they would do for superbowl or maybe the World Series or something. Most people wore either solid color or patterned shirts – the guys generally stuck to single color polos.

    2. Coverage Associate*

      Yeah, the NRA is officially a lobbying organization, so it easily falls under a “no politics” rule, but there are other, technically non political organizations and non branded shirts that would probably upset OP just as much.

      In some regions, a T shirt with guns won’t be considered much different in terms of office appropriate than a T shirt with flowers or dogs.

  9. Nodramalama*

    LW3 I agree that the way the request was phrased was weird and likely to make you uncomfortable.

    But I agree with Alison that I don’t think the request itself is that weird. Before we do our performance reviewers we routinely ask people who have worked with the individual for their feedback. Someone’s manager or direct supervisor isn’t going to see everything and getting a range of opinions is often beneficial.

  10. Allonge*

    We send offer letters with a ‘please let us know your answer within two weeks, otherwise we assume you declined’. (This is in Europe so the timelines are a bit different).

    Works just fine without a warning in advance. If someone misses this part, they would not do well in our structured org anyway.

    1. Chriama*

      The only caveat I have with the “or else we’ll assume you’ve declined” bit is that it sounds a bit aggressive (like when my do tor’s office says that anyone more than 15 minutes late for their appointment may be charged a missed appointment fee). Also, you’ll end up with people who decline by ghosting because it’s now presented as a valid option. Maybe that’s fine for your process — I could see it being simple to especially if you’re hiring large cohorts or have got enough candidates that you can quickly reach out to the next person on the list.

      But I prefer to make it clear that they need to close the loop, something like “feel free to email with any questions about the offer, or let me know if you’d like to schedule a call. Otherwise, we’d appreciate if you could let us know your decision by x date.”
      That makes it clear that they need to communicate with you one way or another, and is a bit friendlier.

  11. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #3 If a coworker is failing and being put on a PIP or similar, I’d think it good practice to ask for assessments from coworkers in a standard format. This gives more information to her manager and is fairer to Emily.

    If the OP is expecting to move into management, then she needs to get used to doing this sort of assessment, or it could stop her career in its tracks.

    Peer assessment might be an official part of the steps before termination or demotion, agreed with the union, which was the case at FinalJob. I once had to fill in a long Excel form about someone I worked with and then we all (about 20 of us!) sat with him and his union rep in a large conference room to discuss the assessment.
    I found the whole priocess excruciating (as I liked him) but it also gave him the opportunity to address the criticisms and enabled management to decide the most suitable and fairest outcome (transfer to another job which only needed 20 hours, since that was all his family commitments allowed)

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I like the idea of a standard format. I think that’s what LW’s company is trying to get to, but they are doing it in a really aggressive way.

      Screenshots? No… should be enough that I said I talked to her and she didn’t seem to understand.

      It seems like HR here either doesn’t know what they are doing, or they got burned on something like this before and are in overkill mode. I’m glad OP knows it’s time to get out.

      1. Silver Robin*

        I get that screenshots feel ick (because outside of work, screenshotting text exchanges is so often used to criticize/gossip about a person), but it really is no different (I think?) than forwarding an email chain. They are work communications and can show harder evidence. Otherwise it turns into a “you said, they said” situation.

        Then again, if multiple coworkers say “Jane did not meet the deadline for x project” it is rather hard to refute, screenshots or no.

        It sounds to me like maybe they got burned before, OR that Jane keeps saying “no one told me X!” and management actually wants concrete examples.

        1. Green great dragon*

          Yeh, I had a similar reaction, but I assume this is on employer systems so no expectation of privacy, and that going via IT to get the audit is more timeconsuming and more of a privacy invasion than asking OP to screenshare an example message. It avoids a situation where OP says she’s asking basic questions and Jane says they weren’t basic but were things she couldn’t be expected to know.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        For communications with a peer and for someone with no management training/experience, I want to see the actual communications. Too many people think they’ve been clearer than they actually were or make assumptions, so I want to apply my judgment to their examples and make sure we’ve being fair to the underperformer. There is also sometimes an issue of exceptionally good performers holding everyone to their own standard and not that of the job requirements. I don’t want their take on whether or not someone seemed to understand, I want to know what was said, what the response was, and what the result was. (In general, we are counseled to document employment concerns very factually and avoid words like, feel, seem, think, assume, etc. and from ascribing motives or feelings to the other person. We said X, they responded Y, and Z was/was not done.)

  12. Leenie*

    Our offer letters always have expiration dates, but I never bring it up. It’s just part of the information contained in the letter. I think the verbal caution about the expiration date might be making it weirder than it needs to be.

  13. nnn*

    I wonder if effective messaging for #1 might be less that it’s political or controversial, and more that it could come across as threatening.

    Possible script: “Drawing attention to the fact that they have guns is something that people often do when they’re trying to be threatening, and this looks exactly like that. Because of it, some people are wary and try to avoid him, which probably isn’t good for business operations.”

    Possible analogy: It’s like if someone makes a big point of making it known that they know where you live. It looks exactly like the sort of thing that people do as a threat.

    1. Nodramalama*

      I think that is a bad idea. Basically implying that they are dangerous because they have an NRA shirt is a massive escalation that is unnecessary. And is likely to have bad outcomes for the LW

      1. Bananapantsfeelings*

        Hard disagree, from a gun owner of decades.

        Companies HAVE to be aware of workplace violence behaviors of concern. There are almost always indicators before workplace violence. The choice to put on clothing at work that *makes one’s coworkers think about the fact that you have a bunch of guns*… that’s concerning. It’s not at all a neutral thing, and it’s reasonable to think of it as a threat.

        1. Czhorat*

          It’s a legitimate concern; it IS possible that support for the NRA is just a political stance or part of ones identity as a hunter or something, but it’s ALSO possible that it is a subtle reference to having firearms and being part of a potentially dangerous gun culture.

          If it were a shirt that said, say, “Drill, baby, drill” (another stance with which I disagree) I wouldn’t feel the same discomfort as with a pro-gun shirt.

        2. Nodramalama*

          Ok you’re free to do so. But in my experience that is a very serious accusation to make in a workplace that could have any number of repercussions, for both the person who owns the tshirt and the person saying they’re a threat. and if the only evidence is that someone wears an NRA tshirt it’s going to cause issues.

        3. A Book about Metals*

          You just mentioned you’re a gun owner, I don’t think anyone here is taking that as a threat. I don’t like guns but I don’t see wearing a tshirt as an indicator of workplace violence

          1. metadata minion*

            I’m not going to be concerned if someone brings up the fact that they own guns *during a discussion of gun ownership/legislation* the way I am if someone goes out of their way to tell me that they own guns with out any relevant context/

          2. MCMonkeybean*

            Mentioning you are a gun owner in a conversation where that adds relevant context to your words is not at all comparable to walking around the office wearing a sign about it.

            1. A Book about Metals*

              I don’t see a t shirt that just says “NRA” as threatening though. I don’t own guns and detest the NRA but taking a tshirt as a threat just doesn’t add up for me

              1. Silver Robin*

                I mean, it depends on the other behavior. OP mentions that this guy has weird vibes (to them) generally. Is it weird as in “extremely niche interests” or weird as in “something is setting off my spidey senses, I do not trust this guy”?

                If it is the former, the NRA shirt means I definitely continue to avoid talking to the guy, and question his judgement if he thinks that is appropriate for work. If the latter, the NRA shirt *does* potentially feel threatening. Not directly threatening to me but in the sense of “definitely do not trust, am now concerned about how he handles conflict”.

                The NRA has a bad reputation for good reasons. Lots of folks who identify as responsible gun owners, hunt, etc. really despise the NRA, because they prioritize ease of access to firearms over gun safety (see their response to even the mildest of regulations, like “people need to have a license or basic training of some kind to handle an object purely made to kill”). The NRA also does a really impressive about face when the question of non-white people owning guns comes up. A guy walking around in an NRA shirt, at WORK no less, is not a person I trust to act in my best interests.

                1. A Book about Metals*

                  I get what you mean but I still think it’s a huge escalation to report this person to HR saying they’re a threat

                2. Silver Robin*

                  (Reply nesting is exhausted)

                  Maybe not saying “threat” but saying something like “this is the latest in a string of xyz behaviors that make me nervous about him, I wanted to make you aware so it is on record”. God forbid something does go badly (not even necessarily gun related), HR can respond more quickly/effectively because this is a pattern, not “out of nowhere”?

                3. Green great dragon*

                  nnn was careful not to say the T-shirt was a threat, they said it looks exactly like something that some people would do as a threat.

                  The difference is ‘x threatened me’ is an unfounded accusation of something that would get someone in trouble, ‘this looks exactly like something some people do as a threat’ is a factual statement to justify him being asked not to wear NRA clothing but not accusing him of issuing a threat.

          3. Bananapantsfeelings*

            Not one single coworker knows I own guns. Not one.

            My posting an anonymous comment to strangers on the internet, saying I am a gun owner who considers wearing gun gear to work to be deeply problematic, is clearly not a threat. What a weird comment.

            1. A Book about Metals*

              Of course it’s not a threat – I don’t think the NRA tshirt wearer is one either, that’s all. Either way, it’s not work appropriate though

      2. Rex Libris*

        This. Portraying it as threatening behavior is simply going to get the LW written off as alarmist, most likely. Sure, it’s marginally possible that it’s an indicator that he’s a potential threat, but the chances are exponentially higher that he’s just some MAGA dude with no respect for workplace norms and the emotional intelligence of a rock. It’s probably going to be more productive just to frame it as “wearing politically charged messaging that will make many customers and staff uncomfortable.”

        Both approaches will flag the fact that the guy is wearing NRA shirts to HR, and they can make of it what they will.

      3. not nice, don't care*

        Nah. It’s necessary. No one should be forced to endure thinly veiled threats, or be re/traumatized by gun porn at work. I would normally say I hope you never have to learn the hard way why this is a problem, but some folks need a little extra before learning empathy.

    2. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

      I’d want to know more about what the shirt looks like. I’m in a military adjacent job and the ‘NRA shirts’ I normally see are black polos with the letters ‘NRA’ in small print where a company logo would be. I think this should be fine. However, if it depicts large guns that cover the shirt, or more text, that would be cause for complaint.

      While I agree the NRA has made controversial points (and I do not support the NRA), I find it to be a huge overreach to say that the coworker is trying to threaten their coworkers by having an NRA shirt. That’s a really strong accusation and should be backed up with actual evidence and may hurt other cases down the line where an employee is actually acting in a threatening manner.

      1. Some Words*

        They work in a bank.

        Banks have a special sensitivity about guns, sort of like the reaction airline employees have to bombs. This is absolutely unacceptable attire for a bank.

        Most of the NRA t-wear I’ve seen is not classy solid colors with a subtle logo. Much of it is very in your face with a less than subtle threat.

    3. Hyaline*

      This is iffy at best. For one, it can come off sounding like someone believes simply owning guns or supporting gun ownership makes someone a danger, which is pretty objectionable given that the vast majority of gun owners don’t shoot up their workplace or anywhere else. It’s close to claiming someone is displaying violence flags based on a very broad demographic category instead of individual behaviors. Now, you can certainly speak to the optics making people uncomfortable. But the other issue is that LW should spend their political capital wisely, and making themselves the office anti-gun advocate might not be the move they want to make. It might undermine their point if many people in HR or other upper management disagree with their political stance. Keeping it broad (political or controversial messaging on shirts is a problem) insulates LW to a greater degree and is more likely to get traction regardless of others political views.

      1. Georgia Carolyn Mason*

        Agree. Not a fan of guns or the NRA, but there’s an easy way to deal with this — either no message t-shirts at all, or no political message t-shirts (I’d go with the former to avoid quibbling about what’s political). No reason to make the leap to someone being dangerous because of the t-shirt, and if there’s any indication the person is otherwise dangerous, that’s something separate to discuss.

    4. Coffee Protein Drink*

      Considering the NRA picks candidates to rate/approve/endorse, I would stick with it as a political statement. Unless you’re working for an organization with a defined political agenda, I think it’s best practice to keep politics out of the workplace.

    5. Coverage Associate*

      Only in some regions will displays of guns on T shirts be unusual enough to meet the idea of “threat.” Even here in San Francisco yesterday, I saw someone in a gun/camo get up that just looked off trend, not threatening.

      I went to a giant Cabela’s or something in San Jose once to pick up a pink sweater. I found the hunting clothes fascinating, but no way that store could be profitable if everyone who bought those clothes was using them for what they were designed for. For most people who wear them, they’re just another kind of ath leisure.

      It wouldn’t surprise me if more people owned “come and take it” hats than owned guns.

  14. Deannae*

    OP4, having an “expiration date” on the offer is one thing, but your framing and presentation of it to the candidates seems a bit off. Describing it as such feels overly formal and somewhat antagonistic, and I think I’d bristle a bit if an offer was presented to me like that. I suspect I would be wondering if it was a red flag that the company or the manager was too rigid, inflexible and/or a bit too pompous for my style. Whereas almost every offer I’ve ever received has included something like “take some time to consider the offer. We’d really like a response within seven days if possible – but do let us know if you need a bit longer for any reason” and I’ve never so much as blinked at that.

    The issue isn’t what you’re saying, it’s how you’re saying it.

  15. Nodramalama*

    LW4 you might have more luck if you draft it more like a deadline i.e – we’d appreciate if you could let us know your response by x date. The way it currently reads it feels like an ultimatum which is probably more aggressive than intended

    1. AngryOctopus*

      Even “we need your answer by [date]” makes it feel a little softer. As many have said, it’s not what you’re saying, it’s how you’re saying it.

  16. Brain the Brian*

    LW5’s wording (“on leave”) makes me think they are out on temporary leave (maternity / paternity, Sabbatical, etc.) rather than gone permanently (e.g. on to a new job). In that case, the award is *definitely* fair game to mention.

  17. Myrin*

    #3, since it sounds like the food she brings can be clearly divided into “stuff she buys with her own money = fast food” and “stuff she doesn’t specifically buy = food from her catering business”, I think Alison’s second suggestion is the most neutral-sounding while achieving exactly what you want: “I love your catering leftovers, but I’m not a big fast food person.”
    That doesn’t help with her buying food for your office in general but I agree with the advice that that is something that needs to come from her boss.

  18. el l*

    Yeah, it’s totally normal to get asked verbally what your impression is of someone and their work, and for you to give negative feedback. No omerta.

    But here’s what’s not normal in this interaction:

    (a) The threat of retaliation on you if you do not comply (do you normally receive an obvious stick when receiving requests? Me neither);
    (b) Asking for screenshots as proof (usually your say-so is fine);
    (c) That it be an emailed checklist rather than a conversation (because with a conversation, you can at least say you haven’t been “leading the witness”).

    Not sure what you could’ve done about any of these, and my guess is that you got a peek into a slightly dysfunctional HR.

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      Where are you getting “threat of retaliation if you do not comply” from in the letter?

      1. ecnaseener*

        I think from this part:

        Additionally, the email suggests that if you do not meet expectations, your coworkers will be solicited for dirt on your behavior.

        I think what LW meant here was that the very existence of the email implies that this is how any future performance issues will be managed, but el l took it to mean the content of the email literally hinted “if you don’t meet our expectations for this task the same could be done to you.”

          1. Nodramalama*

            I’m fairly sure LW just means that they see the process of asking them for evidence of their conversations as one that seems off and could be done to LW in the future.

    2. Nodramalama*

      Where is the threat of retaliation in the letter?

      While I agree that the request for screenshots is on its face weird, there are circumstances where it can be justified. For example, if the employee is claiming they are not being clearly taught or not being provided instructions, seeing exactly how they’re being taught or instructed can be useful

  19. Scott*

    LW2: One group (15 or so) I worked with passes around a “thank you” card and takes up a collection to give a gift card to the secretary/admin for Administrative Professional’s day and one at Christmas. One former AP always used the money throughout the year to buy candy, snacks, etc. for the office. I only know this because I told her once that she didn’t need to spend her own money on us (all were paid more than she was) and she told me that’s what she was doing. I though it was a bit odd but it made her feel better about receiving the gift cards from us.
    I only relate this since you didn’t mention whether your team does something special for this person. You did write about including them in staff lunches and bringing them treats of your own. Maybe they feel like they need to reciprocate.

  20. FashionablyEvil*

    #3–giving feedback about work performance of peers is pretty normal. It’s not tattling or ratting someone out to say, “Emily is very pleasant and treats everyone courteously, but has struggled with some of the basics of our work, including copy and pasting information between spreadsheets.” It doesn’t do anyone any favors for her to be doing a lousy job and no one having the courage to actually address the issue (see also: 75% of AAM letters.)

    1. Managing While Female*

      Absolutely – as a manager, it’s very difficult to ‘hold people to account’ when coworkers who see the work first-hand just give vague, non-committal statements about how someone is doing. To put someone on a PIP or otherwise to get them additional help, I need to know exactly where they’re failing.

      1. Broadway Duchess*

        So, I am having a similar situation with a newish employee. I needed to gather information from a senior-level peer of the employee since that person did the first-step training and was assigned as a mentor of sorts. I did get the information but it was by asking for a holistic assessment and not immediately zeroing in on the troubled employee’s negative issues only. By asking about things that went well, what didn’t go well, where the gaps in knowledge were, etc., I feel like I got a much better picture of how to proceed with Problem Employee. I think if I’d begun by asking, “What are all the things Problem Employee is doing wrong?” I might have gotten a different picture of the employee. It also might have made the rest of the team think that I would assign more weight to negative feedback instead of taking in the whole picture if I’d started by explaining that, “Jane has gotten negative feedback, so tell me all the ways you think she’s terrible, too.”

    2. HonorBox*

      I think the framing of the email was a little off-putting because that sort of feedback should be in conversation versus email. But you’re right that giving feedback about peers isn’t odd at all. Also, the OP says they’re going to be promoted, so this is a great opportunity to show the kind of skillset that managers will need to have. They’ve clearly seen Emily’s shortcomings, and it is impacting them and others. Being able to outline that in a professional and responsible way is part of the job they’ll be stepping into.

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        imo there needs to be official documentation, even if it’s just your manager documenting a conversation with you, with your agreement that it is a fair summary.
        i.e. to avoid hand-wavy claims of “oh, everyone thinks you’re doing xyz” which might be too nebulous for the person to disprove.

      2. FashionablyEvil*

        Yeah, I don’t disagree that the request could have been made better, but this type of information isn’t “dirt” and failing to provide this type of feedback (clear, specific, related to work tasks and performance) is worse.

  21. HonorBox*

    OP1 – When I talk to partner businesses about customer service, I use this example: If a lab tech, whose job doesn’t put them in contact with patients at a hospital or lab at all, is outside walking to their car, their uniform of scrubs and nametag still make them visible to customers as an employee. And if someone asks them a question, they need to be able to offer some assistance. The coworker who wears NRA tee shirts may not be meeting with customers or externally-facing for much of their day, but there is a chance they’re going to be visible to a customer, who may take exception to the messaging. And that doesn’t even account for the perception coworkers may have about them.

    The conversation I’d suggest with HR isn’t specifically about this person’s NRA shirt. Rather, I’d go with the fact that while “dress for your day” may give people a fair amount of leeway, it probably should include something about not wearing clothing items that convey messaging that could be potentially objectionable. What if someone wore a Death Row Records tee shirt, the logo being a drawing of a person in an electric chair? “Dress for your day” in a Nike tee shirt, or a Beatles tee shirt, or a (favorite pizza chain) tee shirt shouldn’t lead people to wonder or worry or feel that there’s something objectionable.

    1. Coverage Associate*

      In a lot of regions, the non branded gun T shirts are going to be less objectionable than the wrong sports team.

      I like the rule mentioned above of “solids, patterns and stripes only,” even though I love my shirts with generic pictures of flowers. I wear them on weekends. (These aren’t my floral patterned shirts, which I wear to the office. These would be logo or branded shirts with one big image on the front, it’s just a generic image.)

  22. Czhorat*

    For LW5, this is where I talk about the line between lying and puffery; a resume is a marketing document; if there are any ambiguities within the literal overall truth it’s perfectly fine to shade those in a way that puts you in the best light.

    If you had a real part in a project that won an award upon its completion after you left, it’s fine to say “member of the project team for the AWARD WINNING PROJECT X” or even “discipline lead for PROJECT X” if you had that role for a meaningful part of it. If the person at the cubicle next to you did the project and you watched over their shoulder or did a quick review then you’d be dishonest to mention it.

    But yes, feel free to stretch just a bit to present yourself well.

    1. bamcheeks*

      The rule I use for CVs and applications is, “am I going to be embarrassed by follow-up questions”. If you can say, “yes, I did lots of stakeholder management and wrote the bid, got the funding and recruited the team, although I then went on leave before the product went live”, you’re golden. If it’s, “well, I was in the team meetings where it was discussed, but uhh”, leave it off. There shouldn’t be anything on your CV that you can’t meaningfully expand on at interview!

      1. Czhorat*

        That’s a really good way of putting it.

        You also don’t want to start weaving a web of lies; if there’s stuff you can either talk about or even spin as a contribution you can put it there. Otherwise you’re treading on dangerous ground – and also ethically more questionable.

        1. OP#5*

          Thanks so much for the helpful advice! Especially since i found out my name wasn’t on the award, because the winners received tokens of appreciation. But I was the lead on the project for about a year so it passes the sniff test, I think :)

  23. High Score!*

    OP2: In addition to letting her know you’re not into fast food, ask for her catering schedule and bring her breakfast on non catering days. I’m sure she’d enjoy being treated too!

  24. Trout 'Waver*

    The project manager in me is bristling at the response to OP#5. The planning stages are an essential part of the work!!!!!! Oftentimes the planning stages are 90+% of the work.

    1. HailRobonia*

      I think this is an excellent thing to include in a cover letter – something like “I was very heartened to hear that [XYZ project] that I had put significant planning work into before my leave was later recognized with an award due to the [positive effect/impact of project]”

  25. Kesnit*


    I am of two minds, which is weird for me to say.

    I am a staunch liberal. I used to drive past NRA headquarters on my way home from work and flip the building the middle finger!

    On the other hand, I am a military vet who has been trained in the safe use of firearms. Although I do not currently own any firearms, that is mostly because of cost and other things I spend my money on. I do plan to buy a pistol once I can justify the cost. My job also classifies me as law enforcement and – by statute – I can carry concealed because of my employment. Two of my coworkers do carry, and there is a gun safe in one of their offices that they use for those times when they cannot carry at work.

    Having said that, firearms do make me nervous. I know how to use them safely. I know my coworkers know how to handle firearms safely. I cannot say the same for any rando I see with a rifle at Wal-mart. As I told a coworkers (one of the ones who carries), “I believe there should be some firearms regulations. I just don’t know what they should be.” He agreed with this statement.

    The NRA promotes a lot of really stupid policies. They also sponsor firearms safety training for gun owners. I would say a lot depends on what the NRA shirts say. If it’s a polo with the NRA emblem, that is one thing. That is very different from a t-shirt that says something like “you can take my guns from my cold dead hands!” and has a drawing of a pistol pointing at the viewer.

    1. Hyaline*

      I wondered, too—that I feel differently about a simple branded logo shirt vs something with provocation tactic messaging. If it’s just a pocket sized logo on the chest and OP’s sole objection is “I don’t like guns” I feel her reaction is outsized. Still, I don’t object to an office dress code that doesn’t allow for any political messaging on a few levels, including customer interaction but also that the company cannot represent or align itself with political views and employees on the job are representing the company.

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        I liked the one mentioned earlier about no writing etc. That prevents all sorts of misunderstandings, even those who are afraid of birds and sees a shirt talking about bird watching.

        1. Hyaline*

          Not quite the same, but some schools near me have gone to a “no writing or images on shirts” policy outside of school-branded attire. I think the students were cranky about it but it definitely makes it easier to enforce when there’s no debate about whether it’s appropriate for school or not.

      2. Coverage Associate*

        I think OP needs a “no writing or logos” rule. As Kesnit must know, there are lots of T shirts that display guns that aren’t any brand or political organization. I think some of the Armed Services have a rifle in the emblem, to start. (No, a Marine Corps shirt is not partisan the way a NRA shirt is.) There are millions of shirts that are just a grown up version of the kid’s fire truck shirt, and some show guns without writing, and millions of Americans would consider a T shirt with a picture of a rifle no more political or threatening than one with a fire truck .

  26. Peanut Hamper*

    As a slightly neurospicy person, I’m perfectly okay with “just so you know, there is an expiration on the offer.”

    It has a decided lack of ambiguity. I’m good with this.

  27. Juicebox Hero*

    I work in municipal government and we have a strict no controversial anything rule, for either side. T-shirts with slogans are against the dress code for the office staff and the police, public works, and fire departments have uniforms. Additionally, no mugs, no flags (including the blue line flag), no buttons, no signs.

    We are also not allowed to visibly support a candidate, so no yard signs, no canvassing, no campaigning work where it looks like you’re using your position to influence voters.

    The rationale is that we’re here to provide services to everyone in town, even those whose views we don’t agree with.

    Honestly, I love this rule, especially since July 2015, being a progressive, feminist Democrat in a sea of… people who aren’t that.

    1. RagingADHD*

      Our municipal elections do not allow political party involvement or any declaration of party affiliation by candidates. They can only speak to local issues while campaigning, and not endorse any candidates or bills / policies that would be determined at a state or national level, since that’s not what the city elections are addressing.

      Of course, it’s usually not hard to tell where they would come down on wider issues in their personal opinion, but this rule allows them to address relevant policies on a case by case basis during the campaign / while in office, which is so refreshing and adds a lot of nuance.

  28. Phony Genius*

    On #1, the combination of the particular type of business involved and the message on the shirt raises an extra eyebrow. Many banks do not allow guns on their property, even in the most gun-friendly parts of the country.

    1. Czhorat*

      There was a scene early in Michael Moore’s film “Bowling for Columbine” in which he opens a bank account and is given a literal rifle as an incentive gift. He holds it up and asks, “do you think it’s a bad idea to give out guns at a bank” or something similar.

      And yeah, the only guns I expect to see at banks are in the hands of security. The Federal Reserve bank in NYC is not only guarded by armed police, most of them have pins for marksmanship expertise. This could be my bias, but it one hundred percent feels like a threat to me.

      1. Angstrom*

        Could be regional. Where I work a substantial portion of the cars in the parking lot have hunting or firearm-related stickers. That’s normal for this area.

        1. not nice, don't care*

          “Normal for this area” can overlap with the usual maga garbage, so yeah, hunters or not, still red flags.

          1. Angstrom*

            Having grown up where “Got your deer yet?” was a common greeting in the fall, I don’t see hunting as a red flag. YMMV.

            1. Bast*

              Hunting is fairly common where I live, but bring up guns, hunting, etc, and it seems like people cannot help but bring up politics somewhere down the line. I don’t see it as a red flag as an indication for violence or anything in that regard, however, I see it as a red flag for something that can turn political and heated really fast, which is the last thing you want at work.

        2. Random Bystander*

          Definitely a regional thing. My bank has a sign that says no sunglasses may be worn indoors, but no mention forbidding guns. Another bank does have a sign forbidding guns, but they’re owned by a large company that isn’t from around here.

          And I think the Walmart here has some sort of blanket corporate policy, because the sign there requests no open carry … and open carry isn’t even legal in my state for anyone who isn’t law enforcement.

        3. Coverage Associate*

          Yeah, NRA is an expressly political organization, but just a T shirt with a gun could be very normal in many areas of the country. People may not like that norm, but if they’re trying to get the generic gun shirts forbidden, they will need more argument than “controversial” or “off putting” in many places.

  29. MCMonkeybean*

    “1) how long it took to train her and support her 2) if the work was done on time/correctly 3) how long this process would have taken me”

    I feel like all of the above are very normal and reasonable things for them to ask OP about. To me the parts that would make me a bit uncomfortable are just the general tone of the email and feeling like they were giving me too much info about what was likely someone else’s PIP (though on the flip side we frequently see people complaining that they don’t know if management is doing anything about someone’s poor work so maybe they just thought they were being appropriately transparent!) and the screenshots. Of course messages at work are not really private and I assume they have access to that chat history if they want it, but something about taking and sending screenshots just feels icky.

    On the whole, I definitely think OP is overreacting to the whole concept of providing feedback about a peer. If you have trained her and worked directly with her more than most people then your input is important to the process!

  30. Sneaky Squirrel*

    LW3 – Requesting this information through an email instead of a one-on-one conversation was tacky and by starting the email with “Emily has received negative feedback”, management is swaying the responses, but what they’re asking for isn’t out of line. You’re viewing this as if they’re asking you to make up lies or provide juicy gossip, but they’re not asking you to provide your opinion on Emily’s work at all. All they’re asking for objective, measurable data from you so that they can decide how to best use it.

  31. CheesePlease*

    LW #4

    From a wording perspective, “We request a response by [date]” is much kinder / inviting than “this offer expired in 7 days”. That makes it seem like “we only want you if you can respond ASAP and I don’t care if you’re in the middle of a family emergency”. The former reads more like “we would like to move this process along”

  32. Sunflower*

    #2 If she spends her own money buying fast food for others, I’m wondering if she makes extras for her catering jobs just to bring in “leftovers.”

    But money is a sensitive subject so I’d go with how “you’re so sweet but I’m not a fan of fast food. Please don’t spend your money on me. I usually plan my own breakfast and lunch anyway.”

    1. Anonymel*

      Yeah I think that goes over especially well since it’s random. So if the LW can wave her breakfast smoothie or granola bar while saying it, and maybe adding, “I hate for you to waste your money and I never want to assume you’re going to bring something in.”

  33. H3llifIknow*

    7 days seems generous to me! I’ve literally received offers where they say, “Please return the attached offer letters signed within 48 hours,” on a Friday! Now, if the LW is referring to the verbal offer, and then letting people mull THAT over and maybe bounce the offer against other potential offers, I think 7 days is definitely great. But once at the offer letter stage, presumably everyone is on board and 7 days would be a…lot I think. But YMMV.

    1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      A verbal offer is not an offer. It also usually won’t include full details of benefits which can be very important – knowing whether all your specialists are in-network for the health insurance can be a dealbreaker for many people. I agree that 7 days is generous but 48 hours over the weekend is far too short.

  34. Ella*

    LW4, I have a couple of things for you:
    1 – I would recommend wording this as when you “need to hear back by” or “need to know by” rather than the “expiration date.” Especially because (I assume) the candidate could discuss things about the offer with you (like their start date), and if it took 8 days to finish that discussion that would probably be OK as long as they were proactive. It also gives them the opportunity with a bit less pressure to say things like, “I’m actually on vacation/in the hospital/at the international space station until the 8th, can I get back to you then?”

    2 – it’s really important to make extremely clear what it means to you for the candidate to accept the offer. I know someone who was recently offered a new job, and excitedly told the employer yes via phone and email. He was confused, alarmed, and petrified when they called him two days later to say that if he didn’t accept his job offer, it would be rescinded. He thought “accept the job offer” meant “say ‘yes, I would like to work for you.’ to the employer” They meant, “open the digital offer letter that doesn’t have the company name in the subject line and click sign.”

    1. My Autistic Self*

      I’m with your friend on this one. If you need me to do anything other than explicitly state that yes I am accepting this job offer, you need to TELL me what that is BEFORE the deadline is up. Preferably as part of the call or email offering me the job.
      Because my autistic self would not have understood what the company wanted here either.

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        I’m probably more neurotypical, but that would be confusing to me. But, I would have thought that the recipient of the phone call and email, would respond with directions on how to formally accept.

      2. Ella*

        I think that when some people do a task very frequently, it can get to a point where it feels like the instructions for that task are obvious. I think many people feel this way about kitchen tasks like making toast before they become parents, and then when they decide their kids are old enough to make toast, they learn that toast preparation is not obvious.

        So I am not saying my friend was wrong at all – but I am saying that the LW who does this process every month minimum should be aware that their process, no matter how intuitive it is to them, might not be intuitive to other people, especially since most people don’t start a new job every month.

  35. Helen*

    My employer is open 7 days a week and we were always expected to be dressed business casual.
    Only recently have they allowed “Social Media T-Shirt Fridays”; they provide us with T-shirts that have our social media icons on it and we can wear it with jeans. It allows for a dress down day and no issues about what the shirt is. You can wear any of the shirts on Friday. I have several short sleeve and long sleeve.

    I think something like our company does is a very good solution. They provide you with an appropriate T-shirt and cuts down on any uncomfortableness that may be caused be a viewpoint that can be controversial.

  36. learnedthehardway*

    OP#4 – it’s absolutely NORMAL for an offer to have an expiration date on it. In fact, since it’s a contract, it’s a very good idea to have a time limit by which the offer must be accepted, with a de facto understanding that it has been rejected if the acceptance has not been received by the employer. The employer needs to know whether the offer has been accepted or not, and also needs to know what they need to do next re either onboarding or selecting/hiring another candidate.

    Practically speaking, it also protects the company and prevents the candidate from stringing the company along while they await other offers. I’ve had offers where the candidate was clearly playing games, and the expiration date puts a limit on that.

    One week is quite standard for manager roles. If the company and candidate can’t come to an agreement on the terms of the offer in that time – for legitimate reasons (eg. dealing with relocation or awaiting international education checks, which can take a while) – then the date can always be extended.

    1. Bast*

      “.. the candidate was clearly playing games..” what exactly does this mean? I am hazarding a guess, and I apologize if I am incorrect, that you mean they are applying elsewhere, and waiting to see if they get an offer with Choice 1 Job before they accept or decline your offer, but this is exactly what employers due to employees as well — they offer job to Candidate 1, but more than likely have Candidate 2 lined up in case 1 declines. It isn’t a game; it’s a normal part of job hunting and hiring.

      1. Chriama*

        I think the issue is not giving a clear answer or a clear deadline for when they will have an answer. When the candidate asks for “just a few more days“ several times in a row, they’re dragging it out because you’re not their first choice and in the meantime, you’re potentially losing out on your second choice. Having an expiration date in mind from the beginning makes it easier to know when or if you need to pull the plug and go to the next candidate. That’s different from being in active conversation with a candidate while negotiating benefits or something.

        I still wouldn’t call it an expiration date because that comes across as high-pressure sales tactics, but a week is a reasonable amount of time. If a candidate is hoping for a different offer, rather than asking the first job to wait for them indefinitely, they should tell the second job that they have another offer and ask if the decision making process can be sped up.

        I would compare it to an employer, telling their second choice candidate that an offer may be coming in “just a few days” when all the while they’re actually just delaying and hoping their first choice accepts the offer.

  37. learnedthehardway*

    OP#5 – if you contributed a significant amount to the project, absolutely put it on your resume. Just be sure you can speak to what your contribution was and that you can clearly define what stage you entered, what your responsibilities and accomplishments were, and when you left the project. Eg. “I worked on the project to implement XYZ software from inception to the implementation of the Finance department side of the project, including go-live. I wasn’t there for the HR implementation, however. During my time on the project, I accomplished X,Y, and Z.”

  38. N*

    I think the problem with the term “expiration date” specifically is that it sounds like after that date you will give them a different, worse offer, like it’s a mattress sale or something.

    The “please respond by X date” language sounds much more professional while serving the same function.

    (FWIW I don’t think 7 days is unreasonably short. My contract was once taken over by a new company and I had 3 days to decide whether to leave with my current company or stay with the new one)

  39. kanada*

    OP1, before you start advocating a “controversial political t-shirts should be banned” policy at work, I strongly suggest you think for a while about what’s considered “controversial” in the present day and the inadvertent impacts such a policy could have.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      It’s an awkward policy because just because you agree with a political stance doesn’t mean it isn’t controversial

    2. Clisby*

      No need to advocate for banning “controversial” political t-shirts. Advocate for banning political t-shirts, period. There’s no reason to drag political opinion into the work environment. Unless you work for a political campaign, or something like that.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        I think the problem with that is when someone else says a pride t-shirt = a political t-shirt and whoops now you’ve gotten pride t-shirts banned too. That seems to be what kanada is warning about.

        Pride isn’t political – except it’s considered so by homophobes who don’t want us to exist…so….yeah. Not a fun hole to dig.

    3. Bast*

      The adverse consequences I can see are 1) Dress down/ dress for your day is taken away entirely if they have to field too many complaints or 2) management bans shirts with any type of writing, outside of perhaps the clothing brand name/logo.

      1. Observer*

        1) Dress down/ dress for your day is taken away entirely if they have to field too many complaints

        That would be pretty bad management. I hope that the LW works in a place with more sense than that.

        management bans shirts with any type of writing, outside of perhaps the clothing brand name/logo.

        And what makes that an “adverse” outcome? It’s really, really not hard to get clothes of all levels of comfort and formality informality without any words on them.

  40. Jamjari*

    OP2, I would suggest going with some variant of the “I’m happy to eat leftovers that might go to waste but don’t feel comfortable having you buy me breakfast” suggestion rather than saying you don’t really like fast food – that could have the unintended consequence of custodian feeling they need to cook for you when they wouldn’t otherwise.

  41. ariel*

    OP2 / LW2 didn’t say this is true for them, but our custodial staff at MPOW is contracted out so they don’t have an in-house manager. In that situation, I’m not sure what I would do except the suggested “please don’t use your own money” script. I’m so aware of the financial discrepancies between me and my lesser-paid colleagues, and the custodial staff is even worse off (the contractor only gives 5 sick days a year) so I really feel you on this OP, and hope you can set that boundary without your colleague being hurt. Food/food generosity convos are tough!

  42. Nancy*

    LW2: Say no thank you, you don’t eat fast food and leave it at that. You actually don’t know her entire financial situation, and if she is doing this because she wants to and not because she was asked to by the company, then she is choosing how she wants to spend her own money.

  43. Gimme all you got*

    I think it’s fine for LW2 to say they don’t want any of the food that she brings in, but I’d be hesitant to tell someone else how to spend their money. I know LW doesn’t mean it like this but it seems a bit condescending to worry about this person’s income, especially when they have another business entirely.

    1. Chriama*

      I think it’s fair to tell someone when you don’t feel comfortable, having them spend money on you. You’re not telling them how to spend their money, just what you’re comfortable receiving. Whether it should be this way or not, spending money on others has social and relational implications and I don’t blame anyone for deciding to opt out of that. (For a non-work example, think of the social dynamics around paying for dinner when inviting someone out on a date, and the unfortunate expectations that certain people may have about what they should be entitled to as a result of buying dinner for their date. It can be a minefield to navigate!)

  44. OkCo*

    As long as you support others taking issue with someone wearing a tee that supports your issues, definitely contact HR. Hopefully they are responsive and take action. This may result in a dress code prohibiting controversial tees, etc. They really should have addressed this beforehand though.

  45. Chriama*

    I think the wording “expiration date” is too agressive. It’s fine to say something like “here are the details of the job offer. If you have any questions you can email me or I’m happy to set up a time to discuss sometime this week. Otherwise, please let me know if you’re interested in moving forward by the end of the week.”

    Saying the job offer expires is too much like aggressive sales tactics (buy NOW, this deal won’t be around much longer), but asking them to get back to you within a certain amount is relational. You show you need them to keep moving the conversation forward without implying there’s some sort of pressure to either say yes right away or miss out forever.

  46. Allison*

    It’s perfectly reasonable to ask for a reply to your offer within a certain timeframe, but what’s the point of having it expire after 7 days? If you really like a candidate, or their skills are hard to find, are you really going to pull the offer and find a new candidate if they take 8 days? Or, are you going to revise the offer after 7 days with different terms? That makes zero sense.

  47. Rosacolleti*

    We make verbal offers that on acceptance are followed up within a few hours with the employment contract. We normally give 2-3 working days to sign and have never had an issue.

    I think we’d know by then if they had other offers that might cause a delay in their decision.

  48. Sometimes maybe*

    I agree. Let her spend her money, also the LW doesn’t specify what fast food is – is she bringing in donuts, or expensive drive thru. If you don’t want to partake, don’t, but trying to control others to make yourself feel like you know what’s in her best interest.

  49. Lui1845*

    For #3 – If you were specifically tasked with training this employee on certain tasks, project parts, or programs used, then this is normal to me. The company I retired from preferred formal trainer evaluations of trainees in writing and used their own in house forms tailored for each job evaluation. My last five years I wrote the company’s Train-the-Trainer manuals for my division and taught some of the classes that qualify employees as trainers.
    Checking with a trainee’s trainer regarding specific complaints about their poor performance seems a no brainer to me. Questions specific to performance areas shows where training may be lacking or an employee not suitable for a role. Of course, this would apply only if you were assigned to train her. If you were not assigned to train her, direct her to her supervisor when she comes to you.

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