Ask a Manager https://www.askamanager.org Wed, 01 Dec 2021 02:46:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 update: my employee warned me he has a problem with authority https://www.askamanager.org/2021/12/update-my-employee-warned-me-he-has-a-problem-with-authority.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/12/update-my-employee-warned-me-he-has-a-problem-with-authority.html#comments Wed, 01 Dec 2021 20:29:37 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22721 This post, update: my employee warned me he has a problem with authority , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Remember the letter-writer whose employee warned her on her first day that he “has a problem with authority”? Here’s the update. I wish I had started reading AAM […]

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This post, update: my employee warned me he has a problem with authority , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer whose employee warned her on her first day that he “has a problem with authority”? Here’s the update.

I wish I had started reading AAM years before and been better prepared, but I credit what I’ve learned here and also having some more years of experience with getting the situation to this point. Fergus’ issue with authority showed itself by obfuscating information, only answering direct questions instead of trying to understand what a person may be trying to ask but doesn’t quite understand, ignoring directives to adjust business processes, or coming up with vague reasons why that wouldn’t work but not ever providing concrete examples of anything. He also made snide comments about my appearance occasionally under the vein of ‘we’re friends, I was just joking’ and this was all with a layer of argumentativeness on top that was exhausting. I guess Fergus might say he preferred to work independently, but he was not open to allowing anyone to understand what he did or ask questions. A power hoarder who invented processes to endear himself to those who relied on his work but that to a more trained eye were outdated and ridiculous wastes of time.

Fergus was let go 6 months ago. About 3 years in, I shifted from tip-toeing around Fergus to holding him accountable for very specific behaviors. It makes perfect sense, but I credit AAM with helping me learn that through and through. Reading about the crazy stuff some managers deal with and having a place to commiserate was nice. It made it easier to focus on what work expectations weren’t being met when I was at work, rather than looking around for colleagues to say “This is bonkers!”

To his credit, the attitude and confrontations stopped once I addressed this a couple of times with him, though it did take my supervisor backing me up and saying “Actually Fergus, what you’re doing right now arguing is the exact behavior that needs to stop.” With that out of the way, there was far less distracting behavior to hide that Fergus was not actually very good at his job. I had known that for a while, but it took me first addressing his behavior before upper management saw that. Previously they just thought it was “Fergus being Fergus” and never had the bandwidth to work around his attitude to dig more. WIth the attitude gone, his frequent mistakes and failure to follow directions really had no place to hide. I feel like that’s a reverse of what normally happens, where it feels easier to address tangible work output than more nuanced attitude issues, but this is just how the situation ended up working out.

Because we are in government, and a global pandemic, the process from initial formal write-ups to severing ties with Fergus was approximately 22 months. It was a long process and one I still can’t believe I made it through. I would not have made it through without the support of my own manager, who validated me when I had doubts and apologized that something hadn’t been done sooner. I had some usual guilt as the decision to fire him drew near, asking myself if I had done enough. This is where his initial attitude towards me really did him a disservice. I acknowledge that had he not led off with the statement about a problem with authority, and followed it up with behavior that affirmed that, that I might have been more patient in dealing with the true work mistakes I witnessed. That’s an important takeaway for me. Dealing with items head on as soon as possible might make the difference later in ways I don’t anticipate. But ultimately, Fergus was no longer able to do the job he was hired to do and these conversations should have begun before I even started.

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update: interviewer badmouthed me to my references because I didn’t want to “harness the power of QAnon” https://www.askamanager.org/2021/12/update-interviewer-badmouthed-me-to-my-references-because-i-didnt-want-to-harness-the-power-of-qanon.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/12/update-interviewer-badmouthed-me-to-my-references-because-i-didnt-want-to-harness-the-power-of-qanon.html#comments Wed, 01 Dec 2021 18:59:58 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22865 This post, update: interviewer badmouthed me to my references because I didn’t want to “harness the power of QAnon” , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Remember the letter-writer whose interviewer called up her references to badmouth her because she didn’t want to “harness the power of QAnon”? Here’s the update. I so appreciate […]

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This post, update: interviewer badmouthed me to my references because I didn’t want to “harness the power of QAnon” , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer whose interviewer called up her references to badmouth her because she didn’t want to “harness the power of QAnon”? Here’s the update.

I so appreciate your answering my question, and so quickly: I was able to use your wording exactly in emails to my references because of your quick response. (Unfortunately, I got the email too late to contribute meaningfully to the comments, but I read all of them and really just love everyone who reads your blog. Thank you all!)

It turns out that the board member had called ALL of them. Of six references, four (including the original one who notified me of this mess) laughed it off just as breezily, understanding completely that the call was absurd and sharing some asinine stories of their own. The fifth had a lot of questions for me, and I had to clearly spell out what the potential client had said to me before they understood (I was hesitant to bring specifics to the table because it could out the organization/board member, but I guess that’s no bad thing at the end of the day). Once they did understand, though, they were so apoplectic with outrage on my behalf that they actually called the board member back, though the call was never returned.

However. The final reference was overwhelmingly concerned by the board member’s allegations and called me into an in-person meeting. I went, realizing the board member may have spun things in such a way that made my client uneasy and eager to rectify that. Almost as soon as I sat down, this client started discussing QAnon in earnest and just…laid into me. It became extremely clear that he, too, was a supporter/believer/whatever and that he and the board member had likely had an extensive chat about those of us who aren’t. He told me that if I was so “closeminded” about “excellent, well-reasoned” strategies presented by board members (see, when he says it without knowing the context, that sounds horrible!) he didn’t see the point of continuing our contract since I had “shown my true colors.”

Well, Alison, I’m embarrassed to admit that I cried. The contract/money wasn’t a make-or-break for me, but I have quite literally never been fired…or reprimanded…or even had a manager be truly disappointed in me. And yes, I know that this man’s opinion of me matters not at all, but I felt blindsided, angry, and embarrassed (I KNOW!) someone’s opinion of me had changed so drastically, and that I was fired. It was a short burst of angry and incredulous tears and I was able to quickly remember another script you’d given for crying at inopportune moments. I explained the origin of my tears matter-of-factly, told him that while I was very surprised by his decision I wouldn’t try to change my mind, and let him know I’d send the files on my outstanding projects along with my invoice in the next 48 hours. His EA had emailed me before I even left the building to request the documents/final invoice…and followed up with an email from her personal account apologizing profusely for her boss, who is apparently unbearable in a variety of other ways. (I suggested she read your blog and get the heck out!)

I closed out my accounts with the organization, was paid promptly by the kind EA, and, in theory, that was it. But for whatever reason, my confidence took a huge hit: How could I not have seen (invisible) red flags with this client? Was I actually close-minded because I couldn’t “see the other side”? I got fired. My perfect employment record was tarnished! It didn’t matter if these people were unhinged…I should have worked harder, or…something?! It doesn’t take a clinical degree to realize pretty quickly that my usually well-controlled anxiety was no longer dormant and, with a little introspection, that I was in fact struggling with the current state of the world, a new NICU-graduate baby, and setting completely unrealistic career goals and business milestones for myself while 1) expanding a business 2) as a new mom 3) in the middle of a pandemic.

Thanks to a therapist who is worth her weight in gold and a husband who is simply the most supportive and understanding human on the planet, I’ve recalibrated my work/life balance and am actively working on why my identity is so wrapped up in being a high-achiever. My other clients are all appreciative of the skills I bring to the table, I’m spending more time with my daughter and husband, and I’m working on making realistic goals and filtering negative self-talk.

Oh, and I also anonymously sent a very…interesting novelty calendar to the board member who started all this. Immature? Yes. Satisfying? BIG YES.

Thank you again for your perfectly-worded and perfectly-timed advice. Your blog has been my go-to resource (and source of entertainment) for over a decade, and I am so appreciative.

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should offices have policies on healthy eating? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/12/should-offices-have-policies-on-healthy-eating.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/12/should-offices-have-policies-on-healthy-eating.html#comments Wed, 01 Dec 2021 17:29:33 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22640 This post, should offices have policies on healthy eating? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I’m curious about how to institute a workplace healthy eating policy that is respectful and non-judgmental. The background: I work for a health charity that focuses on a single chronic disease. Our regional office in particular is on the west coast and is a little hyper-aware of being healthy leaders. We don’t […]

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This post, should offices have policies on healthy eating? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I’m curious about how to institute a workplace healthy eating policy that is respectful and non-judgmental.

The background: I work for a health charity that focuses on a single chronic disease. Our regional office in particular is on the west coast and is a little hyper-aware of being healthy leaders. We don’t have an official policy about food in the workplace, but some in our office take it upon themselves to be health-conscious about the food choices that we make personally and especially when we spend the office budget on any food items and catering. (As a side note, there seems to be always booze at our events.) There have been complaints before about the junk food, soda, and fast food that people bring back to the office and the worry is about optics. But also there is the frustration that some feel that we’re betraying our mission and aren’t leading by example.

A few employees feel very strongly that we need a policy about it. They run a program that covers healthy eating and cooking so they are extra sensitive to the optics of our office when it comes to food, and they feel resentful for having to police people about food.

I personally don’t feel like we need a policy at all. I think people would feel resentful if their food choices are measured against some code of conduct. I also question how we would implement and enforce it, if at all. In my mind, there is a clear distinction between spending our organization’s money on unhealthy food and spending my own income on it. We also have regular volunteers too who come in and bring tons of treats all the time, and some of their lunches wouldn’t be accepted as healthy.

We just had a staff meeting this morning, and one program manager was vocal that we need people to stop bringing in cupcakes and cookies for celebrations and make better choices, and it’s about making better decisions to “live our brand.” She’s frustrated that she has to even explain the need for an internal food policy, and that we should already be living our healthiest selves.

Do you have any suggestions on how to start a workplace policy that doesn’t alienate people or make people feel ostracized and is actually effective?

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

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update: my coworker refuses to wear a mask https://www.askamanager.org/2021/12/update-my-coworker-refuses-to-wear-a-mask.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/12/update-my-coworker-refuses-to-wear-a-mask.html#comments Wed, 01 Dec 2021 15:59:14 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22739 This post, update: my coworker refuses to wear a mask , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. We have so many updates this year that I’m going to be posting six to seven times a day for the next several weeks — so keep checking […]

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This post, update: my coworker refuses to wear a mask , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

We have so many updates this year that I’m going to be posting six to seven times a day for the next several weeks — so keep checking back throughout the entire day.

Remember the letter-writer whose coworker refused to wear a mask? Here’s the update.

First, thank you, Alison, for answering my question and many thanks for the encouraging commenters on the original letter as well! The first part of my update I wrote in a comment in the original post so some may have seen it already, but I have a lot more to add now too.

The day after I wrote to Alison (in December 2020, before the letter was published), Bob walked into my cubicle and started talking. I gave Bob the firm boundary that he cannot come into my cubicle without a mask and he also needed to stay six feet away. I reminded him where the free masks are in the office. Best case scenario, he could have put on a mask and finished the conversation. Just about the worst scenario happened. He argued heatedly for 10 or so minutes while I just kept repeating “Ok, but you still need to wear a mask in my cubicle.” Him: “I don’t want to wear a mask. Everyone knows the mask rule isn’t really a rule. I don’t even have to wear a mask in Wal-Mart! Why do I have to wear one here?” It was so whiny. (P.S. There was a state mask mandate then so he, by law, absolutely did have to wear a mask in Wal-Mart which he apparently never did. That was eye-opening.) I held my ground and maintained my boundary over and over but he was horrid. When I reminded him for a second time that there are free masks in the office and he could go get one, he took a mask out of his pocket, dangled it in my face, and said through gritted teeth: “I have one but you know why I’m not going to wear it? Because I don’t want to. You can’t make me.” I work with a toddler. That’s the nicest noun I can think of. I asked him to leave my cubicle if he wouldn’t mask and he refused again, so I told him I would get HR involved if he didn’t leave and didn’t comply with masking near me (thankfully at this point he didn’t know I’d already talked to HR several times and they’d done nothing – and HR was working remotely that day as usual). He left while grumbling “I didn’t know you were one of those people!” and “If that’s how you want to play it!” I was shaken up after.

But the next day that I saw him he did wear a mask for a second just to drop something off at my desk. A victory! The next week, he made a comment about being offended that I didn’t thank him for wearing a mask. The man was offended at my lack of gratitude. Let’s let that sink in. I pretended I hadn’t heard his comment and said nothing. I had absolutely nothing professional to say and getting visibly angry would just prove to him that he didn’t have to take me seriously because I’m too emotional or whatnot. He’s been largely ignoring me ever since, which is seriously a great improvement to my work environment.

He did mask somewhat for a little bit after my confrontation. Maybe for a couple weeks? By “somewhat” masking I mean he was holding up a mask to his face with one hand (like not putting the earloops on and just breathing through his mask and his hand). He looks absurd when he does that. After a bit of time seeing that, in late January 2021 (with new advice from Alison and commenters, thank you!) and with the support of two other coworkers that I broached about this, we sent an email to HR and my boss to tell them that Bob consistently wasn’t masking properly and that we were all uncomfortable about being exposed to the virus. HR asked me to “monitor” him for a week and get back to them if he was still just holding the mask up to his mouth. I wasn’t thrilled about being asked to “monitor” him but I did and sent an update (aka he wasn’t masking, surprise!). HR said they’d “handle it.” He did wear a mask for a while after that – sometimes fully masked, sometimes somewhat masked. But HR seemed to be ok with his “somewhat” masking method even though I continued to complain about that. Sigh.

Then the vaccine came. In April 2021 our mask rule at work went away for vaccinated people, and my company made it a rule that you can’t ask someone about their vaccine status at work so if someone wasn’t masking, no one knew if they were vaccinated or just choosing not to comply. Bob has anti-vaccine rants with a like-minded coworker in the hallways, but I had to pretend that he was vaccinated, according to HR. (He began not masking at all again during this time.) Conveniently in May it seemed the pandemic was over. My state and office no longer required masks. I thought I’d finally dodged the Bob bullet.

In August, our mask rule appeared again in response to a steep rise in cases. Everyone else was wearing masks in the office as required. Bob was usually not even pretending to half-wear a mask anymore; he just wasn’t. I was exhausted of emailing HR at this point so I let it go for a time. (I know I know, I shouldn’t have. I should’ve continued being the squeaky wheel, but I was worn out and felt I had no squeaks to give.)

Only when I had a client visit the office in early October (the first office visitor in a while) did I re-realize how unfair he was being to everyone, unfair in so many ways. I had to instruct Client to wear a mask in the building as required, and Client kindly obliged. (Bob has mildly traumatized me and I was bracing myself for an incident when I asked Client to mask up, but Client is a normal person who masks when asked to, even though I know Client preferred not to wear a mask. Human decency – astonishing, isn’t it!?) Client saw Bob walking around the hallways unmasked. Nothing was said of course, but I was rightfully embarrassed that I had to make them follow a rule when he doesn’t have to. And angry that HR has seen this and let us down with how they “handled it.” So I wrote to HR again with my most firm language. I used words like “extremely disappointed this behavior is allowed to continue” and called Bob’s behavior “ugly” and “disrespectful in a huge way” and not reflective of our company values. I reiterated that allowing Bob’s behavior to continue puts me at risk of being exposed to an unvaccinated person, and that a quarantine for me means great stress for the rest of my team since they’d have to do my work. I requested that we either begin to enforce the mask rule or we take the mask rule away to reflect reality. I knew they would stand by their rule so then they’d be forced to say they’d take enforcement seriously, and I was right. HR told me no one is above the rules, even Bob. They also claimed to only see Bob when masked/somewhat masked and acted totally shocked that he hadn’t been masking – historically he usually does try to hold a mask over his face if he knows HR is in the building so I half believe that. I don’t totally believe that because a. I still have seen HR and an unmasked Bob together at the same time a handful of times and they claimed they never saw him unmasked and b. we all know holding a mask to his face while walking around all day is still not proper mask-wearing so I’m not sure why he got away with even that.

I don’t know what was said to him but he has fully masked consistently the last few weeks since. I hope they threatened to fire him at long last, as they should with anyone who has willfully chosen to disobey an important rule for over a year after many reminders and conversations. My boss’s boss also apologized to me directly about their previous lack of handling the issue and promised it’d be different going forward. I accepted the apology and also politely told him it was a necessary apology. I will hold him to his promise.

So far, this is a happy ending! But if I never have to send an email regarding masks again it will be too soon. I have seen so much ugly and I can’t go back.

Stay healthy and stay squeaky, everyone!

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I feel insulted by the rolls at my new job, coworker uses baby talk, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/12/i-feel-insulted-by-the-rolls-at-my-new-job-coworker-uses-baby-talk-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/12/i-feel-insulted-by-the-rolls-at-my-new-job-coworker-uses-baby-talk-and-more.html#comments Wed, 01 Dec 2021 05:03:19 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22674 This post, I feel insulted by the rolls at my new job, coworker uses baby talk, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

I’m on vacation. Here are some past letters that I’m making new again, rather than leaving them to wilt in the archives. And how can we kick off December other than with… 1. I feel insulted by my new job I’ve been at my new job for a month and today they had a potluck […]

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This post, I feel insulted by the rolls at my new job, coworker uses baby talk, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

I’m on vacation. Here are some past letters that I’m making new again, rather than leaving them to wilt in the archives. And how can we kick off December other than with…

1. I feel insulted by my new job

I’ve been at my new job for a month and today they had a potluck and a meeting. They put a sign up in the break room where we could write down what we were going to bring. I thought okay, I will keep it simple and get Hawaiian rolls. Well, to my surprise, someone who didn’t put their name on the list brought cheap ass rolls! I don’t know who did it, nor do I care ! Well, I did care because to me that was the first slap in the face to welcome me aboard! So instead of eating with everyone, I got up and went to work while everyone else ate. I thought it was rude to hang a sign up to bring a potluck and then people just bring what everyone else does. I mean, really! Why even put up a sign?

Then they started with the staff meeting, where I didn’t know what to expect because after all it was my first one. So we are sitting there and the slide says, “Let’s introduce the new people.” My name was first and a woman who started two weeks after me was on there. So he starts off by telling the other woman “welcome to the team, blah blah blah” and skips right over me and says nothing. I’m sitting there thinking I know this jackass didn’t skip right over me, but I sat there with a smile on my face and pretended I wasn’t upset. So he’s about to go to the next slide and someone speaks up and says, “What about Ann?” and he laughs and looks at me and says, “Omg, I didn’t realize you were new!” To me that was another slap in the face! I mean, if you don’t want me working for you, then just say so! So, I’m already mad over someone disrespecting me over bringing rolls which I said I would bring, then he skips right over me like I wasn’t even sitting there when my name was first on the stupid PowerPoint!

In your opinion, what the hell is going on? Was I wrong to walk out of the potluck and go straight to work? I think that makes a statement as far as I was concerned because I’m not going to hang around fake ass people. Now there is a Secret Santa and I’m not doing it! I don’t want any part of it. They can take Santa and stick it up their ass!

You are wildly overreacting, and it’s very likely that you are going to get yourself fired from this job.

2019

2. Coworker using baby talk

I’ve read your post on a coworker using baby talk, and it hit home. I have a similar situation, but the context makes it difficult to bring up — she only does it when talking to our office-mates, and only when discussing friendly, non-work things. She would never use the voice with our boss, or a client, so I don’t feel like I can tell her that she is undermining her credibility as a professional. It’s still unbelievably grating, however, and I know most of the office hates it.

Most of the baby-talk is between her and one other coworker; it’s become their little shtick as they’ve gotten to be friends outside work. But the rest of us have to listen to it all day. Our office is an open-plan room with all 6 employees in the same desk area, all on the same level in the company. Our boss is in another room, and has probably never heard the voice.

Also tricky: the coworker in question is somewhat disliked in the office, and I think she knows it and gets passive-aggressive. She will pick controversial political fights for no reason or ask borderline offensive questions, and there is no way she believes the questions are benign. Most times, however, she’s very nice. I can’t tell if this is a situation where she knows she’s being annoying, or if she’s truly trying to be friendly. We have all told her, repeatedly and bluntly, that we hate the one baby-talk word she uses (‘ewwww, grosie!’), and she just laughs and uses it anyway.

How do I handle this? We are a very small office — no HR person, no one to discuss it with besides our boss, and it seems excessive to bring it up to him when I’m essentially just not this person’s biggest fan. It’s not affecting her work, just the personal atmosphere of the office. I would love to ask her to stop, without putting her on the defensive.

You can ask her to stop in a polite and reasonable way; whether she reacts defensively is up to her. But it’s important to note that the fact that she’s only doing this in social conversations at work doesn’t mean it’s not affecting her professional reputation; it absolutely is. If she’s doing it at work, in earshot of coworkers, it can impact her reputation.

The next time she does it, say this: “Jane, would you mind not doing the baby talk voice? It’s incredibly distracting to hear that in an office.”

2013

3. I don’t like job candidates asking me what I don’t like about my company

I work in HR and I was conducting a phone interview yesterday. One of the questions asked by the candidate at the end was “What don’t you like about the company?” (She asked this right after asking what i do like about the company.)

Now, I’m all for people doing their research and weighing the pros and cons of working at a particular organization, but I believe it’s inappropriate to ask your interviewer that question, at least in that particular wording. I was put on the spot, and if I actually had anything bad to say, and I said it, and then she told people, it could technically affect my own standing/employment with my company. I actually do love the place I work at, and the only thing is the long commute, so that’s what I said. “It’s not the company, it’s the commute.”

If she wanted to know the negatives of working at my organization, she could just do some research, or reach out to contacts of hers who are working at the company, and NOT involved in the hiring process. What do you think?

Nope, you’re wrong on this one. It’s absolutely reasonable — and, in fact, smart — for candidates to ask questions like this. If you’re not willing to give candidates a reasonably candid view of the good and bad about working for the company, you should bow out of conducting interviews. That’s as much a part of the process as you asking them about their experience; part of your job as an interviewer is to help the candidate determine if they want the job at all.

2013

4. My boss doesn’t want student workers eating lunch with us because they might hear “adult subjects”

I work in higher education and my office employs college students. The two students I currently oversee (both over 21) have been eating lunch in the break room at the noon hour along with the rest of the staff members. My supervisor told me she feels uncomfortable with the students doing this because staff may discuss confidential work info during lunch and because some staff swear and talk about adult subjects. My supervisor asked that I either change the students’ lunch hours or ask them to not sit in the break room.

I refused, arguing that the request is misguided and discriminatory. Are there any laws or other reasoning I can use to advocate for the student employees?

There’s no law that would really come into play here; age discrimination laws don’t kick in until 40, but even if they did apply earlier, there’s no law that prohibits treating one class of employee (student workers) differently from others.

But the law of Don’t Be Ridiculous certainly applies.

You might try pointing out to your boss the following:

1. The student workers are just as likely (if not more) to be exposed to confidential work info in the course of their work than at lunch.

2. They’re adults, not children.

3. College students probably get more daily exposure to swearing and “adult” topics than the rest of us.

4. They’re adults, not children.

5. It’s going to be awkward and demoralizing to prohibit them from eating lunch with the rest of their coworkers.

6. They’re adults, not children.

7. It’s actually helpful (to their work and to them professionally) to be able to get to know their coworkers better, as well as to be exposed to more experienced perspectives on work.

8. They’re adults, not children.

2014

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update: is “secretary” a demeaning title? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/update-is-secretary-a-demeaning-title.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/update-is-secretary-a-demeaning-title.html#comments Tue, 30 Nov 2021 21:59:38 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22770 This post, update: is “secretary” a demeaning title? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Remember the letter-writer wondering if “secretary” is a demeaning title? Here’s the update. As of this week I’ve completely moved away from the title and am now called […]

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This post, update: is “secretary” a demeaning title? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer wondering if “secretary” is a demeaning title? Here’s the update.

As of this week I’ve completely moved away from the title and am now called “Office Manager” or “Assistant” interchangeably.

I still maintain that the title was fine at the time I wrote in. It was pretty accurate, and I wasn’t concerned. On payroll I’m listed as “Administration” because I’m the only admin person, my boss has just had the company for 40 years and the habit of saying secretary was strong. Gradually though, I started running into work-related obstacles; like certain companies wouldn’t accept HR documentation because “secretary” wasn’t a high enough title, or I would try to do a personal thing for my boss and the company he was dealing with wouldn’t talk to me.

I quietly started listing myself as “Office Manager” on all official documentation to circumvent this. Then I changed it in my email signature and began referring to myself that way on calls. My boss doesn’t care at all about titles and I’m the only admin, so this was ok to do without his permission in my particular situation. When I made calls on behalf of my boss for personal items I referred to myself as his assistant, and didn’t get nearly as much pushback.

This is how it came up with my boss: I tipped him off one day while he was trying to get approved for a loan, that if he should reference me sending anything to call me his assistant. I also told him about the changes I had made and that people were more receptive to assistant or office manager. He tried it out and he said he definitely notices the difference and that he thinks we should have changed that a long time ago. He now exclusively refers to me as the office manager or his assistant.

I think you had such an interesting take on this, because I don’t think the title itself was demeaning, just old fashioned. I do think it was interesting that it was being perceived as a lower title than office manager or EA when my work is exactly the same.

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updates: the unflushed toilet, covering for a remote coworker, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/updates-the-unflushed-toilet-covering-for-a-remote-coworker-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/updates-the-unflushed-toilet-covering-for-a-remote-coworker-and-more.html#comments Tue, 30 Nov 2021 20:29:17 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22726 This post, updates: the unflushed toilet, covering for a remote coworker, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers. 1. Employee isn’t flushing the toilet I opened with telling her that this was going to be an uncomfortable conversation. I […]

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This post, updates: the unflushed toilet, covering for a remote coworker, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. Employee isn’t flushing the toilet

I opened with telling her that this was going to be an uncomfortable conversation. I explained what was happening and she was MORTIFIED. She explained that her family taught her to always close the lid, and at the end of the day, she gets caught up in all she has to do when she gets home, and just forgot. It hasn’t happened since, and she is still a wonderful employee!

2. Do I need to keep covering a remote employee’s work?

I’m happy to report that I did take your advice! I had the conversation you suggested with my boss, and they were very understanding and said they would make sure they situation was resolved. I don’t know what happened after that, but Alice later reached out to let me know she was going to be coming into the office a couple days per week when necessary to complete her parts of our projects. This has been working out well since. I have been trying to complete my parts of each project well in advance so that she can get multiple done in a day and can minimize the trips she has to make. I believe her team is also working to hire another position to help relieve her of some work.

Thank you for providing great advice, now and always!

3. My family wants to live near each other — how do we do this with work?

In December of 2019, I reached out asking for advice on how to balance the jobs and wants of myself and partner, my brother, and my parents, when we all loved our current homes but also wanted to live closer to each other. The letter was published in Feb 2020 as an “Ask the Readers” question (a little less than a month before the pandemic hit the U.S. in earnest.) There was a lot of great advice in the comments, but the two big messages that came out again and again were: “You have too many maybes right now. Wait and see what happens – will you have actually have a baby and when? Will your brother find a partner? Will something change with someone’s job?” and “Someone (or multiple someones) is going to have to give something up or compromise in this situation. You can’t avoid that.”

A year and a half later, there certainly are fewer maybes, and some things have changed!

For one thing, there was that whole pandemic situation. Except for my dad, not one of us has a job that can really work remotely (two teachers, a nurse, my brother the “sea captain”), but the pandemic cemented the fact that it sucks to live far away from your loved ones, especially when things get scary and travel gets hard.

For another thing – I had a baby! My partner and I now have a 5-month-old wonderful tiny creature living with us. She’s so cool. This fact alone has already changed things. My parents (or us) still can’t afford to fly back and forth super frequently, but instead they’ve been driving here (an ~11 hour drive each way) for a five day visit every month, to help with child care and hang out with Baby. (My partner and I also spent ~3 weeks with them over the summer with the baby.)

And my brother now has a serious girlfriend – they live together now and just got a new puppy together. My brother definitely wants to have kids at some point, but they’re not there yet.

In a way, all of the same difficult situations that I had before still exist. We all still live really far away from each other. We’re making it work for now, with lots and lots of time in the car, but my parents are going to keep getting older, and driving so often doesn’t feel sustainable. My mom will be retiring soon, but they’re afraid that if they move here, then my brother will have a baby in a year or two and will feel left out or sad if he doesn’t get any grandparent help. They feel like they have to pick between kids if they think about a move. At least professionally everyone is doing well! And we have the cutest baby in the world, so that helps too. : D

Thanks Alison and commenters!

P.S. My mom is retiring soon, after working for about four decades as an esteemed and beloved nurse. She loves her job and it’s a core part of her, and the thought of retiring is starting to hit hard. Do you or any readers have ideas for resources for people who are retiring and, while they know the decision makes sense for many reasons, also feel pretty sad and maybe driftless at the thought? Maybe ways to frame it; books to read; types of community groups or resources to search for her in her local area; etc.

4. My manager said something odd in my performance review (#5 at the link)

Thanks for answering my question back in March 2020, but wow the start of some weird, weird times. I did approach my manager and used a bit of your language to understand what that comment was about. It went, well not great? The response was “I know you pushed the internal training group but you know what can you do.” That was ended in a wink. A WINK. From there things got well, worse because 2020. The company announced a 10% pay cut for all employees with the claims that it was done to avoid layoffs. Spoilers: they laid people off anyway and those that stayed still had ongoing pay cut. In our small team meeting my manager discussed the next phase, which was forcing us to use half our vacation time in the next 5 weeks. It was shared as a blessing because in the next breath he pointed out that he fought to keep me on, which was difficult due to my high salary. Again, I was not highly paid for my position. That was an extremely awkward thing to endure in front of my colleagues.

So I did what everyone else did in 2020 and looked for a new job. It was stressful as working in a lab meant I was in the office during the entire pandemic because it’s hard to take liquid nitrogen home. It took a while but I did take a chance on a consulting position with a growing firm back in my past industry. To say it’s been fantastic is an understatement. I now work from home, am well paid with good benefits and killer bonus structure, the work is exciting and cutting edge and I’m highly praised for my contributions. I’m just about rounding up a year here and it feels like I have been and could do this for a long, long time. I never addressed my past manager about the money comments again and honestly I ghosted them when I left, dropped my laptop and keys with an HR drone over the holiday break span and said thanks for laughs. It was 2020 and not worth the 2 weeks. Something I’ve never done in my professional career but was so worth the 2 weeks at home to detox and recenter prior to starting my new incredible job. Thanks again Alison for the advice but the result was just a bad manager unfortunately. Onward all!

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updates: the remote employee without child care, the regretted recommendation, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/updates-the-remote-employee-without-child-care-the-regretted-recommendation-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/updates-the-remote-employee-without-child-care-the-regretted-recommendation-and-more.html#comments Tue, 30 Nov 2021 18:59:58 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22760 This post, updates: the remote employee without child care, the regretted recommendation, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, and I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers. 1. My employee wants to work from home without child care for his baby forever The advice from everyone at Ask a Manager […]

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This post, updates: the remote employee without child care, the regretted recommendation, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, and I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. My employee wants to work from home without child care for his baby forever

The advice from everyone at Ask a Manager was hugely helpful and affirming in this situation. I ended up presenting the problem to my boss and our board of directors and we all agreed something needed to change immediately. We gave Larry a choice between truly committing to a full-time schedule (one that didn’t entail providing childcare at the same time) or switching to part-time work. He chose the latter option and it’s been incredibly positive for everyone. I no longer have this ongoing tension with him about his productivity, I’m not stressing about it and the rest of the team is more able to rely on him because the expectations around his workload are very clear. I think Larry is also happier and less anxious because he’s not trying to juggle so much at once. I could not be more pleased with the outcome!

2. I wrote a recommendation that I’m now doubting (#2 at the link)

I wrote in asking what to do about possibly revoking a recommendation for a university professor in IT who wants to go back to school for counseling, and more specifically, sex therapy.

I took your advice and had a conversation with her about her problematic social media post. At first, she seemed to listen, and she even deleted the offending post. I was heartened. But, a few days later she sent me a message telling me I was small minded, judgmental, and the friendship is over. Interestingly, she unfriended me and every other woman we are both connected to, yet kept my husband as a friend on social media. So, I’ve seen her subsequent posts, which are going more and more off the rails. Examples:

1. She changed her profile picture to her wearing lingerie with her legs spread at the camera.
2. She went on a rant about how she is monogamous and polyamory is an “alternative lifestyle” she does not accept. (One commenter told her it was borderline hate speech, she did not like being called out and totally denied it.)
3. She posted that she was done helping people. They don’t deserve her help.
4. This is the worst one, she bragged about telling a suicidal woman to “sit down, and shut up,” for having the audacity to give her some life advice.

She has started school, so it is too late to revoke my recommendation. Going to her school with this information now feels retaliatory, even though I know it’s more complicated than that. I wish this conflict had more resolution, but so it goes. I don’t have the bandwidth to deal with it or her anymore. I’ve just been diagnosed with ADHD at 45 and need to focus on exploring treatment options, but that’s a whole letter. I am curious to hear from readers, though, how ADHD has affected them in the workplace.

Thank you again for your sound advice.

3. My company wants us to meditate and do yoga and alternative healing (first update here)

I thought I’d just share a second update as your instincts were right all along, as were many commenters’, and it turns out things were even worse than I knew at the time!

As mentioned, quite a few people were let go or quit – more than half the staff, though they were replaced. And some of the issues I’ve heard from them since goes beyond a grey area to some outright illegal stuff, including being told to end relationships with people outside the company (because those people were “against” them), and full-on diagnosing employees with mental illnesses when they tried to critique practical problems at work. Previously mentioned “new age” practices like group meditation and tarot readings were also used to gauge employees’ energy, auras etc. and to make hiring and firing decisions.

In general the most toxic trend just seemed to be that they claimed to value honest critique and diverse opinions, and then fired anyone who shared them (with a troubling trend of favoring white, cis employees while outwardly promoting diversity – but what else is new).

4. There’s nowhere to lock up company electronics in my new space (#4 at the link)

I thank you and everyone who provided helpful advice. I did leave out some context in my original letter, which you can find in my comment here.

I especially thank those who replied directly to my comment. After your advice and reading those replies, I sent an email to my boss that summarized my concerns, formally requested information about locking drawers, and included a few acceptable accommodations if that wasn’t possible. He got the hint that I was formally documenting this and brought the matter up with the person responsible for the office consolidation. Shortly afterwards, he sent me the specs for the locking drawers that would be at my desk.

I am glad the matter ended there. The company was great to work at until they had a large layoff (which occurred prior to this issue). After the layoff, it became an ongoing battle to obtain *necessary* things needed for my job. I eventually became worn down from the stress of this and left for a similar position elsewhere.

At the new company, on my first day, I received everything that I was fighting for at the old company. My boss and coworker have these same things as well. It’s much less stressful and I wish I had left the old company sooner.

Thank you again for the advice!

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my company gives terrible gifts https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/my-company-gives-terrible-gifts.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/my-company-gives-terrible-gifts.html#comments Tue, 30 Nov 2021 17:29:48 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22663 This post, my company gives terrible gifts , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: Every year, my company (with around 70 employees) picks out one corporate gift and sends it to all of us. Every year, it is terrible. One year they delivered hams to our homes, despite us having a fair number of vegetarians and Muslims on staff. One year they sent us all branded […]

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This post, my company gives terrible gifts , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

Every year, my company (with around 70 employees) picks out one corporate gift and sends it to all of us. Every year, it is terrible. One year they delivered hams to our homes, despite us having a fair number of vegetarians and Muslims on staff. One year they sent us all branded hoodies, which would have been fine except that they seem to have just guessed at people’s sizes (which is already weird, right?) and got them really wrong in a lot of cases. Mine would probably fit my toddler, but it doesn’t fit me. Last year they sent us all gift certificates for a restaurant (while no one was dining out because of Covid) that was far away from where most of us live. I’d rather receive nothing than these vaguely insulting gifts that seem to indicate no care went into picking them. Is it worth saying something or is it rude to complain about a gift?

I answer this question — and many others — over at New York Magazine today. You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Should I give my boss a gift?
  • My boss wants an expensive gift!
  • How can I discourage employees from giving me gifts?
  • My coworker gives me a gift every year – should I be reciprocating>
  • Can I send a gift to a potential employer?
  • Is it appropriate to give my intern a gift?
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update: explaining to clients that I’m pregnant with someone else’s babies https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/update-explaining-to-clients-that-im-pregnant-with-someone-elses-babies.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/update-explaining-to-clients-that-im-pregnant-with-someone-elses-babies.html#comments Tue, 30 Nov 2021 15:59:57 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22710 This post, update: explaining to clients that I’m pregnant with someone else’s babies , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, and I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers. We have so many updates this year that I’m going to be posting six to seven times a day for the next several […]

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This post, update: explaining to clients that I’m pregnant with someone else’s babies , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, and I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

We have so many updates this year that I’m going to be posting six to seven times a day for the next several weeks — so keep checking back throughout the entire day.

Remember the letter-writer wondering how to explain to clients that she was pregnant with someone else’s babies (#2 at the link)? Here’s the update.

So, I was able to avoid most meetings in person. There were only two issues that came out of this and they both actually came later than I expected. I had one client I work very closely with and had to do in-person meetings with a couple of times. I gave them a heads-up because I was incredibly big at that point and with this client it made sense to just explain on a call beforehand. They all said how cool that was and wow so great. I got a couple of questions about my “maternity leave” and how long I’d be out for but that’s it.

I actually ended up in an emergent situation that you, Alison, have written columns about a few times. I was in the hospital because of an emergency with the babies and my boss was, ever so politely, asking if it was at all possible for me to do just one thing while I was there. It was a task only I could do, but it definitely didn’t need to be done ASAP. Still, I kind of felt like I had to because I was in a bit of a holding period in the ER and I had the capability. When my other boss found out about it, I guess they had words and it was made clear to me that it would not happen again and it was inappropriate to ask. I spoke with both of them to tell them what was going on with the pregnancy and that I will be unavailable to work and would be starting my time off now. This was unpaid time off as the parents were to reimburse me for lost wages. So, I offloaded what I could and asked that they only use the words “medical emergency” when explaining to clients why I’m out. Later I got an email that I was cc’d on to another client where Boss #1 had used words like “labor” and “delivers.” So that caused some confusion but I didn’t engage with it. I ended up on another call that week, while hospitalized, at the request of my boss. I think I could have said no, but since it wasn’t my baby I kind of felt like I had no reason to be freaked out. It was definitely more complicated than with my own child and work knowing that compounded that complication.

The second issue actually came from that client that knew I was doing surrogacy and not until months after I’d given birth. We were at a small event for the client and one of the people on that team I work with regularly asked me about my family. I mentioned that things were hectic right now because we were moving, we had recently bought a house. He said, that’s wonderful in this economic climate and I said well surrogacy is difficult but worth it in so many ways. And he actually said he didn’t realize it was a paid thing and that he thought maybe my surrogacy was less cool now because it was paid. I immediately was shocked because his tone got serious and judgemental very quickly. I still have a great relationship with that client and we never talked about it again, but it definitely made me think of the advice I got in the comments. A lot of people were saying, “oh if it’s for someone tell them that” and it wasn’t. I always get that question, “Did you know the parents” and we met via an agency. I know them now and have bonded with the mom as only one can when you’re carrying her babies. But apparently, the only kind of acceptable surrogacy for this client was if it was an unpaid, selfless act of torture for a friend or family member.

In reality, it was a very complicated and difficult pregnancy that ended in an emergency hospitalization, induction, and surgery. I was away from my family, my toddler, and my home in a special hospital far away from everyone, during a global pandemic. So, personally, I’ll never understand those who don’t think surrogates deserve to be paid. I know there are concerns, a lot of them discussed in the comments on the original post, about the exploitation of low-income women, but the agencies I spoke to all have requirements to avoid those situations. I had to meet a number of requirements to be able to be a surrogate in the first place. But I think of it as a job and took a lot of the advice you give on how to deal with employers and contracts in the early days of nailing down my contract with the parents. And to not be paid would be just as unfair as not being paid for my full time job.

I know there are concerns about surrogacy, even if that might surprise you. From a workplace perspective I think the most important lesson I learned is that when your boss knows it’s not your baby, they might not understand that emergency situations are still stressful for you. It’s important, as ever, to set those boundaries.

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my boss wants me to host a product party for her, I compared my interviewer to my dog, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/my-boss-wants-me-to-host-a-product-party-for-her-i-compared-my-interviewer-to-my-dog-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/my-boss-wants-me-to-host-a-product-party-for-her-i-compared-my-interviewer-to-my-dog-and-more.html#comments Tue, 30 Nov 2021 05:03:26 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22673 This post, my boss wants me to host a product party for her, I compared my interviewer to my dog, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

I’m on vacation. Here are some past letters that I’m making new again, rather than leaving them to wilt in the archives. 1. My former manager wants me to host a product party for her My former supervisor has been extremely helpful as a reference for me numerous times and I feel indebted to her […]

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This post, my boss wants me to host a product party for her, I compared my interviewer to my dog, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

I’m on vacation. Here are some past letters that I’m making new again, rather than leaving them to wilt in the archives.

1. My former manager wants me to host a product party for her

My former supervisor has been extremely helpful as a reference for me numerous times and I feel indebted to her to some degree for that. Perhaps she is aware of that, too.

Apparently she is “starting a business” and wants me to invite my friends/family/whomever to my house and host a “party” for her to build clientele who would be willing to buy overpriced costume jewelry. She says I would get a lot of free jewelry out of it. I quickly picked up that this is one of those pyramid schemes that preys on vulnerable, low-information women. A quick internet search confirmed my suspicions. Furthermore, numerous reviews online confirmed the actual jewelry is garbage; my friend told me she bought a $99 watch from them that broke the first time she wore it.

I told her I will see if I can get any interest from people I know to come to the party and get back to her. Even if I agree to host, I am honestly not sure that I know enough people in my area period (I’m a few hours from immediate family and only have a handful of close friends around), much less with expendable income who would be interested in something like this. What do you think? Should I agree to this and try to get people in? I really don’t like the idea of making people feel pressured to buy things, particularly friends/family.

Noooooo. She’s asking you to do the marketing for her business for her, and to annoy your friends and family in the process, and to help her promote a product that you know is crappy. Under no circumstances. You don’t owe her for being a reference for you; that’s a normal part of what managers do for good employees. (I mean, sure, you owe her normal professional courtesies, like taking her calls and congratulations her on professional successes or whatever, but a good reference does not obligate you to do something that makes you uncomfortable.)

Tell her that you decided it’s not your thing and you’re not interested in hosting. And stand firm if she pushes back.

2015

2. I compared my interviewer with my dog

I went into a interview and everything was going well. There was a assessment test on my abilities and the questions were normal.

On the way out, my interviewer walked me out and made a passing comment on the sunny weather. I replied, “Yeah, it’s really lovely out, nice and sunny with a cool breeze” — normal small talk. But she responded with “I prefer the triple digits.” And that’s when I said, “That’s just like my chihuahua.” I wanted to smack myself as soon as I finished the sentence.

Is this something you would count against a candidate? If so, how should I address this faux pas in my thank-you email, or is this something you pretend never happened on both sides?

It wasn’t the smoothest comment, no. But if you were otherwise the strongest candidate, most people aren’t going to take you out of the running for that, unless the position requires an unusually high degree of professional polish and schmoozing skills. (And even then, she may have just found it funny, who knows.)

I wouldn’t bring it up in the thank-you note; that would be calling more attention to it than you should. We all have awkward moments; try not to dwell on it too much.

2017

3. My top candidate has another offer but we can’t interview until next month

I’m hiring for a an open position and conducted a phone interview with a great candidate (we’d already interviewed him once before in a prior round but didn’t hire him) and told him that in-person interviews would take place after the holidays, with someone in place by early February.

I got a call from the candidate today saying he got an offer from another company and what was our timeline? This candidate is my favorite, but we’re hiring three people and were planning on having in-person interviews with four to five people with the whole team. Any thoughts on how to reply to this candidate?

You have to decide whether you want him enough to expedite things or whether you’re willing to lose him to the other offer. Since you interviewed him previously, you might have a good idea of how strong a fit he is for this role. If you don’t, you could quickly set up an in-person interview with him now (like in the next few days, if possible — which I realize might be tricky given the holidays). If you go that route, ask him what his timeline is for needing to give the other company an answer, so that you know how much time you have to work with.

But if you know that you wouldn’t be willing to make him an offer without interviewing your other candidates first and that’s important enough that you’re willing to risk losing him (which is often, although not always, the right choice), then all you can do is to tell him that he’s currently your top candidate but that you unfortunately can’t expedite your interviewing timeline (and explain why so that he understands — people’s schedules or whatever the reason is), and that you understand if that means he needs to accept the other offer.

2016

4. Coworker doesn’t want anyone to ask questions at meetings so they end faster

One of my coworkers does not want anyone to ask questions at the weekly meeting so that they can “get out of there faster.” Anyone who does ask a question is approached before the next meeting and basically warned not to make the meeting “longer.” Should the manager be told about this?

I’d sure want to know about it if I were your manager. Or you could just ignore the person who’s doing this, or the next time it happens you could reply, “Part of the reason for the meeting is for us to have a chance to ask questions. Please stop pressuring me and others not to use the meeting in the way it’s intended.”

(Of course, make sure that the questions you’re asking are meeting-apprpropriate — meaning that they’re on-topic and things that make sense to discuss in that forum, as opposed to following up on them one-on-one with the relevant person afterwards. If you’re not doing those things — if you’re the person who makes meetings drag out by asking things that genuinely don’t make sense to discuss in that context — then your coworkers are likely to be legitimately annoyed.)

2016

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updates: new manager tells us we’re defensive, working from home without privacy, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/updates-new-manager-tells-us-were-defensive-working-from-home-without-privacy-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/updates-new-manager-tells-us-were-defensive-working-from-home-without-privacy-and-more.html#comments Mon, 29 Nov 2021 21:59:29 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22724 This post, updates: new manager tells us we’re defensive, working from home without privacy, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers. 1. New manager keeps telling us we’re frustrated and defensive In retrospect, Kelly did not have the claimed managerial experience, and […]

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This post, updates: new manager tells us we’re defensive, working from home without privacy, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. New manager keeps telling us we’re frustrated and defensive

In retrospect, Kelly did not have the claimed managerial experience, and turned out to be making notes about topics unrelated to the actual meeting (as in, we’re explaining how to melt the chocolate and she’s drafting designs for the boxes). I used Alison’s scripts, and talked to the CEO, and separately started documenting everything in case it needed to go farther.

The CEO did understand and support me, and coached Kelly in certain aspects of personnel management (the weak points). My working relationship with Kelly continued to be strained, but actually improved during COVID when we were all working remotely, mainly because random drop-ins and in-person conversations became impossible, but also because it finally got to the point where Kelly had isolated one part of the department and just worked with them, only occasionally intersecting with the rest of us. This wasn’t great for the department, but drastically reduced the stress on Alex and me.

That said, Kelly helped me work with another employee who consistently had performance problems. I really felt that we were making good headway towards a decent working relationship. The chronically-underperforming employee finally realized the end was nigh and decided to leave. About 3 months later, Kelly also left for other opportunities. I really can’t say I was sorry, but I regret the lost opportunity to really cement the working relationship.

The CEO recognized my attempts to make it work, and actually noted them on my annual review, so I believe I may have only seen a small part of a bigger problem.

Kelly’s replacement is someone I already knew and respected internally, someone who really is a good team player and doesn’t cherry-pick the fun/high-profile projects. I have good hopes that we will finally create a strong, cohesive team, enhancing all our skills and helping us work better together.

2. Working from home without a private, comfortable spot to work in (#2 at the link)

I followed your advice pretty much to the letter. I reached out to my supervisor and mentioned accommodations. She was unsure who would handle the question and I was bounced around several different departments and various members of upper management, before landing with a quick Slack meeting with the chief of my own department. Somehow the ADA mention got lost in the message moving around, but the chief was already prepared to get me a laptop. I just had to fill out a form, bring my desktop into the office when IT was available, and came home with a fresh laptop. I now have a more flexible, ergonomic set up that works much better for my disabilities. All I needed to do was ask!

3. I’m afraid people at work will think I’m being abused (#2 at the link)

Exactly two weeks after I wrote you, I worked a completely uneventful 11 hour shift and then promptly broke my ankle on my own front porch steps as soon as I got home. Obviously not ideal when I work a job that has me walking 6-12 miles per shift, but in the course of telling the story and sorting out accommodations for sitting-only work and future physical therapy (I really did a number on it!) I think people are starting to realize that I’m kind of just like this naturally. It’s a relief to be able to joke about it!

(Also, a lot of your readers had great suggestions on potential things to bring to my doctor but don’t worry, I’ve had my bases covered for ages, I’m very fortunate to genuinely just be a klutz!)

4. Good news Friday (#3 at the link)

My job has continued to be amazing. I’m still singing in my car, still working from home whenever I want to. I was so traumatized after 20 years at the toxic company that I am still learning that it’s actually okay to be happy at work, that it’s actually how it SHOULD be, but I’m getting there!! And!! Three months after I started, New Boss walked in my office and out of the blue gave me a 7% raise – the first raise I’ve ever received that I didn’t have to fight for. What a wonderful, strange new world!

Old Company did NOT replace me when I left and instead dumped everything on my former work partner Dale. No raise. No title change. Unrealistic hours and ridiculous deadlines. No more WFH – five days a week in the office. From a team of five to just Dale and a 30 hr a week part-timer. She complained and got LOTS of promises, but zero follow up. To make matters worse, her new boss Zoe kept trying to take credit for the few little bones they threw Dale – like “graciously” letting her WFH one day a week – saying things like Dale should just be appreciative of all that Zoe had done for her. I saw the emails – gag worthy levels of “I went to bat for you, you should appreciate this since others aren’t so fortunate, blah blah” AS IF! Dale EARNED those things, deserved those things, but got treated like Zoe was doing her a favor! THEN Dale is told there’s no money for raises (even though my salary was not reassigned) but Zoe got a huge promotion and a massive raise. They don’t renew Dale’s executive level retention agreement but Zoe got stock options. And Dale’s supposed to be grateful to Zoe for a single WFH day?

When Dale got shoveled another pile of “maybe next year” BS the same week Zoe got the promotion, that was the last straw. She called up an old boss, who’d been after her for years to come back. I told her about AAM and after she used the AAM advice to update her resume and cover letter, he created a job on the spot for her. More money, title change, fab retirement benefits, the works. She cut the cord after 11 years at Old Company and never looked back. She is now as happy as I am.

The best part of the update (Warning – serious schadenfreude alert.) Dale’s been gone for three months now and they’ve been unable to fill the role at the seriously below market salary they’re offering for the work load they’re wanting covered. Per friends still there, the business guys are HOWLING about the lack of a person in this role. All Old Company had to do was value the person in this critical role but they didn’t learn and now they are paying ridiculous money for outside legal counsel to manage this work. Zoe is also apparently stressed since having her entire remaining team of long-timers bail within her first year and not being able to hire replacements doesn’t exactly look good.

I love a happy ending, don’t you?

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update: the boss who fired me got hired at my new job — and she’s joking about how bad my work was https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/update-the-boss-who-fired-me-got-hired-at-my-new-job-and-shes-joking-about-how-bad-my-work-was.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/update-the-boss-who-fired-me-got-hired-at-my-new-job-and-shes-joking-about-how-bad-my-work-was.html#comments Mon, 29 Nov 2021 20:29:01 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22851 This post, update: the boss who fired me got hired at my new job — and she’s joking about how bad my work was , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Remember the letter-writer whose boss got him fired got hired at his new job — and started joking about how bad his work was? Here’s the update. Let […]

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This post, update: the boss who fired me got hired at my new job — and she’s joking about how bad my work was , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer whose boss got him fired got hired at his new job — and started joking about how bad his work was? Here’s the update.

Let me begin by saying I really appreciate of the support and advice you and your readers gave me. It was nice to know I wasn’t making too much out of it.

Two things maybe I should mention that I did not before. First, I am a pretty laid back guy, and when folks have a laugh at my expense, that usually doesn’t bother me if I think it is coming from a place of affection. I can laugh at myself, and Lord knows I enjoy teasing the people I love. I think I have pretty good boundaries generally, and I enforce them if I feel it’s not coming from a place of affection. But I think in this instance my boundary setting radar got confused because this generally has not been a problem at work, and because I so wanted to give Jane the benefit of the doubt.

Secondly, Jane’s behavior in all of this tracks, if you know Jane. She is, let’s say, hyperrational. Appeals to her emotions, or telling her how things make you feel, generally don’t work. But if you can quantify your point, if you can back up your argument with data, she is very persuadable, up to and including changing her behavior or backing off on points she’s made in the past.

As you advised, I took the issue up directly with folks who seemed to be treating me differently, calling out what I saw and asking them to please judge me on my record since they’ve known me. Most denied any change at all, and that was enough to shock them back into their pre-Jane behavior. A small number admitted Jane’s stories had made some impact, and agreed that maybe was not entirely fair. For the most part, they too have returned to pre-Jane behavior.

Then I went back to Jane and made my point; the stories were unflattering and unfair, they were harming my reputation with my co-workers, and it needed to stop. She again said she was just kidding and doubted it influenced anyone at all.. I conceded she was just kidding and had no ill-will, but that wasn’t the point. We went through some emails I had with co-workers that I had printed out (including the exchange with the coworker I mentioned in my first note). The point I made was even if it was just this one guy (and it wasn’t) surely she would agree that if the stories kept coming more people might start thinking like this guy.

Having seen the evidence, she agreed. She promised she would stop, and she has. She even went so far as to email a couple folks we discussed (and cc’d me) apologizing for her behavior and saying she should not have put me in such a bad light. That was good enough for me.

And that has been it. We’re pretty much back to normal. The guy from the first e-mail is still double checking me, but less than he was before. Personally I think he’s just trying to cover his tracks.

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update: our employee forged the owner’s signature on his mortgage documents https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/update-our-employee-forged-the-owners-signature-on-his-mortgage-documents.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/update-our-employee-forged-the-owners-signature-on-his-mortgage-documents.html#comments Mon, 29 Nov 2021 18:59:45 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22834 This post, update: our employee forged the owner’s signature on his mortgage documents , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager! Every day from now until the end of the year, I’ll be running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Remember the letter-writer whose colleague had forged the company owner’s signature on his mortgage paperwork? Here’s the update. Thank you […]

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This post, update: our employee forged the owner’s signature on his mortgage documents , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager! Every day from now until the end of the year, I’ll be running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer whose colleague had forged the company owner’s signature on his mortgage paperwork? Here’s the update.

Thank you so much for publishing my letter, and your great advice! As it happened, when the letter was published I was on my first vacation since 2019, so I missed replying to any comments made, but I did read all of them when I got back home, and was very appreciative of everything said. Here is my update:

Most importantly of all, John’s wife is fully recovered, and doing great!

The IT company John uses recovered the files Rob deleted, and they were all of a personal nature. Nothing bad, but also nothing that related to the business, thankfully.

John did have his lawyer send a letter to Rob and the mortgage company regarding the forged mortgage documents on his own accord, and never heard back from Rob or the mortgage company, so he still doesn’t know if the forged documents were corrected, or not. Or if Rob got the house, or not. The only thing we know for sure is that Rob will have no reference from John after three years of employment, John has made that clear. Sadly, Rob is the type to think that he WILL be able to list John as a reference, AND get a great one. He is just that kind of person.

When I wrote my letter to you, it was literally the day after everything had happened, and I was just…enraged. I am definitely a “want to see justice done!” type of person, and it is something that I have been working on over the years, sometimes with success, sometimes not. But I did step back in this situation, and did not push/suggest to John to do anything beyond what he wanted to do on his own. I just listened to him vent/process the situation, and was there for him as a friend.

After the dust settled from Rob’s departure, and it came time to hire a someone to replace him, I put your advice to use, and suggested certain things regarding vetting the new hire, and John followed all of my suggestions.

This is where the update takes an odd, but ultimately good turn. John hired someone to replace Rob, and they had great references, etc. Total rock star. I was thrilled, he was thrilled. Until…yeeeaah…it all went bad.

The new employee lasted just a month, before walking out mid-shift one day, and the reason for them doing so was that they decided the client account they were in charge of was “fake”. By this I mean they thought the practice, doctors, staff, and patients didn’t exist. Seeing as how I have been doing the billing for this client for years, have been in their office numerous times, know the doctors, staff, AND the patients…I was whopper-jawed. As was John. The whole situation was truly Kafkaesque/Twilight Zone material. John and I had a lot of discussions about this situation after it happened, and in the end, could only conclude that there were some personal issues going on with the employee, that caused them to quit like they did.

At that point, I recommended that John hire my former assistant office manager, who was looking for remote work, and he did. She came on board in October, and has been just as great at her new position for the billing company as she was when she worked at my office. All is well that ends well, and all is better than well at this point.

I also want to add that I found the “Ask A Manager” site shortly after the pandemic shut down in March 2020. I went from working 50 hours a week to 10, so I had a LOT of time on my hands, and spent it reading everything in your archive, as well as many of your book suggestions. : ) Since then, I have recommended AAM to numerous people, and it has made me a better manager. It is an invaluable site, and I am so grateful for the all the advice on it!

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the schedule for updates this year https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/the-schedule-for-updates-this-year.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/the-schedule-for-updates-this-year.html#comments Mon, 29 Nov 2021 18:29:42 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22862 This post, the schedule for updates this year , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A heads-up about update season: for the next few weeks I’ll be posting at midnight, 11 am, 12:30 pm, 2 pm, 3:30 pm, and 5 pm (all times are Eastern)* … as a minimum. There will sometimes be additional posts at 10:30 am and random times throughout the afternoon as well! We have a lot […]

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This post, the schedule for updates this year , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A heads-up about update season: for the next few weeks I’ll be posting at midnight, 11 am, 12:30 pm, 2 pm, 3:30 pm, and 5 pm (all times are Eastern)* … as a minimum. There will sometimes be additional posts at 10:30 am and random times throughout the afternoon as well!

We have a lot of updates.

Also, if you’ve had your letter answered here in the past and would like to send in an update, there’s still time to include it so go ahead and email it to me!

* That’s Monday through Thursday. Friday will be unpredictable.

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do I have to go to my office’s holiday Zoom happy hour? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/do-i-have-to-go-to-my-offices-holiday-zoom-happy-hour.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/do-i-have-to-go-to-my-offices-holiday-zoom-happy-hour.html#comments Mon, 29 Nov 2021 17:29:23 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22807 This post, do I have to go to my office’s holiday Zoom happy hour? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: Last year my company hosted a holiday Zoom “cocktail hour.” I didn’t attend since it was at 7 pm and at that time I am getting my kids ready for bed. I didn’t hear anything about it until mid-October this year. My boss emailed me directly and told me that the company […]

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This post, do I have to go to my office’s holiday Zoom happy hour? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

Last year my company hosted a holiday Zoom “cocktail hour.” I didn’t attend since it was at 7 pm and at that time I am getting my kids ready for bed. I didn’t hear anything about it until mid-October this year. My boss emailed me directly and told me that the company is planning another cocktail hour for the holiday party this year, and it “looked bad” that I wasn’t there last year.

I’m not in a senior-level high position. I work as a finance analyst in accounting. My day is typically from 7:30-5ish. I told my boss that the time of the cocktail hour does not work with my family schedule. If I were to participate, I would have to be logged into my computer in my house in the evening, which is hard because we have a small house and my office is in the living room. It would be too distracting and, frankly, not enjoyable.

Is this worth fighting? I feel like this is a weird “requirement” they are asking of me.

I answer this question over at Slate today, as well as:

  • Can I get just some of my team members gifts?
  • Attending a rowdy holiday party when no one knows I’m pregnant
  • What should I do if my company holiday dinner seems unsafe?
  • Can our company close for the holidays for a week and make us use vacation time for it?
  • Why aren’t my contractors welcome at the holiday party?

Head over there to read it.

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update: I think my assistant would be better at my job than I am https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/update-i-think-my-assistant-would-be-better-at-my-job-than-i-am.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/update-i-think-my-assistant-would-be-better-at-my-job-than-i-am.html#comments Mon, 29 Nov 2021 15:59:49 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22713 This post, update: I think my assistant would be better at my job than I am , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s the launch of “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager! Every day from now until the end of the year, I’ll be running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. We have so many updates this year that I’m going to be posting six to seven times a […]

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This post, update: I think my assistant would be better at my job than I am , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s the launch of “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager! Every day from now until the end of the year, I’ll be running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

We have so many updates this year that I’m going to be posting six to seven times a day for the next several weeks — so keep checking back throughout the entire day.

To kick us off…

Remember the letter-writer who thought her assistant would be better at her job than she was? Here’s the update.

It’s been about five months since I wrote my letter, and I’ve been on quite a mental journey since then. I did respond a little in the comments, and I wish I could have responded more. The outpouring of support was NOT what I expected. It was wonderful but overwhelming.

To be very honest, though, as nice as it was to read, I found myself discounting your response and the responses of the commentariat. I thought maybe I hadn’t explained myself well enough, and your response was based on a fundamental misread of the situation.

The first thing I did was have a heart to heart with Fergus about how he felt about his role. He told me frankly that he thought he wanted my job for awhile, and was on the verge of resigning when I offered him the promotion. Now that he’s seen it up close, though, he has realized he doesn’t want to do what I do. He said he loves coming up with ideas, bouncing them off me to sort out which ones to pursue, and then figure out how to make them happen together. He said, “I do my thing while you manage the children” (the C-suite). We also discussed his career goals and ambitions, and he said he doesn’t want to leave as long as he still feels like there’s work to be done here. He thinks we make a good team and he doesn’t want to work for someone else.

Then, he said something that really made me think. He said when I offered him the job, I told him “I want to give you the opportunity to be part of the solution.” He said that was what made the difference, made him decide to stay. He said it changed his attitude about how to look at problems, and he uses it himself with his own reports.

I thought… well, maybe Alison wasn’t crazy with what she said about my management abilities. I went back and re-read my letter and your response and the comments and I tried to really hear what you were saying.

A lot of the commenters mentioned imposter syndrome. I think I knew I had that, but also thought, doesn’t everyone? For me, the more pernicious aspect of my imposter syndrome is I thought I was promoted not just because I’m a woman, but just because I’m likable. If it was really based on merit, not personality, I reasoned, they should have picked Fergus.

When I expressed that in the comments, one commenter challenged me to analyze what being “likable” means in a work context. I did that, and I realized that people like me because I listen, I genuinely like other people, I’m diplomatic, I don’t lose my temper, I don’t have a big ego, and I want people to succeed.

I’ve also realized since then that I have good judgment and I’m not afraid to make hard decisions.

Seeing myself more clearly has helped me be better at my job. I see now that my self-doubt was interfering with my growth as a manager. Constantly thinking about what I thought I “should” be doing (coming up with Fergus-style Big Ideas) and feeling bad that I wasn’t, made me miss opportunities to do what I’m best at.

The phrase “servant leader” was mentioned in the comments, and that really resonated with me. I’ve decided to lean in to that, and value my approach as something not many people can do. It’s all still a work in progress, but it’s made all the difference in my confidence level. I’ll be forever grateful to you, Alison, and to all the commenters. I feel like a weight has been lifted, and I really mean that. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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my coworker is enraged that I call my cat “my baby,” my interviewer called me a schmuck, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/my-coworker-is-enraged-that-i-call-my-cat-my-baby-my-interviewer-called-me-a-schmuck-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/my-coworker-is-enraged-that-i-call-my-cat-my-baby-my-interviewer-called-me-a-schmuck-and-more.html#comments Mon, 29 Nov 2021 05:03:13 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22672 This post, my coworker is enraged that I call my cat “my baby,” my interviewer called me a schmuck, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

I’m on vacation. Here are some past letters that I’m making new again, rather than leaving them to wilt in the archives. 1. My coworker screamed at me for calling my cat “my baby” I am a woman in my early thirties and my partner and I are childless by choice. We do, however, have […]

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This post, my coworker is enraged that I call my cat “my baby,” my interviewer called me a schmuck, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

I’m on vacation. Here are some past letters that I’m making new again, rather than leaving them to wilt in the archives.

1. My coworker screamed at me for calling my cat “my baby”

I am a woman in my early thirties and my partner and I are childless by choice. We do, however, have a three-year-old cat we love very much.

Today at work while discussing plans for after work, I said that I had to swing by the pet store and pick up some more wet food because I can’t have my baby going hungry!” One of my coworkers, Jane, lost it. She screamed at me that a pet isn’t a child, it’s insulting to parents that I refer to him as such, and I’ll never understand what it means to be a parent. I was shocked into silence and she stalked off.

Later, I was called into a meeting with my supervisor. Apparently Jane had recently had a miscarriage (I honestly had no idea!) and she told my supervisor I was mocking her for it. Thankfully my supervisor knows me well enough that he was skeptical when she brought it up and enough people were around to corroborate the events.

I’m at a loss as to what to say to Jane, or if I should even say anything at all. I won’t pretend I understand how much pain she must be in, and if all she had done was yell at me I think I’d be willing to brush it off. But she went to my supervisor and lied and tried to get me in trouble.

So what do I do from here? Should I apologize to her even though I didn’t do anything wrong? Avoid her? Try to avoid call my cat my baby ever again? I’ve thought about asking my supervisor to document the fact that she lied in case it ever happens again and I need a record, but that seems incredibly cruel to do to a woman who’s already suffering so much.

I was prepared to be outraged at Jane, but grief can cause people to behave in really odd ways. I’m curious about what Jane is like aside from this. If she’s always seemed reasonable before now, I’d be inclined to figure that her grief made her really misunderstand your words (as opposed to her deliberately setting out to lie about you).

I don’t think you need to apologize. You didn’t say anything that it makes sense to apologize for. If she was okay with you knowing about the miscarriage, you could tell her that you didn’t mean to upset her and you know she’s going through a tough time. But assuming your manager told you that in confidence … I’m coming down on the side of just making sure that your manager is clear that you did nothing wrong (it sounds like that’s the case) and giving Jane a wide berth for a while. If anything else like this happens, at that point go back to your manager to problem-solve because you can’t walk on eggshells around Jane forever, but for now I’d assume this was was one bad incident but won’t become a pattern (until and unless it does).

2018

2. I overheard my interviewer calling me a schmuck

I seemed to really hit it off with an interviewer during my final interview. I even had pretty good rapport with them prior to the final interview and was more than accommodating when they needed to reschedule this final interview and a previous phone interview. They walked me out of the building after the interview was over and even then we had a pleasant conversation, which is why I find it odd that as soon as I got outside I heard this person loudly refer to me as a “schmuck.” I’m not sure that they meant for me to hear this or how they came to feel this way about me, but I heard it just the same. The question is now should I simply ignore it and pretend I didn’t hear it, or is it something that should be a deal-breaker in terms of me working for this person and this company?

I wrote back to this letter-writer and asked whether it was possible the interviewer was talking to someone else (like jokingly calling it out to a coworker). He said:

There was no one else around and I was the last person they were speaking to, so I assume it was about me. They appeared to say it out loud to themselves as though they were thinking it. I suppose they could have been referring to the other interviewer, who was sort of obnoxious and really hung up on my lack of direct experience though I do possess a lot of easily transferable skills. But I kind of doubt it. When I turned around to look, the person was standing alone at the window. Their context is also open for debate; they may have been annoyed/angry about something I said or did or even something I didn’t do or say that maybe they felt I should have or may simply think me a fool for wanting to work there.

This is so weird, and I can understand why you’re taken aback! If there were someone else around, my money would be on them joking to that person and it not being about you at all. But given the context you described … I have no idea! I mean, best case scenario, they were chastising themselves (“You schmuck! You forgot to ask about Excel skills!”) or cursing someone else (“That schmuck Fergus! He never showed up for his part of the interview!”) … but that feels like a stretch. On the other hand, it also feels like a stretch that an interviewer would have been so bursting to insult you that they’d do it like this.

If they really did mean it toward you, they’re probably not going to offer you the job (at least not if they’re the final decision-maker), so at least there’s that. If someone else is the decider, though, then yeah, I’d be wary. In that case, pay a lot of attention to the other cues you’ve gotten and will continue to get about what the manager is like, what the culture is like there more broadly, and how well you think you fit what they’re looking for. Maybe the interviewer called you a schmuck, maybe they didn’t, and we probably can’t know for sure — so really leaning hard on the other stuff you see is the way to go.

2017

3. When your boss is at the next table during your dinner interview

I’ve been curious about something for a while, and when you answered the question about Princess Peach, I thought of a question that I wanted to ask you about Rachel from Friends: In season 10, episode 14 of Friends, The One with Princess Consuela, Rachel has a job interview at a restaurant. When she gets to the restaurant, her current boss is having dinner there at the table right beside Rachel’s. Rachel tells her current boss,”I’m on a date!” and when her potential employer shows up, she tries to carry on the lie:

Potential Employer: Your resume is quite impressive.
Rachel: I don’t know if I’d call my online dating profile a resume.

When the interviewer becomes confused, Rachel tries to hint that her current boss is at the table beside theirs, to no avail. The scene ends, and we find out later that Rachel didn’t get the new job and got fired from her old one for “not being a team player.”

What I’ve always wondered is, what could Rachel possibly have done to salvage this situation?

She could have gotten up from the table, met her interviewer at the front of the restaurant (so not within earshot of her boss), and quietly said, “I have a very awkward situation here — my current boss, who doesn’t know I’m talking with you, is sitting right over there. Would it be possible to go somewhere else so that we can talk openly?”

But Rachel wasn’t ever really a paragon of sound professional judgment (see: hiring Tag, sleeping with Tag).

2015

4. Can I say something to my friend’s boss about how overworked she is?

I’m hoping you can give me some advice on how to handle a situation. A close friend of mine is totally overworked: 70+ hours at her demanding job plus another 20+ hours a week taking classes.

Lately she’s been so stressed that she can’t sleep, can’t eat, and is now throwing up from anxiety. While I think there are some larger issues at work about why she chooses to do this to herself, in the meantime I’m worried about her health.

Her boss has no idea that she’s working so much — and knowing her boss, he would be upset about it. To be honest, my friend brings a lot of this on herself, simply taking on too many projects and not delegating when appropriate. She doesn’t seem willing to make the changes to simply work “only” 50 hours a week.

I hate seeing my friend do this to herself. My questions are what you might suggest I say to her, and if you think it’s out of line to mention it to her boss (who I know socially from before they worked together).

Ooooh, no, you can’t say something to her boss. That would be interfering in her professional life; that’s totally off-limits to you. She is a grown-up, and you have to respect her to ability to handle her working life herself. You can disagree with her choices, but you can’t overrule them by going over her head. It doesn’t matter that you know the boss socially; this one just isn’t yours to intervene in like that.

All you can really do here is to be a friend to her: Express concern, tell her what you’re seeing, ask if she’s happy with how things are and, if she’s not, what she thinks she could do to change them. You could also share your opinion that her boss would want to know how much she’s working. But that’s really it.

2015

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weekend open thread – November 27-28, 2021 https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/weekend-open-thread-november-27-28-2021.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/weekend-open-thread-november-27-28-2021.html#comments Sat, 27 Nov 2021 05:15:43 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22637 This post, weekend open thread – November 27-28, 2021 , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand. Here are the rules for the weekend posts. Book recommendation of the week:  The Last Thing He Told Me, by Laura Dave. A woman’s husband disappears under mysterious circumstances, leaving her alone with her stepdaughter and a series […]

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This post, weekend open thread – November 27-28, 2021 , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand.

Here are the rules for the weekend posts.

Book recommendation of the week:  The Last Thing He Told Me, by Laura Dave. A woman’s husband disappears under mysterious circumstances, leaving her alone with her stepdaughter and a series of emerging clues that he wasn’t who he said he was.

 I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

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open thread – November 26-27, 2021 https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/open-thread-november-26-27-2021.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/open-thread-november-26-27-2021.html#comments Fri, 26 Nov 2021 14:00:24 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22625 This post, open thread – November 26-27, 2021 , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about (that includes school). If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers. * […]

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This post, open thread – November 26-27, 2021 , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about (that includes school). If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please do not repost it here, as it may be in my queue to answer.

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Thanksgiving free-for-all – November 25, 2021 https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/thanksgiving-free-for-all-november-25-2021.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/thanksgiving-free-for-all-november-25-2021.html#comments Thu, 25 Nov 2021 13:00:29 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22664 This post, Thanksgiving free-for-all – November 25, 2021 , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

This comment section is open for any discussion (work or non-work) you’d like to have with other readers. Happy Thanksgiving!

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This post, Thanksgiving free-for-all – November 25, 2021 , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

This comment section is open for any discussion (work or non-work) you’d like to have with other readers.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Thanksgiving eve open thread https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/thanksgiving-eve-open-thread-4.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/thanksgiving-eve-open-thread-4.html#comments Wed, 24 Nov 2021 21:59:22 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22665 This post, Thanksgiving eve open thread , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Share your holiday angst or joy in this special Thanksgiving eve non-work open thread.

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This post, Thanksgiving eve open thread , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Share your holiday angst or joy in this special Thanksgiving eve non-work open thread.2 cats dressed as a pilgrim and turkey

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the determined thief, the cranberry usurper, and other work potlucks gone wrong https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/the-determined-thief-the-cranberry-usurper-and-other-stories-of-potlucks-at-work.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/the-determined-thief-the-cranberry-usurper-and-other-stories-of-potlucks-at-work.html#comments Wed, 24 Nov 2021 18:59:37 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22624 This post, the determined thief, the cranberry usurper, and other work potlucks gone wrong , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

As Americans prepare for a ton of eating this week, here are 10 of my favorite stories you shared about potlucks and other food gatherings at work earlier this month. 1. The banana bread “I managed a department of about 15 people. One lady was extremely proud (and vocal) regarding her banana bread (this was […]

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This post, the determined thief, the cranberry usurper, and other work potlucks gone wrong , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

As Americans prepare for a ton of eating this week, here are 10 of my favorite stories you shared about potlucks and other food gatherings at work earlier this month.

1. The banana bread

“I managed a department of about 15 people. One lady was extremely proud (and vocal) regarding her banana bread (this was years before Covid and the national obsession of baking banana bread). Once, I joined the conversation and mentioned my mother also had a wonderful recipe my family loves. I will spare you the details, but within a day or so, I found myself embroiled in Bananagate as the Manager Who Cruelly Insisted Her Recipe Was Better. The only way to settle it was a bake-off, which I tried mightily to nix (my staff was an unhappy bunch, no need to poke a bear … or baker). My director saw an opportunity to bond, and said I needed to participate.

It was just the two of us, and no offense intended, even after all these years, but her bread was bad. Real bad. Black crust, liquid center (how is that even possible?). I will sheepishly admit I might have baked a half-dozen loaves, because the weight of my family’s place in banana bread history was riding on this. Of the six, I brought the best-lookin’ one to work. It was no contest, really – mine was judged superior. I was modest and humble and said next to nothing.

My fellow baker/staff member was incensed and being the most vocal member of the (union) department, called her rep to complain. The grounds? My “sway” with the staff (I had no sway, they hated me) gave me an unfair advantage, which was the only reason I won. The union, needing to do due diligence, phoned me for my ‘side.’ I had so many real issues to deal with, Bananagate needed to be put to rest quickly, so I told them to just have their baker/member bring in a loaf and then, call me. I heard later that she did provide a loaf to them … but they never called me again.”

2. The determined thief

“OldWork used to order tons of food for events so they could bring out the leftovers the next day. It was all food that would still be awesome the next day like Mexican, pasta, and BBQ. But then the leftovers were disappearing from the fridge overnight. I’m talking about dozens of catering trays of food were being taken by someone going into the office after hours.

It got so bad that they installed a lock on the catering fridge to prevent the theft of the food. The lock was broken off and the fridge damaged the first night it was installed. I guess if you’re going to all that trouble to steal food, you aren’t going to let a lock stand in your way.”

3. The missed point

“The most awkward company meeting I ever sat through was when the branch manager had to address our entire staff over the people who would blatantly pack up plates and plates of food for their families before anyone else got any food at any event. One staff member stood up and shouted, ‘So I can’t feed my kids??!!’ and the meeting devolved into arguments between food packers and party planners from there.”

4. The warm gooey

“This happened about a decade ago. Not exactly a potluck, we were having a special dinner for my team to celebrate successfully navigating the high profile opening of the theme park attraction we all worked at. A VP was putting it on (he was VERY senior to us, we were front line, just for context) and I ended up sitting next to him. There was a dessert on the menu that was called something like ‘Warm and Gooey Chocolate Cake,’ which I ordered. Once it arrived and I was digging in, the VP leaned over to me and breathily whispered right into my ear ‘…how’s that warm gooey?’ He was like 35 years my senior. I was so grossed out that I immediately lost my appetite and to this day my best friend (who was also on that team) and I will creepily ask each other ‘how’s that warm gooey’ at like … the grossest, most inopportune moments (like, we used to work at a theme park, and I might ask her this as she was cleaning up vomit). I don’t know what he was doing, I don’t know if he was hitting on me or being intentionally creepy OR thought he was just asking a normal question in a normal way? I don’t know. But the words ‘warm’ and ‘gooey’ used together in any context still skeeve me out.”

5. The stew

“Our department used to have a huge holiday potluck every year. One coworker would always bring the same thing every year, a certain stew. But it wasn’t enough that he brought it; he hyped it up. Like, he’d send emails beforehand to the whole department alerting everyone that he was bringing his stew! On the morning of the potluck, he’d let everyone know what time the stew would be arriving! And send a special email thanking everyone that helped him do his job, and the stew was his repayment. It was like he believed the entire potluck revolved around his stew. (It didn’t.)

Thing is, I don’t think anyone actually liked the stew. I think the only people who tried it were new people to the department that hadn’t tried it before.”

6. The gravy

“Some years ago I was working at a nonprofit that held an annual Thanksgiving potluck. It was great – the company provided the turkey and we all brought in sides and desserts, and there was always a ton of delicious food. Well, one year I was in line behind a coworker, Jane, who was serving herself turkey and gravy when she lost her grip and somehow, I’m not sure how, caused a plume of gravy to rocket up to the ceiling and then arc inexorably down onto the president of the organization. It was probably his first week on the job, he was extremely cool about it. Jane nearly died of embarrassment, however.

There was still a gravy stain on that ceiling when the nonprofit relocated a few years later.”

7. The brisket

“The grossest work potluck story is from a potluck I was not invited to, but which became legendary. Backstory: When I worked the night shift at the IRS, we shared our desks with the workers on day shift. The desks were designed with 2 locking overhead shelves so that we could lock away our personal items and work materials at the end of our shift.

One night, my coworker complained that there was BLOOD dripping into his desk from his day shift desk mate’s locked shelf. Our manager was as upset as he was, but since no one had a key, we had to resign ourselves to sending a sternly worded email to the daytime manager to please look into what was going on, and coworker was allowed to move desks for the night.

It took a couple days, but gradually we found out the blood was from an uncooked brisket that the daytime worker had left locked in his desk shelf. Apparently, his team had a potluck scheduled the next day, so he decided to leave the meat (unrefrigerated!) overnight. The next morning, he showed up with a crockpot and proceeded to season and cook the brisket in the crockpot. In the meantime, the daytime manager came by to enquire about the emailed complaint that she’d received from the night manager, but daytime worker just shrugged and offered up no details. HE ENDED UP SERVING THE BRISKET TO HIS WHOLE TEAM!

Daytime manager ended up staying late to talk to nighttime manager when she came in, and that’s when the pieces were put together. Daytime worker was sternly lectured, but suffered no other consequences. I don’t know how many people at that potluck suffered gastrointestinal distress, but it makes me nauseated just thinking about it!”

8. The ziplocs

“Once upon a time I worked for a federal agency. Federal lifers are an eccentric lot, but this one guy was amazing when it came to potlucks. We got paid well, and he was in the higher salary bracket, so I’m not really sure why he needed to race in every potluck and overload his plates, then grab extras. If you weren’t fast enough, food would be all squirreled away at his desk. It never made sense because he’d eat out every day at the local spots so it wasn’t a money thing.

He was then moved to another office across the facility so suddenly everything went back to normal until he had to deliver something to our office. It was a potluck day, and there was a spaghetti feed going on. Since he could no longer pile up food at his old desk, he instead grabbed 3 gallon ziplock bags, and took. a pair of tongs and literally filled three gallons of spaghetti that other staff had made and brought.

Nobody dared say anything due to his position, while they watched in motion until the old admin that nobody crossed finally came in and told him to get out before he could get a 4th gallon of spaghetti.”

9. The cranberry usurper

“In the pre-Covid days we had a Thanksgiving potluck. I signed up to bring pumpkin pie bars.

Well, I was doing my potluck cooking while also doing my Friendsgiving cooking, making my pie and some cranberry sauce at the same time. In a moment where I forgot how measurements worked I ended up making an absurd amount of cranberry sauce – just over 2 gallons. Friendsgiving was small (6 people) and my family is small (5 people) so I figured I’d pack up half the sauce and bring it to the work potluck since I had it.

This was the wrong decision.

Our office manager had apparently signed up for cranberry sauce and HOW DARE I try to take over her item. She gave the expected greeting to the potluck lunch, burst into tears and then called me out for ‘being disrespectful’ and ‘humiliating her’ and asked me to please come up and throw away my ‘usurper cranberries.’

I did go put them at my desk because WTF but also people still talk about this.”

10. Something nicer

“One of our coworkers was a daughter of a Laotian immigrant who taught traditional cooking classes at the local community center. Her spring rolls were legendary. The daughter would always bring a large tray – enough for at least 1 per person if not 2 – of them to the annual all-company holiday potluck (300 people). You could always tell when her dish arrived – first you would hear murmurs, then a dull roar, an email would go out, and then a stampede down stairwell. Even people who usually abstained from the potluck would go down and get at least one.

One year…she and the precious spring rolls weren’t there. We found out the mom was in a bad car accident a couple days prior and was not expected to make it so daughter was at her bedside. A collection was taken and PTO was donated (company matched all offerings) and mom sadly passed after a few more days (shortly before Christmas).

First day the company was open after New Year’s there is a commotion at the front door. This employee and her entire family came to the main entrance with THOUSANDS of these spring rolls for the employees as a thank you for donations and financial/PTO assistance. We feasted. I happened to work in the department next to hers and for several months following, whenever she was missing her mother she made those spring rolls and brought some in to share with our floor. I left there 2 years ago but timed my last day to coincide with the annual potluck so I would have one last chance at those spring rolls.”

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the bootleg CDs, the rare books department, and other stories of holiday mayhem https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/the-bootleg-cds-the-rare-books-department-and-other-stories-of-holiday-mayhem.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/the-bootleg-cds-the-rare-books-department-and-other-stories-of-holiday-mayhem.html#comments Wed, 24 Nov 2021 17:29:39 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22788 This post, the bootleg CDs, the rare books department, and other stories of holiday mayhem , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

All this week I’m going to be sharing holiday stories from years past. Here are 12 more. 1. The flush “It was my first holiday party at my office fresh out of undergrad, and with my hearty Irish heritage I am prone to 1) generally ferocious rosacea and 2) an especially vivid red flush after […]

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This post, the bootleg CDs, the rare books department, and other stories of holiday mayhem , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

All this week I’m going to be sharing holiday stories from years past. Here are 12 more.

1. The flush

“It was my first holiday party at my office fresh out of undergrad, and with my hearty Irish heritage I am prone to 1) generally ferocious rosacea and 2) an especially vivid red flush after my first drink. I arrived to the party late because I’d walked form work (it was at a hotel conference room area), met with friends, and grabbed a glass of wine. Pretty much immediately after finishing the glass I got my customary alcohol flush.

One of my coworkers (the office front desk manager, so she’d been involved with the whole party, like ordering food, etc) had been drinking way too much at this point, and was already pretty drunk. We wound up in the bathroom washing our hands at the same time. ‘Oh my god, you’re so red,’ she said. I tried to play it off (‘haha yeah, this happens all the time, definitely not something I spend literal hundreds of dollars at dermatologists before I found out it was genetic’), and she goes, ‘Are you allergic to something? Are you having a reaction?’

I tried to tell her it was just my face but she lost her mind. She was positive I was allergic to something. I finally escaped but she kept finding me periodically over the span of probably the next half hour or so, and every time she got more freaked out that I was having an allergic reaction. Her reactions went from slightly worried but having too much fun to think about it to grabbing my cheeks and feeling my pulse. Finally I thought I lost her by hiding with some friends in a corner.

NOT SO. Fifteen minutes later I’m over at the table pondering which cake slice to take when this woman appears with an epi-pen clutched precariously in her fist, pulls me around by my shoulder, and tries to LIFT MY DRESS UP to get to my thigh!! I’m scrambling away, she’s too drunk (thank god) to actually be effective at stabbing me with adrenaline I DON’T NEED, and worst of all because she got me by surprise she hoisted a decent bit of my dress up and all my colleagues saw least a good portion of my cheeks, framed tastefully by the the red velvet and vanilla cake options on the dessert table behind me.

My company handled it really well – called a car for her to go home, followed up with me then and there, and had separate meetings with us on Monday, as the party was on a Friday evening. Her intentions were honestly good (if not soaked in alcohol) and given the weekend I was beginning to find it funny that I’d effectively mooned all the higher ups and they had to be professional about it, so in the end I think she just went through some sensitivity training. She was also MORTIFIED, apologized nonstop for the next week, etc. I’m no longer at that job but what an intro to the world of Corporate Christmas Parties.”

2. The Christmas countdown

“I once had a coworker who lodged a complaint with her manager’s manager that her manager was making her take her hours to Christmas countdown (yes hours, not days) off a whiteboard that was needed for something else. Wasn’t even like it was the week before Christmas at that point, pretty sure it was at least a month before. She was getting up and changing it a few times a day.”

3. The mushroom casserole

“My first ever work holiday party (for a small elementary school, at the principal’s house) was crazy. I had gone back and forth over whether or not it was appropriate to bring a bottle of wine along with our potluck contribution. I decided not to. Our admin was already drunk when we arrived. Throughout the night several people got very drunk, another teacher hit on my partner in front of everyone, and my coworker’s spouse got into a weird argument about dogs with the principal. One guest had brought a mushroom casserole, which he admitted was entirely foraged from the woods by the school- after everyone had eaten it. The highlight of the night was a preschool teacher’s husband dropping his pants to show off an almost life-size, full color tattoo of the cast of a certain Netflix original scifi 80’s show. The inebriated admin disappeared halfway through the party and from what I heard spent the night in the principal’s daughter’s bed (she was away at college). If anyone from said school is reading this, I’m sorry for spilling the beans, and I had a GREAT time :)”

4. The frozen boobs

“One time I worked at a government agency where the head of HR was a reformed alcoholic who had found religion and was thus now very religious whilst also being teetotal. Every year before the party we’d get an email about how under employment law the party was an extension of the workplace and bad behaviour would not be tolerated, etc. etc. She wasn’t very well liked in the office for other reasons but no one hated her and often she didn’t come to the parties as she found them too rowdy.

The year her marriage broke up she came and got so drunk at the party she flashed her boobs over the metal railings of this rooftop bar we were at…..and because of the snow/light rain the side of one of her boobs fused to the railing (kinda like if you lick something frozen and your tongue gets stuck!). Seeing her two (female!) HR admins blowing on her boob to release it whilst shielding her modesty with scarves is a sight that will never leave me.”

5. The holiday party tears

“Our Christmas party planning (once again) ended in tears over an argument about whether body-part-shaped gummy candy was an appropriate table decoration. It was apparently Halloween candy (think bloody zombie arms and legs).

For reasons which I dare not know, there is a small contingent of people in my department who all have strong personalities, strong opinions, and no chill. Everyone hates each other, but they all must be on the various party planning committees. Our fall potluck was simultaneously ‘sports jersey,’ ‘Halloween,’ and ‘Richard Nixon’-themed because I accidentally ended up in charge and did not have the energy to veto anything.”

6. The unintended message

“When I first started college I got an on-campus job so I mainly worked with other students. As an 18-year-old freshman, I was the youngest person there, and most of the other student workers were between 3-5 years older than me. There was a guy Fergus who was one of the older student workers and I remember thinking that he was very cool and I was much less worldly than he was. He had mentioned going camping several times so I also was impressed that he was outdoorsy (I was easily impressed at the time, and clearly pretty sheltered).

We would all attend the same parties and one weekend Fergus was having a birthday party and he invited everyone from work. I was excited to be invited to the party and went to get him a small birthday present. Since I was too young to buy a bottle of wine and didn’t have a lot of money I went to a store that sold novelty shot glasses because that was the only thing I could think of.

I saw a shot glass that said ‘I Hunt Beaver’ with a picture of a beaver on it and since I was so naive and sheltered I took it at face value and thought it was perfect because he was into “the outdoors” and I assumed that meant hunting. This was also during the time that everyone had “vintage” t-shirts that had random expressions. I did NOT know the other lewd and true meaning of the statement.

So I bought that obscene shot glass and gave it to him at the party in front of people. I remember he looked a bit perplexed but I didn’t think anything of it until another coworker told me what it meant and I was so mortified that I really don’t even remember much about that night afterward and I was too embarrassed to explain to him. I think I avoided him at work for a good two months afterward. Shudder.”

7. The mistaken gift

“At my first job, we had a secret Santa and my friend drew my name. On the day of the event, he accidentally brought his boyfriend’s gift instead of the one for me. We get to the point where folks are opening gifts and he realizes his mistake. He literally tackled me like he was jumping on a grenade to stop me from opening the gift. The gift was a holiday themed butt plug. He explained, apologized, and brought my gift the next day.”

8. The dog brush

“So my supervisor and his wife are known for the big annual holiday party they host at their home: great food, great booze, and lots of interesting conversations/stories/gossip (academia). For the first two years I worked with them I had missed their party to visit my inlaws for the holidays, but the third year the party was held a week early so I was able to go with my husband. Now, all of the people I work for and with are really nice to start with, so we were given a warm welcome and glass of wine as soon as we walked in the door. THEN everyone learned that it also happened to be my birthday that day, and pretty much EVERYONE decided they needed to bring me a drink or do a shot with me to celebrate. I got hammered pretty quickly. Fortunately, my husband was there to be my designated driver and keep an eye on me while I gave a passionate speech about how much I loved my job, and had one of those ‘You’re so amazing! No YOU’RE so amazing! I love you so much! No, girl I love YOU so much!’ conversations with a similarly smashed colleague. I then discovered my supervisor’s ancient and adorable golden retriever, shouted ‘Somebody get me a brush for this dog!’ and spent the last hour or two (?) of the evening cuddling and brushing him, telling my boss that I was going to kidnap his dog (I didn’t) and that this was the BEST BIRTHDAY EVER! Not gonna lie, it is still, in fact, one of my favorite birthdays.”

9. The bootleg CDs

“In the mid-2000s, I was a receptionist for the C-level suite. For some reason, the exec who was in charge of holiday gifts for staff that year decided I needed to help them instead of their assistant. I was directed to make bootleg copies of Josh Groban’s Christmas album, complete with a custom sticker on the CD and CD case with our company logo and ‘Happy Holidays!’ on it for every one of our employees. I created the sticker and case artwork and sent it over to exec for approval. They decided they wanted to make their own… using WordArt and such. It was awful.”

10. The rare books department

“I’ve changed up a couple of details from this being super recognizable, but I used to work in a rare books department in a library. People who work in rare books tend to have pretty esoteric passions that lead them there, and these were always on full display at said party. My favorite selections from over the years:

-The brand new head of the department wanted to show off a bit at his first Christmas party, give a speech… and sing ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ with his 21-year-old, fresh out of college secretary. I was on the party planning committee and tried to veto it politely by asking an HR assistant (also on the committee) who sang part-time in a professional choir if he’d prefer to lead everyone in some secular holiday songs instead, but the secretary thought I was insulting her singing ability, angrily told me that she’d been singing since she was a little girl, and burst into tears. The meeting then awkwardly ended.

(In the end, we printed out the lyrics to ‘Let It Snow’ and had a very, very bad a cappella sing-along after the bar had been open for a while.)

-Staff members made medieval hot possets based on a recipe found in a book in the library. Possets are basically cream, egg, spices, and white wine. I didn’t care for the taste since the medieval palate is very different from the modern one, but others did, and didn’t realize how much wine was in the recipe. One of the fellows I only vaguely knew by sight got extremely drunk. He broke the thermostat off the wall, looked at it confusedly, and then in what I can only describe as ‘a Mr. Bean-esque fashion’ stuck it back on the wall. Surprisingly it held there long enough for me to fetch facilities.

-I wasn’t here for this one, but after the posset incident, I heard about a previous party where staff members decided to make a Victorian flaming punch bowl, one where you mix of bunch of different spirits together and stick a sugar cone in it, then set the cone on fire. Fire, sugar, and the Victorian equivalent of a Long Island Iced Tea? What could go wrong?

Quite a bit! As soon as they set the sugar cone on fire, the whole thing went up in a FWOOM of flame and the curtains behind the punchbowl caught fire. I always got different answers about what happened next– either the sprinkler system went off, or someone fetched the emergency fire extinguisher from the break room, or possibly both– but that staff party ended very early, and with no one eating or drinking anything.”

11. The incident

“One year, after an (I thought) perfectly normal Christmas party, we received a company-wide email stating that alcohol would now be banned at company events due to “the incident.” I asked around, and it turned out that one of the guys from another department, who everyone had assumed had just left early, had actually… not done that. Instead, his supervisor noticed that his car was still in the parking lot two hours after he’d ‘left,’ and gotten concerned. She eventually found him passed out on the floor in the breakroom, naked.”

12. The rescued rib

“My office had a fancy holiday party that had a huge table of sushi and other fancy finger-food appetizers. Enough to feed an army, and constantly replenished by the catering staff. Well…

Someone dropped a barbecue short rib appetizer on the floor, sauce-side down. That person walked away and grabbed a fresh one from the table. A different coworker came along, saw the floor-food, picked it up AND ATE IT like it was the most normal thing in the world.”

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I didn’t know my former coworker was so disliked and now I’m worried https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/i-didnt-know-my-former-coworker-was-so-disliked-and-now-im-worried.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/i-didnt-know-my-former-coworker-was-so-disliked-and-now-im-worried.html#comments Wed, 24 Nov 2021 15:59:34 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22794 This post, I didn’t know my former coworker was so disliked and now I’m worried , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I work for a fairly small department at a large organization. The person I worked with most often, “Chris,” recently took on a different position in another department. Unfortunately, I was a little skeptical of the move because I didn’t think Chris would like the position as much as he thought he […]

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This post, I didn’t know my former coworker was so disliked and now I’m worried , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I work for a fairly small department at a large organization. The person I worked with most often, “Chris,” recently took on a different position in another department. Unfortunately, I was a little skeptical of the move because I didn’t think Chris would like the position as much as he thought he would and I was right — he’s now actively trying to return to his former position a few weeks after starting his new job. The problem is that nobody wants him back.

Now, normally I wouldn’t make this my problem, but its got me a little worried. Even though I worked one-on-one with Chris for years before he left, it seems like everyone else, including our supervisor and department chair, wanted him out. I knew Chris had some flaws — he was unfocused, managed his time poorly, and delegated most of his tasks to other people. But I had no idea that seemingly everyone in the department is happy he’s gone, and I don’t think Chris knows either. He continues to “visit” our department, finding time to have one-on-one meetings with our former boss, even though the department he works for does not interact with ours at all. I think he’s trying to get his old job back. My direct supervisor has informed me personally that she has been telling Chris the position is filled, even though it isn’t (we haven’t had a single applicant).

This has me concerned about my own position in the department. My coworkers have kept quiet on their opinions of Chris until now, so now I’m wondering how people feel about ME! Every time someone gripes about Chris, I kind of joke that “I hope no one else talks about me like this!” My coworkers always assure me that there is no issue with me, but based on how they acted before and after Chris left, I’m a little paranoid!

So, I have two questions:
1. Do I tell Chris that our managers are intentionally being deceptive and stonewalling him?
2. Should I be concerned that my other coworkers are complaining about me behind my back? How can I address it?

If you’d said that Chris was lovely to work with and always pitched in, I’d be more concerned about what’s going on in your department. But Chris “was unfocused, managed his time poorly, and delegated most of his tasks to other people” … it’s not surprising that people don’t want him to come back!

It also doesn’t sound like your coworkers erupted into a festival of complaints about Chris as soon as he left. It sounds like they’ve been reasonably discreet about their feelings and it’s only coming out now because he’s trying to return and they have understandable qualms about that.

So I don’t see any reason to worry that your coworkers are complaining about you behind your back (unless, of course, you are a similarly difficult package of traits yourself).

The bigger problem sounds like your manager! She apparently didn’t deal with these Chris problems for years (which is awfully negligent as a manager) and now she’s lying to him about something easily disproven rather than having an honest conversation about why he can’t return. That means that you and others on your team can’t trust her to give you candid feedback about your work, and you can’t trust her to manage other people well either. She apparently just … doesn’t do it.

But I wouldn’t tell Chris that she’s lying to him. I get the impetus to say something to him because it sucks to see someone treated that way! But you don’t have standing to overrule your manager (and you wouldn’t necessarily be able to rely on Chris to keep it quiet that you were his source if you did tell him). What you can do, though, is to urge your manager to be straight with him, and point out that she’s doing Chris no favors by hiding his performance issues from him.

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manager wants to monitor my personal goals, when a client introduces his mistress, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/manager-wants-to-monitor-my-personal-goals-when-a-client-introduces-his-mistress-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/manager-wants-to-monitor-my-personal-goals-when-a-client-introduces-his-mistress-and-more.html#comments Wed, 24 Nov 2021 05:03:06 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22806 This post, manager wants to monitor my personal goals, when a client introduces his mistress, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. Our manager wants to monitor our goals for our personal lives I recently started a new job where employees are expected to set regular goals and check in with managers about their progress. Although I find the task kind of annoying, I totally get why […]

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This post, manager wants to monitor my personal goals, when a client introduces his mistress, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. Our manager wants to monitor our goals for our personal lives

I recently started a new job where employees are expected to set regular goals and check in with managers about their progress. Although I find the task kind of annoying, I totally get why it’s a thing and am happy to set goals related to my job performance, learning new skills, etc. The problem is we’re also expected to set goals for our personal life (starting a new hobby, places you want to travel, etc.) and check in with management on their progress. This feels like a weird blurring of work-life balance to me. I want the freedom to set (or not set) personal goals without worrying about updating my boss on their progress.

My employer places a high value on culture fit, so I’m concerned that pushing back on this ask will get me labelled as someone with a bad attitude/not a team player. Is it worth telling my manager I don’t want to be accountable to them for what I do off the clock, or should I just set some goals and lie about their progress to my superiors?

This is a huge overstep from your employer! It’s none of their business what goals you have in your personal life, or whether you have personal goals at all, or whether you meet them or not. What if the only personal goals you have are highly intimate ones, like drinking less, separating from your controlling parents, or divorcing your spouse? Are you supposed to make up less personal ones to fulfill the terms of this exercise? Or what if you, like many people, don’t have any particular goals in your personal life at the moment? Are you supposed to pretend you want to, I don’t know, eat more vegetables just to satisfy your manager? And even if you do have personal goals that aren’t particularly intimate — like walking daily or reading more — it’s still none of your employer’s business and it’s wildly inappropriate for your manager to expect to check in with you about them.

Whether or not to push back or play along depends on your sense of how your boss will respond, but you should be able to say something like, “I’m happy to check in on progress toward work goals, but I’m not comfortable bringing personal goals into work. So I’m going to keep this process focused on professional goals.”

But if you think it’ll be a big deal or you don’t want to spend the capital on it, there’s no shame in just making up some fake but bland goals (cleaning closets, learning to knit, whatever it is). Or hell, you could come up with some machiavellian goals — “I really need to improve my work/life balance and carve out time for a real vacation — can you help with that?” More here.

2. When a client introduces you to his mistress

This is a story about my friend who for 10 years has been a guest attendant in a hotel. Mr. X is a frequent traveler and a loyal guest at the hotel, and he often brings his wife. My friend and Mr. X became friends and comfortable with each other. One day, Mr X checked in with a woman who he introduced as his girlfriend and asked my friend to keep it a secret between them. What should my friend do?

If they were friends separate from work, your friend would have standing to tell Mr. X that cheating on his wife (if indeed that’s what he’s doing) isn’t okay, and he could decide to back off from the friendship if he felt that he couldn’t in good faith continue it. But this sounds more like a work relationship, where he’s encountering Mr. X as a client of his employer. Given that, there’s not really anything he can do here. He doesn’t have standing to alert Mr. X’s wife or lecture Mr. X on his behavior (and he’d be doing that as a representative of his employer, and his employer almost certainly wouldn’t be on board with that). He can pull back to a more professional relationship with him if he’d like to, but that’s about the only realistic option available.

3. How to apologize for ghosting my employer when I was in a bad place mentally

I got my first job out of college a year ago. I took it because I wanted to have a job, even if the salary and benefits were subpar for my field, and initially I enjoyed it. But it required me to move away from my college friends and my family, live alone in a suburban area as the pandemic was ramping up, and work in an office where people were cordial but not terribly friendly.

I made it four months or so before I started to break down. My work was solitary, I’ve been wrestling with depression for almost a decade now (wow), and I didn’t have the support structures in place that I’d left behind at school and at home. So I started racking up unexplained absences from work that I’d try and pass off after the fact with terrible excuses, when the truth was that I was just miserable at home and getting washed up to go be a functioning person at work felt like it was off the table. The response from senior personnel was concern, not anger, and at least one person was aware I wasn’t doing so well emotionally, which I’m really thankful for.

By the time I realized I probably shouldn’t have taken the job in the first place, I was unhappy enough that I just wanted the whole situation to go away. I know a lot of people do absurd things when they’re in a bad place mental-health-wise, and I was no exception; at the time, it seemed like my best option would be to ghost my employer (not kidding) instead of trying to explain anything. I got fired (obviously), paid back my retention bonus, and ran away home, concluding the saga of my first “real job” in just about the worst way possible.

But all of that is in the past, and it’s my albatross to haul around from here on out. My question is just, how do I go about apologizing for all of that, now that I’ve reached the stage of “cleaning up after yourself post-mental-health-meltdown”? I just want to write and say sorry for my series of bad decisions but … how do you write a letter like that? What’s appropriate to include? How much information would my former management/coworkers even want? I don’t want to sound like I’m making excuses; I don’t want to make excuses, because even if I wanted to blame my mental health for all of it, I made the decision to take the job in the first place. Does anyone I worked with actually want to read an apology letter like that, or are they all over it by now, given that it’s been months?

You don’t have to send an apology, but I’m sure an explanation would be appreciated — both because people were probably worried about you and so they have the right context when they look back on what happened. You don’t need to go into a ton of detail; you could simply explain that you were dealing with some difficulties outside of work (you could specify “health issues” if you wanted to, since mental health is health) and handled it badly and you apologize for causing them concern, you appreciate the efforts they made at the time, and you’re now doing better and didn’t want to leave things the way you’d left them earlier. That’s it! I bet they’ll be relieved to receive it.

4. Emergency contacts must be over 100 miles away

My employer is asking for an emergency contact name and number specifically for someone over 100 miles away. I’ve heard this recommendation before but only in the context of families trying to communicate with each other in a natural disaster scenario.

We are a small business that serves clients with high needs. We are all key employees in some sense, me especially! I totally understand having an emergency contact on file, or even two! If I was in a car accident with my emergency contact spouse, a back-up emergency contact would be useful so that they can inform my boss I am incapacitated and they need to arrange coverage in order to make sure our clients are cared for. But to insist that one be over 100 miles away seems odd to me. If we have a regional disaster, and I’m able to contact my relatives in another state, I should also able to contact work.

In the grand scheme of things, this is not a hill I’m willing to die on. I’m already one foot out of the door as I’m job hunting actively for other reasons. I’m curious if this is actually something worth pushing back on, for the benefit of other employees who may not know this is weird or if I’m just annoyed at everything and this isn’t actually all that weird, or actually beneficial for a reason I’m blind to. Thoughts?

Why not ask them? The might have seen it on emergency preparedness lists for other contexts and not put much thought into whether they really need it. Or who knows, maybe there’s some reason we’re both overlooking.

Either way, it doesn’t sound like something that you need to spend capital on unless you really want to. That’s especially true if you’re thinking of doing it mainly for benefit of other employees; if they’re bothered by it, they can say something.

5. I’m exempt — can my company make me take my time off unpaid?

I am a salaried employee and I have a child due next year. My “maternity leave” is based off the amount of vacation and sick leave accrued, which is not much because our vacation time starts over each year. After I use up my hours, they say it’s unpaid but since I am a salaried exempt employee, are they able to reduce my check if I decide to stay out longer?

Yes. If you’re exempt, they have to pay your full salary for any week where you perform any work (with some narrow exceptions) but when you’re out for full weeks, they do not need to pay you for that time. (If you’re thinking, “Great, I’ll just work a few hours each week for months and get my full salary,” that’s highly unlikely to work. They’d presumably tell you that you need to come back full-time, stay out completely until you’re ready to come back full-time, or convert to part-time hourly.) However, any chance you and other employees there can push for real parental leave? It sounds like anyone in your office who has a baby in January would get zero paid leave (not even vacation or sick time), which is ridiculous.

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should employers pay candidates for their time in the interview process? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/should-employers-pay-candidates-for-their-time-in-the-interview-process.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/should-employers-pay-candidates-for-their-time-in-the-interview-process.html#comments Tue, 23 Nov 2021 18:59:36 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22776 This post, should employers pay candidates for their time in the interview process? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I just saw a job ad which includes: “We didn’t want to take our applicants’ time for granted, even though we are a small publicly supported organization. Because of this, we decided to pay each our five finalists $500 to proceed with the rest of the interview. While $500 is not a […]

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This post, should employers pay candidates for their time in the interview process? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I just saw a job ad which includes: “We didn’t want to take our applicants’ time for granted, even though we are a small publicly supported organization. Because of this, we decided to pay each our five finalists $500 to proceed with the rest of the interview. While $500 is not a huge amount, we thought it was a nice amount for a charitable organization to give to an applicant who would dedicate some time and thought to our hiring process, which would cover strategic thinking about our organization’s mission and operations in our communications and other related areas.”

I don’t think I’ve ever seen an employer before who offered finalist candidates a payment for the work of participating in the interview process! I can see the upside of helping compensate a candidate for their labor and showing appreciation. Are there any upsides — or downsides — I’m missing?

One upside: It potentially makes it easier for a wider range of candidates to participate in this hiring process, if they otherwise would have had barriers like not being able to afford taking time off work to interview or paying for child care while they complete a hiring assignment.

I suppose a potential downside is that you might have people stay in your hiring process just for the money when they otherwise would have self-selected out. But I think you’d learn pretty quickly if that was happening (like if suddenly your number of rejected offers went way up). I’d also want to know what they expect for that $500 since if they’re giving weekend-long assignments, for example, it’s not as generous as it first appears. (I don’t assume that’s happening; I’m just poking possible holes in it because you asked me to.)

In general, while I don’t think compensating candidates for interviews needs to become the norm, I do think more employers should be paying for candidates’ time when they ask them to do time-intensive work simulations in a hiring process. Not for things like spending 20 minutes writing a sample press release … but spending hours on something more significant, yes. In fact, I worked somewhere that did this — we’d ask finalists to do a project that would demonstrate their approach to the work, usually taking a few hours, and paid them a pretty significant freelance fee for it. We got the in-depth look we wanted, and they felt treated well/not taken advantage of. That seems right to me.

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the Barbie trophies, the club kid, and other stories of holidays at work https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/the-barbie-trophies-the-club-kid-and-other-stories-of-holidays-at-work.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/the-barbie-trophies-the-club-kid-and-other-stories-of-holidays-at-work.html#comments Tue, 23 Nov 2021 17:29:38 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22787 This post, the Barbie trophies, the club kid, and other stories of holidays at work , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

All this week I’m going to be sharing holiday stories from years past. Here are 12 more. (And don’t worry — we’ll be taking new ones shortly.) 1. Odd trophies “I had a supervisor who was very unprofessional, and her being in her position was a bit of a scandal in the first place. Well, […]

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This post, the Barbie trophies, the club kid, and other stories of holidays at work , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

All this week I’m going to be sharing holiday stories from years past. Here are 12 more. (And don’t worry — we’ll be taking new ones shortly.)

1. Odd trophies

“I had a supervisor who was very unprofessional, and her being in her position was a bit of a scandal in the first place. Well, she decided to do an award ceremony during our holiday party, but instead of buying cheap trophies or printing out awards on paper, she went to all of the thrift stores in the area and bought a bunch of old Barbie dolls. She stripped them, spray painted them gold, and called them “trophies” that she presented to staff as an award. No printed certificate or anything to go with them, just nude, gold, spray painted Barbies.”

2. The sweater

“This year, my HR department sent a mass email about the company holiday luncheon and ugly holiday sweater day. The clipart chosen to decorate this missive was chosen in haste and not closely examined. At first glance, it was a small image of a sweater with a snowman on it. Upon closer examination, though, the snowman had an extra carrot and two extra lumps of coal artfully arranged on its lower half. I did not expect to get snowman dick pics from HR! (In general, we are a sane, appropriate workplace where something like this would never happen on purpose.)”

3. The disgruntled coworker

“After having two prizes she liked stolen from her in our office game of Dirty Santa, a coworker happened upon my gift, a piece of novelty soap shaped like a slice of cake. (Not the world’s most inspired gift, but certainly within the bounds of office gift-giving.)

Coworker spent the rest of the lunch muttering things like ‘I don’t want this!’ and ‘what are we going to do about my situation?'”

4. The Coach bag

“I was one of about 8 temps at a large company around the holidays. All of us wanted to be hired but there were only 3 positions available. We had been invited to celebrate the holiday with the department. It was a potluck thing, held at lunch, very casual with a Yankee Swap gift exchange. Only one temp participated in the swap. He brought an old, beat up and very well worn Coach bag. It still had its original box and protective bag though so people assumed the best of it. The woman who got it was disappointed when she saw that the leather was ripped, the lining was in shreds and there was even a melted mint inside of it.

Fast forward to about a week later when Yankee Swap temp wasn’t chosen for permanent position (unrelated to gift) and he and 4 others were released from the assignment. He flipped out and wanted his gift back! He made a HUGE scene and had to be escorted to his car. I really think he thought that his gift would buy his way into the job.”

5. The club kid

“The year the club kid software developer INSISTED on everyone doing tequila shots, like ‘come on bro, it’s not cool if you don’t!’ — he saved his hardest pressure tactics for the CEO, who was like WTF. Same club kid tried getting down and dirty on the dance floor with a female high level exec, and then drunkenly knocked her over onto the floor.”

6. Most likely to kiss under mistletoe

“We had a people scavenger hunt based on self-volunteered random facts. The facts were pretty innocuous, but one girl used it as an opportunity to flirt with a coworker. Her facts about herself were ‘Won Most Flirtatious in High School,’ ‘Voted as Homecoming Queen,’ and ‘Most likely to kiss under mistletoe.’”

7. The disturbing rummage sale

“A long time ago, I worked in a place with a holiday gift exchange of the ‘randomly draw a name to give a small gift to’ kind. Our new boss said she didn’t want to be in the exchange because she was getting everyone something.

On the day of the holiday party, she came in late, with many huge cardboard boxes, and commandeered one of the long tables we needed to set up the potluck. Then she sent everyone out of the meeting room and locked it. At noon, she told us the rules: we’d all draw to go into the room and pick an item off the table. Then, after everyone had had a turn, we’d go again, until all the items were gone. She gave us all supermarket plastic bags to hold our treasures.

Several people went in and came out with stunned expressions and then it was my turn. The table was covered with the oddest selection of used items — hairpieces, costume jewelry with broken clasps or missing stones or other damage, broken toys, opened puzzles, well-read paperbacks, clothes with tears or stains, hairbrushes (with hair in them), combs, barrettes, the free notepads you get left on your doorstep by Realtors, small dusty stuffed toys, on and on. There were hundreds of items. No one wanted any of it. And she expected thanks from each of us each time we exited the meeting room.

People started taking as many items as they could fit in a grocery bag on each trip (emptying it into the dumpster out back immediately after), but it still took hours. And we couldn’t do the gift exchange or eat the potluck food until it was done. We finally ate lunch at 3:30. We sanitized the table with bleach before we set up the food.

Among the last items on the table were a not at all new pair of panties and what I think and hope was a large pestle without a mortar. I don’t know who finally broke down and took them.”

8. The hard-driving nuns and priests

“I worked for a catholic school some years ago where the teaching and support staff consisted of priests, nuns and laypeople. We decided to do a white elephant exchange at the staff Christmas party. Since most of the group had taken a literal vow of poverty, the gifts had to be below $5 and re-gifting was strongly encouraged, just bring the item to the party fully wrapped. We drew numbers and picked gifts but you could ‘steal’ a gift if you had a higher number. There was one gift that was relatively big and the wrapping was very, very fancy so you know it was the most popular. We had nuns attempting to hide the gift with the skirts of their habits, priests making side deals on taking over the less popular mass times in exchange for the gift, it was hilarious to see how far they were willing to go to get this gift. It was all in good fun and no one devolved into tears over any of it. One of the older nuns ended up winning it and she did a victory lap around us holding it in the air. The gift ended up being a used pair of running shoes from one of the priests that was an avid runner. She did another victory lap wearing the shoes.”

9. The duet

“The organization I work for often holds its convention just a couple of weeks before Christmas, and several years ago, as part of the entertainment for the closing banquet, we had a quartet singing mostly Christmas songs. In the banquet room right next door, though, somebody was holding a very large and loud corporate Christmas party that included a very loud D.J. playing very loud music, none of it Christmassy, as far as I could tell.

And I do mean LOUD.

So this, I swear to God, is what it sounded like to those of us sitting closest to the wall that separated our sedate Christmas quartet performance from the very loud D.J. performance of ‘Brick House’ by the Commodores:
Quartet: ‘Oh, hooooooly niiiiight! The stars…’
DJ: ‘Owwww! She’s a brick…HOWWWWse, she’s mighty-mighty, just lettin’ it all hang out’
Quartet: ‘It is the niiiight of our dear savior’s…’
DJ: ‘Owwww! She’s a brick…HOWWWWWse, well put-together, everybody knows.’
Quartet: ‘A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for…’
DJ: ‘She’s a brick…HOWWWse, owwww, that lady stacked and that’s a fact…’

I love ‘Oh Holy Night,’ but come on, that was HILARIOUS.”

10. The poop

“At job #1 someone pooped in an attorney’s trash can one year during the office party.”

11. The grief poinsettia

“It was one of those lunchtime holiday parties where people sat in groups around round tables. At the center of each table was a poinsettia. The big boss/emcee announced that she realized that some in the crowd must have experienced hard times that year. She invited people to share their tales of woe, and whoever told the saddest story at each table would win the poinsettia. No one volunteered.”

12. The reply-all

“My organization hosts an annual Christmas party where staff, spouses, volunteers, and board members are all invited. We get an email sent out when tickets are available so that we know when to go ahead and get them.

A few years ago, one of the board members accidentally hit Reply All to the ticket announcement email and asked the organizer to ensure that he wasn’t seated with our volunteer firefighters, since he was stuck at their table the year before and none of them wanted to talk to him. Within a minute, someone else had hit Reply All again saying that he would be honored to be seated with those firefighters, as they’re willing to risk their lives to keep our community safe. A few other emails went flying back and forth congratulating the firefighters for their hard work, and the board member soon sent out an apology email.

To make things even more awkward, one of the people making a speech at the company Christmas party did take a few minutes to commend our volunteer firefighters. I’m sure the board member couldn’t have looked any more uncomfortable as the rest of the room toasted them.”

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my coworker/friend keeps coming to work drunk https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/my-coworker-friend-keeps-coming-to-work-drunk.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/my-coworker-friend-keeps-coming-to-work-drunk.html#comments Tue, 23 Nov 2021 15:59:04 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22793 This post, my coworker/friend keeps coming to work drunk , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I have a friend (let’s call her Becky) I have known since we were in middle school, who is now my coworker. In college, it became pretty apparent that she was developing a drinking problem, which has only got worse as she’s gotten older. Because I’ve been around her so many times […]

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This post, my coworker/friend keeps coming to work drunk , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I have a friend (let’s call her Becky) I have known since we were in middle school, who is now my coworker. In college, it became pretty apparent that she was developing a drinking problem, which has only got worse as she’s gotten older. Because I’ve been around her so many times when she’s very, very intoxicated, I know what she looks and sounds like — the change in her behavior and appearance is quite obvious to me and anyone who knows her well.

We recently returned to the office part time and on a handful of occasions, I was very suspicious she was drunk at the office. I mentioned it to my husband one night and the same evening, completely unprompted, another friend/coworker said she thought Becky was drunk at work that same day, which further confirmed my suspicions.

Here’s the real kicker – she is married to our bosses brother, which makes everything significantly more awkward. So what do I do? Do I tell my boss about it? Do I confront her myself? Do I say nothing and hope she doesn’t make a drunken mistake that tanks the company? I am truly at a loss here.

I wrote back and asked, “Do you have the kind of relationship where you could talk to her about it yourself? And in the office hierarchy, do you have any authority over her or are you more peers?”

I could probably talk to her about it myself, but it would certainly make for an awkward conversation. We’ve been friends for so long that there probably isn’t much we couldn’t discuss, though it does make me a little anxious. As for hierarchy, she does not directly report to me, but I am a department head while she is not in a managerial position of any kind.

Please talk to her! You’ve been friends since middle school and it sounds like you’re close.

Leaving the work stuff totally aside, there’s a need for a conversation as a friend. Your good friend has started coming to work drunk! Even if you didn’t work together, that would be worth raising with her simply from a place of concern about what’s going on.

I get that it’s an awkward thing to bring up but … she’s coming to work drunk! Repeatedly! And other people are noticing.

If she keeps doing this, it’s almost certainly going to destroy her reputation, and it could get her fired. And while you didn’t say whether she’s driving or not when she’s drinking, if she’s being reckless enough to come to work drunk, you’ve got to wonder about her judgment around driving too.

So please do talk to her! And if you don’t get through to her that way, it’s worth talking to her husband about what you’re seeing.

It’s your obligation as a friend.

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interviewer wants my current employer to say they know I’m looking, friend asking for free work, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/interviewer-wants-my-current-employer-to-say-they-know-im-looking-friend-asking-for-free-work-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/interviewer-wants-my-current-employer-to-say-they-know-im-looking-friend-asking-for-free-work-and-more.html#comments Tue, 23 Nov 2021 05:03:44 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22805 This post, interviewer wants my current employer to say they know I’m looking, friend asking for free work, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. Interviewer wants an approval letter from my current job, saying they know I’m interviewing I’ve had a few interviews with a company, I like them, they like me, they want to make an offer. But my current employer uses their products (think software). Because of […]

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This post, interviewer wants my current employer to say they know I’m looking, friend asking for free work, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. Interviewer wants an approval letter from my current job, saying they know I’m interviewing

I’ve had a few interviews with a company, I like them, they like me, they want to make an offer. But my current employer uses their products (think software). Because of this, the company wants a letter from my current employer’s HR stating that HR is aware I’m looking at a job with this company and that it’s okay. Oh, and they haven’t actually given me the offer yet, I don’t even know how much I’d be making, just an idea from a range that I mentioned in the first interview.

Does this sound strange to you, or have I just been lucky to never run across this before? Is this due to some potential conflict? Even though we use their software, my current employer and this company are not at all in the same line of work, so I feel like that doesn’t work well as an explanation. I emailed the hiring contact looking for more clarification, but they just reiterated what they originally asked for (that it needs to be on company letterhead, signed by HR, and needs to have what I mentioned above). I’m afraid that it would somehow get out at my current job or that HR would need to speak to my manager and then they’d know I was looking for another job but I wouldn’t have this new actual offer as back up.

What on earth! No, this is not reasonable. It sounds like they’re concerned that your company will feel like they “poached” you (a highly problematic concept, but a thing none the less) and be upset about it, so they want your company’s blessing first. But that’s very much not in your interests — you don’t have a firm offer from them yet and it could fall through, or the offer could be for less than you’d accept, or there could be some other reason things don’t work out. And if that happens, you’ll have essentially announced to your employer that you’re job searching, and while that might not be an issue, most people have good reason to worry about it — you can end up being pushed out earlier than you’d otherwise want to leave, or sidelined from projects, or on the top of layoff lists since they assume you’re on your way out anyway. It’s a bad deal for you.

You can try saying, “My employer doesn’t know I’m looking and it could jeopardize my job to inform them at this stage. If you offer me the job and I accept, I’ll certainly make sure at that point that it doesn’t affect their relationship with you, but I’m not able to give them a heads-up at this stage.” If they won’t budge, you’re better off walking away from the prospective job than letting them push you into something so risky for you.

2. I backed out of a job offer — can I ask if they’ll still hire me now?

I recently went on a job interview. I loved the position and I loved the people. After a month of waiting, I accepted their offer. During my waiting to hear back from them, I went on an interview with another company and the day before I was scheduled to start with the first company, the second company offered me the role. They offered me a higher salary and a higher position. So I accepted that offer and apologetically rescinded the offer with the first company.

Now a month into my new job, I am not happy. It really isn’t a good fit for me and I wish I didn’t take it. Clearly, all that glitters isn’t gold. I see that the first position is still available. Do you think I can reach out to the first company and possibly ask if I can take the job or should I just move on?

Well … they’re likely to be very cautious. You’d committed to their offer and then backed out the day before they thought you were starting, which means they’re likely to be wary of counting on you again (especially if they had cut loose other candidates and had to start their process all over). It’s not that you did something horrible by looking out for your own interests. But they have to look out for theirs too, and at this point they’d need to wonder if you’re going to leave for something better again right after they invest in training you.

That said, if they really liked you and you hit just the right tone in approaching them now, they might consider it — but that tone needs to include a lot of “I know this inconvenienced you and I completely understand if this doesn’t make sense on your end.” Even then, a lot of hiring managers would be a hard no (I probably would be). But I don’t think you have anything to lose by explaining what happened and seeing if they’re up for talking again.

3. Friend/client asking for free work

A few months ago, I reached out to a friend (and former colleague) who runs their own business, to offer my services freelance should they and their business partner need it. They took me up on it and I prepared some written materials for them, which they said they were pleased with (I was paid for these projects). They indicated they really needed my help and would have more work for me shortly.

That was several months ago and I had not heard from them since. Today, my friend reached out to me to essentially ask for free advice to help them build their business further. They didn’t directly say they wanted free advice, but it was pretty clear from the tone of the message that’s what they meant. There was no mention of payment for my time and effort. Is there a diplomatic way to tell them that if they want my advice it is not available for free?

The easiest way to handle it is to respond as if of course payment is a given. So something like, “Sure, I can help with that! For this kind of consulting, my rate is $X, which would include ___. If that sounds good, I’ll send over a contract and we can get started.”

Or — any chance she’s only looking for something like 10 or 15 minutes as a friend rather than as a client? If so and you’re willing to do that, you could say, “Let’s talk and see what you’re looking for. If it’s more than a quick conversation, I charge $X/hour for consulting, and we can figure out if that’s what you need once we talk.”

4. Should you always negotiate salary, no matter what?

I recently accepted a major promotion at work (I’m SO excited!) and when the salary was offered to me, I did not negotiate. My reasoning was:

– I know the salary band for this position, and the salary offered to me was the low end (but within the band — in other words, they didn’t try to screw me by offering me something lower than the band).
– I feel the salary is in line with the market.
– This promotion is a “double” step up for me — I’m essentially skipping a level to take this role.

Given that this is such a reach for me and I felt satisfied with the compensation, I didn’t try to negotiate. But was that the wrong move? Obviously it’s too late now (I’ve signed the offer letter and accepted the salary) but was my reasoning off? Should you ALWAYS negotiate, no matter what?

You should usually negotiate, but not always. For example, if the offer is obviously generous (meaning well above market, not just a lot to you) and/or you’re on the low end of experience for the job, asking for more could look out of touch. Or if you’d told the employer the range you were looking for and they match or exceed that, asking for more can make you look like you’re not operating in good faith.

In your case, it sounds reasonable that they’d offer the low end of the range since it’s a stretch role for you. I think you could have tried negotiating, but it wasn’t a big misstep that you didn’t.

5. Can I ask why the previous people in the job left?

I am going to be interviewing for a new position with a competitor in the same industry as my current job. I know that the two people who were most recently in the job that I’m interviewing for left the position (and the company) after 2-3 years. This is a senior level position and the industry I work in does not generally have a high turnover rate. I have been in my current position for eight years and am interviewing for this other company as this would be a promotion.

My question is whether or not it would be appropriate during my interviews to ask why the last person (or last two people) in this position left? How about mentioning that I’m aware that the last two people in the position had a pretty short tenure? I don’t want to offend anyone but I also want to try to determine if this may be red flag.

Yes, you can ask that! It’s fine to say, “It looks like the last two people in the job each left after a couple of years. Can you tell anything about why they moved on?” Just keep in mind that you won’t necessarily get the straight scoop — they’re very unlikely to say, “The workload is crushing and the culture is oppressive.” So make sure you’re doing your own research too.

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my employee refuses to lie to customers — but that’s our policy https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/my-employee-refuses-to-lie-to-customers-but-thats-our-policy.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/my-employee-refuses-to-lie-to-customers-but-thats-our-policy.html#comments Mon, 22 Nov 2021 18:59:27 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22791 This post, my employee refuses to lie to customers — but that’s our policy , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: My employee is refusing to abide by company policies due to religious conviction and I’m not sure how to handle this. I am the owner of a very small company, around 15 people total. We are a niche online retailer. We do the vast majority of our sales through a popular online […]

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This post, my employee refuses to lie to customers — but that’s our policy , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

My employee is refusing to abide by company policies due to religious conviction and I’m not sure how to handle this.

I am the owner of a very small company, around 15 people total. We are a niche online retailer. We do the vast majority of our sales through a popular online marketplace, but also have a company webstore where customers can order our products.

Because we are so small, we cannot accommodate order cancellations, and we rarely offer refunds. All of our products are warrantied and we use high quality shipping carriers to minimize losses. Refunds are granted in very limited circumstances. We only cancel orders in cases where our security system detects fraud, or if a duplicate order was placed in error. Again this is a decision that has been made for the good of the company, as we operate on very, very slim margins.

Our customer service policy is posted on our website, but does not explicitly mention that we do not accept cancellations or offer refunds. Our internal policy is that when a cancellation is requested we tell the customer their order has already shipped and therefore cannot be cancelled. In situations where a customer has not received their order, we will reship it or they can forfeit their order, customer’s choice.

My employee has worked here for over a year and will not answer order cancellation emails. She says this is because she cannot tell lies due to her religious beliefs. She feels that if the customer has requested a cancellation and the order has not shipped, that we should not be telling them it has. I have created a canned response in our email tool so she does not need to type the message herself, but she says because her name appears in the signature she will not send the email. She will not use a different person’s signature as this too would be a lie. Her proposed solution is to tell customers in this situation that we do not accept cancellations and to tell them why (our company cannot handle the losses). The problem with that is obviously the optics are terrible, if a screenshot of such a message were to make it onto social media.

Her committment to exclusive truth-telling extends beyond these scenarios, and she will often leave me drafts of her emails for me to edit before sending to the customer as she knows that she cannot say what she wants to say. I am the primary backup person for customer service emails and need to deal with the tickets that are left over after her shift. The number of emails that she leaves takes up at least 30 minutes of my day, every day, and I am already working 12+ hours daily running the company and have young kids at home too.

I am not open to revisiting the customer service policy.

Ultimately, I would like to replace her with someone who can execute our policies as I instruct, without needing to proofread excessive numbers of emails daily. However, because she is objecting to this duty due to religious conviction, I feel my hands are tied in keeping her in the role or at least within the company. We do not have another vacancy that she could move into that would be appropriate to her skillset, nor can I afford to hire another employee without first letting one go.

Is there a way I can manage this employee so that she will be able to do the job as it needs to be done? Should I start subtly managing her out?

I know it’s annoying when you say “I’m not looking for advice on X” and then you get advice on X anyway … but there’s no way to respond to your question without doing that.

That’s because your policy is the problem, not your employee. Not the no-cancellations policy — lots of small businesses have that — but your policy of lying to customers. That’s a shady thing to do, it’s understandable that your employee wants no part of it, and it’s utterly unnecessary.

You could solve this by just posting your no-cancellation policy on your website. Use language explaining that as a small business, you can’t accommodate cancellations. Hell, have people check a box when they’re ordering to confirm that they know they won’t be able to cancel the order once placed. Then if someone tries to cancel anyway, you can point them back toward that policy.

That’s much better service than what you’re doing right now. People deserve to know the terms of their purchase up-front so they can hold off if those terms don’t work for them, and this way you won’t need to lie to them later.

You said you think the optics of a screenshot of such a message would be terrible — but again, plenty of other small businesses have this policy. The optics aren’t terrible when you clearly state your terms up-front. What would be terrible is if customers find out that you’re lying and saying orders have shipped when they haven’t, in order to avoid fulfilling requests to cancel. That’s the kind of thing that, if it spreads, could destroy your business. Honesty up-front will not.

I know that’s not what you came here looking for. Feel free to ignore it! But your employee has made it clear that she’s not willing to lie. That’s a reasonable stance for her to take, and I can’t in good faith help you figure out how to push her out for it.

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the Hanukkah balls, the swingers, and other tales of holiday woes https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/the-hanukkah-balls-the-swingers-and-other-tales-of-holiday-woes.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/the-hanukkah-balls-the-swingers-and-other-tales-of-holiday-woes.html#comments Mon, 22 Nov 2021 17:29:26 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22786 This post, the Hanukkah balls, the swingers, and other tales of holiday woes , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

All this week I’m going to be sharing holiday stories from years past … and then updates season starts next week! To kick us off… 1. Hanukkah balls “I am a Jewish 26-year-old. I’ve been on the job about a year, and I moved from a large city to a smaller suburb of New York […]

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This post, the Hanukkah balls, the swingers, and other tales of holiday woes , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

All this week I’m going to be sharing holiday stories from years past … and then updates season starts next week! To kick us off…

1. Hanukkah balls

“I am a Jewish 26-year-old. I’ve been on the job about a year, and I moved from a large city to a smaller suburb of New York City for this job. My family is not super religious but we certainly never celebrated Christmas growing up.

My boss, a usually nice lady, has taken it upon herself to educate me about Christmas this season. She is super into the holidays, which I appreciated for Halloween, but has been declaring to the whole office how this is ‘Jane’s First Christmas’ and taking that opportunity to spend well over $500 on Christmas decorations which she has strategically placed mostly around her and my office. She has bought me my own Christmas stocking and ornament which says ‘Jane’s first Christmas’ with a date and her signature on it. She has placed red velvet bows around anything they will stick to and she has replaced our office coffee K-cups with eggnog. She has put up lights in the hallways and decked my door with some kind of tinsel that keeps sticking to my clothes and following me home.

She keeps reminding me what ornaments are and is amazed when I told her that I know the words to some Christmas songs.

She also has invited me to her home for Christmas because ‘no one should celebrate their first Christmas by themselves.’ When I mentioned something about celebrating Hanukkah instead of Christmas, she went out and bought this Hanukkah inspired contraption, which was really just eight round traditional ornaments with a light in each of them. She said they were Hanukkah balls.”

2. The swingers

“In my mid-20s, I worked in a fairly conservative accounting department (think government contractor engineering firm) but we had a couple of strange characters. I’d been warned about one mid-50s accounts payable lady, that she was ‘Very Social.’ She wasn’t popular in the department, but was nice enough at work, so I didn’t think anything of it.

Being the youngest and lowest rank in the department, my husband and I were seated at the ‘accounting outcasts’ table, which included Very Social and her husband. The whole party was super-swanky. Very Social and her husband were good company, complimentary, and didn’t ping ANY of my warning systems…

…right up until she learned that my husband was a welder. Then she let out a delighted squeal and asked him to build her custom steel people-sized cages, with brackets for harness hooks. She also let us know they were VERY interested in having us over try out their other “equipment” for additional Christmas Merriment.

That Christmas I learned ‘Very Social’ = Unabashedly Enthusiastic Swingers into BDSM.”

This follow-up added further details:

“We turned her down, and she was still very nice. She even hand-quilted a baby blanket for my second child.

Data entry, people cages, nipple clamps, hand-embroidered baby quilts. She was very well-rounded for an accountant.”

3. The doobies

“A few years ago my husband was working for large domain company… to remain nameless. They host large fancy blacktie indoor christmas parties each year with special, secret performers. Big name acts like Ludicris, Pitbull, Fall Out Boy, etc. There’s food and fun and then they invite out the surprise performer who sings an hour set.

A few years ago the surprise performer was Snoop Dog! FUN! We all went to the stage and were having a great time singing along to old hits in our blacktie suits and gowns. Then, well, you know how snoop dog is rather famous for a certain recreation? One that’s illegal in many states still? He obviously lit up on stage which we chuckled at but then he started to pass them out to the crowd. With the CEO right there. What to do?! A few people actually said, ‘Thanks Snoop but my boss is right there!’

Anyway, they now explicitly state in the contract no illegal substances on stage.”

4. The surprise

“I work in academia, and at the last place I worked, we used to plan a small holiday party for some of the students who majored in our field and were graduating in December. One colleague was usually in charge of the food (because she was a control freak who didn’t trust anyone else to prepare it hygenically, but that’s another story). One particular year, she refused to tell anyone what she was bringing and insisted it would be ‘a surprise,’ but also insisted that no one else bring a single scrap of food.

The ‘surprise’ turned out to be her fat, overfed dog dressed up in a Santa Claus hat and a harness that was covered with hanging cookies—that had been banging against her fur and were also licked and sometimes half-chewed by the dog where she could reach them. My colleague was expecting everybody to worship her dog and happily eat the cookies. Instead, everyone else went, ‘Um…okay,’ and drifted off to the holiday party upstairs that had actual, clean, non-dog-tainted food.

My colleague was bewildered.”

5. The come-hither pirate

“This wasn’t a White Elephant gift, but one a coworker who didn’t last so long gave to all the unpartnered women under 40: A studio portrait of himself, semi-80s background, with lasers, soft focus,, standing, with his hand on his chin, a ‘come hither’ look, and his parrot on his shoulder.”

6. The mom

“My coworker’s mother decided it was a good idea to join us for drinks at our holidays party. She the proceeded to tell me how long it took her son to find a job, how it was not what he wanted to do or was good at, and how his lack of self confidence was due to the way his father treated him for most of his life. I wished I would have heard what she later on told our CEO.”

7. The instructions for wives

“One year the school I taught at gave all female staff members a copy of Created to Be His Helpmeet as our Christmas gift. It is an extreme Christian fundamentalist book about how to be a good wife and includes directions on how to belly dance for your husband and what to do if your husband wants to do illegal things. All female staff – married and single – received this book. My roommate, a fellow teacher, mailed hers to her mother. I shoved my copy under my roommate’s bed, and months later she found it, forgot she had already mailed hers, and sent this copy to her mother as well.”

8. The hostage videos

“My old boss that told my old coworkers had to each record her an individualized holiday greeting video for her saying how much they appreciate her and then played it on a loop on her computer until the next Christmas. Thankfully I no longer worked there because I would not have been able to do it without swearing or getting snarky.”

9. The fist fight

“We had an office fist fight over some particularly smelly cheese.

Not so much a holiday story so much as the aftermath. During my first year as a PhD student, we had a little office party just before we all left for Christmas and someone brought in some very nice cheese and crackers. Unfortunately, it was a pretty ripe cheese to start with and it got left in the office fridge over the break. Come the new year and the day we’re all due back, Bob is the first to arrive in the morning. He opens the fridge to find the festering (and presumably by now sentient) remains of the cheese and takes it out intending to dispose of it. Before he can remove it to a safe location, the phone rings. Bob answers the phone, leaving the cheese on Jim’s desk which is next to the phone. Jim is the next to arrive and is greeted by a horrific smell, and the sight of the cheese from the black lagoon sitting on his desk. Chaos erupts and the accusations start to fly.

By the time I arrived, I could both smell the cheese and hear the shouting from the end of the corridor. I entered just in time to see Jim punch Bob on the arm and then storm out of the office. Bob stormed out not long after and after I finally disposed of the cheese in the park (it was the nearest accessible outdoor bin), I spent the rest of the morning working alone in the office with all of the windows open. I don’t miss academia.”

10. The wrapped ears of corn

“White elephant gifts from holidays 2017:

1) A crumpled Starbucks bag with a mug purchased 5 minutes after the exchange stated.

2) A mug and a notebook featuring the photo of an employee. The employee pictured was not the employee that brought this gift.

3) A vacuum-sealed bag containing two fully cooked, intact ears of corn.”

Also, a photo of the corn was submitted.

11. The disaster(s)

“I work in a blue collar industry for a company that boasts many couples as well as parent/offspring connections and our Christmas parties are wild.

The first one I attended was on a boat in a town about an hour or two away from the work site and a bus was organised to pick everyone up and bring us home. The party started on the bus with a large group of people passing bottles around and getting that light predrinks buzz. We get onto the boat and as the cruise goes on, everyone is getting super wasted due to the open bar and very, very limited amounts of finger food. It’s also mid December so very very hot and while I mostly stuck to soft drinks, most people were drinking. Because we’re all trapped on this boat in the middle of river, we all get to see a couple of people threaten to fight the bar staff who cut them off and a coworker who was convinced that he could swim to the river bank and wanted to jump off the boat. The most awkward one, though, was between a newly appointed manager and the guy who thought he was a shoo-in for the job. She was emotionally apologising for getting it over him, saying over and over that she’d only interviewed for the experience and hadn’t thought she’d get it. His wife had a firm grip on his arm and was trying to reassure her there were no hard feelings. He is drunk af, bright red and seething but not about to try anything in front of his wife. (Dude did finally get a manager’s role, but was passed over about six more times and only got because they had no other applications, I currently work under him and he totally sucks.)

As if that all wasn’t bad enough, the cruise ends and we all pile back onto the bus home. One former coworker who was very much like a small yippy dog starts stirring up new manager’s husband (who also works at the company) and would have probably got his head punched in if another manager (who’s actually his stepmother) hadn’t sat on his lap(!) to physically restrain him. He and new manager get off the bus at the town before ours, stumbled almost home, and end up falling in a ditch (she had like a week off with a sprained ankle).

Meanwhile on the bus, everyone else is still drinking. The coworker who organised the party is showing everyone ‘two girls, one cup’ on his phone. (Note: If you don’t know it, your life will be better if you don’t google it. Very NSFW.) There’s a fight between another couple and the guy who wanted the managers role is passed out so some one draws a phallic object on his face.

As far as I’m aware no one was punished over the event, but the grand boss who’d attended made it clear that the next one needed to have a proper meal attached to it. We were also asked to not come back by the boat company.”

12. The Christmas tantrum

“A woman who had worked at our office for more than twenty years pouted and threw tantrums like a child if she didn’t win a door prize at the annual Christmas dinner. Every time someone else’s name was randomly drawn, she would yell, ‘FIX!”’ or ‘CHEAT!’ or something similar. And one year, she just snatched a prize she really wanted from the table and told the person who won the prize, ‘I DESERVE this,’ and walked away with it.”

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my coworker keeps joking that I’m having sex with my husband in the office https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/my-coworker-keeps-joking-that-im-having-sex-with-my-husband-in-the-office.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/my-coworker-keeps-joking-that-im-having-sex-with-my-husband-in-the-office.html#comments Mon, 22 Nov 2021 15:59:54 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22792 This post, my coworker keeps joking that I’m having sex with my husband in the office , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: My husband and I work for the same employer in different departments. Our physical workspaces are in different buildings in the same office park. We usually carpool and meet in the parking lot, but we are rarely in the same building at the same time, and if we are it’s for work […]

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This post, my coworker keeps joking that I’m having sex with my husband in the office , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

My husband and I work for the same employer in different departments. Our physical workspaces are in different buildings in the same office park. We usually carpool and meet in the parking lot, but we are rarely in the same building at the same time, and if we are it’s for work reasons. Most people know that we are married, but we keep things professional at work because I want to be known for my work, not as a wife.

One of our coworkers used to work in my husband’s department. They have always gotten along and had a joking relationship. She’s now transferred to my department … and she will not stop making jokes about me having sex with my husband at work! If she sees that my office door has been shut, she’ll say, “Oh, I assumed you and were having sex on the desk and didn’t want to bother you!” If she sees us parting ways in the morning she’ll make a gag about how we must have been having sex in the car! It happens nearly every time she sees me, in private or in front of coworkers, it makes no difference. It is mortifying when she makes comments like this, especially when she does it in front of people two or three levels above me! This is not how I want to be thought of at work!

I always respond with something along the lines of, “Of course not, my door was closed because I was on a private call!” but she never seems to get the hint. I know I should say something directly, but she clearly wants to be friends and I don’t want to completely ruin the relationship. She really does think this is a funny joke to bond over; there’s nothing mean spirited about it. I’d have my husband address it since they’re much closer, but they never see each other anymore since the transfer. Any scripts?

What on earth. WHY does she think this is a good way to bond?

If it had just happened once, I’d assume it was an awkward joke that she felt mortified by later. But repeatedly? Even a good joke would be worn out at this point.

And just because he’s your husband doesn’t make her comments any more appropriate than if she were saying this about any other coworker.

I know you’re worried about ruining the relationship … but she’s constantly joking about your sex life at work. She’s the one who should be worried about ruining the relationship — not you for telling her to stop.

Personally, in your shoes the next time she did it I’d visibly stop short, give her a weird look, and say, “That’s a really weird thing to say at work.” The visible reaction is important — you want to reinforce that what she’s doing it jarring and not okay.

If she has any self-awareness, that alone could put a stop to it. But if it doesn’t or if you want alternate scripts, here are a variety of tones and approaches to pick from depending on what you’re comfortable with:

* “I know you don’t mean it, but please stop joking about my sex life at work.”

* “I know don’t mean it, but I’m weirded out every time you say that. Could you stop?”

* “That’s gotten really old. Could you cut that out?”

* “You need to stop saying that.”

* “Having you continue to talk about sex is really uncomfortable. Can you stop?”

* “Why do you keep saying that? It’s really inappropriate.”

If your response to these scripts is “ugh, I don’t want to make things awkward” — THEY’RE ALREADY AWKWARD. She has made things awkward by constantly talking about you having sex with your husband. Let her feel that awkwardness herself, rather than you taking it on yourself each time.

And if it helps, consider that you’re doing her a favor by shutting this down, because someday she’s going to say something inappropriate to someone who’s not you and they might react a lot more harshly than you are.

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am I the toxic complainer, I don’t want to hire an anti-vaxxer, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/am-i-the-toxic-complainer-i-dont-want-to-hire-an-anti-vaxxer-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/am-i-the-toxic-complainer-i-dont-want-to-hire-an-anti-vaxxer-and-more.html#comments Mon, 22 Nov 2021 05:03:53 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22785 This post, am I the toxic complainer, I don’t want to hire an anti-vaxxer, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. Am I the toxic complainer? I know venting/bitching to colleagues isn’t healthy, but it’s occurred to me that I do it more and more. Especially since we’ve been remote, and had a well-known chat and video call software installed, I now have chats open to […]

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This post, am I the toxic complainer, I don’t want to hire an anti-vaxxer, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. Am I the toxic complainer?

I know venting/bitching to colleagues isn’t healthy, but it’s occurred to me that I do it more and more. Especially since we’ve been remote, and had a well-known chat and video call software installed, I now have chats open to two colleagues for most of the day. We discuss work, but I’m aware there is quite a lot of negative content in there too. My partner also assumes I hate my job, as though it’s a matter of course. (He is also, in my opinion, an excessive complainer!)

I don’t think I “hate my job” but I’m not sure I love it either. As a member of administrative staff, I often feel looked down on and patronized, which makes it hard for me to bond with the other team members who are “above” us. Our team of admins has also been decimated throughout Covid, so I feel very isolated in my office on the days we go in. I guess I have a lot of potentially legitimate grumbles, but I’m not airing them in the right place. Have I become toxic? What should I do?

It’s hard to say just from what’s here, but if your boyfriend assumes you hate your job because of how you talk about it and you don’t actually feel that way, it’s worth looking at what’s giving him that impression. Beyond that, at a minimum I’d look at how much you vent in your group chats versus how much others do. If you’re doing a lot more venting than others, that’s a sign you need to pull way back on it. Even if it’s not unbalanced, though, try pulling back on it for a couple of weeks and see how that feels. Sometimes complaining about the same things over and over can make you more unhappy than you’d be otherwise, because it keeps you mired in whatever’s bothering you and feeds your frustration. That’s not to say you should never raise real problems, of course! But there’s a point where chronic complaining stops being constructive (especially if it’s in a context where nothing actionable is happening). More here.

2. I don’t want to work with an anti-vax sub-contractor

I freelance in my field and when I have too much work I sometimes sub-contract the overflow work to others newer to the field. They are paid the full rate, I supervise and QA their work, and they get some excellent experience. Everyone is happy.

A former acquaintance, “Jane,” got in touch a few years ago wanting to move laterally into the field and asking if I would consider her for my overflow work. I said sure! For several reasons on both sides, the timing never quite worked.

Until now. Jane just messaged me again asking if she could be my overflow person, because she is being fired for not complying with our local mandatory vaccination policy. A quick scan of her social media shows nothing but anti-vax propaganda and “activism” work for a notorious local group that harasses businesses for enforcing government-ordered mask policies. I said it was unlikely I could help without saying why, but she is insistent — especially since I was so eager for her help two years ago. I don’t want to be associated with Jane either professionally or personally now, but I’m having trouble shutting her down. One luxury of working for myself is not having to deal with horrible colleagues, and I’m not interested in having to interact with someone whose views make me so angry.

Any suggestions for what to tell her? My instinct is to not mention her anti-vax stance as the reason I don’t want to work with her, but I’m struggling to come up with anything else plausible.

Why not be honest about it? Personally, I’d say, “Your stance on vaccination and masks is deeply harmful, and it’s not something I’m willing to be associated with.”

If you really don’t want to say that, then you can just tell her that you’re full up on subcontractors and don’t expect that to change for the foreseeable future. But why not tell her the real reason? It’s useful for people to see the consequences of their actions.

3. Does it matter where I work remotely?

I work in a 200-person company that is fully back in-office. Because I am a star performer and answer to the owner/CEO, I was able to negotiate three days remote per week. There is a tolerable level of dysfunction here, such as the company requiring all salaried employees to use a timeclock for review by the CEO every two weeks and anything under 83 hours meaning the employee is not being productive enough with hours being compared between employees and departments to determine “who is working” and “who is slacking.” This is relevant because even when I’m remote my “hours clocked” can be seen by all.

My stance is that I can work remotely from wherever I want as long as I satisfy my commitments to the organization and get my work done with great results. But I’m wondering if this could create an optics issue since I am very active on social media through my athletics? For example, if I want to go for a two-mile swim on the beach at 2 pm, I can just work from a cafe near the beach until 2 pm, swim two miles, then continue working (or not if I’m already at 8.5+ hours for the day). Anyone can see on my strava and other social media what I’ve done as I post detailed pictures and takeaways from the workout.

Taking this a step further, if there is a race I want to participate in or a game I want to see at 7 pm on a weekday somewhere else in the country, I can work remotely from airports and hotel lounges as long as I get the work done, even if others see that I am cycling in the Bahamas on a Thursday between work meetings. If I am going somewhere for a weekend, I don’t need to take days off during travel during the week because I can work on the plane and in hotel lounges.

Before working remotely, any of these things would have taken a big chunk of vacation time/days off. But now I can do all of these things as far as my budget will allow, as long as I am working 8.5+ hours a day. I haven’t run this past anyone and don’t plan to. After all, I’m working remotely as agreed. Thoughts?

If you’re posting detailed photos of your workouts on social media and it’s clear they’re happening during normal work hours, it’s highly likely to cause an issue at some point. That would be true in most offices, and it’s especially true in one with the culture you described, and especially in one where you’re the the only one working remotely and you had to get a special exception made to do it. Maybe you’re valued enough that when it comes up, you’ll be able to explain your logic and it’ll be fine — but it’s a lot safer to stop posting that stuff online if you don’t want it to create an issue.

As for the working from anywhere … you might be able to do it and get away with it, but you should be aware that your company might have a legal obligation to intervene if they find out about it. Depending on how long you’re in these other locations, working from another state can create business nexus for your company, meaning that they’d become required to pay taxes in that state, set up workers comp insurance there, and more. (You also could end up with personal tax liability to those states.) You might assume that only happens if you permanently relocate, but each state has its own rules — and in some situations, nexus can kick in really quickly.

4. Who should pay for damage I caused in the parking garage?

This morning I pulled into the parking garage in my company’s building and apparently knocked over a divider. The building, which is not owned by my company, but of which my company is a tenant, is going to charge me for damages. Am I able to send that bill to the company or is it on me? (I realize it’s my fault, I’m just wondering if there’s another option I should be taking advantage of.)

It’s unlikely your company would pay that bill, and it probably won’t look great to ask. You’re generally responsible for your own driving during routine comings and goings in the parking garage.

5. Getting time off for medical treatment every other week

I am a college student and have recently been offered a summer internship in my field. I am thrilled about the opportunity, but I am concerned about how to approach a fairly sensitive topic.

Currently I receive a specialized medical treatment every other week. This treatment must be done in a doctor’s office during business hours, and it leaves me unable to do anything productive for the rest of the day. Since I am a student I have scheduled my classes around this and have disability accommodations in place to cover me when it cannot be scheduled with no interference. However, I am unsure how to approach this with the company I will be interning with.

The obvious solution is to speak with HR and ask for accommodations under the ADA. I am hesitant to do this though as I would truly love to work for this company full-time upon graduation and I don’t want to create a reputation of being “difficult” or “a problem” right off the bat. Ideally I would schedule treatments for Friday afternoons, work a half day on treatment days, and make up my missed hours earlier in the work week. Is there a way to approach this that does not immediately give me a bad reputation with my manager or the company in general before I have had a chance to prove myself? I fear that even if I perform well, I will not receive good evaluations or a return offer due to this situation.

If this is a decent company, this isn’t going to give you a bad reputation in any way! If it does, that’s not a company you want to work for after graduation anyway — but really, in most places this will be fine.

You don’t need to start by officially invoking the ADA. You can if you want to, but generally you’d just say, “I have a medical treatment every other week that has to be scheduled during work hours and usually knocks me out for the rest of the day. Could I schedule these for every other Friday afternoon and make up the time earlier in the week? Or is there another day that would be better for me to use?” (If you encounter pushback, you’d need to go the formal ADA route but much of the time you won’t need to.)

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weekend open thread – November 20-21, 2021 https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/weekend-open-thread-november-20-21-2021.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/weekend-open-thread-november-20-21-2021.html#comments Sat, 20 Nov 2021 05:01:41 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22633 This post, weekend open thread – November 20-21, 2021 , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand. Here are the rules for the weekend posts. Book recommendation of the week: The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig. A woman finds a library where each book lets her enter a life she would have had if she’d made […]

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This post, weekend open thread – November 20-21, 2021 , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand.

Here are the rules for the weekend posts.

Book recommendation of the week: The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig. A woman finds a library where each book lets her enter a life she would have had if she’d made different choices along the way.

 I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

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it’s your Friday good news https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/its-your-friday-good-news-79.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/its-your-friday-good-news-79.html#comments Fri, 19 Nov 2021 17:00:27 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22654 This post, it’s your Friday good news , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s your Friday good news! 1.  “Six months ago, job-searching was NOWHERE on my radar. Yes, I was feeling bored at my stable-but-comfortable job of the last 5 years, where I had repeatedly mentioned to management my interest in moving up into something more senior. And, yes, I had heard in the news about the […]

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This post, it’s your Friday good news , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s your Friday good news!

1.  “Six months ago, job-searching was NOWHERE on my radar. Yes, I was feeling bored at my stable-but-comfortable job of the last 5 years, where I had repeatedly mentioned to management my interest in moving up into something more senior. And, yes, I had heard in the news about the burgeoning Great Resignation. But it was only when a recruiter contacted me out of the blue in late spring that I started thinking about my options. The role in question was similar to what I was doing, but a step up in responsibility and a change in industry. Unfortunately, that job didn’t pan out, but just being contacted by the recruiter lit a fire under me.

So I started looking for similar jobs on LinkedIn. In mid-July, I saw one that looked like a good fit – and it turned out that several of my former coworkers worked at the company. I contacted one of them to see if he’d be willing to refer me internally, and he said yes!

I had my first interview within 3 weeks of the referral. It was very different from my expectations: instead of a strict question-and-answer session, the conversation felt very organic and free-flowing, and we even discussed quirky stuff like animal-themed subreddits. After that interview, I was in shock – I realized that I suddenly wanted this job A LOT.

I had the second interview a week and a half after the first, this time with a panel of potential colleagues. I followed your advice and made sure to send a customized thank-you note to each interviewer. A week later, I got the initial offer from the hiring manager via email!

Because of you, I knew what to expect about negotiations, and had an idea of what salary range I was looking for – but that kind of flew out the window when I got the first salary offer from the HR rep.

Their first offer was 10k HIGHER than the top of the range I had in mind, and included more vacation to start than what my old company gave me after 5 years with them! They even offered to check if I could get a signing bonus to offset the fact that I’d be leaving before my old company’s annual bonus was distributed.

I told HR that I wanted the weekend to think about it to be really sure, but I was 90% sold at that point. Calling back to say yes the following Monday was a no-brainer.

When I gave my notice to my old employer, one of the VPs of my department called me, stated how valued I was and asked whether I would consider a counteroffer. Being a veteran reader of AAM, I politely declined. While the team was sad to see me go, I made sure to prepare transition documents and left the company on good terms – the VP even stated, in writing, that they’d be happy to have me back in case things didn’t work out.

Let’s just say that right now, that’s unlikely. I’m nearly a month into my new role and while I’m still adjusting, I feel like I’ve made the right decision. I’ve gotten a 40% bump in pay, 4 weeks of vacation, and a more senior title, all for a role that isn’t even a huge stretch from what I used to be doing. Plus, I’ll be WFH until at least next year, and when we do return to the office, my new commute will be shorter.

What’s even better is that my new boss is incredibly happy about having me on board. She said that she didn’t even realize I was referred, because my resume stood out on its own merits. What’s more, she feels my resume downplayed my accomplishments!

This improvement in my situation (a 40% increase in salary!) would have been unthinkable less than a year ago. But your site – especially the other Friday good news posts – taught me that huge leaps like these are possible. So I’d like to thank you and the AAM commentariat for all their hard work!”

2.  “Here’s a submission for the Friday good news. I have struggled my whole life with work. I live with severe mental illness and it has really affected my ability to become and remain employed. I was laid off in April for COVID-related reasons and it really affected me, I felt like I was never going to be able to find and keep a job that I could be good at. In June I got a six month temporary position at a large medical clinic. I am admin support to a team of people who had been without anyone in my role for some time. They have been super appreciative of me, always telling me how happy they are to have me, and how well I am doing. It has been really nice to hear that. Last week I found out they are extending my term for another six months with hope it will become permanent.

Then today, the team I work for asked me to come to their staff meeting, under the guise of helping them out with something. When I got there, they told me it was ‘(My Name) Day’ and they gave me flowers, a gift card to my favourite restaurant, a box of expensive bath products, even treats for my dog, and a lovely card that they all signed with some really thoughtful sentiments. They reiterated how happy they are to have me here and how well I am doing in this job. They were all wearing stickers that said ‘(My Name) Day’ that they wore all day! It was honestly one of the most amazing things that has ever happened to me, I feel like I’ve been floating on a cloud all day. Thank you so much for your advice that helped me get this job, I hope I can keep it forever!”

3. “I can’t thank you enough for this blog and the community that’s developed as a result. Ask a Manager has been daily reading for me while I was searching for a job outside of my call center role. Years of dealing with the public all day drained me to the bone. The Open Threads were often a place I vented my frustrations.

I spent many weeks reading the Friday Good News updates, being happy for the writers while my heart sank because my situation hadn’t changed. But no more-I have accepted a position to move to a different department in my current company. My training starts the second week of November.

It came together really fast: the interview was last Wednesday. By Friday, she’d offered me a job in an adjacent department than I applied for(Job B ). She’d asked me if I was interested in the position I got while interviewing for (Job A). I just said yes, not really thinking about it. But it turns out Job B is more like what I’m looking for. The work is research based, which is one of my favorite things to do. I love to find things and create information with it. The best part: no more overbearing entities who dictate every second of my schedule!

What blows my mind is my new boss thought that I’d be a better fit for Job B. I must have impressed her enough that she saw something in me. She went ahead and offered it to me, even though I hadn’t formally applied. Honestly, if I didn’t apply for Job A, I doubt I would’ve ever discovered Job B. The universe was looking out for me and finally heard my desperate pleas (along with intermittent searches.)

Anyway, this letter is meant to bring hope to those who are in the position I was in for so many years. Feeling defeated and stuck in your situation. Putting off searching again for awhile after the 40th rejection because you think you can’t bear another one. I know that pain and frustration. If you’d told me a month ago I would be writing this letter, I’d have laughed in your face.

Thank you again! I’ve learned so many work norms from you. It’s helped me immensely navigating the past few years. Also, thank you not the AAM community for your support and insightful comments.”

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open thread – November 19-20, 2021 https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/open-thread-november-19-20-2021.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/open-thread-november-19-20-2021.html#comments Fri, 19 Nov 2021 16:00:26 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22628 This post, open thread – November 19-20, 2021 , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about (that includes school). If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers. * […]

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This post, open thread – November 19-20, 2021 , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about (that includes school). If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please do not repost it here, as it may be in my queue to answer.

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employee threatens to sue us when we tell her to save work files, I don’t want to put up holiday decorations, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/employee-threatens-to-sue-us-when-we-tell-her-to-save-work-files-i-dont-want-to-put-up-holiday-decorations-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/employee-threatens-to-sue-us-when-we-tell-her-to-save-work-files-i-dont-want-to-put-up-holiday-decorations-and-more.html#comments Fri, 19 Nov 2021 05:03:09 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22781 This post, employee threatens to sue us when we tell her to save work files, I don’t want to put up holiday decorations, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go… 1. Employee refuses to save her work and threatens to sue us when we tell her to We’re a mid-sized architectural firm that relies heavily on technology to complete our work. We have one employee who is extremely secretive and outright refuses to save her files […]

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This post, employee threatens to sue us when we tell her to save work files, I don’t want to put up holiday decorations, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. Employee refuses to save her work and threatens to sue us when we tell her to

We’re a mid-sized architectural firm that relies heavily on technology to complete our work. We have one employee who is extremely secretive and outright refuses to save her files to company servers. When confronted, she refuses, says the employee handbook doesn’t say she has to do this, and mentions that she will have her attorney husband look at suing us for harassment and invasion of privacy if she is compelled to share her work. It has gone as far as her taking her laptop to the bathroom so nobody can see what she is working on.

Our policies are clear on no expectation of privacy and work product being property of the company, and she consistently cites what she sees as “loopholes” to justify her behavior, along with the “I’m married to an attorney” reminder. Files have been lost as a result of her behavior which has led to cost and expense of re-doing work. She is threatening to sue for hostile work environment if we discipline or terminate her for these refusals. We have consistently documented these circumstances and have no reason to believe we are exposed to any risk or have engaged in any discriminatory or hostile conduct. However, our ownership does not want to spend money on legal advice to address the concern. What advice do you have for us?

Talk some sense into your owner. Paying for a couple of hours of a lawyer’s time will be a tiny expense compared to what you’re losing by continuing to employ someone who refuses to do the work you need and is antagonistic and insubordinate on a regular basis.

This woman is playing you — and doing it badly. “Hostile work environment” doesn’t mean “my employer was mean to me or made me do my work.” It means that you harassed or discriminated against her on the basis of a protected class like race, sex, religion, disability, etc. And invasion of privacy doesn’t even enter into it. Either her husband is a remarkably terrible lawyer, or he’s not a lawyer at all, or she hasn’t even mentioned it to him, or she has and he’s already told her she’s out of her gourd.

If you let her continue to get away with this, think about the message it’s sending your other employees: apparently people can flat-out refuse to do their jobs and threaten you and there will be no consequences. Most people won’t take advantage of that because they’re not jerks, but they will get demoralized and eventually leave over it (and while they’re still there, it will affect the work you get from them — who’s going to be motivated to go above and beyond in an environment where this is going on?) And that’s before even getting into the fact that you’re paying her to do work she won’t let you access.

All that said … if you have everything documented, you don’t strictly need to talk to a lawyer before firing her, given your owner’s unwillingness to do it. It’s smart to cover all your bases when someone is making legal threats, but you don’t need to talk to a lawyer before every firing and this sounds straightforward enough that, unless there’s something missing from the facts in the letter, you’re not taking a huge risk by just moving forward with the firing (assuming you have this all clearly documented).

2. I don’t want to put up holiday decorations

The first winter I worked at my library (2018), one of my coworkers complained to me that the library used to put up Christmas decorations, but “people got offended” and so we stopped. As the new kid with no political capital, I just made sympathetic noises, but I don’t agree with her annoyance at all. She’s complained to me about it every year since, and I don’t think this winter will be any different.

I’m Jewish, and I’m also specifically Not Into Christmas. Years of working retail has left me with no patience for Christmas music. I find the abundance of Christmas lights, and decorations, and sales, and advertisements, and everything that pops up as soon as Thanksgiving is over… exhausting. I think it’s frustrating that Hanukkah, a minor holiday that celebrates a victory against an invading, assimilating army, is culturally considered “Jewish Christmas” in the U.S.! If I don’t have to lug a dusty fake tree out of storage or hang up a bunch of lights on the library’s one rickety ladder, just to take them down in a couple weeks, that is fine by me.

All that aside, we’re a public library, not a religious institution or a store with holiday sales to advertise. She’s talking about decorating the library space, not personal offices or cubicles. And I don’t find them offensive, per se, but I get the argument that Christmas decorations in this setting would be exclusionary. This year, we’ve celebrated holidays by working them into ongoing library stuff: a book display for Ramadan, a kids’ Rosh Hashanah story time, etc., but we haven’t spent staff hours on truly decking out the space for any other religious event. I think it’s the right call by our director to not do a massive Christmas display.

Besides changing the topic, is there a way to head this off as winter approaches? This coworker and I are at the same level of authority, as are most of the other coworkers who’ve voiced any opinions on it. I hate being called a “grinch” so I hardly ever tell anyone the full extent of my Christmas ambivalence, but I don’t want to field more complaints this year. What’s a clear, polite way to tell her that I don’t care?

“Personally, I don’t think the library is the right space for it and I’m glad we’re not doing it.”

And then if she continues: “I’m not the right audience for this, and don’t want to continue to talk about it.”

3. Should I send my highly valued consultant a holiday gift?

I’ve been working with an amazing consultant this past year. I’m their main point of contact at my job. We work closely together. This consultant has been phenomenal and I thoroughly enjoy working with them. My boss has been sorta tough on the consultant and the company where I work historically hasn’t been great at paying consultants on time. I’d love to send the consultant a bottle of something or some sweets along with a note to make sure they don’t sour on this relationship because I literally couldn’t do my job without their help and guidance. Is this a bad idea?

Not at all, and it’s a pretty common thing to do. It’s unlikely to salvage the relationship if the consultant is otherwise fed up, but there’s no reason not to do it if you’d like to.

4. What to say to a grieving manager

I recently began a new job at the corporate offices of a national company. My team is very small — just me and three others — and so far my manager has been great. She communicates effectively and constantly, she supports me in every way, and she is friendly and considerate.

All this to say that I really appreciate her already, even after just a few months. Recently, she disclosed that a few of her close family members were very ill and one of them may be passing away soon. As far as I can tell, she is handling it very well, but I don’t exactly know how to act or what to say when she mentions it, and I don’t know what I should do when one of them does pass away.

I don’t want to just throw the usual “I’m sorry for your loss,” but I also don’t want to look insensitive. I am very introverted as it is and I think 18 months of working from home before this further diminished my ability to know what to do in social situations. What would you recommend?

“I’m sorry for your loss” is a standard for a reason! A lot of people don’t know what to say when someone dies, and when they try to get creative it often goes badly — so it’s very helpful to have socially accepted standards for situations like this. “I’m sorry for your loss” is perfectly fine! (That said, I personally feel like the “for your loss” part sounds a little stilted when I say it, and I usually default to, “I’m so sorry — what an awful loss” or similar.) Anything along those lines is fine! In your situation, I’d probably go with, “I’m so sorry to hear it. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to make this time easier.”  (If this were a close friend or a family member, I’d advise just offering to do specific things rather than putting the burden on her to think up something helpful you could do — but with your boss, there are fewer things in that category. Although if there are things you could offer — like handling the X project while she’s out — you should offer them.)

In discussions about very ill relatives, you can say, “I’m sorry — that must be really tough.”

And know you’re not alone in not being sure of what to say! The thing to remember is, there’s nothing you can say that will make it better, and attempts to do that nearly always go wrong. (That’s when you get people saying insensitive things like “everything happens for a reason” or “god never gives you more than you can handle.”) Just express that you’re sorry and you’ll be getting it right.

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https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/employee-threatens-to-sue-us-when-we-tell-her-to-save-work-files-i-dont-want-to-put-up-holiday-decorations-and-more.html/feed 931
a candidate told a random lie and doubled-down when we asked about it https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/a-candidate-told-a-random-lie-and-doubled-down-when-we-asked-about-it.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/a-candidate-told-a-random-lie-and-doubled-down-when-we-asked-about-it.html#comments Thu, 18 Nov 2021 18:59:08 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22670 This post, a candidate told a random lie and doubled-down when we asked about it , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: We recently interviewed a very strong candidate in a role we’d like to fill asap. His interview went very well, and at the end he mentioned that it was his first ever Zoom interview. He told us that he had been nervous about the format, but the fact that we were so […]

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This post, a candidate told a random lie and doubled-down when we asked about it , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

We recently interviewed a very strong candidate in a role we’d like to fill asap. His interview went very well, and at the end he mentioned that it was his first ever Zoom interview. He told us that he had been nervous about the format, but the fact that we were so organized and relaxed really helped facilitate this new way of interviewing for him. I’ll admit that his comment really endeared us to him, since it was a compliment to our interview team and a nice personal touch.

The next day we learned through the grapevine that he’s actually in negotiations for a different role at our company, and that he’d had multiple Zoom interviews with their staff over the past couple of weeks. Those interviews preceded ours by a week or so.

Since learning about the other interviews, we’ve asked him to clarify his remark, given the fact that he’s a final round candidate for another office and had clearly interviewed with them. We gave him an out, hoping he’d clarify by saying “In the moment, I had forgotten about those other interviews” or even “I usually use Google Meet/Skype/FaceTime, so that’s what I was referring to.” However, he essentially doubled down and replied that he said the exact opposite of what we remember. He said that at the end of the interview he told us that he only ever interviews on Zoom, and never interviews in person these days. This is weird, right?

Honesty is an integral part of our position, so we’ve opted to remove this person from our candidate pool. Do you think we made the right choice?

Sometimes when people feel nervous, they say something weird and untrue like this for no reason. (Remember the person who said she was allergic to bees when she really wasn’t? Or the person who said she was interning somewhere that hadn’t hired her yet?)

That doesn’t mean they should double-down when asked about it, of course! But sometimes people do. I think it’s a panic reaction combined with figuring it’s minor and doesn’t affect anything (versus something where they’d have an ethical obligation to correct the record).

I’m not saying that to imply that you made the wrong choice, though. When you’re hiring, you have very limited data about most candidates and you have to go on what you see.

If you’d removed him from consideration right after the interview — simply for saying it was his first Zoom interview when you knew it wasn’t — I’d find that excessive. But you gave him a chance to clarify and he claimed he hadn’t said what he said, so I can see why you ended up where you did. You don’t know a lot about this guy, and you’ve got to put weight on what you do see.

That said, I can imagine a situation where he hung up from his phone interview with you and thought “why the hell did I say that?” and then panicked when you brought it up again and figured “oh, that’s not what I meant/what I said” was the easiest way to smooth it over.

Now, obviously you don’t want employees who lie, whether it’s to smooth things over or for any other reason. But there is a good chance that this is more akin to the bee allergy person than to someone who lies about things that actually matter. The problem is, because you don’t know him you have no way of knowing if it’s that … or if he’s more like the guy who lies about things he just said 30 seconds ago. And it’s reasonable, when you’re hiring, to decide it’s enough of a red flag that you’re not going to take that risk.

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I made a gift guide for every employee on your team https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/i-made-a-gift-guide-for-every-employee-on-your-team.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/i-made-a-gift-guide-for-every-employee-on-your-team.html#comments Thu, 18 Nov 2021 17:29:30 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22623 This post, I made a gift guide for every employee on your team , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

If you’re the boss, finding the right gifts for your employees can be fraught with questions: How much do you spend? Should you spend the same amount of money on each person? And if you don’t know someone well, how do you make sure they like the gift while still keeping it professional? For the […]

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This post, I made a gift guide for every employee on your team , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

If you’re the boss, finding the right gifts for your employees can be fraught with questions: How much do you spend? Should you spend the same amount of money on each person? And if you don’t know someone well, how do you make sure they like the gift while still keeping it professional?

For the record: managers don’t have to give their staff members gifts, but it’s a nice gesture if you want to do it, and in some offices it’s expected. (Although here is your obligatory reminder that because of the power dynamics involved, gifts at work should flow down, not up. Managers should never expect or encourage gifts from employees.)

A while back, New York Magazine asked me to put together a gift guide for bosses buying for employees, and I’ve updated it for 2021. (If it seems a little early, it’s because supply chain issues make it safer to shop early this year.)

You can read it here.

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my partner and I both work from home … and we’re moving in together https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/my-partner-and-i-both-work-from-home-and-were-moving-in-together.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/my-partner-and-i-both-work-from-home-and-were-moving-in-together.html#comments Thu, 18 Nov 2021 15:59:41 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22595 This post, my partner and I both work from home … and we’re moving in together , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes: My partner and I are planning to move in together. We both work full time M-F. I currently work from home about three days per week, but that is mostly optional. I am required to come into the office one day per week and can […]

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This post, my partner and I both work from home … and we’re moving in together , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

My partner and I are planning to move in together. We both work full time M-F. I currently work from home about three days per week, but that is mostly optional. I am required to come into the office one day per week and can come in as much or as little as I like on top of that. My partner works from home almost full-time and only goes into their office 1-2 times per month by choice.

The flat we have found has two bedrooms, one of which will function as a study, and a separate living room with a dining table in it.

Technically we can continue to work from home in our current pattern, in separate rooms, without having to interrupt each other during the work day. (My partner currently works from a dining table and is happy to continue doing so, while I can take the study with a desk.) We can make cups of tea or food in the kitchen and return to our separate working spaces without worrying about the kettle disrupting the other, etc.

But should we be considering working from the office more on different days? Would working from home in a smallish two-bedroom flat feel like we’re on top of one another, when we currently both live alone? Obviously we will be able to adjust as we see fit going forward, but I’d be Interested to know what others’ experiences have been and any tips!

Readers, especially people who have been working from home with others who are using the space too (roommates, partners, whoever), share your thoughts in the comments.

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does my emergency make me look like a flake, discussing salary with friends, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/does-my-emergency-make-me-look-like-a-flake-discussing-salary-with-friends-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/does-my-emergency-make-me-look-like-a-flake-discussing-salary-with-friends-and-more.html#comments Thu, 18 Nov 2021 05:03:34 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22777 This post, does my emergency make me look like a flake, discussing salary with friends, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. Do I need to give more info about my family tragedies so I don’t look like a flake? I’m writing to ask for a calibration check. My extended family recently had a series of unrelated tragedies very close together. It’s enough drama that it would […]

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This post, does my emergency make me look like a flake, discussing salary with friends, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. Do I need to give more info about my family tragedies so I don’t look like a flake?

I’m writing to ask for a calibration check. My extended family recently had a series of unrelated tragedies very close together. It’s enough drama that it would be flagged as unrealistic by a novel editor, and it’s taken a lot out of all of us as we try and get through it.

I had to ask for an extension on a small project (not a big deal, does not impact a contract or anyone else’s work) based on “family emergencies” and got it without problem. But my inner voice keeps telling me that I’ve destroyed my professional reputation, that I sound like I’m just making excuses for procrastination, and if I just explained what the emergencies were, everyone would understand. On the other hand, no one wants to be the recipient of a trauma dump, and honestly if I wrote it all out, it would sound like a bad soap opera.

What’s the appropriate thing to do in situations like this? I’ve mentioned a couple of these things to my immediate supervisor so they’re in the loop, and I’m able to keep it together enough that my main role is unaffected. But what about these projects with offsite peers with whom I had no previous relationship? There’s no gossip network in place that will get the information over to them, so do I just accept that I look like an excuse-making flake?

No, because you don’t look like an excuse-making flake! People have family emergencies; it’s a thing that happens. If you heard that a colleague needed to push something back because of a family emergency, you wouldn’t think, “What an excuse-making flake!” You would think, “I hope everything’s okay.” Maybe if the person had a long track record of reasons for never making deadlines, you might wonder — but with someone who you knew to be generally conscientious, I doubt skepticism would even cross your mind.

There is a thing some of us do where we worry people will think X about us when we would never think X about them in the same situation. Sometimes just asking yourself, “What would I think if Respected Colleague Y did this?” can recalibrate your brain away from that.

I’m sorry about your family stuff and hope things get better soon!

2. Is it wrong to discuss salary with friends?

I have a question about the norms of discussing salary. I have just graduated from college, where my friends and I regularly discussed how much money we made, saved, and spent. At my food service job, all employees, including salaried management, talk about our wages regularly enough that I know how much each person makes (and other coworkers have used this information to push for raises).

My sister recently got her dream job offer and I asked how much they offered her. She told me and I congratulated her, as I knew it was more than what she’d hoped to make. My mom found out about this a few weeks later and told me I shouldn’t have asked. My sister agreed and said she thought it was strange that I had asked. Both told me it was inappropriate to talk about pay with friends. I said that I thought pay transparency is important, and they both agreed but said it should only be within a company, not between every person you know.

I understand what they’re saying, but I don’t understand why it’s bad to talk about salary. I admit it may have been forward of me to ask about my sister’s offer, although I wouldn’t have asked directly if she weren’t my sister. Is it wrong for me to talk about my own pay with people I don’t work with?

No. Talk about your pay! Feeling like you can’t discuss pay only benefits employers, and harms everyone else.

That said, different friend groups and families have varying norms around this. Some discuss pay openly and others never do. In general, I think you find more openness about pay among friends when you’re younger and then people start clamming up as they get older (partly because as people advance in their careers, you start getting more disparities in people’s finances and that can feel awkward).

Your mom and sister are wrong that it’s inappropriate to discuss money with friends, though! Lots of friend groups do. You just need to know the norms of the group you’re dealing with.

3. Four-page cover letters

A dear friend of mine works in a fairly niche industry (academia-adjacent) and is job searching. She is looking at roles where her demographic info make her a not obvious fit but she has dedicated her career to this area, received a doctorate in a closely-related field of study, written research on the topic, and dedicates a significant amount of time outside her actual job to the work (podcasts/social media content, creating and distributing resources, giving trainings and talks, teaching, etc). She’s been applying to jobs and her cover letter is four pages long (granted, it’s double-spaced, but still). I told her that is ABSURD, but her response was she was trying to show how all her career experience and outside-of-work activities counterbalance what many will see as her initial lack of fit for the role.

I get what she’s saying, but I still think that is crazy long. My question is: is there ever a situation where a cover letter this long is appropriate?

No.* I like cover letters and I would not read a four-page cover letter. One page. Maybe a page and a half if there’s really good reason for it and the content is compelling, not just a regurgitation of the resume. Four pages, absolutely not. If she were otherwise a stellar candidate, I might skim really quickly (like a couple of seconds per page) while thinking, “This person is long-winded and doesn’t know how to edit.”

If she’s at that length because of all the stuff you listed for relevant activities outside of her job, most/all of that should just go on her resume.

* Caveat: maybe in academia? They use really long CVs, after all. I can’t speak for them or their ways.

4. How much should I tell interviewers about my old employer’s implosion?

This past spring, I separated from a nonprofit that was well known among the small industry that it works within. It had actually been a “founding” member of the industry in the 1940s and was seen as a prestigious organization.

When I left in the spring, things were very bad at the organization. There had always a level of dysfunction and toxicity, but the pandemic made things much worse. Many people lost their jobs, and they went from about 100 people to about 12. The organization is still in existence but is a fraction of what it had been. Their board also made some pretty terrible decisions which severely altered the participation of the organization in the market and industry.

I have been interviewing both within the industry and outside of it. Inevitably, whenever I meet with a former competitor or related organizations, the interviewers ask about what happened at my previous organization during the pandemic. I think it is coming from a place of morbid curiosity, but I’m not sure how to respond or how much to say. It is obvious that things went very poorly during the pandemic so I don’t want to pretend like nothing happened (and of course I lost my job because of it). But I also want to be taken seriously and stay professional. I had one interviewer who asked a series of questions about what happened and seemed to really want some dirt. Up until now, I have been disclosed the “public” details of what happened, things that had been shared with volunteers and participants. Is this the appropriate way to go? Do you have suggestions on how to handle future questions?

Yep, stick to publicly shared details and vague statements like “they really had a tough time during the pandemic.” The exception is if you had a relatively senior position there and the interviewer is asking because they’re assessing the ways your work might have been impacted by (or impacted) what was going on. For example, if you oversaw finances or worked in senior management, it’s reasonable for them to have work questions for you about that experience. But if your sense is that people are just morbidly curious, stick to what’s been shared publicly. If you’re pushed, it’s okay to say more explicitly, “I wouldn’t want to share anything they haven’t shared publicly, but yes, they faced some real challenges.”

5. I still have my work computer even though I was laid off months ago

During the Covid lockdown, I was told to work from home and was using my work computer at home. After a couple of months I was laid off. I haven’t returned the computer, and they haven’t asked for it. I haven’t used it and am embarrassed that I still have it. I want to return it, but I don’t want to create any problems for the department that lent it to me in the first place. How do you think I should handle this?

Note: I was dealing with a family crisis and just wasn’t tuned in to the computer situation at the time. I don’t want to keep the computer, but I’m concerned that attempting to return it could create a problem for the department I worked for. It’s a very large organization, and they have to comply to a lot of regulations. I know we have regulations for a reason, but I think it was an oversight during a difficult time. Any ideas on how to correct the situation?

This will be fine! Email your manager there and say, “I just realized that I still have my work computer! What’s the best way for me to get it back to you?” That’s it. If your manager is no longer there, send this to HR or any other reasonable contact there.

If it’s a problem that you’ve had the computer this long, that’s on them — it was their responsibility to arrange to get back anything they needed from you when they laid you off. Generally when remote staff leave, the company makes arrangements for them to ship equipment back at the company’s expense. You’re not at fault that they didn’t do that.

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my boss was furious that I went to a work party after calling out sick https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/my-boss-was-furious-that-i-went-to-a-work-party-after-calling-out-sick.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/my-boss-was-furious-that-i-went-to-a-work-party-after-calling-out-sick.html#comments Wed, 17 Nov 2021 18:59:23 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22717 This post, my boss was furious that I went to a work party after calling out sick , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: This situation happened several years ago at a company that I’ve already left, but I still find myself thinking about it from time to time and wondering if what I did was really so egregious. I was working my first job out of college at a fast-paced start-up. My team (just me […]

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This post, my boss was furious that I went to a work party after calling out sick , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

This situation happened several years ago at a company that I’ve already left, but I still find myself thinking about it from time to time and wondering if what I did was really so egregious.

I was working my first job out of college at a fast-paced start-up. My team (just me and my direct supervisor) had a big deadline set for the Friday just before the holiday break. This happened to be the same day that our company holiday party was being held. It was a fancy party in a rooftop bar of a skyscraper downtown and all of us younger employees were really excited about it.

We realized at the beginning of the week that we weren’t going to meet the deadline due to several unforeseen issues with production, despite pulling 10-12 hour days. My direct manager said we would just have to push the deadline to after the New Year, and made it clear she did not expect me to come in over Christmas.

I came down with a nasty cold and ended up calling in sick that Thursday and Friday. By Friday evening I was feeling a bit better (with the help of Dayquil), and decided that I was well enough to stop by the party. I was a bit nervous about going to the party when I had called in sick the same day, but my (also young and inexperienced) coworkers assured me it was fine. I showed up, said hello to everyone, had exactly one drink, and then headed home again.

I found out after the holiday break my grand-boss was FURIOUS that I showed up to the party after calling in sick and had expected me to come in over Christmas to make up the lost work. She wanted me to be fired over this incident. My direct supervisor had to go to bat to keep me on. When I got my performance review for the year, written by grand-boss, it was absolutely scathing. I was irresponsible, lazy, undedicated, etc. I was denied a bonus for the year. My direct supervisor said she did not agree, but there was nothing more she could do. I felt completely blindsided. I left the company not long after, the environment was toxic in several ways and I’m thankfully in a much better place now.

Looking back, I can see how bad the optics are to call in sick just before a deadline and then show up to a party the same day. But I still don’t think it’s a fireable offense! Am I looking at this all wrong? How bad was this, really?

Nah, that was an enormous overreaction from your grand-boss. What you did was a minor misstep.

It’s definitely true that if you call in sick, you shouldn’t show up to a work party that night. (There are some exceptions to this, but they’re on the margins — things like taking sick time for a doctor’s appointment rather than for illness.) It looks like you weren’t really that sick if you’re able to go to something fun just hours later.

A huge part of this is about optics though. Sometimes you’re too ill to go to work but you’ve revived enough by the evening to go out. Or you don’t have the energy to be “on” in the way you need for work, but you could hang out for a drink for an hour. But yeah, you’re expected to know it’ll look bad and not do it.

You didn’t know because you were in your first job and still learning this stuff, and you had peers telling you it was okay. It was a misstep, but it should have been handled via a quick conversation with your manager: “If you call in sick, we expect you’re too sick to attend a party that night — and even if you do recover in time, it still looks bad.” Done, problem solved.

Your grand-boss’s reaction was over-the-top. Fuming? Wanting to fire you? Calling you lazy and undedicated weeks/months later? The only way that would make any sense is if she’d already had serious concerns about your work ethic and this was the latest in a pattern of issues (in which case, I can see how the party might have set her off more than it would have otherwise). But assuming everything else was fine, her reaction was weirdly and excessively inflated.

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my employee punched her supervisor during a disagreement https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/my-employee-punched-her-supervisor-during-a-disagreement.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/my-employee-punched-her-supervisor-during-a-disagreement.html#comments Wed, 17 Nov 2021 17:29:37 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22534 This post, my employee punched her supervisor during a disagreement , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: A incident of violence happened at my office. I manage several departments and one of the supervisors was assaulted by an employee. The employee was upset that she had been denied a day off she had put in for. Other people had already booked that day off previously and the limit had […]

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This post, my employee punched her supervisor during a disagreement , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

A incident of violence happened at my office. I manage several departments and one of the supervisors was assaulted by an employee. The employee was upset that she had been denied a day off she had put in for. Other people had already booked that day off previously and the limit had been reached because the department needs enough people for coverage. The employee was not happy and broke the supervisor’s cheek.

The supervisor is back to work part-time while she recovers (her choice, she was offered fully paid time off but wanted to come back). The employee was fired and she got arrested and charged with assault. All other employees were briefed on what happened. Beyond giving everyone information on our EAP and allowing anyone who was upset after the briefing to go home for the day with pay, what else can I do to make sure my staff is looked after? If anyone is affected by this I want them to be taken care of. I have never had to work through the aftermath of a violent incident at work before.

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

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Working with an over-complimenter
  • Offering to let candidates talk to the previous people in the job
  • Am I supposed to respond to job candidates’ thank-you notes?
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my team is requiring us to do a diet/exercise/”mental toughness” program https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/my-team-is-requiring-us-to-do-a-diet-exercise-mental-toughness-program.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/my-team-is-requiring-us-to-do-a-diet-exercise-mental-toughness-program.html#comments Wed, 17 Nov 2021 15:59:49 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22716 This post, my team is requiring us to do a diet/exercise/”mental toughness” program , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: We’re back in the office responsibly and safely, and different departments have started team rebuilding exercises to “make up for lost bonding time.” Le barffe. My division lead decided on 75 Hard as our team-building exercise. 75 Hard is a program that includes a diet and exercise regimen and some lifestyle changes […]

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This post, my team is requiring us to do a diet/exercise/”mental toughness” program , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

We’re back in the office responsibly and safely, and different departments have started team rebuilding exercises to “make up for lost bonding time.” Le barffe. My division lead decided on 75 Hard as our team-building exercise. 75 Hard is a program that includes a diet and exercise regimen and some lifestyle changes and philosophies that are medically unsound and flawed. Also didn’t we just go through a pandemic? Wasn’t that hard enough?

The one palatable part of the “reset” is to read self-help and business books so I emailed the team this: “Thanks for the invite, but I’m not comfortable with this program and don’t feel it would be a beneficial experience for me. I’d be happy to participate in the joint reading section so long as the reading material has some positivity behind it. (Insert book recommendations that were immediately tossed out for being ‘girly’.)”

The response was, “Oh, it’s not supposed to be a positive experience blah blah.” I stood my ground politely and my manager later hinted to the division that not participating in team-building exercises will be negatively reflected in our yearly reviews. He then said we should bring in a doctor’s note if we wanted to be excused. Uh. No.

Other people on my team who don’t want to participate are staying relatively quiet, but I think enough is enough.

In the past my department has done habit resets before, holding each other accountable with obnoxious reminders that REALLY skirt the limits of ableism and bullying. It’s a startup that doesn’t really have what passes for HR. Instead they do “peer mediation” which is a nightmare. The company president/owner is a relatively level-headed woman but should I escalate this that high up (great-grand boss)? There’s a lot going on that I think necessitates the need for an HR department, this just highlights it. Part of me thinks it’s time to cut bait, but honestly, this particular job is a major resume builder to a great freelance career so I should probably hang out for a while.

AGGGGGHH.

I looked up 75 Hard. It pitches itself as a “mental toughness” program and its rules include:
* follow a diet (including no alcohol and no “cheat meals”)
* work out twice a day for at least 45 minutes
* drink four liters of water per day
* read 10 pages of nonfiction a day
* take a five-minute cold shower a day
* take progress photos every day

Oh, and it was created by a guy who sells supplements. Presumably so he can later sell you supplements.

This is wildly inappropriate for work. WILDLY.

Your employer has no business mucking about in your diet or whether you “cheat” on a diet or in your exercise, your showers, or your “progress photos” (which I assume means the goal is to lose weight, which is another thing they have no business in).

And these rules would be medically contraindicated for loads of people. Eating disorders? Disabilities that limit physical activity? No.

This would be inappropriate even if it were optional, but they’re saying your participation will be reflected in your performance reviews? Hello, legal problems.

I’d send this to your manager and, since you don’t have HR, cc the president: “I’m concerned about the requirement to participate in 75 Hard, a program that’s been widely criticized by nutritionists and medical professionals. Since the instructions conflict with my doctor’s recommendations, I won’t be able to participate. I hope the company will re-think its encouragement of the program in general, given the potential legal liability if it continues to be pushed on employees. In particular, I’m alarmed at the implication that not participating will affect my performance review, and I’d like to get your assurance that won’t be the case.”

Ideally those other people who don’t want to participate would do the same. The more of you who push back, the harder it’ll be to blow you off.

But you’ve also got to take a look at what’s going on in this place more broadly. You’ve got “peer mediation” in place of HR (how does that work for, say, discrimination or sexual harassment?), you’re got “accountability reminders” that you characterize as ableist and bullying, you’ve got book recommendations rejected for being “girly” … even aside from this 75 Hard debacle, are you really having a great experience there?

The job market’s pretty good right now; you don’t have to put up with this kind of amateur startup bullshit.

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