bank called my employer to complain I was rude, my boss wants me to take a sticker off my truck, and more — 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 employer wants me to remove an offensive sticker from my truck

I recently broke up with my girlfriend and to retaliate, I put a sticker across the front windshield of my truck that says “Lift it! Fat girls can’t jump.” (My truck is raised or “lifted” really high. You have to climb up to get in. The sticker makes fun of fat girls not able to get in my truck.) It was funny to me and my friends.

I drive the truck to work every day, and about the end of the first week, my manager came and asked me about it. I explained and he asked if I would take it off since some people had told him they found it offensive and embarrassing. I said I would park at the end of the lot and face it away from building. He came back next day and asked again if I would remove it. I said I would cover it up when coming on the property. The next week, HR approached me and reminded me of the anti-harassment policy. I am holding my ground on offering to cover it up but not removing it. I spent $150! I am waiting on what will be decided but what do you think I can expect?

I think you can expect to be seen as an ass, since you’re acting like one. And yes, acting like an ass is a fireable offense. It’s also one that destroys your reputation and harms your ability to get promotions, raises, and references. Is this really the hill you want to die on?


2. A coworker at my new job is someone I slept with four years ago

I’m in my 20s and have just started a three-month internship with a large company. Today was my first day where I met a variety of business leaders, as well as the previous interns and graduates who went through the same program.

There was one graduate who I knew already. I’d met him at schoolies/spring break about four years ago and had sexual relations on two occasions during this time. I was going through a tough time and was simply seeking comfort with no strings attached back then. I have since overcome such challenges, but it was extremely awkward meeting him and shaking hands today to “meet him for the first time.”

I am not sure if he even remembers these events. If he does, I am concerned that people in the office may find out.

How should I go about this problem? We are both in long-term relationships (I checked his Facebook) and I am definitely not interested in him. Despite this, I feel quite awkward and slightly embarassed around him in the office. I’d prefer to avoid him completely as professionally acceptable as possible and not speak to him unless absolutely required. Some background information: we work in separate business divisions – he is in Finance and I am in Technology, so I highly doubt we will work together in the foreseeable future.

You, like millions of other people, slept with someone a couple of times years ago. This is not a scandal or something you need to carry around embarrassment about.

Act as if it doesn’t matter, and you might begin feeling like it doesn’t really matter. And even if that never takes hold for you emotionally, acting like it doesn’t matter is still the best approach if you do run into him at work again. Hell, pretend it didn’t even happen if it makes you feel more comfortable in your office. If he ever says anything to you about having met before, be polite but keep a professional distance. “Yes, good to see you again” is perfectly polite, followed by a work-related topic or a polite exit.

If he’s in a relationship, he probably isn’t looking to stir things back up between the two of you, although if he does, you can just clearly say that you prefer to keep the relationship professional.


3. A bank called my employer to complain I was rude

I have been working as a bookkeeper for five months at my current job. There was a problem with a bank statement, so I went to the bank to find out what happened. The bank is a small local bank with hardly anyone ever in it. When I walked in, four tellers all smiled at me and said hi (no customer was in the bank but me). I smiled, said hi and then asked lightheartedly, “Who would like this problem?” Then one teller piped up and said she could help me. I explained my problem, and she said since I wasn’t on the account yet, she couldn’t help. Then I asked if I could call my manager to give permission over the phone. She said no, that she would do it this time. So the problem was fixed, and I told them I was grateful and thank you. I left.

Well, today I got called into a manager meeting saying that the bank called them and complained about my behavior, that I was mean and rude and demanded someone to help me fix the problem, then huffed away after snapping at them when they told me they couldn’t help me since I wasn’t on the account. This did not happen at all. They did help me, and fixed the problem. I am completely dumbfounded at this situation, and really hurt because that kind of behavior is not even close to who I am. I got written up at work, and I feel like a fool. I find it completely unprofessional that a bank would call my employers and make up this story. Is there anything I can do, or anything I should do in this situation? I am completely deflated, and feel liked I got slapped in the face.

Is there any chance that you came off much differently than you realized or intended? It’s a pretty big deal for a bank to call someone’s employer about something like that, which makes me wonder if they could have reasonably misunderstood your tone or actions.

If you’re positive that that’s not the case, I think you could say this to your boss: “I’ve been over and over this in my head, and I just can’t understand what prompted that phone call. When I was in the bank, I was cheerful and polite, and I was understanding when they said I wasn’t on the account. I feel terrible that anyone thought I was being rude or snapping at them; I would never do that in a customer service situation, and I’m mortified that anyone felt that way. As best as I can figure out, this must be a misunderstanding and I don’t want you to have the impression that I would do something like that.”


4. How to disinvite an intern from our trivia team

I work for a large company in a small town. Like “literally everyone in town works for this company” large. It’s the summer and now there are tons of interns about. Last summer I had an awesome trivia team and it’s started up again this summer. Last year, we kind of cobbled together a team and we turned out to be pretty good! There were four of us, but we brought friends every now and then, no big deal. I was hanging out with another set of friends and there was a guy, Cosmo, who said he was into trivia, so I invited him.

Big mistake.

Cosmo doesn’t actually know much trivia. He makes fun of us when we make bad puns or spout some extra trivia knowledge (calling us dorks/geeks/nerds, we all have a STEM background so this is just strange to me…). He doesn’t speak English well enough to understand the host on the mic, so we end up repeating the question to him several times and then he always says “oh, I don’t know [that category]”. He will contribute nothing and then if we win, he’ll still take a cut of the prize. All of these things on their own have happened with guests we bring, we’re usually pretty laid back about it but all of these things together have been a headache!

Another intern, Wanda, organizes the group and has agreed with me several times that she doesn’t appreciate Cosmo being there, bringing us down (mood wise but also the score), and then taking our prize money. Wanda has stopped responding to his messages, but there’s one trivia night in town, he knows where we’ll be even if we don’t confirm it. This is a small town, everyone knows each other, everyone works with each other, how are we supposed to tell Cosmo to take a hike?

Can you be straightforward with him about the problems? For example: “When we’ve invited you in the past, you’ve made fun of us, called us names, and taken a cut of the winnings after not contributing any trivia answers. So for now we’re going to keep the team to just the four of us.”


5. Should I send an anonymous email to my terrible manager’s new job?

I have a situation where I feel really compelled to send an email to an organization to warn them about a new employee they have taken on. However for various reasons, maybe the strongest of which being my own cowardice, I want to do it anonymously.

The situation is that I used to work for a charity (which I am actually returning to next week). The employee I have referred to above used to be my manager. She was toxic and demoralized staff completely; the only saving grace was that she was only in our service two days a week so we coped as best we could. However, in the space of a year and a half, she forced three employees out, forced another to take a demotion (and affected her mental health), and she also had a detrimental effect to my own mental health. She was eventually moved to another service within the charity and after wreaking even greater havoc there (it was a bigger service with more staff) she was let go from the organization.

I have now found out that this person has taken up a new post as a manager with, ironically enough, a mental health charity. I have no doubt that the charity I worked for did not give a true picture of what went on with this person, as they are notorious for hushing things up and it would probably make them look bad that they let it go on for so long (she was a manager in total for our charity for five years).

However, I really feel strongly that this person should not be allowed to work for any mental health charity when she was responsible for negatively affecting the mental health of so many people. I feel that her new employers should at least be made aware of this. Obviously I am also angered that she behaved in the way she did and still went on to land another managerial position. Do you think there is any point in sending such an email?

I totally understand the impulse; it’s frustrating to feel like you’re just stuck standing on the sidelines watching a terrible manager move on to a position where she’ll spread further toxicity. But no, I wouldn’t do it. They’re not likely to rescind her job offer over an anonymous note, and it’s likely to just seem weird and uncomfortable to whoever receives it. Best case scenario, it might prompt them to watch her more closely for a while — but most employers really aren’t likely to take that kind of anonymous note seriously (after all, it could be from someone with a personal ax to grind against her, or from someone who didn’t like being appropriately held accountable by her when she was their boss, or so forth).

Even if your note weren’t anonymous, they’re not likely to take serious action based on a note from a stranger. They’re likely to ask her about it, and she’s fairly likely to explain it away by claiming that you were a toxic employee. I would love to tell you that there’s a way for you to get them information in a way they’ll listen to, but unless you actually know someone at her new company, you’re just not in a good position to intervene. I’m sorry!


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