fired coworker left us all a church flyer and a link to her music, is Mardi Gras OK for work, and more — Ask a Manager

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

1. My fired coworker left us all a bible quote, a church flyer, and a link to her music

About a week ago, a colleague, “Bridget,” was let go. She was brand new to the workforce and the job was not a good fit. After six months of training with no results, and the teams she was supposed to support working around her, she was let go. This was sad, but after training her myself I could see that she wasn’t really understanding what I was explaining after multiple attempts.

The next morning after finding out Bridget had been let go, I came into the office and saw an email sent at almost 4 AM from this now former colleague. In the goodbye email (that was bcc’d to an unknown number of colleagues), she announced that she had been let go and that she was having a hard time comprehending and processing what happened because it happened so abruptly, and even mentioned that she was writing the email at 3 AM while crying and didn’t know if she would be allowed back in to collect her things while the rest of the office was working. She ended the email with a bible quote and linked her own music.

I was stunned. Another coworker who received the email asked me about Bridget and I struggled to figure out how to explain to this coworker. Personally, if I was let go, I would not send a tearful email at 3 in the morning to former colleagues. However, I was so stunned by it I just blocked it out of my mind and didn’t mention it to my manager, who was Bridget’s manager. I chalked it up to her being new and naive in the workforce and didn’t respond.

Fast forward to this morning, I arrive at the office and there is a little notepad on my desk. I open it up and there is a personal note from Bridget (I guess she came to collect her things), along with a little advertising card from her church. I am not a Christian. I noticed this on other coworkers’ desks who are also not Christian. I was stunned again.

Should I have brought up the email from Bridget with my manager last week? Should I do or say anything about this note and church flyer? I firmly believe these were not the wisest things to do after being let go, but she is no longer with the organization. I’m a more senior member of our job role but I am not a manager and have no real authority here, but this whole situation was incredibly uncomfortable and awkward and put me in situations with other colleagues where they started asking me about what happened.

I think you’re right to write it off to Bridget being new and naive (and sometimes the way someone leaves a job is sort of a continuation of the problems they had while they were in it). I don’t think you were obligated* to report it to your manager, although there’s no reason not to — it’s useful for your boss to know what happened in case there’s any more aftermath. And Bridget’s decision to advertise her church on her way out is so yikes that personally I’d relay it to your boss just based on that factor alone.

* Caveat: You’d have more of an obligation to report it to your boss if you’re seen as anything like a team lead or second-in-command, even if just informally; in that case your boss would rightly expect you’d flag stuff like this for her.

2. Can I offer to pay a coworker’s vet bill?

I am a relatively high earner at my current job. I have a very friendly relationship with an office assistant, who doesn’t earn nearly as much as me (I know because I used to have his job). He has been telling me lately about a cat he has who has been having some health issues, but he cannot afford to take it to the vet. I find this to be very heartbreaking because I also own a cat and can only imagine how hard that is. I want to anonymously do something to help, like either leave an envelope of cash on his desk before he comes in one day, or slip it into his bag when he’s in the restroom or something (though I don’t know how I’d explain this if he caught me — I think I’d look very suspicious). I’d want to attach a typed note like “please use this to take Rex to the vet.”

The biggest problem I’m having is that I’m too worried he’ll figure out it’s me. I don’t know if he’s told anyone else about his cat, and I ask about how it’s doing sometimes. I think this would make our work relationship feel awkward. He doesn’t report to me or anything like that, but the nature of his role means that he assists me with requests I send to him. Also, because I used to have his job, I’m often helping to train him on things if his usual trainers aren’t available.

Side note before anyone says “don’t get a pet you can’t afford,” the cat was a rescue he didn’t necessarily want, but it had no one else to take it and would likely have been put down if he hadn’t taken it in. The previous owner basically left it at his doorstep. He loves it very much and wants to take good care of it. Anyway, what do you think of my idea? Any tips?

I don’t love the anonymous note option. There’s too much chance that your coworker will know it was you if you’re the only one at work he’s shared the situation with — or that he’ll just feel like people around him are judging him for not having taken the cat to the vet. There’s also the possibility he’ll decide he has a greater use for the money elsewhere, and if he continues not taking the cat to the vet despite receiving the money, that’s going to make things weird between you in a whole new way.

Would you instead be willing to be forthright about it? You could say something like, “Would you let me cover Rex’s trip to the vet? I love cats and I’d be so happy to help make it possible.” You could even add something like, “Someone once covered something for me when I needed help with it, and you’d be helping me pay it forward.”

I know this risks being awkward, but (a) some awkwardness in the service of getting a sick cat veterinary care isn’t the worst thing and (b) it could end up being less awkward than the alternatives. It’s so kind that you want to cover the vet bill; just ask if you can.

3. Is Mardi Gras OK for work?

I’m originally from a region of the U.S. that goes *big* on the whole Mardi Gras season (fun fact: it’s a whole season!) but am now in an environment that has barely realized it’s happening. I wore some beads into the office today, greeted a coworker with “Happy Mardi Gras!” and brought a king cake for the staff breakroom. I think this is pretty low-key and ok for our work environment. But I’m also realizing I don’t really know how secularized it actually is in much of the U.S.

I am personally atheist, and I know plenty of other people celebrate it totally divorced from its religious roots (cough Sydney cough). For me, it’s a nice way to share my regional-cultural heritage and celebrate joy in a dreary season. But Mardi Gras is at its core a very, very Catholic celebration, and I would never put out a Christmas tree in the office. Or bring an Easter basket. If colleagues wanted to do an organized “give something up for Lent” challenge I would be HORRIFIED.

Should I chill out about the holiday in the office? Or is it closer to a cultural exchange, like a Mexican coworker sharing Día de Muertos traditions?

A cultural exchange is a fine way to look at it. Obviously you shouldn’t insist that people who don’t want to celebrate it should embrace it anyway (as people love to do with Christmas), but it’s fine to observe it yourself (i.e., the beads) and bring in king cake to share.

4. Subpar vendor from my former job won’t stop hounding me

I’ve been freelancing on the side for 12 years and recently left my full-time job of 10 years at Company to freelance full-time. Over the years at Company, I worked with an outside vendor on various products and services. Vendor had a long-standing relationship with Company, especially because the owners were friends and sometimes took international vacations together. It was a relationship I inherited and was encouraged to continue to grow. But after working with Vendor for a while, I determined that they did not provide quality products or services, and managed to move some of their production back in house where we made a far superior product. But Company continued to push me to use Vendor for more and more products and services. As time went on, it became very typical for Vendor to miss deadlines. At one point, Vendor was nearly one year late with launching a website for us! It was a very stressful time; they kept replacing my contact for the project, and kept making promises and breaking them. When I decided to leave Company, although it wasn’t the reason, it was certainly a perk that I would never have to work with this subpar Vendor again…

…that is, until a few months later when several contacts from Vendor started hounding me via email and social media to work together now that I freelance full-time. They are requesting that I send overflow projects to them and pushing to meet up when they are in town next month. I am 100% not interested in ever working with Vendor again, and I don’t know how to decline politely and professionally. To make matters more awkward, I now freelance for Company, so there is a small possibility that I may get pulled into an email with Vendor at some point. I don’t want to make that uncomfortable and potentially hurt my freelance opportunities with Company. But I also want to get better at saying no and sticking up for myself. This is my freelance business, and I only want to work with reliable, quality clients and vendors.

You’ve got a couple of options. There’s the indirect blow-off: “I’m set right now, but I’ll let you know if I ever have a project where it would make sense.” (After which, you can ignore future messages without any qualms.) Or there’s the more direct rebuff: “Thank you but no, the fit isn’t right for my work.” These people sound aggressive enough that the direct rebuff is likely to result in queries about why, in an effort to look for a path past it. Either way, after you deliver whichever type of initial no you choose, you don’t need to keep engaging. If you want, you can send a final “I’m swamped so won’t be able to keep discussing, but good luck with everything you’re working on.” But stop responding after that.

If you get pulled into an email with them later on through work you’re doing for your old company, just proceed as if all is normal — don’t be weird about the fact that you turned them down, since that’s a very normal thing to happen in business. Be briskly cheerful and assume they will be fine with it.

5. Should I wait to give notice until my background check clears?

Would an offer be rescinded because I said I would give notice at my current role as soon as the backgrounds check clears and the offer moves from conditional to firm? I accepted the conditional offer if that matters.

It’s very normal — and strongly recommended — to wait to give notice at your current job until you have a firm offer, not one that’s conditional on background checks or anything else. That’s true even if you’re confident nothing will come up in the background check, since unexpected things can still go wrong.

It makes no sense to pull the plug on your source of income before a new company has firmly committed to employing you. No decently-functioning employer will have a problem with that, and they should have encountered it plenty of times before. Do not budge on this.

Previous Story

JBL Pulse 5 review: Lightshow and party starter

Next Story

The trend of mutual proposals to get engaged in 2024

Latest from Blog

0 $0.00