To save some money, my colleague and I decided to start car sharing to and from work. Our workplace operates a flexible working policy between 7 and 7 and we often come in early and leave early to avoid traffic, which has never been a problem and a lot of colleagues do the same.

We tend to try and work around our meetings and if either of us need to stay late for something, the other does also and vice versa. This has been working really well for us both, however recently my manager has made comments about it being unprofessional to be car sharing and said we should stop - stating that it was due to creating outside relationships with colleagues. There’s no policy against socialising with colleagues, but obviously the fact that it’s been pointed out and made a big deal of makes it awkward. My employer actually promotes groups, etc. within the workplace. For what it's worth, we’re both straight men and both of us are working in the same team at the same level.

This has never affected our jobs and we still come and go at the same time as we always have, the only thing that has changed is the fact that we come in and go together.

How can I approach my manager about this? How would this be regarded unprofessional? He clearly has no issue with the work timings, as everyone in our office has certain times they come and go which has been this way for a long time. We work in a busy city centre, so we would consider it to be better for the environment and the people living in the area to reduce the number of vehicles.

This has made it awkward for us both, because people now make a big deal as a joke when we come and go, but our manager seems to be taking it seriously. He doesn’t see how it is affecting us based off how other colleagues are texting to it, especially since we’re not entirely sure what we’ve done wrong.

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    Have you pressed for details? Did your manager elaborate on why he thinks it's unprofessional? Did you already push back against this comment or did you just give a non-committal response? – Lilienthal Aug 9 at 9:14
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    "For what it's worth, we’re both straight men" Are you sure he's aware of that? It's possible that he thinks you're both secretly gay, and is taking an opportunity to discreetly discriminate against you, or is attempting to force a "no dating in the workplace" policy without explicitly stating it. – nick012000 Aug 9 at 11:43
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    Why does your manager need to know that even? – Aganju Aug 9 at 11:47
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    @nick012000 yes he is aware, my colleagues girlfriend works in the same office. – andtodd Aug 9 at 11:48
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    Does this policy extend to public transport? What if you sat next to someone from work on the bus? Would one of you need to move? Supposing you shared one day a year? One day a month? One day a week? Where's the cutoff? All of these questions should be clearly answerable by your manager backed-up by the relevant contractual obligations. – spender Aug 9 at 12:49

15 Answers 15

up vote 339 down vote accepted

Your manager is a prat1. I can't put it any more simply than that (well, I could but it would involve unprofessional language...) You've made it very clear that you've done everything possible to ensure that your car sharing doesn't affect your professional life. Frankly, how you get to work is your business and your manager should keep out of it.

While that's all well and good for me to say, it doesn't really help you as you've still got your manager to deal with. I would make some discreet enquiries as to whether your company has a policy on car sharing - if there isn't one, then...

1. British English slang largely meaning "fool", but also implying intentional behaviour as opposed to accidental.

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    Then... what? IMO you stop right when you come to the point as to what to do. It likely isnt against the rules, and the manager pulls a "yes, but I say so". Now what? – Martijn Aug 9 at 9:24
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    Interesting that this answer is so highly rated and accepted, but manages not to answer the question at all. – C Henry Aug 9 at 21:32
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    Please do finish that last sentence: Then what? Then stop? Then keep going? It only speaks to whoever already knows the answer, and people might know different answers, but this question is for people who don't know the answer there. This answer ought to fill in that blank, not leave it blank. I've downvoted and will leave my downvote in place until it's completed. – doppelgreener Aug 10 at 11:42
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    please complete the last sentence.I agree with your assessment of the situation but it would help to see how you suggest to proceed if there is no car sharing policy. – DigitalBlade969 Aug 12 at 6:24
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    There are two fitting sayings, first of all if you can’t change your organization, change your organization, and even more fitting, people don’t quit companies they quit managers. – eckes Aug 13 at 7:58

No, it's not unprofessional. (and I echo Philip Kendalls' thoughts).

Some organisations actively encourage car sharing - I used to work for a major clothing retailer in the UK and they offered a financial incentive (other than the obvious fuel saving) for people to travel into work together by way of discount vouchers that could be used in the staff shops, and a huge number of staff took advantage of this - in my team (of 50) alone probably half the team car-shared. The business actually had its own area on LiftShare, and Car Share vehicles got priority parking places.

Key benefits - it's better for the environment, it reduces the number of parking spaces needed by staff, lots of other companies encourage it, it reduces any financial strain on the pair of you. I can't actually think of a good reason why your manager would have an issue with it, unless he's seen Peter Kays' Car Share and thinks you're going to bunk off and spend the day in the zoo?


Per Josh's suggestion, here are a few relevant links:

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    Almost perfect. IMO, adding a "solution" section with a link to some UK Gov endorsed car sharing schemes that OP can show his manager would make it so. See gov.uk/government/news/car-clubs-cash-boost and gov.uk/government/news/car-clubs-cash-boost as examples. – josh Aug 9 at 8:50
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    In addition to that, most (good) companies put considerable effort into helping their staff bond. Team building days, nights out, parties, office competitions etc etc etc - people who are more than "just colleagues" and are invested in each others success work better together and provide better results. It really is hard to put into words just how stupid this personis – Dan Aug 9 at 13:24
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    It is clearly not unprofessional, it is even weird! As many comments and answers pointed out it firms often try to do the opposite: motivate workers to better use transports with initiatives and financial incentives. My experience: I work for a big firm in France a carpooling website was launched for for workers by the firm. They clearly encourage people to less use the car! – Louis Lac Aug 10 at 14:33

As @PhillipKendall so accurately put it, your manager is a prat1, although wazzock and pillock would be good descriptions too. This answer is to suggest an appropriate way to deal with his prattishness.

  1. Start by ignoring him. You ask how to approach him, but so far it's just comments, and if you do nothing there is a pretty good chance that he not follow up. Maybe try not to mention your car pool in front of him for a few weeks.
  2. If he brings it up again, ask him why he thinks it's a problem? It's possible he has some reason why he thinks carpooling is bad for the company, and you can ask him what it is. 'Unprofessional' isn't of itself a reason without a bad effect. Unless he has a good and unexpected reason, say to him politely but firmly that there is nothing unprofessional about carpooling, it helps the environment, it's not against company policy, and that it's none of his business how employees get to work.
  3. If he takes any action against you for this (though I'm not quite sure what he's going to do), go to HR. One of HRs jobs is to prevent bad things happening to the company, and having a manager make an idiot of himself is a bad thing for the company. They can tell you whether the company officially frowns on carpooling.

NOTE: It is surprising how effective ignoring something like this can be, initially. If the manager realizes after the fact that he said something stupid, addressing him on it will force him into confrontation mode, whereas if nobody says anything to him he will be happy to forget about it.


  1. Prat, wazzock and pillock all mean roughly 'stupidly annoying person'.

Edit: when asked my manager stated that it was due to creating outside relationships with colleagues.

There could be some justification for this if you work in highly sensitive areas (top secret government stuff, financial auditing, etc.) where "outside relationship with colleagues" can be seen as a security risk. Another scenario where this could be warranted is if your colleague is your boss or the other way round, because it could lead to favoritism.

But if neither of these is the case, I would call your manager's view nonsensical. As for how to discuss the topic with him, I'd ask him to clarify how and why exactly this is "unprofessional" or has negative effects. And stress these benefits:

would consider it to be better for the environment and the people living in the area to reduce the number of vehicles.

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    In addition to that, "if one needs to stay longer, the other does, too", may be a justification if overtime is not included, and if this creates overtime. – Damon Aug 9 at 11:36
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    Having held a top secret clearance I've never heard of not being able to have casual or even intimate relationships with colleagues. If they were a foreign national you needed to report the relationship but it wasn't discouraged. Perhaps things are different in the US. I knew of a couple who got married where one had a clearance and the other didn't. No problem. – CramerTV Aug 9 at 20:01
  • @CramerTV: Obviously the actual rules are going to differ between countries and even institutions within a country. I think one could reasonably argue that friendships between colleagues should be discouraged in such institutions because they could lead to collusion in subverting security procedures. For example if you have a procedure that requires confirmation from a second person (four eyes principle), a malicious insider might use friendship with a colleague to convince said colleague to confirm the procedure without properly doing the required checks. – Michael Borgwardt Aug 9 at 20:12
  • @CramerTV While not being a secrets issue, I know people in the US who work in the power industry where generation and transmission are separated by regulation in order to protect against collusion in an open market. As such there are limitations as to what a person from the generation section can say to one from the transmission section etc (and they all carry a card that has matrix identifying permissible business conversation topics). Mixing externally for an extended period could be seen as trying to skirt these regulations. – Peter M Aug 10 at 11:04
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    @fectin, I was referring to the US but I was not clear at all. I should have said, "Perhaps things are different here in the US." (note the UK tag and that the answerer is in Germany). – CramerTV Aug 13 at 18:55

The problem with all the answers so far, is that if your manager continues to say "I don't care, don't do it" - which I would bet he will - you've got nothing to reply with.

So how I see it there are 2 options:

  1. Discuss with HR about the policy, and if they consider car sharing ok, follow up with the potential of harassment / unprofessional conduct of the manager. (If they don't, see option #2) HR are there to stop lawsuits that would impact the company because of employees - and a manager overstepping their bounds would be one of those moments. Note that polishing off your CV here would be a good thing...

  2. Stop car sharing

In short - from what you've described, I don't see this getting resolved without pulling in a 3rd party telling your manager that he's an idiot and to shut up. This will undoubtedly impact your relations with him for the worse... and he may try to find other ways to retaliate.

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    Point 2 is ridiculous. He shouldn't have to stop – Twyxz Aug 9 at 9:17
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    @Twyxz it depends on if he wants to keep working under this manager or not really.... The manager clearly feels that they're in the position to dictate how OP gets to work, so it must either be accepted, or the relationship with the manager ruined. There's no middle ground. Sadly while not upvoted, this is the only answer here that actually answers the question of what to do next. – UKMonkey Aug 9 at 9:27
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    The other answers give plenty of things you can reply with. – Erik Aug 9 at 9:32
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    @Twyxz I completely agree - car sharing is a positive thing all around and the manager's an idiot! BUT That doesn't stop the fact that they think they're right, and they're in a position of relative power and can make life for OP unpleasant - and thanks :) – UKMonkey Aug 9 at 9:37
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    If you manager really is that idiotic, then a good strategy would be (1) do some research into your arrival and departure time from work if you traveled using public transport. (2) arrive and depart at those times - preferably, start very late and leave very early every day (you don't have to use public transport, just match the times as if you were doing so). If your manager doesn't like that, tell him to renegotiate the public transport timetables so they are more convenient for his whims and fancies about "management policies". – alephzero Aug 9 at 11:24

It's hard to judge a situation second hand, but your manager could simply be old-fashioned in this regard, as Douglas Adams said:

I've come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:

  1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.

  2. Anything that's invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.

  3. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

Depending on your relationships in the company and plans, you might decide to simply ignore him, or have a quick chat with him, and point out that you are trying to save more, save the planet, and just list all the benefits of the ride sharing, maybe even finding some prominent people using it.

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    That's all very well but, fundamentally, the manager seems to be objecting to the idea that two co-workers might be friends outside work. Trust me, that idea is very much in category 1. – David Richerby Aug 9 at 12:31
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    Carpooling isn't a new thing - it first became popular during WWII, and then again during the oil crisis in 1973. By Adams' measure, this manager would have to be 80+ years old to find carpooling "against the natural order". – Nuclear Wang Aug 9 at 12:53
  • Imagining that the use of a smartphone app to summon a carpool is not new seems like deliberately missing the point. – Beanluc Aug 9 at 18:56
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    @Beanluc Of course ridesharing apps are relatively new, but this question isn't about Uber or Lyft or anything like that. It's just an old-fashioned case of two people who actually know each other going to the same destination in one car. People have been doing that for decades. – Nuclear Wang Aug 9 at 19:18
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    @Beanluc I wasn't talking about apps…you've red it somewhere between the lines. The thing is - something doesn't have to be new globally to be new for the person. I wrote this post because around five or six years ago - one of the managers were freaked out because a few co-workers were going to gym together. At some point people discover something, it can be absolutely banal for 99.99% population, but there is that one person for whom it is news. – David Sergey Aug 10 at 10:41

I've found it's best to be direct about these kinds of things lest you let them fester.

Start by ignoring the situation > your boss was having a bad day and said something stupid.

Then if it comes up again directly state that what you do on your own time is your business and commuting to / from work is done on your time nor does it affect company image.

If that doesn't solve it, you may want to involve the one two punch of your boss's boss and HR as your boss is overreaching. Won't help your relationship with your boss, but it'll be good for the environment.

Excellent answers... anyway what I suggest you to do is: ignore him. If he wants to press the matter in an official way (the only way you should care of) then this thing can be discussed further, involving more people, who hopefully if it's not a company of illogical people will see how this plain stupid. So don't really bother about that... it's not worth the effort.

First of all, I agree with the general sentiment, that your manager is overstepping his area of expertise. BUT, since you need to resolve this, here are the steps I would take:

  1. As already mentioned, consult with HR and find out if there is a policy that prohibits car-sharing. Also try to find out if your company would maybe pay for a public transportation subscription.
  2. Be prepared for a discussion with your manager as to what benefits car sharing has (I think AdzzzUK gave pretty good advice on that).
  3. Look for suitable ways of public transportation that would fit your commute so you have an alternative prepared.
  4. Ask your manager to discuss this topic:
    • On what policy EXACTLY is he basing his decision? What part of your contract or document from HR that was made available to you either when you started to work there or when it was introduced into the company and which you are expected to be having knowledge of does, in his opinion, give him grounds to prohibit car-sharing. If he can produce such a policy, there is not much you can do. Tell him your reasons as to why you were car-sharing, and if he can't be swayed, ask him if there is a possibility to have the company pay a public transportation subscription or something equivalent.
    • If he can't produce a written piece of paper or e-mail, but continues his "no you can't" stance ask him how he expects you to come to work then. Since he is actively meddling into it, he should be prepared to give you an alternative and if he simply says "that's your problem not mine", then politely thank him for his time and take this to HR, because this is beyond ridiculous. At this point I would also start looking for another job, because this is the type of manager, that will only produce more problems the longer you work under him and I totally agree with UKMonkey here:

      In short - from what you've described, I don't see this getting resolved without pulling in a third party telling your manager that he's an idiot and to shut up. This will undoubtedly impact your relations with him for the worse... and he may try to find other ways to retaliate.

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    he should be prepared to give you an alternative. While it would be nice and usually helps, in general your boss does not need to give you alternatives. E.g., if your boss wants you to be at your place at 8a.m. and that is inconvenient for you, your boss does not need to offer you another hour. – SJuan76 Aug 9 at 10:42
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    @SJuan76 I wrote this, because it helps to determine if the manager is interested in solving the problem at all and gives a damn about his employees or simply wants to execute his authority. If it's the former, he might be swayed if given some proper arguments, if it's the latter, you know you are wasting you time and should go to HR immediately. Also, I don't think that you can compare the time you are told to be at your place with the means you use to be there at said time. The first is your companies/bosses right to determine, the latter is not (at least to me). – TheRealOha Aug 9 at 10:47
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    @SJuan76: He can't have it both ways. If he says "How you come to work is your business", then he can't also make it his business. If he wants to make it his business, then he needs to be prepared to have an answer. No? – Jörg W Mittag Aug 9 at 11:59

Many of the above answers are good ways of dealing with this dork (1). Here is another way.

It can help to have a good reason. For example:

"I care about the environment. I find it morally unacceptable to have 2 cars travelling when we know we can share, because CO2/pollution. That's my personal view and I'd like you to respect it . I don't think sharing a car is what they mean by a work relationship, unless you're accusing us of a sekrit gay relationship which strangely only takes place during rushhour on the way to the office. Until then, and until HR say otherwise, how I get to work isn't a work issue, and you should encourage ride sharing, not undermine it."

Note especially the phrase "and I'd like you to respect it" - this is a key phrase in many discussions where you have a right to cut off distraction on a point that you are unilaterally saying there's no discussion and we aren't going there.

If he tries to say it's policy, tell him "well let's settle this ridiculous thing" and reach for the phone and call HR to see if you can come up on the spot "we've got a slight personnel policy question here". If you are deadpan, the odds are good he will try to stop you or pull back, at which point you've won.

If he tries to say its the appearance or bad for morale, point out it only seems to be his view, nobody else's, and if someone has a complaint they should approach you. Ask loudly to the room, "has anyone else here got a real problem with ride sharing?", if you dare.

(1) dork - roughly the same as prat, etc.

  • Instead of asking for HR, maybe ask him first to point him to the written policy? – Paŭlo Ebermann Aug 10 at 19:43

I would like to suggest a more constructive approach. As many have pointed out, many companies do encourage car-sharing. Even at the local government level this is often encouraged. Do the research, gather the results, make a small dossier with the information, and give it to the manager together with your colleague.

If that does not work, ask him by email to let you the reasons why it is not appropriate. If he says "because I said so", then, you can forward that to his manager and HR with the result of your research.

I bet that will be the end of it.

Others have already given enough suggestions about your question How can I approach my manager about this?.
I would still like to give you some 'ammunition' if required and it's too long for a comment:

Your manager is behaving very unprofessionally on three counts:

  • Outside relationships with colleagues are not his business (unless they have an actual negative effect on the company).
  • How you travel to/from work is not his business (unless he pays for it, or the above).
  • He seems to have voiced his objections in the presence of (or to) your colleagues since they now make a big deal as a joke when we come and go*

* Your question does not make it clear if they joke about you or the boss, but both are also unprofessional

I tend to agree with the other answers that the problem lies with your manager and I would go further and point out that perhaps he doesn't realise that you're both straight and perhaps he's a bit homophobic.

You mention that you do this in order to save money. You could try pointing this out every time he mentions your car sharing and talk about getting a pay rise if you're required not to car-share. I'm fairly sure the company won't want to pay you more just to stop you car sharing.

Most employers like car sharing as it means they have to pay less for car parking spaces.

  • perhaps he's a bit homophobic That's an assumption and therefore likely a false accusation. It won't land wel.. – Jan Doggen Aug 14 at 12:15
  • @JanDoggen yeah, it's not going to help anything to say that to the manager but it might help andtodd to understand a potential motive for what seems to be a bizarre attitude to car sharing. – Stephen Paulger Aug 14 at 16:06

The meta-game of this question is "What to do if my manager is a fool"? The answer, in 99% of the cases is, you cannot change him, and any open confrontation is more likely to hurt you than him.

It doesn't really matter in which way exactly is he being a fool. The question remains the same and the answer remains the same.

All you can do is, lay low and look for another job. Now, you need to get that other job on your terms (while you still have this job, which means a better haggling position for the next job) and not when you're out of a job for one reason or another.

So, I'd say, if needed, even obey him... and look for another job. Once you find it, just politely say your goodbyes, no drama, no nothing. That's that.

Don't try to tell the company that they have a bad manager. Exit interviews are a sham. If they wanted to know your opinion, they would have asked you earlier... and the situation would never have deteriorated, and you'd still work for them.

About the only possible cases when you can do something against the manager is if already a great number of other people complained to higher-ups about him... and even then I wouldn't give it more than 50/50 chance.

All the answers so far point toward the manager being completely in the wrong. However, I'd like to add an additional viewpoint. I'm not a manager, so I can't give an opinion from that side of the coin, but I've seen a situation similar to this in my last job.

It may come down to bad communication from your manager, but the possible cause could be the flexible hours.

For example: Bill and Ted are the staff, they car share and always get into work early, and leave work after their allotted hours are done, never before. Seems fine so far.

But sometimes Bill needs to work late, so Ted works late as well, this could be the issue, do those hours get claimed back?

I know this isn't explained above, but:

From a manager's point of view he sees a staff member either requesting overtime pay, or going home early on another day, because both Bill and Ted work the allotted hours it's fine, but the manager might get comments about how often staff seem to leave early and then has to explain that both of them worked late last week. It may seem really small and petty, but I've seen this same situation happen in my last job, and eventually the manager told them not to do the overtime unless THEY needed to do it as the manager was getting comments from staff or other managers.

And it's possible that the manager is just not explaining that situation very well and therefore blaming it on the car sharing saying not to be so friendly outside of work. It's fair to say that not all managers have the social skills required to discuss things like this with staff, so they take the easy route and say just don't do it.

Another cause could be the manager sees jokes around the office that you guys do it every day. He might see this as non constructive or time wasting if it happens a lot, and want to put a stop to it.

So the same as the other answers, speak to HR and double check that there aren't any policies restricting this, and if so speak to the manager and ask why he's telling you to stop.

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    The company has an overarching flexi policy whereby all staff can come and go whenever they like as long as they are not abusing the system and don’t turn down any important meetings to go home. We’re also salaries so do not get overtime pay for staying late and don’t get deducted for finishing early as long as you make your hours up. As mentioned, we stay back if needed. – andtodd Aug 9 at 10:23
  • @andtodd, I understand that but does that change the way that this is viewed? you said a lot of people work early and finish early, so they may not see the hours you put in but do notice when you leave earlier than normal. we've all had that 1 colleague that jokes with the group and then moans to the manager about it. perhaps your manager is being moaned at about this one another member of staff and the manager just wants it to stop for that reason. its seems illogical that your manager would try to force you to stop without cause, might seem silly to you, but to him there must be a reason, – Blade Wraith Aug 9 at 11:05
  • I don’t think so, there’s always one person in when we come in on a morning and we have to clock in and out and our manager can see if we aren’t meeting out weekly working hours. I’ve checked the flexi policy thoroughly as it’s one of their big priorities so I know everything we do regarding working hours is fine. – andtodd Aug 9 at 11:11
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    From the question: "... stating that it was due to creating outside relationships with colleagues." – Blrfl Aug 9 at 13:05
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    @BladeWraith so.. it's not always idiot managers, sometimes it's idiot managers? – Leliel Aug 9 at 22:02

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