wee answer Wednesday: 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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It’s wee answer Wednesday — seven short answers to seven short questions. We’ve got a know-it-all business partner, a boss who won’t let employees ask customers how they are, and more. Here we go…

1. Manager won’t let us say “how are you?” to customers

I work at Boston Market. As a human, it’s natural instinct to greet a guest, then follow up with a “how are you” or “how are you doing today.” But my GM (not corporate) sent an email to all crew members regarding not saying “how are you” and such to customers (because he doesn’t like it). Now, I can understand that he personally might not like the phrase, but 90% percent of the time, the customer replies to “Welcome to Boston Market” with “thanks, how are you?” And I’m not supposed to reply back? This wouldn’t be an issue for me (or the rest of my coworkers) if he didn’t make it clear that there would be disciplinary actions and possibly being fired. Can you honestly get fired for asking a customer “how are you”? Please help. I feel like this goes against everything we are as human beings.

Yep, if wants to make that a fireable offense, he can. But let’s be clear: He is absolutely ridiculous (and so would be the resulting PR if a fired employee chose to publicize it). But he’s your boss, so he’s allowed to implement ridiculous rules if he wants to. I’d ask your manager how you should respond to customers who ask how you are. Are you just supposed to say “fine,” and not ask how they are in return? Ask and see what you’re told.

2. Should I leave dates off my resume?

I’m getting back into the job hunt after 30 years, all with one company. We were acquired by a rival and most of the folks were let go. I was part of the transition group, and my time is rapidly ending too.

My resume is a combination of chronological and functional. Except for my first positions, the bulk of my experience has been evolutionary. That is, one position evolved into another one. The job titles changed along the way, but that was the company trying to describe what I did. They liked it, since I got good raises with each review and job title change. I called them “stealth promotions” since they were never announced in a public notice. My big question is… do I use dates or not? Current advice that I’m getting is not to use dates, but everything that I’ve read here indicates that dates should be used.

Yes, you must use dates. Otherwise you look like you’re hiding something. Whoever is telling you not to use them is not to be trusted on anything job-search-related.

3. My boss wants a report on my project — what do I write?

I am in my first proper job. My boss wants me to write up a report on how my project is going (I’ve been here 5 months). I don’t know how to do that. Can you point me to resources online on how to write such a report?

It sounds like she wants you to write an update on your progress toward meeting the goals of the project — what’s been accomplished so far, any significant milestones you’ve met, obstacles that might have become issues (if any), what remains to be done and by when, and so forth. Keep it concise — don’t go on for pages and pages.

But in general, get into the habit of asking your boss to explain further when you’re not sure what she means about something. If you nod and pretend you know what she means, you’ll get yourself into trouble. And if you realize later that you thought you knew but actually didn’t, it’s fine to go back and ask. In this case, you could say, “I’m going to send you a short memo on what I’ve done so far, what remains to be done, timeline for the remaining steps, and so forth — is that in line with what you want?” (Or in the original conversation, when you had no idea what she wanted, you could have said, “Since I’ve never done one of these before and want to make sure I’m on the same page as you, how much detail should I go into and what do you want me to make sure to cover?”)

4. When a company demands references up-front

What is your opinion on filling out job applications pre-interview? I’ve noticed that most employers I have interviewed with requested an application to be filled out and submitted during the interview. Recently, I was turned off by an employer because of their application process. When it comes to the reference section, I like to put “available upon request.” When the assistant saw that I left it blank, she told me that I could not do that and that I must fill it out. I explained that I like to give my references a heads-up. According to her, this was not allowed and so I proceeded to give two names. Later that day, I withdrew my application because I was not interested in the company. What are some ways job seekers can handle this?

You can try writing “I’ll be glad to provide references once we’re at that stage, but I prefer to give them a heads-up in advance.” But if you’re told that’s not acceptable, you may need to decide how strongly you feel about it. However, I’d try to have this conversation with someone more authoritative than the assistant if at all possible.

5. Listing student leadership positions in the “Experience” section of your resume

I am a nursing student set to graduate with my bachelor of science in nursing in about 2 months. I have prior professional experience in my original field (computer science) but no work experience in the healthcare field. except my clinical work that is part of my education. This year I was elected president of my school’s chapter of the Student Nurse’s Association and have done a lot of work there. Some days, it honestly feels like my full-time job, with the lovely bonus of not getting paid. So of course I want to make sure I get the full benefit of this experience when job-hunting comes around. On sample resumes I’ve looked at, most student organizations are included as line items under “Activities and Certifications,” but given the amount of time I’ve spent and the varied duties/responsibilities I have had with this position, I was wondering if I could/should include it under “Positions” instead, so I can flesh out my experiences more.

Sure, go for it. If it’s a significant amount of work, there’s no reason it can’t go there. Totally unrelated to this, though, call that section “Experience,” not “Positions.”

6. New business partner is a know-it-all

I am starting a small business with a smart and talented individual who has been working under a mentor for a handful of years. We are partnering up because I have the skills and experience to handle a side of business she has little experience and skills in. We are the only two partners in this business and have a few employees. The problem is she subtly talks to me like I-know-better-than-you and I-can-explain-better-than-you. For example, when I am explaining an idea to help the business to the others, she usually cuts me off after my first sentence, says I “suck at explaining” and interjects with explaining her own way. When she and I collaborate, she tends to shoot down my suggestions with that’s-not-going-to-work answer with a reason why and instead what we need to do. Half the time she cuts me off, she says exactly what I was going to say. When we differ I offer another solution but she still gives me the same type of answer. She’s not very tactful and I can definitely see where she needs to improve (in the way she actually does business-it’s inefficient). I get the impression that she learned several great tips from her mentor but thinks she knows more than she actually does.

I see a lot of potential in her ideas and think we can definitely do very well. This hasn’t really annoyed me yet but I can definitely see it causing problems in the future. How can I prevent any future problems with her tactlessness while doing everything I can to make sure this is a successful business (including changing her inefficiencies)?

Are you absolutely sure that you want to go into business with this person? If you do, you need to have a serious, candid conversation with her before things go any further. Talk to her about the issues that you’ve noticed, explain why you think they’re problematic, and ask if these are things she’s open on working on. But be realistic — if she’s not receptive during this conversation or if you don’t see a real effort to change, you might be saddling yourself with a partnership that’s going to make you miserable.

7. Following up with an employer on LinkedIn

I read somewhere that it’s a good idea to try to connect with the hiring manager via LinkedIn. I had an interview about two weeks ago and sent a thank you email a couple of days after the interview, but haven’t heard anything. I’m not sure how to follow up with them and ask if they’ve made a hiring decision. Do you think I should follow up via LinkedIn? Do you think it’s a good idea, even if I don’t get the job?

Follow up via email. There’s no reason to use LinkedIn for business correspondence when you have the person’s email address.

{ 127 comments… read them below }

  1. K.A.T.

    It’s the student nurse here, thank you for answering my question! You’ll be happy to know that when I just opened my resume to actually look at it, the section is indeed titled “Experience” and not “Positions.”

    Starting a new profession is hard and not knowing if there are different rules in job-hunting is kind of scary – especially since I’m trying to think about job-hunting at the same time as finishing up my classes. So any little advantage is definitely something I want to grab hold of. I very much appreciate the advice.

  2. Anonymous

    Regarding the ‘how are you’ question: I gotta say that I hatehatehate pulling up to the Starbucks order drive thru and being greeted with the ‘how are you’ thing. There’s something about it that just grates, and I’m not usually tagged as a curmudgeonly or uncommunicative person, either. But I’ve actually had the window guy lecture me about my attitude as he handed me my coffee because I didn’t sound cheerful enough for him when he asked me how I was doing. (It’s not like I’m a regular customer or he’s ever waited on me before, either.)

    I *do* like being greeted with, “Welcome to Starbucks! What can I get started for you?” That gets me right to the point of why I’m in that drive thru: COFFEE.

    That being said, no one should be fired for asking me how I’m doing. Just ask me what you can pull together for me and we’ll all be happy.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      That self-righteous window guy should be fired for lecturing you. I’ll never understand why people do that — what if your husband had just died or something?

      1. Anonymous

        I agree with this. I had to go to a retreat for work and got to the venue, stopped at the reception desk to get access and the woman at the front desk refused to give me the access tag I needed to get anywhere before I said hello to her liking. It took all my power not to rip her a new one, as I had just found out that morning that I had had a miscarriage after trying for years. Never would I take it upon myself to lecture someone about how they didn’t respond to my greeting well enough or make assumptions about their attitude.

        1. Kerry

          That’s horrible! I’m getting angry on your behalf just thinking about it! Well done for keeping it together so well and being so professional towards her anyway.

        2. KellyK

          Wow. That’s horrible. I’m really sorry about your miscarriage, and that that receptionist rubbed salt in the wound.

        3. Natalie

          Good lord. I would have been pissed off about that even I was having the best day of my life.

          1. helen

            I don’t know that I would have ripped her a new one, but I would certainly have contacted whoever was in charge of her.

    2. Foxing Incredible

      You know, oddly enough, I kind of like a little bit of friendly give-and-take at the drive through. I say it’s odd because I actually hate this type of interaction when I’m shopping, say, at the mall. I understand that folks that work in retail stores are required to be friendly, say hello, tell me about the sale going on that day, etc, and I do NOT resent them for it. I just hate it. I like to whiz through as quickly as possible without having to be social in anyway. That is totally my own issue, though.

      But for whatever reason, when it’s an interaction in which I know I’m going to have to speak to someone on some level, like at the drive through, I always feel oddly pleased when I get someone who seems genuinely nice. Maybe the “how are you” is a part of that, but most of the time, it’s just a general feeling of sincere friendliness coming through. Chick-fil-a employees are amazing at this (though I take issue with their company’s politics).

      I do agree with AAM though – this guy sounds a little worked up over an innocuous greeting. Has he explained WHY he doesn’t like it? Perhaps there’s a good reason we just can’t guess? Hopefully by asking more questions, you can get to the heart of the issue.

    3. Frances

      I wonder if the manager is not from the area or is from a different culture than the employees/customers. Having lived in different regions of America and worked with different populations, I can say that a type of greeting (or lack thereof) that is SOP in one place can seem strange in another. That could explain why the manager is so worked up and the employees are so confused.

    4. Kat

      I’ve also noticed, especially online when posts deal with customer service, that customers really hate the ‘how are you’ line because…how geniuine is it, really? To most customer service people (cashiers especially) once it’s out of their mouth they don’t really much care how the customer really is. There are those that genuinely ask and listen, but there are those that are already tuning you out as soon as the words spill from their mouth.

      I never knew that so many customers grate at the ‘how are you.’ I’ve been on both sides, and I admit there were times when I say it just to say it, some times when I get a good anecdote from the customer, and others when I curse the moment those words exited from my mouth. (No need to hear about your recent gall bladder surgery or that you’re at that moment trying to pass a kidney stone, and that the pain feels worse than if they ripped your stomach open and started pulling your intestines out one by one while you’re alive).

      1. Esra

        I don’t get the ‘How are you?’ hate. Is it not the accepted social standard to say something like ‘Good thanks, and yourself?’ in return regardless of what’s going on?

        1. Anonymous

          I dislike it for two reasons:

          1. Very few people who ask ‘how are you’ actually care about how I am. The lecturing dude at Starbucks did not want to hear my story: that I am in very real danger of being laid off when my company is sold and I’m the sole support of six people. No one should ask that question if they are not prepared to hear a very real answer, listen sympathetically, and then offer real support. It’s depressing to have to sit through even the brief social lie.

          2. And when I express my challenge with this social custom, there’s always someone telling me to lighten up, because it’s no big deal. Somedays it is.

          Re-reading the OP’s question, though, she’s wondering what to say if the customer starts with the how are yous, given the ban on asking. I’d say that a good reply is “Fine, thanks! How can I help you?”

          1. Nichole

            I think your suggestion of a response is a good one. It’s also interesting how another commenter mentioned it being regional. I live in the Midwest, and sometimes when I greet someone, especially in an employee-customer setting, they sometimes tell me “Fine, thanks” anyway if I fail to ask how they are, almost as a reflex, because it’s an expected convention, but I don’t remember “how are you” being so automatic when I was growing up in Arizona. It’s kind of something I learned to do as a teenager/young adult in service jobs rather than something I’ve always done.

            1. Anonymous

              I’m the Starbucks commenter, and I live in Phoenix. I’m not sure that it’s regional so much as a chain thing.

              It’s hot in Phoenix; no one wants their car to heat up in the sun while people are busy asking how everyone’s day is. :b

          2. fposte

            I think non-literal communication is really important, and I will defend it to the day I die. People saying “Hello” aren’t really wishing you good health, either, and people saying “please” aren’t actually asking you if it pleases you. I still really don’t want people to stop saying those things.

            The jackass window guy who took the non-literal “How are you” literally in order to bully somebody is a bully, and that’s the problem, not that he didn’t care how the customer was. But in a social exchange, “How are you?” means “I recognize you as a human being,” basically, so if you think about it more as that and less as an inquiry into your health that might make it easier to move past.

            1. Esra

              You put this so much better than I could. I guess it must be a little regional, because it seems downright odd to me that someone would be offended that the person asking how they are in this sort of exchange doesn’t actually want to hear the brutal honest truth about your day/life.

              1. A Second Heather

                In Australia they ask “How are you going?” Now that messed with my mind. All of us Canadians assimilated it to “Where are you going” and then the thought process is “Why would someone ask me that?” Then you realize it’s just another greeting akin to “How are you? “

              2. fposte

                An anthropologist friend says that there are places in Kenya where the social greeting is “Have you pooped?” But they’re not, you know, looking for detail.

            2. Chris

              Ha! Exactly! Excellent comment.

              I never knew there was a subset of people who bristle at “how are you?” Its is an obvious colloquialism. Its not intended to actually ask about your day. Health care providers are the only exception I can think of…

              If I had a boss that actually made this a rule I would use a mix of ca va, como esta, wie gehts or hujambo all day every day. My motto is mockery is the best policy :)

              1. anth

                I wish we could use ‘ca va’ in English conversation. Essentially, the way to ask how someone is doing is the same phrase as to say yeah just fine. More automatic than “Oh I’m fine” because you don’t even have to think of your feelings.

              2. Anonymous_J

                I love your motto! LOL!

                Something like “Ca va?” Would be great! Or even if we were just allowed to say ” ‘Sup?” :P

        2. Rana

          Because I’m a private, literal-minded person who doesn’t like to lie?

          I don’t like saying I’m “good” when I’m not, and I don’t like dealing with the fall-out when I admit that things are not “good”; I get that it’s a social pleasantry, but for me, it’s more annoying than pleasant. Just ask me what I want to buy/order/find, and let’s get on with our day.

          1. Laura

            +1 The problem is that “How are you?” seems to require a response and for some reason, people who think that the lie of “fine” is perfectly acceptable aren’t as willing to accept “none of your business”. It’s somehow rude that I would dare to want to keep my private business private but not that I would lie in response. I don’t get it.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Ah, it’s because they feel entitled to have a cheery exchange with you. In some way that I can’t exactly put my finger on, it’s linked to the fact that women frequently get told “smile!” by men, but I don’t think men tell other men that.

              1. Rana

                Yes! It’s exactly like the “smile” thing! (Which I also hate, especially since my “neutral” face sometimes offends people by not being sufficiently “cheery” or something.)

                I’m tired of the belief that I’m being “rude” when I’m simply and quietly being myself, going about my business. If I want to smile, or tell someone about how I’m feeling, trust me, I will. Otherwise, why is it so hard to just let me be?

              2. Laura L

                Hmmm…. this is a really interesting way of looking at.

                I hate being told to smile, but I don’t see the problem with asking “how are you” or responding with “fine,” even if it’s a lie.

                I think it depends on the situation, maybe. If it’s in a retail or customer service setting, fine. If I’m being introduced to someone through someone I know, also fine.

                If it’s a stranger on the street asking how I am-not fine.

                I’ll have to think about this more and see if it changes my opinion.

              3. Anonymous_J

                Rana, I have the same problem, as does my boyfriend.

                We are perfectly nice people, but neither of us is “bubbly.”

            2. Anonymous_J

              When I’m not having the best day, I tend to say something like “Oh, it’s going” or “I’m hanging in there” or on a really bad day, “One day at a time, yanno?”

              That way, I’m acknowledging them, and I’m also letting them know that things are not great, but I’m not going to burden them. ;)

    5. Lesley

      I think this is a great answer for the OP! When someone ask how you are, can’t you just reply, “I’m fine, thanks! What can I do for you today?”

      Everyone I know who hates “How are you?” hates it because it’s so automatic. (I’m in the Midwest, too, and as someone else noted, it’s totally automatic here.) It doesn’t bother me, but I usually give people the benefit of the doubt and assume they care.

      1. Laura L

        I grew up in the Midwest and I appreciate the convention of asking how are you, even if you don’t care, I appreciate the response of “fine” or “good,” even if you aren’t, it’s very automatic to me, and I have a hard time understanding why it bothers people so much.

        We all use social conventions every day. They’re considered polite and most people realizes it’s a polite way of greeting someone, not an invitation to tell someone what’s really on your mind.

        I know some days it’s difficult to say you’re fine when you aren’t, but that’s how interacting with strangers goes.

        Additionally, I’d be annoyed if a stranger took me literally and started telling me about their problems…

    6. The Other Dawn

      I’d rather get a fake “how are you” than nothing at all. It seems like 90% of the time when I go to a drive-thru or I’m at the grocery store, the cashier doesn’t say a word to me, doesn’t even look at me for that matter. It’s just so rude and makes me wish I’d gone to a different store. I’m not looking for a conversation, but at least a friendly acknowledgement or fake enthusiasm would nice.

      In terms of answering customers who ask, “how are you,” OP should respond with, “Great, thanks. What can I get for you today?”

      1. KayDay

        I’m with you–”how are you?” is just as common a greeting as “hello” or “good morning.” I really don’t mind “fake-ness” when it’s common polite courtesy. I would much prefer people (strangers, not friends) to be fake-nice than to be rude. And no, I’m not from the South.

      2. Anonymous_J

        Yes. THIS really turns ME off.

        I’m happy even if they just say “Hello.”

  3. moe

    #4: Job references up-front

    While it may be ideal to have the conversation with someone besides the assistant, how do you go over the assistant’s head without making yourself into “that” guy?

    If the assistant is the one reviewing applications for accuracy, I think trying to find a way to review that with someone ‘more important’ is very likely to backfire.

    1. Anonymous

      I thought the same thing.

      Perhpas you could say you need to get permission to put someone’s name down – or you need to confirm their phone numbers? But I wouldn’t go demanding to speak to someone up higher on the food chain – your resume/application will probably end up in the shredder…

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Ack, I didn’t mean to imply that you should demand to speak to someone else (although now realize that it reads that way). I agree that you’ll not do well with that approach…

    2. K

      OP of the e-mail here! Thanks for answering my question AAM!

      After giving my reason to the admin assistant, she rebuffed me and asked if I could call my references to see if it was okay. Her demeanor was not cordial from the moment I stepped into the place.

      Instead of calling them before my interview, I decided to jot down two names. I did not want to get off to a bad start with the admin assistant before my interview. That’s the “No-No Rule” of job hunting.

      In the end I withdrew because the overall vibe of the company was not a good fit for me. One of the managers that was supposed to “interview” me basically stared at the table the whole time and told his partner that he didn’t have any questions for me. Right then, I knew it wasn’t going to work so I withdrew my application as soon as I got home.

      AAM I’m marking your quote in my job hunting list.

      1. Suzanne

        And I’m thinking that most jobs want you to apply online and with the online apps, generally you can’t finish the application without putting in references. This is new to me. Until I was thrown back into the job market a few years ago, I had always sent a resume and cover letter, and never filled out an application until I was called for an interview. It does bother me to put someone’s name and contact information on an online app that I don’t know who is going to see. But what choice do you have?

        1. Natalie

          Depending on the structure of those online applications, you might still be able to get around it by entering “Will provide” in the phone number section or similar. I avoid that unless their is a notes section where I can explain that, though.

  4. The Engineer

    RE #6 – This is why partnerships often don’t work (and why some people recommend that you never enter one). You see a “give and take” relationship where you each build on the others strengths. Your partner sees that she is the boss. The reality is that someone needs to be the boss (no successful organization will be without one). In this situation I wouldn’t bet that it will be you. The decision to make is “can I work for this person?” because they don’t sound interested in working with you and are definitely not going to be working for you. Ground rules are needed in every relationship. Take Alison’s advice and set them up now or prepare to be frustrated, stressed, and unhappy.

  5. Anonymous

    I strongly disagree with this “the boss says to do it, so do it.” Please. This guy is an idiot. Say “how are you” if you want…I mean, really? And, if that doesn’t work out, maybe you can leave and go to a better restaurant to work at!

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      The boss may be an idiot, but he gets to decide this stuff. The OP can risk getting fired over it, or quit and go work somewhere, or just deal with it. Totally the OP’s call, but I’m not going to recommend someone get themselves fired.

      1. anon.

        Actually, the employee might want to pose the question to the GM or Regional Mgr.. I do mystery shopping (legit – have been working for one company for several years) and have taken the online training for Boston Market. Some of the questions relate directly to the greeting and in this case the manager is waaaaay offbase. Boston Market is not the only food chain/retail establishment utilizing mystery shoppers and I can tell you that every single one of the companies requires that I fill out a detailed report with multiple questions dealing with greetings – who/what-description or name + what they were doing (with a customer, stocking, chit-chatting, etc)/where(dept).

        I’d go to the person above this manager and then ask what the approved/appropriate greeting is for this location.

        1. Leigh

          I agree with this–I’ve also done mystery shopping, and at some retail outlets they have a very specific greeting they want all employees to use.

    2. JT

      IMO a good employee can (and often) should! push back against a boss not by not doing what is asked, but by questioning it or critiquing it. Then, the boss can take that info or not. And after that, the employee has to do what the boss decides.

      1. Joey

        JT,
        Disagreement with the boss is only good the boss likes dissent. And there’s a time and a place for it. And, there are plenty of crappy bosses out there that will put you on their crap list for questioning anything.

        1. JT

          In the long run, you’ll be better off if you don’t put up with that. Being professional means doing the best you can, not being subservient.

          1. Joey

            Not so. There are plenty of times you will have to bite your tongue and just do whatever you’re told, that is if you want to remain employed and advance your career. Knowing when to shut up is a underrated skill. All I’m saying is its usually better to be subservient with a paycheck than professional and without one.

            1. JT

              “All I’m saying is its usually better to be subservient with a paycheck than professional and without one.”

              That’s a false dichotomy, or at least a short-run comparison.

              High-performing organizations take employee input, as do good bosses, and I certainly would prefer to work somewhere like that. So in the long-run, if you have good ideas that are actually an improvement (at least sometimes) and you’re in an organization that doesn’t value that, then may advancing your career elsewhere is a good thing. In the long run. You’ll end up at a better place in a better role with a better boss.

              Now in the short-run, sure – follow bad ideas without question if that’s what you need to do to keep a roof over your head, etc.

      2. Anonymous

        Exactly. Even the military requires you only to enforce LAWFUL orders – and I’m not saying that not saying “How are you?” is unlawful but it is ignorant and customers who ask first – might see you as RUDE for not returning the question. This entire issue needs to be reevaluated. Send someone higher up the food-chain a link to this blog/question.

        1. Anonymous

          I wish we could see the exact content of that e-mail. I can imagine the manager of a quick service restaurant getting frustrated with chatty employees.

          Overly Chatty Employee – Welcome to our restaurant! How are you doing?
          Hungry Guest #1: Good, good. Great weather outside!
          Overly Chatty Employee: Oh yeah, it’s supposed to be really nice all weekend! I’m going to a pool party!
          Hungry Guest #1: Oh? That’s nice.
          [Hungry Guest #2 taps foot impatiently, as the only employee is still talking and even not serving hungry guest #1 yet.]
          Overly Chatty Employee: Yes, I’m really excited for spring! I hope we skip right into summer. Wasn’t much of a winter was it?
          Hungry Guest #1: No, not really.
          Overly Chatty Employee: Yeah, I really HATE winter.

          Or maybe he’s just a weird jerk with weird rules.

          1. jennie

            I absolutely agree with this from a customer perspective and a management perspective.
            Quick service restaurants and many other businesses make more profit the quicker they can complete the transaction and the more guests they can turn over. How are you can potentially add minutes to each transaction and end up causing delays. These businesses are measured by efficiency so delays can cost managers their bonus and cost the company profits.
            It may seem cold but that’s the way chains make money. I’ve worked for several businesses from theatres to call centres where we had to take steps to limit chit chat with customers while still being polite and providing the service they’re there for. This should have been communicated better to the employees so they understand the reasoning – it’s not meant to be rude but it benefits both the customer and the company to make the transaction as efficient as possible.

          2. Jaime

            Exactly! I see this a lot and it drives me nuts. Don’t make me wait on your chitchat. If you can’t scan/take orders/fill drinks, etc while you chat then DON’T CHAT. Chitchat does not necessarily make you polite and not wanting chitchat does not make you impolite or cold. I live in the midwest and I work a customer service job. It can take practice, but there are definitely ways to not encourage chitchat without that person ever thinking you were hurrying them along. A lot of it comes down to tone of voice.

            Sometimes though, there is no choice and you’ll be slowed down by a customer. In those cases, you have to apply common sense – how many others are waiting? Sometimes just making eye contact with the ones waiting and telling them you’ll be with them shortly is enough to signal the current customer they’re taking too much time without having to actually say so. Sometimes you just have to say “I’m sorry ma’am/sir, I would love to talk more with you about this but now that your order is done, I have to help this patient person behind you.” Say it with a smiling, friendly demeanor and most of the time you’ll be fine.

      3. Esra

        I don’t mean this in a snarky way at all, but have you worked in retail? I had a number of cashier/waitressing jobs and found that very few bosses wanted cashiers that push back instead of just doing what they’re told.

        1. JT

          I don’t want to insult people who work in retail, but if someone wants to work in retail at the front-lines forever, then yeah, maybe being quiet always is better.

          I worked on the floor of two small factories when I was young (one manufacturing and one a commercial laundry). Not customer facing, but rugged jobs for me. And an occaissional idea from the floor was acted upon by the foremen or managers. And both placed did very well in terms of profits, and were good places to work, despite the hectic, physical nature of the work.

          There are great companies in retail and service that have this perspective too – Nordstrom’s is famous for this in retail, and some hotel chains do it well too. So from a management standpoint, listening to employees is a good thing. Not letting them push back on the same thing repeatedly, but listening once.

          1. Esra

            Your advice seems a bit unrealistic and outdated. I don’t think in this economy that everyone working front line retail is doing so because that’s what they want forever, and given how precarious those jobs can be, I don’t blame them at all for not wanting to push back at management.

            1. JT

              Perhaps I wasn’t clear. What aspect of my advice seems outdated? Is it the case that when I was young some factories places would try to improve by listening to employees and that’s not the case now?

              Companies/bosses should listen to employees for two reasons. One is for employee morale. Maybe that’s not necessary now with the job market so tight. The other is to perform better. That’s probably more important now than ever.

              1. Esra

                Yes on listening to the employees and trying to improve. I think that is very much a rarity in the retail world today, especially considering how replaceable those jobs are.

                I completely agree companies/bosses should listen to employees, but I think it’s not realistic to tell someone relying on a minimum wage job that they should risk it and stand up to their manager more when it comes to something like saying “How are you?” etc. If it were breaking a labour law or something like that, yes certainly, but in this case, no.

              2. JT

                This is to Esra below:

                Long-term. I wrote “long-term. In the long term your work life will be better if you question idiotic ideas – asking why or asking about a better way to do it. If your job is on the line and you’ll be in trouble, sure, suck it up. But if you make that your habit, of allows following idiotic idea w/o question you’re not going to get ahead in life.

                Heck, I did it when I was a bike messenger – would tell my dispatcher something about traffic or whatever I saw outside and he’d say “Oh, OK, change your route.” Or not. And he realized I was actually paying attention and trying to get the job done and I got better runs. It clearly depends on the job, but I think it’s a disservice to tell people the default state should be not to question bad ideas. The default state should be to question them, carefully if necessary. And learn to ask a question like AAM said. That’s not “standing up” or disobeying.

    3. Kimberlee

      I don’t think I’ve ever worked at a restaurant that took employee input seriously. And they all encourage it when they know damn well that they don’t care. I sent polite and fact-based letters twice to my corporate overlords at my last restaurant job, and all I ever got was the clear idea that I was now on the District Managers shit list and would have a hard time getting a manager gig. Its worth trying, but if they’re not interested, they’re not interested, and I’m guessing that OP already knows if they’re the type of boss who will listen.

      1. Gene

        So bypass the employee input part. Have a couple of friends a week (different ones) come in and send comments to corporate HQ about “how unfriendly they found the employees, I asked how they were and got nothing in return.” “I have been coming to this location for years and all teh sudden the employees refuse to talk to me, all they do is take my order.” Throw in some social media comments and Yelp! reviews downgrading the location for “bad service”.

        If it’s just this GM, he will get a call from corporate really soon.

    4. Long Time Admin

      One of the first rules I learned when I started working was this:

      “The boss may not be right, but the boss IS the boss.”

      Yes, he IS the boss of you, while you’re at work. Do what the boss says (unless it’s illegal) or take the consequences. Your choice, but don’t come back complaining to me when you’re fired.

      And I’ve never known a boss who would take any kind of criticism from any underling, constructive or not.

      1. fposte

        Heh. I’ve learned to read the sudden still, patient expression on my staff’s faces. “Okay, what’s wrong with what I just said?” “Well, it’s just that…”

        There are ways and ways of correcting.

      2. Joey

        Ouch! I’m kinda sad for you. That’s a must have for me when I hire a manager- that she will seek input and solutions from subordinates and will actually use it.

  6. Canuck

    4. When a company demands references up-front
    Agreed! I applied for a position a few months ago and was asked in the job description to supply references at the time of application. I was invited to an interview but was really surprised when a referee emailed to ask me questions about the reference request they had received by email from my upcoming interviewer. Even though my referees have given me the go-ahead to use them, I still like to give them heads up and thought that my interviewer would tell me at the end of the interview that they would proceed to check my references.

  7. danr

    #2 – resume followup. Thanks for the nice short answer on my resume query. Now for the next question. Do I just put in one inclusive set of dates or split out the different job titles with dates? The problem is that the stuff that I did all ran together throughout the job title changes except for two positions at the beginning of my time with the company. While I can assign dates to the different job titles, the job functions mostly all ran together.

    1. Josh S.

      I would do something like this:

      Promoted to Manager of Worker Bees May 2010 – Present
      Promoted to Supervisor of Worker Bees April 2009 – May 2010
      Promoted to Senior Worker Bee October 2003 – April 2009
      Worker Bee January 1998 – October 2003

      Use the dates of your title change. The tasks you do are (and likely always will be) fluid. You’ll transition into the next level up as you gain experience, responsibility, and trust, but the “promotion” doesn’t really happen until the title and/or salary bump go into effect. So those are the dates that matter, at least to a potential employer.

      And don’t worry about the job hunt. Being with a single company for a long time can be a strength, especially since you’ve been promoted numerous times and were selected to be part of the transition team. Good luck with the job hunt!

    2. Lesley

      If you think of it from an accomplishment standpoint, it might be easier to break it up into different job listings. I list all of mine as separate listings (except where they are really close, then I use one listing with a slash between titles and combine the dates).

  8. EK

    Re: #7 I really dislike it when people who I’ve interviewed request to be a contact of mine on linked in. They have my email address, so if they want to follow up they can do it that way, and it feels like they are trying to make one half hour conversation into a “professional relationship”… I interview a lot of people, and if connected with them all in linked in, my list would be cluttered with people I don’t really know. It feels the same to me as people who call to see if I got their resume (even though we say no phone calls please)… An attempt to stand out that doesn’t really help and could hurt.

    1. BuckeyeHoosier

      I’ve been wondering what people’s opinions are regarding requesting to connect with a hiring manager on LinkedIn after an interview that did not result in a job offer. I do it pretty routinely when I feel a solid connection was made in the interview. I figure what could it hurt to ask? If I’ve had a face-to-face interview with the hiring manager I have invested many, many hours into preparing for the interview, passing multiple telephone interviews, passing online assessments and participating in one or more robust, face-to-face behavioral interviews. If I clicked with that hiring manager I want her to keep me in mind for the next opening or perhaps to refer me to colleague. It seems like a harmless (but proactive) way to say, I understand I wasn’t a fit but I admire your career as a district manager/sales leader in the industry and would like stay in touch with you professionally on LinkedIn.

      Am I overreaching? Should I just let sleeping dogs lie after I’ve not been selected?

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I think that’s totally reasonable. You had an interview and you connected. What I think is odd is when candidates send me LinkedIn requests when my only communication with them was to send them a rejection email. I ignore these, because I don’t know them.

        1. Lauren

          I’ve found that opening my privacy settings on linkedin helped me get interviews. My process was:
          -apply for the job
          -go search for director/manager of dept I applied for on linkedin
          -peek at their profile
          -go search for HR people at the company i applied to
          -peek at their profiles

          apparently everyone checks who is looking at their linkedin profiles, so you dont necessarily have to try connecting to them, but peeking does help to get them to peek back at your profile, which might lead to a connection or interview. in any case they remember me when they get my resume :-P

  9. fposte

    On #3–you can also check files or inquire if there’s an old one so you can make sure you’re following company style and providing the needed information. I’m a big fan of avoiding wheel reinvention wherever possible.

  10. Nancypie

    LimkedIn: a few times I’ve really liked candidates that weren’t hired, and wanted to Link in with them, but felt uncomfortable doing so because they weren’t hired and it was awkward. If they sent ME a request, I would have definitely accepted, and would be glad that they initiated the contact.

    1. danr

      Looking at it from the job candidate viewpoint, I wouldn’t have a negative reaction to this kind invite. Isn’t this what professional networking is supposed to be about?

    2. Esra

      I agree with danr, I’d have a positive reaction to that kind of follow up. It would mean potential future opportunities, and is way better than never hearing anything either way after an interview.

    3. Kathy

      Me too! I’d be thrilled. There were a few managers I’ve interviewed with that I’ve wanted to add but I haven’t because I assumed they might take offense. It’s good to know that in some cases the interviewers are thinking the same way.

  11. Anonymous

    On #7 – as a hiring manager I don’t have a problem with a candidate asking for a connection on linkedin but would certainly prefer an email to inquire about the status of their application. On another note, I just had a candidate I interviewed send me a friend request on Facebook – not a good idea.

  12. SAN

    RE: #4 I’d have severe concerns about giving references up front. For me, the best ones are all busy, and senior, people. More than a few calls would severely annoy them, and I’d need to give them a heads-up to begin with or they’d never take or return the call. So I’d push back pretty hard as the company shouldn’t need references until near the very end of the process when they are basically decided you fit the bill and want references to confirm (or deny) their decision.

    1. K

      I agree! When I was laid off and began looking for work, I filled out the applications pre-interview. I would call my references and ask if I could still name them as a reference. Thinking of past work experiences, I always thought that when employers asked for references that meant they were interested.

      In this type of scenario, the prospective employers never called my references.

      I will definitely start pushing back! I don’t want to waste my references time with false alarms.

      1. LeeL

        I agree but it doesn’t always matter. My current job wanted more than the usual 3, they asked for 3 personal and 3 professional. No problem, I contacted them all and they all said yes, but I was hired and NONE of them were contacted.

        1. Anonymous

          I applied to a ton of jobs after I graduated last May; nearly all of them asked for references during the application (either in the application or sent in with cover letter/resume) and I don’t think any of them ever got contacted – even for the job I now have. Weird.

  13. Brightwanderer

    #1 – I agree that it’s ridiculous, but whoa with the hyperbole! “Goes against everything we are as human beings”? Seriously? You may think it’s absolutely standard to say “How are you?” and that everyone in the world does it – but, not to put too fine a point on it, you’re wrong. From my point of view in the UK, it’s a very American habit and not one I would expect from anyone in this country (not to say it’s a bad habit, but it’s absolutely not the normal thing to do here). I assume that there is similar variation within the US (and in fact, there are probably areas/specific chains within the UK where it or something similar is considered normal) so maybe your manager comes from an area where no-one says that and he finds it weird and intrusive that you do.

    TL;DR – there are a lot of people in the world who do not consider saying “how are you?” to a stranger to be a normal part of interaction. Your manager is still ridiculous, though.

    1. khilde

      Huh. That’s really interesting to me! I would have thought that a “how are you”-type of greeting was pretty standard all over the place, but I can see now that I am wrong! So, I’m curious then in the UK – what’s a typical greeting like? Like in a customer service environment? What about between friends?

      1. Brightwanderer

        Again, this will vary by region etc, but in my experience the correct customer service greeting is… nothing really. You walk up to the till, they maybe say “hi”, then they get on with scanning your purchases and asking relevant questions (do you have a reward card, do you want cashback, do you want a bag).

        That’s not to say that no cashier will ever say more, but if they do that’s moving onto the level of “this is an unusually friendly/chatty cashier”, which can be nice if you’re feeling it yourself, or annoying if you just want to get going (I vary, and try not to show the latter since they can’t necessarily tell from looking at me which mood I’m in).

        But then, I’ve always had the impression that “how are you?” serves a different purpose in the US. To me it’s something you say to someone you already know, because it has a subtext of continuity – you’re not saying “how are you at this moment of time as a discrete unit”, because that’s meaningless – you’re saying “how are you compared to how you were when I last saw you”. Therefore I would say “how are you?” meaning “how have you been since last time?” Depending on the situation, I’d expect either a sincere response, good or bad, or just a basic “Oh, fine, how are you?” (and of course, gauging which is appropriate for a situation is one of those socialisation tricks that come naturally to some people but I’ve had to teach myself.)

        So a stranger of any kind saying “how are you?” feels a bit weird to me – perhaps because my brain is subconsciously adding on that “… since last time” context, and then going “wait, WHAT last time, you don’t even know me! Why are you acting like you know me??”

        And actually there is a specific exception – a chatty stranger/cashier/server might say “how are you today?” or “how are you doing today?” or just “how is your day?” and that would be fine, because it’s immediate and doesn’t presume past acquaintance. But again, that would be a “whoa, this person is unusually talkative” situation.

        1. khilde

          Hey, thanks for taking time to respond. Very interesting perspective! Your 3rd paragraph was really insightful and I think you’re totally accurate (at least in my experience) and it’s something I had not thought about in depth before.

          I do agree that there are people who just say “how are you?” as a pat greeting and don’t want or expect a response. Then, there are those that genuinely would be interested if someone responded with something substantial. I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to paint everyone with the same brush (and I’m not necessarily directing this comment toward you, brightwanderer. more of a general thought).

          1. Chris

            Interesting response Brightwanderer. I agree context is so extremely important. So while we all might agree ‘how are you’ is a standard greeting in english as it is in many other languages, its use in the context of a retail store clerk may still be controversial. If its someone you know well ,then the “how are you” is perfunctory, its probably asking more like “what have you been up to?” Maybe certain customers think it implies ‘good’ customer or ‘repeat’ customer status (someone else in this thread mentioned that.)

            Language typically as different meaning depending on the context. If you are using solely literal translations that can be extremely confusing. I spent some time in Tanzania and they have a slightly different form of swahili than in Kenya – so I can’t say this holds across the whole Swahili coast….but while ‘hujambo’ means literally ‘how are you?’ like ca va and como esta and is used very similarly as a conversational greeting….It also means, ‘please respond in Swahili.’ Swahili is a lingua franca, a trade language, and as such its developed various signals for usage. If you only speak a Bantu language or English, you should just say “Jambo” which is closer to Hello or Salut. If you say ‘How are you?’ as a greeting it basically means “I speak Swa, so speak to me in Swahili please.” So when I first got to East Africa I would say Hujambo as a greeting and people I know could speak English wouldn’t speak to be in English. It was very frustrating until someone clued me in! Lol. Thankfully, Swahili, as a trade language is supremely easy to learn.

      2. fposte

        When I was traveling in Russia, it was really hard for me to break the habit of smiling to smooth over an exchange with a merchant. What in the Midwest means “Never you mind, we’re still all good-hearted folks in this together” in Moscow apparently means “I am a grinning fatuous boob who has no idea how little I matter to anyone here.” My initial impulse to smile harder did not, as you can imagine, help.

        1. khilde

          ha ha – I can totally identify with that! And I’m from the northern plains so the line, “we’re all still good hearted folks in this together,” made me chuckle. So true.

          It makes me wonder then: in the area of social greetings and customs, how is the US perceived? Overly friendly and airheaded? Or superficial? Or fake? Because I’d like to think that we are, on the whole, genuniely good and friendly people (and please, good grief, I do not want politics to enter into this discussion. I’m just thinking about social customs here). Because some of the other examples from other countries make me think that greetings and social customs are…perfunctory. And that doesn’t seem very fun at all :)

          1. Laura L

            Ooh! I’ve been waiting for a chance to bring this up, but it didn’t seem appropriate until your comment, khilde. So, thanks!

            During college, I spent a semester in Sweden, living with a host family. At one point, I said “nice to meet you” to someone I was meeting for the first time, which, you know is considered customary and polite in the U.S.

            At some point that evening, my host father mentioned that he (and probably many other Swedes) thinks it’s weird to say that to someone you just met. His reasoning was that you don’t know the person, so how do you know it was nice to meet them?

            I responded with some along the lines of, you know, I’ve never thought if it that way before, but I think in America in general, it would be weird to not say it and that I just say it automatically. I said it doesn’t matter whether or not I mean it, it’s just a social custom.

            His response was, essentially, yeah, I know Americans say things like that all the time, but it seems fake. He also mentioned the convention of saying “we should get together again” when you don’t really mean it.

            It was a completely friendly conversation, so I wasn’t offended, but it was interesting (and kind of funny) to me that Swedes would think these things were fake and that it would be weird to say things you don’t mean to people. I mean, Americans say things they don’t mean to people all the time! It’s mostly just social custom and we generally know it doesn’t mean anything and many of us don’t care (although some do, clearly!).

            tl;dr: My general impression was that Swedes think Americans are fake-friendly. Which I actually agree with, at least in general.

            1. khilde

              I would love to hear more stories like yours, Laura! I know that Americans get pegged with all kinds of labels and stereotypes (but then again, doesn’t every culture to an extent?). I can understand how your host father, on behalf of his countrymen, would think that it’s fake and odd to say some of the things we do. Then again, I would think that it’s a little cold and stiff to greet (or not) in the way that they are accustomed to. So, it’s all a matter of perspective, I guess. Which is just about the secret to life in my opinion.

            2. khilde

              PS – what does this mean? tl;dr:

              I saw both you and brightwanderer do it and I’m having a hard time decoding it! :)

            3. Lee L

              I agree, though it’s not just in Sweden but Europe as a whole. Although I’m American I was raised by European born parents and so most people who meet me don’t immediatley think I am from the US. When I met new business contacts while living in the UK, they would often say that I was not like a “typical” loud fake American.

              1. Chris

                LOL. That’s funny. Americans are extremely loud.

                One has to communicate with people from the UK using subtle dry humor. Tell them the natural borders of our American territories are so excessively expansive compared to say, the former British Empire, that effective communication unfortunately requires an element of shouting.

                I was also born in Europe to European parents (I have dual citizenship, why am I looking for work here?!?!?!) Once we were in a hotel in Niagara Falls I think and we came down to the lobby to get coffee in the morning. And there was a middle aged white skinned guy pretty much in his underwear drinking a mug of beer. Without missing a step my grandmother went up to him, greeted him and german and they started chatting like they were long lost cousins. It was rather entertaining.

            4. Leigh

              That’s an interesting anecdote–I didn’t realize we Americans were so transparent! I’m from the South and we do indeed say fake things all the time to smooth over social interactions. The bit about “we should get together sometime,” though–that really bugs me. Ask me how I’m doing, say it’s nice to meet me, tell me you like my hair: that can all be fake and I won’t care. But suggest we get together, and I’m going to think you mean it! It bugs my husband so much he’ll actually whip out his phone, go to the calendar and say, “When? I’m free next Saturday, how’s that?” It makes for awkward interactions sometimes.

  14. Michael

    #4: I have to defend the companies who have this practice. They are simply trying to make their process efficient and collect all information upfront. That said, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to put a note below your references or in your cover letter/resume that you’d appreciate a heads-up before your references are called. I think that’s the best of both worlds.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      That is indeed why they’re doing it, but it leaves candidates in a crappy place, since plenty of employers will just call references without respecting the request for a heads-up first.

    2. BuckeyeHoosier

      The problem is that they are asking for references on the application you submit when you first apply to the job. There’s no elegant way to add a note to an online application (I haven’t found one). You can add a note to a paper application but will they respect it?

      Also, I like to learn as much as possible about the job (such as in an face-to-face interview) so that I can provide the best possible references for that specific job. In the interview I might learn that project management is a more significant aspect of the job than say sales support. I want to present references that can speak strongly about projects I’ve managed and those might be different from the people who can speak to my sales background.

      When submitting an application online I’ve been filling in something like “Professional references will gladly be provided when a mutual interest has been established.” Then I put all 9′s in the telephone number field.

      LOL! I wonder if this is why one of my targeted companies is rejecting me without even a telephone interview?

  15. Camellia

    Re: #6

    A two-headed anything is a monstrosity. Perhaps you can start the business yourself and hire her? Then if you truly can’t make it work you have the option of letting her go. If you are doing a partnership for monetary reasons, perhaps you can find an alternate form of funding?

    Either way, I agree with AAM that you should seriously re-think a partnership with this person.

    1. Anonymous

      It’s really her business and she’s brought me on to help her with the part of this business she’s incapable of working on.

  16. ruby

    #6: Curious if you have a friendship with your partner and you decide to start a business together because of that friendship and the way she’s treating you is only sufacing now in the business relationship? I’m trying to understand if this behavior of belittling and insulting you is something that has only started now and what your relationship was before this. I’m assuming if she was treating you this way before you started your partnership, then you never would have hooked up with her.

    You say her behavior doesn’t annoy you and that seems curious to me. She insults you, cuts you off, dismises your ideas and she’s inefficent to boot. I’m annoyed on your behalf! Even if being treated so badly doesn’t annoy you, her behavior would seriously bother most people — tactless and rude are not good attributes for running a business or managing employees so leaving aside how you are being treated, those are some big red flags about her ability to be successful.

    1. Anonymous

      She has always been someone I’ve never really ‘hung out with’ but rather she’s friends with my husband’s my circle of friends. So yes she never treated me this way before.

      And yes I guess it does annoy me but not to the point that I burst.

  17. Bonnie

    On the “How are you question?”, you would be amazed at how many people actually ask this question without listening for an answer or give the answer when I never asked the question. When I was 19, I lost my father, every person I met or encountered asked me how I was and less than 5% wanted to know or even cared about the death of my father. I realized that the question was completely insincere and now I don’t ask the question and I don’t answer it either. I will frequently call clients and say, “Hi this is Bonnie and I wonder if you have time to discuss item X with me today?” Sometimes the answer to this question is “I’m fine, how are you?” Not in a sarcastic way but in an absent-minded, this is how I answer every phone call way. Often when I receive a phone call and am asked, “How are you”, I just answer, “Hello, what can I do for you today”, or “How’s the weather where you are”. I can count on one hand the number of people who have called me out on not answering the question. I realize that my office worker phone call situation is different than an in person retail situation but I really think that if you find a stock answer that works for you most people won’t ever realize that you never addressed the question.

    1. A Second Heather

      While i totally get how it can come across as insincere when people ask “How are you?” and do not listen to the answer, it’s very much a Cultural thing. In North America it is largely a greeting. Secondly as someone who worked as a cashier many years ago and was forced to ask every single customer “Do you have any Airmiles” meaning “do you have an Airmiles card for me to put through with your groceries toward points?” you have to understand the monotony and the volume of calls they receive. You cannot fault people for being human and human beings develop behavioural patterns especially in a repetitive job. So while I understand your point of view, I don’t think you should take in personally or be so hard on them. Service industry jobs are not easy.

      1. Bonnie

        I think you miss understood my post. I don’t tell the people that ask the question I am not answering it. I am not ever rude. You say how are you and I say aren’t you enjoying this unusally warm weather we having this week? I can’t remeber the last time a cashier, waitstaff or customer service representive called me out on the fact that I didn’t respond to a question they didn’t really want the answer to anyway. We just start chating about the weather. As you say it is a greeting. I treat it not as a quesiton but as if the only thing said to me was hello. I am very friendly and usually very chatty with the people I interact with. I just don’t bother answering the question and most people don’t even seem to notice. I don’t care if you ask me the quesiton. I just choose not to answer.

        1. A Second Heather

          Ah you’re right, I did misunderstand. Sorry about that. I thought you were saying it as a negative thing that people treat “How are you?” as a greeting. I didn’t realize you were just stating your personal choice not to answer it. I get that.

    2. Anonymous

      At my father’s funeral many years ago, almost every person greeted me by saying, “How are you?” almost immediately followed by a mortified look. I was in a weird frame of mind so I found it amusing and just smiled at each person who asked, but it was definitely an unconscious, social-niceity thing. I mean, it was my father’s funeral; how do you think I felt?

  18. Dan

    Re: “How are you?”

    As someone who is borderline Asperbergers, I’m quite literal. It’s hard for me when people don’t mean the actual words they say. “How are you?” is a good example. It’s not a question, it’s a greeting. I can figure out in a business setting that a person I’ve never seen before doesn’t care, so I can go with the custom even if I don’t totally understand it.

    But, when I’m dealing with people whom I actually know, “How are you?” confuses the heck out of me. Are they asking because they care? My sister-in-law asks that… and then promptly switches the subject when I start to answer. I hate when I get asked that by people who I know, and then they don’t want an answer (or expect me to answer with the social custom.)

    When I worked in customer service, I’d greet repeat customers by name or at least acknowledge the pre-existing relationship (with “it’s good to see you again” or “welcome back”, definitely not anything weird.) I sort of expect the same, too. Maybe not so much from a grocery store cashier whom I don’t really have to talk to, but definitely from people I have had conversations with.

  19. A Second Heather

    How about (if the customer asks ‘how are you’ after you initially greet them ask ‘how are you?) answer with : “I’m great thanks, what can I help you with today?” ? I had a boss who had a deep hate for post-its. This reminds me of him. It’s nit-picky and completely ridiculous but if you develop a formulaic answer after a while it won’t seem awkward not to use the words “how are you?”

  20. Original Starbucks Grump

    Couple of things I just gotta say:

    - I’m not offended if anyone asks me how I’m doing; maybe I’m only annoyed at Starbucks because when I’m in the drive through I need coffee, and I may not be at my best without the coffee.

    - that said, ‘how are you?’ is not as simple a greeting as ‘hello.’

    - it’s entirely possible I’ve had too many days in my life where it took too much effort to fake a ‘good, thanks,’ because it wasn’t good.

    - it’s entirely possible that I’ve been lectured one too many times because I couldn’t fake the answer to the fake solicitous request (like the woman who had miscarried), and now I just resent all askers.

    - I often wonder if one’s placement on the introversion scale has something to do with one’s feelings about ‘how are you’? For me, an introvert (which means that for me interaction with people is frequently de-energizing) maybe that’s just one more interaction in an already stressful stream of interactions.

    - I do get offended when people tell me how I should feel about stuff. Maybe ‘how are you?’ is the high point of your day. That’s nice. I’m not telling you not to like it. Please don’t tell me there’s something wrong with me because I don’t like it. It looks like I’m not the only one, and that might be useful info for the OP in dealing with her boss.

    - I think we should go to the system where we ask about the poop.

    1. BuckeyeHoosier

      It’s not just you, the Starbucks morning, drive-thru, “How are you?” grates on me something awful. It does nothing to enhance the “experience” for me. It does make me happy when they see me and remember I want a venti straw with my triple venti non-fat latte. Not a Starbucks customer these days.

    2. fposte

      It would definitely bring us closer as a people. As an introvert myself, I see that as a downside far more horrifying than the additional excretory knowledge.

  21. Kat

    I feel like there may be more to the “How are you” situation than the OP is mentioning.. Or maybe I’m just giving the GM the benefit of the doubt. I’m a store manager at a corporation that encourages us to make a connection with our customers. (Which is annoying to some people, but it’s been the result of a few years of customer feedback, and is appropriate with our particular customer base/product.) I am consistently coaching my associates NOT to say “hi, how are you” because they are not getting to know anything about the customer, meeting their needs, and it’s infuriating to the customer in a large store where they are greeted that way by many different associates. So it’s not about not saying it, it’s about not being a robot and reading the customers better.

    1. Leigh

      I agree with you–I would find it much more helpful to be greeted with, “Hi, can I help you find anything?” or “Good morning, what can I get for you today?” than be asked how I’m doing when I walk in a store/restaurant or go through a drive-through. A store associate asking how I am is just a social custom; an associate asking if he/she can help me is actually useful and moves us toward the reason I’m there while not delaying the next customer.

  22. Commenter

    To Q #7 on LinkedIn: it’s my understanding that the advice to get in touch with a hiring manager is most recommended before you’ve applied for the position, and preferably before the position was even listed–meaning that you have a target list of companies and try to connect with someone you know there, or have in common from a discussion group, or met at an industry event etc. so that you have an “in” before you need it. This way, once a position becomes available, you could ask this person if they’d forward along your application.

  23. Anonymous_J

    I totally agree with AAM on #6! Lay everything out on the table before you are in too deep.

    For a short while, I ran a business with a friend. Luckily, it was not a formal business partnership. We had nothing in writing. Over time, though we both enjoyed what we were doing and encouraged each other, I found that we actually had very different business philosophies. I was gung-ho to move forward and make things official and get out there and market and sell, sell, sell! She, on the other hand, was very disorganized and moved very slowly in getting anything done.

    We eventually had a falling out (over what, I have no idea to this day. LOL!) and I ultimately went into business for myself. We no longer speak. Again, I don’t know what the issue was. Sadly, she has hundreds of dollars worth of stuff that I made when we were working together. I wanted to at least get my stuff back, but she’s a weird one and goes completely incommunicado when she’s upset with someone. (She won’t even tell you WHY she’s upset! It’s crazy!)

    Let me just say that I’m very glad we never “made it official,” because she was clearly nuts, and it could have ended up being financially and emotionally painful and legally messy!

    Now, I’m moving at my own pace, and while I’m not super-profitable (I’m only in my third year of business,) I’m really happy with my little venture!

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