group interviews, coworker refuses to use a computer or a printer, and more

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

1. I was invited to a group interview

Several days after submitting a job application, I received this response: “We will be conducting a group interview for the [title] position on [date and time]. Kindly confirm your attendance via email.”

This is a professional job requiring a specialized master’s degree and 4+ years of experience, so the invitation strikes me as slightly insane. I haven’t attended a group interview in years, and definitely not after getting my master’s. Is it normal to conduct group interviews for these types of positions? What does this say about the organization?

That they suck at hiring and don’t mind putting candidates in demeaning positions. No, group interviews are not normal for professional positions, nor are they sound practice. (I’m assuming this is an interview of you and a group of other candidates, not a panel interview where you’re meeting with a group of interviewers. The latter isn’t weird; the former is. This sounds like the former.)

Oh, and maybe it’s this! (If it is, maybe just go so that you can report back to us?)

2. I made a mistake that I didn’t discover and no one has talked to me about

I was responsible for putting together a file with performance metrics for bonus payout purposes. I guess I made a copy-paste error, which resulted in incorrect payouts. I’m assuming a person whose bonus wasn’t correct brought this up to my boss. I only learned of the mistake while overhearing his conversation with his boss about the errors he uncovered in the file I was responsible for putting together. He spent the better part of the day double-checking the numbers in the file and submitting the revised file to payroll.

The mistake is really nagging at me but my boss nor his boss has brought the mistake to my attention. I’m technically not supposed to be aware of the mistake, since I only learned of it while listening in on their conversation (it’s a very small office!). I’m also confused as to why they did not bring the mistake to my attention or ask me to fix it. I feel as if I’ve lost the trust of my boss and his boss and there’s no way for me to even address it because I learned of this mistake through eavesdropping! What should I do?

You weren’t listening with a glass to the wall, right? You just overheard it being discussed in the course of regular business, so it’s fine to say something about it. I’d say this: “I think I might have overheard you saying that there was a mistake in the bonus payouts file I put together. I was hoping you could tell me what happened so that I can be careful to avoid whatever the mistake was in the future.”

To be clear, innocently overhearing something doesn’t always make it okay to bring it up with the person. It wouldn’t make it okay to ask a coworker about their wart removal appointment that you overheard them making or your boss’s raise, but this is something that directly involves you and your work, and you’re framing it as wanting to make sure you’re doing the best job that you can.

3. My coworker refuses to learn how to use a computer or a printer

I have a coworker who refuses to learn how to use a computer or a printer and handwrites everything. Most people in the office are used to it since everyone has worked here for 20+ years. She has worked here for 30+ years and never learned how to use any machine. Since I am the front desk, she hands me all of her work to type up and she has me print stuff out for her all the time. In the beginning, I did not mind and was eager to help. Now, I am finding myself becoming irritated when asked to help. She usually has a million corrections and changes her mind. Plus, it’s pages and pages of things to be typed and, what is more irritating, she will put a rush on it. I honestly don’t know how someone can be employed for that long at a company and refuse technology especially working in a office. I need some advice on how to handle this situation.

The big question here is whether your manager wants you to spend your time helping your coworker like this. If she does, then yeah, it’s part of the job. But she might not, especially if it’s keeping you from other priorities. I’d go talk to your boss and say this: “Jane often asks me to type up large amounts of her work and print things for her. In an average week, it takes about (amount of time). It sometimes keeps me from X or from completing Y as quickly as people would like. Is this something I should continue helping her with, or should I be declining when I have other work that needs to be done?”

It is possible that your company thinks that your coworker is sufficiently valuable that it’s worth having to pay someone to type up her work. There are people who do fall in that category! But you should find that out for sure.

4. We all have to reapply for our jobs, and I’m worried about stealing a job from a coworker

I work as an administrative coordinator for an organization that has been very open to career development opportunities. When I was offered the job, they knew that my primary field was different from this job, but they encouraged me to pursue learning opportunities and involvement in projects related to the work I wanted to do. I also became the back-up for the person they had in the role I wanted to be in, giving me plenty of experience doing their job as well as my own. Fast forward nine months, and that person moved on to another position outside the organization, and I was transferred into that role as the acting coordinator. Because of hiring rules, they ended up having to post the job, and I will have to apply and interview for it. I have a strong chance, being the internal candidate, but of course nothing is guaranteed.

At the same time, they have also had to post the jobs for all of us in my department, including the administrative position that I was originally in (because we’ve all been on contract and union rules require this). They have another staff member acting in my former role now, and she intends to apply for it. I’ve been encouraged by the manager to apply for both positions, but I’m concerned that if I get the admin job and not the one that I’m acting in, I won’t be able to accept the position without looking like I “stole” the job from my coworker. Our entire office is very close, and I’d feel terribly about taking the job from her, but at the same time, I need to work too! Should I even bother applying if I don’t know whether or not to take the job if I get it?

Yes, you should apply for it if you think you might want it. It’s not “stealing” the job from someone any more than it ever is when you’re offered a job. Your employer has put you all in a terrible position where you have to reapply for jobs you’re already doing. Blame that system, not each other.

5. Telling a new employer that I want to give more than two weeks notice

I recently received a job offer I’m excited to take, but my present job would be put in a real bind with me leaving after two weeks notice, whereas a three-week notice would allow other employees to return from their time off and make it easier for me to leave.

How much detail should I give my potential new boss about this? Should I assume they’ll care that I’d be leaving my present job in a lurch? Or would it be commendable that I wouldn’t leave a job in predicament because that would obviously mean I wouldn’t for the new job as well? I want to do the right thing without making the new job feel like I’m not respecting them enough to just run to them ASAP.

It’s really, really, really common for people to ask for more than two weeks before starting a new job. You don’t even need to get into the details of why. Just say, “I’d like to give my current job three weeks notice to wrap up some projects here. Will a start date of X work for you?”

{ 334 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. TootsNYC

    Re: #5
    A former colleague of mine said he wanted to give a longer notice, and he got a little pushback from his new job. He said, “It’s the biggest crunch-time of the year, and I feel it’s only professional to be there just until it is finished. Once I’m working for you, I’ll show you that same level of loyalty and professionalism. I hope that would be a plus for you, actually.”

    And they conceded that yes, it was, and so they waited another week.

    The thing is, sometimes hiring can take long enough that being picky about one measly week (when maybe they could have acted faster themselves but they had a lot of meetings…) is kind of silly. And, they’ve been limping along without you for however, so another week is probably not a hardship.
    If it is, they’ll tell you, and how they tell you will be a strong indicator of what they’re like.

    And, if you do end up giving 2 weeks’ notice, don’t feel bad. Just express strong regret that you couldn’t give more, and that should manage any disappointment on your current employer’s part.

    Also: tons of people say, “I’d like to give two weeks’ notice and then take a week off between jobs, especially since I won’t qualify for a vacation right away as a new employee.” I’ve had new bosses assume that this is my plan, actually.
    If you decide you want that third week to be notice at the old place (or even if you want to feel them out about 4 weeks), that should be totally fine.

    Reply
    1. AvonLady Barksdale

      I had a combination of this happen to me. I accepted an offer while my boss was on vacation, so I wanted to wait for her to get back to give two weeks. Then my grandparents were in town, so I wanted another week to be with them. It ended up being almost four weeks between acceptance and start date, and no one blinked.

      Reply
    2. Aunt Vixen

      I once said “The start date you’ve suggested is the first anniversary of the day my father died. Can we move it to a day I’m likely to be less distracted and unfocused?” It did not result in irretrievable ruin.

      Reply
    3. yasmara

      My husband just accepted a new job and one of the reasons why we’re *both* excited for him is that they didn’t blink about him taking longer to transition to the new job (it’s across the country from us & he’s in a key role in his current job & wanted to give them ample time). In fact, when he suggested a May 1st start date (he accepted the job last week, so that was about 5 weeks), they came back & suggested 5/16 so he’d have longer helping me get this house ready to sell. He’ll be at the US main office, but the company is HQ’d in Denmark (Copenhagen). European companies for the win! They also give every employee 5 weeks vacation on Day 1 PLUS 3 weeks of “wellness time off” (employee sick leave, but also sick time for when your kids are sick, time for volunteering, or it can be used to attend kid-related events like school concerts), PLUS they offer 12 paid holidays per year. I love them already.

      Reply
    4. baseballfan

      Really, any new job should appreciate your professionalism in wanting to make sure you make a smooth transition out of your old position.

      I once had a recruiter pressure me to give only two weeks’ notice because that’s “standard.” Of course, she didn’t want to make any waves with her client (my new employer) but I was still disappointed that a) she didn’t realize/didn’t acknowledge that more than 2 weeks is common in a highly responsible position, and b) she didn’t back me up in emphasizing my treating my soon-to-be-former colleagues with that much respect.

      Reply
  2. Anon4once

    I was interviewed for a position at Harvard business school in a group interview. It was one of my first interviews out of college, it and really weirded me out. They would ask a question, then everyone would go around and answer it. It was fine for some questions, but others there were really only one or two sane answers, so if you went 4th or 5th you were essentially gaurenteed to be repeating everything someone else just said. I was young and it was Harvard so I just assumed this was normal.

    Reply
    1. Mallory Janis Ian

      Institutes of higher education can breed some strange practices. I’m not sure if that comes from being in existence for a long time, with certain practices becoming entrenched without anyone revisiting whether they make sense; or maybe the giant bureaucracy makes it really unwieldy to implement new practices. One thing I’ve seen is that a higher-up will come up with an idea, and if it’s mentioned that maybe their idea doesn’t correspond with current best practices, they’ll say, “Yeah, but this isn’t the corporate world; this is higher ed”, and that dismissiveness stands.

      Reply
    2. Persephone Mulberry

      I did a group interview for a k-12 school district position once. It was actually one of my favorite interviewing experiences ever. The questions were well thought out to encourage unique answers from every candidate, and it was fascinating to be able to hear everyone else’s responses.

      Reply
    3. Chris

      A group interview was my first interview experience as well and the “repeating answers” is why I will never again attend another. The questions weren’t designed in a manner to inspire varied answers, plus the manager conducting the interview was using his phone to time us. You had a minute or less to answer.
      Coming up with something unique while you were still processing what the guy next to you said, and the manager going “Time!” I found is pretty impossible for me.

      Reply
  3. DisgruntledPA

    My grandfather, who just retired this year at 84, was similarly techphobic. He’d dictate all of his emails which his personal secretary would type and send, and he’d have all of his emails printed out so he could read them off of paper. He started the company and was CEO/President, so he had the luxury to do that, but I always thought it was silly of a man working in an industry that relied heavily on technology and did 99% of its correspondence with people on different continents to not just suck it up and learn to use email.

    Reply
    1. MK

      No, it’s not silly. People who have grown with technology, or who manage to pick it up relatively easily and grasp it well, often underestimate the difficulty older people have in learning to use it and overestimate the payoff. For technology to actually make your life easier, you have to invest considerable time to learn it well; and that’s assuming you manage to be reasonably good at it. Yes, many older people find it easy and time-saving once they learn it, but many others simply don’t have the aptitude for it (I think many young people also don’t have aptitude, but if you grow up with it, it has become second nature). My father is one; it took him a long time to learn how to use technology for his work and, even now, it is neither easier nor quicker for him to use it than it would be to do things the old-fashioned way. Unfortunately he cannot afford a PA, but if he did, well, why not spare himself the hassle? That said, I agree that it would be unreasonable to not even try to learn; you never know whether you like it otherwise.

      Reply
      1. nofelix

        You’re right about some tech, but email is one of the simplest things to use. You write the address, write the message, click send. Carbon copies, attachments and forwarding are all concepts borrowed from pre-digital communication.

        This weekend I was talking to my fiance’s granfather about email security and he relayed how he was almost the victim of a bank phishing scam but smelled a rat. He’s around 90 years old and retired in the 1980s.

        Reply
          1. Mallory Janis Ian

            Ha. One of my old bosses would type using only the index finger of one hand and the middle finger of the other hand. It was hunt-and-peck typing, but years of practice had made him pretty quick at it.

            Reply
            1. blackcat

              I know a 50 word per minute hunt-and-pecker. It’s actually pretty impressive to watch. Those index fingers fly!

              Reply
                1. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night

                  Same here! I wrote an entire novel via hunt-and-peck, and have to type a lot for my day job as well. People are always so surprised when they realize I don’t know how to “officially” type.

              1. OhNo

                Funny, I still haven’t learned to touch type, I just modified the hunt-and-peck style I taught myself at the age of seven. My WPM is usually in the high seventies. (When I was in typing class in high school and practicing every day, I averaged 90 – but that was a while ago)

                According to my coworkers I look like some kind of really aggressive piano player when I type, because I go fast and my hands are all over the place.

                Reply
                1. Mallory Janis Ian

                  I had a coworker who would bang the keyboard like that when she was typing. She could type 90 wpm, and she held her hands at a high angle to the keyboard and crashed her fingers noisily down on the keys. We always said she typed like Elton John playing the piano.

                2. Kelly L.

                  @Mallory, you probably worked with me. LOL!

                  (I’m a fast hunt and peck typist and I type way too hard. The latter goes back to the computer I had in the 90s where the keys stuck.)

                3. Kyrielle

                  Hee! I learned home row typing, but the problem is that my hands are a little small for that and it hurts if I do it for long. Not good for someone who works with a computer all day and uses them for recreation too. So I do touch type – I seldom look at the keyboard – but my hands don’t “rest” in any particular position. I just remember (muscle memory or rote, not conscious, awareness) where they are. But I do have to watch the screen – I don’t often get off about where my hands are, but if I do, I can keep merrily typing one set of letters left or right of where I ought to have been.

                  And I think I peaked at 120 or so WPM – when I have something to get down and it doesn’t require me to stop and think, I can really book. It’s…very unkind to keyboards. (About a decade ago, I had an IBM Thinkpad that I literally typed finger-nail-shaped holes into two of the more frequently used keys, with 3-4 more that had deep dents.

                4. Kelly L.

                  Yeah, the secret to fast hunt and peck typing is that it’s really not hunting anymore, just pecking. We know where stuff is, we just don’t use the “right” fingers to type it!

                5. hodie-hi

                  I’ve seen lots of people, not just older folks, struggle with technology. People are weird; my husband could build a computer from a jumble of parts on a table, including soldering the circuit boards, but he has ongoing problems actually using any computers. I had to rescue his last laptop from a bunch of malware, and am constantly helping him figure out the simplest stuff. I swear, a gorilla is better at using an iPad than he is.

                  I’m a fairly fast touch typist, and like Kyrielle, I’ve destroyed several keyboards with simple use more than aggression. Fingernail grooves dug into keys or the texture worn entirely smooth. The keys on my home laptop have so many labels rubbed completely off that my husband cannot use it, since he doesn’t touch type. The top edge of the D key on _this_ keyboard is turning from black to white as the plastic wears through. I’ve had it 2 years. I’ll probably punch completely through the D by the time I’m due for a refresh.

                6. Kyrielle

                  I’d argue it’s not “pecking” if you’re using more than 1-2 fingers per hand either, and not “hunting” if you aren’t looking; it’s touch typing, just not home-row touch typing.

              2. Jillociraptor

                My partner touch types with his left hand, and uses one finger on his right hand. It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen, but he’s super speedy; whatever works I guess!

                Reply
            2. KHB

              I had a boss who did the same thing. I count that as a form of “knowing how to type.”

              On the other hand, if you haven’t had those years of practice and have to hunt for five seconds for each letter, the simplest email can turn into an agonizing chore.

              Reply
                1. KHB

                  Yes, but in this discussion about the hurdles people have to overcome to “learn to use technology,” taking years to learn how to type is a big one.

                  For people who have somehow reached their 60s, 70s, or 80s without ever having learned how to use a computer keyboard – but who have developed other valuable skills that make them an asset to their workplace – learning how to type now might not necessarily be the best use of their time.

            3. JessaB

              My grandfather was a two fingered typist and I type extremely fast, and he was faster than me. Two fingers does not always equal amateur typist.

              Reply
              1. Elizabeth West

                I used to type on a typewriter really fast in a hunt-and-peck style. I just never bothered to take the course in high school. But when I took an adult ed/secretarial course in Santa Cruz in the early 1990s, I made sure I learned to type. The course used Mavis Beacon. My typing speed was medium slow for a long time, but when I finally started going in my chat room, it sped up considerably!

                Reply
          2. Amy Farrah Fowler

            Everyone always thinks I’m really strange, but I taught myself to type in a different keyboard format called dvorak in college. I haven’t clocked my typing speed in awhile, but I know it makes me faster because all my vowels are on my left hand home row and the home row on my right is “htns”. You can type real words that you use on an every day basis from your home row, so you don’t have to reach as much. When I learned, I popped all the keys off my laptop keyboard and moved them around, but I know it well enough now that I just never look at the keys because they’ll confuse me.

            I actually think of it as an additional security measure on my computer because if the keyboard is in a different format, no one can really use it for much of anything.

            Reply
            1. Snork Maiden

              I also was intrigued by the Dvorak method as it’s way faster, but I have yet to learn it. I haven’t met anyone in real life who uses it, so I think you’re really cool. Do you have issues switching to a QWERTY layout on different computers? (And do you use Dvorak on your phone?)

              Reply
              1. nopemobile

                I switched to a Dvorak keyboard on my phone years ago – at the time, I had just gotten a phone with a smaller keyboard area than I was used to and I was making too many errors using QWERTY. I figured it might be easier to retrain myself on a whole new keyboard layout than stay entrenched in the old habits that were now causing errors. It took a few weeks of pretty agonizing hunt-and-peck while I got used to the new layout, but by now I’m just as fast at two-fingered phone typing in Dvorak as I ever was with QWERTY.

                I do still do QWERTY home row touch typing on regular computer keyboards. Not sure how well it would transfer over, since it’s two completely different kinds of typing.

                Reply
          3. Trillian

            I worked with a 90-year old emeritus prof who used dictation software. Never succeeded in training it, myself.

            Reply
        1. Meg Murry

          Actually, there is one key thing you are missing: you don’t write the name, address and message, you type them. My parents are in their early 60s, and although they have generally figured out their way around reading email, and both learned to type on typewriters in the early 70s, they are both incredibly slow and inaccurate typers. Because of that, they can’t simultaneously compose a message in their head and type it – they write on paper anything that’s more than a sentence or two, then type what they hand wrote. And what they do type is usually formatted like on a typewriter – it’s taken my mother years to remember she doesn’t have to hit enter at the end of each line, etc. So if it’s already handwritten, at work it probably does make sense to pass it off to someone else to type up, instead of the person typing it super slowly and inaccurately and then having to have the work cleaned up before sending it out.

          Of course, the business case for this absolutely depends on what the no-tech person’s role is. Higher level employee with years of valuable experience and other skills – makes sense. Person who’s been there for 30 years but never move up from a junior role – time to make them take a typing class and learn or move on.

          Reply
          1. blackcat

            See, my mom learned to type on a type writer (while she was in college) and got pretty good at it. As a result, she doesn’t type that fast, but there are NEVER any errors. It’s actually quite remarkable (says this digital native who is a typo machine and famous for leaving out important letters–like the f in shift).

            Reply
            1. Meg Murry

              I guess I didn’t mention that after learning to type on typewriters, they never had jobs that needed them to type more than occasionally (as in monthly or less) – so that skill got rusty with disuse.

              However, my mother used an adding machine as a huge part of her job, so she can accurately 10-key type numbers faster than I can think. And my father can turn out beautifully finished items quickly using a variety of power tools that I don’t even know how to use beyond turning on and keeping my fingers away from the moving parts. Just because someone can’t type (and therefore email, etc is painful) doesn’t mean they can’t have great skills – it just means they haven’t taken the time to learn those skills, and in many cases it doesn’t make sense for them to take the time if they aren’t interested and don’t absolutely have to.

              The other funny thing is that my father has learned to text on an old school flip phone (press #3 twice for an E, etc) and because he does it often I think he might be faster at texting on that dumb phone than typing on a computer. :-)

              Reply
            2. Afiendishthingy

              Yeah, a family friend was a secretary in the 70s and never makes typos. I type pretty quickly but pretty inaccurately- I know where the letters are, but I guess I have clumsy fingers. Also, Word autocorrects a bunch of the errors for me. I am super impressed by accurate typists!

              Reply
              1. Mallory Janis Ian

                Oh, yeah; I think I’m a fairly accurate typist, until I remember that autocorrect is constantly cleaning up behind me. I’m not all that accurate by myself.

                Reply
        2. Oryx

          As someone who has worked in libraries with disadvantaged, undereducated, socially neglected urban populations — no, email is not one of the simplest things to use and learn how to use no matter how young or old you are.

          Reply
          1. Afiendishthingy

            All right, but OP’s coworker has worked in an office for over 30 years. She’s had a lot of time to learn to use a computer.

            Reply
            1. KHB

              On the flip side, her employer has had plenty of chances to tell her “It’s now time for you to learn how to use a computer as requirement for your job.”

              Reply
            2. Oryx

              But if management doesn’t feel it’s a priority for her to learn or adapt, then she’s had no reason to learn up to this point.

              Reply
                1. Oryx

                  Plus, there’s no indication that this is actually impacting the OP’s job in any way. Instead, based on the reading of the letter, it seems possible it’s a part of the OP’s daily tasks that she just doesn’t like doing.

          2. Erin

            An excellent point, but I think I have to agree with Afiendishthingy. Yes it might be difficult and take some time, but this woman’s attitude of, “We’ve always done it this way” and her refusal to even try speaks volumes.

            Reply
            1. Mallory Janis Ian

              At this point, it’s not even, “We’ve always done it this way”; it’s more, “Back in the seventies, we used to do it this way.” Except that she was allowed to stay in the seventies while everyone else’s “We’ve always done it this way” now includes computers and other office technology.

              Reply
            2. Ask a Manager Post author

              If she’s valuable enough, she’s in a position to decide how she does and doesn’t want to spend her time, and there’s no reason it’s inherently wrong to do that. Offices offer people support for all kinds of things so that they don’t have to spend their time on things other than the places they add the most value — senior people often have others do their expense reports, travel booking, calendar management, etc. And it used to be incredibly common for people to have others do their typing as well.

              If she’s saying “this isn’t something I’m interested in spending time on” and the employer thinks she’s valuable enough for that to be okay, so be it.

              Reply
              1. Stranger than fiction

                I could see that if she’s a CEO or other high ranking officer, but you’d feel the same if she were, say, a staff accountant or customer service manager? Because I can’t help thinking that type person/position would be better served by someone who can also use technology. In other words, at that point I can’t see the value being so high as to offset the deficiency.

                Reply
                1. LQ

                  Sales. Someone who does a lot of sales through relationships and they are high value and you just need someone to type up the paper work to put it through at the end.
                  (Lawyers are something else that has come up in the comments.)
                  I could also see something like if you were a trainer who did in person classes on communication and you mostly did the same class over and over and someone else was responsible for the scheduling and all the rest, you just presented.

              2. Elizabeth West

                I agree up to the point where it starts to impact the OP’s job. If she’s that important and needs someone to assist her, let them hire a part-time assistant to do this for her.

                Reply
            3. Not me

              +1 she has had THIRTY YEARS. She has been obstinate about this for longer than some employees have been alive.

              Reply
              1. Narise

                And computers have existed for thirty years. Did the company just bring in computers five years ago? Probably not.

                Reply
          3. yasmara

            This. I used to work in a computer lab at a university (long ago) and we would get older alumni in to use the free computers. This was over 20 years ago, but I distinctly remember teaching one woman the difference between “click” and “double click” and “right click.” It has stayed with me all this time as a reminder that those of us who have been using computers, smart phones, touch screens, etc. can really underestimate the learning curve for those who are new to it. I’m no spring chicken (I’m in my 40’s), but I started using computers in elementary school, including basic programming classes. My mom is a great typist, but she learned on type writers and is still uncomfortable with computers (although she can text like nobody’s business). My dad used computers for years in his job, but still has trouble with things like attachments, OS updates, etc. because he always had a tech department & a dedicated administrative assistant to take care of things on that level.

            Reply
            1. Chinook

              Yasmara, you reminded me of my one and only computer skills class at university back in the early 90’s. I had been using a computer since I was 6, so when the first slide of the presentation was of a photo of a computer with the on/off switch circled, I laughed out loud and thought about the easy A. My classmate, who was a mature student, on the other hand, started taking notes and asking questions.

              Ironically, I nearly flunked the final because I had grown up on PC’s and IBMs and we were doing this in a Mac lab and I couldn’t, for the life of me, remember how to turn the computer on. The TA checked her notes and realized that powering up was not part of the exam and showed me how to do it. I guess I should have attended the rest of the classes after all. :)

              Reply
              1. Elizabeth West

                I remember taking an exam for a state job during my last period of unemployment, and one of the questions was “What is the name of the drive used for floppy disks?” I was like, OMG WUT ARE YOU KIDDING ME.

                Of course I knew the answer, and I was so grateful that I had started using the computer while they still HAD floppy drives! Imagine taking the test if you didn’t–wow.

                Reply
              2. Sparkly Librarian

                I spent an hour or so one Monday morning in a new temp position when I was fresh to the workforce, touring the kitchen and tidying the supply cabinet, and eventually hiding in the restroom and calling my dad… because I did not want to admit that I didn’t know how to turn on the Mac at the front desk.

                Reply
            2. Sal

              I used to give classes to older people as part of my job on how to use computers, set up an email account, do Google searches etc. Yes, it’s a steep learning curve at first, but if an 80 year old Afghan man who’s never even SEEN a computer before can pick it up in a couple of lessons, there is literally no reason why this woman can’t, other than she doesn’t want to or it gives her some kind of power trip to delegate it to the LW.

              Reply
        3. Observer

          As simple as it is, it actually requires a good deal of prior learning or knowledge that you don’t even realize that you have. Just getting to the point where you can type the address takes a few steps that people need to learn. And, by and large something lie “open your email program” isn’t even enough. They may not know what their email program is, if they are not familiar with windows and it’s not on the desktop, they may not know how to find it on the menu, etc.

          By the same token, the whole address thing can be very confusing. We don’t really think about it. Those of us who are used to this automatically think of it in terms on name@domain.com but there is nothing obvious about it. Nor does it easily map to any other addressing scheme that would make it easier for people to learn.

          Lastly, mousing is actually not all that easy for a lot of people. If you are learning how to do this at a later age, this can be an especial problem, given the both loss of manual dexterity and visual acuity can make the use of a mouse much more difficult.

          Reply
          1. Stranger than fiction

            I remember when email and the web were new, I’d see people mix up web addresses with email addresses all the time.

            Reply
        4. Observer

          That has nothing to do with technology. You can be sharp about human nature without knowing anything about technology.

          Reply
      2. Colette

        Not learning basic tech skills limits your job opportunities. It limits you to companies who are willing to pay someone else to take care of the things you don’t want to learn. If you own the company, you can decide that’s what you want to do, but in many cases it’s not a viable option. And honestly, the fear of learning new things would be a bigger deal to me than the specific tech skills.

        Reply
          1. Colette

            And if it’s her choice, that’s probably what will happen. It may not be her choice.

            But even if the person who didn’t want to learn was the CEO, it’s a problem in my view. What other changes will she decide aren’t important enough to bother with? How will that affect the business?

            Reply
        1. Elizabeth West

          There was a long-ago Roseanne episode about this very thing–Roseanne got a lead on a really good job, but when she went to the interview, it was no go because she couldn’t use the computer. She was willing to learn but they needed someone who could do it right then. So it was back to the assembly line.

          Reply
      3. CADMonkey007

        I would have agreed with this 10 years ago, but this is email and basic word processing we’re talking about here not some new latest and greatest technology. I think OP’s company did this person a great disservice to cater to her technology avoidance for all these years.

        Reply
        1. MK

          Why? If she was valuable enough to them and they are willing to pay the OP for assisting her with these things as part of her actual job, I don’t see why the arrangement is problematic in any way. The only way this can be a problem is if the coworker wants to get another job, but frankly that’s her issue; whe must know that by refusing to keep up with the times, she is limiting herself as an employee.

          Reply
          1. CADMonkey007

            I think it would be pretty easy for someone to get a false sense of security being such a longstanding employee and all. If the company intends to keep her around at this same capacity until she retires, then cool. I’d just hate to hear about someone like this getting the axe at the 11th hour, and there are any number of reasons why that could happen.

            Honestly, I could see the boss at this company writing in about a nice, long standing employee who doesn’t know a thing about computers, her value to the company is gone, but she’s so nice and been here forever! What do I do???

            Reply
      4. Mike C.

        I really don’t buy this for a second. There isn’t something magical about “using technology”, it’s little more than stubbornness.

        Reply
        1. Jinx

          I feel like there’s a difference between avoiding technology when it only affects you and avoiding technology when it’s clearly needed for your job. If someone in my company was dumping work on someone else because they couldn’t type, they’d be told to get typing training. I suck at social skills, but my boss expects me to learn and improve at those things instead of asking a coworker to talk to people for me.

          Like Alison said, it’s possible OP’s coworker is a rainmaker and this is part of the deal with her, but she won’t know for sure until she asks her boss.

          Reply
          1. Mallory Janis Ian

            And typing training isn’t some specialty course that she’d have to take. She could get up to an acceptable 20ish WPM just by using the Mavis Beacon software, or whatever the current learn-to-type software is.

            Reply
            1. JessaB

              Here’s the thing if she’s been there for 30 years why not invest 100 bucks in a copy of any speech to text program and let her talk to the computer already. She doesn’t have to learn to type and anyone who worked 30 years ago has to know how to dictate. Back in the days of the typing pool this was done on a tape deck, then later on a digital recorder, now you can dictate directly to the computer. Dragon naturally speaking is CHEAP for one licence and they could then have the OP clean up the final document. There is zero need for the OP to have to type from paper.

              Seriously if the employee cannot do the task (or doesn’t want to) and management is okay with this, the former Special Ed teacher in me says adapt the task already.

              Reply
              1. Kimberlee, Esq

                You are some kind of genius. That does seem like a great solution. You’re like Daenerys Targaryen… while everyone else argues between two not-great options, you find the third way that nobody else saw.

                Reply
              2. Meg Murry

                Except speech-to-text software has a major learning curve as well, and most people don’t speak the way they write. I don’t think it would be any faster for her to learn speech-to-text (and then have to clean up all the mistakes) than it would be for her to learn to type)

                There was a really good clip about this on NPR the other day, with a southern author who broke her arm and couldn’t type. She tried to use text-to-speech software, but it just did not work for her – the software didn’t understand her accent, she doesn’t speak the way she writes, etc. I suspect if I was going to use speech-to-text software for anything more than a 1-2 sentence email I would wind up handwriting out everything i wanted to say first, then dictate that off the paper – at which point is no faster than having OP type off the paper. It does mean the other employee’s time would be used instead of OP’s time – but that is the manager’s call, not OPs.

                Reply
                1. Callie

                  My mother has a very strong southern accent (as do I). She recently got an iphone and tries to text me with speech recognition and it sends me some… interesting texts.

                2. Elizabeth West

                  I have Dragon–I got it through school thinking I could use it when my stubborn hands start cramping up and I can’t type. It does take time to train it (which I haven’t really finished. However, I did manage to teach it how to curse LOL.) They might not be willing to have her take that much time to learn it when someone can just transcribe.

                3. Anonsie

                  Yes, I gave up on Dragon when I realized it was less hassle to be in pain from using the keyboard than it was to deal with the annoyance of training it. Also, training/using Dragon requires a fair deal of interaction with the program’s interface, which was decent but definitely would be terrifying if I was a no-computers-ever person.

          2. aebhel

            Yeah, it seems like someone would have to be a pretty valuable employee–or literally own the company–for it to be worth the money and effort of literally paying someone to type their work up for them. Typing is a skill set, particularly typing fast, but most people (yes, even older people) can learn to type 20-30 wpm without too much trouble.

            As someone who works in an office of people who’ve been here for decades, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it’s probably more likely that this is just The Way It’s Always Been Done, and nobody’s bothered to agitate for change (particularly if the OP’s predecessor had been there for a very long time as well).

            Reply
            1. Observer

              I’ve actually seen it happen. We had someone who would NOT use our computer system. It was a mess. But she really was just too valuable to fire over this. I think my boss approached the accommodations we had to make for her as similar to what you do for an ADA accommodation.

              She finally left when she got sick. I can tell you that NO ONE has matched her in the years that have passed.

              Reply
              1. Callie

                I had a student who refused to use email or the course management software. He said he was worried about “government intrusion”. I told him if he couldn’t use email and CMS then teaching is probably not the profession for him, and he changed his major…. to music performance. I mean, no one EVER sends out gig info, pay information, etc via email/internet!! I wished him luck.

                Reply
                1. Observer

                  The difference between her and you student is that our employee had proved her worth before her computer use became an issue. The likelihood of hiring an unknown quantity that won’t use a computer is about zero.

          3. Beancounter in Texas

            When I worked for a large corporation as an admin, I accidentally saw that the new engineer hired in my small group earned $60k annual, while I was only earning $24k. I was shocked (in a naive way), but eventually realized that his knowledge and job function was more specialized than mine. I noticed he was a hunt & peck typist, and apparently had challenges with email as he replied-all three times in a row with the same message to the entire corporation of 4,000 people, (including the officers). He often asked me for technology help, but sometimes I think he just wanted to look at my boobs. Most every day, he’d show me the Sudoku puzzles he completed (about 4 a day). He arrived around 8:30 and left around 4:30, and took frequent coffee breaks, while I busted my butt from 8 to 5. I didn’t complain to anyone; I just kept my own nose clean.

            So when our boss asked me to type the engineer’s notes into our database for him, the word “no” was out of my mouth before I knew what happened. I refused on the grounds that my name would be attached in the database as the editor of his notes, no matter whose initials were input, and if any question came up about the validity of his notes, the fingers would be pointing at me. My boss said he’d “think about it,” and while it registered with me that I shouldn’t have responded that way, I was too indignant to acknowledge it.

            Reply
        2. ExceptionToTheRule

          I agree with Mike C.. I’m sorry, but computers have been ubiquitous in the workplace for over 20 years. They aren’t some new fad that’s not going to stick around.

          Reply
        3. I'm a Little Teapot

          Yes. As Afiendishthingy pointed out above, she’s worked in an office for 30 years; it’s not like she’s never had the opportunity to learn.

          Some people like her see typing as beneath them. There are some older men who never learned to type because it’s “women’s work,” and some older women who never learned to type because someone told them “never learn to type or you’ll always be a secretary.” I wonder if it’s this.

          Reply
          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

            Yep, sure, I grew up with the “never learn to type or you’ll always be a secretary” stuff, too. That was replaced by “better learn how to use computers or you’ll be left behind” 30 years ago!

            There is no excuse for an even modestly ambitious person to not have learned how to do emails several decades ago.

            *and I do mean 30 years ago. The “learn how to use a computer” advice predated the internet and even the introduction of Windows OS in 1985.

            Reply
            1. Observer

              Who said she is ambitious. She may be happy with where she is, and the company may be happy with what she gives them for what they pay her.

              As Alison says, ASK about it. You really don’t know what the real situation is. Maybe they are fine with her doing the work, maybe they don’t realize how much time it’s taking and once they do they will drop the hammer, or maybe they aren’t happy but weren’t willing to push but will back her in pushing back.

              Reply
              1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

                The ambitious reference was in response to the “don’t learn to type or you’ll be a secretary” reasoning. That was advice for ambitious young women of the time. That’s my point, that advice could not be a reason a woman refused to learn how to use a computer for 30 years.

                Lookit, anybody who can’t do basic computer things like email in 2016, that ship sailed so many years ago, I don’t know what to say. Since someone has been compensating for co-worker all these years, I’d imagine it is the OPs turn and that it’s in her job description/duties.

                For whatever reason, the business wants to compensate and the OP is likely stuck.

                Reply
            2. Robin B

              Same here! Avoided all typing classes in high school so I wouldn’t be stuck in a secretarial job. Ended up learning later anyway, not only for the day job and because I started writing fiction. It’s hard to believe anyone hasn’t learned a little (as Wakeen said).

              Reply
              1. Mockingjay

                I learned to type in high school because I knew I would have to submit typed papers in college. My parents got me an awesome Adler typewriter for Christmas my senior year. I still have it.

                I actually made money on this skill. I typed papers for my dorm mates at $1 per page (that was a fair wage in the Dark Ages). I threw in spelling and grammar corrections for free.

                Reply
              2. Elizabeth West

                I kind of wish I’d taken them–it would be handy to take notes in classes, meetings, panels, etc. in shorthand and type them up later (for myself). Is it too late to learn shorthand!?

                Reply
            3. Ad Astra

              That’s what’s driving me nuts here. The woman has had DECADES to learn how to type, use a word processing program, and email (and yeah, the company has had decades to teach her). Sure, not everyone has an aptitude for technology and not everyone grew up with access to computers, but these are basic skills required to function in an office. The resources and time it would take her (and the company) to learn this stuff are minimal.

              It’s like saying you don’t know how to use a phone and asking your coworker to make all your calls for you. People don’t really do that anymore.

              Reply
          2. Anonsie

            Oh god, my grandmother had the “never learn to type or you’ll always be a secretary” line. Despite this “principle”, she was basically a secretary for a good long time. Just one who probably got paid less than her typing coworkers. She also banned my dad from learning to type (“women’s work, not for men!”). Luckily he thought that was BS and took a typing class as soon as he got to college. By the time I came around, typing was a mandatory unit in elementary school, for which I am very grateful.

            Reply
          3. Milton Waddams

            A similar philosophy 10-15 years ago discouraged many of my peers from taking the next step with computers: “never learn to program or you’ll always be a nerd”, basically pointing out that executive-level types of the time were not interested in having “tech support” in senior management positions, however much money the company was making off of those skills.

            Reply
        4. Temperance

          Yep. The only people in my office who have managed to avoid tech are the ones who like having an assistant do everything for them.

          Reply
          1. Allison

            One of my colleagues is a former lawyer, and when she was a lawyer she had a paralegal do her admin work for her. Now whenever she gets busy and stressed, she defaults to that mindset and asks me to do administrative tasks for her. My manager has had to remind her multiple times that I am not, in fact, her assistant and she needs to do those things herself.

            Reply
        5. Kelly

          I also don’t buy this. It’s a hardship on the OP to have transcribe for them. They’re old enough that they probably learned how to use a keyboard to type. It’s them avoiding any technology.

          I think it’s interesting the pecking method of typing has been bought up. I know my mother who learned to type using a keyboard still types like that on her Macbook pro. She’s actually better at typing on an iPad or iPhone than myself or my sister because of that technique.

          Reply
      5. hbc

        My 70+ MIL was getting tech support from her son and in response to him telling her to click the left mouse button, asked “Which one is the left?” Even she can email. So while a tiny percentage of people may have a mental or physical issue when it comes to “technology” and it will never be second nature to a lot of people, most who outright refuse are just some combination of stubborn, lazy, or deliberately eccentric and manage to get away with it.

        Reply
        1. Beancounter in Texas

          My former 76 year old boss learned to scan documents and attach them to email. It took him 14 months of hand-holding before he could do it himself, but he did learn!

          Reply
          1. Sal

            My 90 year old grandmother taught herself to use a computer so she could trace our family tree and now she’s on FB all the time liking knitting patterns. I think the “Oh but it’s so hard for old people” attitude is pretty infantilising and patronising TBH. My gran lived through the depression, scraping fat out of the grill to use as butter and now she’s on Facebook. This co-worker had no excuse.

            Reply
      6. LQ

        My grandparent’s sibling decided at 84 they were going to learn and so we got him and iPad and by the time I’d shown him and his wife how to do a whole bunch of things they’d decided they needed two. (Which they have and use to Facebook and email constantly.) So I do think that just saying oh old people can’t do that, is unnecessarily dismissive of the skills of plenty of people who can and do learn new things.

        Reply
        1. Michelenyc

          My step fathers dad is 90 and has been using a computer for years. Some of his posts on Facebook are a little OMG I can’t beleive he said that but he took the time to learn all on his own.

          Reply
          1. Teapot Coordinator

            My favorite of older people(and I mean those in the 75+ age group) who sign off on Facebook posts, i.e. Love, Uncle Dale.
            I don’t know why, but I find it very endearing and sweet.

            Reply
        2. Observer

          I absolutely agree with you that “Old people can’t learn how to use computers” is unnecessarily dismissive.

          However, it’s important to understand that the learning curve is real and can be significant. And, that can be true at any age.

          Reply
          1. LQ

            Right, but as you said that can be true at any age. It isn’t old people, it is hey, sometimes computers are hard for people so consider what tools work best for them in their situations. But just saying old people can’t computer isn’t doing that. Some people need dictation software, some people won’t do well in jobs where they need computers to do all their work, some people are rain makers and can get away with it. But all of those are true of any age.

            Reply
        3. Kelly

          All of my dad’s sisters who are in their 60s are very enthusiastic users of their iPads. It’s not unusual for them to be on facebook or checking email when they are together. My father, the baby of the family, still doesn’t really know how to use his iPhone and has either myself of my sister do his updates for him. He has figured out how to email, check weather and sports scores, the important functions as far as he is concerned.

          Reply
          1. Elizabeth West

            My dad does have a cell phone, though it’s a feature phone and not a smart one. He had to get it because he started OTR truck driving (and did so for a long time) and now that he’s retired, he does drive locally for a small company where he lives. I showed him my smartphone and he was so cute–he said in wonder, “It’s just like a little computer, isn’t it!?”

            I bet he’d probably like a simple tablet.

            Reply
        1. Aunt Vixen

          Not to *completely* derail the thread, but that’s–not necessarily even a little bit true. Children have a much easier time learning things than older adults, despite their superficially similar levels of fine motor skills. There’s a world of difference between a growing brain and a declining one.

          Reply
          1. JessaB

            Also older people have motion issues sometimes (arthritis, muscle weakness, etc.) I’ve been typing since the early 60s and my skills are diminishing due to my Rheumatoid Arthritis. My hands are getting more and more involved. My typing speed is probably down 20-30 words a minute now, and there will come a time, probably in the next couple of years, where I may not be able to type much at all. Typing HURTS. And this is from someone who knows how. I learnt how to keypunch cards before I learnt to write properly. If I had to learn today, having never done it before (or very little,) I’d probably give up in a week. Pain does that to people.

            Reply
            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              And for all we know, it’s possible arthritis or something like that is in play with this person. Which is another reason for the OP to ask her manager about the situation; it’s possible this is an accommodation and she doesn’t realize it.

              Reply
        1. Observer

          Actually, that’s not true. I learned to type on a typewriter. Fortunately, I wasn’t all that good, so I never got into habits that I had to unlearn. But, typing on a typewriter IS different that on a computer. And, different yet from a tablet or phone even when you are not swiping.

          Reply
          1. neverjaunty

            I also learned to type on a typewriter back in the beforetime. It’s not so different that somebody with adequate typing skills is going to be baffled by the QWERTY keyboard that came with their Dell.

            Reply
            1. Rusty Shackelford

              You wouldn’t think so, but I remember when my mom (a smart woman and an excellent typist) got her first computer, and couldn’t figure out how to start a new paragraph, because she didn’t have a “return” key.

              Reply
              1. Observer

                What about the “any” key? (No, it’s not an urban legend. I’ve been asked about it.) Also, things like “chords” – especially when the instructions say something like “PrintScreen” and the keyboard says “prtscr”.

                At least your mother adjusted to the idea that she didn’t need to hit the enter key at the end of each line. That’s a biggie considering how many situations hitting the enter key finishes your work.

                Also, “How do I start a new page?” My boss’ first word processor was MultiMate, which did default to hard page breaks. When we moved to WordPerfect, the default of soft page breaks required a HUGE adjustment for him.

                Reply
            2. Observer

              Besides the other things mentioned, there are simply physical differences in the way you type on a typewriter – even an electric – and a computer keyboard, even one with mechanical switches.

              Reply
      7. Tris Prior

        This. When I was trying to teach my mother how to go online, she couldn’t grasp the concept of double clicking on something (she would click twice, but very slowly) and had trouble figuring out how to move the mouse to what she wanted to click on. She is otherwise very intelligent but this just seemed beyond her.

        Reply
        1. JessaB

          On the other hand there are mouse settings you can use to fix this. You can make the interval between clicks that the computer will recognise longer. Once she gets used to the motion and it gets faster, you can again change the settings to match. It may be in the mouse programme or it may be in disability access controls (I don’t remember which, and some mice come with specific access programmes that are even better than the computer settings.)

          Reply
      8. Bwmn

        If we’re talking about Power Point and such – that’s one thing – but typing emails and word documents, age really does not excuse it to me.

        The “modern” typewriter and its ilk have been around since 1910 or so. So discussions around having no typing capacity I think is a bit thin. Sure, lots of men weren’t asked to learn because that was a secretaries’woman’s job – but it’s just not the same discussion to me as someone at a later stage struggling to learn Excel or Photoshop.

        Reply
      9. Elizabeth West

        My mum refuses–she was saying stuff like “I’m not smart enough for that.” I told her it’s fine if you don’t want to learn any more than what you need for your practice, but don’t say you’re not smart enough because you are.

        She doesn’t like to use her email so I have to print out photos and send them to her. >_<

        Reply
      10. The Strand

        I don’t dismiss anyone who has difficulty with technology, but age in itself is not a reason, and yet I hear that excuse used frequently (sadly, by many people over 50 who have no idea they’re better with tech than many young people!).

        In the 1960s, my mother typed up my father’s dissertation; I don’t think he knew how to type. All these years later, both of them pushing 80, he knows more about web publishing, ebooks (he’s published one), and hardware than she does.

        If people don’t have the intrinsic desire to learn about technology, or worse, are scared by it, then so be it. But it’s not about age.

        Reply
      11. Shortie

        I’ve had older people say to me things like, well, you’re fast with technology because you grew up with it. I always think that is funny since I am a Gen Xer who didn’t use email until I was 20. That’s not exactly “growing up with it”, but I guess it’s easier to learn at 20 than 60. Still funny to me, though.

        Reply
    2. Government Worker

      My grad school advisor was famous in our department for not using email, or any technology, but he was in his 70’s and one of those valuable people who could get away with being eccentric about that sort of thing.

      And then someone got him an iPad. Somehow the iPad clicked for him in a way that computers never had, and we all started getting long rambling responses about our research at 3 a.m. My conclusion was that the user interface matters for people just learning technology and that things that I think are intuitive actually aren’t. Outlook on a desktop is a cluttered mess (to a novice) of the ribbon with a ton of options at the top, folders down the side, a reading pane, calendar, contact lists, etc. Some things you do by typing, and some by clicking with a mouse. The tablet format streamlines a lot of that.

      Reply
        1. I'm a Little Teapot

          I’m sort of the opposite. I’m 34 and grew up in a household with computers since my infancy, thanks to my early-adopter dad, so desktop/laptop computers are second nature to me (less so if they’re Macs). But I’m less confident on anything with a touchscreen.

          Reply
          1. The Cosmic Avenger

            Same here! I was the early adopter in my family, buying my first computer with my allowance money in 1982, and to this day I can’t stand to use mobile devices for anything more than browsing, because my typing speed on those devices slows me down so much! I much prefer typing on a full-sized keyboard; even then, my typing doesn’t keep up with my thoughts, but it’s SO much closer than when I try to type on a small screen! (Actually, I do have a Bluetooth keyboard that I’ve used for my phone when I am stuck using my phone for longer messages…)

            Reply
            1. Jinx

              Oh me too. I think my sliding-keyboard phone is fancy, so I’ve never even owned a smartphone. I have no idea what to do with them. >_<

              Reply
            2. Elizabeth West

              I have fine motor control issues, so while I can type pretty fast on a keyboard, I do make mistakes. Typing with my thumbs on a phone is TERRIBLE. It seriously looks like drunk texts. If a conversation looks like it’s going to continue, I’ll send a message that says, “Call me, I can’t keep texting.”

              Reply
        2. TootsNYC

          My MIL is determined that she can’t learn anything about computers. And she resents the heck out of Facebook, and the idea that people in the family are having conversations she’s not privy to, or sharing pictures that she never sees. I want to get her an iPad so bad, because I think she might find it easier to touch buttons on the screen.

          Reply
          1. Mallory Janis Ian

            I have a sister who’s 23 years younger, and when she was still living at home, she used to log on to FaceBook on the living room TV and navigate through all the posts and pictures for her mom and our dad, because neither of them knew how to use FaceBook on their own. I don’t know what they do now that she’s married and living in her own house.

            Reply
      1. LCL

        When I am guiding people through ways to streamline their outlook mailbox, I always start with turning off the reading pane. It reduces the distraction/interruption factor. Then we go into the view settings and tweak the font size, color, etc.

        Reply
    3. College Career Counselor

      Friend of mine used to work for a major management consulting firm back in the ’90s. He had to pick up his paycheck at the office every two weeks and deposit it at the bank. I razzed him about it, saying “don’t you guys consult with companies to streamline their financial processes?”

      “Yup, but we can’t get direct deposit ourselves.”

      “Why not?”

      “Because one of the older partners doesn’t trust it.”

      Reply
      1. Mike C.

        I’d be the guy who retorts while being fired, “At least I’ll have direct deposit at my next job!”

        Reply
  4. Artemesia

    Re #3 I had a very productive and important colleague who basically had a full time secretary assigned to him because he either dictated or hand wrote his books, articles, reports etc. He was worth it. When he left the secretary failed to figure out that she needed to make herself useful for other projects and she ended up being fired. (I tried to help her see where she could retool and fill important needs but she was in the whiny — they ask too much, they need to pay me more process and couldn’t see she was in trouble)

    If this has gone on for 30 years, it is the norm there. It is ridiculous I think for anyone who is not a major rainmaker to not master these tools but she hasn’t. This may well be your job — supporting her job. Someone always has. You just need to find out if that is your job.

    Reply
  5. Jeanne

    For #1, send a return email and just ask. Ask them to clarify the type of interview, how long it will take, how many people you will interview with, the usual. I would worry I was passing up a job because of a misunderstanding.

    Reply
    1. Sadsack

      I agree with this. What if the person who wrote called it a group interview when she meant panel? At least find out for sure before you turn it down.

      Reply
      1. hermit crab

        We always do panel interviews (or modified panel interviews where the candidate will meet with two people for half an hour, then one other person for half an hour, etc.) and now I’m really hoping I’ve never slipped up used the term “group interview” by mistake!

        Reply
        1. Meg Murry

          Yes, I was wondering that as well. I’ve also seen a company that did interviews in a way that was similar to speed dating – a group of candidates was brought in, each was put in a small interview room, and the interviewers rotated through them all. This was semi-common for the entry level or very junior hiring as a last step when hiring a “class” of new hires, where it was generally understood that unless the person totally screwed up this day of interviews they were going to be hired in and it was more a question of whether they would be a better fit for the entry level openings in sub-Department A, B, C or D. I could see someone sloppily calling that a “group interview” when in fact is was bringing in a group of interviewees, but the interviewees were each interviewed individually.

          Reply
      2. Karowen

        And to be honest, without this site it never would’ve occurred to me that people interview more than one person at a time, so in writing emails like that I would’ve used group and panel interchangeably.

        Reply
    2. AMT (OP #1)

      It was very clear from the context of the email (I omitted a few lines for space) that it was a group interview with the hiring manager, not an interview with a panel. I’ve been to panel interviews and they’re normal in my field, so that possibility was in my mind when I initially saw the email.

      I actually got an offer from another agency for a much more desirable job last week, so I’ve decided not to attend the interview.

      Reply
  6. AcademiaNut

    It’s amazing that someone could make it to 2016 in an office job, and refuse to use machines! 30+ years ago it was certainly a lot more common to have secretaries whose job was to take transcription and type up documents, but pretty much everyone adapted to word processors when they came along.

    I’d definitely clarify it with your manager, and give them numbers about how much time you’re spending on this, and what other tasks are put off. Are you expected to do this in the first place? It may be that your manager doesn’t realize that this is going on, or how much work it is, or that it’s not just typing, it’s multiple rounds of revisions.

    If your manager says it is your job, maybe you can get some leeway on priorities. So you’ll type it up, but revisions should be done before you get the document, and all you’ll do is correct typos. Or you’ll do it, but it’s not top priority, and she doesn’t get to assign rush jobs – she’ll get it in a couple of days. Or no more than 2 hours a week, and after that she’s on her own.

    Reply
    1. F.

      One caveat: Depending on whether or not you have enough other duties to justify a full-time position, you may just complain yourself out of a job.

      Reply
      1. MK

        That might be an issue. The OP says they are the “front desk” person, but she doesn’t really say if the work the co-worker gives them is interefering with their other duties. A front desk job can mean that the perosn has barely time to take bathroom breaks, if there are non-stop phones ringing and visitors coming and going, but it can mean that they must simply be there to provide directions to infrequent calls and the occasional visitor, and everything in between. If the front desk person is only sort-of necessary, the position is usually justified by having them help out in other ways.

        Reply
    2. doreen

      It’s probably not amazing as you think. I still encounter a fair number of people who won’t type , make copies or scan documents because “that’s not my job”. They were told that 20 years ago , when too many errors resulted in retyping the entire page. They prefer to give these tasks to support staff – even though that only makes it take longer.

      Reply
      1. Mallory Janis Ian

        This makes me really love the two professors in my department who are in their seventies, and they type, print, make copies, and do all their own PowerPoint, Word, Excel, and PDF documents. All they ever ask me for help with is the occasional proof-reading or to check that they’re using the latest university-approved branding as far as logos, font, etc. The branding doesn’t change often, but they’ve been through enough branding changes that they sometimes need to double check.

        Reply
        1. Overeducated

          I had a fantastic professor like that who just retired in his late 70s. Many of the younger professors just had their TAs handle it all….

          Reply
        2. blackcat

          There are two professors in my department in their early 80s who can do just about anything on a computer. It’s just that, while they’re doing it, they’ll tell you about how they did their dissertation research using punch cards. They want to make sure all us youngins know how good we have it!

          Another professor, on the other hand, prints *everything*, and looks at us strangely when we don’t remember different constants in different units (I generally have order of magnitude for the sake of estimation, but that’s it). One day in class, in response to his puzzled face, I pulled out my phone and asked aloud, “What is hbar in cgs units?” Out came the response. He looked sort of horrified.

          Reply
    3. Bwmn

      I have to say, I’m with you at this point. I get that in some niche fields or positions (like being an owner) where this can happen, but for all the emphasis I hear at work now about young employees taking courses for personal development – I grit my teeth and think about two staff members who should be sent to some kind of typing booster session (this is excluding any kind of disability issue that prevents typing).

      I understand that there may very well be the occasion where someone is just so valuable doing XYZ and the potential for insulting them is just too high – but in my experience, that really isn’t the case.

      Reply
  7. Bookworm

    OP #1, if you’re comfortable sharing, I’m curious to learn more about the position.

    I’m curious about the logic behind group interviews for higher-level jobs, as it seems like it would run the risk of producing an echo chamber (like Anon4once described) where everyone was simply gauging their answers based on what other people have said.

    My only experience with group interviews was for seasonal retail and camp counseling jobs, where it made a lot more sense. It seems like a cavalier choice for a full-time employee.

    Reply
    1. Artemesia

      There are group interviews that are simulations when selecting people for team work of some sort — but just lining everyone up and asking questions? I’d have to be truly desperate for a job to subject myself to that demeaning process.

      Reply
      1. Erin

        It’s for sure bizarre and probably ineffective, but you have to give them credit for stating up front that it’s a group interview. Those who can see how demeaning and crappy that is have a chance to self select out, instead of showing up and getting blindsided.

        Reply
    2. AMT (OP #1)

      It was a management position for a master’s-level social worker. Like you, I have only been on group interviews for lower-level jobs for which there were multiple positions available. Luckily, I have an offer from another agency for a better job, so I’m not going.

      Reply
      1. BuildMeUp

        This was for a management position? Wow. That sounds like a terrible idea. I feel like there’s no way you could get an accurate picture of how someone would be as a manager in a group interview.

        I’m glad you got a job elsewhere – congrats!

        Reply
        1. AMT (OP #1)

          I know, right? What would they do, ask us to role-play? If I’d gone to the interview and been asked to act out a management scene with the other participants, I probably would have just walked.

          Thanks! I’m really excited about the job.

          Reply
          1. many bells down

            I’ve actually done this in a group interview! Only the difference is, I was interviewing to be a drama teacher. One of the few jobs where group interview role-play makes perfect sense.

            Reply
          2. Stranger than fiction

            Actually that sounds hilarious: Ok you be the manager and you be the insubordinate direct report. Go.

            Reply
      2. Bookworm

        That’s bizarre. You have to wonder what other dysfunctions are going on in that workplace if they’re hiring managers based on their role-playing abilities.

        Reply
    3. Acmx

      I had an group and panel interview for a (lower) management position.

      Each candidate was asked different questions.

      (I didn’t like this style and I didn’t know beforehand it would be a group but the other only made me look better lol).

      Reply
  8. Chocolate Teapot

    3. It sounds like a generational thing, although the insisting on rush jobs and corrections would annoy me too.

    I knew of a Director who could not use the phone. By this I mean instead of picking up the receiver and pressing for an outside line, somebody had to dial the number, be connected and then transfer to them. Whilst the Director had an assistant who normally handled this for them, I heard of the Director was running around in a panic, unable to make a phone call, when the assistant was absent.

    Reply
    1. Merry and Bright

      I just read about my old workplace here! I used to work for this man and you have described him exactly.

      I was the one who dialled the numbers for him. He would also type an email and call me into his office to press the send button. But he was the owner and called the shots I suppose.

      Reply
    2. Elsajeni

      My dad used to do this with his cell phone — hand it to me or my mom and tell us the number he wanted to dial. Now that he has a smartphone I think he’s upgrading to making Siri do it for him.

      Reply
      1. Windchime

        My mom is in her late 70’s and has a cell phone. We’ve tried to program numbers in for her, but she prefers to dial them. When she wants to make a call, she puts on her glasses, gets her little address book out of her purse and looks up the number, then dials.

        Reply
        1. Annie Moose

          That’s kind of cute! My mom (younger than yours) still has her old Rolodex around too, but I think it’s mostly because she has family birthdays written down in it. (with eight brothers and sisters, thirty nieces and nephews, and a good dozen or so grand-nieces/nephews, there’s a lot for her to keep track of!)

          Reply
  9. Chaordic One

    Re: #1, Years ago, when first out of college, I was invited to and went on a couple of group interviews in response to blind job advertisements that I responded to. The jobs turned out to be horrible boiler room telemarketing kinds of things, which was not what I was looking for at the time, but I guess I wouldn’t have found out if I did not go on the interviews.
    Hopefully, you’ll have better luck on your group interview than I did at mine.

    Reply
    1. Elizabeth West

      I had one that was for an office position at a dental practice, scheduled at 5 pm (I assumed so people could come after work). When I showed up at the hotel where they were holding it, I found that the interview was in the auditorium. Which was full–absolutely packed–with like 100 people.

      I sat down, remained there for like a minute and a half, then got up and went out to the table where they had us check in and pulled my application. I wonder what bullsh!t presentation those poor people had to sit through.

      Reply
  10. Blue Anne

    #3 still isn’t as rare as you might think. Especially if you’re working in a company where people bill by the hour (lawyers, accountants etc.) I worked for a smaller, somewhat old-fashioned accountancy firm where we were told off if we typed up financial statements ourselves; we were expected to write the numbers in a blank statement by hand as we figured them out, then give it to the admin team to type up and format. Typing things up ourselves was seen as wasting client time.

    That was just a few months ago!

    Reply
    1. The Other Dawn

      My boss at Old Job I Hated always told us that when making edits to our procedures manual, to make all the edits to the paper copy (400+ pages) and then hand it off to the department admin to type up. It took way more time to write out all the edits and make sure they were final (there are always changes on the fly when editing procedures) than it did to type it up myself, making my edits as I go. I always thought it was the most ridiculous thing, since we’re bankers, not lawyers or accountants. So most of the time I just did it myself.

      Reply
    2. rando

      That seems silly. What if typing is faster for a particular employee?

      At my law firm, lawyers decide when and how to use technology. I type most documents myself, but I dictate documents as well. Sometimes the dictation is faster. (I’m 28).

      Reply
      1. Mallory Janis Ian

        Sometimes dictation allows an incredibly busy person to just get the ideas out of her head and move on with other important business. I had one boss who would dictate things to me and then completely round out his thoughts later while reviewing what I’d typed. The other boss actually processed her thoughts better if she was the one doing the typing, and she would have never been able to dictate what was in her head. I think Boss 1 was more of a verbal processor, so dictation helped him, while Boss 2 was a hard-core researcher and did her processing while she typed.

        Reply
        1. Artemesia

          Dictating is actually a skill. Years ago I broke my right arm and had an enormous project that involved driving to distant cities and interviewing people and then typing up reports. I couldn’t drive and I couldn’t type. I did the interviews by phone and recorded them and the admin typed the transcripts, then I dictated the reports that drew from the interviews. I was not easy to do but I got quite good at it after some practice. It is much easier for me to type.

          Reply
          1. Mallory Janis Ian

            I definitely agree that it’s a skill. I don’t think I would be able easily to do it. I tend to store a lot of my knowledge as a mish-mash of both verbal and non-verbal bits that I process into verbal form as I write. I would have to process my knowledge completely differently if I had to dictate it to someone else. The discipline to front-load everything that I would need to have in verbal format before proceeding would be a challenge for me.

            Reply
    3. Chinook

      “; we were expected to write the numbers in a blank statement by hand as we figured them out, then give it to the admin team to type up and format. Typing things up ourselves was seen as wasting client time.”

      As someone who did the typing of these documents, there is a very good reason for it – most people don’t know how to make changes without fudging up the formatting! Sure, one or two digits may be okay but suddenly the footer is all wonked up and or the font is different and the poor AA has to strip the formatting and start from scratch. When I worked for auditors, I had a literal inbox full of financial statements with handwritten changes for me to enter and everyone else was forbidden to touch the electronic documents unless they had been fully trained on the proper use of Word Styles.

      I am trying to institute the same thing at my current company while they rewrite all their policies and procedures because all it takes is one wrong hard return somewhere and your heading numbering is off and the font goes strange. What can take me 10 minutes to type up can also take me an hour to find and fix the problem caused by someone else (which is also why our technical writer was reluctant to give out templates for use. I eventually threatened to create and publish my own if he didn’t – luckily we work well together). I am willing to teach anyone who asks how to use Styles correctly but so far have no takers because everyone thinks “I know how to type and use Word” when really they are beginner or intermediate users who have no clue about the advance stuff Word is capable of.

      Reply
      1. Blue Anne

        Thank you, I was actually working as an auditor and this gives me a lot more insight into why they did it like that. To me, it just seemed to fit in with their hanging paper files and printing out emails. This stuff is good to know!

        Reply
    1. the gold digger

      Seriously. My mom is 73 and has a degree in computer science she earned when I was an adult. My 84-year-old aunt just got an iPad and carries it with her all the time. All of my aunts and uncles – in their 70s and 80s – are on facebook.

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        I am an Old and plenty of people of my generation don’t use technology. I learned to touch type on an old mechanical typewriter in the 50s; it has been one of the most useful skills ever. But because I learned on one of these stiff old typewriters, I wear the letters off computer keys very quickly. It was also easy to make the transition to using first word processors then computers. Most men did not learn to type when I was young and so had a more difficult time transitioning to technology. And there is also the sexist division of labor where ‘bosses don’t type’, ‘Professionals don’t type’ etc, that is for the ‘girl’.

        Reply
        1. babblemouth

          Beyond the workplace problems, this has got to be more and more difficult for all sorts of daily-life problems. To get insurance, access taxes etc, you just need to have some basic computer skills.
          In the Netherlands, they don’t even hand out paper versions of the tax returns anymore. If you don’t have a computer at home, they’ll direct you to public libraries or other places where you can go online for free nearby, but you just can’t do it on paper.

          Reply
          1. Kelly L.

            It’s huge. When I was working in a public library, one thing that came up all the time was applications for jobs that didn’t even involve computer use–but the applications were now online and people needed help navigating them. These were people who had never needed a computer in their lives, but now they couldn’t get a job without learning, even though it didn’t actually relate to the job.

            Reply
            1. Pennalynn Lott

              About 10 years ago I was underemployed at Home Depot at the Customer Service Desk. I was astounded at the number of people I had to help fill out the online application at one of the HR kiosks. So many were terrified of the keyboard, like it was a snake that was going to bite them. And they ranged in all ages from teens to over-70.

              Reply
        2. Elizabeth West

          I learned on an old Remington that belonged to my dad, LOL. I know what you mean about hitting the keys! But I wouldn’t want to go back to the typewriter. And I don’t know what I’d do without internet. I had no signal while waiting to see the doctor yesterday and I was dying.

          Time to re-load Angry Birds on this phone!

          Reply
      2. hermit crab

        My 96-year-old grandpa is a slow typist these days, but he knows how to email and he goes online to read the newspaper from his hometown. He’s pretty dismissive of people who don’t learn new things to adapt to the times. I guess you can be that way when you are 96!

        Reply
    2. Mike C.

      Yeah, this is simply bizarre. I understand not being at the bleeding edge or always having new questions, but not using it at all? Come on.

      Reply
      1. Windchime

        Why is it so hard to believe? My parents are both retired. Dad used a computer when he worked at the post office, but he only knew how to do things on that certain program. He would have been lost if presented with a Windows workstation. Mom has never used a computer in her life. They don’t own one because they don’t see any need for it. They have a telephone to call relatives if/when they need to talk, and they buy a newspaper and watch TV for the news.

        Reply
        1. Marcela

          But this is a special case. In my experience with my old relatives, it’s not like they do not have any need to use computers, smartphones or tablets, as your parents. I’d very much agree that it’s perfectly fine if they don’t know how to use them and don’t want to learn. But in my case, my people is actively refusing to learn something, just because some weird prejudices or fears. You can see it’s just silliness when they don’t have any trouble learning how to use their new tv, or cable box, or getting to the most obscure functionalities of their new car, and they even brag about it.

          Reply
    3. Anon Just In Case

      We actually have an employee who thinks that computers are the Devil. The actual, factual Devil.

      I personally think it’s laughable, but since it’s a genuine fear he holds, I try not to judge.

      Reply
    4. The Other Dawn

      Me. too. I just don’t get it. I can see if it’s my dad, who’s 81 and retired. He doesn’t have a need for technology. But someone with an office job? That’s just bizarre to me.

      Reply
    5. I'm a Little Teapot

      A couple of years ago I met a 29-year-old who had literally never used a computer, even in school or at work. I have no idea what her job was. Yes, 29 is not a typo. It was like meeting a unicorn.

      Reply
      1. LQ

        I believe this. A couple years ago would mean that they were in high school just as computers were coming out, and if she was in a poorer school district they might not have gotten them or only had them for specific classes. I had VERY limited exposure to computers in school (34). If I hadn’t sought them out (yay local libraries!) and had gone into a profession that didn’t require time on computers I could see it being very possible. I think it would be harder now. Relatives who went to the same school 10 years later had lots of computer time. My sister who was 4 years younger had a little bit, but they still thought it would pass. So there was a shift and it took a while.

        Reply
        1. BuildMeUp

          Yeah, I’m 29 and was lucky enough to have a computer at home pretty early on (my mom was a writer), and we had a computer lab at school. But our school district was a fairly nice one, and we didn’t use the computer lab every day. If she went to a district that didn’t have it and then either went to school for something that didn’t involve essay writing (lucky her!) or went straight into the workforce, it’s definitely possible.

          Reply
        2. Hellanon

          I bought one of the very early Macs in… 1986, maybe? I’ve never been without a computer since, at home or at work, although I’m mainly a text-based life form & don’t play games, so there are things I can do and things I can’t. My neighbor was a real early adopter and had both one of the first ones *and* shares of stock in Apple. Smart woman.

          Reply
          1. LQ

            Very!

            I got a handmedown mac powerbook when I went off to college. It was giant and heavy and I was so incredibly grateful. Most of my classmates had to use the campus computer labs and I had one I could have in my room. Only a couple years after I left colleges started requiring people to have them. I think it has shifted a lot, but there is absolutely a space in there where it seems like people should have exposure but may not have.

            Reply
          2. Elizabeth West

            My neighbor had one in college–he lugged it over to my apartment and let me type a paper on it and print it. Sooooo weird, LOL. I do kind of wish I’d been an early adopter, but with my math thing, the old-timey programming stuff would have been difficult. I finally got a PC when Windows 3.1 was out.

            Reply
        3. Chinook

          “I had VERY limited exposure to computers in school (34). If I hadn’t sought them out (yay local libraries!) and had gone into a profession that didn’t require time on computers I could see it being very possible”

          LQ, you make me feel blessed because I am in my 40’s and grew up in rural Alberta but had plenty of access to computers from grade 4 onward. Because my high school had only 40 people at the time, we were the ones beta testing (though it wasn’t called that at the time) the Distance Education Math program being delivered by computer (the screens were black with orange font) back in the late ’80’s. We even had access to BBS (bulletin board systems) and I was “talking” to people in Leningrad when I was done my work for the day. I never thought of this as unusual because we always had computers in the school opened and we used them as tools (as in I don’t think we had a computer sciences class but we did use them for typing, research in computerized encyclopedias and playing “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego.”).

          Reply
          1. LQ

            That is very cool. I was in a german class and managed to find my way to a bunch of german chat rooms and my language skills improved dramatically. When I told the teacher she tried to find a way to get us access to computers and the internet but there wasn’t a way at the time. She did manage to push and when my sister took the same German class a few years later, doing things online and having penpals that you didn’t just write physical letters to was a regular part of class. So they came around, but it took a long time.

            Reply
          1. A Non E. Mouse

            I’m blown away by this too. I’m 36 and we had computers in our Elementary school. Did none of these people accidentally drown all their oxen trying to cross a river or perish from dysentery on the Oregon Trail?! That game is a defining memory of my childhood.

            Reply
            1. Nikki T

              I’m 36 and I’m trying hard to remember if we had computers in elementary school, I don’t think we did.

              I managed to drown many oxen (and myself) on umpteen occasions in middle school, however.

              Reply
            2. OpheliaInWaders

              I’m also 34, and we did have computers in middle school (for “tech ed” – one semester each year), but I definitely took a typing class in high school that was taught on typewriters–computers were still rare enough in my school that they were limited to classes that explicitly required them–things you *could* do on a typewriter, you did. I don’t think we had computers in elementary school, or at least none that I can recall. (My dad had a computer that we played lemmings and Carmen Sandiego on starting when I was about 11, and I definitely played a lot of Oregon Trail in middle school, but not *in* school, so I can see how someone whose family didn’t have computers could have made it through HS without much exposure to them, even in the late 90s. That said, I don’t know what you do as a kid in 1998 if you can’t hang out in AOL chat rooms.).

              Reply
          2. LQ

            Not every school had them or had access to a range of them. My school didn’t. If yours did that’s awesome.

            Reply
            1. A Non E. Mouse

              I’m honestly flummoxed, and seriously had a blind spot to this privilege!

              I didn’t get into a “good” school district until I was in middle school; the one I was in prior to that was in no way state-of-the-art and we had them then. I had no idea it wasn’t commonplace at the same time around the country.

              Reply
        4. Tau

          I’m 30 and the computers we had in high school were pretty ridiculous. If they were running Windows, it was barely. I had programming lessons in QBASIC. (So useful! Absolutely relevant! Never would have gotten this software dev job without it!) None of the teachers knew more than the absolute basics. If we hadn’t had computers at home, I wouldn’t have left with a good idea of how to use one. And this was a good school, top-tier with a whole lot of science facilities and the like.

          Reply
      2. hnl123

        Really? I’m 30 and since kindergarten every classroom had computers, every class used computers, computer labs, computer classes, computer everything……
        Could be a private school thing, but my entire childhood education was in Japan…..
        I’ve had email as soon as hotmail became available when I was in grade school-ish.

        Reply
    6. Meg Murry

      My aunt worked as an admin at a local college, and another admin in her office refused to learn to use a computer. Absolutely refused. And since it was a union position and hadn’t been in her job description when she was hired, technically they couldn’t force her to learn – or at least, they couldn’t force her without a fight, and the management of the office was terrible and unwilling to do it.

      The craziest part is that their department’s main task was assigning the students to dorm rooms – and at one point, even knowing that the person who’s NUMBER ONE JOB DESCRIPTION was assigning dorm rooms and that she didn’t use a computer, they bought a software package to automate the process of sending students surveys about roommates, etc. And again, rather than force her to use the software, the management tip-toed around her in fear of a union grievance and made my aunt print everything out of the software and the woman would do assignments by hand, and then pass it back to my aunt to enter into the system. Or the managers would give up and just have my aunt do it with the software instead and skip the other woman. It was insane. And the woman also couldn’t get another position on campus, because every new position being created had a minimal computer use requirement (probably because of her!) that she couldn’t meet.

      Finally the manager got fired, and the new manager stepped in and told the other woman to go ahead and file the union grievance, but that she wasn’t putting up with slackerina not doing any work at all that was computer related. At that point, she was eligible to retire, so she finally just retired. But still, insanity.

      Slackerina was probably the worst case example of people who refused to use computers or new skills, but there was a pretty strong contingent of union employees that were hired straight out of secretarial school for their typing (on a typewriter) and dictation skills that refused to learn more than the absolute bare minimum of computer skills, and couldn’t be punished since they were still doing the job descriptions they were hired for. The union added another pay grade of employees, where computer use was absolutely required for that level, and it gave the more motivated employees a reason to learn, to be able to apply for the higher pay grade jobs – but there are still a handful of employees that were hired in the late 70s that aren’t yet 60 and can’t/won’t learn and have been shuffled into “holding pen” positions until they retire.

      Reply
    7. Janice in Accounting

      My 48-year-old sister-in-law just recently got an iPhone (a hand-me-down from my daughter), and I set up her first email address. Until December she had never sent or received an email or a text message. The word Google means nothing to her. It’s like talking to someone in 1976.

      Reply
    8. Pennalynn Lott

      I just bought a 65-year old friend of mine a new computer (she had an old XP) and finally got her connected to the internet. It was really weird trying to teach her about email, URLs, browsers, phishing, spam, etc. I’m no spring chicken (I’ll be 50 in October) but I was always an early adopter and I worked in tech for 27 years before returning to school, so I learned all this stuff as it was being invented.

      Fortunately, my friend is super-bright so she picked up on everything quickly, which has really improved her life since she’s basically home-bound because of her weight. At least now she has the world at her finger tips. :-)

      Reply
  11. Rubyrose

    #3 – this was ten years ago. I joined a hospital IT department with a business analyst who was leaving after being there for six months. She was in her 50s and had come from a very small hospital, from their finance/acounting area, so her knowledge and experience was highly desired. But she had no knowledge of basic computer skills, such as Word. Her first week she asked the network folks to route all of her emails to her personal Yahoo account because she had never used Outlook and she didn’t want to learn it. Yeah, with HIPAA, we are going to reroute emails to a personal account.

    The killer here was that she did not want to learn new skills. We had training she did not want to avail herself of. How she thought she could be in an IT department with this attitude is beyond me, and how they hired her without dicovering this upfront was a red flag for me. I instituted a screening test for basic Outlook, Word, and Excel skills for applicants. The Word portion included taking a business letter and correcting grammar and spelling problems. You would be surprise how many people could not do it.

    Reply
    1. Rubyrose

      Again, ten years ago – had a person in her 20s with a business degree who knew just enough Word to get basic college papers out the door – had someone else spiff them up if they were long or needed footnotes. Excel skills just as basic. She ”just was not interested” in picking up those skills.

      Reply
      1. Alanna

        I am reminded, I knew someone in her twenties who told me she knew you to use excel really well, she just didn’t know how you put formulas in the cells. So she used it to…format tables, I guess?

        Reply
        1. Lexi

          About 2 years ago, we had a bunch of college interns. None of them knew how to use Word or Excel acceptably so we had to teach them. They all did things like adding up a column of numbers one at a time (A1+A2+A3+…..) and had absolutely no idea how to do anything but type in Word. Formatting beyond bold and italic was completely unknown. And these were the same interns that gave a coworker and I a lecture on how they were “digital natives” so they could help us out a lot.

          Reply
          1. Lady Bug

            I took a finance class in college which required us to use excel. I was the only person in the class who knew how to use it. Half of each class was spent explaining excel. Huge waste of my time, but at least the other students left with some knowledge of making formulas. Microsoft Office should be a prerequisite in college for certain degrees!

            Reply
            1. Mabel

              I agree! I do software tutoring on the side, and I have run into so many recent college graduates who don’t know how to use Word, Excel, or PowerPoint. At first I was really surprised that this is not taught in school. One of my recent students was actually taking a class in Excel, but the way it was being taught was so bad, he had to hire me to help him get through it (and he was very smart).

              Reply
              1. aebhel

                I’m a recent college grad (okay, relatively recent…within the past decade), and everything I know about Excel, PowerPoint, and Publisher I picked up on my own, at work. They don’t really teach it in school, and Microsoft Office is expensive to install on a personal computer when you don’t really need it.

                It’s one of those things that people assume ‘the kids just know’, but if you’ve never had to use it for anything, you don’t learn it.

                Reply
                1. Allison

                  Exactly. I used Word for typing papers and Excel for formatting tables. I didn’t learn mail merges in school because there was no educational need (I learned in an internship) and I didn’t know if I ever learned the math functions in Excel, if I did it was very early in middle school or high school and the skill didn’t stick, I had to re-learn it later. As for Powerpoint, that I actually did pick up in school because of all the presentations I had to give in high school and college.

                2. Callie

                  My university has a deal with Microsoft where students and facuty can install all Office products for FREE on up to 5 computers… and some of my students still refuse to use it. Many have Macs and want to turn their homework in in Pages format. Sorry, I have a PC. If you send me a Pages file, I can’t open it and therefore I cannot grade it. If you send me a doc or pdf through Canvas, I can mark it up with comments AND I don’t have to open the original file on my computer so I won’t get any viruses from your documents because you don’t know how to install antivirus software.

                  I finally discovered that Canvas has a feature that allows you to restrict file types for assignment submissions. It’s fantastic.

                3. Noah

                  The best college course I ever took was MIS 1020. They should’ve called it all about Excel. That is the only time in college I can remember getting such hands-on, applicable training on something that I use in my career every day.

                4. Elizabeth West

                  We had to use PowerPoint in undergrad school–they made everybody take a course in Microsoft Office 2003 (computer basics). The course had exercises in Word and Excel. One assignment was to create a PowerPoint with extras–I did one for a Middle Earth vacation package with music and automated slides. My teacher was a nerd and he loved it. :)

                  I didn’t realize it wasn’t a requirement everywhere, but it should be.

                5. Tau

                  And if you do learn technology and software at university, it may be something more specific to your subject. During my undergrad we had one course on, basically, how to type up results in nice, subject-appropriate, professional-looking ways. Since this was for mathematicians, it meant LaTeX. These days I can make you some lovely professional-looking PDF articles, slides and the like… in LaTeX. Word, I only know the very basics. Powerpoint, I will stare at you in confusion.

                  (It was fun when someone asked for me to send them the Word version of my CV and my response was basically “…what Word version?”)

              2. Milton Waddams

                Good point on the LaTeX. It bugs the crap out of me when people promote a “computing monoculture” where Word becomes the same as word processing or Outlook becomes the same as email.

                I mean, people would think it was crazy if you had to get a special “Fording” license to be considered for a position that had some driving, both from the perspective of the hiring party, the licensor, and Ford, but that’s basically the position we’re ending up with now with things like required Microsoft Office certifications.

                Reply
          2. Artemesia

            I ran an undergraduate program for awhile where knowing excel was a basic entry competency expectation. For those who entered without mid level skills in Excel there was a tutorial session early in the first semester and then they were expected to use the program when manipulating data in one of their early classes. I think one of the reasons our interns did so well is that they had skills like these (and analysis skills and presentation skills including using presentation software like Prezi.) I think these kinds of skills are fundamentals for an educated person.

            Reply
            1. LQ

              I think this is a great thing. I know I learned because I wanted to but for people who don’t go, huh, I wonder if there is an easier way to do this, lets ask google…classes are great. And for those of us who do ask google it is awesome to learn about all the potential things we didn’t know we didn’t know.

              Reply
          3. Hellanon

            Digital natives, my ass. Of course, that’s a generalization – like anything, it depends on what they’ve been asked to do – I’ve had students who could handle Photoshop like champs but couldn’t save a Word doc as a pdf, and I work with people who still format docs using the space bar…

            Reply
            1. babblemouth

              I’m stunned by the amount of people for whom turning a word document into a pdf means 1) Print out document from word; 2) Scan it, and the scanner will save it as a pdf for you.
              But there are so many little things like this that you can’t know until someone shows you how to do it (or you realise there might be an easier way than what you’ve been doing, so you google “how to etc”)

              Reply
              1. Chinook

                I have learned to always mention to our interns and engineers-in-training that they need to ask if something seems to be taking too long or relies on printing because “digital native” means about as much as “native English speaker.” You need to ask for clarification to see if they speak the general dialect and know how to maneouver or if they are the computer user version of a Newfie – in theory they use the same digital products we use but how they use it looks completely foreign to everyone else around them.

                Reply
        2. Allison

          I didn’t really know formulas that well coming into the working world, I too mostly used it to organize information and set up “databases” of contact information and whathaveyou. But no one had to teach me formulas, most Excel functions are fairly easy to learn from a quick Google search.

          Reply
          1. Mallory Janis Ian

            Yeah, I learned all my Excel skills on the fly, beginning when I started my first office job. It was my job to make a deposit summary of the checks and cash that people sent as payment on their accounts, and the spreadsheet was a hard copy document on which I recorded each entry by hand. I partnered with another new person to get the deposit into Excel, and we just used the Excel help button to look up how to write the formulas that we needed. That is pretty much how I’ve learned everything I’ve needed to use Excel for, except now I use Google instead of the help button.

            Reply
          2. Oh, I'll Answer The Phones.

            I agree with this 100%. I really don’t use Excel to manipulate data often enough to need to commit those processes to memory – I think I might have been shown them in school once, but mostly I used SPSS (& I remember simultaneously using a separate service designed to show you how to use SPSS, because it is such a powerful statistics tool). A quick google search gets me the answers I need, usually.
            I actually use Excel so much for text information, not numbers, that it annoys me to have to go in & format cells to accept zeros at the start of data.

            Reply
    2. nofelix

      “The killer here was that she did not want to learn new skills.”

      I think that’s generally the cause of this sort of thing. Some old people are fascinated by new technology and want to pick it up. Others have the opposite reaction for whatever reason. It has little to do with the tech.

      Reply
      1. RobM

        It’s not “some old people”. I don’t think it’s an age thing. I can introduce you to plenty of “old” people who know precisely how modern computers and applications etc. work to a precise technical detail that most people would never dream of.

        I can introduce you to plenty of “young” people who can barely power on a computer unaided and for whom typing a letter is a struggle.

        Reply
        1. aebhel

          It is an age thing to a degree, though. People tend to be more familiar with technology that they either grew up with or use regularly. Someone who is in their 70’s didn’t grow up with computers, so if they know how to use them, it’s because they do it regularly. Someone in their 20’s would have had to go to some pretty extreme lengths to never have used at least a basic word processing program.

          Reply
          1. Aunt Vixen

            True story: I had a friend who, at the age of 12, was completely flummoxed by the dial phone in my parents’ kitchen. This would have been about 1989. These Kids Today may legitimately not have the faintest idea how to dial a phone, change a TV channel without a remote, or play a vinyl record, and it’s not through any fault of their own.

            Reply
            1. the gold digger

              Remember the scene in “In and Out” where the guy’s girlfriend, who is a supermodel, becomes frustrated to tears as she is trying to press the numerals on the rotary dial phone?

              Reply
              1. Mallory Janis Ian

                Ha. One of our college admins added a tagline at the end of his email, similar to the “Sent from my iPhone” line, but his said, “Sent from a rotary phone; it took a long time.”

                Reply
            2. Allison

              I was thinking about this the other day, about how people get all sad that Kids These Days don’t know what such-and-such is, or don’t know how to use some obsolete doodad, and it’s like yes, you’re right, many of us are unfamiliar with old fashioned technology because it’s old fashioned and therefore not widely used anymore! Why should someone who’s never owned a dial phone be expected to know how to use it?

              Also, in college I had a roommate who didn’t know how to load a dishwasher, washed most of her dishes by hand and when she did put things in the dishwasher she often positioned them badly. Not because she was stupid or lazy, not because she refused to learn on principle that she’s been just fine without a newfangled washing device, she simply didn’t have one growing up and wasn’t used to having it around.

              People can’t be expected to “just know” how to use something they’ve never had to use. But if someone’s in a position where they need to know how to do something, they should learn. “I’ve gotten along just fine without it” isn’t always a valid excuse for not learning.

              Reply
              1. Aunt Vixen

                My grandmother used to have a newspaper clipping on her refrigerator with a list of all the things you were older than if you were born before 1940. It included arguable obvious things like delivery pizza, fast food, and microwaves, but the one I always remember noticing was the ballpoint pen. Talk about something we think of now as completely ubiquitous and timeless.

                @the gold digger, I vaguely remember the scene you’re talking about, but I completely remember the scene in Back to the Future where Marty can’t for the life of him figure out how to open a bottle of Coke.

                Reply
              2. aebhel

                True story: I’m 30 and I’ve never used a dishwasher in my life, because I’ve never lived anywhere that had one. If I owned one, I’m sure I’d figure it out, but so far it’s been a completely unnecessary life skill.

                Reply
                1. Annie Moose

                  Well, if you ever end up with one, the manual actually has a diagram showing how to load it–or at least mine did!

            3. aebhel

              Huh. I was 4 in 1989, and we had a rotary phone until I was in my teens. I didn’t realize it was THAT old a thing. :P

              Reply
                1. Nikki T

                  Mine doesn’t… (it’s attached to the wall and I have yet to figure out how to pry it off). It still rings, but talking on it sounds like you’re in a vortex or something…

              1. Aunt Vixen

                This particular friend had parents to whom it was important to have the newest things, so once touch tone phones were available that’s all they had in their house. It was definitely unusual. :-)

                Reply
    3. Liane

      No, I am not surprised that a lot of people can’t handle the grammar and spelling corrections. I just had to send out an email to the writers I edit for: “Read through your articles–Spellcheck doesn’t flag A, B and C that I am always seeing.”

      Reply
      1. Ama

        I’m not sure if everyone gets the same celebrity video at the top of this very page, but there is a “Claire Danes Visit’s the Tonight Show” in *three* places on the same screenshot that is driving me nuts right now.

        Reply
    4. The Other Dawn

      Years ago at my old company, we had several people who just couldn’t string two sentences together, and they had to do a lot of written correspondence with customers. It was painful at times. When it was my turn to start hiring people, the first thing I did was to implement a Word test where they had to type up a very short letter thanking someone for meeting with them and they look forward to working with them in the future. It was eye-opening, for sure. But it helped me find someone who could write well and we wouldn’t have to heavily edit every document.

      Reply
  12. Queenie

    Urg and I’m sitting here as a junior employee working out my 8 weeks notice. I asked about it at the time and was told there was no way to negotiate. I’m going straight into another job with 8 weeks notice too!

    Sure glad my new employer understands I can’t start really quickly!

    Reply
    1. MK

      Eh, when long notice periods are standard in your field (or country), which is probably the case if two concecutive jobs demand 8(!) weeks notice, you generally won’t have problems with your new employer.

      Reply
      1. Apollo Warbucks

        8 or 12 weeks notice isn’t unheard of in some middle management roles in the last couple of jobs I’ve had in the UK

        Reply
        1. Sarahnova

          My notice period since I became a consultant (in the UK) has been three months, and three months is a pretty standard notice period for senior execs. (They rarely actually work it, though; generally they get put on “gardening leave” as soon as they announce they’re leaving for a new job.)

          Reply
          1. Sarahnova

            I, on the other hand, worked a full three months notice when I left to go travelling. My employer commented I was one of the first people ever who kept working hard throughout, so I guess there are disadvantages to such a long notice period when you enforce it.

            Reply
    2. The Cosmic Avenger

      Unless you signed a contract agreeing to 8 weeks (!!) notice, there’s nothing to negotiate…see yesterday’s letter about being “told” to come back and fill out paperwork after the OP had moved on to another job. You and your employer are in a (business) relationship, but just like a personal one, the only decisions that can be made unilaterally are those to end the relationship. The other party doesn’t get to put conditions on ending the relationship.

      Reply
    3. neverjaunty

      Right, if you are in the US, there is nothing you have to “negotiate” unless you have a written employment contract. If you want to leave they can’t force you to give less notice. Eight weeks for a junior job is NOT the norm here.

      Reply
        1. Queenie

          That’s correct.

          I attempted to negotiate the notice period before signing the contract (as it was stated therein) and then attempted to further negotiate the notice period when tendering my resignation.

          Reply
          1. The Cosmic Avenger

            Ah. Remember, a lot of us readers are in the United States, where contracts are much more the exception than the norm. Here, 2 weeks is customary, but not at all required. There was no mention of a contract in your original comment, so I assumed you were trying to negotiate the date your last day upon giving notice of your resignation.

            Reply
  13. techfool

    no 3. there are many senior people who don’t do their own typing, scanning, amendments or printing. They usually have a secretary or admin. If that has become your job, you need to ask yourself if that’s the job you want.
    I can promise you that said person will not be doing their own printing etc. because you can’t or don’t want to do it (I mean that nicely, I’m sure it’s not the job you applied for!)

    Reply
  14. t

    #3 – Perhaps you could at least teach her how to use a speech recognition program so she could dictate what she wanted to say instead of handwriting? Then you’re only editing instead of also having to type all those pages.

    Or get her a Microsoft Surface and have her hand write all her notes in OneNote. It has learned my handwriting pretty well – which is a feat because sometime *I* can’t read what I wrote!

    Reply
    1. the gold digger

      use a speech recognition program

      Noooooooo! (Throws herself on grenade.)

      My brother in law put my mom on his cellphone plan and gave her an iPhone, which is good.

      Then he taught her how to use the voice recognition program to send texts.

      Now I get texts that are a paragraph long and always end with a detailed question that requires way more than a yes or no answer. Blessherheart. Love my mom.

      Reply
      1. Elkay

        The next letter will be from another colleague “Someone set our computer illiterate colleague up with voice recognition software so all I hear all day is her dictating emails, what can I do?”

        Reply
      2. Elsajeni

        Plus, as Artemisia said somewhere above, dictating coherently is a skill! Especially if what she’s giving to the OP to type up is a first draft that she plans to edit later — I also tend to hand-write a first draft, then edit it as I type it up (I do my own typing, though), and I can’t imagine trying to convert that hand-writing phase to dictation.

        That said, I think the suggestion of hand-writing on a tablet with handwriting recognition software is a pretty good one. Or hand-writing a first draft, then reading it aloud to the speech recognition program? There are definitely ways to shift the work back to the coworker, even if she can’t type — IF that’s what the employer wants to do. All of this still depends on whether the OP’s manager says “Gosh, yes, that’s too much time to spend on typing Jane’s documents, let’s see what we can do” or “Sorry, but that’s your job.”

        Reply
  15. Katie the Fed

    Does anyone watch Better Call Saul? #3 reminds me of a character in it who is “allergic” to electricity.

    Reply
  16. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.

    What I don’t understand about #3 is that she’s been there 30 years, OK so 30 years ago they didn’t have a computer? Not even an Apple IIe? What about 20 years ago? No one told her “Well you’ve been here 10 years, but it’s time to learn something new!”

    Reply
    1. Miss Betty

      This is what I keep coming back to as well. I first used a computer at work in 1984, and other departments had actually had them awhile. It made me nervous at first, but once I realized I couldn’t really break it, I never looked back. When I started college in 1981 (I’m old!) we were mostly all using typewriters to do our papers, but the school did have a computer science degree. I think the computer science department was part of the math department. Computers are not new technology and the workforce that first began using them is now middle aged.

      Reply
  17. Overeducated

    On #5 – any advice if the notice you would need is more than an extra week? Like, by a lot?

    Example – say I applied for a full-time, long-term job around the beginning of December. By January I had no bites and needed work, so I signed onto a term-limited project with a former employer, working through mid-April. In literally week 1 of that project, the timeline got extended through early June. In that same week, another former employer asked me to teach a class ending at the end of May. Again, there was nothing on the horizon and I needed work.

    Well, that full time job finally got in touch long after I’d given up on it, and this week they’re doing reference checks. If I were lucky enough to get an offer, I’d need to think about asking if I could wait until June to start, because I think it would be tough for both of my current employers to find replacements for me for part-time work for just a month or two. On the other hand, I wouldn’t wanted to jeopardize an offer for full-time, long-term work because neither of the current two pays enough or has a long-term future, so maybe just trying desperately to find a replacement among my contacts would be the best I could do. What would be the most graceful way to approach this…in theory, if an offer were forthcoming?

    Reply
    1. Lily Rowan

      You can totally just ask. When you get the offer (fingers crossed!), just say, I’m excited about this offer, but have to let you know I have short-term commitments for the next two months. Would it be possible to start on X? If not, I can try to work something out with the other jobs.” Really, it’s not even that long at this point.

      Reply
      1. overeducated

        Thanks. I think the second part is key – aka “please don’t rescind this offer!” (And who knows, the hiring process has been 4 months so far, it could drag on further….)

        Reply
    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      It depends on the job and often how senior you are. I’m hiring right now for positions where someone could start even five or six months out if they had to. But with more junior jobs, that wouldn’t be practical.

      Reply
      1. Overeducated

        It is not highly senior. The hiring process has taken 4 full months to get to this point, and it’s for a new position with no one in it currently, so I am not sure how urgent it is. If it came to that, do you think raising the idea of a start date 4-8 weeks off would be enough of a red flag to them that I shouldn’t even bring it up? I worry about burning bridges and causing chaos by leaving my current employers in the lurch.

        Reply
        1. TootsNYC

          I don’t think raising it can hurt you. What’s your alternative–to just decline the job?
          If you bring up the long wait, they might decide to move on without you, but that would be the same as just declining. And they might be willing to wait.

          And even if they do decide to move on, there probably won’t be any hard feelings.

          Or, if they can’t wait, and you decide to resign your current assignments, you can do plenty to mitigate any damage your leaving might cause.

          Reply
          1. overeducated

            That would be the alternative that I really wouldn’t want to take. Losing out on a salaried job for the sake of not leaving temp jobs I can’t make a living on would be…loyal, but dumb. So I’d want to communicate that I’d be willing to resign the current jobs and minimize the risk of them moving on without me.

            Reply
  18. Erin

    #3 – I’ve been in a very similar position, working with people in their 70s and 80s. Basically, their parents’ parents’ parents’ worked there and there often huge entitlement issues and a refusal to do anything in way other than the way they’ve been doing it for decades.

    Given her attitude – the constant corrections and rush on things – it sounds like you’re in a similar situation. Unfortunately in my experience there’s very little to be done about this when they have such a standing in the company.

    I do think you should discuss priorities with your boss. “Often I’m working on a project and Lucinda will come by and need me to type up 20 pages of a document. Should I continue dropping what I’m doing, and type up documents for her? Sometimes when this happens what I’m working on ends up getting to your desk later than I’d like it to. Am I right to prioritize her needs, or what would be the best way to handle this?”

    Reply
  19. Allison

    Op #3, a few thoughts:

    – I agree with AAM that it’s possible your coworker is so valuable that the company is fine with her refusing to use technology, and it’s their right to allow her to foist her typing off on someone else if they feel her work is that good and she can’t be replaced, BUT . . .

    – Typing up one person’s work doesn’t sound like front desk work, it sounds like the work of a personal secretary or executive assistant. Sure, I don’t know your workload, maybe you do have time for it, but even then, it seems odd for a front desk person so spend so much time typing and printing the documents of a single employee. Ideally, she should have her own assistant so you can be available to assist everyone.

    – Regardless of whether it’s part of your job or not, it’s totally reasonable to be annoyed with someone who refuses to keep up with such common workplace technology. Heck, I’m annoyed at my own coworkers who can type and print just fine but avoid going into our applicant tracking system like the plague, and rely way too much on Outlook because that’s how they’re used to doing their jobs. People of all ages should be open to learning new, more efficient ways of doing things.

    – It’s one thing if someone tries to learn something and has a legitimate issue with it, but often I just hear “ohhhhh I could never do it that way, it looks too complicated! I’ve always done it this way and I’m gonna keep doing that until the day I die!”

    – How is it that younger people get garbage for not wanting (or not knowing how) to use old, outdated, inefficient methods of doing things, but older people get away with refusing to adapt to the modern age?

    Reply
    1. TootsNYC

      – Typing up one person’s work doesn’t sound like front desk work, it sounds like the work of a personal secretary or executive assistant. Sure, I don’t know your workload, maybe you do have time for it, but even then, it seems odd for a front desk person so spend so much time typing and printing the documents of a single employee. Ideally, she should have her own assistant so you can be available to assist everyone.

      But if the front desk person isn’t needed to assist everyone, particularly, then why wouldn’t this be a perfect way to handle this senior employee’s “disability”?

      The places where I’ve seen a front-desk person, they’re not really given other permanent tasks; they just help where they can. And most people don’t really rely on the front-desk person very often; they handle their “secretarial” stuff on their own. It’s only things like “lots of envelopes to stuff” one-offs that make it to the front desk.

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth West

        It depends on the size of the company too. I absolutely had regular permanent tasks at Exjob, a smaller company than my current one, and I had to be available for them–shipping especially. If Mafalda wanted me to type up all her documents to this extent, she would have to wait. The FedEx deadline would take precedence over her.

        I second all the advice for OP to check with her manager about prioritizing this with her other responsibilities. It’s easy for one employee to run roughshod over the front desk because they are supposed to help everybody.

        Reply
    2. Dot Warner

      “How is it that younger people get garbage for not wanting (or not knowing how) to use old, outdated, inefficient methods of doing things, but older people get away with refusing to adapt to the modern age?”

      +1000

      Reply
  20. KTE

    I had a group interview for a Victoria’s Secret Sales Associate job. It makes sense. Doesn’t mean I didn’t absolutely hate it.

    Reply
  21. LQ

    #3 I really think talking to your boss is the key to this. Make sure it is something they want you to do, as long as your boss understands and you are able to get all your work done, this is just one of the things they pay you to do. Sometimes my director pays me to stand outside his office and wait. That’s fine, I get paid just as I would if I was doing super interesting thing. Now if I spent hours a week waiting I’d make a decision of if the job was worth it or if I should look for a new one. But talking to your boss in a “Hey, I wanted to make sure this is how you want me spending my time” kind of way is the place to start.

    Reply
  22. Another Day Another Dollar

    #2. AAM does a great job of finding words for situations, but in this case, I’m not sure and here’s why. If you made a mistake which resulted in incorrect bonus payments being made to people, that could be a big deal for the company to straighten out, depending on how off the payments were, how many people involved, etc. If some people got too little, did other people get too much money in their check, for example? To fix the problem in that case is probably not as simple as just redoing your chart. On the other hand, you might have misunderstood or not have the whole story on what’s going on. I do agree it’s fine to ask, but somehow the language doesn’t indicate enough concern for the problem. Just my two cents…

    Reply
    1. Meg Murry

      Yes, I got so caught up in the typing discussion I got sidelined about #2.

      Messing up bonus amounts is a HUGE.FREAKING.DEAL. I suspect that right now they are just trying to figure out the magnitude of the mistake, and how many people got incorrect amounts and how much. And imagine the morale hit if you told employees you gave them too big of a bonus check and now they have to give some back – I suspect the company won’t do that, and will instead have to just eat the difference.

      I’m guessing right now they are too busy figuring out how to fix the problem to deal with why the problem happened. And if I was knee deep in that mess, I wouldn’t want to talk to the employee that made the mistake – I would be way too stressed and mad.

      It’s distinctly possible that this isn’t entirely OP’s fault – after all, did no one else check the data over? It seems like this is the kind of thing that should have more than one set of eyes throughly checking it. But I wouldn’t be surprised if once the dust settles, OP winds up on a PIP at best, or let go at worst.

      I agree that Alison’s wording doesn’t address the magnitude of this mistake, and sounds a little too “oops, my bad” vs a true understanding of how much of a problem this is. Everyone makes mistakes, but I think OP needs to look a little more carefully at how this happened and how to avoid it going forward. Now it is possible that the answer really is: why in the world is this being copied and pasted and has the possibility for this kind of mistake instead of automated? Why isn’t there a double check in place, etc (or is there supposed to be, and the boss in fact didn’t do it)? This could very much be a more of a system failure than a person failure – but OP still needs to take responsibility for the fact that this kind of mistake happened.

      I’m sorry you are in this position OP, and I agree that you should talk to your boss about it and acknowledge your mistake – but I also think you should be prepared to hear that s/he isn’t ready to talk to you about it yet, but that more will be coming later.

      Reply
  23. Ang in Admin

    Re #1. My husband actually turned down an interview for a Branch Manager position at a very large bank because of a group interview. The recruiter called him and told him there would be a panel interview and then a group interview with 10 other candidates. My husband told the lady right on the phone that he was no longer interested in the position. When she asked him why he told her that he does not do group interviews because he feels they are not a productive way to hire people but rather pit people against each other. If they were really interested in him then he would not mind doing to panel interview and one on one interview. They tried to get him to come around by asking the hiring manager and then the area manager to call him (he was very qualified and had connections within the company) but for him it was a red flag that that is how they hire branch managers. The other people who worked there did not go on group interview… they only do this with banking employees.

    Reply
  24. Snazzy Hat

    I saw a group interview for a mall jewelry shop being conducted at an eating & lounging area in the mall. Not quite the food court; there is a Starbucks kiosk there with tables and cushioned benches, and a pretzel place within trash-throwing distance. But it’s noisy enough just by being a moderate-traffic area with an espresso maker. Despite the noise, my s.o. and I could hear some of the questions and answers. S.O. wondered out loud if they just didn’t have any room in the shop; I assured him that I have seen that mall’s conference rooms and this was just crappy planning, possibly for stress purposes.

    Reply
  25. Chris

    Some interesting comments in regards to #3.

    Having worked in a public library, helping people with computers, I certainly understand that computers aren’t necessarily easy for people who haven’t used them a lot. But do you know what our policy was? We were not allowed to do their work for them, whether it was fill out a job application, type an email, or anything like that. We showed them how to do it, then they had to do the actual work. We are not a typing service. And boy, that annoyed a LOT of patrons.

    But to me this is the difference. There’s not one thing wrong with not knowing how to do something. The problem is when you just outright refuse to learn. “Technophobes” are particularly frustrating, because they wave their hand and declare anything they don’t want to do to be “technology, I don’t understand how all that stuff works.” One of my library coworkers, who I otherwise thought was fantastic, would ask for help with things, then spend the entire time saying how she doesn’t understand technology, rather than LISTENING and trying to learn.

    The lady in #3 works in a modern office. Computers have been standard business equipment for 20 years, if not 25. Suck it up and learn something.

    Reply
    1. Jillociraptor

      Yeah, I guess I could understand if the employee needed to make, say, a PowerPoint presentation or something that requires a bit more ability to navigate a digital interface. But word processing? It’s like refusing to use a phone.

      Reply
    2. Rob Lowe can't read

      YUP. I did technology education my last year of Peace Corps and it nearly killed me. The people who actually signed up for my (free!) classes were great, and I tailored the materials and projects to things that people actually wanted to do (mostly resumes/CVs and other job-related matters). The people who wandered in and demanded that I type their resumes etc. for them were not great. (I encouraged one of my colleagues, who was a decent typist, to make people pay her to type things for them, but she found these people as rude and annoying as I did and declined.)

      Reply
  26. Retail HR Guy

    I went to a group interview for a professional position with 20 other applicants (minimum of a masters or else bachelors plus experience in the field). In addition to rounds of questions, they had group activities in which we did things like break out into smaller groups to decide which of three items from a list we would bring with us if stranded in a lifeboat on the ocean. It took four hours. (We were told that in advance that it would be a group interview, but not how long it would be.)

    The kicker? In response to one of the other applicant’s questions, we were told that this was one of FIVE group interview sessions they were conducting. (As in, we were actually not competing with about 20 other applicants, but about 100 other applicants.) All for only two open positions. That’s 400 total hours of people’s wasted time talking about whether a sextant was more important than a ten-foot length of nylon rope when adrift on the Pacific.

    I would like to say that I immediately told off the hiring committee and left, but in reality I finished out the entire agonizing four hours and thanked them and shook their hands when I left. I didn’t get the job. They instead hired the two interns that had already been working for them.

    Reply
    1. Milton Waddams

      Sometimes these can be good networking opportunities. While the other applicants don’t have jobs now, they likely will eventually, and they are all not only in your field, but doing such similar work that you are going after the same positions; those are people you want to know.

      Reply
  27. Anonymous Educator

    For #3, if your boss insists you keep doing this, despite its hit on your productivity… how neat is this co-worker’s handwriting?

    There does exist software that may be able to help. Google OCR handwriting to get some possibilities. The handwriting would have to be neat, and you’d still have to do some cleanup on the backend, but it’s still probably faster than retyping everything from scratch.

    For #1, it doesn’t really matter whether you have a master’s degree or not—group interviews are always terrible. I used to (by policy, not my decision) group-interview applicants for a middle school, and it was the most awkward thing for these groups of fifth graders to try to one-up each other or copy each other’s answers.

    Reply
  28. Noah

    The only time I’ve ever attended a group interview was for a flight attendant position. That is definitely entry level. FWIW, the process was interesting. First they paired us off and we had to introduce our partner. Then they put us in groups of about five people each for a group project, Ours had to do with coming up with an airline name, drawing a picture of the plane on a whiteboard, and listing five things you would do to make your airline appeal to customers. My understanding is they were really looking at how well you could quickly become a team, because with the way crew scheduling works you are almost always working with new people. From there they cut some people and moved on to a panel interview where they asked you typical interview questions.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

You can find the site's commenting guidelines here. You can report an ad, tech, or typo issue here.

Subscribe to all comments on this post by RSS