can I get out of a personality assessment at work, my coworker constantly fact-checks everything, and more

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

1. My coworker constantly fact-checks everyone else

I have a coworker who has a habit of fact-checking other team members. She is not a manager. If a team member mentions information in a meeting, casually discusses a topic in the hallway, or sends an email to the team, this coworker will fact-check the information and reply-all and/or discuss her findings with the group. The fact-checking can range anywhere from verifying incoming rainstorms to confirming/denying the accuracy of information in an article that a team member shares with the group.

If she finds out information is correct, she will share that she checked/confirmed. Typically incorrect information is pointed out a few times a week. Incorrect can mean that a rainstorm will arrive at a different hour, or that she disagrees with the premise of an article, etc.

The behavior raises eyebrows and makes others uncomfortable. Any suggestions for how to approach the issue, or if it’s best to ignore?

She’s fact-checking trivial information from a casual hallway discussion and emailing her findings to your whole group? Oh dear.

If you were her manager, I’d tell you to ask her to cut it out, but as a coworker, I’d just it go and know that everyone else finds this really weird too. I’ve got to think that this kind of know-it-all-ism is a real impediment in her relationships with people.

But if it’s really annoying you, you could say, “Hey, I’m sure you don’t mean it this way, but doing all this fact-checking of other people is coming across kind of oddly — like you don’t trust people and want to correct them, even on inconsequential details.” Or in the moment when she does it, you could just say, “I don’t think we needed that fact-checked” (especially when she’s confirming the info is correct) or “I’m finding the follow-up on such minor stuff kind of distracting — could we save it for things where the substance matters more?”

2. Can I get out of a personality assessment at work?

My employer is rolling out one of those personality/behavior assessments. There was no discussion of whether or not we (the rest of the staff) wanted to do this, or how required it is or how to opt out — it was simply presented as “staff are going to do this.” I’m strongly opposed to any sort of personality assessment because I find them not useful and a massive violation of privacy, crossing the line between professional and personal. Do I have any standing to ask if I can opt out? If so, how would I go about doing this professionally? Note that if they say it’s required or else I’ll get fired, then I’ll suck it up and do it, but I feel like not even asking would be a betrayal to my personality (ironically).

Also, my manager is on leave right now so I wouldn’t be able to discuss this with her. The assessments are being overseen by HR.

You can try to opt out if you want, and it’s useful for employers to hear that not everyone is happy to be asked to do these. That said, there may be a cost to trying to get out of it — in terms of how much political capital you’ll use that then won’t be there if you want to ask for an exception for something else in the future — so you’ll need to factor that into whether you feel strongly enough about it or not.

If you do decide to try to get out of it, I’d say this: “I’d like to excuse myself from participating in this; there are loads of issues with these assessments’ scientific validity, and they’re more personal than I’m comfortable getting at work. So I want to give you a heads-up that I plan to sit this out.”

3. When someone thinks I didn’t answer their email, but I did

I’ve had the same email issue pop up frequently in the past few months: I’ll receive an emailed question from a colleague or customer. I respond immediately with all necessary information. About a week later, I receive a forwarded copy of their initial question with something like “What’s the status here????” on top. Clearly, they did not see or lost my response.

In the most recent incident, my boss and several others were copied the second time around. I responded by forwarding my original date and timed-stamped response with “please let me know if there were additional questions beyond these” and keeping my boss copied.

But I worry about making the questioning person look stupid, especially if they are a higher-up. And it’s a customer, I don’t want them to feel adversarial, even if they are wrong. Thoughts on how to handle this?

Before you forward the original email, I’d first reply to their follow-up and say something like this: “I actually sent you an answer to this on Tuesday of last week, but maybe it got lost somewhere along the way! I’ll forward it to you right now.” That way, you’re helping them save face a bit and you’re allowing for the possibility that it really didn’t make it to them for some reason — and you’re just making it an overall more pleasant interaction.

4. My employees keep socializing with the person who managed them before me

I manage 10 people in my department. Before me, there was a manager who left to work for another company. He left all of our projects somewhat of a mess and did not supervise the group at all. Now I am stuck fixing everything. My employees, however, have met with him socially several times, and are now inviting him to their work anniversary get-together. They also allowed him into the office to look at one of their computers, even though he no longer works there. I know I can’t tell them not to socialize with him on a personal level, even though they’ve all known each other less than a year and I don’t understand why they would want to anyway. I am incredibly bothered by their continued association with him. Should I let it go?

Yep, you definitely shouldn’t try to control who they talk to outside of work. It’ll make you look petty and controlling, and it’s likely to really poison how you’re seen. You shouldn’t refuse to let them invite him to this work event either, if you’d normally allow another non-employee to attend. However, it’s perfectly reasonable not to allow former employees access to your company’s computers (!) and you should put a stop to that and make it known that that’s a security issue.

5. Can I ask current employees what to expect from a company’s interview process?

I studied computer programming during my time at my university. Although I prepared a lot, I was recently kind of blindsided with one of the pre-interview questions I was asked by a small local company in my region. I got the math problems fine, and the code for the programming question worked as well, but apparently they were looking for something else in the little program I wrote, and I was rejected. I don’t want this to happen again.

I might have two interviews coming up, I’m not sure. But would it be proper to, after an interview is scheduled, look up employees at the prospective companies I’m interviewing for and ask them questions about what their interview experience was like and what to expect? I’m not sure if it’s good etiquette or if they’d find it flattering.

Nope! There’s too much of a chance that it’ll come across as trying to get an advantage in their interview process that they don’t intend for candidates to get. They want to know how you do without insider info helping you. And actually, that’s in your best interest too — you want to be screened out of jobs that you aren’t a strong fit for, since you don’t want to end up in a job that isn’t the right match for you.

{ 346 comments… read them below }

  1. Graciosa

    Regarding #3, I think this is one of those things where the right answer depends a bit on the relationship and your positions in the company.

    The higher you go, the more value is placed on social skill (such as the ability to politely point out an error in a way that lets the other person save face) and the less concern there is for *proving* that you’re doing your job in front of a wide audience on minor matters like an overlooked email. You’re more comfortable assuming that people know you’re pretty competent already, and a missed email is either a minor “oops” or a sign that you spent the last week doing higher priority work.

    To be clear, I’m not saying that there aren’t status challenges at higher levels – there definitely are – it’s just that they tend to be in other areas.

    Where the relationship plays in to the decision about how to respond is when the person sending the reminder is routinely obnoxious about this stuff. The kind of response the OP offered is more typical of a situation where the Alison-type polite response has been given so often that you really have to ratchet it up, or else the person responding is just some combination of new / junior.

    The reason I’m mentioning this is that I want the OP to know that Alison’s response will – in a subtle way – make you look more assured and competent. ;-)

    1. MK

      On the other hand, I think it would be a good idea to check the e-mail. If this is happening frequently, there might be a technical issue.

      1. Ama

        Yeah, my employer recently switched our external spam filter and it is constantly flagging legitimate emails (including replies to messages I sent from people in my address book) and refusing to pass them through. I have things set up to get notifications when that happens, but when there’s a lot of real spam getting caught its easy to get in the habit of skimming the quarantine notice and missing that one real message is tucked in among the junk.

        My father also had an issue several years ago because our last name was at the time the same as a website domain known for spam so he would sometimes have a hard time getting a message to a new client if they didn’t add him to their address book first.

    2. Wendy Darling

      I’ve had this happen once or twice where I definitely sent a response and the person somehow missed it and also CCed my manager AND their manager on their complaint re: not getting my mail.

      My response was always very friendly and helpful in tone… but I also attached the original timestamped email “just in case”. And did not remove anyone’s manager from CC. If you escalate to managers in haste, you reap the consequences. :P

      1. Jess

        I once had a manager who would constantly knee-jerk tell me off any time she got an email like this, cc-ing the person who’d missed my original communication, but when I would resend my original timely reply, she would never say she was sorry for calling me incompetent in front of others or remember the incident and give me the benefit of the doubt the next time it happened. I didn’t work for her long and when I put in my notice she didn’t understand why because in her mind she was just so darn nice to work for.

        1. anonymous red panda

          Ugh, semi-related flashback: this happened to me when I sent a thesis draft to my advisor in grad school (at the agreed-upon day & time). A couple days later I got a reaming for not giving it to her on time and when I forwarded the time-stamped version I had sent, no trace of an apology. I’m sure I still have that email from her somewhere, but I don’t even want to look!

          1. Jess

            Ugh! Advisers can be the WORST. My grad school adviser was a dream, but my undergrad adviser was just like this. I could do nothing right, even when I did things exactly the way she told me to. It’s like she had amnesia.

      2. Trout 'Waver

        I totally agree with this. CC’ing managers on an e-mail is such a passive aggressive thing to do that I would very much attach the first message.

        That being said, the proper course of action when you’re unsure if someone send you an e-mail or not is to:

        1. query your inbox and find out.
        2. If it’s missing, send them a 1-on-1 e-mail asking again for the information politely.
        3.Then if that fails, CC managers.

        Going straight to 3 means I’m going to point out that you’re not doing your job because you just accused me of not doing mine.

        1. Liane

          1a. Make sure you don’t forget to look in the spam or bulk email folder when you check your inbox!

          1. chocolate lover

            Agreed. I tell my students that all the time, because every semester single almost misses an interview opportunity cause the employer email comes to their spam box.

            1. OP #3

              For the sake of brevity, I did not include the entire backstory re: missing emails. My company acquired a smaller but very highly regarded company 9 months ago. There have been layoffs on both sides but my position is safe. The people who have sent the red alert “What’s the status???” emails have both been from company #2. I am fairly well-regarded at my company (I’ve been here 10 years) and have interpreted their emails as a bit hostile, based on the tone and CCing of my manager. I have never met the two people who have sent these emails recently, they are in different offices. I suppose there are 4 scenarios
              1) They actually never got the emails. However I think this is unlikely. We have a pretty advanced email system where we can all see who is online/ available for IM, access calendar availability etc. Also have responsive tech people.
              2) This was normal operating procedure at old company.
              3) They are fearful about their jobs (especially upper management) and are playing CYA.
              4) The fact they don’t know me makes it easier for them to be rude.

              With a customer, I would generally just pick up the phone and call them if this happened – make sure they have what they need etc. But with the internal folks, I do feel a bit prickly with them deciding to immediately CC my manager. They also never replied back after I sent the follow-up. But I later saw one of them might become the hiring manager for a new position I’m interested in. That’s when I emailed Allison.

              Internal politics can be exhausting! But I will work to assume the best, not the worst, with this stuff.

              1. Artemesia

                Have you tried calling them and asking why they are doing this? as in “Twice now you have CCed my manager suggesting I didn’t provide information you requested, when in each case, I had sent the information a week before. Why are you reporting me to management without touching base with me first so I could just re-send the information? Is there something different you would like me to do to make sure you see the original email?”

                1. OhNo

                  I feel like that’s too confrontational of a stance to take right off the bat, but it makes sense as a third or fourth step. Before that, I personally would try Alison’s script two or three times, then upgrade the script with an additional, “You keep missing my emails on what is clearly time-sensitive info. Why don’t you make check that they’re not going to your spam/junk folder, and add me to your approved contacts list?”

                  After both of those have been tried, then I would definitely go to you script, because at that point you know it’s not just them being technologically incompetent, they’re just deliberately ignoring/missing your emails, not trying to solve the problem, and escalating it to make you look bad.

                2. TootsNYC

                  Or maybe not “why are you,” which could seem adversarial, but, “I’d like to ask for your help in creating better communication between us by avoiding things that create drama or point fingers. I’ll promise to do the same in return.”

                  Actually, I’d start just amping down the drama right away.

                  Email a reply-all that says simply: “On it.” Believe me, the higher-ups find those sorts of “loop in the manager!!” email annoying as hell, and they’ll be grateful that you’ve told them they can ignore the whole thing now.

                  And send the complaining colleagues an email that says, “Joe, I’m sure I sent you the info already; maybe it got lost, I’ll give you a call.”
                  And then call in a friendly way and say, “Are you able you find the original, or should I just resend today, so you’ll have it? That might be faster on your end. Here it comes” And end with, “Give me a call, or just shoot me an email if something slips through the cracks; there’s no need for either of us to loop in everybody on something like this.”

                  Prove you’re their ally by acting like one even if their actions seem a little hostile.

              2. animaniactoo

                If it’s the same two people doing it repeatedly, you might want to follow up the next one with “Hey, it seems that you’ve missed 4 or 5 of these now. I’m not sure if they’re showing up in your spam folder or something, but you might want to check your e-mail settings to make sure that you’re getting them right away.”

                Otherwise, for a first instance I’d just forward the original to them and reply to the “What’s the update???” e-mail as a reply-to-all with “Hi, not sure why you didn’t get it, but I’ve just forwarded the original e-mail I sent last week with this information. Please let me know if it doesn’t come through or if you have any other questions about it.”

                1. Christine

                  I like your suggestion that the email may be going to the spam folder, it’s also possible they has flagged the sender as a “junk” mailer.

                  I suggest that you send an e-mail to them … stating in the body of the e-mail that it’s a test, please respond … to make sure it goes through, attach the “read receipt required” to it. Wait about 15 minutes than call them to see if they got it. If they didn’t get it, ask them to make sure that they haven’t flagged you a spammer in error, and add you to their contact list. If this isn’t the issue, it could be a problem due to the merger. If you are in the same building, I recommend stopping by some time on the way to get coffee, etc. and say hello. It’s harder to cc” a manager if they have a face to go with a name.

      3. Rachael

        I completely agree. When people cc: bosses on an email correspondence then they deserve to have the managers see that they were wrong. I’ve had “what is the status emails” and nothing amps me up more than when they include my boss in the string. I always reply with the original email attached. I know that when I have asked the status on an issue (not cc-ing any managers) and I get back an email with their original reply I don’t think it’s rude. I get a little embarrassed because I didn’t check thoroughly enough.

        1. Anon Accountant

          Right because then managers may think “well is she not doing her job” or it causes unnecessary concerns. I can’t stand when people immediately escalate to managers when a simple inquiry of an employee can resolve the issue.

        2. Clever Name Here

          Agree completely. You try to throw me under the bus, especially without having just called or emailed me individually first, you bet your bottom I’m replying all back. Generally with “see response I sent last week attached. Please let me know if you have any questions.”

          I work with a bunch of these types and I have always already sent the email when they CC about four or five higher ups. Never received an apology but they stop doing it after about the second time.

        3. Vicki

          Oh, it’s not rude. It’s much worse to leave people out of the Cc: line. You might never have replied. You might be hiding something.

          If someone else added them, let a thousand keystrokes bloom!

      4. Anon Accountant

        Absolutely!!

        Plus I’d add a line “is it possible my email wasn’t received and was flagged as spam” to let them save a little bit of face and this possible could’ve happened.

  2. Bookworm

    I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a compulsive fact checker. However, it really sounds like she’s correcting people where it really doesn’t matter at all, and that’s pretty obnoxious. I think you’re well within your rights to point out that you’re not interested unless the information is useful.

    My general policy is this: if I’ve been chatting with someone and we disagree on a fact, they’re none the wiser if I look it up myself later to put my mind at ease. If it turns out I’m right, and they were mistaken, I smile to myself and move on. If it turns out they were right, I let them know.* It’s a lesson in graciousness to only speak up when I’m in the wrong.

    *Although, not in a team-wide email. That’s a separate section of bizarre.

    1. Wendy Darling

      I also fact-check a lot, but I generally don’t share the results unless it’s very urgent (the freeway ramp we both take home is closing TODAY, not tomorrow; oatmeal DOES contain gluten and we are about to poison our coworker).

      1. A grad student

        OT, but gluten-free oatmeal is a thing if you want to pay for it! My sister has Celiac and probably wouldn’t survive without her daily bowl of it :)

      2. INTP

        Thanks for fact checking about oatmeal! It’s really awkward when people buy things containing oats specifically because they think I can eat them, and I have to explain that I can’t because it’s not made from special GF oats. I’ve gotten more than one eyeroll because people think concerns about cross-contamination are paranoid, but studies have found gluten in most brands of regular oats, sometimes very significant amounts of it.

        1. Elizabeth West

          Off-topic, but is the gluten normally in the oats, or does it get added or put in during the processing? (So many companies add stuff to EVERYTHING whether it needs it or not.)

          I’m glad someone mentioned it–the leader of our nerd group can’t have any gluten, not even a tiny bit, and I did not know this. *marks oatmeal off the food list*

          1. Judy

            I think it’s cross contamination.
            * If the fields are too close, there could be wheat/rye/barley in the oat field.
            * If a farmer uses the same equipment for the oats and the other grains.
            * If the processing facilities use the same equipment.

          2. ArchErin

            Oats are naturally gluten-free. The issue lies with other cereal crops being grown in fields close by and accidently being thrown together during processing either at the farm or later on during packaging especially if the processing plant also handles wheat, rye or barley. There are dedicated gluten free facilities and farmers being more careful about their harvesting procedures. It eventually comes down to label reading on the part of the consumer. Bob’s Red Mill is the most widely available gluten-free oats available that I’ve come across.

          3. nonegiven

            Oats do not naturally contain gluten but most oats end up containing, sometimes, significant amounts of gluten from cross contamination unless measures are taken to exclude it. Like some things are labeled ‘processed in a facility that also processes nuts,’ there is nut dust all over the factory and things that aren’t nuts get contaminated with it.

          4. INTP

            As has been mentioned above, it’s cross-contamination. The oats are grown near barley and wheat, and then potentially processed on the same exact machines. The cross-contamination in oats in particular is much more extensive and prevalent than cross-contamination in many other foods that say “Processed in a facility that also uses wheat” because of the shared fields and shared processing equipment. I can’t find it now, but I did read a study conducted on commercial oats not labeled gluten free that found that most brands contained more than the 20 ppm that is the maximum amount for a food to be labeled gluten free. (IIRC Quaker contained over 1000 ppm.) So, people like me that don’t have to be completely vigilant about any tiny possibility of cross-contamination may still not be able or willing to eat oats.

          5. Hillary

            Also other ingredients. Gluten-free Cheerios were in development a long time because they had to find a substitute for the “toasted” flavor from malt.

      3. Lemon Zinger

        As someone who is gluten-free, I am very glad you fact-checked about oatmeal! You’ve got to buy certified gluten-free oats. Bob’s Red Mill is one of the best, and it’s pretty widely available.

    2. Graciosa

      There are a couple other aspects of this in a work environment, although I really like your approach. You’re clearly doing the right thing by not contributing to a negative atmosphere at work, and I assume you’re not spending much work time on this.

      But the co-worker in the OP’s letter sounds like she’s failing on both. If she’s checking on as much as the OP suggests *and* sending emails, she’s misusing work time and work resources that could accomplish something *useful.* This is a problem by itself, even if she were keeping her mouth shut about it. A lot of my reaction was along the lines of “Co-worker couldn’t find *anything* better to do?”

      I love your lesson in graciousness, Bookworm, and have to agree that the OP’s co-worker is in her own section of bizarre.

    3. Al Lo

      I do that with my husband all the time. I like to be right, I’m a bit competitive, and isn’t that what Google was invented for? Why else do we all carry tiny computers in our pockets at all times than to be proven right? ;)

      However, that’s at home, not at work, I try to swallow my need to be right at work when it’s not relevant to the point at hand.

      1. Artemesia

        Fact checking has always been a family sport with us — we did it when we needed to go check the Encylopedia. But it is something we do together — an expected norm, not one of us checking up on the other. Someone who has to constantly comment on other’s decisions even when they are right or when it is trivially wrong is a menace to the workplace. As manager I would insist that this kind of nagging of co-workers stop.

        1. Anja

          That was my family as well. To the Encyclopaedia Britannica!

          Funnily enough that’s also where I learned that Santa Clause wasn’t real. My brother was two years older than me and heard a rumour. Asked our parents. They told him to check the encyclopedia if he had questions. He pulled me along.

          The internet has made these things much easier.

        2. Afiendishthingy

          My older sister, while applying to college, very condescendingly informed me that she SAID a particular school was in New England, not Connecticut, and that hello, New England is a state. I got out volume N and have been riding on my laurels ever since. No, I exaggerate, it’s been about 20 years now so these days I only bring it up once or twice a year.

        3. Snazzy Hat

          “Who can find the info first” is the fact-checking sport in this house. S.O. uses his smartphone, I use a book. E.g., “what’s the German word for ____” results in me scrambling for my dictionary & racing to find the entry before he can pull up the results from Google Translate. I especially love it when it’s a math question and I can give him the answer from my head. :-D

      2. animaniactoo

        Ditto. But my husband and I are also mad chopbusting goofballs who have been known to have a reductio ad absurdum argument about how the silverware drawer is arranged “The little forks told me they were scared and they like having the big forks for company” “Yeah, well they told me sharing with the big forks is depressing them because only the big forks ever get to leave and go party.”

        1. TootsNYC

          It sounds like you need to serve more dessert, animaniactoo. Then, even though the little forks don’t get out as often, they can remind themselves that when they do, they *always* get to party.

          1. animaniactoo

            Actually (heh heh), what it means is that we need to serve a different kind of dessert more often. Since our desserts tend towards spoonables and finger foods. 8•)

      3. ThursdaysGeek

        And I’ve always preferred peace to being right. If my spouse and I disagree on something, I might look it up, but I then let it go. Unless it’s super important, he can be right. He does the same with me, so it works out.

      4. Murphy

        My husband is the household fact checker. It has caused more than one big blow-out with us. His constant need to prove he’s right drives me up the freakin’ wall. But for the sake of marital harmony (and because I do truly love him), I try to accept it as one of his quirks (as he does with my quirks) and only get really annoyed when he does it on something he knows I know more about. Buy oy, the desire to toss the computers out the window is strong. ;)

    4. Oryx

      This is me. I fact check but I don’t feel it necessary to tell everyone at work about it unless there is some dire reason related to our jobs. (Which has happened, but most of the time I’m fact checking just random things people mention).

    5. Not So NewReader

      I have to chuckle. I had a family member who did fact-checking on many things. In the end, she totally discredited herself with the family. Instead of appearing knowledgeable, she appeared to be paralyzed if she did not have inputs from a credible third party. It was like anything anyone said was just not good enough for her. Having conversations with her was too much work. The standing joke was, “You have to document what you just said with full bibliographic references.”

      OP, you could try asking her to remove you from her email list for these types of emails. If the problem has been going on for a while, then I might find a subtle way of letting a few others know that I was doing this. You know, plant the seed in other people’s thinking.

      Back to my family member, as the decades wore on people got tired of the need for constant references to back up a particular statement. The standard response to any of her questions or concerns became, “Good luck with that” and she was left to her own devices, pretty much isolated from everyone else. It was a sad and difficult thing to watch, but I totally understood why it was happening. It started out as an interesting quirk and ended up being a relationship killer.

      1. Mander

        Definitely a relationship killer. I have a colleague that I am friendly with but I don’t like her as much as I used to because she drops a lot of this kind of stuff into our conversations.

      2. SophieChotek

        So would the family members need to provide the reference if they wanted to say:
        “Henry VIII had Six Wives and they were Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, Kathryn Parr…and I know this because I read it in Allison Weir’s book ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ and another book by Author X”
        Or would the relative run off to find the references?
        Either way, sounds tiring…

        1. Anon for this one

          Reminds me of a young family member who recently announced her new friend was a direct descendant of Henry VIII’s wife Elizabeth. I didn’t need to fact-check that one, but I chose to keep my mouth shut.

          1. SophieChotek

            =)

            Er, Henry VII and Elizabeth?

            And Elizabeth I had no children (historical debates and speculations aside)…

      3. Temperance

        I’m the fact checker in my family … also the black sheep. Where I grew up, you’re supposed to take elders at their word as “respect”. As in, my MIL told us not to get an EZ Pass because it “costs $15/month”. I looked into it, and it costs $3/year, which is well worth not having to run to the bank to pay tolls. When she saw it in our car, she started ranting about us wasting money, and I reminded her that it only cost $3/year, and she was angry that we checked up on the (wrong) info that she gave us.

        Same thing happened when we went to a drive-thru without cash. She was absolutely insistent that they only take cash, I said no, we went and paid with a card, and she was angry that we doubted her.

          1. Temperance

            Oh, those are just some examples. My family does this stuff as well. I’m from a blue collar area, where elders just think they have authority because they are old. (An even more wild example is when MIL’s boyfriend urged us not to vote because they would raise our taxes. As in, if you vote, your taxes get raised, but if your neighbor doesn’t vote, he doesn’t pay more. )

            1. Artemesia

              Sounds like something floated by a campaign trying to suppress the vote. Usually they just float in minority communities that you will be arrested if you vote. The tax thing is a new one to me.

              1. Temperance

                I would assume that’s the case but he’s a low-income white dude; he’d vote Republican if he voted, so I’m not sure he’d be a good target.

            2. OhNo

              Wow, that is a truly… unique… argument for not voting.

              Any idea where he got that one from? I have family members who tend to take facts and twist them so badly they come out the other end ridiculous, but even though I’m used to leaps of logic I’m having a hard time imagining how on earth he ended up at “voting raises your taxes”.

              1. Temperance

                I honestly don’t ask questions when he says stuff like that. He’s in his late 40s and has never voted, so I’m assuming his family said this … they’re what the hillbillies I grew up with refer to as “hill people”.

            3. Adlib

              My parents seem to be under the impression that if you miss an election (primary or general), you have to re-register to vote. Even though I’ve told them that is not true SEVERAL times. Eesh.

        1. RVA Cat

          My thought exactly. She thinks her age entitles her to dictate how grown adults pay for things…? SMH.

        2. Artemesia

          It is your 15 a month to waste. I don’t get relatives that try to boss other relatives around. It is one thing to tell you once; it is another to feel you are entitled to have your position adopted.

          1. Temperance

            It’s so common where I grew up, all tying back to the “respect your elders” thing. My parents and ILs made certain choices because their parents and grandparents told them to, with the idea that they’d run our lives when the time came, and they’re sore about it. My mom is still bitter that I overrode her veto and went to law school without her blessing/permission.

      4. Whats In A Name?

        OMG you just described my mother. Days later she will email letting us know she was actually right or she will twist it into “Well, I know I said that the Aces play in our hometown and gave you the silent treatment for the remainder of the night when you said I was wrong. You can see by this article that while the Aces do not play in our hometown they did participate in a tournament here 10 years ago so that is why I was confused. Thought you would find this information helpful.” Yes, very helpful in thinking you are a nut case.

    6. Lady Blerd

      I’m a fact checker as well. I’m the person who’ll say “Well actually…” in the comments of FB statuses. My job involves researching through rules and regs has given me a set of skills that I have honed over the years and now my Google-fu off the charts. I jokingly refer to my sources as either Pr. Google or Dr Google but people assume I just latch on to whatever info I come across and are dismissive when in fact I have learned to filter the wheat from the chafe. But in spite of this, I think OP 1’s coworker is a dick. The only response is to internally roll your eyes or share knowing glances with your coworkers. She clearly needs this.

      1. addlady

        I think it’s ok to say “well, actually” in the moment. Sending a teamwide email is so bizarre, it makes me wonder if she’s ever learned about hobbies or other constructive ways to occupy yourself. Or maybe she’s trying to avoid work.

        1. A Definite Beta Guy

          My instincts suggest too much “well, actually” in real life will lead to a lot of bruised egos and tensions from other people as well.

          Definitely seemed that way when I was younger…I clearly remember arguing with some girl in 3rd grade the Jupiter was definitely the largest planet, not Earth!

          1. addlady

            Yeah, you’re right–it’s wishful thinking from always wanting to be accurate. Also, I am annoyed on your behalf about the planet thing.

          2. Artemesia

            My book club in large southern city was not pleased when I told them the Neiman Marcus cookie recipe thing was a hoax (well the hostess was passing out chocolate chip cookies made with the recipe at the time) It was just impolite to point out what any idiot would know, that this was a clearly bogus story. I have tried to rein in my know it all tendencies when it doesn’t matter since then — only partially effectively.

            I participate in a couple of travel forums where I do have a lot of specific knowledge to tap off my tremendous urge to boss people around. There it is useful and my own family doesn’t have to put up with it.

            And perhaps Alison solves her issue with an advice column?

          3. animaniactoo

            I have been trained out of saying “Well, actually…” for the most part. My co-worker laughed at it too hard. So they refer to me as The Dictionary and The Encyclopedia, consult me often, express major disappointment when I say “Actually, I don’t know that one” (you’re letting us down here!), and try to refrain from putting myself forward too often… usually by asking if they want to know and accepting if they don’t or want to go figure it out on their own (my boss, who would sometimes really rather Google the meaning of a word than have me explain it to her and feel annoyed that I know it and she doesn’t).

            But I never did rise to the level of OP1’s co-worker. Even my dad who is INFAMOUS for being a fact-checker and corrector and droning on *way* past the level of anyone’s interest in a subject isn’t as bad as that.

            1. Sparkly Librarian

              In… third grade, I think, I got into a playground scuffle with another kid who insisted that the past tense of “drown” was “drownded” and would not back down! (Since then I have learned both about regional dialects and how to let little things go.)

            2. Jess

              I love it. I have friend who thought wolverines were mythical animals. As a proud alumna of the University of Michigan I gleefully told her they’re real, and are basically weasels that are strong enough to kill bears.

            3. Afiendishthingy

              In middle school I had a months-long recurring lunch table argument with a girl who firmly believed the saying was “it’s a doggy Dogg world.” (Dammit, Snoop…) “WHY would a dog EAT another DOG??”

              I was also raised in a family of competitive people who are always right. And I do still fact check things at work, like the other day when a coworker and I disagreed about how long it would take to drive to Montreal from our location (I said “a couple hours”, she said 7 or 8, turned out to be about 5 and a half). But I am a very vocal opponent of unnecessary reply-alls, so unlike Some, I didn’t see a need to reply all when our boss emailed saying he would be on vacation from July 28- July 4. It was like July 20 at the time, but yes, please, let’s all reply all saying did he mean August 4???? Yes. He did.

            4. Temperance

              I once got grounded for correcting my mother’s grammar at Thanksgiving dinner … twice. I was 8.

              (In my defense, she said “deers” instead of “deer”, and fought me on wearing a “coat” in not-cold weather.)

              1. NotAnotherManager!

                My aunt freely confesses to being downright gleeful when I started correcting my mother’s grammar since Mom had been doing it to my aunt her entire life. (My mother is both an English teacher and a lifelong know-it-all, deadly sibling-annoying combo if ever there was one.)

            5. Loose Seal

              My husband didn’t know narwhals were real. We heard the song one day and he asked what they were and I told him. About 8 months later, we were watching a David Attenborough-esque nature documentary and they showed some narwhals and my husband was like, “WTF is that?!” I told him they were narwhals and he was flabbergasted. He said he thought I made it all up.

          4. Hlyssande

            I argued with my second grade teacher once because she said ‘woon’ instead of ‘moon’ and I still firmly believe that I was right.

            :D

            1. Alix

              I got into an epic argument with, iirc, my third grade teacher because we were doing these spelling worksheets where you were given a plural and had to write in the proper singular form, and one of the plurals was “cookies.” I gave “cookie” as the singular – as did, you know, all of my classmates, since it’s the correct effing singular, and she not only marked us all wrong but went on to harangue us in class the day she passed the papers back that the singular was clearly “cooky.” She would not back down, even when faced with the bald truth of the dictionary.

              It was an experience, I gotta say. It was also the first time I really realized that yes, there are people who will flatly deny actual facts just to be the most right.

              1. Loose Seal

                I think it’s worse when you realize as a kid that your teachers can be wrong. I think you learn your parents can be wrong pretty early (especially if you have siblings that set you up for getting into trouble *grr*) but teachers seem omniscient.

                I remember in 4th grade, the first IVF baby was born and the news was full of the “test tube baby.” My science teacher at the time said that in the future, babies wouldn’t have belly buttons because they would come from tubes instead of their mothers. I didn’t even fully understand how babies were made or how pregnancy worked but I knew right away that my teacher was wrong. And I seemed to immediately know that she was so wrong it wasn’t even worth trying to question it.

      2. Lissa

        Yes, it can be painful for me to listen to somebody getting something wrong! I know it’s totally irrelevant and doesn’t matter much of the time — but I have a bugaboo about passing on false information, and sometimes it *does* matter, like when it’s false information that perpetuates fear or about a group of people etc. But I try to not say anything when it’s just about whether or not Slumdog Millionaire is a true story…

          1. well, actually

            bug·bear
            ˈbəɡˌber/
            noun
            noun: bugbear; plural noun: bugbears
            a cause of obsessive fear, irritation, or loathing.
            synonyms: pet peeve, hate, bête noire, anathema, aversion, bugaboo; bane, bane of one’s life/existence, irritant, irritation, vexation, thorn in one’s flesh/side; nightmare, torment; informalpain, pain in the neck, hang-up
            “pseudoscience is a perennial bugbear for legitimate researchers”

    7. SophieChotek

      I am fact-checker also (guess there are a lot of us here!)
      But like most people have already said, I wouldn’t be sending team-wide emails to correct casual conversations in the hall.
      Like Bookworm wrote — looking it up to satisfy one’s own curiosity is the reward in itself.
      (I generally don’t send email to people to let them know they’re wrong.
      Except my mother. She’ll often getting those “urban legends” or weird celebrity gossip — so then I might send her an email with “Actually, Robert Redford did not just marry Meryl Streep” sort of thing. But that’s my Mom.)
      I can see myself casually and (hopefully) in a friendly manner disagreeing in the moment, such as “Really? I had heard that actually the Americans won the War for Independence, not the British”…but hopefully I would not come off as too snobbish about it (though, sigh, I know I can…because I know I read a lot…)

      1. Orca

        Oh, the mom email. I once sent back a reply refuting a SUPER ALARMIST email, with links to the correct information, and she STILL insists the original email was right when I bring it up…but she also doesn’t forward me stuff like that anymore, so that’s one bonus.

          1. Kelly L.

            Yep. When it’s alarmist and I Snopes it, I come at it from the angle of “Good news! This isn’t true after all! You don’t need to worry about it!” Results are mixed.

            1. Rusty Shackelford

              That’s the approach I use too. I used to use this a lot on a particular colleague, who eventually responded with “I always know you’ll tell me if these aren’t really true!” At which point I realized she was never going to catch on and start Snopesing it herself, so I gave up and started deleting them unread.

        1. nonegiven

          My mom did that when she first got internet. I broke her from the repeated forwards by using snopes.

          1. nonegiven

            She quit opening forwards unless they were from someone that she knew didn’t send a lot of those.

        2. Lissa

          Yes! It’s hard because I do actually think alarmist emails cause harm, so I have a really hard time just letting it go. Or if I am absolutely convinced a particular story people are circulating as true is actually not…gaaaah!

        3. Temperance

          My mom is the queen of sharing those weird “STARBUCKS HATES OUR TROOPS / HATES JESUS / ATHEISTS ARE STEALING YOUR CHILDREN AND DRINKING THEIR BLOOD” articles on FB. My husband used to debunk them, now we just filter her because her friends are equally stupid.

        4. NotAnotherManager!

          Yes, I got kicked off the forward list, too. Mom forward an email once that wound me up so much I reply-all refuted it point by point with citations. (It was advocating for a type of racial profiling. My mother swears it wasn’t intended to be racist, but it absolutely was and should have been binned as soon as it hit her inbox.) I got dropped from the forward EVERYTHING list quick, fast, and in a hurry, and a small part of me feels bad that I probably embarrassed her in front of her email forwards list. But the larger part of me doesn’t need Comic Sans rainbow picture pick me ups, the “Neiman-Marcus” cookie recipe, or anyone’s casual racism.

        5. Canadian Natasha

          Oh yeah, I hate the alarmist fake stories! In a similar vein, I once (kindly, or so I thought) let a Facebook acquaintance know that the AMBER alert she’d shared was fake (and that it was important to check before sharing since fake amber alerts make the real ones ineffective- I included the snopes link) and got the extremely defensive response from her brother to “check yourself before you wreck yourself”. Because apparently I had called her a heartless sociopath by suggesting she take a minute before forwarding info that affects people’s life or death situations. #facepalm

          But I try to restrain the corrective impulses unless it’s a life-threatening or racist/sexist post. No matter how tempting it is to say No those rainbow tulips are dyed; they did NOT just grow like that! ;)

      2. Loose Seal

        I got into an exchange on Facebook today because they said the primary language in Brazil is Spanish. And when I said it was Portuguese, they doubled-down on it and said that Brazil was nowhere near Portugal so I was wrong. After my head exploded, I did a Let Me Google That For You link for them and left it alone. But wow, right?

        1. Rusty Shackelford

          Don’t be silly. They’re in Latin America. They speak Latin.

          (Yes, I’ve heard this.)

    8. LQ

      I am too. It’s so hard when you have information and you want to share. Or you aren’t sure yourself so you go to look. Or you know exciting thing. Or you know that you’d want to be corrected if you were wrong because who wouldn’t want to know the cool thing or even just that they should bring an umbrella tomorrow.

      It is so hard to not be like, “OH! Cool thing! Let me share!” So hard. Especially if you are trying to find a place for yourself in the world and you want to make friends or at least be seen as friendly and helpful. And if someone came up to you and said “No, it’s totally other cool thing,” you’d be super happy to know them. (And we are told the golden rule is king, lies, all lies.)

      Sometimes it takes a long time to realize not everyone is like you and wants to know all the things about all the things. And sometimes it is really hard to suppress the urge.

      In talking to a person like this if they seem like they are a genuine want to share kind of person it might be worth sharing with them that not everyone is excited to know all the things and that sometimes people are social and interactive because it is the social chatting part that matters more than the content, and that so much correcting people is not winning friends. Bookworm’s rule of self correction only is a good start.

      Personally, I try to do a multistep check. Is this fact actually important to help move forward the work. (Not the conversation.) Is this fact substantially wrong or confusing. (If it is a minor correction, don’t do it.) And who will I potentially impact by speaking up. (And what are the consequences.)
      And if I keep my mouth shut I can go for a walk/get a cookie/whatever reward, because we are all Pavlovian.

      1. Bookworm

        I’m exactly the same way! Especially if it’s something that most people mix up, I always want to jump up like, “that’s a common misconception!” For whatever reason, I find that fun – even if I’m on the corrected end….

        1. LQ

          Me too. It is learning new things! I love learning new things!

          But sometimes I have to keep my mouth shut. (Or send an email to my friend who also likes to really learn new things, that’s my best outlet. OH! People at work said thing, I looked it up and OH! COOL NEW STUFF! Which always sends him off on a spiral of finding new things too.)

    9. Dust Bunny

      I fact-check because I find that kind of thing interesting, but I don’t correct people unless there is an important reason to do so (unless it might impact our work), and if I have to do it then, I try to be gentle. If it’s casual conversation, forget it.

      My father will fact check and then correct even trivial things and it’s incredibly obnoxious. His family has an egotistical streak and a weird need to be experts on things about which they don’t actually know anything. He’s great at spouting a few facts and missing the larger context. And he gets angry if you try to correct him, so we don’t have any recourse. Once in awhile, he really misinterprets something and embarrassess himself (or would embarrass himself if he were able to admit he’d messed up).

    10. Lora

      I managed one of these and we made it into a game where every day someone had to take a turn providing the Interesting Fact Of The Day. The fact-checkers got their groove on, the facts got less trivial, and they also learned that sometimes, occasionally, other people are right too and it’s not always your turn to speak.

      Although to be honest, my first reaction was a bit like the manager in the factory where Elwood Blues went to submit his resignation: *blinkblink* “Uh, OK…Well, thank you, Elwood.” *blinkblink*

    11. INTP

      I’m a bit of a fact checker and correcter too. In my case it goes back to family dynamics – my parents valued fact and reason above all else, the only way to get someone to listen to your point of view was to prove them factually incorrect or logically inconsistent, and you weren’t allowed to get your feelings hurt over facts, if you don’t want someone to aggressively point out that you are wrong then don’t be wrong in the first place. So I was in college before I realized that it isn’t unreasonable of people to get their feelings hurt by me correcting them, and it’s a trait that still comes out unconsciously when I’m trying to be taken seriously.

      So in this case, I can simultaneously empathize with this woman and whatever well of insecurity or instability she has that she thinks she can soothe by being righter than others all the time…and yet find that behavior completely crazy and intolerable! (I know my background isn’t universal amongst fact checkers, but ime most correcters are acting out of insecurity, and as you pointed out, she’s not just fact-checking but publicly correcting everyone.) It would be nice if someone that has a good rapport with her could point out how it’s coming across.

      1. Not So NewReader

        … you weren’t allowed to get your feelings hurt over facts….

        So while it’s a FACT that sometimes puppies die, I am still going to blat my eyes out if it is MY puppy.
        Grrrr. You have my sympathy, that is very hard to be around.

        Our choices are we can be right all the time or we can have friends. We can’t have both, so we have to pick which one is most important to us. What is missing here is depth of understanding. While it is a fact that sometimes young beings die, it is also a fact that sometimes people cry because they lost their pup/kitten/bird/whatever.

        My parents placed a high value on being right all the time. At some point, I realized that did not help them too much in life, in some ways it lead to a shallower understanding of how life works. But, for the rest of my life, I will have a higher awareness of similar types of people. And I am also aware that the “always righters” often end up feeling very alone in this world and wondering why. And I have noticed that with “always righters” the harder life gets for them the greater the need is to always be right.

    12. Mona Lisa

      I do this a lot, too, but I usually only follow-up if it’s pressing (like Wendy’s highway example) or if there’s a particularly interesting piece of information I found related to the discussion topic.

  3. Melody

    Isn’t there a website that gives you company reviews including perspective on interviews. It’s late and in too tired to look it up.

      1. Mephisto

        Ha, now it looks like we were all fact checking each other… I did not see the other responses when I posted, I apologize.

  4. Bookworm

    For #2, I like Alison’s wording. I also want to note that I don’t think you should feel too awkward here. If they’re the ones who’ve looped in a whole team, they should be prepared for your reply to go to that team, even if that reply confirms they should have had the information the whole time. (Or at least confirms that they should have checked with you a second time before looping in your boss.)

    It is always possible that your e-mail did disappear, so it’s best to give the benefit of the doubt just in case.

    1. Engineer Girl

      I agree. I had one coworker do this repeatedly, including publicly chastising me in front of our customer. I would reply all back and include the email(s). I’d also state that “if anyone has any questions at all about this feel free to email me. You can also phone me at xxxxxxx”
      It let everyone know I did my job, that I was willing to provide additional info, and that the perpetrator could have just as easily followed up by phone.
      It became a running joke that Fergus doesn’t read his emails.

      1. BetsyTacy

        I have a (terrible) manager who, among other things, will tell us that she is waiting on a reply/asking why we didn’t respond/checking for the answer by sending an email response to the original question that just says ‘????’.

        I also respond by just forwarding my previously sent email with a brief note (she rarely reads past the first line) that says something similar. Because it is the same person who repeatedly does this to me, I don’t apologize or offer an alternate explanation. If it’s someone outside my organization or someone who doesn’t often do this, I’m much more apt to be warmer in my note.

        1. NotAnotherManager!

          The question marks set my teeth on edge just reading your post. My husband does that to me sometimes, and it drive me CRAZY (as does his “HELLO???” texts when I am on the goddamn metro and getting shitty signal in the tunnel and did not reply to your message because just received it with the 5 other texts you are snippily seeking an answer to, keep your pants on, dude. Ahem. Where was I?).

          I have told my employees that their communication must include at least one properly capitalized, grammatically correct sentence to make it worth sending. No text speak, no punctuation/emoticon-only sentences — no one should have to guess at why they’re contacting you.

    2. Not So NewReader

      I have had so many emails disappear on me. I think it happens a lot more than we think. I have had times where I was able to get confirmation that a person sent an email on a specific date and time. Sometimes I would not get the email for days and if I did not go back and check previous days I would not see where it jumped in. Other times it never arrived at all. Email is great 95% of the time. But for super important stuff, I back it up with a phone call or I send a separate email asking them to make sure they got the super important email. (I do this verrry rarely, so as to not be annoying. Usually the instances I have done it the person thanks me for making sure they had what they needed.)

      With people who seem to lose my emails regularly, the thing I have found effective is to say I am concerned that there is an unknown problem in the email system.” I think we should put our heads together and figure out where the problems are.” I will tell the person that I will send them the email then send a second message asking if they got it. People don’t like the redundancy here. I blame “the system”(knowing that it is probably not the system’s fault) and show concern for their problem. Suddenly, the problem dries up and goes away and they are able to find my emails. It’s a miracle.

      1. chocolate lover

        Sometimes, things really do disappear. A business partner called a colleague, angry because neither of us responded to any of his emails – except we never received any emails. Turns out there was some kind of communication issue between our two systems, and his emails weren’t coming through. My colleague had called our support desk for help figuring out the problem, and within minutes of fiddling with it, 4 or 5 emails came through, dated within the last 3 days.

        Up until we figured that out, I’m pretty sure our business partner thought we were claiming the dog ate our homework.

      2. TootsNYC

        I use Outlook on a Mac, and I have found that sometimes it’s not the stuff disappears, but that the Search function won’t FIND it.

        Especially if you’ve searched for it before that day, and opened it, or something (or sometimes not opened it, just searched for it) a later search won’t show it. But it’s there.

        I have to clear Spotlight, or synchronize, or reindex. Or clear plist files (though clearing Spotlight is usually enough). And then the Search will work.

    3. Karo

      Seriously. Especially considering that if you don’t reply all, what winds up happening is that the random exec that gets copied in each time starts thinking that you can’t do your job. Sure, your boss knows, but if she has to justify you to her bosses, she could be fighting a losing battle because they have this strong misconception of you that you’ve done nothing to combat.

  5. Engineer Girl

    #1 This sounds so much like Aspie behavior. Now it could be know it all self esteem issues as Alison stated. But it sounds to me more like Aspie literalist behavior and seeking THE TRITH (because the truth is very important). Either way Alison’s suggestion on wording is good.

    1. Sami

      There are loads of people who like to fact-check things, me included, who aren’t an Aspie or anywhere on the autism spectrum.
      And who do or do not share their results.
      So it matters not someone’s potential diagnosis (which we absolutely cannot do via an anonymous internet post). So the only thing that matters is how to politely handle it.

      1. Engineer Girl

        I do not diagnose but wish to put forward a benign alternative to what AAM calls “know-it-all-ism”. That statement alone assumes a motive that may not correct. You can create big conflicts when you assume someone’s motives.

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger

          There could be many reasons for the coworker’s behavior, it’s true, but Alison has previously asked commenters not to speculate about Asperger’s, mental health issues, or other diagnoses for letter-writers or the people they’re writing about. Besides, the thing that’s ultimately important to most work situations is the impact of a behavior, not its underlying cause. (For what it’s worth, I read “know-it-all-ism” simply as a description of the behavior – it doesn’t imply to me they Alison was suggesting the coworker had self esteem issues.)

        2. Myrin

          But you don’t create conflicts if you react the same way regardless of the reason for someone’s bizarre behaviour.

        3. Amtelope

          It’s not okay behavior, though, regardless of the cause, and I don’t think the motivations for the behavior matter much to figuring out a response.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

            Seriously.

            I’m getting super tired of The Internet ascribing [this new negative behavior] to “maybe he’s Aspie”, as if there weren’t a ton of non Aspie asses in the universe.

            I raised a very polite son, who happens to be Aspie, thankyouvery much.

            I’ll sit here and wait for the FIRST time I hear [positive behavior] oh he must be Aspie. This constant negative association is the worst PR for Autism ever.

            1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

              And why did I say “Aspie”? I never use that.

              My son is on the Autism spectrum. We’ve stopped using even “Aspergers” and are going with the naked “autism spectrum” because that’s what my adult son prefers.

              1. LQ

                You said it because the people above you said it and using someone’s language can help bring them around to see us as people even if we are on the other side of an argument and you were trying to make your point in a way that they would understand? Also I kind of love naked autism spectrum and wish there was a podcast called that. I would listen now.

              2. MommaTRex

                My adult autism-spectrum son is really good at poker. He has learned to hide his reactions really well in order to avoid teasing, and he has learned to read others’ tells – behavior that the rest of us might ignore, but stands out to him.

                Just had to throw out one possible “must-be-an-Apsie” positive behavior.

                Oh – also the ability to find out what sound is driving babies to cry that the other adults in the room can’t hear!

            2. Tau

              +1000

              I’m on the spectrum, and I swear to god every single comment along these lines makes me that little bit less likely to disclose to people. One more little jab reminding me that this is what people think of when they hear the word “Asperger’s” or “autism”, and do I really want to get tarred with that brush?

              It’s also truly astonishing, the number of diagnostic geniuses out there. I got diagnosed in my early twenties and the whole process was an ordeal that took almost a year, involved not just me but my mother having to fill out a detailed questionnaire about my childhood and culminated in a several-hour interview with a specialist in the area. (In fact, my mother only narrowly escaped one of those herself.) My official DX is over ten pages long and involves comparing me against something like a dozen diagnostic criteria from multiple categories. Given that, it’s amazing how so many people on the internet can, from a brief, third-hand report of a not particularly unusual behaviour, come to the conclusion of “oh, autistic spectrum.” They should really let the guy who diagnosed me know how they do it – imagine how much time he could save!

        4. neverjaunty

          1) your very first sentence was a diagnosis

          2) as a long-time commenter, you should be well aware that Alison has asked us not to diagnose people like this, and has EXPLICITLY told people in the past it’s not helpful to do so

          3) people with Asperger’s are perfectly capable of being jerks or nice people all on their own.

        5. Ask a Manager Post author

          From the commenting rules:

          “Please don’t armchair-diagnose others (“it sounds like your coworker is autistic/has borderline personality disorder/etc.”). We can’t diagnose based on anecdotes on the internet, these statements often stigmatize people with those diagnoses, and it’s generally not useful to focus on disorders rather than practical advice for dealing with the person in question anyway.”

          Whether or not you agree with that, I do ask that the rule be followed here. Thank you.

        6. Mookie

          It’s still “know-it-all-ism” no matter who’s doing it and for what reason or pathology you might suggest. And neuroatypical people are equally capable of recognizing it in themselves and others and curbing it in the case of the former.

        7. Observer

          It really doesn’t make a difference. Allison is describing a behavior, and it doesn’t make a difference WHAT the reason is. There could be many reasons for it, and many of them are equally benign. But, ultimately, it’s really not useful, as the behavior is still problematic.

          And, the behavior itself is annoying, weird and inappropriate enough, that point a finger at Aspergers, when it’s not especially accurate is stigmatizing. I know that’s not your intent, but that’s what happens.

    2. Jeanne

      It sounds to me like old-fashioned know-it-all behavior combined with the danger of the internet. It doesn’t matter if the rain storm is coming in 45 min instead of 20 min. I think you either have to ignore her or end your casual conversations when she joins you. Engaging her is unlikely to help.

      1. Random Lurker

        I took it a completely different way. These are conversations that the coworker overheard – not conversations she participated in. Is it possible that this is her very socially awkward way of trying to belong, by inserting herself into the conversation?

        Regardless, it’s annoying. I’d follow Alison’s advise to ignore it. I’m not sure I’d call her out on it, but we all have our own nails on a chalkboard.

    3. Jess

      Nah. My husband used to do this and he’s not on the spectrum. When we were dating I asked him to knock it off because it got on my nerves constantly feeling like I had to have footnote citations every time I talked to him and he mostly did. He actually just fact checked me recently for the first time in years (something dumb, like which actor played some role in a movie) and found I was wrong. When he told me I deadpanned, “Thank you so much for fact checking that. It was an important issue and I really feel like I learned a lot,” and he got the message and said he wouldn’t do it again.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

        Cough.

        My husband complains that I do this. It never occurred to me to stop.

        Cough.

        (Come on, who wouldn’t want to know the correct answer? I fact check myself!)

        Cough.

        1. Jess

          Ha! Mine too. He’s a lawyer and his gleeful fact checking serves him very well at work. When we first got serious he needed occasional reminding that I was his girlfriend, not opposing counsel. He really is very good about it though. :-D

          1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

            You might just have saved my marriage. ;)

            I’ll just have to bite my tongue if I think but am not sure that it was really beloved character actress Margo Martindale who was in that role. (Siri is right there! All we have to do is ask her!)

            Yes, I hung out in libraries when I was a kid and yes I have called reference librarians back in the very old days. What of it?

            1. Jess

              Hey, for important stuff, I want him to fact check away! But for things that don’t really matter, like whether we left on a Thursday or a Friday for that long weekend we spent in Chicago four years ago, I prefer he just lets it go rather than interrupt the conversation to correct me, you know?

              1. Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude

                Meant to say more, there… I think this really can undermine a relationship, though–if someone I spend lots of time with is constantly checking everything I say, even if I AM wrong a lot (Tony Curtis IS dead, dammit), it’s gonna make me feel like I have to run everything I say through my head before I speak, checking “can I back that up? Am I sure about that?” It gives the impression that their default assumption is that I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.

                In courtrooms and academic papers, fine, but if every conversation turns into a game of ‘Gotcha’ (which is a fine game if both people consent to playing) I will get the strong impression that the other person cares more about winning–or just proving I’m stupid–than about actually interacting with me. It’s tedious and insulting.

                There are plenty of ways to be intellectually curious and look things up without introducing massive condescension into the mix, though, and I don’t mean to cast aspersions on anyone’s relationship!

                1. Jess

                  That’s how I felt too. If every banal conversation or how was your day catch up was going to turn into a cross examination to poke holes in my story (if you’re mistaken about some of it are you mistaken about all of it?), I wasn’t in for that. For new lawyers, apparently it can sometimes be hard to turn off. I also had to flag for him that every time I’d say, “I’d like to try X new thing,” he’d reply, “Here are ABCDEFG reasons that it might fail.” I finally had to sit him down and tell him that I wasn’t his client, I wasn’t going to sue him for malpractice if a goal I had didn’t pan out because he didn’t flag a pitfall for me, just be quiet and supportive. When I laid it out bluntly he got it.

        2. Oryx

          Ha, I realized I was doing this with really trivial stuff and I forced myself to stop because I realized it really just does not matter if my boyfriend thinks Actress X starred in that movie when it was really Actress Y. I know the right answer / I knew what he meant and that’s good enough for me.

        3. SusanIvanova

          Back in the days of Usenet, there was a saying that the fastest way to get an answer wasn’t to post a question, but to post a *wrong* answer – people would fall over themselves to be the first to “correct” you.

          So it’s a very strong instinct and you shouldn’t feel bad :)

      2. TootsNYC

        Whether it’s offensive or not is often influenced by the tone.

        Someone who says, “Hmm, I don’t think that was Actor A. Now I’m really curious, I need to know” if very different from someone who says, “No, it can’t have been Actor A. I’m going to check, because I think you’re wrong.”

        1. LQ

          I think this is very true. The other side of this is when they find the information if they are wrong how they respond. Do they sulk at all? Or are they “Oh, you’re right it’s totally Actor C. And they were in X too! That’s so cool!”

    4. Elizabeth West

      Nah, I do that all the time (I don’t always post or say it, though), and I’m as far away from Aspie as you can get. But I will look because I’m insatiably curious.

    5. Dust Bunny

      I’m an Aspie (and a fact-checker) and it’s not an excuse to be a jerk.

      My dad is also an Aspie and fact-checker and he’s annoying beyond belief, not because of the fact-checking itself but because he’s arrogant about it and gets mean when you call him on it. But that’s not “Aspie behavior”: That’s egotism and insecurity.

    6. Koko

      I’m not on the spectrum but I would say that I’ve always been active as an intellectual – in gifted classes as a kid, got a graduate degree, high-performing at school and work, voracious reader, obsessively study things on the internet for fun (“I wonder how my car’s engine works…”).

      One of the things it took me a long time to realize was that everyone else didn’t need to know everything I know and that sometimes it’s OK to let someone be wrong. I think coming from an academic background that was especially hard because I knew so much and truth was such an important value that it almost felt like I had an obligation to speak up or I was somehow complicit in misinformation. Eventually I reframed the way I thought about it, that maybe it actually doesn’t matter if Obscure Event happened in 1962 or 1963, and correcting the other person is just going to derail what was an otherwise pleasant conversation and turn it into a potentially awkward minor conflict.

      I actually think it was the “Actually…” storyline from HIMYM that really drove it home for me. The gang hated how Ted was constantly saying, “Actually,–” and then correcting someone or offering up some trivia. And the thing was, what he was saying was always true and accurate. But nobody cared or wanted to hear it, and it came across as pretentious. That’s part of what helped me realize I didn’t always have to share everything I knew about everything just because I know it.

      1. Alix

        I like that reframing. What helped me get over my own bout of know-it-all-ism (my knowledge + my research skills were, for a time, the only things I was proud of, so I really felt the urge to obsessively show them off) was reframing it in my own head as me being a resource others could draw on if they wanted to, like all the random crap I fact-checked (because there’s nothing wrong with private fact-checking!) was a well they could draw from. I didn’t have to drown them in my mad trivia skillz.

        There are a few topics I just can’t get over the correcting on, so I try not to talk about those unless the people I’m speaking with are prepared. In general, though, it helps to remind myself that, unless it’s a really important or urgent correction, if I do offer correction, I need to do it in a way that’s not annoying and doesn’t make others feel stupid or confronted. The vast majority of the time, that kills my urge to correct someone, especially publicly or as a whole group.

  6. other rick

    OP#1, I used to be that co-worker (although not hours later or on group emails). What cured me of it was my best work buddy throwing obviously wrong or false information about non-work things into work meetings and signaling me that he knew he was triggering my fact-checking instinct. A less friendly workplace (and I’ve been in them) would bait your co-worker and take wagers on which false assertions she would call out.

    1. Not So NewReader

      LOL. Your best bud played that one well. I hope you didn’t get too mad at him for too long. Life is easier now that you are not fact checking everything, right? Good for you for making changes in what you were doing.

    2. DaBlonde

      I need a work buddy like that. Someone to perform exposure therapy until I am able to just sit calmly and let the unimportant errors float on by.

  7. periwinkle

    #2 – My employer likes personality assessments. I don’t know why. Our team did find them helpful as a discussion point but they’re not some magical elixir.

    A (rather horrible, toxic, and thankfully now GONE) project leader once demanded that one of my colleagues take a particular personality assessment; that leader was known to judge people by the results and insist that certain personality types were superior. Yeah. So we conspired to come up with a persona that the leader would like – a cheerful tyrant. Ever since, my colleague has imitated that persona when requested to take a personality assessment. It has some elements of his actual personality but you’d never look at the results and know it’s him!

    So OP #2, you could come up with a persona and answer the assessment from your alter ego’s point of view. This is assuming that HR isn’t going to be daft and base your employee development plan on one goofball personality test, of course…

    1. Anonypsy

      Yes, we’ve discussed this topic here before. Apparently it hadn’t occured to some people that nothing is easier than to cheat on those stupid tests. If you’re afflicted with the Meyer-Briggs idiocy for instance, the net is full of what the suits think should be a good personality for your job, you just need to inflect your answers in that direction snd voila! perfect employee. Please don’t make a big issue of refusing a bit of performance, no actual psychotherapy is required for HR..

      1. FiveWheels

        Yeah, I don’t understand why people can be so bothered by these tests. If your boss is gonna be a jerk based on results, they’re easy to fake. If you’re boss is gonna be a jerk based on your actual work personality, she doesn’t need a test to do it.

        1. Mike C.

          I’ll tell you why – there’s significant evidence showing that these tests are absolutely useless and no different from other bunk scientific claims. This leads to wasted money and resources and decisions based on little more than modern astrology.

          1. Mookie

            And the entirely unscientific results can be stigmatizing in the wrong environment. They aren’t banal; they’re actively harmful and misleading.

            1. Jayn

              This. There’s been some concern that such tests can discriminate against the neuroatypical. “Useless waste of time and money” is the best case scenario IMHO.

                1. FiveWheels

                  If used correctly, MBTI will describe preferences for interacting with the world and that’s all. It doesn’t attempt to describe interests or skills.

                  An ESFJ and INTP are just ah likely to be good attorneys, though will perhaps have different ideal ways of working.

                  In a workplace the idea is, as I understand it, to say “this guy is introverted. If he’s not chatting that doesn’t mean he’s grumpy – it just means he’s recharging energy.”

                  Sure, bad bosses could misuse that, but those bad bosses can also discriminate based on simply observing your personality.

                  For the record I’m INTP and routinely score 100% preference on each of the categories. Except for I, all of those points are immediately obvious to anyone spending any time with me. It’s not really secret information.

                  And if you genuinely think it’s an invasion of privacy… Mark your answers as 65% ESFP or ENTJ depending on whether you want people to think you have a cuddly or scary persona.

          2. Anonymous Educator

            Seems a bit of a false dichotomy to say that they’re either scientific or total bunk. There’s nothing scientific about the term “vegetarian,” but if I tell you I’m a vegetarian, you know I don’t eat meat. It’s not an official classification or likely genetically determined. It’s also not a meaningless term. It conveys information.

            If you view Myers-Briggs as some answer to the life, the universe, and everything, then obviously you’re inflating its value, but it does provide a vocabulary to articulate certain ways people interact with the world.

            Is there anything “scientific” about the terms “fired” and “laid off”? No. They’re just two ways of describing nuances in a termination. Likewise, there’s nothing “scientific” about the terms “introvert” and “extrovert” as Myers-Briggs uses them. Doesn’t matter. Still helps people to categorize things.

            1. Sue Wilson

              We’re talking about a test itself though, not the conclusion it might have. The test can be deduced for scientific rigor and should be, since it’s a test. But if you want to say “what animal/flower/Beach Boy are you?” tests and the like have an importance in categorizing yourself, go ahead.

            2. Mookie

              Nope, the scientific method describes a specific process that generates results (or tests for results) and can be verified for accuracy based on best known evidence, repeatability, and reproducibility. Personality tests aren’t scientific. It’s not a matter of opinion. They are random, biased, culturally-constricted, often contradict one another, and produce different results under the same conditions.

            3. stevenz

              Personality tests and other such things should undergo a great deal of scrutiny to assure that they are of value. The kinds of things employers are enamoured with like Myers Briggs, have been shown by such analysis to have no predictive value, and cannot be used to accurately assess a person’s fitness for a job. IQ tests, Rorschach tests, MMPI, etc have been tested and shown to have valid predictive effects. They’re either predictive (science) or they’re not (bunk). But the point is, they have no place in the work environment because they:
              1. Lack scientific validity, and
              2. Are being interpreted by people who have no training in personality assessment, and therefore it’s like giving a monkey a pistol.

      2. Joseph

        “If you’re afflicted with the Meyer-Briggs idiocy for instance, the net is full of what the suits think should be a good personality for your job, you just need to inflect your answers in that direction snd voila! perfect employee. ”
        The really ironic part is that if they actually managed to get a team which was composed exclusively of their “ideal” personality type, it would be horribly, horribly dysfunctional. If you’re in management, you might think a strong-willed, take charge type is ideal, but it’s going to end in disaster when a crisis come and all of your “My Way or the Highway” managers are digging in their heels since there’s no “less desirable” joking/patient/relaxed personality types to help reduce the tension.

      3. Not So NewReader

        Why should I have to cheat on a test to keep my job or keep my work environment on an even keel? And what else do I have to cheat on in order to remain employed in a semi-decent environment?

        I hate all the second guessing stuff. For me it is a huge brain drain. I am not a good liar. I would have to literally memorize the desired answers. This to me is a huge waste of my time. I remember one test I took, there was a question “do you trust police officers”. I said “yes”. I got fired. I guess I was supposed to put “no”? So I lost the job that was helping me to pay for my wedding and helping me to pay some other expenses because of my mother’s terminal illness. And, they had told me that no one got fired because of the test results. I guess I was the exception?
        These tests mess with people’s lives and their ability to support themselves. So, yeah, I am strongly against them. I favor manager’s learning actual management skills, instead. I don’t think people should have to become liars to keep their jobs.

            1. Not So NewReader

              Well, I was fired right after taking the test. I asked if it was because of the test and they said yes. Then I asked why I was told the test would not impact my continued employment and they just shrugged. So I never found out why I got fired for doing poorly on a test that supposedly I could not be fired for doing poorly on.

          1. Not So NewReader

            My panic brain latched on to that question. The test was long, there were many questions. I guess at that time I felt the police question was one of the more ridiculous ones. Reality is that it could have been any of the questions and clearly it was a few of them or I would not have been fired.

            My score was compared to a control group of all white males. The company ended up in court over this test. And the court ruled that it was biased based on gender and race. The company had to ditch the test.

      4. neverjaunty

        That was kind of needlessly condescending. The issue isn’t really whether it’s possible to cheat on a personality test, but the fact that they’re being required in the first place, meaning the OP would need to guess what result her particular “suits” are looking for, prepare to and then game the results, and then hope that they didn’t end up with workplace consequences she didn’t intend.

        I mean, if you think “the suits” want to hear you’re an ENTP, and you’re an introverted person who prefers not to work on team projects, you just screwed yourself if they now decide you’re a “high E” and start assigning you to exactly the sort of projects you hate.

      5. themmases

        The OP wasn’t even told how the tests will be used.

        If it will influence what types of projects people get, they might want to be truthful even though they feel violated. If it will just be discussed in some team-building exercise, the OP might just want to answer some questions wrong to avoid a touchy-feely discussion of their “real” personality.

    2. Lora

      I’ve had managers and colleagues use their Myers-Briggs personality type as an excuse for why they didn’t have to be decent human beings who got along with their colleagues or were good managers, because “that’s just not my personality!” – but we were also, of course, not allowed to judge their fitness for their job by the same metrics, including sending them to training of any sort on how to act like a person instead of a douchebag, because the personality tests weren’t to be used for such decisions.

      You might as well go ahead and categorize employees by zodiac signs. As a Capricorn with Leo ascending, I am a natural leader AND a know-it-all, so I think I’d be the perfect COO…

      1. periwinkle

        Another of my colleagues is certified to administer several of these tests. She is always very, very clear when discussing the tests and outcomes that:
        1. The test is a reflection of how you felt at that moment.
        2. The test results indicate your preferences. You are not your preferences and you are capable of behaving in ways that don’t fall within your primary preference.
        3. Your ‘type’ is never, never, ever an excuse for being a jerk.

        As an Aquarius with the moon in Virgo, I am a robot emotionally detached from humanity and should be kept far, far away from people. Hey, maybe there’s something in this astrology stuff after all, especially if it gets me a private office…

        1. FiveWheels

          Exactly. They are meant to indicate preferences – not behaviours, not skills, not strengths.

          Bad managers will misuse them, but that’s a problem with bad managing, not MBTI.

          1. Lora

            Totally agree. I tend to think it’s the social skills management rank thing someone mentioned above – the higher-ups are often considerably less blunt, to the point that they risk their message being misheard/diluted. As in, “Are you sure this personality testing will be value-added?” does not get interpreted as “learn some real skills instead of using this as a crutch for your total lack of management” but instead, “I don’t know, do whatever you want if you feel that strongly about it”.

            Blessedly I have not had to shoot down this particular flavor of palm-reading, but I have had other occasions to raise an eyebrow and ask, “are you saying that you are struggling with your soft skills and need help? because [corporation] does have training that I can make available to you. We can put it on your Development Plan so you can get credit for it too.” Oddly enough as soon as it becomes their personal problem as a manager, as opposed to the problem of all these lousy employees they’ve been burdened with managing, they are no longer interested.

        2. myswtghst

          I train a very simplified version of MBTI, and I do something quite similar when we discuss results – highlighting that this is a really simplified description of your “at work” personality. We focus on it more from the angle of “different people prefer to communicate differently” and use it to help customer service employees think about how they interact with customers. Recently a lot of them have provided feedback (directly to me or indirectly via anonymous surveys and my teammates) about how helpful it was for them to realize not everyone wants to communicate the way they do, so I think it can be beneficial if framed effectively.

          Then again, we don’t make anyone post a sign at their desk describing their personality type, so maybe that helps… ;)

          1. Vicki

            “Then again, we don’t make anyone post a sign at their desk describing their personality type, so maybe that helps… ;)”

            Given that the ethics of the MBTI certification process explicit state that the ony person who gets the results is the person who took the assessment and they do not have to share them with ANYone unless they want to… that’s good. :)

      2. Rusty Shackelford

        Yes. I had a manager who made everyone take some kind of personality test (don’t remember if it was M-B or something else) and the entire purpose was that it would explain why her favorite employee acted a certain way, and what we needed to do/how we needed to change to make this person’s life easier.

    3. Lemon Zinger

      We recently had all-staff training. Everyone on the team was there, including our regionals who live out of state. On two separate days, we were forced to take the PETS and Myers-Briggs tests. We were then grouped according to our types and led in discussion “exercises.” It was humiliating and DEFINITELY caused an “us vs. them” feeling to permeate the room. Ostensibly, this was supposed to be team-building, but I’m sure management was carefully noting our results.

      My PETS results are posted on a wall in the office right now. I think I’ll go scratch my name off.

      1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

        We are supposed to keep our results posted in our cubes “so that others know how to interact with you”. Absurd, as I had no problems interacting with people before this personality assessment. I’m glad I “lost” my result shortly after I received it…

      2. FiveWheels

        I’m curious as to how it was stigmatised – was one type presented as better out worse than others?

        1. Lemon Zinger

          Yes, very much so. The introverted people who prefer to work alone were given a bunch of “tips” about how to improve, while the extroverts who enjoy group collaboration were praised and only told to “be a little empathetic towards those who are not like you.”

          It was appalling.

          1. Vicki

            In what they told you was an MBTI workshop?!?!?!?

            I’m feeling like channeling Alison now and asking for the name of the facilitator. This is SO Very Much against the ethics of the MBTI, I have to wonder if this was a qualified / certified practitioner or someone who gave you a knockoff workshop. (Note that most if what you find on the www is a knockoff).

            Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

      3. Vicki

        “we were forced to take the PETS and Myers-Briggs tests. We were then grouped according to our types and led in discussion “exercises.” It was humiliating and DEFINITELY caused an “us vs. them” feeling to permeate the room.”

        If this is true, your MBTI practitioner should have their qualifications revoked.
        Yes, we group people by their types. NO it is not humiliating and never an excuse for “us vs them”. It’s meant to be a way to understand that all types are valuable.

        I hate people who misuse these things. They do a disservice to people like me, @myswtghst, @periwinkle’s coworker, …

    4. Vicki

      I was going to suggest this. If you truly don’t want to do the assessment as yourself, do it as someone else. Just be certain that your alter ego has a result the company would like.

      OP – I’d love to know which assessment they want you to take… and what they expect to do with the results. (If they won’t tell you the later, push back… harder.)

  8. caryatis

    >I know I can’t tell them not to socialize with him on a personal level, even though they’ve all known each other less than a year and I don’t understand why they would want to anyway.

    OP #4: Sometimes, people who’ve known each other less than a year still like each other. I’m kind of baffled that you don’t understand this.

    1. Aella

      But not, perhaps, when one of them left the department in a hole. If there’s no longstanding friendship, it would certainly put me off.

      1. FiveWheels

        Only if the people are really invested in the job. If they do their work but don’t get involved in the success of the department/company as a whole, I wouldn’t expect them to dislike someone just for managing poorly

        1. Isabel C.

          Agreed. There are plenty of people I wouldn’t want to work with or for, but who I like a lot socially.

      2. Jen RO

        Maybe the employees don’t agree that the department was in a hole, or maybe the previous supervisor blamed the problems on someone else, or they like the former supervisor as a person and they don’t care about the work issues when they go out for drinks, or….

        1. Erin

          Yeah, I’d agree that maybe the previous supervisor did things very differently but was a great manager/mentor to the employees. To OP, it looks like everything is a mess, but we only have his perspective here. I’m curious if any of the employees’ work was impacted by the previous manager’s departure.

          1. B

            First, I should have mentioned – I am friends with this person outside of work – it’s not about them being friends or social that is the problem. It’s about specifically work social events. And for the background – this person left the company while I was on extended leave, with only people who had very little experience left to fend for themselves, and yes, they have all been very angry about the position they were put in. They all agree things were a mess and whenever something goes wrong, it is now a running joke that they blame it on the former manager, whether that person was the source of the issue or not. But there were some things in my original email that were unclear, or that I should have included that I didn’t – a year can sound like a lot, but it is odd for people who have know him for 6 months to meet him for lunch and bring employees who have only been there for a week – and then when I speak to the former manager, he asks me all kinds of questions about project things he heard from these people. Also, my boss (pres. of company) gets really upset and will not even attend events this other person attends. So I am stuck figuring out how to get it across to my employees that they are upsetting higher ups. So, commenters can boil it down to me being petty, or not understanding how friendships work, but it’s really more complicated than that.

            1. Roscoe

              Well, you can’t really do much about them going to lunch with him, or really inviting people either. Its their lunch break and they can spend it how they like. Now you can tell them that since he isn’t an employee anymore, that they shouldn’t be discussing project information with him. But again, if its not “sensitive” information, even that can be a bit of an over step. Like if he was a part of this project before he left, it isn’t necessarily the worst thing to ask about it later.

              1. B

                I wouldn’t ever tell them not to go to lunch with him. I did it myself last week. It was more of an explanation for the person saying they were baffled why I couldn’t understand people might like each other after knowing each other for less than a year. I was explaining that it is way less than a year for some of them and just some of the other facets of the situation, i.e. some of them never even met him before they were hired and they are being brought to these lunches – which I view as bizarre.

            2. TootsNYC

              Maybe all the impetus here is coming from that former manager, and they don’t know how to say no.
              And maybe the employees are bringing someone else along as a barrier.

              . So I am stuck figuring out how to get it across to my employees that they are upsetting higher ups.

              I think you sit them down and say, “It is really awkward for you to include this person in work-related events. He doesn’t work here anymore, you are all well aware of why he left. If you’re planning a work-anniversary party, he shouldn’t be included.”

              And you can say, “He’s not allowed in the office, period. You aren’t to discuss work projects with him. Here’s a script you could use with him–it might help if everybody replied in the same way.”

              1. B

                Thank you for your thoughts – I will take that into consideration when determining how to speak to them.

            3. Observer

              Well, you have several different issues here.

              1. “Why they would want to do that” – Totally not relevant.

              2. Bringing him in and showing him computers – it’s not appropriate and you can just tell people that straight out.

              3. Telling him about work stuff.
              a. If there is ANY level of confidentiality, you need to tell people to knock it off. Period. This person does not work here, and you don’t get to share confidential stuff with people who don’t work here, unless they have been hired to work on that project.
              b. Even if it’s just that the boss is ticked off, you can still tell people to stop this. Your boss is the person who gets to decide how much business information gets shared, and with whom. CLEARLY Boss doesn’t want any information to be shared with Old Manager. So, you tell staff “Boss has said that we are not to share work information with Old Manager.” And, then follow through with that, as best you can.

              4. Work Social evens. If it’s something that the company is paying for, then the boss has the right to decide who gets to attend. It’s going to look kind of petty, but you can tell staff that Old Manager cannot be invited to any event that the office pays for. Make it clear that this is coming from Boss.

              5. Conveying to staff how Boss feels about Old Manager. If you tell people that Boss won’t allow Old Manager to be invited to office functions, you will have broadcast LOUD AND CLEAR that their behavior is upsetting the higher ups. However, I suspect that people already know, and for some reason don’t care. After all, if Boss has refused to attend functions that Old Manager attended, don’t they notice?

              By the way, if I’m right about people not caring that they are upsetting the higher ups, I do think that motive IS relevant. If, for instance, people feel that the higher ups are a bunch of unreasonable people, that’s something you want to know.

              1. B

                1 – I agree on some level that it’s not relevant, but I do like to understand them and their motives a little. Some other commenters have expressed some helpful insight on this.

                5 – I don’t think they know they are upsetting the higher ups yet. This is something my boss just expressed to me last week – there hasn’t been something for him to not show up for yet.

                1. FiveWheels

                  I’d separate their motives from their actions. They might really like this guy, or he has their cat hostage and if they don’t hang out all the time she’ll be disappeared.

                  The problem is the actions. Letting him in to see a work computer – definitely not okay, borderline fireable. Discussing work projects – also not okay and they should be told it’s unacceptable and if it continues to happen it’s a disciplinary issue.

                  Going to work events – at my job even spouses aren’t allowed to attend, so it’s very much down to office culture. But if the higher ups don’t want him there it’s 100% reasonable to tell people, clearly.

                  I’m not sure if they understand how inappropriate it is to discuss work matters and let him use the computers, but they need to be told asap.

        2. BRR

          In my head I picture that all of the things that might have made the former manager a bad manager might make them fun to hang out with.

          1. FiveWheels

            Yep – I’ve had colleagues who are a nightmare to work with and brilliant to have fun with. We can be metaphorically at each others throats Monday to Friday, and best buds at the weekend.

      3. Vicki

        Well, the OP wrote “did not supervise the group at all”. She did not say he left the department in a hole.

        The coworkers may have liked having little supervision. They may have considered this manager to be a friend.

        Given what we know from AAM about being friends with managers, I’m guessing that the two (low supervision and friendship) are related.

        Maybe they were after work buddies.

        He’s not your concern. Leave them be.

    2. Not So NewReader

      The only part of that situation I think OP can respond to is the employees letting the previous manager in the office.
      Other than that, OP, your best bet is to ignore everything else. Just be a good boss. Be fair with people. In time their interest in hanging with the old boss may dwindle.

      Remember there is always more to any given story. It could be that the old boss is having a tough time for a reason. Once the old boss works through that tough spell the employees will move on with their own lives, also. There is usually more to the story on this stuff. Take the high road, assume it has NO reflection on you until you know for absolute certainty otherwise, and focus on doing right by your people.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq

        Even the letting them into the office/look at computers could vary widely depending on the size and culture of the place. I have a couple workplaces where friends still work, and I’ve visited them there from time to time. In either place, if a manager tried to tell them I wasn’t allowed in there, it would be viewed VERY askance by those employees. I’m also curious about looking at computers… do we mean, “here’s some donor data I’m trying to figure this out on, any advice? (aka something that actually IS info the person shouldn’t see if they don’t work there anymore), or is it like they’re all hanging out at the office and someone puts a YouTube video on their screen?

        1. B

          We have to close all of our work before IT will even look at our computer because we work on government projects – so that was actually a major security breach, regardless of what they were looking at. Thanks for your input.

          1. TootsNYC

            I would use that as the trigger for saying: “you may not allow him in the office, and you may not discuss projects with him. Period.”

          2. Observer

            Well, there is your script for the work stuff.

            “Showing Old Manager your computer with work on it is a major breach of security. It can’t happen again. And, while we’re at it, you should not be discussing your work projects with him altogether. We work under tight security rules, and these conversations fall under those rules.”

      2. CM

        I think the OP’s update shows that there is more to this story! Seems like the real problem isn’t the socializing, it’s that (1) Old Manager still sees himself, and OP’s current reports still see him, as being very involved in the actual work that the team does; and (2) OP’s boss does not like this. In the original letter, it sounded to me like showing Old Manager stuff on the computer was an isolated incident, but with the new context I think that’s an example of how the current reports are still treating Old Manager like a coworker.

        So I would explain to the team that while you understand that they’re still close with Old Manager and would never tell them who to socialize with, they need to stop talking to Old Manager in detail about work stuff and definitely not allow OM into the physical workplace or give him access to work resources like computers. Work matters are confidential and that applies to OM too now that he no longer works there. You could also, maybe on a one-on-one basis, diplomatically explain that their grandboss does not like to see OM at work-related social events and that it may reflect badly on them if they bring him along. And when OM talks to you about work stuff, change the subject or tell him that you can’t discuss it with him.

    3. LCL

      It makes sense to me why OP doesn’t get this. Old manager left a mess that OP is spending most of their working hours undoing. OP said ‘now I am stuck fixing everything.” So to OP, old manager is nothing but a problem. To the employees, old manager was their buddy and they still like him, and they really don’t care about OPs troubles because it isn’t their problem.

      I have seen in some jobs where ex managers still try to keep up with their previous workplace, and cause all sorts of problems. Partying with the former co workers is one of their tactics. If OP can continue to ride this out and vent to Ask a Manager, they will do OK.

  9. Akcipitrokulo

    If it’s the MBTI – I’ve got the qualification to administer it – few things to bear in mind:

    1) It *MUST* be voluntary. During the feedback session where your type is decided, it’s one of the first questions – and if there is any hint that it is forced, the process ends there.

    2) It is confidential – you get your result and don’t have to tell it to anyone. The practitioner won’t, and will push back against anyone who wants it.

    3) It CANNOT be used for recruitment, including deciding where to put people in reorganisation, who to promote, or for redundancy considerations (as well as recruiting in first place).

    1. Jeanne

      That sounds more like “should be” than “what is.” Pretty much nothing at work is confidential and I don’t know how you keep them from using the results.

      1. Akcipitrokulo

        You don’t give them the results. This is assuming you’re using a registered practitioner – they are not allowed to give the results to anyone apart from the respondent. They can get their authorisation to administer them removed if they share it with anyone else.

        Now, a bad manager might try to bully the respondent into telling them what they got :( but it the results won’t come from anywhere else.

        Or it might be not an official source or an online thing, which isn’t as regulated.

        Or a different instrument altogether!

        1. The Cosmic Avenger

          Interesting…I’ll bet there are plenty of workplaces where an officer or HR person gets a hold of the test and tries to administer it themselves, or even becomes a registered practitioner but ignores all those pesky requirements. But in that case, the OP can probably report them anonymously to whomever holds the license for the MBTI, and bring down a swarm of lawyers on their head!

        2. F.

          I had to take a battery of tests (including the MBTI) for an employer 31 years ago. Although administered by an outside entity, the results were given to my employer. I was given a copy as a courtesy.

          I agree with Jeanne, a lot of what is supposed to be done in the workplace is not, either due to ignorance or willfully ignoring the regulations. (another reason I had to get out of HR…)

    2. Security SemiPro

      I can see 1 being able to be accomplished, if the test giver is willing to hold straight to their ethics.

      But 2 – the way I usually see these play out is that everyone takes the test, and is put in a room to be given their results, we all get our little packets, and then some trainer starts running activities where sharing the results is necessary to participate. Usually for a day and a half of training. If you don’t share that you’re a Gryffindor, and line up with the other Griffindors, and then discuss what you’ve found to be Griffindor strengths and weaknesses in your workplace, what do you do for that day and a half?

      And 3? After a few rounds of the Sorting Hat, for people who are making the promotion and org decisions, if they are into this stuff, they will use that information, if they know it. Which they will, see above. I don’t see how you can prevent people from using information they believe to be true and valuable to make important decisions. So either its work horoscopes and should be used for entertainment and reflection purposes only, or its a valuable assessment that gives actionable information. (And in cases where I’ve taken similar assessments with small leadership teams, the assessment is absolutely supposed to be used for org decisions, that’s why HR was giving it to us as part of leadership team building and assessment. That wasn’t the MBTI, admittedly, so maybe that tool is designed for that purpose.)

      1. F.

        Why would a company have the test administered to employees if they WEREN’T going to use it? Of course they use the test results for personnel decisions.

        1. Graciosa

          Mine does this testing at the leadership level, but does not use it for personnel decisions.

          We have used it successfully for team building exercises and developing a little sensitivity [read tolerance] for other personality types in the work place, as well as learning how to better manage some of our own behaviors that may be type-driven.

          The behavior is what matters – not what someone may be thinking on Tuesday – and we’re smart enough to understand the difference.

          1. FiveWheels

            Tolerance is a big benefit I think. Especially introverts and extroverts – introvert standoffishness and extrovert loudness is much easier to deal with, in my experience, when you know they’re not trying to be annoying.

            For me it was a lightbulb moment. Most of my friends are very introverted as are most of my family. It’s ridiculous in retrospect, but reading about MBTI made me realise that extroverts who just Wouldn’t Stop Talking were just acting naturally and didn’t realise it was draining.

            1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

              The MBTI (which I took in college) taught me that, oh wait, people are actually drained by conversation?! So yeah, eye-opener!

          2. catsAreCool

            “We have used it successfully for team building exercises and developing a little sensitivity [read tolerance] for other personality types in the work place, as well as learning how to better manage some of our own behaviors that may be type-driven.” Yes. This is what it is for!

    3. Lemon Zinger

      I think most employers who use Myers-Briggs don’t actually utilize the real test. There are so many knock-off versions online. The one I was recently forced to take did NOT have a question about the exercise being voluntary.

    4. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

      Good to know. The assessment we did (not the MBTI) fails all 3 of these criteria. :( It wasn’t voluntary; there was no feedback session, just a printed test result handed to each employee; it wasn’t confidential – the whole team knows everyone’s results; and it is used to determine employee goals and such (unless the employee pushes back hard, which I did).

      I took the MBTI in college, the official Step II, and it met all 3 of these criteria. I have to say it was exponentially less bad than the experience I recently had at work.

  10. Zid

    OP4: Yes, definitely let it go! People can be friends with somebody even if they were a bad manager. I had a manager several years ago that was a frankly horrible. When we were first assigned to him, he didn’t bother to get to know how we worked before reorganizing the entire department and how we did things (to make us match the other team he was managing, even though our duties just barely overlapped), he overpromised things and then promptly forgot what he promised, had a tendency of playing favorites, and company scuttlebutt says he caused all sorts of problems in the month before he left the company by not cooperating with the person who was taking over managing our teams. And yet… I liked him. He was friendly, cheerful, encouraging, and despite all the problems we had with him, a fairly decent listener and good sounding board. He shouldn’t be in a management position, sure, but in the 9 months he was our manager, I never minded having an occasional drink or a meal with him and casually chatting about non-work stuff. If he was in the area, I probably would have kept in touch after he left just because I could enjoy his company.

    1. Not So NewReader

      I had a bad boss who managed to draw people to her. I think it was because rotten things kept happening to her, which made her miserable to be around but also caused people to rally and try to pull her up out of her circumstances. However, the more people tried to help her the nastier she got. I was able to narrow it down to a couple of key people driving the whole story. I think those two people were used to having others talk nasty to them and they just accepted her nastiness as part of life, so they persisted in helping her….even after she left.

    2. B

      Hello – I wrote the question. I am friends with this person outside of the office, so it’s not about that – them doing social things with this person is fine. I do them myself. It was more in relation to specifically work related situations, including if they are work social events. I guess an important piece I forgot to mention in my question is that MY supervisor will be there and gets really upset every time this person shows up to something, and then I have to deal with that.

      1. Bend & Snap

        It sounds like you can and should draw lines around this person being in the office or invited to employees-only social events. That’s not unreasonable.

        1. TootsNYC

          I agree.

          I also think it’s fair to say, “Including this guy at social events that are related to work is being viewed very negatively.”

  11. Jeanne

    #5, Please don’t do that. It is considered creepy to stalk the internet for relevant employees and contact them for interview information. I wouldn’t help you and, depending on how creepy you sounded, I might report you to security.

    1. Joseph

      Yeah, you can’t contact random employees to ask about potential jobs or interviews, period. In fact, I’d go a step further than AAM did and say that cold-calling a current employee about an interview process is likely to kill your candidacy entirely. It’s just so out of the norm that if the employee talks to the hiring manager, the HM will wonder about your professionalism and understanding of office norms.
      If you’re really worried about what to expect, when the hiring manager contacts you for an interview, you can ask what their interview process is like. Most employers will gladly give you a general overview of the day – including a mention that they include a skills test.

      1. Meg Murry

        Yes, no cold calling current employees – that’s not cool at all.

        That said, there are a couple of things you *can* do. If you already know current employees at the company (really know them, as if in you called up and said “this is John from your bike club” they would know who you are, not “hi, remember me, we shook hands once 5 years ago at a conference?”), you could ask them if they have any tips or hints for interviewing at their company, or if they would be willing to go out for coffee with you before the interview and talk to you about how their interviewing experience went.

        It also appears to me like OP is a recent graduate (maybe, I could be wrong)? If so, he may be able to get some help from career services. For instance, it *would* be acceptable at my alma mater to look up a company (or industry) in the database where people have specifically signed up to be part of the “career assistance network” and send an email asking for assistance. You’d want to introduce yourself, explain that you found them on the alumni network and ask if they would be willing to give you advice on applying/interviewing with their company. Some career services might also be able to help OP get a mock interview with someone who knows his/her industry where OP could practice, and then get constructive, critical feedback about what went well in the interview and what they could do better on in the future.

    2. Artemesia

      This. You can talk to someone you KNOW at the company. You can look at glassdoor. You can spend some time sharpening up your coding skills or other skills you expect to be reviewed. Calling strangers who work there might and should get you blacklisted.

    3. SL #2

      My friend nearly did this and tried to tell me all the reasons why this would be a good idea (thankfully, she did not say that it would show interest and enthusiasm in the role) and I was like NO NO NOPE SHUT IT DOWN GIRL

    4. oop

      thank you! i read all of the replies and can see why it is a bad idea now…

      @meg, yes, i am a recent graduate. just finished classes in june actually!

    5. BananaPants

      If someone pulled this stunt with me, my next stop would be HR and the hiring manager – the candidate would be immediately removed from consideration. For any position.

  12. FiveWheels

    OP1 – I’d let her check obviously incorrect, but inconsequential, facts. After a few emails in which she points out to the whole team that potatoes are not actually a nut and snow is not forecast for August, she might tone it down.

    If she doesn’t, at least it would give you a slight diversion.

    1. CM

      It would be even funnier if everybody agreed on the ridiculous facts as if they were obvious… although I guess this could pretty easily cross the line into being mean.

  13. Anonicat

    Missing emails: while it’s quite possible that the person is just losing them in the deluge of other email, it’s worth checking for some technological hitch. Many years ago, when email was relatively new, we suddenly stopped getting emails from a Vietnamese colleague. It turned out that IT had installed a new spam filter intended to catch sexual content, but it was too blunt an instrument – her emails were getting stopped because her name was Dong. It also caused problems in the ornithology department, where they wrote quite a lot about tits and cocks…

    1. Nye

      Ditto this. I once worked with someone whose last name was “Darling”, and his emails (from a government address) were constantly getting caught in poorly-designed spam filters. This was years ago, so I’m hoping the technology has improved, but it’s definitely worth considering.

    2. Artemesia

      And one approach is to reply all with an earnest concern about possible email or spam filter problems since ‘this query was answered last week, see attached email send August 1.’ Suggest a need to make sure there is not some technical glitch as you don’t want emails to go astray again. Perhaps the IT group could look into the email system to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

    3. Cath in Canada

      I know some people who used to work at Pfizer, and they had massive problems with their spam filter flagging all emails about a certain blue pill that they developed…

  14. AdAgencyChick

    #1, I’d be so tempted to reply all with “Unsubscribe” as the full text of my reply.

  15. Gaia

    Our office did voluntary Myers-Brigg tests last year. They brought in someone certified to do the tests and analysis and it was open to anyone that wanted it but it was made clear that this 1. wasn’t going to be kept on file by the company, 2. was completely voluntary and 3. was meant to be fun and not frustrating.

    The only good thing that I could say we got out of it work-wise was that we realized about 80% of our staff fell into one corner of the 16 block grid. And the other 20% were on the complete opposite corner. It was kind of funny to look at. No names were included, though, so that was better.

    1. Artemesia

      I had this done with a board I served on that was monumentally ineffective. We found that there were two people who focussed on planning the work and working the plan and everyone else was in the dither endlessly about the shape of the conference table corner. It did explain our ineffectiveness as well as the frustration of my colleague and me in the ‘get things done’ corner. It actually did improve the functioning of the group. I’d be leery of having a literal minded fad driven manager have the information though.

  16. TL17

    #1 – I work with someone a lot like this. It’s not fact-checking always, so much as it is a competition to be first (and right) about everything. I’ve essentially stopped talking to her because any bit of news I mention is met with one of 2 reactions. 1 – she ignores me and plows on nattering about herself or 2 – she finds a way to say she already knows what I’m about to say. It’s very defeating.

    #2 – I’m not crazy about personality assessments, because I’m sure the information can be misused. BUT, I was glad the one time I did the MBTI and learned that being an Introvert is a thing and what it means, and how it’s different than being an Extrovert, and how to make that work to my advantage. Not that I live by it, but it’s a good way for me to have a perspective on a possible reason why I interact with situations in certain ways. But it’s just interesting to me, intellectually, for personal reasons. I’d never base hiring/promotion decisions or anything like that on a personality test.

    1. Canadian Natasha

      “You’re surrounded by friends, and all of them are smiling warmly at you. Everyone’s smiling, and everyone’s happy, and everyone’s finally right, because of you.”
      Wait, so it doesn’t actually end like this?
      -Canadian Natasha aka Wiki (as my coworkers fondly call me)

  17. dear liza dear liza

    #1- If such behavior annoys anyone, don’t become a librarian. We do this to each other- and ourselves- ALL the time. LOL.

    1. Petronella

      I am a librarian and I still am baffled and annoyed by people with this compulsive need to always be right, always have the last word, continually correct and one-up others. They are terrible conversationalists and very tiresome to have as co-workers. I like the reply-all “UNSUBSCRIBE” email idea.

  18. Sarah

    #5

    I don’t know if this is relevant to you or not, but if you are a new graduate, generally employers aren’t going to expect anything specific from your code. They’re instead going to be looking for hints about your instincts.

    As such, consider things like: Do your variable names make sense? Does your indenting and white space make your code easier or harder to read? Is your project laid out in a way that makes code easy to find? Is your code concise and not overly repetitious?

    1. OwnedByTheCat

      I just hired someone and used an excel work assignment to help me identify their proficiency. They both got the work “right” but one obviously used some more sophisticated formulas, formatted it in a way that was easier to read, etc. That’s what I was looking for, on top of a basic understanding of the skills the department needed.

    2. catsAreCool

      Also, remember this isn’t a college test. They can usually only pick one person. You might have been their second choice.

    3. Sher

      #5 Check out the site glassdoor.com. There is tons of information about employers there. Employees rates the company. People talk about the interviewing process. And there is salary information. Good luck!!

  19. Cat

    RE personality tests – that reminds me that I want to start a consulting business where I go around to workplaces and sort everyone into Hogwarts houses then give them related advice. So letter writer #1 is an extreme Ravenclaw in a non-Ravenclaw environment. Clearly, they just need a puzzle door to keep her occupied.

    1. Security SemiPro

      The DiSC assessment is basically this. I think even the colors were correct, or needed to swap in one place. I tested as the lone Gryffindor, on the cusp of Slytherin. The team I was testing with all identified it as the Sorting Hat Goes Corporate, we just used the house names in our discussion. The certified trainer hid her horror pretty well. (Or chalked it up to being a room full of Ravenclaw-Slytherins. Who knows.)

      1. jhhj

        I just googled this and it would be fine but the colours are mixed up between Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff so obviously it’s garbage.

      2. Elizabeth West

        LOL we did that one. We were encouraged to put stickers up so people would know our communication style (though the instructor even said “Don’t take this too seriously.”).

        I put up the crayon drawing I did during a slack moment in the class–it’s a kitty in a pirate ship. That’s what happens when you give me crayons and there is a sheet of paper with a blank side. It should tell you all you need to know about me. ;)

  20. Roscoe

    #4 You really are coming across petty even in the tone of their letter. Why do you care who they hang out with outside of work. If you want to say he can’t be on the work computers, that is fair, but other than that, you really need to let this go. It is no way to endear yourself to your employees.

    1. B

      I hang out with this person outside of work, so it definitely wasn’t about that. It was in regards to work activities or work social activities. I’m pretty sure my company would frown on him being invited to the company Christmas party, for example. I know for sure my boss would, because he was already very upset about this next event. But, I forgot to include my supervisor’s (president of company) strong opinion on this in my email, which is a major part of the equation, so my bad on that. The reason I even thought to ask the question was because I was reading another article saying that work social activities can be required by your company – which really makes them more like just work activities. It doesn’t seem appropriate to invite an old manager who left the company on bad terms to company social events, and I don’t think my very young inexperienced employees get that. I believe it’s my responsibility to guide them in matters that will end up making them look bad to higher ups in the company. But I guess now my wording wasn’t as clear as it needed to be.

      1. Roscoe

        Thats fair then. The letter came off more about their social interactions, not their work related social interactions. In this case, I think its fine to not invite them to a work related thing.

        1. B

          Thank you for your input. I am new at management and definitely don’t want to come off as petty. I am just stuck in the middle in this particular situation and want to do what is best for everyone.

          1. animaniactoo

            Given what you’re describing now, I’d suggest tossing off in a group meeting (not solely called for discussing this, even if you have to call it for something else to cover really calling it for us due to need to talk about it soon) something along these lines:

            “Hey all, I know that several of us continue to see and socialize with Oscar. It’s important for all of us to be careful to keep our work out of our interactions with him, and be mindful that at least one of the higher-ups here actively avoids him and would not be happy to see him in the building here or at any of our company-sponsored social events. Please keep that in mind when talking to or making plans with Oscar, so that we’re not creating an issue for ourselves.”

            And then move on – end the meeting, new subject for conversation, etc.

      2. GovWorker

        Since you hang out with old boss, why not directly ask her not to attend work related social events and to stop coming in the office?

        1. animaniactoo

          In tandem that’s probably not a bad idea, but alone it only solves one half of the problem. OP is their manager and as such it is their job to help draw the lines directly to them of what is professional and what isn’t (here and pretty much everywhere else they might land in the future), and what is and isn’t a problem in their particular office.

  21. YaYa

    #5 – That’s what Glassdoor.com is for. Technical interviews are often particularly well represented in the posts

  22. newlyhr

    Fact check all you want, but don’t involve me in it unless it is something work related that inaccurate information could potentially adversely impact my work. I can do my own fact checking if it’s important to me. I don’t need your help. This kind of behavior–fact checking people’s comments on irrelevant, non-work related topics, and then emailing the group to say–“see Sally was wrong” — is egotistical and self serving.

  23. animaniactoo

    OP1, I think the best approach to this is not that she’s in the wrong for doing it (since you’re not her supervisor and don’t seem to have enough of a personal relationship with her to say “you know that’s weird/annoying, right?”), is simply to address it as yourpreference. Towards that you can say something along the lines of “Hey, unless it’s really urgent to know or have this information, I’d appreciate it if you’d leave me off the group e-mail. I know that you’re trying to help, but I really don’t care that much about this kind of stuff.”

    If she stops updating you as often after that, but still has a number of things you consider minor, but she apparently considers major, approach it as a point of calibration: “I think we have differences in what we consider to be really important. If you don’t mind, I’ll just let you know when you send something that I consider to be not that big a deal, so you can have a better sense of when I’d prefer not to be updated on stuff.”

    If she pushes back on any of this, that would be a point where you can let her know that because you don’t care about most of this that much, you find the updates annoying, and that’s why you’re asking her to work with you on bringing it down to a level that’s mutually workable.

    Hopefully she’ll be happy enough to go along with that, and if she isn’t – yeah, it’s a shrug and just deal situation. If you’ve tried and it’s not changing and you can just shrug and accept that’s who she is, you’re likely to be a lot more tolerant of it when you see another factcheck e-mail pop up.

  24. animaniactoo

    OP2, you might suggest an alternative. Something along the lines of “Personalities are so complex, and there’s a lot of research showing that it’s not as easy to categorize people as these tests try to define. I think we might get a lot more out of a few courses or presentations about types of traits that people may have to greater or lesser extents, and how to handle those for oneself or when we perceive it in someone else. Like being conflict avoidant, introverts and extraverts, or guesser vs asker cultures.”

    1. Matt Warden

      The goal of the test is not to capture the full complexity of the OP’s personality. It’s probably to provide some high level insight into working styles or thinking styles. “Personality test” is a bit of a misnomer that comes from the “personality psychology” discipline from which they originate.

      1. animaniactoo

        When you have to answer a series of questions and then be given a result, it’s a test.

        What I’m suggesting is taking the same traits, and discussing them without making anybody answer what they prefer to do first in order to talk about them.

  25. mskyle

    #5 – if you haven’t already read Cracking the Coding Interview by Gayle Laakmann McDowell, do it! It gives a lot of insight into what interviewers are looking for in software engineer/programmer type interviews, and lots of practice stuff to try. Even though it won’t necessarily give insight into what to expect at any particular small company, it covers a lot of types of interview questions (coding and non-coding).

  26. Abe

    On #1: If you’re not the person’s manager (i.e. the person who really should tell them to stop) then I would go ahead and have some fun with it. This is the stuff good pranks are made of.

  27. Anna

    ARGH #2 happens to me all the time. See also “You did not paint the correct flower on the teapots. Please use the one we sent you” when I totally and completely used the one they sent me, and I can prove it via email, and they are totally just pretending they sent me the correct flower, when they did not.

    You just have to take a deep breath and let it go. I often get up, get myself a cup of coffee and a little walk before I reply so I don’t say anything too harsh.

  28. on the shoulders of giants

    OP#2, have you found out which test they’re asking you to take? I understand your hesitation with it, but if it turns out to be a test that’s pretty scientific, it might help you out. In my organization, we do have a ‘personality’ (well, more of a thinking preference) test that everyone has to take, and we get the results during a training session where we’re taught how those results should be interpreted (they go so far as to emphasize that these are just preferences or traits that you have at a lesser/greater extent, please don’t stereotype people based on their results, because it’s counter-productive to do so) and how to use those results to build better teams, work better with folks who may have different profiles, and even manage our customers better.

    Maybe you can suggest something similar to your HR? The annoying part of these kinds of tests is that sometimes people use them to box you in and make snap judgments, or worse, highlight why you make certain mistakes. If you come to your boss or your HR with that in mind, I think they’re more likely to give you leeway. Heck, they might even add a follow-through training session and make the process more effective.

    1. Mike C.

      I haven’t heard of any of these “personality” tests that have held up to hard scrutiny, which one(s) did you have in mind?

      1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

        Indeed. The Big 5 is less bad than other ones (e.g. you find certain types overrepresented in certain professions, so there could be a self-selection effect) — but none pass psychometric scrutiny.

    2. Lemon Zinger

      What tests are you referring to? I haven’t heard of any that actually pass rigorous scientific evaluation.

      1. Matt Warden

        I feel like we are distracted here. How much of management stands up to rigorous scientific evaluation? These tests are intended to provide some insight into how people can work together, based on their styles. Are they 100% right? No, and in fact I think a lot of these things read like horoscopes, and no matter what the outcome the reader thinks it’s them. But so what? The OP is afraid to take the test because it might actually divulge something about OP’s personality, so why are we responding about how the test is invalid? If the test were invalid, there would be no privacy concern! Refusing to take the test risks coming off paranoid; and if you really are that paranoid, then think of how a friend would answer each question and answer that way.

        More likely, a 10 minute discussion about the motivation for having everyone take the test will remove the paranoia.

        1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

          “These tests are intended to provide some insight into how people can work together, based on their styles.”

          Study after study has shown the “insight” they provide is no better than the “insight” you get from a random profile.

          “Are they 100% right?”

          This is a red herring. A medication may not be 100% effective, but it’s certainly better than placebo.

        2. Not Karen

          The OP is afraid to take the test because it might actually divulge something about OP’s personality

          This assumption is way out of line. Hate to break it to you, but some people are more self-aware than you give them credit for.

        3. Lora

          “How much of management stands up to rigorous scientific evaluation?”

          EXCELLENT QUESTION. And that is why McKinsey, BCG et al. make the big bucks.

          1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

            Unlike many management techniques, though, these personality assessments have been tested *and failed those tests.* It’s not that they simply haven’t been tested yet. They have. They just failed those tests. So it’s much worse than other unverified management techniques.

            1. Lora

              I was thinking, a LOT of management techniques do fail rigorous investigation and testing and senior management still doubles down on them until the company is circling the drain, the senior management is all fired, and their replacements bring in huge consulting services to find out what happened – but yes, good point.

        4. Mike C.

          Horoscopes are not the type of thing you want to use when you’re trying to claim that the tests are useful in any way, shape or form.

  29. Anton

    I don’t agree with the advice on number 3 (e-mail about the e-mail that was never read/received).

    I think this is a good example of e-mail being misused and replacing good communication rather than enhancing it. E-mails about e-mails should be banned.

    I think if someone sends you a follow-up mail like that they’ve got it wrong. They should have discussed it with you directly or phoned you to find out what the hold-up is, or at the very least first e-mailed you privately to check on the status.

    So they’re being a fool, but that doesn’t mean you should be a fool in response.

    You would be in the wrong too if you replied with a snide remark on e-mail or even just a factual mail that could be in any way construed as embarrassing for them. Clearly there has been some miscommunication and e-mail is the medium that caused the problem, so probably not a good medium to fix it. Rather speak to the person directly. If possible within reason (like if they’re in the same building) face-to-face and if not, pick up the phone and call them. This will be the more efficient way of clearing the misunderstanding. If you can’t get hold of them, respond to them only on the e-mail and mention you tried to get a hold of them, but that you did reply to the original mail and that you’ll forward it again.

    You probably also want your colleagues to know you haven’t just ignored the matter (and I think we can safely assume that the kind of person who sent you this mail in the first place isn’t going to send an apologetic follow-up to the same mail chain on their own), so you could handle this one of two ways (I’m not sure which is better, I’ve used both, depends a bit on the situation for me):
    1 – Reply to all with a note like “Hi Jack, I trust following our telephonic discussion earlier that this has now been resolved, please let me know if you need anything else.”
    2 – Forward to the people that you want to reassure that you’ve done your job and explain the situation e.g. “Hi all, just wanted to let you know there was a bit of a misunderstanding. I did reply to Jack’s original mail and have spoken to him to clear up the misunderstanding, so this is now resolved.”

    1. Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude

      I guess it depends on the workplace, but to me this sounds like making much more of a big deal of it than a quick “Actually, I sent it Tuesday, it must have vanished into the ether; I will forward it now.” Then forward. The suggestion above seems defensive in a way that I think is less effective than a neutral assumption that wires got crossed (even if you know they didn’t.)

      1. Lissa

        I agree. I think taking it to phone just adds another layer of potential issues, whereas re-sending doesn’t. And it doesn’t have to be embarrassing if you’re not snide. People know emails get lost, and as long as you seem to be assuming that’s what happened, I think most people get it.

  30. Nepotism Question

    Re: number 5

    Would it be ok to contact current employees with questions about the interview process if they were friends or family?

  31. BadPlanning

    On OP4 — the mess you see that the manager left may not seem so messy from the employee side. And they might have enjoyed his hands off approach (even if it was bad for the project/company). And since he’s now a recent former manager — it’s good to maintain good network ties for future references. Plus, the human brain is good at forgetting the bad memories and keeping the good ones. Just some thoughts from your employees’ side of things.

  32. Observer

    #4 – I’m with Allison. She’s given you good advice.

    Two things jumped out at me. First of all “I don’t know why they would even want to.” Unless you really have some reason to think something nefarious is going on (and it really sounds like that would be a stretch here), it’s just not your business, and totally irrelevant to the situation. Even when a relationship is your business, “why they would want to” is really not for you to get into.

    Also, you say that you know that you can’t tell people who to socialize with, but then ask if you should “let it lie”, which implies that you think that you CAN tell people who to socialize with. No, you can’t. You need to KNOW that, not “know” that. Perhaps I’m misreading your email, but it sounds like you are taking this very personally. If that’s the case, the I can see why it would skew your judgement.

    On the other hand, they should NOT be showing OldBoss their computers. So, address that and leave the rest of it out of the conversation.

    1. B

      “I don’t know why they would even want to.” – this was not explained in the email, but this refers to the fact that they all complain about him at work. they all knew him a very short time, and they all joke about the mess he left behind. But I have seen some good insights from others on what their motives could be on this.

      As far as not telling them who to socialize with – I only meant for work social events, not generic social events. I would never attempt to tell them who to socialize with in general, especially since I occasionally socialize with this person myself, being that I knew him 10 years – I just don’t invite him specifically to work socials where my bosses will also be in attendance.

      Thank you for your input. The instructions were that shorter emails had more of a chance to be answered, so I tried to make my email as brief as possible. I see now that was an error.

      1. Katie F

        Someone can be a lot of fun outside of work and still have been a difficult coworker or have left a mess behind. They may just be able to separate their previous work experience from the guy they have fun hanging out with socially.

      2. Observer

        Shorter is better until you leave key pieces of information.

        Which leads to a practical comment, here. When you do talk to staff – and I think you will need to – leave the inconsequential stuff out, but make sure you make the important stuff clear. They need to know clearly that you are not talking about personal relationships on the one hand. On the other hand, the work related aspects are a combination of your Boss’s preferences and the requirements of your contracts. That part is non-negotiable.

  33. Mental Health Day

    #1 KNOW IT ALLS
    OP, I totally feel you on this. My last manager was like this and it was absolutely maddening. I once got a 20 minute lecture about how the starter on a car works. I once got a 40 minute cost benefit analysis of the city burying electrical transformers to prevent power outages during thunderstorms. There are many other examples of her need to correct every tiny little thing anyone says no matter how inconsequential. You really couldn’t even engage in just basic office small talk with her, because every statement or off-hand remark, needed to be dissected, re-analyzed, and debated endlessly. It was exhausting and I had to put up with it because she was my direct manager.
    You, however, are not reporting to this person, so your situation is a bit different. Based on what you’ve described, I’d be willing to bet that this individual is generally regarded as “difficult”. This know-it-all behavior is rooted in pure egotism. I don’t see any benefit to be gained by telling them they are annoying. They will probably just resent you for it. I say just keep ignoring it and move on. Nothing you say to this individual is likely to change their behavior.
    Besides, the whole thing might be good for a few laughs as you watch a difficult coworker dig their own grave at work. Maybe this individual will finally get on the wrong person’s nerves and will be “released to destiny”…

  34. Kooza

    #1 – the fact-checker might just be a Snopes junkie.
    I have to admit, if I receive a group email about something like “Cough CPR” that is not just inaccurate but may be harmful, I “reply to all” with a Snopes or Wikipedia link debunking the non-facts. This happened in my friend group and also at work, but the emails were not work-related.
    If the OP#1’s team is in the habit of sharing articles like this, I don’t blame the fact-checker.

    1. Observer

      Yes, I’m the office fact checker. But, it’s essentially part of my job. And, I do NOT operate this way. I tend to stick to stuff like the “cough CPR” stuff (because that could harm people), scarelore (same reason), and IT related stuff (because that’s in my domain and can affect the systems I manage.) I stick to the stuff that gets sent to me, and stuff I’m asked about.

      I love snopes.

      Neither would in any way explain or excuse the behavior the OP is describing.

  35. oop

    hi! uh, i was number 5. reading your response i can understand why that wouldn’t be a good idea now. i’m glad i asked before i actually went ahead and did it, i’m still pretty new at interviewing and the job hunt in general (it was my second technical interview). thank you for replying, i actually thought it wouldn’t be answered. i’ll keep developing my portfolio and ect-cetera then, and hope to do better the next time around.

  36. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

    #2– Personality assessment

    I lost all respect for my boss over a personality assessment, not because of his (or my) result, but because of my boss’s inconsistency. He was very gung-ho about the assessment, he said it helped him so much the other times he took it, he was very serious about it, etc etc. I informed him that I was uncomfortable taking a personality assessment that had not passed basic psychometric validations. He laughed and said, “Oh, I know, it’s no better than a horoscope!” and admitted it relies entirely on “the placebo effect” aka confirmation bias. So one minute, he is totally into this personality assessment and the next minute he admits it’s no better than a horoscope. And anyway, since it’s no better than a horoscope, surely he would not be bothered if I opted out? But he was. Very much so. And apparently had no problem rolling this assessment out to the whole team, costing our company probably thousands of dollars for something he claims is no better than a horoscope.

    So I ended up taking the assessment. As an act of protest, I answered randomly. My boss insisted my result was “a perfect fit”; you should have seen the look on his face when I told him I’d answered randomly!

    Despite my boss’s insistence that my result was “a perfect fit”, my result largely contradicted feedback from my review, which we had a few months before the assessment. For instance, at my review, boss told me I need to be more emotionally engaged with my coworkers; my result said I have a tendency to be too emotional with my coworkers. My review says I’m good at dealing with unknowns/ambiguities and that I look forward to and drive change; my result said I struggle with unknown or incomplete information and that I dislike change. There were several other contradictions like this, and my boss refused to acknowledge them. He instead continued to insist my result was “a perfect fit” – despite these contradictions and despite the fact that I’d answered randomly! Since then, I’ve had a hard time taking my manager seriously. I see him as intellectually dishonest. He’s a good manager otherwise, and this personality assessment has become one of those topics where we are aware of each other’s opinion on the subject and we just don’t discuss it. Lol.

    1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

      I should add that I thought the result was quite inaccurate, vs. the feedback my boss gave me at my review was fair and accurate (for the most part). But then it is not surprising that customized feedback given one-on-one at a review is a better fit than random feedback. Lol.

  37. MommaTRex

    OP #1 – How about, “It’s sounds like you’ve got some extra time in the day. Maybe you could help Fergus with filing or assist Jane with stuffing envelopes.”

    OK, so that wasn’t really helpful. I think I’d stick with Alison’s answer of “We didn’t need that fact-checked” but proceed it with a “Wow” to show your amazement that someone thought they SHOULD fact check it.

    1. MommaTRex

      I just now had a flashback to 20 years ago when I was preparing tax returns as a CPA. Sure I was only about a year out from college, but when I told my dad some information about second mortgages, he fact-checked me with the managing partner of a different firm (a friend of his). I was correct of course.

      Now when my uncle tries to show that he knows more than me about accounting, I just walk away. I think he’s finally got the not-so-subtle hint.

      1. MommaTRex

        Fact-checking myself: I just reread that and what to assure anyone reading it that my dad is not my uncle. There was another story in there that I cut out. *sigh*

  38. James Buchanan Burn

    Hey OP5!

    So for technical interviews with whiteboard coding problems, if they’re doing it right they’re trying to get an idea of what you would be like to work with. It’s partly testing your knowledge (do you know the syntax for this language you claim to be good at, etc.) but it’s mostly testing your approach. Do you think about optimizing for time and space? Do you ask smart questions before you start writing? Someone up above recommended “Cracking the Coding Interview,” which is good — I also recommend a site called Interview Cake. And if you’re going to be asked to write code on a whiteboard, PRACTICE WRITING CODE ON A WHITEBOARD. Or at least on paper. It’s very different from typing it.

    Of course, you may get a bad company or a bad interviewer who’s looking for one thing in particular and wants to ding you if you don’t get it, but ideally this kind of interview is an attempt to get a work sample/simulation for software engineering in exactly the way Allison recommends.

  39. Unegen

    With regard to #2:

    Since personality assessments vis-a-vis one’s employment are hogwash, and the assessment answers themselves are entirely subjective…if you cannot easily get out of taking such a test, feel free to mark down whatever answer you feel like. Choose “C” for every answer, or make every other answer “Strongly Disagree” and “Strongly Agree.” Basically, create a personality assessment that is completely unusable. It would be utterly shocking if you experienced any negative consequences for doing this.

    1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

      I answered randomly and that is my recommendation if one is forced to take the test. It’s especially entertaining if your boss/coworkers start saying how it’s a great fit for you, describes you perfectly, etc. and you can say “That’s odd, I answered randomly!” and watch them squirm as they realize the effect confirmation bias has on one’s beliefs about the world.

  40. Matt Warden

    The employee complaining about the personality assessments isn’t worried that they are invalid in some ways; he/she is worried that they are VALID and will divulge something about his/her personality that will reflect negatively. This is going to be obvious to the manager and/or HR. It seems to me that the action here is to get more comfortable with the personality assessment and why management/HR wants to roll them out. Then, if the employee still has issues, he/she can be specific with what the problem is rather than coming off paranoid about personality assessments in general.

    1. BananaPants

      To be fair, this is because a not-insignificant number of workplaces wildly abuse these personality assessments. When HR claims that the MBTI won’t affect promotions, assignments, etc. and then all of the ESTJs are named to the executive development program while the INTPs are assigned down in the mailroom, it’s pretty obvious to the rest of the employees that HR was full of it.

      1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

        Yup. My goals for next year were set based on my result. I declined every single one of them and told my boss I had written my own goals. I had to push back to get rid of the effects of the assessment. I wasn’t paranoid *enough*.

  41. squab

    #5: FWIW, I did almost exactly this. I work for a very large tech company known for a rigorous interview process. I happened to attend a Meetup event hosted at their office during the time I was preparing for my interview there. While at the Meetup I struck up a casual conversation with some of the hosts, and I did ask them if they had any tips on preparing for the interview. It felt like a natural question; they seemed unfazed by it and gave me some nice tips that were somewhat useful, if only to make me feel a little more at ease.

    In that situation, I think it helped that there’s a LOT written about that particular interview process, with lots of company-sponsored blogs etc about interview prep… the info’s out there, so asking the employees seemed fair game. I don’t think I’d do the same thing if I were about to interview at a small company. And I certainly wouldn’t cold-call rando employees!

  42. Gina

    # 3

    One of my bosses is an older gentlemen who lets just say doesn’t trust computers. I manage his email. Heck he doesn’t actually have a computer on his desk. His email goes to my computer in my email program. (His wishes) But he did insist on getting a delivery confirmation and a read receipt for each email he sends. If your email program supports this option you might want to use it even if it’s only for this one employee.

    I print out his original email for him and then the delivery receipt and read receipt. You of course wouldn’t need to print them out but you could use them as backup to show that you did indeed send the email and they saw it the next time you are questioned.

  43. ThatAspie

    #1 I can see from both sides. The OP probably got sick of hearing about confirmations and refutations all the time. That being said, this was put up in August 2016. Meaning, of course, the fact-checker probably thought along the lines of, “I’d better make sure this is right – wouldn’t want my friends getting sucked into a lie!” After all, with all the fake news and data misuse and division and hacking and stuff that’s been going on, who wouldn’t worry about being scammed, or about someone you care about being scammed?

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