I don’t like to share my personal life with my coworkers

A reader writes:

Early on in my career, I had a couple of very bad experiences with forming friendships with coworkers. After those experiences, I decided that I wouldn’t befriend my coworkers anymore. I consider myself friendly and outgoing, and I have a lot of friends outside of work, but am starting to feel that it is hurting me in my career. I try not to let my coworkers know too many details of my personal life, but I am still friendly, if that makes sense. Another reason I don’t share too many details is because I have been unfairly judged (i.e., young and unmarried, childless, religious) in my past jobs.

My manager asked me recently why I don’t like to share my personal life, and I gave him an honest answer (i.e. bad past experiences, unfair judgments against me, etc.), and I have the feeling that he thinks I’m weird. Am I being too cautious, or is this a smart strategy?

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • My coworker won’t let me help with the work my boss asked me to do
  • How can we screen out job candidates who just want to work here for the “cool” factor?
  • How to welcome a transgender employee
  • Giving your interviewer a thank-you note on your way out of the interview

{ 312 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Shadow

    I think many people underestimate the power of developing strong relationships at work. Drawing a work/personal line is fine, but the people who develop deeper, more meaningful relationships are likely to have an advantage. Almost all of the most successful people I know see work relationships as both a work tool and a way to widen their pool of friends. They have many different layers of friends as opposed to separating them by work v. personal.

    Reply
    1. Jen

      I agree with this. Early on in my career I probably went too far with friendships. We blurred the line between work and personal too much. I saw these same people all day and all weekend and there was so much infighting and dating and it got messy. That’s not good.

      But as I’ve aged I have figured out the best mix for me. I have a number of facebook friends from work. I keep my facebook fairly innocuous – people who look at my profile could see that I like reading, running, broadway musicals and television. I have people here at work that I can bounce ideas off of or LIGHTLY vent. We get lunch occasionally. I go to happy hours occasionally. I get invited to off-site dinners and events for my job and sometimes I get spare tickets and will bring a friendly co-worker who might want to network there. It’s good and it makes me excited to go to work some days.

      But I don’t talk about the messy personal details of my life. And that seems fine.

      I do remember working at a job in the past where we were all roughly the same age and everyone was friends with everyone else on Facebook and one guy started and after about a year he started getting facebook friend invites and he turned all of them down. One guy (who he ate lunch with 3-5 days every week) asked him “Hey, man, why’d you reject my friend request?” and the co-worker said “I prefer not to have friends from work.” and it WAS jarring for us. I got it on a certain level but it was also a teensy bit insulting like “OK, we eat together 5 days a week. We travel together every other month. We all bought you a wedding gift and looked at your photos but you don’t consider us friends at all?” I mean, that’s fine. But I think the guys that he talked to regularly were a little hurt.

      Reply
      1. Shadow

        Dating co workers or even seeing co workers as potential dates is definitely a line most of us have learned we shouldn’t cross or at least should understand the potential disasters if we do cross.

        It helps also that as you age getting shit faced drunk and acting stupid with co workers aren’t as much of a concern as they used to be…..at least for most of us.

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        1. plain toast by day

          Used to work with a manager who would act like everyone’s best friend, take people out for lunch and encourage too many drinks -or even just bring the wine to the office- and use it as truth serum to find weaknesses, dredge out embarrassing stories, and personal troubles. Then she’d use it to her advantage, months later. Not everyone is this bad but many are slightly manipulative, so I try to be cordial to all, but to be more careful about who I really let in.

          Reply
      2. MashaKasha

        We had one woman at OldJob who declined everyone’s FB invites. But the way she worded it was, “I’m sorry, I have a policy not to add any coworkers on FB”. It was in 2007-08 when everyone was happily adding everyone else and back then, we thought she was weird. Took us a few years to see the wisdom of her policy. Not adding coworkers on FB sounds like a good way to go. Doesn’t mean they can’t be casual friends, eat together, travel together, etc. There’s just no reason to be all up in each other’s personal life and to be able to see each other’s and each other’s friends’ and family’s posts and comments on various issues.

        Reply
        1. Gen

          After a previous coworker printed out weeks of everyone’s Facebook history and highlighted anything management might frown upon (cross referencing photos and sick days etc) a lot of people I know have instituted a no-coworkers on social media policy

          Reply
          1. Anna

            That to me is a bit like getting a flat tire and instituting a no tire policy. The problem wasn’t that they were friends on Facebook, the problem was this particular coworker was a nut. I approach FB friending with coworkers as “would I be friendly with them at work beyond simple politeness.” If the answer is no, then that’s the answer to FB.

            Most of the situations I’ve seen where coworkers behave badly is less about them being a coworker and more about the person being terrible.

            Reply
            1. Breda

              The problem here is that sometimes you wind up Facebook friends with some coworkers and not with others, and some people will inevitably be offended by that. It’s much simpler to just have a “no coworkers” policy that you can point to in order to avoid hurt feelings.

              Reply
              1. Anna

                Again, this is about the coworker and not you or me. I am very friendly with a person I work with who was friends with me on Facebook and then decided he didn’t want to be anymore. Cool. He and I get along just fine.

                Basically I can’t institute a policy about my personal use of something based on 1) someone maybe being upset that I’m friends on FB with Redd Kryptonite but not Scarlet O’Hairdye and 2) managing someone else’s emotions. I expect everyone to behave like adults and if they can’t, I adjust at that point.

                Reply
                1. Breda

                  Well, if that works for you, then that’s fine! I just think comparing it to not using tires is a bit silly – I can get along perfectly well without being Facebook friends with coworkers. It doesn’t harm the relationships at all to have a blanket policy, and I don’t feel like I’m missing out.

                2. Ann O.

                  Ha, given the example names that you used, I would expect that you would understand why some people may not want to be FB friends with co-workers. For me, I’d rather not take chances of my co-workers accidentally stumbling on performance pictures that may not be co-worker friendly.

                3. Gadfly

                  Random FB friend is a jerk–mild bother.
                  Family member is a jerk–personal hassle/family drama
                  Coworker is a jerk–could really screw up working relationships, my reputation, etc within that company if not within the industry

                  Doesn’t even have to be a jerk–just someone who brings up things I don’t discuss at work (politics, religion, etc) in front of coworkers of a differing opinion

            2. TootsNYC

              ” The problem wasn’t that they were friends on Facebook, the problem was this particular coworker was a nut.”

              I think it’s way less this, and more that this one nut of a coworker showed them the worst possible downside of having colleagues. But that they realized that in less dramatic ways, you’re still vulnerable to the same problems.

              That’s why I don’t often friend my current coworkers, because of the risk of MILD versions of that. (instead of printing it out and giving it to top management, they might just casually mention it to some other colleague, and have it be seen in the worst light, e.g.)

              Reply
                1. Hotstreak

                  Yes. Really there’s no need to be social media connected with people you see on a regular basis anyways. Just talk and tell them what you’ve been up to.

          2. General Ginger

            Printed out weeks of FB history? What a jerk, but also what a waste of office resources (I’m assuming they printed these out on the office printer, using office paper, and office toner)!

            Reply
            1. Gen

              She actually used her own resources because Facebook was booked by the firewall. Management thanked her and fired several people as a result of the info (though one was able to prove she’d taken the holiday earlier in the year and just happened to post the photos on a day she was already off sick for a medical procedure) but the whole thing created a really uncomfortable atmosphere at an already toxic workplace

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                1. Dan

                  @Any Moose

                  I never got on the FB band wagon. Although the older I get, the happier I am to NOT have my personal life plastered all over the internet. If that makes me odd/strange/weird/nutty, then so be it.

                2. turquoisecow

                  I’d definitely consider not having any coworkers as friends. I like being able to keep in touch with friends and family through FB, though.

          3. MashaKasha

            We had a coworker get fired over a (innocuous IMO) fb post. They were called into the manager’s office and the HR was present, as was their manager with the printout of the post. They were then given a box and fifteen minutes to pack. They were a single parent of three and this happened two weeks before Christmas. The post was only visible to their FB friends. You better believe that everyone at that office spent the next week defriending people and locking down their FB accounts.

            Reply
            1. Argh!

              I defriended a coworker that I actually like because she was transferred and now works for my boss too… and immediately became the boss’s favorite. I explained it to her and disappointingly, she didn’t seem to care. No great loss I guess

              Reply
              1. TootsNYC

                why was that a loss?

                She may not have “seemed to care” because she understood your reasoning, and because she was going to be seeing you every day, so she didn’t need Facebook contact w/ you.

                If anyone defriended me on Facebook, no matter who they were, I probably would come across as though I didn’t seem to care. Because I wouldn’t, probably.

                And if I did (like, my kid who lives across the country is defriending me), I’d believe that good manners dictated that I should accept w/ equanimity.

                Reply
              1. MashaKasha

                The person was not getting along with their manager and was on probation. They had a few weeks left in their probation and suspected that they would not make it. The post said literally this “if any of you know of a company that is hiring for a (person’s position and skillset), someone I know is looking. Send me the information and i will pass it along.” I saw the post several hours before all of it happened, so it wouldn’t have been edited at that time. Years later I am still puzzled as to why this post would have led to the person losing their job. (which, admittedly, they probably would have lost a few weeks later anyway)

                Reply
                1. Grapey

                  Many places have a “if we find out you’re looking for another job, let us help by showing you the door” mentality. Saying you’re looking for information “for someone” on FB that shares your exact position and skillset is way too transparent.

                  Add a boss with an axe to grind AND being on probation into the mix? Not a smart move on your former coworker’s part to post that, honestly.

                2. MashaKasha

                  I agree that it probably wasn’t. Definitely not something I would have done. My point, though, was that it was a coworker who was also their FB friend who brought this post up to the management. They would not have found out otherwise.

                1. The Supreme Troll

                  I apologize for that; there seemed to be a bit a long lag time. Yes, it does seem weird because it was a very honest post meant with absolutely no harm (she knew what her future was there). But I do think that management might have had a vendetta against her and was dying to look for any excuse to get rid of her.

          4. seejay

            Yeah sometimes it just generally depends on the people. I have some coworkers friended, some I don’t. One person I had friended told my manager I’d been baking on a sick day, and I found out when he texted me and asked me if I was bringing in the baking when I came back in.

            I promptly removed said coworker.

            If you go “tattling” over to my manager what I’m doing on my social media when I’m at home on my sick days, you get kicked toot sweet, no matter how innocuous it is, since I have no idea what boundaries you’ll cross.

            Reply
            1. babblemouth

              Is baking a forbidden activity on a sick day? I’m missing something here. Surely even if you’re sick you need to eat something, right?

              Reply
              1. Liz2

                People have weird judgements about sickness. The idea that you would do anything but stay in bed barely able to move for some reason means you should be in the office. Worse if it’s a mental health day.

                Similar to the “if you’re poor and need help, you should never go to the movies or have any sort of special treat” as if that somehow contributes to long term health and prosperity.

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                1. Dan

                  I know. Not to derail this conversation too far, but it’s for that reason I like having all of my leave wrapped up into one PTO bank as opposed to separate sick/vacation banks. At my job, if you want a day off at the last minute, all you need to do is email TPTB and say “I won’t be tomorrow/today.” If you feel the need to elaborate, make up some excuse like “kids are sick” or something.

                  Some people think that a combined bank “punishes” those that do actually get sick, but this way, we skip the politics of it.

                2. MashaKasha

                  ^ As someone who’s lost a sick day or two every year because I’m afraid to touch them without actually being sick, I agree.

                3. Kala

                  As a manager of a team who works on projects, I would find someone using an entire reasonably-sized PTO bank without scheduling in advance to be too disruptive. For example, that might be one unscheduled day every week and a half.

                  I personally like the idea of a bank of Unscheduled and a bank of Scheduled days, without imposing labels like Sick and Vacation on them. It still requires most off-time to be scheduled in advance, but employees don’t feel pressured to explain why they’re taking unscheduled time off.

          5. Honeybee

            Who has the time to do this? I mean really? If I were a manager and an employee did this I would have lots of questions about that particular employee, not everyone else.

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            1. turquoisecow

              Yes. Same. Like, I might take the “offending” employee aside and have a conversation, but I’d also take aside the employee who felt the need to meddle in everyone’s personal lives like that.

              And I might suggest to some people that they should consider carefully whom they friend on FB.

              Reply
            2. Lissa

              Seriously! Gossip is one of my vices and even so it would never in a million years cross mind to do this. Whyyyy?

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              1. JS

                Same! I mean if me and the manager were particularly close, like personal bffs, I would mention something if the employee bad mouthed her. However not the vague “someone is looking for a job” post. Also no matter what she posted if I did tell the manager who I was bffs with I would expect that to stay in private only for context and not be printed off and brought up with HR. I would be venomously against that.

                Reply
          6. Anne (with an "e")

            @ Gen Your colleague is… Wow. No words. Just why would someone want to throw / attempt to throw so many under the bus? Why burn so many bridges? Hopefully management took into consideration the “source” of the info.

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          7. Oscar Madisoy

            “a previous coworker printed out weeks of everyone’s Facebook history and highlighted anything management might frown upon (cross referencing photos and sick days etc)”

            What made this person think it was okay to do this?

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            1. Hope

              Some people just like to watch the world burn.

              Or they hated their coworkers and wanted to get them fired. Or just general busybodiness. Almost every office has that one coworker that has to be all up in everyone’s business (ours just retired, hallelujah).

              Reply
        2. Kaybee

          This. I make a point of going to happy hours and food-related events and the occasional outing to build camaraderie with my coworkers, but I draw a line at social media. Even if I don’t (think I) overshare, my coworkers might, and I think the expression familiarity breeds contempt has a lot of truth to it. It’s understood that we don’t discuss politics or religion in the office, but all bets are off on social media. I don’t want my perception of someone I have to work with to change because I discover they have a habit of spending 20 minutes instagramming all of their meals and then leaving bad reviews saying their meals arrive cold. Or they get into a public spat with their SO on my FB feed and I find myself secretly agreeing with the SO. Or that I really, really take issue with where they get their news from. Certain boundaries can preserve a good working relationship.

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        3. Alton

          Yeah, I think it’s perfectly possible to be friendly with coworkers but not want to add them to Facebook (and if someone said that they didn’t want to add people, I’d take that to mean that they specifically don’t want to add co-workers to Facebook, not that they don’t want to be friendly at all).

          I use Facebook to connect with a lot of non-profits and activist organizations that could be seen as controversial (ie, abortion rights), and a lot of my friends are activists or are very political, so I feel awkward having people from work, or even some family members, as friends.

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        4. MommyMD

          I have no work contacts on Facebook. It hasn’t been an issue. I’m professional friendly at work, I’ll go to a baby shower or Christmas work event, but I have no truly personal work friends. It works better for me.

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      3. Sparkly Librarian

        I have a ton of Facebook friends from my previous job (several years in a startup culture bred intense networking connections as people moved on, as well as the typical friendships), but I made a policy not to add anyone from the library when I was hired two years ago. (At least, not until they’ve left this system.) I add them on LinkedIn instead. I may still talk at work about many of the same topics I post privately on FB, but it’s my choice and I don’t have to remember to add the Everybody-But-Coworkers filter to keep them from seeing particularly personal, political, or complaining-about-the-job statuses.

        Just the other day I realized that another librarian I work with is FB friends with, like, everyone from the library system. They’re all talking about their kids and their social lives after hours, and it becomes clear during group meetings that they’re more comfortable with each other than they are with me. It’s not just because I’m the new kid (and I’m not that new anymore). I felt kind of bad that I was so obviously antisocial… but I actually think a no-work-friends policy serves me better despite how nosy I’d like to be about others’ lives.

        Reply
      4. I tend to Disagree

        I don’t think that he meant that you were little more than strangers to him. I’m thinking that he meant I see you as “work friends” versus “personal friends.” Given that he does talk to you, share personal details with you (showing you the wedding album), and regularly sit with you guys at lunch… I would say that he both likes you and cares about your well being. Where he’s drawing the line, and it’s healthy to do so, is at the details of his personal life (which are probably visible on his FB page).

        As one comment pointed out, seeing a set of people every day for 8 hours 5 days a week and then seeing the same set on the weekend caused chaffing. It’s probably not the case that they were all drama queens looking for things to fight about. You just naturally need distance from everyone in your life, including spouses and parents. Having too much contact causes relationships to become enmeshed.

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      5. MamaSarah

        Very elegant post, Jen. I think it’s a balance that shifts as we grow up and get more comfortable in our professions.

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    2. BBBizAnalyst

      This. I think opening up has helped for me. I’ve got great relationships and I was fortunate enough to meet my now mentor who’s been instrumental in my personal and professional development. Not every coworker is out to get you.

      Reply
    3. Liz2

      I think they understand the power of them quite well, it’s just not often worth the risks. If you are in any way alternative to your work culture, that can have huge repercussions to your well being and livelihood. And there are a LOT of ways people are actually alternative which work places can find to shun on- religion, politics, open relationships, being into games (pick a type), being vegan, having an abusive family, not having kids, etc. etc.

      It’s hard enough to get work groups to function productively on WORK. For a lot of people it’s more efficient and safer to keep work work and life life. When people ask me what I did this weekend, they really don’t want to hear the answer. I’ve learned to compensate with generic fun statements and make my performance speak for me. Yes, I know having a network and happy houring with people means they have more “ins” when it comes to certain situations, but it’s just not worth risking the rest.

      Reply
      1. EA

        I agree.

        If the OPs workplace is homogeneous, she probably can’t take the risk of exposing her true self. People might not accept her, and it will hurt her more than being “cold”. She should do what I do, which is to find things to share that people will respond to, and that also get everyone off her back.

        My boss is very into family and her children. She also can’t comprehend someone not exactly like her. When she asks about my parents to bond, it isn’t like I can be like we barely talk and don’t have a good relationship. Everyone with more normal backgrounds can bond with her about how great the holidays are for them, but I don’t have that advantage. It would be worse to tell the truth than it is to just dodge the question and change the subject.

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        1. The Southern Gothic

          +1
          Anyone who wanted to “bond” by talking about my family experiences would get to hear things that would make their hair stand on end. Best to deflect back to the other person’s experience of their own family and ask them to talk about that instead.

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          1. Health Insurance Nerd

            +1
            My mom passed away last year, and many people at work made kind comments like “she must have really been a special lady because you’re so great, blah, blah, blah” and I don’t know how well a response along the lines of “yeah, she was special alright- I’ll look fondly back on the time she let her husband post stolen pictures of me in my underwear on MySpace” would have gone over.

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      2. Shadow

        i think the opposite is true- that work becomes easier and more efficient the better your relationship. But you’re right about it being less safe initially.

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        1. Liz2

          But if knowing some personal details makes the other person not only dislike you but actively want to ostracize you (which is a reasonable possibility in many alternative choices) then the relationship isn’t better, and can be far worse than if you’d just kept it light.

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          1. fposte

            Right, that’s the risk-assessment part. How likely are you to get a gain from closer relationships, how much risk is there? I think if the risk is fairly modest, you’ll likely get more gain from being reasonably personally involved at work, since it will help with teamwork, get you more understanding, etc.–but obviously there are situations where the risk isn’t modest.

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          2. Alton

            Yeah, that can be a risk. I’ve found that the closest networking ties I’ve formed have been with people I had a lot in common with. That’s not to say that you can’t form good working relationships or networking relationships with people who are very different, but opening up personally might not always be the best route.

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        2. k

          I think it’s important to remember that you can have a very good work relationship without having any personal relationship. I can work well with Fergus if I know he’s not rude, gets his work done one time, is skilled at his job. I’d be happy to be a reference for him in the future and would speak well of him. We probably wouldn’t work as well together if had told me about his belief that the government is secretly run by an alien race of sentient onions and about his love of collecting antique bed pans.

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          1. Shadow

            You wouldn’t find it highly entertaining look forward to hearing about his weird theories and quest to find the bedpan of bedpans?

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          2. Naruto

            I think there are some people out there, though (I’d guess the majority), who would give an even better reference for Fergus if they periodically chatted with him about binge-watching The Americans or whatever.

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            1. MegaMoose, Esq

              Yeah, I think this is all about finding a comfortable middle ground. The LW sounds a bit like my spouse – he doesn’t like the idea of his coworkers knowing about his personal life and he doesn’t socialize with anyone from work at happy hours and the like, and it has absolutely contributed to coworkers thinking that he is unfriendly and a little weird. Even if you don’t want to be friends or talk about your family or religion or dating life, I think it really is helpful to figure out a few things you are okay with talking about: pets are pretty much always a winner, or innocuous hobbies (music, food, television).

              Reply
              1. Naruto

                Pets are a good one! Everyone at my office loves seeing pictures of, and chatting about, new puppies and things like that.

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        3. MommyMD

          I think you can have great work relationships without crossing into too many personal boundaries. After all, work is truly work.

          Reply
      3. Going Super Anonymous for This

        This! I work at a place where everyone here (coworkers and bosses) is of a single religion, albeit different sects (I think that is that the right term). I am of a minority religion that is often looked down upon, particularly by those in this particular religion.

        My coworkers are almost all married and almost all have kids. Like, 98% are married, 99% have kids. I am single and childfree by choice, and I don’t really like kids and I don’t want to get married.

        I don’t know if my coworkers would be okay with me or not if they knew, but based on past experience with people I thought would be okay and really weren’t, I am not about to risk it.

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      4. misplacedmidwesterner

        I’ve found people really like to commiserate with you over minor annoyances. So a good way to open up to people is to share those things. I got a flat tire and the tow truck took 2 hours. Or I had a plumbing problem and the first three plumbers I called weren’t available and the fourth guy charged me a ridiculous premium for Sunday service. A lot of the “open up without opening up too much” advice is sharing tv/hobbies/cooking/trying a new restaurant. But people adore sharing griping about little things. Don’t monopolize the conversation, but a 3 to 5 minute gripe (about something small, logistical, and outside work) can create some pretty good bonds. Don’t do it all the time, so you aren’t the negative nelly of the office, but you’ll be amazed at how universal it is.

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        1. MegaMoose, Esq

          This for sure! Somewhat related, I weirdly bonded with a bunch of coworkers when I knocked out one of my front teeth. People love finding out they’ve got stuff like that in common. Also, a surprising number of people have knocked out a front tooth at some point in their lives.

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      5. Nic

        Another option regarding social media and differing cultures would be having two accounts. I’m heavily involved in the renaissance festival community, and in my day to day life that might cause a bit of ostracism based on how much (mis)information folks have about the events. I also sometimes go to burns (smaller regional versions of Burning Man), which I’m certainly not going to want to talk about around work folks or parts of my family.

        Having a separate “work appropriate” facebook for folks in that circle of my life, and and another where I can connect with and find joy in my quirky cultured friends.

        Reply
        1. plain toast by day

          Yes. I would be wary about sharing certain less mainstream interests at work, if I were you. Some people are judgemental and/or will get the wrong idea. It gets exhausting at times though, doesn’t it? Almost like leading a double life. Watch as much football and drink as much beer as you like on the weekend, but if you want to run around in the woods wearing tights, brandishing a sword, and or lighting things on fire? Become suspect and work will be made unpleasant as possible for you.

          Reply
    4. TootsNYC

      see work relationships as both a work tool and a way to widen their pool of friends. They have many different layers of friends as opposed to separating them by work v. personal.

      This might be a way forward for the OP–think of people as “work friends,” not “friend friends.” and that might guide you in terms of what you share (and how you share).

      Reply
    5. Former Retail Manager

      I couldn’t agree more. And sometimes those work friendships will turn into long lasting personal friendships, when possible or as circumstances change over time. It doesn’t have to be so black and white. And befriending co-workers has enabled me to expand my group of friends to include people who I ordinarily would never befriend because I never would have come into contact with them in my personal life for varying reasons. I definitely believe those friendships have enriched my life both personally and professionally.

      Reply
    6. Anonanonanon

      But here’s the catch. That’s easier for some people than for others. If you live in a big city with a great economy and plenty of jobs, you can probably find a workplace where you’ll fit in. Or if you’re the kind of person who’s easy for most people to relate to – you watch the same tv shows, have the standard political views for your region, etc – then you’ll have an easy time making friends in most workplaces.

      But what if there’s something controversial about you? All kinds of things can be controversial given the context and setting. Sometimes circumstances dictate that you’ll end up with a job where people will really judge you if you get too close. Befriending people at work is great, but it only works if it won’t adversely affect your job security and quality of life at work. In some cases, you can transcend the judgment factor and befriend people who are really different from you, but you never know how it will play out, and I think it makes sense to play it safe at work.

      So I get where the OP is coming from. One solution is to try to find a place that’s a better fit. But if everyone did that, what would be the result? Loss of diversity in the workplace. It’s a tricky thing that ties in to much bigger issues.

      Reply
    7. Kiko

      But often those relationships are forced. If a friendship develops naturally and organically, by mutual sympathy it’s fine. However, if it was tried to be forced, it doesn’t work. I tried to force it by always saying “yes” to going out with coworkers and on lunches with them and to say the least it was weird.

      Reply
  2. nnn

    The OP wondering how to welcome a transgender employee mentions that their workplace has an Ally group that she might find useful. Does their workplace also have any groups for women? If so, make sure you mention/recommend them to the new employee as well.

    Reply
    1. Saturnine

      Yes, I definitely wanted to say that if there are other groups that the workplace has, bring them all up, so that the trans employee is aware the Ally group exists without being singled out. “We have a Women in Tech group, a hiking group, an Ally group, and a board game group, if you’re interested in any of them.”

      Reply
      1. nnn

        Yes, this exactly! Thank you for catching my slip there!

        I came up with “groups for women” because I was thinking in terms of “how to make a transwoman feel welcome”, but it really is about how to make a new employee feel welcome, and their gender and gender identity isn’t actually part of it.

        As a woman myself, I wouldn’t be best pleased if someone failed to tell me about the board game group because they were thinking “What do we have for women?” So now I’m kicking myself for falling into that trap.

        Reply
        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Don’t kick yourself! It was a strong suggestion that others built on, and now it’s a great suggestion. :)

          Reply
      2. General Ginger

        I definitely agree — mention the Ally group as just one of the cool groups you have available. Let your new coworker make the decision about attending, or not, or sharing her trans* status, or not. She’s not completely stealth since you were able to find her website profile with the info, but she might be trying to keep stealth at work. And even if she’s not stealth at all, it’s doubtful that her trans* status is the thing she would want to be the first thing people learn about her/identify her with. You clearly mean well, and it’s wonderful that you want to make her feel welcome (and that you have this awesome group to potentially be another resource/support structure for her), but welcome her like you would any other new coworker, and let her navigate this at her own pace.

        Reply
      3. Alton

        Yeah, I think that’s a good approach. It demonstrates a welcoming, LGBTQ-friendly culture without specifically focusing on the fact that the new-hire is trans or assuming she’ll want to join the ally group because if it.

        Reply
    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Agreed! The important thing is to treat the new employee with the same warmth and inclusion that you’d treat any new employee. So don’t try to predict what the new employee would be into—just explain the (hopefully many) issue-area and affinity groups that exist at your organization. Especially because you don’t want to out someone as trans or presume that that identity is what’s most important to how they see themselves (or how they want others to see them).

      There’s this awful vibe that can be introduced when a cis person gets excited to meet a trans person because they’re trans that I would describe as most analogous to marveling at an “exotic” animal in a menagerie. It’s well intentioned, but having seen people do it to my trans friends, it’s really really awful. You don’t want to channel that vibe.

      Reply
      1. Stacy

        Yes, avoid the vibe. It would achieve exactly the opposite of what you want. I liken it to this, to give a lighterhearted example: I’m an identical twin. Which often provokes an “Oh, cool!” response, usually a few questions for me, and then we go about the rest of our work day. I’m happy to have these conversations even though it is a sensitive subject for me sometimes.

        Then there are folks who are off-the-charts fascinated by twins to the point that it’s uncomfortable and rude. Like stop, stare, point twins they see out to other people, and completely lose focus on work or whatever, needing several minutes of “OMG, TWINS!” time before they can go about the rest of their day. This was annoying and uncomfortable enough to grow up with, because we’re not zoo animals. But as an adult? In the workplace? Yeah, seriously. People, not zoo animals. That’s kinda the vibe that you want to avoid.

        Reply
        1. Bryce

          Ah, twin experiences. You get all the older sibling issues, all the younger sibling issues, plus a whole bunch of new ones. I still fondly remember being in choir with some other near-identical twins; during downtime we’d take the chance to just commiserate and blow off steam.

          Reply
      2. all aboard the anon train

        Yes. I’d even say that this vibe tends to come from a number of allies to the entire LGBTQA+ group. It’s nice that you’re an ally, but wanting to make a grand overture of being an ally and singling me out because of my sexuality – however genuinely well intentioned – makes a situation more uncomfortable and makes me more wary.

        Part of the reason I don’t like bringing up my sexuality at work (aside from it being no one’s business) is that I’ve had enough experiences where a straight person is desperate to prove how cool and welcoming they/their company/etc are and it makes everyone more aware of my “otherness”.

        Also because there’s this idea that all queer people want to be involved in queer groups or think their sexuality is the forefront of their identity. That is the case for some people, and it isn’t for others. Knowing a LGBTQA+ group is part of the office culture is nice, but assuming I or anyone else who is queer would want to join it can be off-putting (and this goes for any type of group where people are singled out by a specific label or identity)

        Reply
  3. Sophie

    To #3: Not sure about how/if this could work, but could one maybe use some kind of employment agency for this (if that’s not too expensive)? Then you could keep the company name out of it.

    Reply
    1. Anon today...and tomorrow

      That is what I came here to say as well. My last three positions were obtained through an agency and I applied for the position, not the company. It wasn’t until being selected for the interview that I even knew which company I’d be interviewing with.

      Reply
    2. Barbara in Swampeast

      I remember when that question first appeared. It frosted my shorts then and now. Receptionist/office manager is NOT a “junior” position. And if you insist on such a condescending attitude, you will never know how truly awesome a good receptionist/office manager can be and can help your organization run better.

      I also second going the employment agency route for this, and please ask for someone with experience and pay them accordingly.

      Reply
      1. Detective Amy Santiago

        I am at the front desk in my office and everyone says that I basically run the place.

        Reply
      2. turquoisecow

        I think that what the OP was trying to get at was that the receptionist/office manager was a job that they could give to an entry-level person, as in it did not require a specialized set of skills perhaps unique to the company.

        For example, imagine the company in question is Google. Everyone hears that it’s a great place to work, but jobs that aren’t in the web or technology fields are hard to come by at a tech company. Therefore, competition for the few non-tech jobs there (like receptionist or office manager) are probably sought after quite competitively because they hear that tech companies are great places to work. The office manager or receptionist in this instance obviously still needs to be good at the job, and if the company ends up hiring someone who doesn’t really want to be a receptionist, but wants to work at Google, it’s not going to work out well for anyone.

        Reply
      3. Chaordic One

        You are so very correct in pointing out that a receptionist/office manager is NOT a “junior” position, Barbara. And yes, the OP does have a bit of condescending attitude. If position really does require some intelligence and really is a lot of hard work, you need to treat and pay the potential hire as a professional.

        I also wonder if maybe the employer has some preconceived ideas of what a receptionist should look like. I would advise the OP to cast a wider net and consider hiring someone who is NOT a “petite flower”, someone middle-aged or older, or someone who is a member of a minority group.

        Reply
        1. Elizabeth West

          Around here it is–a junior position I mean. Receptionist puts you on the low end of the scale even if you’re doing all the bookwork, which I can’t. If you’re not, it’s even lower. Like barely above fast food wages.

          Office manager tends to be separate and something a bit higher up. It might be the accounting/office manager, for example. Although I’ve had that title concurrent with front desk and I handled personnel certifications, it was still a very low-level position and low-paid, in a small company.

          Reply
        2. bridget

          “Junior” position really doesn’t need to have all of those layers of negativity you’ve heaped on it (especially re: minority groups – there’s no general connotation that junior = white, in my experience). It can literally just mean someone who is at the bottom of the organizational chart, and who does not need to have specialized skills or X years of experience to be able to competently perform the job. It’s basically synonymous with “entry level.” Sure, someone who does have a lot of prior experience can fill the role, but the role itself is a junior one in the company structure. Office managers in many organizations do need specialized skills, but sometimes companies have set the position up in such a way that it’s an entry-level position. I assume the OP is in a better position than we are to know what kind of job she’s hiring for and is accurately describing it.

          Reply
          1. MyFakeNameIsLaura

            (especially re: minority groups – there’s no general connotation that junior = white, in my experience). It’s that junior frequently = non-white, woman, or other marginalized identity. Esp at tech and other “cool” companies, when you look at the staff it’s very common to see white dudes in the most important positions, with everyone else lower in the hierarchy. Sure it might be coincidence, but when you see it 95% of the time it’s a pattern worth investigating.

            Reply
      4. Annonymouse

        I know the feeling – In my workplace if anyone wants something done you ask me.

        But I think OP means junior as in not part of the C suite since they are a very new/startup ish company

        Reply
  4. UTManager

    You can share or not according to your preferences, but there are consequences to that. When I took over my department, I was the recipient of many comments about how “cold” and “closed-off” and “phony” the previous manager was and how happy they were to be working for a “warm blooded human” now. I am entirely certain this perception was because the previous manager was incredibly private, as they were never anything but helpful and polite. Working with them for 5+ years, I barely knew anything about them myself! They were a good manager, but yes, people won’t like you if you’re extremely private and yes, it will affect your career.

    As for what to do about it without compromising your privacy? I’m also a private person, but people see me as “warm blooded” because I do share inconsequential details about myself, like how important my nieces/nephews are to me, or my love of origami, or mr river-rafting adventures. People feel they know me when they know these things about me, but I still have privacy around the things that really matter to me but would make me an outcase in the office – that I’m a secular humanist, childfree-by-choice, and that I’m staunchy anti-Trump (in a deep red state!). I don’t socialize with coworkers outside work, and yes, I’ve had to turn people down… but it’s worth it to me as it gives me the kind of privacy that really matters.

    Reply
    1. kittymommy

      Bingo. It’s not an all or nothing scenario. I’m single (never married), in my 40’s, with no kids – pretty much exactly the opposite of all my colleagues -but I get along with everyone and am friends with them (we’ve even gone to dinner occasionally). They would consider me an open book, but other than my love of cats, wine, and cake, they truly no nothing about me. It’s all in sharing selective, insignificant details, especially if it’s similar to someone else.

      Reply
      1. Argh!

        Same here, and when they get into kid stuff or child birth stories I find an excuse to be somewhere else.

        Reply
      2. Intrepid

        Seconding this. I’m a single 20-something formerly on a team of married 40 & 50-somethings with kids. I shared stories about my sisters’ childhoods and friend’s kids when I needed to, and it seemed to go over fine.

        Reply
    2. Bwmn

      This is exactly it – finding a way to present a rich but narrow window into your personal life I think can be incredibly helpful. Sure, things like being married and having kids may offer a lot of PG entry points, but I think that most of us have something that’s fairly innocuous but provides a bonding point.

      I initially had one of those “cold” managers, who wasn’t very chatty – but at some point we found out that we both liked the Great British Bake Off, and it really was a “phew, I have something we can talk about” moment. Had that never happened, there would have been a level of stiffness that would have taken a lot longer to overcome. And especially as we occasionally had to travel together, would have definitely it made it very draining if all we talked about was work.

      I will also add that if your reluctance to open up has been noticed by your manager than it’s clearly having an impact. Some workplaces definitely have a TMI policy, and so maybe there’s a culture fit. But provided that’s not the case, then it may be that the OP’s department or workplace is finding the reluctance to open up very noticeable and potentially problematic.

      Reply
      1. UTManager

        Ha! GBB is also one of the things I connect with people over. It’s legitimately fun to talk about even for people who don’t bake.

        Reply
      2. all aboard the anon train

        I had a similar experience with my manager. We’re on opposite ends of the political, religious, family, etc. spectrum and it was a weird level of stiffness until we both discovered that we couldn’t stand a particular sports team and their fans. And then we had something to talk about and that coldness went away.

        Reply
    3. k

      Agree, you can be private but still open in some ways. I basically look at it like there are two sides of me, Work Me and Normal Me. Work Me is engages in polite chit-chat and will tell you how their weekend was, but doesn’t seek out conversation and stays neutral on many topics. Normal Me is sarcastic, dramatic, has views would be categorized as very liberal/alternative, etc. Normal Me would probably roll their eyes if they met Work Me (that chick is boring). But it gets me through without people realizing that they know nothing about me.

      Reply
    4. Leslie Knope

      I do the same thing. Unfortunately early on in my current workplace I was probably too forthcoming with actual “pertinent” details of my life and definitely didn’t understand the underlying workplace dynamics. I had shared things that “mattered” to me and then when it was talked about or shared with other people I felt really frustrated. But it was my own doing!

      Now I am a bit more wary and have taken an approach to be as friendly and warm as possible, but without disclosing the things that I actually “care” about.

      For example, I’ll bring up a recent news article, or talk about recent beauty product that is fantastic. I can talk about sports teams and something hilarious that a young niece said. But, I definitely play more substantive things close to the vest. And, I don’t think most people notice.

      Reply
      1. UTManager

        Yep, people are too caught up in their own stuff to notice that they DON’T know intimate details about you. People just want to feel comfortable with you, and as social creatures that’s easily accomplished by just being an open book on the chapters you’re willing to share.

        Reply
      2. The Supreme Troll

        Yes, you can “let your guard down” on some things and this will help with developing stronger bonds with you colleagues. It will help in building better trust with others. And you can still do this without having to be a completely open book with every single little bit information of your personal life.

        Reply
    5. Madeleine Matilda

      I think that we also need to be careful not to confuse “cold” and “closed off” with introverted or shy. Often those who are less extroverted can seem cold or closed off or too private to extroverts. My college roommate is an extreme extrovert. Meet her and within minutes she is telling you all about herself. I’m the opposite. She has even said to me “your so private.” I said, “No, I just don’t share everything with everyone as you do.”

      Reply
      1. MegaMoose, Esq

        Yes, but if your coworkers think you are cold or closed off or too private, it’s on you to do something about that (assuming you think it’s a bad thing and want it to change). Being an introvert you might have to work a little harder at it, but it’s certainly not impossible.

        Reply
      2. UTManager

        That’s fine for a personal relationship, but professionally, we have to adapt to our discomforts for the good of the team. That means sharing enough so that people can connect with and trust us, but not so much that we’re hurting either. It’s unrealistic to demand that extroverts just “deal with” our extreme privacy and magically connect with us despite us not meeting their need for verbal communication, same as it’s unrealistic for extroverts to expect us to go out for after-work drinks every day.

        Reply
    6. Formica Dinette

      This is my strategy as well. Sharing details about my life that are fairly innocuous helps me build relationships with my coworkers, which has been good for my career. It also makes doing my job on a day-to-day basis easier and more pleasant.

      Reply
      1. UTManager

        Yep, this. I’m kinda annoyed by this whole introverts in the workplace trent… as if being introverted is an excuse for not putting effort into work relationships. I’m an introvert and I hate that the pop culture vibe around that is that we’ll break out in a rash if we have to talk to someone! I’m an introvert, but I’m also a pragmatist, and it just makes my life easier that I’ve learned how to share enough to connect while still maintaining my need for privacy. I spend my evenings and weekends largely alone in order to recharge, but at work I buck up and speak up because that’s what helps me succeed.

        Reply
        1. Be Still

          As a deeply introverted person, I’m frustrated by your response. it’s not just about privacy; I have extreme anxiety talking to people at work about “chit chat type” things. I had a speech impediment as a kid so it’s easy for people to just talk over me or jump in with the same statement I had made or was about to make. While highly intelligent, people tend to dismiss me because I’m not exuberant enough for the extroverts in the crowd. Frankly, extroverts confound me because they seem to be unable to be quiet for others and just be still.
          At one job, someone who became a close friend said I came off as aloof, but she eventually realized it was because I had been tossed into a new job at the busiest possible time with no training, assistance, or support and was being bullied by the person who should have been helping me. I was simply terrified – every time I ask a question I was batted away and was called stupid & asked why I was even hired.
          Thinking about my social issues, I’d most likely have been labeled as an Aspy if I had been born 25 years later than I was.
          YMMV.

          Reply
          1. Chomps

            Having anxiety in social situations is different from being introverted though. Introverts get their energy from being alone, but don’t necessarily get anxious when talking to people. Extraverts get their energy from interacting with people, but may still get anxious in social situations.
            Have you ever gotten professional help for your anxiety? I have and found it very helpful. It might be something to look into.

            Reply
          2. Nic

            I had a coworker once upon a time that this made me think of. We met over IM when he had been directed to me to ask a technical question about something. We hit it off, and chatted for weeks on IM.

            At one point I offered to let him borrow a movie. I brought it in and told him where my desk was. At this point we’d never seen each other in real life. He let me know he was coming over, very shyly walked up, took the movie, and walked away without a peep. When he was back at his desk he was effusive in his excitement.

            The point of all this is that there are ways to reach out and be social without being traditionally social, if it is that rather than the details of life that you choose to avoid in work-life. If IM is available/allowed/appropriate at your place of work that might be a lower-stress alternative. I also agree with the above suggestions of picking some safe topics like TV shows, pets, or crafts that can allow you to connect without high stakes.

            Reply
          3. plain toast by day

            I’m sorry to hear that. Workplace bullying is unprofessional but tolerated often for some reason. I am also an introvert, but try to make small talk and have no issues at all if the person is receptive. I won’t really chat if I’m around a larger group and multiple people are already talking, especially if there’s multiple conversations going on. It’s sort of like where do I even jump in here? What is there to say that is significant enough to speak over multiple people? Sometimes people are not receptive though, and if I ask two questions in a row and get a one word snippy answer, I will get uncomfortable and just shut down. It’s not voluntary, it’s like I skip feeling nervous anxiety and just can not even process conversation at that point. Is that really a “bad thing” that needs getting help for though? I don’t think so. I once was on a business trip where the entire group acted that way, felt anxious then. Who wouldn’t? 15 people all refusing to interact but acting normal to each other? That is awkward as hell. If it’s just one person though? Life is too short to get hung up on someone who is not responsive. I find those who chastise quiet people for being themselves to be rather crass, actually.

            Reply
        2. Lissa

          Totally, totally agree with you, UTManager. It seems like any discussion now about this type of thing will have people popping up with “but introvert!” as though it means it’s impossible to socialize at all in the workplace etc. It’s not OK to say “but maybe she’s just an extrovert” about an oversharing employee, either. But the trends/many articles written about introversion have given me a serious exhaustion on the topic outside of a few circumstances.

          I think at the end of day the it’s a tradeoff — sure, you can be as private as you want, and argue that your coworkers “should” not penalize you for that, but it’s not like it’s a conscious decision on their part so much as an overall impression, and it’s unlikely to change people’s overall perception of a specific person by arguing “should”.

          Reply
          1. UTManager

            Yep, I did get a few responses from people along those lines – at least one person who isn’t introverted so much as has social anxiety (the latter needs treatment, the former just needs a reality check). If it makes people feel better to put a label on their difficulties, fine, but I just hope they realize that the world doesn’t care about “fairness” and most workplaces won’t accept excuses for avoiding the social niceties expected in worklife.

            Reply
    7. Artemesia

      I made this mistake early in my career. I had lost my job as the result of a merger and had gotten a position in a research institute nearby. I had a 5 year old and a baby and I was convinced that being professional as a woman was to not mention family life and responsibilities.

      Several months in I was at a party and chatting and the co-workers were talking about their kids and one turned to me and said ‘I guess you and Wakeen don’t have kids yet.’ I said, well I have a 7 month old baby and a kindergartener’ and they were jaw droppingly astonished. I had been this cold, mechanical, ultra professional and they had no idea. For days, people would come up to me at work with ‘I heard this amazing thing about you.’ I learned that there are more options than oversharing and no sharing at all. Looking back it seems stupid, but at the time, I didn’t want to be pigeonholed as a Mommy working part time while I was scrambling to get my career back on track.

      Reply
    8. Xarcady

      This is pretty much my basic strategy at work. Share a little–people know about my cat and my nieces and nephews. And I’ll bring in homemade cookies once in a while. But do not share the important stuff, or the stuff that is likely to be poorly received.

      The fact that I would be thrilled if there were never another college or professional football, basketball, hockey or baseball game aired on TV? Not mentioned. The fact that I, as a 50-something woman love science fiction? Not mentioned. Politics? Not mentioned. Religion? Not mentioned. People I’m dating? Not mentioned. All of these have caused problems in the past and I just keep them hidden.

      My co-workers think they know me. They know exactly what I want them to know. My relationships with them are cordial, friendly and professional. I have no need to make close friends at work.

      Reply
      1. Iskon

        Whoa, you don’t mention the SF? I mean, I’m a very different age but also female, but people know I read a lot of sf/f, like seeing big action SF movies, etc, cause it’s easy to talk about shows and books. “Oh what did you think of X?” etc.

        Reply
        1. Intrepid

          IME, there’s a divide between SF like Avengers and SF that gets included in pop culture vs. more niche SF, which can still read as a little too weird, depending on your office. Would I talk about the Avengers at work? Absolutely! Talk about how I see echos of Asimov in an urban fantasy book with a half-naked woman on the cover? Not unless I was SURE my co-worker had already read it.

          Reply
          1. Intrepid

            Whoops, should just read “IME, there’s a divide between SF that gets included in pop culture vs. more niche SF…”

            Reply
    9. Thinking Outside the Boss

      Another thing to do is to follow up with coworkers about the things they have shared with you. “How’s your aunt Kathy doing after that fall in the parking lot?” “How’s your son enjoying college?” “Did you and Marv take that white water rafting trip yet?”

      Nothing distracts someone more from your personal life than following up with theirs!

      Reply
  5. Not Karen

    #4: Definitely do NOT bring it up! Go ahead and mention the Ally group, but do it in the same way you would to any other employee.

    Reply
    1. Jill

      I agree, #4, don’t bring up the transgender issue. I would think it weird if a new coworker came up and the first thing they wanted to talk about was stuff related to my gender. Knowing something about a person is NOT the same thing as knowing a person as…a person, where you’re intimate enough to be discussing things like their gender identity. This line of conversation is weirdly personal for the still-getting-to-know you stage.

      I kind of read #4’s tone as “it would be so cool to say I actually met a real, live trans person and now I have her in my social circle.” This is just weird and creepy. Trans folks aren’t some kind of oddity or pet or hot trend. They’re people. Follow AAM’s advice and welcome this person the same way you’d welcome any other new employee.

      Reply
      1. Lablizard

        Yes! If you wouldn’t make the gender identity of a cis-man or cis-woman new employee, don’t do it to a trans-man or trans-woman. Follow the new employee’s lead. If they bring up the topic, discuss it, but if not, leave it alone and stick to the important stuff….like which cafes in the area have the best coffee, office equipment quirks, where the bathrooms are, work events, etc

        Reply
    2. Artemesia

      don’t mention the group. This information will be available or known to the new person. It is obvious that the OP is very excited about this and there is no way s/he is going to mention Ally without coming across as snoopy and boundary crossing. The post is quivering with excitement at ‘welcoming’ this trans person. If the newbie wants to be discreet or doesn’t want a fuss then this isn’t happening unless she is genuinely treated like any other new hire. I hope everyone is welcomed as a colleague without curiosity or excitement about their private life.

      Reply
    3. Franzia Spritzer

      Yeah, no #4, you could be outting the person at work, and that’s absolutely not your job to do.

      Reply
  6. Elemeno P.

    I also work in a “cool” industry in a department that sounds particularly exciting, and we have been having issues with recent interns because of this. They hear the name and think it involves travel and creativity, when it’s really a lot of technical writing, data entry, and detail-oriented comparison work. We’ve responded to this by making the job description incredibly detailed, which has the benefits of a) screening out who has and who hasn’t read all the details, and b) making the position sound really boring.

    I also like Alison’s approach of asking how people have handled specific tasks in the past, because that answer should help weed out the people who just want the company name.

    Reply
    1. Lora

      I JUST did this – I’m hiring in a company that is considered cool and creative and stuff as far as the industry goes. There’s a couple of things you can do here:

      1. Explain the typical day to day work in excruciating detail: Jane gives you a technical document, you review for accuracy and quality and typos, and then pass it along to Fergus. Fergus will mark it up before he hands it to Wakeen for final approval. Next, Cersei will have you review the user manual…

      2. Explain the company structure, making it clear which department is the Fun Department and how this department is not that. There are often great benefits for doing boring yet essential work – it tends to pay better (because nobody wants to do it); you may be in a role that, should the company be purchased or downsized, will be kept on because of the criticality of the work; you often get more and more responsibility because you’re seen as solid and trustworthy rather than head-in-the-clouds, people will come to you for a reality check when they’re tired of listening to pie-in-the-sky. But be clear that all jobs which look cool on a resume often have a majority percentage of boring work involved.

      3. Tell them about the most exciting thing that happens in the job all week. That might be a fire alarm. Be clear on what percentage of the job is boring and what the opportunities for excitement and creativity will be.

      Reply
      1. Nic

        Man…that actually sounds like a blissful job. I really enjoy the boring nitty gritty clerical work, but it’s hard to find that when you need more than an entry level salary.

        Those sound like great suggestions for trying to hire in that situation.

        Reply
        1. excel_fangrrrl

          the fire alarm thing makes this TOO REAL! i work in a Very Boring (stable, reliable, and safe) position at a Very Cool IT Company (i don’t know how Sales and Creatives handle the unpredictable hours and pay *deep breaths*). we recently received a heads up email about upcoming fire alarm testing and my Very Boring Team is all atwitter with excitement and dismay.

          Lora’s approach is definitely the correct approach. i honestly didn’t realize i was going to end up at a Very Cool IT Company when i accepted the temp-to-perm position from a hiring agency. they very much focused on the boring nitty-gritty and that’s exactly what i love about it. it’s great fun to work in this building & with these people & to have these perks but our team is made of Boring People who just want to get up and do their Boring Job every day. nothing Cool going on in *this* department.

          Reply
  7. Turtlewings

    For #2, the one being frozen out by the co-worker she’s supposed to work with, I think Allison may have misinterpreted something. When she said “My co-worker probably doesn’t know what my role is supposed to be, since my boss isn’t one for giving directions of any kind,” I doubt she meant that the co-worker doesn’t realize they’re supposed to work together. I think they just weren’t given any guidance on who should do what. Co-worker’s been doing it all on her own, sees no purpose to LW’s presence, doesn’t like what she has to say and just doesn’t know what to do with her. The boss apparently expects them to figure everything out between the two of them, but with co-worker just sort of refusing to engage, it leaves LW with no idea what to do.

    Reply
    1. SLR

      I took it to mean that the boss only told OP & not the co-worker at all. Everything else I totally see happening!

      Reply
      1. (different) Rebecca

        I think there may be several misunderstandings…because “my boss told me I should work on the social media team” can have several meanings, everywhere from “I should become a new (and junior) person on the team” to “I should take over the team and change everything up.” If the boss meant the latter, or the OP interpreted the bosses instructions as the latter, and the coworker was expecting the former, I could see why the OP is being frozen out.

        Reply
    2. Artemesia

      I saw it as the OP just waltzed in and started telling the person who was handling this area what they were doing wrong, without them being aware of her assignment. But even if she was aware the OP had been assigned to the team, it is hard to imagine a better way to totally alienate the team and team lead then to come in both barrels firing with all the ways they aren’t doing social media right. At the very least, especially when the boss is mushy, one introduces oneself as newly assigned and then LISTENS. This is a basic rule of any new role even a new role as boss. First you get the lay of the land and listen. You find out what useful things you can do. And then when you are part of the team, you explore ways in which the current plan doesn’t fit the guidelines (or maybe you suggest the guidelines need to change since the current work is so awesome.) This strikes me as an almost irrecoverable misstep.

      Reply
      1. Anne (with an "e")

        +10
        I was a bit confused by the letter. Is the LW a new social media team member? Is the LW supposed to assist the person who is in fact in charge of the social media team? Is the LW now in charge of the social media team? Is the LW supposed to shake up the way the social media team has been operating? If I thought that I was in charge of a team I doubt that I would appreciate a new team member coming in and telling me what was wrong. I would want a new team member to observe, ask questions, and offer if they could help with anything. I would not expect nor appreciate a team member to judge my performance, especially not in an initial meeting. I can completely understand the colleague shutting out the LW in this situation.

        Reply
      2. Bean Counter

        Yes, I used to do almost all the social media for my (nonprofit) organization, and there were a lot of people who were certain that I wasn’t doing it right, or not well enough, or not the way THEY would have done it. And while it is certainly possible to do social media badly, there isn’t one, true, objectively correct way to do it that everyone agrees on. Different things work (or don’t) in different situations, and you can pour a lot of time into social media for diminishing returns. But it’s something that almost everyone seems to have an opinion on, and I grew very wary of anyone who tried to tell me what they thought I should be doing differently, given that most of them had no particular expertise, and a lot of their suggestions weren’t good or practical. I, too, would not have any time for someone who approached me the way the letter writer apparently treated their coworker.

        Reply
  8. MashaKasha

    I’m one of those weird people who’ve gotten burned too many times as a result of getting too close with people at work, and are reluctant to open themselves up to that again. There’s too much possible competition, infighting, office politics etc at play, that in the worst case scenario will negatively affect my being able to put food on my family’s table. My approach to work relationship has pretty much evolved into, be nice to everyone, be friendly with everyone, trust no one. I’m always happy to chat on neutral topics. When I had a dog, I talked about my dog and people would in return tell me about their dogs. Now I have cats, so I talk about the cats and have people tell me about theirs. I’ve got a kid in college, everyone seems happy to talk about college in some capacity. Or ask them about their weekend/cats/hamsters/grandkids, they’ll be happy to tell you all about them and you won’t have to offer any of your own personal information at all. But don’t give your coworkers any ammunition against you unless and until you know them well enough that you can say with a 100% certainty that they will not use any of it in ways you would not want them to. Even if it’s you vs them for a promotion or an extra 5% raise or if it’s you or them getting laid off, being transferred to a more promising project, being transferred to a dead-end project and so on. The possibilities to stab each other in the back are endless. Most people you’ll meet in the corporate workplace, IMO, will take advantage of them. But there are people who will never do it on principle. When you find one of those people, that’s when you have formed a lasting work friendship. That happens very rarely, but it does happen. It takes years of working closely with the person to find out if they have that friendship potential or not.

    Reply
    1. Shadow

      Do you find your job fulfilling? i would think it’s impossible to have any job satisfaction if you assume everyone is a backstabber until you see a long pattern of noble behavior to prove otherwise.

      Reply
      1. MashaKasha

        It pays my bills. It’s fairly enjoyable. It is not my life or my identity. It is not my “home away from home”. I have a fulfilling life outside of it.

        I’ve been in the corporate world for decades and had a few incidents early in my career, of weird bad things happening to me at work for apparently no reason; caused by backstabbing coworkers who were nice casual friends otherwise. Adding a layer of protection really helped. Knowing who to trust in the workplace, and developing a small support system in the workplace, also really helped. What helped the most was coming to an understanding that I, and everyone in my office, are not there to find happiness, to develop a social life and so on. Every single person I meet in the office every day is there to contribute to the company’s bottom line in return for the company contributing to their bank account. That’s all there is to it. As it should be. They have families to feed, even if it’s a one-person family.

        I really don’t get befriending everyone and their dog in the office. You don’t open up and become best friends with random people on the street or in a grocery store. You connect with the few select people you have shared interests with, you get to know each other better, if there’s a good enough connection then you eventually become friends. Just having been hired by the same, or different, managers of the same work group isn’t sufficient enough basis for a friendship in my book.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          It’s interesting, because while you phrase it in a more Game of Thrones way than I view things, what you’re describing to me is a pretty common socialization pattern at work for me, and I think of myself as fairly personally involved. There are some people I know more about, and I do have a few good friends, but mostly it’s just goodwill based on the weather, the food, pets, etc. So maybe you’ve just come a different way to the same place.

          Reply
          1. LBK

            Agreed – that sounds completely normal to me, and I also consider myself to have strong relationships with pretty much all of my colleagues. Certainly be friendly to everyone you work with, but that doesn’t mean you have to be friends with everyone. Some relationships will develop organically and some won’t, just like friendships outside of work.

            I think people overestimate how much of a personal relationship you need to have with someone in order to leverage that relationship professionally. I have some extremely strong professional relationships that I can engage as needed and those people literally don’t know anything more private about me than my name. I do it all by being a (neurotically) reliable, helpful, professional and responsive colleague. It’s a relationship built on respect and earning favors by doing favors, not built on going out to lunch together every day and divulging every gory detail of my private life.

            Reply
            1. MashaKasha

              Your second paragraph is pretty much how I operate in a workplace.

              Also, back in the early 00s, I learned a lot about working at very large companies from the Song of Ice and Fire books (now known as the Game of Thrones).

              Reply
        2. General Ginger

          In light of fposte’s comment — basically, don’t be Ned Stark about it. Be… come to think of it, I have no idea who does well with regard to making useful friends on Game of Thrones. Maybe Sam Tarly?

          Reply
          1. Lora

            Arya has useful friends, and learns as much as she can everywhere she goes. Tyrion and Varys the Spider make a lot of friends by being expert politicians – that’s been my tactic, be the technical expert everyone asks for wisdom. Jon Snow makes good friends by helping people as much as he can, ditto Brienne and Podrick and Davos Seaworth.

            Which pretty much guarantees they will all get killed in the George RR Martin world, but…for now they are alive.

            Reply
            1. Nic

              And Arya does a good job of keeping her real life (aka personal life) out of…almost everything post season 1 (aka the office).

              Reply
        3. Shadow

          Masha kaska,
          These are people you spend the majority of your time with and how you get along with them determines in large part your happiness. That’s why I think it’s so important. Getting along better with them makes working there more fulfilling.

          Reply
          1. MashaKasha

            I guess it depends on the nature of one’s work… in my field, we spend the majority of our time in front of our computers. I actually get along with people really well in the workplace. But the way I get to that point is by 1) getting stuff done, 2) cooperating with my colleagues to ensure that they get stuff done, 3) helping them get stuff done if needed, oh and there is also a 4) anything you tell me that isn’t for public consumption, I will take to my grave. I’ve kept some pretty insane workplace secrets in my life. 5) all around coming across like someone who will support them and not tear them down. 6) respecting them and their work. It works. I don’t have to get all huggy-kissy and party with them and invite them over to my house for drinks to have a good relationship with just about everyone. (Although in the past when I had a bigger house, I’ve done that too.) Like I said somewhere on that thread, people come to work with one end goal, to get paid. Maybe also to maintain a skillset that will allow them to continue getting paid. If they know you’re going to help them achieve that goal, instead of being an obstacle to them reaching that goal, you’re in.

            Reply
            1. VIBookworm

              This is me pretty much. I am not social which most people find offputting. I greet people, respond, and attend work functions but I keep it professional. Once I show myself to be dependable, trustworthy etc most of those people don’t care that I don’t prolong or initiate small talk. Unfortunately there are some people who do care and it can cause career problems. I have found that some of those same people choose who they do/dont to talk to or how much they share. Yet they take issue when a more quieter person does the same.

              I am a homebody, single, no kids, and no pets. I barely watch tv so no common ground on popular tv shows. If I say I didn’t go out on weekends, people start telling me what they think I should be doing. I have gotten snide remarks when I mention my hobbies: reading, playing video games, puzzles. It gets tiresome and has made me reluctant to share even basic info.

              Reply
        4. Iskon

          >You don’t open up and become best friends with random people on the street or in a grocery store

          Yeah, because you don’t see those people again. You don’t work with them on projects for months on end, or sit next to each other every day, or see them every month at the same meeting, or need to ask them favours to maybe bump your stuff up the priority list, or whatever. It’s a completely different level of interaction. Of course people want to put more effort into work relationships!

          Reply
    2. Anon today...and tomorrow

      Yes to this! I’m very cautious about work people. My first week at my current position two women invited me to go to lunch with them. I went, but immediately regretted it. It was a like a date. They asked me about my family, my friends, where I was from, etc. I ended up faking stomach issues and hiding out in the bathroom at the restaurant we were at just to avoid the onslaught.
      Now I’m known as the friendly women who will tell you about her cat (who resembles a certain dictator with a funny mustache), the endless flurry of laundry that a 5th and 6th grader seem to generate, and my girl scout troop and their cookie sales (people actually find reasons to leave when I turn the subject to cookies!). There’s very little interest on my part to further these relationships beyond the workplace but there’s no reason for me to pretend I don’t have a life outside of this place.

      Reply
    3. Taylor Swift

      This is so bizarre to me. I’ve never worked at a place where I was in constant fear of backstabbing or competition. I think most work places are not like this.

      Reply
      1. LBK

        Same. I’m sure they must exist, but I also wonder how much is based on either misreading relationships or attributing inaccurate motives. I’m reminded of the letter the other day where the OP got rejected from a job because her ex’s new SO worked there, and she was galled by the manager being polite and friendly the next time they met. To me, that’s just part of being professional.

        It’s not like a social situation where the person your ex cheated on you with pretends to be nice to you at a party – acting courteous in a professional setting and not letting emotions shine through isn’t being fake, it’s normal and expected.

        Reply
        1. MashaKasha

          Well I started out being super-friendly and welcoming with everyone in the workplace, and then like I said, bad things started happening. Like a boss hitting on me. And then a former coworker inviting the same boss to lunch to warn him about me, because according to her, I had a tendency to sleep my way to the top. She and I used to be work friends and I had stupidly confided in her about a work crush that I had never planned to act on, and it came to bite me in the arse a year later.

          Then a few years later I was working for Large Corp and getting good reviews and feedback. Until one day when I came in for my mid-year evaluation and was placed on probation for unacceptable performance. Then taken off probation a few months later for exceptional performance. My performance had not changed other than I had started documenting everything and I was puzzled. Talked to a few close work friends I did have and they gave me pointers on how to get through it. I’m not at liberty to share the details, but in a nutshell, my manager was in danger of losing his job himself for unacceptable performance and some seriously unprofessional conduct. He tried to use me as a distraction I guess. He was very hands-off and we rarely saw him. The person who fed him the information about my unacceptable work habits was my his close friend, who was also my close work friend, who I shared a cubicle with. I’m still friends with that person, believe it or not! The manager did end up losing his job. I don’t know what there was to misread. I came this close to losing my job at least on these two occasions, all because I trusted people too much who were not to be trusted. Doesn’t mean I couldn’t have chatted with them about puppies and kittens!

          Reply
          1. LBK

            Interesting. I guess to me, I don’t view that as being cutthroat or backstabbing or engaging in office politics. I just think of it as being a shitty person and/or employee. I’ve had some crappy coworkers who’ve done crappy stuff, but I don’t think they’re conniving – they’re simply just a-holes. Frankly some of them don’t seem smart enough to be doing this stuff to give themselves a leg up, and in fact they’re too dumb to see how it reflects on them to most of their reasonable, sane coworkers.

            There is one person I work with who trying to play games like this, so I do know it exists, but it’s laughably transparent. I guess I’ve just lucked out and worked with enough managers who were able to identify this nonsense when they see it and not respond to it (and I haven’t worked for a particularly amazing set of managers).

            Reply
      2. Lora

        It tends to happen when there is a corporate takeover and/or significant recurring layoffs. Mergers and acquisitions often don’t take the resulting hit to culture into account because it’s hard to quantify, but it’s observable from other M&A events.

        Reply
      3. Alton

        I think you can be cautious and mindful of the possibility without actively suspecting everyone of being backstabbers (unless they give you good reason to think they are!). Sometimes people do get betrayed by people they genuinely saw as friends, and in the workplace, that can have repercussions for your career or create awkwardness since you may not be able to avoid the person.

        Personally, that just means that I’m really cautious about sharing things with coworkers that I would be totally horrified to have shared around the workplace, and I’m cautious about forming such close relationships that it would be hard to function in the workplace if things went south. I also try to be mindful of things like potential conflicts of interest.

        Reply
        1. MashaKasha

          I guess I need to rephrase. It’s not that everyone is a backstabber. It’s that a corporate workplace can present a lot of really tempting “dog eat dog” situations that a lot of people would not be able to resist if their livelihood and their families’ financial future are on the line. I do not expect every one of my coworkers to be a Ned Stark, and won’t hold it against them if they’re not.

          Reply
    4. The Expendable Redshirt

      This operation mode makes sense to me. Though your workplace burns sound more extreme than average. I’m so sorry people were that crappy!

      At work, I am pleasant and helpful to all. I think that I have some strong workplace connections because of this. But none of my coworkers knows a single controversial thing about me. I’m just the lady who is majorly enthusiastic about cats, only eats Kraft Dinner with a fork, and may talk about Dr. Who for far too long. The coworkers know me pretty well, but they don’t know everything about me. Nor should they.

      Reply
    5. UTManager

      Yep – you’ve nailed it! This is absolutely the way to connect with others and get the perks without getting burned, either from oversharing or undersharing (and getting labeled as “cold”).

      Reply
  9. Stop That Goat

    I think Alison’s advice is spot on. Be generally welcoming and let things happen naturally. I wouldn’t bring up trans at all unless they did. It’s not the same situation but my boss knows I’m gay and I’m not particularly closeted. On the same token, it’s not really something that I’m comfortable talking about with coworkers. I’d feel a little tokenized if someone was trying to befriend me because of that and I’d be really uncomfortable if they brought it up randomly with me.

    Reply
  10. BPT

    So for OP#1, totally not trying to be down on you, and I get you’ve had bad past experiences. But I probably wouldn’t go into detail about that with my boss (saying you’ve had unfair judgments about you before) for a couple of reasons. One, if I had someone indicate that they routinely had problems with coworkers in the past, I would tend to think that they were the common denominator. (Not saying that you are at all, and I know you mentioned it was just a couple of times, but it could end up giving off that appearance.) It would remind me of the people who say “they don’t like drama,” who turn into the ones who create drama.

    Second, I wouldn’t ever use the term “unfair judgments.” It seems a little…immature? Employees are required to be professional with coworkers, but that doesn’t mean they have to like each other or have a lot in common. And I totally get that some workplaces can be filled with judgmental people who aren’t very welcoming to those that are different. But without going into all the details about it with your boss, that term to me would just suggest that people tend not to like you at work, which isn’t the image you want to project.

    By your description, it seems that you are very non-dramatic (choosing to keep a little distance from coworkers) and well-liked outside of work, so I’m sure these two things don’t apply to you. But I would maybe use the phrase, “I like to have a work/life separation” or just try to share some personal-but-not-very-personal things about yourself, like Alison suggests. I wouldn’t go into past experiences at all.

    Reply
    1. CMart

      Agreed about ditching the phrase “unfair judgments”. I would interpret that as just fancier talk for a situation where you essentially proclaimed “you don’t know me! You don’t know my life!” which is rarely ever uttered by someone commanding much respect (teenagers and overly defensive, often drunk adults in my experience).

      Right or wrong, that’s how it would sound to me.

      Reply
  11. Liz2

    Tangential to #3, I once was given a surprise logic question involving easy mental math as an interview for an exec admin position. I’m great at logic but mental math is hard especially in tense situations. I worked through it stumbling but felt really annoyed later. If he’d given me a similar problem and asked how to organize an event or coordinate a project with the data- the ACTUAL job requirements, I’d have killed it in a heartbeat.

    People who think they are clever in interview are just annoying.

    Reply
    1. Dzhymm, BfD

      If this happens to you again don’t think of it as “stumbling”, think of it as “thinking out loud”. I am a software engineer. At my previous job the interviewer gave me a programming problem of a type that was waaaay outside my usual area of expertise. I stood there for a moment and thought “I can either stand here and drool while the whiteboard marker dries out in my hand, or I can start thinking out loud about how I would start to approach the problem”. I did the latter and got the job.

      Reply
    2. all aboard the anon train

      Seriously. I interviewed for a non-technical position at a very well-known “cool” company and was asked a programming question. The interviewer was incredibly smug about it. The job had nothing at all to do with programming. It was the furthest thing from technical, so I was really blindsided and annoyed to get a question that didn’t even deal with the actual job requirements.

      Reply
  12. Gandalf the Nude

    #1 – It’s funny to me that Alison suggests limiting it to topics with you’d discuss with your dental hygienist because my hygienist has set us up for similarly uncomfortable conversations. Best example:

    DH: You’re getting your wisdom teeth out tomorrow? Isn’t that going to ruin your Christmas?
    Me: Well, no. I don’t celebrate Christmas.
    DH: Oh, I’m sorry. Are you Jewish? Or a Jehovah’s Witness?
    Me: No, I’m an atheist.
    DH: Oh. Um. shoves fingers into my mouth and doesn’t ask questions for the next 20 minutes

    Reply
    1. Cait

      I recently realized that the dentist I’ve gone to for years is Christian: they have a Bible in the waiting room and play the Christian music radio station, and the hygienist asked me about my church. I don’t know how it took me years to notice all that…

      Reply
    2. DiscoTechie

      Realized my dental hygienist is anti-vaccination when she complained about having to get a Pertussis booster (DTAP) to see her soon to be born grandchild. Not exactly whom I want rooting around in my mouth.

      Reply
      1. General Ginger

        Good information for you to have learned, I guess! If you can/want to switch hygienists, that is.

        Reply
      2. MommyMD

        No. Vaccines are the backbone of a healthy nation. There’s no debating it. The stats are crystal clear.

        Reply
    3. Alton

      This is a little off-topic, but the most awkward dental appointment ever was one where I didn’t bring anything to read and accepted an offer of a magazine to look at while I was in the chair but waiting for the hygienist to start. She offered me a few different magazines, and none of them looked super appealing, so I grabbed one at random. It ended up being an Evangelical Christian magazine, which isn’t my faith but I don’t mind reading about other people’s religions. It was still more interesting to me than a hunting magazine, which had been the other option. But then I came across this anti-abortion article that included graphic medical pictures. While I was looking at it in shock, and the hygienist came back. She asked about the article, and I had to try to explain it in a neutral-sounding way. We both sort of avoided voicing an opinion, but it was so awkward and not something I expected to have come up at the dentist. Ever since then, I’ve made sure to bring my own reading material.

      Reply
    4. Spider

      Dang, mine does, too! Every six months, I get grilled on my personal life and career goals by my dental hygenist, who asks more uncomfortable and intrusive questions than my parents do. At some point, I just started lying about having boyfriend (a really nice guy! with no distinguishing features or bad habits worth sharing!) so I wouldn’t keep getting an earful of unwanted dating advice while she had me at her mercy in the chair.

      Reply
  13. Cassandra

    Re OP #2, Alison alluded to this, but it might be worth unpacking a little further: it looks to me that OP went to Social Media Jane carrying a heaping helping of UR DOIN IT RONG to dump in her lap. If I had been Jane, I’d have been a little affronted at that approach too.

    An approach that acknowledges Jane’s established presence in this niche might have been less threatening. “Hi, Jane. {explanation about boss’s directive, hopefully a meeting of the minds} So, I was reading the company social media guidelines, and there’s one I’m not completely sure I understand. {point to guideline Jane might have bent} How do you implement this in practice?”

    Guidelines get out of date and aren’t updated. Guidelines (particularly committee-authored ones) can be out of touch with reality. Or Jane might be skating on thin ice… but that isn’t the supposition I myself would start with.

    Reply
    1. WIS

      Agreed. Even if Boss had clearly delineated roles for both OP and Co-worker, it’s never ever a good idea to jump into any sort of position and immediately try to make changes. It doesn’t matter how out of line someone’s way of doing things might be. You have to ease your way in, observe how things are done and why, and build a relationship with whomever you’re working with.

      It can be annoying to move slowly–especially if things are really off the mark–but you shoot yourself in the foot if you act too soon. Pissing everyone off will often remove whatever standing or ability you’d have to implement change in the first place.

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        Exactly. Even as a boss hired to clean up a mess, you don’t come in with changes, you come in finding out. After you listen to everyone’s view and get their input, THEN you recommend changes. And that is the boss. A subordinate or cow-orker who comes in trying to boss everyone around will predictably get nothing done except PO everyone in sight.

        Reply
    2. Dizzy Steinway

      Yeah. It’s best to discuss and ask questions. Not show up with a printout to prove someone is doing their job wrong.

      Reply
  14. Liz

    For OP #4, it’s commendable that you want to be welcoming, but if this woman hasn’t come out to you, she’d likely feel uncomfortable if you independently found out and then brought it up to her. I would be weirded out if someone googled me to find out information about my life that I hadn’t told them and then brought it up to me!

    It’s probable that she wants to be treated as any other woman would be treated, not specifically as a trans woman, and it’s very possible that she has no interest in being out at work at all. (You’ll know more once she starts working there of course – maybe she will want to let people know.) You could give her a list of various groups in your org including the LGBT group, I think that would be a great way of being welcoming but not overbearing.

    Also – not a big deal at all but something you may want to be aware of going forward – the nomenclature is ‘trans person’ rather than ‘transperson.’ Trans person is short for transgender person but transperson makes it sound like they’ve transitioned into being a person!

    Reply
    1. nnn

      It never occurred to me that the spacing in “trans person” might convey meaning, so thank you for bringing that to our attention!

      Reply
        1. Anon for this

          If we’re taking a poll, I’m trans too, and I find usage like “transperson” “transman/transwoman” to be incredibly grating. I’m a Jewish man–not a Jewishman. I’m a white man, not a whiteman. trans(gender) is an adjective and not necessarily an essential characteristic of somebody’s gender. But it certainly doesn’t bother everyone.

          What WOULD bother me is if someone discovered my status through googling and then came and talked to me about it at work (or god forbid, someone else in the office). At minimum that would prevent us ever having a friendly relationship–civil as necessary only. It might result in my going to HR or a manager, depending on context & how that played out. If I had to work with you regularly, it would result in my looking for a new job or requesting one of us be moved.

          For folks who want to refer to this article as an indication this coworker is more open about her status than I am–maybe. There’s an article about me being trans, and I didn’t authorize it. The author went off of secondhand reports and my status was made public. You can also find out that I’m trans because the state where I did my name change makes most civil records viewable online–including name changes. I also was required under then-applicable state law to post in a news paper to change my name, and I’m sure that’s findable somewhere, too. This coworker might just think OP #5 is overeager, but she could very well take it much, much worse than that, and given the kinds of things that happen to trans folks when people “discover” our status, she’d be justified.

          Reply
          1. Anon for this, too

            I’m trans, too, and I would think everything you just said, plus maybe wonder if OP is a chaser.

            Reply
      1. oranges & lemons

        Yeah, it is something that bugs me (possibly in large part because of my language nerdiness). It does feel odd and borderline dehumanizing to say “transperson” since to me it sounds like transpersons are some other category of person. I feel like it’s generally used innocuously (as in this OP’s case) but I’m not sure where it comes from. It would seem weird to say gayperson or whiteperson or womanperson or whatever.

        Reply
    2. Lora

      Now that brings a whole new meaning to the Stupid Interview Question “if you were an animal, what kind would you be?”

      Reply
      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

        “Bonobo. They have a lot of fun. Then again, if I were an animal, I wouldn’t have to work, so I could play like a bonobo all day.”

        Reply
    3. Nic

      I’m so glad you mentioned that last bit! I’d heard it many times, and not really seen it written, so I didn’t include the space.

      Reply
  15. Lily in NYC

    I think it’s pretty easy to fake this kind of thing. I am very friendly but rarely give out personal details – however; I talk about random nonsense going on my life (like something weird that happened on the subway) or tell stories about my past (my eccentric grandpa is good for hours of anecdotes) so people think that I’m not overly private. No one seems to realize that I never talk about my love life or what I do on weekends or after work. Everything I talk about is very superficial and no one cares.
    I rarely go to office happy hours, but I make a point to attend one once in a while. I wait long enough for a few people to notice I’m there and then I get the heck out of there (and sometimes I end up having a blast and staying til the very end).
    Please don’t forget that past experiences are just that – the past. You might be missing out on some fulfilling work friendships because you’ve been burned before.

    Reply
  16. BLL

    I am the same way at my office job–I have one person I like to chat with and open up to, but I just don’t like anybody else that much and don’t want to hear about their commute or their weekend or their lunch. (For me it was a sign this was not the right cultural fit and I’m leaving in a few weeks).

    If you get signals it’s affecting your performance assessments or people are finding it hard to work with you, you can always experiment with being more (gently) curious about other people while revealing less about yourself. I think there’s also a gender component to this sometimes–nobody pries into my male coworker’s personal life or seems to judge when he stays a little aloof, but my boss overshares all the time about her apartment and her worklife. If you’re good at your job it shouldn’t matter if people think you’re a bit closed off or even a little odd.

    Reply
  17. Sarah

    I love the dental hygienist comment — I probably know more personal details about my dental hygienist (and she about me) than many of my coworkers — she is VERY chatty. :) Also she’s seen me cry (I hate going to the dentist) and my coworkers have not.

    But yeah, more generally, I think you maybe course corrected in the opposite direction. Religious beliefs are rarely going to be appropriate for the workplace (unless it’s something like “I need Friday off because I observe a religious holiday”), and certainly you don’t have to talk about being single or whether you want to have children now or ever! But friendly chit chat does help office interactions go a little smoother. Like, if people ask how your weekend was, you don’t have to give every detail or reveal anything personal, you can just say “Oh, nothing too exciting, just caught up on Netflix” or “You know, I DID have this weird experience on my train ride — this guy was wearing a full body bear costume!” (i.e. weird non-personal anecdote from your life).

    Reply
  18. Leishycat

    In regard to the making friends at work thing, I had a ‘friend’ at a prior job find out that I’m transgender, and within a few days the entire office knew. My treatment at work went downhill almost immediately. Now I’m a lot more careful who I let into my personal life.

    Reply
  19. Delta Delta

    #1 – I think it’s totally fine not to get too chummy with the workmates. I have been zapped before by becoming too friendly and have seen similar things happen to co-workers when they get too friendly and then things go wrong. I think, though, it’s fine to be pleasant and, as AAM says, innocuous in your comments. I have worked with 2 different people who were very boundaried (is that a word? If not, it is now.) in their approaches.

    Coworker 1: all I know about her is she goes on vacation with a group of college friends every year and she likes margaritas. I don’t even know when her birthday is. But we were perfectly pleasant in talking about work or a song on the radio or the weather. Innocuous stuff. I think she’s fantastic and she’s amazing with her boundaries.

    Coworker 2: would turn her head away if people said “good morning to her.” Her philosophy was “I come to work to work, not to socialize.” There was no small talk about the weather in the elevator. If someone was going to get a cup of coffee and asked her if she’d like some she’d not answer or would repeat her “I’m not here to socialize” line. I got her to warm up a little bit once and she expressed frustration with me that she wasn’t getting ahead in either of her jobs (she had an after-hours job that could have led to a managerial role in line with her degree). I wanted to say, “It’s because you’re such a cold fish to everyone” but knowing even getting her to have a conversation was a little like spotting a unicorn I said, “huh, I really don’t know.”

    Reply
  20. Viola Dace

    For the cool factor thing. Maybe widen your pool of candidates to include some older people. They might be less dazzled by your coolness.

    Reply
  21. Anon for this

    #1: It’s about being friendly and being able to chat about “small talk” type things, but there is no need to go into sharing personal stuff about your lifestyle or relationships. I think it’s weird that so many people in your office care, though. My last office culture was pretty formal, and while people made small talk in the break room, it wouldn’t have seemed out of touch to not share too much stuff. It was the ideal office culture for introverts/very reserved people who didn’t care about making friends at work.

    My first job, though, was kind of exceptional – everyone I worked with was close to my age (my “boss” was a year older than me) and it was very informal. We all got along in a healthy way, and I’m still friends with them. I like the fact that I once had a job where I could literally get away with teasing my boss as “Miss Boss-lady” – definitely wouldn’t fly now.

    Reply
  22. Allison

    #1, how much or how little I share depends a few things. I live with a roommate, have a boyfriend but we’re not “on the path to marriage,” I don’t have any kids or pets, I live in an apartment on the outskirts of the city instead of a house in the suburbs, I spend a lot of time and money on a hobby people think is frivolous, or just a joke (I was recently chided for bringing it up at all because it’s so easy to mock, and I should have known better) . . . basically, despite being 27 and pretty good at my job, I’m not a “real adult” in the eyes of some people, so it sometimes feels safer to hide those details around people who don’t know me well, or seem likely to judge. My older coworkers at my last job talked to me like I was a child, and I hated it.

    I do try to be friendly though, and attend team lunches, and if people ask if I have plans this weekend I carefully offer some details without getting too specific, depending on who I’m talking to.

    Reply
    1. Shadow

      share things that older people can identify with and own the frivolous hobby. Being single with no kids give you the freedom to have a frivolous hobby that most of your co workers dont have the luxury to do. Older co workers are like some of the people commenting here-they carry baggage from bad experiences and are passing judgment. It’s not personal, you just have to understand that and chip away at those perceptions.

      Reply
      1. Allison

        In other words, it “must be niiiice” to have to much free time . . .

        I’m not sharing the hobby anymore. According to the ladies on Corporette, I was asking to be teased when I brought it up the other day, and it made me look unprofessional. It was stupid, I deserved to be humiliated in front of everyone.

        Reply
        1. Artemesia

          Common sense suggests people do things that benefit them. If owning a silly hobby (and probably most of our hobbies are pretty silly to many people) hurts your reputation, then keep it to yourself. One is not required to let it all hang out.

          I worked for 35 years in a town where newcomers were greeted with ‘you’ll feel more at home when you are churched’ while being a freethinker. One learns not to focus on the areas which create friction rather than better social and working relationships.

          Reply
        2. Havarti

          “It was stupid, I deserved to be humiliated in front of everyone.”
          This really bothers me. No, you don’t deserve to be humiliated. They were jerks. I don’t know what your hobby is but I am aware there’s a general sense of what my workplace considers “normal” or “acceptable” for hobbies. So you told them what you like to do during your free time and they decided to be jerks about it.

          Reply
          1. Allison

            I’m a swing dancer. Someone joked I was a “swinger” in front of everyone, and everyone laughed. I mean, I’ve gotten that joke before, but never in that context. It was awful, and you’d think the HR team would know better. But according to the ladies at Corporette, even saying I’m a dancer makes me fair game for jokes about my sex life, so I should have just told people I like to read or cook or something.

            Reply
            1. Shadow

              I thought your hobby was going to be something really out there. Kind of a weak joke. Corporette sounds pretty depressing

              Reply
            2. Havarti

              I had a friend who did swing dancing. We went to a WWII themed evening at a local place once. It was fun even though I could only do the basic steps. :) But that’s a tame hobby.

              If it happens again, you can pull the slightly scandalized yet amused “Whoa! What?! Goodness, someone would think you have a one-track mind listening to you talk” or a more grumpy “Good grief, Harry, what the heck is the matter with you, saying something like that?!” Twist it back on the person and see if you can make them squirm for going for such a cheap shot. And if they try to say it was just a joke, you could continue with “I really didn’t need to know about your fantasies. Maybe you should talk to your SO about that instead of your coworkers. This really isn’t the place for it.” Maybe laugh a bit.

              You could go more serious but if the group thinks it’s all funny, you won’t get their support. But if the person keeps insisting it’s just a joke and you keep lightheartedly insisting you really didn’t want to know that much about their private life, you could possibly get the whole group to laugh at them instead and hopefully make the person uncomfortable enough to keep their damn mouth shut next time.

              Being a dancer or having any sort of hobby does NOT make you fair game for inappropriate jokes at work. It might even be considered harassment. The women are wrong. Period. The end. But if that’s how they roll there, then I’d make it my mission to twist everything back on the person and imply they’re a sex-obsessed perv.

              Reply
            3. HannahS

              Seriously?! That’s so inappropriate. I think swing dancing is an awesome hobby. I don’t get it. Why would being a dancer have any relationship with your sex life? Bah. People suck.

              Reply
            4. Chomps

              Wow, that’s ridiculous. Swing dancing isn’t something I’d expect people to react negatively to.

              Reply
            5. emma2

              Wait – what?! Dancing is a very common hobby, and I happen to know plenty of people who swing dance. You have no reason to feel ashamed of this. Those Corporette people are being rude.

              Reply
            6. Detective Amy Santiago

              Um… no. Those ladies are wrong. Swing dancing is awesome. I have a friend who competes and I love when she shares videos.

              Reply
            7. Ann O.

              WTF? Swing dancing is a perfectly mainstream hobby. If it skews anything, it skews wholesome.

              Corporette is totally in the wrong as were your co-workers!

              Reply
              1. emma2

                Yeah – it’s less sensuous than, like, salsa or the tango. Even then, people who see any type of partner ballroom dancing and immediately think “sex!” still belong in middle school.

                Reply
            8. SL #2

              Corporette’s comments section runs very… finance/lawyer-ish and operates a bit like Mean Girls (the movie). They’re not at all indicative of what typical office culture looks like. I, for one, would love to hear more about your dancing, but I also come from an office culture where we openly talk about cosplay and Comic-Cons and my boss takes her kids to San Diego every July, so maybe I’m the one who’s got a skewed perspective? Regardless, though, no one has the right to make fun of your hobbies.

              Reply
              1. plain toast by day

                Hobbies that I’ve witnessed adults make fun of: clowning, hula hooping for fitness, collecting mineral specimens, civil war reenactment, even yoga!!!…. “My only hobby is my children” is noble if you have newborns, but doesn’t mom need a healthy outlet as well? Must be noted that many of the “hobby shamers” spent their weekends binge drinking at cruddy bars that play loud top 40 dance music.

                Reply
            9. Humble Schoolmarm

              What! That<s horrible from both your co-worker and Corporette. I'm a swing dancer too and it's my "memorable but innocuous" interest that I can make small talk about and aside from some of my co-workers trying to insist that I show off my swing dance moves at a staff dinner (to Neil Diamond, without a partner), it has worked nicely. I can't imagine getting made fun of for it.

              Reply
            10. Relly

              Okay, just so you know, I really thought your embarrassing hobby was going to involve one or more of the words “LARP,” “furry,” “otherkin,” “Bitcoin,” or “erotic fanfiction.”

              Swing dancing was not even on my radar.

              Reply
            11. plain toast by day

              The “Ladies at corporate” are jealous bc they can’t dance. And probably choose their hobbies for appearances or maybe don’t even have any of their own interests.

              Reply
          2. Ktelzbeth

            No matter what your hobby is, you don’t deserve to be humiliated in front of anyone or everyone. You deserve to be treated with respect. Your co-workers were out of line. Doesn’t mean you have to ever bring up your hobby again, since you now know you work with jerks, but you are not the one at fault in this scenario. I do English Country Dance and, while it’s certainly puzzled some people, I’ve never been humiliated for it.

            Reply
      2. Kate

        Hard disagree. It sure feels pretty personal when people are making fun of you and your hobby, when they condescend to you about not owning a car, or state that only parents know what responsibility and true love are. (I always want to say: What about Eleanor Roosevelt or Amelia Earhart or Harriet Tubman or any of the other amazing childless people who have changed the world?)

        I can’t help being 26 but that doesn’t mean that I am stupid, or that I don’t have better judgement than some much older people. There’s a saying, it goes something like “An old fool’s still a fool.” I get sick and tired of people who disagree with me who are older telling me that my carefully researched opinions are because I am naive and inexperienced, and that as soon as I am their age I will miraculously agree with them. This happens even with people in their thirties, and even with normally intelligent, nice people.

        I think there is some kind of really strong unconscious age bias a lot of people have, that we as a culture need to get past.

        TL;DR Sorry to rant, it isn’t a rant at you Shadow.

        Reply
          1. Artemesia

            Eleanor Roosevelt had 6 kids and her kids were a huge part of her identity and source of her friction with her MIL.

            Reply
          1. Kate

            I didn’t realize Eleanor Roosevelt had kids, they weren’t mentioned at all in the biography I read of her as a teenager, but in the research I just did I couldn’t find anything about Harriet Tubman having kids. Source please?

            Reply
            1. Anne (with an "e")

              After doing a very quick and admittedly cursory Google search I found numerous sources which state that Harriet Tubman had an adopted daughter named Gertie Davis. I don’t know if Ms. Tubman would still count as “childless” then. Technically perhaps.

              Reply
              1. MegaMoose, Esq.

                I would not count someone who adopted and raised a child as childless in any but the most limited terms.

                Reply
        1. Shadow

          its not going to go away. It’s easier if you accept that some old people are like this. I liken it to my know it all uncle that doesnt know much at all. I kind of tune him out and nod my head in agreement

          Reply
          1. Kate

            What always amazes me is that even people just 5 or 6 years older than I am do it! People in their thirties!

            Reply
            1. K.

              As a single woman in her thirties who does not have children, this doesn’t surprise me at all. Kids/no kids & married/single is always going to be a fraught issue, and there are always going to be people of all ages who are jerks about it.

              Reply
              1. plain toast by day

                “Do not discuss maternal status with female coworkers” should be in the employee handbook I swear. It’s nobody’s business and the comments can be offensive or even hurtful.

                Reply
        2. A.

          I’ve been dealing with people like this for 20 years and in my experience it doesn’t change, they just get older.

          I’ve reached the age of the ones who first said this stuff to me 20 years ago and I haven’t magically changed my views.

          What I have done is become a lot less sensitive to it over the years and learned to share fewer of the details of my life that these kinds of people like to judge.

          Pet stories, food, gardening, and the antics of wildlife in my yard are about the extent what I share openly at work these days.

          Reply
        3. Relly

          There’s a stand up comedian named Kathleen Madigan who doesn’t have kids. She jokes that her next Christmas card is going to be her, asleep at 2 pm, lying on a pile of money.

          Reply
        4. plain toast by day

          Don’t worry about those people. You know what is right for you. Those types will still be trying to shut you down at age 40. You don’t want their life though do you?

          Reply
    2. Delta Delta

      I had something similar when I was in my late 20s-early 30s. I became very involved in a particular activity. I got chided by some co-workers for taking days to go to this particular activity. This happened several times and I sort of rolled with it but I didn’t like it. Finally, at one point I was going to be away for a 4-day weekend for a big event happening in the activity. Co-worker asked where I was going for my days off. Not wanting to be made fun of anymore, I finally just said, “It’s top secret and I’m not telling anyone.” That sort of shut down that line of conversation. It made me sad to have to say that because there’s nothing strange about what I was doing, and it was something I liked. I just didn’t like being made fun of for doing this particular thing, especially because I enjoyed it a lot.

      Reply
    3. Detective Amy Santiago

      I’m super open about most of my life with the exception of my primary hobby because it’s a pretty niche thing that most people don’t understand.

      Reply
        1. Detective Amy Santiago

          It’s a very specific type of RPG. Most people think of stuff like D&D or video games. The kind I do is text based.

          Reply
          1. SL #2

            Hey, fellow text-based RPer! I do D&D on the side these days and I’m enjoying it, but I’ve been doing text-based for probably 10 years now and I think I still prefer that format.

            Reply
            1. Detective Amy Santiago

              Oh hey! I’ve never really met another text based RPer “in the wild” LOL. I do journal RP on IJ these days (fandom based).

              Reply
    4. Anon today...and tomorrow

      I’m only a few years younger than most of of my coworkers and we have similar backgrounds (married, kids, etc). I’m a fairly enthusiastic person and am open to trying new things. I like things like going to a local comicon or larping event. I wouldn’t say they’re hobbies because I don’t see myself putting in the time or money, but I like seeing others doing them, like observing, like being part of that kind of energy. I keep this under my hat because recently I listened to some coworkers talk about people who were at a local comicon like they were diseased lepers back in the 1900’s.

      I offer the same answers to the usual questions asked
      Q. What did you do this weekend?
      A. Laundry. I swear I need to start a laundromat and make my money back!

      Q. What are you doing this weekend?
      A. The usual…errands, cleaning, you know all the stuff that goes undone while I’m here.

      Q. How was your night? (usually the question I get in the morning)
      A. Good, the cat did (insert cat story).

      I did have a longer than average conversation this week when I asked the woman at the front desk if she knew if anyone planned on ordering lunch. She asked me if I forgot mine and I shared my complaint with her about running out of salad mix and the local store where they sell ready made salads of course being out the one day I wanted to buy one. :)

      Reply
    5. emma2

      Also something that works for me is to direct the conversation more towards the other person, like asking follow up questions about what they already started talking about, and occasionally commenting on their stories. The other person won’t even realize that you aren’t sharing too much on their end because they will be preoccupied talking about their own topic (and people like to talk about themselves.)

      It almost sounds like manipulative advice, but it’s what I automatically do when I am genuinely interested in the other person’s story, and it still feels like a two-sided conversation.

      Reply
    6. mf

      For the record, I don’t think swing dancing is frivolous at all. It’s fun, it lifts your mood, and it’s a great form of exercise. Anyone who openly mocks you for it is being a jerkface.

      Reply
    7. Havarti

      “…I’m not a ‘real adult’ in the eyes of some people…”

      You don’t need to answer this but do you feel like a “real adult?” Do you have confidence in yourself and your abilities? How you feel about yourself really affects how you interact with others. It’s a question I have to ponder myself. My poor self-esteem hasn’t helped me, that’s for sure.

      Reply
  23. DMD

    I, too, am private by nature. Always have been, even as a kid. I’m just wired that way. I agree that being personable and having “friends” at work (especially those with a little more authority) can be very helpful to one’s career. It’s something I still struggle with and try to balance, but I’ve generally made it a point to be a bit more open at work about my personal life — but I usually share things that aren’t too deep. For example, how my vacation was, how my pumpkin cheesecake pie turned out, a cute story about my dog, the bathroom remodel, etc. These are what things I really wouldn’t care about sharing publicly on FB, for example. I’ve been here six years, so I’ve started to make slightly deeper friendships and do find myself starting to share slightly deeper things, but even then I don’t share very personal details (and, honestly, that’s the case even with my family, with the exception of one of my siblings I’m particularly close to). So, my advice is to make a conscious effort to share “first level” things that you wouldn’t mind being public but that aren’t terribly personal or controversial – and come off as being joyful about it.

    Reply
  24. Sunshine on a cloudy day

    I used to recruit for what sounds like a dream job to many people (side note: the company actual did a promo/contest “giving away” – ie:hiring for – this dream job).

    It was a pretty cool job, but nowhere near as glamorous or as much of a cake walk as it sounded. The way I got past the “cool” factor was to ask multiple times (in slightly different ways) “why do you want this job” and really listening to the answers. I was looking for people who really understood the point/goal of the position rather than focusing on the cool perks that came with it.

    I’d also consider trying the “company confidential” route, if that’s an option. Some job boards let you post as “Company Confidential” and I imagine it could be arranged with external recruiters to keep the name of the company confidential until the candidate shows an interest in the specifics of the role. As a job seeker, I’m a tad bit suspicious of company’s that post as “Company Confidential”, but if the job description was thoughful and well written it would not keep from applying.

    Reply
    1. Anna

      I work in a city with a lot of well known “cool” companies and if you know what to look for, you can usually guess who they’re advertising for, but it does obscure it enough so that you’re not sure. I think it’s a good idea to use a recruiter to at least filter out the people who are looking at your company only to work at your company. The ones who are interested in the job will wonder what company it’s for but be more interested in the job description.

      Another area where this doesn’t work is when recruiters are hiring for Nike. Guess what, Nike. We ALL know who the “large apparel manufacturer in Beaverton” is.

      Reply
        1. Anna

          Yeah, but it’s always “athletic clothing” or “candidate must be familiar with sport X” that’s not skiing or other outdoorsy stuff.

          Reply
      1. Allison

        And if you Google the job description, the results will usually show you the description on the company page.

        Reply
  25. TC

    I do this not because I want to maintain some sort of separation, but because I’m bad at small talk and sometimes need something to stop me running my mouth, but the technique can work for you too — if something “small-talk” worthy happens to me (Bake-Off scandal on TV, new pair of shoes, on the weekend I visited some gardens and saw cherry blossoms) I rehearse retelling the story to myself and then “bank” it in my mind. I save these kind of stories for people like hairdressers, bartenders and dental hygienists and they give me a bit of a jumping off point to get rolling in a conversation, rather than just winging it or not saying anything at all.

    Reply
    1. Formica Dinette

      I do this too. I’m also pretty good at asking questions of others when I don’t want to talk about myself.

      Reply
  26. B

    #1 – I have a no facebook work policy because it simplifies the work drama. There are some people I would be friends with, and some I would not, so instead of people being insulted by my not accepting across the board is easier. Many people I know do this and it is looked upon as fine and understood. That being said I still do share enough of my personal life so people know I have one but I am not friends with anyone outside of the office and that is fine. As Alison said, sharing a bit of something that is innocuous is a good way to be friendly and not come across as cold.

    Reply
  27. The Rat-Catcher

    How do you even get to be a manager if you don’t “do conflict management”?
    I am baffled. I know this is more common than it should be and you aren’t really in a position to change it, but wow.

    Reply
  28. Augusta Sugarbean

    #3: Maybe you can ask them to describe the duties and responsibilities of the position in their own words. That might help you see that they realize what the day to day is going to be like. I also got asked in a recent interview (and I think it was in the application somewhere, too) how I felt about routine and repetitive tasks.

    Reply
    1. YuliaC

      I got asked that as well at an interview for a job at a very cool research lab. When I answered that I was very good at routine and repetitive tasks, the interviewer said that she just wanted to be sure that I had a crystal clear idea of what the day to day work was going to be like. Then she described the job duties in a good amount of detail, and stressed that a person in that position would definitely not be doing any independent research.
      Which turned out to be effective at weeding out my candidacy: I was hoping that if I got my foot in the door with the technical position, I might get research assignments later on when they see my potential. I would probably be incredibly frustrated when I discovered too late that no research possibilities were coming. I eventually got a research oriented job at an even cooler place, so it worked out great. I am very grateful the interviewer was so thorough in warning me!

      Reply
  29. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

    I keep certain aspects of my private life PRIVATE. It’s better that way.
    And I am very careful what I put on Facebook. Again, as I told someone some months back – before you play on your smart phone, play it smart.

    I was excoriated in here but I stand by it – a woman said she put a picture of herself in body paint on Facebook and it went around the office –

    Also – many prospective employers will vet applicants on Twitter and/or Facebook, and if they see something they don’t like – they just will set your resume aside and go on to the next guy or gal.

    Reply
    1. Shadow

      Yes. Act confused and ask what you could have done different to get a raise and promotion similar to John’s.

      Reply
  30. Dizzy Steinway

    #2 You didn’t learn as much as you could – because you didn’t talk to the people who do this work. Even if you’re right on paper, in terms of relationships this – e.g. the prove-you-wrong print-out – wasn’t the best way to handle it.

    This is timely for me as someone actually did something similar to me this week except instead of a print-out she keeps cutting and pasting guidelines she thinks I’ve not understood in emails to a senior colleague.

    They’re the wrong guidelines and I’m at BEC stage…

    Reply
  31. SW

    #4, if you’re reading this:
    1st rule of trans people: DO NOT OUT TRANS PEOPLE
    2nd rule of trans people: DO NOT OUT TRANS PEOPLE*
    3rd rule of trans people: Do not fuck up her pronouns. Because you know she is trans you are 500% more likely to use the wrong pronouns. (You brought this on yourself by being nosy.) Be meticulous with your language. If she is not out about being a trans woman and you mess up her pronouns, you will have outed her without her permission. When you fuck up, apologize once and work to do better. Always think of her as a she; correct your inner monologue if you mess up there. Don’t put it on her to make you feel better for messing up by repeatedly apologizing. Getting this right is a big way to make sure she feels welcome and wants to stay with your company.
    4th rule of trans people: if she comes out to you, ask her what she would like you to do if people misgender her. I prefer that other people correct the offender rather than have to keep doing it myself, but every person is different.
    5th rule of trans people: treat trans men like you would cis men. Treat trans women like you would cis women.
    6th rule of trans people: read more about trans people. Lots and lots more so you don’t make amateur mistakes like calling them a transperson.

    *seriously, you can put her in a lot of danger and/or expose her to prejudice if you do out her. A reminder: 24 trans women were killed in the US in 2016; 8 have already died in the first 3 months of 2017.

    Reply
    1. Nic

      Honest question: In my experience people in the trans community that I have known accept “transman” and “transwoman” as acceptable language and is much preferable to “transgendered woman” or “transgendered man”. You mention that using the term transperson is an amateur mistake. Is there a more preferable way to talk about transmen and transwomen in the same word?

      I appreciate it!

      Reply
      1. S

        Language is tricky and slippery and you’re never ever going to find the universal best terms that all trans people (or all of any group) agree on. We don’t all get to go to a ‘how to be and talk about being trans’ class when we come out ;)

        That said, transgenderED woman or transgenderED man are definitely terms that many many folks hate. It sounds like the gender is being done to the person. Saying transgender man or transgender woman, like saying trans woman or trans man, is less controversial.

        Saying trans woman and transman sounds like those are seperate genders or categories of genders than man or woman. Some folks like that, some folks don’t.

        In general, I would ask the individual person which words they like best, IF it becomes relevant. But, it might not be. I don’t often talk to my cis coworkers about how they’re men or women.

        Reply
      2. SW

        The collective is trans people (this also includes us nonbinary people). Trans is an adjective in the same way short or blonde are. You wouldn’t refer to people as blondeman or shortwoman. Same with trans.

        As to transgender vs transgendered: it’s partially a generational difference, much the same way that many of us over 30 consider ourselves to be genderqueer rather than nonbinary since genderqueer as a term has been around longer. I’ve seen good arguments for either term so honestly I use the adjective trans partially because it sidesteps the whole issue of trangender vs transgendered.

        Reply
  32. K.

    I’m a private person. I have hobbies that I talk about and I’m involved with a charity so people know that, but telling my personal business to people I’m not close to is just not a thing I do. I find oversharers off-putting. I’m able to forge work connections by talking about hobbies and making general small talk, and I have found work friendships (real friends, not just “work friends”) that evolved organically through discovery of mutual interests but I’m not going to be the one who tells coworkers all about my private life, and I’m good with that. That includes a firm, immutable policy of not friending coworkers on Facebook, Twitter, or IG until they’re no longer coworkers. Current colleagues are for LinkedIn only.

    Reply
    1. mf

      Me too. Sometimes I wish we lived in a culture where it was more acceptable to be a private person. Sometimes I feel like I’m expected to talk about myself all. the. damn. time. It’s exhausting.

      Reply
  33. AW

    Another way for LW #1 to think of it that may help: Judgey people are going to judge. That’s just how they are and you can’t actually stop them from doing it. But that’s their problem. You don’t own anybody constant updates on the status of your relationships or the opportunity to convert you.

    So when they ask (and I think it’s a pretty safe assumption that they’re asking if LW #1 is being judged for being single & childless) using one of the safe topics is a way to dodge.

    “So when are you going to have kids?”
    “Man, can you believe [character] on [show] has a kid? What a twist! [more about show]”

    Reply
  34. Elizabeth West

    For #3, if you’re hiring for an office worker, please don’t make them do puzzles / creative logic problems / activities / personality tests. It’s way over the top for those kinds of jobs and will leave a bad taste in candidates’ mouths. Plus, it might leave the impression that the job is more “fun” than it actually is.

    If you feel like you need to check their clerical skills, there are plenty of simple tests that will show if they can type, etc. If you look for candidates who have a lot of experience, especially if they’re going to handle things like personnel records or your books (I’m not sure what office manager in this context actually means), you probably won’t have to test them. I’d make sure the duties are very clearly spelled out in the job listing and ask for the amount of experience you need. High school or 1-2 years of general office experience may get you candidates you need to test. Asking for someone with 3-5 years and specific programs and duties will let some less experienced people self-select out.

    Reply
  35. KatiePie

    #5: Alison, thank you for clarifying the purpose of a thank you note, in detail. Frankly, I knew it was standard practice, but never truly got it. I appreciate understand it’s not truly a thank you note.

    Reply
  36. Nic

    My work is an interesting combination of former military (various branches but mostly Army) and liberals in a blue patch in the middle of a red state. Tonight’s conversation is leaving me absolutely flabbergasted. Topics include:
    1. Pregnant women in the military get too many perks, and so women all go get knocked up before a major event, or to avoid a PT test.
    Strangely, this topic sprang from a discussion of parental time off after a birth, and those who spread the opinion above also felt that both men and women need more time off paid.
    2. Women shouldn’t do certain military jobs because they can’t deal with the types of jokes, and bring sexual harassment issues. Or they’ll be okay with X person joking in Y way until X gets promoted, and suddenly she’s offended by Y.
    3. Ditto racism. Segregated units are the answer.
    4. Everyone should have the exact same PT requirements at all times.

    The supervisor is scrolling through his phone listening. All but three people have turned to focus intently on anything else going on in the room. Just…wow.

    Reply
  37. ILOVEHR

    For OP #1-as a 20 yr HR veteran, I found the best way to be be personable yet remain private, is to figure out what I’m comfortable sharing about myself. I share about my craft (think stitching) that is innocuous and international food. However I found the best way to deflect those who want to you to over share is to ask them questions and listen to their personal story. Of course I have to put a limit on their sharing medical details and such but I’ve garnered a great reputation on being a good listener. Good luck with your career! Sometimes it’s not easy to navigate through the office jungle.

    Reply
    1. Anonanonanon

      This is a really good response. It’s such a tough thing. I think that in a larger work place, you can set a positive example by being open about who you are. But on the other hand, it’s a very personal choice and you have to be strategic about it. I’ve had some jobs where people were pressured to over share. I think employers don’t always realize that they risk creating a hostile environment when they do that, that there are reasons people make different decisions about how close they get with their co-workers.

      Reply
  38. plain toast by day

    Back to the issue of adding/not adding coworkers to social media and privacy…. it’s bad enough that some hiring managers try to look up people’s personal sites. But what about coworkers who look everyone else? Is it just weird, or worse? I used to work with someone who had apparently looked up the whole small company, knew who was on which dating sites, who had multiple accounts on where…. and gossiped about his finds as well! I thought this was very much crossing the line- and creepy…. I hope they do not have one of these people where the previously discussed trans person will be working. Privacy should be respected if someone doesn’t want to share.

    Reply
  39. Anonanonanon

    #4 – Treat her the same as anyone else who you’re interested in becoming friends with. Be friendly and connect over shared interests. As others have said, don’t make a big deal of the trans thing. I have a lot of trans friends. For some people, it’s a big part of their identity. For others, it’s a minor detail, like being left handed. And there are plenty of people who don’t want to be seen as trans and just want to blend in and go about their lives as the gender they identify as. Some people don’t want it to be widely known that they’re trans. So just be nice and let them bring it up if they want to. At that point, you could mention the Ally group and other groups like that.

    Reply
  40. Fifty and Forward

    I went to lunch with several coworkers as part of a company sponsored effort to get people from different departments to interact. I ended up on the receiving end of several homophobic comments from one of them. I passed my experience on to HR and all they did was give him a meaningless warning.

    I decided then and there to keep my personal and professional lives separate. Period.

    Reply
  41. DrAtos

    I completely understand wanting to keep your personal life private. In my experience I size people up the first six months I’m at a workplace. You tend to realize which people are the office gossips, those who can’t be trusted, and a few you’d be down with having a drink with after work. Everyone isn’t the same, and there are certainly people I’d rather not speak to if we were not forced to see each other 40 hours each week, but sometimes you have to play the game to keep the peace or get ahead in your career. I told a friend who doesn’t like to talk about his personal life at all that it would be best to divulge a few things about himself to keep people at bay, otherwise, people (especially gossips) only become hungry for more info or will even start rumors if they don’t get information firsthand (yes, there are awful people like this in the world). There are some details that are harmless and can be shared – several things you did over the weekend like play soccer, read an interesting book, or see the newest movie in theaters – might be enough to appease the gossips. If you are comfortable, you can discuss what you enjoy doing in your free time other than religion or politics that is pretty neutral and relatable might do the trick. I absolutely do not recommend adding co-workers to Facebook though. That’s a rule that I’ve kept for the last 4 years. It’s better to have some activities and thoughts private from your co-workers.

    Reply
  42. Bob

    “My manager asked me recently why I don’t like to share my personal life”

    Your manager doesn’t sound very professional. A strange question to ask a sub-ordinate. If my boss asked me that I would say “because you’re my boss.” It should be self-explanatory. If someone wants to be buddies with work people, they should avoid climbing the ladder and stay at a lower level where there is less responsibility. In fact, in Canada, I have a feeling a Human Resources department would be very interested in talking this manager and recommending a course in Professional Boundaries.

    Reply
  43. Kara

    I don’t believe in Facebook friending. That is, I don’t Facebook friend people I know. If a co-worker asks to be Facebook friends my answer is sorry I don’t have Facebook. Problem solved. Every want to contact me: take my email address & number.

    Reply

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