coworkers are using Snapchat in staff meetings, my office is old and gross, and more

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

1. Coworkers are using Snapchat in staff meetings

I am currently on a project team at work and have been away from my normal job for a little over a year now. The project is supposed to last for about two more years, and then I will go back to my normal group. Two other people from the group were also pulled off onto the project team. The three of us have been with the company for eight years or more. While we have been working on the project, the company brought in temps to help with the workload. There has been a lot of turnover in the group, and new full-time people have also started in the past year. It feels like a totally different group than it was over a year ago.

Occasionally, I will attend the staff meetings for my normal group. I have noticed in the staff meetings that some of the newer employees have their cell phones out and are taking pictures of different people in the meeting and putting them on Snapchat. There are about five people who send the pictures to each other in the meeting and laugh about it. The group only has 13 people, and I’m pretty sure that our supervisor knows it’s happening.

The whole situation makes me uncomfortable. I feel like I’m in high school again and I don’t feel like I should have to deal with this at work. This has been going on for a while but has recently become much worse as newer people are being hired into the group.

I have thought about sending an email to my supervisor but if something is said, will it just make it worse? Will these people get sneakier and post even more embarrassing pictures on the internet? What would you do?

Say something in the moment when you see it happening: “Are y’all taking photos of the meeting and sending them to each other?” Say it in a tone of “WTF?” and follow it up with “Why?” and “Can you please stop? It’s bizarre and distracting.”

And I’d talk to your manager separately and point out that the new people seem to have formed their own subculture, and unfortunately it’s a gross and mean-spirited one, and ask her to intervene. Use the words, “I really don’t want to be subjected to people sneakily taking photos and laughing about them — that’s horrible and not an environment people can work productively in, and it makes me really concerned about how professional they are as colleagues in general.”

If your manager knows this is happening and hasn’t intervened, your manager is terrible.

2. My office is old and gross

I just started a new job that is fairly low on the totem pole, though I have had a working relationship with my organization for the past year and have a pretty strong relationship with the higher-ups.

My problem is my office. It’s … gross, for a lack of a better word. Dark stains on the carpet, the coat rack behind the door has mix-matched prongs to hold coats, and the desk looks to be over 30 years old– in design and wear and tear, the walls are nicked and scuffed, etc.

From what I’ve seen of the other offices, and I’ve seen most–if not all–of them, this one is the dirtiest by far. The desk and coat hanger behind the door are probably just me being picky. (I work for a nonprofit, so even though it is quite large, they try to keep those sorts of costs down.) But the carpet and wall nicks definitely aren’t standard. I’ve never walked into someone else’s office and thought “ew,” like I did when I saw this one.

I can already predict that folks in the comments will tell me how I’m newbie, that I need to pay my dues, and to not complain, but do I have any options here? And if I can’t bring it up to anyone, do you have any suggestions on how to improve the look of it?

It doesn’t sound dirty from what you’ve written — just well-used, which can be par for the course at some nonprofits because they try to keep overhead costs down and put available money into programs. Sometimes this makes a ton of sense and other times it can be short-sighted — but if that’s the culture there, you’re unlikely to be able to change that.

And especially if the rest of offices are kind of dingy too (even though not as dingy as yours), there’s a pretty strong chance that you’ll sound tone-deaf if you complain about this, especially as someone junior. If the wear and tear on the desk is impacting its functionality, you could ask about getting a different one, and maaayyyybee you could ask if there’s ever the possibility of carpet cleaning or painting, but that’s probably about it.

But there are things that you can do on your own that would probably help. For example, if you’re up for throwing 10 bucks at the problem, you could bring in an area rug to cover the worst of the stains on the carpet, and you could hang things on the walls to cover some of the nicks. (It’s also probably worth trying to feel good at having private space, since loads of people get stuck in open offices.)

3. When someone asks a question that was answered in the same email they’re replying to

How would you reply/respond when a peer or direct report replies to an email to ask a question that has been answered in the email they are responding to?

Not a Big Deal, and I know I can be guilty of this too. Looking for constructive, graceful, response short of copy/paste the section from the email just sent.

“It’s actually below! I’ll copy/paste it here.”

But two additional things: First, if this is happening more than just occasionally, take it as a flag to see if your emails might be overly long/wordy/complicated (which could explain why people are missing things). Second, if the person reports to you and it’s happening more than very rarely, it’s something you should give feedback on — as in, “Hey, you’ve asked me a few times for information that was actually in the email you were replying to, which makes me think you’re not reading messages thoroughly. I’m sending these because I do need you to read and absorb everything in them, so can you watch out for that?”

4. What do I put on my resume when I transferred colleges?

I went to two universities during my college life. I spent a year in University A, then transferred to University B — which is where I eventually got my degree. I spent a total of 3.5 years in University B. Is it okay to not include University A anymore in my resume? It takes up a lot of space and I find it irrelevant since not one academic class was credited from there.

I’m just a bit concerned that it would be considered lying to omit it. Whenever employers ask me in my interviews why I graduated in December (and not in June, which is the usual/regular graduation), I say it’s because I shifted courses within University B. Which is true; the college I shifted to was more strict in enrollment and crediting of units that gave me an extra semester. I no longer mention University A because I don’t want to complicate my college work anymore.

Yep, you can leave University A off your resume entirely. You’re listing degrees, so you really only need to list the school you received the degree from (and that would be the case even if you’d spent more time at University A than the one year you were there).

5. Asking for an informational interview when you also want a job

I know you’ve railed against asking for an informational interview when you really want a job, but is it different when you know your target (slightly) and she’s not the hiring manager? My childhood neighbor is in a senior position at a nonprofit in a field I’m interested in. It’s a small office, with about eight employees, that (according to the public posting) has received grant funding to hire a researcher for a year. This is a position that I think would be a good fit for me (I’m a recent college grad).

I am genuinely interested in speaking with my neighbor about her field and her organization, but I won’t pretend I’m not also hoping for an edge on the researcher position. I haven’t spoken to her in a while, and I don’t think she was aware of my interest in her field until I sent her a LinkedIn invite last night (she accepted).

If I ask my neighbor for an informational interview, and I think I should, should I play it coy or come right out and say that I’m applying to her organization? Should I mention this in my message or wait until I meet her? And would it make any sense to wait on applying for the researcher position until I’ve had a chance to hear my neighbor’s thoughts?

You should be direct about the fact that you’re applying and say that you’d love to talk with her to learn more about the organization whether you end up advancing in their process or not, but that you also understand if it would make more sense to wait until the hiring process is over.

Definitely do not wait until you meet with her to mention this; if you do that, it will sound like you intentionally misled her about your agenda and asked for her time under false pretenses. That’s seriously bad behavior, and it leaves people feeling annoyed at best and used at worst.

I also wouldn’t wait to apply until you’ve talked with her because it’s possible that you’ll miss the window to be considered while you’re waiting.

{ 349 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Jessica

    OP#1, I think Alison’s last sentence nailed it. I hope it’s not like that, but if it is, can you band together with others on the team and collectively complain? I would be seriously disturbed (by which I mean BESIDE MYSELF WITH RAGE) if this was going on. I don’t know if these people are the reason for the past turnover on your old team, but I’m confident they’re the reason for the future turnover.

    Reply
    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Seriously. So much wtf. Are there no managers/supervisors in these team meetings? If there are, are they noticing and then ignoring the new employees who are Snap-chatting? I’m having such a hard time picturing this because it is so wildly ridiculous.

      Reply
      1. Workaholic

        I’m thinking confidentiality issues and corporate professionalism. My employer does encourage photos at times – ex: when an employee is out volunteering in the community with employer support (we get paid 8 hours for 5 hours volunteer time. 1x/yr). They like using those pics within the company to promote the benefit, and sometimes publicly to showcase company in the community. But pics taken during meetings? Also: pics posted of other people online without prior consent?

        Reply
        1. Jessesgirl72

          That is what I wondered about. Now I know some places are more paranoid about corporate espionage than others, but I have literally never worked someplace where what the OP describes wouldn’t be considered a firing offense- some places just technically, and in others clearly and swiftly enforced including the perp walk out the door!

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          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

            Bingo. My jaw is dropping. We can’t even have our phones out if we’re inside of badge access, let alone actually taking pictures! That is a perp walk-level offense.

            Reply
            1. Falling Diphthong

              This actually seems like a classic Leverage-style cover–oh just taking a humorous snap of a colleague, ignore the reports in the foreground.

              Reply
              1. JessaB

                Yeh I had a friend tell me someone got fired from their office (insurance company) for accidentally taking a picture of someone that included information that could be read off their computer screen (HIPAA violation in an extreme way.) They got walked out. Everyone else got “sorry you can no longer listen to music or read books on your phones.”

                They finally revised on the music, your phone had to be behind your computer face down, or in your drawer with the cord coming out, IE absolutely, visibly to others, impossible for you to do anything but listen with.

                But still “confidential information = do not take pictures around here” isn’t rocket science. Personal privacy – an office is not a public venue, you have a right to expect to not have your picture taken is also not rocket science.

                Because people cannot behave like sensible adults and not DO things like that. Yeh I don’t know an office that absent some kind of award ceremony or presentation or party, would allow photos like that.

                Reply
                1. Jessesgirl72

                  Until about 6 years ago, my husband worked for a company that still had the rule on the books that no one was allowed to have a cellphone in the building that had a camera, period. And this was in Silicon Valley at a Tech company where no one was walking around with dumb phones! They were reduced to special ordering company phones for the execs who needed them, and then only when they couldn’t do that anymore, the rule got changed. It was largely unenforced for the 10 years before that- my husband even pushed back on it, and tried to get them to let him buy one of the company phones if they wanted him to comply, once it became impossible for normal people to find them through their carriers, but they didn’t budge and wouldn’t let him buy one of their phones- and his Manager told him not to worry about it, just not to take pictures.

          2. Chinook

            It just isn’t corporate espionage that I would be worried about, but also employee safety. The Op’s work environment sounds just like a big project my company is working on and protestors are out in force against us (despite us having jumped through every hoop that has been set out for us and managing to clear those hoops while they are being moved farther away from where we started and redesisgned while we are in leap). If the faces of the people in the project meetings were made public, it would be easy to figure out who they are and where they live, which could put them and their family at risk. While it is no secret where we work, many of our employees no longer wear company branded items and even drive company vehicles without logos on them.

            So, someone snapping photos of those attending in-house meetings and posting them online is a definite security threat.

            Reply
        2. Elizabeth West

          They’re probably taking shots of people and putting funny filters on them, hence the giggling. But behavior that would be funny if you were with your friends at a party is not appropriate for work.

          Reply
          1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

            This is why I favor the “Are you seriously taking pictures of coworkers at a meeting and giggling at the snapchat filters? Are you seriously 12, or what the actual? Put the phones away and act professional,” approach.

            Reply
      2. Ramona Flowers

        They said the supervisor seems to know what’s going on – ugh! – but it’s not clear if they’re in the meetings.

        Reply
        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Yeah, that’s where I’m confused. Ostensibly, if the supervisor is in the meeting, they notice it’s happening. But if they notice and do nothing, then they’re not being a competent manager/supervisor.

          Reply
      3. neverjaunty

        There are a lot of spineless supervisors out there who won’t do anything unless forced to.

        Reply
        1. Tempest

          I’m living this now. Colleague is always on their phone and half the time ducking and diving around making it clear they’re hiding what they’re doing from me. They’re a shower of s… so I don’t really care what their opinion is of me but it’s also generally very uncomfortable to know that your colleague is sending info about the business/you out of the business to who knows where or who. Big part of the reason I had to find a new job as management will not tackle them on any of it.

          Reply
    2. blackcat

      I just keep wondering how no one has stopped this.

      When SnapChat was shiny, new, and only something kids were using, I was teaching high school. I got wise to the snapchat from the other side of the room fast, and you better believe it didn’t happen again. The kids’ response to me being all “WTF?” (in more appropriate terms) was shame and embarrassment at their poor behavior. Teenagers knew this behavior was totally inappropriate! How, how is this going on with a group of adults?!?!

      Complain to the most senior person usually in the room. Ask them to start the meeting with telling people to not take pictures during the meeting. This should not be hard to fix.

      Reply
      1. Parenthetically

        I’m going to run this scenario past my 8th graders today and see what they think. I guarantee they know how wildly inappropriate it is!

        Reply
      2. Muriel Heslop

        I am so glad I am not the only teacher who finds this appalling. But your point: it didn’t happen again because you didn’t let it. OP, someone needs to exercise their authority – ideally your manager – or this won’t stop.

        Good luck! I hope your manager puts a stop to this.

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      3. LCL

        I’m not very up on the latest apps. I can see someone doing this in a meeting I would be running. I would have to have it explained to me what they were doing. I thought snapchat was mostly used for adult rated content. Once I knew I would stop it.

        Reply
        1. Jessica

          Yeah, me too. I had heard of Snapchat, but this thread is the first place I ever heard of the silly filters.

          Reply
    3. Falling Diphthong

      Unless you’re all team mascots in uniform, or maybe body paint models, I can’t picture an interesting photo from a team meeting. This is really mystifying to me, which is why Alison’s advice–don’t just think that it’s weird and off-putting, observe that it’s weird and off-putting–is wise.

      Reply
        1. Honeybee

          Even that, though…once the novelty of using a filter after the first time or two wears off I can’t imagine this being long-term funny.

          Reply
      1. LBK

        Like 90% of the enjoyment of Snapchat comes from filters, which make people look funny.

        I do wonder if the OP is completely certain the photos are being taken of other people and that they aren’t selfies, which are what people are usually taking when they use Snapchat…but either way it’s totally inappropriate for a meeting, especially when the people involve comprise almost half the attendees? So weird. I can’t believe no one is saying something in the moment.

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    4. Marcy Marketer

      Idk I am clearly in the minority here but I don’t see this as a huge issue. The LW does not say they are using the photos to make fun of others. In my team meetings at my old job, we were all new to Snapchat except one other person and she taught us how to use it. I’d often see her snapping before meetings, like a selfie of her and a cute coffee mug with the words, “Monday vibes,” or a snap of green smoothie. Sometimes people would snap together, as well. Any non-regular teammate might see snapping happen and not understand, but usually they’d be like, “what are you doing? Oh snapping? My kids have that I really need to learn how to use it…” and then it becomes a little conversation where everyone bonds.

      Is the LW saying they are making fun of others, or that it’s just a bonding thing that’s happened on the team that’s making her feel left out? At my old company it was a small non profit so there weren’t concerns about confidential data; not every company has data policies.

      Reply
      1. neverjaunty

        1) “before meetings” != during meetings

        2) taking selfies != taking photos of others

        3) passing notes around with your BFFs and giggling while other people are having a meeting is not something grownups do in the workplace

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      2. Amber Rose

        Well, even if (and this is a big if) there is just selfies happening and there is no ill intent or mocking… this is still ridiculous. It’s juvenile. They are in a meeting. They need to be paying attention to the meeting, and to their coworkers. If a coworker was in a meeting with me and just playing with their phone, Snapchat or not, I’d find that incredibly disrespectful and rude as hell. When you are needed to work, you should DO work. I don’t understand why there’s so many people who find this idea so hard to grasp. /rant

        That said, it sounds like LW has seen them actually taking photos of other people, not themselves, without permission. There is no reason to do this during a business meeting that doesn’t have ill intent behind it. Even in a company like mine where there isn’t sensitive data, I’d have them at the very least on probation by HR. Because it’s harassment, plain and simple.

        Reply
      3. Xay

        Unless your job is to take photos during the meeting, you should not be taking photos during a meeting, much less Snapchatting. At best, you look inattentive and at worst, it is disrespectful to the participants.

        Reply
        1. Meeting should have been an email

          . At best, you look inattentive and at worst, it is disrespectful to the participants.

          Eh, I don’t SnapChat but we’re on Facebook and what not often in meetings. I’d say your exact sentence could be said re: meeting leader who has a meeting dragging on way too long that you need to play a game to pass time. It’s inattentive and disrespectful to their work

          Reply
      4. MillersSpring

        It’s completely inappropriate to take fun photos of yourself or others in a work meeting, much less share them without your coworkers’ permission. Do that on your own time, not on the job.

        Reply
      5. Parenthetically

        in the staff meetings that some of the newer employees have their cell phones out and are taking pictures of different people in the meeting and putting them on Snapchat. There are about five people who send the pictures to each other in the meeting and laugh about it

        Taking pictures of different people in the meeting, sending them to each other, and then laughing about it is not even in the same category as a selfie first thing in the morning with a cute new mug. I could wrack my brain for some scenario in which their actions were totally innocent, but that doesn’t make it more professional. I don’t care what they’re doing on their phones, but what it looks like is what neverjaunty said: a bunch of teenagers giggling and passing notes with their friends during class. They need to grow up and pay attention to the meeting even if they aren’t using those snapchats to mock their coworkers as it sure as hell seems like they’re doing.

        Reply
    5. Michelle

      I dislike my picture being taken in general and if it where to start happening in meetings, I would definitely speak up. Please do what Alison said and address it in the moment and if you don’t feel comfortable doing that, then please speak with the manager. I can’t imagine even a halfway decent manager thinking this is ok.

      Reply
    6. Isabelle

      Which country is OP#1 in?
      In most of Europe taking pictures without permission is only allowed in public spaces. An office is usually a private space, and you can’t take pictures of people without their knowledge and consent.

      And even if it’s legal where you are it is a gross, mean and childish thing to do. Their manager needs to put a stop to this.

      Reply
      1. One of the Sarahs

        Out of interest, which European countries are you talking about? I wasn’t aware of any specific laws, but Europe is a huge place, so I can imagine there’s one thing of everything etc. But I don’t understand how these laws could be enforceable, because of things like museums, pop events, tourism, birthday parties in restaurants etc etc where people you don’t know would be in the background all the time.

        Now, there are laws about not being able to profit off photos without permissions, but that’s a different thing, and pretty specific too.

        Reply
        1. Anja

          I would assume Germany would be one. They have incredibly strict privacy rules. It’s in part due to the history of surveillance with the Gestapo up to and in WWII and then the Stasi in East Germany afterwards.

          Most of Germany doesn’t have Google Streetview – I think they only did the biggest city before it became too much work and they decided it wasn’t worth it.

          Reply
    7. Liane

      1–I cannot help wondering what kind of captions they are putting on these. (Even if they might be selfies, as one commenter suggested.) I doubt they are anything that will make the company look good.
      They could be disrespectful to higher-ups or the organization.”BFF Uhura and I rolling our eyes at Capt K’s latest BS speech.”
      Or they may be full of prejudice, body-shaming and other nastiness. “R Star Destroyer sized skirts the latest fashion or is Sen. Amidala of Hutt Space–my bad, Naboo–overeating again? #SoBig”

      This bunch needs to be told by management, “No more playing with phones/tablets in meetings. No more Snapchat anywhere, anytime, at work. If it happens again, your next Snapchat will be a selfie of you cleaning out your desk. So. going forward, can you do this?”

      Reply
      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

        100% of this. There is no imaginable use of snapchat in a company meeting that is not entirely inappropriate, and I’d come down on it like a ton of bricks.

        Reply
    8. Is it Friday Yet?

      I think it’s really poor professional etiquette to be on your phone during a meeting period. I get that sometimes meetings are long, and people are glancing at work emails as they come in, but in general you should avoid being on your phone as much as possible during a meeting.

      Reply
  2. Al Lo

    #2 – I also work at a non-profit, and individual offices are low on the priority list. Our building is newer than yours sounds like, so there’s not quite as much age-related wear and tear, but the bulk of the funds for building upkeep goes into the program areas, not the offices.

    I know that people in more corporate jobs sometimes think that it’s inappropriate to have to bring in any of your own stuff (the company should provide everything except personal knick-knacks), but sometimes in the non-profit world, the funds just have to go elsewhere. In my office, I’ve brought in such things as:

    *Curtains to cover my mismatched shelves and file cabinets
    *A loveseat I found on craigslist for $20 (my office is large enough to have a small sitting area)
    *My own fridge, so I don’t have to forget my food in the communal fridge
    *My own standing desk attachment to my regular desk — because all of our office furniture is donated through programs that match non-profits with corporate offices looking to upgrade and get rid of things, and there’s not nearly as much selection as going to the store
    *Prints for my wall (I go on Etsy and buy printables, and hang them with command strip clothespin hangers; also, a great way to get large decorative pieces for very cheap is to frame some interesting wrapping paper in a poster frame)
    *And so on.

    At my office, no one cares if I put holes in the wall, so I can hang things on my wall however I see fit, which is nice, within reason. I rearranged my office furniture to better suit my workflow and the way I wanted to use the room. I’ve painted one wall with chalkboard paint to have a creative workspace. The person in there before me had one of those removable vinyl designs on the wall, which I’ve left there.

    Various offices differ, but it’s made a huge difference to me to put a bit of work and effort into making my office comfortable and functional, since I spend so much time there. You may or may not be allowed to paint; you may or may not want to put that much work into things, but you could probably ask, and if not, there are lots of non-permanent things you can do.

    Reply
    1. Artemesia

      I worked in a place where the minions had whatever leftover furniture was available. In my first office, I got permission to paint my office and bought a gallon of paint. It made a big difference (I realize this may or may not be possible– but if it is, it is cheap and easy.) Every teacher I know has spent a lot of decorate their own classroom, create reading nooks etc. Most people I know in non-profits who are lucky enough to have an actual office throw a few bucks at a cheap colorful rug and some posters and are happy to be able to close a door. I once had a small office with no window; I bought one of those Magritte posters of the surreal window so I had one.

      Reply
      1. Al Lo

        Whenever I move out of a place, I would rather grab a paintbrush and paint touch ups over the dirt and scuffs than try to scrub the wall. It’s just so much easier, and it looks fresher. A fresh coat of paint (especially in a color you choose!) does wonders.

        Reply
      2. Sami

        I’m a teacher and pretty certain that in different classrooms I’ve had desks and chairs that are older than I. At the time I was late 20s to mid-30s.
        And-obviously- I had to decorate my own classroom.

        To the OP, keep the receipts of whatever you buy. Maybe you can be reimbursed or use on your taxes.

        Reply
        1. Al Lo

          True. My work reimbursed me the $20 for paint and for some of the other, more permanent things. The temporary “brought from home” stuff, I just acquired on my own. Some of it I could claim on taxes. It really was a mixed bag of all 3 scenarios, for me.

          Reply
    2. OP #2

      Thank you for the advice! I’ll definitely invest in some extras to help spruce up the place. I don’t think painting is an option, since everyone here has the same color walls, but maybe Maintenance has some extra of the old color that I could use to touch up the scuff marks.

      Reply
      1. Purplesaurus

        The desk might be something you need to prioritize if it’s one made before people worked using computers. The (lack of) ergonomics could be a legitimate concern if you’re uncomfortable sitting at it.

        Reply
        1. GigglyPuff

          Something I did with my desk, it’s one of those oldish tables with just the keyboard drop down, pretty standard. My problem was doing other work at the desk, I tended to lean my elbows on the edge and my arms near my elbows actually started going numb even when I wasn’t doing it. I bought some baby proof stick on edging since many of the keyboard rests that were larger or covered the edge of the desk were ridiculously expensive, worked like a charm and the numbness went away within a few days.

          So if you have a crappy desk, I like to pass on that tip. It also works as a hand rest for the keyboard.

          Reply
          1. JessaB

            Also a cut in half pool noodle covered with some pretty fabric works as well to keep your arms from leaning on the sharp edges.

            Reply
        2. k

          If the desk is a major issue I would suggest asking your supervisor or the office manager if there is an unused one somewhere you can swap with. Nonprofits tend to hold onto things rather than throwing them out, so there may be some office furniture hiding in a random closet or unused room. Likely it won’t be anything newer or nicer than yours, but maybe a different style that fits you better.

          Reply
      2. Spooky

        If there are noticeable nicks and gashes in the wall and you don’t want to by a whole tub of spackle, you can fill them in with plain white toothpaste (not gel, but actual paste). My roommate in college was an RA for years, and that was how they cheaply fixed wall holes. Smooth it over, let it dry, and paint over it if you’ve got the color.

        Reply
      3. Just J.

        Maintenance “should” have some of the old color or at least a color name so you can match it. If you can convince your employer to let you paint, check out your local Habitat for Humanity as they sometimes except extra paint as donations and you may be able to get a random gallon or half gallon for very inexpensive.

        Reply
      4. k

        For the scuffs on the wall you could also try picking up a pack of Mr Clean Magic Erasers (or the dollar store version of them) and try scrubbing them off. I use those at home for scuffed walls and they do a pretty good job.

        For your office in general, bring in desk accessories that you like, things for the wall, etc. Having something nice to grab your eye can be a good distraction from the less attractive things. I’m also fairly low on the ladder at a nonprofit so my office isn’t much to look at. I brought in a few little things that make me smile, and it really makes all the difference.

        Reply
        1. Ama

          Yes, I was going to recommend those magic erasers — although if the walls are not white/cream, test it in an inconspicuous area first because sometimes it leaves noticeable marks on brightly colored walls.

          Reply
          1. Zombii

            Are you sure the “noticeable marks” aren’t the non-stained color of the paint? I had that issue when I used a magic eraser on one stray mark in the kitchen and then I had to clean the whole damn wall. :(

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        2. MillersSpring

          Came here to say this. The magic erasers (even generic) do a really good job on wall scuffs.

          Reply
      5. OhBehave

        If you’re willing to try cleaning the scuffs, Magic Erasers are wonderful at removing scuffs and wall marks. My guess is that no one has really cared or felt that invested in the look before.
        I worked at a non-profit for years and we would all come together once in a while and deep clean the office. Everyone working together made the place look wonderful! You might want to float that idea after you’ve been there a few months. Of course, if you have an existing relationship with higher ups, you could make that suggestion. Our office was pretty chill and we all worked great together so it was no big deal to us.
        If the marks won’t come off, you can scrape off a chip of paint and have it matched at a home improvement store. You can get a quart to use for touch-ups.

        Reply
  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#2, I so sympathize with your office. My first office was a corner of a “conference room” in a larger office that was just a bit dirtier/dank-er than a meth lab. The larger office was a converted apartment that hadn’t been well kept (read: leaky pipes –> moldy carpet/ceilings), you had to go outside to take stairs to the second floor, no one on staff thought that regular cleaning/upkeep was necessary, and there were constantly cockroaches crawling over the floors. Oh, and the walls were thin, so I could hear everything that happened in the law office next door, including the lunch-time “romps” between the secretary and attorney in that office.

    My “solution” was to disinfect anything that I needed to make physical contact with, line whatever could be reasonably lined (without damaging anything) with contact paper—including my desk surface—, and throw some art on the walls. I would have brought a plant, but it seemed like it would just become a cockroach habitat.

    If you had been there longer, and depending on the vibe of your organization, I’d recommend figuring out when the lease comes up and if there are similar-cost buildings nearby that are cleaner/better-suited for the organization. This would be a huge overstep as a new person, but what got us out of the meth lab was a colleague who’d been there for 4 years who paid attention to local office buildings to see if they went on the market (one did, and it was so much better and cost less). So it may also be worth laying low and listening to see if others are dismayed/frustrated and would be willing to pitch relocation (if appropriate) to the powers that be.

    Reply
    1. Artemesia

      LOL I felt at the mystery of leaks. IN one office the roof leaked and we spent hours drying out research questionnaires that got soaked; they were hung on lines in halls and conference rooms — critical to not lose the data.

      Then we moved to the bottom floor of a different building and felt we would not be subjected to the leaky roof again. And a couple of months later, the air conditioning leaded all over another set of data; at least then we had a strict rule about closing the data books and so there was less actual damage — did wetness and mold and yuck
      I thought wetness, mold and yuck was sort of par for the course in non-profit work.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        OMG, the surveys! I’m so sorry, and yet also feel such kinship with your experience. I remember having to pin client files to an actual outdoor clothesline to salvage them from the water leaks. The prevalence of truly horrific offices is kinda mind-boggling.

        Reply
        1. JessaB

          I remember having to explain to new people at one office that NO those garbage bags are NOT garbage, we put critical stuff in them so they don’t get soaked. The real garbage bags are GREEN. Anything in white or black is not not not trash. We gave up trying to find the leaks in that office. We just wrapped up critical stuff in plastic.

          Reply
      2. Happy Lurker

        I had in office in a re purposed MP building on an Army base…my office was the former cell…windows blocked up and every thing. At least they took the bars off before I started!

        Reply
    2. JamieS

      Mold, cockroaches, and unwanted pornographic background noise? Not to diminish OP’s office woes but you make their office sound like paradise by comparison.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Ah, I didn’t even mention my boss’s dog, who engaged in all sorts of malodorous behaviors that just got absorbed into the carpets. Also, they held conferences in the conference room, but I couldn’t move my desktop, so I’d be trapped at my desk trying to figure out how not to eavesdrop or get distracted by the meeting. The only consolation is that one other coworker also was stuck in there with me, so we could at least share our horror quietly in our corners. It was not a conducive environment to getting work done.

        That said, that office was definitely an outlier compared to literally everywhere else I’ve worked. My current office is maybe the closest “dinginess”-wise, but it’s still objectively exponentially better ye-olde-meth-lab.

        Reply
    3. Bea

      Omg I flinched at the romps comment so hard. That beats a dingy moldy office out of the water :(

      Reply
    4. OP #2

      Thanks for the advice and sympathy! I definitely came armed with Lysol wipes, Febreze, and an air purifier today. I like the contact paper idea.. Especially for the top of my desk!

      The organization won’t move, though. They own the building.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Oh, that’s frustrating; I’m sorry. I think the only option, then, is to do light repairs on your own and invest in things that will make your office more livable for you (I loved Artemesia’s suggestion about the Magritte print, in particular). Regarding the walls, maybe consider removable/temporary wallpaper, if the organization will allow it? In my experience, if there’s not widespread discontent, there’s very little that you can do outside of how you react/respond to your office being dingy :(

        With respect to the desk, it might also be worth monitoring websites for organizations that allow people to donate their office equipment to nonprofits. It’s kind of like going through a thrift store, but you can often find affordable and functional pieces if you browse at least once/week.

        Good luck, OP!

        Reply
        1. Cautionary tail

          My desk was a WWII surplus metal desk with a WWII surplus chair. This was in the year 2012 and I’m sure that they are still there today…I’m not. The desk drawers didn’t fit in the drawer slider areas (after 75 years) so they became shelf spaces without drawers. The chair wouldn’t stay up so I extended it as high as it would go, drilled a hole through the stem and pinned it up with a bolt and nut. I had to install electric outlets in my office, taking it from a wire that was inside the ceiling and running it down the wall. Like others here have done, I painted my office too. A coworker found a can of paint that matched the other offices and I turned my office clothes inside out so pain splatters wouldn’t wreck them and painted the place. The carpet was nasty but I wasn’t going to spend my money fixing their carpet so I left it as is.

          Your place sound like a relative paradise. Just kidding. Keep up your spirits.

          Reply
        2. OhBehave

          The non-profit I worked at for 20 years is located in the city of a major employer. They would allow any non-profit to go ‘shopping’ in their storage warehouse. That’s where they kept stuff the moved out of other buildings after a remodel, or closing a building. We furnished our ENTIRE office with stuff from them. It was expensive furnishings too. They also have décor which we made new using paint.

          Reply
      2. SignalLost

        Depending on your relationship with your boss, you also might want to pitch repainting the worst wall yourself by saying something like “I adore the office! I can’t wait till I’m all settled in. One question though – would it be all right for me to paint one wall a lighter colour/with chalkboard paint to brighten the room/provide more space for my work process? Of course I’d pay for it, and do it on a weekend so no one is affected by fumes.” You might find that they’re willing to let you have that where they might not let you have the full office painted.

        Reply
      3. Katie

        You should definitely check the dollar store for contact paper/drawer liner. I found so really lovely stuff when I was there to use to reline my dresser drawers. Another desk covering solution would be something like oil cloth. You can wrap it over the top of the desk and use a heavy-duty double stick tape or a heavy-duty stapler (found at Home Depot/Lowe’s or a craft store) to secure it depending on how much you move things around on your desk. Another solution for the walls is a microfiber cloth and multi-purpose cleaner. As cleaning offices is a part of my job, we’ve found that using something like 409 and a cloth works WONDERS to clean up scrungy walls from where people have rested their feet. Also, using a typical carpet cleaning spray can definitely bring up smaller stain areas. Good luck!

        Reply
      4. hayling

        In my old nonprofit office we had really old, cracked bulletin boards. I used fabric to cover them and they were much cuter! If it doesn’t have a frame, just secure the fabric around the back. If it has a frame, cut the fabric to be slightly larger than the frame. Tape the fabric down in a few places, then use an old credit card to shove the edges of the fabric under the frame.

        Reply
    5. LBK

      Yikes! How was that a real place and not just part of the sad backstory from the beginning of a superhero movie?

      Reply
      1. RVA Cat

        Or a comedy…I’m picturing the beginning of “Joe vs. the Volcano”. Maybe the OP could get a hula lamp?

        Reply
  4. fposte

    OP #2, what you’re describing isn’t uncommon in some areas, even for senior people, so it may not even be paying dues but the way things are. (What you’re describing is pretty much my office, but you forgot to mention the ceiling tile stains and a few other details.) Other things to consider are whether you’d be willing to DIY a new paint job if you got permission, which would allow you to fill some dings in as you go, or if some kind of large wall hanging would brighten up a dingy wall.

    Reply
    1. Anja

      In current job being in the crappy offices didn’t have anything to do with seniority, but what team you’re on and where it was located at that time.

      First building (I’m now in my third while on the same team) had mismatched, old furniture, the stained carpet, and ceiling tile dust on my desk in the mornings (they were slowly disintegrating – it was especially bad when they were doing renos on the floor above). Next building was categorically fine. And now I’m in a swanky brand new building with LEED gold certification, white noise machines, and brand new sit-stand desks. Admittedly part of the reason they held off on reno-ing the hole I started in was because they knew that a lot of people were going to be moving to this new office tower.

      It was luck of the draw and would be out of touch to complain about anything unless there was an ergonomic or other OH&S need (in which case they’re very responsive).

      Reply
      1. Mookie

        I wonder how odd it is to prefer some of what the LW describes (mismatched fixtures, dark lighting, ancient furniture) to your modern digs. Dirt, roaches, stains: no, thank you, of course. I’m kind of a shabby, frumpy person and for some reason lived-in environments really calm me. (Like, my favorite libraries on a university campus are always the neglected ones and I judge a public building based on the functional efficiency of its bathrooms and whether its landscaping qualifies as New Perennial.) Open concepts, empty space, standing desks, communal living, floor-to-ceiling glass, intimidating baffling*, quasi-Brutalist design make me feel out of place and a bit finicky, like I have to remain spruced-up while working. I am a messy, organization-through-piles-and-hoarding kind of worker, so this would hurt my productivity.

        *is the plural of baffle baffling or baffles?

        Reply
        1. Anja

          I don’t find it too bad within the office because my stuff has already exploded all over my space and there’s already coffee rings on everything, but I admittedly feel rather shabby when I walk through the fancy main lobby of the building – with its super high ceilings and fancy seating area (I am not fancy).

          Reply
    2. Ramona Flowers

      We have a few senior people who have their own offices but people use them for meetings and phone calls (officially, with a calendar for booking) whenever they’re not in. Ironically I think I get more privacy by having a desk in a corner of an open plan layout.

      Reply
    3. Kj

      Yep. I’m at a nonprofit and they just keep cramming people into my office. When I started I shared the room with three others. Now I share with 8 others. There just isn’t room for us all and we desk share and the like. I’d kill for an office that is mine, even an old and dingy one. Our individual offices are not that nice, but at least the door shuts.

      Oh, I second commentators they have said you might need to take the hit and fox it yourself. Nonprofits rarely spend money on making spaces nice. Dollars to donuts, any nicer space at a nonprofit was funded by the employees. It sucks, but it is the norm.

      Reply
      1. OP #2

        I definitely don’t mind putting in money to spruce it up, I just wasn’t sure about the organization’s responsibility in basic things.. Like walls and carpet. Maybe my original post got a little bogged down in the details.

        Reply
        1. The Other Dawn

          I would say if the carpet has a smell and/or is causing some allergy issues for you, then you could ask to have it cleaned. But stains? Nah. Just cover them up with a couple cheap area rugs.

          At my last company, we basically never made money the whole time we were in business. That meant never getting anything new unless it was absolutely necessary. And even then, it was off to the used office furniture warehouse. Seemed like each person who had an office had a different desk, different chair, shelving units, etc. The only thing with any continuity were the cubicles and workstations within. We all brought our own stuff in to make our office look better. The woman in the office next to me had a giant area rug that basically covered the whole floor of her office, there was a Tiffany-style lamp on her desk, her own wall hangings from home, etc.

          Reply
        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          It honestly depends on the organization, OP. Some nonprofits have enough money, etc., to do upgrades, but they won’t because they think it detracts from funding their core activities/services (but also because funders are constantly pressuring nonprofits to lower their overhead costs—carpet cleaning falls in that category of costs). Others have no money and won’t do it no matter what. And a very small number of large and well-funded nonprofits (e.g., Red Cross) will do upgrades, and it’s normal to expect them to do that.

          If your organization is small but unlikely to spend on upgrades, it might be worth trying to convince them to pay for a deep carpet clean once/year as a public health precaution.

          Reply
          1. fposte

            Though deep cleans can be a problem too–our carpet has ridges from those.

            And generally, OP, the organization has a basic safety responsibility to its workers, but none of what you describe is safety; aesthetics is all prerogative and no responsibility.

            Reply
          2. Al Lo

            My org gets grant money that’s specified for equipment and facility — we can’t use it for salaries, no matter what. So when that comes in, every couple of years, we can prioritize things like new sound equipment (we’re a performing arts organization), new energy-efficient windows (going in this summer), motion-sensor LED lighting throughout our building, etc. If there’s a specific building-related need, I can sometimes squeeze it in there. Also, if there’s a piece of equipment that would make my job easier, that’s the time and place to ask for it.

            It’s a mixed blessing. We’d prefer to have the unrestricted funds to pay people and develop programming, but it’s good to be forced, at times, to prioritize the building and equipment without siphoning money from the staffing and programming.

            Reply
        3. SignalLost

          Honestly, for the carpet, you could rent a cleaner and do that yourself too. I guess my take on it, having been in non-profits and private companies both, is that a stained carpet SHOULD be the org’s responsibility, as all general cleaning should be, but we didn’t even get actual carpet cleaning often in my snazzy new private company’s offices, so you may be SOL on that one. I think we got a deep clean on the carpet every three months there. I think it was six months or 12 at my non-profit, but we rented our space. Otherwise, the way that place operated, it would be never.

          Reply
          1. SignalLost

            (I called out the way we operated because I promise we had the money – the org itself and it’s parent org were run by jerks. In that case, it was definitely org culture, and that could be an issue here if your org president likes to tout your mend-and-make-do spirit.)

            Reply
        4. Ama

          It’s also going to depend on whether your organization owns or rents their space (and if they rent, what their agreement is with the landlords on building maintenance). My org recently moved and part of the reason we did is that we couldn’t get the maintenance staff in our old building to do any repairs in a timely manner. We ended up giving up on getting them to repaint anything because it was such a hassle.

          Reply
        5. Liane

          If you area has a Savers, this is another place to get rugs and such inexpensively. The chain sells donations and also new items/clothing and profits go to partner charities.
          We got a decent area rug for our living room there for under $15. (We didn’t want fancy/new/pricey because we have a dog.)

          Reply
    4. aebhel

      Yep. My desk is a 1960’s-era metal behemoth, and when I first started at my job the carpeting for the entire office was this awful, decrepit orange stuff that was decades-old, stained, and held down at the seams with strips of duct tape (they did eventually re-carpet, fortunately). I’m not in a junior role at my organization; that’s just how the offices are.

      The benefit of an environment like that, though, is that management often doesn’t really care what you do with it in terms of personalizing the space. In general, though, if the whole office is a bit dingy, I’d only complain about things that are actually a health hazard.

      Reply
  5. SaraV

    #2 – Would bringing in a lamp a)brighten up your office, or b)put a bigger spotlight on the stains and/or dinginess?

    Reply
    1. Violet Fox

      Or even asking for a lamp, politely of course, and making sure it is not a big deal if they say no.

      The building I work in is from 1966. The lighting is from 1966, the ventilation system is semi-functioning and pretty much dates from them. The electoral has been occasionally upgraded, but not enough. The windows are from 1966, and I live in one of those places where it is not unusual to reseal or replace windows every so often because we have quite intense winters.

      Who gets what when it comes to a desk from the 60’s, a desk from the early 00s etc entirely depends on what is free at the time that a new person starts and whom they are working with (try to keep groups close together), and really does not have much to do with seniority.

      Granted it probably helps that the entire building is terrible, so no one feels like they are being made to deal with terrible because they are new. One of the big ways that I, and a lot of other people who work here deal with the doom and gloom is office plants. Assuming you are allowed to have plants (ask first, just in case!), just getting a few in-expensive and easy to care for plants will make a big difference!

      Try to think about what would make you happier in your work environment with the tools you have. Might also be worth checking out other people’s office there and see what they have done to make a better environment for themselves.

      Reply
  6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#5, as Alison noted, be really transparent when/if you reach out to this childhood neighbor for coffee, and be transparent from the beginning. A lot of organizations, particularly nonprofits, will specifically restrict staff who could influence the decision-making process from holding informational interviews with individuals applying to an open position. So in addition to avoiding coming off like you’re disingenuous, advance notice would help your neighbor figure out if she can field your request or if she should refer you or if she should pass for now. It’s much harder for her to have to manage those kinds of issues in the moment (and no one likes feeling like they’re being bamboozled).

    Reply
    1. Ramona Flowers

      Yep. I work for a non-profit and wouldn’t be able to do this if the job was in my department.

      Reply
    2. Thlayli

      In the EU in a lot of government departments and NGOs (particularly ones funded by the government) this sort of thing would be considered canvassing and would automatically disqualify you from the job.

      Reply
  7. Streets Ahead

    Oh, OP #2. Sweet summer child. The last big-corp. I worked for (a Fortune 500 company) a few years ago had live roaches skittering around in the hallway and falling from the ceiling tiles onto desks. We all made sure to secure our bags in our lockable over-desk storage so that we wouldn’t end up unwittingly taking any of the little Gregor Samsas home with us.

    One time we called Facilities (as instructed) to deal with a particularly large beast trundling by our team’s area. They despatched a brave gentleman with a strip of sticky tape dangling from his finger. That was their solution.

    Reply
    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      To be fair, cockroaches are extraordinarily difficult to kill. There’s a reason they’re as old as dinosaurs.

      (Also, that sounds like a horror show. I am so sorry.)

      Reply
    2. GT

      My old office stopped spraying for them and would only use glue traps. The glue traps worked for 2 days, and then they were full – which meant they became an all-you-can-eat roach buffet. :( So glad I am out of there.

      Reply
      1. (Different) Rebecca

        Well, that was a nauseating thought to have with my coffee… *virtual hugs* What a nightmare.

        Reply
      2. CrazyEngineerGirl

        We have those sticky traps at my office, which is also regularly sprayed for cockroaches, too. I came in one Monday a couple of weeks ago and found that one was in a strange place in the hallway outside of my office. I walked up to it and could see something VERY LARGE hanging out of the back end against the corner. (It was one of those box shaped ones so you don’t have to stare at whatever gets stuck to it.) I high tailed it out of there and went and got one of the guys from the shop floor to come get it.

        Turns out, it was a… BAT!!! Somehow a freaking bat got into my floor of the building over the weekend, got stuck in the trap and proceeded to move the thing down the hallway. The bat was no longer alive and I now scan the ceiling of the hallway every morning I come in and turn on the lights.

        Reply
    3. Jessesgirl72

      The sticky tape is actually one effective way -not as effective as an exterminator, of course…

      We had a rental house where I never, not once, saw a cockroach or evidence of one in the house. But the laundry area was in the garage (a place where we never had any food, ever!- not even temporarily), and that’s where we’d stow boxes we hadn’t unpacked yet. If the tape was hanging off a partly unpacked box, eventually it would catch cockroaches.

      Reply
      1. the gold digger

        The cockroaches were probably in the boxes. Cockroaches love to eat the cornstarch that is used as the stiffener/adhesive for the fluting in corrugated boxes. Do not bring your corrugated boxes into your house! You will be importing cockroaches.

        (Also – do not bring anything into your house that came from your husband’s parents’ house, where both cats had fleas and the parents did not give the poor cats the flea treatment the vet had given them. Leave that stuff in the garage.)

        Reply
        1. Jessesgirl72

          OMG, the chills you just gave me! Do you know how often I’ve moved?!?!

          There were boxes inside that house too, but maybe the 3 cats we had at the time weren’t just decorative, after all. ;)

          Reply
      2. Elizabeth West

        A piece of tape hanging off a box in my garage caught a baby snake. Poor little thing! I freed it with cooking oil and very gentle prying with the blunt end of a toothpick.

        Reply
      1. fposte

        They’re pretty common, though. I’ve had them at a few buildings, and you get really good with your foot-stomping :-).

        Reply
        1. JustaTech

          I am so, so glad I work in the part of the life sciences where bugs are a work-stopping no-go.

          Reply
    4. Honeybee

      Nope nope nope.

      The day a roach falls from a ceiling tile in my office is the day I either move offices or quit.

      Reply
    5. Working Rachel

      Yeah, I hate to say it, OP#2, but many of us live in squalor at work. As far as I can tell the relative level of squalor has nothing to do with the financial health of the company you work for, and little to do with the quality of the job or work environment, either.
      Every job I’ve ever had has given me a gross, overstuffed desk, which I then cleaned out, reorganized, and washed myself, cleaning up apparent years of lunch spills from someone I had never met. As the newbie, you probably got the worst chair and the worst furniture regardless of where you are in the office hierarchy–after your predecessor left, one of your coworkers probably switched anything good in that office with their older, broken stuff.
      Common areas like microwaves and fridges are usually filthy. Less filthy if you have some kind of cleaning service, but still filthy. LastJob had occasional cockroaches, and some years we had spider infestations, since we were on the 19th floor. I tolerated the spiders until they started rapelling down from the ceiling in front of my computer screen.
      My best advice is keep your own space to your own standard of cleanliness, spruce it up as much as you’re able to on your own, and learn to cultivate a tolerance for ickiness in your larger environment.

      Reply
  8. Panda Bandit

    #2 – Covering the shabby parts and redecorating with inexpensive items is a good way to spruce the place up. In my heart I’m a contractor so I’d be itching at the chance to spackle the walls and refinish the desk. I know that’s not the route for everyone though. :)

    Reply
    1. OP #2

      I’m a contractor at heart, too! If there was anyway for me to get my desk home (That doesn’t involve six bodybuilders and a U-Haul) I’d totally be up for refurnishing it myself. I think I’m going to see if Maintenance has any extra paint and some spackle so I can fix the walls. (I think that is why the walls bother me so much. It is such an easy fix!)

      Reply
  9. Ramona Flowers

    #3 Alison Makes such a good point about long emails. There are other factors too: everything from the time of day to how stressed or busy the person is feeling. I used to find this sort of thing really frustrating. That’s changed over time, partly because I’ve done it enough times myself. And then wondered how I failed to see the thing. A few years ago I would’ve just been excruciatingly Hermione about it.

    Plus I work in a role where I get to see a lot of user feedback on information that’s provided for the public as this informs some of the work I do. Something that’s been fascinating is realising that, when we get complaints about x or y piece of information not being there, the majority of the time it actually is there and they missed it. Sometimes there are things we can and should do to make the information less missable, but sometimes there aren’t – people do just miss stuff in ways you can’t always fix. Which has informed my shifting take on this.

    I’m not sure you actually need to let the person know you already answered it (unless it’s a direct report as per the last bit). Because their priority is I Need To Know Thing and they’re asking you to tell them. Your priority could be Telling Them Thing. Or it could be Proving You Told Them Thing In Order To CYA – and I don’t think you need to do that unless they’ve actively accused you of not telling them, or copied in your manager is something. I like the suggestion here but you could just say: “Here you go!” instead. You already want to be graceful about it, which is most of the battle – you’d only really have a problem if you were writing in to ask how to make people read your emails.

    Reply
        1. C4T!!!

          OP #3 here…

          In this instance, it’s “Hello All, Please remember to do XXX. This is due by YYY”.

          I agree with Alison’s point on long emails. If it is ever more than a paragraph, I find that action items in bold, or bullets, help.

          Love your “Here you go!” instead.

          Reply
          1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

            In general, I find that if it’s over a paragraph, I’m either being too windy, or the information needs to be included as an attachment, with the email just including the actionable items and a brief abstract.

            What you’re describing is similar to what the military calls BLUF, or bottom line up front. Who, what, when, where, why, and how goes into a sentence or two up front, background and context goes after and is optional.

            Reply
            1. Happy Lurker

              Borrowing your BLUF acronym!
              I also have the same issue as OP. It drives me up a wall, although I am trying to be better about it. I am not quite sure how my “please see below/attached” comes across.

              Reply
          2. VroomVroom

            Same. If it gets long I usually will caveat at the top (LONG EMAIL READ ALL) – but I try not to make it long. The nature of my job is sometimes it’s a LOT of info to share with a lot of people. I also do embolden the action items (or highlight, or whatever).

            Reply
          3. Not A Morning Person

            And I’ve had people miss the information in the first line. So I’ve started putting some of the first line information in the subject line and repeating it in the first line of the message, something like:
            Subj: Confirmation for Teapot Program at Teapot Dome for Monday, 5/15, 2-3:30 p.m. Agenda Attached
            First line:
            This is to confirm that the Teapot Program at Teapot Dome will be held on Monday, 5/15, 2-3:30 p.m. Please see the attached agenda.

            And I still get questions: When are we doing this? What are we going to be doing? Where is this? etc…

            Reply
    1. Djuna

      I’ve seen a few sides of this, stream of consciousness emails asking 10 different questions (of 10 different people, in one mail), no bullet points, just “welcome to the inside of my brain”. In that case, no-one working on the project (high pressure, deadlines looming like spooky dead trees through fog) had the time/energy to read the mails, and that person was gently told as much in a call.

      Another side would be the person who wants to be seen commenting on a thread and will almost reflexively ask questions, without fully taking in the information they’ve been given. I see that a lot more, and agree that it’s annoying. It’s that thing about needing to listen before speaking, except they’re so intent on being responsive that they can’t step back and see how their responses might make them look.

      I’ve also seen this happen in email conversations across multiple time-zones where the answer to the question might be buried in the clutter of the thread, or in a fork of the thread, and the person asking just wants a quick answer on that one thing. That one doesn’t bother me at all.

      Reply
      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

        Yeah, the stream of consciousness email is frustrating. One of my direct reports is kind of famous for it – she’s really good, but she’ll just blast out this run-on paragraph of questions, issues, and proposals.

        Reply
    2. bunanza

      I think this is great advice: just repeat it for them, unless you have a good reason not to. It can feel aggravating when you try to preclude requests by supplying the necessary information, but some people will always be too busy or distracted to glean information from the source. That can be super frustrating, but unless there’s a dynamic that involves teaching the person professional standards I’d just give them a reminder email.

      Reply
      1. AndersonDarling

        When people started using their phones to read email, I had to deal with a lot of this. I’m guessing people would stop scrolling after the first line, and if there was an image pasted into the email, it would be converted to an attachment so they wouldn’t look at it.
        I would just copy and paste the info the same way Alison suggested. After 2 or 3 times, everyone started learning to scroll through to the signature, and if the email said “See the screenshot below” then they would look for an attachment.
        It’s been years since I had this happen, so it just took some time for everyone to get up to speed.

        Reply
    3. Is It Performance Art

      I’ve also had people miss information because they think that can’t possibly (or don’t want it to) be the answer. I also try to make it less missable — if I know it’s going to fall into that category, I’ll add an explanation of why just so I’m clear that I really am saying what I’m saying.

      Reply
    4. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

      Once you are over 1 paragraph, the chance of your email being fully digested diminishes per sentence. Some strategies:

      1) lead with the key info in the first sentence of the email
      2) include pictures. Snipping tool with a red or yellow circles around a key element works.
      3) numbers and bullets are your friend. formatting matters.

      Reply
      1. nofelix

        Yeah, every long email needs an executive summary at the start so that someone skimming will not need to read the whole thing to know the conclusion. Doing this dramatically increases understanding and agreement; often people won’t even read the rest of the email if they agree with your executive summary, meaning you’re better able to push your ideas.

        Reply
        1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

          It’s a good idea to have a benefit to the reader in the subject line also.

          Subject: TPS Reports (bad)
          Subject: TPS Reports New Procedure (not so great)
          Subject: Easier TPS Reports! Save 15 minutes out of your day. (better)

          Reply
          1. One of the Sarahs

            Giggling, now, imagining a bad-clickbait-y subject:

            I read the latest TPS report and you wouldn’t believe what happened next!
            3 quick hacks for the TPS reports that will change your life!
            In just 2 weeks, your TPS Reports will be transformed!

            Reply
        2. Persephone Mulberry

          My boss is terrible about this – she loves to explain the whys and wherefores first and finally get to the point three pages later…and then is exasperated at “people who just don’t read!” I’m subtly waging war on her extremely loquacious writing in a three-pronged attack:
          – suggesting that I take over sending more of these types of messages, rationalizing it as “taking things off her plate” and increasing the visibility/authority of my role with our clients;
          – modeling effective email tactics and passing the responses up the chain (to show that people ARE reading my emails)
          – on the next manifesto-style policy announcement she writes, suggesting an edit that puts the key details first and then the supporting explanations/statistics – I didn’t have the standing yet the last time this happened, but I think now I do.

          Reply
          1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

            I used to be way more like this than like my current style. I cringe.

            Do you want to be right (it was in the email!) or do you want to be read and understood? >> > comes down to this.

            Reply
            1. shep

              Same! I still struggle sometimes with this, especially when I’m asking for feedback or clarity on something and would rather have the conversation in person. I end up writing a semi-substantial email because I want to be clear that I’ve weighed options and ideas.

              But I’ve gotten MUCH better about keeping most of my emails short and utilitarian.

              Reply
        3. Anna Held

          This. And if you have 3 short items, say that first so people know what to look for. Then have 3 paragraphs and number them. I like more, shorter paragraphs in general for emails. I also use my old high school English tricks — edit for clarity, but also to cut unnecessary words/phrases. Editing specifically to cut down the verbiage is actually a very effective way of increasing clarity too!

          Reply
      2. Batshua

        OH GODS YES.

        We are constantly getting new policies at work and they’re only slightly different from our old policies and I feel like I *never* know what’s going on.

        We get emails about things all the time and then my lead is like “duh did you read the email” — of COURSE I did, but absorbing new but only slightly different information ALL THE TIME is confusing and frustrating, so that’s why I’m asking for clarification!

        I’ve taken to making a document that tracks the newest stuff so that I don’t keep having to dig through emails. :-/

        Reply
        1. nofelix

          If important policies have to change this frequently it should probably be on the company intranet as a general resource rather than relying on staff keeping track themselves. Then lump changes into a monthly update, send an email with details, and everyone can check the intranet for relevant policy changes at important gateways in their work.

          Otherwise it sounds like you have one of those awful situations where one person’s ability to stay on top of a seemingly infinite number of arbitrary details (often because it’s their only job) hampers creating a sensible system for everyone.

          Reply
          1. Batshua

            Haha, no, wouldn’t it be great if we did that!

            It IS showing up in our meeting minutes (but not *at* the meeting, just the minutes?!) and I’ve been copying them from there.

            Reply
            1. Hapless Bureaucrat

              How in the world is a new hire or someone who has been on leave supposed to keep up with policies if they’re only documented in ephemeral formats? Read through all the meeting minutes up to the present? Hope that someone brings them up to speed verbally?

              Good thing you’re keeping that tracking document; I bet you’re not the only one who would benefit from it if you shared it.

              Reply
          2. Jessica

            If only! The same people who fail at reading comprehension with email also don’t look on the intranet that they can’t even remember we have.

            Reply
    5. Akcipitrokulo

      I used to work for a utility company where we sent out payment cards (to purchase cardboard tokens to put in meter). On the letter, literally right where you had to detach the card which was glued to the letter, in bright red block capitals that stretched the width of the letter, “DO NOT USE ANYONE ELSE’S CARD!”

      Yeah. Want to know how many of my cases were sorting out accounts where the wrong card had been used?

      Reply
    6. the gold digger

      My greatest accomplishment of the week – perhaps of the year – was to convince one of the engineers I work with that instead of just emailing a link to a multi-tab spreadsheet that contains dozens of lines and columns of information, including one column where he put notes about action items for other people

      that he (for this one issue)

      1. make a screenshot of the intranet page with the bad link
      2. circle the bad link (page has a dozen links on it)
      3. include the URL of the intranet page
      4. tell the person in charge of the intranet pages that this bad (circled) link needs to be changed to [new link]

      Engineer argued that he needs a central repository of everything that needs to be done and that he should be able to count on people checking his spreadsheet, reading the proper tab, and looking in the proper column to know what needs to be don.

      I said that in an ideal world, that is how it works, but if he wants the intranet page updated quickly, he has a better chance of it being done if he makes it easy for the intranet guy to do it.

      Reply
  10. MommyMD

    I would ask if they minded if I painted my new office on my own time and brought in an area rug.

    I’d also sign a waiver absolving them of any liability. A coat of paint can do wonders.

    Reply
    1. Ramona Flowers

      Unless they’re non-exempt, in which case they probably can’t do it on their own time?

      Reply
          1. Judy (since 2010)

            You can certainly volunteer for an organization that employs you. You just can’t volunteer to do your own job.

            For example, most of the employees at our Girl Scout council office lead troops. This has nothing to do with their jobs at the council. Leading troops is a volunteer activity, and there are many more troop leaders than the council employees.

            Reply
            1. Allypopx

              Oh, yes, sorry that was too general. Typically you can’t volunteer to paint your office though. Their are DOL guidelines that suggest volunteer actions by employees have to be for value outside the organization – allergies are making my brain fuzzy on specific wording but the volunteer work typically needs to be charitable or community based.

              Reply
        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          It does change. They can volunteer to clean up their own space or do whatever on their own time, as long as “cleaning the office” or refurbishing it isn’t part of the employee’s core duties or the core duties of other positions. DOL is most concerned about using unpaid volunteers in lieu of hiring staff.

          In this case, I doubt OP’s employer has an “interior design and refurbishment” person on the staff or ever intends to hire one. OP is probably ok with going in to fix their office up on their own time.

          Reply
  11. If dolphins are so smart, why do they live in igloos?

    #3 Very annoying. We have a client who is a bit of an arrogant ass. And he does this all the time. He loves complaining about how we don’t give him information, but he clearly doesn’t read his emails. A while ago he had a question about something, and I replied “If you actually read my previous email, you will see that blah blah etc.” He didn’t do it again. But please, don’t do this. It could have turned out very very differently.

    BTW, my original e-mail wasn’t long. Maybe 3 or 4 lines.

    Reply
    1. Discordia Angel Jones

      We have clients who do this also.

      Or worse, we email them telling them NOT to do something and they go ahead and do it, it goes wrong, they try to make out that we didn’t warn them.

      Reply
    2. Detective Amy Santiago

      I’ve been known to reply with “see below” and highlight the answer in my original email.

      Reply
      1. C4T!!!

        OP #3 here…

        Ooo… I like that. We have some people that don’t have formatting turned on with their emails though so I’ll have to use that one on peers.

        Reply
      2. TL -

        I do that if I’m particularly annoyed with someone, though I don’t usually highlight.
        I’ve also forwarded/replied to the relevant email and just written “See below,” but you have to get me really irritated to warrant that response.

        Reply
      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        I do that, too, when someone is being ridiculous or has a history of not reading. I’m gentler with someone who may be checking email on their phone or otherwise has not been a PITA about reading their emails.

        Reply
      4. PizzaDog

        Yep. I’ve also attached our previous e-mail thread where the questions had already been answered, if they started up a new one.

        Reply
      5. cheluzal

        I had one do this and wrote back, “Actually this was all sent on my email on x date.”
        That’s it.
        A day later he emails me and tells me “TACT is an acronym meaning To Avoid Causing Trouble, something to keep in mind when dealing with people.” The nerve. He also copied one of his graduate professor’s reply as a good example. Of course, I could tell (as a PT prof myself) that the answer was IN THE SYLLABUS! Sure, his professor was nicer than my emotionless reply, but I’ve worked with him much longer. *sigh*

        Not even worth a f/u reply and next year he’s no longer my charge.

        Reply
    3. SJ

      My ex-boss was so guilty of this. I could send him an email that was a line and a half long and he wouldn’t read the whole thing and then bitch to me about how I didn’t give him the information. Forwarding emails was a no-go because he never had the patience to scroll back more than one email in a chain — so I ended up doing a lot of copying and pasting of previously sent emails into new ones. Definitely a good use of my time!

      Reply
      1. AMPG

        The point where I knew an old job might not be salvageable was when I forwarded an email chain to my boss saying, “Hi, just sending this along because you said you wanted to know when the meeting was finally scheduled.” The chain was several emails long, but literally the one immediately below my message was the confirmation of “OK, we’re set for [time] on [date] at [place]. See you then!”

        She replied, “Yes, I do want to know when the meeting is scheduled. Do you have any information?” I answered, “It’s directly below my original message – [date, time, place]. Sorry for any confusion!” Her reply: “OK, thanks. In the future, please include a note so I know to read the rest of the email.”

        I mean, it’s one thing to miss info that was forwarded to you – it happens to everyone. But to turn it around and criticize me because I thought you’d understand that I was forwarding you a message because I wanted you to read it? This was the same boss, incidentally, who gave me “constructive feedback” on a four-line email that I sent out, because she said I should have organized the information in bullet points for readability. A four-line email. These both later became examples to support the general feedback that I was a poor communicator. (Sorry for the rant; I’m clearly still annoyed about this.)

        Reply
        1. Happy Lurker

          You should be annoyed!
          Today, I received an email asking why an invoice was very overdue…I attached my original reply email from February stating that the invoice was wrong…I call this “do your job”. I do mine, you do yours, I am tired of doing yours too. This happens weekly with multiple vendors. I swear that no one in our industry looks at attachments, subjects, or the second line in an email.
          AMPG – you are out of there. That must be a huge relief.

          Reply
  12. Jen S. 2.0

    OP 4: Your resume does not need to be — and is not expected to be — an exhaustive document of everything you’ve ever done. It’s a marketing document hitting your highlights and showcasing you at your best. Every syllable on it should be 100% true, and you should have good reasons for why everything is there, and good explanations for anything that is not. But it doesn’t need to list everything or account for every second of your time since high school.

    (Now, if someone asks you directly whether you transferred schools, of course you need to say yes.)

    Reply
    1. Antilles

      Now, if someone asks you directly whether you transferred schools, of course you need to say yes.
      This is true, but unless you’re applying for security clearances, it’s unlikely to be something they ask about after the first couple years of your career. Same thing about the December graduation date – you need to be honest about it if they ask, but people won’t really focus on it after you’ve established a decent length job history.
      Also, even if it does come up, nobody will ever care or hold it against you unless you act weird about it. Students transfer all the time for a variety of fully legitimate reasons – wanting to be closer to family (or conversely “wanting a bit more space to develop”), changed your major, finances, bad cultural fit, etc. Just be honest and casual about it and they won’t think twice about it.

      Reply
      1. msmorlowe

        Seconded. I did a few weeks at one college, got sick early in the semester, dropped out and reapplied to a college closer to home for the next year, then worked for the rest of the year when I got better. The first school isn’t on my CV, and I’ll usually say “I took a year out after secondary school”. If someone asks me directly, or asks me to expand in more detail, I’ll tell them about the first school. It’s never caused an issue for me, and I’ve found that there are far more people who’ve taken similar paths than you’d initially think.

        Reply
      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

        That’s the kind of thing I would have to disclose for my FINRA licensing, too, but yes — in a situation where you have to be exhaustive, you will be told you have to be exhaustive. Otherwise? Nah, don’t worry about it.

        Reply
        1. Submitted Question #4

          I agree with you all! It’s something I don’t voluntarily mention because I don’t want to complicate my college background anymore, but if asked in detail about it, then I’ll surely discuss it. As for the December graduation, I had two majors within University B and had an extra 12 units. That gave me the extra semester aka the odd graduation date. I would’ve been able to graduate on time if not for that. So that’s what I tell my interviewers.

          Thanks for the advice everyone! :-)

          Reply
          1. Jen S. 2.0

            “I double-majored and needed to take extra classes,” is a perfectly good answer (do you list both areas of study?).

            But as others have noted, transferring schools is normal and not weird, and it happens all the time. People don’t assume it happened for some sketchy reason, or that you should be ashamed of the first school. Mention it if it comes up, and don’t if it doesn’t. You also likely don’t have every class you took, every bake sale you worked, or every seminar you attended listed, so your resume is already not exhaustive, right? This is no different. People care that you have a degree and what you studied, not about the nitty-gritty of the path you took to get there.

            Reply
      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Very much agreed. The other option is to add a line below your degree (the way you would for study abroad) noting that you did coursework at a different university for your first year. But I agree with Alison, et al., that there’s no requirement that you list both institutions on your resume.

        That said, if someone asks you about it, remember that transferring is super normal, and as long as you’re not weird about it, the employer should not be weird about it, either. If they are, that’s a sign that they’re not normal.

        Reply
  13. uh

    One of my coworkers brought in a rug and was immediately made to remove it due to “tripping hazard”. My employer has a list of other items that are “strongly discouraged” or outright “forbidden”. Think live plants, things you must plug in like lights or appliances, and painting or any sort of “work” would be out of the question.

    Reply
    1. Anja

      My work has banned personal plants. There’s plants in the space – corporate plants – and I guess they were having real issues with people bringing in plants with diseases or bugs and then those spreading to the corporate plants which caused them to go way over their maintenance budget. Apparently in the future we may have the option to purchase from a specific supplier (the one that sells and maintains the corporate plants). The reaction to this decision (in effect January 1, 2017) was amusingly dramatic in a lot of cases.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I would love to do an “ask the readers” post about dramatic reactions to relatively mundane changes in office policies. I feel like there are some good stories out there.

        Reply
        1. Kiwi

          Hey! I’d be pretty unhappy if I had to take my dozen plants out of my office. I like working in a jungle.

          Reply
        2. NewHerePleaseBeNice

          That’s a great idea. We’re not allowed to walk up the stairs holding a hot drink (but the lift doesn’t work); there doesn’t seem to be an issue walking DOWN the same stairs with a hot drink though…

          Reply
            1. SignalLost

              Surprisingly, it’s not! Stairs that are appropriate for going down are not stairs that are appropriate for going up, due to different physical actions wanting different tread width and height. Most builders do a horrible compromise that suits neither up nor down, but if this building has down stairs, it may not be as safe going up.

              Reply
              1. Talvi

                Interesting! I always take stairs two at a time going up – I wonder if this has anything to do with it?

                Reply
          1. Annie Moose

            We were required to use handrails at OldJob. This was something we all joked about, yet if someone saw you not using one, they’d tell you to use it. It was a “haha you forgot to use the handrail! …no seriously use the handrail” sort of thing.

            It was… odd, and resulted in me refusing to use handrails when I wasn’t at work, out of sheer spite.

            Reply
            1. If dolphins are so smart, why do they live in igloos?

              It’s a safety thing. Where I work we had a few injuries where people tripped or slipped on the stairs. Actually it was just one guy who fell a few times because he wore those long pointy shoes, so it was really his own fault. Now we have to use handrails. We don’t, but we are supposed to.

              Reply
            2. Antilles

              It’s a legal thing. If you fall down the stairs at work and they have an OSHA-reportable incident and/or you decide to sue them over your fall, your company needs to be able to show that they took reasonable and appropriate steps to prevent the accident. “Annie was ignoring company policy on handrail use” sounds much better than “uh, um, we don’t really have a safety policy”.

              Reply
            3. anon because of paranoia

              We had a thing where someone injured themselves falling down the stairs and we all got sent an e-mail about the incident, what they did wrong, and why it was so important to hold the handrail whenever you were on stairs.

              Of note: I’m in a global company with tens of thousands of employees. The woman this happened to worked on another continent from me.

              Reply
            4. saby

              !!!

              I dislike using handrails (and am fortunate enough to have the strength and balance to be able to never use them ever). So many people touching them with their dirty hands! Are they wood? What if you get a splinter??

              Ugh.

              Reply
              1. Emi.

                I got major splinters from a banister when I was a child. It was the big banister outside the ice rink, and I was sliding down it. Yeah.

                Reply
          2. the gold digger

            We’re not allowed to walk up the stairs holding a hot drink….there doesn’t seem to be an issue walking DOWN the same stairs with a hot drink

            Which is weird, because I am far more likely to have problems going down stairs (in high heels) than up the stairs. I don’t have to adjust my pitch going up the stairs because I step with the ball of my foot only, but when I go down stairs, I have to tread with my whole shoe and the heel throws my balance off.

            Reply
      2. Mookie

        Can confirm that when I worked for an interior landscaping company our contracts stipulated no outside plants for that precise reason (though we made exceptions for certain tillandsia displays, which was the fad of the moment, more’s the pity for the 2016-7 Monstera spp enthusiasts). It’s difficult to stop the spread of certain pathogens and pests if you’re not in total control of the vectors, plus in one instance the client’s employees regularly sprayed 2,4-d and glyphosate in the upstairs corner offices, break room (!!!), and groundfloor lobby under the mistaken impression that herbicides are useful against scale insects and fungi. We had to cancel the contract — we wouldn’t allow our horticulturalists to be exposed to that — and then inform the local cooperative extension and the state’s DPR. I think they were also dropped by their maintenance company and I can’t imagine the leaseholder being that jazzed about it, either.

        Reply
          1. Mookie

            All of the offenders belonged on the same middle-management tier of one department and fancied themselves Weekend Warrior types (not guerrillas or militia, the suburban-y howl-at-the-moon-in-our-testosterone-tents sort), so probably gobbled up whatever hardware boxstore salespeople were telling them about being Proactive. We need to start requiring certification if not proper licensing for these kinds of pesticides. I can’t get hired as a private applicator without keeping up on my certifications (applied hours, testing, and educational units) nor work at most commercial nurseries — and that’s as it should be — so I don’t see why a lay person has this kind of unregulated access.

            Reply
      3. Violet Fox

        This is pretty much why I suggested to ask first with plants. I know some places are really relaxed about them, and others are really not. Usually good to know which one you are in early on.

        Reply
      4. BananaPants

        We had corporate plants – the company paid to have them watered, maintained, etc. and periodically rotated around the building, so we weren’t allowed to have “personal” live plants at our desks for fear of insects or plant diseases.

        The plant service was cancelled mid-Great Recession (and the office plants auctioned off!) but the policy is still in place. Lots of us have plants now, even though they’re technically still against the rules – no one enforces the “no plants” policy anymore. Lots of succulents since they’re both trendy and low-maintenance; I had an aloe plant for several years and I have a small jade plant now that I have a window cubicle with plenty of sun.

        Reply
        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

          I had an aloe plant at my old job — silly me bought it on impulse without looking up whether I could keep it at home, and it turns out aloe is toxic to cats. Bad combination with Dame Flufflepants who shreds any plant life I bring home. So on my desk it went!

          Reply
        2. Elizabeth West

          We had them at VeryOldLabJob and also at PreviousExJob. When VeryOldLabJob closed in 2001, I took a ton of them home. I still have a couple of pothos from there–the glorious three-foot-tall ponytail palm perished in the 2007 ice storm (it got too cold). PreviousExJob decided to stop paying the plant lady and they were going to let them die. I took a few home (hint: those Chinese evergreen things really like the bathroom!), mostly pothos and a Schefflera but it’s not doing well. :(

          Pothos are great office plants if they’re allowed, because they really like fluorescent light, you can just throw water on them once a week, and you practically have to jump up and down on them to kill them. Plus you can grow cuttings if you want to share. :)

          Reply
      5. Lefty

        We’re also under a personal plants ban… I bought a few of the fakes at Ikea so I could have some greenery in my space. I thought they’d be bright and cheery, but not problematic. Maintenance thought they were convincingly real enough to land me a “warning” letter with a 2 day removal deadline. I’m gleefully awaiting the visit tomorrow so I can hand over my plastic plants and ask them to melt them down into something fun if I have to surrender them! :) All in good fun of course, I’m sure they are too busy to do a dirt check on every potted thing in the office.

        There’s also a bit of collective worry about the plethora of potted plants and flowers that are expected over the Mother’s Day holiday this weekend…

        Reply
      6. Allison

        Yep, I can see that being an issue. Ever hear of spider mites? They take over a plant and feed on it, and while there are some products in circulation that claim to get rid of them, nothing is all that effective. They’re like bedbugs for plants. I’ve heard that the only way to really get rid of them is get rid of whatever plants they’re on. And they do spread, so I can see wanting to prevent people from inadvertently bringing them into the office where they can infect the plants the company has purchased.

        It is, however, a huge bummer for people who like having plants. I’ve thought of getting some desk plants myself, since I have such a big workspace now. But the thread of spider mites is a huge reason why I haven’t gotten one yet. Seriously. Outdoors, the wind and rain usually take care of those little bugs, but inside, there’s nothing holding them back.

        Reply
        1. kavm

          ohmygod now i’m super freaked out about my desk plants. i have a few cacti and succulents. i don’t think i have mites but now i will be obsessively checking them!

          Reply
  14. KR

    Op2… My office at my last job left a lot to be desired. Despite the fact that we often took deliveries, had a lot of parts and inventory to keep, had a staff of up to 10 people who occasionally did all work at the same time, and had large server cabinets and equipment to store we were in an office similar to the one person offices across the hall with ghastly wood paneling, hand me down furniture, and a partially boarded up window. I’m in a role now where my supervisor wants me to convert our large office space into a nice looking office and I am so so happy and eager to make my office design dreams come true. You’ll get there, OP. The area rug and art is a great suggestion. I also agree with cleaning everything.

    Reply
  15. Wheeze

    I’ve been wondering this and this seems like an appropriate place to ask this question. I will be transferring from a small university in the Central Valley to a very prestigious and well known school in the Bay Area. My question is, I had jobs and did stuff that would be applicable to my intended career (law enforcement) at the small university but I will graduate from the prestigious one. How should I mention that in my resume?

    Reply
  16. cncx

    re OP4- when i was younger (my first two jobs out of college) i listed both universities i attended because it make the timing situation make sense (also a December grad) and also because I did my first year in a foreign country in another language so it was also a “no i really do have the language skills i say i have.” now that i am pushing forty, i just have the degree-granting university because at this point in my career employers only care that i have a degree.

    Reply
  17. Tealeaves

    OP#5, be completely transparent before you meet your contact. It’s terribly bad manners to bait-and-switch, so to speak. Depending on how upset the person is, they may warn mutuals not to meet you because of a hidden agenda. Plus, telling them the real reason ahead of time will allow them to prepare mentally for the discussion.

    Also, consider how you would handle it if they suggest to catch up over coffee as friends (no work talk).

    Reply
  18. nofelix

    #1 – It might be worth showing the supervisor a sample of what Shapchat filters do, in case they’re unaware. I’m assuming the colleagues are using the face filters to transform people at the meeting into cute bunnies or dogs and laughing at this. Maybe more immature than mean, but 100% unprofessional.

    Reply
    1. Emi.

      Maybe, but those filters are designed for a dead-on face shot, which you’re probably not getting if you’re sneaking photos during a meeting.

      Reply
  19. Tempest

    Number 1 I feel your pain.

    I have a colleague who along with never being at their desk to do their job, is on a cell phone non-stop when they are at their desk.

    I’ve ‘caught’ IE seen them taking pictures of their computer screen and snap chatting them to people who don’t even work here. I did say ‘wow are you taking pictures of your monitor?!’ in a because that would be really strange and dodgy thing to do tone of voice at the time and got a panicked ‘no of course not’ in reply, but having seen it with my own eyes, of course they were lying to cover up the fact they were caught. As a security breach I did report it to my manager but it was shrugged off, like the rest of what this person does so if it’s a security issue I guess it’s not a major one in the eyes of management.

    I can really only offer to commiserate. It’s very uncomfortable to watch people talking about you/others in an unkind fashion and know there isn’t much you can do about it. Our handbook bans personal phones from the customer facing area but in this day and age no one looks to enforce that, so it seems that personal phones and social media being a pitfall of working with people is a fact that’s here to stay. I came up that messing on your phone in a meeting unless you’re taking business critical messages is also very rude, but this doesn’t seem to be as common a belief anymore either.

    Reply
    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

      Wait, they’re WHAT?! I don’t know what industry you’re in, but anywhere I’ve worked, that would be something to take to your manager as a serious security issue.

      Reply
      1. Tempest

        Yeah, in my husbands company they’d be shown the door for gross misconduct the second management knew that had happened. Around here, it was like ‘hmmm strange’ and a clear signal boss didn’t care and didn’t want to hear about it again. Not my problem any longer in one day less than two weeks. Grant me strength.

        Reply
    2. Thlayli

      People get away with ridiculous stuff. Once I sent a colleague a copy of an excel file I had spent MONTHs putting together to ask her to comment on one particular thing and she sent THE ENTIRE FILE to a guy who used to work for us and still occasionally did subcontracting for us to ask him to answer it. He was also a competitor of ours on projects that were directly related to the information in the file. So not only had she passed her job off to him, she had given our intellectual property (literally I had spent months on this) to a competitor. My direct boss was livid and told me in confidence he thought she should have been fired but our grandboss was all “oh poor her she’s only young she didn’t understand.” She had a flipping PhD – she wasn’t a kid or anything. As far as I know no one ever even told her she was in the wrong (or maybe they did and it never got back to me).

      Reply
      1. Not A Morning Person

        OMG, I had something similar happen at an old job. We produced some widely available services and products that our internal departments were instructed to purchase directly from us through an internal purchasing process. This person shared the entire catalog of products and services and the prices with an outside vendor to see whether that vendor could offer a lower price for the same products and service, and then she wanted us to match the outside vendor price. She had no clue how the internal process applied discounts for internal purchases. I still don’t know why she didn’t get fired.

        Reply
    3. Chinook

      I once had a colleague in the field report to me an issue with his computer program. I asked him to send me a screenshot so I could troubleshoot. He sent me a photo from his camera phone of his monitor. I sent him instructions on how to use the Snipping Tool program that was part of his computer. We both laughed that this was exactly why he was beta testing a new program for our field staff – we needed to ensure it could be used by those with low tech knowledge and he obviously was one of them.

      This, to me, is the only reason anyone should ever take a photo of a computer monitor. Anything else is a security breach.

      Reply
      1. Judy (since 2010)

        Well, I usually take a photo of my monitor when I get a blue screen of death, in case the error codes are useful. (My last job, there was something wrong with my computer. I had BSOD 2-3 times per week. The record of the frequency helped me get approval for a new computer.)

        Reply
    4. Trust Your Instincts

      Some people just don’t understand how Snapchat violates boundaries. We had an issue at my college once where a student thought taking a photo of the cadaver they were working on and putting it on Snapchat was a good idea.
      Naturally it got back to the people who set up these labs. The students that did it still didn’t think they did anything wrong, posting the picture online. There was a rumour the deceased family ended up seeing the photo, but I don’t know how likely that was, given they keep the faces covered.

      Reply
  20. Roker Moose

    #1 is so bizarre– I mean, if any of us were on our phones during a meeting it would be unacceptable full stop. But to be taking photos and then laughing? You don’t want to treat your colleagues like like schoolchildren, but Alison is right, you’ve got to say something if your manager won’t.

    And not to get too off-topic, but this seems like it’s part of the larger trend where it’s now okay to photograph strangers, usually for the purpose of mockery. There’s been a spate of them lately at gyms and it’s just the worst. But it should not be happening at work.

    Reply
    1. Rebecca

      Exactly. I’m so glad there were no cell phones when I went to school. I can’t even imagine the mean girls group with smartphones! It was bad enough when they started “slam books”, notebooks that they passed around outlining what they perceived as faults in other girls. Today it would be snapchat pictures with comments on Facebook.

      Reply
    2. mondegreen

      OP #1 should definitely think through what to say and play out realistic scenarios ahead of time; these things can have an unexpectedly emotional component. When it happened to me recently, I wasn’t nice or effective in explaining why the offenders were doing something wrong, and I regret that. (They were making fun of my accent on chat during a meeting while I was right behind them.)

      Reply
    3. nofelix

      Any time new technology makes social norms obsolete it takes a while for new norms to be agreed upon, and some odd behaviours crop up in the interim. It’s interesting that the ubiquity of affordable cameras made photography more widely accepted and recently have we seen a backlash because the ubiquity social media makes photos more powerful. There’s a lot of misunderstanding about rights to privacy too, and not enough discussion about ‘citizen journalists’ learning journalism ethics i.e. photographing someone in the gym might be acceptable if they’re a politician taking a bribe, but not if they’re just a politician with flabby arms.

      Reply
      1. TL -

        At least in the USA, there are very few legal guidelines for photographing adults (I think as long as you’re not a peeping Tom you’re good) and for kids, it’s okay anytime they are in somewhere that can reasonably be considered public.
        A business can put in more guidelines, of course, but you don’t generally need consent to photograph someone.

        Reply
    4. Elizabeth West

      Dani Mathers (a Playboy model) got in serious trouble after she snapped a photo of an older woman in the locker room at her gym and shared it on Snapchat with the caption, “If I can’t unsee this, neither can you.” She got sued, banned from the gym, and I think there were criminal charges filed. I don’t think it’s been adjudicated yet, but she could spend up to six months in jail (she probably won’t but should, IMO).

      It definitely shouldn’t be happening at work. There could be potential legal liability if sharing a photo of a colleague online maybe alerts a stalker, or there is some other blowback from it.

      Reply
  21. Rebecca

    OP#1 – I’d be seriously tempted to wear an Anonymous mask during the meetings, and if asked why, simply state that I do not consent to my photo being taken, altered, and uploaded to the internet for the world to mock.

    Please say something to your manager, and explain what’s happening. My ex manager had no idea about how any of this worked. I had to explain to her that people could upload photos and mock people when one of our staff members was having “wardrobe malfunctions” with her low riding pants. I finally had to tell her, look, say something to her before her bare butt ends up on Facebook or another online social media platform! She literally said to me “why would that happen?”.

    Reply
  22. OtterB

    OP 4, you’ve already got advice about including the first school on your resume. You might want to keep some notes for yourself of exactly when you were there, where you lived, etc., if you think you might apply for any jobs requiring a security clearance since you’ll need the details then.

    Reply
    1. Elizabeth West

      Yes, this is a good suggestion. I did this after applying for an internship with a law enforcement agency. They wanted every address I’d ever lived at, etc. It took me so long to find everything that I just saved it for future reference.

      Reply
  23. Madeleine Matilda

    OP 2 – I feel your pain. My current office is in the basement (so no natural light), has dingy carpet, modular walls so you can’t hang anything on them, and pipes running across the ceiling. All in all, it’s pretty blah. On the up side there are no bugs because we have a vigorous pest control program. I’ve actually had worse offices (one with mice…ewww) and much better throughout my career. I’ll seco0nd the advice already given to do what you can to brighten your space with area rugs, personal items, and, if allowed, plants.

    Reply
  24. Audiophile

    #3 would likely be easier to nip in the bud with a junior person. I had a boss do this recently. There was no easy way to curtail that, except to just answer the question again.

    Reply
  25. MicroManagered

    Re OP# 2: The expression “low on the totem pole” is inaccurate and offensive to many Native Americans. Don’t want to derail the discussion, but I see this phrase used a LOT on this site, probably by people who’d be horrified by, say “that’s so gay” or . I didn’t know until a Native American friend pointed it out to me.

    Reply
    1. Stardust

      You’ve posted this exact same comment in another comment section here just a few days ago (that I saw) and while I and certainly others agree that it’s good to know stuff like this in general, it, as you say yourself, does indeed have the potential to derail so I’m not sure why you keep posting it anyway?

      Reply
        1. Allison

          Right, I didn’t see that comment the first time, but I’m glad I saw it today. I’ve been using that phrase and it hasn’t really occurred to me until just now that it might be an issue, so I’ll make an effort not to say it anymore.

          Reply
    2. Jubilance

      Thank you. I learned this about a year ago and was mortified that I might be offensive to someone unintentionally. Calling this kind of stuff out is how people learn so thank you.

      Reply
    3. Thlayli

      I just googled this and apparently the most important figure in the story is often the one on the bottom of the pole. That’s awesome info to know thanks.

      Reply
    4. Case of the Mondays

      I think this would be another great idea for a main post, Allison. What common phrase did you learn was actually offensive? There are several I stopped saying after someone informed me of the true meaning of the phrase.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        UGH. So many phrases! “Chinese Wall” is on my list. (I knew it was offensive, but I was surprised that a lot of folks don’t know why it’s offensive.)

        Reply
      2. Starbuck

        Yeah, I’ve got a few of these, and I’m super grateful to the people who had the patience to kindly point them out to me. One I learned relatively recently (past couple years) was the derogatory & racist origins of the term “gypped” and just using the word “gypsy” in general. I never said it much (and now I don’t at all) but it seems pretty common where I live. People like to describe themselves as such, for some reason.

        Reply
    5. LabTech

      Anyone have any good suggestions for alternatives to this phrase? I’ve been wanting to purge it from my vocabulary for a while, but can’t think of a good replacement.

      Reply
      1. Anja

        I often use “pecking order.” So being low in the pecking order in the workplace. One of the Cambridge Dictionary’s examples for the phrase is “He started as a clerk but gradually rose in the pecking order.”

        Reply
      2. Anon for this

        A teenage relative heard “hierarchy” as “higher-archy,” with a position “lower on the archy” to go with it.

        I’m not saying it’s a good replacement, but it is a funny one.

        Reply
  26. I Herd the Cats

    Our nonprofit has a lot of …. well-used furniture. Last year we hired someone who (unbeknownst to me) is fairly germaphobic. Hey, she interviewed in the office, she knew what she was getting into! Anyway, about an hour into her first day she came to me and quietly asked me for cleaning supplies — paper towels, 409, etc. I showed her where they were stashed and said knock yourself out. I had given her work station a general wipedown but hey, have fun! She spent the *entire day* methodically cleaning her old, metal HON desk, file drawers, etc. She actually used some Q-tips from the first aid cabinet to get at some of the small areas. She told me later she’d expected to get “a new desk…” took me awhile to realize she meant a BRAND new one. Like, one nobody had ever used. Lady, it’s not a Kleenex box.

    Reply
    1. Parenthetically

      Oh man, I feel awful for her! I can’t imagine living with that kind of anxiety every single day.

      Reply
    2. Violet Fox

      I’m in academica. Where I am the lucky ones are the ones that get desks that are only 10 years old. The unlucky ones get desks brought to you by the 1960s.

      Granted we are supposed to get all new in a couple of years, but I will believe it when I see it.

      Reply
      1. aebhel

        Heh, my desk is from the 1950’s or 60’s–typewriter stand and all. I’m actually pretty fond of it. It’s monstrously hideous, but it’s sturdy and there’s a lot of surface area for me to spread out on.

        Reply
        1. Parenthetically

          I have a 60s honey-colored, solid wood teacher desk that I ADORE. Deep drawers, huge workspace, incredibly sturdy, very loved and worn in all the right ways. Plus it has one of those slide-out surfaces that’s a perfect little lunch table when I’m in The Grading Zone at the end of the term.

          Reply
        2. Elizabeth West

          I bought an office chair like that from a previous job. It was monstrously heavy and would break your feet if it rolled over them, but I loved it. I had to ditch it when I moved because I didn’t have room for it. :(

          Reply
      2. College Career Counselor

        Right there with you–I’m fairly certain my desk is Mad Men-era vintage (if not style).

        Reply
    3. Episkey

      We had someone at my old job do this as well. It looked as if a cleaning bomb went off in his office. I think he actually might have spent his first 2 full days cleaning every inch of the office. And our office spaces weren’t even disastrously gross! I mean, the furniture wasn’t brand new…but it wasn’t disgusting.

      Reply
  27. WhirlwindMonk

    #2 – As someone who has spent their entire professional career in open office arrangements and cubicle farms and has still seen all the same things you have and more, all on top of none of the privacy and quiet that comes from your own office, you’d get some serious stink-eye from me if you complained about what you have to me in person. Obviously it’s not ideal, but as long as it’s not actually dirty, be thankful that you have an office in such a low-rank position. What you have sounds better than anything I’ve had and I don’t even work for a non-profit.

    Reply
    1. OP #2

      I feel your pain. I’ve been in an open office situation before, and it is so hard for me and my nosey self to get anything done with other people’s conversations going on around me. However, this organization has space coming out of their eyeballs, so it isn’t so much of a special snowflake situation.

      Reply
    2. BananaPants

      Yeah, me too. I work for a Fortune 500 company, in a cubicle farm with much of what OP2 described. When the window blinds break, we can’t get more without facilities stealing from elsewhere in the building. Our carpet is dingy commercial carpet tiles; when one gets stained enough they replace it and it looks shockingly bright compared to it’s neighbors. My cube’s visitor chair is older than I am, complete with harvest gold fabric. I’m pretty sure the coat hanger came from someone’s dry cleaning years ago. And according to facilities we had an infestation of mice in the building for several years – at one point you could sometimes hear them running on top of the suspended ceiling. We got new desks and ergonomic chairs around 10 years ago but the “bones”/interior finish materials in this office are unchanged in 20+ years.

      Not every company has the money for a fancy, shiny, beautiful new work space. Most don’t, actually.

      Reply
  28. If dolphins are so smart, why do they live in igloos?

    #1 You say “I have thought about sending an email to my supervisor but if something is said, will it just make it worse?”
    You absolutely should report this. It might make it worse, for them. Kids these days…

    Reply
  29. Argh!

    #3 I know that I have done this! email has become a distraction to my work more than my actual work, so I’m trying to change the way I handle it. Those annoying pop-up notifications are useful when it’s an email I really need to read, but then I’m annoyed when I actually read it and sometimes don’t read it completely. I just try to knock it off my screen so I can get back to whatever I was doing. So… I’ve started turning off Outlook for an hour to two hours at a time.

    Alison’s point about long emails is a good one. One of my colleagues has a 3-sentence rule for emails & I’m trying to do that too. Brevity can take longer but your email is more likely to be read attentively. Anything more than that should be an attachment. I have one coworker who seems to think that I need to know the 20+ year history of blah blah blah … my head hits the desk before I get to the end. If she’s in the middle of something that I depend on I even get annoyed because I think she could be working on my project instead of typing long dissertations. I have stopped reading her emails when they’re like this, and there haven’t been any repercussions so far but I can see a day when I might miss something important.

    Reply
    1. JS

      I think it depends on the industry. I am in digital advertising and often although technical things are better explained on the phone it is also important to have a paper trail of who said what and when. I expect even my lengthy emails (with flight dates, spend, sponsorship information, deadlines) to be read thoroughly and I format as best as possible for a smooth read. As long as everything in the email is vital/important information it should be read. While I have missed emails (due to a flooded inbox) I have never asked a question in reply to an email where it was already answered in. It’s an honest mistake but IMO, that is just an inattention to detail and the person likely needs to slow down and digest information a bit more. If they aren’t going to read it in the email they surely not going to read the attachment (at least in my experience YMMV).

      Reply
    2. Marillenbaum

      That makes me think of the writer–I don’t remember who–that wrote to a friend saying “This is only a long letter because I haven’t had time to make it shorter”.

      Reply
  30. Beancounter Eric

    OP#2 – do you have mice? You haven’t lived until you work in an office with mice scampering about.
    Mice in my credenza, mice in the ceiling, mice on my desk.
    We used to keep the office candy supply in my credenza—-the mice got into it, so we don’t keep an office candy supply anymore. I’m guessing the mice are now diabetic.
    Management is aware, pest control shows up from time-to-time – doesn’t appear they knock down the mouse population.

    A couple of things more on your question:
    1. Hang some stuff on the wall. Calendars, inexpensive prints – go to Goodwill and see what they have.
    2. See if you and the team can have a office clean-up day one – rent a carpet cleaning machine, get some paint, new coat hooks for the door. Spring cleaning and a team building exercise.
    3. Ask yourself the question “Do any of the scuffs, etc. directly interfere with you carrying out your duties?”

    Sometimes, you just have to make do with what’s at hand.

    Reply
    1. Falling Diphthong

      If you’re a dentist, and a mouse appears in the office when you have tools inside a person’s mouth, take the tools out BEFORE you start shrieking and trying to climb on the chair.

      Technically, the probes stayed quite still throughout this freak-out, but I found a new dentist. (And to this day, regret that I didn’t stand up, remove the bib, and walk out mid tantrum.)

      Reply
    2. OP #2

      My organization deals with food, so no. We definitely do not have mice. (Er… Or at least an established population.)

      I probably won’t be holding any meetings in my office with outside partners until I get a rug down (Seriously. The carpet is awful. There are dark, mystery stains covering at least 30% of my light blue carpeting.), but otherwise, I will survive.

      Reply
    3. JS

      Time for you guys to get an office cat, maybe a few lol. Do you work in non-profit? This seems extreme and like it is violating some building code habitation for work regulations.

      Reply
      1. Beancounter Eric

        We manufacture machines. Bend and weld metal, wire and plumb equipment.

        In an ideal world, stronger steps would be taken to control the rodent problem. As it is, we are in leased space where we are responsible for maintenance, leadership doesn’t see it as a great problem, and parent company won’t invest in our unit.

        Reply
        1. Aietra

          Apparently, one theory for how Manx cats spread around the world was that sailors would stop off at the Isle of Man and pick up one or two to clear the rats on their ships – they’re renowned for their hunting abilities. I have one; so far, she’s cleared the mouse infestation under one neighbour’s house (two or three caught every night for about three weeks), neatly disposed of the two enormous rats terrorizing my elderly neighbour, and kept my own (old, wooden) house pest-free thus far.

          Go for an 18th century remedy – get a Manx cat! :D

          Reply
    4. Discordia Angel Jones

      My current office has mice.

      In my city, you will be hard pressed to find an old building without them (London, if you are wondering, all those Victorian and Edwardian buildings aren’t mouse-proof – there’s a reasons theatre cats are a thing!). We have poison everywhere but sometimes it makes it worse as they eat it and then go die somewhere we can’t get to and start smelling.

      Two stories jump out at me: That One Time the Boss found a Mouse in his Waste Paper Basket Squeaking, and That One Time there was a Dead Mouse in the Meeting Room and the First Person to See it was a Client.

      Reply
      1. Beancounter Eric

        Our pest control uses sticky traps….problem is they don’t seem to work. And yes, poison has the down side of the critters dying in the walls.

        Snap-traps may be the only really effective method we can use.

        Oh, to be in London….I’ve told my wife that when we cross the pond to visit, the first time I hear Big Ben toll, to not be surprised if I cry.

        Reply
        1. Elizabeth West

          I will never use sticky traps–they’re horribly cruel. I don’t want to talk about why I know that.

          And yes, hearing Big Ben the first time is a magical moment. The first time I went, I didn’t get to hear it. Second time, not only did I hear it, but I got this perfect shot from the Embankment, right after a sudden shower: https://aelizabethwest.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/parliament-and-big-ben-in-the-sun-london.jpg. The flag snapped out perfectly and I went *CLICK* :)

          The last time I went, I was really close to it and BOY IS IT LOUD.

          Reply
      2. Allison

        There doesn’t seem to be a good way to get rid of mice. Traps = dead (or dying . . .) mice you need to get rid of, poison = mice dying where you can’t get to them. Or, maybe you can get to it, but you don’t know where it is right away. Cats are awesome, but you have to feed them and deal with the litter box, and some people are allergic.

        Reply
        1. tigerStripes

          If you can find some fur that a cat has shed and put it in some areas where mice might come in, that could help – I understand that most mice are afraid of the smell of cats.

          Reply
      3. Anon for this

        I found a mouse while I was waiting for my colleague to bring a patient in. I didn’t scream, but I did leap out of the room and shut the door. Then my colleague came round the corner with the patient….
        Fortunately we had another room we could use while we sorted out mouse removal. Also it was Friday afternoon so it wasn’t too disruptive.

        Reply
  31. Bibliovore

    #2
    yeah, this is normal. If you are in a non-profit that’s not there is no budget for that. I spent 15 years in an office that was basically a closet but it had a door. That I never shut because claustrophobic. That I was grateful for because all other offices were shared and so small, two people, two desks back to back or open plan.

    Reply
    1. SarahKay

      And if you’re not in a non-profit, there’s still no budget for this because you’ve got to make money for the shareholders….

      Reply
  32. Zathras

    OP #3, probably don’t do what my coworker does: he replies-all with a screenshot of her email, including the text she replied to, and photoshops in an enormous red arrow pointing at the answer to her question. I secretly want to high five him every time he does that, because my boss is TERRIBLE about this. The email she didn’t read is usually only 2-3 lines.

    (He is pretty senior, very valuable to the org, and otherwise comports himself professionally so he totally gets away with this.)

    Reply
    1. Monodon monoceros

      I would so love to be able to do this…my new professional goal might just be to be senior, valuable, and otherwise professional enough to pull this off.

      Reply
  33. Jubilance

    #2 – In my second job, the office area for the lab staff was in the basement of the building. I had several instances of bugs, including spiders, falling down on me. Given that, I’d gladly take an old desk and some scuffed paint!

    Reply
    1. LabTech

      I feel like the decision-makers might not even see the need to give lab staff office space at all. It’s something I need to be more conscientious about and try and get a feel for in interviews. (And I’m typing this from an okay basement office that … periodically floods.)

      Reply
  34. saffytaffy

    OP #3, I’ve seen both sides of this- one person who hates that others ask questions addressed in the email, and one person who addressed questions already in the email.
    I feel like when there’s one person on one side of a situation, and a group on the other side, it can give you a clue as to what needs to change. For example, if multiple people ask questions that are in the email, you might take away that the emails need to be edited. On the other hand, if one person does this to emails written by lots of people, you know that person is lackluster as reading comprehension.

    Reply
  35. JS

    #1 – I might be in the minority here but I don’t see anything particularly mean-spirited about the group snapchatting each other during meetings so not sure why that is the focus of the complaint. If anything yes it’s distracting, juvenille and unproductive and disrespectful to whoever is talking (assuming that this is actually a “team” meeting and not a entire department of 50 people phoning in on a conference call that is generally unproductive anyway). If they are taking snapchats of the person talking or someone not in their group and making fun of them that’s one thing, if they are just taking it of each other than I see nothing mean about it.

    If the supervisor is OK with it then they likely don’t see anything meanspirited about it. I am not saying it isn’t, cause I am not there personally however I think OP would be a lot more successful with a “this is not conducive to a productive work environment and will negatively impact performance if information is not digested” than “this is mean and cliquey”. Otherwise they might look a little sour grapes from being out of the “group”. Not saying OP isn’t valid in wanting it to stop but I think how they approach this is important and making it about work makes it less likely to be brushed off.

    Reply
    1. Tempest

      I think anyone doing this kind of distracting behavior in a meeting is being immature and rude to the person chairing the meeting or the participant who has the floor. Even if it is just between a group of friends for amusement. Add in the fact that they could be doing it to people who haven’t consented to having their picture taken or manipulated and/or sent through social media? It’s a very bad/rude/immature situation.

      Unless you’re possibly picking up business critical messages because you’re out of your department you should be present in the room, not more interested in your technology. Meetings can be boring but it’s pretty much an aspect of professionalism to pay some attention and put your phone down. The supervisor needs to be heading this off. Next time she sees it she needs to be calling it out, either directly or through an incredulous sounding question as per the script above.

      Reply
      1. JS

        Well that’s the thing we don’t know enough about what kind of meeting it is. I said above that it’s disrespectful if someone is actually talking/presenting and they are doing this, but its different if its a multi-office wide conference call with 30+ people and your line is muted. People are likely going to be doing other things like checking emails, etc. during these meetings that drag on and are more people talking at you that having some kind of engaging conversation or direct job problem solving. In this scenario the supervisor may not care. We also don’t know if they are taking pictures of other people without their consent. I think OP and Alison assumes this but snapchat is honestly more for selfies/chat and it would be super obvious if they were taking a picture of someone else because you have to focus in on the face while its still in order to get the filters to work for it to be funny.

        I agree though the supervisor should be doing something since this is disruptive, and regardless of how you feel if their use of snapchat is malicious or not they shouldnt be doing it in a meeting, period. My point was that I think OP would be more successful not bring up the fact that this is “mean spirited behavior” and focus on the fact that it is distracting from the actual meeting. The supervisor otherwise could brush of those other complaints as OP being “too sensitive” or something, which it would be really hard to for a supervisor to say “No employees dont need to pay attention and be alert in meetings” without coming across as super incompetent. OP is already concerned about how this would come across so I believe this is the safer solution to the problem. Also, IMO acting incredulous only works on the first occurence of a problem. If OP has had many meetings where this is happening and they bring this up now it’s likely going to spawn a reaction of “well, we always do this” and be taken as seriously.

        Reply
        1. Tempest

          If they can see these staffers laughing and giggling and taking pics, it’s not a conference call, is it?

          Reply
    2. tw

      ” have noticed in the staff meetings that some of the newer employees have their cell phones out and are taking pictures of different people in the meeting and putting them on Snapchat. There are about five people who send the pictures to each other in the meeting and laugh about it.”

      This makes it sound like they are taking snapchats of the person talking or someone not in their group and making fun of them

      Reply
  36. WhichSister

    OP2. I once had an office that was literally a storage closet. There were two identical rooms, one held tvs, one held me. During tornado warnings, everyone came to my office because it was the only one without windows. But even without the tornados, everyone came to my office. I brought in lamps and a rug, and refuse to use the overhead light. My office was described as cozy and was the hangout point.

    That was almost 10 years ago, and I have had many offices since, including sharing an office with my boss (his office, I had a spot at the conference table.) One wasn’t dirty but stunk to high heaven since my office mate did. My current office, I actually brought my own furniture from my home office. I didn’t like the big clunky office furniture they offered me. So the desk, a small credenza and book case are mine. The chairs and larger credenza came from the spare furniture. I have throw pillows on the extra chairs, and hung some artwork up, burn a candle and have a jar of candy. Plus I never use the overhead lights, (i get headaches) . I have a floor lamp, two table lamps and a desk lamp (AND A WINDOW ITS NOT A CLOSET) Again my office is described as Zen. The previous resident of the office said it feels like a completely different office.

    You can do what you need to do to dress up your office. Part of working in a non -profit is making things work with what you have!

    Reply
    1. NoNameYet

      I was scrolling through the comments looking for a fellow storage-closet-turned-office person! I was one of the first new FT hires in a good while at my previous non-profit. My first day they showed me to my office and proudly declared, “we cleaned out a storage closet just for you!”

      I thought that was ridiculous until the time came to clean out the other storage closet next door to mine for another hire. It took weeks and I learned just how prone to hoarding the senior staff was. I was finally able to speed the process along by suggesting that I scan any old materials that the senior staff thought might be useful to reference again. That got it to the point where everything remaining could fit in the last storage closet. On the bright side my boss let me take a cool old poster from the 60’s home to decorate my apartment (no joke, that poster predated the building and the org itself, who knows where it came from).

      Reply
  37. Allison

    #1 Goodness, I don’t even take my phone to work meetings! I have no use for it, and especially since I’m young, I’m pretty sure I’d get some serious shade from my coworkers if they saw me look at it, much less use a social media app or take pictures during the meeting. I don’t even stray from the Word doc I use to take notes, for the most part. OP, your staff is either doing this because they think you haven’t noticed, or they think you don’t care. You need to tell them that you do know they’re goofing off with their phones, and it needs to stop.

    Reply
    1. Mischa

      Agreed. As an avid but not mean-hearted snapchat user, I would never dream of using it to photograph and mock colleagues, especially in a meeting! So inappropriate.

      Reply
  38. Government Worker

    OP2, I just want to offer some sympathy amid all the comments that are basically telling you to suck it up. My cubicle-style setup (in municipal government) is really grungy, with stained carpet and only a selection of pretty beat-up office chairs to choose from. Everything is a very 80’s/90’s shade of mauve, and lots of people have drawers that don’t really work anymore. It doesn’t bother me much day to day, except that many of the other departments in my building have had space renovations and new furniture much more recently (like, within the last 20 years), and their space is much less oppressive. When I go to meetings at other similar-level government agencies, I notice that many of them have much nicer office space, too. I wouldn’t resent my office environment if everyone had to deal with it, but it is pretty grating to have the worst space in the building and the industry.

    I also try not to be bothered by the fact that some new people just moved to our floor, and someone at my level got a private office instead of being in cubeville with the rest of us. It’s really not useful to focus on this kind of petty office political crap, but it’s hard not to be at least a little irked.

    Reply
    1. Jessesgirl72

      I actually think she’s been given a lot of sympathy as well as ideas on how to make her space less gross. The politely put “suck it up” is only good advice as well, though. It’s easier to do when you know that you’re not alone- and that at least you don’t have roaches or mice!

      Reply
  39. AvonLady Barksdale

    OP #2, if they put you in the Steampipe Trunk Distribution Venue, just put up a few D’Oyly Carte posters and all will be right with the world.

    Reply
  40. Software Engineer

    For OP#4, you can definitely leave it off your resume, but you need to disclose it for any future higher-education studies or employment. If you apply to a PhD. program somewhere, you need to list University A, because it’s part of your academic record. Leaving it out is a lie by omission, which could catch up to you down the road. Think of it this way – what if a candidate was expelled from their first college for whatever reason, and went on to successfully graduate from another institution. That first experience is certainly material to whatever graduate or post-graduate work they might apply for.

    Reply
    1. fposte

      Studies, yes; employment, not necessarily. It wouldn’t matter for most of the hiring I’ve done.

      Reply
    2. Submitted Question #4

      Surely would not leave that behind by the time I apply for post-grad schools. As for now, I’m still looking for a job which I guess, based on all your comments, doesn’t need all the schools I attended (if no degree was obtained).

      Thanks for the advice!

      Reply
      1. Emily, admin extraordinaire

        Even if you did obtain a degree, it’s totally fine to leave those off too– like if you got an associate degree at the local community college and then completed a bachelors at the local 4-year school, you can leave of the associate. I’ve left my masters degree off my resume when having it on there won’t help my candidacy as well (my bachelors is still there).

        Reply
  41. Frustrated Optimist

    Regarding #5 – I agree that scheduling an “informational interview” when what you really want is an inside track to an open position is shady.

    Here’s something I’m struggling with, though: I have tried to set up what I call “networking meetings,” wherein I explain to the person I’m meeting with that I’m interested in learning more about the field, but also “getting on someone’s radar screen if there were to be an opening.” (So in other words, there is typically not an open position when I’m meeting with them).

    So I’m transparent that while the meeting may well be “informational,” I am hoping that if something comes up, they might call me. Hopefully this does not come across as shady…?

    Reply
      1. OP5

        Yeah, that’s basically the same thing that I’m trying to do, except that I know of a specific opening. As I mentioned, I am genuinely interested in the informational part. Thanks, everyone!

        Reply
  42. INFJ

    #4 It’s perfectly normal to do as Alison suggests. Similarly, I started out at College A, transferred to College B for a year, and then back to College A, where I got my degree. I’ve never listed College B on my resume. It’s just too confusing and unnecessary.

    Reply
    1. Submitted Question #4

      Exactly why I decided not to mention University A anymore in my resume or my interviews. It seems like it would only complicate things when I find it irrelevant already. I took up a different major there and nothing was credited when I transferred to University B. Although, like what the other commenters said, if I were asked to list down all schools attended (for graduate studies) or if asked directly if I transferred, I would of course talk about it. Thanks for the advice, Alison and everyone! :-)

      Reply
      1. ann perkins

        I also transferred schools and used to list both Universities on my resume, which just confused people because they thought I had a masters (at no point did I LIST a masters, but I guess that was the general assumption of listing two schools). So I took out A and kept B and all is good :)

        Reply
  43. Important Moi

    OP#2: You’ve seen many responses to your “old and gross” office. I would just like to add specific answers based on your question – ” …do you have any suggestions on how to improve the look of it?”

    1. Clean up the stains using a spot remover of some sort?
    2. Bring posters or pictures?
    3. Bring a lamp for better lighting?
    4. Is a radio/music allowed?
    5. Remember, this is an office to work in, that’s all. Nothing more, nothing less.

    Perceptions can become the reality, unfairly or not. Don’t become perceived as the person who cares too much about “unimportant” things in your place of employment. :-) What is “unimportant” varies from place to place.

    Reply
  44. jv

    Most meetings have a no cell phone rule for a reason. There’s nothing worse than sitting in a meeting discussing an important topic than looking over at a colleague with their head in their phone and having to repeat yourself when they are confused.

    Can you not ask your boss to implement a policy as you feel more people would pay attention? For those that absolutely need their phone they should put it on vibrate and put it face down. Emergencies only.

    Reply
    1. Allison

      Right. If something really is an emergency, and can’t wait until the end of the meeting, people can duck out do take care of things. But if you don’t need to duck out, you probably don’t need to pay attention to that text/email/whatever this minute.

      Reply
  45. Jenny Burke

    #2
    I’m a little confused by all the “grin and bear it” or DIY solutions. I think those are appropriate, but I think you should at least ask someone if there is something that can be done first. Maybe you have done that and just did not mention it, but you can’t get anything you don’t ask for. I’m an office manager, and it is very satisfying for me to be able to do something minor to make someone happier in their space, whether that is arranging for carpet cleaning, painting a wall, replacing a chair, etc. None of the things you want to change are that time consuming or expensive (as noted by all the reasonable suggestions as to how you can deal with them yourself), except for replacing furniture so I think it’s worth asking for, especially if you are gracious about it.

    I would be upset it I walked into my office and saw someone painting a wall if they never let me know that they were unhappy! I understand that not all nonprofits have an office manager or someone else in charge of facilities, but if your employer owns their building (which is my understanding), then there is probably someone you can talk to. Even if they are not able to do something for you right away, they would know what your needs are and can budget to address them in the future…

    Reply
    1. aebhel

      Eh, in my experience a workplace with offices that shabby often doesn’t have a dedicated person to look after the facilities, other than maintenance. Certainly no place I’ve ever worked did. I agree that if there is such a person, it would be worth talking to them, but otherwise it’s probably either talk to maintenance or DIY.

      Reply
    2. Parenthetically

      +1

      I’m a teacher in a tiny school, so our budget is minuscule, but I at least ask our office manager-type person. “Hey, what’s the policy about throwing a lick of fresh paint on the wall? Happy to do it myself,” or “Before I get too settled in, would it be possible to get my carpet cleaned?” — those are reasonable things to ask, and the worst they can say is no. I don’t think it’s tone-deaf or entitled to want *clean carpet*! Demanding fancy/new things, sure, but I would think it wouldn’t be that difficult to have someone rent a Rug Doctor for $40 whenever a new person moves into an office even if a professional cleaning isn’t in the budget.

      Reply
    3. Zathras

      This is not necessarily applicable in OP#2’s specific situation, but it’s a good think to keep in mind: if general maintenance of the building is handled by unionized employees, I think your company could get in big trouble letting you paint the walls yourself.

      Even if you’re pretty sure that’s not the case, it’s a good idea to check with someone in authority before grabbing a paintbrush.

      Reply
  46. That Would Be a Good Band Name

    OP 2 – I’d suspect most people have brought in their own things to make their offices nicer. An area rug, lamp, and your own art (cheap prints) will go a long way to making everything less noticeable. And just for some sympathy – my current set up doesn’t even include a real desk. I’m at an 8 foot folding table. I was told it was temporary due to having a flood (burst pipe over a 3-day holiday weekend) in the regular area for my team but I’ve been hear over a year now. This office leaks when it rains and no real desk, but it’s no worse than anyone else on my team. I just hope that the repairs are actually completed this year so we can get settled into our regular offices and have real desks again.

    Reply
  47. Tobias Funke

    #1, as a very fat person who gets photographed in public without consent on the regular (and presumably snapchatted to others and posted god knows where), I really hope you stand up for your colleagues on this. Even if they’re “just” adding filters it’s still gross and wrong. Based on my experiences it’s much likely to be more sinister than filters anyway.

    Reply
    1. Tempest

      I’m sorry you have to go through that.

      It brings up another good point though. If they are doing something mean spirited on company time and the manipulated or captioned pictures ever end up in the wrong hands if that is what’s going on, the company could be seen as complicit in bullying behavior. I know I’d personally have trouble keeping a productive and pleasant relationship with Phoebe who took my picture without my permission, wrote something mean on it and sent it to half the rest of the staff. It’s a bad situation waiting to happen.

      Reply
    2. Bork

      OMG that is terrible, Tobias! I’m sorry people have done that to you. People are so cruel and disturbing sometimes.

      Reply
    3. Anon for this

      Whoa, that’s awful! I’m suspicious that it happened to me while using adaptive devices a long time ago. (Still have the same health condition, now avoid adaptive devices.) Extraordinarily rude.

      I do think it’s possible that they aren’t making fun of people, but even in the best case scenario, they’re playing around with something distracting during meetings.

      Reply
  48. Amber Rose

    LW #2: Is it possible to request your carpet be cleaned? Or if you don’t have cleaning staff, for a rental carpet cleaner to be reimbursed? Or at least bring in a vacuum and really vacuum the heck out of it. Because it may well be dirty, every job I’ve ever worked the carpets tended to kind of… get ignored after a while.

    Aside from that, time to make the space your own with some posters or pictures, maybe some better lighting. If you don’t have scent troubles like so many, a mild air freshener can make the whole space seem cleaner even if it isn’t. Though if you do that, I’d avoid chemical ones like Febreze and look for an all natural one.

    Reply
    1. Parenthetically

      A diffuser with some citrusy essential oils and some well-placed dishes of activated charcoal to absorb dampness and bad smells would do the trick.

      Reply
      1. Emi.

        Or baking soda to absorb smells! If the carpet is funky, you can sprinkle baking soda, set it sit, and then vacuum. It works for furniture, too–I bought a sofa from a cat-loving smoker and carried it through the rain, but after a day of baking soda, there are no smells.

        Reply
  49. Xay

    #3 – one option is to start using the Bottom Line Up Front approach for your emails. If someone send you a question, put the answer 1-2 sentences at the beginning of your email and then explain/add details afterwards.

    Reply
  50. PizzaDog

    OP1, I’ve had this happen before. I totally agree with Alison’s advice. I was giving a presentation, and I’m not sure whether it was intuition or if I heard something, but I stopped my presentation, waited a few seconds, and asked bluntly whether there was any reason for the photos. The person taking the photos got kicked out of the class, and I don’t know what happened next.

    As good as my Vonnegut biography was, I don’t think it merited the paparazzi.

    Reply
  51. Anancy

    OP#2 I used to work at a non-profit and we used to do a yearly deep clean. Washing walls, mopping floors, getting into crevices, washing windows, painting, fixing stuff, etc. It made a big difference. We owned our building though, and it was also a client use space, so it benefitted the company as a whole. It also made the time go a lot faster to share the work. (Caveat, not everyone can do that type of work, so that’s important to be aware of).

    Reply
  52. Nolan

    For #3, I deal with this a fair amount too. I do a lot of emailing in support tickets with our clients, and there are a few who routinely do this, and it drives me nuts.

    For clients that are known to be… inattentive, or overwhelmed, my go to response is usually something like “I mentioned x in my last response, but in case you missed it I’ve copied it below:” and then I just paste the answer for them. Sometimes I’ll proactively do that if I’m sending a followup and I suspect they missed an important detail but just haven’t said anything about it yet. That one’s really about knowing your audience, and anticipating which details will be lost from your first message. So that may work for peers with reading comprehension issues.

    Other times I can tell they saw a piece of info, but didn’t like that answer, so they’re trying again. In those cases I usually just copy my original answer and use it verbatim without mentioning that I already said it, because we both know what they’re doing and pointing it out would be like poking a hornets’ nest.

    I recently had one where the client just could not follow what I was saying, and I had to give her at least four different versions of the same answer before she finally got it. The most frustrating part was that every version basically said, “you should never do Y to correct this kind of error, A, B, C is the right way to do it,” and she kept responding with “oh, okay, so I should do Y then.” That was very frustrating in part because she kept jumping to the thing I explicitly said not to do, and also because I was terrified she’d go and actually do it before I could respond and stop her from screwing up a ton of her data. Eventually I had to employ math in my descriptions and that finally made it clear to her, but all the previous answers I had given work for 90% of our clients with similar issues. At least I now know to start at that level of detail for her next time.

    Of course, the flip side of that is people who ignore questions you’ve asked them. My *favorite* is when I give a numbered list and they just skip the ones they don’t feel like answering.

    Reply
    1. C4T!!!

      #3 here…

      re: “when I give a numbered list and they just skip the ones they don’t feel like answering”

      YESSS!

      Reply
  53. Callie30

    #2 – I agree with Alison and the other commentators on here, so I won’t belabor those points. If you’re up for it, you can offer to help spruce up the office and it doesn’t even have to cost much, if anything – you can even look at sources like NextDoor or Craigslist for low-cost/free ‘updates’ to the items that bother you. It’s also quite common for non-profit staff to volunteer their time in different areas. Perhaps it could be a team effort. A lot of non-profits can’t afford a professional cleaning service, so ‘chores’ get distributed to the staff. That can include things like you are mentioning in your letter, for sure. Good luck!

    Reply
  54. Hiring Mgr

    On #1, the new employees probably just think they’re having fun, but there could be dire consequences. For example, let’s say the meeting room has a window, and just as one of the snaps is taken a bird flies by and gets in the photo in mid-flight.

    Then let’s say for the sake of argument, one of the people who sees that photo has a bird phobia (meaning they fear or panic at the sight of birds), they might accidentally hurt themselves or someone else.

    So my point is that while I’m sure these people mean no harm, this behavior cannot continue

    Reply
  55. Marmite

    My bedroom when I lived in university halls was a breeze block walled square with dank carpet tiles, a sink in the corner, and a metal bed frame with a plastic coated mattress on it. Other than the fact the window was barless and opened three inches it could have passed for a prison cell.

    I bought a roll of cheap but nice pattern wallpaper and covered the very faded brown built-it noticeboard and lined the stained/chipped shelves with it, added lots of big cheap posters/prints to the walls to cover some of the breeze block-ness, got bright bed linen and cushion covers (I hit up Groupon for giant floor cushions and a beanbag), and a rug. Also, small change but made a big difference, I swapped out the crazy bright lightbulb for a softer one and bought a new lampshade.

    It still wasn’t the nicest room but I lived in it for an academic year happily enough and had friends over to stay without feeling like I was inviting them to a night in a prison cell!

    Reply
  56. Stickler

    I was recently a hiring manager and received a LinkedIn connection request from a stranger who asked for “an informational interview about the X job”. I was confused. She seemed rather inexperienced from her profile, but if she is young and wants an informational interview about the field, that’s fine. But it sounded to me like she was trying to circumvent our hiring process and just get an interview without bothering to follow the process. Also had a colleague ask me to do an “informational chat” about my field with a friend of theirs, which I did, and then I asked if she had any more questions at the end of this chat, she asked if I thought she was qualified for the advertised job and what her chances were?I guess I am saying I don’t like to be baited and switched into doing “informational interviews” if you are really seeking the advertised job.

    Reply

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