tiny answer Thursday: 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s tiny answer Thursday — seven short answers to seven short questions. We’ve got a gross foot-touching coworker, an office martyr, and more. Here we go…

1. Foot-touching coworker

With summer upon us, many people in our office wear shoes that are easy to remove, such as flip flops. Sometimes people remove their shoes at their desks, which I’m okay with, but there is a coworker who likes to remove their shoes during meetings. I would not care if they kept their feet under the table, but this person then puts one foot on the seat of the chair. The worse part is the next phase, where they start touching their toes. This was very disgusting, but matters only got worse when food was brought into the meeting. I was extremely nervous because I knew to protect others something was going to have to be publicly said, but thankfully, the food that the “toe touching individual” touched was not touched by anyone else during the meeting. However, the original owner was taking the leftovers home. I did not know what to do other than inform that person that they needed to discard the food and when I was asked why I truthfully indicated the reason.

I know something must be said to the “toe touching individual” before another meeting with food. How do I professionally handle this situation? As a side note, this person is not easy to talk to – I would consider them an office bully.

This is gross, but I’m not sure that all this drama is warranted. Is the person rubbing his foot-contaminated hands all over the food? But if you want to say something, I’d just say, “Dude, you’ve been touching your feet so be careful with the food.”

(Not to cause you more angst, but how do you know your other coworkers’ hands are clean? For all you know, they might have been touching worse things than feet.)

2. When your references are requested up-front

When references are requested with cover letter/resume, how often are they actually called before an interview or even phone conversation? Not a huge deal, but I hate to inundate my references with the job description on every job I apply for.

Rarely. It would be a huge waste of time to check references before you knew you were even interested in a candidate. That said, I’d recommend including a note saying that you’d be glad to provide references once you’ve established mutual interest, unless you’re using an online application system that makes that impossible.

3. Listing multiple schools but no degree

Any suggestions on how to include college/university attendance when its not a full degree? I’ve attended four schools (two of which are community) almost 20 years ago. I didn’t get as far as declaring a major but definitely liberal arts studies. I’m not against finishing but it’s definitely not a priority compared to repairing my 401(k)! I’m tempted not to include the community colleges because the other two schools are pretty solid institutions. But maybe all four together show I’m an overall supporter of upper education, and just not a fan of crushing debt.

I’d pare it down as much as possible, especially since it was 20 years ago.

4. Working with the office martyr

I work with the office martyr. She told me she “hates kids,” can’t date, and doesn’t even have so much as a cat because of her job. Always makes sure everyone knows she stayed at the office until 2am (even though we’re allowed to work from home if we need to get a project caught up). Rolls her eyes and huffs at anyone’s suggestions, making sure to insert how late she worked or how she worked through the weekend into the conversation, as though the martyrdom somehow trumps anyone’s contributions by virtue of that alone. Today she made sure everyone knew that she worked straight through the weekend and didn’t leave the office until everyone made a big fuss over her, insisting that she go home and sleep. Then she went home and made sure we saw her log into Instant Messenger.

How is anyone supposed to look like their hard work is enough or that they’re really, sincerely putting in a great effort with this woman around? I’m working 14-16 hour days just so I don’t look like an ass! We have summer hours and I watched everyone leave at 1pm this last Friday to get out and enjoy our all too brief summer. But not her! She stayed until 2am. This just isn’t sustainable. What do we do with the workplace martyr? Does our boss see this? Is this really what they want?

It sounds like you’re giving one person way too much control over how you do things. If this were a whole culture of people acting like this, you’d have a problem. But it’s one. Ignore her and act as you would if she weren’t there.

5. My raise was lowered from what I was originally told

I was given my annual performance evaluation by my direct supervisor. My supervisor had me sign my evaluation, and on it showed my annual increase amount. A few days later, my supervisor told me to see Human Resources before I left. When I went to HR, they informed me that my annual increase amount was incorrect and I was supposed to get a smaller amount. The HR person told me that my supervisor didn’t recommend me for the “full” raise, which is what I was given originally, so that is why I am getting the lower amount. I was furious. I feel that I do an outstanding job. I have several emails from my supervisors, managers and higher-ups telling me what an outstanding job I am doing. I have cross-trained in many areas and they count on my to do everything and oversee the lower-seniority clerks, even though I’m not a supervisor. I am thinking about making a complaint to corporate. I feel that I my supervisor should have prepared for my evaluation not give me the wrong info and then take back my raise. It seems unprofessional! I feel that I have done a great job for the company and want to tell them that. I love my job, but I hate this situation. What should I do?

Your manager is an ass for not talking to you about this directly herself. But don’t complain to corporate — that’ll just hurt your reputation with them. Instead, try to negotiate the raise just like you would have negotiated it if you’d been told the smaller amount originally. If you’re not able to get the amount you want, then you need to decide if you’d rather look elsewhere.

6. Listing seasonal work on a resume

I have been a stay-at-home mom for the past 10 years and am trying to return to work. The gap in my resume seems to be hurting me. I have worked a seasonal management job that lasts 3 months for the past 4 years. How should I list that on my resume in a way that won’t make it look like I have had 4 different jobs? Or should I just leave it off? I do have my volunteer experience on my resume to fill some of the gap, but that doesn’t seem to be helping.

Definitely don’t leave it off! That’s valuable experience, especially when you’re trying to return to the workforce. I’d list it as one job, and I’d list it this way:

Chocolate Teacup Maker – Teapots Inc. – 2008-2011 (summers)

7. Why did this interviewer go AWOL?

I had a really good interview about 3 weeks ago, and the person I interviewed with made a point of saying several times to contact him if I had any questions. I followed up with a thank you, and waited about 2 weeks. I hadn’t heard anything so I sent a follow-up email asking if the job was still open, expressing my continued interest, etc. He never responded. At this point I’m assuming I did not get the position, but why make a point of telling me to contact him if he had no intention of follow through? A sorry, we filled the position thanks for your interest would have at least been nice!

Because this is what many employers do. It’s rude and inconsiderate and short-sighted, but it’s extremely common. He probably meant what he said in the moment, but then something changed — he found a stronger candidate, hired someone else, the position got put on hold, or he’s attending to other priorities, or any of a number of other possibilities. No matter what the reason, it’s still incredibly rude. But it’s also par for the course, unfortunately.

{ 171 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    To question #7, please consider that hiring may not be the only aspect of their job. Emergencies may have cropped up either at work or personally. Yes, you should get at least a courtesy “we’re still in process” but don’t get too upset. I interviewed someone and they emailed me on a Friday and when I hadn’t emailed back on Monday they went over my head to my boss and sent a very rude and unprofessional email to her about my lack of response. My boss and I had a good laugh about that. I wasn’t going to pick her anyway and the selection had been made already. I’d been out of the office is back to back meetings handling a quadrupled workload.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That candidate was ridiculous, clearly, but at the same time there are TONS of employers who never get back to people they interviewed. Never, not just late.

      1. Mike C.*

        Yeah. I had an experience where I made it to the second of two interviews and was never contacted again. I even found that the job was relisted!

        The way I look at it is that if I have to show up in a suit and go through the hours of prep work for an in-person interview, they can spend the five minutes to call or email me if I’m not selected.

        It’s only fair.

        1. B*

          This exactly!

          It has happened to me twice in the past 2 months. Had a great interview, send a thank you note (actually receive a lovely response to my thank you note), and then nothing. Even after following up, nothing. It is infuriating to me having spent time preparing, commuting, taking time off, hoping, and then a black hole. I would much prefer a simple and succinct email stating I did not get the position. Something, anything, it is always better than nothing and will reflect better on the company as well.
          Also, I think HR needs to think about how this makes the company look to outsiders. If this is how they want to treat people perhaps I do not want to do business with the company.

        2. ChristineH*

          Exactly. Sure an employer could cite higher priorities all they want, but in my opinion, strengthening/adding to your personnel should be one of those priorities since it has a direct impact on how well your company/organization performs (i.e. having a strong pool of candidates). Maybe it doesn’t have to take the #1 slot, but it should be pretty close.

          1. Jamie*

            This. There is another detriment to not getting back to people – you will stop getting referrals from your current employees.

            If you refer someone for an open position in your company – and you have no role in the hiring process…just an intro to HR and let them take it from there – then when HR doesn’t get back to the candidate to let them know either way after the interview it’s embarrassing.

            You have your acquaintance understandably asking you if you’ve heard anything – it makes for unnecessary awkwardness.

            A referral from a current employee can be a great source of new hires. The employee typically won’t refer anyone that won’t reflect well on them, and if they’ve worked together before you can get a more detailed reference than calling a stranger. Bad practice in not getting back to people after interviews will guarantee that you will get far fewer of these.

            1. Elizabeth*

              I also am much less inclined to apply to a job in the future at a company that never got back to me than at a company that sent me a rejection. I’m perfectly happy to work somewhere that found someone more qualified than I was last time – but I have more hesitation about working somewhere that inconsiderate people also work.

      2. K.*

        “No news is bad news” post-interview has been so common in my job search that when I DO get a response from an interviewer, I’m surprised.

        1. Anonymous*

          I had that happen a few weeks ago. Had an on the fly phone screening with a recruiter and it went extremely well. She said she was going to pass me onto the hiring manager and they would be in touch about a phone screening with her. Nothing. Unfortunately I didn’t catch the recruiter’s contact info (just went into “oh crap, phone interview!” mode and neglected to ask for her info), so I haven’t been able to follow up. Google and Linked In didn’t turn up anything. I saw the job re-listed last week on Craigslist and sent a note through there, re-iterating my interest and asking that my thanks be passed onto the recruiter. I attached my resume again to be sure.

          I understand the hiring manager may have passed on me or I may have fallen through the cracks, but still. It’s been 3 weeks and it sucks when you’re so interested in a position, the interview goes really well and then you hear nothing.

        2. Suzanne*

          I’ve actually sent emails to rejections, thanking them for taking the time to let me know, and in such a personalized way. I also mention how rare this behavior is in today’s world. I figure good behavior should be rewarded, even when I’m not happy with the rejection. When you’ve been auto-rejected so many times, and never hear a thing twice that often, a personal rejection actually does feel pretty good.

      3. Elizabeth*

        I interviewed for a school several years ago – took half a day off work, drove across town, taught a demo lesson and everything – and they never contacted me again. A few weeks later I got offered a maternity leave replacement job at a different school, but preferred the first one because it was a permanent position. I called them and asked about their timeline, saying, “I have another offer but prefer your school – what can you tell me?” They were vague and promised to get back to me before the weekend. I never heard from them again.

        The story ends happily, though, because I took the other job, wound up with a permanent position at that school, and love it – and I’m glad not to work for a school that disregards people. I wish I’d known about emailyourinterviewer.com back then… when I found it several years later I was sorely tempted to send an anonymous message anyway, but decided the statute of limitations had probably expired.

      4. Nic V.*

        (on #7) How about after numerous interviews and being shortlisted to a *small* handful of final candidates? Is it better to let sleeping dogs lie if there’s no response from the employer after that point?

        (thanks for your fabulous advice!)

    2. mh_76*

      #7 – as much as that stinks, it’s mostly the way things are nowadays and it likely won’t change until we’re the ones doing the hiring. Don’t take it personally. A lot of people say the bit about “contact me…” because it’s what they’re supposed to say. And because they haven’t yet decided whether/not you’re a finalist for the job. It is rude but as your search goes on, your skin will get thicker and you’ll soon appreciate the moments when people do follow up…and don’t forget to say thank you when that does happen.
      [I recently had a recriuter tell me that a position she’d submitted me for had been filled w/ another candidate and I thanked her profusely for telling me.]

  2. fposte*

    On 1: I doubt I’d get rid of my food after such a thing, and I’d think it was weird that somebody told me I “had” to. I’m not dismissing your dislike of your co-worker’s behavior, but it’s a breach of etiquette, not an introduction of a poison. As Alison suggests, probably several people in that room blew their noses, left the bathroom without washing their hands, or caressed one of their beloved, Petri-dish kids.

    1. khilde*

      I have to agree with you, too. I’m glad someone else said it because when I was reading it I thought it was weird and unprofessional, but hardly a Defcon 4-level contamination. I was starting to wonder, though, if my lack of germ-phobia was unusual.

      Then again, I wasn’t there and didn’t get the “full effect.” I might feel differently if I had to see it in person. :)

      1. Gene*

        Speaking of Defcon-4 germ alerts; back when my first wife (may she RIP) worked for a large, national truck and trailer rental headquarters she happened to mention after an office potluck that her bowl didn’t really need to be washed out because our Great Dane would enjoy the leftovers. One of the other women in the group went totally bonkers that she would actually allow a dog to eat out of the same vessel that humans were going to be eating from. Even after ife #1 stated that they get washed after, it made no difference to the other woman. From that point forward, that woman never ate anything my wife brought in – her loss because she was an amazing cook and her desserts were to die for!

        1. khilde*

          Yeah, her loss!!! I don’t think anyone would eat ever at potlucks if we all knew how people lived in their own kitchens. Not that people are out-and-out gross. But I think we all do things that we don’t give much thought to that others would find gross, unsanitary, germy, distasteful, etc.

          It’s not like your wife said she lets the dog lick food out of her mouth (how do those things make it on America’s Funniest Home Videos anyway!?). That lady’s head would have exploded.

        2. Jen M.*

          I honestly hate people like that!

          I USED TO have a “friend” who once told me me that should would never eat at my house because of my cats or eat anything I brought somewhere to share. Needless to say, I never invited her over again. That friendship did not last long after that.

          The woman had other issues, but my god-it’s not like she didn’t know I had cats!

          (Nowadays, they are not allowed in the kitchen.)

    2. moe*

      Yeah! Selective germaphobia is just bizarre to me, and when someone takes it upon herself to be the arbiter of cleanliness, it may not go over well. It can come across as weird and paternalistic and implying that everyone else is somehow lacking in hygiene or basic common sense. Especially when they’re in the same meeting too!

      But I do like Alison’s way of handling it, in case anyone did happen to miss the foot/food-touching.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, I totally understand that some people will find this more troubling than I do and might indeed want to know. But I’d start with a “Just FYI–there’s foot transfer around” rather than a “You’re going to have to throw this out.”

        And foot lady who annoyed the OP, keep your hands off your feet, okay? It is inappropriate, and, speaking as somebody who has to sit with a foot up since my spine surgery, I don’t want you to ruin it for me.

        1. Heather*

          I misread this as “sit with a foot up my spine since surgery.” I was really wondering how you were pulling that off ;)

          1. Long Time Admin*

            Oh, Heather, thank you so much for the laugh!!

            Although, I do know a lot of people who walk around as though they do have…

            fposte, I hope your surgery went well, and that everything’s going to be OK.

            I did have foot surgery once, and had to keep my foot elevated for 6 weeks. It’s how I got hooked on “As The World Turns” (long before remote control TV).

      2. Jamie*

        I’m with the OP on this, and I don’t think it’s selective germaphobia. Athlete’s foot is extremely common and that’s fungal…and feet are filthy because they are picking up all the residue from the carpet left by the shoes of everyone. That’s traces of dog crap, dirt, etc.

        So I don’t think it’s weird to recoil when you have direct evidence of someone doing something completely gross.

        However, one should never trust the unseen either. I don’t know who does and doesn’t wash their hands properly or regularly…so food should be served in a way that people can use utensils to serve and no one should be touching any food that other people will eat.

        If I were in a meeting and someone was touching their bare feet – there is no way I would have been able to keep the revulsion from my face.

        I love going barefoot at home, but shoes are mandatory in public places for a reason…they should be at work as well.

        1. Kelly O*

          Am I the only one who is wondering why someone didn’t just address that whole “taking your shoes off and picking your toes during a meeting” thing?

          And yeah, it’s kind of gross. But I’ve watched people pick their nose (trying to be all stealth about it) and then grab a sandwich. I’ve seen people sneeze and grab a sandwich. I guess as long as they’re just getting one for themselves I’m not as grossed out. It would be different if they were picking up half a dozen and putting them back down again.

          (This is why I like individual lunches rather than trays. If you’re being gross, you’re only being gross to yourself.)

    3. mh_76*

      At least it’s just her feet.

      If she didn’t have arms, she might have to use her feet as though they were hands. Still, though… since it sounds like she does have arms/hands, it’s mildly gross…but not as gross as not washing / digging for gold / touching “Petri-dish kids” (love that phrase!) / etc.

      You’re not the one taking the food home so don’t worry about it (and make sure you get to the food table before she does). And if you were the one taking it, I’d suggest putting it in a public trash can once you were a a bit away from work, making sure that it’s visible (on top) because if you’re in a city, someone hungry -will- eat it.

      1. fposte*

        I was actually thinking of the armless woman 60 Minutes did a piece on years ago, and how people tried to block her from shopping at the grocery store because she had to handle (as it were) the food with her feet.

        1. mh_76*

          I remember that one. So sad that people were so inconsiderate towards her…it’s not like she had arms and chose to not use them. If I remember correctly, she wasn’t able to use prosthetics (and they present their own challenges).

    4. Victoria*

      It’s not necessarily the germ thing that’s tweaking the OP, but rather the blatant breaking of a social norm. That tends to make people uncomfortable – and it’s not crazy that that discomfort might migrate to the sudden worry about germs, or something else.

      1. fposte*

        I agree, and I think we often talk about violating social norms in terms of health concerns these days, even when there really isn’t a health concern (shirtless guys really aren’t significantly increased vectors of disease, after all), so these two do get linked. And that ends up undermining the basic point–dude, some things are generally viewed as gross, and other people don’t want to see them, whether you’re spreading disease or not. And that’s plenty.

  3. JPT*

    On #4… in my experience, people like that work long hours because they’re inefficient and then make a big deal out of it. Not sure if this is the case with her, but I’d say something like, “Yes, we know you worked all night. I got my work done by the end of the day.” I think that your performance is way more important than how obsessively dedicated to the job you are.

    1. Long Time Admin*

      Yeah, this is good. I worked with a person always made a point of saying (in meetings) how she worked 2 hours later than I did. It might have been impressive if she didn’t also start 2 hours later than I did.

      Telling your co-worker that (in pubic) that you were able to finish your work in 8 hours is the way to go here. She won’t change, but at least you’ve said your piece.

      1. Tracy*

        I am in a high-stress workplace (management consulting) where it is an “up-or-out” mentality. So I am in a place where weekend work is required, 12 hour days are required, etc, but even still, if one person worked THAT hard, where they didnt sleep, or go home on weekends, management would assume it is lack of efficiency and poor work skills.

        Not leaving the office to even shower for 2 full days? There is no way her boss thinks highly of her. That is stupid!

    2. Shane*

      It is entirely possible that this person actually has a large workload but if this is the case the company should look into hiring an assistant or another associate to relieve the workload.

      I don’t even know how these hours are possible… I work 11 hour days and near the end of them my work gets done much slower in order to avoid mistakes. After a certain amount of time you just are not effective anymore.

      1. Jamie*

        To Shane’s point one of my former bosses once said that there are three reasons people put in this kind of time:
        1. Not smart/competent enough to get the job done properly in a normal time frame.
        2. Personal reasons – they are avoiding something at home.
        3. Workload is unreasonable.

        I’ve definitely seen it (and lived it) where it was #3 – but a good manager should jump all over that and start restructuring the load.

        Although, there are some positions where it’s par for the course during certain projects – with the understanding that once the crisis has passed it will be rewarded with some comp time or a relaxed schedule for a while. I’m totally okay with that, personally. I would rather soldier through and get it done and be able to relax than have projects drag on because I am shooed out the door after eight hours.

        Once #3 is ruled out, working copious OT for 1 & 2 shouldn’t be admired.

        1. Anonymous*

          Option 4 — they are stealing from the company. Whenever you have someone who never takes a day off and is always there, it could be because they are trying to cover something up and don’t want anyone else to find out about it. I have seen it not once, but twice. Often, it is the person that no one would ever suspect.

          1. Jamie*

            Good point. That’s why many financial auditors require mandatory days off for certain positions – in blocks of time.

          2. Alisha*

            This was the case for the company martyr at my previous job. It took the rest of us a while to catch on, and he was protected because he was close with my boss since the mid-90s tech boom, but regardless, his ongoing dramatics about working all day and night, all weekend, etc. were cover-ups for unsavory behavior. First, he was socializing with some clients beyond anything appropriate. Secondly, he was buying personal effects and charging them to my boss. Finally, he wasn’t actually doing all that much work – he came in at noon not because he’d been burning the midnight oil, but because he liked to stay up late with personal projects (incl. downloading porn thru our company network), and take his time in the morning.

            My boss knows. Never did anything about it though, because this guy can’t get a job anywhere else. He’s around 40, and his tech skills are cutting edge for 1996, but dinosaur these days. He got a title bump this year so everyone would be happy and stay mum about his silliness. Too bad I didn’t catch on sooner – I’d have realized my boss saying “Johnny [pseudonym] works so hard” was sarcastic without all the hassle. ; )

        2. Kelly O*

          This. And sometimes you have to work extra, because you have what I guess we could call cyclical #3. It’s not enough to hire someone else all the time, but you just know that there will be occasions that some OT is required. But I’ve met a lot of people for whom #3 was nowhere near the real issue.

          We’re dealing with one right now who comes in super-early and leaves super-late every day. She complains loudly about not having time to get everything done, but will sit around in offices talking literally for hours sometimes, or take every phone call that comes through, or get involved in every conversation that happens within 50 feet of her.

          (Granted I think we have a whole department of people who love to loudly complain about how super-busy and swamped they are, and yet they talk all day long. Or argue about how you “ought” to do something. I have to fight the urge to just yell over the cubicles “just shut up and do SOMETHING already.” But that would be bad manners… or whatever.)

          1. Cassie*

            This is like my office exactly! It’s very frustrating to hear people gripe about having SO MUCH WORK to do, but then they’ll spend 10 minutes chatting in a group about horror movies. All while you’re trying to tune them out and do your own work.

            For my job, it very much is a cyclical #3 – there are times where there just aren’t enough hours in a day to finish a project (luckily my bosses are fine with me working from home so I can still leave at my usual time), and then there are some days where things are fairly quiet. For these rush projects, I have no control over the timeline. But for coworkers whose job is pretty much the same from month to month (like processing payroll), they are always cramming at the last minute. They don’t or can’t manage their workload efficiently, even though it’s the same each month.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          There’s another possibility — they’re working for a cause they feel passionately about. It’s very, very common in political campaigns and advocacy organizations to see people routinely working crazy hours because they believe strongly in what they’re doing and believe the stakes are high. (Of course, there’s a reason that these organizations are full of young people.)

    3. AD*

      This, exactly. I covered for the “office martyr” once when she was out of town for a week. I got her work done in about two days, and my manager never let her hear the end of it.

      1. Rana*

        That’s how I got a good reputation as a temp, though it’s tricky walking the line between being efficient enough to impress the client and so efficient that you don’t get all your hours (and pay).

        1. Alisha*

          That’s how I realized my boss knew. After I’d been there about six months, there was a day when this guy just didn’t show up. I wound up managing my people and his, and got it all done. Still worked overtime, but it was more like a 11-hour day than the alleged 16- or 18-hour days he worked.

          After that, my boss gave me a raise and more management authority, and shuffled the martyr off to work on special projects. That’s when I knew he knew, and moreover, he probably knew before I arrived at the company.

    4. mh_76*

      Let her wear herself out and be less productive despite putting in more hours (I’ve seen a number of articles about how working long hours frequently is counterproductive). If you’re more productive, more efficient, better at your job when you work fewer hours (provided that you’re fulfilling your time & work obligations), then let that be a thorn in her side while you work on, ignoring her completely. If you let her control you then she “wins”. If you ignore her then you “win”.

      LongTimeAdmin’s advice is great and I love AD’s story.

  4. khilde*

    #4 – Office Martyr

    Get your hands on the book “Dealing with People You Can’t Stand” by Dr Rick Brinkman and Dr Rick Kirschner. It’s a really insightful read and gives detailed profiles on about 12 different difficult people types. There’s a whole chapter on Martyrs that explains what’s driving their martyrdom and then how to respond to it. It would be worth your time to pick it up or go to the bookstore (if it’s still even in bookstores) and stand there and read that chapter.

  5. Anonymouse*


    There’s a saying that it is only a race when more than one person acknowledges it as such. She’s trying to make your office environment into a competition, and you are all giving into her, particularly you OP! If you don’t acknowledge her martyrdom or attempts to making this a competition, she might calm down a bit and take a clue from the rest of you about not having to work 24/7. It sounds like she has issues as to why she feels the need to work these long hours, but you shouldn’t play into it. If everyone else does what they need to do and only stays late if absolutely necessary, then I don’t see if upper management can really do anything to pin you all up against her and how she does the work.

    And if you see her on Instant Messenger, block her for the time being or make yourself invisible to her. You can manipulate the settings so you don’t have to see each other while online.

    Just don’t acknowledge the martyrdom/competition.

    1. Sadya*

      On #4: another possibility is that she has no social life and is pretty lonely. So the only thing that’s working in her life is work.
      Everyone talks about lunches with friends, outtings & feuds with loved ones, yoga classes & dieting woes- she probably has none of those and feels very insecure about herself. It’s her way of competing with the social pressure. She doesn’t have a life and when she’s free there’s really noone around to chat with. She doesn’t know how to break out of the cycle.
      Next time try asking her to join you & a couple of others for lunch or drinks after work, if she refuses more than twice then give up.

      1. Alisha*

        Sometimes it can be depression or low self-esteem too. Our guy never had a girlfriend or a wife, wanted kids but said it would never happen, and we soon came to realize that his whole social life revolved around the office. One reason he wanted us to match his hours was so we could keep him company after 5:30 because he didn’t want to go home and have no one to talk to. He also struggled with a pretty severe case of OCD and depression, and he was open about it, but he ultimately closed people off because he felt going to therapy was shameful. I’ve alternated between feeling annoyed at him and feeling really bad for him.

  6. Kristi*

    #4 References

    One of my references is a bit of a night owl and definitely not a morning person. This situation is even more compounded by the three-hour time difference. How inappropriate would it be to include a mention of his schedule, along with his contact info? This potential employer is a start-up nonprofit based exclusively on volunteers, and I can’t be sure they’ll keep this in mind if/when they call.

  7. Rants*

    re Q#2 I had an interview which seemed to go well, but then from the reading of response to my thank you note, I assumed I’d screwed something up. Turns out they wanted to hire me, and it was an online system where you needed to include references. Timelines were SO slow (applied in late dec, interviewed in mid april) that by April I had some other people I would have preferred to use as references. HR sent me an email that they were going to contact my references and did – immediately. I didn’t have time to follow up with anyone to let them know that they might hear from this job before one of them emailed and told me they had called. So I kind of felt like a jerk.

    1. mh_76*

      Recruiters sometimes do that. I’ve recently started telling them that I’ll provide references when an interview is scheduled instead of giving them my refs up front.

      Question re references: I’ve done a bit of freelance work, part time & short duration but still good for my resume, for an acquaintence (who I’ve known for a few years…and there might be more work coming). Is it OK to ask him for a LI recommendation and to be a reference even though the work is technically work that he’s “sub-contracting” to me? I’ve heard that he speaks highly of me to others and he’s said good things to my face.

      Rant’s comment brings another question to mind: If someone agrees to act as a reference for you, do you have to tell them every time you send your references to a H.M. /HR / recruiter or is it understood that they’ll be called from time to time because they agreed to be one of your references? I ask because I’ve never known what the “supposed to” is.

      1. Jamie*

        Personally, I think it would be fine to use him as a professional reference. I don’t know anything about the Linkedin references – or if they ever help – but way back when I freelances I used clients and other ITs with whom I worked on different projects. If you don’t have an actual boss those are the ones you have.

        I don’t think you need to tell them each time you apply – I agree with Malissa in another comment that if you tell them you are on the market they should know they can be contacted while you’re looking. I wouldn’t love to hear about every application if I were a reference, but it wouldn’t bother me much either.

        The one thing I think reference checkers should keep in mind, while we’re on the subject, is to schedule if the call will go longer than 5-10 minutes. I wouldn’t agree to be a reference unless I could give an enthusiastic recommendation so I’m happy to make myself available for a detailed conversation. I just can’t always do that on the fly – so anything more than cursory ask when would be a good time.

        1. mh_76*

          I don’t know if LI recos help but a few don’t hurt(though…really…if there are more than a handful, I’m certainly not going to read every last word…and you look like a self-aggrandizing narcissist!).

          Great point about checkers scheduling a time! One of my friends has been caught off-guard a couple of times (she’s a character ref.) and I think that a former boss/colleagues (all still there…after 10 years) have been also. It would be nice for them to know that H.M. / HR will call them at x time to talk about me so that they have some time to gather their thoughts & prep a bit.

  8. The Other Dawn*

    4. Working with the office martyr

    In my experience the office martyr (the one who makes it publicly known whenever possible) is usually very inefficient at her job and spends a lot of time chatting or slacking off. Just ignore her. Eventually management will notice that she’s the only one pulling these crazy hours and will look into it further. Assuming it’s good management anyway.

    On the other hand, if this particular person is working these hours because she is absolutely overloaded with work (doesn’t sound like the case here), she should know enough to go to management and tell them that she’s overloaded and needs some help.

  9. KayDay*

    #1 toes + food: Okay, I was definitely grossed out when you got to the part about this person touching their toes in the meeting, that’s icky and unprofessional. But, that you were, “…extremely nervous because I knew to protect others something was going to have to be publicly said…” is taking it way, way too far. The world is a gross and germ-y place; you just knew it in this circumstance.

    #2 references: until last week, I would have agreed with Alison. However, we are currently hiring an executive level position, and have asked for references up front (not my decision. I suggested not to do this!!!) for two reasons: for this level position, we may very well reach out to some references before deciding who to interview and we have a search committee comprised of about 5 people located in all different places, so it’s just easier to have all the materials together to send to them.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      #2 Even then, though, you don’t need to request them from everyone up-front. You can cull through the applications, decide whose you want, and contact those people. Although I’d still caution you against doing that before even talking to candidates, since sometimes a 15-minute call is all it takes to tell you that you have no interest in pursuing this person further. I’d really leave reference checks until the end, both for this reason and because they’ll be more useful at the end of the process, when you can ask questions that are informed by your conversations with the candidate (“Jane talked a lot about her role in project A; what can you tell me about how she approached that?” or probing about a potential area of concern that you developed in the interview).

  10. Anonymous*

    I have nothing useful to contribute but wanted to express my amusement at Allison’s continued support of the chocolate teacup making industry and its employees :)

    1. Jamie*

      I love that, too. :) Although every time I wonder about the physics-defying task of tempering chocolate to withstand boiling water without losing it’s integrity.

      I would not want to work in engineering at that factory, that’s for sure.

      1. Long Time Admin*

        I’d love to work in Quality Control!

        I’ve seen how much scrap “happens” in factories. Chocolate scrap – mmmmmmmmmmmm!

  11. Jamie*

    #5 – I don’t want to seem like a curmudeon, but I think this is something that happens a lot, to the detriment of some very good workers, and I wanted to mention it:

    ” they count on my to do everything”

    When making an argument be it for more money, responsibility, etc. it’s really important not to get caught up in hyperbole. I’ve seen really outstanding employees hurt their cases with their managers by overstating to make a point. No one does or is expected to do everything. It’s really important to make sure that when you’re speaking about your contributions that you come off credible and from a place of reasonable self-assessment.

    There are plenty of people who overstate their work, and some are great but some are awful…and you don’t want to be dismissed by virtue of grandiose statements.

    No excuse for having the wrong raise amount on your paperwork, though – that’s just ridiculous.

    1. Ms Enthusiasm*

      I also think the OP of #5 needs to have an open conversation with her supervisor on why she wasn’t recommended for the entire raise. She could maybe mention that the mistake with her raise amount was a little frustrating (but not in a blaming you kind of way) and then go on to ask for feedback on what she could have done differently so she would have received the full raise. There is a chance her supervisor just doesn’t know how upset the OP is and it could give the supervisor a chance to explain/apologize and then give the feedback

      1. ChristineH*

        Agreed, although I still agree with Alison that the supervisor should’ve informed the OP directly, rather than having her speak with HR. Then, an open conversation could’ve taken place right then and there.

      2. Mike C.*

        I’m not sure that this is effective. The conversation about what was done well, what could be improved already happened during the review. During this conversation the bar was set at one place and afterward the bar was set elsewhere.

        What good is it to ask what could be done better when those standards and expectations change with no notice?

        Here are some questions the OP should be asking. What changed between the review and the recommendation to HR? Why did [they] both sign a piece of paper saying one thing, and something else happened? Why didn’t [the manager] make their expectations clear from the beginning? How is [the OP] supposed to know if the standards being discussed today are going to be the same tomorrow?

        And OP, don’t sugarcoat this either. It’s not “a little frustrating”, it changes the whole set of expectations that go along with the job! And yes, this is the fault of the manager! The manager screwed up, and screwed up big time. They need to take ownership of this mistake.

    2. Mike C.*

      Your last part is what bothers me the most. Regardless of what the OP did or didn’t accomplish/say/etc that amount was on the review, and the review was signed.

      This wasn’t verbal, it wasn’t a *wink* or a vague promise. It was spelled out in black and white and signed by all involved. I wouldn’t be surprised if in some cases this would be treated as a contract.

      1. Jamie*

        The last part is black and white for me – it’s ridiculous that something was stated and put in writing and reneged.

        I was just pointing out in a more general sense how hyperbole can hurt when making a case. Not that s/he should even have to make a case in this instance, or that it negates the asshattery of the doing a switch on the raise.

        Personally, I think they should give the raise originally promised and apologize for the confusion – but that’s me.

        1. Blue Dog*

          It is crappy, but there isn’t much you can do. Most employee positions are terminable at will (unless you have an actual contract for a term or are in civil service).

          Best course of conduct is to ask for a re-evaluation in a few months to show why you deserve the “full raise” you were entitled to. If you handle it professionally, they might feel bad about the way it went down and do right by you. But throwing a fit is never helpful.

  12. K Too*

    #2 – I do not like giving references during the application process. Last year when I was unemployed, I contacted my references every time I had to fill out an application. It became a total waste of time and I was tired of giving false alarms.

    At one place, the admin assistant told me that I HAD to fill out the references. She firmly told me that I could not turn in my application without references. After 10 minutes of waiting in their office, I knew that I did not want to work there.

    #7 AWOL – This is becoming the norm. It is very rude, especially when candidates take their time to prepare. I actually had one interviewer tell me that she knew how it was being out of work and how it felt when employers never send a rejection letter/e-mail. She then went on to state that they weren’t that type of company.

    After sending thank you e-mails and expressing my interest in the role, I never heard one peep. My rule is to check up 3 times and if no one responds then you’re out.

    In the end I guess they were that “type of company”.

  13. Catherine*

    #1 – In situations like this I don’t think it’s necessary to say something publicly, until the situation has gotten so out of hand (and that’s a big leap). It just embarrasses the person needlessly. Maybe say something to the person who took the food home? Sure. Maybe talk to the foot-toucher privately? Sure, if you can do so with kindness. Public embarrassment does not go over well and would probably sour your relationship with the coworker and make office life unpleasant. It’s gross, sure, and I wouldn’t want to eat that food, but still – singling her out in front of everyone is not the way to go.

    1. fposte*

      Those are possibilities too. I think that it helps a lot to know the situation firsthand–sometimes the casualness of “Yo, you’ve got a broccoli-teeth issue” is much less upsetting than somebody who says gravely “We need to talk in your office.” I think you go in assuming that the person probably doesn’t realize she’s palpating her feet and treat it as an absent-minded lapse rather than as a discussion about standards.

  14. Malissa*

    I’m beginning to think that I’m the only person who tells my references when I start a job search and to not be surprised by any calls they may receive about me in the future. I don’t alert them to every single application where I put them down. That would annoy me.
    When I am a reference I know that Mary has started her job search and until she informs me that she actually got a new position I assume I could be called.

    1. Catherine*

      That is what I have done many times in the past. However my most recent job search was a lot more focused so I let them know ahead of time about a couple of specific jobs.

    2. Jamie*

      This is how I would do it too. If I agree to be a reference for someone, I will speak to whomever calls asking about them.

      I don’t need to know every time they put an application out there.

  15. Foot toucher*

    When I read number 1, I was mortified because I thought to myself, “dear god, is that me?”

    In the summer, I often wear sandals or flats and will kick them off in a meeting so I can sit barefoot, cross-legged. (We work in a very casual environment. Think cutoffs and Birkenstocks, casual). And if I’m sitting cross legged, there’s a chance my hands will rest on my feet, or even my toes. I may touch my toes, but I’m not touching my toes if that makes sense. (And yes, I think there’s a difference between resting my hands on my toes and someone picking out lint from their toe crevices. That’s disgusting).

    Luckily, I haven’t had a lunch meeting in a while so I don’t think I’m the culprit but now am thinking twice about people’s opinions of me.

      1. Jamie*

        (small voice) I’m not sure there’s that much difference to me.

        People sit on those chairs!

        AAM isn’t just making people better managers – this blog is helping keep people safe from the scourge of ringworm!

      2. K.*

        Word. I’ve never worked anywhere where taking one’s shoes off in a meeting would be acceptable, and to be honest, I think it’s gross.

      3. Anonymous*

        I agree….Despite my best efforts to not be distracted by co-workers who touched their feet during meetings or played with the bottom of their flip-flops it was always gross to me.

      4. Anonymous*

        I kick off my shoes under my desk, but I can’t imagine doing it in a meeting – and I’m in a pretty casual office. Everyone shows armpits all the time! (Ok, not really, but sleveless shirts are not uncommon.)

    1. fposte*

      Oh, Foot, I feet you–it’s easy when they’re in easy hands range. But the fact is that you and I are already seriously pushing the appropriateness envelope by putting our feet up on places not designed for feet. The only way we can survive this with any professionalism intact is to keep our shoes on and our hands the hell off of body parts that other people shouldn’t have to see us touching. Here’s a list: noses, teeth, insides of ears, breasts, crotches, and feet. (Keep in mind that some people will add fingers in hair and eye-rubbing to that.) Touch ’em in meetings at your peril, people.

        1. JPT*

          … and one should not touch one’s butt, ideally. Did not see that on the list.

          I’m terrible about playing with my nose ring. Looks like I’m straight up picking my nose. I wash my hands and use sanitizer often, but I’m always reminding myself that if someone sees me doing it A) they don’t know I wash my hands often and B) they think I’m picking my nose.

          1. fposte*

            Right on both counts–the list is extended. Offense x 2 if it’s an area ordinarily covered by clothing and you’re working on bare skin.

            I’m a serious fiddler and do a lot of working at home, so I understand the impulses. But let’s be kind to the people who have to witness us.

            1. Jamie*

              I was trained early to keep my hands out of my hair, because when left to my own devices that’s where they go. I play with my hair when upset, happy, thinking, bored…whatever.

              I am also an ice chewer…another awful habit. But never in front of others – my own private shame.

              Truth, when I got my own office with a door my first thought was YAY – ice!

              Thank goodness for social conventions or every workplace would be like Lord of the Flies.

              1. Kimberlee*

                Wait… I *understand* the foot thing, even though I think it’s an example of people going way overboard on the germaphobia (does no one give foot rubs anymore?) but I had no idea that ice chewing was some kind of faux pas. And if it is, it is ridiculous. I plan to continue chewing ice. I’ll keep my feet to myself.

                1. jmkenrick*

                  I think it’s cause icechewing can make noise that some find grating?

                  I don’t touch any of those areas except…I have been known to absent-mindedly pick my teeth. It’s a really obnoxious habit. I think I’m getting much better though…

                2. Jamie*

                  With the ice thing it’s the noise. I have a real aversion to hearing other people chew, so I wouldn’t subject them to mine.

                  And I’m sure people do give foot massages – but typically to people they are a little closer to than co-workers :). I’m okay with coming into closer contact with people I love than the people with whom I work.

                  My kids can reach over and eat fries off my plate and if they double dip the ketchup it doesn’t bother me, the same behavior by a co-worker would freak me out.

                3. fposte*

                  Combination of the ban on loud chewing of anything and the fingernails-on-blackboard sound of it. Though I’m actually really grossed out by gum and would vastly prefer an ice-chewer.

                  It’s amazing any of our species can share space at all, really.

                4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Yeah, it’s the noise (the aural version of chewing with your mouth open), and some people find it grating like nails on a blackboard. It’s also just a violation of the social contract. Do it when you’re alone, but not in front of others.

  16. Assistant to the Martyr*

    Ahhh yes, the office martyr. Unfortunately that is my boss. She complains that she works until 1:30 in the morning yet never delegates any work, despite me asking to help over and over. In addition she stays late because her supervisor (the head honcho) is the biggest procrastinator and waits on her to get her job done. It’s maddening. It’s unfortunate but ignoring it is the only solution, really. They’re never going to change.

  17. Student*

    For the foot-in-meeting issue:

    Why not just say, “Bob, put your feet away for the meeting. You look like a monkey grooming himself.” (Change the mild insult to something else if there is any chance of a racial tinge to this, I’m saying it with the assumption that it’s a white guy).

    Comments about how hairy the feet are are also useful, or comments implying that he needs a pedicure. We had a guy who used to put his bare feet up on the table during meetings, and saying this to him made him stop very quickly. He still put his feet up at his work station, but I don’t care if I don’t have to stare at ’em. Other meeting attendees might feel empowered to chime in on how ugly/gross/weird his feet are once someone brings it up, and few people are so shameless that they can tolerate 5 minutes in a meeting of having their feet commented upon.

    1. Jamie*

      I want to order muffin baskets for each of my co-workers – just to thank them for not being this guy. :)

    2. Catherine*

      Ah now that’s different. Feet on the table during a meeting? Yeah say something out loud then. Feet in your chair not in view, but messing with them? I don’t think that needs to be called out.

  18. mh_76*

    #3 – I might say something similar to what AAM suggested:

    X University: Coursework in xxx area(s).
    X University: Coursework including ______, ____ [courses/areas]

    You don’t need to include the years. If you can, try to highlight the professionally relevant coursework and minimize the rest.

  19. mh_76*

    #6 – you don’t -have to- say that it’s seasonal work. Just like volunteer work doesn’t always have to be flagged as volunteer work (well, maybe if it’s not prof. relevant) and part-time work doesn’t have to be flagged as part-time work (unless you want to mimimize the job but still fill a gap). Of course, if you’re asked directly, then be up front about it but wait until you’re asked…if you’re asked at all.
    [I have a p-t job on my resume that isn’t flagged as p-t and nobody’s asked how many hours per week it was]

    1. Anonymous*

      I think the issue with marking it as seasonal is if, for example, you worked only 4 months in the summer from 2008-2012, but only list the years it looks like you were working in that position for 4 years and have a complete 4 years of work experience, when actually you would have the equivalent of 1 year experience since you were only working 12 months during those 4 years.

      1. Elizabeth*

        I agree with this. I think if you worked somewhere for four years and took a three-month leave at some point, you could just write “2007-2011” without any qualms – but if you were not working for a greater percentage of the time than you were working, it’ll look like you were trying to hide something when it comes out.

        Also, it actually will look better in some cases that you only worked seasonally, since seasonal jobs tend to be lower-level. Otherwise people might wonder why you stayed Junior Sales Associate for four years and never got promoted up to anything with more responsibility – whereas the fact that you weren’t a permanent employee explains that lack of movement without reflecting on your skills at the job.

      2. mh_76*

        Question along similar lines: Should volunteer experience always be flagged on the resume as volunteer work, even if it is professionally relevant? Will not doing so “look like you were trying to hide something when it comes out”? Advice given on this blog is that volunteer positions don’t have to be listed as volunteer.

        Length of time doing something (job, hobby) isn’t always equal to one’s competence doing that thing. Someone who’s played/done X thing (job, hobby) for 10 years continuously isn’t necessarily better than someone who’s doing that thing for 4 years, even if other variables (time invested over the years, quality of equipment & training, …) are similar. Length of time alone does nothing to show one’s attitude and aptitude for doing X thing. Think about the mediocre colleagues in your workplaces, especially the ones who’ve been there forever, doing the job in the same mediocre manner, maybe half-a$$ed, maybe not. Do their years of experience mean that they’re better at their jobs than others? Should they have an edge over less tenured but better performing people solely because of their years in that job? If they’re same-job colleagues who’ve been there longer than you have, are they necessarily out-performing you? Maybe but probably not…unless you’re mediocre also.

        The point is that (1) her seasonal status is not likely to come out and if it does, it probably won’t cost her anything in terms of professional level because it sounds like she’s seeking entry/lower-level work. If an H.M. is going to nit-pick about that…or about one job on my resume not being flagged as part-time even though it was…then maybe that H.M. isn’t one that she or I would want to work for. She should, though, clarify with her boss / HR dept. whether her job is listed on the company’s books once for 4 years or 4 times over 4 years and what their policies are about responding to employment verifications – some companies internal policies say that they can only verify that you did indeed work there from X to Y but some allow for more detail.

        The vast majority of employers don’t just up and promote people, even if those people are star performers. Even if her company is one of the almost none who do promote, maybe that is not a possibility because she is already a manager.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Hmmm, I’d think it was disingenuous if she listed it as four years and it came out that she wasn’t there for anything approaching four years. I’d consider it either sloppiness on the resume or a deliberate attempt to be misleading.

          While I agree that length of time doesn’t always correlate to how well you do something, I still want to know how long you did it. That’s why resumes includes dates of employment.

  20. cbecker53*

    #4. Yes, we should ignore the office martyr, but sometimes it’s hard to. I agree with many of you that they are working hard at looking like they’re working hard. I worked with one who kept track of all the extra hours she put in and then asked to be paid for them. (and DID get paid!)

  21. Bonnie*

    #4 Martyrs

    I have worked with three different types of martyrs during my career. Two of them were very productive individuals.

    First was the complainer. This person was not productive. She complained about her level of work all day and then spent all evening doing it. We used to joke that if she spent as much time doing the work as complaining about it she would go home early every night. Her supervisors knew this was her pattern and that she was not producing more or better work than her co-workers. Since she was a salaried employee, she wasn’t getting monetarily rewarded for the behavior, her supervisors just ignored her.

    The second was the competitive or attention seeking martyr. This guy really was doing an amazing amount of work and doing it well. He took on everything and wanted everyone to know how much he was doing and by extension how important he was to the company. Unfortunately he had some other bad habits that almost got him fired. Once that happened and he realized that his prodigious production could only get him so far he left. Also this type either burns out or gets promoted which tends to change their behavior.

    The last one was actually a martyr. The only reason that you knew she was working so many hours was that her car was in the lot when you got in and still there when you left. You only knew she worked all night because she was wearing the same clothes as yesterday. She didn’t complain unless directly asked. Her job was her life and this was probably never going to change for her. But in this case she didn’t really use it against anyone else unless they were complaining about their workload.

    No one was ever lost a position to these individuals unless it was clear that the martyr was doing work that was actually excellent in quality and volume. In other words the reward was based on the work itself not on the hours put in to do it.

    1. Talyssa*

      I have to say, in my limited experience the people who constantly complain about how much work they have and how long it takes them are some of the least productive people in the office. The other people are too busy doing the work to talk about it constantly.

      1. Bonnie*

        I think your right about constant complainers. The first person on my list fell into that pattern. The second one wasn’t complaining he was bragging. It wasn’t constant it was carefully timed to make sure that managers and supervisors were within hearing. And the last one didn’t really complain (or maybe she did but since she never left her office no one really knew).

    2. Steve G*

      NOT agreeing here that martyrs simply can’t handle work. Alot of companies seem to be structured so that the mgt that divies up responsibilities isn’t aware of what is involved, so on paper it looks like responsibility is spread fairly, but some responsibilities are much more time consuming and stressful than others. True martyrs do exist.

      1. Rana*

        Well, I think there’s a difference between someone who is genuinely overworked and frustrated, and a person who has decided to make it A Thing and define their work personality around the idea. The first has my sympathy; the second gets an eyeroll behind their back.

        1. Steve G*

          I know, I just don’t get the whole this-person-works-all-night-because-they-complain-all-day. I complain too:-), but it takes up maybe 2-3 minutes a day – how can someone waste a whole day complaining? I think some of the other poster’s comments are dramatic.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            Complaining “all day” might be a stretch, but for one or two people I’ve seen in the past, complaining was a sport and it lasted for a large portion of the day, along with surfing the net, etc.

  22. Gene*

    Re: #5

    Keeping in mind that IANAL, you signed it and (I’m assuming) your manager signed it (I’ve never seen an evaluation that the manager didn’t sign). That makes it a valid contract, barring some strange contract law in some state.

    You could conceivably file suit for specific performance for that salary, but you’d better have another job lined up because that isn’t going to o over well. You could also simply have a lawyer friend write a letter to your company asking why they aren’t living up to the contract you both signed.

    1. AD*

      No. At-will employment means that, not only can they fire you at any time for any reason, they can lower your compensation at any time for any reason. Unless she is in a state that has some particular weird law about this, she has no legal recourse.

        1. Anonymous*

          AAM – Do you have a blog post that discusses at-will employment in basic terms? I was discussing this with someone who has never heard of the term (and has been out of the workforce for quite sometime) and wants to know if that overrides contracts.

        2. JohnQPublic*

          This is probably where I’d consider leaving. Strongly. And I know you love your job but if they’re going to renege on this (a signed job eval and specific raise number) then I’d be concerned with what else they might decide to change. In fact that is exactly what I would state in my reasons for leaving, should it get to that point. This is a mistake you swallow, and someone in HR should swallow like a pie eating champ.

          Regardless I wish you luck and peace. That whole “courage/serenity/wisdom to know the difference” really matters here. Evaluate, make your decision, and don’t look back.

  23. Annoy*

    to #5- Aw, sorry to hear about your situation. It must be so frustrating. But I agree with AAM, your best bet is to negotiate. A coworker once told me that when you don’t get the raise you want, you can say: “Oh, I was hoping for something a little more– and here’s why….then list your accomplishments…” Not the exact words, but something along those lines.

  24. Anonymous*

    First of all, I am super clean and I could not imagine taking my shoes off and handling my toes at a meeting. Also, to the stay-at-home mom, I feel your pain. I was also a stay-at-home mom and am having a really hard time re-entering work. I think many things are different in the work world now. I started working when I was seventeen ( I graduated early) then getting jobs was easier. Some things have changed for the better. I remember in my early 20’s going for interviews and being very uncomfortable because I got asked out on a date. Looking back, that was so unprofessional of that person. At least now, we just have to figure out how to cover gaps and a good cover letter and resume and cross our figures and pray someone will take a chance on us.

  25. Anonymous*

    #7 Thanks for answering! I’m trying to maintain the attitude that if they aren’t professional enough to send me even just a generic “thank you but we are pursuing other candidates as this time” email I wouldn’t want to work for them anyway. Although…when I think about the phone interview, online personality test, and 2 hour interview I went through, not to mention being told specific details about salary and benefits it’s just really bewildering that a company that thorough about their interview process would be that unprofessional. It’s corny but without that official rejection it’s like ripping a bandage off slowly. Just do it quickly so I can get that sense of rejection officially processed and over with!

    1. Anonymous*

      I forgot to ask in my initial question: anything wrong with emailing the HR contact I had through the initial screening and interview process? I don’t want to flog a dead horse, but this position was the first I’ve ever truly been excited about and would like to know if at all possible why I wasn’t selected. Or should I just let it go? Obviously I’m moving onward and hopefully towards success, but this is the first experience like this I’ve had where a company is so thorough and yet…

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        There’s no harm in trying, although generally you’re more likely to get specific feedback from a hiring manager than an HR person.

  26. Student*

    For #2, there are some jobs that contact your references before they’ll even talk to you. I had this happen for an academic job once. They didn’t bother talking to me at all, but contacted my references right after I submitted the application. It’s not uncommon in very academic jobs, especially at “prestigious” or reputation-conscious universities. They care more about the status of your references and the who-you-know factor than your qualifications.

    In academics, the whole references situation is an elaborate shell game. You’re supposed to pick the most prestigious people that you plausibly can get to agree to do it. Then they get asked for a formal reference letter rather than a phone call or an email discussion. Then, the prestigious people you asked to be references (but didn’t necessarily work with) go to your boss, and your boss essentially writes the letter for all of them (tells them what to say about you rather than scribing every word himself; otherwise it’d be too obvious that you’re playing this game). If you have a high enough reference prestige score, you get a token interview and a job. Everyone knows it’s a stupid game, but no one gets called on it or breaks the cycle of stupid hiring decisions. This is one of the lesser sins of academic hiring, too – you wouldn’t believe some of the other nonsense they do. This is part of why I decided not to be an academic; I only list references who’ve actually worked with me.

    If you aren’t applying for a heavily academic job, then you’re probably safe. If you are, then please turn around and ask your local professor how to play the reference-game correctly in the future.

    1. fposte*

      That really doesn’t work that way here, though, so it’s probably different at different places.

  27. Laura L*

    Am the only person here who doesn’t find feet disgusting? Because I really don’t. They’re usually in socks or shoes. Sometimes they sweat, but I’m sure they’re much cleaner than hands.

    What I really find gross is when people sneeze directly into their hand. Sneeze into your elbow, people!

    1. Anonymous*

      I don’t find feet disgusting. Some are uglier than others, and it’s definitely violating a social norm to have bare feet at a company meeting, but I’d rather deal with a person that touches their feet than an overly dramatic germaphobe.

      P.S. There is a special place in hell for people who use a paper towel to open the bathroom door and then drops said paper towel on the floor as they exit. 1.) How inconsiderate can you be?!? Now someone else has to pick that up. 2.) Now you’re the one spreading cooties. 3.) You should have gotten over your fear of cooties around age 10.

    2. Rana*

      Agreed. Unless the feet are sweaty and touching me, I am not bothered by their presence. Sneezing (and coughing) in germ-spreading ways, on the other hand…

      (This is one of the worst things about allergies for me — having to always explain to people as I sneeze in public that I’m not contagious, just gross.)

    3. fposte*

      I don’t find them disgusting any more than a comma-spliced sentence is disgusting. But neither of them are professionally appropriate :-).

  28. Frances*

    #4: I worked with an insane martyr person once too, it can be really difficult and confusing. It helps to remember that this person is probably utterly miserable in life. Compulsive working can be just as spiritually/emotionally corrosive as compulsive drinking or any other addiction. When you find her triggering you, take a moment and try to imagine her being utterly happy, fulfilled, and free. You probably can’t even picture it! That might open up space for a bit of compassion, which will calm you down and help you remember you don’t want to compete with miserable crazy person. Good luck!

  29. Steve G*

    #1 – Totally depends on where you live. In NYC, this would be disgusting. Had to wear sandals to work when I had poison ivy and my feet were brown on the bottom everyday. If the person is well groomed, and drives to work? Not a huge problem. But the real issue is – why is your workplace so darn formal that you can’t simply say “no feet on the seat!” Judge Judy style?

    1. Long Time Admin*

      She did say the person who does this is a bully. He’s probably just *daring* someone to tell him what to do, and would make a scene.

      It wouldn’t stop me, though.

  30. Michael*

    #2 References: Give employers a break here. Hiring is slow enough without having to wait for a candidate to then turn around and provide references after we decide we want to pursue them. Asking for them upfront just gives us the information that we will eventually need so nobody’s waiting. If you need to include a note like “Please don’t contact my references without giving me a heads up” then fine, but giving them upfront is just more efficient for those of us who already have to jump through so many hiring hoops.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The problems it causes for candidates are far greater than the inconvenience of waiting a day on the employer’s side. At a minimum, don’t require them until the interview stage — so that you’re just asking them of the ~5 people you interview rather than the hundreds who apply.

      1. Michael*

        What problems exactly are created? I don’t think I’ve seen them outlined, unless I missed them. If there are problems being created, I haven’t seen them in three years of hiring with a “references first” system. (And I’m honestly curious, even if I come off like an ass.)

        Also, you write below, “The problem is that you shouldn’t have to provide references until you’re sure that you’re actually interested in the job, and at the application stage, you often can’t be sure; it requires more contact with the employer first.” Why does providing the names and numbers of former colleagues depend at all on whether you know lots of details about the job? If you read the job description, you can probably realize, “Bob and Jane would be great references for this position because they supervised me when I did similar work.”

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The problem is that if you don’t know if you even want the job, you definitely don’t want your references being bothered about it, because you respect their time. So the problems are:

          1. Insisting on references up-front with the initial application causes anxiety for candidates unnecessarily (a lot of it, if you read the letters here about it). They worry about whether they need to contact and prep their references now (when they don’t even know if they’ll be called, or if they even want the job), because some people do prep their references for each specific job.

          2. It’s totally unnecessary! It’s needless anxiety for 99% of candidates, of course, because 99% of them will be rejected before you check references. So you’re causing stress for no reason.

          3. If you’re actually contacting these references before the very end stage of the process, you’re wasting their time, since neither you nor the candidate have even determined serious interest in each other yet. Since references are very often the type of people who tend to be busy, this is a misuse of their time and can even cause “reference fatigue,” where they’re less willing or less enthusiastic about being a reference in the future.

          1. Michael*

            I guess I am operating like the poster Malissa who writes, “I’m beginning to think that I’m the only person who tells my references when I start a job search and to not be surprised by any calls they may receive about me in the future. I don’t alert them to every single application where I put them down. That would annoy me. When I am a reference I know that Mary has started her job search and until she informs me that she actually got a new position I assume I could be called.”And in that case, that does address part of No. 1 that you listed.

            And if you want to prep your references for each job, then a note like the following seems enough: “I applying for a variety of teaching jobs and listing you as a reference, like we discussed. I’m focusing on 5th grade English, blah blah. Here are the links to the positions I’m applying for. If I move beyond the application stage for one, I’ll be sure to let you know more. Wish me luck!”

            But I get the anxiety thing. I guess a middleground would be to note on the application, “Please list your references below. We collect this information now to make our process more efficient, and we only contact references after we conduct interviews. Please note if you would like to be notified before we contact your references.”

            As for No. 3, I think we can agree this is bizarre, unproductive behavior, and I personally think it’s a minority of employers. I also think we shouldn’t adjust our processes to accommodate for strange situations like that. Employers could abuse any application information you give them; that shouldn’t prevent you from giving them what’s requested in their process.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Right, but you could solve this whole thing by just not asking for them until you actually want/need them, which is what many, many employers do and it works just fine.

            2. AD*

              If you absolutely must ask for them up-front, can you include some sort of note that makes it clear you are not checking them at this stage? That’s the part that causes anxiety, from what I can tell.

              While several people have asked me for a reference in an open job search, I ask them to keep me in the loop if they expect I will get a reference call. I wouldn’t get irritated with a candidate if I got an unexpected call about them, but

              1) Candidates often tell me what they would like emphasized, after being in the interview. Perhaps they realized after the interview that their skills in X never came up. If possible, perhaps I can bring up their skills in X.

              2) I don’t generally answer phone calls from unknown numbers unless I am expecting them. While I return voicemails in a timely manner, sometimes there is a back-and-forth that could have been avoided if I knew to expect a call from a reference-checker in the XXX area code.

      2. Jamie*

        I wouldn’t ask for, nor would I give references until after the interview stage. Doing it at the application level seems so inefficient to me.

        The only time I would recommend deviating is if the reference is personally recommending you for this specific job.

        Just this morning I recommended someone I know for a position. The hiring manager is interested in speaking with them, based on my referral, so of course when he sent his resume I’m sure he references my name in the cover letter. It’s smart to let them know this is the resume they were expecting and had discussed – so it doesn’t get set aside as if it came in cold.

        Otherwise, no way.

    2. Michael*

      And if I came across an application that said, the candidate will be “glad to provide references once you’ve established mutual interest,” I’d make the application as “Incomplete” and move on to a candidate who actually knows how to follow simple directions.

        1. JPT*

          I’ve seen many resumes with something like “references available upon request,” and I don’t have a problem with that. It just tells me that they might want to notify their references before their contacted. But on the other hand if the application specifically asks for references, I wouldn’t consider not giving any, unless the application deadline were such that I needed time to get contact information.

          I like knowing when my former employees are going to use me as a reference and it makes me much more prepared, but I also don’t mind if they do it without telling me. If we had an initial conversation that I’ll be a reference, that means I’m willing to be one for whatever job they’re applying for. If they worked under me then I pretty much know what I want to say about their skills and qualifications. (In my case this is much easier, though, because they work for me as a student and they’re mostly applying for entry-level positions.)

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            The problem is that you shouldn’t have to provide references until you’re sure that you’re actually interested in the job, and at the application stage, you often can’t be sure; it requires more contact with the employer first. And some employers (not all, but some) are dumb enough to contact references before interviews, and it’s not reasonable to waste your references’ time on a job you don’t even want. That’s why you shouldn’t provide them up front.

            1. JPT*

              Maybe the real issue is employers can ask for whatever they want and if you don’t provide it, they have 100 other candidates to look at who will do whatever they want. Ideally you wouldn’t provide references up front and you’d only give them if seriously interested… but the people doing the hiring hold all the power nowadays. Maybe not the best way to do things, but employers are going to do it anyway, so if you don’t include them you run the risk of being cut from the start, unfortunately.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Good employers recognize that it’s short-sighted to act as if they hold all the cards (because great people — the very ones you want to hire — have options and will be turned off by that). So really, seeing bad behavior from employers is a good way to screen out the places you don’t want to work, if you’re someone who does have options.

                1. JPT*

                  Just depends on how much you want the job! In my experience it’s seemed to be pretty standard that people don’t contact references until they’re down to a couple candidates. I can’t imagine calling references that early even if they are provided.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yep, most don’t — but some do (we’ve had letters here about it, in fact). There’s no way for a job candidate to know from the outside if the employer is one of the crazy ones that do, and many of them end up stressing over it.

                1. Anonymous*

                  I think the only “plus” to employers requiring references up front is when it turns out a reference is already known to the employer, but the applicant doesn’t know that. I still wouldn’t want to submit anything for that low of a shot, and my field is small enough to figure out who knows who anyway.

        2. Michael*

          I know it seems harsh, but the last time I hired I got 170 applications, and the time before that it was 214. There were dozens are highly qualified applicants and I had my pick. When both of those positions needed to be filled quickly, I needed to choose the path of least resistance to one of the highly qualified people.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            That’s not even a high number. I generally get 300+ applications (I’m hiring for a job now where I’ve had more than 600) and I still manage to fill jobs quickly while being respectful to candidates. You can certainly choose the path of least resistance if you want, but that’s not good hiring, nor is it a kind thing to do.

      1. K Too*

        Michael have you kept up with what’s going on in the employers market?

        If the candidates have not spoken with you or the hiring manager to see if there is mutual interest and a possibility that they might get an offer, why have them submit references?

        It’s a complete waste of the candidate’s and references time. I’m pro-employee and I think the current trend, especially since being re-employed again is to not give out personal info on an application until there’s an agreement of interest between both parties.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s also worth noting that the higher level the position — and the higher quality the candidate — the more likely they are to balk at this.

  31. Candace Baitz*

    #4 – Just remember it is what you create not how long it took you to get there. The only thing that matters is the end result and working too much will reduce your productivity.

    In the design industry, especially architecture, there are plenty of martyrs. We call them bleeding hearts. To some it only matters how much time they put in to show how invested they are. It may be that they have insecurities in their work output. Or their perception of success is twisted. Either way, focus on the great work you produce. Unless you manage this person it doesn’t matter. It’s annoying but some people just need to be ignored for you to focus on your own personal career goals. As long as you have results, the rest will fall into place.

  32. Vicki*

    #1 “Not to cause you more angst, but how do you know your other coworkers’ hands are clean?”.

    You dont’t. Or, more to the point, you know they aren’t, not really. They’re in a meeting. They’ve been touching their pens, papers, the table top, the arms of the chairs, their Blackberries, and their laptop keys. Unless everyone is Purelling before grabbing a sandwich, no one’s hands are “clean”.

    (Why is ANYone touching food that they are not putting on their own plates to eat???)

  33. Teacups*

    #2 – this is so funny because it just happened to me! My references have all been contacted to write a letter about me, while I have not been contacted at all. First, I was a bit mad because I would have wanted to warn my references. But the main issue is that at most, they can write are very general things about me since they do not have any particular questions to answer – questions that the employer might have after interviewing me, say. So, from an employer’s point of view, I don’t really see how they will be that helpful.

    1. Kristi*

      And they’re asking for letters of reference? I kind of thought this had fallen to the wayside and today’s employers preferred to talk to personally, ask questions, etc. Otherwise, why ask for references instead of letters of recommendation? Yes, weird.

  34. Anonymous*

    Should I notify my referees about failed application , even without an interview? Simply because I’m very close to my referees + they have been extremely supportive with my application + they work in the place I applied and will know anyway. Just wonder if it would be more polite to write an email? What should I say except “thank you for writing the reference letter for me but too bad I failed”?

  35. Anonymous_J*

    I have nothing of value to add.

    I just wanted to say that OPs 1 and 4 sound completely crazy-pants to me (I love that term, and I’ve been waiting to use it. Thank you, AAM!)

    I’m actually kind of disappointed that this whole edition wasn’t about crazy people. ;)

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