short answer Sunday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s short answer Sunday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. I’m interested in a second opening at a company where I’m in the final stages of interviewing for a different position

I’m currently in the process of interviewing with a good large corporation. I’ve interviewed with the recruiter, the hiring manager, and the team that I would be a part of. All that’s left is to interview with the hiring manager’s boss and to take their standard skills assessment test. I believe that I’m on a very short list of candidates (possibly a list of one).

However, yesterday a new position was posted in that company that I think I am more qualified for and would enjoy more. I’m not sure what to do. I’d hate for people to think I’ve been wasting their time and to built any bad feelings. Any advice?

There’s no good answer to this. It might be fine, and they might end up thinking you’re perfect for the other position and being thrilled you mentioned it. Or they might not be enthusiastic about you for the second position and start questioning your own enthusiasm for the first one. Personally, if it were me, I’d send a short email saying something like, “I noticed you’re hiring for an X as well. I’m very interested in seeing out the process for the Z position, but if that doesn’t work out, I’d love to talk about X, if you think there might be a match there.” But you should only do this if you’re significantly more interested in the second job; if you’re just a little more interested, leave it alone and only raise it if you get rejected for the first job.

2. How can I meet people in my new office?

My company has offices all over the world, and I’m part of a team that is primarily based in two northeastern U.S. cities. I am the only member of my team who doesn’t work in one of those two cities. This was fine for quite a while because I was working in NYC, and I was sitting in an area with another department, and we were all friendly with each other. I have recently moved to a new city, and I would like to meet people in the office (who are on other teams). I’m doing the same job, but my new office space is in a more suburban setting, and there’s no way to ask someone if they want to take a break and walk to Dunkin’ Donuts with you in the afternoon (because you’d have to walk about 15 minutes along a busy road to the nearest retail area). The people I worked with (by email) to secure my new office space are not in this state, so I can’t even meet them! Also, my new cubicle is off of a hallway that basically dead ends at my work area, so there is never anyone walking by.

I have said hello when passing people in the hallway, and I met and talked with a woman briefly who I met in the pantry, but that’s it so far. I do see people in the cafeteria, but it feels weird to just walk up to people and ask to join them. I guess I could do this if one person was sitting alone, but is that weird? I’m not trying to make all of my new friends at work, but I would like to meet a few other people who work for the same company. Any suggestions? (I’m willing to bring in doughnuts, if that will help.)

Yes, bring in food. Seriously, that helps. Also, you shouldn’t hesitate to introduce yourself to people, whether it’s dropping by their office or plopping down with them in the cafeteria. I’d just say something like, “I’m Jane Smith, and I do X. I’m the only member of my team here and haven’t met anyone else yet, so thought I’d introduce myself.” Lots of people will empathize with you when you explain that, and you’ll probably find a few who will take you under their wing to introduce you to others. (Not everyone will, but eventually you’ll stumble on the social director types that nearly every office has.)

Read an update to this letter here.

3. When should I mention that I sometimes walk with a cane?

I have a disability (arthritis) for which I occasionally use a cane for support and balance. I brought the cane with me at one interview earlier this year. As soon as the hiring manager saw it he told me the position was filled. I learned my lesson and no longer bring it with me to work even if I am in a lot of pain. Right now I am looking for a new job. When is the best time to talk about my disability? Some people say to discuss it at the interview. Others say to wait until I get the job and then tell them.

Actually, I don’t think you should bring it up at all! If it doesn’t interfere with your ability to perform the essential functions of the job, then it’s no one’s business — and it’s illegal for them to take it into account when deciding whether or not to hire you. I think you’re smart not to bring it on interviews if you think it’s working against you, but once you have the job, there’s no need to formally “disclose it” or otherwise make a big deal of it. Just bring it to work when you need it.

4. How to win employees’ loyalty

I would like to know if there is a planned guideline to win the loyalty of one’s employees. I think this is an interesting topic and I would like to know if there’s a sure-win method to winning our employees’ loyalty.

There sure is: Set clear goals and expectations and a bar for performance that’s both high and reasonable, recognize people for good work, give them honest feedback about how they can do better, ensure they have the resources they need to do their jobs, pay them well, address performance problems honestly and forthrightly, be reasonably transparent in your decision-making processes, focus on what matters (achieving goals) and not what doesn’t (being 10 minutes late), and treat people courteously and like adults.

5. When interviewing, when should I mention prior commitments?

I’ve worked as a live-in caregiver for the past two years, but now my client is moving to a retirement home. Before I knew that job would be ending so soon, I made a few commitments, including a few days out of town. Now that I’m applying for a less flexible job in retail, is it a good idea to mention these prior commitments when I first apply or interview? Will that make me less likely to be hired? Should I be honest up-front, or should I instead ask for that time off after I’ve been hired? Or is it simply unreasonable for me to expect that they would allow me the time to fulfill those previous commitments, as a new employee?

Wait until you get a job offer and then explain you have plans for whatever the dates are, and ask if it will be a problem to take those days off. It’s easier to get it cleared at this stage than it might be if you wait to ask as a new employee, especially in retail. (Also, because it’s retail, be prepared to be flexible as possible.)

Don’t bring it up in the interview stage though; it’s not relevant until they’re actually hiring you (unless they have an application form that asks, which some retail jobs do).

6. Applying for jobs in semi-dangerous countries

I want to apply for a job in a foreign country within my industry. The countries that I want to apply to are all semi-dangerous, Middle-Eastern countries. There are no job openings listed for these areas; you simply send in your resume and cover letter and hope for the best.

How would I write a cover letter that conveys my interest while also getting across that I am willing to live in a dangerous country and take almost any position available? All of the cover letters I see reference specific jobs, but this is just a shot in the dark. Help!

Just write a sentence or two (nothing longer than that) about why you’re interested in working in that country in particular.

Also, I’d avoid saying that you’re willing to take any position available. Your cover letter should be clear about what it is that you do; it’s your job to figure this out, not the employer’s.

7. Organization doesn’t want volunteers who are interested in being hired there

Recently I applied to volunteer at a place I also applied to work at. It’s a nonprofit organization that I think would be pretty fun to work at. I contacted one of the managers of the place and told him that if I couldn’t get employed, I would like to volunteer my time.

I met with him twice and seemed like a pretty good place to work and I was actually excited about working there as a volunteer. However, the volunteer office of the place is pretty nervous about me being a volunteer because I put in my cover letter or volunteer app that I would like to eventually be hired after being a volunteer. Essentially, a volunteer shouldn’t have any thoughts of future employment. I responded back, trying to be honest, with “I do have thoughts of one day being employed with you guys but that’s not the sole reason why I wanted to volunteer.”

I feel weird about volunteering there now. Meeting with him and his staff only reinforced the idea that this would be a good place to one day work at, but I find it odd that they don’t want me to have any future ideas of being an employee there if I volunteer. I’m not volunteering with the goal of employment in mind but I would like for that to happen one day. Should I not volunteer since my motives for doing so aren’t 100% pure?

It sounds like you gave them the impression that you think volunteering will increase your chances of getting a job there, and they’re wary of reinforcing that impression. They don’t want to invest in volunteers whose goal isn’t actually to continue volunteering with them, and they definitely don’t want to deal with you feeling resentful if your volunteer work never leads to paid work.

But as long as you’re being realistic about the fact that you may never get a paid job there, there’s no reason to feel weird; go ahead and volunteer if you want to. But I’d avoid making comments while you’re volunteering about how you’re hoping to be hired there; it sounds like you’ll make them feel awkward if you do.

{ 83 comments… read them below }

  1. fposte*

    On #7: Would you be volunteering if you knew you’d never get a job there? Then that’s the point to make: “Of course I’d love to work for the Teapottery, but I think this is a terrific opportunity to learn about the field and the people in it that’ll be valuable to me wherever I go, so I definitely want to do it regardless of employment possibilities here.” If you wouldn’t volunteer if you knew you’d never get a job there, then I think you should reconsider volunteering, because that’s exactly what they’re worried about.

    Then, as Alison says, don’t bring up the job again–and that’s including to your fellow volunteers. Be eager and involved in tasks that don’t relate to the job you want rather than falling into the trap of shadowing the work you want to do.

    Also, accept the risk that this kind of acquaintanceship can be a double-edged sword in the application process–they’ll know your weaknesses, whereas those of other applicants are mostly theoretical. We always have a lot of volunteers, many of whom applied for jobs and didn’t get them; the time it’s likeliest to be awkward is when they apply again after volunteering (and being thanked and valued and liked in our workplace) and still don’t get the job. So anything you can do to demonstrate that you understand that volunteering and employment are two completely different things will help you here.

    1. Liz*

      This all sounds great. I think the wariness could be coming from two sources, though: 1) They know there is no money to hire at any point. Or 2) For whatever reason the OP isn’t their idea of a good fit for the organization.

      Is there another place to volunteer? It sounds like this is already off to an awkward start, so why go through the hassle?

    2. A Bug!*

      Yeah, if you take a volunteer position there you have to be really careful not to develop feelings of entitlement, because those inevitably develop into feelings of resentment.

      Picture this scenario: You take the volunteer position, you convince yourself and the employer that you’re volunteering for the sake of volunteering, not to get your foot in the door for a paid position. You volunteer, you go above and beyond, you’re an awesome volunteer. Yay for you!

      Then a paid position opens up. You apply for it! How exciting, you’ll finally get your chance. You get short-listed, you get an interview. Maybe you start figuring the whole process is basically just a formality because you’ve already proven yourself to the employer. And then they go with someone else.

      How will you feel if that happens? How will you feel toward the successful candidate? Picture it really hard! Imagine yourself in that position and see how you feel. Do you feel like you were robbed of something you deserved?

      Yes? Then don’t take the position.

      (Hey, it’s workplace Nice Guy-ism! We need shorthand for “It’s Just Like Dating.”)

      1. Jamie*

        Yes – we do need shorthand for its just like dating!

        Because that’s perfect for this. The volunteer position is like being “just friends.”. It’s great if you really feel that way, and if more develops – great – if not thats great, too. If you just want to be friends until they come to their senses and love you back, then maybe being friends isn’t such a good idea.

        IJLD – too simple?

      2. Jeremy*

        Number 7 here.
        I actually thought about all of this before applying as a volunteer.

        How would I feel if they hired somebody else for a job I applied to? Do I just want to some how muscle my way in? Do I just really want to volunteer in the hopes that it will get me a job there?

        I thought about it for a good amount of time?
        Would I like to be employed there? Yes! Would I met some interesting people and learn some interesting there? Yes.

        They also have some pretty interesting benefits for volunteers at the place that is also quite appealing to me too.

        I trying to weigh all these options and I have to realize first and foremost that this won’t lead to a paid opportunity there. But I would be lying if I said that wasn’t in the back of my mind somewhere.

        It’s a large part of the reason that I didn’t volunteer to work there since … I guess a whole year now.

        And this is what I keep coming up. While the money would be nice it’s not the reason I want to work at this place. I can’t honestly say that I won’t get jealous. This job hunting thing has made me realize that I’m more emotional then I thought I was … but I going to do this

        without expecting a job. If someone gets a job that I’ve already proven I can do quite well, how I’m going to congratulate him/her for landing the position. I’m going to do my best as volunteer and just have fun with it, without bugging them about future positions that may open up.

        I’m going to try to do this and be greatfull for the opportunity to volunteer there … and at any time I feel resentful for not being employed I’ll just quite. I don’t think I will feel resentful but some things are a lot easier said then done when you actually get in the middle of things.

        1. Jeremy*


          “Would you be volunteering if you knew you’d never get a job there?”

          That was the main factor, in me deciding to volunteer. What if they never hired me to work for them? Man, I would miss out on all the interesting happening that’s going on over there. Things that I would really like to be involved in.

          I’m not 100 percent sure why I asked myself that question. But when I did, I wasn’t mad at the thought of it. I was just kindof so what they don’t hire me at least I’ll be doing something productive with my time.

          Of course as I said above, thoughts of what we would like to do or how we would like to behave can be different when the actual situation arises.

          1. Ex-volunteer*

            I worked at a non-profit once that didn’t hire anyone *without* having them volunteer first. I actually liked it better when I was a volunteer; I could do the stuff I wanted to do and not bother with the stuff that turned out to annoy me once I had to deal with it as an employee (flaky boss, sucky office environment, HR issues, etc.). Sometimes the magic wears off when you know too much about how the magician makes it happen. :-)

          2. Good_Intentions*


            I applaud you for having the sense to ask yourself tough questions about your motivation for volunteering. It shows you’re a thoughtful person with many ambitions, which is to be commended.

            As an addition to your ideas about volunteering to secure a position, please consider this suggestion that you also think about leveraging your volunteer experience- with this nonprofit or other(s)- to build up your resume, make contacts, and help your career long term?

            You didn’t specify in your postings here on the comments thread why you sought out this particular nonprofit. Is it because of its mission statement, satisfied employees, reputation in the community, or your own personal experiences with it?

            Should this volunteer opportunity not come to fruition, are there any similar nonprofits in your geographic area with which you might look into volunteering in the near future?

            No matter where and when you choose to give your time and skill set please realize that you can learn invaluable skills through helping plan fundraisers and other events, creating various documents, and doing different types of community outreach.

            Most important of all, you can establish yourself as a genuinely compassionate person whom any nonprofit would be truly fortunate to have on staff.

            Best of luck to you, whatever you decide!

            1. Jeremy*

              Those are good questions.

              Maybe there is one other ones that I can volunteer at but this one is actually in biking distance from my house. Heck, I was just doing a morning jog around there.

              As for it’s reputation, it’s also one of the main tourist attraction in my city. In fact, I use to go there quite frequently as a kid.

              The Mission Statement: Promote Creative Thinking

              Currently they work with a number of schools: Elementary, and High School to promote education, particularly in the sciences and math to get them (students) interested in pursuing a career in Science.

              They do stuff like: Hydroponics, Play with Electronics, and I’m pretty sure they do Programming too since they mess with Open Source Software.

              They also have a workshop to help teacher’s teach more effectively with new technology.

              Actually come to think of it, I don’t think there is any other place like it.

              If nothing else, I’ll at least get to build my skill sets and maybe one day, I’ll land a full time job. Whether it’s at this place isn’t really that important. Just that I get it eventually.

              Recently, I was on an interview. Didn’t get the job but I remember AAM advice and contacted the employer if there was anything I did wrong in the interview or could have said? And this person was nice enough to tell me that while I was a good interviewee, my skills weren’t at the level they needed to be.

              Thanks to that talk, I know what I need to work on and I believe that this place as a volunteer will help me with that.

              The hunt to have a decent paycheck with work that I would love to do is a elusive prey indeed.

              1. Good_Intentions*


                Wow, the nonprofit you describe sounds like a wonderful place to both volunteer and/or work!

                It’s tough to beat a high-ranking local tourist attraction with a focus on improving education, particularly in science and math where American students seem to lag. I can immediately understand why the place appealed to you.

                I’m happy to learn that you are going on job interviews and receiving constructive feedback that’s telling you how best to continue to grow as a professional to secure a full-time job in your field of choice.

                Honestly, I hope that you are able to volunteer with your preferred nonprofit without excessive awkwardness. Your passion for the subject and your previous experience as a visitor will make you a stand out volunteer for the organization, which should help you secure assignments to boost your resume and connect you with potential references.

                Well, that’s my two cents for the moment.

  2. Anon1*

    One more thought on loyalty: A company needs to have its employees’ best interests at heart – to be loyal to employees – to get loyalty in return. Of course business success comes first; where would employees be if the business failed? But to roadblock employees for political reasons that don’t have to do with business success damages employee loyalty. For example, you don’t lay people off to give the CEO an exorbitant salary, or ignore people’s feedback to stroke your own ego, or put people down because all the other managers are doing it and it makes you look tough. If you do have to fire or lay off, you explain why it’s necessary for the business and you do it with as much dignity, respect, and kindness as possible. Employees are loyal when they’re part of the team win or lose, and not when they can see that they’re just cogs in someone else’s machine.

  3. NewReader*

    For OP4, I would like to specifically point to something that has worked well for me in the past. Keep confidential information, confidential. If an employee tells you something that you simply must report- tell the employee that you must report it and tell him/her WHY. I found that I could encourage the employee to report it themselves in rare instances and that went okay because the employee was in control of the message and timing.

    But my main point was if an employee confides in you for some reason, requests your silence, make sure your actions match what you tell the employee. If you agree to keep it mum- do so.
    (This might happen for example with an ill spouse/SO. Perhaps the employee does not want to answer endless questions all day and does not want to see big sad puppy eyes looking at him/her. However you do need to know because of emergency phone calls or sudden call-outs, etc.)

    This one takes time to play out. Employees do compare notes with each other and after a while they do realize that you keep your word.

  4. Jamie*

    I’m curious as to why the goal is to inspire loyalty, which is a feeling, rather than an end result such as low turnover, high productivity, etc.

    It may just be semantics, but I would resent my employer putting a game plan together to engender my loyalty. It feels manipulative in some way.

    That said loyalty is something I strive to combat, so maybe I’m reading more into this than is there due to my personal issues.

    I’ve been loyal to individual bosses and to a company as a whole and I often wonder if I would be better off if this were not the case.

    1. fposte*

      That’s an interesting point–certainly “loyalty” can be code for “doing things the employer wants.” I think Alison’s answer would equally fit a question of how to earn employees’ respect or trust, too, which I think are actually useful in the workplace, feelings though they may be. So I think my question to the OP might be “What do you feel is lacking right now that loyalty would solve?”

    2. CatB (Europe)*

      I find it sad that such an important motivator for many employees gets so misused that it turns people wary. Loyalty (as in “a personal affective investment in an organization”) can and does work miracles, both for the organization and for the people. I’ve seen it, I’ve felt it.

      Loyalty is a feeling, for sure; but emotions are a powerful drive. And, when correctly set in motion, they make the “end result” easier to obtain (less distress, less wasted energy, more efficency, surprising results / ideas etc) in an enviroment that makes you smile Sunday night just before going to bed.

      That said, it is true that this kind of work environment is hard to come by and thus easy for people to believe it more of a legend. And *that* is sad, too, more than anything.

      1. Jamie*

        I don’t think it’s a question of it being misused – an d it may just be semantics, but yes as ou say the emotion of loyalty is a powerful drive. I just have an u easiness with that being deliberately orchestrated.

        Loyalty is one of the most powerful forces in humanity – but it’s beauty is as a natural outgrowth of mutual trust, affection, and often love. Almost everyone understands the concept of family loyalty, for example, but ive never known a family that set out with that as the goal. It’s a collateral benefit.

        There is a long history in the world of organizations from fascist regimes to harmless social clubs that corrupt the concept of loyalty by trying to create it artificially by manipulating the emotions of members for the benefit of the organization.

        In a workplace loyalty that stems organically from mutual repect and benefit is all the things you noted. But to try to create it for its own sake is akin, to me, to looking for advice on how to make someone love you.

        I think Alison’s advice is excellent regarding how to show loyalty to employees – which is honest. I think if the question was phrased asking how a company can show loyalty it would seem less manipulative to me.

        Again, it may be semantics.

        1. CatB (Europe)*

          Yeah, semantics. I agree almost 100% with what you said (wrote?), with the exception that loyalty may start as a “management technique”, but sometimes it ends as a life philosophy. I had clients (mostly small business owners) ask me “what can I do to make my employees loyal” and every time I said something along the lines of “be true to you by being true to them”. It changed several lives, I tell ya… They wanted loyalty so badly they ended up improving themselves as human beings to get it…

    3. Vicki*

      Many employees have become gunshy of the “loyalty” concept because we’ve learned, the hard way, that loyalty only ges one way. We work for you, put in the extra hours, get the job done on time and under budget – and get our positions “eliminated” by “cost savings measures” next quarter.

      I know a guy who cam e into the office on a Tuesday after the team spent the weekend getting product ready to ship – and 2/3 of the team was told they were laid off.

      Jamie is correct . Strive for quality, productivity, and low voluntary turnover. Not “loyalty”.

      1. Anonymous*

        I feel this. I stayed “loyal” to two jobs. I won’t get into specifics, but I made significant plans around (a) my move and (b) a potential better job because I knew it would create difficulties to leave these jobs or cut my hours during our busiest time. Fast forward to now. One job was taken away from me and given to the boss’s friend, and at the other, I am getting single-digit hours while two known slackers get the best shifts which they usually call out or arrive late for, or shuffle through and leave a mess for the next person to clean up.

        Screw loyalty.

      2. mh_76*

        I’m curious to know how #4 defines “loyalty”. I’m convinced that the days of employers being loyal to employees are gone. The days of people being loyal to people are still here to some extent and I wonder whether #4 meant loyal to him/her as their boss or loyal to him/her as a person, as in would want to work with him/her in future companies/jobs/etc.

        Having wondered that, loyalty is a two-way street and loyalty is a word with many many different connotations – means different things to different people.

  5. Rindle*

    #4: This doesn’t answer your question, but it’s on point. When I’m sitting alone in the cafeteria, it’s my desperately-needed down time. It’s the 30 minutes I look forward to, when I can read my book or just stare into space without having to be “in character.” Please don’t make me give up those precious 30 minutes to meet a new person. It’s not that I don’t want to meet you – I do. Just drop by my desk sometime when I don’t look like my hair is on fire and say hi!

    1. fposte*

      Sure, but that’s something you can politely say to somebody who comes by at lunch–you can meet them for 30 seconds, not 30 minutes, and say “Let’s pick this up again later–I break from everything at lunch, and my 30 minutes to myself then means I’m ready to go the rest of the day!” That’s not a reason for the poor stranded OP not to approach anybody, especially since plenty of people will feel the same way about being approached at their desks.

      1. Liz*

        Thank you! I feel like a lot of people who freak out about being approached in a friendly manner don’t seem to realize that other people are usually fine with a clear, honest boundary.

        I would think nothing of it, or perhaps like you more, if I walk up to say, “Hi,” and you say politely, “I’m sorry, I keep my lunches for down time…” or some other reasonable thing, and perhaps offer another opportunity to connect or approach me later.

        I live in Seattle with a lot of introverts, though, and more often it goes like this, “Hi,” followed by pained, awkward silence with person who obviously does not want to talk and makes it seem like it is my fault for suggesting such an awful thing. Or “Hi,” and something weirdly aggressive for the situation like, “You’re intruding on my time.” Or, “Hi,” and the other person asks a bunch of questions and seems really into the conversation and actually misses my signals to end the conversation, then avoids me in obvious ways forever after.

        Just use your words people. Seriously. Almost everyone you would want to talk with will understand.

      2. Heather*

        right. Have you ever tried saying that to someone when they wanted to sit with you at lunch? You might as well say that they smell and you hate them.

        1. Liz*

          Do you think acting as if you hate having to talk to them is any different? Introverts seem particularly prone to thinking ther motivations and emotions ate invisible unless expressed directly, but really almost everyone else already knows exactly what you think and what you want without having to be told.

          So you can 1) Politely state a reasonable boundary in a non-personal way, making it clear that it is the timing rather than the person that is the issue. Or 2) Quietly seethe and leave the other person guessing as to the reason.

          It really is easier to just say it, whatever it is, in the long run.

          1. Jen in RO*

            I can act like I enjoy talking to people and still wish I were alone :) I would rather fake it than have to tell someone that they’re bothering me.

            1. Liz*

              True extroverts know! You might think you’re faking, but if youre sitting across from someone like me, I am thinking,”how quickly can I get out of this mess?” and “what is his/her deal with not being able to say what is obviously desired.”

              I know when you hate having to talk with me :) I don’t know why you think that is something a pained effort can cover. It really, really, really does not have the effect of making me think you enjoyed my company. I am sorry, but it puts you on the “what was that?” list.

              Don’t waste your time faking it. The kind of people who care about connecting with you will see right through that, and the kind of people who would be hurt by honesty could never be placated anyway.

              Use. Your. Words. :)

              1. Jen in RO*

                Old post, but I was reminded of this due to the hug-crazy lady.

                Maybe it’s cultural? Around here, it would be considered very rude if you told someone “please don’t hug me” or “I’d rather eat alone”. I just fake it once and try to avoid it afterwards.

                Also, funnily enough, sometimes I start feeling comfortable even if I start off as annoyed. Even if you feel I’m faking it in the beginning, I might be truly enjoying the lunch/conversation/etc by the end!

              2. Laura L*

                Hmm… I’m not convinced that being an extrovert automatically makes someone direct. I think that some people tend to be more direct than others and I also think that being direct is a learned skill.

                Plus, there are lots of societal pressures to be indirect when dealing with people, particularly in uncomfortable situations. And not just in Seattle. :-)

    2. Vicki*

      This is #2 I think not # 4. The “Meet new people” OP.

      I was going to say something similar – please be cautious about dropping by people’s desks. The Introverts among us prefer to work when were working, not chat. Even if I don;t look like my hair is on fire, the most I’ll want from you is “Hi I’m new. My name is Suzy and I work for Fred.” Anything more will make me start to twitch.

      I’m not rude; I just don’t socialize at work.

      1. mh_76*

        I confess that I’m baffled by people what people mean when they say that they don’t socialize at work. I understand needing to get the work done (after all, it’s why jobs exist…or should be why they exist) but by not socializing, do you mean that you don’t ever say anything beyond “hello”, “good night”, and the bare minimum necessary to do your jobs to your colleagues? If they go to lunch en masse (happens at least rarely in every workplace), do they invite you to join or are you left behind, assuming that you’re not interested & wouldn’t be hurt? I don’t mean to sound judgmental and apologize if I do. I’ve had colleagues who weren’t as social as others and maybe we didn’t know much about them outside of the workplace, but they were sociable and didn’t never socialize. I’ve also had colleagues who did nothing but socialize and…well, there is a middle-ground in which people get to know colleagues a bit and get work done. I can’t imagine never being in a conversation with colleagues about non-work topics, even if it’s just about the basics.

        A still baffled but not judgmental Extrovert who hates night-clubs/club-esque places & super-loud music (except for maybe Tchaikovsky/Mahler/etc) and would rather avoid large tightly-packed crowds.

        1. LadyTL*

          Some of us just don’t have anything to talk about with our co-workers. If someone doesn’t share an interest there really isn’t much you can talk about without someone getting bored.

          1. mh_76*

            But, for sake of discussion, how do you know that if you don’t at least give it a shot? Granted, you can sort-of tell (for example, I don’t have anything in common with the “perfectly groomed” nails-painted, different shoes daily with no repeats ever, LV-bag-carrying people…they’re not bad people, we just don’t have anything obviously in common) but that’s not 100% accurate either. I don’t mean to say that you should share every detail of your non-work life (heck, I don’t even want to hear the diary-esque…or now, FB-esque… versions of my friends day-to-day lives) but it does help with work-related interactions to know a few things about someone – for example, if someone’s not quite grasping what you’re saying and you’re able to use a relevant analogy to explain.

        2. Jamie*

          I personally hate small talk, I do it, but hate it…chatting about weekends and weather with people with whom you don’t have a lot in common. And I’m opposed to forced greetings, so I seem pretty antisocial.

          However, there are probably about 10-12 people at work I genuinely like as people (as opposed to those I genuinely like as coworkers, which is a bigger group.). Although everyone is generally really busy these are the people I can count on for a quick story or joke or just to kind of connect wih.

          I don’t consider myself a very social person, at all, but I would be miserable if there were no one with whom I could chat once in a while. There is even a handful of people with whom I’d remain in contact if we no longer worked together – yet even they can’t make me enjoy a work party or cookout…I think I have a perverse reaction to orchestrated events.

        3. Cassie*

          For me, yes, it means when a group of my coworkers (some are supervisor-level, others are my level or below) go to lunch, they don’t invite me. If they did, I would decline. Most of them know not to bother inviting me.

          I do go to lunch with a couple of coworkers I’m closer to (maybe once every other week) but I don’t do the en masse lunch thing. And I know a few of my coworkers hate group lunches – they don’t want to go but they feel like they can’t decline, so they go reluctantly and are not happy about having to go.

          If I pass by a coworker in the hallway, I’ll say hi and smile. If we’re in the elevator or break room together, we may exchange some small talk (how are you? etc). But I really don’t care how your weekend was, I don’t care to share how my weekend was or what I plan to do next weekend. Aside from me being a somewhat private person and not wanting everyone to know everything about me, I don’t like people pretending to be one big happy family but then gossip about each other behind their backs. I refuse to participate in this junior high behavior (obviously, not every workplace is like this though). Also, since I’m a bit of a wallflower, I get lost in large groups (anything more than 3 people and I disappear into the woodwork). So it definitely isn’t my cup of tea to hang out in a large group.

        4. Jen in RO*

          I’m somewhere between an extrovert and introvert – or maybe I’m only an introvert with people I don’t know? When I feel insecure (for example, in a new job) I probably seem very antisocial, since even going to say “hi” feels to me like intruding on someone’s time. Once I get to know (and like) people, you can’t shut me up!

          I don’t have any useful advice for the OP. I was in his/her shoes, it sucked, and things only changed when my team grew from one (me) to more people. But I think donuts would have helped!

      1. fposte*

        So when is the poor new person ever supposed to meet anybody? We’ve warned her off approaching–not even lengthy talking, just approaching–during both work and breaks. Sounds like it might be simplest to start her off with a packet that says “Please don’t ever talk to any of us. To minimize the risk of that happening, we’re not going to tell you our names.”

        1. Jamie*

          Aww….this makes me want to buy the OP lunch today!

          Seriously, fposte is right. If you listen to us you’ll be alone and broke from buying food for people you don’t speak to.

          Just find the most friendly and approachable person there and let them do the work for you.

        2. Liz*

          That packet could be signed “Welcome to Seattle.”

          I honestly do understand that interaction is painful for true introverts. I just wish they understood that you can tell people what you need and it will be ok, but expecting everyone to just know what you need is unfair.

    3. Julie*

      I’m the OP for this one. I thought of this too, which is why I initially mentioned going up to a group of people, but that felt so intimidating… I realize there’s a good chance a person sitting alone might want to be alone, and probably my worst fear (in life) is that I’ll annoy someone. After I approach someone, if they seem reticent, I could jump in to say something like, “if this is not a good time, I completely understand” or “if you were enjoying your solitude…” – something like that would make me feel better about it. It’s also a pretty small cafeteria, but there is outdoor seating on a deck, and it might be easier to say “hi” to people outside. For some reason, this seems easier – you can at least mention the nice weather.

  6. Anonymous*

    #2, I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with AAM about bringing in food, assuming the OP is a woman. A few years ago, I read that women should avoid bringing food to work because it sends a subtle “Betty Crocker” nurturer message. I’ve kept it in mind ever since, and it’s pretty much rung true the whole time. I’ve never seen men bring in food or keep it at their desks. We had a male manager for a while who would occasionally order something for us as a thank-you, but somehow it felt different than if he’d brought in a box of whatever.

    I mean, if you work at a small office where it’s all women and no one’s looking to move up the ladder, that’s one thing. But I think you should avoid bringing food if there’s any concern about not being taken seriously later on.

    1. Jamie*

      I disagree – but then in my office men bring in treats as often as women. And I’m famous for bringing in Panera muffins for early am meetings and I think nurturing is the last thing any of the guys at work would call me.

    2. Anonymous*

      It depends on the workplace, and even the manager involved. With the group I currently work with, people bring in food all the time, so it isn’t considered to be a “women’s job” to provide food. At other places at the same workplace, there would be no way in h*ll I would bring in food, because it can lead to some other sexist behavior. Although even with the group I work with, the home baked stuff tends to be made by women, and the men typically bring in store bought stuff, so when a guy brings in something home baked like cookies, it’s assumed his wife/girlfriend/mother made it.

      1. Jeb-Ray Gumpeater*

        “…when a guy brings in something home baked like cookies, it’s assumed his wife/girlfriend/mother made it.”

        Is it sexist for me to think this is funny? :-D

    3. Liz*

      I kind of think that if they’re not going to take you seriously because they can only see “woman” rather than who you are, that is a situation that can’t really be fixed by avoiding baked goods.

      I used to avoid it and now I bring in extras all the time because I like to cook. As far as I can tell, there is no discernible difference. The people who think women aren’t competent already know I’m a woman, and the people who don’t care appreciate the treats.

      1. KellyK*

        I kind of think that if they’re not going to take you seriously because they can only see “woman” rather than who you are, that is a situation that can’t really be fixed by avoiding baked goods.

        I agree with that. You’d have to work pretty hard to avoid playing into someone’s “women are nurturing and warm and fuzzy, but not to be taken seriously” stereotypes, particularly with confirmation bias being what it is. And all that effort is better spent doing your work, and, if someone actually says something sexist, firmly but respectfully calling them out on it. Trying to make yourself not fit the stereotypes seems like a losing battle.

    4. mh_76*

      The issue of food-brining, gender, reputation is one that I believe is often over-thought by many. If you feel the urge to bring in food, do so and your colleagues will thank you…but don’t make a huge deal about it, beyond letting some colleagues know where it is (a quick email works too) and that it’s “up for grabs”. Even if the food is left-over cookies from a completely different event and not made specially for colleagues. People are very food motivated!

      Halloween is coming and if those of you with kids have extra kids’ candy, share it. Etc. Somebody will eat it and if it’s still there at the end of the day, offer it to whomever does the after-hours cleaning or to anyone else who comes in. I’ve certainly shared Peppermint Bark (synthetic mint flavorings and I don’t get along)/ that I didn’t want and raided surplus Halloween candy. I know…some of you are saying “eeewww” and some are saying “yum”…

      The “up for grabs” concept also works for “swag” that you don’t want (pens, keychains, etc), so long as it’s not from a partisan (political or other) opinionated…I know, not the best word choice…organization.

      1. some1*

        “If you feel the urge to bring in food, do so and your colleagues will thank you…but don’t make a huge deal about it, beyond letting some colleagues know where it is (a quick email works too) and that it’s “up for grabs”. ”

        OMGosh, thank you sooo much for this! I used to work with a woman who would bring in rhubarb pie, rhubarb crisp, everything rhubarb whenever it was in season. She would send out an email letting people know it was up for grabs, then she would tell you it was there if she didn’t see you take it. Well, I’ve never liked rhubarb so I always made an excuse about being full.

        Also, some people are on diets or have dietary restrictions, and they aren’t always people who are visibly overweight.

        1. mh_76*

          There was an AAM discussion about food / diets / etc. a while back.

          I find that a simple “no, thank you” works well for declining things that I don’t like or don’t want at the time and that colleagues have been respectful of that… well, maybe there have been a couple of times when I’ve had to elaborate as respectfully as possible… something like “no thank you, I’m not a fan of pineapple [or coconut flakes…or I’m stuffed from lunch etc.] …but thanks for offering!”

          1. Jamie*

            I think I mentioned this in the other discussion – but hands down the best way to stop this dead in it’s tracks is a polite no thank you, and if they continue another polite no thank you followed up immediately with changing the subject to something work related – preferably about something that they owe you, that they’ve been putting off.

            Oh, no thanks…btw do you have those numbers/reports/nail guns I’ve been waiting for? How are you coming on XYZ, and I was wondering if you had time to help out with ABC before months end…

            I wouldn’t do this to a direct report since that’s passive aggressive and bad management, but works great for bosses and co-workers who owe you stuff.

    5. Jen in RO*

      Maybe it’s another American vs European thing going on here… but why bake? I’d just buy some pastries from somewhere and share it. It’s gender-neutral and it takes much less time to acquire. (I hate cooking!)

      1. Jamie*

        I’m with you, Jen. If I bring something in its been lovingly baked and packaged by someone who isn’t me. They sell those things in the store, why am I going to get flour all over my kitchen counter if it’s not for my family? :)

        Some people enjoy baking though, I don’t get it either.

        1. KellyK*

          I like baking, though coworkers only get baked goods from me if it’s a special occasion. I’ve baked for baby showers and company potlucks, and for a charity fundraiser held at the office. It’s also just me and the hubby at my house, so a whole cake or pie might not get eaten at home the way it will at work. (Though not for lack of begging on the dog’s and cats’ part.)

    6. Julie*

      I don’t cook or bake, so I was literally going to buy some doughnuts and put them in the pantry and make a little sign that says something like – These are from Julie – I’m new in this office – I sit over here (little map) – please stop by to say hello, so I can meet you. I think if I make it known that I WANT people to come say hello, they won’t feel uncomfortable about doing it. It didn’t even enter my mind that bringing food could adversely affect me because I’m female. In this situation I’m really not worried about it, but I’ll keep that in mind for the future.

      1. mh_76*

        That sounds fine! Plenty of guys have brought in food to the various workplaces I’ve been in over the years. The food (from both genders) has been either specially made/purchased or left-overs from their kids’ Halloween candy/etc. and there hasn’t really been any gender-specific distinction – one of the best free-work-foods was a homemade pie brought in by a guy (yum…and I usually hate sweet potatoes too). I, a woman, have been known to re-gift Peppermint Bark from Christmas (see prev. comment) and re-bestow leftovers from a meeting that I had the night before, usually cookies or chips (but never already-opened salsa even if you know that nobody’s double-dipped). I also once brought in cherry tomatoes from my folks’ garden (I’d been to visit them over the weekend) – they tasted like candy!

        People are very food motivated, especially if the food is free. In the note, don’t forget your last name in case people want to email you thanks vs. stopping by (you’ll get some of both).

  7. Jamie*

    #2 – Alison is dead on about being friendly and you’ll stumble on the social director types. Every office has one, and I love ours as shes genuinely the sweetest and nicest person I know. We’re a great audit team – she puts everyone at ease and makes it pleasant and I…do whatever it is I do. :).

    I feel for you as it would be even harder to meet people when you don’t have any built in coworkers to introduce you around.

    They say if you have 2-3 work buddies it increased your job satisfaction inordinately, and I’ve Definately found hat to be true. Left to my own devices I’d be lonely, thank goodness for the social director types that dragged me into workplace friendships. Don’t know what I’d do without him.

    1. Sandrine*

      YES about the work buddies thing.

      I think I only managed to stay in my current job “so long” (one year on Oct 3rd) because I have nice work buddies.


  8. Kristi*

    #2: I agree with the food option in this situation, just something to bring folks around. Donuts, apples/oranges, some Halloween candy? Monthly potluck?

    Maybe starting a walking/running group at lunch, although that depends on your office location. Whatever you decide on, you’ll need to reach out a little more than most of are used to. Good luck!

    1. starts & ends with a*

      We did a Monday salad club. Everyone brought a different part of salad, we got together for lunch once a week and chatted. You’d have to enlist someone to help you plan, but it was a great way to meet other coworkers.

  9. Just Me*

    This topic is near and dear to my heart.

    Personally, I think the usage of loyalty is perfect as it relates to employee retention, happiness production and so on. And I get completely what the OP is getting at. I am confused as to why the word is being so overly analyzed. I am not sure what other word would fit?

    I have no loyalty to my company at all. I get to work, do what I have to do and go home. I give them nothing more than that. I could care less if they don’t make a profit or go under. (I know, pretty harsh and yes of course I know the repercussions and no I don’t REALLY want that for no other reason than I need a paycheck.) Anyone that wants to work there I would tell them a definite NO.

    Why? Without getting into details as I can go on forever, micromanagement for one. We have to report production 2 times a day as well as recording on a spreadsheet. We spend more time adding up what we did and emailing and recording then working.

    We get an attendance point for things like, in their words, wrapping your car around a tree, while coming to work and not coming in.

    They change the processes weekly.

    Production expectations are so unreasonable people are walking out or getting fired. One new gal, there a month and a half looked completely beaten down as she told me how stressed she was. Another gal told my co-worker she couldn’t deal with the pressure anymore, picked up her stuff and walked out.

    They have told us numerous times of group changes like self- directed work groups, or letting us ask questions within our group (we are basically not allowed to talk to each other to help each other) and have reneged on all of it. This is standard for them.

    There are no rewards. And Emails consist of what is changing AGAIN or what we are doing wrong.

    More than 80 have come and gone this year alone. We have about 150 people. Just in a month 3 people have walked out and 5 people gave notice and they fired 5.

    So, no I am not loyal, I do not trust them, I have no faith , call it what you want it is the same result. I am leaving as soon as I can find a new job.

    OP 4, please keep asking this questions and trying to determine and fix anything that revolves around employee retention, happiness, wanting to be productive and so on. It is a great question.

    1. Suzanne*

      Ha, Just Me! You must work at any number of places I’ve worked recently. Your comments strike a nerve here.

      Add to this a conversation I had recently with a friend who told me of a co-worker who committed suicide rather than face the firing that she was certain was on the horizon because that is what the place routinely does.

      So, yes, if employers want loyalty, they have to meet the employees at least half-way.

      1. Just Me*

        I am so sorry to hear about your friends co-worker.

        I forgot this stuff…. we have to have a meeting every morning with our team and discuss what we are going to do that day. We have to write on a sticky what we are going to do, how long it will take and how much we are going to do. We have to move each sticky from column to column as we complete each task.

        They believe that it is motivating us to hype ourselves up, rah rah look what I can do. When it is nothing but a pain in the **, waste of time, and really just a way for them to micro manage us.

        If we are late to this meeting we get an attendance point for even a min late.

        This place drives me koo koo and the rest of my coworkers have the same thoughts.

        I look at it this way… if you don’t trust I am doing my work then do the work yourselves.

      2. Liz*

        Oh no! This is awful! I am so sorry that someone felt that lost and alone. We should all try to avoid leaving anyone in that situation. Sending good thoughts for family and loved ones.

    2. Jeb-Ray Gumpeater*

      Been in a similar situation, hated it just as much :-[

      Good luck to you. Don’t stop believing it will get better…

    3. NewReader*

      Am glad you said this about the “loyalty” word, Just Me.

      People will be loyal to a supervisor loooong after they have given up on the company they work for. I think we probably have variations on what loyalty is. For me, it was “don’t let crappy work go out of our area.” I never shot the messenger. If someone said “This is not the end item we want.” I would help fix it or create a plan to get it fixed. I made it a point to thank the messenger.

      My thinking was “Let’s all remember that we all need to eat, need to have a roof over our heads, etc. Let’s work and treat each other in a manner that we can keep working.”
      The situation was such that I could not stand there and say “this is a great company.” I would have been laughed out of a job.
      We had fairly low turnover and productivity was great. It made it easier to go to work because we were doing a good job with our corner of the universe.

  10. danr*

    #3…. after you’re hired, just use the cane as you need to. I needed to use a cane for about 6 months after a back injury. After a bit, folks noticed when I *didn’t* need the cane so much. Another advantage is public transit. Depending on the neighborhood, using a cane can get you seats on a crowded bus or subway.

  11. mimimi*

    So many people do think that volunteering is a way of “auditioning” for a job and if they are not offered a position they act as if someone has made a promise to them and broken it. I have heard people say things like, “I stopped volunteering there after four months because they didn’t offer me a job.”

    You cannot obligate an employer to hire you, by volunteering.

    1. Jeremy*

      YES I CAN!!

      Obama taught me that in 2008. :P

      But not to get too political and back to the topic at hand.

      What the hell is 4 months? A summer?

      It takes 30,000 hrs to become an expert at something. Stopping to consider sleeping and eating that’s about 10 years. Now considering I will be spending probably 1/4 that time as a volunteer that’s comes down to 40 years time for me to be an expert.

      If they don’t hire me for a full time job after 40 years as a volunteer then I will complain to the high heavens for wasting my time with them! But hopefully, I won’t have to worry about that a year from now.

      So I give them to 40 years to make them consider hiring me. After that then I will quit.

  12. Suzanne*

    As far as volunteering goes, I volunteer several places because I enjoy it, but would also be thrilled to work there. I do know that the local and very large public library seems to mostly hire people who are volunteers.

    I don’t know about building loyal employees. I only know that I haven’t worked anywhere in about 5 years that seemed to give a “you know what” about their employees. I’d have left most of them quicker than I did if I could have found anything else. With the high unemployment, I honestly don’t think most businesses care about building loyalty because they don’t need to. There are plenty of other future employees out there, ripe for the picking.

    1. mh_76*

      A bit of an aside: it’s even OK to volunteer at places that you don’t want to work for.

      Re: employers’ loyalty to employees, it seems to be a thing of the past…or is rapidly heading that way.

  13. KellyK*

    #3 I agree with Alison’s response. There’s no point mentioning a disability until you either need accommodation or can be pretty confident that it won’t be held against you.

  14. Answeringbeforecoffee*

    #3 – It depends on the company. I’m in a similar position, mostly okay but occasionally needing a cane for support/balance. At a former job, after about a month of needing it off and on my manager and HR said something to me about whether I would continue to be PERMITTED to bring/use it, regardless of whether I needed it. It had no effect on my ability to do the job; physical mobility was irrelevant. I decided to (quietly) firmly ignore them and seek legal counsel if they did try to tell me that I could no longer bring it in, and it was never brought up again. Still, something to be aware of; apparently some employers take issue.

  15. Mary*

    in regards to #5…He asked me when I could start the hiring process because he is leaving town in 3 days..I told him I am available immediately but have an annual family commitment next Friday.He said he respected that and said he could work with that. Ill let you know by Thursday if it shot me in the foot.

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