fast answer Friday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. I don’t want to cover the front desk if I get promoted

Recently, a great opportunity has come up with another department in my company. I applied for it and interviewed yesterday. I know I don’t have the job yet, as she has one more interview tomorrow, but my question is an “in the event of” question.

My current position, among other duties, involves covering the front desk full-time. I’m curious how to approach the situation if they ask if I’m willing to cover the front desk in the future. There are very few people who are trained to cover, and the regular person has made it very clear to both me and my boss how much she hates doing it. I’ve been in this position for 2 years and am very burnt out, so I’m not really eager to be called on in the event the new receptionist isn’t here. Should I address this with my new supervisor if I get hired? I don’t want to seem difficult and uncooperative, and I’m happy to answer questions, but since I’d be in a completely different department I want to be able to give my attention to that job.

If you’re asked to cover the front desk in the new job, you can certainly say that you want to be able to focus your attention on your new job, and you could even explain that one of the reasons you sought the promotion was to move away from the front desk. You might need to agree to cover it in emergencies, though, if they don’t have many people to share that responsibility.

2. New boss is worried that I might be too high-energy

I just accepted a job offer that I am incredibly excited about, thanks in no small part to your advice and your books. During the interviewing process, one of my references reported back to me earlier this week that while speaking with the hiring manager, she expressed the concern that I “might be too high energy.” I think I can see where the observation comes from — I’m a very driven, focused person and have worked extremely hard to immerse myself in my field, serving on national professional committees and pursuing additional education whenever I can. I’m happiest when very busy!

How can I present myself to allay her concerns? What might some of them be? I know that I’ll have to work hard to be sensitive and integrate myself into my new organization, but I know myself — sometimes I get excited about things and go a mile a minute. What would be some good tactics for dialing it back or what should I recognize as signs that I need to back off? (I know some of these already, but I’m trying doubly hard to figure out more since I’m so excited about this opportunity.)

There are two kinds of “high energy.” There’s being driven and productive and focused on getting things done (which might be the description of yourself in your first paragraph), but there’s also being more hard-driving than fits comfortably with the culture (which might be what’s in your second paragraph). The concern with the latter would be that you might not respect process in your race to get things done, might not work well within a slower-moving structure, might run roughshod over or clash with slower/quieter/more deliberative coworkers, and/or might not stop to think ideas through before plunging forward with them.

Since you know this is a concern, be vigilant about paying attention to the culture there, make sure you’re not talking more than others, check with your manager before moving forward with things, etc. And don’t forget to make sure that you like their culture too — they might be too low-energy for you.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Manager expects me to slack off

I am getting a promotion to a new job with another group that works closely with the one I am currently in. My manager is fully expecting me to turn into a slacker and not do anything until I leave. She admitted that what she does when she changes jobs. I am offended that she projected her poor work ethic on me when I will make sure all of my ducks are in a row before leaving. My work ethic is rock solid. Obviously, I am not going to become her self-fulfilling prophesy of slack. Is it better let it go and not say anything or should I stand up for myself on something like this?

Let it go. It reflects badly on her, not on you. You can demonstrate that you’re not going to slack off by … not slacking off.

4. What should be in my resume objective?

I am applying for entry-level positions and I am confused about what should be in an objective statement. I read so many sources that suggest totally different things: should I write it from my perspective, like qualifying adjectives about me with what I’m looking for (i.e., hard working, detail-oriented individual looking for entry-level position where I can apply my xx and yy skills) or from the employer’s perspective (i.e. an entry-level position that needs xx and yy). And how many adjectives should/could I use?

Your objective should use zero adjectives, because it should have zero words. You shouldn’t have a resume objective at all, because they are lame and unhelpful and outdated. More here.

5. Following up on a job application in retail and food service

My situation is a little complicated. But all I want is a part-time job at a grocery store, fast food joint, or a theater. You’d think these position would be easy to get, but I have had no luck in three months of constant applications. It could be something to do with me (I admit that), but from what I infer from others even these jobs are high competition. In regards to these “lower tier” jobs I ask you the following question. Is it beneficial to call and check up on these employment opportunities? You answered this before but it seemed geared toward higher paid employment opportunities.

Yes. Retail and food service are the big exceptions to the “do not call and bother managers just to check on your application” rule.

6. Don’t want to be perceived as a vulture

I’ve been working in my current position for a little over a year. The contract ends at the end of 2012, so I’ve been looking for a new job for some months already. I just heard that another woman at my place of work, who has a job I’d LOVE, is leaving to take a new position. Her position will be open, though it has not yet been officially posted, even internally. My coworkers are encouraging me to contact her boss (whom I’ve met but only once, and briefly; I don’t expect him to remember me, and I doubt that he’s heard about me–he’s in a different department) about the open position. However, I feel uncomfortable doing so. Is it appropriate to ask about this now-open position, and if so, how should I frame it? I don’t want to be perceived as a vulture, but I do want to be proactive about contacting her boss because the job would be a great move for me, career-wise. I am admittedly shy about career stuff, so maybe I’m making this a bigger deal than it is, but I’d love suggestions as to how to approach this situation.

Hell, yes, ask him about it. That’s totally normal to do, and you will not be perceived as a vulture. Just tell him that you’ve heard Jane is leaving, and you’d love to be considered for her position when it opens up.

7. Correcting a manager’s speech

I have a boss who commonly says “anywheres,” “somewheres,” and “nowheres.” It’s so embarrassing. We work with many people in leadership positions and it doesn’t help that it is an educational organization.

I fear that he is so sensitive he would be highly offended if I said something. I’m not even sure he would find anything wrong with it because I think he believes it to be the correct usage. He also has a horrible knack for saying “and so on and so forth” when he’s speaking and while this is not grammatically incorrect, it does give a bad impression with its over usage. Do you believe anyone in particular in the organization should address this, and if so, how does one tell this person, “stop saying that!”

Let it go. Unlike the letter earlier this week from someone wondering about whether to correct an employee’s pronunciation, you are not his boss, and therefore this is not your issue to correct. If someone above him is concerned about it, they should address it.

{ 129 comments… read them below }

  1. Restaurant Manager*


    It’s okay to call to follow up on your application. When people call I ask them what their availability is and if it sounds like something that suits my current needs I jot their name to look for them later. If it doesn’t, I let them know I am not filling any positions in that time slot right now.

    However- do not call during peak hours. Most restaurants have lunch between 10:30/11-2 and dinner between 5-8. Some have good breakfast hours- get a feel for what type of place your trying to work at. You are typically safe to call between 2pm and 4pm.

    It’s a lot easier to get a job in retail with either open availability or a very flexible availability. With the job market the way it is you may just not have enough hours available for the places you are applying to. If I can choose between someone who wants to work part time around another job and someone who has my job as their primary job- I’m going to pick the second candidate most of time. And right now I often have that choice.

    1. VintageLydia*

      Oh yeah open availability is key. When I worked retail, our store management didn’t have the ability to write our own schedule (seriously–it was automated in a computer program) and even if they only needed someone to work for 15 hours a week, even if you were available for 25, but only during evening hours, you’d only be scheduled for one or two 3 hour shifts a week.
      Even when we were able to write our own schedule, though, not having an open availability even with our part time positions was a real issue.

      And don’t bother if you can’t/won’t work weekends and you better be available ALL weekend EVERY weekend ESPECIALLY holiday weekends.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Urggh. This is why I’m trying to avoid those jobs, especially if I’m going back to school. I need to avoid working weekends both because I need the uninterrupted study time, and because I have other things to do. Also, they don’t pay enough for me to live on.

      2. Meg*

        Is this retail experience at Walmart? I was a manager at Walmart with this very same experience in scheduling.

    2. Rodney*

      I worked bigbox retail for too long, and have some advice into getting the job in retail.

      It’s not about you. It’s about your availablity and if the hiring person happens to look at the applications when your app is there (near the top) to be seen. For big-box, I would (and did) put in a seperate app at every installment within your comfortable driving/transportation distance.

      Hope this helps. :)

  2. JamieG*

    re: #5

    -Please- don’t call during peak hours. Retail stores, avoid holidays and weekends (especially the evenings). Calling during a typically busy time just to check on your application will probably just annoy the person taking your call, since you’re taking them away from what they need to be doing. Also be careful to be super polite to everyone you talk to; if you come across as a demanding jerkface or whatever (not saying you will, but that -some people- do), whoever answered the phone will probably let the manager know. I definitely do.

    Also, at some places it won’t make a difference. I’ve verified this with the managers where I work, out of curiosity, and they really don’t pay attention to whether people call or not. I suspect interviews are granted more on (a) availability and (b) the results of the annoying, billion question personality test thing included in the application.

    Seriously though, I hate those things. Who’s going to say “Yes, it’s totally okay to steal from an employer sometimes!” or “I hate working with people; people are awful and I would like to axe-murder all of them” when applying for a retail job?

    1. Josh S*

      Those personality tests are ridiculous. I always overthink them in an attempt to be honest.

      Question: You believe it is always wrong to work through your break.
      True (“I’m the sort of person who always takes advantage and never gives anything extra at work.”)
      False (“I’m the sort of person who flaunts the workplace rules to collect unscheduled OT, and will generally be a thorn in the side of my manager.”)

      Which of the following statements best describes you:
      A) I have never told a lie. (And if you believe me, I have a bridge to sell you…)
      B) I lie all the time. (I’m an unethical bas****, and you can’t trust me.)
      C) I lie sometimes, but only when it gives me an advantage. (I’m a sneaky, unethical bas****, and you really can’t trust me.)

      These personality questions are 50% obvious answers, and 50% who the crap can tell what they’re looking for. I hate them.

      1. Malissa*

        I took one of those tests when I went to work for a warehouse store. They actually “counseled” me on the ones I got “wrong.”
        I had the same thought as you running through my head the whole time.

      2. JamieG*

        The hardest for me to figure out were the “Everyone steals sometimes” questions, of which there were about 15 variants in that particular test. I was thinking
        True: So it’s totally okay if I do it too, right?
        False: So I’ll be completely oblivious to customers and/or coworkers stealing stuff.

        I don’t even remember what I ended up deciding on for those.

        1. Kelly L.*

          My favorite was:

          (true or false) “My personality doesn’t change much when I get high.”

          I actually went to the hiring manager with that one and explained that I didn’t know how to answer it, as either answer implied that I got high, which I did not. She was stumped–not just stonewalling or anything, but genuinely stumped. I don’t think she’d ever actually read the test all the way through. (I didn’t get the job.)

          1. Rather testy*

            Ah, yes. I still remember one of those that I came across in 1989. It was so stupid I sat there and memorized it, and remember it to this day. It was at the convenience store next door to my apartment complex. The question was “I have used drugs in the past, but it doesn’t affect my job performance now.”

            If you answer true, you’re admitting to past drug use; if you answer false, you’re admitting to past drug use AND saying that it still affects your job performance. IIRC, I also asked and was told something along the lines of “Just answer to the best of your ability.” I don’t think I finished the test.

            After living next door and buying stamps and beer from their perpetually befuddled clerks for a while, I finally realized that the correct answer must have been “false.”

        2. Josh S*

          Right. This was the one I was trying to remember and couldn’t dredge up. Everybody steals? Really?

          No, I don’t have that base of an opinion of humanity. There are plenty of genuinely honest people in the world who have never stolen a dime and would rather lose an arm than be accused of it. But yeah, plenty of people steal, ‘shrink’ is a HUGE issue, particularly with employee theft (which accounts for the vast majority of retail theft), and I don’t necessarily give my co-workers or customers the benefit of the doubt unless I have a reason to or it makes more sense to treat them well than accuse each individual person of theft.

          But no, let’s condense the previous paragraph into True/False for the sake of your scantron test.

          1. JamieG*

            I wanted to write an essay for about half of those questions. Especially the true/false ones where, of course, there are about a million ways to land in between the extremes.

            Apparently I did well enough to land a job (though my open availability definitely helped), but geez. They aren’t even useful.

  3. Ryan*

    #3 I understand the irritation with that though. I, personally, would have said something right then and there “I’m not YOU.” Otherwise your manager might get the erroneous impression that she guilted you into not slacking by mentioning she thought you would even though you never had any intention of it in the first place. I don’t allow anybody to question my work ethic but that’s just me.

  4. galpal*


    I’ve worked in the oil and gas industry for years. We HAVE to have an objective. I tried to eliminate mine and used a summary but was told to add the objective back by numerous HR reps. Oil and gas does have a lot of baby boomers in management, maybe that’s why.

    Find out what your industry standard is and follow accordingly. Have a few different resumes geared to each type of position.

    If you can even find out what the manager wants for the job you’re applying for, do so, it will improve your chances of getting that job.

    1. LL*

      Government positions, too. That federal jobs system required an objective when I applied last year. You literally could not move past that step without adding something.

  5. Lee*

    #7 – I completely relate. My boss says “supposably” all the time, and I cringe each and every time, especially when we’re in meetings with clients/other executives. While I wish oli could say something I think Alison’s right- we just have to let it go :)

      1. CounselingCenterOfficeManager*

        The use of “irregardless” is one of my biggest pet peeves. I know it’s a word, but…it’s just wrong. I didn’t know that supposably was a real word, though. I always thought that one was just a mispronunciation.

          1. fposte*

            Eh. You can acknowledge the value of descriptiveness and still consider some words more appropriate in formal use than others. Descriptively, people may wear tank tops and assless chaps to work, but I still get to say that our workplace requires more formal attire.

      1. LL*

        Ooh, what’s it called when two words are combined like that? Is it elision or is that something else? Ginormous is another example.

        When once asked how I was doing, I responded “stressfrated,” not even noticing that my muddled mind was combining stressed+frustrated into a new word. Co-workers still bring that one up from time to time.

        1. LL*

          The word I was searching for is portmanteau. (An elision is omitting part of the sound of a word, such as fish ‘n chips instead of fish AND chips.)

          1. Natalie*

            Assuming David Crystal (The Story of English in 100 Words*) is a reliable source, the official linguistic term is a “blend”. But everyone loves portmanteau so it’s used pretty commonly.

            *Given that we’ve been discussing language a lot lately in the comments, I’ll take a moment to plug this book. It’s not heavy linguistics, just light, readable segments on 100 different English words, their history, and general aspects of English he thinks are represented by that particular word.

  6. LK*

    7. Correcting a manager’s speech

    I feel your pain – my boss is a school administrator (though he doesn’t work directly with students, thank God) and his communication skills are awful. He frequently mispronounces things, sometimes he makes up words (“Tooken” instead of “taken”) or he tries to use a $5 word and winds up using it incorrectly. It’s complete nails-on-a-chalkboard feeling for me, but even though I’m a grammar stickler I have to let it go because it’s ultimately not my problem. Look at it as an exercise in mindfulness :)

    1. businesslady*

      the one exception to this, I think, is if there are potential negative repercussions to the error. I once found myself in the very, VERY uncomfortable position of explaining to my boss that “Oriental” was no longer considered an appropriate way of referring to people of Asian descent. it was one of the most awkward moments of my life, but I felt it had to be done before someone got really offended (I mean, I’m white, & it offended me somewhat). I did it in a closed-door conversation, & the boss was very appreciative…but then still continued to use it occasionally, at which point I decided it wasn’t my problem anymore.

      I’m also a grammar pedant, so there are a lot of other weird verbal/written tics that I have to just ignore in order to not constantly alienate everyone around me. :)

  7. Anonymous*

    @6 Go for it! The other manager probably already has more than enough on his desk without adding the tasks and uncertainties around hiring a replacement. Since you’re already known within the organization, your timely appearance could be the answer to a prayer.

  8. Long Time Admin*

    #1 – Front Desk Coverage. I sympathize with you! I *hate* covering the front desk. Our company let both receptionists go, so they needed to get a rooster of people willing to do some 2-hour shifts. I needed to get another line on my time card, so I took several shifts. Greeting visitors is one thing – answering the phones is another things. I was sooo happy when they got some people trained for permanent rotation and use them now.

    #4 Resume Objective. If you’re an admin, you almost need to have an objective. I always say “blah, blah, blah, to help my team achieve corporate objects (or goals). Admins usually don’t have accomplishments that we can quantify, so we have to find other ways to strut our stuff.

    #7 Correcting a Manager’s Speech. I grew up in the north with parents who were very strict about using correct English (both had immigrant grandparents and were “Americans”, not “some-Americans”. I moved to the south 8 years ago and it took me more than 5 years to stop cringing at things like “we was” and “y’all’s” (as in, “I have y’all’s food ready – COME AND EAT!” [in the office on food day]). When you’re cringing at something your boss says, just remember that it could be worse. A lot worse.

      1. Laura L*

        Yes! I’m not even from the south, but English (well, American English, at least) desperately needs a second-person plural pronoun.

          1. Sonya*

            “Youse” is uniquely Australian, I thought.

            “Youse” (as in “you people”);
            “All of youse” or “youse all” (as in “all of you”).

            Since reading the Ya-Ya Sisterhood books, I have brought “y’all” into my lexicon.

        1. NDR*

          Nerding out – technically “you” is our second person formal/plural pronoun. We dropped the second person singular/familiar, “thou.”

          1. BW*

            I just got a new phone with Android 4.0, and when I swipe “you”, it always suggests “thou” as the first choice. :)

          2. Lynne*

            I say we bring back “thou!” :) I’m doing my bit – I totally use it sometimes in speech with friends. Or in messaging. Of course, then you have to conjugate it correctly, which enough people would have trouble with that it would probably turn into a nails-on-slate thing…

            And it flows better if you drop into older usages of other words, too. The other day, as I was typing “seemed,” my iPad spellcheck suggested “seemeth” – I have trained it well. :P

    1. Ellie H.*

      I love yall – I like spelling it without the apostrophe though). Almost every single language besides English (well, you know, we have yall) has a plural “you.” I only lived in Texas for a year but will happily claim yall for the rest of my days.

      I don’t say it at work though, for what that’s worth, because so many people associate it with other grammar malapropisms, and I live in New England where this is particularly the case.

      1. KayDay*

        I agree–a plural you is necessary! (and I’m seriously going to write a book about my suggested changes to English grammar). I like removing the apostrophe to “decontractionize” it.

      2. Josh S*

        In the Deep South, ya’ll has a different construction.

        Y’all: Second person singular
        All Ya’ll: Second person plural
        Y’all’s or Y’all’ses: Second person singular possessive
        All Y’all’ses: Second person plural possessive

        Yes, that feels particularly redundant to me too. But it’s just how it’s done.

        1. Ivy*

          y’all = you all
          all y’all = all you all

          Because the first “all” doesn’t encompass quiet enough :P
          Language can be funny sometimes.

        2. April*

          As someone who has lived in the deep south all her life, this is silly. Y’all is a contraction of you and all (which is why the apostrophe is used between the y and a). It is not used to refer to one person, only to 2 or more people. In 40 years, I have never heard “Y’all’ses” or any variation.

            1. VintageLydia*

              Virginian here and I concur. I say “y’all’s” and all the others on a regular basis, as do most of my friends (especially the more country ones–I grew up in Tidewater so a lot of my friends are military transplants but I had plenty that were born and raised Virginians.)

          1. BW*

            Best friend is from Louisiana. She, her family, and her LA friends all use “y’all” as singular and “all y’all” as plural. Josh’s post sums their usage up quite accurately.

            1. Jenn*

              The usage differs even within the state. I’m a Texan and I use “you” to refer to a single person and “y’all” to refer to multiple people. I’ve never heard someone say “all y’all” except on TV.

          2. Job Seeker*

            I believe different parts of the South say things a little different. I have tried to watch myself with the expression of ya”ll because I don’t live there any longer. My accent is very much soft southern and the expressions still come out. I never heard variations on ya’ll either.

        3. BW*

          The Northeast / New England equivalent is “you guys” (applicable to all genders).

          You: Second person singular
          You guys: Second person plural
          Your: Second person singular possessive
          You guys’ or All you guys’ – which may be pronounces “guys” or “guy-ses”: Second person plural possessive – “I have all you guys’ food ready.”

              1. Fourth Time Poster*

                Yes, yes–yinz! I’ve known many folks from Pittsburgh, and they have such a specific accent and particular terminology that I have correctly asked strangers in other parts of the country, “Are you from Pittsburgh, by any chance?” They’re always fairly amazed when I guess it! :-D My dad, who is 60+ years removed from living there, still calls a shopping cart a “buggy.”

            1. Jamie*

              The only place I’ve heard this used was on SNL when they were doing Da Bears skit.

              I’ve lived in the Chicago burbs the major part of my life (and was raised here) and can honestly say I’ve never heard this used, even amongst the people I know with heavy Chicago accents.

              1. Laura L*

                Hmm… The ED of a place I used to work used it. He was from Joliet and the South Side (I think he lived both places). I don’t hear it much either, so maybe it’s a generational thing.

          1. JuliB*

            Grew up just outside of Chicago (near O’Hare) – I thought I was the only one who used the ‘guy-ses’ pronunciation. But I’ve used it with ‘this is your guys’ ___ over here’. Wow!

            I’ve kicked the habit but it makes me smile to hear/read it.

          1. Meg*


            I’m from Charlotte, NC and I’ve heard:

            y’all, all y’all, summa y’all, and “what chy’all” as in WHAT CHY’ALL DOING? (I believe Paula Deen uses this one too)

      3. Natalie*

        The farthest south I’ve ever lived is Ohio, but I still use y’all occasionally. I’m not sure where I picked it up.

      4. Vicki*

        I’ve lived in Central Pennsylvania (western PA uses “you’ns”), Maryland near DC and now California, none of which have their own plural “you”. I happily use y’all!

      5. Elizabeth West*

        Southwestern Missouri, technically considered by some to be South because of the division of the state during the Civil War (but not deep South), has the variation “you’uns.” I have lived here most of my life and never heard it, until I dated someone who was so rural as to almost be considered hillbilly.

    2. Tiff*

      Y’all goes with the drawl! I’m pretty correct during the workday, but y’all is just one of those little phrases that sneaks in, along with the occassional southern habit of putting a hard emphasis on the front of a word: Joo-ly (July), UMbrella. Oh, and dragging out one syllable words until another syllable magically grows on the end.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m going to dispute that admins need objectives! I’ve hired plenty of admins and seen tons of admins’ resumes, and you absolutely don’t need an objective.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Speaking of objectives…I was going through the network folder of a former employee and found his wife’s resume. The objective said: “Utilize my skills and abilities to obtain employment.” Really? I didn’t realize the purpose of job hunting was to obtain employment. Who woulda thought!?

      2. Long Time Admin*

        I know that we don’t agree on that. However, where I live now, it’s expected on a resume. This is definitely not a modern, up to date, cutting edge place.

  9. KayDay*

    #2 (High energy) worries me. It could be that the organization sees you as a really extroverted, outgoing, talkative, enthusiastic person, and they are worried you might not fit in with the culture. If that is all, you will (as Alison said) just have to be vigilant that you aren’t driving everyone nuts by talking all the time. But I also wonder if the organization is really slow-paced. You say you work best when busy, and I’m wondering if the organization really won’t have enough work to keep you busy. If that’s the case, you might quickly find yourself bored and unhappy soon.

    (And sorry for such a debbie-downer post. Of course, you should still give the organization a fair chance and try your best, it’s just something to be cognizant of.)

    1. class factotum*

      A friend interviewed a candidate for her group. She turned the candidate down. “She’s smart, hard-working, and high energy,” my friend said of the candidate, “and she would have gone crazy with the slowness and the bureaucracy we have to deal with here.”

      Sometimes, it really isn’t a fit.

      1. BW*

        I am one of these people. I like efficiency and getting things done. My last job was full of bureaucracy, inefficiency, and slowness. I was chronically muttering “OMG SRSLY?!” to myself, and wanted to beat myself senseless with my keyboard. It was a terrible match for many reasons, but that’s one that definitely stands out as a major source of frustration.

        1. Guest*

          My staff person is a high-energy person who would say that she likes to get things done. But often this means that’s she’s asking (or telling!) me that I ought to work evenings/weekends to get things done on her timetable, or that she’s telling her coworkers how busy she is, compared to everyone else. She is long overdue for a come-to-Jesus meeting about appropriate behavior, but she goes to the big boss and literally cries if critiqued. Being a stereotypical guy, he can’t deal with a crying employee, so his solution is “don’t criticize her because it will hurt her feelings”. I’m happy that work is getting done, but that she’s running roughshod over me and everyone else is something else entirely. (Sadly, she thinks I have it in for her. I really don’t. If she does well, I’ll look good as her manager. But if she alienates coworkers and clients, and makes our department look bad, I look terrible.)

  10. Ivy*

    #2: Some organizations (and some industries and some cultures) are more reserved at work. It’s not that stuff doesn’t get done and it’s not busy, its just that the way people interact is more relaxed. Relaxed in the sense of energy levels. Personally, I work better in this environment. It can be very exhausting constantly dealing with someone that’s always “on”. It’s kind of like dealing with a morning person when you’re not one… but every day and all the time… I believe this is what Alison referred to as the second high-energy type. As has been said, pay close attention to not irritating people (not talking the most goes a long way) and try to find out when its time to step it back. Of course you should keep in mind your hiring manager expressed this concern during the interview process where you’re generally trying to be more high-energy to convey your interest…. It might not exactly be reflecting the real you, and obviously it wasn’t enough of a concern for you not get the job.

  11. Malissa*

    #1–I sympathize with you. I hate answering the phone. I still dream of a job where I never have to answer general incoming calls.

    #2–To quote the Men’s Health article from the other day. Please avoid being the “Whack-a-Mole from Hell.” The newest guy at my work was beginning to act like this his first couple of weeks here. I had to calmly tell him one day that while I understood his work was important I had other things that were taking priority that day and he’d just have to wait that report he wanted. Avoid being this guy. Take the time upfront to observe and talk to people and learn the culture before you start trying to change things.

    #3–I think I would have responded in absolute shock, “What have I done that makes you think I’d do something like that? Haven’t I been a hard worker for you?”

  12. E E*

    #7 “anywheres,” “somewheres,” and “nowheres.” are all real words. Take a look Merriam Webster or Wiktionary!

    1. fposte*

      The problem here is using the term “real”–dictionaries consider them real if enough people say them, regardless of whether they’re considered correct or not. So just because it’s in a dictionary doesn’t mean it’s proper formal use.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Agreed with fposte and Anna. They’re problematic because they’re not considered good English. “Ain’t” is in the dictionary too, after all.

      1. Liz T*

        Fun historical fact: When Warren Harding called for a “return to normalcy,” the press pilloried him for making up a word, instead of using “normality.” Then it turned out that, if one looked in the dictionary, “normalcy” was a real word, just a very archaic one. (Imagine everyone mocking Sarah Palin for “refudiate,” only to discover it was in the dictionary as an early 19th century usage.) As a result, of course, “normalcy” is now back in the vernacular.

        1. Anna*

          But “normalcy” is close to “normality” both in form and meaning. “Refudiate” is more or less equidistant from “refute” and “repudiate” and is, at best, a portmanteau of the two.

      2. BW*

        Don’t say ain’t.
        Your mother will faint.
        Your father will fall in a bucket of paint.
        Your sister will cry.
        Your brother will die.
        Your dog will call the FBI.

          1. BW*

            I don’t know where it comes from. It was what kids used to chant whenever we heard someone say “ain’t”.

      3. KarenT*

        Just to further Alison’s point, it’s not always about a word being “right” or “wrong,” but whether that word is appropriate in a professional context. When I greet my clients I say, “Hello. How are you today?” When I greet my boyfriend, it’s “What’s up, dude?”

  13. Ally*

    1. There are three people, myself included, that cover for the receptionist’s lunch (1 hour, which usually turns into 1 hour 30 min). We sit down and divide up the days. It’s a huge pain. There should be more people in the office to help cover lunch, but they all decline, basically saying the job is beneath them. One time we were very busy and the person assigned to cover the receptionist’s lunch asked their intern to do it. The intern coordinator (another employee that has the extra task of hiring and assigning interns) made a huge stink that the reception job was not to be done by interns because this is a “prestigious internship” (blah blah blah) and they should be assigned better tasks. You can imagine how upset the three of us and the receptionist were. While the intern coordinator *may* have meant well, it was very insulting. As a result, reception coverage is a very sensitive subject and no one brings it up. At some point I will be promoted here, but there is no way I’m bringing up that I don’t want to do it anymore.

    7. The urban dictionary definition of “Somewheres” is pretty funny. A good friend of mine always uses Latin phrases incorrectly and it drive me nuts! On another note, I have a handful of made-up words that I use all the time. Sometimes it’s funny to misuse words or phrases, like “strategery” or “mind-bottling.” Our language should always be evolving, right?

    1. class factotum*

      I LOVE “mind-bottling!” Even my precise, accurate, engineer (and son of an English professor) husband, who will argue with me as much as I will let him about whether “common sense” should be hyphenated when it is modifying a noun (all I pointed out was that the hyphen appears to be falling out of use, not that it was incorrect), uses “mind-bottling.” Despite his claim that he likes only serious, meaty dramas, he liked that movie.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Grr. That attitude is why receptionists are always treated like crap. When I’m interviewing for these and the hiring manager says “You, as the receptionist, are the most important person in the office!” I think yeah, I don’t want to work here. Usually that means “You are the one we’ll dump all our crap on and your butt has to be in that chair even if you’re bleeding out.” I’ve been asking if the position has back-up, and I still run into people who gape as though they don’t think the receptionist should need lunch, or to go to the bathroom, or ever be sick, or even be human.

  14. KarenT*


    This happened to me early in my career. We went from having three receptionists to only one, and the result was if that one receptionist was out for the day, or on lunch, someone from another department had to cover. I was on a rotating list of people. A lot of managers were pressuring the company to hire temps instead of poaching junior staff. I found my new boss was my biggest ally in keeping me away from the front desk. Whenever I was called to the front, I would go to him and say something like, “I was going to write my report/have a conference call with whatever client/make arrangements for our conference, etc. However, instead I will be covering the front desk for a day or two and hope to get to those things later in the week.” He would always push back at management and point out how inefficient and unproductive it is to pull someone away from projects and responsibilities to cover the front desk. Not that the front desk isn’t important, but having staff dedicated to the front desk just makes sense. Also, having fully trained receptionists is way more efficient than having me cover it once in a while, since I would never be informed if passwords changed, things got moved, fedex account numbers change, etc. I remember looking like an idiot more than a few times! And of course, while I was manning the front desk, I was having nightmares about how many emails and voicemails would be waiting for me!

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I think sometimes companies go too far in trying to save a buck. It just ends up costing the company in terms of lost productivity, etc. A former boss of mine was like this. He would spend $1.00 to save $0.50.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I agree totally, but the front desk person still needs to have cross-trained backup. We do eat lunch, go to the bathroom, get sick, have appointments and we would like to have a day off once in a while. We often end up doing everyone else’s extra crap clerical work; I don’t think it’s too much to ask that companies back us up too.

  15. LadyTL*

    #5 First keep in mind that retail and food service jobs haven’t been easy to get for almost a decade now. You are competing with almost everyone for those positions. High school students, college students, people who got laid off, all types of people. Secondly while calling is fine, remember as other commentors have said do not call at peak times and also do not assume that who you get on the phone knows who to send your call to. Alot of times if you call into the store you get someone at the customer service desk or at the fitting room or front counter who don’t know who gets the applications. Also who you need to talk to may be out of the store on a break. When that happens try to recall at a non-peak time even if calling at a peak time would be more likely to get who you need.

    Honestly though unless the place has an HR dept like Wal-mart or Target or something, I wouldn’t call since the manager you are likely to get has more to do then just handle applications and is likely to see your call as an interruption.

  16. Tiff*

    Well, one lesson from today’s post is that the front desk is generally despised territiory in many offices – I thought my previous job was the only one, but I noticed there was significant jockeying to see who could avoid the position in my current job too.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      It’s despised at my office, too. It’s mainly because the person in that position is interrupted so many times throughout the day to take phone calls and greet visitors. It makes it hard to concentrate.

      1. twentymilehike*

        It’s mainly because the person in that position is interrupted so many times throughout the day to take phone calls and greet visitors. It makes it hard to concentrate.

        So true. We have this problem in my office. We don’t have a receptionist, so whoever is “free” answers the phone. Sometimes the calls just go to voicemail because everyone decides they are “too busy” to answer the phone. It’s so frustrating. Especially when your boss tells you their too busy to take calls, but then barks at you for not getting xyz report to him quickly enough. You just start getting super frustrated because you end up getting pulled in too many directions at once.

        I have literally taken over an hour to make an invoice that should take less than a minute for this reason. And then I’ll get three people standing over my desk waiting for things, but I’ve got a customer on the phone that wants my full attention. Arg.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          “We don’t have a receptionist, so whoever is “free” answers the phone. ”

          The problem I find with this setup is that some people will decide they are never “free” and then the same one or two people get stuck answering the phone all the time, and then it just becomes the norm. Eventually people will say that it’s Joe’s job to answer the phone, when actually it’s everyone’s job.

      2. Anon*

        Which should leave people with a lot more respect for receptionists who actually manage to accomplish something!

        My company has the receptionist doing account’s payable and receivable data entry! It amazes me.

        1. A Bug!*

          So many small offices have the receptionist in a dual role. I think a lot of people who aren’t receptionists or haven’t done reception in a while tend not to think of how much a phone call or drop-in messes up your work flow.

          A two-minute phone call can easily eat half an hour of my productivity, and I’ve got enough work to do to keep me busy all day without any phone calls at all!

          One smaller office I work with has a switchboard set up. At first I thought it was super overkill for an office with just a couple professionals and three or four support staff, but I can really understand it now. It gives callers the option to leave a voice-mail for their chosen contact before giving the option to speak to reception. It probably pays for itself twice over every month in rescued productivity.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I think that is a horrible idea. So many interruptions can lead to mistakes. As for me, this trend (born of the recession) is making it extremely difficult for me to find a job, since I’m unable to do the accounting!

  17. Andy Lester*

    Objectives are worthless and a waste of time for the job seeker.

    Look at what you’re doing when you write an objective. You’re trying to come up with creative ways of saying “I want the job for which I am applying.” It is obvious with the submission of your resume that you want the job for which you are applying, and therefore the objective that says that is unnecessary fluff that takes away from the real information on the resume.

    You might as well put on an objective of “Get a job where I can commute by zipline”.

  18. Michelle*

    I’m a self-proclaimed spelling and grammar snob, but I secretly wish we could adopt “a-whole-nother” into proper English. Similar to “flustrated,” it just feels so good rolling off your tongue! Somehow “a whole other” just doesn’t quite capture the same meaning or emphasis.

  19. Anon*

    The thing that boggles me is that I’ve literally had a long-time hiring manager at my company say that I needed to put an objective on my resume.

    I don’t understand why there are so many conflicting opinions on this.

    It’s gotten to the point where I dread sharing my resume with anyone because I don’t want feedback that’s going to contradict the last three educated but different opinions I received.

    At least I’ve made a clear decision with objectives – I think they’re silly so I don’t use them. In this economy everyone’s goal is to support themselves and I expect my employer to understand that without me making something up.

  20. Anonymous*


    OMG, my boss goes into that category so easily. I hate to say it, but having been working with him for a while now, I’m starting to butcher the English language! He cannot speak the past perfect tense for anything. He would say, “I should have did that” rather than “I should have done that.” Goes right through me! Even one of my coworkers once said “I had tooken that.” Do they not hear themselves? Those I talk to on the outside about this want me to correct them when I hear them speak. I don’t. I don’t need them to get angry for their English. Let someone else come down on them.

    Off soapbox.

    On another note, will there be an October open thread?

  21. Don*

    #2, A a manager with many years in Hi-Tech…there’s basically no such thing as having too much energy. I much rather have someone I have to reign in, then someone who I have to kick in the butt to get moving. My only concern is you might take counterproductive shortcuts or roll over others, but that’s manageable.

    1. Lily*

      What about making sure that high energy people work on the important tasks? Do you find they need more firm management and are also likely to accept it?

  22. Don*

    #4: Not a problem. Don’t put objectives in your resume. An objective is like saying to a hiring manager/company “Here’s what you can do for me.” Wrong statement. Start with a summary that states your value add and answers the question “What can you do for me?”

    After I hire you, I do care about your objectives, about where you want to take your career and I’ll try to align that to my & the company mission for a win/win/win

  23. Don*

    #7. Yeah normally bosses wouldn’t appreciate being corrected, particularly if you do so on the spot. It’s often not welcome from one’s spouse. But every rule has an exception. For 5 years I worked in a foreign country and one of the 1st points I made to my admin assistant was to make sure I didn’t make a fool of myself, particularly culturally. So she’d calibrate me as needed.
    In a prior life I also managed a team of writers. They had no hesitation in red lining my memos, notes ,to them and others. Writers and editors can have strong opinions as to proper word usage and they’re passionate about it. I didn’t mind it in the least and learned from it. I knew that as soon as I became their manager, I represented them & their profession, and they didn’t want slipshod writing to come out of their midst. Perhaps I’d have felt differently if they’d hung them on the bulletin board for the world to see.

  24. Anonymous*

    1) I think everyone should be capable of covering the front desk, and I think it would be fair to say you would be willing to cover in an emergency. As you said, there are few trained to do so, so being willing to help out would be a plus.

    2) There is a third type of “high energy” – not so complimentary however. I would just relax a little and take things as they come and don’t try to overcompensate for being high energy. It sounds like you’ll be fine.

  25. AF*

    Responding to quesion #2 about being high energy: I’ve been told that some people are intimidated by my enthusiasm. The people who are intimated are what I consider to be “low-energy” or put another way “old sticks in the mud.” There’s a fine line between adapting to a culture and recognizing something about yourself that could be improved, which is of course useful and valid, and not being your authentic self just to please someone who doesn’t “get you.” I really appreciated Alison’s answer to your question.

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