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 told someone to get out of my spot during a break at work

During coffee breaks at work, my coworkers and I all sit in a conference room if no one is using it. We all have our certain places where we sit and have sat for years. And there are certain people that you don’t mess with and you don’t sit in their spot.

A person who has been working in our office for a year sat in my spot and I said, “That’s my spot” and the person said that they had seniority because they were older and not because they had worked there longer. The chair had wheels on it, so I wheeled the person over one space and put a new chair in my spot and sat down. Later, the person came to my cubicle and said that they were embarrassed and thought that what I did was really rude. So I apologized and they left.

Now I wonder how bad was this really? I didn’t think it was big deal at the time, but I have been obsessing all day about this and wondering if what I did was really out of line and horrible. Should I be expecting anything else in the form of reprimand? Should I talk to this person again or just let it go? Should I not go back to coffee or will that make a mountain out of a mole hill?

Yes, that was rude. But you apologized and you don’t need to stop going to coffee over it, and you probably don’t need to apologize a second time. But all of you should chill out about owning your spots, because, come on, really?

2. Can you mention that you’re excited about a job because it’s close to your house and family-friendly?

I applied for a position where the ad did not mention the name of the firm or location, so I was pleasantly surprised to find out it’s only 5 minutes drive away from my home — walking distance! I got an interview, and the manager emphasized how family-oriented they were and while they didn’t offer great benefits, they were flexible if you needed to leave early to bring kids to a doctor occasionally, etc. (they know I have kids as I mention it in my cover letter to explain a gap in my work history). In my thank-you note after the interview, I thanked them for the interview, mentioned a few business reasons why I think I would be great for the job, and then as a last sentence, how happy I would be to work for a family-oriented business that is so close to my home. My friend says I should not have mentioned it, as it sounds like I want the position for convenience… is she right? I would take the job even if it was further away, but the location is definitely a bonus.

Your friend is right. They want to hire someone who’s excited about the job for the job’s sake, not because of the commute or benefits. (And after all, what happens if they move to a different location?) In general, you want to stick to focusing on the job.

3. Listing achievements at unrelated positions on your resume

I have a question about listing older work positions I have held that do not contribute to the requirements of jobs I am presently applying for. Do I need to put bulleted accomplishments for those jobs or can I simply list the position and use the extra space for those positions that have much more relevant accomplishments? The positions I am applying for are early career level and I do not think it would benefit me to go beyond a one-page resume.

Focus on the jobs that are most relevant to the work you’re applying for. That doesn’t mean that other accomplishments aren’t relevant, though. If you can show a track record of achievement and getting things done, that’s always going to be a good thing, even if it’s in a different field.

4. Working more hours than I’ve been authorized to work

I just started working as temporary part-time job. I work 28 hours a week for four days a week. On my first day of work, I was told that I can’t have work more than 28 hours because then, they would have to do extra work in filing the needed papers to get paid. The bottom line is, it’s going to be more work for my supervisor, and she doesn’t want to deal with it.

In the two weeks that I have worked there, the amount of work that they want me to accomplish often exceeds 28 hours. So I tend to stay after hours to complete the tasks (it has happened about 3 days so far). I have been logging in my hours for all the hours I have worked, despite working over 28 hours. Seeing the upcoming projects as well as events that I am helping to manage, I will be staying a lot longer than 28 hours for the remaining time at this company. Moreover, I have had them contact me over the phone and email on the weekend and my day off to give me tasks. I want to do my job well, but I don’t want to compromise my time off to accomplish those tasks. How do I manage this situation? Should I only work during the time that I am paid for or do I work during my time to get those tasks done to show to my supervisors that I can do a good job?

First, stop working more than 28 hours/week, because you were explicitly told not to do that, so doing it anyway is a big deal. Second, talk to your manager and explain that the amount of work you’re being given would take more than 28 hours a week, and ask how she wants you to handle it. She may tell you to push certain projects back, or she may assign some work to someone else, or she may approve you to work more hours. But you cannot work more hours than you’ve been authorized without potentially getting into trouble when it’s caught. (And I can’t tell from your letter whether you’re reporting the hours or not; if you’re not, and you’re non-exempt, you could get the company into legal trouble because they’re legally required to pay you for all hours worked.)

5. Resigning when my boss is out on medical leave

My boss is on FMLA. He was out most of first quarter, came back for a couple weeks, and is out again. During this second leave, his surgery has been delayed, and now I realistically do not see him back until the end of Q2.

I have accepted an offer that starts in 6 weeks. Before the surgery delay, my plan had been to give my boss 2 weeks notice. I’ve seen him show people the door, but I haven’t seen anyone at my level resign. We’ve worked closely together, and it’s going to be a big surprise to him. I would say he’s been a mentor. I did not sign a non-compete, and I will be working for a privately held portion of the same company. My ongoing relationship is very important.

My new plan is to resign to the CEO, with more notice. I don’t think he’ll show me the door. But my question is how to break this news to my current boss? And when? I don’t want to stress him out during a medical procedure, but this will be a big shock. Also, I’m not staying local — I’m moving cross country, so I can’t just wait and tell him when he gets back.

You’re almost certainly overestimating the impact this is going to have on your boss. It’s very, very unlikely that this is going to cause him stress during his medical procedure. People leave jobs all the time; it’s normal. He might be disappointed, but he’ll get over it. Just call him and tell him, and offer to do whatever you can to make the transition easy (although obviously be sensitive to his situation and don’t call him on the day of his surgery or while he’s on heavy painkillers afterwards — just like you presumably wouldn’t call him about any other work thing on those days).

6. Relatives endorsing you on LinkedIn

I have over 300 LinkedIn contacts, and am actively engaged in a job search. A small percentage of my contacts are my relatives, including my parents. Every now and then, my mother or one of her many cousins will endorse me for some skill or another. Does this make me look as bad as I think it does? On a related note, sometimes colleagues endorse me for skills, in what I believe is an attempt to have me return the favor. However, I rarely feel comfortable returning the favor. Is it better to keep the peace and endorse someone I don’t believe in, or maintain some level of integrity?

Honestly, I don’t think anyone is paying much attention to LinkedIn endorsements, since they lack all credibility. Anyone can endorse you for anything, whether they know you and have worked with you or not. I wouldn’t spend your time endorsing people because it’s so worthless, but I wouldn’t worry about the source of your endorsements either. (For anyone unclear, we’re talking about skill endorsements here, not recommendations. Frankly, LinkedIn recommendations don’t carry a ton of weight either — as is true of any recommendation that the recommendee sees — but they’re not as ridiculous as skill endorsements.)

7. Applying for a job after starting to volunteer

I recently accepted a volunteer position at a company, but I have not actually started yet because of red tape. I am set to work in a department the company does not usually allow volunteers to work in, but the Volunteers Director obtained a special volunteer spot for me there because I have the qualifications that a typical employee there would have.

To be honest, I applied to be a volunteer because there were no openings for the job I am interested in at this company. However, the company recently posted a job listing for a position I have been coveting and has highly similar responsibilities as the volunteer position.

I am torn because with the job, I could be getting paid to do the same work I would be doing as an unpaid volunteer. But at the same time, I feel that if I apply for the job and get accepted, I would be making a really bad impression, not to mention betraying the director who made the special arrangements to get me into the department in the first place as a volunteer. Would it be considered “jumping ship” and inappropriate if I apply for the job instead of volunteering?

Go ahead and apply. If you’re the best person for the job, they’d almost certainly rather have you in that role than volunteering (for presumably far less hours and with less responsibility).

{ 153 comments… read them below }

  1. CindyB

    #1 Perhaps it was your choice of words, but when I hear reference to “people you don’t mess with” the first image that comes to mind is a bully.

    1. EngineerGirl

      Yes. I was thinking the whole “mean girls” thing and junior high. Having “spots” and physically pushing people out of your way? Really? That thing happens outside of TV sitcoms? Yeesh.

      1. AdAgencyChick

        Seriously. That sort of thing should be nipped in the bud in kindergartners, much less grownups.

    2. bearing

      I guess OP #1 is one of the “people you don’t mess with.” Seeing as how OP#1 physically pushed another human being out of the space that OP#1 wanted to sit in.

      1. Treece

        Years go I had a coworker push my chair with me in it to his desk because he wanted help with something and I told him I was too busy at the moment. I can’t even explain how embarrassing and irritating it was, like I was a child. I told him in no uncertain terms to never do that again. OP, you should try to imagine how that would feel if one of your coworkers did that to you. Not cool.

        1. Anne

          Christ. That sounds like one of the very few situations in which I would allow myself to curse at my co-workers.

  2. likesdesifem

    Concerning number one, wow.. lol…

    I think it was certainly rude, and out of place as you are new at the organisation and had no clue otherwise. I think it’s best to let slights in the workplace not phase you (in general, and unless they are not racist or sexist). It shows he didn’t affect you greatly. Also, making work enemies is not advisable, unless it’s for a important reason. There is also the issue of picking one’s battles.

    Next time you see him, just say hello as normal, even if you don’t have to be chummy or make close conversation with him.

  3. Rana

    #1 Let me get this straight. You wheeled a person out of the way because they were “in your spot”?! And you’re not sure if that was rude?

    How old are you? Three?

    Now, your co-worker was a bit more combative than they needed to be, but, really, saving “spots” in communal areas is childish.

    1. moe

      I was wondering if there was something going on with #1 that could explain the odd tone of the letter and apparent lack of understanding of why the behavior was odd. Not a letter I’m willing to bring out the pitchforks for quite yet.

      Curious if the letter writer has difficulty with social situations in general?

      1. EJ

        It also sounds to my like this might be a cultural thing. I’ve seen similar ‘territorialism’ (?) at small companies with low turnover. Still inappropriate, but not an isolated phenomenon.

    2. The IT Manager

      Frankly I wondered if this was a joke because the whole situation sounds like something that happens with school children. But AAM gets asked a lot of crazy questions so probably not.

      Yes, #1 you were rude and also immature and childish – “my spot.” You probably won’t be reprimanded for it, but you’re probably building a reputation as an immature bully. You probably want to act like a mature professional from now on and that means no more “saved seats” and “my spot”s.

      1. Anonymous Accountant

        Exactly. It took some nerve to literally push away the coworker’s chair because they took “your spot”. That’s rather bold!

      2. AMG

        I wouldn’t respect someone as a professional if I saw this. Too combative and childish. Ridiculous!

        1. VictoriaHR

          And really it makes the OP look even more unprofessional in that he/she can’t handle any amount of change. If he/she is that upset over not being able to sit in his/her spot at lunch, how is he/she going to react to a company reorg or a change to a project that’s being worked on? Chaos.

  4. Mike C.

    So regarding #6, does that mean I can have friends endorse me for absolutely ridiculous skills? Say “Lion Taming” or “Driving Formula Cars”?

    If nothing else, you could sneak one in there as the new “Brown M&M”.

    1. Rana

      Yup. I’m pretty conservative in what I’m willing to endorse people for – I only do it if I know for a fact that they have those skills – but I’ve been endorsed for things by my contacts where I know they’re just taking me at my word, never having seen any of my particular work in a particular area.

      Now I’m tempted to put in something Chocolate Teapot related, and see how many endorsements I get for it.

      1. Josh S

        Doing this tomorrow. Meet Chicago’s newest Chocolate Teapot Design and Market Research Expert! :)

        1. Kay @ Travel Bug Diary blog

          My sister endorsed me. We’re in similar fields and talk about work, so the endorse is as legit as with any other contact. That said, my endorsements in general just make me laugh. They’re not lined up with my actual skills. Random people (like interns from a former job who I did not work with) endorse me for certain skills but not others. Endorsing people is a fun little activity for professional procrastination – but I don’t take them seriously.

          1. jesicka309

            My friend recently endorsed me for blogging…. I haven’t blogged since university! But she blogs regularly….I think she was hoping for me to endorse her back on blogging, but I just went and endorsed her for things I knew she was good at like sports membership development (through our volunteer work at our local tennis club), and ignored the blogging. Partly because I don’t read her blog much, partly because it’s not very good… :-/

        1. Anonymous

          I was endorsed for Microsoft Word skills by a college classmate who never worked with me on a project that required Word. (She’s an engineer and I’m in a computer/tech field.) I was a bit concerned that the emphasis on my word processing skills wouldn’t exactly instill confidence in my ability to write efficient programs, so it’s nice to hear that nobody really cares about endorsements.

          1. twentymilehike

            Haha … I also had someone who I knew casually through work endorse me for “Outlook.” I don’t even use Outlook … I was wondering if he meant my “outlook on life.” LOL

      2. Anne

        Same. And it bugs me when people endorse me for random stuff.

        My uncle, for some reason, endorsed me for “Systems Administration”. That’s a pretty specialized thing, not something I have any experience with whatsoever, and not something I had even listed. But since he somehow added it, three other people have also endorsed me for it. It’s driving me up the wall. I am so not interested in even touching any systems administration.

    2. Jazzy Red

      I’m not as LinkedIn savvy as most people, so my question is: Can you remove those ridiculous endorsements, or are they permanent (as in “on your permanent record” that our grade school teachers used to threaten us with)?

      If you can, what’s the problem?

  5. Yvi

    Wow, number 1 is leaving me pretty speechless. You really had to be told that that was rude, embarrassing (for both of you) and demeaning?

  6. Anonymous

    To the writer of letter #1: I’m genuinely curious why it’s so important for you to drink coffee in the same chair, located at the same spot at the same table, every day you’re at work? I hope you’ll write back and tell us.

    I’m just trying to understand why something as trivial as another person sitting in “your” spot would make you do something so rude. I’m more than a little appalled by your behavior. Consider being thankful for all the wonderful things in your life instead of shaming someone else for sitting where you wanted to sit. You actually wheeled him out of the way? REALLY? Sorry, my dear, but it’s time to grow up.

  7. Kay @ Travel Bug Diary blog

    #1 Yes, your letter did make me think of middle school (a traumatic time in my own life). I’m sure you’re a nice person who made a bad call. Forget it, move on, and don’t dwell on it. I’ve gotten to big for my britches at work in the past, and the main thing I’ve learned is that the best way to get ahead in my office is to be humble, get along with everyone, and focus on delivering good work. I know, sounds basic, but it took me some time to figure it out.

    1. AB

      I’d change your advice a bit to say, DON’T forget it. Move on, yes, but when you have a first reaction that involves forcing your opinion on others (not to mention physically moving them for your convenience), make sure you stop, think of the reactions you got here, and change your mind!

  8. Becky

    I agree completely that wheeling someone out of “your spot” is childish and rude, but I’m wondering if the attitude the OP had about it was less combative and more joking than is being assumed, and that is part of why they are confused. It doesn’t change the answer at all, but I saw this as more of a bad joke than anything.

    Also, #1,do you WANT to be known as “someone you don’t mess with” at work? Because that doesn’t seem like a great goal.

    1. twentymilehike

      I’m wondering if the attitude the OP had about it was less combative and more joking than is being assumed, and that is part of why they are confused. It doesn’t change the answer at all, but I saw this as more of a bad joke than anything.

      I was also thinking this. I could see something like this happening at my work. I have also had situations where someone at work was offended unintentionally, and a “geez sorry” apology was made, but it didn’t make things better. Sometimes you need to go back and be sincere with the person: “I just wanted to let you know that I’ve been thinking about this whole incident and I really hate that it played out the way it did. I didn’t think things through when I acted and I want you to know that I am really sorry that I acted that way and was disrespectful to you. I hope you’ll forgive me and know that I actually do respect and value you.” Something sincere like that.

  9. Not So NewReader

    For OP #1. I can just see how this would happen. I have worked in places where taking someone’s spot in the break room could mean a fist fight. When I was new at the place, I accidentally sat down in a chair- where was my head at? This woman who was much taller than me came over and informed me I was in HER chair. Her voice sounded like cannons going off.

    I moved. Ok, I crawled to the next open chair….

    Big picture story here- what kind of a work place do you have? Do you really want this job? If the answer is yes, then you will have to kind of go along with what others are doing. I used a middle ground where I did not act territorial about my chair but if someone was going to make a stink about their chair then I would just move. Happily, I found this did not happen every single day.
    At the same time, I quietly began searching for another job where I could work with adults, as opposed to these very tall children.

    And, OP, it is tough to soar like an eagle when you work with turkeys. Simply said- you got drawn in to their childish behavior. This could happen to any one of us at any time. This is a very easy pit to fall into. Just because others around you do not have professional conduct, don’t allow yourself to lower your standards.

    As an aside: I think you have probably made your point. The gossip chain will do it’s work and it will go around not to mess with you about where you are sitting at break. I don’t think you are going to have to deal with this problem much longer. Act like you have moved on and forgotten the whole thing.

    1. Aimee

      I’m so sorry that happened to you No So New Reader. It’s horrible when people aren’t nice or welcoming of new people in the office. It’s terrible people have to be that territorial over seats in a break room!

      As for the original poster, I think you need to look at where your priorities are. Having a specific spot to sit every day while on break is not a high priority. It seems a bit cliquish to me. There are more important things to worry about at work, like doing a good job.

      I’m not saying you’re going to get in trouble for what you did but suppose when you wheeled the person away that person fell or hurt themselves somehow and then you got in trouble for it? Suppose you ended up getting fired for it? Suppose in an extreme situation you got let go for this incident because the person complained they got hurt? How would you feel knowing you got let go because someone was sitting in your spot on break.

      It may seem like a big deal to you at the time but you need to take a step back and think about your actions and possible ramifications.

      1. FiveNine

        It’s hard to tell whether there was joking on one or maybe even both sides. The person who sat in OP’s space sounds like he/she might have been joking — though employed at the company only a year, the person is older so when it comes to breaks has seniority to sit wherever the person wants. :) But I’m wondering whether the reason OP is so concerned about a reprimand is because the person might have been half-serious or someone old enough that most people would accommodate by giving up their front bus seats, for example. It is conceivable, depending on the circumstances, that the OP physically moving this person, whether a joke or not, on a break or not, could lead to a reprimand or worse. And certainly it would have been a whole new ballpark if the person actually fell out of the chair or otherwise were hurt. But it’s just impossible to really tell from the letter alone.

    2. Manda

      “And, OP, it is tough to soar like an eagle when you work with turkeys.”

      +2 ’cause that was 2 funny!!!

      1. Kara

        One of my coworkers just said this the other day! She was joking – she and another coworker had had a “who’s on first?” conversation and she said that once it was resolved.

      2. Anonymous

        Yeah. Learning experience #189. Don’t work with turkeys. Get a new job.

        I lasted over a year in that place. I am not sure how. Looking back on the incident- time has been kind to me and helped me to get over the emotional pangs. That job became my gold standard that I compare all other jobs to. “Is this job as bad as that Old Job?” The answer is always no, whatever new job I had I always felt it was better than that place.
        I honestly feel that OP#1 is telling us about the tip of the iceberg. Places where stuff like that is allowed to fester and grow usually have many, many other problems. VERY serious problems. I hope OP takes a look around with eyes wide open.
        We can train ourselves to overlook terrible behavior from our coworkers and all the while we are getting pulled down into their quagmire without even realizing…

    3. AG

      This happened to me at a meeting at my last job. I even asked the person next to me if the open seat was taken and she said no. Then this woman came in and barked “you’re in my spot.” And for the next five years, she was a miserable, cranky, competitive bully and I hated dealing with her. I really hope OP#1 isn’t like that and this is just a one-off. But maybe s/he needs to take a step back and look at how she treats people and what kind of work dynamics s/he is promoting.

  10. Miss M

    #1 – It’s not uncommon for people to develop a habit of sitting in a certain place every day, but there’s a huge difference from choosing to sit in a certain spot and actually telling someone else to move. And to physically move them out of the way while they are still sitting in the chair?!?!?! I can’t quite conceive of that. As to offering another apology, I think that depends on whether your original apology was appropriately sincere. If you didn’t really think you had done anything wrong and just offered a half-hearted “sorry”, then I think you should apologize again and let the person know that you realize that your behavior was not acceptable at all.

  11. Kara

    Like all of you, I’m aghast at #1. This sounds incredibly childish, and I’m frankly pretty floored that the OP didn’t know it’s rude to physically move someone.

    I’m also floored that the “culprit” even entertained this and bothered to offer an explanation of why they should be allowed to sit in a certain spot in an empty conference room during a freakin’ coffee break, because who cares?

  12. Chocolate Teapot

    Question 1 does have certain parallels with going to Church and having “your” pew. Sometimes, you can arrive for service and find somebody sitting in “your” pew, but normally, you just find an empty space near by and deal with it.

    However, the wheeling somebody one space over does seem a little bit childish. Does it really make such a difference where anybody sits?

    1. fposte

      I know commuter trains, the longer-haul ones, can be like this, and I’ve heard of a later boarder telling the inhabitant to vacate the seat.

      It’s basic mammal stuff, but it’s utterly illogical, and it makes you look bad–you really don’t want people thinking that you also sniff butts to say hello, and that’s about the level of the action.

      1. The gold digger

        Exercise classes are the same way. People get pissy if you get in their space. I’m talking to you, Guy Who Goes “Wooo!” every two seconds during Body Pump. Where am I supposed to put my mat if the room is full? The only little bit of space is by you and trust me, I really would rather not be by the “Wooo!”ing guy who wears the same sweaty purple tank top every. single. day.

        1. Anonymously Anonyomous

          #1 is hilarious because we have a seating situation at work during lunch. And it almost sounds familiar except for the ‘physically moving the person’ part. I’ve heard “that’s my spot”. While I do have a preference on the type of chair, I would never be as bold to say to someone “excuse me that’s my chair”. I would simply sit in another type of chair. Matter fact I was the oblivious one for a while. And my co-workers would jokingly say “you’re messing us up by sitting in the wrong place.” I find it more hilarious because we work with children on the spectrum…

          Yep, the “this is my space” attitude happens during exercise class as well.

        2. jesicka309

          Haha I have my spot in Body Pump, and I’ll admit that I scream internally when someone gets there first. See I have to leave 5 minutes early so I have time to catch my train, and my spot is right by the weight racks for a quick getaway with minimal class disruption…so when someone plonks their mat right *there*, I grit my teeth and deal with it, but I know the fruistrating feeling.
          Also, I hate the woo people. We have a few in boxing. “10 burpees!” *half the class* “Woooooo!!!!”
          No. Not woo. Not for burpees, you sadists.

        3. twentymilehike

          Hahahaha YES! Excercise classes! I used to go to one where there were these ladies that had been going for years and they would get So Pissy if someone (god forbid) New showed up and took one of their spots. … Like scoffing and dirty looks and all. It makes for a really uncomfortable class.

          On the other hand … one of my industry’s major vendors hands out event passess a couple of times a year to all of their dealers. They reserve a huge section in the stadium for these tickets. Well, each ticket has a seat number, of course, but a lot of people don’t go, and the people who do just sort of sit wherever. It always makes you feel really dumb asking people to move from your seats when there are tons of empty ones everywhere. It’s not that big of a deal, but if I want to sit next to the people that are in the seats next to mine, I still feel silly asking people to move out of my seats.

      2. Anonymous

        This may be different in the US, but here commuter trains can have reserved seats, as in a seat a person has specifically booked. These are marked, either with a paper slip on the seat back, or on newer trains by an electronic display above the seat. In this case if you board the train to find someone else in your seat it’s perfectly acceptable to ask them to move. They have chosen to knowingly sit in a seat marked as reserved. People may choose to reserve seats to ensure they get seats together, to ensure they get a seat at all, to get a priority seat (for older/disabled passengers), or to get a seat with a table/power socket/facing forwards etc.

        Of course, if the person in your seat refuses to move it’s still not acceptable to physically move them. You either take another seat, if one is available, or ask the train guard to deal with the seat stealer, if you really want your seat/there are no other seats.

        1. Chocolate Teapot

          Especially if you paid a supplement to reserve a seat. On certain trains it’s mandatory, other times it just makes sense. (e.g. one of those Sardine journies where everyone wants to get on and nobody seems to be getting off).

          1. Anonymous

            The only time I’ve seen someone asked to move from an unreserved seat is to allow an older/disabled person access to a priority seat. You’d get really weird looks here if you asked someone to move just because you often sat in that seat!

            1. fposte

              I think they got really weird looks there, too. (The person they asked said “See that empty seat over there? That’s my seat, but you can sit in it today.”

  13. Galilea

    #7, As OP first off, I appreciate the feedback, Allison, and I completely agree that applying for the job and being accepted would give me a bigger and more important role than volunteering.

    I am hesitant however, how I would handle any consequences from quitting from the volunteer work. The Volunteering department is completely separate from the department the job is part of. So because the Volunteer Director “hired” me first and basically did me a favor placing it in department I wished for, wouldn’t that be jumping ship and betraying the Volunteer Director? I dont want to come across as a person who uses people and dumps them after they get what they want

    Any thoughts?

    1. fposte

      In general, paid work trumps volunteering. We have a ton of volunteers, and if we or anybody else hired them we’d say “Oh, congrats!” and understand if we never saw them again. (Well, we’d want to see them again if we hired them, but you get the gist.)

      If you’ve got a specific project or something that you’re working on you can leave a status report or manual, or offer to train whoever’s picking it up before you go, but I’d be surprised if that was expected–it would just be a really nice extra.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Agreed. The volunteer coordinator might have done you a favor, but it’s pretty unlikely that it took a major investment of her time. If she’d worked tirelessly for a month to get you placed there, that might be one thing, but that’s very unlikely. That said, you can certainly talk to her and say, “I’d love to be considered for this job, but I don’t want to be insensitive to the fact that you made an exception for me by placing me here.” I’m sure she’ll tell you to apply without worrying about!

    2. Sniper

      In past career lives for myself, I earned two separate full time jobs at two different non-profits, due in part to first volunteering.

      There is nothing at all wrong with going from a volunteer to a paid position within the same organization. Anyone who puts any value on a paycheck can understand.

  14. Anony

    Re: #1 I told someone to get out of my spot during a break at work

    The OP for #1 sounds like a 1st grader, no kindergartener. If you are a mature, professional adult, I think there are other ways to handle it.

  15. EngineerGirl

    #1 I find it hard to believe much real work gets done if so much energy is being directed at things that don’t matter. The whole pecking order thing scream of a workplace where no one works as a team. The lack of productivity would make the whole department a target for cost cutting if a big layoff came. And these people would blame the company, not themselves, for the job loss.

      1. Fran

        Exactly. It didn’t even take a sizable chunk out of the coffee break, much less the workday. Most of the regulars on this blog seem to spend a huge chunk of their workday reading the blog, commenting, refreshing, rereading, responding to responses, etc, and yet the collective three minutes this incident and the follow-up took is going to result in a whole department being laid off?

      2. EngineerGirl

        It is indicative of the attitude of the office. Do you really think that this is the only place where people are pulling bullying games? It also shows up where offended person delivers a document “late”, withholds info, and maybe slightly sabotages another’s work to “get back” at them. The terratorialism and “don’t cross me” attitude are symptoms of much more serious issues in that office.

        1. A Bug!

          Yeah, I agree. There’s signs of a dysfunctional workplace in that letter. There should never be a “you don’t mess with so-and-so” mentality – it suggests a pecking order and that it’s okay to “mess with” certain people according to their place on it.

          (To be clear, this is different from a situation where various employees might have differing boundaries, and those boundaries are respected, because clearly this coworker felt his or her boundaries were explicitly not respected.)

  16. Cube Ninja

    At the risk of sounding insensitive and/or totally out of line, I can’t help but wonder if OP #1 is an aspie.

      1. Rana

        Agreed. The people I’ve known with Asperger’s are generally well aware of the need to pay attention to social cues, and try their best to go along with social norms. Yes, these things don’t come naturally to them, but in my experience that means they’re more open to correction than neurotypical people who are rude and self-centered, and are usually quite embarrassed to learn they’ve been inadvertently rude.

    1. A Bug!

      Because it’s the OP writing in (and not someone else writing in about the OP’s behavior), we should be assuming that the OP has shared all relevant* factors, of which ASD would certainly be one. I’d be hesitant to suggest ASD over the more likely factors because of the reasons Elizabeth and Rana have posted.

      *all relevant mitigating factors, that is. It can reasonably be expected that the OP of any given letter is framing a situation in the most favorable light.

      1. Cat

        I didn’t get an ASD vibe from this letter, but I think it’s worth noting that plenty of people make it to adulthood without being diagnosed with that (or ADHD or a number of other things), so it can be worth mentioning things that sound like they might be a factor if the person themselves might be unaware of it. (Like when people mention that a letter writer’s spouse sounds potentially abusive, for instance.)

  17. Katie the Fed

    I’m totally baffled by number 1. Is this a high school job maybe? And who gets coffee breaks anyway? And what does “there are certain people that you don’t mess with” mean? And why does this person who reads this blog not get that this is strange? SO MANY QUESTIONS! In general, you never resort to any kind of physical ANYTHING to get your way in the workplace.

    #2 – don’t do that. I was on an interview panel and there was an interview that went decently, and she closed by telling us how much she wanted the job because it would really shorten her commute. It left a really bad impression with all of us.

    #4 – when your manager tells you not to work more hours than she’s authorized, don’t do it. You’re setting her up for a world of legal trouble. I would start disciplinary actions against you if you did that after I explicitly told you not to.

  18. Gilbey

    #1 – Perhaps the person sitting in ” the OPs space” was trying to be funny and silly sarcastic when they responded to the OP the way they did.
    I mean if someone said that to me I’d probably think it was a joke and respond something like… ” I am sorry, I didn’t see your name engraved on this spot “. Because I would truly not believe someone would actually say it without joking about it.

    OP… really ? “Don’t mess with me” attitude and physically removing that person ? And you don’t know that is rude ? I think you are lucky that person didn’t pursue that further.
    I would also seriously talk a look at yourself and why someone sitting in ” your” spot caused you such irritation you needed to remove someone physically.

    1. FiveNine

      I don’t think OP knows that it’s not going to be pursued further, as this fact seems to be what is generating a large part of the anxiety that prompted OP to write in the first place.

  19. mary

    #1-My nagging question is “If it was a meeting with higher-ups (and not a coffee break) in this conference room , would you have done the same thing?” Anyway, all you can do now is move on–and not do it again.

    #7-I agree with Alison, apply! It’s common sense that anyone would prefer a paid position over a volunteer position. The worst they can say is no, and you would still be able to volunteer. Good luck!

  20. Mag

    #2 I think it depends on the company. In my company they actually look for people with families as they (for some reason) tend to change jobs less often and somehow it for them shows qualities in a person they are looking for: commitment, stability…. I actually know of a company where they basically give extra points for the candidate if the candidate is married. It is just the type of culture they want to build and for them marriage shows a lot about a person.

    As for the commute, my company has rejected candidates where they saw that the commute was long for the person. They figured that a) with any weather problems this person will have more trouble getting in and b) usually if coming to the office is very uncomfortable then after some time this person is going to look for something more convenient.

    I think that having the right qualities for the job is a must to get hired, but after that there can be many things that could be in your favour or not. Personality is very important and it is difficult to get a good understanding of a person’s personality in a couple of interviews so the interviewers tend to look for other signs in the person’s life: family, where you live, how you dress for the interview, how you like to spend your free time, etc.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Not on its own at the federal level, although it is at the state level in many states. But at the federal level, the EEOC has ruled that marital status is frequently used to discriminate against women and therefore may violate Title VII if used as a reason to not hire someone.

          1. Fran

            Does that apply to promotions as well? Like if they promote a single person because they’re afraid someone with a family won’t be available for on-call management?

      1. The gold digger

        I got a CV from a foreign prospective licensee the other day that listed the person’s race, religion, and marital status.

        I emailed the person back and asked for a CV free of that information and threw the copy I’d printed in the shredder.

    1. glennis

      Agree with Mag. Mentioning the location of the company is not that big a deal, but place it in the context of how you appreciate their family friendly values and the fact that the business is part of your local community. I once worked for a non-profit that did a lot of work with the local community – only it was some 40 miles from my home, and I felt like I would have brought so much more to it had I lived within that community.

    2. Mike C.

      If they’re so damn concerned about people leaving the job early, make your employees sign a contract, not invade their sex lives.

    3. Ariancita

      Wow, extra points based on personal life choices? What if the candidate is gay and marriage isn’t legal there? Do they then get questioned about their relationship status? Does it count if someone is in a long term relationship? What if you’re an older woman and have a bevy of cabana boys, but you’re very committed their happiness and want to stay for a long time so that the young men in question can feel more settled? Does that count?

      1. Cat

        I have a hunch that a company that believes marriage “tells you” about a candidate probably is delighted to screen out gay candidates in the process. Another reason these policies are dangerous legally.

      2. virago

        Thanks, Ariancita — a certain amount of my tea just went all over my computer screen at the “bevy of cabana boys” phrase! It was particularly apt because I *just* filed my taxes, status “single.” I would much prefer to have the option of checking the box marked “single, but committed to the happiness of my cabana boys.”

        1. Ariancita

          LOL. You’re welcome. I’m just trying to throw in some real life examples (I wish). Although I did misspell bevvy. Alas.

    4. Elizabeth West

      Where I live–none of their business.
      My family or lack thereof–none of their business.
      Who I’m sleeping with–none of their business.
      What I do when I’m not on the clock–none of their business.

      Did I mention my private life was none of their business? :P

    5. Manda

      I’m a single young woman who does not want kids. I’d be pretty damn pissed off if I found out I lost out on a job only because someone else had better “family values.” But then, I wouldn’t want to work for a company with that attitude anyway. And FWIW, the person without their own family is likely to need less time off because they won’t have family commitments to attend to. Not that that’s any reason to discriminate either, but it could be a bonus if that person is hired. I’d be curious to know if there are any actual statistics verifying that married people and/or parents are less likely to change jobs often. If so, my guess is that those people are more likely to be a little older and at a point where they’ve figured out where they want to be career-wise. Younger (and likely not yet married) people are often still figuring out what they want to do with their lives.

      1. Penny

        I’m also a single almost-30 woman who doesn’t want kids and I’d be more angry that I didn’t get hired for a job because they *assumed* that because I’m a woman I’ll want to get married and have babies soon and will need to take a bunch of time off.

        1. Cat

          Neither one of those things are legitimate reasons not to hire someone, though, so I’m not sure it make sense to compare which is worse.

          1. Manda

            But that’s exactly why it’s none of their business either way. They’ll find out later if they decide to hire you.

      2. Elizabeth West

        And FWIW, the person without their own family is likely to need less time off because they won’t have family commitments to attend to.

        WHOOOOOAAAA no no no. That’s exactly the excuse employers use to shove extra work off on single people with no kids. Anyway, that’s not necessarily true anyway. Each person has his/her own life, committments, etc. Just because someone doesn’t have a family doesn’t mean they don’t have other things to do or other issues.

  21. Jeff

    #1, You are awesome! Seriously!

    If I was the person you had wheeled into a different spot I would think it was a great response, and I would know that you were someone who shared my absurd sense of humour. That is sit-com material.

    It’s unfortunate that you’re co-worker felt differently, but it sounds like that person was also oblivious to the office culture around break-time seating arrangements (“We all have our certain places where we sit and have sat for years.”) even though they had worked there for a year. So you found a hilarious way to gently point it out to them.

    1. fposte

      The thing is, “We all have our certain places where we sit and have sat for years” is not an appropriate thing to enforce, and if I were a manager and found out this craziness was going on, I’d seriously considering locking the conference room under the “This is why we can’t have nice things” statute.

      1. Just A Reader

        If a coworker physically moved me we would be having a problem. It’s not funny. It’s not mature. It’s not respectful. It’s not appropriate. And it doesn’t sound like the OP was joking.

    2. Elise

      I think the line about “people you don’t mess with” ruined any chance that the action was meant in a fun, joking manner.

    3. A Bug!

      That is sit-com material.

      Sure, Seinfeld. And the OP is George Costanza.

      There’s absolutely an oblivious person in this story and my first choice isn’t the co-worker.

      You’re entitled to find the behavior hilarious. And if the OP had done it to you, knowing that you’d find it hilarious, then there wouldn’t be an issue. But the co-worker’s not obligated to find it hilarious, and to be honest, I don’t get the impression from the letter that the OP expected the co-worker to be entertained by it so much as chastened by it, which changes the game significantly.

      I’d probably find it hilarious too, if a coworker with whom I get along and with whom I regularly joke did something like this to me. I wouldn’t find it hilarious if another coworker, who is known for passive-aggressive behavior, did the same.

      Context is so, so important.

  22. Chinook

    I just want to say that I am glad that the person who was wheeled away from OP#1’s spot dealt with it such a professional manner and that it worked to change the behavior.

    1. EM

      Yes! How many questions do we have where a reader writes in to ask, “My coworker is behaving inappropriately, how should I handle it?” And the answer is always, “Handle it directly and professionally”.

      1. A Bug!

        Haha! I wonder if AAM has a bunch of letters that she’s never published because they were all privately answered with “Yes, you handled it fine, good job.”

  23. Fran

    Re #2, if the OP focused on why she’d be good for the job itself and then added that she appreciated the stance they take on family balance (or fitness, or whatever else a company was pushing), wouldn’t that be appropriate? I mean, they’re the ones who were bringing it up and focusing on it. I just wonder, if a company is really proud of something they offer, wouldn’t they probably go with the qualified candidate who expressed appreciation for their special offer versus the similarly qualified candidate who didn’t?

    1. anon o

      I had the same thought. The OP did say they mentioned other reasons they were interested in the job.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      You really want to focus on the work. No one wants to hire someone who seems like they might be more motivated by a benefit than by the work itself. (Plus, plenty of companies boost that they’re family friendly and aren’t, so it’s a risky strategy in a couple of different ways.)

    3. Jazzy Red

      I think so, too. It may not be “The Deciding Factor”, but could very well influence the general impression of the candidate. Sometimes people get hired over another qualified candidate just because of a feeling that they fit in better with the corporate culture.

  24. Elizabeth West

    #1–my spot

    Get over it. It’s not “your” spot!
    I had a seat I preferred in the break room at OldJob–I did a lot of writing on my lunch hour and it was by a plug and away from the window so I could see my laptop screen. It was my choice what time I took my lunch. Sometimes I liked to go in there while the shop guys were still there, because it was fun to talk to them.

    If someone was in the spot I preferred, did I move them? HELL NO. They sometimes offered, and I would say no no, you were there first, I’ll just wait. It usually took me a few minutes to get my lunch fixed anyway. If they got up and moved (sometimes they were getting up anyway), then and ONLY then did I take the spot. Did they tease me about my spot? Sure–it was a bunch of blue-collar guys who teased about everything. I just laughed. If I wanted to just sit down and work, I waited until they were finished before I went to lunch. Case closed.

    I’m not perfect by any means, but to me, that was the only way to handle the situation. It’s beyond my ability to fathom actually MOVING the chair the person was sitting in!

  25. anon-2

    #1 – “your spot”. Are you in prison? Or is this a grammar school? Or what?

    I’m rather lost on the concept.

    1. A Bug!

      That MUST be it. The OP’s job is in a federal prison’s call center, and that makes AAM’s advice completely irrelevant.

      OP, what you need to do is shank your co-worker, as soon and as publicly as possible. If you can, make it bad enough that you get thrown in the hole (for the benefit of the law-abiding members of the audience, that’s “prison talk” for solitary confinement) for at least a week, so that when your other co-workers spread the story there’s proof that it happened.

    2. jesicka309

      Well, it sounds like the OP #1 requires her spot every day, as it has the perfect amount of space for her fellow coworkers to grovel at her feet and tell her how wonderful she is.
      See, they all have their places, and should the jester try to sit in the Queen’s seat…well, there’s a smackdown and the ruling class asserts itself.
      Just like in nature, folks.

  26. Ali

    Thank you to the OP in #1 for giving me yet another reason to love working at home. I was just talking to my friend today about adults who act like they have never left high school, and #1 would be in my group. What a brat you sound like!

  27. louise

    #1 makes me think AAM should periodically do a 7 Short Answers “Spot the Fake” edition…6 are entirely true, 1 entirely fake, guess which.

    1. EngineerGirl

      You need to watch that. I remember one get together we had where you had to come up with 2 truths and a lie. Everyone believe the lie about me! Ironically, the lie was way more tame than the truths.

      1. The IT Manager

        Samething happened to me in a training class. After two weeks in the class, my classmates debated which of my two truths were a lie while I stiffled my laughter.

    2. Elizabeth West

      How many people played Truth or Dare and then totally lied when they picked Truth?

      *raises hand* XD

  28. Penny

    #1- that comes off as really immature and unprofessional to me. But since you did apologize and seem to realize your error, I don’t think you should fret. Learning from mistakes is what’s important.

    #2- Disagree with Alison on this one. Since it wasn’t the ONLY thing you mentioned, I think it’s fine. And some companies will be glad to see that their lack of good benefits doesn’t turn you off because there are other “perks” for you. Also, mentioning that the family-oriented vibe appeals to you shows them that you’re in tune with their company culture. This would only have been an issue if you hadn’t also mentioned the business-related reasons you wanted the job.

  29. jesicka309

    OP#4 – Are most of the other other employees at your work full time? I’ve had the same scenario where I was given a workload as though I was full time, even though I was casual, working odd hours, and not allowed to get paid for more than my 4 hour rostered shift.
    Definitely talk to your manager about this, as it can affect you in more ways than just the reporting of hours. You may be rostered to work until 5.30 pm, and plan on leaving then, but if the corporate culture is to stay until 6, or until the work is done, you will (wrongly) end up looking like the slacker. Or if you refuse to do any work from home, then get reemed for not finishing something because there was a three day gap in your roster, and you don’t even have remote access (because you’re part time and a hourly worker).
    I ended up staying back most of the time, after the rude shock of getting my first payslip rejected (um, head office won’t sign off on the 5 hours you worked because the event ran over, there’s only room in the budget for four). So I worked MANY hours for free, not knowing how illegal is probably was.
    Don’t do what I did. Talk to your manager. And hey, best case scenario, they decide you do have too much work and turn the role full time! :)

    1. Manda

      At the store I used to work at, there was a loyalty program where customers earned points on their purchases and could redeem them later for discounts. Staff got bonus points for things like preventing theft and signing people up for credit cards. But sometimes when the budget sucked and there weren’t many hours, they would allow people to work off the clock and get points instead if they wanted. I would have refused if anyone had asked me. Pretty sure that’s illegal too. I don’t know why I never thought to call the local labour board about it. I just stayed out of it.

  30. Jazzy Red

    OP # 1 – I would have gone on break with my co-workers ONCE, and then spent every break after that in the bathroom, with a book. I need my breaks to get away from them. (I guess I *am* in introvert – I need lots of alone time.)

  31. I wish I could say

    Re: #2
    THANK YOU, Alison!
    I am so very tired of being on hiring committees when there is an applicant that is borderline, when asked why they are interested in the position (because they AREN’T a good fit) they respond: “To be close to family!” Keep that to yourself and focus on being a strong candidate!

  32. Guera

    After reading this and all the comments. I just have a really hard time believing that OP#1 is a real person and submitted a real question.
    Think about it. If OP is real she must be a split personality.
    One personality had the audacity to do what she did. But then the other, personality #2, must have recognized that this behavior was questionable and made the effort to seek out a professional’s opinion.
    The two actions don’t go together. Someone who does what she did is not someone who would write a letter asking for advice because they felt the need to do some self-examining.
    It’s like smacking someone across the head for no reason and then writing an email to a professional and asking if that was wrong.
    It just doesn’t make sense.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      It makes sense to me. She did something that she didn’t think was a big deal, but after the coworker confronted her about it, she started second-guessing herself (and also worrying that she’d get into trouble).

      (And I like to think that I can recognize and avoid BS letters, but who knows.)

      1. Elizabeth West

        If it isn’t BS, then yay to the OP for getting a clue. Hopefully this will spill over into other areas. Because people who do stuff like this at work often do it elsewhere too.

        There’s hope for the human race after all! :)

      2. Guera

        True. By the time I read through all the comments I forgot that she was confronted. My apologies!

  33. The Other Dawn

    1. I told someone to get out of my spot during a break at work

    Seriously? I can’t believe there are still people like this in the workplace. I thought all this childish stuff ended in elementary school. It’s apparent there aren’t any grownups in that office.

  34. Cruella DaBoss

    Consider the benefits of sitting somewhere new and seeing things from other perspectives. I try to sit somewhere different in every meeting we have. It helps me look at things in a whole new light.

  35. khilde

    #1 – I’m curious how the person that got moved handled your apology? Did they seem to accept it? Or were they still disgruntled after you apologized? There’s so much to this situation that context and tone of voice would help us understand. Overall, I think it’s clear there are some issues with general rudeness, lack of regard for others, and territorial issues in your workplace (by several people, not just you). But it’s truly hard for any of us to get a good sense for what happened without having been there.

    I think the answers to your concerns about expecting further reprimands and issues with this largely depends on the other person. If they’re the type that wasn’t satisfied with your apology and is going to hold a grudge, you might expect future problems from them. But if it comes up again in the conference room with the chairs–seriously, just be gracious and allow them to sit in that spot. Find another spot and just suck it up. What’s more important? The territory you are all marking out or the time you get to spend having coffee with your workmates? I could honestly see some people saying that trying to best the others in a game of territory marking IS the more important thing. But we have no idea the culture in your workplace, so that’s something you need to establish for yourself in your own mind so that going forward your priorities are clear.

    But if you were sincere in your apology and the person seemed to accept it, then it’s probably a done deal. Consider it a case of boundaries being clearly communicated. Now you know. I’d say continue to go to coffee, be gracious to that person in the future, and when someone else is being an ass (this person or others), don’t descend into the pit with them.

    Both of you were wrong here. The other person started it, but it doesn’t mean you ever have to finish it.

  36. Louis

    For #2

    You need to focus on being a strong candidate but I believe that being close to work can be turn into something positive for an employer.

    If you live within walking distance, you are less likely to miss a day because of snow storm are to arrive late because of traffic. You can also easily show up on short notice in case of an emergency. I guess it depend on the area you live and the type of work, but i can see advantages for an employer to have employe who live close.

    I wouldn’t dwell on them being family friendly thow, that’s an advantage for you but not for them.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      That stuff is all true, but a good employer isn’t going to hire you because of it (and still isn’t going to want to hear that that’s a primary motivator for you).

      1. Jamie

        Yep – and if they are reticent to hire people with longer commutes due to reliability issues they’ll take your locale into account without you having to mention it.

  37. Rebecca

    My favourite part of the LinkedIn skill endorsements are when my librarian colleagues and I are recommended for “Library.”

  38. Liz in the City

    #1 “Dear AAM, I’m somewhat new to my company and decided to join my coworkers for coffee the other day in the lunchroom. We don’t have the greatest company culture, since many of the employees being here for years are entrenched in their ways, but I was hoping that my attempts to engage them in conversation during our allowed 10 minute coffee break would allow me to break the ice a bit and get to know these people a little better.

    “Imagine my surprise when, after taking a free seat in the breakroom, another coworker, who’s been here longer than me, came into the room, ranting that I took ‘her’ seat and it was to vacate it immediately! All I did was sit down with my cup o’ Joe. I tried to ease the tension by making a crack about my age (I’m older than most of the other people here) and the problems of moving chairs, thinking she’d just take one of the many other open seats in the room.

    “Instead, she grabbed my chair and pushed it (it’s wheeled) over a few feet, grabbed another chair, and plunked herself down there, looked at me, and said, ‘There, now that’s better!’

    “Needless to say, I was humilitated. I told her privately afterwords that I was, and she looked a little remorseful. What should I do? I’m trying to make friends at this place, but after a year, still don’t feel like I fit in. Should I just avoid coffee breaks? Should I start looking for a new job?”

    1. EnnVeeEl

      I wouldn’t leave my job over this incident, but I might avoid this woman.

      Who does this?

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