terse answer Thursday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. My manager asked me not to get rides home from a coworker

I am a female and I’ve asked another female coworker for a ride twice because it was late and the buses stopped running already. She had no problem with it because I live 3 minutes away from the job. Our supervisor witnessed it both times, and today after my shift she called me into her office and asked me not to ask coworkers for rides anymore because it’s a liability issue. Is she allowed to tell me that even if the coworker and I are friends and the coworker clearly has no problem with it?

A liability issue? That sounds like total and complete BS to me. I’d ask her exactly what she means, and point out that people carpool all the freaking time — and tons of government programs encourage it.

2. Letting a recruiter know I have a deadline for receiving an offer

My significant other is deciding on law schools to go to and she needs to put down a deposit by the 30th. I’m currently interviewing for the job of my dreams, but I need to know if I am going to be hired this summer by the 29th or it’s pretty much useless because I want to end up in the same city as she does. How can I let the recruiter who is scheduling my interview know this without offending them? What should I say?

You can say, “We’re on a deadline to select a city by the 29th. Is that likely to work with your timeline?” But be prepared for the possibility that they might not be ready to make a decision by then.

3. Manager says I’m not friendly enough with coworkers

I have recently started a new job at a popular casual fine-dining restaurant chain. I have received criticism from my supervisors that I don’t appear to be friendly enough with my coworkers. They also state that this is never a concern with the tables I serve, and suggest that I treat my coworkers the same as I treat customers. I have taken their suggestion into consideration and have made an honest effort to smile, be friendly and greet fellow coworkers at every opportunity. However, the issue was brought up again.

I am a quiet person by nature, especially when working in a new situation where I haven’t established relationships with the staff. I also believe in focusing on the quality of my work and have never thought that socializing with staff would be used to gauge how competent an employee I am. I do feel fairly replaceable, given the industry I am in, and therefore don’t know how to approach my employers about how I feel for fear of being let go. I feel that as long as I am friendly and helpful I shouldn’t be asked to go out of my way to make close acquaintances at work. Should I express this to my employer? Or am I wrong for feeling this is unfair of them to request?

It’s ridiculous of them, but if this is their culture, you might be fighting an uphill battle. However, you can certainly say, “I really like my coworkers, but I’m a quiet person by nature. I hope that won’t interfere with your assessment of my work.”

4. Asking about the impact of rapid growth during an interview.

During a phone interview today, my interviewer mentioned that their nonprofit is growing very quickly (including this new position for which I’m interviewing). I know that growth can be exciting, but I’ve also had jobs where the organization grew too quickly and lost touch with the mission and culture that made them successful in the first place. I was offered an in-person interview next week and I’d like to probe a little more into how they approach growth. What questions would you suggest me asking? I don’t want to come across as anti-growth, but if growth will bring chaos and confusion this won’t be the right job for me.

“There are a lot of challenges that come with quick growth, like maintaining your culture, X, and Y (fill in with whatever you’re concerned about). How is the organization approaching those issues?”

5. What to ask for and think about when interviewing for a teleworking job

I recently interveiwed for a job, not knowing that the position will work from home. Do you have any advice/tips for things to ask for during the salary negotiation process as to what employers customarily provide (computer, phone, internet access at home, etc.) and maybe something special I should ask for if I get an offer? Also, any tips for evaluating whether working from home will be a good fit for me would be great. At first, the idea to work from home sounds great, but I think I might miss the social aspect of working in an office.

The employer should pay for any expenses that you incur because of the job that you wouldn’t have incurred otherwise — so depending on your situation and the job, that could be a computer, phone line or part of your phone bill, Internet access if you don’t already have it at home (although if you do, many won’t cover it, since it’s an expense you would have regardless), postage, supplies, printer, travel expenses for necessary trips to the office, etc. As for asking for anything special, most employers consider teleworking a benefit so I wouldn’t ask for additional benefits or compensation, other than perhaps working out precisely how often you’ll travel to the company’s office (if at all) and what expenses will be covered when you do.

But think carefully about whether working from home is for you — some people (like me) love it, but others go stir-crazy or find it hard to stay focused.

6. Is it better to have a gap or irrelevant experience on your resume?

I’m in the process of updating my resume and I’ve got a situation I’m not sure how to handle. My career is going on almost 15 years; as a result, I try to keep my resume lean and only focused on my most recent/relevant positions.

The problem is, a few years ago I moved cross country and it required that I take a job not directly related to my career for a year and half. Since I’ve been at my current job for so long, this detour creates a gap in my resume if I want to stay with my relevant experience.

My husband, who has done a lot of hiring, says I need to keep the unrelated stuff out of my resume and just fudge the dates of the related positions so I don’t have any gaps. I am very uncomfortable with that, so should I have an unrelated position or a gap? I absolutely believe that the resume is marketing tool so I really want to focus on my accomplishments in the related positions, but that is a pretty big gap and I don’t want it to scare anyone off from calling me.

Your husband may not verify dates of employment when he’s hiring, but lots of employers do — and lying about the dates you held a position will be an instant deal-breaker for most companies that check. Why not just put all your relevant experience in a Relevant Experience section and put the rest of it in an Other Experience section so that it’s clear what you were doing the rest of the time? You don’t need the less relevant stuff to take up a ton of space — you can just include the employer, title, and dates, and not get into details.

7. How much time does Ask a Manager take?

You’ve said you get a lot of email each day, and that you try to respond to everyone if you can. I also see that you post things late at night and early in the morning (e.g. you posted at 1:20 am and 8:45 a.m. one day earlier this week). So how much time each day do you actually spend reading/answering emails and writing posts? Are you seriously dealing with this stuff for 10+ hours a day (you must be exhausted from it!), or are you doing a couple hours here and a couple hours there? When do you fit in the time to write and edit your various columns? Are there other aspects of your work that you fit in the mix too?

Well, I set a lot of posts to automatically publish at particular times during the day, so sometimes while that’s happening I’m not at the computer at all. So that can be misleading. It’s definitely not a 10-hour a day job! I do a little here, a little there, a little more here, as I happen to have the time and the inclination. So it’s really just sporadic bursts throughout the day (and sometimes none at all, if I’ve pre-programmed everything to auto-publish). I’m a weirdly fast writer, so it takes less time than you might think (probably 15 minutes per post on average, plus random comments throughout the day, plus maybe an hour dealing with email each day). Actually, keeping up with the comments is the most time-consuming part of the whole thing — but also one of the most satisfying, and I’m not looking forward to the day when I have to accept that I can no longer read every comment.

That said, after I switched to 3+ posts a day last August, it upped the amount of pressure on days when I’m swamped with other stuff, but I’m convinced I can sustain that without completely losing my mind if I pre-write more often.

As for what else I do, the rest of it is consulting work for a handful of clients. I’d love to eventually do nothing but Ask a Manager, but y’all are going to have to buy an awful lot of ebooks to make that feasible.

{ 189 comments… read them below }

  1. Legal Eagle*

    For OP 2,

    Better advice: convince your SO not to go to law school. Only 55% of law school grads obtain full-time attorney jobs after graduation. I am currently in my last week of law school classes (almost there!). I have a job lined up with a law firm, but the number of my classmates who have no prospects is stunning. You very well may know all of this, but the number of people still going to law school astounds me.

    As far as the actual answer to your actual question, listen to Alison.

    1. Jane*

      I am a lawyer and unfortunately, I have to agree 100%. However, there are some exceptions, if: (1) your S.O. is getting a full or near-full scholarship and has thought long and hard about really wanting to be a practicing lawyer (not just about wanting to go to law school . . . which are two very very different things) and about the fact that it is difficult for lawyers to relocate in the future if necessary due to having to take the relevant bar exam; (2) your S.O. is going to a top 3 school (sadly even going to a top 14 these days does not guarantee employment) and is 100% sure she wants to be a practicing lawyer. Even when it comes to Colombia Law School, which I had earlier thought were virtually guaranteed a large law firm job just by virtue of the quality of the school, it is simply not the case that everyone who wanted a law firm summer associate position this summer got one. Indeed, the percentage I heard from a student there was shockingly low in comparison with what one would expect from such a prestigious school. Even for the “lucky few” who do get the coveted BigLaw job and are able to pay off our loans, many of us are itching, dying to get out because while it is lucrative, it is simply not a sustainable, let alone enjoyable, lifestyle for most people (especially, but certainly not limited to those who plan to get married and have children). For the vast majority of people, going to law school right now is just not a good idea. I would imagine your S.O. has read the numerous articles on this topic and has still decided to go but if she is at all on the fence about it and does not fit into one of the categories I outlined above, she may want to reconsider.

    2. College Career Counselor*

      Agreed with Legal Eagle on the benefit of going to law school. To that, I would add that if your SO accrues significant debt (average debt for those attending private law schools is over 100k and rising quickly), the poor legal job market may mean that this debt may NEVER be paid down. And it won’t be dischargeable in bankruptcy either. Bottom line, if it’s a top 20 law school AND she has little to no debt (or a big guaranteed scholarship for the 3 years) AND she can do well (not just “thinks she can finish in top 10% of class), then law school may be for her. Encourage her to read Brian Tamanaha’s book on Failing Law Schools or Steven Harper’s “The Lawyer Bubble” or Paul Campos’s e-book “Don’t Go to Law School Unless”.

    3. Anonymous*

      Gotta love how so many people are assuming this woman hasn’t thought things through yet. You guys have some good insight for people considering law school, but it’s not exactly rare insight, and it’s possible she’s known this for a while. Ever occur to you guys that she’s weighed the risks and possible outcomes and she’s *already* made an informed decision?

      1. Runon*

        Considering most people made mention of that it may have already been considered yes, I do think that these commenters considered that. I also think they know that many people read this blog and pointing these things out may be helpful for more than just this person if they have already considered.

      2. RG*

        It is shocking how many people make it into law school without ever having thought about these things. So, if she hasn’t considered, maybe this will be a wake up call to rethink. Although, realistically, if she hasn’t thought about it by now, she’s probably not going to…

        And even if she does know this, maybe SO (the letter writer, right?) doesn’t. And law school is tough enough on relationships without going into it blind.

        1. Jane*

          Agreed. And I also wanted to balance what I said above with this: some people do really have thought it through and really want to be lawyers and some people who don’t think it through (like me) still end up wanting to be lawyers. I just wanted to clarify that I’m not saying that no one should go to law school or that it’s a bad idea for everyone. I definitely do not regret going to law school because I do want to be a lawyer (just not a huge fan of BigLaw or certain practice areas, but I won’t get into that).

  2. AF*

    To OP #1 – it’s not a liability issue for your employer unless you’re in a car they own, or if you’re traveling for a work purpose (which you’re not since you’re just going home). Obviously your coworker could have a liability issue if she causes an accident, but that’s what insurance is for, and hopefully she is careful. Your manager is misinformed at best, ridiculous at worst. What does she say about you taking the bus home? What difference does it make how you get home?

    1. Chloe*

      Just to provide an alternative view…is it possible that this is your managers clumsy way of asking you not to get lifts from your colleague because your colleague doesn’t really want to do it?

      It doesn’t really sound like it, because you say your coworker is happy to do it, but there is always the chance that you’ve misread this and your coworker has asked your boss to find some way of getting you to stop asking.

      Just thought I’d put it out there, don’t be offended if I’m totally off base!

      1. Marmite*

        This would be a ridiculous thing for an employee to ask their boss to handle. And if they did any decent manager would ask if the employee had told the other employee that they didn’t want to drive them home. If the answer was no they’d tell them to do that, not make up some lies about liability!

        The OP says that she and the coworker are friends so it seems unlikely that the coworker would complain to the boss about OP asking for rides anyway.

        My question about the liability is; wouldn’t it be more likely to be a liability issue if this boss bans the OP from asking a coworker for rides and then something happens to the OP when she’s walking home alone in the dark (I assume, as the buses have stopped running that it’s late)?

        1. AF*

          Right – that seems possible that the other employee asked the manager to do it, but why can’t she just tell the OP the truth? (I wonder if the OP has any inkling if this is the case, but it sounds like both parties are fine with it). And yes, there could be a HUGE liability issue if the boss dictated that and you got hurt. I’m sure there are plenty of lawyers who would take that case in a second.

        2. Anonymous*

          “My question about the liability is; wouldn’t it be more likely to be a liability issue if this boss bans the OP from asking a coworker for rides and then something happens to the OP when she’s walking home alone in the dark (I assume, as the buses have stopped running that it’s late)?”

          Why? Isn’t it ultimately her responsibility to find reliable and safe transportation for herself from work. For instance, what if the company has this policy as stupid as it is–to not ask co-workers for ride homes because of ‘liability’ issues.

          * this also makes me wonder if something has happened in the past with other employees ride-sharing. But my gut reaction says the co-worker is really uncomfortable with giving the op rides and asked the manager to intervene; and the manager foolishly intervened.

      2. FiveNine*

        This was my first thought, too — that the coworker actually feels put on the spot with OP publicly, pointedly asking for rides after hours in front of the boss or other people. Coworker doesn’t really have a way to graciously say No to OP, who apparently already has had no hesitation to repeatedly ask this one coworker for last-minute, unscheduled late night rides to her personal home instead of making other arrangements.

        1. Dang*

          Yep. No doubt in my mind that its really this.

          I have a coworker who asks for rides home if she misses the bus. She has made a comment here and there about how it’s not too far from where I live, but it actually IS out of the way. I don’t mind doing it every so often but it really isn’t my problem to fix that she refuses to drive in an area with poor public transportation.

        2. Mimi*

          Agreed; I immediately thought it was the co-worker who isn’t crazy about giving rides to the OP, and approached the manager about it. Maybe the co-worker should tell the OP he/she has standing appointments, etc? On the other hand, then the co-worker might feel guilty about being the person’s only ride home. And sometimes, you just want to go straight home!

          1. Anonymous*

            Fivenine, dang, and mimi, this was my thoughts exactly. I don’t mind carpooling and giving rides. I’ve needed a ride from co-workers in cases where my car needed repairs and I have given co-workers rides who have had car problems. But sometimes it really awkward when there is a co-worker who doesn’t have their own transportation–and it’s late, you got errands, and their 3 minutes ride home is out of your way and you just want to go straight home.. Then you feel compelled to offer the ride or not say no when asked.

        3. Natalie*

          Eh, that’s making a lot of assumptions given what the OP has written. And if the co-worker and the boss are both incapable of having a direct, polite conversation about this, then the OP is under no obligation to second-guess their meanings.

          1. Oxford Comma*

            And the liability argument is a stupid one to make. IF the coworker did go to the boss about it, and the boss really felt that it was his/her responsibility to talk to the OP, fine. But then the point should have been that the OP needs to make his/her own arrangements and not impose on the coworker. As Alison wrote, people carpool all the time.

          2. Gilbey*

            In response to Natalie’s comment: I agree. The OP states this happened only twice and that the manager witnessed it.

            That comment says the manager heard and saw it happened and decided to say something on her own.

            I do not at all see where there was a secret conversation between the co-worker and the manager about this being a problem.

            And if there was, it is the co-workers fault if she has a problem with it and doesn’t say anything.

      3. cncx*

        this is exactly what i thought- that the coworker felt put out for whatever reason and didn’t want to handle it.

      4. A*

        Honestly, this was my first thought. That either the coworker had mentioned to the boss that they felt pressure to help (doesnt mean she didn’t outwardly appear to be fine with doing it). Or even more likely, that since the boss overheard multiple times, they assumed it happens often and wanted to discourage behavior they thought might come across as imposing on other coworkers.

        Not saying I agree, just that this was my interpretation.

    2. Jane*

      I also can’t help but wonder what is going on here, because it must be something. I can’t imagine an employer being so misinformed about liability issues, but I suppose anything is possible. I didn’t realize that traveling in a private car for work purposes could create liability issues for the employer but I’m a bit fuzzy on that area of law. That’s interesting . . . perhaps the employer is mixing the two scenarios up and is just confused? I would want to get to the bottom of this though so I would definitely ask.

      1. AF*

        I should have specified (I’m a licensed insurance agent in Pennsylvania, but this doesn’t constitute legal advice at all because I’m not a lawyer): if you’re running errands for work on a regular basis in your car (like taking a deposit to the bank every night), in PA at least your employer can get a type of coverage that would cover you and your vehicle in an accident while doing something for work. Even if they’re not insured, they could still be held liable because you’re doing something for them in your car. That’s not what’s going on here, though, unless I’m missing something.

        1. Construction HR*

          Yeah, maybe the driver is dropping off the day’s outgoing mail at the PO on her way home & is getting some kind of compensation for it.

          Still, pretty lame.

    3. EnnVeeEl*

      I really think the “work friend” complained to the manager about giving the OP rides and the manager foolishly got involved. This is all very Kindergarten, and the OP should just work on getting herself to work without her “friend’s” help.

      1. Lizabeth*

        Actually, the OP may consider taking a taxi home if she has to stay late enough to miss the bus and ask if the company will cover the cost.

        1. Chinook*

          I was thinking too why the OP doesn’t ask for the company to cover taxi fare if she is asked to work later than transit runs. Too me, that would be a bigger liability issue (though I also admit that it is not my company’s job to arrange for me to go home). When I worked for accountants, they did this but they also offered as a perk free transit passes so they were encouraging us to use transition knowing that there were times when it would not be available.

          That being said, I agree with those saying that this sounds like an awkward attempt to ask the OP not to rely on her coworker for rides home UNLESS they work in a vulnerable sector. The diocese I volunteer for just instituted policies that include nobody being alone with anyone perceived as vulnerable. This includes no rides home to anyone unless related.

          1. majigail*

            As a manager, I expect my employees to have transportation to and from the office handled in some way. I wouldn’t pay for a taxi out of company funds for an employee to get home if she missed the bus. But then again, I wouldn’t actively prevent them from carpooling. I agree with others that it sounds like the co-worker has complained to the manager and the manager is trying to “fix” the problem by banning the practice. I’ve been in similar situations where a disabled employee’s ride cancelled on him at the last minute and some of the people that he would ask didn’t feel comfortable saying no, but also didn’t want to do it.

            1. Anonymous*

              I remember at one job, there was this one guy who didn’t have transportation. He was a really great employee, so much so the managers, GM included, would give him a ride to and from work.
              At first he would call and ask if someone could come pick him up, then there was one lady who started giving him rides–I think a relationship spun, blew up and then she quit. Then from there only the managers were allowed to pick him or give him a ride home. This happened for the next 3 years…

    4. Jazzy Red*

      It sounds to me like the manager has not had adequate training and 1) might possibly be jealous of this friendship, or 2) just likes to make rules for other people to follow (I’ve known both kinds). If the driver didn’t want to give the OP rides, she would be making excuses why she can’t, but that’s not what’s happening here.

      AAM’s answer is great, and wouldn’t get you into as much trouble as the answer I was thinking of but decided not to say. Here’s the amended version: “My friend and I are carpooling to save the environment”.

      1. some1*

        “It sounds to me like the manager has not had adequate training and 1) might possibly be jealous of this friendship, or 2) just likes to make rules for other people to follow (I’ve known both kinds).”

        Agreed. Years ago I had a sup who was managing people for the first time. Looking back, I think she was afraid if she didn’t assert a certain amount of authority that she would be failing somehow. She did “make up rules” and when I had an issue with a counterpart (that she also supervised), she offered to lie to my counterpart about why she was going to change a procedure to fix the issue.

      2. Kelly L.*

        My first thought was that she was paranoid the two carpoolers would talk about her behind her back during the drive.

        1. Shelley*

          I had a crazy boss like this in my first job. There were 4 of us working there, and we were never allowed to take lunches together, and she did her very best to make sure we never communicated with each other. Literally, one of the worst places I ever worked for, but I got enough experience there to move to a better job. As soon as I read this post it reminded me of my first job and crazy lady boss . This is something she has actually said and done.
          This really seems like a really weird non-work related problem that her manager has inserted herself in. I have a problem when managers cross the line like this.

          1. Shelley*

            I forgot to mention, she didn’t want us talking because she did not want us talking about our salaries (we made peanuts but some made more peanuts than the other), she did not wants us gossiping about her, and she also had asked us to do extremely unethical things and did not want us talking to each other about it. I guess she figured she thought she would find one person who would do it for her, and if we spoke to each other we would collaborate as a group to all leave (she was worried about the strength in numbers aspect), which she was right to worry about. We all left around the same time, and talking to each other made us realize just how whack-a-doodle she was.

            1. ThatFormerHRGirl*

              I’m assuming you don’t work there anymore, and you’ve established this manager was whacko in many different capacities – but just know that she can’t mandate that you not discuss your salary with your own coworker, as that specifically violates NRLA. Big no no.

    5. Jessa*

      The only thing I can think of that would be a legitimate reason for the boss to make this statement would be if the company had some interest in either the car or the insurance for it. OR if for some reason during the time that the friend is transporting the OP they are already ON the clock and therefore the company does not want extra liability for them doing something besides strictly taking themselves to work.

      In either case, that should have been something explained to the OP. As in “I know you get a ride from Wakeen but Wakeen clocks in at 7am from home because of the Smith Silver Teapot account, and I can’t have non work stuff being done because of liability.”

      1. Jessa*

        Ah stupid return key totally went before I was finished.

        I only say the bit on the “during work” thing because a friend had that happen, she was in a car accident (not her fault, her personal car though,) but she was on the clock doing something, so it became a fight over worker’s compensation.

  3. jesicka309*

    OP#3 I have the same issue at my work (though I’m working in an office, not in a restaurant). I got a mediocre performance review because I needed to work on my ‘interpersonal skills’, despite them raving about my stellar work. It was a wake up call that I hadn’t been as good at hiding my dislike as I thought I’d been (and a sucky way to lose my outstanding rating).

    Sometimes, especially in a job that you might feel is ‘beneath you’ or is an inbetween job, it’s hard to hide your disdain or loathing of your coworkers. Especially if they’re all idiots/botches/people you would actively choose to avoid in your life if you could.

    The trick is to fake it until you make it. Listen when your coworkers are talking, and ask questions. Is there one person you can stand more than the others? Make a point to chat to them when you can.

    It sucks being ‘on’ for both customers and coworkers, but sadly it’s a fact of life. And if you’re finding this approach draining, probably start looking for another job. :)

    1. CoffeeLover*

      The coworker relationship environment is so different from restaurant to restaurant (I’ve compared notes with friends). The only restaurant I’ve worked in had such hostile coworker relationships and management seemed to like it that way. There was a lot of inter-coworker fooling around going on, which lead to some volatile break-ups. Not to mention a lot of the people where just downright mean. Although they kept up appearances with customers. Worst job of my life no doubt! I didn’t last very long.

    2. PEBCAK*

      I understand this entirely, from when I worked retail. Working with customers, I had a sort of “script” to follow, but talking to coworkers, there is no such thing. I would actually try to plan out in advance the types of things I’d talk to them about…things like asking about their kids, asking how their day off was, etc., because that made it easier for me than to try to come up with chit-chat on the spot.

  4. The IT Manager*

    For #5, it may not be the norm, but my organization does not pay for phone or internet. That’s completely the responsibility of the the employee. They do however provide a laptop (and a VPN which encrypts the connection for security). I had to change my cell phone (my only phone) plan to accommodate many more minutes, but it the perk is worth it to me. Also if the office is local, I may not expect them to reimburse any trips to the office.

    If the company expects you to telework, they may already have a clear cut policy in place so ask because it’s possible there may not be any room for negotiations.

    I agree about considering if working from home would work for you. It can be isolating because phone/IM/email without face-to-face interactions and “killing time” chats do not really foster any kind of work friendships. Does the job rely on relationships? Do you value workplace relationships and interactions? Would you find yourself lonely all day without it. Can you motivate yourself if no ones around to check up on you? etc, etc …

    1. Brandy*

      During the interview process, I’d stress things like the ability to work independently, strong communication skills, etc. if you’ve never had to telework before. If you have, highlight your successes in those environments.

      From a neogitations standpoint, I’d ask to be given a rundown of the work-from-home policy and/or a copy during negotiations (my company has no problem sharing the policy, though others may- so just try to get a sense for what’s required, what’s paid for, etc.). An easy example is one that comes up on AAM a lot- childcare. If you have kids, does the company require you to prove you have childcare for all children <12 during work hours?

      I'd also try and fish out during the interview 1. the onboarding process (I assume it's in person…), 2. how often you're expected/allowed to be in the local office- and if you will have workspace there (even if it's just a "floater" desk or office), how much travel (to local office or beyond) is required, etc. I have a remote/work-at-home position, but I also have dedicated office space in the local branch. I almost never use it because my <30% travel job requires me out of town in a city I can't get to directly (ie takes half a day in travel just to get there…) 2-3 days/week. So when I'm not on the road, I work at home.

      Find out if they either issue a company cell phone, subsidize your phone bill, or if they'll pay for a 2nd house line/portion of your phone bill. My company does one, your pick.

      As others mentioned, typically this arrangement is seen as a benefit, not a burden, so it's not likely you can negotiate extra pay based on it (you'll be saving gas money, lunch money, commute time, etc.). Do think carefully about how your bonus (if applicable) will be measured and structured, and if you are NOT close to a home office, I'd make sure the health plan they offer includes doctors in your area.

      Ask about company issued computers and any required security, etc. I'm sure more will come to me as I read through later responses, but it's a place to start.

      1. Brandy*

        Ah! Another thing: is the company you’re looking to work for tech savvy/ remote worker friendly? As in, will there be many meetings where you will be one of several remote folks dialing in? Or will you be the ONLY one on the phone (and on dated equipment that makes it hard for you to hear/contribute)? Do they have a corporate IM system? Do people use it? Etc.

      2. The IT Manager*

        Oh! And you’ll need good home Internet. Even if your company is paying for it, you need to be in a place that offers enough bandwidth to allow you to work from home.

        I have I fiber optic service and it’s like being conected to the office LAN except for one thing I can work around. But another coworker moved a few blocks, couldn’t get fiber optic service at her new home, and noticed that the cable internet service she could get seemed a little slower. It didn’t stop her from working from home, but it was noticably slower. Hopefully you live in a place that gets decent service.

    2. Coelura*

      You really need to know how many of the people you are likely to be working with will also be telecommuters. If most of them will be in a conference room when you’re working with them, it will drive you nuts. In fact, its almost impossible because you can’t hear them.

      I’ve been a telecommuter for 15 years for 4 different companies. I totally love it. However, I have seen folks try telecommuting and simply hate it. They do not like the intrusion into their home and they do not like the lack of interaction with people in the office. Others think they’ll hate it and discover that they love telecommuting after a little while because their job is a bit more flexible (they can fold a load of laundry while on a call for instance).

      Typically, a telecommuter policy requires:
      1. that you have child care of all children under the age of 12 during your working hours.
      2. a separate office space with a door
      3. for you to provide a desk, chair, physical phone & headset, lighting
      4. that you be accessible during your working hours
      5. if you have to travel to a local office, you cover all travel expenses

      Depending on your company, you may also have to proide internet & phone line.

      Depending on the role, the policy may be different. ASK to see the policy or have it explained to you as part of your interview.

      By the way – this is for the US. My employee in the UK has a totally different policy that he follows. The US policy is actually more generous.

      1. Runon*

        You’re required to have an office with a door? Does this mean that people who live in studio spaces aren’t allowed to telework?

        (Yes this is totally me asking for me. I live in a studio and have a great desk office space set up but no door of course. And I’ve been looking for some jobs that would give me the option of doing it, I assume companies would be different, but a lot require an office space and I never guessed they would require a door with it.)

        1. Brandy*

          If you live alone, you may easily get a pass on this. The idea is to be able to keep out household noise (kids, spouse, pets).

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes — the idea is that they don’t want you working from your living room couch while your family watches TV in the same room and your spouse keeps asking you where the mayonnaise is or whatever. They want to ensure you have a quiet workspace.

          2. Runon*

            Yeah no spouse, no kids, no dog, not even a plant to distract me.

            I guess it makes sense to not have those distractions, but most of those can open the door and bug you just as easily.

            1. EA*

              If I had a plant that could open the door and bug me, I’d be afraid.

              (or, I may possibly feel like a character in a story I read as a child … although, I guess that would make me afraid for a different reason)

              1. Runon*

                I think in Australia they might have plants that can open the door and kill you. But that’s just an average Thursday.

        2. Coelura*

          I’ve been required to have a door because of confidentiality issues. Depending on the type of data you handle, the company does not want casual non-employee eyes to see the data. It can be company confidential information or it can be employee confidential data or it can be customer PHI/PII data. In an office situation, the risk is not as high if another employee sees the data because you both work for the company. But the risk is much higher if a family member or a friend sees the data.

      2. Lora*

        Wait a second…

        “2. a separate office space with a door”

        I don’t even have this in my work office!!!

        I wish I did, I had an office with a door at my last job and I loved, loved loved it. People still shouted through the door at me when it was important (paper-thin walls), and I did the whole Management By Walking Around thing so I was still accessible and all that, but I didn’t get as much of the trivial questions and I was able to have private conversations with employees, call in to teleconferences without disturbing others (we had lots, actual conference rooms were always booked up), and sit down and focus to get things done.

    3. The IT Manager*

      I’m not sure of your situation. I actually only telework from home one day a week now since I am a new employee. I expect I can eventually work my way to full time telework because my team are all virtual scattered all over the country so the infrastructure is in place to support teleworkers and I don’t lose out on team interaction.

      Easing into it may be a good idea if that’s possible and you can also get a desk at the office. Especially in the beginning when you are new and need to learn the company culture.

      To be honest my first few telework days did not go well – I did not get a lot done and I did some goofing off. They were hindered by me being particularly tired and sleepy so they probably would not have been terribly productive in the office either, but being at home I didn’t need to do anything to “fake” productivity. I’ve got much better at working from home now and some of my telework days have been some of my most productive.

  5. Manda*

    OP #3: I feel for you. I’m rather quiet, myself. Working in retail taught me to fake a smile pretty good. I could act friendly and be helpful when I needed to, but I’m not naturally friendly at all. I probably come across as rude to some people, but it’s not intentional. I’m just aloof. I said hi and talked to other staff sometimes but I didn’t exactly care to get to know anyone real well. On lunch breaks I usually grabbed a magazine to read in hopes that people wouldn’t bother trying to talk to me. Sometimes they’d talk anyway and it drove me nuts when I got interrupted by someone talking about stuff I didn’t care about.

    I worry about having to socialize at work in the future. I’ll say hi, but I’m just not very talkative. I hope I don’t end up somewhere with a bunch of bubbly people I don’t fit in with at all.

    1. Chris80*

      I’ve always wondered if there’s a good way to screen for a “bubbly” culture in an interview! I am, much like you, rather quiet and introverted. I can make small talk and be friendly when needed, but I don’t do “perky” and generally avoid my coworkers that are hyper. I want to work in a place where I can work in peace and quiet, with pleasant but calm coworkers. Any thoughts on how to avoid ending up in a perky/hyper/bubbly environment? :-)

      1. Runon*

        Asking for a tour of the office can tell you a ton about culture and I’m often offered one and not ever been turned down when I’ve asked for a tour.

        If people stop and say hi, if you hear a lot of general not work chatter, just watching what people say and do on a tour of the space is incredibly helpful.

      2. Manda*

        I recently considered applying for a job and then changed my mind once I found the company’s YouTube videos. The first one I watched gave me the impression that this was a fun place to work. I decided not to bother applying after watching a few more. While it appeared to be a fun and laid back environment, I figured I just was not sociable enough to fit in. I also didn’t like the idea of having to dodge a camera at work all the time. I do not want to be on YouTube. But this was one exception. Normally you would have to somehow gauge what the place is going to be like from the interviews I guess.

      3. HAnon*

        It’s probably part of the culture if the ad for the position uses words like “outgoing” and “enthusiastic” — code for extrovert. So if you apply to that job, just realize you’ll probably have to make more of an effort than might be natural/comfortable to engage with people.

    2. Emma*

      +infinity. I’ve had to train myself to behave in a more friendly manner, which includes responding to cues that I would not regularly notice, engaging in banter uninteresting to me, etc. I think it’s helped me behave in a more pro-social way, in that I haven’t had anyone come up to me at NewJob and say “You know, when you started, I thought you were really rude because you didn’t say ‘hi,’ you didn’t notice PersonA in the hallway, etc.” (happened at OldJob, which is funny, because I ended up LOVING my coworkers and wish I could take them with me to all my jobs). Chalk it up to interpersonal development or adapting to one’s social environment?

  6. Anonymous*

    Alison, regarding you making this full time…I think you’ve got enough material to produce many more books. You could do both ebooks and printed books, and you’ve got such a massive fan base that I think readers would be happy to snap them up. The more products you have to sell, the more money you’ll make. Once people like you, they’re usually happy to invest more money in what you do.

    1. Lee*

      Agree! There is so much great information on this site – more than enough for a few smaller “deep dive” ebooks on particular topics. You are a great writer Allison and I look forward to more books from you in the future!

    2. AF*

      Yes I agree too! This site has been a godsend and I know others would love to read your books and blog.

    3. Fran*

      I could definitely see a series of ebooks on different topics, like advice for new managers, how not to be an asshole boss, how to negotiate salary and perks, etc.

    4. Ellie H.*

      I totally agree. I recommend your blog to people all the time, but I’m a big fan of the printed word too and would definitely buy and give the book. You could even just bind the blog posts into book form as Dan Savage has done. Sorting the content into Emily Post-type topic areas would be the biggest part. My mom is a professor who advises both students and grad students especially on finding a job and job placement. She gives a lot of advice about this and is often looking for materials to recommend – I’ve told her to recommend your blog which I believe she has done – but I would totally give her the books to have in her office.

    1. AF*

      Haaaaaa! I TOTALLY thought that when I first read it. Awesome. Also highlights how silly this type of complaint is.

    2. Malissa*

      I was going to ask if she was wearing the minimum 26 pieces of flair. Because she could wear 37 pieces like Brian, that would be great.

    3. Canuck*

      Yeeeeeeaaaahhhhhhhh….. I’m also gonna need you to go ahead and come in on Sunday too, kay.

  7. VicatoriaHR*

    #3 – I was in the same position as you were in my mid 20’s. I worked at an insurance company in a data processing position. Every time I had a one-on-one with my supervisor, my work performance was always fine but so-and-so had complained that I didn’t say hi in the hall, or so-and-so had complained that I wasn’t friendly to them, or so-and-so had complained that I didn’t participate in office banter. As an introvert, it hit me hard. My supervisors basically approached it as my personality was deficient, and that I’d have to “fake being perky” (my last supe there told me that verbatim) or I would never be promoted. I put in my notice shortly thereafter.

    Ever since, I have had a hard time being myself at any job. I’ve gotten much better at faking being perky. I do my best to say hi to people in the hall, even if I don’t feel like it, and make stupid casual banter in the breakroom. I feel like if I don’t, people will complain. It’s dumb and worthy of schoolchildren, but IMO it’s the society we live in nowadays.

    1. -X-*

      “so-and-so had complained that I didn’t say hi in the hall,”

      Losers. What a bunch of losers to actually bring that up with manager.

      If an employee is so sullen that it’s actively affecting other staff, or hurting relations with clients/customers – yeah, bring it up.

      But complaining about not getting “hi” in the hall? Losers. Needy frickin’ losers.

      1. Anonymous*

        Your whole comment made me chuckle. Guess it’s the way you phrased it but I am now convinced that they were actually losers. Thanks for the laugh!

      2. Chinook*

        Could be worse – I once had a fellow choir member ask me why I didn’t wave when we passed each other in the highway (I replied that I was too busy driving and keeping an eye out for suicidal deer to be noticing who was driving other vehicles). Aaahhh…the joys of small town living.

    2. Lynn*

      You too, huh? I used to have a manager who I swear didn’t realize that I even HAD job responsibilities other than attending work parties. I do a good job at my actual work, I am pleasant to people (multiple managers have said “very easy to get along with” in my review), but playing Skee-ball at Dave & Buster’s is not where I shine.

    3. Joey*

      Fwiw I dont think its necessarily dumb. Its a legitimate issue or at least it can be. If people perceive you to be stuck up, grumpy, anti social or whatever who is going to want to promote that person. Now being percieved as friendly and in a good mood isn’t typically going to get you promoted but it can sure stand in the way of a promotion if people perceive you to be a negative person. Who cares if its not true, perception is reality. I mean think about it. Can you blame someone for being concerned that someone’s attitude may bring other people down?

      But, yeah, lots of people fake it. I think we all have to at some point. Everybody has bad days, some more than others, but you have to remember how you act greatly impacts your professional reputation.

      1. A.*

        There’s a big difference between being asked not to be grumpy/antisocial/etc and being asked to be “perky,” though. Perky, bubbly, etc are all gendered thing that assumes women are naturally nurturing, “cheerleader” types. Absolutely you can’t storm around your office glaring at everyone, but if you’re courteous, a team-player, and attempt to make basic professional relationships with your coworkers, there should be no problem with being more on the quiet side. Asking a woman who is all of those things to be more perky is insulting and based on completely unfair societal expectations.

        1. Joey*

          Yeah, poor choice of words, but don’t get hung up on it. I’d have more of a problem with it if she said men were allowed to get away with the same behavior.

          1. A.*

            I’m not trying to be too combative, but it’s very, very easy for a man to say “don’t get too hung up on it” over something like that because it’s not something that would ever affect them. At many offices, men actually ARE able to get away with being less outgoing because no one thinks twice about them not saying a happy enough hello in the hallway or skipping out on a potluck. There’s much less societal expectation for them to be on planning committees or greeting co-workers with a chipper swing in their step. And that’s why it’s important to be cognizent that, yeah, it’s really unfair that friendly, courteous women who might not bowl you over with their exuberance get the short end of the stick because they aren’t fitting some pre-described role.

            I know this blog focuses on what is rather than what should be, but this is a microaggression that a lot of introverted women face every single day and it’s really crappy.

              1. Victoria x*


                it falls under the same umbrella as the “smile” directive that many women – and certainly I – face.

            1. Malissa*

              This is why I do my best to make people think I’m a man in a woman’s body before I start bringing in the baked goods. :)
              Well not really, but I have greeted the assumptions that I must care about the minute details of everybody’s life because I am a woman with a stone wall. But then I’m a bit socially clueless and will look at people with confusion when I get a complaint about something that’s as trivial as this complaint. I tend to make them explain what was wrong. Some how that just kills the conversation.

            2. Joey*

              If you’re insinuating I take it lightly because I’m a man that’s kind of a sexist statement in and of itself. I take it lightly because there’s no mention of men being treated differently. I understand it may be a sore spot for you and you may conclude that its sex discrimination, but at this point that would be premature.

              1. A.*

                I’m not going to keep arguing this, but my main point is that language matters and especially in a professional environment. And it’s not sexist to say that someone who hasn’t experienced that kind of language being directed at them on a regular basis doesn’t understand it the same way as those who have it constantly directed at them. It’s similar to loaded language being directed at a minority and a white person telling them not to be so sensitive because they “didn’t mean it that way.”

                That’s all.

                1. Joey*

                  Sure it’s sexist to say I don’t see it your way because I’m a man. Of course language matters, I never said it didn’t.

                2. Jen*

                  Wow, Joey. I don’t know why I can’t reply to you directly, but you’re being really unfair. The OP is clearly trying to get across that the words themselves are the problem. Sure, it’s great if the same expectation is on men and women, but the fact that the message is very, very often told to men and women differently is still a problem in and of itself! Victoria x put it well above where she compared it to women being told to ‘smile’ because that’s the societal standard for them.

                  But all you’re getting out of it is that SHE’S sexist for making the assertion that men may not have the exact same understanding as women as to why some language is more damaging to them than others (“perky” vs “engaging” or “bubbly” vs “outgoing”) because men haven’t lived it. That’s an extremely common response for any majority group to any minority group. Check your privilege, dude.

                3. Joey*

                  People talk to men and women differently all the time. It’s the same as telling a man to toughen up while telling a woman not to be so emotional. The treatment or at least the intent of the treatment is the same. All I’m saying is that the language, while not the most professional, holds less weight than treatment. How’s that unfair? That’s fact, at least in the eyes of the law.

        2. Joey*

          Except that in some places there is a problem with being on the quiet side. Not what I would do, but if that’s the culture they want……

          1. A.*

            Sure, but the insistence on perkiness and bubbliness happens to women all. the. time. at every sort of culture, which is why it bugs me in particular (clearly!)

    4. A.*

      Ugh, so annoying. And frankly, sexist. Would a man ever be told that he had to fake being “perky”?

      Pet peeve.

        1. A.*

          No, I mean the word “perky” is sexist. Men are asked to be more “friendly” or “out-going.” I would eat my shoe if a man was asked to be “perky.”

          1. A.*

            I should also mention that I think there’s problems with asking introverts of any gender to be outgoing or “friendly” to for the reasons I outline in my response to Joey, but “perky” and “bubbly” are much, much more problematic when they’re directed towards women in a professional situation…and they very often are.

    5. Nicole*

      I had a coworker who wouldn’t say hi to me in the hall after I ‘d say hi first. I thought it was rude, but I didn’t tell on her because that’s silly. I just stopped acknowledging her after it happened three times (3 strikes and you’re out).

    6. Emma*

      We have a workplace partner (not part of our organization but we see him every day) who never says “hi,” but demonstrates other positive behaviors (lets us in in the morning, etc.). Because he doesn’t say “hi” and isn’t as conversational as the other men in his position, my coworker call him mean. “He’s so mean!” And I have to sympathize with this guy! Because I’ve had this critique leveled at me in the past. He’s NOT mean – maybe he’s terminally shy, maybe he doesn’t hear you because he’s deaf, maybe he nods at you but you don’t see it, etc.

      When I have to demonstrate behaviors that don’t come naturally to me – gossiping, being excited about latest episode of whatever-it-is the entire office fawns over, cooing over someone’s baby, etc. – I can only do for a short period of time before it becomes super awkward and apparent. I seem robotic in these cases because I’m not being me, which makes it come out insincere, which seems *worse* to me than simply being disinterested.

      I’m polite, cordial and competent, but not effervescent or interested in chatting away beside someone’s desk. I hate that the latter part is what gets noticed and judged as part of professionalism (in my job, which is not customer-facing) when it shouldn’t be.

  8. Colette*

    #1 – If I understand the situation, the OP is asking her coworker for rides when she has to work after the buses stop running – which I’m going to assume means she was working quite late.

    Does the company have a policy that they’ll pay for cabs if you bus but the buses have stopped running? They may have one, and it can’t hurt to ask.

    I agree, though, that there could easily be a bigger problem that’s not being dealt with – either a supervisor who doesn’t understand the company’s actual policies or the coworker is complaining.

    1. LJL*

      It’s also possible that there is something else going on. A supervisor once told me that I should not have lunch with certain other employees. Weirdness, but then again,the world is a weird place.

    2. darsenfeld*

      That still doesn’t make sense to me. I would say in general, events occurring off site are not a firm’s business, especially if they are not official company events. If a co-worker offers/invites to give a lift to his or her colleague, then it’s not management’s business.

  9. Lisa*

    #3 – One time my manager told me that a coworker of mine was mad for a week because I didn’t say hi to him one morning…which of course I thought was completely ridiculous, since everyone knew I wasn’t a morning person and never spoke to ANYONE as soon as I walked in (I have a tendency to be snarky when I’m still sleepy). However, she laughed it off because she, too, wasn’t a morning person, and thought the whole thing was incredibly juvenile.

    1. darsenfeld*

      Well, just as you have your character/personality, so did your co-worker.

      I consider myself extroverted to some extent since I feel energised by connections with people, but I would feel offended if somebody didn’t say hello to me for a week. It’s not about being prissy or infantile but to some it may be deemed rude.

      You could have said at the time “well I didn’t meant to offend you by not saying hello, but I’m not really a morning person, so in the mornings I’m in a fog.”

      1. Tasha*

        The person who got offended too could have at any point during the week actually been an adult and gone to them and asked why they weren’t acknowledged instead of stewing about it and then complaining to the manager.

        1. darsenfeld*

          Well she seemed to be placing the blame on the situation with the co-worker, and didn’t take steps to resolve the situation. If she expects others to accept her for who she is, then she must extend that to others.

          I agree that the co-worker complaining is silly, but I can understand why s/he may have done so.

          1. fposte*

            But she didn’t know there *was* a situation, because the co-worker didn’t tell her. (And I think the week was how long the co-worker stayed mad, not how long she went without saying hello.)

        2. Cassie*

          Definitely. And I like the fact that Lisa’s boss did not rebuke Lisa for this situation, since it wasn’t really a situation except in the coworker’s mind.

          I wonder what Lisa’s boss said to the coworker though.

      2. Oxford Comma*

        I may be reading it wrong, but it looks like the coworker was mad at her for a week, not that she didn’t say hi for a week.

  10. Kay @ Travel Bug Diary blog*

    #3. Sounds like this one brought out all my fellow introverts. Susan Cain’s Ted talk and book on introversion (Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking) is great. It deals with a lot of workplace and school issue and has really helped me understand my temperament better. “Caring for Your Introvert” by Jonathan Rauch in The Atlantic is a good quick read.

    1. darsenfeld*

      It’s simply human nature at play, and not an “attack” on introverts.

      Even if one is introverted, it doesn’t mean one cannot make basic small talk or ask about a co-worker’s interests outside of work. Whilst everybody is different, people generally in a work setting may be more eager to assist somebody who takes an interest in them, over somebody who seldom engages them.

      That said, and as diversity is a major aspect of modern HR practice, people who are introverts in a workplace shouldn’t be badgered into being hyper-social. However, I would recommend that everybody, no matter if they are extroverted or introverted, use office politics to their advantage and form some connections with others in the workplace.

      1. Tasha*

        Sometimes it’s not introversion but just not having anything in common. Small talk without something other than work and weather to talk about is ridiculously hard and boring for both parties. Which is worse not making small talk or making obvious small talk just to make small talk?

        I’m introverted and have hobbies most people I work with don’t have. I don’t watch cable tv, I don’t do sports and don’t have kids. Am I supposed to spend my free time doing things I really don’t want to do just to make my small talk less obvious?

        1. danr*

          You would have loved my old company. Most of the professionals were introverts and always had something different to talk about, or not. A good number didn’t have TVs and this was before the Web and cable. I’ll add that the majority of the staff, professional and clerical, were women and “perkyness” certainly was not high on the agenda.

        2. Jane*

          I would describe myself as an introvert who has forced myself to come out of my shell as much as possible (and still working on it) because I’ve found it useful and necessary at certain times. Not having anything in common with the person has never really been an issue for me. For example, I don’t have kids. Many of my coworkers do and sometimes they bring up the topic of their children and things they did that weekend or whatever. I’m happy to talk about their kids and things they enjoy doing and sometimes I might pitch in something I heard from another friend or coworker who has kids. I don’t think having nothing in common really makes it difficult to make small talk. I guess though if someone wants to talk about Game of Thrones, a show which I have never seen and will never watch (I don’t get premium channels and have no interest) then I would be stuck! But in my experience, most of the time there is something to talk about even if it’s something in their life that I haven’t personally experienced.

          1. nyxalinth*

            All I know about Game of Thrones is there’s a little person, a brother and sister doing each other, lots of boobs, some chick with dragons, and some guy who says “Winter is coming”. That’s all I know!

            On topic, I’d posted a few weeks ago about two co-workers and myself being fired for reasons we weren’t given, only to find out later from a reliable source that the new manager didn’t trust introverts.

        3. darsenfeld*

          I don’t see that as a hindrance, since one can join in conversations and still provide input when necessary. I don’t have children either, but I will ask co-workers about their children and what they’re up to, outings they go on, etc.

          Even still, as it’s a social arena, it makes sense IMO to make some connection with co-workers, even if it’s not being the life and soul of the party.

      2. Malissa*

        Being introverted and leveraging office politics are not mutually exclusive. I am an introvert. How I get noticed in the work place is by being extremely good at my job and helping out with the extras. It’s not by making small talk for the 1000th time about how my coworker’s son is undervalued by the baseball coach.

        Also I never let whether or not I like someone because they’ve taken an interest in my life interfere with whether or not I help them out. Helping out my coworkers, whether I like them or not, is key to my job. To play favorites would be unprofessional.

        And yes some times making small talk is an extremely painful exercise.

        1. darsenfeld*

          I don’t agree. I think as we are built as a species, we sometimes are more inclined to assist or be warm with others who are warm with us. Much interaction is based on a reciprocal attitude.

          It probably does differ based on personality to some degree, but I wouldn’t and frankly doesn’t surprise me at all to see such things occurring.

        2. Cassie*

          I feel the same. I feel most people in my office have a good impression of me because I am knowledgeable about my job and they can come to me for help (and they do). It’s not because I make small talk with any of them. I say hi when I pass them in the hallways, I say good morning to one staffer because she sits by the coffee, but I am not going to go on a fishing expedition just so people will feel I am warm and fuzzy.

          There are people in my office who are more outgoing and talkative. They put a lot of stock in that and if you aren’t warm and friendly back to them, you essentially get black-balled. If they want to have that kind of bias towards people who aren’t just like them, that’s their problem. It’s a workplace – we just have to be courteous and professional. We don’t have to be clones.

          Also, if I have to kiss up to someone in order for them to do their job? That is all kinds of wrong. (I’m not talking about asking someone for extra help, I mean like if it’s the person’s normally assigned duties).

      3. fposte*

        I would agree with this–sometimes people seem to treat introversion as a “get out of social skills free” card, and it’s not that.

        Tasha, I find simply asking people what they got up to this weekend, and then listening and remembering and referring to it later, to be pretty effective. No shared experience needed. Don’t get buried in the literal on small talk–it’s not about the subject, it’s about saying “Hey, I recognize you as a person and not just somebody who processes the forms.”

        1. Emma*

          fposte – I like that idea. At least for me, sometimes it’s the idea of small talk and not the purpose of the interaction that is overwhelming. That and once I classified myself as someone who’s “not good at small-talk” based on numerous unfruitful attempts in certain workplaces, it became a bit hard to train myself to engage in it once I left those workplaces! Thanks for framing it in a way I can appreciate.

        2. Tasha*

          My problem is I really can’t keep track of all that with my coworkers and it looks obnoxious if I ask them how something went this past week when it happened a month ago. Also many of them just say they don’t do anything. It’s hard to make small talk when you have nothing to work with and you don’t want to only talk about yourself because that looks bad. There is only so much you can say about the weather and work generalities. I’m also not personally comfortable with small talk which is basically let the other person talk at me because I have nothing to contribute to the conversation, like about their kids or sports. I’m just lucky I have understanding coworkers so when I ask them for the umteenth time “How’s today been” or have some banal comment about the weather, they understand I’m not trying on purpose to be as annoying as I seem to be. (I get eye rolls and other cues that I am being annoying in the first place.)

          I’m not using my Aspie and introversion as a “get out of social skills free card” I just am genuinely bad at small talk with added difficulties. Not everyone is good at every social skill and my conversations with people are fine as long as it isn’t small talk. I think alot of it depends on your management to be honest. Some managers don’t mind you just coming in to work to work and only that and others want to see more of a “family” atmosphere where you have to make small talk with everyone and make time for that in your work day.

  11. Andre*

    #1. C’mon, are you for serious? Perhaps the co-worker who is the one who went to complain to your boss and she came up with this idea of liability or whatever it’s… How about if you ask your boss whether the company can cover your expenses with taxi home? I believe that a company must provide its employees with transportation in case they work after hours. Or am I wrong?

    #3. I already worked in fine dining restaurants as waiter. Sometimes during service you don’t have time to smile to co-workers and neither say “please” when you need assistance, so some people take it personally. By the way, do you have your own section? Do you have to share your tips with all waiters or what you get is only yours? Perhaps money is the issue here.

    #7. I always wondered that too! Another secret from a hiring manager has been revealed! :) Congrats Alison, this blog is great! By the way, I bought your e-book and is not “that bad”… :)

    1. The IT Manager*

      I believe that a company must provide its employees with transportation in case they work after hours. Or am I wrong?

      You are wrong. I don’t actually know this for a fact except there absolutely no way there’s a law in America that requires companies provide an employee transportation home if the work late. Getting to and from work is entirely the emplyee’s responsibility.

      1. Brandy*

        Ha, hahahahaa. The only folks I know that get company rides are consultants and “big law” lawyers that have to work so late that the trains in NYC stop running (or run very infrequently) to the suburbs. My sister works for a big law firm in NYC and if she works past 10pm or so, she gets a company car home. The company also expects her to work in the car on the 60 minute ride home. Trains still run at that hour, but working from the car is much easier than walking to train and working there.

        However, I have worked with folks who relied on public transportation and made it very clear what their limitations were…for example, “I see you threw a 6pm call on my calendar…I have pretty limited train options- there’s one at 4:30 that gets me home in time to that that call, or another one at 8pm and that gets me home at 9:30. If I’m critical to the call, do you mind if I take it from home?” 9 times out of 10, that’s totally fine. just make it known you may have a transportation issue. Sometimes, it can’t be avoided but it is often a matter of asking.

        1. Andre*

          So, then either she buys a car or walk home to not be in trouble at work… Ah, off course, she can also quit…

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Well, no, but the point is that she should have some way of getting home other than relying on this coworker, because the coworker may not always be available to take her (or want to take her). So she needs to know what she’d do in that case — could be a matter of someone else picking her up or taking a cab.

            1. Zed*

              Exactly this! I don’t drive and rely on public transportation. Car maintenance and gas are expensive, and I save that money by not having a car, so I know full well that sometimes I will have to shell out extra money for a cab or a hotel room.

        2. -X-*

          We’re sending a temp home in a car service after an event we’re organizing in May – we have a critical event that will run past when trains stop going to her home. Expect cost to be about $100.

          This is a one-off event.

    2. Jamie*

      How about if you ask your boss whether the company can cover your expenses with taxi home? I believe that a company must provide its employees with transportation in case they work after hours. Or am I wrong?

      Covering expenses for transportation if you work late?

      If that were the case since my car is paid off my company owes me a new one. And not low end either.

      Absolutely no obligation on the part of an employer to get you to or from work. That’s our responsibility.

      1. -X-*

        Not for regular work. But “absolutely” is a strong word. If circumstances are special – working extra late on some crazy deadline, or a special event – it seems to me responsibility for the organization to help, especially for lower-paid staff who are required to be there and don’t have easy means to get home.

        My organization does this sometimes.

      2. AG*

        There’s a difference between “obligation” and “decency.” My company handbook says that they will reimburse for dinner if employees have to work past a certain hour, and will pay for a cab if employees have to work past a certain (later) hour. It’s not about what’s legal, it’s about taking care of your employees.

    1. Andre*

      What’s so funny about it? It’s true! If you have to spend whole night smilling at a customer who is totally annoying, then I’m pretty sure that you won’t be willing to smile at your co-workers in the backstage! That’s what I meant! What did you understand?

      1. Colette*

        I’d argue that smiling doesn’t take any time.

        I agree it can take energy & awareness, but it really shouldn’t take more than a second.

        1. Jamie*

          You know I have had a day from absolute hell and reading this comment put a huge smile on my face. It’s like you knew I needed an Elf quote right now!

          And I’m alone in the office and I just said “Francisco” out loud – because that’s fun to say!

  12. Zed*


    I think the real issue is that the OP has been staying at work after the buses stop running and therefore does not have adequate transportation.

    OP, are you routinely scheduled to work that late? Because if so, you are going to have this problem on an ongoing basis. You will have to assume that you cannot rely on getting home via bus and change your plans accordingly. You may have to request a different shift, or you may have to find other transportation (whether borrowing/renting/buying a car, having someone pick you up, calling a taxi). If you know when you are scheduled and you know when the buses stop running, you should arrange transportation beforehand, not at the end of your shift.

  13. darsenfeld*

    Number 1 – I don’t think it should be an organisation’s business how employees get to work. And liability issue? lol… how so? Provided employees reach to work on time, and without incident on the road (I guess speeding or similar traffic offences can constitute dismissal in some cases), it shouldn’t be an issue.

    Number 3 – Whilst obviously everybody is different, I think in the modern workplace, workers are expected to be team players. This at the root means interacting, talking and being social. It doesn’t mean being best friends with co-workers, but at least forming connections with others, asking them about hobbies/interest, talking about current events, etc.

    Some may scoff at this, but employees are often judged in terms of how they interrelate with co-workers. It may seem like an extrovert-bias, but IMO connecting with people on some level is key to having a contented and successful work life. Even if one doesn’t care about promotions or climbing the corporate ladder, a simple “hello” to another worker may make him or her more willing to assist you when you need it, or put in a good word to your boss if you provide a good service to his or her department. It’s really that people respond well to friendliness and good connections, which is really why books like “How to make friends and influence people” are so popular.

  14. LCL*

    #3- For whatever reason, one or more of the managers doesn’t like you. Restaurant managing is so cut-throat that managers will often find ways to make competent employees so miserable they will quit, so there is less competition for management slots. You are a threat to the manager because you want to focus on work. The restaurant world doesn’t believe in career development. You don’t even know the other workers said anything about you being unfriendly.

    The most professional way to handle this is to ask the manager for specific information on when you were unfriendly, and specific information on how to interact. Which will probably be met with vague BS from your manager. You kept referring to how you feel about things in your email. Forget about how you feel, ask for specifics to help your career. You’re right, employees are highly replaceable in this industry, but remember they are replaced for any reason or no reason, with very little of that having to do with employee conduct.

    And, if you want to talk to your coworkers more, start reading the sports pages of the paper so you always have a safe conversation topic.

    1. darsenfeld*

      Or it could be a genuine concern, or the manager may have been receiving complaints. Any of these scenarios are possible IMO.

      I suspect as others do that it’s a case of corporate culture and to some extent “not fitting in” with it.

  15. Jane*

    #3. Is the issue here one of cultural fit? I know that at my place of work I am not super perky and neither are most of the people here. While the majority of people pleasant, police, and acknowledge each other in the hallways, being bubbly and friendly is just not really part of the culture here and for the most part I am just fine with that because it fits my personality. However, I do wish it were a warmer environment. That said, I don’t think being warmer necessarily means everyone needs to be perky and bubbly.
    I guess the bottom line is I am wondering if there are certain expectations in your workplace that are entirely tied to the type of culture and that maybe if you do not naturally behave that way it will be difficult to receive positing reviews even though your actual work performance is good. It seems unfair to evaluate someone on any basis other than actual work performance though.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, I think it’s very much about workplace culture … and goes to the importance of finding one that’s a fit, in either direction. In cultures that do expect that kind of social interaction among coworkers, it really can hold you back (sometimes) if you don’t participate (fair or not).

  16. Liz in a Library*

    #5… I haven’t read through all the comments yet, so I apologize if some of this is repeat info.

    I recently began a 100% telework job for the first time in my life. It is very different, but there are a ton of benefits if your personality lends itself to working from home.

    The social impact you mentioned is so important! If you are concerned that losing the social connection of office work is going to be a problem, pay attention to that! It really can be very important. Ask the manager questions about how the group tends to communicate, her methods for supporting distance staff, how often you can expect to work closely with coworkers. And, if you end up in the job, you can also work to make sure you are connected to your colleagues. I was very surprised by how lonely I felt at work, since I didn’t consider myself to be a work social butterfly. I found that it helped to reach out to my colleagues (who had invited it) by phone and email when I had questions…so that I felt I was having producti e. and friendly conversations during the day.

    As for the environment itself, I think it is fairly standard for the employer to provide the tools you will need for the job (computer, phone, mine covers my Internet bill, etc.). I’d ask what office supplies and services are reimbursed, but maybe not in a first interview.

    You have to make sure that you are disciplined enough for it, too. It is so easy to get distracted at home! Does this job have a regular 8-5 schedule? Or is it more self paced? Are you able to stay on task if it isn’t a set schedule? It’s very different from self-directed work with colleagues and a boss that rely on you within earshot…

    But, if it works for you, it can be great! I have no commute, I get to make myself awesome lunches each day, if I have a slow day, I can go for a walk around my neighborhood at lunch…I don’t have to take the day off to wait for the plumber.

    Good luck! I hope things go well!

  17. Elle*

    It’s pretty obvious to me that the co worker in LW1 has complained to the manager about having to take the LW home. The key indicator is that the LW keeps asking for lifts. The co worker should be offering if she doesn’t mind. LW sounds boorish and entitled.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Whoa! I didn’t get that at all from the letter. I mean, it’s certainly possible, but I don’t think there’s anything here to indicate that’s the case.

    2. Cat*

      Dude, it’s 3 minutes out of her way. Would you really be put out by giving a co-worker a ride if you happened to be there after the time the buses stopped running and it was 3 minutes out of your way?

      1. Josh S*

        Plus, it happened twice. This is not some horrible pattern of behavior that is causing a problem. It’s twice.

      2. Jane Doe*

        I wouldn’t necessarily be put out, but I might feel like I was obligated to hang around and wait for the other person, and that can get awkward if you’re the kind of person who feels responsible for others. I’d also probably think it was strange that someone who lived 3 minutes away by bus couldn’t walk home alone unless it was a really high-crime area.

        1. Emma*

          Or the person works in a business on a highway or other high-volume roadway that would be very dangerous to walk. In NJ, there are numerous offices, stores, shops, etc. not to mention our international airport that are inaccessible to pedestrians or bicyclists and it is illegal anyway to walk or bike on many of these high-volume roadways. Our local papers regularly report on pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and fatalities from trying to walk/bike along or cross high-volume roadways.

        2. Natalie*

          “I might feel like I was obligated to hang around and wait for the other person”

          (I’m using “you” in a general sense here because I cannot word this clunky ass comment any better.) It’s understandable to me that you might have that feeling of obligation, but I think it’s important to recognize that, unless the co-worker who has asked for a ride has clearly stated they think you should wait, the feeling of obligation is entirely yours. It’s coming from some personal factor, like feeling responsible for other people as you mentioned. It wouldn’t be fair to try and push the responsibility for the feeling onto the co-worker.

      3. Colette*

        Well, I think it’s important to recognize that if you’re asking someone for a favor, you have to:
        a) ask
        b) understand that they aren’t always willing or able to do it, and
        c) be prepared to make other arrangements if necessary.

        If every Tuesday you say, “Hey, can you give me a ride?”, I probably will say yes the first time, and the second, but eventually I may find it’s becoming more of a burden. However, by that point, you might have stopped asking and started expecting, and it’s more awkward for me to say no.

        It doesn’t sound like that’s the situation in this letter, but yes, 3 minutes out of her way can become a problem.

      4. Elle*

        Yes, yes and yes.

        It’s rude, period. You don’t get to decide that something is or is not convenient for someone else to do. That’s ridiculous. If the co worker can offer if she thinks it’s no big deal. Anyway, after the first time, I would simply stop saying yes because it would be obvious that the LW has poor boundaries and is a taker.

        1. Cat*

          If the LW was in a position of authority over the co-worker, I’d agree. But it sounds like she’s not and there’d be no penalty whatsoever to the co-worker in saying “sorry, I’m in a hurry.” I mean, maybe there’d be a friendship penalty, possibly. But welcome to life; if a friend gets upset about something like that, they’re not a friend you really need anyway.

          I mean, I also agree that on a regular basis, it’s better form not to ask for stuff like that. But there are also many situations where it’s not in the least objectionable to give a co-worker a ride home on the rare occasions you both get stuck there late. This is not exactly abnormal. Assuming the LW is a “taker” from the information given is really reaching.

      5. Rana*

        Would you really be put out by giving a co-worker a ride if you happened to be there after the time the buses stopped running and it was 3 minutes out of your way?

        It would depend on the co-worker, and what “out of my way” meant. Since the OP doesn’t drive, they may have a distorted sense of how difficult it is to divert to drop them off; what may seem like a mild detour to them may mean the driver having to fight through a bunch of one-way streets and negotiate a complicated and busy intersection afterward, for example. It may take “3 minutes” to drop off the OP, but that doesn’t mean that the detour itself is only 3 minutes, nor does it mean that it’s easy to do.

        (Just a quick example: your commute entails taking a four-lane, divided highway with minimal offramps, several of which are one-way, as is common in my area. So you are able to quickly get off, drive the three blocks along another busy divided road to drop off the OP… and then the layout of traffic requires you to drive along that road several miles to get to a light where you can turn around, back-track to the highway, travel out of your way on the highway to get to the exit you would have normally taken… I think you see my point.)

        And that’s not even getting into the question of whether one is up for chatting with your co-worker after a long day’s work, whether they bother to offer to pay for the gas, etc.

        1. Cat*

          Okay, but at this point, we’re just assuming the OP is completely wrong about things like the 3-minute commute, and I’m not sure what the basis for that is in the letter. It’s possible they’re totally deluded but that’s true about any letter to AAM. (And yeah, sometimes you’re not up for chatting but this is not a daily thing – it’s when they get stuck working late occasionally. I’ve been on both sides of that one, and I think the decent thing to do is to suck it up for 5 minutes or, if you’re not willing to do it, say it straight out instead of complaining to the manager who then makes up a weird and legally unsupported excuse on your behalf.)

    3. Natalie*

      IMO, saying “No, I don’t mind” and expecting your co-worker to hear that as “How dare you keep asking me!” is far more entitled than taking someone at their word.

  18. mlhd*

    I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for the valuable advice you offer here. The frequency of your posts is unmatched and the quality of your advice is the best I’ve seen on any job/management advice blog. I hope you find it rewarding because you do an excellent job!

  19. KellyK*

    For #1, I think this is a “shake the AAM magic 8 ball question.” “It’s stupid, but perfectly legal.”

    There are a couple things I would do. The first is to follow Alison’s advice and try to find out what the actual problem is and if your boss is adamant that you shouldn’t carpool. If she is, then you may need to have a second conversation about work schedule and what she wants you to do if you’re there after the buses have stopped running.

    The second is to make it a point to plan ways to and from work that don’t depend on your coworkers, and only ask coworkers for a ride if something unforeseen comes up.

    1. fposte*

      Or own that you’re depending on the other employee and ask if this can be a semi-official carpool situation where you cover some of her gas costs.

    2. Cat*

      But it sounds like she is only doing it when something unforeseen comes up, i.e., they get stuck really late at work and the buses aren’t running. I mean, certainly if the co-worker has an issue with it, the co-worker has an issue with it. But I don’t know if it makes sense to preemptively assume that.

  20. KnowBody*

    #1, as a former “askee” I wish I’d been smart enough to involve my manager. Yes it was only a few miles, but a bunch of lights and set me up to take the crappy freeway entrance. I got roped into this for months. Please consider that perhaps this might be an imposition. At the very least, buy your askee lunch. A lot.

  21. Anonymous*

    #3 – I feel you. I got dinged hard on my last review for “not communicating enough” even though I got great marks for my work. It seems from the comments that a lot of introverts have had similar experiences. It sucks when the constant advice is “demonstrate your value by doing great work” but that’s not really what happens in real life. It is very hard to be assessed on your social “skills” and the frequency of your chit-chats rather than on what you actually produce.

    1. Cat*

      I think it’s worth reframing this a bit. For a lot of people in a lot of roles, the relationships you build with your co-workers do effect the work that is produced. I’ve never worked in a restaurant in particular, but in fast-paced environments where decisions have to be made really quickly, it is helpful to have a certain rapport among the staff because it leads to a level of trust that can translate into a certainty about the orders a manager is giving and the employee is executing. And that rapport comes easier with a certain amount of interaction.

      Or – another example – I work with a lawyer who is brilliant. Completely brilliant. But he cannot express his ideas with any kind of warmth whatsoever. He’s not mean, per se, but the end result is always that you come away from conversations feeling like he thinks you’re stupid. And it does hamper his ability to produce good work product with other people in the office, to be honest, even if it’s for social-skill related reasons rather than intellectual ones.

  22. CC*

    Thanks a lot for answering my question. Im new at the job so I didn’t want to question it but it really annoyed me the way she said I can’t ask for rides and she tried to make light of it saying she cares about my safety and if I have issues getting home at night they can change my schedule. Doing that will change the number of hours I would get.

  23. CC*

    And it only happened twice. I thanked her plenty of times, never asked to get picked up from home, offered gas money and she clearly had no problem with it. Won’t happen again.

    1. Colette*

      It sounds like you were being quite reasonable and appreciative. Even if you weren’t, your coworker should have addressed it with you directly if there was a problem. I have no idea why your boss decided to get involved, but since you’ve been asked not to do it, I agree that making other plans is your best option.

  24. Cassie*

    Related to #1: I hate it when bosses or supervisors use some generic (or worse, wrong) reasoning on why something has to be done this way or can’t be done that way. If there’s a genuine reason, state that. The more times the boss gives wrong info like that, the more it looks like the boss has no clue what he/she is talking about.

  25. #3*

    I have been reading over the replies to my question, and would like to thank all of you for so much great feedback! I definitely feel like you’ve given me my sense of humour back regarding the situation as well as giving me some perspective. After a few more weeks of work, I have gotten to know my co-workers much better, and the friendliness issue hasn’t resurfaced. Perhaps it’s that they have in turn gotten to know my personality at this point and understand that if I am not smiling while carrying an armful of dirty plates through the dish room, its not personal. I do however get this over all feeling that I am simply not “fitting in” with the culture of this establishment. I understand the importance of social skills and the impact you have on your co-workers but I don’t wish to go to work and put on a performance, forcing a personality that isn’t genuine. And so the search for the elusive dream serving position continues! In the meantime… more flair will be worn.

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