my coworker told me I should be applying for other jobs, religion at work, and more

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

1. Coworker told me I’m overqualified and should be applying for other jobs

I just graduated and am interning at an advertising firm, hoping to turn it into a full-time opportunity. There’s about 6 weeks left in my internship and yesterday, an employee (she’s entry-level and oversees some of my work) asked casually, in the elevator, if I’m applying to other jobs. When I gave a neutral answer, she told me I should be, because she thinks I’m overqualified for our field.

I’m completely confused by her comment! I didn’t study advertising, and I went to a “top college,” but I wouldn’t say I’m overqualified (at least not more so than any other  entry-level worker). In any case, I don’t understand why she would tell me that. Do you have any clue what she might have meant? Is that a tactful way of telling me I’m not going to be hired?

I suppose it could be, but she could have also meant it as a mild slam against advertising or the particular place you both work. Or it was simply a throwaway comment. Since you’re concerned, why not go back to her and say something like, “I’ve been thinking about what you said to me the other day about applying for other jobs and being overqualified. I’d actually really like to work in this field, and ideally here, and I was hoping I could talk to you more about what you meant.” (Keep in mind that as an entry-level employee, she might have no idea what she’s talking about, so you shouldn’t take her response to you as gospel — just use it as general background to consider.)

2. Talking about religion at work

Can my manager tell me not to talk about God at work?

It depends on what you’re saying and how you’re saying it. Your employer can’t prohibit voluntary religious discussions among employees during times when you’re allowed to be discussing other non-work issues. They can, however, stop you from discussing God or religion with any employee who tells you she doesn’t want to talk to you about it (because that would be religious harassment from you toward that other person), and they can stop you from doing it if it’s interfering with work.

3. I haven’t heard back from my internship about my start date

I’ve been reading your blog for a while, and it has been immensely helpful to me in my internship search. Your advice helped me land my dream internship – paralegal intern with the local district attorney’s office… or maybe not?

I received their official acceptance letter for the fall semester in May. Since fall semester for me starts in early August, a little over a week ago, I took the initiative to email the attorney I was in touch with about my start date. I wanted to give them over a month’s heads-up, so if they have loose ends (background check, etc.) they have time to tie them up. I got a reply after the July 4th holiday saying only “Let me check.” This, on its own, is not unusual; my attorney contact likes short confirmations like that. What is much unlike him, though, is he didn’t follow this up in a week.

Should I send another email? How long should I wait before trying to get a feel on it again? I wouldn’t be so anxious on it if it wasn’t for the fact that I have to be employed no later than the semester’s start date, and that I have some other duties with a leadership role in my pre-professional organization at school.

Wait 10 days from his last response to you and check back in. I wouldn’t be too worried though; people are busy, and things can slip through the cracks or get pushed back by higher priorities. So give it a reasonable amount of time (in this case about 10 days) and try again.

Read an update to this letter here.

4. Manager wants to test our knowledge on things we were never trained on

I work at a KFC / Taco Bell. Our manager decided to give us all except for himself a food safety checklist thing as a test of what we know. I’ve been there over a year and technically have not been formally trained on anything, but I work as a cashier and on the line. On the test there are questions about cooking and prepping the chicken, which I know nothing about, and that’s a lot of the test. And it’s due in a couple of days and if we don’t turn it in, or get under a 75%, we get fired. A lot of us working there think that this is very unfair to us to be graded on stuff that we weren’t formally trained on.

Can your manager give you tests on stuff like that in the first place? And if they are able to do that, is it fair to base our jobs on that test if we were tested on things that we don’t know and weren’t formally trained on?

Yes, your employer can test you on anything they want, and can base your job on the results. But no, it doesn’t make any sense to do that when it’s something you have no way of knowing and don’t use in the course of your job. If he wants you to know that stuff, he should train you on it.

If I were you, I’d go back to him and say, “There’s a lot in here that we don’t use in our jobs, like X, and have never been trained on. If it’s important for us to know these things, could we get training on it first? I’d be glad to learn it, but so far we haven’t been trained on it.”

5. I have a disability and my shared-ride service is making me late to work

I have a physical disability, that means I cannot drive myself or take standard, fixed-route public transportation. Luckily, I live in a good-sized city with a fair paratransit system (for context: they provide door-to-door, shared-ride transit service exclusively for people with disabilities and seniors). Unfortunately, I have been having problems using this paratransit system to get to work lately. I’m just an intern, and I only work a few days a week, but I’ve been late to work every day for the past three weeks! I have done everything I can to rectify the situation with the company in charge of the paratransit service, and while I hope the issue has been resolved, I really can’t be sure.

To be fair, I have never been more than 20 minutes late, but I know I simply can’t expect my supervisor and coworkers to put up with this kind of behavior indefinitely, no matter how understanding they have been so far. How can I apologize to my supervisor, the director of the department, and the coworkers who have had to cover for me for the past few weeks?

I don’t want to say the issue has been resolved, because I’m not sure yet that it has been. Of course, I will continue to work on the issue until it is resolved and I can get to work on time, but I don’t know how to make it clear that I am committed to this position and enjoy working there, while simultaneously discussing my consistent lateness. I definitely don’t want to let the issue go unaddressed, especially to the people who have had to cover for me. What kind of approach would you suggest?

Explain the situation to your manager, and explain what you’re been doing to address it. Tell them you take it seriously, but that you’re concerned that you can’t be positive the situation has been resolved. Ask if it’s possible for you to have 20-30 minutes leeway on your arrival time in case it continues to happen, and ofter to stay later to make it up if needed.

In many jobs, arriving 20 minutes late isn’t going to be a big deal and will be something that can easily be accommodated if there’s a good reason, which there is in your case. (Frankly, they’re probably legally required to give you that accommodation under the ADA anyway, but I’d start by simply explaining what’s going on and asking if it’s okay.)

6. Taking time off around the holidays when you’re new to a job

I’m looking for a job and usually when you just start a job you can’t take any time off before one year. But if you usually go away to relatives for Christmas, how do you and when do bring that up? If I don’t take advantage of my family’s offer to visit then for Christmas, I’m stuck twiddling my thumbs. Should I just forget about Christmas for that year?

Maybe, but it will depend on the vacation policies of the place you end up working. Plenty of places let you take time off within your first year. If yours doesn’t, then it doesn’t — but plenty will. When you get a job offer, ask about benefits, including time off, and say something like, “I generally go away for a week around the holidays in December — will I have earned the leave to be able to do that by then?” (If not, some employers will let you take the time unpaid if you negotiate it as part of the offer discussion.)

7. Should I mention I’m planning on grad school during an interview?

My family and I do not have the same thoughts on when should graduate school plans be discussed in a job interview. My family thinks that I should mention my graduate school plans after the company has decided to hire me. Since I am planning to attend my classes this fall and am still job searching, I think that it should be mentioned during the interview process. I have a recently completed a job application where I hinted that I am going to go to graduate school. One of the questions asked about my availability for overtime and irregular hours, and I answered that as long as it will not conflict with my graduate school classes then it will be okay (I think I might have also wrote that I am going to go part-time and taking evening classes). From reading many AAM posts, I noticed that there are some things that can be left to be discussed later on in the hiring process; thus, I am wondering what your advice is on mentioning graduate school plans to future employers.

It depends. If you’re asked about your availability, then yes, you mention it, because it would be misleading not to. (But when/if you do, you make it clear that it’s part-time and at night, so that the employer isn’t envisioning you needing to miss every Thursday afternoon or anything like that.) But if it doesn’t come up and it doesn’t seem like the job’s schedule will be impacted by your school schedule at all, then you’re under no obligation to mention it — although I would at least mention it once you have an offer, so that if it turns out that it IS an issue, you’re able to figure that out before you’ve started work.

{ 300 comments… read them below }


    # 6 What has been forgotten is the fact that vacation is usually doled out by seniority and the schedule may be full.

      1. Chinook*

        But wwwonka brings up a good point about how Christmas vacation may be one of those things already decided by those there and, as the new guy, you may be expected to be the one to stick around. And, if you do negotate to be allowed to take it off, someone else may be expected to stay instead. I have always worded the question as “what happens at Christmas for vacations and would I be eligible to take time off.”

        Also, just because you have family out of town shouldn’t mean you get priority for Christmas vacation as that is unfair to those who don’t but still want the time off (ie can’t travel that far, no family). I have been in your shoes and have learned to create my own rituals and enjoy my family when the opportunity arises (even if it means Christmas in January)

        1. Cat*

          I don’t think you need to downplay your own request for the unlikely contingency that your boss will pull someone else’s vacation time to compensate. Most won’t have set vacation staffing on the they’re that a yet-to-be-hired employee will cover and if they have, most won’t retroactively cancel someone else’s vacation just because the new employees asked for the time off.

        2. Forrest*

          Regardless, its not a fact and if the OP’s office is like that, it’ll be answered when she asks about the vacation policy.

      2. Brandy*

        Agree. The holidays are super slow in my office, since EVERYONE takes the week between Christmas and New Years off. It’s sort of silly NOT to take time off, since there is nobody around to get things done.

        The only departments in my org. that require converge are our client helpdesk people…and even they are on a slimmed down roster since most of our clients take the week off as well!

      3. LCL*

        Our group requires complete coverage. Our policy is, if you join the group midyear, and have reservations made you will get your vacation, even if we have turned down others for that same time period. Otherwise, we will work with you to get you some December vacation but maybe not the dates you were counting on. (Joining this group is by internal transfer only, and the conditions are known to all.)

        When you ask for vacation, ask for time periods. Don’t give a reason, you don’t have to, and the scheduler shouldn’t care. It is easier to process vacation requests if you don’t know what they are for, because everybody’s vacation is important TO THEM. If I approved vacation based on planned activity, I would never approve requests to go to a grandchild’s preschool graduation, help the grown child move into their college dorm, etc.

  2. Angelina Retta*

    On the subject of religion, at a staff dinner there was a prayer said beforehand with the instruction to bow our heads. I’m not religious and the organization is in the public sector. It surprised me and made me very uncomfortable. For the sake of others, please don’t ever bring up religion at work. It’s like your sex life – you probably really like it but no one wants to hear about it.

      1. LCL*

        Yes! But when I said that “don’t ask, don’t tell” was a great policy as applied to religion in the workplace, it didn’t go over so good…
        Gotta dial back the snarkiness.

    1. Sydney Bristow*

      It can also be very difficult for the person to say something about not wanting to discuss it so you may not know for sure whether they are a willing participant in the conversation.

      1. Felicia*

        I would feel super uncomfortable at a staff dinner like that! I think I’d also be uncomfortable if a coworker started bringing up God to me unprovoked. I think the worst in terms of mentions of God would be trying to convert others to their religion. Though I’ve gotten invites to church services from people I barely know, and that’s also made me uncomfortable. Although no one can stop anyone from mentioning God at all, I don’t think it’s something most people like to talk about at work. So although talking about religion is allowed, you (general you) should know that it makes a lot of people uncomfortable.

        1. Chinook*

          I would hope that turning down an invitation to a church service would be the same as turning down any invitation to do something with a coworker after hours – a simple no thank you, I am not interested should be all it takes with no discomfort on your part.

          1. VintageLydia*

            It just seems that turning down church invites come with a healthy side of judgement from the inviter.

            1. Calla*

              Yeah, “No thank you” SHOULD be enough (though imo, you shouldn’t ask unless you know the person is potentially interested) but it isn’t always. Then you open yourself to oh, why not? Do you go to another church? Which one? You don’t, why not? You should just give this one a chance, we have a really great program.

              And there’s also the potential that the type of church could make the person being asked uncomfortable. Asking me to come to your church that’s known to protest gay rights or picket Planned Parenthood is gonna be a bit more awkward than asking me to come to your open and affirming church (even if the answer might be no to both).

              1. Felicia*

                I also feel that since religion should be such a personal private thing, why would they invite me to a religious service when I haven’t previously expressed an interest? Are they trying to convert me? Wondering if someone is trying to convert you to their belief system isn’t something thats a factor in any other invitation you might receive.

                1. Loose Seal*

                  I can’t speak for where you live but around here (rural South), the church is the primary social network. When my husband and I first moved here, we were invited to churches at least twice a week. But I didn’t see it as trying to get us to convert (partly because religion is so prevalent here that I think few people even consider that someone might not be religious) but as them trying to extend a social invitation.

                2. Anne*

                  And on nearly the other end of the spectrum from Loose Seal – I’m a Quaker. Most Meetings (Quaker churches) run or are involved in a bunch of social action events and other hippie stuff. I’ve had a couple of co-workers who I knew were sympathetic to those causes, and the people are always really nice, so it wouldn’t be totally impossible that I’d invite someone… but it would so, so not be to try and convert them. :)

                3. Calla*

                  @Anne – I was thinking of mentioning that exact scenario! I’m not religious but I am friendly with a few co-workers who know I am liberal and social justice-oriented. So if someone said to me, “Hey, there’s a conference on prison reform that my (UU/Quaker/etc) church happens to be hosting” or something I wouldn’t take offense, and may even go. They know it’s something I’m potentially interested in and the purpose isn’t necessarily religious (totally different from inviting someone to a religious service who has never indicated they share your religion).

                4. Anne*

                  @Calla – Thank you so much for posting that! I had started wondering whether I would have been out of line in that scenario.

                5. KellyK*

                  Anne, no you wouldn’t be out of line at all. I think an invite to an event that’s a shared interest is a very friendly thing to do. The only way such an invitation could possibly be out of line is if it’s some sort of “outreach” event that’s a bait and switch for conversion attempts. (Which, as soon as you mention Quakers or UUs, I’d be pretty sure that’s not going to be the case!)

          2. Shoshie*

            It’s actually a pretty insulting invitation to those of us who aren’t Christian. No, I’m not going to “just try out” your church. Obviously, this is different if it’s, like, an invitation to a wedding or your kid’s baptism or something (are people invited to baptisms? I have no idea).

            That said, my religion comes up fairly frequently because I take my vacation time in the fall for the Jewish holidays, have restrictions when we have group lunches and dinners, and can’t attend meetings that go late on Fridays. Most of these are nbd, but seem odd without some explanation. But God never factors into it during said explanations.

            1. Felicia*

              Here (Toronto, Canada), it’s considered rude to talk too much about religion with people you’re not very close too. So someone inviting you to their Church service would be considered strange and intrusive, unless you had expressed a previous interest. And I feel bad for the people in the South who aren’t Christian (there are some!) because the assumption that everyone must want to go to Church because of course everyone is Christian is insulting. You don’t just “try out” a church if you have no interest in or belief in that religion

              @Shoshie, I’m Jewish too and that’s how my religion comes up, but things like time off for religious holidays or mentioning some religious thing you did is no big deal. It’s when someone invites you to a religious service for something you don’t believe in when it’s not something like a wedding, and you haven’t said “hey i’m interested in learning about your religion!” is when it’s impolite. Even in places like the southern US where that’s the culture, I imagine non Christians would still find it insulting.

              1. Liz in a library*

                Yep, it is. As a result, I can’t even remember the last time that I (a non-religious person living smack in the middle of the Bible Belt) was questioned about y faith or invited to a religious service by someone I worked with or was just acquainted with. While I wouldn’t be offended if I was, it definitely has the possibility of rubbing people the wrong way, so not appropriate for work.

            2. Chinook*

              As a Catholic, the idea of “trying out” a church is just weird to me as well. Having talked to some of my other Christian friends, I have a better understanding of why they change churches but to me it would require a whole different level of self examination that, frankly, shouldn’t take place at work. And, if they won’t take no for an answer and they start acting all “judgy,” then I will go to my supervisor (or their supervisor) and explain that I feel uncomfortable at turning down an invitation from a collegue. Just like the conversation from yesterday, I don’t care what you think about me as long as it doesn’t interfer with how we work together.

              1. KellyK*

                Wow, yeah, that is a very different thing. I think Protestants, in general, think of their religion as “Christian” rather than their denomination, possibly with some broad theological adjective attached (e.g., Evangelical or Reformed). So it’s no big deal if you move to a new area and you end up going to a Baptist church instead of a Lutheran one, or whatever.

                But for a Catholic, switching churches is converting.

                1. Umma*

                  I have a colleague who is Church of Christ and while they are Protestant they view switching churches as converting. He and I have had several interesting discussions on the subject.

                2. MELISSA*

                  This is also a regional thing. In the South, denominations are an issue. A Baptist person might visit another denomination’s church, but would most likely try to find another Baptist church if they were switching – or at least a non-denominational church with Baptist leanings.

                3. KellyK*

                  Yeah, I probably overgeneralized that a bit. The church I grew up in was not part of any big denomination, but some little association of evangelical churches. So it wasn’t expected that you’d move across the state or country and find a church in the same denomination, though you would probably look for theological similarities. (And certainly there are denominations that view themselves as the Only One True Christian Church and would take a dim view of anyone switching.)

    2. B*

      I think this ranks as one of the top best comparisons I have seen on here. I completely agree with this and would also add in politics.

    3. Anonymous*

      At a federal government multi-agency awards luncheon I attended last year, there was an invocation (with heavily religious Christian talk) and a Christian prayer and a very Christian song. None of these were in the program handed out, so it’s not like I was forwarned.

      I’m not Christian and it was pretty bad. One, that it happened. Two, the uncomfortable looks my coworkers were giving me.

      If I’d known this was gonna happen, I wouldn’t have gone.

      (Oh, and this was in the north east)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I’ve had this happen too (I was raised Catholic, which is quite conservative in demeanor compared to some other Christian denominations). It IS uncomfortable; I just bowed my head a bit and sat quietly until they were finished.

        There is no obligation to pray along with them. It can sometimes be interesting to see what/how other religions do things. Unless they’re trying to force you to participate (which would be cause for a firm “No, thank you” or even excusing yourself for a bit, depending on circumstances), I would just pretend you’re an anthropologist or an interplanetary researcher observing the ritual of an alien culture. :)

        1. Anonymous*

          Being forced to sit through being preached to about Jesus before accepting an award for doing great at your job is not exactly much incentive to keep doing well, and it’s really religiously insensitive because of forced conversions of Jews by Christians.

          It’s also bad because it’s the federal government using public tax-payer money to pay people to preach specific religious doctrine.

          I really can’t treat it lightly; it was a micro-agression that should never have happened, but it persists, and it won’t stop unless people force them to change. I don’t actually need another opportunity to see how other religions do it, I’m a non-Christian living in a Christian-dominated country, it’s every day in my life. And then my federal agency has Christmas trees up on *every floor*, because I guess one isn’t enough of a reminder. It’s occassionally reached hostile workplace levels around Christmas time, and you just have to grin and bear it or you’re a scrouge.

          1. Anon for this*

            + a million to the historical context. My reaction to missionaries is always part confusion over why they see religion as something to be sold like a pound of tomatoes, and part total outrage that it’s not enough your religion was the cause of persecution and mass murder of my people — now you need to track us down and try to convince us to love Jesus?

          2. Chinook*

            But Christmas trees aren’t religious in nature. they are cultural. Just like Christmas lights, Christmas presents and Christmas cookies. True, they evolved from a religious tradition, but I know plenty of non-Christians who do this because winter is cold, dark and dreary and it is nice to have something green and cheery up during the darkest month of the year (unless of course you are in the southern hemisphere, but I am guessing the traditions are different there).

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              No, they’re very much tied to a religious holiday. They might not feel like a particularly religious aspect of that holiday, but as a Jew, I can tell you that they’re not cultural in the broader sense. Some of your non-Christian friends may choose to have those trappings anyway, but for plenty of the rest of us, they’re very much “Christian” stuff.

              1. Felicia*

                Totally agree. Christmas trees , lights etc. are for Christmas. I don’t celebrate Christmas, and I don’t have those things. The trees originally came from a Pagan celebration,, but now they are tied to teh religious holiday of Christmas. It may seem like a secular holiday that everyone celebrates if you live in North America, but it’s not.

                1. VintageLydia*

                  Agreed. I was temping at an office a few winters ago and my supervisor was Jewish. She was really upset about the Christmas tree set up in the lobby but was vetoed when she asked for it to be moved/removed. She didn’t care about decorations in individual offices, of course, but it’s definitely a religious symbol.

          1. Angelina Retta*

            Yeah, but I’m sure if I made a stink about “thanks for our daily bread” I’d never work in this town again.

            1. Ruffingit*

              I can understand that. I’m not suggesting you make a stink about it because how well that would go over is dependent on a lot of factors. But I do agree with fposte that it’s definitely questionable legally.

        2. Chinook*

          I find public prayers make me uncomfortable as they usually out me as a Catholic because my automatic response is to cross myself after (I even stand out when my family says grace at big meals as we are a multifaith household). The irony is that the prayer speaker is feeling free to display their faith but I always seemed to get stared down for displaying mine (because eyes naturally move towards the only movement in the room).

          1. VintageLydia*

            I’ve been agnostic for a decade now and I STILL have the urge to cross myself at the end of a prayer. It’s a very ingrained reflex!

      2. Judy*

        I’m a girl scout leader. It’s very much a tradition for girl scouts to “sing grace”. Although I’m pretty sure all of my girls are regular church attenders, having lead the troop for 2 years, I still fell that as the girls move toward the ages we might be camping as a troop, I want a more neutral grace. I found this one (to tune of Frere Jacques):

        We are thankful, We are thankful,
        For our food, For our food,
        And our many blessings, And our many blessings,
        We give thanks, We give thanks.

        1. Lils*

          Ah! As an atheist who spent many happy years scouting as a kid and young adult, I remember that grace and many others like it. However, at least when I was working at camps 15 – 20 years ago, God was part of scouting and that was that. We had all sorts of girls come to our camps, of different denominations and certainly plenty who were undeclared. I’m okay with girl scout grace since it’s voluntary, and I had no problem joining in and thinking about thankfulness in general rather than praying to a specific deity. Now, working at a state-funded institution in the Bible Belt, I repeatedly and politely request reduction in the amount of religious prayers and decorations. I’ve been somewhat successful.

    4. ali*

      This happened at my last workplace. I was so pissed off about it – because it was presented as “everyone gather in the conference room before going to the buffet because we have an important announcement” rather than “hey, if you’d like to pray before the meal, come the the conference room”. I ended up sending a note to our anonymous whistleblower site about it. I doubt anyone involved ever heard that anyone was unhappy about it though.

  3. Anon*

    To #2 pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease do not talk about religion at work unless you are on break and the other person wants to discuss it with you. I promise you it makes other people uncomfortable otherwise. I was in a very awkward position supervising an employee this summer that liked to preach to her coworkers (she would probably call it “talking about god”). Most of us who work there are agnostic/atheist. I’m gay. Keep that shit away from me while I’m at work, please and thank you.

    1. The IT Manager*


      There’s something about the wording of “talk about God” that sounds like the LW is evangelicalizing. Not really appropriate at work. It makes a lot of people uncomfortable to have to tell co-workers to stop doing things that make them uncomfortable, but there’s a good chance some of them went to your boss to ask you to stop it. Or your boss is being a good boss and heading off an uncomfortable situation.

      And I really hope you not “talking about God” instead of working or to or around the customers.

      1. Anonymous Accountant*

        +1 The wording of the LW’s question made me ponder if coworkers had felt uncomfortable or s/he had discussed it in front of customers.

        1. TheSnarkyB*

          +1. I’ve noticed on here that often the shortest questions, the ones that don’t specify why they’re asking or how it came up, are LWs who are doing something wrong – often bc they’ll come back and respond to every comment or clarify or something. But it happens often enough that I’ve noticed.

    2. Jen*

      So true. In my career history, there have been 3 co-workers at different jobs who have tried to get me to join their church. I am polite and try to shut it down quickly but they probably think I’m a willing participant and it makes me very very very uncomfortable.

    3. Kerry*

      Agree with this – I’d like to throw in that the only time I’ve had ‘god talk’ seriously intrude in the workplace was an aggressively atheist manager who started hassling me once she found out I went to synagogue regularly. It’s just something that doesn’t belong in the workplace, period.

      1. Jamie*

        I’ve experienced this, too. Anti-God talk is just as inappropriate as God talk. I worked with someone once who assumed because I wear a crucifix/miraculous medal meant I needed to be taught how wrong and misguided I was. At every opportunity.

        That’s just as intrusive.

        1. Chinook*

          That being said, the most interesting religious discussion I had was with a boss, who was an atheist, when she started ranting about Scientologists. I agreed with her about the cult like atmosphere but told her I drew the line at calling them crazy for believing in in aliens as part of their religion. When she asked why, I pointed out that, to an outsider, my religion looks like we are cannibals when we talk about eating a body and drinking blood, we store body parts of religious people for worship and leave floral offerings at statues. Now, to those of us in the religion, it is not so simple and there is much more to what an outsider sees, but I don’t dare make fun of those who believe in aliens as part of their religion. A third coworker, a buddhist, then started asking questions and we had an enjoyable, sane 3-way conversation about different religious beliefs. But, then again, none us were trying to convert the other.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I agree; a civil discussion, especially when explaining something, is always best.

          2. JoAnna*

            “we store body parts of religious people for worship”

            Veneration, not worship :) /catholicgeek

            1. VintageLydia*

              She did say that’s how it appears from the outside, and it does. It also looks like Catholics worship Mary and all the various saints, too. *I* know they don’t, but I’ve had to correct my in-laws on that assumption more than once.

              1. Chinook*

                Those misconceptions lead to the best discussions when you, the believer, know they are out there. I often have to explain to others that I am not among those who take the Bible word for word and that I believe that dinosaurs did roam the earth millions of eyars ago. I just also happen to believe that angels are another species.

                Yup – I am lots of fun discussing this issues around a pint or two.

                1. RJ*

                  Ha! One of the first questions my husband asked me when we were dating and he found out I was Catholic was, “So, uh, do you believe in dinosaurs?” When I confirmed that I did, he was quite relieved.
                  And it bugs me to no end when people talk about their deceased loved ones being “angels.” I know it’s a comforting shorthand to them, but humans and angels are different (assuming you believe in angels to begin with) – you can’t convert from one to the other!

                2. VintageLydia*

                  THANK YOU!!! The Bible is very clear that angels and humans are very different things, and most don’t even look humanoid! Super huge pet peeve of mine, but I shut my mouth because most people who say stuff like that are grieving and I’m not gonna do anything to make them feel even worse. I’m non-religious, but not a monster!

                3. Emma*

                  Wait…are Catholics *not* supposed to believe that dinosaurs existed? I missed that memo in my CCD class (probably because I didn’t go beyond communion).

                4. Chinook*

                  FTR Catholics do believe in evolution and, thus, dinosaurs. We believe that parts of Genesis are a creation myth (that contradicts itself) but the important part is the message that God created everything with a master plan and it is all good (even the mosquitoes – ugh). Other Christian groups have a more literal understanding that leaves little room for evolution.

      2. Chinook*

        I agree – religious talk does include atheism. Just because I wear a crucifix or am fasting for religious reasons does not give you any reason to feel the need to expound on the error of my ways.

        Then again, I am the type of person that, if they opened the door with comments like that and they were a peer (I would never back talk to a superior), I would probably engage in an indepth discussion on why they think I am a horrible person. Key point – never engage a Sunday School teacher of teenagers in religious discussion – we will take you down!

        1. Loose Seal*

          I’m not sure what “take you down” means here. Do you mean that your superior knowledge of the Bible will put that atheist in their place?

          1. Chinook*

            No, I mean that they will find that I can hold my own in the discussion and won’t be passively walked over into converting to their cause. I have, on more than one occasion, had people try to agressively “convert” me and I will explain to them, in detail, why I won’t. I won’t “put them in their place” as I am not trying to do to them what they are trying to do to me. I also won’t belittle their choices or their intelligence (which is what I feel a lot of active, salesy types of conversion tactics do). But, I also won’t sit quietly while they talk down to me or others about our own choices and beliefs.

            1. Loose Seal*

              Thanks for explaining.

              But, I also won’t sit quietly while they talk down to me or others about our own choices and beliefs.

              Me too!! I actually love inviting door-to-door religion vendors into my house to let them try to get me to convert. Three hours later, they are so obviously looking at the door, wondering how they can leave gracefully.

              1. MELISSA*

                HAHA! I grew up a Jehovah’s Witness and I love it when people tell me they do this. It’s hilarious to me. (I have many negative feelings towards the religion I grew up in.)

      3. Atheist*

        I wholeheartedly agree. No one should be talking about their god – or lack thereof – in the workplace (unless it’s specifically a religious workplace – I suppose a receptionist at a church could get away with it!). It’s just as bad for a Christian to talk to me about her beliefs as it is for me to talk to her about my beliefs.

        1. Chinook*

          But when you work in a specifically religious atmosphere, like a church or a catholic school or a hospital run by a religious group, everyone walking in understands that religion plays a part of the day-to-day life of the organization. And, even then, I have yet to run into one of these organizations where active conversion to your particular interpretation of that faith are encouraged (ecept when in a group that met to do that type of discussion).

          But, then again, this might be a Canadian Roman Catholic thing as we have come to terms with the real damage those attitudes caused in the past (especially when it came to destroying native cultures) and have, instead, learned to focus on works not words.

          1. Susan A.*

            I think the distinction in that case is whether or not your job actually relates to ministry/religion- a good many large scale operations such as religious colleges/hospitals might be run by a specific religious group but their day to day operations aren’t specifically denominational for the majority of people who do business with them. I’m from a midwest town that’s about as Catholic as the Vatican and basically the only hospitals around are Catholic. I was hospitalized for a month at two Catholic hospitals many years ago and while I was raised Catholic, I don’t subscribe to it anymore. If a doctor or nurse would have brought up religion while drawing my blood or doing a procedure, I’d have been shocked and shut it down. When the hospital priest came and asked me if I wanted to pray, I politely turned him down and he went away fine. I also went to a Catholic university (more to do with the education, not at all to do with the religion) and it was VERY much assumed that religion, outside of a specific religion class, was not to be discussed. In fact, the ONE time a very new professor made the assumption that everyone in the class was Catholic based on being enrolled at that university, he was schooled immediately as to his incorrect assumption. Even when I had to take religion courses, it wasn’t assumed I was Catholic just based on my attendance.

            This is why, unless your job is specifically ministry related, you probably shouldn’t actually talk about God in the work place. And it’s good to point out, too, that if you’re an outsider doing business with someone, don’t mention God or religion. If spirituality doesn’t pertain to your business, leave it out- it’s just impolite.

            1. Ruffingit*

              I have a relative who has worked as a secretary for a Catholic Church for over 20 years. She never tries to convert people who show up there because she doesn’t have the time. Doing the actual job takes up her whole day, converting people like the UPS guy who delivers packages, the office store supply guy or whomever never enters into the picture. Doing the actual work takes up too much time.

              And I suspect this is true in a lot of other religious establishments if you will.

            2. Rana*

              Agreed. I’ve taught at a number of religiously affiliated colleges, and while religious activities were certainly present – as in the classes were scheduled around Mass, for example, or there were crosses in the classrooms – it was also expected that discussion of religion in the classroom should be limited to forms appropriate to the class topic. And none of the ones I worked at had any problem with non-affiliated employees; all that was expected of us was to be “supportive of the college’s mission” which I generally interpreted as “be respectful of the beliefs of the people who belong to the affiliated religion” – something I would have done anyway. As a member of a minority religion, I found most of them welcoming and enjoyed being able to bring up discussions about ethics and spirituality in classes where it might not otherwise be considered “usual” such as environmental studies.

              That said, there were other schools where compliance with the tenets of the faith involved (as in, faculty were expected to abide by the rules of that faith off campus as well as on) was a condition of employment, and I didn’t bother with those.

      4. Wubbie*

        I am what many would describe as a militant atheist, and I am very passionate in my feelings about it. However, I am NEVER the first person to bring it up.

        The first time someone brings religion up with me I simply say “I am not religious,” and if they pursue it further I say “I prefer not to discuss it because I don’t want to offend you.” However, if you REALLY wanna have that talk with me and bring it up a third time, you better be prepared for what’s about to come out of my mouth, because by that point, it’s no holds barred.

    4. Steve G*

      Yes, and this is from someone who is catholic and loves to talk about religion. I always remember trying to connect with a coworker who seemed a little…one-sided. Lived in NYC, dressed nice, worked out, lived in a nice place, was nice enough, had friends, but I didn’t feel like he had his own, real personality. We went for drinks, and he was nice and stuff, but when I asked about religion he went on a rant about how religion is just a made-up way to make people feel good and he lauded my efforts at trying to adhere to “tradition,” like it was this cute little thing I do for fun. I realized in his 1/2 an hour rant on how religions are BS that all he cared about in life is making money and being important and goodlooking. He could not have cared less about anything outside his bubble.

      I feel like discussing religion with people usually gets you to that point where people tell you everything, since religion is such a raw, base part of your being. People spill their guts for better or for worse when religion comes up.

      You might find out your quiet coworker is a beautiful coworker, or you might find out the jerk is a bigger jerk than you thought!

      1. MELISSA*

        How did you come to the conclusion from 30-minute treatise on religion that all he cared about was making money and being important? Some people have had very bad experiences with religion in their lives, and they’re naturally biased against it or wary of it.

      2. Grace*

        You kind of opened the door to his opinion there. That’s exactly what people are talking about with the judgment the non-religious get from the religious by having equally passionate but opposite beliefs. He probably cares about a lot of things. Heck, he cares about religion enough to have a sure and passionate opinion on it.

        There are many people who feel organized religion is immoral by its very nature. I guess the lesson here, for you, is don’t ask if you’re not going to accept the answer.

  4. jesicka309*

    #5 I wish I worked in a workplace that was a bit more flexible like that. I’m late by about 5 minutes or less every couple of days due to P/T and it took my performance review down a whole level. :( I hope the OP can sort something out, and just be thankful that you have a more forgiving workplace than mine! (15 minute smokos=no problem. At my desk at 8.33 instead of 8.30=bad employee)

    #4 The fact they gave you the test to take home says that they actually want you to come forward with this stuff. I used to work at McDonalds, and every employee, from the maintenance guy to the cafe to the cashier to the cooks had to be regularly tested on the Heart Foundation menu, regardless of whether they actually had anything to do with it. It was a legal thing – every employee had to be signed off. If crew couldn’t answer the test, I’d help teach them – ask for help with the quiz. :)

    #3 You’re more patient than me. I nearly blew my own internship by ringing and nagging for a start date. I was still under the influence of ‘bad parental advice’, where my mother hassled me every day until I rang, I got caught by the assistant (the gatekeeper) who would say boss was unavailable, and that I’d get a call back. I eventually had a fairly unhappy phonecall from boss who pretty much gave me the start date and told me to stop calling her poor assistant. :( So please, take my crazy intern story, and play it cool. And good luck!

    1. Anonymous Accountant*

      My mother also did this regarding my start date for my intership- “You need to call them! Don’t just sit there and wait for a call back because they’ll move on to someone else!”.

      It came very close to having them revoke the offer, which I learned after starting there.

    2. Mrs Addams*

      #5 I wish I worked in a workplace that was a bit more flexible like that. I’m late by about 5 minutes or less every couple of days due to P/T and it took my performance review down a whole level. :( I hope the OP can sort something out, and just be thankful that you have a more forgiving workplace than mine! (15 minute smokos=no problem. At my desk at 8.33 instead of 8.30=bad employee)

      Me too. There are two of us who work in my office at the moment. My coworker goes on a smoke break every 1.5hrs, without fail, for around 10mins. She comes in at 8:50am, and leaves dead on 5, often shutting down her workstation at 4:50 so she is literally out of the door at 5pm. No-one passes comment on this.

      Me? I take no smoke breaks as I don’t smoke, I routinely stay until 6pm to get work done, and 9 times out of 10 I turn up at 8:50ish. One day, I had to take a longer walking route to work as there was a rubbish collection lorry blocking my usual route. That meant I arrived at work at 9:02. I got a verbal warning. Grr.

      1. Brandy*

        Ew. I can’t even imagine. Are you in a role where it is critical you are at your desk ready to work at 9:00 on the dot (like, for example, at a call center)?

        Between traffic and train schedules, I get into work +/- 10 minutes each day. I’d have to take a train a whole hour earlier to GUARANTEE I’d be in at 9, which is absurd. I told my manager this when I started, just in case it was critical. It was very much not.

        1. Chinook*

          I have to admit that arrival times is one of those thigns where I have learned not to stress about if I am taking transit. Once I am on the bus, I am at the mercy of so many different people and I have no control over when I arrive. I have taken the same bus route at the same time and arrived anywhere from 30 mins. early to 2 hours late (which is rare, thank goodness). I would think Paratransport would work the same way. Definitely OP should bring this up with her boss and explain what she can control but, if the boss takes transit at all, they should be pretty compassionate about it.

          1. jesicka309*

            Ah, but you see, you should be on an earlier bus! You should be there an hour early every day in case one day the bus runs late, so that you are still late.

            Seriously, yesterday I got to work at 8.20 (I was able to catch an earlier train that usually is long gone by the time I get there) and nearly my whole team was already there. And they had divyed up work for a sick coworker. I was 10 minutes early for work and I STILL looked like the office slacker because everyone else was there early enough to offer to help out.

            If I’m expected to be there at 8 am, I’ll be there. Just pay me for it – don’t penalise me because I’m a minute late, or, shock horror, on time!

            1. KellyK*

              Ah, but you see, you should be on an earlier bus! You should be there an hour early every day in case one day the bus runs late, so that you are still late.

              As far as I’m concerned, an employer who’s asking you to do that should expect to pay you for that hour on the days the bus isn’t late.

        2. Mrs Addams*

          I need to be in and ready to face customers for 9:30, when the office opens to the public, but there’s absolutely no need for me to be at my desk for 9:00am on the dot.

          What makes it worse is that my manager monitors my attendance through my being available on google chat. There have been occasions where I have been in the office at 8:50 as usual, but haven’t logged in to my email just yet becuase I was taking care of some other task whilst my computer was loading up (emptying bins, restocking the stationery etc). Because I wasn’t logged in, I was considered late even though I was working. Happened again a week later when my computer crashed halfway through starting up, so it took longer to restart and log in. Again, I logged in at 9:02ish, and was considered late.

          Boy am I glad to be out of here in less than 3 weeks.

          1. Chinook*

            I think there was a court case in the US regarding either call centers or IT people that ruled that the type spent booting up a computer must be included in your paid time. It acknowledged that logging into a computer must take place after the 10-15 mins. (on the older computers) you had to arrive and start the computer up. Ditto for signing off – often you have to log off before you can shut down, which woudl require an extra minute or two that cannot be monitored electronically but is an intrinsic part of the job.

          2. Ruffingit*

            Wow yeah, you must be counting the seconds to leave that place. It sounds ridiculous especially the logging in thing. It’s insane to count someone’s attendance via a logging in system because there are so many things that can prevent the login from happening as you’ve stated – doing other things while computer starts up, computer crashes, etc.

            UGH. Seriously ridiculous. I hope the next place you land will be less insane.

  5. Malissa*

    #1–There is a possibility your coworker is giving you a hint that you should be applying other places. Maybe the firm doesn’t hire on many interns.
    #2–Religion and politics are two things that should never be discussed at work if possible.
    #7–You’ll need to gauge the grad school situation differently for every position to which you apply. In some cases it will be an asset and in some cases it could send vibes of short-termness. It’s really a situational thing.

    1. #1*

      That’s definitely crossed my mind as a possible reason, which makes me anxious. I don’t know if I should be starting to apply to jobs again! But she was hired on full-time as an intern herself, and I’ve heard that they have a few spots available for intern hires at the end of the summer, so the evidence seems conflicting.

      1. B*

        You should always, always, always apply to other jobs for full-time work. Just because you are interning there does not mean you are guaranteed a full-time position. Best to keep all of your options open.

        1. tangoecho5*


          Also, she might be throwing you off so to speak because she’s afraid your work, if you come on full time, will outshine hers. If both of you were interns, hired full term and doing the same work, you will be compared against each other and maybe she feels you will outperform her. And make her look lacking in comparison.

          Therefore, the comment about being overqualified as a motivator for you to maybe go out there and find something else.

          Just an idea!

      2. Flynn*

        It’s also possible that she’s just confused over your actual qualifications, or using ‘over qualified’ to mean ‘generally a good candidate in more ways than just qualifications’.

        Heck, maybe she thinks SHE’S overqualified, and thinks she’s doing a favour by warning you to look higher (whether that’s accurate or not).

  6. Julie*

    Regarding #3: When you contact the attorney, be sure he knows you need to start in August. He may be thinking he doesn’t need to worry about your start date until the beginning of September.

    1. Nusy*

      I let them know that in the first e-mail I sent them, along with reiterating that I will need to do so many hours, and need to stay there for the entire semester. Since during the interview, I offered to work full-time or close to that, I also mentioned that I don’t mind going over the minimum hours requirement, if it’s OK with them. What I’m really trying to get here is to start maybe a bit earlier (a few days or a week, maybe), so I don’t have to start my internship and all my classes on the same one week!

      Thank you again, Alison – both for the answers and the cover letter, resume, and interview ideas! I’ll be sure and comment here once I get an update from the DA.

      1. Polarbear*

        Hi Nusy,

        Something kind of similar happened to me once, too. It turned out that my e-mails suddenly started going to my future supervisor’s spam box! So you shouldn’t be concerned at all…Just follow up when Alison said you should, and if you still don’t hear anything, I’d suggest calling.

      2. Loose Seal*

        Nusy, does your department at school get involved with the internships? (I know this can vary – some departments have a contract with the company and others let their students flail about on their own.) If yours does and if you still don’t have an answer after 10 days, you might consider asking them for help nailing down your start date.

        1. Chinook*

          If the internship is done through a school, the lawyer may have told them and figure they have passed the information on to you. Definitely checkw ith them if that is the case.

        2. Nusy*

          No, my school only monitors the quality somewhat, but does not get involved in our application/hiring process; in fact, we are warned several times during the courses that we are solely responsible for this, and the school provides no assistance. (Which is understandable, it’s a well-renowned community college in CA that mainly specializes in transfer majors for state universities… we just happen to have a top 100 paralegal school in there, too.)

          The only thing the department head for us really does is, if it’s a law firm or government agency they haven’t dealt with yet, they want some very detailed descriptions and/or talk to the managing attorney to make sure it’s not being a typist/file room clerk, but doing paralegal work. He’s also willing to move his connection network if you need an internship, and can’t find one, but he generally believes that you need to find your own. (Which is, honestly, the best idea. He won’t be out there finding jobs for us after graduation.)

      3. dejavu2*

        I think it’s still early to freak out about this, but if you get closer to the date and still don’t have an official start time set up, I would simply shoot an email and/or leave a voice-mail saying you’re showing up at such and such date at such and such time. Then turn up when you said you would. They’re probably swamped and might not even totally realize that they’ve left you hanging. In fact, they might assume you’re planning to show up on the first day of the semester, and don’t know what you’re worked up about.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Hmmm, I actually wouldn’t just announce a start date — risks coming across as over-stepping and presumptuous, and the start date really needs to be set at their convenience (for training, etc.).

          1. Ruffingit*

            Exactly, never ever would I simply announce a start date to an employer and then show up whether this was an internship or something else.

            This is particularly true in the legal field because they are going to need to have someone train you, you’re going to need to speak to people who may/may not be available on a particular day (court clerks for example). It’s just too intense and busy of a field to just show up, especially in a D.A.’s office.

      4. Nusy*

        Update on the DA! I e-mailed them after the suggested 10 days; nothing. Another week, and I called them – I was forwarded to their HR person’s voicemail. I left a polite message asking about my start date, explaining the additional responsibilities I have since I last checked in. A day after that – today – I got a call from their background investigator to get the ball rolling!

        Thank you, Alison!

        1. Nusy*

          Update #2 – I’m starting Monday! Thank you all for the encouragement… and thank you, thank you, thank you Alison for the advice!

  7. Amber*

    #1 “Keep in mind that as an entry-level employee, she might have no idea what she’s talking about” THIS.

    Why would you take career advice from an entry-level employee? If you’re concerned you may be overqualified for something, talk to someone higher up that you trust with more experience.

    1. jesicka309*

      The employee might think they’re doing OP #1 a ‘favour’.

      I know I’ve found myself inadvertently giving advice to newer grads in my office (particularly ones with the same degree as me). The advice usually goes along the lines of “work out if this is the sort of work you want to be in asap, or get out asap – lateral transfers are impossible here, and you won’t use much of what you did at school.” Higher ups might not have that sort of knowledge – they like their jobs, right? They won’t advise an intern who is interning outside of their field to consider applying elsewhere if they’re not completely happy.
      The entry level employee may not have any idea, but they might have been OP a year ago, and think they’re doing OP a favour by warning them now.
      OP #1, I’d be considering whether you like the advertising work you’re doing, as it’s not the field you studied, and on paper the internship might not make sense. That could be all this is – confusion about your long term goals for the internship.

      1. #1*

        That last paragraph makes a lot of sense, thank you! I’ve pursued a couple of internships in this field before, so it doesn’t look totally out of place on my resume, but it’s entirely possible that part of why I’m so thrown off is because I’m myself unsure of my long-term place in this industry.

    2. #1*

      I agree – I’d be much more anxious if someone higher up had said that. At the same time, she’s still my superior and is better acquainted with the firm and industry. As for speaking to someone more senior about feeling overqualified, I wouldn’t know how to broach the topic without sounding arrogant and creating an awkward situation. Don’t most entry-level workers feel at least somewhat overqualified?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Also, to add — you wouldn’t be asking them if you’re overqualified, but rather for advice about your prospects in the field in general, how you’re doing, etc.

        1. #1*

          I do have a mentor at the firm and have been working with several other higher-ups through my projects. When I got lunch with my mentor a week ago, she didn’t hint at anything about me being overqualified or about prospects elsewhere; she said I was doing good work, and we mostly discussed prospects at other agencies/cities in the same field and at the same level.

      2. Julie*

        Perhaps she is concerned that you and she will be competing for the same positions within the company and she doesn’t want you around. Of course, I am guessing about this possibility, but it might be something to at least consider.

        1. #1*

          More than one person has brought up this possibility, and it was actually my mother’s first response when I mentioned the conversation to her. :P

        2. K in Canada*

          This was my first thought; that she sees the OP as competition and is trying to get her out of the running under the guise of “helpful advice”. Maybe I’m just jaded.

  8. Carlotta*

    No time off in a year?? That’s hard. In the UK holiday is usually earned pro-rata, each month you earn some, so you’d definitely be able to take some PTA by Christmas. The first six months to a year at a new job are mentally draining – people need some down time other than weekends.

    1. Nusy*

      It’s usually the same in the US, too; but it’s all too common that it’s frowned upon to actually take that vacation time before your first year is up, and some places just straight won’t let you take it before that, period.

      1. Anonymous*

        That’s definitely not true with every employer. In all of the places I worked at, you were on probation for the first 6 months (where you wouldn’t get paid vacation) but the supervisors were perfectly OK with giving you a day off if you absolutely needed it as long as you knew you wouldn’t be paid for that day.

      2. Chinook*

        In Canada, a lot of places won’t let you take time off during your probationary period even though you are accumulating vacation pay. So, if you are hired after October, Christmas can be an issue. On the flip side, if the office is closed for a week at Christma but you haven’t accumulated enough vacation pay, you could be forced to take the time off without pay.

        1. A Bug!*

          In BC at least, you do accrue vacation from day one, but you’re not actually entitled to take it until your second year of employment, and your employer can tell you when you can or can’t have it.

          So in the hypothetical case of an October hire and a Christmas office closure, the new hire isn’t actually entitled to have any of it paid except for any eligible statutory holidays.

          (There are a few exceptions to the above but I’m sure nobody’s interested in reading them.)

          1. Chinook*

            That’s not as bad as it could be. At my last place of emplooyment, you weren’t eligible to take your time off until after you have completed a full pay year from beginning to end. Their pay year started December 1st, so if you hired in January of 2012, you wouldn’t be eligible to take any time off until December 2013 (even though the money would be accumulating for you). After that shocker, I have learned to ask in negotiations when I would be eligible to take vacation.

        2. RJ*

          This is how my US company handles it. You begin accruing PTO on day 1, but cannot take the time off until you’ve completed your first 90 days.

      3. Cat*

        Though in a lot of offices the holidays are the exception to this because things virtually shut down anyway. It just depends.

      4. Elizabeth West*

        That’s how most of my jobs have been–this one starts accruing right away and all benefits kick in at 30 days. It’s great. I have to have my water heater and tub faucet replaced tomorrow (aaugh!). Thank God they do this; it would cost me twice as much to have it done on the weekend.

    2. Lynn*

      I’ve never run into problems taking off time in the first year. The system I’ve seen is, you accrue so many days of PTO a month, and if you have the days, you can take them like anyone else. People change jobs so much nowadays, that could be 1/3 of your career that you can’t take time off, if you can’t take it in the first year!

      1. Chinook*

        Actually, that has been the case with me. I rarely take time off because I move around so much. Instead, I get my rest when I am looking for a job or moving (or both at the same time.) It was weird when the office closed due to flooding last month because it meant I had a 5 day break with no job search involved and I liked it!

        Of course, Christmas was the excpetion in that IW ould get a few days off if the office was closed but, last year, I had the 23rd off but had to work the 27th and 28th because I was one of 2 new guys and the other one had negotiated that entire week off. It sucked having to leave my family early but atleast the boss was understanding that, if there was a storm, there was no way I was risking my life to drive 800 km just to cover phones.

  9. Sourire*

    #3- Just be wary of thinking this is your “dream” internship. It’s unclear whether you are a law student or a paralegal/other type of student, but if the latter, you may not be doing much beyond filing, mailing, etc. I was really excited to land an internship at my county DA’s office as an undergrad, thinking it sounded very impressive/prestigeous. Turns out, if you weren’t a law student, they really didn’t trust you to do anything. This may not (and hopefully will not) be the case with you, but if it ends up seeming that way, make sur to take advantage of your surroundings. Get as much as you can from the ada’s you’re working with (without monopolizing their time), see if you can observe court and other proceedings, etc. Don’t let them just stick you in the filing room.

    1. Nusy*

      We’ve had other paralegals from my program intern here, and some still work there. They all said it was a great experience, they got to draft motions and briefs, and sometimes even had 2nd chair at trials and hearings. They seem to be a lot more open to people not (yet) in law school…

      I’m sorry to hear your DA wasn’t welcoming at all… hopefully it changed by now!

      1. Sourire*

        It has not (I work in a related field that still has contact with them). Glad to hear it sounds like you will have a much more rewarding experience than I did :)

    2. Anonymous*

      why is everyone on this site so eager to burst people’s bubbles in regards to dream jobs/internships?

      1. MovingRightAlong*

        Honestly, I find it far more tiring hearing “IT’S NOT YOUR DREAM JOB!” over and over than the other way around. I’m not convinced that “dream job” = “walking in with blinders on” in every letter we see here. Many times, it sounds like the LW is discussing a position she aspires to, not one that she thinks is perfect and has no rainy days. In this case, OP 3 sounds really excited about this internship she has dreamed of landing. Good for her.

        1. Nusy*

          That’s all it really is. I want to work in criminal law, and I’m more interested in the prosecution side than the defense. That being said, I’m not opposed to eventually switching sides, and working in defense… but working directly in state-level prosecution is what I wanted to do for my internship. It’s also a “dream internship” in the sense that it’s extremely competitive, and hard to land. As a former fencer, it’s kind of the equivalent of landing a spot on the Olympic team for me. :) It’s not the placement, but the journey there that matters.

  10. Sophie*

    #2 – if your manager has already told you not to discuss God, you’ve probably passed the line from private discussion between willing colleagues and into the realm of your colleagues or manager are finding you discussing God to be uncomfortable. When in doubt, it’s always best to avoid discussing religion at all.

  11. Lindsay*

    #2 – I won’t go as far as to say that you should not be bringing up religion at all at work. I’m not religious, but I don’t mind being around people who are very religious. However, I will say that I am much more comfortable when people are sensitive with how they bring it up.

    I’m fine if they say, “I really believe God gave me the strength to get through this difficult time,” or whatever. In that case they’re talking about them, and their experiences. However, if I’m having difficulties in my life and their response is, “You really need to get yourself right with the Lord. When you do, his strength will carry you through,” or whatever I find it a lot more irritating. One is just explaining how you live your life, while the other is telling others how you feel they should live theirs. (It’s kind of the same thing between somebody saying, “Hey, I really love Weight Watchers. I’ve been losing weight so quickly on it,” and somebody seeing somebody eating a cupcake and going, “You really shouldn’t eat that. You should join weight watchers because it helps you make better choices about food.”)

    However, since you’ve already been asked to stop, I would lay low for awhile and not discuss it at all.

    #4. Am I the only one here who is a little concerned that OP has been working with food for over a year, and yet does not have enough knowledge to get a 75% on a food safety test?

    OP, I know it’s not your fault but your manager really dropped the ball here. People should be fully trained on safely handling food before they are allowed to handle food that people are going to eat, not just given half-assed training and then tested and threatened to be fired over a year later when the damage could potentially already be done.

    If prepping the chickens is not something you do (or even if it is something that you do and just haven’t been correctly trained on) I would go to your manager (or a trusted coworker) and explain that you were never trained correctly on doing these thing but you want to learn. If your manager is a jerk, I would go with the trusted coworker. If your manager is not a jerk I don’t think your request will be taken badly.

    1. Kelly L.*

      I’m guessing she only ever works on the Taco Bell side and that this stuff is particular to chicken preparation (i.e. not basic stuff like how hot things need to be).

    2. FD*

      The OP says she works there, but she might just work as a front of the house person–i.e. being a cashier, etc. I worked in food service for six years, but for the first four, I exclusively did front of the house work. I could have answered a few basic food safety questions (first in, first out, don’t cross-contaminate food), but more specific details (what temperature does raw chicken need to be cooked to in order to be safe, what is the temperature ‘danger zone’ for ready to eat food) I wouldn’t have been able to answer. Don’t assume everyone who works in a fast food restaurant actually handles food directly.

      1. Lindsay*

        She says she works the line too, not just as a cashier. It may just be on the Taco Bell side, though, not the KFC side.

    3. LadyTL*

      To be honest the majority of food service/handling jobs do not cover food safety. Sometimes the company gives it as a short overview and sometimes requires managers to take a course on it, but I know of several major food companies that have it as policy not to do in-depth training for line workers about food safety. As far as I can tell it’s a cost cutting measure in the same way they get irritated at employees calling off for being sick and pressure them to come in anyway.

      1. Lindsay*

        That’s kind of disturbing. When I worked in food service we all had to be trained and knowledgeable about safe food handling and preparation. Corporate would come in and audit for correct handling and ask questions, and if we could not answer a food safety question bad things would presumably happen.

        I wonder if a fast food company could be held liable for this lack of training if say a bunch of people got sick for serving chicken that hadn’t been prepared correctly or that sat in an unsafe temperature zone for too long because the employee didn’t know any better.

        1. LadyTL*

          Well, when that exact thing happened with shrimp at a job I had, the company did not get in trouble and they even got to keep the contract for the college. They just pulled shrimp off the line until the next shipment when people started getting sick from it. It wasn’t a small incident either since it was lent. I guess the trouble depends on if there is any real press about it?

  12. Sandrine*

    # 2 Yup, she probably can (I’m in France but of course I’ll trust Alison on that one) , and I’ll add : she should.

    I’ll be honest : I’m really uncomfortable with most religion talk. Mostly because of my own mother, mind you, but still. I would be delighted if a boss stopped such talks in the workplace.

    I wouldn’t be mad at a coworker who talked about it, be it about their own experience or anything else. I’d just be really, really annoyed and would start avoiding that person if I realized the talks were the main focus of the conversations :( .

    1. Anonymously Anonymous*

      I have a relationship with God. I’m a believer. Although my mom doesn’t seem to think I’m religious enough. Which I shake my head at. She has a whole spiel she does every.single.time I talk to her on the phone. It really rubs me the wrong way. I digress.

  13. Fry Cook*

    4. I work at McDonalds and we have to do a test like this for each area before being able to operate it unsupervised. We also have to redo them every 6 months. However, we don’t get fired if we fail!! We just have to retake the SOC (station observation checklist). We can’t initially begin working there until we do the Food Hygiene and Health and Safety ones though. Usually they are done by having a staff trainer or manager observe you on a station while asking the relevant questions.

    This is our food hygiene one, I guess yours is very similar. The answers are provided, so you could probably use very similar answers for your test:

    We need 80% to pass (and 100% on the critical factors) on most of our SOCs (like grill etc) but we need 100% overall on Health and Safety and Food Hygiene (the basic ones).

    I would suggest you look online for things like training flyers if they are not providing them at work for you. But they should have training materials for the test you’re taking in your store’s office. I would link you to a prepping chicken one but I can’t find any more McD ones online except on the site where you need a staff login.

    However, Tacobell/KFC is a large company and if you try searching the answers online, it’s likely someone else will have asked the same thing. From you post it seems you can take the test home? So you could probably look up all the answers.

    It’s probably worth asking at work if you have any training flyers etc in your office. Otherwise it’s very unfair of them to give you the test really! If you have staff trainers in your store, you could also ask one of them for help? You could also try asking a manager [maybe not the same one who threatened to fire you over the test].

    Also, it sounds like one or more of your senior managers, or maybe the store manager, recently got in trouble for not properly training the staff and for being slack about food hygiene and safety! Therefore they’re leaping in at the deep end to try and instantly ‘fix’ this problem by springing the test on you (and perhaps getting rid of people who don’t pass). Not on this particular issue, but my store has ‘solved’ other types of issues many times with a similar type of reaction! I think it’s not uncommon in fast food especially to have things try to be ‘fixed’ by sudden and extreme reactions.

    Good luck with your test!

    1. Chinook*

      I was thinking the same thing – google is your friend. If the company gave you the test to take home, they must be expecting you to do your own research. The goal is not to know what you knew last week but what you know now that you have taken the test. Think of it as homework instead of a knowledge test.

      1. Jessa*

        Also since you work for a large corporation even if you work for a franchise, an anonymous note to corp might help. if they’re supposed to be training EVERYONE on this, there are training materials available for them to give to people. Corp is pretty good in fast food about having this stuff planned for the franchisees to give out to their staffs.

    2. Lindsay*

      I’m glad to hear McDonalds does this. When I worked in food service we had a similar thing, and we had corporate come in to do audits sometimes to ensure that all guidelines were being followed, all temps were being recorded and were accurate, and when they were there they would ask us questions about food safety to ensure we knew the answers.

      I agree with asking a senior coworker or trainer. And google is a good idea, too.

      I was thinking the same thing – this reeks of somebody in the management chain being chewed out, and pulling this test to prove that they’re doing something about it. Either that or a new manager coming in and wanting to significantly change the standards and clean house at the same time (though I imagine the OP would have noted if the manager was new).

  14. Anonymous*

    6. If going away at xmas is important to you, I’d mention it before taking a job. At my current job, I had already had a booked holiday for xmas to visit my family before I applied for this job (it was booked about 7 months in advance because of flights), and therefore mentioned it at the interview to make sure I would be able to get the time off (I needed 10 days). I was granted the time off then, but it was made clear later it wouldn’t have been had I not mentioned it at the time I was applying. Btw, I took the holiday as ‘unpaid leave’.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      That’s what I did when I was job hunting. I had two trips booked with non-refundable tickets when I was laid off. In a couple of interviews, I was asked if I had anything upcoming, and I just said yes and explained I was fine with taking it unpaid. They waved it off like it was no big deal.

  15. Caffeine Queen*

    #2: If you’ve been asked to stop, you’ve already crossed some lines. I’m an observant Catholic, something some coworkers know (only because A) “What did you do this weekend?” “Oh, I did xyz and went to church” and B) I’m getting married soon and they asked me where I’m getting married, what type of wedding I’m having, etc). However, when you get into “talking about God,” that is quite offensive simply because, at best, faith is an extremely personal and intimate decision. Heck, even as a person of faith, not something I want to share with my coworkers.

    1. Jamie*

      I’m Catholic also and just as uncomfortable discussing religious beliefs at work, but like you it’s not a secret and I don’t care if people know what I am.

      I.e. I’ve run into co-workers at mass on occasion and as we have a large percentage of Catholics at work so someone always knows where to get he best meatless lunches during lent…but I would immediately excuse myself from any conversation regarding personal beliefs or agreement or divergence from the church on social or political issues.

      I know some other sects consider evangelizing a core tenet of their faith and that can become a huge issue at work. I have some people on the periphery of my personal life who feel compelled to try to save me whenever I run into them…and that’s something I wouldn’t tolerate at work for a second.

      1. Chinook*

        I take a page from my grandmother for what to say since she has two sisters who are born again and tried to convert her every time they meet up. She admits that she doesn’t mind the idea of going somewhere else than them since everyone she knows is going to end up there anyway and would they mind passing the coffee and telling her how the kids are.

        1. Ruffingit*

          +100 for your grandmother Chinook!

          When people are heavily evangelizing to me, I say “If the choice is Heaven with you or Hell, I’ll happily burn for eternity.”

          Seem to throw them off a bit.

    2. SCW*

      Yeah, I think there is a big difference between mentioning your church when talking about what you did over the weekend, such as “We had a big fish fry on Friday at my church, it was delish!” and proselytizing!

  16. Chocolate Teapot*

    2. The only time I bring up religion at work is if my Church is holding an event which might be of interest to colleagues, such as a Christmas bazaar or Summer fete, and the purpose is more for charity fund raising or community outreach rather than faith discussions.

    1. Felicia*

      I love getting invited to those types of things! I also love going to my friend’s church talent show and sometimes they have really interesting guest speakers that talk about more secular issues. I hate getting invited to the regular church service when I express no interest though and I think that’s where it crosses the line.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Exactly. And we could add rousing renditions of Christmas carols during December to the list. (Most churches seem to be packed during carol services).

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I don’t mind going to other people’s church services either; but only if they don’t try to rope me into joining. I am friends with a very religous couple (the husband is a former coworker) and they invite me to their house a lot, with many of their church friends. Last year they invited me to a 4th of July picnic with their church. Not one person shoves anything on me, and it’s usually really fun.

  17. the_scientist*

    For OP #2, I’m really confused about how they are “talking about God” so frequently at work that it’s become an issue- which makes me think that they are so far outside the bounds of normal behaviour that co-workers have told the boss about it. Really, the only time “talking about God” should happen is if somebody directly asks if you believe, at least in a work context. Co-workers will figure out that you are religious from casual conversations- “what did you do this weekend?” “oh, I went to a church social/bbq/etc”. And, OP, for future reference from a non-religious person- I 110% DO NOT want to hear about your personal relationship with God or the wonderful things God has done in your life, or why I should pray/come to church with you/ read this passage of the bible. I just don’t, and I’d likely have some rude retorts for you.

      1. Jamie*

        This. This is among the short list of questions you never ask co-workers, ever. Right up there with “are you preganant”, “how much do you weigh?”, and “how much did you pay for your house?”

        1. the_scientist*

          Right, you absolutely shouldn’t be asking it, but I’m also sure it happens.

          1. Calla*

            I did have a co-worker ask me this at a job a while ago. I was young, and my coworkers were known to be conservative religious older folks. It was mortifying.

            1. Julie*

              This is a situation where “faith is an extremely personal and intimate decision ” (thank you, Caffeine Queen) comes in handy. Plenty of people don’t like to talk about religion, politics, sex, finances, etc. with co-workers. Even with co-workers you know well and like, sometimes these topics are just too loaded for workplace conversation.

        2. Kat M*

          I get this a fair bit. It tends to go like this.

          “What did you do this weekend?”
          “Oh, the youth group I lead was planting a vegetable garden, so that took up my whole Saturday.”
          “Oh yeah? What church is that?”
          “I’m a Baha’i, actually.”
          “Baha’i? What’s that?”

          Then I give a two-sentence summary of my beliefs. At that point either they ask for more information and I offer to talk with them about it outside of work, they thank me for the interesting information and don’t bring it up anymore, or they turn bright red and I end up on somebody’s prayer list for the damned.

        3. KellyK*

          I think the answers are “Wow, that was a rude question” for the first two and “Too much” to the third.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        Where I work, there are prayer groups that meet during lunch a few times a week. If you want to pray, you can opt in to those options, or do it on your own. In other words, there are ways to find like-minded folks. Otherwise, kindly leave everyone else alone about it.

        I also worked with someone who had “have a blessed day” in his signature block. I didn’t love it, but whatever. It didn’t bother me THAT much.

        1. Del*

          “Blessed day” is also pretty generic in terms of religiosity — after all, it isn’t specifying WHO should do the blessing!

          1. Katie the Fed*

            Yeah, that’s why I never said anything. I mean, it’s strongly implied that someone/something is doing the blessing, but didn’t bother me that much. I figure there are worse things in life than someone wanting me to have a blessed day.

            1. Jamie*

              I get this a lot from one of our southern vendors – it doesn’t bother me the way if I sneeze and someone says “bless you” doesn’t bother me. For all I know they are blessing me themselves…I don’t know what kind of powers people have.

              1. Nodumbunny*

                When I lived in the South, I once said “bless you” to a health care worker (I was the patient) and was rebuked because that was “based on an old pagan belief about the devil trying to enter your soul” and “she was a Christian and didn’t believe that”, so please don’t say that to her. Ooookaay…believe me, I wasn’t thinking about the deeper meaning of what I said, I was being polite.

                1. KellyK*

                  Oh. My.

                  On a side note, I had always thought (and this may be one of those folk etymology things that’s just made up after the fact) that “bless you” or “God bless you” when someone sneezes started during one of the plagues in Europe. Before that, the common thing was “Salud” or “to your health,” but since sneezes were a plague symptom, it was switched to “God bless you.”

                2. Judy*

                  I’m a 5th generation immigrant to the US from Germany. My only German word is Gesundheit. Pretty much all the rest of the German words disappeared from the family vocabulary during the two world wars.

                3. Elizabeth West*

                  I just say “Gesundheit,” which means good health. No worries about offending anyone there, unless they get upset that it’s German for some reason.

                4. Kat M*

                  This is like a client I had a while back. I knew she was a very religious Christian, so even though I’m not, I thought I’d be polite and wish her a happy Easter at the end of her appointment. She got very stern all of a sudden and told me “YOU MEAN HAPPY RESURRECTION DAY.”


                5. Rana*

                  Another person who was raised saying “Geshundheit.” I don’t mind people “blessing” me – I figure it’s a combination of reflex and good intentions – but it doesn’t come naturally to me, and I know a few atheists who quietly roll their eyes when someone does it to them.

                6. Cassie*

                  East Asians (at least traditionally) don’t bless each other when they sneeze. They usually don’t say anything.

                  So I had to learn to say “thank you” after strangers say “bless you” after I sneeze.

                  Come to think of it, when I’m with my fellow Asian-American coworkers at lunch and one of us sneezes, the rest of us don’t say anything. But if I heard another coworker sneeze, I’d probably bless them (even though I wasn’t raised to do so) because I’d feel a little awkward by saying nothing…

                7. KellyK*

                  Thank you, fposte. That is really neat info. It seems so weird to me that blessing people when they sneeze goes clear back to ancient Rome, and we have no idea *why.*

              2. Katie the Fed*

                I’m so conditioned to say “bless you” after every sneeze I’ve even caught myself saying it when my dog sneezes.

                1. Chelsea B.*

                  Along these lines – I’ve said it to the TV. Automatic response to the sounds of a sneeze.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I’m not surprised by it at all. We have a few zealots here that just don’t get it. One woman actually bought me a bible after she found out that I’m not religious. And kept inviting me to church. And sending me religious cards. I had no problem telling her myself to knock it off. She also preaches/sings on the subway on her way to work in the morning. I used to take the same train and hated when I would run into her. She ended up getting fired (unrelated incompetence) and it was a relief.

    2. Lindsay*

      See, I don’t mind hearing about what coworkers feel God has done for them, or their personal relationship with God.

      I do mind hearing why I should pray, or come to Church, or accept God into my life. I like my life just fine, and presumably didn’t come to you for religious advice so I don’t need your input on the fact.

      I kind of look at it like diet or exercise or whatever. I don’t mind hearing about how your diet and exercise regimen helps you lose weight or have more energy or whatever. I do mind when you judge me for eating a cupcake or tell me that I need to start running or stop eating carbs or whatever.

  18. IndieGir*

    #1 — Am I the only one evil/cynical enough to think perhaps the entry level employee was trying to discourage the OP because she’s threatened and doesn’t want the OP to be competition with her in the future? I haven’t had that sort of thing happen to me personally, but I’ve heard stories from co-workers who have deliberately encouraged others to apply outside the department or to other companies to get rid of the competition. They were quite pleased with their strategy.

    1. Chinook*

      Nope, I am just as cycnical and thought that the “helpful” coworker is trying to get rid of the competition in the form of OP #1, but, then again, I have worked in some very toxic work environments.

    2. Jen*

      Not at all. That’s where my brain went too. Advertising can be competitive and I think sometimes some people go for the jugular when they start to feel threatened. There are only so many entry-level positions available, if entry-level employee has overheard people say “Wow, blah blah is doing a great job! We need to try to hire her when the internship is over.” She might try to psych you out so she can outshine you.

      1. #1*

        Thanks for this helpful input. I’ve definitely gotten this feedback offline when discussing the conversation with others.

        My question is, why would she feel threatened by me if she’s already “a level above me”? Even if I get hired, she’s going to have more experience and will still be given more responsibility, promoted faster, etc. Forgive my naivety…

        1. Elizabeth West*

          That doesn’t mean anything. I once had a coworker try to undermine me. She had been promoted to a sales position when I was hired but didn’t like her new job and wanted her old one back. So she began a systematic campaign of harassment that finally ended when I went to my boss. She had a talk with the coworker–who ended up abandoning her job anyway, so good riddance.

    3. #1*

      Thanks! Yes, I’ve definitely gotten this feedback elsewhere when discussing the conversation with others.

      My question is, why would she feel threatened by me if she’s already “a level above me”? Even if I get hired, she’s going to have more experience and will still be given more responsibility, promoted faster, etc. (Forgive my naivety.)

      1. P*

        Unless your company has very strict procedures in place for promotions and such, it’s possible that she thinks you’re more talented than she is and might leapfrog. She may have overheard your (mutual) superiors talking about being impressed by your or something of that nature that made her insecure – not hugely likely, and certainly cynical, but it would be one explanation.

      2. Jen*

        You’re still both in the same rough level of experience. In my early career (which was very competitive) people in the entry-level part of the job (about 3 years) would really try to psych the interns/entry-level folks out. They were always worried about the new blood coming in. The new folks would be going for the same promotions and they were cheaper yet knew pretty much the same about the industry.

  19. Anonymous*

    #1. My co-workers also tell me I’m overqualified to work where I do now. I think they mean that they think I’m smart and capable and can do anything else that I want to do…eventually. I’m 5 years out of college so I really don’t have much experience. I’m in my first “career” job after 3 years in a call center so I am not really overqualifed in my opinion, but it’s nice to hear people’s perception of me in a professional sense. I’m not going to up and quit based on their comments, though.

    1. #1*

      I do try to take it as a compliment, but it just threw me for such a loop. It also makes me wonder about the culture of the office – certainly it’s not a good sign when someone at your own company says you could be better off elsewhere.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Keep in mind it’s just one person though. You can find bad apples in great companies (for a while at least, not usually long-term). Not saying that’s the case here, but I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions from just this.

  20. Kat M*

    #5, is it possible to tell the Paratransit folks you need to be there half an hour before whatever your start time actually is? Worst case scenario, they actually show up in a timely fashion and you end up arriving at 7:30 instead of 8:00, and have time for a leisurely cup of coffee or something.

    Not Paratransit, but when working out new public transportation routes, I always work in an extra half hour of wiggle room until I’m comfortable knowing exactly when I’ll arrive. Even then, I prefer to take the bus that leaves before the bus that will get me there on time. That way if I miss my bus, there’s another one that will still get me there on time.

    1. Mrs Addams*


      I used to do this with a high school boyfriend’s mum, who was notoriously bad at time keeping. My dad would tell me I had to be home at 10:30pm, and if I told bf’s mum that, she would leave their house at 10:30, stop to pick up a pint of milk on the way and I’d get home for 10:50. At that point, my dad would moan at me for being home late, even though there wasn’t anything I could feasibly do about it. I soon cottoned on to telling bf’s mum that I needed to be home for 10pm. That way, I get home at 10:20 and before my curfew.

  21. Ash*

    #2: Yuck. I’m sure you probably think that you’re perfectly innocent and just helping people find the lord or whatever, but turn it around on yourself. What if someone was talking to you about their different-from-your-religion religion as much as you talk to others? Would that make you uncomfortable? What if someone talked to you about atheism as much as you talked to everyone about your religion? Do you get that not everyone cares as much as you do, and even if they do, that they may not want to discuss it?

    You have severely damaged your reputation and are probably someone that no one wants to talk to or have a working relationship with. You have a lot of damage control to do to fix your image, and if you can’t deal with the fact that people do not care about and/or do not want to hear you talk about god, then you should probably find a workplace that is more suited to your inability to keep your thoughts to yourself (i.e. one that is oriented towards your religion, such as a church, religious non-profit, etc.).

    1. LisaLyn*


      Many people don’t get that. There are many, many topics that I don’t discuss at work, because although they are important to me, they probably aren’t something my coworkers want to hear about and, heck, even if they do, we are AT WORK. It’s just common courtesy. Working with someone is a specific type of relationship and there are just some things you have to do to preserve that.

    2. SCW*

      I agree that people shouldn’t talk about God at work, but you are making a lot of assumptions here based on a very short question! It could be they don’t talk about God, but someone does somewhere in the company and the powers that be have made a general rule. That kind of rule bothers some people, who feel restricted. I don’t know, I’m not the OP, but I think saying that this person is someone no one wants to work with is a little harsh.

      1. Chinook*

        “It could be they don’t talk about God, but someone does somewhere in the company and the powers that be have made a general rule. That kind of rule bothers some people, who feel restricted.”

        I can see this also being the source of the question. There is mistaken belief that freedom of religion means that I can practice my religion anyway I see fit in any place at any time. In reality, it means freedom from the state imposing a religion on you.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      I don’t know that this person has “severely damaged [his/her] reputation” based on this one question. But if it’s enough for the boss to say something, then it’s probably time to tone it down.

      Also not clear if the OP is proselytizing or just discussing faith. Big difference.

      1. danr*

        Chances are that the OP is proselytizing. Every street or subway preacher that I’ve heard starts out by saying “I’d like to talk you about God….”

        1. Felicia*

          When you’re told to not talk about God it means you’re making people uncomfortable, and nothing makes people more uncomfortable in terms of religion than proselytizing. I figure that as long as someone’s not trying to turn their religious beliefs into legislation then what they believe is none of my business.

        2. Katie the Fed*

          Not necessarily. I was once at a work-related event which started with people giving a 5-10 minute introduction and one person in giving an introduction included “and then I found Jesus…”

          It wasn’t proselytizing. It was a little…different though.

          1. Chinook*

            But, if you are asked to give a 10 minute introduction about yourself and your religion is a big part of your identity (and someone who says “and then I found Jesus” usually does), it would feel as wrong to hide that as it does for a gay person to hide their life partner from their coworkers.

            1. Katie the Fed*

              Right. I think you’re missing my point, which is that you can talk about religion without it being proselytizing. It can be a big part of your life that you’re very proud of – does not make it proselytizing.

            2. Cat*

              I don’t know what the specific instructions were, but normally if I were asked to give a 5-10 minute introduction at a work event, I would talk about the work I do.

              1. Loose Seal*

                I agree with Cat. In an introduction at work, I’d stick to work topics. Over the course of working and getting to know co-workers, of course one’s personal stuff will start to come out. And I don’t mind knowing a co-worker’s religion, in general, as long as they don’t harp on me or others for not being their religion (this includes passive-aggressive harping).

              2. Liz in a library*

                Me too. I would find too much personal life discussion a little odd whether it involved religion or not.

                1. Chinook*

                  Oh I agree that would be odd to mention anything about my personal life when introducing myself at work, but I have also met those for whom religion was a major turning point in their life (part of my family is Born Again Christian) that not to discuss it would be just as odd even if it wasn’t the most professional thing to do. But, it isn’t the sam as proselytizing because they are talking about their own experiences.

                2. fposte*

                  Though this still sounds to me like people who answer the “Tell me about yourself” interview question with details about their family life and medical struggles.

            1. Katie the Fed*

              Of course it is. My point, which many people seem to be missing, is that there is a difference between discussing faith and proselytizing. Just because someone discusses God and their beliefs doesn’t mean that they’re proselytizing.

              1. Min*

                True, but the phrase “talk about God” as opposed to “talk about religion” has that connotation. And neither belong in the workplace, IMO.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      You were fine until your second paragraph, which seemed unnecessarily presumptive and judgmental to me. We don’t know what happened here; the OP’s boss could have just said “Hey, we don’t talk about religion here, just a note,” and that was it. There might have been some butthurt about it, but isn’t there usually, when you are reprimanded, even if it’s not a huge screaming in-your-face thing?

      Lighten up a little.

      1. KellyK*

        Definitely. Without knowing what the person actually means by “talking about God” and how their boss told them not to, it could be anything from “They’re proselytizing horribly and it’s sabotaging their reputation” to “They were chatting about religion on a break with a willing coworker and someone who overheard the conversation complained.”

  22. Katie the Fed*

    #2 – you’re at work to work. You were hired to do a job, and unless that job involves talking about God, then I strongly recommend you to keep your religious views to yourself. You are probably alienating some of your coworkers, even if they haven’t said anything. Public professions of faith and religion make me very uncomfortable, and I might not say something, but I wouldn’t enjoy it. The fact that your boss has already said something to you about it means that it’s becoming a problem. You have all of those other non-work hours of the week to discuss God to your heart’s content. Keep it to yourself at work.

    1. Julie*

      And something else that these comments just made me realize: Unlike friends or family, co-workers can’t just stop talking to you if they don’t like what you’re talking about. They have to show up at work every day and may even have to work with you on a daily basis. They can’t “break up” with you. So please don’t make the environment uncomfortable.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Another thing I though of is this: even if the OP isn’t proselytizing, the coworkers may just be sick of hearing about it and would like to discuss something else–like work. Sometimes excessive praise can be as tiresome as preaching.

      1. Editor*

        One of the funniest — to me — Saturday Night Live sketches I ever saw involved excessive praying, not excessive praise. A woman was in her kitchen praying to Jesus that the kettle would boil soon or something like that, when Jesus stopped in and said of course he wanted to answer her prayers but could she keep the prayers for the major stuff. She, of course, was devastated that Jesus didn’t Care About Her, and she backed him into a corner and then continued the litany.

        @ OP2: I don’t care if you are praising God, praying to God, or recommending God, your co-workers don’t want to hear about it incessantly. People get tired of hearing the same thing over and over again. It doesn’t matter if the topic is your horrible commute, your medical problems, your faith, your domestic details, your hobbies, your perfect children, how hot your SO is, or “those people.” Avoid talking about the same thing over and over to the exclusion of topics other people are interested in or the not-so-occasional period of silence. Especially the silence. (This was a lesson I had to learn myself, so I’m trying to share the wisdom here.)

  23. KellyK*

    #2, As others have said, talking religion at work can be inappropriate and make your coworkers really uncomfortable. As a normal topic of conversation is one thing:

    -Nope, no chocolate for me, gave it up for Lent/Nope, can’t go out for lunch—Ramadan.
    -So, did you hear they finally chose a new Pope?
    -What’d you do this weekend? Oh, I went to church & did yard work.

    But when you’re trying to tell your coworkers what they should believe, that crosses a line. I like the Weight Watchers analogy Lindsay made, because both things are personal, individual choices about how you live your life.

    I know there are a lot of religions who focus on evangelism (and a lot of strategies to turn any and all conversations into saving someone else’s soul), so I understand if you really feel you have to ask everybody you interact with once. But once should be sufficient–either they’re open to talking more about it or they’re not. Legally, you’re allowed until someone tells you to stop or it interferes with work, but in terms of courtesy, I would stop once someone seems bored or uncomfortable, whether they actually say, “I don’t want to talk about this,” or not.

    Part of this is out of courtesy, but part of it is that as a religious person myself, I feel like faith is cheapened when people push it like a used car salesman trying to make a hard sell.

    1. Chinook*

      “Part of this is out of courtesy, but part of it is that as a religious person myself, I feel like faith is cheapened when people push it like a used car salesman trying to make a hard sell.”

      I agree about it cheapening faith. In fact, every time I see someone “selling” religion, any religion, it makes me want to hide what I believe and where I volunteer even more because I do not want to be associated with someone who feels the need to make every moment about evangelization through words.

    2. Rana*

      Yes. I also feel my faith is a private matter between me and God, and someone talking to me about Jesus (or whoever) isn’t going to persuade me if God has not already.

  24. ChristineSW*

    #5 – Paratransit veteran here!

    I’m not sure about the county-run services, but the statewide service I use has a pick-up window of 40 minutes and is a shared-ride service. You’re lucky that it only makes you ~20 minutes late! I’ve had instances where I was at least an hour late! I have friends with even worse horror stories.

    Honestly, there’s only so much you can do. Again, I’m only speaking from experience with my statewide system, but they probably have multiple trip schedulers and many passengers. No, it’s not always efficiently scheduled, but they do the best they can. Your best bets are to try to schedule your trips with enough wiggle room and keeping an open dialogue with your supervisor. Alison has a good point about the requirements under the ADA, but I haven’t come across anything in terms of employees who use paratransit services.

    Another thought: Is there an option to set up a “subscription” trip? This means that you can be picked up within the same window (NOT necessarily the exact same time) every time without having to reserve the trips individually. I’ve found that this helps make the pickup time and route more steady where I arrive to work at roughly the same time each day, give or take maybe 10-15 minutes. There are occasional hiccups with this–perhaps there’s a substitute scheduler on a given day–but I find it really lowers my stress level.

    1. Jessica*

      +1 I just want to share my sympathy with the OP. I used to work with a lot of people who had disabilities and Paratransit was ridiculously unreliable.

    2. Kou*

      This is exactly what I was going to say. Where I live it’s a *two hour* window; when I worked with a senior assistance group it was not unusual to see people arrive places over an hour early because they wanted to make sure they weren’t late.

  25. anon o*

    I don’t even believe in god and I just realized I talk about him a lot at work, “God only knows when this project is going to actually be finished” “Lord give strength to deal with this report.” “Oh my god!” But I guess that’s referring to God rather than specifically talking about him.

    1. EE*

      That reminds me of a time I was particularly frustrated with something and exclaimed “Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” My husband looked and me in shock and said “YOU DON’T EVEN BELIEVE IN GOD – why are you saying these things?”

  26. anon-2*

    #2 – I am a Christian, but I tend to keep my beliefs to myself, preferring to express those philosophies toward actions. Perhaps this is why I sometimes come across snidely, when referring to dirty management tricks.

    That aside – it’s not a good idea to discuss religion in the workplace, nor is it a good idea to start a “church group” or “prayer group” (read = religion-based clique) in the office.

    Long story short – I was in an office environment once — where a new manager encouraged that. And as a result, there were those who were “in” and those who were “out”. For the record, I didn’t join the group.

    This reflected in promotions – and salary differences – raises – etc. and because we processed the payroll – WE KNEW.

    My biggest fear was that the manager – who was a good person and a good manager, too — would be brought down on a discrimination charge. All that would have to happen is to have a disgruntled employee whip out the payroll listing , slide it across the table at a state discrimination board hearing — END OF CASE.

    I might add, it also came close to generating organizational/union activity….

    The religious clique / prayer group was essentially, defused. The folks who were in it carried on their activities (good for them) but outside the office.

    1. Marilla*

      How were they a “good manager” if they were encouraging cliques at work and on top of that discriminating in pay and promotions based on religious activity?

          1. anon-2*

            He ran the place well. He opened doors to all that were closed. He ran an efficient data center (exemplary, in fact).

            The operative word could be “otherwise”.

            1. A Bug!*

              That’s a pretty big “otherwise”.

              I’m honestly a little baffled that you claim he “opened doors” for people when you literally just finished posting that people who didn’t participate in these groups were intentionally left out of raises and promotions. That seems like a textbook definition of a closed door, from where I’m sitting.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I can imagine it. We tend to think of bad managers as being all bad, but so often they’re a mix — really bad in some ways and fine or even good in others.

              2. anon-2*

                There were some opportunities afforded to some and a series of promotional policies changed with the new management (new director).

                The fear was that the best way to get ahead was by joining the religious group. As I said, that was defused. And eventually – actually, rather quickly, we were ALL better off.

                Glad to clarify.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      I had a manager once who was SUPER Catholic, like Opus Dei super Catholic, had a Catholic rock band, etc. I’m more of the half-hearted variety myself. At an office happy hour, he started asking who the Catholics were in the group, going around and asking “are you Catholic?” I *think* he was just genuinely curious, but man was it inappropriate. One of the more senior people pulled him aside later and explained that even if he had the best of intentions, he was setting himself up for trouble. What if the next two people to get promoted were Catholics? How would that look?

      1. Jamie*

        I am picturing the weirdest super hero ever. Super Catholic! Does the stations of the cross at the speed of light, jumping over crèches in a single bound!

          1. anon-2*

            And it’s not funny making fun of others’ religious beliefs and practices…. certainly not in a forum that is supposed to have professional participants…

            1. Min*

              I wouldn’t say that anyone was making fun of a person’s beliefs or practices. It was the phrase “SUPER Catholic” that tickled people, not the Catholicism itself.

              1. Jamie*

                This. The phrase made me giggle…that’s all. No offense was intended, I’m Catholic myself.

            2. Victoria Nonprofit*

              That’s a fair criticism. And it’s also important that both Jamie and Katie are themselves Catholic.

            3. Katie the Fed*

              Sorry. I did not mean to offend, was just having fun with the idea of a Catholic Superhero.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I got screened for this in a phone interview once–“What church do you go to?” I was told they believed their work came from God, etc, and they had weekly prayer meetings in the office. The employer said my religion being different was no problem. I didn’t believe him; I thought probably that my excercising my right to decline participation would have hurt me at that job. It wasn’t offered to me, but I would have turned it down anyway for that reason.

      1. Kat M*

        I was asked my religion when applying for a job at a Lutheran daycare in my early 20s. Without getting specific, I explained that while my theology was a bit different than theirs, I believed that all children should know that they are loved, that I felt comfortable saying grace, and knew as many kid-appropriate Bible stories as anyone was ever likely to need. Beyond that, I was willing to leave the religious education to the pastor and the children’s parents.

        I got the job, and loved it.

        Now the Methodist daycare I worked for was another story! But that was mostly a case of good values gone horribly, horribly awry.

        1. Tax Nerd*

          I was offered a job at a law firm that was predomininantly Mormon. Not everyone was LDS, but the two people running it were. It was weird to be asked if I was LDS in the interview, but the interviewer went on to explain that it wouldn’t be a problem, but something I might want to know/keep in mind about the office. (I declined because of the lowball salary and some other management issues, but that may have been a dealbreaker.)

        2. Chinook*

          IMHO, when an obviously religious organization is interviewing, it makes sense to ask the interviewee’s religious beliefs because, if they are uncomfortable with workign in a religious setting, then you won’t work well within the culture of the organization. Kat M, I like how you answered the question by stating that you may differ in theology but you had no problem with their practices that a spiritual bent to it and and that you knew where the line was between that and actual religious education. I think when places like that daycare ask that type of question, they are trying to suss out whether or not there are going to be issues asking you to do something down the road. And, if there were, you probably would self screen out of the position because they were asking the question.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          Was it attached to a church? I would expect Bible stories, etc. there, so it might be relevant. The place that asked me was a title company. Not even remotely church-related (unless the giant church headquartered here owned it, which might have been the case).

  27. Anonymous*

    Regarding #2, there are a number of faiths in which you are expected to draw people in by the example you set for living your life. I completely agree with the advice that Alison gave, and if you have been asked not to talk about god at work, you are clearly making someone uncomfortable.

    If this request is going to trouble you, you might want to focus your efforts to express your faith at work on being a good example rather than a good spokesperson. Take pleasure in the performance of your assigned work – do it well and cheerfully while being helpful and pleasant to your co-workers. Inspire others with your conduct rather than your words.

    1. K in Canada*

      This +100 I don’t know the source of the quote, but my mother often says “Preach the gospel and speak if you have to”. I take it to mean, your actions speak louder than words. And a cheerful attitude towards your work will most definitely stand out in most workplaces.

  28. RubyJackson*

    OP#1 have you checked out the reviews of the company on Glassdoor? Perhaps your coworker is trying to warn you.

    I had a similar experience when I started working at my job. The most senior guy in the department who had worked here for 25+ years, saw a job listed at another company and suggested I apply for it. I had been hired only two weeks prior! Well, he was well-intentioned, meaning that our place of employment was a dysfunctional mess, and was trying to warn me to get out while I could. I stayed and it’s been quite a painful employment experience. Keep your options open.

  29. mel*

    I’m a little concerned that 1) an employee that cooks food doesn’t understand food safety and that 2) her employer is willing to fire staff instead of actually training them.

    Luckily, food safety is actually a pretty easy common-sense type test. And if someone is working with food, she should really not shrug it off and say “I don’t know”. Food poisoning is such a Big Deal that even my employers were willing to send all staff to food safety day courses and pay for them. I’m sad that yours isn’t.

    1. Kou*

      It sounds more like she’s actually *not* in food prep, just cash register, and that’s why she doesn’t know and why she’s upset she might be fired for it.

      1. Lindsay*

        No, she says she works the line, too. However somebody above pointed out that she may only work the Taco Bell side and not the KFC side.

    2. anon*

      Re your first point, the OP said he/she was a cashier, not someone who handled food. Your second point is very important, though, and it is quite sad that someone could be fired over information they were never given the chance to learn.

      1. Lindsay*

        No, she said she works the line, too.

        I agree that they shouldn’t be being tested and fired for something they were never taught, either, though.

  30. MR*

    Politics, religion and other guy’s women are three topics of discussion I never talk about at work. It’s served me well in my career and keeps controversy to a minimum.

  31. A Bug!*

    #4: (This may have been addressed, I only skimmed the comments, sorry)

    Do you know if the test was created by the store owner or was it handed down from corporate? Because if it’s the latter, it’s likely a requirement for franchise operators to ensure a certain level of compliance with store policies, including food safety.

    What I’m saying here, is that the test isn’t so much a test of your knowledge as it is a test of the franchise’s training of you.

    And if your store isn’t training its employees as a matter of course I would imagine that corporate would be very interested in knowing that, if you get my drift. After all, if you’re bound to fail the test, and you’re going to lose your job if you do, then… well, what would a hypothetical person in your situation have to lose by making a report?

  32. MM*

    To all Christians: Work does not negate your duty to evangelize- in word or deed. AAM provides to-be-expected answers (which I am mostly a fan of) but here, well, we should know when it is time to speak or act.
    There are sins of omission too. Just wage is one tenet of Catholicism a manager always wants to apply for one example.

    1. Rana*

      All I can say is that if someone tries to evangelize me, it makes me think worse of them and their religion, than if they just evinced their faith’s values by being a decent and kind person and not flapping their beliefs about in my face.

      So if your goal is to persuade people to come to your faith? You’re going about it in completely the wrong way for people like me.

      1. Felicia*

        Me too. Not that I want to convert any time soon, but people trying to evangelize me would push me far away from their religion instead of drawing me to it, having the opposite of the intended effect. Especially evangelism of strangers/people you barely know is proven to rarely ever work, probably because people don’t like the hard sell of anything.

      2. Cassie*

        Me too. Some college-aged girl on the bus tried to get me to join her church. It made me really uncomfortable.

      3. Anne*

        I generally feel pretty “meh” about being evangelized to, but sometimes being evangelical can totally backfire with even people who don’t really have a problem with it. For instance…

        I ran the sci-fi society in university. At the start of the year all of the societies, including religious ones, have a big fair to show off to potential members. I’d left my booth to go chat to some friends at the Scottish Anglican booth, when a girl from the Christian Union bounced up to talk to them too. Members of the CU are obligated to evangelize and run all kinds of stuff to try to convert students. Actual conversation:

        CU girl: “Hi guys! We’re putting together a fair with representatives from all the churches in the city, so new students can find the denomination they’re comfortable with. Can you tell me who I should get in contact with?”
        Me: “Hey, that’s pretty cool. There are actually two different Quaker Meetings here, and I’m sure they’d love to send someone. Do you want an email address?”
        CU girl: “Oh, well… no thank you.”
        Me: “What? Why?”
        CU girl: “Well, Quakers aren’t… I mean, there are some groups that THINK they’re Christians, but they really aren’t. Like Mormons. And Quakers. You should come along to the fair and look at some of the churches!”

        No thanks, kiddo.

    2. KellyK*

      Treating people with basic courtesy (also a Christian’s duty, and kind of the barest, bare minimum of “love your neighbor”)includes not hassling them about religion when they don’t want to talk about it. I personally feel that people frequently use “the duty to evangelize” as an excuse to be rude or judgmental or hyper-critical.

      You can have coworkers all know what you believe and that you’re willing to discuss it with them when and if they’re interested, without pushing it on them.

  33. Grace*

    When I was an admin the government, I was in charge of one of the conference rooms. A bible study group had been told that they COULD use that space – if it was not needed for business reasons. That means that if a business reason came up, I needed to cancel their meeting in favor of the business meeting (I always checked to make sure mine was the only “open” conference room before I did this). It didn’t happen often, but when it did, I notified the group leaders ASAP.

    The abuse I used to get from them was shameful. They told me things like how I’d disappointed God and Jesus and how I was “discriminating” and that Satan was influencing my actions. They also would name drop the deputy commander a lot. Finally, after I got one of these emails, I replied and CCed the deputy commander. I said that my understanding was that business requirements were to take precidence – that if that had changed, I would certainly adjust my SOP.

    Deputy commander cancelled the group entirely. No religious meetings would be scheduled in command conference rooms. If this group had acted more “christian”, they would still have a place to study a good deal of the time!

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