team excludes me from meals, a distracting boss, and more

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

1. Would this cover letter be tacky?

I’m interested in a Communications/PR job that will involve writing press releases. Is it tacky to submit a cover letter in the format of a press release, announcing my “hire” and including my experience/what I bring to the job? Or should I stick with the standard format?

I wouldn’t say that it’s tacky, per se, but it’s gimmicky, likely to be seen as cheesy, and not especially likely to be effective. Submit a sample press release as supporting material for your application if you’d like, but write a real cover letter. (And make it a good one — no regurgitating of your resume.)

2. Is this a red flag in a candidate?

I cannot figure out whether this is just an unhelpful response from a candidate or a red flag. I’m doing first-round interviews for a fundraising opening and send qualified candidates a message expressing interest in them and concluding with this paragraph: “I would prefer to conduct the interview by video either on Skype or Gmail Chat. I am available at (several specific windows of time) . If one of those windows will work for you, just let me know what time in particular and your screen name. If none of those windows work or if a video call is not possible, then we can look at other options.”

I received this response: “Please give me a number to call you on Sat. morning so we can make can make contact.”

This strikes me as not really following the directions, and especially concerns me because this position will require reaching out to donors on the donors’ terms. And though I offered a weekend window, I’m not willing to have him call at his convenience. I worry, though, that I might be concluding too much from his rather terse response. How would you interpret it and how would you respond?

I don’t think you’re concluding too much at all. You gave specific instructions, and the candidate ignored them — on several different fronts, no less (didn’t select a time, didn’t send a screen name, didn’t say that video isn’t possible if indeed that’s why he’s choosing phone). Assuming you want someone who can deal with written words with reasonable amounts of precision, I’d move on.

3. Can you turn down a job offer if you’re receiving unemployment?

If a person is currently receiving unemployment benefits, is actively job searching, and is offered a job, does he have to accept the first job that is offered? If he turns down an offer, will unemployment benefits stop? Are there only certain allowable reasons to turn down an offer? (Would “not enough money” or “not the right fit” be inappropriate while on unemployment?) For background, this is the first call back/interview since he has been on unemployment, and this is in Illinois.

I can’t speak to Illinois specifically, but in general, most states don’t permit you to turn down work and still remain eligible for unemployment benefits (with a few exceptions — some states have exceptions for jobs that pay less than X% of your previous salary or that are significantly longer commutes or non-traditional hours, and so forth). You’d need to look at your state law to get specifics.

4. Team excludes me from lunches and parties

I have been on my new job now for 9 months. The crew there is fairly close and the supervisor fraternizes with the employees after work all the time. He also takes dinner / lunch orders from everyone there and goes out and picks it up, but I get excluded on purpose because a couple of the people there do not like me so the supervisor goes along with this. This supervisor and his group even wait for the person who comes in after me in order to include him in the dinner order. The menu goes around all hush hush in order to exclude me from being able to order as well. I have mentioned that I would have liked to have ordered as well, and was told that I should have spoken up when the order was being placed, but I did not know. And now that they know this bothers me, it’s done to me all the time. Also, going-away parties are organized by this supervisor who purposely excludes me from the emails.

What can I do? I feel stupid complaining that I am excluded from a lunch order….and I have no actual valid proof, but it is happening.

You can (a) decide that you’re not going to be bothered by it and simply stop expecting/wanting to be included in lunch orders and going-away parties, or (b) decide that your manager is a jerk and you’d rather look for work elsewhere. I have to think that this environment is unpleasant enough that it might make sense to look for a different job — and I can’t imagine that you’re going to be able to thrive or grow professionally under this manager, which may or may not be a problem in this particular job — but ultimately you have to decide if whatever benefits you’re getting from the job are worth putting up with this nasty treatment.

5. Should I take this class?

I am an accounting major and have acquired an internship at a tax office for 80 hours (it’ll take about 2 months to complete). The owner wants to send me to their tax school for 10 weeks for free. (Tuition is free, cost of books is $160.) If I do well, I increase my chances of being offered a job for the next tax season.

I have several concerns: I need a full-time job now. The only reason why I’m doing this internship is to gain some experience until I find one. So if a full-time job comes my way, I’m taking it. I don’t know what kind of agreement I will need to make to avoid having to repay the tuition if I leave before the class is done.

My schoolmate who works there said they started her off at $8/hour to do taxes. That’s nowhere close to what I need to make to offset childcare costs. So is this even worth it? I have no serious job opportunities yet so I’m open to taking the class.

Why don’t you ask them the questions you need in order to determine if this makes sense for you? Ask them whether there’s a tuition repayment agreement if you leave early, and if so what its terms are, and ask what their payment rate is if you’re hired after completing the class. I can’t tell you if it makes sense for you or not, but it sounds like there are some key pieces of information that you’re unsure about, and which you should just ask them for.

6. I thought my vacation time at my time job was pre-approved, but it turns out that it’s not

I recently went through a VERY quick application/interview process at an institution, and as a result I do not understand the benefits (or their drawbacks) very well. During my negotiations with HR over salary and start date, I told them that I had some vacation time coming up; HR was very blase about it – “I’m sure it will be fine if you take that time, but I’ll check with your department” … “Okay, it’s fine!”

I have come to find out that in fact it’s not fine — after I took the time, and with another pre-scheduled vacation coming up in three weeks. At my organization, we cannot borrow vacation time, so I’m already 4 days in the hole and I’ve been at my job a month! HR is pushing back to tell me that my manager and I need to determine what can be done. It seems like the only option is unpaid time off, which I’m very unhappy about, and I still am not clear what this means for the days I’ve already taken.

This is all to say, it appears that I failed to properly negotiate pre-arranged time off (as you discussed here) despite my best effort. Is there anything I can do now? I’m guessing no. How can I push back on HR in the future, before I screw myself over?

You can certainly try explaining to your boss that you brought this up during your offer negotiations and that HR assured you that it was fine. If they won’t budge, then you’d need to decide among taking the time anyway and dealing with the repercussions or canceling your plans.

In the future, the best thing to do is to get this stuff in writing, so that there’s no haziness over what has been agreed to.

7. My boss is incredibly loud and distracting

I started a new job at the beginning of July. The job itself is going well, but I find that everyday I’m getting stressed and annoyed by my boss. He is constantly making noises! Whether it be clicking his fingers, tapping on the table, tapping his feet, sucking his teeth, singing, humming and clapping — he does it all. Usually it comes every 5 minutes or so and he will do all of those things one after the other.

My other colleague and I find it so distracting. He also talks like he is shouting all of the time, so if he is in a conference call it’s a nightmare. My colleague and I sit opposite each other with our desks touching, so no more than 5 feet apart. The other day, we couldn’t even hear each other when we spoke. My boss is at the other side of the room and it’s not a big room.

I’m currently finding it hard to concentrate and I have a big project that is time-sensitive to work on. I often put my headphones on with music but I can still hear him through them. What can I do to try and help the situation?

You can (a) ask if you can work out of a different space, either temporarily or permanently, so that you can concentrate, (b) tell your boss — ideally with your coworker — that you’re both having trouble hearing each other and focusing (you’d want to know that your boss will take this well though, something that you may or may not be able to know after only two months on the job), or (c) resign yourself to the fact that you work for a noisy boss. I’d start with A.

{ 216 comments… read them below }


    #3 I am in CA and while collecting unemployment I turned down a job offer. Great company, no pay. I did not report this to the unemployment department and nobody was the wiser.

    1. Theresa the Great*

      Ditto. I’m in Georgia and have done the same thing. We claim benefits online each week and part of it is answering questions about actively looking for work, turning down work, etc. If they don’t know about the job offer then it won’t hurt you if you turn it down.

      I don’t know what will happen if you indicate that you turned down work. I think you may put your benefits in jeopardy.

      1. Jessa*

        In Ohio, it really depends, you can turn it down if it’s very far away, but in most cases you can’t turn it down for too little money. You can turn it down for “not a job I can do,” though.

        1. WWWONKA*

          Do you really want to put yourself in the position of being judged? Just don’t bring it up to the unemployment people.

          1. Sourire*

            Not passing judgment either way (I know, sometimes we do what we need to in order to get by), but wouldn’t this be ethically questionable at best? I remember a post a little bit back about a woman wanting to keep something like $2000 due to a paycheck error, and people getting pretty upset over it, yet now this advice is given. I am confused I guess at where exactly the line is drawn.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Interesting ethics question. Suppose a person is forced into taking an $8 an hour job just because it was offered. Now that employed person and family qualify for food stamps.
              I guess people can get to thinking “Does it really matter where the money comes from, it’s still government monies.”
              And the unspoken thought is that the OP that was overpaid $2K will definitely get caught at some point.

              Back to our current poster: It sounds like the man is actively looking for work. Someone who is new to unemployment would ask this question- so we can figure that he has probably not been on unemployment before. I think readers are coming from a place where they assume the man will find a good job soon and probably not return to the unemployment rolls for a very long time, if ever.

              We all understand that people hit rough spots in life. We don’t understand chronic abusers of the system.

              There is a common thread to what people are saying. The overpaid OP was encouraged to return the money so that she (?) would remain employed and sustain her way of life.
              The unemployed man is being encouraged (in a round about way) to go out and get a job that will sustain him.

              One of the things about this forum that I enjoy is that posters encourage each other to get employed and remain employed. The encouragement takes many forms. Sometimes Alison will say “your boss sucks, time to move on”. She is encouraging the person to move to a better/safer place. Likewise if the first OP returns the money she will be in a safe place. If this unemployed man puts his all into finding a job that will sustain his needs then he will be in a safe place.
              I don’t think anyone is in favor of illegal or unethical activity.

              1. Vicki*

                According to the California EDD, the purpose of Unemployment insurance is to pay you to look for work – to look for real work, and long-term work.

                UI benefits are better than minimum wage so that you don’t need to take a minimum wage job to see you thorough. And so you can take the time to apply and interview without losing your minimum wage job.

            2. Mike C.*

              As someone who pays into the system and has never been on unemployment, I completely understand if they don’t take the first job offered.

              First of all, it’s an insurance program, not a hand out, They paid into it, and sometimes they get a pay out. Secondly, I don’t believe that being on the receiving end of such a program means that you should be on the receiving end of all sorts of managerial abuses. Here’s an example – “I know, I’ll fire everyone, then hire them back at minimum wages and no benefits because they have to take any job offered!”

              Finally, someone who is taking unemployment has bills to pay. Bills that are owed to the companies that we all work for. I’d prefer if at all possible that those payments continue coming in, even if the money temporarily comes from an insurance pool rather than a direct paycheck. I like it when families are able to buy food and a roof over their head – it reduces crime and increases stability in the home.

              Frankly, I can’t help but think “there but for the grace of God go I”. I’ve been incredibly lucky these past few years, my personal successes have been incredible, but it just as easily could have turned the other way. I simply cannot begrudge the hard decisions of others when their situation is so much worse than my own.

                1. De Minimis*

                  I was a “99-er” from 2009-2011 so I know what it’s like. Usually it’s best to try to apply for jobs where you wouldn’t have a problem taking the position if it was offered but sometimes there just isn’t a lot available to apply to.

                  I would not report it to unemployment. It creates a lot of headaches and I think especially if you’re early into being unemployed it doesn’t make sense to take a job that doesn’t pay significantly more than unemployment [and possibly less.]

                  When people start getting to the long-term unemployment stage, at that point it may be time to make some hard decisions about what you’re willing to accept, but at this point it is probably better to wait depending on how much response you’re getting from job applications.

                1. De Minimis*

                  I look at the spirit of what unemployment compensation is intended to do. I don’t think the intention is to move people into lower paying jobs, especially not at first. It’s to sustain them until they can get back or at least somewhat closer to where they were at before they lost their job.
                  I believe many states do have a change in requirements after a certain length of time as far as what constitutes “acceptable work.”

                2. Joey*

                  So defrauding the government is the answer?

                  And you can turn down “unacceptable work” in some states. That’s not my beef. My beef is illegally lying to unemployment.

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  For whatever it’s worth, the law doesn’t allow you to comply with the spirit of the law — you have to comply with the letter of the law, or if you’re caught, you’d need to pay back what you were given (plus penalties, I think, although I’m not sure about that). It’s fine to decide that you disagree with a law, but it’s important to be clear in your own head that you are indeed breaking the law and it would be seen that way.

                4. Mike C.*

                  This varies widely by state. In my state this isn’t the case. To address questions elsewhere, it’s a line item on my paycheck. Either way, I’m not simply condoning it, I’m giving such a decision my understanding and my blessing.

                  Given my reasons for believing the way I do, are you really that shocked that I came to the conclusion I did? Did you find something lacking about my reasoning, or are you uncomfortable that it has lead me to believe that maybe the law should be broken?

                  I’m curious to hear what you think.

                5. Joey*

                  Are you sure its legal to lie to unemployment in your state? Your position seems hypocritical. I bet you’d feel differently if your employer lied about the real reason for your separation because they felt you didn’t deserve benefits under the sprit of the law. Would that be okay?

                6. Chinook*

                  I agree that it is illegal to lie to the unemployment office but, at the same time, it is immoral to insist that someone take any job they are offered just to get them off the dole even if that job means they won’t be able to pay their bills (i.e. pays less than the cost of childcare).

                  I think this decision is a personal one because the person making the decision will have to defend themselves at some point. If you are relatively new to unemployment then you are in a completely different position than someone who has been on it for years or keeps ending up on it for reasons other than you keep getting hire by companies that go under.

                  At the same time, if you are having a hard time find working where you are, I also feel that you may have to look at moving elsewhere. I say this as someone who moved often for work (before I married military) because there were no jobs in my field where I was. I know of maybe one or two people who live where they were born because almost everyone I know has had to move where there is work and those who are lucky enough to find work locally either usually chose fields that fit the environment (i.e. they didn’t dream to work making particle board or digging coal but it meant they got to live where they were raised). They also recognize that, if those jobs went belly up, they would have no alternatives for work.

                7. Chinook*

                  As a complete side note, Mike C, this is an example of why AAM’s comment threads are so great – you politely pulled us to the side so that we could continue our debate in a logical manner. Very cool!

                8. Vicki*

                  Joey –

                  Mike C is absolutely correct.
                  And nothing mentioned in his note refers to any illegal practices.

                  Unemployment Insurance is insurance. Not accepting a job that is the wrong fit is normal.

              1. RG*

                Does this vary by state? Because in my state, the EMPLOYER pays into unemployment, not the employee. So, at least here, it’s not insurance that you as an employee paid into and then are by rights allowed to take.

                1. RG*

                  That is, you are allowed to take it, but not because you paid the premiums. Any insurance plan has rules you have to follow, so I’m not sure why unemployment insurance would be different.

                2. De Minimis*

                  You’re correct, in most states the employee does not pay into unemployment. It’s a common misconception that unemployment is equivalent to Social Security.

                3. Twentymilehike*

                  You do pay into it … It gets deducted from every paycheck you earn! And when you make an unemployment claim, the employer pays a higher rate for a certain amount of time , but they don’t just pay it to you straight. If that was the case they might as well just keep you employed and get something for their money.

                4. Chuchundra*

                  Just FYI, because this comes up a lot, if your employer pays for something on your behalf, either voluntarily or because one or more government regulations require it, it is exactly the same as if you had to pay it out of your own pocket. All of the monies required to keep you working are the total cost of employing you and that number factors in when they look at your ROI and whether it’s worth it to hire you, keep you on or give you a raise.

                  So, while it may be that that the tax paid for UI comes out of a bucket labeled “employer”, it’s still accurate to say that you are paying it.

                5. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Just because you pay for a benefit through payroll deductions or otherwise doesn’t authorize you to commit fraud when using it. The states lay out very clear rules for what constitutes benefits eligibility.

                  Just like you can’t quit your job and lie and say you were laid off in order to claim benefits, it’s also illegal to lie and say you haven’t turned down any job offers; both are fraudulent, and you’re not entitled to do either, regardless of whether you paid into the system.

              2. Twentymilehike*

                Good response. Also, how would any of us feel I’d we were the employer, and the new hire who had to tak ethe job because he just needed and income left as soon as something the ph wanted more came along? I understand the rule, but it hardly seems fair to the employer in that case.

                And sorry for all the typos today … Damn iPad typing! I’m out of practice.

                1. De Minimis*

                  The best way to avoid this dilemma is to not apply for a job that you have a hesitation about taking [for financial reasons, that is.]

                  I don’t know how other states do it, but mine just wanted a job contact, it didn’t have to be an application. If I send my resume and cover letter through e-mail indicating my interest in future positions if a company does not show anything open right now, for me that is a job contact and is sufficient to put on the form. Much better to do that than to apply to things that aren’t going to pay the bills and can cause problems if I do end up being offered the job.

              3. Ruffingit*

                Amen Mike, AMEN! It’s rough out there and those who have been lucky enough not to understand that on a personal level should realize just exactly how lucky they are.

                It’s one thing if someone refuses a good employment opportunity for a ridiculous reason such as not wanting to drive 15 miles to work. It’s another when the job pays so low that taking it would actually hurt the person financially (loss of food stamp benefits because you’re just barely over the threshold for example) and/or it’s clearly an abusive workplace.

                Being unemployed doesn’t mean you have to open yourself to abuse or poverty, which can happen when, as I mentioned above, you take a job that doesn’t pay enough to live, but does pay enough to remove you from benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps, etc. So now you have a job, yes, but you’re actually in a worse position than you were before because the job pays the rent, but not enough for food or health care.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  Yeah, this is my issue with it. And if you don’t have a family, you get NOTHING in the way of benefits even if you can’t make ends meet. I actually was only eligible for something like $35 a month in food stamps based on my unemployment income (which wasn’t even enough to live on without depleting my savings and asking for help from the Bank of Mom). That’s not enough for one person to eat on unless they’re six inches tall.

                  It is a horrible dilemma–either you do the right thing and lose your home or starve to death, or lie like a Persian rug so you can limp along until you find a job.

              4. Tax Nerd*

                Am I the only one who read this question as coming from an employer interviewing someone that is currently unemployed? I got the impression that the underlying question was something like “Can we lowball this person because they are required to take it?”.

                1. Anonimous*

                  I am sure employers know about this and use it to their advantage when deciding how much they can lowball the unemployed candidates.

              5. Anonymous*

                Actually, at least in California, employees do not pay into the system. The unemployment compensation system is funded by employers (and taxpayers), but not the employees themselves. So don’t think of it is getting what you paid in.

            3. VictoriaHR*

              I agree – I don’t approve of lying to the state just so benefits don’t get possibly damaged. I’ve had people turn down a perfectly good job and flat-out tell me that they didn’t want to lose their unemployment benefits. Personally, I’d rather work 2 jobs if necessary to avoid being on unemployment, but I understand that sometimes it’s necessary. But not being upfront in the process strikes me as abusing the system.

              1. OP #3*

                Thanks everyone for all of your thoughts, opinions, suggestions and input. Some additional background to answer some questions (my question is for my husband); my husband has been in the workforce successfully for 10 years, (same as me) and when he was let go, he applied for unemployment. Since then, he has been actively searching and documenting his search. Had he known the pay -range of this position up front, he probably wouldn’t have applied for it, but it didn’t offer the pay-range, so here we are. He has done a phone interview and is going for an in-person interview, so we’ll know more about the company/role after that. No offer yet, but based on the initial information and communication with the company, he has reservations. So, I am doing some research now, in the event that this does turn into an offer.

                Moving is not an option for us – financially, we’d have to file bankruptcy and foreclose in order to move. The housing marking in rural IL is still on the decline, definitely not on the upswing like more urban areas. Personally, as far as home values go we haven’t hit rock bottom yet and still declining.

                We have a lot of discussion and decisions ahead of us, I appreciate everyone’s input! Thank you!

                1. Anon For This*

                  You aren’t required to take a job that entails moving, I am pretty sure.

                  If the pay range is flat-out unacceptable, and this position has no possibility of leading to better things, either with that employer or with the experience, then some candidates would be inclined to not interview all that well, and preclude getting a job offer.

                  I was laid off earlier this year, and got an interview at a law firm where a friend worked, but he told me that was getting ready to resign. I received a verbal lowball offer (25% paycut, and they expected me to relocate at my own expense). My friend told me that he knew others were about to leave, and the firm was about to implode. I was pretty sure I didn’t want the job, especially under those circumstances. I countered and asked for more money and paid relocation, then never heard from them again. I never received a formal offer, so as far as I was concerned, for unemployment purposes, I had no real job offer to turn down. I found something much more suitable two months later, and I’m very glad I didn’t move only to lose that job when they went under.

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  Urgh, see this is another reason companies need to be up front with their pay ranges. They’re putting people in serious jeopardy with these stupid “take any job” and “oh we don’t have to tell you crap” rules.

                  I want to stage a bloodless coup and fix it! Fix it, I say!

                3. EM*

                  Yes, if he already has reservations about the pay & company, I’d suggest just pulling out now, not going to an in-person interview, and thereby avoiding getting an offer.

                4. SL*

                  If it’s definitely not going to be a job he’s interested in, has he considered withdrawing from the interview process before it gets to the point where he would get an offer? I’m not sure how that works with unemployment guidelines, but I think it would be different from turning down a solid offer. Or even being very upfront about what he’s looking for in a position and would need to be able to accept it? If he tells the company he’s looking for a significantly higher salary, I’d think there would be a decent chance they may not keep him in consideration (or if they really like him, he might get something more in line with what he’s looking for).

                5. De Minimis*

                  I would probably consider just removing myself from consideration if I learned that the job would not pay enough to get by, depending on how long I’d been unemployed and on how my job search was going overall. If I’m routinely getting interviews and other indicators of interest, I would feel okay about not going further with a job where the pay range isn’t suitable. But if I’ve been unemployed a year or longer and haven’t had an interview in a long time, I’d probably go through with it.

                6. Chinook*

                  Anon For This – I think you found an interesting way to not officially turn down a job offer by counteroffering. Technically, you never said no and they never said you had the job. I think that you could, with a clear conscience, report this to EI as having extended contact with a prospective employer which led to no job offer. Maybe that is how OP #3’s husband can get around it – counter offer with what he is willing to live with and see if they will bite.

                7. OP #3*

                  Hello again – I wanted to follow up on this. My husband and I spoke in depth last night, and based on an additional communication from this company (the nature of communication, what it said about the organization, etc) he decided to withdraw from the interview. The money alone was enough to make it not a reasonable offer, but the communication from the organization sealed the deal, even if we were able to make the money work, neither of us want him working in a toxic environment (which of course our label of toxic environment is based on the nature of the communication and what it says about management styles, company culture, and expectations.)

                  Thank you everyone!

                8. Jamie*

                  I know I’m late to this, but just catching up and saw you were in Illinois. This is the wording governing it in our IL:

                  “You must be actively seeking work and willing to accept any suitable job offered.”

                  Suitable is an ambiguous word. I’m the Director of IT, if I were unemployed and looking would Senior Sys Admin making my salary – X be suitable? Probably. Would helpdesk tech making $15 an hour? No.

                  That’s how I read it anyway. And to those up thread who advocated lying about getting offers – not to be all pollyanna about this but that’s firmly in the unethical column in my book. I understand it’s insurance, but if I wanted plastic surgery for strictly cosmetic reasons and I lied about health issues so my carrier would cover it – that’s still fraud.

                  It’s insurance – and that’s governed by rules and not our own sense of what’s applicable or fair.

                9. Anonymous*

                  When I was on unemployment (WA state) the person who led the orientation actually told us that if we thought a job would be a bad fit, not pay well enough, etc, we should back out before we got an official offer so we don’t have to be in the position of refusing it. In my state you can refuse a job offer for a number of reasons as Allison said, but otherwise if you don’t take it and then the offer is discovered through an audit, you’ll get booted off the dole and have to pay some money back I think. Good luck to your husband!

    2. Jazzy Red*

      #3, do you really want to jeopardize your unemployment benefits? If it ever comes out that you turned down a job, you could lose your benefits, and be required to pay back your benefits to that date.

      It’s not the easiest decision, because no one should be forced to take a crappy, low paying, deadend job. But some of us have, and kept our job search active until we found more appropriate jobs.

      1. Mike C.*

        It’s not even the issue of a “low end” job that worries me, it’s the kind of job that sends up the “red flags” that we’re always discussing there. Managers with anger management issues, that don’t follow safety rules, that sexually harass others, that expect you to work endless hours and have 100% availability, that sort of thing.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The purpose of unemployment benefits isn’t to get you into an ideal job. It’s to give you emergency income while you look for paying work — not while you look for a perfect a perfect boss, or interesting work, or great coworkers, but paying work that will help support you. It’s an emergency program, not a luxury program.

          1. Mike C.*

            The purpose of unemployment is to help stabilize the economy in down times. Having to take job where you won’t be safe or will be sexually harassed doesn’t help the greater economy, nor do I find it ethical that simply because you’re on hard times that this stops being the case.

            I never said one had to have a perfect boss, or great coworkers or interesting work or luxury of any kind. Those are your words and not mine, and I would thank you to argue against the standards I actually set.

            Tell me, in areas where prostitution is legalized, should people on unemployment be forced to become prostitutes if offered the job?

            1. Chinook*

              “Tell me, in areas where prostitution is legalized, should people on unemployment be forced to become prostitutes if offered the job?”

              That is a very good question. My response would be yes, if they applied for the job at the Bunny Ranch then they shoudl take the job offered. I think that, with EI, you have to take the job offered that you applied for (which counters the “do I have to sell my body if it is legal and some dude off the street offers”). So, if there is a job you would rather live on the street than do, then don’t apply for it.

              1. Mike C.*

                You don’t have to apply for a job to be offered one. Someone running a “bunny ranch” could simply stand outside the unemployment office and offer jobs to anyone they wanted.

                1. Chinook*

                  True I only know this from the Canadian perspective, but turning down a job being offered by the guy standing outside the EI office is not the same as turning down a job you applied for. Now, if the law requires you to accept a job that you have moral issues with even if you never applied for it, then that law needs to be changed.

                  I think the arguement is actually going in two directions here: are you morally obligated to take a job you apply for vs. any job you are offered (even if you never applied for it) and is the law in a given state so rigid that the spirit of EI has been hamstrung in order to make sure no one is abusing the system?

            2. Joey*

              So you’re saying defrauding the government by lying to unemployment is okay when you feel there’s a legitimate reason?

              1. Mike C.*

                As I’ve said many times, not taking the first job offered isn’t illegal in the state in which I live.

                As to what I’m saying, I’m saying that despite my personal success, I understand if people in desperate situations have to make disparate choices.

                Now tell me, does she have to become a prostitute or not?

                1. Joey*

                  In my state, no. Not accepting a prostitution job is perfectly legal. I don’t know the law in states where prostitution is legal. I can’t imagine most would have to accept it, though since most states only require you to accept “suitable work” which usually means its in line with prior experience or training.

                1. fposte*

                  First Google hit was the Nevada Department of Employment–easy. To be eligible to receive UI in Nevada, there are listed conditions, and one is:
                  “Must be available to seek and accept work customary to their normal occupation.”

                  So can we kill the hypothetical Cadillac Ranch requirement?

          2. Chinook*

            This I do agree with – it is an emergency program that tides you over when you do not choose to be unemployed (or act in a way that means you deserve to be unemployed – i.e. get fired with cause). If you don’t like where you work but still get a pay cheque that is completely different from your company going belly up or not being able to cover your cheque every week. I don’t like that some of you are stuck lieing so that you don’t have to take a job that won’t cover your basic necessities (and that includes the cost of childcare), but I have turned down a job offer while on EI because it would have paid me less than EI and only covered me at a point of survival (i.e. no debt payments, no room for the car to breakdown), given me no benefits and given me no time to find a job that would have paid more. I understand why you would do that.

            But, if I was offered a job that paid a decent wage, had safe working conditions but a crappy boss, I would have sucked it up and took the job because crappy bosses are one of the reasons it is called “work” and not “play” and I am getting paid whether or not the boss is nice. No job is going to be ideal for me until I can limit my hours to letting me wake up when the sun gets up (already commuting in the pitch black, sigh) and has a commute I can do on a bicycle down hill, both ways. But, if they pay me regularly and guarantee me work for hte next week, then that is good enough for me.

            1. Felicia*

              My dad just turned down a job that would pay him less than EI, and I really think you shoudl be allowed to turn down jobs that wouldn’t allow you to meet your basic necessities (no way could you meet your basic necessities with one full time job at minimum wage here). I think most people are advocating not telling EI that you turned down a job that won’t get you enough money to live on. And you hardly ever know what a job pays before you interview, so it’s hard to just not apply for such jobs in the first place. I agree that if the job pays you enough money to live on you should take it, unless you’re physically incapable of doing it which also happened during my dad’s job search. I don’t actually know the rules for EI here, so for all I know both those things could be allowed, but no one should be forced to take a job where they can meet their basic necessitities, especially when they haven’t been on EI long, and the fact that people are points to something seriously wrong with the system.

              1. Anonymous*

                I completely agree. It’s the between a rock and a hard place situation when you’re on unemployment and the only jobs you are getting offers for are less than you are getting on unemployment and a 2nd job or contract work in addition to your primary job isn’t always possible.

                Or where the wages offered at a new job aren’t enough to cover the gas for the commute, childcard, etc. Especially when someone makes just over the amounts to qualify for government assistance with childcare, food stamps, healthcare, etc.

              2. anon for this*

                I was on EI and my EI was very very low given the wage of my previous job. I was offered a job that paid less than EI (plus no benefits), and because of the rules, I accepted it (like others, didn’t know the pay before being offered–it was a professional position so I was shocked). The job also required a hefty commute which meant a sudden uptick in my expenses.

                I was barely making it on EI. I was not making it on my salary. I lost a LOT of weight (could not afford much food). I barely made too much for food stamp, and my expenses were super high because of the new commute and medications I needed (no health insurance). I couldn’t move closer to work because I didn’t make enough to save to afford to move.

                Let me say, that situation sucked. I used to exercise, but couldn’t since I had to conserve energy since I wasn’t eating much. It lasted about a year. I don’t regret having to go through that; it was what it was. But I do understand other people’s dilemma with a lot more compassion now.

                1. anon for this*

                  And just want to add, no, I didn’t take a second job because: 1. no time with commute (5 hr day commute), 2. very long job hours (salaried), 3. medical conditions that limited me.

            2. Mike C.*

              That’s fine, and I’m not arguing that good work should be turned down. I’m simply saying that I understand things get complicated and folks have a habit of treating the poor and the unlucky as though they’re all trying to cheat the system.

              Any one of us could be in their shoes next month. We should have sympathy for them, not suspicion.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Any one of us could be in their shoes next month. We should have sympathy for them, not suspicion.

                THANK YOU. Just being unemployed / poor is bad enough without everyone looking at you like you’re a scammer / thief / mythical welfare queen. I’m glad I found something decent, but I had to push it right up to the limit to do so. I might not even have had the opportunity to interview if I had some crap job that didn’t pay enough but my employer wouldn’t even give me a lunch hour, or I had to interview off-hours. (I could have done that with this job, but I didn’t know it at the time.)

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                But I don’t see anyone here doing that, just pointing out that it is in fact fraudulent to lie to unemployment. That’s not unsympathetic; that’s just a simple statement of fact

                1. Mike C.*

                  That’s fine, I was speaking generally. I hear nothing but complaints about “lazy poor people” who apparently can afford endless amounts of drugs and video games and that’s what they do all day long and I get tired of hearing it. I certainly haven’t heard it here, but it’s something that I hear constantly just about everywhere else.

                  If I felt that someone here was making that specific argument, I would have taken a moment to call them out on it.

              3. Ruffingit*

                Totally agreed. I also love how many people say they would work two jobs before taking welfare, etc. Really? It’s hard enough getting one job, let alone two. It’s so easy to say “Well, just work two jobs.” Many people would have no problem working two jobs if they could only find them! It’s not as easy out there as people seem to want to believe it is.

                1. Chinook*

                  I have done the 2 job thing (one retail job + multiple tutoring contracts + plus the odd baysitting gig through Kijiji) because I was ineligible for EI and I would do anything to not go on welfare or even to the foodbank. I couldn’t have done it if I was supporting more than myself. It was exhausting and made it very hard to find something more consistent. The only thing going for me was that everything seems to focus afternoons and evenings so atleast I could do interviews in the morning, but even then I wasn’t guaranteed enough money to pay for parking for the interview. I was so grateful to have EI for a few months this last time because it gave me time to truly focus on the job searching aspect and not feel like I had to go sling coffee today just to buy food tomorrow.

                  That being said, I have also met those who abuse the system. I almost throttled one woman who thought she deserved a break because she had been working since high school – she was 22! And there are in-laws back east who know exactly how many weeks of seasonal work they need to do in order to collect (they have it posted on their calendar). With folks like that, I understand why reasonable guidelines are put in place. But, if you are honestly looking for work, I believe that those processing the forms can tell you aren’t one of the scammers.

    3. Joey*

      What you’re advising is likely illegal depending on state. There’s usually a requirement to report to unemployment truthfully.

      1. RG*

        And I wouldn’t assume that you won’t get caught, either. Misreporting has a way of catching up with you.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes — illegal in most, if not all, states. You can certainly disagree with the rules of the program, but those ARE the rules that you agree to in exchange for receiving their payments.

        You can do what you want with that information, but you should at least recognize that it’s illegal (and plenty of people would argue unethical as well).

    4. EM*

      +1 — I’m in Illinois, and I was on UE benefits a few years ago.

      I was offered a job and turned it down — the pay was nowhere near what I had been making. My job that I was laid off from was salaried in the low $40s and this job offered me $10/hour with no benefits — no sick days, no vacation, nothing. So on top of the low pay, any day that I needed off would be unpaid.

      Of course, I didn’t go to UE and specifically tell them I turned down a job. There is no way for them to really get this knowledge.

      Yes, you are supposed to be keeping a record of what jobs you apply to and their outcome — you can either omit this job from the record entirely, say you applied initially but nothing came of it, or say you went on an interview and nothing progressed beyond that point. Frankly, I’d stick with either omitting it completely or just logging it that you applied and nothing further came of it.

      I was on UE for about 6.5 months, and to my knowledge, no one ever checked up on employers or verified anything I put in that log.

    5. Anonimous*

      I think it is always illegal to lie on the continued claim form. The devil, however, is in the details.

      Some forms ask you if you refused any suitable work, leaving the determination up to you what “suitable” is. In other cases, you have to report if you refused any work (and provide details or an explanation why) and it is left up to the state to make the suitability determination. In no case do you have to accept work at is clearly unsuitable and your benefits are not denied automatically if you refuse work. You may, however, have to go through a determination interview and then you can appeal. Some states allow you to receive benefits while determination or appeal is pending.

      Some years ago my wife got all her work through temp agencies. She collected unemployment between assignments. Once she turned out an assignment due to grossly low pay. The agency reported her to the State and her benefits got cut off. However, she prevailed on appeal. The judge even said: “I would not work for that kind of money either!” She got all her benefits back retroactively.

    6. Anon - 345*

      This is bad advice. We keep our job applications and job offers on file for a minimum of 2 years (per state regulations). The employment department has called us on a few occasions to A) confirm that the applicant completed our application process and B) did we make an offer of employment. We fax them copies of both types of information when requested.

      If you get caught, its fraud. You will have to pay all the bnefits back to the state as well as become ineligible for future benefits.

    7. Vicki*

      I spoke to a woman at the UNemployment office in CA. “Not a fit” is an acceptable reason for not accepting a job offer. “Turning down work” is what occurs when you have a job and they ask you to do something and you say no (e.g. work a particular shift). At least in CA, not accepting an offer does not count as turning down work.

      Good luck OP. Keep looking. (Also in CA, the UI folks make it very clear that they prefer you get a job that works for you, not the first one that comes along, because they want you back in the work force, not leaving again soon.)

    1. jesicka309*

      Nope. I had an almost identical situation when I first started my current job (except my manager wasn’t the ringleader).

      It does get better over time as people generally can’t be bothered actively hating someone like that as a group for years on end. And after a while not being invited to stuff tends to roll off your back a bit more and hurt less. However, it will hurt your credibility – everyone gets along but you. There is a team atmosphere…that you’re not a part of. If you withdraw from day to day antics for your own sanity, you’ll be told that your interpersonal skills ‘need work’ before you can be promoted. You’re the one with the problem obviously (at least in their eyes), not them. No one else has a problem.

      Get out OP while you can! Don’t get to the ‘numb’ stage I’m at, because your shouldn’t have to shut down to survive your workday.

      1. Confused*

        If the manager is, not only allowing but, participating in this childish behavior it is soon going to impact more than your salad nicoise with dressing on the side.
        Unprofessionalism…Ain’t nobody got time for that!

      2. Eric*

        I’m currently in a somewhat similar situation: our team is small (4 people, including me, plus our manager) and they go to the same church, frequently order lunch or go out together, etc. etc. The manager doesn’t eat with them very often, and when it’s an “event” (birthday, for example) I’m included. But the manager does have what I would consider to be unprofessional relationships with my coworkers.

        However, my performance reviews have always been excellent and my boss is very supportive of my professional development. In fact she’s been pushing me for a promotion. So it’s not always the worst thing ever, if you have a manager able to separate the socialization from work.

        1. Chinook*

          Eric, I think your situation, where the other employees also go to the same church, works because they have a relationship that probably grew away from work. It isn’t like they can pretend they don’t see each other outside of work. But, it does raise an interesting question – since they go to the same church and you, presumably don’t, and if the boss was showing favouritism towards those she knew through the church, would this be a type of religious discrimination or would it be more complicated because they are part of the same external social group?

          1. Ruffingit*

            I don’t think this would qualify as religious discrimination. It would appear that this group of people is close due to the social connection their church offers, but that doesn’t mean they are discriminating by excluding someone who doesn’t attend that church. It would be one thing if, for example, Eric was receiving bad reviews or crap assignments due to not being a member of that church or being told that he must participate in the ritual prayers or whatever before every company meeting. That might be an issue.

            Here, it’s more about people’s social connections and those are often formed outside the company and bleed over into work time. I think the bigger problem with Eric’s situation is that the boss participates in the social group with his subordinates. That can create a lot of trouble and is best not done.

    2. Mike C.*

      The candyman here is spot on. This is workplace bullying, and it’s going to get worse if you don’t leave. You’re going to get the worst projects, the worst promotional growth opportunities and very likely terrible reviews as well.

      Get your resume in hand and start looking for a way out. We’re all rooting for you!

  2. Chloe*

    #2 – The fact that the candidate repeated two words (“can make can make”) in such a short response (assuming that was the candidates error and not yours) would almost be enough of a red flag on its own for me…Typos in correspondence with a potential employer really shouldn’t happen.

    1. FD*

      Wow, I skimmed right over that one!

      Agreed. Assuming that this was in the original response, and not a copy/paste error, it’s *definitely* a red flag. Or at least a yellow one.

      1. Sourire*

        I can’t believe that I didn’t notice the error at all either until it was pointed out.

        Perhaps I was too distracted by the fact that he couldn’t even bother to write out the word Saturday in what should be professional correspondence with the goal of presenting one’s best to a prospective employer. I am honestly almost as bothered by that as the fact that he thinks he is oh-so-important that OP#2 should just sit idly by her phone on her day off patiently awaiting his call like some love-sick teen waiting for the boy she likes to ring her.

          1. Sara*

            I think typos are embarrassing but not a red flag if it’s just one. I’m a bit forgiving when people make a spelling error, or in this case repeat words they meant to say. I also don’t think this candidate is a “red flag” for to suggest they speak. I found the hiring managers response a bit out of the ordinary (at least to me). If someone “prefers to conduct an interview” via video chat, I’d also like to know they have a way to chat on phone if needed say the video doesn’t connect etc. So I don’t think this candidate was a red flag considering it wasn’t very specific on how to respond if the video and times didn’t work out, it was left as “we can look at other options”. It wasn’t stated, “I prefer no phone calls to set up an interview” so really a candidate suggesting they speak to work it out seems strange. Yes, I know how ridiculously busy everyone is, and in particular hiring managers can be, but I think not being available to work through issues via phone for a job interview is a red flag for the hiring manager.

            1. fposte*

              I would disagree–I would expect such a response to acknowledge that the HM’s preference for communication won’t work here and ask how they’d like to handle it. This response says “Here’s what we’re doing, despite the fact it’s not what you offered.” I might cut some slack if there were no communications aspect of the job, but there is apparently quite an important communications component.

              1. Lore*

                Also, if you’re asking to call someone on a Saturday morning, you’re asking for a recruiter or hiring msnager’s personal number; maybe they have a work cell phone, but maybe not. Especially if I were asking to do something other than what was preferred by the hirer, I would not look to make contact so far outside business hours without explaining that, say, my current job made it impossible to do a call then.

              2. Colette*

                Agreed. I would expect the message to say something like “Unfortunately, I can’t do a video chat. Can we talk on the phone instead? I’m available at “.

                1. Colette*

                  Wow, that didn’t work.

                  It should be “… I’m available time based on the timeslots the manager gave at candidate’s phone number .

                2. Josh S*

                  Or even, “I’m happy to try Skype, but I’ve only used it a handful of times and my home internet connection is not very good. If there is a technical problem and I cannot connect, can I have a contact number for you so we can at least talk by phone? I’d prefer the Saturday morning time slot.”

                  Giving the candidate the immense benefit of the doubt, I think this might have been what she was going for. If so, it speaks to *very* poor communication skills (or effort)–the kind that would be a dealbreaker for me. If there was some other meaning in this, it speaks to a lack of following direction and disregard for preferences–another dealbreaker.

                  Either way, no deal.

                3. Sara*

                  I agree there could have been a more appreciative response, but calling them a red flag seemed harsh to me.

              3. fposte*

                Does that mean you don’t think this is relevant information about the candidate, or that you don’t think it’s negative?

                I doubt I’d pull the interview, unless he caused more problems in setting it up, but he’d likely be dead in the water for moving forward unless he proactively addressed the problematic response.

    2. Ruffingit*

      Yes, I noticed that as well when I read it. I was surprised Alison didn’t point that out so I wonder if perhaps it was Alison’s error in typing this or cutting/pasting.

        1. Audrey*

          And it’s not as though we all don’t do this. I find that repeated words or phrases are the hardest thing to catch in my own writing. For example, Alison said
          Ask a Manager August 26, 2013 at 10:03 am

          not while you look for a perfect a perfect boss,

  3. Seal*

    #4 – Excluding a member of the group from a group activity is a form of bullying. The fact that your supervisor participates in and encourages this behavior is inexcusable. Get out now, but before you do, take it to HR. Although they most likely won’t do much, at least the bad behavior will be documented. If this is the way that idiot treats his subordinates, chances are there are other strikes against him as a manager.

  4. bob*

    #4: Do you work in a lunch room with a bunch of junior high school twerps? This seriously sounds like the cafeteria with a bunch of cliques in it. Start looking now.

  5. Limon*

    #4. I am going to go out on a limb here and say to the OP number four: friend, you are probably a) very well qualified, b) very professional, c) nice d) popular/socially adept and e) pretty (if you are a woman).

    Why do I say that? because people who are smart, kind, friendly and successful socially as well as being competent professionally are often despised by their less so colleagues. If you read most work place bully research it will say that people are targeted for their strengths and not for their weaknesses. In other words, it’s the socially adept, confident and competent people who are targeted and they are targeted by people who do not have those skills. Honestly, rather than hate someone for something you don’t have – why not just decide, hey! I want to be like that. How can I change my behavior to be more like that popular person?

    But bullies can’t seem to see it that way. I guess they feel unable to learn new skills. Hence, my friend – you being excluded from the lunch scenario. How cruel. But just remember the underlying reasons and take your awesome self on to greener pastures – on your terms, don’t be driven out. This could be a great learning experience for you and your future.

    What a great question you asked!

    1. jesicka309*

      This ^ I went through a similar situation, and reading your comment has reminded me of when I started. I went into the job all guns blazing, eager to do my best. Management raved about my performance, I got awards etc. My immediate coworkers despised me, excluded me, and even ignored me when I talked about work issues, and what was initially a job where I was kicking goals every week became an awful mess. And the worst part is that over time, not fitting in with your coworkers can be perceived as being difficult to work with – which is exactly what those awful people want management to think.
      In Australia we call it Tall Poppy syndrome… everyone always wants to knock down the poppy that grows the tallest, because they dared to be better than the rest of them. :( It stinks.

    2. BCW*

      I’m sorry, but can we please stop making everything about jealousy or their lack of certain skills? Sometimes people just don’t like people. Its life. I like to think I’m most of the things you described (I’m a guy, so I wouldn’t call myself pretty), yet I have always gotten along fine with people I work with. Sometimes people rub you the wrong way. Sometimes there was some “perceived” wrong that they did. But its really not always about being jealous of someone else. I feel like thats something parents tell their 7 year olds to make them feel better.

      Now understand, I’m not saying that in the OPs case she is anything bad, but to just assume a whole office is jealous of the newest person there is a bit much.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I agree. I think it’s reasonable to say that that might be the case, but I certainly wouldn’t assume it’s probably the case. People get disliked at work all the time without falling in those categories.

        1. Chinook*

          I agree with AAM. Sometimes I have not gotten along with coworkers because I worked harder with them (I was once told to slow down because I was making them look bad). Other times, there was a definite personality conflict with the most outgoing personality in the office (i.e. we rubbed each other the wrong way from the first moment we met – neither one of us liked each other and I still can’t tell you why). In that case, we were both competent individuals and I wouldn’t think she would be threatened by my abilities and work ethic. We just plain didn’t like each other.

          1. Colette*


            The danger with saying “Oh, they’re just jealous because I’m so awesome” is that it stops you from examining how you come across. Maybe there is something you could have done differently – or maybe there’s just someone who doesn’t like you who the others know and like.

        2. fposte*

          And bullying research suggests that there’s not a predominant pattern of targeting high achievers/the socially adept. While there are definitely population variables, it seems to happen either to people who are pretty much indistinguishable from the general population on their qualities, or people who are below average in social skills. (It does happen more often to women than men.)

          1. Anonimus*

            Exactly! I was excluded from my coworkers because I wasn’t extroverted and I had issues with social skills stemming from a toxic home environment. Plus I had almost nothing in common with them.

            The bullies target the weak and outsiders more often than the strong and adept people.

      2. Former 7 year old*

        This isnt’ directly related to work (but I think everything connects to everything) but since you said that’s something parents say to 7-year-olds….I just wanted to verify that. It really screws you up, especially when in one instance you’re told people dont’ like you because you’re too great and right away insulted/bashed/put down for something you have no clue about. As an adult, I can totally understand why people won’t like me, and I can somehow reasonably deal with it–as a kid, it’s next to impossible to figure out why ppl hate you.

      3. Ruffingit*

        I agree. I once knew a woman (didn’t work with her, knew her socially) who complained to our group that people at work excluded her from lunch dates, etc. And to be honest, I was not surprised. This particular woman was extremely insecure and it showed. She was sometimes exhausting to be around because of the insecurity issues so working with her day in/day out would have been very difficult.

        I am not saying this is the OP’s problem, she may just be working with a bunch of jerks. I’m just saying I agree with BCW that everything is not always explained by “they are jealous.”

        1. JuliB*

          “I once knew a woman (didn’t work with her, knew her socially) who complained to our group that people at work excluded her from lunch dates, etc.”

          Be that as it may, always excluding people from ordering lunch in is shocking. It’s called being human… (not aimed at you of course).

          1. Ruffingit*

            This wasn’t a situation of her being the only one excluded though. It was a situation of some co-workers who would go to lunch and not invite her and she’d get very upset that they never invited her. She was part of a department of 20 as I recall and this was a group of maybe 4 ladies who worked close by her and often went to lunch together. She got upset about not being asked to go. I could completely understand why they didn’t ask her. She was exhausting.

      4. Elizabeth West*

        I agree with this. In this case, I think it’s just an immature, bullying culture and the OP just happened to be the targeted victim this time. When she leaves (and she should; this is bullshit), the next person may be their favorite ever, or the newest piece of meat.

    3. S from CO*

      Limon-thank you for your response to #4, I had a similar experience at work during 2007-2012. And your response has really helped me understand the reason why my co-workers were so mean! I am so glad that I don’t work at that company now.

  6. Limon*

    PS – Here’s something to think about/practice. If they now know you were a little upset and are doing it more on purpose, then just let it go. Really, just don’t care anymore. Really feel that in your bones. Smile, be friendly and be genuinely awesome. And act like it doesn’t bother you. Detach.

    I have sometimes found that a big open smile when someone is being mean can be very disarming. Sometimes, they stop immediately and respond with great warmth. Most people want to be liked, even when they are being mean – strange as that seems.

    1. Ruffingit*


      You are spot on about people wanting to be liked even when they are mean. That is one of the basic principles behind group think. People want to be a part of the group, they want to be accepted.

      1. Limon*

        Thanks Ruffingit, these are my thoughts and nothing more. I have also had some painful experiences just like others described and I tried to learn from them.

        Didn’t mean to cause a fight about yeah or nay on the bullying. One thing I did learn from these experiences is to watch for others behavior and compensate with warmth and friendliness and to try and put others at ease as much as I could with humor or whatever. When I watch some of my friends who are amazing but also friendly and down to earth I have tried to model that behavior.

        1. Ruffingit*

          I don’t think you caused a fight about bullying, it’s an interesting discussion! None of us can know whether this person is being bullied or not so tossing out some ideas either way is always good, I think we can always learn from talking about both sides of a situation.

          Your comment on people wanting to be liked even when they’re mean really struck a chord with me because I mentioned (in a comment upthread) someone I knew socially who had a similar problem as the OP in that she wasn’t invited to lunch at work with a group she wanted to be a part of. But, she was so insecure all the time that I could understand why they didn’t invite her. That same woman ended up leading the charge to bully and ostracize a woman who was a part of the social group we were all involved in. The woman was so desperate to be a part of the social group and to be liked that she attacked this other woman because she knew that many members of the group didn’t like the other woman.

          So, although she was being mean, she still wanted to be liked and that is what your comment made me think of.

  7. Elise*

    #5 – $8 an hour is very typical for doing personal tax returns at any of the big chains. Especially if you are at one of the offices that gets a lot of walk-ins with simple returns.

    To make more, you have to work at a smaller office that has regular clientele with more complex returns, or you need to learn to do corporate or nonprofit returns.

    1. De Minimis*

      #5–I would try to find some other type of internship other than a tax preparation place. I do know people who have gone on to work for actual accounting firms who got their start at those places, but it’s usually better to try to get work with a CPA firm or a bookkeeping gig of some kind if you are studying accounting.

      Personally I would not work anyplace that required me to pay for anything upfront.

  8. JP*

    #7: Are your headphones “regular” or “noise cancelling”? Making a small investment in a really good pair could be a huge factor in your future productivity/peace of mind!

    1. Lizabeth*

      Noise cancelling headphones only work so far. I got them hoping they’d filter out a coworker’s voice (scratching a blackboard type) and it didn’t work UNLESS I was willing to go deaf down the road by cranking up the volume. But they do lessen the annoyance because I’m concentrating on what I’m listening to – podcasts, music, audio books etc. AND I get to annoy her by laughing out loud at something funny (Car Talk in particular)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Car Talk!!

        I have some that are advertised as noise-cancelling, but they really only reduce noise, not block it out completely. To get a true cancellation, you have to spend lots of bucks. But the $60 Creative HN-900s work well enough for my purposes. It’s not usually that loud in here.

        1. HR Competent*

          I picked up some sony noise cancelling phones that are awesome. Unfortunately the cost was around $120.

            1. Windchime*

              I bought the expensive, name-brand noise-cancelling headphones to block out co-worker chatter. When used alone, they only muffle the noise somewhat, but when I combine them with a white-noise app on my phone, they are like magic. I love them and don’t regret spending the money on them. (I also carefully put them in their case and take them home each night, because I don’t want them to be stolen).

              They also seem to serve as a “come talk to me” beacon, because as soon as I put them on, someone will need to come and ask me a question! ;-)

  9. Sara*

    #6 did this OP think that the time off they wanted was paid? I’m not sure what the issue is, the fact the time off wasn’t ok by their manager or the fact that it wasn’t paid vacation…?

    1. majigail*

      I was surprised the OP expected it to be paid time off. I’ve given new staff time off, but only the hour or two they actually accrued already was paid. That seems like the point that the OP didn’t negotiate and it’s a big one.

      1. Chinook*

        I agree. Unless there is an unlimited PTO bucket at play (like our earlier conversation), it should be assumed that any time off is accrued over time and that, if it is taken early on, the time would be unpaid. The way it was once explaiend to me is that, if you took paid time off that is not accrued and then quit when you came back, there is no way for the company to reclaim the money spent on you and they have to eat the cost of having an employee who was paid for work they never did.

        1. A Bug!*

          I was really surprised when I got to the part of the letter that said that the time off “might be unpaid”. Up to that point, I had assumed that the uncertainty was whether or not the writer would get the time off at all. If the interactions with HR went as the OP said, then I’m frankly not surprised that there were crossed wires.

          If I were hiring someone, and they said “I have holidays booked for X and Y, so I hope Employer can accommodate that”, my assumption would be that they wanted to make sure they’d be able to have the time off, period, not that it would be paid.

          Granted, I’m also in Canada where vacation time is mandated and it’s standard for vacation to accrue over one year to be spent the next, so it would definitely be unusual to ask for paid vacation time so early on in employment unless it were negotiated explicitly.

        2. HR Lady*

          Yes, Chinook, I came here to say something similar.

          OP, it’s pretty common to negotiate for an already-planned vacation when you are negotiating a job. But that negotiation just means you’ll be allowed to take the time off (unpaid). Most companies don’t want you to take time off AT ALL when you’re new, so hence the need to negotiate to be allowed to take time off.

          The fact that you are “in the hole” tells me they did pay you, which is pretty generous. For your upcoming vacation, I’d probably take it unpaid, so as not to be in the hole any farther. (The farther you’re in the hole, the longer it will take before you can accumulate any actual paid vacation time that you can use.)

          I have seen a few people negotiate for an early paid vacation, but that’s a harder negotiation. The employer has to want to hire you in a big way (i.e., you’re at a pretty high level job, or you have extremely specialized skills), and you have to be very clear that you are asking for PAID time off.

  10. Tanja*

    #5- It sounds like there may have been a missunderstanding. You asked about time off. HR said it was ok, and it does seem to be ok- you already got 4 days. But you assumed it was paid, because you asked about it at interview time, and they assumed you’d know it was unpaid (but ok to take the time so shortly after you were hired), as you do acknowledge you knew they don;t do “vacation borrowing”.

  11. Brett*

    #7 Does this boss by chance use a hearing aid? I know of two people who are this same way (and one, in fact, has two subordinates who suffer exactly like you do). Both of them have hearing aids. They actually often turn off the hearing aids while in their offices, or turn down their hearing aids and forget to turn them back up.

    If this boss has a hearing aid, he may be blissfully unaware of just how much noise he is making.

  12. Jazzy Red*

    OP # 7, I know how annoying/distracting/stressful this kind of behavior is. I work with someone like that now, and I’m always afraid I’ll start screaming “shut up, shut up, shut up” ala Skylar White to her sister Marie.

    Sometimes people just don’t realize that they’re doing these things, but when you said that he goes through this entire routine every time, I got the idea that this might be Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). The preciseness of this ritual and frequency of it suggest that. I’ll bet that if you interrupt him during this (with a work question, or something like that), that he starts all over again from the beginning. That doesn’t make it any less annoying, but it could help you see that it’s not his goal to bug you. You could try talking to him about all this, but I have a feeling he’ll just get defensive and angry.

    Since he’s your boss, you might have to think about changing jobs, if it gets that bad.

  13. Sabrina*

    #3 Definitely check the IDES website, but I used to live in IL and I believe the wording is that you can not turn down an reasonable offer of employment. The question is, of course, what is reasonable? I live in NE now and I turned down a temp job because the temp agency wanted me to commit to it for the duration, and I was unwilling to do so if a full time job came through. I’m not sure if that’s quite the same though.

    1. Chinook*

      “can not turn down an reasonable offer of employment”

      I like that wording – “reasonable” implies that a reasonable person would take that job if they were in the same situation. It means that you can turn down a job that has a longer than average (for your area) commute time, doesn’t cover your cost of living or doesn’t allow you to continue to job search to find something better (which I think should cover Sabrina’s situation with the temp company).

      As for the temp agency, I understand why they would want you to commit to the contract, but the reality is that it is unreasonable. If the employer doesn’t like the work you are doing, all they have to do is call the agency, say you are not working out and then you are replaced. Unless they are willing to guarantee you the work for the period of the contract (i.e. even if it doesn’t work out, they will pay you), how can they expect the same from you?

      1. Felicia*

        I like that too, and it makes sure people don’t have to take jobs that don’t cover their cost of living. With the word reasonable it means people won’t have to lie or do something potentially illegal.

        1. Chinook*

          I think, though, that sometimes “reasonable” needs to be defined. Up here in Canada, they are redefining it to mean that it is reasonable to be expected to drive upwards of an hour for a job and make only 80% of your previous salary. The irony was that, while that commute time is completely normal in a city, there were parts of the country that were complaining that means they could have to take a job 100 km away (which I have done, BTW, and it wasn’t that bad if it meant being able to eat). Having a guideline for reasonable expectations can really help make those who are new to being jobless aware of what others are dealing with.

          1. Felicia*

            Here a 1 hour commute is totally normal, unfortunately, but that is one of the many reasons I don’t think what is considered reasonable shoudl be the same all across the country. While the minimum wage is the same in all of Ontario, here you could not live on it, while other places you could. I also think that you can’t always know that you won’t take a job before you apply. For example, jobs rarely have their salary expectation in the job ad, and they don’t always mention it in interviews. My dad was really nervous in this particular interview so he forgot to ask. He sent them an email after stating his range, and he ended up getting the job but they were offering barely above minimum wage which was well bellow his range. He was formerly a Warehouse manager, and in jobs with that title the duties can vary wildly, and the salaries offered can be anywhere from 10.25/hour to 25/hour depending on the company. I think even defining reasonable would vary so widely regionally, though of course some definition would help.

  14. Felicia*

    #4 would make me feel like I was back in highschool which is not a good feeling for me. It’s like the OP doesn’t work with grownups

  15. BCW*

    Let me first say that I think what is happening to #4 sucks. But can we please not call every situation “bullying”. As a former teacher, I’m well aware that now we are calling excluding people bullying, but its dumb. What I’ve found in not only teaching Jr. High, but in the workplace as well, is that in at least 80% of situations, there is a fairly valid reason the person is being excluded.

    One example. I was teaching, and there was a girl who seemed really nice, but no other students ever wanted to deal with her. I finally asked one of the other, nicer girls why. It turned out this girl got caught stealing from a bunch of students the previous year. Yeah, I get that they wouldn’t want to hang out with her, so while I made them work with her on projects, I never pushed for any social inclusion. In my current office, we had a girl (thankfully she is gone) that was just incredibly irritating, made everyone else’s job more difficult, and was basically the office snitch (comments made at offsite lunch about work situations always got back to managers when she was around because she would report everything that we said). So yeah, after a while we stopped inviting her out with us. However when it came to work situations, we made sure to keep her in the loop.

    So back to the post, while I think that on a social level, it sucks for you, if they are keeping you in the loop on things that matter as far as getting your work done, I think you should just try deal with it.

    1. LisaLyn*

      I would agree, but not offering to pick up dinner for a single person in an office is pretty over the top, IMHO. These are not high school kids. These are adults. You don’t have to like someone or want to hang out with them socially to include them in grabbing something for dinner which seems to be part of the work culture.

      1. Schnauz*

        And on the flipside, we’re adults so why do we have to grab dinner for people we don’t like? As an adult, I expect people to realize that it’s not personal if I do or do not offer to get food. Sometimes I’m not in the mood or don’t have time to wait on everyone to get their orders/money together so I can juggle 4 drinks and bags of food – and I’m not someone who hesitates to call when I pull back in for someone to come down and help me.

        We used to have someone who worked here who was a mooch; she was always trying to get someone else to pay for her food. If we were ordering, then we tried to keep her excluded because nobody wanted to deal with that.

        The Op is probably not any of these things, but I find it more indicative of adult behaviour to accept that people want to do their own thing instead of including everyone regardless of personal feelings towards them.

      2. Schnauz*

        I re-read what you wrote and I originally misunderstood the gist of what you wrote.

        Yes, working at excluding someone who is doing nothing wrong (as the Op appears to be) is very immature and has no place in the workplace.

        I do think though, that sometimes people get a little sensitive and call something “unfair” when it’s not even an issue of fair or unfair treatment. But in this case, I do agree that based on what was sent in, that these coworkers and manager are behaving very poorly.

    2. Jessica*

      Yeah, but it’s not always (or even usually) the victim’s fault. And exclusion seems well within the range of bullying to me, if it’s done deliberately in order to make someone feel bad.

      1. BCW*

        The problem with using exclusion as a form of bullying is that its very subjective. What if you really just don’t like someone. Should you be forced to interact with them socially just to not hurt their feelings? (This is more genral, not about the OP). Again, I want to make it clear that if its something that is impacting her ability to do her job, that is definitely a problem. But if a bunch of people just don’t like her, I think its hard to say that its bullying in my opinion. Sometimes a persons behavior, whether intentional or not, can drive others away. Thats just part of life.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I totally agree. There are situations where exclusion is used as a part of bullying, but there are also plenty of cases where it’s really nothing more than someone just preferring not to spend time with them socially. It doesn’t make sense to jump to calling something bullying without looking at the totality of the situation.

    3. khilde*

      I do agree with you, BCW, in the largest sense that bullying is staring to become such a commonly used word, reason, etc. that I fear it’s in danger of losing its effectiveness for the times that we truly need to recognize something as bullying.

      So I wonder if there’s a difference, though, in the situation with your annoying, snitchy coworker and something like what OP #4 experiences. Specifically, I wonder if bullying is more about the offensive behavior vs. the defensive. I’m not sure if those terms really work here, but what I mean is that in OP’s situation it seems like they are purposely, offensively targeting her in their behavior. I come to this conclusion by the fact that every other person gets their lunch order taken and she does not. It feels like someone’s going out of their way to purposely exclude her. With your snitchy coworkers, it sounds like you guys just sorta stopped doing things with and for her. Not purposely targeting certain instances or behaviors – just dropped away.

      Now that I’ve said this I’m not actually sure it’s a very good point. It just seems like there is a difference here…..

      But to your original point – I agree. If everything starts to become bullying, then nothing is bullying.

      1. BCW*

        I agree in the most basic sense that there is a difference, in our situations. Whereas we just didn’t invite her which is a more passive (albeit just as deliberate action), these co-workers do seem to be actively trying to keep her from getting food with everyone else.

        1. khilde*

          That’s true that it was still deliberate on both counts. So then that it makes me think if passive behavior (just NOT doing something rather than DOING something to someone) could be considered bullying. I suppose it could be. I just can’t think of an example.

          I’m overthinking this cause I’ve been teaching a class about respectful workplaces and civility and we touch on bullying. I still don’t feel comfortable with the topic of bullying to help people clearly distinguish when it’s bullying that demands action and when something is just other people being jerks. It’s a very hard line and I don’t want to join the camp of labeling everything bullying.

          1. BCW*

            Exactly. It was no easier teaching Jr. High. There are certain things that are clearly bullying, and then there are a lot of things that some people would call it bullying while others wouldn’t. It even varies by gender. As a guy, many times I just thought about it as far as being physical (either actual violence or intimidation) by I was taught how much can be mental, which at least in Jr. High, was done much more by the girls. But yeah, sometimes also it is just people being jerks, or not liking someone. Very hard to define what it is, which makes it very hard for kids to report it.

          2. fposte*

            khilde! You’re back! Yay!

            You might be interested in the research link I posted above–it covers a lot of interesting workplace culture aspects that might inform your discussion.

    4. EM*

      This is totally untrue and I think dangerous to start believing the victims are the issue or somehow deserved it.

      I was bullied in 8th grade and I had never done anything to any of the people who decided to make my life hell. Actually, I didn’t even know them — they just decided I seemed like an easy target (I was ), and I wasn’t popular or attractive — back then, I’m pretty cute now!

      1. BCW*

        I don’t know what part you think is untrue, because most of what I said was based on my opinion and my experience. All I’m saying in general is that there could be a valid reason that these people don’t want to associate with the OP, and to assume there could never be a good reason is a bit much too. I think its just as easy to assume that one person did something bad, as it is to think a group of people dislikes someone for no reason at all. Either is a possible scenario.

        1. EM*

          I don’t think it’s helpful to assume that if someone is being bullied in the true sense of the word, that they must have done something to deserve that kind of treatment.

          Most people that are bullied are just easy targets. I’m not saying exclusion is bullying and I agree that not everyone likes everyone else, and sometimes people are excluded because others simply don’t like them.

          1. BCW*

            Sorry, I guess I wasn’t clear. I was more really just speaking in terms of calling exclusion bullying, because to me that, more than other forms, is just so subjective. Of course I think that other times people are just easy targets and the mob mentality comes in.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I don’t think anyone is saying that if someone is being bullied or excluded, they’ve done something to deserve it. I think BCW was saying that if someone is being excluded, it’s possible that they’ve done something to provoke it, just like it’s possible that they haven’t, or that it’s a simple personality mismatch.

        2. A Teacher*

          I teach high school and I do agree with you to a large extent–but–there is one student that presented this morning that no one wants to work with said student. I understand why the kids don’t want to work with him where the bullying is coming in and its extremely subtle is how the kids talk to him, slightly mocking and “fake” and even acting like they are including him in the joke but he’s becoming the joke. I will squash it to the best of my ability–I don’t do bullies in this room. I’m just getting to know my new students so it takes time to see it but in the time I’ve taught or worked as a high school athletic trainer bullying can be very subtle, is often mental, and can be as simple as quiet exclusion.

          In your example, it would have become bullying if the students were mocking the one left out, being rude, or by directly not responding to her in group settings.

          1. Chinook*

            “It would have become bullying if the students were mocking the one left out, being rude, or by directly not responding to her in group settings.”

            I think you may be zeroing in on the fine line between not wanting to do something with someone and bullying. It is perfectly acceptable to not want to work with someone but it becomes bullying when that person’s actions are being ignored or she is being treated rudely. It is not rude to not include someone in a lunch order. It is rude, though, if that person asks to be included and they are told they aren’t welcome (which seems to be happenning to the OP). In the latter case, the bullying line is being toed and inched across.

            1. Loose Seal*

              I don’t know if I agree with this. Does that mean that one has to eat lunch with any co-worker who asks so that you don’t appear to be a bully?

              Maybe I am a modern-day bully. I don’t steal people’s lunch money or give them wedgies but I’ll be damned if I’m gonna eat lunch with someone I don’t like, unless I have to for work reasons — a lunch meeting, for example. But as long as lunch is considered my break, if I don’t like you, I’m not eating with you.

              1. BCW*

                I’m with you. If you don’t like the person, you shouldn’t be forced to be nice to them. Like you said, even if someone asks to be invited to lunch or whatever, unless it is PART OF THE WORK, I don’t think it should matter.

                I even agree in school settings. Its one thing to ignore or be rude when they are working on a group assignement. But if Johnny wants to sit with other at lunch, and they are rude, well thats their choice. Doesn’t make them the nicest people, but bullies? No. I think to an extent, you have to go out of your way to be mean to someone.

                1. fposte*

                  I’m with you conceptually. Where I part from this view is that if I’m a manager and one of my team is stonewalled culturally, that’s quite likely a problem for me even if she’s not excluded from work issues. She’s likely going to be stressed, going to need more time off, going to perform more poorly. I don’t know if it’s technically bullying or not, but I don’t have to know that–if I think it’s going to impair my organization, that’s reason enough for me to consider doing something. (I’ll back away from the unfortunate truth that sometimes such exclusion is excellent for morale in the rest of the group.)

                  I’m not sure exactly what I’d do about it, as I haven’t had to face it; I don’t anticipate making forced lunch tablemates out of anybody. But you know, if the going-away parties are workplace events (presumably they’re for people outside of the OP’s group, so it sounds like they are) you don’t get to email everybody but the employee you don’t like.

              2. annonymous*

                I think what the OP is saying is that they are all ordering lunch in to be eaten WHILE they work, not taking an actual lunch break, leaving this OP to wait for her actual scheduled break to eat while they all get to eat while working and she is being excluded from being allowed to eat while working, thus taking everyone’s orders except hers/his.

                1. BCW*

                  Those are still 2 separate issues. If the OP is not being allowed to eat while working while everyone is is given that ability, thats a very different issue than being mad they aren’t ordering for and eating with her

    5. Elizabeth West*

      I would agree, but the manager is participating/instigating it. He hangs out with the coworkers after work. They’re a clique. This is so junior high, I can’t even tell you. It’s not like I haven’t seen this before, either. I’ll bet you a dollar it’s not about anything the OP is doing.

      Seriously, if I’m wrong, I’ll mail you a dollar.

  16. VictoriaHR*

    #4 – is it possible that the OP has given out a vibe that she’s not interested in buying lunch (i.e. making comments about not having extra spending money, bills are tough, etc.), and her coworkers think they’re doing her a favor? Also, is the OP possibly sending out “I don’t want to socialize” vibes? I’ve done that inadvertently before, when I was younger and more shy/introverted.

    If I were in that situation, I would bring it up directly in a one-on-one with the supervisor. I’d also offer to be the runner to go get the lunches, as long as money was collected ahead of time.

    1. Anonicorn*

      A former coworker and I used pick up lunch orders sometimes, but there was one person we never liked asking because the order was always so complicated and specific (the BLT with no T and an extra bacon, exactly two extra mayo packets, one medium tea with exactly three [specific type of] sweetener packets, etc.). Think Sheldon Cooper take-out order.

      Because we didn’t want to exclude that person, we eventually just stopped going to get lunch entirely. So, yeah, I agree with VictoriaHR to make sure you aren’t “that person” and possibly volunteer to pick up the orders yourself.

      1. Jazzy Red*

        I made a sandwich last night and put the tomatoes on top of the lettuce and immediately thought “you might as well just run this through the car wash”. Thanks for that, Sheldon.

      2. Jamie*

        Really good point. Left to my own devices I’m usually “that person” but never at work. I keep it as simple as possible because I know how much special snowflake request annoyed me when i was trying to order food for 25 people.

  17. JenTheNiceHRGirl*

    #2) I see e-mails like this from candidates frequently. I think that it is due to many people responding via smart phones. I think that everyone involved in the interviewing process (hiring managers, recruiters, and job seekers alike) need to remember that even when answering an e-mail via your smart phone, you still should consider it a professional business correspondence and ensure that you are reading e-mails in their entirety prior to responding, paying attention to spelling and grammar, and using a proper greeting and closing. I don’t know if this is the case with the candidate in #2) but when I see these types of e-mails, that is often the case.

    1. HR Competent*

      The past couple of years I’ve seen this more and more, people responding to emails on their smartphones as though they’re texts. Heck, I even catch myself doing it too. When it comes to any “formal” type conversations I force myself to respond when I get back to my desktop.

  18. Jane Doe*

    #7 – My boss is also a noise maker who doesn’t have a normal inside speaking voice. I can hear every word she is saying when I’m at my desk – about thirty feet away and around the corner from her office. When standing next to her, it sounds like she’s screaming at you. She also has a tick where she must constantly talk to herself. She talks herself through sending an email, reading an email, making the coffee, finding materials on her desk, you name it. I developed selective hearing, but that didn’t always help. When I first started, I mentioned to her that she seems to talk to herself a lot and her response was basically “I know I do, deal with it!”. After three years, I just put in my two weeks’ notice. What an amazing, freeing feeling! I couldn’t deal with how loud she was, how much noise she made, plus her constant negativity. When I was interviewing for my new job, my potential coworkers said that that office is extremely quiet and asked me if I could handle that – heck yes!! I hope you can find a way to work around the noise, but my solution was finding a new job.

    1. JenTheNiceHRGirl*

      That sounds awful!! I can deal with loud co-workers, but loud combined with obnoxious and strange would be a bit much! Good thing you got out of that place.

    2. Collarbone High*

      Good gravy. You must be a saint to have put up with this for three years.

      I tend to talk myself through things, but IN MY HEAD. I can’t imagine doing it out loud!

      Not to mention, your (hilarious) examples are things that you’d think would be muscle memory — I honestly cannot imagine not strangling someone who spent all day muttering “Click New Email, type name in To field, hit Ctrl-K …”

  19. Gilbey*

    I am not applying to jobs that show a wage much less than I am making now ( within reason. I can go a little lower if needed but not a lot ).

    If I apply to a job that asks for my wage requirments I tell them. I am in no way lying. But I apply to jobs that are reasonable for that wage and knowing I can compromise.

    Also looking on line I am seeing that there is a little leeway for what is considered suitable employment and what one can accept or reject.

    Some of the sites I have seen for example, a corp exec does not have to take a pizza del position just to get a job. Yes the exe could take a non-management position and yes it is lower but it is still in the same basic vein as his old job. I am speaking about a sales manager to a non manager or a plant manager going to a line supervisor. ( I am just using these as basic example ) And yes that means lower wages, but that is going to happen.

    I have done customer service. As much as I do not want to do it again, if I have to I will. So do I have to take a position flipping burgers to get off uneployment. No. I am not applying to those.

    I am fully aware there will need to be compromises on my finances end as well as what I end up doing for a job. Every job I have applied to is within reason of what I have background in and will be WITHIN a wage that I can live in even if it is less.

  20. LizNYC*

    #4 Assuming that you’ve done nothing in your job other than exist (unlike other commenters who’ve suggested just about everything under the sun) and regardless of whether you look for a new job, I would suggest that you find the most sympathetic person in the group at work (it could be a person who’s the most sympathetic when he/she is separated from the others) and just simply be nice to them — ask them how they’re doing, how their weekend was, etc. If you’re a nice person, you, at least, will have less bitterness. I don’t envy your position, and having worked in environments that were less than friendly, I can commiserate.

    1. fposte*

      That was my tactic with a group of high school bullies. It confused the heck out of them very enjoyably.

      1. Elizabeth West*


        My tactic at Exjob was to respond to pointed jokey questions as though the person were totally serious. He expected me to either get upset or flustered, but the last thing he expected was a real answer to a joke question. You could almost hear the balloon deflating.

  21. Ruffingit*

    #4: When co-workers exclude you from ordering, just call the local pizza or Chinese place and have the food delivered to you at work. That makes its own statement in a way. It shows you don’t care, you have your own way of dealing with the issue. And don’t share with any of them either :)

  22. Meghan*

    #2 made me cringe because it’s way too close to many of the responses I get at work. Actually here’s one from this morning that’s just as bad. For reference, this is for a very part time position that would not be worth relocating for, which was stated clearly in the ad. I had emailed him last week offering multiple time slots on Monday or Tuesday.

    “This is the after school instructor candidate (name omitted). I was just replying to your e-mail in response to a possible interview Monday August 26th or 27th.
    I am trying to make this sessions deadline of August 26th or 27th, but it is though because I have commute from the south shore at the moment. I am headed to the Notre Dame area around that time and will be in South Bend this Sunday afternoon the 25th. Maybe, we could schedule a phone interview and if you interested I could relocate to Chicago, or vise versa. “

      1. fposte*

        It’s the vice versa (okay, “visa versa”) that’s really puzzling me. Or the OP could move her business to where the applicant is?

        And dude? People take trains in from the South Shore every day. You can too.

        1. A Bug!*

          I feel like the candidate’s first language in this case isn’t English.

          My read is that the writer’s talking about the interview stage in that sentence. ‘Travel’ would have been a better word choice but ultimately both ‘travel’ and ‘relocate’ could boil down to ‘move’ as a concept so I can see how it might have gotten switched in.

          1. fposte*

            I was thinking the same thing on the language (I’m betting “though” was an auto-corrected attempt at “tough”), but even if the person just means “travel” I’m still not following the vice versa thing. And mostly I’m just exercised because I’ve taken that damn train.

            1. Ruffingit*

              I think what the candidate is saying with vice-versa is that she could schedule a phone interview and if the employer is interested in her as a candidate, she could travel to Chicago to interview in person OR she could just travel to Chicago and do an in-person interview.

              I could be completely wrong, but that is my general take on this.

        2. Ariancita*

          But why are there two dates for Monday? Is this a special time warp calendar? You all have worked harder on deciphering it than I have.

  23. Anonymous*

    I’m in the same position as #7, with the distracting boss. It’s incredibly frustrating.

    Relocating my office isn’t an option, as there is no extra space anywhere. Telework is also not an option. As for sitting down and talking to her about it, well, let’s just say she doesn’t always take feedback very well! So I’ve resigned myself to option C, put up with it, and option D, keep my resume up to date and keep looking for other jobs.

  24. anonynony*

    Quick question I need opinions on —

    A former colleague called me to let me know about a job posting for an organization he is a consultant for. He said if I chose to submit an application he will put in a good word for me. Great! But here’s my question — should I reference him in my cover letter? Typically my first line is usually something like:

    “Enclosed, please find my resume and writing sample in application for the Basket Weaving Position, as advertised on your website.”

    Should I instead say:

    “Enclosed, please find my resume and writing sample in application for the Basket Weaving Position, as referred by John Doe?”

    Or leave it as is?

  25. DrSunny*

    To the person being excluded by your coworkers and supervisor: that is absolutely horrible and mean and my heart goes out to you. That is Mean Girl/Boy behavior straight out of 6th grade and it’s terribly demoralizing and cruel. I’m sorry you have to deal with that. Please consider leaving that dysfunctional environment for your own sanity! Who behaves like that?!?!!? Good luck.

  26. Bea W*

    #6 – The person you spoke to may have not realized you wanted *paid* vacation time rather than just being able to take time off from work for a vacation you had already planned. There are some employers who did give vacation time up front in a lump sum at the beginning of every year or on hire (or after an introductory period), but it sounds like that’s not the case for you, since you’re already in the hole for the time you’ve taken off.

    You can ask, but it probably is what it is. Maybe your boss will let you work extra hours in exchange for some time off. It isn’t ideal, but depending on your financial situation, it may be better than not getting paid at all or having to cancel/reschedule.

    This is the trade-off when you start a new job this time of year – you may either have to rearrange the plans or not get paid for the time you take off. :/

  27. Malissa*

    #5. Ask about having to pay the tuition back. It’s a good question.
    But I would take the internship and try to complete it. There are three reasons.
    1. Experience—Always a great thing to have.
    2. The ten week course is likely to end with all the knowledge you need to become an enrolled agent. So even after the internship you can have your own tax prep business on the side. Great income and very flexible scheduling. ;)
    3. If you haven’t taken tax theory classes yet, this will make those classes so much easier when the time comes.

  28. Diane*

    #6: It’s pretty reasonable that they’re asking you to take the days unpaid. You were approved to take your pre-planned vacation, but employers rarely give paid vacation time to newbies who haven’t banked time.

  29. OP #6*

    Many thanks to everyone’s clarification! I did assume that the time would be paid – which I get was in error and something I need to discuss instead of assume in the future. I would have happily taken unpaid vacation as long as that was established in advance.

    My worry was mostly the ambiguity. I thought everyone knew that I was taking this time and that it was paid, and not till I got back did my boss say, “oh, you should check with HR – I don’t think this is our policy for paid time off.” Then my response was panic for two reasons: (1) I was going to be making much less for my first pay period than I anticipated and (2) if I wasn’t allowed to go negative, then days I thought I could take for Thanksgiving and Christmas were going to be hard to pull off as well.

    Thankfully my boss is petitioning for professional development time off retroactively (the days already taken were for a conference – also, I didn’t know I could take PD days in my position) and now, thanks to y’all and Alison, I know what common practice is and how to be very, very deliberate when negotiating things like this that really matter to my personal plans and general life enjoyment.

    Thanks for the comments, everyone, and thank you, Alison, for taking my question!

  30. Anony*

    Re: 5. Should I take this class?

    Is it through one of the major tax chains like H&R Block or JH? They hire basically anyone that takes their course. However, I think that since you are just starting out, it would be good experience to have.

  31. JustMe*

    Re: Excluded

    I have worked in an office for several years, and am not well liked by my co-workers. I have an affinity for not using a lot of tact on occasion – I am very matter-of-fact – and know that has much to do with it. I have come a long way…and nothing I ever said was meant to be rude…but unfortunately as much as I try to be nice (and I genuinely really like my co-workers and wish they felt the same), I will NEVER be a part of their group, which socializes outside of work.
    I have cried at my desk after realizing they all went to lunch without me (on multiple occasions), cried on the way home from work, tried to think before I speak, tried to be interested and engaged in personal chatting about kids and family…tried to not let it bother me, etc.
    The fact is, when you are left out, it hurts your feelings. It just does. My husband tells me “they’re not your friends; they’re your co-workers”; and that helps – I don’t let it get to me like I used to. I love my job; and I am responsible for my happiness – not co-workers who choose not to be friends with me, which is their right. I love me, my husband and friends love me…and if my co-workers don’t see what a great friend I am, that is their loss.

    1. Jazzy Red*

      On one of the first days of my first job as an executive secretary, one of the other secretaries stopped by my desk as started telling me about their birthday club. They all go out for lunch once a month to celebrate, and they buy lunch for the birthday girl(s). I thought it sounded really nice, and that she was going to invite me to the next lunch, which was the next day. Instead she asked me to stay behind and answer the phones.

      Yeah, stuff like that hurts your feelings.

      1. Limon*

        Just Me,

        You sound like a great person and a great friend. I think you have the right attitude for handling this.

        In the end, it’s not about some invisible battle we fight with others – coworkers, family members, etc. There is no fight. In the end, I believe all we have left is how we felt about those we loved. How did we treat others? How did we treat ourselves?

        Not everyone gets to share in the awesome-ness that is you. : )

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