addressing people by their first names, getting your job choice right the first time, and more

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

1. As a job searching new grad, should I address people by their first names or Mr./Ms.?

I’m an undergraduate student, and I’m curious when it’s appropriate to call managers by their first names via email, etc. Campus recruiters typically use their first names when introducing themselves in person, but for a person I’ve never met, should I do Mr. Smith during my initial contact? Or address it as Dear Bob Smith? What is a good cue to start using first names, and does this rule hold true when I’m more of a professional and looking for another job further into my career?

You’re not going to offend anyone by calling them Mr. or Ms. ___, but most people these days are comfortable with job applicants addressing them by their first names. However, there are a handful of more formal fields where that’s not the case, and a handful of more formal people scattered throughout all fields who want to hear Mr./Ms. on your first contact … so there’s no harm in playing it safe if you’re not sure who you’re dealing with, particularly when you’re just starting out. (And I can’t explain why there’s an age component to this, but there is. I don’t think I’ll ever address a job-related communication to “Mr./Ms.” again, but I feel like you — as a recent grad — are safer doing it.) That said, do pay attention to how other people refer to themselves. If someone introduces themselves using their first name or if they sign an email to you with their first name, that’s a sign you should use their first name too.

Oh, and don’t do “dear Bob Smith” — that’s weirdly impersonal. Go with “Bob” or “Mr. Smith” but not the full name.

Once you’re actually working with someone and they’re your manager or coworker, use first names unless you’re in the rare organization where that’s not done.

2. Should you try to get the right job the first time or experiment as much as you can?

Thanks to your blog, I’m about to wrap up a my grueling 3-month job search. My choice is down to 2 different roles: an exciting one I have no experience in (but I love the industry), or the next logical step for my resume (more responsibilities, bigger budget, yay!).

As a fresh graduate myself, I was wondering what you would advise for first jobs: get it right the first time, or experiment as much as you can, while you can? I get mixed reviews from older friends who’ve been working for a few years now. Some say to try the unknown and jump ship as soon as you know it’s not right for you, while others say to take my time and when I find “the one,” I’ll know. But those who did find “the one” say they wish they experimented more before “settling down.”

Are they giving me dating advice or career advice? Which path would you recommend for someone at this point in their life?

Of the two, I recommend … neither. It’s great if you can get it right with the first job; that’s ideal. But it often doesn’t happen — and if it doesn’t, it’s not a disaster; there’s time to correct your course. But I wouldn’t recommend jumping all around just for the hell of it either, because there can be costs that come with that (in salary; in how close you are at, say, 30 to where you’d like to be at 30; in future employers’ perceptions of you; etc.). I’d say to try to get yourself on a path that you’re happy with as quickly as you can without putting undue stress on yourself, and don’t freak out if you turn out to be one of the many people who needs to course-correct a time or two.

(Also, a good time to do a lot of experimenting is in college, through internships and summer jobs. I highly recommending experiencing a bunch of different options then.)

3. I’m distracted by my coworker’s music

I have been at my job for a month and a half. My coworker plays music at her desk, and I find it to be very annoying. She plays it at a low level, but it still distracts me. I really wish she’d use headphones, or better yet, turn off the music, but I’m not sure how to ask her to do so. A few weeks ago I told her that her music made me want to dance (I know, I know… passive aggressive) and she immediately turned it down (not off) because she said it meant that it was too loud. Unfortunately, even with it turned down, it was still a distraction. She also said that people had complained about her noise level (including music?) in the past, and that I should let her know if it ever bothers me.

She’s popular within our team, so I’d hate to get on her bad side. I’m starting to think I will have to suck it up and live with this since I hate confrontation.

Aggghhhh!  No!

Even though you think she is the one causing the problem here, it’s actually you! She has turned down her music  in the past when she thought it might be bothering you, and she has explicitly told you that you should let her know if it bothers you. So why, why, why aren’t you just telling her, as she has asked you to do?

It really doesn’t have to be a big deal: “Hey Jane, you mentioned I should let you know if your music is ever bothering me. It actually is distracting me a bit, so I wonder if you could try using headphones when you’re listening to it.” If you want to soften it, you could say, “I actually love your music, but it makes it hard for me to concentrate.”

But seriously, invitations to speak up don’t get any clearer than this one. Speak up, and stop stewing over this.

4. Is it too early to ask for feedback on my new job?

I have been contracting and temping for almost a year, as I’ve been conducting a job search for the right job (vs. the first job that would take me–your advice has given me a lot of courage to pursue that!). I recently landed a three-month temp administrative job in a growing division in my dream company. I absolutely love this division, my boss, my coworkers, and the work we do!

When they interviewed me, they said that they were looking to “get to know” someone who they would hopefully hire on full-time afterward. They acknowledged that my experience was far advanced for the admin work I’d be doing, but if the budgets went well (this month), there would be a position when my three months ended. I am, for the first time in a very long time, excited to go to work every day, and think that this would be the coveted “right job for me in my career right now.”

I’m a month into my contract now. Because the time is so short, I would like to ask my boss and the colleague who has been training me for some feedback on what I could be doing better and what they’d like to see me do more of–especially if they are considering keeping me on. When is the best time to do that? Now, at a month? Wait two more weeks? Do I ask by email or in person? (I feel like email would give them some time to give me a thoughtful answer, but in person would be more professional).

Ask now! If there are things you could be doing better, it’s better to hear that now — so you can put the feedback to use — then to wait. And a month is a reasonable time to ask for feedback on how things are going.

Do you have a regular check-in with your manager? If so, bring it up there (no foreshadowing by email needed). If not, ask her (in person when you next see her or in email; either is fine) if you can sit down with her for 15 minutes and talk about how things are going.

But this shouldn’t be a “so are you going to hire me?” conversation yet (unless your manager brings it up herself). Just focus on asking for feedback about how you’re doing and what you could be doing better/differently.

5. Is it reasonable to have to work on Thanksgiving, and without holiday pay?

I just started working for a company whose parent company is Canadian. I don’t know if this has anything to do with it, but they just announced that there will be no holiday pay for working on Thanksgiving…and oh, by the way, if you don’t volunteer to work, you will be volunteered. Is the lack of holiday pay legal for U.S. Holidays? Is it reasonable to ask people to do customer service and tech support on a holiday and be happy about it, when they were coerced into working it in the first place? Believe me, after being unemployed for nearly a year, I’m grateful for the job, so I’m not sure how to react!

They have to pay you your regular pay for working that day, but there’s no requirement in the U.S. for any type of special holiday pay over and above what you’d normally receive.

As for whether it’s reasonable to require you to work on Thanksgiving, it depends on what type of customer service and tech work you do. There are some jobs in those fields where it’s pretty normal to need to be staffed on Thanksgiving, and if they don’t get enough volunteers, that means they’ll need to assign people to the shift.

{ 372 comments… read them below }

  1. Op#4*

    Thank you so much for your quick response! I actually got a natural opening today when my manager stopped by my office for something else and I was going over a couple of other logistical questions. I asked her if there would be a good time to sit down and do a “mini-review” so that I could work up to my best potential while still there. She looked really impressed (and mildly shocked) that I would want to be critiqued and happily agreed.

    (Actually, she was almost so eager, I’m now a little worried about what she might say! But…anything that will make me better, right? It helps that she’s a very good-natured person who still knows how to lay down the law. That’s one big reason I respect her and want to say!)

    1. some1*

      If she’s a “lay down the law”, no BS-type, you would most likely know if she’s unhappy with your work. She may have constructive criticism on procedures and approach she hasn’t got around to mentioning, but every sup usually does.

  2. Dulcinea*

    There may be state specific laws that require time-and-a-half on holidays/sundays. For example, in MA you get time and a half in certain retail jobs for Sundays, Veteran’s Day, and some others. I am not sure if holiday pay per se is ever required but honestly based on the corporations I know of that hand it out, it must be required because otherwise I very much doubt they would do it.

    1. Felicia*

      In Canada they would be required to pay you time and a half for any statutory holidays. (Including Canadian Thanksgiving), so i’d think such a company would do that for whatever holidays there are in the country their office is in. Guess not! sucks that they’re not required to pay you time and a half in the US though.

      1. Chinook*

        Let me echo that the Canadian company is being cheap about not paying holiday pay as that goes against Canadian labour code. But, our code also states that stat holidays are based on where you work, not where head office is, so check with your state laws to see if Thanksgiving is a stat holiday you get extra pay for. (I.e. In Canadan Boxing Day is a stat in some provinces but not Alberta).

        As for working it, it sucks but, if your work is in support of a Canadian company, keep in mind that their offices will be open. As someone whop has been in the reverse situation (Canadian office for American company), you just have to suck it up when they don’t recognize local customs (I.e. Our year end invoices will be due Dec.26 despite it being a stat in other provinces and Dec. 25 is used to visit family in the same way Americans do family dinners on Thanksgiving).

        1. Bea W*

          My company is European, but they are so…not sure what the word I want is…provincial?…that they won’t recognize that Thanksgiving is a major US holiday. Would your Canadian company pay their US workers holiday pay on Canadian holidays? Probably not! It may be legal, but it’s not a great business practice.

          1. Jen in RO*

            My previous and current companies are American, and all the offices just keep their own country’s holidays. We sometimes get/send emails saying “Monday is a holiday in location X, just an FYI in case you need to take this into consideration for scheduling meetings”.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              We had customers in Canada at Exjob and a fair number in the New York / New Jersey area who were Jewish and always closed on religious holidays. I knew who they were, and I had to keep track of all the holidays for shipping purposes. If I didn’t, I would get a message that their package wasn’t deliverable because the business was closed, which made all kinds of mess, especially if the courier left it anyway and something happened to it.

              I just wrote the holidays on my calendar every year. It didn’t take long, and it made shipping much easier.

              1. Bea W*

                I had to do this do. We had biological samples that required special handling and dry ice and some required same day shipment after collection. We actually had a blackout period for 2-3 weeks in December due to delays normally created by the volume of packages being sent for the holidays. Someone else would make a calendar of all the important national and religious holidays for meeting scheduling, and we’d pull it out anytime we had to schedule something.

            2. Vicki*

              Same here. Lastjob was at a company with worldwide offices. Headquarters in California, but employees in India got their own holidays. Very convenient for On Call coverage. :-)

            3. Anonymous*

              But in your office you get all the holidays that are standard in your country, right? My company is all over the world. The holidays for each office depend on the holidays of the location of that office. So while in the US we have 2 days off for Thanksgiving our international colleagues have a normal work day, and vice versa. When my European colleagues have a holiday, we are still open for business in the US.

              The company is not required to give US employees additional pay for working on a holiday (it is 1 1/2 times the normal rate for hourly workers) or time off for our US holidays, but they do anyway because it is good business and attracts US workers to the jobs in US offices.

          2. OP#5*

            I think that was my point, they want us to be pleasant to customers, as if it were any other day…no number of pajama day/hat day/pot lucks is going to make up for missing Holidays with family…$ is always the main motivator!

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              But you should be pleasant to customers because that’s the job you’ve been hired to do. That doesn’t change because it’s a holiday. If you dislike those conditions, you should find a different job — but implying you wouldn’t be pleasant to customers because you’re not being paid enough is a huge problem.

              1. Bea W*

                True, but I think a lot of companies in the US voluntarily pay time and a half to people who working major holidays because they recognize it is a sacrifice, and as a US worker it’s really disconcerting to find out your company doesn’t appear to give a crap about the reality of working at your location.

                I don’t think the OP was implying she wouldn’t be pleasant to customers, just illustrating the hit to morale for the workers who feel like their company is either ignoring or disrespecting that while the execs in Canada may not have a holiday, it is the biggest holiday, aside from July 4, in the US that crosses religious and cultural boundaries. That’s pretty crappy. If they pay their Canadian workers extra for working Canadian holidays, then it really sends a bad message to US employees working over Thanksgiving. They may as well just give everyone the finger.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I think it depends on the field. There are some fields (like hospitality) where you know (or should know) going in that you’re going to work holidays.

                2. Bea W*

                  Well yes, i worked in some of those jobs as did my mother, but workers usually get time and a half for it even when not required by law. Some businesses even offer special meals. That was my point, not the working itself but the total non-acknowledgement and dismissal of the US based workers who do have conduct business as usual on a major holiday. I work for a French company now. It is business as usual for them, and some people do have to work the holiday but they don’t pretend the US doesn’t have Thanksgiving. Hourly workers get time and a half. Exempt workers get another paid day off in liue of the holiday same as many US owned companies. This company is kind of being jerky about it, but then it’ll be their loss when people like the OP up and go work for someone who makes them work holidays but at least compensates them in return.

      2. Amber*

        I’m in Canada and the place I work for doesn’t pay us extra for Sundays or anything like that, but when the store was closed on Thanksgiving Monday, I got 4% holiday pay. :P

        1. Amber*

          Forgot to add, I wouldn’t have gotten that if I hadn’t worked my scheduled shifts directly before and afterwards!!!

  3. Ann Furthermore*

    #1: I wonder if this is partly a cultural thing. It’s common in the US to use first names, but I’ve spent quite a bit of time at my company’s office in Germany. I don’t speak German, but I do hear people address the director I work with as Herr Smith and in a meeting one day, this same director needed one of his managers to join us. So he stuck his head out of the conference room and called Herr Jones. I’ve always used their first names, as everyone else in the US does.

    #3: Just speak up. Your office-mate has opened the door for that. And I like the approach of saying that you like her music but it distracts you. Stuff like this can fester and in this situation there’sno need for it .

    1. Elizabeth*

      #3, yes, speak up. You say that you hate confrontation. Look at this as an opportunity to confront that fear in a pretty low-stakes setting. Your coworker is really giving you a softball of a confrontation here, but once you speak your mind politely and see everything go all right, I bet you’ll feel more confidence for the next time.

      1. Del*

        Agreed! And coming from someone who used to have a terrible fear of confrontations, believe me, the biggest and easiest way to work that down is to have low-stakes, low-tension mini-confrontations like this. When you start to build the understanding that sometimes (most of the time) speaking up will actually get positive results and no drama, it gets a lot easier to do it in the future.

      2. JMegan*

        Agreed again! The ability to have an uncomfortable conversation is a life skill – everyone needs to be able to handle it, regardless of whether or not they actually “like” it.

        Otherwise, you end up sucking up an awful lot of things that could be very easily resolved, like in this case. And what do you do when you hit something really big, that you *need* to resolve, but you don’t have the skills because you’ve never given yourself the alternative to practice them?

        Alternatively, there’s a good chance that at some point in your life, someone is going to initiate an uncomfortable conversation with you, and you’ll be having it whether you like it or not.

        So yes, have the conversation! Especially in this case, where the stakes are low and the probability of success is high – now is the perfect time to start practicing.

      3. Windchime*

        And really, is “confrontation” even the right word? Confrontation has, to me, an adversarial or combative tone to it. If the co-worker has opened the door to conversation about the music, then it sounds like she will be open to hearing a simple request. No need to “confront” her.

    2. De*

      I am German and the idea of calling someone by their first name in a cover letter is making me freak out. Definitely cultural :)

      1. Bea W*

        I am an American in my 40s. The thought of calling someone by their first name in a cover letter also freaks me out. I don’t do it. I don’t work in a conservative industry or field. I am not sure if this is an age thing or the local culture in which I was raised.

        1. Agreed!*

          Agreed! I’m very casual, and work in a casual field but out of the gate, be polite in first communications.

        2. De*

          Oh, definitely wasn’t meaning to imply that this is completely different in our countries. But from what I gather, most US-Americans here don’t address people with “Mr./Ms/Mrs.” once they know them face-to-face, while I often would.

          It gets complicated who to address how, though :/

          1. Jen in RO*

            I love English because everyone is just “you”, it makes things so much easier. I started taking German classes recently and I was surprised when the teacher told us that in Germany teachers address students as “Sie”! Romanian also has formal pronouns, but teachers always address students as “er/sie”, only students use “Sie” for teachers.
            (I’m a language nerd and I love learning this stuff.)

            1. De Minimis*

              I remember a lot of material in my German classes about German culture being more formal, with many people only using the casual address with very close friends and family. Apparently even longtime neighbors often addressed each other with the formal “Sie.” The casual form of address was rarely used with casual acquaintances of any kind.

              I gather that this has changed a bit with the younger generations, though.

              1. Neeta (RO)*

                I was asking one of our clients for some information over Skype, and addressed him as “Sie”. My Team Lead passed me by and started laughing, claiming I sounded as if I was addressing the president, heh.

              2. Joline*

                My Oma and Opa had the same neighbours for almost forty years before the woman approached my Oma (the woman was the older of the two so had the right of choice) and told her that she could refer to her as “du” (the informal ‘you’). I believe they still refer to each other by Frau (Mrs.) _______, however. They’d invite each other to birthday parties, anniversaries, etc., but took forty years to get to the informal ‘you’.

                It is changing with the younger generations, though.

                1. FlorenceFearne*

                  Are we maybe distant cousins? Because I swear, my OMA/Opa had exactly the same situation. Long time neighbor and everything. My mum still laughs every time she mentions it, as she (my mum) is a lot more Americanized and informal.

            2. Neeta (RO)*

              That reminds me of one my university professors.
              She would address us as “Dumneavoastra” (polite form of you), but basically treat us like 5th graders…

              As for the norm in Romanian companies, I think it depends on the industry. I work in IT, where everyone just calls one another by their first name.
              My dad on the other hand, who works in research, addresses his superiors as “Mr/Ms”.

              1. Jen in RO*

                In my first corporate job I was sooo happy that I had to write in English most of the time! I was scared to death of everything, I had no clue how to write an e-mail to a coworker I didn’t know, and having to sort out pronouns would have made it so much harder. I still don’t think I could have addressed Mary, the 60 year old project manager, as “tu”. At my new job I use Romanian but everyone’s close to my age so it doesn’t feel weird.

            3. De*

              Well, we never did get addressed with “Sie” by teachers. There might be schools where that happens (usually when students turn 18 – we used to have 13 years of school so we usually graduated at 19).

        3. The Other Dawn*

          I’m in my 30s and I feel the same way. I would never call someone by their first name when writing a cover letter.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Any chance, though, that it’s just because you were taught to do it that way and have always figured it was the correct way?

            More than half of the cover letters I receive (that aren’t addressed to something generic like “dear hiring manager”) are addressed to “dear Alison” — it’s really become normal.

            1. Victoria Nonprofit*

              When I was hiring, nearly all of mine were to Ms. or Mrs. LastName. They were all entry-level jobs though, aimed at folks right out of college, so I’m sure they were just giving me what they had been taught.

        4. Ann Furthermore*

          Yes, me too. I would never presume to call someone by their first name in a professional/job-search situation had we never met face to face. I’m also American, and in my 40’s. However, after we’d met, and/or started working together, then I would switch to the first name. The US culture is pretty informal as a rule, and it would be strange to keep calling someone “Mr. This” or “Ms. That.” Unless of course the industry or company was very formal and proper.

          The German director I work with calls his female manager by her first name, even though he calls his other manager Herr “Jones,” but I think this is because the 2 of them are pretty close and have been working together for many years. Plus I think she told me that when he joined the company he said he wanted her direct reports to call her “Frau Davis” and she just put her foot down and said she was not going to do that, because they had all been working together already for many years, and it would have been weird and awkward for them to go from calling her “Sally” to calling her “Frau Davis.” (Obviously I’m just making up names here.)

      2. Meg*

        I’m an American in my mid-20s, and I would definitely address someone as Mr./Ms. So-and-So in a cover letter, but I’ve never been in a situation where someone has insisted on being addressed like that in person, and I would definitely take note of it if they did.

        Also, when I started job hunting, my mother (who is actually pretty savvy, job search-wise) drilled it into my head that you address women as Ms., not Mrs. in a cover letter, since you should never assume that she’s married. I mentioned this to a friend of mine and she looked at me as if I had three heads and said she always just put Mrs So-and-so. Am I being unnecessarily formal here?

        1. De*

          Well, I would say you are being polite. From what I understand (not being a native speaker), Mrs. is just plain the wrong title for an unmarried woman, while Ms. is correct.

        2. Victoria Nonprofit*

          No, you’re absolutely correct. Mrs. is old-fashioned and presumptuous. Ms. can only go wrong with someone who is determined to be offended; it is intended as a neutral.

          … where it gets really hard is when you don’t know if a contact is a man or a woman.

          1. Meg*

            The only time I ever ran into that problem (the hiring manager’s name was Sydney, and I figured it could go either way, gender-wise), I looked them up on LinkedIn. Somewhat creepy? Yes. Did it solve the problem? Yes.

            1. ThatGirl*

              Sometimes you can tell by the spelling of the name if they are male/female. IME,
              Sydney=F Sidney=M
              Toni=F Tony=M
              Leslie=F Lesley=M
              Bobbi=F Bobby=M
              Terri=F Terry=M
              That’s the general rule that I follow but some names can still trip you up unless you know the person.

              1. De Minimis*

                Ha, I remember a previous thread where someone thought I was weird for wanting to know the gender of a hiring manager with an ambiguous first name in order to know how to open my cover letter!

                Think I ended up finding them on Facebook.

              2. KLH*

                Aside from the “i”or an “ie” at the end of something short for a man’s name or very mid-century popular women’s name, I wouldn’t even assume based on spelling. Because my sisters and I were born in the 70s and we are Kerry, Dale and Tracy.

              3. Meg*

                I’ve found that really helpful for certain names (Toni/Tony and Bobbi/Bobby are perfect examples), but lately I’ve come across some that are totally throwing me for a loop. In the past few weeks I’ve met a man named Kelly and a man named Gale. I also used to know this couple (they were donors for a nonprofit I worked for), who were both named Dale (one man, one woman).

              4. ThursdaysGeek*

                And general rules are only generally true, since I know a male Leslie and female Terry (in your example of only 5 names)

              5. Bea W*

                This is so much easier in other languages. When I was compiling the Italian branch on my family tree, it was really easy to tell the gender of people with similar name. Antonio is a male, and Antonia is a female. Giuseppe is a male, and Giuseppa is a female. Domenico, male and Domenica, female and so on. Nice and simple! English does not have gendered words, and you can’t really apply simple rules (ending in a = female and ending in o = male) to figure them out.

              6. Diane*

                I have an Aunt Frances (usually the male spelling) and went to school with two Tracys (one male, one female). So I learned from an early age that spelling doesn’t help where gender is concerned.

            2. Victoria Nonprofit*

              Oh, totally. Google works wonders – you can often sometimes find articles that are helpful, too: “Sydney Nathanson gave the keynote at the Chocolate Teapot convention. She said that it’s important to temper the chocolate before your pour it into the mold…” etc.

              Besides: Totally not creepy. That’s literally what LinkedIn is for. I always google someone I’m meeting with before I meet them.

        3. WFBP*

          I have actually offended someone by calling them Mrs. So-and-So in correspondence. She was very upset that apparently, culture states every woman has to be married in order to be successful, yada yada.

          I definitely stepped in it with her, and now ALWAYS use Ms, unless I know for sure she’s married. Ms. doesn’t seem to offend the married women, and is the appropriate term for unmarried women.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            To be clear, Ms. is an appropriate term for married women as well; the point is that it doesn’t refer to any particular married status, whereas Mrs. does.

            It doesn’t make any sense to refer to someone as Mrs. when you don’t know their marital status, and the woman you wrote to was probably annoyed that you were assuming she was married when you had no reason to think one way or another on it.

            1. Anon*

              Along these lines, what do you do when an adult in a professional setting (teacher at my child’s school) insists on signing everything as Miss Teapot rather than Ms. Teapot, and doesn’t get why no one takes her seriously?

                1. Anne*


                  My manager insisted on Miss until she got married a few months ago – the guy has been her partner for more than twenty years and they finally tied the knot as a romantic gesture. She’s very successful and not junior. It honestly bugged me a little that she insisted as Miss. I am 24, also just got married, and am still a Ms., just as I was before.

                  But you know what, my opinions about her title choice are *my* opinions. I think insisting on Miss makes her sound like a grade-schooler, I’m sure she thinks insisting on Ms. makes me sound like an angry feminist youth. It doesn’t affect our work.

                2. Bea W*

                  IMHO I think a grown woman should be free to use whatever she is comfortable with. Men don’t have options. Both married and married women can choose between Ms. and Miss/Mrs and it would still be correct.

                  Some unmarried women prefer Miss, and when you are a teacher that is what you are known as Miss/Ms/Mrs/Mr Smith. Parents address teachers the same way their children address them. That’s one of those weird exceptions in the US. If you are a teacher in a school that still uses this more formal style, other adults will know and call you by your “teacher name”. I don’t think twice if a teacher signs an email going out to parents as “Miss…such and such”

              1. jlf*

                I’m not really sure why an unmarried teacher using the title that traditionally goes with that status would expect a parent to point to that as a reason that no one takes her seriously.

                It is extremely common for a teacher, particularly a teacher of younger children, to call herself and be referred to as Miss X, and the idea that a parent would somehow be annoyed by something so common and traditional is totally bizarre to me.

                1. Anon*

                  I guess it is bizarre to me that she insists on Miss when all the other teachers at the school use the more grown-up Ms. in their titles. My impression is that she doesn’t understand the subtle differences.

                  If she acted mature otherwise, I would probably not think twice about this. However, she is an irresponsible ditz, so instead of coming across as a sweet, respected “Miss” she carries herself as an OMG-like-well-duh-squee!!! type of Miss. Hopefully that makes sense…

                2. Judy*

                  What I find it odd on two levels, first because we don’t use the honorific at work is using the honorific in writing. And second because I think of Jane Austin when I see Miss Jane Smith. It’s not my business if my kids teachers are married or not.

                  Email from one teacher “Miss Jane Smith will be joining our class as an aide this year, please welcome her.”

                  Less odd “Ms Jane Smith will..”

                  Normal in my work context “Jane Smith will…”

                3. Heather*

                  Miss vs. Mrs. vs. Ms. has nothing to do with age or professionalism, it has to to do with marital status. Miss is for unmarried women and Mrs. is for married women, and Ms. was created so women’s titles wouldn’t be dependent upon their marital status.

                  I personally only use Ms., both before and after I got married, but she isn’t doing anything wrong or inappropriate by using Miss.

              2. Ann Furthermore*

                Could it depend on the age of your child? My daughter is in pre-school and all her teachers go by “Miss FirstName.”

                1. Al Lo*

                  That’s what I was going to say. My sister is a (married) preschool teacher, and she goes by Miss FirstName. (Amusingly, one of her students one year thought her name was Miss Rooster, which we all thought was awesome.)

                  My mom, on the other hand, is still very traditional as to how she prefers to be addressed, and she drilled it into us as kids that adults were always Mr/Mrs/Miss LastName until we were given permission to call them otherwise, and even now — to many of my now-adult friends — she’s still Mrs. A (initial only; they don’t typically call her by her full last name).

                  When I started my current job, I had no problem calling my boss (in her mid-70s) by her first name, but it took me a while to latch onto calling her by the diminutive version of her first name that most people around the office use (think Bets instead of Betsy — not that specific example, but very clearly a nickname). Once I realized that she signed her emails to me with the shortened form, however, it was a lot easier to just call her by that name.

              3. Del*

                What do you do?

                You address her as Miss Teapot. It’s not hard. That is the way she clearly prefers to be addressed.

            2. Anonna Ms.*

              I’m one to get annoyed when I get an emailed addressed to Mrs. Jones, instead of Ms. Jones. When it’s a client from a foreign country, I mostly get over it, because sorting out Miss/Mrs/Ms in a foreign language may not be the easiest thing to do. (Also, they’re a client.)

              It’s like nails on a chalkboard, though, when a candidate does it, as they should know U.S. business norms.

            3. businesslady*

              thanks for clarifying this. I was raised by a Ms. Magazine-subscribing mom who drilled the distinction into me, but I’ve encountered a surprising number of otherwise well-educated (& feminist) people who for some reason hold the misconception that “Ms.” is only for unmarried women. maybe because people think it’s an abbreviation for “Miss”? I never even knew that idea was out there, but it’s apparently pretty widespread.

              …so now I make a point of correcting everyone about it, & that’s why my stepfather-in-law refers to me as a “women’s libber.” (sigh.)

          2. abby*

            I am married (20+ years) and would be mildly offended if someone addressed me as Mrs in a professional context. My marital status is irrelevant. In fact, I really don’t like that women are differentiated as single or married at all. Keep in mind, though, that I get annoyed when I receive mail addressed to Mrs. [husband’s first name] [husband’s last name].

            1. Jamie*

              Thinking about it, I don’t think I’ve ever been addressed as Mrs. in any work capacity.

              It would bother me because as you said, my marital status is irrelevant at work but also because it’s incorrect with my first name.

              Mrs. means “wife of” which is why Mrs. husband’s name doesn’t bother me socially…I like it. Mrs. Jamie lastname isn’t correct and it bothers me on a nitpicky level – thats where Ms. works.

              1. Anonymous*

                You certainly expressed it better than I did – I made what I thought was a similar comment a while back (about “Ms” vs “Mrs”), and if I recall correctly, there commenters launched into a debate of whether I saw women as inferiors (or something like that)

            2. the gold digger*

              My ultra-lefty in-laws are ticked off that I use my maiden name and that I did not properly address a thank-you note to them as

              “Mr and Mrs We Are Always Drunk.”

              They didn’t like that I just wrote “Drunk” on the envelope.

              However, in defense of my ultra-lefty friends who would not get hung up on something like that, I don’t think their politics is the issue as much as they are always looking for reasons not to like me. Their disdain for the way I eat bacon is years old now and they need new material.

              1. Whippers*

                What does their being lefty have to do with them disliking you using your maiden name or improperly addressing an envelope?
                I genuinely want to know as I can’t see any connection.

                1. Bea W*

                  I think she just finds it odd because otherwise they are liberal people, but then insist on a conservative form of address and one that is generally rejected by lefty women. Miss may be fine, or even Mrs Woman’s Name, but your average liberal progressive woman is likely to balk at Mr. and Mrs. Husband’s Name Only.

            3. Windchime*

              They call me Mrs. [Lastname] at the checkstand when I’m in Safeway. They glance at the receipt and say, “Thank you, Mrs [Lastname].”. I haven’t been a Mrs for over 15 years. I let it go because it seems the polite thing to do, but it still bugs.

            4. Cath@VWXYNot?*

              Part of my reason for doing a PhD was so that I could avoid the whole Miss / Ms / Mrs thing for the rest of my life.

              A small part of my reason, but still a part :D

    3. N in Cleveland*

      I work for a German company too. We always use their first name when we need to contact somebody from our headquarters. Since they’re an international company, they definitely understand that there are cultural differences at work.

    4. holly*

      i always start with mr/ms. ____ in initial cover letters and emails, and then see how they answer. most people address me at that time with my first name and use the same to sign off. if they use their full name to sign off, i stick with mr./ms.

  4. Chocolate Teapot*

    Yes, from experience, Germans are often quite formal in how they address each other. I know a few Herr or Frau Doktors, although the ones I work with directly just use their first names.

    It varies from country to country, but I would err on the side of Mr or Mrs/Ms for initial applications then revising as necessary.

    1. AmyNYC*

      Err on the side of caution and please use Ms – I hate being called Mrs when I am in fact not married nor do I feel old enough to be a Mrs

      1. Cat*

        I think “Ms.” should always be used in business communications unless you know for a fact the person prefers “Mrs.” Whether someone is married is just not relevant to the workplace.

      2. Bea W*

        I always hated being called Miss. It gives me images of young polite lady waiting for a husband. *gag* I prefer Ms as the lesser of the two evils if someone really has to go there.

        1. Agreed!*

          I would also add that Dr. is not reserved for medical doctors. If someone has earned a PhD address them as Dr. until they tell you otherwise.

          1. Beebs*

            . . . though count me as one bugged by PhDs who want to be called “Dr.” in a social setting–we’re “Dr.” in an academic context only. (I am so not jumping up when I hear over the loudspeaker, “Is there a doctor on the flight?” I’m pretty sure they don’t want someone to check if a line of poetry scans properly.)

            When I taught, I told my students call me FirstName; if that makes you uncomfortable, call me Dr. or Professor LastName, because I earned those titles in the workplace. I prefer not being called Ms. or Mrs. LastName and do not even try Miss LastName.

        2. Bea W*

          #3 – I’m curious – since the co-worker has had complaints before and knows the noise level bothers people, why hasn’t she switched to headphones to avoid the potential of bothering people at all?

          The OP really does need to just tell her outright, and ask her about using headphones. Then she could listen to music without disturbing anyone at all.

          1. Cat*

            Because she’s made it abundantly clear she’s happy to do so – for all she knows, the co-worker likes the music.

          2. Ellie H.*

            Because it’s nicer to listen out loud than on headphones, assuming it’s not bothering anyone. If it’s bothering someone, then headphones are of course worth it – but if it’s genuinely not bothering anyone, why go to the trouble of using headphones.

          3. ExceptionToTheRule*

            Constant improper use of headphones does have a potential impact on your hearing later in life as well.

            1. Bea W*

              So does improper use of speakers. Loud is loud though I think people more likely jack up the volume on headphones because they think no else can hear it. Where with a speaker, they might be more polite about the volume.

          4. abby*

            I am one of those who does not listen to music on headphones. I cannot; I find headphones extremely uncomfortable due to an unfortunate experience of flying with a sinus infection many years ago. My ears have not been the same since. I keep the volume very low so I cannot hear it beyond my desk and always check in with nearby co-workers to make sure they do not find it distracting.

              1. abby*

                I hope so! Although I can usually hear my co-worker’s music over my own, so I am pretty sure no one else hears mine. But this is a good reminder for me to make sure my co-workers are not distracted – thank you!!

        3. Chocolate Teapot*

          Mrs is simply a direct translation of Frau or Madame in this case, which doesn’t correspond to whether somebody is married or not.

          1. Jen in RO*

            Well, madame definitely means married woman in French (as opposed to mademoiselle) and I think it’s the same in German (Frau for married women and Fraulein for unmarried women).

            1. Kelly L.*

              I think Frau becoming marital-status-neutral is newish and unique to German; it’s become standard there to use Frau for all adult women, so it’s more like one might use Ms. in the US.

            2. De*

              No, Frau is the usual title once you have turned 18. Fräulein is reserved for under-18s in really formal correspondence (state agencies writing to you, etc.). I have not been addressed with Fräulein since I turned 18.

              1. De Minimis*

                We weren’t even taught to use Fraulein in my German class, because apparently it was considered an almost archaic form of address. It’s interesting to see that it’s still used in official correspondence for young women.

                1. De*

                  Okay, so I just looked this up and aparrantly they completely got rid of it quite some years (*coughs* decades) ago – I don’t know why I remembered being addressed Fräulein, I am only 29…

            3. Bea W*

              ^This – the common American usage of “Madame” may be neutral, but in French where it comes from madame is a married woman and mademoiselle is an unmarried woman, although in my quick googling I see that usage may have shifted to be more neutral in some professional settings, but as I don’t live or work in Europe, I don’t know what people actually call each other.

            4. KireinaHito*

              Unless you’re 15 years old or younger, nobody address a woman as “mademoiselle”. At least not in France, Belgium or Switzerland. I wouldn’t ever address an adult as “mademoiselle”, I would use “Madame” instead.
              Same way I would not address a letter to someone I don’t know as “Cher/chère”.

              1. Rachel*

                I lived in France when I was as young as 15 and as old as 27. Even at 15, I was called Madame. Mademoiselle seemed to be reserved for school – teachers would call female students that, but that’s it.

            5. Jen in RO*

              Thanks everyone for explaining, I did not realize that the meaning had shifted so much (I’m not a native speaker of either language). Good to know that it’s not different from Romanian – I’m not a Mrs (I’m not even planning to get married), but if someone called me Miss I would feel 14. You pretty much become a Mrs once you’re an adult, regardless of marital status.

                1. KireinaHito*

                  In Spanish it depends. In Spain is always “señora”, it doesn’t matter your age or civil status. In Mexico is “señorita” if you’re young or not married and “señora” otherwise.

              1. Bea W*

                This was great information. When you study a language in a classroom setting taught by someone who is not a native speaker, you aren’t always told the unwritten cultural rules for usage.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            In the U.S. at least, Mrs. is used for married women. Ms. is used for married or unmarried women. Even many married women don’t use Mrs. these days, and many women of all marital statuses bristle at being referred to as Mrs.

            (And of course, if you didn’t change your name when you got married, Mrs. doesn’t work since it’s designed to refer to your husband’s last name. I didn’t change my name, so it wouldn’t make sense to refer to me as Mrs. Green, since that’s not my husband’s last name.)

            1. some1*

              “many women of all marital statuses bristle at being referred to as Mrs.”

              Definitely! When I was growing up and adults would call my mom “Mrs. Some1” in social situations she would say, “I’m [Firstname], Mrs. Some1 is my mother-in-law.”

              1. Anne*

                YES. I have memories of my mother laying down the law in glorious fashion when being referred to as “Mrs. Dads-name” … they’re both Drs. and she kept her maiden name! So she was being given his name and not having he PhD acknowledged, as well. Even worse because they were in the same field.

                She actually joined a pseudo-country-club just because you had to be referred by a member, and as she was the one referred, they had everything in her name. Dad looked pretty indignant the first time he was called “Mr. Maiden-name” instead of “Dr. Dads-name” at an event.

                1. Jesse*

                  My Dad always hated being called “Mr Gray” by my Mom’s students. He went on and on and on about it one night until my Mom pointed out that she’d never had a dizzy when his coworkers called her “Mrs Jones.”

            2. abby*

              “… many women of all marital statuses bristle at being referred to as Mrs.”

              Yep, that would be me for sure.

              1. Heather*

                Scoot over on that bench ;)

                I didn’t change my name either, so it irritates the hell out of me when I get stuff addressed to Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast. There is no such person, dammit! It bugs me less when older people do it, because they grew up with it… but it makes me crazy when my friends do it. If my grandmother can remember to address things to “Heather Mylast and Hisname Hislast”, surely my 30-something friends can figure it out too?

                1. Jessica (the celt)*

                  Is there room for me? I know a lot of it is passive-aggressiveness on the part of some family and “friends,” because we both took both last names, but they insist on addressing things to Mr. and Mrs. Him HisLast instead of the MyLast-HistLast family, which is what we are. It doesn’t bother my husband, but I think that’s because he at least USED to be that last name. I’ve never had that last name on its own, so it irks me when they try to give it to me. I’d prefer you just call me Ms. MyLast and Mr. HisLast if you can’t call us both Mr. and Ms. MyLast-HisLast. (I’m about ready to start sending things back with “no such person” on it. That person doesn’t exist and never has.)

            3. Jessica (the celt)*

              Huh, I work in a school and am referred to as Mrs. or Ms. (I don’t care which) by students, but both my husband and I took both last names, so now I’m wondering if Mrs. is even appropriate (conventionally, I mean, as I don’t care if the kids call me that). While it IS my husband’s last name (now), it is a combination of my last name and his last name, so it was not his last name before we were married. (Confused yet?) He was Him Last1 and I was Me Last2 and now we are both Him Last2-Last1 and Me Last2-Last 1.

              The only time I bristle is when I’m called Mrs. or Ms. Last1. I have NEVER been and never will be Me Last1. Never.

          3. SD*

            Hmm. Mrs. may be a direct translation of Frau, but I’m not sure that’s a useful correlation to make since Fräulein is not common usage anymore. I would think Ms. would be an appropriate translation of Frau, because both are non-specific about marital status.

          4. bearing*

            It doesn’t matter whether it’s a direct translation or not — what matters is common cultural usage.

            I prefer Ms. to Mrs. from people who don’t know me, even though I am married and took my husband’s name, because the presumption annoys me (and also because even after 15 years of marriage, when I hear “Mrs. bearing_Husband_name” I think they’re talking to my mother-in-law). I suppose I could insist on “Dr.” but I don’t want to look like an ass.

            1. Bea W*

              What really makes me bristle is seeing “Mrs. Husband First Name, Husband Last Name” – like the woman doesn’t even exist except as an extension of her husband, even after he’s dead. I remember seeing this a lot as a kid and being utterly confused and a bit annoyed to see my mother or grandmother referred to by their husbands’ names, like they weren’t even people in their own right.

                1. Kelly L.*

                  This was the exact thing that made me a little baby feminist at the age of about 5. I saw my mom get an envelope addressed to Mrs. Michael Lastname and took vast kiddie umbrage on her behalf. :)

              1. fposte*

                Though that is technically correct, and there was an era when calling them “Mrs. Ladyname Husbandname” would have implied they were divorced.

                Sometimes I think we should all just stick to “Hey, you.”

              2. The Clerk*

                I took this call at a call center about 5 years ago (the name was different):

                Me: Certainly. Who am I speaking with, please?
                Caller: This is Mrs. William Anderson.

                I headdesked hard.

            2. TL*

              I don’t think you would look like an ass for saying, “Oh, it’s Dr. X” (especially if followed by: But please call me Susan!)

              You worked hard for the MD/Ph.D/DO/whatever. You should be able to use it without repercussions.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I’m going to argue it would be ass-y (outside of academia). At least enough people consider it ass-y that the risk of appearing as such would be high.

                1. Dis(Agree)!*

                  I don’t think its ass-y to show people respect. TL has it right, I’ve never been in a situation where a PhD was introduced as Dr. Teapot and they didn’t immediatly say “Please call me susan.” Even if you are right (and I don’t think you are) You’re “ass-y” comment doesn’t serve the job seeker – if they need to interact with PhDs then addressing them by their title is in the seekers best interest. I would also argue that this happens outside of academia: if I’ve been invited to be a keynote speaker or advisor to a group (maybe an industry conference or governement meeting) because of my knowledge base than why wouldn’t you introduce me as Dr. X.? Also, it seems you are implying that all titles are “ass-y” unless you are a medical doctor: a veternarian, congressman/woman, director of whatever

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  You’re talking about showing people respect versus insisting on a title for yourself. Insisting on being called “Dr.” outside of academia is indeed often regarded as pretentious and silly.

                  And yeah, the titles in common use for addressing people are for medical doctors, members of congress, governors, president/vice president/secretary of X. PhDs outside of academia aren’t in that category, and insisting on being there is silly. (Insisting on being there would be silly for any other title that isn’t already there by common practice. It makes the person look self-important.)

                3. Why?*

                  To say to a PhD that using the title they’ve earned “makes the person look self-important” is equally parochial or provincial as saying “the people who believe PhDs sound ass-y when they use their title sound insecure.” It has the added advantage of avoiding the Miss vs Mrs vs Ms Issue and focusing on expertise and achievement rather than gender and marital status.

                4. fposte*

                  The “Dr.” for PhD thing is really nuanced and weird. No, it doesn’t hurt to call a PhD doctor, because they can always amend to whatever they prefer. However, self-use is another kettle o’ fish.

                  Historically in the U.S., the higher status the school and the more universal PhDs were in a department, the more it was disapproved of to use “Dr.” for a PhD, because it was supposed to be simply assumed by virtue of you being there. It was like asking to be called “Bachelor” because you were afraid people didn’t know you had a bachelor’s degree.

                  This is changing somewhat because people really, really like to use Dr. and because an increasing number of university departments aren’t all-PhD on the faculty. I started in a field and at universities where calling yourself Dr. would have been like appending your salary to your name–you may have earned it, but it was still vulgar to wave it around. I’m now in a more fixed field, but I really can’t break that early habit, so while I don’t care if other people call me Dr., I only do it to myself on webforms that have ticked me off.

                5. TL*

                  I guess in professional situations I would not find it terribly ass-y, if everyone was being referred to by titles (but then I’m in academia so maybe if I was out I would develop different norms.)
                  In a social situation it might be different.

                6. CAA*

                  I’m at a tech company on the west coast. I would say, that if you’re seeking a job in an industry that doesn’t require PhDs, then it’s pretentious to call yourself Dr. I know many of my coworkers have PhDs because we’re connected on LinkedIn and I’m nosy enough to look at their profiles, but not a one of them would ever dream of introducing herself as Dr. Jones or expect to be addressed as such.

                  If you really must, you can put “Susan Jones, PhD” at the top of your resume. I see that occasionally, and it doesn’t bother me. Otherwise, put it in the education section after your experience. Everyone will see it there and know what you’ve accomplished.

                  Things might be different if you’re applying to be a chief researcher at a biotech company, where having a PhD is a prerequisite for that level and you’ll be working with many lab assistants and such who don’t have that degree.

                7. Why?*

                  I absolutely agree there is a context – I don’t use it all the time, in fact rarely, and sometimes I actively avoid it. But when I do use it there is a reason for it. It also has a LOT to do with how a person uses it – some who uses it to create a tangible air of puffy, egotistical, self-importantance, vs someone who is easily approachable and quietly confident. I also belive people notice less when a man uses the Dr. title, then when a woman uses it and that’s one of reasons I appreciate how it removes marriage/gender the professional identity.

                8. De Minimis*

                  My wife knew of a professor who was so proud of his doctorate that he used “Dr.” when he bought airline tickets. Unfortunately on one flight there was a medical emergency. The flight crew came to him, and he had to admit that he wasn’t that kind of doctor.

                9. Beebs*

                  I agree that a PhD insiting on being called Dr. outside of a professional context (which includes guest speaking, etc.) either makes everyone think that 1) you just got that shiny new degree and are taking it for a test run or 2) you are very puffed full of self-importance. At least that what most fellow academics woud think . . . if you’re in a field that requires a PhD, everyone assumes you have one. If you’re not, it just looks like you’re putting on airs.

                  I have one inlaw who places a lot of importance on titles and sometimes introduces me as Dr Firstname Lastname. I just get embarrassed–who cares about my degrees outside of work and what if the person I’m meeting thinks I want to make sure they know? Eeek.

                10. Cath@VWXYNot?*

                  So you would deny people the pleasure of, upon being asked “is it Miss or Mrs?” by a series of older men, sometimes with an accompanying leer / glance at ring finger, of replying “Dr”? ;)

  5. Carpe Librarium*

    #1: Nothing wrong with erring on the side of caution and using the tit. le in your initial contact. You are then presenting them with a perfect opportunity to say “Oh, please call me [Firstname]” if they prefer that.
    Also, keep an ear out for how colleagues address each other day-to-day

  6. Elizabeth*

    Regarding #1, I wrestled with this myself when I was last job-hunting! I wound up mostly using Mr./Ms. because I felt more comfortable with it, but then came across a few job ads that directed me to send my resume to “Pat Smith” or some other gender-neutral name…

    1. Kelly L.*

      My own name is gender neutral (though more common for women currently) and my first job interview of my recent job search was with a Terry. I think we each spent the first second of the interview thinking “So that’s what gender you are!” :D

      1. Bea W*

        LOL – My boss had to interview someone who was from a country in Africa. It was no apparent from her name if she was male or female, but even after talking to her on the phone first, my boss still was not sure, because the voice was right in that range where it could belong to a man or a woman. She had no idea what to expect when heading down to reception to meet this person. Was she looking for a man or a woman? :D

  7. Chuchundra*

    The biggest bone of contention I’ve found, as far as holidays go, is Easter. I’ve worked shift jobs most of my life and Easter is always a sore point. It’s a holiday that most people would rather not work, but it’s not an official holiday because it always falls on a Sunday(duh). So there’s no extra pay or other incentive to work it.

    1. plain jane*

      Newer entrants to the workforce in Ontario always seem to be upset and surprised that we don’t get Easter Monday, because it was always a school holiday. They ask for the first five years or so if we’re going to get it off this time…

      We do get the Friday off though for the long weekend.

      1. Felicia*

        Count me as one of those newer entrants in Ontario that was surprised!:D Also my first company gave off Easter Monday, addin to the surprise. My friend from Alberta was also surprised we don’t get off remembrance day. I don’t celebrate Christmas or Easter, or Good Friday, and we’d have to get time and a half, so i would’t mind working t hose days if i could

        1. Anonymous*

          I don’t celebrate those either and getting extra pay for working them is excellent. The only annoying thing is every customer is like “you poor thing, you’re working Christmas?” all day long.

        2. Diet Coke Addict*

          Coming from a few years down East, I was astonished to find that I had to work Remembrance Day. When I was living in NB, EVERYTHING was closed Remembrance Day except Tim Horton’s.

          1. Chinook*

            I had the same reaction to working Remeberance Day in Ontario. I always took the pay hit and took it off to either watch DH march in the national ceremony or be the designated driver for dudes in uniform going to the Legion (the trials of being a military spouse ;)

            As a side note, best perk of working in Ottawa was laying a wreath on behalf of my organization both at the nurses memorial next to the Parliamentary library (cab actually drove us to the front door and security let us go in the library to oohh and aahhh) and then at the National Memorial (though that was the year the prince was there so we weren’t part of the official ceremony, but still).

            1. Diet Coke Addict*

              I’m also a military spouse and I’ve spent my fair share of time driving dudes here, there, and everywhere. Quite a surprise to find myself in the office on RD!

          2. Al Lo*

            Our office was open this Remembrance Day in exchange for an extra day off at Christmas. That’s not an unusual practice around here, but it does still feel a bit weird to be working and not at a service or something.

      2. Zahra*

        I don’t know in Ontario, but, in Quebec, a company can choose to give Friday OR Monday off. So it totally depends on your employer and I would ask every year if it was important to me.

        1. Former Agency Recruiter*

          I’m in Alberta, and we have the option of taking Remembrance Day Monday off, or using that day as time off over the Holidays (since our office doesn’t do a full Holiday shut-down, just the stat holidays)

      3. CAA*

        In the U.S., neither Good Friday nor Easter Monday is commonly given. I worked for a small company once that was owned by an Italian family, and it was very surprising when we got Good Friday off. Then we got bought by an Israeli company and they gave us a choice of Passover or Good Friday. It was kind of nice to have a holiday that nobody else has when everything is open.

        1. Windchime*

          I wasn’t even aware that anyone would have (or want) the Monday after Easter as a holiday. That’s new to me. Good Friday, yes….that one kind of makes sense to me.

  8. straws*

    #3 – I’m definitely a music-listener and absolutely you should speak up. Even if she hadn’t specifically asked you to, I’d be recommending that. Right now I listen at a low volume, but that’s because I’ve confirmed with my officemates that it doesn’t bother them. But in the past, I was happy to use headphones, and I would have felt horrible if I found out I was distracting a coworker and didn’t realize it!

    1. Felicia*

      I just told my colleague the other day that i couldn’t concentrate with music and she was totally cool with using headphones. I’m sure anyone would be nice about it! i wish i hadn’t waited so long to tell her, but i just started working there 2 months ago

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      “But in the past, I was happy to use headphones, and I would have felt horrible if I found out I was distracting a coworker and didn’t realize it!”

      Exactly. OP, imagine if your coworker somehow found your email to this site on your computer, and saw you asking for advice about dealing with her annoying music … after she’d already encouraged you to tell her if it was a problem. (That’s not likely to happen, but just go with the point here.) She’d understandably feel awful that she’d been bothering you, but also really frustrated that you didn’t believe her when she talked to you about it.

      1. Jen in RO*

        A similar situation convinced me to speak up more than I would normally would: I’m a naturally cold person and the guy I share my office with is the opposite. (Right now he’s in a t-shirt, I’m in a lined hoodie.) When I started this job 2 months ago, he told me that I should let him know if I’m cold, so he can close the window. Turns out that his former office-mate always told him that she was fine… and after she quit, he found out she had been complaining to everyone about how cold she was and how he never closed the window. Not the best way to go about it…

    3. Goofy posture*

      From another perspective, I’ve shared offices with people who play music or listen to talk radio – and actively enjoyed it! (The music at least – talk radio is distracting if I’m writing.) I’ve found common ground in music taste with multiple managers this way, which does just that little bit extra for strengthening our relationship with each other.

      Also, I just rarely think to turn my own music on (or back on if I’ve paused for a call or meeting or something).

    4. OP#3.*

      You’d be amazed how many people will tell you that the music does not bother them, when it does in fact.
      Sorry, but I think it’s unprofessional to listen to music at work without a headset.

        1. Bea W*

          My thoughts exactly. It’s one thing if you have and office, but playing music through external speakers even at low volume in a cube farm is usually inconsiderate or at least a bit impolite. It’s like using speakerphone when you sit in a cube.

      1. Minette*

        Alas, my boss thinks wearing headphones is unprofessional, and thus all of us have to suffer through everyone else’s music, phone calls, loud typing, coughing fits, etc. (Though, to be fair, there’s not a lot of music playing in the office, for obvious reasons.)

      2. straws*

        I do agree that in some situations, it could be unprofessional. But I also feel that it IS situational, and that in certain office cultures it’s just fine. I would be surprised if my particular officemates were bothered, but I know them well enough to be sure.

      3. Laufey*

        That is true. Sometimes people would rather suffer through someone else’s music then be the quote-unquote bad guy to get the music turned off or sent to headphones. But if the music listener is never told that their music is bothersome – especially when said music listener has acted thus far in good faith (lowering volume and offering to lower further if notified) – then the bystanders have no grounds for complaints.

        Now if the music listener ignored your requests that they turn down the volume or switch to headphones, or you had to request them to do either of those things every day, then yes, that is a problem. That is not the scenario you described, however.

  9. Anonn*

    “Also, a good time to do a lot of experimenting is in college…” Sage advice.

    3. Music: OP, maybe you could get some headphones. I work in a cube farm where people from all sorts of different contracting companies sit near on another. Guy beside me listens to conservative talk radio all day. Lady down the aisle talks loud and laughs louder. Guy in next aisle snorts constantly in allergy season. Used to drive me crazy until I bought my own head phones. Problem solved.

    5. Thanksgiving: Go ahead and volunteer to work. That way you will have the mindset that that is what you WANTED to do and not something someone FORCED you to do. A little reverse psychology on yourself. Besides, the leftovers are better anyway.

    1. straws*

      Also for #5, if you volunteer sooner, do you get to pick a particular shift? When I had to work holidays, volunteering first also meant you got to choose your time slot first. So I was always at the front of the line. I was often late to family gatherings, but I rarely missed out on much, and I didn’t feel as bad because I was more in control of the situation.

    2. Harriet*

      re #3, if the issue is that listening to music distracts her too much, how is getting headphones going to help? She’d have to listen to something to block out the other noises and she’s back at square one.

      1. Laufey*

        A lot of headphones will block out outside sounds, or the OP could get specially designed noise-canceling headphones.

        1. Bea W*

          I was thinking more the person listening to the music would use headphones so as not to distract others, not the other way around. Easier and more practical for one person to use headphones than ask multiple people to use them in order to drown out the noise that could be solved by asking one person to use headphones.

      2. Anonn*

        I stream YouTube music from my laptop, mostly Baroque; but I sometimes listen to meditation music or just white noise. On YouTube there are actually 10 hour videos of box and oscillating fans running.

      3. Goofy posture*

        Google “white noise” and you’ll find a wealth of white/pink/etc. noise generators – they really go a LONG way toward mitigating distracting sounds.

        1. Windchime*

          Yep, this is what I do. Once in a great while I will stream Pandora and listen through headphones; the rest of the time, my headphones are hooked to my phone, which is playing a white noise app. Music is generally too distracting for me while I’m trying to work, especially when it’s someone else’s music that I have no control over.

          That said, playing music over speakers is discouraged in our cube-farm. People are even discouraged from doing speaker-phone calls. (So annoying, when 3 or 4 people gather in a cube and then conduct a “lets-all-holler” speaker phone call. Grrrr).

        1. Laufey*

          So, wait…You’ve gotten three suggestions for how headphones could help (noise-canceling, classical music, and white noise sound generators) (and thus avoid any “confrontations” with a coworker who asked you to talk to her) and you’re +1-ing the person who only offered scorn and offered no solutions of her own?

  10. KireinaHito*

    Depending who you’re talking to you may need to be even more formal than that. I know people working in an external relations department in an international organisation who addressed mistakenly an ambassador in the elevator as “Good morning Mr. Smith” and were politely corrected, “It’s Your Excellency Mr. Smith. Good morning.”.

      1. fposte*

        That is actually the proper form for an ambassador, though, and if you’re going to be working with protocol it’s something an employee should know. (Though the ambassador shouldn’t do the correcting.)

        1. KireinaHito*

          Yes. It looks bad to make that correction. But if he doesn’t, people will think it’s OK to call him “Mr. Smith” or simply “Bob” and they will do that in front of other visitors and authorities; and that IS a problem.

        1. The Clerk*

          Well, definitely not if you’re working for him or with him. But I think one of the great things about our country is that the general public could do that if they wanted.

    1. Abhorsen327*

      Seconded on paying attention to special titles. My colleagues who have PhDs are often addressed as “Ms./Mr. LastName” rather than “Dr. LastName” in formal correspondence. While this isn’t a problem for many of them, some others will take it as a serious offence. Many of the female colleagues, in particular, have interacted with a fair number of people who simply refuse to acknowledge their title as “Dr.” – to the point of having newspapers refuse to refer to them as “Dr. Lastname” because it would be “confusing to the readers”.

      While it shouldn’t be that big of a deal if you address someone too informally for their liking, it’s probably best to be safe and err on the side of formality.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Isn’t it widely acknowledged that outside of academia, it’s silly for PhDs to use the “Dr.” title? (I know it’s not widely acknowledged enough, but I still think this is mock-worthy.)

          1. TL*

            Seriously? Every PhD I know goes by Dr. within the institute’s official correspondence and anytime they’re being used as a specialist. And I work in academia.

            1. Abhorsen327*

              I’ve never heard of it being a problem with internal correspondence – most of the complaints I’ve heard were regarding initial correspondence requesting expert advice/services/etc.
              I work in statistics, and faculty members receive regular emails from researchers asking for help with experiment design and analysis, and faculty members are sometimes required to speak to the media about these projects.
              The female faculty members in particular complain that they are often addressed as “Ms. LastName” in both contexts, while their male colleagues are referred to as “Dr. LastName” instead.

        1. Anonymous*

          It’s also silly for MDs (i.e. the inflated naming of the MBBS degree) to Doctor themselves, but that’s the society we live in.

          1. Anonymous*

            (And I also have that opinion about JDs, PharmDs, and all the professions that seem to be on the race to “Doctor”)

            1. LF*

              Only extreme douchebag JDs call themselves Dr.

              I have a problem with nursing PhDs who call themselves Dr. – it’s exceedingly confusing for patient care.

        2. Anonymous*

          No? From my years of growing up in a very socially active family, Dr.s were Dr.s whether it was MD or PhD. It would have been a MAJOR breach of etiquette to try and claim they weren’t “really” entitled to be Dr. Whatever.

            1. Abhorsen327*

              I think that, in part, the etiquette depends on whether they are being contacted in the context of being an expert in the field in which they have the PhD, or if it’s more general.

            2. Ellie H.*

              Is there a substantial difference between a circumstance in which it would be appropriate to refer to a medical doctor as Dr. Lastname but in the same paragraph, to refer to someone with a PhD as Mr. Lastname? I can’t think of many. I mean, when you go to the doctor, you refer to your doctor as Dr. whatever, but I think that that is a convention of the doctor/patient relationship rather than it being pretentious to use Dr. for PhDs. The convention is for undergrad students to use Dr. or Professor, grad students, staff and colleagues to use the first name (as in other workplace settings0.

              The only one I can think of is the New York Times Marriages section, they always use Dr. Lastname for med school grads but rarely refer to PhDs as Dr. Lastname. It always pleases me when a PhD does, though. (I think that when you submit the wedding announcement you specify which title you prefer, especially in terms of Ms. vs Mrs. but I’ve never done it so I’m not sure.)

              1. fposte*

                Yes, there are definitely circumstances like that. (And if you want to complicate the picture further, remember that in the UK surgeons don’t go by Dr. anyway, and that difference used to be a demeaning one and now it seems to be rather a piece of snobbery.)

                Think of it this way–do you say that your spouse/parent/offspring is a doctor for having the PhD? Why is that different?

                1. Ellie H.*

                  To my mind describing someone as a “doctor” is a profession and “Dr.” is a title like “Mrs.” or “Mr.” – when you are saying “so and so is a doctor” you’re talking about the job. The same way nobody would call me “Project Coordinator H.” but you would say I “am” a project coordinator.

                  It may vary by personal preference. My parents both use Dr. as a default, instead of Mr. or Ms., in circumstances where use of a title is required (very few these days). When I create correspondence or programs or whatever that use people’s titles I would never in a million years use “Mr” or “Mrs” for someone I knew had a PhD. It’s so rare to use titles anyway though. My main use of “Dr.” is if I’m writing the program for a workshop or event, and some of the people on the agenda are professors and appear as “Professor X,” and anyone who has a PhD but is not a professor appears as “Dr. Y” – in a circumstance where everyone has a title.

                2. Ellie H.*

                  To that I would say convention. We also frequently have circumstances where you list people’s degrees following their name, and there you would certainly put “Name, JD.” I don’t know, it may be some matter of preference or local convention because it just doesn’t strike me as extremely pretentious or silly to address a PhD as “Dr.”

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yes — because of convention. For whatever reason, the convention is typically that medical doctors use the title while PhDs don’t (outside of academic settings). You can debate whether the convention makes sense (I’d argue the MD title doesn’t make sense to use either), but it IS convention in many settings.

                1. fposte*

                  Then throw in the fact that lawyers also earn a “doctor” degree in the JD, but nobody seems to be insisting lawyers should be called Dr.

                2. Audrey*

                  I think this is a culture thing – here in Australia people with PhDs are called Dr X – that’s their title – but they are not described as a doctor.

                3. Matt*

                  Oh yes, it’s a cultural thing. In Germany and (especially) Austria you wouldn’t dare to NOT address a lawyer (as well as a medical doctor of course) by “Dr. X” :-) We also have technical degrees like “Ing.” (Ingenieur = engineer) or “Dipl.-Ing.” (Diplomingenieur = engineer with diploma) and it’s really common to go with them as “Ing. X”.

                4. bearing*

                  They aren’t the only health care professionals who might have a doctorate and call themselves “Dr.” without being a medical doctor — audiologists, for example, sometimes have an AudD or a PhD and you bet they bill themselves as “Dr.” on their business cards. That should be confusing, right? How about in a teaching hospital, where some of the teachers are PhDs and not MDs?

                  The only reason people get snotty about nursing PhDs using their title is because it upsets the power dynamic.

            1. Anonymous*

              Eh, he has a point, kind of. If the EdD did enough original research, they’d be a PhD. It’s the same with DBAs – doctors of business administration. Who dreamt up these degrees?

        3. Ann O'Nemity*

          Really? It’s “mock-worthy” for a PhD to use the Dr. title?

          In my experience, it’s very common for PhDs to use the Dr. title professionally, even outside of academia. I especially see it in research labs and at conferences. I wouldn’t think that those folks deserve to be mocked.

          1. Jen in RO*

            But research labs and conferences are related to academia. It think it would be weird if I met my coworker’s mother and she introduced herself to me as Dr. Smith.

            1. Judy*

              There are three things at play in this conversation.

              1. Is it ok that no one thinks it silly that an MD says “call me Dr Smith” while a PhD is silly to say “call me Dr Smith” in the same situation? (Dr Smith vs Mr/Ms Smith not Dr vs Jane)

              2. Is it OK that in many social situations (MD or PhD) dual couples are listed as “Dr and Mrs Wakeen Smith” when they both have earned the Dr title?

              3. Is it OK that in professional situations like conference listings and newspaper or magazine articles the male (PhD) is listed as Dr Wakeen Smith while the female (PhD) is mentioned as Mrs Jane Jones?

              1. Judy*

                #3 should say “while the female (PhD) is mentioned as Jane Jones” Those listings tend to drop the title completely.

              2. fposte*

                I think that some of those are straw men (or doctors), but that the situation is more complicated than that.

                You don’t earn a title, you earn a degree. Degrees have different conventions depending on where you are and what they’re in–after all, getting your PhD isn’t referred to as “becoming a doctor,” even for people who believe PhDs should be called “doctor.” If you refer to two married history PhDs as “Dr. and Mrs. Tenure,” then that’s obnoxious. If you refer to two married history PhDs as “Mr. and Ms. Tenure,” you’re in keeping with the style of quite a few universities.

              3. LD*

                I think I have seen somewhere that when both member of a married couple have PhDs or MDs then they would be addressed or introduced as Doctors Wakeen and Wakeena Smith.
                I don’t think it is appropriate to leave off a title just because someone is a female, but then I don’t know if the individuals are on the conference program or in the article because both are participating due to their expertise and their title/degree is evidence of their expertise. It’s pretty frustrating when what we want is to be appropriate and respectful and the “rules” seem to be in flux for so many forms of address.

              4. Jen in RO*

                For #1, I would find it silly if an MD introduced herself as Dr. in the same situation (that is, something not work-related).

                For #2 and #3, definitely not OK!

            2. Ann O'Nemity*

              “But research labs and conferences are related to academia.”

              And sometimes they are separate. I’m talking specifically about research for profit that is not in any way tied to an institution of higher learning.

      2. Kat*

        Newspapers abide by AP style standards. They should be printed as Firstname Lastname, Ph.D not Dr. When using AP Style, Dr. is used to address medical doctors only. If they were a medical doctor and the newspaper refused to print Dr. Lastname, then you have an issue.

  11. Brett*

    #5 Seems odd to ask for volunteers to work the holiday, then not offer any extra pay or time off. Or maybe a nice work provided meal, or at least a very sincere thank you. “Volunteer or else” just is not quite right.

    1. Colette*

      Well, assuming that there is a legitimate need for people to work, it’s a way of letting people who would be happy to work say that so that they don’t end up with the day off, while others who would rather have the day off have to work.

      If not enough people volunteer, they still need to be staffed, though, so at that point people who would like the day off will be told they have to work.

    2. Kevin*

      I hear what you’re saying and it could be mandatory volunteering. But on the other hand I could see it being hey if this day isn’t a big deal can you work it. I’m Jewish and don’t really care about certain holidays that many of my coworkers celebrate. It means a lot to some and I would gladly volunteer to work because it doesn’t hinder me in any way.

    3. Brett*

      Just realized I was assuming these were salaried positions, e.g. you get paid the same whether your work Thanksgiving or not. I guess getting the extra 8 regular hours of pay is incentive as well.

    4. Jen in RO*

      Some people might like the peace and quiet. Christmas is not a big thing for me and my family lives in the same city as me, so I volunteered to hold the fort a couple of years ago. Everyone was happy – my coworkers got to see their families in other parts of the country, and I got to work undisturbed for a few days.

  12. Sophia*

    Huh. I always say “Dear Bob Smith” in my first email and then follow what the other person does (eg first name, Dr., Professor etc).

  13. Erin*

    I would be a surprised (and a little put off) at the informality if a job applicant sent me a cover letter addressed “Dear Erin.” But, as I’ve learned reading this site, law is quite different from other fields and a little more old fashioned. If you’re applying for a job in law, consulting, banking, or accounting, I would definitely stick with “Dear Mr. Smith” throughout the application process. I’m not especially young (late 30s) and I still wouldn’t apply for jobs using a first name. So I don’t think it’s entirely an age or a “wow your office is weird” thing (also, re that post in the link, it’s so totally normal and expected in the federal government to use people’s titles in communications outside the office that I can’t believe that OP got upset about it; I would feel weird NOT referring to someone as “Undersecretary Jones” or “the Congressman”). It’s also very much an industry thing.

    1. Elysian*

      Yeah – I’m also in law and would never begin a business communication with a first name – always Ms. or Mr. If the other person initiates the leap into first name usage, I’ll follow suit then.

      Oh, the legal field. If there is a “traditional” or “formal” (boring and outdated?) way to do things, that’s how we’re going to do it.

  14. Bea W*

    #5 check your state laws. Some states require holiday pay. MA requires it in some specific situations related to the blue laws.

    #1 I found this a weird area to navigate transitioning into adulthood because growing up children always addressed non-familial adults by Mr/Mrs/Miss/Dr. Not only is it not clear that adults don’t normally interact this way, it’s so ingrained it’s a hard habit to break. I remember feeling really uncomfortable as a young adult calling people older than me or in positions of authority by their first name.

    1. Natalie*

      I think some of that is generational to – I did not grow up addressing adults by title and last name and it’s very odd to me to do so. One of my boyfriends in high school suggested I should call his dad Mr So-and-So and I just couldn’t do it.

      1. TL*

        Some of it may be regional – that would not have flown for any generation, including the current one, where I grew up.

        1. Del*

          I’ve always liked the Southern convention of addressing adults, especially ones who’re a generation or more older, as Miss or Mr. Firstname. It’s got that nice mixture of respect but friendliness.

          1. Natalie*

            I like that, too. There was a patron at a coffeeshop I used to spend too much time at who always called me Miss Natalie and I thought it had a nice ring to it.

            1. Gjest*

              On the other hand, I managed two seasonal technicians a while back, and my boss called them each Miss Firstname (my boss was from the South, and the techs were not). I found out months after they were finished that they hated it and found it totally condescending.

              1. Loose Seal*

                I’m from the South and I hate being called Miss Firstname. What’s wrong with just calling me Firstname?

                Also, I hate it when parents insist their kid call me something like Miss Firstname. Why not ask me what I prefer to be called and teach the kids that early on?

                1. The Clerk*

                  This so much. I’m a transplant to the South and hate it when children have to address me as Miss Clerk. Especially when they get corrected to do it; I hate seeing a kid made to feel bad over something I don’t even like to begin with.

                  The only time we did that when I was growing up was for our preschool teachers; somehow it was always Miss Janet or Miss Laura or whatever. Which is kind of odd itself.

            1. Natalie*

              I vastly prefer that to “Aunt” and “Uncle”. For some reason I just hate using those as titles, even with my actual aunts and uncles.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                I used the titles as a child, but when I got older, it just felt awkward. So I stopped doing that and started calling them by their first names.

                I’m fine with my nieces using just my first name now that they’re teenagers, and my nephew of course is grown with two kids of his own.

            2. VintageLydia*

              Yup I’m Ms. [firstname] to my friends’ kids. It shows respect without being totally formal. It wouldn’t offend me if they just called me [firstname] though, especially since they are all toddlers at this point and it’s an adorably mangled version of my name :P

          2. Judy*

            Except during my time in the south, it was always that they only addressed the unmarried females that way. So it was Miss Judy, but then became Mrs. Smith when you were married.

            Northerner in first job out of college. Started the first day with a group also out of college. 5 engineers, 2 were female. The other female had gotten married between graduation and start date. In 1990, I was called Miss Judy and she was called Mrs. Smith in the office. GRRRR.

          3. tcookson*

            That’s how my kids refer to all our neighbors and scout parents: Miss Dora, Miss Jeannie, Mr. Mark, Mr. Harry, etc. It’s respectful but still informal.

          4. morag*

            Have to disagree on this. Being from northern New England, Miss First Name come off as overly familiar / smart alecky to me, definitely disrespectful for kids to address non-family adults that way. We teach them to use either Miss Last Name or just First Name, depending on the person’s preference. In a respectful tone! ( I do understand that in the South it’s not considered smart-alecky, but it is here.)

        2. Bea W*

          I would not have batted an eye at that request. Actually it would not have even been spoken, because that was a default, even in high school you called the parents of your friends and your girl/boyfriends by Mr and Mrs. It was weird not to.

          1. Bea W*

            I should probably also mention that I also did not have to worry about Ms vs Mrs. Divorce was still taboo in my hometown, and women only used Mrs. Husband’s Name. It was really weird and somewhat scandalous when a child did not have the same name as their mother. It’s different now, but in the late 80s/early 90s when a couple kids in my brother’s had a different last name from their mother, people talked about it.

            Had it not been for my “liberated” grandmother and one second grade teacher who taught us that some women liked to use “Ms”, I would not have known Ms existed. it was a very socially conservative area, and those two corrupted me forever! :D

      2. Kelly L.*

        Boyfriends’ mothers were the most awkward part of addressing-people that I’ve run into over the years! I never knew whether they were Mrs. Smith types or Firstname types or what, and in some cases I knew they’s been married several times and wasn’t sure which last name they actually use. And for whatever reason it also felt weird to ask them, or ask the boyfriend. I’ve done a lot of carefully stepping around calling them anything at all, at least until they made it obvious themselves what they wanted to be called (like calling me and saying Hi, this is Mary or whatever).

        1. Leisabet*

          Late to this, but my mother (who is not one to stand on ceremony) never formally introduced herself to my partner. 14 years later, my mother is still “Um” to him. She would definitely not object to the first name treatment, but it’s about 13.5 years past awkward, at this point…

          1. Jen in RO*

            Haha, this is so funny. I didn’t know how to address my boyfriend’s mother, so I always rephrased (which is even harder to do when your language has formal pronouns and verb forms).

      3. Ellie H.*

        When my friends would address my mom as “Mrs. H” she would always correct them (jokingly!) with “Actually, it’s Dr. Y” which I got a huge kick out of. Of course, she would always follow it up with “But call me [first name.]”

    2. Dang*

      Haha- I was a bridesmaid in my childhood best friend’s wedding this summer and I kept calling her dad Mr. [lastname.] Old habits die hard. I was also one of those kids who was taught to use the last name unless corrected.

  15. Anoners*

    #2 Unrelated kind of, but the comment about where you want to be when you’re 30 prompted me to ask, where are people typically at in their professional career when they’re 30 (or where were you at when you were 30 if you’re older)? I know this varies drastically by person, but I’m quickly approaching my 30th birthday and I’m curious (and sort of panicked?). Is there a standard to just be getting yourself together? I have a good job, but no house / still working on student debt.

    1. Jubilance*

      I’m 31, in my 3rd post-grad school role. I think of myself as “together” – I’m able to support myself, work towards my financial goals, etc. Other people may not agree as I’m not a homeowner or married, but those don’t seem to be the same indicators of adulthood as they used to be.

      I had a quarter life crisis around 25-26 and took some time to figure out what I want to do and where I want to be. I got myself to where I want to be geographically, but I’m not where I want to be career-wise yet…but I’m taking baby steps to get there.

    2. Dang*

      I often wonder the same thing, but my conclusion has been to just not compare myself to others. There will always be people who are doing “better” by subjective standards, right? I’m unemployed and job searching, which I never thought i would be doing at 29… But things happen, and I try to look at it as my opportunity to find something that fits me better. I’m nowhere near the point of feeling like I’m on track career wisecrack though.

      Fwiw though, I think it’s more common than not to still be working on student debt at 30 and beyond.

      1. Anoners*

        So true and good advice. I think I read somewhere that social media has really increased this kind of feeling amongst our age group. Basically everyone posts about how great their life is going, but no one really posts the mundane/negative aspects, so you end up getting this feeling of not being accomplished due to be constantly reminded how great everyone is doing with their new houses etc. The way I see it I’m just happy to be employed with benefits at this point, because I know a lot of others aren’t.

        1. Dang*

          I’ve read that, too! I think maybe someone posted it on here?

          And it’s funny because I bet some of us wouldn’t give a second thought to people from high school or wherever, but when they’re clogging up our Facebook feeds with their Big News and Stories of Huge Success (because like you said, they post the good stuff- there aren’t as many posts like ‘crap, I lost my job today and have to move back in with my folks’ or ‘well, my fiancee dumped me for someone else…’) it’s harder to ignore.

      2. Del*

        “Fwiw though, I think it’s more common than not to still be working on student debt at 30 and beyond.”

        If you figure most people graduate around age 21, a 10-year repayment plan for student debt (which isn’t too bad; a lot of repayments are longer) would have them paying at least until age 31, if they took no forbearances at all. So definitely it’s more common than not.

        1. Anoners*

          Oh god I wish I would be done paying this beast off at 31! I did grad school after undergrad so I think I have a bit more than average, but some of my friends who came to Canada from the states have over 100k, so I guess it really does depend on the person.

    3. Jen in RO*

      I’m also quickly getting close to 30 and I’m happily employed with no big plans. I like my job, it pays well, but I don’t want to get into management so I’m just trying to learn as much as I can about my field (I worked in something similar, but not *that* similar, until 4 years ago). I plan on doing this for as long as I can – just become better at my job and keep getting salary increases, while avoiding getting pushed into management.

    4. Victoria Nonprofit*

      Oh, it totally depends. Measuring yourself against others is a path to unhappiness, stress, and insecurity. There is always someone with a better situation than you.

      Figure out what “together” means for you. For me, at age 30, it meant 1) have a career that I cared about and planned to stay in, 2) be on track with my financial goals (which for me, a high-anxiety person, meant a lot of savings), 3) probably be single (because I thought that was what I wanted) and 4) own a house. At 28 I had the first three down pat and was on track for the house. At 30 I’d blown everything up (on purpose), spent a year living at a religious retreat center, moved across country, met the man who I’ve since married, and was unemployed and unsure what my next step was. Yay for changing priorities!

      1. Victoria Nonprofit*

        My post was confusing. I meant that in my 20s, what I envisioned as success at 30 was those four things (career, finances, singledom, house), and I was on track for those things…. but when I hit 30 things were different.

        1. Dang*

          This brings up a good point. Priorities and life plans change. Just as we have to make our own ‘life checklist’ that might look very different from someone else’s, we have to be prepared for changing situations or priorities.

    5. some1*

      I’m 33. I’d be lying if I said I’m exactly where I want to be professionally when I turned 30, but I am way more satisfied with my career I have now than when I was three years ago.

      As far as the social aspects, part of me wishes that I owned a home, was married and had a kid. But I have watched good friends and family members go through serious hell when buying a home or marrying the wrong person didn’t work out, so I take no issue with holding off for as long as I need to.

    6. Sydney Bristow*

      I turned 30 this year and went through the same thing. There are things that I really try not to compare. I have lots of friends my age who are married, have kids, and own homes. The marriage one is the toughest not to compare, but as far as housing goes I try to remember that I live in NYC and it is just not common for my age group to own a place. My down payment would be the entire value of some friends’ houses.

      As for career, I’m not doing what I really want to be doing but I know it’s temporary so I can pay my loans off as fast as possible. I’m not totally certain what I actually want to be doing though so I’m trying to explore that question.

    7. Jean*

      From the perspective of being significantly past age 30, I have found that it helps to have confidence in oneself and one’s choices in life. It also helps to be able to
      – identify genuinely enjoyable features of said choices
      – calmly accept one’s own strengths and weaknesses, and the benefits as well as drawbacks of having them
      We can’t all attain the kind of professional or personal accomplishments that get us onto the pages of the New York Times–including the “accomplishments” that include lawbreaking and/or harming ourselves or others. However, the world is such a big place that–except when I’m really, really discouraged about my current search for employment–I choose to believe that there is room for all of us to make a positive contribution, whether or not accompanied by glowing (or scorching!) publicity.

    8. Al Lo*

      I’m 31, and pretty satisfied with where I’m at for the moment. Career-wise, I’m not getting paid as much as I wish I was (I work for a non-profit arts organization), but I’m using my skills, I’m in a mid-level position, and my opinions and recommendations are valued and implemented.

      To me, “success” has always largely been defined as “being able to make my entire living in the arts/creative field,” and since I’m doing that, I feel like I’m more successful than many of my peers in the arts.

      I’m still paying off student loans, but I graduated from my undergrad with no debt, so I’m just working on my grad school loans, and I’m on track with the 10-year repayment plan for those (3 1/2 years into that, since I took a few years off after my undergrad and didn’t finish grad school until I was 27).

      On the personal side, I’m married, but we don’t own a house or have kids yet, and I’m okay with that (although we’ll probably start working on both of those within the next few years). My husband wants to go back to school, so we’re trying to figure out if/where that fits into our lives. We’re not as financially stable as we’d like to be in terms of long-term savings and so on, but we’re getting there. We don’t necessarily want to remain living in the same city that we’re currently in, and we feel like our lack of savings is holding us back from taking some steps forward that we want to, so we’re working on giving ourselves the freedom to take those steps when we want to.

      In my early 20s, I kind of had those crises of where I was at and where I wanted to be, but I feel like in the past couple of years, my life has really settled down into something that’s pretty good, both career-wise and personally.

  16. Anonymous*

    Re #3. Don’t be passive aggressive about this, even with comments like the fact that the music makes you want to dance. Don’t. That risks this becoming about more than just music, and instead about professionalism and boundaries and respect and all sorts of other tangled work place relationship issues.

    Story: I am often in the office alone and so I listen to music. One of my bosses — who is louder in all respects than I could ever be; shouting on the phone, shouting at my co-workers, shouting at the business owner, generally shouting “I can’t take it any more!” every ten minutes — often will come over, invading my personal space to turn down the sound on my computer without even asking me to turn the sound off first, because the music is “so loud” and “distracting”. I usually have my music one notch louder than mute (can’t do headphones because I also take care of in-coming calls). She will passive-aggressively say: “oh you can just turn it down” knowing that “turning it down” is impossible unless I turned it off. We’re a factory and I know that she will go down to the factory where the guys listen to the radio as they work and — while shouting on her cell phone with a client — go and turn their radios off and yell at the guys for “listening to music while she has an important phone call” (there is no reason that she needs to be taking “important phone calls” in the factory, none, and it’s a bad idea in general because it will always be loud there — music of no — because of the machinery. She could go to the office, go to the loading dock area which is almost always empty, go outside, go anywhere else!).

    Basically, if she acted like a respectful human being I would respect the fact that she can’t concentrate with music, because that’s a pretty common thing for people. But she’s not respectful. She’s passive-aggressive, aggressive, and doesn’t respect other people (and not just re: music — oh the stories I could tell). If she was writing this letter, she would, 100%, say that I was the problem because I play music. But the way that she has handled the music issue is so terrible that any professional respect I had left for her (which wasn’t much — she’s even worse in most respects) has totally evaporated.

    So … idek where I’m going with this except to say that please treat your co-worker with respect when you ask her to turn her music off and realize that she’s not some evil person out to distract you. Just treat her with respect and assume that she will treat you with respect in return (by not listening to music/using headphones). Don’t make this into a bigger deal than it is, because it’s the sort of minor thing that can really show your co-workers your “true colors”. (Or show their true colors to you.)

  17. Anoners*

    #3 I totally get this. I am exactly the same way when it comes to these kinds of situations. I’m so envious of people who can just be direct, especially on issues like this that are seriously no big deal. I chalk it up to some aspect of generalized anxiety. If it were me, I’d live with it and not end up saying anything (this isn’t my advice on what you should do, just what I know I would do, because for whatever reason this kind of thing makes me really anxious.

    1. Jennifer*

      I hear that. I have my own situation where I really, really don’t feel like I can say anything. I joined this work group a year ago, and the oldest, crankiest member plays country music–same station–all day long for 9 hours a day, every day, even when she’s not at her desk. It’s not super loud but it’s definitely loud enough to hear even with my headphones on. And even when you are okay with country, they literally PLAY THE SAME SONGS, EVERY SINGLE DAY, FOR NINE HOURS, FIVE DAYS A WEEK. I am so sick of hearing them, especially the crappier songs. And she sings along to boot!

      But….I am the newbie. And I was told when I moved in that “everyone else likes it.” I do not want to be the noob coming in and saying I have a problem with it when everyone else doesn’t, or piss her off. It’s not worth the inevitable drama bomb that will go off to try to ask her to use her headphones for that.

      1. Kelly L.*

        When “Cruise” was named Song of the Year, I said “I’m not surprised. I think it’s the only song I heard this year.” Mind you, I even like the song! But every time I turned the radio on, seemingly to any station, there it was.

      2. Anoners*

        Wow, that is really intense! I wish I could be “normal” in this regard and just speak my mind. Professionally I have no problem at all, but when it comes to more of the social aspect I am such a people pleaser! I’ve had this since I was a kid though so I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to just get over it. It sounds so silly but it’s quite hard to get over it.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        Ugh! I had the same problem at one place–they liked to play this easy listening station in the back office. While the songs weren’t bad, they played the same few songs all day long. Every. single. day. I thought I would lose my mind. I eventually quit for other reasons, but it felt sooooo good to get away from that music.

        I hate country; I would have said something or left if that were the case. I mean, I really cannot stand it or rap or religious music (unless it’s classical).

        1. Jennifer*

          I went so far as to write up a bingo game of the songs they play every single day…though I haven’t played it in public.

          Dear lord, radio stations are boring if you hear them all day!

          1. De Minimis*

            My co-worker had the radio on a country station for a while at my work, when you started hearing songs for the third time that day you knew it was almost time to go home.

            Also noticed after a while that some sets of songs were in the same order every day.

            Our reception became too poor after a while, so now it’s the same 4-5 CDs every day.

  18. VictoriaHR*

    In the past year I’ve been seeing so many posts on various websites from people with problems that basically stem from either 1.) “I hate confrontation,” or 2.) “I have crippling anxiety.” While I certainly sympathize, not wanting to deal with confrontation, in my mind = immature. Mature people talk reasonably with others about any problems that may come up.

    The anxiety thing – hey, I get it, I’m not the most mentally stable person in the world, but I take Zoloft for my anxiety. And as I’ve grown into my 30’s, it has lessened. So to a degree I think that is a sign of immaturity also. Have confidence in your abilities and step up to the plate = mature.

    1. Uh No.*

      Anxiety disorders aren’t something anyone chooses to have. Saying it’s caused by immaturity is ignorant and gross. thanks.

      1. Jen in RO*

        Well, there’s anxiety (in general) and anxiety disorders (diagnosed). My generic anxiety (shyness, inability to talk to new people, etc) has decreased massively as I got “older and wiser”. In my case, it *was* a sign of immaturity and I am so glad to be past that phase.

        (I still hate confrontation, but at least I no longer freeze when I have to make a phone call!)

        1. Uh No.*

          Fair enough – good point. The “I’m not the most mentally stable person in the world, but I take Zoloft for my anxiety” is what really upset me though. How dare you make generalizations about anxiety just because something works for you? Not cool.

          1. TL*

            I think she means it’s a sign of maturity to try and deal with your anxiety – working with a therapist or medication or learning relaxation techniques.

            If you know you have a particular issue, part of growing up is to seek out ways to deal with it, rather than, for example, always citing anxiety as the reason you can’t do anything but never seeking help for it.

            1. Sophia*

              +1 It’s not nec about taking meds but recognizing the problem and doing something about it (therapy etc)

        2. hamster*

          It’s also a sign of maturity to accept that other persons are anxious and it’s not a sign of teenage “i don’t wanna, i need to be cool and not make eye contact”. When i discovered this about my husband i couldn’t believe it, i thought he was mocking me. I’m very extrovert and was mind boggled that someone was shy/distressed when making a call. I wish they had debate contests and more classes about opening up and communicating abilities when i was in school. sometimes i feel there i a generation of introverts

        1. Uh No.*

          Never said it did. The implication of medication working for anxiety and the rest of ANY sort of anxiety/anxious feeling being immaturity is what upset me.

          1. LD*

            I don’t think the commenter was saying that taking meds equals maturity or that feeling anxious equals immaturity. I think the comment was intended to mean that with age and experience, some of us get a little more mature and capable of dealing with the stuff that comes at us. Unfortunately, as someone else whose name escapes me has said…sometimes age comes alone.

        2. winona*

          True, but so what? If someone’s struggling with anxiety to the point that it’s impacting their life that much, their difficulties aren’t less legitimate to me because they haven’t yet been officially diagnosed — maybe their insurance doesn’t cover it; maybe the MI resources in their area are horrific; maybe they’re too scared to see someone and put a label on it, even if they know something’s wrong. I’m sure there truly are some people out there claiming symptoms of an anxiety disorder in lieu of actually saying “I just don’t wanna” but considering the stigma of even touching on that kind of thing in some circles, I’m pretty comfortable giving folks the benefit of the doubt.

      2. Colette*

        I don’t think that’s even close to what she was saying.

        Not dealing with problems – in general – is a sign of immaturity. If you’re (um, general you) dealing with it but struggling with how to adapt/having problems finding a medication that works, that’s different from just refusing to deal with it.

        And in my experience, general anxiety (the regular life stuff, not a mental illness) does decrease as you become more confident and competent.

      3. straws*

        I don’t think she was saying that anxiety disorders are caused by immaturity. Perhaps it could have been more delicately worded, but I read it as relating to the person’s behavior, not the cause. But, as someone who has an anxiety disorder, there are ways to cope and address work issues (including confrontation) without simply ignoring it or being too passive to be noticed. And learning these coping mechanisms can be a sign of maturity in dealing with the disorder. Like Jen said: As I’ve grown, so has my ability to function in the workplace.

      4. Bea W*


        Anxiety and immaturity are two separate animals, and for someone taking meds, it really hard to definitively know whether it’s maturity, biological changes, or the medication that has dialed it down (or maybe all of those things).

    2. Anon*

      Glad medication worked for you, but it doesn’t for everyone. Some of us try to get through the day as best we can. And for that we’re immature? Wow. Do you really work in HR?

    3. winona*

      Sorry, but if you’re sitting here saying that people with “crippling” anxiety can just pop a Zoloft and suck it up, then no, regardless of your assessment of your own mental stability, you don’t “get it.” I’m in my mid-20s and I’ve been dealing with serious anxiety from the time I was in the low single digits, age-wise. I’ve been in therapy since then, I’ve tried countless medications, and yet this has drastically affected my life by worsening degrees every year. I know personal anecdotes don’t necessarily make a good argument, but I’m sharing mine to show that your experience isn’t universal. I think it’s pretty vile that you’d call people immature, people who are genuinely struggling to right something that even the medical community doesn’t fully understand (let alone people who sit around in websites’ comments passing judgment on the hardships of others). If you ask me, it’s a sign of maturity and responsibility when people are aware of their limitations/situations. Even the act of saying TO YOURSELF, “I realize X is the obvious action to take here, but I have difficulties due to Mental Illness Y, how can I take steps toward the same result?” shows maturity to me, not to mention self-awareness.

      1. TL*

        Right, but you’re taking active steps to deal with your anxiety (even if they’re not working :( ) and to either minimize its effects or work around it.

        I don’t think she would call that immature. I think she was speaking more to citing anxiety as a reason for not doing something but not taking active steps to overcome your anxiety. (We have definitely had people write in with ‘I have X but am working to overcome it/it’s mostly well-managed – I’m still have trouble with Y’ and they get a much more sympathetic response than ‘I have X so Y is hard and I don’t want to or can’t do it.’)

        1. winona*

          If that’s what she meant, then I totally apologize for flying off the handle. Even if an OP with anxiety or confrontation issues can’t apply some of that advice in the moment, there’s a lot to be said for pointing out you’ll think it over and implement it when you can. From Victoria’s post, though, it sounded like she was saying that anybody who mentions their anxiety or their difficulties with confrontation are immature and making excuses (rather than providing a frame of reference for their situation) and the comment about taking a Zoloft to get over it honestly read like “Well, I did it and it worked, so why is this still a problem for these people?” Which I think other commenters in this thread are reacting to as well.

          1. TL*

            Yeah, that was bad wording. I think she meant it like, “I had this and I grew up and started taking steps to deal with it (and they worked.)” At least that’s how I read it.

            But of course, she’ll have to chime in herself for us to know for sure.

        2. MousyNon*

          My problem with VictoriaHR’s response is that there’s no way for an outsider to tell if somebody is ‘working towards resolving the problem’ or not unless they specifically reveal highly personal/private information about their illness and/or treatment plan. Just because somebody is working with a therapist and/or on a treatment plan doesn’t mean their anxiety won’t still manifest itself OR that it’s well-managed–and an OP on this site certainly shouldn’t have to provide a run-down of their highly personal/private treatment plan to ensure ‘sympathy’. So I’m with “Uh No’s” response–ascribing maturity or lack-thereof toward mental illness is wrong.

          1. Colette*

            I don’t think she was suggesting that anyone should have to reveal their personal medical details, just that refusing to deal with things in general (such as questions we often see like “How can I get Wakeen to stop doing X without asking him to stop?”) is a sign of wishful thinking. Very few of us have magical elves to do our bidding so that we don’t have to do grown-up things like make reasonable requests of our coworkers.

          2. TL*

            I think mentioning anxiety as a reason why you can’t/don’t want to do something does warrant mentioning if you’re actively trying to control it – at least for the purposes of this site.

            If you need to deal with coworkers but have crippling anxiety preventing you from doing so, one of the first pieces of advice would be to mitigate your anxiety in general (via, generally, some sort of professional help).

            If, on the other hand, you’re already doing that, advice to work on managing your anxiety is not relevant. But example wording or reassurance that this a normal thing to ask/do in the workforce would be helpful and the first line of advice.

            1. winona*

              Okay, but while you’re working on mitigating your anxiety with professional help, you might still need to do difficult things in the workplace. Say something comes up that you’re having trouble coping with because of an anxiety disorder, regardless of being in treatment for it at the time — you ask for advice or otherwise look for solutions to the workplace problem, but without qualifying your concerns with “I have this anxiety disorder (or other difficulty preventing me from tackling this comfortably and straightforwardly)” you run the risk of a comment section pile-on about how you’re cowardly or avoidant or you just need to grow up and deal. Obviously, as seen here, you run the risk of being judged even if you DO bring up your struggles with mental illness, but I can see why people are bringing it to the table — so it’s considered as part of the situation, not necessarily as an excuse.

              1. TL*

                Yeah, if you don’t mention it, people might not understand why it’s so hard but I do understand not wanting to bring it up. I do think if you bring it up, you get better responses if you mention you are managing it as best you can.

                Like I said, when people say things like “I’m working on it/I have it generally under control but this is still hard” the responses from Alison and the commenters tend to be sympathetic and understanding with more applicable advice (i.e., other commenters with anxiety will add in anxiety-specific advice that worked for them at a higher rate than if you don’t mention that.)

                1. TL*

                  The implication, if you don’t mention your treatment but do mention your anxiety, is that you want other people to manage your anxiety for you.

                  You don’t want to confront Bob, you (presumably) don’t want to manage your anxiety, you just want Bob to magically realize that this bothers you and to stop instead of working on your end to make it happen.

                2. winona*

                  Ugh, I’m sorry, my comment above came in as a reply to you but I hadn’t meant it to — I was speaking more broadly, and I think we’re actually in agreement! I’m obviously all for mentioning one’s anxiety if it’s a factor in why a seemingly benign workplace situation might be more challenging :)

                  At the same time, though, I’m torn about mentioning details of how (general) you might be seeking treatment or otherwise managing your MI? Again, not disagreeing with you at all, I just question the idea that, if someone doesn’t explicitly qualify that they’re seeking professional help, the default assumption might be that they’re NOT seeking the help and in fact just using the symptoms of an anxiety disorder as an excuse.

                  This might be a poor analogy, but: I have a visible physical disability. Sometimes, when I talk about something being difficult for me because of it, whoever I’m talking to disregards the original complaint and changes the conversation to something like, “Have you tried X, Y or Z medical treatment? Have you considered surgery/cutting out a food group/upping your PT/borrowing DEA Schrader’s crystals?” Where the assumption is pretty obviously that I’m unaware of resources, or refusing to think outside the box treatment-wise, or just plain resistant to solutions. (As a total aside, I am also a hefty chick, and if I make an occasional self-deprecating joke about it without qualifying that I am, in fact, a-okay with being fat and don’t need advice on how to be anything else, people immediately start suggesting I just walk more and/or eat more leafy greens, like I have reached adulthood completely unaware of the benefits of either.)

                  Not that you’re doing this in regard to mental illness, but I really wish we should shift the social narrative toward defaulting to the belief that people are their own best advocate and likely have tried all of the Obvious Solutions before asking for advice on a more specific issue (ex: “I see you saying your anxiety makes it difficult to do X because of the confrontational aspect, have you tried doing X in this way?” versus “Have you tried therapy/pills/meditation/deep breathing, because without any of that I just cannot see how anyone can possibly help you”). Just food for thought, generally, I guess!

                3. TL*

                  Hmm… In my experience, mental illness is one of the last things people get help with and it’s not uncommon for someone to know there’s a problem and self-diagnose but not seek treatment – largely because of stigma, also because of the nature of the disease.

                  But if someone brings up an ongoing physical issue as a reason for needing help, they generally do say – I have this under control, or I’m working with my doctor to get it under control. At least in my experience.

                  But if they’re asking for accommodations, I would expect them to include that they are working on their end when they’re asking me for extra work on mine.

                  Although – yeah, that response would be annoying. My medical advice tends to be limited to “wow, you should probably see a doctor about that.” and “if your doctor’s okay with it and it works for you, seems pretty good to me.”

    4. Joey*

      That’s just incorrect. Plenty of “mature” people struggle with anxiety. Isn’t Barbara Streisand famous for freaking out before a performance? I know plenty of mature people who still struggle with anxiety when there’s something important on the line like a presentation or a job interview.

      1. LeeD*

        The criticism is not on people who struggle with it, it’s on those who let it cripple them. Barbra Streisand may freak out before a performance, but she still gets up on stage and does it. Letting your anxiety rule your actions is a massive problem.

        1. winona*

          Letting your anxiety keep you from doing things you need (or want) to do is obviously less than ideal, but that’s why people seek help. In the meantime, I don’t think it’s fair to come down so harshly on people who haven’t yet mastered coping strategies or learned workarounds for their problem. People with mental illnesses aren’t necessarily “letting it cripple them” regardless of where they are in their treatment or whether or not you, personally, can see their trajectory of improvement.

          1. LeeD*

            It was not my intent to come down harshly on people who are working on coping skills or workarounds. I don’t see those people as letting their anxiety cripple them; I see them acknowledging a difficulty and actively working on ways to deal with it. It’s the people who refuse to take any action on their own behalves – they acknowledge they have an issue, but don’t try to work on it, and use it to justify their inactions – that are letting it cripple them.

    5. anonymous*

      Glad to know the end results of years of abuse is all just me being immature, thanks! I’m so glad I grew up and got over being hit and screamed at, it was so immature of me to carry any scars from that upbringing!

      1. Annika*

        See, this is just unhelpful and illustrates the OP’s point perfectly. The OP didn’t say any of these things. You are overreacting because you are sensitive to the issue. It touches a nerve. Instead of trying to re calibrate your own response to a healthy one, you get defensive and make excuses. That’s the point about the anxiety “excuse”. The LW is so afraid of confrontation that his sense of what is normal is completely gone. He is willing to build massive amounts of resentment against his coworker. He will probably reach the point where he loathes everything this coworker does. The point where everything his coworker does irritates him SO MUCH. My guess is that this could ruin his entire work life.And his coworker will have no idea where the passive aggressive comments and attempts to undermine her are coming from. I’ve had coworkers like this. Very easily offended. Everyone must walk on eggshells around them. I’m sure they are unhappy and probably have good reasons to be so but that doesn’t excuse their lack of professionalism and detrimental effect on teamwork and morale.

    6. OP#3.*

      I would feel more comfortable saying something if I had been with my team longer. And not wanting to “deal with confrontation” does NOT make one immature.

      1. TL*

        Not wanting to deal with it doesn’t make one immature, but actively avoiding necessary confrontations-assuming no anxiety, ect that you are actively trying to manage- especially in the case you presented, does not make a strong case for maturity.

      2. Colette*

        Picking your battles is reasonable – if, for example, every time you hear your coworker’s music you think “this isn’t a problem, I’ve decided to ignore it” and you are able to ignore it so that it doesn’t affect your work, that’s a reasonable choice.

        But if it irritates you every time and you cannot work because of it, but you won’t bring it up with her because that involves confrontation, that’s a sign of immaturity.

        I guess the key for me is that not wanting to deal with it is normal, but actually not dealing with it when it has negative repercussions is a sign of immaturity. Problems do not usually go away when you ignore them.

      3. Anoners*

        Exactly. I totally understand what you’re going through. For me, I realize how irrational my reaction to confrontation can be, but it’s just not worth the stress for me that would be triggered by actually speaking my mind. It’s really hard to put into words the feelings this can prompt… You’re definitely not immature though!

        1. TL*

          Unfortunately, you have to be able to speak up professionally. Certainly, there’s never any reason to scream, yell, or have fights with coworkers, but it is necessary to be able to voice disagreement and discuss opposing views, or to simply ask/tell someone not to do something at the workplace.

          That’s why maturity comes into play here – you have to do it to function in the workplace. And if you can’t, you either need to grow up and learn how to – for people without anxiety/other conditions – or seek help (part of growing up) and learn how to manage your anxiety until you can.

          1. Anoners*

            For sure, I totally agree on the having to have a voice in your workplace. I have no problems talking about ideas/projects/voicing opinions on work related topics, and I can see how this could become a performance problem if steps aren’t taken to try and resolve it if that’s the case. If the music is causing performance issues, then yeah they may need to address it. Personally, mine is only related to confronting people about non-work related social situations. I don’t have a problem telling Bob that I think his analysis is off, but I don’t want to confront Bob about is constant humming (I realize that this is somewhat contradictory, but that’s just how it is for me).

            1. TL*

              Your social life is your social life; do what you gotta :)

              But it does sound like the music is impairing the OP’s ability to do their job and given all the openings the coworker has given her, it’s very reasonable to expect her to find a way to speak up.

      4. fposte*

        Though this isn’t even confrontation! It’s just giving somebody information that they asked for. Confrontation is considerably more than just telling somebody something you’re afraid might displease them.

        1. Jen in RO*

          It sure feels like confrontation to me… I know it’s not rational, and I would be shocked if I were the coworker and I found out that someone is ‘afraid’ off telling me to put on headphones… but still, I would avoid the conversation as long as I could, even though I know it’s not the best solution.

          OP, don’t be me :) She told you to let her know if the music is too much, so you have the conversation starter. ‘Remember when you said…?’

          1. fposte*

            There are several different shades of meaning of “confront,” to be fair, but I think what happens is that people treat it as “to face in hostility or defiance” and tense up accordingly even when it’s “to present.” This is “confronting” like it’s “confronting” your server to ask for a fork.

            1. Jen in RO*

              I also worry when I have to ask my server for a fork! :P (See, emoticons are good, even the tongue one that Alison hates, because I want to show I do mean what I say but I realize it’s silly and you probably weren’t expecting this answer.)

              Back on topic, I realized some time ago that “confronting” certain things will make me unhappier than living with them, so I’m pretty relaxed most of the time and I find workarounds – headphones to block out the noise, stealing a fork from an empty table, and so on.

              1. Jen in RO*

                I’ve also never considered this “anxiety”, just shyness and a quirk of mine, and it’s very obvious to me that I’m the person with the problem and not the rest of the world :)

    7. Anoners*

      I do hear what you’re saying, but it doesn’t work for everyone like that. There is such a huge spectrum of anxiety problems people can have when it comes to this. I will say that if it’s anything that will impact me professionally, I do speak my mind right away. That’s not a problem for me, but I do know coworkers who struggle in that regard too. I’ve definitely been treated professionally for it, but at the end of the day, for me this specific aspect has never gotten better. I think that if you aren’t experiencing that persons exact symptoms it’s hard to make a call on what they’re going through. I kind of feel like the anxiety part of mental health is sometimes trivialized to “just get over it”, but seriously, it can be so crippling at times that the confrontation about music just isn’t worth the stress. And yes, I do know how irrational this sounds, but that’s the whole thing with anxiety, you realize it’s irrational but you just can’t help yourself.

      I will say that if the anxiety is really impacting your work, it’s probably another conversation. Where I live through, anxiety/mental health has a lot of really great legal protections for employees, so there would be a huge duty to accommodate process that would have to happen before your workplace could really take action against you.

    8. fposte*

      Here’s what I read Victoria as saying: anxiety, including an anxiety disorder, does not relieve somebody of the responsibility of handling a situation like this professionally and appropriately. I’d also extrapolate this to “you can’t be annoyed with somebody for playing music when you’ve never asked her to turn it down.”

      1. MousyNon*

        Makes perfect sense, and I agree with you, because what you’re talking about is a BEHAVIOR. Even if this is what VictoriaHR meant, however, that’s not what she wrote. What she wrote was “And as I’ve grown into my 30′s, it [my anxiety] has lessened. So to a degree I think that is a sign of immaturity also.”

        That pretty clearly assigns immaturity to continued anxiety past a certain age, and frankly I’m shocked that so many posters are jumping to ‘clarify/correct’ our interpretations of such clearly worded language, as opposed flat-out stating that in no way should ones MENTAL ILLNESS be assigned a maturity level. Ever.

        1. Colette*

          I didn’t read her comments to mean that a mental illness has any relationship with maturity, just that her general, normal anxiety has lessened with age and maturity. That has been my experience as well – things that I would have been very stressed about when I was 18 are just part of life now.

        2. fposte*

          And there are no clear words where Victoria did assign maturity to a mental illness, so I think you’re responding to something other than clear words as well. Which is fine with me, because I think interpretations are legitimate, but this one isn’t any more literal.

          Yes, I think she could have made the point in a way that excluded medical disorders from her overall statement. But I also think experiential anxiety, as separate from mental illnesses such as anxiety disorders, does indeed lessen with age, experience, and cognitive redirecting, and that that’s an important point to make since that’s the kind most people face.

  19. ChristineSW*

    #1 – I’m *not* a recent grad and I’m still never sure whether to use first names or Mr./Ms.! Sometimes I err on the formal side, then take my cues from subsequent correspondence/interactions. Most times, I switch to first name if the person ends their reply with just their first name.

  20. some1*

    “I was told that I could listen to music at a reasonable volume from 9 to 11 so I don’t see why I should have to turn it down. I enjoy listening at a reasonable volume.”

  21. BN*

    Sort of related to #2… if you are a new grad 7 months into your first position and it isn’t a good fit, should you forgo a position you find that IS a better fit because you are new to the workforce/inexperienced/the current job is “character building”?

  22. Elizabeth West*

    #1–first names

    I typed “furst names.” Geez. Tea time.

    It’s tricky sometimes to choose Ms. or Mr. People can have ambiguous names. For customer emails, I just use their first names because some people freak out if you call them by the wrong prefix. “I’m not a man; I’m a woman!!!”


    I just had to deal with this myself. I sit near someone who has been playing music on her phone, without headphones. The tinny sound penetrates my noise-reduction headphones and just drives me up a wall. I finally went over and nicely asked her to use her headphones and she apologized and did so.

    At another workplace (not Exjob), I sat next to someone who refused to use them. I asked her several times to turn it down or use headphones, but she always had some dumb excuse–“My computer volume control won’t work,” etc. One day I asked her again with a little bit of irritation in my voice. She told HR that I was “threatening” her, and they moved her to another cubicle and wrote me up!

    That place sucked; it had a nanny policy where you were supposed to go to management FIRST with an issue instead of your coworker.

  23. Clever Name*


    Please, for the love of God, tell her that you’d rather she turn off her music or use headphones. She has explicitly told you to tell her if her music bothers you, so TELL HER THAT HER MUSIC BOTHERS YOU.

    I apologize for the use of all caps. I just found out that I had been apparently distracting my coworkers for….years? but nobody bothered to tell me until another coworker threw an unprofessional tantrum. This is despite the fact that whenever I went to talk to another coworker I would specifically ask them if they had a minute or if it was a good time. Don’t be one of those people that basically lies to others in order to “get along”.

    My experience has really soured my relationship with my coworkers to the extent that I will no longer work with some of them (I can afford to do this because I am very, very good at my job, and there are other coworkers who actually want to work with me). Don’t put your coworker in this position. She will be grateful that you are being honest with her.

    1. Clever Name*

      Oh, and just so I’m clear, what has soured my relationship with certain coworkers is that they avoided confrontation to the extent that they weren’t honest with me, and I feel I can never trust them again. I understand it may be very unpleasant for you to do anything you perceive as confrontation, but please trust me, if someone has flat out told you to tell them if something bothers you, they won’t be offended or hurt or feel confrontational if you tell them something bothers you.

    2. tcookson*

      That sucks that you had to find out that way. I hate it that some people are so eager to be seen as the nice, people-pleasing kind that they will not give a co-worker the courtesy of an honest appraisal of a situation.

      We have several people at my office who go around and complain about various coworkers’ habits to everyone else, but when they have an opportunity to address it directly with that person, they actively deny feeling that way at all! Instead of having a conversation with the person, they want a boss to intervene for them without identifying them as the source of any concern. It’s cowardly.

      1. Clever Name*

        Yeah, all this went down about a month ago, and I’m honestly still reeling (so I apologize if I sound bitter). It’s forever altered my perception of some of my coworkers. Not cool.

  24. Ed*

    For #5, we have about 10K U.S. employees and they are all off on Thanksgiving – except tech support and customer service so I think you just picked the wrong job:)

  25. HR Comicsans*

    Re: Holiday Pay,
    Very, very little law re: holiday pay. I’ve only found instances in Mass and CT that it may apply.

    Even California and my happy liberal state of WA. does not require.

  26. Anon*

    Not really helpful, but still a funny story – I once started working with a U.S. based manager a few weeks before Canadian Thanksgiving. When he sent me a meeting invite for the Thanksgiving Monday I declined and reminded him that our location would be closed because of Canadian Thanksgiving. Turns out, he thought I was trying to pull a practical joke on him because “Canadians don’t celebrate Thanksgiving”.

    He was pretty shocked when there actually wasn’t anyone in our office that day.

  27. Sydney*

    OP #3 – you need to stop the passive aggressive behavior and act like a mature professional. This isn’t a confrontation because she’s asked you to tell her if the music is bothering you.

    Also, listening to music at work without headphones is not unprofessional by itself. That’s ridiculous.

  28. Bee*

    What about using titles for colleagues you already work with? I have an MD colleague who requests to be called “Doctor __” by all staff. I find it tiring to do this, but maybe I’m too sensitive.

      1. Bee*

        Healthcare. Titles are requested and used inconsistently at my workplace. I’ve noticed some folks use them, and others do not. Of the folks I work closely with, however, this is the only person with a doctoral degree (and there are a few) who has requested this title. I’ve worked at other (more prestigious) places and was on a first name basis with everyone.

        1. De Minimis*

          From what I’ve seen of healthcare, it seems fairly common practice for everyone to use “Doctor” for the medical providers. That’s the case where I work, although first names are used for almost everyone else [including nurses and nurse practitioners.]

        2. Cassie*

          I work in a university and by default, I call all except one faculty members “Professor So-and-So”. Well, that’s to their face – when I’m talking with my boss (also a prof) about another prof, we usually just shorten it to the last name. I wouldn’t do that in front of the other professor, though.

          Some staff just call the faculty members “Professor”, without the last name. I think it sounds a little odd, like saying “Teacher” or “Doctor”, but I think it works okay for everyone else.

          The only faculty member that I call by his first name is one of my other bosses. He tells everyone to call him by his first name, unless he doesn’t like you and then it’s back to Prof. So-And-So.

  29. Donald Wuerz*

    The following is a letter which I wrote to a government agency in Washington DC . The the latter part is the subject of the site and may be of interest to you.

    Dear ladies and gentlemen,
    Thank you for your timely and definitive guidance which shall guide me during my search for historical information on my great-grandfather. I feel certain that there are many references available in Washington which give details on his service. That service was three years with the union forces including his position as a captain of infantry with the United States Colored Troops at the longest battle of the Civil War which was the Port Hudson engagement.
    As you may have forgotten, the salutation in a letter addressed to an officer in the US Army includes only the last part of his/her rank. This includes lieutenants, colonels, and generals. Examples: Dear Lieutenant Looey and not Dear First Lieutenant Looey; Dear Colonel Grump and not Dear Lieutenant Colonel Grump; Dear General BiggyWig and not Dear Major General Biggywig. So too, the curt salutation of nothing more than 1LT Smith, CPT Jones, LTC MeMe, BG Biggwig is improper and to me is read as HEY YOU. This is not that much different from my addressing a letter to you without a preface (Dear and Mr/Ms) and only a last name viz, Schmaltz, if that were your last name.
    Donald E. Wuerz, LTC, USA-CE, Retired

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