how to avoid socializing with kids at the office, how to end a cover letter, and more

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

1. How to avoid socializing with a coworker’s kid at the office

Sometimes parents bring children into work and then proceed to socialize while the kid pokes/digs/plays around the office, kind of half-expecting the other women in the office to “watch” him or her. My letter is not so much to ask you whether or not it is appropriate to bring a baby or child to the office, but about the best way of saying, “I don’t care to meet your newborn” or “I will not be held responsible for your child’s actions while you are not looking.” I don’t care to participate in fawning over someone’s kid at the office, and I would like a polite way to get out of this kind of child-centered gathering. I hoped you might have a better way of saying, “I am not interested in your kid.” It seems like an ordinary, “That’s nice but I have to get back to work” isn’t sufficient.

Nope, there’s no polite way to say “I don’t care to meet your child,” just like there’s no polite way to say, “I don’t care to meet your adult guest who stopped by the office.” So I’d drop any hope of that entirely. However, you certainly aren’t obligated to engage beyond an initial polite greeting, and you can extract yourself from further conversation in the same ways that you would in other contexts where you’re busy — by demonstrating or saying that you have something else you need to attend to.

For instance: “It’s so nice to meet you! I hope you’re having a good time here.” Then, turn back to computer screen, papers, etc. If interrupted further, respond politely, then add, “I have to finish this up so can’t talk, but it’s great to meet you, Percival!” You must use a kind tone during this, just as you’d have to use a kind tone if it were an adult guest to the office. And if a parent expects you to watch her child for her, say politely, “Jane, I’m going to be tied up on a project, so you should take Percival with you. Thanks!”

In other words, just politely assert boundaries just as you would if kids weren’t involved.

2. I want my employees to try to find answers themselves

I’ve recently become a supervisor at my workplace and I oversee two millennials, both of whom are really great workers and I’m thrilled overall to have them. They both do one thing that really annoys me – when they don’t know how to do something, they immediately ask. I am talking fairly inane things, e.g., how do you tell what page size a poster is in Microsoft Powerpoint or how you drag and drop a folder. They are such bright people that it really surprises me they wouldn’t automatically think to search how to do these things on the internet before coming to me for help. I would like to politely suggest they do this but I’m wondering what the right way to phrase such a thing is. Any ideas?

Be direct! This is hard when you’re a new manager because it’s a new skill that you have to learn, but giving feedback and direction isn’t a rude thing and you don’t need to sugarcoat it. In fact, you will be a worse manager if you do sugarcoat, because your employees will miss messages and have to wonder what your subtext is. Don’t be a jerk, obviously, but saying things directly is not rude.

So just say exactly what you want. For instance, “I’m always glad to help when you need it, but I’d like you to try finding the answer yourself before you come to me. Have you tried Googling this or checking the Help menu of the application?” From there, if they come to you with questions that you think they could have answered themselves, ask, “What have you tried so far to find the answer?”

3. My manager told me to take guests for dinner but not to pay for it with a corporate card

I just started in my new position at the same company three weeks ago. Our company had two out-of-town business people in for a meeting. I was told to take them out for dinner but not to use my corporate credit card to pay for it because our department does not have approval for things such as this. I work at a Fortune 500 company, and my old department never had such a restriction.

Needless to say, the end of dinner was incredibly awkward. I couldn’t afford to put this business dinner on my own personal credit card (the bill was over $150), nor did I want to start a precedent of doing so. I ended up going to the bathroom, and one of the company’s guests paid for it all while I was gone. I felt embarrassed but didn’t know what else to do! Any help on how to handle the situation in the future would be great!

If this happens again, don’t go the dinner knowing that you can’t pay, because that will set up the awkward situation that you ended up in this time. If it happens again, get some clarity from your manager first. I’d say something like, “I feel awkward inviting them out if the company won’t pay for their meals — how do you normally handle this?”

If it turns out that she expects you personally to cover their meals, that’s absolutely not okay, but I’m thinking there might be some other expectation here that you won’t figure out until you talk to her. In general, when you’re feeling really awkward and uncertain about something your manager asks you do, ask. You’ll often get information that will make things clearer.

4. Salary offer is less than I expected

I was recently interviewed (4 times now) for a job I was very excited about. I completed an online application for the job, and I know the starting wage was what I was looking for. When I looked at the job posting a few days later, the starting pay was gone. I didn’t think anything of it at that time, until I got the job offer. They have offered me a pay rate that is $8,000 lower than I expected.

There is absolutely no way I can leave my current job for less than what I expect. I am very qualified for the position, and the prospective employer is fully aware that I am currently employed by a great company, with full time benefits, and a union contract. My attraction for the newer position I am considering is I that have a very long commute to work, and the new job would be a virtual position.

How do I gracefully turn down the position I am being offered? They are very nice people, but I cannot leave a solid job for less money.

Well, salary offers aren’t always firm, and some employers assume you’ll negotiate. So you shouldn’t just turn this down; you should talk to them about the salary. Say directly to them: “I’m very interested in the position, but I can’t leave my current position for the salary you’re offering. Could you do $X instead?”

Also, if you haven’t already, make sure that you factor into your thinking on salary that if you’re working from home in the new job, you’ll save money on gas and probably business clothes.

5. How to end a cover letter

Could you please recommend a professional way to end a cover letter? is it professional to use this: “P.S. Thank you for taking the time to read my cover letter. I honestly believe I’m the perfect fit for this position. I’d welcome the opportunity to schedule an interview at your convenience. Please call me on 000 000 00.”

Meh, that stuff about honestly believing you’re the perfect fit isn’t great, and there’s no need at all for a P.S. Drop the P.S. entirely and just end the letter with something like: “I’d love to schedule a time to talk about the position. Thank you for your consideration.”

{ 358 comments… read them below }

  1. Kara*


    I second the sentiment about dropping the P.S. entirely. P.S. stands for Post Script, and it was common back in the day of the pen when you didn’t want to rewrite the whole letter to include a thought you may have wanted to add last minute. In the era of e-mail, it is ridiculously simple to just edit or insert any last minute thoughts into the email body, so using a P.S. is really naive and outdated. My suggestion would be to drop it entirely from all of your electronic communications.

    1. Canuck*


      I knew that P.S. stood for “post script”, but until you explained it this way, I didn’t fully grasp it’s meaning or why it was used. Makes so much more sense now!

      1. Fiona*

        I never thought about this (where Post Script comes from) either. People back in Ye Olden Tymes were pretty clever.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      The P.S. is an old school advertising/marketing copy trick that works and I’d get a kick out of seeing it in a cover letter for a marketing or advertising position. I’d immediately interview somebody with a strong P.S.

      However! It is so non-standard on a cover letter, it’s risky. Unless the OP is in marketing or advertising, and very bold, loose the P.S.

      1. LPBB*

        Almost every cover letter writing book that I’ve looked at recently recommends using a P.S. Personally, I think it’s a silly idea for the reasons that Cara mentioned.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


          Well, it’s a time proven (statistically backed) advertising copy technique but I wouldn’t have thought it to be convention on cover letters.

          It’s salesy and a bit gimicky.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yep — if I see that on a cover letter, I think, “This P.S. is a farce since you could have just incorporated the info into the cover letter itself. You are being too salesy and disingenuous.”

            Don’t do it!

            1. Sandrine*

              In France at some point the PS was used with hard copy letters, to indicate something like “please see attached document A, B and C” because you’d put your letter first, then your CV/Resume and then anything else if the company was asking for it.

        2. monologue*

          really? I’m not really qualified to have an opinion on this, but this surprises me. I would’ve guessed that any PS at all would be seen as unprofessional or childish.

      2. CC*

        It’s an advertising trick? Interesting. What effect is it intended to have on the reader?

        I do occasionally use a PS in an email, but mostly in a casual one and it’s … not quite like the punchline of a joke because the email isn’t a joke, but I can’t think of a better way to describe it right now.

        1. Greg*

          The premise is that most people glance at a direct-mail piece and then immediately start skimming it until they get to the bottom, so the last thing you write will attract more notice. Aside from the cheese factor, I’m not sure if that’s even true in email. For the most part, the only things after your name are sigs, quotes from previous emails in the thread, and those ridiculous legal disclaimers in corporate emails. As a result, we’re conditioned to ignore all that stuff.

          BTW, I once received a political mail piece from Al Franken with a PS that said something like, “I don’t really have anything else to add here, but I was told to include a PS at the end of the letter to grab your attention.”

          1. Amy*

            Since I don’t want my cover letter to look like a direct mail piece (asking for money for some such organization), I will continue to not use it. :)

          2. A Jane*

            Reminds me of internet humor. Like when people add an asterisk* and then there’s nothing of relevance at the footnote.

            *really, nothing of relevance

          3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            “I don’t really have anything else to add here, but I was told to include a PS at the end of the letter to grab your attention.”

            Freaking love Al Franken.

      1. Artemesia*

        It is like bold facing something i.e. gimicky — since it is not required by the medium, it is designed to be eye catching.

  2. kas*

    3. I don’t get how a company can expect you to do company related things like this and expect you to pay.

    I would’ve found a way to ask your manager/boss how he/she expected the dinner to be paid for. If the only option was for me to pay I would politely decline.

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      Perhaps you could ask for an invoice to be sent after dinner? Nevertheless, business entertaining is something quite common and you would expect it to be covered on a corporate credit card.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      There has to be a piece of missing information here. Company guests *never* pay for a dinner, it’s a gigundo faux pas….and double that for a Fortune 500 company.

      “What the company card is authorized for” makes sense to me in that we’re a vendor for large companies and there are often weird restrictions per department we have to work around.

      What doesn’t make sense is the manager’s plan for all of this.

      I think the missing piece of information is that the OP was supposed to turn in the receipt for standard reimbursement and she wasn’t able to front to pay the bill first.

      If that’s the case: once upon a time I was young and in the same spot several times. It sucked to have to say to my boss, I’m sorry, I don’t have the money/room on my personal card to pay ahead. Embarrassing but necessary, and in both situations my boss at the time fronted me cash from his own wallet.

      Don’t ever let your out of town business guests pay, unless they are vendors who have done the inviting. (In which case, it was expected that they pay.)

      1. Lindsay J*

        Yes, I was thinking it sounded like a huge faux pas for the guest to wind up paying for the dinner.

      2. Judy*

        But in every place I’ve worked with corporate cards, when you fill out the expense report, you tie it to some sort of budget code (normally the system defaults to your dept with the travel type, for travel expenses.). So I don’t know how submitting the receipt would be different than that.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          My experience is customers who can’t use their corporate card to pay for XYZ for whatever reason (type of purchase, amount of purchase, whatever) use other means, including having a manual check cut or putting it on the personal card for reimbursement later.

          Meaning: the expenditure is actually okay but their card is set up with restrictions so that the card can’t be used.

          I am making the leap that this is the case with the OP because anybody who expected her to spend $150.00 of her own money, with no reimbursement, to entertain for a Fortune 500 company….. I can’t see how that would be a possible/sane expectation.

          1. Justaguy*

            Yeah there is no sanity in my boss’ explanation. The other department I worked in we could use our corporate card for lunches, dinner & travel etc…. No big deal, then I switch departments and they say no way, travel only! I even asked the guy in charge of the budget for the department & he just expressed the sentiments of our boss.
            No chance for reimbursement because it is not in the budget. Hence why I sent an email.

    3. The IT Manager*

      The solution the LW came up with made me shudder, though. Hiding in the bathroom until the invited guests picks up the check! That is such a horrible, bad date cliche.

      LW: You need to figure out what’s expected of you. Honestly you needed to figute that out before you went to this meal! Would you have been reimbursed? If so you need to figure how you can front the costs. If you’re not being reimbursed you need to not invite these peole to expensive restaurants or any restaurants.

      For me now, fronting $150 on my CC is nothing. When I was just out of school that could have really killed my budget for the month if I wasn’t reimbursed immediately. So maybe the boss did expect you to front the cost, but just didn’t realize that you couldn’t.

      But what you did was a horrible faux pas.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Yup. Sorry, OP. The way to solve this problem was to get your manager to explicitly state her expectations about what you were supposed to do.

        In OP’s shoes, I would have asked, “How would you like me to handle paying for the dinner?” At which point the boss would have said (I’m guessing this is what was intended), “Use your personal credit card, but fill out an expense report for it.” OP could then have responded with, “Okay, thanks,” or “Actually, I’m not able to advance the company that much on my card; what should I do?”

        And if the boss had actually meant, “OP, you should take the guests out on your own dime,” that would have been the time to say, “I’m not able to do that; what should we do?”

        But to let the guests pay — that’s a big faux pas. OP, I hope you fessed up to your boss so that she can do some damage control. This is a big mistake, but it will be worse if your boss finds out what happened from the guests than if she finds out from you.

        1. Lizzie*

          No kidding. OP, you need to hightail it into your boss’s office and fess up. Hiding in the bathroom was incredibly irresponsible and unprofessional. Your boss is going to need to do major damage control with this client.

        2. Katie the Fed*

          Yep – boss will find out one way or anything – OP needs to let her know ASAP what happened.

          I would have serious questions about an employee’s integrity and problem-solving skills if they did something like that and didn’t tell me. Ideally would have been to talk to the boss beforehand, but that ship has sailed. Time to fess up and make sure this never happens again.

          1. Lizzie*

            Yup. I’d consider this grounds for moving the employee away from a client-facing position, if not termination. How embarrassing for the company.

        3. JMegan*

          +1. And no doubt you’ve figured this out by now, but the discomfort and embarrassment of asking your bosss beforehand, is always going to be WAY less than the discomfort and embarrassment of explaining to your boss that you hid in the washroom and let your client pick up the cheque.

          I’m guessing you’re not comfortable having difficult conversations, which is why you didn’t ask your manager in the first place. But the ability to handle difficult conversations is a life skill – as you found out, avoiding one conversation often leads you to have an even more difficult one later.

          The good news is, this is a skill you can develop with practice. And like any skill, the more you practice, the better you get. You may not ever love these sorts of conversations (who does?), but at least you can get yourself to the point where you don’t run away and hide.

          Good luck.

          1. Mary*


            Tough conversations are the hardest part of leadership for me. I want people to like me, but I also need to lay down the law at times (like telling an employee that working 27 hours of overtime without informing me is NOT COOL). Avoiding the conversation won’t help, though.

        4. Justaguy*

          So I’m the OP and I did ask my boss prior to going to dinner. I was told make them pay for it. My boss has the mentality that our “suppliers” should take us out to dinner but invite them to dinner. So I did was I was told to do but hated every minute of it.
          I even stated my discomfort the next morning & it was brushed aside.

          1. Diane*

            Your boss in an ass and way, way out of line. Of course you know this because you wrote here. Is there someone in your business office you can ask about reimbursing expenses?

            1. Justaguy*

              Talked with our budget guy. Not in the budget so it won’t get approved. So if there is ever a next time, I’ll pay for drinks on my own dime but just say no to taking anyone out to dinner.

              1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                There’s no budget for entertaining vendors because the vendors have a budget for entertaining you, that’s how it works.

                You spend company money to entertain a vendor in an extraordinary situation. We’re hosting a series of all day seminars given by some of our key vendors and we’re buying a working lunch for them and a group on all of those days. Setting it up that way was so unusual that a number of our vendors protested but we told them to shut up, we wanted to show how appreciative we were of their time.

                This is, I think, the first time I’ve bought a meal or a drink for a vendor in 25 years. That’s the way things work, just, wait to be invited.

          2. Saturn9*

            This seems like incredibly crucial information to leave out of the original letter. The difference between “don’t pay for it with the corporate card” and “make them pay for it” is orders of magnitude. It sounds like you’re changing the details in an attempt to make your mistake sound less egregious.

            Just recognize that you handled this poorly and have a better plan in future. (And stop caring so much about the judgment of strangers on the internet.)

          3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            This is seriously critical information you left out of the email.

            I don’t think you are familiar with business etiquette.

            The vendor always pays. You didn’t need to hide in the bathroom or stress about it. The vendor always pays.

            Now, it is tacky to do the inviting. You wait for the invitation. (There are plenty of tacky people who invite, pick the spot, and ring up a bill knowing the vendor will pay but that is tacky.)

            Your boss is right. Unless he told you to invite yourself to dinner and then he is right + tacky.

            1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

              Here’s how the etiquette for out of town vendors goes:

              Being a good host is making sure they have information and accommodating their time. When they schedule the visit, tell them if they need any help, they should ask you. Work your meeting schedule around their flight times. Send them links to close by accommodations if they ask.

              Don’t invite yourself to dinner. It is expected that an out of town vendor will invite you to dinner, but wait for them to suggest it. Wait for them to suggest how many people should come. Don’t stick them with 15 office mates, ask if they would like to invite anybody else.

              If they ask for restaurant suggestions, give them multiple suggestions and send links to the menus so they can pick the spot that fits their price and something they can eat. (Don’t say “sushi!” only because what if they hate sushi. )

              Watch their time. Don’t keep someone with an early morning flight up until midnight.

              You are hosting right up until the second you enter the restaurant and then they are hosting.

              Treat them like a host. Watch the price range they order in and don’t ring up their bill with tons of drinks, unless you are following the leader.

              Thank them when you leave and then send an email the next day thanking them again and complimenting (whatever) about the time that they spent with you.

              The vendor always pays! (Unless government work and then I don’t know a thing about that)

            2. Justaguy*

              Thanks for the insight. I was told to be ” tacky” and I followed through! My last position, I dealt more on the client side rather than the vendor side of things so perhaps I should of brushed up on my business etiquette. I just assumed they were out of town business partners and if you invite them to dinner you should pay, end of story. I didn’t realize there was a difference in how you treat vendors & clients but it all makes sense. Thanks

      2. Jess*

        100% agree. Hiding in the bathroom while your guests pay the bill seems like the worst possible solution to your problem. (Frankly, I would have preferred major damage to my budget/credit over something like that.) I would guess that it truly didn’t occur to your manager that fronting the money would be an issue and that if you’d spoken up ahead of time the issue could have been resolved. (It’s really easy to forget with a little distance that when you’re young and just starting out you often have no cushion to absorb extra costs of any amount — even temporarily.)

        1. TL*

          Depending on the OP’s credit limit, she may not have been able to put $150 on her credit card. I know a lot of my friends started out with credit limits of $500-750 and if you (like me) put everything you can on there (because points=free money!), or even if you don’t, it’s really easy to hover very close to a low limit.

      3. Anna*

        Being explicit is important, but the idea of the OP “needing to figure out how to front the cash” is absurd. If you can’t do it, you can’t do it, and it’s up to the business to figure out a way around that, not the employees. Having said that, the OP must be very clear with her boss and the expectations they have for her.

    4. Hooptie*

      Just for the fun of it, if you were the manager in this situation and the employee ‘fesses up, how would you approach the client? I honestly have no idea where I would start!

      1. RQSCanuck*

        I am just curious, aside from apologizing profusely, would it be a faux pas to reimburse the client for the dinner? Since the boss’ intention were most likely for the company (represented by the OP) to cover the cost of the meal. Although, I don’t know how I would explain the mix-up to the client.

        1. fposte*

          I’d consider it, but it’s questionable: the company might not be able to cut such a check, and in some circles it’s a little vulgar, like sending your date a check after he’s paid for your dinner–if so, the recipient might leave it languishing, just to complicate things.

        2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          My biggest worry would be if the guests were able to be reimbursed by their own company. I mean, there’s a line on your expense report, reason, “stiffed by the hosts who invited us”. Not really a category for that and they might not be able to get money back for unexpectedly entertaining their host.

          So I’d call and be all “misunderstanding, embarrassed mutter mutter apologies”, and then ask whom I should reimburse, the individual or the company. That gives the person who laid out the cash the option to say, well, that was me and I wouldn’t mind getting my personal $150 back or to say, “oh, I charged that my expense accounts, no worries, you’ll get me the next time”.

      2. AdAgencyChick*

        With a profuse apology, fruit or chocolates, and a promise that it would never, never happen again. I would not make any excuses — just state firmly that I found out about it after the fact and will not allow it to happen again. (And I wouldn’t. If this were OP’s first job out of college, I’d sit him/her down for a talk about what the expectations are for meals with clients — and also to let OP know that if s/he feels I’m asking for something s/he can’t provide, like paying out of pocket for a business expense, that s/he needs to talk to me about it so we can clarify expectations and work out a solution. If OP has been out of school for a while — I’d seriously rethink whether OP should be in a client-facing role, because OP should have known better. But I can see how this could have happened if OP is very inexperienced — in which case I question OP’s manager’s judgment in sending someone so green to be the only non-client at a client dinner.)

        I don’t know whether I would offer to reimburse the client for the meal — I’d probably ask my account staff for advice on that — but the big things would be the apology without even the hint of an excuse, a promise that this was an aberration that will never happen again, and some kind of “profusely sorry” gift.

  3. Millennial*

    #2 – I am often asked how to do small IT tasks such as this too, and I understand it’s frustrating. I totally agree with Allison that you need to be direct, as it’s the only way your staff will understand. It may even be worth spending a small amount of time teaching them how to use Google/help files efficiently too, so they are more prepared to do this.

    One thing did niggle me about your letter though OP – was there any reason you identified your employees as millennials? I only ask because it seemed to add nothing to your query, other than to perpetuate the idea that millennials are lazy/unresourceful/constantly dependant on others, which is completely untrue.
    (If that seems oversensitive I apologise – but as a millennial myself I am fed up of constantly having to prove these myths wrong.)

      1. Pseudo Annie Nym*

        The thing that made me smile was that she was going to someone else to ask how to stop her employees from going to her to ask things… what other research did she do before asking? (/Sarcastic millennial)

        1. EngineerGirl*

          Really? Touchy feely management things are a little different (no, a LOT different) than Microsoft word questions. There’s also a big difference between a single question and multiple small questions.

      2. LondonI*

        I think it’s an age thing rather than a generational thing. I’m sure that every generation asked daft questions on entering the workplace. It takes a little time before you have the confidence to do certain things, even if it’s just having the confidence to know that it’s OK to look up a work-related query on Google.

        1. Puffle*

          and a little push from your manager to say, “It’s okay to look this stuff up from Google, there’s no system of It Must Be Done Like This” is helpful too. Srsly OP, let them know that you want them to take the initiative on these things, it’ll help them not only now but in the future- and hopefully make things easier for you.

          1. Kerr*

            +1. I’m sure I’ve asked some silly questions before, not because I didn’t know how to look up the answers, but because I was afraid of doing something the wrong way and it was easier to ask first. That goes double if you’re close by. Don’t be afraid to let them know what they can/should look up on their own, and when they should come to you!

          2. KayDay*

            “‘It’s okay to look this stuff up from Google, there’s no system of It Must Be Done Like This’ is helpful too” +100

            I definitely asked too many questions when I first started, and the 2 main reasons were: (1) I thought there was a special way of doing things at work. I had heard so much about bureaucracies and SOPs and forms and all that, and was actually a bit surprised that I could just do things my own way or how google told me; and (2) I wasn’t given a deadline, so I assumed stuff needed to me done immediately, as quickly as possible. Since it would take me maybe an hour to figure it out on my own and 2 minutes to ask someone, I asked in order to be efficient.

            1. DeMinimis*

              Although it may be annoying, too many questions is still better than not enough….I made that mistake in a previous job and never really did well there as a result.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Ditto. When I’m learning a new job, I always tell my trainer, “I’m going to pester you to death with questions, and I’ll be writing stuff down, so I don’t have to ask you again.” No one has ever objected to that!

                1. Marcy*

                  That is the perfect way to do it. I love questions, especially from new people. It means they won’t be messing stuff up that I have to find and fix later.

            2. Kelly L.*


              I’m so used to different workplaces having different It Must Be Done Like This’s such that if you looked it up and winged it, you were almost certainly wrong and would have to do it over. They may not mean “I have no idea how to do this at all” but “is there a special way it’s done in this particular office.”

            3. ChristineSW*

              Ditto!! At one job, I was so afraid to just look things up using Google or some other search engine–I thought I had to use only the resources available in the office or via certain industry-specific websites. But then again, even if I did come up with something, I’d still confirm that it was okay…giving the correct information was that important to me.

            4. themmases*

              Same. I’m responsible for several “databases” at my job: basically giant Excel files of potential case reports, every time we’ve done a specific type of exam, etc. I probably owned them a year before I felt comfortable making changes or improvements to them, or really doing anything other than keeping them up to date, even though they were full of errors and missing data and no one accessed them but me (people with questions emailed me and I did the searching). Looking back it seems silly, but it just seemed like things were that way for A Reason rather than just because that’s how someone five years ago felt like doing it at the time.

              I would really recommend telling people when there is documentation (it was always out of date at previous jobs of mine) or when they should feel free to choose their own approach that takes into account x, y, and z. I am a millennial, if it makes any difference, and when people do what the OP does without pointing me to documentation or telling me I have options, they reinforce my impression that a specific individual owns is process and I should continue to ask them how they want things in the future.

        2. Felicia*

          I took a Transition to Work course in my final year of university, and while a lot of it wasn’t as useful as this blog, one of the most valuable thing I learned was if you don’t know, it’s ok to Google first.

      3. Neeta*

        So, when people refer to millennials like this they generally mean someone born in the 90s?

        As a millennial myself, with around 7 years of work experience, it seems odd to have someone refer to me as “new to the work force”.

        And yes, I did ask a truckload of questions in my first two years of work, perhaps more than others… In hindsight I don’t think it was that horrible of me to do so. Especially when the “on the job training” meant go ahead and do this, without any prior explanation. *shrugs*

        1. Mike C.*

          I was thinking the same thing. It’s people who were born in the 80s and came of age in the 90s/early 2000s.

          1. Neeta*

            According to Wikipedia, millenials are those with “birth years from the early 1980s to the early 2000s.” So that would also include people who’ll become of age in 10 years’ time.

        2. Lindsay J*

          +1, I was born in ’86, which makes me a millennial, and I’ve been working for about 12 years now, and in leadership roles for about 8 of those.

          Obviously it’s a little different in professional office jobs, but considering you can be born in ’83 and be a millennial there are definitely millennials who have 10-12 years experience in professional positions.

          1. DeMinimis*

            You can also have a really competitive environment where “up or out” is the norm so a person who makes the cut can be in middle management by age 27-28. Seen that happen with many of the millennials I got to know during my career change.

          2. Lindsay E*

            Hi all,

            I’m the OP on this one. I appreciate everyone’s feedback on this one – and love the suggestion of saying “what have you already tried” and also the “there’s no right way of doing things.” I do mean Millennial in the sense that it is their first position, but I didn’t mean it in a derogatory way at all – these two people are incredible to work with, I’m just not used to anyone asking how do you change a page setup in powerpoint…I really appreciate everyone’s feedback – I’ll make sure to be direct with both of them. Thanks all!

            1. Anna*

              It’s also possible that some wording in your internet usage policy made them think they couldn’t use Google. For young people in their first jobs, those subtle distinctions are difficult to see.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Yep. I remember that- routinely blindsided by missing a detail here and there. For example: I thought that 3 bereavement days meant 3 per year. Not 3 per event.

                OP, a great way to handle this is to go from the specific to the general. Not just with “How do I do X in PP?” But with everything. Let’s say Sue needs a new calc. Great time to show Sue the procedure for getting a new anything. You can also encourage them to share these things with each other to keep the other one up to speed.
                I have been fortunate to meet many bright minds of all ages. I noticed there is always a bottom to the well of knowledge. Human nature. And you are correct – it is surprising what some sharp people don’t know. It makes me realize we just simply cannot know it all.

      1. Kerr*

        I love that flowchart. It should be printed out and posted in offices everywhere.

        And yet, here’s the thing: online searching is also a learned skill, and may have a lot to do with whether or not a person is a “digital native” – to borrow an apt term that somebody used here previously. I know people who can and do try to search for info, but I can come up with more relevant sites in half the time. Why? Probably because I’ve had experience wrapping my brain around how computers work in this context – what keywords are going to pull up a bunch of junk, what I can throw in to pull up more relevant matches, and how to quickly scan the results and filter out the useless links. (A basic knowledge of Boolean search doesn’t hurt, either.) I have watched smart people try to search for something and struggle to find useful results. I know, because they’ve told me, that it’s frustrating to be told to “Google it!” – when their experience is that it takes forever to find the answer to a basic question.

        1. Chris80*

          This is so true. Effective searching doesn’t happen without some practice and knowledge of how search engines work.

          That said, I really like the flowchart. There is still a lot of truth in it.

        2. Chinook*

          I agree, especially the part about understanding Boolean searches. Knowing how to frame the search is not innate and I wonder if those of use who grew up pre-Google have a leg up because we were taught how to use card cataloges and periodically indices which relied on knowing key words.

          1. AVP*

            Weirdly, my boss’s son is too young to read but understand how to phrase a google search perfectly. It’s innate now, I think!

            He found this out when the kid was five and playing MarioKart and said, “Dad, please google ‘Mario Kart v13 round 2 shortcut tips.” Dad was surprised!

            1. smallbutmighty*

              So maybe the trick is to mash up a couple of these letters. When your colleague brings his five-year-old in to the office, put the kid to work teaching the Millennials how to use Google.

                1. Shannon*

                  My boss is having trouble with using her new work Blackberry. I’ve been Googling things like “how to do x on blackberry z10” to help her.

        3. HR lady*

          I agree that I’ve observed some people who don’t know how to effectively search. Sadly, this is true of one of my coworkers. He used to ask me everything, and I’ve now trained him to search first before asking me, but he still comes to me after searching. I’ll try a simple search when he’s standing there, find the answer immediately, and he’ll say “oh, wow, I didn’t search for that.”

          Interestingly, I’ve also found that a lot of people DON’T know that Google searches are much better than many other website/software searches. They expect the website search engines to be the same — e.g., to find words even if misspelled, or to find results with multi-word/sentence searches “how do I find the legal limit for mileage reimbursement,” etc. Many search engines within websites/software/Help can’t handle that stuff the way Google can, even if they say “search powered by Google” (in my experience).

          I think non-Google search engines are getting better, but I’ve stood next to various coworkers while they put stuff in search boxes that will never work and then they assume it doesn’t exist. (And then they tell me, “see, I couldn’t find it! That’s why I asked you.”)

          Google search is amazingly good :)

          1. Amy*

            This isn’t really the same thing, but I’ve met several people who don’t seem to understand that an email address has to be typed exactly as-is to work. I’ll ask what someone’s email is and they’ll say “oh it’s john doe at” and later when it gets returned to me I’ll learn it was really

      2. Jen in RO*

        I should have printed that out for a former team who were amazed at my “extensive knowledge” (read: Google skills).

      3. Fiona*

        I want to hang this comic in my office, but my ability to do this is what makes everyone in my office think I’m a tech rock star and I probably shouldn’t give away my secret. :D

    1. Ollie*

      I took the use of “millennials” to refer to the employees being young. You’d think young people would know to look stuff up online themselves first instead of asking.

      I’m young myself and I find it odd when people ask me questions that I just end up googling for them. (I’ve become the go to “tech” person even though I don’t have a tech background–I’m just good at playing with things, figuring things out and finding information.)

      I think I’ll start using Alison’s “What have you tried so far to find the answer?” response!

      1. Lacey*

        I think its probably a totally inoffensive use of the word millenials, but OP might not use it again now they know it can cause offence.

        I had a room mate once who always used to ask me how to spell words. I eventually answered d-i-c-t-i-o-n-a-r-y and she got the idea.

        I’m training my children (8 and 10) to always try and figure out the answer themselves, because they do exactly this – ask before making even a token attempt to find out the answer. Its almost like they’re thinking out loud – “I wonder how to do this” – but not quite, because they are legitimately expecting a response. I have turned into a slight pain in the derriere about this now, and just won’t give them an answer without testing what they’ve done to figure it out.

        Hopefully by the time they’ve joined the workforce it has sunk in a little.

        1. Lindsay J*

          My mom always did this to me. If I asked how to spell something, or for information about something, she would say “Look it up.”

          I got frustrated when I was younger because I felt like she just didn’t want to take the time to help me. Nowadays I’m grateful for her, though, because I can see how it helped me learn to be self sufficient from a young age. I’m amazed at how many of my peers just accept that they don’t know how to do something, or feel that they need somebody to personally show them, rather than just taking the 2 minutes to look it up online.

          1. Chinook*

            I used to put into students to the dictionary when they asked how to spell something until one of them pointed out they couldn’t find it if they couldn’t spell it. I then changed my strategy to giving them the first 3 letters and the dictionary. Maybe the employees need to. Be told what phrase to use in Google?

            1. Tina*

              Ha, I always wondered that! How were you supposed to look it up if you didn’t have some basic sense of how to spell it?

              1. iseeshiny*

                Luckily with google these days you only need an approximate spelling and it generally know what you’re looking for. Technology ftw.

              2. Anonymous*

                I’ve never understand that complaint. How many possible letters can a given word start with? Even with the mess that is English phonics, usually only one or two, and not more than five. Part of the point of looking a word up in the dictionary is that you’re going to be exposed to extra words in the search for the word you want to define or spell, which teaches you the spellings and definitions of more words.

                1. Chinook*

                  I agree that it never dawned on me that you can’t look something up in a dictionary (and most of the kids were just looking for an excuse to be lazy), but certain learning disabilities do make it harder and I saw this as a way to met them half way. If they made the attempt and stull couldn’t find it, then I would show them.

                  From a student’s perspective, I am annoying and I love it!

                  BTW as the go-to office guru in the office, I always tell people to come to me if something that should take 5 minutes is taking longer. That way, they have made the attempt and I am showing them a shortcut.

          2. ChristineSW*

            My mom always did this to me. If I asked how to spell something, or for information about something, she would say “Look it up.”

            My husband sometimes does that to me. I grew up in the 80s–before Google and other search engines–so it’s just now becoming a bit more natural for me to look things up online.

          3. ThursdaysGeek*

            My dad did something similar on long car trips when we asked “are we almost there?” He’d reply with something like “it’s a 500 mile trip and we have been travelling at 55 mph for 6 hours. There have been breaks and will be more, so the effective rate is less than 55 mph. About how many hours longer will it take?”

            Answer a question with a story problem and you either learn how to figure it out yourself, or you quit asking. :)

            1. smallbutmighty*

              Off-topic, but tangentially relevant: My dad kept me occupied in the car on long trips by telling me we’d get to a certain place in around the time it would take me to count (silently, in my head) to a particular number. He had the uncanny ability to get pretty close, and sometimes spot-on. (I sometimes wonder now if he found it interesting to try to choose a correct number.) He’d say, “We’ll hit the outskirts of Chicago in around the time it takes you to count to 1,213, and then it’ll take about 412 more to get to Clare’s house.”

        2. Lindsay E*

          I’m the OP – and definitely didn’t realize it might be taken offense to, so totally appreciate this whole thread! I was always taught to look it up too, so it’s so helpful to hear everyone’s feedback!

      2. Amy*

        I’ve coached the people I supervise to tell me what they think the answer is before I answer their question. Often doing the exercise of thinking of the answer eliminates their need to ask me at all.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      I figured it was in there because millennials are also frequently characterized as having grown up in an increasingly digital world — so OP would expect that they’re already pretty savvy with search-fu.

      1. Lindsay J*

        Honestly, knowing that the individuals in question changed my perception of the situation a little bit.

        I feel like I would have more patience with an older individual who was asking what I felt were simple questions about computer programs, vs somebody my age or younger asking.

        1. E*

          I agree with that. I work with older people who are lovely and really don’t understand how to google things. I think it’s a fair assumption that my generation (I just turned 27) knows how to look for Microsoft Word tips online.

          I use a fairly complicated database and sometimes I do ask my boss about how to do things, but that’s generally after the simpler way of looking for a solution and before the more complicated way (contacting product support). I always frame it as “I can’t figure this out, and I can contact support, but I wanted to check first in case you know it, because I feel like there’s a simple trick I’m missing”.

          1. Trillian*

            But where digital = socially networked, the usual approach is to ask the person or people in your network most likely to know – including those most adept at search. Social-fu supplants Google-fu.

              1. Anon*

                That’s a really good point, about using your social function instead of finding the answer yourself.

                I often have students email me to ask where my office is located. But I don’t answer the phone or emails while I’m in meetings, which is most of the day, so it’s actually quicker and easier to find the answer on the campus map, which is easily accessible to everyone on the website. I’ve always been puzzled as to why they thought emailing me was easier. Trillian’s comment may have explained that for me!

                1. some1*

                  Yup. I’m in my 30’s, and have a FB friend who is constantly posting questions she could easily Google, like, “Does anyone know how late Target stays open on Sunday?” or “Does anyone know if there’s a DMV near Outer Ring Suburb?”

                2. TL*

                  @some1: has no one sent here a “here, let me google that for you” link yet?

                  Because that’s what happens on my FB thread when someone gets a bit too annoying with those questions.

                3. some1*

                  @ TL, I totally would but I don’t think she’d get it. once she posted, “Is anyone having issues with their hotmail account today? I can’t log in to mine for some reason.” and I replied, “Because it’s not 1998?” and she just replied, “What?”

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Hah, I do that a lot–if I can’t find the answer on my own, I ask in my chat room or on G+ or facebook. Someone almost always knows what to tell me.

              One time, a chat friend got that horrible ransomware with the fake FBI page that locked up his computer. He got in chat elsewhere, and a tech-savvy chatter gave him instructions on how to clear it. I copied and saved those just in case.

            2. Ollie*

              I’m wondering if it’s Zipf’s Law (the principle of least effort) that’s occurring. It’s easier to ask someone than to find it yourself.

              It’s good to be comfortable with using your network as a resource, but it’s also good to learn how to find things yourself using non-people resources so you can become more self-sufficient. There should be a balance. :]

              1. HR lady*

                Ollie, I often think the same thing. I’m not sure if it’s fair or not, but I think of someone as lazy (or trying to use the least amount of effort) if they haven’t tried to find the answer themselves first.

                I’m a big fan of self-sufficiency :)

                1. fposte*

                  Though I will actually ask my staff for an answer rather than digging for where I put the info sometimes, because it costs the organization less overall if I’m lazy in that way.

              2. Mephyle*

                Lightbulb moment! Maybe that’s why I would so often rather search for an answer myself – my google-fu and my map-fu are usually better than my social-fu.

                1. Ollie*

                  Me too! It (usually) takes less effort for me to find/figure out something myself than to go through the trouble of asking someone and possibly waiting because I’m wired to want to be self sufficient and just get things done. Though I recognize there are situations where it is faster or better to just ask (as fposte pointed out).

              3. Jamie*

                Yes, balance.

                It’s like if one of my kids comes to me and says they can’t find something. If they say they looked X, Y, and Z and have I seen it I’m happy to get up and help look.

                But I’m not going to get off the couch to see if their shoes are in their closet…they have to put in some effort.

                1. Fiona*

                  Ditto this.
                  “I can’t find my Whatsis.”
                  “Did you look here, here or here?”
                  “Go look, and then talk to me.”

                2. HRAnon*

                  Agreed. I finally broke my son of this habit at around age 11 by answering very seriously in the vein of: “Well, the last time I wore your shoes I think I left them on the porch.” After much eye-rolling and mmmoommm-ing, he stopped asking unless he had put in some effort and really needed help :)

      2. Neeta*

        It still takes a bit of experience to learn the “proper way” to search for what you need.

        I’ve always thought of myself as pretty tech-savvy, yet it took me a while to find the best way to construct my “question” on Google, when I started to work.

        It brings to mind this funny comic I saw somewhere, of how different people Google the same problem.
        The expert was trying something like “overheating issues with laptop brand”.
        The newcommer instead tried “OMG my laptop’s too hot what am I going to do?!”

    3. Anon*

      I had to chuckle at the millennial bit because I’m a millennial with a 50-something boss and I wish she would google things sometimes instead of asking me! But you can’t ask your boss what she tried first before asking you how to send a group email.

      1. Mia E*

        Agree, I think this is an issue that occurs regardless of generation. I get asked tons of computer questions before people try anything just because I’m one of the youngest in the office.

      2. Ollie*

        I actually liked the response “What have you tried to find the answer so far?” because it can be interpreted as helping you help them in a way. Like, “What have you tried to find the answer so far (so I’ll know where not to look when I search for an answer myself).”

        Though I understand not wanting to ask that to a boss if it’s a simple question.

        1. CC*

          Not only that, but if they have already done some research it prevents this:

          “All you have to do is X”

          “I already tried that.”

          “Then do Y”

          “I tried that too.”

          When I have to ask a question I’ll often try to head that exchange off by including X and Y that I’ve already tried right in my question. That tends to make the question itself long, however. (This may have been drilled into me by the internet saying RTFM at me way back when the internet was young.)

          1. Ollie*

            I do that too! I don’t think it makes the question too long.

            “I’m not sure how to do x. I already tried doing [this] and I Googled x-search-terms, but I haven’t been able to figure it out. Do you have any suggestions?”

            1. CC*

              Depending on how much research you did and how many things you tried before asking, it could be a *very* long question. :)

              1. Ollie*

                Oh dear. Well, a *very* long question is better than a *very* long back-and-forth conversation of what you did, right? I feel like if I kept pointing out that I already did x, y, z, etc. as someone was giving me suggestions, they might start to get frustrated. Saying “I already did that” repeatedly kind of has a know-it-all or duh-of-course-I-tried-that vibe, if that makes sense.

        2. Cassie*

          Yeah, that question doesn’t work so well with a boss. If I asked my boss that, he would probably just stare at me and ask “I was supposed to try something before calling you?”

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Anon, your boss might absorb spoken concepts better than written concepts.
        It could be that she understands you better than the instructions on her screen.
        You can try a couple things:

        When she asks you to find an answer and you stumble across something actually cool to read- share that with her. “hey, in the process of looking for your answer as to how hot x material should be heated to, I found this handy chart for a number of materials. Let me show you what I found and how I got it.”
        [This works when you absolutely KNOW the boss will be thrilled with your findings.]

        The other thing you can do is when you catch her doing something the slow awkward way then say “hey, want to see an easier way of doing that?”
        [Here timing is important. Make sure she is doesn’t have a meeting in five minutes or her phone isn’t ringing off the hook.]

        If your boss is a jerk, then just ignore me here.

    4. Office Mgr*

      I am a millenial that has managed other millenials and I have run into this problem too. I am very resourceful and will look for answers on my own and view asking someone as a last resort.

      I don’t think it’s an age thing, because my 65+ boss is always asking me how to do simple things that concern outlook, excel, and printing. I enjoy helping her but there are times that I tell her that I usually do a google search to find that stuff out. I enjoy helping because it makes me look good and I only tell her that out of concern that she might need something and I won’t be at my desk right when she needs it. I just think some people aren’t as resourceful as others. In the case with my boss it is probably just the digital divide. But it may be more common among millenials.

      1. TL*

        Yeah, a few of my friends in college couldn’t work the Microsoft Office Suite to save their life, which shocked the heck out of me. They had to to take the baby computer class and then they considered themselves experts. (They were not. Being able to use Excel as a substitute for a calculator does not equal expertise.)

        The number of people who can’t do basic computer things, of all ages, continues to surprise me.

      2. Cassie*

        I don’t think it’s an age thing either. I have a coworker who is about one year older than me and he’ll ask me stuff because it’s easier than to figure it out himself. If I’m not around, though, then he becomes the go-to tech person. And sometimes I’ll get lazy and ask him rather than looking it up myself. (Okay, honestly, I usually ask AND look it up myself, just to make sure the answers I get are the same).

    5. amp2140*

      That bothered me too. As a millennial myself, I’m the quickest to find the answer myself in the office. I don’t think it’s because I’m a millennial, but because that’s how I am.

      My boss on the other hand, had me drive across site to show him how to do a bullet point in PowerPoint.

  4. Mimi*

    #5, I get a lot of cover letters from applicants who claim to be a “perfect fit” for a position….and they usually aren’t. Is there another phrase you could use?

    1. A Nonny*

      The cover letter should *show* whether or not the applicant is a perfect fit, by highlighting relevant experience and achievements. The writer shouldn’t have to *tell* the hiring manager that.

    2. Ash*

      I usually say “I believe my skills and experience are an excellent match for what you’re seeking” or something like that. I’m not saying I’m “it” but saying I think I’d be a good fit for the position

    3. Marcy*

      Plus just about every applicant for the same position puts that phrase or one like it in their cover letter. Usually when I see that, I think to myself “I’ll be the judge of that”. I would rather see them use the cover letter to show me that they are a perfect fit, great match, whatever. I don’t want them to tell me they are. They don’t know enough about the job to know that yet.

  5. hamster*

    OP2, i find you need to take a dirrect aproach on this. At my previous job, the departments were over-populated, and there were a lot of processes and trainings and security stuff. I did not have rights to do most things, and instead i opened different kinds of tickets to get approval/confirmation/action to get things done. At my current job it’s entirely different. Here, we’re
    expected to keep the systems up no matter what. I have a lot more ownership on the systems/procedures and also a lot more possibilities to approach a problem. In the beginning I was mostly scared to go on my own and i would ask one of my peers ( you could call him my mentor here on the job). I guess at one point he got fed up and told me. What do you think I would do? And then i got thinking this/that . He said ok, i trust you can do the same. Try that and see what happens. Of course i had to take multiple approaches to problem solve, but he stood firm on letting me do it end-to-end. i am grateful for it.

  6. A Nonny*

    Re #2:
    I’ve been the newbie who wants to run to the boss with every little question, but I also found that I was a lot more resourceful about finding the answer myself when said boss wasn’t around :)

    From the other side, I’ve also been the “expert” that everyone asks, although usually they are my peers rather than my reports. Often I don’t know the answer, but I might say something like “hmm, I’ve never done that myself, but I think I’d start by googling X and Y.”

    1. Missy*

      It’s definitely not just Millenials — I’m right in the middle age range in an office that goes from 20-somethings to 60-somethings. And all of them come to me with their computer questions.

      My standard response, if I don’t know how to fix their problem: “This sounds like a time to consult with Dr. Google.” And yet, even if we look things up online and discover an easy answer in the first couple of results, the next time they have a computer problem, they still come back to me. I guess these birds, you cannot change.

  7. Dan*


    Keep in mind that on top of AAM’s comments, you have taxes and SSI to think about as well. Presuming you’re in the 25% bracket and live in a 5% state like Virginia, you’re lookin at paying about 38% of that $8k in taxes and SSI. That leaves you with about $413/mo net. I realize that is not nothing. What do you spend on gas? For a “long” commute, $200/mo or so isn’t outrageous. That leaves you with $200, which isn’t a ton.

    1. Daisy*

      The $8000 is the difference between the salary in the ad and the OP’s offer, not the salary itself.

    2. Claire*

      Yes it’s important to consider this but also consider you future earning potential. If you start at $8000 less now, that will impact all your raises going forward. It’s risky to take lower pay just because of taxes due to the long term impact.

      1. Dan*

        My point is that an $8000 difference in salary isn’t an $8000 difference in your bank account. There are other things that come in to play too, like 401k match.

        But money isn’t everything. I’d trade a marathon commute for a shorter one and a small pay cut. My vehicles, for instance, last decades because I have shorter than average commutes. That’s worth quite a bit, actually.

      2. Julie*

        I wonder if the difference between the stated salary range and the offered salary was intentional so that the OP would have lower expectations while negotiating.

        Also, is it possible that the number the OP was offered was within the stated range but just not the number the OP was hoping for?

    3. Artemesia*

      When the offer is less than the range suggested in the ad, a candidate would be a fool not to say “When I applied for this position the range was listed as X to Y, so I am surprised to have an offer so far below X. Although I would love to work for Teapots Inc., I cannot leave my current job for a position that pays less than X. Is it possible to meet that?”

      Frankly, I don’t think it matters that commuting costs are not required or you need fewer new clothes or whatever — to be lowballed after they advertised a higher salary is an insult or a vote of no confidence in the candidate’s skills. I wouldn’t work for a company that wouldn’t offer me the minimum salary they have already advertised for a position.

      The initial salary locks in the rest of your salary at that place. when I took my first post PhD job, the salaries were very low; I negotiated $500 more than the similarly qualified peer who began at the same time. Year after year as we moved up in salary the net difference became huge. At one point we had 30% raises after a merger to bring our salaries into line with the new company. And my 30% was significantly more than his after several years of % raises that amplified that original $500.

      1. Anonymous*

        #4 – what is probably happening here is —

        a) they lured you into the interview cycle based on a range.
        b) you are the *one* they want.
        c) they pulled the salary range off the table
        d) they now are offering you less money than you expected — and they very likely know that. This is a common practice – it’s called “lowballing”.
        e) they are gauging to see if you are in a desperate situation, trying to get out of it, and if you’re willing to accept less.

        Unless you’re about to lose your current situation – do what Artemisia recommends – go back, “that’s not what I expected and I can’t afford to leave here for what you’re offering.”

        Gauge THEIR reaction. If they stick to their guns, or try to tell you how great they are, or how you’re making a mistake – cut them off — tell ’em – “what I said stands.”

        After you hang up one of two things is gonna happen.

        a) Nothing. In which case, you’ve lost nothing but time wasted.

        b) They’ll come back with a second offer. It might be a little lower than you expect – but it might also be acceptable.

        If this happens to you – it’s not a red flag – but a yellow caution light. A BRIGHT yellow light — it means that may have to take extreme means in the future to get ahead, or to get a fair increase. If you can handle that, then if b) happens, you might consider accepting it. Or you might not. YMMV.

        1. TechGirl*

          I asked the question, and here is what I did. (All of this happened by coincidence)

          I called the hiring manager for the purposes of negotiating the salary. She said she had been trying to reach me. I informed her that I absolutely cannot have my cell phone on during the day because it is STRICTLY forbidden at my job. She asked me where I worked, I told her where I am currently employed and what position I hold. I really thought the call dropped or she had hung up on me. The phone line went completely silent. She said they were not aware I was currently working, or where I was working, or what I doing at my current job? This is totally NOT cool. I have gone to 4 interviews, sent in an application, a resume, and a cover letter. I included all of my work history in my resume. Yet, this company didn’t know I was currently employed? Which brings me to my point, what else did they miss on my resume? Did they miss the part where I paid for all my own certifications, and took them on my own time? Did they miss my degree? Did they miss the rest of my work history?

          I was prepared for and they asked the most abstract questions during the interview. I was not prepared for them to not have even glanced at my resume.

          I am scheduled to speak with them today about the position. I had to ask to call them back today. I was so thrown off my game by knowing they didn’t read my resume, I had to ask to call them back today. I don’t think I want to work for them.

    4. Vicki*

      Also, it’s not just gas (if you drive). The 2013 IRS mileage allotment was 56.5 cents per mile for business miles driven.

      If you take public transit, factor in the time as well as the cost.

      And finally, when you go back to negotiate, it seems fair (to me) to say “When the job was initially posted and I applied for it, the posted salary was $XX. This offer is $8,000 lower than $XX.” and go from there. It may help that they realize that you’re negotiating back to something they originally had in writing.

    1. Windchime*

      That seems a little harsh. I’ve been in the situation where I’ve had a toddler in my cube while mommy is off socializing. I stopped a little toddler from getting into a cupboard where a big cake knife was stored while his mother visited. I obviously didn’t want this little child to hurt himself, but I am not being paid to babysit other people’s kids….I’m paid to do the work my employer wants me to get done. (But please keep bringing new babies and puppies to work to show off, because I like that).

      1. Vicki*

        Same here. Bring the puppies, (but, for me, leave the kids at home. :-)

        And please, don’t ask me if I’d like to hold your baby. I would not.

    2. Jen in RO*

      I’m only antisocial with kids, and I try to avoid them in my personal life, unless they belong to my close friends. Shock horror, not everyone likes kids! :o
      I don’t go to work to socialize with children and I’m pretty sure that’s a normal thing.

      1. Anne 3*

        I’m the same – I certainly don’t want to have to entertain or watch someone’s kid at work. But I’m wondering why the OP bypasses a polite greeting and getting back to work, and goes straight to “I don’t care about your kid!”. I don’t care about lots of stuff my co-workers love, but I wouldn’t outright tell them that.

        1. Jen in RO*

          I agree, I was replying to Jen specifically. In OP’s case, there definitely isn’t a way to politely say “take that kid away from me”. I’ve never had coworkers that went overboard – the only kids I saw at work were newborns, everyone else loved seeing them, so I could remove myself after 5 minutes. I don’t know how I’d deal with a toddler left to his/her own devices…

          1. Anne 3*

            It depends on the toddler, I guess? I would have no issue with a little kid sitting somewhere quietly, coloring or doing a puzzle or whatever. I would have an issue with a kid running around crying or screaming (that sound just pierces my eardrums, I’d go insane) and in that case I’d ask the parent to either calm the kid down or take them out of the office. OP didn’t really give much information about what the kid is doing around the office, but poking around/playing doesn’t sound like it’d be too distracting.

            1. Windchime*

              The toddlers who visit at my office are generally only there for a little while and most of the time are supervised. They’re not distracting ( to me) in the sense that the run around and scream, but our workplace is not toddler-proof so there are things like computers, cords, scissors, and all kinds of unsafe yet attractive items.

              Most of the time, I like seeing little ones in the office. It doesn’t happen often and it breaks up the day. But I don’t want to entertain your child, and I don’t want to listen to him sing while he kicks the cubicle wall between my cube and mommy’s cube.

            2. Zelos*

              Yeah, but it doesn’t take very much for a toddler to go from “quiet” to “scream his/her head off”. They’re toddlers with poor impulse control.

              I transit, and I’ve lost count of how many times a outing/bus ride/dinner at a restaurant went from 0 to 600 on the decibel scale because something upset the toddler. Sure, not the toddler’s fault per se–that’s why they’re toddlers–but at work? I would definitely not be happy with that.

        2. Rayner*

          Might be because the coworker has had it up to here with the constant irritations and interruptions (especially if they have deadlines or tight productivity/quality goals to meet), or they may not have much patience for kids overall. Some people don’t – particularly not in a workplace.

        3. Anonymous*

          I was thinking the same thing. Why is it appropriate to skip the normal pleasantries because the person in question is a child? My coworkers are always talking about junk I don’t care about like mamagrams or their dogs peeing on stuff and I just say, “Well, good luck with that. I gotta get something finished before lunch. Bye!”

          1. Jamie*

            I wouldn’t watch someone else’s kids at work and I totally get the disruption that unsupervised kids pose…but I’m with anonymous wondering why the pleasantries are an issue.

            If you’re walking to the parking lot and someone points out their new car with which they are clearly pleased I say “cool, nice car.” Even if I wouldn’t choose it and without doing consumer research to see if indeed it’s nice in anyway.

            It’s just social filler.

            You can wave at the baby, smile, and not even break stride. A greeting doesn’t mean you have to hold it and look for it’s binky when it gets all squirmy.

            Regarding people expecting the OP and others to keep an eye on their kids, I’d treat an unacompanied child wandering into my office the way I’d treat a lost penguin or ticking bomb…I’d get up and find the person responsible for corralling said distraction and make it clear – in a polite and friendly tone – that I expect them to police their own issues.

            (although tbh I’d totally keep the penguin, adopt him as my very own, and built him a penguin dream house under my desk.)

              1. Vicki*

                I found this lost penguin. What should I do with him?

                Take him to the zoo.

                Next day…
                I thought you were taking that penguin to the zoo?

                I did. We had so much fun. Tomorrow, we’re going to the park.

            1. fposte*

              Anybody remember Bill Forsyth’s Gregory’s Girl? There’s a little kid (presumably a kid) in a penguin costume who wanders through the school, with nobody ever commenting on it.

      2. Kou*

        Someone once asked a friend why she doesn’t like kids and she said, very gravely, “Because they are irrational.”

        She was trying to be funny but it actually explained to me why I get so VERY edgy when someone lets their small child run around unsupervised (at work or otherwise)– I’m worried about the kid not being watched because who knows what the heck they’ll do? Kids are crazy, man. They’re unpredictable and if the parent isn’t watching them I feel like I need to be, which isn’t something I should have to be doing at work. The OP seems extra angry, but I think the overall idea of wishing you could warn your coworkers off letting the kids loose assuming someone will have an eye on them is pretty reasonable.

        Or, what I bet is more likely, the parents know the kid is probably not going to need a constant eye– some kids are plenty trustworthy for this situation. But I sure a heck don’t know that just because I sit near-ish you at work, you know?

      3. Vicki*

        Same here. Bring the puppies, but leave the kids at home. :-)

        And please, don’t ask me if I’d like to hold your baby. I would not.

    3. Poe*

      I don’t think this is totally fair. I worked for a place with onsite daycare, and parents would regularly go get their kids then come back to the office with them for a while to avoid the “late pickup” fees. Know what? Just because I have an open cube and work at the front counter does not mean I want little Stevie drawing with pens and highlighters on paper he pulls out of the recycle bin by my desk. Some people are not kid people, and some people are “get my work done without interruption” people, and some people are neither, but that doesn’t mean you can bring your kid around and expect people to be thrilled day after day. I wouldn’t want to coo over your new boyfriend or your mom, either. Just because it’s little does not make it more interesting to me.

      Whew, sorry about that. The whole kid-daycare thing really pissed me off at that place. Bonus points when the daycare would come on a “field trip” by all the offices their parents worked at to say hello and collect stickers.

      1. Chris80*

        “I wouldn’t want to coo over your new boyfriend or your mom, either. Just because it’s little does not make it more interesting to me.”

        +1000 on this…I’m really not a “kid person”. Saying I don’t care about your kid doesn’t quite fit my situation. It’s more like I don’t know what to do with your kid so please don’t ever leave me alone with him/her! When you bring your baby/kid into work, I’ll be happy to smile and say she’s cute and that I think she has your nose, but I’m really not interesting in holding her or being responsible for her. The cooing gene completely bypassed some of us.

      2. Cat*

        I feel like maybe you should be directing blame at the company that was constantly making people work after hours.

        1. fposte*

          I don’t think it’s necessarily that the people had to work after hours; it’s that day care hours and office hours don’t always coincide.

          1. Cat*

            Really? My understanding is that most daycares run in the vicinity of 8-6pm for precisely that reason.

            1. fposte*

              Some do, but 8-6 isn’t always office hours, and people working other hours aren’t necessarily doing it because management is cruelly cracking the whip.

              1. Cat*

                I don’t disagree, but I’ve never been in an office with long hours where parents don’t occasionally end up bringing in kids. It shouldn’t be a day-to-day thing, obviously, but if you’re going to expect people to be there after hours, occasionally something is going to come up and someone is going to have to bring a kid in. If you’re someone who hates having kids in the office, it would behoove you to avoid somewhere with that kind of overtime, I think.

                (Okay, I’m sure there are also really formal and corporate environments where the idea of bringing your child in is verboten and you’re expected to give your all regardless. I would argue those end up being a lot more toxic on balance.)

                1. fposte*

                  I probably agree when you’re talking white collar office jobs, depending on what you mean by “bringing in”–there’s a difference between the occasional contained appearance and coming in and parking the kid.

                  But yes, there are plenty of jobs where you really wouldn’t bring a kid in, and plenty of them involve people working other hours than 8-6, and it doesn’t necessarily mean overtime or brutal expectations–it’s just the nature of the job.

                2. Cat*

                  Yes, that is true – I am assuming white collar office jobs where there’s no security limitations or whatnot. I do think a lot of those other jobs are actually pretty brutal and parents who hold them are often put in pretty awful positions, but that is a result of a lot of societal factors that go far beyond the scope of this job.

                3. AdAgencyChick*

                  Given that my industry is known for long and unpredictable hours, I appreciate that my company is one that doesn’t mind if you bring in a kid occasionally. I don’t have kids myself, but I do appreciate that when/if it happens, I’ll be able to bring them in in a pinch.

                  That being said, I don’t EVER want to be in an environment of “our village will raise your child.” Bring your kid in, and he’s watching videos in the conference room and not bothering anyone? Great. Bring your kid in, and she’s racing down the hallways on her scooter knocking people down like bowling pins? Not okay.

                  I can’t blame OP for not wanting to deal with them. If I’m a parent, it’s my job to make sure little Johnny stays put, not my coworker’s job to get him to stop wandering into her cube and distracting her.

            2. Judy*

              The daycares my kids have been in have all started between 6-6:30am and closed between 6-6:30pm. Of course, we’re in flyover country, and most of the white collar people work earlier hours than on the east coast, simply to sync our hours with them. (Our corporate office “standard” hours are 8:30-5 with 30 minute lunch. Our location “standard” hours are 7:30-4 with 30 minute lunch. Plus we support production that first shift runs 6:30-3.)

              1. Betsy*

                That sounds like a dream. The absolute best I can get for before and after school care for my kids (meaning a place that is in my town and thus on the bus route) starts at 7:30 and ends at 5:30. Since my commute is 30 minutes in zero traffic, and there is NEVER zero traffic, I need to either stagger drop-offs and pickups with my spouse, find “bridge care” (someone who can pick them up from daycare), pay a babysitter to watch only my kids, or work a day that is shorter than 8-5PM.

    4. James M*

      On a scale from Charming Cherub Child to Diapered Devil of Destruction, I’m guessing that OP1’s “situation” tends towards the latter. No employee should become a de facto daycare deputy.

      1. AdAgencyChick*


        Reminds me of the time the head honcho brought in three of her incredibly rambunctious children and let them roam for a day. One of them was definitely a DDD who latched on to me and would not let me stop playing ball with him. I think he knew his mom could have me fired. :P

    5. Mike C.*

      Ugh, you’re that parent who lets their kid ran around screaming and then rolls your eyes at anyone who complains, right? “Relax” you say, “I deal with this all day long, you can put up with it for a few minutes. Besides, you’ll understand better when you have kids of your own”.

      Telling people who are being imposed on to “relax” is really patronizing.

      1. Cat*

        Oh come on, I don’t have kids (nor am I going to any time soon), and yet I think someone who goes straight to “I don’t care to meet your child” needs to relax.

          1. Anne 3*

            It doesn’t even sound like the OP has been asked to entertain/watch the kid, though. She mentions 1) a coworker bringing in a mobile kid who roams the office, and the coworker “half-expecting” the other women to watch the kid – doesn’t sound like the coworker outright asked OP to watch the kid, so OP should feel no obligation to even decline, she can just get back to work. (OP does not mention the kid being loud or disruptive, jsut present.) 2) A coworker bringing in a newborn to show people. I doubt anyone is expected to “fawn” over the baby, OP could probably get away with “What a beautiful baby! Congratulations.” and then getting back to work.

            I think OP may be giving this a little too much thought. Treat “meeting the baby” like anything your coworkers bring up that you don’t care about: Polite comment, move on.

            1. Cat*

              Yeah – this is my read. It sounds like the OP might be assuming expectations that aren’t really there.

              1. LMW*

                That’s how I read it too. It was like the OP was asking “how can I avoid having to exhibit a base level of politeness?”

              2. Elizabeth West*

                Oh, I don’t know about that. Having been the single person at many family gatherings/friends’ house parties, church stuff, etc., parents often tend to drift away when they see you engaging the kids or them gravitating to you. They see it as an opportunity to escape for a few minutes. They don’t always come back right away, either!

                So it’s not a blatant “Here, watch her,” while shoving a sticky toddler at you. Many times, it’s Mom disappearing and leaving you with said toddler, and you don’t really want to go off and leave her completely alone, but you’d kind of like to get back to work/get a drink/talk to the good-looking guy in the kitchen, etc. etc.

                Even if you like kids, it gets old.

                1. ExceptionToTheRule*


                  More than once I’ve shown some interest in my cousins’ kids at a family gathering and before you know it, I’m the only one watching them.

                  And God forbid you return the child to its adult because you want to socialize.

                2. Zelos*

                  Yes, this.

                  Just because I’m a warm body close by doesn’t mean I want the responsibility of keeping a side-eye on your kid so the kid doesn’t hurt themselves.

                3. A Bug!*

                  Yeah, I see it happen sometimes myself. Because let’s be practical, here: if I am the closest adult to the unsupervised child of a friend or acquaintance, then there is absolutely some implied responsibility for the kid’s supervision.

                  If kiddo gets hurt or causes a mess while I’m in a position to have prevented it, then it’s not really going to go over well for me to shrug and say “Well, you didn’t ask me to watch your kid. You should have been supervising your kid better.”

                4. Mints*

                  This happens to me too. I like kids, so I wouldn’t actually mind (in casual situations) if a parent is like “would you mind watching baby while I grab a slice of pizza” and I’m like okay, it’s baby watching time, and baby gets 100% of my attention for a little while. But more often, parents see me saying hello to baby, then just leave, and I get anxious, like “oh no who’s watching the baby? Is it me? Should I take the baby to someone else? Should I grab a parent?” Because in those situations, if “everyone” is watching the baby, nobody is. Parents just assume everyone will watch for danger

            2. Mike C.*

              It doesn’t matter if the OP was outright asked to do something, there are many non-verbal ways to indicated that there is an expectation to do something. That includes leaving someone behind who cannot take care of themselves or needs significant supervision to stay safe or simply out of everyone’s hair.

              1. Cat*

                Okay, but the OP did not ask AAM how to say “I don’t want to watch your child.” She asked how to say “I don’t want to meet your child.” The former is legitimate; the second is, as AAM rightly pointed out, a terrible idea and one she needs to back off from.

            3. MaryTerry*

              Sounded to me like the coworker is distracted talking to other coworkers and doesn’t keep track of her kids, who wander.

              I don’t know about you, but (1) my office is not child-proofed. (2) I don’t expect anyone – kids or adults – coming into my cube and picking things up or moving them around. While I might not be expected to watch someone else’s kid, depending on his/her age, I would worry about safety issues, security issues, and privacy issues. Not to mention messing up my stuff.

              Yes, I have had wandering kids go into my drawers, moving important documents, scribbling or erasing my white board, put things in their mouths, threatening to have her dad fire me because he owns the company, dropping food, drink or drool on company documents, wanting to be entertained because they’re bored – while mom finishes her important conversation, etc.

              Visiting babies are easy – it’s the older ones who are a problem

              1. EngineerGirl*

                threatening to have her dad fire me because he owns the company

                There’s only one reply to that statement: “Your father is far, far too much a professional to pull a silly stunt like that.”

                1. Artemesia*

                  I would usher that child right back to the parent with ‘Bobby tells me he is going to have you fire me; I need to get back to work so I am bringing him back to you.’

              2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

                Ugh, yes. Kids are the worst in terms of making a mess just by being alive. If I had a dime for every time I have to re-do the chalk sign at my work because kids like to rake their fingers across it…

                Even if I’m not responsible for watching a kid, I don’t want them rifling thru papers, moving stuff around, getting gross stuff everywhere… and these are all things that you can *generally* expect adults not to do.

                Of course, a polite greeting then immediate departure is ideal. But the IDEALER is for people to not bring their kids into the office.

          2. Jamie*

            TBF Mike, the OP asked how to nicely say she didn’t wish to meet the child.

            No one should have to watch a kid unless it’s your job to do so, but this

            “I don’t care to meet your newborn”

            is more of a statement and less about productivity.

            How many seconds does it take to glance in a general direction > say “awww…how cute” > and get back to work. 3?

        1. Sunflower*

          A lot of people in my office have young children and are always showing them off. Maybe OP is fed up because people are bringing their children in and expecting their co-workers to ooh and ahh over them. I work in a small office and when someone brings a baby in, everyone gets up and looks at the baby and coos over it. I’ve seen parents get offended if someone doesn’t get up from their desk to admire their kid. Maybe OP is tired of putting on that show so she would rather just ignore the children.

          1. Cat*

            Honestly, I think this is an extension of a principle that I think smooths over a lot of office issues: just because these people aren’t your friends and you don’t care about them doesn’t mean you’re excused from doing the bare minimum to pretend you do. This means you: (1) coo over their baby for a few seconds; (2) coo over their engagement ring and ask about the proposal: (3) coo over the picture of their new puppy; (4) ask about the vacation they just returned from, etc. None of these things need to be long or stressful interactions, but you do need to suck it up and do it even though you don’t care (seriously, most of us don’t care) or you need to accept being the weird co-worker who won’t do the bare minimum to observe obligatory social conventions. It is what it is.

            1. fposte*

              I was thinking about this last night, and thinking that I don’t put oil in my car because I’m excited about it or because oil is meaningful to me, I do it because it’s necessary to keep the thing moving. There are social interchanges like that.

            2. Anne 3*

              Exactly! This is what I’m trying to convey as well. It takes a lot less effort to just make a polite comment & move on than to come up with ways to avoid any interaction with your coworker & whatever it is they have going on that you don’t care about. I imagine the office athmosphere will be better for it, as well.

              1. DeMinimis*

                This is how I feel about it too, although I can see how it might get tiring if kid-related interruptions were a regular thing.

            3. Dang*

              +1000. I am not at all a kid person (to the point where it’s almost awkward for me to be around them() but they are obviously a large part of coworkers lives and I don’t resent hearing about them or interacting with them for a few minutes. Watching them is obviously another story, but we don’t know that’s what’s going on here.

            4. Sunflower*

              I totally agree with you. I read a couple months ago on AAM how some things in the work world just are the way they and people should spend more time adjusting to the ways things are instead of how they think they should be. This can be a hard idea for some people to accept and it sounds like OP wanted to be on the ‘how things should be side’ more.

            5. ellex42*

              I was in the situation of having a parent be massively offended because I didn’t coo over or want to hold her infant adopted daughter. I’m not fond of children, and even less fond of infants; the entire office had a huge backlog of work that we were struggling to catch up with; I had very little contact with that particular coworker to begin with; and I’d been out sick the previous day and only dragged myself in because of that huge backlog, and was trying to avoid everyone to minimize the risk of passing on whatever illness I had. I still went to the effort of stopping in the doorway of her office to say “congrats, kid looks adorable, I’m so happy the adoption finally went through.” She tried to hand the baby to me, I stepped back and explained that I had a cold, and I left. The next day I found out that she’d complained to everyone about how rude I’d been.

              I’d consider this an isolated incident if I hadn’t been in other, similar situations: telling parents that I’m not comfortable holding babies but the kid is adorable, or telling parents that their kid is so cute and looks just like them, but I’ve got lots of work to do and really need to get back to it. And I still got nasty comments about being unsociable/a kid-hater.

              1. Sunflower*

                Regardless of illness or work load, no one should ever be required to hold someone’s baby. Period. Why people want to hand their baby off to someone who clearly doesn’t want to hold it will forever baffle my mind.

              2. VintageLydia*

                Those people ARE rude and as far as I’m aware aren’t most parents. Honestly she should have thanked you for trying not to get her baby sick, regardless whether you like kids or not.

              3. Kerry*

                Backlog schmacklog, that woman is an IDIOT for wanting a sick person to hold their infant. Her priorities are out of whack.

              4. JMegan*

                I don’t understand this at all. If someone is not comfortable holding my baby, then I would WANT them to tell me, so I could avoid handing them the baby and making all three of us uncomfortable!

                IME, there are plenty of people in any given office who are more than willing to coo at the baby, hold the baby, whatever. If someone doesn’t like holding babies (or loves holding babies but doesn’t want to today because they have the plague), that’s not a personal judgement on me or my child. Why not leave the interaction to the people who genuinely enjoy it, rather than forcing it on people who don’t?

              5. RQSCanuck*

                I actually think that what you did is actually very respectful not wanting to hold a baby when you are ill. I am perplexed at how that was interpreted as you being rude.

            6. Katie the Fed*

              Ha on (2). I got engaged while on vacation last year and I posted it on Facebook where I am friends with a few coworkers. When I got back it was overwhelming – I’m actually fairly private and hate being the center of attention so I really didn’t want to be cooed over. But it was really sweet :)

            7. amaranth16*

              Exactly. A polite person says “It’s nice to meet you.” Even if you didn’t want to meet the person. Even if the person is a child. If you have work to do, return to your work afterwards. But the laws of politeness don’t stop applying to you just because you don’t like kids.

          2. Judy*

            Maybe it’s just the environment, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a given child in here more than once. It’s a general expectation that babies should come in once to say “hi” at sometime near 2.5 months. This is true of children of male and female staff.

            My kids have been in here a couple of other times, but after hours, when I realize I left something I need for a late night call, and we’re driving past. So pretty much a walk through, grab something and exit.

        2. Vicki*

          I really don’t care to “meet” your child. Or go out to the parking lot and look at your car. Or look at the photos from your vacation. Or comment on the ashtray your kid made in art class.

          There’s a big difference between being introduced (briefly) to a co-worker’s parent, spouse, or adolescent child. “Freddy, this is Barb; she designs the teapot spouts. Barb, this is Fredricka. She plans to study design in college in a few years.”

          The assumption on the part of a parent carting a child around to “meet” the co-workers is that the _co-workers_ will enjoy it. And that’s the root of this letter. This co-worker doesn’t want to play that game.

          People who bring in toddlers should take them straight to their own office space. If anyone wants to “meet” the child, they can come over and do so.

          1. fposte*

            That doesn’t really address the OP’s question, though. She’s asking about what to do when they do bring them. And the answer is you can’t preclude it by saying “I don’t ever want to meet them.”

    6. Bryan*

      Unless your job deals with children, there is absolutely no reason the OP has to deal with them.

      I’ve firmly established myself as a non-kid person so when one of my coworkers brought their’s in they knew I wasn’t going to want to watch/entertain them.

      On a side note kids get brought in semi frequently to my office and it seems weird the parents make them perform tricks like a dog. One had their kid do a wolf howl and make a train whistle sound.

      1. smallbutmighty*

        I’ve also gone the route of establishing myself as a bit of a curmudgeon by confessing that infants terrify me and I never want any kids of my own. (I have stepkids, but I acquired them when they were well old enough to take care of their own bathroom stuff and have intelligent conversations. That’s where the line is for me.)

        I confess that part of my distaste for kids in the workplace is that I’ve found they’re often there (rather than at school) because they’re sick. Because I don’t care to catch whatever they might be carrying, I give all kids a wide berth on the general assumption that they’re vectors of disease.

        I totally understand that parents get in a pinch and occasionally need to bring a kid with the sniffles in to the office briefly so they (the parent) can attend a meeting, grab some files, or whatever. It happens. I’m just not interested in being a participant in any of these arrangements.

    7. Chinook*

      I am far from antisocial (talks to strangers, plays peek-a-boo with kids in line) but I don’t like hanging out with someone else’s kids at work because that is not what I am paid to do (and there have been jobs where that was my job). I have no issue with kids in the workplace when they are nondisruptive, but if they want a babysitter, with all the legal responsibilities, then it is something that needs to be officially designated.

    8. Gjest*

      I think there’s a middle ground between telling the OP to relax, and the OP wanting to tell someone she/he doesn’t want to meet their kid. Both of those responses are kinda rude.

      Alison’s answer is good- be polite, but firmly get back to what you are doing and/or tell the parent you are busy and have to go.

    9. BCW*

      I actually agree with your assessment. If it was just the problem of toddlers bugging you when working, thats valid. But the “I have no desire to meet your newborn” thing is what got me. Its just common courtesy to at least fake it.

      1. Anonymous*

        Newborns make me really nervous and I would prefer to avoid the but even I can handle a thirty second meet the baby. I either say “aww it’s cute” or ” aww it looks just like you”.

        1. Joey*

          Be careful with the “looks just like you”. I’ve been burned twice by that. Once the response was “its nice of you to say that but she’s adopted.” The other time it was “I’m not the biological dad.” Awkward!

            1. Dang*

              My grandma used to say that babies look like Winston Churchill. I can never get that one out of my head when I see one.

              1. Andrea*

                I always think Elmer Fudd. If he wasn’t a cartoon, that is. I’ve never seen one that I thought was cute—they’re all smushed faces and wrinkles and rolls of fat—but I’m aware that I’m in the minority on that. I have managed to stop visibly recoiling when I see one, though. (Most of the time.)

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  I think they’re ALL cute, even the funny looking ones. But that doesn’t mean I want you to park him/her on my desk when I’m supposed to be working!

                  I will absolutely come out and see/wave to/ hold the baby if I get a chance, though. At one job I had, when someone brought an infant in, the cry would go up, “Baby alert!” And everyone would rush out–“Where!?” Was kind of amusing.

          1. Julie*

            I have a friend who is not the biological parent of the child she carried. When people say the baby looks just like her, she just says “thank you.”

            At the same time, if a parent tells you s/he is not the biological parent, I would hope they are just imparting information and not trying to make you feel bad about your comment. If they are, then you can just say how beautiful the baby is because that’s also a compliment to the parent. They can’t really argue with you about it at that point, and maybe it will cause them to realize that people are just making conversation when they comment on the baby’s resemblance to whoever.

            This reminds me of when I was shown a recent picture of my second cousin (who I met once or twice when we were kids), and I said that she and I look alike, and her mother said she was adopted. I just thought that was interesting because I hardly ever find someone who looks like me. I still like that I have a family member who resembles me, even if we’re not biologically related.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              When people say the baby looks just like her, she just says “thank you.”

              This happened to me once in a pizza parlor with an ex’s daughter. I did the same thing and then when the waitress walked away, I had to explain to confused Little Hortense that it was just something people said and it didn’t mean that I was her mother, etc. >_<

            2. ThursdaysGeek*

              My little brother and sister are 6 months apart, with my sister adopted. One was pale and blond, the other brown with black hair. When people would see them they’d first ask if they were twins, and when told that one was adopted, they’d say, “well you can certainly tell which one is adopted — that little girl looks just like her daddy.” Even though she still doesn’t look like the rest of the siblings, she does still look like our dad.

          2. Del*

            The number of times people have told me I look just like my stepmom…! We usually get a good laugh out of it, later on.

            1. Erin*

              My stepsisters and I all look alike (they’re half-sisters to each other so somewhat blood related, but not full sisters) and none of us looks like our respective parents.

              1. Jamie*

                I just watched the new Lifetime movie version of Flowers in the Attic this weekend so let me just say it’s an excellent thing when kids are not identical to each other.

                Or their parents.

          3. fposte*

            Yeah, I’m an adopted kid and I was always told how much I looked like my parents, and nobody cared. It’s not really awkward, it’s just how people look at stuff.

          4. Not So NewReader*

            Nature vs nuture. We do pick up the mannerisms and voice inflections of the people around us.
            You go into a work place where people have been together for a long time and you know you are on the outside looking in.
            Why. They have grown used to each other and in some cases picked up similar gestures or expressions and maybe similar style of dress.
            Casual observers don’t always separate out the things. Instead it registers as “oh they are similar.”

      2. Lizzie*

        Seriously. You seriously can’t look at a coworker’s new family member and smile for 30 seconds? I understand not wanting to babysit, but it takes a real curmudgeon to be unwilling to say hello.

        1. Anonymous*

          I usually say, “Oh, how sweet! But I have a cold and I better stay away.” And then just walk away. I love the babies of friends and family, but at work it is a bit awkward when I have no real connection to that person.

          Ive been in the position of my boss leaving her kid with me and then having the kid cry because he is with a stranger. That I do not understand.

      3. Jamie*

        But the “I have no desire to meet your newborn” thing is what got me. Its just common courtesy to at least fake it.

        This. I mean I almost never have any desire to meet anyone new. Ever. But not all honestly felt emotions should be expressed.

        I have a lot of thoughts which should never be voiced – thank goodness I have a filter.

    10. Lindsay*

      My boss once came in and put his baby in his car seat on my desk and walked off. Really? I couldn’t tell if he was trying to introduce his new baby to me or wanted me to watch the kid. Then when the kid got old enough to walk, my boss would bring him in when the kid was sick and he’d toddle around the office and put office keys in his mouth. I have little tolerance for kids wandering around an office. Sometimes I think when people bring their kids in, they think others will watch them the same way they would. Those kids/parents give other kids/parents a bad rep.

      1. Adam V*

        > My boss once came in and put his baby in his car seat on my desk and walked off

        “Hey boss, I think you forgot something!”

        As far as bringing your kid in when he/she is sick, that’s just wrong. Work from home, call in sick yourself, I don’t care; just get out of here. You’re putting an entire office at risk by doing that. (In this case, the fact that it’s a kid that’s sick is incidental; I can’t stand when sick adults come into the office to save their PTO either.)

        1. Artemesia*

          The bosses chief AA brought her daughter in with chicken pox. The other two secretaries in the office were 1. a young pregnant woman, 2 an elderly woman. They were panic stricken but didn’t feel they could say anything. The boss was out of town.

          Although my role was senior, it was not as their supervisor but I nevertheless told the AA that the child could not be in the office. Chicken pox are incredibly contagious and she was putting the others at risk — especially a pregnant woman. She was not pleased, but she did take the kid home.

          It is outrageous to bring a sick kid into the office where others are working.

    11. OhNo*

      There are a lot of reasons that the OP, and a lot of other people, might really not want to be around kids that have nothing to do with being “uptight” or needing to “relax”. As an example – I could never go to work with my dad when I was very young, because one of his coworkers at the time was on parole, and one of the parole requirements was that he wasn’t allowed to be alone around children.

      I’m not saying that was the OP’s reason by any means, but you don’t have any idea what their reason for not wanting to be around kids is. Maybe they are just uptight, or maybe they are afraid of accidentally hurting a child, or maybe they just really don’t have any idea how to behave around kids, or, hey – maybe they have three kids at home and really look forward to their work being a “child-free zone” where they don’t have to deal with kids for a few hours.

      As someone else has said, if child care isn’t your job, there is no reason why you should be expected to be alright with children around your office.

    12. monologue*

      This comment is too harsh. It’s good to try to socialize a bit at work even if you don’t want to, but socializing with kids at a workplace that’s not a school or daycare shouldn’t be expected.

      Personally I like kids but hate socializing with kids whose parents I don’t know well because the parents often get mad if you do something they think is wrong.

  8. James M*

    OP5: I personally like to end a cover letter by thanking the reader. I don’t draw conclusions for the reader (e.g. “perfect fit”, “ideal candidate”, “your search is over”) or take a subsequent interview for granted. I like to mention “I look forward to hearing from you” (or similar), to suggest that I am confident and optimistic.

      1. IronMaiden*

        I generally say I look forward to hearing from them and thanking them for their consideration. I use “thank you for your consideration” on all correspondence where I ask for people’s time or assistance.

        1. cecilhungry*

          “Thank you for your time and consideration” is pretty much my go-to concluding phrase on all formal letters. I learned it from QueryShark and it has served me well.

          1. Tina*

            On a recent search committee, I reviewed a cover letter that said “I look forward to joining your team.” It annoyed me just as much as “your search is over” would grate on EE (and I don’t like that one either).

  9. Jennifer M.*

    #2 – One of my best managers ever had a clear policy on questions: research it and then come to her if you still had questions. Now in my case we were mainly dealing with the interpretation and application of various government regulations on how we implemented our government contracts, so slightly different. I knew that if I went to her and said “I’ve been review FAR XXX related to Activity XXX and it seems to me that we shouldn’t do that thing we want to do, but am I reading this right?” she would be more than happy to sit down and walk me through it.

    Though as Puffle said in an earlier comment, maybe they are concerned that there is an official policy for some things that they just haven’t been informed of – I know that I find intranets and filing systems on the server vary so dramatically from place to place and I don’t want to be the one that manages to lose all the folders. Setting clear guidelines on what must be done a certain way vs what has room for best judgement may help them navigate the waters better.

  10. Feed Fido*

    I’d cancel dinner first- or bounce a check- or speak to the boss!
    I really can’t fathom hiding in bathroom…
    That said, it is is awful they put an employee in that place to begin with. No one should have to explain their inability to cover a work dinner. Company should pay.

    1. Anonymous*

      OTOH, there was nothing to indicate that the OP couldn’t have submitted the receipt for reimbursement and gotten a check cut before her credit card bill was due. I’m hoping it’s just a misunderstanding

      1. Brett*

        I got the impression that the OP literally could not put the $150 on their credit card; as in they did not have enough limit to do it.

        1. fposte*

          Which happens, but the time to deal with that is when your manager tells you there’s no corporate card, not when the bill comes.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Oh, definitely. Putting off dealing with it until the bill came and the client had to pay=not good. But the initial problem makes sense to me. OP’s best course would have been to tell the boss upfront that s/he didn’t have the money and see what else could be done.

        2. Kelly L.*

          Me too. If this were me, this very morning, I would be in the same boat. I don’t have a credit card, only a debit card, and it doesn’t have enough money on it right now for that expense.

          1. Justaguy*

            OP here. Yes I only have a debit card. I wasn’t told until the day of that I was to get them to pay for my dinner. I would not be reimbursed which is why I was flabbergasted. I think if there is ever a next time. I’ll say no not going to dinner but I’ll pay for drinks on my own dime.

    2. Gjest*

      Yeah, going to the dinner not knowing who/how it was going to get paid, and then hiding in the bathroom…not the best way to handle this situation.

      If I were the manager, I’d be kind of upset that the OP let the clients pay. But the manager deserves some blame for either not being clear that the OP was going to get reimbursed, or if the OP was supposed to pay out of their own pocket and not get reimbursed, then the manager is a jerk.

      1. Lizzie*

        Except that the manager should be able to expect that if instructions are unclear, the employee will ask for clarification.

    3. Erin*

      I don’t know. I’ve had jobs where I didn’t have a corporate card but still had travel etc. The assumption was always that I would pay for my expenses and submit a receipt later on. Or when I did have a corporate card, it didn’t always make sense for billing purposes to put all my expenses on the card. I was expected to put it on my personal card and submit for reimbursement. I think it just never occurred to the employers that any of us might not be able to front the money. And, honestly, $150 is not that much. It’s totally fine that the employee didn’t have that much room on his/her credit card, but that might not have occurred to the boss.

  11. fposte*

    I had an employee like the ones in #2 once. I mentioned the problem to a friend, and she looked at me bemusedly and said, “Did you ever tell her you’d like her to find the answer on her own first before coming to you?” Uh, good point. So tell them you’d like them to seek the answers on their own first.

    I also think some eager employees new to the workforce get focused on the perfectionism thing, so they try really hard to make sure what they’re doing isn’t wrong. They don’t quite get the perspective that relying too much on confirmation and needing additional time from your supervisor and colleagues isn’t right either, so it can be helpful to make expectations clear in that area.

    1. Anonicorn*

      And if it is the perfectionism thing, it might help to explain that finding solutions on their own is a beneficial and important part of learning to do their jobs better. It’s true for me at least.

      1. Lindsay E*

        Hi all, I’m the OP on this one, and I think you’ve nailed it at least for one of my direct reports – she is definitely a perfectionist. I’ll definitely talk more with her about feeling comfortable seeking solutions on her own.

        1. Sara M*

          As a perfectionist, this is EXACTLY what I did in my early jobs. I was terrified of doing it wrong, so I asked. I needed someone to tell me that asking every little thing was _also_ wrong, as mentioned here.

  12. MW*

    #3 – Sometimes paying for things on a personal account instead of a corporate card can be a red flag for a bribery (FCPA or UK Bribery Act) violation. It is the type of behavior that would make an auditor or investigator think that you or the company is trying to hide who they are selling to (i.e. trying to get a favor from a government official).

  13. BCW*

    #2 I think this comes down to many times people saying things, like “Come to me if you have any questions” but not really meaning it. I’m betting the OP said this stuff during training, and if so, its not really fair to be upset by them essentially doing what you said. Maybe you just in the future say “I’m happy to immediately answer any job process or company related questions, but if its more basic computer things, try googling it first, and if you still can’t find it, we’ll figure out a solution.

    1. Anonymous*

      Especially when the boss is always available, too. My boss stands right behind me all day and said during training to ask her any questions but she’s so rude when you ask.

    2. Joey*

      Here’s the thing though. If you want to get anywhere in the professional world you have to be able to at least try to figure a lot of things out on your own. Of course there are things you shouldn’t dare try to figure out on your own ( ie. if it involves risk), but for the most part you risk being labeled as helpless if your first move is always to ask someone for the answer.

      1. A Nonny*

        If the process involves risk (and the newbie knows this), they can still do some research and come up with a plan. They just need to check with the boss before they go ahead with it.

  14. Anonymous*

    When people at work ask me to watch their kid I tell them I’ve never babysat in my life and that scares them off.

  15. AmyNYC*

    #5 “I have attached my resume and samples of my work. The best way to reach me is via email at, but I am also available by phone at xxxxx. I appreciate your time and consideration, and I look forward to discussing opportunities at Chocolate Teapots Inc.

  16. MaryMary*

    OP2, I’d also suggest giving your young coworkers a time frame to do their own research before coming to you. Generally, I tell the people I manage to ask someone for help if they’ve spent half an hour trying to figure it out on their own without any luck. I agree with everyone’s suggestions to tell the people you manage that they need to start doing research on their own, but you also don’t want to get in a situation where deadlines and deliverables are missed because they spent half the day researching instead of reaching out for help.

    1. Lindsay E*

      Hi Mary, I’m the OP and that’s incredibly helpful! I do think some mix of “there’s no right way” and setting a time limit would be very helpful for folks – there is definitely a balance to be struck here!

      1. MaryMary*

        You’re welcome! This is a way to set some boundaries without being unapproachable or unwilling to help. Good luck!

    2. AVP*

      So true! I also like the half-hour threshold, and then when people come to me with questions I can say something like, “Okay, walk me through the steps you’ve already taken to find an answer.”

      I once had someone spend days, DAYS, on an incredibly simple html question, even spending hours consulting our outside website coder (who probably should have charged me for her time but thankfully didn’t). Sometimes there’s just no accounting for where other peoples’ common sense can lead…

  17. Claire*

    As something of a Google-fu master (and a millennial), I always research before I ask. That said, a lot of my co-workers–millennial and otherwise–don’t.

    For instance, recently, my boss, who is constantly glued to her iPhone, decided it was necessary to e-mail me to ask when a local university’s parent weekend was. As you might imagine, it took me about two seconds and a simple “Teapot University parent weekend” search to figure it out.

    If it didn’t involve my boss or a professional context in general, though, I’d turn it over to Let Me Google That For You:

      1. fposte*

        Though if they’re the ones writing the letter of support for your grant, you want to give them serious care and feeding. That’s where the principle of the thing is the relationship, not the fact-finding.

      2. Saturn9*

        Do you know for certain that they were asking for general information regarding how to write a letter of support in general or were they asking for what specific information they should include in this specific letter of support?

        If the latter, I hope your consultants remember to add a substantial PITA surcharge to the next assignment they consider accepting from you.

    1. Mints*

      I’m always tempted to respond like this!
      In person though, I’ve had coworkers ask me things (like “do you know when the deli closes”) and I say “I’m not sure, do you want me to Google it?”
      I get so annoyed

  18. Ruffingit*

    #3: I don’t want to pile on here as I’m sure the OP feels badly enough already, but I do think it’s important for OP to ask herself why she would agree to take the guests to dinner knowing that she couldn’t pay for it. I get the feeling OP needs to learn to push back on such requests. It makes no sense to embarrass yourself, your company, and your guests by going to a dinner you know you can’t afford to pay for. I suspect the company was planning on a “submit the receipt/reimburse expenses” thing. If OP had said she could not front that money, a lot of embarrassment would have been saved. It makes OP look really bad because I’m sure the company is thinking “Why didn’t you say something rather than embarrass us and our clients?” And OP has what to answer there? “Um, well, I figured that um, the clients would pay…” WHAT?? Shows poor judgment on OP’s part.

    TL:DR: OP, you need to learn to be upfront, push back, and set boundaries firmly and professionally. It’s a helpful skill throughout life in general.

    1. some1*

      This. It sounds like the LW was expected to front the $ and submit her receipt for reimbursement. By being too embarrased to tell her boss that she couldn’t afford to do that, she ended up creating a situation of bigger embarrasment that could have serious reprocussions if the boss finds out that the guest paid.

      Had she been upfront with the boss, other arrangements could be have been made (the boss loaning her card or cash, the boss tracking down a card due to extenuating circumstances, or the boss having someone else go in the LW’s place).

    2. Mike B. (@epenthesis)*

      I’m hoping for the sake of #3 that they were in the bathroom for just a couple of minutes and the client plowed right ahead with paying as soon as the check arrived; perhaps they had SOME strategy for solving the problem diplomatically and weren’t hiding until things resolved themselves.

      But otherwise, ugh. I’ve had cash flow problems over the years, and I’d have been so embarrassed in that situation I’d have wanted to die. I don’t understand how someone could conduct business over the course of a meal with this hanging over their head, or how that prospect could appear preferable to talking to one’s boss about the problem. If a direct report of mine did that, I’d be asking myself what other problems they had allowed/would allow to fester rather than face very minor awkwardness.

      1. Mike B. (@epenthesis)*

        On rereading the letter (I guess my memory of it while composing that comment was hazy), it doesn’t look like my charitable interpretation holds water. Oh, dear.

      2. Ruffingit*

        If a direct report of mine did that, I’d be asking myself what other problems they had allowed/would allow to fester rather than face very minor awkwardness.

        Exactly. A person who can’t handle this simple issue would make me concerned for what else they won’t appropriately handle. Taking clients out for a meal, hiding in the bathroom and letting them pay? No. Just no. There’s no excuse for that kind of total lack of professionalism.

        1. Anonymous*

          Yeah, it definitely shows lack of judgement. I mean, hide in the bathroom??? Really? Are you, like, 5 years old? As the manager I would be furious that OP didn’t raise the problem with me BEFORE the dinner and probably would never be able to trust that person again. God only knows what they will be hiding from me. So so silly, especially when you are just starting a new job.

      1. Joey*

        I felt embarrassed but didn’t know what else to do!

        I think that was the plan- hide until it was over.

  19. mel*


    If someone actually comes and dumps a kid near you and walks away, that seems pretty impolite.

    I particularly don’t understand what is so terribly rude and offensive about saying “I don’t wish to be held responsible for your child’s actions while you are not looking.” in such a situation.

    I guess if it was your boss, it would be a more delicate situation, if only because it would probably cross that whole “this is your job now” line.

      1. Artemesia*

        “I need you to keep an eye on Carl because I am crushing on this contract and have to focus”

        No way around any inferences she draws.

  20. Ann O'Nemity*

    While OP #3 certainly could have done more to avoid the dinner awkwardness, I’m wondering what the boss was thinking.

    If I was asking a brand new employee to take business clients to dinner, I wouldn’t disallow the use of the corporate card without explaining what the correct payment process should be.

    And I have to assume that the correct payment process is either “float the cost on your own personal account and file xyz reimbursement paperwork” or (heaven forbid) “eat the cost; this is a required part of your job.” Either way, the boss should have made it clear up front. Especially since the OP is so new to the position.

    1. Lizzie*

      But again, bosses are not psychic. It’s a reasonable expectation that a professional adult will ask for clarification when something is unclear. This is the equivalent of a boss forgetting to mention to a new employee what time employees usually arrive, and the employee not showing up because they weren’t told when.

      1. Nikki T*

        Yeah. I would have asked, so….do I use *my* card and then I’ll be reimbursed. Or just said, um…..I don’t have anything else to use? or, if not that card, which card? Something.

        ugh..sorry it came to this.

    2. Anonymous*

      To me it sounds like you are expected to pay yourself and claim it back. So if you have no money to cover this you have to speak up. Otherwise I would assume you do in fact have $150 and will behave like a normal human being i.e. not hide in the loo until the scary problem goes away :)

  21. JMegan*

    I think it’s interesting, that we’re giving almost completely opposite responses to #2 and #3.

    For #2, the general trend seems to be “tell your employees to figure it out on their own before asking you”, and for #3, it’s all about “you really should have asked your boss first before trying to figure it out on your own.”

    Both are valid responses, and obviously the situations are very different. But it does illustrate how complicated the workplace can be to navigate, for someone who hasnt’ been there very long!

    I think what we’re teasing out here is that one of the many things we need to learn, is when it’s appropriate to figure something out on your own, vs when you really should ask for help upfront. What are the likely consequences of each decision in any given situation – cost, time, money, reputation, etc.

    And thank goodness there are blogs and communities like this, to help people figure it out!

    1. Joey*

      Its a pretty easy rule actually. In most circumstances try to figure it out on your own. Exception-if there’s a lot on the line don’t take a chance-ask me.

      1. JMegan*

        That’s just it – it’s a pretty easy rule for those of us who already know the rule. But for someone brand new to the workplace, it may not be so obvious!

        And it depends so much on context – eg, what exactly needs to be on the line before you ask for help? Also the culture of your office, and the expectation of your individual manager, etc. Some people like to be more involved, some people like to be less involved.

        I once had my manager ask how I was doing at my new job – I said everything was fine, I was figuring things out, and what I couldn’t figure out I was making up. She was *horrified* that I would try to make something up without asking for help! Whereas that was completely the expected norm at my previous job, that making things up was totally okay and you wouldn’t ask for help unless you were really stuck.

        There’s quite a lot to figure out, and a lot of it is subtext and cultural type stuff that you don’t really learn until you’ve been doing it for a while.

      2. Tinker*

        Oddly enough, one of the things that I struggled with a lot when I’d just entered the workforce was… determining whether there was a lot on the line or not. I have some perversely perfectionist tendencies, am also aware of these tendencies, and somewhere (probably from rhetoric commonly directed at young people) picked up the notion of work as a place where every little thing has high stakes.

        So it wasn’t necessarily easy to determine, even if I were working for a highly predictable boss who follows your process (and I can think of at least two former bosses offhand who weren’t this), which decisions have a lot on the line and which ones definitively don’t.

        1. smallbutmighty*

          I remember exactly where I was standing in our office when I first heard the phrase “this isn’t the hill you want to die on.” It’s become a daily mantra for me. “Is this the hill you want to die on? Does the process for escalating a request for white chocolate teapots really need to be translated to twenty languages by tomorrow? Do I really want to try to overrule our director about the proper use of ellipses? Well, yeah, I really WANT to, but am I gonna? Yeah, no.” There are lots of hills not worth dying on in the average workplace, and this is exactly how I have to frame up many conversations with myself.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      I don’t think #2 is saying she doesn’t want people to come to her with questions, it’s more that they should try to figure it out. But in the case of question#3 – this person wasn’t new to the workforce, and it sounds like she didn’t ask any clarification. If your question is about the boss’s instruction, then the ONLY person to ask is the boss. If the question is about powerpoint, then there are better places to look for that information.

    3. Zelos*

      But the thing is, #3 didn’t figure out anything on their own. I mean, #2 is in full support of try to figure it out on your own before asking, but asking is a perfectly valid method if you can’t figure it out. #3…OP did not figure it out, but was just anxious and embarrassed and hoped the problem would go away by itself.

      I don’t see the incongruency.

      1. A Bug!*

        Agreed. #3 recognized a problem but went deer-in-the-headlights rather than taking any action to resolve it. By choosing to let the manager think things were under control when he or she knew they weren’t, OP caused a situation that was arguably more damaging to the company’s relationship with the guests than any possible alternative short of faking a heart attack at dinner.

        This was a problem that required input from the manager the second OP knew what was being asked of him or her. You can’t use Google to find out what your company wants you to do when you can’t afford to front a cost for them.

        I do not understand how it isn’t blindingly obvious that #3’s problem was completely different from “how do I drag and drop a file”.

    4. Lizzie*

      She didn’t try to figure it out. She just hid in the bathroom. If she had paid and then brought the receipt for reimbursement, that would be figuring it out. If she had asked the boss to front the money, that would be figuring it out. Hiding is not figuring it out.

      1. RQSCanuck*

        +1 This was most concerning to me when I read the OP’s letter. The OP did nothing to figure it out, before or after the dinner. It concerns me because from my understanding of the OP’s letter she was in a new position (about three weeks in) in a new department. To me this is the prime time to be able to ask questions as it relates to department policy and in general about anything that you are unsure of. As a new person it is understandable that you would not know everything about how the department functions. I am thinking that the boss did not expect the OP to pay for the dinner out of her own pocket, but rather to submit the receipt and get reimbursement. It is okay that the OP didn’t know this, but what is bothersome is that the OP didn’t seek out this information. It brings into question how the OP would handle a bigger problem, with potentially larger consequences.

        Sometimes I think that we are faced with choices in which there is no good solution or where none of the alternatives are all that great. Sometimes figuring out a problem means selecting “the lesser of all of the evils” (so to speak). Yes, it may be difficult to have to let your boss know that it is not in your budget to pay for a dinner with clients and as hard as that may be, it may actually be easier to deal with than have to face the boss after the fact and explain to them how a client ended up paying for the dinner.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I believe it is usually easier to tell one person rather than ten people. Probably it’s the introvert in me but I would rather tell my boss in the privacy of his office than have a whole dinner group find out that I can’t foot the bill.
          If the boss yells at me, I can at least hold on to the fact that it is just him and me in the room.
          If the money is not there, then the money is not there. Can’t get blood out of a stone. And it is none of the boss’ business WHY I cannot pick up the tab. My finances are a no fly zone.

      2. Justaguy*

        No I would not be reimbursed. Not approved for our department. I was expected to get “the supplier” to pay for it. The words csme from my boss & the guy in charge of the budget for our department. My boss’ mentality is that they pay for doing business with us. Yes. I did have deer in headlights, the making the client pay was sprung on me that afternoon. I asked 3 times & was told get them to pay for it.
        It was my fault for not telling the client upfront. I get that now, granted hindsight is always 20/20. I have a plan of just paying for drinks myself next time and declining to take anyone out to dinner.

        1. RQSCanuck*

          Thanks OP for commenting and giving more context to your situation. What an awful and awkward position to be put in. Your boss is ridiculous.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          So basically you did do what the boss asked.

          Am shaking my head- incredible.

          Okay, so go back and ask how HE gets the clients to pay.
          On my budget the clients would be sitting in Dunkin’ Donuts.

          UH… your boss is not exactly the brightest light….

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Well, wait — it’s actually pretty normal for the vendor/supplier to pay, not the client. If that’s the case, it’s less outrageous that your boss assumed that they would. I’d thought they were clients or other contacts — but if you’re their client, they probably expected to pay.

          1. Saturn9*

            Isn’t the general expectation that whoever makes the request is picking up the check unless something else is stated otherwise beforehand? Or is there some nuance I’m missing?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Generally, yes, but it’s trumped by the fact that a vendor pays, not a client. See Wakeen’s Teapots Ltd.’s excellent explanation of this above — she wrote everything I was going to.

  22. Amy*

    #4 – I agree that you can – and should – certainly counter-offer. However, just giving a number as a minimum requirement for leaving your current position, may not be the best approach. In addition, I do not agree that gas and business clothes money have much to do with a salary. Salary=your skills/experience/fit+requirements of the job. I would recommend boosting your counteroffer with WHY you deserve more because you can do x and y, because you have experience with a and b, because the nature of the job is demanding, requires independent work, etc.
    I would also counteroffer with more than your minimum, not because it is a negotiating tactic – even though it is. But because we tend to undervalue ourselves and by ‘going over’ what you originally had in mind, you may be getting closer to what you are actually worth.

    1. anon-2*

      Yeah, but in reality – what is going to lure you out of a comfortable, current situation is money.

      ” Because you can do x and y,” etc. has already been established. They wouldn’t have extended the job in the first place if they hadn’t known that.

      I once was in the exact situation – low-balled by $7,000 (back in 1991 – was making $43,000 and my new offer was – $43,000, with fewer benefits) and I did go through the nine yards, I’ll be effective on day 1, yada yada yada.

      They came up to 48, which I took, but knew – when it came time for promotion or significant increases, I was going to have to find another job and force a counter-offer. Knowing that up-front – useful info.

  23. B*

    #1 – Total sympathy for you. I work at a place with children every now and then and that is enough. Not every child is wonderful and neither is every parent (though many like to think both are). I would rather not have to deal with it at my place of work when I am trying to get things done.

  24. books*

    #2 – This can be so frustrating, especially when seemingly bright employees do it. Try to identify what the trigger is for asking these questions. Ex. Is it only in Microsoft Office programs? (Teach them how to use help, recommend an online training.) Is it because they sit next to you and know you know? (Move far away? Ha.) Are you sure they haven’t searched for it yet? (Google lesson time.)

    Also as suggested above ask “What have you already tried to find the answer?” Being asked that question when your answer is “nothing” should make it pretty quickly apparent that asking you first is the wrong tactic!

    I did once have a helpless coworker like this and I was so proud of her when she would start telling me that she learned new things in word!

  25. Audiophile*

    Here’s how I end my cover letters:
    “I feel I would be a good fit for this position, I look forward to speaking with you regarding this position and thank you for your consideration ”
    I haven’t run into any issues so far.

    1. Amy*

      not bad, but some possible improvements would be… change the work ‘good’. Is is a judgement and not a descriptor. (This is true in general, think of all the time we say or write good when we could/should more descriptive terms appropriate to the statement. This cheesecake is good! vs This cheesecake is moist, creamy with the just right amount of sweetness!) And I really would not state anything about being any kind of fit at all. You do not know yet; that is what the interview will suss out. Maybe you would be a horribad fit?! Perhaps a statement like, “I look forward to learning more about this opportunity and how this might be an well-suited fit for one another.”

  26. A Bug!*

    After thinking about it a bit I wonder if OP#3 has issues with anxiety. Anxiety can be crippling in ways that don’t always make sense to someone who hasn’t experienced it.

    It doesn’t really change too much that’s happened – the OP dropped the ball and is going to need to take accountability for that – but it might present an additional strategy going forward.

    OP#3, if this avoidant behavior isn’t just a one-time thing, if you are prone to becoming paralyzed by anxiety even when your inaction comes with consequences, then you might like to look into seeing a therapist who can help you develop coping strategies. Hopefully your company has a benefits plan that will make this affordable.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      This is a really good point, and one that I hadn’t considered. An understanding boss can go a long way into helping as well. If you know you won’t get in trouble for messing up as long as you’re forthright, it’s easier to talk about potential problems. On the other hand if you don’t know how the boss will react, your first instinct might be to cover it up.

      I told my employees (and remind them) that I don’t care if they mess up. Mistakes are normal, and as long as they don’t keep making the same ones, I’ve got their back and will support them. But if they lie to me or fail to inform me about something that could potentially become a problem, then there will be serious problems.

      It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.

      1. Jessica*

        You are a good boss. A lot of people work the opposite way; mistakes are not tolerated, period. So they basically train the employees to lie and cover things up to save themselves the grief.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Those are the bosses that get the worst messes.

          I have done a lot of training. I emphasize that mistakes are ONLY a problem if you do NOT tell me. And I promise not to get mad. Then I keep that promise. I find that is the number one reason people don’t speak up, they do not want to deal with the temper tantrum that follows.

          I can usually fix something in very short order if I know there is a problem. If I don’t know there is a problem it is going to take hours to find the mistake then fix it.

      2. Lindsay J*

        I love the way my old boss handled mistakes. She told us that if we had reasoning for why we did what we did – even if the reasoning didn’t entirely make sense to her – she was okay with whatever mistakes we made.

        Mistakes made due to laziness, or “I didn’t know what to do so I just did that” without further reasoning as to why “that” was the correct solution, or “I dunno” were less forgivable.

  27. MissDisplaced*

    #2 Ack! I always got this at my last job, but from the top down! As the resident computer “expert” my boss and everyone else in the office were always asking me the simplest of things:
    “How do I print this on bigger paper?”
    “Why won’t this print? or Why did the printer stop?”
    “The printer says it is out of toner.”
    “Why won’t this website display properly?”
    “My computer froze!”
    “How do I print a website?”

    I’m happy to be helpful, but they seemed to make a point of not wanting to lean to do these very simple things for themselves.

    1. Jamie*

      My answer to those kinds of things is always the same, “oh, what did the help file say about it? Sometimes they aren’t clear” in a friendly and helpful way, because I pretend to assume people try to help themselves before coming in like a toddler frustrated because the lid on their sippy cup isn’t on right.

      When your first question is always about what did the documentation or google or whatever says they start doing that first just to have something to tell you. Then something magical happens and they start coming to you excited because they figured it out themselves. That’s always a cool moment.

      The key is not being snotty – you have to be pleasant because of course you want to help them and sometimes help files are confusing. Keeps the interaction positive.

    2. smallbutmighty*

      I used to get this a lot, too, despite the fact that I’m a girl with an English degree and no particular technical know-how beyond the basics.

      After pondering the situation a bit, I realized that the reason I was seen as an expert was because I had a good technical vocabulary and a good instinct for how to define and approach technical issues. A lot of this I’d learned through filing bug reports, a skill I think everyone should have to develop. (Why I had to develop and use this skill is another story for another time.)

      Once you start thinking about problems in terms of definition, expected behavior, and actual behavior, you have a much better framework for asking questions of either Google or fellow humans.

      I make all new members of my team read Joel Spolsky’s blog,, which has terrific content about tracking bugs. Often, too, if they ask me a poorly phrased technical question, I’ll turn it back to them with the right vocabulary, e.g., “Hey, smallbutmighty, what do I do when my chocolate teapot tastes weird?” “Hmmm, that’s a good question. Based on my experience, what you’re really asking is more like ‘why do chocolate teapots sometimes develop secondary flavor characteristics?’ I’ll bet you can find some troubleshooting tips online for that scenario.”

      1. Zelos*

        Only tangentially related, but this reminds of a time when I had to go to a medical specialist for something. I was referred to my GP (who was reasonably sure it was nothing, but thought I can get another opinion), and because it was a “non-urgent” referral it took a few weeks to get the appointment.

        I went in, sat down, flipped open my phone, and started rattling off dates, times, symptoms, and etc. “On January 6th at approximately 2:30 in the afternoon, blah blah…no anterior pain, no [insert more terminology], blah blah” Repeat for several points.

        After I finished, the specialist stared at me. “Are you a medical student?”

        “Nope, science.” (For me, it was all about the lab reports.)

        And he laughed and said figures, and that I was only the second patient he’d ever seen with such a detailed symptom report.

        Knowing how to submit a (bug) report and/or knowing the relevant terminology ups people’s esteem of you by a LONG shot.

  28. ella*

    OP #2, you want to make sure that when you caution your millenials against asking for help so regularly, that you don’t inadvertantly turn them into OP #3…

  29. PoohBear McGriddles*

    One can’t help but wonder what OP#3’s customers were thinking. Not only were they left with the check, but they had to wonder what was taking the OP so long in the restroom. How long did they have to wait – and how awkward was it when OP came back?

    Whether she was to be reimbursed or not is irrelevant to the main problem, which is that she didn’t have the funds at the time the check came. It should never have come to that.

    If the boss is expecting her to submit an expense report, how will she handle that? What if the boss asks for the receipt? I agree that she needs to come clean, at the very least about the customer picking up the check. Something like “I left the table for a few minutes and while I was away the customer paid the bill. How can we make sure they get reimbursed for that?” That way the company can save face with the customer and the OP can resolve to handle it right next time. Now if she was in the restroom for a really long time this might get “awkward”, but that ship has probably sailed anyway.

    1. Joey*

      If you’re the op in the bathroom though how do you know when to come back to the table? Do you keep peeking around the corner to see if someone paid the bill? And is it the elephant in the room? Do you thank whomever picked up the tab?

      And obviously the toughest questions of all are “so how did the dinner go last night? Where are your receipts so we can get that reimbursement done?”

  30. MaggietheCat*

    #1 Last year I had to cover for a co-worker that was on maternity leave. One day she came in with her baby to show him to the office and I was absolutely buried doing both her job and mine! She left her child in an empty cubicle (screaming!!) for two hours while she walked around the office, outside (to smoke!!), and “catch up” with everyone at work. I still said congratulations (you should do this) however I can empathize with being annoyed at people who do this!
    Fast forward 6 months and she still is always on the phone, uploading pictures to facebook, leaving early, or chatting with co-workers about her child. I’m not sure when she ever really works!

  31. Cassie*

    #1: For reasons like this, I sometimes wish I worked in a high-security facility. No guests (adult or chidren) allowed! I personally just stay in my cubicle and try to block out all the fawning over kids and pets. Sometimes, as soon as I hear the first exclamations over cuteness, I’ll get up and leave the area – go make copies in another suite, use the restroom, drop off mail, whatever.

    I don’t hate kids and pets, but I’m not at work to socialize. If I’m walking in the hall and I pass by a coworker with his/her kid, then sure – I’ll smile and say hi. Just like I would to a coworker without a kid. But I’m not going to get up from my desk to join in the pleasantries. And please, don’t bring your guest to my cubicle for the sole purpose of introducing him/her to me – unless you are my boss, I don’t need to meet your kid / significant other / pet. If you want someone to make a big fuss over your guest, there are plenty of coworkers who will.

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