should I let my staff constantly change desks, verb tense on resumes, and more

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

1. Is it normal to ask for a 2-3 year commitment to a job?

I recently interviewed for a marketing coordinator position. The manager noted that she would want the next person in the role to stay at least 2 years and hopefully 3. I ultimately bowed out of the process after finding out the role had a lot more administrative duties than I was looking for. However, I’ve never been on an interview where the person has mentioned how long I was expected to stay in the role. While I am obviously not hoping to run out of my next job, and 2 or 3 years is not forever, I can never predict when I will feel ready to move on and I wouldn’t feel right promising that to an employer.

Is it normal for interviewer’s to give you an amount of time they expect you to stay on? And is it bad if you leave a position before your boss expects you to? Would it burn bridges?

“We’re looking for someone to invest in the role and stay for a couple of years” isn’t weird to say or to expect. In fact, hiring someone without expecting they’d plan to stay that long would be pretty unusual for many roles, and it pretty normal for a marketing coordinator job.

That said, when you make that kind of commitment, it’s not written in stone. Managers understand that it might turn out to be the wrong fit, or you might move, or an opportunity you can’t turn down might fall in your lap. The point is that they don’t want you taking the job if you’re thinking that you’ll only stay for a year before moving on, or when you’re planning to go to grad school in the fall, or so forth.

2. Should I let my staff constantly change desks?

I work as a manager for a relaxed company. We put a lot of emphasis on making our employees happy and being flexible. Most of reports are under 30 and this is their first office job. I had 8 direct reports who sat across two long desks without dividers and a open seat in between. We recently moved some people around and hired on some people as full-ttime, so I now have 13 direct reports with 15 seats. There are three people at one desk, with the rest on the same long desk as myself. The three people feel left out and want to move to the larger desk. The people on the larger desk feel cramped and not happy with the people they are sitting next to.

I try to be accommodating in other aspects and have a good rapport with the direct reports who have been with me longer, but I have a hard time accommodating these requests. It all feels very childish to me and I don’t want people to keep playing musical chairs because someone is upsetting them one day. Am I being a control freak or is it reasonable to deny this request?

It’s reasonable to not want to deal with people moving around constantly, but doing it occasionally shouldn’t be a problem. Why not offer to do a one-time move now, taking people’s preferences into account, but making it clear that you won’t be changing things up for some time after that? Then you could revisit it quarterly or twice a year.

That said, I think your two larger problems are (a) making sure that your staff, who are new to the working world, understand that their seating arrangements aren’t about being social, and (b) figuring out if there’s some way to get people more space, since the set-up you’re working with now sounds really unconducive to focus and productivity.

3. A skills assessment marked my shortcuts as incorrect

I took an employment assessment test today. I know Microsoft Excel very well, but am used to using shortcuts. On this test, trying to use a shortcut was marked as an incorrect answer. I missed 8 questions that I know like the back of my hand. Is there any way to save myself from being viewed as a poor Excel user? Is it o.k. to contact the company ordering the test to explain my situation?

Yeah, this is one of the huge problems with many of those sorts of skills assessment tests — advanced users end up getting marked down for exactly the reason you described. It’s absurd. I’d point it out to the employer, saying something like, “I noticed that the test wouldn’t accept keyboard shortcuts; for instance, it marked my answers as incorrect when I used shortcuts for italicizing, inserting, and changing column labels. As a result, it might be inadvertently screening out more advanced Excel users who use these shortcuts.”

How they respond will tell you a lot about the common sense of whoever you’re dealing with.

4. Blue hair and accounting

I am a first-year business student thinking of pursuing a career in accounting. A couple months ago, I decided to experiment with my hair a little and got blonde peekaboo highlights; my hair is naturally black. I talked with one of my professors and she said it’s fine since they’re not very blatant.

Anyway, my highlights have started to fade and I’ve been thinking of dying my highlights blue. I’m concerned about whether or not I should do so because I would like to get a summer job or internship in a professional setting. Should I dye my highlights blue, or should I just keep them blonde?

Accounting is a conservative field. It’s one of the few fields where this would be absolute no-go at many firms, in fact. Change it during the school year when you won’t be working if you want, but when you’re applying for jobs, I’d keep it a natural color.

5. Verb tense on resumes

I have a question about the proper verb tense for resumes. For past jobs, I would presumably use the past tense. But for my current position, should I use the past tense so that the whole document is in the same tense, or should I use the present tense because it is happening right now?

Present tense for your current job — because these are things you’re currently doing — and past tense for your previous ones. But for your present job, where you’re talking about specific accomplishments that you’ve already achieved and are not still doing, those would be in the past tense too. (For instance, if you’re talking about the amount of tickets you sold to an event last year, you wouldn’t put that in present tense or it would sound odd.)

{ 213 comments… read them below }

  1. V

    #3 – Those tests are TERRIBLE. They don’t let you use the help feature. I’d rather hire someone who knew how to find the answer on how to do something they didn’t know, than someone who only knew what they were taught and couldn’t figure things out on their own.

    1. Nanse

      Exactly! One of my strong points is I am a whiz at quickly finding solutions and shortcuts to all kinds of things and learn super fast. You could give me any number of programs/activities on a computer that I have minimal exposure to or experience with and I’d be able to figure it out (using help features, googling, etc.) in a real world situation. In most cases I’d not only accomplish the full task on par with someone who knows it well, perhaps even faster.

      Why not just the finish product, not what steps a person took to achiee the correct result!

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      If anybody knows of Excel tests that don’t suck, please hook me up.

      The mindset that goes with the person who is good at figuring out how to do things in Excel would be a great predictor of success for a certain set of jobs I hire for, but the last thing I want is something that penalizes people for using shortcuts. I want the one that awards bonus points for that.

      1. Cat

        I don’t know if any of those automated tests are designed to find something who can figure stuff out rather than someone who already knows how to do something. Even if they record shortcuts as correct, they’re still going to record the “I tried this and it didn’t work before trying this that did” as partially incorrect. What about giving them a task and then manually reviewing the end result?

      2. Mike C.

        It’s called “tell the candidate to do something specific in Excel and watch what happens”.

        Testing is a hard problem, and if you want to actually test knowledge, you need to invest your time in the process.

        1. A Dispatcher

          +1 The best way to tell how someone will perform a job is to give them that job to do, or a close simulation.

          We have a typing test we all have to pass to move forward in the hiring process, and plenty of people can ace that but fall apart the second someone swears or yells at them on the phone (which is not a daily occurrence, but an hourly one- and that’s on a good day). There are also people who are on the slow end of that typing test, but have amazing memories or other skills and end up being some of our most valuable employees. Basic one size fits all tests like typing or excel are decent for weeding out candidates from a very large group, but they have their problems. As mentioned in the original question, they can actually punish those who should be at the top, and they are not necessarily a good indicator of how the candidate will be able to use those skills in your specific workplace environment.

            1. A Dispatcher

              Alison, I would love to but we have a very strict policy about interviews, media and otherwise. I would have to run it by my commissioner before I could agree to anything, even with anonymity. I will certainly get back to you if the answer is a positive one though.

        2. Jamie

          That’s what I’ve done. I hate the tests for the reasons mentioned and so I just create a workbook with some dummy data and test manually.

          I tested in expert in Excel before I had ever used the program, just going through the tutorials and the demo version the night before. I took the same test years later as an advanced Excel user and tanked because no shortcuts. I put more weight on someone knowing why the tests suck than someone who aced them.

      3. AB

        I hate hate hate those tests! My OldJob was hiring and wanted to use one and I talked them out of it. I said it would be far more helpful to give the candidates a real world scenario and have them give you the results in a timed setting (As in, here is some data, make a pivot table in excel and put it in a PowerPoint, or here is some data, make a spreadsheet and have it formulate A, B and C… Or, here is a letter, use mail merge…) Because in the end, no body gives a hoot how you did it, so long as the end results are what they need. So, rather than testing the how, test the what.

        1. Michele

          I have taken many excel tests although it has been a while. I can say all the tests I took said from the beginning not to use shortcuts or your answer would be marked incorrect. For the record I do think they are dumb.

          1. A Dispatcher

            That reminds me of my high school regents tests where you had to show your work or you may not receive credit at all, even if you got the right answer, which always bugged me.

            1. Rayner

              Showing your work is important though, because how do they know that you didn’t just leapfrog through intuition to the right answer, or guessed if you don’t tell them how you got it.

              In the world of work though, in Excel docs and stuff, it doesn’t matter so much.

              1. Jamie

                I understand the importance of it, but I never liked it because I never seemed to be able to show the work in the exact steps they wanted to see.

                I’ve always been better at doing than explaining. Good thing I never went into teaching, I’d have been very damaging.

                1. Jessica (tc)

                  I agree with this. My first and only F in school came from not showing my work on a math worksheet. The problem was that, although I knew how to do the steps, I had discovered a shortcut on my own that worked the same way and I could do it in at least half the time. That particular teacher wasn’t thrilled that I had figured out the “better way,” even though I demonstrated that I could still do the other way. Luckily, I had teachers later who were thrilled when students used initiative to work through problems and figure out new ways to do them.

                  By the way, this was before the internet was a thing, so I really did figure it out on my own. How to save myself time in a task was something I would spend time trying to figure out, particularly in math, and I still do it today in my job with real-world tasks. It was a problem-solving skill that isn’t really taught much these days and few people take the initiative to do it, because they get slapped down by teachers who require them to do something in exactly X, Y, or Z way with no room for lateral thinking.

                2. Jessica (tc)

                  (That was in elementary school, too, so I was glad to have teachers in junior high and high school who weren’t like that and encouraged alternative thinking.)

              2. AB

                The ability to show how you got to where you did is great for certain situations, if you are a researcher or scientist or doing a math exam. But I have trouble thinking of a situation outside of remedial word processing instructor where showing how you save files, italicize words, or copy and paste text is important. That is the problem with these tests. Not only that, there are so many different versions of Office in use in the working world and all of them have slightly different tabular paths, but almost universally the same short cuts. Therefore, knowing the short cuts is far more efficient and, I would argue, the superior test of knowledge.

              3. Ellie H.

                Is it really though? Isn’t it better to be able to try some things until you figure out what works (thereby learning and advancing your own skills in the process) and therefore demonstrate that you have enough familiarity and confidence with the program to improvise beyond what you already know. Obviously if you are teaching Excel to someone else, you should be confident in the exact steps you are taking, but if you’re using it for yourself I think figuring out how to do something by actually doing it is a great skill.

                1. AB

                  We’re talking about tests that test the very basic knowledge of Office, not creativity or your ability to adapt. The purpose of these tests is to determine what you already know so you can get the job done. The tests don’t give you the opportunity to adapt or improvise. They test one very specific way of doing something (that isn’t even the most common or most efficient way of doing it). Which is why the tests are deeply flawed. I absolutely thing that having the ability to do the work, to change, improvise and adapt are essential skills which is why I think these tests are useless at testing why you really want to know… can an employee do the work you need them to do, efficiently and proficiently, with Office.

          2. AB

            Oh, I know they tell you that using short cuts will get you a wrong answer, but I think the whole point of testing is to prove that you can actually use the programs in a real-world situation, but it doesn’t make any sense to show you know how to save a file using the “File: Save As” as opposed to “Ctrl-S” when what is important is the end result. It would be like testing a race car driver on whether or not they can turn on the car when what you actually need to know is how well and how fast they drive it.

        2. Anon

          I am apparently in the minority in that I actually enjoy taking those tests. Having about 3 days notice that I would take one, I studied up & took several free online practice versions in the days preceding. Learned about a lot of features I had never heard of and managed to ace the real deal.

          1. Jamie

            Kind of apropos of nothing but a tenuous segue via workplace tests, but I took a cool one once.

            It was a test to determine how well you perceive color. I was amazed at how easily my co-workers saw difference in shades that look absolutely identical to me. The two most artistic people with whom I work scored off the charts – it made me wonder how different the world must look to them being able to see colors in all that nuance.

            1. Ann Furthermore

              That would be a cool test. I’ve sometimes wondered (and OK, it was the kind of wondering you do after imbibing a certain substance) if everyone sees the same colors. Like, if the sky looks blue to me, does it look green to someone else, but we both identify that color as blue?

              1. Jamie

                It’s funny because that came up after we took the tests too (it wasn’t just goofing off, it was in response to webdesign and my pleading with them to be specific with the color code they wanted).

                I don’t know if it’s just semantics but there was difference of opinion between where green ended and blue began – ditto for orange/red, yellow/orange, etc. They had a harder time deciding on certain shades of teal, turquoise, apricot where for me there was almost no ambiguity – it was one or the other.

                And we’re going through this now at home picking out colors for painting this spring. I only like certain colors so I keep picking the same ones thinking they are different. I picked the sample for the bedroom and my husband had to show me it was identical to the living room.

                I’d have the entire house blue or pink if up to me – those are the only colors that make me happy but I keep gravitating to the exact same shades.

                I know what I like when I see it, but when it comes to color I have no imagination or sense of what works.

                1. Jessica (tc)

                  I learned from an ophthalmologist that I have certain areas of color-blindness, which always shocks people. My MIL keeps asking me what colors I want for things, and in reality, I don’t care much. My dad has a great eye for color differentiation, so I used to always ask him for help with outfits and things. I was 26 when I discovered my color-blindness, so I’ve only known for a few years, but I somehow knew my color acuity wasn’t great. I did stop arguing with people about what shade things were, because I now know that I’m probably in the wrong. And I don’t own navy blue items, because I have no clue what that color looks like: to me, it’s just black. I basically wear a lot of gray and black things, always have, so I think on some level I was just compensating for the lack of color range. ;)

                2. KLH

                  OOOHHH—when I worked retail I would have this problem because I liked my rounders to be just so according the the color pattern we used, and I would have huge problems with people putting certain more orangey corals with the pinks.

                3. Momghoti

                  I’ve experienced the disagreement about when a color changes to another color, too. In organic chemistry class, we had to do a series of titrations with an indicator that went from blue to purple. We were in pairs, and were more or less alternating who did the prep and recording and who did the titration. Our results were all over the place and tempers were getting high. We finally got together with others in the class and found that the perception of when ‘blue’ became ‘purple’ changed substantially from person to person, and my partner and my opinions were particularly different.

              2. NutellaNutterson

                There’s a great youtube video from vsauce called “Is Your Red The Same as My Red?” that discusses this topic.

                And an awesome Radiolab (Season 10 | Episode 13) titled Colors that addresses SO many different ideas about color that I can’t possibly summarize them here. (Links not included to avoid the queue.)

            2. A Dispatcher

              I googled a color acuity test because your comment intrigued me (ended up taking the Farnsworth-Munsell 100 Hue, not sure if there are others). My eyes hurt from staring at the screen, but I did learn I perceive color way better than I thought I would. Thanks for the fun little diversion.

              1. Fiona

                That’s the same one that I’ve taken. It makes my husband crazy watching me do it because I can see nuances that he can’t. LOL!

            3. Anon

              It’s very funny because school and family always pushed me to seek out an engineering or science field because of my skill with math and science in high school. So I did…. Which didn’t turn out so well.

              I am spilling over with so much creativity, it’s maddening. I crochet, scrapbook, do professional level nail art, make cards, draw…. I wish I was an artist or did nails for a living. But after a failed attempt at engineering I started doing technical writing and usability, now I work in administrative work. Luckily I’m going into marketing.

              Anyway I mention all this because I’ve taken a color acuity test before and received a perfect score. If only teachers and my parents had encouraged my artistic capabilities rather than my math ones. :(

            4. Heather

              I had no idea there was such a test. My husband and I will both be taking it tonight. Because I get tired of standing in Home Depot explaining that no, this blue is more green and this one is more gray. :)

            5. Marie

              “Eye vs Eye” is a very cool app which let’s you test you color IQ. Fascinating, fun, and of course a huge time suck!

    3. Lizabeth

      +1 Was tested on Quark years ago for a temp agency – most of it was obscure stuff that had NOTHING to do with real life work situations. And I asked about it after the test and got a blank look – go figure! Needless to say I didn’t work there…

      1. Rosemarine

        I’d be curious to know what your Quark test was about, and why it was irrelevant to what you were looking for when you went to that temp agency. Quark Xpress is, of course, passé these days, but back when I worked in a cover art department for one of the big NY publishers (not as a designer), having Quark skills was a job asset.

    4. GL

      I’ve taken several of these Excel and Word tests under different software apps. If you missed 8, then I’d venture to say you don’t know what you’re doing with Excel. I’ve never missed more than 2, and I use keyboard shortcuts normally. These programs always ask if you’ve completed your answer before moving on to the next one, and you should be able to tell if what you did actually worked or not–I’m always aware of which ones I missed.

      1. AB

        Not necessarily. Most do and most even give you the opportunity to retry your answer. But I took one where it didn’t give you that option. It told you “Save the document” and if you used the shortcut.. poof, it was wrong or if you clicked the wrong tab to do a mail merge, it was immediately wrong and you had no option to retry or say that you finished the answer.

        1. Malissa

          I’ve taken that test. One bad click and *Poof*! Probably why that temp agency never called me for an assignment.

    5. Elizabeth West

      Agreed. I hate them, and I’ve been caught in the same trap the OP got in many times. I wish I’d asked AAM the same question back then. I never said anything to anyone, just assumed they would think I wasn’t adept.

  2. James M

    OP3: if possible, contact other people you know who took the test and were marked down because the test’s flaws and have them also raise the issue with that employer. If yours is not the only voice of dissent, it will be harder to simply brush it aside as whining.

    Also be prepared for a less than helpful response from the employer. People generally don’t take kindly to the suggestion that they’re using slipshod tools and don’t have the acuity to notice it.

    1. Jessa

      OH yes, this. I was a teacher back before I was disabled, and because of that in Normal School, I had to take a couple of semesters of test writing courses. Nothing makes me crazier than answering EXACTLY what was written and being marked wrong because they “wanted” you to pick something else. My response is if you wanted the other answer, ask the question for which that is the correct response. If I don’t answer exactly what you write, I run the risk of you saying “but I wrote x why didn’t you answer x?” I’d rather fight the “you didn’t ask that” battle, vs the “I thought you wanted me to say this” battle.

      And OMG computer tests. I took a typing test awhile ago that still wanted 2 spaces after a period. You don’t DO that anymore, because on a computer the font set uses variable spacing. I wasn’t given a typewriter to do this. The problem with computerised tests is that it’s really hard to programme multiple correct responses.

      So you can’t use shortcuts in Excel or Word, and gods help you if you don’t know the menu thing because it counts off if you don’t click directly on the proper heading and choice.

      How about you give me a document and ask me to reproduce it, formatting and all. Or you ask me to make a spreadsheet for x. Give me a set of parameters and stuff and say do this. It shouldn’t be actual work necessarily. Some company can design the test. But if the idea is “can she use this programme,” then test that. Not “can she figure out what the computer testing company wants her to do exactly.”

      1. James M

        You may not want to hear this, but it’s actually trivial to program multiple right answers into testing software. The problem is with the company that designs the tests. They pull “the right answer” out of their *sses and fly into a howling rage if a lowly software developer questions anything. The end result is… well… material for AAM.

        1. Chinook

          I have to agree that a skills test that allows shortcuts is possible because OfficeTeam know Canada uses one. I still couldn’t use the help function, but atleast I wasn’t stuck trying to remember which tab had the function.

      2. ClaireS

        Ahhh! Two spaces after a period!?! I once got into a slightly heated although ultimately jovial argument with my boss that attracted 3 other managers. I had to use a white board to describe variable text to them with diagram.

        1. Elizabeth

          I had to write up instructions to tell everyone in the organization how to change Outlook to show plain text emails in a fixed width font, rather than proportional font, so that they could read their pay stubs.

        2. Cat

          You can pry my two spaces after a period from my cold, dead fingers. Browsers may strip it out, but when you have a long text document in Word that you may or may not print out, it just looks better.

            1. Emily

              This post is serendipitous because it was less than two weeks ago that the VP of Marketing & Communications sent this link in an email to all 50+ MarComm staff:

              Subject: Slate: Two spaces after a period: never, ever do it.

              “I’m tired of deleting extra spaces after periods, so please read and take this to heart. You know who you are. Seriously, enough.”

              FWIW, he’s not just a curmudgeon–our official branding/style guide also specifies only one space after periods.

          1. Jamie

            Two spaces non-negotiable. I like to think I’m a fairly change accepting and flexible person…but my fingers too will be cold and dead before go to one space.

            1. Judy

              I think you mean your thumbs. I’ve never typed on anything but an electric typewriter or computer, but my muscle memory knows there are two spaces after a period. I have to think a lot to not do that.

              1. Fiona

                This. I finally UN trained myself from reflexively hitting space-space, but that second space still sneaks in there occasionally. (Of note: I was taught to type well after the dawn of the word processor, so blame my 60-plus year-old-typing teacher.)

                1. Ann O'Nemity

                  Yes, I was able to untrain as well. I used find/replace to get rid of any extra spaces during the transition. (Exception: fixed-width fonts, as mentioned below.)

                  Quick tangent: When I taught, some students tried to make their papers look longer by tweaking the font, margins, or line spacing. The most creative strategy I ever encountered was a student who double-spaced between words and quad-spaced after a period.

          2. Anonymous

            “it just looks better.”

            No. To most people, no. It might look better on screen when editing, but in print or in a PDF viewed on screen, it’s wrong.

            The one exception is with fixed width fonts (such as tables with lots of numbers, and plain-text emails) – then it’s helpful.

            But with any decent font in a decent output (printer or PDF) it’s bad. There’s a reason it’s not done in high-quality work, such as well-designed books, magazines and advertising.

            1. Anonymous

              We shouldn’t write/edit based on how things look in the software in which they are created, but rather for how they will look to users. For text that you’re editing in Word, that presumably is in print produced by a digital or offset printer with a decent font, or perhaps in PDF.

              The double space thing came from typewriters, which had bad fonts for extended text (fixed width) and the extra spacing was needed to make the end of sentences clear when there was excess space already between many letters (all letters had to take up the same space as the widest letter, so the letter “i” for example had extra space around it to be the same as the letter “m.”

              That is to say, the editorial practice came from a shortcoming in technology. We didn’t put big space like in properly printed books before or after typewriters existed, or even in handwriting. It’s a legacy of fixing a problem that no longer exists except in special circumstances (such as email messages using fixed width fonts). It should not be done anymore except in those situations.

              1. Woodward

                Thank you for taking the time to explain this. I learned in my typing class to use two spaces and have always done so. Now I know better. I will most likely keep using it (habit) in my online correspondence, but I learned something new today. Thanks!

        3. TK

          One of the legendary stories in my office is about two former employees (one long since retired, the other no longer living) who once got in such an epic argument about the number of spaces after a period that they stayed like 2 hours after everyone would’ve normally left discussing it. This happened something like 15 years ago, but it still gets brought up (I’ve only been here 18 months).

          1. ClaireS

            I have had one such experience with a colleague about the Oxford comma. There is still animosity between us regarding the issue even though we’re friends.

            1. Cath@VWXYNot?

              My sister and I are tragically divided by our views on the Oxford comma (I’m avidly pro, and she’s avidly anti – we have argued about it many times, including an epic battle on Facebook that drew in all of our cousins and some of our friends).

              Luckily, though, we both agree that there should never, ever, be two spaces after a period.

  3. PEBCAK

    #2: I think the long desk trend is the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen, but it seems like every tech company I’ve been to lately is going this route. I hope this is just my introversion talking, and there are people who love them, because I cringe at the thought.

    1. Ann Furthermore

      OMG me too. My company moved a bunch of people over to another building awhile back, and it’s configured as an “open concept” office. They all hate hate hate it. Many people have taken to piling up training manuals and other things to try and simulate cubicle walls.

      I would be absolutely miserable in a setup like that. It would even make me hesitant to take a job if I’d have to work in an environment like that.

      1. Jen RO

        For a different point of view: my previous job had an open space office, not exactly with long desks, but with groups of Ikea desks next to each other (each “row” had 3 side by side, and 3 more in front of them). I thought I would hate it… but I kind of miss it! I think low cubicle walls (like my current company has) are an even better idea, but I have an actual office now (shared with one person) and I honestly miss being in the open space part! I would hate working in an actual cubicle, with walls up to the ceiling.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

          I keep very quiet when there’s rants about open office space because not only do I like it but I’m The One who had it set up like this.

          Not our whole division, that’s cube farms, but my personal workgroup/direct report team. We have our own room and then the 10 of us work together in an open space but with proper desks and normal office areas large enough for visitors chairs and potted floor plants. Just no walls.

          We work together constantly throughout the day, it is more productive, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

          Now, shhhh, don’t let Alison find me.

          1. Jen RO

            I know the productivity part is debatable – to me, it depends on people to make it work. Working with coworker L. was amazing in an open space – I could lift my head over the monitor (Meerkat Manor style) and ask her something, and she could do the same. It worked because we knew what questions to ask and when to ask them. Working with coworker M. was hell – *she* could bend over and ask the 20th pointless question of the day, even after told that I was busy and her answer was on Google.

            I really thought I’d enjoy getting out of the open space plan, but… :)

          2. Positivity Boy

            See, this sounds like a true “open” office because it’s basically still set up like a regular office but without the cubicle walls dividing everyone. Most times when people say they have an “open” office it means “We decided your entire department is now going to work in this conference room.”

            1. Windchime

              Exactly. Proper desks with room for potted plants and guest chairs (but no walls) wouldn’t be my first choice, but at least each person still has an illusion of their own space, and there is a buffer between.

              The only time in recent history that I have worked in “open concept” was in a big room with this huge, curving countertop snaking its way around and across the room. I ended up in a fairly good spot (on a curving corner, kind of in a cul-de-sac. But it was obvious that the goal of the whole setup was to cram as many bodies as possible into a small space. No privacy, no chance to work quietly. Not my favorite thing. I was relieved to go back to the cube farm.

          3. A Cita

            Yes, I like them too. But I have a past life in the design industry where it was (at the time, don’t know now) very standard and just the idea of cube farms were like something out of a Mondrian nightmare. We were post-modernists, after all. Be were not Borg.

            But I know that’s not a popular opinion in these parts :)

          4. Susan

            My office of 10 moved recently from an open space to a series of offices. We all miss the open space so much. It really disconnects you from people; I especially feel it as I am in an office by myself. I find myself working from home more, because why drive 45 minutes to be in a room by myself and see no one when I can do the same at home?

            1. Susan

              Oh, and some more detail – the space we used to be in was set up so that we each had our own desks set up in pinwheels, so nobody was ever staring face to face with someone all day long.

      2. Jessa

        My biggest issue with these kind of offices is they always, always seem to be short on lockable, private, storage for each worker to have. And they never have room for people who need to have private, confidential discussions.

        1. Jen RO

          I have my own office, and I don’t have anywhere to put my stuff :( Most of the people in the open space part have little lockers!

    2. Ajax

      What is a long desk? Is everyone seated on one side like in a classroom, or do you face an opposite row like at a picnic table?

        1. Anon

          Wow, that’s rude.

          FWIW, I’ve never heard of a desk that can seat 15 people before, either. The image that comes to mind for that is a board room table.

      1. majigail

        I was wondering the same thing, I’ve never come across one. It seems to me thought that if it’s what I’m imagining, I can’t figure out why it’s a problem to let people move around every day if they want to.

          1. OP - Changing seats

            Yes! That’s pretty accurate – although ours are not as nice and the seating areas are actually a bit smaller. :(

        1. LCL

          It’s a problem because humans are territorial. After a week or two, everyone will have chosen “their” seat. Then the person who likes variety will sit in a different seat one day, because there are no assigned seats. The chaos and anger that erupted from me doing exactly that in a junior high math class disrupted the class for 20 minutes. Most managers don’t want to deal with enforcing acting like an adult. People are people and are going to squabble over trivia to assert their turf; it’s best to avoid setting up these situations if possible. Unless the manager likes the enforcer role…

          1. Celeste

            Territorial, exactly. I’m flashing back to Les Nessman on “WKRP in Cincinnati”, putting masking tape on the floor to delineate office walls for himself in the bullpen.

      2. Jamie

        I was wondering the same thing – picturing it like a cafeteria table.

        Do they at least get real chairs or just the benches in my imagination?

        Is this just a place to sit with a laptop or is it supposed to function like an actual desk with an inbox, place for folders, office supplies, etc?

    3. Jubilance

      My friend’s company just went to open concept with those long desks, and everyone including managers have to sit in the area with zero privacy. How do they expect managers to have sensitive conversations with their direct reports in that environment?

      My friend also spends at least half of her day on conference calls, so that open concept is going to get real old real fast when everyone has to listen to everyone else’s calls in that space.

      1. Leslie Yep

        To your second point, a thousand times yes. I spend typically between 3-5 hours per day on the phone. It’s annoying for everyone–the people trying to concentrate on the conversation on the phone while everyone bustles around them in an open office, the office mates who have to hear every last dumb thing you’re talking about, and the folks on the other end of the line who hear the hustle and bustle of each person’s office every time you un-mute yourself long enough to make a contribution to the conversation. Cubicles at least muffle the sound a bit, but honestly, I just need a phone room.

        I love having open, collaborative spaces to use with my team when we’re working together, and I really like being able to just walk over and ask a question of my colleagues who work in the same office as I do, but I also need solitude and quiet to do my job well.

      2. Sunflower

        Ugh my boss sits next to me(he insists) and is on the phone ALL DAY and insists on taking all his calls on speaker. Yea that isn’t annoying at all….

    4. VictoriaHR

      It sounds absolutely terrible. Let’s face it – most employees want at least a semblance of privacy, even if they’re not doing anything that requires privacy.

  4. Chocolate Teapot

    1. The thing which struck was whether this is so much different to applying for a fixed term contract job.

  5. Artemesia

    I thought cube farms were nightmares but the public library table open plan is far worse. How can people be productive jammed up against each other like that without even their own personal space. I am imagining an office designer (who has his own office) or a CEO (who has his own office) sitting their trying to imagine just how miserable he can make working conditions for his employees.

    However people are arranged in this nightmarish space, the principle of spreading them out as much as possible ought to be a factor.

    1. Penny

      Agreed, do not get this concept! I love my coworkers, but we have our own cubes where you can eat and floss and make calls or chat with each other with semi privacy. If I had to sit right next to them all day, I’d probably come to hate them quickly just from basic annoyances that don’t occur with a little half wall between you. Space matters!

  6. Canadamber

    Regarding # 4: Can anyone elaborate more on how accounting is a “conservative field”? I’m thinking of going into accounting next year. (By “conservative” you don’t mean that women are expected to wear skirt suits, right? Because that’s just no. You will never find me wearing one of those. Pants all the way!)

    1. Ann Furthermore

      It’s not quite as insane as it used to be. One of my professors in college told a story about a guy working for Arthur Anderson having the audacity to show up at work wearing a LIGHT BLUE shirt with his suit, and being sent home to change it. Can you imagine?

      These days, it just means dressing professionally, and in a way that will make clients more likely to take you seriously. Right or wrong, people make judgements based on a person’s appearance. The controller of a company may well think the person in a nice pantsuit is more credible than the person with blue hair, tattoos, and piercings. So an accounting firm will want its clients to have confidence in the advice and guidance they’re paying for.

      1. Meg

        As a blue haired, pierced and tattooed productive member of society, it definitely depends on the company. Customer-facing positions are way less open.

        Though I would really support an accounting firm of nothing but candy-colored, pierced and tattooed accountants wearing skinny jeans and band tshirts.

    2. De

      From what I read on corporette, there’s very few places where a skirt suit is required (I read one comment there on someone being reprimanded for wearing a pants suit at court). But for getting a general feeling on what “conservative office” means in terms of what to wear I recommend searching around on corporette.com .

    3. Elysian

      I’m sure it will depend on your office. As long as you’re not in the South, you can probably get along with just pant suits your whole life. But it will depend on what kind of place you work at.

    4. Is This Legal

      I’m sot sure if you have Beta Alpha Psi at your college , it’s an honorary society and they will teach you all you need to know. Like someone has mentioned, colorful clothes are discouraged, men MUST wear dark suits and white shirts (this is for interviews) and women are expected to wear skirts (for interviews). If I were you I would wear black skirt, in the end it’s you who need the job.

      Hair- keep it long and plain.

      1. majigail

        If you’re not going to work at a firm but instead work for a company or organization as their accountant, the rules are then upended and the dress code is that company’s dress code. The accountant at my office is frequently seen in khakis and a polo…. just like every other non-managing man in the building.

        1. Cath@VWXYNot?

          +1 – I’m in academia and our accountants wear anything from jeans to business casual, like the rest of us. If one of them showed up with blue hair, they’d get a few comments the first day and then nothing.

          1. Jamie

            Manufacturing too, our external CPA firm comes in jeans and sweaters or button downs.

            Big 4 accounting is a formal affair, but there are plenty of other types of accounting firms where it’s more relaxed.

            Dress is relaxed – nothing else!

        1. Elysian

          I work in a pretty conservative industry (law) and I just can’t imagine what kind of workplace is not “pony tail friendly” or that wouldn’t tolerate any kind of up-do. I understand that there are some hairstyles that are more appropriate for the gym than the office, but is it really the case a woman’s only hair option is long and down? No low pony-tail? No gibson tuck? No bun? Seriously, a low neat bun is about the most professional hairstyle I can think of. A person can’t have a professional looking bob-style haircut? What about women of color, whose hair perhaps can’t be ‘long and down’ at the same time without a ton of chemicals and maintenance?

          What about “long” and “down” make those the only options in a conservative accounting firm?

        2. anon attorney

          Wow, I really disagree. I have always worn my hair up for interviews, usually in a clip, but I can imagine that someone with thicker hair than mine could pull off a professional ponytail. Wearing your hair down loose around your shoulders, especially for younger women, can make it look like you’re in high school. It’s just too casual for conservative professions.

          Once you have the job it’s ok to wear your hair down, but an interview is the time for extreme formality.

    5. Anon Accountant

      We tend to dress conservatively. My firm is business casual and we wear nice sweaters, dress pants, and for lack of better words we “blend in”. We don’t spike our hair, dye it purple, or have visible tattoos (this may vary in some places).

      For example: I’m wearing khaki pants, blue camisole under a light brown sweater and brown flat shoes with small hoop earrings, necklace and a watch. This is a typical outfit at my workplace. Hope this helps!

      1. Catzie

        This is what we do too. Our office is pretty causual, a lot of people wear jeans all week. But in the finance office, we tend to stick to business causual M-Th, and only wear jeans on Friday (still business causual tops). The result is that we looks slightly more conservative than the rest of the office.

    6. De Minimis

      Can only speak from a guy’s perspective, but for me it just meant you wore a suit to your interviews if you were interviewing with a bigger firm.

      On the job, it was business casual and not really any different than most other workplaces. The conventional wisdom was that you never had to wear a suit and tie again after your interview. Auditors who were out at more conservative clients [like banks] sometimes had to wear ties. People who worked with tech industry clients tended to dress way, way down.

      One manager always used to talk about how he made the mistake of wearing sneakers to work as an associate and was still hearing about it years later.

    7. some1

      I work in Finance. We’re business casual in my dept. My dept is sort of the entry-level of the company and there are people with dyed hair, piercings, and visible tatts, but no one in management.

    8. Jill

      #4, Canadamember ~ Calling accounting a “conservative” field, to me, refers to the fact that you’re dealing with people’s money, their financial reporting, their taxes, and so on. Accountants are held to extremely high ethical standards and given a high level of trust.

      So the hair and clothes, then, are a perception issue. People are more inclined to trust someone that doesn’t dress flashy or edgy. Is it fair? Not nescessarily. But I think the OP was less experienced in the field so until she can proove that she’s completely trustworthy and reliable, she should skip the wild hair colors.

      I’m an accountant and I choose to show my “wild” side by decorating my office in brighter colors and wearing royal blue or green shoes with my conservative black suits.

      1. Tax Nerd

        I totally agree with this. Most clients and potential clients of accountants want to be reassured “This is a person who doesn’t take chances”, because we are dealing with their money. Like it or not, one quick way that people judge other people is by how they choose to present themselves.

        If I’m wearing a hot pink miniskirt and a black-and-white checkerboard tank top, someone may get a different impression than if I’m in boring gray pants and a long-sleeved black sweater. This might matter when I’m meeting them for the first time, or later telling them that they owe a quarter million dollars. (For those conversations, I tend to suit up.)

        Some of the unwritten fashion no-nos in (Big 4) public accounting include:
        Very bright colors in abundance
        Facial piercings
        Visible tattoos
        Multiple ear piercings
        Noisy jewelry
        Hair in unnatural colors
        Overly high heels
        Overly short skirts
        Overly low-cut tops
        Casual footwear such as sneakers or flip-flops
        Denim (unless explicitly approved)
        Shorts

        It seems like a long list, but I’ve been okay with dressing in fairly boring manner since I got out of school. If most of those items seem gender specific, it’s because women tend to have more fashion choices, generally, and thus more gray areas/room for error. Men in accounting tend to stick to pants and a long-sleeve button up shirt, or some similar uniform.

        1. Kate in Scotland

          That is almost the exact dress code list in the legal firm I work in. Plus Lycra, leggings, sleeveless tops and ‘anything that could be regarded as extreme’.

  7. Ann Furthermore

    #4: Alison is right that if you want to work for a national firm, blue hair would be frowned upon. But it depends on the industry you do accounting for. Blue hair in the accounting department of an advertising agency or something would probably be okay. Or if you work for a smaller, local firm, it might fly too. A friend of mine from college has his own CPA firm, and he’s pretty liberal. I wouldn’t see him passing someone over for having blue hair if he thought they would be a good employee.

    I have an accounting degree, and when I was interviewing with the big stuffy national firms, I was quite conservative with my clothes and hair. But then I would wear a funky pin or pair of earrings as a way to let a little bit of my personality show through.

    Didn’t get any offers from those firms, but I don’t think it was because of my choice in jewelry. Or maybe it was, who knows??

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      Young, smart woman in our finance dept was recently promoted. She had the most amazing long hair that was so much fun to watch. Changed the color twice a month, most often pink or purple.

      Whipsmart competent, the kind that would be -1 for trusting her to be serious because of the hair and then +500 when you talked to her and +1000 when you worked with her.

      When she got promoted, her hair went to natural color. Last week she *cut* it. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
      Don’t conform! The Man is keeping you down!

      1. Kerry

        Or maybe she was tired of keeping it up with it. Dying long hair twice a month sounds exhausting (and expensive.)

        1. Anne

          It is. I used to have hair I could sit on, and I started dyeing it funky colors before I cut it short. It looked really cool, but I was using two bleach kits and at least two bottles of dye every time, and it took hours.

        2. Simonthegrey

          Ug, tell me about it….I don’t even dye mine, but it’s all the way down my back, and simply keeping it brushed out and tending to it is a huge pain. Love the way it looks but I hate having to mess with it.

          1. Elizabeth West

            I’m considering growing mine out again for one last hurrah, then I’ll probably keep it shoulder length forever. But I want to go long one more time before I start looking so old that it’s just ridiculous. (I do color it, btw.)

        3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

          You must have missed the part where *I* enjoyed looking at it!

          Least she could do was keep at it. :p

          Or maybe do those Jennifer Garner Alias wigs.

          Or maybe I should.

          (Damn, wouldn’t that knock everybody flat if I walked in wearing one of those one day. Of course, at my age, they’d probably think I’d gone senile and start speaking to me very slowly.)

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Yeah, my thinking — and it could be wrong — was that if she’s thinking about internships, she’s likely to be looking at big firms, where it’s going to be prohibitive.

      If she’s looking at other types of places, it’s still likely to be a limiting move in that field, one that most people aren’t going to be well-positioned to take on so early in their career (but could be later, once they have more options).

    3. Jen RO

      Didn’t we have an accountant with blue hair in the comments a couple of months ago? She was working in an less conformist industry and doing well (I don’t remember the details :( ).

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        I think she was looking to do tattoo parlors, to make a business doing the accounting for alternative businesses which I thought was quite crafty.

        Someone less lazy or more caffeinated than I will find the link…

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

          Oh, I agree with you.

          I’m just sad that my the pink hair young woman in our finance dept changed her hair to normal.

          I’m in deep in the suburbs. I don’t get to see pink hair in the wild.

        2. Anne

          That was… actually me. (Hi guys. I am the goth accountant.)

          I have to say I read #4 here and went “What, how many of us ARE there?!”

            1. Anne

              Things are good. I’m starting the last course for my current certification in April. Counting down the days (okay, years) until I can get Black Ink Accounting set up. :)

  8. KayDay

    #2 (Changing seats): So I actually read the answer to this before reading the question and was like, ‘no, employees get what they get and can’t change all the time,’ But then I actually read the letter and the description of the working situation–after reading that I agree with the employees. I totally understand why everyone is unhappy; I would feel left out on the 3-person desk (and not just in a purely social sense, but left out of the team) and I like my elbow room, so I would be annoyed on the big desk too! It’s just not a great layout for anyone.

    However, I think maybe the best thing to do is to re-assign seats first, taking preferences into account, and then after that let employees know that if two of them agree to switch on their own, you will let that happen as long as no one is switching too frequently.

    #4 (blue hair): I generally agree with Alison (plan on changing your hair back to a natural color before interning), however, I will add that I know someone who did this exact same thing (blue under very dark brown) and it was actually so subtle she could probably get away with it. However, my friend didn’t bleach the hair she dyed, she when straight from brown to blue, which probably kept the blue more muted. But definitely check with a trusted and honest professor for their opinion even if you think the results are subtle (because they might not be subtle enough).

    #5 (tense on resumes): I’m so happy you asked this! I always have this problem; my current position was such a mish-mash of tenses that I have usually ended up making everything past tense. I realize that wasn’t really correct, but it was about 55% past and 45% present tense, which just sounded awful when I read it.

    1. Spinks

      I thought the same, I do understand why the 3-people at the other desk are unhappy.

      At my last job, we hot desked and we had one large square desk with room for 5 people, and the other desks were scattered around the room (or in different buildings). If you were sitting at the big square desk, you got to share information with your colleagues all day, ask for advice quickly and easily, and generally work in a more sociable atmosphere. We were happier and felt more productive when we got to sit at that desk. People started getting in earlier and earlier so they could try to sit there (we were on flexitime so it didn’t mean the employer got extra hours out of us :) ).

      It made a difference. And that was with hotdesking so people did get to move around — if it had always been the same people at the big desk, the others would definitely have lost out.

  9. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

    #2

    I am trying to tell you this gingerly but I haven’t had enough coffee yet and I’m tired of rewriting and rewording this.

    You’ve made your own problem. You can’t give people non-serious and non-professional work space and then expect them to behave seriously and professionally about it.

    I am completely aware how hideously expensive it is to outfit an office with a proper set up and I understand that you likely don’t control the capital expenditures. Hopefully you are in a position to advocate for change because providing a minimally decent workspace is a cost of doing business, the same as computers, rent, a/c and heat.

    I hired a group of four people away from a tech company last year and the number one reason they were desperately looking to get out (number one, not making it up) was that they were forced to work at tables. I didn’t offer them more money. I offered them less glamour. But I gave them a desk.

    1. AdAgencyChick

      Srsly. If OP’s company “puts a lot of emphasis on making people happy,” they could do so by giving people more space.

    2. LisaLyn

      THIS. Companies can make all the “hip and cool”, “increased productivity” noises they want, but they are actually looking at how much cheaper it is to not provide basics like walls and a desk.

      Also, I do think some of them think that if they can just get people out in the open where they are scrutinized all the time, they will always work and not, heaven forbid, take a break once in a while.

    3. majigail

      Yes! Lack of coffee is my reason for my poorly worded Short Answer Comments. I delete far more than I post.

    4. Sunflower

      GAH THANK YOU.

      I’m having anxiety just thinking about this. I have to sit in the same office as my boss- our desks are about 5 feet away and even that bothers me- probably because we have a ton of open offices available and he insists we share an office, not for professional reasons, but because he doesn’t like sitting alone all day (ugh)

      I also hope, for your own sanity, that you are in a position to advocate for this change. It sounds like it’s dragging you down as well

      1. Jamie

        That’s…oddly emotionally dependent on an employee.

        Seriously, that’s so weird.

        That said, I asked HR for an office mate yesterday because I was lonely. She’s one of my work BFF and thought it would be super fun to share an office except she can’t stand the whine of my servers and I can’t stand the whine of her employee complaints. So, we’re both staying put.

    5. OP - Changing seats

      This is a great response and I couldn’t agree more! Sadly, I do not have that kind of control over capital expenses. I’m generally left to pick up the pieces after decisions like this are made.

      We used to have these gorgeous, giant desks about a year ago where four people sat in a pod. Now w’ere at these long “picnic tables”.

  10. Ajax

    #1 – This happened to me, with the difference that I had worked as an independent contractor under the hiring manager for more than a year before I interviewed for a permanent position. He told me that a condition of the job was that I commit to 3 years, and that leaving before that would reflect badly on him and hurt my career.

    I ended up turning the job down expressly because I thought this was unreasonable. No one can say if they’ll still be alive in 3 years, let alone working at the same job. Because I knew this manager, I got that this was about his nervousness about controlling the team, and a tendency to take things personally which were just business. Long story, everything worked out fine for me, and his team got broken up a year later!

    Being asked for a 3 year commitment, especially for a lower-level job, would make me sit up. I’d try to read between the lines of where the request is coming from. Do they have trouble with retention because the office is dysfunctional – or does this manager want time to mentor you and help you grow? It could be almost anything, but you’d need to dig a little deeper to find out.

    1. Anon for this one

      I have to agree. The last job I interviewed for was limited term with shaking funding – they wanted me to commit to two years at the job without even being able to guarantee that the job would be there for two years. Why would I commit to a company for that long if they aren’t willing to commit to me? Seems pretty unfair. It should be a two-way street.

      1. Ajax

        I must have TL;DR’d my point – which is that there’s a difference between the unspoken, shared assumption that you’ll stay in a job for 2+ years, and the interviewer coming right out and asking. I think it is uncommon to be asked, and it would make me wonder what has been going on at the company.

  11. Kate

    Asking 2-3 commitment seems normal to me. I would expect a new hire to stay that amount of time so much so I wouldn’t even mention it in an interview. Of course things come up (pregnancy, spouse moving, etc.) but to avoid looking like job hoping I think that is standard. Now if they had asked for 10 years or even 5 I would feel differently.

    1. Artemesia

      This. I would ignore that assuming I had no plans to move on in less time than that (e.g. the grad school example) and then if something occurred that made me want to or find it necessary to move e.g. a spouse move or a dysfunctional office or the best offer ever, I would give notice and move. I was never inclined to job hop but I would not take this kind of ‘commitment’ as written in stone unless it were contractual.

      But it does raise a little flag that would make me want to explore further about the job and its environment as it seems odd to make a big point of that. Maybe the last person quit and sent to law school after six months and the manager is feeling burned. Or maybe he is driving team members away right and left and wants to have the illusion he can control that with this kind of ‘commitment’. Or maybe it is just noise and of no consequence.

  12. Anne

    #4: Hi! Are you me? I’m working full time, getting my accounting qualifications, and my hair is currently a nice teal color. I’m also still feeling out the industry and what I can get away with – Alison linked to my similar question and update further up the thread.

    I would say, for internships at large accounting firms, err on the side of professionalism. The point of summer placements is to learn about the industry and, hopefully, do well enough that you’re offered a job at the end of college. Once you’re in it, you’ll be able to get a better idea of what’s acceptable. Some place are surprisingly casual, some aren’t at all. Personally, I had natural brown hair down to my butt all through college, always put it up in a bun, and *after* I got a job I asked my boss if he would mind me going blue. He didn’t.

    Only other thing I can think to mention is that you might find one branch of accounting more accommodating than others. A prestigious firm that sends you out to clients to give them advice on tax is going to want you to look polished and professional, for example. But I’m doing management accounting in-house for a small IT company right now, so I get to fit in more with this company’s culture, which is very laid back. (Yay techies.)

    Go you. The world needs more funky accountants. *fistbump*

    1. AnotherAlison

      “The world needs more funky accountants.”

      Yup. I’m not that funky on the outside myself, but we’ve used 3 different accountants for our small business and they were all very hard to relate to. I’d love one with some personality!

  13. Juli G.

    OP1, we usually advise candidates that we expect someone to be in role for 18-24 months. Honestly, it’s something of a warning/setting expectations. Often we get people (especially entry level) that 1. expect to rocket through the ranks or 2. quickly transfer to a department they like better. Honestly, it’s part of making sure we’re the right fit for each other.

    1. LisaLyn

      Yeah, I can see that — setting expectations as far as promotions. Where I work, a lot of people are just desperate to get in, so they’ll take anything and then immediately start looking around, so we try to catch that early on, because there usually aren’t opportunities to move that quickly anyway.

    2. plain jane

      Yes, this. If I’m hiring someone in a junior role, I want them to know that they probably won’t be promoted for 2-3 years. Some people come into the workforce expecting a promotion in 6-9 months because they’re xyz (which sometimes translates into “special snowflake” and sometimes translates into “used to an academic setting where you go up a grade each year”).

      1. Lucy

        plain jane, that’s a really interesting take on an issue I raised yesterday about expectations at our first jobs. Thanks!

    3. Ajax

      You’re right, there can be a big difference between a recent grad’s expectations versus someone who has been in the workplace for a while.

  14. Feed Fido

    Desk switching is problematic because of peer pressure and cliques. And I say this as someone who has had the worst desk, think door slams into desk as people come and go. If people can switch back and forth, they will, in some cases, do so to ostracize or pressure others to give up seat. All seat changes should be for at least 6 months and agreed upon by both parties, cleared through boss.

    1. OP - Changing seats

      I think is a great solution! It makes it enough of a process where it won’t happen all the time but it does allow freedom for the employees.

  15. Anonymous

    I used to work at a place where people changed desks everyday, and there weren’t enough desks for everyone. Grown up musical chairs!

      1. Windchime

        Yes, horrible, especially since I”m one of the last people in the office in my group.

        I like my cube. I like the illusion of privacy it gives me. I like having my things around me….my tea supplies, my papers, my stuff hanging on the cube wall. I would hate coming in every morning and having to scrounge up a place to sit.

  16. TMac

    I’m an accountant who has experimented with teal hair. BUT, I work for a commercial nursery, so if I am clean I am better dressed than most of my co-workers. :)

    I would agree with everyone else – the blond is fine, but suss out the culture before you do anything drastic. When I was thinking of leaving this job, I colored over the teal.

    Oh, and look into hair chalk – all of the fun, less commitment. :)

  17. Sandrine

    For 4 :

    No matter what field you are in, I would say keep the hair “normal” at interview stage, and once you are at the company for a bit ask about the hair.

    Says the one who dyed her entire hair electric blue and misses it to this day…

    1. ETF

      I really regret that I never dyed my hair black with bright blue tips like I wanted to when I was younger. I can’t do it now that I’m a boring grownup, sadly.

      1. A Cita

        You still have time…when you’re older. I look forward to reaching the age where people expect me to do odd things like dying my hair weird colors (again) and chasing pidgins with a stick in my underwear (again).

      2. Windchime

        No, but you might be able to have a panel of a really interesting color (mine is red) under the top layer of your hair, so that it only peeks out from time to time…….I’m a boring grown-up, too (I have kids in their late twenties), but that doesn’t mean I have to have boring, old-lady hair!

        1. Ann Furthermore

          I regularly get highlights in my hair, and I was thinking about asking my hairdresser about putting in a single highlight in a funky color on the under side, so it would be more subtle. Then I wondered if I was too old for that, since I’m in my mid-40’s.

    2. TL

      There are some fields/places where they wouldn’t bat an eye at weird colored hair at the interview stage – and some where it would be a plus. They’re definitely the exception, though.

    3. JMegan

      I had super-short, super-pink hair for a long time, and loved it. I still miss it, but it’s too expensive to maintain right now! Will do it again as soon as I win the lottery or something. :)

  18. A Jane

    #1 – I felt it was strange for the hiring manager to call out that they’re looking for a 2-3 year commitment. For me, I would assume that 2-3 years was ideal.

  19. A Jane

    Also, for anyone in charge of office space at a tech company. Make sure there are enough conference rooms! Finding a room for sprint planning should be the least of everyone’s worries!

  20. Jamie

    The people on the larger desk feel cramped and not happy with the people they are sitting next to.

    Just tossing this out there – if you take Alison’s advice and let them rearrange themselves once by all that is good in the world let the lefties have the end seats. (Or give them extra buffer on the left side.)

    I’m just picturing trying to work at a long table bumping wrists with some right hander to my left and I’m getting clenched just thinking about it. I don’t know if I could learn to work in this kind of office set up, but I do know I can’t mouse or keypad with my right hand for anything.

    Do each of these people have their own phones and extensions or are you using some kind of softphone so they plug in via their laptop? Because for me my left side: phone, mouse, number keypad…non negotiable.

    1. danr

      It may not be a problem if lefties dominate at the company or in the team. We did at my old company.
      A leftie question: Do you switch the buttons on your mouse? I don’t since I had to use other’s mouses from time to time and it was easier to remember left/right button for either hand than which finger to use on which hand.

      1. JMegan

        Solidarity for lefties!

        I use my mouse right-handed, because I didn’t even know there was a left-handed configuration when I started using computers, so I just learned to do it with my right.

        And I didn’t know you could get a left-handed number keypad until just now! Will have to source that one out next time I get the chance. :)

        1. Jamie

          They are not all created equal! Some are so flimsy they aren’t worth using because they flip too easily.

          I love, love, love my Goldtouch USB Numberic Keypad (her legal name, for people who want to google). A little more expensive, usually between 25-50 on ebay/amazon but well worth it. It’s heavy enough not to tip and it has the right key feel for me.

          It’s hard to explain, but I hate the way cheap keyboards click – this has a satisfying finger feel.

          I’ve had mine for 4 years and it was worth every penny.

      2. Jamie

        No, for the same reason. I did before I was in IT, but I use too many other people’s mouses (mice?) so it’s simpler this way.

        Same reason I gave up my once quest to master dvorak typing. I didn’t want to get used to something when I use other people’s normal settings so much.

        1. Loren

          I’m right-handed but have actually taught myself to be a left-handed mouse user because the (incredibly poor) design of my cubicle means the surface to the right of my keyboard is the only usable work space to review an oversized document or a set of page proofs (which is 60 percent of my work)–so if the mouse is there, it’s in the way all the time, whereas if it’s to my left it can stay where it is. Turns out a) it’s actually really good for carpal-tunnel/repetitive stress things to use your non-writing hand for mousing, and b) it’s unexpectedly useful to be able to mouse and write at the same time, so I might keep it this way even in a more useful environment.

          1. Kate in Scotland

            I made this switch 15 years ago because I was worried about RSI and I am evangelical about left handed mousing for righties. You don’t have to reach past the number pad and I agree that mousing + writing is a very useful combination.

            I do switch my buttons (which confuses people) but still call it a right-click even if it’s now on my left (which confuses them even more).

          2. Zelos

            Ha, ditto! Although I switched because I DID get an RSI in my right shoulder (unrelated to my computer use, but lessening the computer use sure didn’t hurt).

            I still keep my mouse in a right-hand configuration so I hot swap my mouse when needed (this is why I prefer a wireless mouse, but a wired mouse with a lot of give on a large desk also works). If I do highly precise work, I’ll use my right hand. Most tooling around the internet or regular use I use my left. It’s always funny to me when people ask me if I’m left handed.

            Person: “You’re a southpaw?”
            Me: “Nope!”
            Person: *stares at my mouse* “You’re doing it wrong…”

    2. Chriama

      Leftie solidarity! I’m in university right now and I hate the lecture halls because I have to sit off to the side if I want to be able to write comfortably. Boo! (Although the renovated halls have tablets that go across your entire lap, so they’re dominant-hand neutral)

  21. danr

    #2… Of course folks are unhappy. Your team now has half the space that they once had and some workers are now more equal than others. The three at the short table probably feel left out of the loop since they are not at your table. If you can, change your seat so you are in a position that is close to the three person table.

  22. some1

    “I ultimately bowed out of the process after finding out the role had a lot more administrative duties than I was looking for.”

    It’s too bad that companies can’t be more forthright in job descriptions. My ex-BF was a Marketing Coordinator but everything he did would fall under a Marketing Manager role in a lot of places. And I’ve had the Coordinator title when I was doing all admin duties.

  23. Kate

    #2: at my old job, we would constantly have to play musical chairs. i was there for 2 years and moved at least 10 times during this period, including switching floors. the worst was that we had to take EVERYTHING: computers, monitors, mice, keyboards, drawers… it was the same set up you described. hell, it was the same type of people working at that place. they also tried paying us overtime in pizza and beers once. :) 6 months after i quit and i’m still peeved by the politics of this company.

  24. Suz

    Regarding employees changing desks to frequently – Personally I don’t think this is a big deal, especially since everyone is sharing space already.

    My company is moving into a new building soon. At the location about half of the cubicles will not be assigned to anyone. Employees can pick a different cube every day if they want to. We are increasing our work-from-home opportunities so they expect many people will only be in the office 2 or 3 times a week so it doesn’t make sense for everyone to have their own cubes when they will sit empty most of the time.

  25. confused about resumes

    #5 I thought it wasn’t good to mix verb tenses on a resume. I thought consistency was key? Alison, do you have any articles that go into more detail about mixing tenses?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Nope, the whole story is pretty much what’s in the answer above! Which part is confusing you, specifically? (Accuracy is more important than consistency, if that helps.)

    2. giginyc

      Verbs are action words so their tense can be changed. Consistency in formatting is key: Like switching from 12 pt Times New Roman font with bulleted list in one job to 10 pt Arial font with paragraphs in the next job listed on your resume is inconsistent.

  26. Stef

    This is true. I had to let go one of my newest associates who came conservative to the interview and then got her eyebrow pierced and hair dyed pink a month into the job. I think it looked great and she was doing a FANTASTIC job and we ALL loved her. Unfortunately, I had to let her go pursue other opportunities. Some of our board members thought it came across as immature and a bit “Look at me! Look at me!” which I begrudgingly agreed with. Unfortunately, I heard she’s still looking for a new job but I wish her all the best.

  27. giginyc

    I literally just took assessment tests also: MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. I did a few shortcuts also, and my Word score ended up being lower than my PowerPoint score (which I haven’t used since college!); I also got things incorrect in Outlook – basics like “Create new contact” (which I totally did correctly). Also, text that the test asked me to enter got marked incorrectly because a period was missing (like on a comment – NOT a sentence!). Passing percentages across the board, but I’m definitely bringing these up at my interview on Wednesday.

  28. ECH

    #3 – Thank you, thank you, thank you!! A test did that to me more than a decade ago – said I didn’t know how to open a document – and I’m glad to know I’m not the crazy one in that case.

  29. Fellow Blue Hair

    #4 – The tech company I work for often hires accounting interns and wouldn’t bat an eye at your blue hair. A tech firm could be an option for you, especially if you have the type of personality that wants to have blue hair after school, too! :)

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